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Archive for February 2011

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The Battle for Libya

Libya on the Brink: Qaddafi Sends his Son to tell the World to Back Down

February 21st 2011

Arab Topics - Muammar Qaddafi

Moammar Qaddafi’s son Seif al-Islam proclaimed that his father remained in charge and has the army’s support. He said that they will “fight until the last man, the last woman, the last bullet.” During the first comments following six days of demonstrations, he acknowledged that the Libyan army made mistakes during protests because troops were not prepared to battle demonstrators. Juda S. Engelmayer 

After 41 years of authoritarian rule, Moammar Qaddafi has been frustrated by the wave of unrest that is sweeping the country, with mass demonstrations in the capitol city, Tripoli and Benghazi, the second-largest city, Qaddafi’s son said “There has to be a firm stand…This is not the Tunisian or Egyptian army,” as he threatened to “eradicate the pockets of sedition.” Read more ..

No Plan for Oil Interruption

Saudi Arabia's Fears for Bahrain

February 21st 2011

Arab Topics - Bahrain enraged protesters

On February 16, Bahraini security forces used brute force to clear democracy protesters from Manama's Pearl Square, on orders from a regime seemingly undaunted by international media coverage and the near-instantaneous self-reporting of Twitter-generation demonstrators. Although the relatively small size of the crowds (compared to recent protests in Egypt and Tunisia) facilitated the crackdown, the action is best explained by the regime's long-held mindset regarding dissent. Specifically, the Bahraini ruling elite believe that any political challenge by the island's Shiite majority must be quickly suppressed -- a view backed by the royal family in neighboring Saudi Arabia and violently enforced in Bahrain despite significant Sunni participation in the protests. This Saudi factor, and the looming presence of Iran across the Persian Gulf, elevates the Bahrain crisis to a U.S. policy challenge on par with events in Egypt. Read more ..

Lebanon on Edge

Hezbollah: Governing Faction in Lebanon, A Criminal Group Abroad

February 21st 2011

Terrorism - Hezbollah Troops
Hezbollah Soldiers

This week marked the sixth anniversary of the assassination of former Lebanese prime minister Rafiq Hariri, killed in a Beirut bombing on February 14, 2005. Noting the solemn occasion, UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon issued a statement paying tribute to Hariri and the other twenty-two people killed that day and reaffirming the UN's "commitment to the efforts of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon to uncover the truth so as to bring those responsible to justice and send a message that impunity will not be tolerated." Read more ..

Egypt After the Revolt

What Egypt's Democracy Advocates have in Common with Israel

February 21st 2011

Egypt - Egypt Riots #1

It is not a stretch to say that the demonstrators in Tahrir Square, who created a revolution by demanding liberty and freedom, had more in common with the government of Israel than with any other Arab government in the Middle East.

No, I am not stretching to see the possibility of a “purple nation” approach everywhere in the world. But it is a simple, indisputable fact that what the demonstrators in Tunisia and Tahrir Square demanded are the values that have governed Israel since its founding over 60 years ago — freedom of the press and assembly, guarantees of due process and the rule of law, civil rights, human rights, women’s rights and, most important, equal protection under the law for all Israeli citizens — including the more than 1 million Palestinian Arabs who have the same rights as Jewish citizens. Read more ..

The Race for Hydrogen

Mimicking Photosynthesis Path to Solar-derived Hydrogen Fuel

February 21st 2011

Energy / Environment - Hydrogen fueling

Inexpensive hydrogen for automotive or jet fuel may be possible by mimicking photosynthesis, according to a Penn State materials chemist, but a number of problems need to be solved first.

"We are focused on the hardest way to make fuel," said Thomas Mallouk, Evan Pugh Professor of Materials Chemistry and Physics. "We are creating an artificial system that mimics photosynthesis, but it will be practical only when it is as cheap as gasoline or jet fuel." Read more ..

Nuclear Edge

The US Can Enhance Energy Security and Independence through Nuclear Fuel Re-processing

February 21st 2011

Energy / Environment - Vetrified slag

Spent nuclear fuel is anything but waste and the time has come revive long-dormant reprocessing program. Failure to pursue a program for recycling spent nuclear fuel has put the U.S. far behind other countries and represents a missed opportunity to enhance the nation's energy security and influence other countries, the former chairman of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission said Sunday.

Dale Klein, Ph.D., Associate Vice Chancellor for Research at the University of Texas System, said largely unfounded concerns and "long-held myths" about the reprocessing of spent fuel have prevented the U.S. from tapping into an extremely valuable resource. Read more ..

Inside Washington

Republican Bumbling Marks First Six Weeks in Control of the House

February 21st 2011

Contributors / Staff - Juan Williams
Juan Williams

The curtain has been up for six weeks on the first act of the GOP in charge of the House. The audience is not applauding. Public opinion of Congress has not improved.

Despite the historic vote that gave Republicans control of Congress in the 2010 midterm elections, a February Pew poll reported “fully 65 percent [of Americans] say Obama and the GOP leaders are not working together on the important issues facing the country.”

And who takes the greater share of the blame for neglecting the big issues? Pew found that “far more of those who say the two sides are not working together blame Republican leaders [31 percent] than the President [19 percent.]” The first impression of the Republican agenda is that a lot of valuable time and political capital is being wasted on vapid arguments about the size of massive budget cut proposals. Read more ..

Israel is an Island of Stability in a Middle East Sea of Rage and Violence

February 21st 2011
By now it must be obvious to the world that Israel seems an like an island of stability in a Middle East sea of rage and violence. Just look at the mass protests, government massacres, slashed throats, Internet cut-offs, public rapes, brutal dictators. Meanwhile, Israel is calm, America is welcomed, and foreigners do not have to fear for their life. What have we been missing in this country about the truth regarding the Middle East. The headlines now also show the big lie we have been fed: "Israel is at the core of all problems in the Middle East." It looks like each Arab country has its own stew of problems that have nothing to do with Israel--and everything to do with how these countries have evolved.

Pakistan on Edge

Civil Unrest in Pakistan and the Davis Case

February 21st 2011

PakistanTopics - Davis protest

On Februiary 13, the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) issued a statement demanding that the government of Pakistan execute U.S. government contractor Raymond Davis or turn him over to the TTP for judgment. Davis, a contract security officer for the CIA, has been in Pakistani custody since a Jan. 27 incident in which he shot two men who reportedly pointed a pistol at him in an apparent robbery attempt.

Pakistani officials have corroborated Davis’s version of events and, according to their preliminary report, Davis appears to have acted in self-defense. Read more ..

Health Edge

Health among African-Americans Appears to Vary According to Ethnic Origins

February 21st 2011

Health/Medicine - Black infant

A Caribbean-born black person living in the United States will most likely be healthier than a U.S.- born Caribbean black person, according to a new national study on ethnic differences in health among the American black population.

University of Michigan researchers examined the relationships among ethnicity, nativity, depressive symptoms and physical health in the two largest groups of American blacks: African American and Caribbean blacks, said Derek Griffith, assistant professor in the U-M School of Public Health and lead author of the study.

African Americans, Caribbean-born blacks who now live in the United States and U.S.-born Caribbean blacks had significantly different self-ratings of their health situations. Read more ..

Tunisia After the Revolt

Polish Priest's Throat Cut in Tunis amidst Rising Islamist Violence Against non-Muslims

February 21st 2011

Christian Topics - Rev Marek Rybinski
Rev. Marek Rybinski

A Catholic priest from Poland, the 33-year-old Rev. Marek Marius Rybinski, was found dead in Tunis at the Our Lady of Manouba School where he worked. According to local reports, the priest who served as the burser of his community of Salesians—a teaching order of priests—was the apparent victim of murder. The priest was found with multiple stab wounds and his throat slit in a storage closet on February 18 following a search by his brother priests. The order reported that he was the second of their number killed recently. According to preliminary inquiries by the Tunisian police, the Ministry of Interior says it believes that "terrorist extremists" carried out the crime. Tunisia's Ministry of Interior was quick to condemn the murder. On January 31, a note demanding extortion money was slipped under the door at the school threatening violence while demanding an as yet unknown amount; it is not known whether that incident is related to the more recent crime. Meanwhile, Islamists torched several brothels in a rampage met by the police.

Tunisia is still in an uproar following days of violent clashes between security forces and furious protesters. President Zine al Abidine Ben Ali was compelled to flee the country. The former leader and his family are currently living in Saudi Arabia. The revolt in Tunisia was to apparently inspire similar days of rage in Egypt leading to the departure of President Hosni Mubarak, and to exact concessions from King Abdullah in Jordan. Earlier this week, Islamists demonstrated at the Grand Synagogue of Tunis. Demonstrators at the synagogue were heard to shout "Allah is Great! Listen Jews! The armies of Mohammed are coming!" Read more ..

The Way We Are

The National Anthem: More than a Song

February 21st 2011

Contributors / Staff - Armstrong_Williams

I’ve read (and maybe even said) some incendiary things through the years that were designed to elicit a response or stoke the ire of readers in order to initiate a frank conversation. But a recent piece by national columnist Kevin Blackistone makes even the seasoned political watcher cringe.

In his recent missive entitled, “Time to Turn Off the National Anthem Before Sports Events,” Mr. Blackistone argues that the singing of the National Anthem at sporting events has outlived its purpose. He submits that very few Americans even know the song, and suggests that still fewer can recall why the words were written in the first place. There’s nothing about playing T-ball that should call forth memories of a lopsided British attack on Fort McHenry during the War of 1812.

“Sports,” Mr. Blackistone writes, “have and continue to ritualize [the Anthem] with barely a shred of relevance.”

Singing a song about soldiers raising a flag following hours of cannon bombardment may have little to do with the indoor soccer game parents are watching, but that same song does remind everyone at that game that they stand there because of American sacrifice. Blood was shed so that we might be free. When we say that soldiers “will never be forgotten,” shouldn’t we mean it? We honor and commemorate their lives and the sacrifices they made for us by remembering them. That’s why we sing the National Anthem at sporting events. We don’t do it because there’s some underlying connection between the American Revolution and sports, but because sports bring us together to enjoy something as a group. It unites us beyond our cultural and political differences. The stockbroker sits next to the dockworker, and both are united by their devotion to the local team. Isn’t that the perfect time to celebrate the nation that embodies that very idea? Read more ..

The Race for Solar

Researchers Develop Cheaper, More Efficient Solar Cells

February 21st 2011

Energy / Environment - Project Better Place

The sun provides more than enough energy for all our needs, if only we could harness it cheaply and efficiently. Solar energy could provide a clean alternative to fossil fuels, but the high cost of solar cells has been a major barrier to their widespread use.

Stanford researchers have found that adding a single layer of organic molecules to a solar cell can increase its efficiency three-fold and could lead to cheaper, more efficient solar panels. 

Professor of chemical engineering Stacey Bent first became interested in a new kind of solar technology two years ago. These solar cells used tiny particles of semiconductors called "quantum dots." Read more ..

The Battle for Libya

Dictator Gadafi Fights for his Life in Libya

February 21st 2011

Africa Topics - Libya protest 2011

Chaos and death appear to reign in oil-rich Libya, where the decades-long rule of Muammar Gadafi continues to enlist his security forces against civilians seeking his ouster. Over the February 19-20 weekend, there were reports that more than 200 people have died while scores are missing and wounded. February 19 saw the worst violence in Libya since Gadafi took power in 1969.

Observers say that the Gadafi is now engaged in a fight to the death, having apparently told his two sons—who are high-ranking members of the state security apparatus—to prepare to die on Libyan soil. Even so, units of the army including members of elite strike forces have apparently deserted in the Mediterranean port city of Benghazi. Reportedly, these deserters have told hospital personnel that they are liberating the city from Gadafi’s control. Read more ..

Congo on Edge

International Gold Smuggling Shows Government Involvement in Democratic Republic of Congo

February 21st 2011

Africa Topics - Congo gold

"It is very likely a transaction, that for some reason, there has been a hitch and that has helped to confirm the involvement of the Congolese military in the illegal exploitation of Congolese mineral resources," said Fr. Loris Cattani in an interview with the FIDES news service. Rev. Cattani is a Catholic missionary and leader of the Network for Peace in the Congo. He commented on the detention of an aircraft at the airport of Goma, capital of North Kivu (eastern Democratic Republic of Congo). Read more ..

China on Edge

China Moves to End Brewing Jasmine Revolution

February 21st 2011

China Topics - China democracy demonstration

China has increased the presence of security forces around the country in response to an on-line call for nationwide demonstrations in solidarity with the so-called "Jasmine Revolutions" in the Middle East. 

An online posting on the Internet called for demonstrations around the country Sunday, to mark what it called "China’s Jasmine Revolution."

The appeal went out to all Chinese who feel there is injustice in the country—including parents whose children suffered from tainted milk, people who feel their homes were unjustly torn down, and people who are upset at the abuse of official privilege. Read more ..

Pakistan Edge

Pakistani Police: No Blasphemy Case against Sherry Rehman

February 21st 2011

PakistanTopics - Sherry Rehman
Sherry Rehman

Prime Minister of Pakistan Yousaf Raza Gillani last week categorically announced that the government will not amend the Blasphemy law and instructed Peoples Party parliamentarian Sherry Rehman to withdraw the bill proposing an amendment to the blasphemy law, and she withdrew the amendment bill.

Member of the National Assembly Sherry Rehman has been receiving threats on her life from radical groups for her bill, and according to sources, a blasphemy accusation was filed on February 7, 2011 by local shopkeeper Fahim Akhtar Gul at the session court in Multan. Akhtar Gul asserted in the application that Sherry Rehman had committed blasphemy by speaking against the blasphemy law in a television talk show in November 2010. Read more ..

Edge of the Uninsured

An Illuminating Expedition to the World of the Uninsured

February 21st 2011

Social Topics - Uninsured patient bracelets

As Congressional Republicans seek ways to starve the new health care reform law of necessary funding — and Democrats try to keep that from happening — it’s easy to lose sight of the reasons why reform was pursued in the first place.

For a reminder, lawmakers might want to spend a few hours in Nashville this weekend. I’m betting they would behave differently when they got back to Washington on Monday. If they had arrived in Nashville by Friday afternoon, those legislators would have seen an ever-growing line of cars and trucks outside a locked gate at McGavock High School. Read more ..

Edge of Energy Security

Energy Security Lessons of the Egypt Crisis

February 21st 2011

Egypt - map of Egypt

The political turmoil in Egypt has prompted renewed concerns about the security of oil and gas supplies from the Middle East. The country's proximity to two key chokepoints—the Suez Canal and the Bab al-Mandab Strait between the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden—is significant. Yet concerns about these routes highlight the vulnerability of an even more critical energy chokepoint: the Strait of Hormuz, the only exit from the Persian Gulf. The Egyptian crisis should serve as an opportunity to reexamine contingency plans for avoiding or limiting energy supply disruptions. Whether stemming from political upheaval, direct interference by Iran, or other factors, such disruptions could have a devastating effect on the global economy.

Gas Exports Hit by Sabotage

So far, the crisis has resulted in only one energy disruption: the February 5 sabotage of a pumping station in the Sinai Peninsula, which cut off natural gas supplies to Israel and Jordan. Both countries use this gas to generate electricity, and Jordan is particularly dependent on it. Egypt is expected to restore the flow shortly; in the meantime, Amman will have to rely on limited stocks of fuel oil and perhaps seek additional supplies from Iraq or Saudi Arabia. For its part, Israel can turn to fuel oil or coal stocks, though the incident will likely prompt early exploitation of recently discovered offshore gas reserves in the Mediterranean. Read more ..

Edge on Islands

Resurrection of Nativism Stuns Chile at Remote Easter Island

February 21st 2011

Latin American Topics - Easter Island Moai

Hidden away in the Pacific Ocean, more than 2,000 miles from the Chilean coastline, the non-violent protests staged by Easter Island’s Hito family reached a critical climax on Sunday February 6, 2011. Fifty armed members of the Chilean national police force (los Carabineros) mounted an illegal raid on the hotel and forcefully evicted the family that has occupied the grounds since August 2010. This action was in direct violation of Chile’s Supreme Court order denouncing their violent dislodgement.

Easter Island’s indigenous people, the Rapa Nui, boast a rich culture and mythology, which continues to occupy a central place among the island’s 36 clans. The greatest modern-day remnants of the island’s history are the enormous, monolithic Moai statues that litter the coastline, which have today become the island’s top drawcard for tourists. Read more ..

The Edge of Terrorism

The Truth Left Behind: Kidnapping the Journalist

February 21st 2011

Terrorism - Daniel Pearl
Daniel Pearl

As dusk fell on the evening of Wednesday, January 23, the Karachi streets swelled with people bustling to get home. Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl stood in front of the Village Restaurant, waiting for a 7 p.m. meeting.

Pearl thought he was about to have an interview like so many he had had in the past with dodgy characters in Pakistan. Even in the early days after 9/11, it was common for reporters to go in the vehicles of suspicious strangers to interview known extremists. It was a calculated risk. At the time, most journalists felt they had certain immunity with even the most hardened criminals or radicals because they gave voice to the disenfranchised and dispossessed. Yet, Pearl was certainly no cowboy. After war broke out in Afghanistan, he had written to a friend: “I’m dying to go to Afghanistan, but not really anxious to die.”

What was to happen to Pearl shows how the rules of the game have changed in this age of terrorism, how reporters can no longer assume they possess a special immunity to the violence. To the contrary, reporters can seem like easy targets—vulnerable and offering a way to snare global headlines. The case demonstrates the challenges that law enforcement and intelligence officials continue to encounter in attempting to pursue terrorists and prevent acts of violence.

Pearl’s abduction was characterized by low-tech, personalized communications that relied on pre-established ties of friendship and family. The episode underscores how critical it is to understand what is known in defense and intelligence circles as “the human terrain,” if authorities want to uncover and prevent terrorist activities. Read more ..

Border War

Mexican Human Rights Advocates and Critics Pay with their Lives

February 21st 2011

Mexican Topics - Mexican women protesters

The sister of a murdered woman from Ciudad Juarez is the latest activist in the border city to suffer an agression against her person or property.

On the evening of February 16, armed men set fire to the house of Malu Garcia Andrade, while she was attending a hunger strike/protest encampment in support of other human rights activists under siege. No one was injured in the fire, but Garcia's home sustained serious damages.

"I fear for the lives of my children, my mother and my own," Garcia told the Mexican press after the arson attack. "The government has ignored the recommendations of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights that ordered protective measures for my family. That's why I hold the state government responsible for what happens to me." Read more ..

Election Edge 2012

Haley Barbour’s 2012 Money Juggernaut

February 21st 2011

Politics - Haley Barbour

In a few weeks, Julie Finley—one of Washington’s political grande dames—will host a fundraiser for Haley Barbour, who boasts a Midas-like rolodex of his own.

On March 2, the two-term Mississippi governor and prospective presidential candidate expects to raise big bucks for Haley’s PAC with lots of help from former K Street colleagues who have signed up to haul in $10,000 each. “Haley has a terrific capacity to raise a lot of money, probably the broadest base of any Republican in the running,” Finley, a former ambassador, told the Center. The fundraiser will be held at Finley’s home in northwest Washington. Read more ..

Egypt After the Revolt

Egypt: The Distance Between Enthusiasm and Reality

February 21st 2011

Egypt - Bye bye Mubarak

On February 11, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak resigned. A military council was named to govern in his place. On February 11-12, the crowds that had gathered in Tahrir Square celebrated Mubarak’s fall and the triumph of democracy in Egypt. On February 13, the military council abolished the constitution and dissolved parliament, promising a new constitution to be ratified by a referendum and stating that the military would rule for six months, or until the military decides it’s ready to hold parliamentary and presidential elections.

What we see is that while Mubarak is gone, the military regime in which he served has dramatically increased its power. Read more ..

Edge on the Environment

Energy Industry Seeks to Rein in EPA on Coal Ash

February 21st 2011

Energy / Environment - KY ash spill

For months now, political pressure has mounted against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s efforts to regulate for the first time the disposal of coal ash—an environmental hazard fouling water supplies and threatening communities across the country.

This week, the pressure on regulators took a new turn as two Republican congressmen inserted language in a must-pass spending bill that would stop the EPA from moving forward to protect the public and the environment from the hazards of coal ash. Reps. David McKinley of West Virginia and Cliff Stearns of Florida say they added the language because of concerns about lost jobs and other consequences of overregulation. Read more ..

Argentina on Edge

US-Argentina Imbroglio May be Pre-Election Maneuvering by President Cristina Fernandez

February 21st 2011

Latin American Topics - Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner

The government of Argentina delivered a formal protest to the US embassy in Buenos Aires concerning an incident that has become the most serious flap in bilateral relations in recent years. Argentine Foreign Minister Héctor Timerman urged the US government in the note to assist authorities in an investigation into an incident involving a US Air Force C-17 cargo jet that landed on February 10 in the South American country to deliver supplies and personnel for a joint counter-narcotics program.

Argentine officials, despite heated protests from the US, are holding materials it believes were brought into the country illegally. Customs agents boarded the US plane at Buenos Aires' Ezeiza International Airport and made the seizures. Read more ..

Edge on Health Care

Medicare Can’t Identify Top Prescribers of Addictive Drugs

February 21st 2011

Health/Medicine - StethoscopeAndKeyboard

In early 2010, Medicare paid $135,000 to a discount pharmacy in Hialeah, Fla. for drug prescriptions written by four doctors.

There were only a few problems. First, two of the doctors were dead. A third doctor was alive, living in Portland, Ore., but he never wrote the prescriptions. The fourth doctor was a few months into a three-year prison sentence, according to federal court records, for conspiracy to commit Medicare fraud.

In October, Renier Vicente Rodriguez Fleitas, 60, owner of Pirifer Phamacy and Discount and a former lieutenant colonel in the Cuban military, pleaded guilty to conspiring to commit health care fraud. He is currently serving a 37-month sentence. Read more ..

Edge of Life

Research on Fertility Yields Unexpected Rewards

February 21st 2011

Social Topics - Pregnant

When Prof. Nava Dekel of the Weizmann Institute of Science’s Department of Biological Regulation began studying a protein that plays a role in implanting fertilized ova in the uterus, she had no idea it would lead to a discovery that is now helping couples struggling with infertility to have children.

For many years, Prof. Dekel focused her investigations on the mechanisms responsible for ovum (egg) development and embryo implantation. “But in science,” she says, “you can never decide ‘this is what I’m going to study for the rest of my life.’ You follow a path, and somewhere along the way you say, ‘Wow—there’s something interesting!’” Read more ..

The Nano Edge

Researchers Produce Graphene Sheets from Sugar at Low Process Temperatures

February 21st 2011

Science - Sugar graphene

Rice University researchers have learned to make pristine sheets of graphene, the one-atom-thick form of carbon, from plain table sugar and other carbon-based substances. They do so in a one-step process at temperatures low enough to make graphene easy to manufacture. The lab of Rice chemist James Tour reported that large-area, high-quality graphene can be grown from a number of carbon sources at temperatures as low as 800 degrees Celsius (1,472 F). As hot as that may seem, the difference between running a furnace at 800 and 1,000 degrees Celsius is significant, Tour said. Read more ..

Film Review

The King’s Speech Brings us Real Life Heroism

February 21st 2011

Film - The Kings Speech

The King’s Speech. Director: Tom Hooper. Starring: Helena Bonham Carter, Colin Firth, Geoffrey Rush. Length: 90 minutes.

Although I very much enjoyed Tom Hooper’s sepia-tinted return to the 1930s, The King’s Speech, I was also conscious throughout of something very odd about the movie. It has to do with but is not limited to the fact that King George VI (Colin Firth), like all British monarchs since the Stuarts (or perhaps George III, so far as Americans are concerned) was a pretty peripheral historical figure to begin with, while the film’s pathographical aspect—the poor man suffered from a stammer—is also not exactly epic in scale. In the catalog of human misfortunes, even more severe speech impediments than his would not be numbered among the top ten, nor yet the top hundred and ten, probably, even for someone like the King whose fate it is to have to make public speeches.

The oddness does not end there. There is something faintly ridiculous about attempting to excite our pity for a royal personage in the cultural absence of the kind of tragic stature enjoyed by a King Oedipus or a King Lear—even if his fate were (as it is not) a tragic one. Moreover, in comparison to the world-historical significance of the outbreak of the Second World War, which is the film’s context and which is represented at its climax, the king’s affliction hardly looks like, well, a very big deal. The film works hard to suggest that the fate of the empire and, indeed, the free world depends on the King’s fluency but, really, we know it did not and could not. Yet Mr. Firth’s portrayal of the king, together with Geoffrey Rush’s of Lionel Logue, the speech therapist who helps him, is so powerful that while we watch we are scarcely conscious of these difficulties—which, after all, the film has set for itself. Read more ..

Film Review

Another Year: A Parable of Love and Loss

February 21st 2011

Film - Another Year

Another Year. Director: Mike Leigh. Starring: Jim Broadbent, Lesley Manville, Ruth Sheen. Length: 92 minutes.

Perhaps the most significant moment of Mike Leigh’s Another Year comes near the beginning when we see the great Imelda Staunton (Vera Drake) in a cameo role as one of the abandoned souls whom the film’s heroine, Gerri (Ruth Sheen), spends her work days as a therapist talking to. Miss Stanton’s character, Janet, has been having trouble sleeping, and Gerri is trying to probe gently beneath her embittered emotional surface for the causes. "What’s your happiest memory?" she asks as one of a series of questions trying to get at the invisible standard of comparison that is making Janet’s life so miserable. Janet either fails to understand these questions or refuses to answer them until Jerry asks, gently, "What is the one thing that would improve your life — apart from sleep?"

"Different life," says Janet between clenched teeth, using as few words as possible. Read more ..

The Edge of Art

Art Blooms in Russia Against Gray Political Backdrop

February 21st 2011

Russian Topics - Kremlin

Russia’s authoritarian politics may be gray and conservative. But Russia’s modern art scene is colorful and eccentric.

A Lenin head is offered up on a dinner table. A pig-like policeman swills a bottle of vodka. And a near-naked man sits in a transparent cube, reading a book.

Welcome to the vibrant land of Russian modern art.

Russian liberals say politics are authoritarian and stage-managed by the Kremlin. But a few blocks away, at the Central House of Artists, the motto is: "Anything goes!"

American artist John Varoli has seen Russia art flourish since moving here in the early 1990s.

"Russia is quite grey and conservative overall,” Varoli said. “There are islands of creativity, prosperity, of avant-garde.” Varoli was speaking on the sidelines of the Kandinsky Prize show, which draws big crowds every year. Here you can find a jarring variety of paintings, sculptures, and installations. Read more ..

Hotel Review

Homewood Suites: The Right Choice in Minneapolis

February 21st 2011

Travel - Homewood Suites Minneapolis

Homewood Suites near St. Louis West Park, even though a chain property, is nothing less than great lodging for the busy traveler visiting Minneapolis. This well-run property, a great location in a great city, is all about accommodating the busy guest. Its mini-suites are spacious and well laid out. Customer service and hotel management are tops, with the guest in mind at all times.

To serve schedule-packed guests, breakfast and dinner availability are actually included features for those who don't have time to grab a bite at one of the several excellent nearby restaurants. A comfortable lobby with fireplace makes those quiet moments after a tough day a bit more calm. That said, what makes Homewood Suites recommended is that while it appears to be in a far-out industrial park, it is virtually a one-minute stroll to an upscale entertainment and shopping complex with awesome restaurants, movie theater and specialty shops. If you are traveling with an extended stay, the in-suite kitchen and the across-the-street supermarket will round out anything you need. Read more ..

Haiti After the Earthquake

Contested Election Brings Further Uncertainty to Ruined Haiti

February 21st 2011

Caribbean - Haiti in ruins

On November 28, 2010 Haiti staged presidential and legislative elections. Even before the publication of their results, the process was surrounded by tension and controversy. To begin, the Port-au-Prince government agency in charge of supervising the elections, the CEP, prevented fifteen political parties from officially endorsing any popular candidate for the presidency. This included anyone coming from Haiti’s most representative party, the Fanmi Lavalas of exiled former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide. Moreover, outgoing President René Préval who appointed all nine of the members of the CEP, was accused of meddling in the elections in order to promote his chosen successor, Jude Célestin. Read more ..

Edge on Light

Jewel-toned Organic Phosphorescent Crystals Become New Class of Light-emitting Materials

February 21st 2011

Science - aromatic carbonyls
Credit: Marcin Szczepanski, U-M College of Engineering

Pure organic compounds that glow in jewel tones could potentially lead to cheaper, more efficient and flexible display screens, among other applications. University of Michigan researcher Jinsang Kim and his colleagues have developed a new class of material that shines with phosphorescence—a property that has previously been seen only in non-organic compounds or organometallics.

Kim and his colleagues made metal-free organic crystals that are white in visible light and radiate blue, green, yellow and orange when triggered by ultraviolet light. By changing the materials' chemical composition, the researchers can make them emit different colors. Read more ..

Bangladesh on Edge

Bangladesh's Minorities Subjected to Violent Muslim Dispossession

February 21st 2011

Asia Topics - Bangladesh christians
Bangladeshi Christians

A village in Bangladesh was burned down and dozens of indigenous people have been injured and driven from Ragipara in the mountain district of Rangamati. According to sources at the Catholic Diocese of Chittagong, Buddhist, Hindu and Christian ethnic minorities were beset by Muslim marauders over the last week.

According to the Commission for Justice and Peace operated by Bangladeshi Christians, more than 300 Muslim settlers on February 17 dispossessed the indigenous villagers and seized their crop land. A school and more than 25 homes were destroyed in the affray that was instigated by a Muslim journalist and a religious leader. The Muslim settlers were backed by local police who legitimized the violence. Other cases like this (of attacks on tribal members and private land) have been recorded in recent days in the area of Gulishakhali. The Muslims settlers subjected their indigenous neighbors to the dispossession under the pretext of revenge, following the still unresolved death of Ali Saber - a Muslim found dead in Ragiparam. Read more ..

Borders Book Store Closures Open Floodgates of Book and Music Theft

February 20th 2011
Has it occurred to anyone that all these tempting blow-out sales at bankrupt Borders Books around the country--being advertised at scores of stores across the nation--mean great opportunities for consumers to steal music, books, videos, fancy diaries, and other literary and musical trappings? Yes, Borders will sell them all at half off or so, but the musicians, authors, video makers ands others who have worked so hard to create these products will not be paid. It is theft made possible by a billion-dollar American corporation. Here we are screaming at China for ripping off artist rights--and Borders is asking the entire country to participate in the same thing. Borders has opened the floodgates on consumer theft. Shame on Borders and shame on anyone who buys anything there.

Israel and Palestine

Obama Administration Vetoes Controversial Israel Resolution Only after Congressional Pressure

February 18th 2011

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The U.S. vetoed a controversial Palestinian Authority resolution at the United Nations Security Council as pressure on the administration mounted in the House of Representatives. A letter urging Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton to stand up against the resolution condemning Israel quickly racked up signatures in the House on February 19.

Reps. Joe Walsh (R-Ill.) and Joseph Crowley (D-N.Y.) circulated the letter, which had been signed by at least 110 members, making the rounds beginning on the afternoon of February 18 and again later on February 19. The members responded to reports that a presidential statement condemning Israeli settlements could be issued in response to a resolution that would declare any post-1967 Israeli settlements, including East Jerusalem, illegal. Read more ..

Iran on Edge

Straight Talk in Support of Freedom in Iran

February 18th 2011

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Democrats and Republicans showed admirable bipartisanship as President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton led the nation through the crisis in Egypt. It wasn’t exactly a return to an era when politics stopped at the water’s edge, but it was a fair-minded recognition that the administration had no great choices and limited control over the direction of the Cairo protests. Stuck between a multi-decade autocracy on one side and potentially pushing a country of 75 million Muslims to the Muslim Brotherhood’s virulent political Islam through our lack of support for the protesters on the other, the President and our political establishment steered a steady course. Read more ..

Islam on the Edge

Tunisia Breaks into Anti-Jewish Protest and Surrounds Synagogue

February 18th 2011

Demonstrators assembled at the Grand Synagogue of Tunis on February 17, shouting “Allahu-akbar,” and “Listen, Jews, the Armies of Mohammed are coming!” as noted in an unedited video posted on the web at YouTube. Viewers of the video can see clearly that the street in front of the synagogue was filled with shouting men, bearing black banners and gesticulating wildly.

The Islamist demonstrators shouted “We will win again the Battle of Khaybarm!” in reference to Mohammed’s victory over the Jews in 628 A.D. in the Arabian peninsula.

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