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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.


After the Holocaust

Russia Abruptly Refuses to Recognize International Law or U.S. Courts in Chabad Papers Suit

July 1st 2009

Chabad Archival Document

“Russia is showing its contempt and disdain for international law, the American judicial system, and basic principles of fairness and justice,” said Nathan Lewin, attorney for the world-wide Chabad-Lubavitch movement.

The remark was in response to Russia’s surprise announcement, filed with the federal court in Washington, D.C. in recent days. In an epic legal and diplomatic contest that dates back to the World War I, Russia is defiantly refusing to release some 381 spiritual manuscripts, 12,000 rare books and 25,000 handwritten archival documents plundered from East Europe from the charismatic Jewish Chabad-Lubavitch movement. The collection handed down from generation to generation constitutes “the central wisdom, comprehension and knowledge” of the Chabad movement. Without those documents, Chabad is without its spiritual soul, it says. Indeed, the word “Chabad” itself is an acronym for the Hebrew words for “central wisdom, comprehension and knowledge.”

Deadlocked in litigation for years, and international pressure for decades, Russian authorities, declared this week that the Putin government would not “further participate” in the case. This was done as legal scholars predicted the courts would grant the Chabad movement a stunning victory in its epic effort to reclaim its papers. Chabad’s legal team is headed by the Washington law firm of Lewin and Lewin, LLP. Known for championing Jewish causes— Nathan Lewin and Alyza Lewin -- sometimes called “attorneys for the Tribe,” worked together with attorneys from Howrey LLP and Bingham McCutchen LLP to obtain a rare federal court decision earlier this year commanding Moscow to preserve the books and documents and instructing Russia to provide the Court with a written description of the steps it is taking to preserve the books and manuscripts. A court-ordered handover seemed imminent according to legal scholars watching the case. Read more ..

Inside Central America

Venezuela's Chavez Threatens Military Intervention following Coup in Honduras

June 29th 2009

Latin American Topics - Honduran Troops Invade President's Residence

President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela has threatened to intervene on the North American continent following a military coup in Honduras, just two hours by airliner from Miami. President Manuel Zelaya of Honduras was ousted from power and forcibly taken to Costa Rica when members of the country’s armed forces stormed the national palace and removed him in his pajamas. As for President Chavez, he said that there are reports that his ambassador to Honduras was beaten and left on the side of the road, and that if his ambassador has been killed or his embassy violated "that military junta would be entering a de facto state of war. We would have to act militarily ... I have put the armed forces of Venezuela on alert."

The Congress of Honduras removed President Manuel Zelaya from office, having accused him of “numerous violations” of the Central American country’s constitution, as well as other laws and court findings. Zelaya, an ally of President Chavez, was arrested during the early morning hours on June 28 by Honduras’ armed forces and taken under guard to Costa Rica where he is currently in exile. Roberto Micheletti, who had been president of the national legislature, was named interim president. The Congress published what was purported to be a June 25 letter from Zelaya announcing his “irrevocable” decision to resign. Armored vehicles and soldiers are guarding strategic points throughout the capital city, and radio and televisions blacked out, in scenes reminiscent of Latin America of the past. The capital remains quiet, even while there were protests at the national palace with President Zelaya’s detractors outnumbering his supporters. Read more ..

Iran's Voter Revolt

Austrian Legislator Accuses Ahmadinejad of Role in 1989 Vienna Death Squad

June 22nd 2009

Iran - Ahmadinejad pointing

Austrian Green Party security spokesman Peter Pilz alleged today that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was part of a death squad that killed three Kurds in Austria on July 13, 1989.

According to Pilz, Ahmadinejad had been involved in the killings in Vienna and may have actually shot one of the trio. "I have no doubt he was involved.”

New eye-witnesses have come forward identifying Ahmadinejad as being involved in the assassination of Kurdish Democratic Party of Iran chief Abdul Rahman Ghassemlou, his deputy Abdullah Ghaderi-Azar and Austria-born Fadel Rasoul.

The Austrian Times reports that Pilz claimed the involvement of two Iranian teams in the assassinations: a negotiations team and an execution team. Pilz said Ahmadinejad had been responsible for gathering and preparing the weapons used and had been a member of the execution team. Read more ..

Edge on Taliban Terror

Pakistani Taliban Issue Death Threats Against Christians and Shia Muslims

June 22nd 2009

Islamic Topics - Taliban executioner

The Pakistani Taliban have issued letters to Christians and Shia Muslims (a minority sect) across the country threatening them with death should they not conform to the Taliban's Sunni Islam.

On June 10, a letter was sent to Rabita Manzil, of the National Catholic Office for Social Communications in Lahore, the second biggest city of Pakistan. It was given to a Christian woman, who lives near the office, by two masked men. The letter stated “We know you are Christian. We warn you to leave this area, embrace Islam, pay 1,500,000 rupees (US$18,500) as jizya, or be ready to die in a suicide attack.”

Christians have received similar threats in various parts of the country as fighting between government troops and the Taliban militants continues to rage in the country's northwest. Sacred Heart Cathedral, several Catholic schools in Lahore, and various pastors have received threatening notes telling them to convert to Islam. Moreover, Peshawar Bishop Mano Rumalshah of the Anglican Church of Pakistan said the churches in his diocese continue to receive threatening letters which say either become a Muslim, leave, or be killed. Read more ..

Edge of Narco-Terrorism

Iranian, Hezbollah Presence in Latin Ameria a Growing Problem for Security

June 15th 2009

Iran - Chavez and Ahmanijad

Iran has opened six embassies in Latin America during the past five years and is promoting Islamic activities throughout the region, according to Pentagon spokesperson Donna Miles. She emphasized the Pentagon’s rising concern about the increasing presence of Iran in Latin America, and Hezbollah’s inroads in drug trafficking in Colombia, as part of an event with the National Association of Chiefs of Police.

According to Jim Kouri of the Law Enforcement Examiner, Navy Admiral James G. Stavridis told the House Armed Services Committee that he shares the concerns of Defense Secretary Robert Gates about Iranian activity in Central and South America.

"That is of concern, principally because of the connection between the government of Iran, which is a state sponsor of terrorism, and Hezbollah," Stavridis told the committee. “We see a great deal of Hezbollah activity throughout South America, in particular," he said. Read more ..

Pakistan on the Edge

Pakistani Militants Impose Islamic Head-Tax on Non-Muslims

June 8th 2009

Terrorism - Taliban

The Bara-based Lashkar-e-Islam (LI, an Islamic militant group) has imposed jizya, an Islamic tax, on the non-Muslim communities, including Sikhs, Hindus and Christians living in the Khyber Agency, a tribal region of North West Frontier Post (NWFP) near Afghanistan’s border and which is substantially under the control of militants.

“Sources said LI had asked the non-Muslim communities in Bara, Chora, Karamna, Bazaar Zakhakhel and Tirah Valley of Khyber Agency to pay jizya or leave the agency,” reported The News on June 3. The sources said the warning came from LI on May 31 following which the community agreed to pay the tax instead of leaving the area, where they have been living for decades.

The minority communities had many meetings with the local militant group, but LI was not ready to give any concessions to the minority community. They were told that they are not Muslim so they have to pay jizya. Read more ..

Iran's Nukes

Iran Beefs Up Naval Forces to Demonstrate Ability to Repel Moves Against Nuclear Program

June 1st 2009

Iran - Iranian Warships
Iranian warships

In a troubling sign of a growing regional hegemony, Iranian has dispatched six warships to the Gulf of Aden and "international waters.”

According to Rear Admiral Habibollah Sayyari, Commander of the Iranian Navy, “Iran has dispatched six warships to international waters and the Gulf of Aden region in an historically unprecedented move by the Iranian Navy. This is indicative of the country's high military capability in confronting any foreign threat on the country's shores." This voyage – allegedly sent on the orders of Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei – marks the first time in modern history that the Islamic republic has projected its military might beyond its regional sphere of interest. Read more ..

Iran's Nukes

Iran to Mass Produce Long-Range Missiles

May 25th 2009

Iran - Iranian missile
Iranian Sejil-2 missile

Iran is in the midst of a multi-year plan that it hopes will culminate in the production of several hundred missile launchers and over 1,000 long-range ballistic missiles within the next six years, according to estimates in the Israeli defense establishment.

Teheran is believed to currently have an arsenal of 100-200 long-range Shihab missiles that have a range of up to 2,000 kilometers (1,200 miles) and carry up to one-ton warheads.

In recent days, Iran successfully fired the Sejil-2, a missile with a range of at least 2,000 kilometers.
In addition, the Iranians last year test-fired a missile called Ashura believed to have recently entered production, the goal being to eventually replace the Shihab. The Ashura is a solid-fuel missile, giving it a long shelf-life. Unlike the Shihab, it does not need to be fueled shortly before launching. Read more ..

The Edge of Jihad

Somali Rebels Seize Control of Country with Support of Eritrea

May 25th 2009

Africa Topics - Somali Militants2

Somalia’s Islamist rebels have launched a major offensive against the central government, reviving long-standing concerns that the country could fall entirely to militants with alleged ties to al-Qaeda.

The situation is exacerbated by Eritrea’s support for the Islamists. The U.N. Security Council expressed anxiety over reports that Eritrea has been supplying arms to Islamist militants intent on toppling Somalia's new government and condemned the recent violence. The council insisted that Somali Islamist extremist groups immediately end the violence and join reconciliation efforts

"The Security Council ... expresses its concern over reports that Eritrea has supplied arms to those opposing the (government of) Somalia in breach of the UN arms embargo," the statement said.

While Eritrea rejects accusations that it sends weapons to the al Qaeda-linked Islamist militants fighting Somalia's government, Somalia's government said earlier this month that Asmara continues to support al Shabaab militants with planeloads of AK-47 assault rifles, rocket-propelled grenades and other weapons. The accusation was backed by diplomats and security experts.


The Edge of Terrorism

Argentina Issues International Arrest Warrant for Terrorist Wanted in Bombing Masterminded by Iran

May 25th 2009

Terrorism - Salman El Reda
Wanted: Salman El Reda

Salman El Reda, a Colombian national and key figure in Argentina, has been linked to the terrorist attack on the Argentine Israelite Mutual Association (AMIA) in 1994 that claimed 85 deaths. This was the finding by Argentina’s chief prosecutor Alberto Nisman, who issued an international warrant for El Reda's arrest on May 20.

In a press conference, Nisman said that El Reda participated in the “preparations and consummation of the attack” that, according to the prosecutor, was on the orders of the government of Iran and organized by Hezbollah—the pro-Iran terrorist organization.

United States Ambassador Earl Anthony Wayne in Buenos Aires noted Nisman’s arrest warrant saying “We applaud and support all efforts directed at bringing to justice those responsible for the international terrorist attack on the AMIA that killed 85 people in Buenos Aires on July 18, 1994.”

The arrest order has complicated Argentina’s already strained relations with the Islamic Republic of Iran. In 2006, Argentina presented an international arrest warrants for Mohsen Rabbani and seven other Iranian operatives for their alleged participation in the 1994 attack. Among those being called to justice are former Iranian president Ali Akbar Rafsanjani, former foreign minister Ali AkbarVelavati and former information and security minister Ali Fallahijan, as well as former Revolutionary Guard commandant Mohsen Rezai. Argentina has also accused Iran of organizing the St. Patrick’s Day massacre in 1992, which took the lives of 29 people at the Israeli embassy in Buenos Aires. Read more ..

America and Israel

Seventy-Six Senators Send the White House a Clear Message About Israel

May 19th 2009

Obama Admin Topics - Obama-Peres

In the wake of the recent meeting between President Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, four senators have circulated an letter to colleagues urging Obama to support the Jewish State's efforts to achieve peace.

Read the letter here.

At press time, seventy-six senators have signed the letter. The House version bears almost 195 signatures and is at 195, as of press time. The letter, crafted April 30 before the summit is designed to send a clear message to the White House about Israel’s security, its determination to control its own Palestinian negotiations as it confronts an Iranian nuclear threat. The notion that Obama was linking Jerusalem's negotiations with Palestinians to its ability to thwart nuclear annihilation rankled many in the Jewish and non-Jewish Israel support community. In a word, Israel has gone over the president’s head and appealed directly to the Congress. Read more ..

The Edge of Energy Independence

Stung EU Plans Pipelines to Secure Energy Independence From Russia

May 18th 2009

Russian Topics - Russia Shuts off Gas to Ukraine

The European Union has signed an agreement with four nations to move ahead on creating new gas pipelines to reduce its energy dependence on Russia.

The European Union signed the new energy deal during a summit in Prague with four countries: Egypt, Turkey, Azerbaijan and Georgia. The agreement aims to help pave the way toward creating a series of gas pipelines from central Asia and the Middle East through Turkey and into Europe.

Two of the countries which signed the deal, Azerbaijan and Egypt, are gas rich. Two others, Turkey and Georgia, would host the pipelines carrying the gas. Europe hopes that one of the planned pipelines, known as Nabucco, will be up and running by 2014.

At a press conference in Prague, European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso hailed the agreement.


The Legal Edge

Verdict is In: Judgment Against National High School Mock Trial Championship… Once Again

May 11th 2009

Social Topics - Mock Trial

The persistent, years-long efforts of the National High School Mock Trial Championship to ignore the scheduling needs of orthodox Jewish student teams has once again been ruled out of order.

Stubbornly impervious to the demands of a condemning resolution unanimously adopted by the House of Representatives, refusals to obey by the New Jersey Bar Association and the North Carolina Academy of Trial Lawyers, admonitions from the attorney general of Georgia and the Anti-Defamation League, resignations by prestigious members of its own organization, and rebukes by a host of eminent legal personalities, the National High School Mock Trial Championship has clung to its policy of not permitting scheduling changes for the orthodox Jewish teams. Orthodox school teams that observe the Friday sundown to Saturday sundown Sabbath need to compete during the Thursday, daytime Friday, Saturday night and Sunday sessions as opposed to the sessions on the Sabbath. Religious school teams in increasing numbers—from the Jesuit High School in Louisiana to the Christian Heritage Academy in Oklahoma—compete in the national mock trial championships. Read more ..

Pakistan on the Edge

Taliban Assess Punishing Taxes on Pakistan Sikhs for Being "Infidels"

May 11th 2009

Terrorism - Taliban Pakistan

Taliban forces have seized the homes and businesses of Sikhs living in the Northwestern Frontier Province of Pakistan. Infidels must pay a head tax. Many Sikh families have been forced to leave their homes in the Orakzai area of Pakistan.

Sikhs constitute a tiny religious minority in Pakistan. The latest Sikh nightmare began when Pakistan’s parliament passed the Sharia law for the Malakand Division of the Northwestern Frontier Province. On the very next day, April 14, 2009, the Taliban imposed a prodigious multi-million rupee Jazia (an Islamic tax to non-Muslims) on the Sikh community.

The Taliban said Sikhs are an unwanted minority and must pay the head tax in exchange for living in the area under the rule of Sharia. Following the Taliban’s threat, many Sikh families of the Feroze Khel area of Merozai in Lower Orakzai Agency simply fled.

The Taliban had also forcibly occupied shops of two Sikh businessmen and houses of several Sikhs to force them to pay the Jazia.  Some families paid as much as 20 million rupees to Taliban forces to avoid further retaliation. After receiving Jazia tax, the Taliban released Sikh leader Sardar Saiwang Singh and vacated the occupied homes. Read more ..

Iran’s Nukes

Rep. Kirk and Stopping Iran's Nuke a Central Focus of AIPAC Gathering

May 5th 2009

Iran - Ahmadinejad at Iranian nuclear plant

Rep. Mark Kirk (R-IL) and the move to stop Iran’s nuclear program took center stage at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee Annual Policy Conference just concluded in Washington D.C. Arguably, the premier constituent event of the year, the conference hosted nearly 7,000 interdenominational supporters of Israel and approximately half the nation’s Senators and Congresspersons in a precision multimedia spectacle of public policy regarding the Jewish State.

Amid a multiplicity of topics and political heavyweights from Israeli President Shimon Peres to Vice president Joe Biden, the rising star on the pivotal issue seemed to be Rep. Kirk who is among the leading sponsors of the Iran Refined Petroleum Sanctions Act (IRPSA). Read more ..

Religious Tolerance

Pressure Mounts on Mock Trial as Department of Justice Warns Georgia Courts

May 5th 2009

Social Topics - Mock Trial

Update May 6. Under orders from a Fulton County judge and after a warning from the Department of Justice, the State Bar of Georgia has reversed itself and abandoned allegedly discriminatory scheduling practices by National High School Mock Trial Championship. See coming related story in News.

Pressure is mounting on the State Bar Georgia Bar Association in the wake of detailed revelations that the National High School Mock Trial Championship was preparing to repeat its years-long policy of allegedly discriminatory scheduling practices against Orthodox Jewish. The controversial practice in question revolves around the National High School Mock Trial Championship refusal to reschedule Saturday rounds for the increasing number of students from Orthodox Jewish schools that compete at the national level.

Now, the Civil Rights division of the Department of Justice on Friday May 1, 2009 has sent a detailed written warning to the director of the Administrative Office of the Courts of Georgia admonishing that any participation in the Mock Trial Championship must not violate the Safe Street Acts of 1968. The implementing regulation of the Safe Streets Act prohibits recipients of federal funds from engaging in programs that have the effect of discriminating on the basis of religion. Read more ..

Iran's Nukes

New Legislation Would Squeeze Iran and Gasoline Suppliers Vitol, Glencore, Trafigura, Total, Reliance Industries, and BP

April 27th 2009

Iran - Iran Nuclear Equipment

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 ..

Iran's Nukes

Israel Prepares for War with Iran

April 20th 2009

Israeli Military - Israeli Jet Diving

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

Jewish Groups Renew Call To Boycott Coke Products, Target Annual Meeting in Atlanta

April 13th 2009

Jewish Topics - Coke Poster

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

Israelis Mystified by Case of Bedouin Teenage Terrorist

April 6th 2009

Israeli Military - IDF On Guard

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

Bush Allies May Face Justice in Spain for Torture at Guantanamo

March 30th 2009

Terrorism - Guantanamo Gurney

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

Saudi Oil Minister Predicts Painful 'Catastrophic' Oil Shortfall "Sooner Rather Than Later"

March 23rd 2009

Islamic Topics - Ali Naimi
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

Venezuela's Chavez Vows to Seize Oil Port and Sink Opponents' Fishing Vessels

March 16th 2009

Latin American Topics - Hugo Chavez waves

“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

Bird Flu Vaccine: A Silver Bullet in the Offing

March 9th 2009

Health/Medicine - Bird Flu Eradication

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

CIA Director Panetta Begs Argentina's Indulgence over Diplomatic Flap

March 3rd 2009

Politics - Leon Panetta

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

Holocaust Denier Bishop Williamson Expelled from Argentine but Still Unbowed

February 23rd 2009

Christian Topics - Richard Williamson
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 ..

Inside Islam

Sheikh Abdullah Shakes Religious Establishment and Appoints First Woman to Senior Post

February 16th 2009

Arab Topics - King Abdullah
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

Hamas Turned Israeli Humanitarian Assistance into Weapons during the Gaza War

February 16th 2009

Israel Topics - Medicine Bombs

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

UN Prepares Investigation into Murder of Benazir Bhutto

February 9th 2009

Islamic Topics - Benazir Bhutto

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

Greece and Israel Seize Vessels with Suspicious Cargoes Bound for Iran and Gaza

February 9th 2009

Israel Topics - Israeli naval vessel

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 ..

Religious Freedom

Anti-Semitic Hate Unleashed in Chavez's Venezuela

February 2nd 2009

Jewish Topics - Caracas Synagogue
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 ..

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