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Archive for February 2015

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The Way We Are

Are Wealthy People Much Happier than the Rest of Us?

February 28th 2015

Researchers are investigating new directions in the science of spending. Four presentations during the symposium "Happy Money 2.0: New Insights Into the Relationship Between Money and Well-Being," delve into the effects of experiential purchases, potential negative impacts on abundance, the psychology of lending to friends, and how the wealthy think differently about well-being. The symposium takes place during the SPSP 16th Annual Convention in Long Beach, California.

Research published in the journal Psychological Science has shown that experiential purchases--money spent on doing--may provide more enduring happiness than material purchases (money spent on having). Participants reported that waiting for an experience elicits significantly more happiness, pleasantness and excitement than waiting for a material good. Read more ..

The 2016 Vote

Can Rand Paul's Juggernat be Stopped?

February 28th 2015

Rand Paul’s likely White House foes are looking to end his Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) straw poll hot streak.

The Kentucky senator is still the frontrunner to win the annual measure of grassroots support after claiming victory for the past two years.

But how deep other potential rivals — most notably Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush — cut into his support will show who is on the rise in the 2016 GOP field.
“Every year serious candidates come to CPAC and organize and get people to come here for the specific purpose of voting for them in the straw poll,” said Citizens United President David Bossie. “Does it at the end of the day really mean anything that you can have the money and an organization to bus people in? Probably, because that means you have money and an organization. It's important.”

The establishment-minded Bush bused in hundreds of supporters to show strength in the convention space and at the straw poll ballot box, while rising star Walker had plenty of vocal backers in the building as well. Read more ..

Iran's Nukes

Iran Makes it Move in the Mideast and Latin America

February 28th 2015

As negotiations move forward on a nuclear arms agreement with the Islamic Republic of Iran, the United States along with the P5+1 appears to be oblivious to activities of Iran in the Western Hemisphere and other regions of the world.

In the Middle East, Iran has most recently supported insurgencies in both Bahrain and Yemen. The pro-Iranian Houthis just overthrew the American backed government in Yemen which we were working with on terrorism related issues.

In Syria, Iran and its proxy, Hezbollah, continue to support the Bashar Al Assad regime with Hezbollah fighting together with Assad’s forces. So far 200,000 people have been killed in Syria with millions dispersed in refugee camps in Jordan and Turkey. Hezbollah now has a perfect excuse to be involved in supporting Assad by invoking the need to defeat the bloody Islamic State. Hezbollah may think that this card could play well in the West which is trying to avoid direct intervention to defeat ISIS and would prefer that local forces to do the fighting. Read more ..

The Edge of Terrorism

A Look Back at the 1993 World Trade Center Bombing Investigation

February 26th 2015


On the morning of Feb. 26, 1993, a massive truck bomb ripped a hole almost 100 feet across the B-2 level of the parking garage beneath the World Trade Center's North Tower. The blast wave was so powerful that it penetrated five stories of the reinforced concrete building. In addition to causing structural damage, the explosion destroyed or heavily damaged hundreds of vehicles parked in the garage. That such a powerful explosion killed only six people is nothing short of miracle, for the attackers had a goal much more grandiose.

They wanted to topple the North Tower onto the South Tower to destroy them both and kill thousands. Had a device of the same magnitude been detonated at street level during rush hour, it would have likely killed scores if not hundreds of people and wounded perhaps thousands more. Read more ..

The Edge of Terrorism

A Look Back at the 1993 World Trade Center Bombing Investigation

February 26th 2015


On the morning of Feb. 26, 1993, a massive truck bomb ripped a hole almost 100 feet across the B-2 level of the parking garage beneath the World Trade Center's North Tower. The blast wave was so powerful that it penetrated five stories of the reinforced concrete building. In addition to causing structural damage, the explosion destroyed or heavily damaged hundreds of vehicles parked in the garage. That such a powerful explosion killed only six people is nothing short of miracle, for the attackers had a goal much more grandiose.

They wanted to topple the North Tower onto the South Tower to destroy them both and kill thousands. Had a device of the same magnitude been detonated at street level during rush hour, it would have likely killed scores if not hundreds of people and wounded perhaps thousands more. Read more ..

Ginsburg and Kagan Should Recuse Themselves

February 25th 2015

Rev. Williams Owens, President and Founder of the Coalition of African-American Pastors (CAAP) called on Supreme Court Justices Ginsburg and Kagan to recuse themselves from the same-sex marriage case to be heard by the Court this session, citing their stated bias. In order to preserve the integrity of the Court, CAAP also announced its intention of launching a petition campaign that would bring attention to the Justice’s lack of impartiality. The move sprung from public comments made by Justice Ginsburg regarding her conviction that that American public would accept a ruling for same-sex marriage as well as actions by both Ginsburg and Kagan that confirm their biased position on the issue. Both Justices have performed same-sex weddings.

A Justice of the Supreme Court is called on to avoid the appearance of bias—especially on a highly controversial and sensitive issue that is currently before the Court,” stated Rev. William Owens, President of the Coalition of African American Pastors. “And yet, both Justice Ginsburg and Justice Kagan have taken a public stance in favor of same-sex marriage, even going so far as to officiate at a same-sex wedding. Not only is this a breach of ethics, but it calls into question the integrity of the Court and the supposed balance that the judicial branch is meant to provide in Constitutional interpretation,” Rev. Owens continued. “It is beyond objectionable that no action has yet been taken to ensure that the case will be adjudicated fairly. And so it falls to us, the people, to take action. CAAP is launching a petition urging Justices Kagan and Ginsburg remove themselves from decision-making on this issue and prevent a crisis brought on by the taint of a biased judiciary.

Rev. Owens noted that members of the public were welcome to sign the petition on the CAAP website at caapusa.org. The Court has shown willingness in the past to insert itself in matters that are more properly the domain of the voters," he said. "For a case that promises to dramatically affect the future of family, religious freedom, and much more, there cannot be any question of political bias on the part of the judges involved. We ask that Justice Ginsburg and Justice Kagan disqualify themselves from involvement in this case or that the Chief Justice Roberts takes the action needed to protect the integrity of the Court.

Russia on Edge

The Intersection of Three World Crises

February 24th 2015

By Within the past two weeks, a temporary deal to keep Greece in the eurozone was reached in Brussels, a cease-fire roadmap was agreed to in Minsk and Iranian negotiators advanced a potential nuclear deal in Geneva. Squadrons of diplomats have forestalled one geopolitical crisis after another. Yet it would be premature, even reckless, to assume that the fault lines defining these issues are effectively stable. Understanding how these crises are inextricably linked is the first step toward assessing when and where the next flare-up is likely to occur.

Germany and the Eurozone Crisis

Germany has once again become the victim of its own power. As Europe's largest creditor, it has considerable political leverage over debtor nations such as Greece, whose entire livelihood now depends on whether German Chancellor Angela Merkel is willing to sign another bailout check. Lest we forget, Germany is exporting more than half of its GDP, and most of those exports are consumed within Europe. Thus, the institutions Germany relies on to protect its export markets are the very institutions Berlin must battle to protect Germany's national wealth. Read more ..

Edge of Terrorism

PLO and Palestinian Authority Held Liable for Acts of Terrorism in U.S. Court

February 23rd 2015

Mahmoud Abbas and Yassir Arafat
PA head Mahmoud Abbas against backdrop of Yasser Arafat

The Palestinian Authority and the Palestine Liberation Organization are now being held accountable to a group of terrorism victims as a result of a lawsuit that was decided today.  More than $600 million in damages was awarded in Sokolow v. PLO, (04-cv-003970) whihc was tried in U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, in Manhattan.

The outcome marks the first time that the Palestinian Authority has been made liable for acts of terror. During the six week trial, internal PA documents that detailed payments to terrorists held in Israeli prisons, and to the families of terrorists killed while carrying out attacks were shown to jurors. Read more ..

Broken Government

Bi-Partisan Concessions Needed to Resolve Governance Crisis

February 23rd 2015

There is a great deal of frustration with the ineffective and feckless leadership in Washington, D.C. Putting partisanship aside does not mean compromising values. It is about moving the ball. Both sides need to do what needs to be done for America.

What Republicans should concede, at this time

Republicans are going to have to accept some not-so-good deals. The more conservative base needs to think forward, not about instant gratification. Enough screaming about the establishment, about libertarians or about some other label. They and others are all part of the Republican Party. Read more ..

The War on Terror

Obama is "the Neville Chamberlain of Our Day"

February 23rd 2015

With more than a week to go before Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech to Congress, two Republican representatives visited Israel last week to demonstrate their support of the Jewish state. Rep. Robert Pittenger (R-NC) and Rep. Dennis Ross (R-FL) spent time in Israel visiting with the IDF, meeting local Arab and Israeli politicians as well as Prime Minister Netanyahu in a trip sponsored by Proclaiming Justice to the Nations (PJTN) and Yes! Israel Missions.

“We are here to pay tribute to this great country,” said Pittenger, who noted it was his third time meeting the Israeli prime minister in 18 months in an interview with Tazpit News Agency. “Prime Minister Netanyahu is a remarkable man; one of the great leaders of our day,” he told Tazpit News Agency.

The Israeli prime minister is set to speak before Congress on March 3 to address the dangers of easing economic sanctions against Iran by the international community under the terms of an emerging deal between the West and the Islamic Republic. Read more ..

Broken Government

Congress Faces Homeland Security Funding Deadline

February 23rd 2015

Security Against Terrorism

Lawmakers will begin returning to Washington on Monday with only five days left to prevent a shutdown of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

Legislation funding the agency is at an impasse over provisions demanded by House Republicans that would overturn President Obama’s executive actions on immigration shielding millions from deportation.
Over the recess, both sides dug in, with many Republicans arguing that there is no reason for their party to bend now that a federal court has ruled in their favor by blocking Obama’s most recent actions.

The Senate is scheduled to vote Monday evening for the fourth time on a motion to open debate on the House-passed DHS funding bill.

The motion will certainly fail, leaving a decision on what comes next to Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.). Read more ..

The War on Terror

How President Obama faces the Terrorist Ideology With-No-Name

February 23rd 2015

On Wednesday and Thursday last week, President Barack Obama gave two speeches at the White House Conference on Violent Extremism, attended by representatives from some 60 nations. His purpose was to focus attention, both domestically and internationally, on fighting the sources of violent extremism. What are those sources? Obama answered, “By ‘violent extremism,’ we don’t just mean the terrorists who are killing innocent people. We also mean the ideologies, the infrastructure of extremists…”

This is exactly right. The terrorists are animated by an ideology, and we cannot understand what Obama called “the nature of the enemy” without knowing this ideology. You cannot go into a war of ideas without understanding the ideas you are at war with. Yet, throughout the two speeches, he never mentions the substance of the enemy’s ideas once. Read more ..

The Caliphate

ISIS Plans-- First Libya, then Italy

February 19th 2015

Vatican-Palazzo Apostolico

Almost six centuries after the last remnants of the Islamic empire were defeated, the forces of radical Islam are planning a second invasion of Europe.

YNet reports that the barbaric terrorist group ISIS has made major advances in a campaign to conquer a large swath of Libyan territory on the coast of North Africa. Should it succeed, ISIS plans to send terrorist savages "across the Mediterranean posing as refugees on people-trafficking vessels."

Since Libya collapsed into chaos following the overthrow of dictator Muammar Qaddafi, "Libyans fleeing their country's chaos regularly try to cross" the short distance between the Libyan coast and southern Italy. This allows ISIS a perfect opportunity to conceal its operatives. Read more ..

The Water's Edge

Industrial Expansion Will Strain Mexico's Water Resources

February 19th 2015


Much like its northern neighbor, Mexico is not water scarce when viewed as a whole. But unequal water distribution has led to significant water stress in several parts of the country. Supply has been further strained by poor infrastructure, pollution and overuse — partly attributable to inefficient management and a growing population. Still, Mexico is positioned to experience significant economic growth because of its proximity to the United States and the likely expansion of its manufacturing sector as the country's population increases.

Recent changes to the constitution to encourage much-needed investment in the country's energy sector will further aid the faltering sector. Asymmetrical distribution and increased competition for limited water resources, however, could temper Mexico's potential for growth. Growth is still possible without addressing the problem, but it must be dealt with if Mexico hopes to fully utilize its geographic advantages, especially in the industrial and manufacturing sectors. In addition to the other obstacles that must be addressed, Mexico will need to make policy and behavioral adjustments to overcome its current water scarcity issues. Read more ..

Broken Government

Gun Advocates Go to War over Concealed-Carry Legislation in Congress

February 19th 2015

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Gun rights groups are gearing up for a major push to move concealed-carry legislation through the new Republican Congress.

The National Rifle Association (NRA) and other Second Amendment advocates are throwing their weight behind the Constitutional Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act, a bill introduced in both chambers of Congress that would allow gun owners to carry concealed weapons across state lines.

“The Second Amendment doesn’t end at the border of your state,” said Larry Keane, general counsel for the National Shooting Sports Foundation. “This would enhance the rights of law-abiding citizens to protect themselves when they’re away from home."

Chris Cox, the executive director of the NRA's Institute for Legislative Action, said the bill is needed to clarify a “patchwork of state and local laws” that is “confusing for even the most conscientious and well-informed concealed carry permit holders.” Read more ..

The Edge of Terrorism

Norwegians to Form Human Shield Protecting Oslo Synagogue

February 19th 2015

Following the terror attacks in Copenhagen, where a Jewish man was killed last weekend, a group of young Muslims in Norway are organizing a peace rally at an Oslo synagogue on the Jewish Sabbath this upcoming Saturday, February 21.

One of the rally organizers, Yousef Assidiq told Tazpit News Agency that it was important for him to let those who wish to harm Jews know that they will have to get by him first. “I want to say on Saturday that if anyone wants to attack Jews either verbally or physically, that they will have to go through me first. An attack on Jews is an attack on me and on all Muslims,” Assidiq told Tazpit.

According to the Facebook page for the event, the participants will be forming a human ring around the synagogue in order to protect the Jewish worshippers inside. “When Jews are afraid to wear the kippa, the Star of David, and are afraid to go to the synagogue, then it feels like an attack on me,” said Assidiq. Read more ..

The Science of Art

New Method Reveals Unknown Details of Gauguin's Prints

February 18th 2015

French artist Paul Gauguin is well known for his colorful paintings of Tahitian life -- such as the painting that sold recently for nearly $300 million -- but he also was a highly experimental printmaker. Little is known, however, about the techniques and materials Gauguin used to create his unusual and complex graphic works.

Now a team of scientists and art conservators from Northwestern University and the Art Institute of Chicago has used a simple light bulb, an SLR camera and computational power to uncover new details of Gauguin's printmaking process -- how he formed, layered and re-used imagery to make 19 unique graphic works in the Art Institute's collection.

Northwestern computer scientist Oliver S. Cossairt provided a a surprising new explanation of how Gauguin created one of these artworks at the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) annual meeting in San Jose, last week. He provided the first report of the Northwestern-Art Institute study of the 3-D surface of the print "Nativity (Mother and Child Surrounded by Five Figures)," made by Gauguin in 1902. Read more ..

Russia on Edge

Ukrainian Forces Retreat from Key City Controlled by Russian Rebels

February 18th 2015

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Ukraine's president says his government's forces are pulling out of the contested eastern Ukrainian town of Debaltseve, which has been under siege by pro-Russian rebels and where fighting has continued despite a cease-fire.

In a Feb. 18 video statement, President Petro Poroshenko said "Ukrainian armed forces together with the National Guard completed an operation for a planned and organized withdrawal from Debaltseve."

Poroshenko said that so far 80 percent of Ukrainian units have left the city, adding that another two columns are expected to also pull out soon.

A deputy regional police chief in the besieged city told reporters earlier on the same day that "full-scale street fighting" continued, even as Ukrainian troops were pulling out. Read more ..

The Way We Are

Pope Francis to Offer Surprises for Speaker John Boehner

February 18th 2015

Speaker John Boehner finally got something right. He invited Pope Francis to address a joint session of Congress, when he visits Washington on Sept. 24. And this time, unlike his disastrous faux pas with Bibi Netanyahu, Boehner actually consulted ahead of time with the White House — after all, Francis is also a head of state — and House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi.

What surprised official Washington is, the pope promptly accepted.

For Boehner, that’s both good news and bad news. The good news is that he’ll get credit for arranging the first appearance by any pope before the U.S. Congress. The bad news is that, just like a State of the Union address, Boehner will have to sit up there right behind Francis — with his every grin, grimace, groan and gesture broadcast worldwide. Read more ..

Obama's Second Term

Following Federal Court Decision, Homeland Security Suspends Deportation Deferrals

February 18th 2015

The Department of Homeland Security on Tuesday suspended President Obama’s expansion of deportation deferrals, scrambling a congressional debate over how to prevent a shutdown of the agency late next week.

The DHS put the brakes on Obama’s executive actions after a Texas federal judge issued a temporary injunction blocking the new program, which could shield up to 5 million immigrants from deportation.

How the ruling ultimately affects the Homeland Security debate remains to be seen.
Many conservative Republicans, emboldened by the Texas decision, are doubling down on their argument that the funding bill must include provisions undoing Obama’s executive actions on immigration from both late last year and 2012, when the president offered legal status to millions of young people who entered or stayed in the country illegally. Read more ..

The World on Edge

Population Decline and the Great Economic Reversal

February 17th 2015

Young twenty-something people

In recent weeks, we have been focusing on Greece, Germany, Ukraine and Russia. All are still burning issues. But in every case, readers have called my attention to what they see as an underlying and even defining dimension of all these issues — if not right now, then soon. That dimension is declining population and the impact it will have on all of these countries. The argument was made that declining populations will generate crises in these and other countries, undermining their economies and national power. Sometimes we need to pause and move away from immediate crises to broader issues. Let me start with some thoughts from my book The Next 100 Years.

There is no question but that the populations of most European countries will decline in the next generation, and in the cases of Germany and Russia, the decline will be dramatic. In fact, the entire global population explosion is ending. In virtually all societies, from the poorest to the wealthiest, the birthrate among women has been declining. In order to maintain population stability, the birthrate must remain at 2.1 births per woman. Read more ..

Campus Jihad

Divestment Compromises Academic Integrity

February 17th 2015

Boycott Israel

I used to believe in divestment.

Like many students who are allured by the social justice narrative of divestment, I believed that San Diego State divesting from companies invested in Israel’s military defense technology would help bring justice to the Palestinians.

But I realized that divestment would not achieve this.

After extensively researching the complicated and complex nature of the conflict, and speaking to various Israelis and Palestinians in Israel this past winter break on a sponsored trip, I found that I believe that the divestment campaign provides a dishonest, disingenuous and duplicitous perspective on the complicated history that is the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

It blatantly appropriates the Palestinian narrative to simplify a conflict that is unfathomably complicated. To fully understand it, as educated students, we need to take all perspectives into account. Read more ..

The Way We Are

Healing an Anti-Semite's Heart of Darkness

February 16th 2015

Jobbik, otherwise known as the Movement for a Better Hungary, is an ultra-nationalist Hungarian political party that has been described as fascist, neo-Nazi, racist, and anti-semitic. It has accused Jews of being part of a “cabal of western economic interests” attempting to control the world: the libel otherwise known as the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, a fiction created by members of the Czarist secret service in Paris in the late 1890s and revealed as a forgery by The Times in 1921.

On one occasion the Jobbik party asked for a list of all the Jews in the Hungarian government. Disturbingly, in the Hungarian parliamentary elections in April 2014 it secured over 20 per cent of the votes, making it the third largest party.

Until 2012 one of its leading members was a politician in his late 20s, Csanad Szegedi. Szegedi was a rising star in the movement, widely spoken of as its future leader. Until one day in 2012. That was the day Szegedi discovered he was a Jew. Read more ..

Argentina on Edge

Cry for Me, Argentina

February 16th 2015

Argentine President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner

The assassination of Argentine prosecutor Alberto Nisman reflects the endemic corruption of the Kirchner regime and focuses the spotlight on the devil’s pact consummated by President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner in 2013 with Iran, whose leaders inflicted the worst ever act of terrorism on her own citizens.

Today there are approximately 250,000 Jews in Argentina. Since the days of Juan Peron the government’s attitude to Jews has been ambivalent. Peron displayed friendship to the Jewish community but enabled Argentina to serve as a haven for the most evil of Nazi war criminals – including Adolf Eichmann.

In March 1992, the Israeli Embassy in Buenos Aires was the target of a terrorist bomb attack that killed 29 and wounded 242 people. Two years later, in July 1994, a second bombing was directed at the Jewish community center (AMIA), killing 85 and injuring hundreds. Read more ..

Europe on Edge

Copenhagen Shooter had Consuming Hatred of Jews

February 16th 2015

Friends of Omar El-Hussein, the Islamist terrorist responsible for dual attacks over the weekend in Copenhagen, Denmark, including one at a synagogue, say he was “consumed with hatred of Jews,” local tabloid Ekstra Bladet reported on Monday.

“It was no coincidence that the 22-year-old presumed terrorist went after a Jewish synagogue when he was on a killing spree in Copenhagen late Saturday night,” the newspaper wrote. “According to several classmates, whom Ekstra Bladet has been in touch with, the 22-year-old harbored an intense hatred of Jews. Although he had Palestinian roots, he was born and raised in Denmark.”

“He was consumed with hatred of Jews and was very aggressive when he talked about the Israel-Palestine conflict, said a 22-year-old former classmate,” according to the paper.

El-Hussein was shot and killed after he was cornered by police in a narrow street near the railway station in Norrebro, about 4 kilometers from the scene of the synagogue attack, The New York Times reported. He had been released two weeks prior from police custody and is reported to have had a history of violence. Read more ..

The Caliphate

Danish Jewish Community Grapples After Islamic Terror Attack

February 16th 2015

Copenhagen cafe attack

“It’s a hard time to be a Danish Jew whether you’re in Denmark or living outside the country,” said Shimon following the deadly attacks in Copenhagen this past weekend that left Jewish security guard, Dan Uzan dead. “Most people are shocked in the Danish Jewish community.  Copenhagen is no longer this isolated paradise – there are real dangers.”

The small Jewish community of Denmark, which numbers around 6,400 people today, was the first Scandinavian country to open its doors to Jews. In 1622, King Christian IV welcomed Spanish and Portuguese Jews from Hamburg and Amsterdam and 62 years later, King Christian V ordained the establishment of a unified Jewish community. During the Holocaust, the Danish resistance movement smuggled 7,220 Jews in fishing boats to the safety of neutral Sweden during the German occupation. Read more ..

The Caliphate

Egypt and Libya Launch Air Strikes Against Isis After Militants Post Beheadings Video

February 16th 2015

General Al-Sisi

Egypt reported that its war planes had struck Isis targets in Libya, shortly after President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi vowed revenge for the release by Isis-affiliated militants of a video of a mass killing of Christians. A spokesman for the Armed Forces General Command announced the strikes on state radio Monday, marking the first time Cairo had publicly acknowledged taking military action in neighbouring Libya.

The statement said the warplanes targeted weapons caches and training camps before returning safely. It said the strikes were “to avenge the bloodshed and to seek retribution from the killers”.

“Let those far and near know that Egyptians have a shield that protects them,” it said. Read more ..

America and Israel

Obama's Appeasers and Appeasement Policy

February 16th 2015

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While US President Barack Obama determinedly pursues his policy of appeasement, which may enable the world’s most dangerous terrorist state to become a nuclear threshold power, there are Israelis and American Jews who have initiated a campaign against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The campaign calling for the maintenance of bipartisanship toward Israel is in reality undermining the hitherto strong bipartisan congressional opposition to the catastrophic US policy toward Iran.

Israeli opposition groups and the anti-Netanyahu media are now concentrating their efforts on discrediting Netanyahu and calling on the prime minister to cancel his address to the joint session of Congress scheduled for March 3.

Disregarding the gravity of the negotiations with Iran – the underlying reason for the invitation – they accuse Netanyahu of destroying the US-Israeli relationship by failing to obtain Obama’s advance approval to address Congress (which would never have been forthcoming). The White House even falsely alleged that Netanyahu accepted the invitation before they were aware of it. Read more ..

The Way We Are

Study Reveals Deal-Makers and Deal-Breakers in On-Line Dating

February 15th 2015

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About a third of all people who were single at some point in the last 10 years have used dating websites, and a quarter of those have married or entered long-term relationships.

University of Michigan research breaks new ground on how people make romantic choices by analyzing troves of data from a major online dating site.

Perhaps it's fitting that the first step to unraveling how people screen options, think and act when looking for romance online comes from a marriage of sorts between marketing and sociology.

Fred Feinberg, U-M professor of marketing and statistics, joined Elizabeth Bruch, U-M professor of sociology and complex systems, and Kee Yeun Lee of Hong Kong Polytechnic University to dig through user data from a dating website to reveal what people actually do—not what they say they do—when it comes to romance. Read more ..

Europe on Edge

Uncertain Future for Germany's Anti-Islamization Movement

February 15th 2015

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"Wherever it goes now, in many respects PEGIDA has already served part of its purpose, in starting a debate on immigration, citizenship, and integration that has been silent for decades.... Perhaps it could even kick-start a new era of openness and discussion in Britain too." — Oliver Lane, British commentator.

The future of the German grassroots anti-Islamization movement known as PEGIDA has been thrown into doubt after a leadership split resulted in key members leaving the group.

Only 2,000 people attended a weekly rally held in the eastern German city of Dresden on February 9, a sharp decrease from the 17,000 who assembled at the previous rally held on January 25.

PEGIDA — named after the German abbreviation for "Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamization of the West" — has been organizing "evening strolls" (Abendspaziergang) through downtown Dresden on Monday evenings since October to protest against runaway immigration and the Islamization of Germany. Read more ..

The Caliphate

Obama Finally Understands the Grave Threat Posed by the Islamic State

February 15th 2015

It turns out President Obama gets it. That the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) is a grave threat, that his air campaign may not be working well, that changes may be required and that Congress must participate in waging war. Obama hasn’t said this out loud, but his request for a new authorization for use of military force (AUMF) acknowledges the threat, provides the means to confront it, denies the enemy safe haven and rightfully requires a new president and Congress to reassess the operation when he leaves office.

The draft AUMF bans “enduring offensive combat operations” but includes no geographic boundaries. It repeals the authorization for military action in Iraq that passed the Congress in 2002 but retains the broad powers the executive branch has to combat terrorists that Congress passed in 2001 in the wake of the 9/11 attacks. Read more ..

Europe on Edge

Danish Police Failed to Protect Synagogue from Terrorist Attack

February 15th 2015

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CCTV image of Copenhagen terror suspect

Police failed to protect a synagogue in Copenhagen, despite appeals from the community, in advance of a terrorist attack that claimed the life of a guard during the pre-dawn hours of February 15. An as yet unidentified terrorist shot community guard Dan Uzan in the head outside of the synagogue while members of the Jewish community celebrated a bat mitzva. There were 80 people attending the event at the time of the deadly attack.

The attack at the synagogue came just hours after the terrorist claimed the life of a movie director at a popular café in the Danish capital. At the café, a conference was being held on freedom of expression and Islam that was attended by Swedish cartoonist Lars Vilks. Vilks has survived attempts on his life and death threats ever since the publication of satirical cartoons of Mohammed. The publication of the cartoons sparked firebombings of Danish diplomatic missions in Muslim countries and boycotts of Danish products by Muslims. Read more ..

Europe on Edge

EuroVision 2015 in Austria Offers Schmaltz, Kitsch, and Genocide Remembrance

February 15th 2015

The Armenian Apostolic Church is preparing to declare the sainthood of the thousands of victims of genocide at the hands of the Muslim Ottoman Empire. Scheduled for April 23 at the patriarchal headquarters of the Catholicosate at Echmiadzin in Armenia, there will be a solemn liturgy to recognize the sanctity of the 1 million to 1.5 million victims of the Armenian Genocide that began one hundred years ago near the end of the First World War.

In a statement released on February 3, Patriarch Karekin of Echmiadzin said "The Armenian Church does not sanctify. It recognizes the sanctity of saints or of those people that is already common among people or has been shown with evidence. The Church recognizes only what happened, that is, the Genocide." Read more ..

The Caliphate

Danish Police Kill Terrorist Suspect following Deadly Synagogue Attack

February 15th 2015

Danish police report that they have shot to death a man believed to have attacked a synagogue and a café in Copenhagen. Police say they killed the man in the Norrebro district after he opened fire on them near a rail station at approximately 5 am on February 15. It came hours after one person was killed at a Krudttonden Café where a conference was taking place on free speech rights and the Islamic definition of blasphemy, while another was killed at the Grand Synagogue in the Danish capital. Five police officers were injured during the two affrays. Video surveillance suggested the same man carried out both attacks. However, they do not believe any other people were involved.

Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt declared after the synagogue attack, "The Jewish community belong in Denmark." Read more ..

The Race for Fusion

High-Powered Lasers Can Be Used to Deliver Fusion Energy

February 15th 2015

Laser burst

The power of the sun has edged a little closer to Earth. Under x-ray assault, the rapid implosion of a plastic shell onto icy isotopes of hydrogen has produced fusion and, for the first time, 170 micrograms of this superheated fusion fuel released more energy than it absorbed. Experimental shots of the 192 lasers at the National Ignition Facility at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California have reproduced such fusion at least four times since September 2013. The advance offers hope that someday in the far future scientists might reliably replicate the power source of the sun and stars.
"This is closer than anyone's gotten before, and it's really unique to get out of the fuel as much energy as put in," says Livermore physicist Omar Hurricane, lead author of the paper. "We got more fusion energy out of the DT fuel than we put in to the DT fuel." Read more ..

The Digital Edge

Smart Home Sensors Could Help Aging Population Stay Independent

February 15th 2015



Early adopters of technology are usually assumed to be the young and eager. But an increasing number of gadgets are designed not for the stereotypical technophile but for the elderly person. And why not? Between 2010 and 2050 the U.S. population of people aged 65 and up will more than double, the U.S. Census Bureau predicts.

Smart, networked sensors and monitors—part of what is known as the Internet of Things—could help make seniors more independent by letting doctors or relatives keep tabs from afar. “We have received significant interest from elder care providers who are seeking to keep the elderly in their homes rather than moving them to assisted-living centers,” says technologist Jason Johnson, chair of the Internet of Things Consortium. The market for remote patient monitoring is expected to grow from $10.6 billion in 2012 to $21.2 billion in 2017, according to research firm Kalorama Information.

Among the new systems to enter the market is a set of sensors called Lively. The sensors can be placed on cabinets, drawers or appliances to track activity patterns and send data to loved ones.

Other technologies have a slightly different aim—to help those who live in senior communities remain in the most independent setting possible. The eNeighbor remote-monitoring system, marketed by Healthsense, uses sensors throughout the residence to detect motion (including falls) and to chart bed rest. eNeighbor can also provide reminders for medication or make distress calls in case of an emergency.


The Edge of Medicine

Robot Surgeons Are Coming

February 15th 2015


For much of its brief history, robot-assisted surgery has been synonymous with Intuitive Surgical, Inc.’s da Vinci system. It’s the only robot with U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval to help surgeons perform a number of laparoscopic soft-tissue procedures, including hysterectomies, gall bladder and kidney removals, prostate cancer treatment and heart valve operations. Da Vinci has improved vastly since Intuitive introduced it more than a decade ago. Like many new technologies, however, it has experienced growing pains, leading some engineers and medical professionals to question whether a single company can meet growing demand while still delivering a safe product.

A team of researchers is looking to address these issues by developing a robotic surgery system based on hardware designs and software that are freely available. In this open-source approach, the builders would keep whatever intellectual property they’ve invested in the project but must make their knowledge and discoveries available to others. Read more ..

The Edge of Tolerance

Civic Groups Demand UC-Davis Investigate Anti-Semitism

February 13th 2015

Twenty-three advocacy groups have signed a letter to Linda Katehi, the Chancellor of the University of California, Davis, demanding an investigation into Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), an antisemitic organization that has continually harassed Jewish and pro-Israel students on campuses across the United States.

The letter, organized by the AMCHA Initiative, was triggered by instances of antisemitic graffiti on the UC Davis campus just days after the student government, on January 29, passed an anti-Israel divestment resolution written and promoted by SJP. Following the resolution’s passage, a Jewish fraternity at UC Davis was spray painted with swastikas. In addition, anti-Semitic graffiti was discovered at the Hillel House. Authorities said a janitor found the words, “grout out the Jews,” etched into the bathroom wall.

“While we commend you for already taking some important steps in addressing these problems, we urge the university to conduct a full investigation into the conduct of the registered student group called Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) and one of its members, Azka Fayyaz,” the letter declared. Read more ..

Book Review

America's Great Game and the Arabist CIA

February 13th 2015

America's Great Game: The CIA's Secret Arabists and the Shaping of the Modern Middle East. Hugh Wilford. Basic Books, 2013. 384pp.

At the turn of the 21st century through today, American involvement in Middle Eastern politics runs through the Central Intelligence Agency.

In America's Great Game: The CIA's Secret Arabists and the Shaping of the Modern Middle East, historian Hugh Wilford shows this has always been the case.

Wilford methodically traces the lives and work of the agency's three most prominent officers in the Middle East: Kermit "Kim" Roosevelt was the grandson of president Theodore Roosevelt, and the first head of CIA covert action in the region; his cousin, Archie Roosevelt, was a Middle East scholar and chief of the Beirut station; while Miles Copeland was a covert operations specialist who joined the American intelligence enterprise during World War II.

Skillfully drawing on personal papers, autobiographies and other primary sources, Wilford illustrates the diplomatic history that created America's Great Game. More importantly, he underscores the political and ideological dogmas of these individuals – specifically, the rabidly pro-Arab and anti-Zionist views that shaped the CIA in its early years.

The CIA was created in 1947 and drew on the remains of the wartime Office of Strategic Services, which had been dissolved in 1945. Leaders of the new CIA were drawn from OSS veterans, but they were also members of a fading patrician class of American Protestants – with deep ties to elite universities like Harvard and Yale, and to missionaries with connections throughout the Middle East. Read more ..

The Race for Batteries

Tesla Ready for Home Battery Storage

February 13th 2015

Trendy Kitchen

Tesla Motors Inc., is planning to use the company's lithium-ion battery technology to position itself as a frontrunner in the emerging energy-storage market. Tesla's Chief Executive Officer Elon Musk said: “We are going to unveil the Tesla home battery, the consumer battery that would be for use in people’s houses or businesses fairly soon”. Musk said the product unveiling would occur within the next month or two.

“We have the design done, and it should start going into production in about six months or so,” explained Musk.  Residential energy-storage units are already being offered by SolarCity Corp., a solar-power company which also lists Musk as its chairman and biggest shareholder.  Tesla’s factory in Fremont, California, USA, also makes larger stationary storage systems for businesses and utility clients. Read more ..

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