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Archive for April 2009

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What if the Oil Stops

Italian CNG Exec Charges Honda with “Mafia-like” Conduct over Fuelmaker as Sale Nears

April 30th 2009

Automotive - IMI FuelMaker
IMI Fuelmaker Exhibition

This continuing coverage of America’s oil crisis arises from the The Plan: How to Save America When the Oil Stops—or the Day Before (Dialog Press). Buy it here.

Update May 1. The day after The Cutting Edge News released its story about the impending sale of Fuelmaker, probably to Fuel Systems Solutions, the actual sale to Fuel Systems Solutions was announced. See related story in Energy.

“It is a very bad situation. I am not good. I am desperate,” declared Haimo Staffler, president of IMI, the exclusive Italian distributor of home and office compressed natural gas (CNG) refueling devices manufactured by Honda Fuelmaker. The devices include the Phill unit designed to be the home refueler for the much touted restricted-production Honda Civic GX. The GX runs exclusively on CNG and holds the promise of untethering its owners from oil use and gas stations. Fuelmaker devices refuel not just Honda vehicles but any compatible CNG vehicle from forklifts to Fiats. Staffler’s experience with Honda executives and their conduct in the Fuelmaker case has left him shocked and angry, accusing them of extreme misconduct.

“These people from Honda,” he asserts, “they are driving me crazy. What they have done is terrible.”

Specifically, Staffler accuses Honda of extreme misconduct in the recent sudden bankruptcy the Japanese carmaker forced on Fuelmaker. Overnight, that engineered bankruptcy has vaporized IMI’s distribution agreements and product launches for Fuelmaker in Italy. Read more ..

Great Gatherings

Nearly 7,000 Gather at AIPAC Policy Conference to Confront Iran and Gasoline Suppliers with Crushing Sanctions

April 30th 2009

Obama Admin Topics - Obama AIPAC 2008
Barack Obama at AIPAC 2008

As many as 7,000 supporters of Israel will assemble at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee Annual Policy Conference in Washington May 3-5 to work with their representatives in Congress to enact tough new sanctions against Iran and its gasoline suppliers.

The sanctions are another attempt to avert a military confrontation between Jerusalem and Tehran over the latter’s nuclear ambitions. Iran has consistently threatened to “wipe Israel off the map” and to block the strategic oil passage at the Strait of Hormuz which would immobilize the American economy within weeks.

The AIPAC conference is considered one of Washington’s most significant political and constituent gatherings, attended by thousands of Israel advocates from across the nation and scores of Senators, House Representatives and key administrative officials and diplomats in a massive show of solidarity with Israel. Last year’s historic event, which will undoubtedly overshadow the conference for years to come, saw John McCain, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama all appearing prominently during the apex of the superheated political campaign. Indeed, Clinton and Obama passed each other backstage. This year, the focus is not elections but thwarting Iran’s nuclear program. Read more ..

The Legal Edge

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

April 28th 2009

Social Topics - Mock Trial

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

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

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

Plague Days

Mexico's Tourism Industry Reels from Latest Body Blow--Swine Flu

April 28th 2009

Latin American Topics - Mexico Plague Days

Mexicans, known to lament ironically that their country is too far from God and too close to the United States, now have even more to worry them following a triple whammy of an economic downturn, continued narcotics-related violence, and now the outbreak of what could become a pandemic of swine flu. Tourism, a mainstay for Mexico – which has not only glorious beaches, but also soaring pre-Colombian temples and Spanish colonial cathedrals – has already taken a hit but now stands to receive a mortal body blow. 

Victims of swine-flu in New York City, among them a group of students who had recently visiting Mexico’ sun and sin capital Cancún, are among the tourists directly affected. Now it is tour operators, airlines, and hotels which are also affected. The Mexican government has shuttered schools and universities, as well as other public venues throughout Mexico City, while armed soldiers are grimly handing out surgical masks to the citizenry in an effort to stem the contagion of swine flu. Read more ..

Inside America

The Age of the American Lust Child

April 27th 2009

Contributors / Staff - Armstrong Williams Headshot
Armstrong Williams

Recently that the Centers for Disease Control has estimated that nearly forty percent of U.S. births in 2007 occurred outside of wedlock. That number is overall for the nation. It is one thing when teenagers and members of lower socioeconomic classes fall prey to this phenomenon. But the reality of out-of-wedlock births at such a high rate across the social gamut suggests that the problem has spread much wider than ever could have been imagined. This alarming number of out-of-wedlock births across age and socioeconomic sectors signals nothing less than the wholesale disintegration of our American family. Welcome to the dawn of the age of the American Lust Child.

Some would question why it matters. What does society care whether or not children are born to wedded mothers at all? After all if the parents are together but not married, or single but wealthy enough to support the child, then no big deal right? 

Wrong. There is more to raising children than just food, clothing and shelter. There is the quintessential non-material connection that two parents provide that cannot be quantified in dollars and cents, but are just as essential for that child to grow up and become a productive member of society. They include, providing a strong moral foundation, teaching faith, perseverance, and discipline. It’s not that one parent is incapable of doing this alone. It has been done in countless shining examples. But in most U.S. households, where someone has to work to bring in an income, the moral education of children generally requires teamwork if it is to be done correctly. That too has been shown in countless shining examples. Read more ..

Edge of Climate Change

Experts Probe Links Between Urban Growth and Climate Change in Africa

April 27th 2009

Africa Topics - Dakar

A new project has united researchers exploring the connection between rapid urban growth in Africa and climate related emergencies, in an effort to safeguard vulnerable urban populations from the effects of climate change. 

The Climate Change and Adaptation in Africa program, or CCAA, aims to increase the capacity of African people and organizations to cope with the effects of climate change.

Sponsored by Canada's International Development Research Center and the United Kingdom's Department for International Development, the project hopes to indentify strategies to help the urban poor in Africa's largest cities to adapt to challenges posed by the changing environment, says project manager Francois Gasengayire. Read more ..


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

April 27th 2009

Latin American Topics - Mexico Plague Kisses

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

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

Travel Advisory

Deadly Outbreak in Mexico Jumps the Border into the U.S.

April 27th 2009

Science - Virus

A deadly flu virus, never before noted, has killed at least 20 persons in Mexico and has now appeared in the United States. Eight people were infected by the H1N1 swine flu virus in the U.S. but have now recovered. The virus found among the U.S. patients, according to the World Health Organization, is the very same that was found in 12 of the Mexican patients. The border between the two countries remains open to tourist and business visitors even during the outbreak and despite increasing concern at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta GA.

According to health officials, the outbreak has not yet reached pandemic levels. However, Mexican authorities are not taking any chances with the virus that has now spread to human-to-human contact. On April 23, Mexico cancelled school in the nation’s capital and surrounding districts in an effort to stem the wave of infection. Large public gatherings such as concerts and sporting events have been suspended.

Ordinary citizens have taken to wearing surgical masks so as prevent contagion. Workers at Mexico City's restaurants and taco stands are taking precautions too. At least one pharmacy has reported a run on surgical masks: it sold out its stock within hours. Read more ..

Book Review

An Irreverent Guide to Texas Movies is...well, Irreverent

April 27th 2009

Book Covers - State Fare

State Fare:  An Irreverent Guide to Texas Movies. Don Graham. TCU Press. 2008.

Lights, camera, action!  On September 24, 1900, Thomas Edison’s men began filming the shambles that was Galveston. Only two weeks before, a powerful hurricane had devastated the island city. The earliest image of Texas in the movies thus started “with a documentary of disaster.” So begins Don Graham’s smart little history, State Fare: An Irreverent Guide to Texas Movies. 

During the industry’s infancy, the leading movie producer in Texas was Frenchman Gaston Melies, founder of San Antonio’s Star Film Ranch. Between 1910 -1911, Melies produced over seventy films, including The Immortal Alamo (1911), the “first significant movie made in Texas.” Actor Francis Ford (brother of legendary film director John Ford) appeared in Melies’s feature, as did a group of cadets from the Peacock Military Academy, who played General Santa Anna’s troops. 

But Texas was not destined to be the motion picture capital.  California beckoned. Despite Melies’s “valiant efforts to turn San Antonio into a mecca of moviemaking,” Graham observes, “it was another town in the West, Hollywood, that soon dominated the nascent film industry.” In late 1911, Melies departed Texas for the West Coast.

Graham divides his study into six chapters, several of them cleverly titled:  “When the Shooting Started,” “The Strong Silent Type,” “A Handful of Texas Steers,” “Grade A Texas Beef,” “Tex Messaging,” and “Schmaltz Across Texas.” He assesses a number of motion pictures, iconic, middling, and minor. Read more ..

Kicking our Oil Addiction

Imagine a World Without the Radical, Dictatorial Saudi Regime

April 27th 2009

Obama Admin Topics - Obama Bows to Saudi King
President Obama bows to Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah

The recent hullabaloo over Barack Obama's seeming bow before King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia centered mainly on the question of whether it was appropriate for a U.S. president to pay obeisance to a foreign dictator. But the real problem lies deeper than that. King Abdullah's alliance with the United States, combined with his oil wealth, has allowed his radical breed of Islam, Wahhabism, to flourish, poisoning the Middle East. With so much at stake, is it irrational to yearn for a world in which the Saudi regime just miraculously ceased to exist and there was no King Abdullah to bow to (or not) at all?

The House of Saud affects the world in three main ways: It is the world's largest producer of oil and holder of most of the market's spare production capacity; it acts as custodian of Islam's holy places and the religious center of Sunni Islam; and it maintains Wahhabism as a state-sponsored sect. When it comes to the first two elements, a world without the Saudi kingdom would not necessarily be a better one.  Read more ..

Honda Image Tarnished Forever--No Better than GM

April 27th 2009
As a life-long customer of Honda automobiles and life-long admirer of the company, I must admit that revelations about its conduct in the field of alternative fuels have tarnished my view of them for the rest of my days. I remember when people like me and others in Chicago would drive nothing but a Honda back when it was hardly fashionable and when autoworkers were still smashing Japanese cars in parking lots. But people like me saw the value in the Honda vision. It is very said to see that vision become blurred and hazy by greed and deception. It is sad to see what they have done to suppress the Honda Civic GX, the proliferation of compressed natural gas automobiles and fueling, the forced bankruptcy of Fuelmaker through an anonymous corporation, and the fake vehicle shortages and quotas they have contrived. Clearly, they have done the same thing for hydrogen with the Clarity and the home refueler--put out a slick brochure and a few highly-laquered cars, but kept this fine vehicle off the road in any real numbers. For shame Honda. You now join the ranks of Ford and GM. Your white hat is gone forever.

GM's Toxic Legacy

General Motors Leaves a Toxic Time Bomb for America--and the World

April 27th 2009

Energy / Environment - Toxic Waste Site
Toxic Waste Site in Michigan

GM's assets are toxic. But that toxicity is not limited to financial health. The poisonous legacy of General Motors will be carried by its workers in their bodies for the rest of their lives.

Working in factories like those in America’s auto industry is unlike working for a bank, a grocery store, an office, utility company or most other none toxic industries. The potential for close and continuous exposure in these auto factories to dangerous toxic elements is far greater than these other jobs. That is why United Auto Workers leaders over the last fifty years negotiated good healthcare benefits for workers and retirees. Read more ..

The Pakistan and Afghanistan Crisis

If Taliban Take Over Afghanistan and Pakistan--India is Next

April 27th 2009

Terrorism - Taliban

As the U.S. administration and its allies are devising a new strategy for the next steps in Afghanistan, the Jihadists have already begun their next move. But this time, it's inside Pakistan. Afghanistan, Pakistan and India are as one regional battlefield where the other side is coordinating strategically, acting methodically, and beating the international coalition in pure agility and speed. 


If Washington and its allies fail to see the big picture in the fight against the Taliban and Al Qaeda, which unfortunately may be the case now, the rapidly deteriorating situation will soon spread from the northwestern provinces of Pakistan to spill over to both Afghanistan and India, if not beyond. That is how I suggest "reading" the recent worrisome leaps achieved by the Taliban from the SWAT valley into the neighboring district of Buner. So, what's the story and why should we consider it as a crossing of the red lines?  Read more ..

Iran's Nukes

New Legislation Would Squeeze Iran and Gasoline Suppliers Vitol, Glencore, Trafigura, Total, Reliance Industries, and BP

April 27th 2009

Iran - Iran Nuclear Equipment

Six foreign oil companies may soon be squeezed over their supply of gasoline to Iran. The six are: Vitol, Glencore International, the Swiss/Dutch firm Trafigura, France's Total, British Petroleum and India's Reliance Industries.

On April 22, the House of Representatives introduced the bi-partisan Iran Diplomatic Enhancement Act as a means of compelling Iran to heed the warnings of the U.S. and its allies to cease its nuclear weaponization program. The bill would also impose heavy sanctions on the oil suppliers.

Said Congressman Mark Kirk (R-IL), “If we are serious about stopping the emergence of a nuclear Iran, our window for effective diplomacy is starting to close,” perhaps hinting at Congress’ frustration with Iran and its Islamist leadership. Kirk is also an intelligence officer in the Navy Reserve and has introduced similar legislation in the past. Read more ..

Paramount (New York)


Military Edge

Special Forces Need Gunships

April 20th 2009

Military - AC-130 Gunship
AC-130 Gunship

Gunships are a special breed of aircraft. Ironically, they are valued most by those on the ground. When critical close air support is needed by special forces, the gunships fly into action. But the United States is running out of these valuable flying battleships.

America's milittary currently deploys a variety of special forces, that is, small, highly trained units that perform specialized, tense and tough missions. These include the Army's Rangers, the Marine Corp's Force Reconnaissance Companies, and the Navy SEALs, who have most recently been in the news for their anti-piracy work. Common to all of the missions undertaken by these units is the need for close air support. This might be delivered by an attack plane such as the A-10 Thunderbolt, the AV-8B Harrier, a helicopter gunship such as the AH-6 Little Bird or AH-64 Apache, or by one of two types of fixed wing gunships currently operated by the U.S. Air Force. These fixed wing gunships, seventeen 1990s era AC-130U Spooky and eight 1970s vintage AC-130H Specter class planes, are literally falling to pieces due to the mission tempo they're subjected to in Iraq and Afghanistan. Read more ..

Inside Islam

Somali Pirates and the Islamist Jihad

April 20th 2009

Piracy - Somali Pirates Land
Somali Jihadi Pirates

As the news of the successful US Navy SEALS rescue of Captain Richard Phillips, who was taken hostage by Muslim pirates off the coast of Somalia last week, slides off the headlines into oblivion, we can begin to look more deeply into the matter of piracy off the East African coast.

What is clear is that US government is treating the matter as a criminal case because officials have “found no direct ties” between the East African pirates and regional or international terror groups.

But in fact, those labeled as mere “criminals” are actually Jihadist Muslim pirates, and they make that clear to anyone who will listen. To begin, Somali pirates do not think of themselves as “pirates,” but instead consider themselves devout Muslims protecting Somalia against the infidel West. As one pirate put it to a Reuters journalist just days ago, “We are Muslims. We are marines, coastguards -- not pirates." Read more ..

Iran's Nukes

Israel Prepares for War with Iran

April 20th 2009

Israeli Military - Israeli Jet Diving

Israel appears to gird for war as its defense establishment prepares the greatest military exercise in the history of the Jewish state. This exercise is expected to take place on June 2 and will involve testing the U.S.-Israeli developed missile defense system “Arrow” intended to deter missile attacks.

An Israeli strike on approximately one dozen targets in Iran could come with hours or days of receiving orders, according to an Israeli defense official quoted in the The Times of London. The military is apparently awaiting the final go-ahead by the country’s new civilian leadership under Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu. This comes despite assurances issued just days before on April 15 in which Israeli President Shimon Peres had backtracked on earlier rumors of war, saying, "The solution in Iran is not a military one." Indeed, Peres has recently been quoted as confirming that if a diplomatic solution is not found soon, "we will strike." Read more ..

Inside Islam

Behind the Somali Jihad on the High Seas

April 20th 2009

Piracy - Somali Pirate
Somali Pirate

Most of the media discussion about piracy in the Gulf of Aden has drifted understandably towards the sensational part of the story: how are the pirates able to roam the Ocean? Is paying them ransom a better option than to engage them militarily? Last but not least, will a military intervention against the Pirates worsen the situation; will it lead to a massive escalation in Somalia and a Vietnam like quagmire for many years to come?

The armed bands on the waters are still roaming the seas of Aden and the Indian Ocean across from Somalia and Kenya, are not impressed with the dozens of naval units dispatched by powerful navies from around the world.

What is behind this Piracy phenomenon, what lays ahead if the international community intervenes and what could develop in that region if the latter is late to intervene or doesn’t meet the challenge? It appears the strategic challenge is even bigger than the mere piracy. Indeed the strategy now contemplated by regional powers could become a major military debacle. Here is why: Read more ..

Genetic Edge

Chinese Scientists are Able to Grow Eggs in Female Mice

April 20th 2009

Social Topics - Pregnant

Chinese researchers are challenging the notion that a woman has all of her egg cells from birth and will never create new ones. Scientists have produced new female eggs using stem cells, a development scientists say could help infertile women.

Researchers in China say it may be possible one day for women to turn back their biological clocks by repopulating their ovaries with new eggs using stem cells.

In an experiment described in the journal Nature Cell Biology, scientists at Shanghai Jiao Tong University found stem cells in mice ovaries that could be extracted, cultured and injected into sterile mice that then produced healthy offspring.

The research, which now needs to be duplicated in other labs, holds the possibility that women can produce new eggs. According to scientists, that could extend female fertility by resetting a woman's biological clock.

David Albertini, an expert on reproductive sciences at the University of Kansas Medical Center, says the Chinese research shows promise for women who are unable to conceive.

"So the very nature of the experiments in some ways parallels the human condition that many of us are interested in addressing," he said. "That is, 'What would happen to a young woman who lost many of her eggs as a result of cancer treatment, and is there a potential avenue for therapy or retaining that fertility or restoring that fertility that could draw on the power of stem cell technology?'"

But Albertini cautions that more research is needed to determine whether the procedure will work in women. Read more ..

After the Holocaust

Hebrew Catholics Celebrate Both Passover and Holy Week in Jerusalem

April 20th 2009

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

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

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

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

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

Surge Against Hamas

Misdirected Fire: The UNHRC Report on Gaza

April 20th 2009

Gaza Topics - Gaza bomb damage
Gaza War Damage

In March, the UN Human Rights Council's (UNHRC) special rapporteur for the Palestinian territories, Richard Falk, published a report on Operation Cast Lead that makes far-reaching allegations against Israel and the potential illegality of its actions in Gaza. These assertions, however, rather than having a factual or legal basis, are essentially political in nature. Now that the United States is to be a member of the council, it should ensure that future reports are more balanced and credible.

During the Bush administration, the United States decided not to serve as a member of the UNHRC, fearing that its presence would give credibility to the flawed international body. In recent days, the Obama administration reversed this policy, announcing it would join the council. Read more ..

The EV Revolution

London Mayor Announces 25,000 Electric Charging Stations for 100,000 EVs in Six Years

April 20th 2009

Automotive - MyCar2009
MyCar electric vehicle

Boris Johnson, Mayor of London, has announced that he plans to create 25,000 electric-car charging stations throughout the British capital over the next six years. Mayor Johnson said that he hopes that some 100,000 electric vehicles would eventually quietly whiz through London.

The bold plan, if seen through, will create both a metropolitan-wide low-carbon economy for Great Britain and the electric vehicle capital of Europe. Johnson's plan was seconded by Prime Minister Gordon Brown who promised that the budget to be submitted to Parliament this month would prepare for a mass introduction of electric automobiles.

London’s government proposes a grant of £2,000 ($2955) to buyers, thus reducing the cost of electric cars to £7000 ($10,334). It is expected that owners of the electric vehicles would recoup the sale price of the innovative vehicles within about 2 years since it is projected that such vehicles save about £3,000 in operating costs. This would mirror similar grant programs for solar-panels provided to homeowners. Read more ..

The Race for Biofuels

New CARB Rules Could Fuel Oil Dependence and Cripple Energy Freedom

April 20th 2009

Energy Topics - Arab Oil Derick

In the coming days, the California Air Resources Board, or CARB -- the same agency that only five years ago gained notoriety for its role in "killing" the electric car -- could be in a position to deliver another crippling blow to the United States' effort to achieve energy independence.

As part of California's strategy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from transportation fuels, CARB is pushing for the enactment of a low-carbon fuel standard, or LCFS, that aims to regulate the emissions level of petroleum refiners, biofuels producers and others that produce or import the transportation fuels used in California.

The credit or penalty would be assessed according to both the direct and indirect greenhouse gas emissions associated with each of the steps in the fuel's life cycle, including production, transport and tailpipe emissions. Such "cradle to grave" accounting sounds logical only if it allows all fuels to compete on an equal footing. But this is what the fuel standard in its current version fails to do. Read more ..

The Obama Edge

While Sebelius is Away, the Kansas Legislature Will Play

April 20th 2009

Obama Admin Topics - Kathleen Sebelius

While Kansas governor Kathleen Sebelius was away in Washington awaiting confirmation as Health and Human Services Secretary, the boys of the Kansas legislature went at it once again. For the fourth time, they passed a bill to allow construction of two 700-megawatt coal-burning electric plants in southwest Kansas. Previously, Sebelius vetoed the bill and there weren’t quite enough votes to override. Apparently, hoping for an early cabinet confirmation, the coal plant boys were probably thinking, now that Mom’s away maybe we can get away with it.

Here is some news for you boys. Until she’s confirmed Mom can still veto. On April 13, Kathleen Sebelius once again exercised her veto power, declaring, “What was a bad idea last year is an even worse idea today.” In her veto message, Sebelius went on to predict that President Obama would move to regulate carbon dioxide emissions, which would put Kansas coal plants in a bad place. And sure enough, before the week was out, the Environmental Protection Agency ruled that carbon dioxide and five other greenhouse gases “endanger public health and welfare.” That sets the stage for regulating coal-fired plants and other sources of pollution under federal clean air laws.

A majority of Kansans, according to polls, would prefer to see the state’s wind harnessed instead of shipping in coal from Montana to make electricity for Denver, befouling Kansas skies in the process. The Kansas legislature will come back on April 29th to try to override Kathleen’s veto, but word is, they are 10 votes shy of doing it. Last time they were only three votes away. Read more ..

Significant Lives

A Spiritual Loss Stuns a Catholic Community

April 20th 2009

Christian Topics - Rev. G. William Finch
Rev. G. William Finch

The mood was forlorn. The crowd was overflow. The streets were parked up for blocks around. The moment was a sad one as the 11,000 member St. Raphael’s Catholic Church in Rockville, MD both mourned the sudden death and celebrated the life of Pastor Rev. G. William Finch. Some 1,300 mourners assembled at St. Raphael’s. Some 85 priests, vested in white, representing several dioceses, filled several rows of pews. Together, they concelebrated the Eucharist, simultaneously intoning the prayers of consecration.

Rev. Finch’s sudden passing just before Good Friday stunned the local Catholic community and many others throughout the Washington suburbs. So far-reaching was Pastor Finch’s spiritual connection to the community, that Archbishop Donald Wuerl of the Washington D.C. Diocese interrupted his Holy Week activities to officiate as celebrant of the priest’s funeral mass. Known as a mega-church, the 11,000-member St. Raphael’s celebrates seven Masses every Sunday. Pastor Finch was their rock.

The beloved priest died suddenly on April 9 just after celebrating Maundy Thursday Mass, also known as Holy Thursday. Father Bill, as he was popularly known since 2002, had just finished Mass when he began complaining of shortness of breath. He had marked his own 55th birthday only a day before collapsing. Read more ..

Book Review

The Accidental Zionist: Why Israel Matters in Being Jewish and Saving the World

April 20th 2009

Book Covers - Accidental Zionist

The Accidental Zionist. Rabbi Ian Pear. New Song publishers. 296 pages.

'Know with whom you are speaking" is one of the many lessons Rabbi Ian Pear learned in his younger years, and is one of the primary tactics he employs in his inspiring and down-to-earth new book The Accidental Zionist: What a Priest, a Pornographer and a Wrestler Named Chainsaw Taught Me about Being Jewish, Saving the World and Why Israel Matters to Both.

This may seem like a mouthful, but Pear makes it go down easy as he unabashedly poses and attempts to answer a fundamental question: "Why has Judaism failed?" In a free-spirited but well-structured argument speckled with personal anecdotes, the rabbi of Jerusalem's Orthodox Shir Hadash congregation outlines the purpose of Judaism as the dissemination of ethical monotheism - that is, ethical behavior in the service of God - on a global scale, and the Jewish people as the messengers of this cause. He defines and describes the importance and advantages of this philosophy, and goes on to show how a halachic lifestyle is the ideal method of training Jewish adherents to embody and thus adequately spread this message.

This may seem like a mouthful, but Pear makes it go down easy as he unabashedly poses and attempts to answer a fundamental question: "Why has Judaism failed?" In a free-spirited but well-structured argument speckled with personal anecdotes, the rabbi of Jerusalem's Orthodox Shir Hadash congregation outlines the purpose of Judaism as the dissemination of ethical monotheism - that is, ethical behavior in the service of God - on a global scale, and the Jewish people as the messengers of this cause. He defines and describes the importance and advantages of this philosophy, and goes on to show how a halachic lifestyle is the ideal method of training Jewish adherents to embody and thus adequately spread this message. Read more ..

Littoral Combat Ships in Another Perspective

April 20th 2009
Your author on the virtues of the Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) (Somali Piracy of Maersk Alabama Places Littoral Combat Ships in Perspective) might want to consider some additional factors in promoting their utility. They really are not that much more inexpensive, particularly when including the various mission packages contemplated and the crewing involved. But we should ask: How are they to be moved to trouble spots about the world as such arise, all too often unexpectedly, in a timely manner? What mission packages will be provided for such deployments, particularly when  all emergent threat elements may not be known? How will those emergent mission packages be positioned in the threat area, carried in what platforms, and changed out on the LCSs by what means? How will the small LCSs fare with emergent weather conditions which their sea keeping characteristics do not match? How will the LCSs be logistically supported for extended operations? Having been associated with the operation of smaller ships in forward deployed areas, with more than one type of threat environment, with severe weather conditions (typhoons) in the area, and with varied logistical support requirements emerging over a period of time, I suggest the author's analysis should be expanded. Realistically, the LCS may be a fine platform for a third world navy that has no distant commitments foreseen. Hopefully, the U. S. Navy is not destined to be so constrained.

The Iran Threat

Iran Ramps Up Proxy War in Iraq

April 13th 2009

Iran - Iran's Revolutionary Guard

In December 2008, shortly before assuming office, President Barack Obama called for "tough but direct diplomacy with Iran." As the new administration moves forward, it must realize that U.S.-Iranian negotiations will take place while Iran is killing Americans in Iraq and increasing its support for armed Iraqi factions. Like its predecessor, the Obama administration must prepare for the challenge of negotiating under fire.

In addition to significant economic investment and relationship building among Iraq's political parties, Iran develops influence in Iraq by providing Iraqi militants with training, shelter, money, and equipment. Analysis of declassified interrogation and other intelligence material published by the West Point Counterterrorism Center, the Institute for Studying War, and the Long War Journal, has publicly revealed what military intelligence professionals have been piecing together for longer than five years: that Iran has been developing a covert action program in Iraq for decades, one that is open-ended, resilient, and well-funded, and that utilizes a broad range of Iraqi proxies. Read more ..

Edge on the Holy Land

Archaeologists Demonstrate Jewish "Foothold" in Ancient Canaan

April 13th 2009

Israel Topics - Beth Shemesh Dig
Israeli Dig at Beth Shemesh

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

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

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

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

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

Coke and Confiscation

Jewish Groups Renew Call To Boycott Coke Products, Target Annual Meeting in Atlanta

April 13th 2009

Jewish Topics - Coke Poster

A loose coalition of Jewish groups led by the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) has renewed it call for a public boycott of Coca-Cola products, and for Jewish members of the public to boycott the company’s kosher-for-Passover products during the current Passover holiday. The call comes at time when Coke heightens its kosher for Passover foods and beverages, and as the company prepares for its frequently contentious annual stockholder meeting.

Behind the protest movement is the Bigio property confiscation case. By way of information, the Bigio Family of Canada in earlier decades owned property near Cairo, Egypt. Their family had the property since the early 1900’s. Coca-Cola had been leasing the property and contracting with the Bigios, until the property was illegally taken from the family by the Egyptian government in 1964 during a campaign of anti-Semitism. In 1979, the Egyptian government ordered that the Bigios’ property be returned to them, but Egyptian courts repeatedly refused to enforce the order. In 1994, Coca-Cola Bottling Company of Egypt “purchased” the property when it was “privatized.” When the Bigios contacted Coca-Cola to remind the company of the family’s right to the property and requested to be justly compensated, top Coca-Cola officials apparently brushed the family aside. The story was the subject of an Edwin Black investigation in The Cutting Edge News last Passover (On Passover, an Egyptian Jew Battles Coca-Cola in the USA for a Modern Day Injustice) .

The Bigios brought a federal court action against Coca-Cola in 1997. Since then, Coca-Cola’s lawyers have used numerous legal maneuvers to avoid reaching the merits of the Bigios’ case, according to Bigio legal sources. All of Coke's procedural objections have failed both in the U.S. Court of Appeals and once in the U.S. Supreme Court, legal sources say. But the case has dragged on. Read more ..

Edge of Human Rights

U.N. Human Rights Council Whitewash Argues Against U.S. Participation

April 13th 2009

UN Topics - Human Rights Council Meeting

Since the presidential election in November, human rights organizations and nations that support the U.N. Human Rights Council (HRC) have anticipated that the United States would seek a seat on the council. On March 31, their hopes were realized when U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and U.S. Permanent Representative to the U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice announced that the U.S. would seek a seat on the Human Rights Council in the upcoming May election to "make it a more effective body to promote and protect human rights." This decision is a mistake. The HRC is a seriously flawed organization that, absent fundamental changes, will not be improved by U.S. participation.

The first three years of the Human Rights Council have been bitterly disappointing, with the council continuing the worst practices of the U.N. Commission on Human Rights (CHR), including stigmatizing Israel and overlooking serious human rights violations by China, Cuba, and other states. These practices led the U.N. General Assembly to replace the CHR with the HRC in 2006. When the HRC also proved lacking, the Bush Administration declined to seek a seat on the council and distanced the U.S. from its deliberations.


Military Edge

Somali Piracy of Maersk Alabama Places Littoral Combat Ships in Perspective

April 13th 2009

Military - SS Independence
SS Independence Littoral Combat Ship

The captain and crew of the M/V Maersk Alabama are now safe thanks to their own quick wits and our fast acting navy. With piracy on the high seas and defense budgets sinking, it might be a good time to place some our naval assets into perspective—especially littoral combat vessels. Here are some details.

The United States maintains twelve carrier strike groups. They are a mix of one aircraft carrier, several surface support ships such as cruisers, destroyers, or frigates and one or two attack submarines. Less well known than the seventy year old carrier strike group formations are the equal number of expeditionary strike groups, a concept that arose less than a decade ago.

The expeditionary strike group has a similar contingent of surface support warships and submarines but in place of the aircraft carrier an amphibious assault ship, a landing platform dock, and a landing ship dock are found. Their objective is to stand ready at sea and deliver a package of troops, landing craft, vehicles, and support aircraft when needed.

The heart of the expeditionary strike group is either one of five Tarawa class landing helicopter assault ships or one of the seven Wasp class landing helicopter dock ships. The Tarawa class dates from the 1970s while the Wasps are twenty years newer. Each can carry roughly thirty five aircraft that would include a mix of helicopters and the Harrier close air support jets, a crew of about a thousand, two thousand marines, and both have internal bays accessible from the rear of the ship where landing craft can enter. Read more ..

Edge of Disease

Texas Laboratory Tracks Deadly Pathogens Worldwide

April 13th 2009

Science - BioHazard suits

In August 2008, a new national laboratory began operating in Galveston, Texas, just weeks before the area was struck by a devastating hurricane. But the lab fared well, with no damage or disruption to operations. Why? Because it was built to withstand severe storms and more. Security is important at this pivotal installation with the unassuming name of The Galveston National Laboratory because within its walls are samples of the world's most dangerous and deadly pathogens. 

New illnesses constantly appear around the world and are often found to be variations of illnesses already known. But to be sure, samples of the virus or bacteria thought to be causing the illness are sent back to Galveston. They end up in a 52,000 square-meter building--the Galveston National Laboratory--on the campus of the University of Texas Medical Branch. The lab's deputy director, Jim LeDuc says the staff on hand is ready for whatever comes in.

"Our faculty [members] are experts in a number of different diseases-plague and anthrax, virus diseases, common ones like influenza and less common ones that you see around the world like dengue and some of the viral hemorrhagic fevers," he said.

The Galveston laboratory has an in-house collection of most pathogens and works with collaborators around the world to identify and study new diseases. Read more ..

The Obama Edge

Proposed Decrease in Tax Deduction for Charitable Giving Hurts Civil Society

April 13th 2009

Economy - Money Jar

Many nonprofit organizations are under severe financial pressure. They need donations more than ever, and the hurting people they serve have a stake in the unrestrained flow of those donations.

However, President Barack Obama's proposed budget for fiscal year (FY) 2010 moves in the opposite direction. It would raise taxes on those who can give the most and reduce their income tax deduction for charitable giving. This not only weakens one of the incentives to give, but also shifts perceived responsibility for social welfare from individual donors toward the state.

The Administration's Proposal

In February, the Obama Administration released its proposed federal budget for FY 2010. Included in the document are proposals to raise tax rates on high-income earners and to reduce their tax deduction rate on gifts to charities. These strategies are intended to raise funds for President Obama's health care plan. Read more ..

The Obama Edge

Cost of a Global Empire--Dollars and Defense

April 13th 2009

Military - SoldiersInAfghanistan

Just when you think the U.S. government is beginning to make sense by withdrawing troops from Iraq, it makes the decision to shuttle 21,000 more troops into the Afghan calamity. At a cost of $3.2 billion per month, we will throw another $38 billion at another faraway country. Barack Obama is doing this to prove that he is a true statesman. The Soviet Union killed over 1 million Afghans, while driving another 5 million out of the country and left bankrupted and defeated after ten years.

Any doubt that the Military Industrial Complex is as strong as ever should be removed after examining Obama’s 2010 budget just put forth. It calls for 26 percent more in spending on Defense than President Bush spent in 2006. The Soviet Union collapsed in 1989, leaving the United States as the only remaining superpower on earth. Since 1990, the United States has depleted the U.S. Treasury of $7 trillion for spending on Defense. With no military on earth capable of challenging us why would there be a need to spend this much on the military? Over this same time frame the U.S. spent $360 billion on science, space & technology and $52 billion on energy, a mere 6 percent of the spending on killing machines.


After the Holocaust

Holocaust Restitution—Prague Conference in June Seen as Last Effort

April 13th 2009

Jewish Topics - Concentration Camp Survivor

The Holocaust Era Assets Conference to be held in Prague in late June 2009 provides the last major opportunity to deal with the assets stolen by the Nazis and their collaborators that remain unpaid. Conservatively, that amounts to at least $125 billion in 2007 prices. Most remaining survivors are in the eighties and there will be few left in ten years.

Several previous conferences—London in 1997 and Washington in 1998—attempted to deal with this unpaid obligation but little was accomplished. The representatives of many countries made heart-wrenching speeches, provided useful research and made calls for restitution. But there was no effort to get beyond the rhetoric and establish an effective means to return or compensate for the stolen assets. The result was that during the next ten years only about 3 percent of the unpaid Holocaust era assets were repaid. It was realized that after more than 60 years any outcome would be "Imperfect Justice." The results, however, did not even come close to meeting that notion.

The Prague Conference thus needs to establish a clear and detailed mechanism to address this issue if it is going to have any meaning beyond diplomatic niceties. So far, however, all the indications are that the Conference will focus on trying to put the best light on the flimsy results of the past.


Book Review

Collapse of Distinction: Move Up While your Competitor Fails

April 13th 2009

Book Covers - Collapse of Distinction

Collapse of Distinction: Stand Out and Move Up While Your Competition Fails. Scott McKain. Thomas Nelson. 272 pages.

It's a strange time, uncertain and frightening. But it's a logical outcome for an economy fueled by funky credit, inflated real estate, cooked books, regulatory dereliction and more. Add the Internet, the commoditization of, well, nearly everything, and sundry international instabilities and you have quite a mess. We have quite a mess but life goes on and so does commerce, one of the surest expressions of human behavior.

Mindful of this context, the author of a new book implores us to discover ways to make our products and services (and the marketing thereof) more relevant and compelling by being different.

This is familiar ground. Seth Godin immediately comes to mind, with his purple cows and meatball sundaes. But Scott McKain takes a slightly different approach, starting with a trip to his hometown (in common with John Mellencamp) -- Seymour, Indiana. He visits some local businesses and notices the scant variation among the offerings of the various (though unvaried) chains of restaurants, insurance companies, whatever.

For some people, that's a good thing. A sales rep I knew confounded his more adventurous colleagues by insisting upon dining only at chains during their frequent road trips. One of his frustrated fellow travelers complained that they'd hit cities like Memphis and New Orleans with great local grub and this guy (senior in rank, alas) would invariably gravitate to the ubiquitous and familiar. But if you're not a chain, what can you do to survive and succeed? Read more ..

Coca-Cola Questioned as Kosher for Passover Over Cairo Confiscation

April 13th 2009

Your readers should know on Passover that a growing organization in the Jewish community, called Magen Tzedek, demands that “kosher food produced with the highest degree of integrity.” Their standards prescribe that companies “must operate transparently and with integrity, respecting ethical standards of conduct and corporate governance.”

In this regard, I have asked them and all in the community to take strong public action against the Coca-Cola Company, which is selling a product that is rabbinically certified as appropriate (“kosher”) for consumption on Passover and year-round, but which has been engaging in grossly unethical (“traif”) behavior. Coca-Cola is continually making enormous profits by knowingly and deliberately exploiting property in Cairo stolen from my father by the Nasser government when our family was expelled from Egypt in 1964 and deprived of our Egyptian citizenship only because we are Jewish.

This story was investigated in great detail by Edwin Black in the The Cutting Edge News last Passover (On Passover, an Egyptian Jew Battles Coca-Cola in the USA for a Modern Day Injustice) . As was exposed, Coca-Cola, before 1964, was leasing space on the Bigio family property and contracting with our family for the production of Coca-Cola products. It knew in 1964 and knows today that the property was taken from us by force by the Egyptian authorities only because we are Jewish.

In 1979, the Egyptian government’s own Finance Ministry acknowledged this illegality and directed that the property be returned to our family. We brought ten lawsuits in the Egyptian courts, but the judges repeatedly refused to follow this directive of the Egyptian Finance Ministry.

In 1994, the Egyptian government announced that it was “privatizing” the property and would sell it to the highest bidder. The Coca-Cola Bottling Companies of Egypt purchased it for many millions of dollars and Coca-Cola has used the property in Cairo to make enormous profits since that time. It announced shortly after its purchase that it intended to invest $148 million in its Egyptian operations. This was done on our expropriated property with the full knowledge of Coca-Cola in Atlanta.

Indeed, when the “privatization” sale was announced in 1994 and Coca-Cola’s interest in purchasing the property was made public, I traveled to Atlanta and met with Coca-Cola officials. I pointed out that they knew this was stolen property, and I asked for a modest compensation for the Bigio family. The Coca-Cola management brushed me off in a most disdainful manner. Read more ..

Honda Customer To Call His State Attorney General over Fuelmaker

April 13th 2009
I am really irked at Honda over the Fuelmaker bankruptcy (See Honda Suddenly Kills Fuelmaker In Stunning Move That Outrages CNG Movement and Honda Scrambles to Sell Fuelmaker Amid Confusion and Outrage). Enough to get rid of my 2009 Honda GX and our 2007 Civic Navigation System. I wire-brushed Honda right before a recent press release on the pending sale. I actually suspect their release was inflouenced by my severe expletive-laced announcement that I was locating legal representation for breach of warranty and false advertisement for the FuelMaker availability. Companies that hide behind 1-800 numbers that are afraid to publish the direct numbers are a target for me. I will contact the Oregon State Attorney General immediately and get the numbers for the Honda executive team and fax numbers to give to my attorney. I currently have over $60,000 in Honda product, $39,000 of which I cannot drive. Irritated does not even go far enough.

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