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Archive for March 2015


The Edge of Film

Documentary Raises Curtain on Global Warming Acrimony

March 31st 2015

Hurricane Isabel

Merchants of Doubt, Robert Kenner’s latest documentary, argues that global warming deniers aim to sow doubt and confusion about the science on global warming because they have a financial agenda.

The film contends that these so-called climate experts are paid by the fossil fuel industry to mask the truth that global warming is happening and is primarily cause by CO2 emissions. The film accuses global warming contrarians of using the same strategy that was originally used by the tobacco industry when it tried to quell concerns about the dangers and addictiveness of smoking.

Kenner claims that some of the same people the tobacco industry used to spread doubt about tobacco’s harmful effects are now working for the fossil fuel industry to debunk climate change.

Read more ..

China on Edge

Financial Chinoiserie

March 31st 2015

Chinese currency

A most peculiar crisis is developing for the Chinese economy - and, indeed, for the regime -- while the world's attention is riveted on the chaos and terror in the Mideast and Russian aggression in Ukraine.

Not the smallest element is the clever manipulation by Beijing's strategists of the world's hopes for continued remarkable Chinese growth as a last call instrument to bail out a dawdling world economy.

That misapprehension of China's economic capacities may well forestall, again, at least for a time, an inevitable coming to grips with basic problems of it vast society under the Communist Party monopoly. But there is growing evidence that China's financial problems have reached a crescendo that Beijing can no longer manage.

In that marvelous game of speculation on one of the world's oldest cultures, I have always joked that the Chinese have two "extra" genes to others' DNA: one is an inordinate capacity for hospitality, and the other for unlimited risk at gambling. Both are in full flower at the moment. Read more ..


Mideast on Edge

The Middle Eastern Balance of Power Matures

March 31st 2015

Saudi princes

Last week, a coalition of predominantly Sunni Arab countries, primarily from the Arabian Peninsula and organized by Saudi Arabia, launched airstrikes in Yemen that have continued into this week. The airstrikes target Yemeni al-Houthis, a Shiite sect supported by Iran, and their Sunni partners, which include the majority of military forces loyal to former President Ali Abdullah Saleh. What made the strikes particularly interesting was what was lacking: U.S. aircraft. Although the United States provided intelligence and other support, it was a coalition of Arab states that launched the extended air campaign against the al-Houthis.

Three things make this important. First, it shows the United States' new regional strategy in operation. Washington is moving away from the strategy it has followed since the early 2000s — of being the prime military force in regional conflicts — and is shifting the primary burden of fighting to regional powers while playing a secondary role. Second, after years of buying advanced weaponry, the Saudis and the Gulf Cooperation Council countries are capable of carrying out a fairly sophisticated campaign, at least in Yemen. Read more ..


The Edge of Terrorism

Boston Marathon Bomber's Mosque Examined

March 31st 2015

Boston Marathon Massacre

The Boston Marathon bombers’ mosque, the Islamic Society of Boston (ISB), employs an intensive radicalizing program aimed at Boston’s historically moderate Muslim community, especially at its youth. It’s called “Tarbiya,” which is Arabic for “growth and refinement.” It is not something that is practiced as part of classical mainstream Islam.

APT has obtained several curriculum documents created by ISB-affiliated groups, which describe exactly what is taught and when, with assignments detailed down to book and page number. We are making the most detailed and traceable of these documents available here and here. We will focus in this article on a particular Tarbiya program called “Young Muslims,” which was explicitly endorsed by Suhaib Webb, the Imam of the ISB’s mega-mosque in the Roxbury neighborhood of Boston. It lists books that all participants must read, and even includes page numbers for specific assignments (the document was formerly available at the program’s website, and can still be accessed through an archived version of the site). Read more ..


Iran's Nukes

Iran's Nuclear Breakout Time: Facts and Timelines

March 30th 2015

Iran Long-Range Missile

With reports that Washington and its partners may reach a nuclear accord with Iran in the coming days, a former senior IAEA safeguards official answers the most pressing questions about Tehran's program and how the agreement might affect its capabilities.
What is the commonly accepted definition of "breakout time"?

This is the time required to produce enough weapons-grade uranium (WGU) for one nuclear weapon. To produce WGU, uranium needs to be enriched (e.g., with centrifuges) to more than 90 percent of its fissile isotope U-235. The amount of WGU required for one weapon is defined by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) as about 27 kg of uranium. This amount is often called a "significant quantity" (SQ). Read more ..


Vote 2016

Clinton Wiped Private Email Server Clean

March 28th 2015

Hillary Clinton

The head of the House Select Committee on Benghazi says former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has erased all information from the personal email server she used while serving as the nation’s top diplomat.
 
“We learned today, from her attorney, Secretary Clinton unilaterally decided to wipe her server clean and permanently delete all emails from her personal server,” Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) said in a statement Friday.
 
He said while it’s “not clear precisely when Secretary Clinton decided to permanently delete all emails from her server, it appears she made the decision after October 28, 2014, when the Department of State for the first time asked the Secretary to return her public record to the Department.”
 
Last week, Gowdy sent a letter to Clinton’s attorney asking that the email server be turned over to a third party in the hopes that an investigation could recover about 30,000 emails that her team deleted before turning the rest over to the State Department.
Read more ..

China Rising

China's Fragile Evolution

March 24th 2015

Soldiers

Last week, China's anti-corruption campaign took a significant turn, though a largely overlooked one. The Supreme People's Court released a statement accusing former Politburo Standing Committee member Zhou Yongkang, the highest-ranked official thus far implicated in China's ongoing anti-corruption campaign, of having "trampled the law, damaged unity within the Communist Party, and conducted non-organizational political activities." In Chinese bureaucratic speak, this was only a few steps shy of confirming earlier rumors that Zhou and his former political ally and one-time rising star from Chongqing, Bo Xilai, had plotted a coup to pre-empt or repeal the ascension of Chinese President and Party General Secretary Xi Jinping. Thus, the court's statement marks a radical departure from the hitherto depoliticized official language of the anti-corruption campaign. Read more ..


The 2016 Vote

Hillary Clinton is Another Step Closer to Starting Presidential Campaign

March 22nd 2015

Click to select Image

As Hillary Clinton readies her campaign, Ready for Hillary is getting ready to step aside.

Founded to convince the former secretary of State to run for office, the organization is planning to dissolve as soon as possible after Clinton formally announces.

Their parting gift to her: A list of more than 3.6 million supporters they’ll push to sign on with Clinton's official campaign, leaving her with a huge pool of potential donors and volunteers as she enters the race.

"When she announces a decision, our work will be complete," Ready for Hillary Executive Director Adam Parkhomenko told The Hill. “My number one goal is to identify as many supporters as possible and if she announces she's running to transition as many of them over to the campaign.” Read more ..


Iran's Nukes

Tensions Arise with France over U.S. Deal with Iran's Nuclear Program

March 22nd 2015

On orders of French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, France might be the one to scuttle a nuclear deal with Iran.

Israel has turned to France in order to prevent what it considers an unfavorable nuclear deal with Iran from emerging, Reuters reported on Sunday.

Top Israeli envoys were sent to Paris to confer with their French counterparts after tensions arose between France and the United States over negotiation strategy, leading the Israelis to find an ally in the leading European power.

According to the report, France seems to be the best hope for Israel at a time when the Jewish state’s relations with the American administration are tense. AFP reports that France’s officials have been stridently opposed to the direction of the current negotiations and are greatly concerned about signing a deal that would grant too much relief to Tehran.

European officials have noted that if Paris has its way, the deal would be signed for 25 years, in contrast to the United States which is only aiming for a deal that would expire in a decade. Read more ..


The Edge of Justice

A Catholic's Case for Capital Punishment

March 21st 2015

Prison bars

A group of Catholic publishers recently issued a joint statement urging an end to capital punishment. I have great respect for all of them – I have written for all of them at one point or another. I disagree with them on this issue, however. And it may be good to give some background about why I and many others disagree.
 
Most importantly, the Catholic Church's Magisterium does not and never has advocated unqualified abolition of the death penalty. The U.S. bishops have conceded that Catholic teaching has accepted the principle that the state has the right to take the life of a person guilty of an extremely serious crime. Even the late Cardinal Joseph Bernardin – hardly a conservative – never stated that every criminal has a right to continue living, nor did he deny that the state has the right in some cases to execute the guilty. St. John Paul II, although opposed to most applications of the death penalty, thought the same.
Read more ..

Ancient Days

Papayas, like Chocolate, are Another Gift from Ancient Mayas

March 18th 2015

A genetic study of papaya sex chromosomes reveals that the hermaphrodite version of the plant, which is of most use to growers, arose as a result of human selection, most likely by the ancient Maya some 4,000 years ago.

The study, reported in the journal Genome Research, homes in on a region of papaya's male sex chromosome that, the study indicates, gave rise to the hermaphrodite plants.

"This research will one day lead to the development of a papaya that produces only hermaphrodite offspring, an advance that will enhance papaya root and canopy development while radically cutting papaya growers' production costs and their use of fertilizers and water," said University of Illinois plant biology professor Ray Ming, who led the research. Ming is a professor in the Carl R. Woese Institute for Genomic Biology at Illinois. Read more ..


Israel and Politics

Israeli Premier Netanyahu Wins Decisive Re-Election Victory

March 18th 2015

Bibi Netanyahu with Glasses

With almost all the ballots counted for Israel’s general election held today, the ruling Likud party of Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu has scored a dramatic and decisive victory over the rival Zionist Union party

99% of votes have been counted from a total of 4,223,057 and Likud is in first place with 23.29 percent. Zionist Union is trailing far behind in second place with 18.76 percent, almost 5 percentage points behind Likud.

The results give Netanyahu 29 seats in Israel’s Knesset, a full 5 more than the Zionist Union with 24. The tally significantly exceeds exit poll results which showed the two parties in a dead heat.

The United Arab List is in third place at 10.95 percent or 14 seats, followed by the centrist Yesh Atid with 8.78 percent or 11 seats and Moshe Kahlon’s Kulanu with 7.42 percent or 10 seats. Read more ..


The War at Home

U.S. Air Force Veteran Charged with Trying to Join Islamic State terrorists

March 17th 2015

An Air Force veteran has been charged with trying to join the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS). Federal authorities say Tairod Nathan Webster Pugh, who trained as an airplane mechanic, traveled to Turkey from Egypt to try to cross the border into Syria.

He was found to have searched online for information about the borders controlled by the militant group and for ISIS propaganda. “Born and raised in the United States, Pugh allegedly turned his back on his country and attempted to travel to Syria in order to join a terrorist organization,” said U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York Loretta Lynch, who President Obama has nominated to be U.S. attorney general. “We will continue to vigorously prosecute extremists, whether based here or abroad, to stop them before they are able to threaten the United States and its allies." Read more ..


Broken Government

Amid Allegations of Improper Spending, Republican Aaron Schock resigns

March 17th 2015

Embattled Rep. Aaron Schock (R-Ill.) will resign his seat in Congress amid a slew of allegations regarding improper spending of hundreds of thousands of taxpayer and campaign dollars.

"I do this with a heavy heart. Serving the people of the 18th District is the highest and greatest honor I have had in my life," the four-term congressman said in a statement Tuesday.

"But the constant questions over the last six weeks have proven a great distraction that has made it too difficult for me to serve the people of the 18th District with the high standards that they deserve and which I have set for myself. I have always sought to do what's best for my constituents and I thank them for the opportunity to serve."
He has faced a number of questions since a February story in The Washington Post that showed his lavish congressional office.

Ben Kamisar writes for The Hill, from where this article is adapted


The Way We Are

Teen Tobacco Use Decreases with Increased Minimum Age of Access

March 17th 2015

Increasing the minimum age of legal access to tobacco products will prevent or delay tobacco use by adolescents and young adults, particularly those ages 15 to 17, says a new report from the Institute of Medicine.

The committee that conducted the study included Rafael Meza, assistant professor of epidemiology at the University of Michigan School of Public Health, and Patrick O'Malley, research professor at the U-M Institute for Social Research.

The team estimated the likely reduction in tobacco-use initiation that would be achieved by raising the minimum age of legal access (MLA) to tobacco products to 19, 21 or 25 years old. They used two tobacco-use simulation models to quantify the accompanying public health outcomes. Read more ..


South of the Border

Latin America Reacts to Obama's Sanctions on Venezuela

March 17th 2015

On March 9th President Obama issued an executive order implementing The Venezuela Defense of Human Rights and Civil Society Act of 2014, which he signed last December 18th. This measure blocks the property and interests in property of seven top Venezuelan government officials and would also block the property and interests in property of any person determined by the Secretary of the Treasury, in consultation with the Secretary of State.

The presidential order has imposed sanctions on mostly the top echelon of the state security apparatus in charge of the repression during the 2014 anti- government demonstrations.

Although, this executive order is a good first step, it omits to punish the president, his cabinet and his closest civilian aides. Likewise, punitive measures are not being applied to lower ranking officers who have committed human right violations despite the fact that human rights organizations have provided names and details about these individuals and their transgressions. Read more ..


Obama's Second Term

House Democrats Angry over Obama’s Classified Trade Meeting

March 17th 2015

Obama calling

House Democrats are criticizing President Obama's administration for holding a classified briefing on trade with top administration officials, saying it's an attempt to push a trade program in secret.

Labor Secretary Thomas Perez and U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) Michael Froman will meet with House Democrats on Wednesday in a classified briefing to discuss the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). Members will be allowed to attend the briefing on the proposed trade pact with 12 Latin American and Asian countries with one staff member who possesses an “active Secret-level or high clearance” compliant with House security rules. Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) stated that the administration is being “needlessly secretive.” Read more ..


Economic Jihad

Los Angeles Conference Confronts BDS Financing and Tactics

March 14th 2015

Click to select Image

The anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment, and Sanction (BDS) movement is said to have ignited in earnest in 2005. It was propelled by significant funding from the Ford Foundation, which poured millions of dollars into anti-Israel NGOs working in Durban, and later by the New Israel Fund (NIF), which financially backed such pro-boycott groups as the Coalition for Women for Peace.

Learn More About
the Conference

Experts say the BDS modus operendi wields systematic distortion of international law, history, and general fact about the Israel-Palestinian conflict to rally public support. While BDS advocates claim to seek political and economic justice, their actions are increasingly trailed by anti-Jewish actions such as swastika graffiti at Jewish locations, challenges to Jewish student based on their religion, and a general air of anti-Semitic hostility on campus. Today, the BDS Movement stands merely as the leading edge of growing anti-Semitic agitation and anti-Israel mobilization, attracting pure hate elements to their message. Read more ..


Travel Safe

Lithium Battery Shipments on Passenger Planes Face Ban

March 13th 2015

Boeing 787

Boeing Co has declared that high-density packages of lithium batteries pose fire risks and should not be carried on passenger planes until safer methods for carrying them are developed. Boeing adds another voice to the growing clamour to stop bulk shipments of lithium-ion batteries on passenger aircraft. This week Reuters quoted a Boeing statement as saying that the risk is "continually increasing (and) requires action to be taken".

Boeing is part of an industry group including other plane makers such as Bombardier Inc and Airbus Group NV , that found current firefighting systems on airliners cannot "suppress or extinguish a fire involving significant quantities of lithium batteries" thereby posing an "unacceptable risk" for the industry. Read more ..


Campus Hate

From Durban to Los Angeles: the BDS movement’s long trail of anti-Semitism

March 13th 2015

uc davis swastika door

Last month, in a breathtaking display of anti-Semitism reminiscent of Nazi Germany, members of the student government at South Africa’s Durban University of Technology (DUT) called for the expulsion of all Jewish students from their campus. The very next day, halfway around the world, the student government at University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) engaged in a similar display of anti-Jewish bigotry, nearly denying a highly qualified young woman a position on the student judiciary board after four student representatives brazenly argued that her Jewishness and affiliation with Jewish organizations should make her ineligible for the position. Read more ..


Palestinians on Edge

Renewed Palestinian Rivalry Threatens Rebuilding in Gaza

March 13th 2015

Palestinian Authority police

Palestinian Authority security forces arrested up to 100 Hamas members during a series of raids in the West Bank over the past two weeks. The detentions mark only the latest setback in Fatah-Hamas relations following the adoption of an unity agreement last spring.

According to Middle East Monitor, many of the Palestinians arrested include "university professors, schools teachers, doctors, imams" with some previously spending time in Israeli jails. Additionally, the PA has failed to disclose a reason for the arrests or charged any Hamas members publicly.Hamas leaders call the detentions arbitrary and politically motivated, saying that the PA feels threatened by Hamas's rising popularity in the West Bank. Meanwhile, other Hamas officials said that Fatah is "part of the occupation system and is only working to preserve [Israel's] security." However, it remains unclear if the crackdown is related to recent PLO deliberations to end security cooperation with Israel over Jerusalem's withholding of tax revenues from the cash-strapped PA. Read more ..


Edge of Terrorism

Boko Haram Reverts to Old Tactics Amid Setbacks

March 13th 2015

Nigeria - Jos Unrest

At least 34 people were killed during an attack in the capital of Nigeria's Borno State on Tuesday when, according to witnesses, a female suicide bomber detonated her explosives in a crowded marketplace. While no group claimed responsibility for the incident in Maiduguri, the bombing bore the hallmarks of killings committed by Boko Haram in northwestern Nigeria.

Earlier in the day, 20 insurgents in cars and on horseback opened fire in the village of Ngamdu about 60 miles away, killing eight people. Military officials confirmed the deaths and noted that soldiers had been deployed to the area to deter attacks. A similar shooting last week also killed 45 people in the Borno town of Njaba; and five coordinated bombs targeted the same Maiduguri marketplace on Saturday, killing more than 100 civilians. Read more ..


Russia and Europe

Wargaming Russia's Options in Ukraine: Part One

March 12th 2015

As part of our analytical methodology, Stratfor periodically conducts internal military simulations. This series, examining the scenarios under which Russian and Western forces might come into direct conflict in Ukraine, reflects such an exercise. It thus differs from our regular analyses in several ways and is not intended as a forecast. This series reflects the results of meticulous examination of the military capabilities of both Russia and NATO and the constraints on those forces. It is intended as a means to measure the intersection of political intent and political will as constrained by actual military capability. This study is not a definitive exercise; instead it is a review of potential decision-making by military planners. We hope readers will gain from this series a better understanding of military options in the Ukraine crisis and how the realities surrounding use of force could evolve if efforts to implement a cease-fire fail and the crisis escalates. Read more ..


Financing the Flames

New Israel Fund Received More Than $1 Million From U.S. State Department

March 12th 2015

Edwin Black

The controversial New Israel Fund and its social change and political lobbying organization known as SHATIL, have received more than $1 million from the State Department under a program designed to create political change, reform, and activism in the Middle East. The government program, Middle East Partnership Initiative (MEPI), has extended more than $600 million in grants to political and social activists and reformers in 18 Middle East countries, mainly with unstable or challenged political environments in need of democratic improvement. “MEPI supports organizations and individuals in their efforts to promote political, economic, and social reform in the Middle East and North Africa,” according to the agency's official self-description.

The list of nations in which MEPI operates includes such countries as Algeria, Libya, Lebanon, and Yemen.

However, MEPI’s sphere of engagement includes Israel — ironically the only pluralistic, stable, and democratic nation in the Mideast. Among the leading recipients for MEPI grants in Israel is the New Israel Fund and its SHATIL organization. The NIF is an international, US-based 501(c)(3) charitable organization which has generated intense acrimony within the Jewish community and Israeli establishment for its highly politicized activities.

While MEPI’s involvement with the New Israel Fund has been previously reported in print and online, the million-dollar nature of the partnership has not emerged until now.

Vocal critics in both the US and Israel charge that the New Israel Fund has knowingly financed groups that support the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanction (BDS) movement, and worked to get Israeli soldiers prosecuted for so-called "war crimes." Benny Yanay of an Israeli military organization called Consensus, representing some 3,000 members of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), stated, "The New Israel Fund acts against Israel—against the soldiers of our country. It is supported by foreign governments and organizations so that Israeli soldiers will be weakened." Other Israel military men and women have alleged that the NIF is trying to "destabilize the IDF." Read more ..


CUFI Generates More than 57,000 Emails in 24 Hours Supporting Senators on Iran

March 11th 2015

On Tuesday, Christians United for Israel (CUFI), the nation’s largest pro-Israel organization, sent an action alert encouraging senators to support the Corker-Menendez Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act (S. 615). The emails to senators noted in part “Things are moving quickly. The Administration may reach a framework agreement with Iran by the end of this month. You must act now to ensure that any final deal is subject to your final approval.”

“It is unconscionable that the President would consider signing a deal of this import without Congressional approval. Congress is the voice of the people, and the massive response to this action alert makes clear that on Iran, the people want their voice heard,” said CUFI founder and Chairman Pastor John Hagee. “Every major arms control agreement in recent history has been submitted to Congress for approval. A deal with Iran should be no different. Both our national security and our Constitutional balance of powers are at stake here. We expect our senators to stand up for both.” added CUFI executive director David Brog. With more than 2 million members, Christians United for Israel is the largest pro-Israel organization in the United States and one of the leading Christian grassroots movements in the world. CUFI spans all fifty states and reaches millions with its message. Each year CUFI holds hundreds of pro-Israel events in cities around the country. And each July, thousands of pro-Israel Christians gather in Washington, D.C. to participate in the CUFI Washington Summit and make their voices heard in support of Israel and the Jewish people.


Media on Edge

Re-Inventing Journalism With New Government Regulation

March 11th 2015

Newspapers

The FCC proposal to regulate the Internet may be the latest attempt to control content. The agency's 2010 "Future of the Media" inquiry was outside what federal law said the agency may look at. Nor does the agency have the expertise to properly evaluate company business models, corporate debt levels, newsroom staffing policies, or print industry operations. The Federal Trade Commission's "Reinvention of Journalism" study was equally disturbing. The FTC suggested licensing news organizations.  Or the government financing certain press outlets.  This could end independent media holding government accountable.

The National Broadband Plan to move all news, information and entertainment to broadband platforms was crafty, indeed.  The other shoe has now dropped.  First, move all content to broadband.  Then, regulate broadband. Read more ..


Obama and Israel

Extreme Israel Basher Appointed by Obama to Key Mideast Post

March 11th 2015

Bibi Netanyahu with Glasses

The Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) has strongly criticized President Barack Obama for appointing veteran anti-Israel diplomat, Robert Malley, as White House coordinator for the Middle East, North Africa, and the Gulf Region. Malley is an Israel-basher, an advocate of U.S. recognition of major, unreconstructed terrorist groups Hamas and Hizballah, and a proponent of the containment of Iran (i.e., not preventing them from attaining nuclear weapons).

Robert Malley's record includes the following:

Served as a Special Assistant dealing with Middle Eastern and South Asian issues under President Bill Clinton during 1998-2001 and was one of President Obama's closest advisers for Middle East issues until his affinity for negotiating with Hamas became public in 2008. Read more ..


The Edge of Terrorism

After Federal Court Finds that PA and PLO are Terrorist Groups, Obama Must Follow Suit and Cut Aid

March 1st 2015

Hamas head

History was made in a federal courthouse in New York City on Monday. After a six-week trial the Palestinian Authority (PA) and the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) were found liable under the federal Anti-Terrorism Act for six terrorist attacks occurring from 2002 through 2004 against US citizens in Jerusalem.

The federal civil jury of 12 unanimously awarded the victims and members of their families a total of $218.5 million, which will automatically be tripled by the judge under the Act.

The road to justice was long and arduous for the victims and their family members. It has taken over 11 years for them to marshal their resources with the help of a non-profit legal rights organization called Shurat Hadin (Letter of the Law) located in Israel. Their efforts together with the trial expertise of lead counsel Kent Yalowitz of the law firm of Arnold & Porter helped show the jury that the PA/PLO not only created a culture of support for suicide bombers and terrorists but also used their own employees to organize and perpetrate many of the bombings. Read more ..


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