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Inside the Media

JTA reconfigures editorial team

May 19th 2008

Headshots Contribs - Ami Eden Headshot
Ami Eden

As part of a reconfiguration of its editorial management team, JTA has named a new editor.

Ami Eden, the managing editor since June, becomes editor in chief, effective immediately. He will be responsible for managing JTA’s editorial team and coordinating worldwide coverage, with a focus on domestic and political coverage in the United States.

Associate editor Uriel Heilman takes over as managing editor. His primary responsibility will be managing coverage of the Middle East.

Lisa Hostein, editor since 1994, will assume the new role of senior editor. She will manage foreign coverage outside Israel and assist with general editing.

"I am excited, honored and humbled to be taking the reins of such an important organization," Eden said. "Our plan is to build upon JTA’s stellar history of journalistic excellence by continuing to improve our coverage of religion, philanthropy, politics, the Middle East, and arts and culture while bolstering our multimedia offerings."

Before coming to JTA, Eden was the executive editor of the Forward newspaper, where he also served as the founding editor of the Jewish Daily Forward Web site, a Webby Award official honoree. He previously worked as an editor at the Jewish Exponent in Philadelphia.

Eden is the recipient of numerous journalism awards. His work has appeared in The New York Times, Ha'aretz, the International Herald Tribune, the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Toledo Blade, Philadelphia Magazine and The Philadelphia City Paper, as well as on Beliefnet.com.

"Under Eden’s energetic leadership, I am confident JTA will soar to new heights of journalistic excellence," said Mark Joffe, JTA’s executive editor and publisher. Read more ..

The Next Middle East War

Lebanon Slides Deeper Into Crisis

May 12th 2008

Islamic - Beirut Hizbollah Street Violence

The long-brewing political crisis in Lebanon has reached critical mass as violent clashes broke out between the Western-backed Government and supporters of Iranian and Syrian-backed Hezbollah. The confrontations have caused the country's worst internal crisis since the 1975-90 civil war and has aggravated sectarian tensions between Sunnis loyal to the government and Shi'ites who support the opposition.

In what many describe as an army-negotiated surrender, Western Beirut had come under Hezbollah control. CNN reports that "Soldiers went to several offices of pro-government political parties in western Beirut overnight...They persuaded pro-government gunmen who had battled Hezbollah militants to leave the offices as the opposition forces hovered nearby."

Druze leader Walid Jumblatt, part of the pro-government coalition, told CNN that "conditions for surrender will be offered sooner or later… I think... it's a coup. The Lebanese army is in total paralysis."

The army released a public statement decrying the situation and argued that it threatened its unity: "The continuation of the situation... harms the unity of the military establishment," the statement read. Lebanon’s total collapse was brought about in large part due to the fragmentation of the army along sectarian lines in 1976.


Inside Radical Islam

Denmark Evacuates Embassies over Prophet Cartoon Issue

April 28th 2008

Headshot - Joe Griebowski headshot
Joseph Grieboski

The Danish Foreign Ministry announced this week that it has evacuated its staff from embassies in Algeria and Afghanistan because of threats after newspapers reprinted a cartoon depicting the Muslim prophet Mohammed.

Embassy employees in the Algerian capital, Algiers, and the Afghan capital, Kabul, would continue to work out of "secret locations" in those cities, and would be reachable by phone and email, Foreign Ministry spokesman Erik Laursen said.

The threat "is so concrete that we had to take this decision," Laursen said. "The decision is based on intelligence," he added, declining to elaborate. He could not say how long the staff would remain at their new locations.

Foreign Minister Per Stig Moeller suggested Danish embassies in other locations also could be forced to relocate their staff following a warning last month by al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.

"There has been a general threat from al-Qaeda which means that their cells or people who sympathise with them around the world will try to see where they can fulfill al-Qaeda's desires," Moeller said in a TV interview. "Therefore I can certainly not say that they are the last two embassies (to be evacuated)."

Several Danish embassy staff members were also forced to leave their private homes and move to a secret place in the wake of security developments over the past weeks. Read more ..

Inside the Middle East

Backdoor Golan Negotiation Ramps Up Through Turkey

April 28th 2008

 - Ehud Olmert
Israeli PM Ehud Olmert

“Independent” Syrian news agency Shams-Press is reporting that Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has offered to exchange the Golan Heights for peace.

The reports are causing serious reactions in Israel.

According to the Syrian source, the message was passed on through Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the mediator between Israel and Syria.

The report by the Damascus-based website Shams-Press was joined by a report in the Syrian newspaper al-Watan, which claimed that Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan telephoned Syrian President Bashar Assad on Tuesday and informed him of Olmert's willingness to fully withdraw from the Golan Heights in exchange for a peace agreement.

Olmert’s office responded to the news report only by stating that “Assad is familiar with Israel's position regarding peace talks and vice versa." Some analysts see this as a clear but implicit confirmation.

According to the report, which quotes "knowledgeable sources" in Damascus, Erdogan is expected to visit the Syrian capital imminently and take part in a first-of-its-kind economic summit between Syria and Turkey. Read more ..

The Crisis in Sudan

Sudan Finally Begins National Census

April 28th 2008

Headshot - Umar al-Bashir headshot
Sudanese President al-Bashir

The national census in Sudan has finally begun. A key part of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement signed in 2005, the census will help determine the way power and wealth is shared between Sudan's north and the oil-rich south ahead of next year's national vote.

President Omar Hassan al-Bashir was the first person to be counted at midnight. The streets of the capital Khartoum were quiet on a national holiday after police told people to stay at home so they could be tallied.

The census is the first in Sudan since 1993.

The exercise, funded jointly by the Sudanese government and the United Nations, was originally to start in January, but has been repeatedly delayed.

Most recently, the Sudan People's Liberation Movement, former rebels now running the semi-autonomous southern government, delayed last week's start date because of concerns the census would not properly count southerners.

The Sudan People's Liberation Movement is concerned that many of the hundreds of thousands of southerners who were displaced or fled across the border to escape fighting have not been able to return home and will not be counted.

The former rebels say since religion and ethnicity will not be recorded, the many displaced southerners living at the north could be counted as northerners. Read more ..

Inside Latin America

Paraguay Undergoes Electoral Revolution

April 28th 2008

 - Fernando Lugo
Paraguay President Fernando Lugo

The world’s longest-ruling political party lost its six-decade grip on power as a former Roman Catholic bishop won the presidency of Paraguay.

Fernando Lugo---a mild-mannered leftist who left the priesthood and resigned as Bishop of San Pedro three years ago saying he felt powerless to help Paraguay's poor---ousted the ruling Colorado Party in Sunday's election with promises to tackle inequality and stamp out corruption.

Lugo, from the Patriotic Alliance for Change, won 40.7 percent of votes, a lead of 10 percentage points over closest rival Blanca Ovelar, a formal education minister from the ruling Colorado Party, preliminary electoral results showed.

The Colorado Party has governed Paraguay since the 1940s. However, its rule of more than half a century did not produce economic prosperity and social progress for the country.

Recent years, in particular, have seen remarkably slow economic growth, making Paraguay one of the least developed nations in South America. The gap between the rich and the poor has continued to widen, with the latter making up as much 40 percent of Paraguay's population. Moreover, charges of corruption among government officials have heavily damaged the reputation of the Colorado Party for voters. Dissatisfied with the present situation, the people of Paraguay have given a strident call for change by unseating the ruling party. Read more ..

Inside Asia

Nepal’s Historic Election Brings Maoists to Power

April 21st 2008

Maoist Krishna Bahadur Mahara

For 117-year-old Amrita Devi Shah, it was a momentous occasion as she exercised her franchise in the crucial elections that will define Nepal's future political set-up. Shah cast her vote in a polling center in Baijnath village of Achham district in western Nepal. Devi also called others to participate in the voting for the Constituent Assembly election enthusiastically, reported private Nepal FM radio.

But far more a Democratic triumph, results from Nepal's historic vote to elect a constituent assembly tasked with writing a new constitution are shocking everyone – including the winners. Maoists, who have long been involved in a protracted violent struggle with the central government, appear to be heading for an overall electoral victory.

In the 215 seats that have been declared, the Maoists have prevailed in 116. If the Maoists continue this electoral success in the remaining undeclared contests, it is possible they could claim an overall majority in the Constituent Assembly.

Even if they do not win an overall majority of the remaining seats, the strong showing by the Maoists almost certainly guarantees the abolition of the Nepalese Monarchy, ending hundreds of years of Monarchical rule in this Himalayan nation.

Though polling took place relatively peacefully, there were several scattered reports of violence throughout the country in the days leading up to the vote. Read more ..

Inside the Palestinian Conflict

Palestinian Authority Reportedly Reading Honor for Female Suicide Bombers

April 21st 2008

Suicide Bombing

Jerusalem after bombing 

If reports that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas plans to present two female terrorists with a medal of honor are found to be true, it will be a grave development, the consequences of which Israel will need to consider, senior government officials told Israel Radio. However, the unnamed officials said the accuracy of the reports had not yet been confirmed.

The radio station reported earlier in the day that the Al Kuds Mark of Honor, the PLO's highest medal, would be given to two female terrorists who helped kill Israelis.

The two were Ahlam Tamimi, a Hamas affiliate serving a life sentence for driving the suicide bomber who exploded himself in the Sbarro restaurant in Jerusalem, killing at least half a dozen people, and Amra Muna, who seduced Ophir Rahum over the Internet and then lured him to Ramallah where he was murdered. Read more ..

Beijing Olympic Torch Relay

Torch Safely Buoyed Past Idle Threats in Buenos Aires

April 14th 2008

Eduardo Szklarz
Eduardo Szklarz

Nearly 6,000 security personnel and volunteers in Buenos Aires mobilized April 11 to deter disruptive protests during the Olympic torch relay. Pro-Tibet activists had vowed "surprise actions" along the 13-km path through the city, but the only threats to the flame were small water balloons. Even the so-called counter-relay set up by human rights organizations took place without violence as demonstrators protested China's human rights violations, the repression in Tibet, and ties between Beijing and the genocidal government of Sudan.

In contrast to London, Paris, and San Francisco, the event concluded without incident in Argentina's capital – the only Latin American stop in the five-continent journey. The Chairman of the French Olympic Committee, Henri Serandour, publicly expressed distress Saturday over the controversy surrounding the torch relays and incidents by Tibetan separatists and their supporters in Paris. Those disruptions forced the torch to be extinguished several times and included police cancellation of its final stretch there. China state media condemned previous protestor attempts to extinguish the flame as it passed through London, calling the protest actions "vile." When the torch passed through California, Tibetan separatists rolled out banners from buildings and bridge structures including the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco proclaiming "Free Tibet" and other messages of support. Some arrested protesters there now face felony charges. Read more ..

The Conflict Over Kosovo

Russia Livid Over U.S. Decision to Sell Arms to Kosovo

April 14th 2008

Joe Griebowski headshot
Joe Grieboski

According to Russia’s envoy to the United Nations, Vitaly Churkin, the decision of the United States to supply arms to Kosovo contravenes international law and the mechanisms of the United Nations.

On March 19, U.S. President George W. Bush signed a Presidential Determination granting Kosovo eligibility to receive defense articles and defense services under the Foreign Assistance Act and the Arms Export Control Act, which require the President to determine when military assistance "will strengthen the security of the United States and promote world peace."

The United States was among the first countries to recognize Kosovo after its February 17 declaration of independence.

Churkin stated, “We think this is a mistake, which results from disrespect for international law.”  He added that Washington’s decision constituted “a political provocation in a delicate situation.”

President Bush justified his decision to supply arms to the newly-independent state of Kosovo on the basis it would “strengthen the security of the United States and promote world peace.”

However, according to Security Council Resolution 1244, the supplying of weapons to Kosovo – with the exception to peacekeeping forces which make up NATO's Kosovo Force [KFOR] – is explicitly prohibited. Read more ..

The New NATO

Greece and Macedonia Name Dispute Spills Over Into NATO

April 7th 2008

Joe Griebowski headshot
Joseph Griebowski

Leaders of NATO member states arrived in Bucharest, Romania, today for the alliance’s three-day summit. In the lead up to the summit, leaders of 26 member states have agreed to extend invitations to join the organization to Albania and Croatia, but were yet to reach agreement on Macedonia’s application.
Greece says it is almost certain to veto Macedonia’s bid to join NATO, following Macedonian portrayals of the Greek prime minister as a Nazi. Athens is deeply offended by posters that have appeared in Skopje, which have the swastika superimposed on the Greek flag, as well as a magazine cover which depicts Prime Minister Kostas Karamanlis as an SS officer. 

At their last summit in Riga in 2006, NATO leaders sent a “clear signal” to Macedonia, Albania and Croatia that all three could expect a membership invitation in Bucharest if they fulfilled NATO’s strict criteria. Leaders had hoped to invite the Adriatic trio in as a group, but insiders now expect that only Croatia and Albania will receive invitations.
Greece and “Macedonia” are also in dispute over the name “Macedonia” for Greece's northern neighbor. Greece refuses to accept its neighbor’s name, saying Macedonia is the name of Northern Greece and that having Skopje use it is indicative of its implicit territorial claims over the northern Greek province.
According to the Hellenic News of America, Congresswoman Carolyn B. Maloney (D-NY) yesterday delivered a statement on the floor of the House of Representatives expressing her view that the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) must cease using the name “Republic of Macedonia,” adopt a name mutually acceptable to both countries, and end its use of “propaganda” before it can be admitted to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). Rep. Maloney, Co-Chair of the Congressional Caucus on Hellenic Issues, also said that the “negotiation process among representatives from Greece and the FYROM should continue, and I hope that a settlement can be reached soon.”
NATO uses a consensus principle, whereby no decision can be made unless all member states are in agreement. Read more ..

Election Edge

Despite Pastor Revelations, Obama & Clinton still in tight race among Jewish Democrats

March 31st 2008

World Leaders - Clinton-Obama

Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama--JTA graphic

Even as conservatives continue to paint Barack Obama as being surrounded by anti-Israel advisers, a new poll shows the Illinois senator and Hillary Rodham Clinton in a close fight for Jewish support.

A Gallup Poll tracking views according to religious beliefs conducted March 1-22, found Jewish Democrats in a statistical dead heat in their support for their party's presidential nominees.

Clinton, a New York senator, led Obama, 48 percent to 43 percent -- a differential falling within the six percent margin of error for the 368 Jews interviewed.

These results reflect the same dead heat found among voters in general in a separate national Gallup Poll released Monday. At the same time, Obama did better among Jews than among white Protestants and white Catholics. The poll comes after months of aggressive efforts by Obama and his campaign staff to repel ongoing e-mail attacks painting him as unsupportive of Israel, and amid speculation that he was in danger of losing Jewish support. Read more ..

Nazi Legacy Today

Riga -- Modern Latvia Flocks to Nazi Past

March 24th 2008

Micah Halpern headshot
Micah Halpern

Riga is the capital city of Latvia. Located on the Baltic Sea, Latvia, a scenically beautiful country to behold, is one of the former Soviet states. Riga is a city rich in culture in history and even in human and natural resources.

On Sunday, in Riga, three thousand Latvians came out to join a parade. It was a parade to honor those Latvians who belonged to and fought in and defended the honor of a notorious SS Unit known as the Latvian Legion.

Three thousand people came out and joined that parade. Did I make myself clear? Three thousand Latvians flocked to the city of Riga to participate in a pro-Nazi rally.  It happened this Sunday - in the year 2008, in a European capital.

As Americans, we think that most people think the way we do. We think that not to think the way we do is bad, or wrong, thinking. We think that our understanding of right versus wrong is universal. We think that the reason others do not think the way we think is because they have not heard the power of our argument, that they would be convinced if they had As Westerners, we think that our belief system is the correct system, the most evolved system, the most popular system. In actuality, we are deluding ourselves. Our view of the world is insular, it is short sighted and it is narrow-minded.

Look no further than Riga, March 2008.

Inside the Islamic World

Iran Mulls the Death Penalty for Apostates—Perhaps with Worldwide Jurisdiction

March 17th 2008

Joe Griebowski headshot
Joseph Grieboski

Life for so-called apostates in Iran has never been easy, but it could become literally impossible if Iran passes a new draft penal code. For the first time in its history, Iran is considering the death penalty for apostates. In the past, authorities have executed apostates. But punishment by death has never before been set down in law. 

The text of the draft penal code uses the word Hadd, which explicitly sets death as a fixed punishment that cannot be changed, reduced or annulled. The rest of the code is little better. By using ill-defined terms, other provisions also open the door to abuse Iran’s already beleaguered religious and ethnic minorities.

Article 225-1 states “Any Muslim who clearly announces that he/she has left Islam and declares blasphemy is an Apostate.” Article 225-2 adds that “Serious and earnest intention is the condition for certainty in apostasy.” So an accused person could claim that he made his statement reluctantly, or ignorantly, or while drunk, or through the slip of a tongue, and he would not be considered an apostate. Read more ..

The Iranian Threat

Iranian Group Places Murder Bounty on Ehud Barak and Two Others

March 12th 2008

Ehud Barack
Ehud Barak

A radical Iranian student group placed a $400,000 bounty on Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak. The Islamic Student Justice Seekers made the announcement Sunday, according to the Iranian News agency IRNA. It also placed $300,000 bounties each for the killing of two other senior members of the Israeli security establishment, Mossad chief Meir Dagan and the head of military intelligence, Amos Yadlin. The action was taken as revenge for last month's assassination of Hezbollah mastermind Imad Mughniyeh, which the student organization blames on Israel. The organization has asked supporters to donate a kidney to increase the bounties.

"Prizes will be given to those who succeed in killing these three international terrorists in any place in the world," a statement from the students read. The students, reportedly connected to another radical organization called The Martys' Commemoration Headquarters, claims that many civil groups agreed to take plart in a special ceremony to help contribute money needed to fund the assasination of the three Israeli officials.

Iran recently issued a new postage stamp, carrying the image of slain Hezbollah commander Mugniyah who was killed in a Damascus explosion on February 12th. According to the Iranian news agency Fars the stamp will be "a cultural message of support from the Iranian people to the Lebanese nation against the crimes of the Zionist regime."  Read more ..

Threat of Radical Islam

Denmark Waffling on Aid to Sudan After Sudan's Muhammad Cartoon Threat

March 3rd 2008

Umar al-Bashir headshot
Sudan President al-Bashir

Denmark announced Thursday that "in the international talks about a possible debt relief to Sudan, it will be Denmark's point of view that Sudan should not get such a debt relief agreement."

Denmark is opposing debt relief deal for Sudan in response to Sudanese President Umar Hassan Ahmad al-Bashir's urging of the Muslim world to boycott Danish goods in response to the republication by Dabish newspapers of cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad. The original cartoons sparked international riots and anti-Danish fervor in Muslim communitites worldwide.

"It surprises me that Sudan's government apparently is willing to cut the cooperation with a donor like Denmark on development aid because of a caricature in Danish newspapers," stated Danish Interior Minister Ulla Toernaes. Apparently she summoned Sudan's ambassador to Denmark to demand an explanation of Bashir's comments.

The Minister was clear that Denmark has no intention of cutting humanitarian and development aid to Sudan. Sudan is one of the largest recipients of Danish aid, receiving $26 million in aid in 2006. A $100 million humanitarian and reconstruction package is planned through 2009. Sudan is currently under international scrutiny and criticism for the humanitarian crisis in Darfur, a crisis the United States government has called the genocide.

Joseph K. Grieboski is the President of the Institute on Religion and Public Policy.

The Kosovo Conflict

Standing Ground on Kosovo

March 3rd 2008

Vuk Jeremic headshot
Vuk Jeremic

Serbian Foreign Minister Vuk Jeremic stated loud and clear to a conference of Balkan Foreign Ministers meeting in Sofia, Bulgaria, that "for as long as Serbia is, Kosovo shall never be. Kosovo will not be a member of the United Nations. It will not be a member of the OSCE. And as such, it will not belong to the world community of sovereign nations. It will never acquire this ultimate status of legitimacy," he said.


Jeremic said later that Belgrade would ask the International Court of Justice to ascertain "whether or not this (declaration of independence) was done in compliance with international law." According to AFP, "The minister urged the international community not to recognise Kosovo until the ICJ had made its ruling...Mr Jeremic warned that Kosovo's "illegal attempt" to secede from Serbia would create instability throughout the region and encourage separatist movements around the world."

On Thursday, the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee held a Potemkin hearing on the Kosovo situation. The only witnesses were the Administration representative in the person of Daniel Fried,
Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs, who famously stated on C-SPAN that "The Serbs effectively lost the right to rule Kosovo after what they did," essentially ignoring international law; and Janusz Bugajski, Director of the New European Democracies Project and Senior Fellow, Europe Program Center for Strategic and International Studies, who essentially supports Kosovar independence.

The committee did not invite anyone opposed to independence or who considered independence illegal or dangerous -- such as former Secretary of State Lawrence Eagleberger or former UN Ambassador John Bolton -- to testify.


Joseph K. Grieboski is the President of the Institute on Religion and Public Policy.  

Threat from Iran

Iran’s Ahmadinejad Calls Israel a “savage animal,” a "dirty microbe"

February 21st 2008

Ahmadinejad headshot
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad

A “savage animal," a "dirty microbe." These are the words used by Iranian President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to describe Israel. Once again Ahmadinejad’s rhetoric has succeeded in courting the controversy that has come to define his presidency.

"World powers have created a black and dirty microbe named the Zionist regime and have unleashed it like a savage animal on the nations of the region," he told a rally in the southern city of Bandar Abbas broadcast on state television.

International outrage continues to mount as Ahmadinejad repeatedly predicts that Israel is doomed to disappear. His is a history of inflammatory remarks and he routinely plays down the scale of the Holocaust.

He is not alone in making such statements. The commander of Iran's Revolutionary Guards, Mohammad Ali Jafari, on Monday predicted Lebanese Shiite militant group Hezbollah would destroy Israel in the near future.

Seizing every opportunity to question the state of Israel, President Ahmadinejad has accused world powers of arming Israel with billions of dollars of weapons. The reason, Ahmadinejad states, is to create a "scarecrow" to frighten and dominate other nations in the region. Read more ..

Chad's Future Taliban enters capital while the West is asleep

February 4th 2008

Africa Topics - Chad Rebel
Chad Rebel

As Americans are debating who among their candidates for the primaries can best confront the Jihadists or at least preempt their offensives worldwide, future Jihadi forces have in one day invaded an African country (under European protection), a key location for the Darfur forthcoming Peace missions. In less than 12 hours the so-called armed opposition of Chad, crossed the entire country from its Eastern frontiers with Islamist-ruled Sudan to the capital N'Djamena across from Northern Nigeria. The latest reports mention fierce battles around the Presidential Palace and back and forth inside the city. But at this stage the geo-political consequences are crucial for the next stages locally, regionally and internationally.

The bottom line is that in one day, what could become the future Taliban of Chad have scored a strategic victory not only against the Government of the country (which was supposed to back up the UN plans to save Darfur in Sudan) but also against the efforts by the African Union and European Union to contain the Sudanese regime and stop the Genocide. Today's offensive, regardless of the next developments, has already changed the geopolitics of Africa. Outmaneuvering the West and Africans, those regimes and forces standing behind the "opposition" have shown that they are restless in their campaign against human rights and self determination on the continent. But even more importantly the events of today shows how unprepared are Europeans and Americans in front of Jihadi regimes which seem weak on the surface but highly able to surprise and crumble Western efforts of containment. Read more ..

Getting Off Oil

New Dehli Considers Banning non-CNG Heavy Vehicles

January 28th 2008


CNG could become a mandatory alt fuel in the New Dehli region in the coming years if officials follow through with a new policy now under coinsideration. Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit recently stated: “While CNG has benefited Delhi immensely, the effect of CNG gets mitigated when vehicles from other states not using CNG enter the city.” This in mind, the Delhi government will ask its National Capital Region Planning Board to implement mandatory CNG usage in the region. “If vehicles in other states don’t start converting their commercial and public transport vehicles to CNG, then we will have no option but to prevent them from entering the state and this will affect inter-state trade. Therefore this is not a road we want to go down,” said the chief minister. In that vein, the Delhi Cabinet decided on Monday to prohibit light duty vehicles--up to 6,600 lbs--froms enter its city from other Indian states unless they are operating on CNG. The new rule saeemed to be designed to reinforce an existing policy. “While this is a policy that already exists, these vehicles [non-CNG] have been entering the city. Now the government will strictly implement the rule and ensure that such vehicles are not allowed to ply here,” said a government official.

Bad Arolsen Conflict

USHMM Launches Promising if Daunting Individualized Bad Arolsen Search Program

January 17th 2008

Archive  International Tracing in Bad Arolsen
ITS files at Bad Arolsen

The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum today launched an ambitious and daunting new program of “individualized research” to help Holocaust survivors obtain precious documentation about their Nazi enslavement.

This new program “begins right now,” said Arthur Berger, USHMM Director of External Communications, in a Museum corridor just moments after a closed-door briefing with survivors, details of which were provided first to The Cutting Edge News.

The “individualized research” will probe a triad of major archival collections. These include some 46 million documents derived from several countries in the existing USHMM collections, the first central names index and related documentation just transferred from the International Tracing Service at Bad Arolsen, and finally, the bulk of 35 million Bad Arolsen files scheduled to be transferred between 2010 and 2011.

The important feature of individualized “give and take” with survivors will be a hallmark of the new program. About two dozen polyglot researchers have already been trained by the USHMM to undertake the sensitive searches. Each search is roughly guesstimated to take six to eight weeks, and will include providing the survivor with gratis physical copies of the discovered documents. Read more ..

Bad Arolsen Archive Conflict

Some Survivor Groups Talk of Confronting Shapiro at USHMM Closed Door Briefing

January 16th 2008

World Citizens - Paul Shapiro headshot
Paul Shapiro

Several angry, independent Holocaust survivor groups are planning to confront United States Holocaust Memorial Museum point man Paul Shapiro tomorrow January 17, 2008 to demand answers to long festering questions over controversial plans by the USHMM to sequester the Bad Arolsen databases to Museum property. The occasion will be a joint Red Cross-USHMM briefing for Holocaust survivors on the question.


Thousands of frail, aging survivors eager to access their files, live far from Washington in New York, South Florida, Southern California and elsewhere in the United States. For them, travel is difficult and expensive. Since many of the complex data searches of Bad Arolsen files will require the physical presence of the survivor, this will in essence place the precious records of their own enslavement beyond their geographic reach. Survivors say they prefer to have local specialists and helpers from Jewish federations, Jewish Community Centers, Holocaust centers and academic institutions help them remotely access the files.


Some survivor groups say they no longer believe the USHMM’s explanations. One member who plans to travel to Washington called the event “another dog and pony show” on the subject. Another, fearing the type of subtle communal reprisals Museum stalwarts have been able to arrange for their critics, asserted on condition of anonymity, “I am ready to say goodbye to all these people. Intimidation is nothing new to the Museum.” Read more ..

Inside the Media

Ms Magazine Rejects Ad About Israeli Women

January 11th 2008

AJC Ad for MS
AJ Congress Ad Rejected by Ms.

Ms. magazine rejected a pro-Israel advertisement from the American Jewish Congress.

The ad highlights successful women in Israel. It shows photographs of three prominent Israelis -- Knesset Speaker Dalia Itzik, Foreign Affairs Minister Tzipi Livni and the president of the Supreme Court, Dorit Beinish -- above the words “This is Israel.”

Harriet Kurlander, the director of the AJCongress Commission for Women’s Empowerment, said in a news release that she was told when she tried to place the ad that it “would set off a firestorm” and that “there are very strong opinions” on the subject, which she believed to mean Israel.

“What other conclusion can we reach except that the publishers -- and if the publishers are right, a significant number of Ms. magazine readers -- are so hostile to Israel that they do not even want to see an ad that says something positive about Israel?” AJCongress President Richard Gordon asked.

Ms. magazine's executive editor, Kathy Spillar, disputes that version, telling JTA the ad showed political support for one of Israel's parties and thus violated magazine standards.

"We only take mission-driven ads," Spillar said. "Because two of the women in this ad were from the same political party," that showed favoritism, and the magazine's policy is not to get involved in the domestic politics of another country.

Gordon noted that the magazine in its Fall 2003 issue ran a cover story on Jordan’s Queen Noor, and the Winter 2004 issue contained an article on the Ramallah Film Festival called “Images of Palestine.”

Spillar responded that "ironically" this month's issue, just coming to newsstands now, has a two-page spread profiling Livni.

From the JTA, www.jta.org. Also see Letters

Inside the Media

Landau's Rape Israel Comment Stirs Controversy

December 27th 2007

Gary Rosenblatt
Gary Rosenblatt

Israelis are known for being direct and blunt. But comments made by David Landau, editor of the Israeli daily, Haaretz, to Condoleezza Rice about Israel needing to be “raped” by the U.S. to achieve a Mideast settlement caused quite a stir among the 20 or so attendees at a confidential briefing with the secretary of state on a recent visit to Israel.

The incident, which took place Sept. 10 at the private residence of America’s ambassador to Israel, Richard Jones, has not been fully reported until now. What is contested is not the raw language Landau used but the context of his impassioned comments.

Following Rice’s briefing to the gathered military, academic and media elites at the dinner, the guests offered their views and comments about the Mideast impasse. Landau, who was seated next to Rice, was said to have referred to Israel as a “failed state” politically, one in need of a U.S.-imposed settlement. He was said to have implored Rice to intervene, asserting that the Israeli government wanted “to be raped” and that it would be like a “wet dream” for him to see this happen.

When contacted this week, Landau said the description was “inaccurate” and “a perversion of what I said.” He said his views had been delivered with “much more sophistication.” Read more ..

Inside the Beltway

After U.N., Bolton rejoins JINSA

December 21st 2007

John Bolton at UN
John Bolton

The Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs has announced the return of Ambassador John Bolton to the organization's Board of Advisors. Mr. Bolton served on the Board for many years and had taken leave from 2001 to the end of 2006 when he served as America's Permanent Representative to the United Nations and as Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security. JINSA executive dirtector Tom Neumann, in maing the announcement stated, "We appreciate John personally and we appreciate the strength and soundness of his ideas. He represents the very best of national security thinking in the country. David Steinmann, Chairman of JINSA's Board of Advisors added, "This is a
crucial year for American security policy - not because of the presidential election, but precisely because the threats we face will not change when our president changes. John Bolton brings extraordinary clarity of thought and a rare understanding of the workings of government to the table. It might have been better for the country to have had him remain in government service, but we will work to ensure that his voice is heard regardless of where he sits"

USHMM and the Bad Arolsen Conflict

USHMM plans for Bad Arolsen Archives to “create intolerable bottlenecks and sufferings” says Holocaust Survivor Group

December 14th 2007

Archive  International Tracing in Bad Arolsen
Bad Arolsen Archives

A leading Holocaust survivors group has publicly called for the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum to radically alter its plans to sequester the long-secret Holocaust records of the International Tracing Service now held at Bad Arolsen, saying the Museum’s controversial plans will “create intolerable bottlenecks and sufferings” for survivors desperate to discover the fate of loved ones and the facts of their own enslavement. The Museum’s plan is to block off-site physical or electronic dissemination of the records to other institutions closer to the populations of elderly survivors in New York, Florida and California, requiring survivors needing more complex research to travel to Washington.


In the latest issue of the newsletter of the National Association of Jewish Child Holocaust Survivors (NAHOS), and in a letter to the Cutting Edge (see LETTERS section), the group’s president responded to recent Cutting Edge coverage of the Museum’s policy. This included exclusive revelations detailing Museum point man on Bad Arolsen Paul Shapiro’s intense efforts to exclude media from Red Cross presentations during the week of August 23, 2007. Red Cross officials traveled to Washington to explain their plan for the records transfer to the US. The Red Cross has earnestly sought complete transparency and openness about its record keeping process. Read more ..

Getting off Oil

Joint American-Israel Effort to Get off Oil

December 13th 2007

Empty on Oil

One little known but crucial provision in the comprehensive energy legislation that just passed the Senate last week is the U.S.-Israel Energy Cooperation Act (USIECA). The bill is headed for passage in the House this week and the President’s signature thereafter.

USEICA allocates U.S. funding for Israeli research into new technologies to decrease American dependence on foreign oil. The law will establish a multi-year program of grants for joint projects at the basic research level between U.S. and Israeli academic institutions, and at the applied research and development level between U.S. and Israeli companies. Administered by the Secretary of Energy, the program who will be driven by a joint American and Israel board of advisors.

USIECA was the brainchild of Jack Halpern, Chairman of the American Jewish Congress’s Energy Independence Task Force. For his part, Halpern expressed “Extraordinary pride in the passage of this important measure because of the many years we put into the effort for its enactment, beginning with our conceptualization of the measure in 2003, through lobbying for the measure for four years.” Read more ..

Iran's Nukes

Israel's New Iran Strategy

December 12th 2007

Iran - Ahmadinejad at Iranian nuclear plant
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad at Nuclear Facility

After the shock of last week’s U.S. intelligence estimate that found that Iran halted its nuclear weapons program in 2003, Israel is reshaping its Iran strategy.

Israel essentially is arguing that the U.S. assessment is dangerously misleading and that Tehran is as determined as ever to acquire nuclear weapons. The Israeli dilemma is how to prove Iran is cheating without being accused of trying to push the United States into war. That is why the official strategy is to work quietly behind the scenes. Israel's top intelligence agencies all believe Iran is still at full throttle to produce a nuclear bomb and will be capable of doing so by 2009 or 2010.

The new Israeli strategy is based on four main elements:

  • actively pushing for stiffer international sanctions on Iran, despite the U.S. report;
  •  working quietly behind the scenes to convince others through Israel’s own intelligence material that Iran is intent on producing nuclear weapons;
  •  refraining from arguing with the U.S. assessment in public, lest Israel be seen to be trying to push the United States into military action against Iran;
  •  and Israel keeping open its own military options.The emerging policy is the result of close consultations among Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni.

In a Cabinet meeting Sunday, Olmert stressed that Israel would work to "expose Iran's clandestine operations."

Barak earlier had advised the prime minister not to get into a public spat with the United States over its assessment of Iran's nuclear program but rather promoted the behind-the-scenes effort. Read more ..

Iran's Nukes

Sarkozy Thinks Israeli Attack More Likely

December 11th 2007

Nicolas Sarkozy headshot2
Nicholas Sarkozy

Israel is more likely to launch a pre-emptive strike against Iran's nuclear facilities than the United States, said.

French president Nicolas Sarkozy believes the world has come a step closer to an Israeli pre-emptive attack of Iran's nuclear facilities. In an interview in the French magazine Le Nouvel Observateur, Sarkozy admitted, "The danger of a war exists," he said. "The problem for us is not so much the risk that the Americans launch a military intervention but that the Israelis consider that their security is truly threatened." He continued, "Everyone agrees that what the Iranians are doing has no civilian explanation." The French president added that his nation was willing to help Tehran proceed on a purely peaceful nuclear energy program. Sarkozy has beem a leading exponent of curbing Iranian nuclear technologies and recently welcomed both Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu to Paris for strategic talks on Iran as well as other Middle East issues.

Getting Off Oil

Honda’s Decisive Clarity Steals LA Auto Show

November 14th 2007

Honda Clarity Fueling
Honda's new Clarity

American Honda Motor Company stole the Los Angeles Auto Show with decisive clarity today. Shortly after show doors opened, the company announced the summer 2008 initial rollout of its sleek, new and tantalizing four-passenger zero-emissions hydrogen fuel-cell vehicle. The long-awaited, market-ready hydrogen car, called “Clarity,” will use zero oil and feature zero emissions.

No longer experimental, the Honda FCX Clarity is powered by a breakthrough, “V Flow” fuel cell stack that delivers vastly increased power and range over previous FCX hydrogen models. The FCX Clarity utilizes its V Flow stack in combination with a new compact and efficient lithium ion battery pack and a single hydrogen storage tank to power the vehicle's electric drive motor. Hydrogen combines with atmospheric oxygen in the fuel cell stack, where chemical energy from the reaction is converted into electric power to propel the vehicle. Additional energy captured through regenerative braking and deceleration is stored in the lithium ion battery pack. It is used to supplement power from the fuel cell when needed. The vehicle's only emission is water. Indeed, the company invites drivers to drink the exhaust, and has even distributed novelty drinking glasses to drive home the point. Read more ..

Online Banking

BBT Apologizes for Broken Online Banking Site

September 12th 2007

BBT Online Service Unavailable
BBT'S broken website notice

BBT is still struggling to bring its online service back to full functionality and cope with outraged consumer backlash. Shortly after the bank "improved" its online software on August 3, 2007 to make it “safer, faster, and more convenient for you,” the website slowed to a crawl, lost and duplicated transactions, clobbered integrated customer financial management software such as Quicken, and in many cases became completely inaccessible. The problems were first reported exclusively by The Cutting Edge. Online function problems heightened during late August and by Labor Day the BBT site became completely inaccessible for many customers during most business hours. In early September, patches and fixes were installed, but problems have persisted so the company has been forced to post a prominent apology on its logon page.

“Recently, you may have experienced slow response times while accessing BB&T OnLine banking.” The statement reads, adding, “Over the past several days, you may also have been unable to log on to BB&T OnLine at different times. We understand this may have made it difficult for you to access your accounts and schedule your bill payments. We sincerely apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused you. Please know that our technicians are working diligently to expedite a solution. Our goal at BB&T OnLine is to provide you with the Perfect Client Experience for every online interaction. We know we have fallen short of this promise and want to assure you that we are doing everything we can to correct this problem. Thank you for your patience as we work to resolve our performance issues and restore your confidence in BB&T OnLine.”


Bad Arolsen Inside Story

USHMM's Shapiro At Odds with Red Cross Bid for Bad Arolsen Openness

August 29th 2007

Central Name File
Bad Arolsen files

During the week of August 20, Red Cross officials transferred to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum some 13.5 million embargoed files from its massive Nazi-era archive at Bad Arolsen known as the International Tracing Service. The hard drives were hand-delivered by ITS director Reto Meister. For the Red Cross, it was a significant moment that it had labored hard to achieve.

The highlight of the initial ITS handover was a special Museum briefing held August 23 for several dozen Holocaust survivors, Second Generation members, and Jewish organizational leaders. The meeting was a chance to connect with the Holocaust community face to face. Survivors flew in from around the nation to attend. By all accounts the exchange was successful and a tribute to the efforts undertaken by both the Museum and the Red Cross to accelerate the controversial transfer.

During the presentation, ITS director Reto Meister deftly explained the technical complexities in transferring the huge collection and what could be expected in the future, according to several in the audience. Meister’s presentation and response to questions, in spite of a few pesky challenges, was honest and convincing as he promised continued dedication to the process, according to multiple reports from audience members.

Ironically, the special Museum briefing was nowhere covered in the media, not even the Jewish media which normally covers such events. Why? Read more ..

Cutting Edge Exclusive

Bad Arolsen Internet Records Offer Twice Spurned--French and Red Cross Suggested It

August 21st 2007

BA Camp Documentation

 Although officials of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum have steadfastly insisted that the secret records at the International Tracing Service located at Bad Arolsen are technically not ready for the Internet, both Red Cross and senior Bad Arolsen officials deny this. Indeed, Red Cross and senior Bad Arolsen officials confirm that most of their 42 million records could be made Internet ready within three-to-four months. Moreover, the Red Cross reveals, the idea of Internet access directly from Bad Arolsen computers bypassing a complicated and costly 11-nation export and transfer was twice suggested earlier this year: once by French delegates to the Commission and again by Bad Arolsen technology officers. Both offers were refused.

The Bad Arolsen computerized search mechanisms have been misportrayed by some news reports. But in a series of conference calls with this reporter followed by a requested official written statement of technical specifications, Bad Arolsen chief technology officer Michael Hoffman and archivist Udo Yost, explained for the first time exactly how their system works. The ITS system, ten years in development, uses three interactive sets of prisoner informational data including TIFF and JPEG images of Nazi-era prisoner cards. Hoffman confirmed that given the correct name, birth date and birth city, “with a little luck, we get a hit on the full data set. If the system cannot get the correct information about a named individual on the first try, it defaults to the next probable hit using the sequence numbers, going through the candidate names. For example, for a person named “Rosenbaum,” the system first gives all the “Rosenbaums,” and then automatically gives you the next Rosenbaum, and the next Rosenbaum, until you find the correct Rosenbaum.” Read more ..

Tech and Israel

Oracle Billionaire Pledges $500,000 to Embattled Israeli Town

August 17th 2007

Science - Larry Ellison
Larry Ellison

Avi Sulimany didn’t know he was talking to Larry Ellison. He didn’t even know who Larry Ellison was.

But after a cursory, two-minute conversation about rockets targeting the southern Israeli town of Sderot, Ellison promised Sulimany $500,000 to reinforce the Community Center of Sderot against those attacks. The two shook hands and parted company. Sulimany is the director of the center of Sderot, which has suffered daily rocket attacks fired from Gaza for seven years. Ellison, of course, is the well-known head of Redwood Shores-based Oracle Corp., and one of the world’s 15 richest men. He was born to a teenage Jewish mother and grew up on the South Side of Chicago with relatives.

After viewing shrapnel left from Kassam rockets, Ellison — on a Sderot visit arranged by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and flanked by dignitaries including Israel Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and Rep. Tom Lantos (D-San Mateo) — walked into a community center on Thursday, Aug. 9. Sulimany mistook Ellison for “the head of the U.S. Congress’ foreign affairs committee” — that would be Lantos, actually — and introduced himself. He told Ellison how a number of popular Israeli bands hail from Sderot, including Teapacks, the Israeli representative at the Eurovision song contest (and past performers at Israel in the Gardens).

He then pressed a CD into Ellison’s hand. It was a compilation of Sderot teenagers who were singing their own compositions about the recent war and rocket attacks. Almost as an afterthought, Sulimany added, “But these kids have a problem.” Read more ..

Sephardic News

Herzl's Sephardic Connection Revealed

August 14th 2007

World Citizens - Shelomo Alfassa headshot
Shelomo Alfassa

Over the many centuries, while the Jewish people were exiled from Eres Yisrael (the land of Israel), Jerusalem, Safed, Hevron and other holy cities, retained a sparse Jewish population, fed by a small but constant stream of pilgrims. A cursory examination of Jewish personalities demonstrates that Sephardim took it upon themselves to migrate to and fortify Eres Yisrael, driven by a sense of historic yearning for their ancestral home. Centuries later, Sephardim continued to not only settle in the land, but were key players in its modern development, although this fact has, regrettably, been often eclipsed in the historical narrative.

Few documents and small bits of history exist on Jewish national liberation and the development of Eres Yisrael, and how the country came to be with assistance and nurturing offered by Sephardic Jews. It is with tremendous ignominy that the Sephardim have been almost completely marginalized in the modern Zionist record of history. Whether they came from Spain, North Africa or the Middle East, what is fact and needs to be remembered is that Sephardim played a considerable role in the State’s origins and modern fruition. Through out their centuries in the Diaspora, Sephardim developed and devoted a sense of philosophical and spiritual nationalism that prepared the foundation for which modem Zionism stood on, and the resulting fruit which is the return of the Jewish people to their land. Read more ..

Ethnic Clashing

Congressional face off on Armenian Genocide Means Taking Sides with Horror

August 12th 2007

World Scenes - Armenian Genocide1 Bodies
Armenian genocide victims

Los Angeles–The Armenian Genocide debate pits moral values against realpolitik. For Jews, who know the horrors of genocide only too well it may be time to take sides?

The Turkish ambassador to the United States, Nabi Sensoy, dropped in at The Jewish Journal recently for an hourlong conversation with its editors. Archbishop Hovnan Derderian of the Armenian Church of North America recently stood on the bimah of Valley Beth Shalom, hugged its rabbi and called the occasion a turning point in Armenian-Jewish relations.

All the attention is flattering, but its underlying cause confronts the Jewish community with choices that — perhaps oversimplified — pits its moral values and sympathies against the realpolitik of American and Israeli policymakers.

At the root of the split is a wound that has been festering since 1915, when Muslim Turkey and its Ottoman Empire were fighting Russia, France and Britain during World War I. Charging that the Christian Armenian minority in eastern Turkey was collaborating with the invading Russians, Turkey deported, starved and brutalized much of its Armenian population.

According to the Armenians, backed by predominant historical analysis, between 1915 and 1923, Turkey killed 1.5 million Armenian civilians in a planned genocide. Turkey maintains that some 300,000 Armenians died, but that an equal number of Turks perished, and that both sides were victims of chaotic wartime conditions, disease and famine, not a predetermined extermination.

Turks refer to the wartime slaughter by the Arabic word mukapele, which Sensoy translated during a phone interview as “mutual massacre.” Read more ..

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