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Archive for April 2010

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The Next Mideast War

Iran’s “Great Prophet” War Games Rattle the Strategic Strait of Hormuz

April 26th 2010

Iran - IRan war games
Iran’s “Great Prophet” naval exercise at the Strait of Hormuz

Iranian military exercises commenced on April 22 in the Strait of Hormuz with more than 300 boats and ships equipped with torpedo and guided-missiles participating. The war games were dubbed “The Great Prophet” by Iran. Contact was made with foreign vessels—making these more than war games.

The Iranian Revoutionary Guard marine patrol searched a French and Italian vessel during the massive naval exercises on April 23rd to determine “whether the two were following environmental regulations during the war games conducted by Iran in the vital Strait of Hormuz,” according to official Iranian sources. The French and Italian ships were allowed to continue their course following the Iranian interdiction. US warships, also present in the Persian Gulf, were not similarly searched or harassed. But the message of Iranian naval power in the Strait of Hormuz was not lost.

In 2008, Iranian patrol vessels approached a U.S. warship the Persian Gulf in a threantening manner but did not engage in hostile action. The Strait of Hormuz connects the Persian Gulf with the larger Indian Ocean and is a strategic chokepoint through which forty percent of the world’s seaborne oil passes. Read more ..


The Edge of Justice

Gamut of Legal Experts Question Recommended Sentence in Rubashkin case

April 26th 2010

Jewish Topics - Rubashkin in cuffs

Several former U.S. attorneys general, a former deputy attorney general, more than half-a-dozen former U.S. attorneys and a former federal judge have authored and signed letters to the judge in the Sholom Rubashkin case, criticizing the prosecutors’ recommendation that Rubashkin receive life in prison for his bank fraud conviction under Federal Sentencing Guidelines. The authors of the letters include former U.S. attorneys general Janet Reno, Dick Thornburgh, Nicholas Katzenbach, and Edwin Meese III, as well as former deputy attorney general Larry D. Thompson, and former federal Judge Paul G. Cassell. The jurists represent the gamut of sentencing philosophies and includ officials nominated by both Democratic and Republican administrations. Law professor Alan Dershowitz also sent a letter asserting the same conclusion. At press time, more distinguished former U.S. attorneys are adding their names to the widening list of distiguished legal experts challenging the proposed life sentence.

The letters express concerns about how the sentencing guidelines are being utilized in Rubashkin’s case, arguing that they provide “problematic guidance” in determining Rubashkin’s sentence. Read more ..


Rubashkin Seems Targeted

April 26th 2010

My community and I have been following the Rubashkin case since the beginning. First of all, we are shocked that Sholom Rubashkin is not with his family during this difficult time. Sholom Rubashkin shouldn’t be in jail. He has a right to bail! Every attempt was made by thousands of supporters to ensure that Sholom would be present at his sentencing, eliminating the need for him to be behind bars throughout this ordeal. Secondly, the suggestion of the Prosecutor (a life sentence) is shocking and ridiculous. We say stop targeting Sholom Rubashkin. From the very beginning it seems that someone “had it out” for him. For Goodness sakes, stop treating Sholom Rubashkin more harshly than you have treated others with similar offenses. At the very least, every American would agree that Sholom Rubashkin should be treated no differently than other similar defendants.


Rubashkin Sentencing Must Include Other Factors

April 26th 2010
Edwin Black’s otherwise astute article on the Sholom Rubashkin sentencing is forgetting something (see Features, Is A Life Sentence for Iowa Kosher Butcher Disproportionate Justice?, April 19, 2010). In sentencing, the prosecutors and judge consider other factors. Even still, I was unaware that he was convicted of paying his beef bill a few days late. Reluctant as I am, I must admit that it would be a miscarraige of justice to sentence this man, troublesome as he is, to life in comparison to other similar criminals convicted of similar crimes.

Ravensfire and Rubashkin on Wikipedia

April 26th 2010

Your readers probably know Edwin Black's article on Sholom Rubashkin (see Features, Is A Life Sentence for Iowa Kosher Butcher Disproportionate Justice?, April 19, 2010) was reprinted throughout the United States, in Canada, in Israel, and even on the anti-Rubashkin websites. His article was fair, and investigated a little-known aspect of the case that no one has looked into. What your readers probably don't know is that when someone added this story as an article by Edwin Black at Wikipedia to his other articles, the person known as Ravensfire took it upon himself to claim the article should not be listed and deleted it. Why? This appears to be more editing out of Jewish and Holocaust information which is now a pattern at Wikipedia. There is no way to know who Ravensfire is or how to contact him or her because everyone at Wikipedia is operating behind a front name. But I wish Ravensfire would not edit out Jewish content where it involves a man's life. This was the only article of its kind on this subject. But there is no one to talk to.

Editor's Note: This topic was covered in a News item in this edition.


Ravensfire Deletes Rubashkin on Wikipedia

April 26th 2010
Edwin Black's article on Sholom Rubashkin (see Features, Is A Life Sentence for Iowa Kosher Butcher Disproportionate Justice?, April 19, 2010) did what no other journalist has done. It investigated the inequities of the sentencing. I think we all know that Rubashkin has dishonored himself, his family and the Jewish people. But, as another publication urged, "let the punishment fit the crime." Life in prison is too much since Rubashkin was never even tried on his main offenses—mistreatment of illegal workers. As I was looking into this whole issue on Wikipedia, I found that Edwin Black's article had been listed as "further reading" in two locations. First was the section on Sholom Rubashkin and the other was the section on Edwin Black Articles. When I tried to send a friend to Wikipedia and checked again, I saw the article had been vetoed and erased. I checked further and found it has been done by by one individual, an individual named "Ravensfire" and he left a snide remark to explain he did not think the article was worthy. When he was questioned in a Wikipedia chat, no one could over-rule him. No wonder Wikipedia is getting such a bad name. Does Wikipedia allow censors to decide which articles about Jews should and should not be read? Wake up, Wikipedia, and check into Ravensfire. Somebody may have an opinion besides him—or is it a her?

Blaxthos and Fred the Oyster Operate in the Shadows

April 26th 2010
This is where we are in our world. After decades of trying to establish the true facts of the Holocaust, people like Blaxthos and Fred the Oyster operating on Wikipedia (see “Wikipedia—The Dumbing Down of World Knowledge”, Page One, April 12, 2010), can just change the history at a moment's notice. And based on what? The problem here is that they work in the shadows behind fake names. If they were accountable for what they write—like the rest of us—this would never happen. But Wikipedia makes this possible. If it can happen to the Holocaust, it can happen to any topic. If Blaxthos and Fred the Oyster are reading this: I say to them: do not hide behind fake names. If you have a question, contact any Holocaust museum or historian anywhere and get the true facts. But think.

Wikipedia Promotes Mob Rule in Information

April 26th 2010

I quite agree with your author that Wikipedia is a vast threat to mankind's reservoir of knowledge (see “Wikipedia—The Dumbing Down of World Knowledge”, Page One, April 12, 2010). This threat increases each day as more and more students consult Wikipedia, even though teachers and scholars continue to warn them of the dangers of seeking information at this polluted source. Just look at what has happened to topics as they relate to Canada and how information is coloured or otherwise falsified. Bravo for standing up to them. More of it, please.


Wikipedia on the Edge

Wikipedia Struggles with Holocaust Disinformation; Ravensfire Deletes Jewish Content

April 26th 2010

Computer Topics - Shadowy Computer User

Wikipedia posters continued to struggle with the campaign to delete information about IBM’s involvement in the Holocaust as contributors posted and reposted conflicting theories of what should and should not be allowed to appear in the Internet encyclopedia. Wikipedia is the massive online project anyone can edit at any time, generally using fictitious names. Key among the issues in contention was whether the word “Holocaust” was permissible in descriptions of IBM’s pivotal participation in Hitler’s destruction of six million Jews.

The information about IBM’s role in the Holocaust was originally brought to light in 2001 by author Edwin Black in his bestselling book IBM and the Holocaust. Despite numerous calls for an answer, the company has never denied the information. Various groups, from Gypsies to Jewish survivors, have sued IBM for its involvement, but all the cases have been dismissed. Read more ..


Edge of Recovery

Goldman Sachs E-mails Suggest Firm Profited from Mortgage Crisis

April 26th 2010

Economy - Lloyd Blankfien-Goldman Sachs CEO
Goldman Sachs Chairman and CEO Lloyd Blankfein

A Senate panel has released e-mails from Goldman Sachs executives that suggest the investment bank profited from the mortgage crisis.

The e-mails released Saturday by the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations show Goldman Sachs Chairman and CEO Lloyd Blankfein saying the bank initially lost money on the investments but then more than made those losses back. “Of course we didn’t dodge the mortgage mess. We lost money, then made more than we lost because of shorts,” Blankfein wrote in the e-mail, dated Nov. 18. Blankfein and other Goldman Sachs executives are scheduled to testify next week before the investigations subcommittee, which is examining the Wall Street crisis. Read more ..


The Obama Edge

A Wrong Turn in Obama’s Mideast Policy

April 26th 2010

Contributors / Staff - Abraham Foxman Color cropped
Abraham H. Foxman

Nothing illustrates more how off-track the Obama Administration policy has gone as its expressions that a solution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is critical to winning over Arab support for America’s policy to prevent Iran from getting nuclear weapons. This is a lazy and ultimately futile way of addressing the major challenges facing the United States in the region.

It is reminiscent of the approach to the region in the first months of the Carter Administration in 1976. Then, the U.S. posited the idea that only a comprehensive solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict could contain Soviet influence with the Arabs and protect American oil interests. What resulted from this misguided thinking was severe pressure on Israel and little appreciation for America from the moderate Arabs.

Instead, Anwar Sadat went out on his own to make peace with Israel, foiling the Carter Administration’s plans for a comprehensive peace but actually strengthening American interests.

What moderate Arabs wanted then, and want now despite their rhetoric about Israel, is an America that stands with its allies and is strong in containing radical forces and states that threaten them. During the days of the Cold War the radicals were Syria and Iraq supported by the Soviets. America kept the moderates—Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and the Gulf States—on its side by supporting a victorious Israel in its conflict with the radicals, thereby sending the message to the wavering Arabs that the future lay with America and not the Soviets. Read more ..


The Edge of Justice

Does Rubashkin’s Sentence “Serve Justice?”

April 26th 2010

Jewish Topics - Sholom Rubashkin

In our day-to-day lives, it is rare that the words of the Supreme Court touch us personally. While serving as the United States Attorney for the District of Utah, appointed by President Bush, I frequently read, however, the Supreme Court’s message to me:

“The United States Attorney is the representative not of an ordinary party to a controversy, but of a sovereignty whose obligation to govern impartially is as compelling as its obligation to govern at all, and whose interest, therefore, in a criminal prosecution is not that it shall win a case, but that justice shall be done. As such, he is in a peculiar and very definite sense the servant of the law, the two-fold aim of which is that guilt shall not escape or innocence suffer. He may prosecute with earnestness and vigor—indeed, he should do so. But, while he may strike hard blows, he is not at liberty to strike foul ones. It is as much his duty to refrain from improper methods calculated to produce a wrongful conviction as it is to use every legitimate means to bring about a just one.” Berger v. United States, 295 U.S. 78 (1935)

These words were and still are sobering. They were a constant reminder of the power to prosecute and the delicacy with which such power should be wielded. I was not to “strike foul” blows but I was to prosecute earnestly and vigorously—never forgetting that while I pursued the guilty, I should be just as aggressive to protect the innocent. Regardless, justice should be done. Read more ..


Wikipedia and John Doe Lawsuits

April 26th 2010
Thank you for your thorough investigation of Wikipedia (see “Wikipedia—The Dumbing Down of World Knowledge”, Page One, April 12, 2010). The best part was discovering that the individual hackers and malicious posters can be sued as John Does in any location where the false material appears. I know of a man who had spent years studying a little known aspect of nineteenth century European history only to see it relentlessly massacred and he himself subjected to ridicule and personal attacks especially by two hackers who hid behind the mask of fake names and were at long last untrackable. We suspect they were in North America. No one ever knew for sure. Maybe John Doe lawsuits are the answer, and I hope someone succeeds in reforming Wikipedia’s wicked practice.

Making America and the Entire World Safer through Energy Security

April 26th 2010

Another day ... another 70 cents of every American dollar spent on gasoline benefitting, directly or indirectly, countries like Venezuela, which collaborate with America’s enemies and undermine American foreign policy in the Americas and the Caribbean. America consumes 25 percent of  world’s annual oil production. But we are 5 percent of the world’s population and control only of 3 percent of the world’s oil reserves. So we have accelerated the world’s oil consumption, creating fabulous wealth for oil producers such as Iran, which directs its petrodollars to build nuclear weapons and support terrorism world wide. There are things we can do, despite the fact Washington has failed to lead. As an individual citizens, we can vote with our next auto purchase. In the next year, a variety of electric vehicles and plug in hybrid electric vehicles will be available in America. Make your next auto purchase part of the solution. As a business, vote with your purchase orders and fleet purchases, protecting them from oil disruptions. All citizens should also support the “Open Fuel Standard.”


Barack Obama Refuses to use the G Word on Armenians

April 26th 2010
We see once more that Barack Obama has submitted to Turkish blackmail and refused to use the G word in commerorating the Armenian Genocide. The Turks do not mind admitting that they brutally masacred a million or so men defenseless civilian men, women and children; they just want to deny this organized and deliberate destruction of an ethnic minority was “genocide.” Because the Turkish regime is thought by many to be the Western gateway to the Muslim world, and provides NATO with key airbases, Washington allows it to rewrite history and deny the Armenian Holocaust. The next thing you know, we can say that America did not commit genocide against Native Americans, that Hitler was engaged in simple resettlement programs when Jews were sent to death camps, and that the bombing of Pearl Harbor was not a sneak attack—just an aerial accident where some bombs fell.

The Edge of Justice

Rubashkin Sentence Must Be Fair—Not Shocking

April 26th 2010

Jewish Topics - Sholom Rubashkin
Sholom Rubashkin

As a former United States District Court Judge, I have a unique perspective on the criminal justice system.

Aggressive prosecution and strong sentencing advocacy are at the center of most US Attorney decisions. Federal judges have the sole authority to administer fair and consistent criminal sentences. These are certainly weighty responsibilities which require balancing the dual interests of punishment and deterrence with mercy and societal redemption of those convicted of criminal acts. In his now famous speech to federal prosecutors, then Attorney General Robert Jackson captured the difficult balance that must be reached by those who exercise authority over fellow human beings when he concluded “the citizen’s safety lies in the prosecutor [or judge] who tempers zeal with human kindness, who seeks truth and not victims, who serves the law and not factional purposes, and who approaches his task with humility.”

Notwithstanding the best efforts of prosecutors and judges to administer justice, practitioners such as ourselves remain concerned about not only disparity in sentencing in the federal system, but specifically the shockingly high sentences being meted out in some white collar cases based on overinflated or overreliance on the dollar loss amounts in fraud cases. One particular case, set for sentencing in the coming days, is United States v. Sholom Rubashkin. Read more ..


The Border's Edge

How Mexico and the US Can Secure their Shared Border

April 26th 2010

Latin American Topics - US-Mexico Border

On March 3, masked gunmen surrounded the United States consulate in Monterrey, Mexico, departing the exterior perimeter after a fifteen minute standoff. Ten days later, in Ciudad Juárez, three U.S. consulate employees were assassinated. Days later, Robert Krentz, an Arizona rancher who routinely gave water to illegal immigrants, was gunned down by a man who fled into Mexico. On April 2, after insurgents ordered civilians to leave the border town of El Porvenir, terrified locals sought asylum in Texas. One week later, a hand grenade exploded inside the U.S. consulate in Nuevo Laredo. On April 21, armed men seized two hotels in downtown Monterrey, emptied all rooms, and whisked away four guests and two receptionists. Mexico may not be a failed state, but the north is in chaos. Read more ..


Film Review

El Secreto de Sus Ojos: Love and Murder in Argentina

April 26th 2010

Film - El Secreto de Sus Ojos

Here’s a question for you. Someone with a glittering eye, like Coleridge’s Ancient Mariner, buttonholes you on your way to a wedding. Like the Ancient Mariner too, he has a fascinating story to tell, and he prefaces it by saying this: “A guy can change anything. His face, his home, his family, his girlfriend, his religion, his God. But there’s one thing he can’t change. He can’t change his passion.” Do you believe him? In one way, he himself seems so passionate that you think he ought to know, and the thing does sound sort of profound. Yes, it certainly ought to be true—and, if you stipulate that it is, you get to hear his story whose fascination depends on just this assumption about passion. In fact, without it the story would hardly even make sense. It seems a small price to pay for the satisfaction the story gives you.

Once you manage to tear yourself away from the Mariner and have a moment to reflect, however, you can’t help thinking that that central proposition, this assumption on which all else depends, is nonsense. Passion dies and changes like everything else. Some people don’t have it at all, and for some it is only the thing of a moment, a sudden summer storm that blows up and immediately dissipates. Even those rare souls for whom a particular passion amounts to a lifelong obsession for the most part live their lives pretty much like the rest of us. Unless they associate exclusively with those who share their passion, they have to disguise it in order to avoid being a bore to those around them. At any rate, it must be easier than disguising one’s face.

El Secreto de Sus Ojos, now released here as The Secret in Their Eyes, by Juan José Campanella (Son of the Bride) is just like that Ancient Mariner, and one of its characters, Pablo Sandoval (Guillermo Francella) says what he says—the thing about unchanging passion. And, lo, while you are listening to him, you may find it easy to believe. I know I did. Read more ..


On the Edge of the Universe

NASA Satellite Maps Gamma Rays from Centaurus Galaxy

April 26th 2010

Science - Gamma Ray constellation

If our eyes could see radio waves, the nearby galaxy Centaurus A (Cen A) would be one of the biggest and brightest objects in the sky, nearly 20 times the apparent size of a full moon. What we can't see when looking at the galaxy in visible light is that it lies nestled between a pair of giant radio-emitting gas plumes ejected by its supersized black hole. Each plume is nearly a million light-years long.

NASA's Fermi Gamma-Ray Space Telescope maps gamma rays, radiation that typically packs 100 billion times the energy of radio waves. Nevertheless, and to the surprise of many astrophysicists, Cen A's plumes show up clearly in the satellite's first 10 months of data. The study appears in the most recent edition of Science Express.

"This is something we've never seen before in gamma rays," said Teddy Cheung, a Fermi team member at the Naval Research Laboratory in Washington. "Not only do we see the extended radio lobes, but their gamma-ray output is more than ten times greater than their radio output." If gamma-ray telescopes had matured before their radio counterparts, astronomers would have instead classified Cen A as a "gamma-ray galaxy."

Also known as NGC 5128, Cen A is located about 12 million light-years away in the constellation Centaurus and is one of the first celestial radio sources identified with a galaxy. "A hallmark of radio galaxies is the presence of huge, double-lobed radio-emitting structures around otherwise normal-looking elliptical galaxies," said Jürgen Knödlseder, a Fermi collaborator at the Center for the Study of Space Radiation in Toulouse, France. "Cen A is a textbook example."
Read more ..


The Edge of Recovery

Mortgage Defaults Could Leave Taxpayers Holding the Bill

April 26th 2010

Economy - Foreclosure

A District nonprofit organization that says it helps cash-strapped homeowners avoid foreclosure is under federal investigation for instead helping lenders make high-risk loans that leave the government on the hook if they go bad, according to sources familiar with the probe. Federal officials say they are concerned that the Rainy Day Foundation could be thwarting government efforts to weed out mortgage lenders that make too many precarious loans.

The Federal Housing Administration, which encourages homeownership by guaranteeing mortgages made by qualified lenders, has long struggled to keep companies from slipping risky loans under its protective umbrella. The agency has done this in part by barring lenders if too many of their borrowers default.

The Rainy Day Foundation advertises that it can help lenders remain in the FHA’s good graces. For a fee of about $600 per borrower, paid by lenders, home builders and real estate firms to cover the cost of making mortgage payments for distressed borrowers, the group promises to limit defaults during the two years after a loan is made, the period watched most closely by the FHA. Rick Del Sontro, chief executive of the Rainy Day Foundation, said in an interview that his group provides an important service to borrowers and lenders. Read more ..


The Weapon's Edge

Electromagnetic Pulse Weapons Remain An Unaddressed Threat

April 26th 2010

Military - Electromagnetic Pulse Weapon
EMP Weapon

In 2004, the congressionally mandated Commission to Assess the Threat to the United States from Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP) Attack released an unclassified executive report on its broader study of the U.S.’s vulnerability to EMP weapons strikes. In 2008, the commission released a follow-up report that detailed the vulnerabilities of the critical infrastructures of the U.S. to EMP strikes. Taken together, these two reports make it clear that an EMP attack could inflict severe damage on the U.S. As the initial report stated, “EMP is one of a small number of threats that can hold our society at risk of catastrophic consequences.”

What Is EMP?

EMP is triggered by the detonation of a nuclear weapon at a high altitude over the earth. As a result of this detonation, an electromagnetic field radiates down to the earth, creating electrical currents.

These fields cause widespread damage to electrical systems—the lifeblood of a modern society like the U.S. In turn, the damaged electronic systems can cause a cascade of failures throughout the broader infrastructure, including banking systems, energy systems, transportation systems, food production and delivery systems, water systems, emergency services, and—perhaps most damaging—cyberspace.

Effectively, the U.S. would be thrown back to the pre-industrial age following a widespread EMP attack.

The lack of public awareness regarding the disturbing implications of an EMP attack may prompt the Obama Administration to set aside proposals for addressing this problem. Specifically, Congress may take the following three steps in response:

Step No. 1: Require the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) to Produce a National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) Describing Which Countries Are Capable of Launching an EMP Strike. The NIE should review not only the weapons systems themselves but the delivery systems and platforms capable of carrying the weapons. Additionally, Congress should obtain from the NIE the intelligence community’s assessment of how EMP-capable countries are incorporating those weapons into their broader military strategies. Read more ..


The Traveler's Edge

Be Secure in Your Hotel

April 26th 2010

Travel - Do not disturb

“Be Prepared” is the official motto of the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, but its message is equally important for travelers as well.  While attacks on hotels such as those in Pakistan, India and Indonesia are extremely rare, it is a good idea to be prepared for any and all emergencies when staying in hotels, regardless where they are or how many stars they sport.

The following tips come partially from American Airlines, but are equally applicable no matter whether you travel by land, air, or sea:

Upon arrival in your room, locate the nearest emergency exits, elevators and public phones. Always keep your door closed and locked when in your room. Never open your door without first making sure you know who is on the other side of the door. Call the Front Desk to verify unexpected deliveries, room service, or repairs. Place all your valuables in the hotel safe and obtain a written receipt for what you store. Gheck that the hotel’s insurance will cover your items if stolen. Leave the TV or radio on when you leave your room. Do not place the “require maid service” sign on your door; it signals that you are out. If you lose or misplace your key, notify the Front Desk immediately. Avoid riding alone in the elevator with a stranger; ask the hotel for an escort to your room, or ride when there are more people. Check that your room has a deadlock, a chain, and a regular door lock. Make sure you use all of them before going to sleep. If you are concerned about fire or power outages, request a room on a low floor. Keep your mobile phone at hand, pack a charger and make sure the phone is always charged. When traveling abroad, make sure you have a mobile phone that will work in the countries you are visiting. Read more ..


The Edge of Aging

Age-old customs in China Confront New Realities of Aging

April 26th 2010

Asia Topics - Aged China

Deborah Lowry has always liked older people.

“They tend to be more comfortable with themselves than younger people are,” she said, “and I’ve always enjoyed hearing about history from someone who’s lived through it.”

A postdoctoral fellow at the University of Michigan Institute for Social Research’s Population Studies Center, Lowry’s other long-time interest is China, where a grey tide is now sweeping the land. More than 100 million Chinese people are 65 and older, and the proportion is expected to increase rapidly, reaching 20 percent of the population by 2025 and more than 30 percent by 2050.

In the future, experts predict with foreboding, one Chinese child may have to care for two parents and four grandparents. Read more ..


Energy Politics

Ukrainian President Stands to Gain from "Gas for Fleet" Agreement With Russians

April 26th 2010

Russian Topics - Black Sea fleet
Russian Black Sea Fleet

Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich stands to gain from “the gas for fleet” agreement under which he agreed to allow Russia’s Black Sea Fleet to remain in Sevastopol until 2042 in exchange for Russian President Dmitry Medvedev’s reduction of gas prices for Ukrainian customers, even if the the Ukranian Parliament, the Verhovna Rada, refuses to ratify it.

That is because, Vladimir Pribylovsky of Moscow’s Panorama Center says, “Yanukovich needs to strengthen the opinion of voters about himself, to build up his image which he offered in the recent presidential elections,” all the more so because there may soon be elections for the Rada “and [he] needs to retain these voters.” Read more ..


The Edge of Justice

Is A Life Sentence for Iowa Kosher Butcher Disproportionate Justice?

April 19th 2010

Jewish Topics - Sholom Rubashkin

Some people don't mind if Sholom Rubashkin gets life in prison and rots behind bars until he dies. Others are outraged at the harsh treatment being meted out to Rubashkin and ask in disbelief, “What's going on?”

Rubashkin is at the center of the torrid scandal swirling around the massively-investigated Agriprocessors kosher slaughterhouse in Postville, Iowa. Last November, a federal jury in South Dakota found Rubashkin guilty of 86 federal charges including bank, mail and wire fraud, and money laundering, as well as failing to pay livestock providers in the time required by law. Rubashkin, now 50 years old, is facing a tough Department of Justice sentencing request demanding that he be given the prison sentence that the Probation Department calculates, under the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, as life in prison. His sentencing by U.S. District Chief Judge Linda Reade is scheduled for April 28–29, 2010.

Those who want Rubashkin locked away for the rest of his days list his crimes as numerous and odious. Charges by bloggers, Jewish media reporters, and prosecutors include a heinous track record of mistreating illegal alien workers; tolerating drug dealing and gun smuggling in the plant; money laundering; obstruction of justice; perjury; and the painful ritual slaughter of cattle, all in the process of creating arguably the most successful kosher meat business in America. Read more ..


Edge on the Middle East

Iranian-Syrian Missile Transfer to Hezbollah Threatens New War in Mideast

April 19th 2010

Israeli Military - Israeli Jets Parked

Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak sent officials in Damascus and Washington scrambling when he claimed on April 13 that Syria is providing the Lebanese Shiite militia Hezbollah with Scud missiles whose accuracy and range threaten more Israeli cities than ever before. His unexpected announcement, though vehemently denied by the Syrian regime, threatens to spark a new war between Israel and its antagonists in the region while further undermining U.S. President Barack Obama's efforts at engagement with Syria.

The alleged missile transfer now looms over the Senate confirmation of Obama's ambassador-designate to Syria, Robert S. Ford, who is slated to be Washington's first emissary to Damascus in more than five years. Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's apparent decision to transfer more accurate and longer-range weapons to Hezbollah is a disheartening development for U.S. officials, who had hoped Obama's diplomatic opening would lead the Syrian regime to moderate its behavior. As Damascus arms its Lebanese ally with an increasingly lethal array of weaponry, Syria's credibility as a peace partner for Israel is increasingly in doubt. Read more ..


Wikipedia on the Edge

Wikipedia Blocks Fred the Oyster and Challenges Blaxthos on Holocaust Entries

April 19th 2010

Computer Topics - Shadowy Computer User

Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia created by anonymous editors, has reacted to disclosures in The Cutting Edge News that three of its editors were jointly seeking to water down or delete the history of IBM’s involvement in the Holocaust. One editor has been banned and a second has been openly challenged for being “annoying” and revising an entry on IBM despite the open appearance of pushing a personal “point of view.”

A group of mainly anonymous administrators has “indefinitely blocked” the combative contributor operating under the moniker “Fred the Oyster” from further contributions after an investigation concluded that he was the same individual as one previously banned for uncivil and threatening activity. “Fred the Oyster” was one of three Wikipedians, openly bolstered by an IBM archival official who offered to be “helpful,” that took the lead in revising IBM’s history page as well as the article devoted to the book IBM and the Holocaust authored by Edwin Black.

The word “Holocaust” was completely erased from the IBM entry as was the name of the book. Numerous attempts were made to insert IBM’s 2001 press release as the sole statement on the subject.

“Fred the Oyster” was “indefinitely blocked” by the adminstrators, which means his IP address is refused admission to Wikipedia edit pages. The block occured after Black openly objected to the Wikipedia article devoted to his biography being marked with two prominent labels: “American Jew” and “Weasel.” To that, “Fred the Oyster” responded on a public Discussion Page, “I wonder what colour an American Jewish weasel is, and are they similar to a circumcised ferret?” Read more ..


The Edge of Coal

Democrats Pressure Coal Execs to Drop Opposition to Climate Legislation

April 19th 2010

Energy Topics - Coal Train

House Democrats on Wednesday pressured coal company executives to drop opposition to climate legislation at a hearing that also briefly touched on safety issues following the explosion last week that killed 29 miners.

Rep. Edward Markey (D-Mass.), the chairman of the House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming, urged executives from Peabody Energy, Arch Coal and Rio Tinto to “cease efforts to deny the science of global warming” and stop “misleading the public as to the true science behind climate change.”

The focus of the committee’s hearing was the future of coal, but Markey also asked the executives if the number of safety violations reported at the Upper Big Branch mine in West Virginia prior to the blast was unusually high.

Markey said the mine had received more than 1,300 citations for safety violations from the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration since 2005.

The executives said the citations at the mine seemed high, but added the type of mining done there posed hazards different from those of other mines. The executives all said the safety of miners was a priority for the industry. Officials from Massey Energy, which owns the Upper Big Branch mine, did not attend Wednesday’s hearing. Read more ..


Inside Islam

Iranian Cleric Links Earthquakes, Hijab, and Adultery

April 19th 2010

Islamic Topics - Burqa-o-rama

The temporary Friday prayer leader of Tehran, Kazem Sadighi, said today that “women who don’t have a suitable appearance” (meaning women who do not fully observe the obligatory Islamic hijab) attract young men and lead to the spreading of adultery in the Iranian society which—according to the cleric—increases the risk of earthquakes. Hojatoleslam Sadighi, who was speaking about the probability of an earthquake in Tehran, said that sinning less reduces the likelihood of earthquakes.

“Even if there is an earthquake in Tehran, no one but God can deal with these calamities. We have to abstain from committing sin,” said Sadighi.

The Iranian capital lies on a major seismological fault and some experts have warned that a strong earthquake in Tehran could lead to the death of many of its inhabitants. Read more ..


North Korea on the Edge

New Leaders, Old Dangers: What Leadership Change in North Korea Means for the U.S.

April 19th 2010

Korea Topics - Kim Jong-IL

International attention has been focused on North Korea's nuclear weapons program, which endangers U.S. national interests, the safety of critical U.S. allies Japan and South Korea, and peace and stability in Asia. Washington must continue to use a combination of diplomatic pressure and highly conditional negotiations to induce Pyongyang to abide by its denuclearization pledges, as well as to prevent nuclear proliferation.

Yet there is another North Korean threat for which Washington must prepare: instability in the country's leadership. The planned succession from the ailing Kim Jong-il to his third son faces many challenges and may not be successful. Because the young son lacks the gravitas of his father, there is the potential for a power struggle among challengers within the senior party and military leadership.

The issue of succession is especially worrisome in view of recent indications that deteriorating economic conditions, exacerbated by the tightening noose of international sanctions, and rising civil unrest in response to draconian attacks against free-market activity could create a tinderbox of instability.

If the situation became so dire as to bring about the collapse of the regime, it could lead to North Korea's loss of control over its nuclear weapons, greater risk of rogue elements selling weapons of mass destruction to other rogue governments and terrorist groups, fighting among competing factions, economic turmoil, and humanitarian disaster. Under such circumstances, China or South Korea might feel compelled to send troops into North Korea to stabilize the country, raising the potential for miscalculation and armed confrontation. Read more ..


Inside Asia

Short-Term Challenges for Fractured Kyrgyzstan

April 19th 2010

Asia Topics - Women arguing in Kyrgyzstan

The next six months will be a decisive period for Kyrgyzstan.

That’s the amount of time the country’s provisional government—which took power last week after President Kurmanbek Bakiev initially fled the capital following violent protests opposing his rule—has allotted itself to write a new constitution, create an electoral code, and hold elections for a new parliament.

Amid the general euphoria at the downfall of Bakiev and his internationally brokered departure late on April 15, one pressing question hangs in the air: Is the interim government now running the country—composed of 14 former opposition figures from a variety of different political parties—sufficiently durable and capable of governing Kyrgyzstan over the next half year?

While few people are dismayed to see Bakiev gone, the way in which he was removed from office was hardly ideal. “The greatest threat [to stability in Kyrgyzstan] is how the government came to power and where they get their legitimacy from,” says Donna Stewart of the USAID-funded PACT, which works to strengthen civil society and democracy in Kyrgyzstan. Read more ..


Edge on Justice

Can Justice Meet Punishment in the Case of Rabbi Shalom Rubashkin?

April 19th 2010

Contributors / Staff - Shmuley Boteach
Rabbi Shmuley Boteach

At middle age I have come to accept my limitations. Although I like to have an opinion on almost everything, I am conscious of the fact that I am not a legal scholar and do not understand all the complexities of the criminal case against Shalom Rubashkin, the former CEO of America's largest kosher meat plant, Agriprocessors of Postville, Iowa.

But I am not a stupid man either. And I, and a heck of a lot of other fairly intelligent and educated people are scratching our heads as to why government prosecutors are requesting that Rubashkin, who has ten children, including an autistic son, and a reputation for enormous philanthropy, be given a life sentence in prison.

A life behind bars. The very words are ominous. Isn't that reserved for society's most heinous offenders? Life sentence has one conjuring images of rapists and murderers, international drug cartel kingpins and white-collar criminals guilty of gargantuan fraud, like Bernie Madoff.

What did Rubashkin do? After an INS raid on the plant that found hundreds of illegal immigrants, the company was pushed to the brink of bankruptcy and Rubashkin, who had already been arrested for employing illegals, was subsequently found guilty of defrauding a bank and producing false invoices in order to keep the business going. There is no insinuation that he did any of this for personal profit or gain. Unlike Madoff, he had no Hamptons estate, no fancy yacht, and no Manhattan penthouse. By all accounts he and his family lived in incredibly modest circumstances. Read more ..


The Edge of Health Care Reform

Showdown in the States over Health Reform

April 19th 2010

Contributors / Staff - Armstrong Williams Headshot

Now that Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. has dispensed with colorful metaphors and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has removed her perma-smile, bureaucrats in Washington are busily preparing the necessary channels to begin communicating details of the massive bill to the States. And so a new chapter begins in this epic saga, but one President Obama and his team will not want to read.

As governors begin to sort through the murky details, they’re quickly realizing this albatross is worse than originally feared. Faced with higher taxes for small businesses to support Medicare rates, ballooning Medicaid burdens, mandatory requirements for every denizen, not to mention the fear that many companies will simply jettison their own health plans in lieu of the promise of something better,the wages of this federal sin will only worsen. So much for the Democratic argument that once the bill becomes law, the American people will see the light and be healed!

Less than a week after President Obama signed the bill, he was facing lawsuits from more than a dozen states charged with implementing the new law. On the Thursday after the bill was signed, Georgia Republicans, led by Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, called on the state’s Attorney General Thurbert Baker, a Democrat, to do the right thing and sue the administration for imposing such a massive unfunded mandate on the Peach State.

“In addition to the questionable constitutionality of the bill, the unfunded mandates in the healthcare reform will cripple Georgia’s economic recovery,” said Mr. Cagle. “Unlike Washington, our state constitution requires us to balance the budget each year.” The constitutionality of Health Care Reform revolves around the interpretation of the Tenth Amendment and the Commerce Clause. The Tenth Amendment reads, “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.” Read more ..


Edge of Climate Change

Melting of Ancient Ice Sheet Identified as Trigger of Big Freeze

April 19th 2010

Energy / Environment - Antarctic Ice flow

The main cause of the rapid cooling period commonly known as The Big Freeze arising from the so-called Younger Dryas impact event- said to have occurred nearly 13,000 years ago - has been identified thanks to the help of an academic at the University of Sheffield.

A new paper has identified a mega-flood path across North America which channelled melt-water from a giant ice sheet into the oceans and triggering the Younger Dryas cold snap.

The research team, which included Dr. Mark Bateman from the University of Sheffield's Department of Geography, discovered that a mega-flood, caused by the melting of the Laurentide ice sheet, which covered much of North America, was routed up into Canada and into the Arctic Ocean.

This resulted in huge amounts of fresh water mixing with the salt water of the Arctic Ocean. As a result, more sea-ice was created which flowed into the North Atlantic, causing the northward continuation of the Gulf Stream to shut down.

Without the heat being brought across the Atlantic by the Gulf Stream, temperatures in Europe plunged from similar to what they are today, back to glacial temperatures with average winter temperatures of -25 degrees C. This cooling event has become known as the Younger Dryas period with cold conditions lasting about 1400 years. The cold of the Younger Dryas affected many places across the continent, including Yorkshire in the Vale of York and North Lincolnshire of the UK which became arctic deserts with sand dunes and no vegetation.

Before now, scientists have speculated that the mega-flood was the main cause of the abrupt cooling period, but the path of the flood waters has long been debated and no convincing evidence had been found establishing a route from the ice-sheet to the North Atlantic. Read more ..


Religious Freedom

Acting Against Anti-Semitism on American University Campuses

April 19th 2010

Islamic Topics - Irv Malik

 “We ask young people to carry on our struggle against Nazi ideology,” declared President Obama on June 5, 2009 at Buchenwald.  He continued advocating  “…for a just, peaceful and tolerant world; a world that has no place for anti-Semitism, racism, xenophobia, and right-wing extremism."  On March 16, 2010, thirteen American Jewish communal organizations wrote a letter to Education Secretary Arne Duncan seeking to ensure that struggle continues, through protection for Jewish students on American University campuses under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. 

Under Section 2000d of the Act, “No person in the United States shall, on the ground of race, color, or national origin, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.”  These groups contend that Jews are entitled to protection under the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment and the Education Department’s Office of Civil Rights policy mandate of 2004 prohibiting discrimination against Jewish students at educational institutions receiving federal funds. 

Secretary Duncan’s Education Department however, views the issue as providing protection to adherents of a religion, therefore making it essentially permissible for discrimination to take place against Jewish students.  While perhaps not their intention, their refusal thus far to act to protect Jewish students is for all intents and purposes legalizing anti-Semitic discrimination against Jewish students on American campuses.  This failure to act runs counter to President Obama’s stated intent at Buchenwald, the public good, common sense, and simple decency. Read more ..


The Traveler's Edge

Volcanic Eruption in Iceland Stalls Air Traffic Across Europe and Grounds Thousands of Passengers

April 19th 2010

Europe Topics - Iceland volcano ash cloud

Meteorologists continue to examine how winds in the upper levels of the atmosphere will be set up between Iceland and Europe over the next few days as an indication to how the ash plume from an Icelandic volcano will behave and affect air travel.

It appears the plume could end up shifting farther south April 20 into April 21 , potentially becoming more concentrated over the United Kingdom and possibly even reaching Germany. Millions of airline passengers will likely continue facing flight delays and cancellations as a result through midweek.

Most recent observations as of April 18 have shown the top of the ash plume extending up to 10,000 feet, on average, above the ground. This height has dropped substantially from the 33,000 feet it was at earlier this past week after the volcano first started erupting. Read more ..


Book Review

Leading Outside the Lines: How to Mobilize the Informal Organization

April 19th 2010

Book Covers - Leading Outside Lines

Leading Outside the Lines: How to Mobilize the Informal Organization, Energize Your Team and Get Better Results. Jon R. Katzenbach, Zia Khan. Jossey Bass. 240 pages.

In just about every organization I've worked for or with, I've repeatedly observed a formal hierarchy in place as well as an unofficial group of people who actually get stuff done. They are, more than not, two disparate groups. The somewhat loose confederation of doers, in my experience, tends to respect the authority of those above them on the corporate food chain, while developing and implementing ways to circumvent and subvert them to git 'er done, regardless and in spite of. Sometimes, it's just a slight variation to the table of organization that allows certain obstacles to be avoided and ``impediments to progress'' (to put it politely) to be ignored -- while including them in any necessary e-mail threads, of course.

Though the role of the guerrilla squad of achievers is frequently well known within the organizations, they are often officially disregarded. But I've seen situations where CEOs, VPs and directors often bypass protocol to enlist them in key projects, often to the chagrin of their bosses. I've known several of these stealth commandos, and when asked will admit, immodestly, to having been one.

Katzenbach and Khan look at this phenomenon and attempt to demonstrate ways that these ad hoc, informal groups can be mobilized and engaged. They do so by defining formal structures; that's pretty easy. Then they take a shot at informal ones. They write: ``The informal isn't as easily defined as the formal, because it does not have the clear structural boundaries that the formal has. Its elements often overlap and don't follow the clean principles of `mutually exclusive, comprehensively exhaustive' that analytical thinkers prefer. In essence, the informal is the aggregate of organizational elements that primarily influence behavior through emotional means. And, unlike the formal elements, the informal elements of an organization rarely appear as written instructions. Even so, they can still be identified and named.'' Read more ..


Blaxthos and Fred the Oyster Edit Holocaust History

April 19th 2010

It is frightening to think that Holocaust history on Wikipedia is in the hands of anonymous contributors with names such as Blaxthos and Fred the Oyster (see “Wikipedia—The Dumbing Down of World Knowledge”, Page One, April 12, 2010). Who are these people? What are their real names? What are their real credentials? What are their real agendas? We are now in the midst of a worldwide effort to deny, remake, and redefine the Holocaust. Our teachers, survivors, and next generation like me are working constantly to keep the facts and reality preserved. Wikipedia must act now to stop such random editing. IBM's involvement in the Holocaust is now as firmly established as the gas chambers. To delete this information is unthinkable because it explains "how" the mass murders were achieved, not just that the mass murders "were" achieved. I cannot help but think that Blaxthos and the others would change their mind if they read a copy of IBM and the Holocaust, which I doubt they ever have.

Edwin Black responds: I would be happy to send Blaxthos a copy of IBM and the Holocaust. Anyone with information on his identity, location, or address should contact blaxthos-info@edwinblack.com.


Wikipedia Is Insidious and Dangerous

April 19th 2010
Edwin Black's investigation of Wikipedia offers an incredibly calm and thoughtful article (see Wikipedia—The Dumbing Down of World Knowledge, Page One, April 12, 2010). It sounded much like an elder jurist handing down his well-thought-out decision after much consideration and the lower court's inability to make the right decision for far too long. I don't believe the threat of Wikipedia is just a distinction between generations. Wikipedia is far more insidious and dangerous. Thank you for stating it so eloquently.

Wikipedia Threat is Actually Google's Fault

April 19th 2010
Edwin Black's exquisite expose of Wikipedia's sloppy scholarship--or what poses as scholarship--places this question now firmly in the public record (see Wikipedia—The Dumbing Down of World Knowledge, Page One, April 12, 2010). If the Wikipedia adminstrators cannot control the content and its accuracy, then it is up to Google to remove Wikipedia from the top position on its search engine. As Edwin Black rightly points out, it is Google that has made Wikipedia the most visible source of information on earth. Hello Google—the next step is up to you.


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