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Germany on Edge

The Wall That Couldn’t Stop History, Remembered

August 22nd 2011

Germany - Bernauer Strasse

For years, the German boulevard known as Bernauer Strasse ran through nearly the middle of Berlin, north to south. It was a street of commerce, where families grew up and friends met.

Then, quite suddently in 1961, East German police started doing something very strange. Through the middle of the street, they began methodically laying brick after brick; cinder blocks held together with an abundance of mortar.

Right before people’s eyes, the Berlin Wall was being born. Read more ..

Inside Geopolitics

The Calculus of Humanitarian Warfare and Economic Interests in America's Foreign Affairs

August 22nd 2011

Africa Topics - Victims of LRA

Nearly 14 years ago, I stood in a cassava patch trundled to mush by gun-trucks driven by boy soldiers in the Revolutionary United Front, a guerrilla gang that raped and bled the West African nation of Sierra Leone.

Nearby were rice paddies in a similar state of ruin and, buried along the cusp of the ever encroaching jungle, dead old men, young mothers and their children, anyone too slowed by age or pregnancy to escape when the RUF raided the Mende village of Pundaro.

Armed by a Liberian warlord, led by a gaggle of psychotic cutthroats with names like “Mosquito Hitler” and “Kill Kill Man,” often employing shock troops as young as seven years old stolen from their murdered parents, the RUF and the mutinous government soldiers who once fought them ruled Sierra Leone in 1997.

And it was a scrum of their victims who surrounded me.

“When will America come to save us?” a farmer asked. “We are dying here.”

So they were, as the spent brass shell casings from a RUF antiaircraft gun turned on women and infants proved. In fact, the only thing guarding the people of Pundaro were 28 bodies of the RUF littering the lone road through a neighboring ghost town, a village so shot up and deserted I couldn’t gain its name. Read more ..

The Obama Edge

Planned NASA Shift is a Dumb Move

August 17th 2011

Technology - atlantis landing
Credit: NASA

As virtually everyone in this country remained engrossed in the debt ceiling negotiations, another Federal feat occurred that received very little media notice—even though it has broad implications for our country.

I’m referring to the landing—and final grounding of the U.S. shuttle fleet—of Atlantis following its final 13-day mission.

That’s right folks, after yesterday, there will not be another U.S. spaceflight for at least four to five years, according to industry experts.

You see, someone at the White House had the bright idea that the federal government shouldn’t be in the manned exploration of space business anymore, but rather the private sector should be. Read more ..

Edge on Europe

The Berlin Wall: Fifty Years Later

August 15th 2011

Europe Topics - Berlin Wall jumper

Exactly 50 years ago, a tiny group of people masterminded a mammoth operation in utmost secrecy, using a vast amount of resources which their country, ravaged by shortages, could not afford. The Berlin Wall was built -- or rather, laid out in barbed wire -- on August 13, 1961 in the space of just a few hours. Yet it was to stand until 1989, the defining symbol of the Cold War and of Communist might and inflexibility.

At that time my parents were living in Charlottenburg, West Berlin, as my father was completing his National Service in the British Army. He was a linguist and had joined the Intelligence Corps, learning Russian at a hectic military pace (100 words a day, with weekly tests – if they failed any, they were sent back to the Infantry.) Their task was to snoop on the Soviet soldiers who had been drafted to the city in huge numbers. Read more ..

The Edge of Terrorism

Federal Lawsuit Links Iran to 9/11 Terror Attacks

August 11th 2011

Terrorism - WTC on Fire (credit: Macten)

In just a month, America will observe the tenth anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

Over the past decade, the U.S. government has relentlessly pursued the al Qaeda masterminds behind that day’s catastrophic events: Osama bin Laden has been killed, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed has been captured and Ayman al Zawahiri remains on the run.

But a new federal lawsuit claims that the tentacles behind the deadliest terror attack in American history stretch even further than al Qaeda—all the way to Tehran.

The suit was recently filed in a Manhattan court on behalf of the families of 9/11 victims. It accuses the Iranian government of having advance knowledge of the attacks and helping to facilitate travel for the 9/11 hijackers. Read more ..

Religious Freedom

Pakistan’s Blasphemy Laws

August 11th 2011

PakistanTopics - Pakistani Christians protest

Not even children are exempt from the possibility of triggering Islamic rage.

Pakistan’s notorious blasphemy laws can put even children at risk, and Christians say the days when they could teach their offspring pat answers to protect them from accusations of disparaging Islam or its prophet seem to have passed.

A 30-year-old Pakistani woman who grew up in Lahore said her Christian parents taught her formulaic answers to keep from falling prey to accusations under the blasphemy statutes, such as “I am a Christian, I can only tell you about Him.” But even then, before radical Islamists began influencing Pakistani society as they have in recent years, schoolchildren were taught not to discuss religion, she said.

“We knew never to get into religious discussions with others,” she said. “We had them at home—our parents would put us through the drill of asking us tough questions to see how we answered. Only now I realize that was practice for school.” Read more ..

The Edge of Terrorism

In Norway It's Forbidden to Discuss Political Enablers of Terrorist Groups

August 7th 2011

Europe Topics - Anders Breivik nutbag

“I do not understand Norway’s position, and I say that as a friend of Norway. If they shoot, if they fire rockets, why doesn’t Norway believe that they are terrorists? What else do they need to do? Let us not forget that Norway and the other Scandinavian countries called in Yasir Arafat and said: `If you want a deal, you must first renounce terrorism. You must recognize the state of Israel, and you must commit yourself to peace.’ Why is all this forgotten? What is the difference between the PLO at that time and Hamas today?”Israeli President Shimon Peres, May 2011

We want Palestine in its entirety—so there will not be any misunderstandings. If our generation is unable to achieve this, the next one will, and we are raising our children on this. Palestine means Palestine in its entirety, and Israel cannot exist in our midst…. We liberated Gaza through resistance. We want to conduct resistance in the West Bank as well.”Hamas leader Mahmud Zahhar, July 2011, a few days before members of Norway’s ruling party expressed enthusiasm for helping Hamas.

Ironically, the reaction to my article, “The Oslo Syndrome,” proved its thesis, the same point as the one President Shimon Peres made. If terrorism is empowered, terrorism is more likely to occur. That uncontroversial point has been blown up into something controversial by deceit. Read more ..

El Salvador on Edge

Journalists Targeted for Death in El Salvador as Environmental Disaster Looms

August 5th 2011

Latin American Topics - Water is worth more than gold, no mine
"Water is worth more than gold: no to the mine" - graffitti in El Salvador

In 2005, with the United States facing resilient resistance in Iraq, Newsweek reported that officials in the Pentagon were debating the use of the “Salvador Option,” referring to the US-supported death squads that terrorized El Salvador through the 1980s as part of the first ‘War on Terror.’

These groups were notoriously barbaric, using random violence, decapitations, torture and committing atrocities in order to spread terror. Independent media outlets were targeted and essentially silenced in the early 1980s by intimidation, attacks, kidnappings and murder. The violence and widespread repression were justified as part of a civil war against leftist groups that had taken up arms against the junta. The result was more than a million refugees and as many as 70,000 people killed over the course of a decade. Read more ..

Healthcare on Edge

Insurers Value Profits Over People

August 2nd 2011

Health/Medicine - medicine and money #2

Three of the biggest health insurers have announced quarterly earnings in the past few days. If Americans were able to eavesdrop on what executives from those firms tell their Wall Street masters every three months, they would have a better understanding of why premiums keep going up while the number of people with medical coverage keeps going down.

It only takes three words, when you get right down to it, to describe the real MO of those folks: profits over people.

CIGNA and Humana are scheduled to report earnings this week. The three companies that have already spoken— UnitedHealth, WellPoint and Aetna—earned a combined $2.51 billion from April through the end of June, more than analysts expected. On a per share basis, their earnings were up more than 17 percent on average compared with the second quarter of 2010. Read more ..

Mexico's Wars

The Intertwined Roots and Resilience of Organized Crime in Mexico and the U.S.

July 28th 2011

Mexican Topics - Mexico bullets crime scene

Mexico’s ongoing spasm of violence and mayhem is frequently portrayed in the US media as a Mexican phenomenon that threatens to spill across the nation’s borders and sweep up hapless cities in the relentless expansion of powerful, foreign criminal organizations. Looking south, many US citizens gasp in horror as they watch a mounting death toll from the so-called drug war and the seeming break-down of any semblance of civilized behavior and law and order south of the border.

In an interview, Dr. Howard Campbell, professor of anthropology at the University of Texas at El Paso and the author of articles and books on cross-border drug culture and violence, contended that a distorted picture of Mexican reality is often conveyed in this country. Read more ..

Edge on Terrorism

Where the Violent Right meets the Violent Left

July 27th 2011

Europe Topics - Anders B Breivik
Anders Breivik

The horror of mass murder in Oslo last week begs nothing as much as distance. All the first comments were wrong. Knowledgeable people - "experts" - were sure it was Muslims and wondered why Norway was a target since Norway is certainly hospitable to Muslims and hostile - sometimes virulently hostile - to Israel. Maybe it was the Mohammed cartoons, maybe it was Norway in NATO, but something clearly made Norwegian politicians - and children - enemies of jihadist Muslims.

That didn't even make sense. Of course, the truth doesn't seem to make sense either - that it was a Norwegian man who was anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant, anti-liberal in the extreme, who rather than killing the object of his hatred killed Norwegian children. Read more ..

Marching Rightward

Europe's Extreme Right has Cleaned up its Act but Still may Contemplate Direct Action

July 26th 2011

Hungary Jobbik party svastika
JOBBIK party rally in Hungary

The attack in Norway has prompted a debate in Europe over whether the recent electoral success of far-right parties has had any causal linkages to the attack of extremism on full display in Oslo.

Recent success of far-right parties across Europe has actually a lot to do with the fact that the extremist far right has cleaned up and become part of the mainstream. One of the main avenues of electoral success has been the idea that the far right, especially in Nordic and northern Europe — so countries such as Sweden, Finland, Denmark, the Netherlands — that the far right in these countries is actually the last bastion of liberalism and protector of European-styled tolerance. The idea being that the reason these parties are anti-immigrant is because immigrants coming to Europe, specifically Muslims, are intolerant and that they therefore cannot be part of a tolerant, liberal society. This has played very well with voters in northern Europe. Read more ..

Financial Jihad

BDS and Limited Boycotts: a Distinction without a Difference?

July 25th 2011

Contributors / Staff - Gerald Steinberg

Since independence in 1948, Israel has been confronted by boycott campaigns, beginning with the Arab League’s extensive embargo that continues in many countries. The objective of this form of warfare was and remains the rejection of the sovereign Jewish nation-state, regardless of boundaries.

In 2001, the Non-Governmental Organizations Forum of the United Nation’s Durban “World Conference against Racism” expanded this campaign in the form of the BDS (boycott, divestment, and sanctions) movement. The NGOs at Durban, including global powers such as Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, adopted a final declaration, sponsored by Palestinians and written during a preparatory conference in Tehran, calling for “the imposition of mandatory and comprehensive sanctions and embargoes, the full cessation of all links (diplomatic, economic, social, aid, military cooperation, and training) between all states and Israel.”

After Durban, the BDS movement’s first action in 2002 focused on a boycott of Israeli academic institutions, led by British trade union activists and NGOs. Additional campaigns target large Israeli firms (including banks), export products, and tourism. The NGO boycott movement has become a major form of “soft power” warfare, reinforcing the ongoing security threats faced by Israel. Read more ..

Egypt after Mubarak

Muslim Brotherhood Now Opposes Protests as Zionist Plot

July 25th 2011

Egypt - Members of Muslim Brotherhood

Here’s how revolutions—at least ultimately undemocratic ones—work. During the initial phase, when protests are against the old regime, they are cheered as symbols of freedom. Once the old regime has been overthrown, however, protests against government policies immediately become actions by counterrevolutionary subversives that should be suppressed.
The scene switches to … the great Egyptian democratic revolution.

The official Muslim Brotherhood website, Ikhwan Online, has now accused former Mubarak government saboteurs and “their Zionist allies” of trying to destabilize Egypt by infiltrating ongoing protests in Tahrir Square. That opens the door, of course, to a future Egyptian government banning demonstrations on the grounds that they are being fomented by counterrevolutionary reactionary Zionist American imperialist running dogs. Read more ..

Looking Back

A Young Spaniard Betrays a Cause and joins the Fifth Column to Survive--and Tell the Tale

July 25th 2011

Europe Topics - Spanish Civil War recruiting poster
Catalonian recruiting poster

When Spain’s Civil War came in 1936, Gaspar Viana lived in a small farming community in the province of Guadalajara called Peralveche. Located in Castile, Peralveche had “neither fascists nor reds,” according to Viana. “In town, we didn’t know anything about what was going on in Madrid, where they had already killed the Economics Minister, they had burned down convents, and the Montaña barracks had rebelled. We only knew what was going on at home.” Viana noted “There wasn’t a newspaper or anything.”

Nothing, apparently, had prepared the then young Spaniard for the coming war between the Republican government and its leftist, Soviet, and anarchist allies on one side, and Francisco Franco’s Nationalist troops, Italian fascists and German Nazis on the other. Tensions had been growing throughout 1936, but neither Viana or his father were aware. Proof of the establishment of the Second Republic came in 1931 when Viana was 13 years old. While planting oats at their small place, Viana’s father asked a neighbour “Irene, what are those rags you have put up?” The woman answered, “Cirilo, it’s the banner of the Republic that has been installed in Spain!”

This sort of disconnection between the rhythms of the earth, and the mechanized and electric onslaught that marked the European wars of the 20th century, was notable in many places in Spain. Despite some material advances, Spain was largely poor and rural as Gaspar Viana grew to manhood. Read more ..

The Obama Edge

Defense Spending is Not the Opposite of Domestic Spending

July 22nd 2011

Military - USS George Washington

The Constitution obliges our government to provide for the common defense. Determining against whom, under what circumstances, with what capabilities and under whose direction is the prerogative of the President, the Commander in Chief. The military services carry out the directives of the President, so the priorities of Service Chiefs and the Joint Staff carry great weight in determining how the military is organized, and what it requires in terms of manpower, equipment and training. Congress pays the bills and can fund - or defund - any number of presidential or military priorities. Thousands of moving parts go into the creation of the Defense Budget, and thousands more into the creation of a military that is able to respond to the security challenges we face.

Unfortunately, America's deficit difficulties have resulted in Congress and the Administration trying to "match" priorities for cuts in domestic spending with priorities for cuts in defense. If "one side" has to slash agriculture subsidies and housing vouchers, the "other side" has to cut airplanes and submarines. If "one side" wants to preserve Social Security at current levels, the "other side" has to cut military R&D. Or, if the "other side" wants to preserve veterans' benefits and increase funding for PTSD and the long-term disabled (IEDs in Iraq and Afghanistan have created a veteran population that will require extensive care for years), it has to trade off the future size of the force.

Nothing says defense spending cannot be cut; indeed, it already has been - Tom Donnelly and Gary Schmitt of the Heritage Foundation remind us that in 2009, $330 billion was cut from future procurement programs and another $78 billion came off in 2010. Add in the newly proposed $400 billion and more than $800 billion comes out of planned levels of defense spending; more, if certain people have their way. Read more ..

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 ..

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