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Turkey on the Edge

What's Really Behind Turkey's Coup Arrests?

March 1st 2010

Islamic Topics - Turkish Flags

For the last several decades, the Turkish military was untouchable; no one dared to criticize the military or its top generals, lest they risk getting burned. The Turkish Armed Forces were the ultimate protectors of founding father Kemal Ataturk's secular legacy, and no other force in the country could seriously threaten its supremacy. Not anymore.

On Feb. 22, 49 officers -- including active-duty generals, admirals, and former commanders of the Turkish navy and air force -- were arrested on allegations of plotting a coup against the government. Specifically, the officers were charged with authoring a 5,000-page memo that was later published in Taraf, a paper whose editorial policy is singularly dedicated to bashing the military.

Among other things, the memo stated that the Turkish military was planning to bomb Istanbul's historic mosques and shoot down its own planes to justify a coup. When I asked a former U.S. ambassador to Turkey for his views on the news, he thought the scenario was ridiculous. "If the Turkish military was going to do a coup, they would not be writing a 5,000-page memo about it," he stated.
Read more ..


Edge of Terrorism

Muslim Group Wants Government To Call Plane Attack Terrorism

February 22nd 2010

Terrorism - Austin TX plane crash

A leading Muslim advocacy group is pushing government officials to call the suicide plane crash in Texas “an act of terror,” saying that if a Muslim had been flying the plane there would be no hesitancy to call it terrorism.

On Thursday, Andrew Joseph Stack III flew a small plane into the IRS's four-story office building in Austin, killing himself and at least one federal employee. Before the incident, Stack allegedly left a series of messages on a website expressing his disgust with the IRS, saying at one point that “violence not only is the answer, it is the only answer.”

“Whenever an individual or group attacks civilians in order to make a political statement, that is an act of terror,” said Nihad Awad, the executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR).

“Terrorism is terrorism, regardless of the faith, race or ethnicity of the perpetrator or the victims,” said Awad, adding in a statement that “if a Muslim had carried out the IRS attack, it would have surely been labeled an act of terrorism.” Read more ..


China on the Edge

Chinese Schools Accused in Google Cyberattack Deny Involvement

February 22nd 2010

Computer Topics - Shadowy Computer User

A Chinese university thought to be at the center of last month's cyberattack on Google is denying any involvement in the scheme.

Representatives from Shanghai Jiaotong University this weekend described those reports to Xinhua, China's state-run news agency, as "baseless allegations which may harm the university's reputation." While the school did admit its computers could have been involved in the plot, which targeted Google, other U.S. businesses and human rights activists in China, the university's spokesperson dismissed any possibility the attack started there. Read more ..


Inside Washington

New FEC Rules Could Impact Court's Controversial Campaign-Finance Decision

February 15th 2010

Politics - Supreme Court-SOTU

A long-awaited Federal Election Commission ruling could dramatically impact how the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision affects the power of candidates to control campaign messages.

The FEC will set new rules this year to govern the coordination of communication between outside entities and candidates and parties. The proposed rulemaking was already in the works before the Citizens United decision, but this week the agency set a public hearing for March 2 and 3 and extended its public comment period on the issue to elicit comments addressing the impact of the high court’s decision.

Watchdog groups have long argued that the FEC’s coordination rules are too weak and ineffective but the Citizens United decision, which allows unfettered corporate and union money in elections as long as the spending is independent, is shining a new light on the importance of restrictions on coordination between candidates and outside entities. Read more ..


Religious Freedom

Imam with Mission of Understanding Becomes the Target of Hate

February 8th 2010

Islamic Topics - Imam Hassen Chalghoumi
Imam Hassen Chalghoumi pictured at center

Imam Hassen Chalghoumi has spent his life preaching inter-faith harmony from his mosque in Paris's poor and fractious northeastern suburbs. Chalghoumi works with Jewish leaders, inviting them to his home and urging young people of all religions to embrace harmony in place of hatred.

Now, he finds himself the target of the same hatred and intolerance that he has dedicated his life to combating. His car had fuel poured on it; he has received anonymous death threats on his cell phone; people have stopped him in the street warning him that he has “gone too far”; his house is under police watch and he is shadowed by a bodyguard.

Tunisian-born Chalghoumi, 35, has become the focal point in the rising tension between Jews and Muslims in France caused by disturbances in the Middle East. Read more ..


Edge of Financial Recovery

TARP Benefits Fall Short of Goals

February 1st 2010

Obama Admin Topics - Neil Barofsky
Neil Barofsky

The $700 billion bailout program for the financial industry has so far done little to boost bank lending, aid small businesses or reduce home foreclosures, a top government watchdog said in a report.

Neil Barofsky, the special inspector general over the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP), said in a report that while the bailout has helped stabilize the financial system, many of the program's original goals have not been met.

"Lending continues to decrease, month after month, and the TARP program designed specifically to address small-business lending — announced in March 2009 — has still not been implemented by Treasury," Barofsky wrote in the report. "The TARP foreclosure prevention program has only permanently modified a small fraction of eligible mortgages, and unemployment is the highest it has been in a generation." Read more ..


Religious Freedom

Greece is Jarred by Anti-Semitic Terror and Apparent Indifference

January 25th 2010

Jewish Topics - Greek Synagogue Fire
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

Homeland Security Panel Launches Attack Probe in Europe

January 18th 2010

Transportation Topics - Schiphol

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

Lawmakers Visiting Detroit Auto Show Drive Tea Party Protests

January 11th 2010

Energy Topics - Detroit Auto Show 2010

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 ..


Inside Washington

U.S. Antisemitism Envoy Rosenthal Gets No Defenders

January 4th 2010

Jewish Topics - Hannan Rosenthal
Hannah Rosenthal

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

Jewish Groups Differ on Legal Immunity for Foreign Leaders

December 28th 2009

Jewish Topics - Nathan Lewin, Attorney
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

Historic Auschwitz Sign Recovered--Motives Still Unclear

December 21st 2009

History-Genocide - Arbeit Macht Frei

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

Turkey Pulls Further Away from The West

December 14th 2009

Turkish Topics - Turkish Anger

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 ..


Inside Islam

Swiss Ban on Muslim Minarets stirs European debate

December 7th 2009

Islamic Topics - Swiss Minaret and Church

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

Swine Flu Mutates Into New Diseases and into Political Issues

November 30th 2009

Europe Topics - Yuliya Timoshenko
Yuliya Timoshenko

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 ..


Inside Iran

Iran Ups the Nuclear Confrontation Announcing Ten New Sites

November 30th 2009

Iran - Ahmadinejad Nuke
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 ..


Inside Islam

Spanish Crewmembers Recount Horror of Captivity and Rape by Somali Pirates

November 30th 2009

Piracy - Somali Pirate

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 ..


Iran's Nukes

Missing Iranian General May Have Been Kidnapped, Held by Mossad

November 23rd 2009

Iran - Asgari
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

A Marine Batters a Greek Orthodox Priest he Thought was an "Arab Terrorist"

November 16th 2009

Crime Topics - Jasen Bruce

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

Ukraine in Panic over Plague Fears in Advance of Crucial Presidential Election

November 9th 2009

Europe Topics - Yuliya Timoshenko
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 ..


Inside Islam

Independent Investigation Sought in Killing by Federal Agents of a Detroit Muslim Leader

November 9th 2009

Islamic Topics - Detroit Imam

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 ..


Climate’s Edge

Civil Rights Groups Join the Climate Debate

November 2nd 2009

Environment Topics - Smokestacks

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

Argentina's Freedom of Speech Endangered by New Media Law

October 26th 2009

Latin American Topics - Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner
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 ..


Capital Edge

House Republicans Accuse Muslim Group CAIR of Trying to Plant Spies

October 19th 2009

Politics - Capitol Building at night

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

Pakistan's Nukes Safe Despite Intense Taliban Attack says Sec. Clinton

October 12th 2009

Asia Topics - Pakistan nuke
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

Ex-Argentine President Indicted in Jewish Center Bombing Cover-up

October 5th 2009

Latin American Topics - Carlos Menem of Argentina
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 ..

Iran's Nukes

Israeli Military General Holds Secret Talks in France

October 5th 2009

Israeli Military - Israeli Jet Diving

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 ..


Iran's Nukes

Did Brzezinski Suggest America Shoot Down Israeli Jets in Iran Showdown?

September 28th 2009

Obama Admin Topics - Zbigniew Brzezinksi
Zbigniew Brzezinski

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

Coca-Cola Accused of Near-Criminal Collusion in Egypt’s Anti-Jewish Ethnic Cleansing

September 21st 2009

Jewish Topics - Coke Poster

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 ..


Iran's Nukes

The Mysterious Voyage of the Arctic Sea-- Was it Hijacked by Israel for Iran-Bound S-300 Missiles?

September 14th 2009

Russian Topics - Arctic Sea Hijacking
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 ..


Energy Politics

Shake-ups at High Profile Coal Industry Group

September 7th 2009

Energy / Environment - Smog and Pollution3

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

Subprime Players Who Broke the System Get Tax Money To Fix Their Mess

August 31st 2009

Economy - Money Money Money

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

More than a Third of Homeowners in Foreclosure Suffer Major Depression

August 24th 2009

Economy - Foreclosure

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

Militarization of the Iranian Judiciary Signalled by New Appointment

August 17th 2009

Iran - Iranians Publicly Hung
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

Bloody Nigerian Taliban War Greased by Oil

August 10th 2009

Terrorism - Nigerian Taliban Bodies

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 ..


Religious Freedom

Pakistani Muslims Attack and Burn Christian Churches and Homes

August 3rd 2009

Asia Topics - Pakistani Muslim hajii

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 ..


Religious Freedom

North Korea Executes Christian Woman for Distributing The Bible

July 27th 2009

Korea Topics - North Korean Christians
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

Siemens May Be Blocked In LA Transit Vote Because of Nokia in Iran

July 20th 2009

Transportation Topics - LA Transit Car--Seimens
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

Canada’s Nuclear Reactor Shutdown Imperils Health Treatments Worldwide

July 13th 2009

Health/Medicine - Chalk River Reactor view
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 ..


Iran’s Nukes

Israeli Subs Use Suez Canal with Iran in Sight

July 6th 2009

Israeli Military - Israeli Sub

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 ..


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