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Archive for October 2010

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Juan Williams Firing an Example of Media Manipulation

October 31st 2010
NPR's firing of Juan Williams because he expressed him honestly--but sensitively--about Muslim dress on airlines while he was on the O'Reilly Show shows us how the media manipulates our everyday speech. First, the Williams firing conveys what the NPR-types would call "a chilling effect" on other members of the media to avoid speech that NPR personalities feel should be censored. Second, we the people are deprived of the free exchange of ideas that Williams was participating in, a free exchange which defines our very democracy. It is fine for the head of NPR to denigrate Williams the next day before the cameras saying Williams must consult his psychiatrist, and that ad hominem evokes no sanction. The double standard is at play once again. But this the media is diverse enough that it can be exposed. I think Williams should consider a lawsuit.

Edge of Justice

Rubashkin Judge Rules on Her Own Conflict of Interest—Draws Rebuke as “Arrogant”

October 28th 2010

Jewish Topics - Sholom Rubashkin

U.S. District Judge Linda Reade issued a ruling on October 27, 2010 denying a motion for new trial for Rabbi Sholom Rubashkin – a former meatpacking executive who was convicted in 2009 of financial fraud following an immigration raid on his family’s Postville, Iowa company, known then as Agriprocessors.

Rubashkin’s attorneys, led by Nathan Lewin of Washington, D.C., have called the judge’s conduct “arrogant.”

Reade, in essence, self-ruled on charges of her own misconduct. She found that there was not sufficient new evidence presented to the court to warrant a new trial based on her judicial misconduct. The 50-year-old rabbi is currently being held in a federal prison in Otisville, NY.  Rubashkin, who belongs to the Chabad-Lubavitch movement of Judaism, was found guilty of 86 financial fraud charges in 2009. He was sentenced to 27 years in prison and was ordered to pay $27 million in restitution. Numerous legal and judicial experts, among them six former U.S. Attorneys General, have questioned the severity of the sentence. Read more ..

Leonardo Royal (Berlin)


Innside by Melia (Dresden)


Conrad-Hotel de Ville (Munich)


Westin Leipzig (Leipzig, Germany)


Holocaust Claims Conference Just Waiting for Survivors to Die To Spend Their Money

October 27th 2010

The Claims Conference has over a billion dollars in the bank and exists for the purpose of helping Holocaust survivors. Talk about charity cases. While  all sorts of programs get hundreds of thousands of dollars, survivors should be a pathetic charity case? Holocaust survivors must go begging while the Claims Conference gives to Birthright so that kids from Greenwich CT with millionaire parents can go to Israel for free? I know three personally. It is time for Holocaust survivors to stop thinking like pathetic jerks who don't deserve anything. What law says Child Survivors need to have been abandoned for 18 months to get some of that money? Why not a single day? And why do we allow all types of organizations to serve on the  board of the Claims Conference instead of only survivors? Let them deal with US and let that organization finally become transparent and responsible. Every day I speak to survivors who were rejected - rudely, always - with some excuse. I have said many times that Greg Schneider and company have only disdain for us...and can't wait until we all die so that they can do "really important" things with the money. Food and shelter and medication and health care are only a waste of money as far as they are concerned. What is wrong with us survivors that we have so little self esteem?

Travel Safe

Safety Board Less Aggressive in Last Decade

October 27th 2010

Social Topics - train on fire

The National Transportation Safety Board issued significantly fewer recommendations for improvements in travel safety during the eight years of the George W. Bush administration than during any other presidency in its 36-year history.

An analysis of NTSB data shows that for most of its history the board has been fairly consistent, issuing an average of 300 to 450 safety recommendations a year. But after Bush took office in 2000, the agency’s activity dropped to the lowest level in its history. In 2005, the board issued just 110 recommendations—by far the fewest of any year since the NTSB was established as an independent voice for transportation safety in 1974. Read more ..

The Edge of Tolerance

Is It Islamic or Islamist?

October 27th 2010

Turkish Topics - Turkish Flags

Now that even the tolerant, liberal Swedes have elected an anti-Islam party to their Parliament, it's pretty clear that such controversies are mounting because both the left and the right are confused over the politics of Islam. The left is wrongly defending Islamism—an extremist and at times violent ideology—which it confuses with the common person’s Islam, while the right is often wrongly attacking the Muslim faith, which it confuses with Islamism. Western thinkers must begin to recognize the difference between Islamism and Islam, or we are headed toward an ideologically defined battle with one quarter of humanity. Read more ..

Edge on the Mideast

Saudi Diplomat Bandar bin Sultan has Returned to the Fore as the Oil Kingdom Mastermind

October 27th 2010

Arab Topics - Bush and Bandar
President George W Bush confers with Prince Bandar

For a generation, Prince Bandar bin Sultan was Riyadh's man in Washington. As the Saudi ambassador to the United States from 1983 to 2005, he was even dubbed "Bandar Bush" for his close ties to that powerful American political dynasty. After leaving Washington, apparently burned out, he returned to Saudi Arabia to head the newly established Saudi National Security Council, the function of which was not, and still is not, clear. However, he continued to sneak back into the United States periodically because the king quickly decided he preferred Bandar over his successor, Prince Turki al-Faisal, as his channel to the White House -- a situation that eventually led Turki to resign in protest. Read more ..

Midterm Elections

Fifty Democrats or More to be Unseated Midstream in a Republican Torrent

October 27th 2010

Obama Admin Topics - Obama serious

Republicans are headed for a blowout election win that seems certain to seize more than enough seats to knock out the Democrats and take control of the House.The Hill 2010 Midterm Election poll, surveying nearly 17,000 likely voters in 42 toss-up districts over four weeks, points to a massive Republican wave that, barring an extraordinary turnaround, will deliver crushing nationwide defeats for President Obama’s party. Read more ..

Inside Islam

Muslims Accuse Fearful Egyptian Christians of Complicity with Israel

October 27th 2010

Arab Topics - Egyptian burned out

Fears for the safety of Egyptian Christians are growing after a series of false allegations, violent threats and mass demonstrations against Christians in Egypt, according to the Barnabas Fund - an advocacy and charitable organization based in the United Kingdom.

According to a news release, Muslim anger was ignited in September 2010 last month when entirely unfounded accusations were made on Al-Jazeera TV that Egyptian Christians were aligned with Israel and stockpiling weapons in preparation for waging war against Muslims. Tensions were also fueled by baseless rumors circulated by Islamist leaders that Christians were kidnapping and torturing women who had converted to Islam.

In a separate controversy, a senior church leader was compelled to apologize publicly “if our Muslim brothers’ feelings were hurt” after another church leader questioned at an internal meeting a verse in the Qur’an that accuses Christians of being “infidels”. Egyptian Christians’ rights were subsequently threatened by the Supreme Council of Islamic Affairs, a government body, which confirmed Egypt to be an Islamic state where “the citizenship rights of non-Muslims were conditional to their abiding by the Islamic identity of the State.”

At least ten mass demonstrations involving thousands of Muslims have since taken place against Christians, with the previously unknown group “Front of Islamic Egypt” promising them a “bloodbath." Read more ..

Israel on the Edge

Israel's Insistence on Jewish Identity is No Violation of Democratic Principles

October 27th 2010

Contributors / Staff - Mitchell Bard

The uproar over Israel's proposed loyalty oath for new immigrants has sparked renewed debate over whether Israel's insistence on being a "Jewish state" violates the principles of western democracy.  Critics claim that by identifying the country with Jewish symbols, such as the Star of David or menorah, having its national anthem relate to the Jewish yearning for a "return to Zion" and granting Jews automatic citizenship through the Law of Return, Israel is verging on theocratic ideals and rudely affronts its non-Jewish citizens.  Israel is not a theocracy, however; it is governed by the rule of law as drafted by a democratically elected parliament and enforced by a highly praised judicial system. 

Israeli law adheres to many Jewish religious customs and is largely informed by Jewish values, but this structure makes it no different than other democracies that shape themselves around Christian or Islamic traditions.  The Greek constitution outlines the country as an Eastern Orthodox state; Christian crosses don the flags of Switzerland, Sweden and Finland; the monarchs of the UK, Norway and Denmark head their respective national churches. In addition, Ireland has a law allowing immigrants of "Irish descent or Irish associations" to be exempt from ordinary naturalization rules while Bulgaria, Croatia, Germany and a number of other democratic states also have precedents strikingly similar to Israel's Law of Return. No one, though, claims that these countries cannot be democratic while also maintaining strong connections with their national heritage and religious core. Read more ..

Deficit on the Edge

Congress Cannot Rein In Galloping Medicare Costs

October 27th 2010

Health/Medicine - StethoscopeAndKeyboard

If Congress had known in 1965 how expensive Medicare would become, it might not have approved the program in the first place. So Lyndon Johnson made sure it didn’t know.

He railed against his budget advisers for trying to predict the long-term costs. “The fools had to go projecting it down the road five or six years,” he complained to Sen. Edward M. Kennedy at the time. Johnson’s allies were getting nervous, according to historians David Blumenthal and James Morone, so Johnson had to hide the price tag. Read more ..

Midterm Elections

A Spirit of Forgiveness is Needed in a Climate of Vicious Political Divisions

October 27th 2010

Contributors / Staff - Armstrong_Williams

Despite what the secular Left would have you believe, America is a nation of faith. The country was founded on the first principle that we are God’s creation, and as such, have both rights and responsibilities.

Amazingly enough, that simple point is controversial today, at least among those in the mainstream media. Acts of faith that can only be understood as such are portrayed as psychological hangups, or political maneuverings, or are assigned dark and scurrilous motives.

And yet by any measure, the vast majority of Americans are people of faith themselves. They’re the majority. The Left hates this, because when it comes down to it, they just don’t understand religious commitment or the motivations it provides.

We see a perfect example of this in the near-universal media condemnation of Ginni Thomas.

Christianity is a religion of forgiveness, and as Christians, we're not only forgiven for our own wrongs, but we're called to forgive others for theirs. That’s not easy, and we don’t always get the reaction we want, but it’s an important part of our faith. Read more ..

Toxic Water

Studies Increasingly Show Growing Prevalence of Gender-Bending Toxins

October 27th 2010

Animals - Intersex fish
Potomac River smallmouth bass

New research has provided the first evidence that “gender bending” chemicals which find their way from human products into rivers and oceans can have a significant impact on the ability of fish to breed in rivers of the United Kingdom. The findings from the four year study, led by the universities of Exeter and Brunel, has important implications for understanding the impacts of these chemicals on ecosystem health and possibly on humans. They appear to bolster similar evidence found in watersheds of the United States.

Endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) disrupt the ways that hormones work in the bodies of vertebrates (animals with backbones), including humans. Read more ..

Reasons of State

Top U.S. Diplomats Give Themselves a Pass Regarding Political Filtering of FOIA Requests

October 27th 2010

Afghan Topics - Redacted Document

The U.S. State Department uses retired Foreign Service officers to help determine what internal documents and memos can be released in response to Freedom of Information Act requests, according to a new internal report by its own Office of the Inspector General. This report gives a peek into how the department handles FOIA issues.

The State Department is notorious among journalists for its slow responses to FOIA requests. For instance, in one case it took ten years for the department to respond to a FOIA request.

State had 138 full-time employees devoted to FOIA in 2009, the department inspector general said in the report. After initial reviewers of a FOIA request locate information to be released, retired Foreign Service officers carry out a “two-tiered, often line-by-line review” to spot sensitive information that should be reconsidered, the report said. “The reviewers consult regularly with bureaus and offices on current sensitivities that may affect redaction decisions, but elements requesting redactions bear the burden of showing the necessity of those redactions while reviewers assume final authority over the outcome of their reviews,” it added. Prepared during September 2010, the report was signed by Deputy Inspector General Harold Geisel and prepared by senior inspector Tom Carmichael. Read more ..

Toxic Edge

Fracking Natural Gas Mobilizes Uranium and Concerns about Radioactivity

October 27th 2010

Environment Topics - Dirty Drinking

Scientific and political disputes over drilling in the Marcellus shale formation and elsewhere in the United States for natural gas have focused primarily on the environmental effects of pumping millions of gallons of water and chemicals deep underground to blast through rocks to release the natural gas.

But researchers at the University of Buffalo in New York State have now found that that process—called hydraulic fracturing or “fracking”—also causes uranium that is naturally trapped inside Marcellus shale to be released, raising additional environmental concerns.

Marcellus shale is a massive rock formation that stretches from New York through Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia, and which is often described as the nation's largest source of natural gas. “Marcellus shale naturally traps metals such as uranium and at levels higher than usually found naturally, but lower than manmade contamination levels,” says Tracy Bank, PhD, assistant professor of geology in UB's College of Arts and Sciences and lead researcher. Read more ..

Midterm Elections

Obama Confronts Iran at Mid-Term Elections

October 27th 2010

Obama Admin Topics - Obama and Flag

We are days away from the 2010 U.S. midterm elections. The outcome is already locked in. Whether the Republicans take the House or the Senate is close to immaterial. It is almost certain that the dynamics of American domestic politics will change. The Democrats will lose their ability to impose cloture in the Senate and thereby shut off debate. Whether they lose the House or not, the Democrats will lose the ability to pass legislation at the will of the House Democratic leadership. The large majority held by the Democrats will be gone, and party discipline will not be strong enough (it never is) to prevent some defections. Read more ..

Movie Review

Armadillo: A Documentary of a Pointless War on Real Victims

October 27th 2010

Film - Armadillo

Armadillo. Director: Janus Metz Pedersen. Cinematographer: Lars Skree. Runtime: 100 minutes.

It’s unlikely that you’ll want to watch Armadillo for kicks, but in future years it might be one of the films we look back on to help us remember that we lived in a time of war. The war in Afghanistan, to those of us who have no emotional ties to the people on either side, probably flickers in and out of our consciousness – the artificial seriousness at the start of Prime Minister’s Questions when the litany of the dead soldiers is read out, or the news that one of Alan Sugar’s potential apprentices has quit the show to be with his wounded brother in hospital. Armadillo is a documentary story that may, alongside films like Restrepo and The Hurt Locker, remain untouched by the fluctuations of more transient media and be regarded as a contemporary reflection on the wars that our governments have fought on our behalf.

Janus Metz Pedersen and his cameraman Lars Skree spent six months with a platoon of young Danish soldiers in Helmand province, Afghanistan. The access they were given was at times so intimate that I had to re-check that this was a documentary: not only do they accompany the young men on their patrols and on a dawn assault against Taliban fighters, but they have captured footage of the men as they wash, party, are shot, wounded, and eventually reunited with their families. As a database of life for foreign soldiers in Afghanistan it may well be invaluable, simply in its capturing of data that is unavailable to civilians: the processes and weapons involved in a war, the boredom and the terror, the total uncertainty until shots are fired of who is an enemy and who is a civilian. If nothing else, watching the film can only serve to educate those who watch it. Read more ..

Mexico's Border Wars

Falcon Lake Incident shows that Innocents are in the Crosshairs of Crossborder Narco-War

October 27th 2010

Mexican Topics - Falcon Lake memorial
Tiffany Hartley at memorial for David Hartley

Reliable sources in Mexico have provided information that the Sept. 30 shooting death of U.S. citizen David Hartley on Falcon Lake — which straddles the U.S.-Mexico border — was a mistake committed by a low-level member of the Los Zetas drug trafficking organization. Those responsible for Hartley’s death are believed to have disposed of his body and that the Zeta hierarchy was conducting a damage-control operation to punish those responsible for the death and to distance the cartel from the murder. Read more ..

Book Review

Pornland: How Porn Hijacked Sex and Our Lives

October 27th 2010

Book Covers - Pornland 2

Pornland: How Porn Has Hijacked our Sexuality. Gail Dines. Beacon Press. 2010. 256 pages.

It’s a nasty job, but somebody had to show us just how powerful and destructive the porn industry is.

The Playboy bunny is the symbol, par excellence, of how the porn industry has co-opted mainstream culture. I will always remember the day I jumped into my friend’s car, only to realize that I was about to sit on a seat plastered with that insidious little rabbit. After a mild interrogation, my friend revealed that it was not the only piece of Playboy apparel she owned; a pencil case, t-shirt, and earrings were among her prized Playboy possessions. Without much thought, she had supported the porn industry via her purchasing power and by the fact that she was willing to be a walking advertisement for the porn world’s top brand. With countless naïve consumers doing the same thing as my friend, Hugh Hefner is laughing all the way to his Playboy mansion.

It is hard to believe that a mere fifty years ago Hefner had to fight for this sort of publicity. Nowadays, most of the soft-porn used by Playboy magazine in its embryonic years, can be easily accessed with a mere flick of the television remote; no longer is it considered risqué to plaster half naked women on billboards, in magazines, or on prime time television. Understandably, the porn industry has had to adapt also – porn, as a “genre”, is now characterized by sadism and outright abuse of women. Hard-core pornography is what keeps producers’ bank balances booming and their patrons engaged. Read more ..

Edge on Energy

A Quixotic Quest for Ethical Oil in Canadian Bitumen Deposits

October 26th 2010

Energy / Environment - Oil sand

Oil sands: satanic horror, or priceless jewel? To describe the extremes of the debate over Canada’s large bitumen deposits thus is barely to exaggerate the positions taken up by opponents and supporters of exploitation of this rising source of crude oil.

For environmentalists, oil sands, or as they are technically known, bituminous sands, are the epitome of everything they hate: big business, oil, greenhouse gas emissions, oil, water wasted and polluted, oil, governmental indifference or collusion, oil, threatened animals and trees -- oh yes, and oil as well. Read more ..

Edge on Politics

How Political In-Action Committees Spend Your Money

October 26th 2010

Economy - Money Money Money

Jay Peters is a psychology instructor at a Durham, North Carolina, community college who has donated tens of thousands of dollars to conservative, Republican, and Libertarian causes over the past two decades. One repeated recipient of his generosity has been a political action committee (or PAC) founded and chaired by former presidential candidate Alan Keyes: Black America’s PAC (BAMPAC, for short). Peters made three contributions to the Washington-based group, expecting that his donations would be used to help elect conservatives to federal office.

BAMPAC had other ideas. Out of more than $2 million spent since the beginning of 2007, just $13,500 of money controlled by BAMPAC has gone to federal candidate contributions, with another $9,325 for state and local candidate donations. Combined, that amounts to a mere 1.14 percent of overall spending. Over the same period, the PAC’s president received almost $200,000 in salary payments—about 10 percent of the group’s spending. And almost all of the rest went to fundraising expenses and other overhead. Read more ..

The Ancient Edge

Archaeologists Find Evidence of Pre-Colombian Water Conservation

October 26th 2010

Archaeology Topics - Amazon reservoirs

The pre-Columbian American societies that once lived in the Amazon rainforests may have been much larger and more advanced than researchers previously realized. Brazilian and Swedish archaeologists have found the remains of approximately 90 settlements in an area South of the city of Santarém, in the Brazilian part of the Amazon.

"The most surprising thing is that many of these settlements are a long way from rivers, and are located in rainforest areas that extremely sparsely populated today," said Per Stenborg from the Department of Historical Studies of the University of Gothenburg , who led the Swedish part of the archaeological investigations in the area over the summer. He was accompanied by Brazilians Denise Schaan and and Marcio Amaral-Lima. Read more ..

The Toxic Edge

Federal Convicts Exposed to Toxic Waste and Heavy Metals

October 26th 2010

Technology - Computer Chips

Federal inmates have been processing computers, televisions and other discarded gadgets known as e-waste for a poorly administered and potentially dangerous prison jobs program, according to a new report by the U.S. Department of Justice.

Old electronics equipment often contains cadmium and lead, heavy metals that are toxic to humans. The inspector general at the Justice Department found exposure to the metals at prison e-waste factories exceeded limits set by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. Eating and drinking in work areas with heavy metal emissions was also allowed.

A government corporation within the prison system known as UNICOR runs the recycling program. In 1997, UNICOR began to accepting e-waste for prisoners to refurbish or break down and sell for processing elsewhere. The inspector general found several instances of unsafe working conditions for prisoners. Read more ..

Book Review

"The Chosen Peoples" Chooses Well on America, Israel, and the Ordeals of Divine Election

October 23rd 2010

Book Covers - Chosen Peoples

The Chosen Peoples: America, Israel, and the Ordeals of Divine Election. Todd Gitlin and Liel Leibovitz. Simon & Schuster. 2010. 192 pages.

My initial reaction to encountering a book with this title was to be be reminded of Randy Newman's camp-classic song "It's Lonely at the Top": a smug alert went off in my head. Turns out, however, that it's a deft little (192-page) piece of scholarship that takes up resonant questions in a notably fair-minded way. The book deserves wide consideration in a variety of contexts, and I will not be surprised if it becomes a fixture of undergraduate syllabi for many years to come.

After a brief -- and necessary -- introduction that notes many people throughout history have considered themselves chosen, the authors perform an elegantly simple piece of exegesis on the Book of Genesis, in which they tease out the many ambiguities that lurk in the covenants God made with Abraham and Moses. This analysis includes discussions of the repeated failures on the part of the Israelites to keep up their part of the deal, as well as the burdens, psychological as well as political, that being a chosen people imposed on them. Gitlin and Leibowitz note that Zionism emerged both as an ethnic alternative to the assimilationist thrust of post-Napoleonic emancipation as well as a secular alternative to diaspora Judaism. But the post-1948 fusion of people, faith and land created a spiritual cocktail that even the most hard-bitten pragmatists found impossible to resist after the Israel's territorial gains in 1967. The authors consider this a bad bargain, and criticize those who unstintingly embrace it as indulging in worship of "a golden calf," though they do not repudiate the idea of a Jewish homeland. Read more ..

The Metal Edge

The US Should Ramp Up Offensive to Counter China's Rare-Earth Monopoly

October 22nd 2010

China Topics - China rare earth mine

Earlier this year, China announced a 72 percent reduction in the export quotas for rare-earth metals for the second half of 2010, sending tremors across America's industrial complex. Rare earths are a group of 17 metals vital to the production of precision-guided munitions, cruise missiles, radar and other defense systems as well as consumer electronics and renewable-energy technologies such as wind turbines, solar panels and hybrid vehicles. Such metals are often compared to the yeast in bread - small in proportion but huge in contribution. Read more ..

Labor on the Edge

Activists Accuse Family Dollar Stores of Anti-Labor Practices

October 22nd 2010

Social Topics - El Paso Protest

For more than an hour, business slowed to a trickle at the Family Dollar store in downtown El Paso. Chanting slogans and hoisting signs, a few dozen picketers marched in disciplined, circular formation on the sidewalk in front of the popular discount store on Stanton Street.

Organized by El Paso's new Retail Workers Rights Committee (RWRC), the protesters demanded that Family Dollar respect workers rights, stop mistreating managers in order to avoid paying overtime and limit managers' schedules to 52 hours per week. Staging its demonstration during peak Saturday business hours, the RWRC passed out leaflets that read: "Family Dollar Is Not Family Friendly."

"What makes me do this protest is people don't know their rights," said Abel Lopez, former El Paso Family Dollar manager and RWRC member. "(Managers) don't know the law. They're inside the stores for 80 hours a week. They don't have the time to investigate." Read more ..

Germany on Edge

Germany's Chancellor Merkel Declares Multiculturalism a Failure

October 21st 2010

Europe Topics - Angela Merkel

German Chancellor Angela Merkel declared at an October 16 meeting of young members of her party, the Christian Democratic Union, that multiculturalism, or Multikulti, as the Germans put it, “has failed totally.” Horst Seehofer, minister-president of Bavaria and the chairman of a sister party to the Christian Democrats, said at the same meeting that the two parties were “committed to a dominant German culture and opposed to a multicultural one.” Merkel also said that the flood of immigrants is holding back the German economy, although Germany does need more highly trained specialists, as opposed to the laborers who have sought economic advantages in Germany. Read more ..

Film Review

The Social Network: Unbelievable but True

October 21st 2010

Film - The Social Network

The Social Network. Director: David Fincher  Starring: Jesse Eisenberg, Andrew Garfield, Justin Timberlake, Rooney Mara

The story of Facebook would be unbelievable if it wasn’t true. The social networking website conceived of just seven years ago by Mark Zuckerberg has altered the way in which people communicate irrevocably. Following in the footsteps of developments like the telephone system and air travel, Facebook has made the concept of distance still more insignificant and has again redefined, or at least re-qualified, isolation. Someone can take a photograph in Nepal and, via Facebook, it can be seen immediately by their friends. Equally, a Facebook user can at any time check up on their friends, be checked up on by their friends, and communicate directly with them.

The human crusade against loneliness and isolation has found a new weapon. The lure of these powers has proven powerful. In the seven years since Facebook was born it has accumulated over 500 million users (1 in 14 of the Earth’s population) and is worth an estimated $25 billion. The Social Network takes us back to the days and months leading up to the creation of Facebook, and undertakes the age-old task of telling the story of beginnings. Read more ..

The Edge of Safety

Sleep and Fatigue Endanger All Travel

October 18th 2010

Health/Medicine - airplanes shadows

Accidents happen in a matter of seconds.

An airplane pilot takes a moment too long to react in an emergency. A trucker who has been on the road all day wanders across the median. A train engineer is lulled to sleep by the isolation and monotony of the job and misses a signal.

It’s impossible to say how many accidents are caused by operators who are just too tired to do their jobs, in part because fatigue can’t be measured like the level of alcohol in a person’s system. But fatigue is frequently cited by investigators as a factor in accidents in the air, on the water and on railways and highways. Read more ..

Midterm Elections

Organized Labor Increases Spending on Political Ads just Before November elections

October 18th 2010

Politics - SEIU supporters

Unions are joining the air war of radio and television ads surrounding this year's mid-term election.

Over the last week, the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) spent at least $200,000 on billboard signs, direct mail and radio ads, according to Federal Election Commission (FEC) records. Those funds were for attacks against Republican opponents of several vulnerable House Democrats as well as against Rep. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), who is running for retiring Sen. Kit Bond's (R-Mo.) seat.

That is about a fifth of SEIU’s spending on campaign ads so far for the general election — now totaling at least $1.3 million since mid-September — according to FEC records filed by October 14. Read more ..

Mexico on the Edge

Sex-Trafficking is Mexico's Other Major War

October 18th 2010

Mexican Topics - La muerta

The “War on Drugs” as viewed in Mexico and the U.S. is changing. No longer are President Felipe Calderón, the police, and Mexican military forces fighting just drug trafficking; now they must do battle against the rising trafficking of sex. Over the past decade there has been a dramatic rise in violence linked to the drug trade within Mexico. Even though Calderón has met with some success in reducing the amount of drugs trafficked across the border through drug seizures, his promise of a country free from cartel violence seems increasingly unlikely. His administration’s inability to effectively control the cartels is increasingly rooted in the fact that the war Calderón thinks he is fighting has expanded.

Mexico’s drug cartels have been at least a step ahead of the Mexican government since Calderón launched his campaign against them. Although some of the top drug lords have been captured and jailed, they can be—and often are—effectively replaced. Read more ..

Book Review

Looking at Lincoln and Darwin's Differences—And Commonalities

October 18th 2010

Book Covers - lincoln and darwin

James Lander. Lincoln and Darwin: Shared Visions of Race, Science, and Religion. Southern Illinois University Press, 2010. 384pp.

“Seek and ye shall find.”
Matthew 7: 7

The bicentennial of Charles Darwin’s and Abraham Lincoln’s births on February 12, 1809 has prompted a flurry of comparisons in the lives of two men who on the surface would not seem to have much in common, notwithstanding the fact that Darwin certainly knew of Lincoln and Lincoln, we can safely extrapolate, knew of (but probably didn’t read) Darwin. Perhaps the best of the lot is Adam Gopnik’s Angels and Ages, recently published in paperback. Gopnik’s book was a marvelously evocative meditation on how the power of good writing allowed both men to achieve gigantic aims. But if your interest lies in more systematically tracing the similar, and even shared, frames of reference that shaped the lives of the two men, James Lander’s deeply researched and elegantly executed study will likely become the standard work.

At the core of Lander’s study, as with many who have studied the two men separately and together, is a shared dilemma. Lincoln and Darwin were two men who almost miraculously rejected the racial prejudices of their time as well as conventional ideas about religion, and yet practiced a savvy pragmatism in remaining as diffident as possible on their personal feelings even as they advanced public discourse in terms of principle. Read more ..

Edge on the Economy

The New Dark Financial Ages

October 18th 2010

Economy - Tim Geitner
Secretary Timothy Geitner at Congressional hearing

It’s been two months since Timothy Geithner welcomed us to what he called economic recovery in a New York Times op-ed.  It’s been about that long since I argued here that the so-called recovery was a joke.

Who can you trust?  Is there a consensus shaping up elsewhere that would help you decide between these positions?

How about the financial press and the Masters of the Universe themselves?  What are they saying about the future, near and far?  Not that we should accredit their opinions just because they believe in capitalism.  Five years ago, they were betting on a future that looks nothing like the present.  Read more ..

Inside Mexico

China Eyes Mexican Investments despite Ongoing Narco War

October 18th 2010

Asia Topics - Mexico-China meeting

Investors from Pacific Rim nations are also showing greater interest in Tijuana, the Mexican border town that is adjacent to San Diego CA. A government delegation from the People's Republic of China visited Tijuana in recent days, greasing the wheels for a tour of Chinese businessmen who are expected to arrive in the border city this week.

Chinese attention towards Tijuana is another example of the Asian giant's growing business in Mexico and Latin America. China's bilateral trade with Latin America exploded from $200 million in 1975 to $47 billion by 2005.

Given the high level of criminal violence and subsequent negative publicity which have swirled around Tijuana in the past few years, the enthusiasm of foreign investors in expanding their business dealings in the city is noteworthy. Read more ..

Mideast Peace on Edge

Mideast Negotiations stall over Israeli Settlements and Palestinian Refusal to Recognize Jewish State

October 18th 2010

Israel Topics - Obama Netanyahu Abbas1

In negotiating tradecraft, the distinction between positions and interests is a fundamental one. Parties with divergent interests can unite behind common positions, like the environmentalists and trade unions who opposed NAFTA in the 1990s. Just as often, parties with opposing positions fail to perceive their common interests, like divorcing parents whose acrimony blinds them to what is best for their children.

It is neglect of this vital distinction that now has the United States scrambling to salvage Middle East peace talks, which are threatened by a resurgent dispute over Israeli settlement activity. The Obama administration initially viewed the settlements issue as "low-hanging fruit" -- the Palestinians, Arab states, international public opinion, and frankly even many Israelis were against settlement activity, whereas a seeming minority on the Israeli right favored it. Read more ..

Stimulus on the Edge

The Stimulating Hypocrisy of Conservative Opponents of the Recovery Act

October 18th 2010

Economy - stimulus protest poster

Rep. Pete Sessions, the firebrand conservative from Dallas, Texas, has relentlessly assailed the Democratic-passed stimulus law as a wasteful “trillion dollar spending spree” that was “more about stimulating the government and rewarding political allies than growing the economy and creating jobs.”

But that didn’t stop the Republican lawmaker from reaching his hand out behind the scenes to seek stimulus money for the suburb of Carrollton after the camera lights went dark and the GOP campaign against the 2009 stimulus law quieted down.

The affluent city’s rail project is “shovel-ready,” Sessions wrote Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood in February, urging his cabinet agency to give “full and fair consideration” to the city’s request for $81 million in stimulus money, according to the letter. Ironically, his letter suggested the project would create jobs, undercutting the very public argument he has made against the stimulus. Read more ..

NATO on Edge

NATO: Must All Good Things Come to an End?

October 18th 2010

Military - NATO meeting

Twenty-eight heads of state of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) will meet in Lisbon on Nov. 20 to approve a new “Strategic Concept,” the alliance’s mission statement for the next decade. This will be NATO’s third Strategic Concept since the Cold War ended. The last two came in 1991 — as the Soviet Union was collapsing — and 1999 — as NATO intervened in Yugoslavia, undertaking its first serious military engagement.

During the Cold War, the presence of 50 Soviet and Warsaw Pact armored divisions and nearly 2 million troops west of the Urals spoke far louder than mission statements. While Strategic Concepts were put out in 1949, 1952, 1957 and 1968, they merely served to reinforce NATO’s mission, namely, to keep the Soviets at bay. Today, the debate surrounding NATO’s Strategic Concept itself highlights the alliance’s existential crisis. Read more ..

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