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The Surge Against Hamas

Hamas in Gaza Kills 35 Fatah Palestinians and Shoots 75 in the Legs, Accusing Them of Siding with Israel

January 5th 2009

Terrorism - Hamas Terrorists

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

GMAC Bailout despite Chairmanship by Madoff Crony J. Ezra Merkin

December 30th 2008

Economy - Money Money Money

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

Somali Pirate Money Makes its Way to Al Qaeda

December 29th 2008

Terrorism - Somali pirates

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

In Wake Of Madoff Massacre, Jewish Ire Focuses On Merkin

December 22nd 2008

Contributors / Staff - Gary Rosenblatt
Gary Rosenblatt

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

Guatemalan Police Are Missing Weapons And Go AWOL As Lynch Mobs Provide Rough Justice

December 15th 2008

Latin American Topics - Guatemalan National Police
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

China, Japan and North Korea Huddle Over World Economic Slump

December 15th 2008

Chinese yuan money
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-bakwho together manage about 75 percent of Asia's economyexplored ways of supporting each other and the broader Asian community amid the deepening global economic crisis. Read more ..


Edge of Justice

Landmark Federal Ruling Against Muslim Charities Funding Hamas Awarded To Slain Chicago Teenager's Family

December 8th 2008

Islamic Topics - Muslim Terrorist in Nazi Salute

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 ..


Mysterious Deaths

Friends Not Convinced Strange Death Of Israel Activist An Accident

December 8th 2008

Jewish Topics - Dan Kiman headshot
Daniel Kliman

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

Nigerian Elections Spark Ethnic and Religious Mayhem

December 1st 2008

Africa Topics - Jos Riot Burnt Cars

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

More Headless Bodies Found in Escalation of Mexico's Drug War

December 1st 2008

Crime Topics - Mexican Hitmen
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 Felixseven 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 ..


International Justice

Former President Of Argentina To Be Charged With Crimes Against Humanity

November 24th 2008

History-Genocide - Jorge Rafael Videla

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 ..


Inside Islam

School Girls Doused with Acid by Taliban Assailants

November 17th 2008

Islamic Topics - Pakistani honor victims

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 ..


Holocaust Edge

Architectural Plans Prove Auschwitz Envisioned Early On as Death Camp

November 10th 2008

Nazi Era - Auschwitz Blueprint
Auschwitz Blueprint

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 ..

Asian Edge

China Positions for Central Asia Sphere of Influence

November 10th 2008

Economy - Wen and Nazarbayev
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 ..


Election Edge

Obama Presidential Website Up for Sale

November 3rd 2008

Presidential - Barack Obama headshot
Barack Obama

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

Petraeus Wants to Add Syria after Pakistan, But Washington Says No

November 3rd 2008

Military - Petraeus
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

Outraged Syria says America Acts by “Law of the Jungle” in Cross Border Anti-Terror Raid

October 27th 2008

Military - US Attack Helicopters
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

Honda Hunkers Down—Carmaker Silent on CNG Suppression as Spokane Still Without Cars and Fuelmaker Deal Terminates

October 20th 2008

Contributors / Staff - Edwin Black
Edwin Black

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

Iran Appoints Successor to Terrorist Mughniyeh

October 13th 2008

Iran - Mughniyeh
Imad Mughniyeh

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 ..


Iran's Nukes

NATO Chief Concedes: “I'm Not Positive World Will be Able to Stop Iran”

October 6th 2008

Iran - Iran's Bushehr Reactor
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

Interfaith Rally Protests Religious Reception for Iranian President Ahmadinejad

September 29th 2008

Iran - Ahmadinejad The Man
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

Iran Moves One Step Closer to Mandating Death Penalty for Apostasy

September 22nd 2008

Contributors / Staff - Joe Griebowski headshot

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 ..


Religious Freedom

Afghanistan, Belarus, Indonesia and Seven Other Countries Recommended for State Department's List of “Countries of Particular Concern”

September 22nd 2008

Islamic Topics - Muslim Anti-Ahmadiyya Protest

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 ..


Edge on African Genocide

Holocaust Scholars Urge Prosecution of Sudan's President for Genocide

September 22nd 2008

History-Genocide - Luis Moreno Ocampo
ICC Chief Prosecutor Luis Moreno Ocampo
ICC-CPI/Wim Van Cappellen

Leading scholars of the Holocaust from around the world have signed a petition to Luis Moreno-Ocampo of the International Criminal Court urging him to proceed with his prosecution of Sudanese president Omar al-Bashir for his role in the genocide of the people of the Darfur region of Sudan. While ICC chief prosecutor Moreno Ocampo has announced plans to seek al-Bashir’s arrest, the voices of the Arab League, African Union, as well as China and Russia have been raised against it.

"Prosecuting al-Bashir will help stop the Darfur genocide and will send a powerful warning to future would-be killers,” said Dr. Rafael Medoff, director of the Washington-based David S. Wyman Institute for Holocaust Studies, which organized the petition. “The governments that are trying to protect al-Bashir should be ashamed of themselves.”

The petition also compares the efforts by al-Bashir’s allies to the position of the US State Department in the 1940s, which advocated prosecuting only a limited number of Nazi war criminals. Medoff wrote “Blowing the Whistle on Genocide: Josiah E. DuBois, Jr. and the Struggle for a U.S. Response to the Holocaust,” which was published this week by Purdue University Press. Read more ..


Edge on Turkey

EU Must Assess Turkey's Dedication to Religious Pluralism

September 22nd 2008

Islamic Topics - Minaret

If Turkey is to join the European Community, “it must show that it is ready to take great strides in adopting a European outlook, not the baby steps it has taken until now.” So wrote author and former New York Times correspondent Nicholas Gage wrote in the International Herald Tribune. Gage seemed to speaking for many observers still ambivalent about admitting Rurkey to the EU.

Gage said in his opinion piece entitled “Orthodox Christianity under threat” on IHT’s that Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan and his Islamist party have “shown no inclination to extend even a modicum of religious freedom to the most revered Christian institution in Turkey - the Patriarchate of Constantinople, the spiritual center of 300 million Orthodox Christians throughout the world. As a result, Turkey's persecution of the Patriarchate looms as a major obstacle to its European aspirations, and rightly so.”

Gage denounced the harassment suffered by the ecumenical patriarch, Bartholomew I, at the hands of Turkish bureaucrats who “summon him to their offices to question and berate him about irrelevant issues, blocking his efforts to make repairs in the few buildings still under his control, and issuing veiled threats about what he says and does when he travels abroad.” Muslim chauvinists, according to Gage, demonstrate almost daily outside the walls of the Patriarchate and call for its ouster from Turkey despite its presence in the city once known as Constantinople since before the time of Mohammed. Read more ..


Inside Africa

African National Congress Ousts Mbeki

September 22nd 2008

Africa Topics - Mbeki
Thabo Mbeki

South Africa's ruling party said Saturday that President Thabo Mbeki agreed to step down after being recalled by the ruling party.

African National Congress secretary-general Gwede Mantashe said Saturday that the party's top-level National Executive Committee has "decided to recall the president of the republic before his term of office expires."

Mbeki succeeded Nelson Mandela as President of South Africa in June 1999 and was due to stand down next year after two terms in office. Mbeki was ousted as leader of the ANC last December by Jacob Zuma, a 66-year-old former guerrilla leader who commands strong support among South Africa's poor. Mbeki has faced growing pressure from supporters of Zuma to quit, following a judge's ruling that he was instrumental in Zuma being charged with corruption.

Deputy President Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka will formally hand in her resignation if President Thabo Mbeki resigns, her spokesman said today. Read more ..


Is the U.S. Economy Safe?

Inside the Latest Sunday Night Massacre on Wall Street

September 15th 2008

Economy - Lehman Bros

It began Friday night after nearly all of Wall Street dutifully turned off the lights and jumped onto their trains or fell into their bistros, preparing to start the weekend. But even as the rank and file were unwinding and relaxing, America’s top financial luminaries began huddling to burn the midnight oil in a tense showdown. By the time Monday’s dawn’s early light chased the shadows from the canyons of Wall Street, the bodies were everywhere. The nation and world are still counting the corpses.

The first emergency meeting was convened by Federal Reserve Bank of New York president Timothy Geithner inviting Wall Street’s top CEO’s and kingpins of government financial regulation. The list of attendees: Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson and Securities and Exchange Commission Chairman Christopher Cox from the federal government; from Wall Street the list included Morgan Stanley Chief Executive John Mack, Merrill Lynch Chief Executive John Thain, J.P. Morgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon, Goldman Sachs Group CEO Lloyd Blankfein, Citigroup Inc. head Vikram Pandit and representatives from the Royal Bank of Scotland Group PLC and Bank of New York Mellon Corp. Other industry leaders attended, including Credit Suisse CEO Brady Dougan, Morgan Stanley Chief Financial Officer Colm Kelleher, Citigroup Chief Financial Officer Gary Crittenden, UBS AG Chief Risk Officer Thomas Daula, J.P. Morgan investment bank co-head Steve Black, and Goldman Sachs co-president Gary Cohn. Read more ..


Religious Freedom

Violence Against Ahmadi Muslims Spikes After Pakistani TV Broadcast

September 15th 2008

Islamic Topics - Muslim Anti-Ahmadiyya Protest
Muslim Protests Against Ahmadiyya

Members of the Ahmadiyya community in Pakistan who routinely experience persecution and now being subjected to a new wave of violence. Contrary to mainstream Islam, the Ahmadiyya community believe that their 19th century founder was a prophet. Most Muslims believe that Muhammad was Islam’s final prophet and there shall be no prophet after him. In countries such as Pakistan, such theological differences are not settled through civil debate. Instead, most Muslims view Ahmadis as heretics worthy of harassment, or even open murder.

Ahmadi fears of violence spiked again this month when a popular satellite channel, GEO TV, ran a September 7th program commemorating the 1974 decision by Pakistan’s parliament declaring Ahmadis as “non-Muslims.” On the show, moderated by Dr. Aamer Liaqat Hussain, some participants argued that the murder of Ahmadis is sanctioned as a religious duty.

Only a day after the broadcast, unidentified gunmen shot and killed Abdul Manan Siddiqui, an American doctor, in Sindh Province as he saw patients in his medical clinic.  He was a regional Ahmadi leader, and a humanitarian. Only a day after the doctor’s murder, gunmen killed another Ahmadi leader in Sindh.

The Ahmadi community suffers persecution around the world, but is subject to particular discrimination under Pakistani blasphemy law. For example, Ahmadis who call themselves Muslims or name their sons Muhammad face imprisonment.

Ahmadis in Pakistan are worried about the latest murders, and blame them on GEO TV’s incitement to violence. The GEO TV channel reaches the United States through DishNetwork. Read more ..


Edge on Iran

Former Iranian Nuclear Negotiator Slams President Ahmadinejad for Squandering Foreign Policy Opportunities and Wreaking Havoc on Economy

September 15th 2008

Iran - Ahmadinejad headshot
Iran's President Ahmadinejad

Hasan Rowhani, Irans’ former nuclear negotiator, has publically rebuked Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, saying the controversial leader has done much to harm the Islamic Republic during his three years in office. Saying Ahmadinejad had missed “golden” opportunities to develop Iran, Rohani appeared to be joining fellow critics of the president ahead of the coming 2009 presidential elections. Rowhani is thought of as a pragmatist among Iran’s fiery Islamic ideologues, while he is also an ally of former president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, Ahmadinejad’s rival.

Among the lost and golden opportunities that Ahmadinejad has apparently failed to exploit is what Rowhani described as the weakest U.S. position since 1970s because of its involvement in Iraq.

Speaking on September 8 to members of the Moderation and Development Party, Rowhani knocked Ahmadinejad for Iran’s high inflation rate that comes despite huge oil revenues and subsidized fuel for consumers. Rowhani said Ahmadinejad has failed to privatize the economy as guaranteed by Iran’s constitution and has not improved Iran’s standing in world politics. Rowhani said government affiliates - instead of the private sector — were being awarded shares in the "privatized" firms. Read more ..


Iran and the World

Inflation Soars In Iran

September 8th 2008

Iran - Iran Money Changers

Iran's inflation hit 27.6 per cent in the month of Mordad that ended on 21 August, the central bank said Sunday. The consumer price index (CPI) in urban areas also increased by 27.6 per cent compared to the same month in the previous year, thus confirming that prices are on a runaway trend in Iran.

A month earlier inflation reached 26.1 per cent, whilst in the two previous months it was 25 and 24 per cent respectively.

The inflation mostly affected staples such as meat, beans and rice whose prices have doubled in a yearly comparison. If milk and bread were not subsidized they too would have been hard hit by inflation. Now a four-member family can spend up to 80 per cent of its income on food each month.

Despite having pledged economic improvements, inflation and the economy are President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s weak points. Instead his government has paid closer attention to military issues. In fact, Iran is now conducting previously announced maneuvers designed to test the anti-naval capacities of the armed forces and the Guardians of the Revolution. Read more ..


Religious Freedom

Christians in India Plea for End to Hindu Nationalist Rampages

September 1st 2008

Asia Topics - Hindu Protest
Hindu Protest

The tally of Christians murdered and persecuted in India grows as they continue in the crosshairs of Hindu fundamentalists enraged by the August 23 murder of Hindu fundamentalist leader Swami Laxanananda and five followers. Most of the violence has occurred in the state of Orissa.

In a September 1 letter to President Pratibha Patil of India, a group of citizens wrote demanding action to protect the Christian minority saying  “We, the secular civil society community, perceive that the great nation of India is at a tipping point. The groups which favor a 'Hindu Rashtra' have made Orissa their laboratory, as they earlier did in Gujarat. The so-called saffronisation of the state has been the subject of well-documented academic and socio-political studies."

The letter continued "We entreat you, as President of the Republic, to enforce the rule of law upon Sangh Parivar organizations which blatantly flaunt their divisive agenda. Specifically, we call upon you to bring the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, and Bajrang Dal under the rule of law.” The signatories included numerous Christian leaders of India.

On the evening August 23, shortly after news came of the Hindu leader's death, the first attack took place. Two Catholic nuns were stopped by assailants who set fire to their vehicle. The driver was savagely beaten. At almost at the same time, another vehicle in which nuns were traveling in Sambalpur was stopped and set on fire.  Read more ..


Iran's Nukes

Washington Parks Israeli Plan for Attack on Iran's Nuclear Facilities

August 25th 2008

Israel Topics - Israeli Jets Parked
Israeli warplanes

Washington has rejected an Israeli request for military equipment and support that would improve Israel's ability to attack Iran's nuclear facilities.

The Americans viewed the request, which was transmitted (and rejected) at the highest level, as a sign that Israel is in the advanced stages of preparations to attack Iran. They therefore warned Israel against attacking, saying such a strike would undermine American interests. They also demanded that Israel give them prior notice if it nevertheless decided to strike Iran.

As compensation for the requests it rejected, Washington offered to improve Israel's defenses against surface-to-surface missiles.

Israel responded by saying it reserves the right to take whatever action it deems necessary if diplomatic efforts to halt Iran's nuclearization fail. Read more ..


Religious Freedom

Elderly Catholic Bishop Arrested in China

August 25th 2008

Asia Topics - China arrests Catholics
Chinese police surround Catholic church

Roman Catholic Bishop Julius Jia Zhiguo of Zhengding, Hebei province, China, was arrested again by local authorities. Bishop Jia Zhiguo belongs to the “underground” church not recognized by China’s communist government. He was arrested on the morning of August 24, the twelfth such arrest since January 2004. Zhengding is a small village situated approximately 100 miles south of Beijing. Its Roman Catholic community numbers approximately 110,000. Bishop Jia Zhiguo was consecrated bishop in 1980.

Government officials arrived in vehicles at Christ the King Cathedral at WuQiu while his current whereabouts are unknown at this time. Bishop Jia Zhiguo was last arrested in August 2007 and released four months later. The reasons for his current unrest are as yet unclear. After his release in December 2007, the bishop was consigned to house arrest and not allowed to receive visitors unaccompanied by government watchers. Police patrols prevented visitors to the bishop during his house arrest.

Bishop Jia Zhiguo is nearly 74 years old and in delicate health, according to the Cardinal Kung Foundation. During his confinement at home, his requests for medical treatment were denied by Chinese authorities. The bishop has now spent at least 18 years in prison. Read more ..


Election Edge

Obama's Campaign Liaison to Muslims and Arab-American Community Suddenly Resigns

August 11th 2008

Politics - Barack Obama
Barack Obama

Mazen Asbahi, Senator Obama’s campaign liaison to the Arab-American and Muslim communities, resigned August 5 when it was revealed that he had served on the board of an Islamic investment fund with a controversial Muslim religious leader. In his letter of resignation, Asbahi wrote that he had served on the board of the Dow Jones Islamic Index Fund along with Imam Jamal Said, a religious leader of a mosque in the Chicago area who was named as an unindicted co-conspirator in a 2007 trial of Islamic charities accused of aiding the Palestinian Muslim extremist group known as Hamas. Said is the imam at the Bridgeview Mosque in Bridgeview IL.

Asbahi wrote in his resignation letter that he was leaving “in order to avoid distracting from Barack Obama’s message of change.” The campaign is searching for a new coordinator. Asbahi resigned after barely 10 days on the job.

A corporate lawyer with Chicago office of Schiff Hardin LLC, Asbahi served in 2000 on the board of the Allied Assets Advisors Fund, which is affiliated with the North American Islamic Trust. Revelations were first raised by The Global Muslim Brotherhood Daily Report, an internet newsletter that tracks what it says are offshoots in the West of the Muslim Brotherhood, the radical Islamist group founded in Egypt decades ago. Allied Asset Advisors is a subsidiary of the North American Islamic Trust supported by the government of Saudi Arabia. It holds title to many mosques in the US.  Read more ..


Russian Invasion of Georgia

ICRC Aids Wounded and Refugees of the Russian-Georgian Conflict

August 11th 2008

Politics - Georgia Civilian Distress
Georgia Civilian Distress

The International Committee of the Red Cross has launched a preliminary appeal of $7.4 million dollars to meet the emergency needs of more than 50,000 people affected by the armed conflict between Georgia, South Ossetia and Russia. The Red Cross needs the funds for a variety of services and populations.

The wounded need medical care; displaced people in North Ossetia and Georgia and civilians still in South Ossetia need aid; Tskhinvali needs drinking water for its residents; and access to the captured and arrested is crucial. "Over the past few days the ICRC has been able to visit hospitals in Alaguir, Ardon and Vladikavkaz, in the Russian Federation, and in Gori, Poti and Senaki in Georgia," said Dominik Stillhart, the organization's deputy director of operations. "It's still too early to say how many people have been killed or injured by the fighting, but our visits to these hospitals confirm that local medical facilities are dealing with a large number of wounded and dead." Read more ..


Inside Palestine

Egyptian Border Police Cope with Dozens of Tunnels Discovered at Gaza

August 11th 2008

Arab Topics - Gaza Tunnels
Gaza Tunnels

Recently, an Egyptian police patrol spotted two Egyptian teenagers, Hatem Mohammed Ahmed, 18, and Ahmed Naim Awad, 15, near one of the 20 tunnels discovered by Egypt last week. A shootout seriously wounded the suspected smugglers. A third teenager, found inside the tunnel with thousands of gallons of fuel, food packages and cigarettes, was arrested.

The tunnels are part of a larger network of underground passageways, some more than 100 feet deep, used by Palestinians to smuggle weapons, explosives and contraband into the Gaza strip. They are beneath the security wall at Ramah, the largest town on Gaza-Egyptian border and its only crossing.

Just before Egypt discovered the 20 tunnels, eight other tunnels were uncovered. Israel, concerned about arms smuggling into Gaza, offered Cairo help last week to build a high-technology barrier at the crossing. Read more ..


China’s Embattled Olympics

Olympic Committee Refuses to Apologize for Deal with Beijing to Censor Websites

August 4th 2008

Asia Topics - SF Olympic Protest

 Jacques Rogge, President of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), is under increasing pressure after he appeared to renege on his guarantees of unfettered Internet access for the thousands of foreign journalists heading to Beijing for the Olympic Games next week.

Rogge emphatically stated that he did not agree to Internet restrictions on foreign media in Beijing, describing the situation as "not good," just six days before the start of the Games. Rogge refused to offer an apology despite the flood of criticism after China backtracked on Internet freedoms for the visiting press.

"I am not going to apologize for something the IOC is not responsible for. We are not running the Internet in China," Rogge said. "The conditions you were working in on Tuesday were not good," Rogge admitted to reporters at a press conference, after foreign journalists this week found they could not access a wide range of Internet sites."

Despite Rogge’s pronouncements, Reuters reported that some International Olympic Committee officials cut a deal to let China block sensitive websites despite promises of unrestricted access. "I regret that it now appears the Beijing Organizing Committee for the Olympic Games has announced that there will be limitations on website access during Games time," IOC executive Board member Kevan Gosper said. "I also now understand that some IOC officials negotiated with the Chinese that some sensitive sites would be blocked on the basis they were not considered Games related," he said. Read more ..


Edge on Asia

Nepal Sees Shaky Start as Monarchy Gives Way to Republic

July 28th 2008

Contributors / Staff - Joe Griebowski headshot
Joseph Grieboski

Nepal's first-ever President and Vice President were sworn in this week.

Ram Baran Yadav, the new president, is a physician in his 60s and was elected president by Nepal's constituent assembly, almost two months after the country was declared a republic and put an end to the 239-year-old monarchy.

Yadav was administered the oath of office by Chief Justice Kedar Prasad Giri. "I represent all Nepali people in this august office and in all my efforts and endeavors I will be committed to the benefit of the Nepali people," Yadav said after the swearing-in.

Yadav then administered the oath of office to the newly elected vice president Parmananda Jha. However, a day after Jha took the oath of office, street protests have broken out calling for his resignation. Protestors have burnt him in effigy because Jha pronounced his inaugural speech in Hindi, not in Nepali, the country’s official language, and wore Indian-styled clothes, not traditional Nepali garb.

The post of the president is largely ceremonial. Yadav will swear in the country's new prime minister, who holds executive authority. While the president can deploy the armed forces, he can only do so at the recommendation of the prime minister.

Nepal's Maoists, which won the largest number of seats but fell short of a majority in April's general elections, had said they will not form a government because their choice of president was rejected by rival lawmakers.

Read more ..

Election Edge

Ma'ariv blasted for printing Obama's note at Western Wall

July 28th 2008

Politics - Obama at the Wall
Senator Obama places prayer at Western Wall

The decision by the Israeli newspaper Ma'ariv to publish a handwritten note that Barack Obama left last week in the cracks of the Western Wall drew criticism as an invasion of his privacy and his relationship with God.

 

Ma'ariv published a photograph of the note on its front page on Friday. It said the note was removed from the wall by a student at a Jewish seminary immediately after Obama left. In the note, placed at Judaism's holiest site, Obama asks God to guide him and guard his family.

 

"Lord - Protect my family and me," reads the note. Forgive me my sins, and help me guard against pride and despair. Give me the wisdom to do what is right and just. And make me an instrument of your will."

 

The paper's decision to make the note public immediately drew fire from religious authorities. The rabbi in charge of the Western Wall, Shmuel Rabinovitz, said publishing the note intruded on Obama's intimate relationship with God. Read more ..


Iran's Nukes

Iranian Hackers Attempt to Silence Peace Message from American Jews

July 28th 2008

Jewish Topics - Malcolm Hoenlein
Malcolm Hoenlein

View Video

Website manager Ohad Rosen of jerusalemonline.com said on that hackers had recently attempted to disrupt a video message that Malcolm Hoenlein – executive vice president of the Conference of President of Major American Jewish Organizations – posted on June 18. The video message declared: "I want to tell you that we have no issue with the Iranian people. We want to see you prosper and your country develop. We want to renew the close relationship that once existed between Iran and the United States, and Iran, Israel and many countries around the world. It is regrettable that you have a leadership that does not care about your welfare and the conditions under which you live. Rather, your leadership exploits Iranian citizens in its quest for extremist goals driven by radical ideological commitments that are not consistent with the interests of the people of Iran, or the stability of the region in which Iran finds itself."

The message continued to lay out the case for Iranians to stop their government from pursuing nuclear weapons. Israel has announced it will pre-emptively attack Iran's nuclear infrastructure unless long-stalled international efforts to stop trhe program quickly succeed.

According to the Associated Press, Rosen said that the hackers are “probably Iranian based with Chinese assistance or fingerprints." Rosen added that the hackers were not successful in taking down Hoenlein’s 2 ½ minute message to the Iranian people but did succeed in deleting pictures and icons while also sabotaging links.

According to reports, Iranian hackers also hacked Arab-language websites over name of the Persian Gulf, which some refer to as the “Arabian” Gulf. Behrouz Kamalian, who blogs on mathematics, was reported on the Iranian.ws website to have said on July 21 that his group had hacked about 100 Arab websites, including those hosted by government, academic institutions, and private enterprise in Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain, Oman and Iraq.

The hackers managed to superimpose a map of the Persian Gulf, clearly marking it as such. Kamalian’s blog site lists his address in Teheran.

An email inquiry to the Iranian Interests Section at the Embassy of Pakistan to the United States was not immediately answered. No response from Iranian authorities about the cyber hacking has been reported.

Jerusalemonline can be view here.

Senior Contributor Martin Barillas writes on religion and geopolitics at www.speroforum.com Read more ..



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