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Egypt After the Revolt

Egypt Needs Time to Foster Democracy

February 14th 2011

Egypt - Wary Egyptian Cops

The jubilation in Cairo has riveted the world. The sea of this non-violent protest movement is both inspiring self-empowerment and providing hope that a democratic revolution need not bypass the Middle East. It is a historic moment to savor.

Even as it looks as though the hardest part has been accomplished with Hosni Mubarak's departure, surely the toughest part is ahead. President Obama wasted no time in insisting that the Egyptian transition retain its momentum. Yet, a democratic transition should not be confused with an instant election. One cannot have democracy without an election, but this is only part of the story. Timing is key.

Apart from an election, democracy is about building the institutions that ensure there are safeguards for individuals. This means going beyond the obvious of lifting the existing emergency law and amending the Egyptian Constitution. It also requires an independent judiciary, a free press, minority rights, and a security apparatus that maintains the monopoly on the use of force. These institutions provide the opportunity for the creation of a civic culture where parties can negotiate their demands in a peaceful framework. Otherwise, the hope for democracy can be easily thwarted. Read more ..


Egypt after the Revolt

Egypt--A New Beginning or a New Phase of the Crisis

February 14th 2011

Egypt - Egypt Riots #1

Egyptian Vice President Omar Suleiman announced, “In these grave circumstances that the country is passing through, President Hosni Mubarak has decided to leave his position as president of the republic.” That was the beginning--or was it?

The departure of Mubarak has long been considered a prerequisite for transformation of the government. His departure, however, hardly means the crisis is at an end. The military has been prominent in guiding the government response, and now with Mubarak’s departure, the armed forces—one of the few government institutions widely respected in the country—will bear the responsibility for guiding the transition process. Read more ..


America on Edge

Bipartisan deal could address immigration

February 14th 2011

Contributors / Staff - Juan Williams
Juan Williams

Congress is going through a spell of pre-Lenten repentance.

The failure to pass the DREAM Act in the lame-duck session has opened the door to several confessionals about Congress’s sinful failure to deal with the nation’s crying need for immigration reform.

Last week Sen. Lindsey Graham, the conservative South Carolina Republican, told me he is talking with Sen. Charles Schumer, the New York Democrat, about the road to a new immigration plan. That follows news that Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who abandoned support for any immigration proposals during a turn to the hard right in his 2010 re-election campaign, now thinks there is a “shot” at getting an immigration bill passed this year.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has long said immigration reform is a priority, and last week a spokesman for Assistant Majority Leader Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said Democrats now plan to reintroduce the DREAM Act in this session. Read more ..


Obama's War

Welcome to Dienbienphu, Afghanistan

February 14th 2011

Military - Damn the Koregal Valley

In December 2009, President Barack Obama announced an increase in the U.S. military effort in Afghanistan, arguing that the additional troops would break the Taliban's momentum and deny al Qaeda a safe haven. The strategy was based on how small the effort had been compared to Iraq, and the fact that the Taliban had used the opportunity to recover from its original setback.

A year later, the president's strategy seems fraught with risk. Although the defense department claims progress has been made, its own reports reflect unease. In the words of a recent review, "the Taliban have sufficient organizational capability and support to pose a threat to the government's viability, particularly in the south." Read more ..


Oil Without A Plan

What if Saudi Arabia Erupts?

February 6th 2011

Energy Topics - Oil Barrels 400px

The demonstrations in Egypt and elsewhere in the Arab world could well be the harbinger of an excruciating oil crisis. Not because Egypt is a major oil exporter. It isn’t. Egypt produces less than 1 percent of the world’s oil. And not even because it controls the Suez Canal, through which 1.8 million barrels, about 5 percent of the overall global tanker trade, travels daily.

Egypt is relevant to the oil market because it may be a bellwether for the disgruntled masses in Saudi Arabia. And instability in that oil kingdom is how mega-oil shocks are made. For decades, experts have warned about the fragility of the House of Saud. To curtail their opposition, Saudi monarchs have placated their subjects with cradle-to-grave, petrodollar-funded entitlement programs, while taming the Wahhabi establishment through charitable contributions to religious institutions worldwide. Inspired by the events elsewhere in the Sunni Muslim world, this social contract could face a challenge at the worst possible time — when the House of Saud’s top echelon is ill and geriatric. Read more ..


Egypt in Revolt

The Brotherhood, Sooner or Later

February 6th 2011

Presidential - bush and mubarak

It was a great rhetorical moment. President George W. Bush, speaking in Whitehall, succinctly and eloquently framed the problem of twenty-first century Western policy in the Middle East:

[Britain and the U.S.] in the past have been willing to make a bargain to tolerate oppression for the sake of stability. Longstanding ties often led us to overlook the faults of local elites. Yet this bargain did not bring stability or make us safe. It merely bought time while problems festered and ideologies of violence took hold. As recent history has shown, we cannot turn a blind eye to oppression just because the oppression is not in our own back yard. No longer should we think tyranny is benign because it is temporarily convenient. Tyranny is never benign to its victims and our great democracies should oppose tyranny wherever it is found.

But rhetorical moments are only that and while the United States has made slow and difficult progress in helping Iraq find consensual government, elsewhere in the region we remained willing to turn that blind eye for perceived benefit. Like Egypt. Read more ..


Egypt in Revolt

In Search of a Leader: Egyptians Face Uncertainty

February 6th 2011

Arab Topics - Egypt Riots #2

A political festival of one million people was held in Cairo on Tuesday. Despite the continued shutdown of the Internet, transportation problems and a curfew, Egyptians came in the hundreds of thousands to Tahrir Square to tell President Hosni Mubarak, once again, to go.

His effigy was hanging in the square, but this has to be the most courteous demonstration the world has ever seen. Volunteers checked IDs and organized separate ladies’ entrances into the square, where tanks stood guard. Read more ..


Obama Edge

No Room for Latin America in Obama's State of the Union Speech

January 30th 2011

Obama Admin Topics - Obama and Flag

New York Times Columnist James Reston once famously said, “The U.S. will do anything for Latin America, except read about it.” Or, evidently, speak about it. In President Obama’s State of the Union address on Tuesday, January 25, he spoke little of the international community, and even less about our southern neighbors. Despite the almost complete lack of direct attention, many of the topics that the president addressed are likely to gravely affect Latin America. Washington’s policies on higher education, immigration, and free trade will almost certainly reverberate beyond U.S. borders. Read more ..


Palestine on Edge

Measuring Words in Palestine

January 30th 2011

Terrorism - Hamas Kid

It has become axiomatic in a certain part of the American political class that words matter. Even with the necessary disclaimer that the shooting in Arizona was the work of a mentally deranged man whose political reading was confined mainly to Hitler and Stalin, and was not influenced by current political cross-currents, people across the political spectrum have pronounced the requirement that we measure our words against the harm they could do under some unforeseen circumstance. Fair enough.

But not only American rhetoric should be measured, and words should be measured for truth as well as for heat. As the Administration begins work on what appears to be the next phase of the Palestinian-Israeli “peace process” (words that clearly should be re-evaluated), let’s evaluate some fairly common Palestinian political rhetoric for the damage words can do under circumstances we can well see.

Start with the words “Palestine from the River to the Sea.” Every official map produced by the Palestinian Authority—whether used for school children or public buildings—shows Palestine replacing Israel. Children are taught that Haifa and Jaffa are “occupied cities” of Palestine. What harm are they doing to their children and what harm are they inviting their children to do to Israel? Read more ..


America on Edge

Restoring a Culture of Life for All Americans

January 30th 2011

Contributors / Staff - Star Parker, CURE

A black child has a 50 percent chance of being aborted and, if born, a 70 percent chance of living in a single parent home.

A campaign launched in Los Angeles last week sought to raise awareness of what is becoming known as "black genocide" -- the devastation occurring in black America as result of abortion.

It's modeled after a highly successful similar campaign conducted in Atlanta earlier this year by Georgia Right to Life and the Radiance Foundation.

According to just released data from the Guttmacher Institute, 1.21 million abortions were performed in the United States in 2008. Some 30 percent of these abortions were performed on black women. With blacks accounting for about 12 percent of the U.S. population, the tragic disproportionate rate of abortion in this community is clear.

Seventy billboards will be posted around Los Angeles, with focus on neighborhoods with high percentage black population. The billboards show the face of a beautiful black child with a headline that says: "Black Children are an Endangered Species." Read more ..


Peace Process on Edge

Must Israel Accept Palestinians’ “Right of Return” to Achieve Peace?

January 30th 2011

Contributors / Staff - Mitchell Bard

The Israeli refusal to allow Palestinian refugees to flood Israel is both a lawful and understandable position that should not impede a peace agreement with the Palestinians.

Publicly, Palestinians insist the refugees have a “right of return.” In December 2010, for example, Palestinian Chief Negotiator Saeb Erekat declared that peace with Israel would be “completely untenable” if Israel continued to “disregard the aspirations [of the Palestinian refugees] to return to their homeland.”

Privately, however, Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas acknowledged in a meeting with the Palestinian Negotiations Support Unit on March 29, 2008, “On numbers of refugees, it is illogical to ask Israel to take 5 million, or even 1 million, that would mean the end of Israel.”

In negotiations with Abbas, former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, like other Israeli leaders before him, offered to accept a limited number of refugees on a humanitarian basis. No agreement was reached, but the record shows that the disagreements were over the number of refugees and the amount of monetary compensation rather than an Israeli acceptance of the demand that all refugees have an option to 'return' to Israel. Read more ..


Lebanon on Edge

How Hezbollah Will Carry the Day in Lebanon

January 24th 2011

Terrorism - Hezbollah Lebanon

The seemingly never-ending story of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon, which was established by the U.N. Security Council to prosecute the killers of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, reached a landmark this week when the court's prosecutor submitted his indictment to pretrial judge Daniel Fransen. Diplomats from Washington to Tehran expect the indictment, which will remain sealed for a few more months, to implicate members of the radical Shiite militia Hezbollah in the crime. Hezbollah has denounced the tribunal as an American-Zionist plot, collapsed the Lebanese unity government, and even, in recent days, staged mock "coup drills" in the streets of Beirut. Read more ..


Economic Recovery on Edge

A Half Century Later, Another Warning in Eisenhower Address Rings True

January 24th 2011

Presidential - Dwight D Eisenhower

Fifty years ago this month, Dwight D. Eisenhower gave his farewell address as President that famously warned the nation about the “unwarranted influence … by the military industrial complex.” But history has mostly overlooked a second caution in that Jan. 17, 1961 speech that has even greater relevance today.

According to the late Milton S. Eisenhower, the President’s youngest brother and his closest political confidant, Ike was equally concerned about insolvency, the ease with which pressure for government spending can add to the accumulated national debt.

In his televised farewell address, Dwight Eisenhower made this concern clear, “As we peer into society’s future, we—you and I and our government—must avoid the impulse to live only for today, plundering for our own ease and convenience, the precious resources of tomorrow.

“We cannot mortgage the material assets of our grandchildren,” the President said, “without risking the loss also of their political and spiritual heritage. We want democracy to survive for all generations to come, not to become the insolvent phantom of tomorrow.” Read more ..


Obama's War

Why Indeed Does the United States Remain in Afghanistan?

January 24th 2011

Afghan Topics - Afghanistan casualty

When I try to figure out why we are still in Afghanistan, though every ounce of logic says we ought to get out, an unexpected conversation I had last year haunts me. Doing neighborhood political canvassing, I knocked on the door of a cheerful man who was just about to tune in to his favorite radio show: Rush Limbaugh.  He was kind enough to let me stay and we talked.

Conservatives are often the nicest people -- that’s what I told him -- the ones you’d like to have as neighbors. Then I said: I bet you’re always willing to help your neighbors when they need it.  Absolutely, he replied. Read more ..


The Way We Are

A Reason to Blame?

January 24th 2011

Contributors / Staff - Armstrong_Williams

There are times when even the capture of the culprit fails to quench people’s thirst for justice. This usually happens in the wake of horrific, mind-bending crimes, like the shooting in Arizona that left six people dead and scores of others wounded. The gunman’s intended target, a congresswoman, has barely escaped with her life.

But in the heated aftermath—sparked by comments by the Tucson sheriff who is a close friend of two of the victims—there seems to be a wider indictment being brought by some in the media. He suggested that a general political climate of intolerance caused these events. These comments seem to be inspired more by grief over losing a couple of close friends than any actual evidence that publicly disclose about the motivation for these crimes.

Following suit, pundits and commentators began to blame everyone—from Sarah Palin to Rush Limbaugh to Arizona’s gun law and even the gunman’s poor parents—for what happened. Almost everyone is being blamed except, of course, the suspected gunman himself. Of the scant evidence that has emerged about the troubled shooter thus far, he seems to be a mentally unbalanced loner with a sick celebrity obsession and a penchant for violence. This act does not bear any markings of an act by a rational person with any coherent political viewpoint or party affiliation. Read more ..


Lebanon on the Edge

Hezbollah’s Coup in Lebanon Targets the Cedars Revolution

January 24th 2011

Lebanon Topics - Hariri and Nasrallah
Saad Hariri, Rafiq Hariri; Hassan Nasrallah

On January 12, Hezbollah overthrew the Lebanese government. The constitutional coup, which effectively strips Prime Minister Saad Hariri of his powers, was timed with precision. As soon as news broke that he would meet President Obama in Washington, the group brought down Lebanon’s cabinet. Hariri’s father, Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri, was blown up along with his escort and a number of other Lebanese politicians almost exactly six years earlier, on February 14, 2005.

Hezbollah’s latest political maneuver, along with its strategic re-arming over the past six years, has dangerous ramifications for Lebanon, and U.S. and Western interests in the Levant. But perhaps more imminent are the threats Hezbollah now directs against the United Nations Special Tribunal for Lebanon, formed to investigate and charge the perpetrators of the country’s own Valentine’s Day massacre.

Hours after the government collapsed, Hezbollah ally and former minister of parliament Wi’am Wahhab told Orange TV—an outlet owned by another Hezbollah ally, General Michel Aoun—that “we buried the Special Tribunal in 2011. It is a gang of Zionists which we’ve stopped.” Wahhab also warned any Lebanese official against cooperating with the U.N. agencies, “or else.” Read more ..


Mideast Peace on Edge

Secretary Clinton Once Again Gives Palestinian Authority an Excuse to Refuse Peace Negotiations

January 18th 2011

Contributors / Staff - Mitchell Bard

On January 9, 2011, Israeli crews began demolition work on the Shepherd Hotel building in the Sheikh Jarrah community of Jerusalem to make way for the planned construction of a Jewish housing project. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas insists the hotel is a historic national landmark and Palestinian Chief Negotiator Saeb Erekat claims that Israel is illegally demolishing the hotel as part of their attempt to "ethnically cleanse Jerusalem from its Palestinian inhabitants, culture and history."

In truth, the hotel, situated in the middle of a predominantly Arab neighborhood that overlooks Hebrew University and the Mount of Olives, was built in the 1930s. The building, which served as an Israeli district court for almost twenty years, was privately purchased in 1985 by an American businessman yet has remained vacant for more than a decade. The plans to build a 20 unit apartment complex on the site were approved less than six months ago and the government has ensured that the project will not displace any Arab residents or affect any other buildings in the neighborhood.

Secretary of State Hillary Hillary Clinton criticized Israel's actions, suggesting that the demolition of an unused building "contradicts logic" and somehow "undermines peace efforts to achieve a two-state solution." In doing so, Clinton once again - as with the earlier insistence on a settlement freeze - gave President Abbas an excuse for refusing to return to peace negotiations advocated by President Obama. Read more ..


America's Economic Recovery

Foretelling America’s Future: Slippery Slopes and Self-Fulfilling Prophecies

January 10th 2011

Contributors / Staff - Armstrong_Williams

The science of foretelling was apparently revered by the ancients. Examples abound of oracles divining the fates of wise men and kings. Mighty warriors Odysseus and Agamemnon would not dare sally forth less the portents augured in their favor. The balance of chances measured in scattered bones, animal entrails, or the position of the firmament still live on in today’s folklore. But in most of the Western world, fortune telling has lost its potency—that is unless the fortune teller happens to be a scientist, pollster, or economist.

The invention of science and statistics has replaced old-school fortune telling in very insidious ways. Now, while careful to disclaim—past performance is no guarantee of future results—hucksters of all sorts try to sell us stuff by pointing to long term trends. In fact, America’s current state of economic recession was caused by a confidence born of scientific analysis. Supposedly, we all believed, housing prices would never fall. After all, they had risen steadily for over eighty years. Very few people alive and relevant today remembered the last time when the U.S. housing market went bust. Those people who lost their homes in 1933 are no longer around to deliver any cautionary tales. Read more ..


Israel and Palestine

Continued Construction of Israeli settlements Does Not Hamper a Future Palestinian State

January 10th 2011

Contributors / Staff - Mitchell Bard
Mitchell Bard

When the 10-month Israeli moratorium on settlement building in the West Bank expired in September 2010, the approval of construction requests resumed. Despite the moratorium, the Palestinian Authority still had refused to enter negotiations for the first nine months. At the last hour, and under intense international pressure, the Palestinians agreed to participate in one round of talks yet threatened to leave if the moratorium was not extended. In separate negotiations with the United States, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was prepared to extend the freeze for another three months but the Americans dropped the idea.

Meanwhile, the Palestinians continued to insist they would not talk if any building took place in East Jerusalem. Israel never agreed to place any restrictions on building in its capital and the Palestinians used this as a pretext to avoid peace negotiations, this despite the fact that they had engaged in talks for nearly 17 years without the precondition of a settlement freeze.

Announcements of new construction in the West Bank immediately set off hysterical cries from the Palestinians and their supporters, as well as ill-informed journalists, that the continued building would make peace impossible. A December editorial in the Baltimore Sun, for example, mentioned that Israel's settlements are expanding "at a rate that will soon render the whole issue [of peace] moot because eventually there won't be enough land to create a viable Palestinian state." Read more ..


Islamic Against Christians

The New Year Starts Like the Old Year for Christians Persecuted by Islam

January 10th 2011

Islamic Topics - Pakistan antiblasphemy rally

The New Year began for Christians in the Middle East in the same manner as the last one had ended: twenty-one Egyptian Christians were murdered in a bomb attack in Alexandria, just weeks after more than fifty Iraqi Catholics had been slaughtered inside their church by Islamic terrorists. Perhaps all this is best described as the work of some crazed, gruesome optician, because while Christians in Islamic states have suffered for decades now much of the world, including and sometimes particularly the Christian world, seemed blind to what was going on. It has taken the horrors of Egypt and Iraq to clear the vision of at least some who prefer political myopia. Read more ..


Obama on Edge

A Review of President Obama's First Two Years in the Mideast

January 3rd 2011

Israel Topics - Obama Netanyahu Abbas1

President Obama assumed office in 2009 with an ambitious Middle East policy agenda. Atop the list of his campaign pledges, then Senator Obama vowed to pursue Israeli-Palestinian peace and re-engage in diplomacy with Tehran and Damascus. Given these grand plans, perhaps not surprisingly the first two years of the Obama Administration Middle East policy have been distinguished more by frustration than accomplishment. This is particularly true in the Levant -- in Syria, Lebanon, Palestine, and Israel -- the focus of much of the Administration's regional efforts.

Israeli-Palestinian peacemaking has been the most obvious of the Administration's regional setbacks. Regardless of how one regards Israeli settlements in the West Bank, it's hard to avoid the conclusion that President Obama's approach has been counterproductive. Indeed, the Administration's mishandling of the portfolio resulted in the first cessation of direct Israeli-Palestinian negotiations in more than fifteen years, a loss of over a year and a half. Other Administration initiatives in the Levant have likewise fallen short of expectations. Read more ..


America and Latin America

The Hemispheric Legacy of Senator Christopher Dodd

January 3rd 2011

Obama Admin Topics - Barack and Dodd

Within days, Senator Christopher Dodd (D-CT) will be leaving the Senate for the last time after decades of distinguished service on the Hill. His departure will leave a vacancy of immense proportions that will be difficult to fill. This was because he was the most bona fide Latin American expert to have frequented Congress this century. Senators Edward Kennedy and Claiborne Pell were also worthy contestants for this title, while Senators Patrick Leahy and Richard Lugar also remain genuinely credible as Latin Americanists. A few weeks ago, Senator Dodd delivered a compelling lecture regarding the future of the region to a college audience in his home state of Connecticut.

In his talk, which also was featured in The Huffington Post, Dodd focused on the brilliant Latin American future, listing its positive growth rate, its democratic advancement in recent months, and its solid economic development. Especially exhilarating were his optimistic comments on the region’s remarkable resiliency in the face of foreboding challenges brought on by the global economic downturn, the specters of political instability, and the multitude of natural disasters, like Haiti’s earthquake last January, its current cholera epidemic, and the hydra-headed presence of drugs and crime. Read more ..


Border War

Little to Cheer About as Mexico Faces a New Year of Narco-Violence

January 3rd 2011

Mexican Topics - Juarez crime scene

If anything could be said about 2010 in Ciudad Juarez and the state of Chihuahua, it might be stated that any semblance of human rights flew out the window. Ushered in with the January murder of Juarez Valley human rights defender and army critic Josefina Reyes, the year drew to a close with the December slaying of activist Marisela Escobedo in the state capital of Chihuahua City, a crime which was captured on camera and transmitted across the world via the Internet. Read more ..


The Nuclear Edge

On Arms Control, Learn from Reagan

December 27th 2010

Politics - Atomic Weapon Test Shot

START skeptics are driven by something else: the idea that arms-control treaties should serve our security interests now and in the longer term. New START does neither.

That is why the Senate should consider the full record of the negotiations before voting to approve a treaty that will: 1. encumber our freedom to deploy ballistic-missile defenses; 2. squander the negotiating leverage needed to bring Russian shorter-range missiles under control; and 3. reduce verification standards in this and probably future such agreements. Read more ..


Edge on Terrorism

Saudi Arabia's Questionable Support of America's War on Terror

December 27th 2010

Contributors / Staff - Mitchell Bard
Mitchell Bard

While the United States has publicly lauded Saudi Arabia as a major ally in the ongoing war on terror, classified diplomatic cables uncovered by the whistleblower site WikiLeaks in late November show that the State Department holds a much more pessimistic view toward the Saudi commitment to counter-terrorism.  More than nine years after the attacks of September 11th, the released cables reveal that U.S. officials feel Saudi Arabia continues to permit, and at worst even encourage, the financing of terrorists. 

In recent years, wealthy Saudi nationals were identified as funneling millions of dollars through various government-sanctioned charitable organizations that help fund Islamic terror organizations, including Bin-Laden's Al-Qaeda and Palestinian Hamas.  According to one of the released cables, "Donors in Saudi Arabia constitute the most significant source of funding to Sunni terrorist groups worldwide."

Though the Saudi government was not directly indicted by WikiLeaks for financing terrorism, both their support for extremism and their reluctance to embrace the American-led war on terror is well documented.  In 2002, at the height of the Palestinian Intifada, the Saudis' sponsored a telethon for "Palestinian martyrs" through which hundreds of thousands of dollars were distributed to the families of suicide bombers. An estimate released in 2003 showed up to 60 percent of Hamas' total budget was supplied by Saudi Arabia, either from official government sources or through organizations whose ongoing activities were protected by the government. Read more ..


The Energy Edge

Hello, New Congress: For Our Energy Future, Cut Pork, Simplify Bills and Embrace Alternative Options

December 27th 2010

Contributors / Staff - Gal Luft

What should the new Congress do to address America’s energy security challenge?

First, insure America against the next oil shock. America is still mired in a recession yet oil, the commodity that lubricates its economy, is already at $90 a barrel. Iran, which currently presides over OPEC, announced that oil is set to hit $100 in the short term, a price the Islamic republic sees as “quite normal.” At current prices America pays more than a billion dollars a day for foreign oil. But this cost is bound to increase whether or not we overcome the recession. If strong growth resumes, demand for oil will grow and so will its price. A lingering recession, on the other hand, could too bring about high oil prices. Oil makes the lion share of all traded commodities. Possible economic dislocations like dollar collapse or the onset of inflation will trigger a rush to commodities and this in turn will cause an upward pressure on crude prices. If oil goes back to its summer 2008 level of nearly $150, some $700 billion will migrate overseas, an amount equivalent to our defense budget or about half of all discretionary spending. In the current economy, such an oil spike would be as devastating as a second heart attack for a fragile patient who is just recovering from a first one. It could send the country into a depression. Congress should do all it can to prevent such oil-induced economic heart attack. Read more ..


Religious Freedom

What Does Religious Freedom Have to Do With It?

December 21st 2010

Contributors / Staff - Jennifer Marshall
Jennifer Marshall

Religious liberty and a thriving religious culture are defining attributes of the United States, characterizing the American order as much as its political system and market economy. From the earliest settlements of the 17th century to the great social reform causes led by religious congregations in the late 19th century and again in the 20th century, religion has been a dominant theme of American life.

Today, almost 90 percent of Americans say that religion is at least “somewhat important” in their lives. About 60 percent are members of a local religious congregation. Faith-based organizations are extremely active in providing for social needs at home and in sending aid abroad.

Why does religious liberty matter—to America and to the world?

Freedom of religion is a cornerstone of the American experiment. That is because religious faith is not merely a matter of “toleration” but is understood to be the exercise of “inherent natural rights.” As George Washington once observed: “[T]he Government of the United States, which gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance, requires only that they who live under its protection should demean themselves as good citizens in giving it on all occasions their effectual support.” And “what is here a right towards men, is a duty towards the Creator,” James Madison wrote in his 1786 Memorial and Remonstrance. “This duty is precedent, both in order of time and in degree of obligation, to the claims of Civil Society.” Read more ..


Political History on the Edge

Nixon, Anti-Semitism, and the Kissinger Formula

December 21st 2010

Contributors / Staff - Isi Leibler headshot

Few would be shocked with details of further anti-Semitic outbursts by former president Richard Nixon revealed in the latest transcripts of tapes released from the Nixon library. He was a vulgar man whose foul mouthing extended beyond Jews to Afro-Americans, Irish-Americans, Italian-Americans and other ethnic groups.

It is nevertheless ironic that Nixon's name tends to enrage most Jews who view him as an evil psychotic, whilst they continue to adore President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who during the Holocaust, denied entry to the U.S. to Jews who could have been saved and was personally responsible for vetoing all efforts to intervene on behalf of European Jews being butchered by the Nazis. In fact, one could say that he acted in accordance with the Kissinger formula that "putting Jews into gas chambers was not an American concern."

I believe that politicians must be judged by their deeds not by their words and their prejudices Nixon's anti-Semitism primarily amounted to appalling negative stereotyping. But he did employ a Jewish Secretary of State and, according to his Jewish speechwriter William Safire, his heroes included Benjamin Disraeli, Louis Brandeis, Felix Frankfurter and Herman Wouk. Read more ..


The Political Edge

When Not to Turn the Other Cheek

December 21st 2010

Contributors / Staff - Armstrong_Williams

One of the most effective ways to overturn a culture is not to take it on directly, but to undermine it gradually. If you carry out a full-frontal assault on majority opinion, people become alarmed and fight back. But when you do it slowly, step-by-step, you can make your destruction look harmless even reasonable.

That’s exactly what’s happening in this country.

For the past half century, there has been a slow but unrelenting attack on the Christian foundations of the United States. The evidence is beyond dispute. First, secularists took prayer out of the public schools, because it “promoted religion and alienated non-believing children.” Even a simple moment of silence was too threatening.

Then they wanted the study of the Bible taken out of schools, because that “promoted Christianity.” Never mind that the Scriptures form the basis of Western civilization and thought, and have inspired believers and non-believers alike over the centuries. Try reading Shakespeare or Dante or Robert Frost or just about any of the classics of Western literature without some familiarity with the Bible, and you’ll be lost. Read more ..


Mideast Peace

An Ongoing Denial of Reality in Mideast Geopolitics

December 13th 2010

Contributors / Staff - Isi Leibler headshot
Isi Leibler

Were we living in a sane world, the events of the past few weeks, culminating with WikiLeaks, should have confirmed the veracity of our approach to the peace process. But, alas, much of the liberal global media has once again displayed its penchant for evading realities which are out of sync with their agenda.

The leaked documents provide further irrefutable evidence that Arab leaders speak with forked tongues when they publicly attack Israel’s attitude while privately urging the Americans to engage in military action to prevent the Iranians—whom they loathe—from becoming a nuclear power. In what can only be described as surrealistic, Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah—from whence the principal global funding for al-Qaida and other terrorist groups emanates—called on the US “to cut off the head of the snake,” Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Muhammad bin Zayed warned the Americans that “[Mahmoud] Ahmadinejad is Hitler” and virtually every Arab leader conveyed similar frenzied messages to the US.

In this context, the hypocrisy and cynical manipulation of the Israelis by President Barack Obama was simply unconscionable. We are now aware that he was knowingly lying when he said Israel must make further unilateral concessions to the Palestinians as a precondition to persuading the Arab states to support sanctions or endorse military action against Iran. Read more ..


The Deaf Edge

Gallaudet University's Identity Struggle Continues

December 6th 2010

Deaf issues - ASL spoken here

After two protests which rocked Gallaudet University, positive changes are being made but Gallaudet University still does not fully embrace Deaf culture and respect American Sign Language. 

The selection of Catherine Murphy as the Director of Public Relations at Gallaudet University recently is another symptom of the ongoing identity struggle at Gallaudet University. During 1988, the Deaf President Now protests at Gallaudet University was about selecting a Deaf person for the first time in its history to become president of Gallaudet University.  Read more ..


The Wiki Leak

WikiLeaks and Mideast Realities

December 6th 2010

Contributors / Staff - Abraham Foxman Color cropped

The leaking of millions of American diplomatic cables by WikiLeaks is a disturbing phenomenon primarily because it will make future diplomacy more difficult and, in particular, will undermine U.S. credibility in such matters.

However, the documents' revelations should finally put to rest the double game that the Arab world has been playing for decades with regard to Israel and other threats in the region. I remember as if it were yesterday the public reaction in the Arab world when Israel destroyed Saddam Hussein's nuclear reactor at Osirak in 1981. Condemnation of Israel was unanimous, with accusations being tossed around about Israeli alleged aggressive and expansionist aims. Meanwhile, the now-defunct newspaper The Washington Star captured the real situation in an insightful editorial. The Star said: "The Arab world will criticize Israel by day and sleep better at night" because of what Israel had done. These words ably summarized a history of Middle East realities which were never more relevant than in our current world.

While the Arabs on a daily basis talk incessantly about the great Zionist threat to the region, their actions have long betrayed a very different and more rational fear. Let's recall that the Arabs, like many others, have believed since the 1960s that Israel has had a nuclear weapons arsenal (Israel has never confirmed nor denied this). One would have thought, considering all the propaganda about "expansionist Israel," that a nuclear-armed Zionist state would have been seen as the greatest threat to the Arab world and that a sense of urgency would have emerged to develop nuclear weapons of their own. Read more ..


Kicking our Oil Addiction

For Progress at Cancun Climate Conference, the Focus Should be Oil

December 6th 2010

Contributors / Staff - Gal Luft
Gal Luft

Last week, climate negotiators convened in Cancun, Mexico, in a renewed effort to reach an international agreement on reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Unlike environmentalists' optimism before last year’s summit in Copenhagen, the expectations from this year’s UN Climate Change Conference are remarkably low. Climate champions like President Obama, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee John Kerry, all of whom rushed to icy Copenhagen last year, won’t be this year in sunny Cancun. Even the indefatigable Al Gore is staying home.

This is hardly surprising. After all, the barriers to reaching a binding treaty have only grown higher since Copenhagen: China became the world’s largest energy user and the largest auto market. Its increased need for hydrocarbons means an even stronger pushback against mandatory emissions reductions. Europe experienced a mild economic heart attack which turned attention inward, dampening the enthusiasm for a costly green revolution. And the results of the mid-term elections in the U.S. have killed any chance of a climate bill reaching President Obama’s desk. Under such conditions can Cancun deliver any meaningful accomplishment? Possibly, but only if an entirely new strategy is adopted. Read more ..


America on Edge

Some Forward Thinking on a Backward-Leaning Topic

December 6th 2010

Contributors / Staff - Armstrong_Williams

These are interesting times for education reform in America today. A lot of politicians on both sides of the aisle are calling for "reform," but no one seems to know what "reform" really looks like.

The issue reached new levels of salience just a few weeks ago when "Waiting for Superman" - the new Davis Guggenheim documentary following five students and their futures in charter schools - opened to nationwide critical acclaim.

There's no question this country must have a serious debate on what reform is needed in our education system. According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), U.S. students in 10th grade rank 28th in math and 22nd in science out of a total of 39 countries in proficiency.

Once the hotbed of innovation, medical and technical advancements, America is now sucking the exhaust fumes of revving machines such as India, China and other advancing nations. We are beyond arrested development. We are regressing. It's one thing to grasp this reality. It's quite another to do something about it. Read more ..


Medicine on Edge

Believe It or Not: Most Medical Research is Wrong

November 29th 2010

Science - Pills

Most medical research is wrong? Are you kidding? No. In fact, the leading figure in medical statistics says plainly, “most claimed research findings are false.” Most people have set pragmatism as their default position on bioethics. If it works, why not use it? If human embryonic stem cells are reported to be effective, for instance, what harm can there possibly be in using them? In fact, it may be immoral not to use them after the incredible progress reported in this week’s issue of Nature (or Time or the National Inquirer)!

But in an era of science by press release, pragmatists should know how reliable such reports are. And respected studies into the credibility of all medical research – not just on stem cells – suggest that claims of incredible advances are precisely that: incredible. In fact, according to a leading medical statistician, Greek academic John Ioannides, “most claimed research findings are false.” Read more ..


Energy Independence

Transporting Ourselves to Fantasyland

November 29th 2010

Transportation Topics - Broken Road

At a time of soaring deficits and taxpayer fury about govern- ment waste and intervention in the economy, Congress must change its attitude toward spending taxpayer money; here's a good area to start the change: transportation policy reform. Government subsidies have bequeathed us crumbling bridges, highways to nowhere and train lines that can't pay for their operating costs, much less recoup any of their capital costs. This wouldn't happen if there were more private-sector involvement and infrastructure was built and tolled to pay for its construction and maintenance. It's time to change the way we fund transportation infrastructure, including transit, to a model grounded in basic economics. That means paying for what you get and getting what you pay for. Read more ..


Israel and Palestine

Myths and Facts About Mahmoud Abbas

November 22nd 2010

Contributors / Staff - Mitchell Bard

Myth: “Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is a moderate interested in compromise.”

Fact: The definition of “moderate” is relative. Compared to Hamas, Hizbullah and Ahmadinejad, for example, Abbas can be viewed as a moderate since he explicitly negotiates with Israel. Abbas, however, has expressed no true willingness to compromise on any substantive issue, balks at true peace efforts and vehemently spews anti-Israel rhetoric that has significantly hampered the peace process in the past.

In November 2010, Abbas spoke at the sixth annual memorial service for Yasser Arafat and definitively announced that he will continue to tow the hard line agenda of his mentor and predecessor. Arafat, the Palestinian leader who died in 2004, is considered one of the fathers of Palestinian terrorism. Abbas is holding to Arafat’s policies of declaring Jerusalem the capital of Palestine; requiring Israeli withdrawal from all settlements; demanding the full right of return for Palestinian refugees and their descendants; and refusing to acknowledge the Jewish character of the State of Israel. Abbas also publicly glorifies Palestinian martyrs and allows Holocaust denial to spread in official Palestinian sources.

On the issue of Jerusalem, Abbas maintains that the city will be the capital of a future Palestinian state. “At the Camp David summit, the Palestinian leadership rejected an Israeli proposal to share sovereignty,” he said in 2005, “We continue to reject this offer. We cannot compromise on Jerusalem.” In an interview with the Washington Post in 2007, Abbas declared, “I have always said that East Jerusalem is an occupied territory. We have to restore it.” Again in 2010, he said that “the Arab city of Jerusalem, including its holy sites, is an integral part” of the future Palestinian state. Read more ..


Edge on Energy

Energy Independence for America is a Possible Dream

November 22nd 2010

Contributors / Staff - Gal Luft

Unlike Europe, which is heavily dependent on Russian natural gas for its electricity generation, the U.S. is essentially energy independent when it comes to its power supply. It does not need to import coal and natural gas, chief sources of electricity generation, and no foreign nation can turn off the United States' power at will. The U.S. energy security challenge boils down to one problem: oil.
Oil is the world's most strategic commodity not because the U.S. consumes or imports a lot of it, but because it enjoys a virtual monopoly over the global transportation fuel sector. This monopoly—almost all of the world's cars, trucks, ships and planes run on nothing but petroleum—enables a small group of nations, most of them members of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), to constrict oil supply, manipulate its prices, and even use it as an economic weapon when conflict emerges, as was the case during the 1973-74 Arab Oil Embargo. While the OPEC cartel owns 78 percent of the world's reserves, it produces only one third of the world's oil—far less than its capacity permits. In fact, today OPEC pumps less oil than it did 40 years ago even though the global economy has doubled over the same period.

U.S. Security and Economic Interests

Most Americans fully understand the national security consequences of oil dependence. After all, petrodollars are the main source of revenue for some of America's sworn enemies. As long as the nations responsible for the spread of Islamic terrorism control the global transportation sector, which underlies the world economy, America will not be able to accomplish its foreign policy goals. But in times of economic adversity, one should also recognize the toxic impact oil dependence has on the U.S. economy. Read more ..


The Political Edge

The GOP Must Govern

November 15th 2010

Contributors / Staff - Armstrong_Williams

Now that the Republicans have taken back the House, their most difficult hurdle is ahead. President Obama has made it clear that he will not tack to the center a la Bill Clinton following 1994’s bloodbath, so we can expect a lot of gridlock—the Republicans will not bring the administration’s policies to a vote, but they do not have enough votes to easily override a veto unless they can get many Democrats to jump ship. However, even the threat of a veto should not prevent Republicans from passing the following legislation.

The first thing Republicans need to do is to renew the Bush tax cuts. Letting the Bush cuts expire will cost taxpayers $115 billion next year alone, according to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), and $2.6 trillion through 2020. Now if every single penny of those increases went to paying off our debt, maybe I would support letting them expire; however, we all know that this money will be appropriated elsewhere and will only increase our grandchildren’s burden and guarantee our slide into second rate world power. These cuts affect more than just the wealthy. The lowest personal income bracket jumps 50 percent—from 10 percent to 15 percent. The 25 percent bracket rises to 28 percent, and the old 28 percent goes up to 31 percent. Read more ..


After the Holocaust

Claims Conference Must Apologize for Fraud Committed by Insiders Against Holocaust Survivors

November 15th 2010

Contributors / Staff - Isi Leibler headshot

This week, the full extent of the fraud and theft of funds specifically earmarked by the German Government for Holocaust survivors was disclosed by the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York. The money was stolen from the Hardship Fund and the Article 2 Fund, administered on behalf of the German Government by the Claims Conference.

The stolen amount was not $350,000 as indicated by the Claims Conference in February this year. Nor was it $7 million as the Claims Conference had suggested in June after the Jewish Week revealed that the scandal was far more substantial than the Claims Conference had initially inferred. It was a staggering $ 42.5 million and there is every probability that it may well substantially exceed this sum.

As late as last week, in preparation for an article I wrote in Israel Hayom, the Claims Conference refused to acknowledge the extent of the fraud in response to enquiries from the Israel Hayom editors.

However, following the announcement of the U.S. Attorney's Office this week, the Claims Conference can no longer play down the extent of the fraud or the role played by employees and insiders of the Claims Conference. As stated by the US Attorney, "six corrupt insiders ... systematically defrauded the Article 2 Fund and the Hardship programs for over a decade." These insiders, who were employees of the Claims Conference, "allegedly processed thousands of fraudulent applications for payments meant for actual victims of the Holocaust." Read more ..



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