|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 ..
Edge of Terrorism
|Michael O'Brien||January 18th 2010|
The Hill correspondent
The chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee dispatched staffers to Europe to investigate the attempted terror attack on a Christmas Day flight. Chairman Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) announced that he's sending a delegation of staff to England and the Netherlands to investigate the security breakdowns that led a Nigerian man, Abdul Farouk Abdulmutallab, to successfully smuggle explosives on board a flight from Amsterdam in Detroit in December and almost successfully blow up the plane.
“I have directed Committee on Homeland Security staff to get a first hand look at the security systems that failed on December 25," Thompson said in a statement. "I am confident that this in-person examination will inform the Committee’s January 27th hearing on Flight 253 and provide insights on information sharing infrastructure, the watchlisting process, and passenger screen technologies." Read more ..
The Political Edge
|Michael O'Brien||January 11th 2010|
The Hill Correspondent
Detroit has become a political battleground as lawmakers and activists descend on the city for its international auto show.
A delegation of Democratic lawmakers, led by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), will travel to Motown on Monday for the opening day of closed-door previews for the media, industry officials and other VIPs. They will be met, though, by conservative “Tea Party” activists, who plan to rally against the show.
The scene will represent one of the most high-profile demonstrations of the political battle over the bailouts for Chrysler and General Motors, nearly a year after the U.S. government provided tens of billions of dollars to prop up the companies.
Pelosi will travel to Detroit along with House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood, Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis and a bipartisan group of House and Senate lawmakers with an interest in the auto industry. The group comes at the invitation of Rep. John Dingell (D-Mich.), a longtime advocate for the auto industry. Read more ..
|Nathan Gutman||January 4th 2010|
A breach of protocol by the administration’s new envoy on antisemitism came with a heavy price: an implicit rebuke from her superiors at the State Department and a sharp retort from her former colleagues in the organized Jewish community.
In a step widely seen as off limits for government officials, Hannah Rosenthal, the newly appointed envoy, criticized in a newspaper interview the Israeli ambassador to the United States, Michael Oren, for his characterization of J Street as a “unique problem.”
The affair, which stirred emotions within the Jewish community, also highlighted the rift between the Israeli diplomatic mission in the United States and the up-and-coming dovish lobby. More broadly, it underscored Oren’s difficulty in fulfilling his promise, upon assuming his post last May, to reach out to the progressive wing of the Jewish community.
Read more ..
The Legal Edge
|Adam Kredo||December 28th 2009|
Washington Jewish Week
|Attorney Nathan Lewin|
Stephen Greenwald is well aware that when defending the rule of law, "you're not always on the side of the angels."
The adage comes to mind as Greenwald, president of the American Association of Jewish Lawyers and Jurists, fights to overturn a federal court ruling concerning a former Somali prime minister who stands accused of war crimes.
The litigation that led to the ruling was filed against former Somali Prime Minister Muhamed Ali Samantar. It argues that diplomatic immunity should be waived so that Samantar can be tried for abetting a host of war crimes, among them torture and murder. Read more ..
After the Holocaust
|Martin Barillas||December 21st 2009|
Cutting Edge Senior Contributor
Thieves who made off with the infamous sign at the Auschwitz death camp in Poland were but ordinary criminals, say Polish authorities following the arrest of five men after an intensive search and a state of emergency in the region. “Arbeit macht Frei” reads the metal lettering (Work makes you free) over the gate to the death camp where more than 1 million Jews, Poles, Soviet prisoners of war and other enemies of Germany’s National Socialist state were murdered during the Second World War.
One survivor called the theft an attempt to deny the historicity of the Holocaust, or Shoah. Polish police said on December 21 that the suspects are but “ordinary criminals” rather than Nazi sympathizers.
The police are still attempting to determine how the large metal sign could have been removed from the Auschwitz gate, despite security guards and closed-circuit video cameras. The police were examining video tape over the December 19–20 weekend, and were also relying on hounds to sniff out the perpetrators of the outrage. Read more ..
Turkey on the Edge
|Soner Cagaptay||December 14th 2009|
On December 7, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan will meet with US President Barack Obama in Washington. The meeting follows Obama's April visit to Turkey, when he reached out to the Turks to realign Ankara with the US after the tumultuous years of the Bush administration.
Despite Obama's efforts, Turkish foreign policy is drifting further away from the US. The cause of this is that the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government in Ankara sees the world very differently from the US administration. The AKP's foreign policy is shaped by "econo-Islamism," a doctrine blending business deals with a religio-political view of the world.
Since coming to power in 2002, the AKP has pursued rapprochement with Russia, Sudan, and Iran, and has even gone so far as establishing ties with Hamas. In the West, this orientation of Turkish foreign policy had until recently been interpreted as neo-Ottomanist, i.e. a "secular" attempt to reassert itself in the Ottoman realm, to the benefit of the Euro-Atlantic community. Read more ..
|Martin Barillas||December 7th 2009|
Cutting Edge Senior Correspondent
In a November 29 referendum, a surprising 57.5 percent of Swiss voters passed a measure that would ban the building of further minarets at mosques in the country. There are currently four minarets in Switzerland; however, these will not be affected by the vote. The measure had been supported by two populist parties: the Swiss People’s Party and the Federal Democratic Union. Currently, there are 400,000 Muslims living in the mountainous bastion of bank accounts, in a total population of 7.7 million. The Swiss government issued regrets over the poll but says it will respect the result.
The Swiss justice minister also said the European Court of Human Rights could strike down the Sunday vote, which incurred swift condemnation at home and abroad for banning the towers used to put out the Islamic call to prayer. The 47-nation Council of Europe said that banning "new minarets in Switzerland raises concerns as to whether fundamental rights of individuals, protected by international treaties, should be subject to popular votes." Switzerland presides over the council, which is associated with the European Court of Human Rights. The court rules on breaches of the European Convention on Human Rights.
Justice Minister Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf said the ban would come into force immediately, but indicated that it could be overturned. "The ban contradicts the European Convention on Human Rights," Widmer-Schlumpf is cited as saying. The minister added, that this was not "a referendum against Islam ... but a vote directed against fundamentalist developments." She defended the referendum as being "about minarets and not, of course, about the Islamic community," she said. "We are interested in a multi-religious society in Switzerland."
France's Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said he was "a bit scandalized" by the vote, which amounts to "oppressing a religion." "I hope that the Swiss will go back on this decision rather quickly," Kouchner said. "It is an expression of intolerance, and I detest intolerance." Read more ..
The Flu’s Edge
|Martin Barillas||November 30th 2009|
Cutting Edge senior correspondent
Reports in Europe and elsewhere are rife of a mutation of the H1N1 “swine flu" virus that apparently first appeared in Ukraine and has now popped up in numerous other countries. As of November 28, two fatal cases of the mutated virus emerged in France, following two deaths caused by the virus identified in Norway on November 20. According to the World Health Organization, the same virus has been identified in patients in other countries including Brazil, China, Japan, Mexico, and the United States.
So far, in France, 76 deaths have been recorded for H1N1. Worldwide, deaths blamed on the epidemic rose by 1,000 during the week of November 21-28. But in the Ukraine, the total figure surpassed 300 in early November 2009, with as many as 16 deaths caused in one day.
The mutated virus appears to be able to penetrate further into the passages of victim’s lungs, thus making it more dangerous. However, there is yet no evidence to show that it can be spread between people. As long as there is no proven “person-to-person” contagion, the relative risk posed by the mutation is low, experts insist. Read more ..
|Adam Abrams||November 30th 2009|
Cutting Edge Mideast Correspondent
|Iran President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad inspects nuclear equipment|
The Iranian government stunned the world community by announcing a plan to build 10 new uranium enrichment facilities—this just after being rebuked for duplicity and non-cooperation by a resolution of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). The plan to expand was decided upon in a Cabinet meeting headed by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Ahmadinejad told those at the Cabinet meeting that, “We should be able to produce 250–300 tons of fuel per hour and to attain the goal we need more new modern centrifuges with higher speed.” The Iranian President claimed the Islamic Republic needs the new facilities to produce 500,000 nuclear centrifuges and 20,000 megawatts of electricity within the next 20 years. Iran will commence construction of five uranium enrichment sites within two months and seeks to develop five additional locations to begin shortly thereafter. Read more ..
|Martin Barillas||November 30th 2009|
Cutting Edge Senior Correspondent
In the Basque city of Guernica, northern Spain, crewmembers of the fishing vessel Alakrana, which was captured by Somali Muslim pirates in October 2009, testified before a judge investigating the incident. The Spanish Basque fishermen spent 47 days as the prisoners of the pirates after being waylaid near the Seychelles Islands in the Indian Ocean. On November 24, eight of the 36 crewmembers of the Alakrana tuna-boat appeared in a Guernica court where they recounted the horror of their abduction by pirates. In a press conference, machinist Victor Bilbao said “We were frightened because at any moment they might have shot us.” Bilbao also criticized Spanish President Jose Rodriguez Zapatero for mishandling the management of the crisis.
The Alakrana and crew were freed on November 17 following the payment of a $4 million ransom. They were captured in early October, and had repelled a similar attack in September. Since the Alakrana incicent, Spain has given permission to its fishing fleets to utilize military armaments by onboard security. President Rodriguez Zapatero defended his government's handling of the incident saying that Spain did what it had to do. Read more ..
|Adam Abrams||November 23rd 2009|
Cutting Edge Mideast Correspondent
|Ali Reza Asgari|
Approximately three years ago, a retired Iranian general and former deputy defense minister disappeared in Turkey amidst claims of defection. Ali Reza Asgari worked in the Iranian reformist government headed by President Muhammad Khatami. There are conflicting reports regarding when Asgari was last seen. Some state December 2006; others claim early 2007.
The Iranian media is now reporting that Asgari was abducted by Mossad and Western intelligence agencies. Furthermore, Iranian media reports claim that Asgari is currently being held in an Israeli prison. These reports were picked up by Israeli Army Radio last week.
Although no sources have been named, Iranian media reports, “Two years of investigations by relevant institutions show that Ali Reza Asgari is kept in the Zionist regime's prison... [Ali Reza Asgari] was kidnapped by Mossad, German and British intelligence agencies and taken to Israel.”
The Israeli government refuted any association with Asgari's disappearance when reports of his defection began circulating in 2007. There is now speculation that Asgari was abducted by Israeli Mossad and Western intelligence agencies in an effort to obtain information regarding missing Israeli Air Force navigator Ron Arad and the Iranian nuclear program. Read more ..
The Edge of Terror
|Martin Barillas||November 16th 2009|
Cutting Edge Senior Correspondent
A Greek Orthodox priest was severely beaten by a U.S. Marine Reservist in Tampa Florida in an apparent if not bizarre case of mistaken identity. Lance Cpl. Jasen D. Bruce, 28, was arrested on a charge of aggravated battery with a deadly weapon after chasing and beating a man he thought was a terrorist.
On the evening of October 9, Father Alexios Marakis, 29, was visiting the Greek community and an ailing fellow priest in Tampa. Father Alexios ot lost while driving northbound on Interstate 275 and wandered into downtown Tampa. Exiting his car at the Seaport Channelside Apartment complex, he asked Bruce for directions. Instead of providing assistance, Bruce allegedly beat the Orthodox priest in the head with a tire iron.
The Greek Orthodox priest then fled on foot with Bruce in pursuit while the Marine phoned 911 emergency services to report that he was going to "take an Arab" into custody. When police finally arrived, Bruce allegedly declared that the priest was actually a terrorist. According to Tampa police, Bruce claimed that the priest had shouted “God is great!” in Arabic. The bearded priest speaks Greek and was wearing a black cassock at the time of the incident.
Father Alexios was taken to hospital and there a translator helped to unravel his story for police. When police went to Bruce's apartment, he was already lawyered up and would not speak to them. The priest was treated and released from Tampa General Hospital. Alleged assailant Bruce was arrested on the evening of November 9 and released from the Hillsborough County jail at 8 AM on November 10 on a $7500 bond. Read more ..
Ukraine on the Edge
|Sam Orez||November 9th 2009|
|Prime Minister Yuliya Timoshenko of Ukraine|
Ukraine continues to be in a panic about a deadly outbreak of influenza still not confirmed as H1N1 swine flu.
The disease contagion may be showing signs of diminishing. But accounts of young and otherwise healthy victims succumbing continue to circulate, contributing to heightened political tensions in a country that will face a general election on January 17, 2010. The virus has become a pivotal issue. Sentiment within the Central European nation increasingly holds that the country’s medical systems and political leaders were slow to react or inadequate in their response to the outbreak. More than 95 victims have died this year.
Signaling the importance given to a show of concern, in the middle of the night on November 3, Prime Minister Yuliya Timoshenko, the Ukrainian foreign minister and the president’s chief of staff gathered at Kiev’s airport to share solemn words about the arrival of a shipment of Tamiflu, a drug effective against swine flu. Read more ..
|John Chapin||November 9th 2009|
Imam Luqman Ameen Abdullah
Ron Scott, head of the Detroit Coalition Against Police Brutality, said on November 2 that he is concerned about the killing of the Muslim prayer leader, Imam Luqman Ameen Abdullah on October 28. Abdullah, formerly known as Christopher Thomas, had led the Masjid Al-Haqq mosque in Detroit. Abdullah was shot dead by FBI agents in the suburban Detroit locale of Dearborn after he allegedly fired at and killed a police dog. A federal affidavit described Abdullah, his son, and accomplices as Islamic extremists wanted for numerous violations of federal law, as well as operating a theft ring. According to Scott, “We’re concerned about the excessive force,” adding “We want to see an independent investigation.” See affidavit here.
Abdullah’s family said that he was shot 18 times, while the medical examiner’s office would only say he was shot multiple times. Andrew Arena, special agent in charge of the Detroit FBI office, said agents acted appropriately.
According to a federal affidavit, Abdullah believed he and his followers were soldiers at war against the government and non-Muslims. "He told his followers it is their duty to oppose the FBI and the government and it does not matter if they die," FBI agent Gary Leone said in an affidavit unsealed on October 28, the day of the raid. "He also told the group that they need to plan to do something," apparently, “violent jihad.”
Abdullah and eleven others were charged with conspiring to commit several federal crimes, including illegal possession and sale of firearms, tampering with motor vehicle identification numbers, theft from interstate shipments and mail fraud. Nine of the suspects are currently in federal custody, and two others remain in Canada and are fighting extradition to face justice in the United States. "We're not any fake terrorists, we're the real terrorists," Abdullah once boasted to an undercover informant, according to the affidavit. Read more ..
|Jim Snyder and Silla Brush||November 2nd 2009|
The Hill correspondents
Civil rights groups on Tuesday will lobby for climate legislation as a key Senate panel begins to examine the issue in earnest this week. But some question whether the climate bill itself poses a risk to minority communities.
Supporters of the bill say severe weather patterns some scientists believe to be the result of climate change have a disparate impact on minority and poor communities. But Frank Stewart, the president and chief operating officer of the American Association of Blacks in Energy, believes the legislation could lead to a transfer of wealth from urban communities with large black populations to rural areas that stand to benefit more from “green” jobs created by a carbon cap.
Frustrated by a lack of momentum on Capitol Hill for the issue, groups like the National Wildlife Federation (NWF), the Sierra Club, the Environmental Defense Fund and other “green” organizations have sought out labor, religious, rural and national security groups in an effort to turn the climate bill into something more. Climate legislation has been lobbied as a way to boost the economy through green jobs and to improve national security by reducing dependence on foreign oil. Read more ..
Inside Latin America
|Eduardo Szklarz and Martin Barillas||October 26th 2009|
Cutting Edge correspondents
|Argentina President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner|
A law passed on October 10, 2009 in Argentina that will place controls on the media has generated suspicions that the government of President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner hopes to actually restrict freedom of the press. The Law on Audiovisual Media came up for a vote in the Argentine Senate amidst widespread accusations of vote buying by the current executive. President Kirchner signed the bill in record time despite howls of protest, especially by the owners of Clarín – a centrist newspaper that also controls television holdings.
Opponents of the legislation affirm that it was approved by Congress in haste and without necessary debate over its merits and whether it would restrict constitutional freedoms. Observers in Buenos Aires claim to see the hand of former president Nestor Kirchner, the husband of the current executive, in the passage of the bill before the new Congress assembles on December 10. The climate of suspicion was heightened in view of the disdain with which the Argentine power-couple treated journalists, and harassment on the part of the government. According to some analysts, the Kirchner’s effort to restrict the media resembles that similarly used by their ally, President Hugo Chávez of Venezuela. Read more ..
|Jordy Yager ||October 19th 2009|
The Hill correspondent
Republican members of the Congressional Anti-Terrorism Caucus said the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) has tried to plant "spies" within key national-security committees in order to shape legislative policy.
Reps. Sue Myrick (R-N.C.), John Shadegg (R-Ariz.), Paul Broun (R-Ga.), and Trent Franks (R-Ariz.), citing the book Muslim Mafia: Inside the Secret Underworld that's Conspiring to Islamize America, called for the House sergeant-at-arms to investigate whether CAIR had been successful in placing interns on key panels. The lawmakers are specifically focused on the House Homeland Security Committee, Intelligence Committee and Judiciary Committee.
"If an organization is connected to or supports terrorists [and] is running influence operations or planting spies in key national security-related offices, I think this needs to be made known," said Broun, who sits on the Homeland Security Committee. "So I join my colleagues here today in calling for action."
But the Office of the House sergeant-at-arms said that it has received no such request from any of the four Republicans and declined to speculate on how a request of that nature would be addressed. Read more ..
Pakistan on the Edge
|Martin Barillas||October 12th 2009|
Cutting Edge Senior Correspondent
|Pakistani Nuke on Parade|
Visiting London on a swing through Europe, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton admitted on October 11 her concern that Taliban insurgents in Pakistan are a growing threat to the South Asian country but denied that they are a risk to the its nuclear arsenal. Echoing her British counterpart, Foreign Secretary David Miliband, Secretary Clinton dismissed fears that Pakistan’s nukes could fall into the hands of Islamic militants despite a bold attack on the army headquarters at Rawalpindi.
Secretary Clinton admitted in a press conference that Islamic militants were "increasingly threatening the authority of the state, but we see no evidence that they are going to take over the state. We have confidence in the Pakistani government and military's control over nuclear weapons." Miliband echoed Clinton’s public assurances. Read more ..
The Edge of Terrorism
|Eduardo Szklarz and Martin Barillas||October 5th 2009|
Cutting Edge Correspondents
|Former Argentine President Carlos Saúl Menem|
Carlos Saúl Menem, an ex-president of Argentina who is currently a senator in the South American republic, was accused on October 1 in Buenos Aires of obstruction of justice charges for his alleged part in covering up the so-called "Syrian connection" and Iranian involvement in the 1994 car-bombing that killed 85 people and injured hundreds more at the Jewish Mutual Association of Argentina (AMIA). Also brought to trial were Menem's brother Munir, police officials Jorge Palacios and Carlos Castañeda, and secret service officers Hugo Anzorreguy and Juan Carlos Anchezar. In addition, the now disgraced judge who heard the original case, José Galeano, was also brought to justice.
The "Syrian connection" is based on evidence about Alberto Jacinto Kanoore Edul, a textile merchant whose Syrian father Kanoore Edul was a donor to Menem's first presidential bid. According to prosecutor Nisman, the son was involved in launching the bombing at the AMIA. Menem himself is of Syrian extraction and his parents were born in Syria.
On July 10, 1994, eight days before the attack, Kanoore Edul phoned Carlos Telleldín about a used Renault van that was to be used in the attack. Among the evidence presented to the court is an entry in Kanoore Edul's datebook that includes the telephone number of Moshen Rabbani—a cultural attaché at the Iranian embassy who has been linked to the bombing. Rabbani received the Renault van in question from Kanoore Edul.
According to a decision by federal judge Ariel Lijo, Menem while in the presidency used his office to influence the Argentine Ministry of Justice and secret services in order to protect a Syrian family involved in the deadly bombing and mislead the investigation. The defendants are accused of misuse of authority, destruction of evidence, repeated lying under oath, as well as the cover-up. Read more ..
|Yaakov Katz||October 5th 2009|
Jerusalem Post correspondent
Israel Defense Forces Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi flew secretly to France on Sunday for meetings with Adm. Michael Mullen, the chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Gen. Jean-Louis Georgelin, the chief of the French Defense Staff.
Ashkenazi left Israel early on Sunday morning and flew to Normandy, where he met with Mullen. The two have developed a close relationship since Ashkenazi was appointed chief of General Staff in 2007 and they reportedly speak at least once a week by phone.
Ashkenazi's trip to France came amid continued warnings that senior IDF officers could be arrested in Europe for their involvement in Operation Cast Lead in the Gaza Strip in December 2008 and January 2009. Last week, a Palestinian group petitioned a court in London to issue an arrest warrant for Defense Minister Ehud Barak, who was visiting the British capital. Read more ..
|Adam Abrams||September 28th 2009|
In a recent interview with the Daily Beast last week, Zbigniew Brzezinski, the National Security Adviser from the Carter administration and erstwhile adviser to President Barack Obama, made a highly contentious statement regarding the U.S.-Israeli alliance. When asked how the U.S. would respond to Israeli jets using Iraqi airspace in order to stage an attack on Iran, Brzezinski was quoted as saying: “We are not exactly impotent little babies. They have to fly over our airspace in Iraq. Are we just going to sit there and watch? ... We have to be serious about denying them that right. That means a denial where you aren’t just saying it. If they fly over, you go up and confront them. They have the choice of turning back or not. No one wishes for this but it could be a Liberty in reverse.”
“A liberty in reverse” is a reference to the controversial encounter between Israeli jets and the American vessel U.S.S. Liberty in 1967 that resulted in the sinking of the U.S. Navy ship.
Brzezinski who is said to have a reputation for such rhetoric, found his calls for “a Liberty in reverse” dimly viewed by many in Jewish leadership.
For example, Anti-Defamation League national director Abraham H Foxman, responded to Brzezinski’s quip with this: “Here is an international legal expert and he doesn't even know that the US does not control sovereignty over Iraqi airspace. Putting that aside, Zbigniew Brzezinski has always had a nasty streak when it came to Israel…. it is better that we can now see it, and it is out in the open.” Read more ..
Coke and Confiscation
|Edwin Black||September 21st 2009|
In a stunning new court filing, Coca-Cola has been accused of near-criminal collusion in Egypt’s program of ethnic cleansing and property seizures targeting Jews during the 1960s.
The long-standing case involves Egyptian Jewish businessman Refael Bigio and his family against his former partner, Coca-Cola in the illicit takeover of the family bottling business and property near Cairo. The conflict was covered extensively last year by The Cutting Edge News in a special report (see April 14, 2008 Page One, “Coca-Cola and Confiscation: On Passover, an Egyptian Jew Battles Coca-Cola in the USA for a Modern Day Injustice”)
The Egyptian government takeover occurred in 1962 during the openly anti-Jewish regime of President Gamal Abdel Nasser. Coca-Cola joined in the process by purchasing the Bigios’seized property for a relative pittance. The process is reminiscent of the Nazi program of Aryanization against German Jewish property during the 1930s. Egypt’s government has long ago ruled its Nasser-era seizure of the Bigio property was illegal, but Coca-Cola refuses to reimburse the Bigios for the factories the company’s overseas operations took over.
Now, after years of international litigation and fruitless negotiation, Bigio’s attorneys have fired a stinging motion for summary judgment, asserting that the uncontradicted facts surrounding Coca-Cola’s actions were so blatant that the court should immediately find the corporation guilty.
“Coca-Cola is not," wrote attorney Nathan Lewin in his motion, “as it likes to portray itself, a trusting and guileless American corporation that in 1994 innocently purchased a 'minority interest' in some remote business entity that utilizes the Bigios’ property. The undisputed evidence, “ he continues, “establishes that Coca-Cola witnessed how the Bigio family – with which it was intimately bound in a mutually profitable business relationship between the 1940s and 1962 – was victimized by Nasser’s ethnic-cleansing policy of taking Jewish property and expelling Jews from Egypt. Read more ..
|Adam Wallace||September 14th 2009|
Cutting Edge London correspondent
|Suspected "Hijackers" taken into custody|
There has been considerable speculation in the media over the last week as to the true course of events surrounding the piracy of the Russian cargo ship Arctic Sea. The ship, officially bound from Finland for Algeria with a cargo of wood was first intercepted in the Baltic Sea on July 24, by eight men dressed as Swedish customs officers, who claimed to be part of an anti-drug trafficking unit. They detained the crew and searched the ship for twelve hours, before supposedly leaving, and allowing the Arctic Sea to resume her voyage. Four days later, on the 28th July the ship had its last radio communication with British coastguard officials as it sailed through the English Channel, before vanishing from radar screens on the 29th, when she was in the Atlantic off the coast of Portugal.
After a further week of no contact or sightings of the ship, Russia dispatched a force of warships, led by the frigate Ladny to search for her in the Atlantic. It was at this point that speculation began to grow that pirates had seized her, the first time that such a thing had happened in European waters for well over two hundred years. Read more ..
|Marianne Lavelle||September 7th 2009|
Center for Public Integrity
With its hefty bankroll and polished messaging, the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity looked like a juggernaut going into the climate change debate on Capitol Hill. But ever since the House narrowly passed a measure in late June to set the country on a path to addressing global warming — a measure with plenty of concessions to coal but still lacking ACCCE’s support — the advocacy group has been beset by struggles.
First, Bonner & Associates, the lobbying firm ACCCE subcontracted to help stoke its vaunted grassroots network, was found to have forged at least 13 letters to members of Congress purportedly from senior citizen and minority groups opposed to the legislation. Bonner blames a rogue employee and ACCCE has fired Bonner, but a congressional investigation continues.
The large power company Duke Energy, whose chief executive James Rogers has long advocated climate legislation, withdrew from the coal group this week — a story first reported by Energy Daily (subscription required). ACCCE burst on the scene in 2008 with the message that it did support a practical, affordable climate plan — essentially Duke’s position. But Duke said a rift became apparent during the debate over the House bill. “We believe ACCCE is constrained by influential member companies who will not support passing climate change legislation in 2009 or 2010,” the company said in a statement. After the Duke story broke, the blog EnviroKnow confirmed that aluminum maker Alcoa had earlier quit the group. Read more ..
America's Economic Collapse
|John Dunbar ||August 31st 2009|
Center for Public Integrity
Firms that fed off the subprime lending frenzy that devastated the banking system are lining up to collect more than $21 billion in taxpayer funds meant to help bail out borrowers now in trouble on their loans.
The funds come from the federal government’s Home Affordable Modification Program (HAMP), begun in February by the Obama administration to coax lenders into modifying mortgages that might otherwise result in foreclosure. According to an analysis of public records, of the 25 top participants in the program, at least 21 were heavily involved in the subprime lending industry. Most specialized in servicing subprime loans, but several both serviced and originated the loans.
Among those on the list:
• At least two firms that earlier settled charges of illegal collection practices brought by federal regulators; another was placed under federal supervision before voluntarily surrendering its bank charter;
• A subprime subsidiary of top-bailout recipient American International Group Inc. (AIG);
• Two former subsidiaries of Merrill Lynch & Co. and one former subsidiary of Lehman Brothers, investment banks that helped underwrite the subprime boom, and;
• A subsidiary of the now-sold, former No. 1 subprime lender in the nation, Countrywide Financial Corp. Read more ..
America's Economic Collapse
|Holly Auer||August 24th 2009|
Center for Public Integrity
The nation's home foreclosure epidemic may be taking its toll on Americans' health as well as their wallets. Nearly half of people studied while undergoing foreclosure reported depressive symptoms, and 37 percent met screening criteria for major depression, according to new University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine research published in the American Journal of Public Health. Many also reported an inability to afford prescription drugs, and skipping meals. The authors say their findings should serve as a call for policy makers to tie health interventions into their response to the nation's ongoing housing crisis.
"The foreclosure crisis is also a health crisis," says lead author Craig E. Pollack, MD, MHS, who conducted the research while working as an internist and Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Clinical Scholar at Penn. "We need to do more to ensure that if people lose their homes, they don't also lose their health." Read more ..
Iran on the Edge
|Mehdi Khalaji||August 17th 2009|
Washington Instiute correspondent
|Public Execution in Iran|
Widespread reports suggest that Sadeq Larijani, a young and inexperienced cleric with close ties to Iran's military and intelligence agencies, will officially replace Mahmoud Hashemi Shahroudi as head of the Iranian judiciary on August 16. This appointment is particularly significant, since the judiciary in Iran wields considerable power -- albeit through the approval of Iran's top leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei -- and has a great deal of latitude to make decisions without reference to law or Islamic concepts, especially when "safeguarding the interests of the regime" is deemed necessary.
Who is Sadeq Larijani?
Born in 1960 in Najaf, Iraq, Sadeq Larijani is the son of Grand Ayatollah Hashem Amoli and the son-in-law of Grand Ayatollah Hossein Vahid Khorasani, currently one of the most widely followed marjas, "sources of emulation" whose rulings are regarded as binding by devout Shiite believers. Read more ..
Oil and Terrorism
|Walid Phares ||August 10th 2009|
The renewal of violence in the northern provinces of Nigeria brings this oil producing country to the brink of "Talibanization," threatening not only the precarious ethnic and religious makeup of the most populous African state but also the entire region, from Chad to Senegal.
The fight between the now-called "Nigerian Taliban" and the governmental forces took place recently within a country whose borders are 300 miles from where President Barack Obama stood inside the Ghana Parliament to address Africa's "problems." Unfortunately,when the president recently spoke, he didn't mention words such as Taliban, jihadists, Shariah, salafists, or any term indicating that Nigeria and 10 other African countries are suffering from a real invasion, fueled by a totalitarian ideology. That was a miss that came back to haunt the international public opinion as dramatic pictures of the bloodshed were disseminated by the news agencies. Read more ..
|John Chapin||August 3rd 2009|
Urged on by calls from their mullahs, Muslim mobs burned down more than 50 homes of the Christian community in a village of the province of Punjab. A house of worship of the Anglican-affiliated Church of Pakistan, as well as another belonging to the New Apostolic Church, were both put to the torch in the evening hours of July 30 following a reaction to a supposed desecration of the Koran. Around 1000 Muslim believers, bearing firearms and explosives, also attacked numerous Christian homes and burned them. The village of Kolyat, where the first attacks occured, is home to some 100 Christian families who had been living there for several decades. As the attacks widened, Christian men, women and children fled the onslaught and hid themselves in nearby fields. On the following day, in another village, Muslim incendiaries burned six Christians to death in their homes; among them was a 7-year-old child.
According to eyewitnesses, the attackers burned everything belonging to the Christians, including clothes, food, utensils, beds, school books and Bibles in the houses. Even their animals were consumed by the blaze. There are reports that in some cases marauders stole some of Christians’ livestock as well.
The problem arose following a dispute between Muslim and Christian boys. Even while Christian and Muslim elders of the village settled the issue, some relatives of Muslim boys decided to pursue the matter. They spread a rumor that a Christian, Talib Masih, had burned pages of Koran during a wedding ceremony on July 29. The Christians of the area said that this was a false accusation. However, tensions rose, according to the Daily Times, after pages of an Islamist book were found outside a Christian house on July 26. Read more ..
|Joseph K. Grieboski||July 27th 2009|
Cutting Edge Foreign Desk
|North Korean Christians|
A 33-year-old Christian mother of three, Ri Hyon Ok, was publicly executed on June 16 by the North Korean regime for the crime of distributing the Bible, a book banned in repressive North Korea, the South Korean Investigative Commission on Crime Against Humanity reports.
Ri was also accused of spying for South Korea and the United States and of organizing dissidents, the Commission said, citing documents obtained from the North. The Commission’s report also stated that her husband, children and parents were sent to a political prison the day after her execution.
The claim could not be independently verified, and there has been no mention by the North's official Korean Central News Agency of her case. However, a copy of Ri's government-issued photo ID was provided by the activists. North Korea is well known for its crackdown on unofficial religions and for its overwhelming human rights abuses. Read more ..
Iran's Voter Revolt
|John Chapin||July 20th 2009|
|LA Metro Rail Car Manufactured by Siemens |
Siemens could lose hundreds of millions of dollars in a pending Los Angeles Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) rail car deal because its Nokia subsidiary sold the Iranian regime the equipment used to monitor dissidents and suppress its voter revolt, according to details reported exclusively by Washington Times correspondent Eli Lake.
Siemens Nokia was exposed as a prime cuplrit enabling the Iranian regime crack down on internet access, cell phone use, and Twitter accounts of protesters and dissidents. Now, Iranian human rights advocates in California are pressing local politicians and government executives with veto power over contract awards to punish the giant German company, according to Lake. In the coming days, a key contract for Metro rail cars for Los Angeles County is up for a vote, according to Lake. Read more ..
The Health Edge
|Lily Fesler ||July 13th 2009|
|Chalk River Reactor|
With the temporary shutdown of the nuclear research-reactor at Chalk River, Ontario, Canada’s medical isotope industry has fallen into crisis, threatening health services across North America. The National Research Universal (NRU) reactor, as it is called, produced a third of the world’s molybdenum-99 (Mo 99), a medical isotope that decays into technetium-99 (Tc 99), which can be used to diagnose and treat cancer and other diseases.
North America’s main suppliers of medical isotopes, Covidien and Lantheus, are desperately trying to meet demand for Mo 99 by increasing the supply coming from other reactors. However, there are only five medical isotope producers worldwide, including Chalk River, and the other four do not have sufficient capabilities to fill the gaping hole the NRU shutdown has left in Mo 99 production. Read more ..
|Yaakov Katz ||July 6th 2009|
Jerusalem Post Correspondent
An IDF Navy Dolphin-class submarine that participated in maneuvers off the Eilat coast last week returned to Israel via the Suez Canal on Sunday, according to witnesses' reports.
The submarine was spotted returning through the waterway along with an Israeli missile boat.
However, an Israeli defense official told Reuters there would be no permanent deployment in Eilat of the German-made submarines, of which the Navy has three, with two more on order.
"If anything, we are scaling down our naval operations in Eilat," the official was quoted as saying on Sunday.
A senior naval source explained that the "submarines need the open water, and that's just not available at Eilat."
"Also, the navy cannot take on the logistical burden of setting up two bases, with all the specialized needs in terms of equipment, maintenance crews and security safeguards, for a submarine fleet that, at most, will comprise five Dolphins," he told the news agency. Read more ..
After the Holocaust
“Russia is showing its contempt and disdain for international law, the American judicial system, and basic principles of fairness and justice,” said Nathan Lewin, attorney for the world-wide Chabad-Lubavitch movement.
The remark was in response to Russia’s surprise announcement, filed with the federal court in Washington, D.C. in recent days. In an epic legal and diplomatic contest that dates back to the World War I, Russia is defiantly refusing to release some 381 spiritual manuscripts, 12,000 rare books and 25,000 handwritten archival documents plundered from East Europe from the charismatic Jewish Chabad-Lubavitch movement. The collection handed down from generation to generation constitutes “the central wisdom, comprehension and knowledge” of the Chabad movement. Without those documents, Chabad is without its spiritual soul, it says. Indeed, the word “Chabad” itself is an acronym for the Hebrew words for “central wisdom, comprehension and knowledge.”
Deadlocked in litigation for years, and international pressure for decades, Russian authorities, declared this week that the Putin government would not “further participate” in the case. This was done as legal scholars predicted the courts would grant the Chabad movement a stunning victory in its epic effort to reclaim its papers. Chabad’s legal team is headed by the Washington law firm of Lewin and Lewin, LLP. Known for championing Jewish causes— Nathan Lewin and Alyza Lewin -- sometimes called “attorneys for the Tribe,” worked together with attorneys from Howrey LLP and Bingham McCutchen LLP to obtain a rare federal court decision earlier this year commanding Moscow to preserve the books and documents and instructing Russia to provide the Court with a written description of the steps it is taking to preserve the books and manuscripts. A court-ordered handover seemed imminent according to legal scholars watching the case. Read more ..
Inside Central America
|Martin Barillas||June 29th 2009|
Cutting Edge Senior Correspondent
President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela has threatened to intervene on the North American continent following a military coup in Honduras, just two hours by airliner from Miami. President Manuel Zelaya of Honduras was ousted from power and forcibly taken to Costa Rica when members of the country’s armed forces stormed the national palace and removed him in his pajamas. As for President Chavez, he said that there are reports that his ambassador to Honduras was beaten and left on the side of the road, and that if his ambassador has been killed or his embassy violated "that military junta would be entering a de facto state of war. We would have to act militarily ... I have put the armed forces of Venezuela on alert."
The Congress of Honduras removed President Manuel Zelaya from office, having accused him of “numerous violations” of the Central American country’s constitution, as well as other laws and court findings. Zelaya, an ally of President Chavez, was arrested during the early morning hours on June 28 by Honduras’ armed forces and taken under guard to Costa Rica where he is currently in exile. Roberto Micheletti, who had been president of the national legislature, was named interim president. The Congress published what was purported to be a June 25 letter from Zelaya announcing his “irrevocable” decision to resign. Armored vehicles and soldiers are guarding strategic points throughout the capital city, and radio and televisions blacked out, in scenes reminiscent of Latin America of the past. The capital remains quiet, even while there were protests at the national palace with President Zelaya’s detractors outnumbering his supporters. Read more ..
Iran's Voter Revolt
|Joseph K. Grieboski||June 22nd 2009|
Cutting Edge Foreign Desk
Austrian Green Party security spokesman Peter Pilz alleged today that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was part of a death squad that killed three Kurds in Austria on July 13, 1989.
According to Pilz, Ahmadinejad had been involved in the killings in Vienna and may have actually shot one of the trio. "I have no doubt he was involved.”
New eye-witnesses have come forward identifying Ahmadinejad as being involved in the assassination of Kurdish Democratic Party of Iran chief Abdul Rahman Ghassemlou, his deputy Abdullah Ghaderi-Azar and Austria-born Fadel Rasoul.
The Austrian Times reports that Pilz claimed the involvement of two Iranian teams in the assassinations: a negotiations team and an execution team. Pilz said Ahmadinejad had been responsible for gathering and preparing the weapons used and had been a member of the execution team. Read more ..
Edge on Taliban Terror
|Aftab Mughal||June 22nd 2009|
The Pakistani Taliban have issued letters to Christians and Shia Muslims (a minority sect) across the country threatening them with death should they not conform to the Taliban's Sunni Islam.
On June 10, a letter was sent to Rabita Manzil, of the National Catholic Office for Social Communications in Lahore, the second biggest city of Pakistan. It was given to a Christian woman, who lives near the office, by two masked men. The letter stated “We know you are Christian. We warn you to leave this area, embrace Islam, pay 1,500,000 rupees (US$18,500) as jizya, or be ready to die in a suicide attack.”
Christians have received similar threats in various parts of the country as fighting between government troops and the Taliban militants continues to rage in the country's northwest. Sacred Heart Cathedral, several Catholic schools in Lahore, and various pastors have received threatening notes telling them to convert to Islam. Moreover, Peshawar Bishop Mano Rumalshah of the Anglican Church of Pakistan said the churches in his diocese continue to receive threatening letters which say either become a Muslim, leave, or be killed. Read more ..
Edge of Narco-Terrorism
|Joseph K. Grieboski||June 15th 2009|
Cutting Edge Foreign Desk
Iran has opened six embassies in Latin America during the past five years and is promoting Islamic activities throughout the region, according to Pentagon spokesperson Donna Miles. She emphasized the Pentagon’s rising concern about the increasing presence of Iran in Latin America, and Hezbollah’s inroads in drug trafficking in Colombia, as part of an event with the National Association of Chiefs of Police.
According to Jim Kouri of the Law Enforcement Examiner, Navy Admiral James G. Stavridis told the House Armed Services Committee that he shares the concerns of Defense Secretary Robert Gates about Iranian activity in Central and South America.
"That is of concern, principally because of the connection between the government of Iran, which is a state sponsor of terrorism, and Hezbollah," Stavridis told the committee. “We see a great deal of Hezbollah activity throughout South America, in particular," he said. Read more ..
Pakistan on the Edge
|Aftab Mughal||June 8th 2009|
Cutting Edge Contributor
The Bara-based Lashkar-e-Islam (LI, an Islamic militant group) has imposed jizya, an Islamic tax, on the non-Muslim communities, including Sikhs, Hindus and Christians living in the Khyber Agency, a tribal region of North West Frontier Post (NWFP) near Afghanistan’s border and which is substantially under the control of militants.
“Sources said LI had asked the non-Muslim communities in Bara, Chora, Karamna, Bazaar Zakhakhel and Tirah Valley of Khyber Agency to pay jizya or leave the agency,” reported The News on June 3. The sources said the warning came from LI on May 31 following which the community agreed to pay the tax instead of leaving the area, where they have been living for decades.
The minority communities had many meetings with the local militant group, but LI was not ready to give any concessions to the minority community. They were told that they are not Muslim so they have to pay jizya. Read more ..
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