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The Solyndra Scandal

Fundraiser for Obama Urged Solyndra Deal from the Inside

October 12th 2011

Obama Admin Topics - Steven Spinner

An elite Obama fundraiser hired to help oversee the administration’s energy loan program pushed and prodded career Energy Department officials to move faster in approving a loan guarantee for Solyndra, even as his wife’s law firm was representing the California solar company, according to internal emails made public late Friday, October 7.

“How hard is this? What is he waiting for?” Steven J. Spinner, who worked in the Obama administration’s energy loan guarantee program, wrote in August 2009. “I have OVP [the Office of the Vice President] and WH [the White House] breathing down my neck on this.” Spinner, a high-tech consultant and energy investor who raised at least $500,000 for Obama’s campaign, joined the DOE in April 2009. Read more ..


Israel on Edge

Israeli Prime Minister Explains Prospective Release of Abducted IDF Soldier Gilad Shalit

October 11th 2011

Israel Topics - Gilad Shalit

The following remarks were made by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu of Israel concerning the expected release of Gilad Shalit, an Israeli soldier who was abducted on June 25, 2006 by Hamas terrorists:

Today, I bring a proposal to the Government for a deal that will bring Gilad Shalit home alive and well; bring him home to his parents Aviva and Noam, his brother Yoel, his sister Hadas, his grandfather Zvi, and the entire people of Israel. Two and a half years ago, when the government was formed, I took upon myself, as my first priority, to bring Gilad home to his people, to his family – to bring him home safe and sound.

At the time, Gilad was already held in captivity for two and a half years, with no visits from the Red Cross, with no visits at all, and we did not know what state he was in. The first step I took, and we approved it here in the Government, was to get a video recording of Gilad, and we all breathed a sigh of relief when we saw it. We saw that he was functioning, physically, mentally and cognitively. We saw that he was functioning well. We knew that he was healthy and that he was alive. I regarded that tape as an insurance policy, because it obliged the Hamas before the international community to safeguard him, to keep him alive and maintain his health. But that was obviously only the first step. Read more ..


Egypt After Mubarak

Dozens of Coptic Christians Die in Confrontation with Egyptian Military

October 10th 2011

Egypt - Dead Copts

Egypt’s prime minister, Essam Sharaf, said on October 10 that violent clashes between the army and protesters had "brought us back" to the early days of 2011 when similar protests brought down former dictator Hosni Mubarak. Speaking on television early in the morning, Sharaf said "Instead of going forward, we found ourselves scrambling for security," while averring that the clash had harvested "martyrs, both civilian and from the military." At least 12 troops were reportedly killed in the affray on October 9, while Sherif Doss – a leader of Egypt’s Coptic Christians – claimed that 17 civilians had died and 40 were injured. Other reports suggest that 48 Copts were killed in the clash and dozens injured. An army spokesman claimed that more than 50 troops were injured. Army trucks were set alight. This was the most violent clash in Egypt since January.

The violent protest and military counter attack came just a week after the burning of a Coptic Christian church in southern Egypt. The arson prompted the Sunday protest demanding equality and protection of Coptic churches and monasteries. Read more ..


Significant Lives

Apple's Steve Jobs Passes into History and so does an Era

October 6th 2011

Computer Topics - Steve Jobs 2

Steve Jobs, co-founder of Apple and the holder of more than 300 technology patents, died on October 5. The eccentric entrepreneur who built Apple into the world’s leading technological company started in a prosaic garage in Silicon Valley. Having built one of the first personal computers marketed, Jobs led Apple to create wildly popular devices such as the iPhone. He was 56.

Sometimes accused of egocentricity, Jobs pioneered the concept of the personal computer and of navigating them by clicking onscreen images with a mouse, which he also developed. In more recent years, Jobs introduced the iPod portable music player, the iPhone and the iPad tablet, which changed how content is accessed and consume in the digital age. "Steve Jobs is one of the great innovators in the history of modern capitalism," New York Times columnist Joe Nocera said in August. "His intuition has been phenomenal over the years." Read more ..


Global Economy on Edge

Nearly €6 billion in Subsidies Fuels Spain’s Ravenous Fishing Fleet

October 5th 2011

Europe Topics - Akrana - fishing boat

Decades of overfishing have left Europe’s fish stocks in peril and its fishermen in poverty. It’s an impasse paid for by EU taxpayers. Yet a proposed revision of the EU’s fishing law, hailed as a sweeping reform, is rapidly losing momentum.

A look at the industry’s biggest player—Spain—shows what officials are up against. Billions of euros in subsidies built its bloated fleet and propped up a money-losing industry. All the while companies systematically flout the rules while officials overlook fraud and continue to fund offenders, an ICIJ investigation has found.

“Spain has earned its bad reputation,” said Ernesto Penas Lado, director of policy and enforcement at the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries. “The problem is others don’t have the reputation and deserve it just as much.” Read more ..


Egypt After Mubarak

Egypt's New Election Laws are yet another Setback for Democracy

October 3rd 2011

Egypt - Shouting Muslims in Cairo

Election laws that ensure a broadly representative parliament are vital to the legitimacy of Egypt's transition, but the newly announced system falls far short of this goal.

Egypt's complicated new parliamentary laws, which the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) endorsed today, represent the latest setback for the country's democratic prospects. By perpetuating the individual candidacy system for one-third of the parliament, the new laws virtually ensure that the former ruling party will be well represented in the next legislature. Meanwhile, the proportional representation voting system, which will determine the other two-thirds of the parliament, will likely include a provision for a "largest remainder system," making it virtually impossible for small parties to compete with larger, mostly illiberal parties.

Since 1976, Egypt has regularly held tightly controlled multiparty parliamentary elections. During the Mubarak era, these votes enabled the regime to create the impression of democratic legitimacy while it otherwise manipulated the system to ensure a parliamentary supermajority for the ruling National Democratic Party (NDP). Read more ..


Edge on Terrorism

American Terrorist Anwar al-Awlaki may be Gone but Jihadists are Still in the Building

September 30th 2011

Terrorism - Arab terrorist
Anwar al Awlaki

Imam Anwar al Awlaki held two important positions in the cobweb of international Jihadi terror. First, he was one of the emerging younger leaders of al Qaeda after the killing of Osama Bin Laden. Out of Yemen, from which his family originates, he had built a network of recruits capable of performing missions in the Arabian Peninsula, but also communicating with the Shabab of Somalia and many cells inside the West. His reach in recruitment was as far as Jihadists have been indoctrinated. The Nigerian Abdelmutalib, known as the Christmas day bomber in the U.S., was also connected to the Yemeni-based cleric. In a sense, al Awlaki was one of the most effective al Qaeda international officers. His loss will undoubtedly be felt –at least for a while - within the ranks of the network. Read more ..


Iran's Nukes

World Tensions Grow as Iran Sends Warships to America's East Coast

September 28th 2011

Iran - Iranian clerics and sailors

Iran has upped the ante in its perennial conflict with the West. On September 28, Iran’s Defense Minister Gen. Ahmad Vahidi says the Islamic Republic has begun large-scale production of domestically-developed cruise missiles capable of destroying “giant warships” – according to Iran - and has a range of 124 miles (200 kilometres). Vahidi said an unspecified number of "Ghader," or "Capable" as the missile is called in Farsi, were delivered to the Revolutionary Guard's navy, which is assigned to protect Iran's sea borders in the Caspian Sea and the Gulf of Oman. This development, and the prospect of Iranian warships entering sea lanes near the United States, has raised concern. In addition, Iran also has short and medium range ballistic missiles capable of hitting Mideast targets such as Israel and U.S. military bases in the Persian Gulf. Read more ..


Economic Recovery on Edge

Countrywide Protected Fraudsters by Silencing Whistleblowers

September 27th 2011

Economy - Home Foreclosure

In the summer of 2007, a team of corporate investigators sifted through mounds of paper pulled from shred bins at Countrywide Financial Corp. mortgage shops in and around Boston.

By intercepting the documents before they were sliced by the shredder, the investigators were able to uncover what they believed was evidence that branch employees had used scissors, tape, and Wite-Out to create fake bank statements, inflated property appraisals and other phony paperwork. Inside the heaps of paper, for example, they found mock-ups that indicated to investigators that workers had, as a matter of routine, literally cut and pasted the address for one home onto an appraisal for a completely different piece of property.

Eileen Foster, the company’s new fraud investigations chief, had seen a lot of slippery behavior in her two-plus decades in the banking business. But she’d never seen anything like this. Read more ..


The 2012 Vote

Billionaire Buffett replaces Plutocrat Soros as GOP Boogeyman

September 26th 2011

Economy - Warren Buffett

Exit: George Soros. Enter: Warren Buffett, stage left.

Buffett, the investment mogul and Berkshire Hathaway CEO, is slowly drifting into the role Soros played during the first decade of this century: billionaire boogeyman to the right, and go-to example cited by the left to show that one can support Democrats’ economic policies and still be pro-business.

A frequent spot holder on Forbes’s list of the world’s wealthiest individuals, Buffett endorsed President Obama in 2008, but has not historically been an overly political figure – until now. In August, he penned an op-ed in the New York Times asking policymakers to raise taxes on millionaires and billionaires like himself. He has claimed he pays a lower tax rate than his secretary, thanks to a tax structure that favors those whose income comes from investments. Read more ..


Edge on Space

Scientists Discover One Planet Orbiting Two Stars

September 23rd 2011

Science - Kepler 16-B
Artist’s conception of planet (dark circle) orbiting two suns. (credit: NASA)

Astronomers say they have discovered a planet that orbits around a pair of stars. It is the first time a so-called circumbinary system has been detected.

Movie fans might be familiar with “Star Wars, Episode IV: A New Hope,” the blockbuster movie from 1977. Luke Skywalker stands on his stark home planet Tatooine. As he gazes pensively into the distance toward a pinkish sky, an orange sun descends toward the horizon, with a smaller white sun following close behind.

Well, move over, Tatooine, says John Knoll of Industrial Light and Magic, which created the special effects for the Star Wars films.

“Again and again we see that the science is stranger and cooler than the fiction,” Knoll said.

Tatooine now has to make way for reality: Kepler-16b, the first planet known to definitively orbit two stars—a circumbinary planet. Read more ..


The 2012 Vote

Obama’s Dilemma: U.S. Foreign Policy and Electoral Realities

September 23rd 2011

Obama Admin Topics - Obama in deep thought

The United States is moving into an election cycle, which will affect American international behavior and therefore the international system.

The United States remains the center of gravity of the international system. The sheer size of its economy (regardless of its growth rate) and the power of its military (regardless of its current problems) make the United States unique. Even more important, no single leader of the world is as significant, for good or bad, as the American president. That makes the American presidency, in its broadest sense, a matter that cannot be ignored in studying the international system.

The American system was designed to be a phased process. By separating the selection of the legislature from the selection of the president, the founders created a system that did not allow for sudden shifts in personnel. Unlike parliamentary systems, in which the legislature and the leadership are intimately linked, the institutional and temporal uncoupling of the system in the United States was intended to control the passing passions by leaving about two-thirds of the U.S. Senate unchanged even in a presidential election year, which always coincides with the election of the House of Representatives. Coupled with senatorial rules, this makes it difficult for the president to govern on domestic affairs. Changes in the ideological tenor of the system are years in coming, and when they come they stay a long time. Mostly, however, the system is in gridlock. Thomas Jefferson said that a government that governs least is the best. Read more ..


Iran’s Nukes

Religious Ideologies, Political Doctrines, and Iran’s Nuclear Decisionmaking, Part 1

September 19th 2011

Iran - Khameni and Khomeini

Because the Islamic Republic of Iran is a theocracy, religion plays a central role in its politics. Understanding this is fundamental to assessing Iranian intentions, anticipating future Iranian moves, and formulating an effective policy for dealing with Iran’s nuclear program. Most analyses, however, pay insufficient attention to the role of religion in Iranian decisionmaking.

Thus, while several recent U.S. intelligence assessments state that Tehran’s nuclear decisionmaking is guided by a “cost-benefit approach,” they fail to address the values and beliefs that inform this calculus.

Likewise, a review of several recent works on Iran’s nuclear program reveals that they generally avoided touching on the role of religion, emphasizing instead a variety of other domestic and external considerations.

These analyses overlook the very factor that is most important to understanding contemporary Iranian politics. Any attempt to assess the implications of Iran’s nuclear program must examine the religious values, beliefs, and doctrines that inform and shape politics in the Islamic Republic, and that are likely to decisively influence Iranian nuclear decisionmaking. Read more ..


Turkey and Israel

Turkey’s Threat to Israel’s New Gas Riches

September 14th 2011

Israel Topics - Leviathan Oil field

Ankara warns that Turkey will stop Israel from unilaterally exploiting gas resources in the eastern Mediterranean—and directly challenges U.S. policy.

On September 8, Turkish prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan told Aljazeera that his government had taken steps to prevent Israel from unilaterally exploiting natural resources in the Mediterranean Sea. “Israel has begun to declare that it has the right to act in exclusive economic areas in the Mediterranean,” he stated, apparently citing Israeli plans to tap newly discovered offshore gas reserves. Israel “will not be the owner of this right,” he warned.

In other remarks, Erdogan declared that the Turkish navy would protect future aid ships bound for Gaza in order to prevent a repetition of the 2010 flotilla incident, in which Israeli commandos killed nine activists attempting to break the blockade. These comments came just days after the release of a UN report condemning the deaths but justifying Israel’s blockade—a judgment that prompted Ankara to drastically reduce diplomatic relations between the two countries and freeze their substantial military cooperation and trade. Read more ..


Remembering 9/11

Jihadists Today Stronger Than on 9/11

September 11th 2011

Contributors / Staff - Walid Phares new

A decade after the strikes against America’s military and financial centers at the hands of al-Qaida jihadi, the question remains: Have we won the war?

In the ongoing, debate, we see two camps. One stating that we were defeating the enemy until Washington changed direction three years ago, and another boasting that America was losing the war until three years ago when a change of direction brought victory in sight.

Some really believed that the years following the attacks have brought the free world and democracy to an inch from victory. Others among us believe that thanks to today’s policies we are finally better than ever before.

It is sad to say at this anniversary, but both views are wrong. We weren’t close to strategic victories some five years ago and we are far from defeating the jihadists today. This sober assessment isn’t for domestic politics consumers, far from it.

Here are some realities:

Afghanistan: Bringing down the Taliban regime was a smashing victory for the U.S., NATO and the Afghan people particularly for women and minorities.

Defending the country against the return of the jihadi militias and containing their incursions from inside Pakistan’s enclaves were the right strategic choices. But the U.S. and NATO failed to engage civil society groups, women, and secular wings to help launch a democratic revolution in the country instead of spending billions on asphalt, construction, and futile unproductive projects.

We surged against the Taliban but we didn’t help the people surge politically via massive education efforts. Now we are doing the unthinkable: negotiating with the Taliban for Afghanistan’s future. Read more ..


Washington on Edge

As 9-11 Nears, Pro-Palestinian Agitators Shut Down D.C. Museum Ceremony

September 9th 2011

Contributors / Staff - Edwin Black

With Homeland Security edgy about 9-11 disruptions, pro-Palestinian agitators have successfully shut down a planned public ceremony by a Washington, D.C. museum over safety concerns.

The National Building Museum was slated to grant its prestigious Henry C. Turner Prize for Innovation in Construction Technology during a public ceremony September 14, 2011. The five-person Turner Prize jury unanimously chose Caterpillar Inc. for its global record of innovation within the construction industry. But the company has also been the victim of repeated disruptions by a coalition of anti-Israeli boycott groups, including the Rachel Corrie Foundation for Peace & Justice, and supported by the so-called Jewish Voice for Peace, Code Pink, the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation, and the Washington Interfaith Alliance for Middle East Peace. The Washington Interfaith Alliance was one of many that posted Internet calls for protests at the museum on September 14.

Caterpillar has been under attack for supplying combat bulldozers to Israeli military engineers. The Illinois-based Caterpillar company also provides construction machines to a gamut of third-world and developing nations for relief and reconstruction, which was the basis for the prize.

The behemoth civil-war era National Building Museum, known for creating the concept of “red tape,” when it connected the long strings of nineteenth-century bureaucratic pension forms with red tape, is considered a national treasure. The seemingly innocuous August 18, 2011 announcement of the engineering award brought a storm of threats of public protest and other disruption that the architecture-based museum staff found overwhelming, according to museum sources. “We made the decision out of concern for the safety of our staff,” stated the source, adding that federal security offices were notified. Read more ..


Saudi Arabia on Edge

The Oil Kingdom Faces 'Peak Water' Crisis while Draining Unrenewable Fossil Water Sources

September 9th 2011

Energy / Environment - Unsustainable water

With just 4 inches of rain a year, Saudi Arabia is already one of the driest places on earth. But unlike neighboring Israel, conservation is not part of the culture. Saudi water use is profligate, almost twice the world average of 500 cubic meters per capita annually.

But it’s not that cliche of oil-rich extravagance you might imagine (“Dubai Gets Frozen Air From Europe!“) It is just that almost everything takes more water in the desert, from growing food to harvesting oil wealth – in order to desalinate enough water – for a rapidly growing population. Saudi women, with little else to do, produce large families. So the Kingdom gets through 950 cubic meters of water per person per year. It now faces “peak water”, a far more serious threat to its economy than peak oil.

Already, the kingdom has made tough decisions. Like parts of Australia, that made a decision to stop growing food as water supplies crashed during its long years of droughts, Riyadh is now ending domestic wheat farming. Read more ..


Somalia on Edge

Theft of Food Aid to Stricken Somalia Deserves Congressional Oversight

September 7th 2011

Africa Topics - Hungry Somalia

This summer, the Horn of Africa confronted its worst drought in decades. Estimates indicate that more than 12 million people across the region are vulnerable to starvation. Somalia, lacking a credible government and beset by internal instability and conflict, has been particularly hard hit, and the United Nations has formally declared that a famine exists in six regions of southern and central Somalia, including the region surrounding the capital of Mogadishu. It is believed that more than 4 million Somalis are at risk of starvation, and the U.N. has called on governments to provide more than $1 billion to address the situation. Read more ..


The Obama Edge

State Department Spends Emergency Dollars on Parties

August 30th 2011

Politics - Truman Bldg/State Dept HQ

Money from a State Department fund meant for urgent needs—such as evacuating diplomats from posts in Egypt or Libya—has been spent on a kitchen renovation, holiday and retirement parties, and on white suits for President Obama’s inauguration.

An audit by the department’s inspector general raises questions about whether State Department officials have gone beyond the purpose of a law allowing U.S. diplomatic officials to tap into a so-called “K Fund.” The money is set aside for “unforeseen emergencies arising in the diplomatic and consular service,” such as moving personnel out of suddenly unstable regimes, rewarding tipsters for information about terrorist activities, and defraying the unexpected costs of visiting officials. Read more ..


The Race for Nuclear

East Coast Earthquake Shakes up Debate over Nuclear Power

August 25th 2011

Energy Topics - Nukuler plants in Amerika

Virginia's largest earthquake in more than a century shook the East Coast on August 23 and is likely to revive a long-standing debate about the safety of the country's nuclear power plants.

The 5.8 magnitude earthquake caused the shutdown of two nuclear reactors at the North Anna Power Station in Louisa County, Va. The plant, which is located less than 20 miles from the epicenter of the quake, lost offsite power and was running its cooling systems on diesel generators on August 23. Dominion said it was able to restore offsite power to the reactors late evening August 23.

While there were no reports of damage at the North Anna reactors and plant operator Dominion said the cooling systems were working properly, nuclear opponents quickly pounced on the incident August 23.

They say the incident shows that U.S. nuclear reactors are vulnerable to major natural disasters and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission should move quickly to implement a series of sweeping regulatory changes recommended by a federal task force last month. Read more ..


The Arab-Israeli Fall

Israeli-Arab Crisis Approaching

August 25th 2011

Israel Topics - Jerusalem-Temple and Wall
Credit: NASA

In September, the U.N. General Assembly will vote on whether to recognize Palestine as an independent and sovereign state with full rights in the United Nations. In many ways, this would appear to be a reasonable and logical step. Whatever the Palestinians once were, they are clearly a nation in the simplest and most important sense—namely, they think of themselves as a nation. Nations are created by historical circumstances, and those circumstances have given rise to a Palestinian nation. Under the principle of the United Nations and the theory of the right to national self-determination, which is the moral foundation of the modern theory of nationalism, a nation has a right to a state, and that state has a place in the family of nations. In this sense, the U.N. vote will be unexceptional.

However, when the United Nations votes on Palestinian statehood, it will intersect with other realities and other historical processes. First, it is one thing to declare a Palestinian state; it is quite another thing to create one. The Palestinians are deeply divided between two views of what the Palestinian nation ought to be, a division not easily overcome. Second, this vote will come at a time when two of Israel’s neighbors are coping with their own internal issues. Read more ..


The Toxic Edge

Koch Industries Has Consistently Opposed Tougher Post-9/11 Chemical Plant Rules

August 25th 2011

Energy / Environment - Koch Pine Bend plant

Koch Industries, a leader of industry resistance to proposed post-9/11 anti-terrorism safeguards at petrochemical plants, owns 56 facilities using hazardous chemicals that put 4.8 million Americans who live nearby at risk.

Schools, homes, hospitals, office parks, churches, recreation areas, nursing homes, and daycare facilities dot the properties that surround Koch plants.

In the government’s “worst case” scenarios, the millions working or living near the plants could be threatened by explosions, chemical spills or clouds of deadly gas, federal records show. Among the hazardous chemicals stored and used at Koch sites are formaldehyde, chlorine, anhydrous ammonia and hydrogen fluoride. Read more ..


America Remembers

Visitors Weigh In on New King Memorial

August 25th 2011

History American - MLK and Sculptor Lei Yixin

Thousands of locals and tourists flocked to the newly unveiled Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial to catch an early glimpse of the civil rights champion immortalized in granite.

“It’s absolutely awesome,” said Washington Mayor Vincent Gray. “You have such high expectations for someone of the stature of Dr. King, but this certainly has met any expectations I might have had,” he said. “It took 26 years from the time it started … but it was well worth it.”

Situated on a four-acre site along the Tidal Basin, the memorial was budgeted at an estimated $120 million and includes an inscription wall filled with inspirational quotes from King, as well as a 30-ft tall statue of the man himself hewn from granite. Read more ..


The Edge of Genocide

Edwin Black in North Carolina Scholar-in-Residence lectures on Racist Eugenics and US Complicity in Nazism

August 24th 2011

Contributors / Staff - Edwin Black

Renowned investigative journalist and author Edwin Black, as part of his intercontinental lecture tour, will update audiences in North Carolina on his latest books and research as a scholar-in-residence. As a featured speaker, Black will mainly discuss his research on eugenics, the corporate-funded pseudo-science Made in the USA that sought to identify and eliminate so-called inferior classes of people. He will also lecture on direct pivotal corporate collusion with the Nazis. Black is expected to speak specifically on the issues raised by his books War Against the Weak, Nazi Nexus, and The Farhud: The Arab-Nazi Alliance in the Holocaust, and the perennial issues they raise for America today.

Edwin Black’s many books have exposed readers all over the world to his exacting research on subjects that have raised vigorous debate and controversy, including the involvement of U.S. corporations with the Nazi war machine and the Holocaust, the racist American eugenics and sterilization movement in the 20th century, and the far-reaching corruption and geopolitics that stem from America’s dependence on petroleum.

A key reason for Black's visit is to North Carolina is to address the question of state compensation for eugenic sterilization. The measure is now before the legislature. "North Carolina's war against its own citizens was nothing short of genocide," said Black. The state should compensate. But the guilt must be shared with the philanthropic organizations and academic groups that pushed the state to do the unthinkable and tried to rationalize it as sound science—when it was all a fraud."

Special sponsors and co-chair for the Edwin Black in North Carolina Scholar-in-Residence include Rep. Larry M. Womble (Winston-Salem 71st District), Rep. Earline W. Parmon (72st District), Winston-Salem Mayor Allen Joines, Gary M. Green, and Keith Grandberry. See the tour here. Read more ..


Edge of Terrorism

Implications and Aftermath of Cross-Border Attacks in the Negev Desert

August 22nd 2011

Israel Topics - Negev casualties 18 Aug 2011

The terrorist attack in the Negev threatens to escalate into both a wider Israel-Gaza conflict and an Egyptian-Israeli diplomatic crisis.

The August 18 Palestinian terrorist attack in Israel's southern Negev Desert is the most serious such incident since 2008. The Israeli casualty toll was nearly forty, including eight dead. Seven of the terrorists were killed as the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) responded and the fighting extended into the night.

The violence represents a major break in the relative calm on Israel's southern border, with major implications for both the situation in Gaza and Israel's relationship with Egypt. The focus of military action has now shifted to the Gaza area, and another Gaza escalation cycle may be underway, with an uncertain outcome. Furthermore, the incident is seriously aggravating Israeli-Egyptian relations, with Cairo claiming Israel killed and wounded Egyptian soldiers in the course of the incident. Read more ..


The Battle for Syria

Three Ways to be Rid of Syria's Assad Regime

August 22nd 2011

Syrian Issues - Nakba Protests

Today, five months after the Syrian regime began its brutal crackdown on anti-regime protestors, President Barack Obama announced that "the time has come for President Asad to step aside." The statement, released simultaneously with a speech by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, puts to rest debate about where exactly Washington stands on the Asad regime. The question now is how best to work with the Syrian people to bring about Bashar al-Assad's downfall.

First, the United States must bring concerted multilateral pressure to bear on Damascus. Historically, this is a diplomatic tactic that works with Assad, most recently in forcing him to pull his forces out of Lebanon in April 2005. Soon after Obama's announcement, Britain, Canada, France, Germany, and the European Union joined in calling for Assad to step aside. Read more ..


The Battle for Libya

Libyan Rebels Tighten the Noose around Gadhafi's Regime

August 16th 2011

Libya Topics - Libyan freedom fighter
Libyan anti-Gadhafi rebel

Just a day after dictator Muammar Gadhafi launched a SCUD missile into the Libyan desert, rebels in the oil-rich country were threatening to isolate the capital, Tripoli, on August 16 as they captured key towns to the south and west of the city and work to cut off supply routes in their bid to oust the decades-old regime. The rebels claim to control most of Zawiya, a strategic town 50 kilometers west of Gadhafi's power base in Tripoli.

Rebel fighters entered Zawiya on August 13 in their closest approach to the capital since government forces crushed Zawiya's rebel movement in the early weeks of the uprising. Gadhafi’s forces exchanged fire with rebels in Zawiya on August 15, trying to push them back from the town center. Read more ..


Travel Green

Greensboro's Proximity Hotel Excels in Comfort and Green Innovation

August 8th 2011

Travel - Proximity Hotel

Proximity Hotel in beautiful Greensboro, North Carolina, is uncommon in that it not only offers luxury, but it sits on the cutting edge of a trend towards environmentally-friendly and energy efficient accommodation. Opened in 2008, Proximity Hotel is in the heart of Greensboro’s business and shopping district where travellers can not only make their appointments, but also enjoy natural surroundings in this quiet retreat. While it less than 300 feet away from one of the area’s busiest thoroughfares, at Proximity Hotel you will be soothed and energized by a restored natural stream that wends its way through tall grass where a colony of turtles and other wildlife can be seen. Read more ..


The Battle for Syria

Syria Now On the Threshold of Civil War

August 7th 2011

Syrian Issues - Nakba Protests

The Assad regime’s brutal assault on the town of Hama should serve to dispel any notion that the struggle in Syria is nearing its end, or that the Assad regime has accepted its fate.
The general direction of the revolts in the Arab world now suggests that the region’s worst dictators have an even chance of survival, on condition that they have no qualms about going to war against their own people.

Syrian President Bashar Assad appears to have internalized the lesson.

Military theorists today are divided regarding the role of the main battle tank in the battlefield of the future. Assad over the past 48 hours has demonstrated that whatever the outcome of this debate, the role of the tank as an instrument of war against civilians remains highly relevant in the Middle East. Read more ..


Famine in the Horn of Africa

Aid Trickles into Hunger-Ravished Kenya

August 6th 2011

Africa Topics - Famine Somalia

Famine is harvesting victims in the Horn of Africa, while children appear to be the most affected. At least ten people have died from hunger-related complications in the Turkana region in northern Kenya. In addition, violent raids originating from Ethiopia claimed another 20 lives in the area.

Catholic bishop Dominic Kimengich told local media, "At least I can confirm that about ten people have lost their lives." Bishop Kimengich also reported that the local people, who are pastoralists, have lost as much as 70 percent of their livestock. Read more ..


The Race for Wind Power

Inflatable Wind Turbines Proving to be an Affordable Energy Solution

August 5th 2011

Energy / Environment - Inflatable Wind Turbine

Inflatable wind turbines are now lighter and cheaper than heavy conventional ones. Following a number of  Israeli clean technology companies being winners in the General Electric Company’s Green Innovation Marathon, GE has announced plans to establish a “Green Tech Shop” in Haifa in which a number of renewable energy and other green technology projects will be developed under the giant American electronics company’s sponsorship. One of these green companies, Winflex LTD, is set on proving that harnessing energy from the wind does not have to involve the use of  large cumbersome wind turbines, such as the wind turbines now churning away on the Golan Heights.

Winflex wind rotor

What is unique about Winflex’s inflatable wind turbines is that they are made out of “light, flexible and inexpensive cloth sheets made out of composite materials.” The result are light weight portable wind turbines that can be installed virtually anywhere – even on home rooftops – and result in a much shorter return on equipment investment than conventional wind turbines. By reducing costs and erection time of equipment, it reduces need for government subsidies, according to Winflex’s Chief Technical Officer, Dr. Vladimir Kliatzkin.

Using inflatable, easily installed wind turbines is a novel idea, especially compared to those giant whirling wind turbines are now becoming commonplace in many western European countries, such as Spain, France, Belgium, Denmark, and Holland. Winflex’s designs uses a much lighter rotor around which the turbine blades revolve like sails from a sailing vessel. Read more ..


Economic Reform on Edge

Bank-backed House Lawmakers Try to Kill IRS Plan to Identify $1 Trillion in Foreign Accounts

August 2nd 2011

Economy - One Million Dollars

Two U.S. House members who collected large campaign donations from the financial industry are pushing legislation to block an Internal Revenue Service plan to discourage foreign tax evaders and money launderers from stashing money in U.S. banks.

Legislation sponsored by Democrat Gregory Meeks of New York and Republican Bill Posey of Florida would stop the IRS from requiring American banks to report interest paid to foreign citizens who live outside the United States and have deposits in U.S. banks. In announcing the legislation, Meeks and Posey echoed the arguments of American bankers who say the IRS proposal could chase foreign capital away from the United States.

“At a time when our economy is experiencing a nascent recovery, the last thing we want to do is discourage foreign investment in the United States,” Meeks said in a statement. “We must protect America’s reputation as the best place in the world to invest and do business.” Read more ..


Egypt After Mubarak

Egypt turns to the Dark Side as Muslim Brotherhood Calls the Shots

July 30th 2011

Africa - Shouting Muslims in Cairo

One navigates in the dark, we do not know where Egypt will go," says Fr. Luciano Verdoscia, a Catholic missionary serving in Egypt. In Cairo, tens of thousands of demonstrators gathered in Tahrir Square on July 29, in response to an appeal launched by the Muslim Brotherhood. Fifteen lay political formations as well as Coptic Christians joined in the demonstration.

Among the slogans in the square, there was ''Islam, Islam, we do not want a liberal State," "The people want Islamic law,"''Islam: not West or East," to which were political demands, such as  bringing ormer President Hosni Mubarak to justice.   

Crowds shouted glosses on slogans popularized by the protests that culminated in February with the downfall of former dictator Hosni Mubarak. During Egypt's spring there was heard "Hold your head up high, you’re Egyptian.” On Friday, “Muslim” was substituted for “Egyptian.” Similarly, the chant that resounded throughout the revolution, the people want to topple the regime,” became "The people want to apply God’s law.” Moreover, the chant "There is no constitution but Islam," was also heard.  Read more ..


Travel South of the Border

Mexico's Tourism Industry Takes a Nose Dive as the Narco-war Grows Ever More Heated

July 25th 2011

Mexican Topics - Spent cartridges Mexico

Back in the summer of 2010, Mexican Tourism Secretary Gloria Guevara stood before a crowd in Beverly Hills and proclaimed a new strategy to recapture US visitors. In a speech, Guevara stressed the myriad cultural amenities her country offers tourists.

“Mexico has 29 sites that are patrimonies of humanity, 62 ethnic groups and more than 30,000 archaeological zones,” Guevara told an audience in the star-studded city of the rich and famous. “We are number two in the world for luxury tourism.”

But a year after Guevara’s presentation, and some months after President Calderon declared 2011 “The Year of Tourism” in Mexico, the campaign has fallen flat. Read more ..


Justice on Edge

Interpol’s Red Notices Used by Some to Pursue Political Dissenters, Opponents

July 25th 2011

Crime Topics - interpol hq

When Iranian political activist Rasoul Mazrae sought shelter from his own government, he fled, headed for Norway via Syria.

He was followed by a petition from Iranian officials that Interpol, the international police agency, list him as a fugitive. Despite the United Nations recognizing him as a political refugee , the same Syrian government that today is cracking down on its own dissidents used that Interpol alert to deport Mazrae to Iran in 2006.

Mazrae was jailed for two years. His family told a UN rapporteur he was tortured to the point of paralysis, had blood in his urine, and lost all of his teeth.

Mazrae was sentenced to death, and human rights observers lost track of him. “We are not aware that his death penalty has been carried out, but we cannot be absolutely sure,” said James Lynch of Amnesty International. Read more ..


Economic Recovery on Edge

Borrower Nightmares: $700 Dormitory Fee Costs Family its Car

July 17th 2011

Economy - car keys and cash

When Mildred Morris’s son won a coveted spot at the New York drama and performing arts college that trained singer-songwriter Jason Mraz and TV actor Jessie Tyler Ferguson of “Modern Family,” she was overjoyed. The drama, however, extended beyond school.

Morris started the process of securing a college loan to pay tuition for her son, Jonathan, to attend the American Musical and Dramatic Academy, but she was caught off guard by an unexpected and sudden $700 fee to hold a dormitory room for him.

A single mother of two in the town of Martinsburg, W.Va., 90 minutes northwest of Washington, D.C., Morris works in the technical support branch for the Coast Guard office that issues merchant seamen the equivalent of a driver’s license. Read more ..


Southern Sudan on Edge

Optimism Bubbles Over in Newly Created nation of Southern Sudan

July 12th 2011

Africa - Sudan celebrates

Southern Sudan becomes the world's newest country on July 9. After more than 20 years of civil war, followed by a half decade of uncertain peace, the new country is starting virtually from scratch. The challenges are many, but the level of optimism is high enough to match.It is a dramatic shift in mentality from short-term survival to long-term planning.

"We come from the bush with no human resources to build a new country, and therefore, we start from zero," said William Deng Deng, chair of the government's Southern Sudan Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration Commission. "This is a serious challenge because we have to do many things at the same time. Read more ..


Privacy on Edge

U.S. Lawmakers Frustrated by Lack of Answers about Google Street View Wi-spying

July 11th 2011

Technology - g street view car varberg sweden
Google street view car in Varberg, Sweden

Perhaps you’ve seen them trundling past your house—those ruby-red Google Street View compact cars, with a tripod camera mounted on the roof. They have cruised through almost every major town in the developed world, photographing each house and posting the pictures on Google Maps.

But one year ago, following the German government’s demand for more information, Google representatives were forced to admit that the cars were gathering more than harmless pictures; they were systematically gathering data on anyone using a nearby, unsecured Wi-Fi network. If you were within range and surfing the Web without a password, Google took a little electronic snapshot of whatever you were doing. Read more ..


The War for Oil

Libya's Ghadafi Threatens Europe with Invasion and Suicide Attacks

July 10th 2011

Libya Topics - Muammar Ghadafi as Charlie Chaplin

Libyan dictator Muammar Gadhafi declared on July 8 that areas claimed by Italy, Spain, France and other nations are actually Arab and should be liberated. He also promised to send hundreds of Libyan agents on suicide missions into Europe as revenge for NATO attacks on his country since March. “Hundreds of Libyans will become martyrs in Europe,” said Gadhafi, who has ruled Libya for decades. “Tens, hundreds or thousands of Libyans might die in Europe. We will raid their houses, women and children, like they raided us, and I told you an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth,” Qaddafi said. “We are threatening them now.”

Broadcast on Libyan state-controlled television, Gadhafi claims that his military are holding back the rebel forces that have challenged his government with support from the U.S. and NATO. “NATO will be sorry when the war comes to Europe,” said Gadhafi, who added that the Canary Islands and the Andalucian region of Spain, as well as Sicily should be ruled by Arabs. Read more ..


The Edge of Terrorism

Taliban Hotel Attack: Low Death Toll, High Psychological Value

July 7th 2011

Afghan Topics - Kabul Hotel attacked.jpg

At about 10 p.m. on June 28, a group of heavily armed militants attacked the Intercontinental Hotel in Kabul, Afghanistan. According to government and media reports, the attack team consisted of eight or nine militants who were reportedly wearing suicide vests and carrying other weapons. At least three of the attackers detonated their vests during the drawn-out fight. Afghan security forces, assisted by International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), needed some eight hours to clear the hotel of attackers. One group of militants even worked their way up to the roof of the hotel, where they fired several rocket-propelled grenades. Read more ..



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