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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 ..

Islam on the Edge

Asia Bibi Still without Adequate Security, Says Report

January 18th 2011

Asia Topics - Pakistan religious minorities

No extra security measures have been taken to protect the life of Asia Bibi, a Christian woman sentenced to death on blasphemy charges and whose life is constantly being threatened by militants and extremist religious elements, a report compiled by a provincial intelligence agency said on Wednesday. This report was sent to the agency’s provincial headquarters through its regional office.

The severity of the threat to Asia Bibi’s life spiked after the assassination of former Punjab governor Salmaan Taseer, but the provincial government hass yet to take effective security measures. Asia Bibi is incarcerated in the women’s barracks in Sheikhupura district jail along with 15 or 16 other detainees. Just one lady warden has been assigned to her inside the jail and five police constables deputed to secure the jail’s perimeter, along with two motorcycle squads assigned to patrol the jail periphery. The report said that the guards assigned to her “are not vigilant and most of the times they are absent, especially the motorcycle riders." Read more ..

Tunisia on Edge

Rocked by Deadly Mass Protests, Tunisia’s President Flees the Country

January 14th 2011

Africa Topics - Tunisia riots

Tunisia's President has fled the country and the prime minister has announced he is in charge Friday after protests and riots rocked the capital.

Tunisian Prime Minister Mohammed Ghannouchi went on state television to say he was assuming power amid reports the country's president, Zine El Abidine Ben Ali had fled the country. The army has sealed off the airport and closed Tunisian airspace. Earlier President Ben Ali announced a state of emergency and fired the government following the worst unrest to hit this North African country in decades.

Earlier in the day, thousands of protesters demonstrated in Tunis demanding President Ben Ali step down. The main Habib Bourguiba Boulevard was a sea of humanity, as young and old, well-off and poor, chanted for change. Read more ..

America on Edge

Joint Hill Conference Slated to Discuss Security Measures

January 10th 2011

Politics - Capitol Senate

The chairman of the House Democratic Caucus said Sunday that lawmakers will meet for a special joint conference on Wednesday to discuss security measures and concerns in the wake of the shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.) in her home district Saturday.

Rep. John Larson (D-Conn.) spoke to reporters after about 800 lawmakers, staffers and family members took part in an hour-and-a-half conference call Sunday afternoon. Giffords' chief of staff, Pia Carusone, was among those speaking on the call, thanking members for their support and giving an update on the congresswoman's condition, according to a congressional source. Read more ..

The Deaf Edge

Library of Congress Preserves Significant Deaf History Film

January 10th 2011

Deaf issues - george veditz--asl
George Veditz (Credit: Gallaudet Archives)

The Library of Congress announced on December 28 that it had named the landmark film “The Preservation of the Sign Language,” to be included in the National Film Registry. The film is one of only 25 so selected each year by the Librarian of Congress under the terms of the National Film Preservation Act. More than 2,112 films were nominated in 2010 for recognition as “culturally, historically, or aesthetically” significant.

“Nowhere else was this announcement more celebrated than at Gallaudet University, the nation's foremost resource for the study of the history, language and culture of America's signing deaf community,” said Gallaudet University president Alan T. Hurwitz. “On behalf of the university I would like to congratulate the NAD [National Association of the Deaf] and thank the Library of Congress for recognizing and promoting the preservation of such a significant piece of history for the deaf community.” Gallaudet is the world’s only liberal arts college for the deaf. Read more ..

Edge of Justice

Rubashkin Appeal Filed--Attorney General Holder Ignores Appeals from Congress

January 5th 2011

Jewish Topics - Sholom Rubashkin

A team of attorneys, led by Nathan Lewin of Washington DC., filed an appeal on January 3 in the Eighth Circuit US Court of Appeals in St. Louis on behalf of Sholom Mordechai Rubashkin, who is currently serving a 27-year prison sentence after a 2009 trial in which he was found guilty of bank fraud and other related financial crimes. The appeal contends that months after the November 2009 verdict the federal government produced from Immigration and Customs Enforcement e-mails and “memoranda that reported pre-raid meetings that the United States Attorney's Office had with Judge [Linda A.] Reade to discuss various aspects of the raid” conducted in May 2008 that led to the charges against Rubashkin. These meetings had not been disclosed to Mr. Rubashkin's trial counsel. Leading ethics experts have opined that Judge Reade should, on account of these meetings, have been recused. Read more ..

Islam vs Christianity

Pakistani Governor Murdered Following His Defense of Christian Condemned to Death for Defaming Islam

January 4th 2011

Asia Topics - Salman Tasser assassination

The governor of Pakistan's Punjab province, Salman Taseer, 47, was shot dead January 4 by one of his own bodyguards, a member of an elite security force, when Tasser was leaving his car near the Kohsar Market in Islamabad, the capital of Pakistan.

The killer was taken into custody by the police on the spot, while 6 more people were also detained. Around 4 pm local time, the assassin fired 9 times at Taseer, striking him in the abdomen, chest, neck and face. Although Taseer was taken to Polyclinic Hospital in Islamabad, he died at the scene, police sources say.

Alleged assassin, Malik Mumtaz Hussain Qadri, reportedly said in his initial statement to the police that he killed the governor because of the latter's views on Islamic blasphemy laws and his visits to Aasia Noreen, a Christian women who was convicted of blasphemy under Islamic laws. Governor Taseer had opined that the woman is actually innocent of the allegations.  Read more ..

Edge on Terror

Outraged Christians Demand Protection from Islamist Attacks in Egypt

January 3rd 2011

Christian Topics - Coptic Christian mourners

Angry Coptic Christians pelted a vehicle carrying Egypt's top Muslim religious leaders shortly after they met with Coptic leader Pope Shenouda III on January 2.  Mourners also gathered for mass inside the Two Saints Coptic church in Alexandria to grieve for the victims of an explosion outside the church during the early morning hours of New Years Day. Two fact-finding committees of Egypt's parliament are investigating the blast and have declared that was an attempt to deepen divisions between Muslims and Egypt's Christian minority. 

Egypt's top religious leaders met in a frantic attempt to prevent further sectarian violence, following the explosion. Eyewitnesses say tempers flared after the meeting when an angry crowd of Coptic men pelted a vehicle carrying top Muslim leaders. Reports say Egypt's grand mufti and the Sheikh of al Azhar, nor a state minister, were not hurt.  A spokesman for the mufti indicated that he "understood the anger" of the crowd. A group of old women in black wailed and cried as they left a mass to mourn loved ones killed in the blast outside the Two Saints Coptic church. Egyptian TV showed workers cleaning blood stains and sandblasting the church to remove traces of the carbomb explosion. Read more ..

Border War

Mexican Abductor is Herself Abducted and Murdered

January 3rd 2011

Mexican Topics - Dead Mexican woman

Gabriela Elizabeth Muñiz Tamez, also known as "La Pelirroja" - the Red Head, was found dead and hanging by the neck from a pedestrian overpass in the city of Monterey, near Mexico's border with Texas. A leader of a criminal gang that conducted abductions in Mexico, on  December 27 she was herself abducted without a shot fired by a group of armed men as she was being taken from jail to hospital by local police. According to local reports, she had complained of illness before her transfer to hospital. Some theorized that she had managed to produce her escape from authorities with a staged abduction. Photographs of her suspended corpse are circulating widely in Mexican media and the Internet. She was found on the morning of January 1. Read more ..

BDS and Economic Jihad

Anti-Israel Bus Ad Campaign Rejected by Seattle Authorities

January 3rd 2011

Transportation Topics - On the bus

King County Executive Dow Constantine’s office announced December 30 that it would not allow ads by a group called the Seattle Mideast Awareness Campaign, which stated that U.S. taxpayers money was being put toward “Israeli war crimes.” Another series of ads that had been proposed by the Los Angeles-based David Horowitz Freedom Center and the American Freedom Defense Initiative was also rejected. Read more ..

The Armenian Genocide

Congress Fails to Pass Armenian Genocide Recognition Resolution

December 27th 2010

Genocides - Armenian death march
Turkey's Armenian death march

The 111th Congress adjourned December 22 without bringing up the latest incarnation of legislation that would have recognized the 1915 killings of 1.5 million Armenians by the Ottoman Empire as genocide. Lobbying groups were on alert over the weekend on reports that Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) would bring the resolution to the floor in the final days of the lame-duck session. But lawmakers went home for the holidays without passing Rep. Adam Schiff's (D-Calif.) resolution, angering Armenian groups and leaving Turkish groups breathing a sigh of relief.

"[Pelosi's] decision to not move this legislation forward during her four years as Speaker represents a failure of Congressional leadership on human rights and, sadly, a setback to America's standing in the struggle to end the cycle of genocide," Ken Hachikian, chairman of the Armenian National Committee of America, said in a statement. The Turkish Coalition of America praised the efforts of the Congressional Turkish Caucus in keeping the resolution from coming to the floor. Read more ..

China and Europe

China Ready to Help Europe Return to Economic Health

December 27th 2010

China Topics - China EU commerce

China says it is ready to do what it can to help European countries deal with the financial crisis that has shaken confidence in the euro. The statement follows reports that China is ready to buy billions of dollars worth of Portuguese bonds.

Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu says China supports international plans to help European countries weather the financial crisis. Jiang said China will do what it can to support euro zone countries to overcome the financial crisis, as well as bring about economic and fiscal recovery. Read more ..

Edge on Terror

Threat of Food Contamination by Al-Qaeda Terrorists Takes Some of the Cheer out of Christmas

December 22nd 2010

Food - Chinese buffet

Top security personnel of major hotel and restaurant chains were briefed this year by Homeland Security officials about an Al-Qaeda terrorist plot to poison food over a single weekend in the United States. The hospitality industry in the US is reportedly taking steps to counter the threat to its customers. Homeland Security is claiming that intelligence on this alleged threat is outdated, but remains a possibility. Media reports about proposed food contamination piqued concerns in the days preceding the observance of Christmas.

Homeland Security had determined earlier, however, that there was “credible” evidence for concern for a terrorist threat coming out of Al-Qaeda based in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). Uncovered earlier this year, the plotters were said to plan the use of two poisons—ricin and cyanide—that would be slipped into the food of unwitting diners at buffets and salad bars. On December 6, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said of her department, “We operate under the premise that individuals prepared to carry out terrorist acts are in this country.” The group that is said to be planning the food poisoning is the very same that attempted to detonate bombs secreted in computer components mailed from the Arabian Peninsula on board cargo planes destined for the United States. In one case, a synagogue in Chicago was the intended recipient of a mail bomb. Read more ..

Iran on Edge

Iran to Cut Diplomatic Ties with the United Kingdom

December 21st 2010

Iran - Ahmadinejad The Man

Iranian lawmakers are moving forward with plans to sever diplomatic ties with the United Kingdom. Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani said on December 21 that lawmakers of the Islamic Republic need to send London a serious message, and that a bill aiming to cut ties with Britain would be discussed very soon.

Iran's government-controlled Fars new agency quoted Speaker Larijani as saying Iran needed to respond to what he called "the British government's positions" over the past year. The Iranian parliament's national security and foreign policy committee backed the legislation Sunday, but the motion requires the approval of the full parliament and of a constitutional watchdog to take effect. Read more ..

The Koreas on Edge

South Korea Remains on High Alert

December 21st 2010

Korea Topics - N Korean troops

South Korea’s government remains on high alert, watching for a North Korean response to the South’s military exercises. South Korean fighter jets and warships are patrolling for a second straight day, ready to react should North Korea launch a military strike.

The patrols continue even though Pyongyang said it did not intend to retaliate against South Korea’s artillery training in disputed waters on Monday. Read more ..

Border War

Mexican Mother who Sought Justice for Murdered Daughter is Herself Assassinated

December 21st 2010

Mexican Topics - Marisela Escobedo Ortiz
Marisela Ortiz protests her daughter's murder

A chilling video, taken by CCTV camera, captured the assassination of Marisela Escobedo Ortiz, a Mexican human rights activist who - for more than two years - has demanded justice for her murdered 16-year-old daughter, Rubí Marisol Frayre. Rubi was shot to death, allegedly by a lover, and her body later burned and left at a garbage dump.

Marisela was arranging on the evening of December 16 her protest signs in front of the government house in the Mexican state of Chihuahua, preparing for yet another demonstration, when a man emerged from a car and shot her in the head. Falling to the ground, she was soon taken by local police to hospital while she still showed signs of life. However, she was finally pronounced dead despite medical attention. Read more ..

Islma on the Edge

Muslim Family in Spain Sues over a Lesson in Ham

December 21st 2010

Islamic Topics - Peaceful Muslims at Prayer

According to media reports in Spain, a Muslim student accused his teacher of Islamophobia during a geography class at a school in Cadiz. The city is located near the southernmost tip of the Iberian Peninsula, in Andalucia. The teacher was giving a course on variations in climate and spoke of the famous hams of Trevelez, which are cured to perfection in the region's cold and dry climate.

According to a local newspaper, a Muslim student demanded that the teacher refrain from speaking of ham since the salty viand offended his Muslim identity. Pork is proscribed under Islamic religious law, known as sharia. Even so, Spaniards—not otherwise encumbered by such proscriptions—are avid consumers and producers of pork. Ham is one of the signature products of Spain, especially the beloved 'serrano' and 'jabugo' hams produced by Spain's black 'pata negra' pigs. Read more ..

Inside Washington

Former Clinton Aide Hired by Honduran Government

December 14th 2010

Politics - Lanny Davis and Josh Block
Lanny Davis (left); Josh Block (right)

The Embassy of Honduras has hired Lanny Davis to help its relations with the United States.

The Central American nation has contracted with law firm Lanny J. Davis & Associates, according to a press release obtained by The Hill. Davis-Block, Davis’s new strategic consulting firm founded with former American Israel Public Affairs Committee spokesman Josh Block, will also help out, assisting with communications and media strategy on behalf of Honduras.

“I hope to help the Government of Honduras and President Porfirio Lobo strengthen U.S.-Honduran relations by emphasizing that Honduras remains a loyal ally of the United States and a stable constitutional democracy governed by the rule of law,” Davis said. “We hope and expect to work closely with both sides of the aisle and the administration in this effort.” Read more ..

Edge on Terror

Sweden Reels Following Nearly Disastrous Terror Bombing in Stockholm

December 13th 2010

Terrorism - taymour abdel wahab
Taymour Abdel Wahab

On December 13, Swedish intelligence officials say they are “98 percent” certain about the identity of the man who detonated a bomb in central Stockholm on December 11. Prior to the weekend blast, the suspected suicide bomber was unknown to Sweden’s national security apparatus. While authorities are now saying that the terrorist was acting on his own, they averred that in such cases conspiracy is usually involved. Authorities are continuing their investigation and are looking into possible ties to known terrorist groups. An Islamist website has identified Taymour Abdel Wahab as the 29-year-old man who killed himself while attempting to kill possibly hundreds of others with a bomb that utilized nails as shrapnel to maximize lethality. Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt declared the attack “unacceptable.”

Taymour Abdel Wahab was born in 1981, according to intelligence sources, and became a naturalized citizen of Sweden in 1992. Swedish intelligence would only identify his birthplace as “in the Middle East.” The bomb he had in his car detonated before his intended target, it is theorized, which may have been Stockholm’s central rail station or the Åhléns department store, full of holiday shoppers. At either site, hundreds of innocent people may have been killed or injured. As it was, only two people were injured by the blast that killed the suicide bomber. A prosecutor described him as “well equipped” with explosives, including a bomb belt and a backpack nail bomb. “Where he was going, we don’t know,” said Lindstrand, but added it was plausible to speculate he was heading “someplace with lots of people.” Read more ..

Pakistan on Edge

Pakistani Muslim Leaders call for the Murder of Christian Already Condemned to Death for Blasphemy

December 13th 2010

Islamic Topics - Yousef Qureshi of Pakistan
Pakistani Imam Yousef Qureshi flanked by supporters

Concerns are growing in Pakistan over the increasingly bloodcurdling and strident calls by Muslim clerics for the death of Christians and other minorities accused of blasphemy, according to Islam’s sharia religious laws.

Pakistani imam Yousef Qureshi of Peshawar issued an offer on December 3 of $6,000 for anyone who can manage to murder Aasia Bibi—a Christian woman who has already been condemned to death in an Islamic court for alleged blasphemy. Bibi, who is married and has children, is currently being held in prison. Read more ..

Edge on Law

Parents of US Citizen Demanding Compliance with US Law from State Department

December 13th 2010

Travel - Passport

Lewin & Lewin, LLP—a Washington D.C.-based law firm—has filed a request with the U.S. Supreme Court on behalf of the parents of an American-citizen child born in Israel to review a decision by the Department of State to refuse compliance with a law passed by Congress. The law in question directed the Secretary of State to list “Israel” as the child’s birthplace on his U.S. passport. The government’s response to the petition is due on December 29 of this year, and a decision by the high court is expected in February 2011.

Litigation of the issue began in Washington, D.C. in September 2003, before Menachem Zivotofsky had reached age of one year. His parents were born in the U.S. but now reside in Israel. Menachem was born in West Jerusalem. The law enacted by Congress in September 2002 had directed the Department of State to “record the place of birth as Israel” for any American citizen born in Jerusalem who requested such a designation. The children of U.S. citizens born outside of the U.S. have a right to American citizenship. Menachem’s parents asked the American embassy in Tel Aviv to list their child’s birthplace as “Israel,” but following long-standing instructions, the embassy refused to do so and recorded the place of birth as “Jerusalem.” Read more ..

Edge of Climate Change

Fire in Israel a Symptom of Climate Change

December 13th 2010

Environment Topics - Carmel Fire Winter 2010

The fire disaster in the Carmel Mountains near Haifa is a typical example of climate change effect and a taste of the future, says Dr. Guy Pe’er, one of the authors of Israel’s first report to the UN on climate change. Ten years ago, Dr. Pe’er and other Israeli scientists collated knowledge about the effects of climate change for Israel. They warned already in the year 2000 of expected climatic fluctuations, heat events, decreased rainfall and delayed late winter rainfall, all of which would lead to increased risk of intense forest fires. Climate forecasts for the region predict an advance of the desert about 300 kilometers to the north.

According to “Israel’s National Report on Climate Change”, prepared by Pe’er and other members of Ben-Gurion University of the Negev on behalf of the Israeli Ministry of the Environmental Protection, the frequency, intensity and extent of the fires would increase due to the prolongation of droughts, increase in water evaporation and an increased frequency of intense heat waves. At a warming of 1.5°C by the year 2100, which is by now considered a conservative scenario, models predict the desert to expand northward by 300 to 500 kilometers to the north. Read more ..

Edge on Asia

South Korea is Poised to Respond in Kind if Attacked Again by the North

December 6th 2010

Asia Topics - South Korean marines

A top South Korean presidential security advisor - who could be the country's next defense minister - says Seoul is prepared to bomb North Korea if Pyongyang again hits the South with artillery. 

Kim Kwan-jin, the presidential security advisor hoping to be the next defense minister, is talking tough. Speaking at his confirmation hearing in the national assembly Friday, he firmly stated that if attacked again, South Korea will not hesitate to protect itself. Kim says South Korea will definitely conduct an air raid on North Korea, as a just manner of self-preservation and completely eliminate, with all of its forces, the root cause of the threat. According to the U.S. military, Seoul has the authority to unilaterally order such retaliation, unless South Korean forces are placed under the command of American forces. Read more ..

Religious Tolerance

Government of New Zealand Overruled in Preventing Kosher Slaughter

December 6th 2010

Jewish Topics - Kosher slaughter

On November 26, three days before trial in a case over New Zealand’s ban on kosher slaughter, New Zealand’s Jews won a partial victory when the Minister of Agriculture agreed to allow kosher slaughter of chicken. The settlement came just hours after an intervention brief was submitted by the Washington D.C.-based non-profit advocacy firm the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty. The intervention argued that by allowing hunters to kill animals without first stunning them but forbidding kosher slaughterers to do the same, New Zealand was discriminating against its Jewish citizens in violation of international law.

The settlement was in a lawsuit brought by the Jewish community against the Minister of Agriculture in the High Court of New Zealand. As a result of the law, New Zealand’s Jews faced the prospect of going without kosher meat, which they are required by religious law to consume on the Sabbath and certain holidays. New Zealand’s biosecurity laws make it impossible to import kosher chicken. Still at issue in the lawsuit is a ban on kosher slaughter of lamb, a very important part of the Jewish diet, especially on holidays, which is exorbitantly expensive to import. Kosher slaughter is specifically recognized as humane under U.S. law and the laws of most other countries in the world. Read more ..

Sudan on Edge

Growing Calls for Arrest of Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir for Genocide

December 6th 2010

Africa Topics - Omar Bashir of Sudan
Omar al-Bashir

Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir did not appear at independence day celebrations in the Central African Republic, where he faced the possibility of arrest and transfer to the International Criminal Court. Amnesty International says it is only a matter of time before he is brought to justice. 

Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir is wanted by the International Criminal Court on charges of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes for his role in the conflict in Darfur. Central African Republic invited the Sudanese president to attend a ceremony Wednesday in its capital, Bangui, to commemorate its 50th anniversary of independence. Read more ..

Continuing Economic Crisis

Michigan's Local Governments Ponder Regionalization to Address Cost-Cutting

December 6th 2010

Travel - Michigan Welcome

Government leaders in struggling communities across the state of Michigan tend to be open to combining services with other towns, a new University of Michigan study finds.

However, government officials who favor expanding regional planning are less supportive of working through existing regional institutions—they want to create new entities to pursue cooperation, said Elisabeth Gerber, a professor at the university's Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy.

"Regional planning offers local governments an opportunity to combine resources and make land use and development decisions that take into account the impacts on the region as a whole," said Gerber, who co-authored the study with Carolyn Loh, a graduate of Michigan's urban planning doctoral program and now an assistant professor in the Department of Urban Studies and Planning at Wayne State University. "With shrinking city budgets, local leaders are eager to find more efficient and effective ways of providing vital government services." Read more ..

Ivory Coast on Edge

Mood Grows Increasingly Tense in Ivory Coast following Ambiguous Election Results

December 6th 2010

Africa Topics - Jubilant Ivoirian

Alassane Ouattara, who according to the Independent Electoral Commission of the western African country of Ivory Coast and the international community, won the presidential ballot on November 28, was sworn in as President on December 4, according to a letter sent to the Constitutional Council, the competent body to declare the winner of the elections.

Due to alleged fraud the same Council revoked the victory originally assigned to Ouattara by the Independent Electoral Commission, attributing it instead to the former President Laurent Gbagbo. The latter was sworn in a few hours before at the presidential palace in Abidjan. Ouattara appointed a new Government led by outgoing Prime Minister Guillaume Soro, who had placed his office in the hands of Ouattara, only to be confirmed anew. Gbagbo, on the evening of December 5, appointed Gilbert Marie N'gbo Aké, Prime Minister of the other Government. The African Union has sent former South African President Thabo Mbeki to mediate between the two parties. Read more ..

Korean Peninsula on Edge

South Korea Gives Cool Response to China’s Call for Emergency Talks

November 29th 2010

Korea Topics - Kim and NK Officers

Diplomatic efforts are underway in Asia to defuse tension on the Korean peninsula. But South Korea is effectively rejecting China’s call to quickly convene multi-national talks to discuss North Korea. This comes as the United States and South Korea begin four days of naval drills seen as a show of strength to dissuade Pyongyang after last Tuesday’s attack on Yeonpyeong island.

South Korea is effectively rejecting immediate resumption of multi-party dialog involving North Korea. The Foreign Ministry is saying, diplomatically, only that China’s proposal deserves to be “very closely examined.” Read more ..

America on Edge

A Billion Dollar Settlement Marks Tumultuous Year for USDA Secretary Vilsack

November 29th 2010

Social Topics - Black farmers bill

The US Senate’s approval of a $1.15 billion settlement for black farmers meant to deal with decades of past discrimination capped a roller-coaster year on the issue for Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.

Vilsack was in the legislative trenches for much of this year pushing for the settlement’s passage, which still must be approved by the House. With a vote expected to come up next week, passage by the lower chamber seems likely since the House has approved the settlement already this year.

In an interview, the former Iowa governor said each and every question by senators had to be answered before the settlement funds could be passed. Read more ..

North Korea on Edge

Joint US-South Korean War Drills Begin Amid Threats from the North

November 27th 2010

Korea Topics - Kim Jong-IL

The United States and South Korea have begun four days of joint military exercises in the waters off the Korean coast, in an effort to deter North Korea from launching further attacks across its border with the South.

An American nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, the USS George Washington, is leading the drill, which comes just days after North Korean forces shelled the South Korean island of Yeonpyeong, killing two marines and two civilians.

North Korea's state-run media has criticized the drills, warning the two Koreas are on "the brink of war."

Earlier Saturday, China launched a flurry of diplomatic activity to ease tensions on the Korean peninsula after North Korea's shelling of the island.

China has warned it opposes any "unilateral military act" in the area without its permission, referring to the U.S.-South Korean drills.

Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, told CNN (in an interview due to air Sunday) that, as North Korea's closest ally, China has as much at stake as anyone if the region is destabilized. North Korea leveled new accusations at South Korea Saturday, charging Seoul was using the civilians on the island of Yeonpyeong as a human shields. Read more ..

North Korea on the Edge

North Korean Artillery Attacks a Southern Island

November 23rd 2010

Korea Topics - N Korean Missiles

North Korea and South Korea have reportedly traded artillery fire Nov. 23 across the disputed Northern Limit Line (NLL) in the Yellow Sea to the west of the peninsula. Though details are still sketchy, South Korean news reports indicate that around 2:30 p.m. local time, North Korean artillery shells began landing in the waters around Yeonpyeongdo, one of the South Korean-controlled islands just south of the NLL. North Korea has reportedly fired as many as 200 rounds, some of which struck the island, injuring at least 10 South Korean soldiers, damaging buildings and setting fire to a mountainside. South Korea responded by firing some 80 shells of its own toward North Korea, dispatching F-16 fighter jets to the area and raising the military alert to its highest level. Read more ..

Border War

Mexico's Drug Cartels Hire Child Assassins to Do Their Dirty Work

November 22nd 2010

Social Topics - Kid behind bars

Mexican drug cartels are allegedly hiring hitmen as young as 12 years old to kill rivals and, failing that, random people — "maybe a construction worker or a taxi driver" — claims a boy on a video distributed by a Mexican drug cartel. Known as "El Punchis", a 12 year-old boy says on the video that he receives $3000 for each person he murders by order of the Beltran Leyva drug cartel. Authorities in Mexico are searching for the boy after detaining another such assassin who works for the cartel outside of Mexico City. In the video, the curly-haired El Punchis speaks about his exploits and is followed up by a gruesome photomontage of children posing with weapons and victims of Mexico's current carnage. Read more ..

Edge of Crime

Murder Sprees and Loss of Police Protection Plague Central Michigan

November 22nd 2010

Crime Topics - Crime scene tape

Mocked by radio personality Rush Limbaugh, regularly visited by Democratic presidents and presidents-to-be, and once a haven for America’s working class, Flint, Mich. and surrounding Genesee County have been rocked by senseless murders of late. On the heels of the murder of a two-year-old boy, the area where the once mighty General Motors Corporation was founded one hundred years ago saw 6 violent deaths between the morning of November 13 and the evening of November 15. The butcher’s bill for the year now stands at 59 for the city of Flint.

Police found two people dead in outlying Genesee Township in the early afternoon of November 15, an apparent murder-suicide of a man and a woman in their 30s. On Saturday, November 13, a 20 year-old man was shot to death in Flint Township, a suburb of the city of the same name. Darvades Dequin Monte Atkins was found ventilated by several bullet wounds in a pool of blood in the parking lot of an apartment complex in a township just outside the west side of the city of Flint. Read more ..

Iran on the Edge

Seizure of Iranian Arms by Nigeria raises More Questions Than Answers

November 15th 2010

Iran - Iranian arms seized by Nigeria
Iranian arms seized by Nigeria

Nigeria’s seizure of an Iranian weapons shipment at the port of Lagos in late October has given rise to more questions than answers. Nigerian authorities announced their interception of the shipment on October 26, and on November 12 Abuja threatened to report Iran to the U.N. Security Council if Tehran is found to have violated U.N. arms embargo sanctions. The intended recipient of the arms is unknown, but the type and scale of weapons involved would indicate they were not going to a private militia — such as the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND), whose own small arms supply chain network and ambitions are limited relative to what these weapons would achieve — but rather a state actor in the West African sub-region. Read more ..

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