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The Race for Alt Fuel

CNG Conversions Still Going Nowhere Fast

July 17th 2011

Automotive - CNG Toyota trunk tank

So the price of gas goes up again, and everyone wants to jump on the CNG bandwagon: the investors, the dreamers, the educators, the regulators, the politicians, the everyday driver—and the list goes on and on. The only problem is that there is one big CNG roadblock. No CNG conversions available at a decent price for the common man, no one has any money, and the rules-and-regulations bogeyman is hovering. Yes, there are new vehicles with EPA certifications for $40K that come with government handouts for their purchase, and there are a few older OEM CNG vehicles still on the road. But there still isn't a readily available conversion system.

Why is that? I will tell you why: the average driver in the United State drives a vehicle that is so over-regulated for emissions that if they are faced with something as revolutionary as converting to natural gas and their check engine light comes on, they go screaming to the closest governmental agency or dealership for protection. Read more ..


Healthcare on Edge

Insurance Exchanges Tilted toward Insurers—not Consumers

July 17th 2011

Politics - john hickenlooper colo gov
Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper (D)

The insurance industry made it abundantly clear this week that it is in the driver’s seat—both in Washington and in state capitals—of one of the most important vehicles created by Congress to reform the U.S. health care system.

The Affordable Care Act requires the states to create new marketplaces—“exchanges”—where individuals and small businesses can shop for health insurance. In the 15 months since the law took effect, insurers have lobbied the Obama administration relentlessly to give states the broadest possible latitude in setting up their exchanges. And those insurance companies have been equally relentless at the state level in making sure governors and legislators follow their orders in determining how the exchanges will be operated.

When Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius announced the proposed federal rules governing the exchanges on Monday, insurance executives must have been doing high fives all over the country. Read more ..


Edge on the Media

Humbuggery, Hacking, and Media Infighting in the Demise of News of the World

July 13th 2011

Media - Hugh Grant plenty hacked off

I cannot join a mass movement for which Hugh Grant is a spokesman. Understandably, Mr. Grant has a grudge against London tabloids. For years they have pursued him, photographed him, lied about him, and shamed him. He fought back. He won. The News of the World is dead.

But when the star of Four Weddings and a Funeral becomes a star of a campaign to kneecap the international media conglomerate News Corp, something stinks.

A couple of months ago in the New Statesman, Mr. Grant published an account of how he had secretly recorded an incriminating interview with former NOTW journalist Paul McMullen. The Guardian described this as “fearlessly calling Rupert Murdoch to account.” Read more ..


The Edge of Terrorism

Congress Hears Again About Hezbollah’s Role in Latin America

July 12th 2011

Terrorism - chavez nasrallah poster

The Committee on Homeland Security met on July 7th to discuss Hezbollah’s growing influence in Latin America. Testifying at the hearing were Roger Noriega, former Under Secretary of State for the Western Hemisphere and American Ambassador to the Organization of American States; Douglas Farah, Senior Fellow at the International Assessment and Strategy Center and a former Washington Post journalist; Ilan Berman, Vice President of the American Foreign Policy Council; and; Dr. Melanie Cammett, professor at Brown University.

Many of the points raised at the hearings have been written before including by authors at the Menges Hemispheric Security Project but new material was presented, as well. Read more ..


Healthcare on Edge

It’s Time to Get Outraged about Health Insurance

July 11th 2011

Health/Medicine - medicine and money #2

One of my favorite bumper stickers reads, “If you’re not outraged, you’re not paying attention.”

That’s sort of how I feel about the health care debate. If more Americans paid attention to the fate of neighbors and loved ones who have fallen victim to the cruel dysfunction of our health care system, they would see through the onslaught of lies and propaganda perpetrated by special interests profiting from the status quo.

Since I started speaking out against the abuses of the insurance industry, I have heard from hundreds of people with maddening and heartbreaking stories about being mistreated and victimized by the greed that characterizes so much of the profit-driven American health care system. Read more ..


Iran's Nukes

Why Sanctions Against Iran Aren’t Working

July 7th 2011

Contributors / Staff - Avi Jorisch

It’s been nearly a year since the United States and its allies strengthened economic sanctions against Iran in an effort to force the Islamic Republic to abandon its nuclear weapons program. Thus far, these measures have yielded positive results. Yet problems remain.

Many banks around the world continue to do business with Iranian financial institutions that are complicit in supporting terrorist groups and spreading nuclear weapons. And branches of these designated banks continue to operate throughout some of the world’s financial capitals. Sanctions are a legitimately effective way to peacefully force Iran’s hand. But unless the international community cracks down on designated Iranian banks, the sanctions regime—however promising it may seem—will ultimately fail.

The reason that sanctions can work is simple: Iran needs money. Without hard currency, the country will find it far more difficult to support terrorist groups, incite violence, and develop nuclear weapons. Accordingly, the United Nations, the European Union, and the United States have taken steps to isolate Iranian banks that are suspected of funding such activities via the international financial system. Read more ..


The Edge of Terrorism

Takeover is the Taliban’s Plan for Afghanistan

July 5th 2011

Afghan Topics - Islamist terrorists

Before and after President Barack Obama announced the new U.S. strategy on Afghanistan, I engaged in a variety of media panels and private discussions with commentators and analysts from Arab and Muslim-majority regions of the world.

Some of the individuals I spoke with are close to the Taliban and others are critical of the Islamist militia. Contrary to the president’s assertions, all of these experts affirmed that Taliban morale is high and there is no sense of defeat among the jihadists.

The administration’s plan for Afghanistan may include reconciliation with the Taliban, but the latter have no plans that allow American gains, much less bilateral-negotiations, to end the conflict. Read more ..


Inside Africa

China is Unlikely to Replace the U.S. in the Hearts of Africans

July 4th 2011

Africa - China in Africa

In Africa we complain quite a bit about the United States as global policeman, trying to spread its brand of democracy, but if we had to choose between the United States and China as the world cop we’d go for Uncle Sam any day.

The Chinese “invasion” of Africa is no secret. They have come here in a big way in the past twenty years, building roads and bridges, sports stadiums, and other basic infrastructure. Now Africans are returning the favour. Whereas even two years ago African business-people would do their shopping in Dubai and Bangkok, now Dubai is the air hub where they change planes for Guangzhou, where even a Nigerian community has established itself.

But will China ever replace the United States in people’s hearts, despite everything, even if it surpasses the U.S. and becomes the world’s leading economy? Highly unlikely. Read more ..


Second Flotilla

Don't Be Fooled by the Next Gaza-Hamas Flotilla

June 29th 2011

Palestine Topics - More Gaza flotilla

We're on the verge of another "flotilla" to Gaza. Estimates of the number of ships and participants vary from day to day, tending downward, but the erstwhile organizers insist that the maritime operation will take place.

Their spokesmen have been hyperactive in drawing attention to the event. After all, without coverage, they'd be denied their oxygen. And the kind of coverage they seek - idealistic humanists and peace activists determined to aid the poor, beleaguered residents of Gaza versus stone-hearted oppressors in military uniforms determined to block them at all costs - would, needless to say, portray Israel in the worst possible light. Read more ..


Political Scandals

Sex, Lies, and Twitter

June 29th 2011

Contributors / Staff - Armstrong_Williams

What is it that makes us all think we can get away with it? And by all, I mean men. It seems that across the board, and irrespective of political affiliation, men have failed at exhibiting the better part of valor when it comes to sex. The recent and devastating implosions of once powerful men, whether Arnold Schwarzenegger, Congressman Anthony Weiner, or Senator John Edwards suggest a powerful connection between sex, power, and the public eye.

Let’s face it, married men cheat all the time. The alarming rate of divorce and out of wedlock births alone is evidence enough of this. So it should come as no surprise that men who reach the pinnacles of power succumb to some of the same temptations that mere mortals struggle with every day. Or should it? After all, people in power should know that fame can be a double-edged sword. It amplifies successes and failures alike. You would think that sexual discretion would be chapter one of the public figure’s handbook. And yet, time and again, the sexual indiscretions of powerful men spill out of the bedroom and onto the front page. Read more ..


Saudi Arabia on Edge

Saudi Arabia’s No Good, Very Bad Year

June 29th 2011

Arab Topics - King Abdullah and sword

Saudi Arabia—the spiritual center of the Islamic world, the world’s leading oil exporter, and the leader of the Arab world—is used to being the center of attention. But this year will be remembered as the moment when the world finally looked elsewhere for leadership.

It’s hard to imagine a more disastrous year for Saudi foreign policy. In January, Tunisian President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali fled from riotous mobs to exile in the Saudi port city of Jeddah. Now the new regime in Tunis wants him back to put him on trial. In February, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, a longtime Saudi ally, was forced from office. In the space of days, Washington went from words of support for Mubarak to saying it was time to go. Then in March, after Bahrain looked as if it may concede the principle of a government ruled through the will of the people, Saudi riot-control forces backed by tanks poured across the causeway to the island. Read more ..


The Battle for Libya

Toward the Endgame in Libya

June 29th 2011

Libya Topics - Muammar Qaddafi

The conflict in Libya is now dominated by deliberate offensive warfare conducted by the rebels and NATO, and both Muammar Qadhafi and his regime will likely be gone by the end of this phase. The confrontation has been, and will continue to be, a very dramatic event: a once-powerful and entrenched regime pitted against its people and now in its last throes. The conflict has also been instructive in many ways, serving as one model for the processes unleashed by the Arab Spring and teaching us about the resilience of regimes, the power of an angry people, and the challenges and limits of external military intervention.

The war is not over, though, and a favorable outcome is not assured. The rebels are rapidly gaining diplomatic recognition and financial assistance, but they still need military aid. For his part, Qadhafi shows no signs of ending the war except on his terms and is likely hoping for a diplomatic miracle to save his regime. The international community should avoid feeding that hope at all costs, rejecting any ceasefires or diplomatic solutions that do not include Qadhafi’s immediate and unconditional exit from the country, along with those who have sustained him. Read more ..


Venezuela and Colombia

The Santos-Chavez Reconciliation: A Multi-Layered Show of Weakness

June 22nd 2011

Latin American Topics - Chavez and Santos
Presidents Chavez (Venezuela) and Santos (Colombia)

The Presidents of Venezuela and Colombia, Hugo Chavez and Manuel Santos, signed an agreement in April that provided for a three month extension on trade preferences that were set to expire. This agreement is the result of several months of efforts to rebuild relations between the two countries. Relations have been tense in light of Chavez’s threats to Colombia including his purchase of arms, his protection and association with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and also with drug trafficking. Indeed, last year the two countries renewed diplomatic relations. The potential multi-billion dollar trade between the two countries constitutes an important factor in the eyes of the Colombian business community that does not want to see this trade stop. Read more ..


Religious Tolerance

With the End of Anti-Semitism Studies, Not Another Jewish Dime To Yale

June 17th 2011

Jewish Topics - YIISA

“The powers that be at Yale University view the institution as a mountain,” a faculty member who wished to remain anonymous recently told me over the phone, as we discussed their announcement of the imminent closure of YIISA, the Yale Initiative for the Interdisciplinary Study of Antisemetism. “They can’t be moved,” he continued, “They are not worried about the reaction from Jewish leaders, and there is no chance that they will go back on the decision.”

The indicators that the decision was politically motivated are numerous and well documented, specifically by Abby Wisse Schachter of the New York Post and Caroline Glick of the Jerusalem Post. Read more ..


Latin America on Edge

Native People of Brazil and Venezuela Rise Up Against Illegal Logging and Goldmining

June 15th 2011

Latin American Topics - Yanomami protest Brazil

It is a scene imbued with drama and tension: in the remote reaches of the rainforest on the Brazil-Venezuela border, a plane used by health workers is captured by a group of Yanomami. It is their second seizure of an aircraft in recent months, and their protest actions are both a sharp criticism and a demand for consultation in the political decisions that pertain to their health. It is the act of a people who have for years faced terrible abuses of their human rights, with insufficient support from the government. For the 32,000 members of the Yanomami people, their health and welfare rests in the hands of those removed from their experience and needs.

The Yanomami are one of the largest relatively isolated tribes in South America. Their lands constitute the biggest forested indigenous territory in the world. The Yanomamis' rights are protected under Brazilian law, and the current legislation requires that they be consulted regarding any matters that relate to their health. Read more ..


Religious Freedom

Yale Killed the Nation's Best Anti-Semitism Institute--But Why

June 15th 2011

Jewish Topics - YIISA

Yale just killed the country’s best institute for the study of anti-Semitism. If Yale doesn’t want it, Washington should grab the institute before it goes anywhere else.

For the past five years, the Yale Initiative for the Interdisciplinary Study of Antisemitism has flourished in New Haven, Conn. On a small budget it has sponsored research, visiting fellowships, papers and presentations on the most abiding and lethal hatred mankind has ever known — the one that brought us the Holocaust and that is once again racing around the world.

A few institutes for the study of anti-Semitism have sprung up globally — a couple in Israel and some in Europe and North America. Yale’s is the first in the States and the first to be closed down. Read more ..


Inside and Palestine

The Arab-Muslim Propaganda War About Jerusalem

June 8th 2011

Israel Topics - Western/Wailing Wall

The propaganda war by the Palestinian Arabs that began as soon as the Oslo agreements were signed has recently expanded to include an all-out assault on the idea that there has ever been any real Jewish connection to Jerusalem. Like the “revisionist” historians who claim that the Holocaust never happened, Palestinian Authority (PA) officials are attempting to falsify history in order to undermine the Jewish connection to the Holy City. Consider this recent posting on the official web site of the PA, written by Walid M. Awad, director of foreign publications for the PA’s ministry of information:

The city [Jerusalem] took the bulk of its shape, its divine character and historical ambiance since the Muslim Caliph Omar Ibn Al Kattab took Jerusalem without bloodshed in 639 AD….Almost 30 years of Israeli excavations did not reveal anything Jewish, no tangible evidence of theirs was unearthed….Jerusalem is not a Jewish city, despite the biblical myth implanted in some minds.

In a similar vein, PA official Sari Nusseibeh has written that “the historical ties and attachments of Palestinians” to Jerusalem “precede any Jewish claim to it.” Nusseibeh has gone so far as to accuse King Solomon of “exploiting Canaanite labor” in order to build the Temple. Read more ..


Israel on Edge

The Blood of Syrians is on Assad's Hands, Not Israel

June 8th 2011

Arab Topics - Golan Hts protesters 062011

Over the weekend, the Syrian government killed 122 people. What's that? You say some of them were killed by the IDF? No. The Palestinians killed on the Syria-Israel border were sent to their death by Bashar Assad, desperate to deflect attention from the more than 1,200 Syrians he has killed in the past few months, including another 100-plus over the weekend.

The West is slowly and reluctantly concluding that Assad more closely resembles his father - the Butcher of Hama - than the "reformer" Mrs. Clinton and Sen. Kerry want him to be. His victims include unarmed demonstrators, teenagers, women and people who were tortured until they died. More than 10,000 Syrians have been arrested by their government, many of whom disappeared without a trace and a few of whom were returned to their families in bags. Whole villages have been looted, and they're the lucky ones; tanks have rolled through others, firing. Read more ..


Edge on Terrorism

Osama bin-Laden: Tinker, Terrorist, Soldier, or Pirate?

June 7th 2011

Terrorism - Bin Laden with AK

Was it really necessary to wage war on the Taliban to rid the world of al-Qaeda's leader? Despite a disturbingly inept public-relations aftermath, the American raid on Osama bin Laden’s compound was a great success. Indeed, it was so successful that it should force us to reconsider the presumption that the war in Afghanistan was necessary in the first place. The logic is simple: if bin Laden was killed during a secret mission in Pakistan – a country with which America is not at war – could he and his followers have been captured or killed via the same strategy, without entering into a fully-fledged war in Afghanistan?

In just war theory, the relevant criterion of jus ad bellum – the right to wage war – is the requirement that war always be a last resort. If war may be precluded by some less violent, less catastrophic option, then we are obliged to take that option. If military raids and strikes against al Qaeda targets alone in Afghanistan were a feasible option, they ought to have been preferred over a full-scale war with the Taliban. Read more ..


Sports and Politics

Soccer’s Biggest Team Sells Its Soul to the Oil Sheikhs

June 6th 2011

Sports Topics - Barcelona FC before Qatar
Barcelona FC

In those countries where soccer is known as football—i.e., most of them—one word is guaranteed to recur throughout any conversation on the subject: Barcelona.

Barcelona’s supporters will tell you that their team is more than a word. Mes que un Club (More than a Club) is FC Barcelona’s motto, reflecting its self-regarding status as a concept, an idea, a history—even an ethic. For if soccer is the beautiful game, Barcelona supporters will boast, no team better embodies that quality than ours, both on the field and off.

We, they say, are nothing like Europe’s other star teams. Read more ..


Religious Tolerance

Death of Osama bin Laden Deflects World's Attention from the Plight of Pakistan's Christians

June 6th 2011

PakistanTopics - Pakistani Christians protest

The wave of terrorism and Osama Bin Laden`s killing has left the whole world doomed and glommed; it has not only cast a bad spell over US-Pakistan relations, it has also managed to sideline what was once considered to be 2010’s defining issues and 2011’s tragic and bitter realities: The status of Pakistan’s blasphemy laws.

Caught up in the thrilling world of espionage, the media and the authorities seem to have forgotten that somewhere, a woman is still being held in custody under a controversial blasphemy law.Apparently we have forgotten about Governor Salman Taseer and Minorities Minister Shahbaz Bhatti’s assassination. Read more ..


After Bin Laden

Bin Laden’s Defender: Noam Chomsky

June 5th 2011

Terrorism - Noam Chomsky
Noam Chomsky

Noam Chomsky showed his true colors in his published “reaction” to the targeted killing of Osama Bin Laden. He apparently thinks Osama Bin Laden is the innocent victim of a cold-blooded murder that is worse than if George W. Bush were to be assassinated in his “compound.” He doesn’t believe Bin Laden’s own admission of complicity in the murder of 3,000 people on 9/11, writing that it is about as credible as Chomsky’s “confession that I won the Boston Marathon.” Nor does he believe the evidence gathered by the 9/11 Commission, the grand jury that indicted Bin Laden, the numerous confessions and claims of responsibility by Al Qaeda operatives, and the video showing those who flew the planes in the presence of Osama Bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri. He believes there is absolutely no “evidence”—“nothing serious”—that Bin Laden played any role in 9/11. He also accuses President Obama of “simply lying when he said, in his White House statement, that ‘we quickly learned that the 9/11 attacks were carried out by Al Qaeda.’” To avoid any appearance of partisanship and to show that he is an equal opportunity despiser of all American presidents, he writes that “uncontroversially” President Bush’s “crimes vastly exceed bin Laden’s.” Read more ..


Insurance Industry on Edge

No Silver Lining in Gold Circle Junkets for Health Insurance Salesmen

June 5th 2011

Health/Medicine - CIGNA building

Well, darn. Another spring has arrived and I haven’t received my invitation to CIGNA’s so-exclusive-you’ve-never-heard-about-it Gold Circle event.

Considering what I’ve been disclosing about health insurance companies lately—their record profits and the anti-consumer practices that make those profits possible—the chances are pretty remote that I’ll be attending the 2011 Gold Circle. But it’s not just me. To my knowledge, the company has never invited a journalist to cover what amounts to a downright decadent gathering of some of the highest paid people in the country—health insurance salespeople. Read on and you’ll understand why.

The four-day Gold Circle meetings are always held at a fancy resort, and all the expenses are paid by policyholders who, I’m betting, have no idea their premiums are enabling a couple hundred well-heeled folks to take a few days off to just “relax and enjoy.” Read more ..


Obama and Israel

Obama Explains—And Makes It Worse

June 5th 2011

Contributors / Staff - Alan Dershowitz lecture

In his press conference with Prime Minister David Cameron in London on Wednesday, President Obama explained his thinking as to why he insisted that the first step in seeking a peaceful two-state solution between Israel and the Palestinians must be an agreement by Israel to accept the 1967 borders with mutually agreed-upon land swaps. Here is what he said:

“It is going to require wrenching compromise from both sides. In the last decade, when negotiators have talked about how to achieve that outcome, there have been typically four issues that have been raised. One is the issue of what would the territorial boundaries of a new Palestinian state look like. Number two: how could Israel feel confident that its security needs would be met? Number three: how would the issue of Palestinian refugees be resolved; and number four, the issue of Jerusalem. The last two questions are extraordinarily emotional. They go deep into how the Palestinians and the Jewish people think about their own identities. Ultimately they are going to be resolved by the two parties. I believe that those two issues can be resolved if there is the prospect and the promise that we can actually get to a Palestinian state and a secure Jewish state of Israel.” Read more ..


After the Balkan Genocide

An Inadequate Justice in the Case of Genocidal Ratko Mladic

June 4th 2011

Genocides - Ratko Mladic

“I don’t expect you to believe me, because I can’t believe it myself and I was there.”

These are the words that have haunted me for eighteen years, and these are the words that came amid the flood of memories when I heard that Ratko Mladic, the “butcher of Bosnia”, had finally been arrested. Back then, in 1993, the arrest of General Mladic would have been something to celebrate. In 2011, it is a hollow victory, too little too late, a ritual application of law that cannot deliver true justice but nevertheless must be done.

By 1993, after two years of war in Croatia and Bosnia, Mladic had already committed all the crimes for which he stands accused by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY): genocide, persecution, extermination, murder, deportation, inhumane acts, terror, unlawful attacks, and taking of hostages. The atrocities that followed, such as the massacre at Srebrenica, were just an extension of a deliberate plan, except Mladic became ever more flagrant, terrorised on a grander scale, and was increasingly abetted by the international community. Read more ..


Culture Clashes

The Miseducation of America

May 31st 2011

Contributors / Staff - Armstrong_Williams

Back in the “good ole days” (which usually tend to have occurred exactly one hundred years before the phrase is uttered), doing business in America was simple. Entrepreneurs completed deals using only back of the envelope calculations and a firm handshake. They didn’t need any of those Wall Street wizards with their fancy forecasting and analysis methods. Big Government wasn’t looking over your shoulder or strangling you with red tape. You didn’t need a fancy college degree to make something of yourself. All you needed to achieve wealth were willingness to work hard and a spark of inventiveness.

A profile of the typical millionaire in the United States seems to confirm this narrative. Most millionaires, according to the seminal book The Millionaire Next Door, didn’t make their money in some highly complex business. In fact, it was usually some ordinary business—say construction or dry cleaning—that vaulted them into the ranks of the wealthy. Although fairly educated—almost 80 percent have a college education—education was not the distinguishing factor that accounted for their wealth. Nor was it above average performance in the marketplace, inheritance, or even the type of profession they occupied. The single biggest factor among them was their propensity to save.

Wealthy people, on average, save a far higher percentage of their income than their non-wealthy counterparts. Some would argue that of course the wealthy save more, because they do not need as much of their income to cover living expenses as ordinary people. But the data refute this. The propensity to save is a precondition, not a result of wealth. Read more ..


Israel and Palestine

The Borders Everyone Agrees to—Except the Palestinians

May 31st 2011

Israel Topics - A map

Be scared. Be very scared.

In a shocking article in the Jerusalem Post, editor-in-chief David Horovitz reveals that Israel is totally unprepared for the possibility that the UN might grant the Palestinians a state in September and then try to impose this state on Israel against its will.

Previously, Israeli diplomats were complacent because they thought that even if the UN General Assembly overwhelmingly voted for the establishment of “Palestine,” such a vote would be merely “declaratory” and have no teeth, writes Horovitz.

But this is wrong. Research conducted by the Israel Project reveals that there is an obscure UN resolution, UNGA Resolution 377, that allows the General Assembly to press for sanctions and military force against a country that fails to implement its recommendations. Read more ..


Obama and Israel

Obama’s Recent Speeches Show Hostility To Israel & Support for Palestinian Positions

May 30th 2011

Israel Topics - Obama Netanyahu Abbas1

There are numerous and varied problems contained in President Barack Obama’s Middle East policy pronouncements in recent days. Here follows a detailed analysis of the failings of his approach articulated in his two recent speeches, one before the State Department on May 19, and the second before AIPAC on May  22, that mark out his policy towards Israel to be hostile and dangerous.

Bret Stephens of the Wall Street Journal in an article this week entitled “Obama—An Anti-Israel President”, wrote that President Obama showed contempt to Israel and its supporters this week. “His speeches were stocked with the perennial bromides about US/Israeli friendship which brought an anxious crowd to its feet.  As for the rest, it was a thin tissue of falsehoods rhetoric legerdemain, telling omissions and self-contradictions.” Read more ..


Edge of Climate Change

Don’t You Dare Connect Disasters to Climate Change

May 30th 2011

Disaster - Joplin MO May 2011 - Tornado
Tornado-damaged Joplin, Mo., May 2011 (credit: KOMU News)

Caution: It is vitally important not to make connections.

When you see pictures of rubble like this week’s shots from Joplin, Mo., you should not wonder: Is this somehow related to the tornado outbreak three weeks ago in Tuscaloosa, Ala., or the enormous outbreak a couple of weeks before that (which, together, comprised the most active April for tornadoes in U.S. history).

No, that doesn’t mean a thing.

It is far better to think of these as isolated, unpredictable, discrete events. It is not advisable to try to connect them in your mind with, say, the fires burning across Texas—fires that have burned more of America at this point this year than any wildfires have in previous years. Texas, and adjoining parts of Oklahoma and New Mexico, are drier than they’ve ever been—the drought is worse than that of the Dust Bowl. Read more ..


The Race for CNG

The Combustible Truth About CNG Conversions in the United States

May 25th 2011

Automotive - Autogas CNG conversion Bangladesh

For those of you that are starting to yearn for a CNG car to drive to ease your Gasoline Pump sticker shock, the sad fact is that there are very few options left in the U.S. for aftermarket (non-EPA) CNG Conversions. By the end of 2008 there were about 8 companies starting to import CNG systems into Utah. There were a few Aspirated systems: Diel, GN Group, and Galileo all out of Argentina. There were more Sequential Systems: Technocarb and Ecofuel out of Canada. There were Landi Renzo, Tommasetto Achille, and Lo-Gas out of Italy; Tec for Gas out of China; Auto Gas out of Poland; and Prins out of Netherlands. Read more ..


Israel and Palestine

Bush Letter to Sharon in 2004 on Israel Security

May 24th 2011

Israel Topics - Ariel Sharon and Geo W Bush chuckle
George Bush and Ariel Sharon's Exchange of Letters, 2004

On May 19, President Barack Obama set out on a new course for relations between the United States and the countries of the Near East, including Israel, and Africa. Speaking at the Department of State, President Obama declared "We believe the borders of Israel and Palestine should be based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps, so that secure and recognized borders are established for both states. The Palestinian people must have the right to govern themselves, and reach their potential, in a sovereign and contiguous state." Coming just a day before a meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, President Obama's statement was widely interpreted by observers in Israel and elsewhere that the Massachusetts-sized country should return to pre-1967 borders, ceding lands that were won in combat with Jordan and Egypt following an invasion by the assembled armies of the two countries, followed by decades of terrorist attacks by Palestinian terrorists who targeted both Israeli and American interests. Read more ..


Israel and Palestine

Obama Turning Back the Clock to 1949

May 23rd 2011

Israeli Military - Wailing Wall 1967

It's as if the 1967 war never happened and the Palestinians didn't murder thousands of Israelis. It's as if Madrid never happened and Oslo was a dream and Camp David a figment.

With his State Department speech on May 19, President Obama has turned back the clocks to 1949.

By asking Israel to negotiate based on the pre-1967 borders, he is acceding to a key Arab demand. True, the president said the two sides should agree on "land swaps" but no U.S. president had ever explicitly endorsed the 1967 lines as the starting point for negotiations.

As Robert Satloff of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy points out, that demand is contrary to U.N. Resolution 242, which stated that Israel was entitled to "secure and recognized" borders that would be agreed upon in negotiations (not imposed as a fiat at the U.N., as the Palestinians are threatening to do) as part of any peace deal.

In effect, it means that the U.S. view is that resolution of the territorial aspect of the conflict can only be achieved if Israel cedes territory it held even before the 1967 war.

The borders that Obama endorsed Thursday were famously called "Auschwitz borders" by Abba Eban. In response to Obama's speech, the Israeli government called the pre-1967 borders "indefensible." Read more ..


Healthcare on Edge

Health Insurance Companies Purge Small Businesses, Hike Profits

May 18th 2011

Economy - cancelled health insurance policy

You might not realize it, but this is National Small Business Week. I’m betting many small business owners aren’t aware of it, either. Perhaps that’s because most small business owners are far more likely to be worrying about whether they’ll be able to offer health insurance to their employees for another year.

Or is this the year they join the ever-growing list of small businesses that have been “purged” by their insurance carrier?

For several years now, insurance companies have been “purging” small business accounts they no longer consider profitable enough or that their underwriters believe pose too much risk. I became familiar with “purging” (yes, that’s the actual word insurance executives use internally) toward the end of my career as an industry PR man. Read more ..


Brazil on the Edge

Stranger Than Fiction are the Strangers Visiting Brazil's Slums

May 18th 2011

Latin American Topics - Brazilian favela
Brazilian favela slums

In the wake of President Obama’s recent visit to Rio de Janeiro, which included a tour through the notorious City of God slum, questions have been raised regarding the fate of Brazil’s hill-draped favelas. Brazilian and foreign officials have expressed concern related to the crime-infested favelas, especially in light of the upcoming Brazil-hosted 2014 FIFA World Cup and the 2016 Summer Olympic Games. In an effort to qualm international and domestic anxiety, municipal and federal forces are acting together to combat drug lords and rid favelas of potentially spoiling transgressors who could have a devastating impact on the country’s image. Read more ..


Peru on Edge

The Ollanta Humala Phenomenon and What it Means for Peru

May 18th 2011

Latin American Topics - Ollanta Humala
Ollanta Humala

On June 5th, a second round of elections will decide who the next president of Peru is going to be. The April 10th general election failed to produce a candidate with more than 50% majority. The competition is now between Keiko Fujimori and, Ollanta Humala.

Keiko Fujimori is the daughter of former President Alberto Fujimori. The former president is now serving a 25-year jail sentence for his connections to the activities of an army death squad. Fujimori also dissolved the Peruvian Congress in 1992, which was then controlled by the opposition parties. This self-coup strengthened the powers of the executive branch by providing it with legislative powers and enabled Fujimori to carry out an agenda without congressional opposition. Read more ..


Islam's War Against the Copts

Who Will Speak for the Copts?

May 18th 2011

Christian Topics - Coptic Girl

The Copts are the original descendants of the people of the Pharaoh dynasties, dating back to between 3,000 – 4,500 years ago. Christianity was introduced by the Mark the Evangelist and most historians date this to around 65 to 75 CE. The Christian monastic tradition began in Egyptand Islam did not dominate this region until after 651 AD when it was invaded by Arab Muslims.

On November 10, 2010, Dr. Ashraf Ramelah, founder and President of the human rights organization, “Voice of the Copts”, delivered a lecture on persecution of Coptic Christians in Egypt; he stated that ‘At the moment of invasion, Egypt was still ruled by Romans. The Egyptian people did not take sides in this battle between the Roman occupiers and the Arab invaders. Arab-Muslims succeeded in defeating the Romans and taking over the country.' Read more ..


Religious Freedom

Norwegian Academic Declares Norway the Most anti-Semitic Country in the West

May 18th 2011

Contributors / Staff - Hanne Nabintu Herland

Shimon Peres, President of Israel, made some critical—and timely—comments on Norway’s reluctance to follow the EU, the UN, and the US in denouncing Hamas as a terrorist movement. If one adds Harvard professor Alan M. Dershowitz’s article in the Wall Street Journal of March 30, it all makes me ashamed to be Norwegian. Under the title “Jews are not welcome in Norway,” Mr. Dershowitz told of his encounters with anti-Semitic Norwegian academics who made it clear that he was unwanted as a guest lecturer at Norwegian universities. This is how Norwegian intellectuals treat one the West’s most famous defense lawyers and an internationally renowned Harvard University professor.

I met Dershowitz in March during Oslo Symposium 2011. His description of the obvious anti-semitism and the lack of willingness to be objective that characterizes Norwegian academia is flat out shocking. During my opening lecture at the same Symposium Conference, I pointed out that the lack of nuance that characterizes the Norwegian understanding of the realities in Israel and the Middle East is not only shameless, but historically inacurate. Read more ..


Egypt After the Revolt

Egypt: Situation Deteriorating—Badly and Rapidly

May 18th 2011

Egypt - Qaradaqi in Cairo

In the wake of bloody Muslim attacks on Egyptian Christians, the New York Times informs us:

“By lifting the heavy hand of the Mubarak police state, the revolution unleashed long-suppressed sectarian animosities that have burst out with increasing ferocity …”

No kidding! Did you think a single Egyptian Christian didn’t know this in February? Why didn’t the media report or the U.S. government understand that this was absolutely inevitable and predictable? But the only mentions of Christians were to claim that they were really enthusiastic about the revolution. Read more ..


The Edge of Terrorism

Bin Laden, al Qaeda and the War

May 9th 2011

Terrorism - Hamas and flags

Yes, we're glad he's gone. But the war of the 21st Century remains a war against terrorists and the states that harbor and support them. The demise of no single man solves the problem of terrorism or of intolerant and radical Islamic fundamentalism.

Most of the credit goes to the continuity of American government and the faithful professionals who work across changes in administrations and Congresses. The CIA and U.S. Special Operations forces stayed with the problem, dug deep and deeper, marshaled resources and succeeded. Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and company appear to have given up the crucial information at Guantanamo during the Bush administration and, importantly, the Obama administration did not consider it inadmissible evidence. Read more ..


The Battle for Iran

An Iranian Suicide in the Name of Freedom

May 8th 2011

Iran - Siamak Pourzand
Siamak Pourzand

In his essay “The Myth of Sisyphus,” the French philosopher Albert Camus depicted suicide as an abdication of one’s responsibility to confront the absurdities, disappointments and frustrations that accompany human existence. Our inherent freedom, Camus believed, confronts us continually with the question of whether life is worth living. To answer in the negative is to reject that freedom.

What, then, are we to make of those who commit suicide in the name of freedom? I do not, of course, include suicide bombers in this category, since their purpose is to kill others in a method of murder which necessitates their own death. I am thinking of those who take only their own lives as a political act.

I am thinking of such individuals as Jan Palach, the Prague student who, in 1969, set fire to himself in public to protest the Soviet occupation of Czechoslovakia that crushed a brief flourish of political freedom the year before. I am thinking, too, of Szmuel Zygielbojm, an exiled Polish Jewish activist who, in protest at Allied indifference to the Holocaust, gassed himself in his dingy London flat in 1943. More recently, and far more obviously, there is the example of the young Tunisian, Mohamed Bouazizi, whose self-immolation has entered the popular imagination as the trigger for the current revolutionary upheavals across the Arab world. Read more ..



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