Edge on Justice
|Edwin Black||June 22nd 2010|
This article is an updated version of one published in April 19, 2010 when the sentence for convicted kosher slaughterhouse operator Sholom Rubashkin was expected to be the equivalent of life. Now that the judge has handed down a 27 year sentence--the equivalent of life--the story has been re-reported, augmented with new interviews and updated.
Originally, some people said they wouldn’t mind if kosher butcher Sholom Rubashkin got life in prison and rot behind bars until he dies. Yesterday, June 22, 2010, their wish was fulfilled by U.S. District Chief Judge Linda Reade in a northern Iowa courtroom. Under the stiff sentence, Rubashkin rots in jail essentially until he dies, a 27-year sentence supplemented by five years of probation to the 50-year man—and then he pays $27 million in restitution. Judge Reade’s sentence exceeded even the government’s request of 25 years. Now many people are outraged at the harsh treatment being meted out to Rubashkin and ask in disbelief, “What's going on?”
Within hours of the sentencing memorandum, issued a day in advance by Judge Reade, legal scholars expressed shock thousands of Chassidim gathered in vituperative video-streamed protests in New York and Los Angeles, and a cadre of agitated appellate attorneys vowed to overrule the judge’s decision.
Who is Sholom Rubashkin and what really happened? Read more ..
The Hamas Flotilla
|Juda Engelmayer||June 21st 2010|
Cutting Edge contributor
To the cry “Takbīr,” the crowd shouts “Allahu Akbar” in harmony, as the leader of the Foundation for Human Rights and Freedoms and Humanitarian Relief (IHH), Bulent Yildirim addresses a gathering of men aboard the ship Mavi Marmara on May 30, in a new video released by Israel’s Foreign Ministry last week. The images and dialogue, in Arabic with English subtitles, depict four men standing in front of the crowd; Yildirim, one man labeled as member of Egypt’s Parliament, and two others preparing the group for a planned confrontation with Israel.
“Allah has given us great resources… and a great blessing,” Yildirim said, speaking of the ship they were gathered on. “Not everyone has the opportunity to travel on this ship,” he said. “Allah has given (the opportunity) to those who wanted it the most.”
“In two days, we may encounter some negative matters,” Yildirim said. “They are telling us: We will launch a military fleet, and the soldiers will board the ship!” “If they board our ship, we will throw them into the sea, Allah willing!” Read more ..
Media on the Edge
|Swedish Crown Princess Victoria and Daniel Westling|
Three of the world's top news organizations snubbed Sweden's royal wedding Saturday between Crown Princess Victoria and her former personal trainer, Daniel Westling.
The Associated Press (AP), the French News Agency (AFP) and Reuters declined to cover the lavish ceremony in Stockholm because of restrictions imposed by Swedish state broadcaster SVT (Sveriges Television).
In a joint statement, the news organizations said a royal wedding is an event of historical importance and should not fall under restrictions normally applied to sports and entertainment events. The news organizations said SVT had barred them from immediately sending video of the wedding and had imposed a 48-hour limit on its redistribution.
The Swedish Royal Court provided descriptions of the extravagant ceremony in a series of news releases that were made public, Saturday, before the wedding. Read more ..
|Gregg Rickman||June 21st 2010|
Cutting Edge human rights analyst
Last week, the University of California at Irvine (UC-Irvine) recommended suspending the Muslim Student Union (MSU) there for its actions in protesting the speech by Israel’s Ambassador to the United States, Michael Oren, on the University campus February 8, 2010. A university student affairs disciplinary committee recommended the suspension for one year and an additional year of probation requiring the MSU, collectively among its members, to complete fifty hours of community service. Together these actions, if implemented, would prevent the group from organizing and carrying out campus events until 2011. The MSU is planning an appeal and considering legal actions should the appeal fail.
The suspension comes in the wake of a letter signed by more than sixty UC-Irvine faculty members addressing the anti-Semitic atmosphere at the school saying, “We…are deeply disturbed about activities on campus that foment hatred against Jews and Israelis…" They cited incidents including "the painting of swastikas in university buildings and the Star of David depicted as akin to a swastika." Read more ..
|John Chapin||June 21st 2010|
Bishop Demetrio Fernandez of Cordoba, Spain, affirmed on June 12 that any “joint use” by Muslims wishing to worship at the Catholic cathedral in that city is but “a euphemism that means: Catholics, get out! We will not leave, except if we are kicked out, since for 16 centuries there has been Christian worship here.” The cathedral and basilica - a part of which was a mosque for several hundred years until the late 1400s - has been a Catholic place of worship ever since; it is regarded as one of the architectural gems of Europe. Muslim rights group have been demanding that the Catholic Church allow Muslims to use the space once again as a mosque in an as yet determined joint use agreement.
Bishop Fernandez added, “therefore, the answer to the question about joint use is, no, we will not leave because in this place the Catholic Church has existed for 16 centuries while the Muslims have been here but four and a half centuries.” Nonetheless, the bishop said that the Church maintains a good relationship with Muslims and is constantly seeking “peace, justice, and coexistence of nations; that is one thing, but it is quite another to share the same temple for worship, which is impossible.”
Read more ..
The Hamas Flotilla
|Martin Barillas||June 14th 2010|
Cutting Edge Senior Contributor
Reuters, the UK-based worldwide news agency, admitted on June 8 that it had released cropped photographs taken during the melee between Israeli commandos and the organizers of a Turkish/Palesitnian attempt to run the blockade of the Gaza Strip. This is the second instance in recent times that Reuters has been accused of editing photographs that casts Israel in the light of the villain in decades-long strife in the Mideast. However, Reuters says that it was not at fault this time.
In the fight between Israeli commandos who rappelled to the deck of the Turkish vessel Mavi Marmara on May 31, at least nine people were killed (among them a Turkish-born US citizen) and scores injured. Israeli commandos were met with knives and improvised weapons, while one was shot. The photos of the struggle were released by IHH, the Turkish-based group that sponsored the six-ship fleet was interdicted in international waters. Read more ..
The Hamas Flotilla
The BP Spill
|Puneet Kollipara||June 7th 2010|
|Congressman Roy Blunt (R-Missouri)|
The political fallout from the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico has made its way inland, taking center stage in Missouri's Senate race.
Republican candidate Rep. Roy Blunt and Democratic candidate Robin Carnahan, the Missouri secretary of state, have engaged in a verbal tug-of-war over the spill for weeks, accusing each other of distorting the facts, being too soft on BP and cozying up to the oil industry.
The spill's starring role in the campaign, one of the most competitive in the country, underscores how the disaster in the Gulf of Mexico is scrambling races nationwide as it attracts a huge amount of national media coverage and attention from the Obama administration.
Political consultants aren't surprised that it's happening in Missouri, and they say the issue will resonate with voters -- even though the state lacks any sort of coastline and almost all of its power comes from coal.
"Whether it’s the failure of administration to take strong action, or whether it's BP's handling of situation, you can't turn on the news ... without seeing it," Republican political consultant Jim Gwinner said. Read more ..
|Bhopal Toxic Spill Family Member Mourns Loss|
An Indian court on June 7 found eight people guilty of negligence in failing to prevent one of the world's worst industrial accidents that killed thousands of people.
In December of 1984, a lethal plume of (methyl isocyanate) gas escaped from a storage tank at the Union Carbide plant in Bhopal, the capital of Madhya Pradesh state.
The government says around 3,500 people died in the first days after the accident. Activists say nearly three times that figure died immediately after the accident, and at least 25,000 people have since died from the lingering effects of the gas.
Sentences for the eight found guilty on June 7 have yet to be announced. The negligence charge carries a maximum imprisonment of two years. The convictions from the trial that lasted more than two decades can be appealed in higher courts.
The Indian government estimates a half-million people have been affected by the disaster. Residents today are still struggling with related health problems, from kidney and liver damage, to cancer and birth defects. Union Carbide, which was purchased by the Dow Chemical company in 2001, has said an unidentified disgruntled employee sabotaged the factory. But activists contend that a faulty plant design or lax safety standards were to blame for the toxic leak. Read more ..
Gaza on the Edge
Security forces for the Hamas terrorist organization that rules the Gaza Strip on May 31 and June 1 raided offices of several non-governmental organizations operating there and confiscated office equipment and furniture. The raids were carried out by agents belonging to Hamas’ Internal Security and without court permission. Spokesmen for Hamas subsequently refused to comment on the raids, which were roundly condemned by human rights groups. The raid came just hours after the Israeli navy interdicted a flotilla of six ships attempting to breach the blockade of the Gaza Strip.
Agents of Hamas’ Internal Security also confiscated files, documents, computers, fax machines, and other office equipment. The organizations were informed by the agents that Hamas has decided to close them down indefinitely. In a statement to the press, the Al-Mezan Center for Human Rights condemned the raids and called on Hamas to investigate. “Al-Mezan condemns these assaults against NGOs and views them with much concern,” the center said. “Al-Mezan calls on the Gaza government to initiate an investigation into these acts, ensure full respect of the law, and protect the right of NGOs to work freely.” Read more ..
Gaza on the Edge
|Martin Barillas||May 31st 2010|
Cutting Edge Senior Contributor
|One ship in the Turkish/Hamas flotilla|
Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Daniel Ayalon held a press briefing on May 31, several hours after Israel Defense Forces seized a flotilla of ships organized by pro-Palestine sympathizers that was headed to to the Gaza Strip. In the fray, at least 11 people were killed, with numbers climbing. Ayalon accused the fleet's organizers of having ties to Hamas and al-Qaeda terrorists. Israeli naval forces swooped down on the flotilla and were met with small arms fire, according to the Israeli Defense Ministry, while those on board the flotilla also met Israeli marines with edged weapons.
Before the incident had occurred, MEMRI had published this footage, with Arabic to English translation, showing participants on board one of the ships chanting violent anti-Jewish slogans before setting sail.
According to an official spokesperson, Israel was defending itself, with the Israel Defense Forces saying the soldiers' lives were in danger after they were attacked with "severe physical violence, including live fire, weapons, knives and clubs." An Israeli news video of a "peace activist" stabbing a soldier can be seen here at You Tube. A second video, seen here, shows an Israeli commando being thrown off a deck by peace activists and attacked with a long pole. The BBC has run military footage showing Israeli being viciously beaten with metal poles, see it here. Read more ..
|Martyn Drakard||May 31st 2010|
Cutting Edge Africa Desk
On May 31, a two-week ICC (International Criminal Court) conference opened in Kampala, Uganda, the first formal review conference since the ICC was set up by world leaders gathered in Rome in 1998. In March of this year, Bangladesh became the 111th party to the Rome Statute, while 37 others have signed but not yet ratified it. The US, Russia, India and China, however, are not signatories. The ICC is a court of last resort, which intervenes only when national courts do not or cannot act.
The evening before the conference opened, to give the event international publicity, Ban Ki-Moon and President Museveni played on opposing sides in a soccer match at the Namboole National Stadium, which also featured survivors of the wars in Uganda and Darfur as players – the match ended in a 3-3 draw. ICC Prosecutor Luis Moreno Ocampo and ICC president, Sang Hyun Song, are also at the conference. Read more ..
|Martin Barillas||May 31st 2010|
Cutting Edge Senior Contributor
On May 28, Taliban extremists killed at least 93 members of the Ahmadi religious sect and injured around 100 others in attacks on two Ahmadi mosques during Friday prayer services in Lahore, Pakistan’s second biggest city. According to local police, more than 10 terrorists attacked the Ahmadis, who Muslims consider heretics. After an intense police operation, two teenaged attackers were arrested while others killed themselves by detonating explosives. Although members of Ahmadi community and their places of worship have been attacked by fanatical Muslims on an almost regular basis in Pakistan, this was the bloodiest incident in recent memory.
Local reports appear to show that the terrorist group was well-trained and armed with panoply of AK-47 rifles, pistols, grenades and wore explosive vests. They opened fire indiscriminately at the crowd of one mosque and occupied it for several hours while taking the congregation hostage. When the police decided to raid, the terrorists blew themselves up, causing further carnage. Read more ..
The Obama Edge
|David Schenker||May 24th 2010|
Lebanese prime minister Saad Hariri was in Washington for a meeting with President Obama. In announcing the meeting, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs called it "a symbol of the close and historic relationship between Lebanon and the United States." Indeed, between 2005 and 2009, bilateral ties were never closer or more consequential, with the Cedar Revolution ending nearly three decades of Syrian suzerainty in the country.
Over the past year, however, Hariri has had to govern in coalition with Hezbollah. The Iranian-Syrian backed Shiite militia was undoubtedly the elephant in the Oval Office meeting.
Prior to becoming prime minister, Hariri was a frequent visitor to the Bush White House as head of Lebanon's ruling March 14 coalition. This will be his first visit as premier, his first meeting with Obama, and his first trip to the White House since last year's seeming reversal of the Cedar Revolution. Read more ..
After the Holocaust
|James A. Finefrock||May 24th 2010|
|California Attorney general Jerry Brown|
California Attorney General Edmund G. Brown Jr. filed a brief in the U.S. Supreme Court on May 17 in support of a Connecticut woman who seeks the return of a pair of nearly 500-year-old paintings looted by the Nazis during World War II, kept for a time in the estate of Nazi leader Hermann Göring, and purchased almost 40 years ago by the Norton Simon Museum of Art.
Brown's “friend of the court” brief backs Marei Von Saher, who sued the Pasadena museum in 2007 over "Adam and Eve." The two panels painted by the 16th century German artist Lucas Cranach the Elder are evocative of original sin, according to the museum's website.
The works were confiscated by Nazi soldiers from an Amsterdam gallery owned by Von Saher's father-in-law, Jacques Goudstikker, during the war. From there, the panels were moved to Göring's country estate near Berlin until May 1945, when they were discovered by American troops. The following year, they were returned to Amsterdam. From there, the artwork's trail grows murkier, leading through Russia and to a sale in 1971 to the Norton Simon Museum, where the panels are on display on the main floor. Read more ..
Thailand on the Edge
|Gregg J. Rickman ||May 24th 2010|
Cutting Edge Human Rights Analyst
On May 19th, the Thai armed forces stormed the barricades of Limpini Park, the Red Shirt holdout and gathering place for protest in the business district of Bangkok. Charging through bamboo pikes and pillars of gasoline-filled tires lit aflame, Thai armored personnel carriers struck at the heart of the nearly three-month protest whose leaders were demanding Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva call new elections.
The Army’s attack scattered protesters, arrested scores, and killed five protesters, including an Italian free-lance photographer. In the last few days of fighting, some 53 people were killed and 400 wounded. Since the protests began in March, some 80 people have died, including the Red Shirts’ self-proclaimed military leader, General Khattiya Sawasdipol, known as Seh Daeng (Commander Red), who was shot in the head last week as he spoke to a New York Times journalist. Read more ..
The BP Spill
The Hill correspondent
Congress turns its focus to the federal role in the ongoing Gulf oil leak this week after an initial round of hearings probed the culpability of oil companies tied to the ongoing spill. Three Senate committees will hold hearings on the Gulf spill on May 18, to be followed by the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee on May 19.
Oil industry executives testified before three congressional panels on May 11-12, largely blaming each other for the accident that may pose more of an environmental threat than originally believed. Friday reports said the rate of the spill could be three or four times higher than the 5,000 barrels a day estimate that had been thought to be pouring into the Gulf.
Although the congressional investigation has just begun, a House panel has uncovered a number of potential equipment problems on the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig that could have contributed to the spill. Read more ..
|Martin Barillas||May 17th 2010|
Cutting Edge senior correspondent
|Muslims Pray on Madison Avenue|
In a building that was grazed by one of the jet liners that crashed into the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001, a 13-story Islamic cultural center and mosque is to be established. Two Muslim organizations have cooperated in purchasing a property that promises to be a place of worship and education in lower Manhattan within sight of the place where Twin Towers once stood.
Despite some voices of opposition, Daisy Khan—the executive director of the American Society for Muslim Advancement (ASMA) and board member of the Cordoba Initiative, the two organizations sponsoring the project — explains that a growing population of Muslims in the area require more space for worship.
Said Khan, a vocal proponent of what ASMA says is ‘moderate’ Islam, “We want to create a platform by which the voices of the mainstream and silent majority of Muslims will be amplified. A center of this scale and magnitude will do that. We feel it’s an obligation as Muslims and Americans to be part of the rebuilding of downtown Manhattan.”
The Muslim cultural center and mosque will be known as Cordoba House, in honor of the Spanish city that was once a beacon of Islamic culture in Spain in a near-mythical time of peace among Christians and Muslims. The two Islamic organizations mentioned above are sponsoring the project in the amount of $100 million that was announced on May 5. The building was sold in July 2009 for $4.85 million. Read more ..
Inside Latin America
|Eduardo Szklarz and Martin Barillas||May 10th 2010|
Cutting Edge Correspondents
|Hugo Chavez and Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner|
During the May 4 summit conference of the Union of South American Countries (UNASUR) held in the city of Campana—near Buenos Aires, Argentina—President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela affirmed that accusations laid against him over alleged bribery is part of a “political operation” to harm relations between his country and Argentina. A frequent critic of the United States, Chavez blamed the US and local media saying “The Yankee empire does not want us to be united. The equation is very easy and time-worn: Divide and conquer.”
Nonetheless, Chavez did not address any further the accusations coming out of Argentina. He said that he would not “intervene,” considering them to be “internal political struggles in Argentina.” He did own up to knowing Claudio Uberti, who is currently facing charges in Buenos Aires. Read more ..
Edge of Obesity
Harvard researchers say insurers put profits over health.
Just weeks after the passage of a health bill that will dramatically increase the number of Americans covered by private health insurers, Harvard researchers have detailed the extent to which life and health insurance companies are major investors in the fast-food industry – to the tune of nearly $2 billion.
Although fast food can be consumed responsibly, research has shown that fast-food consumption is linked to obesity and cardiovascular disease, two leading causes of death, and contributes to the poor health of children. The evidence is so compelling that as part of the new health law more than 200,000 fast-food and other chain restaurants will be required to include calorie counts on their menus, including their drive-through menus.
According to an independent report, U.S., Canadian and European-based insurance firms hold at least $1.88 billion of investments in fast-food companies.
"These data raise questions about the opening of vast new markets for private insurers at public expense, as is poised to happen throughout the United States as a result of the recent health care overhaul," says Dr. Arun Mohan. Read more ..
Inside Latin America
|Martin Barillas||May 3rd 2010|
Cutting Edge Senior Correspondent
A report by Amnesty International says that the abuse of mostly Central American migrants passing through Mexico is a major crisis for human rights. Released on April 28, the report accused Mexican officials of complicity or participation in abuses including extortion, murder, torture, and rape. AI called the situation “a chilling panorama.”
According to AI, “The persistent lack of attention on the part of the authorities in confronting these abuses against irregular migrants has made their trip through Mexico one of the most dangerous in the world. “ Entitled “Invisible Victims: Migrants on the move through Mexico,” the report noted that in 2009 some 64, 061 migrants were arrested by Mexico’s immigration agency of whom 94.2 percent were from Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, and Nicaragua. Of those arrested, 93.8 percent were deported or returned voluntarily to their countries of origin while only 4.4 percent had a chance at normalizing their entry into Mexico. The AI report noted that one of every 12 migrants is a minor and that 6 out of every 10 women are subjected to sexual violence including rape.
The Mexican Interior Ministry acknowledged that abuses occur but blamed criminal gangs who extort and otherwise abuse migrants, many of whom hitch rides on railcars headed north towards the United States. An official with Amnesty International said that the trip is one of the most dangerous in the world that that the odyessy leaves them with “virtually no access to justice, fearing reprisals and deportation if they complain of abuses.” Read more ..
The Edge of Justice
Several former U.S. attorneys general, a former deputy attorney general, more than half-a-dozen former U.S. attorneys and a former federal judge have authored and signed letters to the judge in the Sholom Rubashkin case, criticizing the prosecutors’ recommendation that Rubashkin receive life in prison for his bank fraud conviction under Federal Sentencing Guidelines. The authors of the letters include former U.S. attorneys general Janet Reno, Dick Thornburgh, Nicholas Katzenbach, and Edwin Meese III, as well as former deputy attorney general Larry D. Thompson, and former federal Judge Paul G. Cassell. The jurists represent the gamut of sentencing philosophies and includ officials nominated by both Democratic and Republican administrations. Law professor Alan Dershowitz also sent a letter asserting the same conclusion. At press time, more distinguished former U.S. attorneys are adding their names to the widening list of distiguished legal experts challenging the proposed life sentence.
The letters express concerns about how the sentencing guidelines are being utilized in Rubashkin’s case, arguing that they provide “problematic guidance” in determining Rubashkin’s sentence. Read more ..
Wikipedia on the Edge
|Martin Barillas||April 26th 2010|
Cutting Edge senior correspondent
Wikipedia posters continued to struggle with the campaign to delete information about IBM’s involvement in the Holocaust as contributors posted and reposted conflicting theories of what should and should not be allowed to appear in the Internet encyclopedia. Wikipedia is the massive online project anyone can edit at any time, generally using fictitious names. Key among the issues in contention was whether the word “Holocaust” was permissible in descriptions of IBM’s pivotal participation in Hitler’s destruction of six million Jews.
The information about IBM’s role in the Holocaust was originally brought to light in 2001 by author Edwin Black in his bestselling book IBM and the Holocaust. Despite numerous calls for an answer, the company has never denied the information. Various groups, from Gypsies to Jewish survivors, have sued IBM for its involvement, but all the cases have been dismissed. Read more ..
Edge of Recovery
|Ian Swanson||April 26th 2010|
The Hill correspondent
|Goldman Sachs Chairman and CEO Lloyd Blankfein|
A Senate panel has released e-mails from Goldman Sachs executives that suggest the investment bank profited from the mortgage crisis.
The e-mails released Saturday by the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations show Goldman Sachs Chairman and CEO Lloyd Blankfein saying the bank initially lost money on the investments but then more than made those losses back. “Of course we didn’t dodge the mortgage mess. We lost money, then made more than we lost because of shorts,” Blankfein wrote in the e-mail, dated Nov. 18. Blankfein and other Goldman Sachs executives are scheduled to testify next week before the investigations subcommittee, which is examining the Wall Street crisis. Read more ..
Wikipedia on the Edge
|Martin Barillas||April 19th 2010|
Cutting Edge senior correspondent
Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia created by anonymous editors, has reacted to disclosures in The Cutting Edge News that three of its editors were jointly seeking to water down or delete the history of IBM’s involvement in the Holocaust. One editor has been banned and a second has been openly challenged for being “annoying” and revising an entry on IBM despite the open appearance of pushing a personal “point of view.”
A group of mainly anonymous administrators has “indefinitely blocked” the combative contributor operating under the moniker “Fred the Oyster” from further contributions after an investigation concluded that he was the same individual as one previously banned for uncivil and threatening activity. “Fred the Oyster” was one of three Wikipedians, openly bolstered by an IBM archival official who offered to be “helpful,” that took the lead in revising IBM’s history page as well as the article devoted to the book IBM and the Holocaust authored by Edwin Black.
The word “Holocaust” was completely erased from the IBM entry as was the name of the book. Numerous attempts were made to insert IBM’s 2001 press release as the sole statement on the subject.
“Fred the Oyster” was “indefinitely blocked” by the adminstrators, which means his IP address is refused admission to Wikipedia edit pages. The block occured after Black openly objected to the Wikipedia article devoted to his biography being marked with two prominent labels: “American Jew” and “Weasel.” To that, “Fred the Oyster” responded on a public Discussion Page, “I wonder what colour an American Jewish weasel is, and are they similar to a circumcised ferret?” Read more ..
|Golnaz Esfandiari||April 19th 2010|
The temporary Friday prayer leader of Tehran, Kazem Sadighi, said today that “women who don’t have a suitable appearance” (meaning women who do not fully observe the obligatory Islamic hijab) attract young men and lead to the spreading of adultery in the Iranian society which—according to the cleric—increases the risk of earthquakes. Hojatoleslam Sadighi, who was speaking about the probability of an earthquake in Tehran, said that sinning less reduces the likelihood of earthquakes.
“Even if there is an earthquake in Tehran, no one but God can deal with these calamities. We have to abstain from committing sin,” said Sadighi.
The Iranian capital lies on a major seismological fault and some experts have warned that a strong earthquake in Tehran could lead to the death of many of its inhabitants. Read more ..
The Edge of Law
|John Chapin||April 12th 2010|
|Former Israeli Foreign Minuster Tzipi Livni|
The Legal Task Force of the Scholars for Peace in the Middle East released its first major statement condemning the misuse of universal jurisdiction in the United Kingdom and elsewhere, while and insisting upon reform. In light of recent harassment of Israeli officials, the international panel of legal scholars admonished world leaders that “selective enforcement, under-enforcement and over-enforcement all exacerbate the risks of legal uncertainty, unpredictability, confusion, disparity and inequity.”
Critics have challenged both the exercise of jurisdiction in legal cases where it appears unwarranted. Examples cited include arrest warrants issued for Israeli Knesset-member Tzipi Livni, and threatened prosecutions of President George W. Bush and and former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice) and the failure to exercise it where it appears appropriate (as in the cases of Iranian leader Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and North Korean dictator Kim Jong-Il. Read more ..
Israel and Hamas
|Jeffrey White||April 5th 2010|
The March 26 clash between elements of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) Golani Brigade and Palestinian operatives near the Gaza border was the most serious since the end of Operation Cast Lead in January 2009. The incident has exacerbated tensions—already on the rise due to increased rocket attacks on southern Israel—and added to concerns that another Gaza war is looming. Neither Hamas nor Israel has a clear interest in renewing large-scale hostilities, but the dynamics of the border conflict point toward escalation. The two sides did not necessarily want a war in December 2008 either, but it came anyway.
The Incident. The clash began as a routine IDF response to Palestinian activity near the border security fence. IDF personnel observed what appear to have been Palestinian Islamic Jihad operatives planting explosives near the fence (also a routine activity). A force from the Golani Brigade's 12th Battalion responded by crossing the fence and penetrating some distance into Gaza near Khan Yunis to investigate the activity. A firefight ensued, resulting in the deaths of two IDF soldiers (including the battalion's deputy commander) and the wounding of two other Israeli personnel. Two Palestinian operatives were killed as well. Several other incidents reportedly followed, with other Palestinian operatives attempting to plant explosives along the fence. Read more ..
The Weapon's Edge
|Martin Barillas||April 5th 2010|
Cutting Edge senior correspondent
|Trophy Tank missile shield|
The Israeli “Trophy” tank defense system could prove to be a game-changing device should the U.S. acquire it for armoured vehicles it now has deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan. The final touches are being applied to a miniature anti-missile system designed and built by Israel-based RAFAEL in cooperation with IAI/Elta defense industries, which would further bolster Israel’s response to aggression on the part of Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip and in Lebanon. John Pike of Global Security, a military information website, has said that the future of the U.S. Army may ride on whether the system can be made to work. RAFAEL has entered into an agreement with U.S.-based General Dynamics to market the system to the U.S. military. It is not effective for naval vessels, however, nor in soft vehicles such as the U.S. Army’s Humvee four-wheel drive vehicle. Russia is also working on a similar weapons system. Read more ..
Burma on Edge
|Joseph K. Grieboski||March 29th 2010|
Cutting Edge Foreign Desk
United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon has expressed frustration and disappointment in UN diplomatic efforts to achieve progress of any kind in Burma.
Following a meeting of the Myanmar Group of Friends, Ban said that national elections scheduled for later this year must be “inclusive, participatory and transparent.”
Such polls would help to “advance the prospects of stability, democracy and development for all the people of Myanmar,” Ban told reporters following a meeting of the so-called Group of Friends, which brings together more than one dozen nations and one regional bloc in support of greater dialogue in the Asian nation.
According to the Secretary General, the junta must create the conditions to allow for free participation in the elections. “This includes the release of all political prisoners – including Daw Aung San Suu Kyi – and respect for fundamental freedoms,” he added. Read more ..
The Metal's Edge
|Phil Mercer||March 22nd 2010|
Voice of America Correspondent
A respected economist warns that Australia's dependence on mineral exports to China has made its economy highly vulnerable to a crash. Frank Gelber, who is the chief economist at research firm, BIS Shrapnel, says the mining boom has the potential to expose the country to fluctuations in commodity prices and Chinese demand.
China's demand for iron ore, coal and liquefied natural gas has made it Australia's biggest trading partner. With China trade worth about $76 billion a year, Australia was able to avoid the worst effects of the global economic slowdown, prompting hopes that rising commodity exports could fuel growth for years to come.
However, some economists and business experts think Australia relies too heavily on selling resources to China, and is neglecting other parts of the economy. Frank Gelber, a senior economist at Australian company BIS Shrapnel, expects to see strong growth in Australia over the next five years. But he worries about the risks of structural economic imbalances in the longer term. Read more ..
Hell of Haiti
|Lisa Schlein ||March 15th 2010|
The United Nations Environment Program warns that Haiti’s recovery process will be greatly constrained if the environmental degradation suffered during the catastrophic earthquake is not adequately taken care of. UNEP says cleaning up Haiti's environmental mess will be long, difficult, and expensive.
The program says Haiti was the poorest and most environmentally degraded country in the Caribbean before the earthquake struck in mid-January. It says Haiti's rural environment was largely destroyed, making it difficult to fully feed its population. It says that damaged water collecting devices made the country vulnerable to flooding and other natural disasters. It says there is extensive soil erosion in Haiti and only 3 percent of the country’s original forest cover is left. Read more ..
The Armenian Genocide
|Armenian Death March in Ottoman Turkey|
Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan has lambasted U.S. lawmakers for pursuing a resolution that would label his country’s treatment of Armenians after World War I as a “genocide.” That declaration, approved Thursday by the House Foreign Affairs Committee, could only serve to damage U.S.-Turkish relations, the prime minister said. Erdogan later decried the effort as a “parody,” and he stressed his country would in no way be “deterred” by U.S. lawmakers’ forthcoming proclamation. “Let me say quite clearly that this resolution will not harm us,” he told a business group. “But it will damage bilateral relations between countries, their interests and their visions for the future. We will not be the losers.” Despite the issue’s high profile, there been little movement in the United States to recognize the killing of almost 1.5 million Armenians between 1915 and 1917 as a genocide. Read more ..
Turkey on the Edge
|Soner Cagaptay||March 1st 2010|
For the last several decades, the Turkish military was untouchable; no one dared to criticize the military or its top generals, lest they risk getting burned. The Turkish Armed Forces were the ultimate protectors of founding father Kemal Ataturk's secular legacy, and no other force in the country could seriously threaten its supremacy. Not anymore.
On Feb. 22, 49 officers -- including active-duty generals, admirals, and former commanders of the Turkish navy and air force -- were arrested on allegations of plotting a coup against the government. Specifically, the officers were charged with authoring a 5,000-page memo that was later published in Taraf, a paper whose editorial policy is singularly dedicated to bashing the military.
Among other things, the memo stated that the Turkish military was planning to bomb Istanbul's historic mosques and shoot down its own planes to justify a coup. When I asked a former U.S. ambassador to Turkey for his views on the news, he thought the scenario was ridiculous. "If the Turkish military was going to do a coup, they would not be writing a 5,000-page memo about it," he stated.
Read more ..
Edge of Terrorism
|Jordy Yager||February 22nd 2010|
The Hill correspondent
A leading Muslim advocacy group is pushing government officials to call the suicide plane crash in Texas “an act of terror,” saying that if a Muslim had been flying the plane there would be no hesitancy to call it terrorism.
On Thursday, Andrew Joseph Stack III flew a small plane into the IRS's four-story office building in Austin, killing himself and at least one federal employee. Before the incident, Stack allegedly left a series of messages on a website expressing his disgust with the IRS, saying at one point that “violence not only is the answer, it is the only answer.”
“Whenever an individual or group attacks civilians in order to make a political statement, that is an act of terror,” said Nihad Awad, the executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR).
“Terrorism is terrorism, regardless of the faith, race or ethnicity of the perpetrator or the victims,” said Awad, adding in a statement that “if a Muslim had carried out the IRS attack, it would have surely been labeled an act of terrorism.” Read more ..
China on the Edge
|Tony Romm||February 22nd 2010|
The Hill correspondent
A Chinese university thought to be at the center of last month's cyberattack on Google is denying any involvement in the scheme.
Representatives from Shanghai Jiaotong University this weekend described those reports to Xinhua, China's state-run news agency, as "baseless allegations which may harm the university's reputation." While the school did admit its computers could have been involved in the plot, which targeted Google, other U.S. businesses and human rights activists in China, the university's spokesperson dismissed any possibility the attack started there. Read more ..
|Susan Crabtree||February 15th 2010|
A long-awaited Federal Election Commission ruling could dramatically impact how the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision affects the power of candidates to control campaign messages.
The FEC will set new rules this year to govern the coordination of communication between outside entities and candidates and parties. The proposed rulemaking was already in the works before the Citizens United decision, but this week the agency set a public hearing for March 2 and 3 and extended its public comment period on the issue to elicit comments addressing the impact of the high court’s decision.
Watchdog groups have long argued that the FEC’s coordination rules are too weak and ineffective but the Citizens United decision, which allows unfettered corporate and union money in elections as long as the spending is independent, is shining a new light on the importance of restrictions on coordination between candidates and outside entities. Read more ..
|Joseph K. Grieboski||February 8th 2010|
Cutting Edge Contributor
|Imam Hassen Chalghoumi pictured at center|
Imam Hassen Chalghoumi has spent his life preaching inter-faith harmony from his mosque in Paris's poor and fractious northeastern suburbs. Chalghoumi works with Jewish leaders, inviting them to his home and urging young people of all religions to embrace harmony in place of hatred.
Now, he finds himself the target of the same hatred and intolerance that he has dedicated his life to combating. His car had fuel poured on it; he has received anonymous death threats on his cell phone; people have stopped him in the street warning him that he has “gone too far”; his house is under police watch and he is shadowed by a bodyguard.
Tunisian-born Chalghoumi, 35, has become the focal point in the rising tension between Jews and Muslims in France caused by disturbances in the Middle East. Read more ..
Edge of Financial Recovery
|Silla Brush||February 1st 2010|
The Hill correspondent
The $700 billion bailout program for the financial industry has so far done little to boost bank lending, aid small businesses or reduce home foreclosures, a top government watchdog said in a report.
Neil Barofsky, the special inspector general over the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP), said in a report that while the bailout has helped stabilize the financial system, many of the program's original goals have not been met.
"Lending continues to decrease, month after month, and the TARP program designed specifically to address small-business lending — announced in March 2009 — has still not been implemented by Treasury," Barofsky wrote in the report. "The TARP foreclosure prevention program has only permanently modified a small fraction of eligible mortgages, and unemployment is the highest it has been in a generation." Read more ..
|Martin Barillas||January 25th 2010|
Cutting Edge Senior Contributor
|Burnt Jewish Books in Greek Arson|
On January 22, police apprehended three men accused of setting alight an historic synagogue on the Greek island of Crete earlier in the month. Two Britons and a Greek national were arrested, while a US citizen is also sought in connection to the January 16 attack that caused extensive damage to the roof of the 16th century synagogue, its computers, and thousands of precious books. Police have identified the culprits of two assaults on the synagogue as nightclub employees. The two Britons are in their early 20s while the Greek is 33-years-old. They will appear before a prosecutor next week.
Alarmed by the arson, Moses Constantinis of the Central Board of Jewish Communities in Greece, said "I can't say I'm happy now; they should have arrested them earlier, after the first attack and not leave the synagogue unprotected." Read more ..
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