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Clean Energy Quest

Truck-delivered Micro-Nuclear Reactor for Clean Energy Within Five Years

November 10th 2008

Contributors / Staff - Edwin Black

Micro-nuclear reactors about the size of a hot tub, prefabricated and delivered by trucks, will begin revolutionizing electric energy supply within five years, according to information gleaned from government scientists and corporate energy sources. If successful, the breakthrough will change the face of global energy supplies.

New nuclear battery technology pioneered by government scientists at Los Alamos—the facility that developed the first atomic bomb—has been licensed to private companies for mass production and distribution. In its initial format, each micro-reactor will produce just 25 megawatts, but enough to provide electricity for 20,000 average American-sized homes or a major industrial project. Daisy-chained, these micro-reactors, each one about twice the size of an average man, can supply enough electricity to power an entire small city or suburb. Initially, the reactors will be placed in isolated industrial and residential areas, such as oilsand enterprises and underdeveloped African nations in need of power. 

The miniature nuclear marvels will be factory-sealed in concrete, and delivered by truck, train or ship for burial under close international nuclear regulatory supervision. The reactors will produce heat which will boil an adjacent water source to create the steam that typically turns turbines that generate electricity.

Unlike giant nuclear reactors requiring ten years to construct under daunting conditions, these concrete “nuclear batteries” have no moving parts, no potential to go supercritical or meltdown, and reportedly cannot be easily tampered with. The extremely small amount of hot nuclear fuel—too hot to handle--would immediately cool if exposed to air, technical sources assert. Read more ..


America With No Plan for Oil Interruption

Ironically, As Price Per Barrel Drops, American Oil Supply From Canada Imperiled

November 3rd 2008

Energy / Environment - Oil Sands

This continuing coverage on the supply arises from the just released book, The Plan: How to Save America When the Oil Stops—or the Day Before (Dialog Press). Buy it here.

Americans may be rejoicing about lower oil prices, but the law of unintended consequences and the vagaries of the global oil supply have begun to kick in.

Ironically, oil may become dramatically scarcer for Americans--not as a result of manipulations by the OPEC oil cartel, but due the fragile economics of Canadian oil.

America consumes some 20 million barrels of oil per day, about 70 percent of which is imported. But the number one supplier to the United States is close to home, our northern neighbor, Canada. The nation to the north sends some 2 million barrels of oil per day to the United States from Alberta in western Canada. This petroleum comes from a source commonly known as “oil sands.”

Oil sands are deposits of oily goop embedded in sand, and comprise about 95 percent of Canada’s massive petroleum reserve of approximately 180 billion barrels. That reserve was not globally recognized until 2003—near the time of the American invasion of Iraq. Prior to that, the environmentally threatening, water intensive, heavy industrial nature of oil sands extraction was considered too expensive to be considered economically viable. With oil prices telescoping toward $150 per barrel, the hyper-expensive oil sands process became viable, profitable, and the basis for a sudden American reliance on North American petroleum as a source of fuel.  Read more ..


America With No Plan for Oil Interruption

Doomsday in an Oil Barrel

October 27th 2008

Energy / Environment - Oil Barrels

Just say this: There will be an attack on one of Saudi Arabia’s major oil terminals (e.g. Ras Tanura or Abqaiq) within the next six months.

As a consequence, more than six million barrels per day will be taken off the global market, leading the price of oil to rise overnight to more than $200/bbl – and stay there for as long as a year until the terminal is repaired. The President of the United States, the Prime Minister of Japan, and heads of government  in Europe will open sustained crisis consultations, coordinate the release and sharing of strategic petroleum reserves, and agree on other measures to try to manage the crisis.  Notwithstanding these efforts, the global economy – already over-burdened by the collapse of financial markets – will sink rapidly into the chaos of a deep and prolonged depression.  Japan, which imports 99% of its fuel, will be first to go, but the interdependence inherent in our globalized world will assure that all industrialized countries will suffer essentially the same fate. Read more ..


America's Economic Collapse

What to Expect in the Coming Three Years as America's Economic Collapse Worsens

October 20th 2008

Economy - Economic Collapse

It has been excruciating watching your retirement portfolio disappear day by day. The S&P 500 has declined by 26% in the last three weeks and 43% in the last year. Everyone has been waiting for the bounce that always comes. The brilliant financial gurus on Wall Street have convinced us that we are supposed to buy the dips. The market always goes up in the long run. These experts have been lying to you. Are you surprised?

There have been many long periods when stocks did not go up in real terms. Most disappointing was the 25 year period from 1929 through 1954, when investors would have secured an adjusted 0% return. From the mid 1960’s until 1980 the market did not go up in real terms. Indeed, if inflation is taken into account, the market didn’t really recover until 1990, 24 years after the 1966 high. The 2000 high was reached for a brief time in late 2007, but has fallen 43% since then. We have entered a period of time when the economy will go into a deep recession for at least two years. It is likely that our economy will not be strong for 5 to 10 years based on a continuing decline in the housing market and crumbling banking system that will not lend. The PE ratio of the market is still high and corporate earnings will collapse in 2009. Based on this bleak environment the market will likely decline by an additional 20%, before reaching its ultimate low. The S&P 500 Index will not reach its 2007 high until, at the earliest, 2015. That would be a 15 year period with no return. Evidently, stocks don’t always go up in the long run. Read more ..


The Oil Weapon

Libya Unleashes Oil Weapon Against Switzerland over Arrest of Qaddafi’s Son

October 13th 2008

Arab Topics - Muammar Qaddafi
Muammar al-Gaddafi

This continuing coverage on the oil weapon arises from the just released book, The Plan: How to Save America When the Oil Stops—or the Day Before (Dialog Press). Buy it here.

Libya has become the first Arab nation to once again unleash the oil weapon as the petropolitical Cold War has suddenly heated up in the most unlikely of nations: Switzerland.

In the roiling dispute—ignored by a national media distracted by presidential politics and an economic morass—Libya is close to declaring total economic war against Switzerland. The incident vividly demonstrates how frivolous and unpredictable petropolitical blackmail can be—and how costly. Switzerland has a plan for oil interruption but the United States does not.

The conflict began on July 15 when Swiss authorities arrested Hannibal Qaddafi and his wife at a Geneva hotel for allegedly beating two servants. Hannibal Qaddafi is the son of Libya’s volatile strongman Muammar Qaddafi. One of five Qaddafi sons, Hannibal has accumulated a record of run-ins with police departments across the Continent over allegations of violence and drunk driving. In 2005, France issued him a four-month suspended sentence and ordered him to pay a 500 EU fine for causing bodily harm against his pregnant partner—who later became his wife—and illegal possession of a firearm.

A year earlier, Hannibal was taken into custody by the Paris police after speeding through red lights on the Champs Elysees in his expensive Porsche. Reportedly, the Arab playboy was under the influence and driving on the wrong side of the famous Paris boulevard. Read more ..


America with No Plan for an Oil Interruption

Honda Hydrogen Hoax: Carmaker Says Hydrogen Car Must Await Filling Stations While Suppressing Home Refueling Device

October 6th 2008

Energy / Environment - Honda Clarity with refueler
Honda Hydrogen Vehicle with Home Refueler

This story is adapted from the just released The Plan: How to Save America When the Oil Stops—or the Day Before (Dialog Press). Buy it here.

Japanese Honda is delaying for years a national rollout of its dynamic new Clarity hydrogen car, and manufacturing just a handful of test cars, mainly for the Los Angeles area, because the company claims cities lack hydrogen filling stations. But the claim is an apparent hoax. Honda’s Clarity was designed for home refueling and was developed with a companion Home Energy Station, now undeployed and forgotten.

Unquestionably, Honda again achieved the alternative energy limelight with the rollout of its sleek and stylish hydrogen fuel cell vehicle, the Clarity. Boasting kinetic body styling, an exquisite interior, par excellence handling and roadability, the Clarity is a feat of automotive engineering. Most remarkably, the car uses no petroleum. Instead, its fuel cell uses hydrogen reformed from natural gas or electrolyzed from water. Hydrogen can also be made through a bacterial reaction, and several laboratories are trying to improve the yields. Read more ..


America With No Plan for an Oil Interruption

Honda Suppresses Alt Fuel GX Automobiles as Company Refuses to Sell CNG Cars to Spokane

September 29th 2008

Technology - Honda gpx
Honda GX

This story is adapted from the just released The Plan: How to Save America When the Oil Stops—or the Day Before (Dialog Press). Buy it here.

Japanese Honda is suppressing its own alternative fuel technology and denying its cars and home refueling devices to Americans eager to get off of oil. Honda, it seems, is going slow on its alt fuel vehicles, fearing the public will continue to abandon its more profitable gas guzzling SUVs such as the Honda Pilot. The Pilot is one of the most fuel inefficient vehicles on our nation’s highway.

Nowhere is this suppression strategy more visible than with the Honda GX, sometimes called “the greenest car in America.” Honda has ensured GX is also “the most unavailable car in America.” In fact, Spokane Community College has been trying to purchase just one for more than a year and Honda at the corporate level refuses to sell them even one car. Home-based or community-based fueling is one of the answers to energy independence. Read more ..


America With No Plan for an Oil Interruption

Exclusive: Neither Obama nor McCain nor the Government Has a Plan in the Event of a Protracted Oil Stoppage - It Isn't Even Being Discussed

September 22nd 2008

Book Covers - The Plan

This story is adapted from the just released The Plan: How to Save America When the Oil Stops—or the Day Before (Dialog Press). Buy it here.


It will come as a shock to most Americans and the media, but as the election reaches a crescendo on the issue of preparedness and energy, neither candidate—nor any candidate in local, state or federal government—has developed a contingency plan in the event of a protracted oil cut-off. It is not even being discussed. Government has prepared for hurricanes, anthrax, terrorism and every other disaster, but not the one threatened daily—a protracted oil stoppage, whether caused by terrorism, intervention in the Persian Gulf, or a natural disaster.

It is like seeing a hurricane developing without a disaster plan or evacuation route. Our allies have oil shortage interruption contingency plans, but America does not.

The crude realities: America uses approximately 20 million barrels of oil per day, almost 70 percent of which is imported. If we lose just 1 million barrels per day, or suffer the type of damage sustained from Katrina, the government will open the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, which offers a mere 6 to 8 week supply of unrefined crude oil. If we lose 1.5 million barrels per day, or approximately 7.5 percent, we will ask our allies in the 28-member International Energy Agency to open their SPRs and otherwise assist. If we lose 2 million barrels per day, or ten percent, government crisis monitors say the chaos will be so catastrophic they cannot even model it.

Exactly how could America be subjected to a protracted oil interruption, that is, a 10 percent shortfall lasting longer than several weeks? It will not come from hurricane action in the Gulf of Mexico, or even major refinery accidents or other oil infrastructure damage. Such damage would be repaired within days and the temporary losses absorbed by the small half million barrel per day global cushion available. Read more ..


Is The U.S. Economy Safe?

1-800-BAILOUT: For Fannie, Freddie, Bear Stearns, and Others, it is a Toll Free Call on Weekends

September 15th 2008

Economy - Secretary Paulson
US Treasury Secretary Paulson

September 7, 2008, the 10th anniversary of the Federal Reserve arranged bailout of the infamous hedge fund Long-Term Capital, is now a more infamous date. This is the day that our government chose socialism over free market capitalism. Our elected leaders increased the national debt from $9.6 trillion to $15 trillion, a 56 percent increase in one weekend. Hank Paulson, the U.S. Treasury Secretary, seems to have a penchant for committing U.S. taxpayer dollars on weekends. On one weekend he engineered the bailout of Bear Stearns. Just this last weekend he oversaw the forced sale of Merrill Lynch, a desperate request by AIG for a $40 billion bridge loan, and the ultimate demise of venerable Lehman Bros.

But perhaps Paulson's most important recent stint as a weekend warrior was that September 5 to September 8 Friday to Sunday marathon session when he convinced Congress and the President to give him a blank check regarding the future of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. As such, he spearheaded the takeover of two of the worst run financial institutions on the planet. Together, these two titans hold or guarantee $5.4 trillion of mortgages. James Grant, a keen financial mind, described what we are experiencing today, back in early 2007, “Capitalism without financial failure is not capitalism at all, but a kind of socialism for the rich.”

Skullduggery, Corruption, and Fraud

Fannie Mae was created during the Great Depression in 1938 as part of Roosevelt’s New Deal. Its purpose was to provide liquidity to the mortgage market. For the next 30 years it operated as a government agency, with a monopoly on the secondary mortgage market. In 1968, in the midst of another fiscal budget crisis, Fannie Mae’s activity and debt were removed from the annual balance sheet of the Federal Government and the agency was privatized. To provide some competition in the secondary mortgage market, Congress chartered Freddie Mac as a private corporation in 1970. This relationship with the Federal Government gave rise to the concept of an implicit guarantee from the government regarding their debt. This allowed these two companies to borrow at much lower rates than the average financial institution. Read more ..


Is the U.S. Economy Safe?

Wachovia--the Worst Bank In America

September 8th 2008

Corporate Logos - Wachovia Logo

Being regarded as the worst-run bank in America is not an easy accomplishment in 2008. There are many competitors for this prestigious title. To win this honor would require dreadful management, poor strategic decisions, terrible timing, abusive teatment of its customers, and a track record constantly being reviewed by prosecutors and regulators for associating with and doing business with scam artists drug dealers, telemarketing crooks, money launders, check fraud rings, and customer account raiders. Thousands of customers would have to suffer from sudden account losses and disruptions. Add to that plain old delusional decision making from top to bottom. That is what it would take.

Wachovia wins on all counts. It is the worst bank in America.

It is amazing how far this 227 year old institution has fallen. Founded in 1781 in North Carolina, through mergers and acquisitions, Wachovia has grown to be the fourth largest bank in the United States. The current version of the bank has its roots in the 1990s. First Union Bank, also from North Carolina, acquired 80 smaller banks in the 1990s before merging with Wachovia in 2001. The mistakes and bad judgment started in 1998 and have crescendoed today. Read more ..


The Bear is Back

Iran’s Fantasy: A Renewed Cold War between the Infidels Russia and America

September 1st 2008

Russian Topics - Putin Iran

The post-Soviet world has never been closer to what we knew as the Cold War than right now. Iran is pleased. We should all be concerned. New proxy conflicts may soon emerge.

The starkest reminder of the new chill came after Russian forces recently executed a military operation inside South Ossetia in Georgia. Ostensibly, the Georgian incursion was to bring back constitutional order. But Russia’s massive reaction has their forces entrenched just miles away from Tbilisi, Georgia’s capital. Recent statements by Russian and Western leaders, the flights of long range Russian bombers across international skies, and the cruising of Russian battleships on the high seas are all images from the past months. But they are also a chilling reminder of what were four dangerous decades of the past century.

Moscow and NATO still stockpile thousands of nuclear heads. So any significant confrontation between the two camps is potentially lethal to the planet even though the ICBMs are no longer pre-targeted at major cities around the world. Targeting can change. Dangers emanating from these tensions—Cold War or not—are real and must be addressed seriously by the leaderships at the White House and the Kremlin. Read more ..


Is the U.S. Economy Safe?

Housing Crisis Truth – How We Got Here and Why It Won’t Be Over For At Least Two More Years

August 25th 2008

Economy - Home Foreclosure

The last thing that anyone thought would result, while watching the Twin Towers collapse on September 11, 2001, was the greatest housing boom in the history of the world. But this terrible event spurred a sequence of events that ultimately led to a tremendous rise in home prices. It arose from a positive feedback.

First, the federal government cut taxes and sent rebates to all Americans. Then the Federal Reserve, led by Alan Greenspan, cut the discount rate to 1 percent. Government officials urged Americans to spend in order to defeat terrorism. Alan Greenspan told everyone that adjustable rate mortgages were a good thing. Congress and President Bush believed that everyone should own a home and pressured lenders to provide mortgages to low income people.

Cut to Wall Street which created new investment vehicles that allowed mortgages to be packaged and sold to investors throughout the world with investment grade ratings provided by Moody’s and S&P, for a price. Mortgage companies and lenders developed ARMs, Option ARMs, teaser rate loans, no-doc loans, negative amortization loans and 100% financing loans. Low income people started buying homes, with these exotic mortgage products, from middle income people. Middle income people started to buy larger houses from rich people, boosting demand for new homes. Rich people bought mansions and second homes. Bidding wars for houses were commonplace. The demand caused by this influx of new home buyers drove prices skyward, with home prices doubling in five years. This price rise brought in the speculators/flippers. They began to buy multiple houses with nothing down, pre-construction, with plans to sell them for a profit without ever moving into them. Read more ..


Iran's Nukes

Israel Vows To Do "Everything Possible" To Stop Iran's S-300 As Debate Swirls About Its Delivery

August 11th 2008

Iran - S-300
S-300

Israeli defense officials declared the Jewish State would do "everything possible" to prevent Russia’s potent S-300 anti-aircraft batteries from reaching Iran. The remarks were made to the Jerusalem Post and reported by its veteran military affairs correspondent, Yaacov Katz.

The advanced S-300 mobile weapons system can reportedly track as many as 100 airborne targets simultaneously—drones, airplanes, and missiles—and can engage a dozen at once as far as 200 kilometers away. The system can even track missiles in outer space, that is, at 90,000 feet. Many missiles briefly enter the exosphere before raining down on their targets. As such, the S-300 can defeat virtually every aerial assault asset in Israel’s arsenal as it edges nearer to a pre-emptive strike against Iran’s high speed nuclear program. Read more ..


Is the U.S. Economy Safe?

What Banks And The Government Are Not Telling Us About 2009—The Next Shoes You Hear Drop May Be Very Loud Ones

August 4th 2008

Economy - Bernanke460
Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke

It is time for some straight talk about what America is being told about our financial institutions. First: listen to the words or our most esteemed financial leaders.

In March of last year, Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson delivered an upbeat assessment of the economy, saying growth was healthy and the housing market was nearing a turnaround. "All the signs I look at" show "'the housing market is at or near the bottom," Paulson said in a speech to a business group in New York, adding that the U.S. economy is "very healthy" and "robust."

At about the same time last March 2007, Ben Bernanke, Chairman of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve, told Congress, "At this juncture, the impact on the broader economy and financial markets of the problems in the sub-prime market seems likely to be contained."

Then, in June of 2007, Bernanke declared, "We will follow developments in the sub-prime market closely. However, fundamental factors—including solid growth in incomes and relatively low mortgage rates—should ultimately support the demand for housing, and at this point, the troubles in the sub-prime sector seem unlikely to seriously spill over to the broader economy or the financial system." He followed that up in October of last year with this statement: "It is not the responsibility of the Federal Reserve—nor would it be appropriate—to protect lenders and investors from the consequences of their financial decisions. But developments in financial markets can have broad economic effects felt by many outside the markets, and the Federal Reserve must take those effects into account when determining policy." Read more ..


The Politics of Oil

China and Sudan – A Well-Oiled Relationship

July 28th 2008

Africa Topics - China in Africa

Perhaps the most controversial of China’s oil interests, and one that well demonstrates China’s commitment to lock in oil deals in Africa, is its relationship with Sudan.

China has been faced with international criticism for much of its business practice in acquiring natural resources. At the forefront of this criticism is its growing influence in Africa. On the one hand, China has been contributing much needed infrastructure to many of the underdeveloped African nations. On the other hand, China’s practices are believed to be exacerbating some of the political problems in certain countries, maybe even increasing instability in some cases.

Beijing is the leading developer of oil reserves in Sudan, and currently possesses 40 percent of the African country’s local production, which amounts to six percent of China’s total oil imports. Read more ..


Petroterrorism

Fueling Terror—The Ultimate Price We Pay at the Pump

July 21st 2008

Energy / Environment - Saudi Oil

Much has been reported about the complex system of terrorist financing and the money trail facilitating the September 11 terror attacks. Individuals and charities from the Persian Gulf--mainly from Saudi Arabia--appear to be the most important source of funding for terrorist organizations like Al-Qaeda. According to a Council on Foreign Relations report of an Independent Task Force on Terrorist Financing, Osama bin Laden and his men have been able to accumulate millions of dollars using legitimate businesses such as charities, nongovernmental organizations, mosques, banks and other financial institutions to help raise and move their funds.

How does it work? Take Saudi Arabia for example. This Gulf monarchy is a state in which no taxes are imposed on the population. Instead, Saudis have a religious tax, the zakat, requiring all Muslims to give at least 2.5 percent of their income to charities. Many of the charities are truly dedicated to good causes, but others merely serve as money laundering and terrorist financing apparatuses. While many Saudis contribute to those charities in good faith believing their money goes toward good causes, others know full well the terrorist purposes to which their money will be funneled. Read more ..


Iran's Nukes Exclusive

Greece Quietly Provides Israeli Air Force Pivotal Assistance on S-300 as Iran Nuke Strike Looms

July 14th 2008

Israel Topics - Israeli Jets Parked
Israeli war planes

Greece has quietly assisted the Israeli Air Force in a previously unreported fashion as the dreaded decision of a possible Israeli preemptive strike against Iran’s nuclear facilities draws closer, this reporter has learned.

A pivotal factor in Israel’s military strategy against Iran’s nuclear installations is the recent delivery to Iran of Russia’s potent S-300 Russian ground-to-air radar systems. Considered one of the world’s most versatile radar-missile systems, Russia’s S-300 batteries can simultaneous track hundreds of semi-stealth cruise missiles, long range missiles and aircraft, including airborne monitoring jets. As many as ten intruders can be simultaneously engaged by the S-300’s mobile interceptor missile batteries, military sources say. As such, the S-300 is a major threat to the long-range weapons in the Israeli arsenal. These include Israel’s long-range 1,500 km. nuclear-capable Jericho IIB missiles; unmanned missile-equipped long-range drones; Israel’s F-16s, F-15Es; long range heavy-payload F151s and F161s; and even its three new Gulfstream G550 business jets boasting a range of 6,750 nautical miles, newly outfitted with nuclear-tracking electronics and designed to loiter over or near Iranian skies for hours. The S-300 can compromise everything Israel has.

But Greece has the same Russian S-300 system. Read more ..


Kicking Our Oil Addiction

If Iran and Brazil Can Do It, So Can We

July 7th 2008

Energy / Environment - Brazil Sugar Cane
Brazilian Sugar Cane for Ethanol

When the founding fathers declared our independence, they could not have imagined that, 232 years later, the United States would be so spectacularly dependent on foreign countries. It would be roughly eight more decades before oil gushed from a well in Titusville, Pennsylvania, marking the beginning of the global oil economy; it took eight decades more for the United States to become a net oil importer. But the republic's disastrous dependence on foreign oil has increased by leaps and bounds ever since.

In 1973, when OPEC imposed its oil embargo, U.S. oil imports composed 30 percent of our needs; today, they make up more than 60 percent, with a growing proportion of that crude coming from the world's least stable regions. At around $145 a barrel, the United States, by my calculations, will spend more on imported oil this year than it will spend on its own defense budget, and much of that money will flow into the coffers of those who wish us ill.

Since oil dependence is so unappealing, you'd think that energy independence would be an easy sell, especially on this Fourth of July weekend. But in fact, very few policy ideas have been so ridiculed. A 2007 report by the National Petroleum Council, a privately funded group that offers advice from the oil and gas industries to the federal government, calls energy independence "unrealistic"; a recent book, "Gusher of Lies," by Robert Bryce, a former fellow at a think tank funded in part by energy interests, described energy independence as a "dangerous delusion"; and a 2006 Council on Foreign Relations task force went so far as to accuse those promoting energy independence of "doing the nation a disservice by focusing on a goal that is unachievable over the foreseeable future."

Read more ..

Edge of Disaster

Thousands Continue to Suffer as Burma Tragedy Slips From the Headlines

June 30th 2008

Disaster - Burma Food Line
Burma Victims in Food Line

Almost two months after Cyclone Nargis ripped through Burma’s Irrawaddy Delta region, leaving tens of thousands of people dead or homeless, thousands continue to suffer with little or no relief.

Burma’s military regime followed its initial decision to restrict and obstruct the delivery of aid with new regulations which serve only to further impede humanitarian efforts.

Only 1.3 million of the estimated 2.4 million people affected by the cyclone have been reached by international aid agencies, and only a few hundred foreign aid experts have been allowed into the country – and even fewer into the worst-affected areas.

For a few weeks, the crisis in Burma dominated the headlines. For a short time, the US, Great Britain, and France had naval vessels anchored off Burma’s coast, poised to go in with aid supplies. The talk was of whether the UN’s much-trumpeted "Responsibility to Protect" principle could be exercised. For a brief moment, the idea of military intervention on humanitarian grounds looked – for the first time – like a possibility. The British Government said no option was off the table, and the French appeared to be leading the charge.

Read more ..

Living with Terror

Sderot Families Stand up to Hamas Missiles - Living 15 Seconds at a Time

June 23rd 2008

 - House hole at Sderot
A Resident of Sderot in Israel

View Video 

Imagine it: a modern under constant attack from invaders; barrages of flaming armaments crashing into the city from the skies, citizens running for cover from the unholy hellfire streaming down. The lives of average citizens are disrupted in a constant torrent of explosions, fires, and only 15 seconds means the difference between life and death.

Warsaw 1939? London 1940?

No, it is today, the tiny town of Sderot, at Israel’s desert edge with Gaza. Men, women and children in this tiny city have all collectively endured Hamas-launched Kassam rocket attacks for eight years. In that time, the city's population – once numbered around 24, 000 – has fallen to just under 19,500. The city is now a fortress or concrete bulwarks. Even bus stops in Sderot are all reinforced cement structures used as shelters when rocket warning alerts go off. Knowing at all times the location of the closest shelter is just part of life here.

As of January 2008, over 8,000 Qassam rockets and more than 2,500 mortar shells have been launched at Sderot. Massive rocket fire against Sderot and the Western Negev started in January 2001, and has continued ceaselessly every day. Read more ..


The LNG Threat

Liquefied Natural Gas Tankers Remain Giant Terror Targets

June 16th 2008

Energy / Environment - LNG Tanker
LNG Tanker at Sea

Can Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) be used as a lethal weapon of mass destruction? That question lies at the heart of the debate about increasing use of this important energy resource.

The answers are not reassuring. Nor are the questions.

Certainly, security measures currently in place make LNG terminals and ships extremely hard targets for terrorists. However, it would be imprudent to believe that terrorists are either incapable or unwilling to attack such targets. It would be equally imprudent to assume that these targets are impenetrable. A number of known vulnerabilities exist within the LNG industry. These vulnerabilities lie in the human factor. In other words, LNG ships and tankers are structurally sound. The potential for problems lies within the people who are somehow involved in the industry.

Inadequate vetting of crews

LNG shipments often originate from politically unstable and unfriendly countries and regions. Some of the locations in which LNG originates include Qatar, Nigeria, Algeria and Egypt. “It’s the location of the ports, and where the LNG is loaded, and who gets on the vessel [that is important]," said William Doyle, Deputy General Counsel of the Marine Engineers’ Beneficial Association (MEBA). Many ships operate under grossly unregulated “open registry” or “flags of convenience” registries and often originate from ports with poor security systems in place. Read more ..


The Next Mideast War

Israel Openly Warns Iran of Pre-emptive Attack over Nuclear Threat

June 9th 2008

Military - Israeli Air Force
Israeli Air Force Jets

Israeli Transportation Minister Shaul Mofaz, a recent defense minister, caused an international uproar with still unfolding consequences by announcing in no uncertain terms this week that Israel will in fact attack Iran. 

Mofaz stated that an Israeli attack on Iranian nuclear sites is "unavoidable" in light of the ongoing failures of the international community to belay Iranian attempts to acquire nuclear capabilities.

“If Iran continues with its program for developing nuclear weapons, we will attack it. The sanctions are ineffective," Mofaz told Israel’s mass-circulation newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth.  He added, "Attacking Iran, in order to stop its nuclear plans, will be unavoidable.” Mofaz also said Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad "will disappear before Israel does," referring to Ahmadinejad’s regular comments calling for the destruction of the State of Israel.

The explicit warning came on the heels of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's loud proclamation in Washington at the annual policy conference of the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee that "Israel will not tolerate the possibility of a nuclear Iran, and neither should any other country in the free world." Olmert also warned, “"The Iranian threat must be stopped by all possible means,” He continued "International economic and political sanctions on Iran, as crucial as they may be, are only an initial step, and must be dramatically increased…The international community has a duty and responsibility to clarify to Iran, through drastic measures, that the repercussions of their continued pursuit of nuclear weapons will be devastating.” Read more ..


Election Edge Analysis

Momentous Barack Obama Speech Supporting Israel Sweeps AIPAC Off Its Feet

June 4th 2008

Politics - Barack Obama AIPAC
Barack Obama at AIPAC

"I will do everything in my power to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. Everything in my power. Everything."

Barack Obama, AIPAC Annual Policy Conference, June 04, 2008
View Video

To thunderous repetitive peals of applause by 7,000 gathered attendees at the American Israel Political Affairs Committee Annual Policy Conference in Washington, D.C., Barack Obama today transformed himself in the minds of many doubting Jews and security-minded conservatives.

With unmistakable clarity, Obama stepped out of his haze as a questionable figure and stepped into the limelight as a stalwart in the American/Israel relationship and in the campaign to disarm the Iranian nuclear threat. 

With riveting command of the issues, Obama checked off every conceivable question in the minds of Jewish and conservative listeners and showed himself to be knowledgeable and formidable. From no negotiation with Hamas as a terrorist entity, to a personal commitment to the return of captured Israeli soldiers, to the quest for bi-national peace between Israel and Palestinians, Barack drew standing ovations. The ovations were loudest as Obama proclaimed his vision for America’s steadfastness in the looming nuclear stalemate and confrontation with Iran.

Read more ..

Understanding the Danger of Oil

Dependence on Middle East Energy and its Impact on Global Security

June 2nd 2008

Energy / Environment - Saudi Oil
Photo: AFP

"We do have to do something about the energy problem. I can tell you that nothing has really taken me aback more, as Secretary of State, than the way that the politics of energy is […] 'warping' diplomacy around the world. It has given extraordinary power to some states that are using that power in not very good ways for the international system—states that would otherwise have very little power." Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, testimony before the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee, April 5, 2006.

Throughout the 19th Century nearly half of the world’s crude oil supply came from the gushing oilfields surrounding the Azeri city of Baku. At that time, petroleum supplied only four percent of the world’s energy, giving the Caspian region little strategic advantage on the international stage. But as the world economy embarked on a steep growth trajectory, dependence on petroleum grew significantly.

Today, oil supplies about 40 percent of the world’s energy and 95 percent of its transportation energy. As a result, those who own the lion’s share of the reserves of this precious energy source are in the driver’s seat of the world economy and their influence is steadily growing. Read more ..


Election Edge

In New Trinity Church Sermon Video, Obama Spiritual Adviser Wails that Clinton Thought "Black Man Stealing My Show"—He Then Mocks White America

May 29th 2008

Politics - Michael Pflegler
Michael Pfleger
photo: barackobama.com

A close associate and spiritual adviser of Sen. Barack Obama, speaking at the Illinois senator's Chicago church, Trinity United Church of Christ, mocked both Hilary Clinton specifically and white America generally on Memorial Day Sunday. VIEW VIDEO

In histrionic derision, Chicago Catholic pastor Michael Pfleger speaking Sunday at Obama's Trinity United Church of Christ, stated that Sen. Hillary Clinton, recognizing her inevitable loss, cried in public because she thought being white entitled her to the Democratic presidential nomination. Pfleger implied Clinton was a white supremacist who believed she would win the nomination because of "white entitlement."

Pfleger, who practices black liberation theology, is a regular guest speaker at Trinity church. He was introduced at Sunday's sermon by Obama's new pastor, Rev. Otis Moss III, who called Pfleger a "brother beloved," and added, "He is a preacher par-excellence, he is a prophetic powerful pulpiteer."

After Pfleger's remarks about Clinton, Moss thanked Pfleger repeatedly.

Pfleger told the Trinity congregation, "We must be honest enough to expose white entitlement and supremacy wherever it raises its head." He continued: "Reverend Moss, when Hillary was crying, and people said that was put on, I really don't believe it was put on. I really believe that she just always thought, 'This is mine. I'm Bill's wife. I'm white. And this is mine. I just got to get up and step into the plate.'" Read more ..


Election Edge Exclusive

Pastor John Hagee and the New Inquisition

May 26th 2008

Unknown - Pastor John Hagee
Pastor John Hagee

Breathe in deeply and you can still smell the embers smoldering around Pastor John Hagee’s public persona.

The recent controversy over Pastor John Hagee is about much more than one man and his “crazy comments,” to use John McCain’s words. The nature of the attacks on Pastor Hagee and the rapidity with which they spread and hardened into the ugliest of conclusions revealed something far deeper and far more disturbing about our public discourse on faith in America.

What was most breathtaking about the “debate” over Pastor Hagee’s statements on the Holocaust was the complete absence of one. This was not a case where thoughtful arbiters discussed his words in the context of a rich Judeo-Christian tradition of theodicy. There was no respect given to a quite common worldview. There was no trial. We skipped right to the auto de fé, that is, the final humiliating parading of the guilty during the Spanish Inquisition.

With an ever-increasing ferocity, large swaths of the media and the blogosphere are enforcing a new orthodoxy of post-modern contempt for literal religious faith. The heresy they hunt is the belief in an omnipotent God who intervenes in history. And the punishment they impose is public death, banishment from the public square. Their power is sufficient to give pause to even the most secular-minded among us. Read more ..


Election Edge Analysis

The Three Presidential Candidates and the Iranian-Israeli Nuclear Conflict

May 19th 2008

Headshots Leaders - Three 2008 Candidates

Hillary Clinton, John McCain, Barack Obama 

Clinton: If Israel is attacked, I will obliterate Iran.
McCain: I will not allow a Second Holocaust.
Obama: I favor tough diplomacy without preconditions.

 

Where the three presidential candidates stand on the looming nuclear stand-off with Iran and Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s repeated promise to wipe Israel off the map?

When recently asked by Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly about support for potential pre-emptive Israeli military action against Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s nuclear infrastructure, Republican presidential candidate Senator John McCain, in unmistaken words, declared he would “not allow a second Holocaust.” In fact, McCain repeated his promise twice for crystal clarity. McCain added that it is necessary by any means to stop Iran from becoming a nuclear superpower.

For her part, Senator Hillary Clinton has been a strong, lifelong supporter of Israel and outspoken advocate of the US-Israeli relationship. She recently made clear that if Israel was attacked by Iran that she would “obliterate” Ahmadinejad’s nation.

In response to being branded an “appeaser” on the issue of Iran, following the remarks of President George Bush in Israel’s Knesset, Obama stated he favors “tough diplomacy” with Iran and bilateral talks without preconditions.

What does it all mean? Read more ..


Edge on Disaster

Burma’s Generals—Blending Nazi-like Thought, Astrology, Brutality and Greed

May 12th 2008

Headshots Leaders - Burmese Generals
Burma's Generals

Over a week since Cyclone Nargis struck Burma, the death toll is estimated to be at least 100,000—and still rising. Yet as the bodies decompose, Burma’s ruling Generals continue to refuse access to international aid workers. The limited aid supplies that have reached Burma have been seized by the military, either to distribute themselves for propaganda purposes or, according to some reports, to sell on the streets. And now the regime has taken a three-day public holiday and closed its embassies, causing another delay for international aid workers trying to find a way in to help.

Who are these Generals who are prepared to stand by and watch while thousands of their people die and more than 1.5 million are left homeless? How could they ignore the warnings they received of the cyclone’s advance? India issued 41 warnings from April 26 but the regime did nothing. Why?

The regime is the latest in a succession of military juntas which have ruled Burma since Ne Win took power in a coup in 1962. In 1990, following a mass uprising two years earlier which was violently suppressed, the military held elections. Despite the junta’s efforts to intimidate and harass voters into supporting their continued rule, the opposition’s National League for Democracy (NLD) led by Nobel Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi won 82 percent of the parliamentary seats. The military, however, disregarded the results, imprisoned the victors, and intensified its grip on power. Read more ..


Exposing Corn Ethanol

The Corn Ethanol Deception—How Politicians and Agribusiness Tried to Silence the Critics and Promote a Bad Idea

May 5th 2008

Headshot - Edwin Black
Edwin Black

Corn ethanol has exploded recently in the headlines as the latest big fuel mistake and cause of public outrage. Its very production has been denounced by numerous world leaders as a “crime against humanity” because corn cultivation for ethanol diverts food acreage to fuel acreage creating the tectonic cause of the severe spike in food prices. This has in turn helped swell a rising tide of starvation for millions around the world. Corn ethanol’s inherent energy inefficient character has been exposed by experts who have resisted the tobacco-style science corn lobbyists have proliferated. But all these headlines were shouted years ago by critics who foresaw the current predicament.

What began as an additive functioning as a 10 and 15 percent gasoline extender has become elevated to a potential major ingredient in a gallon of gas. E85, for example, is an emerging blend of automobile fuel composed of 85 percent ethanol and only 15 percent gasoline. Dedicated E85 pumps are now being established at gas stations, mainly in the Midwest’s corn-rich farm belt.

At first blush, ethanol from corn appears to be a solution from America’s heartland, a win-win proposition in the struggle to free the world from harmful hydrocarbons and politically embroiling fuel. But American corn ethanol cannot stand on its own. Ethanol actually depends upon the continued use of petroleum and by necessity increases petroleum consumption and greenhouse gases. Many experts say ethanol simply uses more petroleum than it saves. For example, a key series of studies was conducted by Tad Patzek, a University of California geoengineer and David Pimentel, a Cornell University expert in life sciences, energy, and sustainable agriculture. Pimentel’s and Patzek’s studies asserted that, “ethanol production using corn grain required 29 percent more fossil energy than the ethanol fuel produced” and that even proposed alternative ethanol cellulosic sources other than corn, such as switchgrass, wood, and straw, “required 50 percent more fossil energy than the ethanol fuel produced.” Those energy expenditures cover a range of hydrocarbon users from the diesel-burning tractors and combines on the farm to the ordinary trucks needed for transport to and from the industrial centers. Read more ..


The Next Mideast War

Iran is "Hell-Bent" on Nuclear, But Consider the Three Axioms of Warfare

April 28th 2008

 - Robert Gates headshot
Defense Sec. Robert Gates

Generals Ike Eisenhower and George Marshall, of course, are legends—icons etched in granite. Both were influenced by another senior Army officer who is not nearly as well-known. His name is Fox Conner, and he served as a tutor and mentor to both men. Conner had three principles or rules of war for a democracy that he imparted to Eisenhower and Marshall. They were:

     • Never fight unless you have to;
     • Never fight alone; and
     • Never fight for long.

All things being equal, these principles are pretty straightforward and strategically sound. We have heard variants of them in the decades since—the Powell Doctrine being the most famous of recent times. But, of course, all things are not equal, particularly when you think about the range and complexity of the threats facing America today—from the wars we are in to the conflicts we are most likely to fight. So, I’d like to discuss how you should think about applying Fox Conner’s three axioms to the security challenges of the 21st Century—challenges where you will be on the front line.

“Never go to war unless you have to.”

That one should only go to war as a last resort has long been a principle of civilized people; we know its horrors and costs. War is by nature unpredictable and uncontrollable. Winston Churchill wrote in January 1942, “Let us learn our lessons. Never, never believe that any war will be smooth and easy, or that anyone who embarks on the strange voyage can measure the tides and hurricanes he will encounter... Once the signal is given, [the statesman] is no longer the master of policy but the slave of unforeseeable and uncontrollable events. Read more ..


The Threat of Iran's Nukes

Iran Accelerates Race Toward Nuclear Goal with 6,000 New Advanced Centrifuges

April 21st 2008

Joe Griebowski headshot
Joseph Grieboski

Iran has begun installing 6,000 advanced centrifuges in its main uranium enrichment plant, greatly accelerating activity that could give it the means to make atomic weapons in the future.

While other Iranian officials were disclaiming the reports, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad confirmed that Iran is installing the 6,000 new advanced centrifuges at its Natanz uranium-enrichment facility. Iran has already installed 3,000 of an older version of the centrifuges, fast-spinning machines that separate uranium-235 isotopes for nuclear fuel, at the Natanz site. The International Atomic Energy Agency reported in February that Iran was testing a newer version of the machines, and these 6,000 centrifuges appear to be the devices in question. Ahmadinejad’s latest pronouncement sparked an angry international reaction last week with the announcement that Iran was working to install 6,000 more centrifuges at its Natanz uranium enrichment plant.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice cautioned the claim could not be immediately substantiated, and diplomats close to the IAEA said Iran has exaggerated its progress and experienced problems operating the 3,000 centrifuges already in place. One diplomat said Ahmadinejad's claims of a more advanced centrifuge appeared to allude to a type known as the IR-2, which the agency and Iran said months ago that Iran had begun testing. The IR-2 is believed to be two-to-three times faster than the centrifuges currently in use, and his claim that the new machine was five times as quick added to the diplomats' skepticism.

While Iran says it wants to produce nuclear fuel only for electricity so it can export more oil, it has been the object of three sets of United Nations sanctions for hiding its nuclear development work until 2003, “failing to prove to inspectors since then that it is wholly peaceful, and refusing to suspend the disputed program.” Read more ..


Coke and Confiscation

Coca-Cola and Confiscation: On Passover, an Egyptian Jew Battles Coca-Cola in the USA for a Modern Day Injustice

April 14th 2008

Coke Poster
Coke in Egypt

Refael Bigio in Montreal remembers the moment that the regime of Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser seized his family’s property. He was driving to the factory with his father that traumatic August day in 1962. Police cordons surrounded the buildings at 14 Aswan Street in the Cairo suburb of Heliopolis. As Bigio and his father nervously stepped up the stairs, a policeman barked that the government had nationalized the business. "Give me the keys," he demanded. Once inside the offices, policemen and soldiers demanded the keys to the vault as well.

The nightmare of dispossession suffered by approximately one million Jews throughout the Arab world had finally descended upon the Bigio family. Brutal jailings and intimidation against Bigio family members culminated in a forced penniless exodus from the nation. The Bigios, along with a million other Jews across the Arab world, were expelled with just a few dollars in their pockets. The family fled to Canada. But the Bigios never forgot the life they knew in Egypt—or their assets.

The Bigio assemblage of warehouses and manufacturing buildings sprawled across 10,000 square meters in the midst of bustling Heliopolis traces its main commercial life to the 1930s when Bigio’s grandfather first bought the land and built a shoe polish plant. Eventually, the family business added a tin container operation to hold the shoe polish, and from that expanded into general tin plating. Eventually they produced tin bottle caps for soda. In 1942, at the height of World War II, a Coca-Cola licensed bottler became the family’s tenant, bottling the world-famous cola. Later the fruity drink called Fanta that Coca-Cola originally developed for the Nazi military was added.

In the fifties, the Coca-Cola licensed bottler in Egypt expanded greatly, the plant was moved to a nearby location, and in 1959 Coca-Cola in Atlanta signed a major license agreement with the Bigios to produce the bottle caps. Read more ..


Election Edge

How "Media Black Out" on Barack Obama's Pastor Was Broken

April 7th 2008

Ronald Kessler
Ronald Kessler

For more than a year, the media ignored Barack Obama’s close association with the Rev. Jeremiah Wright. Now media critics are asking why.

The answer is that reporters and editors are enamored of Obama and do not want to touch such a racially charged subject.

As chief Washington correspondent of Newsmax, I began doing stories about Wright’s Trinity United Church of Christ and its so-called Black Value System on Jan. 7 with “Barack Obama’s Racist Church.”

The story said the Black Value System asserts that America structures “an economic environment that induces captive youth to fill the jails and prisons" and takes other steps to “snare” blacks rather than “killing them off directly” or “placing them in concentration camps.”

I cited two exceptions to the media blackout about Obama and his church. Tucker Carlson of MSNBC had described Trinity as having a “racially exclusive theology” that “contradicts the basic tenets of Christianity.” Sean Hannity of Fox News had confronted Wright on TV and asked how a Black Value System would be any more acceptable than a white value system.

On Jan. 14, I broke the story on the church’s lifetime achievement award last December to Louis Farrakhan with “Obama Minister Honored Farrakhan.” The story on Newsmax.com quoted Wright’s glowing praise of Farrakhan in the church magazine, Trumpet.

Read more ..

Election Perspective

Barack Obama and His Pastor—First Not Black Enough—Now is He Too Black?

March 31st 2008

Clarence Page Headshot
Clarence Page

Hey, what happened to all those people who wondered whether Barack Obama was “black enough” to win black votes?
 
Now all I hear is people asking whether he’s too black to win white votes. Those who walk the highwire of crossover politics—black to white and back again—must strike a delicate balance. It was in the process of learning that balance that Barack Obama met the Rev. Jeremiah Wright Jr. Obama was learning how to be “black.” This much is for sure, he’s learning more all the time. One lesson he’s learning these days is how hard it is to be black without being thoroughly misunderstood by whites.

Years ago, Obama was trying to gain a better understanding of black folks when he met Wright in the first place. Ryan Lizza described the encounter in an excellent profile in the March 19, 2007, issue of The New Republic. He wrote that Wright was unimpressed when Obama the community organizer first approached Trinity United Church of Christ. “They were going to bring all different denominations together to have this grassroots movement,” explained Wright, a white-haired man with a goatee and a booming voice. “I looked at him and I said, ‘Do you know what Joseph’s brother said when they saw him coming across the field?’” Obama said he didn’t. “I said, Behold the dreamer! You’re dreaming if you think you are going to do that.’”

Obama’s problem was that he was trying to build a confederation of churches but he didn’t have a “church home” of his own. That means a lot among black church folks. One reverend put it to him like this, according to Lizza: “What you’re asking from pastors requires us to set aside some of our more priestly concerns in favor of prophesy. That requires a good deal of faith on our part. It makes us want to know just where you’re getting yours from.” Read more ..


The Coming War with Hamas

Raised in Gaza, I Know Cruel Conditions are Self-Inflicted

March 24th 2008

Nonie Darwish headshot
Nonie Darwish

"Gaza conditions at '40-year low'" the BBC recently headlined.

Rarely a week goes by without a politician or organization deploring the humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip. But I do not hear anyone describe its root cause: 60 years of Arab policy aimed at maintaining Palestinians as stateless refugees in order to pressure Israel.

I lived in Gaza as a child in the 1950s when Egypt conducted guerrilla-style operations against Israel from Gaza, then under Egyptian control. My father commanded these operations, carried out by "fedayeen," (which means, "self sacrifice"). This became the frontline of Arab Jihad against Israel. My father was killed by Israel in a targeted assassination in 1956.

Today the Gaza Strip, now under the control of Hamas, has become the Gaza prison camp for 1.5 million Palestinians and continues to serve as the launching pad for attacks against Israeli citizens.

This is the legacy of the Arab world's Palestinian refugee policy, started 60 years ago, when the Arab League implemented special laws regarding Palestinians that all Arab countries had to abide by. Arab countries could not absorb Palestinians. Even if a Palestinian married a citizen of an Arab country, that Palestinian could not become a citizen of his or her spouse's country. A Palestinian can be born, live and die in an Arab country, but never gain its citizenship. Read more ..


Election Perspective

Barack Obama--Mentored by an anti-American, anti-Zionist Black Separatist

March 17th 2008

Edwin Black
Edwin Black

In the end it was not the lies about his religion, but the truth about his religion that may have irrevocably splattered the image of Barack Obama.

Democratic presidential frontrunner Obama survived a malicious viral email campaign that he was a Muslim. While under Sharia, he was in fact born Muslim of a Muslim father; but Obama never lived as a Muslim in any way. He survived a ridiculous blogospheric posting of a photograph of him bedecked in a turban--Somali tribal apparel while traveling in Ethiopia--equivalent to wearing a festive sombrero in Mexico. And he handily survived the antagonistic Republican incantation of his Muslim middle name, "Hussein."

But can Obama’s populist candidacy survive the truthful revelations about his twenty-year relationship with spiritual advisor Jeremiah A. Wright, the "black separatist" Christian pastor?

 It is pivotal to understand that Obama’s potentially insurmountable problem is not about his mere membership in Pastor Wright’s Trinity Church, an affiliate of the nationally diverse United Church of Christ. Obama’s problem is the deep-vein mentoring with Pastor Wright himself. Obama was not just sitting in the pews for twenty years. The two men were and are tight--very tight.

It was Wright’s charismatic "in your face" African-American activism that first brought unaffiliated, young twenty-something Chicago neighborhood organizer Obama into the Trinity Church as a practicing Christian in the eighties. Obama became a regular attendee and took Wright’s inspiration with him when away. While at Harvard studying law, Obama morally tutored himself with tapes of Wright’s fiery lectures.

Read more ..

The Oil Threat

Oil and the New Economic Order--Transferring Western Wealth to the Middle East

March 12th 2008

Petroleum

The recent series of multi-billion dollar acquisitions of chunks of major financial institutions like Citigroup, Merrill Lynch, Morgan Stanley, Blackstone Group and Bear Stearns by foreign governments, many of them authoritarian, nontransparent and unfriendly to the West--a buyout of America’s prime symbols of economic prowess--symbolizes not only our economic decline but also the emergence of sovereign wealth funds as power brokers in international relations. These government-owned investment funds, some controlled by oil rich autocrats and some by Asian powers like China and Singapore, are pouring billions into hedge funds, private equity funds, real estate, natural resources, media conglomerates and other nodes of the West’s economy. It is estimated that sovereign wealth funds owned over $3 trillion in assets at the end of 2007 and, within one decade, that could balloon to $15 trillion, roughly equivalent to America’s projected gross domestic product.

While much of the economic activity is generated by the Asian funds, it is five Gulf Persian states--Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Qatar, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia--that account for nearly half of the world sovereign wealth funds assets. A quick review of the past several months’ roster of those countries’ acquisitions provides a glimpse into the scale of things to come. Read more ..


The Hezbollah Threat

Hezbollah Gets a Billion Petrodollar Subsidy

March 3rd 2008

Waliid Phares
Walid Phares

A few weeks ago, articles published around the world reported that Hezbollah is undergoing two major changes. Both portend greater violence from the Iranian-sponsored global terrorist network.

The first change is a shift in leadership responsibilities. A report published initially in the Saudi-owned Sharq al Awsat said the office of Ayatollah Khomenei appointed deputy secretary general Sheikh Naim Qassim as the new supreme commander of Hezbollah forces and the personal representative of the Ayatollah in Lebanon. Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah, according to this report remains as secretary general of the organization. Sources said this change in control and command is because of "differences in opinions" between Narsrallah and Qassim.

The Hezbollah media arm rushed to deny the veracity of this shift. But observers with direct knowledge of the organization's inside structure said Khamenei indeed ordered changes in Hezbollah's structures, but not because of differences between its leaders. They said it was in preparation for a potential massive move by Hezbollah to seize more power in Lebanon and before a possible clash with the Lebanese Government and the United Nations over the disarmament process. Read more ..


The Iranian Nuclear Threat

A Military Option Against Iran is Fraught with Problems

February 20th 2008

Israeli Air Force
Israeli Air Force Jets

Iran’s determination to build and operate a uranium-enrichment plant poses difficult problems for those concerned about Iran acquiring a nuclear capability that could threaten its Arab neighbors in the Persian Gulf or Israel. The best approach for arresting Iran’s progress toward becoming a nuclear-weapon state is through a combination of creative diplomacy, sustained international pressure expressed primarily through targeted economic sanctions, and patience.

 

The threat that Iran could acquire a nuclear weapons capability if it remains on its present course is a serious one, regardless of how many years it might take them. Increasingly central to the debate about what to do is the issue of military force, whether and when it should be used and what it might achieve. An attack against Iran, large or small, is likely to worsen the already dangerous situation in the region and undermine larger U.S. strategic objectives throughout the world. Short of an invasion and occupation of Iran, an option no one is advocating, an attack on Iran is also a false promise because it offers no assurances that an Iranian nuclear weapons program would be substantially or irreversibly set back. Read more ..


Inside the Islamic World

For Bhutto Assassination Answers, the Biggest Question is "Where"

February 4th 2008

Armstrong Williams Headshot
Armstrong Williams

Pundits, lacking any immediate answers, have been driven to speculation as to who killed Pakistani opposition leader Benazir Bhutto and why. But in the ensuing confusion that has enveloped the country in the wake of her assassination, the truth may be hard to find and long in coming. At this stage, in trying to make sense of this immense tragedy, it is perhaps the ‘where’ that counts more than anything.

If one looks into the social and political context of Pakistan as a modern state, a picture of unbalanced extremes become immediately apparent. Pakistan was born of the inability of India’s Muslims and Hindu’s to coexist peacefully.  To be sure, some of this tension resulted from divide and rule tactics of the British colonialists, but no amount of colonialism can account for the utter brutality of the transition. As the death toll mounted, even the wise and universally revered leader Mahatma Ghandi, threw his hands up in despair, remarking at a 1942 rally, “Leave India to God.  If that is too much, leave her to anarchy.”  Most telling of all, women were especially brutalized in the transition. “Ghost trains” of women with their breasts cut off would arrive on either side of the India-Pakistan border sent from opposite sides.

With the partition of India and Pakistan into separate religious enclaves, one would have thought that the reasons for conflict would have abated. But this is not so. Politically motivated assassinations and violent coups have continued to plague Pakistan.  Moreover, the plight of women in the country is in some respects shockingly deplorable. On the one hand, it elects a liberal, Harvard-educated woman as its’ Prime Minister, and on the other, teenage women are regularly gang-raped to exact customary ‘justice’ for various perceived wrongs committed by other members of their family. In keeping with the one step forward, two steps back pattern, the Pakistanis have now allowed their liberal, western-educated, female Prime Minister, a shining example of social progress, to get shot down in the street like a stray dog. Read more ..



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