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Archive for August 2010

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Ovadia Yosef Comments “Offensive and Incendiary”

August 31st 2010

We found the recent comments by Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, the spiritual leader of the Shas Party in Israel, where he called for God to strike the Palestinians and their leadership with a plague, offensive and incendiary. Particularly on the eve of renewed peace talks, and on the eve of the Jewish New Year, one would have hoped that Rabbi Yosef could have inspired his students and followers with a message of hope, humility, repentance, and forgiveness. These comments do not exist in a vacuum. Such incendiary expressions contribute to a potentially dangerous environment of intolerance and hatred.

Persian Gulf on the Edge

Iran Casts Dark and Threatening Shadows over Bahrain

August 30th 2010

Arab Topics - Bahrain riot

For nearly two weeks, the Persian Gulf island state of Bahrain has experienced near-daily disturbances following government arrests of opposition activists from the majority Shiite community. The timing of the arrests seemed geared toward preempting trouble in advance of the scheduled October 23 parliamentary and municipal elections, which minority Sunni parties and candidates are currently projected to win. The street violence and other incidents are of particular concern to the United States because Bahrain hosts the headquarters of the U.S. Fifth Fleet and Naval Forces Central Command, whose mission is to "deter and counter disruptive countries" -- a wording likely aimed at Iran, which claimed the island as its territory prior to 1970.

Recent Violence

The most serious incident reported so far was an August 20 attack on an electric power installation. According to an official statement, the resultant outage "affected large areas," although power was reportedly restored within two hours. Other incidents have involved individuals setting tires alight, throwing Molotov cocktails, and attacking a pro-government newspaper editor. Read more ..

The Edge of Peace

Peace within a Year? Israeli–Palestinian Direct Talks Resume

August 30th 2010

Israel Topics - Jerusalem-Temple and Wall

On Friday, August 20, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced the resumption of direct peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians, to be launched in Washington next week. On September 1, President Obama will welcome Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority (PA) president Mahmoud Abbas, as well as Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak and Jordan’s King Abdullah. Direct talks between Netanyahu and Abbas are scheduled to begin the next day, with the objective of reaching agreement on the permanent-status issues of borders, security, Jerusalem, and refugees within a year. The meeting will mark the first time that Israeli and Palestinian leaders have discussed these issues directly during the Obama administration.

Road to the Announcement

A number of turning points led to Clinton’s announcement. The first was President Obama’s July 6 meeting with Netanyahu at the White House. In sharp contrast to past encounters, which were often strained, Obama called the meeting “excellent” and went out of his way to vouch for Netanyahu’s sincerity: “We had an extensive discussion about the prospects for Middle East peace. I believe that Prime Minister Netanyahu wants peace. I think he’s willing to take risks for peace.” Read more ..

California Deaf Eugenics Law Was Obviously Up for Sale

August 30th 2010
From what I can see, the legislation in California known as AB2072 was up for sale to the highest bidder. Whoever stood to make the most money from legislating Deaf ASL out of existence controlled the legislation. Pick them: audiologists, cochlear implant makers, schools for the deaf--whoever. While people were told the amendments would be made, they were lied to to. The legislation was skillfully changed at the last minute. Every deaf person in California should mobilize now to impeach, defeat for re-election and have investigated the legislators who committed this miscarriage of justice and return to Eugenics. My niece is Deaf and I pray this type of law does not come to Ohio. In the meantime, I salute The Cutting Edge News and eugenics expert Edwin Black for fighting to defeat this horrible measure.

Hostage Taking

A Botched Hostage Rescue in The Philippines Causes International Fracas

August 30th 2010

Asia Topics - Philippines hostage situation

On Aug. 23, Rolando Mendoza, a former senior police inspector with the Manila police department, boarded a tourist bus in downtown Manila and took control of the vehicle, holding the 25 occupants (tourists from Hong Kong and their Philippine guides) hostage. Mendoza, who was dressed in his police inspector’s uniform, was armed with an M16-type rifle and at least one handgun.

According to the police, Mendoza had been discharged from the department after being charged with extortion. Mendoza claimed the charges were fabricated and had fought a protracted administrative and legal battle in his effort to be reinstated.

Apparently, Mendoza’s frustration over this process led to his plan to take the hostages. The fact that Mendoza entertained hope of regaining his police job by breaking the law and taking hostages speaks volumes about his mental state at the time of the incident. Read more ..

Inside the Middle East

Lebanon's Mixed Record Calls for a Reassessment of U.S. Military Assistance

August 30th 2010

Terrorism - Hezbollah Lebanon

Since 2005, Washington has obligated more than $700 million in military assistance to the Lebanese Armed Forces. In the aftermath of the LAF's August 3 cross-border shooting of two Israeli officers, one fatal, this funding has come under increasing scrutiny. Not coincidentally, the shooting followed a series of setbacks for Washington's allies in Beirut, which in turn fundamentally altered the conditions that had spurred the 2005 spike in U.S. funding.

It is unclear how this new dynamic is affecting the military, but many infer from the shooting that the LAF is shifting away from neutrality and toward Hezbollah. More broadly, the incident has resurrected questions as to whether Washington's main policy objective for the LAF -- establishing state sovereignty throughout Lebanese territory -- is ultimately achievable. Read more ..

Edge on Green Politics

Obama Disappoints Environmental Activists who are Seeing Red, Not Green

August 30th 2010

Obama Admin Topics - Barack Obama with Flag

The environmental groups that helped propel Barack Obama to the White House are feeling betrayed during a summer of discontent and climate inaction.

The latest blows to the environmental movement came this week when the administration decided to side with major polluters, urging the U.S. Supreme Court to reverse a lower court ruling that would have permitted “nuisance” suits against major greenhouse gas emitters. In a separate decision, the administration also approved loan guarantees for a U.S. maker of coal mining equipment to sell to India,

The Justice Department’s friend-of-the-court filing in the case involving giant utility American Electric Power Co. came as a complete surprise to the green lobby, and had many in the movement turning red.

“What the heck is happening at the White House on climate?” Clean Air Watch asked on its website.

“Some believe the Obama White House, having failed to enact climate change legislation, has adopted the old maxim when it comes to polluters: if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em,” the advocacy group wrote in frustration, opining the administration might be gun-shy heading into the fall elections. Read more ..

Iran's Nukes

Are Iran Sanctions Too Big to Fail?

August 30th 2010

Iran - Iran Nuclear Equipment

On July 1, 2010, The Comprehensive Iran Sanctions, Accountability, and Divestment Act of 2010 (CISADA), which passed by a large majority in the Congress, was signed into law. This Act puts the onus on American banks to audit and certify that their foreign correspondent banks are not knowingly facilitating or supporting Iran’s nuclear program and terrorist activities.

U.S law enforcement agencies’ investigation of the U.S. unit of HSBC could soon test the Administration’s resolve to act against big foreign correspondent banks that ignore the Iran Sanctions Act (ISA).

President Obama’s statement at the signing of CISADA, noted that this Act “requires sanctions on financial institutions facilitating certain activities involving Iran” (emphasis added). The vagueness of the President’s statement clearly indicates the Administration’s ambiguity towards the enforcement of severe sanctions against those who continue to fuel Iran’s coffers. Read more ..

Edge on the Immigration Crisis

Mexico Faces a Moment of Truth over its Deadly Treatment of Latin American Immigrants

August 30th 2010

Latin American Topics - Tamaulipas Mexico massacre

If Arizona's SB 1070 law, underlined by the continuing deaths of migrants in the inhospitable, blazing desert of the Southwestern state, dramatizes the crisis of US immigration policy, then the mass murder of 72 Central and South American migrants in the northern Mexican border state of Tamaulipas last week showcases a similar and widening crisis in Mexico.

The San Fernando Massacre, which occurred August 22 in a rural area about 90 miles south of the US border, was widely condemned by human rights advocates as the horrific culmination of years of corruption and neglect on the part of Mexican immigration and law enforcement officials who are often accused of collaborating with human traffickers for extortion and other purposes. Read more ..

Middle East Peace Process

Since America Wants Them, Mideast Peace Talks Begin Again

August 30th 2010

Israel Topics - Obama Netanyahu Abbas

The Israeli government and the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) have agreed to engage in direct peace talks Sept. 2 in Washington. Neither side has expressed any enthusiasm about the talks. In part, this comes from the fact that entering any negotiations with enthusiasm weakens your bargaining position. But the deeper reason is simply that there have been so many peace talks between the two sides and so many failures that it is difficult for a rational person to see much hope in them. Moreover, the failures have not occurred for trivial reasons. They have occurred because of profound divergences in the interests and outlooks of each side. Read more ..

The Political Edge

Democratic Lawmaker Gives Congressional Black Caucus Scholarships to Her Grandchildren

August 30th 2010

Politics - Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson

Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-Texas) admitted to awarding thousands of dollars in scholarships to four relatives and a top aide's two children in violation of rules set by the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, which provided the funds.

The Dallas Morning News reported on August 29 that the recipients were ineligible for the scholarships due to the CBC Foundation's anti-nepotism rules as well as a requirement they live in the district of the member that awarded them the scholarships.

Each member of the Congressional Black Caucus is given $10,000 annually to award in scholarships; members are given a large amount of leeway in how they choose the winners and disburse the funds.

Johnson initially denied any favoritism when she was contacted by the Morning News last week, but later admitted to having unknowingly violated the rules. She said she would work with the foundation to "rectify the financial situation." She said she has awarded scholarships to hundreds of students since joining Congress in 1993 and the most any student usually receives is between $1,000 and $1,200. Read more ..

Religious Freedom

The Endless Wars of Islam

August 30th 2010

Islamic Topics - Islamic Protesters

Islam emerged from what is modern day Saudi Arabia in the 7th century, and never looked back. Muslim armies swept across North Africa and invaded Catholic Spain, destroying or converting the Christian communities along the way. They turned churches into mosques, and made Islam the official religion. Muslim armies also took over the Holy Land, destroyed the last non-Islamic Persian empire, and moved into Asia Minor (modern day Turkey). By the 16th century, Islam had destroyed the Christian Byzantine Empire, had taken over Constantinople, and had turned the Hagia Sophia -- the most beautiful church in Christendom -- into a mosque. A century later, Muslim armies were outside the gates of Vienna. Read more ..

After the Spill

Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill Response Exacerbates OPEC/Oil Dependence Dilemma

August 30th 2010

Contributors / Staff - Gal Luft

The three-month oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico has been a stark reminder of one of the intangible costs of the transportation sector's near total dependence on oil. But if there was some hope that from this disaster would emerge policies that aim at strengthening America's energy security now it is clear that nothing close to that is going to happen. To the contrary, official response to the spill has only weakened our energy security. An impulsive moratorium banning exploratory drilling in the Gulf of Mexico, home to about 30 percent of U.S. domestic output, was announced, and two drilling rigs have already set sail, heading to foreign waters where busy drilling schedule is already awaiting them. Drilling rigs are in great demand and once they leave the Gulf of Mexico they are not likely to be back for years.

In response to the spill, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid introduced a bill comprised of a mishmash of policies that mostly have nothing to do with oil.  A few days after its introduction, Senator Reid pulled the bill in the face of strong opposition and Congress broke for recess. Reid's pledge to continue the fight in September should not get us overly excited. In the weeks running up to the elections our elected officials will be busy undermining their political opponents, not OPEC. Read more ..

Crimes Against Children

Pedophiles and Popes: Doing the Vatican Shuffle

August 30th 2010

Christian Topics - Pope Benedict on airplane

When Pope John Paul II was still living in Poland as Cardinal Karol Wojtyła, he claimed that the security police would accuse priests of sexual abuse just to hassle and discredit them. (New York Times, Mar 28, 2010). For Wojtyła, the Polish pedophilia problem was nothing more than a Communist plot to smear the church.

By the early 1980s, Wojtyła, now ensconced in Rome as Pope John Paul II, treated all stories about pedophile clergy with dismissive aplomb, as little more than slander directed against the church. That remained his stance for the next twenty years.

Today, in post-communist Poland, clerical abuse cases have been surfacing slowly—very slowly. Writing in the leading daily Gazeta Wyborcza, a middle-aged man reported having been sexually abused as a child by a priest. He acknowledged however that Poland was not prepared to deal with such transgressions. “It’s still too early … Can you imagine what life would look like if an inhabitant of a small town or village decided to talk? I can already see the committees of defense for the accused priests.” Read more ..

The Way We Are

Decyphering Michigan English

August 30th 2010

Travel - Michigan Welcome

Michiganders know that 'pasty' does not rhyme with 'hasty.' Last month we reflected on the word terroir. (It's a shortening of the phrase gout de terroir, "taste of the earth." It refers to the mysterious flavor that helps us to taste the difference between strawberries that come from Michigan and those that are imported from elsewhere.) Linguistic terroir is the stuff that lets us know where we are.

Now Michigan English is not all one thing, but there are surprising differences between the English used here and what you encounter in Ft. Wayne or London, Ontario, or Green Bay. We need to talk about probabilities. So if you say dennist for "dentist" or pellow for "pillow," you are likely to be from here. If Trevor's City and Traverse City sound pretty much the same, you're probably a Michigander (and probably young and female too). If you say mango for "green pepper" or "bell pepper," you're probably from Ft. Wayne. If you say pickerel for "walleye," you're probably from Ontario. If you think a really big bottle of beer is a "picnic", you're probably from Green Bay, Wisconsin. Read more ..

Brazil on the Edge

Why The Quixotic Presidential Campaign of Marina Silva Matters for Brazil and the World

August 30th 2010

Latin American Topics - Marina Silva

When Marina Silva was still Brazil’s environment minister, she took a trip to the Xingu River in the Amazon. On the day she began her travels, José Dirceu, President Lula’s incorrigible former chief of staff, invited Germano Rigotto, the governor of Rio Grande do Sul, to fly to Brasilia. The governor has strong ties with agribusiness, and his political clout would be useful in lobbying for transgenic crops. Dirceu’s invitation was strategic– he wanted to make the most of Marina’s absence. The event shows how far Marina, the Green Party’s (PV) presidential candidate in the October 3rd elections, has taken the environmental debate in Brazilian politics. Although her cause – the environment – has gained momentum due to its urgency, Marina has no prospect for winning the presidency. Her voter base is composed of a number of small, disparate interest groups, who gravitate towards her for different reasons, a concern with the environment being only one of them. Read more ..

Toxic Edge

Government and Capitalist Alliance Makes Russia an Asbestos Behemoth

August 30th 2010

Health/Medicine - asbestos hazard

In the aptly named city of Asbest, in the Ural Mountains 900 miles (1500 km) northeast of Moscow, the dominance of Russia’s asbestos industry — the world’s largest — is on clear display. Just east of the city is the massive open-pit Uralasbest mine. At seven miles (11 km) long and 1-½ miles (2.5 km) wide, it is nearly half the size of Manhattan — and more than a thousand feet (300 meters) deep. Nearly half a million metric tons of asbestos are gouged from the mine each year.

Seventy thousand people live in Asbest, once known as “the dying city” for its extraordinary rates of lung cancer and other asbestos-related diseases. But Uralasbest does not appear to have suffered any loss of status. It and other Russian asbestos producers operate with the swagger that comes from unwavering government support. Controversy bypasses them, perhaps in no small measure because Prime Minister Vladimir Putin is their ally. Nothing, it seems, is allowed to interfere with an industry that employs 400,000 people and, along with its counterpart in neighboring Kazakhstan, generates at least $800 million a year. Read more ..

Edge of Climate Change

Retreating Glaciers in Asia Could Impact Water Supplies for Millions and Cause Floods

August 30th 2010

Environment Topics - Siberian Glacier

Many of Asia’s glaciers are retreating as a result of climate change.

This retreat impacts water supplies to millions of people, increases the likelihood of outburst floods that threaten life and property in nearby areas, and contributes to sea-level rise.

The U.S. Geological Survey, in collaboration with 39 international scientists, published a report on the status of glaciers throughout all of Asia, including Russia, China, India, Nepal, Bhutan, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Georgia, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Kazakhstan.

“Of particular interest are the Himalaya, where glacier behavior impacts the quality of life of tens of millions of people,” said USGS scientist Jane Ferrigno. “Glaciers in the Himalaya are a major source of fresh water and supply meltwater to all of the rivers in northern India.” Read more ..

Book Review

Creating the College Man Will Educate About Education

August 30th 2010

Book Topics - Creating the College Man

Creating the College Man: American Mass Magazines and Middle-Class Manhood, 1890-1915. Daniel Clark. University of Wisconsin Press. 2010. 256 pp.

Daniel Clark begins by quoting a grumpy Andrew Carnegie: “A college education unfits rather than fits men to affairs.” Clark, a historian at Indiana State University, then spends the rest of his monograph showing how popular new, mass-audience magazines, including “Collier’s Weekly,” “Munsey’s Magazine,” “Cosmopolitan,” and the “Saturday Evening Post” contributed to dramatically changing that stereotype.

“American mass magazines,” says Clark, “spearheaded a cultural reconstruction of college and middle-class masculinity…in the years surrounding 1900, as they emerged as a central national cultural forum, our nation’s first truly national media.”

Clark thus posits an answer to the important question of how and why the undergraduate college experience, previously limited to tiny fraction of the population, increasingly came to be considered an important, even essential, part of middle class life. Read more ..

Calling for Meetings with Local Clergy and Educators to Stop the Hate

August 30th 2010

I am tired of counting swastikas and hearing antisemitic cat calls when  my wife and I  head home from synagogue. It happened to us again on Friday night August 20th on Route 27, where Jew-baiting by local teens has become trendy over the last year. On Friday night the lighting was so poor near the shopping center, we could discern only that the vehicle from which the epithets emanated was a dark-colored one and that the voices were female. I am also tired of calling the police, since there is little or no evidence left behind. It doesn't help when these hate crimes are dismissed as youthful pranks. In recent weeks, I have  appeared on local and national  news stations, the Wall Street Journal and other media, but the publicity,  has now led to copycats who want to get in on the action. The screaming girls are thinking what they did was cool. It wasn't. And the local police and mayor have ignored my requests for assistance in dealing with these things. They don't even follow proper reporting procedures under the State's hate crime laws. Since the community can't be protected from these obnoxious hate crimes, and the police won't follow through, we, as citizens of Edison, must see how we can change these teen behaviors from the pulpit and in our classrooms. Danger lies ahead if we do nothing. It is my personal belief, that once these kids get bored with yelling epithets about Jews, they will move on to baiting Muslims and Latinos, going from verbal violence to physical violence. Their behavior is an indicator of a failure in our educational system, which mandates Holocaust Education but that doesn't always work. The point of learning about what happened to the Jews during World War II is that we aren't supposed to behave the way the Nazis did. We are Americans who believe in the Bill of Rights and that all people should be treated with respect and dignity. Our children need to know that and live by that. The only way these current hate crimes will stop is by working with students before they are hard-wired for hate. I hope that local clergy and educators will join me in showing our children that hatred doesn't work. If we ignore what's happening and do nothing, our children will take it as a license to escalate their behavior, and more people will be hurt. We've got one goal: to stop the hate.

The Mortgage Meltdown

Some Foreclosure Rescue Scams Involve Lawyers, Mortgage Pros

August 23rd 2010

Economy - Foreclosure

Desperate U.S. homeowners facing foreclosure are being duped by con artists. The scammers employ a variety of schemes such as a “forensic mortgage loan audit” that promises to find errors in loan origination terms that will help the homeowner negotiate a loan modification or even cancel the loan, according to the Government Accountability Office. Many of the rescue schemes use telemarketing techniques and operate across state lines, making it difficult for local or state officials to prosecute. Some schemes were organized by former mortgage industry professionals or use the names of attorneys to add credibility or help them skirt state laws. California, for example, prohibits companies from charging advance fees but exempts licensed attorneys.

Other mortgage rescue schemes highlighted by the GAO:

  • Offers to negotiate new mortgage terms on behalf of a distressed homeowner for an up-front fee averaging around $3,000, then providing little or no help.
  • Convincing homeowners to transfer the deed of their home to save it from foreclosure. The scam artist, who promises to sell it back to the homeowner in the future, then has control of the property and can make money by either taking out a second loan on the home or selling it to someone else.

The Toxic Edge

Mexico's Asbestos Casualties Mount Amid Weak Enforcement and a Powerful Lobby

August 23rd 2010

Health/Medicine - Bilingual Asbestos Warning Sign

Situated among homes and schools in Barrio de San Lucas, a working-class neighborhood in the Mexico City suburb of Iztapalapa, the fortress-like brick building emits a pungent, scorched-rubber odor that makes the eyes water and the head throb. It’s impossible to see inside. A maker of asbestos brake linings, American Roll SA de CV has been at odds with its neighbors since 2001. Anxious residents say that their complaints about pollution from the factory go unanswered and suspect that the company has co-opted environmental regulators. They worry that they will meet the same fate as Jaime Carbajal.

Residents of the Mexico City suburb of Iztapalapa have complained repeatedly about emissions from the plant but say they've gotten little help from regulators. Born and raised in the neighborhood, Carbajal lived a mere 150 meters from the factory. On March 4, 2008, he arrived at the emergency room in Hospital General de Iztapalapa with sharp back pain and breathing difficulties. The doctor speculated that Carbajal had been exposed to asbestos, even though he had never worked with the material, and noted the proximity of his house to the factory. Read more ..

Ground Zero Mosque

Russell Simmons is Quite Wrong About the Ground Zero Mosque

August 23rd 2010

Contributors / Staff - Shmuley Boteach
Rabbi Shmuley Boteach

I still remember, Russell, when you came to my debate with Rev. Al Sharpton, nine years ago, in New York City. You struck me then as a man of warmth and openness. In that spirit I offer you this response to your recent blog postings in the Huffington Post supporting the Ground Zero mosque and your categorization of those opposing it as being guilty of hatred and bigotry, which strikes me as a bit harsh.

For the record, I am a supporter of the mosque being built, but only under two conditions. First, that its builders consult the families of the Ground Zero dead, who are the people whose opinion matters most. Second, that the 13-story complex include a museum detailing the events of 9/11 with exhibits explaining the modern abuse of Islamic teachings by extremists and their repudiation by Islam itself.

I don’t expect you to agree with my conditions, or with those who oppose the mosque outright. But I do ask that you consider this. Read more ..

Ground Zero Mosque Endorsed by Hamas as a "Must"

August 23rd 2010
The Hamas terror group has endorsed the Ground Zero Mosque. Its cofounder Mahmoud al-Zahar declared, "We have to build everywhere." He also said, "We have to build the mosque, as you are allowed to build the church and Israelis are building their holy places." Now what does this tell you about the political dynamics of this mosque. This is no longer a local religious edifice—this is now an international Islamic political matter and our State Department has joined in by sponsoring the fundraising trip across the Muslim world. Do we want such a mosque at Ground Zero? I do not.

Mendoza Against the Deaf

The Last Stand for the Deaf in California

August 23rd 2010

Politics - Caifornia State House

Special interest groups with a lack of ethics are currently making their way through the Capitol in Sacramento to lobby for the bill AB 2072. On one hand, in the legal prose, AB 2072 is about parents’ choices for their Deaf newborns. On the other hand, analyzing the jargon, it is about corporations’ eagerness to privatize human beings.

The Deaf and bilingual community have done everything by the book to save the future of Deaf newborns. They went to Sacramento to lobby politicians to oppose AB 2072. They showed up at the hearings and floor votes. They made video testimonials. They wrote articles. They called their Assemblymen and Senators to oppose the bill. They tried to meet with Assemblyman Tony Mendoza, the author of AB 2072, several times even though Mendoza repeatedly ignored them. They exhausted their options. They are educators of the Deaf, parents of Deaf children, siblings of Deaf, mental health counselors, social workers in the vocational rehabilitation field, grassroots community members, college professors, business owners, non-profit organizers, interpreters, and many more in the spectrum of the Deaf community. They knew the bill was not balanced and catered to special interest groups. The only thing they did and do not have: money. Read more ..

Iran's Nukes

Iran Issues New Threats and Unveils New Unmanned Bomber

August 23rd 2010

Iran - Karrar UAV
The Karrar UAV

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of the Islamic Republic of Iran spoke on August 22 at the inauguration of what the country’s Defense Ministry says is Iran’s first domestically-built, long-range, unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) capable of dropping a bomb. Known as the Karrar—striker in Farsi, the unmanned aircraft was unveiled at the Malek-e-Ashtar University and is the latest of Iran’s military and technological developments. State-controlled media of Iran affirm that the Karrar can undertake long-range attacks up to 620 miles carrying a 200-kilogram bomb. Ahmadinejad said Iran may be able to offer a defense mechanism for other countries against what he called “world aggressors.”

Even while the Iranian leader referred to the Karrar as an “ambassador of death” to Tehran’s enemies, the smiling Ahmadinejad gave assurances that it conveys a “a main message of peace and friendship” but was intended to deter aggression “and keep the enemy paralyzed in his bases.” Ahmadinejad and other Iranian leaders frequently rail against the United States and Israel, the latter of which is referred to as the “Zionist entity.” Read more ..

Economic Recovery on the Edge

Republican Senator Judd Gregg Predicts Fiscal Calamity Threatening Generations to Come

August 23rd 2010

Economy - Depression Jobs

Sen. Judd Gregg (R-N.H.) this past weekend slammed the Democrats for fighting the recession with additional spending, arguing that the nation's enormous debt represents a “fiscal calamity” threatening the livelihoods of generations to come.

“Our children are going to have to pay that off, and that means their style of life, their standard of living is going to go down because they're going to have to bear such a burden in order to pay off the debts which we're running up on them today,” Gregg said on August 20.

“The bills are being passed on to our and it's a calamity.”

It's hardly the first time Gregg has called for fiscal restraint. The New Hampshire lawmaker, who's the senior Republican on the Senate Budget Committee, had recently blasted a $26 billion Democratic bill providing states with extra Medicaid and education funding. Although the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) said the costs were paid for, Gregg argued that those offsets come later, forcing $22 billion in deficit spending in the near term.

“Those are numbers that compound, unfortunately, and they compound fairly quickly,” he said. Read more ..

The Lockerbie Release

State Department Says Release of Lockerbie Bomber an "Affront" and "Grave Error"

August 23rd 2010

Terrorism - Megrahi waves
Abdelbaset al-Megrahi

U.S. officials expressed concern on August 20 as they noted the one-year anniversary of the release of convicted Lockerbie bomber Abdelbaset al-Megrahi from a Scottish prison.

Al-Megrahi was imprisoned in 2001 for the 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103, which killed 270 people when it exploded over Lockerbie, Scotland. A Libyan citizen, he was repatriated by Scottish authorities in August 2009 on medical grounds, which aroused suspicion when he was reported alive nine months after Scottish authorities had said he was near death. The issue has since been pressed by U.S. officials who question the circumstances surrounding his release.

On August 20, State Department spokesman Philip Crowley used Twitter to weigh in. "Everything that we have learned over the past year reaffirms our view that Megrahi's release from prison was a grave error of judgment," he said. "Megrahi's release from a Scottish prison was an affront to the victims of Pan Am 103." He clarifyied that he was referring to the country in the second comment.

The tweets slightly preceded a statement released by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. "The United States continues to categorically disagree with the decision made by the Scottish Executive to release al-Megrahi and return him to Libya last year," she said. "We have and will continue to reiterate this position to the Scottish and Libyan authorities." Read more ..

The Electoral Edge

For Republicans, 2010 is the Year of the Woman

August 23rd 2010

Contributors / Staff - Armstrong_Williams

The results of the recent primary elections have political pundits declaring 2010 to be the year of the woman. This may be true, but the real story is that this is the year of the conservative woman.

This year the GOP has nominated more female candidates than in any previous election cycle. The number of GOP women running for U.S. House or Senate seats has doubled over the past two years. In California, Republicans nominated Carly Fiorina to run for Senate and Meg Whitman to run for governor. In New Mexico, Sussana Martinez was nominated by the Republicans to run for governor. Linda McMahon, who formerly headed World Wrestling Entertainment, is the GOP Senate nominee in Connecticut. In Nevada, former state assemblywoman Sharron Angle was nominated by the Republicans to run against the Liberal Democratic standard bearer and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. An unwavering conservative, Angle seeks to cut federal waste by eliminating the Departments of Energy and Education. A recent Rasmussen poll put her ahead of Reid by a 50 to 39 margin.

In South Carolina, Nikki Heley will be a candidate in a run-off election. Of course the conservative queen-maker and Tea Party standard bearer was Sarah Palin. Two of the recent primaries’ biggest winners, Fiorina and Nikki Haley, were endorsed by Palin. This past week, Palin threw her support behind three more female GOP candidates, whom she called “liberty-loving Mama Grizzlies.” For the first time in history, the conservative movement and the Republic Party are headlined by women rather than middle aged white men. Read more ..

The Iraq Withdrawal

U.S. Has Limited Options Following Iraq Withdrawal

August 23rd 2010

Military - US troops in Iraq

It is August 2010, which is the month when the last U.S. combat troops are scheduled to leave Iraq. It is therefore time to take stock of the situation in Iraq, which has changed places with Afghanistan as the forgotten war. This is all the more important since 50,000 troops will remain in Iraq, and while they may not be considered combat troops, a great deal of combat power remains embedded with them. So we are far from the end of the war in Iraq. The question is whether the departure of the last combat units is a significant milestone and, if it is, what it signifies.

The United States invaded Iraq in 2003 with three goals: The first was the destruction of the Iraqi army, the second was the destruction of the Baathist regime and the third was the replacement of that regime with a stable, pro-American government in Baghdad. The first two goals were achieved within weeks. Seven years later, however, Iraq still does not yet have a stable government, let alone a pro-American government. The lack of that government is what puts the current strategy in jeopardy. Read more ..

Edge on Terrorism

Internal Struggles Bedevil Islamist Terrorists of Caucasus Emirate

August 23rd 2010

Terrorism - Caucasian Muslim rebels
Doku Umarov and Caucasus Emirate militants

On August 12, four members of the militant group the Caucasus Emirate (CE) appeared in a video posted on a Russian militant website withdrawing their support from CE founder and leader Doku Umarov. The reason for the mutiny was Umarov’s August 4 retraction of his August 1 announcement that he was stepping down from the top leadership position. STRATFOR and many others noted at the time that the Aug. 1 resignation was unexpected and suggested that Umarov may have been killed. However, the August 4 retraction revealed that Umarov was still alive and that there was considerable confusion over who was in control of the militant group. Read more ..

The Obama Edge

Energy Department Gets Mixed Reviews for Spending Stimulus Dollars

August 23rd 2010

Energy Topics - Obama and Secretary Chu
Barack Obama and Energy Secretary Steven Chu

The Energy Department’s internal watchdog has mixed reviews of the department’s distribution and use of economic stimulus dollars, even as the White House touts the massive spending bill in the run-up to midterms.

President Obama’s planned tour on August 23 of ZBB Energy Corp.’s facilities in Menomonee Falls, Wis., is the latest in a series of stops this election season to highlight what the administration calls the effectiveness of federal clean energy stimulus investments. But recent reports by DOE’s Inspector General (IG) have cited problems with the department’s distribution of the stimulus dollars and recipients’ use of them. The IG reported on August 18 that DOE has given out about $2.7 billion of $3.2 billion in energy and conservation block grants provided in last year’s stimulus. Read more ..

Film Review

The Extra Man Delivers a Gem of Propriety and Coming of Age

August 23rd 2010

Film - The Extra Man

Light-hearted, unpredictable, upbeat, and original. Enjoyable, sophisticated, witty and unexpected. Besides being incomplete sentences, these words succinctly sum up how I feel about The Extra Man. But what? You need more, you say? You don't trust catchy little blurbs that neatly fit on DVD covers? Well, I say "NO! That's enough!"

Okay, so Kevin Kline actually said that, in one of the many wonderful passing moments that infuse The Extra Man with charm and good nature. The film is a unique blend of sweetness and mature comedy with a strong literary style that manages to remain extremely tasteful in light of some of the subject matters it addresses. This is due in part to Kevin Kline's character of Henry Harrison but also to the young Louis Ives, his flat-mate, who fancies himself the protagonist of an F. Scott Fitzgerald novel. One of the key recurring themes of the movie is the concept of propriety, a word that has virtually lost all meaning in today's society.

Henry and Louis are both struggling to be gentlemen in a world that has made the need for them almost obsolete. It is refreshing to watch smart men who care about their appearance actually behaving considerately and modestly. The Extra Man is not only a throwback to 20's literature but to the early days of the silver screen when foul language and toilet humor were not the only elements necessary to produce well-liked movies. Not to say that the film doesn't have it moments of modernism and adult content, but they are not the focus. Rather, they serve to establish character, and are quickly moved on from as a means to an end. Read more ..

The Nuclear Edge

The Bomb Was Not Necessary

August 23rd 2010

Military - Atomic Mushroom Cloud

With the sixty-fifth anniversary of the dropping of the atomic bomb almost upon us, there is undoubtedly going to be a flood of commentary on the wisdom of its use by the United States during World War II. The justified scolding of Charles Pellegrino and his The Last Train From Hiroshima and Nagasaki is likely only the opening salvo.

Venturing into the arena of discussing the wisdom of the use of the atomic bomb is fraught with danger. It is somewhat akin to asking for the creation of an "impartial panel" to rationally discuss the issue of abortion, immigration reform, or the merits of the Obama health plan.

Virtually overlooked in the often heated debate is the question of whether the use of the bomb was justified from a strategic viewpoint. In other words, could we have induced Japan to surrender without the use of the bomb? This writer says yes.

For anyone looking for a recent accumulation of articles both pro and con, a useful starting point would be the 2005 essay by J. Samuel Walker in that April’s Diplomatic History. Clearly, the issue of the bomb is still an important story and will be with us for some time. Walker references a 1999 poll by Newseum, a museum of the news media, of sixty-seven American journalists who ranked the atomic bombing of Japan in 1945 at the top of all the news stories of the twentieth century. It would not be surprising if the story had the same rank at the end of this century. Walker, like almost all the others who venture into this arena, concentrates on the ethics and morality of President Truman's decision to utilize the bomb. Whether it was necessary to win the war is not discussed. Read more ..

Edge on Terrorism

U.S. Military Assistance to Lebanese Army is Questioned over Ties to Hezbollah

August 23rd 2010

Terrorism - Hezbollah Lebanon
Hezbollah troops

The August 3 fatal shooting of an Israel Defense Forces officer by a Lebanese Armed Forces soldier has sparked debate regarding the utility and wisdom of the U.S. military assistance program to Lebanon. Although such assistance is not new, the program's scope dramatically increased after the 2005 Cedar Revolution ended Syria's thirty-year occupation and swept the Arab world's only pro-Western, democratically elected government to power. In recent months, however, Syrian influence has returned, while Hezbollah has secured enough political power to effectively reverse many of the revolution's gains. Even before the August 3 incident, these changes on the ground prompted Rep. Howard Berman (D-CA), chair of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, to place a hold on the 2011 assistance package. Read more ..

Mexico's Drug Wars

Los Zetas and the Gun Laws that Help Them Thrive

August 23rd 2010

Mexican Topics - Mexican Drug Violence

It is possible for terror to originate from a recognized symbol of power, safety, and strength. When a manifestation of all that is good betrays the trust bestowed upon it and becomes instead an agent of destruction, ruthlessness, and brutality, the fear it generates is far greater than if it had been regarded as evil all along. Unfortunately, one of the ultimate examples of this form of deception thrives in the chaos of the drug world. In Mexico, this terror is known by a name rarely spoken above a chilling whisper: Los Zetas.

Emerging as one of the most dangerous byproducts of the drug trade, Los Zetas’ existence represents a profound threat to the U.S. as well as to their country of origin. Not only does the U.S. keep Los Zetas in business with its insatiable appetite for drugs, but it also blindly puts guns in the hands of these killers. Since 2006, 28,000 individuals have lost their lives to this hemispheric catastrophe, a huge jump from the 23,000 reported in June of this year. With such an astronomically increasing death toll, drastic action needs be taken – and fast. Mexican President Felipe Calderón has taken the recent step of proposing a debate to consider the pros and cons of drug legalization. As for the U.S., it is critical that it finally takes responsibility for its role as a gun supplier to the drug trafficking industry. Of the tens thousands who have died at the hands of drug violence, many of these victims’ last visions were of a U.S.-made or U.S.-imported semi-automatic assault rifle. Read more ..

The Ground Zero Mosque

Move the Mosque

August 23rd 2010

Islamic Topics - Ground Zero mosque protest

As it happened, a small building became available on the Washington, D.C. real estate market. The place, 101 Raoul Wallenberg Place Southwest, was a small two-story, brick building and historic at that. Cozy and well-placed, the building was perfectly suited to accommodate its new owner’s plans. The new owner, the Aryan Nations, seeks to use the site as a cultural center to house its new Pastor of the Church of the Sons of Yahweh. Known for its commitment to white nationalism and neo-Nazism, and, of course, anti-Semitism, the Aryan Nations has a long and evil history. Seeking to establish its Christian identified base there sounded like a perfect opportunity to branch out from its Louisiana base—next door to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.

Owners of 101 Raoul Wallenberg, claiming religious justification and status, approached and received the proper, lengthy approval of the District of Columbia Zoning Commission, and Aryan Nations was set to move in and open up their new religious establishment, whose protections are guaranteed by our constitution. While there was great consternation on the part of the Zoning Commission, claiming religious status sealed the deal for them to move in. Read more ..

University of Wisconsin Press and Elvis

August 23rd 2010
I consider the revelation that the University of Wisconsin Press does not fact check prior to publication (see Michael Marrus Falters in Some Measure of Justice, Arts, March 1, 2010) good news indeed. For some time now I have been working on a book length manuscript proving beyond a shadow of a doubt that Elvis lives. Perhaps they would be willing to publish it.

The Mind's Edge

Researchers Discover How 'Special-K' can be Used as an Effective Anti-Depressant

August 23rd 2010

Science - Ketamine

Researchers at Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut, have discovered how a novel anti-depressant can take effect in hours, rather than the weeks or months usually required for most drugs currently on the market. The findings should speed development of a safe and easy-to-administer form of the anti-depressant ketamine, which has already proven remarkably effective in treating severely depressed patients.

The Yale scientists found that, in rats, ketamine not only quickly improves depression-like behaviors but actually restores connections between brain cells damaged by chronic stress.

"It's like a magic drug—one dose can work rapidly and last for seven to 10 days," said Ronald Duman, professor of psychiatry and pharmacology at Yale and senior author of the study.

Ketamine traditionally has been used as a general anesthetic for children, but a decade ago researchers at the Connecticut Mental Health Center found that, in lower doses, the drug seemed to give patients relief from depression, Duman said. In these initial clinical studies, which have been replicated at the National Institute of Mental Health, almost 70 percent of patients who are resistant to treatment with all other forms of antidepressants were found to improve within hours after receiving ketamine. Read more ..

Book Review

Why the Dreyfuss Affair Matters and the Fragility of Civilization

August 23rd 2010

Book Covers - Why the Dreyfuss Affair still matters

Why the Dreyfus Affair Matters. Louis Begley. Yale University Press. 2009. 272 pages.

The Third French Republic (1870–1914) was no stranger to political scandals. One of these scandals, the famous “Dreyfus affair,” shook 19th century French society to the core and its reverberations filtered across a Europe beset by political and nationalist rivalries. This scandal has since entered the political lexicon as a cipher for abuse of power and unjust judicial processes yet it is unclear how many people today are aware of the basic facts underpinning the story.

Captain Alfred Dreyfus was an esteemed and efficient Jewish military officer in the French army. When it was discovered that an unknown traitor had been passing military secrets to the German army during the Franco-Prussian war, the military establishment closed ranks to lay the blame on Captain Dreyfus. The only evidence offered was a piece of paper with handwriting which was claimed, incorrectly, to be his. He was found guilty of treason and exiled on Devil’s Island off French Guyana, where his inhumane treatment would have left lesser men dead. Another military officer, Colonel Georges Picquart, had traced the real culprit, a Major Ferdinand Esterhazy, but Esterhazy was acquitted after a brief trial.

The acquittal of Esterhazy prompted the brave intervention of the French novelist, Emile Zola. Zola’s famous “J’accuse” article in the press in 1898 set out the reasons why Dreyfus was innocent of the charges laid against him and, controversially, declared that the army had acted illegally in charging Dreyfus. After a second trial and a timely intervention from the President of France, Emile Loubet, Dreyfus was finally cleared of all charges in 1906. He was subsequently reinstated into the French Army and regained his promoted rank, although failing health hastened his discharge from the army. He died in 1935. Read more ..

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