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Archive for December 2008

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The Madoff Massacre

GMAC Bailout despite Chairmanship by Madoff Crony J. Ezra Merkin

December 30th 2008

Economy - Money Money Money

The Federal government is using billions in taxpayer money to convert General Motors Acceptance Corp, known as GMAC, into a bank, as part of a backdoor Detroit bailout. In the process, it will rescue a company headed by J. Ezra Merkin, a cohort of Bernard Madoff, who engineered a $50 billion international Ponzi scheme.


The chairman of GMAC is J. Ezra Merkin. Merkin has been broadly accused of facilitating Madoff’s Ponzi scheme by deliberately feeding him billions in investor money through two hedge funds Merkin controlled.


On December 29, 2008, $5 billion went directly to GMAC from the Troubled Asset Relief Program, also known as TARP, and up to $1 billion is due to come from U.S. Treasury via a loan to General Motors so it can channel the money to GMAC,  49 percent of which is owned by General Motors. Read more ..

The Surge Against Hamas

A War “to the Bitter End” says Israel while Arab Officials “Blame Hamas"

December 29th 2008

Palestine Topics - Israel destroys Hamas installation
Israel Destroys Hamas Installation

The surge against Hamas will be fought to “the bitter end,” Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak has declared. Israel is now determined to undo the Hamas terror state that has emerged in Gaza, targeting all of its installations, tunnels, and infrastructure.

Hamas squads have lobbed thousands of rockets into southern Israel since it seized power in a coup against the internationally recognized Palestinian Authority in June 2007. Once in power, Hamas established a Taliban-style rule, forcing secular Palestinians to abide by Islamic fundamentalist precepts, massacring supporters of the Palestinian Authority, and forging extensive military connections with Iran and its surrogate, Hezbollah. In the process, it has waged a daily war of rocket launches and terrorist attacks against nearby Israeli towns and cities. Read more ..

Edge on Terror

Are Terrorist Weapons of Mass Destruction More Likely Over the Next Five years?

December 29th 2008

Terrorism - Suitcase nuke

An intelligence assessment by the Internal Homeland Security Threat Assessment for the years 2008-2013, obtained by the Associated Press, projected several dramatic developments. Among these projections was that terrorism directed against the U.S. will continue to be driven by instability in the Middle East and Africa. The report asserted that WMD attacks could be carried out against America, but that these threats are also the most unlikely because it is so difficult for al-Qaida and similar groups to acquire the materials needed to carry out such plots. The report reasserts a number of predictions made before and noted that increasing numbers of individuals will pose as refugees or asylum seekers.

While the report doesn't add much to previously projected assessments over the past few years, it deserves a thorough evaluation by the counterterrorism community as well as the experts studying the strategies and tactics of Jihadists.

This latest report contradicts the conclusion of numerous other reports regarding the likelihood of a WMD attack. For example, while many national security reports have pointed out the inevitability of a non-conventional attack, other reports (and sometimes the same assessment) found the terrorists’ ability to obtain these weapons as less likely. A global review of the "War on Terror" should be conducted as soon as possible on a national scale, involving the U.S. Congress, former and forthcoming U.S. officials, and private sector analysts.


Edge on Autism

Autistic Children and The Military

December 29th 2008

Science - Autistic child

According to Pentagon data, there are 13,243 autistic children among the 1.2 million dependents of active duty personnel. This incidence, just over one in ninety, is vastly higher than the conventional wisdom that only one in every 150 children is affected. This apparent increase is almost certainly due to rigorous military record keeping rather than any difference in environment. Many critics say it is unfortunate that the military does such a poor job of providing long term care after identifying so many in need.

While every military family has access to health care via the TRICARE system, only one in ten of the identified autistic children in the system are served with applied behavioral analysis therapy. Applied Behavior Analysis or ABA, a long term, intensive approach to handling the needs of autistic children, can fill nearly all of a school day in the beginning years of treatment. Most experts feel it is well worth the time spent, as it can result in a child becoming functional enough to complete high school, attend college, and have a chance at a successful career. While this doesn't work for everyone, for many it means freedom from a lifetime of complete dependence on others.


The Surge Against Hamas

As Israeli Ground Assault Prepares, Planners Know Hamas Has Graduated from Terrorist Group to Terrorist Army

December 29th 2008

Terrorism - Hamas Terrorists

Hamas, once known for its suicide attacks inside Israeli cities, is no longer a small-time terrorist group but today is a large guerilla army which has well-trained forces deployed throughout the entire Gaza Strip.

Since Israel's unilateral disengagement from the Gaza Strip in the summer of 2005, Hamas has created a military with a clear hierarchy, led by the Hamas "chief of staff" - Ahmed Ja'abri.

Ja'abri is in his late forties and has been in Israel's sights for a number of years. In 2004, Israeli Air Force jets fired several missiles at Ja'abri's home in the Sajiya neighborhood of Gaza City. Ja'abri escaped the assassination attempt with moderate wounds. Five others were killed.

Since then, he has slowly climbed the Hamas ranks and today is believed to be the terror group's so-called "chief of staff," replacing arch-terrorist Mohammed Deff who was seriously wounded in an Israeli air strike in July 2006. Read more .. Read more ..

The Race for Hydrogen

Industrial Hydrogen Pipelines Get a Boost from Lamination

December 29th 2008

Energy / Environment - Energy

The infrastructure and technology exists today to begin using hydrogen as a fuel. This will involve the proliferation of onsite hydrogen production using electrolysis or reformation from natural gas as well as neighborhood stations.

We have a sprawling, million mile natural gas pipeline network but only seven hundred miles of hydrogen pipeline, primarily serving high volume users such as Gulf Coast region refineries. In addition to the short pipelines serving high volume users, we ship tanks of hydrogen in either compressed or liquefied form. This is acceptable if you need hydrogen for some chemical manufacturing process, but it's a poor way to transport energy. The liquefaction process alone eats up 30% of the energy value of any hydrogen transported in this fashion.
But thanks to recent innovations, that hydrogen pipeline network could spread.

Early attempts to integrate hydrogen into existing pipelines tests supplementing natural gas with up to 20% hydrogen. This worked well for combustion but not for transport. Pipeline welds that easily stopped the larger natural gas molecules were quite willing to let hydrogen slip through, resulting in losses and the potential for fires and explosions where the gas accumulated.

Plastics and metals had long been used for piping, but plastics are permeable to hydrogen and metals are subject to hydrogen embrittlement as well as being permeable. Hydrogen molecules are a pair of atoms, and they pass through plastics still joined together. When presented with a metal barrier, the hydrogen atoms must dissociate, pass through the metal as individual atoms, and then find a partner again on the other side of the barrier. Read more ..

The Edge of Piracy

Somali Pirate Money Makes its Way to Al Qaeda

December 29th 2008

Terrorism - Somali pirates

Ibaado Aden, 65,  a resident of Hobyo in the Galmudug region of central Somalia, watched a shiny sport utility vehicle slowly approaching the main market area of the village.

She said nothing. But it was clear from the look of concern on her face that the vehicle's occupants were pirates. They are the only people who can afford such luxury in this remote and dirt-poor fishing village, hundreds of kilometers from the nearest city. 

Ibaado Aden abruptly ended our interview. She did not want to talk about pirates, especially about what they do with the ransom they receive. She said the pirates give the people nothing, and she does not know where or how the pirates spend their money.   

Somali pirate groups operating in Hobyo and Haradhere in central Somalia and in the northern town of Eyl in Puntland have hijacked more than 40 vessels this year. The unprecedented number of hijackings has prompted at least a dozen countries, including the United States, China and Russia, to send warships to the region to protect vulnerable shipping lanes. The pirates still hold at least 19 vessels and more than 350 crew members hostage. Read more ..

Edge on Internet Security

Building Cyber Security Leadership in the Obama Administration

December 29th 2008

Technology - Cyber Warfare

The issue of cyber security, cyber competitiveness, and cyber warfare has weighed heavily on the minds of policymakers as the severity and complexity of malicious cyber attacks have intensified over the past decade. These attacks, directed against both the public and private sectors, are the product of a heterogeneous network of state and non-state actors whose actions are motivated by a host of factors. Helping to ensure that the federal government achieves a high level of competency on cyber security issues is an imperative for the next Congress.

Indicative of how important cyber security has become, Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell raised this issue for the first time this past February as part of his testimony on the 2008 Annual Threat Assessment. When asked if he believed the United States was prepared to deal with cyber secu­rity threats to the civilian and military infrastructure, McConnell noted that the country is "not prepared to deal with it. The military is probably the best protected; the federal government is not well protected, and the private sector is not well protected. So the question is: How do we take some of the things that we've developed for the military side, scale them across the federal government? And then the key question will be: How do we interact with the private sector?" Properly answering these questions begins with developing cyber-strategic leadership skills in the U.S. government and private sector.

Even as Washington wrestles with issues concerning organization, authorities, responsibilities, and programs to deal with cyber competition, it must place more emphasis on developing leaders who are competent to engage in these issues. This will require a professional development system that can provide a program of education, assignment, and accreditation to develop a corps of experienced, dedicated service professionals who have an expertise in the breadth of issues related to the cyber environment. Read more ..

Edge on Terrorism

Lockerbie Trial is an Historic Miscarriage of Justice

December 29th 2008

Terrorism - Lockerbie
Pan Am Flight 103 at Lockerbie

December 2008 has had more than its share of stories about miscarriages of justice. But little has been said the victim of what many see as the biggest miscarriage of justice in Scottish legal history: Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi, the man convicted of blowing up Pan Am Flight 103 en route from London to New York on December 21, 1988.

For many years, it looked as if there would be no trial over Lockerbie. British and U.S. governments believed Colonel Gaddafi would never hand over the two Libyan intelligence officers accused of the bombings, which some regarded as fortunate, as they believed the evidence against Libya would not stand up in a court of law.

But thanks largely to the persistence of Nelson Mandela, 12 years after the bombing a trial did take place. In exchange for the lifting of sanctions, Gaddafi handed over the two accused men and the Scottish court swallowed almost the whole improbable story. On January 31, 2001, Megrahi was convicted of the mass murder of 259 passengers and crew, as well as 11 people on the ground in the village of Lockerbie. He is now serving a life sentence in a Scottish jail. His co-accused, Al Amin Khalifa Fhimah, was acquitted. Read more ..

Sunset for the Oil Age

Global Oil-Price Roller Coaster Challenges Obama and the World

December 29th 2008

Energy / Environment - Oil Barrels

The global financial crisis has caused a massive slide in energy prices, down to $40-$50 a barrel of NYMEX light sweet crude from the July 2008 highs of $147. While oil prices, along with other commodities, are expected to continue their fall in the short term, over the medium to long term, economic recovery is likely to generate growth in demand, and oil prices are expected to recover as energy markets tighten.

Moreover, lower oil prices are likely to impede the massive investment needed to meet rising demand by 2030, delay introduction of energy-saving technologies, and make alternative fuels less competitive. The tight credit environment will also make it more difficult for energy firms to obtain the necessary funding for financing the capital-intensive growth in produc­tion capacity, especially necessary for expensive and difficult offshore production, exploration and develop­ment, and heavy oil, oil sands, or oil shale production. Read more ..

America’s Economic Crisis

A New Paradigm For Those At The Top

December 29th 2008

Contributors / Staff - Armstrong Williams Headshot

The persistence and magnitude of the ongoing financial crisis has spared no one. It has wreaked havoc on our nation and sent ripple effects throughout the global economy. This has been a particularly unkind crisis—one that has not discriminated among the individual consumer, international corporations, and venerable firms on Wall Street. Most recently, the eye of the storm has circled around the Big Three automakers and they now absorb the ire focused on banks and other financial institutions just a short time ago. Without question this is a fast moving storm which does not leave much time for reflection on the days’ or weeks’ events. But it is time to give pause, for history has shown our memories are short and we are often doomed to repeat our past. This is not a past we can afford to relive.

In many ways, the actions and antics of Wall Street through the years have precipitated the unraveling of our economy and the financial well-being of millions of Americans. "Deliberating," they call it. Nice name, but it doesn’t soften the blow. Wall Street has always been at the heart of the financial or asset bubbles that inevitably pop. Wall Street has served as an enabler that pushes toxic financial instruments into the hands of the unknowing: those in awe of the Wall Street institution. This phenomenon is like drug lords who bring illegal substances to market but don’t use the drugs themselves. The motivation is always the same—money. Read more ..

TCEN Journal of Genocide Review

Disappointing Business For Michael Thad Allen’s Attempt At Holocaust Business Research

December 29th 2008

Book Covers - The Business of Genocide

The Business of Genocide: The SS, Slave Labor and the Concentration Camps by Michael Thad Allen. The University of North Carolina Press, 377 pages, 2002.

Hitler’s WVHA ran the concentration camps. Known in German as SS-Wirtschafts- und Verwaltungshauptamt, and sometimes misreferred to in English by several equally vague terms, including the “SS Economics Administration,” this almost innocuously named agency administered and organized hundreds of camps and sub-camps into a machinery of misery and death. Responsible for the “Extermination by Labor program,” the WVHA’s mission can best be discerned by Himmler’s 1943 exhortation, “Whether or not 10,000 Russian women collapse from exhaustion while digging a tank ditch interests me only in so far as the tank ditch is completed for Germany.”

Even though several authors, most notably Johannes Tuchel, have thoroughly documented the working of the WVHA, additional in-depth revelations would be welcome. I had hoped to find such depth in Michael Allen’s The Business of Genocide. Instead I found a shallow, often superficial, attempt, touching on much, penetrating little.

Unhappily, Allen distracts us with many pages exaggerating the importance of bureaucratic in-fighting, and glossing over how this relatively small but pivotal SS organization exercised its enormous life and death power over the millions trapped within its merciless grip. Hence, across 285 pages, we learn much about the tedious organizational evolution of the WHVA—consolidations and rivalries were common throughout all Nazi structures—but not enough about the real business of genocide to justify the book title. How the WVHA, especially its Office DII, interfaced with other Reich agencies and the camps to implement its day-to-day terror is not explained. Indeed, what Allen omits about the WVHA’s operations could fill a book--the book he tried to, but did not write. Read more ..

The Madoff Massacre

Merkin's Role in the Madoff Scandal Coming to Light As Lawsuits Fly

December 22nd 2008

Economy - Money Money Money

The largest financial fraud in history continues to reverberate throughout the far flung Jewish communities of the United States and beyond. The perpetrator of this fraud and the overwhelming majority of the victims are Jewish. There are more questions than answers at this point in the investigation. Could one man acting alone possibly run a $50 billion multi-decade long Ponzi scheme? Where did the money go? Were there accomplices that either actively supported or were complicit in the scheme? The answers to these questions will be answered in the coming months, but the pain inflicted upon Jewish charities, Jewish communities on Long Island, New York, Los Angeles, and Palm Beach will last a lifetime. Attention has now turned to a second prominent Jewish financier, Jacob Ezra Merkin. Merkin appears to be deeply involved in Madoff’s mess. Who is Merkin? Read more ..

What if the Oil Stops?

Grim Honda President Slashes Profit Forecast Yet Refuses to Expand CNG or Hydrogen

December 22nd 2008

Automotive - Honda CEO
Honda President Takeo Fukui

This continuing coverage of America’s oil crisis arises from the The Plan: How to Save America When the Oil Stops—or the Day Before (Dialog Press). Buy it here.

A grim and frowning Honda President Takeo Fukui has told investors and the media that lower earnings are in store for the long-envied Japanese automaker due to declining demand from American consumers as well as dollar-yen fluctuations.

Despite consumer flight from such Honda gas guzzlers as the Pilot SUV and Ridgeline—among the worst mileage cars on American roads, the company is still betting on oil-burning cars. Hence, it refuses to expand production of its Honda Civic GX which uses pure compressed natural gas (CNG) or its much-heralded hydrogen-fueled Clarity. Honda has severely restricted production of both vehicles to vastly below the market demand.
Japan's second-biggest automaker now expects only $2.06 billion in group net profit for the fiscal year ending March 31, 2009—more than a third below last’s year’s level. This is the second time the Japanese car company has slashed its forecast.

"Every day, the hardships we face are getting worse and worse. And there are no signs of recovery," a grim-faced Fukui said at a news conference accelerated by two days as the news about the public’s rejection of Honda cars progressively worsened.

Worldwide, Honda sales for the year are expected to reach some 3.77 million units in 2008, a stagnated figure virtually the same as the year before. But in the United States, some models have dropped by as much as 47 percent. With such dim news, Fukui resisted even announcing a sales target for 2009. Observers called the bleak approach highly unusual for generally confident Honda, once the darling of the automotive world. Read more ..

America Without a Plan for Oil Interruption

What If The Oil Stops?—Edwin Black Interviewed On The Plan

December 22nd 2008

Contributors / Staff - Edwin Black
Edwin Black

Investigative journalist Edwin Black is the bestselling author of the award-winning IBM and the Holocaust, which documented for the first time IBM’s indispensable 12-year relationship with the Hitler regime, and Internal Combustion which chronicled how governments and corrupt corporations needlessly addicted the world to oil. His new book is The Plan--How to Rescue Society the Day the Oil Stops--or the Day Before. He was interviewed by Jamie Glanov, managing editor of Frontpage.com.

Edwin Black, you have previously written about genocide. Now you are writing about our addiction to oil. What inspired the switch?

I have been inspired to write about our addiction to oil based on the same values, fears and concern that I felt while working on my other books. In those books, I spotlighted a terrible past hoping for a precious future. Now I am chronicling a precious past and trying to avoid a terrible future. Oil today is the feedstock of radical Islam’s war against the west. We are financing it and doing so on a per-mile program. What’s more, Iran is using this money to accelerate its nuclear program which is aimed at destroying Israel. Indeed, Iran wants to achieve in 12 minutes with nuclear missiles what Hitler could not achieve in 12 years with tanks, trucks and gas chambers. If I was concerned about the first Holocaust, why would I not be concerned about a threatened second Holocaust? And remember in Hitler’s war against humanity, the Jews were the first victims but not the last. It will be the same if radical Islam triumphs—Israel will be the first victim but they will try to finish the job in Europe and North America.


Tracking Electric Cars

Obama Said To Be Keen On Adopting Israeli Electric Car, Reports Better Place

December 22nd 2008

Contributors / Staff - David Horovitz
David Horovitz

The incoming Obama administration is "closely monitoring" the innovative electric car project being developed by Israel's Better Place company, "and may be adopting it," according to Idan Ofer, chairman of Better Place.

Heralding a potential private transport revolution, a leading U.S, car manufacturer is also now "putting together a team" to work on the project, Ofer said. Renault-Nissan agreed 18 months ago to build the first cars, and will be mass-producing hundreds of thousands of the electric-powered vehicles by 2010, he noted.

Ofer said the electric car was a natural fit for the Obama presidency as it prepares to grapple with the global financial crisis, environmental concerns, a dependence on oil supplies from unfriendly countries, and a collapsing conventional car-building industry.

The optimistic comments from Better Place came just as the Bush Administation was in the final phase of its Big Three bailout. In the background Chrysler announced it was closing all its North American manufacturing plants for at least a month. General Motors has also been closing plants.

Ofer said he was anticipating "the electrification of America" as Barack Obama's logical instrument for rescuing the industry, as well as promoting environmental responsibility, enabling reduced oil dependence, and underpinning economic revival. Read more ..

The Global Economic Crisis

Sovereign Wealth Funds And Protectionism

December 22nd 2008

Economy - International Currency 3

In October 2008, the International Working Group of Sovereign Wealth Funds (IWG) released a set of generally accepted principles and practices (GAPP) for the conduct, governance, and accountability of sovereign wealth funds (SWF).

First conceived in the 1950s by foreign governments as a means to invest surplus foreign exchange earnings in the U.S. and markets abroad, SWFs have been the subject of intense media and government scrutiny after a flurry of investment deals in 2006 and 2007 caught the public's eye. Because many SWFs lack transparency, critics have been concerned that these government-owned investment vehicles could be used to advance political, as well as economic, agendas.

Some observers fear that rather than using SWFs as a means to hold a diversified asset portfolio and earn a solid return on investment, countries might use these funds to destabilize financial markets, protect industries and companies, or even expropriate technology. With little public information available on most sovereign investors' financial objectives, countries—including the U.S.—began to question the value of SWF benefits and whether action should be taken against what may instead represent a threat to their economic and national security. Read more ..

The Madoff Massacre

An American Tragedy

December 22nd 2008

Crime Topics - Madoff4
Bernard L. Madoff

The greatest financial fraud in the history of our country was uncovered in the second week of December 2008. Charities were wiped out, the life savings of entire families were lost, and innocent lives were ruined in a tragedy that is a failure of morality, a failure of regulation, a failure of unbridled capitalism, and a failure of common sense.

Bernard Madoff, prominent Wall Street trader and former head of NASDAQ, perpetuated a $50 billion Ponzi scheme on his formerly wealthy investors.

The size of the loss is mind boggling—three times the size of the proposed bailout of the U.S. automakers. Madoff’s entire investment fund has been a lie for decades, and the immorality of his actions is incomprehensible. Madoff was well respected by the Wall Street investment community, a prominent philanthropist, and part of the wealthy high society crowd located in West Palm Beach. This begs the question, if this man has been running a scam for decades, how many others are out there doing the same? Read more ..

The Way We Are

A Holiday Story Worth Reading

December 22nd 2008

Contributors / Staff - Armstrong Williams Headshot
Armstrong Williams

This has been a holiday season filled with negative news. From the problems on Wall Street to those on Main Street, all we've heard these past months is that people are losing their money, their homes, and their jobs. Families are forced to cut back as their paychecks are stretched to their limits and beyond. In times like these, heartwarming stories are hard to find, but I found one recently from a friend whom I ran into while he was walking his dog.

His wife had given birth to their first child over the Thanksgiving weekend, and the little girl's arrival was as early as it was cherished. I asked him how he was balancing work with his new bundle of joy, and he told me something which absolutely astounded me and warmed my heart. His employer, a law firm here in the city, was giving him four weeks paid vacation purely because he was a new father! This was on top of the normal paid vacation he accrues throughout the year. Now, we've heard of maternity leave, and more often than not, such leave is unpaid, but what this man's business was offering, four weeks of paid paternity leave, is something special that should be celebrated.

Instead of slogging off to work during the holiday season, this husband is able to spend his days with his wife, taking a break from their normally hectic schedules to be together as they raise their child. Rather than having to toil away for nine or ten hours at his desk, this father can spend these precious moments feeding, diapering, changing, and loving his new daughter. With this time off, this young man can support his home by doing all those little tasks that come with a new baby and give his wife the rest she deserves.


Genetic Edge

Genetic Engineering Limits—A Planet Responds

December 22nd 2008

Science - Mouse in Beaker

Over the past half century, the world has been transformed through rapid developments in communications, transportation, weaponry, and trade. A vast infrastructure of intergovernmental institutions has been established to help ensure that these and related developments generate more benefit than they do harm. These include global institutions such as the United Nations and the World Bank, regional groups such as the European Union and the African Union, and those with issue-specific agendas such as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and the World Health Organization. Although the record of these institutions is far from perfect, a world without them would be fraught with even more risk than it is today.

The rapid development of powerful new human biotechnologies raises precisely the sort of questions that such intergovernmental institutions are positioned to address. If developed wisely, these technologies could help prevent and cure diseases that have afflicted humanity for millennia; if misapplied, they could pose new and profoundly consequential risks. Detailed knowledge of the human genome might lead to improved medical diagnostics, but could also lead to a Gattaca-like world in which affluent couples genetically modify their embryos in an attempt to create “designer babies.” The creation of clonal human embryos gives researchers tools to help investigate the developmental origin of congenital diseases, but brings us closer to the day when rogue scientists might attempt to create live-born human clones. Genetic interventions intended to help those suffering from degenerative muscular diseases could be used by athletes to illicitly enhance their strength and endurance. Read more ..

The Madoff Massacre

In Wake Of Madoff Massacre, Jewish Ire Focuses On Merkin

December 22nd 2008

Contributors / Staff - Gary Rosenblatt
Gary Rosenblatt

While international attention continues to focus on Bernard Madoff as he faces charges for his alleged $50 billion Ponzi scheme, some leaders in the Jewish community, particularly within Modern Orthodox institutions, are expressing shock and anger at the role played by J. Ezra Merkin, a prominent investment guru and philanthropist, who appears to have misled at least some investors. At Yeshiva University, Madoff is not the only trustee who has resigned in shame. Merkin also stepped down as a Yeshiva trustee. He played a primary role in managing the university’s endowment funds.

About $110 million of Yeshiva’s endowment—8 percent of the total—was invested in Ascot Partners, a $1.8 billion Merkin fund that was wholly invested with Madoff and is now gone. According to several sources close to the institution, officials are “livid” and “feel betrayed” because the $110 million was transferred by Merkin into Madoff’s fund without the board’s knowledge.

Yeshiva’s endowment is now about $1.2 billion, down from 1.7 billion in January, according to a letter sent December 16 to the YU community from President Richard Joel. Most of that loss is due to the general collapse of the economy.

Few are accusing Merkin, who did not respond to an interview request, of prior knowledge that Madoff was operating an alleged fraud. Indeed, Merkin, 54, informed investors in his Ascot Partners fund last Thursday that he was among those who suffered substantial personal losses when it crashed, since all of its dollars were invested with Madoff. Read more ..

America's Economic Collapse

Madoff's Network Helped Him Target Jews

December 22nd 2008

Contributors / Staff - Ronald A Cass
Ronald A. Cass

Steven Spielberg. Elie Wiesel. Mort Zuckerman. Frank Lautenberg. Yeshiva University. As one reads the list of people and enterprises reportedly bilked to the tune of $50 billion by Bernard Madoff, I recalled a childhood in which my father received bad news by asking first, "Was it a Jew?" My father coupled sensitivity to anti-Semitism with special sympathy for other Jews. In contrast, Mr. Madoff, it seems, targeted other Jews, drawing them in at least in some measure because of a shared faith.

The Madoff tale is striking in part because it is like stealing from family. Yet frauds that prey on people who share bonds of religion or ethnicity, who travel in the same circles, are quite common. Two years ago the Securities and Exchange Commission issued a warning about "affinity fraud." The SEC ticked off a series of examples of schemes that were directed at members of a community: Armenian-Americans, Baptist Church members, Jehovah's Witnesses, African-American church groups, Korean-Americans. In each case, the perpetrator relied on the fact that being from the same community provided a reason to trust the sales pitch, to believe it was plausible that someone from the same background would give you a deal, that if offered by someone without such ties would sound too good to be true.

The sense of common heritage, of community, also makes it less seemly to ask hard questions. Pressing a fellow parishioner or club member for hard information is like demanding receipts from your auntit just doesn't feel right. Hucksters know that, they play on it, and they count on our trust to make their confidence games work. Read more ..

Iran's Nukes

Obama Urged To Trade European Missile Shield For Russian Help On Iran Sanctions In 60 to 90 Day Effort

December 22nd 2008

Contributors / Staff - Howard Berman
Rep. Howard Berman

The U.S. should consider making concessions to Russia on the placement of a missile-defense shield in Europe, in order to get Moscow to back "crippling" concessions against Iran if the time comes, suggests Howard Berman (D-Cal), the powerful Democratic chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

Berman said that one reason for a limited dialogue with the Iranians to get them to suspend uranium enrichment would be to encourage other countries to "buy into crippling" sanctions if Teheran failed to do so.

The pivotal Congressman stated that the U.S.-Iran talks should be of a set duration, somewhere between 8 and 12 weeks, so the Iranians would not, as they have done in the past, use the negotiations as a cover to continue their nuclear program and their weapons development.

The chances of getting the international community to put its full weight behind sanctions are greater once dialogue between the U.S. and Iran is established, Berman said.

When asked whether he genuinely thought Moscow would cooperate with sanctions that would include a ban on refined oil exports to the Islamic republic, Berman said that the U.S. had "lots of different issues" with Russia, and that he did not think the Bush administration had "prioritized Iran on those issues." The Russians knew full well how important this issue was for the U.S., and at the same time were watching the U.S. "push policies that they deeply resent," such as the missile-defense system in Europe and the quick expansion of NATO, he said. Read more ..

Edge on Jihad

Behind The Shoe Bomber

December 22nd 2008

Islamic Topics - Shoe bomber rally
Rally in support of the Shoe Bomber

Observing the immediate aftermath of the shoe throwing incident in Baghdad, one may note that the most striking effect occurred among the Western public, particularly within the United States.

Commentators and regular citizens were asking themselves, seven years after 9/11, “why do they hate us?,” once again missing the fact that this particular violent expressionfar from being a unique emotional reaction by one individualis part of a war of ideas, a continuous organized confrontation over the future of the region.

In short, this is another form of Jihadism, one which we may refer to as Jihad by the Shoe (Jihad bil Hizaa). Here is why.

Western Awe of So-Called Arab Reaction

The main question on anchors’ minds and lips reflected the shock and awe felt by many Americans. It wasn’t really about the Iraqi journalist al Zaidi targeting President Bush with his two leather “missiles,” for in liberal democracies the scene of flying eggs, pies, or liquid in the direction of politicians, legislators, Prime Ministers, or Presidents is part of the political culture. Leaders are even on the receiving end of obscene gestures and words; this comes with the package of democratic freedoms. It ends up usually with a sensational picture on the front page, or as a joke on TV’s late night shows. The legal consequences, if any, are usually minor. Read more ..

TCEN Journal of Genocide Review

Kristallnacht Paved The Way To The Holocaust

December 22nd 2008

Book Covers - 48 Hours of Kristallnacht

Mitchell Bard. 48 Hours of Kristallnacht: Night of Destruction/Dawn of the Holocaust. September 2008, The Lyons Press. 256 pages.

In an orgy of anti-Semitic violence and hatred, mobs ran amok throughout Germany and newly annexed Austria on Nov. 9 and 10, 1938burning 1300 synagogues, vandalizing schools, institutions, and cemeteries, wrecking some 7500 Jewish-owned businesses, killing nearly 100 Jews, and injuring hundreds more.

In the end, 30,000 Jews were arrested and sent to concentration camps during Kristallnacht, an ugly precursor to the Holocaust which broke out in Germany about 70 years ago.

Even by Nazi standards, it was a horrifying event. According to British historian Ian Kershaw, “It was the only occasion during the Third Reich when the German public was confronted directly, on a nation-wide scale, with the full savagery of the attack on the Jews.” He adds, “Never before and never again did the persecution of the Jews stand at the forefront of the public’s attention…”

This telling quotation appears in Mitchell Bard’s illuminating book, 48 Hours of Kristallnacht: Night of Destruction/Dawn of the Holocaust. Largely based on eyewitness testimonyoften previously unpublishedthese chilling accounts are supplemented by Bard’s supple analysis of what came before, during, and after this shocking, brutal outburst of primitive anti-Semitism. Read more ..

Joe Dunlap And Spokane Need to Speak Up And Demand Honda GX Vehicles

December 22nd 2008
As one who believes in alternative fuels, I hope that the Spokane Community College finally gets the Honda GX cars they were seeking. The Cutting Edge News has covered this magnificently (see Honda Image Tarnished As It Uses Four Letter Expletives and Public Becomes Aware of Alt Fuel Suppression in Energy Dec1, 2008 and related series). As we endlessly discuss bailouts for the Big Three, I find it frustrating that Honda refuses to seize the opportunity to sell a car that can help both the industry and our nation out of our vehicular mess. I am equally disappointedly that school president Joe Dunlap has grown weary and has now resorted to "no comment." What kind of example is that? Joe Dunlap and all of Spokane need to speak up and demand that Honda sell GX vehicles that run on natural gas. They have been on the front line and must not shirk. I ask this not for Spokane, but for everyone in America. Here in Dallas, natural gas is a promising alternative fuel. It is abundant throughout this part of Texas and if Spokane can set the example with natural gas cars, everyone will gain across the nation.

Iran's Nukes

Obama Said To Threaten U.S. Nuclear Strike If Iran Nukes Israel

December 15th 2008

Military - A Bomber
American Nuclear Bomber

U.S. President-elect Barack Obama's administration will offer Israel a "nuclear umbrella" against the threat of a nuclear attack by Iran, a well-placed American source said earlier this week. The source, who is close to the new administration, said the U.S. will declare that an attack on Israel by Tehran would result in a devastating U.S. nuclear response against Iran.

But America's nuclear guarantee to Israel could also be interpreted as a sign the U.S. believes Iran will eventually acquire nuclear arms.

Secretary of State-designate Hillary Clinton had raised the idea of a nuclear guarantee to Israel during her campaign for the Democratic Party's nomination for the presidency. During a debate with Obama in April, Clinton said that Israel and Arab countries must be given "deterrent backing." She added, "Iran must know that an attack on Israel will draw a massive response." 


America's Economic Collapse

Is America In Decline?

December 15th 2008

Economy - Home Foreclosure

Indications are that the United States has reached its peak and is on a downward slope. The U.S. government has taken measures in the last 11 months that appear as desperate attempts to keep propped up what many see as a dysfunctional, corrupt financial system. Have the alleged extreme socialist schemes implemented by President Bush, the Treasury, Federal Reserve, and Congress marked the climax of our great capitalist experiment?

There is still time to get our Republic back on its original capitalist path, but time is running short. It will take straight talk from our leaders, as well as intense political pressure from common citizens, politicians scared of losing their jobs, and Americans willing to change their ways and sacrifice for the good of the country.  Read more ..

Edge on the Housing Crisis

What The Bible Says On Home Ownership And The Housing Crisis

December 15th 2008

Books - Holy Bible

In the wake of the mortgage crisis, a growing chorus of economists today questions the status of home ownership as the fulfillment of the American dream.  An argument supporting home ownership is found inof all placesthe Hebrew Bible.

Although usually read as part of a religious text, the Bible's economic prescriptions may be mined to recover the roadmaps by which past thinkers navigated, even if no longer fully applicable today.

Economic commentators Paul Krugman and James Surowiecki argue that the American dream increasingly ends with a rude awakening. With the market value of houses falling, many Americans are now trapped in mortgages that exceed the value of their homes. And for many more, they argue, the hassles of buying and selling a home make it harder for underemployed home owners to move to where the jobs are. Read more ..

Edge on Terrorism

Belgian Victory Over Al Qaeda Offers Lessons In War On Terror

December 15th 2008

Europe Topics - Belgian Police
Belgian anti-terror squad

Belgian authorities have arrested 14 suspected Al Qaeda terrorists, including a Jihadi who was allegedly planning a suicide attack, according to Agence France Presse and the Associated Press.

Sixteen raids were executed by 242 police officers in Brussels and in the eastern city of Liege on the eve of an important European economic summit scheduled to take place in Brussels. Security and judicial sources described the arrests as the “most important anti-terrorism operation in Belgium.” Citing the Federal prosecutor’s office, AFP reported that the move was targeting “a Belgian Islamist group involved in training as well as fighting on the Pakistan-Afghan border in cooperation with important figures in al Qaeda.” Read more ..

Great Gatherings

Mass Movement for Energy Freedom To Emerge from Florida Conference

December 15th 2008

Event Logos - Citizens for Energy Freedom

A new mass movement is expected to emerge when Citizens for Energy Freedom—the grassroots organization of the Set America Free Coalition—convenies its “Energy Independence in 2009” conference in Jupiter, Florida on January 17–18, 2009.

The nation's premier energy independence advocacy leadership group will be widening into a "citizen's campaign" to correct America's energy policy mistakes. More than just another conclave of experts, Energy Independence is 2009 is envisioned as an ignition switch for average people to shape the country's future energy survival.

The conference kicks off with a gala banquet at the West Palm Beach Marriott Hotel, featuring a keynote address by Edwin Black, bestselling author of The Plan. Conferees reconvene the next day at Florida Atlantic University’s Jupiter campus, and will feature a keynote address by Robert Zubrin, bestselling author Energy Victory, followed by two expert panels—the first on liquid fuel choice in the transportation sector, and the second on plug-in hybrid electric vehicles.


Edge on Alternative Energy

Trash Becomes Ethanol In Major Canadian Alt-Fuel Move

December 15th 2008

Energy / Environment - landfill

The city of Edmonton in Alberta, Canada has taken a large step forward in liquid fuel production. But it has nothing to do with the famous tar sands deposit of the province—it has to do with trash.

Prior to mastering the drilling and piping of natural gas in the 1940s, lighting and cooking in cities used what was called "town gas" or producer gas. Coal was heated in a low oxygen atmosphere (sometimes with water) and a mix of hydrogen, carbon monoxide, methane, and carbon dioxide was emitted. Carbon monoxide was the key. Although even in low concentrations it is dangerous as it binds very tightly to the oxygen-carrying part of our blood, carbon monoxide is a fine fuel, burning just as natural gas does.

Fast-forward to 2008, and Edmonton is reviving this process with a 21st century twist. Read more ..

Edge on Autism

Autism's Mysterious Increase

December 15th 2008

Health/Medicine - Autism

Impaired social function, repetitive motion, circumscribed interests—these are common themes in a group of complex developmental disabilities known as Autism Spectrum Disorders or ASD.

Individuals with ASD refer to themselves as being “on the spectrum” as they exhibit symptoms, characteristics, and function spanning the wide range from being unable to communicate or care for themselves, to managing to fit into society despite their quirks.

Although recognizable in historical writings, autism is still a relatively recent diagnosis. New collections of behaviors and deficits are being recognized as part of the autism spectrum. The initial characterization of Asperger's Syndrome (one of three forms of ASD) occurred in 1944, and work continues on sensory integration disorder, and on the catch-all pervasive developmental disorder. Read more ..

Edge on Economic Crisis

General Motors Betrayed Its Founding Genius

December 15th 2008

Automotive - Durant Antique

As GM staggers towards either bailout or bankruptcy,  I am reminded that the big financial meltdown of 2008 began just around September 16th, the 100th anniversary of its founding. 

The giant corporation's present misery has a personal resonance for me as thirty years ago I completed a biography of its founder, William C. Durant, the very antithesis of the GM leadership of recent years—unimaginative, stodgy, wedded to old ways of doing things, and fiercely resistant for the last 20 years to all efforts to nudge it in the direction of smaller, fuel-efficient, pollution-reducing cars instead of heavyweight gas-guzzlers. Read more ..

Edge on Economic Crisis

Another Great Depression Is Closer Than We Think

December 15th 2008

Economy - Depression-era woman
Depression-era WPA photo

The United States is in the midst of the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression. The question is: How close are we to another Great Depression?

The answer is: Very close. 

Here’s why.

The Great Depression was the result of the combination of the1929 financial crisis and serious structural problems in the American economy such as widespread poverty. After the 1929 stock market collapse these factors joined to deeply cut business investment and personal consumption. The consequence was a downward depressionary spiral that created the worst economic collapse in American history.

Today’s economy is hurtling downward on a similar path to depression. The mortgage and financial crises have constricted credit and largely cut off business investment. Stagnant wages and over-borrowing have curtailed consumer spending.

The collapse of a stock market bubble in 1929 triggered a chain of events that led to depression. In the late 1920s, investors and financial institutions poured money into stock. Banks, assisted by the Federal Reserve’s low interest rates, lent money on easy terms to investors. Rapidly rising stock prices created a get-rich euphoria that attracted more dollars. Both investors and financiers assumed that stock prices would continue to rise and continued to over-borrow and over-spend on stocks. Read more ..

Latin America's Drug Wars

Guatemalan Police Are Missing Weapons And Go AWOL As Lynch Mobs Provide Rough Justice

December 15th 2008

Latin American Topics - Guatemalan National Police
Guatemalan Police Strike Force

Guatemala’s director of the National Civilian Police force, Marlene Blanco Lapola, informed that nation’s congress on December 9 that more than 2,000 automatic weapons have disappeared from her inventory, including AK-47 assault rifles and Israeli-made Uzi machine guns. Upon questioning by legislators, Director Blanco could not answer just how many weapons are missing and said that an inventory is ongoing. She affirmed, however, that some of the missing weapons already have been used in crimes.

“We have received reports from commissariats that weapons are missing. In other cases, these have left our warehouses, but we do not know who took nor with whose permission, since the signatures left in the registers are illegible.” She added that a judge is known to bear a police-issued Uzi submachine gun, while it is not clear how he obtained it. Read more ..

Global Economic Crisis

China, Japan and North Korea Huddle Over World Economic Slump

December 15th 2008

Chinese yuan money
Leaders of China, Japan, and South Korea

In the wintery Japanese city of Fukuoka there was a thawing of relations between former foes as China, South Korea and Japan, met on December 13 to discuss options for a coordinated regional response to the worsening global economic crisis. The leaders of Asia's largest economies spent the day discussing their economies and a range of other issues including climate change and North Korea's bid for nuclear weapons.

Meeting independently for the first time, China's Premier Wen Jiabao, Japanese Prime Minister Taro Aso, and South Korean President Lee Myung-bakwho together manage about 75 percent of Asia's economyexplored ways of supporting each other and the broader Asian community amid the deepening global economic crisis. Read more ..

The Iran Threat

Iran Deploys Troops, Ballistic Missiles To Eritrea

December 8th 2008

Iran - Eritrea Iran meeting
Eritrean President Isayas Afwerki and Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad

Iranian ships and submarines have deployed an undisclosed number of Iranian troops and weapons at the Eritrean port town of Assab, according to opposition groups, foreign diplomats, and NGOs in the area.

The city of Assab sits at the Horn of Africa in the Arabian Sea. As such, Assab offers a strategic position as the world nervously eyes the precarious routes through which a seaborne oil traverses daily.

Local sources have reported that Iran recently sent soldiers and a large number of long-range and ballistic missiles. The military basing came after Iran signed an accord with Eritrea to revamp the Russian-built refinery used by the Eritrean Oil Company, also known as Assab Oil Company. As the world’s second largest import of gasoline, Iran is sensitive to a Western plan to obstruct its access to refined product as a part of broad sanctions provoked by Teheran’s nuclear activities. Iran needs nearby oil refining ability. Using protection of the Eritrean refinery as a pretext, Iran has set up its military operation there, and has been patrolling with unmanned surveillance drones. Read more ..

Edge of Terror

In 2009, Terror Attacks Will Only Worsen

December 8th 2008

Terrorism - Jihadi Salute

Mumbai’s bloody week has ended with shock and awe in India and around the world. Since 9/11, and even before, the jihadists have been leaping from one massacre to another, scarring democracies and civil societies with their violent imprints.

From New York and Washington to Madrid and London, from Beslan and Baghdad to Islamabad and Bali, the seekers of a Taliban-like Caliphate continue to adapt their tactics even as they stay the course. No civilization or continent has escaped their designs.

But after Mumbai, one has to expect more—and worse. Let’s look at what’s on the horizon:

1) Urban Jihad is Now Open for Business
My initial assessment of the Mumbai terror attacks leads me to predict that the Mumbai model is now a frame of reference for copycats. These attacks can happen again, in India, in the region, and around the globe.

Urban jihad is a siege of coordinated terror activities by Salafists or other adherents of Jihadism aimed at shocking, paralyzing, and seizing part of an entire city or a neighborhood. The goal of the jihad is to take the battle inside the cities of the enemy, in this case India. But the Beslan school massacre in Russia in September 2004, the terror attacks in Saudi Arabia in November 2003 the multiple killings in Iraq, Afghanistan and Algeria, as well as the similar scenarios in Israel over several decades, tell us that this form of urban terrorism is now beyond the test phase—it is now open for business worldwide. They strike anywhere en masse.

2) Sub-Continental Jihadi Now Makes Claims Beyond Kashmir
Interestingly, the Jihadi propaganda machine reacted instantly to the attacks by invoking the issue of Kashmir. So did many in the international media. But the reality is the goals have mutated and now extend beyond the classical ethnic conflict in Kashmir. Read more ..

Open Fuel Standard An Immediate Must

December 8th 2008

Does the irony ratchet any higher as Congress contemplates the use of a previously created $25 billion fund earmarked for automaker’s retooling for greater fuel efficiency to “bailout” the auto industry which for decades has fought increased CAFE standards? And this at a moment in time the auto industry, which has not missed an opportunity to miss an opportunity, is engaged in legal action in 16 states opposing states which seek to reduce greenhouse emissions from automobiles.

This horse can be led to water, but it will only drink if the legislation demands it must. Until it was legislated, the automakers spent tens of millions of dollars on lawyers and lobbyists opposing seat belts, shoulder belts, air bags, and catalytic converters. These innovations then became international standards.

Should Congress pass an aid bill, it must be predicated upon taxpayer assurances including concessions to ensure future viability and competitiveness, reduce labor packages, and reduce overall debt obligation.  This bill will fail Americans if it fails to include measures to put America on course for energy independence, including the Flexible Fuel vehicle benchmarks contained in the circulating Bill HR S3303/ 6559 also known as the Open Fuel Standard Act (nominal cost of $100 to $200 per car, proven technology, able to run on any combination gasoline or American ethanol and methanol) and fully electric cars.

Our National Security is compromised each day seventy cents of every dollar spent on oil leaves America. As America’s foreign oil dependence nears 70 percent, our way of life, predicated on available and affordable fuel, becomes more precarious should a supply disruption occur or should prices skyrocket again. We must not lose our sense of urgency to get America’s cars running on oil alternates derived from alcohol such as methanol, butanol, or CNG or electricity, become derailed by a temporary drop in the price of oil. The 1970s, 1980s, 1990s showed “cheap oil” will derail alternates, but oil’s price will continue to increase.

Worldwide competition for finite resources like fossil fuels, coupled with geopolitical gamesmanship, adds an element of uncertainty to fuel availability. We cannot wait another 35 years for Congress to act. We must break the oil monopoly before the petrodollars of Russia, Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Venezuela break us and our allies, systematically deploying strategic initiatives to obtain advanced weapons systems, develop nuclear weapons, and undermine relationships with our allies.

The next generation is counting on us not to miss this opportunity to reduce dependence on foreign oil. It's our duty. It’s our destiny.

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