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The Obama Edge

Browner on Energy Bill and Gulf Cleanup

August 9th 2010

Obama Admin Topics - Carol Browner

White House Energy Adviser Carol Browner said Sunday that while the Obama administration is “deeply disappointed” that an energy bill was unable to make its way through Congress, the president has not given up hope that it can get done this year. In an exclusive interview on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Browner was asked whether the president has conceded defeat on energy legislation.

“Not yet,” Browner said. “The Congress is coming back and we will continue to see if we can get legislation. We passed it in the House and we will continue to work in the Senate.”

Asked if Democrats could potentially get it done in a lame-duck session, Browner responded, “Potentially.”

As for the ongoing clean-up effort in the Gulf, Browner wouldn’t comment on whether the government will pursue criminal negligence charges against BP, but she did say she expects the company will be held accountable to the full extent of the law. “BP will be held absolutely accountable,” she said. “There will be a large financial penalty.” Read more ..

After the Holocaust

Chabad Wins Historic Ruling Against Russia In Archival Collection Claim

August 9th 2010

Jewish Topics - Chabad Archival Document
Chabad Archival Document

A federal judge in Washington, D.C. has ruled against the Russian government for its refusal to return a library of historic books and documents to the Chabad-Lubavitch movement. Centuries of Chabad documents were seized by the Nazis, and then transferred by the capturing Soviet army who subsequently delivered them to the Russian State Military Archive. For years, the Chabad movement has attempted to reclaim control of its historic collections. Months ago, attorneys for Chabad successfully won permission to seek a default judgment to reclaim the collection when Russia boycotted the U.S. courts.

On July 30, 2010, District Court Judge Royce Lamberth issued the default judgment. The Russian government has been directed to surrender to the U.S. Embassy in Moscow, or to representatives of Chabad, the complete collection of religious books, manuscripts, documents and all things that comprise the collection. The Court further ordered the defendants to assist in the authorized transfer of the collection, to further provide whatever security and authorization is needed to insure prompt, safe transportation of the collection to a destination of the plaintiff’s choosing. Judge Lamberth asked plaintiff attorneys to report their progress within 30 days. Read more ..

The Edge of Health Care

Health Insurers Mull New Group to Influence November Races

August 2nd 2010

Health/Medicine - StethoscopeAndKeyboard

Five of the nation’s largest health insurers are in serious discussions about creating a new nonprofit group and bankrolling it to the tune of about $20 million to influence tight congressional races and boost the image of their industry.

Aetna Inc., Cigna Corp., Humana Inc., United HealthCare Inc. and WellPoint Inc. are weighing the new drive in part to shape the government regulations that will implement this year’s sweeping new health care legislation. Two lobbying sources familiar with talks underway by high-level insurance executives say that a decision to go forward with such an effort is likely to be made by at least four of the insurers—and possibly Cigna—in coming weeks. Read more ..

Media on the Edge

Congress Unites to Pass Bill Protecting American Authors and Publishers

August 2nd 2010

Politics - Constution wFreedom of Speech

Lightning struck at Congress for a second time last week, when the House of Representatives unanimously passed HR 2765, the Securing and Protecting our Enduring and Established Constitutional Heritage Act (SPEECH Act). The Act, which had been approved unanimously by the Senate the week before, is now a presidential pen stroke away from enactment.

The Act is designed to ameliorate the speech-suppressive effects of libel tourism, a practice in which wealthy plaintiffs obtain judgments against American authors and publishers abroad by bringing libel suits in jurisdictions with plaintiff-friendly defamation laws. Such libel tourists sometimes attempt enforcement of the foreign judgment in the United States, in the hopes of having an American court execute a judgment that it could not have legally rendered in the first place.

 “Libel tourism threatens to undermine the principles of free speech because foreign courts often don’t place as difficult a burden on plaintiffs in libel cases,” said Representative Steve Cohen (D-TN), the original sponsor of the bill in the House. “I believe our First Amendment rights to be among the most sacred principles laid out in the Constitution. It is vital we ensure that these rights are never undermined by foreign judgments.”

For publications which have not been purposefully distributed abroad, the SPEECH Act prevents the automatic enforcement of foreign defamation judgments against American authors and publishers. The foreign plaintiff seeking to enforce the judgment bears the burden of proving that the judgment accords with American due process and First Amendment protections for freedom of speech. Read more ..

UN on the Edge

The United Nations Self-Report: “A Process of Decline and Reduced Relevance”

July 26th 2010

UN Topics - UN Bldg NYC

At the conclusion to her outgoing “End of Assignment Report” as the head the Office of Internal Oversight Services of the United Nations, Swedish auditor Inga-Britt Ahlenius wrote a fifty-page memo detailing her concerns and conclusions from her five-year term ending on July 14, 2010. Her conclusions were scathing, pointing to a culture of secrecy and a severe lack of leadership by Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon. Ahlenius concluded her long report: “There is no transparency, there is lack of accountability. Rather than supporting the internal oversight which is the sign of strong leadership and good governance, you have strived to undermine its position and to control it. I do not see any signs of reform in the Organization.” Read more ..

Inside the Housing Crisis

A Bellwether Election for Michigan--and the United States

July 26th 2010

Architecture - Flint Michigan

Genesee County, Michigan, is the homeland of not only General Motors and its most severe critic, film-maker Michael Moore, but it is now the host of one of the largest stocks of unoccupied dwellings in the Great Lake State, if not the United States. Last year, the county became the subject of derision directed by the entertainer and radio-show host Rush Limbaugh who made light of former Genesee County Treasurer Dan Kildee and his much-heralded effort to “shrink” the city of Flint and areas in Genesee County by bulldozing abandoned housing. Kildee is also the innovator who came up with a plan for the county government to take possession of tax-foreclosure property. The foreclosed homes become part of the inventory of the Genesee County Land Bank, which rehabiliatates some for sale or rent; others are simply demolished.

Genesee County and Flint are well past the political arguments of whether or not to actually shrink the community. The county as a whole, and not just Flint, is clearly shrinking already from the standpoint of population. Therefore, there are too few households to fill too many available housing units. Property values have plummeted at least 30 percent since 2005, leaving most communities and Genesee County as a whole, with significantly less realistic revenue potential than is required by their budgetary obligations. Furthermore, property values will not stabilize, let alone recover, so long as the surplus of housing units remains. Read more ..

Media on the Edge

Senate Moves Unanimously to Protect Free Speech

July 26th 2010

Politics - Constution wFreedom of Speech

In a rare show of unanimity, the United States Senate approved legislation last week that would prevent the domestic enforcement of foreign libel judgments that do not meet American standards of due process and free speech protection.

The Securing the Protection of our Enduring and Established Constitutional Heritage Act, or SPEECH Act (S. 3518 ) was introduced by Senators Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Jeff Sessions (R-AL), and co-sponsored by Senators Charles Schumer (D-NY), Joseph Lieberman (ID-CT), and Arlen Specter (D-PA).
The SPEECH Act targets the growing phenomenon of libel tourism, in which wealthy foreign plaintiffs exploit claimant-friendly libel laws abroad to sue and silence American researchers, journalists, bloggers, and others for statements published in the United States. After obtaining a favorable verdict, “libel tourists” sometimes seek enforcement of the judgment in the United States in order to collect damages.

The pro-plaintiff tilt in foreign libel laws is substantial, standing in stark contrast to First Amendment protections for freedom of expression. In the United Kingdom—known as the “libel tourism capital of the world”—a defamation defendant bears the burden of proving that the statement sued upon is true, and truth is not an absolute defense to liability. In states such as Brazil and Germany, plaintiffs may sue criminally. Read more ..

Inside Islam

Pakistani Christians Fear for their Lives as Muslim Extremists Demand Death for ‘Blasphemers’

July 19th 2010

Asia Topics - Pakistani Christians mourning

Recently, more Christians are facing charges under the controversial Muslim Sharia blasphemy laws in Pakistan. Christian families in Lahore were forced to flee for their safety as thousands of Muslim protesters demanded death for Christians in Faisalabad who are alleged to have defamed Islam and its holy book.

Muslim mobs marched July 10–11 in Faisalabad City, in the province of Punjab, demanding the death penalty for two Christians: brothers Rashid Emmanuel, 32, an Evangelical pastor, and Sajid Emmanuel, a graduate business student of Daud Nagar, Faisalabad. They were arrested on July 2 on the charges of writing a pamphlet with blasphemous remarks about Mohammad. They were detained at the Civil Lines Police Station Faisalabad.

According to a report by Minorities Concern of Pakistan, Christian social worker Atif Jamil Pagaan said, “The protests were held in Waris Pura locality where more than 100,000 Christians are living. They wanted to attack and burn the area where Emmanuel brothers’ house was located. The protesters chanted slogans, raised weapons and announced to teach the lesson to the Christian community.” Read more ..

Inside Africa

Al-Qaeda Terror Strikes in the Heart of Africa

July 19th 2010

Africa Topics - Uganda bombing victim

The balmy Kampala night; the stage was set for fun. Bars, restaurants and social halls were packed with soccer fans. Most popular of all among the younger generation of Uganda was the Kyadondo Rugby Ground, not far from the city centre, where a huge screen was ready to show the first soccer World Cup on African soil. Local artists performed to warm up the atmosphere; vuvuzelas blared, the game began. Half time, no score, and Bebe Cool, a local singer and dancer, thrilled the audience.

A few minutes into the second half, around 11:00 pm local time, a huge explosion shattered everyone’s attention, confusing spectators; some thought it was a short circuit, others already lay dead in their plastic chairs. Lights went out; followed one minute later by another blast. No short circuit; this was an attack.

Across the city, a few minutes earlier another blast had killed a dozen people, mainly Eritreans and Ethiopians, at the Ethiopian Village: a restaurant in the popular night-life suburb of Kabalagala.

Twenty-four hours later, the death toll had already reached 74, and Al-Shabaab, the Somali Islamist group had confirmed they were responsible—they were actually reported as saying they “were happy” with the outcome, and thanked the mujihadeens who carried out the attack—and threatened further violence if Uganda continued to keep its troops in Somalia. An Al-Shabaab militant was still more specific: “we have killed many Christians in the enemy capital, (Kampala).” Read more ..

Inside Iran

Former Iranian Revolutionary Guard Turned CIA Agent Predicts Iran Will Attack Israel, Europe and USA

July 12th 2010

Iran - Reza Kahlili

Formerly a member of Iran’s feared Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) who turned CIA double-agent, a man identified as "Reza Kahlili" spoke at a conference on July 9 organized by the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. Kahlili issued the dire prediction that Iran will eventually attack not only Israel, but also Europe and the Persian Gulf states. Using a pseudonym for his own protection, the former Iranian revolutionary called for a preemptive strike on the Islamic Republic’s regime in Tehran but not on the Iranian people or the country’s infrastructure. The audio of his remarks can be heard here.

Moreover, Kahlili accused the Obama Administration of naiveté, in its relations with Iran. According to Kahlili, Obama’s diplomatic overtures are seen as a sign of weakness, while the Iranian people consider the efforts to engage the regime an act of betrayal against their struggle for freedom.

"This is a messianic regime. There should be no doubt – they are going to commit the most horrendous suicide bombing in human history. They will attack Israel, European capitals, and (the) Persian Gulf region at the same time," said Kahlili in one of his first public appearances to promote his new book A Time To Betray: The Astonishing Double Life of a CIA Agent inside the Revolutionary Guards of Iran.

Kahlili said he joined the Revolutionary Guard following the Islamic revolution of 1979, but volunteered to work for the Central Intelligence Agency when he became disillusioned with the Khomeini regime after witnessing acts of rape, torture and murder. Read more ..

The Immigration Edge

Holder Leaves Open Possibility of Racial Profiling Lawsuit Against Arizona

July 12th 2010

Obama Admin Topics - Eric Holder, Atty Gen

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder left open the possibility of filing an additional lawsuit against the state of Arizona's controversial immigration law.

In an interview with CBS News host Bob Schieffer, the nation’s top law enforcement official explained that the U.S. may still challenge the Arizona law based on racial profiling.

The Justice Department challenged the Arizona law on July 6 on the basis that it preempts the federal Constitution, not that it would result in racial profiling. “It doesn’t mean that if the law, for whatever reason, happened to go into effect that six months from now, a year from now, we might not look at the impact the law has had in whether or not to see to whether or not there has been that racial profiling impact,” Holder said. “And if that was the case, we would have the tools and we would bring suit on that basis.”

But he said that federal law preemption stood the best chance of overturning Arizona’s new law set to take effect on July 29, which requires police to check the immigration status of individuals stopped.

“We have an immigration policy that takes into account a whole variety of things, international relations, national security concerns,” Holder said. “And it is the responsibility of the federal government, as opposed to states doing it on a patchwork basis, to decide exactly what it is our policy should be with regard to immigration. And it was on that basis that we filed the lawsuit.” Read more ..

Inside Islam

Christians Prosecuted for Interfering with Muslim Event in Dearborn Michigan

July 12th 2010

Islamic Topics - Nabeel Qureshi
Nabeel Qureshi, MD

Four Christian missionaries will be arraigned on criminal charges on July 12 in the 19th Judicial District Court in Dearborn, Michigan. This is the next step in what has been described by the Thomas More Law Center in a press release as police enforcement of Sharia law in a city dominated by a large Muslim population.

To the jeers and shouts of “Allah Akbar”—Allah is Great—by the Muslim crowd, the four Christian missionaries were arrested and thrown in jail on June 18, 2010 by Dearborn Police officers at the Annual Arab International Festival held in Dearborn. One of the arrested missionaries was Nabeel Qureshi, MD, who was speaking to several Muslim youths.

The other three missionaries, who were videotaping the conversation, had their cameras and other equipment seized before police arrested them as well.

According to the Thomas More Law Center, Dearborn Police refused requests by the missionaries to view the video at the scene of their arrest, which the missionaries claimed would completely exonerate them of any wrongdoing. Read more ..

The Deaf Edge

Settled Case of Predatory Cochlear Implant Marketing Raises Fears on AB2072 Agenda

July 5th 2010

Eugenics - Twins-Height-Verschuer
Eugenics circa 1939. Courtesy: Edwin Black

The United States Department of Justice has announced the settlement of a case that will come as no surprise to many who have been following the story behind the Colorado based manufacturer, Cochlear Americas. The whistleblower case, brought forth by the company's Former Chief Financial Officer Brenda March in 2004, raised allegations of kickbacks and schemes to promote itself over its competitors. Under the set of rules known as the False Claims Act, Cochlear Americas was charged with paying physicians to prescribe the use of Cochlear's devices which would ultimately be reimbursed by taxpayers through Medicare and Medicaid benefits. In the settlement, Cochlear Americas agreed to pay $880,000 to resolve the issue.

In its announcement, Assistant Attorney General Tony West, who heads the Department of Justice's Civil Division said that the, “[settlement] demonstrate that the United States will not tolerate the payment of kickbacks by any entity involved in providing medical goods and services to beneficiaries of federal health care programs.” Yet, the settlement is the tip of the iceberg for what some see as a broader issue within medical and associated fields, and particularly dealing with implements designed to help provide relief for hearing loss. Read more ..

The Edge of Energy Reform

U.S. Energy, Mining Companies Must Disclose Government Payments

July 5th 2010

Politics - Capitol Building at night

Tucked near the end of the more than 2,000-page final version of the financial reform bill is language requiring energy companies to submit the payment information annually to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. The provision was added by Democratic Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont, a long-time supporter of the voluntary Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative, and by Sen. Ben Cardin of Maryland, also a Democrat. That global initiative is backed by the World Bank, United Nations, and other groups, and aims to combat government corruption in resource-rich countries by monitoring and verifying payments received from energy and mining companies.

The new U.S. requirement is good for investors, said Leahy, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. “When oil, gas and mining companies do business overseas—whether in Angola, Kazakhstan, Burma, Venezuela, or any other country—they pay those governments for concessions, royalties and other fees,” he said in a statement. “The American people and investors need this transparency to know if they are investing in companies that are operating in dangerous or unstable parts of the world.” Read more ..

Korea's Nukes

Obama Administration Warns North Korea Against Further Provocation

June 28th 2010

Korea Topics - Kim Jong-IL

On June 25, the United States warned North Korea against aggravating regional tensions after Pyongyang declared a no-sail warning for waters off its western coast. Similar warnings in the past have preceded North Korean missile tests.

The State Department is cautioning North Korea against provocative actions after its no-sail warning to international shipping, which coincided with observances on June 25 of the 60th anniversary of the Korean War.

At a news briefing, State Department Spokesman P.J. Crowley said he could not comment on whether U.S. intelligence had detected missile-launch preparations or other military activity related to the shipping advisory.

But he said the notice is of concern to South Korea and Japan, among others, and that North Korea should refrain from actions that aggravate tensions.

In a prepared statement on the war anniversary, Crowley said the partnership between the United States and South Korea forged in the 1950s conflict is stronger than ever. He said while there is no difference between the capabilities of the people on either side of the 38th parallel dividing North and South Korea, the differences in governance and economic growth are compelling, with the South Korean economy now six times the size of its neighbor. Read more ..

Edge on Islam

Democrat in Michigan's Gubernatorial Race Finds Muslim Support Growing

June 28th 2010

Islamic Topics - Dearborn MI mosque
Mosque in Dearborn, Michigan

In an email, distributed on June 24, Farhan Bhatti, the Deputy Campaign Manger for Democrat Virg Bernero’s gubernatorial run in Michigan, called upon fellow Muslims to support his candidate. Bhatti noted that Bernero, currently the mayor Michigan’s capital city—Lansing—has the support of the UAW, AFSCME, the Michigan Educators’ Association, and two popular Michigan politicians who he identified as “dear friends to the Muslim community”—Congressman Dale Kildee (D) and former Congressman David Bonior (D).

Presenting Bernero as a moderate, Bhatti greets readers with the traditional Muslim blessing “As salaam alaikum” and notes that his candidate also has the support of the Lansing Chamber of Commerce, and heralding “His energy, vision, and enthusiasm can help get our state out of the mess we find ourselves in, due to years of failed leadership in the state legislature, beginning with our opponent, Andy Dillon (Ed. fellow Democrat), Speaker of the Michigan House.” Read more ..

Edge on Justice

Is A Life Sentence for an Iowa Kosher Butcher Disproportionate Justice?

June 22nd 2010

Jewish Topics - Sholom Rubashkin

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

New Footage Aboard Gaza Flotilla Show Preparations to Throw Israeli “Into the Sea”

June 21st 2010

Gaza Topics - Gaza flotilla 2

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

News Organizations Refuse to Cover Sweden's Royal Wedding

June 21st 2010

Swedish Crown Princess Victoria and Daniel Westling
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 ..

Religious Freedom

UC-Irvine Suspends Muslim Student Association

June 21st 2010

Arab Topics - Arrested punk

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 ..

Inside Islam

Muslims Continue Demands to Use Christian Places of Worship in Spain

June 21st 2010

Islamic Topics - Praying in Ceuta, Spain

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.”

The Hamas Flotilla

Oops--Reuters Admits Yet Again to Doctored Photos Detrimental to Israel

June 14th 2010

Israeli Military - Mavi Marmara Cropped image

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

Video Shows Gaza Flotilla Attacking Israelis

June 7th 2010

YouTube video shows members of the crew and activists on board the Turkish vessel "Mavi Marmara" repelling Israeli boarders before Israeli troops rappelled onto the ship that was attempting to take supplies to the Gaza Strip, in violation of the blockade imposed by both Israel and Egypt.

The video shows activists dropping a grenade on Israeli troops in a rubber boat that came alongside the Mavi Marmara. Boxes of plates were also thrown onto the troops, while activists on board the ship also attempted to repel the boarders with a fire hose. Ultimately, some 9 activists were killed in the affray while two Israeli soldiers were wounded - one of them was seriously wounded. Read more ..

The BP Spill

BP Oil Spill is at the Heart of the Missouri Senate Race

June 7th 2010

Politics - Roy Blunt
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 ..

Inside India

Indian Court Issues Criminal Guilty Verdict for Bhopal Toxic Tragedy

June 7th 2010

India Topics - Bhopal protest
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

Hamas Raids Gaza NGOs hours after Flotilla Fracas

June 7th 2010

Gaza Topics - Hamas Internal Security

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

Israeli Interdiction of Palestinian Flotilla Met with Violent Armed Activists

May 31st 2010

Gaza Topics - Gaza Flotilla1
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 ..

Inside Africa

International Criminal Court begins War Crimes Investigation in Africa

May 31st 2010

Investigation - Luis Moreno Ocampo

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 ..

Inside Islam

Religious Minorities Fearful in Pakistan following Deadly Taliban Attacks

May 31st 2010

Terrorism - Taliban

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

Hezbollah’s Coalition Partner Meets President Obama

May 24th 2010

Arab Topics - Saad Hariri
Saad Hariri

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

Brown Defends Right to Seek Return of Artworks Stolen by Nazis

May 24th 2010

Politics - Jerry Brown
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

Attack on Thailand’s Red Shirts Puts Down Insurrection

May 24th 2010

Asia Topics - Thai Red Shirt--400w

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

Congress Probes Federal Role in a Devastating Oil Spill

May 17th 2010

Energy Topics - Gulf oil spill

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 ..

Inside Islam

New Muslim Center in New York Said to Promote Moderate Islam

May 17th 2010

Islamic Topics - Praying on Madison Avenue
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

Bribery Scandal Dampens South American Summit Meeting

May 10th 2010

Latin American Topics - Chavez and Fernandez
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

Health and Life Insurers Found with $1.8 Billion in Fast-Food Stocks

May 3rd 2010

Food - Fast Food Burger

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

Amnesty International Condemns Mexico for Violating Rights of Central American Immigrants

May 3rd 2010

Latin American Topics - Guatemalan migrants

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

Gamut of Legal Experts Question Recommended Sentence in Rubashkin case

April 26th 2010

Jewish Topics - Rubashkin in cuffs

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

Wikipedia Struggles with Holocaust Disinformation; Ravensfire Deletes Jewish Content

April 26th 2010

Computer Topics - Shadowy Computer User

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

Goldman Sachs E-mails Suggest Firm Profited from Mortgage Crisis

April 26th 2010

Economy - Lloyd Blankfien-Goldman Sachs CEO
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 ..

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