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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 ..

Edge on Environment

Indonesia's Merapi Volcano Eruption Could Change World Weather Patterns

November 15th 2010

Environment Topics - Merapi eruption Indonesia

Scientists have long known that large volcanic explosions can affect the weather by spewing particles that block solar energy and cool the air. Some suspect that extended "volcanic winters" from gigantic blowups helped kill off dinosaurs and Neanderthals. In the summer following Indonesia's 1815 Tambora eruption, frost wrecked crops as far off as New England, and the 1991 blowout of the Philippines' Mount Pinatubo lowered average global temperatures by 0.7 degrees F—enough to mask the effects of manmade greenhouse gases for a year or so. That such eruption may affect travel became evident upon President Barack Obama's visit to Indonesia when his trip was cut short over concerns about the volcanic ash spewed by the eruption of Mount Merapi in the archipelago. Read more ..

BDS and Economic Jihad

38 Nobel Laureates Call for Rejection of Anti-Israel Boycott and Divestment Initiatives

November 8th 2010

Europe Topics - Nobel Prize
Nobel Prize ceremony

A group of 38 Nobel laureates signed a letter opposing the push by the art, research and academic boycott movement Boycott, Divestment Sanctions (BDS). 

Their statement, organized by Nobel Laureates, Roger Kornberg, Stanford University, and Steven Weinberg, University of Texas at Austin, was signed on October 28, 2010. In an initiative supported by Scholars for Peace in the Middle East (SPME) the Nobel winners are encouraging students and faculty of institutions across the world to “promote and provide opportunities for civil academic discourse where parties can engage in the search for resolution to conflicts and problems.”

The 38 Nobel laureates include: Phillip A. Sharp, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 1993 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine; Tony Leggett University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, 2003 Nobel Prize in Physics; Mario Capecchi, University of Utah, 2007 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine; and Elie Wiesel, 1986 Nobel Peace Prize. Read more ..

Congress on the Edge

Fellow Members of Congress Question Impartiality in judging Ethics Violations by Maxine Waters

November 8th 2010

Congressional issues - Maxine Waters

A jury of her peers will decide whether Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) violated House ethics rules, but some are questioning the ability of at least one of the members to remain impartial.

Rep. Ben Chandler (D-Ky.), who sits on the adjudicatory panel that will weigh the allegations against Waters late this month, won re-election by just 600 votes, according to the Associated Press. His opponent, Andy Barr, is refusing to concede and has asked for a recanvass.

If Chandler wins, it would be by a razor-thin margin in an increasingly red district, and if he loses, watchdogs argue, he likely would be focused on looking for his next job, scenarios fraught with conflicts of interest and political implications.

After such a hard-fought election in a majority Republican state, some Democrats privately worry that Chandler may want to prove that he is capable of taking a hard stance against a member of his own party and judge Waters more severely than he would in the middle of a term when political influences are less powerful. Read more ..

Christians Under Attack

The Ongoing Violent Dispossession of the Christians of the Mideast

November 8th 2010

Christian Topics - Iraq: blood spattered church

Members of the exile community of Iraqi Christians living in the Detroit area are planning to commemorate those killed in an Islamist terrorist attack on October 31 in Baghdad. “The March Against the Ethnic Cleansing of Iraq’s Indigenous Christians” is being organized on Facebook to show solidarity with those murdered during the Sunday Mass at Baghdad’s Church of Our Lady of Salvation by a suicide squad of Islamist terrorists who occupied the worship space and took the congregation hostage. Read more ..

Edge of Economic Recovery

Obama Defends Fed $600 Billion Decision

November 8th 2010

Federal Reserve

President Obama has defended the Federal Reserve’s decision to pump another $600 billion into world markets.

Asked at a Monday press conference in India about the decision, which has been criticized abroad and by Republicans in Congress, Obama said the Fed’s intention was to promote growth in the U.S. economy, which would be good for the global economy.

“The worst thing that could happen to the world economy, not ours, not just ours, but the entire world’s economy, is if we end up being stuck with no growth or very limited growth,” Obama said. “And I think that’s the Fed’s concern, and that’s my concern as well.” Read more ..

Medicare on the Edge

Louisiana Attorney General Sues 18 Drug Companies Alleging "Egregious" Overbilling of Up to 6000 Percent

November 1st 2010

Health/Medicine - StethoscopeAndKeyboard

Eighteen drug companies have been hauled into court by Louisiana Attorney General Buddy Caldwell alleging they unlawfully inflated drug costs paid by Louisiana taxpayers through the Medicaid program. Caldwell alleged that the pharmaceutical companies deliberately misreported drug price information in order to increase reimbursements made by Louisiana’s Medicaid program. These reimbursements by the Louisiana Medicaid program are based on what is called Average Wholesale Prices (AWPs). Read more ..

The Edge of Terrorism

Brennan: Bomb Threat Still Concern; U.S. Will “Destroy” Culprits

November 1st 2010

Islamic Topics - UPS office, Sanaa, Yemen

After a late-week terror threat that wiped campaign news off the radar Friday, President Obama’s chief counterterrorism adviser made the rounds on all five major morning shows Sunday. The plot to send explosives on airliners bound for Chicago “had all the hallmarks of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula,” Deputy National Security Adviser John Brennan said on Fox News Sunday.“It certainly bears all of the hallmarks of AQAP,” Brennan said on CNN’s State of the Union. “AQAP as an organization as a whole is something that we need to maintain pressure on, working very closely with Yemeni officials. And we will destroy that organization as we’re going to destroy the rest of al-Qaeda.” Read more ..

Argentina on Edge

Argentina Shaken by the Sudden Death of Former President Néstor Kirchner

November 1st 2010

Latin American Topics - Nestor Kirchner

Former Argentine President Néstor Kirchner died Wednesday, October 27 at his home in El Calafate, Argentina after suffering from congestive heart failure. Néstor and his wife, current President Cristina Kirchner, had gone to the Patagonian town of El Calafate in order to be counted for the national census. At 60 years, his death came as a surprise to the nation even though his cardiac issues began much earlier in the year.

After his election in 2003, Néstor came to see his chief responsibility as president to repair a country left demoralized and in disarray after the failed presidency of Fernando de la Rúa. Unhinged just days after his election, de la Rúa represented an alliance of left-leaning and liberal groups which were challenging various factions of the Peronist party. In the midst of the country’s deepening economic crisis, the de la Rúa administration was expected to reinvigorate the economy after its steep decline under the corruption-ridden government of Carlos Menem. But following the economy’s utter collapse in 2001 and corruption within the de la Rúa administration, a series of violent protests ultimately led to resignation. Read more ..

Travel Safe

Fear of Flying and The Question: Has Your Pilot Had Enough Sleep?

November 1st 2010

Transportation Topics - Mesa Airlines plane

In 2008, two Mesa Airlines pilots flew 25 nautical miles past their Hilo, Hawaii, destination while the control tower tried to get their attention.

It turned out they were asleep.

The captain of the Feb.13, 2008, Mesa Airlines Go! flight told the National Transportation Safety Board that while this particular nap wasn’t intentional, he often napped in the cockpit for 20 minutes at a time.

The idea of pilots napping at 30,000 feet may sound horrifying, but pilots across the world are taking naps in the sky every day. And it might actually make air travel safer. Read more ..

Edge of Justice

Rubashkin Judge Rules on Her Own Conflict of Interest—Draws Rebuke as “Arrogant”

October 28th 2010

Jewish Topics - Sholom Rubashkin

U.S. District Judge Linda Reade issued a ruling on October 27, 2010 denying a motion for new trial for Rabbi Sholom Rubashkin – a former meatpacking executive who was convicted in 2009 of financial fraud following an immigration raid on his family’s Postville, Iowa company, known then as Agriprocessors.

Rubashkin’s attorneys, led by Nathan Lewin of Washington, D.C., have called the judge’s conduct “arrogant.”

Reade, in essence, self-ruled on charges of her own misconduct. She found that there was not sufficient new evidence presented to the court to warrant a new trial based on her judicial misconduct. The 50-year-old rabbi is currently being held in a federal prison in Otisville, NY.  Rubashkin, who belongs to the Chabad-Lubavitch movement of Judaism, was found guilty of 86 financial fraud charges in 2009. He was sentenced to 27 years in prison and was ordered to pay $27 million in restitution. Numerous legal and judicial experts, among them six former U.S. Attorneys General, have questioned the severity of the sentence. Read more ..

Midterm Elections

Fifty Democrats or More to be Unseated Midstream in a Republican Torrent

October 27th 2010

Obama Admin Topics - Obama serious

Republicans are headed for a blowout election win that seems certain to seize more than enough seats to knock out the Democrats and take control of the House.The Hill 2010 Midterm Election poll, surveying nearly 17,000 likely voters in 42 toss-up districts over four weeks, points to a massive Republican wave that, barring an extraordinary turnaround, will deliver crushing nationwide defeats for President Obama’s party. Read more ..

Inside Islam

Muslims Accuse Fearful Egyptian Christians of Complicity with Israel

October 27th 2010

Arab Topics - Egyptian burned out

Fears for the safety of Egyptian Christians are growing after a series of false allegations, violent threats and mass demonstrations against Christians in Egypt, according to the Barnabas Fund - an advocacy and charitable organization based in the United Kingdom.

According to a news release, Muslim anger was ignited in September 2010 last month when entirely unfounded accusations were made on Al-Jazeera TV that Egyptian Christians were aligned with Israel and stockpiling weapons in preparation for waging war against Muslims. Tensions were also fueled by baseless rumors circulated by Islamist leaders that Christians were kidnapping and torturing women who had converted to Islam.

In a separate controversy, a senior church leader was compelled to apologize publicly “if our Muslim brothers’ feelings were hurt” after another church leader questioned at an internal meeting a verse in the Qur’an that accuses Christians of being “infidels”. Egyptian Christians’ rights were subsequently threatened by the Supreme Council of Islamic Affairs, a government body, which confirmed Egypt to be an Islamic state where “the citizenship rights of non-Muslims were conditional to their abiding by the Islamic identity of the State.”

At least ten mass demonstrations involving thousands of Muslims have since taken place against Christians, with the previously unknown group “Front of Islamic Egypt” promising them a “bloodbath." Read more ..

The Toxic Edge

Federal Convicts Exposed to Toxic Waste and Heavy Metals

October 26th 2010

Technology - Computer Chips

Federal inmates have been processing computers, televisions and other discarded gadgets known as e-waste for a poorly administered and potentially dangerous prison jobs program, according to a new report by the U.S. Department of Justice.

Old electronics equipment often contains cadmium and lead, heavy metals that are toxic to humans. The inspector general at the Justice Department found exposure to the metals at prison e-waste factories exceeded limits set by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. Eating and drinking in work areas with heavy metal emissions was also allowed.

A government corporation within the prison system known as UNICOR runs the recycling program. In 1997, UNICOR began to accepting e-waste for prisoners to refurbish or break down and sell for processing elsewhere. The inspector general found several instances of unsafe working conditions for prisoners. Read more ..

Labor on the Edge

Activists Accuse Family Dollar Stores of Anti-Labor Practices

October 22nd 2010

Social Topics - El Paso Protest

For more than an hour, business slowed to a trickle at the Family Dollar store in downtown El Paso. Chanting slogans and hoisting signs, a few dozen picketers marched in disciplined, circular formation on the sidewalk in front of the popular discount store on Stanton Street.

Organized by El Paso's new Retail Workers Rights Committee (RWRC), the protesters demanded that Family Dollar respect workers rights, stop mistreating managers in order to avoid paying overtime and limit managers' schedules to 52 hours per week. Staging its demonstration during peak Saturday business hours, the RWRC passed out leaflets that read: "Family Dollar Is Not Family Friendly."

"What makes me do this protest is people don't know their rights," said Abel Lopez, former El Paso Family Dollar manager and RWRC member. "(Managers) don't know the law. They're inside the stores for 80 hours a week. They don't have the time to investigate." Read more ..

Midterm Elections

Organized Labor Increases Spending on Political Ads just Before November elections

October 18th 2010

Politics - SEIU supporters

Unions are joining the air war of radio and television ads surrounding this year's mid-term election.

Over the last week, the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) spent at least $200,000 on billboard signs, direct mail and radio ads, according to Federal Election Commission (FEC) records. Those funds were for attacks against Republican opponents of several vulnerable House Democrats as well as against Rep. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), who is running for retiring Sen. Kit Bond's (R-Mo.) seat.

That is about a fifth of SEIU’s spending on campaign ads so far for the general election — now totaling at least $1.3 million since mid-September — according to FEC records filed by October 14. Read more ..

Inside Mexico

China Eyes Mexican Investments despite Ongoing Narco War

October 18th 2010

Asia Topics - Mexico-China meeting

Investors from Pacific Rim nations are also showing greater interest in Tijuana, the Mexican border town that is adjacent to San Diego CA. A government delegation from the People's Republic of China visited Tijuana in recent days, greasing the wheels for a tour of Chinese businessmen who are expected to arrive in the border city this week.

Chinese attention towards Tijuana is another example of the Asian giant's growing business in Mexico and Latin America. China's bilateral trade with Latin America exploded from $200 million in 1975 to $47 billion by 2005.

Given the high level of criminal violence and subsequent negative publicity which have swirled around Tijuana in the past few years, the enthusiasm of foreign investors in expanding their business dealings in the city is noteworthy. Read more ..

Haiti on the Edge

K Street Lobbyists Assist Construction and Disaster Relief Agencies Win Aid Contracts in Haiti

October 11th 2010

Caribbean - Port-au-Prince, Haiti earthquake damage

A number of construction and disaster-response firms have hired Washington lobbyists to help navigate the contracting process for rebuilding Haiti.

In January 2010, Haiti suffered a devastating earthquake that left thousands dead and millions homeless. Since then, the U.S. government and its international allies have pledged billions of dollars in aid to get the impoverished island nation back on its feet.

By July, Congress had passed a supplemental appropriations bill that included $2.8 billion in relief aid for Haiti. But $1.15 billion of the funds designated for reconstruction projects have yet to be delivered, leaving many Haitians homeless more than nine months after the earthquake, according to a recent Associated Press report. Read more ..

Safety in the Workplace

Congress to Consider Legislation to Toughen Toothless OSHA

October 4th 2010

Politics - Capitol Building at night

For an agency so widely feared and demonized by American business, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration is a relative pushover.

True, OSHA occasionally hits employers with big fines, like the $50 million BP recently agreed to pay for failing to fix the sorts of problems that led to a refinery explosion and the deaths of 15 workers in Texas City, Texas, five years ago.

But the 40-year-old law under which the agency operates limits its ability to threaten miscreants with stiff prison sentences – even in cases of gross misconduct that kill workers – and to hold company executives personally accountable for dangerous conditions that go uncorrected.

Compared to the Environmental Protection Agency, which has tough statutes such as the Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act at its disposal, OSHA is a paper tiger. Read more ..

Mendoza Eugenics

Schwarzenegger Vetoes Controversial Mendoza Eugenics Bill in California as Biased

September 30th 2010

Deaf issues - Gov Schwarzenegger of CA
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger of California

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger of California vetoed the controversial state legislation, AB2072, known to its critics as “the Mendoza deaf eugenics bill.” In a September 29 letter to the California State Assembly, the governor wrote that while children experiencing hearing loss and their parents need information, he recognized the “the strong feelings from advocates on both sides of this issue.”

However, said Schwarzenegger, while the so-called “Mendoza bill” attempts to provide comprehensive information, “Unfortunately, the mechanism is through an advisory committee that is anything but unbiased. It’s also an advisory committee that will not only duplicate efforts by other state programs and materials by nationally recognized and respected organizations, but it represents a significant workload that will require fiscal resources that cannot be spared.” A fiscal conservative posed with the greatest fiscal deficit in the nation, Governor Schwarzenegger wrote that California’s Newborn Hearing Program and other agencies already provide programs for children while the legislation would have represented “significant workload that will require fiscal resources that cannot be spared.” Read more ..

Mexico's Drug War

Mexicans Take Justice into Their Own Hands in Violence Reminiscent of the 1910 Revolution

September 27th 2010

Mexican Topics - Mexico lynching

An attempted kidnapping September 21 in the northern Mexican state of Chihuahua touched off a burst of mass outrage that left two suspected young kidnappers dead and a small town in open rebellion. While the details are still sketchy, the events began with the abduction of a 17-year-old female worker of a seafood restaurant in the town of Ascensión by a group of young men. Read more ..

The Political Edge

Key Dem Senators Not Ruling Out Yes Votes on DREAM Act

September 20th 2010

Politics - Capitol Building at night

Senate Democrats who blocked an immigration bill in 2007 say they are undecided on how to vote on the measure this week.

Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) plans to attach the controversial DREAM Act to the defense authorization bill. But it’s unclear if it can attract 60 votes.

The DREAM Act, introduced by Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), would grant U.S. citizenship to certain children of illegal immigrants who came to the country before the age of 16. Democrats helped block the bill three years ago when it fell eight votes short on a procedural motion. While some Republicans supported that motion, eight Democrats voted no, including the late Sen. Robert Byrd (W.Va.) and Sens. Max Baucus (Mont.), Mary Landrieu (La.), Mark Pryor (Ark.), Kent Conrad (N.D.), Claire McCaskill (Mo.), Jon Tester (Mont.) and Byron Dorgan (N.D.). Read more ..

The Edge of Hope

Oil Drilling Equipment has been Enlisted to Free 33 Trapped Miners in Chile

September 13th 2010

Latin American Topics - Chilean miners

A convoy of dozens of trucks transporting a massive oil drilling machine arrived on September 10 at the site of the San Jose gold and copper mine in Chile, where 33 miners are trapped. The drill is the third one being employed to try to rescue the miners, who have now been underground for 36 days.

It has been labeled "Plan C" and it is hoped that it will speed the rescue effort. However, freedom for the trapped miners is likely to still be months away. The 33 men were trapped by a mine cave-in on August 5. But it was not until August 22 that they were discovered alive.

Rescuers have been sending food, medicine and relatives' letters through a chute to where the miners are located, 700 meters below the surface. Chile's government is sparing neither money nor trouble in supporting the 33 miners trapped by a cave-in on August 5.  As part of that effort, they asked the United States' National Aeronautic and Space Administration, or NASA, to send specialists to advise local medical officers on the trauma of prolonged isolation. The NASA team traveled to Chile's Atacama Desert last week and briefed reporters afterward. Read more ..

Islam on the Edge

Libyan Dictator Suggests Conversion to Islam while Demanding 5 Billion Euros in Annual Tribute from the European Community

September 6th 2010

Africa Topics - Muammar Gaddafi and Silvio Berlusconi
Silvio Berlusconi greets Muammar Gaddafi

Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi's visit to Rome was to mark the second anniversary of his country’s renewed bilateral relationship with Italy, which had once occupied the North African nation. However, at an August 30 lecture in the Eternal City, he appeared to offer Libyan husbands to the hundreds of women assembled to hear him while also calling upon Europe to convert to Islam.

Approximately 500 young women were hired and paid by an agency to attend Gaddafi’s lecture. Mostly students who hire themselves out to advertising and publicity firms, the women were paid approximately $100 each, while women who gave their names to the press were not paid. The women were instructed to dress modestly for the Muslim ruler of Libya, even while they were not required to wear scarves or hijab. Another 200 women attended a second lecture held at the Libyan embassy. Read more ..

The Obama Edge

Secretary Clinton Hosts Ramadan Dinner for Young Muslims

September 6th 2010

Obama Admin Topics - Clinton and Obama

The administration's marking of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan continues on September 7 when the State Department hosts an event geared toward young Muslims and an Iftar dinner with Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.

President Obama hosted an Iftar meal breaking the day's Ramadan fast on August 13. In his speech, he supported the right of the Muslim community to build the planned controversial mosque two blocks from Ground Zero, comments that touched off a firestorm including Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) breaking with the president and saying the Islamic center should be built elsewhere. Read more ..

Economic Recovery on the Edge

Obama to Offer New Stimulus Measures as U.S. Jobless Rate Soars

September 6th 2010

Obama Admin Topics - Obama pensive

President Barack Obama spoke on September 3 after a new Labor Department report showed private businesses added 67,000 jobs in August, more than forecast. Overall, the nation lost 54,000 jobs in August and the unemployment rate ticked up to 9.6 percent.

The increase in hiring by businesses is modest and not enough to lower the unemployment rate. Still, private forecasts had predicted even less growth from payrolls in August, and stocks rose after the report was released. New figures for June and July also suggested job losses in those months were not as bad as once thought.

Obama offered no details about the new proposals, but said he was “confident Democrats and Republicans can come together to agree on steps to move the economy forward.”

“The key point I’m making right now is the economy is moving in a positive direction, it’s just not moving as quickly as we’d like it,” Obama said. Read more ..

China on the Edge

Rumored Defection of Key Bank Player Shakes Up China's Financial System

September 2nd 2010

Asia Topics - Zhou Xiaochuan
Zhou Xiaochuan

Rumors have circulated in China that People's Bank of China (PBC) Gov. Zhou Xiaochuan may have left the country. The rumors appear to have started following reports on Aug. 28 which cited Ming Pao, a Hong Kong-based news agency, saying that because of an approximately $430 billion loss on U.S. Treasury bonds, the Chinese government may punish some individuals within PBC, including Zhou. Although Ming Pao on August 30 published a report on its website indicating that the prior report was fabricated by a mainland news site that had attributed the false information to Ming Pao, rumors of Zhou's defection have spread around China intensively, and Zhou's name has been blocked from Internet search engines in China. Read more ..

Mexico's Drug Wars

Mexico's War on Narcoterrorists Yields a Big Fish

September 1st 2010

Latin American Topics - Edgar Valdez Villarreal
Edgar Valdez Villarreal

The Mexican Federal Attorney General's Office (PGR) confirmed that members of the Federal Police detained former Beltran Leyva Organization top enforcer, Edgar "La Barbie" Valdez Villarreal. Several Mexican media outlets have reported that the operation that netted Valdez Villarreal took place outside of Toluca, Mexico state, while others have reported that the operation actually took place near the Morelos and Guerrero state borders. Read more ..

Edge on the Immigration Crisis

Mexico Faces a Moment of Truth over its Deadly Treatment of Latin American Immigrants

August 30th 2010

Latin American Topics - Tamaulipas Mexico massacre

If Arizona's SB 1070 law, underlined by the continuing deaths of migrants in the inhospitable, blazing desert of the Southwestern state, dramatizes the crisis of US immigration policy, then the mass murder of 72 Central and South American migrants in the northern Mexican border state of Tamaulipas last week showcases a similar and widening crisis in Mexico.

The San Fernando Massacre, which occurred August 22 in a rural area about 90 miles south of the US border, was widely condemned by human rights advocates as the horrific culmination of years of corruption and neglect on the part of Mexican immigration and law enforcement officials who are often accused of collaborating with human traffickers for extortion and other purposes. Read more ..

The Political Edge

Democratic Lawmaker Gives Congressional Black Caucus Scholarships to Her Grandchildren

August 30th 2010

Politics - Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson

Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-Texas) admitted to awarding thousands of dollars in scholarships to four relatives and a top aide's two children in violation of rules set by the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, which provided the funds.

The Dallas Morning News reported on August 29 that the recipients were ineligible for the scholarships due to the CBC Foundation's anti-nepotism rules as well as a requirement they live in the district of the member that awarded them the scholarships.

Each member of the Congressional Black Caucus is given $10,000 annually to award in scholarships; members are given a large amount of leeway in how they choose the winners and disburse the funds.

Johnson initially denied any favoritism when she was contacted by the Morning News last week, but later admitted to having unknowingly violated the rules. She said she would work with the foundation to "rectify the financial situation." She said she has awarded scholarships to hundreds of students since joining Congress in 1993 and the most any student usually receives is between $1,000 and $1,200. Read more ..

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