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Petropolitics

Bush Begs the Saudis

January 28th 2008

Gal Luft 1
Gal Luft

President Bush’s appeal to the Saudis to increase oil production is more pitiful than understandable. At $100 a barrel, the United States bleeds over a billion dollars per day in order to finance its petroleum import needs. The result: ballooning trade deficits, growing unemployment, a weakened dollar and crumbling financial institutions like Citigroup and Merrill Lynch now forced to beg Persian Gulf monarchies for cash infusions. At current oil prices, the U.S. economy is melting faster than the ice caps.
But despite the president’s sweet-talk, his ridiculous appearance in a traditional Arab robe, his hand-holding with the Saudi monarchs, and even his gift of 900 precision-guided bombs, the Saudis were quick to respond with a slap in the face. Within one hour, the kingdom’s oil minister announced that oil prices would remain tied to market forces and the Saudis would not open the spigot.

This is hardly a surprise to me. The Saudis—despite their claims that oil high prices are the doing of Wall Street speculators and American SUV-driving soccer moms—are the first to blame for the current oil crisis. Their reluctance to invest in new production, their lack of transparency on reserve data and their anti-market practices, which prevent international oil companies from operating in their midst in any meaningful way, are the real reason for the quadrupling of prices in the past six years. Read more ..


Bad Arolsen Conflict

USHMM Launches Promising if Daunting Individualized Bad Arolsen Search Program

January 17th 2008

Archive  International Tracing in Bad Arolsen
ITS files at Bad Arolsen

The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum today launched an ambitious and daunting new program of “individualized research” to help Holocaust survivors obtain precious documentation about their Nazi enslavement.

This new program “begins right now,” said Arthur Berger, USHMM Director of External Communications, in a Museum corridor just moments after a closed-door briefing with survivors, details of which were provided first to The Cutting Edge News.

The “individualized research” will probe a triad of major archival collections. These include some 46 million documents derived from several countries in the existing USHMM collections, the first central names index and related documentation just transferred from the International Tracing Service at Bad Arolsen, and finally, the bulk of 35 million Bad Arolsen files scheduled to be transferred between 2010 and 2011.

The important feature of individualized “give and take” with survivors will be a hallmark of the new program. About two dozen polyglot researchers have already been trained by the USHMM to undertake the sensitive searches. Each search is roughly guesstimated to take six to eight weeks, and will include providing the survivor with gratis physical copies of the discovered documents. Read more ..


Inside the Media

Landau's Rape Israel Comment Stirs Controversy

December 27th 2007

Gary Rosenblatt
Gary Rosenblatt

Israelis are known for being direct and blunt. But comments made by David Landau, editor of the Israeli daily, Haaretz, to Condoleezza Rice about Israel needing to be “raped” by the U.S. to achieve a Mideast settlement caused quite a stir among the 20 or so attendees at a confidential briefing with the secretary of state on a recent visit to Israel.

The incident, which took place Sept. 10 at the private residence of America’s ambassador to Israel, Richard Jones, has not been fully reported until now. What is contested is not the raw language Landau used but the context of his impassioned comments.

Following Rice’s briefing to the gathered military, academic and media elites at the dinner, the guests offered their views and comments about the Mideast impasse. Landau, who was seated next to Rice, was said to have referred to Israel as a “failed state” politically, one in need of a U.S.-imposed settlement. He was said to have implored Rice to intervene, asserting that the Israeli government wanted “to be raped” and that it would be like a “wet dream” for him to see this happen.

When contacted this week, Landau said the description was “inaccurate” and “a perversion of what I said.” He said his views had been delivered with “much more sophistication.” Read more ..


Iran's Nukes

Iran Threat only Reinforced

December 19th 2007

Howard Kohr headshot
Howard Kohr

Despite some headlines to the contrary, the new National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) on Iran only reinforces our understanding of the danger posed by Tehran’s ongoing pursuit of a nuclear weapons capability.

The NIE’s dramatic revelation that the Islamic Republic had a clandestine nuclear weapons program is perhaps the clearest official confirmation to date that Iran’s nuclear efforts—which the regime illegally concealed for more than 18 years—are ultimately intended to produce an atomic bomb.

If Iran is trying to suggest otherwise, the regime’s actions are unconvincing. Iranian leaders boast, and the NIE confirms, that Tehran is pressing ahead with its efforts to enrich uranium—the most important and difficult step in developing a nuclear weapon. Thus, Iran could restart its weapons program any time the regime chooses to do so. Read more ..


Getting off Oil

Joint American-Israel Effort to Get off Oil

December 13th 2007

Empty on Oil

One little known but crucial provision in the comprehensive energy legislation that just passed the Senate last week is the U.S.-Israel Energy Cooperation Act (USIECA). The bill is headed for passage in the House this week and the President’s signature thereafter.

USEICA allocates U.S. funding for Israeli research into new technologies to decrease American dependence on foreign oil. The law will establish a multi-year program of grants for joint projects at the basic research level between U.S. and Israeli academic institutions, and at the applied research and development level between U.S. and Israeli companies. Administered by the Secretary of Energy, the program who will be driven by a joint American and Israel board of advisors.

USIECA was the brainchild of Jack Halpern, Chairman of the American Jewish Congress’s Energy Independence Task Force. For his part, Halpern expressed “Extraordinary pride in the passage of this important measure because of the many years we put into the effort for its enactment, beginning with our conceptualization of the measure in 2003, through lobbying for the measure for four years.” Read more ..


Getting Off Oil

Honda’s Decisive Clarity Steals LA Auto Show

November 14th 2007

Honda Clarity Fueling
Honda's new Clarity

American Honda Motor Company stole the Los Angeles Auto Show with decisive clarity today. Shortly after show doors opened, the company announced the summer 2008 initial rollout of its sleek, new and tantalizing four-passenger zero-emissions hydrogen fuel-cell vehicle. The long-awaited, market-ready hydrogen car, called “Clarity,” will use zero oil and feature zero emissions.

No longer experimental, the Honda FCX Clarity is powered by a breakthrough, “V Flow” fuel cell stack that delivers vastly increased power and range over previous FCX hydrogen models. The FCX Clarity utilizes its V Flow stack in combination with a new compact and efficient lithium ion battery pack and a single hydrogen storage tank to power the vehicle's electric drive motor. Hydrogen combines with atmospheric oxygen in the fuel cell stack, where chemical energy from the reaction is converted into electric power to propel the vehicle. Additional energy captured through regenerative braking and deceleration is stored in the lithium ion battery pack. It is used to supplement power from the fuel cell when needed. The vehicle's only emission is water. Indeed, the company invites drivers to drink the exhaust, and has even distributed novelty drinking glasses to drive home the point. Read more ..


Mortgage Crisis

An Overnight Fix to the Housing and Mortgage Crisis--Bring Back Assumable Mortgages

September 24th 2007

Edwin Black

No one needs to be reminded that a significant segment of our population has become geographically and financially immobilized by an infectious condition known generally as “the housing and mortgage crisis.” Make no mistake. The crisis involves not just the so-called “sub-prime” business, but ordinary creditworthy consumers battered by financial misconduct and over-speculation by developers.

People can’t move on because far fewer people can move in or move out. Too many houses exist for too few buyers. Prices have tumbled. Inventories of unsold parcels have skyrocketed. The whole concept of property as “a sure bet” in America has been threatened. For each person who cannot sell a house, buy a house or suffers a foreclosure, the pain and hurt is multiplied like a slow-moving epidemic throughout the domino-structured housing market. Our national housing crisis in turn is flattening or eliminating hundreds of thousands of jobs and economic vitality.

Now to the overnight fix: Bring back “the assumable mortgage.” The financial world abolished this age-old method of home buying and selling during the financially turbulent seventies and eighties when President Jimmy Carter’s double-digit inflationary society inspired the rapacious mortgage lending industry to pressure the last one to five percent assumable loans out of existence and contractually prevent any new ones. Read more ..


Global Terrorism

Is Iran's Revolutionary Guard Iran's SS

September 4th 2007

Iran - Iran's Revolutionary Guard
Iran's Revolutionary Guard

Placing the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (Pasdaran) on the official U.S. terror list is not unlike what it would have been to so-target the SS, and by association the Nazi regime and the German war machine during World War II.

To name the 125,000-strong Pasradan a “terrorist organization” [the first state military branch to be so designated] was a master stroke of effective symbolism. We can already see the uncomfortable, worldwide reaction as exhibited by the spokespersons of the Khomeinist elite, including the Arab-speaking apologists for Tehran.

Speaking on Al Jazeera and other Arab media, pro-Iranian commentators reacting to the news boasted about the omnipresence of the Pasdaran across Iran and asked, "How will the U.S. make a distinction between the Guards and the people." In fact, such comments betray the fear Iranian leaders have had at this point.

Clearly, Iran's leaders are embarrassed in front of their masses; embarrassed that a global power officially considers the most-powerful organization within the regime to be nothing more than “terrorists.” The impact of this decision has barely begun, and will snowball in terms of the psychological impact it will surely have on the ordinary Iranian citizen. Read more ..


Bad Arolsen Inside Story

USHMM's Shapiro At Odds with Red Cross Bid for Bad Arolsen Openness

August 29th 2007

Central Name File
Bad Arolsen files

During the week of August 20, Red Cross officials transferred to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum some 13.5 million embargoed files from its massive Nazi-era archive at Bad Arolsen known as the International Tracing Service. The hard drives were hand-delivered by ITS director Reto Meister. For the Red Cross, it was a significant moment that it had labored hard to achieve.

The highlight of the initial ITS handover was a special Museum briefing held August 23 for several dozen Holocaust survivors, Second Generation members, and Jewish organizational leaders. The meeting was a chance to connect with the Holocaust community face to face. Survivors flew in from around the nation to attend. By all accounts the exchange was successful and a tribute to the efforts undertaken by both the Museum and the Red Cross to accelerate the controversial transfer.

During the presentation, ITS director Reto Meister deftly explained the technical complexities in transferring the huge collection and what could be expected in the future, according to several in the audience. Meister’s presentation and response to questions, in spite of a few pesky challenges, was honest and convincing as he promised continued dedication to the process, according to multiple reports from audience members.

Ironically, the special Museum briefing was nowhere covered in the media, not even the Jewish media which normally covers such events. Why? Read more ..


Armenian Genocide Conflict

Armenian Genocide is a Historical Imperative

August 27th 2007

World Scenes - Armenian Genocide1 Bodies

Armenian Genocide Victims 

From 2000 to 2002, I led a graduate seminar entitled "Post-Holocaust Ethical and Political Issues” at Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies. Among the topics covered was the politics of memory.

One of the case studies we explored was the controversy surrounding language and its power. We looked in depth at the massacre of Armenians and how its depiction had become a subject of fierce debate, primarily between Armenians, who insisted on calling the events of 1915 a genocide, and Turks, who adamantly refused to countenance the "G word." Essentially, this was a zero-sum game.

Either one supported the Armenian or the Turkish position, whether for historical or political reasons, but neither side allowed room for compromise. The basic Armenian argument was that up to 1.5 million Armenians were deliberately targeted and massacred by the Ottoman Empire, eight years before the modern Turkish Republic came into being. At the time, the word genocide didn’t exist. Read more ..


Cutting Edge Exclusive

Bad Arolsen Internet Records Offer Twice Spurned--French and Red Cross Suggested It

August 21st 2007

BA Camp Documentation

 Although officials of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum have steadfastly insisted that the secret records at the International Tracing Service located at Bad Arolsen are technically not ready for the Internet, both Red Cross and senior Bad Arolsen officials deny this. Indeed, Red Cross and senior Bad Arolsen officials confirm that most of their 42 million records could be made Internet ready within three-to-four months. Moreover, the Red Cross reveals, the idea of Internet access directly from Bad Arolsen computers bypassing a complicated and costly 11-nation export and transfer was twice suggested earlier this year: once by French delegates to the Commission and again by Bad Arolsen technology officers. Both offers were refused.

The Bad Arolsen computerized search mechanisms have been misportrayed by some news reports. But in a series of conference calls with this reporter followed by a requested official written statement of technical specifications, Bad Arolsen chief technology officer Michael Hoffman and archivist Udo Yost, explained for the first time exactly how their system works. The ITS system, ten years in development, uses three interactive sets of prisoner informational data including TIFF and JPEG images of Nazi-era prisoner cards. Hoffman confirmed that given the correct name, birth date and birth city, “with a little luck, we get a hit on the full data set. If the system cannot get the correct information about a named individual on the first try, it defaults to the next probable hit using the sequence numbers, going through the candidate names. For example, for a person named “Rosenbaum,” the system first gives all the “Rosenbaums,” and then automatically gives you the next Rosenbaum, and the next Rosenbaum, until you find the correct Rosenbaum.” Read more ..


Palestine and Israel

Will Abbas Finally Seize the Opportunity?

August 20th 2007

Howard Kohr headshot
Howard Kohr

Following the violent Hamas overthrow of the Palestinian Authority (PA) government in Gaza, President Mahmoud Abbas fired the Hamas ministers and created a new PA government in the West Bank. This seismic shift presented Israel with a potential partner for peace in Abbas and his new government.

In the two months since Hamas’ coup, Israel has taken bold steps to bolster Abbas and his new prime minister, Salam Fayyad. These measures include releasing Palestinian tax monies, freeing 250 Palestinian prisoners, offering amnesty to wanted Fatah militiamen and sending over 50,000 tons of humanitarian aid to Gaza’s civilians Read more ..


Saudi Arms

Confronting The Saudi Arms Deal

August 19th 2007

Contributors / Staff - Waliid Phares headshot
Walid Phares

The U.S. is considering a new gigantic arms sale to Saudi Arabia of up to $20 billion. The proposed package includes advanced satellite-guided bombs, upgrades to its fighters and new naval vessels as a U.S. strategy to contain the rising military expansion of Iran in the region. The titanic arms deal is seen as a major Saudi spending to shield itself from a Khomeinist menace looming at the horizons: an Iranian nuclear bomb, a future Pasdaran control of Iraq, and a Hezbollah offensive in Lebanon.

In reality, the Iranian threat against the Saudis materializes as follows: A) If the U.S.-led coalition leaves abruptly, the Iranian forces - via the help of their militias in Iraq - will be at the borders with Saudi Arabia. Throughout the Gulf, Iran’s mullahs will be eyeing the Hijaz on the one hand and the oil-rich provinces on the other hand. B)Hezbollah threatens the Lebanese government, which is friendly to the Saudis. Hezbollah, already training for subversion in Iraq, will become the main trainer of Shiite radicals in the eastern province of Saudi Arabia. C) Finally, across Iraq’s borders, Syria and Iran can send all sorts of jihadis, including Sunnis.

With such hydra advancing, the Wahhabi monarchy is hurrying to arm itself with all the military technology it can get from Uncle Sam. Riyadh believes that with improved F-16s, fast boats, electronics and smarter bombs it can withstand the forthcoming onslaught. I believe it won’t. For as the Iraq-Iran war has proved, the ideologically rooted brutality of the Iranian regime has no boundaries. If the U.S. withdraws from the region without a strong pro-Western Iraq in the neighborhood and absent of a war of ideas making progress against fundamentalism as a whole, the Saudis won’t stand a chance for survival. For the Iranians will apply their pressures directly and unleash more radical forces among the neo-Wahhabis against Saudi Arabia. The Shiite mullahs will adroitly manipulate radical Sunnis, as they have in Iraq and Lebanon. So what should the U.S. advise the Saudis to do instead of spending hugely on arms? Read more ..


Tech and Israel

Oracle Billionaire Pledges $500,000 to Embattled Israeli Town

August 17th 2007

Science - Larry Ellison
Larry Ellison

Avi Sulimany didn’t know he was talking to Larry Ellison. He didn’t even know who Larry Ellison was.

But after a cursory, two-minute conversation about rockets targeting the southern Israeli town of Sderot, Ellison promised Sulimany $500,000 to reinforce the Community Center of Sderot against those attacks. The two shook hands and parted company. Sulimany is the director of the center of Sderot, which has suffered daily rocket attacks fired from Gaza for seven years. Ellison, of course, is the well-known head of Redwood Shores-based Oracle Corp., and one of the world’s 15 richest men. He was born to a teenage Jewish mother and grew up on the South Side of Chicago with relatives.

After viewing shrapnel left from Kassam rockets, Ellison — on a Sderot visit arranged by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and flanked by dignitaries including Israel Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and Rep. Tom Lantos (D-San Mateo) — walked into a community center on Thursday, Aug. 9. Sulimany mistook Ellison for “the head of the U.S. Congress’ foreign affairs committee” — that would be Lantos, actually — and introduced himself. He told Ellison how a number of popular Israeli bands hail from Sderot, including Teapacks, the Israeli representative at the Eurovision song contest (and past performers at Israel in the Gardens).

He then pressed a CD into Ellison’s hand. It was a compilation of Sderot teenagers who were singing their own compositions about the recent war and rocket attacks. Almost as an afterthought, Sulimany added, “But these kids have a problem.” Read more ..


Ethnic Clashing

Congressional face off on Armenian Genocide Means Taking Sides with Horror

August 12th 2007

World Scenes - Armenian Genocide1 Bodies
Armenian genocide victims

Los Angeles–The Armenian Genocide debate pits moral values against realpolitik. For Jews, who know the horrors of genocide only too well it may be time to take sides?

The Turkish ambassador to the United States, Nabi Sensoy, dropped in at The Jewish Journal recently for an hourlong conversation with its editors. Archbishop Hovnan Derderian of the Armenian Church of North America recently stood on the bimah of Valley Beth Shalom, hugged its rabbi and called the occasion a turning point in Armenian-Jewish relations.

All the attention is flattering, but its underlying cause confronts the Jewish community with choices that — perhaps oversimplified — pits its moral values and sympathies against the realpolitik of American and Israeli policymakers.

At the root of the split is a wound that has been festering since 1915, when Muslim Turkey and its Ottoman Empire were fighting Russia, France and Britain during World War I. Charging that the Christian Armenian minority in eastern Turkey was collaborating with the invading Russians, Turkey deported, starved and brutalized much of its Armenian population.

According to the Armenians, backed by predominant historical analysis, between 1915 and 1923, Turkey killed 1.5 million Armenian civilians in a planned genocide. Turkey maintains that some 300,000 Armenians died, but that an equal number of Turks perished, and that both sides were victims of chaotic wartime conditions, disease and famine, not a predetermined extermination.

Turks refer to the wartime slaughter by the Arabic word mukapele, which Sensoy translated during a phone interview as “mutual massacre.” Read more ..


Human Rights

An Olympian Challenge in China

August 11th 2007

World Scenes - Olympic torch
Yao Ming with the olympic torch

The world was riveted by the photograph of a young man facing down a caravan of tanks on Tiananmen Square in June, 1989.
If people were unaware of human rights violations until then, this vivid illustration of protest left no doubt. The unknown “Tank Man” became an everlasting symbol of resistance to tyranny.

With the Beijing Olympics (“One World, One Dream”) less than a year away, attention once again focuses on The People’s Republic. Now that China ranks as chief trading partner of the US, fifth largest of Canada and crucial to the economy of many other nations, it is becoming more difficult for outsiders to remain ostriches about the Human Rights issue.

Stories abound of religious oppression, slave labor, harvesting organs of political prisoners, implementation of the one child policy through forced abortion, capital punishment for minor crimes, incarceration of journalists and political dissidents. Like the weather, everybody talks about it but nobody does anything about it. Well, not exactly nobody.

Tibet is a prominent human rights issue. Students for a Free Tibet, who recently unfurled a banner saying “Free Tibet” at the Great Wall, were expelled from China and received wide press coverage. The exiled Dalai Lama is a tour de force of publicity for the Tibetan issue.

The Chinese attempt to do away with Tibetan feudalism has resulted in a form of cultural genocide. Violence is not the only tool used to accomplish this end. The recent construction of a railway from Beijing to Lhasa encourages Han Chinese, the ethnic majority, to migrate to Tibet where they are given priority in employment and housing. Tibetans have become a minority in their own land, allegedly forbidden to be taught in their language and paying more for education than their Chinese “invaders.” Concern that the railway will be instrumental in ecological destruction weighs heavily on environmentalists. Read more ..


Palestine and Israel

Palestine Not Ready for Statehood

August 10th 2007

World Citizens - Micah Halpern headshot
Micah Halpern

The Palestinian people deserve a state of their own. But not now, not yet.

Why? Because the Palestinians have not yet adequately proven themselves ready for total self-government. At least, not democratic self-government. The Palestinians have been in control of their own destiny for a significant chunk of time. And each time they are faced with a pivotal challenge, they fail to rise up to that challenge. And each failure is then blamed on Israel.

The election of Hamas to power, for example, was a challenge to the concept of democracy. And the result was a miserable failure of democracy and a return to anarchy. The decision to arrest terrorists is another example of a challenge the Palestinians faced and failed. The result was the decision not to make arrests by circumventing the issue and calling the gun-toting, saber rattling, Qassam throwing brigades not terrorists, but resistance fighters. Everyone speaks of normalization, but these actions should never be termed normal. These actions are an ab-normalization of the situation and they are an abomination.

Before they can become a democratic state, the Palestinians must be ready, willing and most crucially, able, to make changes in attitudes and in behaviors. Democracy is more than a system of self-government. Democracy is about respect. Respect for law and for laws. Respect for religious and cultural minorities. Respect for education.

Neither Palestinian leadership nor the Palestinian people have grasped the true essence of democracy. They have no understanding of the concept of freedom. They do not yet understand that democracy and freedom are co-joined, that democracy without freedom is dictatorship, that freedom without democracy is anarchy.

Striving for democracy is an admirable goal. Freedom is an inalienable right. But they come with a price - responsibility. Until Palestinian leadership is willing to accept that responsibility, the people will continue to live under an umbrella of violence, poverty and uncertainty. Read more ..


Global Jihad

Islam's Divide--and Us

August 9th 2007

Islamic Topics - Palestinian Rally
PLO masked marchers

The attacks of 9/11 generated a tide of commentary on the origins and aims of anti-Western jihadism. Lately, however, events have shifted attention to another, more long-standing feature of the Muslim world raising the question of whether Islamic militancy against the West is now of lesser geopolitical significance than a stark, increasingly salient divide within Islam itself–the ancient divide, that is, between the numerically dominant Sunnis and a Shiite minority that is finally coming into its own.

In this, the prime exhibit is Iraq. Since the country changed hands from a Sunni dictatorship to a Shiite-controlled government, the conflict there, at first slowly but then with growing intensity, has at least in part taken on the appearance of a war between two sects. Every week brings gruesome suicide attacks on Shiites by Sunni terrorists, attacks answered in kind by Shiite militias and death squads. Iraqis have been dragged from their cars and killed merely for being Sunni or Shiite. Whole neighborhoods of Baghdad have been emptied of one sect or the other. Mortar attacks have been launched from cemeteries and shrines, and the holiest of mosques have been bombed and torched by putative co-religionists. Read more ..



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