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Religious Tolerance

A Great Loss to Our Understanding of Anti-Semitism

June 13th 2011

Contributors / Staff - Andre Oboler

Last month, while visiting New York, Washington and San Francisco, I took a small detour to New Haven and Yale University. As an expert in anti-Semitism, the visit to Yale University, and specifically to the offices of YIISA, the Yale Initiative for the Interdisciplinary Study of Anti-Semitism, was an essential stop. I met with YIISA’s director, Prof Charles Small, and Prof Avi Silberschatz, the head of Yale’s Computer Science department.

We spoke of the challenges that result from online hate, and I outlined some new solutions my own team in Australia and Israel are currently designing. We discussed the need for new research to support this work, and how YIISA, with the support of the computer science department, was uniquely placed to carry out this work. Read more ..


Iran's Nukes

Grounding Iranian Crude to a Halt

June 13th 2011

Iran - Iran gas station brule
Tehran Gas Station Vandalized for Supplies

Through the Comprehensive Iran Sanction Accountability and Divestment Act (CISADA), passed in 2010, the United States Congress has taken strong measures to check Iran's ability to abuse the international banking sector and the refined energy space. Despite this act, however, Iran is using its vast crude oil reserves to skirt financial sanctions and gain access to huge sums of hard currency. Nevertheless, there are additional methods that members of Congress should consider deploying to curb Iran's access to much-needed funds.

Iran holds the third-largest known oil reserves in the world and the second-largest natural gas reserves. According to Oil and Gas Journal, as of January 2010, Iran had roughly 10 percent of the world's total oil reserves, with approximately 40 oil fields—27 onshore and 13 offshore—that hold mid-grade-quality crude similar to that found in Saudi Arabia, Iraq, and Kuwait. In 2008, Iran exported approximately $73 billion worth of oil, which represented half of its government revenue. Read more ..


Edge on Immigration Reform

In Immigration Reform, It’s The Consumer that Matters

June 13th 2011

Contributors / Staff - Armstrong_Williams

The recent Supreme Court Ruling in Chamber of Commerce v Whiting highlights a fundamental and before now underappreciated factor in the immigration debate: immigrants come here illegally because they know that U.S. companies will hire them. Furthermore, while most of the immigration laws have focused on the status and treatment of illegal immigrants themselves, very few of them have focused on the consumers of their labor: companies, and, by extension the consumers they serve.

Many people at the highest levels of Government and industry have taken a cynical and duplicitous approach to illegal immigration. In a way, it’s symbolic of the approach most average Americans have taken. We rely on immigrant labor to fill jobs that Americans won’t do (at the wages and under the working conditions immigrants are subjected to), while complaining about the side effects—overburdened social services, crime, and cultural dilution in the border states. After all, it’s not hard to spot the illegal immigrants in any given neighborhood. In fact it’s quite simple. They are the only people tending your lawn, babysitting your children, and running your restaurants on the cheap. Illegal immigration in many ways acts like outsourcing for non-exportable jobs in this country. Read more ..


Obama and Israel

Rahm Emanuel is All Wrong about the Obama Peace Plan

June 6th 2011

Obama Admin Topics - Barack Obama with Flag

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s attempted last week to reassure Israel that President Obama’s May 19 speech was misconstrued; Mr. Obama’s repeated calls for Israel’s return to the 1967 lines grew out of his concern for the Jewish state, claimed the former White House Chief of Staff.

In his June 2 Washington Post article, Mr. Emanuel echoed the president’s contention that “the hard realities of demography” threaten the survival of the Jewish state. Clearly, both anchored their arguments in the conjured estimates of the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics. A 2006 World Bank study found “32 percent ‘inflation’ in the number of Arab births,” alleged by the Palestinians.

A more recent comprehensive study on Jewish-Arab Demographic Trends in the Land of Israel, published earlier this year by Yakov Faitelson, found that “ in 2011 there is a 66 percent Jewish majority … in the combined area of pre-1967 Israel, Judea and Samaria.”

The study demonstrated that:

• “Despite 120 years of demographic calamity projections, the Jewish
population in the Land of Israel succeeded to grow from a 5 percent minority to a 60 percent majority.”

• “In 2010, the Jewish fertility rate is 63 percent higher than Lebanon’s, 53 percent higher than Iran’s, 33 percent higher than Turkey’s and Kuwait’s, 23 percent higher thanSaudi Arabia’s, slightly higher than Egypt’s and only 7 percent and 4 percent lower than Jordan’s and Syria’s respectively.”

• “Israeli Arab fertility rate has collapsed since the 1970s [due to a most successful integration into the infrastructures of education, employment, finance, politics, culture, sports, etc.] … It declined to 3.5 births per woman in 2009.” Read more ..


Obama and Israel

Obama’s Two Pro-Israel Speeches—that You Haven’t Heard About

June 5th 2011

Obama Admin Topics - Obama and Flag

Football, they say, is a game of inches. So too, is Middle East peace making — both figuratively, and in some cases quite literally. President Obama was reminded of that last week when his comments about terms of reference for future Israel-Palestinian peace negotiations provoked a significant public debate, and in some cases, a furious reaction.

Many Republicans—some acting out of purely political motives—and many Democrats, myself included—acting out of genuine concern—reacted quickly and negatively when President Obama adopted as American policy on Israeli-Palestinian peace talks what had previously been described by this Administration as a “Palestinian goal—that is, a Palestinian state “based on the 1967 lines, with mutually agreed swaps.” Read more ..


After the Balkans Genocide

Monster Mladic and his U.N. Minions

June 4th 2011

Genocides - Ratko Mladic killer

The UN appeasers of butchers Mladic and Slobodan Milosevic today demonize Jews, the West, and support Muslim dictatorships. As it turns out, this has been a stand-out month in the battle against evil. First, there was the killing of Osama bin Laden. Now, finally, the capture of the fugitive Serb war criminal, Ratko Mladic. In 1994, I was a fairly junior media relations officer with the United Nations Protection Force (UNPROFOR), deployed in midst of the war in the former Yugoslavia. It was a time when Mladic was at the height of his powers, able to control the flow of aid into besieged Sarajevo with the imperious ease of a man turning a faucet on and off. Read more ..


Inside Pakistan

World's Focus on bin Laden Death Detracts from Plight of Pakistan's Minority Christians

June 4th 2011

PakistanTopics - Anti blasphemy protest

The wave of terrorism and Osama Bin Laden`s killing has left the whole world doomed and gloomed; it has not only cast a bad spell over US-Pakistani relations, it has also managed to sideline what was once considered to be 2010’s defining issues and 2011’s tragic and bitter realities: The status of Pakistan’s blasphemy laws.

Caught up in the thrilling world of espionage, the media and the authorities seem to have forgotten that somewhere, a woman is still being held in custody under a controversial blasphemy law. Apparently we have forgotten about Salman Taseer and Shahbaz Bhatti’s assassination. Collective silence over these killings showed government incompetence to tackle these issues and it also exhibit their intolerance and inability to understand fully and recognized the importance of freedom of speech, moral values and deprivation of basic human rights which has lead the common people to compromise even with the moderate opinions.

Taseer's murderer was formally indicted on February 15 but nothing has been done to curb the sentiments that caused the assassination in the first place. The government is silent, failing to acknowledge that anyone suggesting amendments to the law has been threatened into submission. Self-professed ‘activists,’ prominent media persons and the exalted judiciary, too, seem to be focusing on ‘less controversial’ issues. Read more ..


Obama and Israel

Obama Walking a Fine Line on Borders Issue

May 31st 2011

Obama Admin Topics - Obama in deep thought

On May 19, President Barack Obama delivered powerful remarks on democracy and reform in the Middle East. He not only raised these normally hortatory ideals to top-tier U.S. interests, but he put the dictator of America’s most dangerous Arab antagonist—Syria’s Bashar Assad—on personal notice that he may soon find himself joining the leaders of Egypt and Tunisia in forced retirement. All this was welcome news.

The last part of the president’s remarks, however, took a different course. After critiquing Arab regimes that have used the Arab-Israeli conflict as a distraction from their own internal problems, he undermined the potency and effect of his own message by unveiling new—and controversial—principles guiding U.S. efforts to promote Israeli-Palestinian peace. Read more ..


The Battle for Syria

Obama’s Push-Pull Strategy: How Washington Should Plan for a Post-Assad Syria

May 31st 2011

Syrian Issues - Day of Rage in Syria Urged

Last week, U.S. President Barack Obama gave Syrian President Bashar al-Assad an ultimatum: Lead a transition to democracy, or, in Obama’s words, “get out of the way.” The speech recognized an inconvenient truth for Washington: Although the Assad regime has not yet reached a tipping point like that of the Ben Ali and Mubarak regimes, nearly three months of protests across Syria have shaken the Assad regime to its core. Government forces have killed 1,000 protesters and arrested another 10,000, yet demonstrators continue to fill the streets demanding the fall of the government. Assad is now caught in a dilemma: He can continue relying on his fellow Alawite security chiefs and the minority system they dominate to persecute the predominately Sunni protesters, or he can enact deep political reforms that could convince the protesters to return home but would end the Alawite-led system on which he so heavily relies. Either way, the Assad regime as it has existed for more than four decades is disintegrating. Read more ..


The Arab Spring

US Aid to Arab Spring Must Foster Democracy—Not Fascism

May 30th 2011

Contributors / Staff - Walid Phares new

President Obama’s grand plan to provide U.S. financial aid to emerging democracies in the Middle East, Egypt, and Tunisia now, and possibly later a post-Saleh Yemen and post-Assad Syria, may be commendable but could bring catastrophic results.

If the billions in foreign debt-to-be-forgiven or granted in cash to be invested will be used by democratic governments in the region to move their societies away from fundamentalism, radicalism, and inequality toward secular, liberal democracy, then the financial support is commensurate with American ideals, the will of the American people and their elected leaders.

If the aid will be used to fund programs instituted by the Islamists and their movements, old and new, then the Obama administration’s new Middle East initiative will cause greater injustice for the peoples of the region, and eventually produce greater conflicts for future American generations.

President Obama’s speech and comments by his advisers attempted to liken the alleged “historic” aid package for the countries arising out of the Middle East revolts, to the Marshall Plan which helped many European countries cope with post-World War II economic stresses.

The major difference then and now between Europe and the Middle East is that while European societies had already experienced and were returning to democracy after a few years of fascism, most of the Arab world has no experience with liberal democracy and those societies that have arisen against authoritarianism are still threatened by jihadi fascism. Read more ..


Obama and Israel

Can Peace Come If Israel Returns to Pre-1967 Borders

May 29th 2011

Contributors / Staff - Mitchell Bard
Mitch Bard

When President Barack Obama said, "We believe the borders of Israel and Palestine should be based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps," Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu responded sharply by declaring "[Israel] cannot go back to the 1967 lines - because these lines are indefensible." In stating this position, Netanyahu was reiterating the longstanding view of the government of Israel. In the wake of the Six Day War, and Israel's capture of the West Bank and Golan Heights, Foreign Minister Abba Eban told the United Nations: "The June [1967] map is for us equivalent to insecurity and danger. I do not exaggerate when I say that it has for us something of a memory of Auschwitz." Nearly thirty years later, soon after signing the Oslo Peace Accords, Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin made clear: "The border of the State of Israel ... will be beyond the lines which existed before the Six Day War. We will not return to the June 1967 lines."

What Eban and Rabin understood, and what countless military and legislative officials - both in Israel and the United States - have echoed, is that by withdrawing to the pre-1967 lines, Israel would lose all of its strategic, tactical, geographic and topographic advantages, opening up its homefront to easy attack. Strategically, by completely withdrawing, Israel would lose its extensive system of early-warning radars, its bases of operations that have worked to halt Palestinian terrorism and its control over the Jordan Rift Valley that allows the Israel Defense Forces to prevent the smuggling of illegal weapons and protects Israel from the type of invasion it faced in 1948 and 1967. Read more ..


Obama and Israel

Netanyahu's Masterful Response to Obama's Ambush over Relations with Palestinians

May 28th 2011

Israel Topics - Netanyahu addresses Congress

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has responded in a masterful manner to Obama's unanticipated Middle East policy statement - presented without prior consultation on the eve of the Israeli leader's arrival in Washington - hardly how one would expect the US leader to relate to its "close ally," an embattled nation.

Sensitive of the imperative to avoid antagonizing the American public by openly humiliating its president, Netanyahu exercised his diplomatic talent and communication skills by providing a restrained response, and outlining why Israel simply could not afford to adopt some of Obama's recommendations. Our leader's remarks to the press after meeting with the president, his address to AIPAC, and his brilliant presentation to the joint session of Congress represented a tour de force and made most Israelis feel extremely proud. Read more ..


Israel and Palestine

Did Israel React Disproportionately to Palestinian Nakba Protests

May 25th 2011

Palestine Topics - Nakba day protests 2011

On May 15, 2011, Palestinians across the Middle East commemorated the 63rd anniversary of "al-Nakba," marking the "the catastrophe" of Israel's creation in 1948. Violent protests sprang up across Jerusalem and the West Bank as well as along Israel's borders with Gaza, Syria and Lebanon. Many commentators were quick to suggest that the demonstrations were a Palestinian extension of the "Arab Spring." Fox News, for example, declared there was "little doubt" the protests "were inspired by the extraordinary Arab Spring," while UN special coordinator for Lebanon, Michael Williams, said he was "shocked" by Israel's use of "disproportionate, deadly force" in response to people tearing down parts of Israel's border fence and illegally storming into the country. Read more ..


After the Holocaust

Ukraine Faces an Identity Crisis as it Contemplates John Demjanjuk and the Nazi Past

May 25th 2011

History-Genocide - Fine Young Cannibal John Demjanjuk
World War 2 era identification card for John Demjanjuk

Ukraine has been an ethnic, social, religious, and political crossroads. Its rich heritage has yet to be fully and successfully integrated in a post Imperial and Soviet age. This is especially true when it comes to Jewish-Ukrainian relations that too often harbor fear, distrust, and misunderstanding frequently encouraged by Russia’s foreign policy objectives to marginalize Ukrainian culture, language, and sovereignty. Strained Jewish-Ukrainian relations again become apparent in the case of John Demjanjuk, a Ukrainian immigrant who settled in Ohio after World War II. He has been the focus of war crime allegations for more than thirty years. The case is indicative of a larger friction between Ukrainian Jews and gentiles. It may, however, provide an opportunity for healing, understanding, communication, and long overdue reconciliation. Read more ..


Israel and Palestine

Obama's Speech and Israel's Reality

May 20th 2011

Obama Admin Topics - Barack Obama Israel speech

Most of the media focus of the President's speech appears to be on his belief that Israel should shrink to the 1967 borders - with minimal land swaps - and should make that deal even before discussing the status of Jerusalem (the capital of the Jewish people and never the capital of any other people) and refugees. The Israelis will answer the President in their time and their way, we are sure.

The emphasis on Israel, however, may be a smokescreen for something more frightening - billions in aid to Egypt even before we understand who and what the government of Egypt is. And to understand what happens to American aid in the hands of governments that do not share American values and concerns, shift focus to Pakistan. Read more ..


The 2012 Vote

Obama Sent a Message to Trump

May 18th 2011

Politics - the donald

Donald Trump was probably never really going to run for president.

And President Obama’s epic smackdown of The Donald probably didn’t scare Trump away from the race as much as the idea of releasing his financial records did.

But through Trump, Obama sent two powerful messages: This is a game for grown-ups, and Obama’s patience for the silliness of some Republicans only goes so far.

White House officials draw little distinction between Trump and other fringe candidates such as former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.) or Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.), but it seems clear Trump touched a nerve with Obama.

Obama, like many of his predecessors, has a thin skin when it comes to amateurs questioning his administration. At the White House correspondents dinner, while Obama was whipping the crowd into laughter at Trump’s expense, there was a steely edge to the president’s voice. Read more ..


After bin Laden

The US Got bin Laden—but Missed Taking Jihadism to Nuremberg

May 18th 2011

Terrorism - Osama bin-Laden preaching

He was number one on world’s “Most Wanted” list, a serial mass murderer of Americans the United States wanted dead or alive, a fugitive from UN justice pursued by the nations of the world, and to millions of people around the world, evil incarnate. Osama Bin Laden’s (OBL) conscious disregard for the sanctity of human life manifested itself in the deaths of thousands of innocent civilians in the US, Europe, and Central and South Asia. The grandiose attacks he commissioned in New York, Washington, DC, Pennsylvania, Madrid, London, Moscow, Karachi, and Bali underscored the al Qaeda leader’s malevolence and accomplished a feat that has eluded the Community of Nations since the UN’s founding in 1945—from the local Tanzanian police station to the Norwegian Room (UNSC Chamber) in New York, it galvanized world consensus around a single goal: bring Bin Laden to justice! Read more ..


Edge on Argentina

Making Sense of Argentina's Frenzied Policies

May 18th 2011

Latin American Topics - Chavez and Fernandez
President Chavez of Venezuela and President Kirchner of Argentina

Since the arrival of the Kirchner phenomenon to Argentinean politics in 2003, there has been a sense that history has begun again. The late Nestor Kirchner served as president of the country from 2003 to 2007 when his wife Cristina was elected to the presidency.

The Kirchner era is not merely seen as another presidential term that has brought change. It is considered by many of its supporters as an era of major change that is almost revolutionary. Kirchner’s popularity is helped by the fact that Argentina has seen economic growth mostly thanks to the international price of Argentinean commodities; mainly soy.

However, it is Kirchner’s policies of populist redistribution and rejection of Argentina’s political past that makes the government revolutionary. Yet, such rejection is only partial since old practices have prevailed in the Kirchner era. Read more ..


Israel on Edge

Obama's Last Chance to Further the Peace Process in the Mideast

May 18th 2011

Obama Admin Topics - Obama in deep thought

President Barack Obama has reached a critical juncture in his presidency.

After simultaneously snuffing out Osama Bin Laden and nearly killing Libyan dictator Muammar Qaddafi, he has the extraordinary opportunity to capitalize on this string of feats when the Mideast peace parade swings through Washington later this week.

With a speech to AIPAC and meetings with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, it seems that Obama would seize the moment to drive home the point that terrorists can't win.

Unfortunately, this probably won't happen. Read more ..


The Battle for Syria

Bashar Soprano of Syria: Compared to the Assad clan, the Mafia is a Bunch of Boy Scouts

May 18th 2011

Syrian Issues - Syrian security forces
Syrian people protesting their government

 I confess. I never watched The Sopranos. I didn’t need to; I already had my fill of blood, murder, mayhem, fratricide and evil by observing the Assad family saga since the early 1970s, when Hafez Assad carried out his coup in Syria. I admit that as an intern reporter for the Near East Report, I predicted that, as was the way of Syrian leaders up to that point, Assad’s tenure would be brief and would probably end with acute lead poisoning. Of course, he went on to lead Syria for almost 30 years, and then passed on the gavel – and stiletto, bomb and pistol – to his son Bashar in 2000. Read more ..

Edge of Terrorism

Norman Finkelstein: An American Academic Who Supports Targeting of Innocent Israelis

May 9th 2011

Contributors / Staff - Alan Dershowitz lecture

The terrorists on the West Bank who murdered the Fogel family and the war criminals from Gaza who aimed sophisticated mortars at a school bus had the support of an American academic who is widely admired by Palestinians, Europeans and radical Americans. Norman Finkelstein didn't wield the knife that slit the throat of the Fogel baby or fire the mortar that seriously injured a 16 year old and barely missed killing 30 other students, but he might as well have. Just days after the Fogel murders, and days before the attempted school bus massacre, Finkelstein advised his Palestinian admirers that terrorist groups like Hezbollah, and presumably Hamas and Islamic Jihad "has the right to target Israeli civilians…"

This is a remarkable statement even for Finkelstein, who has compared Israel to Nazi Germany. Read more ..


Edge of Terrorism

Obama Takes a Page From Israel's Anti-Terrorism Manual and Strikes a Blow on Al Qaeda

May 8th 2011

Terrorism - Osama bin Laden in mufti

While Israel has routinely been criticized for the targeted killing of terrorists, the United States has actively engaged in a policy of assassinating al-Qaeda operatives since 9/11, culminating in the announcement on May 1, 2011, that Osama bin Laden was killed by U.S. special operations forces. Like Israel, the United States believes that killing the planners and perpetrators of terror attacks is vital to its national security. This strategy prevents attacks, sends a message to would-be terrorists that there is a price to pay for terror and makes the planning of attacks more difficult by keeping the terrorists on the run. Read more ..


Palestine and Israel

Jewish Dems Press Netanyahu to Forge Peace With Hamas-Fatah Terror Alliance

May 8th 2011

Palestine Topics - Abbas Haniyeh
Ismail Haniyeh and Mahmoud Abbas

The power of delusion is truly remarkable.

Just days after the Hamas leadership condemned the killing of Osama bin Laden and praised him as a "holy warrior," the National Jewish Democratic Council pressed Israel's government to forge peace with a new Fatah-Hamas alliance, saying they hoped "Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will not see this as a reason to be deterred from presenting bold steps towards a lasting peace."

Huh?

How much more evidence do they need that Hamas is not interested in a "lasting peace"? Read more ..


The 2012 Vote

2012 Election is all about Obama and his failed policies

May 8th 2011

Contributors / Staff - Armstrong_Williams

The media is gearing up to full throttle to tease and manipulate the public again with the early favorites leading up to the 2012 presidential elections.

At the inception of the 2008 election season, Illinois Senator Obama wasn’t a blip or afterthought in the minds of the American people as someone who had a snow ball’s chance in purgatory of capturing the coveted prize of the White house. How shocked we all were when the final dust settled that indeed a new breed and untested brand of leadership would take the most sought after prize in American politics. For that reason, this election season is proving very, very interesting to watch.

We are already being told, as in early 2007, who to keep an eye out for during this next presidential election cycle.

President Obama is starting his campaign well before anyone else, with Hillary stating that she doesn’t want to work under Obama anymore. Trump and his hair are making their presence known as a possible presidential candidate. He’s a vehement birther and a television star in desperate need of viewership, yet he still somehow, good or bad, resonates with the people.

Trump has garnered so much attention it makes me wonder: perhaps Charlie Sheen will run as the “tiger blooded” presidential nominee for the Warlock Party. Who knows? Seriously people, it is way too early for any of this to be making headlines, there is so much wrong with the country that we should be more concerned with fixing the issues we have now instead of consuming ourselves with whoever will become the next Scapegoat of State. Read more ..


The War on Terror

The Gulf Between Praising the Death of Innocents and Glee over the Demise of Terrorists

May 8th 2011

Politics - Obama supporters

Writing is a dangerous business. Perhaps not quite as dangerous as, say, being a U.S. Navy SEAL, but writers do face their own unique challenges. One of those challenges is the constant downward pressure on your own beliefs and opinions. When you are looking to get published, your most careful and nuanced thoughts tend to become a bit squished and compact; rules of logic devolve into rules of thumb, and cautious conclusions morph over time into potentially absurd attitudes.

Take, for example, some of the responses to the recent killing of Osama bin Laden. If one’s first instinct is to compare jubilant Americans celebrating the death of bin Laden to jubilant Muslims celebrating the death and destruction of September 11, then you are, I suspect, just a tiny bit crazy. “Diseased, sickly”, “full of cracks or flaws” and “of unsound mind or behaving as so” are all relevant etymological definitions of craziness, which in this instance manifests as an inability to see the most striking and essential differences between joy at the death of a moral monster, and joy for the death of innocents. Read more ..


The 2012 Vote

Road to Serfdom or Path to Erudition?

May 2nd 2011

Contributors / Staff - Armstrong_Williams

In the midst of a season that has provided riveting political theater—the budget extension impasse and the impending battle over raising the debt ceiling—a bright ideological line has emerged between the two major political parties. It is not about whether we must reduce our debt (both sides ostensibly agree that we must), but about where those cuts should come from.

But let’s be clear: Without a serious challenge by Congressional Republicans, the seriousness of America’s debt situation would not occupy its rightful place at the forefront of the political debate.

Let’s face it: The U.S. government is bankrupt. Its liabilities exceed its revenues by more than 200 percent by some estimates. If it were not for America’s status as a reserve currency—a status earned by the nation’s long history of political stability and economic growth—we would find ourselves in the same position as Greece and Portugal.

Those countries are not only unable to repay the principal amount they borrowed, but also have trouble meeting the minimum debt service payments without additional borrowing. In what appears to be an inexorable death spiral—borrowing costs rising, while revenues are falling—it appears those countries are going into default. Read more ..


Ecuador on Edge

Ecuador Faces Crucial Referendum and Widening Differences in Society

May 2nd 2011

Latin American Topics - Eduardo Correa
President Rafael Correa of Ecuador

Once again, Ecuador finds itself deeply divided leading up to the country’s sixth popular referendum scheduled for Saturday, May 7. The current campaign exemplifies the ideological fragmentation currently afflicting Ecuador, pitting the country’s President Rafael Correa against an array of groups with varying political profiles. Wide-ranging opposition exists against a pro-vote among the indigenous population, labor unions, environmental organizations, mass media, university students, Catholic clergy, the upper and upper-middle classes, and political parties like the Partido Social Cristiano, Izquierda Democrática, Sociedad Patrótica and Movimiento Popular Democrático. Read more ..


War on Drugs

What's Good for the Marijuana Industry is Good for America

May 2nd 2011

Mexican Topics - Mexico marijuana seizure

Few topics of debate are as stigmatizing and polarizing as the legalization of marijuana. For the majority of the U.S. population, the idea invokes one of two reactions: a firm guffaw at the ridiculousness of it, or a tenacious, almost blind, support of it. Regardless of their stance, most people derive their opinions from personal beliefs and unsubstantiated myth rather than unassailable fact. Disinformation on marijuana is rampant and several U.S. presidents have been stubbornly opposed to any serious discussion about marijuana legalization. National interest in the subject is evidenced by the myriad of legalization-related questions directed at the White House, yet President Obama cannot stifle his laughter every time the topic is brought up. Read more ..


Egypt after the Revolt

Understanding Post-Mubarak Egypt

May 2nd 2011

Egypt - Bye bye Mubarak

As Egypt lurches into a new era, a look at its complexities and subtleties helps to understand the country's likely course. Some thoughts on key issues:

The spirit of Tahrir Square is real and alive but exceedingly remote from the halls of power. Revolutionary ideas – that government should serve the people, not the reverse; that rulers should be chosen by the people; and that individuals have inherent dignity and rights – have finally penetrated a substantial portion of the country, and especially the young. In the long term, these ideas can work wonders. But for now, they are dissident ideas, firmly excluded from any operational role.

A military court sentenced liberal blogger Maikel Nabil to three years in jail. And military rule will continue. Soldiers did not seize power with Hosni Mubarak's departure two months ago; they did so in 1952. That's when the Free Officers overthrew the constitutional monarchy and took office. Read more ..


Edge on Travel

Sleeping Like the Air Traffic Controllers Do

May 2nd 2011

Transportation Topics - Night-time air traffick controllers

You may well have heard by now that five U.S. air-traffic controllers — a rather shocking number — have been found literally asleep at the switch on the overnight shifts of several U.S. airports just since late March. So many — including a supervisor — that federal transportation secretary Ray LaHood has ordered that a minimum of two controllers be on duty at those airports where a decent number of flights land after dark.

Catching a flick's not cool on MANY jobs.

LaHood has used words like “ridiculous” and “outrageous” to discuss the on-the-job naps and other embarrassing lapses by controllers. They included an incident at Cleveland’s air transportation center in which a controller who was watching a movie — let me say that again: he was watching a MOVIE on a DVD player — while planes were landing, couldn’t be reached by the incoming pilots. He compounded his apparent stupidity by leaving his microphone open for three minutes while the soundtrack from the movie blared into the pilots’ headphones. Read more ..


The Battle for Syria

America's Stake in Stabilizing Syria

April 27th 2011

Syrian Issues - Syrian Protests March 2011

The Obama administration says it may look for "targeted sanctions" on Junior Assad's Syria, and "condemns" the violence there, but - hey, look guys, it isn't Libya, for Pete's sake. Asked the difference, White House spokesman Jay Carney said, "We had a Gaddafi regime that was moving against its own people in a coordinated military fashion and was about to assault a very large city on the promise that it would show...that city and its residents no mercy...We had an international consensus to act. We had the Arab League." Read more ..

Edge of Debt

Deficit Spending is the Biggest Threat to America

April 25th 2011

Economy - One Million Dollars
Sen. Mark Kirk (R)

All across Western Europe—the land of platinum-plated social benefits, the 35-hour work week, tony retirement plans and government-funded health care—countries are coming to the realization that they can no longer afford these luxuries amid skyrocketing deficits. Yet here in the United States, as we face a $14.3 trillion deficit, some are calling for increasing our government’s ability to borrow even more money without any concern for spending reform. Congress can’t allow that to happen, lest we become the Europe of the West. Read more ..


The Battle for Libya

Something Fishy In Libyan Assets Discovery

April 25th 2011

Contributors / Staff - Armstrong_Williams

There’s something distinctly fishy about the Treasury Department’s lightning fast and allegedly “surprise” discovery of more than $30 billion in Libyan government assets stored in U.S. banks.

The Obama administration has lauded this as a major and unexpected victory in its effort to dislodge Col. Muammar Gadhafi’s regime. That may be so, but the implications of such a large deposit by Libya have deeper and far more disturbing implications. Could Libya have been in the process of purchasing a major stake in America’s critical infrastructure?

First, it is strange that Libya—a government that has traditionally been wary of storing its assets in a place where they could be confiscated by the U.S. government—would keep almost half of its estimated $70 billion sovereign wealth fund (Libyan Investment Authority, or LIA) in U.S. banks. After all, Libyan assets had been frozen before, most notably in 1986. In fact, most Arab nations, even those friendly to the U.S., had been reluctant to keep their assets within U.S. jurisdiction after the U.S. froze Iranian government assets in 1979. Admittedly, relations with Libya have warmed in recent years since it was removed from the U.S. list of official state sponsors of terrorism in 2005. Still, the old wounds run deep, and Col. Gadhafi is, if nothing else, a shrewd operator. Clearly, if he were taking such a big risk he must have had assurances from on high. Read more ..


Inside Washington

Forcing Contractors to Disclose Contributions is a Good First Step

April 25th 2011

Economy - Dollar Bills

Each year, government contractors spend mountains of money to influence politicians, and then—in a remarkable coincidence—are richly rewarded with billions of dollars in government contracts. It’s a pay-to-play scheme government officials try to keep hidden from the American public, but is common knowledge inside the Beltway.

A step in the right direction is the White House’s proposed executive order that would require government contractors to disclose political contributions totaling over $5,000 before receiving government contracts. Read more ..


Campus Hate

The Wrong Statement on Campus Anti-Semitism

April 22nd 2011

Jewish Topics - Anti-Israel Protest at UC Irvine

On April 20, Cary Nelson and Kenneth Stern issued a widely discussed but troubling statement in response to recent allegations that anti-Semitism has gotten out of hand at three universities:  the University of California, Berkeley, the University of California, Santa Cruz, and Rutgers. See it at  http://www.aaup.org/AAUP/about/pres/let/antisemitism.htm

On each of those campuses, activists have alleged a pattern of intimidation and harassment of Jewish students who support the State of Israel.  These two authors carry weight because Nelson is president of the American Association of University Professors and Stern is the top anti-Semitism expert at the American Jewish Committee.  Having spear-headed the federal government’s work on campus anti-Semitism for several years, I am pleased that these two figures are turning their attention to the topic, but I am disappointed that their statement is more critical of activists who are fighting this problem than of the perpetrators who have created it or the administrators who tolerate it.

Let’s start with the positive in Nelson and Stern’s letter. Nelson and Stern are right to highlight campus anti-Semitism, which has become a real and ugly problem involving harassment, intimidation, vandalism, threats, and occasional violence. Contemporary campus anti-Semitism is difficult to address because in many cases it is intermingled with criticism of Israeli politics, which is protected by both the First Amendment and the doctrine of academic freedom. Read more ..


Inside the Mideast

Judge Richard Goldstone's Recanted Report on The Gaza War

April 18th 2011

Israel Topics - Richard Goldstone
Richard Goldstone

In a remarkable April 1 article published in the Washington Post, Judge Richard Goldstone -- chairman of the UN fact-finding mission that investigated the military conflict in Gaza in 2008-2009 -- expressed regret for some of the most damning findings against Israel in his mission's report. His article declares that "If I had known then what I know now, the Goldstone report would have been a different document."

In significant contrast to his initial report, Goldstone now asserts that civilians were not intentionally targeted as a matter of policy during the Gaza campaign and that estimates of Palestinian civilian casualties may have been exaggerated. Importantly, he gives credit to Israeli efforts to investigate operational misconduct, while denouncing Hamas's tactics and its failure to investigate its own wrongdoing. Whether Justice Goldstone's about-face on these issues will help reverse or limit the trends enabled by his initial report is yet to be seen. Read more ..


The Battle for Syria

As Unrest Spreads in the Arab World, Syria Now Teeters on the Brink

April 18th 2011

Syrian Issues - Day of Rage in Syria Urged

After three weeks and more than 200 deaths, the uprisings against Syria's Asad regime appear to be gaining momentum. In recent days, the protests spread to the coastal city of Banias and, more important, to Aleppo. Smaller demonstrations have even occurred at Damascus University.

The Aleppo protests pose a significant challenge to the regime. The second-largest city in Syria, Aleppo has been a traditional flashpoint of Sunni-Alawite tension. Historically, the city has also been known as a repository of support for Syria's Muslim Brotherhood. In 1982, Aleppo, along with Hama, bore the brunt of the regime's brutal crackdown against Islamists. Read more ..


Iran’s Nukes

The Pipeline Paradox: Why is the U.S. Helping Iran Sell Natural Gas?

April 18th 2011

Contributors / Staff - Gal Luft

Despite the harsh sanctions imposed on it by the United States and United Nations, Iran continues to steadily accumulate geopolitical clout. Many commentators point to the fact that the cascading series of revolutions in the Middle East has given the region’s Shiite communities, which are allied with Iran, greater influence. But even more important is Tehran’s recent success in strengthening its role as an indispensable international energy supplier. By focusing on financial sanctions rather than the Islamic Republic’s plans to become a global energy superpower, Washington policymakers have enabled Iran’s rise.

Hundreds of millions of people are dependent on Iran for their energy. But while the West tends to associate Iran with oil, of which it is the world’s fourth-largest producer, Iran’s real power derives from its vast natural gas reserves, which are second only to Russia’s. Driven by technological breakthroughs in the United States and demand in China and elsewhere, natural gas is already ascendant as a source of energy for power generation that is substantially cleaner than the old standby coal; in a post-Fukushima world, it is likely to be second to none. Read more ..


The Battle for Syria

A White House Divided on Syria

April 11th 2011

Syrian Issues - Syrian Protests March 2011

More so than the conflicts in Tunisia, Libya, and Bahrain, and perhaps even more than the fall of Hosni Mubarak in Egypt, the recent violence in Syria has posed a challenge to the Obama administration’s strategy in the Middle East. The conflicting impulses within the administration can be seen in recent statements made by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton; days ago, she described Syrian President Bashar al-Assad as a “reformer”; in London on March 29, she issued a “strong condemnation of the Syrian government’s brutal repression of demonstrators.” Which view of Assad prevails, and how the United States responds to events in Syria, will go a long way toward determining how deeply U.S. policy in the Middle East is altered by the recent turmoil there. Read more ..


The 2012 Vote

Speaker Boehner in the Temple of Tea Party Doom

April 11th 2011

Politics - John Boehner smiling
Speaker of the House John Boehner

Speaker of the House John Boehner looked as tanned and dashing as Indiana Jones escaping the Temple of Doom last week. He came out alive. He captured some treasure in the form of budget cuts. His friends shake their heads in amazement. But the worried look on our hero’s face is a sly clue that he knows this is not the end of the movie. It is the start. And the worst is yet to come.

When the Speaker told ABC last week that there is no “daylight” between him and the Tea Party Caucus it was because they are wrapped around his neck like an albatross.

The Tea Party’s tremendous success in the mid-term elections elevated him to the speaker’s chair. But the Tea Party freshmen are all about talk radio rhetoric, campaign slogans and reveling in the widespread discontent with American politics. They have yet to display any capacity to govern.

By forcing the nation to wait on a last-minute deal, the Speaker was able to go back to his Tea Party freshmen and claim he got the best deal possible from the Democratic majority in the Senate and the President. But what he demonstrated to moderate and independent voters, as well as Republicans not entranced by the Tea Party, is that the least experienced, most extreme elements of the party are now defining the Republican brand with hysterical stunt governing. Read more ..



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