Six foreign oil companies may soon be squeezed over their supply of gasoline to Iran. The six are: Vitol, Glencore International, the Swiss/Dutch firm Trafigura, France's Total, British Petroleum and India's Reliance Industries.
On April 22, the House of Representatives introduced the bi-partisan Iran Diplomatic Enhancement Act as a means of compelling Iran to heed the warnings of the U.S. and its allies to cease its nuclear weaponization program. The bill would also impose heavy sanctions on the oil suppliers.
Said Congressman Mark Kirk (R-IL), “If we are serious about stopping the emergence of a nuclear Iran, our window for effective diplomacy is starting to close,” perhaps hinting at Congress’ frustration with Iran and its Islamist leadership. Kirk is also an intelligence officer in the Navy Reserve and has introduced similar legislation in the past. Read more ..
|John Chapin||April 20th 2009|
Israel appears to gird for war as its defense establishment prepares the greatest military exercise in the history of the Jewish state. This exercise is expected to take place on June 2 and will involve testing the U.S.-Israeli developed missile defense system “Arrow” intended to deter missile attacks.
An Israeli strike on approximately one dozen targets in Iran could come with hours or days of receiving orders, according to an Israeli defense official quoted in the The Times of London. The military is apparently awaiting the final go-ahead by the country’s new civilian leadership under Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu. This comes despite assurances issued just days before on April 15 in which Israeli President Shimon Peres had backtracked on earlier rumors of war, saying, "The solution in Iran is not a military one." Indeed, Peres has recently been quoted as confirming that if a diplomatic solution is not found soon, "we will strike." Read more ..
Coke and Confiscation
A loose coalition of Jewish groups led by the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) has renewed it call for a public boycott of Coca-Cola products, and for Jewish members of the public to boycott the company’s kosher-for-Passover products during the current Passover holiday. The call comes at time when Coke heightens its kosher for Passover foods and beverages, and as the company prepares for its frequently contentious annual stockholder meeting.
Behind the protest movement is the Bigio property confiscation case. By way of information, the Bigio Family of Canada in earlier decades owned property near Cairo, Egypt. Their family had the property since the early 1900’s. Coca-Cola had been leasing the property and contracting with the Bigios, until the property was illegally taken from the family by the Egyptian government in 1964 during a campaign of anti-Semitism. In 1979, the Egyptian government ordered that the Bigios’ property be returned to them, but Egyptian courts repeatedly refused to enforce the order. In 1994, Coca-Cola Bottling Company of Egypt “purchased” the property when it was “privatized.” When the Bigios contacted Coca-Cola to remind the company of the family’s right to the property and requested to be justly compensated, top Coca-Cola officials apparently brushed the family aside. The story was the subject of an Edwin Black investigation in The Cutting Edge News last Passover (On Passover, an Egyptian Jew Battles Coca-Cola in the USA for a Modern Day Injustice) .
The Bigios brought a federal court action against Coca-Cola in 1997. Since then, Coca-Cola’s lawyers have used numerous legal maneuvers to avoid reaching the merits of the Bigios’ case, according to Bigio legal sources. All of Coke's procedural objections have failed both in the U.S. Court of Appeals and once in the U.S. Supreme Court, legal sources say. But the case has dragged on. Read more ..
Edge on Terrorism
|Brenda Gazzar & Yaakov Lappin||April 6th 2009|
Jerusalem Post correspondents
In the dusty Bedouin town of Hura, east of Beersheba, residents on April 5 were mostly tight-lipped - though a few were brazenly defiant - when asked about 15-year-old Basma Awad al-Nabari, who died after opening fire on a Border Police base in the Negev on April 4.
Relatives in the town of some 10,000 inhabitants said they found it difficult to believe that Nabari, who was known as a calm and successful 10th-grader, could have committed any kind of terrorist act.
If she had, they conceded, it's likely that someone outside the family was behind the attack, which caused no other casualties.
"We are not a family that teaches their children in this way," her great-uncle Ouda al-Nabari said outside a tent for guests near her home. "We don't go down to this level at all." Read more ..
The Bush Legacy
|Martin Barillas||March 30th 2009|
Cutting Edge Senior Correspondent
A Spanish national court may re-open a case against Bush Administration officials that are considered to have given the legal go-ahead for what are termed “crimes against the international community” at the U.S. facility at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. This would make Spain the first country to attempt a trial of officials involved in the imprisonment and interrogation of prisoners of the war against terror held by the United States.
Alleging torture of prisoners held at Guatánamo, human rights lawyers brought the case before leading anti-terror judge Baltasar Garzón, who agreed to send it on to prosecutors to decide whether it had merit. Under Spanish law, courts can prosecute offenses such as torture or war crimes even if they occurred in other countries. If arrest warrants are issued by the court, the six could be subject to arrest should they leave the United States. Read more ..
What if the Oil Stops
|John Chapin||March 23rd 2009|
|Saudi Oil Minister Ali al-Naimi|
This continuing coverage of America’s oil crisis arises from the The Plan: How to Save America When the Oil Stops—or the Day Before (Dialog Press). Buy it here.
Saudi oil minister Ali al-Naimi spoke in Vienna at a March 18 meeting of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Counties and warned of a coming “catatstrophic” shortfall in petroleum production. "In years to come, if traditional energy supplies should prove inadequate because capital expenditure was curtailed due to unsustainable prices, unreliable indication of future demand or hopes for a substitute that oil cannot deliver, such a supply crunch would be catastrophic."
"The painful result would be felt sooner rather than later. It would effectively take the wheels off an already derailed economy."
Naimi, who in 2008 declined to increase production after an appeal by then President George W. Bush, said that current low petroleum prices should not be used as a reason to shortchange investment in future production. Doing so, he averred, would only mean future shortages and price hikes.
The world risked disaster by placing too much hope on untested alternative energy sources, Naimi told an OPEC conference of energy leaders.
“We frankly court disaster if these supplemental resources on which such high hopes for energy security and sustainability are pinned do not fulfil their high expectations," he said.
OPEC and Saudi Arabia taking a lead role are making the biggest output cuts ever to retrieve oil prices back from a $100 drop. As a result of the Vienna meeting, oil production is expected to hold steady.
Naimi said that "40 USD is not enough; you need in between 60 and 75 USD to allow marginal producers to continue producing ethanol, heavy oil," adding "I would say that the ideal price for ability of the marginal producers to put more resources in the market is in between 60 and 75 US dollars a barrel". Read more ..
Edge on Oil
|Martin Barillas||March 16th 2009|
Cutting Edge Senior Correspondent
“Anyone who opposes me should be imprisoned,” said President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela on March 15 after giving orders that the army should seize the ports of Puerto Cabello and Maracaibo despite resistance from the governors of the two states involved. On his popular television program “Aló Presidente,” Chavez announced his order to seize the ports within the next few days, following the introduction of the Law of Decentralization. The measure was approved by the Venezuelan congress in recent days. Some 90 percent of the national legislature is controlled by Chavez' partisans.
Chavez was apparently incensed by resistance to the measure offered by opposition leaders such as Mayor Antonio Ledezma of Caracas and Governor Henrique Salas Feo of Carabobo – the state in which Puerto Cabellos is located. Ledezma said that he will ignore the new authority conferred upon the central government by the new law, considering it unconstitutional and an usurpation of local authority. Read more ..
Edge of Bird Flu
An experimental bird flu vaccine has been developed by modifying an existing vaccine previously used to treat smallpox. Scientists at Hong Kong University and the National Institutes of Health inserted key components of the H5N1 bird flu virus into the smallpox vaccine to achieve the effect. The scientists say the resulting bird flu vaccine, if validated, could be produced inexpensively in large quantities enjoy a long shelf-life, and be distributed and affordable even to poor nations.
Several more years of testing are required. The vaccine has not yet been tried on humans.
For years, health officials have feared that if the H5N1 bird flu virus mutates into a form easily passed to humans, the resulting epidemic could kill millions. Thus far, since 2003, at least 408 people in 15 nations have contracted bird flu worldwide since 2003. More than fifty percent suffered fatal infections. Read more ..
The Obama Edge
|Martin Barillas||March 3rd 2009|
Cutting Edge Senior Correspondent
Ambassador Héctor Timerman, Argentina’s representative to the United States, gave assurances on February 28 that a diplomatic flap between the two countries is now a “closed” matter. Argentine sensibilities were piqued earlier in the week by statements made by Leon Panetta, the newly minted head of the Central Intelligence Agency, that called into question Argentina’s economic and political stability. In his first on-the-record interview as intelligence chief, Panetta expressed concern that the current global economic crisis could destabilize not only Argentina, but also Venezuela and Ecuador.
Argentina reacted angrily. Argentine President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner figuratively took U.S. Ambassador Earl Wayne to the woodshed and expressed her government’s outrage. In a press conference afterwards, Foreign Minister Jorge Taiana said “We consider the statements an unacceptable interference in the internal affairs of our country, even more so coming from an agency that has a sad history of interference in the internal affairs in the countries in the region."
According to diplomat Timerman, Panetta communicated with him by telephone on March 27 to oil the waters. Timerman claimed that Panetta said that he had been “overwhelmed” by Argentina’s response. Timerman said that Panetta called to “beg forgiveness of President Cristina Fernández, the government, and all of Argentina” over the fracas. “I do not believe what I said and neither does the government of the United States. It was my mistake to repeat something that someone told me. It was not my intention to assume that thought as my own,” said Panetta according to Timerman. Read more ..
After the Holocaust
|Eduardo Szklarz and Martin Barillas||February 23rd 2009|
Cutting Edge Correspondents
|Catholic Bishop Richard Williamson|
Argentina has decided to expel dissident Catholic bishop Richard Williamson, a British subject, from its country. Williamson, whom the Vatican considers illegitimately consecrated as bishop, belongs to a breakaway group known as the Society of St. Piux X (SSPX) founded by excommunicated Bishop Marcel Lefebvre. The controversial bishop has been subjected to worldwide denunciations because of his public negation of the Holocaust. As of February 19, he was given 10 days to leave Argentina, according to a measure adopted by the country’s Ministry of Interior and approved by President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner.
The text of Argentina's decision affirms that Williamson “has repeatedly concealed the true motive for his residence in the country, having declared to be an administrative employee of the civil association known as “Tradition,” when in reality his true activity was that of a priest and director of the Lefebvrite seminary that the Society of St. Pius X maintains in the locality of Moreno.” Moreno is a rural community outside of Buenos Aires. Read more ..
|Joseph K. Grieboski||February 16th 2009|
Cutting Edge Foreign Desk
|Saudi King Abdullah|
The king of Saudi Arabia dismissed two powerful religious figures and appointed a woman as part of a government shuffle that appeared to be aimed at reforming the kingdom’s hard-line religious establishment.
King Abdullah dismissed the chief of the religious police and a cleric who condoned killing the owners of TV networks that broadcast “immoral” content. The shake-up — Abdullah’s first since coming to power in August 2005 — included the appointment of a female deputy minister, the highest government position a Saudi woman has attained. The moves were not unexpected, but the timing was a surprise. Observers said that the announcement had not been expected until late summer.
The king also changed the makeup of an influential body of religious scholars, for the first time giving more moderate Sunni Muslims representation to the group whose duties include issuing the religious edicts known as fatwas.
Of the judiciary, Abdullah has said that reforming that bastion of hard-line clerics implementing Islamic law is one of his top priorities. Judges currently have complete discretion in issuing sentences, except in cases where Islamic law outlines a punishment, such as capital crimes.
King Abdullah also replaced Hamad al-Sayyari, 68, the long-serving governor of the Saudi Arabia Monetary Agency, the central bank, with Mohammed al-Jasser, his 54-year old deputy. Mr. al-Jasser, a Saudi representative to the International Monetary Fund, has served as SAMA deputy governor since 1995. Read more ..
Surge Against Hamas
|Yaacov Katz||February 16th 2009|
Jerusalem Post correpondent
Medicine bottles, transferred to the Gaza Strip as humanitarian aid by Israel, were used by Hamas as grenades against IDF troops during Operation Cast Lead. The medicine bottles were manufactured by the Jerusalem Pharmaceutical Company, which is based in el-Bireh, a town adjacent to Ramallah, and the global pharmaceutical company Shire.
The medicine bottles were filled with explosives, holes were drilled in the caps, and fuses were installed. Once Hamas fighters lit the fuses, they had several seconds to throw the grenades at soldiers. The IDF also found small explosive devices that used medical syringes to hold their fuses.
The medical grenades were discovered in northern Gaza by troops during last month's three-week battle against Hamas. The grenades were taken to military explosives experts, and then disassembled and studied.
One bottle turned into a grenade originally contained a drug called Equetro, which is used by people who suffer from episodes associated with bipolar disorder. Another bottle had contained a vitamin supplement called Super-Vit. Read more ..
Edge of Terrorism
|Barry Newhouse||February 9th 2009|
The United Nations has announced the establishment of a commission to investigate the 2007 assassination of Pakistan's former prime minister Benazir Bhutto.
Supporters of Benazir Bhutto have remained skeptical of the country's initial investigation that concluded al-Qaida or Taliban assassins most likely killed her in December 2007.
In July, officials of Ms. Bhutto's party appealed to the United Nations to form an independent commission to investigate.
U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said in Islamabad that after extensive consultation, a three-member commission will be created, "very soon." He spoke after meeting with Pakistani President Asif Zardari, the widower of Benazir Bhutto.
"This is a crime that shocked and offended the world," said Ban Ki-moon. "And I know this is a matter of great importance to the government and people of Pakistan." Read more ..
Inside the Mideast
|Sam Orez||February 9th 2009|
Suspicious Iranian and other Middle Eastern maritime shipments are increasingly being intercepted and seized by the navies of various nations on the huint for contraband.
A vessel en route to Iran was intercepted by Greek naval forces and has been impounded for more than five weeks because its cargo was discovered to include components for surface-to-surface missiles.
The Greek seizure comes on the heels of a similar one by the Turkish Navy which also seized a suspicious Iranian vessel bound for Venezeula. That ship's cargo included crates labeled "tractor parts" which actually contained missiles.
In the first week of February, Israel's Navy stopped a ship from Lebanon en route to the Gaza Strip. In that case, the inspected cargo revealed only creates of food, water bottles and medicine.
Israel's interception coindided with a meeting in Copenhagen convened by the United States and several European countries to combat arms smuggling to Gaza. The international forum is ramping up collective means of reducing Iranian and other Mideast arms shipments in and out of the region. Read more ..
|Martin Barillas||February 2nd 2009|
|Aftermath of attack on Venezuelan synagogue|
Jewish Groups wourldwide mobilized concern over the safety of the Jewish community in Venezuela following an attack on the Tiferet Israel synagogue in Caracas. This followed death threats against rabbis and menacing behavior by "unknown persons" against Jewish installations in the capital.
Beginning at approximately 10 PM on January 30, a group of approximately 15 persons forced their way into the synagogue and community center, overpowering two guards and firing shots in the air. They proceeded to profane the place of worship, tossing the holy scriptures on the floor and leaving graffiti on the synagogue’s walls reading “Jews out” and “We don’t want Jews here.” Some reports claim that graffiti reading “Death to the Jews” was also evident nearby.
"The total disrespect of a Jewish house of worship reflects the escalating climate of hostility towards Jews in Venezuela," said American Jewish Committee executive director David A. Harris said in response to the attacks, adding "The wanton desecration of holy books is disheartening and inexcusable." Read more ..
|Martin Barillas||January 26th 2009|
Cutting Edge Senior Contributor
| Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad|
Turkey stopped a shipment bound for Venezuela from Iran, contending that it contained laboratory equipment capable of producing explosives, according to reports out of Ankara.
According to Turkish officials, the shipment was found at the Mediterranean port of Mersin and seized in December 2008. The lab equipment was found in 22 containers labeled “tractor parts” that were brought to the seaport via truck transport from neighboring Iran. Read more ..
North Korea’s Nukes
|Alison Klayman||January 19th 2009|
A U.S. expert says North Korea has "weaponized" its plutonium, producing four to five warheads. Pyongyang now wishes to be treated as a nuclear weapon state. Selig Harrison, an independent expert who met with officials this week in Pyongyang, says North Korea has weaponized about 31 kilograms of plutonium.
Harrison told reporters in Beijing Saturday North Korea may hold four to six nuclear bombs, depending on the grade of plutonium and specific weapons design. Yet none of the North Korean officials would explicitly acknowledge the details of the weapons. Harrison said they told him it was a "military matter" they could not discuss. He said the government refuses to let the weapons be inspected.
Harrison is director of the Washington-based Center for International Policy's Asia program. His North Korea trip began on January 12 and included a lengthy session with Li Gun, director general of the North Korean Foreign Ministry's United States division. Read more ..
The Surge Against Hamas
|Khaled Abu Toameh||January 5th 2009|
Jerusalem Post correspondent
The Hamas government has placed dozens of Fatah members under house arrest out of fear that they might exploit the current IDF operation to regain control of the Gaza Strip.
The move came amid reports that the Fatah leadership in the West Bank has instructed its followers to be ready to assume power over the Gaza Strip when and if Israel's military operation results in the removal of Hamas rule.
Fatah officials in Ramallah told reporters that Hamas militiamen had been assaulting many Fatah activists since the beginning of the operation last Saturday. They said at least 75 activists were shot in the legs while others had their hands broken.
Wisam Abu Jalhoum, a Fatah activist from the Jabalya refugee camp, was shot in the legs by Hamas militiamen for allegedly expressing joy over the IDF air strikes on Hamas targets. Read more ..
The Madoff Massacre
|Edwin Black||December 30th 2008|
The Federal government is using billions in taxpayer money to convert General Motors Acceptance Corp, known as GMAC, into a bank, as part of a backdoor Detroit bailout. In the process, it will rescue a company headed by J. Ezra Merkin, a cohort of Bernard Madoff, who engineered a $50 billion international Ponzi scheme.
The chairman of GMAC is J. Ezra Merkin. Merkin has been broadly accused of facilitating Madoff’s Ponzi scheme by deliberately feeding him billions in investor money through two hedge funds Merkin controlled.
On December 29, 2008, $5 billion went directly to GMAC from the Troubled Asset Relief Program, also known as TARP, and up to $1 billion is due to come from U.S. Treasury via a loan to General Motors so it can channel the money to GMAC, 49 percent of which is owned by General Motors. Read more ..
The Edge of Piracy
|Alisha Ryu||December 29th 2008|
Ibaado Aden, 65, a resident of Hobyo in the Galmudug region of central Somalia, watched a shiny sport utility vehicle slowly approaching the main market area of the village.
She said nothing. But it was clear from the look of concern on her face that the vehicle's occupants were pirates. They are the only people who can afford such luxury in this remote and dirt-poor fishing village, hundreds of kilometers from the nearest city.
Ibaado Aden abruptly ended our interview. She did not want to talk about pirates, especially about what they do with the ransom they receive. She said the pirates give the people nothing, and she does not know where or how the pirates spend their money.
Somali pirate groups operating in Hobyo and Haradhere in central Somalia and in the northern town of Eyl in Puntland have hijacked more than 40 vessels this year. The unprecedented number of hijackings has prompted at least a dozen countries, including the United States, China and Russia, to send warships to the region to protect vulnerable shipping lanes. The pirates still hold at least 19 vessels and more than 350 crew members hostage. Read more ..
The Madoff Massacre
|Gary Rosenblatt||December 22nd 2008|
New York Jewish Week editor
While international attention continues to focus on Bernard Madoff as he faces charges for his alleged $50 billion Ponzi scheme, some leaders in the Jewish community, particularly within Modern Orthodox institutions, are expressing shock and anger at the role played by J. Ezra Merkin, a prominent investment guru and philanthropist, who appears to have misled at least some investors. At Yeshiva University, Madoff is not the only trustee who has resigned in shame. Merkin also stepped down as a Yeshiva trustee. He played a primary role in managing the university’s endowment funds.
About $110 million of Yeshiva’s endowment—8 percent of the total—was invested in Ascot Partners, a $1.8 billion Merkin fund that was wholly invested with Madoff and is now gone. According to several sources close to the institution, officials are “livid” and “feel betrayed” because the $110 million was transferred by Merkin into Madoff’s fund without the board’s knowledge.
Yeshiva’s endowment is now about $1.2 billion, down from 1.7 billion in January, according to a letter sent December 16 to the YU community from President Richard Joel. Most of that loss is due to the general collapse of the economy.
Few are accusing Merkin, who did not respond to an interview request, of prior knowledge that Madoff was operating an alleged fraud. Indeed, Merkin, 54, informed investors in his Ascot Partners fund last Thursday that he was among those who suffered substantial personal losses when it crashed, since all of its dollars were invested with Madoff. Read more ..
Latin America's Drug Wars
|Martin Barillas||December 15th 2008|
Cutting Edge Senior Contributor
|Guatemalan Police Strike Force|
Guatemala’s director of the National Civilian Police force, Marlene Blanco Lapola, informed that nation’s congress on December 9 that more than 2,000 automatic weapons have disappeared from her inventory, including AK-47 assault rifles and Israeli-made Uzi machine guns. Upon questioning by legislators, Director Blanco could not answer just how many weapons are missing and said that an inventory is ongoing. She affirmed, however, that some of the missing weapons already have been used in crimes.
“We have received reports from commissariats that weapons are missing. In other cases, these have left our warehouses, but we do not know who took nor with whose permission, since the signatures left in the registers are illegible.” She added that a judge is known to bear a police-issued Uzi submachine gun, while it is not clear how he obtained it. Read more ..
Global Economic Crisis
|Katie Hamann||December 15th 2008|
|Leaders of China, Japan, and South Korea|
In the wintery Japanese city of Fukuoka there was a thawing of relations between former foes as China, South Korea and Japan, met on December 13 to discuss options for a coordinated regional response to the worsening global economic crisis. The leaders of Asia's largest economies spent the day discussing their economies and a range of other issues including climate change and North Korea's bid for nuclear weapons.
Meeting independently for the first time, China's Premier Wen Jiabao, Japanese Prime Minister Taro Aso, and South Korean President Lee Myung-bak—who together manage about 75 percent of Asia's economy—explored ways of supporting each other and the broader Asian community amid the deepening global economic crisis. Read more ..
Edge of Justice
|Martin Barillas||December 8th 2008|
Cutting Edge Contributor
By a 7-to-3 vote on December 3, 2008 the judges of the United States Court of Appeals in Chicago reinstated a $156 million jury verdict granted by a federal district court in favor of Joyce and Stanley Boim, the parents of a 17-year-old American-born student David Boim, who was shot and killed by Hamas terrorists at a bus stop near Jerusalem in May 1996. The judgment was against Muslim organizations based in the United States that had contributed funds to Hamas in the years between 1994 and 1996.
A December 2007 ruling by three judges of the Seventh U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals had vacated the judgment on the grounds that the plaintiffs had not shown sufficient "causation" between the contributed funds and the drive-by shooting of David Boim. The defendants claimed that their contributions to Hamas were intended only to benefit the organization's charitable activities in the Middle East and not to support Hamas' program of terrorism. Read more ..
|Amanda Pazornik||December 8th 2008|
J Weekly correspondent
How did Dr. Daniel J. Kliman die?
The staunch Israeli activist, who taking Arabic lessons, was found dead at the bottom of an elevator shaft in the building where he was taking classes. What happened?
Police said that the mysterious death of the outspoken pro-Israel activist appeared to be accidental—but friends and family insist that Kliman was the victim of foul play.
“We almost expected something would happen to him at some point, given his activism and trips to Israel,” said Kliman’s brother, Jonathan. “We didn’t expect what seemed to have happened to him. It seems really odd, and I’m glad the investigations are continuing.”
Kliman’s body was discovered December 1 at the bottom of an elevator shaft in the historic Sharon Building at 55 New Montgomery Street in San Francisco. It had apparently been there for six days. The 38-year-old internist, who lived alone in Oakland, was supposed to leave for Israel on Thanksgiving, giving friends and family no reason to question his whereabouts. Read more ..
Edge on Africa
|Martin Barillas||December 1st 2008|
Cutting Edge Senior Contributor
Violence has claimed the lives of over 400 people in the central Nigeria city of Jos, the capital of that country's Plateau state.
Rioting in the streets resulted after a dispute emerged from the results of voting on November 28. The mostly Christian-backed governing party, the People's Democratic Party, was declared to have won the state elections. But the victory was passionately rejected by the opposition, the All Nigeria People's Party, which is perceived in the state as a predominantly Muslim party.
Homes were destroyed during the clashes, with mosques and churches burned, as gangs of men from the Muslim Hausa community and the mainly Christian ethnic groups, armed with machetes fought.
Residents have taken some 397 corpses to the principal mosque in Jos after pitched fighting between Christians and Muslims. Burial in a mass grave is being discussed.
The majority of the victims presented wounds caused by gunfire or edged weapons. An immediate dawn-to-dusk curfew remains in effect at press time. Read more ..
Extreme Borderland Violence
|John Chapin||December 1st 2008|
|Tijuana killers arrested by Mexican drug enforcement|
The headless bodies of nine persons were found on the morning of November 30 at a vacant lot in Tijuana, the Mexican city across the US border from San Diego, California, bringing the November 29-30 weekend toll to 18 murders. Near the bodies a message was found which read, “we are Fatty Villarreal’s people and this is how we deal with the ‘Three.’”
This was a reference to the narcotics traffickers known as Armando Villarreal and Teodoro García Simental, a.k.a “El Teo,” and “El Tres Letras” (Three Letters). The macabre murders occurred in the eastern part of Tijuana in a neighbourhood called Granjas Familiares de Matamoros, which has been under Mexican army control since November 18.
Tijuana, long a haven for U.S. tourists looking for cheap divorces and cheap thrills, is the capital of the Arellano Félix drug cartel. The cartel consists of a family eleven siblings of the surname Arellano Felix—seven of whom are brothers who have either been incarcerated or killed in recent years. Following the arrest of Eduardo Arellano Félix, the last of the seven brothers to face justice, leadership of the criminal clan fell to a son of one of the Arellano Félix sisters, Fernando Sánchez Arellano, whose position is disputed by Teodoro García “El Teo.” Read more ..
|Martin Barillas and Eduardo Szklarz||November 24th 2008|
Cutting Edge Senior Contributors
The former dictator of Argentina, General Jorge Rafael Videla Redondo, has been charged with ordering the deaths of 31 political prisoners when he led the governing military junta of the South American country in the 1970s. Judge Cristina Garzón de Lascano of Córdoba charged him with crimes against humanity perpetrated from 1976 to 1983.
The judge is to investigate the participation of Videla and other Argentine military authorities in human rights abuses and other crimes committed in police facilities and the San Martín prison in Córdoba, an area southwest of Buenos Aires in the foothills of the Andes. This is the first time that Videla has been charged in the Province of Córdoba for crimes against humanity.
In addition to Videla, another 20 persons have been charged and also facing fines and imprisonment. Among them are retired Army officers Vicente Meli, Mauricio Carlos Poncet, Raúl Eduardo Fierro, and Jorge González Navarro.
Videla and fellow junta member Admiral Eduardo Massera and Air Force Brigadier Orlando Ramón Agosti were both trained at the School of the Americas training facility organized by the U.S. Army in Panamá. In 1999 President Bill Clinton apologized to the people of Guatemala for the role the U.S. played in the repression of human rights in their country, as it was Argentina that provided military advisors to the governments of Guatemala and El Salvador during their civil wars in the 1970s when thousands of innocent persons, along with Marxist guerrillas, were killed by military and security forces. Read more ..
|Martin Barillas||November 17th 2008|
Cutting Edge Senior Contributor
Girls on the way to school in the Kandahar province in Afghanistan were attacked by terrorists who doused them with battery acid on November 12. A sixteen-year-old girl said, "We were on the way to school when two men on motorbikes stopped next to us. One of them threw acid on my sister's face. I tried to help her, and then they threw acid on me, too." This happened on the morning of November 12, and hundreds of school children have since stayed away from school out of fear of further attacks. A teacher at a girls school in Kandahar, who was also injured in the attack, was not certain whether classes would resume.
Some 15 women and girls were injured in the attacks in Kandahar, an area of considerable Taliban presence. Two girls were released from hospital a day after the attack, but one girl remains because of severe burns to her face and eyes.
During the Taliban regime that ruled Afghanistan before the U.S.-led military intervention, women and girls were expected to remain at home and could face death or severe punishment by the Taliban enforcers of sharia - Islamic law. Girls were banned from schools during the days of Taliban rule and could not leave their homes without male escorts. Read more ..
|John Chapin||November 10th 2008|
Architectural plans for the infamous Auschwitz death camp, revealed by German newspaper Bild on November 8, gave further testimony to the fact that the planners and executioners knew that Auschwitz was intended for the extermination of human beings. These were post-construction plans, drawn up after the construction of the Auschwitz-Birkenau extermination complex on the base of an old military camp of the Austro-Hungarian empire.
Bild reported that Dr. Hans-Dieter Kreikamp, chief director of the federal archives in Berlin, said the find was of "extraordinary importance." Furthermore, said Kreikamp, "The plans are authentic certificates of a systematically planned genocide of European Jews." Architectural drawings that included floor plans, side-elevations, and maps were found in an abandoned apartment in Berlin. They were drawn sometime between 1941 and 1943, showing detailed plans for prisoner barracks and chambers for murdering inmates with poison gas. The chambers were clearly marked “Gaskammer” – gas chamber. Read more ..
|Joseph K. Grieboski||November 10th 2008|
Cutting Edge Foreign News Editor
|Wen and Nazarbayev|
During a recent visit to Astana, Kazakhstan, for a summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), Chinese Premier Minister Wen Jiabao called for his country to play a central, coordinating role in Central Asia.
Wen insisted that "it is necessary to exercise greater interaction between our financial and business communities. SCO members must work…to enhance the coordination of monetary policies and improve financial controls."
The premier went on to say that China's financial market will remain stable, allowing it to be a major supporter of aid to the Central Asian states in overcoming the global economic crisis.
Meanwhile, he proposed the creation of an extensive infrastructure and energy trade network to tighten the relationship among the member states, including more investment to create an interconnected system of infrastructure, transportation, and energy. Wen even offered to finance economic projects that guarantee food safety.
Pakistan, Mongolia, India, and Iran also sent representatives to the meeting in Astana, with hopes of improving relations with the organization for possible future membership. Parviz Davoodi, first vice president of Iran, and Wen met to discuss closer cooperation, in order to ensure stability in the region. Read more ..
|Dan Levin||November 3rd 2008|
An overlooked twig in the thicket of internet chaos which has come to characterize this presidential campaign is that for about a year, the website obamaforpresident.com has been for sale.
According to information obtained by The Cutting Edge News, obamaforpresident.com was registered through GoDaddy.com on May 27, 2004, several months before Barack Obama delivered his turning-point July, 2004 speech to the Democratic National Convention. Obama’s stunning elocution and charismatic presence combined with the democratic machine of Illinois handily won his U.S. Senate seat in November, 2004. He was sworn into office in January of 2005 and openly declared his candidacy for the White House in February, 2007. During these years, the obamaforpresident.com website has been essentially unused with no publicly accessible pages.
While cyber-squatting on valuable domain names for the purpose of resale to interested parties is a common habit on the internet, there is no way to know whether the obamaforpresident.com website was registered by an Obama supporter, an opponent, or merely a disinterested third party looking for a buck. Read more ..
Edge on the Mideast
|Joseph K. Grieboski||November 3rd 2008|
Cutting Edge Foreign News Editor
|General David Petraeus|
The new head of U.S. Central Command is already finding himself in hot water—and only after a few hours in his new post.
General David Petraeus took over as the top U.S. commander for the Middle East on October 31, and proposed visiting Syria shortly after, according to media reports. White House, State Department, and Pentagon officials reportedly all said no, and did so almost immediately.
According to ABC News, Petraeus “had hoped to meet in Damascus with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Petraeus proposed the trip, and senior officials objected, this before the the recent U.S. special operations strike on a target inside Syria's border with Iraq. Officials familiar with Petraeus' thinking on the subject say he wants to engage Syria in part because he believes that U.S. diplomacy can be used to drive a wedge between Syria and Iran. He plans to continue pushing the idea.” Read more ..
Edge on Terror
|Yaakov Katz||October 27th 2008|
Jerusalem Post correspondent
|U.S. Attack Helicopters|
Syria on Monday accused the United States of "applying the law of the jungle," the day after a US military raid inside Syrian territory, which killed at least eight people.
Jihad Makdissi, a spokesman for the Syrian embassy in London, also said it was "outrageous" that a UN Security Council member like the United States should behave in this way. "In the midst of the crisis they did not do this sort of act of aggression. Why now when the security situation in Iraq is getting better?" he told BBC radio. "It's unjustifiable."
Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Muallem was set to meet his British counterpart David Miliband in London later Monday for talks likely to be dominated by the US raid. A US military official said the raid by special forces targeted a network of al-Qaida-linked foreign fighters moving through Syria into Iraq. The Americans have been unable to shut the network down in the area struck because Syria was out of the military's reach.
"We are taking matters into our own hands," the official told The Associated Press in Washington, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the political sensitivity of cross-border raids. The attack came just days after the commander of US forces in western Iraq said American troops were redoubling efforts to secure the Syrian border, which he called an "uncontrolled" gateway for fighters entering Iraq. Read more ..
America with No Plan for an Oil Interruption
|Edwin Black||October 20th 2008|
This continuing coverage on America’s oil crisis arises from the just released book, The Plan: How to Save America When the Oil Stops—or the Day Before (Dialog Press). Buy it here.
Honda is hunkering down in the face of widespread criticism over its mismanagement and reported suppression of its much-heralded compressed natural gas (CNG) vehicle technology, both its Civic GX and its home refueling appliance known as the Phill. Together, the car and refueling appliance allow Americans owning the car and device to completely severe their addiction to oil and even their reliance on gas stations.
Recent media reports that Honda has been suppressing proliferation of its Civic GX, hailed by environmental advocates as “the greenest car in America,” have stung the otherwise respected carmaker. It has refused to answer those in the CNG industry and media asking for a response and has dubbed some of its critics as “extremists” that the company need not answer or engage. At the same time, the company has persisted in its refusal to sell GX cars to those who want them and has now abruptly terminated the much-touted deal to sell T. Boone Pickens its control of the Fuelmaker company which produces the all-important home refueling device, Phill. Sources at Honda suggest the firm may be waiting to see if the negative attention dies down.
Honda only manufactured about 1000 Civic GX vehicles in the past year, and denies them to almost all American markets. The few GX cars it produces are mainly sold in just two states, New York and California. Honda denies the vehicle to even the most insistent dealers throughout the nation. In fact, having sold out its 2008 fleet, the Japanese carmaker simply suspended production altogether. The company claims it will double output by the middle of 2009 to roughly 180 cars per month, but many observers still see that as a token number. By contrast, Honda recently inaugurated mass production at its newest North American factory in Indiana, where it will produce some 200,000 gasoline-burning Civics, and made a similar move in a Canadian plant. The company produces more than one million cars annually in North America. Read more ..
Edge on Terror
|Yaakov Katz||October 13th 2008|
Jerusalem Post Correspondent
Eight months after he was assassinated in a meticulously-planned car bombing in Damascus, Hizbullah arch-terrorist Imad Mughniyeh has been succeeded by a senior Iranian intelligence official, an Italian newspaper reported Thursday, indicating an Iranian determination to consolidate its control over the Lebanese group.
According to the report in the Italian daily Corriere della Sera, Hizbullah's new chief military commander is Muhammad Riza Zahdi, aka Hassan Mahdawi, who in the late 1980s served in the Iranian Embassy in Beirut.
According to the report, Zahdi will be in charge of coordinating weapons smuggling to Hizbullah from Syria as well as the construction of military positions in southern Lebanon. The paper said that the appointment was part of an Iranian plan to restructure Hizbullah in the wake of the Second Lebanon War.
Mughniyeh, who had been one of the world's most wanted men for decades, met his demise last February. Since his assassination, Hizbullah had entrusted his duties - including international operations as well as relations with Iran and Syria - to a council of several officials. Read more ..
|Dan Levin||October 6th 2008|
|Iran's Bushehr Reactor|
NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer has expressed concern over whether the international community would be able to stop Iran from developing a nuclear bomb.
"I am not positive about the world being able to stop Iran from fulfilling its ambitions," he said during a conference in France which was quoted by Reuters.
"It is a major challenge to prevent Iran from continuing to strive to get the bomb," Scheffer said, adding that his concern was "that the Security Council, as we speak, is rather incapable of coming to further conclusions on further sanctions.”
Scheffer said that while Iranian nuclear capabilities would be dangerous, he was not opposed to a nuclear Israel.
"As we all know, Israel never admits to what it has, but I do not see very many arguments for the Jewish state to abandon its potential," he said. "What is as dangerous (as the nuclear program) is the missile technology which (Iran) is also developing at a fast pace. Read more ..
Edge on Iran
|Martin Barillas||September 29th 2008|
Cutting Edge Senior Contributor
|Iranian President Ahmadinejad|
Hundreds of protesters assembled outside the Grand Hyatt Hotel in New York City on September 25 where Ahmadinejad was being feted by a group of religious leaders. The coalition of Jews and non-Jews assembled outside to protest the dinner at the hotel.
“These religious leaders are about to betray their brethren across all religions, parties, and countries by ‘honoring’ the tyrannical regime of Ahmadinejad and the Iranian mullahs of this terrorist state,” protest organizers said in a statement posted on their website. This was the second such major protest against the Iranian Republic’s leader that week in New York. Read more ..
Edge on Iran
|Joseph Grieboski||September 22nd 2008|
Cutting Edge Foreign News Editor
Iran’s parliament, the Majlis, voted by an overwhelming majority on September 9 in favor of a draft law that would mandate the death penalty for apostates. According to reports, the parliament passed an umbrella bill that contains articles requiring the death penalty for apostates. The articles now return to committee for further consideration before lawmakers vote on them again.
Iranian law currently requires punishment for apostates, that is, those who leave Islam and convert to another religion. However, the type of punishment is left to the discretion of the judge. If the new provisions pass all stages of Iran’s legislative process, apostates will receive only one punishment: death.
The draft penal code has been under consideration since February, and includes security provisions that would give Iran jurisdiction even over actions taken and deemed threatening to the state outside of Iran. The code also distinguishes between apostates born to at least one Muslim parent (innate) and those whose parents were not Muslims at their conception (parental). The Cutting Edge News has been covering the draft law.
Article 225-7 of the code states, “Punishment for an Innate Apostate is death,” while Article 225-8 says, “Punishment for a Parental Apostate is death, but after the final sentencing for three days he/she would be guided to the right path and encouraged to recant his/her belief and if he/she refused, the death penalty would be carried out.” Read more ..
|Dan Levin||September 22nd 2008|
The Institute on Religion and Public Policy sent recommendations to President George W. Bush on what countries the United States should designate this year as the world’s most egregious persecutors of religious freedom, or in diplomatic parlance “countries of particular concern. (CPCs)”
CPCs are countries showing "systematic, ongoing, egregious violations of religious freedom," according to the 1998 International Religious Freedom Act. The U.S. State Department will soon release its annual report on religious freedom around the world, which covers almost 200 countries.
For 2008, the Institute has recommended to the President and the Secretary of State that the following new countries be named to the list: Afghanistan, Belarus, India, Indonesia, Egypt, Kosovo, Maldives, Russia, Turkmenistan and Vietnam. In addition, the following countries designated in 2006 should remain as CPCs: Burma, China, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Uzbekistan.
According to the Institute’s letter, Kosovo has failed to protect its religious minorities’ physical safety and property, including that of the Serbian Orthodox Church. State agencies and “unchecked aggression by social actors against Protestants, Orthodox Christians, moderate Muslims, and other religious minorities threaten the continued safety of these groups.” The United States removed Vietnam as a CPC in 2006, which was a premature move based on a few minor improvements. However, official persecution of Christians and Buddhists continues. Vietnamese authorities have used government agents dressed as Catholic clergy, for example, to turn public opinion against the Catholic Church, while authorities detain Catholic clergy and continue to confiscate property. Read more ..
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