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Archive for April 2008

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Poll results

81% of Polled Readers do not Believe Barack Obama About Pastor Wright

April 29th 2008

Unknown - Poll Vote

The overwhelming majority of respondents to an unscientific Cutting Edge Reader Poll voted that they did not believe Barack Obama's claim that he was unware of Pastor Wright's inflammatory anti-American remarks.

In response to the question: Is Barack Obama Telling the Truth About Not Knowing of Pastor Jeremiah Wright's Bigotry? the results were:


    * 16 percent "Yes"
    *   3 percent "Not Sure
    * 81 percent "No"

During the poll period in March 2008, The Cutting Edge News recorded 257,243 hits. Hundreds of votes in favor of Obama's truthfulness were disqualified when security features on the poll detected one specific computer voting several times per minute over and over again for hours on end in what appeared to be a pre-set robot program.

The Next Mideast War

Iran is "Hell-Bent" on Nuclear, But Consider the Three Axioms of Warfare

April 28th 2008

 - Robert Gates headshot
Defense Sec. Robert Gates

Generals Ike Eisenhower and George Marshall, of course, are legends—icons etched in granite. Both were influenced by another senior Army officer who is not nearly as well-known. His name is Fox Conner, and he served as a tutor and mentor to both men. Conner had three principles or rules of war for a democracy that he imparted to Eisenhower and Marshall. They were:

     • Never fight unless you have to;
     • Never fight alone; and
     • Never fight for long.

All things being equal, these principles are pretty straightforward and strategically sound. We have heard variants of them in the decades since—the Powell Doctrine being the most famous of recent times. But, of course, all things are not equal, particularly when you think about the range and complexity of the threats facing America today—from the wars we are in to the conflicts we are most likely to fight. So, I’d like to discuss how you should think about applying Fox Conner’s three axioms to the security challenges of the 21st Century—challenges where you will be on the front line.

“Never go to war unless you have to.”

That one should only go to war as a last resort has long been a principle of civilized people; we know its horrors and costs. War is by nature unpredictable and uncontrollable. Winston Churchill wrote in January 1942, “Let us learn our lessons. Never, never believe that any war will be smooth and easy, or that anyone who embarks on the strange voyage can measure the tides and hurricanes he will encounter... Once the signal is given, [the statesman] is no longer the master of policy but the slave of unforeseeable and uncontrollable events. Read more ..

The Struggle for Holocaust Justice

HR1746 and Beyond---Addressing Holocaust-Era Insurance Inequities

April 28th 2008

Headshots Leaders - Barnie Frank headshot
Rep. Barney Frank

Congress is now debating the Holocaust Insurance Accountability Act (HR1746). This Act aims at overcoming the many deficiencies that has thwarted the process of repaying Holocaust victims or their heirs for the numerous insurance policies stolen by the Nazis and their collaborators. The International Commission of Holocaust Era Insurance Claims (ICHEIC) had been formed to do that in a speedy fashion. While ICHEIC was a good idea, its results were significantly undercut by ineffective management. In the end only about three percent of the value of the unpaid life policies were returned, no non-life policies were paid, and the process took nine years instead of the two or so originally anticipated. In current prices, conservatively more than $17 billion remains unpaid.

In addition, a major ICHEIC failure was its handling of unpaid policies. ICHEIC early on recognized that no matter what steps are taken to find claimants, many policies will remain unpaid. This is because whole families were wiped out by the horrific events of the Holocaust, leaving only distant relatives with little knowledge of the policyholders, especially when dealing with events that occurred more than a half century ago. It was also understood that many records no longer exist. An example is the extensive search for life insurance records in Germany. Only about a quarter of the policies outstanding in the late 1930s were found.  Read more ..

Kicking The Oil Addiction

Wind Networks to Power Electric Vehicles

April 28th 2008

Unknown - Cropped Wind Turbine

A Danish utility has partnered with a California company to power electric vehicles with renewable wind energy.

Palo Alto-based Better Place and Dong Energy A/S will build an infrastructure in Denmark to support an electric car system designed to make use of the cheap power that wind energy provides on windy days. Targeted for completion in 2010, this system will include vehicle charging at charging spots and battery-exchange locations throughout the country.

Better is rolling out a similar network in Israel and is partnering with Renault SA and Nissan Motor Co. to build fully electric mass-market cars that run on lithium-ion batteries.

In a Wall Street Journal article, Better CEO Shai Agassi was quoted as saying, "Cars are the perfect match for wind power. They charge sitting in the garage at night when there is little other demand for electricity."

As a country that meets 20% of its total electricity needs from wind production, Denmark is at the forefront of countries waking up to the unique challenge of balancing power surges on windy days with zero production on still days. These ups and downs of wind power can strain the electricity grid, a continuing problem in the use of renewable sources of intermittent energy. Additionally, in areas such as western Denmark, a windy day can produce so much electricity traditional fossil-fuel plants utilities will scramble to offload excess power or take a financial hit. Read more ..

Jewish Refugees from Arab Countries

Why Congress Recognized Jewish Refugees from Arab Countries

April 28th 2008

Nadler, Jerrold
Rep. Jerrold Nadler

House Resolution 185, a resolution I authored and that was passed by the House in April, at long last recognizes Jewish refugees from Arab countries. This is not just about a forgotten chapter of history.

For centuries, long before the advent of Islam and long after it, Jewish communities lived peacefully and often prosperously and productively in Arab lands among Arab people. Their forced relocation and the material value they lost when they were compelled to abandon their homes and other properties in Arab countries has never been addressed.

For example, in Iraq, a community of 150,000 in 1948 has dwindles to around 10 today. In Egypt, a community of 75,000 in 1945 has became between 50 and 100 today. In Yemen and Aden, 63,000 in 1948 has became 200 in 2003. Of 140,000 Jews who lived in Tunisia in 1948, less than 100 remain in 2004.

While the plight of Palestinian refugees is well known throughout the world and has been a major element in every Arab-Israeli peace plan and negotiation, the plight of these Jewish refugees is rarely mentioned these days. Nevertheless, numerous international agreements pertaining to the Arab-Israeli conflict have been codified with the rights of the Jewish refugees in mind. U.N. Security Council Resolution 242, passed on November 22, 1967, after the Six Day War, calls for a just settlement to the refugee problem without limiting that problem to Palestinians.

Presidents Carter and Clinton stated explicitly that the issue of Jewish refugees must be a part of any comprehensive Arab-Israeli peace agreement. And lest there be any doubt about this status, the U.N. High Commission on Refugees in 1957 ruled that Jewish people that fled Arab countries were, indeed, "refugees." This principle is reaffirmed in the Camp David Accords and in the Egyptian-Israeli Peace Treaty. The treaty states, "Jewish refugees have the same rights as others do."


What Society Has Come To

Bullycide: The Only Escape for Some Brutalized Children with Disabilities

April 28th 2008

Joyce Bender
Joyce Bender

Suicide is a leading cause of death for teenagers 10 to 19 years old. The number one cause is still depression. Depression can be triggered by events in a child’s life – but one of the leading causes has now emerged as “bullying.”

Attempting suicide because of being bullied in school is a shocking and sometimes inexplicable choice that many young people are making today in middle schools and high schools across America. This tragic form of death, known as Bullycide, is triggered by relentless bullying and depression. Neil Marr and the late Tim Field first coined the term in their book, Bullycide: Death at Playtime.

Even more tragically, researchers have discovered that almost 40 percent of bullied students are students with disabilities. Psychologists and social concern groups here and in the UK have finally discovered this hidden epidemic. Children with disabilities are not just being harassed, and made the brunt of cruel jokes, they are physically assaulted. Sadly, not enough is being done in our society and in our school systems to prevent these atrocities.

Children with disabilities are often assaulted as a form of entertainment for other children. At town hall meetings, college students with disabilities have told personal stories of years of bullying when they attended high school. One young woman told the story of bullies in high school stealing the joy stick from her wheelchair and directing the chair over and over again into the wall. This young woman spoke about attempting suicide to avoid the bullies. She said she was treated so poorly for so many years of school that she assumed she was a person of no value. In one case, a boy with an intellectual disability was hit after school by other children nearly every day for an extended period of time. Read more ..

Edge on Epidemics

Malaria---New Tools Needed to Combat an Old Disease

April 28th 2008

Headshot - Richard Tren headshot
Richard Tren

April 25th marked World Malaria Day---an occasion to assess progress, galvanize support, and of course, solemnly recognize the suffering that this devastating disease causes.

Every year, over one million people, mostly young children, die from malaria and up to 500 million become ill. However, it need not be this way. Malaria is both preventable and curable. With US taxpayers’ money, much is being done to save lives, but investment in new tools and methods of control is essential to sustaining success. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the National Basketball Association, and Boys and Girls Clubs of America have also contributed funds, and fund-raising, to help eliminate the scourge, especially in Africa. Parts of Africa are considered hyper-endemic since they have transmission rates up to 100 times the rate of those areas where the disease has been eliminated.

Malaria is caused by the plasmodium parasite which is transmitted from person to person by the female Anopheles mosquito. Controlling malaria successfully and breaking the transmission cycle requires treating patients with effective medicines so that parasites are cleared out of the body, as well as controlling mosquitoes.

Targeted mosquito, or vector, control only began in earnest in the early part of the 20th century when scientists discovered how the disease was transmitted. Spraying insecticides on the inside walls of houses where mosquitoes rest was first tried in the 1930s, though these efforts were expensive. However, spraying interior walls appears to be making something of a come-back. At that time the best available insecticide – pyrethrum – only remained effective for approximately two weeks; houses had to be re-sprayed frequently which limited the scope of the programs.  Read more ..

Inside the Middle East

Is the Middle East of Hamas and Hezbollah Ready for Democracy?

April 28th 2008

Islamic - Iran Protest
Islamic Protesters

While the principled attempts by the U.S. Administration to spread democracy across the greater Middle East, in order to bring freedom and stability to the people of the region and to eradicate the sources of terrorism, are bringing positive results they are still confronting great difficulties. The specter of failure emanates from the formidable obstacles that are intrinsic to a region where religion permeates every aspect of life and where prevailing tribal and clan allegiances supersede any nationalistic feelings.

Democracy could not thrive in societies where customary laws sanction prejudice, intolerance, ethnic and sectarian segregation, gender inequities along with other injustices that emanate from religious beliefs as well as from long held traditions. There, a prematurely instilled democracy might only serve to replace totalitarian regimes with dictatorships of the majority. It risks bringing to power extremists who do not respect human rights within systems with no accountability and no established mechanism of checks and balances to restrict their actions. They use their mandates, under the false pretense that they are democratically elected, to impose their extremist views and policies while branding any opposition as a sacrilegious conspiracy deserving termination. Cases in point of this travesty are the elections to power of members of Hamas and Hezbollah who should have been otherwise ineligible because of their bigoted, violent and oppressive ideologies, strictly outlawed in a true democracy.


Inside the Catholic Church

Pope Benedict Uplifts American Catholics While Coping with Controversy and Conflict in the Church on US Visit

April 28th 2008

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Pope Benedict

The April 15-20 visit of Pope Benedict XVI to the United States offered Americans, and the rest of the world, grist for further evaluation of the pontiff not only as a man but also as a messenger. Caricatures of Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, who became the current Pope, have abounded. As prefect of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, a Vatican office that oversees the orthodoxy of priests, prelates, and theologians, he was called “the Pope’s Rottweiler,” “Inquisitor,” and even “Nazi.”  As pontiff, he has been called “panzer Pope” and “enforcer” among other epithets.

Benedict is the third pontiff to tread American soil and succeeded in projecting a much more avuncular appearance than his detractors had suggested. That said, he may not have delivered as much as some of his detractors, and fans, had wished.

Brennan Pursell, author of Benedict of Bavaria and associate professor at DeSales University, Pennsylvania, offered in an interview some insights into the Pope and his message to the United States. Pursell said Benedict, as Pope, is consistent with his life story and a life teaching theology and philosophy. He has served variously as parish priest, professor, academic administrator, Cardinal-Archbishop, and personal advisor to Pope John Paul II. When Pursell was asked whether the man who was Cardinal Ratzinger is different from the man who is now Pope Benedict XVI, he quoted Hans Kung, a former Catholic theologian and colleague, as saying “Oh no, there is only one Ratzinger. He now has a different role.” Read more ..

Election Edge

Clinton and the Free-Trade Trade-Off

April 28th 2008

Armstrong Williams Headshot
Armstrong Williams

Just like her super delegates and supporters, Senator Clinton’s campaign staff is heading for the doors. The latest exit stage right is chief presidential campaign strategist, Mark Penn, who was forced out due to secretly meeting with Colombian trade officials while simultaneously telling the Senator to continue bashing free trade. Although Clinton has supported free trade in the past, she has recently put up an anti-NAFTA facade in order to mesmerize the labor union vote and keep them pinned in her corner.

Recently, Penn visited with Colombian leaders to discuss the pending free trade pact which Clinton (since Ohio’s primary) has criticized. While she supported NAFTA in her biography and as the First Lady, she now opposes it and other free trade agreements. Surprised? Of course not! Now that she needs the far reaching, deep pocketed, liberal, union vote, she’ll say and do whatever it takes to win their vote.

In fact, while First Lady, her husband supported trade agreements with Mexico, China, Canada and other nations and free trade continues to be one of the most important parts of his post-presidency work. Records show that she attended meetings that were designed to build support for NAFTA and other trade agreements. She says now that she spoke up in opposition at those meetings, and that Bill Clinton’s staffers support that fact, but her claim seems more than farfetched. Read more ..

Inside Radical Islam

Denmark Evacuates Embassies over Prophet Cartoon Issue

April 28th 2008

Headshot - Joe Griebowski headshot
Joseph Grieboski

The Danish Foreign Ministry announced this week that it has evacuated its staff from embassies in Algeria and Afghanistan because of threats after newspapers reprinted a cartoon depicting the Muslim prophet Mohammed.

Embassy employees in the Algerian capital, Algiers, and the Afghan capital, Kabul, would continue to work out of "secret locations" in those cities, and would be reachable by phone and email, Foreign Ministry spokesman Erik Laursen said.

The threat "is so concrete that we had to take this decision," Laursen said. "The decision is based on intelligence," he added, declining to elaborate. He could not say how long the staff would remain at their new locations.

Foreign Minister Per Stig Moeller suggested Danish embassies in other locations also could be forced to relocate their staff following a warning last month by al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.

"There has been a general threat from al-Qaeda which means that their cells or people who sympathise with them around the world will try to see where they can fulfill al-Qaeda's desires," Moeller said in a TV interview. "Therefore I can certainly not say that they are the last two embassies (to be evacuated)."

Several Danish embassy staff members were also forced to leave their private homes and move to a secret place in the wake of security developments over the past weeks. Read more ..

Inside the Middle East

Backdoor Golan Negotiation Ramps Up Through Turkey

April 28th 2008

 - Ehud Olmert
Israeli PM Ehud Olmert

“Independent” Syrian news agency Shams-Press is reporting that Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has offered to exchange the Golan Heights for peace.

The reports are causing serious reactions in Israel.

According to the Syrian source, the message was passed on through Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the mediator between Israel and Syria.

The report by the Damascus-based website Shams-Press was joined by a report in the Syrian newspaper al-Watan, which claimed that Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan telephoned Syrian President Bashar Assad on Tuesday and informed him of Olmert's willingness to fully withdraw from the Golan Heights in exchange for a peace agreement.

Olmert’s office responded to the news report only by stating that “Assad is familiar with Israel's position regarding peace talks and vice versa." Some analysts see this as a clear but implicit confirmation.

According to the report, which quotes "knowledgeable sources" in Damascus, Erdogan is expected to visit the Syrian capital imminently and take part in a first-of-its-kind economic summit between Syria and Turkey. Read more ..

The Crisis in Sudan

Sudan Finally Begins National Census

April 28th 2008

Headshot - Umar al-Bashir headshot
Sudanese President al-Bashir

The national census in Sudan has finally begun. A key part of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement signed in 2005, the census will help determine the way power and wealth is shared between Sudan's north and the oil-rich south ahead of next year's national vote.

President Omar Hassan al-Bashir was the first person to be counted at midnight. The streets of the capital Khartoum were quiet on a national holiday after police told people to stay at home so they could be tallied.

The census is the first in Sudan since 1993.

The exercise, funded jointly by the Sudanese government and the United Nations, was originally to start in January, but has been repeatedly delayed.

Most recently, the Sudan People's Liberation Movement, former rebels now running the semi-autonomous southern government, delayed last week's start date because of concerns the census would not properly count southerners.

The Sudan People's Liberation Movement is concerned that many of the hundreds of thousands of southerners who were displaced or fled across the border to escape fighting have not been able to return home and will not be counted.

The former rebels say since religion and ethnicity will not be recorded, the many displaced southerners living at the north could be counted as northerners. Read more ..

Inside Latin America

Paraguay Undergoes Electoral Revolution

April 28th 2008

 - Fernando Lugo
Paraguay President Fernando Lugo

The world’s longest-ruling political party lost its six-decade grip on power as a former Roman Catholic bishop won the presidency of Paraguay.

Fernando Lugo---a mild-mannered leftist who left the priesthood and resigned as Bishop of San Pedro three years ago saying he felt powerless to help Paraguay's poor---ousted the ruling Colorado Party in Sunday's election with promises to tackle inequality and stamp out corruption.

Lugo, from the Patriotic Alliance for Change, won 40.7 percent of votes, a lead of 10 percentage points over closest rival Blanca Ovelar, a formal education minister from the ruling Colorado Party, preliminary electoral results showed.

The Colorado Party has governed Paraguay since the 1940s. However, its rule of more than half a century did not produce economic prosperity and social progress for the country.

Recent years, in particular, have seen remarkably slow economic growth, making Paraguay one of the least developed nations in South America. The gap between the rich and the poor has continued to widen, with the latter making up as much 40 percent of Paraguay's population. Moreover, charges of corruption among government officials have heavily damaged the reputation of the Colorado Party for voters. Dissatisfied with the present situation, the people of Paraguay have given a strident call for change by unseating the ruling party. Read more ..

Coke and Confiscation

Coke Spokeswoman Crystal Warwell Walker Refuses to Hear Questions on Bigio Asset Confiscation

April 28th 2008

Unknown - Coke Poster
Coke Boycott Poster

Coca Cola spokeswoman Crystal Warwell Walker has refused to accept questions relating to its years-long struggle with a Jewish family, the Bigios, who are seeking compensation over an anti-Jewish asset seizure that benefited the cola conglomerate. The Atlanta-based beverage giant through spokeswoman Walker has gone the extra and unusual step of not only refusing to answer questions, but also of refusing to even accept questions to then not answer. Coke’s corporate hunker followed the recent launch of a boycott and protest movement against Coke products by the Zionist Organization of America and other groups.

By way of background, the Bigio family, Egyptian Jews now residing in Canada, owned land and assets for decades in Egypt until they were confiscated and nationalized in the 1960s during the illegal anti-Semitic excesses of the Nasser regime. Those nationalized and confiscated assets were woven into a larger company called the El Nasr Bottling Company or ENBC. Decades later, in 1994, ENBC was sold to Coca-Cola during a privatization move that allowed Coke to reap millions in annual profits.

Despite more than a dozen attempts to ask questions of Coca-Cola corporate officials, its spokeswoman Walker would only email a message stating, “Thank you for your inquiry. As this is a matter of on-going litigation, we are unable to answer any additional questions. We have provided our position on this matter and have enclosed it again for your reference.” Read more ..

Musical Edge

Conductor Victor Vener Bucks the Trend by Escaping "Dark Ages"

April 28th 2008

Headshot - Victor Vener
Conductor Victor Vener

Victor Vener, the conductor and chief force behind the California Philharmonic, which he founded more than a decade ago, makes music in a way that isn’t particularly trendy. He just conducted the complete Bach "Brandenburgs," then turned his attentions to lighter faire on warm Saturday evenings at the Los Angeles County Arboretum & Botanic Garden and Sunday nights at Disney Hall beginning in June. Instead of playing the likes of Bach and Shostakovich, there will be Gershwin, Copeland, Broadway tunes and movie music.

Whatever the music, he prefers it has melody. He has no desire to force aleotoric, tone rows or excessive dissonance down anyone’s throat. He has no desire to make his audiences squirm by being forced to listen to unlistenable music of the type favored by academics and foundations and, until recently, the Los Angeles Philharmonic.

He knows that those who are snobby about their classical music don't like to show they might not know everything. But that doesn’t stop him from speaking to the audience about the music before he plays it, especially in this day and age when maybe more people than ever listen to classical music but they also know nothing about it.


USHMM Must Not Hoard Bad Arolsen Displaced Person Records, But Share Them

April 28th 2008

We received word that the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum received recently from the International Tracing Service at Bad Arolsen copies of the names-records of Displaced Persons camps. Some 3.5 million names of Displaced Persons are in these so-called DP records. They had been scheduled to be delivered much later, but thanks to our – and the Museum’s urgings - they were transferred much earlier from Germany. Reportedly, they are not well organized and it will take the Museum some time to bring them in order, but these documents will make the search for Survivors much easier and more efficient. We urge in the strongest terms that the Museum’s leadership do their utmost--when these records are in reasonable order--to distribute them to other Jewish museums and libraries around the country. Survivors are still searching for missing relatives or friends and their days are passing.


Leo Rechter is the elected president of the grass-roots National Organization of Jewish Child Holocaust Survivors.

The Threat of Iran's Nukes

Iran Accelerates Race Toward Nuclear Goal with 6,000 New Advanced Centrifuges

April 21st 2008

Joe Griebowski headshot
Joseph Grieboski

Iran has begun installing 6,000 advanced centrifuges in its main uranium enrichment plant, greatly accelerating activity that could give it the means to make atomic weapons in the future.

While other Iranian officials were disclaiming the reports, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad confirmed that Iran is installing the 6,000 new advanced centrifuges at its Natanz uranium-enrichment facility. Iran has already installed 3,000 of an older version of the centrifuges, fast-spinning machines that separate uranium-235 isotopes for nuclear fuel, at the Natanz site. The International Atomic Energy Agency reported in February that Iran was testing a newer version of the machines, and these 6,000 centrifuges appear to be the devices in question. Ahmadinejad’s latest pronouncement sparked an angry international reaction last week with the announcement that Iran was working to install 6,000 more centrifuges at its Natanz uranium enrichment plant.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice cautioned the claim could not be immediately substantiated, and diplomats close to the IAEA said Iran has exaggerated its progress and experienced problems operating the 3,000 centrifuges already in place. One diplomat said Ahmadinejad's claims of a more advanced centrifuge appeared to allude to a type known as the IR-2, which the agency and Iran said months ago that Iran had begun testing. The IR-2 is believed to be two-to-three times faster than the centrifuges currently in use, and his claim that the new machine was five times as quick added to the diplomats' skepticism.

While Iran says it wants to produce nuclear fuel only for electricity so it can export more oil, it has been the object of three sets of United Nations sanctions for hiding its nuclear development work until 2003, “failing to prove to inspectors since then that it is wholly peaceful, and refusing to suspend the disputed program.” Read more ..

Election Edge

Obama's Mythology About Pastor Wright

April 21st 2008

Ronald Kessler
Ronald Kessler

In his speech on race, Barack Obama tried to explain away his longtime minister's denunciations of America by saying that for blacks of his generation, memories of "humiliation and doubt and fear have not gone away."
But an examination by Newsmax of the Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr.'s background reveals that Obama's characterization of his upbringing is mythology.

Described by Obama as his sounding board and mentor for more than two decades, Wright was born in Philadelphia in 1941. He lived in a racially mixed section called Germantown, which consisted of homes on broad tree-lined streets in northwest Philadelphia. The owners then were middle-class families.

For 62 years, Wright's father, the Rev. Jeremiah Alvesta Wright, was pastor at Grace Baptist Church of Germantown. He was one of the first blacks to receive a degree from the Lutheran Theological Seminary in Philadelphia.

Wright's mother, Mary Elizabeth Henderson Wright, was a schoolteacher. She was the first black to teach an academic subject at Roosevelt Junior High, the first to teach at Germantown High, and the first to teach at the Philadelphia High School for Girls. She became vice principal of Girls High in 1968.

Rather than attend the more racially mixed Germantown High School at 40 East High St., Wright traveled a few miles to the elite Central High School at 1700 West Olney Ave., graduating in 1959. Opened in 1838, Central High has a distinguished past and admits only highly qualified applicants who are privileged to attend from all over the city. It is comparable to the Bronx High School of Science and Boston Latin School, both public schools known for academic excellence.

When Wright attended Central High, the student body was 90 percent white, according to students who attended around the same time. At least three-quarters of the students were Jewish. Former students of the period say racial tension did not exist.

Bill Cosby, who attended the school until transferring to Germantown High, has referred to Central as a "wonderful" school. In contrast to Wright, Cosby has denounced blacks who take refuge in self-pitying victimhood and seek to blame whites for problems in the black community. Read more ..

Inside the Palestinian Conflict

Carter Visiting Hamas Leader Shunned in Israel

April 21st 2008

Jimmy Carter
Jimmy Carter

Three decades after he revolutionized the Middle East by brokering the first Israeli-Arab peace accord, Jimmy Carter is back in the region preaching reconciliation.

But this time around, the former U.S. president and Nobel laureate has found himself jilted by a Jewish state that once regarded him as a visionary guided by a heady mix of Christian compassion and realpolitik.


Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and other Israeli government officials declined to meet Carter during his four-day stay. He was refused permission to visit the Gaza Strip, and Shin Bet bodyguards were not even around to help his Secret Service detail. At the heart of these slights is Carter's plan to travel to Syria to meet Hamas’ leader in exile, Khaled Meshaal -- a man blacklisted by Israel, the United States and the European Union for his orchestration of Hamas terrorism.


Carter’s itinerary has caused a stir in the United States, too, where President Bush and the three major-party presidential candidates criticized his plans to visit Meshaal.


The former president -- who recently visited Sderot to meet with Israeli victims of Gaza rocket attacks, and went to Ramallah to lay a wreath on Yasser Arafat's grave and embrace a senior Hamas official -- has played down the significance of his meeting with Meshaal while also suggesting he may have the power to soften the arch terrorist’s commitment to Israel's destruction. Read more ..

Inside the Middle East

Syria Becoming Isolated in Arab World While Drawing Closer to Iran

April 21st 2008

Howard Kohr headshot
Howard Kohr

Syria has become such a pariah that even the Arab world is giving it the cold shoulder.
At the recent Arab League summit in Damascus, the leaders of Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Jordan embarrassed Syrian President Bashar Assad by sending low-level officials to the meeting. Lebanon boycotted the summit altogether, accusing Damascus of interference in its stalled presidential election. The U.N. Secretary General is normally invited as a guest of honor, but he did not attend this year, either.

Syria’s isolation in the Arab world was not lost on Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi. “We meet in Syria, which is an Arab country,” he said. “But the relations Syria has with Russia, Iran or Turkey are a thousand times better than its relations with its Arab neighbors.”

Indeed, Syria has been allied with the Iranian regime for almost three decades, cooperating with the Islamic Republic in supporting Hizballah, Hamas and other terrorist groups. Furthermore, Qaddafi could have added North Korea to the list: As has recently been exposed, the two rogue regimes are cooperating not only on the development of surface-to-surface missiles, but also on a nuclear program. Read more ..

Energy Economics

When Al Meets Abe

April 21st 2008

Al Gore 2
Al Gore

Earlier this month, Al Gore’s Alliance for Climate Protection launched a $300 million advertising campaign aimed at mounting pressure on political leaders to act urgently to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Its scope, the largest ever for a public policy issue, is on par with the size of the movement Gore has helped create. In fact, over the short history of the 21st century no issue perhaps other than terrorism has risen from near obscurity to the center of our public discourse as global warming. What started as chatter among concerned scientists and diehard environmentalists has turned in just five years into one of history’s fastest growing mass movements, one that consumes increasing bandwidth of governments and world leaders.

The launch of Gore’s campaign coincided with a much less noticed event: the 100th anniversary of the birth of the late Abraham (Abe) Maslow, one of America’s foremost psychologists, the father of humanistic psychology. Maslow saw human beings' needs arranged like a pyramid. The most basic needs--air, water and food--are at the bottom. Then come shelter and security. Once these have been attained, it's time to strive for more spiritual needs like love and acceptance. At the top of the pyramid people begin to focus on self-actualization and on solving problems outside of themselves. This is where concern for the planet’s health would be found. Maslow believed that unfulfilled needs lower on the pyramid would prevent a person from climbing to the next step, while backsliding in the pyramid forces us to redefine our priorities and refocus on the self at the expense of the global. In other words, we care about issues because we can afford to do so.

What does all of this have to do with Gore?

Despite its current popularity, Gore’s climate movement may be close to its zenith and in the not-so-distant-future it might lose its allure. The challenge will not come from the so called climate skeptics but rather from the millions, currently sympathetic to the movement, whose priorities are about to change as a result of what now seems to be an inevitable global energy crunch. Read more ..

Zimbabwe on the Edge

Zimbabwe Election Stalled Aftermath Reflects a Defeated Ruler Unwilling to Relinquish Power

April 21st 2008

Robert Mugabe headshot
Robert Mugabe

To listen to Robert Mugabe's latest rant on western imperialism, one would think history has not shaken the 84-year-old liberator-turned-dictator of Zimbabwe.

"We need to maintain utmost vigilance in the face of vicious British machinations," he told a crowd of thousands in Harare's Gwanzura stadium on April 18, Zimbabwe's Independence Day.  Banners at the stadium further warned against "sell-outs" to Britain.

In reality, Mugabe is facing perhaps the strongest challenge to his power since he took over from white minority rule in 1980.  In national elections held March 29—and still under dispute--Zimbabwe's opposition won control of the nation's 210-seat parliament, winning 107 seats to the ruling party ZANU-PF's 97.

Mugabe has now completely lost any remaining legitimacy he held in Zimbabwe and the world. Zimbabwe's tenacious and beleaguered opposition movement has new hope: "Don't forget we have won," wrote Sokwanele, a civil rights coalition, as it urged Zimbabweans to continue pressing for peaceful, democratic renewal. Under this new calculus, the question now is how long Zimbabweans will wait for Mugabe to go.

Mugabe is beyond caring what the world thinks, and that attitude rippled even in Washington circles. Just as an example, His ambassador to the United States agreed to speak at the Institute on Religion and Public Policy, on April 15, then blew off the event as reporters and others waited for his arrival. His staff made little effort to inform anyone that he was “out of town.” Read more ..

Coke and Confiscation

Coke in the Crosshairs—The Boycott Takes Shape

April 21st 2008

Ken Bobu headshot

Ken Bobu

There is probably no other brand in the world with the name recognition of Coca-Cola. The company founded in 1892 has spent untold millions on ensuring that its brand has survived – no matter what. While wrapping itself in the American flag, the Coke has sold Americans “their” drink all the while suggesting that they represent all the good and values of America. Let the question come to politics, and at home they’ve always been quick to emphasize that they stay out of politics.


The reality is quite different, however.


From supporting both sides (German & American) during World War II, to upholding the Arab League ban on businesses until forced to back down by the ADL, the Coca-Cola Company has involved itself in politics everywhere that it has suited their bottom line to do so. Meanwhile, the image cultivated at home is of a wholesome patriotic good corporate citizen.


The Bigio family is one of many hundreds of thousands of cases of dispossessed Jewish persons. Regrettably, the fact that Jews have been dispossessed around the world throughout history comes as no surprise; however, the fact that the Coca-Cola Company has been hiding behind the legal niceties of landlord-tenant law while occupying seized property for a pittance is both shameful and newsworthy. Coca-Cola doesn’t even deny knowing that the property was seized from the Bigios because they were Jewish!


This case doesn’t hinge purely on its legal merits. The Bigio dispossession is not in dispute any more than Coke’s having significantly benefitted materially since the original seizure. The company’s argument that the Bigio’s remedy is in Egypt rather than here was soundly rejected last year by the Supreme Court. Since then, Coke has remained recalcitrant to do the right thing. Read more ..

Inside Asia

Nepal’s Historic Election Brings Maoists to Power

April 21st 2008

Maoist Krishna Bahadur Mahara

For 117-year-old Amrita Devi Shah, it was a momentous occasion as she exercised her franchise in the crucial elections that will define Nepal's future political set-up. Shah cast her vote in a polling center in Baijnath village of Achham district in western Nepal. Devi also called others to participate in the voting for the Constituent Assembly election enthusiastically, reported private Nepal FM radio.

But far more a Democratic triumph, results from Nepal's historic vote to elect a constituent assembly tasked with writing a new constitution are shocking everyone – including the winners. Maoists, who have long been involved in a protracted violent struggle with the central government, appear to be heading for an overall electoral victory.

In the 215 seats that have been declared, the Maoists have prevailed in 116. If the Maoists continue this electoral success in the remaining undeclared contests, it is possible they could claim an overall majority in the Constituent Assembly.

Even if they do not win an overall majority of the remaining seats, the strong showing by the Maoists almost certainly guarantees the abolition of the Nepalese Monarchy, ending hundreds of years of Monarchical rule in this Himalayan nation.

Though polling took place relatively peacefully, there were several scattered reports of violence throughout the country in the days leading up to the vote. Read more ..

Inside the Palestinian Conflict

Palestinian Authority Reportedly Reading Honor for Female Suicide Bombers

April 21st 2008

Suicide Bombing

Jerusalem after bombing 

If reports that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas plans to present two female terrorists with a medal of honor are found to be true, it will be a grave development, the consequences of which Israel will need to consider, senior government officials told Israel Radio. However, the unnamed officials said the accuracy of the reports had not yet been confirmed.

The radio station reported earlier in the day that the Al Kuds Mark of Honor, the PLO's highest medal, would be given to two female terrorists who helped kill Israelis.

The two were Ahlam Tamimi, a Hamas affiliate serving a life sentence for driving the suicide bomber who exploded himself in the Sbarro restaurant in Jerusalem, killing at least half a dozen people, and Amra Muna, who seduced Ophir Rahum over the Internet and then lured him to Ramallah where he was murdered. Read more ..

Quashing a "UK" Rumor of Ban on Holocaust Courses

April 21st 2008

Please help us quash a rumor that "UK" (AKA the University of Kentucky), in reaction to pressure from the local Moslem community, has reneged on its commitment to offer courses on the Holocaust. Simply put - it isn't so. This rumor is wholly unfounded and in fact may have its origins in a mistaken interpretation of the term "UK."


We are told that an email message, circulating among members of the Central Kentucky Jewish Federation [and elsewhere around the USA], refers to a news story about pressure in the UK to scale back curricular material on the Holocaust. "The UK" referenced in the story is the United Kingdom and not the University of Kentucky. Indeed, whether or not this is the source of the confusion, permit us to comment on the rumor, per se.


There are three vitally important points to be made:


(1) The local Moslem leadership in Lexington, Kentucky would not suggest such a blatantly offensive proposition. It has proven itself especially sensitive to the tenor and content of conversations across the divides of ethnicity and religion.

(2) The academic community on the University of Kentucky campus, from which religious studies programs are supported, would never capitulate to such a demand.

(3) The academic administration of the University of Kentucky would never permit such a grotesque lapse in its commitment to the principle of academic freedom. It would never capitulate to such a demand.


Let us bury this rumor. It is a distortion of the realities on and off campus.


Please see the online rebuttal here. Also see this most recent news release and an article that appeared in the New York Times here.


Richard B. Greissman is Assistant Provost of the University of Kentucky. Read more ..

Coke and Confiscation

Coca-Cola and Confiscation: On Passover, an Egyptian Jew Battles Coca-Cola in the USA for a Modern Day Injustice

April 14th 2008

Coke Poster
Coke in Egypt

Refael Bigio in Montreal remembers the moment that the regime of Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser seized his family’s property. He was driving to the factory with his father that traumatic August day in 1962. Police cordons surrounded the buildings at 14 Aswan Street in the Cairo suburb of Heliopolis. As Bigio and his father nervously stepped up the stairs, a policeman barked that the government had nationalized the business. "Give me the keys," he demanded. Once inside the offices, policemen and soldiers demanded the keys to the vault as well.

The nightmare of dispossession suffered by approximately one million Jews throughout the Arab world had finally descended upon the Bigio family. Brutal jailings and intimidation against Bigio family members culminated in a forced penniless exodus from the nation. The Bigios, along with a million other Jews across the Arab world, were expelled with just a few dollars in their pockets. The family fled to Canada. But the Bigios never forgot the life they knew in Egypt—or their assets.

The Bigio assemblage of warehouses and manufacturing buildings sprawled across 10,000 square meters in the midst of bustling Heliopolis traces its main commercial life to the 1930s when Bigio’s grandfather first bought the land and built a shoe polish plant. Eventually, the family business added a tin container operation to hold the shoe polish, and from that expanded into general tin plating. Eventually they produced tin bottle caps for soda. In 1942, at the height of World War II, a Coca-Cola licensed bottler became the family’s tenant, bottling the world-famous cola. Later the fruity drink called Fanta that Coca-Cola originally developed for the Nazi military was added.

In the fifties, the Coca-Cola licensed bottler in Egypt expanded greatly, the plant was moved to a nearby location, and in 1959 Coca-Cola in Atlanta signed a major license agreement with the Bigios to produce the bottle caps. Read more ..

Capturing the Wind

Better Batteries Dramatically Boost Wind Energy

April 14th 2008

Cropped Wind Turbine

The giant wind turbines on the west coast of Ireland stand not only on the geographical limits of Europe, but also on the cutting edge of a revolutionary technology that makes wind power more reliable and valuable. The 32 megawatt (MW) Sorne Hill wind park will be Europe’s first to integrate a large scale battery back-up system that ensures a reliable supply of electricity regardless of how the wind blows.

“The battery enables large amounts of energy from wind or solar power to be stored, managed, controlled and sent into the electricity grid when it is needed. It doesn’t matter whether the wind is blowing or not; the battery makes the electricity output predictable and reliable,” said Tim Hennessy, CEO of VRB Power Systems, the battery manufacturer based in Vancouver, Canada.

Analysts say the potential market is huge for technology that can improve the reliability of large amounts of energy from wind and solar power. Wind power is not generally considered dispatchable or “firm” because wind is intermittent and fluctuates greatly on all scales (e.g., minute by minute, day, season). Furthermore, the wind does not always blow when electricity is most needed and therefore valuable.

Battery storage is particularly useful when wind power feeds a grid belonging to a so-called “island” such as in the UK and Ireland. Spain, on the Iberian Peninsula, is also effectively an electrical island because it has limited interconnections with France in the north and Morocco in North Africa.

By contrast, the electricity grids of Germany and Denmark are interconnected with those of their neighbors. Their excess wind power goes all over Europe; the extensive and varied demands of the grid negate the need for a huge storage system. In addition, Germany uses hydropower and biomass to back up wind and compresses air into salt mines to store excess energy. Read more ..

America’s Cultural Divide

A Dangerous Conservative Attempt to Rescue Joe McCarthy

April 14th 2008

Ronald Kessler
Ronald Kessler

A dangerous movement has been growing among conservative writers to vindicate the late Sen. Joseph R. McCarthy and his campaign to expose Soviet spies in the U.S. government. The FBI agents who were actually chasing those spies have told me that McCarthy hurt their efforts because he trumped up charges, unfairly besmirched honorable Americans, and gave hunting spies a bad name.

To be sure, intercepts of secret Soviet communications that were part of the VENONA program eventually revealed that Soviet espionage operatives in the government numbered in the hundreds—far more than was thought in the 1950s. In that sense, McCarthy was right, but so were dozens of other anti-Communists of the time like FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover. The problem was that the people McCarthy tarnished as Communists or Communist sympathizers were not the real spies. Often, the information McCarthy used came from FBI files, which were full of rumor and third-hand accounts.

Several months before he died, I interviewed Robert J. Lamphere Jr., who participated in all the FBI's major spy cases during the McCarthy period. Beginning in 1948, Lamphere also was the FBI liaison to the U.S. Army's Signal Intelligence Service's VENONA program and used leads from the intercepts to work cases involving Klaus Fuchs, Harry Gold, David Greenglass, Ethel and Julius Rosenberg, Guy Burgess, Donald Maclean, and Kim Philby. For my book "The Bureau: The Secret History of the FBI," Lamphere told me that agents who worked counterintelligence were aghast that Hoover initially supported McCarthy.

"McCarthyism did all kinds of harm because he was pushing something that wasn't so," Lamphere told me. The VENONA intercepts showed that over several decades, "There were a lot of spies in the government, but not all in the State Department," Lamphere said. However, "The problem was that McCarthy lied about his information and figures. He made charges against people that weren't true. McCarthyism harmed the counterintelligence effort against the Soviet threat because of the revulsion it caused. All along, Hoover was helping him." Read more ..

The Angry Olympics

Wrong Then on the Hitler Olympics; Wrong Now on the Beijing Olympics

April 14th 2008

Rep Dana Rohrbacher
Rep. Dana Rohrabacher

In 1936, the world made the mistake of providing Hitler with a global platform to showcase his fascist propaganda by participating in the Olympics hosted by Nazi Germany. It was wrong to support the Olympic venue then and it’s wrong for the United States to support this prestigious event being held in a similarly fascist regime in 2008.

Since the days of the ancient Greek Olympics, the games have represented the noblest elements of humanity. That cannot be said of the murderous Communist Chinese regime in Beijing. The Olympic torch is supposed to be a beacon of light shining upon mankind’s higher aspirations in the world and it is a travesty to have that torch hosted by a regime that is the world’s worst human rights abuser.

China pledged to improve its human rights record and promote political progress during their 2000 lobbying efforts to host the Olympics. However, according to Amnesty International, China is responsible for over 80 percent of all executions documented in the world and continually holds thousands of political prisoners without charge or trial because political opposition is strictly prohibited. The government also continues to enforce the “One Child” policy per family, oftentimes leading to forced abortions and sterilizations.

The Communist Chinese regime regularly denies the right to freedom of conscience, expression, religion and association and engages in the horrific practice of human organ harvesting without consent on live prisoners, especially Falun Gong practitioners and Christians. The recent violent crackdown on the peaceful protests in illegally occupied Tibet and the ethnic cleansing of the Uygar Moslems in East Turkistan are just a few examples of the unacceptably heavy-handed tyranny inflicted by the Chinese regime. Read more ..

The Genetic Divide

Are We Headed for a Sci-Fi Dystopia?

April 14th 2008


Gattaca, 1997

For Boomers and the World War II generation, Aldous Huxley's 1932 Brave New World is the touchstone tale of a techno-utopian nightmare created by reproductive and biological engineering. Those in Gen X and Gen Y who ponder the prospect of a repro-genetic dystopia think of Gattaca.

The recent release of a collector's edition of the 1997 film unavoidably prompts us to measure ourselves against its "not-too-distant future" of genetic castes and DNA-based discrimination. Has our world become more like Gattaca than it was a decade ago?

In Gattaca world, nonenhanced babies are born only to the poor and the sexually reckless. Those who can possibly afford it consult with a genetic technician before initiating a pregnancy, and select their future child's traits for optimum success: sex, life expectancy, intelligence, appearance.

Children with high-caliber preselected genes are classified at birth as "Valids." They're the ruling elite, eligible for top careers and entitled to high social status. "In-Valids" labor at menial jobs with no way up or out. In one memorable scene, a team of In-Valid janitors in prisoner-like jumpsuits is bussed into a gleaming office building. It's clear that the only way they get through the door is to clean the toilets and sweep the floors. Read more ..

Jewish Refugees from Arab Countries

Real Victims Deserving Real Recognition

April 14th 2008

Shelomo Alfassa headshot
Shelomo Alfassa

On April 1, 2008, the U.S. Congress overwhelmingly passed a Resolution which grants first-time-ever recognition to Jewish refugees from Arab and Muslim countries. The adoption of House Resolution 185, affirms that all victims of the Arab-Israeli conflict must be treated with equality, and this may be the catalyst for a dramatic shift in United States policy.

Why? Because prior to last week’s adoption, all U.S. Resolutions on Middle East refugees referred only to Palestinian Arabs. The new Resolution underscores the fact that Jews living in Arab and Muslim countries suffered human rights violations, were uprooted from their homes, and were made refugees.

Justice for Jews from Arab Countries (JJAC) is the tip of the spear for the International Rights and Redress Campaign, a global movement backed by a coalition of over 77 Jewish organizations. The Campaign seeks legal rights and redress for the over 850,000 Jews who lost everything from their dignity and property, to their loved ones—many of whom were beaten, tortured and murdered prior to or during their flight from Arab countries. The 77 Jewish organizations which have worked with JJAC, have lent their active support to a human rights issue which has brought the Jewish community together. Read more ..

The Next Middle East War

National Drill Worries Israelis and Arabs Alike that the Next War is Nearer

April 14th 2008

Military - Fighter Jets
Israeli Air Force

A nationwide emergency drill of unprecedented scale again has Israelis worried about war.

As official rhetoric and media speculation regarding a possible new confrontation with Lebanese Hezbollah, Syria or even Iran continue to simmer, Israel’s armed forces and public services this week are going through a five-day drill intended to test the homefront’s readiness for enemy missile salvoes and other worst-case events.

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert launched the exercise, dubbed "Turning Point 2," at Sunday's Cabinet session by issuing a dummy declaration that the Jewish state was "at war."
But though the drill is being implemented as part of the hard lessons of the 2006 Second Lebanon War, when thousands of Hezbollah rockets rained down on northern Israel, Olmert also tried to calm regional concern.

"I would like to make clear that this is an exercise and nothing but an exercise," Olmert said in broadcast remarks. "The State of Israel seeks no confrontation or violence in the North." Lebanon and Syria seemed unconvinced.

In Beirut, Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora’s office said he had instructed the army “to be extremely vigilant and take all necessary measures to protect Lebanese civilians” should the Israeli maneuvers prove to be a ruse. Hezbollah official Nabil Kuak added, “We monitor all of the Israeli exercises and we aren’t afraid of them.” Read more ..

What Society Has Come To

Teens Charged as Adults in Video Beating--The Charged: April Cooper, Brittini Hardcastle, Kayla Hassell, Britney Mayes, Cara Murphy, Mercades Nichols, Zachary Ashley, and Stephen Schumaker

April 14th 2008

Cheerleader Beating Suspects

(Top row, from left) April Cooper, Brittini Hardcastle, Kayla Hassell,
Britney Mayes, (Borrom row, from left) Cara Murphy, Mercades Nichols,
Zachary Ashley and Stephen Schumaker

For many, there are still so many unanswered questions about the shocking video of violence broadcast by television networks and across the Internet.

Six teenage girls and two boys have been charged as adults in the March 30 beating in Lakeland, Fla. of a 16-year-old acquaintance.

The teens videotaped the assault and allegedly threatened to post the film on the Internet at MySpace and YouTube. The incident has received worldwide media attention and commentary.

According to reports published late last week in the Lakeland-area newspaper The Ledger, and to Polk County Sheriff's Office affidavits, Mulberry High School cheerleader and honor student Victoria Lindsay had fought with her mother and was temporarily staying with her friend Mercades Nichols, 17, at Nichols' grandmother's house. On the evening of March 30, Lindsay entered the house, and Nichols and 17-year-old Brittini Hardcastle began to threaten her. Fourteen-year-old April Cooper struck Lindsay in the face and slammed her head into a bedroom wall, knocking her unconscious. Lindsay awoke on the living room couch, surrounded by Nichols, Hardcastle, Cooper, and three other girls, 17-year-old Britney Mayes, 16-year-old Cara Murphy and 15-year-old Kayla Hassell. Lindsay's complaint also alleges that she was held down and prevented from escaping as the girls took turns beating her while they videotaped the incident, statements supported in the video obtained by law enforcement.

Two male neighbors of Nichols, 17-year-old Zachary Ashley and 18-year-old Stephen Schumaker, are accused of acting as lookouts during the 30-minute assault. Read more ..

Beijing Olympic Torch Relay

Torch Safely Buoyed Past Idle Threats in Buenos Aires

April 14th 2008

Eduardo Szklarz
Eduardo Szklarz

Nearly 6,000 security personnel and volunteers in Buenos Aires mobilized April 11 to deter disruptive protests during the Olympic torch relay. Pro-Tibet activists had vowed "surprise actions" along the 13-km path through the city, but the only threats to the flame were small water balloons. Even the so-called counter-relay set up by human rights organizations took place without violence as demonstrators protested China's human rights violations, the repression in Tibet, and ties between Beijing and the genocidal government of Sudan.

In contrast to London, Paris, and San Francisco, the event concluded without incident in Argentina's capital – the only Latin American stop in the five-continent journey. The Chairman of the French Olympic Committee, Henri Serandour, publicly expressed distress Saturday over the controversy surrounding the torch relays and incidents by Tibetan separatists and their supporters in Paris. Those disruptions forced the torch to be extinguished several times and included police cancellation of its final stretch there. China state media condemned previous protestor attempts to extinguish the flame as it passed through London, calling the protest actions "vile." When the torch passed through California, Tibetan separatists rolled out banners from buildings and bridge structures including the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco proclaiming "Free Tibet" and other messages of support. Some arrested protesters there now face felony charges. Read more ..

The Conflict Over Kosovo

Russia Livid Over U.S. Decision to Sell Arms to Kosovo

April 14th 2008

Joe Griebowski headshot
Joe Grieboski

According to Russia’s envoy to the United Nations, Vitaly Churkin, the decision of the United States to supply arms to Kosovo contravenes international law and the mechanisms of the United Nations.

On March 19, U.S. President George W. Bush signed a Presidential Determination granting Kosovo eligibility to receive defense articles and defense services under the Foreign Assistance Act and the Arms Export Control Act, which require the President to determine when military assistance "will strengthen the security of the United States and promote world peace."

The United States was among the first countries to recognize Kosovo after its February 17 declaration of independence.

Churkin stated, “We think this is a mistake, which results from disrespect for international law.”  He added that Washington’s decision constituted “a political provocation in a delicate situation.”

President Bush justified his decision to supply arms to the newly-independent state of Kosovo on the basis it would “strengthen the security of the United States and promote world peace.”

However, according to Security Council Resolution 1244, the supplying of weapons to Kosovo – with the exception to peacekeeping forces which make up NATO's Kosovo Force [KFOR] – is explicitly prohibited. Read more ..

Inside Hamas

Hamas Rule Brings Stability To Gaza Life, But Also Fear

April 7th 2008

Hamas Wall
photo courtesy Soman

Ibrahim Al-Najar used to operate his own egg distribution business in Gaza City until about a year ago, when he was beaten and robbed at gunpoint.

“Masked gunmen surrounded our truck, forced us to the ground and stole our profits,” said Ibrahim, 21, who is married with two children.

Ibrahim had had enough. Politically independent until then, he sold his business and joined Hamas’ security forces. “At least now I know that my family is safe,” Ibrahim stated while patroling the closed presidential compound in the Gaza Strip.

Since Hamas violently ousted the Palestinian Fatah faction from the strip in June 2007, the Islamist group has established a security presence that has brought Gaza residents a level of security unseen during the days of Fatah, despite Gaza’s crumbling judicial system. This helps account for the popularity of Hamas -- designated as terrorists by Israel, the United States, and the European Union -- in the Gaza Strip.

“Before the coup, I kept an automatic weapon in the shop. Now I feel safer,” said Osama, 42, a grocer in Gaza City. “The security is also psychological because when Israel attacks, Hamas fights back.” Read more ..

Election Edge

How "Media Black Out" on Barack Obama's Pastor Was Broken

April 7th 2008

Ronald Kessler
Ronald Kessler

For more than a year, the media ignored Barack Obama’s close association with the Rev. Jeremiah Wright. Now media critics are asking why.

The answer is that reporters and editors are enamored of Obama and do not want to touch such a racially charged subject.

As chief Washington correspondent of Newsmax, I began doing stories about Wright’s Trinity United Church of Christ and its so-called Black Value System on Jan. 7 with “Barack Obama’s Racist Church.”

The story said the Black Value System asserts that America structures “an economic environment that induces captive youth to fill the jails and prisons" and takes other steps to “snare” blacks rather than “killing them off directly” or “placing them in concentration camps.”

I cited two exceptions to the media blackout about Obama and his church. Tucker Carlson of MSNBC had described Trinity as having a “racially exclusive theology” that “contradicts the basic tenets of Christianity.” Sean Hannity of Fox News had confronted Wright on TV and asked how a Black Value System would be any more acceptable than a white value system.

On Jan. 14, I broke the story on the church’s lifetime achievement award last December to Louis Farrakhan with “Obama Minister Honored Farrakhan.” The story on Newsmax.com quoted Wright’s glowing praise of Farrakhan in the church magazine, Trumpet.


The Andes Crisis

Colombia, Ecuador, and Venezuela Step Back from War Amid Worries of Chavez Instability and Suitcases Filled with Money

April 7th 2008

Eduardo Szklarz
Eduardo Szklarz

The recent crisis between Colombia, Ecuador, and Venezuela has led to the highest tension in Latin America since the armed conflict between Ecuador and Peru in 1995. Although the episode ended in a handshake at the March 20th Rio Group Summit in Santo Domingo, the showdown reinforced the great political and security challenges faced by the entire Andes region.

Certainly, the new Andean crisis exposed shortcomings in the leadership of the main regional power, Brazil. While the Brazilian Foreign Ministry generally plays a crucial role in mediating such conflicts, this time the Brazilians could not overcome its fear of a three-state war, or successfully mediate.

"This conflict represents one of the greatest historical defeats for Brazil in its project for South-American integration," asserts Argentine political scientist Juan Gabriel Tokatlian. "Brazil could not anticipate the dispute and seems unable to put a brake on it."

Brazilian president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva may be losing the chance to build his cherished South-American Community of Nations (SACN). On one hand, his distrust towards Colombian president Álvaro Uribe's policy of "democratic security" has only reinforced Colombia's perception that the United States is the still only partner capable of solving 40 years of armed conflict. On the other hand, Lula's indulgence towards Venezuelan leader Hugo Chávez has proved counter-productive. Read more ..

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