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Archive for September 2008

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America With No Plan for an Oil Interruption

Honda Suppresses Alt Fuel GX Automobiles as Company Refuses to Sell CNG Cars to Spokane

September 29th 2008

Technology - Honda gpx
Honda GX

This story is adapted from the just released The Plan: How to Save America When the Oil Stops—or the Day Before (Dialog Press). Buy it here.

Japanese Honda is suppressing its own alternative fuel technology and denying its cars and home refueling devices to Americans eager to get off of oil. Honda, it seems, is going slow on its alt fuel vehicles, fearing the public will continue to abandon its more profitable gas guzzling SUVs such as the Honda Pilot. The Pilot is one of the most fuel inefficient vehicles on our nation’s highway.

Nowhere is this suppression strategy more visible than with the Honda GX, sometimes called “the greenest car in America.” Honda has ensured GX is also “the most unavailable car in America.” In fact, Spokane Community College has been trying to purchase just one for more than a year and Honda at the corporate level refuses to sell them even one car. Home-based or community-based fueling is one of the answers to energy independence. Read more ..


Inside Lebanon

Lebanese Shiites: Torn Between Dying for Iran and Living for Lebanon

September 29th 2008

Hezbollah banners
Hezbollah on the March

The world continues to grasp the importance of Lebanon as a major front in the global battle between the forces of moderation and the forces of extremism. Vital to that battle are the large numbers of Lebanese, especially the Shias, who continue to support Hezbollah as it serves the interests of Iran while dragging all of Lebanon onto the wrong side of the fight.

Under the pretense of representing Shia interests, Hezbollah exploits the intrinsic sectarian divisions in order to continue gnawing at Lebanese sovereignty.  The false sense of empowerment that the “divinely” guided Hezbollah has successfully casted over the Shias has blinded them from uncovering the party’s real intentions.  Their apparent willingness to suffer huge losses caused by Hezbollah’s adventures allows its leaders to remain irrationally defiant as Hassan Nassrallah did after his criminal blunder of 2006 by claiming a “divine victory” while hundreds of mutilated corpses were still under the rubbles of the mostly Shiite devastated neighborhoods. 

The Shias’ support emboldens the leaders of Hezbollah to challenge the demands for disarming even if Israel withdraws from the disputed Shebaa farms area, thus indirectly exposing their true mission, which goes beyond the conflict with Israel, to serve their Iranian masters and to achieve the hegemony of the Iranian regime over the Lebanese Shias. Read more ..


The Rocky Mideast Roadmap

Olmert Resigns, But Peace Process Trudges On With Livni

September 29th 2008

Israel Topics - Livni
Tzipi Livni

Ehud Olmert's decision to resign as prime minister will naturally cause a delay in negotiations with the Palestinians as Israel's democratic process works toward the creation of a new government. Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni won the Kadima Party primary and has now been asked to form a government. Livni has been the lead negotiator for nearly a year and has developed a very good working relationship with her Palestinian interlocutors. If Livni forms a government, she can be expected to quickly return to the talks with the Palestinians. If she is unable to do so, elections will be called and the campaign will indeed preoccupy Israeli leaders.

This is the nature of democracy. American leaders are also distracted by the presidential campaign, but everyone knows once it is over, the new administration will turn its attention to the Middle East. After Israeli elections, the new prime minister will also return to the bargaining table. Read more ..


Is the U.S. Economy Safe?

Green Ashes and Black Swans—The Alan Greenspan Legacy, Part II

September 29th 2008

Economy - Wall Street Bull

Warren Buffett’s view of derivatives in his 2002 Annual Letter to Shareholders states, “Derivatives are financial weapons of mass destruction, carrying dangers that, while now latent, are potentially lethal.”

Warren didn’t know what would happen, or when it would happen, but being the smartest financial mind on the planet enabled him to foresee a bleak outcome. A reasonable person could conclude that this credit derivative bubble would not end well. Another Black Swan was coming, but again the Harvard educated CEOs on Wall Street making $15 million per year did not see it, or chose to ignore the risks, because they knew that the Federal Reserve and the Government would come to the rescue if they went too far. The Greenspan “put” was well known on Wall Street. Whenever someone did something stupid and risked worldwide financial collapse, the Fed would ride in on their white horse to save the day. Read more ..


Edge on Iran

Interfaith Rally Protests Religious Reception for Iranian President Ahmadinejad

September 29th 2008

Iran - Ahmadinejad The Man
Iranian President Ahmadinejad

Hundreds of protesters assembled outside the Grand Hyatt Hotel in New York City on September 25 where Ahmadinejad was being feted by a group of religious leaders. The coalition of Jews and non-Jews assembled outside to protest the dinner at the hotel.

“These religious leaders are about to betray their brethren across all religions, parties, and countries by ‘honoring’ the tyrannical regime of Ahmadinejad and the Iranian mullahs of this terrorist state,” protest organizers said in a statement posted on their website. This was the second such major protest against the Iranian Republic’s leader that week in New York. Read more ..


Religious Freedom

Driving The Point Home -- Responding to Ahmadinejad

September 29th 2008

Contributors / Staff - Abraham Foxman Color cropped
Abraham Foxman

Before Mahmoud Ahmadinejad delivered a hate-filled diatribe at the opening session of the General Assembly, there should not have been any doubt that the Iranian regime poses a true threat to Israel, the United States and the West. Ahmadinejad was already the owner of a long history of belligerent anti-Israel, anti-US, rhetoric and Holocaust denial, while his country flies in the face of international sanctions by actively pursuing nuclear weapons. After the speech, it was decidedly clear that the international community must strengthen its resolve to deal with this menace.

During his remarks, Ahmadinejad’s rabid anti-Semitism was on full display for the world to see, as his words echoed the most infamous passages of the “Protocols of the Elders of Zion.” He blamed Jews as the source of upheaval in the economy and in international conflicts, and declared that America and Israel would soon collapse. Ahmadinejad accused “a small but deceitful number of people called Zionists” for dominating financial and political centers in Europe and the U.S. in “a deceitful, complex and furtive manner.” He also accused Jews of playing an “underhanded” role in the crisis in Georgia, and reiterated his call for the demise of the “Zionist regime” and the establishment of a Palestinian state in all of Israel.

He tried to present the Islamic Republic of Iran as a beacon of moderation and justice, while urging nations to aspire to higher values of justice and love. In reality, the Iranian regime rejects these very values in word and in deed. Iran’s record on human rights is appalling. Its unrelenting pursuit of nuclear weapons and repeated calls for the downfall of the United States promotes a culture of hate, not of love. By frequently sounding calls for “death” to America and Israel, the Iranian regime promotes a culture of hatred for the West and a worldview that is hostile to all freedom-loving nations. Read more ..


Edge on Alternative Fuels

Ammonia Fuel—The Other Hydrogen Future

September 29th 2008

Energy / Environment - Ammonia-fueled Bus, Belgium, 1943
Ammonia-fueled bus, Belgium, 1943
Courtesy: Ammonia Fuel Network

America’s approach to the transformational challenge of Peak Oil has resembled nothing so much as a Keystone Kops two-reeler. Not since Jimmy Carter has an administration demonstrated a commitment commensurate to the challenge, perhaps because President Carter was sent packing back to Georgia with his cardigans after an attempt to rouse Americans from their blissful dreams of a future where Exxon and Mobil would ensure that no one would have to line up for gasoline ever again. Thirty years later, we are just one Category Four hurricane in the wrong place or a Strait of Hormuz terrorist attack away from waiting in long lines to buy fuel we can no longer afford for the SUVs we no longer love. Recent events in Nashville suggest that even imagined shortages will have the same results. We need a rational approach to energy transition, and nothing exemplifies the lack of a comprehensive energy policy as much as the magical-time-machine thinking involved in the promise of a "hydrogen future." Read more ..


Billionaire Bailout

Bailing Aboard the U.S. Titanic

September 29th 2008

Economy - No Bull

In Washington D.C. during the week of September 21-27, out of public view, the 0.1 percent ruling elite with the most to lose decided the fate of your grandchildren.  Whose best interest do you think they are looking out for?

As we’ve watched the various cable business networks over the last few weeks, there is a sense of desperation and fear among the commentators, pundits, and “experts.” It is a fear based upon self-interest. Their lives depend upon the masses keeping their money invested in the market. They have been in overwhelmingly in favor of the bailout bill.

Jim “Mad Money” Cramer, who has a net worth of $100 million, was in favor of the bill. Larry “Free market capitalism is the best path to prosperity” Kudlow, a multi-millionaire, is 100 percent in favor of the socialist bailout of the criminal investment banks. They support this “blank check” to a government that is already $9.65 trillion in debt, because they want to maintain their lavish lifestyle, multiple estates, and prominent positions in society.

An honest balance sheet (as opposed to the balance sheets of U.S. banks) will always tell the true story. Indeed, a balance sheet of U.S. households explains the situation we are in today. The value of real estate rose 50 percent between 2002 and 2007, much faster than the historical growth rate of 3 percent per year. The problem is that mortgage debt rose by 75 percent over this same time frame, resulting in owner’s equity as a percent of real estate reaching an all-time low of 45.2 percent in June, 2008. Read more ..


Inside Africa

Poor But Willing to Be Taxed in Sierra Leone

September 29th 2008

Sierra Leone men

Sierra Leone is the most underdeveloped country in the world, according to the United Nations. Following a decade-long civil war which killed over 50,000, unpredictable energy supplies, deteriorated infrastructure, inadequate health facilities, and an intolerable educational system are now the norm—not the exception.

An estimated two-thirds of Sierra Leone’s youth are under or unemployed. At nearly 31 percent, Sierra Leone’s adult literacy rate is amongst the worst in the world. Maternal death and infant mortality rates are the highest any where on earth. Amidst the stagnant smell of garbage and marijuana, 70 percent of the current population lives in poverty. Most reside between crumbling graffiti-ridden walls described as shanties at best.

It’s a typical ghetto scene with an atypical state of mind. "We have no work; nothing to do, no sleeping place," said Salu Koroma, "but I want to make my country develop. I paid the tax." Echoing that sentiment, Mohamed Bangura said, "I don't have a job, but I have paid my tax.” Read more ..


Bailiffs not Bailouts for the Banksters Who are Gangsters

Congress must not permit our country to be further bankrupted by already bankrupt financial institutions that have achieved their insolvent state through unbridled fraud, deception, economic predation and pure greed. Rather than commit a $700 billion sum, which will surely tip the $1 trillion mark, to bailing out the scoundrels, our government should commit just one of those billions to the establishment of an army of junkyard dogs to prosecute the thieves. Here's how.

1.  Declare every leading executive of any of these insolvent organizations to be a material witness. Seize their passports. 
2. Subject them all to a rigorous IRS audit and Department of Justice financial misconduct investigation. 
3. If found guilty, issue stiff consecutive sentences for multiple felonies. 
4. Allow absolutely no plea bargaining down to a mere fine. Everyone must serve jail time using federal sentencing guidelines already in place requiring minimum incarceration. 
5. Allow a sentencing reduction per the guidelines for permanent prohibition against further financial sector dealings. There is ample precedent. 
6. Assemble an international army of forensic accountants to launch asset seizures against these thieves including the repatriation of assets transferred abroad in the form of yachts, island homes, European chateaus and foreign investments. Like in any fraudulent transfer, all family members that became beneficiaries of these funds, would also be subject to asset seizure and possible prosecution.
 7. All of these assets should go into a giant victim restitution fund which would permit claims from those forced from their homes by preditory lenders and robbed of their savings by looting executives who turned their corporate stock from crown jewels into corporate junk. 
8. Create video case studies that will become mandatory viewing in all business schools, banks and brokerages the same way drunk driving videos are required for those convicted of operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated. Now that would be an investment in America's future.


Book Review

Business Wisdom Gained From Major Business Stupidity

September 29th 2008

Book Covers - Billion Dollar Lessons

Billion-Dollar Lessons: What You Can Learn from the Most Inexcusable Business Failures of the Last Twenty-Five Years. Paul B. Carroll, Chunka Mui, Portfolio. 320 pages.

It always cracks me up when I'm reminded that hindsight is not only 20/20 but is often magnified as if viewed through the Hubble Telescope, especially true of tales found in business books. Whenever a spectacular yet disastrous deal is recounted, the warning signs are never subtle, always appearing in big, red, bold capital letters of flashing neon, and accompanied by ear-splitting sirens, wailing horns, and thundering timpani.

It's amazing! How did anyone make such stupid moves? That they were doomed to failure was just so obvious! There was no way they could possibly succeed. The executives who came up with the ideas, NS proposed, funded, supported, managed and perpetuated them were colossal dunderheads who should have known better. Big duh!

It's pretty much the same deal with Billion-Dollar Lessons, the new book by Carroll and Mui. The proprietary document fax service Zapmail by FedEx, Motorola's Iridium project, the funeral-home consolidation strategy of the Loewen Group, Ames Department Stores' acquisition of Zayre's, Kodak's stubborn refusal to get into digital photography, Sears' patchwork-quilt assemblage of disparate business—all of these ill-conceived and poorly executed ventures, and more, are recounted, deconstructed and criticized. And all seem doomed to failure, at least in retrospect. Read more ..


The Average Person is Helpless in Our Energy Crisis

September 29th 2008
What is the average person to do against an ever-widening fuel crisis when the automakers will not make the fuel-efficient vehicles, companies will not produce the alternative fuels, the government will not take meaningful action beyond lip service, and we are fundamentally faced with no intelligent choices? Since cars last ten years before they are scrapped, whatever we buy today, we are stuck with in the fuel enviornment at hand for a decade. We are helpless.

Poll Results

Only 18 Percent Trust the Integrity of Their Bank

September 29th 2008

TCEN Motifs - Poll Vote

Only 13 percent of respondents to an unscientific Cutting Edge Reader Poll voted that they trusted the intregrity of their bank. In response to the question: Do You Trust the Integrity of Your Bank? the results were:

  

    * 13 percent "Yes."
    * 68 percent "No
    * 14 percent "Not Sure"


During the poll period in May 2008, The Cutting Edge News recorded 830,286 hits. During the extended poll period, the ratio continued at the same level within a few percentage points.


America With No Plan for an Oil Interruption

Exclusive: Neither Obama nor McCain nor the Government Has a Plan in the Event of a Protracted Oil Stoppage - It Isn't Even Being Discussed

September 22nd 2008

Book Covers - The Plan

This story is adapted from the just released The Plan: How to Save America When the Oil Stops—or the Day Before (Dialog Press). Buy it here.


It will come as a shock to most Americans and the media, but as the election reaches a crescendo on the issue of preparedness and energy, neither candidate—nor any candidate in local, state or federal government—has developed a contingency plan in the event of a protracted oil cut-off. It is not even being discussed. Government has prepared for hurricanes, anthrax, terrorism and every other disaster, but not the one threatened daily—a protracted oil stoppage, whether caused by terrorism, intervention in the Persian Gulf, or a natural disaster.

It is like seeing a hurricane developing without a disaster plan or evacuation route. Our allies have oil shortage interruption contingency plans, but America does not.

The crude realities: America uses approximately 20 million barrels of oil per day, almost 70 percent of which is imported. If we lose just 1 million barrels per day, or suffer the type of damage sustained from Katrina, the government will open the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, which offers a mere 6 to 8 week supply of unrefined crude oil. If we lose 1.5 million barrels per day, or approximately 7.5 percent, we will ask our allies in the 28-member International Energy Agency to open their SPRs and otherwise assist. If we lose 2 million barrels per day, or ten percent, government crisis monitors say the chaos will be so catastrophic they cannot even model it.

Exactly how could America be subjected to a protracted oil interruption, that is, a 10 percent shortfall lasting longer than several weeks? It will not come from hurricane action in the Gulf of Mexico, or even major refinery accidents or other oil infrastructure damage. Such damage would be repaired within days and the temporary losses absorbed by the small half million barrel per day global cushion available. Read more ..


Is the U.S. Economy Safe?

Green Ashes and Black Swans--The Alan Greenspan Legacy - PART I

September 22nd 2008

Economy - Lehman Brothers

It has been a momentous year for our country. Absolutely no one on the face of the planet could have predicted on January 1, 2008 the events that would unfold in the next nine months. We are in the midst of an extreme “Black Swan.”

No one saw it coming and no one knows what will happen next. When plans to save the financial world are slapped together every other weekend, the law of unintended consequences is likely to rear its ugly head. It is too early to step back and try to understand what is going on at this point in history. What we do know is that whatever is happening is not good.

“Globalization creates interlocking fragility, while reducing volatility and giving the appearance of stability. In other words it creates devastating Black Swans. We have never lived before under the threat of a global collapse. Financial Institutions have been merging into a smaller number of very large banks. Almost all banks are interrelated. So the financial ecology is swelling into gigantic, incestuous, bureaucratic banks – when one fails, they all fall. Read more ..


USHMM’s Archival War Against Survivors

USHMM Keeps Red Cross Records Away from Victims Even as Holocaust Survivors Demand the Museum Share

September 22nd 2008

Jewish Topics - Bad Arolsen stacks
Bad Arolsen stack

On Monday, September 8, 2008, a lecture was given at the Rosenthal Institute, at the Graduate Center CUNY in NYC. The topic: “Unlocking the Past: Opening the International Tracing Service Archive.”

The speakers, Arthur S. Berger and Michael Goldman, represented the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C. Explaining to the audience some background on the ITS (International Tracing Service) archives, they defended the slow pace and the museum’s difficulties in arranging, categorizing, and digitizing millions of documents, many of which are handwritten. In addition to the material from Bad Arolsen, newfound material must be incorporated as well. To date, they have CAMP and GHETTO records (received in 2007), FORCED LABOR FILES (2008), and DP CAMP MATERIALS (expected in 2010). Flyers were distributed. Requests are to be submitted online or mailed to the museum. Survivors were assured that they will be welcomed to visit and assist in the search of their respective materials.

This lecture was met with high hopes by the survivors in the audience. For years, the Red Cross and other services came up with scant information. A real opportunity has opened up to provide a measure of closure.

Unfortunately, the Q & A period was a resounding letdown. Only ONE American copy of these records exists. It is in the hands of the museum, and they are not willing to share. New York and Miami are large centers populated by survivors. Many libraries and colleges/universities with savvy computer experts would love to train historians, give workshops, and find willing volunteers. The museum’s judgment to hold onto this material, and the inflexibility of sharing, is troublesome. The USHMM was created for understanding this terrible period in human history. Technological advances directly benefiting the survivors should and must be utilized as soon as possible. Read more ..


Election Edge

The Phantom Menace: Obama and Co. Fight Their Own Shadow

September 22nd 2008

Contributors / Staff - Armstrong Williams Headshot
Armstrong Williams

Senator Barack Obama’s triumph over Senator Clinton in the Democratic primaries will undoubtedly go down as one of the most shocking upsets in American electoral history. Obama, a dark horse (no pun intended) with no national track record, was able to beat the formidable Clinton machine because he was a phantom. He confounded his rivals because he provided little of substance for them to stick their swords into. Because he lacked a track record, he could switch directions easily without seeming incongruous. He was flexible, and could not be locked in or nailed down on anything.

Along comes Governor Palin, who, like Obama, is also an unknown. Like Obama, she has a razor thin track record on any issues of substance; and her appearance on the national stage came almost out of nowhere. Thus far, her very presence has sucked the air out of Obama’s sails. He finds himself at a loss for words, veering sharply off script into ad hominem attacks that are so very uncharacteristic of him. Yet he finds that Governor Palin is proving somewhat difficult to impale.

Meanwhile, Governor Palin has contented herself with making her points, and then stepping back with a confident smug. Thus far, she has stayed firmly on message. Borrowing a chapter from Obama’s play book, she has resisted the urge to respond to her detractors, refute the rumors, or even humor her critics in any way. Instead she has merely basked in the glow of her ascension, and allowed her charisma and charm to speak for itself. Read more ..


Edge on Jihadism

Hellish Jihadi Message to Pakistan

September 22nd 2008

Terrorism - Marriott Explosion Pakistan
Blast at Islamabad Marriott Hotel

As shown by world networks, the hellish flames ravaging the Marriott Hotel in Islamabad seemed like a vision of the Apocalypse. That's how many survivors of the terror attack that massacred more than 60 and wounded hundreds have described it: "The end of the World." But beyond the barbaric bloodshed and the human suffering, the heavy question fast arises: How to read this Jihadi mayhem, and what is the message behind the bombing?
 
When a war is raging, as is the case in Pakistan for the last years, analysts won't wait on the procedural investigation to determine the identity of the perpetrators of this attack. local police and security forces will get somewhere sometime. But the graver question is about the big picture. What are al Qaeda and their Taliban herds up to by terrorizing the people and Government of the second largest Muslim country in the world and—more important—the first Islamic nation to possess nuclear weapons? Read more ..


Edge on Economics

Do Libertarians Believe in God?

September 22nd 2008

Christian Topics - Last Judgement

Libertarian (free-market) economists, if they believe in God, are certain that He is one of them. This attitude is far from new. In 1835, American economist Henry Carey complained (before his conversion to protectionism) that Britain and France, in restricting trade between themselves, were “doing all in their power to frustrate the designs of the Deity.” In the 1840s, English politician Richard Cobden claimed that “free trade is the international law of God.”

Today, many American Christians, including Catholics such as Michael Novak, Thomas Woods and Rev. Robert Sirico, proclaim similar ideas. Novak quarrels with orthodox Catholic teaching on social justice, disparages its traditional emphasis on distributive justice, and holds that the state should have only a “last resort” role in promoting the just society.

However, modern free-marketeers owe much to the ‘Austrian school’ of economists, many of whose tenets clearly contradict Catholic teachings. Given their huge worldwide influence in recent decades, it is worth examining in some detail the views of a leader of that school, Friedrich von Hayek (1899 – 1992).

Hayek, a seminal free-marketeer

Professor at the University of Chicago between 1950 and 1962, Hayek was one of the chief instigators of the wave of libertarian economics that has swept the world since the 1970s. The late Milton Friedman frequently acknowledged his influence. Michael Novak, of the American Enterprise Institute, celebrated his 1999 birth-centenary with a fervent eulogy. Hayek’s theories underlie the economic policies that have allowed inequalities in the U.S. to revert to the levels of the 1920s and whose consequences in Latin America have provoked widespread leftward reactions. The same theories inspired the ‘shock therapy’ of Boris Yeltsin’s economic strategists Yegor Gaïdar  and Anatoly Chubais, which brought chaos, paving the way for a return to authoritarian rule in Russia under Vladimir Putin.   Read more ..


Edge on Iran

Iran Moves One Step Closer to Mandating Death Penalty for Apostasy

September 22nd 2008

Contributors / Staff - Joe Griebowski headshot

Iran’s parliament, the Majlis, voted by an overwhelming majority on September 9 in favor of a draft law that would mandate the death penalty for apostates. According to reports, the parliament passed an umbrella bill that contains articles requiring the death penalty for apostates. The articles now return to committee for further consideration before lawmakers vote on them again. 

Iranian law currently requires punishment for apostates, that is, those who leave Islam and convert to another religion. However, the type of punishment is left to the discretion of the judge. If the new provisions pass all stages of Iran’s legislative process, apostates will receive only one punishment: death.

The draft penal code has been under consideration since February, and includes security provisions that would give Iran jurisdiction even over actions taken and deemed threatening to the state outside of Iran. The code also distinguishes between apostates born to at least one Muslim parent (innate) and those whose parents were not Muslims at their conception (parental). The Cutting Edge News has been covering the draft law.

Article 225-7 of the code states, “Punishment for an Innate Apostate is death,” while Article 225-8 says, “Punishment for a Parental Apostate is death, but after the final sentencing for three days he/she would be guided to the right path and encouraged to recant his/her belief and if he/she refused, the death penalty would be carried out.” Read more ..


Religious Freedom

Afghanistan, Belarus, Indonesia and Seven Other Countries Recommended for State Department's List of “Countries of Particular Concern”

September 22nd 2008

Islamic Topics - Muslim Anti-Ahmadiyya Protest

The Institute on Religion and Public Policy sent recommendations to President George W. Bush on what countries the United States should designate this year as the world’s most egregious persecutors of religious freedom, or in diplomatic parlance “countries of particular concern. (CPCs)”

CPCs are countries showing "systematic, ongoing, egregious violations of religious freedom," according to the 1998 International Religious Freedom Act. The U.S. State Department will soon release its annual report on religious freedom around the world, which covers almost 200 countries. 

For 2008, the Institute has recommended to the President and the Secretary of State that the following new countries be named to the list: Afghanistan, Belarus, India, Indonesia, Egypt, Kosovo, Maldives, Russia, Turkmenistan and Vietnam. In addition, the following countries designated in 2006 should remain as CPCs: Burma, China, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Uzbekistan.

According to the Institute’s letter, Kosovo has failed to protect its religious minorities’ physical safety and property, including that of the Serbian Orthodox Church. State agencies and “unchecked aggression by social actors against Protestants, Orthodox Christians, moderate Muslims, and other religious minorities threaten the continued safety of these groups.” The United States removed Vietnam as a CPC in 2006, which was a premature move based on a few minor improvements. However, official persecution of Christians and Buddhists continues. Vietnamese authorities have used government agents dressed as Catholic clergy, for example, to turn public opinion against the Catholic Church, while authorities detain Catholic clergy and continue to confiscate property. Read more ..


Edge on African Genocide

Holocaust Scholars Urge Prosecution of Sudan's President for Genocide

September 22nd 2008

History-Genocide - Luis Moreno Ocampo
ICC Chief Prosecutor Luis Moreno Ocampo
ICC-CPI/Wim Van Cappellen

Leading scholars of the Holocaust from around the world have signed a petition to Luis Moreno-Ocampo of the International Criminal Court urging him to proceed with his prosecution of Sudanese president Omar al-Bashir for his role in the genocide of the people of the Darfur region of Sudan. While ICC chief prosecutor Moreno Ocampo has announced plans to seek al-Bashir’s arrest, the voices of the Arab League, African Union, as well as China and Russia have been raised against it.

"Prosecuting al-Bashir will help stop the Darfur genocide and will send a powerful warning to future would-be killers,” said Dr. Rafael Medoff, director of the Washington-based David S. Wyman Institute for Holocaust Studies, which organized the petition. “The governments that are trying to protect al-Bashir should be ashamed of themselves.”

The petition also compares the efforts by al-Bashir’s allies to the position of the US State Department in the 1940s, which advocated prosecuting only a limited number of Nazi war criminals. Medoff wrote “Blowing the Whistle on Genocide: Josiah E. DuBois, Jr. and the Struggle for a U.S. Response to the Holocaust,” which was published this week by Purdue University Press. Read more ..


Edge on Turkey

EU Must Assess Turkey's Dedication to Religious Pluralism

September 22nd 2008

Islamic Topics - Minaret

If Turkey is to join the European Community, “it must show that it is ready to take great strides in adopting a European outlook, not the baby steps it has taken until now.” So wrote author and former New York Times correspondent Nicholas Gage wrote in the International Herald Tribune. Gage seemed to speaking for many observers still ambivalent about admitting Rurkey to the EU.

Gage said in his opinion piece entitled “Orthodox Christianity under threat” on IHT’s that Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan and his Islamist party have “shown no inclination to extend even a modicum of religious freedom to the most revered Christian institution in Turkey - the Patriarchate of Constantinople, the spiritual center of 300 million Orthodox Christians throughout the world. As a result, Turkey's persecution of the Patriarchate looms as a major obstacle to its European aspirations, and rightly so.”

Gage denounced the harassment suffered by the ecumenical patriarch, Bartholomew I, at the hands of Turkish bureaucrats who “summon him to their offices to question and berate him about irrelevant issues, blocking his efforts to make repairs in the few buildings still under his control, and issuing veiled threats about what he says and does when he travels abroad.” Muslim chauvinists, according to Gage, demonstrate almost daily outside the walls of the Patriarchate and call for its ouster from Turkey despite its presence in the city once known as Constantinople since before the time of Mohammed. Read more ..


Inside Africa

African National Congress Ousts Mbeki

September 22nd 2008

Africa Topics - Mbeki
Thabo Mbeki

South Africa's ruling party said Saturday that President Thabo Mbeki agreed to step down after being recalled by the ruling party.

African National Congress secretary-general Gwede Mantashe said Saturday that the party's top-level National Executive Committee has "decided to recall the president of the republic before his term of office expires."

Mbeki succeeded Nelson Mandela as President of South Africa in June 1999 and was due to stand down next year after two terms in office. Mbeki was ousted as leader of the ANC last December by Jacob Zuma, a 66-year-old former guerrilla leader who commands strong support among South Africa's poor. Mbeki has faced growing pressure from supporters of Zuma to quit, following a judge's ruling that he was instrumental in Zuma being charged with corruption.

Deputy President Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka will formally hand in her resignation if President Thabo Mbeki resigns, her spokesman said today. Read more ..


Edge on Health

Snoring A Risk But Only for the Young

September 22nd 2008

Science - Snore Away

Now you can let your old Grandpa or Grandma snore—if it doesn't bother anybody else—according to new sleep research at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology's Medical Faculty. Prof. Peretz Lavie reported at the European Sleep Research Society in Glasgow last week that snoring is a health risk in young and middle-aged people, but surprisingly not in the elderly.

About five percent of women and 10 percent of men in the general population, especially the overweight, snore. This has been thought to be an important high-risk mortality factor in all people with sleep apnea (a momentary cessation of breathing hundreds of times per night) and heart disease. Sleep apnea, which causes snoring, is more common in men and in the elderly than in women and younger people.

But Lavie, one of the country's leading sleep medicine experts and his fellow researcher and wife, Dr. Lena Lavie, found that sleep apnea in the old is not necessarily accompanied by a higher risk of death. He compared death rates from cardiovascular disease among people according to their age, gender, and ethnic background. Read more ..


Inside Islam

Mickey Mouse, Soldier of Satan

September 22nd 2008

Palestine Topics - Farfur

Mickey Mouse is getting mauled in the Muslim world.

It all began when Hamas children’s television transformed the lovable Disney character into a Palestinian character, renamed him Farfu, and had him beaten up and pummeled within inches of his life by Israeli soldiers. It was in very poor taste. It was immoral. Co-opting one of the most universally recognized and loved Disney characters and turning him into a creature that preaches rage and teaches hatred, murder and revenge was unconscionable.

The world cried out and the Magic Kingdom threatened lawsuits but the Palestinians persisted. Mickey Mouse recently appeared in another program produced by Palestinian television and geared for children. In this go-round, Mickey and his friends remain in the background as the child host of the program educates his audience on the subject of the borders of Palestine, omitting any mention of Israel. Read more ..


Book Review

Presidential Travels--from George to George

September 22nd 2008

Books - Richard Ellis

Ellis, Richard J.  Presidential Travel: The Journey from George Washington to George W. Bush (University Press of Kansas, 2008)


Presidential travel is big news today. George W. Bush’s state visit to Britain in November 2003 filled papers on both sides of the Atlantic. Yet it was not a story pertaining to the “illegal” war in Iraq that dominated the front pages. Neither was it the exaggerated scale of the “Stop the War” march that colonized newsstands. Rather it was the litany of requests from the White House: from diplomatic immunity for 250 Secret Servicemen to blast-and bullet-proof windows installed in Buckingham Palace.

The commander-in-chief and a 700-strong entourage worthy of a traveling medieval monarch flew into London Heathrow. Once Bush stepped off Air Force One, Marine One flew the Bushes to the Palace where they enjoyed the pomp and circumstance of the Queen’s hospitality.

How Thomas Jefferson would turn in his grave. The regal six-story jet offends the Jeffersonian image of a citizen’s executive traveling modestly among his people. Unlike the 43rd President of the United States, the 3rd shunned the trappings of monarchy and the “flattery and scheming of courtiers” (p.168). Even at his first inaugural, in 1801, Jefferson dramatized his “republican simplicity” (vii) by refusing the customary horse and carriage, choosing instead to walk the route. Unlike the 3rd President of the United States, the 43rd, at his first inaugural, in 2001, dramatized his “present-day celebrity” (vii) by choosing instead to drive the route, refusing the customary walk — up until the last block that is, after protests even larger than against Nixon, the 37th, in 1969. Read more ..


Financial Meltdown Called by Cutting Edge Months Earlier--So Why the Shock?

September 22nd 2008
The events of the past few days are startling the nation and the financial media. But The Cutting Edge News called it on August 4 with your article: "What Banks And The Government Are Not Telling Us About 2009—The Next Shoes You Hear Drop May Be Very Loud Ones." So I was not startled and my friends who I forwarded the message to were not startled. If you knew it was coming, and the readers of the Cutting Edge knew it was coming, why did the media and the regulators not know it was coming?

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Is The U.S. Economy Safe?

1-800-BAILOUT: For Fannie, Freddie, Bear Stearns, and Others, it is a Toll Free Call on Weekends

September 15th 2008

Economy - Secretary Paulson
US Treasury Secretary Paulson

September 7, 2008, the 10th anniversary of the Federal Reserve arranged bailout of the infamous hedge fund Long-Term Capital, is now a more infamous date. This is the day that our government chose socialism over free market capitalism. Our elected leaders increased the national debt from $9.6 trillion to $15 trillion, a 56 percent increase in one weekend. Hank Paulson, the U.S. Treasury Secretary, seems to have a penchant for committing U.S. taxpayer dollars on weekends. On one weekend he engineered the bailout of Bear Stearns. Just this last weekend he oversaw the forced sale of Merrill Lynch, a desperate request by AIG for a $40 billion bridge loan, and the ultimate demise of venerable Lehman Bros.

But perhaps Paulson's most important recent stint as a weekend warrior was that September 5 to September 8 Friday to Sunday marathon session when he convinced Congress and the President to give him a blank check regarding the future of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. As such, he spearheaded the takeover of two of the worst run financial institutions on the planet. Together, these two titans hold or guarantee $5.4 trillion of mortgages. James Grant, a keen financial mind, described what we are experiencing today, back in early 2007, “Capitalism without financial failure is not capitalism at all, but a kind of socialism for the rich.”

Skullduggery, Corruption, and Fraud

Fannie Mae was created during the Great Depression in 1938 as part of Roosevelt’s New Deal. Its purpose was to provide liquidity to the mortgage market. For the next 30 years it operated as a government agency, with a monopoly on the secondary mortgage market. In 1968, in the midst of another fiscal budget crisis, Fannie Mae’s activity and debt were removed from the annual balance sheet of the Federal Government and the agency was privatized. To provide some competition in the secondary mortgage market, Congress chartered Freddie Mac as a private corporation in 1970. This relationship with the Federal Government gave rise to the concept of an implicit guarantee from the government regarding their debt. This allowed these two companies to borrow at much lower rates than the average financial institution. Read more ..


Is the U.S. Economy Safe?

Inside the Latest Sunday Night Massacre on Wall Street

September 15th 2008

Economy - Lehman Bros

It began Friday night after nearly all of Wall Street dutifully turned off the lights and jumped onto their trains or fell into their bistros, preparing to start the weekend. But even as the rank and file were unwinding and relaxing, America’s top financial luminaries began huddling to burn the midnight oil in a tense showdown. By the time Monday’s dawn’s early light chased the shadows from the canyons of Wall Street, the bodies were everywhere. The nation and world are still counting the corpses.

The first emergency meeting was convened by Federal Reserve Bank of New York president Timothy Geithner inviting Wall Street’s top CEO’s and kingpins of government financial regulation. The list of attendees: Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson and Securities and Exchange Commission Chairman Christopher Cox from the federal government; from Wall Street the list included Morgan Stanley Chief Executive John Mack, Merrill Lynch Chief Executive John Thain, J.P. Morgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon, Goldman Sachs Group CEO Lloyd Blankfein, Citigroup Inc. head Vikram Pandit and representatives from the Royal Bank of Scotland Group PLC and Bank of New York Mellon Corp. Other industry leaders attended, including Credit Suisse CEO Brady Dougan, Morgan Stanley Chief Financial Officer Colm Kelleher, Citigroup Chief Financial Officer Gary Crittenden, UBS AG Chief Risk Officer Thomas Daula, J.P. Morgan investment bank co-head Steve Black, and Goldman Sachs co-president Gary Cohn. Read more ..


Edge on Russia

The Bear Ain't Back--It Never Left

September 15th 2008

Russian Topics - Russian bomber overflying Kremlin
Russian Jets Overfly the Kremlin

Many of Washington’s elite foreign policy analysts and media voices have been decrying the return to the Cold War and that the Russian Bear is back.

Many experts would answer: the Bear never left.

Russian military action in Georgia was met with shock, surprise, dismay, and disdain by the West, which believed that Russia had accepted its place in the world as a minor player. The West never understood that Russia has always seen itself as powerful empire. The Soviet Union's disintegration did nothing to disturb that view.

But Russia wasn’t just sitting back remembering the old days. Rather, under Vladimir Putin’s leadership, Russia was rebuilding, redefining, and re-equipping itself to once again play a role on the global stage. In the same length of time it took the American economy to nearly collapse, and the United States to be embroiled in a devastating and questionable war in the Middle East, Vladimir Putin brought Russia from bankruptcy to financial affluence, rebuilt the Russian military, established new and strong international partnerships, and expanded its influence into new strategic arenas.

One of those strategic arenas is right in America’s backyard.

Russian air and naval forces will join with the Venezuelan military in joint exercises. The Venezuelan navy and air force, together with four Russian warships carrying 1,000 soldiers will participate in the exercises scheduled for November 10-14 in Venezuelan territorial waters, according to a statement from the Venezuelan military. Russia said its ships would include the heavy cruiser Peter the Great. Anti-submarine planes would also be temporarily sent to Venezuela. Since Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez took office, Venezuela has boosted its military cooperation with Russia. Read more ..


Edge on Economics

Curse of Oil Dependence and Economic Polices Encourages Maximum Consumption of Resources

September 15th 2008

Energy / Environment - Saudi Group

Current economic policies, based on nineteenth-century theory, deliberately promote maximum production and consumption of most goods. In today's world, where natural resources of all kinds are under pressure, such policies are no longer tolerable.

In the troubled world of energy, Russia and Iran rank among the major producers of crude oil and natural gas. And these vital commodities are at present extremely lucrative. The producing countries are earning enormous revenues from their hydrocarbons, and some of them are clearly using their new-found riches to throw their weight about. We have to live at peace with these difficult neighbors, but we have no wish to be bullied and pushed around by them. Does this problem have a workable solution? Read more ..


Election Edge

What's Wrong With McCain's "Palin Strategy?"

September 15th 2008

Books - S.E. Cupp
S.E. Cupp

John McCain’s selection of Alaska Governor Sarah Palin as his vice presidential running mate has brought out a number of interesting positions opposing the pick. People from all walks of life, but mostly one side of the aisle, are examining McCain’s selection and critiquing it for its seeming “strategy,” which, if you read between the lines, is a pseudonym for “cheap ploy.”

Since when is “strategy” a bad thing, especially in a contest? Football coaches, corporate executives, ad agencies, military generals and chess players the world over would be nothing without strategy, and we’d chastise them for ignoring it. Yet, John McCain makes a strategic choice in running mate, and it’s seen by some as dirty or patronizing.

Consider the following detractors, and their arguments against McCain’s veep strategy:

The frighteningly mature and silver-tongued 13-year-old daughter of a friend of mine, upon hearing the news said, “What do they think, women are stupid?  They choose an inexperienced person from Alaska and expect women to automatically vote for McCain just because he picks any old bimbo?” Read more ..


The Bear is Back

Kosovo was the Spark That Produced the Flame in Georgia and Ossetia

September 15th 2008

Russian Topics - Georgia Civilian Distress
A Victim of the Russia-Georgia War

It is obvious that the current conflict in Georgia has been greatly influenced by the United States' and the European Union's decision to initiate, support and recognize Kosovo's independence. Over the last few days this connection has been made in newspapers from Spain to China. Prominent European statesmen such as Lech Walesa and Jiri Dienstbier also have linked the current violence in the Caucasus to the "irresponsible" decision to recognize Serbia's breakaway province.

Even the major protagonists in the current crisis have embraced this connection. The South Ossetians and Abkhazians have cited Kosovo's independence as an argument for their own separatist ambitions; the Russians have referred to Kosovo to slash at the credibility and legitimacy of EU and American criticisms. Georgian leaders who had warned about the dangerous precedent of Kosovo's independence and had refused to recognize it are now desperately attempting to find differences between the two situations in order to deny any possible legitimacy for the case for independence of its own separatist regions. Read more ..


Religious Freedom

Violence Against Ahmadi Muslims Spikes After Pakistani TV Broadcast

September 15th 2008

Islamic Topics - Muslim Anti-Ahmadiyya Protest
Muslim Protests Against Ahmadiyya

Members of the Ahmadiyya community in Pakistan who routinely experience persecution and now being subjected to a new wave of violence. Contrary to mainstream Islam, the Ahmadiyya community believe that their 19th century founder was a prophet. Most Muslims believe that Muhammad was Islam’s final prophet and there shall be no prophet after him. In countries such as Pakistan, such theological differences are not settled through civil debate. Instead, most Muslims view Ahmadis as heretics worthy of harassment, or even open murder.

Ahmadi fears of violence spiked again this month when a popular satellite channel, GEO TV, ran a September 7th program commemorating the 1974 decision by Pakistan’s parliament declaring Ahmadis as “non-Muslims.” On the show, moderated by Dr. Aamer Liaqat Hussain, some participants argued that the murder of Ahmadis is sanctioned as a religious duty.

Only a day after the broadcast, unidentified gunmen shot and killed Abdul Manan Siddiqui, an American doctor, in Sindh Province as he saw patients in his medical clinic.  He was a regional Ahmadi leader, and a humanitarian. Only a day after the doctor’s murder, gunmen killed another Ahmadi leader in Sindh.

The Ahmadi community suffers persecution around the world, but is subject to particular discrimination under Pakistani blasphemy law. For example, Ahmadis who call themselves Muslims or name their sons Muhammad face imprisonment.

Ahmadis in Pakistan are worried about the latest murders, and blame them on GEO TV’s incitement to violence. The GEO TV channel reaches the United States through DishNetwork. Read more ..


The Way We Are

Laugh Until You Cry

September 15th 2008

Contributors / Staff - Micah Halpern headshot
Micah Halpern

One of the best ways to evaluate a society is by examining the humor of that society.

Freud asserted that in every joke there is a kernel of truth. I would assert that there is much, much more than simply a kernel. There is profound expression in humor. Societies use humor as a way of calling out, of crying for help, of pleading for law and order, a way to save their victims from untenable situations. The twist is that the call, the cry, and the plea are accompanied not by tears, but by laughter.

In many circumstances the joke, humor, is the only way to actually raise essential societal questions while also allowing people to live through a situation that should be viewed as crazy and out of the ordinary, but that has become their everyday norm.

Jewish jokes have set the standard for gentle but honest self-deprecation. Jewish jokes were also the first to tackle indelicate situations in a digestible way. The jokes, written by Jews and about Jews are a window into the pain and pathos of the Jewish people during specific times in history. Originally intended for Jewish audiences, the genre has now become familiar to all ethnic groups and is a staple of many comedic performances.

It's okay to laugh at a Jewish joke, even if you're not Jewish. It's acceptable. In many cases, it's expected. That is not the case in all societies. Read more ..


Religious Freedom

France Disallows Muslim Woman's Citizenship for the Veil--a Question Balancing Citizenship and Assimilation

September 15th 2008

Islamic Topics - 2 women in burqa
Steve Evans via flickr.com

On June 27, 2008, the Council of State (Conseil d’Etat), the French Supreme Administrative Court, upheld a Prime Minister’s decree refusing citizenship to a Moroccan woman who was married to a French national and had two French children. The Council’s decision was based on the grounds that the woman lacked assimilation to French society because of her radical practice of religion, deemed incompatible with the essential values of the French community, in particular equality of the genders. These findings were supported by elements in the court file that the Moroccan woman was a Salafist Muslim and wore the Burqa.

Citizenship is not a guaranteed right for foreign spouses under French law and the authorities can deny it under the control of administrative courts for reasons of lack of assimilation. However, this does not mean that the State can discriminate and deny citizenship because of the practice of a religion. In this case, the Council of State did not base its decision on motives of public order, such as membership in extremist groups like it has done in the past, or because of problems of identification because the Burqa covered the woman’s whole face, but has ruled for the first time on the basis of the domestic practice of a religion, thereby entering the sphere of private life and beliefs. Such a decision contravenes international human rights standards.

This is a potentially dangerous trend which could lead to further discriminatory evaluations in the area of private religious practice. However, the case law of the Council of State has not followed such a trend in the past. On the contrary, for years it has played a neutral role concerning the wearing of the Muslim veil. Read more ..


Edge on Iran

Former Iranian Nuclear Negotiator Slams President Ahmadinejad for Squandering Foreign Policy Opportunities and Wreaking Havoc on Economy

September 15th 2008

Iran - Ahmadinejad headshot
Iran's President Ahmadinejad

Hasan Rowhani, Irans’ former nuclear negotiator, has publically rebuked Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, saying the controversial leader has done much to harm the Islamic Republic during his three years in office. Saying Ahmadinejad had missed “golden” opportunities to develop Iran, Rohani appeared to be joining fellow critics of the president ahead of the coming 2009 presidential elections. Rowhani is thought of as a pragmatist among Iran’s fiery Islamic ideologues, while he is also an ally of former president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, Ahmadinejad’s rival.

Among the lost and golden opportunities that Ahmadinejad has apparently failed to exploit is what Rowhani described as the weakest U.S. position since 1970s because of its involvement in Iraq.

Speaking on September 8 to members of the Moderation and Development Party, Rowhani knocked Ahmadinejad for Iran’s high inflation rate that comes despite huge oil revenues and subsidized fuel for consumers. Rowhani said Ahmadinejad has failed to privatize the economy as guaranteed by Iran’s constitution and has not improved Iran’s standing in world politics. Rowhani said government affiliates - instead of the private sector — were being awarded shares in the "privatized" firms. Read more ..



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