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Archive for January 2009

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Book Reviews

Woodrow Wilson: From Princeton to the Presidency

January 27th 2009

Book Covers - Woodrow Wilson book

W. Barksdale Maynard. Woodrow Wilson: Princeton to the Presidency. Yale University Press. 2008. 416 pages.

Woodrow Wilson’s time at Princeton—as undergraduate, faculty member, and, most notably, president—has hardly been neglected by his biographers.

Years ago Hardin Craig and Henry Bragdon devoted individual volumes to the subject; single volume biographies and, of course, Arthur Link’s multi-volume biography have also highlighted the importance of Wilson’s academic experience to understanding the patterns and passions of his political career. Most recently, James Axtell’s excellent “The Making of Princeton University: From Woodrow Wilson to the Present” (2006) pays considerable attention to the subject.

Despite all these predecessors, however, W. Barksdale Maynard’s “Woodrow Wilson: Princeton to the Presidency,” is a most welcome addition to the literature. It examines in detail Wilson’s formative undergraduate years, as a member of the Class of 1879; his tenure as charismatic professor (1890-1902); and his initially successful, ultimately failed term as Princeton’s president (1902-1910), which placed him on the road to the New Jersey governorship and then the presidency. Maynard demonstrates that Wilson’s Princeton experiences were central both in shaping his ideas about education (ideas which often ran counter to increasingly important trends in this era of the “emergence of the American university”) and in providing an arena where he could test and try to realize those ideas. Read more ..

The Obama Edge

Barack Obama and the Triumph Over American Eugenics

January 26th 2009

Presidential - Barack Obama with Flag

Among Barack Obama’s many historic achievements is the ultimate triumph over American eugenics. No one in America should forget that about 100 years ago, the American intellectual and academic elite created the race science known as eugenics. This genocidal pseudoscience claimed that humanity was destined to be comprised solely of blonde, blue-eyed Nordic Americans. Anyone who did not conform to this racial stereotype was not worthy of existence on Earth. The list of undesirables included Southern Italians, Eastern Europeans, Hispanics, brown-haired hillbillies, Jews, American Indians and of course African Americans. Above all, all race-mixing was taboo, a concept eugenicists called “race suicide.”

This bizarre pseudoscience arose in the early 1900s, following the rediscovery of Mendel’s principles of heredity as applied to peas and horses combined with the corrupted views of Francis Galton, the quirky British scientist who originated the idea of eugenics at the end of the 19th Century. Galton almost whimsically hoped that if rich, talented people married other rich talented people, then rich, talented offspring would result. In the hands of early 20th Century American racists, Galton’s and Mendel’s ideas were transmogrified into a racist ideology: American Eugenics.

According to eugenic thought, blacks and other “undesirables” were lazy, shiftless, disease prone, and genetically predisposed to a criminal life, including prostitution and thievery. You were not born into poverty. Poverty was born into you. Racist intelligence tests, known as the Alpha and Beta Test, were concocted to prove that some 70 percent of tested Negroes were Morons. Indeed, the word “moron” was a scientific term invented by the academics to help damn the destiny of those who did not resemble themselves. Read more ..

The Obama Edge

Obama Cracks Down on Lax Auto Emission Standards Thwarting GM, Ford, and Honda

January 26th 2009

Energy / Environment - LA Smog
Los Angeles smog

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

With the stroke of a pen, President Barack Obama has rewritten the rules of the emission road. He has cracked down on lax auto emission standards previously enshrined by the Bush Administration, the Environmental Protection Agency and a Congress that was heavily lobbied by Detroit and Torrance, California automakers.

Obama has directed federal regulators to quickly ratify an application by California and 13 other states that have long sought to set limits on greenhouse gases from cars and trucks which are stricter than federal guidelines. He also instructed Department of Transportation officials to speedily impose higher fuel-economy standards on cars and light trucks. Read more ..

Massacre in Mumbai

Jihad in India—How Neglect and Appeasement led to Mumbai

January 26th 2009

India Topics - Mumbai Massacre

India is a country on the cusp of joining Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iraq to form the quartet most affected by international terrorism. The three neighboring terror-prone states bear witness to the fact that terrorism flourishes where terrorists do. Recent events demonstrate that India offers several lessons to other democracies in how not to fight the War on Terror.

Jihadi terrorism first manifested itself in India in Kashmir in 1989 after the withdrawal of Soviet forces from Afghanistan made the Jihadi forces' Pakistan-based controllers turn their attention to Kashmir. So long as the virus was confined to that state and, excepting rare incidents in the rest of India, such as the 1993 terror attacks in Bombay, India continued to develop normally, because of the low economic linkage between Kashmir and the hinterland.

Indian leaders failed to understand that rather than being freedom fighters, terrorists are parasites that drain the host nation of its resilience and eventually its existence. Read more ..

Israel and Hamas

Hamas and Israel--the Difference Between Life and Death

January 26th 2009

Terrorism - Jihadi Salute

Hamas is in a religious war with the Jews. The organization has repeatedly stated it will never except a Jewish state in the region and believes in a one state solution. Israel is interested in a diplomatic agreement to end the conflict with the Palestinians that will create a Palestinian state living in peace beside it.

Hamas believes in death. As one Hamas member told a journalist, "The difference between us and them is that they wait passionately for the day they can return home safely, while we bid farewell to our families and hope to die as martyrs." Indeed, Israelis believe in life.

Hamas stands behind civilians, using them as shields. Israeli forces stand in front of civilians to protect them.

Hamas leaders flee at the first sign of danger, abandoning their people to suffer the consequences of their actions. Israeli leaders are the first into battle to defend their citizens.

Hamas hopes that innocent Palestinians will die so the world will blame Israel for the bloodshed. Israelis do everything possible to ensure no innocent Palestinians will die - going so far as to warn their enemies before attacks, thereby losing the element of surprise - so they will not blame themselves for taking innocent lives. Read more ..

Latin Affairs

Mysterious Iranian Cargo bound for Venezuela Halted by Turkey

January 26th 2009

Iran - Ahmadinejad The Man
 Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad

Turkey stopped a shipment bound for Venezuela from Iran, contending that it contained laboratory equipment capable of producing explosives, according to reports out of Ankara.

According to Turkish officials, the shipment was found at the Mediterranean port of Mersin and seized in December 2008. The lab equipment was found in 22 containers labeled “tractor parts” that were brought to the seaport via truck transport from neighboring Iran. Read more ..

Israel and Hamas

Dead Babies are a War Strategy for Hamas

January 26th 2009

Islamic Topics - Gaza baby death

The Hamas "dead baby" strategy - to cause as many civilian casualties as possible by firing its deadly rockets from schools and densely populated areas - is producing understandable outrage around the world. What is not understandable is why the outrage is directed against Israel, which is a victim of this strategy, rather than against Hamas, which is its perpetrator.

Hamas knew exactly what it was doing when it fired more than 6,000 rockets at Israeli kindergartens, elementary schools and playgrounds from behind its own children. It was playing Russian roulette with the lives of Israeli children in order to provoke a defensive response from Israel.

Hamas knew that Israel, like any democracy, would have to take whatever military action was necessary to stop the rockets. As Barack Obama put it when he visited Sderot, a town that had been victimized by more than 1,000 rockets and several deaths: "If somebody was sending rockets into my house where my two daughters sleep at night, I'm going to do everything in my power to stop that. And I would expect Israelis to do the same thing." Read more ..

Iran and Latin America

Probing the Chavez–Iranian Connection

January 26th 2009

Iran - Chavez and Ahmanijad

Last December 21st, the Italian daily La Stampa published a story putlining the real meaning of the Chavez-Iranian alliance.

Regular flights between Caracas, Damascus and Tehran constitute a device for Venezuela to help Iran send Syria material for the manufacturing of missiles, according to La Stampa. The flights are actually part of a 2006 military cooperation agreement signed between Syria and Iran. The materiel is destined for the "Revolutionary Guards," the main force protecting the Iranian regime, according to the newspaper. In exchange for this materiel, Iran has provided Venezuela with members of its revolutionary guards as well as its elite "Al Quds" unit to strengthen Venezuela's secret services and police.

La Stampa's report is not surprising to those monitoring Hugo Chavez's activities for the past several years. In testimony before Congress on March 5, 2008, it was again pointed out that Iran Air has weekly direct flights between Caracas, Damascus and Tehran. There are no large numbers of passengers that justify weekly travels between theses countries. Therefore, it is reasonable to speculate that these flights transport material which could be highly problematic. Read more ..

Latin Affairs

Argentine President Kirchner Missteps in an International Tango

January 26th 2009

Latin American Topics - Cristina Kirchner and Fidel Castro

President Barack Obama came to his administration announcing that the world has changed, but President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner of Argentina has not apparently noticed. The day that President Obama was inaugurated in Washington D.C., Kirchner was making an official visit to Cuba where she met with President Raúl Castro and his brother Fidel Castro – dictator ex officio. The meeting of the leader of the Cuban Revolution was heralded by the Argentine government as a great achievement, even though for the rest of the world it was an irrelevant event that served to isolate Argentina even more on the world scene.

Cristina Kirchner went on to Venezuela, where she was received with great pomp and circumstance by President Hugo Chávez. The two national leaders re-established there a strategic relationship that had been strained by financial dealings on the part of Chavez in mid-2008. 

Confidence in Argentina’s financial policies was buffeted when in August 2008, Argentine issued more than $1 billion to the Venezuelan government at the usurious rate of 15 percent. The Chávez administration immediately resold the bonds to  Venezuelan banks and investors who then dumped the paper on the international market at discounted rates. 

But all that is now in the past. So as to dispel any lingering misgivings in the bilateral relationship, Chávez gave a guarantee to Kirchner that his country would soon compensate the Italo-Argentine industrial group, Techint, for assets that his government nationalized earlier in 2008 that belonged to Argentine multi-national Techint. Read more ..

Inside Africa

Donated Pipes Bring Water and New Life to Northern Senegal

January 26th 2009

Africa Topics - Senegal carrying water

Gaile Ndiaye remembers well waking before dawn in search of fresh water. She and the other girls from her village set off with their buckets, often walking several miles across the sandy soil of northern Senegal.

Ndiaye says when they did find a well with water, each girl took only two buckets so there would be enough for the rest of the village. It is a routine she repeated for years in this remote area near the Mauritanian border, her hands calloused by working the rough rope that drops down into the well's darkness.

Now her hands are smooth, and clean water flows from a tap just outside her door. More than 60 villages around the town of Leona--more than 13,000 people in northern Senegal--have fresh water for drinking and non-potable water for irrigation through a project linking the Senegalese government, Columbia University, and the world's largest manufacturer of plastic pipe. The project is having a big impact on the lives of women and children who used to spend hours carrying water from wells far from home. Read more ..

The Future of Food

Aquaculture Hold the Promise of Sustainability

January 26th 2009

Energy / Environment - Aquaculture

In spite of possible environmental problems, specialists say aquaculture can help spur the recovery of natural populations of fish and other aquatic species - and provide much-needed food and income, especially for small-scale farmers in developing countries.

Aquaculture has been practiced for thousands of years. Jim Diana, a professor of natural resources at the University of Michigan, says the first written textbook on aquaculture was published in China in about 400 B.C.

Asia continues to dominate the farming of fish and other aquatic species, accounting for approximately 92 percent of the world harvest.

"But," says Diana, "there is aquaculture in the United States and virtually every continent other than Antarctica." Read more ..

Book to Film

Star-studded Release of War Against the Weak--The Movie

January 26th 2009

Entertainment - War Against the Weak Movie Poster

War Against the Weak – The Movie was released on January 24 at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival, the film based on investigate reporter Edwin Black’s opus on the origins of the eugenics movement in the United States, and its connections with Nazism. Hollywood luminaries Clint Eastwood, Kate Winslet and Mickey Rourke will be attending the festival and receiving awards at the prestigious event being held at the Santa Barbara Museum of Art in Santa Barbara, California.

Following in the footstep of the award-winning book, War Against the Weak – The Movie has already been nominated by the festival for its Social Justice award. After years of intense research and collaboration with author Black, and painstaking filming from Long Island to Auschwitz by noted director Justin Strawhand and producer Pete Demas, the gripping film version of the groundbreaking investigation into the eugenics movement comes to the big screen. The production company's announcement comes as the movie begins the film festival circuit in preparation for mass distribution.

Based on the best selling book by Pulitzer Prize-nominated author Black, the film brings together thousands of hours of research in seven countries to tell the horrifying story of Eugenics -- the quest to create a master race and eliminate 90 percent of the world’s people. A new Dialog Press paperback edition of the book is now available at bookstores everywhere. Read more ..

Cancelling a Washington Post Subscription

January 26th 2009
I am appalled at the New York Times and now the Washington Post for their biased reporting of the Israel-Hamas conflict. The front pages for two days running showed the plight of the people of Gaza and the destruction that Israel bombs have caused. There was no talk of the rockets that have rained down on
helpless citizens inside Israel, even during the supposed three hour truce wanted by the 'do nothing' U.N. I for one am canceling my subscription to the Post and I hope they ask me why. I always thought reporting the news gave both sides and allowed the reader to determine whom he believed. This is not so. Are the Post and the Times owned or run by those who have another agenda? What a sad state it is. Kind of reminds one of the WWII-era when Goebbels said tell a lie enough times and people will start to believe it.

Marriott Raleigh (Raleigh NC)

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Oxford (Raleigh)

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America's Economic Collapse

Ghost Malls Will Be Appearing

January 19th 2009

Economy - Out of Business

America’s economy supports more than 1.1 million retail stores. There are approximately 1,100 Malls in the United States, not counting the thousands of strip mall centers. That will soon change as once thriving malls become ghost malls. By 2011, America’s malls within two years will have an entirely different set of numbers.

International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC) chief economist Michael Niemira tries to put a good face on the gloom. He says, “In the midst of all this doom and gloom, it's hard to imagine it getting better... But keep in mind, what happens in strong downturns is there's a hefty pent-up demand. It's wrong to extrapolate these conditions for the next year or two."  Read more ..

Edge on Energy

Israel Discovers Mega Natural Gas Fields

January 19th 2009

Energy / Environment - LNG Tanker

Israel took a step towards energy independence with the discovery of natural gas deposits off its shores near the Haifa on January 17. According to Noble Energy, there is an “inconceivable” amount of natural gas in three offshore reserves at its Tamar 1 well – the largest find in the company’s history. The find is estimated at 88 billion cubic meters. Currently, Israel depends on coal and gas to fuel its energy needs. In Israel there are plans to reduce dependence on coal from 60 percent of its energy set-up, while increasing natural gas from 30 percent to 40-45 percent. The plan is to increase alternative energy use to 10 percent by 2020.

The discovery of the natural gas field 90 km. offshore from Haifa, known as Tamar, was made by a US-Israel consortium including the Delek Group, through its subsidiaries Delek Drilling and Avner Oil Exploration, Isramco Negev 2, Dor Gas Exploration and US oil operator Noble Energy Inc. Read more ..

Inside Asia

Hong Kong's Air Pollution Causes Some to Think Twice About Living There

January 19th 2009

Asia Topics - Hong Kong air pollution

Air pollution in Hong Kong has gotten so bad that some businesses are losing staff and customers. A city watchdog group says the government is not doing enough to reduce pollution, much of which comes from mainland China.

Hong Kong's skies were clear and blue when Alan Knight first arrived there in 1993. But, within 12 years, the city had become so polluted there were days when he could not see through the gray haze across Victoria Harbor.

Knight's work requires travel. He is a journalist and professor. He also has a lung condition, which usually is dormant. But it flared, a few years back, when he returned to Hong Kong. He was hospitalized and received high dosages of antibiotics. Once he was back in Brisbane, Australia the condition resolved itself. Read more ..

The Surge Against Hamas

What is the Cost of Israel's Victory in the Gaza?

January 19th 2009

Islamic Topics - Hamas protester

Trying to hide a smile and a sense of self-satisfaction Prime Minister Ehud Olmert faced the cameras at the Defense Ministry and declared to the Israeli public, "We won." The Israel Defense Forces objectives for its operation in the Gaza Strip were "obtained in full." Hamas was "surprised and badly beaten," the government "made decisions responsibly and wisely," the IDF's performance was excellent and the southern home front "displayed resilience."  

Olmert would have loved to have been able to say the same thing back in 2006, at the end of the Second Lebanon War. But then he had to confront a disappointed and outraged public calling for an inquiry into the government's handling of the war. The Gaza operation was undoubtedly intended to redeem Olmert, and will be used as a springboard for a comeback - if he avoids conviction on any of the charges pending against him. 

Israel's military achievement in the fighting was aided by prior preparation and the creation of national and international legitimacy for the operation. The success was further assisted by the weakness of Hamas, in comparison to Hezbollah in the Second Lebanon War, and the IDF's willingness to sustain losses that in the end were less than expected. Read more ..

The Way We Are

Brain Mapping Social Conformity

January 19th 2009

Social Trends - Brain Waves

Decades of research show people tend to go along with the majority view. Now, scientists are supporting those theories with brain images. A new study could explain why people follow fashion trends or join religious groups and even the rise of extreme political movements.

According to researcher Vasily Klucharev of Erasmus University in the Netherlands, the study shows when people hold an opinion differing from others in a group, their brains produce an error signal. 

"If you make an error, if means that something [wrong is going on]. And, whenever we experience an error, it means this error signal pushes us to change behavior," Klucharev said. "And, we see it looks like we quite automatically produce this signal when our opinion is quite different from other people."


Beyond Earth

Methane on Mars Can Mean Life

January 19th 2009

Science - Mars-scape

The U.S. space agency, NASA, says large quantities of methane gas have been detected on Mars, hinting at the possibility of biological or geological activity on the Red Planet.

Astrobiologist Sushil Atreya says there are two possibilities as to why methane exists on Mars. "Either it's geology, in which case it's the reaction between water and rock, or it's biology, in which case the microbes are producing the methane," Atreya said.

Methane was first detected on Mars in 2003 by scientists using Earth-based telescopes. Scientists say that one plume of Martian methane contained nearly 19,000 tons of the gas.


North Korea’s Nukes

North Korea Probably Has Four to Six Nuclear Bombs

January 19th 2009

Asia Topics - North Korean Leaders

A U.S. expert says North Korea has "weaponized" its plutonium, producing four to five warheads. Pyongyang now wishes to be treated as a nuclear weapon state. Selig Harrison, an independent expert who met with officials this week in Pyongyang, says North Korea has weaponized about 31 kilograms of plutonium.

Harrison told reporters in Beijing Saturday North Korea may hold four to six nuclear bombs, depending on the grade of plutonium and specific weapons design. Yet none of the North Korean officials would explicitly acknowledge the details of the weapons. Harrison said they told him it was a "military matter" they could not discuss. He said the government refuses to let the weapons be inspected.

Harrison is director of the Washington-based Center for International Policy's Asia program. His North Korea trip began on January 12 and included a lengthy session with Li Gun, director general of the North Korean Foreign Ministry's United States division.


Destination Mexico

Sample Mexico's Aztec Heritage at its Restaurants

January 19th 2009

Travel - Mexican Appetizers

No offense meant to Mom and apple pie, but the best American cuisine (that is to say, on the two American continents) by far is found in Mexico. The mestizo culture that ensued after the intermingling of Spanish adventurers and native American peoples produced a bronze race and fascinating cuisine of an infinite variety of textures and flavors. Mexico gave to the world its foods and flavors, including cacao, turkeys, maize, avocados, tomatoes, and chilies. These have gone on to embellish the cuisines of countries all over the world.

It is unfortunate that most Americans’ exposure to Mexican cooking may be limited to Taco Bell or the seemingly infinite number of family-owned restaurants serving Mexican fare. This food, which is largely Tex-Mex – which may have given the United States both burritos and chile con carne – is good but only faintly Mexican. The best path to true Mexican is to go to land of the Aztecs itself and sample the best the country has to offer. Read more ..

Russian Natural Gas Cut-Off a Wake Up Call

January 19th 2009
By now it must be obvious to the world that what Russia has done to Europe and he Ukraine in cutting off natural gas (see Energy January 5, 2008 Russia Shuts off Natural Gas to Ukraine as Political Overtones Fume), could be done to America. Yet as has been told to us time and again, neither the outgoing Bush Administration or the incoming Obama Administration have any plan for a similar shut down here. Libya did the same thing to Switzerland, shutting off 20 percent of its oil last fall. When do we get it? We need energy independence.

Surge Against Hamas

Israeli Navy Hunts Hamas During Gaza Siege

January 19th 2009

Israel Topics - Israeli naval vessel

"Fire. Fire. Fire," shouts Capt. Yoni into his two-way radio, before a typhoon cannon on the deck of the Shaldag ship lets off a burst of gunfire toward the Gaza coast.

"There was an indication that rockets were being fired from that location at Ashdod and Ashkelon," explains Yoni, the commander of the naval vessel.

Earlier, Yoni and his troops had scouted the coastline with an advanced thermal camera to ensure no IDF troops were in the area. Suddenly, as the camera zooms in on a hotel under construction on the Gaza coast, one of the soldiers says, "Wait. There's someone there."
The camera zooms in on the location and spots nothing more than a pack of dogs.

It's the 13th night of Operation Cast Lead and we're sailing on Yoni's ship some 2.5 kilometers off the Gaza coast. It is the first time a reporter has joined naval forces since the start of the operation. From the ship, capable of up to 45 kilometers an hour, we see a Tarshish naval vessel, Sa'ar 4.5, which is also part of operations against Hamas. Read more ..

Book Review

The Man, the Myth, the Real Rupert Murdoch

January 19th 2009

Book Covers - Rupert Murdoch Bio Cover

The Man Who Owns the News: Inside the Secret World of Rupert Murdoch. Michael Wolff. December 2008, Broadway Books. 464 pages.

Scan the online comments accompanying most current stories about the travails of the newspaper business and you'll invariably encounter declarations that most problems are caused by a dearth of "conservative" views. Forgetting for a moment that the definition of this ideology has become amorphous (believe it or not, "conservative" once included small government, individual freedom and lack of government interference in personal issues!), the idea that media in general and newspapers in particular are "liberal" is laughable. Most are owned by large corporations whose interests are hardly radical, socialist or anything other than determinedly capitalist. They are in business to earn revenue, not for ideology.

A few big city daily newspapers that lose tons of money are, indeed, kept afloat for mostly ideological reasons. Both are "conservative" and one, the New York Post, is owned by Rupert Murdoch, the subject of this new biography by journalist and sometime-entrepreneur Michael Wolff. According to the author, the money-losing Gotham tabloid is less a propaganda vehicle than a means of providing its freewheeling CEO with a political presence in that media capitol. But with the company's acquisition of the Wall Street Journal and its parent company, Dow Jones, owning the Post, which bleeds an estimated $50 million a year, may be an unnecessary extravagance.


The Surge Against Hamas

A Plan for Gaza: Demilitarization and Internationalization

January 11th 2009

Contributors / Staff - Walid Phares new

It may be too early to discuss both a comprehensive solution for the future of a Palestinian state and to anticipate an end to the global War on Terror at the same time, but here goes. In any discussion of peace in the Middle East it is important to remember the intentions of the Iranian and Syrian regimes and their proxy, Hezbollah, when we think about saving the civilian population of Gaza from war, shielding the Israeli population from rockets, and avoiding an escalation of violence that could engulf the entire region. The Iranian and Syrian regimes -- and their ally Hezbollah -- will always oppose the peace process and try to sink it.

So is there a plan to bring peace to the southern shores of the Levant? In an interview with Al Jazeera, Israeli President Shimon Peres said his country will stop military operations when the strikes by Hamas and its allies come to an end. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said his Palestinian Authority (PA) is ready to assume responsibility for the sake of his people. Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and Jordan's King Abdullah said their governments are ready to solve the crisis in Gaza if the PA is part of it. The United States, the European Union, and the United Nations all affirmed that everything must be done to end the war in Gaza. Excellent.

If all the players listed above are ready to stop the violence, end the war, and save Palestinian and Israeli civilians from bloodshed, then the plan seems to be clear: demilitarization and internationalization of Gaza.

Establishing a fully-fledged U.N. sponsored and managed security system in the enclave has precedents across the planet: Bosnia, Kosovo, East Timor, and to some extent in Lebanon and possibly in the near future, Darfur. When an area slips under the control of a militia which is neither bound by a peace treaty nor operating under international law, and when a population comes under fire from any party because of the military actions of such a militia, until a recognizable and recognized sovereign state becomes responsible for such an enclave, the U.N. Security Council must step in and apply Chapter 7 of the charter, that is: to bring peace to civilian populations. Read more ..

The Surge Against Hamas

Has Israel Used "Disproportionate Force" in Gaza?

January 5th 2009

Israel Topics - Gaza bomb damage
Gaza Bomb Damage

Israeli population centers in southern Israel have been the target of over 4,000 rockets, as well as thousands of mortar shells, fired by Hamas and other organizations since 2001. Rocket attacks increased by 500 percent after Israel withdrew completely from the Gaza Strip in August 2005. During an informal six-month lull, some 215 rockets were launched at Israel.

The charge that Israel uses disproportionate force keeps resurfacing whenever it has to defend its citizens from non-state terrorist organizations and the rocket attacks they perpetrate. From a purely legal perspective, Israel's current military actions in Gaza are on solid ground. According to international law, Israel is not required to calibrate its use of force precisely according to the size and range of the weaponry used against it.

Ibrahim Barzak and Amy Teibel wrote for the Associated Press on December 28 that most of the 230 Palestinians who were reportedly killed were "security forces," and Palestinian officials said "at least 15 civilians were among the dead." The numbers reported indicate that there was no clear intent to inflict disproportionate collateral civilian casualties. What is critical from the standpoint of international law is that if the attempt has been made "to minimize civilian damage, then even a strike that causes large amounts of damage—but is directed at a target with very large military value—would be lawful."


America's Economic Collapse

Unintended Consequences in Action

January 5th 2009

Economy - Bernanke headache
Ben Bernanke

Columbia University statistician Andrew Gelman has said, “The law of unintended consequences is what happens when a simple system tries to regulate a complex system. The political system is simple. It operates with limited information (rational ignorance), short time horizons, low feedback, and poor, misaligned incentives.  Society in contrast is a complex, evolving, high-feedback, incentive-driven system.  When a simple system tries to regulate a complex system you often get unintended consequences.”

Gelman is dead on, if not understated. He states that the political system is simple. I’d go a step further and say that lifetime politicians and entrenched government bureaucrats are “simple.” They show no indication of knowledge or expertise in American history or rational financial theory. The President, Congress, Federal Reserve, and Treasury try mightily to direct our economy. It is an impossible task. With a GDP of $14 trillion, there are thousands of inputs and outputs that feed the system. Their hubris leads them to believe that they are in control and can manipulate the gears of capitalism in a way that will produce their desired outcomes. If a desired outcome occurs, it is simply due to dumb luck. The more likely result of their manipulations of our complex system is a set of bigger problems that never occurred to them. Read more ..

The Energy Weapon

Russia Shuts off Natural Gas to Ukraine as Political Overtones Fume

January 5th 2009

Russian Topics - Russia Shuts off Gas to Ukraine
Russia Shuts Off Ukraine's Natural Gas

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

An energy supply conflict has erupted between Russia and Ukraine with political overtones. The dispute only promised to worsen when Russia shut off the supply of natural gas to the Ukraine endangering some 20 percent of all gas supplies to central Europe which must traverse Ukraine in pipelines.

In a tense series of negotiations at the close of 2008, Russia’s state natural gas monopoly, Gazprom, demanded an exorbitant increase from Ukraine. Gazprom insisted the 2008 price of $179.50 per 1,000 cubic meters of gas existing on December 31 to dramaticvally rise to $418 starting the next day, January 1, 2009. The Ukraine, besieged by the same financial woes as the rest of the world and facing a bitter winter, refused. Read more ..

Surge Against Hamas

"Back to the Ovens," Ft. Lauderdale Hamas Protestors Shout at Jews

January 5th 2009

Palestine Topics - SF Anti-Israel Protest
One of Many Anti-Israel Protests over Gaza

Many residents in tranquil Ft. Lauderdale were shocked last week to see 200 to 300 rowdy Hamas supporters assembled downtown screaming for Jews to “go back to the Ovens.” It was part of a show of solidarity with Gazans now under siege during Israel’s campaign to root out the Hamas terrorist establishment there. A video blogger, captured the protest on a YouTube video.

(See the Ft. Lauderdale pro-Hamas video)

The rally began as Hamas supporters squared off against a handful of mostly youthful Israel supporters outside the First Baptist Church in downtown Ft. Lauderdale. It grew uglier as Hamas supporters became enraged at their presence and began shouting insults. "Your mother is a whore," screamed one, who then broke into "Nuke, nuke Israel. Nuke, nuke Israel," followed by "Go to hell; go to hell; go to hell!” Read more ..

Preserving the Penguins

Conservationists Try to Prevent African Penguin Extinction

January 5th 2009

Energy / Environment - Dyer Island Penguins

Millions of African penguins once roamed the beaches along the continent's southern coast. But their population is collapsing and conservationists have begun drastic measures to prevent the species from going extinct. They are installing artificial nests to help the penguins survive. They are even feeding wild penguins by hand.

Dyer Island, about five miles off the southern tip of Africa, is a key breeding site for the African penguin. But a local charter boat captain, Wilfred Chivell, says the penguins need help.

"You can see it's impossible for any bird to make a nest in this area-boulders upon boulder upon boulder," Chivell said.

Over the years, people removed the topsoil from this island because it was rich in bird droppings and made good fertilizer. As a result, penguins can no longer burrow underground to build nests. They must breed in the open, where chicks are often killed by predators or stormy weather.

Chivell has decided to step in. He is installing small fiberglass igloos for the penguins to use as nests. “Once you've placed the nest there, they decorate," Chivell said. "They put a few extra stones and a few feathers and pieces of the natural vegetation here. So they make it nice and homely for themselves."

The need for artificial nests demonstrates why the African penguin is listed as a vulnerable species by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature. Much of the penguin's natural habitat has been destroyed. As well, commercial fishing fleets have reduced their food supply. Chivell has formed the Dyer Island Conservation Trust to install 800 nests at this site. Read more ..

Reader Poll

Sixty-eight Percent see more Mumbai-Style Terrorism Coming

January 5th 2009

TCEN Motifs - Poll Vote

Sictey-eight percent of respondents to an unscientific Cutting Edge News Reader Poll voted to predict the world would see more Mumbai-style terrorism. In response to the question: Do You Think The World Will See More Jihadi Infantry Invasion Forces? the results were:

  • 68 percent "Yes."
  • 11 percent "Not Sure"
  • 21 percent "No"

During the poll period, The Cutting Edge News recorded 816,312 hits. During the extended poll period, the ratio continued at the same level within a few percentage points.

Sunset for the Oil Age

Conflicts, Geopolitics and Economics--a Perfect Storm To Usher Out the Age of Oil

January 5th 2009

Energy / Environment - Oil Barrels

Conflicts and geopolitics will militate against increasing oil production in the coming years.

The 2007 National Petroleum Council report, "Facing the Hard Truths about Energy," recognizes the danger and states that in order to attract the trillions of dollars necessary for the expansion of the energy infrastruc­ture, a "stable and attractive investment climate" will be necessary. Clearly, this is a serious problem when considering the conditions in Iraq, Iran, Venezuela, Sudan, Burma, and Nigeria. As the competition for oil increases, political risks in key production areas are likely to rise over the next 15 to 20 years. Read more ..

The Surge Against Hamas

Hamas in Gaza Kills 35 Fatah Palestinians and Shoots 75 in the Legs, Accusing Them of Siding with Israel

January 5th 2009

Terrorism - Hamas Terrorists

The Hamas government has placed dozens of Fatah members under house arrest out of fear that they might exploit the current IDF operation to regain control of the Gaza Strip.

The move came amid reports that the Fatah leadership in the West Bank has instructed its followers to be ready to assume power over the Gaza Strip when and if Israel's military operation results in the removal of Hamas rule.

Fatah officials in Ramallah told reporters that Hamas militiamen had been assaulting many Fatah activists since the beginning of the operation last Saturday. They said at least 75 activists were shot in the legs while others had their hands broken.

Wisam Abu Jalhoum, a Fatah activist from the Jabalya refugee camp, was shot in the legs by Hamas militiamen for allegedly expressing joy over the IDF air strikes on Hamas targets. Read more ..

Surge Against Hamas

Israel Faces Iran in Gaza

January 5th 2009

Terrorism - Hamas troops w/rocket
Iranian-supplied Grad Rockets

Those 40 km missiles Hamas is unleashing against Israeli cities are certainly not "amateur rockets… nagging the residents" of Israeli cities, as a Palestinian journalist recently wrote in a Washington Post op-ed.

The press calls the rockets "Grads" or "Katyushas," the Russian name given several generations ago to the original Soviet-made surface-to-surface missiles. Today, it would be more correct to label some of the missiles by their real name, the "Arash," the name given to them by their Iranian manufacturers. The long-range 120 mm mortars raining down on Israel are also Iranian in origin. The mortars are equipped with auxiliary motors to increase their range from six to ten kilometers.

The longest range "Grads" were manufactured in China and but many of these too were smuggled to Hamas via Iran. Visitors to Sderot's rocket heap museum of spent missiles can view Iranian-made weapons for themselves.


Underground Business

Polish Cigarette Smugglers Upset at Tough New Rules at EU’s Frontier

January 5th 2009

Europe Topics - PolishCigs

It’s still frozen in eastern Poland. But Pawel Mlynarski is still steamed at the government for taking away his livelihood: contraband cigarettes.

Until recently, Mlynarski, a 25-year-old unemployed builder, would cross the border into Ukraine as many as four times a night. Each time, he would return with at least one carton of 200 cigarettes, or 10 packs, to sell in the bars of his hometown of Przemysl, 15 kilometers (9 miles) from the European Union’s eastern frontier.

Then, on Dec. 1, Poland cut the import allowance to 40 smokes, or two packs. "This is an absolute tragedy," says Mlynarski, who used to make as much as 20 zloty ($6.80) per carton selling packs of Prima. "Most people around here did the border. It was our only way of earning decent cash."

The new limits are a result of the EU’s expansion a year ago of its passport-free movement of people, the so-called Schengen area, to include Poland. That forced the nation to bolster its -- and the EU’s -- eastern border. Now locals complain they are left with an unemployment rate above 17 percent, the highest in Poland, and the specter of more job losses as trade at the bars and cafes at border crossings collapses. Demonstrators threw stones and eggs at police to protest the new rules earlier this month.

"A gap has now opened up, and we have to fill it," says Robert Choma, the mayor of Przemysl. "There are all these rules that come along to tighten the border, but nothing that balances out the work that’s lost."


The Way We Are

The Garage Gods

January 5th 2009

Contributors / Staff - Liz Black headshot
Elizabeth Black

I began looking at the real estate listings when I moved to a small Midwest city, mostly out of curiosity because the prices were so low compared to the East Coast. I was utterly amazed that anyone could own a home for under $400,000, much less for a mere $150,000. A 3-bedroom, 1-bath fixer-upper in the Washington D.C. suburbs would maybe start at $465,000. As I perused the photos in the weekly home sale guides, I began noticing something else: the amount of space devoted to garage doors as opposed to people doors. Many homes featured 3-car garages facing the street with only a small narrow front entrance off to one side like an afterthought. I was so intrigued by these photos that I began cutting them out. And then it became a game, a variation of "Where’s Waldo" that I call "Where’s the Entrance." I half expect to one day find a house with no front door at all. Once in a while I think I’ve found it, but if I drive by the property, I realize that someone just cropped off the inconsequential front entrance from the real estate listing photo. The duplexes popular in Midwest towns are the most intriguing: two side-by-side double garages with small front doors slightly set back on either side.

I’ve begun calculating the ratios between space devoted to car and people doors on the curbside views of houses for sale. Most come in at a 75 percent face space for the cars, 25 percent for the people. But last weekend I found the winner. A house that devoted 90 percent of its full frontal view to a 3-car garage. The front entrance occupied 10 percent.


Book Review

Kennedys, Castros, and Murder

January 5th 2009

Book Covers - Kennedys, Castros

Brothers In Arms. The Kennedys, The Castros, and the Politics of Murder. Gus Russo and Stephen Molton. Bloomsbury. 2008. 560 pages.

Gus Russo and Stephen Molton have produced a well-researched and compelling study of the role Cuban, Soviet, and American intelligence agencies played in keeping track of Lee Harvey Oswald, the self-styled revolutionary credited with the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, in the years before Dallas. Brothers in Arms provides details of how the Soviets passed information about Oswald on to the Cuban intelligence agencies, who in turn decided Oswald may be of some use in their attempts to hit back at the United States for its efforts in trying to topple the Castro regime. Their investigation into the movements of Cuban Intelligence agent Fabian Escalante Font--before and after the assassination--is also central to their thesis that the assassination can be placed firmly at Castro’s door. The authors have utilized hundreds of documents from KGB, Cuban, Mexican Secret Police, and recently unredacted U.S. government files, and combined them with their own interviews of the players in the JFK/Castro conflict to support their thesis.

Additionally, one would have thought that there was nothing more to learn about Lee Oswald, especially in his relationship with his wife Marina, but Russo and Molton have done exactly that, and they also provide the reader with additional insight into the character and motives of the assassin. The authors are particularly informative about Oswald’s activities in the Soviet Union and his friendship with Cuban students in Minsk. Particularly revealing are the snippets of information about Oswald which reveal how the assassin manipulated Cuban and American intelligence agencies into believing he had an important role to play in what turns out to be his own fantasy game of building himself up to be some sort of important figure. Read more ..

Citizen for Energy Freedom Florida Meeting Spotlighted as Oil Expected to Soon Rise

January 5th 2009
I was very pleased to read your story on the upcoming Citizens for Energy Freedom conference this January 17 in Florida (See Mass Movement for Energy Freedom December 15, 2008 in Energy).  The timing of this conference is especially appropriate. I just read recently that OPEC will be cutting its oil production by almost ten percent, starting January. This is sure to affect gasoline prices here, at a time when our economy is particularly vulnerable. Our continued dependence on oil forces us to line the pockets of countries led by dictators and terrorists seeking our destruction and that's true no matter what the price of gasoline might be.  It's time to get serious about fueling our cars by other means, and I for one am looking forward to linking up with others as frustrated as I am to hear from expert panels and learn how to educate others on the problem and the solution.

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