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Archive for September 2012

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The 2012 Vote

Foreign Policy Differences Debated by Presidential Campaigns

September 30th 2012

Paul Ryan
Republican vice-preisdential candidate Paul Ryan

The U.S. presidential race has had an all-consuming focus on the economy, at least until now. While economic matters continue to dominate, international affairs have forced their way into the nation’s political discourse less than six weeks before the election.

The campaigns of President Barack Obama and his Republican challenger, Mitt Romney, are exchanging sharp words on recent events in Libya and other foreign policy challenges, as the candidates themselves prepare for their first debate later this week. On September 30, former Governor Mitt Romney’s vice presidential pick, Congressman Paul Ryan, slammed the Obama administration’s handling of a deadly attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya. Read more ..


The Winter of Arab Rage

Kenyan Islamists Bomb a Church and Kill a Child

September 30th 2012

Somali Militants2

Kenyan police say a grenade attack at a church in the capital, Nairobi, on September 30 killed a nine-year-old boy and wounded three other children.

Police chief Moses Ombati says he believes sympathizers of al-Shabab Islamic militants were responsible.

Police say the children were at a Sunday school service at Saint Polycarp Church in Nairobi when someone threw a grenade into the building. Authorities also believe al-Shabab supporters shot and killed two officers on patrol in the city of Garissa, near the border with Somalia Sunday. The attackers stole the officers' rifles. Al-Shabab militants are struggling to hold on to the few remaining areas they control in Somalia, where Somali and African Union forces stymied their efforts to set up a conservative Islamic state. Read more ..


Georgia on Edge

Voters in Georgia face a Crucial Election

September 30th 2012

Georgia election

On Monday, Georgian voters are to elect a new parliament. In turn, that parliament is to choose a prime minister with new presidential powers. In a rarity for much of the former Soviet Union, this is an election in which the result is not known in advance. President Mikheil Saakashvili is facing the strongest challenge since he was first elected eight years ago. His challenger is Bidzina Ivanishvili, Georgia’s richest man. Long known as a reclusive philanthropist, Ivanishvili is suddenly the new face in politics here.

Monday’s parliamentary elections will test whether Ivanishvili can convert his billions of dollars into millions of votes for his Georgia Dream coalition. Keti Tsiptauri, a Tblisi primary school teacher, says she is impressed by Ivanishvili's charitable donations in Georgia. “The first block of our university was reconstructed by Ivanishvili,” she said. “And we are grateful to him, and I want to thank to him for this.” Read more ..


The Race for Solar

Egypt’s Power Cuts Turn Blackouts Into Green Business

September 30th 2012

Photovoltaic cells

It’s dark at an upscale Cairo café. It’s not closed; service continues despite the only light coming from windows along two walls. The cause was an electricity outage. While it only lasted around 15 minutes, it was one of thousands of power cuts this past summer in Egypt as overuse left many without power for large portions of the day.

Across the river from Cairo’s upscale Zamalek neighborhood lies Imbaba, a lower-class neighborhood, and one of the harder hit areas of the Egyptian capital. “We had some days where we didn’t have power for six hours, sometimes longer,” Hassan Ghozlan, a local resident, stated. And they still continue, he added. “Still, some days it goes out for a few hours, even during the evening when it is cooler,” he added. The government has said that too many air-conditioners are to blame for the cuts. Either way, there is hope for the country’s citizens, as a new project aims to tackle electricity by using alternative power methods. Read more ..


The 2012 Vote

The Candidates' Positioins on Medicare Advantage

September 30th 2012

Obamacare Protest

President Obama and his allies continue to repeat attacks on Gov. Mitt Romney and his running mate Rep. Paul Ryan that were long ago discredited as completely false. That Republicans want to “end Medicare as we know it” is a popular line from the Democrats, but there’s nothing in the Romney-Ryan plan that ends Medicare as anyone has known it. Indeed, the whole point of the Romney-Ryan reform is to preserve Medicare for future generations. We are also told that the Republican plan would force seniors to pay $6,400 more per year for their care. This too is false. The Romney-Ryan plan guarantees that every senior will have the choice of at least two plans which will cost no more than current Medicare.

To see what the candidates really think about Medicare, voters need to set aside the overheated campaign rhetoric and look at the facts, starting with the candidates’ policies for Medicare Advantage. The differences are stark, and revealing. Medicare Advantage is the popular private plan option in Medicare. Twenty-five percent of Medicare beneficiaries have chosen to get their Medicare benefits from a Medicare Advantage plan. Read more ..


Israel's Looming Attack

Decoding Netanyahu’s “Red Line”

September 30th 2012

Netanyhu-UN

When Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu drew a bright red line across a drawing of a bomb representing Iran’s nuclear program at the U.N. General Assembly, he used a phrase that has bled into the vernacular: Red line. “I believe that faced with a clear red line, Iran will back down and this will give more time for sanctions and diplomacy to convince Iran to dismantle its nuclear weapons program all together,” he told world leaders gathered in New York on Thursday.

He didn’t invent the phrase, which has been related to military conflicts for at least a century, but he has given it a new spin.

The Oxford English Dictionary defines “red line” as the center of an ice hockey rink or a mark on a gauge indicating a safety limit or critical point. It also lists it as a reference to British soldiers’ iconic red uniforms. One of the expression’s earliest appearances came in the 1850s, when the “thin red line” was used to describe the British army at the battle of Balaclava in the Crimean War, according to Ben Zimmer, a language columnist for The Boston Globe newspaper. Read more ..


The Economy on Edge

Raising Minimum Wage to Create More Jobless Young Americans

September 30th 2012

Teenager texting

The unemployment rate for 16 to 19 year olds was an astonishingly high 23.8 percent last month. The United States is facing a youth employment crisis. Young workers are finding it increasingly difficult to enter the labor market, get their first job and work their way up the career ladder. Yet, during this time of persistently high youth unemployment, there have been calls to increase the minimum wage from $7.25 to as high as $10 per hour.

America's youth are having a hard time reaching the first rung on their career ladders. Now is a bad time to increase minimum wages and make that important step more difficult. Higher minimum wages generate a tradeoff between higher wages for the employed and higher rates of unemployment. When minimum wages increase, many workers who earn less than the new higher minimum wage lose their jobs. Firms often decide that they can get by with fewer workers instead of paying higher wages. Read more ..


America on Edge

The Tribe of Liberty

September 30th 2012

Cairo burning US embassy

We like tribalism for the same reason we like fatty foods: We evolved that way.

Homo sapiens didn’t survive long on the African savannas as rugged individualists. Alone, they couldn’t scare away the scarier animals, and, for the most part, they couldn’t catch and kill the tastier ones. But in groups, humans rose to the top of the food chain thousands of years ago and have been passing down their tribe-loving genes ever since.

Customs and practices that ensured the survival of the species were worked out through trial and error and passed from one generation to the next. Over time, and with many setbacks, the knowledge accumulated until we hit the critical mass required for modernity. Indeed, the story of modernity is the story of how we moved away from traditional, non-voluntary forms of tribalism based on familial, ethnic, or even nationalistic lines and toward voluntary forms of tribalism. Read more ..


Islam and Free Religious Expression

Rioting Bengali Muslims Burn 40 Buddhist Temples over Facebook Photo of Quran

September 30th 2012

Burned temples

Thousands of Muslims in Bangladesh furious over a claim about an unflattering photo of the Quran on Facebook went wild and torched at least 10 Buddhist temples and 40 homes near the southern border with Myanmar. The arson riot began late Saturday and continued until early Sunday, said police authorities in the coastal district of Cox’s Bazar. The polie said the situation was under control Sunday afternoon only after the government banned public gatherings in the riot area. At least 20 people were injured in the attacks that followed the posting of a Facebook photo of a burned copy of the Quran. Muslim rioters blamed the photo on a local Buddhist boy, though who actually posted the photo was uncertain.

The Daily Star newspaper reported that the accused boy claimed innocence and protested that the photo was mistakenly tagged on his Facebook profile without his knowledge.

Read more ..

Israel on Edge

Canadian PM says 'Those who Target Israel are a Threat to all Free and Democratic societies'

September 30th 2012

Harper

It is swiftly becoming clear that, while Israel's strongest ally is still North American, it may not be the current U.S. administration. Judging by recent statements made by Prime Minister Stephen Harper, that honor may well go to the Canadian government. Speaking on Friday to the Appeal of Conscience Foundation, described as "an interfaith partnership of corporate and spiritual leaders from all faiths," Harper expressed unequivocal support for Israel against Iran, and made a direct connection between anti-Israel sentiments and antisemitism. "Neither [Israel's] existence," Harper said, "nor its policies are responsible for the pathologies present” in the Middle East; an explicit rejection of the frequent accusation that Israel is responsible for Middle Eastern extremism and terrorism.

Regarding Iran, Harper was equally clear. "The appeal of our conscience requires us to speak out against what the Iranian regime stands for," he asserted. "Likewise, it requires us to speak in support of the country that its hatred most immediately threatens, the State of Israel." Drawing an explicit link between the New Antisemitism and the old, Harper said that the international community must be aware: "of a lesson of history, that those who single out the Jewish people as a target of racial and religious bigotry will inevitably be a threat to all of us. Read more ..


Inside Islam

Know Your Ansar al-Sharia

September 29th 2012

Muslim Street Prayer NYC

There is a new trend sweeping the world of jihadism. Instead of adopting unique names, groups increasingly prefer to call themselves ansar, Arabic for “supporters.” In many cases, they style themselves Ansar al-Sharia—supporters of Islamic law—emphasizing their desire to establish Islamic states. Yet despite the fact that these groups share a name and an ideology, they lack a unified command structure or even a bandleader like the central al Qaeda command (or what’s left of it), thought to be based in Pakistan. They are fighting in different lands using different means, but all for the same end, an approach better suited for the vagaries born of the Arab uprisings.

The name Ansar al-Sharia shot into the news last week in the aftermath of the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, when the local organization Katibat Ansar al-Sharia was accused of perpetrating it—charges the group denied. Many reports seem to have confused Benghazi’s Ansar al-Sharia with another Libyan group, based in Derna. Read more ..


Iran’s Nukes

The Case for a Red Line

September 29th 2012

Simurgh booster

In his address to the UN General Assembly, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reminded the world that all attempts to persuade Iran to halt its progress toward developing a nuclear weapon have failed. He urged the world to impose a strict red line on Iran. “At this late hour, there is only one way to peacefully prevent Iran from getting atomic bombs. That’s by placing a clear red line on Iran’s nuclear weapons program.”

The prime minister made a strong case that red lines prevent war and that when they were not declared, aggression was invited. He listed historical examples to illustrate the point, but it was his observation of recent events that should cause those who doubt their efficacy to pay closer attention. “Clear red lines have also worked with Iran. Earlier this year, Iran threatened to close the Straits of Hormuz. The United States drew a clear red line and Iran backed off,” he said. JINSA has long argued that the United States must affirm the credibility of a military threat against Iran’s nuclear weapons program. As necessary and important as other tools of statecraft—such as economic sanctions and diplomatic efforts—are, those who speak against military action undermine all other strategies. Read more ..


Israel's Looming Attack

Responding to an Israeli Strike on Iran's Nuclear Complex

September 29th 2012

Israeli Jets Parked

Although an Israeli military strike against Iran’s nuclear program is far from certain, the potential consequences for the United States are clear. Such a development would present major crisis-management challenges—and, perhaps, opportunities to advance U.S. interests.

The immediate challenge would be to limit escalation by constraining Tehran’s freedom to act, minimizing the damage caused by its retaliation, and keeping Hizballah and other Iranian proxies out of the fray. Moreover, by curbing Iran’s escalatory options in the Persian Gulf, Washington might prevent a prolonged spike in oil prices. This could in turn help preserve international support for efforts to prevent Tehran from acquiring nuclear weapons. To accomplish these objectives, Washington would need to take a number of steps both prior to and immediately after a strike. It must also be prepared to respond quickly to miscalculations—whether its own or those of friends and adversaries—as well as other unintended consequences that could complicate poststrike diplomacy. Read more ..


The Iranian Threat

Ahmadinejad's Marginal Moment at the United Nations

September 29th 2012

Ahmadinejad Nuclear

These days, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad seems relevant only to the global media outlets that are still transfixed by his pronouncements and are still intrigued by his unconventional conduct. In contrast to the international media, Ahmadinejad is viewed in Iran as a marginal figure whose relevance shrinks by the day as his tumultuous presidential tenure draws to a close.

Even Ahmadinejad seems to appreciate his diminished importance, as his last speech to the UN General Assembly was largely devoid of the bombast and provocation that has characterized previous speeches.

The essential theme of Ahmadinejad's meandering valedictory address was how the hegemony of the great powers was deforming the international order. In his view, by pursuing their material interests, the rapacious Western powers were busy exploiting and abusing the developing world. The miscalculations and misjudgments of world capitalism are to be blamed for the downturn in the global economy with grave consequences for the poor nations. American came in for its share of criticism, as its invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq were subject to the usual indictments. In search of markets and resources, Washington waged war under the banner of combating terrorism and tyrrany. Read more ..


Islam on Edge

America Was Warned from the Beginning of the Dangers of Islamic Terrorism

September 29th 2012

Stephen Decatur boards a Libyan vessel
'Decatur boards the Tripolitan Gunboat' by Dennis M. Carter

The American founding fathers and early scholars—since the 18th century—were aware of deeply-rooted Islamic violence, terrorism, intolerance and hatred toward other Muslims, as well as non-Muslims.

Early American leaders and thinkers were endowed with deep appreciation and unique knowledge of global history, international relations, ancient cultures, ideologies and religions. They spoke and wrote candidly about global threats, including the Islamic threat.

In 1830, New York University Prof. George Bush, the great-granduncle of G.H.W. Bush, considered one of the most profound American scholars of the mid-19th century, published The Life of Mohammed. He was not concerned about political correctness, and was low on delusion and top heavy on realism. His 1830 reference to the Islamic threat was consistent with the 2012 state of intra-Muslim atrocities, hate-education, tyranny, anti-US stormy Arab winter, intolerance of criticism, global Islamic terrorism in general and suicide bombing in particular. Read more ..


The Edge of Physics

Disappearing Electrons - They Could Change Our World

September 29th 2012

transient electronics

An interdisciplinary team of researchers from Northwestern University, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and Tufts University are the first to demonstrate "transient electronics" -- which are electronics that gradually disappear on a specified schedule, whether it be a few days or six months.

These kinds of electronics could have applications in medicine, pharmaceuticals, environmental monitors and the military, among other uses.

Conventional electronics are made to last indefinitely. Transient electronics, on the other hand, offer the opposite behavior. They physically vanish over time in a well-controlled manner and at a prescribed time, dissolving when they react with water. A magnesium oxide encapsulation layer and silk overcoat envelops the electronics, and the thickness determines how long the system will take to disappear into its environment.

"These electronics are there when you need them, and after they've served their purpose they disappear," said Yonggang Huang, who led the Northwestern portion of the research focused on theory, design and modeling. "This is a completely new concept."

The novel technology opens up important possibilities. Transient electronics could be useful as medical devices implanted inside the human body to monitor such things as temperature or brain, heart and muscle tissue activity, to apply thermal therapy or to deliver drugs. When no longer needed, the electronics would be fully absorbed by the body with no adverse effects. (Implantable electronics are not commonly used in medicine because of concern about the long-term effects.) Such a system also could be used as environmental monitors placed on buildings, roadways or military equipment to detect temperature change or structural deformation. The device would dissolve when exposed to water, eliminating the need for it to be recovered at a future date. Read more ..


The Race for BioFuel

Scientists Bring Heat to Refine BioFuel Production

September 29th 2012

Cyanobacteria

Perhaps inspired by Arizona’s blazing summers, Arizona State University scientists have developed a new method that relies on heat to improve the yield and lower the costs of high-energy biofuels production, making renewable energy production more of an everyday reality. 

ASU has been at the forefront of algal research for renewable energy production. Since 2007, with support from federal, state and industry funding, ASU has spearheaded several projects that utilize photosynthetic microbes, called cyanobacteria, as a potential new source of renewable, carbon-neutral fuels. Efforts have focused on developing cyanobacteria as a feedstock for biodiesel production, as well as benchtop and large-scale photobioreactors to optimize growth and production. ASU Biodesign Institute researcher Roy Curtiss, a microbiologist who uses genetic engineering of bacteria to develop new vaccines, has adapted a similar approach to make better biofuel-producing cyanobacteria.  Read more ..


The 2012 Vote

U.S. Elections: Ignoring Climate Agenda Is a Mistake

September 29th 2012

NASA ICESCAPE Arctic melt pools

Whichever way you run the numbers about climate change, 2012 looks set to go into the record-books. In America alone, this year's heat wave broke over 40,000 temperature records. In the 1980s, the US weather-related insurance cost was around $3bn a year, compared to $20bn (and rising) today. Hurricane Katrina alone cost more than £200bn, representing over 1 percent of GDP. And then there are little things like West Nile virus, unknown in the US before 1988, but now spreading as a result of rising temperatures – resulting in a record 2,000 cases by August 2012, and 87 deaths.

But how many of us expect climate change to be central to the debates between Obama and Romney in the final stages of the US presidential elections? I, for one, am not holding my breath. And yet the degree to which this rising challenge is debated should be seen by the wider world as a key indicator of whether America is fit for purpose – and fit to lead – in the 21st century. Read more ..


Israel and Palestine

UN Security Council Resolution 242

September 29th 2012

UN General Assembly

Resolution 242 is the cornerstone for what it calls "a just and lasting peace." It calls for a negotiated solution based on "secure and recognized boundaries" - recognizing the flaws in Israel's previous temporary borders - the 1948 Armistice lines or the "Green Line" - by not calling upon Israel to withdraw from 'all occupied territories,' but rather "from territories occupied." The United Nations Security Council adopted Resolution 242 in 1967 following the Six-Day War. It followed Israel's takeover of the Sinai Peninsula and Gaza Strip from Egypt, the Golan Heights from Syria, and the West Bank from Jordan. The resolution was to become the foundation for future peace negotiations. Yet contrary to Arab contentions, a careful examination of the resolution will show that it does not require Israel to return to the June 4, 1967 Armistice lines or "Green Line." Read more ..


The Weapon's Edge

Defense Contractor's Worker Stole Military Technology for China

September 29th 2012

F-35 Military Plane

A jury on Thursday convicted an employee of a defense contractor for exporting sensitive U.S. military technology to the People’s Republic of China (PRC), stealing military secrets, and making false statements to federal law enforcement.

Sixing Liu, a/k/a “Steve Liu,” a Chinese citizen who lived in Flanders, New Jersey, and in Deerfield, Illinois, was immediately taken into federal custody after the jury announced their verdict. U.S. District Judge Stanley R. Chesler based his decision for Liu to remain in custody after agreeing with the prosecutor that Liu was a flight risk. Sentencing before Judge Chesler is scheduled for Jan. 7, 2013.

The jury convicted 49-year-old Liu of nine of the 11 counts with which he was charged, including six counts of violating the Arms Export Control Act and the International Traffic in Arms Regulations, one count of possessing stolen trade secrets in violation of the Economic Espionage Act of 1996, one count of transporting stolen property in interstate commerce, and one count of lying to federal agents. The jury acquitted Liu on two counts of lying to federal agents. Read more ..


The Obama Edge

Obama Does Little on Mideast Foreign Policy

September 29th 2012

Obama UN
Credit: White House/Sonya Hebert

In 2008, then-Sen. Hillary Clinton questioned whether then- Sen. Barack Obama would be prepared for the unexpected 3 a.m. phone call should he become president. The voters concluded he would be. When that call came with the Arab Spring, Obama put it on hold.

Indecisiveness has cost. Like a gambler who demands to see the cards on the table before he makes a move, Obama waited as first the Tunisian, then Egyptian, and the Yemeni governments teetered. Only when protestors sealed the autocrats' fate did he place his bet. The cynicism is self-defeating: Protestors doubt U.S. commitment, while surviving kings and strongman question whether their decades-long U.S. partnership has value.

Also crippling American influence is Obama's desire to lead from behind. Multilateralism builds legitimacy, but not all multilateralism is the same: American leadership influences outcomes. When the White House works through allies, the United States becomes a slave to their agendas. Read more ..


The Edge of Terrorism

Why Designating Boko Haram as an FTO could be Counterproductive

September 29th 2012

Nigeria Boko Haram

In recent years, the militant group Boko Haram has increasingly engaged in deadly attacks on civilians. The wave of violence and protests in the Muslim world that have been triggered by the American-made anti-Islam film and the killing of the American ambassador to Libya have heightened concerns that similar violence could spread in parts of Nigeria with broader consequences to the stability of that country and the region. While Nigeria did see peaceful anti-Islam film protests earlier this week, they were not in any way associated with Boko Haram. In fact, recent headlines on the group have actually focused on the Nigerian government’s progress in combating them. As Nigeria continues to advance its fight against Boko Haram, it is important to understand how the U.S. can best aid the government in doing so, which may be less apparent than recent solutions suggest. Read more ..


South Africa on Edge

South Africa Mining Strikes Spread following Lethal Confrontation with Police

September 29th 2012

Striking mine workers Sep 2012

More strikes have hit South Africa's mining industry, a week after striking workers at a platinum mine won a 22 percent pay raise. Workers walked off their jobs this week at mines run by AngloGold Ashanti, one of the world's largest gold producers. The workers are reportedly demanding a pay raise in line with the workers at the Lonmin platinum mine in Marikana township.

Meanwhile, gold producer Village Main Reef says 1,700 of its workers failed to report to work for September 27 night shift as well as September 28 day shifts. Also, mining firm Petmin said on September 28 that 345 of its workers at a coal mining subsidiary walked off their jobs. Both companies said they are talking with workers and hoping to end the strikes peacefully. The Lonmin deal followed a clash between police and miners in which police shot dead 46 striking workers. Earlier this month, union leaders said the Lomnin deal set a precedent for other miners. Striking miners have armed themselves with homemade traditional spears and machetes, defying the mineowners to dismiss or dislodge them.

On September 27, Anglo American Platinum (Amplats), the top producer of platinum, declared that it would begin disciplinary action against strikers and could dismiss them. So far, the strike is considered illegal. Four of Amplats's Rustenburg mines have been idled for over two weeks, thereby costing the company at least 20,000 ounces in lost output to date, or $33 million at current spot prices. Spot prices for platinum were up 1.4 percent, at $1,665.74 an ounce. Read more ..


Somalia on Edge

Kenya has al-Shabab Terrorists on the Run in Somalia

September 29th 2012

al-Shabbab

Somalia’s militant Islamist group, al-Shabab, says it has withdrawn from its last bastion in the country. On September 29, al-Shabab said that it abandoned the port city of Kismayo following an attack by Kenyan military forces. Al-Shabab has vowed revenge. On September 28, the Kenyan military said the attack involved land, sea and air forces and was coordinated forces of the African Union and the Somali government.

According to VOA News, Kenyan and Somali government troops controlled some northern neighborhoods of Kismayo, but that the airport and most of the town are still under the control of al-Shabab hands. Two witnesses said the militants had mounted machine guns on the town's tallest buildings. Kenyan infantry landed a few kilometres away from Kismayo and then advanced in three columns towards the city. Logistical and other support was provided from the air and sea. Read more ..


Media on Edge

Reuters and AP Rapped for Netanyahu Photo

September 28th 2012

Netanyahu at UN

Photos of Israeli leader Benjamin Netanyahu from his speech at the United Nations on Thursday published by two of the world’s largest newswires show him making a gesture eerily similar to the infamous Nazi salute.

The photos capture Netanyahu extending his left arm with his hand in the same formation that was used during the Third Reich to “Heil Hitler”. In Nazi Germany, the right arm was generally used for Nazi salutes, however the left arm was accepted if there was a physical disability.

“Of the hundreds of professional photos taken at this speech, the AP and Reuters decided to push these onto the wire,” wrote Daniel Halper at The Weekly Standard. Reuters photo of Netanyahu from his UN speech. Abraham Foxman, the National Director of the Anti Defamation League, called the the decision by both Reuters and AP “ugly” and “disgusting”. Read more ..


Russia on Edge

Russian Police and Russian Muslims Clash

September 28th 2012

Muslims Russian police

Shermamat Suyarov says he will think twice before returning to pray at Moscow's largest mosque. Suyarov, a 52-year-old Russian citizen of Kyrgyz origin, says he was sitting in a parked car waiting to attend prayers on September 17 when police ordered him out and detained him.

He was hauled into a police bus with scores of other would-be worshippers. Later, at a police station he claims he was beaten so severely after he complained about the rough treatment that he had to be hospitalized: "They beat me with their fists, batons and feet," he says. "There were five or six of them beating me and there were some others there too. I wasn't counting. I lost consciousness. I was in shock and broke a rib." Read more ..


The Arab Winter of Rage

To Counter Islamist Threat, America Should Practice American Values

September 28th 2012

Star Parker

Baseball player Yogi Berra once said, "You can see a lot just by looking" -- simple wisdom that President Barack Obama is not likely to heed. In order to see, you have to want to look at the truth that's actually out there. With reality so different from how our president wishes to portray it, he has little interest in seeing things as they really are.

The president delivered a "Kumbaya" appeal this past week to the current session of the United Nations General Assembly. The pitch, about peaceful resolution of disputes, tolerance, and free speech, was clearly aimed at Muslim nations.

The following day, Egypt's newly elected Muslim Brotherhood President Mohamed Morsi stood before the General Assembly and gave his reply. No thanks.

Sure, Egypt will respect free speech, as long as it does not offend "one specific religion or culture." The message we got from candidate Obama in 2008 was that the rift between the Muslim world and the West was one of misunderstanding, of lack of empathy on our part toward them. Candidate Obama said he was the man, given his personal history, who could bridge that gap. In 2009, the first year of the Obama presidency, the Pew Research Center reported that the favorability rating in Egypt toward the United States was 27 percent. Now in 2012 it is 19 percent, down eight points.

More misunderstanding? I don't think so. Egyptians are quite clear about who they are and quite clear about their distaste for the moral relativism Barack Obama peddles as freedom. Conflicting attitudes and worldviews emerge from different beliefs, not misunderstanding. In the same Pew survey of last June, 11 percent of Egyptians agreed with the statement: "It is good that American ideas and customs are spreading here." Has Obama just not had enough time, as with producing an economic recovery at home, to get Muslims to learn the words to "Kumbaya"? Read more ..


Broken Government

Constitutional Scholar Slams new NYC Subway Rules for Advertising

September 28th 2012

Alan Dershowitz
.

In an interview, Harvard Law Professor Alan Dershowitz slammed new approved advertising guidelines announced by the New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority, calling them “Plain Dumb” and “Unconstitutional.” “A. it’s clearly unconstitutional” he said, and “b. it incentivizes people to engage in violence. What it says to people, is that if they don’t like ads, just engage in violence and then we’ll take the ads down.”

“It’s very bad policy,” he continued, “and it’s just plain dumb, because it is going to encourage violence.” Responding to the charge in an interview with The Algemeiner, M.T.A. spokesperson Aaron Donovan declined to comment. The new M.T.A. rules, announced yesterday, came after pro-Israel ads, which were initially rejected by the M.T.A., ran in ten New York City subway stations, after the group running the ads sued the M.T.A on first amendment grounds. Protesters objecting to the ads set about defacing them, including in one widely reported incident where Egyptian-American activist Mona Eltahawy was charged with criminal mischief misdemeanor for spraying one with pink paint. Referencing the incident, Dershowitz said, “what the transit authority is doing, is giving people like Mona, the power to censor.”

The new rules allow the M.T.A. to ban ads that it “reasonably foresees would imminently incite or provoke violence or other immediate breach of the peace.” Referring to the recent uptick in violence in the Middle East, Dershowitz added, “It is the worst possible approach to dealing with radical Islam.” “In the age of radical imams whipping up reactions, it just gives them more encouragement to do it. So if somebody wants to put up a picture of Mohammed in the subway, all people have to do is threaten violence and its censorship comes into effect,” he said. Read more ..


Iran's Nukes

Canada PM Sees Iran as “Clear and Present Danger”

September 28th 2012

Iran centrifuges

Stephen Harper, Prime Minister of Canada, said the government of Iran constitutes, “unambiguously, a clear and present danger and thus demands a very sober assessment.”

Speaking after receiving the World Statesman Award from Rabbi Arthur Schneier’s Appeal of Conscience Foundation, Prime Minister Harper said: “I speak not merely of its appalling record of human rights abuse, or its active assistance to the brutal regime in Syria, or its undeniable support of terrorist entities, or its determined pursuit of nuclear weapons, rather it is the combination of all these things with a truly malevolent ideology.”

“I believe that the appeal of our conscience requires us to speak out against what the Iranian regime stands for,” the Canadian Prime Minister said to nearly 1,000 black-tie guests at a dinner in his honor at the Waldorf-Astoria, in New York City. “It likewise requires us to speak in support of the country that its hatred most immediately threatens, The State of Israel.”

Introducing the prime minister, former secretary of state Henry Kissinger, spoke of the UN Security Council, where “the five permanent members, for the past 10 years, have been discussing how Iran’s nuclear proliferation is unacceptable, and now it’s time to define what unacceptable behavior means.” Read more ..


The Edge of Terrorism

Nigerian Terrorist Attack Condemned by U.S. Lawmakers

September 28th 2012

Boko Haram

On Thursday, Rep. Peter King (R-NY), chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security, and Pastor Laolu Akande, Executive Director of the Christian Association of Nigerian-Americans (CANAN), blasted the terrorist group Boko Haram for the bombing of a Catholic church in northern Nigeria. The terrorist group -- an al-Qaeda affiliated Islamist organization -- killed a woman and a child and injured 48 other churchgoers.

"We condemn in the strongest possible terms the latest atrocity waged by the Islamist terror group Boko Haram in Nigeria. The bombing at Saint John's Catholic Church in Bauchi is the latest in ongoing, coordinated attacks by Boko Haram on Catholic and other Christian churches in Nigeria, including the 2011 Christmas Day and 2012 Easter Day bombings," said Rep. King.

"The Muslim world exploded over a ridiculous YouTube video and the Obama administration couldn't apologize enough, but Christians being murdered, tortured and having their churches burned to the ground by Muslims appears to be ignored by Obama and his sycophants," said counterterrorism expert and former police commander George Wilkinson. Read more ..


Israel and Palestine

A Divergence over Palestine on Display at the United Nations

September 28th 2012

Dome of the Rock

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke past one another in addressing the UN General Assembly, barely touching on the same issues. While the two leaders delivered passionate remarks within minutes of one another, they spoke to divergent future objectives. Their speeches highlighted the challenge of bringing the two leaders together into a meaningful dialogue.

Whereas Abbas' target audience was the assembled countries of the United Nations, Netanyahu's audience was one country in particular: the United States. This reflects different strategic priorities for each leader: For Abbas, the stated key objective today is Palestinian statehood in the West Bank and Gaza with East Jerusalem as its capital. For Netanyahu, the focus is the need for a clear and more robust threat to confront Iran's ongoing nuclear enrichment program.

Each leader articulated core requests: Abbas asked the United Nations to adopt a resolution laying out the basis for a solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Netanyahu called for the placement of a clear "red line" on Iran's nuclear weapons program, highlighting his core difference with the Obama administration, which explicitly refuses to enunciate a clear red line or timeline.

Both leaders were vague about their own intended next steps, though Abbas offered slightly more clarity than Netanyahu on this score. Abbas pledged to continue efforts to obtain UN membership for Palestine, saying that he had begun intensive consultations with member states with the aim of a General Assembly vote during the UN session just launched. This formulation provides Abbas time to see what, if anything, the international community will do before he decides to put Palestine's membership to a vote in the General Assembly. In contrast, Netanyahu's "or-else" was both unstated but well known: Failure for the United States to either strike Iran or articulate a red line that prevents Iran from moving toward nuclear weapons capabilities will trigger an Israeli military strike. Read more ..


Theatre Review

Chaplin: What the Little Tramp can Tell Us

September 28th 2012

Scene from Chaplin

Chaplin. Director: Warren Carlyle. Starring: Rob McClure. Writer: Thomas Meehan. Lyrics and Music: Christopher Curtis. Barrymore Theater, New York, N.Y.

Actor Charlie Chaplin, "the Little Tramp," was one of the most famous entertainers in history. With his round black hat, cane, tiny moustache, oversized shoes, sad eyes and odd walk, he shuffled his way through dozens of hit silent movies, earned close to a million dollars a year in the 1920s, helped found the hugely successful United Artists film company and thrilled audiences all over the world.

The Little Tramp is back again in the musical Chaplin, which opened last week in New York. The play is not only a good show but a searing look into American history during the McCarthy era in the early 1950s, when Senator Joseph McCarthy and his henchmen used congressional committees to hunt down entertainers and others with any ties to the Communist Party and tried to ruin them. Read more ..


Islam on Edge

Boykinism is Something Joe McCarthy Would Understand

September 28th 2012

LtG William G Boykin
Army Lt General William G. Boykin (ret.)

First came the hullaballoo over the “Mosque at Ground Zero.” Then there was Pastor Terry Jones of Gainesville, Florida, grabbing headlines as he promoted “International Burn-a-Koran Day.” Most recently, we have an American posting a slanderous anti-Muslim video on the Internet with all the ensuing turmoil. Throughout, the official U.S. position has remained fixed: the United States government condemns Islamophobia. Americans respect Islam as a religion of peace. Incidents suggesting otherwise are the work of a tiny minority -- whackos, hatemongers, and publicity-seekers.

Among Muslims from Benghazi to Islamabad, the argument has proven to be a tough sell. And not without reason: although it might be comforting to dismiss anti-Islamic outbursts in the U.S. as the work of a few fanatics, the picture is actually far more complicated. Those complications in turn help explain why religion, once considered a foreign policy asset, has in recent years become a net liability.

Let’s begin with a brief history lesson. From the late 1940s to the late 1980s, when communism provided the overarching ideological rationale for American globalism, religion figured prominently as a theme of U.S. foreign policy. Communist antipathy toward religion helped invest the Cold War foreign policy consensus with its remarkable durability. That communists were godless sufficed to place them beyond the pale. For many Americans, the Cold War derived its moral clarity from the conviction that here was a contest pitting the God-fearing against the God-denying. Since we were on God’s side, it appeared axiomatic that God should repay the compliment. Read more ..


The Battle for Syria

Assad and Syrian Opposition at a Stalemate at Aleppo

September 28th 2012

Syrian Rebels in Aleppo

Syrian government forces captured several rebel-held districts in the capital Damascus Friday, as the rebels went on the offensive against government troops in the northern city of Aleppo. Rebel fighters clashed with government forces in at least a half dozen districts of Aleppo, on the second day of a rebel offensive. Witnesses say the rebels have been unable to gain much ground, and state TV claims heavy rebel casualties.

Rami Abd al-Rahman of the opposition Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said that clashes in Aleppo have engulfed much of the city and that government forces are shelling the rebels to prevent them from advancing. Al-Rahman said that parts of Aleppo are being shelled, amid clashes on front lines between rebel-held territory and districts held by the government. He said that especially heavy fighting is reported in a Kurdish district under government control.

In Damascus, government troops stormed three rebel held districts amid heavy exchange of gunfire. Tanks and armored vehicles pushed into the areas as government troops searched houses, making arrests. Heavy street fighting was also reported inside the eastern oasis town of Deir Ezzor for a second straight day. Amateur video showed rebel fighters trading fire with government troops along streets strewn with rubble and burned-out vehicles Read more ..


Venezuela on Edge

A Primer to the Coming Election in Venezuela

September 28th 2012

Hugo Chavez infirm

After being rescheduled from its original date in November, Venezuela’s upcoming presidential elections will take place on October 7. There are several valid reasons to consider the outcome of “7-O” as a pivotal moment for a new direction of the country. For starters, in contrast to the example of Mexico’s recent elections, Venezuela’s approaching ballot will only decide the presidency; this means that there will be but one winner for a six-year presidential term.

For almost the first time in memory, President Hugo Chávez might be losing his preferred status as frontrunner. However, the Supreme Court, the National Electoral Council, and other key institutions in the country would still remain under Chávez’s and his party’s sway even with the victory of the opposition candidate.

As the world focuses on Miraflores’s possible change of tenant in the coming days, it is essential to comprehend a complex Venezuelan electoral system. At the same time, it is also critical to recognize the different aspects affecting the presidential contest, such as the intricacies of the electoral system and the inherently uneven playing field being faced by the competition. Read more ..


The Race for Solar

Could These Egyptian Laser Panels be the Future of Solar Power?

September 28th 2012

Solar Panels

Despite attending Egypt’s Bani-Suef University as a student of commerce, 24 year-old Mohamed Gooda’s passion has always been for science. Having pursued his interest in physics in his spare time, he’s come up with a theoretical method of improving upon the efficiency of the photovoltaic solar cells currently in use the world over. He believes that, if widely implemented, his theory for a new method of converting solar radiation into electricity, using lasers, could afford Egypt a high level of energy independence.

Given that Egypt receives over 3,000 hours of sunlight a year in some regions, it’s not unreasonable to think that a revolutionary new form of solar cell could indeed lead to a radical change in the profile of Egypt’s energy consumption. But just how are these new cells supposed to work?

Whereas a standard photovoltaic solar cells’ functionality depends on the photoelectric effect (also known as the Hertz effect), whereby chemical elements that have ‘easy going’ electrons at their outer electron shell convert luminous energy into electricity, Mohamed’s proposes a different model of generating energy from sunlight. He theorises that it’s possible to generate solar power using a similar method to the stimulated emission of electrons that powers lasers. Read more ..


The Arab Winter of Rage

Tunisians Fear Democracy Transition is Stalling

September 28th 2012

New Tunisian Assembly

Almost a year after Tunisia held its first free elections, many fear the North African country's transition to a vibrant democracy has stalled. The economy is struggling, the government is divided, and Tunisians are locked in intensive debates about their future.

After a tumultuous 2011, things are getting back to normal. As the evening falls, Tunis residents gather in cafes to drink tea and maybe smoke a water pipe. On the main Habib Bourguiba Avenue, coils of barbed wire and the occasional tank spark memories of last year's revolution - a revolution that triggered the wider Arab uprising.

Many here are worried about the future. Among them: architecture student Miriam Kricha, 19, who is strolling down Habib Bourguiba with her boyfriend. Kricha says she's worried about finding work, even with a university diploma. She believes it will be especially difficult as a woman. Read more ..


The American Edge

Invention that 'Won World War II' Showcased

September 28th 2012

Higgins Boat

You may have heard the name “Higgins.” Chances are, it was Henry Higgins, the famous, if fictional, professor who teaches proper diction to a working-class English lass, Eliza Doolittle, in the musical “My Fair Lady.”

It is much less likely that you’ve heard of the Higgins that Allied commander Dwight Eisenhower once credited with winning World War II. You can learn why at the National World War II Museum in New Orleans, Louisiana, which opened in 2000 as the National D-Day Museum.

D-Day was June 6, 1944, when 150,000 U.S. and British troops stormed the beaches of Normandy, France, to gain the first Allied foothold in Nazi-controlled territory. The National World War II Museum, established in an old brewery in New Orleans’s arts district, is full of vintage uniforms, boots, helmets, berets, firearms and flags from that invasion. Jeeps and Spitfire airplanes, plus scale models of the Normandy coastline, are on exhibit. There's also a boat made by this fellow Higgins. Read more ..


Africa on Edge

Poverty, Inequality and Africa’s Education Crisis

September 28th 2012

African school kids

The Africa Learning Barometer, a new interactive produced by our colleagues at the Brookings Center for Universal Education, indicates that only about half of sub-Saharan Africa’s 128 million school-aged children currently attending school are likely to acquire the basic skills needed for them to live healthy and productive lives. The center’s research further suggests that if you are a poor, female child currently attending school in a rural region you are far more likely to not be learning the critical skills, such as reading, writing and math. While these gender, income and regional learning gaps exist in most sub-Saharan African countries, they are most salient in South Africa, Uganda, Malawi, Zimbabwe, Lesotho and Botswana.

Taking aside the legacy of colonialism and racial and ethnic inequalities in some of these countries, a number of other factors explain the continuing disparities in learning between rural and urban schoolchildren in sub-Saharan Africa. Considering the significance of rural poverty across the continent, it should come as no surprise that rural schoolchildren are the most disadvantaged from a socioeconomic perspective when it comes to access to a quality education. Rural schools generally have less qualified teachers and not enough teachers for the number of children enrolled in school. This is clearly evident in the low teachers-per-school ratios and teacher-to-pupil ratios in most rural African regions. The reasons for these low numbers in rural Africa are many and very much linked to poverty and other inequalities and socioeconomic conditions. For example, teachers generally prefer urban to rural schools because urban areas offer greater opportunities and higher incomes. There is also a better quality of life in urban areas, with better access to good infrastructure, other services (such as healthcare) and general public goods. Read more ..


The 2012 Vote

What Has Obama Learned?

September 28th 2012

Obama

The Oval Office isn't the place to learn on the job. That was the line from both Hillary Rodham Clinton and John McCain in 2008. In fairness, that's always the argument the more experienced candidate uses against the less experienced candidate (just ask Mitt Romney).

But Barack Obama seemed a special case, easily among the least experienced major party nominees in U.S. history. A Pew poll in August 2008 found that the biggest concern voters had with Obama fell under the category of "personal abilities and experience." In a "change" year, Americans swallowed those concerns and voted for the change candidate.

Four years later, it's worth asking, "What has Obama learned?" Several journalists have asked that exact question. And Obama's answers raise another question: Can Obama learn? In July, CBS News' Charlie Rose asked Obama what the biggest mistake of his first term was. Obama replied it "was thinking that this job was just about getting the policy right." Getting the policy right is important, Obama continued, "but the nature of this office is also to tell a story to the American people that gives them a sense of unity and purpose and optimism, especially during tough times." Read more ..



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