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Archive for March 2009

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America's Financial Collapse

America Once Ruled the World--The Last Bubble is Bursting

March 30th 2009

Social Topics - Stature of Liberty Sunset

In less than two generations, America has squandered the human sacrifice, blood, sweat and tears of  more than seven decades. We have been an independent country for 226 years. From 1783 until 1946 America was an unrelenting upward trajectory for the beacon of the free world.

With the end of World War II, America was the last country standing. Germany and Japan were in shambles. Russia had lost millions of citizens, with Stalin about to murder millions more. Great Britain was a shell of its former self. The American Empire had been born. We were the manufacturer to the world. We rebuilt Europe and Japan. Our military was dominant. We made the best automobiles. We built 41,000 miles of national highway over two decades. In 1946, one in three U.S. workers was employed in the manufacturing industry.

Today, less than one in ten workers makes something.

In the years following World War II, the United States ran trade surpluses of 2 percent to 4 percent of GDP. We regularly ran surpluses until the late 1970’s. Since the late 1970’s, the United States has run increasingly large trade deficits, reaching 6 percent of GDP in 2007. For the last three decades, Americans have tried to spend their way to prosperity. Read more ..

The Obama Edge

VA Proposal is Penny Wise and Plain Disgusting

March 30th 2009

Military - Soldier Crying

Many in defense community have remained silent about bank, automaker and insurance company bailouts with taxpayer dollars. But the new administration plan to save $540 million by forcing civilian insurance companies to cover claims by military veterans for service-related injuries is beyond the pale. For our government to propose such a scheme at the same time it is spending billions with not much accountability is disgusting.

The idea surfaced in testimony by Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki - a retired Army general who should know better. He told a Senate committee that the plan was "a consideration," and that "the VA's proposed budget for next year included it" as a way to increase revenue. But "a final decision hasn't been made yet."

President Obama, Secretary Shinseki and Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel recently met with a group of veterans' organization leaders. The American Legion commander said he was "deeply disappointed and concerned" when the President reiterated the plan. Read more ..

After the Holocaust

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

March 30th 2009

History-Genocide - Franz Jaegerstaetter

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

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

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

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

Edge of Black America

African-Americans Still Worse off Than Whites

March 30th 2009

Presidential - Barack Obama

The National Urban League says, despite the hope generated by the election of the first black U.S. president, African-Americans are faring worse in an economy in which the gap between the "American dream" and reality is widening. The Urban League says it will be pushing to ensure blacks benefit from the jobs and money Congress and President Obama made available in the economic stimulus plan.

On "H" Street in Washington, D.C., about 13 blocks from the U.S. Capitol, there is a steady stream of people at the unemployment office. One of them is electrician Stanley Currie, who is in a training program for government jobs.

"It's possible that you will get hired. But the probability of you getting hired - the odds are not with you," he says.

And that is the story in places that are predominantly African-American, in city after city. Unemployment, running nationally at 8.1 percent, is in double digits among blacks.

"Might be higher than that. I am a believer that it's higher than that, because I've been living here all my life and I see it," says Donald Long, who is unemployed.

And unemployment is just one factor leading the National Urban League to conclude there is still an "intolerable divide" between blacks and whites. Read more ..

The Race to Retrofit

Propane Fleet Retrofitting Initiative Signed in Spain

March 30th 2009

Energy Topics - Autogas refueling
Propane Refueling

The Spanish energy company, Repsol, signed an agreement on March 23 with the Spanish National Confederation of Auto Schools (CNAE) to retrofit its fleet of vehicles used in driver training programs. Autogas, or liquified petroleum gas--generally referred to as propane--would be used in retrofitted motors, according to Repsol spokesman Iñigo Palacio. Propane engines reduce toxic emissions of nitrogen by 68 percent and particulate contaminants by 99 percent compared to to diesel-fuelled alternatives. Noise pollution is also reduced in the case of propane powered engines.

What's more, propane is 50 percent cheaper in Spain than gasoline, representing a savings of 4 Euros for every 100 kilometers over a gasoline-powered engine. This means a savings of 2 Euros per 100 kilometers over diesel-powered engines. Repsol and CNAE hope that the initiative will teach new drivers that there is a green alternative to gasoline. Read more ..

The Edge of Islamic Extremism

Obama's Options Running out in Afghanistan and Pakistan--Next Six Months Crucial

March 30th 2009

Islamic Topics - Pakistan - Islamic extremism
Pakistani Police Battle Islamic Fundamentalists

President Obama is running out of options and time to prevent the mass Talibanization of Islamic Asia, according to  Pakistani political analyst Ahmed Rashid. Rashid's remarks were given in an interview with Spanish daily El Pais. Time is running out for Central Asia as it approaches the abyss of Islamic fundamentalism, he said. Rashid is the author of the book Descent into Chaos: The U.S. and the Disaster in Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Central Asia.

Rashid explained that “Talibans have become a model” for insurgency, adding that a “redefinition of the war on terror” is necessary in order to prevent a wholesale descent into anarchy. Read more ..

The Bush Legacy

Bush Allies May Face Justice in Spain for Torture at Guantanamo

March 30th 2009

Terrorism - Guantanamo Gurney

A Spanish national court may re-open a case against Bush Administration officials that are considered to have given the legal go-ahead for what are termed “crimes against the international community” at the U.S. facility at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. This would make Spain the first country to attempt a trial of officials involved in the imprisonment and interrogation of prisoners of the war against terror held by the United States.

Alleging torture of prisoners held at Guatánamo, human rights lawyers brought the case before leading anti-terror judge Baltasar Garzón, who agreed to send it on to prosecutors to decide whether it had merit. Under Spanish law, courts can prosecute offenses such as torture or war crimes even if they occurred in other countries. If arrest warrants are issued by the court, the six could be subject to arrest should they leave the United States. Read more ..

Edge of Campus Hate

Confronting Anti-Zionism and Anti-Semitism

March 30th 2009

Contributors / Staff - Judea Pearl
Judea Pearl

In January, at a symposium at UCLA (choreographed by the Center for Near East Studies), four longtime Israel bashers were invited to analyze the human rights conditions in Gaza, and used the stage to attack the legitimacy of Zionism and its vision of a two-state solution for Israel
and the Palestinians.

They criminalized Israel's existence, distorted its motives, and maligned its character, its birth, even its conception. At one point, the excited audience reportedly chanted "Zionism is Nazism" and worse.

Jewish leaders condemned this hate-fest as a dangerous invitation to anti-Semitic hysteria, and pointed to the chilling effect it had on UCLA students and faculty on a campus known for its open and civil atmosphere. The organizers, some of them Jewish, took refuge in "academic freedom" and the argument that "anti-Zionism is not anti-Semitism."

I fully support this mantra, not because it exonerates anti-Zionists from charges of anti-Semitism but because the distinction helps us focus attention on the discriminatory, immoral and more dangerous character of anti-Zionism.

Anti-Zionism rejects the very notion that Jews are a nation – a collective bonded by a common history - and, accordingly, denies Jews the right to self-determination in their historical birthplace. It seeks the dismantling of the Jewish nation state: Israel.

Anti-Zionism earns its discriminatory character from denying the Jewish people what it grants to other historically bonded collectives (e.g. French, Spanish, Palestinians), namely, the right to nationhood, self-determination and legitimate coexistence with other indigenous claimants.

Anti-Semitism rejects Jews as equal members of the human race; anti-Zionism rejects Israel as an equal member in the family of nations. Read more ..

Edge of Islamic Extremism

Hezbollah and Narco-Islamism

March 30th 2009

Social Topics - Narcotics

Earlier this month, the United Kingdom announced that it is reopening dialogue with the political wing of Hezbollah. Unlike the United States, the United Kingdom has only banned Hezbollah's terrorist (External Security Organization) and military wings.

The ban on the terrorist wing came in 2000, while the ban on the military wing only came in June 2008 in response to Hezbollah's "providing active support to militants in Iraq who are responsible for attacks both on coalition forces and on Iraqi civilians, including providing training in the use of deadly roadside bombs," for plots to kidnap British security workers in Iraq, and for its support for terrorist activity in the Palestinian Territories.

Meanwhile, the European Union has not yet designated any part of Hezbollah -- military, political or otherwise -- although it did label Imad Mughniyeh, the late Hezbollah chief of external operations, and several other Hezbollah members involved in specific acts of terrorism. Read more ..

Approaching Nuclear Energy

Three Mile Island and Chernobyl: What Went Wrong Then and Why Today’s Reactors Are Safe Now

March 30th 2009

Energy Topics - Three Mile Island
Three Mile Island Nuclear complex

We recently observed the 30th anniversary of the partial meltdown of the Three Mile Island (TMI) nuclear reactor. This occasion is a good time to consider the advances in nuclear power safety since that time and discuss the misinformation about this incident and the 1986 nuclear accident in Chernobyl, Ukraine, which is often associated with TMI.

Three Mile Island: What Happened

On March 28, 1979, a cooling circuit pump in the non-nuclear section of Three Mile Island's second station (TMI-2) malfunctioned, causing the reactor's primary coolant to heat and internal pressure to rise. Within seconds, the automated response mechanism thrust control rods into the reactor and shut down the core. An escape valve opened for 10 seconds to vent steam into a pressurizer, as it was supposed to, but it failed to close. Control room operators only saw that a "close" command was sent to the relief valve, but nothing displayed the valve's actual position. With the valve open, too much steam escaped into the pressurizer, sending misinformation to operators that there was too much pressure in the coolant system. Operators then shut down the water pumps to relieve the "pressure." Read more ..

Holocaust History

Nazi Nexus Powerfully Tracks American Corporate Connections to the Holocaust

March 30th 2009

Book Covers - Nazi Nexus

Nazi Nexus: America's Corporate Connections to Hitler's Holocaust. Edwin Black. Dialog Press. 192 pages.

Author Edwin Black is a child of Holocaust survivors. When he first saw an IBM card-sorting machine as part of an exhibit at the United States Holocaust Museum, he vowed to learn more about this machine and the role of its manufacturer. The result was 2001's IBM and the Holocaust, a devastating account of the venerated American firm's hand-in-hand collaboration with Adolf Hitler's Nazi government in identifying, organizing and exterminating Jews and others who were deemed non-Aryan and undesirable. Black's exhaustive investigation, abetted by an international research team, resulted in worldwide headlines—and stonewalling, obfuscation and denials by its subject—which continues to this day.

Black's next book, War Against the Weak (2003), studied the role of the fake science of eugenics and its rise in the United States in the early 20th century, which provided the rationale for Hitler's racial policies. In shocking detail, Black related the subjugation, sterilization and murder of thousands of Americans solely on the basis of their race, country of origin or failure to pass culturally biased ''intelligence'' tests. This was fueled by xenophobia and ignorance, and supported -- astonishingly--by corporate names like Carnegie, Rockefeller and others.

New Work

Black's new Nazi Nexus uses these earlier works as primary sources. But this new volume offers a compact and highly concentrated dose of history that powerfully demonstrates the deleterious effects of the convergence of avarice and ideology, American-style. Read more ..

Set America Free Hopes to End the OPEC Oil Monopoly for $100 per Vehicle

March 30th 2009

American recently saw the bipartisan introduction of H.R. 1476: The Open Fuel Standard in the House of Representatives by Reps. Eliot Engel (D-NY), Bob Inglis (R-SC), Steve Israel (D-NY) and Roscoe Bartlett (R-MD). The bill paves the way for fuel choice in American automobile transportation. A similar bipartisan Senate measure is anticipated soon. The Open Fuel Standard would ensure that starting in 2012, 50 percent of new automobiles powered by an internal combustion engine, and starting in 2015, 80 percent of such new automobiles, be flex fuel vehicles warranted to operate on gasoline, ethanol, and methanol, or be warranted to operate on biodiesel. Flex Fuel capability in new cars has a nominal cost of approximately $100. The Big 3 Automakers currently manufacture 90 percent of the cars produced for the Brazil market as flex fuel vehicles. 

The CEOs of the Big Three auto companies have repeatedly stated their willingness to commit to making 50 percent of new cars flex fuel vehicles or warranted to operate on biodiesel by 2012. Anne Korin, co-chair of the Set America Free Coalition, a diverse alliance focused on stripping oil of its strategic value by breaking its virtual monopoly over transportation fuels, notes. "The Open Fuel Standard Act would buttress this commitment with law, ensuring that most new cars will be platforms on which fuels can compete, thus providing certainty for investors in a variety of alternative fuels to ramp up production and fuel station owners to install pumps."

Gal Luft, a founding member of the Set America Free Coalition, has said: “Fuel Choice remains as critical today with gas at $2 per gallon as it was last year when oil was $147 per barrel and the pump price of gas was $4 per gallon. It costs the automakers an extra $100 per car to give us the insurance policy we
need to prepare us for the next oil crisis that will surely come once we pull out of the recession.”

This movement needs many voices to make the message of fuel choice an integral component of energy independence. It should reverberate in the offices of the administration and the Halls of Congress so it becomes part of their agenda. If America is ever going to achieve Energy Independence, we must begin now. The road to Brazil's transportation energy independence was paved by fuel choice.  Gas-only stations must become a thing of the past... if we're  going to have a viable future. If Brazil can do it, so can America.

Iran's Nukes

F-22 Fighter Can Buy Time in Israel's Nuclear Showdown with Iran

March 23rd 2009

Military - F-22s at Sunset

On February 19, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) released its most recent report on Iran's nuclear activities, indicating that the Islamic Republic may have produced enough low-enriched uranium for its first nuclear weapon (if further enriched). Meanwhile, Israeli prime minister-designate Binyamin Netanyahu is putting together a right-leaning government that, in his own words, would consider an Iranian nuclear weapon as "the gravest threat to [Israel's] existence since the war of independence." Complicating matters, Russia is considering the sale of the advanced S-300 air defense system to Iran -- a "game changing" move that could affect Israel's calculus about whether, and when, to launch a preventive strike against Iran's nuclear infrastructure. This confluence of events -- and the prospective transfer of the S-300 in particular -- underscores the need for the United States to consider actions that could buy additional time to enable diplomacy to work.

The S-300 Game Changer

Reports of a possible Russian transfer of the S-300 to Iran are cloaked in uncertainty; questions remain as to which version is even being discussed. The S-300PMU-2 is a highly advanced, extremely capable air defense system known in the West as the SA-20. It is a highly mobile system, capable of intercepting low-altitude cruise missiles, ballistic missiles, and high-altitude bombers. It can engage targets from altitudes as low as 30 feet up to 90,000 feet, and from a range of inside of 3 miles out to 95 miles. As a result, the former commander of U.S. Air Force Air Combat Command, Gen. (Ret.) Richard Hawley, commented last August to aviation trade journalists: "For non-stealth aircraft, the SA-20 represents a virtual no-fly zone." Read more ..

America's Economic Collapse

Cheap Motels the New Address for Many Who Have Lost Their Homes

March 23rd 2009

Social Topics - Homeless in Cheap Motels

The National Center on Family Homelessness now estimatesthat 1.5 million U.S. children were homeless at one time or another between 2005 and 2006. The center also says America's homelessness problem is likely to worsen this year because of foreclosures and job losses due to the ongoing recession. 

Some middle class families have lost their homes, and because they cannot afford high rent, now are moving into low-cost motels.

Johnny and Tammy Garza and their four children are calling a low-cost motel room their home. "It's actually hard to have this many people in a small room like this," Johnny said.

The Garzas are joining a new class of Americans who are victims of the nation's financial crisis. They now live in cheap motel rooms.

"We have two burners over there and we have a little toaster oven to cook with and we have all the pots and pans," Tammy said. Read more ..

What if the Oil Stops

Saudi Oil Minister Predicts Painful 'Catastrophic' Oil Shortfall "Sooner Rather Than Later"

March 23rd 2009

Islamic Topics - Ali Naimi
Saudi Oil Minister Ali al-Naimi

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.

Saudi oil minister Ali al-Naimi spoke in Vienna at a March 18 meeting of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Counties and warned of a coming “catatstrophic” shortfall in petroleum production. "In years to come, if traditional energy supplies should prove inadequate because capital expenditure was curtailed due to unsustainable prices, unreliable indication of future demand or hopes for a substitute that oil cannot deliver, such a supply crunch would be catastrophic."

"The painful result would be felt sooner rather than later. It would effectively take the wheels off an already derailed economy."

Naimi, who in 2008 declined to increase production after an appeal by then President George W. Bush, said that current low petroleum prices should not be used as a reason to shortchange investment in future production. Doing so, he averred, would only mean future shortages and price hikes.

The world risked disaster by placing too much hope on untested alternative energy sources, Naimi told an OPEC conference of energy leaders.

“We frankly court disaster if these supplemental resources on which such high hopes for energy security and sustainability are pinned do not fulfil their high expectations," he said.

OPEC and Saudi Arabia taking a lead role are making the biggest output cuts ever to retrieve oil prices back from a $100 drop. As a result of the Vienna meeting, oil production is expected to hold steady.

Naimi said that "40 USD is not enough; you need in between 60 and 75 USD to allow marginal producers to continue producing ethanol, heavy oil," adding "I would say that the ideal price for ability of the marginal producers to put more resources in the market is in between 60 and 75 US dollars a barrel". Read more ..

America’s Economic Collapse

Toxic Truths—Get Ready for the Quadrillion Word

March 23rd 2009

Economy - Stunned Trader

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

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

Which Assets Are Toxic?

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


Edge onTerrorism

Hizballah and Iran Open New Contacts As West Engages

March 23rd 2009

Terrorism - Hamas Terrorists

In early March, the British government reestablished contact with Hizballah, reversing a ban that had been in effect since 2005. The move comes less than a year after Britain decided to actually tighten the ban on Hizballah and outlaw its military wing. The decision not only highlights the lack of a coordinated EU policy regarding the Shiite movement, but also complicates EU and U.S. efforts to formulate a coherent and unified policy toward Lebanon and Iran.

Britain's new policy position toward Hizballah, which will certainly be mimicked by EU members that do not already have dealings with the Lebanese movement, was justified by Foreign Office Minister Bill Rammell, who stated that "We have reconsidered the position . . . in light of more positive developments in Lebanon." One of the "positive developments" was the establishment of the new Lebanese unity government last July, which reinstated Hizballah ministers and ensured that it would hold an effective veto over government decisions. Read more ..

Edge on Energy Independence

Europe Grapples for a Collective Energy Approach

March 23rd 2009

Russian Topics - Russia Shuts off Gas to Ukraine

The absence of a unified energy policy likewise created perverse incentives for member states to undercut the EU during a time of crisis. A danger exists that governments will continue to pay public deference to energy solidarity while taking unilateral action to provide for their individual security. Going forward, the temptation to strike self-serving bargains with the Kremlin may be stronger than ever, especially if Russia promises that, next time, their gas deliveries will be guaranteed.


Genetic Edge

Genetic Defects Associated with Sudden Cardiac Death

March 23rd 2009

Media - Tim Russert
Tim Russert Died of Sudden Cardiac Death

You're sitting at your desk and suddenly your heart is beating in overdrive or worse, lurching along like a car on fumes. It is a shocking, uncomfortable and frightening sensation.

Irregular heart rhythms are a common cause of sudden cardiac death or SCD, a condition that accounts for 450,000 deaths annually in the United States. Scientists are now closer to understanding what causes SCD and who it may strike, said Gonçalo Abecasis, associate professor of biostatistics at the University of Michigan School of Public Health in Ann Arbor. Abecasis received his doctorate at Oxford University, having written a dissertation on statistical methods for human gene mapping. The focus of his research at UM is in the identification and characterization of genes determining human variation and disease.

Abecasis was the co-leader of an international study aiming to identify genetic defects associated with sudden cardiac death. Aravinda Chakravarti of Johns Hopkins and Arne Pfeufer of the Institute for Human Genetics in Germany also co-led the study. Serena Sanna, formerly at the U-M School of Public Health and now a researcher at the National Research Center in Cagliari, Italy, was joint first author. Read more ..

Edge on Environment

America Needs a Bailout from GM's Cancerous Legacy to the Environment

March 23rd 2009

Energy / Environment - Toxic Waste barrels

Near Flint, Michigan, which was once a hub of failing industrial giant General Motors, are perhaps the remains of decades of toxic waste left behind as a legacy to generations to come.
Auto plants are not the healthiest of places to work.

Factory work poses various health risks. Over the years, auto workers have had to deal with the health hazards associated with paint and welding fumes, the production and plating of die cast parts, foundry work, woodworking, asbestos insulation on deteriorating overhead pipes, cutting fluids and many other potentially serious health dangers where identifiable toxic chemicals were present and suspect. Many times, grave health issues that might come from workplace exposure have not surfaced until workers were older and retired. Read more ..

Inside Latin America

Ukranian-style Civil Disobedience Now an Option for Venezuela

March 23rd 2009

Latin American Topics - Hugo Chavez waves
Hugo Chavez

In a referendum this past February 15th, Hugo Chavez managed to reverse the results of the previous December 2, 2007 vote by winning the constitutional right to be re-elected indefinitely.

Chavez won the referendum after running a campaign of intimidation and blackmail. Chavez does not govern democraticly. To the contrary he has abused state power and resources. He has used the instruments of government to harass unions, human rights advocates and has violated free speech. The state-owned oil-company, PDVSA and other state companies have been encouraged to intimidate employees so they would vote in favor of the referendum.
In last November’s municipal and local elections the opposition made some important gains including in the state of Miranda and the City of Caracas. Chavez reacted by removing some key social services such as health care from the jurisdiction of Miranda to the federal government and placed mobs in Caracas city hall that undermined the work of the newly-elected mayor of Caracas. Irregularities and other acts of electoral fraud were reported throughout Election Day. Read more ..

The Obama Edge

Freeman as Wrong on Israel as He was on China

March 23rd 2009

Obama Admin Topics - Charles Freeman
Charles Freeman

Imagine if a former U.S. ambassador to Pakistan served for years on the board of a Pakistani funded think tank, sang the praises of the dictatorial junta in Islamabad, served as a consultant for a company doing business in China and defended that country's human rights abuses while also routinely making disparaging remarks about India. Would it be a surprise if opposition arose to that person's appointment to a sensitive U.S. government intelligence post?

A similar situation arose when a former ambassador to Saudi Arabia, Charles Freeman, was appointed chair of the National Intelligence Council and, not surprisingly, provoked opposition from a wide range of people including several members of Congress who called for a review of Freeman's ties to foreign governments.

Since retiring from the Foreign Service, Freeman has been an outspoken defender of the apartheid regime in Saudi Arabia, extolling the virtues of "Abdullah the Great," the Saudi autocrat, while running the Saudi supported Middle East Policy Council in Washington, D.C. Freeman has also been well-known for his strident criticism of Israel and the U.S.-Israel relationship.

While many of his defenders argued that he was being targeted because Freeman had the courage to speak out against Israel, many of his harshest critics were far more concerned with his statements and activities related to China. Freeman served on the advisory board of the Chinese-government-owned entity Chinese National Offshore Oil Co. This affiliation and his comments regarding the Tiananmen Square massacre are what elicited serious objections to his appointment by Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi. In a 2005 public e-mail, Freeman wrote about the massacre, "[T]he truly unforgivable mistake of the Chinese authorities was the failure to intervene on a timely basis to nip the demonstrations in the bud.. In this optic, the Politburo's response to the mob scene at 'Tian'anmen' stands as a monument to overly cautious behavior on the part of the leadership, not as an example of rash action." Read more ..

Open Fuel Legislation Challenged as Unwise

March 23rd 2009

I’m not in the habit of commenting on irresponsible and misleading articles published on the web, and have no intention of getting into it, or subsequent haggling.  I just wanted to point out that an article you published on March 16: Separating Energy Independence from Global Warming with an Open Fuel Standard,” by Neil B. Goldstein is full of half-truth “facts” and in my opinion misleads your readers. When it serves the author’s interests, the solutions of some problems (“green” power generation and electric/plug in vehicles) are expensive, insufficient, and would take decades to achieve, whereas other problems – using biodiesel and other alternative fuels in cars – is simple and could be here immediately if we would only have a legislation forcing the auto industry to make the modifications enabling the use of such fuels. This is simply untrue. Suggesting it is a disservice to all, especially those who try to develop safe and affordable means to produce alternative fuels and investigate all the aspects of such a process, related to production storage and transportation. These folks know this is a task that would take years of work and significant funds to accomplish, just like the other very important topics Mr. Goldstein considers of a lesser value to the American people.   

The writer is director of the Center for Energy Research at the The Weizmann Institute of Science.

Goldstein responds: Given Professor Karni’s admirable record of accomplishment in the field of solar energy (including the use of high-temperature solar to produce hydrogen and biofuels from waste), it is not surprising that he brings passion to the subject of energy policy. Unfortunately he has permitted that passion to interfere with a fair and accurate reading of what I said, and to disregard the one transitional strategy that can significantly reduce U.S. consumption of imported oil in the immediate future.


Book Review

United in Hate: Leftists Love for Tyranny and Terror

March 23rd 2009

Book Covers - United in Hate

United in Hate: The Left’s Romance With Tyranny and Terror. Jamie Glazov. WND books. 264 pages.

After 9/11, the social-democratic political philosopher, Michael Walzer, asked the readers of Dissent magazine a tough question: “Can there be a decent Left?” His essay was in reality an appeal for its creation, since Walzer was smart enough to realize that so many who spoke in the name of the Left that horrific year were anything but. But now, so many years later, little has changed. If anyone has any doubts about this, there is no better place to start than Jamie Glazov’s important new book, United in Hate.

Glazov discusses both the philosophical underpinnings of the leftist world-view and the current form it’s taking in the U.S. Starting from the premise that existing reality in democratic America has to be destroyed and that “the enemy of my enemy is my friend,” large segments of the left today seek to forge an alliance with America’s enemies, once the Communist world, now the forces of radical Islam. Glazov traces and seeks to analyze the causes of this movement from the left’s support of “the red flag of proletarian revolution” to that of the “black flag of Islamic jihad.”

In many cases, Glazov shows how the same people who once sang the praises of Stalin as an anti-fascist leader now praise Islamic terrorists who seek to attack the West. While many learned from 9/11 that the West had real and very dangerous enemies, major figures of the once pro-Soviet Left apparently felt rejuvenated, viewing the attack on the twin towers as the revenge of the masses for American oppression of the Third World. For these people, Glazov writes, 9/11 was a “personal vindication,” since they saw “only poetic justice in American commercial airplanes plunging into American buildings packed with people.” Read more ..

Doubletree (Bloomington-Normal)

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America’s Economic Collapse

Grand Illusion – Secrets of the Federal Reserve

March 16th 2009

Economy - Money Money Money

The whole world is in a state of complete confusion. Americans are coming to the realization that their lives have been a grand illusion. You thought your neighbor had it made. They were driving a Mercedes, spent $40,000 on a new kitchen with granite countertops and stainless steel appliances, sent their kids to private school, had a second home at the shore, and took exotic vacations all over the world. Now their house is in foreclosure and you are paying to bail them out. The anger and outrage in the country is at the highest level since the Vietnam War.

The American public is being misled by government officials, politicians, and the Federal Reserve regarding the causes of this crisis and the solutions needed to solve our economic tribulations.

The average American does not know much about the Federal Reserve. The government and the Federal Reserve prefer to operate in the shadows. If the American public understood what their policies have done to their lives, they would be rioting in the streets. Most Americans believe that the Federal Reserve is part of the government. They are wrong. It is a privately held corporation owned by stockholders. The Federal Reserve System is owned by the largest banks in the United States. There are Class A,B, and C shareholders. The owner banks and their shares in the Federal Reserve are a secret. Why is this a secret? It is likely that the biggest banks in the country are the major shareholders. Does this explain why Citicorp, Bank of America and JP Morgan, despite being insolvent, are being propped up by Ben Bernanke and Timothy Geithner? Read more ..

Edge on Human Rights

Press Rights in Latin America Are A Fading Concept

March 16th 2009

Crime Topics - Stop Killing Journalists

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

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

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

Edge on Oil

Venezuela's Chavez Vows to Seize Oil Port and Sink Opponents' Fishing Vessels

March 16th 2009

Latin American Topics - Hugo Chavez waves

“Anyone who opposes me should be imprisoned,” said President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela on March 15 after giving orders that the army should seize the ports of Puerto Cabello and Maracaibo despite resistance from the governors of the two states involved. On his popular television program “Aló Presidente,” Chavez announced his order to seize the ports within the next few days, following the introduction of the Law of Decentralization. The measure was approved by the Venezuelan congress in recent days. Some 90 percent of the national legislature is controlled by Chavez' partisans.

Chavez was apparently incensed by resistance to the measure offered by opposition leaders such as Mayor Antonio Ledezma of Caracas and Governor Henrique Salas Feo of Carabobo – the state in which Puerto Cabellos is located. Ledezma said that he will ignore the new authority conferred upon the central government by the new law, considering it unconstitutional and an usurpation of local authority. Read more ..

Inside Terrorism

Al-Qaeda's Response to the Economic Crisis

March 16th 2009

Islamic Topics - Islamic Terrorist

The deepening global financial crisis has focused international attention on failing companies, rising unemployment, and diving stock markets. Little attention, however, has been given to the downturn's significant effect on terrorist groups such as al-Qaeda, which has altered its central message and is facing dwindling financial resources. Although the economic situation has likewise affected government and private-sector counterterrorism efforts, steps can be taken to improve the current counterterrorism financing regime even in these troubled times.


Al-Qaeda's immediate reaction to the financial crisis has been to claim credit for the economic misfortunes of the West. The group argues that today's financial problems are the consequences of the September 11 attacks and the cost of the subsequent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Al-Qaeda leaders have always regarded the West's consumerism as a key vulnerability and have consistently espoused attacks against economic targets. Despite complaining that the Muslim world's resources benefit Western countries and their allies more than they do the Muslim community, terrorist leaders regard oil as the treasure of their future caliphate.  Read more ..

The Push for Multifuels

Separating Energy Independence from Global Warming with an Open Fuel Standard

March 16th 2009

Energy / Environment - Oil Barrels

Washington has talked a great deal about energy independence, and thrown billions of dollars at the problem, but somehow all of this activity doesn’t seem to have convinced anyone that we are any closer to a solution.  Perhaps the reason we can’t make headway is that there are five important facts misunderstood or ignored.

As part of Energy Independence Day activities on March 3rd, more than a hundred energy independence activists spent time in Washington, making our message heard on Capitol Hill. As part of that effort, I addressed a group at the Rayburn House Office Building to lay out those facts and dispel the misconceptions. Read more ..

Inside Israel

Israeli Women Dying to be Thin

March 16th 2009

Social Topics - Anorexia

Through the millennia, humans have struggled to find or produce enough food to survive. Today, some people struggle not to eat… so they can die.

Just as lung cancer was almost nonexistent over a century ago, before tobacco smoking became popular, exposure to the media that made thinness fashionable has produced anorexia and other eating disorders that are fatal 20 percent of the time (more than any other psychiatric disorder).

Anorexia nervosa ("nervous loss of appetite") was first identified and described in 1870 but became common mostly in teenage girls and young women about four decades ago. More recently, a minority of teenage boys have joined in. The medical term is misleading, as sufferers do not lack appetite - they just ignore it and try to starve themselves because their perverted body image makes them fear gaining weight. Read more ..

Israel and Hamas

Israeli Restraint & Palestinian Responsibility in the Gaza War

March 16th 2009

Israel Topics - Exhausted Israeli Soldier

I recently visited the World War II museum in New Orleans and was struck by the following description of the U.S. bombing of Japan:

On March 9-10, 1945, bombs incinerated 16 square miles and killed 100,000 civilians. In April, bombs destroyed 180 square miles, killed 300,000 people, and left 8.5 million people homeless. Throughout the war, the United States resisted bombing civilian areas. But with time, attitudes hardened. What once became unthinkable became a deliberate policy.

American history should be kept in mind when reports are issued about the behavior of Israeli forces during the war in Gaza with Hamas. Given this context, ask yourself what America would do if its cities were bombarded by 10,000 rockets and mortars over the course of three years. Do you think the response would be proportional?

Israeli soldiers at a staging area near Israel’s border with the Gaza Strip, in southern Israel, Tuesday, December 30, 2008. Palestinians had sent a barrage of missiles deep into Israel the day before. Read more ..

What if the Oil Stops?

Obama's Energy Plan Not Ready for an Iran-Israel clash

March 16th 2009

Contributors / Staff - Armstrong Williams Headshot
Armstrong Williams

President Obama has talked the talk on our nation's energy independence, identifying it as at the top of his big-three immediate fixes.

But in recent days, a series of pivotal developments in the Middle East show that Mr. Obama is painfully ignorant of what this country needs and what we need now. I refer to an oil interruption that could be triggered by a pre-emptive move by either Tehran or Jerusalem over Iran's fast-paced nuclear program.

Edwin Black, author of the recent book The Plan: How to Rescue Society the Day the Oil Stops - or the Day Before, sat down with me recently. He outlined the looming crisis and a plan to save the country, which can be immobilized within weeks by an oil interruption. But no one in government has paid attention, other than nail-biting oil-crisis monitors at the Department of Energy.

Here's what happened in recent days to change the game and make us closer to a cataclysmic confrontation, with dire consequences for American oil, that the Obama administration is completely unprepared for.

First, on Feb. 2, Iran successfully launched a satellite into space. Tehran plans more satellites this year, creating a space presence, easily weaponized, that worries American military planners. Read more ..

Edge of the Sea

Fish Found with Transparent Head

March 16th 2009

Science - Barrel-eye fish

Researchers at the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute have solved the half-century-old mystery of a fish with tubular eyes and a transparent head. Ever since the "barreleye" fish Macropinna microstoma was first described in 1939, marine biologists have known that its tubular eyes are very good at collecting light. However, the eyes were believed to be fixed in place and seemed to provide only a "tunnel-vision" view of whatever was directly above the fish's head.

A new paper by Bruce Robison and Kim Reisenbichler shows that these unusual eyes can rotate within a transparent shield that covers the fish's head. This allows the barreleye to peer up at potential prey or focus forward to see what it is eating.

The barreleye fish, or Macropinna microstoma, has extremely light-sensitive eyes that can rotate within a transparent, fluid-filled shield on its head. The fish's tubular eyes are capped by bright green lenses. The eyes point upward when the fish is looking for food overhead. They point forward when the fish is feeding. The two spots above the fish's mouth are olfactory organs called nares, which are analogous to human nostrils. Read more ..

Freeman Bows Out of Security Post

March 16th 2009

The public needs some important information regarding the withdrawal of Amb. Charles Freeman from consideration for Director of the National Intelligence Counncil, a non-confirmable position. The vetting process was internal - no one but Director Blair and the  President had to be satisfied with his credentials, and clearly Adm. Blair was. So why did he withdraw? He blames the "Israel lobby," a convenient, largely mythical foil.  But more likely, once he aroused public and then Congressional interest and knew he would have to explain himself, he had neither the desire nor the ability to defend being paid by Saudi Arabia and sitting on the Board of a Chinese state oil company. It would have been illuminating to watch him try. Consider this - the Chinese state oil company, on whose board Freeman sits, pumps oil in Sudan. Two weeks ago, the International Criminal Court issued a warrant for Sudan's President Omar Bashir for crimes in Darfur. Bashir, in retaliation, ousted several of the nonprofit food and medical organizations that keep the people of Darfur alive even as they suffer the depredations of the militias supported by the Sudanese government. A few of the civilized countries, including the United States, tried to get a UN Security Council resolution condemning Bashir for tossing the food and medical people. China has a history of defending Sudan in the Security Council and in this instance threatened to exercise its veto on behalf of its state oil company. Forget Israel. Try defending that in front of Congress.

The writer is a senior director for security policy at JINSA.

Tracking the Nazi Nexus

American Corporate Complicity Created Undeniable Nazi Nexus

March 9th 2009

Book Covers - Nazi Nexus

This article is based on the just released book, Nazi Nexus: America's Corporate Connection's to Hitler's Holocaust (Dialog Press). Buy it here.

Adolf Hitler was completely responsible for the Holocaust. But Hitler had help.

When zealous Nazis were motivated to wage war against an imaginary generation-to-generation Jewish conspiracy… when Nazis created ghastly extermination plans to help ensure their master race would rule the world… when the German military was enabled to smash across Europe with lightning speed in heavy Blitz trucks, bomb mercilessly from the air in advanced JU-88s, and create carnage across the seas with deadly torpedoes… when Josef Mengele saw the scientific need to undertake heinous medical experiments on twins in Auschwitz… when the Reich was enabled to identify the Jews everywhere in Europe and then systematically pauperize and destroy them… when all these terrible things were done, the shape and scope of the horror was pivotally determined by major American industrial giants.

Now the dots can be connected. They create an undeniably Nazi nexus between iconic American corporations and the greatest crime of the twentieth century: the Holocaust.

Who gave Hitler the initial basis for transmogrifying centuries of outgroup religious hatred into a new twentieth century political anti-Semitism? It was Henry Ford, acting directly through the Ford Motor Company. In 1920, the gullible but mercurial Ford acquired a forged typescript convincing him of an evil international Jewish cabal determined to subjugate the world through devious manipulation of the world’s governments, newspapers, and economic systems. The revelations were contained in the notorious and fake Protocols of the Elders of Zion.

To purvey this new brand of Jew hatred to the world, Ford purchased a failed newspaper, the Dearborn Independent, which serialized The Protocols for 91 weeks. His company then published the series as a book, The International Jew. Using the techniques of mass production, Ford was able to escalate the Protocols from a negligible, randomly circulated irritant to a national sensation of 500,000 copies. Devoting the national sales force and the assets of the Ford Motor Company to the task hatred made Henry Ford the first to organize political anti-Semitism in America. Indeed, he was the hero of anti-Semites the world over. Read more ..

Edge of the Mexican Crisis

Mexico Opens a Public Relations Front in the Narcotics War

March 9th 2009

Mexican Topics - Mexican Drug Police2
Mexican police

The Mexican government’s battle against drug cartels has opened yet another front attempting to repel the onslaught of bad publicity that the bloodshed has cast onto the country’s international image. Mexico’s instinctual reputation is being eroded into one that invokes chaos and violence rather than stability and order, making many uneasy and concerned over the country’s future political and economic future. Some of these are friends of Mexico; others are not.

The murmurs from Washington come in the ominous shape of travel advisories and insecurity threats from the State Dept. and the dire analysis by the U.S. Joint Forces Command, which dares to think the unthinkable:

Mexico’s possible implosion into a failed state

Mexico City has duly responded to the criticism in full force this week by mobilizing a coordinated response to placate the wave of negative press. In an interview with the AP, President Calderon attempted to diffuse the idea of a failed Mexico by claiming, “To say that Mexico is a failed state is absolutely false, I have not lost any part — any single part — of the Mexican territory.” Read more ..

Edge on Communications

Developing Countries Employ 'Leapfrog Technology' with Cell Phones

March 9th 2009

Asia Topics - Afghani Cell Phone Vendor
Afghani Cell Phone Vendor

Cell phones are an example of what is sometimes now called "leapfrog technology," a product that allows developing nations the benefits of a reliable and extensive communications network without the heavy investment in fixed-line phone infrastructure. Mobile phones, along with Internet access, are part of a communications revolution that is helping boost income and stop the spread of disease in emerging economies.

For example, Abdul Wakil owns a dry goods store in the Afghan village of Daw Koo, about 40 kilometers north of Kabul. He says his cell phone has made all the difference. Read more ..

The Race For Alt Fuel

Americans Can Learn from Brazil's Ethanol Policies

March 9th 2009

Energy / Environment - Sugar Cane

On March 9, 2007 President Bush, in conjunction with Brazil’s President, Lula da Silva, announced the formation of a new partnership between the two countries.  Capitalizing on the strength of the ethanol industry in both countries, the partnership was aimed at the broad goals of developing new ethanol production technologies, sharing resources and promoting the use of ethanol as an alternative to fossil fuel. Brazil is currently the world’s leading producer and exporter of ethanol and the United States follows close behind.

This ethanol partnership merits a close examination as its effects could be extraordinarily far-reaching. An increase in the already large-scale ethanol industry in the US and Brazil could portend a similar increase in harmful environmental effects on a national and international level. For example, there is evidence to suggest that an expansion of ethanol production in any country necessarily demands an expansion of land area used to grow the crops from which ethanol is produced (primarily corn in the US and sugar cane in Brazil).  Read more ..

The Edge of Computer Security

Identity Theft Upgrades to "Identity Assumption"

March 9th 2009

Computer Topics - Shadowy Computer User

The dark and increasingly dangerous world of identity theft is often presented to us as mere personal chaos revolving around fake credit card charges. While this is a valid concern, the emerging dimension of this threat is far more sinister. Today, identity theft has morphed into something far more odious: “identity assumption.”

This fast-growing crime now facilitates many drug deals and massive fraud. But that is just the beginning. It is only a matter of time before another major terror event occurs in which identity assumption is a key component. Security professionals are extremely reticent to divulge exact details lest they provide  the roadmap for an upstart identity assumption ring; however, amid growing concerns, they are now willing to talk in general terms. Read more ..

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