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Archive for February 2012

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Turkey and Israel

Turkey’s Possible Threat to Israel’s New Gas Riches

February 29th 2012

netanyahu and christofias
Israeli PM Netanyahu and Cypriot President Demetris Christofias

On Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu recently visited Cyprus, only three months after a similar trip by President Shimon Peres.

The state visits followed a series of ministerial-level meetings to discuss the development of newly discovered offshore natural gas fields and a range of associated diplomatic and security complexities relating to neighboring Turkey and Lebanon. Both Israel and Cyprus have found enough gas in their maritime exclusive economic zones (EEZs) to satisfy domestic demand for many years, with additional quantities available for export, but managing regional diplomatic tension over these resources may prove tricky. Netanyahu’s trip to Cyprus, the first by an Israeli prime minister, reflects increasing cooperation between the two countries over natural gas resources but will likely heighten tensions with Turkey. Read more ..

The Iranian Threat

Lampert and Fleischman: A Nuclear Iran isn't Just Israel's problem

February 29th 2012

Iran Nuclear

There are some who argue that Iran is a threat to Israel alone and not to the U.S. or the rest of the world. It is no wonder that the possibility of an Israeli attack on the Iranian nuclear facility causes some people more panic and concern than the threat of Iran itself.

Some have claimed that Iran is developing nuclear weapons because, like Israel, it feels surrounded and threatened by enemies. A few analysts, and even some public officials in the U.S. and Europe, have maintained that the U.S. could contain Iran should it develop a nuclear bomb. Those who expound that argument claim that it is possible to live with a nuclear Iran as long as clear conditions are imposed on Tehran, such as imposing a threat of retaliation should certain conditions exist. Read more ..

Senegal on Edge

Senegal Faces Run-Off Election

February 29th 2012

abdoulaye wade of senegal
President Abdoulaye Wade of Senegal

Senegal's President Abdoulaye Wade is expected to face a tough run-off vote against former prime minister Macky Sall, who is working to round up opposition support.

A group of Senegalese opposition leaders began talks on February 29 in the capital, Dakar, to discuss forming an alliance aimed at defeating the 85-year-old incumbent.

Wade has admitted he fell short of the 50 percent of the votes needed in the February 26 poll to avoid a runoff. Provisional results show he has more than 30 percent of the vote, and Sall is trailing him by roughly seven points. Final results are expected on on March 2 and a run-off election is scheduled for March 18. Cheikh Tidiane Gadio, one of eleven other presidential candidates, said opposition leaders want to unite with civil society groups to oust Wade. "Wednesday night, we will discuss to see if Macky Sall is ready to agree on what I call a citizen republican front, a national front, to get rid of Wade and his regime." Read more ..

North Korea’s Nukes

North Korea Gets Food in Exchange for Suspension of Nuclear Weapons Tests

February 29th 2012

Kim Jong Un
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un

North Korea has agreed to temporarily suspend nuclear tests, long-range ballistic missile launches, and other nuclear activities, including enrichment of uranium. U.S. and North Korean officials announced the surprise breakthrough after talks in Beijing. The development came just a little more than two months after the death of the secretive communist state's supreme leader Kim Jong Il.

"On the occasion of Kim Jong Il's death, I said that it is our hope that the new leadership will chose to guide their nation on to the path to peace by living up to its obligations. Today's announcement represents a modest first step in the right direction," said Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Secretary Clinton says the United States will continue to watch North Korea closely and judge the country's new leaders by their actions. Read more ..

The Ancient Edge

The Tangled Web of Ancient Sex and Hybridization among Human Beings and Others

February 29th 2012

Neanderthal child mannequin
Re-creation of a Neanderthal child

New findings from an international team of researchers show that most Neanderthals in Europe died off around 50,000 years ago. The previously held view of a Europe populated by a stable Neanderthal population for hundreds of thousands of years up until modern humans arrived must therefore be revised. Neantherthals are defined as Homo sapiens neanderthalensis - a sub-species of Homo sapiens sapiens or modern human beings - or as a separate species of the genus Homo known as Homo neanderthalensis.

The results indicate that most Neanderthals in Europe died off as early as 50,000 years ago. After that, a small group of Neanderthals re-colonised central and western Europe, where they survived for another 10,000 years before modern humans entered the area. Tribes of Homo sapiens sapiens emerged from Africa, passed through the Mideast and thence to Europe and Asia. Read more ..

Greece on Edge

Fiscal and Financial Woes of Greece may become Political Headache for Europe

February 28th 2012

Greek and EU flags

The European financial crisis centered for several years on the idea of preventing Greece from defaulting on its national debt. However, the rest of Europe has had time to prepare itself for any potential fallout from a Greek default.

This is changing the dynamic between Greece and Europe even as emerging societal trends within Greece are illustrating changes in the relationship between Greece's political elite and its people. These trends will continue as the crisis transforms from a financial one to a political one.

Since the beginning of the financial crisis in 2008, European leaders' actions have been dictated by a presumed need to keep Greece from defaulting on its massive national debt at all costs. Even at the cost of losing domestic popularity for supporting a Greek bailout, and even if Greece seemed unwilling or unable to repay the money Europe poured into it, European politicians prioritized the prevention of a Greek default in order to prevent the euro -- and possibly the European Union -- from collapsing. However, that could now be changing, along with the relationships between Greece and the rest of Europe and between Greece's political elite and the Greek people. Read more ..

Edge of Health

New Influenza Virus May not be Harmful to Humans, Maybe

February 28th 2012


A new influenza A virus discovered in fruit bats in Guatemala does not appear to present a current threat to humans, but should be studied as a potential source for human influenza, according to scientists from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention who worked with Universidad del Valle in Guatemala City, Guatemala. “This is the first time an influenza virus has been identified in bats, but in its current form the virus is not a human health issue,” said Dr. Suxiang Tong, team lead of the Pathogen Discovery Program in CDC’s Division of Viral Diseases and lead author of the study.  “The study is important because the research has identified a new animal species that may act as a source of flu viruses.” 

For the bat influenza virus to infect humans, it would need to obtain some genetic properties of human influenza viruses. This can occur in nature through a process called reassortment. Reassortment occurs when two or more influenza viruses infect a single host cell, which allows the viruses to swap genetic information. Reassortment is a complicated chain of events that can sometimes lead to the emergence of new influenza viruses in humans. Preliminary CDC research on the new virus suggests that its genes are compatible with human influenza viruses. Read more ..

The Race for Smart Grid

Will Smart Sockets Change the Economics of Efficiency?

February 28th 2012

Light Bulb

Lewis Strauss, Chairman of the US Atomic Energy Commission said this to a group of science writers in 1954: “Our children will enjoy in their homes electrical energy too cheap to meter…” While this comment is often given as an example of overly-optimistic technological predictions, electricity is incredibly inexpensive.  Just look at how much is wasted illuminating the night sky.

Would Strauss have ever imagined that people would be able to afford the energy required to make it snow in Dubai?  Or that the hundreds of megawatt-hours used to remove salt from seawater would cost less than fresh water?

Sony intends to solve this “too cheap to meter” problem by lowering the cost of metering small amounts of electricity and by making it possible to measure electricity usage for individuals and their devices with smart sockets. Read more ..

After the Holocaust

IBM’s Role in the Holocaust—What the New Documents Reveal

February 28th 2012

IBM and the Holocaust Expanded Edition

Newly-released documents expose more explicitly the details of IBM’s pivotal role in the Holocaust—all six phases: identification, expulsion from society, confiscation, ghettoization, deportation, and even extermination. Moreover, the documents portray with crystal clarity the personal involvement and micro-management of IBM president Thomas J. Watson in the company’s co-planning and co-organizing of Hitler’s campaign to destroy the Jews.
                Buy IBM here.

IBM’s twelve-year alliance with the Third Reich was first revealed in my book IBM and the Holocaust, published simultaneously in 40 countries in February 2001. It was based on some 20,000 documents drawn from archives in seven countries. IBM never denied any of the information in the book; and despite thousands of media and communal requests, as well as published articles, the company has remained silent.

The new “expanded edition” contains 32 pages of never-before-published internal IBM correspondence, State Department and Justice Department memos, and concentration camp documents that graphically chronicle IBM’s actions and what they knew during the twelve-year Hitler regime. On the anniversary of the release of the original book, the new edition was released on February 26, 2012 at a special live global streaming event at Yeshiva University’s Furst Hall, sponsored by the American Association of Jewish Lawyers and Jurists together with a coalition of other groups.
Among the newly-released documents and archival materials are secret 1941 correspondence setting up the Dutch subsidiary of IBM to work in tandem with the Nazis, company President Thomas Watson's personal approval for the 1939 release of special IBM alphabetizing machines to help organize the rape of Poland and the deportation of Polish Jews, as well as the IBM Concentration Camp Codes including IBM’s code for death by Gas Chamber. Among the newly published photos of the punch cards is the one developed for the statistician who reported directly to Himmler and Eichmann.

The significance of the incriminating documents requires context. Read more ..

The Politics of Hate

Exploiting "Apartheid" for Political Warfare

February 28th 2012

Israel bloody flag

In September 2001, the participants in the Non-Government Organization Forum of the United Nations Conference on Racism and Discrimination in Durban, South Africa, welcomed Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, distributed anti-Semitic literature, and adopted a declaration branding Israel as "a racist, apartheid state" practicing "a crime against humanity". This form of political warfare was led by the Palestinian leadership and the Organization of the Islamic Conference, and the text was written at a Tehran preparatory conference from which Israelis and Jews were excluded. The Durban NGO Forum marked the launch of another major round of political warfare against Israel, seeking to delegitimize Jewish national self-determination.

The use of the "apartheid" libel as the primary vehicle for de-legitimization is not directed against specific Israeli policies. The rhetoric and the campaigns on university campuses and in events such as "Israel apartheid week" explicitly target the existence of Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people. The political warfare accompanied by BDS (boycott, divestment and sanctions) campaigns is a direct continuation of the Arab rejection of the November 1947 United Nations Partition plan (General Assembly Resolution 181). This strategy was also embodied in the infamous 1975 UN "Zionism is racism" resolution (General Assembly Resolution 3379, repealed in 1991). In the words of Irwin Cotler, former Canadian attorney general, "Let there be no mistake about it: to indict Israel as an Apartheid State is prologue and justification for the dismantling of the Jewish State, for the criminalization of its supporters, and for the consequential silencing of their speech." Read more ..

Book Review

Hollywood Left and Right: An Absorbing Account of Politics as Entertainment

February 28th 2012


Hollywood Left and Right: How Movie Stars Shaped American Politics. Steven J. Ross. Oxford. 2011.

Long before Rupert Murdoch used his media empire to sway his first election, MGM studio head Louis B. Mayer put Hollywood’s shoulder to the wheel of American politics. A close friend and advisor of Herbert Hoover (and Hoover’s first overnight guest at the White House), Mayer actively mobilized friends and associates to bankroll a string of Republican politicos through the 1930s and 40s.

Not satisfied with mere influence peddling however, Mayer also used the film industry’s cultural and technical resources to twist elections to the right, in one notorious instance producing and distributing a series of doctored newsreels that turned public opinion decisively against Socialist Upton Sinclair’s bid to become California governor in 1934. 

In this thoroughly absorbing account of Hollywood’s impact on American politics, Steven J. Ross argues that Mayer’s interventions were more typical than not. We have been made accustomed to viewing Tinsel Town as a hotbed of radical and liberal agitation. But in fact when measured more carefully over the hundred years of its history, the film industry’s political weight has leaned far more heavily to the Right than the Left. For every Jane Fonda, there has not only been a Louis B. Mayer (eulogized as “an ardent enemy of pseudo-liberals, Reds, and pinks” by one of his admirers), but also other studio execs the vast majority of whom ruthlessly protected their business interests by supporting Republicans for keeping taxes light, making regulations weak and turning a blind eye toward industry corruption.

Like Mayer, whom actress Helen Hayes declared “[n]ot just evil, but the most evil man I have ever dealt with in my life,” studio bosses practiced a thoroughly unscrupulous political activism, even forcing their employees (most of whom were politically neutral) to contribute to conservative Republican political campaigns. Read more ..

Edge of Geopolitics

America's Ad Hoc Foreign Policy May Not be Enough in an Unstable World

February 28th 2012

Stennis B

The fall of the Soviet Union ended the European epoch, the period in which European power dominated the world. It left the United States as the only global power, something for which it was culturally and institutionally unprepared. Since the end of World War II, the United States had defined its foreign policy in terms of its confrontation with the Soviet Union. Virtually everything it did around the world in some fashion related to this confrontation. The fall of the Soviet Union simultaneously freed the United States from a dangerous confrontation and eliminated the focus of its foreign policy.
In the course of a century, the United States had gone from marginal to world power. It had waged war or Cold War from 1917 until 1991, with roughly 20 years of peace between the two wars dominated by the Great Depression and numerous interventions in Latin America. Accordingly, the 20th century was a time of conflict and crisis for the United States. It entered the century without well-developed governmental institutions for managing its foreign policy. It built its foreign policy apparatus to deal with war and the threat of war; the sudden absence of an adversary inevitably left the United States off balance. Read more ..

Film Review

Albert Nobbs: A Film on Self-Identity and Deception

February 28th 2012

Albert Nobbs

Albert Nobbs. Director: Rodrigo García. Starring: Glenn Close, Brendan Gleeson, Bronagh Gallagher, Aaron Johnson, Mia Wasikowska. Length: 90 min.

Insofar as Albert Nobbs, directed by Rodrigo García (Nine Lives), has found favor in the eyes of the Motion Picture Academy it is on account of the performance of Glenn Close in the title role, which earned her an Oscar nomination and which rivals that of Meryl Streep as Margaret Thatcher in The Iron Lady.

The latter just got her nose over the finish line first for impersonating an actual person — and a famous one at that, so that savvy audience members could compare the original with her excellent copy — rather than a fictional character, but Glenn, who is female, may have had the more difficult task in taking on the role of a woman playing a man in Victorian-era Dublin. Read more ..

The Edge of Music

Yo! Turkmen Rappers Flip The Script On Repression

February 28th 2012

Maksat "Maro" Kakabayev

Open your eyes, look in the mirror/Look at your surroundings/Do not stop, wake up/Enough is enough." These rap lyrics might not jump out as "gangsta" -- that is, if you're expecting profanity-laced rants and explicit calls for social and political change. But in Turkmenistan, one of the world's most closed and oppressive societies, even such carefully couched words appealing for change can be seen as a direct threat to the country's authoritarian regime that can lead to time in the joint. The threat of prison, however, has not slowed the rising number and popularity of Turkmen rap groups defying government restrictions in Turkmenistan. Production and distribution of rap music is not officially banned. But as evidenced by punishments handed down against those who crossed the line, it is clear that rappers have to watch their step. Many rap groups are finding new ways of spreading their message, with many opting to record their music in secret and share their music through YouTube and mobile-phone applications. Others groups risk the authorities' wrath by recording their songs in music studios, which are officially only allowed to record state-approved music. Read more ..

The Animal Edge

Hatem Yavuz is the King of Seal Killers

February 28th 2012

Hatem Yavuz

Every year in Namibia, 86,000 Cape Fur Seal pups are butchered to death and only one man has the contract to turn their fur into so-called fashionable apparel. The Turkish and Australia based company Hatem Yavuz named after the owner Hatem Yavuz controls roughly 60 percent of the world’s seal market and processes 130,000 seal pelts every year in his Istanbul factory. Yavuz also has a hand in the Canadian seal market and claims to be proud of what he does. In an interview that spurred a flurry of hate mail, Yavuz told 7 News in Australia that “it’s a job. If I don’t do it, someone else is going to do it.” He is called the King of Seal Killers.

Pat Dickens, founder of the Seals of Nam, a non-profit organization that has been campaigning to end Namibia’s annual seal cull on the Cape Cross Seal Reserve. A popular tourist attraction, every year between July and November the sands of the reserve are stained pink from the blood of seal pups as young as seven months old. Men with clubs and picks enter the seal colony early in the morning. The traumatized animals squeal and run away, often regurgitating their mother’s milk in terror. Their skulls are crushed and their throats slit. Several reports show that blows to their head often only render the animals unconscious. These remains are cleaned up before tourists show up in what is a heavily regulated area. Dickens has gone through all of the appropriate channels to appeal to the Namibian government to cancel its contract with Yavuz, which is valid until 2019, as it stands in direct contravention to the Animal Protection Act of 1962 that makes it unlawful to “overload, overdrive, override, ill-treat, neglect, infuriate, torture or maim or cruelly beat, kick, goad or terrify any animal.”


He appealed to the Namibian ombudsman Adv. John Walters, which speech has since been followed up with a series of delay tactics. Several animal rights organizations have become involved and Jane Goodall and other celebrities have made public statements against this terrible practice. Meanwhile, the Humane Society released a report which shows that the so-called seal-culling industry, which only employs 81 people in Namibia, benefits the Namibian economy 300 times less than live seals and eco-tourism would. Read more ..

The Arab Fall

Homs and Khan Yunis

February 28th 2012

arab league observers

Cries erupted from the city residents against the relentless bombardments. There was no place to hide from the constant assaults on the ground or from the bombs raining down from the air. People were said to be starving and denied access to doctors and medicines. Officials at schools, religious sites, and hospitals said their structures could offer no sanctuary from the dangers coming from above or from nearby streets. Journalists were not permitted full access to the battlegrounds so had to rely on the testimony of the people living under the shadow of death and destruction. This narrative of unremitting violence meted out on a largely peaceful population was spun when the first shots were fired by Israel in its three-week attack on Gaza; but it is actually the story of Homs, a city besieged by the Syrian regime because its citizens want freedom and are demanding that the dictatorship end its mighty grip on power. What proved less than accurate in Gaza has become the literal description of events in cities and towns across Syria as ordinary people offer the only resources they possess — their lives — for the right to choose their rulers. Read more ..

The Digital Edge

WikiLeaks Partnership With Anonymous May Indicate Shift In Tactics

February 28th 2012

Anonymous Logo

WikiLeaks is back in the news with the release of millions of e-mails from Stratfor, a global security firm. The latest trawl -- 167 of more than 5.5 million corporate e-mails -- was obtained after the hacktivist collective Anonymous hacked into Stratfor servers in December 2011. It's no surprise that WikiLeaks is partnering with Anonymous. After companies, including Amazon and PayPal, withdrew their support for WikiLeaks after the release of U.S. State Department cables in December 2010, Anonymous launched distributed denial of service attacks (DDoS) against PayPal and a Swiss bank. Anonymous activists have been strong supporters of the Free Bradley Manning campaign. Manning is the U.S. Army private who is alleged to have leaked the cables to WikiLeaks.

For Anonymous -- a loose and decentralized collection of activists sometimes united but often divided into various factions -- it makes sense to partner with WikiLeaks. One activist told Wired that: "WikiLeaks has great means to publish and disclose,” the anon told Wired. "Also, they work together with media in a way we don’t." "Basically, WL is the ideal partner for such stuff," the anon continued. "Antisec acquires the shit, WL gets it released in a proper manner." Antisec is the arm of Anonymous that is known for hacking into servers. Read more ..

The Battle for Syria

Activist Group Says 144 Dead Across Syria

February 28th 2012

Syrian Protesters

A Syrian activist group has said that 144 people were killed across the country, scores of them in the embattled opposition stronghold of Homs by security forces as they tried to flee. The Local Coordination Committees activist group did not say whether all 144 died on February 27 or were killed over the past few days. Many of the casualties were believed to be from the rebel-controlled Baba Amr neighborhood of Homs, which the Syrian Arab Red Crescent entered late on February 27 after days of trying to reach the area. Three people were evacuated. Foreign reporters trapped in the area were not evacuated and the bodies of two journalists killed there had not been recovered.

Homs has emerged as the center of the 11-month-old uprising seeking to oust authoritarian President Bashar al-Assad and has borne the brunt of his regime's bloody crackdown on dissent. Parts of the city have been surrounded for weeks, making it impossible for rescue workers to reach the wounded and for families to bring their dead and injured to the hospital. Reports by numerous activists that more than 60 bodies were brought to the hospital, all of whom appeared to have died in one incident, reflect the spreading carnage. Read more ..

The 2012 Vote

Drug Lobby Pumped $9.4 Million to Conservative Groups in Election Cash

February 28th 2012

medicine and money

The drug lobby's trade association was a multimillion-dollar donor to nonprofit groups that were actively working to elect federal candidates during the 2010 election, an iWatch News analysis of documents filed with the Internal Revenue Service reveals.

The Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, better known as PhRMA, doled out $9.4 million to 501(c)(4) “social welfare” nonprofit groups, some of which paid for ads that influenced races in the 2010 midterm election, records show.

In 2010, PhRMA gave about $20 million in “grants and other assistance” to more than 200 nonprofit organizations, including five politically active 501(c)(4) nonprofits, both liberal and conservative, which together received nearly half of the funds.

The groups were: the American Action Network, the American Future Fund, Americans for Tax Reform, America’s Families First, Inc. and the Citizens for Strength and Security Action Fund. PhRMA's largest gift in 2010 was a $4.5 million contribution to the American Action Network, a conservative 501(c)(4) that spent big money on a half-dozen high-profile U.S. Senate races and more than two dozen U.S. House races.

In 2010, American Action reported spending more than $26 million on ads to the Federal Election Commission. That was more than any other politically active nonprofit group, with the exception of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Overall, the American Action Network reportedly raised more than $30 million in 2010, meaning PhRMA alone was responsible for close to 15 percent of the group's funds. Read more ..

Edge of the Americas

Organization of American States fights for Relevance as Other Regional Groupings Compete

February 27th 2012

Hugo Chavez somber
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez

With the second anniversary of the inaugural summit of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) fast approaching, the formation of additional regional groupings that feature the exclusion of the United States and Canada from their rosters is becoming a permanent part of the hemisphere’s socio-political landscape.

Developing countries around the world are speeding up the tempo of their inter-American diplomatic relationships with these new regional bodies, while the Organization of American States (OAS) – the one institution in which all hemispheric countries hold membership (Cuba has not reactivated its former suspended status) – appears to have restored a role for itself when it comes to dealing with all of the Latin American countries. Read more ..

The Politics of Hate

The Odious 'Israel First' Claims and their White House Connections

February 27th 2012

Alan Dershowitz

It’s the kind of virulent hate speech you’d expect to find on a neo-Nazi website or in a Patrick Buchanan column: American Jews who support current Israeli policies are accused of dual loyalty and called “Israel firsters.”

AIPAC (the American Israel Public Affairs Committee) fares even worse: “Saying AIPAC is guilty of dual loyalty is giving it credit for one more loyalty than it holds.”

In other words, this widely respected American organization, and the hundreds of thousands of Jews (and Christians) who support it, have absolutely no loyalty to our nation; their sole loyalty is to the foreign nation of Israel. This false accusation of disloyalty to country was a central tenet of Nazism, Stalinism, and other anti-Semitic regimes. Today, it is the mantra of Jew haters and neo-Nazis.

So who is spouting this hateful rhetoric today?

I first came across some of these vile quotes about “Israel firsters” and “dual loyalty” on an actual neo-Nazi website. Surprisingly, however, they were attributed not to the usual suspects, but to a spokesman for Media Matters, a hard left Democratic media attack and watchdog group that started out as an antidote to Fox News, and that still has close connections to the Obama White House. Read more ..

Edge on Iran

KFC is not "Chicken" about Iranian claims

February 27th 2012

Iranian Women

The U.S. fast food chain Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) has denied reports  it has opened a branch in Iran. In a statement issued following an inquiry by the Persian Service of the BBC, KFC says that it will take legal action against individuals or companies that take advantage of the brand in Iran. The statement also says that that the company has no plans to open a restaurant in Iran.

Last week, Iranian news websites reported that the first Iranian franchise of KFC had been opened in Karaj and more outlets were soon to be opened in Tehran and other major cities. The state-operated Fars news agency, which broke the story, later removed the news item claiming, "The first branch of KFC opened in Iran with the goal of creating 20, 000 jobs." Read more ..

Edge of Sustainable Water

Commodification of Water and Water Shortages Demand International Action

February 27th 2012

Unsustainable water

From the Texas Oil Boom to the Deepwater Horizon tragedy, petroleum was undoubtedly the most notorious liquid of the last one hundred years.  While some in the international marketplace still fixate on oil, recent political and environmental developments have helped nominate a stunning rival to oil’s supposed predominance: water!  It’s a substance to which Plato gave highest praise: “Only what is rare is valuable, and water, which is the best of all things…is the cheapest.” However, in our time, water has become much rarer, or, in economic terms, more scarce than oil.  In the words of James Bond’s latest nemesis, Dominic Greene, “This [water] is the most valuable resource in the world and we need to control as much of it as we can.” Global water resources have begun to dry up, even as water trading profitability increases.  Although this situation may seem irrelevant for those with adequate water access, it truly could presage a global water catastrophe.
This predicament has not gone unrecognized by international bodies like the United Nations.  In July 2010, the UN General Assembly adopted Resolution 64/292, which “Recognizes the right to safe and clean drinking water and sanitation as a human right that is essential for the full enjoyment of life and all human rights…”.  This document is legally binding, and could serve as a key precedent for multilateral water management.  Furthermore, most observers have interpreted the resolution as supporting public water rights.  On the other side of the spectrum, litigation like Sunbelt Water’s Chapter 11 NAFTA claim  and Canada’s parliamentary Bill S-11 have raised concerns that potential water privatization will result in irreversible water commodification, confirming the private sector’s primacy over the public. Read more ..

The Edge of Health

Study Shows Significant State-by-State Differences in Black, White Life Expectancy

February 26th 2012

Baby Boomer

A UCLA-led group of researchers tracing disparities in life expectancy between blacks and whites in the U.S. has found that white males live about seven years longer on average than African American men and that white women live more than five years longer than their black counterparts. But when comparing life expectancy on a state-by-state basis, the researchers made a surprising discovery: In those states in which the disparities were smallest, the differences often were not the result of African Americans living longer but of whites dying younger than the national average. And, interestingly, the area with the largest disparities wasn't a state at all but the nation's capital, Washington D.C.

"In health-disparities research, there is an assumption that large disparities are bad because vulnerable populations are not doing as well as they should, while areas with small disparities are doing a better job at health equity," said Dr. Nazleen Bharmal, the study's lead researcher and a clinical instructor in the division of general internal medicine and health services research at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA. "In our study, we show that the reason there are small disparities in life expectancy is because white populations are doing as poorly as black populations, and the goal in these states should be to raise health equity for all groups." The data on which the researchers relied included both health-related and non–health-related deaths, such as murder and accidents. The findings, however, still highlight the need to improve the health of the nation's African Americans, the researchers said. Read more ..

The Nano Edge

Scientists Can Now Create Single-Atom Transistors Repeatedly

February 26th 2012


The UNSW team used a scanning tunnelling microscope (STM) to see and manipulate atoms at the surface of the crystal inside an ultra-high vacuum chamber. Using a lithographic process, they patterned phosphorus atoms into functional devices on the crystal then covered them with a non-reactive layer of hydrogen.

Hydrogen atoms were removed selectively in precisely defined regions with the super-fine metal tip of the STM. A controlled chemical reaction then incorporated phosphorus atoms into the silicon surface.

Finally, the structure was encapsulated with a silicon layer and the device contacted electrically using an intricate system of alignment markers on the silicon chip to align metallic connects. Read more ..

Inside Spain

92 Percent of Spanish Families With Adopted Children Are Satisfied With Their Decision

February 26th 2012

Premature Baby

Two separate surveys six years apart have been used to analyse the level of satisfaction with adoptions in Andalucía. The study shows that 77.7 percent of families are happier after the process and variables that make it more difficult have been identified, such as the age of the children when arriving, multiple adoption and previous experiences of abuse. There is a significant link between the parents' assessment and that of the children.

"We wanted to know to what extent adoptions in Spain are providing children who need it with a healthy family environment that promotes their development" Yolanda Sánchez-Sandoval, a researcher from the University of Cádiz (UCA) states. In order to assess that, a comprehensive questionnaire was sent to families with adopted children in Andalucía, which was employed, amongst other uses, to assess family's satisfaction with the decision as a measurement of success. Read more ..

The Race for Fuel

Green Fuel versus Black Gold

February 26th 2012

Biofuel field

A life cycle assessment of growing crops for fuel as opposed to refining and using fossil fuels has revealed that substitution of gasoline by bioethanol converted from energy crops has considerable potential for rendering our society more sustainable, according to a Japanese study published in the International Journal of Foresight and Innovation Policy.

Kiyotada Hayashi of the National Agriculture and Food Research Organisation in Tsukuba and colleagues explain how biomass derived from sugarcane, sugar beet and other crops, has emerged as one of the most promising renewable energy sources. Some observers suggest that it makes an excellent substitute for oil-derived fuels and it is being used widely in certain parts of the world already. However, there are concerns about land use and the overall life-cycle impact on raising fuel crops and the energy required to process and exploit biomass compared with fossil fuels. The Japanese team has now put to rest some of those concerns in a life cycle assessment of energy crop production for bioethanol in Japan.

The team hoped to clarify the potential of biomass utilisation while taking into account the cumulative fossil energy demand and climate change impact. They looked at two scenarios: one in which cultivation technologies improves and breeding of new crop varieties is made possible. The second scenario looked at how the establishment of regional biomass utilisation systems that used biomass resources from various industries might function mutually and effectively and again reduce fossil fuel demand and reduce carbon emissions. Read more ..

The Race for Light

Light-Emitting Nanocrystal Diodes Go Ultraviolet

February 26th 2012


A multinational team of scientists has developed a process for creating glass-based, inorganic light-emitting diodes (LEDs) that produce light in the ultraviolet range. The work, reported this week in the online Nature Communications, is a step toward biomedical devices with active components made from nanostructured systems.

LEDs based on solution-processed inorganic nanocrystals have promise for use in environmental and biomedical diagnostics, because they are cheap to produce, robust, and chemically stable. But development has been hampered by the difficulty of achieving ultraviolet emission. In their paper, Los Alamos National Laboratory's Sergio Brovelli in collaboration with the research team lead by Alberto Paleari at the University of Milano-Bicocca in Italy describe a fabrication process that overcomes this problem and opens the way for integration in a variety of applications. Read more ..

The Digital Edge

Using Body Heat to Recharge Cellphone, Laptop

February 26th 2012

Smart phone

Imagine being able to use your own body heat to recharge your phone or tablet. Scientists in North Carolina have recently developed a felt-like fabric that generates power by scavenging for so-called waste heat, such as body heat. Right now, many of the electronic devices we use every day, such as cellphones or laptop computers, get their power from batteries. But, as we also know, even the best batteries eventually run low on power and need to be recharged. What the Wake Forest University scientists have done is develop technology that takes your body heat, along with other waste heat, and convert it to electrical energy. Developed at the university’s Center for Nanotechnology and Molecular Materials, the material is made up of carbon nanotubes, tiny tube-shaped materials made of carbon, which are held in flexible plastic fibers and made to feel like fabric. The researchers say the thermoelectric technology behind Power Felt uses differences in temperature, such as room temperature versus body temperature, to create an electrical charge. Professor David Carroll, director of the Center for Nanotechnology and Molecular Materials, says that thermoelectric technology, until now, has been tied to expensive hard ceramic material which is difficult to produce. Read more ..

Iran's Nukes

Is the Iranian Regime Rational?

February 26th 2012

Ahmadinejad Nuclear

In a recent remark that has stoked considerable controversy, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey called the Iranian regime a "rational actor." Dempsey underscored the importance of this assertion when he described it as the basis for his belief that the current U.S. approach to Iran "is the most prudent path." To determine whether Gen. Dempsey is right or wrong, it is important to understand what it means for a government to act rationally. It does not necessarily imply that the government sees the world the way we do, or makes the decisions we would make. Simply put, there are two essential criteria for rationality -- first, that decisions are arrived at through a process of logical reasoning; second, that the decisions made are the best ones given the choices available.

Most discussions of whether the Iranian regime is rational focus on the first criterion. Does the regime make its choices by weighing costs and benefits, or through a capricious process guided by whim and claims of divine revelation? The U.S. intelligence community believes that it is the former: for all of the regime's unhinged rhetoric, the regime is calculating in its decisionmaking. The 2007 National Intelligence Estimate on Iran's nuclear program puts it this way: "Tehran's decisions are guided by a cost-benefit approach rather than a rush to a weapon irrespective of the political, economic, and military costs." However, this conclusion raises a critical question -- what does the Iranian regime see as costly, and what does it see as beneficial? Read more ..

Iran on Edge

'100-Percent Iranian' Kentucky Fried Chicken Opens In Iran

February 26th 2012

Ahmadinejad pointing

Amid growing tension between the United States and Iran and sanctions that ban U.S. companies from doing business with the Islamic republic, an outlet of Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) has opened in the Iranian city of Karaj.

Other outlets are also due to open in Tehran and other major cities throughout the country, presumably satisfying citizens' taste for some down-home southern U.S. cooking. Yet the CEO of Iran's first KFC franchise, Amir Hossein Alizadeh, has gone to great lengths to emphasize that his fast-food restaurant is not American despite its name. Alizadeh says it took him a "huge" investment and five years to obtain the required national and international permits to open KFCs in Iran. When asked how an American brand made it into Iran, he said, "The name of our restaurant is KFC, but we're not an American brand. We're not an American company.” "With the purchase of the rights from the mother company, Iranian KFC -- and not American -- has been inaugurated," he added. Alizadeh also said that his franchise would fully follow general KFC standards but offer a menu of 32 items suited to Iranian tastes. While many Iranians have probably never eaten at KFC, the name of the chain is generally known and there are rip-offs with similar names. KFC branches existed in Iran before the 1979 revolution. Afterward, they maintained their decor and continued to sell fried chicken. Read more ..

The Battle for Syria

ICRC Negotiating Medical Evacuations From Syria's Homs

February 26th 2012

Syria protests Apr 2011

The international Red Cross tried in vain Saturday to get into the besieged Syrian city of Homs, to evacuate wounded ( from the Baba Amro district). Red Cross officials say they hope to resume negotiations with Syrian authorities and opposition groups in Homs on Sunday, but that Saturday's talks produced no results. The International Committee of the Red Cross says it is in negotiations with Syrian authorities and the opposition at both the local and central level to organize a second medical evacuation. The Red Cross evacuated seven sick or wounded people from the besieged Baba Amro district of Homs on Friday. The agency confirms two wounded French journalists were not among the group transferred. The Red Cross also relocated 20 women and children to a safer area.

ICRC Spokeswoman, Carla Haddad-Mardini says Red Cross delegates are ready to resume the life-saving operations in an instant. “We need to be prepared and our teams on the spot are ready to enter anytime. But, an evacuation operation does take time because you need to organize things on the spot. But , the convoys are ready. Everything is ready. It is just we need to clear this with all sides before entering because the security conditions are difficult on the spot,” she said. Haddad-Mardini says the Red Cross needs to have approval from all sides concerned before it can begin transferring the wounded to the nearest hospital. She says negotiations to this effect are ongoing and everyone is hoping the operation will be renewed. Read more ..

The Edge of Fashion

Nation's Capital Nurtures Local Fashion

February 26th 2012

US Capital Day

The business of Washington, D.C., is government. However, as it seeks to diversify and create more jobs, the city is looking to build a new industry, one that is usually associated with New York - fashion. A new effort mentors local designers in hopes of nurturing and growing a local fashion industry. Gennet Purcell has always loved fashion, but it wasn’t her career until recently. “I was a practicing attorney by trade for almost 13 years,” she says. For much of that time, she was also designing and making clothing. A year ago, she decided she couldn’t do both. “I realized that this is something that makes me really happy, and I realized that it was a way for me to make a living doing it full time.” Purcell founded her own fashion line, Maven. Her designs were recently featured in a fashion show in the Washington area. And she was one of four designers chosen for the DC Fashion Incubator, a program that launched in January. Read more ..

After the Holocaust

US Delegation Remembers Holocaust Hero Wallenberg in Hungary

February 26th 2012

Concentration Camp Survivor

A United States Congressional delegation and other officials have gathered in Hungary's capital Budapest to remember Swedish diplomat Raoul Wallenberg, who is credited with saving the lives of as many as 100,000 Hungarian Jews during World War II. Friday's commemoration was part of a series of events marking the Raoul Wallenberg Year to commemorate his centennial birth. On a chilly day, representatives of the U.S. Congress and other officials laid a wreath at the Budapest monument of Swedish diplomat Raoul Wallenberg, hidden behind old trees. While serving as Swedish envoy in Budapest from July 1944, Wallenberg gave Hungarian Jews Swedish travel documents and set up safe houses for them. Among the thousands he saved was the late Tom Lantos, who was the first Holocaust survivor to be elected to the U.S. Congress. Wallenberg is also credited with dissuading German officers from massacring the 70,000 inhabitants of Budapest's main Jewish ghetto. Read more ..

After the Holocaust

IBM and the Holocaust Expanded Edition--The Live Global Event

February 25th 2012

Award-winning author Edwin Black is slated to unveil the re-release of his blockbuster book IBM and the Holocaust in a new "Expanded Edition." Previous standard editions of the bestseller, orginally published in February 2001, went out of print following worldwide sales of 1.2 million copies. The new Expanded Edition will include some 32 pages of never-before-published internal IBM correspondence, State Department and Justice Department memos as well as concentration camp documents that will graphically chronicle exactly what IBM did and what they knew during the twelve-year Hitler regime. IBM has never denied any of the information in the book, and for years has claimed that it has no information about its Hitler-era activities involving the Third Reich.

Buy IBM and the Holocaust here.

The live, globally-streamed event can be seen at various websites, including Spero Forum, The Auto Channel, Energy Publisher, History Network News, the book website at IBMandtheHolocaust.com, and here at The Cutting Edge News

The release will be on February 26, 2012, 3 PM during a special Live Global Streaming Event to be held at Yeshiva University’s Furst Hall in New York City. The lecture, with questions taken in real time from a live worldwide audience, is sponsored by the American Association of Jewish Lawyers and Jurists, co-sponsored by Yeshiva University’s Office of Pre-Law Advisement, Jacob Hecht Pre-Law Society, Beren and Wilf campuses, in partnership with StandWithUs, and in association with NAHOS--National Association of Jewish Child Holocaust Survivors, Generations of the Shoah International, Scholars for Peace in the Middle East, the State of California Center for the Study of the Holocaust, Genocide, Human Rights and Tolerance, The Auto Channel, History Network News, Spero Forum, the Jewish Virtual Library, together with other groups. Read more ..

The Edge of Health

Lasers Put to Use in Dental Offices: Lighten the Load & Increase Profitability

February 25th 2012

Black infant

Going to the dentist is never a picnic, and dentists understand how their patients feel. That's why they are constantly trying new technologies to make treatment less unpleasant. For instance, instead of subjecting patients to the dreaded drill, some 12 percent of dentists worldwide now use Erbium (Er):YAG lasers to shape teeth and gums for treatment. However, the wired optic fibers that deliver the laser beam are unwieldy and difficult to focus precisely. Syneron Dental Lasers of Yokneam, Israel, has developed the new LiteTouch dental laser, "an innovation that has played a pivotal role in transforming the way practitioners perform dental treatments today," according to company president Ira Prigat.

"It's wireless, too. The laser mechanism is included inside the hand piece that the dentist uses inside the patient's mouth, making it easier to manage -- no wires or connections needed. " Just as the mobile phone freed the world from wires, so has the LiteTouch freed dentists from traditional tools, as well as bulky optic fibers, making laser dentistry completely portable, claims Prigat. "The LiteTouch system is cost-effective and a step up toward a completely high-tech clinic." Read more ..

BB&T a Good Bank But Treating Its Customers Like Children on Security

February 25th 2012

I also disagree with Erwin Kayton, the vice president of at BB&T, who defended BB&T (see BB&T On-Line Site Treats Its Customers Like Children, Action Line, February 15, 2012). He defended them wrongly. I am a customer and I know they are a good bank. But beyond my relationship banker, I find many at the bank to be arrogant to customers. That is why they dictated childish questions to their customers and did not permit us to make up our own questions. BTW, my favorite is "Name the lake you fell in love at." Nice.

Iran's Nukes

Aligning the Planets and the West to Oppose Iranian Nuclear Threat

February 25th 2012

Iran Long-Range Missile

Israel, the United States, and Europe share grave concern over the Iranian theocracy's politics and its serial use of violence in pursuit of its goals. The Islamic Republic formally declared war on the west and is the major state sponsor, funder, and trainer of terrorism, including plotting terror in the United States. The regime abuses human rights, violates international accords, materially supported violence against American troops in Iraq, props up the Syrian dictatorship, destabilizes Lebanon, and targets Israeli diplomats.

As Iran stands on the cusp of achieving a nuclear weapons capability and tests and deploys missile delivery systems, the U.S. administration and some in Europe appear to be parting ways with Israel.

Interminable negotiations have served only to further convince the Iranian government that possessing such weapons will give it the clout it desires. For Washington, the Iranian threat is manageable, but for Israel it is increasingly viewed as one of survival. Iran has explicitly and repeatedly announced its intention to 'wipe Israel of the map.' Read more ..

The Edge of Nature

Diving in the Dead Sea: An Adventure Well Worth the Challenge

February 25th 2012

Dead Sea Divers

The first time Avraham Bresler was asked to dive in the Dead Sea, he was being paid to purge an air pocket in an underground pipe. More than 20 years later, he is still plunging into waters often deemed unfit for scuba divers. What's more, Bresler runs tours for extreme diving fans in the cloudy Dead Sea. "The water is warm but it's as if you're in the Antarctic. Everything is white; it looks like you're diving in ice. The water glitters because of all the salt. It really is another world," according to Bresler. The Dead Sea has always been one of Israel's most popular destinations. It is the lowest point on Earth and a place renowned for its vistas, healing powers and natural beauty. The 47-year-old Bresler never dreamed of turning the Dead Sea into an extreme water-sport destination. Rather, diving is his profession. But then, out of nowhere, a Japanese television crew asked him whether it was possible to film in the Dead Sea. They wanted to verify whether cucumbers could be pickled in the salty water (they could, but Bresler says they were "not very tasty").


Kenya on Edge

Millions in Education Money Stolen in Kenya

February 25th 2012

Nairobi Square

Kenya’s education sector continues to suffer fallout from the theft of millions of dollars two years ago from a government program that, among other things, funds the country’s Free Primary Education initiative. Overcrowded classrooms and fragmented programs are some of the results of the theft, cases of which are still in court. The Kenya Education Support Sector Program was launched with much fanfare in 2005. The $5.8 billion program promised to make basic education available to everyone, improve the quality of that education, increase opportunities for post-secondary education, and train education managers. The World Bank, Britain’s Department for International Development, or DFID, the Canadian International Development Agency, and the U.N.’s children’s agency threw their support behind the program. DFID, for instance, kicked in more than $83 million. Read more ..

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