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Inside Saudi Succession

The Next Generation of Saudi Princes--Who Are They?

November 9th 2009

Arab Topics - King Abdullah2
King Abdullah

Who are the candidates for succession to Saudi throne once King Abdullah passes? Many of the grandsons of Ibn Saud are already grandfathers; some have years of government experience. But which line should be favored in this next generation is among the most contentious aspects of the Saudi succession.

In discussing the younger generation, it is worth noting that sons of past kings are usually not considered worthy of mention. The respect accorded them and the extent to which they have a leadership claim seem to diminish upon the death of their fathers. Crucially, without their fathers' backing, most seem to fall out of contention. The largest single group of second-generation princes are the sons of Saud, numbered at more than fifty (and a similar number of daughters), only a few of whom have any public role.

The sons of King Faisal—Saud, Khalid, and Turki—are recognized as being able, certainly by foreign ambassadors, but they are said to be regarded unfavorably within the al-Saud because of their perceived airs of intellectual superiority. (A 1985 British Ministry of Defense briefing paper referred to Saud as "[v]ery bright but perhaps not so bright as he thinks.") As long-serving foreign minister, Saud is well known abroad and generally respected. But he suffers from both a bad back and Parkinson's disease, and so he would probably rule himself out on health grounds. He also displays little interest in the role, having never been noted for holding a majlis, the forum where he can listen to ordinary people's complaints and also be judged as a good and generous host. Read more ..

Religious Freedom

The Secret Rescue Flight of Yemen's Jews to Freedom

November 2nd 2009

Jewish Topics - Yemeni Jews

In November 2007, Ninwe Al Naeti, a  young Yemenite Jewish woman was allegedly kidnapped and converted to Islam against her will in Yemen, home to the oldest Jewish community in the world. As the U.S. Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism, it was my obligation to discover more about this incident and whether it was isolated or part of a larger pattern of harassment and anti-Semitism in Yemen.

After initial investigation and fact finding, I traveled to Saana, Yemen’s capital, in December to examine the situation first hand. What I discovered there was a country beset with strife. A fundamentalist rebellion in the north has been launched by the Al-Houti Shiite. They had nailed a note on the door of a Jewish family in Saada in February 2007, threatening them if they did not leave within days. I also found a government, steeped in ancient tribal structure and boundaries, not fully in control of its own territory.

When I asked to visit the main Jewish community in the northern town of Raida, I was told that the government could not guarantee our safety and therefore, even with government troops, we could not venture up that far into the country. We lacked any tribal permission to enter certain areas. We eventually did travel to the provincial capital of Amran province, accompanied by troops driving a gun-mounted jeep. Read more ..

Obama Edge

A Curtain Call for the Domino Theory as Obama's Afghan Strategy Emerges?

October 26th 2009

TCEN Motifs - Domino Effect

News leaked recently that President Obama had called a group of historians to the White House a few months ago to educate him on the thinking of President Lyndon Johnson in late 1964 as Johnson weighed the possibility of ordering a major military escalation in Vietnam.
As we know, that fateful escalation came in 1965. Are we to conclude that Obama has Vietnam in mind as he considers sending more troops to Afghanistan? Most likely.

Experts will argue forever about whether the Vietnam War was a lost cause. But there was little doubt at the time that Johnson and his advisers would opt for escalation. Less clear cut was the question of his ability to keep the public on board.

Johnson failed to do this and was demonized for that failure. Obama surely must keep the public message front and center. Unfortunately, Johnson's legacy provides him with mixed guidance. Read more ..

The Genetic Edge

Woman, Man, or Neither? The Predicament of a World-Class Runner

October 19th 2009

Sports Topics - Caster Semenya
Caster Semenya

Caster Semenya, the South African runner who won the women's 800-meter race at the World Track Championships in Berlin last month, has been unofficially declared intersexed. If she is, it means that she was born with some discrepancy between her external genitals, internal sex anatomy (ovaries or testes and her hormones and chromosomes.
The International Association of Athletic Federations (IAAF) will not make its official ruling as to whether it considers Semenya a woman until November, but an increasing number of news outlets around the world have reported that she's "a hermaphrodite." What does this mean, exactly? The media's terminology itself reflects the ignorance and confusion surrounding intersex. Doctors and informed lay people no longer use the word hermaphrodite because it is vague, demeaning and sensationalistic. "Hermaphrodite" continues to conjure images of mythical creatures, perhaps even monsters and freaks. It's thus not surprising that most have rejected the label. Read more ..

The Ancient Edge

Iraq--The Cradle of Civilization was Actually the Cradle of Commerce

October 12th 2009

Book Covers - Banking on Baghdad

This article is based on the Banking on Baghdad--Inside Iraq's 7,000-Year History of War, Profit, and Conflict (Dialog Press). Buy it here

When the last Ice Age receded, some 10,000 years ago, some peoples migrated to the marshy plain between the Tigris and the Euphrates. This land, later known as Mesopotamia—or “the land between the two rivers”—is now modern Iraq. It became precious to the world as “the cradle of civilization.”

Of course, the very term cradle of civilization is imbued with the values of an advanced society determined to categorize primitive and ancient people in its own image. But what qualifies ancient Iraq as the cradle of civilization may speak volumes about its enduring relationship to the larger world and how our society still views that nation.

Disagreeing archaeologists incessantly push back their dates, resculpt their assessments and guesswork, and acrimoniously debate the facts depending on the latest dig and carbon dating. But this much seems settled: other groups and societies, predating ancient Mesopotamia by thousands of years, have displayed the ingredients of civilization.

Cave dwellers in South Africa, 70,000 years ago, recorded symbolic concepts with geometric designs engraved on ochre stones, revealing organized expression and abstract thinking.

The sensitive artisans of Lascaux, France, who 15,000 years ago painted some 600 sacred animal sketches on grotto walls and engraved nearly 1,500 more, are classed as “prehistoric.” Traveling deep into remote chambers of their grotto, the people of Lascaux carried inventive contrivances for illumination. By the flicker of torches and Stone Age lamps, these people created enduring works of exquisite cave art. Their complex works feature background hues of red, yellow, black, and brown, probably mouth-sprayed or blown through a hollowed bone. Delicately brushed and painted atop the backgrounds, animals are depicted in kinetic perspective and are anatomically correct. The artistry of the Lascaux people has become a gift for all time.

Their message, although undecipherable, has survived as long as any that followed. Similar cave art groups in the region date back 30,000 years. Little is known about the culture of French cave dwellers. But these societies do not qualify as civilizations, as the world sees it.

Edge of Archaeology

Large Cache of Coins from Historic Bar-Kokhba Revolt Uncovered

October 5th 2009

Israel Topics - Bar Kochba coins

The largest cache of rare coins ever found in a scientific excavation from the period of the Bar-Kokhba revolt of the Jews against the Romans has been discovered in a cave by researchers from the Hebrew University and Bar-Ilan University.

The coins were discovered in three batches in a deep cavern located in a nature reserve in the Judean hills. The treasure includes gold, silver and bronze coins, as well as some pottery and weapons. See video here.

The discovery was made in the framework of a comprehensive cave research and mapping project being carried out by Boaz Langford and Prof. Amos Frumkin of the Cave Research Unit in the Department of Geography at the Hebrew University, along with Dr. Boaz Zissu and Prof. Hanan Eshel of the Martin (Szusz) Department of Land of Israel Studies and Archaeology at Bar-Ilan University, and with the support of the Israel Nature and Parks Authority.

The some 120 coins were discovered within a cave that has a "hidden wing," the slippery and dangerous approach to which is possible only via a narrow opening discovered many years ago by Dr. Gideon Mann, a physician who is one of the early cave explorers in modern Israel. The opening led to a small chamber which in turn opens into a hall that served as a hiding place for the Jewish fighters of Bar-Kokhba. Read more ..

Confronting the Transfer Agreement

The Transfer Agreement- Why Zionists Made the Deal with the Nazis

September 28th 2009

Book Covers - The Transfer Agreement

On the afternoon of August 7, 1933, at 76 Wilhelmstrasse in Berlin, on a day when well-dressed Jews in Germany could not step into the street without fear, when laboring kibbutzniks in Palestine proudly swept the midday perspiration from their foreheads, when anxious German businessmen worried the next telegram would cancel yet another order for increasingly unsellable Reich goods, when Nazi organizers throughout Europe gleefully reviewed statistics on Jewish populations and Jewish assets within their midst, when Polish blackshirts viciously beat Jews in town squares, when ordinary jobless Germans wondered where they could find enough money for the next meal, when young Jewish boys in German schools were forced to stand painfully before their classmates as examples of detestable vermin, when defiant Jews across America and England raised their fists in anger proliferating their punishing anti-German boycott, when Jewish Palestinian exporters wondered nervously whether their biggest customer Germany would retaliate, when thousands of homeless German Jews existed as refugees and some in concentration camps, when the prospects for Jewry in Europe seemed over, on this fateful day in the first summer of the Hitler regime, an official delegation of four German and Palestinian Zionists and one independent Palestinian business man were ushered into an Economics Ministry conference room. The Jews had been authorized by a combine of Jewish and Zionist bodies to negotiate with the Third Reich.

After hours of wrangled debate, Hans Hartenstein, Director of the Reich Office of Currency Control, was about to call the meeting to an inconclusive close when a messenger from Deutsche Reichpost delivered a telegram from the German Consul in Tel Aviv. The telegram advised Hartenstein that a coalition of official and commercial Zionist interests in Palestine was the best way to break the growing Jewish-led worldwide anti-Nazi boycott that was crippling the Hitler regime in its first months. A deal with the Zionists would be necessary.

And so it was done. The Transfer Agreement was created. Read more ..

The Caribbean Edge

The U.S. Military’s Presence in the Greater Caribbean Basin: Is it Trade Strategy and Ideology or Drugs?

September 28th 2009

Military - Joint Task Force Bravo in Action
Joint Task Force Bravo in Action

Washington’s initiative to have access to at least seven Colombian military facilities has been criticized as an extension of the controversial Plan Colombia and as a breach of fealty to its sister republics. Suspicion also has surfaced that the base deal was fundamentally a move against Venezuela’s Hugo Chávez, and would prove a recurring obstacle to fulfillment of U.S. policy goals in the region. Two of the facilities soon to be available to the U.S. are located in the Caribbean region – the military port in Cartagena and the air base in Malambo – and will serve the needs of the U.S. Navy.

The new Caribbean coast facilities will join an array of existing U.S. military establishments in the region dating back to 1903. Until now, the official raison d’etre for a U.S. presence in the Caribbean was to combat drug trafficking.

However, the proliferation of security threats, in particular developments possibly against the interests of Chávez’s Venezuela, has led some to argue that no matter how much Washington’s officials deny it, an unspoken reason for the U.S. deployment to Colombia is to keep Chavez under check. With the Washington-Bogotá decision, it is necessary to discuss the relationship between masking anti-narcotics efforts as a cover for a variety of U.S. security concerns and aspirations throughout Latin America, especially in the coming trade war over commodities. Read more ..

The Edge of Lobbying

Lobbyists Crowded into Washington for Climate Legislation

September 21st 2009

Politics - Capitol Building at night

More than 460 new businesses and interest groups jumped into lobbying Congress on global warming in the weeks before the House neared its historic vote on climate change legislation, an analysis of lobbying records shows.

The surge in the 12 weeks leading up to the June 26 vote meant that about 1,150 different companies and advocacy organizations were promoting their vision of how the nation should tackle climate change, a more than 30 percent cumulative jump over the 880 companies and associations that were storming Capitol Hill on the issue as the year began. Some 190 of the interest groups that were lobbying in the first quarter of the year did not continue their lobbying in the April-June time period.

It’s impossible to say with certainty how much money was spent on lobbying the climate bill, since businesses don’t have to detail expenses for separate issues they are pushing in Congress — like climate, health care, the economic stimulus, or taxes. But so many groups were lobbying climate that even if the issue consumed only 10 percent of their efforts, the cost would have been more than $27 million in just the second quarter-from April through June. Read more ..

America's History

Henry Hudson: The Man, the Mystery, the Mission

September 14th 2009

History American - Henry Hudson
Henry Hudson

Three of the most noteworthy bodies of water in North America—the Hudson River, Hudson Strait, and Hudson Bay—take their names from the English explorer Henry Hudson. No other explorer earned as much notice from mapmakers, not even Christopher Columbus. This raises a significant question: was Hudson worthy of the honor?

Yet much of Hudson’s life remains a mystery. He was probably about forty years old when he entered the historical record in 1607 as the captain of an English ship called the Hopewell. He sailed from London in search of a quick route to the Spice Islands of the South Sea, the modern Pacific Ocean. After studying his maps he realized that the best course would take him across the North Pole and then into the Pacific. This was no fool’s quest. Contemporary cartographers believed that the sun melted the ice at the pole during the summer, which meant a ship could get through the region frozen the rest of the year.

Not surprisingly, ice blocked Hudson’s way and forced him to return home. But his determination to reach the East Indies drove him to try again the next year, this time aiming the Hopewell towards the Northeast Passage, which purportedly ran north of Russia. Again, ice blocked his path so he sailed back to London. In 1609, the Dutch East India Company hired Hudson to make yet another  effort to go through the Northeast Passage. When ice again blocked the Halve Maen he followed a tip he had received from Captain John Smith, who had learned from the Powhatans of a water route somewhere north of the Chesapeake that cut through North America. Read more ..

Brazil on the Edge

Out of Sight, Out of Mind: Rio’s Slum Solution

September 7th 2009

Environment Topics - Brazilian Slums
Brazilian slums

The postcard images of Rio de Janeiro present a study in contrast. The sprawling city is caught between the Atlantic Ocean and the vast Atlantic Forest region, where world-famous beaches and steep mountains abruptly collide with a growing population and a growing amount of pavement. Rio evokes images of two distinct worlds. One is the luxurious resort city famous for Carnaval, supermodels, and beautiful beaches. But recently, the conception of Rio as a dangerous city plagued by poverty, violence, and drugs has entered mainstream discussion, partially as a result of such popular films as City of God and Elite Squad.

The pattern of segregation by financial status within the city has been longstanding, though largely unknown abroad. From the early 1800s on, Rio’s rich lived starkly separate lives away from its poor, but all resided in the same central area of the city. When slavery was abolished in 1888, the first favelas, a term coined to describe a Brazilian slum, were created as newly emancipated slaves migrated to the urban centers seeking jobs. Read more ..

Haiti on the Edge

As Family Planning Goes Global, Haiti Becomes a Case in Point

August 31st 2009

Caribbean - Dirt Biscuits in Haiti
Preparing Biscuits Made of Dirt in Impoverished Haiti

In 1994, delegates from 179 nations met in Cairo to redefine the international policy regarding population growth. During this convention, the participating countries adopted a 20-year plan which emphasized the rights and aspirations of those countries to regulate population growth in order to achieve demographic and development targets. The result of the meeting, which would eventually become known as the Cairo Consensus, was the “first international document to recognize the interconnections between reproductive health, a sustainable environment, and economic development.”

These interconnections highlighted the necessity of increased family planning initiatives, which can prolong lives, improve health (especially for children), reduce the need for abortions, promote economic growth, expand life choices for women, decrease the spread of HIV/AIDS, and constrain the consumption of natural resources and the many environmental problems associated with the usage of such resources. Read more ..

Eugenics in America

Government Death Panels and Mass Murder was Always an Option in 20th Century America's War Against the Weak

August 24th 2009

Book Covers - War Against the Weak

This article is based on the award-winning bestseller War Against the Weak--Eugenics and America's Campaign to Create a Master Race  (Dialog Press). Buy it here

The summer of 2009 has been rife with misplaced fears about government death panels arising from proposed insurance reform. These fears are not based on anything in the proposed legislation. But government death panels and mass euthanasia were always a public option during the first decades of the twentieth century. This campaign to exterminate all those deemed socially or medically unworthy was not conducted by the worst segments of our society but by the elite of the American establishment. They saw themselves as liberals, progressive, do-gooders—and even utopians— trying to create a more perfect society.

The mission: eliminate the existence of the poor, immigrants, those of mixed parentage, and indeed anyone who did not approximate the blond-haired blue-eyed ideal they idealized. This racial type was termed Nordic, and it was socially deified by a broad movement of esteemed university professors, doctors, legislators, judges and writers. They called themselves eugenicists. This widely accepted extremist movement was virtually created and funded by millions in corporate philanthropy from the Carnegie Institution, the Rockefeller Foundation and the Harriman railroad fortune through a complex of pseudoscientific institutions and population tracking offices at Cold Spring Harbor, Long Island. From there, leading academics supported by big money lead a termite-like proliferation of eugenics into the laws, social policies and curricula of the nation. During these turbulent decades, eugenics enjoyed the active support of the government, especially the U.S. Department of Agriculture which wanted to breed men the way they bred cattle, and many state and county offices.

Indeed, Eugenics was enacted into law in some 27 states during the first decades of the twentieth century, and then exalted as the law of the land by the U. S. Supreme Court. In a famous 1927 opinion, revered jurist Oliver Wendell Holmes compared social undesirables to bacteria to be wiped out. The sanctioned methods to be used were nothing less than a combination of pseudoscientific raceology, social engineering, ethnic cleansing and abject race law, designed to eliminate millions in an organized fashion. More specifically, the American eugenics movement sought to continually subtract the so-called “bottom tenth” of America. These were to include Blacks, Native Americans, Southern Italians, East Europeans, Jews, Hispanics, the poor, criminals, the intellectually unaccepted, the so-called “shiftless,” and many others. The drive for perfection even included excising the existence of Appalachians with brown hair, frequently rounded up by county officials for confinement. When this effort began in the early twentieth century, some fourteen million Americans were targeted for elimination. Read more ..

Edge on the Media

Modern Times and the Decline of Traditional Media

August 24th 2009

Social Topics - Newspapers

The new social media -- blogging, Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, and YouTube are current faves -- revolutionising the publishing world, for better and worse. Let's look at both the better and the worse in perspective.

The current tsunami of personal choices in communication is slowly draining the profit from mainstream media. These media traditionally depend on huge audiences who all live in one region and mostly want the same things (the football scores, the crossword, the TV Guide, etc.). But that is all available now on the Internet, all around the world, all the time.

One outcome is a death watch on many newspapers, including famous ones like the Boston Globe. As journalist Paul Gillin noted recently: "The newspaper model scales up very well, but it scales down very badly. It costs a newspaper nearly as much to deliver 25,000 copies as it does to deliver 50,000 copies. Readership has been in decline for 30 years and the decline shows no signs of abating. Meanwhile, new competition has sprung up online with a vastly superior cost structure and an interactive format that appeals to the new generation of readers." Read more ..

Inside Latin America

Brazil and Paraguay Adopt a “Good Neighbor” Policy in Bilateral Energy Deal

August 17th 2009

Latin American Topics - Itaipu Dam

July 25, 2009 marked the passage of a landmark piece of reform that was brokered between Brazil and Paraguay. The agreement, signed in Asunción, finally resolved a decade long disagreement between the two governments regarding the Itaipú dam. The revisions in the Itaipú treaty had far reaching implications for the national standing of Paraguay’s President Fernando Lugo and Brazil’s President Luíz Inacio Lula da Silva as well for Brazil’s leadership role in Latin America. It is also expected to bring about a series of new prospects for energy initiatives in the region. The agreement represents a historic turnaround on the part of Brazil, which had been vehemently opposed to tariff concessions for decades. Analysts believe that the new agreement is indicative of the “good neighbor” policy that Lula has recently advocated in the region, as Brazil attempts to solidify its leadership role and shore up a base of moderate democratic support for its foreign policy initiatives. Read more ..

Edge of Archaeology

Could 19th Century Cannon Balls Really Sink Ships?

August 11th 2009

Science - Cannon Balls Israel

A joint experiment by researchers at the University of Haifa and Rafael Advanced Defense Systems Ltd. succeeded in solving the riddle: Could cannon balls from the early 19th century sink warships?

At first glance, the hull of the warship that sank off the coast of Acre seemed strong; but a unique experiment indicated that the thick timbers could not withstand the cannon balls.

The joint experiment carried out by researchers from the Leon Recanati Institute for Maritime Studies at the University of Haifa and staff of Rafael Advanced Defense Systems Ltd. has solved the riddle that has been puzzling researchers ever since they first observed the thick wooden sides of the sunken ship opposite the shore of Acre: could cannon fire have penetrated the hull?

The ship was discovered in 1966, but only since University of Haifa researchers began examining it about three years ago have its mysteries been exposed. The initial matters of interest related to the ship's origins, date and the reason why it sank. A map drawn up by a British officer in 1799, during Napoleon's siege of Acre, led the researchers to assume that this was a blockship sunk by the British to bar French vessels from entering the port. Read more ..

America's Economic Collapse

Appraisers with Revoked Licenses Still Profit in Real Estate Industry

August 10th 2009

Economy - Home Foreclosure

In 2007, a mortgage lender flagged the work of veteran Florida home appraiser Jerome Woolf for review, a process that often leads to an appraiser losing a lender’s business — a potentially disastrous financial hit for a small businessman like Woolf.

The review paperwork confused Woolf. His signature was on the original appraisal, but the home was in St. Lucie County. Woolf never worked that far north on Florida’s Atlantic coast.

Woolf suspected Serge R. Wainer. A year before, Wainer had worked for Woolf as an appraisal trainee. Woolf described his former apprentice as a middle-aged man who bristled under his oversight, often performing incomplete and inaccurate appraisals.

Convinced Wainer swiped his digitally scanned signature and fixed it on the appraisal, Woolf reported the incident to the police and the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation. Read more ..

Inside Islam

Sudan Under New Scrutiny For Flogging Women who Wear Pants

August 3rd 2009

Islamic Topics - Lubna Hussein
Lubna Hussein to be flogged for wear pants

The Islamist regime governing the Sudan has recently gained international attention for ordering the flogging of fourteen women for wearing trousers. According the regime’s ultra-orthodox interpretation of Islamic sharia law, the women have been charged with “immodesty,” for which the mandatory sentence under Sudan’s criminal code is either a fine or a flogging of forty lashes, administered publicly. Although the Sudanese government states that although it is true such sentences are open to viewing by the public, they are normally carried out in the courtyard of a police station. Court-ordered flogging of women is routine in Sudan, and would not normally be considered newsworthy by the international media. The facts of this case have proven to be anything but routine, and are once again forcing the world—and both the government and citizens of Sudan—to confront the reality of sharia justice, especially as applied to women.

Except for an act of coincidence, and another of personal bravery, this would have been a story of yet another routine raid by Khartoum’s public order police, followed by swiftly administered summary justice leaving whipped and frightened women to weep for desiring what women the world over want: to appear beautiful. This time, when the public order police, the regime’s enforcers of Sharia law in public places, decided to raid a Khartoum café known to be popular among journalists and foreigners, it just so happened that among the fourteen women they arrested was Lubna Hussein, a prominent Sudanese journalist, critic of the regime, and public information officer working for the U.N. Mission in Sudan. Read more ..

Arabs and the West

Original Mideast Peace Plan Recognized Jewish State in Return for Arab Nation in Syria

July 27th 2009

Book Covers - Banking on Baghdad

This article is based on the Banking on Baghdad--Inside Iraq's 7,000-Year History of War, Profit, and Conflict (Dialog Press). Buy it here

Every day, politicians and pundits talk of another chance at Mideast peace missed, delayed or subverted. The focus is always on Palestinians and Israelis as the keystone to a global settlement with the West and across the region. But in the original peace arrangement between the Jews, Arabs and the Western powers, it was not settlements and Jerusalem that were at the heart of the problem. In fact, the Arabs originally agreed to a Jewish state complete with massive Jewish immigration. For Arabs, the prize was not Palestine, it was Syria.

This is the story of how the original Middle East Peace Plan crafted among all sides in the aftermath of World War I was subverted—not by Jews or Zionists, but by the French.

It begins at the Paris Peace Conference, on January 1919, in a flag-bedecked, battle-scarred—but victorious—Paris. There, the great top-hatted Allied men of vision and illusion gathered to remake the world and invent the post-Ottoman Middle East. At those fateful meetings, the Arabs and Jews formally agreed to mutually endorse both their national aspirations and live in peace.

This was the deal: The Jews could have an unrestricted Zionist state in Palestine. The British could have Iraq and its fabulous, albeit still undrilled, oil. The Arabs only wanted Syria and the holy cities of Mecca and Medina in the Arabian Peninsula.

During the first days of the League of Nation’s Paris Peace Conference, Faisal, accompanied by T.E. Lawrence, widely dubbed "Lawrence of Arabia," met in Paris with Zionist Organization president Chaim Weizmann. Following up on meetings the two leaders had held the previous June in Aqaba, Faisal signed an enlightened and tolerant nine-point agreement endorsing the Balfour Declaration and inviting the Zionists to coexist in Palestine. The text includes great specificity about mutual national aspirations. But the chief goal of the Arabs for an Arab national state at that time was not Palestine—but Syria. The text: Read more ..

Inside Latin America

An End to Kirchnerism in Argentina as the Tango Nation Faces Uncertainty

July 27th 2009

Latin American Topics - Kirchners
President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner

President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner of Argentina has now been in office one year and a half and is facing enormous challenges from within and without. Domestically, her call for national dialogue has been received cautiously by her opponents and the business sector, while her hard-core supporters appear to be flagging.

The Kirchner administration has been accused of corruption and manipulation of economic statistics, as well as putting pressures on both judges and the media. Industrial output dropped by nearly 11 percent this May with respect to the same period in 2008, according to the Argentine Industrial Union – a pro-business group. The annual rate of inflation has now surpassed 15 percent. Swine flu has now caused more than 165 deaths, according to official figures, but could actually be more, while official statistics have been called into question. World-renowned for its range-fed beef, Argentina may actually have to import beef this year because of the current impasse between the government and the private sector. Importing beef is something that just a short time ago would have seemed beyond comprehension.

As far as international affairs are concerned, Argentina appears to be more and more isolated. While its revenue appears to be in freefall, Argentina has no access to international financial markets even while it continues its feud with the International Monetary Fund. Recently, President Barack Obama placed Brazil and Chile at the forefront as examples of countries enjoying good relations with the United States. He failed to mention Argentina. Read more ..

The Obama Edge

Meeting with Barack Obama—the Atmospherics As I Saw Them

July 20th 2009

Jewish Topics - Obama -Jewish Meeting 0347 lo-res
Barack Obama Meets with 16 Jewish Leaders

Last Monday afternoon, I was called to represent Hadassah at a small meeting at the White House with President Obama and 16 representatives of several American Jewish organizations. Here are the “fly-on-the-wall” details. 

The President spent nearly an hour with us, and also in attendance were several senior White House and policy staff including Rahm Emanuel, David Axelrod, Valerie Jarrett, Tina Tchen, Susan Sher, Dan Shapiro, and Danielle Borrin. 

The President entered the Roosevelt Room—just across from the Oval Office—without fan-fare at exactly at 3 pm and personally greeted each attendee, and hugged Lee Rosenberg (President-elect of AIPAC.) On my way to my seat I almost collided with the President when I went around the table to my seat and Obama suddenly entered thru a door in my path.

The President sat mid-table (with Emanuel to his left) and began by saying that Israel is an incredibly important ally; that the long term effect of the economic crisis has unfavorably impacted charities just as we are being called upon to deliver more services, and that reforming health care is an important priority for the future. Read more ..

Latin America on the Edge

Guatemalan Democracy: Hanging on By its Fingernails

July 13th 2009

Latin American Topics - Guatemala Protest
Guatemalan Protestors

In a country where an average of 17 murders are committed each day and 98 percent of criminal cases remain unsolved, the May 10, 2009 assassination of prominent Guatemalan lawyer, Rodrigo Rosenberg, could easily have been dismissed along with thousands of other ill-handled and heavily manipulated political murder investigations. Instead, the dramatic elements of a video recording shown at the attorney’s funeral, in which Rosenberg forewarns the viewers of his own death as a result of the alleged plotting of President Álvaro Colom, his wife Sandra Torres, and Colom’s chief of staff Gustavo Alejos, has brought Rosenberg’s murder to the height of national attention.

In light of the recent sharp protests that erupted in the aftermath of the video’s release, the political divides of Guatemala’s economically and culturally conflicted society are even more obvious now than before the garish Rosenberg murder. The government bussed thousands of Colom’s supporters from the country’s rural area to the capital to counter the protests of equally large numbers of urban middle and upper class residents using the event as a wedge to call for Colom’s immediate resignation. Read more ..

America’s Economic Collapse

Mortgage Confession: How I Helped Ruin the Economy for Ten Bucks an Hour

July 6th 2009

Economy - Money Money Money

The following recounts my experiences working for the Loan Delivery Department of a large multinational bank (hereafter known as The Bank) in Western New York during the hyper-inflated housing market. Almost all economists see the bursting housing bubble as a primary cause of the current global financial crisis. While there are many factors and actors to blame for the current crisis, my story highlights the impact securitization—the packaging and reselling of pools of mortgage loans—had on bank behavior.

Specifically, since the majority of profits for many banks were being generated by fees from loans, and as quickly as new loans were made, they were put into pools and sold to investment banks—who then manipulated these into more exotic financial instruments to sell to global investors—the banks’ incentive was to generate as many loans as possible, risk be damned! Everyone up and down the mortgage loan food chain was making money hand over fist, and no one wanted the gravy train to stop. But, as you will soon see, it required the complicit fraudulent behavior of banks (and others) to maintain it. Finally, while most analyses on the cause of the crisis have rightfully been directed at so-called “sub-prime loans,” my experience shows that fraudulent behavior was endemic, as the loans I dealt with were all classified as “prime mortgages.” Read more ..

The Edge of Ecology

Amazon Rainforest is Worth the Worldwide Crusade

June 29th 2009

Environment Topics - Amazon rainforest

Brazil is home to one-third of the world’s rainforest and half of the Amazon. Between its vast rainforests and bodies of water, Brazil hit the planet’s natural resource jackpot, although both are rapidly disappearing habitats. Despite its ecological wealth, Brazil has stated that international climate change is a burden that should be shouldered by both the developed and developing worlds. It also shortsightedly contends that each nation should take environmental action based solely on an inventory of its own needs. Among the world’s top ten largest emitters of greenhouse gases, Brazil needs to step up its actions in order to counteract deforestation and climate change. Moreover, this is an international issue that the rest of the world cannot sit idly by and wait for Brazil to join in and do its share in coping with the problem.

Recent Flooding a Wake-up Call to Climate Change
Increasingly severe weather irregularities are making Brazil’s environmental issues of more pressing importance to national and global policies. The existence of climate change no longer appears to be much of a debate for Brazil, in light of the unusual and frightfully destructive flooding in the north this May that killed forty-four people and left more than 180,000 homeless. Read more ..

Edge of Crime

The Montenegro Connection: Love, Tobacco, and the Mafia

June 22nd 2009

Investigation - Montenegro Cigarette Destruction
Montenegrin Customs Officer Destroys Smuggled Cigarettes

“My little cat... I'm going crazy without you.... You have repeatedly betrayed me, I think.... Little cat, when are you coming? ... I love you, little cat.”

On Jan. 4, 2001, Dusanka Pesic Jeknic, representative of the Montenegrin trade mission in Milan, Italy, was speaking on the phone at her home in the southwest of the city. Milo Djukanovic, at that time president of Montenegro, was calling from the capital Podgorica. Billions of people around the world had just hailed the New Millennium. Dusanka, nicknamed “Duska,” the beautiful 41-year-old widow of the late foreign minister of Montenegro, was alone, far from her country. And she spoke out freely about everything: love, tobacco, and crime.

Eight years after Jeknic's loving conversation with her president, transcripts of her phone calls, wiretapped by the Italian police for 20 months, are attached to hundreds of thousands of court records filed by the prosecutor's office in Bari, in southern Italy. Read more ..

Iran's Voter Revolt

How to Steal an Election in Iran

June 15th 2009

Iran - Iran Election

With Iran's presidential campaign now under the microscope the challengers to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and indeed many in the world are understandably expressing intense concern about the possibility of election fraud and manipulation of the election. How do elections work in Iran? Not only are there complaints about regime influence on the campaign, such as biased coverage by state-run television, the voting itself can be manipulated in numerous ways.

According to Iranian law, the Interior Ministry administers elections. In each ward or county, the ministry forms an executive committee that consists of the ward or county head, the local head of the National Organization for Civil Registration, the chief prosecutor or his representative, and eight respected local figures.

The Guardian Council has the duty of supervising the electoral process at each polling station and has created observation committees with more than 130,000 members. Each candidate has the right to send an observer to each fixed polling station to observe both the voting process and the ballot count. Read more ..

Edge on Crime

Canada’s Boom in Smuggled Cigarettes--Indian Tobacco Factories and Organized Crime Control a Billion-Dollar Black Market

June 8th 2009

Crime Topics - Tobacco Farmer
Canadian Tobacco Farmer Gary Godelie

Gary Godelie has been a tobacco farmer most of his life, struggling to keep alive a family farm that produces what most everyone agrees is a death crop. Whacked by global competition undercutting his prices, not to mention a dwindling number of Canadian smokers, he often thinks of getting out of the business.

Nothing brought this thought home more clearly than a series of events that began one hot July day in 2006 when two men drove up to his southern Ontario farm and offered to buy his entire crop. That surprised Godelie because anybody in the tobacco business would know that Canadian growers are part of a tightly regulated quota system. Buyers have to be federally licensed and can buy only through the marketing board.

“I said, 'Well no. I can't sell you tobacco. I have to sell it to the legal system,'” Godelie recalled. “They kind of looked at me and laughed and like said, 'Why would you want to do that when we're offering you cash money, a deal here, you know.' 'Well, no, I'm not going to do that kind of stuff.'”

The two men drove off and Godelie thought that was the end of it. Read more ..

Approaching the Holocaust

My Year in Treblinka--No Imagination Could Conceive It

June 1st 2009

History-Genocide - Treblinka

Recently, the Forward reprinted an historic article from its 1944 archive. The editor's modern-day introduction is appended. A condensed version of the original 1944 article by Yankel Wiernik follows.

Dear Reader: For your sake alone I continue to hang on to my miserable life, though it has lost all attraction for me. How can I breathe freely and enjoy all that which nature has created?

Time and again I wake up in the middle of the night moaning pitifully. Ghastly nightmares break up the sleep I so badly need. I see thousands of skeletons extending their bony arms towards me, as if begging for mercy and life, but I, drenched with sweat, feel incapable of giving any help. And then I jump up, rub my eyes and actually rejoice over it all being but a dream. My life is embittered. Phantoms of death haunt me, spectres of children, little children, nothing but children.

I sacrificed all those nearest and dearest to me. I myself took them to the place of execution. I built their death-chambers for them. I, who saw the doom of three generations, must keep on living for the sake of the future.

The world must be told of the infamy of those barbarians, so that centuries and generations to come can execrate them…. No imagination, no matter how daring, could possibly conceive of anything like that which I have seen and lived through. Nor could any pen, no matter how facile, describe it properly. Read more ..

Significant Lives

Sidney Fine was a Teacher, Scholar, and "a Mensch"

May 25th 2009

Obits - Sidney Fine

The University of Michigan's historian Sidney Fine died in Ann Arbor on the last day of March at the age of 88. To a great many alumni, that news will surely trigger a jolt of sadness and memory. Each department has had its great figures, of course, its important scholars and popular teachers. But few can claim a figure like Fine, who combined the roles of teacher, scholar and mentor so memorably, and who exerted an influence for good in so many lives.

Fine was a native of Cleveland who became a Michigan man through and through. A Navy veteran of World War II, he earned his Ph.D. at U-M in 1948, then taught in Ann Arbor for the next 53 years, one of the longest spans of any U-M faculty member ever. He loved the University in all its dimensions (though never with uncritical eyes), from the Bentley Historical Library on North Campus, where he was an indefatigable researcher and adviser, to Michigan Stadium, where he seldom if ever missed a home game.

Famed U-M football coach Bo Schembechler himself presented Fine with an autographed football at his retirement party in 1991—an occasion that turned out to be premature, since the Michigan legislature did away with its mandatory retirement rule for college professors principally to allow Fine to keep teaching beyond the age of 70. He did so for 10 more years. By the time he left the classroom in 2001, he had taught between 25,000 and 30,000 students, and there is no doubt that he was one of the most popular teachers in the University's history.

He was also an influential and prolific writer. He began his career as a student of intellectual history—his Laissez Faire and the General-Welfare State: A Study of Conflict in American Thought, 1865-1901 remains a classic of that field—then turned to labor history, where he made his largest mark as a scholar. Many of his books told the story of 20th-century U.S. history as seen through the prism of urban, industrial society in Michigan—its labor strife in the 1930s, its racial turmoil in the 1960s, its public policy in the 1950s and '60s. Read more ..

The Violent Edge in Latin America

Guatemalans Incensed over their President, Accused of Murder in Victim's Damning YouTube Videotape

May 18th 2009

Crime Topics - Rodrigo Rosenberg Dead
Rodrigo Rosenberg lies dead in Guatemala

Thousands of Guatemalans took to the streets on May 17; some to demand the resignation of President Alvaro Colom, some to show support. The embattled national leader is accused of ordering the murder of a local lawyer. The accusation stems from a damning YouTube video (view it here).

More than 40,000 of the president’s supporters thronged Constitution Plaza in front of the National Cathedral and the National Palace of Culture. Many of them were brought from outside the capital city of Guatemala by the ruling National Unity for Hope.

“Colom, we’re with you!” “Alvaro, friend/president, Guatemala is with you.” and “With Colom to the death” read some of the posters held aloft by supporters who came on buses to Guatemala City for the rally. Elsewhere, Colom’s opponents assembled at Plaza Italia, bringing together 15,000 Guatemalans who are demanding his resignation. The so-called “March for Peace” was apparently orchestrated by the powerful agribusiness sector of Guatemala along with other business sectors. Failed presidential candidates, such as Otto Pérez Molina and Alejandro Giammattei, were among the protesters.

Alvaro Colom, scion of a wealthy family and the nephew of a slain politician, is facing the gravest crisis of his presidency since coming to power in January 2008. He has been tied by his opponents to criminal organizations even while he has taken steps to address widespread crime and the influence of narco gangs known as “maras.” So far, the aristocratic Colom has been unable to stem the violence which has struck down politicians and ordinary citizens alike. The murders of hundreds of women, presumably killed by gang members, remain unsolved. Read more ..

America's Economic Collapse

A Forgotten Memoir Teaches Lessons for Surviving Hard Times

May 11th 2009

Economy - Depression Jobs

"A long, giddy boom fueled by irrational investment bubbles...lax regulators looking the other way...then rapid-fire crises and a downwar-spiraling slowdown..."

In the minds of many Americans, the economic crises of recent months displayed striking parallels to the Wall Street Crash of 1929 and the ensuing Great Depression. One couldn't help but wonder: Is this the start of a New Depression? What would it be like?

Our collective memory of that era now consists of Littlemore than time-encrusted clichés and scratchy newsreel images— grim men in soup-kitchen lines and a jaunty Franklin Roosevelt declaring: “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” As the parents of the Baby Boomers pass from the stage, firsthand knowledge of 1930s America is vanishing.

To summon the Ann Arbor of that era, we need only turn to a vivid memoir, now little remembered, by the Michigan-born writer Edmund G. Love (’36). Published in 1972 by William Morrow & Co., the book was titled Hanging On: Or How to Get Through a Depression and Enjoy Life. In spite of its happy-go-lucky subtitle, it is a searing recollection of what the term “hard times” really means. One puts it down shorn of any glib nostalgia about “the greatest generation.”

Love, born in 1912, was a journalist, screenwriter, and novelist, who published some 20 books, including Subways Are For Sleeping, which became the basis of a hit Broadway musical in the late 1950s. But the two books of his most likely to last are his memoirs of growing to maturity in Michigan. The first of these, titled The Situation in Flushing, is about Love’s boyhood outside Flint — an evocation of small-town life that the New York Times’ reviewer called “enchantment, pure and solid.” Read more ..

Significant Lives

The Anatomy of the Murder of a Just Man

May 5th 2009

Christian Topics - Bishop Juan Gerardi
Bishop Juan Gerardi of Guatemala

Cardinal Rodolfo Quezada Toruño of Guatemala City says he is assured eleven years after the still unresolved murder of Bishop Juan Gerardi there are still unhealed wounds in his church and Guatemalan society as a whole. In his homily during Sunday Mass April 26, marking the anniversary at the captial's Catholic cathedral, the cardinal recalled Bishop Gerardi as a “notable promoter of peace and human rights and an exemplary pastor of the poorest and most needy.” The bishop’s victimizers, said the cardinal, cannot have the interior peace that is enjoyed by Guatemala’s bishops. Bishop Gerardi’s murder, despite investigations conducted in cooperation with European and U.S. experts, has not yet been clarified.

Bishop Juan Gerardi was murdered on the night of April 26, 1998 at his residence in Guatemala City, only 300 yards from the presidential palace. He was bludgeoned to death by unknown assailants in his garage. The murderers used a concrete slab to smash his head to the extent that his face was unrecognizable. His remains were identified by the episcopal ring on his finger.

Cardinal Rodolfo Quezada Toruño of Guatemala City said he is assured, eleven years after the still unresolved murder of Bishop Juan Gerardi, there are still unhealed wounds in his church and Guatemalan society as a whole. In his homily during Sunday Mass April 26, marking the anniversary at the capital's Catholic cathedral, the cardinal recalled Bishop Gerardi as a “notable promoter of peace and human rights and an exemplary pastor of the poorest and most needy.” The bishop’s victimizers, said the cardinal, cannot have the interior peace that is enjoyed by Guatemala’s bishops. Bishop Gerardi’s murder, despite investigations conducted in cooperation with European and U.S. experts, has not yet been clarified. Read more ..

The Legal Edge

National High School Mock Trial vs. Orthodox Jewish Students—Showdown Looming

April 28th 2009

Social Topics - Mock Trial

The National High School Mock Trial Championship is esteemed for bringing young people into the best traditions of the American legal system. But now the organization is being broadly criticized from the halls of Congress to state bar associations and attorneys general for clinging to one of the nation’s worst traditions: religious insensitivity.

The charge stems from the national mock trial group’s refusal to accommodate the need for an Orthodox Jewish team from Maimonides School from Brookline Massachusetts to reschedule its event from Saturday—the Jewish Sabbath—to a Thursday or Friday as has been done in the past.

From May 6-10, state champions from across the United States will assemble in Atlanta to compete in the national finals. A decision to accommodate the Sabbath observers must be made immediately. Hence, a showdown is looming in the coming days as high-profile Jewish cause attorneys Nathan Lewin and Alyza Lewin, the Anti-Defamation League, and supportive circle of prestigious legal personalities try to convince the national office to be flexible. If not, advocates are considering civil rights litigation and a Department of Justice civil rights investigation; and the national association risks yet another black eye for its inability to accommodate the needs of minorities—many would say, the essence of jurisprudence. Read more ..


Swine Flu Virus Spreads from Mexico City and Has the World on Alert

April 27th 2009

Latin American Topics - Mexico Plague Kisses

While Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano has declared a health emergency in the United States, officials in Mexico, Hong Kong, New Zealand, Spain and France have also rung the tocsin to alert citizens of the danger posed by infection by swine flu. New Zealander students returning from California showed flu-like symptoms and have tested positive for Type A influenza. Specimens from the stricken students have been sent to the World Health Organization to determine whether they are afflicted with H1N1 swine influenza. H1N1 influenza is a subset of influenza A.

In Israel, doctors are running tests on a man who recently returned from Mexico with light flu symptoms. While the UK had a scare when a air-crew member who had flown from Mexico to London showed flu symptoms, it turned out he did not have swine flu. Canada has issued a travel advisory to its citizens who are considering a trip to Mexico. Read more ..

After the Holocaust

Hebrew Catholics Celebrate Both Passover and Holy Week in Jerusalem

April 20th 2009

Israel Topics - Hebrew Catholics
Hebrew-speaking Catholic Vicariate in Israel

The traditional Jewish blessings over wine and bread, the Kiddush and the Motzi, echoed through the sanctuary at 10 HaRav Kook Street in Jerusalem. It was a room of striking simplicity — with just one small cross in brown wood.

Four Catholic priests wearing white robes and green stoles stood at the altar, as one of them recited these blessings. But unlike the blessings at a festive Jewish meal, these were blessings of consecration, transforming the bread and the wine into the body and blood of Christ. Just before taking Communion, church members exchanged the greetings of Pax Christi, Peace of Christ, saying to one another, “Shalom HaMashiach.”

At the Church of Sts. Simeon & Anna, all the prayers are in Hebrew, as was this Evening Mass for the community known as the Hebrew-speaking Catholic community of Israel.

This is not a messianic Christian gathering, but neither is it just another Catholic Church serving the country’s 22,000 Roman Catholics, most of whom are Arab. Read more ..

Edge on the Holy Land

Archaeologists Demonstrate Jewish "Foothold" in Ancient Canaan

April 13th 2009

Israel Topics - Beth Shemesh Dig
Israeli Dig at Beth Shemesh

Archaeology in the Mideast, especially in Israel, wields ramifications that go far beyond the classrooms and peer review of academic specialists. The implications of archaeology have political and social dimensions, especially for people of the Judeo-Christian tradition.

For example, legend has it that the great rulers of Canaan, the ancient land of Israel, were all men. But a recent dig by Tel Aviv University archaeologists at Tel Beth-Shemesh uncovered possible evidence of a mysterious female ruler.

Tel Aviv University archaeologists Prof. Shlomo Bunimovitz and Dr. Zvi Lederman of the Department of Archaeology and Ancient Near Eastern Civilizations have uncovered an unusual ceramic plaque of a goddess in male dress, suggesting that a mighty female “king” may have ruled the city. If true, they say, the plaque would depict the only known female ruler of the region.

The plaque itself depicts a figure dressed as royal male figures and deities once appeared in Egyptian and Canaanite art. The figure’s hairstyle, though, is womanly and its bent arms are holding lotus flowers—attributes given to women. This plaque, art historians suggest, may be an artistic representation of the “Mistress of the Lionesses,” a female Canaanite ruler who was known to have sent distress letters to the Pharaoh in Egypt reporting unrest and destruction in her kingdom.

“We took this finding to an art historian who confirmed our hypothesis that the figure was a female,” says Dr. Lederman. “Obviously something very different was happening in this city. We may have found the ‘Mistress of the Lionesses’ who’d been sending letters from Canaan to Egypt. The destruction we uncovered at the site last summer, along with the plaque, may just be the key to the puzzle.” Read more ..

Breaking News!

Exclusive Coverage of Exodus--Children of Israel Flee Egyptian Bondage

April 6th 2009

Edwin Black
Edwin Black


pproximately two million Children of Israel are now encamped in the Sinai following their extraordinary exodus from Egypt yesterday. Just days ago, they were slaves to Pharaoh. Today, they are free men and women, destined for self-determination in a land of their own. Only now are the details of their fantastic experience coming to light.


The dramatic sequence of events began some weeks ago with the unexpected return of exiled prince Moses, who previously fled Pharaoh's wrath after slaying a taskmaster. In his daring appearance at the Palace, the inarticulate Moses, speaking through his brother Aaron, declared himself to be the personal emissary of a powerful new “God,” previously unknown to the Royal Court. Moreover, Moses asserted that his God was the protector of the Children of Israel, who have been in bondage for more than four centuries in Egypt.

The entire Royal Court was aghast as Moses demanded that the Children of Israel be permitted to travel three days into the desert for an unprecedented “feast and sacrifice” to their God. Making clear that he was not asking a Court indulgence, Moses looked straight at Pharaoh, stamped his roughhewn staff and issued the ultimatum that would be his rallying call during the coming days: “Let my people go.”


After the Holocaust

A Catholic Witness of the Holocaust Who Refused to Serve the Nazis

March 30th 2009

History-Genocide - Franz Jaegerstaetter

On August 9, 1943, Franz Jaegerstaetter was beheaded for refusing to serve in the German army.

Franciscus (Franz) was born out of wedlock in 1907. His parents were young and poor. He was raised in poverty and in Catholicism by his maternal grandmother, a shoemaker’s widow with 13 children. His parents never married before his father died in World War I in 1915. In 1917, his mother married Heinrich Jaegerstaetter and mother and son moved to his farm in St. Radegund, Austria, a village of about 550 people. Mr. Jaegerstaetter adopted Franz.

Franz’ formal schooling took place in a one-room, one-teacher schoolhouse with 50 to 60 students and ended at age 14. All but one villager was Catholic.

As a teenager, Franz went with a rough crowd. At age 20, he left the area temporarily and worked at a farm and in iron mines. He went on pilgrimage more than once to the religious shrine in Altoetting. When he returned to his village three years later, he had become a devout Catholic. Nonetheless, he got a girl from another village pregnant and she gave birth to their daughter Hildegard in 1933. Franz’ mother strenuously objected to him marrying the mother, but he provided child support and visited Hildegard frequently. In that same year, 1933, Franz’ adoptive father died at age 49. In 1936 Franz married a devout Catholic, Franziska (Fanny) Schwaninger. Franzl – she called him – was 29 and she 23. While they were still engaged, they went to Hildegard’s mother and offered to adopt the girl but the offer was rejected. Franz and his bride went on an expensive honeymoon (the equivalent of seven months’ of her wages) to Rome.  Read more ..

America’s Economic Collapse

Toxic Truths—Get Ready for the Quadrillion Word

March 23rd 2009

Economy - Stunned Trader

Americans have been on the escalator of life for the last 30 years. The escalator has been going up for the vast majority of that time. Since Ronald Reagan was President, the escalator has been moving upwards with only a few momentary breakdowns. We wanted it all. We believed it was our right to have it all. Americans did whatever it took to have it all. That meant an explosion of household debt promoted by bankers, the Federal Reserve, politicians, the media, and Presidents. There are millions of Americans who have a guilty feeling about how they have lived their lives. They had their cake and tried to eat it too.

Americans are now repenting by dramatically reducing their spending. The U.S, government is desperately attempting to convince Americans to get back on the escalator. The financial system has stopped functioning because no one trusts anyone else. The rules are changed by the Treasury and Federal Reserve on a daily basis. It seems like every company in America has converted into a bank so they can acquire a slice of the taxpayer funded pie called TARP. The government has been using all the tools at their disposal to dig the country out of this hole. If they dig too far, the stimulus could blow up in a torrent of inflation.er

Which Assets Are Toxic?

Ov the last nine years, U.S. financial institutions became extremely creative with their financial "products." They were encouraged by Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan, who was sure that any regulation other than self-regulation would be counterproductive. In the bully pulpit was our first Harvard MBA President George Bush, proclaiming the benefits of free market capitalism.


Edge on Human Rights

Press Rights in Latin America Are A Fading Concept

March 16th 2009

Crime Topics - Stop Killing Journalists

Gangs, drugs and politicians now menace the press in Latin America. Legislation and intimidation keep the Latin American press on a short leash. If the current situation regarding the press does not improve, the region will not only suffer, but it will lose its capacity to self-reform.

Currently, the Latin American press is up against formidable odds. Local drug cartels, street gangs, and government corruption are severely confining the ability of the press to report freely on a range of controversial subjects. Restricted reporting and the practice of “soft censorship” lurk behind the scene where government censorship could be a dangerous notion, not just for individual countries but also for overall U.S.-Latin American relations. If the press remains trapped in the grip of organized crime, threatened by drug cartels and governmental venality, then the quality of life throughout Latin America will be negatively affected.

There are two primary routes in which the press succumbs to censorship: directly, as a result of government intimidation, and through gang violence; or indirectly, which includes self-censorship out of fear, lack of professional solidarity from one’s journalistic peers or a supportive management, and a deficiency of reliable investigative journalism due to an infinite capacity for self intimidation.  Read more ..

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