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Archive for November 2010

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North Korea on the Edge

North Korean Belligerence Could be Part of Leadership Succession

November 29th 2010

Korea Topics - Kim Jong Un
Kim Jong Un

The most frequently heard question in the wake of a North Korean attack on a South Korean island is “why?” Those who have devoted their careers to studying North Korea, one of the world’s most opaque nations, say it is difficult to get a clear answer. One theory ties the artillery attack last week to efforts to establish the son of leader Kim Jong Il as his successor.

Late November’s shelling of a community on a South Korean island was not the first time North Korea has lashed out at its neighbor since the Korean War in the 1950s. And, a number of experts on North Korea say, it will not be the last. Indeed, several say South Korea and the United States, which has 25,000 troops in the country, may have to contend with additional military actions by North Korea in the months and years ahead. Read more ..

Korean Peninsula on Edge

South Korea Gives Cool Response to China’s Call for Emergency Talks

November 29th 2010

Korea Topics - Kim and NK Officers

Diplomatic efforts are underway in Asia to defuse tension on the Korean peninsula. But South Korea is effectively rejecting China’s call to quickly convene multi-national talks to discuss North Korea. This comes as the United States and South Korea begin four days of naval drills seen as a show of strength to dissuade Pyongyang after last Tuesday’s attack on Yeonpyeong island.

South Korea is effectively rejecting immediate resumption of multi-party dialog involving North Korea. The Foreign Ministry is saying, diplomatically, only that China’s proposal deserves to be “very closely examined.” Read more ..

Politics on Edge

Charlie Rangel is Only a Symptom of a Much Larger Problem

November 29th 2010

Contributors / Staff - Star Parker

It's hard to conclude that Black Caucus Democrats are being sent back to Washington by large voting margins, year after year, because they are delivering such fine lives to their constituents.

New York's Charlie Rangel, convicted of eleven ethics violations -- the most ever found against any member of Congress -- was resoundingly re-elected, getting 80 percent of his district's vote.

After 40 years representing these folks, you can't conclude he was an unknown commodity. Granted, the conviction occurred after the election, but the charges were well publicized.

Has Charlie Rangel's leadership produced life so grand in Harlem that flagrant and persistent unethical behavior by their Congressman means nothing to its residents?

The national poverty rate is around 14 percent. In the 15th district of New York, Charlie Rangel's district, it's 24.3 percent. The child poverty rate is 30.9 percent. Whatever it is that Harlem voters find so attractive about Mr. Rangel, it's hard to conclude that quality of life is something they feel they owe to him. But let's think about this in a broader context.

Charlie Rangel is a founding member of the Congressional Black Caucus.

There are now 41 House members who belong to the Caucus. In the most recent elections, 37 of them ran as incumbents and all regained their seats handily. The four seats that were vacated were easily captured by new black Democrats.

That's a 100 percent return rate. These Black Caucus Democrats recaptured their seats getting an average 75 percent of their district's vote. Read more ..

America on Edge

A Billion Dollar Settlement Marks Tumultuous Year for USDA Secretary Vilsack

November 29th 2010

Social Topics - Black farmers bill

The US Senate’s approval of a $1.15 billion settlement for black farmers meant to deal with decades of past discrimination capped a roller-coaster year on the issue for Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.

Vilsack was in the legislative trenches for much of this year pushing for the settlement’s passage, which still must be approved by the House. With a vote expected to come up next week, passage by the lower chamber seems likely since the House has approved the settlement already this year.

In an interview, the former Iowa governor said each and every question by senators had to be answered before the settlement funds could be passed. Read more ..

Blue Fin Endangered because of Appetities and Unscrupulous Fishing

November 29th 2010
Your article Mediterranean Feeding Frenzy on Blue Fin, November 22, 2010 proves that we need to do much more to protect these fish from the likes of predator fishing companies and appetites that do not consider the damage they are doing to this diminishing species. Only when unscrupulous fishing enterprises are exposed, can we make the start to recognize the damage this industry is having on our seas and on vulnerable fish life.

The Edge of Space

Massive Galaxies Emerged at Onset of the Universe

November 29th 2010

Science - Young Galaxy NASA

Some of the universe's most massive galaxies may have formed billions of years earlier than current scientific models predict, according to surprising new research led by Tufts University. "We have found a relatively large number of very massive, highly luminous galaxies that existed almost 12 billion years ago when the universe was still very young, about 1.5 billion years old. These results appear to disagree with the latest predictions from models of galaxy formation and evolution," said Tufts astrophysicist Danilo Marchesini, assistant professor of physics and astronomy at the Tufts School of Arts and Sciences. "Current understanding of the physical processes responsible in forming such massive galaxies has difficulty reproducing these observations." Read more ..

China on the Edge

Google Attacked by China, Documents Suggest

November 29th 2010

China Topics - Chinese hackers

The massive hacking Google faced in China, first revealed in January, may have been an attack by Chinese government operatives, according to information revealed by Wikileaks.

Among the the more than 200,000 documents released by Wikileaks, one suggests a connection between the Chinese government and the Google hacking, which led the company to threaten to pull its operations from China.

The New York Times, in its coverage of the Wikileaks documents, reports that China’s Politburo may have directed the hacking. A Chinese contact who spoke with the American Embassy said as much in Beijing in January, one cable reveals. Read more ..

Medicine on Edge

Believe It or Not: Most Medical Research is Wrong

November 29th 2010

Science - Pills

Most medical research is wrong? Are you kidding? No. In fact, the leading figure in medical statistics says plainly, “most claimed research findings are false.” Most people have set pragmatism as their default position on bioethics. If it works, why not use it? If human embryonic stem cells are reported to be effective, for instance, what harm can there possibly be in using them? In fact, it may be immoral not to use them after the incredible progress reported in this week’s issue of Nature (or Time or the National Inquirer)!

But in an era of science by press release, pragmatists should know how reliable such reports are. And respected studies into the credibility of all medical research – not just on stem cells – suggest that claims of incredible advances are precisely that: incredible. In fact, according to a leading medical statistician, Greek academic John Ioannides, “most claimed research findings are false.” Read more ..

Haiti on Edge

Fraud, Violence, and Cholera Mark Haiti’s Chaotic Presidential Election

November 29th 2010

Caribbean - Haiti election 2010

About 4.7 million eligible voters had the right to decide on a successor to Haitian president René Préval along with 11 senators. Violence and charges of fraud marked Election Sunday on November 28, while 12 of the 18 presidential candidates are calling for the annulment of the election. Famed singer Wyclef Jean, who had to stand down his presidential bid since he had not resided long enough in the Caribbean nation before the election, is currently in Haiti but has not endorsed any of the candidates. The situation is unstable. Read more ..

Immigration on the Edge

Innovative Thinking May Resolve the Labor-Business Divide on US Immigration

November 29th 2010

Mexican Topics - US Border Patrol arrest

In May 2008, a massive immigration raid took place on the Postville, Iowa-based kosher slaughterhouse Agriprocessors, Inc. The result of the raid was the apprehension of nearly 400 people, most of whom originally hailed from a small town in Guatemala called San José Calderas. One of the largest such roundups in the history of U.S. immigration enforcement, the Postville raid led to the shutdown of the facility and the imprisonment of some of the plant’s senior management, constituting a large economic blow to the entire community.

Two years later, the repercussions from the raid are still visible in the Iowa community. Postville Mayor Leigh Rekow acknowledged that the city “is still dealing with some of the negative issues in the past.” In April 2010, Postville’s infamous slaughterhouse took on a new persona; reopening under Canadian ownership, the rebranded “Agri Star” plant now employs 560 people. Read more ..

The Coal Hazard

Government and Utilities Conspire in Coal-Ash Poison

November 29th 2010

Energy / Environment - Kingston Plant Spill

Stand before the pond known here in southwestern Pennsylvania as Little Blue Run, and you’ll see nothing that resembles its bucolic-sounding name.

The one-time stream is now an industrial pond, filled with arsenic-laced waste from a coal-fired power plant. The pond spans nearly 1,000 acres of rolling, rural landscape in Pennsylvania and West Virginia, along the Ohio River. Millions of tons of coal ash have landed in the 35-year-old dump, looming over some 50,000 people in southeastern Ohio, held back by a 400-foot-tall dam, that federal regulators have deemed a “high hazard” to human life if it ever let loose.

Here in tiny Greene Township, where the pond consumes more than 10 percent of the total land, Little Blue Run seems a wasteland. Read more ..

The Edge of Litigation

Banks, Investors, and Hedge Funds Seek Lucrative Opportunities in Lawsuit Lending

November 29th 2010

Investigation - Lawyer Jared Woodfill
Attorney Jared Woodfill

Large banks, hedge funds and private investors hungry for new and lucrative opportunities are bankrolling other people’s lawsuits, pumping hundreds of millions of dollars into medical malpractice claims, divorce battles and class actions against corporations — all in the hope of sharing in the potential winnings.

The loans are propelling large and prominent cases. Lenders including Counsel Financial, a Buffalo company financed by Citigroup, provided $35 million for the lawsuits brought by ground zero workers that were settled tentatively in June for $712.5 million. The lenders earned about $11 million. Read more ..

Book Review

Understanding The American South Since World War II

November 29th 2010

Book Covers - The South and America since WWII

The South and America Since World War II. James C. Cobb. Oxford University Press. 2010. 392 pages.

Is the South—still—a place apart? Thirty years ago, in Place Over Time, Carl Degler argued for the persistence of a distinctive regional identity notwithstanding the successive waves of modernity that followed the “New South” of the post-Civil War era. Earlier in this decade, in Still Fighting the Civil War, David Goldfield argued that many Southerners insisted on seeing themselves as apart from the of the Union. Meanwhile, an array of scholars from Bruce Schulman to Michael Lind see recent American history as essentially a process of Southernization. In this ably written synthetic account of the region, veteran University of Georgia professor James C. Cobb shows how all these views can be seen as credible in a narrative trajectory that moves from that of a backward, isolated region to an assertive national presence. But for Cobb, the region and the nation have always been deeply intertwined.

The first half of The South and America moves at a brisk pace, describing the quickening effect of the Second World War on the region, the dawn of the Civil Rights movement, and the emergence of a steady—and increasingly sophisticated—strategy of resistance to it. We meet a familiar gallery of characters, from Gunnar Myrdal to Emmett Till, and a political spectrum that runs from the daring novels of Lilian Smith to the whites who said of their returning veterans, “Our heroes didn't die in Europe to give Negroes the right to marry our wives.” (Those Negroes, for their part, had their own ideas about what they were fighting for.) Read more ..

Zionism on Edge

The De-Zionization of Anglo-Jewry

November 29th 2010

Politics - De-zionization of anglo-jewry
Chaim Weizmann, left with Anglo-Jewish leaders

Chaim Weizmann would turn in his grave were he aware of the public attacks on the Israeli government by some in the UK Jewish leadership.

Mick Davis, the South African-born chief executive of the powerful mining group Xstrata, is chairman of Anglo Jewry’s United Jewish Israel Appeal (UJIA) - the principal fund-raising institution for Israel of the UK Jewish community.

He also heads a body known as the Jewish Leadership Council (JLC) - essentially comprised of a group of wealthy British Jews and their acolytes who, by virtue of their financial largess, assume a dominant influence on many levels of communal life. Read more ..

Edge on Economic Crisis

So, You Didn’t Believe the “Recession is Over?”

November 29th 2010

Economy - Out of Business

When the government reported the “recession” had ended during the 2nd quarter of 2009 there were a number of skeptics mocking the “declaration.” And you, were probably one of them. However, so long as we measure economic growth on the quarterly production of “goods and services,” there’s little question the economy’s been on the upswing since mid 2009. Unfortunately, it just doesn’t feel like it. When the government announced 2.5 percent growth in Gross Domestic Product (GDP) for the 3rd quarter of 2010, it represented the fifth consecutive quarter of economic growth. Read more ..

The Lobbying Edge

The Tobacco Lobby Goes Global

November 29th 2010

Economy - Child Smoking
A young girl, the daughter of farmers, smoking in Cambodia.
Credit: Jim Holmes/WHO

Multinational tobacco companies for years have been battered by politicians and lawyers in the United States and other developed nations like Australia and France. The global reputation of tobacco executives ranks near the bottom in public standing surveys. Market growth in the developed world has flattened out or declined. In the United States, the number of men who smoke dropped from 52 percent in 1965 to half that today. It appears to be so bad for the industry that one consulting group said selling tobacco represents “the worst operating environment in the world.”

No wonder. The industry’s product is the world’s single-largest preventable cause of death. Between 2005 and 2030, tobacco-related illnesses will claim as many as 176 million lives worldwide, according to the World Health Organization Read more ..

Saudi Sucession

The Geriatric Politics of the Oil Kingdom

November 29th 2010

Arab Topics - Saudi Royals Dancing the Ardha
Saudi Royal Family (Credit: Ammar Abd Rabbo)

On  November 17, in the middle of the Eid al-Adha holiday, the Saudi Press Agency announced that Prince Badr, the long-serving deputy commander of the Saudi Arabian National Guard (SANG), had asked to be relieved from that role due to ill health. Minutes later, the agency announced that Badr’s request had been accepted and that King Abdullah’s son, Mitab, had been named SANG commander as well as a minister of state and a member of the Council of Ministers. Unstated was that King Abdullah, who had served as SANG commander since 1962, had given up the position. Read more ..

Book Review

Are You the Driver or the Passenger?

November 29th 2010

Art Topics - Rushkoff Book

Program or be Programmed: Ten Commands for a Digital Age. Douglas Rushkoff. OR Books. 140 pages.

Having read and reviewed Rushkoff’s previous books, Think Outside The Box, which was good, and Life Inc., which was nothing less than brilliant, I wondered what was next for the media maven. This new one is short and concise, but a highly worthy successor. His mission is to raise awareness of the human implications of our technologies — the context (if you will) of our actions.

The author’s Decalogue here is a set of rules of conduct. To wit: Do Not Be ‘Always On;’ Live in Person; You May Always Choose ‘None of the Above;’ You Are Never Completely Right; One Size Does Not Fit All; Be Yourself; Do Not Sell Your Friends; Tell the Truth; Share, Don’t Steal; and Program or Be Programmed.” Each of the command(ments) comprise a chapter.

On the surface they seem pretty obvious, but like their Biblical counterparts, they add up to a wise and ethical way to conducts oneself, in this case, mostly within the online and virtual worlds. After all, many of us blithely mouse over, click and agree to website terms we’re asked to give our assent to, with little thought to the implications or the consequences, and whatever rights and responsibilities we may shed as we do. Beyond that, there’s an insidious role reversal, says Rushkoff, whereby the supposed programmer becomes the programmed. Our tools define us, whether we like it or not. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Read more ..

Energy Independence

Transporting Ourselves to Fantasyland

November 29th 2010

Transportation Topics - Broken Road

At a time of soaring deficits and taxpayer fury about govern- ment waste and intervention in the economy, Congress must change its attitude toward spending taxpayer money; here's a good area to start the change: transportation policy reform. Government subsidies have bequeathed us crumbling bridges, highways to nowhere and train lines that can't pay for their operating costs, much less recoup any of their capital costs. This wouldn't happen if there were more private-sector involvement and infrastructure was built and tolled to pay for its construction and maintenance. It's time to change the way we fund transportation infrastructure, including transit, to a model grounded in basic economics. That means paying for what you get and getting what you pay for. Read more ..

North Korea on Edge

Joint US-South Korean War Drills Begin Amid Threats from the North

November 27th 2010

Korea Topics - Kim Jong-IL

The United States and South Korea have begun four days of joint military exercises in the waters off the Korean coast, in an effort to deter North Korea from launching further attacks across its border with the South.

An American nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, the USS George Washington, is leading the drill, which comes just days after North Korean forces shelled the South Korean island of Yeonpyeong, killing two marines and two civilians.

North Korea's state-run media has criticized the drills, warning the two Koreas are on "the brink of war."

Earlier Saturday, China launched a flurry of diplomatic activity to ease tensions on the Korean peninsula after North Korea's shelling of the island.

China has warned it opposes any "unilateral military act" in the area without its permission, referring to the U.S.-South Korean drills.

Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, told CNN (in an interview due to air Sunday) that, as North Korea's closest ally, China has as much at stake as anyone if the region is destabilized. North Korea leveled new accusations at South Korea Saturday, charging Seoul was using the civilians on the island of Yeonpyeong as a human shields. Read more ..

Korea Peninsula on Edge

A Maze of Questions Follows North Korea's Unprovoked Attacks on the South

November 23rd 2010

Asia Topics - Lee Myung-bak of South Korea
S. Korean President Lee Myung-bak 

North Korea and South Korea exchanged artillery fire near the Northern Limit Line (NLL), their disputed western border in the Yellow Sea/West Sea on November 23. The incident damaged as many as 100 homes and thus far has killed two South Korean soldiers with several others, including some civilians, wounded. The South Korean government convened an emergency Cabinet meeting soon after the incident and called for the prevention of escalation. It later warned of “stern retaliation” if North Korea launches additional attacks. Pyongyang responded by threatening to launch additional strikes, and accused South Korea and the United States of planning to invade North Korea, in reference to the joint Hoguk military exercises currently under way in different locations across South Korea. The incident raises several questions, not the least of which is whether Pyongyang is attempting to move the real “red line” for conventional weapons engagements, just as it has managed to move the limit of “acceptable” behavior regarding its nuclear program. Read more ..

North Korea on the Edge

North Korean Artillery Attacks a Southern Island

November 23rd 2010

Korea Topics - N Korean Missiles

North Korea and South Korea have reportedly traded artillery fire Nov. 23 across the disputed Northern Limit Line (NLL) in the Yellow Sea to the west of the peninsula. Though details are still sketchy, South Korean news reports indicate that around 2:30 p.m. local time, North Korean artillery shells began landing in the waters around Yeonpyeongdo, one of the South Korean-controlled islands just south of the NLL. North Korea has reportedly fired as many as 200 rounds, some of which struck the island, injuring at least 10 South Korean soldiers, damaging buildings and setting fire to a mountainside. South Korea responded by firing some 80 shells of its own toward North Korea, dispatching F-16 fighter jets to the area and raising the military alert to its highest level. Read more ..

Farhud Violence--Arabs Against Praying Jews--is Shocking

November 22nd 2010
I thought I had heard it all. But to think that Jewish people in the twentieth century were massacred by Arabs at the Wailing Hall in Holy Jerusalem and in Hebron in 1929, as related in Edwin Black's book and article on The Farhud (see When Arabs Massacred Jews Because they Sat While Praying, November 15, 2010, Page One), shows how far the Arab peoples are from accepting people of other religions as neighbors. It does not matter if you cross yourself, kneel, touch the ground, or sit down when you pray. There is no excuse for what the Arabs did then, and I can only wonder what would happen if that group again gained control over Jerusalem. Freedom of religion must guaranteed for all.

Airport Pat Downs Not Needed--Just Go for the Scan

November 22nd 2010
The current hysteria about airport pat-downs and frisking is completely unnecessary. While it is true that pilots and flight attendants should not have to subject themselves to radiation numerous times daily, for the average person flying once or twice per month--or double that, the full scan is convenient and not a bother for me at all. Naturally, if you opt-out of the normal scanning, then you subject yourselves to the pat-down. Suggestion: just go for the scan, keep the hysteria down, and let our TSA workers do their job.

Airport Pat Downs Prove We Must Profile Muslims

November 22nd 2010
Common sense shows that we must treat the Islamic threat to our airports as we would any criminal threat. We must respond with criminal-style profiling of this threat. This means unfortunately, that our Muslim neighbors must be subjected to special attention, along with all Muslims entering this country. I never thought I would say this in a letter, but I have. If the threat is from the IRA, then we pay special attention to and profile the guys called Kelly and O’Keefe coming in from Ireland, and even if they are here since the potato famine. If the threat is Hassidic Jews, then we profile all the guys with hassidic outfits. If the threat is related to the Mafia, and it involves my own from Sicily, go to it, and profile all those named Luciano and Palumbo, or hailing from Sicily. Italians have been profiled for Mafia for decades. Mexicans have been profiled forever for drug smuggling. I guess it is time to admit that the unifying theme in this terrorism is not age, nationality, or skin hue. It is Islamic extremism. If we don't start profiling Muslims now—with apologies to Paterson NJ—then soon we will be forced to do cavity searches. If you watch the news, the Yemenite terrorists are inserting explosives in their cavities—not just their underwear. So if we have to choose between a cavity search for every man, woman, and child and recognizing the threat, then so be it.

Palestinian Checkpoints and American Airports

November 22nd 2010
The next time Palestinian protesters want to to complain about Israeli checkpoints, I would invite them to visit American airports where men, women, and children must be publicly patted down in their private parts because of Arab and Islamic terrorism. Apparently, the Israeli people have come to grips what we in America are just discovering. I suggest profiling is the answer, and this way my 73-years grandma does not need to be touched in humiliating ways.

Border War

Mexico's Drug Cartels Hire Child Assassins to Do Their Dirty Work

November 22nd 2010

Social Topics - Kid behind bars

Mexican drug cartels are allegedly hiring hitmen as young as 12 years old to kill rivals and, failing that, random people — "maybe a construction worker or a taxi driver" — claims a boy on a video distributed by a Mexican drug cartel. Known as "El Punchis", a 12 year-old boy says on the video that he receives $3000 for each person he murders by order of the Beltran Leyva drug cartel. Authorities in Mexico are searching for the boy after detaining another such assassin who works for the cartel outside of Mexico City. In the video, the curly-haired El Punchis speaks about his exploits and is followed up by a gruesome photomontage of children posing with weapons and victims of Mexico's current carnage. Read more ..

BDS—Economic Jihad

Another Israel Divestment Hoax

November 22nd 2010

Corporate Logos - PGGM Building

When I read this report on the Electronic Intifada claiming that the largest pension fund in The Netherlands had divested from the Israeli companies in its portfolio, it struck me that the campaign to subject Israel to a regime of Boycotts, Divestment and Sanctions—BDS for short—had hit a milestone. No longer, I said to myself, is this a matter of campus gesture politics. The long-awaited South Africa effect is finally manifesting. Then it occurred to me that the story might not be true. I contacted the fund’s managers, the Dutch company PGGM, and they confirmed my suspicions. Read more ..

Border War

The Geopolitics of the Narco-Wars just South of America's Border

November 22nd 2010

Mexican Topics - Mexican SWAT
Mexican naval infantry

The regional differences in Mexico's drug war make little sense to Americans. Until October 24, when gunmen massacred 14 patients at a Tijuana drug rehab clinic, Baja California, a hotbed of violence in 2009, had started to stabilize during 2010. The Rio Grande, in contrast, has gone from mostly tranquil to normally uncontrolled. Consider the recent story of David and Tiffany Hartley, a married couple, who had moved to the border from Colorado three years earlier for a job in the oil industry. Read more ..

Mexico's Violence is Stunning and Must Be Contained

November 22nd 2010
The horrific violence in Mexico that is revealed by The Cutting Edge News in its in-depth regular coverage of the Mexican drug wars is stunning beyond belief. This violence and these gangs now control much of Mexico, and will soon be controlling our border areas unless contained. How does one reconcile ordinary crime with the rampant beheadings, torture, and dismemberment that have become hallmarks of these cartels. Yet this is what is on display daily throughout Mexico. While we are fighting a brutal insurgency overseas, while another is brewing just across the river. We need to get our priorities straight. I thank The Cutting Edge News for having the guts to publish the articles we do not receive on the nightly news.

Edge of Terrorism

Al-Qaida Boldly Claims It Will Strike the US Again—On the Cheap

November 22nd 2010

Arab Topics - UPS Yemeni soldiers
Yemeni soldiers guard UPS headquarters in Sa’na

The Al-Qaida terrorist organization promises to conduct attacks on a small-scale, similar to its recent attempts on two cargo planes bound for the United States. In those cases, explosive devices were sent via international mail in small packages. One of these was addressed to a Chicago-area synagogue. The November 20 on-line edition of the organization’s English-language online magazine, Inspire, likened this tactic to bleeding an enemy with a thousand small cuts. Noting that the “Operation Hemorrhage” mentioned above cost only $4,200, the Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), based in Yemen vowed, “To bring down America we do not need to strike big.” Read more ..

Edge of Crime

Murder Sprees and Loss of Police Protection Plague Central Michigan

November 22nd 2010

Crime Topics - Crime scene tape

Mocked by radio personality Rush Limbaugh, regularly visited by Democratic presidents and presidents-to-be, and once a haven for America’s working class, Flint, Mich. and surrounding Genesee County have been rocked by senseless murders of late. On the heels of the murder of a two-year-old boy, the area where the once mighty General Motors Corporation was founded one hundred years ago saw 6 violent deaths between the morning of November 13 and the evening of November 15. The butcher’s bill for the year now stands at 59 for the city of Flint.

Police found two people dead in outlying Genesee Township in the early afternoon of November 15, an apparent murder-suicide of a man and a woman in their 30s. On Saturday, November 13, a 20 year-old man was shot to death in Flint Township, a suburb of the city of the same name. Darvades Dequin Monte Atkins was found ventilated by several bullet wounds in a pool of blood in the parking lot of an apartment complex in a township just outside the west side of the city of Flint. Read more ..

Iran's Nukes

Iran's Double-Edged Sword

November 22nd 2010

Iran - Iran Nuclear Equipment

In a four-day journey at the beginning of November that took him through Burkina Faso, Ghana, Togo, and Benin, Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki asserted that the United States was "displeased with the expansion of relations between Iran and African countries," and opined that while the U.S. had a "thirst for power," Iran practiced the subtler "power of logic." He described his top priority in Africa as "the exportation of technical and engineering services."

Less than two weeks later, Mottaki had to hastily return to West Africa to deal with the exposure by Nigerian authorities of another, more nefarious export: rocket launchers, grenades, and other illicit arms disguised as building materials and accompanied, apparently, by two members of the elite "Quds Force" unit of Iran's Revolutionary Guards. Read more ..

Inside Islam

Saudi Cleric’s Assurances about Peaceful Islam Do Not Concur with Historical Record

November 22nd 2010

Islamic Topics - Mecca Hajj
Muslims circumambulate the Kaaba at Mecca

In his midday sermon on November 15 to millions of Muslim pilgrims gathered on the plain of Arafah for the annual Hajj to Mecca, Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdul Aziz Al Sheikh called for religious moderation and affirmed that Islam prohibits terrorism, extremism, and injustice. In the United States, Nihad Awad of the Council on American Islamic Affairs welcomed the cleric’s words, saying “It is extremely significant that such a prominent Muslim leader would offer a clear statement condemning terrorism and religious extremism during the largest Islamic gathering in the world and on the most important day on Islam's spiritual calendar.”

In a press release, Awad was quoted, “The importance of the Grand Mufti's statement is made even more significant given the fact that it was delivered in the same spot as the last sermon offered by the Prophet Muhammad.” Making reference to terrorism wrought by Muslim extremists, Awad added, “This statement from Islam's spiritual capital should put to rest once and for all the false claim that Muslim leaders do not condemn terrorism.” Awad urged Muslim leaders in America and worldwide to incorporate the Grand Mufti's statement in prayers to be offered on November 16 to mark the end of Hajj. Read more ..

Corruption in the Americas

Drug Trafficking and Money Laundering Depend on Latin America’s Tax Havens

November 22nd 2010

Economy - Tax Haven Protesters

Benjamin Franklin once stated, “In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” However, with battalions of highly paid “tax professionals” searching for ways around tax legislation for multi-national corporations (MNCs) and wealthy individuals, taxes are not as inevitable as Franklin envisaged. In Latin America, taxation-related problems are rampant, especially in the Caribbean, where many islands are considered offshore financial centers (OFCs) by the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Along with facilitating tax evasion and money laundering, the use of tax havens for legal tax avoidance is contributing to poverty in much of Latin America. Read more ..

Movie Review

Movie Project Recounts Tragedy and Horrors of Migrants Passing through Mexico to the U.S.

November 22nd 2010

Film - The Invisibles

The Invisibles. Directed by Marc Silver and Gael Garcia Bernal. Distributed by Amnesty International.

Lucia Elizabeth Contreras watched as her brother Salomon set out for Mexico en route to the United States. The young man from El Salvador never made it to the destination of his dreams. Instead, his sister was later horrified to see pictures of her ill-fated brother tortured and murdered, recovered from a Mexican grave along with three other victims. The Contreras family's saga is among several personal stories showcased in a new Amnesty International (AI) campaign aimed at defending the human rights of the estimated 400,000-500,000 Central American and other migrants who travel across Mexico every year in an often tragic attempt to reach the Promised Land on the other side of the Rio Grande.

Organized around the theme of "The Invisible Ones," the campaign was strategically timed to kick-off during the Fourth Global Forum on Migration and Development (GFMD) held November 8-11 in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. As part of the campaign, a photo essay and documentary directed by Marc Silver and prominent Mexican actor/director Gael Garcia Bernal will be shown in at least 9 Mexican cities in the coming weeks. Read more ..

The Metal’s Edge

The Rare Earth Dilemma: China’s Market Dominance

November 22nd 2010

Energy / Environment - Chinse REE Researchers

This is the final article in the three-part series on rare earth elements. The first focused on the role of rare earth elements in energy security; the second, on the environmental implications of rare earth mining and production.

Rare earth elements (REE) play a key role in developing technology today, yet few people have ever heard of them or truly understand their significance. REEs were first discovered in 1787 by Lieutenant Carl Axel Arrhenius, a Swedish army officer. Since then there has been a great deal of interest in their chemical properties and potential uses. If it were not for REEs, technology would be vastly different. REEs have diverse chemical, nuclear, metallurgical, magnetic, optical, and electrical properties that have led scientists to pursue an ever increasing variety of applications for them. They are vital to hundreds of high tech applications including green technologies and critical military technologies. Read more ..

Looting the Seas

A Mediterranean Feeding Frenzy on Blue Fin

November 22nd 2010

Environment Topics - Tuna at Market

Cobblestone walkways line the quiet canals of Sète, a French community of 40,000 nestled along the Mediterranean about 85 miles west of Marseille. It is a picturesque place, bounded on one side by Mount Saint Clair and the other by the clear turquoise water of the sea. But there is more to this seemingly sleepy tourist town.

Anchored in the harbor are dozens of multimillion-euro fishing boats—vessels that comprise the world’s most productive tuna fishing fleet, with 36 vessels targeting the prized, and increasingly at risk, Eastern Atlantic bluefin tuna. Fed by ravenous demand in Japan, Mediterranean fishing fleets—led by those in Sète—have fished out as much as 75 percent of the Eastern Atlantic bluefin. Half of the stock, say scientists, has disappeared during the past decade. Read more ..

Inside Islam

UK Muslim School Children Taught to Chop Off the Hands of Thieves

November 22nd 2010

Islamic Topics - Islamic school in Britain

Children attending Islamic schools in the United Kingdom are being taught how to chop off an offending criminal’s hand, in addition to the theory that Jews are plotting to take over the world. According to a BBC report, some 5,000 students between the ages of six and 18 are being taught the punishments prescribed by Islamic religious law known as sharia, while their textbooks claim that those who do not accept Islam will be subjected to hell after death.

According to a textbook for 15 year-old students, “For thieves their hands will be cut off for a first offense, and their foot for a subsequent offense,” while it said “The specified punishment of the thief is cutting off his right hand at the wrist. Then it is cauterized to prevent him from bleeding to death.” Read more ..

Israel and Palestine

Myths and Facts About Mahmoud Abbas

November 22nd 2010

Contributors / Staff - Mitchell Bard

Myth: “Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is a moderate interested in compromise.”

Fact: The definition of “moderate” is relative. Compared to Hamas, Hizbullah and Ahmadinejad, for example, Abbas can be viewed as a moderate since he explicitly negotiates with Israel. Abbas, however, has expressed no true willingness to compromise on any substantive issue, balks at true peace efforts and vehemently spews anti-Israel rhetoric that has significantly hampered the peace process in the past.

In November 2010, Abbas spoke at the sixth annual memorial service for Yasser Arafat and definitively announced that he will continue to tow the hard line agenda of his mentor and predecessor. Arafat, the Palestinian leader who died in 2004, is considered one of the fathers of Palestinian terrorism. Abbas is holding to Arafat’s policies of declaring Jerusalem the capital of Palestine; requiring Israeli withdrawal from all settlements; demanding the full right of return for Palestinian refugees and their descendants; and refusing to acknowledge the Jewish character of the State of Israel. Abbas also publicly glorifies Palestinian martyrs and allows Holocaust denial to spread in official Palestinian sources.

On the issue of Jerusalem, Abbas maintains that the city will be the capital of a future Palestinian state. “At the Camp David summit, the Palestinian leadership rejected an Israeli proposal to share sovereignty,” he said in 2005, “We continue to reject this offer. We cannot compromise on Jerusalem.” In an interview with the Washington Post in 2007, Abbas declared, “I have always said that East Jerusalem is an occupied territory. We have to restore it.” Again in 2010, he said that “the Arab city of Jerusalem, including its holy sites, is an integral part” of the future Palestinian state. Read more ..

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