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Great Gatherings

Nearly 7,000 Gather at AIPAC Policy Conference to Confront Iran and Gasoline Suppliers with Crushing Sanctions

April 30th 2009

Obama Admin Topics - Obama AIPAC 2008
Barack Obama at AIPAC 2008

As many as 7,000 supporters of Israel will assemble at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee Annual Policy Conference in Washington May 3-5 to work with their representatives in Congress to enact tough new sanctions against Iran and its gasoline suppliers.

The sanctions are another attempt to avert a military confrontation between Jerusalem and Tehran over the latter’s nuclear ambitions. Iran has consistently threatened to “wipe Israel off the map” and to block the strategic oil passage at the Strait of Hormuz which would immobilize the American economy within weeks.

The AIPAC conference is considered one of Washington’s most significant political and constituent gatherings, attended by thousands of Israel advocates from across the nation and scores of Senators, House Representatives and key administrative officials and diplomats in a massive show of solidarity with Israel. Last year’s historic event, which will undoubtedly overshadow the conference for years to come, saw John McCain, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama all appearing prominently during the apex of the superheated political campaign. Indeed, Clinton and Obama passed each other backstage. This year, the focus is not elections but thwarting Iran’s nuclear program. Read more ..

GM's Toxic Legacy

General Motors Leaves a Toxic Time Bomb for America--and the World

April 27th 2009

Energy / Environment - Toxic Waste Site
Toxic Waste Site in Michigan

GM's assets are toxic. But that toxicity is not limited to financial health. The poisonous legacy of General Motors will be carried by its workers in their bodies for the rest of their lives.

Working in factories like those in America’s auto industry is unlike working for a bank, a grocery store, an office, utility company or most other none toxic industries. The potential for close and continuous exposure in these auto factories to dangerous toxic elements is far greater than these other jobs. That is why United Auto Workers leaders over the last fifty years negotiated good healthcare benefits for workers and retirees. Read more ..

Significant Lives

A Spiritual Loss Stuns a Catholic Community

April 20th 2009

Christian Topics - Rev. G. William Finch
Rev. G. William Finch

The mood was forlorn. The crowd was overflow. The streets were parked up for blocks around. The moment was a sad one as the 11,000 member St. Raphael’s Catholic Church in Rockville, MD both mourned the sudden death and celebrated the life of Pastor Rev. G. William Finch. Some 1,300 mourners assembled at St. Raphael’s. Some 85 priests, vested in white, representing several dioceses, filled several rows of pews. Together, they concelebrated the Eucharist, simultaneously intoning the prayers of consecration.

Rev. Finch’s sudden passing just before Good Friday stunned the local Catholic community and many others throughout the Washington suburbs. So far-reaching was Pastor Finch’s spiritual connection to the community, that Archbishop Donald Wuerl of the Washington D.C. Diocese interrupted his Holy Week activities to officiate as celebrant of the priest’s funeral mass. Known as a mega-church, the 11,000-member St. Raphael’s celebrates seven Masses every Sunday. Pastor Finch was their rock.

The beloved priest died suddenly on April 9 just after celebrating Maundy Thursday Mass, also known as Holy Thursday. Father Bill, as he was popularly known since 2002, had just finished Mass when he began complaining of shortness of breath. He had marked his own 55th birthday only a day before collapsing. Read more ..

The Obama Edge

Proposed Decrease in Tax Deduction for Charitable Giving Hurts Civil Society

April 13th 2009

Economy - Money Jar

Many nonprofit organizations are under severe financial pressure. They need donations more than ever, and the hurting people they serve have a stake in the unrestrained flow of those donations.

However, President Barack Obama's proposed budget for fiscal year (FY) 2010 moves in the opposite direction. It would raise taxes on those who can give the most and reduce their income tax deduction for charitable giving. This not only weakens one of the incentives to give, but also shifts perceived responsibility for social welfare from individual donors toward the state.

The Administration's Proposal

In February, the Obama Administration released its proposed federal budget for FY 2010. Included in the document are proposals to raise tax rates on high-income earners and to reduce their tax deduction rate on gifts to charities. These strategies are intended to raise funds for President Obama's health care plan. Read more ..

Edge of the Economic Crisis

Is Healthcare Under Obama "Too Big to Fail"

April 6th 2009

Social Topics - Medical bag
Armstrong Williams

The Washington press corps was busy last week stocking up on Red Bulls and Diet Cokes in anticipation of a late night following President Obama’s second prime time news conference in his short tenure.  White House aides said privately they wanted to convey the image of a “calm, relaxed, and confident” commander-in-chief, whose baptism by fire with the financial crisis has only steeled his resolve and reaffirmed that his is the correct path.

Let’s suspend disbelief for the time being and assume last week’s 500 point market rally was a sign of better times for our embattled economy.  What happens next with respect to Obama’s agenda?  He has certainly bitten off more than he can chew, even if his Cabinet and aides feel they’re primed for bolder agenda items.  One issue that will suck all of the political oxygen out of the room in the coming weeks and months is the president’s health care plan.

When he submitted his budget at the beginning of the month, Hill veterans were forced to ask where the health care specifics were located in such a large tome.  No one could find any details.  The proposal even listed an exact amount of $634 billion to be placed into a reserve fund. Again, with such a precise dollar amount, one would assume this amount was reached by having a clear plan of where and how the money would be spent.  Apparently, details only complicate the otherwise smooth and rapid approval of boundless sacks of taxpayer money heaped on our national woes. Read more ..

Edge of Black America

African-Americans Still Worse off Than Whites

March 30th 2009

Presidential - Barack Obama

The National Urban League says, despite the hope generated by the election of the first black U.S. president, African-Americans are faring worse in an economy in which the gap between the "American dream" and reality is widening. The Urban League says it will be pushing to ensure blacks benefit from the jobs and money Congress and President Obama made available in the economic stimulus plan.

On "H" Street in Washington, D.C., about 13 blocks from the U.S. Capitol, there is a steady stream of people at the unemployment office. One of them is electrician Stanley Currie, who is in a training program for government jobs.

"It's possible that you will get hired. But the probability of you getting hired - the odds are not with you," he says.

And that is the story in places that are predominantly African-American, in city after city. Unemployment, running nationally at 8.1 percent, is in double digits among blacks.

"Might be higher than that. I am a believer that it's higher than that, because I've been living here all my life and I see it," says Donald Long, who is unemployed.

And unemployment is just one factor leading the National Urban League to conclude there is still an "intolerable divide" between blacks and whites. Read more ..

America's Economic Collapse

Cheap Motels the New Address for Many Who Have Lost Their Homes

March 23rd 2009

Social Topics - Homeless in Cheap Motels

The National Center on Family Homelessness now estimatesthat 1.5 million U.S. children were homeless at one time or another between 2005 and 2006. The center also says America's homelessness problem is likely to worsen this year because of foreclosures and job losses due to the ongoing recession. 

Some middle class families have lost their homes, and because they cannot afford high rent, now are moving into low-cost motels.

Johnny and Tammy Garza and their four children are calling a low-cost motel room their home. "It's actually hard to have this many people in a small room like this," Johnny said.

The Garzas are joining a new class of Americans who are victims of the nation's financial crisis. They now live in cheap motel rooms.

"We have two burners over there and we have a little toaster oven to cook with and we have all the pots and pans," Tammy said. Read more ..

Inside Israel

Israeli Women Dying to be Thin

March 16th 2009

Social Topics - Anorexia

Through the millennia, humans have struggled to find or produce enough food to survive. Today, some people struggle not to eat… so they can die.

Just as lung cancer was almost nonexistent over a century ago, before tobacco smoking became popular, exposure to the media that made thinness fashionable has produced anorexia and other eating disorders that are fatal 20 percent of the time (more than any other psychiatric disorder).

Anorexia nervosa ("nervous loss of appetite") was first identified and described in 1870 but became common mostly in teenage girls and young women about four decades ago. More recently, a minority of teenage boys have joined in. The medical term is misleading, as sufferers do not lack appetite - they just ignore it and try to starve themselves because their perverted body image makes them fear gaining weight. Read more ..

America's Economic Collapse

The End of Retailing As We Knew It

March 9th 2009

Economy - Out of Business

Over the last 30 years Americans have learned to love soft living and fallen for the lie of prosperity at any price. In the last 10 years a significant number of delusional citizens have tested the get rich quick theory of life, twice. First, the internet bubble lured millions to believe that Pets.com was going to change the world and day trading was a road to riches. Once this bubble collapsed and wiped out millions of investors, we moved onto the next bubble.

Millions of Americans bought into the “fact” that home prices only go up. The National Association of Realtors dealt the propaganda that now was the best time to buy. Alan Greenspan provided the fuel with 1 percent interest rates and recommending ARMs for everyone.

Banks and mortgage brokers provided the mortgage products that would allow someone with annual income of $25,000 to “buy” a $400,000 home. The get rich quick portion of our population (10 percent to 20 percent) began to buy multiple houses and flipping them before the ink was dry on the closing papers. Home prices doubled in many places in the space of a few years. This lured a vast amount of the population to borrow against the ever increasing value of their homes. Everyone knew that home prices never fall. Read more ..

Inside India

World's Largest Democracy is a Closed Political Machine Incapable of a War on Terror

March 3rd 2009

India Topics - Indians protest against bars
Indians Protest Against Bars

Believing as he does that it is not ethnicity but values that define a civilization, this analyst was among the many who welcomed the November 4, 2008 election of Barack Hussein Obama as the 44th President of the United States. Indeed, this bias towards President Obama has been present since November 2007, when he became an internationally visible contender for the office.

The victory may motivate millions within the United States to shed the Victim Mindset and take advantage of the opportunities the United States has to offer as successfully as Indian-Americans (now the most prosperous segment within the population) have. This is conditional, however, on President Obama successfully ensuring the safety and prosperity of the United States, and this is itself partly conditional on continuing to keep his homeland safe from another mass casualty terror attack. Read more ..

Great Gatherings

Energy Independence Day in Washington Hopes to Ignite an Energy Revolution

February 23rd 2009

Energy / Environment - Oil Barrels

Hundreds of advocates urging America to get off of foreign oil will gather in Washington on March 3, 2008 to demand real action. Supporters will rally first at 11AM at the Capitol to hear speakers including Pulitzer-nominated author Edwin Black, author of The Plan, and then fan out on Capitol Hill for meetings with their Members of Congress.

Calling the event “The Shot Heard Round the World,” the event is being organized by Energy Alternatives for the 21st Century (EA-21) and the Transportation Energy Partnership (umbrella group for federal Clean Cities programs throughout the country) in association with a wide array of other green organizations. There is no cost to participate. Read more ..

Inside Society

Post-Abortion Women Describe Personal Struggles Over Their Choices

February 16th 2009

Social Topics - Post Aboriton Women

Thirty-six years after the U.S. Supreme Court upheld Roe v. Wade, effectively legalizing abortion in America, a spirited debate continues between anti-abortion activists and those who insist on a woman's right to choose to terminate her pregnancy.

But what do women who have actually undergone an abortion say about their ordeal and the impact their choice has had on their personal lives?           

While Americans debate the morality of abortion, the procedure has been legal and widely used since the Roe v. Wade decision in 1973. According to an estimate by the Centers for Disease Control, there were more than 45 million abortions in America between 1973 and 2005.

Some personal stories follow.


Today, Susanne - who, like the other women in this report, asked that her last name not be used - is the mother of a thriving 10-year-old girl. But in 1991, she was a pregnant college girl with an unreliable boyfriend. She quickly chose to have abortion rather than bring the baby to term, yet she still muses about what or "who" might have been. Read more ..

Inside Eastern Europe

Ukraine is Split by Language and History

February 9th 2009

Russian Topics - Tymoshenko and Putin

Prime Ministers Yuliya Timoshenko and Vladimir Putin

Mykhailo Kazybrid is the head of the independent coal miners union at Mine Shaft Number Eight in the Western Ukrainian town of Sosnivka. Having worked in mines for more than 30 years, he is concerned some could be closed, devastating the local economy and people's lives. 

Kozybrid and his wife of 44 years, Hanna Fedorivna, agree that eastern and western Ukrainian miners are united by difficult working conditions and equally low pay.

"If we talk about the economy, it is the same in Lviv Oblast and the Lviv Coal Basin along with the economy in the Luhansk and Donetsk Basins. They are all one and the same," he says.

One-thousand kilometers east, in the industrial city of Makiivka near Donetsk, 30-year mine veteran Nikolai Vorobyov now works mostly above ground in an electric shop. Read more ..

The Home Front

Why Homeschooling is on the Rise

February 2nd 2009

Social Trends - Homeschooling

In December, the U.S. Department of Education's National Center for Education Statistics released new estimates on the number of American families homeschooling their children. The new report shows the growing popularity of homeschooling. In view of this trend, it is important that federal and state policymakers safeguard families' right to educate their children at home.

Growing Homeschooling Movement
The report shows that approximately 1.5 million children (2.9 percent of school-age children) were being homeschooled in the spring of 2007, representing a 36 percent relative increase since 2003 and a 74 percent relative increase since 1999. One private researcher estimates that as many as 2.5 million school-age children were educated at home during the 2007-2008 school year.

The homeschooling survey also reveals the most common reasons cited by families as the basis for their decision to educate their children at home. The most frequently referenced reasons included the ability to provide moral or religious instruction (36 percent), concern about the environment at other schools (21 percent), and dissatisfaction with the academic instruction provided at other schools (17 percent). Read more ..

Inside Africa

Donated Pipes Bring Water and New Life to Northern Senegal

January 26th 2009

Africa Topics - Senegal carrying water

Gaile Ndiaye remembers well waking before dawn in search of fresh water. She and the other girls from her village set off with their buckets, often walking several miles across the sandy soil of northern Senegal.

Ndiaye says when they did find a well with water, each girl took only two buckets so there would be enough for the rest of the village. It is a routine she repeated for years in this remote area near the Mauritanian border, her hands calloused by working the rough rope that drops down into the well's darkness.

Now her hands are smooth, and clean water flows from a tap just outside her door. More than 60 villages around the town of Leona--more than 13,000 people in northern Senegal--have fresh water for drinking and non-potable water for irrigation through a project linking the Senegalese government, Columbia University, and the world's largest manufacturer of plastic pipe. The project is having a big impact on the lives of women and children who used to spend hours carrying water from wells far from home. Read more ..

Inside Asia

Hong Kong's Air Pollution Causes Some to Think Twice About Living There

January 19th 2009

Asia Topics - Hong Kong air pollution

Air pollution in Hong Kong has gotten so bad that some businesses are losing staff and customers. A city watchdog group says the government is not doing enough to reduce pollution, much of which comes from mainland China.

Hong Kong's skies were clear and blue when Alan Knight first arrived there in 1993. But, within 12 years, the city had become so polluted there were days when he could not see through the gray haze across Victoria Harbor.

Knight's work requires travel. He is a journalist and professor. He also has a lung condition, which usually is dormant. But it flared, a few years back, when he returned to Hong Kong. He was hospitalized and received high dosages of antibiotics. Once he was back in Brisbane, Australia the condition resolved itself. Read more ..

The Way We Are

The Garage Gods

January 5th 2009

Contributors / Staff - Liz Black headshot
Elizabeth Black

I began looking at the real estate listings when I moved to a small Midwest city, mostly out of curiosity because the prices were so low compared to the East Coast. I was utterly amazed that anyone could own a home for under $400,000, much less for a mere $150,000. A 3-bedroom, 1-bath fixer-upper in the Washington D.C. suburbs would maybe start at $465,000. As I perused the photos in the weekly home sale guides, I began noticing something else: the amount of space devoted to garage doors as opposed to people doors. Many homes featured 3-car garages facing the street with only a small narrow front entrance off to one side like an afterthought. I was so intrigued by these photos that I began cutting them out. And then it became a game, a variation of "Where’s Waldo" that I call "Where’s the Entrance." I half expect to one day find a house with no front door at all. Once in a while I think I’ve found it, but if I drive by the property, I realize that someone just cropped off the inconsequential front entrance from the real estate listing photo. The duplexes popular in Midwest towns are the most intriguing: two side-by-side double garages with small front doors slightly set back on either side.

I’ve begun calculating the ratios between space devoted to car and people doors on the curbside views of houses for sale. Most come in at a 75 percent face space for the cars, 25 percent for the people. But last weekend I found the winner. A house that devoted 90 percent of its full frontal view to a 3-car garage. The front entrance occupied 10 percent.


Edge on Autism

Autistic Children and The Military

December 29th 2008

Science - Autistic child

According to Pentagon data, there are 13,243 autistic children among the 1.2 million dependents of active duty personnel. This incidence, just over one in ninety, is vastly higher than the conventional wisdom that only one in every 150 children is affected. This apparent increase is almost certainly due to rigorous military record keeping rather than any difference in environment. Many critics say it is unfortunate that the military does such a poor job of providing long term care after identifying so many in need.

While every military family has access to health care via the TRICARE system, only one in ten of the identified autistic children in the system are served with applied behavioral analysis therapy. Applied Behavior Analysis or ABA, a long term, intensive approach to handling the needs of autistic children, can fill nearly all of a school day in the beginning years of treatment. Most experts feel it is well worth the time spent, as it can result in a child becoming functional enough to complete high school, attend college, and have a chance at a successful career. While this doesn't work for everyone, for many it means freedom from a lifetime of complete dependence on others.


The Way We Are

A Holiday Story Worth Reading

December 22nd 2008

Contributors / Staff - Armstrong Williams Headshot
Armstrong Williams

This has been a holiday season filled with negative news. From the problems on Wall Street to those on Main Street, all we've heard these past months is that people are losing their money, their homes, and their jobs. Families are forced to cut back as their paychecks are stretched to their limits and beyond. In times like these, heartwarming stories are hard to find, but I found one recently from a friend whom I ran into while he was walking his dog.

His wife had given birth to their first child over the Thanksgiving weekend, and the little girl's arrival was as early as it was cherished. I asked him how he was balancing work with his new bundle of joy, and he told me something which absolutely astounded me and warmed my heart. His employer, a law firm here in the city, was giving him four weeks paid vacation purely because he was a new father! This was on top of the normal paid vacation he accrues throughout the year. Now, we've heard of maternity leave, and more often than not, such leave is unpaid, but what this man's business was offering, four weeks of paid paternity leave, is something special that should be celebrated.

Instead of slogging off to work during the holiday season, this husband is able to spend his days with his wife, taking a break from their normally hectic schedules to be together as they raise their child. Rather than having to toil away for nine or ten hours at his desk, this father can spend these precious moments feeding, diapering, changing, and loving his new daughter. With this time off, this young man can support his home by doing all those little tasks that come with a new baby and give his wife the rest she deserves.


Great Gatherings

Mass Movement for Energy Freedom To Emerge from Florida Conference

December 15th 2008

Event Logos - Citizens for Energy Freedom

A new mass movement is expected to emerge when Citizens for Energy Freedom—the grassroots organization of the Set America Free Coalition—convenies its “Energy Independence in 2009” conference in Jupiter, Florida on January 17–18, 2009.

The nation's premier energy independence advocacy leadership group will be widening into a "citizen's campaign" to correct America's energy policy mistakes. More than just another conclave of experts, Energy Independence is 2009 is envisioned as an ignition switch for average people to shape the country's future energy survival.

The conference kicks off with a gala banquet at the West Palm Beach Marriott Hotel, featuring a keynote address by Edwin Black, bestselling author of The Plan. Conferees reconvene the next day at Florida Atlantic University’s Jupiter campus, and will feature a keynote address by Robert Zubrin, bestselling author Energy Victory, followed by two expert panels—the first on liquid fuel choice in the transportation sector, and the second on plug-in hybrid electric vehicles.


Mumbai Massacre

Unholy Muslim Terrorists Denied Holy Burial In Mumbai Cemetery By Muslim Council

December 8th 2008

Islamic Topics - Mumbai Muslims
Members of Mumbai Muslim Council

We have come face to face with the terror of the future and it is ugly, heinous, and barbaricwell planned and executed with verve and precision.

The enormity of the terror attacks perpetrated by relatively unknown but flawlessly trained terrorists upon the city of Mumbai has left the world shaken and speechless. The legacy of the perpetrators of this terror speaks volumes.

Shariah, Muslim tradition, clearly commands that all Muslims receive a proper Muslim burial regardless of whether they lived as "drunkard, rapist or criminal." The obligation to bury the nine men who shattered the social, cultural, and economic bubble of India fell to the Jama Masjid Trust, the group responsible for the Muslim cemetery in Mumbai. They declined. The Jama Masjid Trust refused to bury the dead Muslim terrorists.

It is an act unprecedented in the modern timesMuslims refusing to bury Muslims. The highly respected and accepted Muslim leaders of the Trust would not accept these men in their cemetery. Why? "[T]he people who committed this heinous crime cannot be called Muslims," they said, "Islam does not permit this sort of barbaric crime." Read more ..

Mumbai Massacre

Taking Aim At The Evil In The Hearts Of Mumbai Mass Murderers

December 1st 2008

India Topics - Mumbai terror2

India is certainly no stranger to terrorist attacks, and has seen repeated attacks of disparate severity since 1993. Indeed, Indian experts on domestic terrorism have repeatedly warned that absent a solution that resolves "the Kashmir problem," Indians cannot expect this situation to improve anytime soon. Lashkar-e-Taiba is known to harbor close affiliations with Al Qaeda, and it did not escape the notice of Indian intelligence when on August 27, 2002, Osama bin Laden was quoted as saying, "Fighting Jihad against India is a duty of the entire Muslim world. Kashmir cannot be resolved by means other than Jihad."

Today, in the great city of Mumbai (formerly known as Bombay), the financial capitol and hub of much of India’s commerce, the city and the country’s security forces struggle to understand what has just happened to them. The only thing that is unequivocally clear is that evil did lurk in the hearts of the young men who stormed this beautiful city and wreaked havoc for three days.

In a series of coordinated attacks in at least nine locations across the center of Mumbai, teams of terrorists fanned out and targeted random victims, foreign and domestic, as they made their way to specific locations where they had planned larger scale attacks. Specifically, five targets of apparently great importance to them were the Oberoi Hotel, The old Victoria Terminus train station, the Cama and Albless Hospital, the Taj Mahal Palace and Tower, and the Nariman House, also known as the Chabad House, run by orthodox Lubavich Rabbi Gavriel and his wife, Rivkah Holtzberg.


Religious Freedom

Horrid Hindu Atrocities Against Christians in Orissa Challenge India's Pluralism

November 24th 2008

Asia Topics - Orissa Violence

The violence which ravaged the Christian community in Orissa, India, for two months from late August to October was brutal and bitterly partisan and would hardly have been out of place in the Rwanda of 1994. In one of the private relief camps in the Orissa state capital, a displaced lady told me the story of her pastor who had been targeted by a mob which came into his home. The members of the mob tried to force him to renounce his faith and when he refused to do so, protesting that he had been a leader and preacher for many years, they cut off his lips, poured kerosene over his head and burned him alive. They also burned down his house and threw his deaf and mute elderly mother onto the fire, where she died.

Attacks on the minority Christian community began in a remote rural district of the eastern state of Orissa in the immediate aftermath of the assassination of the controversial Hindu leader, Swami Lakhmananda Saraswati, by Maoist insurgents on August 23. The attacks were widespread, clearly targeted and extremely violent. Read more ..

Great Gatherings

Legislators and Opinion Makers from Around the World Discuss Human Rights in “Real American” Venue

November 17th 2008

Event Logos - IRPP Scranton Meeting

The First Lady of Ethiopia and a top member of the National Security Council are among dozens of world leaders and legislators who will converge on Scranton, Pennsylvania to attend an important annual conference on human rights from November 23–25, 2008

For the first time in its five-year history, the Nobel Peace Prize-nominated Interparliamentary Conference on Human Rights and Religious Freedom (IPC) will convene outside a national capital. The IPC is a program of the Washington-based Institute on Religion and Public Policy designed to foster initiatives and training on human rights around the world at the most democratic level—national legislatures.

Past sessions have taken place in Rome, Brussels and Washington, but bringing the IPC to Scranton—the hometown of Vice President-Elect Joe Biden—is a chance for foreign leaders to see the "real America," explains Institute President Joseph K. Grieboski. The State of Pennsylvania, City of Scranton and Lackawanna County are all sponsors of the event.


The Obama Transition

You've Come a Long Way, Barack Obama

November 10th 2008

Presidential - Barack Obama

When I was a young boy we were briefly in South Africa. It was 1969 and the country was still very much in the grip of Apartheid politics. I remember being on top of Capetown’s Table Mountain and there were segregated toilets, with a prominent sign posted above the doors, Nie – Blankes! and Blankes!--the Afrikaans for Non – Whites and Whites. My recollection was also that the sidewalks had a line painted down the middle where whites and non-whites walked on different sides of the pavement. Being from San Francisco, the absurdity of this was staggering, yet it wasn’t only South Africa that had such policies.

As a young child from California, I did not experience the racial turmoil of the South, and certainly wasn’t aware during those years that the experience blacks in Mississippi had was rather different than that of blacks living in New York or San Francisco. When my family moved to Europe, it was in Germany that we first personally experienced racial prejudice. When looking for an apartment in 1970, and even as late as 1972, we had doors slammed in our faces with an emphatic ‘Ausländer Raus!” or “Wir vermieten nicht an Ausländer!” Respectively "Foreigners Out!" and "We don’t rent to foreigners!"

Living in Europe for over a decade and having mastered most of the western European languages, it eventually became easy for me and my ‘foreignness’ to become somewhat transparent. But I remained painfully aware that racism, bigotry, and xenophobia were not something that would disappear quickly or painlessly. Read more ..

The Way We Are

Yorba Linda City Council Candidate Advocates Both Hydrogen and Horseback

November 3rd 2008

Energy / Environment - Mark Abramowitz
Mark Abramowitz

California has proven it is the wellspring of alternative transportation. You can find it all: the Hydrogen Highway, charging stations for EVs, an emerging CNG auto movement, a bouquet of biofuels, and personal transportation modalities from mopeds to motorcycles. There is even a hotly contested state proposition arguing that a measure to encourage alternative fuels is too slanted toward CNG cars without giving equal oomph to electric vehicles. In California, every advocate has a favorite alternative fuel ready to be crowned king.

But in conservative Yorba Linda, in the heart of Orange County, one local candidate has distinguished himself by backing not only the most advanced forms of alternative mobility, but also the most nostalgic. His name is Mark Abramowitz, one of the state’s brightest minds, president of the Association of Energy Engineers, Southern California Chapter, and now a candidate for Yorba Linda City Council. Abramowitz backs clean, green means of transportation such as hydrogen, EVs and CNG; but he also backs one brown one. He wants to preserve the equestrian traditions of the historic town, famous for its horse trails, arenas, and its general love of the animal.

Yorba Linda is one of California’s historic cities. The earliest residents came during the first years of the 20th century to establish a close-knit network of small farms, citrus groves and quaint ranch houses. The Pacific Electric Railroad linked Yorba Linda to bustling Los Angeles, thereby bringing the rural locale into direct contact with the big city. Although the railroad’s dominant function was to bring Yorba Linda’s produce to LA, it did not stop Orange County’s urbanization and suburbanization from slowly sprawling toward Yorba Linda. Yet even during the Roaring 20s and the depressed 30s, Yorba Linda’s citizenry clung to their traditions, which included a love of horses. Today the area is filled with about 100 miles of horse trails, a horse arena and equine habitats. Read more ..

The Edge of Infrastructure

Bridge to Somewhere Needs Money

October 27th 2008

Economy - I-35 Bridge
I-35W Bridge

In the months since the fatal collapse of the I-35W bridge in Minneapolis, concern for the safety of the nation’s 600,000 bridges has become a leading symbol of what many contend is America’s crumbling infrastructure. And while a federal report noted that design flaws—not a lack of money—may have been the chief cause of that collapse, many have used the tragedy to justify more government spending on the nation’s infrastructure.

We may ask, "Where did the money Go?" Congress, under the impression that a lack of money is the main problem, appropriated an additional $1 billion for bridge repair for FY 2008, and is attempting to add another $1 billion with H.R. 3999 for FY 2009.


Election Edge

Obama vs. Economics 101

October 20th 2008

Contributors / Staff - Armstrong Williams Headshot
Armstrong Williams

Every four years or so, American voters go to the polls to choose political leaders who enact public policies that shape and direct our nation’s economy.  Yet, the vast majority of Americans lack an analytical framework required to adequately evaluate the true impact these policy decisions will have.  While Americans may understand how much money they will get up front from tax relief or government assistance, the broader impact of the policies come from the way they influence certain types of economic behavior in the future. 
These secondary effects will have a much more fundamental impact on jobs, income and wealth creation than the immediate impact of the policies promised by politicians.  To clarify things, perhaps we should look at a few of these proposed policies from the prospective of a student in Economics 101.
Senator Obama has promised voters that the government can raise money for social programs by increasing taxes on the rich.  He defines rich as anyone making over $250,000 per year.  While a person earning that amount does make more than 95 percent of other income earners, taxing them disproportionately might not necessarily create a larger government pot.  Consider, for example, that most of the people in the top income class own businesses and derive their income from the sale of goods and services at a profit.  If the Government decides to tax their profits at a higher rate, they will earn less income, and there will be less incentive for them to go into business.  Read more ..

Edge on Immigration

Killing Fields of California’s Sanctuary Cities

October 13th 2008

Contributors / Staff - Armstrong Williams Headshot
Armstrong Williams

“Sanctuary Cities” are replicating throughout the country. These make-shift communities serve as safe havens for illegal immigrants, with sometimes tragic results. Just ask Jamiel Shaw, a 17-year-old Los Angeles resident, who was allegedly gunned down by a 19-year-old "Sanctuary City" resident named Pedro Espinoza. Espinoza, an illegal immigrant and member of the 18th Street gang, allegedly murdered Shaw without reason. Even worse, Espinoza was allowed to seek cover for his murder by hiding out in "Sanctuary Cities."

Espinoza’s motive for killing Shaw, prosecutors say, was imprinted on the two-letter tattoo that stretched across his neck: "BK." The letters are an acronym for “Black Killer.” In Espinoza’s case, the “B” was crossed out. The crossed out “B” means that he has killed black people. For assassins like Espinoza, part of their gang initiation is to go out and randomly gun down someone who is black. This and similar incidents should never happen, but obviously they do. Espinoza, who was also raised in the American Juvenile system, should have been deported early on due to his run-ins with the law. Instead, he was allowed to seek refuge in a "Sanctuary City."

In many ways, Sanctuary Cities are a threat to our national security. Illegal immigrants should not have a right to stay in America illegally. They should be fined, given a reasonable time to earn citizenship, and monitored or deported. Many legal immigrants will tell you the same. After going through the hard work of earning their citizenship, they recoil at the notion of being associated with such activities. Indeed, legal immigrants consider the “Sanctuary City” phenomenon as a threat not only to their reputations, but also to their communities. They will tell you that illegal immigrants who commit crimes should not be given sanctuary; they should be jailed or deported. Read more ..

Great Gatherings

Set America Free Holds Energy Freedom Summit

October 6th 2008

Energy / Environment - Set America Free vertical

Set America Free, the left-to-right coalition seeking to get the nation on the path to energy independence, will be holding a major “Energy Freedom Summit” in Chicago’s northwest suburbs October 24 and 25, 2008 to coalesce battle strategies in the continuing effort to get the country off oil.

Clinton-administration CIA director R. James Woolsey, Reagan-administration National Security Advisor Robert “Bud” McFarlane and other leading energy experts from the Set America Free coalition will speak to national and local alt fuel figures on solutions to the energy crisis. More of “a training camp” than a lunch-and-learn experience, the Energy Freedom Summit is considered de rigueur for those seeking to mobilize communities and governments.

“The United States depends on foreign countries for its energy supply,” asserts summit organizer Gal Luft, director of Set America Free. He adds, “In recent years, this dependence has taken a toll on our pocketbooks, the environment and our national security.”
Summit organizers promise that attendees will “leave equipped with media training, event organizing skills, and the tools to engage your government officials.”

In addition to Woolsey and McFarlane, other panelists, speakers and moderators include: Mark Dubowitz, executive director of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, on national security implications; Anne Korin and Luft, co-directors of The Institute for Analysis of Global Security, along with Paul Werbos of the National Science Foundation on fuel choices and achieveing 500 miles per gallon; Chicago Sun-Times columnist Steve Huntley on alcohol fuels, including methanol and Brazilian sugar cane ethanol; and EV World editor Bill Moore; and Edwin Black, author of The Plan on the electric car. Read more ..

Inside Africa

Poor But Willing to Be Taxed in Sierra Leone

September 29th 2008

Sierra Leone men

Sierra Leone is the most underdeveloped country in the world, according to the United Nations. Following a decade-long civil war which killed over 50,000, unpredictable energy supplies, deteriorated infrastructure, inadequate health facilities, and an intolerable educational system are now the norm—not the exception.

An estimated two-thirds of Sierra Leone’s youth are under or unemployed. At nearly 31 percent, Sierra Leone’s adult literacy rate is amongst the worst in the world. Maternal death and infant mortality rates are the highest any where on earth. Amidst the stagnant smell of garbage and marijuana, 70 percent of the current population lives in poverty. Most reside between crumbling graffiti-ridden walls described as shanties at best.

It’s a typical ghetto scene with an atypical state of mind. "We have no work; nothing to do, no sleeping place," said Salu Koroma, "but I want to make my country develop. I paid the tax." Echoing that sentiment, Mohamed Bangura said, "I don't have a job, but I have paid my tax.” Read more ..

Edge on Economics

Do Libertarians Believe in God?

September 22nd 2008

Christian Topics - Last Judgement

Libertarian (free-market) economists, if they believe in God, are certain that He is one of them. This attitude is far from new. In 1835, American economist Henry Carey complained (before his conversion to protectionism) that Britain and France, in restricting trade between themselves, were “doing all in their power to frustrate the designs of the Deity.” In the 1840s, English politician Richard Cobden claimed that “free trade is the international law of God.”

Today, many American Christians, including Catholics such as Michael Novak, Thomas Woods and Rev. Robert Sirico, proclaim similar ideas. Novak quarrels with orthodox Catholic teaching on social justice, disparages its traditional emphasis on distributive justice, and holds that the state should have only a “last resort” role in promoting the just society.

However, modern free-marketeers owe much to the ‘Austrian school’ of economists, many of whose tenets clearly contradict Catholic teachings. Given their huge worldwide influence in recent decades, it is worth examining in some detail the views of a leader of that school, Friedrich von Hayek (1899 – 1992).

Hayek, a seminal free-marketeer

Professor at the University of Chicago between 1950 and 1962, Hayek was one of the chief instigators of the wave of libertarian economics that has swept the world since the 1970s. The late Milton Friedman frequently acknowledged his influence. Michael Novak, of the American Enterprise Institute, celebrated his 1999 birth-centenary with a fervent eulogy. Hayek’s theories underlie the economic policies that have allowed inequalities in the U.S. to revert to the levels of the 1920s and whose consequences in Latin America have provoked widespread leftward reactions. The same theories inspired the ‘shock therapy’ of Boris Yeltsin’s economic strategists Yegor Gaïdar  and Anatoly Chubais, which brought chaos, paving the way for a return to authoritarian rule in Russia under Vladimir Putin.   Read more ..

The Way We Are

Laugh Until You Cry

September 15th 2008

Contributors / Staff - Micah Halpern headshot
Micah Halpern

One of the best ways to evaluate a society is by examining the humor of that society.

Freud asserted that in every joke there is a kernel of truth. I would assert that there is much, much more than simply a kernel. There is profound expression in humor. Societies use humor as a way of calling out, of crying for help, of pleading for law and order, a way to save their victims from untenable situations. The twist is that the call, the cry, and the plea are accompanied not by tears, but by laughter.

In many circumstances the joke, humor, is the only way to actually raise essential societal questions while also allowing people to live through a situation that should be viewed as crazy and out of the ordinary, but that has become their everyday norm.

Jewish jokes have set the standard for gentle but honest self-deprecation. Jewish jokes were also the first to tackle indelicate situations in a digestible way. The jokes, written by Jews and about Jews are a window into the pain and pathos of the Jewish people during specific times in history. Originally intended for Jewish audiences, the genre has now become familiar to all ethnic groups and is a staple of many comedic performances.

It's okay to laugh at a Jewish joke, even if you're not Jewish. It's acceptable. In many cases, it's expected. That is not the case in all societies. Read more ..

Edge on Immigration

Comprehensive Solution Needed for Immigration

September 8th 2008

Social Topics - Construction Site Workers

The national immigration debate has generated tremendous, often emotional, discussion about the impact of the growing number of undocumented immigrants on our communities. Heated talk about the economic, social, and enforcement aspects of the issue predominates. We should understand, however, that above all, immigration is a humanitarian, and, ultimately, a moral issue.

Each day in parishes, social service programs, hospitals, and schools the human consequences of an inadequate immigration system are apparent. Families are separated; migrant workers are exploited by smugglers and unscrupulous employers; and human beings, desperate to survive, perish in the American desert. As our nation benefits from the hard work of undocumented workers, we fail to extend to them basic workplace and legal protections. Worse, some scapegoat immigrants for our social ills. The U.S. bishops’ statement Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship urges Catholics to study issues such as immigration before going to the polls. Read more ..

Election Edge

Crossing the Line with Hitler Comparisons--Madonna and McCain

September 1st 2008

Entertainment - Madonna strutting

Here we go again. The iconic face of evil, Adolf Hitler, is once again being used as shorthand to disparage with massive overkill things we don’t like – in this case, pop star Madonna doesn’t like Republican Presidential candidate John McCain. So while she sang a song titled “Get Stupid” during the launch of her latest world tour in Cardiff, Wales, a projected photo montage appeared that included pictures of destruction and global warming, followed by video images of  Zimbabwean dictator Robert Mugabe and Hitler, ending with John McCain. Apparently in Madonna’s mind, the last three comprise a rogue’s gallery of equivalent offenders to humanity. As she is a student of the Kabala who, on meeting with Israeli President Shimon Peres, declared herself an “ambassador for Judaism,” we might have hoped Madonna would know better.

It is inappropriate and offensive to make comparisons to the man ultimately responsible for the death of six million Jews and the death and suffering of countless others during the Holocaust. It trivializes the Holocaust and is an insult to the memories of the victims, their families and those who fought Nazism.

But such are not always the calculations of pop stars, media pundits, political officials, and political operatives with axes to grind. An image of Hitler is easy visual short hand – equivalent to the 10 words or less sound-bite – whose symbolic function is to declare a categorical position:  we recognize evil and we associate anyone whose positions with which we disagree with that worst of the worst, that world menace, the Nazi Fuhrer.

This rush to make easy moral comparisons out of one’s personal political or ethical biases has been going on for a long time, and as Jews, we are rightly affronted by the Arab media’s loose and self-justifying use of Nazi imagery – swastikas, Hitler’s mustache, storm trooper caricatures – to defame the state of Israel, its leaders, and the United States’ unswerving support for Israel’s continued existence as a modern democracy in the midst of authoritarian Arab states. Read more ..

Significant Lives

Zambia's Loss is Africa's Loss

August 25th 2008

Unknown - Mwananasa
Zambia President Levy Mwanawasa

His death has barely registered in the news, but the loss of Zambian President Levy Mwanawasa days ago, two months after he suffered a stroke, is a bad blow to Africa. Much of what the West knows about Africa comes in a numbing train of reports on famine, genocide, hacked limbs and political crackdowns a la Zimbabwean leader Robert Mugabe or Sudan's Omar al-Bashir. But there's another Africa that's enjoying renewal, thanks to the responsible leadership of men like Mwanawasa.

When Mwanawasa first ran for presidential office, having served as vice president in the 1990s, his opponents derided him as a mindless "cabbage" following his narrow survival in a 1991 car accident that slurred his speech. The determined lawyer proved his critics wrong: in his seven years in office, the cabbage presided over renewed economic growth (now about 6 percent a year); became one of the first and most cutting critics of Robert Mugabe's dictatorship; and began an anti-corruption drive that included prosecuting his former boss and president, Frederick Chiluba. The latter two moves are particularly significant on continent which rarely holds its leaders accountable, especially if they are former freedom fighters against colonialism, as was Mugabe. Read more ..

Inside Europe

Europe Takes Another Look At Divorced Fathers

August 11th 2008

Europe Topics - Man With Ring

The stereotypical image of downtrodden mothers battling to make ends meet after "deadbeat dads" vanish from their children's lives is being trampled by a growing group of dads rallying for quality time with their youngsters in the age of divorce. Media attention on this group has been ample since the creation of the Society for Male and Paternal Dignity (SYGAPA) in 2005.

The society's existence has somewhat rehabilitated the image of divorced fathers, but little else has changed. In most divorce cases, custody typically goes to the mother. "No other European country gives 95 percent of custody to mothers," guesstimates SYGAPA member and divorced father Dimitris Pahoumas, speaking about Greece's custody laws. "Ideally, custody should be 50-50, with fathers able to have input in their children's lives."

Pahoumas believes that "social policies" are to blame for the bad relations between parents after divorce. "The government appears scared of women's organizations when chartering fathers' entitlements," he says, pointing to the fact that the general secretariat for equality has not yet met with SYGAPA. Read more ..

Election Edge

Illegal Immigrants Are Voting in American Elections

August 4th 2008

Products - Voting

In 2005, the U.S. Government Accountability Office found that up to 3 percent of the 30,000 individuals called for jury duty from voter registration rolls over a two-year period in just one U.S. district court were not U.S. citizens. While that may not seem like many, just 3 percent of registered voters would have been more than enough to provide the winning presiden­tial vote margin in Florida in 2000. Indeed, the Cen­sus Bureau estimates that there are over a million illegal aliens in Florida, and the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) has prosecuted more non-citizen voting cases in Florida than in any other state.

Florida is not unique. Thousands of non-citizens are registered to vote in some states, and tens if not hundreds of thousands in total may be present on the voter rolls nationwide. These numbers are significant: Local elections are often decided by only a handful of votes, and even national elections have likely been within the margin of the number of non-citizens ille­gally registered to vote.

Yet there is no reliable method to determine the number of non-citizens registered or actually voting because most laws to ensure that only citizens vote are ignored, are inadequate, or are systematically undermined by government officials. Those who ignore the implications of non-citizen registration and voting either are willfully blind to the problem or may actually favor this form of illegal voting.

Americans may disagree on many areas of immi­gration policy, but not on the basic principle that only citizens—and not non-citizens, whether legally present or not—should be able to vote in elections. Unless and until immigrants become citizens, they must respect the laws that bar non-citizen voting. To keep non-citizens from diluting citizens' votes, immigration and election officials must cooperate far more effectively than they have to date, and state and federal officials must increase their efforts to enforce the laws against non-citizen voting that are already on the books.

An Enduring Problem

Costas Bakouris, head of the Greek chapter of Transparency International, says in an interview that ending corruption is easy: enforce the law. Illegal voting by immigrants in America is noth­ing new. Almost as long as there have been elec­tions, there have been Tammany Halls trying to game the ballot box. Well into the 20th century, the political machines asserted their ascendancy on Election Day, stealing elections in the boroughs of New York and the wards of Chicago. Quite regu­larly, Irish immigrants were lined up and counted in canvasses long before the term "citizen" ever applied to them—and today it is little different. Read more ..

China’s Embattled Olympics

China Bans Olympic Visits from Protests

July 28th 2008

Asia Topics - SF Olympic Protest

The Beijing Organizing Committee (BOCOG) recently announced that all foreigner visitors and non-resident Chinese attending the upcoming Olympic Games are banned from both watching and participating in any protests or public gatherings during the games. These rules apply even to protests authorized by the Chinese Government. Chinese citizens have a legal right to protest, but they must first apply for permission from their local Public Security Bureau. Such requests are rarely granted, and most demonstrations in China don't have official sanction.

BOCOG security director Liu Shaowu announced this week they have established three protest zones in Beijing parks. However, there are no zones near the Olympic venues. Instead, they are at the World Park in the southwest, 3 miles from the softball venue; the Purple Bamboo Park in the west, south of the volleyball arena; and Chaoyang Park in the east where beach volleyball will be played.

It was not clear how easy access would be to enter the zones. Liu and Beijing police would not say if special permission would be needed, but Beijing has already refused visa requests for known foreign activists.


After the Holocaust

Accused Nazi To Be Stripped Of US Citizenship

July 21st 2008

Contributors / Staff - Martin Barillas
Martin Barillas

The Department of Justice requested on July 15, 2008 that a federal court in Seattle, Washington revoke the U.S. citizenship of Peter Egner. The resident of Bellevue, Washington, faces loss of citizenship based on evidence of his role in a Nazi unit that participated in the mass murder of more than 17,000 Serbian civilians during World War II. Most of the victims of this mass murder were Jewish men, women and children.

A complaint filed in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington alleges that Peter Egner, 86, who was born in Yugoslavia, joined the Nazi-controlled Security Police and Security Service in German-occupied Belgrade, Serbia, in April 1941 and served through September 1943.

The complaint alleges that during the first nine months of Egner's service in this organization, it operated as an Einsatzgruppe, a Nazi mobile killing unit. Captured Nazi documents reflect that in the fall of 1941, Egner’s unit participated in executing 11,164 people, most of them Serbian Jewish men, as well as some communists, suspected communists, and Roma and Sinti (Gypsies).

In early 1942, the Nazi Security Police and Security Service Belgrade carried out the murder of 6,280 Serbian Jewish women and children. Prior to their deaths, these victims were confined in a concentration camp at Semlin, outside of Belgrade.

In a process that continued daily for a period of approximately two months, the women and children were taken from the camp and forced into a specially equipped van where they were asphyxiated with carbon monoxide gas while being transported to Avala, an execution and mass burial site near Belgrade. Read more ..

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