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The Ancient Edge

Robbing the Cradle

December 14th 2009

Book Covers - Banking on Baghdad

This article is based on the Banking on Baghdad--Inside Iraq's 7,000-Year History of War, Profit, and Conflict (Dialog Press). Buy it here

Mesopotamia—now known as Iraq--enjoyed a 2,000-year head start on Western civilization. What happened?

Part of the answer lays millennia before our current turbulent times. Understanding this pivotal land and its peoples is necessary.

A single ancient people did not monopolize the historic territory between the Tigris and the Euphrates to create one cohesive, shining civilization as a beacon to others. Mesopotamia was in fact a diverse, often contentious, network of competing city-states. At different times, in different centuries BCE, cities such as Uruk, Lagash, and Eridu in the south, and Kish, Nippur, and Sippar in the midsection, as well as Assur, Nineveh, and Nimrud in the north, each flourished and made their mark. These city-states were ruled by their own kings, developed their own gods and cults, spoke their own languages and dialects, and manifested their own distinctive cultures.

A succession of disparate groups came from near and far to conquer the developing prize of Mesopotamia, and each conqueror was in turn conquered. The Semitic Akkadians arose among the original Sumerians, for whom Sumer was named. In the third millennium BCE, the Akkadian king Sargon created history’s first “empire,” extending his political reign, military dominance, and commercial primacy from western Persia, through Syria, to what is now eastern Turkey. But Sargon’s almost 150-year dynasty was overrun by the Guti mountain people. The Guti ruled until the Sumerians regained supremacy, only to be succeeded by Amorites from the west, and then the Elamites from the Zagros Mountains. Other invaders included the Indo-European Hittites from Anatolia and the obscure Hurrians and Kassites.

These invading and pervading groups destroyed and built up the city-states between the two rivers, as well as those in surrounding lands. During Mesopotamia’s golden millennia, each of these dynasties and empires, no matter how transient, purloined or planted something valuable, advancing the ever more complex culture growing atop the ancient Sumerian foundation. Over 3,000 years—perhaps 120 generations—the region became not a cradle but a veritable engine of civilization, energizing the entire Fertile Crescent, that is, the lands from the Nile Valley up through Palestine and Syria into the Tigris-Euphrates valley and beyond. Read more ..


Sexual Assault on Campus

Sexual Assault on Campus Often Shrouded in Secrecy

December 7th 2009

Social Topics - Sullen Woman

Three hours into deliberations by the University of Virginia’s Sexual Assault Board, UVA junior Kathryn Russell sat with her mother in a closet-like room in sprawling Peabody Hall. Down the corridor, two professors and two students were deciding her fate. Russell was replaying in her mind, endlessly, details of her allegations of rape when, she remembers, Shamim Sisson, the board chair, stepped into the room and delivered the order: You can’t talk about the verdict to anyone.

That stern admonition was a reminder of the silence Russell had been keeping since, she says, she struggled to break free from a fellow student’s grip in her dorm. That’s the account she gave local authorities, who declined to prosecute. And that’s what, in May 2004, she told the UVA Sexual Assault Board, whose decision she’d considered “my last resort.” Read more ..


Brazil on the Edge

Brazil Caught Between Oil, Politics, and Carbon Growth

November 30th 2009

Environment Topics - Sao Paolo Pollution
Sao Poalo

"This is the second independence of Brazil," declared an enthusiastic President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva as he raised the first barrel of oil extracted from the Tupi Basin, a vast reserve of crude recently discovered under the salt layer of the Atlantic Ocean some three miles deep and 200 miles off the São Paulo coast.

That was on May 1, the Labor Day holiday in Brazil. Months before, in the same place, Lula had soaked his hands in oil and stamped them on the backs of jumpsuits worn by his aides.

Brazil lives a paradox. On the one hand, it is the tenth largest economy in the world and an emerging regional leader with a highly popular president. On the other, it ranks 75 in human development based on measures of literacy, education, and life expectancy. It is home to the biggest chunk of the Amazon rain forest, once called the "lungs of the world," but it is also responsible for mass deforestation, an environmental, social, and economic scourge that is blamed as a factor in global warming. The country's continued economic development requires more and more construction—growth that will only increase demand for energy and thus carbon emissions. This puts Brazil under pressure from all sides in relation to global climate change: from political opponents and supporters, businesses and NGOs, the federal capital Brasília and the states. Read more ..


Edge of Climate Change

Is India "the Next China" as It Confronts Climate Change?

November 23rd 2009

Environment Topics - India Air Pollution

The image of the new India is that of a nation on the move: rapid economic growth, a rising middle class, big infrastructure projects, and global business deals. All these suggest that India may be the next China, the next economic superpower to emerge from the developing world.

But there is another side to the world’s largest democracy: About 60 percent of Indians live on less than $2 per day. Over half the country’s billion-plus people lack formal access to electricity. In some of India’s more crowded states, like Bihar and Uttar Pradesh, with a combined population of 250 million residents, have no electricity for a good part of the day. Villages in much of India’s outback are not connected to a power grid at all.

It is against this stark backdrop — against the pressing national imperative to reduce poverty and improve education and healthcare — that India grapples with how to address climate change. For years, the Indian government has viewed global warming through this domestic lens, arguing that mandated caps on greenhouse gas emissions would stunt its explosive economic growth and that, in any case, the industrialized world should bear the responsibility of relieving a problem it started decades ago. Read more ..


Iran in the Middle East Conflict

Israel’s Interception of The Francop and the Iran and Hezballah Axis

November 16th 2009

Israel Topics - francop02
The Francop

On November 3, 2009, Israeli naval forces intercepted an Antigua-flagged cargo ship approximately 100 miles off Israel's coast. The ship, the Francop, was brought to the port of Ashdod and searched, leading to the discovery of some 500 tons of weapons reportedly from Iran. Israeli officials believe the cargo was bound for Hezbollah via Syria. While Iran has been sending arms to Hezbollah through Syria for years, this case has important military and political implications.

Iranian arms supplies underwrite Hezbollah's political position in Lebanon, increase the risk for a conflict with Israel, and ensure that any such conflict will be more intense and lengthier than if Hezbollah lacked such support. This most recent affair also shows Iran's willingness to risk embarrassing exposure in its support for Hezbollah, even as it engages in sensitive negotiations with the international community over its nuclear program. This underlines the strategic nature of the Iran-Hezbollah relationship and the importance Iran attaches to Hezbollah as a component of its own deterrent arm. Read more ..


Edge of Climate Change

Climate Lobby Goes Global as Copenhagen Showdown Looms

November 9th 2009

Energy / Environment - Pollution Made in China

In the poor, but mineral-rich mountains of the eastern United States known as Appalachia, coal millionaire Don Blankenship hosts a rally for “Friends of America” to hear country music and “learn how environmental extremists and corporate America are both trying to destroy your jobs.”

On the other side of the globe, with an eye on his venture in an Australian port town known both as a gateway to the Great Barrier Reef and a smokestack industry haven, aluminum billionaire Oleg Deripaska battles that nation’s program to address climate change as “destructive for jobs, destructive for new and existing investment.”

And in China, ambitious renewable electricity plans look like an important step toward tackling global warming, but progress lags due to built-in and deeply entrenched favoritism for cheaper fossil fuel. “There’s no need for anyone to get over-excited,” says Lu Qizhou, the government appointee who heads China’s big power industry group. Change from the coal-fired energy system will be slow and won’t outpace “the market’s ability to cope.” Read more ..


Inside Saudi Succession

Possible Scenarios for the Succession of the Saudi Throne

November 2nd 2009

Arab Topics - King Abdullah2
King Abdullah

It is not clear who will succeed King Abdullah upon his death. The picture is complicated by the advanced age and poor health of Saudi Arabia's senior princes and the unpredictable order in which they will die, the lack of knowledge regarding how the remaining sons of Ibn Saud will form a consensus, and the unknown extent to which the newly formed Allegiance Council will have a role. All twenty surviving sons of Ibn Saud are older than sixty-five--past what would be considered normal retirement age in most parts of the world. Of these sons, eight are in their seventies and six are in their eighties.

With an established precedent in the kingdom for age-based seniority, multiple transitions could occur within a short period of time, a state of affairs reminiscent of the last years of the Soviet Union. Whether the system can tolerate the deaths of successive kings at such close intervals is questionable, given the politics involved in deciding on a new crown prince and heir apparent at the same time.

This complicated future can be most simply described by variety of scenarios, some of which overlap.

Scenario 1: Crown Prince Sultan dies before King Abdullah.

Despite official reports that he is in good health, Crown Prince Sultan is widely believed to be mortally ill and unlikely to live beyond the end of the year. If Sultan died before Abdullah, the king would find himself under enormous pressure from his senior brothers to appoint Interior Minister Prince Nayef as crown prince. Theoretically, such a move should be endorsed by the Allegiance Council, but it is far from clear that this would happen. With King Abdullah turning eighty-six this year and Nayef reportedly suffering from leukemia at seventy-six, this new leadership partnership would not last long. If Abdullah were to die next, Nayef would become king. Read more ..


Inside Islam

How Did the Arabs Begin?

October 26th 2009

Book Covers - Banking on Baghdad

This article is based on the Banking on Baghdad--Inside Iraq's 7,000-Year History of War, Profit, and Conflict (Dialog Press). Buy it here

Just who were the Arabs and how did they begin?

Mesopotamia’s original peoples were an indistinct amalgam of Sumerian, Semitic, Indo-European, and other groups. The Arabs as a group were generally thought to be the scattered people who spoke a similar Semitic language and who, with few exceptions, dwelled stateless in the nearly empty desert far to the south that came to be known as the Arabian Peninsula. By legend and tradition, the Arabs were the descendants of Ishmael, the son of Abraham, who roamed the wilderness.

One of the earliest references to Arabs is found in the Old Testament, dating to about 900 BCE, when Chronicles II records that “the Arabs” offered tribute to Israel’s King Solomon. In 853 BCE, King Ahab of Israel sealed an alliance with “Gindibu the Arab,” who provided 1,000 camels, according to an Assyrian inscription. Two very different but related Arab groups arose. The first were the nomadic and colorful Bedouins, roving with their extended families and tending flocks in tow. The second group settled in oases on the western coast of the Arabian Peninsula and along the northern fringes of the Arabian Desert. Bedouins were especially known for adventurous caravans that fearlessly plied the deserts across the Mideast and northern Africa. Everywhere, they established formidable reputations as both traders and raiders. Bedouin travelers interacted with the Hebrews in Israel, the Babylonians in Mesopotamia, the Egyptians, and the Greeks. In fact, the Greeks were among the first to refer in written records to the desert peninsula as “Arabia.”

Proud and passionately independent, even the earliest recorded Arabs despised any attempt to dominate them. One poet wrote, “The worst evil that can befall a people… is that their necks are bent.” As a warning against any attempt to infringe their freedom, Bedouins were fond of ghazu, that is, audacious marauding, killing the men in other settlements, kidnapping their wives, and stealing their animals. Read more ..


Edge of the Road

America's Transportation Bill is Still A Broken Road

October 19th 2009

Transportation Topics - Route66 500px

More than 50 years ago, President Dwight Eisenhower sought to build an interconnected national transportation network bigger than any region or state could possibly construct alone. Recognizing every legislator's desire to deliver funds to local projects, the Bureau of Public Roads shrewdly decided to bind scores of them together in a comprehensive illustrated guide to help sell Eisenhower's vision. Quickly, "The Yellow Book" found its way to the desks of the U.S. Congress, satisfying districts throughout the country while creating an interstate highway system that, according to President Bill Clinton, "did more to bring Americans together than any other law of this century."

Decades later, though, America's surface transportation system—like the funding and policy decisions behind it—desperately lacks any sort of national vision. More than a hundred disparate federal programs constitute a maze through which billions of dollars pass in and out of Washington each year, chaotically making their way back to America's cities and towns. Read more ..


Inside Saudi Succession

Factors Affecting Saudi Succession are a Family Affair

October 12th 2009

Arab Topics - King Abdullah2
King Abdullah

The process by which government decisions are made in Saudi Arabia remains obscure despite continual analysis by diplomats, oil executives, foreign business executives, and others. The more well-informed analysts believe that the number and identity of the princes and nonroyal participants varies, depending on the issue. Important decisions are made by the king alone but usually once he feels a consensus has been reached. (The ulama-the senior Muslin clergy—have a leading role in making religious decisions, but since they depend on the king for their appointments, they are probably reluctant to oppose a royal family consensus. They can dither, however; when the Grand Mosque in Mecca was seized in 1979, the ulama reportedly took thirty-six hours to approve the use of military force.)

When consensus remains elusive, decisions are delayed. This was the case in the late 1990s when Crown Prince Abdullah was seeking to involve foreign companies in the development of the kingdom's natural gas resources. The decision was postponed and the proposal eventually dropped after opposition from the petroleum company Saudi Aramco and the Saudi ministry of oil, assumed to be backed by Abdullah's rivals in the royal family. (The exception that proves this rule is said to be Kind Fahd's decision to ask for U.S. military support after the 1990 Iraqi invasion of Kuwait. Other senior princes, including then Crown Prince Abdullah, wanted time to consider other options, but they were overruled by Fahd.)

This decision-making process owes its origins to the traditional way decision are made in nomadic Bedouin Arab tribes—the so-called bedoucracy—in which the ruling sheikh consults with the elders of the tribe. The process is not one of equality, but it generally ensures loyalty and acquiescence rather than protest and revolt. Read more ..


The Edge of Lobbying

Thousands of Special Interests Rush in to Influence New Transportation Bill

October 5th 2009

Transportation Topics - Highways

Speaking from a lofty perch not unlike the one he occupies as ranking Republican on the House Transportation Committee, Florida Representative John Mica looked out upon a sea of familiar faces last month at a suburban Dallas hotel. Mica was addressing the 12th Annual Transportation and Infrastructure Summit.

The conference drew more than 1,100 participants, including many veterans of transportation lobbying wars past and present. Among them: the CEOs of three of America’s freight railroad giants, directors of some of the West’s largest transit agencies, and representatives from engineering giants like Kansas City-based HNTB.

“I’ve had a chance to hear from some of you,” Mica told the luncheon crowd of transportation pros as they picked at a dessert of tiramisu, “but not all of you. … I need your ideas.”
“We don’t know if we can succeed,” he went on. “We know we can’t succeed without you getting involved.”

And with that the legislator pointed a finger back at the transportation lobby — a lobby that spent at least $45 million in Washington in the first half of this year, mostly to “help” Congress craft a new transportation bill. That lobby is composed of almost 1,800 entities of all stripes, and they are employing at least 2,100 lobbyists with intimate knowledge of transportation politics to make their cases.

Over the past two decades, this is the way federal transportation policy has largely been made in America — by a quasi-private club of interest groups and local governments carving out something for everyone, creating a nationwide patchwork of funded bypasses, interchanges, bridges, and rail lines with no overarching philosophy behind it. “Applying patches to our surface transportation system is no longer acceptable,” Read more ..


Confronting the Transfer Agreement

The Transfer Agreement- Why Zionists Made the Deal with the Nazis

September 28th 2009

Book Covers - The Transfer Agreement

On the afternoon of August 7, 1933, at 76 Wilhelmstrasse in Berlin, on a day when well-dressed Jews in Germany could not step into the street without fear, when laboring kibbutzniks in Palestine proudly swept the midday perspiration from their foreheads, when anxious German businessmen worried the next telegram would cancel yet another order for increasingly unsellable Reich goods, when Nazi organizers throughout Europe gleefully reviewed statistics on Jewish populations and Jewish assets within their midst, when Polish blackshirts viciously beat Jews in town squares, when ordinary jobless Germans wondered where they could find enough money for the next meal, when young Jewish boys in German schools were forced to stand painfully before their classmates as examples of detestable vermin, when defiant Jews across America and England raised their fists in anger proliferating their punishing anti-German boycott, when Jewish Palestinian exporters wondered nervously whether their biggest customer Germany would retaliate, when thousands of homeless German Jews existed as refugees and some in concentration camps, when the prospects for Jewry in Europe seemed over, on this fateful day in the first summer of the Hitler regime, an official delegation of four German and Palestinian Zionists and one independent Palestinian business man were ushered into an Economics Ministry conference room. The Jews had been authorized by a combine of Jewish and Zionist bodies to negotiate with the Third Reich.

After hours of wrangled debate, Hans Hartenstein, Director of the Reich Office of Currency Control, was about to call the meeting to an inconclusive close when a messenger from Deutsche Reichpost delivered a telegram from the German Consul in Tel Aviv. The telegram advised Hartenstein that a coalition of official and commercial Zionist interests in Palestine was the best way to break the growing Jewish-led worldwide anti-Nazi boycott that was crippling the Hitler regime in its first months. A deal with the Zionists would be necessary.

And so it was done. The Transfer Agreement was created. Read more ..


Iran's Nuke and North Korea's Nukes

Super Bunker-Buster Bombs Fast-Tracked for Possible Use Against Iran and North Korea Nuclear Programs

September 21st 2009

Military - MOP GBU57
GBU 57 A/B Massive Ordnance Penetrator

The Pentagon is accelerating by three years plans for a super bunker buster, the GBU-57A/B or Massive Ordnance Penetrator or MOP, a powerful new bomb aimed squarely at the underground nuclear facilities of Iran and North Korea. The gargantuan bomb—longer than 11 persons standing shoulder-to-shoulder or more than 20 feet base to nose, weighs 30,000 pounds. Some 18 percent of its total weight is comprised of explosives. Guided by a precision GPS system, the MOP can penetrate an unprecedented 200 feet down before exploding with devastation into an underground bunker, such as those buried in Iran and North Korea currently used to shield rogue nuclear programs. Now Congress has quietly advanced $68 million into the 2009 budget to accelerate the purchase and deployment of ten such super bunker busters making clear they are for possible use against the regimes in Iran or North Korea. Pentagon planners are rushing to beat by months the latest June 2010 deadline for just four such bombs, and have been subsequently directed to increase the number of MOPs to at least ten.

In early July 2009, the Defense Department told a Congressional committee that the MOP was the "weapon of choice" for an “urgent operational need” enunciated by both the U.S. Pacific Command, tasked with North Korea, and the Central Command, tasked with Iran. In doing so, the Pentagon accelerated the program by three years. Read more ..


Inside Saudi Succession

Saudi Sucession--a Desert Legacy

September 14th 2009

Arab Topics - King Abdullah2
King Abdullah

The modern state of Saudi Arabia was founded by King Abdulaziz (Ibn Saud) in 1932. From a Saudi perspective, however, the kingdom is far older – certainly older than the United States – despite occasional interruptions in Saudi rule and even though the Western notion of sovereign independence was not achieved by the Saudis until this century.

As founder of the modern Saudi state, Ibn Saud could trace his forebears to the middle of the fifteenth century, when they arrived in the center of Arabia from the Hasa region to the east. By the beginning of the seventeenth century, his ancestors had become local rulers of an area centered on the settlement of Dariyah, near modern-day Riyadh. The identified patriarch of the family was Saud bin Muhammad, who was succeeded as sheikh (local ruler) upon his death in 1725 by his son Muhammad, who is usually described as the first ruler of the al-Saud dynasty. (King Abdulaziz was given the name Ibn Saud by the British, recalling this ancestor, Muhammad bin Saud, or Ibn Saud)

In 1745, Muhammad bin Saud, who had already achieved a reputation as a tough fighter in defending the local date palm plantations from marauding tribes, gave refuge to a Muslim scholar from a nearby village who had been expelled for preaching an Islamic orthodoxy that criticized local practices. The scholar was Muhammad bin Abdul Wahhab, and his strict interpretations of Island ("Wahhabism") found favor with Muhammad bin Saud. Read more ..


Terror in America

Facing Homegrown Radicalization

September 7th 2009

Terrorism - American Hezbollah

Last month, Kamal Hassan, a Somali-American living in Minnesota, pled guilty to training and fighting with al-Shabab, an al-Qaeda-linked terrorist group in Somalia. In July, two other Somali-Americans in Minnesota pled guilty to similar charges, with the FBI continuing to investigate more than a dozen others who may have traveled from the United States to Somalia. The FBI also recently arrested seven individuals in North Carolina on terrorism-related charges, including one who had spent time in Afghan training camps.

These and other recent events have raised new concerns in the United States about the threat of homegrown radicalization. As U.S. attorney general Eric Holder acknowledged in a July speech, the "whole notion of radicalization is something that did not loom as large a few months ago...as it does now." While the U.S. government has focused primarily on Europe as a source of potential terrorists, Washington should also look to the continent as a model in confronting homegrown radicalization.

A Troubling Phenomenon

During his first major speech in July, White House counterterrorism advisor John Brennan provided an overview of the current administration's approach to protecting American citizens from violent extremism and terrorism. Although Brennan emphasized President Barack Obama's new partnership with Muslim communities and the administration's commitment to defeating al-Qaeda's capacities overseas, little was said about homegrown Islamist radicalization. This fundamental issue has long been downplayed by U.S. federal authorities and counterterrorism experts, who believe that Muslims and Arabs are generally better integrated into U.S. society -- as opposed to their counterparts in European society -- and are thus less vulnerable to the al-Qaeda narrative. Read more ..


Petropolitics

Libya under Spotlight as Oil Deal for Lockerbie Bomber Deal Comes to Light

August 31st 2009

Arab Topics - Muammar Qaddafi
Libyan strongman Col. Muammar Qadhafi

Numerous celebrations in Libya have recently marked the fortieth anniversary of the September 1 revolution spearheaded by Muammar Qadhafi. For the Great Leader, these events are an opportunity to demonstrate the achievements of the Jamahiriyya and to further legitimize his rule. At the same time, the release and triumphant reception of terminally ill Abdel Basset al-Megrahi, convicted of murder for the Lockerbie air disaster, as well as the recent crisis in Swiss-Libyan relations, serve as a warning about Libya's leveraging of its hydrocarbon riches to achieve policy goals.

Important also to U.S.-Libyan relations is Qadhafi's upcoming visit to the United States, where he will address the United Nations General Assembly on September 23 -- which Libya is scheduled to chair -- and attend the UN Security Council meeting. This visit is widely expected to have awkward moments -- beginning with Qadhafi's plan to pitch a tent at the Libyan diplomatic compound in Englewood, New Jersey, home state to a number of families of Lockerbie victims. Beyond this, Qadhafi's visit may also have wider-ranging consequences.

Al-Megrahi's Return -- a Libyan Success?

For the United States, al-Megrahi's release and reception were, as President Barack Obama noted, "highly objectionable." For Qadhafi, however, al-Megrahi's release represented a domestic success, demonstrating to Libyans opposed to renewed U.S. ties that although Libya has given up its nuclear weapons programs, it is no puppet of the West. Read more ..


Eugenics in America

Government Death Panels and Mass Murder was Always an Option in 20th Century America's War Against the Weak

August 24th 2009

Book Covers - War Against the Weak

This article is based on the award-winning bestseller War Against the Weak--Eugenics and America's Campaign to Create a Master Race  (Dialog Press). Buy it here

The summer of 2009 has been rife with misplaced fears about government death panels arising from proposed insurance reform. These fears are not based on anything in the proposed legislation. But government death panels and mass euthanasia were always a public option during the first decades of the twentieth century. This campaign to exterminate all those deemed socially or medically unworthy was not conducted by the worst segments of our society but by the elite of the American establishment. They saw themselves as liberals, progressive, do-gooders—and even utopians— trying to create a more perfect society.

The mission: eliminate the existence of the poor, immigrants, those of mixed parentage, and indeed anyone who did not approximate the blond-haired blue-eyed ideal they idealized. This racial type was termed Nordic, and it was socially deified by a broad movement of esteemed university professors, doctors, legislators, judges and writers. They called themselves eugenicists. This widely accepted extremist movement was virtually created and funded by millions in corporate philanthropy from the Carnegie Institution, the Rockefeller Foundation and the Harriman railroad fortune through a complex of pseudoscientific institutions and population tracking offices at Cold Spring Harbor, Long Island. From there, leading academics supported by big money lead a termite-like proliferation of eugenics into the laws, social policies and curricula of the nation. During these turbulent decades, eugenics enjoyed the active support of the government, especially the U.S. Department of Agriculture which wanted to breed men the way they bred cattle, and many state and county offices.

Indeed, Eugenics was enacted into law in some 27 states during the first decades of the twentieth century, and then exalted as the law of the land by the U. S. Supreme Court. In a famous 1927 opinion, revered jurist Oliver Wendell Holmes compared social undesirables to bacteria to be wiped out. The sanctioned methods to be used were nothing less than a combination of pseudoscientific raceology, social engineering, ethnic cleansing and abject race law, designed to eliminate millions in an organized fashion. More specifically, the American eugenics movement sought to continually subtract the so-called “bottom tenth” of America. These were to include Blacks, Native Americans, Southern Italians, East Europeans, Jews, Hispanics, the poor, criminals, the intellectually unaccepted, the so-called “shiftless,” and many others. The drive for perfection even included excising the existence of Appalachians with brown hair, frequently rounded up by county officials for confinement. When this effort began in the early twentieth century, some fourteen million Americans were targeted for elimination. Read more ..


Afghanistan on the Edge

Coalition Struggles with Narco-Terror Afghanistan’s Opium Trade

August 17th 2009

Afghan Topics - Afghan Poppy Fields

It is almost decision time again for Coalition forces in Afghanistan. In village after village, men will be plowing their fields in readiness for planting the second annual opium crop in November. The first crop has already been harvested, and the temporary respite from attacks, caused by the Taliban granting furloughs to their fighters to help gather the illicit harvest, will be briefly repeated as many head back to the family farm to broadcast the poppy seed across their fields in scenes reminiscent of medieval European agriculture. The difference, of course, is the presence of hi-tech, unmanned Predator drones flying silently high above the ground, searching for Taliban activity.

Currently, according to DEA estimates, Afghanistan is responsible for production of between eighty-five to ninety percent of the illegal heroin consumed worldwide, with the remainder divided between the so-called Golden Crescent area of northern Burma, Laos and Thailand as well as, increasingly, Colombia. For the time being, Afghanistan remains the mother lode when it comes to illegal opiates. Read more ..


Inside Latin America

Colombian Trade Unions--A Target for Death Squads as American Corporations Prosper

August 10th 2009

Latin American Topics - Colombian Death Squads

Luis Adolfo Cardona worked as a forklift operator at an American-owned bottling company that packages 50,000 cases of Coca-Cola’s famous fizzy beverages a month. On an unassuming morning, Cardona narrowly escaped death when right-wing paramilitary troops attempted to kill him. Unfortunately, not all labor union activists are so lucky.

Isídro Segundo Gil, the gatekeeper and the union’s chief negotiator at another Coca-Cola bottling plant in the small, rural town of Carepa, Colombia, was gunned down by a band of paramilitary insurgents on December 5, 1996. After shooting Gil ten times, the armed men sped away from the premises on motorcycles. Not even a few hours had passed before the militants were back. They attempted to kidnap another union leader, who just barely got away, and then set fire to the union’s offices later that night. The armed group returned a week later. The workers were then gathered in the cafeteria and given an ultimatum—either quit or be killed. Read more ..


Inside Washington

Blue Dogs Cash In

August 3rd 2009

Politics - Blue Dog Coalition

Whether the subject is health care reform, climate change, or pay-as-you-go budgeting rules, almost everyone, it seems, suddenly wants to talk with the Blue Dogs. President Obama’s White House meeting with members of the fiscally conservative Democratic coalition earlier this week is but the latest indication that the Blue Dogs — 52 members strong — have deftly turned themselves into a key voting bloc at the nexus of power. With them, the Democrats do not need a single Republican to back their legislation; without them, the Democratic agenda would be in serious peril. And as their clout has expanded, fundraising has grown accordingly, not just from traditionally Democratic contributors, but from unexpected quarters as well.

The numbers are stunning. Nearly 54 percent of the Blue Dog PAC’s contributions this year have come from three sectors: health care PACs, energy PACs, and financial services PACs. As the Blue Dog Coalition’s clout has grown, their fundraising has mushroomed. In the first half of 2009, their PAC raised over $1.1 million — more than in all of 2003-2004. The Blue Dog PAC’s fundraising his increased in each complete cycle, taking in $2,636,273 in contributions in 2007-2008 (up from $1,239,516 in 2005-2006). Read more ..


Arabs and the West

Original Mideast Peace Plan Recognized Jewish State in Return for Arab Nation in Syria

July 27th 2009

Book Covers - Banking on Baghdad

This article is based on the Banking on Baghdad--Inside Iraq's 7,000-Year History of War, Profit, and Conflict (Dialog Press). Buy it here

Every day, politicians and pundits talk of another chance at Mideast peace missed, delayed or subverted. The focus is always on Palestinians and Israelis as the keystone to a global settlement with the West and across the region. But in the original peace arrangement between the Jews, Arabs and the Western powers, it was not settlements and Jerusalem that were at the heart of the problem. In fact, the Arabs originally agreed to a Jewish state complete with massive Jewish immigration. For Arabs, the prize was not Palestine, it was Syria.

This is the story of how the original Middle East Peace Plan crafted among all sides in the aftermath of World War I was subverted—not by Jews or Zionists, but by the French.

It begins at the Paris Peace Conference, on January 1919, in a flag-bedecked, battle-scarred—but victorious—Paris. There, the great top-hatted Allied men of vision and illusion gathered to remake the world and invent the post-Ottoman Middle East. At those fateful meetings, the Arabs and Jews formally agreed to mutually endorse both their national aspirations and live in peace.

This was the deal: The Jews could have an unrestricted Zionist state in Palestine. The British could have Iraq and its fabulous, albeit still undrilled, oil. The Arabs only wanted Syria and the holy cities of Mecca and Medina in the Arabian Peninsula.

During the first days of the League of Nation’s Paris Peace Conference, Faisal, accompanied by T.E. Lawrence, widely dubbed "Lawrence of Arabia," met in Paris with Zionist Organization president Chaim Weizmann. Following up on meetings the two leaders had held the previous June in Aqaba, Faisal signed an enlightened and tolerant nine-point agreement endorsing the Balfour Declaration and inviting the Zionists to coexist in Palestine. The text includes great specificity about mutual national aspirations. But the chief goal of the Arabs for an Arab national state at that time was not Palestine—but Syria. The text: Read more ..


Edge on Homeland Security

Eighty Congressional Committees Now Oversee Tangled Homeland Security Mess

July 20th 2009

Politics - Capitol Building at night

Tom Ridge, the Department of Homeland Security’s first secretary, testified before the 9/11 Commission on a May morning in 2004. Ridge spoke before a hall packed with emotional New Yorkers, about two miles from the site of the World Trade Center. His subject, however, was Washington.

When Commissioner Tim Roemer asked for suggestions on improving DHS, Ridge brought up an institution in which both he and Roemer had served: Congress. It would be helpful, Ridge said, if Congress took a look at the number of committees that had power over DHS.

"I think we could be even more effective in what we’re doing," he began, "if there was some means of reducing, frankly, the multiple layers of interaction that we encounter every single day."

"Well, sir, you’re very polite about it," Roemer responded. "It is absolutely absurd that Congress would require you to report to 88 different subcommittees and committees when we’re supposed to be fighting al-Qaeda."

Five years ago, the 9/11 Commission, a congressionally mandated panel investigating al-Qaeda’s 2001 attacks, made 41 recommendations on such topics as improving screening at airports and creating a director of national intelligence. Commissioners say Congress and the executive branch have enacted 80 to 90 percent of their suggestions. The recommendation that Congress "create a single, principal point of oversight and review for homeland security" is a notable exception. Read more ..


America and Iran

U.S.-Iranian Military Clashes in the Persian Gulf in the 1980s - The Inside Story

July 13th 2009

Energy Topics - Burning Oil Platform

In the 1980s, the United States faced significant security challenges in the Persian Gulf. The Islamic Revolution in Iran had replaced Washington’s ally, the Shah, with a decidedly hostile regime in Tehran. In September 1980, Iraqi president Saddam Hussein seized upon the chaos in Iran by sending Iraqi forces to capture the oil resources located across the border in southern Iran.

However, Iran fended off the assault and drove Saddam’s forces back into Iraq, where the fighting bogged down. Despite repeated offensives costing hundreds of thousands of lives, the Iranians were unable to defeat Iraq, and the war stalemated into a bloody struggle, eerily reminiscent of the First World War.

Fearing an Iranian victory and the export of its Shiite  revolution to Iraq, the pro-Western Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) nations—Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE)—provided Iraq with US$25–$65 billion in assistance. Kuwait allowed weapons destined for Iraq to transit its ports; in one week alone, ships arrived at Kuwaiti harbors delivering nearly a brigade’s worth of T-72 tanks. In 1984, the Iran-Iraq War spilled into the Persian Gulf: In an attempt to force Iran to accept a ceasefire, Iraq initiated the so called Tanker War by attacking Iranian oil tankers.  Iran responded by attacking ships destined for Iraq’s financial supporters, particularly Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. Read more ..


The Edge of Terrorism

Inside NYPD's Counterterrorism Operations

July 6th 2009

Crime Topics - NY Cops

The NYPD has a highly developed counterterrorism program, due in large part to the strong support of city and department leaders such as Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly, who are both committed to having a strong counterterrorism program that effectively complements federal efforts. Our department is by far the largest police department in the country. While most police departments have only a few hundred employees, the NYPD has 53,000 men and women plus an operating budget of $4 billion. In addition, the city currently has a very low crime rate. All of these factors make it relatively easy for the NYPD to devote significant resources to counterterrorism.

To say that the NYPD is filling in the gaps in federal counterterrorism efforts is not a criticism of the federal government, which is very good at acquiring information on individuals connected to overseas terrorist organizations. Rather, our department has something the federal government lacks: plenary police power, which gives the department a broad ability to maintain public order, and a unique and important role in overall counterterrorism efforts. The NYPD counterterrorism bureau comprises several main elements. Read more ..


Financing Terrorism

Terrorism and Tobacco--How Cigarette Smuggling Finances Jihad and Insurgency Worldwide

June 29th 2009

Palestine Topics - Gaza Tunnel Smuggler

For centuries, blue-turbaned nomadic Tuareg tribesmen have led caravans of camels across the expanses of the Sahara. Laden with millet and cloth from Africa’s West Coast, the caravans traveled unmarked paths to trade for salt and dates in Timbuktu, across the sand plains of Niger, and into the mountain oasis of the Algerian south.

Smugglers take the same routes today — driving SUVs along paved roads or with guidance from the Tuareg and satellite phones — to move weapons, drugs, and, increasingly, humans — through the Sahara for transport across the Mediterranean Sea. The paths are no longer known as the Salt Roads of the Tuareg, but as the “Marlboro Connection,” named after the most lucrative contraband along this 2,000-mile corridor.

Among those who control this underground trade is al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), an Algeria-based terrorist organization widely believed to have been backed by Osama Bin Laden. Descended from the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat (known by its French acronym, GSPC) the group has hundreds of members and is blamed for a bloody campaign of bombings, murders, and kidnappings across North Africa and Europe. The lead smuggler, Mokhtar Belmokhtar, 37, is blamed for the 2003 kidnappings of 32 European tourists and the 2006 murder of 13 Algerian customs officials. “They are a significant threat,” says Lorenzo Vidino, author of Al Qaeda in Europe. “Of all Islamic terrorist groups, they have the most extensive and sophisticated network in Europe… And among their activities, smuggling is particularly important.” Read more ..


North Korea's Nukes

North Korea Missile Threat Against Hawaii and Alaska Has Been Expected for Ten Years—Iran Regime a Full Partner

June 22nd 2009

Korea Topics - Gates Inspecting Missile
Defense Sec. Gates Inspects Alaska Silos

This continuing coverage of America’s oil crisis arises from the The Plan: How to Save America When the Oil Stops—or the Day Before (Dialog Press). Buy it here.

In a frantic race with high winds, bone-chilling ice storms and rattled political nerves, the American defense establishment has been rushing to meet the threat now faced by Hawaii, Guam, Alaska and possibly the West Coast of the United States mainland—an advanced North Korean Taepodong-2 missile. The now-contested regime of Iran’s president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has been a full partner in the development.

Bellicose and prone to tantrums, North Korea’s bizarre strong man Kim Jong-Il has ordered a missile test of the new advanced Taepodong-2 missile, apparently in the direction of U.S. territory. Hawaii, Guam and Alaska are in the crosshairs. The defense establishment is convinced the decisive moment will once again come provocatively on America’s national holiday, July 4. This moment has been coming for more than a decade, and the Pentagon, North Korea and Iran have been preparing for it.

Alarm first sounded in 1999 when American defense officials realized that the Taepodong 1 missile, which doubled as an Iranian Shabab, was just the first phase of a decade-plus program by North Korea and Iran to develop an Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM). Named for the Taepodong village where it is developed, the long-range Tae-pondong-1 was capable of 2,000 km, enough to threaten its neighbors. But the new Taepodong-2 could achieve double that range, more than 4,000 km—most of the way to Hawaii—and was, therefore, approaching the status of ICBM. With the right wind conditions, this newer missile when further developed could reach the outer territories of the United States. If armed with a reduced-weight payload, and favorable weather conditions, a properly guided TD-2 could reach the United States, perhaps far inland, American defense planners feared. Read more ..


Iran's Nukes

ElBaradei and IAEA Admit Iran Poised to Have Nuclear Weapons

June 17th 2009

Iran - Ahmadinejad at Iranian nuclear plant

"My gut feeling is that Iran definitely would like to have the technology ... that would enable it to have nuclear weapons if they decided to do so." This was the latest conclusion by Mohamed ElBaradei, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), pronounced in an interview with the BBC. He added, Iran sees nuclear weapons as an "insurance policy" against perceived threats from Israel or the United States.

ElBaradei, whose term of office is to expire in November, said in the interview that countries in possession of nuclear weapons were treated differently from others, citing the example of North Korea, which was invited to negotiations while Iraq under Saddam Hussein -- which did not have a nuclear capability -- was “pulverized.” Read more ..


Iran's Voter Revolt

How to Steal an Election in Iran

June 15th 2009

Iran - Iran Election

With Iran's presidential campaign now under the microscope the challengers to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and indeed many in the world are understandably expressing intense concern about the possibility of election fraud and manipulation of the election. How do elections work in Iran? Not only are there complaints about regime influence on the campaign, such as biased coverage by state-run television, the voting itself can be manipulated in numerous ways.

According to Iranian law, the Interior Ministry administers elections. In each ward or county, the ministry forms an executive committee that consists of the ward or county head, the local head of the National Organization for Civil Registration, the chief prosecutor or his representative, and eight respected local figures.

The Guardian Council has the duty of supervising the electoral process at each polling station and has created observation committees with more than 130,000 members. Each candidate has the right to send an observer to each fixed polling station to observe both the voting process and the ballot count. Read more ..


Iran's Voter Revolt

Iranian Election Leads to Chaos in the Streets

June 15th 2009

Iran - Iran Election Protest

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmedinijad claimed a 60 percent victory in this week’s elections, bit the people of Iran refuse to believe he was the real victor.

The Iranian people took the streets this weekend in protest of what many called a stolen election, while Iran's leading opposition candidate, Hossein Mousavi, called the election a "coup" and demanded the international community not recognize the official results.

According to Iranian bloggers, so convinced is the population that the election results are a fraud that they have been making the joke that “George Orwell has requested to change his book's name from 1984 to 1388." This is the year 1388 according to the Iranian calendar.

Mousavi asserts that he had been informed of his victory by the interior ministry on Friday night. That claim was first published on the website of Mohsen Makhmalbaf, a celebrated Iranian film director based in Paris and influential Mousavi supporter asked to speak on behalf of the candidate because of the clampdown on his organization in Iran. Authorities detained top Mousavi aides, including the head of his webcampaign, but many were released Sunday after being held overnight. Makhmalbaf’s website was subsequently closed down by a cyber attack.

"This semi-democratic country has taken an important step towards dictatorship," Makhmalbaf said. Read more ..


America and Israel

Obama and the Israel Question—Many Now Queasy

June 8th 2009

Obama Admin Topics - Barack Obama with Flag

Many supporters of Barack Obama who are also supporters of Israel— from both the Jewish and Christian communities—are now wondering whether their faith in America’s charismatic new president was misplaced on this key issue.

At the core of the queasiness is the Obama Administration’s sudden publicly strident approach against Israel. Secretary of State Hilary Clinton has become the Administration’s chief megaphone for the new policy, fond of publicly scolding Israel on settlements. "The president was very clear,” she stated, “when Prime Minister Netanyahu was here. He wants to see a stop to settlements—not some settlements, not outposts, not natural growth exceptions. We think it is in the best interests of the effort that we are engaged in that settlement expansion cease. That is our position. That is what we have communicated very clearly, not only to the Israelis but to the Palestinians and others. And we intend to press that point.”

At first, many Obama devotees simply muttered quietly about the harsh public tone taken against Israel. It began at the level of the “close listeners,” those who follow the minute-to-minute developments and promulgations of the Arab-Israel dynamic. Eventually, the national leadership began verbalizing concern as well, and then local leaders joined in. If leadership jitters continue, the rank-and-file from among Israel’s supporters could begin distancing themselves from Obama’s Mideast policy and even joining the loyal opposition on a range of issues. One seasoned Washington correspondent quipped, “It has not yet reached the Jimmy Carter level.”

The first articles reporting the jitters began appearing weeks ago in mainstream Jewish media outlets such as the JTA and the Forward. Indeed, the latest reporting by veteran JTA Washington correspondent Ron Kampeas bears the headline, “Some Israeli-U.S. Officials move to keep the volume down.” Kampeas’s current article quotes an e-mail from the White House to Jewish Council for Public Affairs, the umbrella body for public policy groups. "While we may have some differences of view with Israel at the moment over settlements,” the White House e-mail explains, “we are trying to work through them quietly, professionally, and without rancor or ultimatums, as befits a strong relationship with an important ally. We are confident we can do that."

The present clash functions at a number of domestic and international levels—some of them contradictory, and all of them granulated. Read more ..


America's Economic Collapse

Lenders Pushed Appraisers to Inflate Home Values--and then the Bubble Burst

June 1st 2009

Economy - Foreclosure

In 2004, years before plummeting real estate values turned Fort Myers, Florida, into a top five foreclosure capital, appraiser Mike Tipton faced a dilemma. Tipton’s employer, eAppraiseIT, sent him to value a two-bedroom home in a new subdivision built by the developer D.R. Horton. Paperwork given by the appraisal management company to Tipton included a $245,000 estimated value.

But after inspecting the home and comparing it to five similar houses that had recently sold, Tipton set the value at $237,000--$8,000 less than the estimate. He knew the difference might disappoint DHI Mortgage, the prospective buyer’s lender, which is a subsidiary of developer D.R. Horton. And indeed it did. The lender, in a process appraisers say was common in the boom days before the housing bubble burst, asked Tipton to redo the appraisal. It sent paperwork through eAppraiseIT asking him to reconsider the value. It gave him different homes to use for comparisons.

"If you read between the lines, they wanted a larger value," Tipton said. "I told them no, I wasn’t changing my report."

Read more ..

America's Economic Collapse

Predatory Lending: A Decade of Warnings as Congress and the Fed Fiddled

May 25th 2009

Politics - Capitol Building at night

A little more than a decade ago, William Brennan foresaw the financial collapse of 2008.  As director of the Home Defense Program at the Atlanta Legal Aid Society, he watched as subprime lenders earned enormous profits making mortgages to people who clearly couldn’t afford them.

The loans were bad for borrowers — Brennan knew that. He also knew the loans were bad for the Wall Street investors buying up these shaky mortgages by the thousands. And he spoke up about his fears. “I think this house of cards may tumble some day, and it will mean great losses for the investors who own stock in those companies,” he told members of the Senate Special Committee on Aging in 1998.

It turns out that Brennan didn’t know how right he was. Not only did those loans bankrupt investors, they nearly took down the entire global banking system.

Washington was warned as long as a decade ago by bank regulators, consumer advocates, and a handful of lawmakers that these high-cost loans represented a systemic risk to the economy, yet Congress, the White House, and the Federal Reserve all dithered while the subprime disaster spread. Long forgotten Read more ..


America's Economic Collapse

Billion Dollar Bailout Banks Financed the Subprime Industry and America’s Economic Meltdown

May 18th 2009

Economy - Bundles of Cash

The top subprime lenders whose practices are largely blamed for triggering the global economic meltdown were owned or bankrolled by banks now collecting billions of dollars in bailout money—including several that have paid huge fines to settle predatory lending charges.

These big institutions were not only unwitting victims of an unforeseen financial collapse, as they have sometimes portrayed themselves, but enablers that bankrolled the type of lending that has threatened the financial system.

These are among the findings of an analysis of government data on nearly 7.2 million "high-interest" or subprime loans made from 2005 through 2007, a period that marks the peak and collapse of the subprime boom. The computer-assisted analysis also reveals the top 25 originators of high-interest loans, accounting for nearly $1 trillion, or about 72 percent of such loans made during that period.

Investigation found that U.S. and European investment banks invested enormous sums in subprime lending due to unceasing demand for high-yield, high-risk bonds backed by home mortgages. Those banks made huge profits while their executives collected handsome bonuses until the bottom fell out of the real estate market.

Read more ..

Iran's Nukes

Has the Obama-Israel Joint Policy on Iran's Nukes Ruptured?

May 11th 2009

Obama Admin Topics - Obama-Peres

There is no reason for so much as a "crack" in relations between our government and Obama's, Shimon Peres said this week. He's wrong. On Iran, the Israeli and American red lines are drawn in very different places.

Welcoming the 2002 Arab League peace initiative, all but endorsing a two-state solution, insisting that the new Israeli government was determined to make peace, President Shimon Peres turned in a vintage performance at the AIPAC annual Policy Conference this week.

He sent chills with his warnings about the aggressive Iranians' nuclear threat and hegemonic ambition, warmed hearts by talking of his two great-grandchildren, Ella and Ari, as their adorable features flashed on the giant video screens, and served as the model visitor by paying a warm tribute to the host nation and its new leader.

Barack Obama's election, he declared, had unleashed a "tsunami" of hope - and we in Israel, he promised, were going to help Obama realize it by opening our arms to reconciliation with the Arab world. Read more ..


GM's Toxic Legacy

GM's Toxic Legacy for America: Poisoned Citizens and Communities Across the Nation

May 5th 2009

Environment Topics - China Urban Pollution

The Love Canal environmental disaster taught us the environomental realities of the industrial age. General Motors has earned a special place in the gallery of toxic monsters who have damaged the environmental health of this nation and the physical health its citizens.

At the Love Canal, it became painfully obvious that where we live and work, we see the inexcusable consequences of toxic chemicals being quietly dumped into the local earth and air. This infamous New York canal was a half-mile trench dug during the 1890’s. It became an industrial dumpsite in the 1920’s, was covered up, and a community of homes and a school were built upon it. All seemed traquil, but the chemical clock was clicking.

By 1978, this toxic time bomb began to burst, releasing more than 80 different chemical compounds, including 11 carcinogens rising upwards through the earth into the homes, yards and schools. Read more ..


Justice on Edge

Why Jonathan Pollard is Still in Prison

May 2nd 2009

Edwin Black

On January 7, 2002, former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stepped through the two-doored entry chamber of a prison sallyport. After the first fudge-brown steel and armored glass door slowly closed right-to-left behind him, Netanyahu passed his hand beneath a black light reader along the left wall. It illuminated a small security stamp on his hand, not unlike the type disco clubs use. Behind opaque, silver-tinted windows, watchful security officers in the control room completed their checklist, approving Netanyahu’s access. Then in a low mechanized rumble, the entry chamber’s long second door opened left-to-right, admitting Netanyahu to an inner corridor of the prison. He was ushered just down the hall and then into a large room on the right, filled with vending machines and tables. There, waiting for him was the man Netanyahu wanted to see.

The prison was not in Israel, it was in North Carolina. Netanyahu had flown to Raleigh Durham and then driven the forest-lined 20 minutes to the Federal Correctional Institution at Butner. It was all to talk to America’s most controversial Jewish prisoner, now serving his 17th year of incarceration. The prisoner, 09185-016, was Jonathan Jay Pollard, the American Jew who pleaded guilty in 1986 to spying for Israel, and was abruptly sentenced to life imprisonment despite a binding plea bargain that restricted any request for so harsh a term.
For the next few hours, within earshot of a National Security Agency monitor, Netanyahu and Pollard spoke about the anguish of his imprisonment and practical ideas to set him free. “Contrary to perfidious rumors about his manner,” remembers Netanyahu in a telephone interview, “Pollard was absolutely clear and in control—both intellectually and emotionally. Remember, he did not work for anyone but Israel, yet continues in jail after 17 years. However, others did work for other countries, and they were set free long ago. A great injustice has been perpetrated by keeping Pollard endlessly in jail.”

Netanyahu’s crusading tone is now a common feature of the Jonathan Pollard saga. Since that tumultuous afternoon, March 4, 1987, when federal Judge Aubrey Robinson stunned his courtroom by imposing a life sentence, Pollard has been the cause célèbre of an international movement to free him. The roster of the renowned passionately advocating for Pollard’s release, or the overturn of his sentence, is nothing less than spectacular. It includes every Israeli Prime Minister since the crime, from Yitzhak Rabin to Ariel Sharon; Nobel laureate Elie Wiesel, who has visited Pollard twice in prison; numerous members of Congress led by Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-NY); a collection of distinguished law professors, such as Harvard’s Charles Ogletree and American University’s Michael Tigar; a cast of Hollywood luminaries; and an armada of America’s most celebrated defense attorneys, including Harvard’s flamboyant Alan Dershowitz and Theodore Olsen, now the U.S. Solicitor General. Legions of grass-root supporters both within America’s Jewish community and the Israeli electorate, emotionally agitate as well for Pollard’s immediate release. Read more ..


What if the Oil Stops

Italian CNG Exec Charges Honda with “Mafia-like” Conduct over Fuelmaker as Sale Nears

April 30th 2009

Automotive - IMI FuelMaker
IMI Fuelmaker Exhibition

This continuing coverage of America’s oil crisis arises from the The Plan: How to Save America When the Oil Stops—or the Day Before (Dialog Press). Buy it here.

Update May 1. The day after The Cutting Edge News released its story about the impending sale of Fuelmaker, probably to Fuel Systems Solutions, the actual sale to Fuel Systems Solutions was announced. See related story in Energy.

“It is a very bad situation. I am not good. I am desperate,” declared Haimo Staffler, president of IMI, the exclusive Italian distributor of home and office compressed natural gas (CNG) refueling devices manufactured by Honda Fuelmaker. The devices include the Phill unit designed to be the home refueler for the much touted restricted-production Honda Civic GX. The GX runs exclusively on CNG and holds the promise of untethering its owners from oil use and gas stations. Fuelmaker devices refuel not just Honda vehicles but any compatible CNG vehicle from forklifts to Fiats. Staffler’s experience with Honda executives and their conduct in the Fuelmaker case has left him shocked and angry, accusing them of extreme misconduct.

“These people from Honda,” he asserts, “they are driving me crazy. What they have done is terrible.”

Specifically, Staffler accuses Honda of extreme misconduct in the recent sudden bankruptcy the Japanese carmaker forced on Fuelmaker. Overnight, that engineered bankruptcy has vaporized IMI’s distribution agreements and product launches for Fuelmaker in Italy. Read more ..


Inside Islam

Somali Pirates and the Islamist Jihad

April 20th 2009

Piracy - Somali Pirates Land
Somali Jihadi Pirates

As the news of the successful US Navy SEALS rescue of Captain Richard Phillips, who was taken hostage by Muslim pirates off the coast of Somalia last week, slides off the headlines into oblivion, we can begin to look more deeply into the matter of piracy off the East African coast.

What is clear is that US government is treating the matter as a criminal case because officials have “found no direct ties” between the East African pirates and regional or international terror groups.

But in fact, those labeled as mere “criminals” are actually Jihadist Muslim pirates, and they make that clear to anyone who will listen. To begin, Somali pirates do not think of themselves as “pirates,” but instead consider themselves devout Muslims protecting Somalia against the infidel West. As one pirate put it to a Reuters journalist just days ago, “We are Muslims. We are marines, coastguards -- not pirates." Read more ..


The Iran Threat

Iran Ramps Up Proxy War in Iraq

April 13th 2009

Iran - Iran's Revolutionary Guard

In December 2008, shortly before assuming office, President Barack Obama called for "tough but direct diplomacy with Iran." As the new administration moves forward, it must realize that U.S.-Iranian negotiations will take place while Iran is killing Americans in Iraq and increasing its support for armed Iraqi factions. Like its predecessor, the Obama administration must prepare for the challenge of negotiating under fire.

In addition to significant economic investment and relationship building among Iraq's political parties, Iran develops influence in Iraq by providing Iraqi militants with training, shelter, money, and equipment. Analysis of declassified interrogation and other intelligence material published by the West Point Counterterrorism Center, the Institute for Studying War, and the Long War Journal, has publicly revealed what military intelligence professionals have been piecing together for longer than five years: that Iran has been developing a covert action program in Iraq for decades, one that is open-ended, resilient, and well-funded, and that utilizes a broad range of Iraqi proxies. Read more ..


What if the Oil Stops

Honda Suddenly Kills Fuelmaker In Stunning Move That Outrages CNG Movement

April 6th 2009

Energy / Environment - Honda GC refueling at home

This continuing coverage of America’s oil crisis arises from the The Plan: How to Save America When the Oil Stops—or the Day Before (Dialog Press). Buy it here.

Amidst charges that embattled American Honda is systematically suppressing its compressed natural gas (CNG) vehicle program, the company has suddenly fueled that impression by throwing into bankruptcy its wholly-owned CNG refueling company, Fuelmaker.

Toronto-based Fuelmaker was arguably the linchpin of CNG’s future as a bridge solution to alternative fuel. The firm manufactured and distributed the essential refueling appliance that allowed home-based and fleet refueling of CNG vehicles worldwide, including the Honda Civic GX heralded as the “greenest car in America.” Read more ..



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