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Archive for July 2008

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The Politics of Oil

China and Sudan – A Well-Oiled Relationship

July 28th 2008

Africa Topics - China in Africa

Perhaps the most controversial of China’s oil interests, and one that well demonstrates China’s commitment to lock in oil deals in Africa, is its relationship with Sudan.

China has been faced with international criticism for much of its business practice in acquiring natural resources. At the forefront of this criticism is its growing influence in Africa. On the one hand, China has been contributing much needed infrastructure to many of the underdeveloped African nations. On the other hand, China’s practices are believed to be exacerbating some of the political problems in certain countries, maybe even increasing instability in some cases.

Beijing is the leading developer of oil reserves in Sudan, and currently possesses 40 percent of the African country’s local production, which amounts to six percent of China’s total oil imports. Read more ..


Election Edge

Obama Sets Out His Israel Vision In Exclusive Horovitz Interview

July 28th 2008

Israel Topics - Obama in Horovitz Interview
David Horovitz Interviews Barack Obama

Two months ago in the Oval Office, President George W. Bush, coming to the end of a two-term presidency and presumably as expert on Israeli-Palestinian policy as he is ever going to be, was accompanied by a team of no fewer than five advisers and spokespeople during a 40-minute interview with this writer and three other Israeli journalists.

In March, on his whirlwind visit to Israel, Republican presidential nominee John McCain—one of whose primary strengths is said to be his intimate grasp of foreign affairs—chose to bring along Sen. Joe Lieberman to the interview Post diplomatic correspondent Herb Keinon and I conducted with him. He looked to Lieberman several times for reassurance on his answers, and seemed a little flummoxed by a question relating to the nuances of settlement construction.

Last Wednesday, toward the end of his packed one-day visit here, Barack Obama, the Democratic senator who is leading the race for the White House and who lacks long years of foreign policy involvement, spoke to this editor with only a single aide in his King David Hotel room, and that aide's sole contribution to the conversation was to suggest that the candidate and I switch seats so that our photographer would get better lighting for his pictures.

Several of Obama's Middle East advisers—including former Clinton special envoy Dennis Ross and ex-ambassador to Israel Daniel Kurtzer—were hovering in the vicinity. But Obama, who was making only his second visit to Israel, knew precisely what he wanted to say about the most intricate issues confronting and concerning Israel, and expressed himself clearly, even stridently on key subjects. Read more ..


Iran's Nukes

Iran’s S-300 Delivery Debated as Israel Delays Pre-emptive Strike Allowing Diplomatic Progress a Chance

July 28th 2008

Iran - S-300

Israeli and American military officials are now publicly differing on whether Iran will receive its pivotal S-300 Russian anti-aircraft batteries by September of this year or well into 2009, according to media reports. However, informed sources tell this reporter that while some of the first components have already arrived in Iran, they are still disassembled in boxes and undeployed. Hence, the difference between Washington and Jerusalem military sources may be parsing over the operational nature of the state-of-the-art batteries, not their actual delivery.  Read more ..


Election Edge

Obama’s Gold Medal in Berlin

July 28th 2008

Contributors / Staff - Ken Bobu headshot
Ken Bobu

In 1936 Jesse Owens was the star of the Olympics held in Berlin. Although historians now largely agree that the so-called snub of Jesse actually didn’t take place, the fact remains that the then National Socialist government of Germany under the leadership of Adolf Hitler believed itself to be the Master Race and followed politics and policies to that end. Jesse Owens didn’t fit that mold, and interestingly enough, Berliners – contrary to expectations – gave Owens what he later recalled as having been the "greatest ovations of his career."

Last week, a scant few hundred yards from the Führerbunker where the end of National Socialism was swept up in a tide of Soviet fire, and in a city largely dominated by the subsequent East-West conflict of the Cold War, Barack Obama scored his own gold medal in this, his political Olympics. And again, Berliners demonstrated that which continues to make them particularly cosmopolitan and special among Germans – over 200,000 came to hear Obama speak, and to deliver their own snub to George W. Bush.

Certainly it is no secret that Europeans on the whole have struggled with President Bush. The administration’s penchant for ignoring friends and allies and pursuing policies that express distain for reflection and contemplation are contrary to the policies with which the U.S. helped rebuild Europe after the conflagration of World War II, and this has met with resistance. In that sense, Bush represents to most Europeans, and in particular most Germans, the typical Texas loudmouth braggard, boasting about how everything is bigger and better in Texas, and how they’ll show you how things are done.

It is difficult to imagine a candidate who for all intents and purposes appears to be more opposite George Bush than Barack Obama. Leaving aside the obvious racial and class distinctions, that which has set Senator Obama apart, and that for which he is most appreciated, is his intelligence and ability to reason.

While attending law school, Obama was elected the president of the Harvard Law Review, a prestigeous position and one where Obama honed his skills at managing others’ strong and diverse opinions while steering the publication effectively. Despite his oratory skills never being questioned, he impressed less with what he had to say, than with his willingness to listen to others. Read more ..


Tracking "Better Place" Electric Cars

Nissan and Better Place Promise Pure Electric—not Plug-in Hybrid—for 2010

July 28th 2008

Energy / Environment - Better Place Renault Vehicle

Nissan and Project Better Place promise that their 2010 electric cars will be pure electric—not plug-in hybrids like those planned by many green competitors. I want a pure electric car,” said Carlos Goshn, chief executive officer of Nissan. “I don’t want a hybrid”.

As a result, Nissan's cars will be 100% emission free, Goshn declared at a ceremony to dedicate Nissan’s new North American headquarters in Franklin, an affluent suburb in the hills south of Nashville.

How long must an electric car’s battery last before needing a recharge? To be practical, in the United States, at least 100 miles, said Goshn. Other countries might need only a 50 mile range because of different driving patterns, and some populations will have higher tolerance levels than others for the frequency of recharging, but Nissan insists that all their electric cars run on electricity only.

We will not market cars that are sometimes emission free and sometimes not, said Goshn. An electric car that lets oil take over when the battery loses its charge is “unsustainable”. Read more ..


Kicking Our Oil Addiction

Breaking Oil’s Monopoly in the Transportation Sector

July 28th 2008

Energy / Environment - Traffic

Ten years ago, Osama bin Laden set a target price for oil at $144 a barrel. At the time, crude oil prices stood at $12 a barrel and his figure, aimed to compensate the Muslims for what he called “the biggest theft in the history of the world,” sounded delusional.

Four years ago, just prior to the U.S. elections, when oil prices stood at $38, bin Laden explained his economic warfare strategy: “We bled Russia for ten years until it went bankrupt and forced to withdraw in defeat. We are continuing the same policy to make America bleed profusely to the point of bankruptcy.” Reputable energy analysis outfits held a completely opposite view on the future of oil. A 2005 report by Cambridge Energy Research Associates (CERA) held that by 2010 global oil supply would rise by as much as 16 million barrels per day (mbd). “We expect supply to outstrip demand growth in the next few years, which would take the pressure off prices around 2007-2008,” wrote the report’s authors. As we know, this never happened. Read more ..


Edge on the Media

Shame on Ma'ariv Newspaper for Violating Obama's Sacred Moment

July 28th 2008

Israel Topics - Obama prays at Wailing Wall
Senator Obama Places Prayer at Wailing Wall

Shame, Ma’ariv, shame! 

The depths, to which you will not only forego journalistic ethics, but Jewish religious custom and ethics, are beyond comprehension.  The publication of Democratic presidential candidate Senator Barak Obama’s written prayer, placed in a crack between the massive stones at the Kotel, also known to most as the Western Wall, in Jerusalem breaks a taboo that has been held for generations. The fact that a young orthodox seminary student should remove the prayer from the wall, in and of itself is a grievous breach of custom and tradition. More than a million prayers a year are stuffed into the cracks of the Kotel.  These prayers are considered by the rabbinate as being sufficiently sacred, that twice a year, they are taken and buried. Just as old prayer books are not just discarded, but are buried. But that the ethical crime of removing the prayer from the wall would be compounded exponentially by Ma’ariv’s publishing Obama’s prayer is beyond the pale even for Israeli “yellow” journalism. 

Israel Radio and Time Magazine both quote Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz, supervisor of the Western Wall. "It damages the personal, deep part of every one of us that we keep to ourselves. The note placed between the stones of the Western Wall is between a person and his maker. It is forbidden to read them or make use of them."

In fact, rabbis have argued that it is indeed a sin to use any aspect of the wall for personal benefit.  There has been a consensus by rabbis for generations now that acts such as the removal of the written prayers are a form of desecration. This is not just a Jewish issue. The rabbis are reflecting something which has universal properties for the entire world. Read more ..


Edge on Asia

Nepal Sees Shaky Start as Monarchy Gives Way to Republic

July 28th 2008

Contributors / Staff - Joe Griebowski headshot
Joseph Grieboski

Nepal's first-ever President and Vice President were sworn in this week.

Ram Baran Yadav, the new president, is a physician in his 60s and was elected president by Nepal's constituent assembly, almost two months after the country was declared a republic and put an end to the 239-year-old monarchy.

Yadav was administered the oath of office by Chief Justice Kedar Prasad Giri. "I represent all Nepali people in this august office and in all my efforts and endeavors I will be committed to the benefit of the Nepali people," Yadav said after the swearing-in.

Yadav then administered the oath of office to the newly elected vice president Parmananda Jha. However, a day after Jha took the oath of office, street protests have broken out calling for his resignation. Protestors have burnt him in effigy because Jha pronounced his inaugural speech in Hindi, not in Nepali, the country’s official language, and wore Indian-styled clothes, not traditional Nepali garb.

The post of the president is largely ceremonial. Yadav will swear in the country's new prime minister, who holds executive authority. While the president can deploy the armed forces, he can only do so at the recommendation of the prime minister.

Nepal's Maoists, which won the largest number of seats but fell short of a majority in April's general elections, had said they will not form a government because their choice of president was rejected by rival lawmakers.

Read more ..

Book Review

Author Probes Islamic Intolerance of Jews and Christians

July 28th 2008

Book Covers - The Legacy of Islamic Antisemitism

The Legacy of Islamic Antisemitism: From Sacred Texts to Solemn History. Edited by Andrew G. Bostom. Prometheus Books, 2008. 766 pages.

In an exclusive interview, author and physician Andrew G. Bostom showed how familiar he is not only with the Koran, but also with a thousand years of Islamic law and commentary on the Islam’s holy book. This has armed him well to address the history of relations between Islam and Judaism in his newest book, The Legacy of Islamic Anti-Semitism: from Sacred Texts to Solemn History (Prometheus Books). This collection of scholarly articles citing centuries of Islamic texts provides numerous examples of anti-Semitism reaching back to the very beginnings of Islam.

Being a physician, Bostom referred to the various manifestations of Islamic intolerance of Christians and Jews, or “People of the Book” (in Arabic, Ahl al- Kitâb), with a reference to medical terminology. “A forme fruste is medical term that refers to an incomplete manifestation of a disease entity,” he said, describing treatment meted out to Christians and Jews in Islamic countries. “I don't see signs that Muslim practice has relegated these teachings to the back burner.”

Asked whether it is possible for Jews, or Christians, to live unmolested in Muslim lands, Bostom answered, “There is no sign of that yet.”  If indeed there were a rejection of such practices, asked Bostom, “then where is the outcry from Islamic scholars? Where is the outcry from the Al Azhar (the renowned center of Islamic learning in Cairo)? Where is the protest against the violence and extremism in Iraq?” Read more ..


China’s Embattled Olympics

China Bans Olympic Visits from Protests

July 28th 2008

Asia Topics - SF Olympic Protest

The Beijing Organizing Committee (BOCOG) recently announced that all foreigner visitors and non-resident Chinese attending the upcoming Olympic Games are banned from both watching and participating in any protests or public gatherings during the games. These rules apply even to protests authorized by the Chinese Government. Chinese citizens have a legal right to protest, but they must first apply for permission from their local Public Security Bureau. Such requests are rarely granted, and most demonstrations in China don't have official sanction.

BOCOG security director Liu Shaowu announced this week they have established three protest zones in Beijing parks. However, there are no zones near the Olympic venues. Instead, they are at the World Park in the southwest, 3 miles from the softball venue; the Purple Bamboo Park in the west, south of the volleyball arena; and Chaoyang Park in the east where beach volleyball will be played.

It was not clear how easy access would be to enter the zones. Liu and Beijing police would not say if special permission would be needed, but Beijing has already refused visa requests for known foreign activists.

Read more ..

Election Edge

Ma'ariv blasted for printing Obama's note at Western Wall

July 28th 2008

Politics - Obama at the Wall
Senator Obama places prayer at Western Wall

The decision by the Israeli newspaper Ma'ariv to publish a handwritten note that Barack Obama left last week in the cracks of the Western Wall drew criticism as an invasion of his privacy and his relationship with God.

 

Ma'ariv published a photograph of the note on its front page on Friday. It said the note was removed from the wall by a student at a Jewish seminary immediately after Obama left. In the note, placed at Judaism's holiest site, Obama asks God to guide him and guard his family.

 

"Lord - Protect my family and me," reads the note. Forgive me my sins, and help me guard against pride and despair. Give me the wisdom to do what is right and just. And make me an instrument of your will."

 

The paper's decision to make the note public immediately drew fire from religious authorities. The rabbi in charge of the Western Wall, Shmuel Rabinovitz, said publishing the note intruded on Obama's intimate relationship with God. Read more ..


Obama's Controversial Catholic Spiritual Adviser Stuck in a Theology Dominated by Racism

July 28th 2008

In regards to Aaron Klein's article on Rev. Pfleger (The Cutting Edge News June 29, 2009) I have a quick comment on the Reverend's theology. On or about June 3, 2008 Rev. Pfleger was quoted in a Cathleen Falsani article in the Chicago Sun-Times about racism and the Bible. "I understand that," he says. "People say, well, I thought you were more politically savvy. Well, I would have been if I was speaking at a banquet, or if I were speaking at a press conference. But I didn't think this was a political time. I was speaking at a pulpit about an issue that is . . . the greatest sin against the Bible, about racism." I have not studied Black Liberation Theology, however the use of "Liberation" implies a liberation from something, or maybe a liberation to something. I am not necessarily sure what a "sin against the Bible" is. However, I understand the statement to rank racism above all other sins. As for ranking a sin in the Bible, racism is not #1. Idolatry is. One would think that a Catholic priest of 25 years plus service would know this. Application of this knowledge is another issue. Rev. Pfleger's ranking of racism over idolatry as a sin is idolatry in and of itself. And if he is preaching accordingly, he is leading his flock away from the teachings of God. I would like to know what the basis is for the Reverend to think racism is a sin. It is a sin because it denies God's created order. All sin starts with putting yourself ahead of God. I doubt that elevating the sin of racism to #1 is part of the Catholic curriculum. Maybe Cardinal George should send him back to school. Read more ..


Iran's Nukes

Iranian Hackers Attempt to Silence Peace Message from American Jews

July 28th 2008

Jewish Topics - Malcolm Hoenlein
Malcolm Hoenlein

View Video

Website manager Ohad Rosen of jerusalemonline.com said on that hackers had recently attempted to disrupt a video message that Malcolm Hoenlein – executive vice president of the Conference of President of Major American Jewish Organizations – posted on June 18. The video message declared: "I want to tell you that we have no issue with the Iranian people. We want to see you prosper and your country develop. We want to renew the close relationship that once existed between Iran and the United States, and Iran, Israel and many countries around the world. It is regrettable that you have a leadership that does not care about your welfare and the conditions under which you live. Rather, your leadership exploits Iranian citizens in its quest for extremist goals driven by radical ideological commitments that are not consistent with the interests of the people of Iran, or the stability of the region in which Iran finds itself."

The message continued to lay out the case for Iranians to stop their government from pursuing nuclear weapons. Israel has announced it will pre-emptively attack Iran's nuclear infrastructure unless long-stalled international efforts to stop trhe program quickly succeed.

According to the Associated Press, Rosen said that the hackers are “probably Iranian based with Chinese assistance or fingerprints." Rosen added that the hackers were not successful in taking down Hoenlein’s 2 ½ minute message to the Iranian people but did succeed in deleting pictures and icons while also sabotaging links.

According to reports, Iranian hackers also hacked Arab-language websites over name of the Persian Gulf, which some refer to as the “Arabian” Gulf. Behrouz Kamalian, who blogs on mathematics, was reported on the Iranian.ws website to have said on July 21 that his group had hacked about 100 Arab websites, including those hosted by government, academic institutions, and private enterprise in Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain, Oman and Iraq.

The hackers managed to superimpose a map of the Persian Gulf, clearly marking it as such. Kamalian’s blog site lists his address in Teheran.

An email inquiry to the Iranian Interests Section at the Embassy of Pakistan to the United States was not immediately answered. No response from Iranian authorities about the cyber hacking has been reported.

Jerusalemonline can be view here.

Senior Contributor Martin Barillas writes on religion and geopolitics at www.speroforum.com Read more ..


Petroterrorism

Fueling Terror—The Ultimate Price We Pay at the Pump

July 21st 2008

Energy / Environment - Saudi Oil

Much has been reported about the complex system of terrorist financing and the money trail facilitating the September 11 terror attacks. Individuals and charities from the Persian Gulf--mainly from Saudi Arabia--appear to be the most important source of funding for terrorist organizations like Al-Qaeda. According to a Council on Foreign Relations report of an Independent Task Force on Terrorist Financing, Osama bin Laden and his men have been able to accumulate millions of dollars using legitimate businesses such as charities, nongovernmental organizations, mosques, banks and other financial institutions to help raise and move their funds.

How does it work? Take Saudi Arabia for example. This Gulf monarchy is a state in which no taxes are imposed on the population. Instead, Saudis have a religious tax, the zakat, requiring all Muslims to give at least 2.5 percent of their income to charities. Many of the charities are truly dedicated to good causes, but others merely serve as money laundering and terrorist financing apparatuses. While many Saudis contribute to those charities in good faith believing their money goes toward good causes, others know full well the terrorist purposes to which their money will be funneled. Read more ..


Extreme Borderland Violence

Mexican Border Town Endures Two-Hour Bloodbath

July 21st 2008

Mexican Topics - Mexican Army Rescue
Mexican Army Rescues Child

In Ciudad Juarez, the Mexican border town nestled across the line from El Paso, Texas, there were at least eleven murders in less than six hours on July 19, according to official reports from the state of Chihuahua.

The first victims that day were a couple - an unidentified woman and an unidentified man. At least eighty expended ammunition cartridges were found near the bodies. At about the same time, three other persons were cut down by gunfire in another neighborhood of a city plagued by drug-related violence.

Two hours later, at approximately 11 pm, a twenty-five year-old man was shot to death by a group of assailants armed with 9 mm weapons, while at approximately the time police received reports of the murder of another person at a bar.

Murderers continued to rack up victims into the early hours of July 20, harvesting a twenty-year-old woman and her thirty-year-old male companion at just past 1 am. In the Galeana neighborhood of Ciudad Juarez, Angel Fernando Robles Urbina was cut down by killers who had burst into his home.                                         Read more ..


After the Holocaust

Accused Nazi To Be Stripped Of US Citizenship

July 21st 2008

Contributors / Staff - Martin Barillas
Martin Barillas

The Department of Justice requested on July 15, 2008 that a federal court in Seattle, Washington revoke the U.S. citizenship of Peter Egner. The resident of Bellevue, Washington, faces loss of citizenship based on evidence of his role in a Nazi unit that participated in the mass murder of more than 17,000 Serbian civilians during World War II. Most of the victims of this mass murder were Jewish men, women and children.

A complaint filed in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington alleges that Peter Egner, 86, who was born in Yugoslavia, joined the Nazi-controlled Security Police and Security Service in German-occupied Belgrade, Serbia, in April 1941 and served through September 1943.

The complaint alleges that during the first nine months of Egner's service in this organization, it operated as an Einsatzgruppe, a Nazi mobile killing unit. Captured Nazi documents reflect that in the fall of 1941, Egner’s unit participated in executing 11,164 people, most of them Serbian Jewish men, as well as some communists, suspected communists, and Roma and Sinti (Gypsies).

In early 1942, the Nazi Security Police and Security Service Belgrade carried out the murder of 6,280 Serbian Jewish women and children. Prior to their deaths, these victims were confined in a concentration camp at Semlin, outside of Belgrade.

In a process that continued daily for a period of approximately two months, the women and children were taken from the camp and forced into a specially equipped van where they were asphyxiated with carbon monoxide gas while being transported to Avala, an execution and mass burial site near Belgrade. Read more ..


The Edge on Wind

Big Florida Wind Provider Offers Long-Winded Excuse to Floridians for Windless Policy

July 21st 2008

Energy / Environment - Wind Farm

FPL Energy is the nation’s mightiest wind power provider. The company operates 56 wind farms in 16 states including the nation's largest, the 735-megawatt Horse Hollow field in Texas. Recently, the firm announced a new two billion dollar wind farm to be spread over 250 square miles in North Dakota. “They're very good at it,” says Jay Apt, executive director of the Carnegie Mellon Electricity Industry Center. They are “one of the most efficient wind operators in the country.”

No one is bigger in wind than FPL Energy.

By the way, what do the initials FPL stand for? Answer: Florida Power and Light. So it must seem ironic that FPL Energy refuses to build a wind farm in its home state of Florida. Correct. One of the nation’s biggest corporate booster of wind energy claims the quality and location of Florida breezes make it difficult or perhaps impossible to produce energy at a reasonable cost. That will come as a big surprise to most Floridians who endure constant hurricanes, tornadoes, and other gale force winds.  Read more ..


Edge on Argentina

Argentina's "Soybean Debacle" Leads to Fallen Star for President Kirchner and New National Heroes

July 21st 2008

Contributors / Staff - Eduardo Szklarz
Eduardo Szklarz

Argentinian president Cristina Fernández de Kirchner endured a dramatic defeat last week after her own vice-president cast the deciding vote in the Senate to reject a steep tax increase on soy exports that had triggered months of noisy anti-government protests by farmers.

Vice-president Julio Cobos's emotional vote against the government move to ratify the tax increase broke a deadlocked Senate vote after nearly 18 grueling hours of debate.

"This is the most difficult day of my life," Mr. Cobos told a hushed Senate chamber. "But I can't support [this Bill]. The president will understand." Mr. Cobos is a member of a group from the opposition Radical Civic Union party that backs the ruling Peronist party. Ms Fernandez brought him in as her running mate last year in a bid to demonstrate broad political support for her candidacy.

The Soybean Debacle is the gravest setback to President Kirchner and her husband, former President Néstor Kirchner, since 2003 when Mr. Kirchner came to power. The unexpected decision of the Senate to reject grain export tax increases carved an indelible line in their conflict with the farmers and dampered the couple’s so-called aspirations of political hegemony.

More than 300,000 people attended rival rallies for and against the export taxes in the capital on Tuesday. Hundreds of farmers who followed the debate on big-screen televisions set up in a Buenos Aires park erupted in cheers after Mr. Cobos announced his vote. Prior to the dramatic vote, Congress had been viewed as a rubber stamp for the Kirchners. While opponents roared their approval, hundreds of government supporters who had gathered outside Congress fell into subdued and silent rejection. Read more ..


Edge of Justice

Canadian Victims Of Hizbollah Missile Attacks Bring First-Ever Civil Action Against Lebanese Bank In Montreal

July 21st 2008

Islamic Topics - Hizbollah Office

Canadian victims of Hizbollah terror attacks have filed a precedent setting civil action in the Quebec Superior Court against The Lebanese Canadian Bank (LCB) in Montreal. The plaintiffs, all of whom were injured in Northern Israel in Katyusha rocket attacks, allege that LCB unlawfully provided financial services to the Hizbollah terrorist organization by allowing charity groups affiliated with Hizbollah to transfer funds prior to and during the terrorist attacks on Israeli cities in 2006.

The law suit contends that since 2004, LCB permitted the Yousser Company for Finance and Investment and the and Martyrs Foundation, two Lebanese terrorist groups, to open and maintain accounts at LCB, and to freely transfer many millions of dollars of Hizbollah funds and to carry out millions of dollars in financial transactions, within and without Lebanon, by means of wire transfers, letters of credit, checks and credit cards provided by LCB. LCB, it is charged, facilitated Hizbollah's terrorist activities and is liable to the plaintiffs for the harm that has been inflicted upon them and their families in the rockets attacks. Read more ..


Iran’s Nukes

Iran Stalling, Not Serious at Nuclear Talks, Says Rice as New Two-Week Deadline Issued

July 21st 2008

Iran - Saeed Jalili at News Conference in Geneva
Saeed Jalili at Geneva Press Conference

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice accused Iran of making "small talk" and "not being serious" during last weekend’s crucial Geneva talks about suspending its controversial nuclear program. The collapse of those talks has hastened the moment of a profound diplomatic and military showdown in the minds of many in the international community. The new deadline seems to be two weeks.

Rice said Iran wasted the time of diplomats from the US and five other world powers with a mere "runaround." Many in the international community were especially disappointed because also in attendance was America’s highest ranking negotiator, William J. Burns, Undersecretary of State for political affairs. In an historic turnaround for U.S. policy, Burns joined senior diplomats from France, Britain, Germany, Russia and China. Envoys all sat around the table hoping for a response to a package of ramped up incentives with a guarantee of a six-week freeze of new sanctions in exchange for a six-week freeze in nuclear enrichment.

Although representatives from the six nations attending pushed for some evidence of compromise from Iran, they were met with an astonishing display of cryptic and cultural small talk. Rice told reporters that some of the bizarre Iranian answers amounted to a "meandering" monologue full of irrelevant "small talk about culture" that appeared to annoy the delegates seated around the table. Read more ..


Election Edge

Citizen McCain Needs to Cure his Achilles Heel or Stumble in November

July 21st 2008

Contributors / Staff - Armstrong Williams Headshot
Armstrong Williams

Senator McCain's staff shakeup could not have come at a better time. Hopefully it will address what many feel is the Achilles heel of the campaign: the failure to forge a coherent, compelling theme for his candidacy and the equally damaging policy contradictions. If allowed to continue, these repeated missteps will fatally cause his presidential candidacy to stumble.
 
Exhibit A of inconsistency is McCain’s approach to energy and climate change. As the cosponsor of one of the leading climate bills, and as a known supporter of environmental progress, Senator McCain is in an ideal position to nullify the Democratic Party's traditional grip on the environment as a hot electoral issue. While in the past (and especially during times of economic turmoil), the environment has rarely ranked as highly as the economy as an electoral issue, the interrelationship of climate change with energy security and high oil and food prices provides a unique opportunity for Senator McCain to break new Republican ground. But thus far, he has botched the opportunity.  Read more ..


Healthy Edge

Caloric Intake Reduction May Impede Aging in Complex Obesity Catch-22

July 21st 2008

Science - Mouse in Beaker

Restricting caloric intake has been previously shown to slow the aging process in rodents. Now researchers believe the same mechanism could work in humans as well. How calorie restriction as an age retardant works is not yet precisely understood. But scientists support one popular hypothesis that the intake reduction slows aging by decreasing the body’s production of triiodothyronine (T3) – a thyroid hormone which regulates metabolism. Decreasing the production of T3 slows metabolism.

A new study in the June 2008 issue of Rejuvenation Research reports that eliminating 300-500 calories per day appeared to slow the aging process in people. The study was conducted by Saint Louis University and authored by Dr. Edward Weiss, Associate Professor of Nutrition and Dietetics. “Our research provides evidence that calorie restriction does indeed work in humans like it has been shown to work in animals. The next step is to determine if this fact slows age-related tissue deterioration. The only way to be certain, though, is to do a long term study,” Weiss said.

In order to determine whether decreased levels of T3 were the result of caloric intake restriction and not decreases in fat mass in general, Weiss recruited volunteers to lose weight through both exercise and calorie reduction. The study volunteers included sedentary, non-smoking 50-60 year old men, and post menopausal women with average to slightly higher than average body mass indices (BMI). The volunteers selected did not report cardiovascular disease, diabetes, lung disease, uncontrolled hypertension, or evidence of malignancy. Read more ..


Great Museums

Newseum Highlights Mysteries of J. Edgar Hoover

July 21st 2008

World Citizens - J. Edgar Hoover
J. Edgar Hoover

After 9/11, security concerns shut down the FBI tour in Washington's Newseum, which was a popular destination for school groups and out-of-town visitors. The highlight was a deadeye shooting demonstration by a real live agent.

Now the Newseum, two blocks away in its new digs on Pennsylvania Avenue, has revived and updated the essence of the old tour with its new exhibit "G-Men and Journalists: Top News Stories of the FBI's First Century." And while there's no bang-bang, shoot 'em up, the thrills and chills are of a subtler nature.

On display in the 250,000-square-foot museum are the Unabomber's cabin, John Dillinger's death mask, and the electric chair in which convicted Lindbergh baby kidnapper Bruno Hauptmann was executed.

But because the mysteries surrounding former FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover are endlessly fascinating, the exhibit's Hoover artifacts may prove to be the biggest draw. Read more ..


Book Review

Between Nanjing and Chongqing

July 21st 2008

Book Covers - Wuhan 1938 200 pixels

Wuhan, 1938: War, Refugees, and the Making of Modern China, Stephen MacKinnon. University of California Press, 2008. 204 pages.

War is hell, none more so than the stymied, enraged, calculated brutishness of the Japanese invasion of China in 1937 and 1938. The Rape of Nanjing is familiar, but less well known is what happened afterwards. Chiang Kai-shek moved his government to Wuhan, on the mid-Yangzi, and presided over a bloody and successful strategy of resistance and retreat which left the Japanese exhausted. In the ten months before the Japanese took Wuhan in October 1938, a vast United Front formed. The epic retreat to the wartime capital to Chongqing, in Sichuan, had the same heroic, mythic ring as did Mao's Long March. In the years upriver, Chiang's regime stagnated, but when he arrived in Chongqing in early 1939, Chiang was, paradoxically, both defeated and triumphant.

Stephen MacKinnon's Wuhan, 1938: War, Refugees, and the Making of Modern China (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2008) tells the story of these crucial months between Nanjing and Chongqing. The story exposes the foundations of change which are usually suppressed and epitomizes the recent re-thinking of military history, a trend which MacKinnon helped to organize. As with Margaret MacMillan's The Week That Changed The World, a brief period illuminates longer sweeps of history.

 For the "Wuhan moment" was a watershed. Fissiparous provincial generals (often misleadingly called "warlords"), Communists, and cultural entrepreneurs of the earlier generation came together in one place and rallied to the national cause. The lion did not exactly lie down with the lamb, but Zhou Enlai had tea with an Anglican Bishop, Mme. Chiang Kai-shek welcomed the notorious radical Agnes Smedley, Edgar Snow wrote an encomium to the Generalissimo, and Chiang, precisely because he did not have unchallenged control, presided over a United Front which was militarily effective and culturally creative. Read more ..


Harriet McBryde Johnson Proved Me Wrong

July 21st 2008

In February 2003, my aunt-in-law, Eileen invited us to dinner at the beautiful plantation house she shared with her partner Meta, in the marshland countryside surrounding the romantic Charleston, where my husband and I lived at the time.

As we were chatting away in the kitchen, talking about new jobs and our new life in the Deep South of the United States, Eileen left the room for a moment to come back a few minutes later with the New York Times magazine in her hand. She gave it to me and she said, “I know you’re not working in disability anymore but I wondered what you thought about this. She’s a lawyer from Charleston.”

I looked down and there it was, Unspeakable Conversations: a huge article about disability and eugenics written by Harriet McBryde Johnson. I looked at her photograph, read the first few lines of the piece, and sat down and devoured it with a passion I hadn’t felt in a long time. The writer was a lawyer whose spinal muscular atrophy left her extremely thin and physically quite weak. Yet her spirit and writing and wittiness had the muscular strength of a Cyclops. She took so much risk in confronting herself and Dr Peter Singer, the professor of bioethics at Princeton University, that I was flabbergasted.

At the time I had reached “Disability Issues Burnout” as I called it then, as after years of working in this field—first in London in the UK , then in San Francisco in California, and then Bologna in my home country of Italy—I just simply could not find the motivation anymore to work around disability issues. Doubts were creeping up in my consciousness as to whether I was working in the disability field not because I really felt for it, but only because I could not find a good job in “mainstream” employment. Being severely deaf, wearing hearing aids and lip-reading, and talking with a strange deafy-Italian accent, I had almost never been unemployed since I had run away from my family home in Sardinia and found refuge in the UK. I was always striving to prove everyone wrong about my abilities, especially back home. Read more ..


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Iran's Nukes Exclusive

Greece Quietly Provides Israeli Air Force Pivotal Assistance on S-300 as Iran Nuke Strike Looms

July 14th 2008

Israel Topics - Israeli Jets Parked
Israeli war planes

Greece has quietly assisted the Israeli Air Force in a previously unreported fashion as the dreaded decision of a possible Israeli preemptive strike against Iran’s nuclear facilities draws closer, this reporter has learned.

A pivotal factor in Israel’s military strategy against Iran’s nuclear installations is the recent delivery to Iran of Russia’s potent S-300 Russian ground-to-air radar systems. Considered one of the world’s most versatile radar-missile systems, Russia’s S-300 batteries can simultaneous track hundreds of semi-stealth cruise missiles, long range missiles and aircraft, including airborne monitoring jets. As many as ten intruders can be simultaneously engaged by the S-300’s mobile interceptor missile batteries, military sources say. As such, the S-300 is a major threat to the long-range weapons in the Israeli arsenal. These include Israel’s long-range 1,500 km. nuclear-capable Jericho IIB missiles; unmanned missile-equipped long-range drones; Israel’s F-16s, F-15Es; long range heavy-payload F151s and F161s; and even its three new Gulfstream G550 business jets boasting a range of 6,750 nautical miles, newly outfitted with nuclear-tracking electronics and designed to loiter over or near Iranian skies for hours. The S-300 can compromise everything Israel has.

But Greece has the same Russian S-300 system. Read more ..


Tracking “Project Better Place” Electric Cars

Portugal Joins Israel and Denmark in Growing Electric Car Community

July 14th 2008

Science - Electric car
Wind-Driven Better Place-Niseen electric vehicle

Portugal has linked up with French carmaker Renault and its Japanese partner Nissan to boost the use of electric cars by creating a national recharging network.

The aim is to make Portugal – which imports all its oil – one of the first countries to offer drivers the possibility of nationwide charging stations, putting more electric vehicles on the roads at a time of soaring fuel prices.

Renault-Nissan boss Carlos Ghosn and Portuguese Prime Minister Jose Socrates attended the signing of a memorandum of understanding on the project.

Prime Minister Socrates said: “We want to increase Portugal’s autonomy in terms of energy, so that future generations can make their own decisions and we are not at the mercy of others, as we are today.”
Renault and Nissan are working on developing a battery-powered car with a 160 kilometer range to be sold in Portugal as of 2011. Carlos Ghosn promised: “We want to make large-scale availability of zero emission vehicles one of our main priorities in the short and long term.”

On the conventional car front, Renault has just lowered its sales target for the year. It expects sales to rise between 5% and 10%, down from its earlier growth target of 10% due to the impact of uncertain economic and financial developments on European car markets. Read more ..


Understanding Oil

The True Cost of a Gallon of Gas?

July 14th 2008

Military - USAF Desert Storm
US Air Force at Desert Storm

We pay in some places $5.00 for a gallon of gasoline at the service station. But the real price of gas is much higher and camouflaged by myriad direct and indirect costs associated with maintaining our oil economy. How much are you actually paying for gas? Take a closer look at the hidden bills footed by your taxes:

The federal government subsidizes the oil industry with numerous tax breaks and government protection programs worth billions of dollars annually. These benefits are designed to ensure that domestic oil companies can compete with international producers and that gasoline remains cheap for American consumers.

Our dependency on oil from countries that are either politically unstable or at odds with the U.S. subjects the American economy to occasional supply disruptions, price hikes, and loss of wealth, which, according to a study commissioned by the U.S. Department of Energy, have cost us more than $7 trillion present value dollars over the last 30 years. That is more than the cumulative cost of all of the wars fought by the U.S. since the Revolutionary War. Read more ..


Religious Freedom

Imminent Trial in Azerbaijan for Baptist Pastor on "Gun Charge"

July 14th 2008

Religion - Orthodox Church Azerbaijan
Othrodox Church in Azarbaijan

Baptist pastor Hamid Shabanov of the remote village of Aliabad is due to be transferred from prison in the city of Gyanja back to Zakatala for trial, according to his lawyer Mirman Aliev. The 51-year-old pastor faces up to three years' imprisonment on a charge of illegal weapon possession.

"Hamid Shabanov does not consider himself guilty and insists the gun the police are claiming was his was planted by them," Aliev attests. Ilya Zenchenko of the Baptist Union complains that Shabanov's arrest is part of a pattern of such government activity against Baptists and other religious communities across Azerbaijan.

Aliev said the Zakatala District Prosecutor's Office is completing its investigation into allegations that Pastor Shabanov possessed an illegal weapon – an accusation he and his family vigorously refute – and is about to hand the case to the court.

Ilya Zenchenko, head of Azerbaijan's Baptist Union who rushed to Aliabad in the wake of the arrest, believes the decision to complete Shabanov's case and send it to the court may be a reaction to a press conference held by the country's Evangelical Alliance in Baku on July 3rd. "It's clear they have now decided to wrap up the case quickly," Zenchenko told reporters.

An official who answered the phone on July 7 at the Zakatala District Prosecutor's Office refused to discuss Pastor Shabanov's case or say when the case would be handed to the court. The head of Zakatala district police, Faik Shabanov (no relation), said that the pastor is “a criminal.” Under Azerbaijani law, individuals are innocent until found guilty in court. Read more ..


Iran’s Nukes

Iran Orders Secret Network of Civilian Companies to Resume Nuclear Weapons Production

July 14th 2008

Iran - Ahmadinejad at Iranian nuclear plant
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad tours nuclear site

Teheran’s Revolutionary Guard, responsible for all nuclear programs in Iran, has been instructed by Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to set up private companies to pursue the acquisition and development of P2 advanced centrifuges, according to recent Western intelligence.

The Bush Administration reacted by imposing financial sanctions on any entity participating in Iran’s nuclear programs.

"Iran's nuclear and missile firms hide behind an array of agents that transact business on their behalf," said Stuart Levey, the Treasury Department's under secretary for terrorism and financial intelligence.

P2 centrifuges enrich uranium two to three times faster than centrifuges currently in use. They are a key component of a blueprint for atomic bombs sold to Iran by Dr. A.Q. Khan, the "father" of Pakistan’s nuclear bomb, in the 1990s. Nuclear experts confirm that the P2 centrifuges are used primarily for atomic weapons.

The private front companies, hidden on the outskirts of Teheran, are designed to operate undetected by the United Nations nuclear inspection teams. Concerns that nuclear weapon production will continue despite Iran’s proclamations of peaceful use only have circulated among Western experts. Read more ..


The Coping Edge

Sunshine on My Shoulders

July 14th 2008

Contributors / Staff - Liz Black headshot
Elizabeth Black

After fearing the sun for decades, listening to the dire warnings of dermatologists, and slathering on sunscreen to protect against skin cancer, it turns out most people are probably getting too little sun. Apparently the majority of American women are deficient in vitamin D-3—the form that is derived from sunlight’s interaction with bare skin.

Two recent studies suggest that women who get lots of Vitamin D are less likely to develop breast cancer. This adds to the already strong mounting evidence that the “sunshine vitamin” helps prevent many types of cancer, as well as improve survival rates among those already afflicted. What’s more, Vitamin D may also lower the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes.

In one study, high levels of Vitamin D translated to a 50 percent lower risk of breast cancer. Even modestly higher levels resulted in 10 percent less risk. A second study, this one by Canadian researchers, found that women who spent time outdoors, especially in their teen years, were 25 to 45 percent less likely to develop breast cancer than women with less of the vitamin. Only 24 percent of women in the Canadian study had sufficient blood levels of Vitamin D at the time their breast cancer was diagnosed. Those who were deficient were nearly twice as likely to have their cancer recur or spread over the next 10 years, and 73 percent more likely to die of the disease. Read more ..


Inside the Mideast

New Funding for Israel Shows Essential Congressional and Presidential Leadership

July 14th 2008

Politics - Nancy Pelosi
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA)

In this time of heightened anxiety and uncertainty in the Middle East, Congress has taken a crucial step toward ensuring the safety and security of our nation's closest ally in the region. Earlier this month, the House and Senate overwhelmingly approved, and President Bush signed into law, funding that increases Israel's total security aid for fiscal year 2009 to $2.55 billion.

The funding-$170 million in additional security assistance to Israel-is in line with America's new 10-year, $30 billion aid agreement with the Jewish state and was included as part of the Supplemental Appropriations Acts of Fiscal Years 2008 and 2009.

Aid to Israel is not normally included in the supplemental. But with Congress expected to enact a Continuing Resolution at the end of this fiscal year-which will keep all federal programs, including aid to Israel, at fiscal year 2008 levels-bipartisan Congressional leaders acted to lock in the critical aid increase to Israel as soon as possible.

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and House Republican Leader John Boehner (R-OH) were at the forefront of this effort. One month ago at AIPAC's Policy Conference, Pelosi announced her intention to ensure that Israel received the full increase in aid called for under the new 10-year plan by including the additional funds in the supplemental. Read more ..


Election Edge

Mitt Romney Speaks Out on Obama’s “Frightening Naiveté,” and the Governor’s Own Future

July 14th 2008

Contributors / Staff - Ronald Kessler

 Barack Obama’s approach to the war on terror shows “frightening naiveté,” says Mitt Romney.

“Even the peaceniks of the last decade have recognized that the pre-911 thinking of the early 1990s was wrong,” Romney says. “The great majority of those who opposed the conflict in Iraq nevertheless recognize that it is a war against a radical, violent Islam. But Barack is one of the few who has still refused to speak out against radical violent Islam and jihadism.”

To suggest, as Obama has, that the way to deal with terrorists is to prosecute them “bespeaks a remarkable lack of understanding of the threat which we face,” Romney says.

Obama has said the government can crack down on terrorists “within the constraints of the Constitution.” He has said, “What we know is that, in previous terrorist attacks—for example, the first attack against the World Trade Center—we were able to arrest those responsible, put them on trial. They are currently in U.S. prisons, incapacitated.”

In the 1993 World Trade bombing, while some perpetrators were prosecuted, others, like Osama bin Laden, were not, Romney points out. Moreover, Romney says, since the 9/11 hijackers did not care if they were killed or sent to jail, and all died in the attack, it is foolhardy to suggest that the threat of prosecutions would be a deterrent. Read more ..


After the Holocaust

A Pariah in Exile

July 14th 2008

Jewish Topics - Norman Finkelstein
Norman Finkelstein
PHOTO: Michael Datikash

It has come to this for Norman Finkelstein: Back home in the Brooklyn of his youth, living alone in his deceased father’s rent-stabilized apartment on Ocean Parkway, just a few blocks from where the white-hot controversial professor grew up.

No more loyal students, no more lectures to prepare, no more radio debates with his arch-enemy Alan Dershowitz, no more national spotlight; Finkelstein is the man no one wants, and perhaps for good reason.

A year ago, DePaul University, where he taught political science for six years, denied Finkelstein tenure in one of the most bruising tenure battles in recent memory. The story made national headlines, fueled by Dershowitz’s crusade against Finkelstein’s scholarship.

Finkelstein’s supporters painted the Harvard law professor as an outside agitator encroaching on an internal tenure process; some of his students went on a hunger strike in his support. No major university will touch him now.

“Who wants to go through what DePaul went through with a national hysteria,” Finkelstein says, shrugging. “To be told I was a Holocaust denier and a terrorist supporter—would you want me on your faculty?” Read more ..


Facts and Myths of Israel

Does Israel Use its Checkpoints to Humiliate Palestinians and Deny them Rights?

July 14th 2008

Islamic Topics - Palestinian Rally
Palestinian rally

Does “Israel uses checkpoints to deny Palestinians their rights and humiliate them?”

It is not unusual for nations to guard their borders and to establish checkpoints to prevent people from illegally entering their countries. The United States has checkpoints at its borders and airports and, as Americans saw on September 11, these are necessary but not foolproof security precautions.

In the case of Israel, the necessity for checkpoints has been created by the Palestinians. By pursuing a violent campaign of terror against Israel’s citizens, they have forced Israel to set up barriers to make it as difficult as possible for terrorists to enter Israel or travel through the territories to carry out acts of violence. The checkpoints are an inconvenience to innocent Palestinians, but they also prevent terror and save lives.

For example, on June 8, 2008, an 18-year-old Palestinian was arrested at the Hawara checkpoint near Nablus after he was discovered carrying six pipe bombs, an ammunition cartridge and bullets, and a bag of gunpowder. “It’s routine to find bombs at this checkpoint…every day, we find knives and other weapons,” said Cpl. Ron Bezalel of the military police. Just three weeks earlier, another Palestinian was arrested at Hawara carrying five pipe bombs, which he had attached and strapped to his chest to act as an explosives belt. Read more ..


Book Excerpt

How Ignorant Are We? The Voters Choose… But On The Basis of What?

July 14th 2008

Book Covers - Just How Stupid Are We Book Cover

Excerpted from Just How Stupid Are We?, by Rick Shenkman, in arrangement with Basic Books.

"If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be." -- Thomas Jefferson

Just how stupid are we? Pretty stupid, it would seem, when we come across headlines like this from Associated Press March 01, 2006: "Homer Simpson, Yes -- 1st Amendment 'Doh,' Survey Finds"

"About 1 in 4 Americans can name more than one of the five freedoms guaranteed by the First Amendment (freedom of speech, religion, press, assembly and petition for redress of grievances.) But more than half of Americans can name at least two members of the fictional cartoon family, according to a survey.

"The study by the new McCormick Tribune Freedom Museum found that 22 percent of Americans could name all five Simpson family members, compared with just 1 in 1,000 people who could name all five First Amendment freedoms."

But what does it mean exactly to say that American voters are stupid? About this there is unfortunately no consensus. Like Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart, who confessed not knowing how to define pornography, we are apt simply to throw up our hands in frustration and say: We know it when we see it. But unless we attempt a definition of some sort, we risk incoherence, dooming our investigation of stupidity from the outset. Stupidity cannot mean, as Humpty Dumpty would have it, whatever we say it means. Read more ..


Fabrics of Great Britain

The Not Knowing of Another--Bexhill on Sea

July 14th 2008

Travel - Bexhill on Sea
Promenade at Bexhill on Sea
Christine Matthews

An archetypal English afternoon.  Early July in the last week of Wimbledon.  High white clouds scud across the summer sky revealing lakes of blue periodically.  A gentle Westerly drives them inland and the sun creates sparkle in the gently undulating sea tide washing in.  A dog chases a thrown stick along the seafront panting in the heat and a lone vessel sits on the horizon.  Bexhill on Sea, East Sussex.  Nothing really is happening in a quintessentially Home Counties sort of way. 

A lazy Friday in a pleasant shimmering haze. A coastal resort sandwiched between illustrious neighbors, Eastbourne and Hastings.  Empty Tory blue-and-white striped deckchairs sit symmetrically opposite Romanesque colonnades and an ice cream kiosk.  Straw hats and scooters saunter along promenade.  Seagulls circle and squawk chasing discarded chips on the green by the bandstand and the Union Jack gently flutters.

There is a faded Edwardian elegance here. A town retired, looking out to the waves and reminiscing about lost empire and afternoon tea.  Trying hard to fulfill its role as a healthy retreat and holiday destination. Inland up the hill small shops jostle for the unpassing trade of the bygone 60s and 70s when the working classes had not discovered Spain.  An ironically named hairdressers’ shop; wedding dresses in wedloc dropping the K for trendy tourists who may have got lost on the way to Brighton, and knitwear and kilts touting tartan to absent Americans.  Fish shops fighting a price and plastic-fork war.  Cod and chips, salt and vinegar Bexhill by the sea. Gentle English conservatism with a small sea.

Actually, Bexhill is as quirky and alternative as you should want to get.  Yes it is English, yes it expresses in its architecture and legacy something quintessential about tolerance and innovation, about leadership, expression and understanding and about freedom and resistance to the ordinary. If you start to dig a little bit under the surface of this genteel picture postcard place you start to find some extraordinary things.  Television pioneer John Logie Baird spent his last few months on earth in Bexhill.  The great contemporary comedian Eddie Izzard spent much of his childhood there.  British motor racing was spawned in Bexhill with bicycle boulevard polluted with paraffin and petroleum when illustrious competitors including Lord Northcliffe founder of the Daily Mail newspaper competed in the first-ever race on British soil at speeds of over 50 mph.  Ironically it was won by the more eco-friendly steam powered Easter egg driven by the French racer Monsieur Leon Serpollet.  Read more ..


Kicking Our Oil Addiction

If Iran and Brazil Can Do It, So Can We

July 7th 2008

Energy / Environment - Brazil Sugar Cane
Brazilian Sugar Cane for Ethanol

When the founding fathers declared our independence, they could not have imagined that, 232 years later, the United States would be so spectacularly dependent on foreign countries. It would be roughly eight more decades before oil gushed from a well in Titusville, Pennsylvania, marking the beginning of the global oil economy; it took eight decades more for the United States to become a net oil importer. But the republic's disastrous dependence on foreign oil has increased by leaps and bounds ever since.

In 1973, when OPEC imposed its oil embargo, U.S. oil imports composed 30 percent of our needs; today, they make up more than 60 percent, with a growing proportion of that crude coming from the world's least stable regions. At around $145 a barrel, the United States, by my calculations, will spend more on imported oil this year than it will spend on its own defense budget, and much of that money will flow into the coffers of those who wish us ill.

Since oil dependence is so unappealing, you'd think that energy independence would be an easy sell, especially on this Fourth of July weekend. But in fact, very few policy ideas have been so ridiculed. A 2007 report by the National Petroleum Council, a privately funded group that offers advice from the oil and gas industries to the federal government, calls energy independence "unrealistic"; a recent book, "Gusher of Lies," by Robert Bryce, a former fellow at a think tank funded in part by energy interests, described energy independence as a "dangerous delusion"; and a 2006 Council on Foreign Relations task force went so far as to accuse those promoting energy independence of "doing the nation a disservice by focusing on a goal that is unachievable over the foreseeable future."

Read more ..

Iran's Nukes

How Would U.S. React to Israeli Strike on Iran?

July 7th 2008

Military - Israeli Jets Parked

As the question of an Israeli attack on Iran edges from if toward when, a new question looms: What would the United States do?

The question is preoccupying not just the White House but the Obama and McCain presidential campaigns, although neither would address the matter on the record.

A number of neoconservatives in Washington, known for their closeness to the Israeli defense establishment, now predict that Israel may strike between the election in November and the inauguration of the next president on January 21, if only because that’s a time when Israel can count on U.S. support.

"Israel would be unlikely to do it before the U.S. election," said John Bolton, the former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations who is close to the pro-Israel community in the capital. "But after the election and before the inauguration would be a window."

Israeli officials will not name a date, but some have grown more pronounced in recent weeks about the increased prospect of a strike should Iran develop nuclear weapons capability. "A year from now Iran will be very, very close to the completion of its first nuclear bomb," Ephraim Sneh, a member of Israel's ruling coalition, said earlier this month at the annual American Israel Public Affairs Committee policy conference. "I may predict that there is – will be – no government in Jerusalem which would allow it to happen." Read more ..



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