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Edge on Politics

Supreme Court hearing on Obama Healthcare Law kicks up a Storm on K Street

November 27th 2011

America Themes - K Street

Next year's Supreme Court decision on the healthcare reform law could be the most heavily lobbied ever.

Corporations, unions, trade groups, and advocates are expected to spend millions of dollars over the next few months trying to shape the court's thinking on whether the law's individual mandate is constitutional. Their efforts will include ideological appeals, popularity contests and recusal campaigns—none of which are likely to have much effect on the outcome of the case.

"More effort will go into pushing this boulder up this Sisyphean hill in the next three months than in any court case in history," predicted Tom Goldstein, co-founder of the legal affairs SCOTUSblog and a lawyer for AARP in defense of the law. "However many op-eds or TV ads or whatever you want to place, you're just lighting money on fire when it comes to trying to change any Justice's opinions on these questions."

Still, the pressure for any group with a stake in healthcare to get involved could prove irresistible after the high court agreed this month to take up the case right in the middle of the 2012 election campaign. The real target, experts say, is the court of public opinion.

“I'm not so sure that all of these special interest groups are entirely about influencing the judicial process itself (as much as trying) to justify their own existence,” said Michael Wissot, a senior strategist with Republican messaging guru Frank Luntz's firm. “I see it as being more about taking one last opportunity to intensify the public outcry.” Read more ..


Religious Tolerance

Ahmadi Community of Pakistan Fearful following Agitation by Banned Islamist Group

November 27th 2011

PakistanTopics - Ahmadi funeral Pakistan
Pakistani Ahmadis bury victims of massacre by Muslims

Rabia Saleem, a female student of the Ahmadi religious sect in the final year of studies at the COMSATS Institute of Information Technology in Lahore, Pakistan, has been expelled on allegations of blasphemy. Saleem was accused of blasphemy by the student wing of the banned Islamist organization known as Tahaffuz-e-Khatam-e-Nabuwwat (TKN).

Saleem lived at a student hostel in Lahore, and allegedly removed a banner displayed by TKN condemning the Ahmadi community. A guard observed her removing the poster. He then accused her of committing blasphemy by dishonoring the verses of the Koran. Ahmadis are considered by many Muslims to be heretics and are treated to the same persecution as are Christians and Hindus in Pakistan. The controversy has been extensively covered by the Pakistani media. Read more ..


Edge of Justice

Justice Accused of Withholding Records on Kagan's Role in Healthcare Defense

November 24th 2011

Supreme Court - SCOTUS
Justice Elena Kagan

The Justice Department withheld records about Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan’s role in healthcare reform, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas) has said.

Smith pressed Attorney General Eric Holder to provide documents and witnesses about Kagan’s time as solicitor general and her role in preparing to defend President Obama’s healthcare reform law in court. Republicans have clamored for Kagan to recuse herself when the Supreme Court takes up a case challenging the law.

Smith said in a letter to Holder that the Justice Department has refused to comply with his requests for documents and interviews about Kagan’s involvement. But the department later publicly released emails that his inquiry covered, Smith said.

“The public has a right to know both the full extent of Justice Kagan’s involvement with this legislation while she was Solicitor General, as well as her previously stated views and opinions about the legislation while she was serving as Solicitor General,” Smith wrote.

Emails show that Kagan’s office mounted an early and aggressive effort to prepare for legal challenges to the individual insurance mandate, but the records released so far do not contradict Kagan’s statement that she was not directly involved in the planning.

Although Kagan had not been formally approached about a position on the Supreme Court when her department began working on its healthcare defense, she had been on the short list for an earlier appointment. Read more ..


The Edge of Food

Fish Tales Causing the Demise of the Bluefin Tuna

November 21st 2011

Food - Bluefin Tuna on sales floor
A routine catch of Bluefin Tuna on a sales floor in Japan

Nearly 50 countries that trade in high-priced Eastern Atlantic Bluefin Tuna agreed earlier this month to transform an archaic paper-based method for tracking fish into a digitalized system that officials say will make it harder for fleets to smuggle plundered bluefin into market.

Member countries of the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT), the body charged with protecting the bluefin stocks threatened by overfishing, will implement the new electronic system by the time ships set out in the spring of 2013.

Last year, the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) exposed the paper-based Bluefin Catch Document scheme as so full of holes as to render it virtually useless. The system was riddled with inaccuracies and inconsistencies and did little to stop the thriving black market in bluefin. Before the ICIJ report, officials had lauded the system as a successful deterrent to illegal trade — a way to track every fish from hook, through fattening farms and to the final buyer. Read more ..


RFE/RL NEWS

Riots in Egypt Claim Twenty Lives

November 21st 2011

Egypt - Wary Egyptian Cops

Hundreds of protesters are facing off with security forces in Cairo's central Tahrir Square as part of a fresh wave of protests challenging the country's ruling military authorities.

Protesters clashed with security forces over the weekend in violence that officials now say left at least 20 people dead and some 1,750 people wounded.

The resurgence of protests in Egypt reflects growing public anger over the slow pace of reforms following the February ouster of former President Hosni Mubarak and concerns that the country's provisional military rulers will try to retain power.

The violence also comes little more than a week before Egyptians are scheduled to start voting in key parliamentary elections on November 28. Read more ..


The Solyndra Scandal

Chu Declares Final Solyndra Decisions "Were Mine"

November 19th 2011

Obama Admin Topics - Steven Chu

Energy Secretary Steven Chu will take full responsibility for approving a $535 million loan guarantee to the now-bankrupt solar firm Solyndra during a House hearing Thursday, insisting that politics did not influence the decision.

“As the Secretary of Energy, the final decisions on Solyndra were mine, and I made them with the best interest of the taxpayer in mind. I want to be clear: over the course of Solyndra’s loan guarantee, I did not make any decision based on political considerations,” Chu will say, according to written testimony made public by the House Energy and Commerce Committee on Wednesday evening.

“My decision to guarantee a loan to Solyndra was based on the analysis of experienced professionals and on the strength of the information they had available to them at the time.” Read more ..


Edge on Environment

Zimbabwe Needs Water for Elephants

November 19th 2011

Africa Topics - elephants in zimbabwe

According to official reports in Zimbabwe, up to one hundred elephants have died of thirst since October of this year in the Hwange Natural Park in the west of the country. Watering holes and other sources of water that depend on pumping have dried up and have “caused an alarming rate of mortality” among the behemoths, reported the state-run Herald newspaper. Each adult elephant requires approximately 100 gallons of water each day.

The east African region has experienced unprecedented high temperatures and a drought over the last few months, which have caused crop failures and migration of people and animals. Read more ..


The Digital Edge

Intel Capital Launches $100 Million Apps Investment Fund

November 17th 2011

Technology - galaxy tablet

Intel Capital, the venture capital arm of the world's biggest chip maker, said it has launched a $100 million fund to invest in invest in software tools and services companies developing applications and digital content for mobile devices and PCs.

Intel (Santa Clara, CA) said the fund would back companies that supply apps via the company's AppUp center, an online store selling apps for netbooks, consumer laptops and ultrabooks.

Intel announced two initial investments from the fund in Urban Airship, a mobile platform-as-a-service company and 4tiitoo, a German OSV and tablet device developer. Intel did not disclose the amount of investment in each firm. Read more ..


The Race for Rail

Rail Supporters Get Back On Track With Amtrak Victory

November 14th 2011

Transportation Topics - transit

Rail supporters won a rare victory this week after a year spent mostly in retreat when the House backed off a push to privatize a major component of Amtrak service.

Republicans have worked to dismantle President Obama’s vision for a nationwide network of railways since they swept into power last November.

This week, however, the chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, Rep. John Mica (R-Fla.), said he would no longer push to privatize Amtrak service in its most profitable region, the northeast.

Transportation advocates, many of whom are in the labor movement, staunchly opposed the proposal. They argued it would effectively end the longtime national passenger rail service.

Ed Wytkind, president of the AFL-CIO Transportation Trades Department, told The Hill that the victory on Amtrak privatization was sweet, but the fight over rail in Congress was far from over. Read more ..


American Economy on Edge

Bankrupt Alabama County is Generous to Political Campaigns

November 14th 2011

Economy - Bankruptcy

Despite the move last week by Jefferson County, Alabama, to file for bankruptcy, the residents of the region have continually been among the most generous Alabamians in terms of their campaign contributions.

During the last presidential election four years ago, residents of Jefferson County donated more than $6.4 million, according to research by the Center for Responsive Politics. That's more than any other county in Alabama.

Notably, of that $6.4 million, about 61 percent benefit federal Republican candidates and committees.

Jefferson County residents also led the state in contributions during the 2010 election cycle, donating about $4.2 million. And so far this year, Jefferson County residents have contributed about $1.3 million, with 65 percent of that sum benefiting Republicans.

Overall, residents of Alabama have donated about $4.4 million so far this year, according to the Center's research, with about 72 percent of that money aiding Republicans. Read more ..


The Edge of Sports

Amid Ailing Economy, Members of Congress Delve Into Sports Issues

November 14th 2011

Sports Topics - sport

Members of Congress have recently delved into the world of sports, weighing in on the NCAA, athletes’ drug abuse, conference alignments and the Penn St. sex scandal.

Rep. Bobby Rush (D-Ill.) labeled the NCAA one of the “most ruthless organizations ever created by mankind.” Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said it is harder to change the college football postseason than win the presidency. Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) publicly floated the need for an ethics investigation into Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s (R-Ky.) lobbying for the University of Louisville to join the Big 12 Conference.

Congress has a long history of getting involved in sports controversies. One of the most prominent examples was a 1995 bill to repeal major league baseball’s anti-trust exemption as a threat to induce an end to that year’s strike. Ten years later, Congress held hearings that led to baseball toughening its steroid testing policy. Read more ..


The 2012 Vote

Bachmann accuses CBS of Planning a Biased Debate

November 14th 2011

Politics - Michele Bachmann
Michele Bachmann (R-MN)

Less than two hours after Saturday's CBS/National Journal presidential debate concluded, Michele Bachmann's campaign accused CBS News of deliberately keeping her questions to a minimum and planning a biased debate.

Bachmann's campaign sent reporters a screenshot of an email exchange where John Dickerson, a reporter for Slate who was just named political director for CBS News, says Bachmann wouldn't be getting many questions.

Dickerson was responding to an email sent to CBS News staffers discussing the possibility of booking Bachmann for a webcast interview. The initial email notes that Alice Stewart, Bachmann's spokeswoman, was included in the email chain, but Dickerson appeared not to have noticed when he sent his reply to the group.

"Okay let's keep it loose though since she's not going to get many questions and she's nearly off the charts in the hopes that we can get someone else," Dickerson wrote. Read more ..


Sword of Islam

Islamist Sudan Air Raid on South Sudan Kills 12 Refugees

November 11th 2011

Africa - Sudanese refugee

South Sudan has accused Sudan of carrying out the attack on the camp in Yida town, less than 20 miles from the border with Sudan. Of the November 9-10 attacks, Rupert Colville of the United Nations responded on November 11, "We condemn the bombing. The attack ... could amount to an international crime." According to Al-Jazeera, Miabek Lang, commissioner of Pariang County in Unity state where Yida is located, said 12 people were killed in the raid, but the claim has not been confirmed by other sources.

According to the Washington D.C.-based Institute for Religion and Democracy, armed forces of Sudan's Islamist regime crossed international borders and conducted an aerial bombardment campaign on two states in the new nation of South Sudan for two consecutive days, including a camp of northern Sudanese refugees from the Nuba Mountains. Read more ..


Iran's Nukes

Iran Halts Oil Exports to Pakistan because of Sanctions

November 9th 2011

Iran - Ahmadinejad Nuclear
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran

Petroleum-rich Iran has ceased exporting oil to its southern neighbour, Pakistan, when a refinery in the South Asian country could not get financing for the purchase. This was due to sanctions now imposed on Iran by the United States and the European Union, reported the Mehr news agency on November 9. The National Iranian Oil Company of the Islamic republic had signed a contract to sell 12,000 barrels of oil per day to Pakistan Oil Refining Co., also state-run.

Banks in Pakistan rejected the Karachi-based refinery’s requests to open letters of credit in order to do business with the Iranian company. Iran was the sole supplier to the refiner, which has closed for unspecified “technical reasons,” said Pakistan’s minister for petroleum, Asim Hussain. The date for the halt in exports, and whether any other Pakistani importers might be affected, was unclear. Read more ..


Guatemala on Edge

Guatemala Elects former Army Officer Tainted by Narcoterror

November 8th 2011

Latin American Topics - Otto Perez Molina of Guatemala
Otto Perez Molina

Former Guatemalan army general Otto Pérez Molina appears to have won his country’s presidential election, having bested his competitor Manuel Baldizón. Pérez Molina and his Patriot Party carried 54 percent of the vote in the November 6 run-off election as opposed to Baldizón’s 46 percent. The balloting reached a record for voter participation with 4.4 million ballots counted among 7.3 million eligible voters in the Central American republic.

Crime and poverty were the themes of the election in Guatemala that is coping with the legacy of decades of Cold War conflict, now coupled with government corruption, unemployment, and widespread narcoterror. Faced with apparent impunity for murder at the hands of criminal organizations such as MS-15, the millionaire Baldizón and leader of the populist Renewed Democratic Liberty party even called for the return of the death penalty for violent crimes. Read more ..


Islam Against Christianity

Catholics and Orthodox Churches Agree that the Arab Spring was 'Devastating' for Christians

November 8th 2011

Egypt - Egyptian Coptic women weeping
Egyptian Coptic Christians mourning

Following an annual meeting on October 27-28, the North American Orthodox-Catholic Theological Consultation released a statement after having received reports on events in the lives of Catholic and Orthodox Churches worldwide. Chaired by Catholic Archbishop Gregory Aymond of New Orleans at St. Paul’s College in Washington D.C., the Consultation's Orthodox co-chairman since 1987, Metropolitan Maximos of Pittsburgh, has retired and a successor has not yet been named.

The statement, On the Plight of Churches in the Middle East, declared “We are concerned for our fellow Christians who, in the face of daunting challenges, struggle to maintain a necessary witness to Christ in their homelands,” they wrote. “United with them in prayer and solidarity, we ask our fellow Christians living in the West to take time to develop a more realistic appreciation of their predicament. We ask our political leaders to exert more pressure where it can protect these Churches, many of which have survived centuries of hardship but now stand on the verge of disappearing completely.” Read more ..


The Edge of Justice

High Court Urged to Uphold Congressional Law Directing State Department to List Birthplace as Israel on Passports

November 7th 2011

Jewish Topics - Nathan Lewin, Attorney
Nathan Lewin

The law firm of Lewin & Lewin presented oral arguments to the U. S. Supreme Court on behalf of its nine year old client, Menachem Zivotofsky, in the highly charged case of Menachem Zivotofsky v. Secretary of State Clinton (No. 10-699).

At issue in the case is the right of a Jerusalem-born American citizen to self identify as born in “Israel” on his or her U.S. passport and birth certificate. The case has attracted support and interest worldwide including the filing of some five amicus briefs.

In 2002, Congress passed a law that directed the Secretary of State to record the birthplace of American citizens born in Jerusalem as "Israel" on these documents for American citizens who so request.  Since the bill's enactment, the Executive branch has refused to enforce the law, claiming that to do so would infringe on the President's authority to "recognize foreign sovereigns."

Menachem Zivotofsky was born in Jerusalem soon after the law was passed.  His parents requested that the place of birth on his U.S. passport and Consular Report of Birth Abroad be listed as "Israel."  The State Department refused the request and instead listed "Jerusalem" as the place of birth. Nathan Lewin and Alyza D. Lewin of Lewin & Lewin agreed to represent the Zivotofskys and have litigated the case pro bono for eight years. Read more ..


America Occupied

Occupy Wall Street movement Winterizes in the City that gave Birth to U.S. Labor Movement

November 7th 2011

America Themes - Occupy Flint
Occupy Flint protesters assemble at Bank of America, Flint MI.

The Occupy Wall Street movement has come to Flint, Michigan, a town that gave birth to General Motors and the scene of one of the signal events of American labor history. An encampment of tents, tarps, and canopies now shelters a group of mostly young protesters have occupied a vacant lot just north of the city center. Unlike similar groups elsewhere, the mostly young protesters have occupied a private space with the permission of the owner. In New York City, for instance, the Wall Street protesters are using a public park as a temporary campground. Occupy Flint began its sit-down protest on October 12.

No violence has been attributed to the protesters of Occupy Flint, who are relying on donations of food and portable toilets to lend some permanence to the camp. The group has received solar energy panels to charge their laptops and other electronic devices and appear to be settling in for the winter. They are asking for donations of food and warm clothing. Read more ..


Arab Winter

Yet Another Gaza-Bound Flotilla now in International Waters

November 3rd 2011

Palestine Topics - audacity of hope boat

A press release from the UStoGaza organization announced on November 3 that two ships bound for the Gaza Strip are now in international waters. Organizers of the ships say that they intend to “lift the siege of Gaza which deprives 1.6 million civilians of their rights to travel, work, study, develop their economy and be free." The Canadian ship Tahrir and the Irish ship Saoirse embarked from Turkey and are on the Mediterranean Sea as part of a flotilla that organizers are calling the Freedom Wave to Gaza. In all, the 2 boats carry 27 passengers from Canada, Ireland, U.S., Palestine, and Australia.

Veteran protester Kit Kittredge is on board the Tahrir. She was also a passenger on the American ship, The Audacity of Hope, which attempted passage to Gaza last July but detained by Israeli naval forces. The ship bears the same name as a book penned by President Barack Obama. Kittredge declared that "The only obstacles in our way are Israel's military and the complicity of the Obama administration but in our sails is the wind of worldwide public opinion which has turned against the illegal blockade." Kittredge, 53, describes herself as a massage therapist and volunteer firefighter. Read more ..


The Arab Winter in Egypt

Egyptian Muslim Teacher and Students Beat Christian Boy to Death for Crucifix

November 3rd 2011

Egypt - Ayman Nabil
Ayman Nabil Labib

Two teenaged schoolboys beat a Coptic Christian classmate to death on October 16 in the Egyptian town of Mallawi, raising fears in the minority Christian community that have been piqued since last year before the so-called Arab Spring that brought the downfall of former dictator Hosni Mubarak. Originally, local media did not report the incident as anti-Christian violence. However, Copts Without Borders, a Coptic news site, reported that 17 year-old, Ayman Nabil Labib, was attacked and killed because he was wearing a crucifix. Over the last few years, Coptic Christians have been targetted by Muslim extremists, while churches and monasteries have been attacked. On New Years Day of this year, a bomb blast racked a Coptic church and killed scores of worshippers.

In this latest incident, the dead boy’s parents broke their silence on October 30 and confirmed that their son’s murder took place after he boy refused to remove the crucifix that he wore on a chain around his neck. He also had a cross tattooed on his wrist, a Coptic tradition, which he was asked to conceal by his teacher, according to Assyrian International News Agency (AINA). “The teacher nearly choked my son and some Muslim students joined in the beating,” said his mother in a statement to AINA.

Despite reports that Labib was beaten in the schoolyard, his father asserted that Labib was in fact beaten in the classroom. “They beat my son so much in the classroom that he fled to the lavatory on the ground floor, but they followed him and continued their assault. When one of the supervisors took him to his room, Ayman was still breathing. The ambulance transported him from there dead, one hour later,” he said. Two Muslim students, Mostapha Essam and Walid Mostafa Sayed, were reportedly arrested and detained, pending investigations into the murder. Read more ..


The Edge of Terrorism

Noam Shalit: Gilad Treated "Harshly"

November 2nd 2011

Israel Topics - Gilad Shalit

Gilad Shalit endured "harsh things" the imprisoned soldier's father revealed, just days after his son's release. Among other depravations, Noam Shalit said his son did not see sunlight for almost 2,000 days. His gaunt appearance and pale skin seem to testify to this fact.

Noam Shalit was reacting to a claim made by a senior Hamas terrorist, Zuhair Al-Qaisi, who claimed that Shalit was treated well during his captivity. Al-Qaisi claimed that Shalit was allowed to watch election and eat kosher food. But Noam Shalit countered that his son was suffering from malnutrition and the effects of an untreated shrapnel wound the Israeli soldier suffered before his abduction more than five years ago. Read more ..


Thailand on Edge

Thailand Floods Take Toll on PC Makers

November 1st 2011

Asia Topics - Thailand flooding portside

Several computer makers have admitted their fourth quarter earnings could be adversely affected by component shortages, including industry heavyweights Asustek Computer, Acer Inc., and Samsung Electronics. “The whole PC production chain is stuck at a bottleneck,” Acer’s CEO JT Wang told investors, referring to the effects of the Thailand floods on hard disc supplies.

“This is not a problem that we can solve by ourselves and so we have started raising prices,” he added, noting that with HDD prices up an estimated 5-20 percent, the firm had had to raise the cost of its notebooks to protect its margins.

Acer saw its shares drop slightly on Monday after the firm predicted its fourth quarter shipments could decrease by up to 10 percent from Q3, owing to the constraints on the component supply chain. The firm had previously said it expected notebook shipments to stay flat during the fourth quarter, with perhaps a slight 5 percent uptick, though this estimation has now been reversed.

Read more ..

The 2012 Vote

Republican Eric Cantor Seeks Government Support for Innovative Businesses

November 1st 2011

Politics - Eric Cantor (R)

U.S. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor told a gathering at the University of Michigan on October 31 that government needs to continue supporting those who create businesses and opportunity, from whose ranks have sprung entrepreneurs including Henry Ford and Steve Jobs. Appearing at the Michigan League ballroom, the Virginia Republican said "We need more than a jobs plan, we need a Steve Jobs plan," while government should support leaders and innovators who create new industries and new ideas that benefit society. "Job building and community building are what successful people can do," Cantor said. "Small business owners, businessmen and women are the key formula for success in America. It is students like you who can be the designers and builders of America's ladders."

Cantor's appearance was presented by the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy on the Ann Arbor campus, The congressman was introduced by U-Michigan president Mary Sue Coleman.

Cantor said he would be moving a bill soon in Congress to ease access to capital, to "help these risk takers in achieving their dream." While he supports public schools, he said charter schools have served many students in areas where public schools are not adequate. "We need to ensure access to the best schools available," Cantor said. "No child should be forced to attend a school that is failing her." Read more ..


The Arab Fall

Israel seeks Calm and Displays Strength after Jihadi rocket Attacks

October 30th 2011

Palestine Topics - Dead Islamic jihadis

 The border between Israel and the Gaza Strip remains tense after an eruption of deadly violence on October 29. Israel and the Islamic Jihad group are signaling they are interested in an informal ceasefire after a wave of tit-for-tat attacks on the Gaza border. Israel launched several air strikes on Islamic Jihad targets on October 29, while Palestinians fired more than 20 rockets at border communities in southern Israel. Nine Palestinian militants and an Israeli civilian were killed. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said his country does not want an escalation, but he issued a strong warning to Palestinian militant groups in Gaza. Prime Minister Netanyahu told the Knesset that Israel would respond harshly to any Palestinian rocket and mortar attacks. "Whoever attacks us," said Netanyahu, "his blood will be on his own head."

Netanyahu said on October 30 that "there is no cease fire" in the south, in reference to the recent escalation in violence along the Gaza border. Speaking at a special cabinet meeting, the prime minister warned, "The other side will pay a higher price then they have already paid, until they stop firing."
Read more ..


Edge of Terrorism

Mujahideen Attack on U.S. Embassy Spikes Fears of Islamists in Bosnia

October 29th 2011

Terrorism - Bosnian mujahideen in Sarajevo embassy attack

In Sarajevo, Irma Maric's Friday afternoon on October 28 was shattered by gunfire. She describes watching a brazen 30-minute rifle assault carried out by a suspected Islamist on the U.S. embassy unfold from her office window:

"I looked out of the window and I saw people running, like kids, also. They were [fleeing], because of the fear...When you see, through the window, people lying down on the streets, it's the first thing I remember: the 1990s in Sarajevo," Maric said.

The Bosnian capital was under siege during the region's 1992-1995 war. Maric, a 28-year-old born and raised in Sarajevo, describes the city as calm today.

Political and religious leaders in the Balkans are voicing concerns over what some are describing as a "terrorist" attack on the embassy on October 28. The building has been temporarily closed. Read more ..


Green Scandals

Republicans Call for Probe of Obama’s Green Car Program

October 28th 2011

Technology - Biden and Fisker

Republicans are calling on Congressional investigators to expand their probe of the Obama Administration’s “green energy” loan program to include Fisker, the start-up electric car company that received more than $500 million in federal support but is assembling its high-end sports sedan in Finland.

“We need to extend the investigation,” Rep. Tim Murphy, a Pennsylvania Republican who sits on the committee that has been investigating the government’s loan program, told ABC News in an interview for World News and Nightline. “If they couldn’t find someone to build the car in the U.S., then don’t do it. Find another way. Find something else.”

Fisker is one of two start-up electric car companies that combined have been offered $1 billion in federal loans through an Energy Department program meant to create jobs and improve air quality through the fledgling alternative energy industry. The loan program has faced intense scrutiny from Congress since the first loan recipient, the solar manufacturing firm Solyndra, declared bankruptcy last month. Read more ..


The Edge of Justice

Russia Admits Ship Skipped U.S. Port Fearing Seizure Over Chabad Library

October 26th 2011

Jewish Topics - Chabad Archival Document

Russia's Foreign Ministry reportedly advised a sailing ship on a goodwill mission to avoid docking at a San Francisco port last week over fears it would be held as collateral for a collection of Jewish rare books and manuscripts.

According to articles in the Moscow Times and San Francisco Chronicle, the three-masted Nadezhda turned sail after officials warned that it may be seized under a U.S. court decision ordering Russia to surrender a 62,000 piece library that belonged to the late Rabbi Yosef Yitzchok Schneerson, the sixth rebbe of Chabad-Lubavitch.

In 1991, in the last years of the Soviet Union, a court in Moscow ordered the library turned over to the Chabad organization. But the Soviet Union collapsed and the new Russian authorities set aside the judgment. The Russian government now says it wants to preserve the library itself for the use of scholars and Russian Jews.

The Chabad organization felt it could not get a fair hearing in Russian courts and sued the Russian government in U.S. courts to acquire the library. Last year, a U.S. court ruled in the organization's favor and ordered Russian authorities to turn the library over. Read more ..


Libya after Gadhafi

Graphic Images Emerge of Libyan Rebels' Abuse and Sodomy of Dictator Gadhafi

October 26th 2011

Libya - Gadhafi looks heavenward

Graphic, gruesome images have emerged from Libya as the United Nations and the U.S. have called for investigations of the circumstances of the death of former dictator Muammar Gadhafi. Cellphone video images taken by Libyan insurgents of the NATO-supported National Transitional Authority shows Libya's former leader being sodomized with a metal implement. Gadhafi was captured on October 20 as he and a convoy of supporters were fleeing from the city of Sirte. Video taken at the scene showed first that he was wounded but alive. Footage taken minutes later showed his lifeless corpse being displayed on the ground. First reported by GlobalPost, it has been widely covered by other media outlets such as CBS and Huffington Post. Read more ..


Iran on Edge

Hold Iran Painfully Accountable for Murder Plot--U.S. Official Demand

October 26th 2011

Iran - The 12th Imam

"Iran needs to be held accountable for this plot." That is the message being delivered this week in Europe by David Cohen -- the U.S. Undersecretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence and the man responsible for overseeing sanctions against Iran -- in the wake of an alleged plot by the Persian Gulf country to assassinate the Saudi Arabian ambassador on U.S. soil.

The official's first stop was London, where Cohen met with British officials on October 24 to discuss potential new sanctions against Iran in response to the plot.

From there, Cohen is taking his message to Berlin, Paris, and Rome.

The potential sanctions would target the heart of Iran's financial dealings, the Central Bank of Iran (CBI), in a move that analysts suggest could have a crippling effect on the country's economy by cutting off nearly all international financial transactions. Read more ..


America on Edge

Unsentimental Thieves Steal Historic Bell in San Francisco

October 25th 2011

Christian Topics - St Marys San Francisco bell
Historic copper bell of St. Mary's Cathedral. Photo credit: Neil Gertner

Catholics and history buffs in San Francisco were consternated by the theft of an historic bell, a “priceless artefact”, from St. Mary’s Cathedral. Sometime during the month of October, thieves made off with the 122-year-old, 2.7 ton bell that had stood on a wooden platform in the churchyard since the 1970s. The historic bell tolled during the 1906 San Francisco earthquake and resulting fire and also survived an arson attack in 1962 when the old cathedral was torched.

George Wesolek, communications director for the Catholic Archdiocese of San Francisco said of the thieves, “ "It is kind of an ignoble end for the bell if they succeed." The archdiocese is offering an unspecified amount of money as a reward to anyone who helps return the bell or catch the thieves. A security camera pointed at a nearby parking lot may have captured the truck as it left the cathedral. The bell, made of a copper alloy, could fetch $75,000 if melted down. While it originally cost $17,000, it is not clear whether the church can afford a replacement. Other needs are much more pressing now, said a diocesan spokesman. Police vow to find the lost bell. Read more ..


Turkey on Edge

Hypothermia Risk for Victims of Turkey Earthquake

October 24th 2011

Turkish Topics - Turkey Earthquake

Rain, mountain snow and colder conditions are in store for search, rescue and recovery operations in the Van, Turkey, area which was hit by a deadly and devastating earthquake this past weekend.

A large storm will form and stall over the region this week, bringing progressively chilly and unsettled weather conditions. The forecast calls for rounds of rain in the Van metro area and wet snow or a mixture of rain and wet snow over the elevations overlooking the city.

Van is the largest city in the region hit by the earthquake and is home to over 370,000 people. Thousands of people live outside the city in the region. Hypothermia is an added risk to those trapped in debris and those left homeless following the 7.2 magnitude quake. Read more ..


The Edge of War

Iraqi Prime Minister Says Failed Talks over Soldiers’ Immunity Led to U.S. Withdrawal

October 24th 2011

Iraq - Nouri al-Maliki

Nouri al-Maliki, Iraq’s prime minister, said Saturday that negotiations breaking down over whether U.S. soldiers would be protected from legal action led to American military forces withdrawing by the end of this year.

“When the Americans asked for immunity, the Iraqi side answered that it was not possible,” al-Maliki told reporters in Baghdad, according to the Associated Press. “The discussions over the number of trainers and the place of training stopped. Now that the issue of immunity was decided and that no immunity [is] to be given, the withdrawal has started.” Read more ..


Islam Against the Copts

Egyptian-Americans March against Persecution of Coptic Christians in Egypt

October 21st 2011

Egypt - Egyptian Coptic women weeping
Egyptian women mourning deaths of Coptic Christian, Oct. 9

Hundreds of Egyptian-American protesters marched from the White House to the the U.S. Capitol on October 19 to show solidarity with their fellow Coptic Christians who were killed recently in Egypt.

The protesters gathered late October 19 to ask the U.S. to stop giving aid to an Egyptian military, which they accuse of killing "Coptic Christians."

They say the Egyptian government has been unable or unwilling to protect Coptics, who are vastly outnumbered in the mainly Muslim country.

On October 9, at least 23 people were killed and 150 injured in Cairo when a protest by Coptic Christians over the recent burning of a church escalated into rioting against military rule. Several Coptic Christian groups organized the October 19 demonstration in Washington. Martina Beshai, of the Washington-based group Coptic Solidarity, said security and freedom of religion are "basic rights" that every person in the world should have. Read more ..


The Battle for Libya

U.S. Investigates Claims of the Death of Libya's Gadhafi

October 20th 2011

Libya Topics - Muammar Ghadafi as Charlie Chaplin

U.S. officials are reviewing reports that former Libyan dictator Muammar Gadhafi was killed by rebel forces on October 20 following his capture near his hometown of Sirte. According to media reports, Gadhafi was wounded in the head and legs as he tried to flee in a convoy that came under attack from NATO warplanes at dawn, a senior official with Libya's National Transitional Council said. The former leader was apparently first taken away by ambulance and subsequently died. No independent confirmation is available.

Gadhafi's death followed months of NATO air strikes and other military action in Libya in concert with rebel forces following a government crackdown against pro-democracy protesters emboldened by protests in Jordan, Tunisia and Egypt. In the so-called Arab Spring, the dictatorships of the latter two states were brought down even while the revolutions’ end-game has yet to be determined. Read more ..


The 2012 Vote

“Joe the Plumber” Files for House Run

October 16th 2011

Congressional issues - Sarah Palin and Joe the Plumber, 2008

Samuel Joseph Wurzelbacher, better known to most Americans as Joe the Plumber, has taken concrete steps toward running for the House in Ohio.

Wurzelbacher filed candidacy papers with the Federal Election Commission on October 7, and also registered a campaign committee under the name “Joe for Congress 2012." He listed himself as the committee’s treasurer.

“Joe the Plumber” became a household name during the 2008 presidential campaign when Wurzelbacher questioned then-Sen. Barack Obama’s (D-Ill.) small-business plan during a campaign stop in Ohio.

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and running mate Sarah Palin, then governor of Alaska, quickly seized on Wurzelbacher as a symbol of the blue-collar America they said would suffer under Democratic policies, and dubbed him Joe the Plumber. It later came out that he is not actually a licensed plumber. In the years since, Wurzelbacher has capitalized on his newfound notoriety as a motivational speaker and author. Read more ..


Edge of Terror

State Department Issues Worldwide Alert following Thwarted 'Murder and Mayhem' Made in Iran

October 13th 2011

Saudi Topics - Saudi embassy dude

The government of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia accused the Islamic Republic of Iran of seeking to further its influence worldwide through "murder and mayhem," after the U.S. revealed an alleged plot by the Iranian government to assassinate the Saudi Arabian ambassador to Washington.

Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal said on October 13 while on a trip to Austria that the oil kingdom is working on a "measured response." The prince said that the kingdom would "not bow" to Iranian pressure and would hold the Islamic Republic for any action taken against Saudi Arabia.

Meanwhile, Prince al-Faisal's British counterpart, William Hague, said Thursday the alleged plot was a "major escalation in Iran's sponsorship of terrorism." He said Britain will work with the U.S., the European Union and Saudi Arabia to agree on an international reaction. Read more ..


Edge on Terrorism

U.S. Citizen Charged with Spying for Assad Regime of Syria

October 12th 2011

Arab Topics - Bashar Assad headshot

Mohamad Anas Haitham Soueid (47) of Leesburg, Virginia, has been charged for his alleged role in a conspiracy to collect video and audio recordings and other information about individuals in the United States and Syria who were protesting against the Assad regime in Syria. According to an October 12 statement of the office of the U.S. Assistant Attorney General for National Security, these materials were given to Syrian intelligence agencies in order to silence, intimidate and potentially harm the protestors.

Soueid, aka “Alex Soueid” or “Anas Alswaid,” a U.S. citizen born in Syria, was charged by a federal grand jury on October 5 in a six-count indictment in the Eastern District of Virginia. Soueid is charged with conspiring to act and acting as an agent of the Syrian government in the United States without notifying the Attorney General as required by law; two counts of providing false statements on a firearms purchase form; and two counts of providing false statements to federal law enforcement. Read more ..


The Digital Edge

Media Tablets Take 75 Percet Share of US Ultra-mobile Device Shipments

October 12th 2011

Computer Topics - iPad 2

Led by media tablets, more specifically Apple’s iPad 2, an estimated 37 million ultra-mobile devices (UMDs) will ship into the United States during 2011, says ABI Research. UMDs represent mobile computing devices on a continuum bordered by laptop PCs and smartphones. The UMD category consists of four segments: ultra-mobile PCs (UMPCs), mobile Internet devices (MIDs), netbooks, and media tablets. The revenue value from vendor shipments of UMDs into US sales and distribution channels during 2015 is forecast to top $24 billion.

About 75 percent of total UMD shipments in the US during 2011 are expected to be media tablets. “While the near-term opportunity is all about media tablets, no UMD segment type has ever sustained a lead for longer than 36 months in any part of the world,” says ABI Research group director Jeff Orr. “Is the next device trend beyond media tablets just around the corner?” Read more ..


Vote 2012

Herman Cain's Candidacy Sets Race and Political Narratives on Edge

October 11th 2011

Politics - Herman Cain
Herman Cain

Herman Cain doesn’t fit snugly into the usual narrative about race and American politics.

It is not merely that the African-American businessman is coming on so strongly in the battle for the Republican presidential nomination.

It is that the bedrock of Cain’s support comes from demographic and ideological groups that are sometimes accused — falsely, they would say — of harboring racist tendencies.

Polls in recent weeks have indicated that Cain has conspicuously strong backing among Republicans in the states of the old Confederacy. He has been a Tea Party darling virtually since the movement’s inception. And, as recently as Friday, he was cheered to the rafters by the deeply conservative, and almost uniformly white, attendees of the Values Voter Summit in Washington.

Has Cain achieved this measure of support by sidestepping issues of race? Hardly. Read more ..


Egypt After Mubarek

Fatal Clashes with Coptics in Cairo Spark Fears of Sectarian Violence

October 10th 2011

Egypt - Egypt_Muslim_Christian

Egypt's ruling military council on Monday ordered the government to investigate the killings of at least 25 people in Sunday's street battles between Coptic Christians and Egyptian security forces. The order came after crisis talks on the country's worst violence since a February uprising that swept then-President Hosni Mubarak from office.

The clashes began when Coptic Christians marched in downtown Cairo to protest the burning last week of a church in southern Egypt. Coptic protesters said they expected a peaceful march. They say they were attacked by the Egyptian army. Tensions heightened further when thousands more protesters - some of them Muslims who supported the Copts, and some of them supporters of the military - took to the streets.

Coptic marcher Emad Hatef had an Egyptian flag tied around his neck. Like many of the marchers, he blamed the violence on Egyptian Islamists. Read more ..



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