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Archive for January 2016


Book Review

Meant to Be: A True Story of Might, Miracles, and Triumph of the Human Spirit, by Roslyn Franken

January 31st 2016

Meant to Be

Truth may be stranger than fiction, but fiction is surely not as inspirational. True stories of courage, true stories people battling against the odds, inspire us to be determined, never to lose hope. That is undoubtedly the most important take-away from Roslyn Franken’s book, Meant to Be. It is the story of her parents, which came to define Roslyn’s own life. Roslyn is the unlikely child of survivors - her father John, who endured and survived the horrors of being a Prisoner of War in Japan, and her mother, Sonja, who survived Auschwitz and other concentration camps.

How they got together in spite of this great geographic divide between Europe and the Far East is a remarkable story in itself. But that in itself is hardly remarkable, as the book itself is replete with remarkable stories. 

Were they coincidences? Did they just happen, or were they ‘meant to be’? In truth, we can never really know for sure. But the author is less interested in this philosophical quest. She is more interested in how we understand what happens to us in life.

What is clear from reading the book, and it is a wonderful read, is that we gain so much from trying to give meaning to what happens to us, to think of these life experiences as meant, as having meaning, rather than dismissing them as meaningless.

The upshot of taking seriously what happens to us, the cards we are dealt, is that we are likely to learn useful lessons and employ these lessons in how we deal with what we are dealt. There is no better example of this than the author herself. Roslyn Franken has herself been faced with a gloomy reality, the reality of cancer. She shared in common with her parents the scary question - will I have a tomorrow? Read more ..


Media on Edge

Glenn Beck Empire Faces Possible Demise

January 31st 2016

Martin Barillas

The Daily Beast reports that another change in Glenn Beck’s top staff came as Kraig Kitchin has resigned as CEO of The Blaze. While Kitchin will remain in another position in Beck’s empire, it is Stewart Padveen who will take over as the fourth CEO of The Blaze since the latter part of 2014.
 
Kitchin had taken charge of The Blaze – Beck’s subscription digital and cable television enterprise in June 2015 after two previous CEOs departed within six months. According to The Daily Beast, senior executives Jeremy Price and Liz Julis also resigned. Several other senior employees are also departing, according to the report, including two producers from Beck’s New York operations. Corporate headquarters are in Texas.
 
The Daily Beast quoted an un-named source predicting a “mass exodus” of Beck’s staff from the New York studios. The site claims that the 35,000 rented by the Beck organization is setting him back $2 million each year in rent. It was reported that Beck has called on employees to cut costs because of debt. Estimates of the debt ranged from $3 million to $5 million.
 
The website also claims that multiple sources say that Kitchin was frustrated with friction he had with Jonathan Schreiber, who was named president of Beck’s company Mercury Radio Arts in April 2015. Sources to the Daily Beast said that Kitchin had taken the job with the understanding that Schreiber would not interfere with The Blaze. People familiar with the troubled relationship between Kitchin and Schreiber said that the latter’s meddling became intolerable.
Read more ..

Jewry on Edge

Merkel Warns of Growing Anti-Semitism in Wake Influx from the Arab World

January 25th 2016

Muslim girls German flag

As millions flee war-torn countries where anti-Semitism is rampant, several world leaders are calling on citizens to challenge this hatred everywhere they find it, especially when it comes to young people with anti-Semitic ideologies.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Saturday urged citizens to remain vigilant and to beware of anti-Semitism especially when directed by young people coming from “countries where hatred of Israel and anti-Semitism is widespread.”

Currently, millions of people are claiming to seek refuge throughout Europe as they flee war-battered nations including Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan. 1.5 million refugees including several from throughout the Arab world entered Germany in 2015 alone.

Read more ..

The Race for EVs

Nisssan Launches Multi-Billion Pound Lithium Ion Enterprise

January 24th 2016

Electric car Israel

Nissan has given a vote of confidence in European manufacturing by awarding production of future generation electric vehicle (EV) batteries to the company’s manufacturing facility in Sunderland, UK.

The £26.5 million investment will help safeguard 300 highly-skilled jobs in manufacturing, maintenance and engineering at Nissan’s advanced lithium-ion battery plant in Sunderland, the largest of its type in Europe. The Sunderland facility is one of three Nissan battery production sites globally and will provide battery modules for the all-electric Nissan LEAF and e-NV200 electric van, which is manufactured at Nissan’s facility in Barcelona, Spain.

Already the global leaders in electric vehicles with more than 200,000 Nissan LEAF models on the road worldwide covering a total of two billion electric miles. In 2015 Nissan sold 43,651 LEAFs worldwide with 15,630 of that number being sold in Europe. Read more ..


Lending on Edge

Federal Trade Commission Seeks $1.3 Billion In Damages Against Former Race-Car Driver

January 24th 2016

Bundles of Cash

A federal judge who already ruled that former race-car driver Scott Tucker violated U.S. lending laws must now decide whether to order him to pay $1.3 billion for operating an illegal payday-lending business.

The Federal Trade Commission this week asked U.S. District Judge Gloria M. Navarro of Nevada to award the large sum in damages, which it said was how much borrowers were overcharged for the company’s payday loans from 2008 to 2012.

Until court documents were recently unsealed, the size of Tucker’s enterprise was unknown. The Center for Public Integrity and CBS News exposed Tucker’s online business in a 2011 joint investigation. Tucker at that point was best known as a millionaire professional race-car driver in the American Le Mans series.

The investigation revealed that Tucker set up a series of shell corporations to hide his involvement in the payday lending company, AMG Services of Overland Park, Kansas. Once state law enforcement agencies tried to shut down those shell companies for violating payday lending laws, Tucker turned over ownership of the business to the Miami and Modoc tribes of Oklahoma and the Santee Sioux tribe of Nebraska. However, the deal allowed the tribes to keep only 1 percent of revenues.

Read more ..

The Iranian Threat

Iran Seized U.S. Navy Sat-Phone SIM Cards; May Have Accessed Classified Information

January 24th 2016

Iranian navy ship and guard

Read more ..

After the Holocaust

Ethel Black Inspired a Generation with Holocaust Survival

January 21st 2016

Holocaust cattle cars

The article has been updated to reflect the upcoming anniversary, known as yahrzeit, of Ethel Katz's death.

When 79-year-old Polish Holocaust survivor Ethel Katz died in West Palm Beach last week after a protracted illness, a profound legacy died with her. Ethel was born in Bialystok, Poland with the name Edjya Katz. For decades, her amazing story has been told and witnessed in newspaper and magazine articles, books, documentaries, TV presentations and lectures worldwide. Having personally seen the videos, testimonies, and confirmations from others, and also interviewed her in person ... one can only call her survival bone-chilling.

Her nightmare began in August 1943 in a shaking boxcar on its way to the Treblinka death camp.

As the 13-year-old Edjya squatted on the floor, hearing the thumping track below, it was impossible to comprehend the murderous plans for her and her family. At one point, her mother whispered to her, "You're a skinny one, Edjya." Her mother gestured toward the top of the boxcar, to the thin vent. Read more ..


Book Review

Peter Hayes Disappoints in Overcompiled Compilation "How Was it Possible?"

January 20th 2016

How Was It Possible

How Was It Possible?, edited by Peter Hayes, 920 pages, University of Nebraska Press, April 1, 2015

 

Holocaust readers and compilations can be precious tools in the struggle to enlighten the world about the twelve-year genocide. The key is make them cohesive, accessible, and sized correctly. Several excellent volumes come to mind. A Holocaust Reader--Responses to the Nazi Extermination, by Michael L. Morgan, published by Oxford in the year 2000, included penetrating essays by Elie Wiesel, Hanna Arendt, Martin Buber, and others. The compilation by Rita Steinhardt Botwinick, Holocaust Reader: From Ideologies to Annihilation, has for years been well received.

Lately, much shorter compilations have also been useful. My own anthology, Nazi Nexus, offers five brief essays from several of my other books such as IBM and the Holocaust. Pearson's Death by Design is another collection, containing essays from such respected writers as Robert Proctor, Robert Lifton, and the single most respected expert on IG Farben, Joseph Borkin. This brings us to the University of Nebraska Press compilation How Was It Possible? edited by Peter Hayes. The University of Nebraska is known for outstanding volumes in Judaica and Holocaust studies. Unfortunately, this edition is a big disappointment. It clocks in at 920 pages, a four-pound oversized volume--that is almost triple the size of better volumes published by Pearson and Oxford.

In a word, this compilation by Hayes struck me as over-compiled. Read more ..


The Race for Nuclear

America's Nuclear Power Plants Vulnerabilities

January 19th 2016

Nuclear Reactors

A year-long study found that the present legal and regulatory approach to EMP/Space weather threat to America's nuclear power plants are inadequate and dangerous. This sorry state is anchored in the industry efforts to maintain safety regulations dating back to the 1980s, and a national security mentality relevant at the end of the Cold War. This has been successful, in part, due to a campaign to brand nuclear power as a clean, safe source of energy. To their credit, the NRC and industry have demonstrated a commitment to safety where design basis events are concerned. However, EMP and GMD are beyond design basis events. Once these occur, there are no guarantees and few strategies with which to cope. Read more ..


China on Edge

A Vote for Democratic Taiwan

January 17th 2016

Taiwan Protest

Largely ignored by the mainstream media, Friday's Taiwan elections have enormous implications not only for the Island's 25 million people but also China - and the U.S.
Ironically, the election of the Democratic Progressive Party [DPP] leader, Tsai Ing-wen, a woman at that - reinstalled a movement dedicated to maintaining Taiwan's separate identity, the Island's culture remains Chinese. It marks only a second time in its 2,000-year a Chinese entity has peacefully transferred power. The DPP earlier won power in 100-1008 as a minority government.

The meeting last fall between Beijing's Pres. Xi Jinping and Taiwan's outgoing Pres. Ma Ying-jeou was not only unprecedented but finally marked the tacit recognition by the Communists of the Island's stature. Beijing now has to bite its lip, having apparently Communist leadership thought that protocol concession after six decades would help Ma's Party. Read more ..


Campus Hate

Divestment Movement Inspires Threats to Jewish Students

January 15th 2016

antiIsrael BDS demonstration

We may never know what motivated Faisal Mohammad's stabbing spree at UC Merced. We do know that whatever hatred filled his heart found expression in the brutal stabbing of innocent victims.

We also know that the freshman's rampage and the massive tragedy in San Bernardino, where one of the assailants did his undergraduate and graduate work at California State University as recently as 2014, have caused students across California to feel vulnerable.

This is particularly true for many Jewish students who are struggling with an escalation of hateful anti-Semitic acts at UC. This past fall, swastikas and "F--- Jews" were carved into multiple cars, and a female Jewish student was followed and harassed by a male member of the campus group Students for Justice in Palestine. Last year, swastikas were spray-painted on a Jewish fraternity, and "grout out the Jews" defaced the Hillel House at UC Davis; "Zionists should be sent to the gas chamber" was scrawled at UC Berkeley; fliers blaming Jews for 9/11 were posted at UC Santa Barbara, and a candidate for the UCLA student judicial board was challenged that her Jewishness rendered her ineligible.
Read more ..

IBM on Edge

Millions in IBM Endicott Pollution Claims Paid

January 15th 2016

Computer chips

IBM has paid several million dollars to hundreds of people who have been seeking compensation for claims related to chemical contamination at the company’s Endicott microelectronics facility. The company and many of the plaintiffs who had taken IBM to court last year agreed to a settlement of the lawsuit filed nearly a decade ago. Endicott Mayor John Bertoni told WNBF News he has heard that compensation checks have been received in recent days. Although IBM reportedly had agreed to pay settlements totaling several million dollars to several hundred plaintiffs, it’s not known how much money is now being paid out. Business owners in the lawsuit received more than owners of residential property near the North Street manufacturing complex.

Two law firms – Levene Gouldin and Thompson of Vestal and Faraci Lange of Rochester – mailed out settlement checks in late December. Some plaintiffs had alleged spills of the chemical TCE may have resulted in illnesses and deaths. The lawsuit also contended property values dropped and nearby businesses were harmed because of the contamination. IBM was founded more than a century ago in Endicott. The company now is based in Westchester County. Read more ..


The iranian Threat

Iranian Naval Commander Says US Aircraft Carrier Was Potential Target of Missile Attack

January 14th 2016

Iranian Admiral Habibullah

An Iranian naval commander revealed that his forces had locked their missiles on a US aircraft carrier, semi-official Fars News Agency reported on Wednesday. Rear Admiral Ali Fadavi, the commander of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy, said that the incident occurred during Iran’s seizure Tuesday of two US naval boats and their 10 sailors — who were released Wednesday. Fadavi said that after the aircraft carrier USS Truman displayed “unprofessional moves,” Iranian naval forces went on high alert. “We prepared our coast-to-sea missiles, missile-launching speedboats and our numerous capabilities, to strike if they made a hostile move,” he said. Fadavi said that the IRGC Navy warned the Truman to change course. Read more ..


The Iranian Threat

Iran Humiliating US with No Consequences

January 14th 2016

Strait of Hormuz

Iran’s capture and release of 10 US sailors demonstrated that “moderates” such as President Hassan Rouhani and Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif have no real weight, while the real power continues to be wielded by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and his hardline allies, such as the Revolutionary Guard, several commentators said Wednesday. Propaganda videos of the soldiers blindfolded and kneeling released by Iranian media humiliated the world’s superpower and shows that Iran can continue its aggressive behavior with no consequences.
 
The Obama administration will not allow anything to get in the way of the nuclear deal’s implementation and the lifting of sanctions on Iran, they said.
Read more ..

Vote 2016

Clinton mulled secret plan to spark Palestinian unrest

January 12th 2016

Hillary Clinton

Four years ago, then-secretary of state Hillary Clinton considered a secret plan created by her advisers to clandestinely foment unrest among Arabs in Judea and Samaria, in order to push the Israeli government back to the negotiating table.

The revelation arises from emails released as part of the investigation into the Democratic presidential frontrunner’s private email server.

The Washington Free Beacon reported Monday that in a December 18, 2011, email, former US ambassador to Israel Thomas Pickering suggested that Clinton consider restarting peace negotiations by stirring up Palestinian demonstrations against Israel.

Pickering described the idea as a potential “game changer in the region.” Clinton reportedly asked that his email be printed.

“What will change the situation is a major effort to use non-violent protests and demonstrations to put peace back in the center of people’s aspirations as well as their thoughts, and use that to influence the political leadership,” Pickering wrote. Read more ..


The Battle for Syria

Understanding Russia's Involvement in Syria

January 9th 2016

Medvedev and Assad

Russia's engagement in the Syrian Civil War is nothing new. Since the very beginning of the conflict, Russian experts have been present on the ground and advanced Russian weaponry, including SA-17 and SA-22 surface-to-air missiles, has been flowing into the country. Russia has also provided the Assad regime with light arms and ammunition. Without this support, Assad would already have fallen.

So what sparked even greater Russian involvement in Syria? Why did the Russians change their strategy, to include such major undertakings like deploying their air force and using submarine-launched cruise missiles from the Caspian Sea?

There are four factors.
 
The most important factor was Assad's dire situation. Russia has invested heavily in the regime and was deeply concerned that Assad would fall. With rebel forces in control of Idlib, they would have been well positioned to target the port city of Latakia, which is vital to the survival of the Assad regime. Read more ..


The Edge of Justice

Civil Asset Forfeiture Run Amok

January 8th 2016

FBI dudes

 The Justice Department is shutting down the "equitable sharing program" of asset forfeiture. There are two types of asset forfeiture: criminal and civil.  In criminal asset forfeiture, the government may seize money and assets it'™s shown to be the spoils of criminal activity after there'™s been a conviction. Civil asset forfeiture is the Wild West.  It'™s used before someone'˜s been convicted, charged or even accused of a crime.
Federal rules for asset forfeiture are lax.  Under the equitable sharing arrangement, the D.O.J. allowed state and local governments to use these lax, federal rules.  Too often, state and local police forces confiscated money and assets without charging anyone with a crime.  Or even questioning them. Agencies then auction the assets.  They're usually free to spend all the money they'™ve accumulated with few or no restrictions.  This is why critics call it "œpolicing for profit." It's been reported Washington, D.C. police make stops and seize whatever cash they find in people's pockets -- even as little as twenty dollars -- claiming it could be drug proceeds. Read more ..

Turkey on Edge

Russian Imperialism Meets Delusions of Ottoman Grandeur

January 7th 2016

Erdogan

 

In a 2012 speech, Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, then foreign minister, predicted that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's days in power were numbered and that he would depart "within months or weeks." Almost three and a half years have passed, with Assad still in power, and Davutoglu keeps on making one passionate speech after another about the fate of Syria.

Turkey's failure to devise a credible policy on Syria has made the country's leaders nervous. Both Davutoglu and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan have lately resorted to more aggressive, but less convincing, rhetoric on Syria. The new rhetoric features many aspects of a Sunni Islamist thinking blended with delusions of Ottoman grandeur. Read more ..


The Edge of Terrorism

Britain's Largest Bank Cuts Off Islamic Relief UK Over Alleged Terror Connections

January 7th 2016

HSBC

Britain's largest bank, HSBC, no longer will do business with the charity Islamic Relief UK due to worries over its alleged terror ties. The Sunday Times of London reported last weekend that the banking giant decided to cut off the Muslim charity a year ago, but the move went unreported until now.

Islamic Relief UK receives millions of pounds from the British Department of International Development, the Times reported. Israel banned the charity from the West Bank in 2014, accusing it of laundering money for Hamas. The Israel Ministry for Foreign Affairs designated the group's parent organization, Islamic Relief Worldwide (IRW), as a terrorist front in 2006.

Read more ..

Business Travel Coalition Opposes Overriding Veto of Travel Tax

January 4th 2016

The Business Travel Coalition (BTC) strongly cautions Maryland lawmakers not to play politics with the state’s travel economy by overriding Governor Hogan’s veto of SB190, a new sales tax on the service fees charged by local travel agents, tour operators, and event planners. This new tax would be passed on to corporate, university and government travel departments along with significant new costs for legal obligations and accounting complexities, compliance requirements and audits. SB190 is a new tax on the services provided by local small businesses. Travel and meeting managers, including state government travel offices and state universities, are under great pressure to watch every penny of travel spend. All of these administrative costs would be on top of the new tax and would be translated into higher transaction fees from the travel agency to the travel department. As such, a double incentive would have been created to choose a less expensive destination than Maryland, if possible. If not possible, there would be less money to spend in Baltimore or Annapolis on restaurants, entertainment and other destination services adversely impacting jobs and economic activity. Not only would this bill result in downward pressure on demand for lodging properties of all sizes, it would do harm to Maryland’s 1,100 travel agencies most of which are small businesses whose owners are endeavoring to scratch out a living for themselves and their employees. BTC expects legislators will understand very well the incentive new taxes and administrative costs would provide organizations to reconsider the great state of Maryland as a business travel destination. Therefore, BTC strongly encourages lawmakers to vote against any veto override.


The Refugee Crisis

It is Possible to Vet Syrian Refugees

January 4th 2016

Syrian Refugees


With the flood of refugees from the Middle East and North Africa overwhelming Europe, and with the Obama administration allowing large numbers to come to the United States, there is a justifiable fear that embedded in the ranks of the refugees are trained terrorists.
Until now, identifying embedded terrorists has been nearly an impossible challenge.  People have called for better "vetting," but to "vet" means to look back at people's history based on their documentation. For most people, certainly for most Syrians, there is no "back" - even a legitimate passport can't be verified with Passport Control in Damascus. With whom would one check local police, employment or education records? Read more ..


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