The Next Edge
|Rod Santa Ana||July 7th 2011|
Texas A&M University
|Dr. Carlos Fernandez, TAMU Corpus Christi (credit: Rod Santa Ana)|
Just as corn and peanuts stunned the world decades ago with their then-newly discovered multi-beneficial uses and applications, Texas AgriLife Research scientists in Corpus Christi think microalgae holds even more promise.
“It's a huge, untapped source of fuel, food, feed, pharmaceuticals and even pollution-busters,” said Dr. Carlos Fernandez, a crop physiologist at the Texas AgriLife Research and Extension Center at Corpus Christi who is studying the physiological responses of microalgae to the environment. There are an estimated 200,000 to 800,000 species of microalgae, microscopic algae that thrive in freshwater and marine systems—but of all those species, only 35,000 species have been described. Read more ..
Telcos on Edge
|Evan Mackinder||July 5th 2011|
The telecommunications industry has experienced tremendous growth over the past two decades, and along with it, an explosion of political activity.
Recent revolutions in wireless technologies and data delivery speeds have transformed an industry once hallmarked by utility poles and roto-dialing telephones into an ever-expanding marketplace of mobile phone service, lightning-fast Internet connections, and infinite television dials. And it’s made companies such as AT&T, Sprint, Verizon, and T-Mobile into some of the largest and diverse companies in the world.
Yet, where there’s a good amount of ying flowing, there’s always some yang. Read more ..
Flotilla to Hamas
|Martin Barillas||July 2nd 2011|
Cutting Edge Senior Correspondent
Greek authorities, showing "unusual maritime courage at a moment of high national stress," according to one State Departmernt source, have arrested the civilian captain of a US-flagged ship bound for the Gaza strip and aimed at challenging Israel's maritime blockade of the Palestinian territory bordering the Mediterranean Sea. Israel's blockade has been held to be legal under international law, and numerous governments--from Washington to Europe--have warned flotilla organizers they face arrest should they pursue this challenge. That is what happened.
According to the organizers of the voyage, John Klusmire, an American citizen and captain of The Audacity of Hope, was jailed on July 2 charged with disturbing sea traffic, endangering the lives of those on the ship, and disobeying a police order to remain at dock. Klusmire is due in court on July 5. The vessel and crew were also seized and remain at the Port of Pireaus near Athens, following their attempted departure from Greece.
A State department source, not authorized to speak on the record, declared, "Now that was unusual maritime courage at a moment of high national stress for the Greeks." Read more ..
Edge of Terrorism
|JulieAnn McKellogg||June 29th 2011|
|Ayman Al-Zawahiri, bin Laden’s former second in command|
Osama bin Laden’s second-in-command has taken the helm of al-Qaida, following what many call a “corporate succession plan” charted out by the terrorist group’s late leader. This plan illustrates bin Laden’s business sense that he picked up long before he was the face of jihad, while working for his Saudi family’s multi-billion dollar construction company. His knack for business has been critical to al-Qaida’s growth, but it is also proving to be a vulnerability.
Al-Qaida runs like any other business. It keeps financial records with trails of receipts, often scribbled on notebook paper. Even arguments over printer toner cartridges are tracked. The hiring process is thorough, with a questionnaire asking recruits for personal references, previous jihad experience and whether they are exiled from their home country. If a candidate is hired, al-Qaida’s bylaws neatly define their top operatives’ job descriptions.
These rare details of al-Qaida’s inner-workings are outlined in a series of documents from the U.S. Defense Department’s Harmony Database. U.S. forces uncovered the files in Iraq, Afghanistan and other battlefields over the past decade. Read more ..
|Maria Teresa Ronderos||June 22nd 2011|
Blanca and Alicia
The two reporters are at a crime scene on Pisces Street between Aquarius and Leo, a rather astrological crossing in a dusty and disjointed neighborhood, much like most of the neighborhoods in Ciudad Juárez. It’s the first reported victim of their burdensome nightshift. The photographer can’t get close to the body. She’s not allowed past the yellow tape put up by the forensics team. They have been told that the victim is a police officer from the Attorney General’s Office. So she zooms in. Click, click. A boy steps into the picture. He steps out. The officers’ four-by-four drives away.
I was late. One of the reporters was already finishing up with her pictures; the other one had already hopped onto a crane that happened to be there, filmed the scene with her cell phone and posted it directly to her newspaper’s website. Read more ..
|Jeffrey White||June 19th 2011|
The American Interest Magazine
The debate over what to do about an Iranian Islamist regime apparently bent on acquiring nuclear weapons has been on or near our front burner for at least six years, and is now almost a settled feature of the policy landscape. There is general agreement in the United States on two points. First, an Iranian nuclear weapons capability is “unacceptable”, as both the Bush and Obama Administrations have put it; and second, we prefer getting to an acceptable outcome without using force. The debate gets testy when we consider that means short of force, such as sanctions and covert technical sabotage, might not work.
It may be too simple to reduce the argument to just two sides—those who fear the regime’s acquisition of nuclear weapons more than the consequences of a war to prevent it, and those who fear the consequences of a war above all else—but in this case simplicity has the virtue of capturing the essence as observers ponder which set of unpalatable risks they would rather run. Read more ..
America's Nazi Nexus
|Edwin Black||June 16th 2011|
Auschwitz Phone Book Shows IBM Hollerith Buro Phone # 4496
In August 1943, a timber merchant from Bendzin, Poland, arrived at Auschwitz. He was among a group of 400 inmates, mostly Jews. First, a doctor examined him briefly to determine his fitness for work. His physical information was noted on a medical record. Second, his full prisoner registration was completed with all personal details. Third, his name was checked against the indices of the Political Section to see if he would be subjected to special punishment. Finally, he was registered in the Labor Assignment Office and assigned a characteristic five-digit IBM Hollerith number, 44673. The five-digit Hollerith number was part of a custom punch card system devised by IBM to track prisoners in Nazi concentration camps, including the slave labor at Auschwitz.
The Polish timber merchant's punch card number would follow him from labor assignment to labor assignment as Hollerith systems tracked him and his availability for work, and reported the data to the central inmate file eventually kept at Department DII. Department DII of the SS Economics Administration in Oranienburg oversaw all camp slave labor assignments, utilizing elaborate IBM systems. Read more ..
Turkey on Edge
|George Friedman||June 14th 2011|
Turkey’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) won Parliamentary elections June 12, which means it will remain in power for a third term. The popular vote, divided among a number of parties, made the AKP the most popular party by far, although nearly half of the electorate voted for other parties, mainly the opposition and largely secularist Republican People’s Party (CHP). More important, the AKP failed to win a super-majority, which would have given it the power to unilaterally alter Turkey’s constitution. This was one of the major issues in the election, with the AKP hoping for the super-majority and others trying to block it. The failure of the AKP to achieve the super-majority leaves the status quo largely intact. While the AKP remains the most powerful party in Turkey, able to form governments without coalition partners, it cannot rewrite the constitution without accommodating its rivals. Read more ..
National Security on the Edge
|Thomas E. Donilon ||June 9th 2011|
National Security Advisor
|National Security Advisor Thomas Donilon|
Just over two years ago—on May 26, 2009—President Obama called Director Panetta and me into the Oval Office. Bin Laden’s trail had gone cold. The President told us in no uncertain terms to expand and redouble the effort to find him, and to make it the intelligence community’s top priority.
Dedicated professionals painstakingly scrutinized thousands of pieces of information until we found a man we believed was bin Laden’s trusted courier and began to track his movements. In the months leading up to the raid, we combed the intelligence, worked over the options, and met regularly with the President on the way ahead. As that process culminated, I was struck by how quintessentially presidential this decision was—and I’ve served served three presidents.
On Thursday night, the 28th of May at around 7:00, the President left the Situation Room, where he had received his final briefing on the various courses of action. In that room, the President had received divided counsel from his team, and told us that he would make a decision soon.
The President stood up, walked out of the Situation Room, and walked across the colonnade, past the Rose Garden, into the residence. This decision was his—and his alone—to make. And then the next morning at about 20 minutes after 8:00, he asked a few of us to come to the Diplomatic Room and told us “It’s a go.” That’s what strikes me now: that we ask our presidents alone to make these exceedingly difficult decisions. And at the end of the day, 300 million Americans were looking to him to make the right decision. Read more ..
Israel on Edge
|Michael Oren||June 8th 2011|
|Israeli Troops Entering Gaza, 1967 (credit: Israel GPO)|
“We shall destroy Israel and its inhabitants,” declared Palestine Liberation Organization leader Ahmad al-Shuqayri. “As for the survivors—if there are any—the boats are ready to deport them.” A half-million Arab soldiers and more than 5,000 tanks converged on Israel from every direction, including the West Bank, then part of Jordan. Their plans called for obliterating Israel’s army, conquering the country, and killing large numbers of civilians. Iraqi President Abdul Rahman Arif said the Arab goal was to wipe Israel off the map: “We shall, God willing, meet in Tel Aviv and Haifa.” Read more ..
The 2012 Vote
|Kathleen Ronayne||June 5th 2011|
The Democratic National Committee will reimburse at least 10 registered federal lobbyists who donated to the committee—a violation of the organization’s stated policies—after OpenSecrets brought the donations to the DNC’s attention.
Research findicates the party accepted a number of contributions from federally registered lobbyists during the 2010 election cycle.
“We’re in the process of reimbursing the money,” DNC spokeswoman Caroline Ciccone said. “For whatever reason, be it human error, they gave donations that were out of line with our policy.” Read more ..
Turkey on Edge
|Professor Onur Hamzaoğlu, Kocaeli University|
The head of a Turkish university’s public health department has been accused of “threatening to incite fear and panic” after he published a study showing high amounts of heavy metals in the local population.
After he found high levels of mercury and arsenic in mother’s milk and babies’ excrement from Dilovası, an industrial town in the northwestern Turkish province of Kocaeli, Professor Onur Hamzaoğlu published his preliminary findings in early January. At the end of last week, the town and regional mayors filed complaints against Hamzaoğlu with his university’s rector’s office, accusing him of willfully scaring the town’s residents with misinformation.
Hamzaoğlu, of Kocaeli University, could face two to four years in prison if the district court agrees with his accusers. Read more ..
Pakistan on Edge
|Simon Henderson||June 5th 2011|
Saturday, May 28, was the thirteenth anniversary of Pakistan's first nuclear test in 1998. The day is known as Yaum-e-Takbeer, the Day of Revival. This year it revived a long-running and vicious campaign between the controversial Pakistani scientist Abdul Qadeer Khan and the former military dictator Pervez Musharraf, who in 2004 put Khan under house arrest, accusing him of proliferating nuclear secrets to Libya, Iran, and North Korea.
Over the weekend, a Pakistani newspaper reported that when Khan had invited Musharraf to watch the test launch of the North Korean-designed Ghauri missile in April 1998, Musharraf had been worse for wear. Since drinking alcohol is against the law in Pakistan, journalists don't have the repertoire of phrases that their American counterparts might use to cover such circumstances but the newspaper reported: "General Musharraf ... was not in his senses." And Khan told him: "We are reciting Quranic verses, Haj is being performed in Mecca and in which state you have come here." Read more ..
Egypt After the Revolt
|David Schenker||June 5th 2011|
The chairman of Egypt's stock exchange undertook an urgent mission last month to the Persian Gulf, where he implored rich Arabs to invest in Egypt's bourse. Low share prices and limited political risk, Mohamed Abdel Salam claimed, had made the Egyptian market "more attractive than ever."
Abdel Salam was right, at least about the low share prices. In the aftermath of the Papyrus Revolution, the drop in Egypt's EXG30 stock index was comparable to that of the Dow following 9/11. The Dow recovered by January 2002, but in the four months since the revolution, the EGX30 has plunged an astounding 22 percent.
No doubt, there are a lot of bargains to be had in Egypt these days. The question is whether investors will be able to stomach the risk. Read more ..
Economic Recovery on Edge
To millions of member-customers, credit unions are the financial equivalent of a trusted uncle, dispensing prudent loans for cars, homes, and education without the profit motive of traditional banks.
The National Credit Union Administration (NCUA), which supervises and insures about 4,600 federally-chartered credit unions, says they operate with a “not for profit but for service” philosophy, providing “an alternative to the oppressive loan rates charged by predatory lenders.”
But encouraged by federal regulators, an increasing number of credit unions are competing directly with traditional payday lenders, selling small loans at prices far higher than they are permitted to charge for any other product. Read more ..
Edge of the Universe
|Thekla Hritz||May 29th 2011|
An Australian student at Monash University has made a breakthrough in the field of astrophysics, discovering what has until now been described as the Universe’s ‘missing mass.’ Amelia Fraser-McKelvie, working as a member of a team at the Monash School of Physics, conducted a targeted X-ray search for the matter and within just three months found it – or at least some of it.
What makes the discovery all the more noteworthy is the fact that Fraser-McKelvie is not a career researcher, or even studying at a postgraduate level. She is a 22-year-old undergraduate Aerospace Engineering/Science student who pinpointed the missing mass during a summer scholarship, working with two astrophysicists at the School of Physics, Dr. Kevin Pimbblet and Dr. Jasmina Lazendic-Galloway. Read more ..
The Medical Edge
|Abigail Klein Leichman||May 29th 2011|
One of the most exciting advances in non-invasive diagnostic tools for cancer and kidney disease is the invention of Israeli-Arab chemical engineer Hossam Haick. A professor at the Russell Berrie Nanotechnology Institute of the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology, Haick's unique specialty is using breath analysis to detect disease. Born and raised in the Christian Arab enclave of Nazareth, Haick is hardly the only non-Jew to have graduated from Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (1998) and the Technion in Haifa (2002). However, few people of any ethnicity have achieved on par with this 35-year-old former Fulbright Fellow.
In 2007, Haick appeared on the Yedioth Aharonot lists of 50 leading Israelis and four saluted Israeli scientists; and in 2008, on the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Technology Review list of 35 leading young scientists. Last year, he was named one of the 10 Most Promising Young Israeli Scientists by Calcalist and one of the Jerusalem Post's Young Israelis of the Year. "Throughout my educational career, many good people encouraged me to proceed beyond my personal limits and capabilities," Haick stated, "and every time I found such supportive people I took them as a role model." Read more ..
Edge of Space
|Rola Tassabehji||May 25th 2011|
Last week, in the historic large lecture theatre at the Royal Institution in London, the oldest independent research body in the world, Stephen Attenborough—the Commercial Director for Virgin Galactic—spent two uninterrupted hours mesmerizing a private audience on the future of commercial space travel. By the end of the session, even skeptics like myself, who came in thinking this was another wasted venture for the rich, were converted, captivated by the advancement of human ingenuity and the potential that space travel holds for the future of scientific research and sustainable travel.
It’s been just over a century since the Wright Bothers made their inaugural flight in North Carolina and fifty years since Yuri Gagarin became the first human in space. When Neil Armstrong took the first steps on the surface of the moon in 1969, space travel seemed poised to enter a golden era. However, space programs proved prohibitively expensive—and dangerous.
As Virgin’s Attenborough reminded us, in the last fifty years only 550 people have been to space, far fewer than what one would have expected at the time when human spaceflight first began. Read more ..
Pakistan on Edge
|George Friedman||May 18th 2011|
The past two weeks have been filled with announcements and speculations on how Osama bin Laden was killed and on Washington’s source of intelligence. After any operation of this sort, the world is filled with speculation on sources and methods by people who don’t know, and silence or dissembling by those who do.
Obfuscating on how intelligence was developed and on the specifics of how an operation was carried out is an essential part of covert operations. The precise process must be distorted to confuse opponents regarding how things actually played out; otherwise, the enemy learns lessons and adjusts. Read more ..
Edge of Cybersecurity
|Jean-Pierre Joosting||May 18th 2011|
|RFID Credit Card|
Researchers have been able to create a “magic wand” that reads cards at a distance shows that more work needs to be done on wireless encryption.
“The report from the Portland, Oregon-based TV channel Katu, in which researchers found that $20 worth of electronics could read the card details of payment cards in peoples’ wallets and purses, at a range of four inches, is very worrying,” said Andy Kemshall, technical director of the 2 factor authentication company.
“Here at SecurEnvoy, we spend our time advising clients on their best options to better defend their data assets, yet here we apparently have a number of card associations issuing payment cards that can have their details lifted by waving a fraudulent reader at users’ wallets, purses and pockets, as they walk past,” he added. Read more ..
The 2012 Vote
|Joanne Kenen and Rochelle Sharpe||May 18th 2011|
|Gov. Mitch Daniels (R-IN)|
Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, a potential Republican presidential candidate respected for his fiscal prudence, credits his success in government to the business skills he learned as a pharmaceutical executive.
But when Daniels worked as a top executive at Eli Lilly & Co., one of the world’s largest drug firms, the pharmaceutical giant’s reputation was tarred by some of the nation’s ugliest drug scandals.
In the decade that Daniels climbed the corporate ladder at Eli Lilly, the company was illegally marketing its leading osteoporosis drug Evista, as well as its blockbuster antipsychotic, Zyprexa, putting tens of thousands of patients in harm’s way. Lilly pleaded guilty to two criminal misdemeanors, paid more than $2.7 billion in fines and damages, settled more than 32,000 personal injury claims—and copped to one of the largest state consumer protection cases involving a drug company in U.S. history, a review shows. Read more ..
After bin Laden
|Matthew Levitt||May 18th 2011|
Washington Institute on Mideast Affairs
Terrorist financiers must be under tremendous stress since news broke that U.S. Navy SEALs killed Osama bin Laden and seized hard drives and other electronic media from his safe house. Intelligence analysts and document exploitation ("Doc X") specialists are reportedly already sifting through this intelligence treasure trove and have found evidence of notional al Qaeda plots, including aspirational plans to attack the U.S. train system, and more. In all likelihood, the files will include clues pointing to bin Laden's money trail as well.
This puts people like Abd al-Hamid al-Mujil in an uncomfortable position. Described by fellow jihadists as the "million-dollar man" for his successful fundraising on behalf of al Qaeda and other jihadi groups, Mujil directed the office of the International Islamic Relief Organization (IIRO), a charity in the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia. Both he and the IIRO office he headed were designated as terrorist entities by the U.S. Treasury Department in 2006. Read more ..
The 2012 Vote
|Michael Beckel||May 9th 2011|
Businessman and conservative radio host Herman Cain argued his outsider status was one of his strongest assets during the first Republican presidential debate of the 2012 election cycle Thursday night in South Carolina.
But while Cain has never occupied elected office, he is no stranger to Washington's world of money in politics.
A former chairman of Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City and senior adviser to the 1996 presidential campaign of Republicans Bob Dole and Jack Kemp, Cain has regularly opened his wallet for political allies, and he even operates his own political action committee, called the Hermanator PAC.
Since the 1990 election cycle, Cain, along with his wife, Gloria, has donated $134,100 to federal candidates, parties, and committees, including $25,600 during the 2010 election cycle. Read more ..
The Edge of Terrorism
|Simon Henderson||May 8th 2011|
|Abbottabad, a suburb of Islamabad|
So, Osama bin Laden has not been hiding in Karachi or somewhere in the mountains of Waziristan; rather, he’s been in Abbottabad. Oh dear. There might be a place more embarrassing for Pakistan, but it is hard to think of one. It is yet further evidence that Pakistan, supposedly a key ally of the United States, has gone rogue.
Abbottabad is like West Point, New York. Each is home to a nation’s top military academy. Each is close to a major city. In the case of Abbottabad, that is the Pakistani capital, Islamabad. It takes about an hour and half to drive—the same time that West Point’s website says it takes to drive to the U.S. military academy from New York City. Read more ..
After Osama bin Laden
|Martin Barillas||May 8th 2011|
Cutting Edge Senior Correspondent
Dozens of Arab residents of the Silwan neighborhood of east Jerusalem held an evening rally on May 2 to express sadness over the death of terrorist mastermind Osama bin Laden, who was assassinated by U.S. special forces in the pre-dawn hours on May 1 in Pakistan. There were denunciations on the part of Muslim religious leaders in Palestine and elsewhere in the Muslim world about the manner of Bin Laden’s burial at sea that, according to U.S. official sources, was carried out strictly according to Muslim tradition. In east Jerusalem, mourners clashed with Israeli police and threw stones. No reports of injuries or detainees were received following the rally. Read more ..
Edge on Terrorism
|Rodrick Samson||May 2nd 2011|
In the eary morning hours of May 2 in Pakistan there was news of low-flying U.S. helicopters over the city of Abbotabad, in the Khyber Pukhtun Khawa region. Three loud blasts were heard near the Pakistan Military Academy (PMA) at Kakul. There were reports that these helicopters were carrying out an operation on a compound in Abbotabad City.
The Central Intelligence Agency initiated an operation that succeeded in killing Osama bin Laden, the chief of al Qaeda. The Americans have reportedly taken the body into custody. President Barack Obama confirmed the killing in a televised message. According to U.S. media, the operation was completed in 40 minutes at a compound rented by 2 Afghani nationals. Reportedly, the Pakistani intelligence services played a vital role in the operation, monitoring the compound for the past several months. Read more ..
The 2012 Vote
During federal elections, contributions to moneyed political party organizations such as the Democratic National Committee or National Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee receive considerable attention. Less scrutinized are governors associations, which in recent years have attracted significantly more special interest cash than ever before. Unlike political committees or candidates for federal office, the Democratic Governors Association and Republican Governors Association both may receive unlimited amounts of money in their bids to support gubernatorial candidates across the nation, including money directly from corporate and union treasuries. And raise cash they did. Read more ..
|Erick Stakelbeck||May 2nd 2011|
Next Door: How the Government is Deceiving You About the Islamist Threat. Erick Stakelbeck. Regnery Publishing. 2011. 256 pages.
(The following is an exclusive excerpt from Erick Stakelbeck's new book, available here)
Speaking of incitement, it doesn’t get much more blatant than what went down in Washington, D.C., over Labor Day weekend 2010. That was when an annual Islamo/leftist freak show known as the “al-Quds Day” rally came to town, featuring a rogue’s gallery of Jew-hating conspiracy theorists protesting Israel’s claim to the city of Jerusalem. Leading the pack was Abolfazl Bahram Nahidian, imam of the Manassas mosque in northern Virginia, which is located near the site of the legendary Battle of Bull Run.
That may sound like an odd fit on the surface, but Nahidian quickly showed at the al-Quds event that when it came to “bull,” he had few peers. At the rally, Nahidian claimed the 9/11 attacks were “not done by Muslims. It is done by the plot of the Zionists in order to justify, to occupy, the land of the Muslims such as Afghanistan, such as Iraq, such as Pakistan, now moving on to the rest of the areas. [The Zionists] plot and they scheme and no doubt God is plotting and scheming against them too!” Read more ..
Edge of Health
University of Southern California
Devices might be used in brain prostheses—or combined into massive network of synthetic neurons to create a synthetic brain
Engineering researchers at USC Viterbi have made a significant breakthrough in the use of nanotechnologies for the construction of a synthetic brain. They have built a carbon nanotube synapse circuit whose behavior in tests reproduces the function of a neuron input, the synapse, the a building block of the brain.
The team, which was led by Professor Alice Parker and Professor Chongwu Zhou in the Ming Hsieh Department of Electrical Engineering, used an interdisciplinary approach combining circuit design with nanotechnology to address the complex problem of capturing brain function.
In a paper published in the proceedings of the Life Science Systems and Applications Workshop in April 2011, the Viterbi team detailed how they were able to use carbon nanotubes to create a synapse. Carbon nanotubes are molecular carbon structures that are extremely small, with a diameter a million times smaller than a pencil point. These nanotubes can be used in electronic circuits, acting as metallic conductors or semiconductors. Read more ..
The Battle for Libya
|George Friedman||April 25th 2011|
The Libyan city of Misurata is the last remaining major rebel outpost in western Libya. Misurata’s access to the sea has enabled regular shipments of food, weapons, medicine and ammunition to sustain the resistance in the face of daily attacks by forces loyal to Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi. Gadhafi’s forces are intent on retaking the port at Misurata, while the Libyan rebels based in Benghazi hope the looming humanitarian crisis in Misurata will persuade the European coalition leading the mission in Libya to deploy ground troops to assist the rebels. Read more ..
Iran on Edge
|Mehdi Khalaji||April 25th 2011|
The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
The power struggle between Iran's Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad continues. Signs of deep fissures in the conservative camp are emerging just as the Islamic Republic prepares for parliamentary elections next year, the first countrywide polls since the disputed June 2009 presidential election. These divisions, rather than the struggling economy or the nuclear issue, are the top concern for Iranian leaders.
Moslehi Is Out, Then Back In
On April 16, Ahmadinejad announced he was accepting the resignation of Intelligence Minister Heydar Moslehi, who reportedly tendered it under pressure. The move followed Moslehi's decision to replace his deputy on legal and parliamentary affairs. Read more ..
The 2012 Vote
|John Aloysius Farrell||April 25th 2011|
“I am not a lobbyist for ethanol,” Newt Gingrich declared in a mid-winter spat with the editors of The Wall Street Journal over his support for government subsidies for alternative fuel.
But Gingrich was a hired consultant to a major ethanol lobbying group—at more than $300,000 a year.
According to IRS records, the ethanol group Growth Energy paid Gingrich’s consulting firm $312,500 in 2009.The former House Speaker was the organization’s top-paid consultant, according to the records. His pay was one of the group’s largest single expenditures, as it took in and spent about $11 million to promote ethanol and to lobby for federal incentives for its use.
In a Growth Energy publication, Gingrich was listed as a consultant who offered advice on “strategy and communication issues” and who “will speak positively on ethanol related topics to media.” Read more ..
The Transportation Edge
|Aaron Mehta||April 18th 2011|
Center for Public Integrity
Billions of dollars handed out to massive transportation projects under the stimulus bill were not vetted with clearly documented rationales, according to the government’s watchdog.
The results of two General Accountability Office studies mirror concerns from a story published last year.
The first report from GAO focuses on how the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) gave out $8 billion in funds for high speed rail, which was highly touted by the Obama administration at the time the stimulus was passed. Read more ..
Hawaii on Edge
|Martin Barillas||April 18th 2011|
Cutting Edge Senior Correspondent
Emerging markets in Asia and elsewhere, as well as more Mainland U.S. visitors will be needed if Hawaii expects to recover from the tectonic drop in tourism from Japan. But befuddled tourism officials in Hawaii, unaccustomed to fast turnarounds and sharp rebounds, seem to be at a loss.
Following the devastating March 11 tremor, tsunami and nuclear power plant meltdown in Japan, Hawaii saw a drop of nearly 25 percent in the number of Japanese visitors, compared to a year ago. The drop followed a 28 percent increase in Japanese tourists from January 1 through late February from a year ago, says the state agency. With hotels reporting cancellations of future bookings as high as 45 percent, the Aloha State is braced for a significant economic impact. Hawaii’s state government predicts that the decline in Japanese visitors could reduce the state's projected 3.2 percent rise in gross domestic product by as much as a percentage point. The state estimates that Hawaii’s tsunami damage totaled $30.6 million. Read more ..
The Obama Edge
|Fred Schulte and Viveca Novak||April 18th 2011|
|Credit: Emma Schwartz|
A foot of snow couldn’t keep Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, Jennifer Hudson and other celebrities away from a star-studded celebration of civil rights era music hosted by President Barack Obama and the First Lady at the White House on Feb. 9, 2010.
Dylan’s haunting rendition of “The Times They are A-Changin” was a highlight of the dazzling evening. The digitally friendly White House even posted the video of his performance on its website.
But you won’t find Dylan (or Robert Zimmerman, his birth name) listed in the White House visitor logs—the official record of who comes to call at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, maintained by the Secret Service. Ditto Joan Baez. Read more ..
The 2012 Vote
|John Aloysius Farrell||April 18th 2011|
Center for Public Integrity
At an EPA hearing last summer, representatives from Koch Industries argued that moderate levels of the toxic chemical dioxin should not be designated as a cancer risk for humans.
When members of Congress sought higher security at chemical plants to guard against terrorist attacks, Koch Industries lobbyists prowled Capitol Hill to voice their opposition.
And when Congress moved to strengthen regulation of the financial markets after recent collapses, Koch Industries—a major commodities and derivatives trader—deployed a phalanx of lobbyists to resist proposed changes. Read more ..
Economic Recovery on Edge
|David Heath||April 18th 2011|
Center for Public Integrity
After the financial crisis exposed the devastation caused by predatory lending, state and federal authorities vowed to protect consumers from practices that lured them into debt they couldn’t afford.
But Congress kept most auto loans—the second largest source of debt for Americans—out of the reach of the fledgling U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. And now many of the same tactics that led to the mortgage meltdown—like fudging facts on the loan application or charging consumers hidden fees—continue to plague auto loans, an investigation found.
The politically powerful industry has also mastered a few high-pressure tactics of its own. Chief among them is the “yo-yo,” where dealers let buyers drive a new car home in hopes of locking them into a deal and later tell them their financing fell through. The tactic can lure buyers to accept a higher interest rate. Read more ..
The Arab Awakening
|George Friedman||April 13th 2011|
There was one striking thing missing from the events in the Middle East in past months: Israel. While certainly mentioned and condemned, none of the demonstrations centered on the issue of Israel. Israel was a side issue for the demonstrators, with the focus being on replacing unpopular rulers.
This is odd. Since even before the creation of the state of Israel, anti-Zionism has been a driving force among the Arab public, perhaps more than it has been with Arab governments. While a few have been willing to develop open diplomatic relations with Israel, many more have maintained informal relations: Numerous Arab governments have been willing to maintain covert relations with Israel, with extensive cooperation on intelligence and related matters. They have been unwilling to incur the displeasure of the Arab masses through open cooperation, however. Read more ..
The Battle for Syria
|Michael Singh||April 11th 2011|
More so than the conflicts in Tunisia, Libya, and Bahrain, and perhaps even more than the fall of Hosni Mubarak in Egypt, the recent violence in Syria has posed a challenge to the Obama administration’s strategy in the Middle East. The conflicting impulses within the administration can be seen in recent statements made by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton; days ago, she described Syrian President Bashar al-Assad as a “reformer”; in London on March 29, she issued a “strong condemnation of the Syrian government’s brutal repression of demonstrators.” Which view of Assad prevails, and how the United States responds to events in Syria, will go a long way toward determining how deeply U.S. policy in the Middle East is altered by the recent turmoil there. Read more ..
|David Pollock||April 11th 2011|
|Murdered Fogel Family|
Incitement to violence, long a secondary issue in Israeli-Palestinian diplomacy, has returned to the front burner. About a year ago, the Israeli government began publishing an “incitement index” that tracked Palestinian Authority (PA) statements and publications. Then, on March 11 of this year, the Fogel family was massacred in the West Bank settlement of Itamar, prompting large numbers of U.S. senators and congressmen to press senior U.S. officials to take steps to end incitement. Contentious as this issue may be, recent developments suggest the possibility of a modest path forward—and one that could provide a bridge to broader bilateral negotiations.
The PA and Israeli Positions
Palestinian officials do not deny that incitement is real and problematic. They do, however, argue that the Israeli side engages in its own incitement. For example, the Palestine News and Information Agency (WAFA), in an apparent response to concerns sparked by the Itamar murders, published its own list of Israeli acts of “incitement and racism against the Palestinians and Arabs published by the Israeli media between March 11 and 17.” Featured on the list are calls by a rabbi and several journalists for a response to or revenge for the Itamar murders. But the list lacks examples of any Israeli leader, government official, or government-sponsored publication advocating or condoning violence against Palestinians. Such a distinction reveals an attempt to widen the definition of “incitement” to include opinions and expressions by any individual, rather than limiting it to declarations by officials and state-run media. Read more ..
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