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The Edge of Terrorism

It’s the Ideology, Stupid

November 30th 2011

Terrorism - WTC on Fire (credit: Macten)

Today, it would be fair to say that U.S. counterterrorism efforts are tactically strong. We are well-positioned to tap the right phones, carry out surveillance of the right targets, and as a result we have a truly remarkable track record of preventing attacks (though some, like the shoe bomber, underwear bomber, and Times Square bomber, simply failed without being foiled). Where we remain inexcusably weak, however, is in the realm of strategic counterterrorism, or counter-radicalization. Today’s threat has metamorphosed from the al-Qaeda core to franchises like al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), jihadi groups trying to earn their stripes (like those in Egypt’s Sinai Desert), and—most disturbingly—homegrown violent extremists who are radicalized online or in person in places like Minnesota and Northern Virginia.

Since 9/11, U.S. efforts to counter radical Islamism at home and abroad have focused on expanding global engagement and strategic communication abroad, as well as community engagement and town hall meetings with immigrant communities at home. Beyond engagement, counterterrorism officials have concentrated not only on preventing plots from being hatched but on developing fissures among al-Qaeda, affiliated terror groups, and their supporters. Read more ..

The Edge of Terrorism

A Changing Enemy, and Battles Still to Be Fought

November 29th 2011

Terrorism - Osama bin-Laden preaching

When it comes to the War on Terror, America’s progress, while tangible, has been far from clear-cut.

It is abundantly clear that there will be no surrender onboard a U.S. Navy ship like we saw after World War II. Islamist jihadists are not rational actors; they are fanatics. As President George W. Bush said after 9/11, this would be a long war. Nevertheless, we have made major progress, highlighted by the fact we have not seen 9/11-type attacks on the homeland in the last decade, and we have weakened al-Qaeda’s appeal to the masses (what many refer to as “the narrative”). That can be chalked up to two events: the killing of Bin Laden, and al-Qaeda’s targeting of innocent Muslims around the world.

However, more work remains to be done. Partly as a result of our success—particularly the drone program—the threat to the U.S. homeland is now more diffuse and harder to detect. We also face the issue of homegrown radicalization, which our system inherently is not well-equipped to disrupt. We saw evidence of this in Times Square and at Fort Hood. Read more ..

Congress on Edge

How Goldman Sachs and Congress may be bound too tightly together

November 27th 2011

Money - $1B US Currency
All about the Benjamins

Goldman Sachs, the most notorious investment bank on Wall Street, has two things in common with the legislators with significant investments in the company: wealth and power.

According to research by the Center for Responsive Politics, 19 current members of Congress reported holdings in Goldman Sachs during 2010. Whether by coincidence or not, most of these 19 Goldman Sachs investors in Congress are more powerful or more wealthy than their peers, or both. 

Nine of them sit on either the most powerful committee in their chamber or committees charged with regulating the Wall Street giant. Moreover, seven of them are among the 25 wealthiest members of their respective chambers, according to the Center's research. Read more ..

After the Holocaust

Catholic Bishop Calls for Eternal Vigilance to Avoid Genocide

November 27th 2011

History-Genocide - Holocaust survivors

The murder of six million European Jews in the Holocaust must serve as a warning to the people of today to remain vigilant against contemporary threats to human life and against any ideology that undermines the Judaeo-Christian values upon which western civilisation is built, said the Catholic bishop of Shrewsbury, UK.

In a Holocaust Memorial Day address given on November 24 to an audience in gathered in Menorah Synagogue in Sharston, Manchester, Bishop Mark Davies said that the Nazis had deliberately marked out for “systematic and total destruction” the very people who were first chosen by God to receive his Word. He said that “contemporary historians point to the logical intention of the National Socialist State rooted in this idolatry of man, of race, of the state to destroy not only the Jewish race but Christian morality and the faith of the Church." Read more ..

Religious Tolerance

A Pandora's Box in India is Unhinged by Arrest of Christian Pastor by a Muslim Court

November 27th 2011

India Topics - Indian muslim protest

In retrospect, the Christian community of India has displayed remarkable sobriety and a sense of responsibility in its response to the arrest in Srinagar of Reverend Chander Mani Khanna, Anglican pastor of the All Saints Church. The Muslim Ulema of the rest of India have been reluctant to condemn the arrest, precipitated by the demand of a local Mufti.

The vital issues of the rights of minorities, and freedom faith are however involved, which impinge on all minorities even in states such as Gujarat, Maharashtra, Karnataka and Orissa and remain relevant in Kashmir. I suppose one can understand their reluctance in the backdrop of the complexities and sensitivities involved in anything that is concerned with the State of Jammu and Kashmir. The same is the reason perhaps for the silence of civil society in India and in the state of Jammu and Kashmir. Only journalists and activists Seema Mustafa in New Delhi and Javed Anand in Mumbai have dared spoken, pleading for caution but articulating the voice of sanity and freedom. Read more ..

Congress on Edge

Congressional Perks: Lawmakers’ Benefits that Might Surprise

November 27th 2011

Politics - 2011 Freshman Repubs

It’s seemingly been a pretty rough autumn on Capitol Hill. Last month, the public’s approval rating for Congress dropped to 9 percent, the lowest ever, according to a New York Times/CBS News poll.

But there’s still plenty for the nation’s lawmakers to be thankful for this Thanksgiving. Being a member of Congress remains a surprisingly sweet gig.

In addition to the power to shape policy and public discourse, legislators get great health care and retirement benefits, hefty salaries with annual cost of living increases, and the incumbency-boosting ability to blanket constituents with mail touting their achievements.

But there are many less-publicized perks that come along with the job. Here are a few to keep in mind the next time you hear politicians refer to themselves as “public servants.” Read more ..

The 2012 Vote

Dem Strategist Accuses Romney of Invoking Rev. Wright in New Ad

November 27th 2011

Politics - Romney Ad Image
Image from Romney Ad

Democratic strategist Tad Devine, an adviser to the Al Gore and John Kerry presidential campaigns, accused Mitt Romney’s campaign of invoking the controversial Rev. Jeremiah Wright in a recent ad.

Devine said on November 23 that he was “shocked” to see what he believed was imagery of an African-American church in an ad released just before Thanksgiving by Romney’s campaign team and airing in New Hampshire. The ad, Romney’s first of the campaign, is “clearly an attempt to bring back Rev. Wright and race,” Devine tweeted.

In the ad, a series of images including those of a foreclosed home and empty businesses flash by as text criticizes President Obama’s economic record. But at two points, the imagery cuts to well-dressed African-American women walking down a large hallway, and pans over a predominantly black audience. Read more ..

UN on Edge

US Shouldn’t Forfeit Influence within UN

November 25th 2011

UN Topics - UN HQ NYC

As American businesses seek to protect their patents abroad, famine ravages the Horn of Africa and the Arab Awakening unfolds, we need more U.S. engagement at the United Nations, not less. Laws that restrict American participation in U.N. Specialized Agencies are bad for U.S. interests and national security. Congress must act immediately to fix this problem.

In October, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) overwhelmingly admitted Palestine as a member. The following day, the Palestinian envoy to the United Nations announced his government’s plans to join 16 additional U.N. Specialized Agencies. Although the Palestinian Authority’s statehood application did not pass the Security Council, it will likely pursue membership in other agencies as a way to continue its quest toward statehood.

Two provisions tucked into the Foreign Relations Authorization acts of 1990 and 1994 (P.L. 101-246, P.L. 103-236) undermine U.S. interests and national security by prohibiting U.S. funding to U.N. agencies that grant Palestine membership. The rationale for these laws no longer exists, however. Read more ..

The Immigration Edge

State laws Offering Tuition for Illegals breaks Federal Laws

November 23rd 2011

Social Topics - Arizona immigration rally
Immigration Rally

Federal law prohibits state colleges and universities from providing in-state tuition rates to illegal aliens “on the basis of residence within the State”—unless the same in-state rates are offered to all citizens of the United States. Today, 12 states are circumventing this federal law, and the legal arguments offered to justify such actions are untenable, no matter what other policy arguments are offered in their defense. Because at least one federal court of appeals has held that there is no private right of action under the specific statute in question—§ 1623 of the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996—the U.S. Department of Justice must enforce this statutory provision against states that have violated federal law. Yet even as it sues states like Arizona and Alabama for trying to assist the enforcement of federal immigration law, the U.S. government refuses to sue states that are incontrovertibly and brazenly violating an unambiguous federal immigration law. Such inaction is unacceptable: The President and the Attorney General have an obligation to enforce every provision of the United State’s comprehensive federal immigration regulations—including the federal law prohibiting state colleges and universities from providing in-state tuition rates to illegal aliens “on the basis of residence within the State.” Read more ..

Europe and America

CSR: New EU Strategy Threatens U.S. and European Companies

November 23rd 2011

Money - Euro Symbol

Apparently the bureaucrats in the European Union Commission’s corporate social responsibility (CSR) department were not content to see the EU’s burdensome regulatory requirements dragging EU economies into recession and financial crisis, so they came up with a new CSR strategy. Released on October 25, it fundamentally redefines the EU’s approach to CSR and signals a new era of heavy-handed EU social and environmental regulation.

CSR: From Sideshow to EU Center Stage

The commission’s new CSR strategy adopts a radical definition of CSR. The commission’s earlier definition, adopted in 2001, called for companies to integrate “social and environmental concerns in their business operations and in their interactions with their stakeholders on a voluntary basis.” The 2001 definition explicitly recognized CSR as voluntary and implicitly recognized the validity of the business objective: Companies are first and foremost businesses but are encouraged to address social and environmental issues arising in the course of operations and dealings with employees, customers, and other stakeholders.  Read more ..

The Architecture Edge

Oversize Load: Poop From Burj Khalifa – The World’s Tallest Building

November 23rd 2011

Architecture - World's Tallest Building

We wish we could take credit for being the first to ask of the world’s tallest building: “where does all the poop go?” But we can’t. Terry Gross from America’s NPR radio station did that for us. Actually, before her, Kate Ascher from Columbia University’s Graduate School of Architecture wrote everything you ever wanted to know about skyscrapers in a book called “The Heights: Anatomy of a Skyscraper.” All due credit aside, did you ever wonder what happens when a toilet is flushed on the 100th floor of a high-rise? And where all that poop and pee lands up when it finally makes it back down to earth? If so, read on…

After having a hefty meal at the restaurant on the top of the World’s Tallest Building in Dubai, maybe you even secretly indulged in Hamour – one of the UAE’s most endangered fish species, you excuse yourself from the table and head to the W.C.

You do what everybody does and without even thinking about it, you flush the toilet.

Your number one and two then travels 160 floors at breakneck pace, gravity interrupted by a sophisticated system of bends in the pipes that slows it down. These pipes are soundproofed by the way, because nobody wants to listen to traveling waste all day. Read more ..

Inside Russia

Medvedev Manages to Tell the Truth

November 22nd 2011

Russian Topics - medvedev
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev

In a rare instance of truth telling, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev appeared to reveal on November 21 the real reason Moscow went to war with Georgia in August 2008.

Speaking to officers of the Southern Military District in Vladikavkaz, Medvedev seemed to suggest that the goal was preventing Georgia from joining NATO (h/t to Civil Georgia for flagging this story):

Time goes by fast – more than three years have already passed, but what is the most important our approaches towards and our assessments of those events have not changed. We of course consider that it was absolutely necessary action by our army to save large number of our citizens and, if not to remove totally, to curb the threat which was coming at the time from the territory of Georgia.

If we had faltered in 2008, geopolitical arrangement would be different now and number of countries in respect of which attempts were made to artificially drag them into the North Atlantic Alliance, would have probably been [in NATO] now. Read more ..

The Arab Fall

Brothers in Arms: The Muslim Brotherhood Takes Over the (Sunni) Arab World

November 22nd 2011

Egypt - Members of Muslim Brotherhood

On November 28, Egyptians will vote for a parliament which will also write the country’s new constitution. The Western media at first told us that the Muslim Brotherhood was weak and unimportant as well as moderate. Now, when it’s too late, the Western media is admitting they are strong and radical. But the Obama administration insists they are strong and moderate.

The last time I read an article in the Atlantic on the Brotherhood, it claimed that the group was a joke and only had 13 percent support. Now it is publishing an article that takes it for granted that the Brotherhood will win the election.  There’s a new poll out that I don’t think is accurate, but keep reading and I’ll tell you why it is misleading in a moment.  According to the poll, 38 percent of Egyptians would vote for the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party. (Remember when we were told that this was a moderate split-off from the Brotherhood?) and 12 percent would vote for the even more radical al-Nour Party.


The Battle for Syria

Syria: No Longer Revolution, It is A Civil War--A Guide to the Battle

November 22nd 2011

Syrian Issues - Syrian Protesters

The only honest answer to the question of what will happen in Syria is: No one knows. After an eight-month-long battle in which more than 3500 people have been killed, there’s no telling who will be ruling Syria when the dust settles, or even when the dust will settle. A regime victory is quite possible—perhaps most likely—and its overthrow might–but not necessarily–bring an Islamist regime.

But what do we know about Syria? Here’s a guide.

1. Don’t overrate Iran’s role.

Despite wild rumors, the Syrian regime doesn’t need Iranians to help it repress the people. Iran is important as a source of financing for the government, but this is President Bashar al-Asad’s battle to win or lose. Tehran is definitely going to be a secondary factor. Read more ..

Health Care on Edge

Keeping an Eye on Insurance Rates in the Golden State

November 20th 2011

Politics - CA State House

If there is one organization that insurers despise and fear more than any other, it surely must be Consumer Watchdog.

Since its founding in 1985, Los Angeles-based Consumer Watchdog has dogged insurers relentlessly and played a key role numerous times in forcing them to change business practices and price their policies more fairly. I first heard of the organization in 1996 when I was still an insurance industry spokesman. Consumer Watchdog seemingly came out of nowhere to take the lead in trying to put a halt to a new practice in the insurance industry: requiring women to be discharged from the hospital within a day after delivering a baby or undergoing a mastectomy. Largely because of Consumer Watchdog’s efforts, insurers had to rewrite their discharge policies.

The organization’s first major attack on the insurance industry—a ballot initiative in California (Proposition 103) require auto insurers to seek prior approval from regulators before increasing rates—has saved drivers in the Golden State more than $62 billion over the past two decades, according to an analysis by the Consumer Federation of America. Read more ..

American Economy on Edge

We Don’t Want to End Up like Italy

November 20th 2011

Contributors / Staff - Star Parker, CURE

The Wall Street Journal calls the economic implosion now taking place in Europe “a crisis of the welfare state.”

The latest European nation to hit the wall is Italy, where national debt is 120 percent of GDP. That is, for every dollar their national economy produces, they owe $1.20.

The Journal calls this a crisis of the welfare state because the Italian national debt is well in excess of the ability of Italians to pay its obligations and is the direct result of excessive government spending.

When the Republican presidential candidates were asked in the most recent debate if the United States should help bail out these bankrupt European nations, the consensus response was “no.”

This, I believe, is the correct answer for two reasons.

First, the way to deal with irresponsible behavior is not to find new ways to finance it but to demand responsible behavior.

Second, we are on the same path here and we need to wake up.

Over the last five years, our national debt as a percentage of our GDP has doubled to 70 percent, where it stands today. Projections show that, continuing on the path that we’re currently on, in a little over 10 years, our national debt as a percentage of our total economic output will be exactly where Italy is today. Read more ..

The 2012 Vote

If Herman Cain Called Me for Advice

November 19th 2011

Politics - Herman Cain speaking
Herman Cain

A hypothetical conversation:

“Hello, Mr. Davis, this is Herman Cain. People tell me you combine the practice of law with crisis communications — I could use your help.”

“Sure, Mr. Cain — I’m a Democrat supporting President Obama, but I am willing to provide you advice. What’s the problem?”

“Well, I’ve been given 10 days to respond to a story that Politico says it is going to publish, stating that two women accused me of sexual harassment in the 1990s and my employer at the time, the National Restaurant Association, settled the cases. It’s all confidential. So what should I do?”

“My first question to you is, did you do it?”

“Well, my question to you is, did you ever engage in sexual harassment?” Read more ..

Egypt and Israel

Will Sinai Test the Israeli-Egyptian Peace?

November 19th 2011

Israel Topics - Sinai, Egypt-Israel Border
Israel/Egypt Border in Sinai

The Sinai Peninsula has been the main battlefield in most of the wars between Egypt and Israel. The latter seized a small part of Sinai during the 1948-1949 war, and then most of it in the 1956 war. All of Sinai was soon after returned to Egypt without obtaininga peace agreement. In the 1967 war, Israel conquered the entire Sinai, but this time it was returned to Egypt as part of the 1979 peace treaty.
Israel has no intention of re-conquering any part of Sinai. Israelis do wish to go there, but only as tourists. In fact, hundreds of thousands of Israelis have been visiting the peninsula since it was given back to Egypt in the early 1980s, to the delight of the Egyptian tourist industry. Many Israelis would like to continue vacationing in Sinai, and this is most welcome by Egypt. Encouraging tourism is now very important because its sharp decline in the wake of President Mubarak's fall has had a major negative impact on the Egyptian economy. Read more ..

Islam on Edge

Walid Phares Remains A Hero to Muslim Liberals

November 19th 2011

Lebanon Topics - MMGeha

I am a Muslim liberal activist in Lebanon and the son of Mustafa Geha, the author of several books on Islam, Shi’ism, and reforms. My father’s legacy stretched two decades prior to, during, and following Lebanon’s conflict in the mid-1970s and 1980s. Among the many books he authored was a daring essay titled, Mihnat al Aql fil Islam (English: The Crisis of Islamic Thinking) which opened the way, not only for critical thinking in Shia and Islamic theology, but in Islamic history and politics. Although Mustafa Geha’s body of literature was perhaps too early for his time, most of his calls for action, including rational thinking, civil society and democracy were espoused many decades later in what is today known as “the Arab Spring,” or at least the authentically secular part of it.

But writing on challenging topics in the Middle East and particularly in Lebanon during the fifteen-year conflict was extremely dangerous. My father paid a heavy price for his attachment to intellectual freedom. Indeed he was cowardly assassinated in 1992 by pro-Syrian operatives while he was about to take a ride in his car. I didn’t enjoy having a father in my life because of the totalitarian views that dominated Lebanon in the 1990s.

My father wasn’t the only writer who was killed by Terrorists. Before him, Yussef Kamal al Hage, a leading Lebanese thinker of the 1960s, was assassinated in the 1970s by radicals. Salim al Lawzi, editor of the weekly al Hawadeth, Riad Taha, the president of the Union of journalists, Gebran Tueni, editor of daily al Nahar, and many others who lived and fought with the pen, were executed, assassinated and, in some cases, tortured. During Lebanon’s bloody war, as in most of the region’s conflicts, there were men and women who pursued their vision of freedom and democracy through ideas, irrespective of affiliation or geographic location. Read more ..

After the Holocaust

Congress hears Testimony on Billions of Insurance Money Stolen from Jews

November 16th 2011

History-Genocide - Holocaust survivor

Thousands of U.S. Holocaust survivors are lobbying Congress for the right to sue European insurance companies for billions still owed from illegally confiscated Nazi-era policies.

"It’s a shameful thing. We have been robbed of our dignity," exclaimed David Schaecter, an 82-year-old survivor of Auschwitz and president of the Holocaust Survivors Foundation USA.

On November 16, the House Foreign Affairs Committee will hear testimony from Schaecter and others on a bill that would allow survivors to sue companies such as German-based Allianz that are suspected of withholding some $20 billion in Jewish life insurance policies.

"We are survivors, and yet we are not allowed to sue a person or a company or an entity like every other person has a right to do." Read more ..

War Against the Weak

Eugenic Extermination was Philanthropy's Best Practice

November 14th 2011

History-Genocide - Verschuer-Twins-Height

As I was pulling together the research for my recent Chronicle of Philanthropy op-ed on philanthropic involvement in North Carolina’s eugenic sterilization program — a program highlighted recently on Brian Williams’ new TV program “Rock Center” — I was struck by this thought:

Were it not for the niggling little fact that it is now understood to be an utter moral abomination, eugenics would be touted today as one of American philanthropy’s most significant and successful undertakings.

For no other project in the 20th century came as close as eugenics to replicating, in the social realm, philanthropy’s model practices and demonstrable successes in the scientific realm, such as the campaign against hookworm or the Green Revolution. By any standard — other than that of human decency — eugenics was a spectacular example of effective strategic grantmaking.

As is often noted, the modern American philanthropic enterprise is grounded in its determination to get to the root causes of problems, as opposed to charity, which merely relieves symptoms. Washington University biologist Garland Allen reminds us this approach characterized the Progressive Movement in general, which received a substantial boost from the first large American foundations at the beginning of the 20th century. (Allen’s essay on the Eugenics Record Office at Cold Spring Harbor is must-reading for anyone grappling with this topic.)

Eugenics, in Allen’s view, may be understood in part as a reflection of the Progressive cult of efficiency.

Applied to the social sphere, efficiency meant correcting problems at their source, not in the aftermath of damage already done. Prevention became a central organizing concept with the efficiency movement. Efficiency also involved knowledge and the use of scientific principles, and it became commonplace to talk of certain kinds of reform as the scientific solution to social problems. . . . The application of rational planning in general, and of concepts of efficiency in particular, required the active participation of scientifically trained experts, professionals whose job it was to bring technical concepts and knowledge to bear on problem solving. Read more ..

The Edge of Terrorism

US Tunnel Vision Strengthening Jihad Against America

November 13th 2011

Terrorism - Hezbollah Nazi Salute

Since 9/11, the major focus in the War on Terror has been al Qaeda. 

Now, after recent successes, including the death of Osama bin Laden, U.S. government officials have expressed optimism in the fight against terrorism. 

But while al Qaeda may be weakening, the jihad against America is actually strengthening, at home and abroad.

But first, let's examine the state of al Qaeda.

From the Fort Hood massacre and the Underwear Bomber in 2009, to last year's failed Yemeni cargo plane plot, no terror group has wreaked more havoc against the U.S. homeland. Al Qaeda cleric Anwar al-Awlaki had a hand in each of these terror plots and inspired many more, including the 2010 attempted Times Square bombing in New York City.

Al-Awlaki's death in a U.S. drone strike last month dealt a major blow to al Qaeda's operations in the West. Read more ..

The Edge of Justice

Fighting for Jerusalem

November 11th 2011

Israel Topics - Jerusalem pre 1948 - Princess Mary Ave.
Jerusalem "Bevingrad" Princess Mary Ave, pre 1948

Americans for Peace Now this week put to pen their opposition to a united Jerusalem. In a shocking and revealing legal brief, Peace Now opposed the designation of Jerusalem as “Israel” on American passports because this would “undermine the establishment of two capitals in Jerusalem,” and Peace Now believes that “any action that undermines the establishment of two capitals in Jerusalem jeopardizes the vital interests of Israel.”

The group presented its opinion to the U.S. Supreme Court in a petition brought to the court by estimable Washington attorneys Nathan and Alyza Lewin on behalf of my friends, Rabbi Dr. Ari and Naomi Zivotofsky of Beit Shemesh (whose son Menachem was the “delisted” American born in Jerusalem). The case had become an argument about presidential privilege in deciding foreign policy, since Congress has allowed the listing of Israel in the passports of Americans born in Jerusalem. Read more ..

The Digital Edge

TI calls Baseband a Distraction, but is it?

November 11th 2011

Technology - IC Layout

While Texas Instruments pushes forward quickly and aggressively with its OMAP mobile processor, some still wonder whether the firm's “strategic decision” to leave out baseband could come back to bite it.

While competing silicon vendors have rushed to integrate baseband onto their chips, TI has shied away from doing so, calling it a mere “distraction” and proclaiming itself glad to no longer be dealing with the connectivity side of the business.

“TI made a strategic decision in 2008 to phase out of the baseband segment and focus on two key Wireless growth areas: OMAP processors and wireless connectivity solutions,” said the firm’s Director of Strategic Marketing Avner Goren when confronted with the question. Read more ..

Arab Fall in Egypt

The Battle for Egypt: The Army Strikes Back

November 11th 2011

Egypt - Wary Egyptian Cops

This is of tremendous importance. I had previously written about how the Egyptian military felt forced by circumstances to play a bigger, longer political role in order to stem anarchy and prevent Egypt from becoming an Islamist state. Now there’s more evidence of that happening.

In an editorial that reflects also the Obama administration’s position, the Washington Post explained that the army having political power is bad and civilian rule is good:

    "The generals’ justification for their proposed decree will sound familiar to any student of the Mubarak regime: They claim to be protecting the country from Islamic fundamentalists, who appear likely to capture a plurality of seats in parliament." Read more ..

The Mideast on Edge

The Insanity of the Middle East: A Handy Guide

November 8th 2011

Islamic Topics - Islam vs Copts

Every day in the Middle East, terrible things take place. The worst are the material acts of violence and oppression. The second-worst are the lies and distortions of truth that help ensure things don’t get better. Every day in the West, the lies are echoed, amplified, and invented. This also helps ensure things don’t get better in the Middle East and that they do get worse in the West.

Now I’ve found, from the most unexpected place, a single sentence, an ancient proverb, that explains it all. It comes from the Navahos and it goes like this: You cannot awaken someone who pretends to be sleeping.

In other words, you cannot convince someone who is not merely mistaken but is deliberately lying. They have abandoned professional ethics, democratic and intellectual norms. They have embraced being propagandists and supporters of authoritarian and bloody regimes. Obviously, this doesn’t apply to everyone, and in those others are the hope for something better. It is those people, who honestly don’t realize that their leaders follow foolish policy, their newspapers all too often lie, and their universities (or at least significant sections of them) have abandoned the pursuit of truth in favor of the manufacture of lies. Read more ..

The Iranian Threat

Iran's Thuggish Behavior Endangers the World

November 7th 2011

Iran - Iranian women trample US flag

Quirky though it was, U.S. officials are convinced that the recently exposed plot to assassinate the Saudi Ambassador to Washington was the work of the vaunted Quds Force, the special operations branch of the Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corp (IRGC). As policymakers consider how best to respond to Iran's increasingly dangerous behavior they should look first to our own back yard south of the border.

To be sure, this plot demands a response. Pointing to the 1983 and 1984 Beirut bombings, the CIA reported in 1987 that "many Iranian leaders use this precedent as proof that terrorism can break U.S. resolve" and view "sabotage and terrorism as an important option in its confrontation with the United States in the Persian Gulf." Read more ..

The Iranian Threat

Iran’s MAD Strategy Has a Strategic Rationale

November 7th 2011

Iran - Iranian Qiam missile launch

My first book, The Iranian Islamic Revolution, published way back in 1986, dealt with the historicity of the 1979 Khomeinist Revolution in Iran. In it, I exposed the Khomeinist regime’s long-term ambitions and revisionist account of events that led to the Shah’s overthrow and Ayatollah Khomeini’s ascent to power in the alleged Islamic “Republic” of Iran. From my observatory in Beirut, where Hezbollah and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard (IRG) were growing into a force to be reckoned with in the region and beyond, I absorbed and digested the thinking and logic of Tehran’s strategists. Boiled down, that strategy involved sending as many mixed signals in as many directions as possible so as to confuse opposing forces and make them tentative. This would allow the Khomeinists to pursue their global ambitions with minimal opposition.

First, Tehran formed an alliance with the Assad regime in Syria. Next, Hezbollah was established in Lebanon and later, in 2003, penetrated Iraq’s Shia communities. Now, Tehran is about to achieve its most important goal since the inception of the Islamist regime—a strategic intercontinental ballistic missile arsenal capable of delivering nuclear and other lethal warheads. Military historians will undoubtedly debate the ins and outs of the Iran’s long trek to join the nuclear club. What they will find is a Western world that was fooled for decades. It remains to be seen whether the West’s current leaders will be able to stop this final phase in Iran’s jihadist strategy. Read more ..

Argentina on Edge

Argentina's Elections: A Paradox of Democracy and Absolutism

November 6th 2011

Argentina Topics - Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner
Pres. Cristina Fernadez de Kirchner of Argentina

The October 23rd presidential elections in Argentina have given a clear advantage to Cristina Kirchner, who was reelected president of Argentina with an overwhelming majority. Kirchner, of the Frente Para la Victoria – the Center-left wing of the Justicialista (Peronist) Party –took 54 percent of the vote, while her closest rival won 17% percent.

This will be Ms. Kirchner’s second term after being preceded by a full four-year term by her late husband, Nestor Kirchner. This means that at the end of the next presidential term Argentina’s politics will have been dominated by 12 years of Kirchner governance. She is barred from seeking a third term. This is why she is likely to pursue constitutional reform.

Last April, in a previous article in the Americas Report entitled, “Making Sense of Argentina’s Frenzied Policy” I wrote the following: “the Kirchners have behaved like dictators; intimidating the business sector every time there were price increases; attacking the media that criticized them and taking steps to destroy them while buying and co-opting media outlets they thought were supportive of the government." Read more ..

Mexico on Edge

Mexico Suppresses Human Rights Organizations

November 6th 2011

Mexican Topics - Juarez Mexico protest

Mexican authorities this past week suppressed two demonstrations in the border states of Chihuahua and Baja California. The actions drew sharp protests, and cast new doubt on Mexico's oft-stated commitment to uphold national and international human rights standards.

In the first instance, Ciudad Juarez police commanded by Julian Leyzaola broke up a November 1 march called by the Citizens Plural Front and other groups to demand justice for the 9,000-plus victims of the so-called drug war in the border city since January 2008. Read more ..

The Arab Winter

The U.S. Plan as the Islamist Winter Draws Near

November 6th 2011

Islamic Topics - Islamic Terrorists
Islamic Terrorists

As secular authoritarian regimes topple across the Middle East, there is the danger that governments with a pronounced Islamist bent will replace them. In the wake of the Arab Spring uprisings in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya, this phenomena bears close watching.
In Tunisia this week, the Islamist Ennahdha (Renaissance) party has become the largest faction in the legislature following the first elections held since long-time strongman Zine El Abidine Ben Ali fled into exile in January 2011. European Union monitors declared Sunday's elections free and fair, with Ennahdha capturing 40 percent of the vote. Failing to obtain an outright majority of seats in the 217-seat parliament, however, it will be forced to share power with the next largest vote recipients, two centrist secular parties.  Read more ..

Financial Jihad

Israel and the Apartheid Slander

November 6th 2011

Gaza Topics - Richard J. Goldstone
Richard J. Goldstone

The Palestinian Authority’s request for full United Nations membership has put hope for any two-state solution under increasing pressure. The need for reconciliation between Israelis and Palestinians has never been greater. So it is important to separate legitimate criticism of Israel from assaults that aim to isolate, demonize and delegitimize it.

One particularly pernicious and enduring canard that is surfacing again is that Israel pursues “apartheid” policies. In Cape Town starting on Saturday, a London-based nongovernmental organization called the Russell Tribunal on Palestine will hold a “hearing” on whether Israel is guilty of the crime of apartheid. It is not a “tribunal.” The “evidence” is going to be one-sided and the members of the “jury” are critics whose harsh views of Israel are well known. Read more ..

Edge on Terrorism

It is Time to End the Hypocrisy of Terrorist Designations that Confuse Friends and Foes

October 25th 2011

Iran - Maryam Rajavi of MEK Iran
MEK leader Maryam Rajavi

As two current high-profile cases demonstrate, the U.S. government’s practice of listing “foreign terrorist organizations” (FTOs) has become an increasingly dangerous and hollow political exercise rather than a sober assessment of the real threats to America.

Last month, Afghanistan’s ruthless Haqqani Network reportedly staged a brazen attack against the U.S. Embassy in Kabul. The Haqqanis, who conduct grisly terrorist attacks on hotels, embassies and other targets to advance their agenda to become power brokers in a future political settlement, reportedly are responsible for hundreds of American deaths since 2001. Some American military officers apparently are furious that the Obama administration decided not to designate the Haqqani Network as a terrorist organization because it was feared that listing the group would make it harder for the Afghan government to negotiate with the Haqqanis.

At the same time, the United States continues to list the Mujahedin-e-Khalq (MEK), Iran’s main opposition group and a declared democratic ally, as an FTO even though it meets none of the criteria and long ago renounced violence. Importantly, the group was the first to reveal Iran’s 20-year clandestine nuclear program and provided invaluable intelligence to the U.S. military in Iraq, which not only helped identify and neutralize Iran’s proxy terrorist groups operating in that country but undoubtedly saved American lives in the process. Read more ..

America's Occupation Season

50 Million Will March

October 24th 2011

Economy - Occupy Wall St Oct 2011

I believe that the first big winner of the 2012 campaign is the Occupy Wall Street movement, whether or not it participates in electoral politics. Before next April 30 there will be more simultaneous marches around the world that could inspire up to 50 million men and women supporting a more just economy.

In only 30 days, Occupy Wall Street has reshaped our national political narrative and brought back to center stage the great American question: Are we a nation of the people and for the people, or a nation where the few and the factions with the money can dominate the politics and finances of the nation?

Today there is another great bailout being negotiated in Europe. Protests continue to gain powerful support. There is a firestorm of outrage from consumers against new bank fees, a firestorm of demand from workers to create new jobs and a firestorm of outrage against corruption in business and politics. Read more ..

The Edge of Terrorism

Ramallah Lynch Mob Leader to be Set Free for Shalit

October 23rd 2011

Israel Topics - Shalit Graffiti

Among the prisoners released in exchange for kidnapped Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit is a murderer whose hands, if not his name, are burned into the Israeli consciousness forever.

In the year 2000, just as the second intifada broke out, two reserve soldiers took a wrong turn into Ramallah. They were taken to a local police station, attacked by a mob, and literally torn to pieces.

The aftermath of this vile atrocity was captured on video, and the appalling image of Abed Alaziz Salaha at the station window, holding his bloody hands up before a cheering crowd, immediately became one of the most iconic and horrifying symbols of the campaign of racist mass murder upon which the Palestinians had embarked. Read more ..

The Edge of Terrorism

Iran’s History of Violence

October 23rd 2011

Saudi Topics - Saudi embassy dude

Is there anyone who still doubts that Iran is a terrorist state?

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder’s announcement on Oct. 11 that a dual U.S.-Iranian citizen and a commander in Iran’s Quds Force, the special-operations unit of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), had been charged in New York for their alleged roles in a plot to murder the Saudi ambassador to the United States, Adel al-Jubeir, represents a brazen escalation in Iran’s struggle for regional dominance. But Iran’s willingness to use brutal means to achieve its foreign-policy goals is nothing new: Since the creation of the Islamic Republic, U.S. intelligence agencies have repeatedly identified terrorism as one of the regime’s signature calling cards.

The timing of this plot suggests Iran feels itself under increasing pressure, both from the international community (led by the United States) and from the regional alliance of Sunni states in the region (led by Saudi Arabia). Intriguingly, the plot seems to have been launched shortly after the Saudi-led military intervention in Bahrain against Shiite protesters, to which Iran objected loudly but was unable to affect. Read more ..

Economic Jihad

The Disingenuity of Divestment

October 17th 2011

Israel Topics - Richard Cravatts

The recent call by NYU’s chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) for TIAA-CREF to divest holdings in targeted companies doing business in Israel is part of a troubling trend that exposes dangerous radicalism on campuses disguised as efforts at achieving social justice. In 2010, for instance, student-led groups at both UC San Diego and UC Berkeley introduced initiatives to demonize Israel once again in the court of world opinion. One effort, disingenuously named “UCSD Divest for Peace,” was aimed at divesting university funds from U.S. companies which benefit Israel and which take a “non-neutral financial stance in the occupation of Palestinian territories.” The Berkeley initiative, endorsed by 41 student groups in March 2010 and cynically named “A Bill In Support of UC Divestment From [Israeli] War Crimes”—promoted by broader an anti-Israel effort named the “U.S. Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel.”

The latest NYU effort, an “Open Letter to TIAA-CREF CEO and President Roger W. Ferguson from NYU Faculty and Staff,” signed by over 70 members of the NYU community, has as its purpose “to pressure TIAA-CREF into divesting its holdings in 5 key companies which profit from the illegal Israeli occupation and oppression of the Palestinians.” It has at its core the same baseless accusations and libels against Israel, namely, that companies like Caterpillar “sells the bulldozers used by the IDF to destroy Palestinian homes, infrastructure, and fruit and olive trees;” Elbit Systems provides “drones used to kill Palestinian and Lebanese civilians;” Northrop Grumman builds weaponry that “Israel needs to defend itself from crowds of children throwing stones;” Veolia “operates a light-rail system linking Israel’s illegal settlements to Jerusalem;” and Motorola “manufactures surveillance equipment for Israeli checkpoints” [emphasis added]. Read more ..

Economic Jihad

NYU Israel-Divestment Push Ill-conceived

October 16th 2011

Congressional issues - Gary Ackerman (D-NY)

I strongly condemn the ill-conceived and dangerous effort by some of the professors and staff at NYU to instigate divestment from American and Israeli companies by TIAA-CREF. While they have managed to assemble a pastiche of smears and falsehoods against Israel, they have not actually come up with anything resembling a sound rationale for divestment.

The faculty and staff who signed the open letter to TIAA-CREF claim the companies they list are profiting from the so-called “occupation of Palestinian territories.” What they actually seem to be most upset about is that these companies and the goods they produce enable Israel, the only true liberal democracy in the Middle East and a staunch American ally, to defend itself, protect its citizens, and fight back against relentless terrorist assault targeting Israeli civilians.

Strangely, there is not a word of concern in their letter about the many thousands of Israelis who have been murdered or maimed by rockets falling on their homes, bombs going off on their buses, or by suicide bombers slipping into restaurants and religious celebrations. Likewise, no word is mentioned about the declared, and often repeated, intent of Hamas, Hezbollah, Iran, and their radical allies to destroy Israel altogether. Should we assume these erudite employees of NYU forgot, omitted, or are actually ignorant of this essential fact? Surely these exceptional educators wouldn’t cherry-pick the facts to present only one side of a complex issue. Read more ..

America’s Occupation Season

“Occupy Wall Street” Should Also Take Aim at Health Insurance Companies

October 12th 2011

Economy - Occupy DC Oct 2011

The lobbyists for U.S. health insurers surely have to be feeling a little uneasy knowing that thousands of Occupy Wall Street demonstrators who have been marching and protesting in Washington as well as New York and other cities might target them in the days ahead. After all, the headquarters of the insurers’ biggest lobbying and PR group, America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP), at 601 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, is just blocks away from Freedom Plaza, where the demonstrators have set up camp, and problems with health insurers appear to be near the top of the list of protesters’ concerns.

Health Care for America Now, an umbrella advocacy group that played a key role in the health care reform debate, last week analyzed the 546 comments that had been posted by then on the “We Are the 99 Percent” site. It found that 262 of the comments mention such problems as getting denials for doctor-ordered care from their insurance companies and having to forego treatment because of hefty out-of-pocket costs. Read more ..

Islam on Edge

Muslim Brotherhood Making Itself at Home in the United States

October 11th 2011

Islamic Topics - Muslim Brotherhood Jordan

They were the first modern terrorists and the forerunner of al-Qaeda. But these days, the Muslim Brotherhood is becoming mainstream not only in Egypt, but in Washington, D.C.

While the final chapter of the so-called Arab Spring has yet to be written, it appears that radical Islamic forces could emerge as the big winners. None more so than the Muslim Brotherhood.

In Egypt, Tunisia, Libya, Syria and Jordan, the Brotherhood has used unrest to increase its influence.

The group is also making inroads closer to home, according to one expert.

"Their goal is primarily deception, manipulation and intelligence gathering," former FBI Special Agent John Guandolo said.

Guandolo said Brotherhood operatives have infiltrated the halls of power in Washington, D.C.

"What we're seeing not just inside the White House, but inside the government entities, the national security entities, the State Department -- is a strong push by the Muslim Brotherhood to get their people not just into operational positions, but policy positions -- deeper, long term, bureaucratic positions," he told CBN News. Read more ..

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