|Josh Kram||December 1st 2008|
The scene might have been a bar mitzvah: smiling guests circling the dance floor in a frenzied hora to the sounds of Hava Nagila. But there were clues—both big and small—that suggested otherwise. A dreadlocked keyboard player singing alternatively in Hebrew, English and Amharic. The smell of Ethiopian food wafting through the room. Yet, this was no bar mitzvah, but a recent event held at the Embassy of Ethiopia to celebrate the sub-Saharan country’s ties to Israel and the Jewish people.
“Ours is a shared history that goes back an extraordinary number of years—all the way back to Biblical times,” said Ethiopian Ambassador Samuel Assefa to the assembled guests. “From those ancient days until today, the branches of our family tree continue to weave themselves together.”
In wide-ranging remarks, the Ethiopian representative retraced that unique heritage shared by Ethiopia and the people of Israel. According to legend, the founder of the Ethiopian Empire, King Menelik, was a product of the union of King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba. Centuries later, Ethiopia was ruled by Emperor Haile Selassie, who traced his lineage directly back to Menelik and was known as the “Lion of Judah.” Read more ..
|Benedict Rogers||November 24th 2008|
Cutting Edge Burma Desk
Bangladesh is a country associated more with floods, cyclones and poverty than terrorism or radical Islamism. Indeed, it is a country founded on secular, democratic values and widely regarded as a moderate Muslim state. In recent years, however, militant Islamism has quietly been taking ground – and Bangladesh’s survival as a progressive state is on a knife-edge.
The warning signs have been there for some years, and some commentators have been sounding the alarm. In 2002, Ruth Baldwin wrote a piece in The Nation headlined: “The ‘Talibanisation’ of Bangladesh.” Hiranmay Karlekar wrote Bangladesh: The Next Afghanistan? While Maneeza Hossain’s Broken Pendulum: Bangladesh’s Swing to Radicalism and Ali Riaz’s God Willing: The Politics of Islamism in Bangladesh are all important contributions.
Perhaps the most visible and dramatic sign of the growth of extremism came three years ago. On 17 August 2005, between 11 and 11.30 am, 527 bombs were exploded in a massive attack on all but one of the country’s 64 districts. Such a carefully co-ordinated campaign of terror shocked the nation – but in many respects it was just the tip of the terror iceberg. Other terrorist incidents, including an attack on the Bangladeshi-born British High Commissioner, members of the judiciary and sporadic attacks on religious and ethnic minorities are further indicators of the presence of well-organised terrorist networks. Read more ..
The Obama Transition
|Martin Barillas||November 10th 2008|
Senior Cutting Edge Contributor
Newspapers across the world appeared to greet the election of Barack Obama with praise.
For example, in Kenya - the birthplace of the President-elect's father - the Daily Nation wrote on the day after the November 4 election, “Barack Obama’s victory over his Republican rival John McCain to become the 44th president of the US sparked off wild celebrations among Kenyans in the US. Like other Africans living in the US, Kenyans took to the streets with blaring car horns and loud music by Kenyan artists in their cars.” The paper added, “As Kenyans, we believe that with this win by our son, (America) will implement Africa-friendly policies that could lift not just the continent, but our nation from poverty.” Read more ..
Edge on Africa
|Priya Abraham||November 3rd 2008|
Cutting Edge Contributor
|Zambia President Rupiah Banda|
While desperate refugees flee eastern Congo in droves, and Zimbabwe buckles further under collapse, little attention has been paid to a crucial presidential election in the land in between, Zambia.
Following the August death of beloved President Levy Mwanawasa, considered by many observers as a rare good steward in Africa, the country had to hold a quick election to select a new leader.
On Oct. 30, Zambians elected to continue the late president's sound policies by voting in his deputy, Rupiah Banda, who will now serve out the rest of Mwanawasa's term which expires in 2011. The relatively smooth transition of October's election, branded free and fair by independent election monitors, has helped to prove Zambia's young democracy. After all, Africa's largest copper producer has seen only three presidents since independence and has never lost one in office. With a wispy 2 percent margin of victory, Banda was sworn in November 2, only two hours after election officials announced the final results. Read more ..
Coping with Fear
|Edwin Black||October 27th 2008|
Below the Old City walls in Jerusalem there is a ravine that begins as a gentle, grassy separation between hills, but then quickly descends south into the rocky earth. Eventually, the ravine becomes a steep, craggy depth, scarred on the far side by shallow caves and pits that vaunt hollowed-out chambers and narrow crypts.
Until recent years, everywhere one could see the scorches and smolder from trash fires. Rivulets of urine trickled down from open sewers at the cliffs above, watering thorn bushes, weeds and unexpected clumps of grass among the outcroppings. One could smell the stench of decaying offal, the congealed stink of putrefied garbage, and the absorbed reek of incinerated substances seared into the rock face. Crows circled low. Worms and maggots slithered throughout.
Listen. Imagine. Some cannot help but hear the tormented screams of babies being burned alive, the macabre incantations of the idolatrous in gruesome celebration, the agonized cries of helpless victims, and every other echo of death and disconsolation that dwells here so pervasively that not even the centuries can silence them.
Welcome to Hell. The real Hell. This is Jerusalem's Gei Ben Hinnom, the Valley of the Sons of Hinnom. The Valley was named for an alien non-Semitic family, the Hinnom clan that predated the First Temple period and immediately established the locale as a place of abomination. Gei Ben Hinnom became Ge Hinnom (Valley of Hinnom, and eventually Gehenna in English or Gehennem in Arabic and Hebrew. Read more ..
The Global Economic Collapse
|Brett D. Schaefer||October 20th 2008|
Cutting Edge Contributor
Prime Minister Gordon Brown of the United Kingdom asserted earlier this week that the financial crisis revealed the need to "rebuild our fractured financial system." The European Union echoed this sentiment in a call for "a genuine and complete reform" of the world's financial architecture. The heart of Brown's proposal is to enhance the power and authority of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank (known collectively as the Bretton Woods organizations) to create an unprecedented level of global governance to supervise financial institutions, impose universal standards for accounting and regulation, and serve as an early warning system for future crises.
The financial crisis certainly is serious, but Mr. Brown's suggested solutions would, for the most part, do little to prevent future crises; on the contrary, they could do great harm.
Brown's proposal coincides with ongoing meetings between the Bush Administration and European officials, and the announcement of a special G-8 summit as early as November to focus on the global financial crisis. The Bush Administration should not make the creation of a powerful new international regulatory authority a part of its legacy. Read more ..
Kicking our Oil Addiction
|Jamie Glazov||October 13th 2008|
Frontpage Magazine editor
Cutting Edge News energy analyst Gal Luft is one of America's most influential energy independence advocates. He is executive director of the Institute for the Analysis of Global Security (IAGS) a Washington based energy policy think tank and co-founder of the Set America Free Coalition, an alliance of groups promoting ways to reduce America's dependence on foreign oil. Luft specializes in strategy, geopolitics, terrorism, energy security and economic warfare. He was interviewed by Jamie Glanov, managing editor of Frontpage.com.
Your thoughts on the oil cartel and what it is doing to the world?
The oil cartel is looting the world economy and is by far the main culprit behind the current oil crisis. This is a cartel that owns 78 percent of world oil reserves but produces only 33 percent of the world's supply. Stunningly, OPEC's production is less than what it used to be 35 years ago, just before the Arab Oil Embargo. Then they produced 30 million barrels per day. Today their quota is just under 29 million barrels per day. So in 35 years the world economy essentially doubled, non-OPEC production nearly doubled, but the oil cartel, despite the fact that last year it brought in two new members, Angola and Ecuador, with combined daily production capacity equivalent to that of Norway, hasn't ramped up production. In fact, only this month OPEC decided to reduce its production by more than half a million barrels per day.
The consequences of this daylight robbery are dire, particularly to the poor people of the world. Developing economies are hemorrhaging and this will increasingly become a destabilizing factor. Even more troubling is the fact that the two main engines of radical Islam-Saudi Arabia and Iran-as well as the top two obstructionists of U.S. foreign policy-Russia and Venezuela-are now on the receiving end of hundreds of billions of dollars in oil and gas revenues. As long as we continue to enrich those countries while depleting our own coffers we will not be able to prevail in the long war of the 21-Century. Read more ..
Burma After the Flood
|Benedict Rogers||October 6th 2008|
Cutting Edge Burma Desk
|Rohingya refugee camp|
It is not often you meet someone who tells you that he is from “a people at the brink of extermination.” But the testimonies from refugees in a remote corner of southern Bangladesh, on the border with Burma, justify that assessment. For the Rohingya people, a Muslim minority in northern Arakan State, western Burma, are a stateless people whose very identity is denied.
All the people of Burma are suffering at the hands of one of the world’s most brutal, and illegitimate, military regimes. From time to time Burma’s crisis hits the headlines, as it did with protests led by Buddhist monks last September, and Cyclone Nargis in May this year. In between such events, however, Burma fades from the world’s attention.
If Burma as a whole is under-reported, the people on its western borders are almost unknown to the world. Journalists, activists and aid agencies who visit the region tend to head for the Thailand-Burma border, where access to refugees, displaced people and democracy groups is greatest. Read more ..
Is the U.S. Economy Safe?
|James Quinn||September 29th 2008|
Cutting Edge Financial Crisis Analyst
Warren Buffett’s view of derivatives in his 2002 Annual Letter to Shareholders states, “Derivatives are financial weapons of mass destruction, carrying dangers that, while now latent, are potentially lethal.”
Warren didn’t know what would happen, or when it would happen, but being the smartest financial mind on the planet enabled him to foresee a bleak outcome. A reasonable person could conclude that this credit derivative bubble would not end well. Another Black Swan was coming, but again the Harvard educated CEOs on Wall Street making $15 million per year did not see it, or chose to ignore the risks, because they knew that the Federal Reserve and the Government would come to the rescue if they went too far. The Greenspan “put” was well known on Wall Street. Whenever someone did something stupid and risked worldwide financial collapse, the Fed would ride in on their white horse to save the day. Read more ..
Is the U.S. Economy Safe?
|James Quinn||September 22nd 2008|
Cutting Edge Financial Crisis Analyst
It has been a momentous year for our country. Absolutely no one on the face of the planet could have predicted on January 1, 2008 the events that would unfold in the next nine months. We are in the midst of an extreme “Black Swan.”
No one saw it coming and no one knows what will happen next. When plans to save the financial world are slapped together every other weekend, the law of unintended consequences is likely to rear its ugly head. It is too early to step back and try to understand what is going on at this point in history. What we do know is that whatever is happening is not good.
“Globalization creates interlocking fragility, while reducing volatility and giving the appearance of stability. In other words it creates devastating Black Swans. We have never lived before under the threat of a global collapse. Financial Institutions have been merging into a smaller number of very large banks. Almost all banks are interrelated. So the financial ecology is swelling into gigantic, incestuous, bureaucratic banks – when one fails, they all fall. Read more ..
|Patricia Duval||September 15th 2008|
|Steve Evans via flickr.com|
On June 27, 2008, the Council of State (Conseil d’Etat), the French Supreme Administrative Court, upheld a Prime Minister’s decree refusing citizenship to a Moroccan woman who was married to a French national and had two French children. The Council’s decision was based on the grounds that the woman lacked assimilation to French society because of her radical practice of religion, deemed incompatible with the essential values of the French community, in particular equality of the genders. These findings were supported by elements in the court file that the Moroccan woman was a Salafist Muslim and wore the Burqa.
Citizenship is not a guaranteed right for foreign spouses under French law and the authorities can deny it under the control of administrative courts for reasons of lack of assimilation. However, this does not mean that the State can discriminate and deny citizenship because of the practice of a religion. In this case, the Council of State did not base its decision on motives of public order, such as membership in extremist groups like it has done in the past, or because of problems of identification because the Burqa covered the woman’s whole face, but has ruled for the first time on the basis of the domestic practice of a religion, thereby entering the sphere of private life and beliefs. Such a decision contravenes international human rights standards.
This is a potentially dangerous trend which could lead to further discriminatory evaluations in the area of private religious practice. However, the case law of the Council of State has not followed such a trend in the past. On the contrary, for years it has played a neutral role concerning the wearing of the Muslim veil. Read more ..
Edge on Energy Policy
|Gal Luft||September 8th 2008|
Cutting Edge Energy and Security Desk
No energy policy proposal has caused more acrimony or political gridlock preventing major progress toward energy security than domestic oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and the Outer Continental Shelf.
Liberals and environmentalists who oppose tapping into America's oil reserves in Alaska and offshore invoke the need to protect America's pristine lands and coasts.
Republicans—led by Sen. John McCain and his running mate, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin—see nature conservation as a lower priority in the face of high gasoline prices and a dangerous dependence on oil coming from some of the world's worst regimes. Their battle over drilling recently took center stage in Washington's political theater when House Republicans launched a floor protest against House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's decision to adjourn for the August recess without voting on opening new areas to drilling. It continued last week at the Republican National Convention. Read more ..
|Martin Barillas||September 1st 2008|
Cutting Edge Senior Contributor
|Pakistani Honor Victim|
Honor killings and tortures against women and girls who stray from accepted norma are common in Pakistan. But the latest cases have echoed throughout the national Pakistani media and indeed through the halls of the local legislature.
On September 1, Pakistani police ordered the bodies of two women to be exhumed in the village of Babakot, in the province of Balochistan. They have ordered an autopsy to clarify the circumstances leading to the women's death who are believed to have been "shot and then buried alive together with three other girls" for what seems to have been a "crime of honor" following "tribal" law, according to a report by Asia News.
The police of the district also arrested seven suspects who are accused of ordering or carrying out the brutal multiple murder, including the father, brother, and a cousin of the slain girls.
The incident apparently occurred July 13, when three girls were killed for marrying without the consent of family members and village elders; the other two women met the same fate for "associating" with young men. The incident has provoked reaction from human rights activists, who have organized protest demonstrations in Lahore and Islamabad, calling for an end to "tribal practices that in the name of the code of honor" perpetrate violence and abuse toward women.
The case of the women buried alive came to the attention of the media in Pakistan on August 29, following statements by Sardar Israrullah Zehri, a senator from Balochistan, who defended the practice because it belongs to "our tribal customs". Human rights associations reacted strongly, condemning the senator's words and calling for his immediate resignation. Read more ..
|Martin Barillas||August 25th 2008|
Cutting Edge Senior Correspondent
The Egyptian Medical Association, through its spokesman on August 18, denied that a bill in the Egyptian parliament would discriminate between Christians and Muslims by prohibiting organ transplants between members of the two faiths. The Association supports the controversial measure. “This is all to protect poor Muslims from rich Christians who buy their organs and vice versa,” explained Hamdi Al Sayed – the director of the Medical Association. Under the bill, physicians who violate the proposed law would face retribution.
Al Sayed denied any sectarianism in the proposed law saying that “if some Copts are angered by the law then why is it that Muslims are not.” Even so, Al Sayed said that under the draft law, it’s not possible for a Coptic Christian to donate organs to a Muslim and vice versa simply because donations have been restricted to family members up to the fourth degree. Al Sayed continued “…it is degrading for both religions if lets say, a poor Christian has to sell his kidney to a rich Muslim, or a poor Muslim has to sell his kidney to a rich Christian. It is not right for either religion and that is why we made this law so we can stop organ trafficking.” Finally, Al Sayed continued, “It is not about trying to promote differences between religions but it’s just to minimize the trade of organs as much as we can.”
Speaking for Coptic Christians, Bishop Marcos said “We all have the same Egyptian blood, but if the reason for the measure is to end organ trafficking, we reject it because it may also occur between believers of the same religion.” For Bishop Marcos, the Association’s decision is “very grave” since it can lead to prohibiting blood donation between Christians and Muslims or prevent physicians from examining patients of religions other than their own. “We are afraid that in the future there will be hospitals for Christians and hospitals for Muslims,” said the bishop. Egyptian Christians currently make up approximately 10% of the nation as a whole, which has a population of more than 76 million. Read more ..
China’s Troubled Olympics
|Alfred Senn||August 11th 2008|
The hot topic of this year’s Olympics seems to be “boycott.” Protesters argue that China’s human rights policies, especially in Tibet, make Beijing an unworthy host for the celebration of human athletic prowess in the Games of the XXIX Olympiad. Olympic officials, on the other hand, speak piously of keeping politics out of sports competition.
I am frequently asked “Must politics be a part of the Olympic Games?” My answer is “yes.” Why are world leaders planning to meet over gold medals rather than a “cloth of gold”? My answer is that the Games in many ways have always been a major international political playground, and the events of 2008 simply follow in that tradition.
Arguments that the Olympics have a sacred character fuel all sides in the dispute over the Beijing Games. Defenders say that politics should not sully this “sacred” event and its “sacred” attributes such as The Flame. Attackers argue that the decision to give China the Games was itself obviously political, and that China does not deserve to host this special and mystical celebration. Defenders invoke the Games’ mystique and conjure up visions of “Olympic truce” in ancient Greece. “Sport – you are peace!” “Keep politics out of sport!” Read more ..
|Martin Barillas||August 4th 2008|
Cutting Edge News Senior Contributor
Justice Saghir Ahmed, a judge of the Multan bench of Lahore High Court, Pakistan, sent on July 29, 2008 two under-aged Christian girls to a "darul aman" in Multan, Punjab, for their safety. Darul aman is the name of the institutions set up by government for the shelter of women needing temporary sanctuary or protection.
According to Aftab Alexander Mughal, of Minorities Concern of Pakistan, Saba Younis, 13 years old, and Anila, 10 years old, sisters and Christians, were kidnapped on June 26 by a Muslim man Muhammad Arif Bajwa and then forcibly converted to Islam. When the matter came before the court, Main Naeem Sardar, District and Sessions Judge Muzaffargarh, on July 12, ordered that the girls are not to be remanded to their Christian parents because the girls are Muslim now.
The father of the girls, Younis Masih, filed an appeal to the high court where Muslim lawyer Rashid Rehman pleaded his case. The court did not believe that the girls accepted Islam by their own free will; therefore, the girls were sent to a 'darul aman' in order to be relieved of pressure on the part of Muslims. The girls will again appear in court on Aug. 4 and the case will then be decided according to the girls' statement. Read more ..
|David Horovitz||July 28th 2008|
Jerusalem Post Editor
|David Horovitz Interviews Barack Obama|
Two months ago in the Oval Office, President George W. Bush, coming to the end of a two-term presidency and presumably as expert on Israeli-Palestinian policy as he is ever going to be, was accompanied by a team of no fewer than five advisers and spokespeople during a 40-minute interview with this writer and three other Israeli journalists.
In March, on his whirlwind visit to Israel, Republican presidential nominee John McCain—one of whose primary strengths is said to be his intimate grasp of foreign affairs—chose to bring along Sen. Joe Lieberman to the interview Post diplomatic correspondent Herb Keinon and I conducted with him. He looked to Lieberman several times for reassurance on his answers, and seemed a little flummoxed by a question relating to the nuances of settlement construction.
Last Wednesday, toward the end of his packed one-day visit here, Barack Obama, the Democratic senator who is leading the race for the White House and who lacks long years of foreign policy involvement, spoke to this editor with only a single aide in his King David Hotel room, and that aide's sole contribution to the conversation was to suggest that the candidate and I switch seats so that our photographer would get better lighting for his pictures.
Several of Obama's Middle East advisers—including former Clinton special envoy Dennis Ross and ex-ambassador to Israel Daniel Kurtzer—were hovering in the vicinity. But Obama, who was making only his second visit to Israel, knew precisely what he wanted to say about the most intricate issues confronting and concerning Israel, and expressed himself clearly, even stridently on key subjects. Read more ..
After the Holocaust
|Stewart Ain||July 14th 2008|
New York Jewish Week Correspondent
|PHOTO: Michael Datikash|
It has come to this for Norman Finkelstein: Back home in the Brooklyn of his youth, living alone in his deceased father’s rent-stabilized apartment on Ocean Parkway, just a few blocks from where the white-hot controversial professor grew up.
No more loyal students, no more lectures to prepare, no more radio debates with his arch-enemy Alan Dershowitz, no more national spotlight; Finkelstein is the man no one wants, and perhaps for good reason.
A year ago, DePaul University, where he taught political science for six years, denied Finkelstein tenure in one of the most bruising tenure battles in recent memory. The story made national headlines, fueled by Dershowitz’s crusade against Finkelstein’s scholarship.
Finkelstein’s supporters painted the Harvard law professor as an outside agitator encroaching on an internal tenure process; some of his students went on a hunger strike in his support. No major university will touch him now.
“Who wants to go through what DePaul went through with a national hysteria,” Finkelstein says, shrugging. “To be told I was a Holocaust denier and a terrorist supporter—would you want me on your faculty?” Read more ..
After the Holocaust
|Etgar Lefkovits||July 7th 2008|
|Nazi Hunter Zuroff Seeking Aribert Heim|
The chief Nazi hunter of the Los Angeles-based Simon Wiesenthal Center headed to South America on Sunday in a final public campaign to locate the most wanted Nazi in the world and bring him to justice.
The search for Dr. Aribert Heim, 94, the former Austrian doctor also known as "Dr. Death" who tops the Wiesenthal Center's list of "most wanted Nazis," has spanned nearly half a century since his 1962 disappearance in Germany ahead of a planned prosecution for his war crimes.
Heim was indicted in Germany on charges that he murdered hundreds of inmates by lethal injection at the notorious Mauthausen concentration camp in Austria, where he was the camp's doctor during the Holocaust.
"Our working assumption is that Heim is hiding somewhere in Chile or Argentina," said Dr. Efraim Zuroff, the Wiesenthal Center's chief Nazi-hunter and Israel director in a telephone interview ahead of his departure.
Zuroff conceded that this would likely be the "final push" to uncover the nonagenarian, despite his status as the world's number one Nazi suspect.
"We feel we are approaching the end of the line," he said.
The Nazi hunter noted that Heim's daughter lives in the southern Chilean city of Puerto Montt, and that she is the most likely to be in contact with her father, or at least have information about his whereabouts.
His daughter had previously said that her father died in 1993 in Argentina, but she never provided acertificate of death or accepted his inheritance. A one million Euro bank account in his name is active in Berlin, which Heim's children could have received if they had proved he was dead.
During his trip, Zuroff will be holding a press conference in Puerto Montt in a "final attempt" to reach anyone who has information about his current whereabouts. "We are going into her backyard," he said. Read more ..
Grinds and Grounds
|Eyob Tekalign Tolina||June 30th 2008|
Every day, 15 million Ethiopian farmers awaken in traditional grass huts called gojos and head off to work on coffee farms. They toil hard for the entire day before returning home, having earned about one dollar.
For the roughly one in five Ethiopians who rely on coffee for their livelihood, more money and a higher standard of living could be on the horizon thanks to Ethiopia’s latest effort to secure higher prices for the farmers who cultivate the country’s “black gold.”
In addition to being the origin of all humanity, Ethiopia is also the birthplace of coffee. The word coffee is derived from Kaffa—one of many regions within Ethiopia where coffee is grown. Just as Ethiopia is the first country to grow coffee, it is also the first nation to produce and export it.
Though Ethiopia has diversified into other areas such as floriculture and leather processing, coffee exports remain the country’s leading source of foreign exchange. Those exports have helped Ethiopia maintain a 10 percent annual growth rate since 2003, among the fastest in the world—double the average of Africa as a whole. Read more ..
|Joseph Grieboski||June 23rd 2008|
Cutting Edge Foreign Editor
Police have raided two Jehovah’s Witness communities in Azerbaijan this month in the capital of Baku. The first came June 3, during which police reportedly detained nine men for 6-1/2 hours. The men were reportedly beaten and threatened with sexual assault, including rape, unless they changed their religious beliefs.
Local police chief Colonel Sahib Babaev claimed that the Jehovah’s Witnesses were meeting illegally and reading religious literature and providing religious education at the private home of Bahaddin Ismaylov. Babaev told reporters, “They collect people together and teach them.” He continued, “They shouldn’t meet in a private house- there are special places for this, like mosques and madrassas.”
The men were taken into a police station where they were repeatedly hit in the face and body, pressured to renounce their religious beliefs, and were told that their meeting was illegal. The police threatened the men with prison and that they would be raped if they continued to meet.
The second raid on Jehohavah’s Witnesses came on June 11, during which 15 police officers detained a whole congregation and beat three detainees, according to Forum 18 News. Jehovah’s Witness communities have been raided by police on several occasions, including incidents of harassment by police in December 2007 and January 2008.
Tragically, these incidents are not the only abuse religious minorities have faced at the hands of authorities in Azerbaijan in recent months. Read more ..
|Jerry Zremski||June 16th 2008|
Buffalo News Washington Correspondant
Tim Russert was the most familiar and trusted political face in America. Known to millions as the moderator of “Meet the Press,” the nation’s most respected Sunday morning issues show, he also regularly appeared on a palette other NBC programs, from the Today Show, NBC’s Nightly News, to an interview program named for him on MSNBC. He was a giant.
But back in 1996, Tim Russert was just a face on the television to me, when I gave my elderly mother the thrill of her life by bringing her to the White House for a Christmas party. It was there that I met Russert personally, and it was there that I came to know him.
A few minutes after arriving, I told my mother to wait for a moment while I went to get us some wine. That left this daughter of a coal miner and widow of a tannery worker standing awkwardly alone in the middle of an ornate White House parlor … and that was obviously too much for Tim Russert to take. Read more ..
Edge on Disaster
|Benedict Rogers||June 9th 2008|
Cutting Edge Burma Desk
|Photo: Delta Tears|
Burma’s military regime has officially declared the relief phase over, a month after Cyclone Nargis hit the country. Displaced people sheltering in churches, monasteries, schools and other public buildings are being forcibly evicted, and ordered to return to their homes or to military-controlled camps. Yet the death toll is estimated to be at least 130,000, and continues to rise. Over 2.5 million people are homeless. Aid is still only trickling in, and while there are some reports that more international aid workers have been allowed into the country, the regime is continuing to obstruct, restrict and delay access for most aid workers.
Meanwhile, the military continues its policies of repression. The offensive against the Karen ethnic people in eastern Burma goes on. Since 1996, over 3,200 villages in eastern Burma have been destroyed by military offensives, and a million people displaced. On 27 May, 500 villagers in eastern Mon township, Karen State, were driven into the jungle. According to the Free Burma Rangers, a relief organisation working in the conflict zones, the Burma Army is still “attacking, burning villages and displacing people”, raping, looting, laying landmines and using people for forced labor.
Even in the cyclone-affected areas, Burma Army soldiers have killed survivors for no reason. On 25 May, in Laputta, two people were shot dead. The following day, a villager in Yaytwinchaung was killed. Read more ..
|Stephanie Block||June 2nd 2008|
Cutting Edge Contributor
Senator Barack Obama’s political ambitions stirred Jackie Kendall, executive director of the Midwest Academy, a Chicago-based training center for community organizers, to crow, “He’s given community organizing a good name.”
This remark was sparked by the fact that Obama entered politics through community organizing. In 1995, one analyst wrote, “He says he is drawn to politics, despite its superficialities, as a means to advance his real passion and calling: community organization... What if a politician were to see his job as that of an organizer, as part teacher and part advocate, one who does not sell voters short but who educates them about the real choices before them? As an elected public official, for instance, I could bring church and community leaders together easier than I could as a community organizer or lawyer.”
Obama has had extensive experience as a community organizer. In the 1980s, he was the lead organizer of the Developing Communities Project, a campaign funded by Chicago’s south-side Catholic churches and formed on the organizing principles of Saul Alinsky. He spent another four years building an organization in Roseland and the nearby Altgeld Gardens public housing complex. Read more ..
Tracking “Project Better Place” Electric Cars
Cutting Edge Contributor
|Better Place E-Tank|
Imagine your cell phone transforming into an electric car. Sound far-fetched?
Not if you're Shai Agassi, the founder of Project Better Place (PBP), and you believe you have finally created the concept that could transform the notion of car ownership and make the vehicle you own an electric one. The underlying premise of his paradigm-changing business plan is to sell clean, green transportation services on the cellular telephone model.
Israeli-born Agassi's idea, for which he's received some $200 million in venture funding, led by The Israel Corporation is to create the electric car equivalent of a cellular phone network. Where forests of cellular phone towers and repeaters are the most visible manifestation of the networks that make cell phone service possible, in PBP's case, the network will consist of hundreds of thousands of battery charging stanchions and scores of battery swapping centers. Just as it isn't the cell phone that generates revenue for the likes of Sprint, Verizon and ATT&T, it won't be the electric cars in Agassi's model. Instead, it will be the convenient, affordable and environmentally-sustainable transportation services that he hopes to offer.
A recent study of Project Better Place's plan by Deutsche Bank concluded that not only can it be financially successful, but that it has the potential to "wipe out gasoline cars." Read more ..
Inside the Middle East
|George W. Bush||May 19th 2008|
|President George W. Bush|
President George W. Bush addressed the Knesset on May 15, 2008. on the occasion of Israel's 60th anniversary. An edited transcript follows. VIEW VIDEO
President Peres and Mr. Prime Minister, Madam Speaker, thank you very much for hosting this special session. President Beinish, Leader of the Opposition Netanyahu, Ministers, members of the Knesset, distinguished guests: Shalom. Laura and I are thrilled to be back in Israel. We have been deeply moved by the celebrations of the past two days. And this afternoon, I am honored to stand before one of the world's great democratic assemblies and convey the wishes of the American people with these words: Yom Ha'atzmaut Sameach. (Applause.)
It is a rare privilege for the American President to speak to the Knesset. (Laughter.) Although the Prime Minister told me there is something even rarer -- to have just one person in this chamber speaking at a time. (Laughter.) My only regret is that one of Israel's greatest leaders is not here to share this moment. He is a warrior for the ages, a man of peace, a friend. The prayers of the American people are with Ariel Sharon. (Applause.)
We gather to mark a momentous occasion. Sixty years ago in Tel Aviv, David Ben-Gurion proclaimed Israel's independence, founded on the "natural right of the Jewish people to be masters of their own fate." What followed was more than the establishment of a new country. It was the redemption of an ancient promise given to Abraham and Moses and David -- a homeland for the chosen people Eretz Yisrael.
Eleven minutes later, on the orders of President Harry Truman, the United States was proud to be the first nation to recognize Israel's independence. And on this landmark anniversary, America is proud to be Israel's closest ally and best friend in the world. Read more ..
UNRWA—Refuge for Rejection
|Barry Rubin, Asaf Romirowsky, and Jonathan Spyer||May 12th 2008|
There is no other body in the UN system like the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA). Millions of refugees worldwide—more than 130 million since the end of World War Two—have fallen under the responsibility of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), which aims to resettle and rehabilitate the refugees. But UNRWA was created as a separate body and its jurisdiction is solely the Palestinians. UNRWA has defined the term “refugee” in the broadest terms by including not only those Arabs who fled from territories held by Israel, but also those who stayed in their homes and lost their source of livelihood as a result of war. Today, this would include all third and fourth generation refugees, even those children of just one Palestinian refugee parent.
Not a single Palestinian has ever lost his refugee status. There are hundreds of thousands of Palestinian refugees -- or their descendants -- who are citizens of Jordan. Yet, as far as UNRWA is concerned, they are still refugees. Read more ..
Running Out of Oil
|David Room and Steve Tanner||May 5th 2008|
|Shell Geologist M. King Hubbert|
When did Shell executives first learn that the world would one day face the moment of peak oil, known to many as Hubbert’s Peak? Answer: as far back as 1956 when M. King Hubbert delivered his seminal speech to Shell employees predicting the day when oil reserves would begin to decline. For more than a half century, Shell has known that the world of the 21st Century would begin running out of oil with disastrous ramifications. Yet little was done to prepare society.
The story begins in 1950s when the United States was the world’s largest producer and exporter of oil, making it mostly self-sufficient. The U.S. also was the largest creditor nation, while its manufacturing output fed the world’s demand for tools and machinery. This new world power from the West emerged relatively unscathed from the second of two world wars, for which its unprecedented access to oil proved the deciding factor. This quite literally was America’s peak in wealth and potential.
Before embarking on an ambitious plan to rebuild the bombed-out cities of Europe, the U.S. built more than 2 million homes on the home front, mostly to meet the unprecedented demand of returning GIs. The resulting paradigm shift, constructed around a flawed assumption of infinite bounty, was the beginning of the suburbanization of America that continues to follow its terminal path. Intensive highway development would continue for decades, further solidifying American’s love affair with the automobile and redefining the American Dream. Read more ..
Jewish Refugees from Arab Countries
|Rep. Jerrold Nadler||April 28th 2008|
|Rep. Jerrold Nadler|
House Resolution 185, a resolution I authored and that was passed by the House in April, at long last recognizes Jewish refugees from Arab countries. This is not just about a forgotten chapter of history.
For centuries, long before the advent of Islam and long after it, Jewish communities lived peacefully and often prosperously and productively in Arab lands among Arab people. Their forced relocation and the material value they lost when they were compelled to abandon their homes and other properties in Arab countries has never been addressed.
For example, in Iraq, a community of 150,000 in 1948 has dwindles to around 10 today. In Egypt, a community of 75,000 in 1945 has became between 50 and 100 today. In Yemen and Aden, 63,000 in 1948 has became 200 in 2003. Of 140,000 Jews who lived in Tunisia in 1948, less than 100 remain in 2004.
While the plight of Palestinian refugees is well known throughout the world and has been a major element in every Arab-Israeli peace plan and negotiation, the plight of these Jewish refugees is rarely mentioned these days. Nevertheless, numerous international agreements pertaining to the Arab-Israeli conflict have been codified with the rights of the Jewish refugees in mind. U.N. Security Council Resolution 242, passed on November 22, 1967, after the Six Day War, calls for a just settlement to the refugee problem without limiting that problem to Palestinians.
Presidents Carter and Clinton stated explicitly that the issue of Jewish refugees must be a part of any comprehensive Arab-Israeli peace agreement. And lest there be any doubt about this status, the U.N. High Commission on Refugees in 1957 ruled that Jewish people that fled Arab countries were, indeed, "refugees." This principle is reaffirmed in the Camp David Accords and in the Egyptian-Israeli Peace Treaty. The treaty states, "Jewish refugees have the same rights as others do." Read more ..
|Ronald Kessler||April 21st 2008|
Cutting Edge Contributor
In his speech on race, Barack Obama tried to explain away his longtime minister's denunciations of America by saying that for blacks of his generation, memories of "humiliation and doubt and fear have not gone away."
But an examination by Newsmax of the Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr.'s background reveals that Obama's characterization of his upbringing is mythology.
Described by Obama as his sounding board and mentor for more than two decades, Wright was born in Philadelphia in 1941. He lived in a racially mixed section called Germantown, which consisted of homes on broad tree-lined streets in northwest Philadelphia. The owners then were middle-class families.
For 62 years, Wright's father, the Rev. Jeremiah Alvesta Wright, was pastor at Grace Baptist Church of Germantown. He was one of the first blacks to receive a degree from the Lutheran Theological Seminary in Philadelphia.
Wright's mother, Mary Elizabeth Henderson Wright, was a schoolteacher. She was the first black to teach an academic subject at Roosevelt Junior High, the first to teach at Germantown High, and the first to teach at the Philadelphia High School for Girls. She became vice principal of Girls High in 1968.
Rather than attend the more racially mixed Germantown High School at 40 East High St., Wright traveled a few miles to the elite Central High School at 1700 West Olney Ave., graduating in 1959. Opened in 1838, Central High has a distinguished past and admits only highly qualified applicants who are privileged to attend from all over the city. It is comparable to the Bronx High School of Science and Boston Latin School, both public schools known for academic excellence.
When Wright attended Central High, the student body was 90 percent white, according to students who attended around the same time. At least three-quarters of the students were Jewish. Former students of the period say racial tension did not exist.
Bill Cosby, who attended the school until transferring to Germantown High, has referred to Central as a "wonderful" school. In contrast to Wright, Cosby has denounced blacks who take refuge in self-pitying victimhood and seek to blame whites for problems in the black community. Read more ..
Inside Radical Islam
|Joseph Grieboski||April 7th 2008|
Cutting Edge Contributor
|Puppet Stabbing Bush on Hamas TV|
A March 30 children’s program and broadcast by Hamas TV in Gaza shows a puppet graphically and gruesomely stabbing US President George W. Bush to death in revenge for killing his family. In the video, the child rejects any possibility of discussion and prefers the stabbing that is depicted with evocative groans and moans of satisfaction.
The recently broadcast clip increases international concerns that the isolated Hamas regime is using modern propaganda techniques to encourage children to launch terrorist attacks.
The script of the controversial sketch was translated into English by The Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI), an independent non-profit organization which analyzes and translates Middle Eastern media. The puppet skit, aired on an al-Aksa satellite television children's program, shows a little boy confronting President Bush in the White House. The child berates Bush and his “criminal Zionist partners” for killing his father in Iraq, his mother in Lebanon, and his brothers and sisters in the “Gaza holocaust.” Read more ..
Inside the UN
|Roberta Seid||March 31st 2008|
Cutting Edge Contributor
|Roz Rothstein (left) and Roberta Seid at Human Rights Council.|
The United Nations Human Rights Council (HRC) silenced an American human rights activist during recent deliberations regarding the upcoming 2009 so-called “Durban II” conference, a follow-up to its 2001 Durban I conference. The formal name of the event is the “World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance.” But the Council refused to allow an American human rights activist to speak without repeated interruptions when she brought up topics unpopular with many at the UN, namely the ongoing genocide in Darfur and anti-Semitism.
StandWithUs (SWU), International Director Roz Rothstein was invited to give a speech before the Human Rights Council in Geneva March 19, 2008. But her brief remarks and the response of the Egyptian and Iranian delegates created a veritable international uproar.
First, some background. In Sept. 2001, the UN's first conference to end world racism met in Durban, South Africa. Unfortunately, despite its idealistic agenda, the conference, and the attendant Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) meetings, quickly turned into an anti-Semitic, anti-Israel hate fest. Celebratory posters of Hitler were displayed. Jews were physically and verbally attacked and intimidated, and denied participation in various meetings. Israel was accused of racism, Nazi-like practices and apartheid, which paved the way for divestment campaigns from Israel.
In a tragic paradox, the conference to end racism fomented and embraced one of the world's oldest racisms—anti-Semitism. The late Congressman and Holocaust survivor Tom Lantos (D-CA) wrote that it was "the most sickening and unabashed display of hate for Jews I had seen since the Nazi period." The United States and Israel walked out. Read more ..
The Coming War with Hezbollah
|Yehudit Barsky||March 12th 2008|
|Imad Fayez Mughniyeh|
The recent killing of Imad Fayez Mughniyeh will not preclude Hezbollah from striking again -- and, judging from past experience, the Lebanese-based terrorist organization will eye Diaspora, as well as Israeli, targets.
For many of his victims around the world, the mid-February car-bomb assassination of Imad Fayez Mughniyeh -- one of the world’s most wanted terrorists for two decades -- has the ring of true justice. At least in the short term, the killing of Mughniyeh will have a deterrent effect and hamper Hezbollah’s capability to carry out a revenge attack.
It will not, however, preclude Hezbollah from planning a future strike -- and, judging from past experience, the Lebanese-based terrorist organization will eye not only Israeli targets for retaliation, but Diaspora Jewish ones as well.
Mughniyeh, the second highest official in the Islamic extremist group and seen as a possible successor to Hezbollah's leader, Sheik Hassan Nasrallah, showed no boundaries of brutality or location. He was on the FBI's Most Wanted list for the 1985 hijacking of TWA Flight 847 and murder of one of its passengers, U.S. Navy diver Robert Stethem. The FBI posted a $25 million reward for Mughniyeh's capture.
Earlier in his terrorist career, Mughniyeh joined Fatah’s Force 17, the personal security apparatus of Yasser Arafat. Mughniyeh was one of a number of young Shia Muslims recruited to Force 17 and initially trained by Fatah. Read more ..
The Bad Arolsen Conflict
|Leo Rechter||March 3rd 2008|
Editor’s note: This summary and analysis of the Bad Arolsen archive transfer controversy was written by Leo Rechter, elected president of the National Organization of Child Holocaust Survivors, following the January 17, 2008 ICRC-USHMM joint briefing about the Bad Arolsen files. This was the second such controversial closed-door on federal Museum property and was marked by the exclusion of mainstream press.
On January 17th, the National Organization of Child Holocaust Survivors traveled to Washington, D.C. to attend a special, private briefing for survivors’ representatives at the US Holocaust Memorial Museum regarding the International Tracing Services archives held at Bad Arolsen and now transferring to the USHMM.
The Museum staff ran a slide-show, demonstrating how an index card, transferred recently from Bad Arolsen, had provided valuable information to one of the Museum’s Survivor volunteers. After months of work, the Museum has now accrued 50 to 70 million digital images from the Bad Arolsen ITS files. In addition to the index cards, the collection contains camp and ghetto records, Gestapo records, forced labor records, records from DP camps, and migration records. Although those documents refer to about 17.5 million people, Museum officials warn that they are not a complete list of the fate of millions of additional victims and survivors. Twenty on-site computer terminals (on the Museum premises) have been assigned to the tracing service and 25 staffers have been trained to do the searches. The trained staff will presumably not only search the transferred archive, but will also cross-reference it with the Museum’s own archives. Read more ..
|David Albright and Jacqueline Shire||February 20th 2008|
What a difference a year makes. In November 2006, Iran had slightly more than 300 gas centrifuges running at its pilot uranium-enrichment plant at Natanz, approximately 200 kilometers south of Tehran. One year later, Iran has close to 3,000 centrifuges installed in a vast underground hall of the commercial-scale Fuel Enrichment Plant (FEP) at Natanz. It has also stockpiled enough of the enrichment feedstock uranium hexafluoride to produce enriched uranium, whether for nuclear energy or for nuclear weapons, for years to come.
This period has also seen two UN Security Council sanctions resolutions: Resolution 1737 was adopted December 27, 2006, and its sibling, Resolution 1747 was approved only three months later, on March 24, 2007. Each demands that Iran suspend its enrichment program and imposes what are arguably mild sanctions, cutting off arms exports and curtailing certain banking and overseas investment. Iran has flatly ignored the call to suspend uranium enrichment, seemingly determined to have its centrifuges and run them too. It has flouted not only the Security Council but also and, perhaps, more importantly the Bush administration’s determination that Iran not achieve a nuclear weapons capability.
To be sure, despite installing close to 3,000 centrifuges, Iran is not enriching uranium on a sustained basis. Yet, neither the UN measures, nor unilaterally imposed sanctions by the United States and some European Union countries, have caused sufficient economic hardship for Iran to halt its enrichment program. Stronger and better-implemented sanctions, coupled with an aggressive and creative diplomatic effort, offer the most realistic means of turning back Iran’s nuclear program. Nevertheless, the date when Natanz can enrich uranium competently may not be far off. Read more ..
After the Holocaust
|Katya Andrusz||February 4th 2008|
Bloomberg Poland Correspondent
Bookstores in Poland are restocking copies of a book on Polish anti-Semitism after World War II as a prosecutor investigates whether it violates a law prohibiting ``slander against the nation.''
The book, ``Fear. Anti-Semitism in Poland After Auschwitz'' by Princeton University professor Jan Tomasz Gross, sold out days after the first 25,000 volumes were published. A second print run of 20,000 is being sent to bookstores from today.
"We sold so many copies of the book, and so quickly we had a big gap in supplies,'' Monika Marianowicz, a spokeswoman for Empik Media & Fashion SA, that sells books in stores throughout Poland, said by phone today.
Gross's book, which blames the murder of hundreds of Jews after World War II on Polish anti-Semitism and greed, has been criticized by academics, the Catholic Church and ordinary Poles.
"This book is a pack of lies,'' said Lech Raczynski, a 64- year-old agricultural engineer from Kielce, where a 1946 pogrom took place in which more than 40 Jews were murdered. ``It's obvious that the Jews did it -- it was a purge by the communist leaders, who were all Jews, against the others. Poland isn't an anti-Semitic country at all.'' Read more ..
Palestine and Israel
|Hanna Siniora||December 20th 2007|
Despite the cynicism of the experts, the Annapolis meeting was a resounding victory for the persistent efforts of American Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. The presence of Saudi Arabia and Syria signaled the desire of the Arab League to demonstrate their commitment to the Arab Peace Initiative.
The second leg of Annapolis, the December 17th Donor’s meeting, proved to be extremely supportive and generous. In the Palestinian Authority Development and Reform Plan for the next three years, the PA asked for US $5.6 billion dollars and received total pledges of US $7.4 billion, with $3.373 billion for 2008, $2.054 billion for 2009 and $2.054 billion for 2010.
Mahmoud Abbas and Salam Fayyad now have a concrete demonstration of the international community’s support for their leadership and the two-state solution. French President Nicholas Sarkozy and his foreign minister Bernard Kouchner excelled in the arrangements that provided the Quartet envoy, former PM Tony Blair, with the tools needed to jumpstart the Palestinian economy. President Abbas, always sensitive to his Palestinian constituency in Gaza, promised to spend more than half of the funds for the benefit of the destitute Gaza Strip. Read more ..
|David Horovitz||December 11th 2007|
Jerusalem Post editor-in-chief
I touched down at Heathrow at a little after one in the afternoon on Tuesday, knowing that I would be back at the airport precisely 24 hours later.
I'd been invited to London by the Zionist Federation, a venerable institution now undergoing a certain reinvigoration, which had organized a lecture to mark the 40th anniversary of the Six Day War.
I'd imagined that my talk would be one of a series of such events arranged by the Anglo-Jewish community, an opportunity to recall Israel's near-miraculous confounding of President Nasser's plans for our elimination and to inform another generation - Jews and the rest of the Brits - about the circumstances of that defining conflict.
But I was mistaken.
Despite the snowballing campaign in the UK to delegitimize Israel, and the consequent imperative for Israel's diplomatic representatives and the Anglo-Jewish leadership to seize any and every opportunity to promulgate a nuanced narrative, there was no such communal celebration and education program.
There had been a ceremony to mark the coincidental 25th anniversary of the shooting at the Dorchester Hotel of ambassador Shlomo Argov on June 3, 1982, the act of terrorism that precipitated what we must now learn to call the First Lebanon War. But this was a low-key, formal commemoration. The embassy had planned no major '67-related event.
A respected former cabinet minister flew in on the same day as I did to give lectures about the Six Day War anniversary, but it turned out these were private briefings to a select few. Read more ..
|Edwin Black||November 18th 2007|
|Chef Ricky Moore|
Washington’s tres chic Indebleu Restaurant has just appointed Chef Ricky Moore as its new Executive Chef. He replaces Chef Vikram Garg who oversaw the Indebleu kitchen for nearly three years and helped establish modern Indian cuisine in Washington, DC area. Chef Moore will oversee all operational aspects of the kitchen while continuing to develop Indebleu’s modern cuisine featuring Indian flavors.
Chef Moore previously worked at several noted Washington establishments, including Agraria at Washington’s Waterfront, as well as Equinox, Galileo, Vidalia, and Lespinasse restaurants. He also served as exec chef at Parrot Cage and South Water Kitchen, both in Chicago.
Chef Moore is scheduled to compete on a special Thanksgiving themed "Iron Chef America" November 18th on The Food Network. The restaurant will host its best customers for a special viewing that night in its lounge with the Chef on hand to serve themed appetizers.
Travel on Television
No one should venture a trip to Masada without first viewing the History Channel's "Lost World" episode regarding Herod's monumental works in ancient Israel, especially at Masada.The "you discover" epsiode is packed with the type of computer graphics and visualizations that generate greater views and perspectives than the standard long shots of the ramps and staging areas below. Of particular interest is the explanation of Herod's innovative mountaintop mid-desert bath houses which generated both steam and cool water in an arid desert where nearby water did not exist. To bring even greater life to the history, trying viewing the two-part dramatic series Masada
. The story of Masada is one of history's first great mass sacrifice for freedom, and enduring tale to this day.
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