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Archive for August 2011

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The Race for Nuclear

East Coast Earthquake Shakes up Debate over Nuclear Power

August 25th 2011

Energy Topics - Nukuler plants in Amerika

Virginia's largest earthquake in more than a century shook the East Coast on August 23 and is likely to revive a long-standing debate about the safety of the country's nuclear power plants.

The 5.8 magnitude earthquake caused the shutdown of two nuclear reactors at the North Anna Power Station in Louisa County, Va. The plant, which is located less than 20 miles from the epicenter of the quake, lost offsite power and was running its cooling systems on diesel generators on August 23. Dominion said it was able to restore offsite power to the reactors late evening August 23.

While there were no reports of damage at the North Anna reactors and plant operator Dominion said the cooling systems were working properly, nuclear opponents quickly pounced on the incident August 23.

They say the incident shows that U.S. nuclear reactors are vulnerable to major natural disasters and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission should move quickly to implement a series of sweeping regulatory changes recommended by a federal task force last month. Read more ..

The Arab-Israeli Fall

Israeli-Arab Crisis Approaching

August 25th 2011

Israel Topics - Jerusalem-Temple and Wall
Credit: NASA

In September, the U.N. General Assembly will vote on whether to recognize Palestine as an independent and sovereign state with full rights in the United Nations. In many ways, this would appear to be a reasonable and logical step. Whatever the Palestinians once were, they are clearly a nation in the simplest and most important sense—namely, they think of themselves as a nation. Nations are created by historical circumstances, and those circumstances have given rise to a Palestinian nation. Under the principle of the United Nations and the theory of the right to national self-determination, which is the moral foundation of the modern theory of nationalism, a nation has a right to a state, and that state has a place in the family of nations. In this sense, the U.N. vote will be unexceptional.

However, when the United Nations votes on Palestinian statehood, it will intersect with other realities and other historical processes. First, it is one thing to declare a Palestinian state; it is quite another thing to create one. The Palestinians are deeply divided between two views of what the Palestinian nation ought to be, a division not easily overcome. Second, this vote will come at a time when two of Israel’s neighbors are coping with their own internal issues. Read more ..

The Toxic Edge

Koch Industries Has Consistently Opposed Tougher Post-9/11 Chemical Plant Rules

August 25th 2011

Energy / Environment - Koch Pine Bend plant

Koch Industries, a leader of industry resistance to proposed post-9/11 anti-terrorism safeguards at petrochemical plants, owns 56 facilities using hazardous chemicals that put 4.8 million Americans who live nearby at risk.

Schools, homes, hospitals, office parks, churches, recreation areas, nursing homes, and daycare facilities dot the properties that surround Koch plants.

In the government’s “worst case” scenarios, the millions working or living near the plants could be threatened by explosions, chemical spills or clouds of deadly gas, federal records show. Among the hazardous chemicals stored and used at Koch sites are formaldehyde, chlorine, anhydrous ammonia and hydrogen fluoride. Read more ..

America Remembers

Visitors Weigh In on New King Memorial

August 25th 2011

History American - MLK and Sculptor Lei Yixin

Thousands of locals and tourists flocked to the newly unveiled Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial to catch an early glimpse of the civil rights champion immortalized in granite.

“It’s absolutely awesome,” said Washington Mayor Vincent Gray. “You have such high expectations for someone of the stature of Dr. King, but this certainly has met any expectations I might have had,” he said. “It took 26 years from the time it started … but it was well worth it.”

Situated on a four-acre site along the Tidal Basin, the memorial was budgeted at an estimated $120 million and includes an inscription wall filled with inspirational quotes from King, as well as a 30-ft tall statue of the man himself hewn from granite. Read more ..

The Edge of Genocide

Edwin Black in North Carolina Scholar-in-Residence lectures on Racist Eugenics and US Complicity in Nazism

August 24th 2011

Contributors / Staff - Edwin Black

Renowned investigative journalist and author Edwin Black, as part of his intercontinental lecture tour, will update audiences in North Carolina on his latest books and research as a scholar-in-residence. As a featured speaker, Black will mainly discuss his research on eugenics, the corporate-funded pseudo-science Made in the USA that sought to identify and eliminate so-called inferior classes of people. He will also lecture on direct pivotal corporate collusion with the Nazis. Black is expected to speak specifically on the issues raised by his books War Against the Weak, Nazi Nexus, and The Farhud: The Arab-Nazi Alliance in the Holocaust, and the perennial issues they raise for America today.

Edwin Black’s many books have exposed readers all over the world to his exacting research on subjects that have raised vigorous debate and controversy, including the involvement of U.S. corporations with the Nazi war machine and the Holocaust, the racist American eugenics and sterilization movement in the 20th century, and the far-reaching corruption and geopolitics that stem from America’s dependence on petroleum.

A key reason for Black's visit is to North Carolina is to address the question of state compensation for eugenic sterilization. The measure is now before the legislature. "North Carolina's war against its own citizens was nothing short of genocide," said Black. The state should compensate. But the guilt must be shared with the philanthropic organizations and academic groups that pushed the state to do the unthinkable and tried to rationalize it as sound science—when it was all a fraud."

Special sponsors and co-chair for the Edwin Black in North Carolina Scholar-in-Residence include Rep. Larry M. Womble (Winston-Salem 71st District), Rep. Earline W. Parmon (72st District), Winston-Salem Mayor Allen Joines, Gary M. Green, and Keith Grandberry. See the tour here. Read more ..

Europe on Edge

Growth of Islamistan in Europe means No-Go Zones for Non-Muslims

August 23rd 2011

Islamic Topics - Muslims at prayer in Spain
Muslims at prayer in Italy

Islamic extremists are stepping up the creation of "no-go" areas in European cities that are off-limits to non-Muslims.

Many of the "no-go" zones function as microstates governed by Islamic Sharia law. Host-country authorities effectively have lost control in these areas and in many instances are unable to provide even basic public aid such as police, fire fighting and ambulance services.

The "no-go" areas are the by-product of decades of multicultural policies that have encouraged Muslim immigrants to create parallel societies and remain segregated rather than become integrated into their European host nations.

In Britain, for example, a Muslim group called Muslims Against the Crusades has launched a campaign to turn twelve British cities – including what it calls "Londonistan" – into independent Islamic states. The so-called Islamic Emirates would function as autonomous enclaves ruled by Islamic Sharia law and operate entirely outside British jurisprudence. Read more ..

Israelis and Palestinians

Defensible Borders Trump Negotiated Settlements

August 23rd 2011

Israeli Military - IDF On Guard

Events in Israel over the past week have a “back to the future” vibe. Terrorism from over the Egyptian border, renewed rocket attacks from Gaza, threats of violence from the Palestinian Authority and Hezbollah, continuing violence in Syria and shock waves in Jordan all are reminders that ultimate responsibility for the security of the citizens of Israel has to be in the hands of the Israeli government, and that defensible borders trump negotiated settlements.

Chaos around Israel—including along the long-quiescent Israel-Egypt border—and death and destruction inside, mean that Israel has returned to the days that nothing can be taken for granted, including Arab partners and American support. Read more ..

The Battle for Libya

Libyan Rebels’ Immediate Security Concerns

August 23rd 2011

Libya - Rebels Advancing on Tripoli

Since Libyan National Transitional Council forces entered the capital city, the council’s two top officials have issued statements to remind the rebels that victory is not assured. Though the rebel council has announced the end of the Moammar Gadhafi era, it also continues to warn that areas of Tripoli remain unpacified, loyalist strongholds remain in the cities of Sirte and Sabha, and some loyalist forces could be on their way to the capital from the city of Zlitan.


Mustafa Abdel-Jalil, head of Libya’s National Transitional Council (NTC), and the other top-ranking NTC official, Mahmoud Jibril, have issued several statements since NTC forces entered the city of Tripoli on Aug. 21. The leaders’ statements were meant to temper the behavior of the rebels, who feel victory is at hand, and allay international concerns that Libya could soon descend into chaos. The NTC also wants to assure residents of areas that were until recently under Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi’s control that NTC forces mean them no harm. Re-establishing security is the NTC’s main goal, but obstacles remain. Read more ..

Africa on Edge

Resolving Hunger in the Horn of Africa Requires Long-Term Commitment

August 23rd 2011

Africa Topics - Somalis in food queue

As the food crisis across the Horn of Africa is intensifying, Catholic Relief Services (CRS) will help thousands of Somali refugees in northeast Kenya by providing critical services in the soon-to-be opened Kambioos extension to the Dadaab refugee camp. CRS is making a five-year commitment to work with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to provide 25,000 people with water and sanitation infrastructure in Kambioos, while also aiding the surrounding communities affected by the influx of refugees.

“The vast majority of refugees are suffering from malnutrition, poor sanitation facilities, and live in crowded conditions with a lack of appropriate shelter,” said P.M. Jose, CRS’ Kenya country representative. “Getting life-saving assistance to the new arrivals is critical, but as we help refugees, we must not forget the impact that these arrivals will have on the host communities surrounding the camps.” Read more ..

Destination Edge

Behind the Truck Stop at New Mexico's Vado-Del Cerro

August 23rd 2011

Travel - El Vado, New Mexico
El Vado Lake

Rambling along Interstate 10 between Las Cruces and El Paso, Texas, travelers might see the Vado exit sign and notice a truck stop that’s seen better days. They might catch a glimpse-and a whiff-of the numerous dairies that line the southern Mesilla Valley.

Few, however, will probably ever hear about the rich history this border region community of several thousand people offers to visitor and resident alike. Scratch the history of Vado and a prism of windows opens up into the past, present and future of New Mexico, Mexico and the United States.

Dora Dorado has lived a good part of this history. Guiding her vehicle through a jumble of paved and unpaved roads, Dorado takes the visitor on a tour of the site-built houses, stone walls and mobile homes that make up Vado and its neighboring community of Del Cerro. In recent decades growth has practically merged the two communities together, making it more proper to speak of Vado-Del Cerro, as opposed to just Vado. Read more ..

The Way We Are

The Weight-Shocks of Marriage and Divorce Differ for Men and Women

August 23rd 2011

Social Topics - Obese man

Both marriage and divorce can act as “weight shocks,” leading people to add a few extra pounds – especially among those over age 30 - according to a new study. But when it cites to large weight gains, the effects of marital transitions are quite different for men than they are for women. For men, the risk of a large weight gain increased most prominently after a divorce. But for women, the risk of a large weight gain was most likely after marriage.

“Clearly, the effect of marital transitions on weight changes differs by gender,” said Dmitry Tumin, lead author of the study and doctoral student in sociology at Ohio State University. “Divorces for men and, to some extent, marriages for women promote weight gains that may be large enough to pose a health risk.” The probability of large weight gains following marital transitions increased the most for people past age 30.

“For someone in their mid-20s, there is not much of a difference in the probability of gaining weight between someone who just got married and someone who never married. But later in life, there is much more of a difference,” he said. Read more ..

Digital Edge

U.S. could see $53 billion in 4G Network Investments in Five Years

August 23rd 2011

Computer Topics - 4G gizmo

A new Deloitte report states that wireless telecommunications companies in the United States could invest $25 to $53 billion in fourth generation cellular wireless networks (4G) between 2012 and 2016, triggering $73 to $151 billion in gross domestic product growth and creating 371,000 to 771,000 jobs. Additional growth could occur as high-tech companies create new mobile broadband products and services, further changing the way people live, work and learn.

The Deloitte report, "The Impact of 4G Technology on Commercial Interactions, Economic Growth, and U.S. Competitiveness," investigates the economic dynamics surrounding 4G technology and explains how the U.S. can maintain the global leadership position in mobile broadband innovation it won during the 3G era.

The $25 billion figure assumes a baseline scenario in which U.S. 4G deployment proceeds at a moderate pace and the transition from 3G to 4G extends to the middle of the decade. Under these conditions, U.S. firms are vulnerable to incursions by foreign competitors capitalizing on aggressive efforts in their home markets to deploy 4G networks and develop 4G-based devices and services. Read more ..

Medical Edge

Low Vitamin-D Puts Women at Risk

August 23rd 2011

Social Topics - Sullen Woman

A study links low vitamin D in young girls with early menstruation, which is a risk factor for a host of health problems for teen girls as well as women later in life.

Researchers from the University of Michigan School of Public Health measured the blood vitamin D levels in 242 girls ages 5-12 from Bogota, Colombia, and followed them for 30 months. Girls low on vitamin D were twice as likely to start menstruation during the study than those with sufficient vitamin D, said epidemiologist Eduardo Villamor, associate professor in the U-Michigan SPH.

This is important for several reasons, Villamor said. Worldwide, there has been a slow decline in the age of the first menstruation, or menarche, for years, which Villamor says suggests an environmental cause, since the genetics that trigger puberty haven't changed. Read more ..

The Weapon's Edge

America's Warriors to Get Boost from Antennae in Clothing

August 23rd 2011

Military - Soldiers In Afghanistan

To make communications devices more reliable, Ohio State University researchers are finding ways to incorporate radio antennas directly into clothing, using plastic film and metallic thread. In the current issue of the journal IEEE Antennas and Wireless Propagation Letters, they report a new antenna design with a range four times larger than that of a conventional antenna worn on the body – one that is used by American soldiers today.

"Our primary goal is to improve communications reliability and the mobility of the soldiers," said Chi-Chih Chen, a research associate professor of electrical and computer engineering at Ohio State. "But the same technology could work for police officers, fire fighters, astronauts – anybody who needs to keep their hands free for important work." Read more ..

The Nano Edge

National Institute of Standards and Technology Researchers Question Carbon Nanotube Reliability

August 23rd 2011

Science - Graphene carbon mesh

National Institute of Standards and Technology researchers have found in recent reliability tests that carbon nanotubes device reliability is a major issue. NIST test results from numerous nanotube interconnects between metal electrodes show that nanotubes can sustain extremely high current densities — tens to hundreds of times larger than that in a typical semiconductor circuit — for several hours but slowly degrade under constant current.

And in about 40 hours the researchers found that the metal electrodes fail when currents rise above a certain threshold.

NIST is developing measurement and test techniques and studying a variety of nanotube structures, zeroing in on what happens at the intersections of nanotubes and metals and between different nanotubes.

"The common link is that we really need to study the interfaces," said Mark Strus, a NIST postdoctoral researcher, in a statement. Read more ..

The Race for Solar

Tiny Gold Particles to Boost Organic Solar Cell efficiency

August 23rd 2011

Energy Topics - Plastic solar cells and Yang Yang
Yang Yang holds plastic solar cells

In the world of solar energy, organic photovoltaic solar cells have a wide range of potential applications, but they are still considered an upstart. While these carbon-based cells, which use organic polymers or small molecules as semiconductors, are much thinner and less expensive to produce than conventional solar cells made with inorganic silicon wafers, they still lag behind in their ability to efficiently convert sunlight into electricity.

Now, UCLA researchers and their colleagues from China and Japan have shown that by incorporating gold nanoparticles into these organic photovoltaics — taking advantage of the plasmonic effect, by which metal helps to enhance the absorption of sunlight — they can significantly improve the cells' power conversion. Read more ..

Edge of Terrorism

Coordinated Terrorist Attacks Calculated to Harm Israel-Egypt Relations

August 22nd 2011

Terrorism - Ayman al-Zawahiri
Al Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahiri

A series of coordinated attacks occurred on August 18 along Israel’s border with Egypt. While each attack was relatively small, the incidents indicate some degree of coordination among the attackers. Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak attributed the attacks to elements emanating from the Gaza Strip, while Israel Defense Forces (IDF) tactical reports stated that the attacks had been launched from across Israel’s border with Egypt along the Sinai peninsula. No one has yet claimed responsibility.

Israel has plenty of experience in dealing with threats from militants in Gaza. In response, Israel often conducts preemptive as well as retaliatory airstrikes using real-time intelligence. In addition, whenever things appear to be getting out of control, the IDF conducts a major ground offensive. Read more ..

Edge of Terrorism

Implications and Aftermath of Cross-Border Attacks in the Negev Desert

August 22nd 2011

Israel Topics - Negev casualties 18 Aug 2011

The terrorist attack in the Negev threatens to escalate into both a wider Israel-Gaza conflict and an Egyptian-Israeli diplomatic crisis.

The August 18 Palestinian terrorist attack in Israel's southern Negev Desert is the most serious such incident since 2008. The Israeli casualty toll was nearly forty, including eight dead. Seven of the terrorists were killed as the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) responded and the fighting extended into the night.

The violence represents a major break in the relative calm on Israel's southern border, with major implications for both the situation in Gaza and Israel's relationship with Egypt. The focus of military action has now shifted to the Gaza area, and another Gaza escalation cycle may be underway, with an uncertain outcome. Furthermore, the incident is seriously aggravating Israeli-Egyptian relations, with Cairo claiming Israel killed and wounded Egyptian soldiers in the course of the incident. Read more ..

The Battle for Syria

Three Ways to be Rid of Syria's Assad Regime

August 22nd 2011

Syrian Issues - Nakba Protests

Today, five months after the Syrian regime began its brutal crackdown on anti-regime protestors, President Barack Obama announced that "the time has come for President Asad to step aside." The statement, released simultaneously with a speech by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, puts to rest debate about where exactly Washington stands on the Asad regime. The question now is how best to work with the Syrian people to bring about Bashar al-Assad's downfall.

First, the United States must bring concerted multilateral pressure to bear on Damascus. Historically, this is a diplomatic tactic that works with Assad, most recently in forcing him to pull his forces out of Lebanon in April 2005. Soon after Obama's announcement, Britain, Canada, France, Germany, and the European Union joined in calling for Assad to step aside. Read more ..

Edge on Politics

US Post Offices Targeted for Closure are in GOP Congressional Districts

August 22nd 2011

Social Topics - Post Office closed

A large majority of post offices that have been targeted for closure are in Republican districts.

More than 2,500 of these post offices are in GOP districts, while about 1,000 are in districts represented by Democrats, according to a review by The Hill. There were fewer than 100 stores where the district could not be determined because the zip code is represented by lawmakers in both parties.

The U.S. Postal Service (USPS) has stressed that politics played no role in determining which sites to shutter, noting that it adhered to a strict methodology for choosing them. USPS used a computer program to select the offices on a range of factors, including revenue and workload.

The closures would save about $200 million annually for the ailing USPS, which has urged the end of its Saturday service. Read more ..

The Race for Photo-Electric

Photovoltaics Energy-Conversion Powered by Heat

August 22nd 2011

Science - Iron man

A new photovoltaic energy-conversion system developed at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology can be powered solely by heat, generating electricity with no sunlight at all. While the principle involved is not new, a novel way of engineering the surface of a material to convert heat into precisely tuned wavelengths of light — selected to match the wavelengths that photovoltaic cells can best convert to electricity — makes the new system much more efficient than previous versions.

The key to this fine-tuned light emission lies in a material with billions of nanoscale pits etched on its surface. When the material absorbs heat, whether from the sun, a hydrocarbon fuel, a decaying radioisotope or any other source, the pitted surface radiates energy primarily at these carefully chosen wavelengths. Read more ..

The 2012 Vote

Approval Rating for Congress Hits an All-Time Low

August 22nd 2011

Politics - US Capital Day

Americans' approval of Congress tied an all-time low in a new Gallup poll released on August 16, underscoring the sour opinion facing lawmakers during their August recess. Just 13 percent of U.S. adults said they approve of the way Congress is handling its job, tying a previous low point set in December of 2010, during the lame-duck session.

Disapproval of Congress hit an all-time high of 84 percent, eclipsing by one point the 83 percent disapproval rating that lawmakers were given in that same December edition of the poll.

The new Gallup results are in keeping with a series of negative indicators for lawmakers since they completed their work earlier this month and left town after hashing out a last-minute compromise to avoid defaulting on the nation's debt.

Approval of Congress slipped to 21 percent in the immediate aftermath of the debt deal, and just 24 percent of Americans said that most members of Congress deserved reelection. (Fifty-six percent said their own representative deserved reelection, not an all-time low, but still a dismal number relative to past levels.) Read more ..

Religious Tolerance

Pakistan: Impunity for Involuntary Servitude and Conversion to Islam

August 22nd 2011

PakistanTopics - Pakistani Christians protest

A Christian family consisting of 26 persons, including women and children, were enslaved in Pakistan for over 30 years. Forced to work on a farm in the Punjab region belonging to a wealthy Muslim landowner, the extended family only recently managed to regain freedom. Reduced to servitude for three decades, the family members escaped their captor through the intervention of the Catholic bishop of Bahawalpur. Meanwhile the rape and abduction of Christian girls, forced to marry Muslim men and forcibly converted to Islam, continues. The latest incident took place at Quetta: a young girl, after two years of captivity, managed to escape and is now safe at an undisclosed location but faces death threats. Read more ..

The Nano Edge

Polymer LEDs that Stretch Like Rubber

August 22nd 2011

Energy Topics - electron microscope

Today's conventional inorganic electronic devices are brittle, and while they have a certain flexibility achieved using ultrathin layers of inorganic materials, these devices are either flexible, meaning they can be bent, or they are stretchable, containing a discrete LED chip interconnected with stretchable electrodes.

But they lack "intrinsic stretchabilty," in which every part of the device is stretchable. Now, researchers at the UCLA Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science have demonstrated for the first time an intrinsically stretchable polymer light-emitting device.

They developed a simple process to fabricate the transparent devices using single-walled carbon nanotube polymer composite electrodes. The interpenetrating networks of nanotubes and the polymer matrix in the surface layer of the composites lead to low sheet resistance, high transparency, high compliance and low surface roughness. Read more ..

Inside the Mideast

Americans Eager to Fight for Israel

August 22nd 2011

Israeli Military - Israeli recruits

On August 16, hundreds of Americans emigrating to Israel landed at Ben Gurion Airport in Israel. Of the 360 arrivals, an unprecedented 104 came to enlist in the Israeli defense forces. Brig. Gen. Eli Shermeister, the Chief Education Officer, was among a delegation of officials on hand to greet the 18 to 22 year-olds volunteers. "It's an honor to have you join the IDF (Israel Defense Forces) and the Israeli nation," the brigadier said. "There are no words to describe my appreciation for you, your courage and the Zionistic values you hold. The State of Israel is coping with security threats every day and defending its security is the main goal of the IDF."

Shermeister told the new immigrants he is proud that the IDF "is an army that focuses on educating the youth and building Israeli society. Those of you who will soon be soldiers, I promise you: there is a special place for every single one of you in the IDF." Also on hand was the Minister of Immigrant Absorption, Sofa Landver, who also welcomed the new recruits. "Young people coming to Israel to enlist in the army strengthen not only the country's defense but also the national strength," she said. Read more ..

Morocco on Edge

Moroccan Islamists: Integration, Confrontation, and Ordinary Muslims

August 22nd 2011

Morocco - Marrakech Market
Credit: Donar Reiskoffer

Two distinct politico-religious movements emerged in Morocco in the 1960s and 1980s. The first was a radical movement, which was confronted by the government, forcing it to break up, change, and adapt. The second was characterized by its confrontational and inflexible stance vis-à-vis the status quo. Thus, while the former became integrated at the expense of its early radical glamour, the latter remained adamant in refusing to become integrated in the political system. Despite the popularity of both movements, their efforts to attract new recruits remain limited since most ordinary Moroccan Muslims do not want to mix religion and politics.

Since its inception in late 1960s, the Islamist movement in Morocco has been growing—especially on university campuses—and has been dominated by two distinct currents. The two tendencies present different perspectives on political activism and thus reflect distinct political cultures. Read more ..

The Sub-Sahara on Edge

New Opportunities Give Sub-Saharan Women Room for Change

August 22nd 2011

Africa Topics - women in kigali - rwanda
Scene in Kigali, Rwanda (Credit: F. Schertzer)

Sub-Saharan Africa often evokes images of conflict, famine, and disease. In many cases, women bear the brunt of the region’s misfortunes. But new opportunities and constitutions advancing gender parity have opened up the political space for women.

In Rwanda, Chad, and other countries, women are allocated up to 30 percent of parliamentary seats. In fact, Rwanda is now the world’s first country where women Members of parliament (MPs) outnumber men.

“These kinds of changes need to be encouraged because without women fully engaged in both civil society as well as formal political office, it will be as if trying to carry forward with only half the sky,” said Emira Woods, Co-Director of Foreign Policy in Focus and Associate at the Institute for Policy Studies in Washington. Read more ..

Germany on Edge

The Wall That Couldn’t Stop History, Remembered

August 22nd 2011

Germany - Bernauer Strasse

For years, the German boulevard known as Bernauer Strasse ran through nearly the middle of Berlin, north to south. It was a street of commerce, where families grew up and friends met.

Then, quite suddently in 1961, East German police started doing something very strange. Through the middle of the street, they began methodically laying brick after brick; cinder blocks held together with an abundance of mortar.

Right before people’s eyes, the Berlin Wall was being born. Read more ..

Inside Geopolitics

The Calculus of Humanitarian Warfare and Economic Interests in America's Foreign Affairs

August 22nd 2011

Africa Topics - Victims of LRA

Nearly 14 years ago, I stood in a cassava patch trundled to mush by gun-trucks driven by boy soldiers in the Revolutionary United Front, a guerrilla gang that raped and bled the West African nation of Sierra Leone.

Nearby were rice paddies in a similar state of ruin and, buried along the cusp of the ever encroaching jungle, dead old men, young mothers and their children, anyone too slowed by age or pregnancy to escape when the RUF raided the Mende village of Pundaro.

Armed by a Liberian warlord, led by a gaggle of psychotic cutthroats with names like “Mosquito Hitler” and “Kill Kill Man,” often employing shock troops as young as seven years old stolen from their murdered parents, the RUF and the mutinous government soldiers who once fought them ruled Sierra Leone in 1997.

And it was a scrum of their victims who surrounded me.

“When will America come to save us?” a farmer asked. “We are dying here.”

So they were, as the spent brass shell casings from a RUF antiaircraft gun turned on women and infants proved. In fact, the only thing guarding the people of Pundaro were 28 bodies of the RUF littering the lone road through a neighboring ghost town, a village so shot up and deserted I couldn’t gain its name. Read more ..

Mexico’s Wars

The Buffer Between Mexican Cartels and the U.S. Government

August 22nd 2011

Mexican Topics - Cartel areas of control
Credit: DEA

It is summer in Juarez, and again this year we find the Vicente Carrillo Fuentes organization (VCF), also known as the Juarez cartel, under pressure and making threats. At this time in 2010, La Linea, the VCF’s enforcer arm, detonated a small improvised explosive device (IED) inside a car in Juarez and killed two federal agents, one municipal police officer and an emergency medical technician and wounded nine other people. La Linea threatened to employ a far larger IED (100 kilograms, or 220 pounds) if the FBI and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) did not investigate the head of Chihuahua State Police intelligence, whom the VCF claimed was working for the Sinaloa Federation.

La Linea did attempt to employ another IED on Sept. 10, 2010, but this device, which failed to detonate, contained only 16 kilograms of explosives, far less than the 100 kilograms that the group had threatened to use. Read more ..

Ancient Edge

The Role of an Ancient Fungus Remains Mysterious

August 22nd 2011

Science - Pure culture of Archaeorhizomyces finlayi - Timothy James
Culture of A.Finlayi (Credit: Timothy James)

A type of fungus that's been lurking underground for millions of years, previously known to science only through its DNA, has been cultured, photographed, named and assigned a place on the tree of life.

Researchers say it represents an entirely new class of fungi: the Archaeorhizomycetes. Like the discovery of a weird type of aquatic fungus that made headlines a few months ago, this finding offers a glimpse at the rich diversity of microorganisms that share our world but remain hidden from view.

The fungal phenomenon, brought to light by researchers at the University of Michigan, the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, the Imperial College London and Royal Botanic Gardens and the University of Aberdeen, is described in the journal Science.

Although unseen until recently, the fungus was known to be extremely common in soil. Its presence was detected in studies of environmental DNA—genetic material from a living organism that is detected in bulk environmental samples, such as samples of the soil or water in which the organism lives. Read more ..

Edge of Space

Presence of Liquid Brine may Herald Life on Mars

August 22nd 2011

Science - Brine on Mars
Leg of Mars Phoenix Lander exhibiting droplets of liquid brine

How common are droplets of saltwater on Mars? Could microbial life survive and reproduce in them? A new million-dollar NASA project led by the University of Michigan aims to answer those questions. This project begins three years after beads of liquid brine were first photographed on one of the Mars Phoenix lander's legs.

"On Earth, everywhere there's liquid water, there is microbial life," said Nilton Renno, a professor in the Department of Atmospheric, Oceanic and Space Sciences who is the principal investigator. Researchers from NASA, the University of Texas at Dallas, the University of Georgia and the Centro de Astrobiologia in Madrid are also involved. Read more ..

Algeria on Edge

Perennial Religious Opposition in Algeria

August 22nd 2011

Africa - Islamic terrorists Algeria

An analytical discussion is needed on the religious opposition in Algeria, exploring the conditions and conflict-prone effects of the movement. Through historical analysis, we see that the Islamist opposition in Algeria is to some extent value-driven, but it is mostly a reaction to undesirable local conditions, especially economic distress, widespread poverty, and unjust distribution of national wealth. Thus, the article suggests that positive actions be taken to deal with these issues if the religious opposition is to be successfully managed in Algeria.


One of the clearest aspects of the post-Cold War era is the rise of religion as a social and political movement around the globe, and, by extension, the growing number of religiously-driven conflicts. This trend appears to be more evident in the Middle East, although it is not limited to this particular region. The secular governments in the Middle East have been frequently challenged, sometimes quite seriously, by Islamist oppositions that want to establish a state based on religious rules. The clash between government forces and militant Islamists often resulted in severe casualties, in which many innocent people, foreigners, as well as fighting sides themselves became victims.

In order to manage religious opposition and cope with its conflict-prone effects, it is necessary to understand the nature of such opposition. Algeria offers a valuable case study, since although the country—unlike many Middle Eastern countries—has no tradition of early Islamic revivalism, the secular government was seriously challenged by political Islamism in the 1990s and only survived with the help of the military. Subsequently, violent clashes lasting about a decade erupted, as a result of which the Algerian people suffered. Though the violence evidently decreased from 2002 and on, the conflict between the secularists and Islamists has continued to some extent. Read more ..

Dismantle PEPCO and Use the Assets to Create Diversified Energy Community Sources

August 21st 2011
Let me agree with a comment made by an earlier writer. PEPCO is an arrogant company that should be compelled to pay high dollars for the damage they have inflicted during protracted outages. Power lines are not buried as they should be to protect them from weather problems. I lost my computer after the power flickered on and off for several minutes. Let me also agree that big fines should only be the beginning. Dismantle the company entirely. Take its assets and use them to create a diversified community infrastructure of renewable energy such as solar, wind, and even road pressures. The thought that our country's capital is dependent upon this dysfunctional company is unnerving.

Global Economy on Edge

A World Political Crisis will Accompany the Economic Crunch

August 21st 2011

Economy - International Currency 3

Classical political economists like Adam Smith or David Ricardo never used the term “economy” by itself. They always used the term “political economy.” For classical economists, it was impossible to understand politics without economics or economics without politics. The two fields are certainly different but they are also intimately linked. The use of the term “economy” by itself did not begin until the late 19th century. Smith understood that while an efficient market would emerge from individual choices, those choices were framed by the political system in which they were made, just as the political system was shaped by economic realities. For classical economists, the political and economic systems were intertwined, each dependent on the other for its existence.

The current economic crisis is best understood as a crisis of political economy. Moreover, it has to be understood as a global crisis enveloping the United States, Europe and China that has different details but one overriding theme: the relationship between the political order and economic life. On a global scale, or at least for most of the world’s major economies, there is a crisis of political economy. Let’s consider how it evolved. Read more ..

The Battle for Libya

Libyan Rebels Approach in End-Game and Advance to Tripoli

August 21st 2011

Libya - Libyan rebels

Reports of explosions and heavy gunfire in Tripoli on Aug. 20 indicate that rebel fighters may be beginning an attempt to lay siege on the Libyan capital with the aim of removing Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi. Based on the limited information available so far and the immense complications entailed in trying to seize a metropolis like Tripoli, however, it does not appear that the rebels are in a position to wage a final assault against Gadhafi.

Rebel fighters based of out of Libya’s Nafusa Mountains appear to have made considerable progress over the past week in advancing toward Tripoli. After several days of fighting, the rebels seem to have gained the upper hand in the town of Zawiya west of Tripoli — a key point along Gadhafi’s supply line and the possession of which could enable the rebels to choke off supplies to Tripoli — and now seem poised to begin an assault on the Libyan capital. Read more ..

Parents Must not Make a Mistake with Deaf Children

August 21st 2011

Monica Davey’s NY Times article, “Among Twists in Budget Woes, Tensions Over Teaching the Deaf” went to the public on July 26, 2011--and like others I have found that comments can no longer be accepted. So, the deaf community, as we have before, turns to the Cutting Edge News. My message as a parent of a lovely deaf girl is that American Sign Language (ASL) is our chosen language. Our desires are constantly distorted by the media, thanks to the well-oiled surgical implant industry. With ASL, our children learn, thrive, and contribute greatly to our society. Parent decisions that ignore this reality because they have been taken in by the press, are decisions that will damage their children forever. Just look at the vibrant conversations that take place among the deaf--visual not spoken.  

Film Reviews

Tabloid: Sex and Celebrity All Tied-Up

August 20th 2011

Film - Tabloid

Tabloid. Director: Errol Morris. Starring: Kent Gavin, Joyce McKinney. Length: 87 minutes.

Those who are unschooled in the ways of our cultural élites may find it somewhat strange that Errol Morris (The Thin Blue Line, Mr. Death, The Fog of War) has titled his new documentary, Tabloid. I hope you will not think it presumptuous of me if I undertake to explain what I take to be his thinking in doing so.

The movie tells the story of one Joyce McKinney, a former beauty queen from North Carolina who was also blessed with spirit and determination but, alas, not very good judgment. She briefly became a tabloid sensation in Britain back in the 1970s - I was living there at the time and remember it well - on account of having (allegedly) kidnaped her Mormon lover, Kirk Anderson, who had left her back in the US. when he went to do his missionary service in the UK. According to the tabloids once she had abducted Kirk with the help of one or more hired goons, she whisked him off to an isolated cottage in Devon where she kept him as a "sex slave" who was "spread-eagled" and "chained" to the bed until he somehow managed to escape and alert the authorities.

It was, as one of Mr. Morris's interviewees put it, "the perfect tabloid story," and this is borne out by the probability that "sex slave" and "spread-eagled" and "chained" were all most likely journalistic inventions. Likewise the pleasingly alliterative "Manacled Mormon," as Mr. Anderson was known to the British papers during his brief period of notoriety. Miss McKinney, not surprisingly, says to Mr. Morris's camera that the whole thing was pretty much a tabloid invention and that it is not possible for a woman to rape a man. Employing a now-venerable witticism, she says that it would be like putting a marshmallow in a parking meter. According to Mr. Morris's lengthy interviews with her and others, there seems to be some doubt as to whether there was even any penetrative coitus between them. Read more ..

Inside Latin America

Banana Oil: Inadequate Justice for Chiquita Brands' Transactions with Terrorism

August 19th 2011

Latin American Topics - banana patrol

In March 2007 in a U.S. District Court, Chiquita Brands International pled guilty to one count of “Engaging in Transactions with a Specially-Designated Global Terrorist.” The banana giant confessed to paying the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC), the nation’s notoriously violent network of right-wing paramilitary groups, USD 1.7 million in over one hundred payments between 1997 and 2004. Yet the case was resolved by a cash settlement, thus failing to publicly expose both sides of their quid pro quo relationship. A 2011 declassification of Chiquita documents, confessions by former paramilitaries, and ongoing lawsuits lay bare the U.S. corporation’s ruthless profiteering and invite cautious hope of justice for the victims.

The Rise of Paramilitaries

The AUC paramilitaries have their roots in Colombia’s internal armed conflict. The violence began in 1948 in Bogotá as a bloody civil war between Liberals and Conservatives. The partisan warfare ended with the National Front, a political pact that snubbed dissident factions of Liberals, Communists, self-defense communities, and independent peasant organizations. By the 1960s and 1970s, the conflict had morphed into a guerrilla insurgency against the state, which sought to rectify a history of inequality and social exclusion. Read more ..

Religious Freedom

Indian Constitution Violates Itself in View of Dalit Caste

August 18th 2011

India Topics - Dalit Protests

Article 15 of the Indian Constitution gives fundamental rights to all Indian citizens against any form of discrimination either by the state or any citizen on the basis of religion, race, caste, sex, place of birth, or any of thesem. Every Indian is proud about this guarantee without much knowing that the same constitution violates itself on the basis of religion. The Scheduled Caste, known as untouchables or Dalits, have suffered under this violation for 61 years.

Presidential Order 1950 enacted Para 3 of Article 341, which discriminates against Dalits on the basis of religion by limiting fundamental rights guaranteed under Indian Constitution. Read more ..

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