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Archive for June 2014

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Eyal, Naftali and Gilad -- We Will Never Forget You

June 30th 2014

Our hearts are breaking at the horrific news of the murder of the three Israeli teenagers: Eyal Yifrah, Naftali Frankel and Gilad Shaer. Israelis, Jews and people of goodwill around the world were consumed with worry following the cruel and cowardly kidnapping of the teens. The news of their brutal murder is painful to absorb. As we stood with and embraced their families following the kidnapping, we stand with them today, sharing their grief and wishing them strength at this tragic time. This sad news reminds us that terrorists continue to act with impunity under Hamas and the Palestinian Authority. It reminds us that Hamas is a terrorist organization and has no place in any serious leadership or negotiating position. We see a clear link between the horrific acts of violence by Jihadists in Iraq and Syria and the acts of Hamas, Islamic Jihad and other Palestinian terror groups. Hate education against Jews and Israelis continues unabated in the Palestinian Authority, Gaza and many Arab countries. The result is hatred, terrorism and murder. The institutionalized incitement against Jews and Israel permeates education, the media, mosques and other social institutions, directed and supported by the Palestinian leadership. This education produced the stomach-turning images of some Palestinians celebrating the boys` abduction. This "education" resulted in the murder of our three innocent boys. 

The world has been united in keeping the boys and their families uppermost in its thoughts and prayers and will continue to do so now. We pray for the strength that the families and our greater community will need to cope with this tragedy. International pressure must be placed on the Palestinian Authority to stop the ongoing incitement to hatred, terrorism and murder. The Palestinian leadership, both Abbas and Hamas, must finally be held accountable for their actions. EU and American funding of the PA should be tied to that accountability. We continue to support Israel`s security procedures that protect its citizens from acts of terror like this. We join all of Israel, and good people around the world, in mourning Eyal, Naftali and Gilad.

The Edge of Film

To Russia With Love: Muscovites Flock to James Bond Show

June 30th 2014

Drive-In Movie

During the Soviet era, watching a James Bond film could lead to a jail sentence.  Despite the ban, many were able to catch bootleg copies during the thawing of the Cold War in the 1980s.  This developed into a Russian love affair with the foreign agent.

In 1964, when the James Bond movie From Russia With Love was packing theaters in the United States, Moscow and the West were locked in the deep freeze of the Cold War.

Fast forward half a century. Relations between Moscow and West are again in a deep chill - this time over Russia’s arming of rebels in Ukraine.

But disregarding geopolitics, Muscovites are streaming to a new museum show here called “Designing 007.” Five floors and 500 props, sets, gadgets and costumes draw crowds to the Multimedia Arts Museum. “Really huge, a lot of visitors, around 15,000 in three, in four days,” said Katrina Inozemtseva, the curator of the Bond show in Moscow.  Read more ..

Israel on Edge

Hamas Will Pay, Israel Declares

June 30th 2014


Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday night said that “Hamas is responsible, and will pay the price” for the deaths of the three youths abducted on June 12. ‏Hamas officials warned that if Israel strikes Gaza in retaliation for the deaths, or for the past two weeks of rocket fire into Israel, then “the gates of hell” will open.
“If the occupiers carry out an escalation or a war, they will open the gates of hell on themselves,” Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri told AFP, according to the Palestinian Ma’an News Agency.

“The body of three settlers discovered,” Hamas MP Mushir Al-Masri wrote on his Facebook page, according to The Times of Israel. “Better luck next time, God willing,” Al-Masri wrote, mockingly. Read more ..

Destination Israel

Healing Powers of the Dead Sea

June 30th 2014

Dead Sea Resort

People seeking relief from chronic skin, respiratory and joint conditions benefit from the unique solar and mineral properties found only at the Dead Sea. The Dead Sea has become a popular destination for medical tourism.

Cleopatra knew about the healing properties at the Dead Sea thousands of years ago. Today, the same one-of-a-kind results are still sought by people seeking long-lasting relief from incurable chronic conditions such as psoriasis, asthma and arthritis. A stay of 14 to 28 days allows the sun and minerals at this lowest spot on Earth to work their magic.

“It’s very effective and 100 percent natural, plus it’s relaxing because you are at a beach resort,” says Pini Shani, head of marketing at the Tourism Ministry’s international department. “Many of those who come have tried other things that didn’t work. A few thousand people return year after year.” Read more ..

Supreme Court Ruling on Contraception Disappoints Women

June 30th 2014

Today in a 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court ruled that closely-held corporations such as Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood cannot be required to provide contraceptive coverage that they object to on religious grounds. This is a disappointing decision for women. We respect the views of people of deep faith and we also respect the proven value of contraception as part of basic women’s health care.  However, by allowing a private for-profit company to impose the owners’ beliefs on its employees, the Court is limiting the ability of such employees to choose the method of contraception that they and their doctor decide is best for them.  Pregnancy planning and spacing though the use of contraception has well-documented benefits. These include reducing maternal and infant mortality, improving educational attainment, reducing poverty and reducing abortion. These are goals we can all support. Almost all Americans (95% of Democrats and 91% of Republicans) agree that for those trying not to get pregnant, using birth control is taking personal responsibility. Furthermore, three-quarters of Americans (78% of Democrats and 68% of Republicans) think policymakers who are opposed to abortion should be strong supporters of birth control. Half of pregnancies in the U.S. are unplanned as reported by women themselves and half of all unplanned pregnancies end in abortion.  Moreover, unplanned pregnancy lies behind 90% of all abortions in America.  Research shows that when cost is removed as a barrier and women can choose from the full range of contraceptives, including the most effective ones, there have been dramatic declines in unplanned pregnancy and abortion. While the ruling does not affect birth control coverage for most employees, it presents a serious barrier for women working at certain closely-held corporations to plan and space their pregnancies, which benefits everyone.

Sarah Brown is CEO of The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy.

Defense on Edge

Why America's Military Dominance is Fading

June 30th 2014

U.S. Naval Carrier

It is often said Congress hates to cut or cancel weapons systems, usually for reasons relating to jobs and elections back home. But the record shows that Congress is much more likely to curtail new equipment purchases for the military rather than get rid of or retire the old stuff.

This tendency is increasingly problematic for the U.S. military. In many capability sets and domains, the traditional margins of U.S. military technological supremacy are declining across the services. Too often, policy makers think of this as an emerging challenge that can be dealt with in the coming years. But, as has been documented previously and stated by many senior Pentagon officials over the past year, America’s declining military superiority is now a “here-now” problem.

Frank Kendall, undersecretary for acquisition, technology and logistics, recently said, “I’m very concerned about eroding technological superiority and where we’re headed. […] We’ve had 20 years since the end of the Cold War [and] sort of a presumption in the United States that we are technologically superior militarily. I don’t think that that’s a safe assumption. In fact, I think that we’ve gotten complacent about that and we’ve been distracted for the last ten years fighting counterinsurgencies.” Read more ..

America on Edge

The Real War on Women

June 30th 2014

Brain Waves

In April, the “equal pay debate” was the opening salvo for politicians seeking women voters in the midterms. It set off a firestorm. The claim that women make 77 cents on the dollar compared to men was quickly countered with evidence that the wage gap is primarily driven by choices, not discrimination. Women earn 97 percent of what men earn when they hold the same jobs, work the same hours and have the same qualifications and experience, according to a study by June O’Neill.

But, of course, most women don’t. In this way, both sides missed the bigger issue facing women – why women continue to choose worse jobs with worse pay. Despite women’s astounding progress in the labor force, women are twice as likely as men to work part time. Women represent nearly two-thirds of workers (64 percent) earning the minimum wage or less. In 21st century America, women are disproportionately secretaries, maids, nurses and teachers, while the head honchos in business, finance, law, medicine, academia and government are still mostly men. (Consider that women represent only 4.8 percent of Fortune 1000 CEOs, even though they comprise half of all managerial positions). Read more ..

The Digital Edge

Lost in Big Data: Digital Zombies

June 30th 2014

Oak Ridge Super Computer

The latest estimates from market research firm IHS Technology hint at over 6 billion Internet-enabled devices to be produced in 2014 alone, with another 19.42 billion such devices literally flooding the planet between 2015 and 2017.

From whatever angle you look at it, it is a promising market for providers or low-power microcontrollers, sensors, RF modules of many sorts, GPS chips, energy harvesting units, supercapacitors and batteries just to name a few of the component categories that will invariably find their way to landfills if not decommissioned properly or lost in nature.The real-time sensing, data logging and reporting applications seem endless, all tied to specific benefits for the end-user, whether it be in the name of safety, health, efficiency, productivity, security or leisure. Now, if it is good for business too, where is the harm? Read more ..

The Edge of Terrorism

Abducted Israeli Teenagers are Found Dead

June 30th 2014

Click to select Image

Israeli security forces has found the bodies of three teenaged Jewish students who had been abducted by Palestinian terrorists over two weeks ago. They were found in a field northwest of Hebron in the Beit Kahil region of Israel. Israeli police and military units had been searching for Gil-Ad Shaer, Naftali Fraenkel and Eyal Yifrah for the last 18 days.

The June 30 discovery came after Israel's Security Agency, known as Shin Bet, had been focusing its efforts on the area over the past two days during searches for the three teens. A large number of police officers and security forces had gathered at the Halhul junction north of Hebron, near the area where the three were said to have been abducted. The area was declared a closed military perimeter. Israeli citizens had rallied over the abductions, demanding their release by the terrorists. Read more ..

The Race for LEDs

Glasgow Smartens City With Intelligent LED Street Lighting

June 30th 2014

London buses

Glasgow City Council has selected LED Roadway Lighting and its partner Silver Spring Networks, Inc. to deliver the Intelligent Street Lighting requirements for the Scottish city's innovative Future City Demonstrator initiative.

The project will use LED street lighting from LED Roadway Lighting’s NXT range of luminaires and Silver Spring’s IPv6-based smart city networking platform to integrate LED street lights, traffic cameras, and sensors into two adaptive lighting systems in the city center and along the River Clyde’s 'Clyde Walkway'. The adaptive lighting systems will monitor vehicle, bicycle, and pedestrian traffic and dynamically dim and increase illumination accordingly, increasing energy efficiency, urban sustainability and improving citizen safety. Read more ..

Islam on Edge

The Islamist Plague

June 30th 2014

Islamist Protest PostMorsi

Many Western commentators have adopted the narrative that al Qaeda and its ilk are the exception to the "religion of peace" -- Islam. 

However, the rise of "political Islam," the brainchild of the Muslim Brotherhood, is more akin to a highly infectious disease. No vaccine is available; its spread can only be halted by identifying and eliminating the sources of infection. Yet, despite the mortal danger posed by the increasingly violent global jihadist movement, willful blindness persists in the United States and the West. 

Once the Soviet Union imploded and Islamist fundamentalism exploded, Muhammad replaced Marx and Lenin, and radical Islam replaced the socialist-nationalist doctrines of the Arab revolutionaries. The collapse of the Soviet Union served as the catalyst for an alliance between radical Sunni and Shiite movements that helped to revive Islamist fundamentalism. The spread of the Islamist ideology was paid for by the oil-rich Arab/Muslim states, which also used their money to buy Western "opinion makers," including businessmen, politicians, the media, and academics. Read more ..

The New Caliphate

Al-Qaida Splinter Declares New Islamic Caliphate

June 30th 2014

Iraq ISIL double file of militants

The al-Qaida breakaway group that has seized much of northeastern Syria and huge tracts of neighboring Iraq formally declared the establishment of a new Islamic state on Sunday and demanded allegiance from Muslims worldwide.

With brutal efficiency, the Sunni extremist group has carved out a large chunk of territory that has effectively erased the border between Iraq and Syria and laid the foundations of its proto-state. But the declaration, made on the first day of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, could trigger a wave of infighting among the Sunni militant factions that formed a loose alliance in the blitz across Iraq and impact the broader international jihadist movement, especially the future of a-Qaida.


The Ancient Edge

Ancient Mariners Brought Neolithic Culture to Europe

June 30th 2014

Click to select Image

How the Neolithic people found their way to Europe has long been a subject of debate. A study of genetic markers in modern populations may offer some new clues. Their paper, "Maritime route of colonization of Europe," appears in the online edition of the Proceeding of the National Academy of Sciences.

Between 8,800 to 10,000 B.C., in the Levant, the region in the eastern Mediterranean that today encompasses Israel and the West Bank, Jordan, Syria and part of southern Turkey, people learned how to domesticate wild grains. This accomplishment eventually allowed them to abandon their lives as nomadic hunter-gathers and become farmers. Read more ..

Education on Edge

A Creative Solution to Student Loan Crisis

June 30th 2014

As America's student debt crisis continues to worsen, researchers at the University of Michigan and Elon University believe they have a solution—let the federal government, rather than private banks, handle student loans.

"Evidence suggests that student borrowers have not been well-served by the current system," said Roland Zullo, assistant research scientist with the U-M Institute for Research on Labor, Employment and the Economy. "Sources have identified persistent problems with the performance of servicers, the extent and nature of which indicate serious structural shortcomings and conflicts of interests in the present contractual arrangement." Read more ..

The 2014 Vote

Thad Cochran's Victory in Mississippi Should Worry Republicans

June 30th 2014

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Last Tuesday night, longstanding Republican Sen. Thad Cochran defied the polls and defeated Tea Party challenger Chris McDaniel in the Mississippi Senate primary runoff by a 51 to 49 percent margin. While the Republican establishment in D.C. rejoiced at their colleague’s victory, this election also could confirm their worst nightmare: field programs can effectively turn out voters in mass.

After losing the initial primary election on June 3rd, Cochran knew he had to shake things up. The traditional strategy of pummeling the airwaves with negative advertisement did not seem to be working, and his opponent was up in almost every single poll. Read more ..

Obama's Second Term

Supreme Court to Rule on Obamacare Birth-Control Mandate

June 30th 2014

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The boundaries of religious freedom hang in the balance as the Supreme Court prepares to close out its term with a decision on the Affordable Care Act’s “birth control mandate.”

Monday's ruling, the most closely watched of the season, decides round two for ObamaCare at the high court, and will be the second time that the justices will close their term with a ruling on President Obama's signature law.

The stakes are high. A ruling against the administration could undermine the statute’s provision requiring companies to offer contraceptive services to workers as part of their insurance coverage. It would peel away a significant portion of the mandate, potentially affecting preventive health coverage for millions of women, the government and backers of the law say. Perhaps even more important, they contend, are the ramifications of a finding that corporations could be exempt from federal statutes on grounds that they have religious objections. Read more ..

Nigeria on Edge

Islamist Rebels Strike in Nigeria and Kill Christians at Church

June 30th 2014

An assault by Islamist Boko Haram marauders is feared to have claimed the lives of at least 100 persons in northeastern Nigeria. The June 29 raid occured near Chibok, a village in the same area from where the group kidnapped more than 200 girls in April. Initial reports from the attack yesterday also speak of five churches and several houses burned.

The Islamists' main target was the village of Kwada, where they opened fire and tossed handgrenades at worshippers leaving the churches. A similar fate awaited the villagers of Kautikari, located eight kilometers from Chibok. Read more ..

The 2016 Campaign

Hillary Clinton's Potentially Costly Mis-Steps

June 29th 2014

I am a progressive populist who strongly supports Hillary Clinton for president. But I must admit, the most memorable aspect of Clinton’s carefully orchestrated book tour for Hard Choices could be the discussion about whether she is fully in tune with the temper of our times on matters of wealth and opportunity in America.

There is a growing concern in Democratic circles, which I share, about whether the Hillary Clinton who could run in 2016 is repeating the mistake she made in 2008, when she ran as the inevitable and invincible candidate of a political establishment held in widespread public disrepute. Read more ..

Obama's Second Term

Will Obama Ever Close the Guantanamo Detention Facility?

June 29th 2014

President Obama vowed to close the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay on his second day in office, but it is increasingly unlikely he can deliver on that promise.

The president faces numerous obstacles from Congress, where lawmakers have repeatedly blocked efforts to move prisoners to U.S. soil or fund new facilities to hold them.

And the blowback from releasing five Taliban commanders in exchange for prisoner of war Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl — without congressional approval — only intensified opposition to shuttering the prison.
Obama insists he is committed to closing Gitmo, but critics say he still has no clear plan.

Republican Sen. John McCain (Ariz.), who supports closing Guantanamo, says he has been waiting since 2009. Read more ..

Obama's Second Term

Obama is Worried about Terrorism

June 29th 2014

President Obama said that the U.S. has been seriously threatened by terrorists for his entire time in office and even since before the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

“They’re gaining strength in some places,” Obama said on ABC’s “This Week.”
Obama added that his administration is trying to boost its response to terrorists trained in Iraq and Syria who, because of European passports, would have little trouble getting to the U.S.

“We’re spending a lot of time, and we have been for years, making sure that we are improving intelligence so that we can respond to that,” Obama said. “There are going to be times where we take strikes against organizations that could do us harm.” Read more ..

Oil Addiction

Feds, Lawmakers Warn of Fire Risk from Oil Trains

June 28th 2014

train on fire

Officials are warning that crude oil of “all types and from all regions” poses a flammability risk during rail transport.

"Crude oil of all types and from all regions are flammable materials," acting National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) Chairman Chris Hart wrote in a letter to Oregon Sens. Ron Wyden (D) and Jeff Merkley (D) released Thursday evening.

Hart’s letter comes after the Transportation Department in May issued an emergency order warning the public and first responders that crude oil coming out of the Bakken formation was more flammable and likely to set off an explosion than other types of crude.

Now, things have changed, according to Hart, who said the dangers from the increasing number of oil shipments by rail go beyond crude oil from just the Bakken formation in the Northern Plains. A number of accidents involving crude oil from other regions resulted in spills and "caused environmental damage and fires," Hart said in the letter. Read more ..

The Battle for Iraq

Iraq, Then and Now

June 28th 2014

Iraq ISIL double file of militants

Wanted: Republicans willing to step up and explain just how we are going to face down the threat of new terrorist groups and non-state actors trying to take over sovereign countries in the Middle East, now or when President Obama has left office.

In a wrenching debate over the deterioration in Iraq and the rise of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), not surprisingly, has called for airstrikes. But he isn’t running for president again. Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) agreed with Obama’s decision not to send ground forces, only to be called “isolationist” by former Vice President Dick Cheney.

Even amid some regret among conservatives, there isn’t much leadership to be found for a crisis we will be managing for years to come. After insurgents began to claim large swaths of territory in Iraq last week, conservative fire-breather and radio talk show host Glenn Beck declared that liberals had been right all along on our role in Iraq. They may or may not have been, but such a reversal was stunning. Read more ..

The Edge of Soccer Craze

Loud, Loyal American Fans Travel to Brazil in Huge Numbers

June 28th 2014

Injured female soccer player

The World Cup, international soccer's marquee event, attracts the most passionate and loyal fans in the world. Supporters from the United States, a country with a small but rising fan base, are out to prove that they are just as enthusiastic as any other country.

Rio de Janeiro has hosted four World Cup games so far, three of which included South American teams. The city has, at times, been dominated by Argentines, Chileans, and Ecuadoreans. But the strongest constant international presence here in Rio has been the Americans.

 "Oh man, U.S. fan support here has been IN-credible.  At the Fan Fest, every single game, we're representing more than the teams we're playing. There's so much U.S.A. pride, cheers every two seconds, and when we score? Oh man. It's like the biggest party in the U.S.A.," said Samantha Medney, one of thousands of U.S. supporters in Brazil. Read more ..

The Brazilian Edge

Flash Mobs Dance in Rio for Locals

June 28th 2014

Brazilian football fans and flag

Not everything about the World Cup revolves around football. Sometimes an event like this can bring an extra bit of excitement to a host nation, and in Rio de Janeiro flash mobs are erupting spontaneously, to the delight of locals.

Parque Madureira is a quiet park about an hour away from Rio's touristy beach spots. And Praça XV, in the center of Rio, is a place where locals arrive by ferry from Niteroi, across the bay, to start the work day.

The Brazilian Ministry of Culture has organized five-to-ten-minute long flash mobs in each location. They are performed mostly for local citizens, not the tourists that have overtaken their city during the World Cup.

“Big Dance Brazil” flash mobs will take place in all twelve cities hosting World Cup matches. According to choreographer Carlinhos de Jesus, dance is the best way to unite Brazilians.  Read more ..

Broken Economy

How the Narrative About the Financial Crisis Affects Current and Future Housing Policy

June 28th 2014

Home Foreclosure

The narrative that came out of the financial crisis was that it could have been prevented by better regulation. If the regulators had been diligent enough to see the build-up of risk in the mortgage system—the large number of subprime and Alt-A loans—they could have stepped in, closed down the subprime lending process and saved us all a lot of losses. But Wall Street greed and risk-taking were allowed to run wild, causing a financial crisis. This is essentially the conclusion of the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission (from which I dissented) and it is the basis for the reforms implemented by the Dodd-Frank Act in 2010. It is also a fantasy.

Yes, of course, if the regulators had been astute enough to see what was happening in the mortgage markets in 2005 and 2006, and understood that this was the beginning of an unprecedented collapse of housing and mortgage values, they could have acted. But with the exception of a handful of market players—like John Paulson—who made lucky speculative bets, no one knew the essential facts about the mortgage market and no one published a predicted decline in housing prices in the range of 30 to 40 percent. I dare say few if any of those who are reading this today can honestly say that they sold off all their housing and mortgage assets in 2005 or 2006 because they could see the disaster coming. Read more ..

Inside Politics

Rubio the Reformer

June 28th 2014

Sen Marco Rubio (R-FL)

In a hostile take on Bill Clinton's campaign during the 1992 presidential primaries, two left-wing journalists wrote that his supporters "fired off neoliberal proposals like a Salad Shooter spews lettuce shreds."

Senator Marco Rubio, a Florida Republican, seems to have adopted a similar approach. In his case, however, it's conservative reforms that he is spitting out. Let's hope other Republicans are starting to listen.

In a speech today, Rubio explained how his conservative proposals would make a positive difference in Americans' lives -- something a lot of Republican politicians oddly haven't even tried to do in recent years. The theme was making it easier for people to achieve economic security in an insecure age by bringing down the cost of living.

In these respects, Rubio sounds very much like a group of people who have been called "reform conservatives." Like them, Rubio thinks that the country doesn't need to expand the federal government but does need to apply a series of conservative reforms to dysfunctional institutions like the health-care system and the tax code. And like the reform conservatives, Rubio thinks that Republicans need to apply "the principles of our founding to the challenges and opportunities facing Americans in their daily lives." Read more ..

The Way We Are

No Smoking In Russia? Tough New Antitobacco Rules Come To The Land Of Cigarettes

June 28th 2014

cigarette in ashtray

A group of pro-Kremlin youth activists approaches a middle-aged woman smoking outside a subway station -- a no-smoking zone as of last year. Filming her with a handheld camera, they insist that she put out her cigarette.

Initially, the woman refuses. "Why don't you get a job?" she says, showing her backside to the camera. But in the end, she gives in, throwing the lit cigarette at one of the young men and storming off in a huff.

This Moscow street scene, circulated on the Internet in a video, illustrates the tensions between smokers and antitobacco activists as tough new legislation comes into force in Russia, the world's second-largest cigarette market. The latest provisions of the law came into force on June 1 and prohibit smoking in most public indoor places -- including bars, restaurants, offices, and public transportation.

"It's horribly inconvenient!" says Anush Zogranyan, an accountant and smoker in her 40s, who on a cool, overcast weekday was smoking outside a Moscow cafe that until this month would be thick with tobacco smoke. She adds that she has "morally" steeled herself for the ban, but is not looking forward to smoking outdoors in winter.  Read more ..

America on Edge

Why the Voting Rights Act Still Matters: The Case of Jasper, Texas

June 27th 2014

Lyndon Johnson Greets Martin Luther King and Ralph Abernathy

Fifty years ago last weekend, civil-rights workers James Earl Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and Michael Schwerner were shot and killed by members of the Ku Klux Klan, including a deputy sheriff, in Philadelphia, Mississippi. Next Wednesday marks the 50th anniversary of the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, one of the monumental achievements of the 20th century. Three weeks ago, on June 7, we had the 16th anniversary of the murder of James Byrd Jr. in Jasper, Texas, after he was chained to a pickup truck by white supremacists and dragged three miles, mostly while conscious, with his headless body thrown in front of an African-American graveyard. And Wednesday marked the first anniversary of Shelby County v. Holder, the 5-4 Supreme Court ruling written by Chief Justice John Roberts that eviscerated the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Read more ..

Inside Politics

Elizabeth Warren: The Obama of 2016

June 27th 2014

Elizabeth Warren

Paging Elizabeth Warren: This is your moment.

In 2007, Democrats were delirious with rage about the Iraq war. Hillary Clinton, the “inevitable” presidential front-runner, had voted for the war and refused to apologize for it. Other leading candidates, including Joe Biden, John Edwards, and Chris Dodd, voted for it too. This left a huge opening for a credible antiwar candidate. Barack Obama, inexperienced and underqualified, nonetheless jumped into the vacuum. The rest, as they say, is history.

Today, the issue that obsesses the base of the Democratic party is income inequality. I think that’s foolish. The underlying causes of inequality — miserable economic growth, stagnating wages, poverty, etc. — are vastly more worthy challenges. Though, in fairness, many people actually have those problems in mind when they talk about inequality.

There’s another component to the inequality obsession: populism. People increasingly feel that economic and political elites are enriching themselves, not by making great products or selling valuable services, but by cutting backroom deals and selling influence. This rage is remarkably bipartisan. It is the one theme that loosely unites tea partiers and Wall Street occupiers alike. Read more ..

Nature on Edge

Liberians Flee Caterpillar Invasion

June 27th 2014

Hungry African Widow/Children

Thousands of people have fled their homes in northern Liberia following an invasion of caterpillars - which have overtaken houses and schools, destroyed crops and contaminated water sources. The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) says these attacks are becoming more frequent in Liberia and the government needs to put in place an early warning system to stop the invasions from reaching such catastrophic levels.

Residents of at least 25 villages and towns in the forested areas of Lofa and Gbarpolu counties have been fleeing en masse since early June to escape the trail of excrement that the caterpillars leave behind.

“We are afraid. You see here, the caterpillars are all over and there is nowhere to sleep. I am leaving with my children to a different community," explained Mary Tolbert who lives in Gbarpolu County. Jeremiah Toe, a nurse in one of the affected villages, says the caterpillars pose a serious public health problem. Read more ..

Afghanistan on Eddge

New Recording Alleges Order To Cover Up Afghan Election Fraud

June 27th 2014

Afghanistan Spec Forces

Presidential candidate Abdulah Abdullah’s campaign has released a new secretly recorded telephone conversation that appears to show complicity among electoral and government officials in carrying out vote fraud during Afghanistan's June 14 presidential runoff.

The recording, released in video format during a press conference on June 26 and distributed to journalists, purportedly took place between Wardak Province Governor Attaullah Khogyani and an unidentified Afghan National Army (ANA) commander two days before the election.

Abdullah's campaign team claims the conversation, along with an accompanying video, provides further proof of systemic fraud that favored rival candidate Asharf Ghani. The claim comes less than a week after the Abdullah campaign released audio of a conversation involving Ziaulhaq Amarkhail, the head of the Afghan Independent Election Commission's secretariat, who has since resigned.  Read more ..

Financing the Flames

US Funding Palestinian Terrorists

June 27th 2014

Financing the Flames

Obama administration officials have praised Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas as someone with whom Israel can do business.

See the Video Report

Yet he recently chose to do business with those committed to Israel's destruction, Abbas struck a deal with Hamas making the U.S.-designated terror group part of a united Palestinian government.

Buy Financing the Flames
Learn More About Financing the Flames

Although that unity deal may soon be dead following Hamas's alleged kidnapping of three Israeli teenagers, Abbas's initial embrace of the terror outfit raised serious questions about his commitment to peace.

Financing the Flames

"Peace doesn't have a chance because peace doesn't pay," said award-winning investigative journalist Edwin Black. "Because anytime that they want some income, all they've got to do is commit an act of terrorism."

In his latest book, Financing the Flames, the New York Times bestselling author details how the Palestinian Authority rewards terrorists who have killed Israelis.

"As soon as a terrorist commits an act of terrorism against an innocent civilian in Israel -- whether that's cutting the throat of a child or stabbing a man standing at a bus or blowing up a building," Black said. "As soon as that man does that, he goes on a special salary from the Palestinian Authority, under Palestinian law -- a law known as the Law of the Prisoner."

The more Israelis killed, the bigger the financial reward.

"He gets a graduated salary depending on how heinous the crime is," Black continued. "If he kills five people and gets five years, he gets one salary. If he kills double that number and gets double the sentence, he gets double the salary. And so this actually incentivizes the misery, mayhem, and carnage that the terrorists commit." Read more ..

Book Review

The Limits of Partnership: Understanding the Deterioration of US/Russia Ties

June 27th 2014

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The Limits of Partnership: U.S.-Russian Relations in the Twenty-first Century. Angela Stent. Princeton Univ. Press. 2014. 384 pp.

In early May 2014 Angela Stent, Director of Georgetown University’s Center for Eurasian, Russian and East European Studies, testified before a U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee Hearing on the United States, Ukraine and Russia. She was a logical choice because the book under review here provides needed background to understand the deterioration of U.S.-Russian relations that we are now witnessing. (I should disclose that I did my graduate work at the center that Professor Stent now heads, but this was before she arrived at Georgetown and we have never met.)

Stent’s book covers more than its title indicates, for it is a history and analysis of U.S.-Russian relations during the post-Soviet period from late 1991 until late 2013. Unlike Stephen Cohen’s Failed Crusade: America and the Tragedy of Post-Communist Russia (2001) and subsequent writings, Stent’s book is not a strong indictment of U.S. policy toward post-Soviet Russia. Although both approaches have their value, Cohen’s indictment approach is not in keeping with Stent’s style. She is more the prudent, balanced scholar, often presenting contrasting views without revealing, except tacitly, how she feels on a particular subject.

Having held important positions at both the State Department and the National Intelligence Council, Stent is much more a Washington “insider” than is Cohen. Currently, she also acts as a senior advisor to NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander in Europe.

In addition to 34 pages of notes and bibliography (about one-tenth of her book), there is a four-page list of interviewees, among whom are many of the important U.S. government foreign-policy and Russian experts. Among the latter are Strobe Talbott, who served President Clinton, and Michael McFaul, who for two years under President Obama was the U.S. ambassador to Russia. In addition, two former secretaries of state, Henry Kissinger and Madeleine Albright, are there. She has also interviewed important Russian foreign-policy figures including two former ministers of foreign affairs, Evgeny Primakov and Igor Ivanov. And she has ample contacts with other Russians. She has taught a course on U.S.-Russian relations at the Moscow State Institute of International Relations, and she has been a member of the Russian-sponsored Valdai International Discussion Club, which holds annual conferences, where President Putin speaks and answers questions. Read more ..

Environmental Edge

Climate Change Will Profoundly Effect Great Lakes Region

June 27th 2014

Ocean scene

Intense rainstorms, floods and heat waves will become more common in the Great Lakes region due to climate change in the coming decades, and ice-cover declines will lengthen the commercial navigation season on the lakes, according to a new summary report released today at the start of a three-day climate-adaptation conference at the University of Michigan.

In the next few decades, longer growing seasons and rising carbon dioxide levels will increase some crop yields in the region, but those benefits will be progressively offset by extreme weather events, according to the report prepared by the Great Lakes Integrated Sciences and Assessments Center (GLISA), a federally funded collaboration between the University of Michigan and Michigan State University. Read more ..

Lighting America

A Significant Advance made in Phosphorescent Organic Light-Emitting Diode Light

June 27th 2014

The most common kind of light bulb in the United States—the incandescent—is only about 5 percent efficient. The phosphorescent organic light-emitting diode, on the other hand, makes light out of 100 percent of the electricity that goes into it. They're good for smartphone screens and mood lighting, but they drop off in both efficiency and lifetime when they have to shine brightly.

University of Michigan researchers have found an elegant way to get around this problem—by arranging the PHOLEDs into a pyramid. Read more ..

Russia on Edge

The Path of U.S. Security May Run through Russia

June 27th 2014

In previous essays I have been critical of Russian and U.S. policies toward each other. The last of these essays, motivated by the current Ukrainian crisis, stated that our post-1991 policy toward Russia has been “stale, unimaginative, and wrong-headed.” Below are suggestions for a new U. S. approach—what Russia should do is another matter.

On this 100-year anniversary of the start of World War I, my approach aims at peace, seeking to avoid the horrors of war, which some U.S. citizens are too blasé about since we have not had a war on U.S. soil since the Civil War. It is also one of “ethical realism,” as Anatol Lieven and John Hulsman defined the term in their 2006 book on foreign policy. And it is heavily indebted to critics mentioned in previous essays (from the left and the right) of our post-communist Russia policy. Read more ..

The Battle for Baghdad

Kerry Goes Hat in Hand to Saudi Arabia

June 27th 2014

Secretary of State John Kerry meets today with Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah to discuss how to confront Sunni extremists that have taken over large parts of Iraq and Syria. Kerry met in Paris with the foreign ministers of Saudi Arabia, Jordan and the United Arab Emirates, on June 26 in an effort to rally regional unity against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, or ISIL.

Kerry has sought to secure the cooperation of Gulf states to bolster the Iraqi government, rather than fund its opponents, who consist of disaffected Sunni Muslims. In Paris, Kerry said on June 26 “The move of [ISIS] concerns every single country here.” Read more ..

Broken Borders

Obama Goes Around Congress on Immigration

June 27th 2014

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The Obama administration is "not bluffing" in its intent to take executive action on immigration policy if House Republicans don't act soon, top Democratic leaders warned Thursday.

President Obama has delayed any potential changes to his deportation policy to allow House GOP leaders time to bring legislation to the floor this summer. But if the Republicans don't act in July, the Democrats say, unilateral changes by Obama are inevitable.

"We're at the end of the line," Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) said Thursday during a press briefing in the Capitol. "We're not bluffing by setting a legislative deadline for them to act.

"Their first job is to govern," Menendez added, "and in the absence of governing, then you see executive actions."

Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) piled on. Noting that a year has passed since the Senate passed a sweeping immigration reform bill with broad bipartisan support, he urged House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) to bring a similar bill to the floor. Read more ..

Obama's Second Term

Obama Gets a Right Jab from Supreme Court over Recess Appointments

June 27th 2014

The Supreme Court's rebuke Thursday of President Obama's appointments to the National Labor Relations Board has thrown hundreds of decisions made while the agency was unconstitutionally constructed into doubt.

Having to revisit those verdicts could draw the labor board away from its agenda, to the delight of Republicans and business groups who have assailed it as a tool of Democrats and big unions, especially under the current administration.

The NLRB is now scrambling to determine what is required following the finding that the board contained members whose appointments exceeded presidential authority under the Constitution’s Recess Appointment Clause. Read more ..

Oil Addiction

CBO Predicts Higher Fuel Costs Due to Renewable Mandate

June 26th 2014

Traffic Jam

Gasoline’s price will increase up to 9 percent, and diesel fuel will rise by up to 14 percent by 2017 because of the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) if Congress does not repeal it, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) said Thursday.

The CBO’s analysis estimated that, in order to comply with the increasing mandates called for under the Energy Independence and Security Act, fuel refiners would have to more than triple their use of advanced biofuels by 2017, and would have to use much more ethanol in gasoline than the 10 percent blend that older vehicles can tolerate.

The agency predicted that the Environmental Protection Agency, which oversees the RFS, will keep the mandate levels similar through 2017, since increasing them “would require a large and rapid increase in the use of advanced biofuels and would cause the total percentage of ethanol in the nation’s gasoline supply to rise to levels that would require significant changes in the infrastructure of fueling stations.” Read more ..

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