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The Battle for Syria

Assad Regime Pays Impoverished Farmers To Die in Confrontation with Israel says Syrian Reform Group

June 6th 2011

Arab Topics - Golan Hts protesters 062011

A confrontation ensued along the Golan Heights border area when Syrian and Palestinian protesters attempted to cross into Israeli territory from the Syrian side on June 5. According to various media reports, approximately 20 persons were killed in the affray. The US State Department says "We are deeply troubled by events that took place earlier today in the Golan Heights resulting in injuries and the loss of life," while calling for the two sides to refrain from further bloodshed. Read more ..

Edge of Justice

Judge Orders FBI to Open Up about a Previously Secret Computer Drive

June 5th 2011

Politics - FBI HQ

June files. Zero files. I-drive. The FBI has a history of putting information in locations unknown outside the bureau, making them almost impossible to access from the outside. Now with the discovery of a new drive, a federal judge has ordered the FBI to explain by June 30 whether it is using a previously unknown record-keeping system to hide evidence from defense lawyers.

Concerns about the use of shared drives accessible only to FBI agents are not the first time this issue has come to light. The FBI’s use of these drives goes back at least a decade, and has been criticized by defense lawyers for years as a way for the bureau to handpick what information is made public and what is kept secret—even from federal judges and prosecutors. Read more ..

The Edge of Justice

John Edwards Indicted in Campaign Finance Case

June 5th 2011

Politics - John Edwards
Former Senator John Edwards

A federal grand jury has indicted former Sen. John Edwards (D-N.C.) on six counts of violating campaign finance laws during his 2008 presidential campaign—a new low point in what’s been his precipitous fall from political prominence.

Even Edwards’s most strident supporters have largely fled him, aghast at his fathering a child with former campaign aide Rielle Hunter while his now-deceased wife, Elizabeth, battled cancer. The six counts, which include four counts of illegal campaign contributions, one count of false statements and another for conspiracy, center on Edwards’s role in funneling money from campaign donors to Hunter in a bid to keep quiet his extramarital affair—and keep his lofty political ambitions afloat. Read more ..

Egypt after the Revolt

Egyptian Women Tortured and Subjected to “Virginity Tests” by Military

June 4th 2011

Egypt - Egyptian women protesting

An Egyptian general, who does not wish to be identified, admitted that his country’s military conducted forced “virginity tests” on female protesters in March of this year. Speaking to CNN, the officer reportedly said, “The girls who were detained were not like your daughter or mine,” adding, “We didn’t want them to say we had sexually assaulted or raped them, so we wanted to prove that they weren’t virgins in the first place.” During the protests and riots that eventually brought down the decades-long dictatorship of Hosni Mubarak, reports emerged of such abuse of both women and men at the hands of Egypt’s security forces. Some protesters were arrested and tortured, while others have disappeared and remain unaccounted for. According to the Egyptian general, “These were girls who had camped out in tents with male protesters in Tahrir Square, and we found in the tents Molotov cocktails and [drugs].” Read more ..

Media Freedom

Murdered Journalist is the Latest among Pakistan's Silenced Voices of Protest

June 4th 2011

PakistanTopics - Saleem Syed
Syed Saleem Shahzad

Pakistanis are in mourning and have taken to the streets in several cities, including Lahore and Islamabad, following the abduction and murder of a journalist who worked for an international news service based in Italy. Observers have expressed concern that the life anyone who challenges the Pakistani government over issues such as the country's blasphemy laws and overall security is in jeopardy. Human rights advocates and Christian leaders are denouncing the killing.

Investigative journalist Saleem Shahzad, 40, the Bureau Chief for the Hong Kong-based Asia Times Online and correspondent for an Italian wire agency, went missing on the evening May 29 from Islamabad. Shahzad`s body was later recovered from the Head Rasul area in Mandi Bahauddin, Punjab province, nearly 100 miles from Islamabad. Earlier, his car was recovered from the Sahara -i- Alamgir area, about six miles from where his body was found.

Saleem Shahzad`s brother-in-law Hamza Ameer said, " Shahzad had been working for Asia Times Online for around 10 years. He was a very brave journalist. He was scheduled to appear on a talk show at a local news channel in Islamabad on Sunday evening, he left his residence in F/8-4 Islamabad around 5:30 pm, in a few moments his cell phone stopped responding, the news channel tried to contact him several times, as he didn't show up. They tried to reach us and informed us that Shahzad didn't reach the station." Ameer further said, " We rushed to the Margalla police station and lodged a complaint about Shahzad`s mysterious disappearance."

IG ( Inspector General ) Islamabad Police Wajid Durrani said, " After lodging of the complaint about Saleem Shahzad`s disappearance, we had started the probe, initially it was revealed that his cell phone got turned off near his house in F/8-4 Islamabad, which indicates that he was kidnapped close to his residence. On Monday (May 30) the Saddar Police Station in Sahara -i- Alamgir near Jhelum informed us that they have found Shahzad`s car which contained his ID (Identity Card) and other documents which confirmed that the car belongs to Shahzad. The police recovered his body from Head Rasul near Mandi Bahauddin, we informed the family and called them to identify the body, after confirmation the arrangements were made to shift the body to Islamabad. There were clear signs of torture on the body, the body was sent for post mortem." Read more ..

Edge on Markets

Global Market for OLED Lighting is Set for Serious Growth

June 4th 2011

Energy Topics - OLED matrix

The global market for OLED lighting will be $4.8 billion in 2016, according to market research firm NanoMarkets LLC. Of that Europe will be responsible for $1.5 billion in OLED lighting panel sales and Asia is expected to provide $2.1 billion. Japan is set to lead the OLED lighting business in Asia. Japanese companies have taken up key positions across the OLED lighting supply chain Sales of OLED lighting in Japan are expected to reach $1.1 billion by 2016.

Although, the addressable market for OLED lighting in China is limited, NanoMarkets expects the Chinese OLED lighting market to reach $420 million by 2016. OLED lighting is expected to be one of the industries to benefit from government support for technology. For South Korea NanoMarkets predicts OLED lighting sales of $230 million by 2016. Read more ..

Economic Recovery on Edge

As Fannie, Freddie Flounder, Six Top Execs Receive Handsome Rewards

May 31st 2011

Economy - One Million Dollars

Over the last two years, the Obama administration has approved a whopping $34.4 million in compensation to the top six executives of the financially troubled Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac mortgage giants while lacking basic protections to ensure such compensation is warranted, a federal watchdog found.

The largesse flowed to the six executives even though the two companies they run struggle to staunch billions of dollars in losses, remain in government conservatorship, and are required to repay taxpayers for assuming the companies’ liabilities during the mortgage crisis. Fannie and Freddie are tapping Treasury Department funds each quarter to help pay 10 percent dividends owed to the U.S. government. Read more ..

Economic Recovery on Edge

Chrysler Repays its Bailout Money; Obama takes Victory Lap

May 30th 2011

Automotive - Chrysler HQ

President Obama hailed Chrysler’s repayment of its 2009 bailout loans Tuesday and took credit for the automaker’s revival.

The White House said the repayment “marks a significant milestone for the turnaround of Chrysler and the countless communities and families who rely on the American auto industry.”

Obama said it was because of his own actions that Chrysler was able to rebound from its government-supervised bankruptcy, which resulted in its acquisition by Italian automaker Fiat.

“Supporting the American auto industry required making some tough decisions, but I was not willing to walk away from the workers at Chrysler and the communities that rely on this iconic American company,” Obama said in a statement.

“I said if Chrysler and all its stakeholders were willing to take the difficult steps necessary to become more competitive, America would stand by them, and we did,” Obama said. Read more ..

Edge on NarcoTerror

Mexican Drug Lords Decapitate and Dismember a Prosecuting Attorney in Guatemala

May 28th 2011

Latin American Topics - Guatemala - headless corpse

The dismembered and ravaged body of an assistant prosecuting attorney was found in northern Guatemala on May 24, just one day after he had been abducted. The victim, Allan Stowlinsky Vidaurre, is presumed to have been murdered by Los Zetas - a Mexican criminal organization that has become increasingly powerful and violent as it seeks further control of the narcotics trade in Guatemala. The same narcoterrorist organization has been blamed for the mass murder of 27 persons on May 15 in a region of Guatemala bordering Mexico.

According to official sources, "the murdered individual is Assistant Prosecutor Allan Stowlinsky Vidaurre who was abducted yesterday (May 23). He partcipated in the investigations into capturing the presumed leader of the Zetas, Hugo Gomez - a.k.a. El Comandante Bruja (Commander Witch)." Read more ..

Edge of Terrorism

Two Somali Pirates Plead Guilty in Lethal Yacht Hijacking

May 25th 2011

Piracy - Somali Pirates Land

Two Somali men have pleaded guilty to piracy for their roles in a yacht hijacking in February that left four Americans dead.

Abdi Jama Aqid and Said Abdi Fooley entered guilty pleas on May 23 in a federal court in Norfolk, Virginia. These are the latest of seven Somalis to enter guilty pleas in connection with the incident.

According to court documents, Aqid served as a spotter and identified potential targets  for hijacking among the many vessels passing by Somalia's lawless shores. Aqid believed he could earn as much as $80,000 as his share of ransom. Fooley admitted to bringing a semi-automatic weapon on board the yacht, the S/V Quest, owned by Jean and Scott Adam of California. The pirate said that he was stationed at the front of the yacht as a guard. Read more ..

Iran’s Nukes

US Widens Sanctions on Iran Amid Nuclear Impasse

May 25th 2011

Iran - Ahmadinejad Nuclear

The United States has announced sanctions against seven foreign entities, including Venezuela’s state oil company, for engaging in trade with Iran in violation of U.S. law. It is part of an effort to prompt Iran to return to big-power talks over its nuclear program.

The Obama administration is stepping up its sanctions against foreign companies aiding Iran’s energy sector following a disappointing Iranian response to the latest big-power offer to return to nuclear talks.

A State Department announcement said seven companies, among them the Venezuelan state oil company Petroleos de Venezuela, will face varying penalties for helping deliver refined oil products to Iran.

The others cited under the 1996 Iran Sanctions Act from the U.S. Congress are two firms based in the United Arab Emirates, and one each in Britain, Singapore, Monaco and Israel. Read more ..

Israel and America

Netanyahu Speaks to AIPAC on Common Fate of Israel and the United States

May 25th 2011

Israel Topics - Bibi at Podium

Speaking in Washington D.C. on May 23 to a conference of the American-Israeli Political Action Committee (AIPAC), Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu used the occasion to defend Israel's insistence on retaining the borders it has had since 1967 that came about as a result of war started by its enemies. It came just a day before Netanyahu is to make an address to a Joint Session of the U.S. Congress, the second in his career, in an atmosphere where foreign policy towards the Mideast and North Africa under the Obama administration appears to have taken a sharply divergent turn from preceding administrations. President Barack Obama spoke on May 19 at the State Department and set out a vision of reconciliation between Israel and Palestinians where he suggested a return to pre-1967 borders for Israel as the price for peace. Netanyahu immediately issued a statement following the speech, and has since reiterated, that Israel will not return to what he termed to be those "indefensible" borders. Here follows the text of Netanyahu's speech to AIPAC:

My friends, before I talk about things about Israel, I want to say something about the scenes on television that I saw today and you have been seeing as well. When tragedy strikes America, Israel—Israel feels an immediate identification. And tragedy has struck America. Read more ..

The Battle for Syria

US, EU Warn: New Steps against Syria Soon

May 20th 2011

Syrian Issues - Clinton (US) Ashton (EU) al-Assad (Syria)
Secretary Clinton; Lady Ashton; President al-Assad

The United States and European Union are warning of new action against the Syrian government in the coming days if it does not halt its crackdown against protesters. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and EU chief diplomat Catherine Ashton discussed Syria and efforts to get Iran back to big-power nuclear talks.

Clinton and Ashton made clear they are losing patience with Syrian leaders and their reform promises, and are indicating that new sanctions or other punitive steps against Damascus are imminent.

Meeting reporters after talks at the State Department, the two expressed alarm about reports this week of mounting casualties in clashes between Syrian security forces and demonstrators. Read more ..

The Battle for Afghanistan

Violent Protests Erupt in Afghanistan after Disputed NATO Raid

May 19th 2011

Afghan Topics - Afghanis protest after NATO raid

Authorities in Afghanistan report that at least 11 people have been killed and at least 50 injured in violent protests against a NATO raid in northern Afghanistan that left four people dead.

In the aftermath, more than 2,000 demonstrators clashed with police in Taloqan, the capital of Takhar province. Shouting slogans against the American and Afghan governments, the protesters carried the body of at least through the streets one of those killed in the raid.

Afghan officials say four civilians were killed during an overnight NATO operation in the town. But the coalition says those killed, including two armed women, were insurgents. NATO says a combined Afghan and coalition force killed four militants who tried to fire on troops during an operation in the Taloqan district. The coalition said it was targeting a member of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan who had been moving weapons and explosives around Takhar province. Read more ..

The 2012 Vote

Dem Plan for Millionaire Surtax Intended to Soften GOP

May 18th 2011

Economy - One Million Dollars

Senate Democrats are using their proposal to raise taxes on millionaires as a stalking-horse to force Republicans to accept other tax increases.

Democratic officials privately acknowledge that raising personal income tax rates on the wealthy has little chance of passing this Congress. However, the politically popular idea is a key part of the Democrats’ strategy to attack the deficit and gain concessions from Republicans. Democrats are mulling two proposals to include in their budget plan: ending the George W. Bush-era tax cuts for families earning more than $1 million a year or imposing a surtax of 3 percent or 5.4 percent on millionaires and billionaires. Read more ..

After bin Laden

'Ally' May Be Too Strong a Word for Pakistan

May 18th 2011

PakistanTopics - Davis protest

The chairman of the House Intelligence Committee on Friday delivered a rebuke to Pakistan, hesitating to characterize that country as an "ally" given the questions about its prior knowledge of Osama bin Laden's whereabouts.

Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) acknowledged that there are serious difficulties plaguing the U.S. relationship with Pakistan.

"I would say Pakistan is an ally," he said in an interview airing Sunday on "60 Minutes" on CBS. "There are challenges, there’s serious challenges there and ‘ally’ may be too strong a word."

The government of Pakistan has come under pressure from lawmakers and even President Obama following the killing of bin Laden in Abbottabad, Pakistan earlier this month. Obama has said that bin Laden enjoyed a "support network" in Pakistan, though his national security adviser last weekend said there was no knowledge of bin Laden's location among Pakistan's most senior political, military or intelligence leadership. Read more ..

Japan After the Quake

Japan's IT Industry Faces Double Dip

May 9th 2011

Computer Topics - Hand on Mouse

Japan's IT market had overcome the negative impact of the global financial crisis and was expected to experience another year of positive growth, but it now looks to be headed for a double dip in 2011. According to a new International Data Corporation (IDC) forecast, the central government, local governments, and corporations will prioritize their recovery efforts and postpone non-essential IT spending.

Meanwhile, the prospect of another period of economic stagnation is hurting corporate and consumer confidence, leading to a decline in capital expenditure and consumption, and to IT expenditure freezes. The disaster has also disrupted supply chains in many industries. Although every effort is being made to restore production levels, there are supply shortages of certain components and materials. Converged mobile devices (such as smartphones) will likely be impacted. IDC believes that Japan's IT market is being constrained not only by declining demand but also by limited components supply. Read more ..

The 2012 Vote

Gingrich Taps Texan to Manage his GOP Presidential Bid

May 8th 2011

Politics - Newt Gingrich 4_2011
Newt Gingrich

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich will tap Rob Johnson to manage his GOP presidential bid.

Rick Tyler, Gingrich’s long time communications aide who will be campaign press secretary, said Johnson will get the top campaign post. Johnson became an adviser to Gingrich about six weeks ago.

The 36-year-old Johnson is well known in Texas GOP circles, but running Gingrich’s presidential drive is likely to be considerably more challenging than his previous experience. Johnson ran Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s successful re-election campaign last year. Earlier he served as campaign manager for Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst in 2002 and then became his chief of staff.

Tyler said Johnson’s “special strength is how to harness the Internet for modern campaigns. He did that in Texas and he will have the same capability for Gingrich nationally.” Read more ..

Islam's War Against Christianity

Pakistani Christians Flee Muslim Assault in Punjab Region

May 2nd 2011

PakistanTopics - Muslims attack Pakistani Christians

At least 20 people, including police officials, were wounded as 500 Muslim demonstrators attacked the Christian community in Gujranwala city on April 29, Minorities Concern of Pakistan has learned. The attackers, who accused certain members of the Christian community of committing blasphemy, entered a Christian missionary school and broke the furniture there and also attempted to attack a church in Gulzar Colony. Read more ..

Inside the Catholic Church

Outpouring of Polish Pride following Beatification of John Paul II

May 2nd 2011

Christian Topics - Poles commemorate John Paul II

As the late Pope John Paul II was beatified in the Vatican, many in his home country, Poland, were jubilant. But Poland’s attachment to the late Pope stems from more than just national pride, since many credit him with helping to overthrow the communist state.

In the town of Wadowice in southern Poland, John Paul II is everywhere. His face flutters from flags lining the streets, and he beams down on passers by from statues and photographs. Wadowice is the late Pope’s home town. He was born Karol Wojtyla in 1920, in a three-room flat that now houses a museum filled with his personal affairs - his cradle, his skis and a doily made by his mother. Read more ..

The Obama Edge

White House Smacks Rev. Franklin Graham for 'Birther' Talk

April 25th 2011

Presidential - Barack Obama

The White House slammed influential evangelical leader the Rev. Franklin Graham on Monday for questioning President Obama's birthplace.

Graham, a son of the Rev. Billy Graham who has served as a spiritual adviser to several presidents with his father, said on ABC's "This Week" on Sunday that Obama "has some issues to deal with" when it comes to his birth certificate.

"It's interesting that a minister would [use] Easter Sunday to make preposterous charges," White House press secretary Jay Carney responded Monday.

Graham made the remarks while saying he was open to supporting Donald Trump as a GOP presidential candidate. Trump has questioned whether Obama was born in the U.S., leaping to the top of opinion polls on GOP presidential candidates in the process.

Obama's campaign released his birth certificate in 2008 to prove he was born in Hawaii.

The younger Graham has irked the Obama White House before — the Pentagon revoked his invitation to a prayer ceremony last year after it was revealed he called Islam an "evil" religion in 2001. He also claimed last year that Obama was born a Muslim. Read more ..

Edge of Computing

Production Issues Hit iPad-2 Shipments

April 25th 2011

Computer Topics - iPad 2

Production issues hit iPad 2 shipments Manufacturing problems at Apple Inc., led to a shortfall in iPad 2 shipments in the first quarter, prompting IHS iSuppli to reduce its forecast for 2011.

IHS iSuppli now forecasts Apple will ship 39.7 million units for all models of the iPad this year, down 9.1 percent from the February forecast of 43.7 million. Based on IHS iSuppli’s final estimate of 15.1 million units shipped in 2010, IHS iSuppli now predicts total iPad shipments will rise 163.3 percent in 2011, down from the 189.6 percent predicted in February.

The firm has slightly increased its 2012 forecast for iPad shipments, to 62.6 million units, up from the previous forecast of 61.6 million.

Apple Wednesday posted first quarter results that beat consensus analysts' expectations and said it sold a record number of iPhones during the quarter. But the company reported selling fewer iPads than analysts expected. Read more ..


Israel to Get Earthquake Alerts by Phone

April 25th 2011

Computer Topics - I-phone

Israelis are to get earthquake and tsunami alerts by mobile phone, television, radio, sirens, pagers, and even their desktop computers courtesy of eVigilo, an Israeli company that has developed an emergency alert platform, IADC (Integrated Alert Distribution Center).

eVigilo developed the IADC, which is operated by the Israeli Home Front Command, to give Israelis advance warning of missile and rocket attacks, but in the wake of the devastating earthquake and tsunami in Japan in March, Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel's Prime Minister, decided to include earthquake warnings, which are to be sent to the population seconds before an earthquake occurs. Read more ..

The Battle for Bahrain

Bahrain Accuses Iranian's Hezbollah of Fomenting Riots

April 25th 2011

Bahrain Topics - Bahrain enraged protesters

Media reports suggest that Bahrain's government is now accusing the Iranian-backed militant group Hezbollah of training opposition members who are demanding more freedom and equal rights in the small Gulf nation.

A confidential report sent to the U.N. last week, reportedly saw Bahrain accusing opposition figures as having been trained at Hezbollah camps in Iran and Lebanon.

Details of meetings are laid out, especially between Hezbollah and leaders of Bahrain's opposition movements, including Haq and Wefaq. Read more ..

The Edge of Computing

Study Warns 63% of Chip Fabs in Earthquake Zones

April 25th 2011

Asia Topics - taiwanese semiconductor plant

Nearly two-thirds of the total worldwide semiconductor manufacturing capacity is located in seismically active areas, including more than 90 percent of foundry capacity, according to a report by an industry market research firm.

The report notes that since the early days of chip production in Silicon Valley, the semiconductor industry has always had the bulk of its manufacturing located in seismically active regions. “It appears that, over time, the IC producers and their customers have just come to accept this situation as a fact of life,” said the report. Read more ..

The Battle for Syria

Syria's Assad Regime Kills Demonstrators in Ongoing Unrest

April 18th 2011

Syrian Issues - Syrian Protests March 2011

Human rights campaigners reported from Syria that some seven people were killed by President Bashar al-Assad's security forces overnight on April 17 in the central town of Homs, while several others were injured. Homs is the third-largest city in Syria, and is home to diverse cultural landmarks and a sizeable Christian minority.

The violence comes less than a day after gunmen, also suspected to be members of the country's security forces, killed three people and wounded dozens during a funeral for an anti-government protester in Homs. Thousands of people rallied across the country on April 17, which marked Syria's commemoration of independence from the Ottoman Empire. Read more ..

Palestinian Terror

Israel Arrests Palestinian Teenage Terrorists who Confess to Massacring Fogels--No Regrets

April 18th 2011

Israel Topics - Fogel Family
Murdered members of the Fogel family

Two teenage Palestinians from the village of Awarta near the Itamar Jewish settlement in Israel have been arrested for the murder of five members of the Fogel family on March 11, in a murder that shocked even many Palestinians.

Palestinian students Amjad Awad (19) and Hakim Awad (18) (not related to each other) both confessed to the brutal stabbings of Ehud and Ruth Fogel, along with three of their children, Yoav, 11, Elad, 4, and Hadas, 3 months old (who was decapitated by some accounts.)

Both Awads were active in the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and reconstructed the crime for Israeli Shin Bet investigators. According to Ha'aretz, the two acted independently of any terrorist oorganization and decided they would carry out the murder on the Friday afternoon before it took place. The two left Awarta, masked, at 9 p.m. carrying an umbrella, several knives and wire cutting shears. It took them about 10 minutes to cut the fence to the settlement, and once inside they broke into an empty home and stole an M-16 rifle, a weapons cartridge, a vest and a helmet. Read more ..

Inside Nigeria

Nigeria's President Goodluck Jonathan is Likely Winner in Re-Election

April 18th 2011

Africa - Nigeria election

An official of Nigeria’s Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) says the chairman of the electoral body is likely to officially announce the outcome of the presidential election on April 18.

Nick Dazan, INEC’s assistant director of public affairs, says preliminary reports of some observers who monitored Saturday’s presidential election suggest the vote was largely free and fair.

“So far, the results have been officially collected and announced and by later today, more states should be collected and announced at the presidential coalition center here in Abuja. Immediately [after] all the results have been collected, they will be tallied and then officially announced by the chairman of the commission, Professor Attahiru Jega,” Dazan said. Read more ..

Japan After the Quake

Cell Phone Image Sensor Supply Threatened by Japan Quake

April 18th 2011

Science - Image sensor chip India

The supply of CMOS image sensors, becoming ubiquitous in cell phones and notebook computers, has been affected by the Japan earthquake of March 11. In turn this is affecting the manufacture and distribution of camera modules for cell phones, according to market research firm IHS-iSuppli. Two wafer fabs, belonging to companies responsible for about 17 percent of global CMOS image sensor supply, have been closed for periods since the March 11 quake.

IHS-iSuppli did not quantify the level of disruption or whether it believed that mobile phone makers could build from inventory until normal supply chain service resumes.

Toshiba's Iwate wafer fab, which produces logic chip and CMOS image sensors for mobile phone cameras was due to resume partial operation in April, but the plant was hit by the strong aftershocks of April 7 and April 11. That plant is now due to restart partial production on April 18.

Ecuador on Edge

US Relations with Ecuador Sour Upon Dismissal of American Ambassador

April 13th 2011

Obama Admin Topics - Amb Heather Hodges
U.S. Ambassador Heather Hodges

Late on the afternoon of April 5, the Ecuadorian government of President Rafael Correa declared United States Ambassador Heather Hodges to be persona non grata. A WikiLeaks cable, published in the Spanish newspaper El País, supplied the principal motivation provoking Correa to take this grave action. This marks the second time in the past month that a U.S. ambassador has been forced to relinquish their a in a Latin American country because of a leaked diplomatic cable.

Drafted by Hodges, the cable condemned Correa’s appointment of Police Commander Jaime Hurtado. It cited investigations dating back to 2006 and 2007 that had found Hurtado guilty of embezzlement. The leaked document mentioned that President Correa knew about the investigations and its findings regarding Hurtado, but nevertheless selected him for the position because he could be more easily manipulated due to his compromised status. When given the opportunity to explain or defend this cable, Hodges declined to do so because the cable was obtained illegally. This situation arose at a time at when the relationship between both states was already tenuous.

Ecuador’s Foreign Relations Minister, Ricardo Patiño has declared that the government’s actions were aimed solely at Hodges, and not at the country she represents. For Ecuador, this was an important distinction to be made. Nonetheless, the dismissal could have important ramifications for one of Ecuador’s outstanding political interests; specifically, the renewal of the Andean Trade Promotion and Drug Eradication Act (ATPDEA). Read more ..

After the Holocaust

Dutch Media Links Nazi Spies with Post-War Espionage for the U.S.

April 13th 2011

History-Genocide - Dutch Jews and transport
Dutch and German Nazis escort Jews into deathcamp transport

In May, the Dutch will commemorate their war dead on the 4th and celebrate the anniversary of Liberation Day on the 5th. It was in 1945 that Allied forces, spearheaded by Canadian troops, freed the Netherlands from Nazi occupation. Old soldiers and witnesses to Nazi cruelties and carnage are dying off, and World War II stories are beginning to feature in the Dutch press. The Dutch daily De Volkskrant printed on April 12 a number of war-time photos published by the Dutch Institute for War, Holocaust and Genocide Studies (NIOD) called “The big 40-45 Book” referring to the years in which the Netherlands was occupied by Nazi Germany.

The paper describes the publication as magnificent, as it does away with the stereotypical black and white images of war. The invention of Technicolor film at that time during the war provides a surprisingly modern look to many of the pictures. Many of the photos have never been seen before. They have been found in attics or discovered in antique shops. Some of them were made by German soldiers who attempted to resemble tourists in the prostrate little country, while others offer eye-witness views of atrocities. Read more ..

The Battle for the Ivory Coast

Laurent Gbagbo Captured

April 11th 2011

Africa Topics - Laurent Gbagbo
Laurent Gbagbo

Defiant Ivory Coast leader Laurent Gbagbo has been captured at his Abidjan residence, after an assault by French and U.N. forces, and fighters of his rival, Alassane Ouattara.

A spokesman for the Ouattara forces, Seydou Ouattara, told VOA French to Africa service that Gbagbo was captured after an assault on the residence Monday and taken to Ouattara's headquarters at the Golf Hotel.

French armored vehicles had been seen advancing on the residence ahead of Gbagbo's capture.  The French embassy in Ivory Coast and Ouattara representatives in New York say it was Ouattara's men who detained the incumbent president. Read more ..

The 2012 Vote

Lugar sitting on $3M campaign war chest

April 11th 2011

Politics - Richard Luger

Senator Dick Lugar (R-Ind.) raised just over $973,000 in the first quarter of the year, his campaign announced Monday, easily outraising his GOP primary challenger. 

The longtime senator, who faces a challenge from the right next year from Indiana State Treasurer Richard Mourdock, will report more than $3 million cash on hand.

Mourdock's camp said last month that he will report raising between $125,000 - $150,000 during the first quarter and has said throughout that the candidate doesn't expect to best Lugar when it comes to fundraising.

"I'm enthusiastic about a great campaign that our supporters are waging," Lugar said in a statement. "We started this campaign months ago because I wanted to be clear about my intention to seek reelection in 2012." Lugar's camp touted donations from close to 5,000 individual donors so far this cycle, 88 percent of which are from donors in Indiana, according to the campaign. Read more ..

Religious Freedom

China Engages in Massive Crack Down on Christian Worshippers

April 11th 2011

China Topics - Chinese evangelical Christians

Police in China detained hundreds of Christian worshippers as they gathered for an outdoor service in Beijing. The detentions are the latest in a crackdown on individuals and groups deemed by the government to pose a threat to social stability.

The worshipers were from the unregistered, Christian, Shouwang House Church in Beijing. Their church leaders asked them to gather at an open-air venue for Sunday services on April 10, after they were evicted from their usual place of worship last week. Read more ..

Edge of Computing

Microsoft Alleges Google Pattern of Walling off Access and Data Needed by Competitors

April 4th 2011

Computer Topics - Google tablet HOneycomb

The news was released through a blog posting by Brad Smith, Microsoft's senior vice president and general counsel. Smith alleges that Google has engaged in a "broadening pattern of walling off access to content and data that competitors need to provide search results to consumers and to attract advertisers."

Smith argues that one reason for filing a complaint against Google in Europe is because Google's behavior here is more extreme. In the U.S. Smith said Microsoft's Bing search engine has about a 25 percent market share but Google has about 95 percent of the search market in Europe. Read more ..

Japan after the Quake

Sensor Shortage Hits Global Automakers

April 4th 2011

Automotive - car door

Japanese and global automotive production is being hit by the lack of an airflow sensor, according market research firm IHS Automotive. Global automobile production is likely to see a further marked drop in vehicle production—beyond that due to missing Japanese production—within a matter of weeks, the analyst said.

One estimate puts global vehicle output slumping 30 per cent within six weeks. And this is just one example of the difficulties being faced by automakers as a result of the earthquake and tsunami that hit Japan on March 11. Read more ..

Edge of Terrorism

Argentina is Accused of Secret Dealings to Absolve Iran of Deadly Bombings

April 4th 2011

Argentina Topics - Hector Timmerman
Hector Timerman

Argentine Foreign Minister Hector Timerman began a visit to Israel on April 2 in the midst of a serious uneasiness in relations between the two countries that emerged following accusations that the South American country has entered into a secret pact with the Islamic Republic of Iran. According to a leaked document noted by Perfil, an Argentine daily, Timerman had offered a deal with Iran to suspend the so far inconclusive investigations into the bombings at the Israeli embassy in 1992 and the AMIA Jewish community center in 1994. According to the paper, opponents of the Islamic regime in Tehran leaked the documents. Read more ..

Campus Rape

New Federal Guidance on Campus Sex Assault Probes in Offing

April 4th 2011

Social Topics - Campus crime

The Obama administration is taking new steps to address one of the most common crimes on college campuses: sexual assault. Speaking on April 4 at the University of New Hampshire, a school known for its proactive approach to combating sexual violence, Vice-President Joe Biden and Education Secretary Arne Duncan are unveiling new regulatory guidance on how colleges and universities must respond to student complaints of campus sexual assault.

Schools have an obligation, under the federal law known as Title IX, to investigate such complaints and to take prompt and effective action to end any harm from sexual violence. For years, college administrators have criticized the federal government for its lack of specific and consistent instruction on how to resolve student claims of campus rape; the confusion, critics say, has resulted in campus judicial processes that can leave student victims feeling further victimized. Read more ..

The Battle for Libya

Congress Shell-Shocked at Home as US Forces Bomb Libya's Gadhafi

March 28th 2011

Libya - Libyan Revolt
Libyan revolt

Congress returns to Washington this week to confront a scenario few lawmakers envisioned when they left town less than 10 days ago: a third U.S. war in the Arab world.

The question is now: What should Congress do about it?

President Obama’s sudden move to deploy American military forces in Libya caught lawmakers by surprise, leading to criticism from both Republican and Democratic leaders that the president failed to adequately consult with Congress or clearly define the mission. Read more ..

The Beltway's Edge

Poll: Planned Parenthood Cut Splits Voters by Gender, Race

March 28th 2011

Politics - Capitol Building at night

Likely voters are split on whether Congress should cut funding for Planned Parenthood, according to a new poll conducted for The Hill that also found a significant gender gap on the issue.

Fifty percent of women polled oppose eliminating funding for Planned Parenthood, while 38 percent said the group’s federal funds should be eliminated. More men (46 percent) would cut Planned Parenthood’s funding than leave it alone (43 percent).

Single people, young people and blacks were also much more likely to be opposed to cutting federal funds for Planned Parenthood.

Only 26 percent of single people supported cutting Planned Parenthood funds compared to 51 percent of married people. Fifty-five percent of voters over the age of 65 back the cuts, while just 31 percent of voters aged 18 to 39 agree. And just 9 percent of black voters agree, compared to 45 percent of white voters. Read more ..

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