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America's Economic Edge

Fixing America's Credit Rating May Take Nearly two Decades--says S&P

August 7th 2011

Economy - John Chambers, S & P
John Chambers, S & P Chairman

John Chambers, the chairman of Standard & Poor’s sovereign debt ratings, estimated that it could take between 9 and 18 years for the nation to regain its AAA credit rating. Speaking on August 7, Chambers said the credit agency could further downgrade the national rating depending on whether President Obama and congressional leaders can agree on reducing the deficit. He put the chances of another drop in credit rating at one in three.

Chambers said if the nation’s fiscal scenario worsens or political gridlock becomes more entrenched, “that could lead to a downgrade.” Read more ..

The Race for Solar

White House Budget Office Raised Risk on Big Solar Loan Guarantee

August 2nd 2011

Energy Topics - solyndra HQ

The White House budget office raised flags about the first energy loan guarantee awarded under the Obama administration, adding another layer of questions to the taxpayer backed financing now at the center of a House investigation.

In 2009, as the Department of Energy pushed to close the $535 million loan guarantee to California solar panel maker Solyndra Inc., the Office of Management and Budget concluded the financing was a greater risk to taxpayers than did DOE. That higher risk rating, in turn, forced the government to set aside more money in case the company defaults on payments.

The Department of Energy pressed ahead, formally approving the deal in September 2009 while portraying the Solyndra loan guarantee as a symbol of President Obama’s quest to spread green energy projects with government backing. Read more ..

Egypt After Mubarak

Muslim Brotherhood and Salafists appear to Agree on Islamic state in Egypt

August 2nd 2011

Egypt - Egypt riot police clear Tahrir

Egyptian military and police on August 1 forcibly cleared Cairo’s Tahrir Square, the place where the revolution was played out against former dictator Hosni Mubarak. Hundreds of people were arrested in the affray. Demonstrators had camped for days in the streets demanding justice for those responsible for killings during the protests in January and February. Mubarak is to stand trial on August 3. The clean sweep followed a massive rally by Islamists following Friday prayers on July 29. Muslims around the world are now observing a period of fasting known as Ramadan.

Civilians joined riot police backed by military and armoured vehicles to dismantled the tents and temporary structures in Tahrir Square where pro-democracy protesters had been encamped for weeks. Police fired shots in the area and used electrified clubs on protesters who were swept from the place were thousands had demanded the ouster of Mubarak during the early months of the year. The April 6 movement and other pro-democracy advocates, along with the families of protesters killed this year, were far outnumbered in the square by Islamists. Read more ..

Edge of Justice

Americans' Right to List Israel as Place of Birth Reaches Supreme Court

August 1st 2011

Politics - Federal Court Building

The renowned law firm of Lewin & Lewin filed a brief on July 29 in the case of Menachem Zivotofsky v. Secretary of State Clinton (No. 10-699) which will be heard by the U.S. Supreme Court in November. At issue is the right of an American citizen, born in Jerusalem to self-identify as being born in "lsrael" on his or her U.S. passport and and birth certificate.

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 such documents for American citizens who so request it. 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." Read more ..

Egypt after Mubarak

Militants Attack Sinai Gas Pipeline Supplying Israel and Jordan

July 30th 2011

Egypt - Hijab and flag

Gunmen destroyed a natural gas facility along a pipeline leading from Egypt to Israel on July 30 in northern Sinai Peninsula. The attack occurred at Sheikh Zuayed near El-Arish, the terminal which is the main liquefying station for gas exported to Israel and Jordan from Egypt. This is the third such attack on the same pipeline this month and the fifth since the 18-day uprising that toppled President Hosni Mubarak in February. No gas has been flowing through the pipeline since the last attack on the pipeline on July 12.

The attack came a day after a huge demonstration in Cairo’s Tahrir Square where thousands of ultraconservative Salafist Muslims and members of the Muslim Brotherhood far outnumbered other Egyptian groups. Chants calling for the imposition of Islamic law, known as Shariah, were evident as opposed to the calls for democracy heard during February’s demonstrations.

Egyptian authorities said that insurgents destroyed the gas terminal in al-Shulaq, about 10 miles (16 kilometers) from Egypt's border with the Gaza Strip. It is the last terminal before the pipeline enters the sea on its way to Israel. The attackers arrived in a truck, fired rocket-propelled grenades at the terminal and then detonated dynamite on the inside. Security at the terminal was minimal, which contained no gas, and no injuries were reported. No explosions or flame was reported. Read more ..

Edge on Terrorism

Thwarted Terrorist Attack at Fort Hood TX

July 28th 2011

Military - Naser Jason Abdo

An AWOL U.S. soldier was arrested the evening of July 27 on an outstanding child pornography warrant in Killeen, Texas, and is suspected to have been plotting an attack on Fort Hood. The suspect, Pfc. Nasser Jason Abdo from Fort Campbell, Kentucky, was reportedly arrested by the Killeen Police Department after an alert citizen noticed he was acting suspiciously and called police. Local TV station KCEN said explosives were found in his car, and FOX News is reporting two other U.S. military personnel have been arrested and that weapons and explosives were also found in their possession. According to sources in the U.S. law enforcement community, a reported plot by three U.S. military personnel to attack Fort Hood was in the advanced stages of planning. Read more ..

Tibet on Edge

The Free Tibet Lobby is Hardly Cheap

July 25th 2011

Asia Topics - tibet govt in exile emblem

Free Tibet isn’t cheap: China criticized President Barack Obama recently for meeting with the Dalai Lama, the prominent Tibetan spiritual leader who is visiting the United States. China has occupied Tibet since the 1949 Communist revolution, attracting international criticism and numerous public relations efforts on the part of the Chinese government. The Himalayan region, however, has had a longstanding effort in Washington to lobby the U.S. government for support in the form of the International Campaign for Tibet.

The group, which spent $160,000 on lobbying in 2009 and $145,000 in 2010, advocates for assistance to Tibet on a number of different issues. The group’s first-quarter report shows it spent $50,000 during the first three months of the year and was represented by lobbyist Todd Stein. Stein has lobbied for assistance to Tibetan refugees and Tibetan communities within Tibet. He’s also lobbied for Tibetan Fulbright scholarships, broadcasting entities, and exchange programs, according to lobbying records. Read more ..

The Race for Solar

OMB Dodges Subpoena on Solyndra Solar Investigation

July 25th 2011

Economy - solyndra plant groundbreaking
Solyndra plant groundbreaking, 2009 (credit: Solyndra)

The Obama administration’s budget office dodged a deadline Friday to hand over subpoenaed documents sought as part of a congressional investigation into a politically-connected solar panel manufacturer.

The Office of Budget and Management didn’t send over the requested documents—internal emails, memos and letters from OMB and anything in their possession from other offices—demanded in the subpoena from a House energy subcommittee on July 14 . But OMB promised to make a “substantial” number of internal documents and emails available for committee staff to review, said OMB spokesman Kenneth Baer. Read more ..

Edge on Terrorism

Norway Not Taking any Chances Even Though Killer Says He Acted Alone

July 24th 2011

Europe Topics - Anders Breivik action hero
Anders Breivik

Norwegians mourned at church services throughout the Scandinavian country, marking the death of the at least 93 killed at the hands of Anders Behring Breivik, a 32 year-old Norwegian in dual attack on July 22. A further 86 were wounded by Breivik, who allegedly set a fertilizer-fuelled carbomb that detonated at approximately 3:45 pm on a Friday afternoon, devastating a central Oslo building that housed the offices of Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg and government agencies.

This was followed soon after by a killing spree on Utoya island, some twenty miles from Oslo, where young members of the ruling Labor Party were on a camp out. It was there that Breivik, disguised as a policeman, opened fire and killed scores of young people, some of whom were felled by bullets as they attempted to swim to safety. A special police unit was hampered in arriving on the scene, blaming the lack of adequate boats for the 90 minute delay in arresting the culprit. Read more ..

Edge of Terrorism

Terrorists Claim the Lives of at Least 10 Children in Norway, in addition to Deadly Bomb Blast in Oslo

July 22nd 2011

Terrorism - Norwegian terrorism victim

Norwegian police have found an explosive device on the secluded island of Utoya, northeast of Oslo, where earlier on July 22 a gunman now identified as an ethnic Norwegian killed at least 10 young campers according to police. Fortunately, the device did not detonate. The attack on the island was the second terrorist attack in Norway that very day.

Described as blond and approximately 6 feet tall, the assailant was dressed in a police uniform and claimed that he was on official business. He proceeded to shoot innocent campers and staff. Police are still combing the waters around the island and seek to find the corpses of other victims as fears that the death toll will rise. Read more ..

Edge on Terror

Libya is Feared to be New Source of Weapons for Palestine

July 22nd 2011

Israeli Military - Moshe Yaalon
Moshe Yaalon

Israel's Vice Prime Minister Moshe Yaalon said on July 21 that Libya has become a new source of smuggled weaponry for Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.

Speaking to foreign correspondents, Yaalon said, "Weapons are available in Libya as a result of the unstable situation there, and Hamas has exploited it to buy weapons from Libyan smugglers," he told foreign journalists in a briefing. The official did not specific what sort of munitions or materiel are involved.

With Libya largely divided between dictator Muammar Gaddaffi on the west and rebels on the east, armaments flowed back and forth over the eastern frontier with Egypt to the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip, said Yaalon - a former defense minister. As of yet, the Hamas terrorist organization has not commented on Yaalon’s charges.

Israeli concerns over the smuggling of armaments spurred the interdiction of the so-called Gaza Flotilla, which brought vessels from several countries this month to attempt a breach of the Israeli naval blockade. Most of the flotilla was held in Greece, including one U.S. flag vessel, while another boat was halted on the high seas by Israeli naval vessels and brought into the Ashdod port in Israel before it could land in the Hamas-controlled territory. Israel allows food, medicine, and other non-military goods to enter Gaza along already established land routes. Read more ..

Religious Tolerance

Muslim Leader Calls for Death of Muslim-Christian Married Couple

July 22nd 2011

PakistanTopics - Anti blasphemy protest

Intolerance for differences as to religion continues unabated in Pakistan. The latest case to stir up sectarian passions is that of Muslim woman and a Christian man who were forced to flee for their lives in the face of Muslim retribution.

Asthma Zubaida, a Muslim woman, and Basharat Masih, a Christian man, fell in love in the town of Gujranwala where Zubaida was a teacher in a local public school. Masih was an official in public school administration. Following their marriage in September 2010, they soon began to receive ever more frequent death threats, which caused them to flee. They now go from place to place to avoid punishment. Read more ..

Iran’s Nukes

Iran, Venezuela, Argentina Possibly Cooperating on Nuclear Projects

July 20th 2011

Latin American Topics - kirchner chavez ahmadinejad
Presidents Kirchner (Argentina), Chavez (Venezuela), and Ahmadinejad (Iran)

A number of Congressmen have requested an investigation of possible nuclear cooperation between Venezuela, Iran, and Argentina. Suspicions of such connections are based on information made available by the State Department.

According to sources, Iran is interested in a program of modernization of the Argentine nuclear plants. Argentina maintained a nuclear cooperation agreement with Iran that was suspended in the early 1990s by the Argentinean government. Then, tensions between the two countries deteriorated as a result of the bombing of the Israeli Embassy in 1992 and the Jewish Community Center in 1994. Read more ..

The Edge of Hate

Distinguished Senator Resigns from Belgian University board over Anti-Semitic Incidents

July 19th 2011

Jewish Topics - Jacques Brotchi
Jacques Brotchi

After denouncing several grave anti-Semitic incidents at the Free University of Brussels (ULB), Dr. Jacques Brotchi – a member of Belgium’s Senate and an internationally renowned neurosurgeon – resigned from the UCB board. Brotchi, who also holds an honorary professorship at the Brussels-based institution, told EJP on-line news "I resigned from the Board of the University Foundation which collects funds for research because I deeply deplored the absence of a strong and appropriate reaction from the university authorities to a succession of anti-Semitic incidents."

In his May 5 letter of resignation, Brotchi wrote, "I don’t feel at home anymore at ULB." He added, "I asked if the university of free-examination has not become the university of free anti-Semitism." Brotchi said he is saddened by the lack of an adequate response on the part of the university. He likened the current climate to the years just prior to the Second World War when Nazi Germany was just beginning the Holocaust. Read more ..

The 2012 Vote

Candidate Cain says he Would Not 'Sit Back' Should Iran attack Israel

July 19th 2011

Politics - Herman Cain
Herman Cain

Outspoken Republican presidential contender Herman Cain said in an interview with the Washington Times that if he were in President Obama’s place, he would not “sit back and wait” for United Nations permission to retaliate in case of an attack by Iran upon Israel.

A Baptist minister and businessman, Cain spoke with the Washington Times on July 18 and described his “Cain Doctrine” with regard to the United States’ stance as to Israel. Cain answered affirmatively when asked whether he agreed with a comment made by John Bolton—a former US ambassador to the UN—that a preemptive strike against Iran was the only option to prevent the Islamic Republic from advancing its nuclear weapons program in view of years of failed diplomatic initiatives.

While saying that he would want all necessary information before making a decision, Cain “My first option would be to make it crystal clear, and to use the words that I've used previously, if you mess with Israel, you're messing with the United States of America.” If Iran or any other nation failed to heed his eponymous foreign policy, Cain said, “They already know what plan B is.” Read more ..

Flotilla to Hamas

Israel Intercepts Another Gaza-bound Vessel

July 19th 2011

Palestine Topics - Dignite AlKarama

The Israeli navy boarded and seized a French vessel during the early morning hours of July 19 that was ferrying pro-Palestine activists bound for the Gaza Strip.A spokesperson for the Israeli Defense Forces stated that the vessel was forced to go to Israel’s Ashdod port. There were no reports of resistance to the Israeli marines who boarded the Dignite AlKarama in the eastern Mediterranean. An IDF spokeswoman said “I can confirm that the yacht has been boarded and that everything went smoothly, there were no casualties,” the spokeswoman said. Chief military spokesman Brigadier-General Yoav Mordechai averred that passengers were transferred from the small yacht to one of the Israeli warships and were sailing to Ashdod. Read more ..

Liberia on Edge

Univ. of Maryland Professor embroiled in Pre-Electoral Scandal in Liberia

July 18th 2011

Africa Topics - Larry Gibson and display
Larry Gibson, University of Maryland

The American professor at the center of what is becoming a pre-election scandal in Liberia says he played no role in preparing a pre-election analysis for the ruling Unity Party of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. The Online Liberian publication FrontPage Africa reported over the July 9-10 weekend that Larry Gibson, a law professor at the University of Maryland prepared a pre-election analysis in which he advised the ruling party that it faces a tall order in the coming October elections and that the party should keep its connections at the National Elections Commission.

Gibson, who admits he did some work for the 2005 election campaign of then-candidate Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, said he did not do any poll analysis for the October election. Read more ..

Nigeria on Edge

Nigerian "Elders" Forum Concerned over Military Response to Violent Islamist Sect

July 18th 2011

Nigeria - Nigeria joint military task force

In Nigeria, a leading member of the “Elders Forum” in northern Borno State has expressed concern about a government-backed unit formed to stop violence by the Islamic sect Boko Haram. According to the Nigeria Tribune newspaper, the federal government recently set up the Special Joint Military Task Force with its headquarters in Maiduguri, the capital of Borno State. The group includes elements of the army, navy, air force, state security and police.

Spokesman Bulama Mali Gubio said the force is ineffective. His group wants it replaced by what he described as seasoned and well-trained police officers. Nigeria’s military makes up most of the task force. “We are not satisfied with the way and manner they are conducting the operation they are carrying out,” said Gubio. “Instead of calming down the situation and bringing it under control, the conflict has escalated. People are fleeing the city and becoming refugees.” Read more ..

Edge on Terrorism

Three Deadly Explosions Rock Mumbai

July 13th 2011

India Topics - Mumbai terror2

Three explosions were reported in Mumbai on July 13 in the crowded Opera House, Zaveri Bazaar and Dadar areas of the city. The explosions began around 7:10 p.m. and occurred within minutes of each other. There are reports that a fourth bomb, likely at the Roxy Theater, failed to detonate. Current casualty estimates indicate five people have been killed and 100 injured thus far.

This marks the first major attack in India since the November 2008 Mumbai attacks. Though the magnitude of these explosions has yet to be determined, this attack does not appear to be as sophisticated as the 2008 attacks, which involved an assault team consisting of a number of militants that coordinated 10 shooting and bombing attacks across the city. Read more ..

Guatemala on Edge

Murder of Venerated Argentine Singer puts the Spotlight on Latin American Elites' Indifference to Violence and Bad Governance

July 12th 2011

Argentina Topics - Facundo Cabral
Facundo Cabral

Archbishop Oscar Julio Vian Morales of Guatemala expressed his outrage on July 10 over the murder of famed Argentine singer and activist Facundo Cabral. Cabral, 74, was felled in a hail of automatic fire while on his way to Guatemala’s international airport during the early-morning hours of July 9 to take a flight to Nicaragua. According to some reports, music promoter and businessman Henry Fariña was the intended victim of the assassination. Farinas was injured during the armed attack.

Guatemalan President Álvaro Colom said that there is evidence that organized crime was behind the attack that “definitely indicate that it was directed at Mr. Fariña. There is no indication that Facundo was targeted.” Read more ..

Africa on Edge

Somalian Diaspora Aids in Disastrous Drought in the Horn of Africa

July 12th 2011

Africa Topics - Somalian hungry

A food crisis in the Horn of Africa is affecting millions of people as some areas are hit with the worst drought in 60 years. Abidirashid Duale is CEO of Dahabshiil, which operates in almost 150 countries around the world. The global money transfer company sends more than $1 billion to Somalia every year.

Duale spoke to VOA in London, from where Dahabshiil caters to the growing Somali population in Britain, about how diaspora communities will help the region survive. He said when drought hits, Somalia’s diaspora responds by sending home money.

“Normally when it comes to this kind of season and when there is a crisis, individual people who are in the diaspora will want to send money back home,” Duale said. Read more ..

Healthcare on Edge

House to Hold Hearings on Panel that GOP Claims Will “Ration” Health Care

July 11th 2011

Health/Medicine - medicine and money

House Republicans will make a concerted push this week to shift the healthcare focus back on to President Obama and congressional Democrats—specifically by focusing on a cost-cutting panel in the healthcare law that the GOP charges will “ration” care.

The renewed attacks on the Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB) will play out in two hearings: first Tuesday in the House Budget Committee, followed by a four-panel marathon the next day in the Energy and Commerce Health subcommittee.

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius will testify at both hearings, and she’s expected to defend the IPAB in familiar terms. While critics emphasize that the IPAB’s members will be appointed by the administration, Sebelius has noted that Congress can block the IPAB’s cuts from taking effect, as long as lawmakers find equivalent savings elsewhere in the budget.

Energy and Commerce has assembled a lengthy roster of witnesses that includes officials from several healthcare provider groups—the stakeholders whose payments the IPAB will have the power to cut. Read more ..

Privacy on Edge

Bluetooth v4.0 Profiles Will Promote Proximity Sensing, Security Features

July 11th 2011

Technology - bluetooth connecting devices

Two new profiles within the latest revision of the Bluetooth specification are expected to enable a new era in proximity sensing and security, according to Nordic Semiconductor. The Bluetooth v4.0 profiles, developed within the Bluetooth SIG PUID (Personal User Interface Device) working group will enable the standards-based functionality.

The Bluetooth low energy Find Me profile targets smartphone applications and will allow users to pair small but commonly misplaced everyday objects with smartphones in order to locate them. One early example will be Bluetooth low energy key fobs that users will be able to use to find a misplaced phone or key fob. Read more ..

Japan After the Quake

Japanese Electronics Industry Expected to Recover by September

July 5th 2011

Japan - Fujitsu locations
Fujitsu Locations

The electronics industry supply chain is expected to be completely recovered from the after effects of the March 11 earthquake in Japan by the end of the third quarter, according to a report by market research firm IHS iSuppli.

Electronics companies with operations near the epicenter of the quake that suffered building and equipment damage are expected to restore full shipments by early September, six months after the quake, IHS said. The restoration will coincide with the peak season for electronics and semiconductor sales in the third quarter, according to the firm.

Many electronics companies have already fully restored operations after they were halted on the day of the quake. In many cases, restart was hindered by infrastructure damage and rolling black outs. Some restarted chip fabs are still working toward recovering full manufacturing capacity. Both Renesas Electronics’ fab in Naka and Texas Instruments’ Miho fab are not expected to recover full production until the end of September. Read more ..

The 2012 Vote

Koch Industries Fined for Making 12 Illegal Campaign Contributions—That it Self-reported

July 5th 2011

Politics - Koch Industries building

A foreign subsidiary of Koch Industries has been fined $4,700 by the Federal Election Commission for making 12 illegal donations totaling $26,800 to seven non-federal committees over a four-year period.

Invista S.a.r.l., a Koch subsidiary which is registered in Luxembourg but headquartered in Wichita, Kan., came to the FEC voluntarily with information that it made the illegal donations during the years 2005 through 2009.

Under federal election law, foreign companies are barred from making donations to candidates or committees in federal, state or local elections. Read more ..

The 2012 Vote

Hochul Hauled in Significant Family Cash on One Day

July 5th 2011

Politics - Kathy Hochul D-NY
Rep. Kathy Hochul, D-NY

A supportive family can make a difference in politics. For Kathy Hochul (D-N.Y.), it made $50,000 worth of a difference—all in one day.

Hochul witnessed $50,000 in donations pour in on March 4, all from 10 identifiable siblings or people with the surname “Courtney”—her maiden name, research indicates. Hochul defeated Republican Jane Corwin and Independent Jack Davis in a May special election in New York’s 26th District. Read more ..

Mexico's Wars

Three-Way Gun Battle Just South of the Border between Mexican Military and Two Drug Cartels

July 4th 2011

Mexican Topics - Mexican marine infantry

The State of Texas is warning residents to avoid crossing over to Mexican border towns, as Americans celebrate Independence Day on July 4. This advisory bolsters one that was issued by the U.S. Department of State in April 2011 that warned American citizens to be careful as they travel to Mexico, due to the ongoing war between national security forces and the various criminal narcotics organizations, including Los Zetas and the Cartel del Golfo.

A firefight between elements of the Mexican miltiary and police with narcoterrorists claimed the life of a popular Catholic priest, Fr. Marco Antonio Duran Romero, on July 2. The well-known priest and TV personality was killed in cross-fire that ensued from the shoot-out. Sources claim that members of Los Zetas were attempting to enter the Mexican city of Matamoros, which lies across the international border from Brownsville, Texas. Citizens of the two cities were in shock at the news. Read more ..

Flotilla to Hamas

Illegal Gaza Flotilla Determined to Sail Despite International Calls to Cease

July 2nd 2011

Gaza Topics - Audacity of Hope Flotilla2

An international aid flotilla is continuing with plans to sail to the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip despite a series of setbacks.

Pro-Palestinian activists organizing the aid flotilla say they still intend to challenge Israel's blockade on Gaza, a day after an American boat was intercepted by the Greek coast guard and turned back to Athens. American Greta Berlin, who was on board the vessel, blames Israel and the United States for the setback.

"The Greek government is under a huge amount of pressure from the Israeli government and probably our own government as well," said Berlin.

Israel and the U.S. have urged the flotilla not to violate the Gaza blockade, warning that the mission is dangerous and provocative. Read more ..

Flotilla to Hamas

Greece Stands Up to Illegal Gaza Flotilla--Arrests American Captain

July 2nd 2011

Europe Topics - Greek boarding party

Greek authorities, showing "unusual maritime courage at a moment of high national stress," according to one State Departmernt source,  have arrested the civilian captain of a US-flagged ship bound for the Gaza strip and aimed at challenging Israel's maritime blockade of the Palestinian territory bordering the Mediterranean Sea. Israel's blockade has been held to be legal under international law, and numerous governments--from Washington to Europe--have warned flotilla organizers they face arrest should they pursue this challenge. That is what happened.

According to the organizers of the voyage, John Klusmire, an American citizen and captain of The Audacity of Hope, was jailed on July 2 charged with disturbing sea traffic, endangering the lives of those on the ship, and disobeying a police order to remain at dock. Klusmire is due in court on July 5. The vessel and crew were also seized and remain at the Port of Pireaus near Athens, following their attempted departure from Greece.

A State department source, not authorized to speak on the record, declared, "Now that was unusual maritime courage at a moment of high national stress for the Greeks." Read more ..

The Edge of Debt

Lawmakers Grumble over Lack of Info on Secret Biden Debt-limit Negotiations

June 29th 2011

Economy - One Million Dollars

Lawmakers are expressing frustration with the lack of information they have received from Vice President Biden’s debt-limit negotiations.

The growing restlessness comes as Biden and six members of Congress are aiming to release the framework of a bipartisan deal by July 1 that will lift the nation’s debt ceiling while cutting trillions of dollars from the budget.

While the Biden group has expressed optimism that a deal is within reach, rank-and-file members are skeptical, and are raising questions about the lack of transparency.

In a recent floor speech, Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) warned that a debt-ceiling deal being negotiated in the closed-door talks might be too modest and could draw little support in the upper chamber. Read more ..

The Afghan War

Obama’s Afghan Drawdown Could Spawn Revival of Opium Industry, says Rep. Turner

June 29th 2011

Afghan Topics - Afghanis in poppy field

President Obama’s plan to remove 33,000 U.S. troops from Afghanistan by next September could revitalize that nation’s opium industry, which has been a cash cow for the Taliban, says Rep. Mike Turner (R-Ohio).

American and NATO commanders have for nearly a decade tried various tactics in the war on Afghanistan’s narcotics industry—and fought mainly a losing battle.

Data compiled by both the Congressional Research Service and the Gen. David Petraeus-led NATO command in Afghanistan shows opium production rose from about 3,400 metric tons in 2002 to 4,200 two years later. Production then shot up to 8,200 metric tons in 2007. Production dropped steadily to 6,900 metric tons in 2009, according to the CRS and NATO data. Read more ..

Edge on Africa

US First Lady Calls Africa's Youth to Action

June 28th 2011

Africa - Obama and Mandela
Michelle Obama and Nelson Mandela (credit: Nelson Mandela Foundation)

U.S. first lady Michelle Obama has delivered a motivational speech to Africa’s youth, and in particular to the continent’s young women, calling them to action for a better future.

Following a boisterous choir and introductory remarks by South African women leaders, an emotional Michelle Obama, the first African-American first lady in U.S. history, spoke before a packed Regina Mundi church, directly addressing young women.

“You can be the generation that makes the discoveries and builds the industries that will transform our economies,” the first lady said. “You can be the generation that brings opportunity and prosperity to forgotten corners of the world and banishes hunger from this continent forever. You can be the generation that ends HIV/AIDS in our time, the generation that fights not just the disease, but the stigma of the disease.” Read more ..

Economic Jihad

Counter-Boycott of Whiskey Emerges in Response to Scottish Boycott of Israeli Goods

June 24th 2011

Food / Wine - Chivas whiskey

The Federation of Jewish Men’s Clubs (FJMC), comprising 250 Jewish men’s clubs and more than 25,000 members throughout North America, joined synagogues in Israel and elsewhere calling for a “boycott of scotch from distillers located in West Dunbartonshire Council in Scotland at Kiddush and [in] public and private” celebrations. The clubs are affiliated with the Conservative movement of Judaism and called for Jews to avoid certain liquor brands in the wake of a boycott of Israeli goods instituted by the local council of the whiskey-producing region of the United Kingdom.

“A boycott is like a snowball heading downhill,” said FJMC Executive Director Rabbi Charles Simon. “It begins at the top of a large mountain, and gathers momentum until it is transformed into an avalanche. If we wish to stop it, we need to act as soon as possible.” Read more ..

Mexico's Wars

The Truth May Be a Victim of Narco-War Firefights just South of the Border

June 24th 2011

Mexican Topics - Los Zetas cartel recruiting poster
Los Zetas recruiting poster offers 'dirty work'

Around 5 a.m. on June 17, simultaneous firefights reportedly broke out between elements of the Gulf and Los Zetas cartels in several locations in Matamoros, Tamaulipas state, a Gulf stronghold. The Mexican military has confirmed that a gunbattle did indeed take place in the Colonia Pedro Moreno area but has not confirmed media reports of additional firefights in the Mariano Matamoros, Valle Alto, Puerto Rico and Seccion 16 neighborhoods. The military also has not confirmed a reported gunbattle in the rural area of Cabras Pintas, where six Mexican soldiers are said to have been killed.

Details of the confirmed firefight remain unclear, but from all indications, a large movement of Zeta forces into a Gulf stronghold did occur, and it suggests a heightened operational tempo in the war between these two cartels. In the coming months, this increasing violence is likely to continue in Gulf-held Reynosa and Zeta-held Monterrey as well as Matamoros.

The Mexican military said the June 17 gunbattle in Matamoros’ Colonia Pedro Moreno neighborhood resulted in three deaths and nine arrests, while an unnamed U.S. law enforcement official said four Gulf cartel gunmen died in the exchange of fire. Read more ..

Government on Edge

Watchdog Agency Flunks in Review of Commodity Futures Audits

June 19th 2011

Obama Admin Topics - OIG audit

The internal watchdog for the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) flunked a recent review of its auditing operations, raising questions about its ability to prevent fraud, waste, and abuse within the agency that will soon police the multi-trillion-dollar derivatives market.

The embarrassing grade was disclosed by Inspector General A. Roy Lavik in his semiannual report to Congress, which included a summary of a review conducted by another federal inspector general. “OIG submitted to a peer review of our audit function, conducted by the Federal Election Commission Office of Inspector General. We failed, with a scope limitation,” Lavik’s semiannual report said.

“We are taking the review very seriously,” Judith Ringle, an attorney advisor in the CFTC’s Office of Inspector General, told iWatch News . “We have hired an outside consultant to help with remediation.” Read more ..

The Battle for Libya

NATO Investigates Libya's Claims of Civilian Casulties of Operation Unified Protector

June 19th 2011

dead libyans

According to an official advisory on June 19th, NATO is investigating reports by the Libyan government that NATO air strikes resulted in civilian deaths and injuries during the early morning hours of June 19th. The incident is said to have occurred in a residential area in northern Tripoli following a deliberate strike which targeted a missile site operated by pro-Qadhafi forces. The advisory noted, “NATO regrets any loss of civilian lives and is doing all it can to protect the people of Libya from the violence waged by the Qadhafi regime.”

Libya’s Health Ministry says 856 civilians have been killed in NATO airstrikes since they began in March, even while the figure could not be independently confirmed. Previous government reports on individual strikes have proven to be exaggerated. NATO acknowledged its planes hit targets in Tripoli. Read more ..

The Battle for Syria

Leaked Official Document Details Syrian Orchestration of Deadly Nakba Day protest

June 15th 2011

Syrian Issues - Nakba document

Writing in the UK Daily Telegraph, analyst Michael Weiss unveiled what may be the smoking gun that proves that the Assad dictatorship in Syria had fully orchestrated the so-called ‘Nakba Day’ protests on May 15. It was then that impoverished Syrians and Palestinians mobbed the border dividing Israel and Syria and crossed into the Israeli-controlled Golan Heights. The confrontation resulted in approximately thirteen deaths and dozens of injuries when Israeli soldiers responded to the incursion. Approximately 200 protesters crossed into Israeli-held territory. It is theorized that some of the Syrians may have actually been seeking asylum in Israel rather than commemorating Nakba Day.

Some protesters wielded gasoline bombs that detonated land mines on the Syrian side of the border. The confrontation occurred within the context of assaults by Bashir Assad’s regime on the Syrian people, resulting in hundreds of deaths. Some Syrian army units have deserted after having seeing their comrades executed for refusing to shoot unarmed civilians. Syrian refugees are currently flooding into Turkey. Read more ..

Edge of Terrorism

Transatlantic Summit on Jihadi Terrorism and Arab Unrest Convenes at Congress

June 14th 2011

Terrorism - Walid Phares and Other Terrorism Experts
Walid Phares and other anti-terrorism experts

On June 14, 2011, the Third Summit of the Transatlantic Legislative/Parliamentary Group on Counter Terrorism (TAG) will be held on Capitol Hill and attended by members of the U.S. Congress and European Parliament. TAG was launched in 2008 by U.S. Representative Sue Myrick and Jaime Mayor Oreja of Spain, who serves as a member of the European Parliament and is Vice President of the EPP Group, with responsibilities in the area of  Political Strategy and the European Ideas Network. The two lawmakers are the co-chairs of the transatlantic caucus. In 2009, the group appointed two secretaries generals, Guillermo Martinez Casan of Brussels and Dr. Walid Phares of Washington D.C.

In this third summit, TAG's agenda will focus on two major issues: Terrorism after Bin Laden and the Evolution of the Arab Spring. After opening remarks by Mayor Oreja and Myrick, Dr. Phares will deliver the annual report. Read more ..

After the Balkans Genocide

Mladić Refuses to Offer Plea to War Crimes Charges

June 9th 2011

Genocides - ratko mladic
Ratko Mladić in 1993

The former military commander of the Bosnian Serbs, Ratko Mladić, made his first public appearance at the war crimes tribunal for the former Yugoslavia after 16 years as a fugitive. During his arraignment, he refused to plead to the 11 counts against him—including genocide, extermination and murder.

The whole world watched Friday to get a first glimpse of the man accused of committing the worst crimes since World War II. The once formidable general, stripped of his military uniform and in a dark grey suit, had to be supported by two guards and lowered into the defendant’s seat. He gave a military salute before he sat down. His speech was slow as he started off, but he became more defiant when presiding Judge Alphonse Orie asked him if he wanted to listen to the charges against him. He said he did not want to hear a single word.

But the judge read out all 11 charges anyway. Mladić, often wiping his face with a tissue, listened intently, sometimes shaking his head no, for example when the judge read out the genocide charge for the Srebrenica massacres. When he was asked if he wanted to enter a plea, he declined.

Mladić replied through an interpreter.

“Mr. Orie, I would like to receive what you’ve read out just now, these obnoxious charges read out against me,” Mladić said. “Because I need more than a month for these monstrous words, the ones I’ve never heard before, those that are included in this indictment.” Read more ..

The 2012 Vote

Candidate Ron Paul Drops "the Money Bomb" on Republican Romney

June 8th 2011

Politics - Ron Paul
U.S. Representative Ron Paul (R)

GOP presidential candidate Ron Paul took in more than $1 million Sunday using an online "money bomb" that hit at the Republican field's front-runner, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.

As of 11:22 a.m. on June 6, donors contributed more than $1.1 million to Paul's presidential campaign, according to his website. The haul matches what Paul brought in early last month with a "money bomb" on the day of the first GOP presidential primary debate.

Paul's latest "money bomb" is notable because it attacks Romney, both for the healthcare law he enacted as governor of Massachusetts and his status as the leading fundraiser in the GOP field. The title of the "money bomb" is "The Revolution vs. RomneyCare: Round One."

"Other campaigns are already hitting high gear—or should we say they are hitting up the fat cats," Paul's campaign wrote to supporters last week. "In fact, establishment candidate Mitt Romney raised 10 million dollars in one day a couple of weeks ago from well-heeled party bigwigs and Wall Street insiders, many of whom ponied up the legal maximum of $2,500 per person (or $5,000 per couple)."

The libertarian Texas congressman is riding a new wave of confidence to begin his 2012 presidential campaign. He has repeatedly said that the Republican Party and the country as a whole is much more receptive to his small-government, anti-war message than in 2008, when he last ran for president. Read more ..

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