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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 ..


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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