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The Weapon's Edge

Marine Corps Chief Plans to Get Troubled F-35B Fighter Plane Off Probation

March 14th 2011

Military - F-35b

Marine Corps Commandant Gen. James Amos intends to petition Defense Secretary Robert Gates to waive a two-year probation sentence for his service’s version of the F-35 jet, if the program shows improvement.
Marine Corps brass want to get the F-35B variant “off [probation] sooner rather than later,” Amos told the House Appropriations Defense subcommittee March 9.
To make that happen will require the approval of Defense Secretary Robert Gates or his replacement. So Amos plans to compile a set of “metrics” to help the Defense secretary make that decision. Read more ..

Pakistan on Edge

A Compromised Security Detail may have led to Assassination of Pakistan's Minister for Minorities Affairs

March 14th 2011

PakistanTopics - Shabaz Bhatti death car 2

Pakistan's slain minorities affairs minister Shahbaz Bhatti was using his official residence as a smokescreen and actually lived in a rented house with his family in Sector I-8/3, where he was gunned down in a morning ambush in Lahore on March 2.

Yousuf Nishan, Bhatti’s brother-in-law, confirmed that the minister was living with his mother and the family in the ground portion of the rented house.

“The impression that he was keeping his office as his residence in Sector I-8/4 was created deliberately,” said Nishan. “Even the security escort of the minister was unaware that he used to slip from the backdoor into a private car for his actual residence in I-8/3 with his mother and return the same way in the morning.” This showed that he was keeping his actual address secret, as “he did not even trust his own security guards, particularly after the killing of Salmaan Taseer,” said Bhatti’s brother-in-law. A senior police official confirmed Nishan’s claims. Read more ..


Japan After the Quake

Japan Warns of Possible Meltdown at Nuclear Power Plant

March 12th 2011

Energy / Environment - Nuclear danger sign

Japanese officials are cautioning that a nuclear meltdown may occur at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant near the town of Okuma. According to Japan’s Jiji Press, some of the reactor’s nuclear fuel rods were briefly exposed to the air after the reactor’s water levels dropped through evaporation. A fire engine is currently pumping water into the reactor and the water levels are recovering, according to an operator of the Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO), which operates the plant. A TEPCO spokesman said the company believes the reactor is not melting down or cracking and that workers are currently attempting to raise the water level. Read more ..


Afghanistan on Edge

Gates: U.S. Troops Could Stay in Afghanistan Beyond 2014

March 7th 2011

Military - Army in Afghanistan

Defense Secretary Robert Gates said on March 7 that U.S. troops could remain in Afghanistan beyond the 2014 date set by President Obama to transfer responsibility to Afghan forces. When asked about a long-term military presence while speaking to U.S. troops in Afghanistan, Gates said that a smaller number of American forces could remain.

"Obviously it would be a small fraction of the presence that we have today, but I think we're willing to do that," Gates said, according to the Associated Press. "My sense is, they [Afghan officials] are interested in having us do that."

Afghan government officials have indeed asked for U.S. help beyond 2014, but that request could be met with opposition from the American public, which has become increasingly war-weary. The Afghan government and the U.S. have been working on a long-term security accord, in part because the U.S. seeks to keep Afghanistan, the base for the 9/11 attacks, free of terrorist activity. Read more ..


The Battle for Libya

Britain Investigates Gadhafi's Ties to the London School of Economics

March 7th 2011

Arab Topics - Gadafi son
Saif al-Islam Gadhafi

An independent investigation has been launched in Britain into a top university's links with Libya after the university's director resigned over the controversy.

Britain’s London School of Economics had been put under the spotlight because of its ties to Gadhafi and his family.

Under investigation

The university accepted a research grant worth more than $2 million from a foundation run by Gadhafi’s son, Saif al-Islam Gadhafi.

On March 3, the university’s director resigned, the first high-profile Briton to lose his job in connection with British business links with Libya.  Sir Howard Davies told the BBC that he had to take responsibility for the damage done to the university’s reputation.

"I think the school will recover, it's a fine institution, which I have become very fond of," said Davies. "But I think it will recover more quickly if I accept responsibility for two errors of judgment." Read more ..


The Mortgage Meltdown

Maryland Property Tax Lien Auctions Rigged, Says Witness

March 7th 2011

Economy - Tax Auction

A key witness in a federal probe of corruption in Maryland property tax-lien sales has stated under oath that he rigged bids for years while representing a Florida bank and other firms that bought liens at annual sales auctions, newly unsealed court records show.

Baltimore real estate attorney John Reiff said he and two law partners helped fix bids for the purchase of “large numbers” of property tax debts, called tax liens, sold by tax assessors at auctions in Baltimore and several other Maryland counties between 2003 and 2007, according to court filings made public for the first time last month. Read more ..


Edge on Environment

As Oil Prices Ascend, Environmentalists Sue Chicago for the 'Dead Zone'

March 7th 2011

Environment Topics - Gulf of Mexico dead zone

Oil prices rose to a fresh 2-1/2 year high early on March 7, climbing above $106 a barrel, as the violence in Libya continues to unsettle the market,” CNNMoney reports.

“The benchmark U.S. contract, West Texas Intermediate, for April delivery was up $2.26, or 2.1 percent, to $106.68 a barrel. Oil prices are currently trading at the highest levels since September 2008.”

BP’s chairman called on regulators to allow deepwater oil drilling Monday.

AFP reports: “Last year's massive Gulf of Mexico oil spill sparked by an explosion on a BP-leased platform is no reason to stop deep sea drilling, the group's chairman Carl-Henric Svanberg said on March 7.

"If we truly learn from this accident, I see no reason to close off the deep water as an area for future oil exploration and production,’ BP chairman Svanberg told a conference in the southern Swedish city of Malmoe on oil spill risk management.” Read more ..


Border Wars

Amid ATF Flap, Dems Pressure Obama to OK New Gun Trafficking Rules

March 7th 2011

Congressional issues - Gun collection

More than 40 House Democrats are calling on President Obama to approve new rules granting federal regulators more authority to crack down on gun trafficking to Mexico.

The request comes at an unfortunate time for the lawmakers, however, as the Department of Justice (DOJ) has just launched a probe into reports that hundreds of guns were lost amid a federal sting designed to track firearms by letting known smugglers buy them with impunity.

The Democrats want the White House to require border-state gun dealers to report bulk purchases of assault weapons and other long guns—a change requested by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) in December. Last month, the the White House rejected ATF’s request to expedite the appeal, arguing that the heightened border violence is not emergency enough to circumvent normal procedures. Read more ..


Edge on Washington

Democrat Henry Waxman says GOP is a “Party of Science Deniers”

March 7th 2011

Congressional issues - Henry Waxman 2
US Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif)

The Republican Party is the “party of science deniers,” a top House Democrat said on March 7.

Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), an ardent proponent of climate-change legislation, criticized Republicans for their attempts to block the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from regulating greenhouse gas emissions during a speech at the Center for American Progress Monday.

“I’ve never been in a Congress where there was such an overwhelming disconnect between science and policy,” Waxman, the former chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, said.

“Republicans in Congress have become the party of science deniers and that is profoundly dangerous,” he said.

Waxman lamented the growing divide between liberal Democrats and Republicans on climate change, accusing the GOP of ignoring the consensus among scientists that human activity is contributing to warming. Read more ..


The Edge of Terrorism

NY Congressman King Fends off Critics on Top Terror Expert Testimony at Congressional Hearings

March 3rd 2011

Congressional issues - Rep Peter T. King
U.S. Rep. Peter T. King

Outspoken US Representative Peter T. King (R-NY) denounced efforts to prevent Walid Phares, an American expert of Lebanese Christian descent and an expert on Islamism, from providing testimony to the U.S. Congress on Islamic terrorism. The Council of American Islamic Relations (CAIR), a controversial organization based in Washington, D.C., with branch offices elsewhere in the US, has called upon Congress to block Phares’s testimony. Congressman King, who has been outspoken about Islamic terrorism and its threat to U.S. security ever since 9/11, issued a statement defending Phares. Read more ..


Terror in Pakistan

Pakistani Human Rights Defender Felled by Hail of Islamist Bullets

March 2nd 2011

Terrorism - Assasination Pamplhlet
Declaration of Assassination

Pakistan's Minister for Minority affairs Shahbaz Bhatti was killed in the I-8/3 area of Islamabad on the morning of March 2 near his home by three unidentified gunmen. He was the only Christian member of Pakistan's cabinet of ministers.

According to reports, the assassins threw pamphlets before fleeing the scene that stated that whoever speaks against the blasphemy law will face the same fate. The Tehrik-i-Taliban, a Muslim extremist group, has claimed responsibility for the attack on the minister in the pamphlet.

The minister had left his house moments just moments before his car was intercepted by a white Suzuki Mehran vehicle. Assailants, dressed in traditional shalwar kurtas, first took the minister’s driver out the car and then shot Bhatti at least 25 times. At the time of his death, Bhatti had no security detail to protect him and his niece, who was also in the bullet-ridden car.

According to the Inspector General in Islamabad, this was not a security lapse as escorts were provided to Bhatti, which he was not using. The minister had apparently instructed his security to wait at the office in I-8/4.

“The squad officer told me that the minister had directed him to wait for him at his office. He used to often visit his mother’s house without a squad,” Wajid Durrani said. “We are investigating the matter from different angles.” Bhatti had been receiving death threats and had requested the government for better security. He was provided with four guards by the interior ministry. Local resident Naseem Ahmed said the deadly firing continued for about 30 seconds. “We came out of our home after hearing the gunfire, we saw the car; it was badly damaged. We saw the minister, he was rushed to hospital in a critical condition,” Ahmed said. Read more ..


Oil Security

Reports of Saudi Tanks in Bahrain Perturb Oil Markets

March 1st 2011

Arab Topics - Bahraini tanks

An un-named Saudi Arabian government official denied on March 1 the widely-distributed reports that the oil kingdom had sent dozens of armored vehicles to Bahrain, a fellow oil exporter that has been beset in recent weeks by violent clashes between government forces and Shiite Muslim protesters. News reported by Egypt’s Almasry Alyoum newspaper of the armored incursion sent oil markets into a tizzy; reports that Saudi Arabia was sending tanks to Bahrain ahead of the latest pro-democracy demonstrations unnerved investors.

Concern is growing that anti-government protests—similar to those in Tunisia, Libya, and Egypt—are now brewing in the Saudi kingdom. Brent crude was up by nearly $1 a barrel to $112.80 on March 1, while the FTSE 100 has lost its earlier gains to sit 6.60 points lower at 5987.41. Read more ..


Economic Recovery on the Edge

Judge Orders Quicken Loans to Pay $2.7 Million Award in West Virginia Fraud Case

February 28th 2011

Economy - Quicken Loans HQ

A West Virginia judge has slapped online mortgage giant Quicken Loans Inc. with more than $2.7 million in punitive damages and legal costs after finding the lender had defrauded a borrower by misleading her about her loan and using an inflated property appraisal.

Ohio County (W.Va.) Circuit Judge Arthur Recht awarded the borrower just under $2.17 million in punitive damages. He also ordered that Quicken pay her attorneys nearly $600,000 in legal fees and costs. In a ruling last year, Recht had called Quicken’s conduct “unconscionable.” Read more ..


Internet on Edge

China Temporarily Blocks Access to LinkedIn

February 28th 2011

China Topics - Chinese Peeps Online

China has stepped up its policing of Internet usage in the country, temporarily blocking access to LinkedIn, the largest networking site for professionals, as well as searches for the name of the U.S. ambassador.

The networking site went offline on Friday shortly after one user set up a forum discussing the idea of a Jasmine Revolution in China. The reference to the word jasmine is the name some have attached to widespread anti-government protests that have swept through Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and other countries in the Middle East.

Last week, Chinese authorities mobilized tens of thousands of security forces ahead of Internet calls for Jasmine Revolution protests. Rights groups said that at least 80 prominent activists and dissidents were detained or confined to their homes in advance of the demonstrations. The protests drew up to several hundred people in more than a dozen cities. Read more ..


Border War

Mexico Criticizes U.S. Coordination in Drug War

February 28th 2011

Mexican Topics - Mexican Drug Police2

Mexican President Felipe Calderon rejected accusations that a lack of coordination in Mexico is undermining the fight against drug cartels, saying rivalry within U.S. intelligence agencies is to blame. He made the comments in an interview published on February 22 in Mexico's El Universal newspaper. 

The Mexican leader told the paper the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, the Central Intelligence Agency and Immigration and Customs Enforcement do not coordinate with each other on security matters, and said the agencies were rivals. Read more ..


Pakistan on Edge

Fears Grow for the Safety of US Diplomat Raymond Davis Now Imprisoned in Pakistan

February 21st 2011

PakistanTopics - Raymond Davis

Pakistani authorities said on February 21 that steps are being taken to keep imprisoned US diplomat Raymond Davis safe from harm.  US officials have expressed fears about his safety as anti-American sentiment has flared after he shot and killed two Pakistanis in Lahore in what he said was an attempted robbery last month. President Obama declared last week that diplomatic immunity should be respected in this case, even while on February 21 an anonymous Pakistani official reportedly said it is "beyond any shadow of a doubt" that Davis was working for the CIA. Sources in the US confirm that Davis, formerly an operator in US special forces who later worked for Xe – the security firm formerly known as Blackwater – worked as a 'protective officer' or bodyguard for US embassy personnel. Read more ..


Tunisia After the Revolt

Polish Priest's Throat Cut in Tunis amidst Rising Islamist Violence Against non-Muslims

February 21st 2011

Christian Topics - Rev Marek Rybinski
Rev. Marek Rybinski

A Catholic priest from Poland, the 33-year-old Rev. Marek Marius Rybinski, was found dead in Tunis at the Our Lady of Manouba School where he worked. According to local reports, the priest who served as the burser of his community of Salesians—a teaching order of priests—was the apparent victim of murder. The priest was found with multiple stab wounds and his throat slit in a storage closet on February 18 following a search by his brother priests. The order reported that he was the second of their number killed recently. According to preliminary inquiries by the Tunisian police, the Ministry of Interior says it believes that "terrorist extremists" carried out the crime. Tunisia's Ministry of Interior was quick to condemn the murder. On January 31, a note demanding extortion money was slipped under the door at the school threatening violence while demanding an as yet unknown amount; it is not known whether that incident is related to the more recent crime. Meanwhile, Islamists torched several brothels in a rampage met by the police.

Tunisia is still in an uproar following days of violent clashes between security forces and furious protesters. President Zine al Abidine Ben Ali was compelled to flee the country. The former leader and his family are currently living in Saudi Arabia. The revolt in Tunisia was to apparently inspire similar days of rage in Egypt leading to the departure of President Hosni Mubarak, and to exact concessions from King Abdullah in Jordan. Earlier this week, Islamists demonstrated at the Grand Synagogue of Tunis. Demonstrators at the synagogue were heard to shout "Allah is Great! Listen Jews! The armies of Mohammed are coming!" Read more ..


The Battle for Libya

Dictator Gadafi Fights for his Life in Libya

February 21st 2011

Africa Topics - Libya protest 2011

Chaos and death appear to reign in oil-rich Libya, where the decades-long rule of Muammar Gadafi continues to enlist his security forces against civilians seeking his ouster. Over the February 19-20 weekend, there were reports that more than 200 people have died while scores are missing and wounded. February 19 saw the worst violence in Libya since Gadafi took power in 1969.

Observers say that the Gadafi is now engaged in a fight to the death, having apparently told his two sons—who are high-ranking members of the state security apparatus—to prepare to die on Libyan soil. Even so, units of the army including members of elite strike forces have apparently deserted in the Mediterranean port city of Benghazi. Reportedly, these deserters have told hospital personnel that they are liberating the city from Gadafi’s control. Read more ..


China on Edge

China Moves to End Brewing Jasmine Revolution

February 21st 2011

China Topics - China democracy demonstration

China has increased the presence of security forces around the country in response to an on-line call for nationwide demonstrations in solidarity with the so-called "Jasmine Revolutions" in the Middle East. 

An online posting on the Internet called for demonstrations around the country Sunday, to mark what it called "China’s Jasmine Revolution."

The appeal went out to all Chinese who feel there is injustice in the country—including parents whose children suffered from tainted milk, people who feel their homes were unjustly torn down, and people who are upset at the abuse of official privilege. Read more ..


Pakistan Edge

Pakistani Police: No Blasphemy Case against Sherry Rehman

February 21st 2011

PakistanTopics - Sherry Rehman
Sherry Rehman

Prime Minister of Pakistan Yousaf Raza Gillani last week categorically announced that the government will not amend the Blasphemy law and instructed Peoples Party parliamentarian Sherry Rehman to withdraw the bill proposing an amendment to the blasphemy law, and she withdrew the amendment bill.

Member of the National Assembly Sherry Rehman has been receiving threats on her life from radical groups for her bill, and according to sources, a blasphemy accusation was filed on February 7, 2011 by local shopkeeper Fahim Akhtar Gul at the session court in Multan. Akhtar Gul asserted in the application that Sherry Rehman had committed blasphemy by speaking against the blasphemy law in a television talk show in November 2010. Read more ..


Islam on the Edge

Tunisia Breaks into Anti-Jewish Protest and Surrounds Synagogue

February 18th 2011

Demonstrators assembled at the Grand Synagogue of Tunis on February 17, shouting “Allahu-akbar,” and “Listen, Jews, the Armies of Mohammed are coming!” as noted in an unedited video posted on the web at YouTube. Viewers of the video can see clearly that the street in front of the synagogue was filled with shouting men, bearing black banners and gesticulating wildly.

The Islamist demonstrators shouted “We will win again the Battle of Khaybarm!” in reference to Mohammed’s victory over the Jews in 628 A.D. in the Arabian peninsula.


Egypt After the Revolt

Iran’s Threat of Warships in the Suez Canal Gives the World the Jitters

February 17th 2011

Iran - Iranian warship
Iranian warship

Oil markets were in an uproar as news circulated that Iranian warships were expected to enter the vital Suez Canal, currently controlled by fractious Egypt. Oil prices slipped after gaining as much as 0.4 percent after Iran’s Press TV reported that a naval official confirmed the ships’ itinerary. Egypt is saying, however, that no application to pass through the canal has been received from Iran. Observers of the petroleum and stock markets note the general nervousness among investors concerned over the possible repercussions should Iran—a declared enemy of Israel—should send warships steaming through the nearby Suez Canal. Unemployment in Europe and North America, coupled with geopolitical jitters, has investors in a quandary. The State Department confirmed that two Iranian warships were in the vicinity of the Canal but could not confirm their intentions. Read more ..


Foggy Bottom Blues

U.S. Diplomat Raymond Davis Faces Islamic Death Threats in Pakistani Jail

February 16th 2011

PakistanTopics - Raymond Davis

The Pakistani Muslim extremist organization known as Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (JUI) on February 15 protested in Mardan against the government of Pakistan, warning against the release of Raymond Davis.

JUI chief Maulana Samiul Haq demanded that a blasphemy case should be registered against Raymond Davis for showing disrespect for the call for prayer issuing from a mosque and for alleged derogatory remarks aimed at the Islamic prayers. Authorities in the jail claim that Davis has been uncooperative. Davis, an American diplomat, was arrested for the murder of two Pakistani nationals in Lahore; he was sent to Kot Lakhpat jail last week by the session court. Davis has been agitated and frustrated at being confined at a Pakistani jail. Read more ..


Economic Recovery on Edge

Obama Walks the Walk but Finds Dissonance in Congress over his Proposed Budget Cuts

February 14th 2011

Presidential - Barack Obama

Steep cuts are necessary to rein in the deficit, President Barack Obama said on February 14 in defending his 2012 budget.

The president also defended new spending proposed by his budget in infrastructure, education and broadband access as critical to helping U.S. businesses and workers compete in the global economy.

Cuts in the $3.7 trillion budget are a “down payment” no even deeper cuts Obama said he would work with both parties in Congress to make.

He said the cuts to education, housing and home heating assistance to the poor include reductions to programs “I care about deeply.”

“But if we're going to walk the walk when it comes to fiscal discipline, these kinds of cuts will be necessary,” Obama said.
The president also said the five-year freeze in discretionary spending in his proposal eventually will lower spending compared to GDP to a rate lower than any president since Eisenhower. Read more ..


Inside Africa

Albinos Flee Murder as their Body Parts are Sold for Witchcraft in Kenya and Tanzania

February 14th 2011

Africa Topics - African Albino

Thousands of albinos in Tanzania and Kenya have abandoned their villages for fear of being persecuted and killed, fleeing in the direction of urban areas where they seem to be more secure.

According to reports from an activist group for the protection of albinos, in Tanzania there are 7,124 albinos, among whom 3,580 are female. There are killings of albinos reported throughout the country, attributed to the fact that their body parts can be sold for thousands of dollars, such as their tongues, ears and noses. In Kenya this practice is also widespread. In fact, there is the false belief that parts of their bodies have special powers when used in the practice of witchcraft. Read more ..


Campus Disruption

California Muslim Students Charged with Criminal Conspiracy Against Free Speech

February 7th 2011

Palestine Topics - Irvine California arrest

On February 4, the Orange County district attorney's office in Los Angeles charged 11 persons that they conspired to disrupt a speech given by the Israeli ambassador to the United States at the campus of the University of California-Irvine. According to a statement, District Attorney Tony Rackauckas said the group had "organized attempt to squelch the speaker." He added that they "meant to stop this speech and stop anyone else from hearing his ideas, and they did so by disrupting a lawful meeting."

"We must decide whether we are a country of laws or a country of anarchy," Rackauckas said. "We cannot tolerate a preplanned violation of the law, even if the crime takes place on a school campus and even if the defendants are college students. In our democratic society, we cannot tolerate a deliberate, organized, repetitive and collective effort to significantly disrupt a speaker who hundreds assembled to hear."

The Muslim Student Union at UC Irvine denied planning to obstruct the event on Feb. 8, 2010. The group stands accused of causing a disturbance at a speech by Ambassador Michael Oren, who represents his country in Washington DC. The diplomat was shouted down repeatedly. Other members of the assembly cheered the police as protesters were escorted away. Approximately,  500 to 700 people attended the meeting.

The university administration suspended the Muslim Student Union last year, while the protesters involved in disrupting the ambassador’s speech were also disciplined by the university. The California educational institution’s action is rare, given that it did not involve hazing or alcohol abuse. The ban has brought on accusations that free speech has been throttled at the university. Read more ..


Egypt in Revolt

Survey of Egyptian Opinion shows Overwhelming Majority in Favor of Death for Apostates

February 6th 2011

Islamic Topics - Islam vs Rome

According to a Pew Forum survey, an overwhelming majority of those polled in Islam-dominated Egypt want those who commit adultery to be stoned, while thieves should have their hands cut off and apostates from the Mohammaden religion put to death. In addition, the survey shows that much of the Egyptian population that in recent days has rebelled against the thirty-year regime of Hosni Mubarak says that it prefers democracy to any other form of government.

The survey was conducted in Egypt and in six other majority Muslim countries by the Washington-based Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life. Besides Egypt these countries were: Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Pakistan, Indonesia, and Nigeria. Read more ..


Egypt in Revolt

What Are the United States’ Options for Suspending Egypt’s Aid?

February 6th 2011

Obama Admin Topics - Mumbarak and Obama

Several American lawmakers have called for the United States to cut or suspend its foreign aid to Egypt. That aid, as has been noted, has been a decades-long symbol of the U.S. government’s support for Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, whose years of repression are fueling these ongoing mass protests. But can the U.S. government even cut aid?

Several reports have said that the aid is “tied to the Arab nation’s 1979 peace agreement with Israel,” or that the United States “promised aid to Egypt in return for maintaining the agreement.” Wikipedia describes the aid as being “part of the agreement.” Read more ..


Arab World on Edge

Days of Rage spread on Facebook from Egypt to Algeria, Libya and Beyond

February 6th 2011

Arab Topics - Facebook Intifada 1

As part of widespread calls for opposition activity against various Muslim national leaders, numerous Facebook groups and accounts have been created to propagate the sort of intifada that has already shattered the government of Zine El abadine ben-Ali in Tunisia, brought Hosni Mubarak’s Egyptian government to the brink of destruction, and yielded significant concessions from the governments of Jordan and Yemen. Facebook, Twitter, and other social media are now calling uprisings throughout the Arab world, including  Syria, Yemen, Bahrain, Libya, and Algeria. 

The Volksrant daily newspaper of The Netherlands reported on February 2, for example, that social networking sites were also calling for ‘days of rage’ on February 4-5 to be directed against President Bashr al-Assad. Some pages on Facebook are calling for  non-violent and apolitical demonstrations, with some of them providing precise instructions regarding how to behave during the demonstrations.

Protesters in Tunisia and Egypt had made good use of social networking in the days and hours before demonstrations emerged there. And, after Mubarak’s government shut down the Internet in Egypt, overseas Egyptians also made use of social networking to keep up with events and stir people to action.
Read more ..


Islam's War Against Christianity

Ethiopian Muslims Demand Conversion or Death of Christians

January 30th 2011

Africa Topics - Ethiopian Christians

According to a news release from International Christian Concern (ICC) , Christians in the Ethiopian city of Besheno are being harassed and physically abused after Muslims posted notices on the doors of Christian homes warning them to convert, leave the city, or face death.

Three Christian leaders were forced to flee while two Christians have been forced to convert to Islam, said the ICC report. In the Muslim majority city, the entire evangelical Christian community consists of about 30 believers.

The ICC says that Evangelist Kassa Awano remains in critical condition after Muslims attacked him on November 29, 2010. A few days after the attack, nearly 100 Muslims surrounded a vehicle carrying Christian leaders on their way to negotiate for peace with Muslim leaders. Two men, Tesema Hirego and Niggusie Denano, were seriously wounded, and the other leaders suffered minor injuries. On January 2, Muslims assaulted Temesgen Peteros with a knife after he testified about the attacks on these Christians in court. Read more ..


Egypt in Revolt

Islamic Cleric Issues Fatwa Recommending Protests in Egypt

January 30th 2011

Africa Topics - Egyptian cop and lady

According to the MEMRI website, a fatwa—a Muslim religious ruling—was published on the Salafi-jihadi website Minbar Al-Tawhid Wal Jihad, which is the website of Sheikh Abu Muhammad Al-Maqdisi. Citing the prominent Salafi-jihadist cleric Sheikh Abu Mundhir Al-Shinqiti, the fatwa rules that participation in the protests in Egypt is permissible and recommended, since these might bring about the fall of the current Egyptian regime.

Al-Shinqiti's fatwa demonstrates the high expectations Salafi-jihadis have regarding the outcome of the current uprising in Egypt. In their view, not only will the fall of the Mubarak regime change the political situation in Egypt itself, but it will also cause the West to lose an important ally and signal a new era in the Arab and Islamic world. Read more ..


Edge of Justice

Federal Government Muzzles Dissent Over Improper Sentencing in Controversial Rubashkin Trial

January 30th 2011

Jewish Topics - Sholom Rubashkin

Government concern over growing support for Sholom Rubashkin among prominent advocacy groups have prompted efforts to suppress three amicus curiae briefs that call for a new trial.  The move betrays an effort “to shut the door” on mounting indications of questionable conduct in the case, Iowa ACLU’s Randall Wilson said in a phone interview with Yated. “What this shows is that a tender, raw nerve has been struck. It’s very threatening to the Attorney’s Office that Rubashkin’s defense is gaining a surge of credibility from outside organizations that carry clout.” 

A written motion filed by the government last week asked the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals to reject the amicus curiae briefs because they present “no new arguments” that had not been covered in the appeal filed by Sholom Mordechai’s attorneys. The move has stunned legal experts. ACLU’s Wilson said he has never encountered a case where the government refused to agree to the filing of an amicus curiae from the ACLU. Other experts consulted by this writer say they can find no precedent for the Department of Justice opposing a friend-of-the-court brief from any respected legal organization.  “Assuming for the sake of argument that the briefs present nothing new, they surely can’t do any harm in that case. So why go to these unusual lengths to resist them?” asked the ACLU director. Read more ..


Edge on Terror

Suicide Bomber Suspected in 31 Deaths at Moscow International Airport

January 24th 2011

Russian Topics - Moscow Domodedrova Airport
Moscow's Domodedovo International Airport

Russian media and officials say a suspected suicide bomber has killed at least 31 people in what investigators are calling an act of "terror." The actual number of dead and wounded is sketchy at present but appears to be rising. Russia's Investigative Committee said the explosion went off at Moscow's Domodedovo international airport, wounding at least 130 people at 4:40 p.m. local time (13:40 GMT).

The blast occurred inside the international arrivals area of the airport as thousands of people thronged at the modern facility. Russian President Dmitry Medvedev ordered on Monday that security be increased at all of the country's airports and transportation hubs. Said Medvedev "It is necessary to step up security at all airports, railway stations and transportations hubs," giving instructions to Interior Minister Rashid Nurgaliyev to cooperate with Russia's Federal Security Service. Read more ..


Edge on Justice

Federal Judge in Controversial Rubashkin Case Receives Even Harsher Condemnation

January 24th 2011

Jewish Topics - Sholom Rubashkin
Sholom Rubashkin

Lending serious weight to calls for a retrial in the Rubashkin case, the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL) has filed a sharply worded amicus curiae brief with the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals, urging the court to vacate Sholom Mordechai’s conviction.

NACDL’s brief joins two others that were filed last week by the WLF (Washington Legal Foundation) and the ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union), supporting the appeal filed by Nathan Lewin and other appellate attorneys this month. The WLF brief called for the Court of Appeals to remand the case to a new judge for re-sentencing. It said the 27-year jail sentence reflects serious errors in Judge Reade’s sentencing procedures as well as violations of the Federal Sentencing Guidelines. Read more ..


Ivory Coast on Edge

West African Regional Bank Pushes for Resignation of Ivoirien President Laurent Gbagbo

January 24th 2011

Africa Topics - Laurent Gbagbo
President Laurent Gbagbo of Ivory Coast

West African leaders have replaced the head of the region's central bank in a move to further isolate the incumbent president of Ivory Coast who is refusing to give up power to the internationally-recognized winner of November's vote.

West Africa's central bank in December 2010 announced it would sever incumbent president Laurent Gbagbo's access to Ivorian funds as part of an effort to drive him from power in favor of the man who most regional leaders say won the presidential election -former prime minister Alassane Ouattara.

Gbagbo's government continued to have access to state funds, chiefly because central bank governor Philippe Henri Dacoury-Tabley is a Gbagbo ally. So West African leaders forced Tabley to resign. Read more ..


The Border on Edge

Interfaith Forum in New Mexico Seeks Local Solution to Global Problem of Immigration

January 18th 2011

Mexican Topics - Militia man patrol

At the state and local levels, the debate over immigration continues to simmer in 2011. In Las Cruces, New Mexico, for instance, public forums on the immigration question are scheduled to be held at City Hall on January 20. A roster of speakers is lined up to address the legal, economic and human rights aspects of immigration.

Among the scheduled presenters are invdividuals associated with religious institutions, the American Civil Liberties Union, the Task Force for Immigrant Advocacy and Services and the Colonias Development Council (CDC).

Las Cruces Police Chief Richard Williams is scheduled to talk about law enforcement and immigrants, while Catholic Bishop Ricardo Ramirez and Rabbi Paul Citrin will explore the matter of ethics and immigration. Delving into the economic side, New Mexico State University Professor Neil Harvey will analyze and discuss the reliance of the US economy on immigrant workers. "The forums are intended to help engage public interest and input on immigration related issues," said forum organizer and Las Cruces City Councillor Olga Pedroza. "It's crucial that being so close to the Mexican border, we educate ourselves about how we as a nation interact with our neighbors to the south both on political and humanitarian levels." Read more ..


Islam on the Edge

Asia Bibi to be Shifted to Multan Prison

January 18th 2011

Asia Topics - Pakistan religious minorities

Asia Bibi, the Pakistani Christian woman sentenced to death on blasphemy charges, may be shifted to an all-women’s prison due to security concerns.

The Christian community raised its concerns to the authorities and to Federal Minister for minority affairs Shahbaz Bhatti that Asia Bibi is not being provided sufficient security despite constant threats to her life from militants and rewards for her killing being announced across Pakistan.

Ashiq Masih, Asia’s husband, also appealed to the authorities to increase security for her, as her life is in danger. The Ministry of Interior had asked the Punjab government to increase security for Asia Bibi in Sheikhupura Jail. Read more ..


Islam on the Edge

Two Pakistani Christian Women Assaulted over Blasphemy Accusations

January 18th 2011

Islamic Topics - Pakistan antiblasphemy rally

Blasphemy furor hit Pakistan again as two Christian women were beaten and publicly humiliated by an angry mob in Lahore, apparently over allegations of frivolous religious sacrilege. The roughing up of the family forced them to go into hiding for fear of being killed. This fresh incident has come as the country hass yet to recover from the assassination of outspoken governor Salmaan Taseer for his support of Asia Bibi—a Christian woman—on death row on blasphemy charges.

“None of our relatives is ready to let us stay with them. They fear they will be victimized by the extremists,” John Chand said from an undisclosed location. According to Chand, he married Amina Zaheer, a Muslim. “We were in love since college days. Zaheer Malik, Amin`s father didn`t approve of our marriage; he wanted me to convert to Islam to marry Amina. Amina and I had an understanding that we will get married in a court, she can follow her Muslim faith, and I will follow my Christian Faith. Her family didn’t agree. Eventually, we got married and his family accepted the fact that we both can live together and keep our respective faiths.” Read more ..


Edge on Environment

Pennsylvania Governor-Elect Chooses Political Insiders for Top Environmental Posts

January 18th 2011

Politics - Tom Corbett PA
Pennsylvania Governor-elect Tom Corbett (R)

Pennsylvania’s incoming governor has announced his appointments for the top energy and environmental positions, naming four men experienced with the state’s legislative and administrative process to oversee the growing natural gas industry and the implementation of new regulations governing how the industry drills its wells and disposes of its wastewater.

To head the Department of Environmental Protection, Governor-Elect Tom Corbett, a Republican, named a judge who has served on a state environmental court for both Democratic and Republican governors. Michael Krancer, whose appointment requires approval by the state senate, is seen as an uncontroversial choice by environmental groups and the industry. Read more ..


America on Edge

Does History Repeat After Tucson Massacre?

January 18th 2011

Crime Topics - Crime scene tape

The killing spree by an Arizona man wielding a semiautomatic pistol with a high-capacity magazine raises the prospect of a fresh debate on whether the country needs tougher gun controls.

But if history is any guide, the National Rifle Association will successfully fight stronger gun controls. The NRA’s influence stems from the grassroots clout of its 4 million members and the tens of millions it has spent over the last two decades on campaign contributions and lobbying.

For instance, Congress passed an assault weapons ban in 1994 over the NRA’s strong objections, but the powerful pro-gun lobby managed to thwart its renewal in 2004. Significantly, the 1994 ban had a provision barring the manufacture or sale of new high-capacity magazines—like the one used in the Arizona rampage—which enable a gun to fire a fusillade of shots very quickly without pausing to reload. Read more ..



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