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Israel on Edge

Why is Israel’s Largest NGO Undermining the Jewish State?

September 18th 2011

Israel Topics - jerusalem from mt of olives

It is a somber reflection on the naivety of well-intended Jewish philanthropists that they continue donating vast amounts of money to Israel’s largest NGO, the New Israel Fund (NIF). They do so despite repeated documented exposures demonstrating that this body is sponsoring anti-Zionist, pro-Palestinian and post- Zionist organizations, committed to undermining the Jewish state and promoting the narrative of the Palestinians as victims and Israelis as oppressors.

Many of the donors are liberal Jews genuinely committed to Israel who blindly accept at face value statements from NIF officials who obfuscate the truth. Read more ..

Egypt and Israel

An Egyptian Mob Attacks Israel’s Embassy—and Captures the Egyptian Revolution

September 14th 2011

Egypt - Egyptian protests at Israeli embassy

“You have always yearned for this chance and now you have it. A wind is blowing from paradise sweet with the smell of martyrdom.” – Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood’s leader Hasan al-Banna, December 10, 1947

“The world will see it is impossible to beat Arabs by force.” – Arab Summit Declaration, December 24, 1947

“Before I built a wall I’d ask to know / What I was walling in or walling out, / And to whom I was like to give offence / Something there is that doesn’t love a wall, / That wants it down!” – Robert Frost, “Mending Wall”

How is Egypt’s revolution different from a real democratic revolution, as in Eastern Europe? Here’s a symbolic way to remember it.

The most famous line, at least from an American, on the road to Eastern Europe’s transformation cane from President Ronald Reagan: “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!” Eventually the East German people did the job. The tearing down of the wall was a symbol of opening the borders, letting in the light of the outer world, throwing out the old totalitarian ideas that had sat on the people’s heads and pecked at their brains for decades.

While the tearing down of a wall in Berlin signaled a democratic and liberating revolution in Eastern Europe, it symbolizes the decision to make the Egyptian revolution the basis for a new dictatorship of hatred, blindness, and destruction. Read more ..

Central America on Edge

Central Americans Enter the Mexican Valley of Death on their way to the U.S.

September 11th 2011

Latin American Topics - Central American emigrants

Every year, 500,000 Central Americans pass through Mexico on an invariably dangerous journey to the United States in search of better opportunities, but it is unknown how many reach their intended destination. Migrants are regularly treated as second-class citizens during their journey; many fall victim to the violence of criminal gangs, resulting in assaults, sexual slavery, kidnapping, or murder. Civil society organizations often advocate the protection of migrant rights; however, in response to a wave of migrant-associated murders, the Mexican government chosen to take action. In light of the recent explosion of migrant killings, on May 25, 2011, a reform of Mexico’s Immigration Law was forced upon the government. Nevertheless, it is debatable whether or not this law reform will be enough to protect migrants.

Criminal gangs take advantage of migrants’ vulnerability

Local authorities have not only proven unable to adequately treat migrants with respect, but have themselves, on some occasions, also been linked to criminal activities that have added to the woes of those who are desperate to enter the U.S. The Mexican weekly Proceso reported that members of the National Immigration Institute (INM) kidnapped over 120 migrants on a bus in Tamaulipas going to the U.S. Migrants of Mexican, Central American, and Chinese origin are delivered to criminal gangs who exploit them for months before selling them into some form of servitude. It is no surprise then that migrants feel trapped in a situation where they are prevented from having an adequate outlet to hold human rights abuses accountable. Read more ..

Economic Recovery on Edge

The American People Can Handle The Truth About The Economy; Can Washington?

September 9th 2011

Contributors / Staff - Armstrong_Williams

Who does the Fed think it’s kidding? Somehow we are supposed to believe it that the economy is growing, inflation is under control, and the big banks the Fed has been spoonfeeding are somehow more solvent than they were two years ago. Fortunately, we live in a country where, despite the old adage, it is rarely possible to fool all of the people even some of the time.

That’s especially true of people who’ve already been fooled several times in recent memory. First it was the ratings agencies, whose reckless and conflicted business depended upon receiving billions of dollars in revenue from the very companies that they were supposedly rating. If that’s not an incentive for willful blindness, if not outright fraud, what is? The effect was that they were complicit with the big banks in duping the so-called “dumb money” (read public and private pension funds under mandate to invest only in highly rated securities) into investing workers’ hard earned savings into what turned out to be worthless junk securities.

When, finally, one of the agencies dared dip its toe in the waters of truth and recently downgraded U.S. sovereign debt (which, given its calamitous risk exposure, is still too highly rated), it was met not with a soothing reassurance that it was doing the right thing, but a baptism of fire and brimstone. In its vindictiveness, the U.S. Government immediately set to work supposedly investigating S&P of for its misdeeds. Where were the righteous Feds in 2007, when all of the ratings agencies gave Lehman Brothers AAA ratings right up until the day it collapsed? Why hasn’t there been a global discrediting of the ratings process after fully 90 percent of all the mortgage backed securities rated AAA by all three major ratings agencies have been downgraded to junk status? Read more ..

Financial Jihad

Anti-Israel BDS Claims Exposed as Fraudulent Time and Time Again

September 7th 2011

Europe Topics - Anti Israel demo Greece
Anti-Israel protest in Greece

No doubt the author of the Ynet August 31 piece “Is BDS campaign working” meant well in terms of alerting readers to the threat of not just BDS but the whole effort to de-legitimize the Jewish state. That said, accurate information is always required when analyzing a threat and, unfortunately, the writer chose to take BDS claims of success at face value, rather than digging beneath the surface for more accurate information.

For example, Agrexco (the Israeli flower grower that began his story) is going through financial difficulty not because of significant losses in exports, but due to a major drop in the domestic market (coupled with general business woes). Similarly 2009-2010 “divestment” from the Africa-Israel Corporation was not due to politics but to the company’s near hopeless debt situation, trigged by the 2008-2009 crash in the real estate industry. Read more ..

The 2012 Vote

Capped Malpractice Awards have Yielded No Benefits to the People of Texas

September 7th 2011

Social Topics - judge's gavel

In his quest to win the Republican presidential nomination, Texas Gov. Rick Perry is perpetuating a convincing hoax: that implementing Texas-style tort reform would go a long way toward curing what ails the U.S. health care system. Like his fellow GOP contenders, Perry consistently denounces “Obamacare” as “a budget-busting, government takeover of healthcare” and “the greatest intrusion on individual freedom in a generation.” He promises to repeal the law if elected.

Unlike those in the “repeal-and-replace” wing of the Republican Party, however, Perry has emerged as leader of the “repeal-and-let-the-states-figure-it-out” wing that believes the federal government has no legitimate role in fixing America’s health care system. “To hear federal officials tell it, they’ve got all the answers on health care and it’s up to the rest of us to sit, wait and embrace whatever solution—if any—they may eventually provide,” Perry wrote in a newspaper commentary in 2009. “I find this troubling, since states have shown they know a thing or two about solving problems that affect their citizens.” Read more ..

Energy and Environment

Federal Carbon Capture Program Risks Mass Fatalities and Delirium

September 7th 2011

Energy / Environment - carbon emissions

Oil and gas companies believe that carbon capture and storage (CCS) will allow fossil-burning to continue unabated, but health leaders expose the potential for widespread human fatalities in the event of accidental leaks.

The United States Department of Energy has pledged to match Masdar’s $700,000 carbon capture research program with $3 Million of US taxpayer money.

In collaboration with RTI International, an independent, international non-profit organization that has worked closely with the DoE for 25 years, Penn State University and two other American companies, Masdar intends to revolutionize the CCS space so that the world can continue to burn coal, gas, and oil without worrying about the impact that doing so will have on escalating climate changes. Read more ..

The Obama Edge

Some Strategic Thinking by Obama Needed on Israel

September 5th 2011

Obama Admin Topics - Obama calling

Seven months ago, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton expressed strong U.S. opposition to the Palestinians’ unilateral statehood bid at the United Nations. One month ago, Congress threatened to cut off U.S. aid for the Palestinian Authority if it carried on. Yet President Mahmoud Abbas is still moving full-speed ahead to September with his U.N. initiative.

The Obama administration and Congress have rightfully taken a firm stance against unilateral recognition of a Palestinian State. But with every sign indicating that the Palestinian leadership won’t be changing course, it’s time for the White House to assert a more active approach to blunt the potential impact of this collision.

The United States must begin a vigorous public effort to lobby other countries, large and small, to oppose the Palestinian effort and join President Barack Obama in pressuring the PA to call it off. Acting decisively now, we can persuade the Palestinians not to press ahead with this damaging course – which undermines our quest for peace and risks anti-Israel terrorism and violence on the Palestinian side, when carelessly raised hopes are dashed. Read more ..

Financial Jihad

Australian Newspaper Likens Anti-Israel Boycotters to Nazi Stormtroopers

September 4th 2011

Jewish Topics - Max Brenner Boycott Protest

A leading Aussie newspaper, The Australian, has editorialized about the Nazi-style tactics of the anti-Israel boycott movement, patterned after and evolved from the one begun by the Hitler regime. During the 1930's, Hitler's Brownshirts, disrupted concerts featuring Jewish performers, and picketed Jewish shops. Australians were shocked to recently find that while Arabs were being slaughtered daily by dictators in Syria, Yemen, Libya, Palestinian agitators caused a public ruckus at a popular Israeli-owned chocolate shop.

"A few weeks ago it was a chocolate shop in Melbourne, targeted by pro-Palestinian activists because it is part of an Israeli chain," warned the Australian. Then "it was the Royal Albert Hall in London, where about 30 demonstrators disrupted a Proms concert by the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra. So noisy were they that the BBC had to interrupt its coverage twice, although the orchestra, under the baton of one of the world's leading conductors, Zubin Mehta, kept on and managed to play all four pieces on the program, including Max Bruch's violin concerto No 1 in G Minor." Read more ..

Edge of Terrorism

Prominent Son of Murdered Governor Abducted in Lawless Pakistan

August 26th 2011

PakistanTopics - Shahbaz taseer
Shahbaz Ali Taseer

Shahbaz Ali Taseer - son of the slain Governor Punjab Salman Taseer - was kidnapped by armed men in Lahore, Pakistan. According to eye witnesses, Shahbaz Taseer was going towards his company office "World Call" located at 103C2 Gulberg Lahore, at around 10:54 a.m. Just a few meters away from the office, a motorcycle intercepted Taseer`s Mercedes Benz SLK 200, bearing the license plate LZT 1. When he stopped, more than 4 armed men came out of a black Toyota Land Cruiser and kidnapped him at gun point.

The abductors threw away Shahbaz Taseer`s iPhone, 2 cell phones and the laptop and drove towards DHA ( Defence Housing Authority) over the Calgary Bridge. Read more ..

Nicaragua on Edge

Murder of Nicaraguan priest Stirs Up Popular Resentment during Presidential campaign

August 25th 2011

Latin American Topics - Nicaraguan crime unit
Nicaraguan criminal forensics unit

The Catholic Church in Nicaragua confirmed on August 23 that a body recovered that morning at the Kilometre 16 marker on the road from Managua to Leon was indeed that of Fr. Marlon Ernesto Pupiro Garcia of the province of Masaya. According to the Archdiocese of Managua, Fr. Pupiro had been missing since August 20 under as yet to be discovered circumstances. The sacristan for Fr. Marlon's parish in the town of La Concha, José Ignacio Moraga Sánchez, told local media that the priest arrived on time every day to open the church for the morning liturgy. On the morning of August 20, when the priest did not arrive, the sacristan walked along the road but did not find him.

The press office of the Archdiocese of Managua said that the priest's body was brought to La Purisima parish, in the municipality of La Concepcion, Masaya province, where the Metropolitan Archbishop Jose Brenes Solarzano and Auxiliary Bishop Silvio Baez and the clergy of the archdiocese celebrated a memorial Mass on the evening of August 23. Read more ..

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 ..

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