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Archive for June 2012

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The Edge of Medicine

Israeli Company Grows New Bones from Fat

June 30th 2012

Docs and Tech

Bonus Biogroup’s major breakthrough generates new healthy bone from stem cells harvested from the patient’s own fat.

Make no bones about this technology: Bonus Biogroup, a regenerative medicine company in Israel, has found a way to grow human bone from a patient’s own fat, culled during liposuction. Following successful pre-clinical testing, clinical trials will begin within the next year in Europe or in Israel on applications ranging from growing bones for dental surgery to replacing bone tissue lost through trauma or illness.

“The standard of care today is autologous bone grafting — taking bone from other parts of the body, breaking it and putting it in where needed,” Bonus founder and CEO Shai Meretzki states. “Two operations are needed for the treatment of harvesting bone from another part of the body,” he says. Obviously, this solution isn’t optimal. “Our advantage is that the healing process is much faster, and patients of course don’t have to suffer the harvesting procedure,” he adds. Read more ..


Environmentalism on Edge

Rio+20 Wrap-Up: How Do Human Beings Figure into Biodiversity Concerns?

June 29th 2012

Earth Day (Hands Holding Planet)

The Rio+20 World Environmental Conference has come and gone. The “Plus 20” comes from the fact that it took place twenty years after the first such conference, held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in 1992. Between these dates, I was a delegate at the 2002 world environment conference in Johannesburg, South Africa. Ever since 1992 I have watched the eco-evolution taking place.

There is a good side and a bad side. The good side is that general world environmental awareness has been enhanced. That is definitely good. But there is still so much to be done, especially in poor countries where many people are always on the edge of survival, people must eke out a living off the land, and many will do whatever it takes to earn a little cash, to just survive another day.

Here in South Africa we see the daily international poaching attacks on our elephants and rhinos. It’s disgraceful. For us in the south, on midwinter’s day in June (our winters are the opposite of those in the Northern Hemisphere), the total rhinos shot this year stands at 251, just to get their horns, which are still viewed as aphrodisiacs and medicine in many Asian countries. Last year’s total was 448, more than one a day – so it’s getting worse. Poachers are now using helicopters and machine guns, and often taking chainsaws to still living rhinos. Read more ..


Society on Edge

'Ambient' Bullying Gives Employees Urge to Quit

June 29th 2012

Bullying

Merely showing up to work in an environment where bullying goes on is enough to make many of us think about quitting, a new study suggests. Canadian researchers have found that nurses not bullied directly, but who worked in an environment where workplace bullying occurred, felt a stronger urge to quit than those actually being bullied. These findings on 'ambient' bullying have significant implications for organizations, as well as contributing a new statistical approach to the field.

To understand whether bullying in the work unit environment can have a negative impact on a worker's desire to remain in their organization, independent of their personal or direct experiences of workplace bullying, organizational behaviour and human resources experts from the University of British Columbia, in Vancouver, Canada surveyed 357 nurses in 41 hospital units.

Their analysis of the survey results showed that targets of bullying were more likely to be thinking of leaving. They also showed a statistically significant link between working somewhere where bullying was going on and a wish to leave. Read more ..


Turkey and Syria

Syria and Turkey Mass Troops and Tanks Along Border

June 29th 2012

Turkish Military

Turkish troops were deployed to the border on Thursday as a precaution against the encroaching Syrian threat, the Jerusalem Post reports. The new rules of engagement, issued by Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan, come just days after Syria shot down a Turkish fighter jet, flying over international airspace.

Erdogan was reported as issuing orders which would allow Turkish troops to react to any perceived threat by neighboring Syria. More then 33,000 refugees and rebels have crossed the border in recent months to escape the violent crackdown by the Assad regime. Meanwhile, Reuters published an unconfirmed report that Syria is following suit, amassing close to 200 tanks on its side of the border. Read more ..


The Safety Edge

OSHA Reforms Voluntary Protection Programs

June 29th 2012

Ash Grove Plant, KS

Citing a 2011 Center for Public Integrity investigation, a Labor Department official said Thursday that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration has reformed a program that rewards workplaces reporting lower-than-average injury and illness rates.

OSHA’s Voluntary Protection Programs (VPP), which exempt “model workplaces” from routine inspections, were established in 1982. VPP tripled in size between 2000 and 2011, as OSHA’s inspection staff diminished and membership requirements were relaxed. The Center’s investigation found that at least 80 workers had died at VPP sites during that period.

At a hearing before a subcommittee of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, Jordan Barab, the Labor Department’s deputy assistant secretary for occupational safety and health, said the department “is committed to VPP. But like every other federal agency, we need to make some very hard decisions about how to allocate our limited resources where we will get the most worker protection bang for our buck.” Read more ..


The Race for Natural Gas

Local Leaders Sue for Right to Control Location of Gas Wells

June 29th 2012

Hydrolic Fracking pollution

When Pennsylvania passed a state law that stripped local authority over where potentially hazardous natural gas wells could be drilled, cities and townships decided to take matters into their own hands.

Seven municipalities from across the state have filed a lawsuit in Pennsylvania’s Commonwealth Court challenging the constitutionality of Act 13, a law passed in February that charges an impact fee for natural gas wells but also overrides local governments’ zoning authority. The case was argued on June 6 and is currently under review.

At first glance, the impact fee of up to $50,000 per well seems to put wealth from drilling on the Marcellus Shale into citizens’ hands. Detractors of Act 13 say, however, that it is a Trojan Horse of unwelcome stipulations. Thanks to the law, doctors can find out what chemicals are used in fracking, the controversial drilling technique that environmentalists say turns their water taps into flamethrowers and poisons the air. Read more ..


Heathcare on Edge

Health Care Ruling Is Less Liberal Than It Looks

June 29th 2012

Justice Roberts

Democrats celebrated the Supreme Court decision upholding President Obama’s health care law. Commentators focused on the surprising support by Chief Justice John Roberts for the individual mandate and the victory for Democrats.

But beneath the surface, the ruling is less liberal than it looks. Two provisions limit the scope of the law’s impact. First, the Medicaid ruling limits the power of the federal government to encourage states to extend medical care. This gives states the authority to resist national efforts to expand health insurance coverage for the uninsured. With the dire fiscal straits of many states, many places will be unlikely to extend coverage and the result will be fewer uninsured will receive coverage than was expected when the legislation passed.

Second, although Chief Justice Roberts supported the constitutionality of the individual mandate, his opinion limited the ability of the federal government to regulate interstate commerce through tactics other than taxes. This part of the decision will restrict the ability of future Congresses to regulate commerce.

As with many policy decisions, the ultimate assessment of the court’s decision is in the details. Liberals should applaud the overall decision, but fear how the ruling with affect health care implementation.   Read more ..


Film Review

Your Sister's Sister: A Tale by Moral and Intellectual Cripples

June 29th 2012

Your sisters sister

Your Sister's Sister. Director: Lynn Shelton. Starring: Emily Blunt, Rosemarie DeWitt, Mark Duplass. Length: 90 mins.

The word that echoes through Lynn Shelton's Your Sister's Sister is "weird." Here, for instance, is Sister A talking to Sister B. "I know you like him, but do you like him like him?"

Sister B replies, "Yeah, I think I'm in love with him. Do you think that's weird? Because of Tom, I think it might be weird."

What Sister B or Iris (Emily Blunt) doesn't know, however, is that Sister A, Hannah (Rosemarie DeWitt), ostensibly a lesbian, has already slept with the gentleman in question, who's called Jack (Mark Duplass). He's the brother of Tom, Iris's ex-, now deceased, which is why Iris thinks her feelings for him "weird." Needless to say, when, Hannah's awful secret is revealed, her sleeping with Jack is also said to be weird - although, since she had just broken up with her long-term girlfriend and both she and Jack were pie-eyed drunk at the time, it might not seem all that weird to those of us looking on. We are soon to learn that Hannah has another motive which makes it even less weird.

But "weird" has a special meaning in this movie, as I suspect it does in much of the popular culture. It's not so much "strange" or "paranormal" (or even just "abnormal") but more like what a previous age might have termed "unseemly." Iris and Hannah and Jack, too, are all groping in their stumbling and inarticulate way towards the concept of decorum and, beyond it, something like decency, but the culture out of which they and so many of their generation have emerged regards such concepts as outmoded and, they suspect, vaguely indecent themselves.

Any normative principle applied to sex in particular, whether of morality or good taste, is automatically dubious, if not forbidden in the post-"liberation" era, and that leaves "weird" to do the work of a whole spectrum of terms now regarded as overly "judgmental" - terms ranging from immoral to indecent to tasteless to disgusting to, well, weird. Read more ..


The Digital Edge

In-Car Information Deluge Raises Concerns of Driver Distraction

June 29th 2012

HTC thunderbold droid phone

The ubiquitous presence of Smartphones has led to a demand for comparable functionalities to be present inside cars. Technologies such as touch screens and large displays have become a commodity in the automotive infotainment domain. As vehicles rely more and more on sophisticated forms of technology, the requirements for onboard information displays are becoming increasingly comprehensive and diverse. Driver distraction is becoming a challenge, concludes a study from Frost & Sullivan.

The study, titled "Strategic Analysis of European and North American Markets for Display and Instrument Clusters", finds that in Europe, the market size for central displays, touch screens and head up displays is estimated to reach 9.5 million, 2 million and 0.5 million units, respectively, by 2017. In North America, the market size for central displays, touch screens and head up displays is anticipated to reach 6 million, 3 million and 0.4 million units, respectively, by 2017. Read more ..


The Obama Edge

Bipartisan Votes for Holder Contempt

June 29th 2012

Eric holder

The U.S. House of Representatives voted on Thursday to find Attorney General Eric Holder, the nation's top cop, in contempt of Congress for his and his department's withholding of documents regarding a gun-running sting dubbed Operation Fast and Furious.

While President Barack Obama continuously tells audiences he desires bipartisan cooperation with his Republican rivals, the House contempt vote against Holder was probably not what Obama the campaigner had in mind, said conservative political consultant William Fitzpatrick.

Although the talking points emanating from the White House and the Democrat Party blames the Republicans for playing politics in the Holder case, 17 Democratic congressmen voted for criminal charges to be brought against the Attorney General and 23 Democrats voted for civil charges.

The case involves an operation in which the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) allowed guns -- some of them military-grade weapons -- to be smuggled across the U.S.-Mexico border into the hands of Mexican drug cartel members, according to House and Senate investigators. The ATF agents claim they lost track of the weapons and the firearms were used to kill more than 150 Mexicans and at least one American law enforcement officer -- 40-year-old Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry -- before the operation was terminated by Holder's Justice Department subordinates, according to testimony given during the House Oversight Committee probe.

For more than a year, members of the House Oversight Committee, especially its chairman Rep. Darrell Issa, and the Senate Judiciary Committee's ranking Republican Sen. Charles Grassley, had verbally requested documents, written letters of request to the Attorney General, and have gone to the news media in their attempt to garner information on the gun-running operation and the identities of those responsible for the snafu. Read more ..


Broken Government

AG Holder denounces 'Political' Vote on Contempt Charges

June 29th 2012

Eric Holder gesturing

Attorney General Eric Holder blasted the House's vote to hold him in contempt and vowed to stay focused on his work at the Department of Justice.

Speaking at a press conference Thursday shortly after the vote concluded, Holder said Republicans and Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), chairman of the powerful House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, held a "politically motivated" vote.

"Today’s vote is the regrettable culmination of what became a misguided — and politically motivated — investigation during an election year. By advancing it over the past year and a half, Congressman Issa and others have focused on politics over public safety," he said. The Republican-controlled House voted 255-67 to hold the attorney general in contempt, the first time in American history that the head of the Justice Department has faced such a sanction. Seventeen Democrats joined the GOP in voting for the resolution. Read more ..


The Edge of Justice

For WikiLeaks' Julian Assange, Ecuador is an Odd Place to Hide

June 29th 2012

Julian Assange

On a personal level, I can understand why WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has chosen Ecuador for his asylum bid. If the request is granted, Assange is likely to be stuck in the country for years.

Ecuador is a great choice. The scenery is stunning, the food fantastic, and the people warm and welcoming. But is this enough to risk being seen as compromising the core WikiLeaks principle of press freedom?

I wonder if, before he walked through the doors of the embassy, Assange had done his homework on the kind of country he was walking into, so that he could understand the damaging effect that this asylum bid could eventually have on his credibility.

Over the last 20 years Ecuador has been marked by serious political instability. A succession of presidents of all political stripes have been ousted from office through a potent blend of popular protest, congressional conspiracy, and military manipulation. It is safe to say that when current President Rafael Correa took office in 2007, the political systems in his country were fundamentally dysfunctional and desperately in need of reform.

Correa has since undertaken a massive and much-needed program to reshape Ecuador’s political institutions, including a new constitution in 2008 that was approved by a two-thirds majority in a national vote. The end goal is laudable and needed: make the country more democratic and inclusive. Debate about Correa’s ideas and the direction he is taking the country has been vibrant. Not surprisingly, the harshest criticism has come from the right, which conveniently owns the major media outlets and actively controls their editorial direction. Unfortunately, the response from Correa to his opposition has been aggressive to the point where organisations such as Reporters Without Borders are raising serious questions about active government repression of the media. Read more ..


Inside Mexico

In Mexico's Presidential Debates, New Perspective Yield Same Electoral Results

June 29th 2012

Mexican students

The Mexican presidential elections on July 1 appear to be a fait accompli for front-runner Enrique Peña Nieto of The Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), who currently enjoys a 15 percent lead in the polls. However, beneath the illusion of a smooth return to the party’s traditional position lie the significant political actions of the student-led Yosoy132 movement. Peña Nieto currently leads well ahead of Josefina Vazquez Mota, a head of the ruling National Action Party (PAN), Andrés Manuel López Obrador or AMLO (The Party of the Democratic Revolution) and Gabriel Quadri de la Torre (The New Alliance Party).

According to the Consulta Mitofsky polling firm, only one third of Mexican voters appear to be interested in the political debates, reflecting wide spread disillusionment with the Mexico’s political situation. The political efforts of Yosoy132 have the potential to reverse this political apathy. A little over a month ago, 132 students started the Yosoy132 movement in Mexico City in an effort to promote the democratization of media and communication channels, thus nurturing a thoughtful and informed vote. National networks did not plan to broadcast the debates until Yosoy132 protested the lack of coverage. Read more ..


Paraguay on Edge

The Lugo Case and its Discontents: A Symptom of Regional Pathology

June 29th 2012

Fernando Lugo

The ouster of Paraguay’s president, Fernando Lugo, after a brief impeachment and the reactions it has generated provide a lot of food for thought. The event that took place in Paraguay disclosed a number of problems that not only concern Paraguay, itself, but the region as a whole.

I am in agreement with all those who claim that the impeachment process by the Paraguayan Senate was too fast and did not allow Lugo the opportunity to properly defend himself in what was supposed to be a fair congressional trial.

It is interesting to note that had Paraguayan democracy been a parliamentary system, the same action would have constituted a vote of non- confidence in the prime minister who would have had to step down immediately. In other words, in a parliamentary system the ouster of Lugo would have constituted a legitimate step. Historically, in countries such as Italy, this case has been the rule rather than the exception. One of the problems in the Latin American presidential system is that presidents historically have had more power than Congress—and have used it and abused it. This is very much in contrast with the American system where presidential powers are more limited. Read more ..


Broken Borders

States to Enforce Immigration Laws

June 28th 2012

US Border Patrol arrest

Despite Monday's U.S. Supreme Court ruling on Arizona's controversial immigration coupled with the Obama Justice Department's punitive action against Arizona law enforcement, other states with laws similar to Arizona's have announced they plan on enforcing their own laws against illegal aliens and companies that hire illegal aliens, said a source in Washington, D.C., on Thursday.

The source -- himself a federal law enforcement official -- claims that at least five other states are planning to create legislation using Arizona's as a model. They will use the one provision upheld by the Justices that requires police officers to notify Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents when the officers reasonably suspect a person is in the United States illegally.

Thus far, only Alabama, Georgia, Indiana, South Carolina and Utah have had to face federal judges, lawsuits from immigrant rights organizations, and Attorney General Eric Holder's "attack dog," Assistant Attorney General Thomas Perez, who heads the civil rights section at the Justice Department, according to political consultant Mike Baker. Read more ..


Healthcare on Edge

The Best of All Worlds: The SCOTUS Ruling on Obamacare and the Real Victory for its Opponents

June 28th 2012

stethoscope

By now there are many on the right of the aisle who are likely frustrated or angry at the United States Supreme Court’s ruling on the Affordable Care Act – the healthcare mandate.  Similarly, just about everyone on the left is elated at the decision today.  The President declared a huge victory today, and said it in his remarks, and those remarks will be repeated on his road show now throughout the campaign until November.  He did indeed win a PR victory for now and the immediate future, yet there is a possible long term detrimental effect on the so called victory.

President Obama did as expected and touted the decision as a boon for him and the country, and avoided the tax issue completely.  He ignored it, clearly sensing that the news of the law being upheld trumps the nasty matter of the imposition of a new tax on poorer Americans.  The highest court in the land said it was indeed a tax increase, and that will resonate soon with the public. Read more ..


The Battle for Syria

Israel Pushed Putin to Cancel S-300 Sale to Syria

June 28th 2012

On Wednesday it was reported that Russia’s planned sale of the S-300 missile system to Syria had been cancelled. Now, Israel’s Defense Minister Ehud Barak has shed light into Israel’s role in prodding Russian President Vladimir Putin into stopping the sale, during his visit to Israel earlier this week.

“Putin listened perfectly to what we said,” Barak told Army Radio in Israel, adding that discussions between Israeli and Russian officials during Putin’s state visit were instrumental in Russia’s decision to keep one of the world’s most advanced anti-aircraft missile systems out of the hands of Bashar Assad in Syria.

In the interview Barak gave on Thursday, he also discussed the killing of a Hamas operative in Damascus, which occurred on Wednesday. Read more ..


The Defense Edge

Realizing a Global Layered Missile Defense System

June 28th 2012

defense system

Russia is demanding the United States stop building missile defenses in Europe, just as it simultaneously assists Iran in building the very missiles that threaten NATO.

In language reminiscent of the Cold War, Russian President Vladimir Putin is once again urging Washington to "better not to do this." Russian Chief of the General Staff Nikolai Makarov warned, "Taking into account a missile-defense system's destabilizing nature, that is, the creation of an illusion that a disarming strike can be launched with impunity, a decision on pre-emptive use of the attack weapons available will be made when the situation worsens." In short, Makarov has warned that if the United States builds missile defenses, Russia will threaten to attack. This despite serial attempts by Washington to "reset" relations between the two former Cold War adversaries. Read more ..


The 2012 Vote

Use the Facts, Don't Stretch the Truth

June 28th 2012

Ballot Box

There is a cynical view of American voters that they don’t care about the truth — that they can be bamboozled into being persuaded by negative ads. “Negative ads work,” is the trite expression that gets an almost unanimous nod of the head, even among those who hate them.

Well, that might be true if candidates accept the conventional wisdom from their top strategists to ignore the ads (“don’t dignify them — stay on message,” was the advice reportedly given to Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry in 2004 about the “Swift Boat” ads.)

Since most candidates follow this advice, it’s hard to find examples to prove that it is the wrong counsel and that negative ads, when successfully challenged as false or misleading, can be made to backfire. But I have one very good one. In 2005, then-Virginia Lt. Gov. Timothy Kaine (now running for the U.S. Senate) was subjected to a series of attacks by his Republican opponent in their race for the Virginia governorship.

Beginning in early October, then-Virginia Attorney General Jerry Kilgore, consistently ahead in the polls, focused most of his TV ad spending on attacking Kaine for his opposition to the death penalty, which was favored by Virginia voters by more than 2-to-1. Kaine explained that his opposition was based on religious conviction, but that as governor he would follow the law and would exercise his clemency powers sparingly. Nevertheless, Kilgore deluged the TV airwaves with ads, stating that Kaine had said not even Adolf Hitler deserved the death penalty. But Kaine immediately published a full transcript of the interview from which the reference to Hitler was derived, and the transcript said just the opposite — that Hitler “deserve[d] the death penalty.” Then Kaine took to the airwaves with his own ads, making Kilgore’s lies the issue. Read more ..


The Medical Edge

Unemployed Americans Face Greater Risk of Mortality

June 28th 2012

Unemployed Claimants

Employment policy is also health policy according to a University of British Columbia study that found that workers experienced higher mortality rates if they didn't have access to social protections like employment insurance and unemployment benefits.

Researchers with the Human Early Learning Partnership and the School of Population and Public Health at UBC found that low and medium-skilled workers in the United States are at a greater risk of death if they lose their job than their German counterparts, who have access to more robust employment protections and insurance.

"Employment insurance makes a difference to the health of the most vulnerable populations, low-wage and poorly educated workers," said Chris McLeod, the lead researcher on the paper and a post-doctoral fellow with the Human Early Learning Partnership. "For low-wage and poorly educated workers, it's not just about losing your job but losing your job and being at the bottom of the labour market." Read more ..


The Edge of Terrorism

Illegal Alien Pleads Guilty to WMD Terror Conspiracy

June 28th 2012

Amine El Khalifi

An illegal alien man pleaded guilty to attempting to bomb the U.S. Capitol building in Washington, D.C., in February 2012, according to a Justice Department report on Monday.

Amine El Khalifi, a Moroccan national living illegally in Alexandra, VA, made a deal with prosecutors in exchange for his guilty plea in a Virginia federal court. The 29-year-old was charged with attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction (WMD) against the U.S. Capitol Building.

El Khalifi was arrested in the garage adjacent to the U.S. Capitol on Feb. 17, 2012 by FBI agents. At the time he wore a vest he believed was full of explosives supplied by al-Qaeda, federal law enforcement official said.

The FBI and the Department of Justice officials involved in the case stated that at no time were innocent people in danger since "the IED (improvised explosive device) was inoperable and did not contain explosive material." The wannabe terrorist believed he was working with al-Qaeda when in fact his contacts were undercover U.S. agents, the officials stated.

The radical Islamist also was in possession of a semi-automatic weapon which he confessed he would have used to shoot people before detonating the bomb inside the U.S. Capitol Building. As with the bomb, the gun was also declared inoperable, according to the federal complaint. Read more ..


The 2012 Vote

The Supremes Validate Obama's Healthcare Reform

June 28th 2012

US Supreme Court

The Supreme Court on June 28 upheld the insurance mandate in President Obama’s healthcare law, a stinging defeat for conservatives who had insisted the law is unconstitutional. The decision vindicates Obama and congressional Democrats, who maintained throughout the legal challenge that even this court, with its conservative majority, would have to break with decades of precedent to overturn the healthcare law.

Chief Justice John Roberts wrote the majority opinion for the court in the 5-4 decision on the mandate, ruling that Congress has the authority to enforce the healthcare law’s individual mandate, which will require most U.S. taxpayers to buy insurance or pay a penalty.

Roberts said the mandate could survive as a tax. "Nothing in the Constitution guarantees that individuals may avoid taxation by inactivity," Roberts said from the bench. Roberts tacitly acknowledged the passionate opposition to the healthcare law, but he said policy decisions belong to the elected branches of government, not the court. "It is not our job to save the people from the consequences of their political decisions," he said.

The decision allows Roberts — whose legacy will depend in large part on this case — to avoid the severe repercussions that both sides of the case had feared. The court did not strike down the signature domestic achievement of a sitting president, nor did it give its approval to an expansion of Congress's powers to regulate commerce.

House Republicans, in reaction, announced they would vote on repealing the full law on July 11. Read more ..


Counting Refugees

How Many Refugees?

June 28th 2012

Palestinian Refugee Camp

Today the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics (or PCBS) commemorated World Refugee Day by releasing new statistics on Palestinian refugees. Therein lies a tale. The PCBS reported that there are now 5.1 million Palestinian refugees. Here is what it said about their age:

The Palestinian Refugees are characterized as young population where 41.7 percent of them are under the age of 15 years for Palestinian refugees in Palestinian territory, 35.9 percent of Palestinian  refugees in Jordan in 2007, and 33.1 percent for Palestinian refugees in Syria in 2009, while 30.4 percent for Palestinian refugees in Lebanon in 2010.

This means, for example, that more than a third of Palestinian “refugees” in Jordan were born after 1997. That is either thirty years (if after the 1967 war) or almost fifty years (if they fled when Israel was established in 1948) after their parents or more likely grandparents arrived in Jordan. Those in Jordan have full Jordanian citizenship and vote in Jordan, which means this: a young Jordanian of Palestinian origin, whose family has lived in Jordan for thirty years and who has himself or herself always lived in Jordan, is still considered a “refugee.” Read more ..


The Digital Edge

Next Generation WiFi Hotspot Technology Starts Commercial Trials

June 28th 2012

smartphone user

Major operators in Europe are set to carry out advanced tests of a new WiFi standard for easy access hot spots using newly standardized equipment after successful trials using prototype kit over the last six months.

Many of the world’s largest operators and vendors have signed up to test Next Generation Hotspots (NGH) which use the Wi-Fi Passpoint standard approved this week. This allows users to log in without user names and passwords, relying on SIM card and serial number data instead. European operators in the trials include BT, BskyB’s The Cloud, Deutsche Telekom, Everything Everywhere, Orange, Portugal Telecom TMN, Swisscom, Talk Talk, TeliaSonera and Telefónica. Equipment suppliers include Ericsson and Comfone AG as well as Intel, Cisco, HP and Juniper.

The trials will test operator-to-operator billing procedures to ensure that they are compensated when carrying each other’s subscribers and test features that allow users to change their hotspot subscription package or set up a connection. The trials will also test a variety of authentication methods, including SIM-based, for the growing number of smartphones, as well as non-SIM based, for tablets, laptops and legacy phones which cannot support SIM authentication. The methods to be tested are EAP-TLS, EAP-TTLS, EAP-SIM and EAP-AKA. Read more ..


The Iranian Threat

Iran Declares War Against the Jewish People

June 28th 2012

Alan Dershowitz

The Iranian government, long known for its Holocaust denial and anti-Zionism, has now declared war against the Jewish people.  In a speech delivered in Tehran, Vice President Mohammad-Reza Rahimi accused the Jewish people of spreading illegal drugs around the world, killing Black babies, starting the Bolshevik Revolution and causing many of the world’s other ills.  His “proof”:  “The Islamic Republic of Iran will pay for anyone who can research and find one single Zionist who is an addict.  They do not exist.  This is the proof of their involvement in drugs trade.”

There are, of course, numerous addicts among Jews and Zionists, as there are among all groups.  Israel has several treatment centers for drug addicts as do Jewish communities throughout the world.  He also cited “proof” that the Jews caused the Bolshevik Revolution:  not a single Jew was killed during that Revolution.  Of course, thousands of Jews were murdered during the Bolshevik Revolution as well as during Stalin’s purges in the decades following the establishment of the Soviet Union. Read more ..


Broken Government

Congressional Democrats Defecting over AG Holder's Contempt Vote

June 28th 2012

Eric Holder gesturing
Attorney General Eric Holder

Several Democrats on June 27 said they would vote to place Eric Holder in contempt of Congress, giving Republicans an opportunity to tout bipartisan support for the effort against President Obama’s attorney general. At least four Democrats in GOP-leaning districts said they’d side with Republicans and back the contempt measure in the wake of the National Rifle Association’s decision to score the vote.

The support from Reps. Collin Peterson (D-Minn.), Nick Rahall (D-W.Va.), Jim Matheson (D-Utah) and John Barrow (D-Ga.) is key for Republicans as they try to defend the legitimacy of the contempt measure to voters and parry counterattacks from Democrats stating that they are leading a “witch hunt.” The contempt measure is expected to pass mostly along partisan lines, but there is intense pressure on Democrats in conservative-leaning districts to side with the NRA against Obama’s chief law enforcement officer. Read more ..


Edge of Nanotechnology

Nano-Diamonds Make Laundry Detergents Eco-Friendly

June 28th 2012

Nanodiamond and human blood
Nanodiamond and human blood.

Nanodiamonds, pieces of carbon less than ten-thousandths the diameter of a human hair, have been found to help loosen crystallized fat from surfaces in a project led by research chemists at the University of Warwick that transforms the ability of washing powders to shift dirt in eco friendly low temperature laundry cycles.

These new findings tackle a problem that forces consumers to wash some of their laundry at between 60 and 90 degrees centigrade more than 80 times a year.

Even with modern biological washing powders, some fats and dirt cannot be removed at the lower temperatures many prefer to use for their weekly wash.

A desire to reduce the significant energy burden of regular high temperature washes, and understand the behaviour of these new materials, brought University of Warwick scientists and colleagues at Aston University together in a project funded by the UK Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) and P&G plc.

This “Cold Water Cleaning Initiative” funded a group of chemists, physicists and engineers led by Dr. Andrew Marsh in the University of Warwick’s Department of Chemistry to explore how new forms of carbon might work together with detergents in everyday household products. Read more ..


Eege of Anthropology

Ancient Hominids were Free-Range Locovores

June 28th 2012

Artist's Reconstruction of Fossil

You are what you eat, and that seems to have been true even 2 million years ago, when a group of pre-human relatives was swinging through the trees and racing across the savannas of South Africa.

A study published in the journal Nature reveals that Australopithecus sediba, an ape-like creature with human features living in a region about 50 miles northwest of today's Johannesburg, exclusively consumed fruits, leaves and other forest-based foods, even though its habitat was near grassy savanna with its rich variety of savory sedges, tasty tubers and even juicy animals. "This astonished us," explains Benjamin Passey, a Johns Hopkins University geochemist on the international team that conducted the study. "Most hominin species appear to have been pretty good at eating what was around them and available, but sediba seems to have been unusual in that, like present-day chimpanzees, it ignored available savanna foods." Watch a video about the discovery here.

These new findings add detail to the emerging picture of our various pre-human relatives, and why some thrived and continued to evolve, while others became extinct.

"We know that if you are a hominin, in order to get to the rest of the world, at some point you must leave the forests, and our ancestors apparently did so," said Passey. "The fates of those that did not leave are well-known: They are extinct or, like the chimpanzee and gorilla today, are in enormous peril. So the closing chapter in the story of hominin evolution is the story of these 'dids' and 'did nots.'" Read more ..


The Edge of Terrorism

Finding the Elusive Keys to Ending Pervasive Insurgencies

June 28th 2012

Al-Shahab in Somalia
Al Shahab terrorists in Somalia.

In recent weeks, insurgent forces in several countries have been forced to withdraw from territories they once held. Somalia's al Shabaab, which was pushed out of Mogadishu in October 2011, was ejected from Afmadow on May 30. The group now runs the risk of losing its hold once again on the port city of Kismayo, an important logistical and financial hub for al Shabaab.

In Syria, the Free Syrian Army and other rebel groups were forced out of the city of Idlib and Homs' Baba Amr district in March. They also withdrew from Al-Haffah on June 13.

Meanwhile in Yemen, al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) has been forced to retreat from towns it took control of last year in southern Abyan province, including Jaar, Shaqra and Zinjibar. The organization controlled the area it seized from the government through its Ansar al-Sharia front organization. AQAP was able to capitalize on the infighting that began in Yemen in 2011 and successfully diverted the government's focus away from AQAP and other militant groups. But in February, the election of new Yemeni President Abd Rabboh Mansour Hadi allowed the rift created by the infighting to be slowly healed. As a result, a combination of Yemeni soldiers and local tribesmen, backed by U.S. intelligence and fire support, have been able to push back AQAP and Ansar al-Sharia in recent weeks. Read more ..


The 2012 Vote

Obama and Romney in Dead Heat in Battleground States

June 28th 2012

Obama and Romney

A new poll finds President Obama and GOP candidate Mitt Romney locked in tight races in three key battleground states, but with voters split on the economy.

An NBC News/Marist poll released Thursday shows Obama with a slight edge in Michigan and North Carolina and the two candidates deadlocked in New Hampshire.

But on the central issue for many voters, jobs and the economic recovery, the survey’s findings show openings for both candidates to bolster their support.

In Michigan, voters back Obama on the economy over Romney 44 percent to 42, while Romney holds the edge in New Hampshire, with his policies being favored by 46 percent to the president’s 42. In North Carolina the two are deadlocked with 43 percent backing each contender. "The economy plays both ways in all three states," says Marist College Institute for Public Opinion director Lee Miringoff. Read more ..


Broken Government

As Goes the Supremes' Healthcare Ruling, so Goes President Obama

June 28th 2012

Obama at peace

The Supreme Court’s healthcare ruling on June 28 will deliver a definitive judgment on President Obama’s effectiveness as a leader. If the law is upheld, Obama’s victory — which came after he ignored the counsel of those who argued for a more incremental approach — will be preserved and bolstered. But if the law is struck down or gutted, it will provide ammunition to those who argue Obama’s aloofness and relative lack of experience in Washington policymaking amount to debilitating weaknesses.

Republicans like strategist Ron Bonjean are eagerly hoping the second scenario comes to pass because of its implications for the 2012 election: It would suggest to voters, perhaps more strongly than anything else in his first term as president, that “while he campaigned as an outsider, he did not know how to make the change he promised from the inside,” Bonjean said.

But political scientist Norman Ornstein noted that the reverse was also true. “A victory won’t end the contentiousness” over the specifics of the law, he said, but “it will be a vindication” for Obama’s leadership abilities and style.

These tensions are especially pivotal in Obama’s case because he has long sought to make a political asset out of his lack of connection to Washington culture. His desire to distance himself has often carried a note of visceral disdain.

Even during his 2008 primary battle with then-Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.), Obama asserted time after time that long service in the corridors of power did not lead to wisdom, but to a kind of groupthink. Read more ..


Broken Government

Contribution Limits in States at Risk Thanks to Supreme Court

June 28th 2012

money changing hands

A campaign finance arms race is in danger of breaking out in Illinois and at least three other states as lawmakers use the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision as justification for raising or even eliminating campaign contribution limits.

In Illinois, for example, the legislature voted last month to repeal limits on corporate contributions to candidates when super PACs or individuals spend more than $250,000 on a state race or $100,000 on a local race. The move would balance spending between outside groups and candidates, say supporters. But it could also lead to far greater spending in elections, raising concerns about possible corruption, say critics.

Twenty-four states had bans in place against corporate or union spending on elections that were knocked down by Citizens United. Nineteen of the 24 states passed laws to require better disclosure.

The Illinois bill, introduced by House Majority Leader Barbara Flynn Currie (D-Chicago), expands an existing loophole in Illinois’s campaign finance law. In May, the bill passed the state House 30–26 and the Senate 63–55 with no Republican support and awaits Gov. Pat Quinn’s signature or veto. Quinn signed campaign finance legislation into law in 2009 that limited contributions to elected officials to $5,000 from an individual, $10,000 from a business or labor group and $50,000 from a regulated political action committee. Read more ..


The Way We Are

The Entrepreneur’s Ambassador

June 28th 2012

Armstrong_Williams

The Jamaican Ambassador to the United States, Audrey Marks, announced this year that she would step down from her position to return to the business world-a decision that reminded me of what our priorities as free people ought to be.

Here is someone who was the first woman to achieve one of the most important and most coveted diplomatic positions in her country; she chose to leave her position not because anything was wrong with it or unsatisfying, but because she wanted to return to her other successful life as an entrepreneur. She is a well-respected mother; a woman of immense integrity, character, keen intellect, class, and grace—all qualities of a natural diplomat. But I had to ask: why stop doing something that you’re so good at?

It reminded me of what we conservatives believe at a foundational level: while public service is noble, it is equally noble to pursue success in the private sector because everyone benefits from good products, good service, and increased productivity. It reminded me that the diplomacy is the servant of government, and that government is the servant of free people.

She’s got the right priorities, and always has. The respect and admiration among her colleagues in the diplomatic and entrepreneurial community is unprecedented.

Audrey Marks became Jamaica’s tenth Ambassador to the United States in May 2010. Her background is entirely in business, as she holds a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree in Business Administration from the University of the West Indies, Mona, Jamaica, and Nova University. She went on to found Paymaster Limited, a multi-transaction company. The company has spawned others, and served millions of people around the world. Read more ..


Iran’s Nukes

Iran Confident As Sanctions Tighten

June 28th 2012

Khameni and Khomeini

As tighter U.S. and EU restrictions on Iran enter into force on June 28 and July 1, respectively, the Islamic Republic's leaders are sounding remarkably confident about the nuclear impasse. Tehran believes it is in a strong position relative to the West and therefore sees little reason to be forthcoming in negotiations. On the contrary, it still finds resistance to be useful in dealing with the P5+1 (i.e., the United States, Britain, China, France, Russia, and Germany). On June 18, Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei stated, “Victory is not possible without … taking risk. We stand [for our cause] … Our enemies … should know that obstinacy, arrogance, self-importance, and unreasonable expectations will not get them anywhere against the Iranian nation.” The challenge for the United States and Europe is how to persuade Iranian leaders that they have exaggerated both their own strengths and the West's weaknesses.

Iran sees the West as preoccupied

Iranian leaders believe that Europe is completely preoccupied by an ongoing financial crisis that has proven its economic model to be a failure. They also see the United States as being focused on the presidential campaign and exhausted by two long, inconclusive wars in the region. In Tehran's eyes, both parties—especially the United States—want a deal with Iran more than Iran wants a deal with them. Read more ..


Gays on Edge

Parenthood Affects Gay Couples' Health and HIV Risk, Study Says

June 27th 2012

Holding Hands

Gay parents face many of the same challenges as straight parents when it comes to sex and intimacy after having children, according to a new study of gay fathers. The findings suggest that gay male couples who are raising children may experience lifestyle changes that could reduce their HIV risk.

"When gay couples become parents, they become very focused on the kids, they are tired, there is less time for communication and less desire for sex," said Colleen Hoff, professor of sexuality studies at San Francisco State University. "They go through a lot of the same changes as heterosexual couples who have kids."

Nationwide, approximately one in five gay male couples is raising children. Hoff and colleagues studied whether becoming a parent causes gay dads to change their lifestyle in ways that protect them from risky sexual behavior, or if the stress of parenting leads to increased health risks such as infidelity and unprotected sex with outside partners. The researchers interviewed 48 gay male couples who are raising children together. Read more ..


The Health Edge

After Child Dies, Mom's Risk of Early Death Skyrockets

June 27th 2012

victim

In the first two years following the death of a child, there is a 133% increase in the risk of the mother dying, a new study from the University of Notre Dame shows.

Researchers William Evans, a health and labor economist at Notre Dame, and Javier Espinosa of the Rochester Institute of Technology, studied 69,224 mothers aged 20 to 50 for nine years, tracking the mortality of children even after they had left the household. It is the first study of its kind using a large, nationally representative U.S. data source.

According to the study, this heightened mortality is concentrated within the first two years following the death of a child, regardless of the age of the child at the time of death. There also appeared to be no difference in results based on household income, mother's education, family size, the child's sex or the child's cause of death.

The sample was composed of women who are married (84 percent), white (87 percent) and non-Hispanic (91 percent). Slightly more than half the mothers were between the ages of 20 and 34. Read more ..


Obama and Israel

The Incredible Shrinking U.S.-Israel Security Cooperation

June 27th 2012

Netanyahu and Obama
President Obama with Prime Minister Netanyahu

In light of increased sensitivity to intelligence leaks, it seemed innocuous – or even admirable – when the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) asked the Senate to remove a few words from the US-Israel Enhanced Security Cooperation Act: the "sense of the Senate" part of the bill included the sentence, "Expand already close intelligence cooperation, including satellite intelligence, with the Government of Israel;" ODNI wanted the words "including satellite intelligence" to go.

An ODNI spokesman said it was "simply a matter of clarifying the intelligence aspects of the bill and being sensitive to the level of specificity of the language…nothing nefarious here, just more clear language."

Yeah, right.

This is just the latest example of the Obama Administration making clear that it does not want to be seen as Israel's partner in regional affairs – several of them predicated on Turkish desires. Despite Israel's status as a Major Non-NATO ally, a NATO "partner" country, and a member of NATO's Mediterranean Dialogue, Turkey is increasingly insistent that Israel be isolated and cut out. This surrender to Turkey -- which Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has for years been aggressively making ever more fundamentalist -- coincides nicely with the Administration's increasingly open courtship of Turkey's Islamist-leaning and virulently anti-Israel Prime Minister and what appears to be the desire of the Administration to enhance security relations in the Arab-Muslim world as it dials back visible cooperation with Israel. Read more ..


Mexico on Edge

Mexico's Nascent Youth Movement Forges Ahead during Election Year

June 27th 2012

Mexican students

The impact of a social movement can often be gauged not only by the societal reception it gets, but also by the reaction it engenders. And Mexico’s “ I am 132 Movement” is no exception.

Born only several weeks ago as a Mexico City protest of private university students against the media imposition of presidential candidate Enrique Pena Nieto of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) and Green Party (PVEM) electoral alliance, the movement has since spread to large cities and small towns across the country. In the Pacific coast tourist town of Zihuatanejo, Guerrero, an estimated 250 young people and their supporters took to the streets earlier this month to demonstrate against Pena Nieto and to call for the democratization of an electronic media dominated by two networks, Televisa and TV Azteca.

“This was the first march that was done by young people in the history of the municipality,” Alondra Garcia, 132 organizer, told Frontera NorteSur. Acknowledging that members of anti-Pena political parties participated in the action, Garcia nonetheless rejected charges by Pena’s PRI party that the 132 Movement is a front for rival candidates, especially the Progressive Movement’s Andres Lopez Obrador. Read more ..


Brazil on Edge

Brazilian Environmental Policy: Talk or Action?

June 27th 2012

Brazil deforestation forest fire

After several years of deliberation amongst environmental organizations and agricultural lobbyists, on April 25 the Brazilian National Congress approved the new Forestry Code, sending it to President Dilma’s desk. Dilma has vetoed a number of the proposed law’s stipulations, including penalty-free infractions by landowners who avoid environmental registry. Approved in 1965, the existing Forestry Code seeks to preserve the environment by specifying the exact amount of land that can be deforested by farmers. Unfortunately, the proposed reforms will harm the Amazonian region by allowing farmers and settlers to cultivate land without requiring the proper environmental safeguards.

In the Amazon, issues of deforestation, agriculture, ranching, and energy collide with protection of the environment, and the Brazilian government has historically catered to demands of the agribusiness sector. Professor Ans Kolk from the Amsterdam Business School says that, in the 1970s when environmental debates were emerging, Read more ..


Students on Edge

Congress Close to Deal on Student Loan and Transportation Bills

June 27th 2012

College expenses

Congressional leaders on Tuesday moved closer to passing two high-profile bills in what could be the final burst of major legislative activity before the 2012 elections. Senate leaders announced a deal to extend federal subsidies for college loans and floated the possibility of attaching the language to a multiyear transportation authorization measure.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) told reporters that he is confident the student loan legislation will pass while pegging the chances of the highway bill at better than 50-50.
Both Reid and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) signaled they are open to combining the bills into one package. They also cautioned that the GOP-led House, where the politics are more delicate on these issues, would have to sign off as well.

The boomlet of activity comes a week after the Senate passed a multiyear farm bill. Earlier this year, the House and Senate cleared legislation on helping start-up businesses, banning insider trading for lawmakers and reauthorizing the Export-Import Bank. Perhaps not coincidentally, approval ratings for Congress have hit 20 percent — more than double what they were during 2011, a year of multiple partisan showdowns. The emerging dynamic is that Senate Republicans are increasingly eager to show they can work with Democrats, which hampers President Obama’s strategy of running against congressional obstructionism. Read more ..



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