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Archive for February 2009

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Energy Independence Day Will Feature Congressmen and Activists

February 27th 2009
A previous issue of The Cutting Edge News mentioned that energy activists would be rallying in Washington on March 3rd for Energy Independence Day (see Society February 3, 2008). I am happy to announce that five members of Congress have responded to our call and will be speaking, in addition to Pulitzer-nominated author Edwin Black, author of The Plan. This will be the first opportunity for activists to rally at the Capitol to let Congress know that we demand immediate action to get off of imported oil.  Anyone interested in joining the rally can come to the West Front Terrace of the U.S. Capitol Building where we will be meeting at 11 AM.

The Race for Biofuels

Philippines Generational Clash Over Cassava Ethanol Plant

February 25th 2009

Energy / Environment - Cagayan de Oro
Cagayan de Oro

Cassava ethanol has ignited a clash of generations among tribal peoples in the southern Philippines. The scene is idyllic Cagayan de Oro, where rivers and air come together to create a favorite tourist destination.

Yet this is where Alsons Consolidated Resources (ACR) plans to construct a cassava ethanol plant to help the Philippines meet its legislated ethanol mandate. The anticipated demand for fuel due to rapid industrialization in that country will increase harmful vehicle emissions. As such, the Philippines reportedly needs up to 20 ethanol plants by 2011 to meet the mandatory requirements of the Philippines Bio-fuels Act of 2006.

ACR's facility calls for a $42 million plant on 24 hectares of land stretching through Bayanga and Mambuaya villages, both of which boast rich agricultural lands, as well as tourist attractions.

The feedstock is cassava. Using it, ACR's will produce ethanol, using water from the Munigi River, the sole source of potable water for the two villages.

At first blush, it sounds eco-friendly. But there is little agreement on the plan that many say will solve one problem only by creating another. Read more ..


Iran's Nukes

Iran-Israel Nuclear End Game Now Much Closer

February 23rd 2009

Israel Topics - Israeli Jets Parked

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

In recent days, four key developments have clicked in to edge Iran and Israel much closer to a military denouement with profound consequences for American oil that the nation is not prepared to meet.

What has happened? First, Iran has proven it can successfully launch a satellite into outer space as it did on February 2. Tehran claimed to the incredulity of Western governments that the satellite was to monitor earthquakes and enhance communications. Few believe that, especially since America’s own space program continuously launches unpublished military satellite missions. Tehran plans three more satellites this year, creating an easily weaponized space net that worries American military planners. Read more ..


America's Economic Crisis

America's Economy Now Rests Upon a Burning Platform

February 23rd 2009

Energy / Environment - Burning Platform

David Walker served as Comptroller General of the United States from 1998 through 2008. Walker has been the lone voice in the wilderness for the last decade regarding our looming fiscal disaster. He is now the CEO of the Peter G. Peterson Foundation and leader of the Fiscal Wake Up Tour. Walker warns: "The US government is on a “burning platform” of unsustainable policies and practices with fiscal deficits, chronic healthcare underfunding, immigration and overseas military commitments threatening a crisis if action is not taken soon”.

Years ago, as head of the General Accounting Office he would go before Congress and explain that the country needed to change course before we floundered in a “Perfect Storm” of debt. They listened to him respectfully and then proceeded to add $5 trillion to the National Debt in the next eight years. The borrowing binge is now entering a hyper-speed phase.

The $787 billion 1,074 page stimulus bill has been passed. President Obama signed it. It will have virtually no impact on the economy in 2009. The bill will stimulate nothing but the National Debt. Within months, plans for another stimulus plan will be pushed by the Democratic-led Congress because speed and the appearance of action are how politicians get reelected. 

Examine the numbers. The median value of a U.S. home in 2000 was $119,600. It peaked at $221,900 in 2006. Historically, home prices have risen annually in line with the CPI. If they had followed the long-term average, they would have increased by 17 percent to $140,000. Instead, they skyrocketed by 86 percent due to Alan Greenspan’s irrational lowering of interest rates to 1 percent, the criminal pushing of loans by mortgage brokers, the greed of investment bankers and the foolishness and stupidity of home buyers. It is now 2009 and the median value should be $150,000 based on historical precedent. The median value at the end of 2008 was $180,100. Therefore, home prices are still 20 percent overvalued. Long-term averages are created by periods of overvaluation followed by periods of undervaluation. Prices need to fall 20 percent and could fall 30 percent. You will know we are at the bottom when the top shows on cable are Foreclose That House and Homeless Housewives of Orange County. Read more ..


Petropolitics

Energy and the National Security Question

February 23rd 2009

Energy / Environment - Saudi Oil

As the United States moves into a new era of governance, evident even at this early stage is the importance which is to be placed on issues of energy security in the administration of Barack Obama. The field is enticing for precisely the reason it is so difficult to address – it cuts across such a large variety of policy areas that consensus as to its vital nature often dissolves into misinterpretation and competing or redundant policy initiatives. At the nexus of energy and national security, then, we must differentiate the challenges we face in order to construct sustainable, viable, and effective strategies. Read more ..


Inside the Internet

A Global Internet Meltdown Averted Thanks to Unseen NANOG

February 23rd 2009

Energy / Environment - NANOG members
NANOG members gathering

On Monday February 16, a global meltdown of internet routing was narrowly averted, say some informed observers of information superhighway. Few know the details or understand the dynamics.

Our world today depends on the internet. Email has largely replaced the fax, various forms of instant messaging fill some of the duties once handled by the telephone, and your local bank teller probably doesn't even recognize you at the grocery store thanks to web access to your bank account.

Everyone is acquainted with the misbehaviors at the individual level found within the internet's open, distributed architecture: mailboxes full of spam, phishing attacks aimed at your financial information and spyware are ubiquitous. Less well known are the vulnerabilities to the systems that transport traffic. Yet this backbone issue weighs on the minds of everyone involved in the operation of the internet's core. Read more ..


Israel and Hamas

Israel Deploys 'James Bond' Gadgets in War with Hamas

February 23rd 2009

Israel Topics - Israeli Eye Drive

Some gadgets look like they came straight out of a James Bond movie. One is a softball-sized camera that can be thrown into a suspect house and transmit images to soldiers outside. Another is a special door-buster that is connected to an M-16 and can blow open booby-trapped portals.

On February 18, the IDF Ground Forces Command put these weapon systems and others - most of them used during last month's Operation Cast Lead in the Gaza Strip - on display in a military base in the South.

Called the Eyeball, the spherical camera was developed by the Tel Aviv-based company ODF Optronics. An advanced, audio-visual surveillance sensor, the Eyeball was used by IDF troops during the Gaza offensive to survey homes and suspicious areas before entering them.

Each unit is only slightly larger than a baseball and can be simply thrown into the area that needs to be checked out. It can also be mounted on a pole or lowered on a cable into a tunnel. Read more ..


America and Israel

Israel-American Pressure Does Not Work in Either Direction

February 23rd 2009

Presidential - Barack Obama AIPAC

In October 1998, on the eve of the Wye Plantation Summit, Democratic leaders of the House of Representatives told Secretary of State, Madelyn Albright: "Should President Clinton decide to pressure Israel, he would face a Democratic-Republican opposition." In September 1982, Prime Minister Begin rejected the Reagan Plan – which called for an Israeli withdrawal from Judea and Samaria – by throwing the official envelope at the lap of the US Ambassador, declaring: "Israel is not a Banana Republic." In spite of – and probably due to – the blunt rejection, the Reagan-era enhanced U.S.-Israel strategic relations in an unprecedented manner.

The assumption that an Israeli Prime Minister cannot face U.S. presidential pressure is as unfounded as the assumption that a US-Israel disagreement over the Arab-Israeli conflict should necessarily undermine vital Israeli interests. Read more ..


Inside Islam

Afghanistan's Constitution Creates Death Penalties for Religious Freedom

February 23rd 2009

Islamic Topics - Afghan Koran Translator
Protests Over Afghan Quran Translator

When Ahmad Ghawas Zalmi worked with a cleric from a Kabul mosque to produce 1,000 pocket-sized copies of the Quran in the Afghan language known as Dari, he probably was not expecting to end up facing execution for his efforts. But that's exactly what happened to the former Afghan government official: when Islamic clerics saw his version of the Quran in 2007—which had been translated from the original Arabic--they accused Zalmai of modifying the holy book, a crime punishable by death.

On February 15, Zalmai and his cleric friend were due to hear their fate in an appeals court. Though they barely escaped the death penalty, the three-judge panel upheld a lower court sentence of 20 years in prison for each man. When reading out the sentence, the chief judge reiterated that under Islamic Shariah law, "He who commits such an act is an infidel and should be killed." Read more ..


Great Gatherings

Energy Independence Day in Washington Hopes to Ignite an Energy Revolution

February 23rd 2009

Energy / Environment - Oil Barrels

Hundreds of advocates urging America to get off of foreign oil will gather in Washington on March 3, 2008 to demand real action. Supporters will rally first at 11AM at the Capitol to hear speakers including Pulitzer-nominated author Edwin Black, author of The Plan, and then fan out on Capitol Hill for meetings with their Members of Congress.

Calling the event “The Shot Heard Round the World,” the event is being organized by Energy Alternatives for the 21st Century (EA-21) and the Transportation Energy Partnership (umbrella group for federal Clean Cities programs throughout the country) in association with a wide array of other green organizations. There is no cost to participate. Read more ..


After the Holocaust

Holocaust Denier Bishop Williamson Expelled from Argentine but Still Unbowed

February 23rd 2009

Christian Topics - Richard Williamson
Catholic Bishop Richard Williamson

Argentina has decided to expel dissident Catholic bishop Richard Williamson, a British subject, from its country. Williamson, whom the Vatican considers illegitimately consecrated as bishop, belongs to a breakaway group known as the Society of St. Piux X (SSPX) founded by excommunicated Bishop Marcel Lefebvre. The controversial bishop has been subjected to worldwide denunciations because of his public negation of the Holocaust. As of February 19, he was given 10 days to leave Argentina, according to a measure adopted by the country’s Ministry of Interior and approved by President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner.

The text of Argentina's decision affirms that Williamson “has repeatedly concealed the true motive for his residence in the country, having declared to be an administrative employee of the civil association known as “Tradition,” when in reality his true activity was that of a priest and director of the Lefebvrite seminary that the Society of St. Pius X maintains in the locality of Moreno.” Moreno is a rural community outside of Buenos Aires. Read more ..


America's Economic Crisis

Senseless Stimulation Won't Help the Economy

February 23rd 2009

Contributors / Staff - Armstrong Williams Headshot
Armstrong Williams

In the rush to get a new spending bill out of the congress as soon as possible, proponents of the massive bailout seem to have overlooked a fundamental point: the government cannot possibly cure what ails the American people by pouring more money on the problem. 

Speaking before a cheering crowd in Florida recently, one would have thought the President was announcing a new victory in the War on Terror, or a new milestone in economic growth. The fact that the President had come to deliver some sobering news about the state of the economy seemed to have been lost on the crowd, who roared with glee even before the President had a chance to lay out his analysis of the Economy’s woes (which he did with remarkable candor), and seemed to ignore the fact that the proposed stimulus was being funded almost purely out of massive government borrowing. It may be remiss of me to point out the obvious but isn’t spending money we don’t have what got us into this financial debacle in the first place? 

The very notion that we can borrow our way out of the recession seems to be the latest diversion these days, but it is bound to have unintended consequences. Read more ..


Book Review

Neocons Knew They Were Right From the Beginning

February 23rd 2009

Book Covers - They Knew They Were Right

They Knew They Were Right: The Rise of the Neocons. Jacob Heilbrunn. Anchor Books. January 2009. 336 pages.

“I myself was once attracted to neoconservatism,” Jacob Heilbrunn tells his readers. “As a teenager and adult, I found that it supplied me with a beguiling but ultimately artificial clarity about the world.” Why he abandoned the faith goes unexplained but “They Knew They Were Right” is, despite some unnecessary characterizations, an astute and comprehensive group portrait of men and women who think of themselves as neocons.

Some of the book draws on the familiar (see, for example, Peter Steinfels’s earlier and more critical book “The Neoconservatives,” 1979), such as the early neocon generation’s City College years when Communists and Trotskyists, eating brown bag lunches, positioned themselves in rival cafeteria alcoves and taunted one another while the vast majority of students ignored them. The Trotskyists rightly expressed their revulsion at Stalin’s mass murders but also managed to overlook Trotsky’s authoritarian bent. After graduation they continued fighting while splintering into minuscule, ideological sects.

The neocons who emerged from that cafeteria never had any use for liberalism and never understood why Jews consistently vote Democratic. (78% voted for Obama). But liberal and moderate Jews have always been a mystery to neocons. It was the late Milton Himmelfarb, a Commentary contributing editor who famously wondered why Jews lived like Episcopalians yet voted like Puerto Ricans.  Read more ..


A Cross-Border Biofuel Perspective on Obama-Harper Meeting

February 19th 2009

While the first meeting between U.S. President Barack Obama and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper will focus on a variety of issues, there is little doubt that the economy, energy security and the environment will be among the major topics to be discussed.

As America and Canada look for ways to provide economic opportunity, reduce the impacts of climate change, and develop renewable energy sources, the role of biofuels in the energy plans of both nations is becoming increasingly important. Both nations are investing in alternatives to imported oil.  For his part, President Obama is pushing for a comprehensive and ambitious plan to invest in alternative and renewable energy to diversify the North American fuel supply, address climate change, and create green manufacturing jobs and a new green economy. The biofuels industry has been in the forefront of creating green jobs for decades. 

Paralleling efforts in the U.S. to expand the use of ethanol, the Canadian Parliament last year passed a Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) requiring gasoline sold in Canada to contain an average of 5% renewable content, including ethanol, and 2% renewable content, including biodiesel, in the diesel supply.

We are pleased that in both our countries there is a strong policy recognition of the need to substitute cleaner, renewable fuels for oil imports and other finite hydrocarbons.

Renewable fuels provide a major source of economic opportunity. New green jobs will be created. Expanded production will equal increased industrial and commercial development. Perhaps most excitingly, renewable fuels will spark economic hope for our farm families and forestry sector – which will provide the feedstocks for new fuels that we harvest, rather than extract.

In addition, renewable fuels can help reduce harmful greenhouse gas emissions from motor vehicles, a leading contributor to climate change. For instance, newly published work in the Journal of Industrial Ecology notes that ethanol technology today reduces greenhouse gas emissions by up to 59 percent compared to gasoline.  As new technologies are developed and current technologies improved upon, renewable fuel production and use will further help mitigate the dangerous consequences of global climate change.

Finally, based on a number of recent studies, it is clear that renewable fuels using both grains and cellulosic feedstocks are better for the environment than gasoline. A study by Sandia National Laboratories found that by itself the US could produce 90 billion gallons a year by 2030. Together with production in Canada, using the same type of analysis, North American biofuel production will be able to replace a majority of our oil imports. 

Renewable fuels offer a tremendous opportunity for our respective countries, the western Hemisphere, and indeed the world to make tangible progress in replacing our fossil fuel use with cleaner, locally-produced renewable energy. The potential of renewable fuels technology to help provide energy, economic, and environmental security is something that must be aggressively pursued.

Bob Dinneen is president of the Washington, DC-based U.S. Renewable Fuels Association, and Gordon Quaiattini is president of the Ottawa-based Canadian Renewable Fuels Association.


The Obama Edge

Retrofitting Nation’s Gas Guzzler Fleet Unstimulated in Latest Bailout

February 16th 2009

Economy - Green Jobs

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

Now that the $787 billion stimulus package has become law, a key emphasis is “green jobs” and energy rescue. But the single most important program in becoming energy independent and regaining financial health is never mentioned in the massive Congressional text.

Without that program, it will take one to two painful decades to kick our national addiction to oil. Without that program, our vulnerability to an oil interruption due to a petropolitical or terrorist blockage of the Strait of Hormuz continues as a clear and present danger. Without that program, America’s economic house of cards will continue to weaken as we continue to send approximately a $1 trillion overseas, primarily to OPEC suppliers. Without that program, hundreds of thousands of auto industry workers have no real chance of rapidly returning to secure work. That undiscovered program is vehicle “retrofitting” to create a Retrofitting Revolution. Read more ..


America's Economic Collapse

Boomers--Your Crisis Has Arrived

February 16th 2009

Social Topics - Baby Boomer Housing

Franklin Roosevelt, in the midst of the Great Depression, spoke these immortal words, "There is a mysterious cycle in human events. To some generations, much is given. Of other generations, much is expected. This Generation has a rendezvous with destiny."

President Roosevelt was correct. The generation he was speaking to was already dealing with the worst financial crisis in the history of the United States, the Great Depression. By 1945, over 400,000 of this generation had lost their lives. Another 600,000 men were wounded. Much was expected and much was sacrificed. Every generation has a rendezvous with destiny. The generation that won World War II passed the ultimate test and proceeded to produce the next generation, the Baby Boom Generation. Their rendezvous with destiny is underway. Will it be a rendezvous with history that results in World War III, the collapse of the Great American Republic,  dictatorship, or a return to the original Constitutional principles upon which this country was founded?

It is comforting to think that history has recurring patterns and a natural rhythm. Trying to figure out why the major events in history occurred is complex, challenging and fascinating. An individual can learn from the past. Poet George Santayana’s quote, "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it", is profound and worth studying. The crucial issue is whether societies as a whole are capable of learning from the past or are they condemned to the inevitable cycle of history. Can an individual change the course of history? Was World War II inevitable, even if Adolf Hitler had been killed during World War I? Is there anything that can be done to avert the cyclical crisis that seems to arrive on a consistent basis throughout history? Is our destiny already preordained? Read more ..


Inside Asia

Defending Thai Democracy

February 16th 2009

Asia Topics - Thai Coup

In recent months, one of America's two treaty allies in Southeast Asia turned the page on a period of intense political instability. And it did so democratically. Americans should take a moment to acknowledge Thailand as a member in good standing of the democratic club that is America's system of alliances in East Asia and the Pacific.

Reminders of an Undemocratic, Unstable Past

The most recent chapter of Thai political history began a little more than two years ago. On September 19, 2006, the military staged a coup to unseat and essentially exile Thailand's elected prime minister, Thaksin Shinawatra. Despite 14 years of uninterrupted democratic governance, global perceptions of a Thailand beset with chronic political instability quickly returned.
The unelected military-backed government exacerbated negative perceptions by mangling the Thai economy. And where the new government was widely expected to outperform the previous administration--dealing with the southern Islamist insurgency--it failed. Read more ..


Genetic Edge

Dictators are Born Not Made, Suggest Geneticists

February 16th 2009

Nazi Era - Hitler Sepia

Researchers in Israel published a study in Genes, Brain and Behaviour in April 2008 about a gene called AVRP1, or what some have dubbed the “ruthlessness gene.” This human gene turns out to be short among the ruthless, cruel, and violent. Examples of these are Saddam Hussein, Mobuto Sese Soko, Teodoro Obiang Nguema, among others. The AVPR1 gene assists in the release of a hormone called vasopresine, which acts among the brain cells that control affect, socialization and altruism.

The study, conducted at Hebrew University in Israel, used 203 study subjects of both sexes who had inherited AVPR1 genotypes from their parents. They were introduced to a game called “The Dictatorship Game” to determine who among them was most willing to share in money that was distributed to each of the participants. It was thus that the study identified those who ended up with the most money were the very same who were short on AVPR1. Therefore, those with the most AVPR1 were the most altruistic, while those with the least may be those showing dictatorial tendencies.

Wikipedia--that vast and compendium of both useful information and un-useful mis-information in many languages--provides an extensive list of dictators of various countries whose names are found in alphabetical order. All of them are men who were to wield state power absolutely. The first on the list is Askar Akayev of Kyrgyzstan and the last is General Zia al-Huq of Pakistan. This incomplete list of modern dictators includes such luminaries as Francisco Franco, Roberto Viola, Idi Amin, Fidel Castro, Efraín Rios Montt, and of course Josef Stalin, Mao tse-tung, and Adolf Hitler. They range over the continents and apparent ideologies, from nationalism, National Socialism, Fascism, to Soviet Socialism. Read more ..


Inside Islam

Sheikh Abdullah Shakes Religious Establishment and Appoints First Woman to Senior Post

February 16th 2009

Arab Topics - King Abdullah
Saudi King Abdullah

The king of Saudi Arabia dismissed two powerful religious figures and appointed a woman as part of a government shuffle that appeared to be aimed at reforming the kingdom’s hard-line religious establishment.

King Abdullah dismissed the chief of the religious police and a cleric who condoned killing the owners of TV networks that broadcast “immoral” content. The shake-up — Abdullah’s first since coming to power in August 2005 — included the appointment of a female deputy minister, the highest government position a Saudi woman has attained. The moves were not unexpected, but the timing was a surprise. Observers said that the announcement had not been expected until late summer.

The king also changed the makeup of an influential body of religious scholars, for the first time giving more moderate Sunni Muslims representation to the group whose duties include issuing the religious edicts known as fatwas.

Of the judiciary, Abdullah has said that reforming that bastion of hard-line clerics implementing Islamic law is one of his top priorities. Judges currently have complete discretion in issuing sentences, except in cases where Islamic law outlines a punishment, such as capital crimes.

King Abdullah also replaced Hamad al-Sayyari, 68, the long-serving governor of the Saudi Arabia Monetary Agency, the central bank, with Mohammed al-Jasser, his 54-year old deputy. Mr. al-Jasser, a Saudi representative to the International Monetary Fund, has served as SAMA deputy governor since 1995. Read more ..


North Korea's Nukes

North Korea Offers Olive Branch Before Clinton's Swing through Asia

February 16th 2009

Asia Topics - Taepodong Missile
Taepo-Dong 1 and 2 missile range

North Korea suggested that it is open to new and warmer relations with Washington, despite reports the regime is preparing to test-fire a long-range missile in an apparent attempt to get the attention of President Barack Obama.

Ahead of Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton’s trip to Japan, Indonesia, South Korea and China, Kim Yong Nam – the North's ceremonial head of state – commented that, "We will develop relations with countries that are friendly toward us." He made his comments at a national meeting held as part of celebrations on the eve of the 67th birthday of Kim Jong Il.

North Korea has reportedly moved a long-range Taepodong-2 missile to a launch site on the northeastern coast of the country. South Korean media report that the missile is the country's most advanced, is believed capable of reaching U.S. territory, and could be test-launched as early as this month.

In recent months, North Korea has increased its rhetoric against Seoul, calling Lee a "pro-U.S. traitor," vowing an "all-out confrontational posture" and canceling all nonaggression agreements with the South. Relations between the two Koreas have been frayed since Lee took office a year ago with pledges to take a harder line on the North. Kim Yong Nam continued the North's oratory against Lee on Sunday, urging all Koreans to deal "an iron hammer blow to anti-unification forces in South Korea that are bringing the catastrophe of a nuclear war."

Analysts say North Korea's saber rattling is an attempt to grab Obama's attention and to start negotiations where it can extract concessions, believing the new U.S. administration is more interested in other issues such as Afghanistan and Iraq. Read more ..


Surge Against Hamas

Hamas Turned Israeli Humanitarian Assistance into Weapons during the Gaza War

February 16th 2009

Israel Topics - Medicine Bombs

Medicine bottles, transferred to the Gaza Strip as humanitarian aid by Israel, were used by Hamas as grenades against IDF troops during Operation Cast Lead. The medicine bottles were manufactured by the Jerusalem Pharmaceutical Company, which is based in el-Bireh, a town adjacent to Ramallah, and the global pharmaceutical company Shire.

The medicine bottles were filled with explosives, holes were drilled in the caps, and fuses were installed. Once Hamas fighters lit the fuses, they had several seconds to throw the grenades at soldiers. The IDF also found small explosive devices that used medical syringes to hold their fuses.

The medical grenades were discovered in northern Gaza by troops during last month's three-week battle against Hamas. The grenades were taken to military explosives experts, and then disassembled and studied. 

One bottle turned into a grenade originally contained a drug called Equetro, which is used by people who suffer from episodes associated with bipolar disorder. Another bottle had contained a vitamin supplement called Super-Vit. Read more ..


Israel and Palestine

Palestine Refugees: Rhetoric versus Reality in Dollars and Sense

February 16th 2009

Israel Topics - Arab Child in Jerusalem

An op-ed article in the January 14, 2009 Washington Post indicates that settling the Palestinian refugee issue is the prime means of resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The author, Yousef Munayyer of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, says “The key to real progress in resolving the conflict is, and has always been, providing a just resolution of the refugee (Palestinian) issue.” This is the opposite of both history and the current situation.

The Palestinian refugee issue has festered for 60 years mainly because Palestinians and Arabs have used the issue as a political tool. In the years after the 1948 war, the refugee issue was kept alive partly because the Arab countries felt disgraced and dishonored as a result of losing the war they initiated. Until the 1967 war, Jordan and Egypt could have absorbed into their own countries the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza they controlled. Meanwhile, both Arab governments and the Arab League were against granting citizenship to Palestinian refugees in their countries because it would undermine their objective of using the right of return to eliminate the Jewish state. The end result was that the Palestinian refugees became political pawns.

This fact was stated succinctly by the former head of UNRWA, Ralph Galloway, when he said:  “The Arab states do not want to solve the refugee problem. They want to keep it as an open sore, as an affront to the UN, and as a weapon against Israel. Arab leaders do not give a damn whether Arab refugees live or die.” Read more ..


Inside Society

Post-Abortion Women Describe Personal Struggles Over Their Choices

February 16th 2009

Social Topics - Post Aboriton Women

Thirty-six years after the U.S. Supreme Court upheld Roe v. Wade, effectively legalizing abortion in America, a spirited debate continues between anti-abortion activists and those who insist on a woman's right to choose to terminate her pregnancy.

But what do women who have actually undergone an abortion say about their ordeal and the impact their choice has had on their personal lives?           

While Americans debate the morality of abortion, the procedure has been legal and widely used since the Roe v. Wade decision in 1973. According to an estimate by the Centers for Disease Control, there were more than 45 million abortions in America between 1973 and 2005.

Some personal stories follow.

Susanne

Today, Susanne - who, like the other women in this report, asked that her last name not be used - is the mother of a thriving 10-year-old girl. But in 1991, she was a pregnant college girl with an unreliable boyfriend. She quickly chose to have abortion rather than bring the baby to term, yet she still muses about what or "who" might have been. Read more ..


The Race for Energy

Obama Can Re-Vitalize Latin American Relations and An Energy Partnership

February 16th 2009

Energy / Environment - Sugar Cane

On January 26, President Barack Obama spoke with Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva regarding global trade and energy policy. The 25-minute phone call between Lula and Obama was constructive, according to a Lula aide, as Obama pledged to work with Brazil on biofuels and advance international trade talks to jump-start the ailing global economy. On the campaign trail, Obama pledged to reduce carbon emissions by 80 percent by 2050, revive the Kyoto Protocol, reduce dependence on foreign oil, and develop and implement clean energy technologies. In regards to Brazil and Latin America more broadly, Obama proposed an “energy partnership of the Americas” in a May 2008 campaign speech, which would help advance his lofty goals. Read more ..


Genetic Edge

Neanderthal Genome Help Scientists Map Modern DNA

February 16th 2009

Science - Neanderthal

A team of German scientists has completed the first draft of prehistoric genome. Scientists hope an ancient hominid will shed light on the evolution of modern humans.

Researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Biology isolated three billion base pairs, or genetic building blocks, from 38,000-year-old Neanderthal bone fragments of three Croatian fossils. But the genetic blueprint is about 63 percent complete, researchers say, because many of the gene pairs are repeats.

Researchers had to use a special "clean room" to sift the DNA from the bacteria that had accumulated inside the fossils, which geneticists hope will answer questions about the extinct Neanderthals' migration out of Africa to Asia and Europe, where they died out 30,000 years later to be replaced by modern humans.

But there is argument about just how closely humans and Neanderthals are related. While some anthropologists believe Neanderthal was a direct ancestor, others believe the ancient hominid bred with other primates in Europe and Asia, which led to the explosion of modern humans. Read more ..


Honda and Toyota are as Bad as the Big Three

February 16th 2009
Too often we think of our troubled auto industry as "the Big Three." Toyota is now arguably the largest automobile manufacturer in the, eclipsing GM. But Toyota is also a leading manufacturer of oversized gas guzzling SUVs, as is Honda, which makes the bad-for-American energy independence Pilot. True, GM killed the electric car and the trolleys, as they say and as The Cutting Edge News has skillfully documented. But Honda has smothered the CNG car market in the USA, and the hydrogen potential as well. Now both Honda and Toyota, once giants standing atop the reputation of their greenest cars such as the Prius and Civic, have been stung by a public rejection of their overall product line. Toyota is slashing salaries, assembly lines and output. No one one wants Toyota's cars anymore than they want Chrysler's. The big Three should be the Big Five. Thank you Cutting Edge News for telling it like it is.

Book Review

Who's Ga-Ga for Google?

February 16th 2009

Book Covers - Google Book

What Would Google Do? Jeff Jarvis. HarperCollins. 2009. 224 pages.

Unless I missed an earlier one, this is the first religious tract about Google. Jeff Jarvis, a high-profile blogger, journalism teacher, entrepreneur and editor preaches that with few exceptions, businesses ought to embrace and embody the qualities that he calls (ugh!) ''Googley.'' Essentially, this involves total transparency and user empowerment through blogging, Facebook, Twitter and other Internet conveyances.

For many industries, following Google's lead is a great idea. As detailed in numerous books, aggregated intelligence is a powerful force and by enabling it, businesses can enhance and accelerate product development, marketing and other vital functions. It's also an ideal way to handle customer support and service.

Jarvis cites his own case of being burned by computer manufacturer Dell and his subsequent (and oft-linked) blog posts, which he humbly suggests might possibly have contributed to the company's fall from grace (and profits). He followed up with measures to address his concerns and prevent others from suffering as he did. Ultimately, Dell adopted a number of Jarvis's ideas, though he extravagantly disavows any responsibility for their implementation.

Ironically, Google itself largely fails to embrace the transparency Jarvis says is so vital. The company, he writes, ''is as opaque and as secretive as the Pentagon.'' Guess Google isn't sufficiently ''Googley,'' according to its acolyte. Read more ..


After the Holocaust

Charismatic Jewish Group Wages International Legal Fight for Its Spiritual Soul

February 10th 2009

Jewish Topics - Chabad Archival Document
Historic Recovered Chabad Document

A charismatic religious Jewish group is in an international legal battle against the Russian Federation, literally fighting for its spiritual soul. At stake is the right to possess the precious archive and library of the orthodox Jewish group known as Chabad.

The books and papers were plundered and fell from the movement’s control in Europe during the war-torn decades of the last century. The story of how Russia came to control the historic collections is nothing less than a chronicle of the mystical Lubavitch Jews of Poland and Russia during the tempestuous events of Czarist repression, the Bolshevik Revolution, World Wars I and II, the Cold War period, the disintegration of the Soviet Union and the rise of the modern Russian Federation. The story of Chabad’s efforts to reclaim their papers is a bitter saga spanning all those periods.

Remarkably, Chabad has achieved a stunning legal victory—for now, thanks to the persistent efforts of a legal team headed by the Washington law firm of Lewin and Lewin, LLP. Known for championing Jewish causes— Nathan Lewin and Alyza Lewin -- sometimes called “attorneys for the Tribe,” worked together with attorneys from Howrey LLP and Bingham McCutchen LLP to obtained a rare federal court decision commanding Russia to preserve the books and documents and instructing Russia to provide the Court with a written description of the steps it is taking to preserve the books and manuscripts.  Read more ..


Mexican Drug Wars

Mexican Narco-Traffickers Wreak Deadly Havoc Against Law Enforcement

February 9th 2009

Mexican Topics - Mexican Drug Violence

Mexico is struggling to wage war against its ultra-violent drug traffickers. More than 6,000 people were murdered in 2008, including innocent people, law enforcement officers and military men, as well as narco-traffickers themselves. The gruesome conflict is spilling over into American territory into the lives of U.S. citizens vacationing south of the border. Mexico's drug war is in fact more threatening and bloody now than at any point in history.

The numbers are staggering. In 2008, some 530 police officers were killed. In January 2009 alone, some 493 murders were attributed to drug-related violence, nearly doubling the figure for January 2008. These murders were gruesome. Many of the dead were decapitated and showed signs of torture. Minors and women have not been spared from the violence.

The Mexican government admits that a number of the police killed were also working for the narco-traffickers and were in fact murdered by rivals. Escalating violence has American authorities worried. Read more ..


America’s Economic Collapse

Stimulus Package Not Expected to Boost Grim Job Decline

February 9th 2009

Economy - Unemployment

The recently released January jobs report by the Department of Labor report reveals that last month employment opportunities declined by 598,000 and the unemployment rate increased to 7.6 percent. These numbers represent the highest amount of jobs lost since December 1974 and the highest unemployment rate since the 1992 recession's peak of 7.8 percent. The outlook for improvement is grim. President Barack Obama's stimulus package does not appear to offer any relief.

The January report shows that job losses continue to be widespread and deep. While the health care industry (+54,000) and government (+6,000) added jobs, every other sector continued to shed jobs, with manufacturing (-207,000) and construction (-111,000) being hit the hardest. Read more ..


Inside Terrorism

Terrorists Released from Guantanamo Will Continue Their Jihad

February 9th 2009

Military - Guatanamo detainees
Guantanamo

"By Allah, imprisonment only increased our persistence in our principles for which we went out, did jihad for, and were imprisoned for."

These are the words loudly uttered by an al-Qaeda cadren detained at Guantanamo for a number of years and released in 2007 back to the region. This statement comes at a time the detention center has been ordered to be shut down within a year. This episode provides evidence that Jihadism as an ideology does not respond to the political culture of democracy nor are the indoctrinated Jihadists impacted by the moral and legal debate within what they see as the sphere of the infidels. The Guantanamo legal and ethical drama will continue to be discussed in the United Sates and the West, but for now let's look at the outpouring harsh facts.

Two men released from the prison known as “Gitmo” at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba have appeared in a video posted on a Jihadi site, according to the SITE Intelligence Group web site. The most notorious of the two, a Saudi man identified as Abu Sufyan al-Azdi al-Shahri, or "Prisoner Number 372," has been "elevated to the senior ranks of al-Qaeda in Yemen," a US counter-terrorism official has said.

The other man on the video is Abu al-Hareth Muhammad al-Oufi, identified as an al-Qaeda commander. SITE stated he was "Prisoner Number 333." Reviewing the video provided by the Laura Mansfield monitoring group. I analyzed the statements made by al-Shahri and al-Oufi in the original Arabic.  Read more ..


The Obama Edge

Racial Politics No Longer an Excuse in Post-Racial America

February 9th 2009

Contributors / Staff - Armstrong Williams Headshot

In case you didn't get the memo, this former slave-holding nation has just sworn in a guy with the name Obama as its 44th President. With this momentous occasion, all the –isms that were born from racism, reparations, and White guilt are now dead and buried.

No longer can liberal, race-based organizations and the race hustlers blame White men and a racist government going forward for their plight and lack of economic opportunities in America.  The so-called label "I'm an African-American" is obsolete and you have officially become a full-blooded, card-carrying American.  The attitude that "I don't belong to America," or "I'm not proud to be an American," is now laughable. 

That old tired mantra, "The White man has his foot on my neck, I'm still overburdened from the effects of slavery" has finally been laid to rest.  Well, the boogeyman exists no longer, and you must now rise and fall on your own merit, choices made, work ethics, discipline, sacrifices and thrift in this land of opportunity.

President Obama's historical election has caused a massive cry of promise and true opportunity not only from Americans but from the world.  World leaders are watching as Obama pledges to "remake America."   He stated, "The world has changed, and we must change with it" and expressed that more also is needed to be done in the Third World.  After the inauguration, many children were interviewed and had such high expectations and now believe they can fulfill their dreams including becoming President of the United States of America.  Read more ..


The Race for Energy

Potential of Geopolitical Friction over Arctic Energy Grows

February 9th 2009

Energy / Environment - Arctic Terrain

Originally published in the December 2008 issue of the IAGS Journal of Energy Security

There is a rapidly growing body of knowledge regarding the size and extent of large potential hydrocarbon resources throughout the Arctic region. Increased attention to the region is driven by a combination of factors including: the melting of the Arctic ice cap enabling ease of access to formerly difficult operating areas, the need for new sources of energy due to geopolitical issues such as difficulties in the Middle East, the depletion of existing hydrocarbon resources and the significantly increased demand for existing resources brought on by the energy needs of China and India which have become major importers of energy.

The melting of the Arctic ice cap in combination with developments elsewhere concerning future energy security are creating scenarios that range from low level friction to potential conflict between the eight nations surrounding the Arctic region. Read more ..


Edge of Terrorism

UN Prepares Investigation into Murder of Benazir Bhutto

February 9th 2009

Islamic Topics - Benazir Bhutto

The United Nations has announced the establishment of a commission to investigate the 2007 assassination of Pakistan's former prime minister Benazir Bhutto.

Supporters of Benazir Bhutto have remained skeptical of the country's initial investigation that concluded al-Qaida or Taliban assassins most likely killed her in December 2007.

In July, officials of Ms. Bhutto's party appealed to the United Nations to form an independent commission to investigate.

U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said in Islamabad that after extensive consultation, a three-member commission will be created, "very soon." He spoke after meeting with Pakistani President Asif Zardari, the widower of Benazir Bhutto.

"This is a crime that shocked and offended the world," said Ban Ki-moon. "And I know this is a matter of great importance to the government and people of Pakistan." Read more ..


Inside the Mideast

Greece and Israel Seize Vessels with Suspicious Cargoes Bound for Iran and Gaza

February 9th 2009

Israel Topics - Israeli naval vessel

Suspicious Iranian and other Middle Eastern maritime shipments are increasingly being intercepted and seized by the navies of various nations on the huint for contraband.

A vessel en route to Iran was intercepted by Greek naval forces and has been impounded for more than five weeks because its cargo was discovered to include components for surface-to-surface missiles.

The Greek seizure comes on the heels of a similar one by the Turkish Navy which also seized a suspicious Iranian vessel bound for Venezeula. That ship's cargo included crates labeled "tractor parts" which actually contained missiles.

In the first week of February, Israel's Navy stopped a ship from Lebanon en route to the Gaza Strip. In that case, the inspected cargo revealed only creates of food, water bottles and medicine.

Israel's interception coindided with a meeting in Copenhagen convened by the United States and several European countries to combat arms smuggling to Gaza. The international forum is ramping up collective means of reducing Iranian and other Mideast arms shipments in and out of the region. Read more ..


Edge on the Military

Defense Department and Experts Combat Rising Military Suicides

February 9th 2009

Military - Soldier Crying

The U.S. Army said the number of soldiers who committed suicide last year has increased for a fourth straight year. Army officials said despite an increase in funding for programs to help soldiers, they are having a hard time fighting the stigma attached to seeking professional help. 

At least 128 soldiers committed suicide in 2008, an increase from 2007 when a total of 115 suicides were recorded among active duty and those in the Army Reserve and National Guard. Officials said the number may go even higher pending the examination of 15 additional cases that could be self-inflicted.  

Highest Suicide Rate Since Vietnam War

This is the first time since the Vietnam War that the rate of suicide in the Army, about 20 deaths per 100,000 soldiers, has surpassed the civilian suicide rate.  Read more ..


Inside Eastern Europe

Ukraine is Split by Language and History

February 9th 2009

Russian Topics - Tymoshenko and Putin

Prime Ministers Yuliya Timoshenko and Vladimir Putin

Mykhailo Kazybrid is the head of the independent coal miners union at Mine Shaft Number Eight in the Western Ukrainian town of Sosnivka. Having worked in mines for more than 30 years, he is concerned some could be closed, devastating the local economy and people's lives. 

Kozybrid and his wife of 44 years, Hanna Fedorivna, agree that eastern and western Ukrainian miners are united by difficult working conditions and equally low pay.

"If we talk about the economy, it is the same in Lviv Oblast and the Lviv Coal Basin along with the economy in the Luhansk and Donetsk Basins. They are all one and the same," he says.

One-thousand kilometers east, in the industrial city of Makiivka near Donetsk, 30-year mine veteran Nikolai Vorobyov now works mostly above ground in an electric shop. Read more ..


Iran's Nukes

Iran Launches Jihad into Space

February 9th 2009

Iran - Iranian Space Rocket

The launching of an Iranian satellite into orbit on February 2, said to be for "communications technology" and "earthquake monitoring," would have been a normal news item not exceeding the greater news report about India landing a spacecraft on the moon in December 2008. But according to news agencies around the world, Western chanceries and national security agencies have taken the development "seriously." 

The Associated Press and the BBC described reactions as "nervous." Although the debate about the value of Iranian space technology and commercial rocket capacity usually concludes that the mullah's regime is far from reaching a respectable level, many defense analysts dismiss the issue as about the sole industrialization of the Islamic Republic. In fact it is about the "weaponization" of the satellite.

Obviously this one launch may not be the crossing of the line, but the first step was accomplished and statements were made about the immediate following steps. The growing consensus today is about the strategic intention of Tehran's war room, solidly in the hands of the Pasdaran. Read more ..


Edge on Museums

A Museum's 'Visible Vault' Shows off Hidden Treasures

February 9th 2009

Art Topics - LA Museum relic

Museum collections are mostly kept behind the scenes, with only a small part of a museum's holdings on display at any time. But a new exhibit at the Los Angeles County Museum of Natural History is shedding light on ancient treasures from Latin America, once hidden away in the museum's vault. The exhibit is called Visible Vault.

The exhibit was a response to two dilemmas. Extensive renovations required temporary removal of the museum's permanent exhibit on ancient Latin America. Many other artifacts were seldom seen by the public, a problem for all museums with large collections.

The solution combines a conventional exhibit with an innovation. Behind modern display cases are storage containers with more than 600 items from the museum's permanent holdings. The container fronts have been removed and the contents can be seen, but otherwise, the objects remain as they would in storage.

The exhibit showcases ancient treasures from Latin America, from such well known civilizations as the Aztecs, Mayans and Incas, and lesser-known ones, including the Toltec, Mixtec, Moche and Nazca peoples. The objects include an Aztec stone carved as a human skull, gold Inca drinking vessels and a ceramic pot from Teotihuacan - the ancient site in Mexico, with its front molded in the shape of a jaguar. Read more ..


America’s Economic Collapse

Must America Learn Painful Lessons from Japan’s Economic Crisis?

February 2nd 2009

Economy - Japanese Economic Crisis

Every day seems worse than the previous day for our economy. Five hundred thousand people are getting laid off each month. Our banking system is on life support. Retailers are going bankrupt in record numbers. The stock market keeps descending. Home prices continue to plummet. Home foreclosures keep mounting. Consumer confidence is at record lows.

You would like to close your eyes and make it go away. Not only is the news not going away, it is going to get worse and last longer than most people can comprehend. The Great Depression lasted 11 years, but the more pertinent comparison is Japan from 1990 until today.

A two-decade downturn has a high likelihood of occurring in the United States. There are many similarities between the U.S. and Japan, but in many areas the U.S. has a much dire situation. If the next decade resembles the Japanese experience, there will be significant angst and social unrest. Read more ..



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