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Iran's Nukes

Hamas Terrorists Will Not Fight Israel for Iran

March 7th 2012

Hamas and flags

A senior Hamas leader said March 6 that the Palestinian Islamist movement would not fight against Israel on behalf of Iran, the Guardian reported. The British daily quoted Gaza-based Hamas politburo member Salah al-Bardawil as saying, "If there is a war between two powers, Hamas will not be part of such a war." Al-Bardawil went on to say that Hamas has never given its "complete loyalty" to Iran, and that their relationship "had been based on common interests."

Stratfor has never put much stock in the speculation that Hamas would automatically jump into the fray if Israel were to conduct a military strike against Iran's nuclear program. However, Hamas publicly stating that it will not fight against Israel on behalf of Iran is extremely significant.

First and most obviously, it means that Israel may not have to worry as much about attacks against its southern flank in the event that Israel takes military action against Iran. But even more significant, the statement underscores Hamas' efforts to join the mainstream of Sunni Arab politics in the wake of the Middle East unrest and the electoral gains of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and elsewhere. Not only is Hamas being courted by different Arab states, particularly Egypt and Jordan, it is trying to take advantage of the emerging climate within the region to gain recognition as a legitimate political entity. Read more ..


Iran's Nukes

Netanyahu Lays Groundwork for Strike on Iran

March 6th 2012

Bibi at AIPAC

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu appeared to publicly set the table for a military strike on Iran Monday evening when he told a crowd of pro-Israel supporters that diplomacy and economic sanctions have categorically failed to prevent Iran’s march towards nuclear weapons.

“We’ve waited for sanctions to work. None of us can afford to wait much longer,” Netanyahu said in a speech before the American Israel Public Affairs Committee’s annual policy conference. “As Prime Minister of Israel I will never let my people live in the shadow of annihilation.”

For more than a decade, “I’ve been warning that nuclear armed Iran is a grave danger to my country and the peace and security of the entire world,” Netanyahu added. “For the last decade the international community has tried diplomacy, it hasn’t worked.” Read more ..


The Edge of Mobility

Land and Sea Bridge To Connect Saudi Arabia and Egypt

March 5th 2012

Saudi-Egypt

Plans to build a Red Sea bridge connecting Saudi Arabia and Egypt have been revived but there are some serious environmental concerns.

More than two decades after it was first planned, Egypt and Saudi Arabia may be about to start work on a land and sea bridge connecting the two countries. The proposed bridge would run 50 kilometres from the Tabuk region in Saudi, across the Red Sea to the Gulf of Aqaba in Egypt. Conservationists in Egypt have however raised concerns about the possible destruction of coastal and marine environments in the process of building the bridge. Some explain that the bridge could negatively impact protected areas including coral reefs, the nesting grounds of turtles and the Tiran Island sea birds.

According to local news sources, Egypt and Saudi Arabia will be meeting in the next few week to discuss the technical details of project. Costing an estimated US$3 billion, the project is by no means a small undertaking. In fact, the size and scale of the project is what concerns conservationist as there appears to be very little in the way of environmental assessment.

Smaller proposals to build artificial islands and bridges in the region have been criticized in the past for their potential environmental damage to the coastline and marine life. In Egypt, there is a constant threat to pristine ecosystems due to tourism industry and efforts to grow the sector following the Arab Spring. However, there should to be clear balance between the environment costs and the economic benefits and at the moment that balance is missing. Read more ..


The Toxic Edge

Long Delayed Diesel and Miner Health Study Finally Published

March 3rd 2012

Diesel Exhaust

A much-anticipated government study of more than 12,000 miners — whose publication was delayed by litigation from a group of mining companies — has found that exposure to diesel engine exhaust significantly increases the risk of lung cancer.

For the most heavily exposed miners, the risk of dying from lung cancer was three times higher than it was for those exposed to low doses. For non-smokers, the risk was seven times higher.

“[T]he findings suggest that the risks may extend to other workers exposed to diesel exhaust in the United States and abroad, and to people living in urban areas where diesel exhaust levels are elevated,” Joseph Fraumeni Jr., director of the National Cancer Institute’s Division of Cancer Epidemiology and Genetics, said in a press release Friday morning. Read more ..


After the Holocaust

IBM’s Role in the Holocaust—What the New Documents Reveal

February 28th 2012

IBM and the Holocaust Expanded Edition

Newly-released documents expose more explicitly the details of IBM’s pivotal role in the Holocaust—all six phases: identification, expulsion from society, confiscation, ghettoization, deportation, and even extermination. Moreover, the documents portray with crystal clarity the personal involvement and micro-management of IBM president Thomas J. Watson in the company’s co-planning and co-organizing of Hitler’s campaign to destroy the Jews.
                Buy IBM here.

IBM’s twelve-year alliance with the Third Reich was first revealed in my book IBM and the Holocaust, published simultaneously in 40 countries in February 2001. It was based on some 20,000 documents drawn from archives in seven countries. IBM never denied any of the information in the book; and despite thousands of media and communal requests, as well as published articles, the company has remained silent.

The new “expanded edition” contains 32 pages of never-before-published internal IBM correspondence, State Department and Justice Department memos, and concentration camp documents that graphically chronicle IBM’s actions and what they knew during the twelve-year Hitler regime. On the anniversary of the release of the original book, the new edition was released on February 26, 2012 at a special live global streaming event at Yeshiva University’s Furst Hall, sponsored by the American Association of Jewish Lawyers and Jurists together with a coalition of other groups.
 
Among the newly-released documents and archival materials are secret 1941 correspondence setting up the Dutch subsidiary of IBM to work in tandem with the Nazis, company President Thomas Watson's personal approval for the 1939 release of special IBM alphabetizing machines to help organize the rape of Poland and the deportation of Polish Jews, as well as the IBM Concentration Camp Codes including IBM’s code for death by Gas Chamber. Among the newly published photos of the punch cards is the one developed for the statistician who reported directly to Himmler and Eichmann.

The significance of the incriminating documents requires context. Read more ..


The Animal Edge

Hatem Yavuz is the King of Seal Killers

February 28th 2012

Hatem Yavuz

Every year in Namibia, 86,000 Cape Fur Seal pups are butchered to death and only one man has the contract to turn their fur into so-called fashionable apparel. The Turkish and Australia based company Hatem Yavuz named after the owner Hatem Yavuz controls roughly 60 percent of the world’s seal market and processes 130,000 seal pelts every year in his Istanbul factory. Yavuz also has a hand in the Canadian seal market and claims to be proud of what he does. In an interview that spurred a flurry of hate mail, Yavuz told 7 News in Australia that “it’s a job. If I don’t do it, someone else is going to do it.” He is called the King of Seal Killers.

Pat Dickens, founder of the Seals of Nam, a non-profit organization that has been campaigning to end Namibia’s annual seal cull on the Cape Cross Seal Reserve. A popular tourist attraction, every year between July and November the sands of the reserve are stained pink from the blood of seal pups as young as seven months old. Men with clubs and picks enter the seal colony early in the morning. The traumatized animals squeal and run away, often regurgitating their mother’s milk in terror. Their skulls are crushed and their throats slit. Several reports show that blows to their head often only render the animals unconscious. These remains are cleaned up before tourists show up in what is a heavily regulated area. Dickens has gone through all of the appropriate channels to appeal to the Namibian government to cancel its contract with Yavuz, which is valid until 2019, as it stands in direct contravention to the Animal Protection Act of 1962 that makes it unlawful to “overload, overdrive, override, ill-treat, neglect, infuriate, torture or maim or cruelly beat, kick, goad or terrify any animal.”

Boycott

He appealed to the Namibian ombudsman Adv. John Walters, which speech has since been followed up with a series of delay tactics. Several animal rights organizations have become involved and Jane Goodall and other celebrities have made public statements against this terrible practice. Meanwhile, the Humane Society released a report which shows that the so-called seal-culling industry, which only employs 81 people in Namibia, benefits the Namibian economy 300 times less than live seals and eco-tourism would. Read more ..


The 2012 Vote

Drug Lobby Pumped $9.4 Million to Conservative Groups in Election Cash

February 28th 2012

medicine and money

The drug lobby's trade association was a multimillion-dollar donor to nonprofit groups that were actively working to elect federal candidates during the 2010 election, an iWatch News analysis of documents filed with the Internal Revenue Service reveals.

The Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, better known as PhRMA, doled out $9.4 million to 501(c)(4) “social welfare” nonprofit groups, some of which paid for ads that influenced races in the 2010 midterm election, records show.

In 2010, PhRMA gave about $20 million in “grants and other assistance” to more than 200 nonprofit organizations, including five politically active 501(c)(4) nonprofits, both liberal and conservative, which together received nearly half of the funds.

The groups were: the American Action Network, the American Future Fund, Americans for Tax Reform, America’s Families First, Inc. and the Citizens for Strength and Security Action Fund. PhRMA's largest gift in 2010 was a $4.5 million contribution to the American Action Network, a conservative 501(c)(4) that spent big money on a half-dozen high-profile U.S. Senate races and more than two dozen U.S. House races.

In 2010, American Action reported spending more than $26 million on ads to the Federal Election Commission. That was more than any other politically active nonprofit group, with the exception of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Overall, the American Action Network reportedly raised more than $30 million in 2010, meaning PhRMA alone was responsible for close to 15 percent of the group's funds. Read more ..


After the Holocaust

IBM and the Holocaust Expanded Edition--The Live Global Event

February 25th 2012

Award-winning author Edwin Black is slated to unveil the re-release of his blockbuster book IBM and the Holocaust in a new "Expanded Edition." Previous standard editions of the bestseller, orginally published in February 2001, went out of print following worldwide sales of 1.2 million copies. The new Expanded Edition will include some 32 pages of never-before-published internal IBM correspondence, State Department and Justice Department memos as well as concentration camp documents that will graphically chronicle exactly what IBM did and what they knew during the twelve-year Hitler regime. IBM has never denied any of the information in the book, and for years has claimed that it has no information about its Hitler-era activities involving the Third Reich.

Buy IBM and the Holocaust here.

The live, globally-streamed event can be seen at various websites, including Spero Forum, The Auto Channel, Energy Publisher, History Network News, the book website at IBMandtheHolocaust.com, and here at The Cutting Edge News

The release will be on February 26, 2012, 3 PM during a special Live Global Streaming Event to be held at Yeshiva University’s Furst Hall in New York City. The lecture, with questions taken in real time from a live worldwide audience, is sponsored by the American Association of Jewish Lawyers and Jurists, co-sponsored by Yeshiva University’s Office of Pre-Law Advisement, Jacob Hecht Pre-Law Society, Beren and Wilf campuses, in partnership with StandWithUs, and in association with NAHOS--National Association of Jewish Child Holocaust Survivors, Generations of the Shoah International, Scholars for Peace in the Middle East, the State of California Center for the Study of the Holocaust, Genocide, Human Rights and Tolerance, The Auto Channel, History Network News, Spero Forum, the Jewish Virtual Library, together with other groups. Read more ..


Obama and Israel

Friendship Under Fire--Netanyahu and Obama Set to Meet

February 25th 2012

Obama and Netanyau

Next month, U.S. President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will hold a key meeting over the Iranian nuclear challenge that will test their sometimes rocky relationship. After a weekend visit by National Security Advisor Tom Donilon to Israel, the White House announced this week that Obama will host Netanyahu in Washington on March 5. This will be an opportunity for the two leaders to synchronize their positions on Iran. Whether they can reach some common ground -- now or in the near future -- could be a decisive factor in Israel's decision-making on whether to strike Iran sometime this year.

International pressure on the Islamic Republic has never been higher. In addition to the new, crippling U.S. sanctions enacted on Dec. 31 and Feb. 6, the European Union recently pledged to halt the importation of Iranian oil by July 1. Iran's economy is reeling. Read more ..


After the Holocaust

IBM’s Incriminating Holocaust-era Documents to be Published in Author’s New Edition

February 21st 2012

IBM and the Holocaust Expanded Edition

Bestselling author Edwin Black has announced that a provocative, new edition of IBM and the Holocaust will be released in the coming days, on the anniversary of the book's original publication in 2001. Buy it here.

The new “Expanded Edition” will include some 32 pages of never-before-published internal IBM correspondence, State and Justice Department memos as well as concentration camp documents that will graphically chronicle exactly what IBM did and what they knew during the twelve-year Hitler regime. IBM has never denied any of the information in the book, and for years has claimed that it has no information about its Hitler-era activities involving the Third Reich.

The new Expanded Edition was necessitated after 1.2 million copies of IBM and the Holocaust sold worldwide and the book became completely out of print at the end of 2011.

The new edition is scheduled to be released on February 26, 2012, 3 PM during a special Live Global Streaming Event to be held at Yeshiva University’s Furst Hall in New York City. The event is sponsored by the American Association of Jewish Lawyers and Jurists, co-sponsored by Yeshiva University’s Office of Pre-Law Advisement, Jacob Hecht Pre-Law Society, Beren and Wilf campuses, in partnership with StandWithUs, and in association with NAHOS--National Association of Jewish Child Holocaust Survivors, Generations of the Shoah International, Scholars for Peace in the Middle East, the State of California Center for the Study of the Holocaust, Genocide, Human Rights and Tolerance, The Auto Channel, History Network News, Spero Forum, the Jewish Virtual Library, together with other groups. Read more ..


Syria on Edge

Bashar al-Assad vs. the Syrian People

February 19th 2012

Basher Assad

What began in March 2011 as an attempt to suppress peaceful antigovernment demonstrations has evolved into a war -- one that Bashar al-Assad is now waging against armed groups and the Syrian people with utter determination and extreme violence. Viewing the conflict as a life-or-death struggle, the regime is escalating its use of military force with near total disregard for the opinions of the outside world. Since late last month, it has used a combination of strategic, operational, and tactical measures to conduct a major offensive against the Free Syrian Army (FSA), the popular opposition, and the areas they control. In doing so, it has revealed its strengths and weaknesses, suggesting areas of focus for any potential international military intervention. Ultimately, without armed intervention, substantial military assistance to the FSA, or both, the best that can be hoped for is a bloody and protracted war of attrition with an uncertain outcome. 

Several factors sparked the regime offensive in late January. Popular opposition, as manifested by ongoing demonstrations, continued throughout the country, with growing unrest in Aleppo and the outskirts of Damascus. Armed resistance was also expanding. The numbers and capabilities of FSA personnel, combat elements, and associated armed groups had increased, as had the frequency and intensity of armed clashes in the Damascus area, Idlib governorate, and Deraa governorate. These factors, along with loss of territory to the opposition, gave the impression of declining regime control of the situation. Assad's forces also faced mounting internal problems: Read more ..


The Edge of Justice

California Tries to End Juvenile Imprisonment for Truancy

February 18th 2012

jail door closeup

Fifteen-year-old Juan Carlos Amezcua was just five minutes late for school, and already at the corner by Theodore Roosevelt High School in Los Angeles when a school police cruiser’s siren went off last Nov. 16. The consequences of what happened next — handcuffing, allegations of rough treatment and a $250 daytime curfew ticket — are still resonating here. In January, Amezcua and his cousin, who was also stopped by police en route to school, saw their tickets dismissed in juvenile court. Still upset at their encounter with police, though, the pair and their parents filed a complaint on Feb. 3 with the school district and police concerning officers’ behavior.

Meanwhile, the presiding judge of Los Angeles’ juvenile court and Los Angeles city leaders are also moving to curtail law-enforcement involvement in policing student attendance. The dispute is indicative of a broader, complex and, at times, racially charged debate over how best to deal with tardy or truant students in jurisdictions across the country. Since the 1990s, cities large and small have adopted daytime curfews with monetary fines to force kids to get to school. Now the City of Angels is at ground zero as the impact of such ordinances is reconsidered.

On February 20, the Los Angeles City Council’s Public Safety Committee starts a review of proposed amendments to that city’s nine-year-old daytime curfew law. Among the proposals: setting limits on enforcement by police, who routinely search youths and sometimes handcuff them. The proposed amendments would also effectively end $250 fines in favor of negotiated agreements that tardy students submit to counseling. Read more ..


The Digital Edge

Low-Cost Android Smartphones will Seize 80 Percent of Market in Africa, India, and China

February 16th 2012

Computer Topics - Android

The Android OS has taken the smartphone world by storm. In just two years, Android has become the top smartphone OS worldwide. In the US, Android reached #1 in smartphone OS sales because wireless operators that did not carry the iPhone chose Android as their smartphone solution. Yet, the Android handsets that are selling well in the US and Europe are not the same low-cost Android handsets selling elsewhere in the world. New In-Stat research forecasts that low-cost Android handsets will reach a penetration rate of 80% of total smartphones in Africa, India, and China by 2015.

The low-cost Android smartphone segment is comprised primarily of smartphones released with Android 2.2 or 2.3, since these versions are a good blend of features with modest memory and processor usage. The low-end low-cost smartphones generally stick with EDGE and processors running at 600MHz or lower, because a single-core EDGE chip sells for well under USD10. For our purposes, low-cost means smartphones that are USD150 or less. Smaller phone manufacturers will sometimes purchase from the “gray market” where component manufacturers typically don't pay licensing fees, royalties, or taxes for the products they produce. Early competitors in the market include Huawei, MicroMax, Motorola, Samsung, Spice, and ZTE. Read more ..


The Drug Wars

The Rise of Mexican Meth Labs may Pick a Winner in the Narcotics Business

February 16th 2012

Mexican Topics - mexican meth lab

Mexican authorities announced Feb. 8 the largest seizure of methamphetamine in Mexican history -- and possibly the largest ever anywhere -- on a ranch outside of Guadalajara. The total haul was 15 tons of pure methamphetamine along with a laboratory capable of producing all the methamphetamine seized. While authorities are not linking the methamphetamine to any specific criminal group, Guadalajara is a known stronghold of the Sinaloa Federation, and previous seizures there have been connected to the group.

Methamphetamine, a synthetic drug manufactured in personal labs for decades, is nothing new in Mexico or the United States. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has led numerous crusades against the drug, increasing regulations on its ingredients to try to keep it from gaining a foothold in the United States. While the DEA's efforts have succeeded in limiting production of the drug in the United States, consumption has risen steadily over the past two decades. The increasing DEA pressure on U.S. suppliers and the growing demand for methamphetamine have driven large-scale production of the drug outside the borders of the United States. Given Mexico's proximity and the pervasiveness of organized criminal elements seeking new markets, it makes sense that methamphetamine would be produced on an industrial scale there. Indeed, Mexico has provided an environment for a scale of production far greater than anything ever seen in the United States. Read more ..


The Edge of Climate Change

Deconstructing a Mystery: What Caused Washington's Snowmaggedon?

February 13th 2012

Weather - Washington Blizzard

In the quiet after the storms, streets and cars had all but disappeared under piles of snow. The U.S. Postal Service suspended service for the first time in 30 years. Snow plows struggled to push the evidence off of major roads. Hundreds of thousands of Washington metropolitan residents grappled with the loss of electricity and heat for almost a week.

By February 10, 2010 the National Weather Service had reported that three storms spanning December to February in the winter of 2009-2010 had dumped a whopping 54.9 inches of snow on the Baltimore-Washington area. The snowfall broke a seasonal record first set in 1899. Snowmaggedon, or Snowpocalypse, as the winter was dubbed, entered the history books as the snowiest winter on record for the U.S. East Coast. Read more ..


America on Edge

California Makes History by Closing its Juvenile Prisons

February 12th 2012

Social Topics - prison cell northern ireland flickr

California, often a trendsetter, could make history if it approves Gov. Jerry Brown’s bid to close all state-run youth prisons and eliminate its state Division of Juvenile Justice. Much depends, though, on whether the state’s politically influential prison guards, probation officers and district attorneys can be convinced — or forced by legislators — to agree to Brown’s proposal. That won’t be an easy sell, due to both public-safety arguments and sure-to-surface haggling over just who pays to house juvenile offenders. owing to restructure government more efficiently, Brown, a Democrat, wants to close the last three of 11 youth prisons that have long been attacked by critics as “expensive failures.” If the state phases out the last three of its aging detention centers, all future young offenders would be held, schooled and treated by California’s 58 counties.

This is the second time since taking office last year that Brown has proposed closing the state juvenile division, which is part of its corrections system. The division’s responsibility has already been slashed dramatically from 10,000 wards in the mid-1990s to about 1,100 in state custody today. Their numbers may be few, but the cost for keeping those youth in state custody runs about $200,000-a-year for every ward. Read more ..


The Battle for Syria

Assad Would Cross a Red Line Should Syria Transfer WMDs to Hezbollah Terrorists

February 10th 2012

Terrorism - Hamas head

Israel has sternly warned embattled Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad against transferring his stockpile of unconventional weapons, long-range missiles, and advanced anti-aircraft weapons to the Hezbollah terrorist organization. A transfer of chemical weapons would be tantamount to a declaration of war against Israel, declared a senior Israeli defense official on February 6 who averred that his country will not accept such a move and would act to prevent it.

Assad confronted political opponents and ordinary Syrians in a nearly 11-month standoff in which 5,000 people have been killed, according to the United Nations. Over the last ten days, Syrian rebels briefly controlled the eastern periphery of Damascus, the capital city, but were met with a brutal and swift response by Syrian forces loyal to the dictator. While the resistance was crushed, it is seen in the region as a dangerous development for the regime. Read more ..


The Iranian Threat

Besides the Hormuz Strait, Iran Threatens Two other Naval Chokepoints

February 10th 2012

Iran - Strait of Homurz1
The Strait of Hormuz

Considerable attention is being given to Iranian threats to block the Strait of Hormuz, through which a large proportion of the world’s petroleum sails. The U.S Energy Information Administration estimates that “almost 17 million barrels in 2011, up from between 15.5-16.0 million bbl/d in 2009-2010,” sails past Iranian gun and missile emplacements along the coast, mine-laying ships, and Revolutionary Guard fast boats. In 2011, that amounted to “roughly 35 percent of all seaborne traded oil, or almost 20 percent of oil traded worldwide.”

Yet the recent visit of two Iranian naval vessels to the Saudi Red Sea port of Jeddah should draw attention to two more vital naval chokepoints—the Bab el Mandeb Strait at the southern tip of the Red Sea, and the Suez Canal located between the northern tip of the Red Sea and the Mediterranean. (See this map.) More than three million barrels of oil pass through the Bab el Mandeb every day on the way to the Suez Canal and the SUMED (Suez-Mediterranean) pipeline used by tankers that are too big to traverse the Canal. Closure of the Bab el Mandeb would force ships to travel around the southern tip of Africa. Read more ..


Edge of Environmental Health

Landmark Lung Cancer Study Remains Unpublished Due to Industry and Congressional Interference

February 6th 2012

Energy / Environment - diesel exhaust

Publication of a landmark government study probing whether diesel engine exhaust causes lung cancer in miners — already 20 years in the making — has been delayed by industry and congressional insistence on seeing study data and documents before the public does. A federal judge has affirmed the right of an industry group and a House committee to review the materials and has held the Department of Health and Human Services in contempt for not producing all of them.

The much-anticipated study of 12,000 miners exposed to diesel fumes carries broad implications. If the research suggests a strong link between the fumes and cancer, regulation and litigation could ramp up — with consequences not only for underground mining, but also for industries such as trucking, rail and shipping. Exposure isn't limited to workers; people who live near ports, rail yards and highways also are subjected to diesel exhaust laced with carcinogens such as benzene, arsenic and formaldehyde. But for the time being, at least, the results of an $11.5 million investigation by the National Cancer Institute and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health are under lock and key. Read more ..


The Weather Edge

Are Tornados Really Caused by Car Exhaust?

February 5th 2012

Weather - Rain

A NASA-funded joint research project between the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and the University of Maryland has helped connect the dots further between air pollution and climate change.The researchers believe air pollution is wreaking havoc on local weather systems and water distribution. This might explain freaky weather patterns and extreme tornadoes and flooding in the United States in recent years -- or the fog blanket covering Beijing on its off-the-chart polluted days when it's too dangerous to go outside.

As they described in a November article in the science journal Nature Geoscience, the bi-national team analyzed a 10-year dataset of atmospheric measurements taken by the US Southern Great Plains research facility in Oklahoma. This facility is run by the US Department of Energy's Atmospheric Radiation Measurement program. Read more ..


Book Review

British Petroleum and the Redline Agreement: How America's Oil Addiction Created a Legacy of Deceit and War

February 2nd 2012

Book Covers - redline agreement

British Petroleum and the Redline Agreement. Edwin Black. 2011. Dialog Press. 277 pages.

British Petroleum and the Redline Agreement: The West's Secret Pact to Get Mideast Oil is the third and latest entry in an series of books written by award-winning investigative journalist Edwin Black that tackles the issues surrounding automobiles, energy, and transportation. The previous two books are Internal Combustion and The Plan: How to Rescue Society the Day the Oil Stops. As with all of his other books, Black relies upon a crack research team to uncover and compile an exhaustive trove of heretofore unknown factual information and data.

Buy it here. See Book TV here.

To me, as a dedicated free-market capitalist and defender of American ideals, I would like to believe that the story of petroleum oil exploration should be one of entrepreneurial glory. Instead, the more I learn about the corruption and machinations employed by British Petroleum and its industry cohorts and competitors, the more I realize that we have been the victims of oil’s subjugation for well over 100 years.

With the rise of industrialization and the advent of the automobile and other forms of engine-powered transportation, the world needed a standardized source of fuel for the new machines. That fuel could easily have been a fuel produced by virtually anyone using organic materials. However, a fuel based on simple vegetation or human waste, and a common distillation process that couldn't be patented left little on the table for those who sought unbridled power and wealth. British Petroleum and the Redline Agreement reads like the most exciting Tom Clancy novel entwined with a devious international conspiracy worthy of Ian Fleming’s wildest James Bond adventure; although even for a 007 yarn it might run the risk of being considered too implausible a plot. Buy it here. Read more ..


Israel and Iran

The End of Days in Palestine

February 1st 2012

Book Covers - Palestine the Book
Palestine the Book, by Jonathan Bloomfield

What would we do if we lived in a flood plain with no egress at all, or along a hurricane evacuation zone that just prolonged the inevitable without taking you out of the path? It is probably something few really consider until the storm is bearing down on them and reality is about hit hard. Living in the New York metropolitan area, having experienced hurricanes, nor'easters and blizzards that destroyed property, wiped out beaches, killed people and devastated lives and families, many of us can imagine the sense of urgency when an emergency is near.

Most recently, last April and May we watched the 24 hour news channels as large regions of Kentucky, Tennessee, and Mississippi were hit by the largest storms since the early 1900s, and the Morganza Spillway was intentionally opened, destroying nearly 5000 square miles of inhabited land to spare total destruction of Baton Rouge and New Orleans, on the heels of the 2005 hurricane that nearly wiped out the whole Gulf region. What if the people who lived there or were visiting the area then had no way to escape?

The prospect is frightening and for just about all of us, unimaginable. Now imagine the threat is not a tidal wave, rushing floodwaters, a violent tornado or some other natural disaster, and something that can wipe out life as we know it for years to come, destroying not just property, but everyone and everything in its wake. Imagine the threat is a nuclear explosion, the mushroom cloud in the distance, the flash of light and the torrent effect of the ripple that tears through everything in its path, leaving death and darkness then nothingness.

This is a fear that we face living in a nuclear world, but one that we here in the United States feel is either so remote or could hit elsewhere, but not in my backyard. However, in Israel, the fear is real. With the entire country being just 8,019 square miles; extending about 200 mi north to south and just 70 miles east to west; with its narrowest point being only 12 miles across, there is nowhere to go to outrun a nuclear attack, nowhere to hide and nothing to do but watch the end of the world take hold. Read more ..


The 2012 Vote

Democrat PACs and Non-Profits Lag GOP in Essential Fundraising

February 1st 2012

Politics - Bundles of Money

A handful of Democratic super PACs and nonprofits reported raising together just over $19 million last year, a paltry sum compared to the leading GOP groups.

The groups formed last year to help President Barack Obama win a second term and improve Democrats’ congressional fortunes,

The total is based on a joint press release the groups issued Tuesday evening and includes over $6.7 million for Priorities USA and Priorities USA Action, started in early 2011 by two former White House aides, Bill Burton and Sean Sweeney — a slow start toward their goal of roping in $100 million to spend this election year.

In the first half of last year, the two groups backing Obama raised over $5 million which underscores their lackluster results in the second half. Read more ..


Islam on Edge

Opinion Split in Canadian Muslim Community over Guilty Verdict in Honor-Killing

January 30th 2012

Crime Topics - Zainab Shafia
Victim Zanaib Shafia

Following a guilty verdict in Ontario in a first-degree murder case, the Muslim community of Canada reacted with apparent approval.  Imam Sikander Hashmi of the Islamic Society of Kingston, of the city where the trial unfolded, said "The jurors and the court have done their job. Our job as community leaders and members of society is that we have to be very clear about our position on domestic violence and such crimes."  The Muslim religious leader added, "We need to speak very strongly, and we need to take concrete action."

It was on Sunday, January 29, that a Kingston, Ont., court handed down a guilty verdict in what has been called an ‘honor killing.’  A jury found a Montreal couple and their son guilty of first-degree murder in the deaths of four family members. Mohammad Shafia (59), his wife Tooba Yahya (42) and their son Hamed (21), were each handed an automatic life sentence with no chance of parole for 25 years. The trio was accused of drowning Hamed's three teenage sisters and his father's first wife in a polygamous marriage, in what prosecutors described as an attempt to restore the family's honor. The three girls were named Zainab, Sahar and Geeti Shafia, while Shafia’s first wife was Rona Amir Mohammad. Read more ..


The Digital Edge

Google Collaborates with Foreign Governments and Courts to provide Private Information

January 29th 2012

Computer Topics - google logo

There has been much speculation, conjecture, outrage, and confusion over an announcement by Google, the famed Internet search engine, over the consolidation of its various services. In a message to Internet users who use Google’s services, the U.S. based company told customers in an email, “We’re getting rid of over 60 different privacy policies across Google and replacing them with one that’s a lot shorter and easier to read. Our new policy covers multiple products and features, reflecting our desire to create one beautifully simple and intuitive experience across Google.” The change is set for March 1.

Besides the change in its privacy policy, Google continues to garner attention for what critics fear is a form of collaboration with governments that has implications not only for customers’ privacy but human rights as well. Member of Congress have requested that Google answer a series of questions about the new policy before March 1. Members of the Energy and Commerce committee, including ranking minority member Henry Waxman (D) and subcommittee chairman Cliff Stearns (R), signed the letter that demands that Google describe “describe all information that Google collects from its consumers now.” Read more ..


The Arab Fall in Egypt

Sam LaHood, Son of U.S. Transportation Secretary, Barred from Leaving Egypt

January 27th 2012

Egypt - Sam LaHood
Sam LaHood

Ten Americans working for nongovernmental organizations in Egypt have been barred from leaving the country.  Among them is is a son of U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, Sam LaHood. 

Mr. LaHood is director of the Washington-based International Republican Institute's Egyptian office, an organization that seeks to promote democracy in Egypt.  Mr. LaHood reported that when he showed his passport to the immigration official at the airport on January 21, 2012, he was told to stand aside. He was then told that he could not leave the country, but was given no reason as to why. 

Recently, Egypt's military council has been suggesting that the United States is trying to destabilize Egypt by non-profit human rights groups and these democracy-building agencies.  Upon learning the news of the ban, Washington officials said that Egypt was "endangering American lives."  Egypt referred to the travel ban as a "de facto detention."

In December, LaHood’s organizational office in Egypt was raided and police took everything: computers, documents, furniture, and the office was sealed and remains so for the past six weeks. Prior to this ban, the American Embassy had been working hard to get the property back, but nothing has been returned or explained. Lorne W. Craner, President of the International Republican Institute, said that the Egyptian government had promised to close the investigation and return the seized property, but nothing has happened. "Here we are all these weeks later and all these assurances later, and things are getting worse," Craner said.

Mr. LaHood reported that he complied with investigators, signed a statement on a copy of his passport and pledged to be available for his next “interrogation”. 17 members of LaHood’s staff had been interrogated and three called back for a second session. Read more ..


The Race for EV's

London to be European Electromobility Capital

January 25th 2012

Automotive - Ford Focus electric

The British government and a number of private-public initiatives are successfully building the charging infrastructure for electric vehicles, says Frost & Sullivan. "London has over 500 public charging stations and is dynamically adding more to it", explains Research Associate Prajyot N. Sathe. “The launch of the Source London scheme is working towards getting 1.300 public charging stations by 2013.” By 2015, about 25.000 charging stations will be available in the greater London area. The North East England region also is pushing ahead electromobility infrastructure - the region recently has installed 300 charging stations; the goal is to get 1300 charging stations already in 2013. North East England has been included in the “Plugged-in places” project, that offers matched funding to business and public sectors to install charging stations. They have also been formulated to integrate residential charging stations with a provision for smart meters.

Nissan's strategic use of its Sunderland plant for developing Electric Vehicles (EVs) across Europe has accelerated the government’s vision to increase sustainable and 'green-collar’ jobs. The ambitious targets set by the government and heavy contracts secured by leading EV infrastructure providers are the major grounds for the impressive deployment of the EV charging stations network at strategic locations such as car parks, residential and commercial locations as well as leisure facilities. Read more ..


The Edge of Space

Earth Hit by Solar Space Storm

January 24th 2012

Science - Solar flare

NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory witnessed an eruption early Monday morning and now astronomers are warning that the biggest geomagnetic storm since 2005 could cause considerable communication disruptions. A solar flare caused by an eruption of sunspot 1402, a region of the sun that has been highly active lately, has created a radiation storm that could effect power grids, satellites and even air travel. This particular eruption produced a M9 class solar flare, almost high enough to be rated as an X-flare, the most powerful of them all.

Solar flares occur when a build up of magnetic energy in the solar atmosphere is released suddenly, emitting radiation across the electromagnetic spectrum. The energy released is as powerful as the impact of an explosion of millions of hydrogen bombs detonating simultaneously. As magnetic energy is released, particles such as electrons, nuclei and protons are accelerated in the solar atmosphere. The first recorded solar flare was observed in 1859. Read more ..


Turkey's Genocide of Armenians

Turkey Enraged over French Legislation to Ban Denial of the Armenian Genocide

January 24th 2012

Genocides - Armenian death march
Armenian death march

On January 23, the French Senate approved a bill which acknowledges that some 1.5 million Armenian Christians were slaughtered by Ottoman Turks during the First World War. The denial of this historical truth in France, under the legislation, will bring a year in prison or a fine of up to 45,000 euros (just over £40,000) for those convicted. The bill awaits the signature of President Nicolas Sarkozy. Turkey, an ally of both the United States and France, sees the measure as an insult to its national honor. The largely Muslim country has already suspended all military, economic and political ties with France.

Calling the legislation both "racist and discriminatory", Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan called on Sarkozy not to sign the bill, offering unspecified “retaliatory measures” if he does. "For us it is null and void," said Erdogan, who leads an Islamist party. "We still have not lost our hope that it can be corrected." Turkey's Foreign Ministry also condemned the Senate vote in a statement, saying it should not be ratified so as “avoid this being recorded as part of France's political, legal and moral mistakes.”  The statement added that “we will not hesitate to implement, as we deem appropriate, the measures that we have considered in advance." Read more ..


The 2012 Vote

Obama's State of the Union Address to Focus on Economic Fair Play

January 23rd 2012

Obama Admin Topics - Obama and Flag

On Tuesday, President Barack Obama delivers his State of the Union address to the U.S. Congress.  Obama provided a preview of the speech he will deliver in one of the most difficult economic and political environments any president has faced in decades. The economy will be front and center as the president makes the trip to Capitol Hill to address a joint session of Congress. Unemployment is falling, but not as quickly as Obama hoped.  This threatens his re-election chances. But Congress has historically low approval ratings - polls show that more than 80 percent  of Americans disapprove of the job it is doing.

In speeches across the country, Obama has targeted what he calls congressional dysfunction. On Saturday, the president issued a video message previewing broad themes of what he calls his blueprint for America's economy.  He said it will be based on a speech he gave in Osawatomie, Kansas, last year in which he spoke about the importance of the middle class and fair play. "I talked in Osawatomie about - this is a make-or-break moment for the middle class and folks trying to work their way into the middle class," he said. "Because we can go in two directions.  One is toward less opportunity and less fairness.  Or we can fight for where I think we need to go: building an economy that works for everyone, not just a wealthy few." Read more ..


Edge on Books

Edwin Black Exposes War-Stained Oil History of British Petroleum on C-SPAN's Book-TV with 'British Petroleum and the Redline Agreement'

January 21st 2012

Book Covers - redline agreement

British Petroleum and the Redline Agreement--The West’s Secret Pact to Get Mideast Oil. Edwin Black. 277 pages. 2011. Buy it here.

Bestselling historian author and investigative journalist Edwin Black appears in three broadcasts on Book-TV over the January 21-22 weekend and January 23. Black will speak on his book British Petroleum and the Redline AgreementThe West’s Secret Pact to Get Mideast Oil. His main themes will be the fraud, deception, and decades of war machinations of the company now known as BP, and how it shaped the Mideast as we now know it and helped addict the world to oil.

His dynamic presentations were made before an international audience assembled at the St. Regis Hotel in Washington D.C. sponsored by the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs (JINSA). British Petroleum and the Redline Agreement is only the latest of his several volumes on the geopolitics and diplomatic machinations that led to the carving up of the Mideast the creation of oil states following the fall of the Ottoman Empire nearly one hundred years ago-- and eventually to the two costly wars the United States fought in Iraq. Black is said to be the man who coined the term "petropolitics."

Some of his other widely-cited books on the topic, which have been well received by historians and analysts, are The Farhud, Banking on Baghdad, The Plan and Internal Combustion. These cover the intricate and deadly connections between backroom dealings by global powers such as British Petroleum and General Motors, Nazi Germany and the Holocaust, as well as and their interveined relationship with America’s wars and oil addiction. Black is best known for his prize-winning volume, IBM and the Holocaust.

British Petroleum and the Redline Agreement has brought Black accolades from analysts who watch the Mideast and the current devolution of decades-old oil-sponsored dictatorships in Egypt, Libya and Tunisia, and the possible rise of Islamist regimes. His work provides historical context to the troubles of the so-called Arab Spring that have led to the fall of Libya’s Muammar Gadhafi and Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak. Read more ..


Edge of Terrorism

Northern Nigeria Faces Apparent Ethnic Cleansing

January 21st 2012

Nigeria - Nigeria christmas day bomb
Christmas Day, 2011, bombing in Abuja

"I am trying to get in contact with Mgr. John Namanza Niyiring, Bishop of Kano but the lines do not work", reported Catholic Archbishop Ignatius Ayau Kaigama of Jos in central Nigeria. On the evening of January 20, in Kano, northern Nigeria's largest city, a series of coordinated bomb attacks and armed assaults hit several targets, among which where some police stations.

"Last night, I spoke with the pastor of the church of Our Lady of the Apostles who, over the phone, and told me he was forced to hide because he was under attack. But the information that we have so far are still fragmentary, and we are waiting for confirmation. Telephone lines are interrupted, I do not know if it is due to a technical problem or other causes. The situation is still confusing. We will see how the government reacts to this new attack", said the Archbishop of Jos.

A 24-hour curfew has been imposed in Nigeria's second-largest city, Kano, after a coordinated series of bomb attacks. Nigerian police say at least seven people have been killed in the bombings that targeted police and government offices in the northern city. The Islamic extremist group Boko Haram has claimed responsibility for the attacks. Read more ..


The Edge of Terrorism

Hamas Seeks a New Patron

January 20th 2012

Palestine Topics - Hamas at Press Conference

The emergent winner of the Arab upheavals of 2011 is Sunni Islamism. This is reflected most centrally in the election results in Egypt, where the Muslim Brotherhood and the more extreme Salafi trend have won a landslide victory. Arab Sunni Islamist regimes are set to emerge in the period ahead as factors in the regional contest for power.

The emergence of regimes of this type is bad news for the West, but it also represents a setback for the main enemies of the West in the Mideast — namely, Iran and its allies. The rise of Sunni Islamism has implications in the Palestinian arena. Hamas is currently seeking to exit the Shia, Iran-led bloc in the direction of Sunni Islamist power. Meanwhile, Iran is focusing on its solid link with the Palestinian Islamic Jihad movement as an alternative to the dying alliance with Hamas. Read more ..


The Iranian Threat

Iran, the U.S. and the Strait of Hormuz

January 17th 2012

Iran - Iranian Admiral Habibullah

The United States reportedly sent a letter to Iran via multiple intermediaries last week warning Tehran that any attempt to close the Strait of Hormuz constituted a red line for Washington. The same week, a chemist associated with Iran’s nuclear program was killed in Tehran. In Ankara, Iranian parliamentary speaker Ali Larijani met with Turkish officials and has been floating hints of flexibility in negotiations over Iran’s nuclear program.

This week, a routine rotation of U.S. aircraft carriers is taking place in the Middle East, with the potential for three carrier strike groups to be on station in the U.S. Fifth Fleet’s area of operations and a fourth carrier strike group based in Japan about a week’s transit from the region. Next week, Gen. Michael Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, will travel to Israel to meet with senior Israeli officials. And Iran is scheduling another set of war games in the Persian Gulf for February that will focus on the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ irregular tactics for closing the Strait of Hormuz. Read more ..


The Edge of Medicine

Drug Resistant Strain of Tuberculosis Causes Fear in India

January 16th 2012

Health/Medicine - TB Bacteria
Tuberculosis Culture

A Los Angeles Times report has revealed that a virulent strain of tuberculosis is causing concern for officials in India.  More than a dozen people have been infected with an antibiotic-resistant variant of the lung disease.

The December issue of Clinical Infectious Diseases highlighted four cases of the disease but the Indian media report that no fewer than twelve people have been affected.  Epidemiologists are fearful that a larger number of cases may have gone undetected.

A co-author of the study, Zarir Udwadia of the Hinduja National Hospital and Medical Research Centre in Mumbai, told New Scientist "It's estimated that on average, a tuberculosis patient infects 10 to 20 contacts in a year, and there's no reason to suspect that this strain is any less transmissible," adding "Short of quarantining them in hospitals with isolation facilities till they become non-infectious—which is not practical or possible—there is nothing else one can do to prevent transmission." Read more ..


The Arab Fall in Egypt

Inside The Muslim Brotherhood's Plan to Re-Invent Egypt

January 16th 2012

Egypt - Members of Muslim Brotherhood
Islamic Brotherhood

Given the Muslim Brotherhood's anti-Western outlook, Washington must prepare for the strong possibility that it will hold only limited influence with Egypt's next government.

The FJP was licensed on April 30, 2011, making it the second new party to be recognized by the Egyptian government following Hosni Mubarak's February 11 ouster. Initially, it sought to assuage fears of a post-Mubarak Islamist takeover by promising to run for fewer than 50 percent of the seats. But after its electoral alliance with the Wafd Party broke down in late October, the FJP announced that it would contest 77 percent of the seats.

In the first round of the elections, which began on November 28, the FJP's coalition won an estimated 73 of 150 seats (48.7 percent), and in the second round, which began on December 14, an estimated 79 of 172 seats (45.9 percent). Its margin of victory is expected to increase in the third round, which is taking place in traditional Brotherhood strongholds such as the Gharbiyah and Daqahliyah governorates. Read more ..


The Edge of Justice

Our Youngest Killers

January 16th 2012

Crime Topics - Kids Jail

One 16-year-old went looking for pot at a Brookline High School graduation party, then shot the guest of honor in the chest when he got a racial slur instead. The other 16-year-old stabbed a man 23 times inside his Springfield apartment, returning the next day to steal things from the victim’s home while his body lay nearby. Both crimes were horrific, but the punishments were strikingly different. The murderer in Springfield, Edgardo Rodriguez, accepted a plea deal for the 2004 killing of Joel Rivera Delgado, allowing him to potentially walk free within the next decade. The other teen, Antonio Fernandez, took his 2002 case to trial and received the harshest juvenile sentence Massachusetts permits — the harshest in the country, in fact — for shooting Perry Hughes: life in prison without the possibility of parole. Until then, Fernandez had never been charged with anything worse than stealing video games. Now, he’s sentenced to die in prison.

The two cases illustrate the profound inequities that have grown up in the juvenile justice system in the wake of a 1996 law aimed at cracking down on juvenile “super predators,” by requiring them to be tried in adult court where they face the maximum adult penalty for first degree murder, an investigation by the New England Center for Investigative Reporting has found. Before the change, juvenile killers could only be sentenced to serve until age 21 unless their case was transferred to adult court. Read more ..


The 2012 Vote

Outsider Rick Santorum and his Insider Corporate Money

January 16th 2012

Politics - Senator Santorum

Rick Santorum the presidential candidate casts himself as a Washington outsider, “one of the most successful government reformers in our history,” according to his campaign bio, “taking on Washington's powerful special interests from the moment he arrived in our nation’s capital.” But Rick Santorum the House and Senate member received more than $11 million in contributions from corporate and other special interest political action committees (PACs) over his career, according to a Center for Public Integrity investigation.

Among the largest donors are giants from the telecommunications, tobacco, and banking industries, the analysis found. The Center examined contributions to the Pennsylvanian’s congressional, senatorial and 2012 presidential campaigns — as well as his “America’s Foundation” and “Fight PAC” leadership PACs, entities set up by Santorum to aid others in their political campaigns. Corporate PACs connected to telecommunications firms that became today’s AT&T Inc. poured more than $98,000 into Santorum’s campaign coffers, making the behemoth his top career patron. Those donations may have been rewarded with support for the industry; in 1996 Santorum was one of 91 Senators to approve the heavily lobbied rewrite of telecommunications law that deregulated the industry. Government watchdog group Common Cause decried the industry for “buying” the legislation. Read more ..


The Edge of Space

A Wealth of Habitable Planets in the Milky Way

January 14th 2012

Science - ESO La Silla Obervatory
ESO's La Silla Observatory in Chile (credit: ESO/Z. Bardon)

Six years of observations of millions of stars now show how common it is for stars to have planets in orbits around them. Using a method that is highly sensitive to planets that lie in a habitable zone around the host stars, astronomers, including members from the Niels Bohr Institute, have discovered that most of the Milky Way’s 100 billion stars have planets that are very similar to the Earth-like planets in our own solar system—Mercury, Venus, Earth and Mars, while planets like Jupiter and Saturn are more rare. The results are published in the prestigious scientific journal Nature.

“Our results show that planets orbiting around stars are more the rule than the exception. In a typical solar system approximately four planets have their orbits in the terrestrial zone, which is the distance from the star where you can find solid planets. On average, there are 1.6 planets in the area around the stars that corresponds to the area between Venus and Saturn,” explains astronomer Uffe Gråe Jørgensen, head of the research group Astrophysics and Planetary Science at the Niels Bohr Institute at the University of Copenhagen. Read more ..


War on Terror

DoD names Marine General Waldhauser to Investigate Taliban Corpse Desecration Case

January 14th 2012

Military - marine general waldhauser
General Thomas Waldhauser

The U.S. Marine Corps has laid the groundwork for deciding what disciplinary action will be taken in the case of an Internet video that appears to show Marine snipers urinating on dead bodies of suspected Afghan Taliban fighters. The top Marine officer, General James Amos, appointed three-star General Thomas Waldhauser to oversee the case. Waldhauser named another officer to do an internal Marine Corps investigation, which is in addition to a criminal probe under way by the Naval Criminal Investigative Service.

The Pentagon says two of the four Marines seen in the video have been identified, but has not released their names. Afghan President Hamid Karzai has called for the U.S. government to conduct an independent investigation into the behavior of the soldiers in the video, which has stoked anger among many Afghans. U.S. Secretary of Defense​ Leon Panetta called the video “utterly deplorable” and ordered a high-level probe into the incident, which has been condemned by other White House officials and politicians. “Those found to have engaged in such conduct will be held accountable to the fullest extent,” said the Secretary of Defense, who advised the commander of western troops in Afghanistan to launch their own investigation. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton expressed “total dismay” at the video, calling it “deplorable behavior” and “absolutely inconsistent with the standards of behavior that the vast majority of Marines hold themselves to.” Read more ..



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