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Archive for August 2008

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Is the U.S. Economy Safe?

Housing Crisis Truth – How We Got Here and Why It Won’t Be Over For At Least Two More Years

August 25th 2008

Economy - Home Foreclosure

The last thing that anyone thought would result, while watching the Twin Towers collapse on September 11, 2001, was the greatest housing boom in the history of the world. But this terrible event spurred a sequence of events that ultimately led to a tremendous rise in home prices. It arose from a positive feedback.

First, the federal government cut taxes and sent rebates to all Americans. Then the Federal Reserve, led by Alan Greenspan, cut the discount rate to 1 percent. Government officials urged Americans to spend in order to defeat terrorism. Alan Greenspan told everyone that adjustable rate mortgages were a good thing. Congress and President Bush believed that everyone should own a home and pressured lenders to provide mortgages to low income people.

Cut to Wall Street which created new investment vehicles that allowed mortgages to be packaged and sold to investors throughout the world with investment grade ratings provided by Moody’s and S&P, for a price. Mortgage companies and lenders developed ARMs, Option ARMs, teaser rate loans, no-doc loans, negative amortization loans and 100% financing loans. Low income people started buying homes, with these exotic mortgage products, from middle income people. Middle income people started to buy larger houses from rich people, boosting demand for new homes. Rich people bought mansions and second homes. Bidding wars for houses were commonplace. The demand caused by this influx of new home buyers drove prices skyward, with home prices doubling in five years. This price rise brought in the speculators/flippers. They began to buy multiple houses with nothing down, pre-construction, with plans to sell them for a profit without ever moving into them. Read more ..

China's Global Energy Quest

China's Global Quest for Energy Reaches Russia and Creates New Oil Bloc

August 25th 2008

Asia Topics - Vladimir Putin - Hu Jintao
Vladmir Putin and Hu Jintao

There is a growing alliance between China and neighboring country Russia. This alliance generates vast undercurrents of both economic and political intention.

Russia, a major non-OPEC oil-producing country, holds the world’s largest natural gas reserves and is the world’s largest exporter. The country also holds the eighth largest oil reserves, of which it is the second largest oil exporter. However, Russian oil fields, located mostly in Western Siberia were established in the 1970s and desperately need capital and technology to stabilize their production. Russia needs at least a $25 billion overall investment to accomplish this and approximately $6-7 billion annually.

The vast majority of Russia’s oil and natural gas is piped west to countries in the former Soviet Union and Europe. Due to fears of Russia’s capability to use its energy as a political tool and weapon, Europe has been striving to reduce its own dependence on Russian supplies. This is prompting Russia to look east, toward Asia to secure its security of demand. With its booming economic growth, China is an ideal partner to Russia.

In the 1950s, China and Russia maintained a close alliance. Between 1960 and 1985, China’s relationship with Russia was defined as deeply hostile. After 1985 there was a gradual normalization during the Gorbachev years. Then, after 1991, which marked the end of the Cold War, Russia maintained a political distance from China because China remained communist and had publicly endorsed a 1991 coup attempt by Soviet communist hardliners. Read more ..

Inside Islam

Egypt Seeks to Ban Christian-Muslim Organ Transplants

August 25th 2008

Islamic Topics - Muslim doctor
Muslim medic

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 ..

Iran's Nukes

Washington Parks Israeli Plan for Attack on Iran's Nuclear Facilities

August 25th 2008

Israel Topics - Israeli Jets Parked
Israeli warplanes

Washington has rejected an Israeli request for military equipment and support that would improve Israel's ability to attack Iran's nuclear facilities.

The Americans viewed the request, which was transmitted (and rejected) at the highest level, as a sign that Israel is in the advanced stages of preparations to attack Iran. They therefore warned Israel against attacking, saying such a strike would undermine American interests. They also demanded that Israel give them prior notice if it nevertheless decided to strike Iran.

As compensation for the requests it rejected, Washington offered to improve Israel's defenses against surface-to-surface missiles.

Israel responded by saying it reserves the right to take whatever action it deems necessary if diplomatic efforts to halt Iran's nuclearization fail. Read more ..

Inside Pakistan

Pakistan Descends into "Confusion and Madness" as Islamic Extremist Grip Tightens

August 25th 2008

Islamic Topics - Pakistan - Islamic extremism
Islamic Protest in Pakistan

“Utter confusion and madness” was how one Pakistani source recently described the situation in his country to me. The country has been plunged into further turmoil.

President Musharraf has finally resigned ahead of plans to impeach him. Suicide bombers struck a military installation in one of the deadliest attacks in the country’s history. And the existence of the new, moderate, secular Pakistan People’s Party (PPP)-led coalition government remains fragile. Meanwhile, the Talibanisation of Pakistan continues apace. Benazir Bhutto may have been right when she warned in her book Reconciliation: Islam, Democracy and the West, published after her murder: "Pakistan today is the most dangerous place in the world. Pakistan faces the threat of both Talibanisation and Balkanisation, which are gaining in strength." Read more ..

The Lingering Disaster in Burma

Reign of Terror in Burma Requires Genuine U.N. Action - Not Just Official Visits

August 25th 2008

Burma - Burmese Generals
Burma's Generals

On July 27, Nhkum Hkawn Din, a 15 year-old school girl in Kachin State, northern Burma, was brutally gang-raped and then murdered by Burma Army soldiers. Her skull was crushed beyond recognition, her eyes gouged out, her throat cut, she was stabbed in her right rib cage and stomach, and all her facial features were obliterated. Her body was found after a three-day search, naked and mutilated, 200 meters from an army checkpoint near Nam Sai village, Bamaw District. She was on her way to bring rice to her brother.

Against this backdrop, UN special envoy Ibrahim Gambari has just completed another visit to Burma last week for more talks with the country’s brutal, illegitimate military regime. But instead of taking the regime to task for human rights violations, he spent two days talking with the regime and its cronies, and just twenty minutes with the leaders of Burma’s democracy movement, the National League for Democracy (NLD). Even though his previous visits have yielded no change in the junta’s behavior, and Burma’s human rights record continues to deteriorate, Gambari rejected calls from activists to drop the diplomatic niceties and photo-calls and set out unambiguously the requirements for change. Read more ..

Edge on Jihadism

Europe Must Realize Jihadism is both an Ideology and a Theology

August 25th 2008

Terrorism - Jihadi Salute
Palestinian Jihadis in Hitler Salute

Jihadi terrorism is one of the largest threats Europe and the international community are facing in this era. Hence studying Jihadi terrorism beyond the formation and the dismantling of cells is highly relevant to Europeans because of the impact of its actions on security, politics, and economy.

Jihadism is putting significant pressure on European foreign policy regarding where and when Europe can intervene in an international crisis such as those in Afghanistan, Lebanon and Darfur. It is also putting pressure on the European economy through the choices made in foreign policies. But the inability to explain these pressures is a major reason behind the strategic failure in containing and reversing the threat which continues to expand and grow across the continent.

As some members of the European Parliament have declared, the issue is about "identification" of that threat. We need to "ID" it so that we can address it properly. Western democracies have had a failure in perception of the threat; for the countries that have been fighting this movement are still debating it seven years after 9/11 and several years after Madrid and London attacks. World War II took five years to win, and, in this confrontation, the identification of the menace is still not completed properly after seven years.

Hence, we will offer a few suggestions of strategic guidelines to address this issue.

First: The Identification Problem

1. Self Identification: The Jihadists talk about themselves, their agenda and their views. Let's not ignore this literature, but let's analyze it and learn from it. These movements certainly use theology in their discourse, but they have developed an ideology. They do define themselves as Jihadis, Islamists, Takfiris, and others, but the most accurate term to identify them is "Jihadists." Read more ..

Significant Lives

Zambia's Loss is Africa's Loss

August 25th 2008

Unknown - Mwananasa
Zambia President Levy Mwanawasa

His death has barely registered in the news, but the loss of Zambian President Levy Mwanawasa days ago, two months after he suffered a stroke, is a bad blow to Africa. Much of what the West knows about Africa comes in a numbing train of reports on famine, genocide, hacked limbs and political crackdowns a la Zimbabwean leader Robert Mugabe or Sudan's Omar al-Bashir. But there's another Africa that's enjoying renewal, thanks to the responsible leadership of men like Mwanawasa.

When Mwanawasa first ran for presidential office, having served as vice president in the 1990s, his opponents derided him as a mindless "cabbage" following his narrow survival in a 1991 car accident that slurred his speech. The determined lawyer proved his critics wrong: in his seven years in office, the cabbage presided over renewed economic growth (now about 6 percent a year); became one of the first and most cutting critics of Robert Mugabe's dictatorship; and began an anti-corruption drive that included prosecuting his former boss and president, Frederick Chiluba. The latter two moves are particularly significant on continent which rarely holds its leaders accountable, especially if they are former freedom fighters against colonialism, as was Mugabe. Read more ..

Election Edge

Obama Wrapped in Hands of Mortgage Industry

August 25th 2008

Contributors / Staff - Star Parker right crop

A key feature of the housing bill that President Bush recently signed into law was the federal bailout of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

These are the two taxpayer backed "Government Sponsored Enterprises" that own or guarantee almost half of all mortgages in the country.

Of the many words written about this bailout, those in a New York Times op-ed by William Poole, former head of the Federal Reserve Bank of Saint Louis, contain one of the most relevant and powerful messages:

"Critics of the congressional housing package complain that we are now committing taxpayers to huge new outlays to rescue Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. That view is wrong: Congressional inaction over the past 15 years had already committed taxpayers to the bailout."

Paul Gigot of the Wall Street Journal reviewed in his paper the coverage that it had been giving since 2001 to the rot inside these two entities.

Gigot also points out that, despite the rationale that we allegedly need these taxpayer-backed enterprises in order for those of modest incomes to get mortgages, in 2002, Fannie Mae "was able to pay no fewer than 21 of its executives a million dollars," and in 2003, its CEO, Franklin Raines, who was ousted for financial shenanigans at the firm, was paid $20 million. And, he left with a $25 million retirement package. Read more ..

Genetic Edge

Assisted Reproduction at 30

August 25th 2008

Science - Designer Embryo

Thirty years ago the assisted reproduction industry was born. From tiny but noisy beginnings, it grew through an occasionally troubled adolescence to maturity. Now it's time for it to become a responsible member of society. 

The modern industry's symbolic birth was on July 25th, 1978, when the first "test-tube baby" was born. It was one of the great media launches of all time. Louise Brown, who celebrates her 30th birthday on Friday, is English, but her birth was on the cover of Time magazine before it even happened. As Newsweek said, her first yell was "a cry heard round the brave new world." By late 1978, polls revealed that a remarkable 93% of Americans were aware of her -- and 85% of American women thought infertile couples should have the chance to try in-vitro fertilization (IVF). 

"IVF was a gigantic step," according to Alan Trounson, who now runs the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine. "We didn't realize it at the time; people didn't think it would work that well. We never envisaged that it would expand so dramatically around the world."

An estimated 4 million babies have been born using IVF. In the U.S. alone, over 52,000 were born in 2005, the latest year for which data is available, slightly more than 1% of all births in the country. That's more than two-and-a-half times the 1996 number, and the rate keeps increasing.  Read more ..

Personal Stories

What Tolkien Taught Me about the Battle of the Somme

August 25th 2008

Contributors / Staff - Martin Gilbert headshot
Martin Gilbert

J.R.R. Tolkien and the Somme were inextricably linked. I learned this forty-four years ago, shortly after I was elected to my first university appointment, at Merton College, Oxford. I was twenty-six years old.

In those days there was a strict seating order at college dinners. The head of the college sat in the centre, the senior fellows on either side of him, and the junior fellows at the far ends of the table. Also at the ends were the Emeritus Fellows, long retired, venerable, sometimes garrulous guardians of the college name. Several of them had served in the First World War. When they discovered a historian, new to his craft, filled with the keenness of a youngster amid his elders, they were happy to talk about those distant days, already more than forty years in the past.

Some enjoyed singing the songs of the trenches, in versions far ruder than those sung today. Tolkien was more reticent, yet when he did open up, full of terrible tales. There was never any boasting. The war's scars were too many, its reality too grim, to lead to self-glorification, or even to embellishment.

In 1916, the twenty-four-year-old Tolkien was a 2nd Lieutenant in the Lancashire Fusiliers. On the evening of July 14 — two weeks after the start of the Battle of the Somme — his battalion went into the line. He had never seen action before. What he later called the "animal horror" of the trenches was as yet unknown to him. But he already knew that one of his closest friends, Robert Gilson, had been killed on the first day. Read more ..

Are the Bank Robbers Actually Working for the Bank

August 25th 2008
Reading your "cutting edge" coverage of America's corrupt financial institutions--from the Federal Reserve Bank to the Treasury Department to Merrill Lynch, it is obvious that the public cannot trust a word of what bank executives are saying. Their off-the-books losses based on years of accumulated sweeheart, reckless and predator lending has now crippled the country's financial system. I look forward to the day these executives are not permitted to buy their way out of their lies and deception with multi-billion civil settlements, but instead must do serious jail time. Has it not occured to anyone that the bank robbers are actually working for the bank. Keep up the great coverage.


Religious Freedom

Elderly Catholic Bishop Arrested in China

August 25th 2008

Asia Topics - China arrests Catholics
Chinese police surround Catholic church

Roman Catholic Bishop Julius Jia Zhiguo of Zhengding, Hebei province, China, was arrested again by local authorities. Bishop Jia Zhiguo belongs to the “underground” church not recognized by China’s communist government. He was arrested on the morning of August 24, the twelfth such arrest since January 2004. Zhengding is a small village situated approximately 100 miles south of Beijing. Its Roman Catholic community numbers approximately 110,000. Bishop Jia Zhiguo was consecrated bishop in 1980.

Government officials arrived in vehicles at Christ the King Cathedral at WuQiu while his current whereabouts are unknown at this time. Bishop Jia Zhiguo was last arrested in August 2007 and released four months later. The reasons for his current unrest are as yet unclear. After his release in December 2007, the bishop was consigned to house arrest and not allowed to receive visitors unaccompanied by government watchers. Police patrols prevented visitors to the bishop during his house arrest.

Bishop Jia Zhiguo is nearly 74 years old and in delicate health, according to the Cardinal Kung Foundation. During his confinement at home, his requests for medical treatment were denied by Chinese authorities. The bishop has now spent at least 18 years in prison. Read more ..

Iran's Nukes

Israel Vows To Do "Everything Possible" To Stop Iran's S-300 As Debate Swirls About Its Delivery

August 11th 2008

Iran - S-300

Israeli defense officials declared the Jewish State would do "everything possible" to prevent Russia’s potent S-300 anti-aircraft batteries from reaching Iran. The remarks were made to the Jerusalem Post and reported by its veteran military affairs correspondent, Yaacov Katz.

The advanced S-300 mobile weapons system can reportedly track as many as 100 airborne targets simultaneously—drones, airplanes, and missiles—and can engage a dozen at once as far as 200 kilometers away. The system can even track missiles in outer space, that is, at 90,000 feet. Many missiles briefly enter the exosphere before raining down on their targets. As such, the S-300 can defeat virtually every aerial assault asset in Israel’s arsenal as it edges nearer to a pre-emptive strike against Iran’s high speed nuclear program. Read more ..

Russian Invasion of Georgia

Apply Kosovo's Model to South Ossetia?

August 11th 2008

Russian Topics - Russian Tanks Invade Georgia
Russian Tanks Invade Georgia

The conflict over South Ossetia -and possibly over Abkhazia's- regions is a dangerous development in international stability, particularly for the efforts deployed worldwide in the campaign against Terror forces. For this local ethnic and territorial confrontation involving now Georgia, the Russian Federation has the potential of absorbing energies and resources otherwise needed and applied elsewhere in resisting Jihadi offensives and networks.

Georgia is an important ally in the US-led coalition overseeing the stabilization of Iraq and the containing of Khomeinist offensive in that country. An escalation over South Ossetia and Abkhazia will lead (and has already significantly) to a full withdrawal of Georgia from Iraq and eventually drawing US and other Western diplomatic efforts and resources for the defense of Georgia in the Caucuses. This will weaken the position in Iraq, in the Middle East, and open an unnecessary front in a different region against a superpower, also drawn into the conflict because of local conflicts. Read more ..

Is the U.S. Economy Safe?

The Balance Sheet Lies of Merrill Lynch and Wall Street's Failing Cabal

August 11th 2008

Economy - Merrill Lynch Bull

The top financial institutions in the world have created the biggest financial crisis since the Great Depression. Through their greed and excessive risk taking, our system has been on the brink of disaster since January, 2008. Our Treasury Secretary, Hank Paulson, has been using our tax dollars to prop up these poorly run institutions. Many don’t understand the lack of outrage in this country.

 Start with Merrill Lynch, perhaps the least credible of all banking institutions and certainly a poster child for the worst type of behavior. John Thain is the Chairman and CEO of Merrill Lynch. He makes in excess of $50 million per year in compensation. Previously, Thain held positions as President, COO and CFO at Goldman Sachs. He is a close associate of Hank Paulson. Consider these recent quotes from Mr. Thain:  After selling $6.6 billion of preferred shares to a group that included Japanese and Kuwaiti investors, Thain stated on January 15, 2008, "These transactions make certain that Merrill is well-capitalized." Later, in a March 8 interview with France's Le Figaro newspaper, Thain stated, "Today I can say that we will not need additional funds. These problems are behind us. We will not return to the market."

A month later on April 8, the globetrotting Thain told reporters in Tokyo and Reuters reported, "We deliberately raised more capital than we lost last year ... we believe that will allow us to not have to go back to the equity market in the foreseeable future." Just weeks ago, on July 17, Thain declared in a conference call after posting Merrill's second-quarter results, "Right now we believe that we are in a very comfortable spot in terms of our capital." Read more ..

Inside Europe

Europe Takes Another Look At Divorced Fathers

August 11th 2008

Europe Topics - Man With Ring

The stereotypical image of downtrodden mothers battling to make ends meet after "deadbeat dads" vanish from their children's lives is being trampled by a growing group of dads rallying for quality time with their youngsters in the age of divorce. Media attention on this group has been ample since the creation of the Society for Male and Paternal Dignity (SYGAPA) in 2005.

The society's existence has somewhat rehabilitated the image of divorced fathers, but little else has changed. In most divorce cases, custody typically goes to the mother. "No other European country gives 95 percent of custody to mothers," guesstimates SYGAPA member and divorced father Dimitris Pahoumas, speaking about Greece's custody laws. "Ideally, custody should be 50-50, with fathers able to have input in their children's lives."

Pahoumas believes that "social policies" are to blame for the bad relations between parents after divorce. "The government appears scared of women's organizations when chartering fathers' entitlements," he says, pointing to the fact that the general secretariat for equality has not yet met with SYGAPA. Read more ..

Election Edge

Brown Skin, White Mask—Obama’s Racial Awakening

August 11th 2008

Contributors / Staff - Armstrong Williams Headshot
Armstrong Williams

Black conservatives are flirting with the idea of supporting Senator Obama’s campaign for president. While the media has assumed it’s because of Obama’s race and curb appeal, everyone seems to be overlooking the deeper issue they might actually have in common—each has undergone a racial reawakening that has put them at odds with the mainstream civil rights establishment.

Although Obama is classically liberal on most issues, he has taken the audacious step of moving beyond traditional racial politics in order to inherit the mantle of an American populist. He has been tried by fire in the national media for his affiliation with racialist political ideologues. In making a firm choice to disavow the politics of victimization – as difficult as it was for him apparently – Obama now joins the august ranks of those public figures who are often ostracized by the American black establishment.

The son of an African immigrant, Obama does not share the legacy of slavery and oppression in this country with most Americans who happen to be black. His forefathers never picked cotton in the brutal South, and his grandmother never had to sit on the back of the bus. He writes of feeling outcast from the circle of black elites he encountered in Ivy League and other elite institutions. Though he shared their skin color, he could not quite share their struggle. In order to fit in, he went the extra mile. He joined a radical black church in Chicago after law school and became, literally, a born-again Negro. By eschewing the usual high-powered law firm job in favor of community organizing, Obama further solidified his street credentials. But ultimately, this was not enough. When asked to take the final, incorrigible step of damning America, he refused to drink the Kool-Aid. Read more ..

Edge on Geology

Evidence North America and Antarctica Were Connected Might Be Revealed by Discovered Rock

August 11th 2008

Science - Antarctica from space

A lone granite boulder found against all odds high atop a glacier in Antarctica may provide additional key evidence to support a theory that parts of the southernmost continent once were connected to North America hundreds of millions of years ago.

Writing in the July 11 edition of the journal Science, an international team of U.S. and Australian investigators describe their findings, which were made in the Transantarctic Mountains, and their significance to the problem of piecing together what an ancient supercontinent, called Rodinia, looked like. The U.S. investigators were funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF).

Previous lines of scientific evidence led researchers to theorise that about 600-800 million years ago a portion of Rodinia broke away from what is now the southwestern United States and eventually drifted southward to become eastern Antarctica and Australia.

The team's find, they argue, provides physical evidence that confirms the so-called southwestern United States and East Antarctica (SWEAT) hypothesis. Read more ..

China’s Troubled Olympics

Playing Politics: Olympic Controversies Past and Present

August 11th 2008

Olympics - SF Olympic Protest

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 ..

Inside the Middle East

Syria Playing Coy, Gesturing Between Iran and the West—But Stalling

August 11th 2008

Arab Topics - Bashar Assad headshot
Syrian President Bashar Assad

A fourth round of indirect talks between Syrian and Israeli representatives was recently concluded in Istanbul. As the Turkish mediators kept themselves in shape conveying messages between the hotel rooms of the two countries' delegations, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert was keen to stress the urgency of the hour.

The time was approaching, the prime minister said, when gestures would no longer be enough. Rather, it would soon be time for the Syrians to make their choice between the "Iranian grip" and their partnership in the "axis of evil," and rejoining the "family of nations" in pursuit of peace and "economic development."

Actions and statements from Syria and its allies, however, convey a distinctly less pressing sense of the negotiations. More indirect contacts have been tentatively scheduled for later this month, but for the Syrians, the already considerable benefits derived from the very act of talking are more important than the talks themselves. Damascus's allies in Iran have also given no sign of real concern that their most important Arab allies are about to jump ship. Read more ..

Election Edge

Obama's Campaign Liaison to Muslims and Arab-American Community Suddenly Resigns

August 11th 2008

Politics - Barack Obama
Barack Obama

Mazen Asbahi, Senator Obama’s campaign liaison to the Arab-American and Muslim communities, resigned August 5 when it was revealed that he had served on the board of an Islamic investment fund with a controversial Muslim religious leader. In his letter of resignation, Asbahi wrote that he had served on the board of the Dow Jones Islamic Index Fund along with Imam Jamal Said, a religious leader of a mosque in the Chicago area who was named as an unindicted co-conspirator in a 2007 trial of Islamic charities accused of aiding the Palestinian Muslim extremist group known as Hamas. Said is the imam at the Bridgeview Mosque in Bridgeview IL.

Asbahi wrote in his resignation letter that he was leaving “in order to avoid distracting from Barack Obama’s message of change.” The campaign is searching for a new coordinator. Asbahi resigned after barely 10 days on the job.

A corporate lawyer with Chicago office of Schiff Hardin LLC, Asbahi served in 2000 on the board of the Allied Assets Advisors Fund, which is affiliated with the North American Islamic Trust. Revelations were first raised by The Global Muslim Brotherhood Daily Report, an internet newsletter that tracks what it says are offshoots in the West of the Muslim Brotherhood, the radical Islamist group founded in Egypt decades ago. Allied Asset Advisors is a subsidiary of the North American Islamic Trust supported by the government of Saudi Arabia. It holds title to many mosques in the US.  Read more ..

Book Review

Two War Books Shine a New Light on Crucial Moments in World War II

August 11th 2008

Book Covers - TwoWW2Books

Atkinson, Rick. The Day of Battle: The War in Sicily and Italy, 1943-1944. (New York: Henry Holt, 2007).

Holland, James. Italy’s Sorrow: A Year of War, 1944-1945. (New York: St. Martin’s, 2008)

It is tempting to say that, just as the Allied campaign in Sicily and Italy in World War II was of less significance and decisiveness than the one that carried the Allies from Normandy to Germany, so the course of the historiography has tended to emphasize the last year of war in northern Europe. And no doubt there have been more books written about D-Day, The Battle of the Bulge, and the collapse of the Third Reich, than about the race to Messina, the Salerno and Anzio landings, the bombing of Monte Cassino, the capture of Rome, and what followed. But it can’t really be said that historians of the war have overlooked the Mediterranean theater. Douglas Porch has recently seen it as The Path to Victory for the Allies; Robin Neillands has followed the British Eighth Army from North Africa to the Alps; Lloyd Clark has revisited Anzio; and Robert Katz has recounted both the military campaign and partisan activity involved in the Battle for Rome. Rick Atkinson won a Pulitzer Prize for An Army at Dawn, about the war in North Africa with an emphasis on the U. S. Army; and James Holland has written about the Italian and German siege of the British-held island of Malta, and the stand of the British and American Allies, they having forged their alliance, in North Africa.

It is now tempting to say that in coming to these most recent World War II histories by Atkinson the American and Holland the Englishman, we can expect to see the perspectives and the prejudices of the wartime Allies researched and represented. Why Britain should have been fighting in North Africa in the first place; and why North Africa should have been the first place in which America would fight, are two points that must be covered in histories of the war in the Mediterranean theater. Whether and why the Allies should have gone from North Africa to Sicily, and from Sicily to Italy, are two more questions that call for historiography. And then it was indeed in the Mediterranean theater that the British and the Americans learned how to fight alongside each other, and to get along with each other as they fought the common enemy. The American troops who came ashore in Operation Torch were quite green; the British troops who had just defeated the Afrika Korps in the Battle of El Alamein had been battling Germans and Italians for over two years. This occasioned a good deal of condescension and resentment between the English-speaking Allies. Read more ..

Russian Invasion of Georgia

ICRC Aids Wounded and Refugees of the Russian-Georgian Conflict

August 11th 2008

Politics - Georgia Civilian Distress
Georgia Civilian Distress

The International Committee of the Red Cross has launched a preliminary appeal of $7.4 million dollars to meet the emergency needs of more than 50,000 people affected by the armed conflict between Georgia, South Ossetia and Russia. The Red Cross needs the funds for a variety of services and populations.

The wounded need medical care; displaced people in North Ossetia and Georgia and civilians still in South Ossetia need aid; Tskhinvali needs drinking water for its residents; and access to the captured and arrested is crucial. "Over the past few days the ICRC has been able to visit hospitals in Alaguir, Ardon and Vladikavkaz, in the Russian Federation, and in Gori, Poti and Senaki in Georgia," said Dominik Stillhart, the organization's deputy director of operations. "It's still too early to say how many people have been killed or injured by the fighting, but our visits to these hospitals confirm that local medical facilities are dealing with a large number of wounded and dead." Read more ..

China's Global Energy Quest

China's Growing Pipeline into Canada

August 11th 2008

Energy / Environment - China Oil

China’s relentless quest for energy has brought it to the U.S. neighboring country of Canada.

Fifteen years ago, China did not import any oil at all. Today, however, the Asian country is the world’s second largest consumer of oil. In 2004, oil imports to China are said to have increased by 37 %, which contributed to soaring oil prices around the world.

In 2007, China consumed an average of 7.5 million barrels per day (mbd) of oil. That amount is projected to increase to approximately 13.6 mbd by 2025. That same year, China’s production level is expected to be approximately 3.7 mbd, which will require the country to have a net import of at least 9.9 mbd.

The significance of China extending its pursuit of oil into Canada is that Canada has been the number one source of U.S. oil imports for the past decade. According to figures released by the Energy Information Administration, in 2006 Canada produced an average of 3.288 mbd of oil. Of this, an average of just over 2.353 mbd, or 72 % of the oil produced, has been exported to the U.S.

Within the past three years, in an effort to increase its own energy security, China has begun flexing its muscles to strike various deals with Canada to win access to some of the most prized oil reserves in North America. In April 2005, China National Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC), through its wholly owned subsidiary CNOOC Belgium BVBA, signed an agreement with MEG Energy Corp., a Canada-based company, to buy 16.67% of MEG for $135 million. MEG has the rights to an oil sands lease in a 52-section (32,900 acres) oil sands block that is believed to contain 2 billion barrels of recoverable oil. This acquisition is expected to help pave the way for further investment into Canada’s huge oil sands resources. In another deal, Sinopec has acquired 40 % of the Northern Lights Oil Sands Project in Alberta, where production is expected to begin sometime in 2010. Then, last year China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC) won exploration rights for a 260-acre tract in Alberta. Read more ..

Inside Palestine

Egyptian Border Police Cope with Dozens of Tunnels Discovered at Gaza

August 11th 2008

Arab Topics - Gaza Tunnels
Gaza Tunnels

Recently, an Egyptian police patrol spotted two Egyptian teenagers, Hatem Mohammed Ahmed, 18, and Ahmed Naim Awad, 15, near one of the 20 tunnels discovered by Egypt last week. A shootout seriously wounded the suspected smugglers. A third teenager, found inside the tunnel with thousands of gallons of fuel, food packages and cigarettes, was arrested.

The tunnels are part of a larger network of underground passageways, some more than 100 feet deep, used by Palestinians to smuggle weapons, explosives and contraband into the Gaza strip. They are beneath the security wall at Ramah, the largest town on Gaza-Egyptian border and its only crossing.

Just before Egypt discovered the 20 tunnels, eight other tunnels were uncovered. Israel, concerned about arms smuggling into Gaza, offered Cairo help last week to build a high-technology barrier at the crossing. Read more ..

Is the U.S. Economy Safe?

What Banks And The Government Are Not Telling Us About 2009—The Next Shoes You Hear Drop May Be Very Loud Ones

August 4th 2008

Economy - Bernanke460
Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke

It is time for some straight talk about what America is being told about our financial institutions. First: listen to the words or our most esteemed financial leaders.

In March of last year, Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson delivered an upbeat assessment of the economy, saying growth was healthy and the housing market was nearing a turnaround. "All the signs I look at" show "'the housing market is at or near the bottom," Paulson said in a speech to a business group in New York, adding that the U.S. economy is "very healthy" and "robust."

At about the same time last March 2007, Ben Bernanke, Chairman of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve, told Congress, "At this juncture, the impact on the broader economy and financial markets of the problems in the sub-prime market seems likely to be contained."

Then, in June of 2007, Bernanke declared, "We will follow developments in the sub-prime market closely. However, fundamental factors—including solid growth in incomes and relatively low mortgage rates—should ultimately support the demand for housing, and at this point, the troubles in the sub-prime sector seem unlikely to seriously spill over to the broader economy or the financial system." He followed that up in October of last year with this statement: "It is not the responsibility of the Federal Reserve—nor would it be appropriate—to protect lenders and investors from the consequences of their financial decisions. But developments in financial markets can have broad economic effects felt by many outside the markets, and the Federal Reserve must take those effects into account when determining policy." Read more ..

Election Edge

Illegal Immigrants Are Voting in American Elections

August 4th 2008

Products - Voting

In 2005, the U.S. Government Accountability Office found that up to 3 percent of the 30,000 individuals called for jury duty from voter registration rolls over a two-year period in just one U.S. district court were not U.S. citizens. While that may not seem like many, just 3 percent of registered voters would have been more than enough to provide the winning presiden­tial vote margin in Florida in 2000. Indeed, the Cen­sus Bureau estimates that there are over a million illegal aliens in Florida, and the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) has prosecuted more non-citizen voting cases in Florida than in any other state.

Florida is not unique. Thousands of non-citizens are registered to vote in some states, and tens if not hundreds of thousands in total may be present on the voter rolls nationwide. These numbers are significant: Local elections are often decided by only a handful of votes, and even national elections have likely been within the margin of the number of non-citizens ille­gally registered to vote.

Yet there is no reliable method to determine the number of non-citizens registered or actually voting because most laws to ensure that only citizens vote are ignored, are inadequate, or are systematically undermined by government officials. Those who ignore the implications of non-citizen registration and voting either are willfully blind to the problem or may actually favor this form of illegal voting.

Americans may disagree on many areas of immi­gration policy, but not on the basic principle that only citizens—and not non-citizens, whether legally present or not—should be able to vote in elections. Unless and until immigrants become citizens, they must respect the laws that bar non-citizen voting. To keep non-citizens from diluting citizens' votes, immigration and election officials must cooperate far more effectively than they have to date, and state and federal officials must increase their efforts to enforce the laws against non-citizen voting that are already on the books.

An Enduring Problem

Costas Bakouris, head of the Greek chapter of Transparency International, says in an interview that ending corruption is easy: enforce the law. Illegal voting by immigrants in America is noth­ing new. Almost as long as there have been elec­tions, there have been Tammany Halls trying to game the ballot box. Well into the 20th century, the political machines asserted their ascendancy on Election Day, stealing elections in the boroughs of New York and the wards of Chicago. Quite regu­larly, Irish immigrants were lined up and counted in canvasses long before the term "citizen" ever applied to them—and today it is little different. Read more ..

Iran's Nukes

Tehran Ignores Latest Diplomatic Nuke Deadline as Israel Ponders Strike

August 4th 2008

Iran - Iran Nuclear Equipment
Iranian Nuclear Equipment

Iran will not give up "a single iota of its nuclear rights," President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad announced last week, snubbing an informal deadline to stop expanding uranium enrichment or face more sanctions. The Iranian president declared, "In whichever negotiation we take part ... it is unequivocally with the view to the realization of Iran's nuclear right, and the Iranian nation would not retreat one iota from its rights.”

Ahmadinejad made the remarks during discussions with Syrian President Bashar Assad, who arrived in Tehran for a two-day visit. Assad was in Tehran to discuss Iran's uranium enrichment at the behest of French President Nicolas Sarkozy. Many observers viewed Assad’s visit as an almost “last ditch” effort to avoid a military confrontation.

Tehran was given an informal two-week deadline, set July 19 by the UN Security Council's five permanent members, plus Germany, to stop expanding uranium enrichment – at least temporarily – in exchange for their commitment to stop seeking new UN sanctions. Ahmadinejad's stance signaled both a failure of Assad's mission and a rejection of the deadline. Read more ..

The Next Mideast War

The "Battle of Lebanon" Awaits Western and Arab Action Against the Iran-Syria Axis

August 4th 2008

Arab Topics - Assad and Ahmadinejad
Presidents Assad & Ahmadinejad

Lebanon remains a major front in the confrontation pitting the Iranian and Syrian regimes against the US, the West, most of the Arab world, and Israel.

The fact that Lebanon is occupied by a powerful sectarian militia that represents an extended military arm of the Iranian regime, and that additional diverse armed Lebanese and Palestinian militias receive orders directly from the Syrian regime, allows both dictatorships to present a formidable challenge to their Lebanese and international foes. Ahmadinejad and Bashar Assad enjoy the luxury of conducting remote battles away from Iran and Syria. They can indefinitely continue to wage their proxy wars in Lebanon, Iraq, Palestinian territories and other parts of the region, because they do not suffer any direct and deterring consequences for their actions.

While previous experiences proves that the military option is the only effective one, the US and other Western powers still continue to accept futile negotiations and ineffective sanctions as valid courses of actions. They continue to reward the bullishness of Syria and Iran with overtures serving only to increase their defiant arrogance while perceived by the US allies in the region as signs of wavering and abandonment. The latest case of shortsighted diplomacy was triggered by France’s reversal of Assad’s international isolation during Bastille Day celebrations.

The Syrian regime was quick to exploit the opportunity by sending a delegation to Washington DC. Assad believes that if he could stall till November then the upcoming US elections might bring an administration that would allow him more room to maneuver. The members of the visiting Syrian delegation brought the same old blackmailing rhetoric. Their claims, that asymmetrical conflicts will continue as long as the Syrian regime is targeted, are a reminder of the regional racketeering that kept the Ba”athist dictatorship afloat since 1970.

Meanwhile those Lebanese politicians who are opposed to the Syrian and Iranian influences in Lebanon are apprehensive of any moves of rapprochement with Syria and Iran by their Western allies. This, added to the prevalent fears of their barbaric opponents, led some Lebanese politicians to act in defensive manners especially in matters concerning Israel. When the recent Hezbollah prisoner exchange occurred, these politicians lined up to greet a man that many call a barbaric murderer, Samir Kuntar, and other fighters who belonged to the party that continues to terrorize and intimidate them especially after the last invasion of Beirut. Their attempts to appease Hezbollah compelled these politicians to participate in a grand “welcome home” event that was a disgrace to them and to every decent Lebanese family. The internal balance of powers in the country makes it obvious that the battle of Lebanon could not be won from within. Read more ..

The Politics of Oil

Crude Corruption—China and Angola

August 4th 2008

Africa Topics - China in Africa

Oil exploration and production is one of the principal areas of foreign investments made by China in Angola. But these investments do very little to curb corruption in that country.

In recent years, China has increased its economic and diplomatic involvement in the African country. According to a Macau-based news source which focuses on economic information, trade between Angola and China reached $11 billion in 2006 and $14.11 billion in 2007. Angola, sub-Saharan Africa’s second largest oil producer, accounts for 17 percent of China’s total imported oil. China and Angola have maintained diplomatic and economic ties for 25 years. China developed these ties to create a diplomatic power-base and a market for its state-owned enterprises.

Angola has been recovering from a 27-year civil war that began just before the nation won its independence in 1975. The war destroyed much of the country’s economy and infrastructure. The Angolan economy is heavily dependent on its oil sector—accounting for over 40 percent of Angola’s gross domestic product and nearly 90 percent of government revenues. Throughout the past few years, Angola has experienced sharp increases in oil revenues. Despite these increases, the economy continues to stagger with an external debt of $8.2 billion and 70 percent of its citizens living in poverty. Read more ..

China’s Embattled Olympics

Olympic Committee Refuses to Apologize for Deal with Beijing to Censor Websites

August 4th 2008

Asia Topics - SF Olympic Protest

 Jacques Rogge, President of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), is under increasing pressure after he appeared to renege on his guarantees of unfettered Internet access for the thousands of foreign journalists heading to Beijing for the Olympic Games next week.

Rogge emphatically stated that he did not agree to Internet restrictions on foreign media in Beijing, describing the situation as "not good," just six days before the start of the Games. Rogge refused to offer an apology despite the flood of criticism after China backtracked on Internet freedoms for the visiting press.

"I am not going to apologize for something the IOC is not responsible for. We are not running the Internet in China," Rogge said. "The conditions you were working in on Tuesday were not good," Rogge admitted to reporters at a press conference, after foreign journalists this week found they could not access a wide range of Internet sites."

Despite Rogge’s pronouncements, Reuters reported that some International Olympic Committee officials cut a deal to let China block sensitive websites despite promises of unrestricted access. "I regret that it now appears the Beijing Organizing Committee for the Olympic Games has announced that there will be limitations on website access during Games time," IOC executive Board member Kevan Gosper said. "I also now understand that some IOC officials negotiated with the Chinese that some sensitive sites would be blocked on the basis they were not considered Games related," he said. Read more ..

Election Edge

Obama Media Coverage Underscores Racial Divide

August 4th 2008

Contributors / Staff - Ronald Kessler
Ronald Kessler

The fact that a black man is a serious contender for the U.S. presidency is a historic achievement that signifies progress in race relations. But in emphasizing Barack Obama’s skin color around the clock, the media, some Democratic politicians, and to some extent Obama himself, have magnified rather than diminished the racial divide.

At some point in our lives, most of us have come to recognize that in conversation, gratuitously identifying a person as being "black: is inappropriate. A person’s skin color is irrelevant. For that same reason, in considering a new CEO for a company, no one would be so classless as to mention race.

Yet one way or another, almost every mention of Obama in the media dwells on the fact that he is an African-American.

Democrats have done their share to contribute to the polarization. Bill Clinton compared Obama’s win in North Carolina to Jesse Jackson’s victories in that state. Geraldine Ferraro said that if Obama were white, he would not be where he is today.

While Obama generally avoids racial references, he has referred to himself as "a skinny kid with a funny name who believes that America has a place for him."

Those around him have contributed to the racial divide. The Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr., his former pastor, made his living by claiming that whites are oppressing blacks in America. Father Michael Pfleger, another spiritual mentor, mocked Hillary Clinton’s sense of white "entitlement" when a black man is "stealing [her] show."

Michelle Obama said she is proud of America for the first time in her adult life because of Obama’s candidacy. By favoring him 9-to-1 at the voting booths, blacks make their own statement about his race. Read more ..

Book Review

Real Time Twists the Reader from Script to Diary and Back

August 4th 2008

Book Covers - Real Time

Real Time. By Pnina Moed Kass. Clarion Books. 2004. 204 pages.

In most novels, there is usually one protagonist, whose innermost thoughts and feelings are shared with the readers. Readers follow that one person through his or her triumphs and struggles, victories and losses. Rarely are readers given glimpses into the inner life of more than one character.

“Real Time” by Pnina Moed Kass (Clarion Books, hardcover, $15) is an exception. Told in first person, the novel has more than 10 protagonists, thereby allowing readers to hear the multiple voices in one common story.

The formatting of the novel twists between a script and a diary, with each chapter headed with the writer’s name, location and time. Kass’s characters are not simply recording events; they are talking, thinking and living through their lives.

As viewpoints alternate, events are seen from many different angles, providing an interesting perspective for the readers.

“Real Time” is set in Israel during the first intifada (1987-1993). The story opens with Thomas Wanninger, a 16-year-old from Berlin, on a plane to Israel to volunteer at Kibbutz Broshim, outside of Jerusalem. Part of his reason for going to Israel is to volunteer in the greenhouses on the kibbutz, but he is also searching for answers to questions he has about his grandfather, a Nazi officer in World War II.

At the same time, Vera Brodsky is getting ready to pick up Thomas from the airport. An Odessa native, Vera has lived on the kibbutz for three years. Still healing after her boyfriend’s suicide and her father’s abandonment, she is becoming interested in rediscovering her Jewish heritage. Read more ..

Beyond Earth

Water on Red Planet Leads Scientists to Ask About Life

August 4th 2008

Science - Water on Mars
Martian Waterways

"We have water," declared William Boynton of the University of Arizona, the lead scientist for TEGA, the Thermal and Evolved-Gas Analyzer on board NASA’s Phoenix Mars lander. With these words, a new chapter in the history of man was written. Now, according to NASA officials, there is a real possibility of a new home for humans in the universe beyond planet Earth.

The discovery of water on the red planet did not come as a surprise. "We've seen evidence for this water ice before in observations by the Mars Odyssey orbiter," said Boynton. The years-long search has been dubbed “Follow the Water.”

On May 25th, the spacecraft Phoenix landed on a crater-free arctic plain of Mars searching for "habitable environments" and organic chemicals. The $420 million mission was to spend at least four months searching for signs that Mars was once habitable to life. Both the atmosphere and ground levels were to be explored for clues to finding essential life-giving elements, such as carbon, nitrogen, phosphorus, and hydrogen. Scientists planned to probe the land and eventually drop soil samples in TEGA, an oven instrument. About the thickness of a pencil lead and one inch long, TEGA heats up the soil to 1,800 degrees Fahrenheit and analyzes the vapor given off for water, hydrogen, carbon and other components needed for a habitable place for humans. The soil samples must be rasped, scooped, collected and delivered within 30 minutes.  Read more ..

Travel Activism

Hotels in Mexico Prepare for UN AIDS Conference with Prevention

August 4th 2008

Science - AIDS ribbon
HIV/AIDS awareness ribbon

Mexico and Mexican hotels will join hands with the United Nations campaign on HIV/AIDS at the XVII International AIDS conference to be held in Mexico City August 3-8. Joining UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon will be President Felipe Calderón of Mexico to inaugurate the conference that expects 20,000 delegates and 2,000 journalists from around the world. This comes on the heels of the July 28 release of the UNAIDS’s 2008 report on the extent of the worldwide HIV/AIDS epidemic.

Mexican hotels are responding to demand by offering “The Life Initiative – Hotels addressing AIDS,” which is aimed at both hotel guests and staff. The Life Initiative will include the distribution of free male and female condoms, the display of AIDS-related leaflets, posters and brochures, art exhibitions and movies. Condoms will be distributed at all participating hotels via the “condom project”, which has been financed with the support from the UN Population Fund (UNFPA).

“In Mexico, we note that nearly 200,000 people are living with HIV and around 5,000 people died in 2006 from diseases related to AIDS," said César Núñez, the Regional Director for Latin America and the Caribbean for UNAIDS. "The XVII International AIDS Conference presents a unique opportunity to involve the local hotel industry on issues related to HIV.”

Mexican hotel employees have already been provided with information on HIV prevention and an overview of the epidemic, and received sensitivity training on issues related to discrimination in the workplace. The five national hotel chains participating in the initiative are Mexican hotel industry giants Grupo Posadas, Hoteles Misión, Grupo Empresarial Ángeles, Grupo Del Ángel and Grupo Hoteles Emporio. In addition, the initiative includes eight international hotel chains. They are Best Western International, InterContinental Hotels Group, Starwood Hotels & Resorts, Sol Melia Hotels & Resorts, Radisson Hotels & Resorts, Ramada International, Group ACCOR and Four Seasons Hotels. Read more ..

Inside Palestine

Tit For Tat, Palestinian Style as Hamas and Fatah Battle

August 4th 2008

Contributors / Staff - Micah Halpern headshot

There are murders, mass arrests and a leading newspaper has been shut down. Tensions that had been simmering below the surface are now out in the open and they are boiling over. Hamas and Fatah are not only out for blood, they are out for power and control.

Gaza and tension go together like America and apple pie. They are inseparable. Even when the tension was not obviously manifest, even when it was not visible to the naked, untrained, non-Palestinian eye, it was palpable, it could be felt by the locals. An outsider's first peek at the rising tensions came when five Hamas military members were killed in a parking lot explosion in Gaza - and Hamas immediately pointed the finger of blame at Fatah.

And where Gaza goes, the West Bank is sure to follow. Here too, tensions, violence, acts of intimidation and menacing threats are emerging and hitting the streets and byways. Hamas began by arresting members of Fatah in Gaza. Fatah followed by arresting Hamas members in the West Bank. Now it is a game of Tit for Tat, Palestinian style. And for the players in the West Bank and Gaza Tit for Tat is a war game.

The game has just been taken up a notch. Murders, arrests, finger pointing, newspaper closings - those are the old components of the game. A new component has just been unleashed, it is the Palestinian propaganda machine. When it comes to Palestinian propaganda, Fatah is at a distinct disadvantage, Hamas is master.

It was one year ago that Hamas ousted Fatah from Gaza. Seven months earlier Hamas defeated Fatah in a parliamentary election. Hamas is using that imagery to convince the Palestinians of their superiority and right to rule. Hamas is using that imagery to instill fear in the hearts of Fatah and all other Palestinians. It is the imagery of victory and defeat. Read more ..

USHMM Continues to Snub Survivors Complains Holocaust Survivor Organizations

August 4th 2008

Every month our organization, The National Association of Jewish Child Holocaust Survivors, send copies of our NAHOS newsletter to several officials at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum as well as to Mr. Reto Meister, the administrator of the International Tracing Service archives in Bad Arolsen, Germany. Recently we received a letter from Mr. Meister, thanking us for receiving our newsletter and assuring us that he was reading our newsletter and recommendations with interest. It would have been gratifying to receive a similar letter from any of the USHMM officials. Shouldn’t they also pay attention to our wishes? After all, it is our families’ tragic fate that gave rise to their fields of endeavor. When will they stop looking with disdain or indifference upon the survivors, like simply being other objects that need classifying?

The writer is the president of The National Association of Jewish Child Holocaust Survivors.

Poll Results

71 % of Readers Believe Iran is Making a Nuclear Bomb

August 4th 2008

TCEN Motifs - Poll Vote

The majority of respondents to an unscientific Cutting Edge Reader Poll voted that they believed Iran was indeed develpping a nuclear bomb. In response to the question: Do You Believe Iran is Developing Nuclear Weapons? the results were:


    * 21 percent "Yes."
    * 29 percent "No
    * 14 percent "Obama"

During the poll period in May 2008, The Cutting Edge News recorded 735,501 hits. During the extended poll period, the ratio continued at the same level within a few percentage points.

Religious Freedom

Kidnapped Pakistani Christian Girls Forced to Convert to Islam

August 4th 2008

Islamic Topics - Muslim Woman

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 ..

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