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Archive for January 2015

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False Data in New Report by World Resources Institute

January 30th 2015
Today, the Global Renewable Fuels Alliance (GRFA) criticized a new report by World Resources Institute (WRI) for its false data on the environmental and land use impacts of biofuels. The report titled, ‘Avoiding Bioenergy Competition for Food Crops and Land’, makes several hypothetical predictions about biofuels but fails to substantiate its claim that bioenergy is competing for food crops and land.

The report, authored by Timothy Searchinger and Ralph Heimlich, claims that biofuels have increased competition for land and food but fails to show how. Several major studies, which have looked at this issue using actual historical data not hypothetical projections, have shown that increased global demand for agricultural crops has been mostly met by increased productivity, such as increased production on existed agricultural land, and not through additional land use. This means that, based on historical trends, increased use of crops for biofuels will not cause significant additional land use. Despite referring to data from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) throughout the report, the authors ignore recent comments from the FAO Director-General Mr. da Silva who praised biofuels for their social, agricultural and environmental benefits. The FAO chief said that biofuels are part of a necessary paradigm shift in global agriculture that will support increased food production.

Global ethanol production utilizes only 2% of grain supplies, not enough to compete with food production or significantly alter food prices. When biofuels are produced so too are food co-products such as animal feed which benefit food security, as recognised by the UN FAO, a benefit which solar panels do not have. At the same time, the significant impacts of global food waste on food supplies – 50% of global food production is wasted – are completely ignored by this report. Addressing this food waste, and its unsustainable consequences, is where real action is needed to ensure the world has enough food. Additionally, the positive environmental impact of biofuels are very well established. According to F.O. Licht, global ethanol production was forecasted to reach 90.38 billion litres in 2014 and its use worldwide would reduce GHG emissions by over 106 million tonnes globally, equal to removing 21 million cars off the road annually.


The Caliphate

27 killed in IS Sinai Terror -- Egypt also Blames Hamas

January 30th 2015

Egyptian Mil. Police Alexandria

An IS-affiliated terrorist group launched a deadly attack in several locations in the Sinai Peninsula Thursday evening, killing at least 27 people. Egyptian authorities claimed Hamas is also to blame for this incident.

It is reported that a car bomb was detonated outside a military base and mortars were fired at a police station, a hotel and over a dozen checkpoints. 36 people were injured, one of them a senior military officer. Officials estimated that the death toll may rise due to the fact that many buildings have been shattered and people may still be buried under the ruins. Read more ..


Oil Addiction

Truck Fuel Cells Reduce Idling Power

January 30th 2015

Volvo truck

Researchers of the Jülich research centre are developing a new type of fuel cells. Running on diesel fuel, it will be robust enough to serve as auxiliary power supply in large trucks. The research also represents a new type of collaboration between German and Austrian entities. With a power consumption of several kilowatts, large trucks consume as much electric energy as a multi-flat house. To supply HVAC, refrigeration plant, auxiliary heating or the driver's coffee machine the vehicles often let their engines idle on motorway stations or over night. Electric generators based on fuel cell, so called Auxiliary Power Units (APUs) could help saving energy and avoid noise and harmful exhaust fumes.

High-temperature fuel cells with solid electrolyte (Solid Oxide Fuel Cell or SOFC) could be commercially interesting, since they do not need platinum. By means of a reformer interposed between fuel tank and fuel cell, SOFCs can turn usual diesel fuel into electricity. Full-ceramics cell types are already quite mature, but they suffer from a critical drawback - their brittleness prevents their usage vehicles; they simply do not survive vibrations and shocks in their location in the vehicle floor for a very long time. Read more ..


Obama's Second Term

State of Delusion

January 29th 2015

Armstrong_Williams

Most of the discussion following President Obama’s recent State of the Union Address pointed to his decision to announce various programs and goals that have no chance of being actually being passed by the Republican-controlled House and Senate.  But the most cynical, and probably the most dangerous, collision between reality and rhetoric was when the President spoke about Iran’s illicit nuclear weapons program.
 
Members of Congress who are concerned by the ongoing nuclear progress of the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism are interested in pursuing a bill that would provide a backstop should the talks between Iran and the P5+1 ultimately break down due to Tehran’s unwillingness to dismantle its nuclear arms program.  
 
The bipartisan legislation authored by Sens. Mark Kirk and Robert Menendez would not impose new sanctions on Iran; instead the measure is essentially a diplomatic insurance policy that improves the likelihood that Iran may decide to actually cut a deal rather than face stringent economic consequences. 
 
The Obama Administration has in recent days undertaken a full-fledged assault on the idea, wielding false assertions that seem to reflect desperation by the President and his staff to cut a deal with Iran at all costs—even if that means agreeing to a bad deal.  The administration has even gone so far as to solicit an oped from our European allies urging Congress not to put in place the necessary measures to use financial pressure if, and only if, the negotiations fail.  These are dangerous games and they send exactly the wrong signal to Iran.
Read more ..

The War on Terror

The Ten Lessons Hezbollah Learned from the Summer War in Gaza

January 29th 2015

Rockets

It seems like an eternity ago that fighting raged in Gaza between Israel and Hamas, dubbed by the IDF as Operation Protective Edge. Nonstop coverage of that conflict clogged the airwaves for weeks, only to be drowned out by new headlines: ISIS. Ebola. Ferguson. But with activities now heating up between Israel and Hezbollah on the Lebanese, Syrian and Israeli borders, it is worth exploring what lessons Hezbollah took away from this past summer’s conflict, and what one might find as a result, both on and off the battlefield with Israel.

Highlighted by recent skirmishes on the Israeli-Lebanese and Israeli-Syrian borders, tensions between Israel and Hezbollah are high, and the possibility of a more sustained outbreak of violence, intentional or not, is becoming increasingly likely.

Below is a list of the top ten lessons Hezbollah likely learned from Operation Protective Edge, as well as what can be expected from them as a result, in a future conflict with Israel. Hezbollah is now significantly more battle hardened as its fighters have been engaged in deadly fighting in Syria for years. Pre-occupied with fighting in Syria, Lebanon and Iraq, it is not interested in another conflict with Israel at the moment. Read more ..


The Way We Are

The Holocaust as an Outflow of Modernity

January 29th 2015

Today, January 27, is Holocaust Memorial Day, the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz by Russian troops. Lieut. Ivan Martynushkin, of the Red Army, was one of the first to enter the camp. The guards had fled and only about 7,500 prisoners remained, peering fearfully through the barbed wire. They spoke a Babel of languages.

"We saw emaciated people -- very thin, tired, with blackened skin," Martynushkin, now 90, told Radio Free Europe. "They were dressed in all sorts of different ways -- someone in just a robe, someone else with a coat or a blanket draped over their robe. You could see happiness in their eyes. They understood that their liberation had come, that they were free."

The handful of survivors were the lucky ones. About 1.1 million people died at Auschwitz-Birkenau, about one million of them Jews. The Nazi extermination machine transported them from all over Europe by train. Upon arrival most of them were marched to gas chambers and their bodies were incinerated.

There is something peculiarly terrible about Auschwitz. It has become a place of pilgrimage but I doubt if most people could say what draws them there. No doubt some are just curious. Others must be drawn by a desire to make atonement in a small way for the evil done there. Read more ..


Islam on Edge

Mind the Gap

January 29th 2015

Paratroopers at Eiffel

The Charlie Hebdo attack and its aftermath in the streets and in the press tempt one to dust off Samuel Huntington's 1996 book, The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order. Despite the criticisms he provoked with that book and his earlier 1993 article in Foreign Affairs, recent events would seem to be proving him prescient.

Or was he?

While I am not about to deny the importance of religion and culture as drivers of geopolitical dynamics, I will argue that, more important than the clashes among the great civilizations, there is a clash within each of the great civilizations. This is the clash between those who have "made it" (in a sense yet to be defined) and those who have been "left behind" — a phrase that is rich with ironic resonance.

Before I make my argument, I warn that the point I'm trying to make is fairly subtle. So, in the interest of clarity, let me lay out what I'm not saying before I make that point. I am not saying that Islam as a whole is somehow retrograde. I am not agreeing with author Sam Harris' October 2014 remark on "Real Time with Bill Maher" that "Islam is the mother lode of bad ideas." Nor am I saying that all religions are somehow equal, or that culture is unimportant. The essays in the book Culture Matters, which Huntington helped edit, argue that different cultures have different comparative advantages when it comes to economic competitiveness. These essays build on the foundation laid down by Max Weber's 1905 work, The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism. It is only the "sulfuric odor of race," as Harvard historian David Landes writes on the first page of the first essay in Culture Matters, that has kept scholars from exploring the under-researched linkages between culture and economic performance.

Read more ..

The Way We Are

The Terrifying Utilitarian Calculus of Guantanamo Bay Detentions

January 29th 2015

After a six-year legal battle, a detainee has given his side of the story of his arrest, rendition and interrogation. It's horrific.

There are many incredible things about the diary recently published by Guantanamo Bay detainee Mohamedou Ould Slahi. It contains over 2,500 redactions, and was only published after a six-year legal battle. Its author was cleared for release in 2010 but still languishes in Guantanamo, and is unlikely to be released this year.

Among other outrages, the diary documents how Slahi, after suffering the indignity and abuse that arose from genuine renditions, was subject to a “fake rendition process” designed to make him feel he was “being transferred to some far, faraway secret prison.”

As part of this fake rendition, he was subjected to a beating so severe he was unable to stand, then taken out to sea on a boat for three hours and forced to drink salt water as he feared he would be killed if he refused. Read more ..


The Race for Batteries

Can Kevlar Prevent Lithium-ion Battery Fires?

January 29th 2015

Boeing 787

University of Michigan researchers have used nanofibers extracted from Kevlar to develop a barrier between the electrodes in a lithium-ion battery that is capable of preventing the type of fires linked with the grounding of Boeing's 787 Dreamliner aircraft.

Kevlar, which is the material commonly used in bulletproof vests, was used to create the barrier that stifles the growth of metal tendrils that can become unwanted pathways for electrical current and a potential source of runaway fires in lithium-ion batteries.

The University of Michigan team of researchers also founded Ann Arbor-based Elegus Technologies to bring the research work from the lab to market. Mass production is expected to begin in the fourth quarter 2016. Read more ..


Campus Jihad

Anti-Israel BDS Movement Is Fashionable In Academia, But Far From Invincible

January 29th 2015

UC Davis swastika graffiti

While the global anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) campaign has officially hit America’s scholarly associations over the last two years, even considering academic boycotts is a dramatic rupture with the past. 

In 2005, the prestigious American Association of University Professors (AAUP) wrote that it “condemned any such boycotts as prima facie violations of academic freedom.” This bedrock principle was so valued that the AAUP opposed academic boycotts of apartheid South Africa. Three-hundred university presidents signed a letter in 2007 declaring that academic boycotts are “utterly antithetical to the fundamental values of the academy, where we will not hold intellectual exchange hostage to the political disagreements of the moment.”

That consensus, however, began to crack in 2013. Anti-Israel animus started becoming academically fashionable with the rise of post-colonial, critical studies theory, and Israel’s self-defense after the eruption of the second Palestinian intifada (uprising) in 2000 stoked these views.

Read more ..

South of the Border

Alliance for Prosperity: A Step in the Right Direction for Central America?

January 28th 2015

The Northern Triangle countries, El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras, are often characterized by poverty and violence. With limited economic opportunities and individual security threatened by gang and drug violence, many citizens have opted to migrate north towards opportunity and safety.

An unprecedented number of migrants from Central America, including an increase in unaccompanied minors traveling north beginning in 2009 from an estimated 20,000 to over 50,000, have raised security and human rights concerns in the involved countries. These issues are not only pertinent to the United States and Mexico, but have had serious consequences in the Northern Triangle, which continues to suffer a significant human capital flight. An estimated 9 percent of the total Northern Triangle population has emigrated in recent years, with about 100,000 migrating to the United States yearly and 60 percent remaining as undocumented persons. Read more ..


Broken Government

The Republican Quandary over Immigration

January 28th 2015

Republican leaders in the House and Senate are boxed in on immigration and searching for a way out.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) are struggling to find a way to fund the Department of Homeland Security while meeting conservative demands to unwind President Obama’s executive actions giving legal status to millions of immigrants who would otherwise face deportation.

Congress is only scheduled to be in session for three weeks in February, giving lawmakers little time to craft a funding bill that would prevent an embarrassing shutdown of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) on Feb. 28.

On Tuesday, the two began wiggling their way out of the tight spot:

• Sen. Roy Blunt (Mo.), the vice chairman of the Senate Republican Conference, pledged at a press conference that Senate Republicans would do “everything we can to persuade at least half a dozen Democrats that they should join us,” adding, “you don’t know how these legislative battles go if you don’t have them, and we intend to have this one.” Read more ..


The Caliphate

Nigerian Christians Beg Foreign Military Intervention to avoid 'Catastrophe'

January 28th 2015

Nigerian church bombed by Boko Haram

Catholic Archbishop Ignatius Kaigama of Jos, Nigeria, warned that a catastrophe awaits the country if the advance of the violent Boko Haram Muslim sect is not halted.

“The situation is very dangerous and very disturbing, because once they capture Maiduguri, the capital of Borno State, then you can be sure that all of the areas around will easily fall to them,” said Archbishop Kaigama.

His comments followed a fatal attack in Maiduguri – a city in northeastern Nigeria – where dozens were killed and thousands displaced by a Boko Haram attack on January 25. “I am quite surprised at that because the people are still dying and being displaced so if the government cannot adequately control the violence, I think there is need for international assistance” he added.

Catholic Bishop Oliver Dashe Doeme of Maiduguri also warned that Boko Haram may soon control the entire northeastern region of Nigeria if international military assistance is not forthcoming. Read more ..


The Edge of Tolerance

Turkey's Celebration of Gallipoli Centenary Mars Armenian Genocide Commemoration

January 28th 2015

Period photo of victim of Armenian genocide

Turkish President Recept Tayyip Erdogan has invited numerous heads of state to the April 24 commemoration, including Armenian President Serzh Sarkysian. In recent days, the Armenian press published Sarkysian’s reply to Erdogan in which he rejects the invitation. The letter also accused Turkey of seeking to perpetuate its longstanding denial that the mass killing of 1.5 million people by the Ottomans amounted to a genocide.

Turkey has maintained that the genocide is to be blamed on Ottoman authorities who ruled the Anatolian peninsula, Syria, Lebanon and Palestine. Sarkysian accused the Turkish government of seeking to distract the world’s attention away from the memory of the genocide.

A bilingual Armenian weekly published in Istanbul, Agos, called the invitation "a dishonest step" on the part of the Turkish leader. Christians living in Turkey say that the commemoration of the battle on the same day on which Armenians will remember the hundreds of thousands of Christian Armenians, Greeks, and others by Ottoman authorities in 1915 is an unnecessary provocation. Read more ..


Europe on Edge

Are Seismic Changes Ahead for Europe

January 27th 2015

German police at Brandenburg gate

The story is well known. The financial crisis of 2008, which began as a mortgage default issue in the United States, created a sovereign debt crisis in Europe. Some European countries were unable to make payment on bonds, and this threatened the European banking system. There had to be some sort of state intervention, but there was a fundamental disagreement about what problem had to be solved. Broadly speaking, there were two narratives.

The German version, and the one that became the conventional view in Europe, is that the sovereign debt crisis is the result of irresponsible social policies in Greece, the country with the greatest debt problem. These troublesome policies included early retirement for government workers, excessive unemployment benefits and so on. Politicians had bought votes by squandering resources on social programs the country couldn't afford, did not rigorously collect taxes and failed to promote hard work and industriousness. Therefore, the crisis that was threatening the banking system was rooted in the irresponsibility of the debtors. Read more ..


Broken Government

Government Housing -- Bad idea

January 27th 2015

Panic in Detroit

This past week, following the nation's celebration of the birthday of civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., the U.S. Supreme Court heard an important case related to landmark law enacted during the civil rights era – the Fair Housing Law of 1968.

This case highlights how some policies that followed civil rights era legislation – in this case government low-income housing projects – actually have hurt the very communities they were supposed to help.

The Court heard arguments in the case Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs v The Inclusive Communities Project, a non-profit defining itself as for “thriving racially and economically inclusive communities.” No one questions the illegality of refusing to sell or rent to someone because of his or her race. But what about policies not intended to be discriminatory, but that may produce results that might be deemed as such? Read more ..


The Way We Are

For Sports Fans, Cheating on the Field is Worse than Cheating on a Spouse

January 25th 2015

Why did fans and sponsors such as Nike drop Lance Armstrong but stay loyal to Tiger Woods? Probably because Armstrong's doping scandal took place on the field, unlike Wood's off-the-field extramarital affairs, according to new studies.

A series of studies conducted by University of Michigan doctoral student Joon Sung Lee suggests that when fans and consumers can separate an athlete's immoral behavior from their athletic performance, they're much more forgiving than if the bad behavior could impact athletic performance or the outcome of the game.

The latter happened with Lance Armstrong's doping scandal, which fans viewed as performance-related, a reasoning strategy called moral coupling, said Dae Hee Kwak, co-investigator of the study and assistant professor in the School of Kinesiology.

Armstrong's career suffered tremendously, and Nike eventually dropped him. Read more ..


Healthy Edge

Trust your Gut to Relieve Symptoms of Parkinsons' Disease

January 25th 2015

Escherichia coliform usually brings to mind food poisoning and beach closures, but researchers recently discovered a protein in E. coli that inhibits the accumulation of potentially toxic amyloids—a hallmark of diseases such as Parkinson's.

Amyloids are formed by proteins that misfold and group together, and when amyloids assemble at the wrong place or time, they can damage brain tissue and cause cell death, according to Margery Evans, lead author of the University of Michigan study, and Matthew Chapman, principal investigator and associate professor in the department of  U-M Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology. Read more ..


The Battle for the Ukraine

Rocket Fire Could Signal New Offensive on Mariupol

January 24th 2015

Russian T 72 tank in Ukraine

Reports of heavy rocket artillery firing on the eastern parts of the city of Mariupol, Ukraine, as well as a statement made by a separatist leader, indicate the potential preparation of an offensive on the city. While this would be a significant escalation and an indicator of Russian intent to push further into Ukraine, potentially forming a much-rumored land connection to the northern border of Crimea, there are also several indicators required for such an offensive that are currently still missing.

Reports of heavy rocket artillery firing on the eastern parts of the city of Mariupol have been widely reported, with the death toll rising to 27 people. Mariupol has been shelled in the past, notably in early September, but as the cease-fire took affect separatist forces generally conducted attacks only outside of the city. It is not clear whether this is simply an intensification of relatively static fighting along the front between Russian and pro-Russian forces on the one side, and Ukrainians, or the beginning of a Russian-led offensive to widen the pocket, or the opening move in a broader strategic offensive to link up with Crimea, 200 miles to the west of the pocket. Read more ..


Europe on Edge

European 'No-Go' Zones for Non-Muslims Advancing to Reality

January 24th 2015

Sharia Controlled Zones

Islamic extremists are stepping up the creation of "no-go" areas in European cities that are off-limits to non-Muslims.

Many of the "no-go" zones function as microstates governed by Islamic Sharia law. Host-country authorities effectively have lost control in these areas and in many instances are unable to provide even basic public aid such as police, fire fighting and ambulance services.

The "no-go" areas are the by-product of decades of multicultural policies that have encouraged Muslim immigrants to create parallel societies and remain segregated rather than become integrated into their European host nations.

In Britain, for example, a Muslim group called Muslims Against the Crusades has launched a campaign to turn twelve British cities – including what it calls "Londonistan" – into independent Islamic states. The so-called Islamic Emirates would function as autonomous enclaves ruled by Islamic Sharia law and operate entirely outside British jurisprudence. Read more ..


Edge of Tolerance

Terrorism Proves France is a "Seething Volcano" say Faith Leaders

January 24th 2015

Click to select Image

For the first time since the Second World War, the Grande Synagogue of Paris - the most prominent synagogue in the French capital - Paris was shuttered when Jews would otherwise be attending Friday Sabbath services. On January 9, a Muslim terrorists seized hostages at a Jewish market in the Vincennes neighborhood of the French capital, prompting Jewish shops throughout the city to close their doors as a precaution. According to Dr. Shimon Samuels, of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, “The Jewish community feels itself on the edge of a seething volcano.” The rise of anti-Semitism in recent years has prompted French Jews to leave the country, while many have emigrated to Israel.

According to the Jerusalem Post, Samuels said “Hostages in a kosher supermarket held [up] by an African jihadist, who reportedly already killed two victims… The scenes are out of a war movie.”

“But the war is undeclared as long as the sickness is not publicly named as a state of emergency. A culture of excuse exonerates the perpetrators as ‘disaffected, alienated, frustrated, unemployed.’ No other group of frustrated unemployed has resorted to such behavior.” Read more ..


Personal Travelog

Visiting the Jewish Side of Cuba

January 23rd 2015

Cuban Capitol

I joined this trip because my brother with whom I was traveling with knew the trip leader, Leanne Shamash, the Educator at Beth Elohim in Acton, MA.  Leanne's husband, Hooshang (Benny) Shamash, a friend of my brother, served as our prayer leader.  Benny immigrated to Worcester MA from Iran in order to attend College, and prays in the Sephardic style.

First minyan was in a meeting room the Crown Plaza Miami Airport on Erev Cuba for those needing to say Kaddish. Everyone else already had met but I knew two other people in the room, Rodney Hass who I went to high school with and Pam Weil, who I had met at conferences and who was once a teacher at Sherith Israel. Among the thirty of us there were two Early Childhood Educators and three synagogue educators. Read more ..


Cyber-Terror

The Florida Connection in the War on Cyber-Terror

January 22nd 2015

The two U.S. military social media accounts that were hacked last week had major accounts in Florida. Is there something about Florida?

On January 12, a person, or persons, calling him and/or themselves CyberCaliphate hacked the Twitter and YouTube social network accounts of the headquarters of U.S. Central Command (or USCC; also known as CentCom). MacDill Air Force Base, in Tampa, is the base headquarters for USCC.

The first of the hacks occurred on Twitter and stated “ISIS (the international terrorist group) is already here, we are in your PC’s, in each military base.” The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) immediately began an investigation into the matter. As of press time, the FBI was still investigating the case. Read more ..


The 2016 Vote

GOP Presidential Hopefuls Seek Congressional Endorsements

January 22nd 2015

Click to select Image

The 2016 GOP primaries don’t start for another year, but potential presidential candidates are already furiously working to lock up support from lawmakers from early- and key-primary states.

Jeb Bush is chatting up members of his home state Florida congressional delegation. Former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina is making personal visits to early primary state lawmakers. And New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is wooing would-be supporters.

Winning endorsements from popular politicians — and their spouses — in places like Iowa, New Hampshire South Carolina and Florida is crucial to getting a leg up on the competition — particularly with a crowded field.

And the prospective GOP contenders aren’t taking any chances. Read more ..


The 2016 Vote

Democrats Hope to Win Millenial Vote

January 22nd 2015

House Democrats think the GOP’s agenda has given them a new opportunity to win over millennials ahead of 2016.

Even though younger voters tend to vote Democratic, the group turned out in low numbers amid the party’s midterm drubbing last November.

But now that new Republican proposals are taking a hard conservative line on the issues of immigration and abortion — bills GOP leaders have prioritized to launch the 114th Congress — Democrats see an opening to motivate younger voters and steer them into their tent.

“It’s almost as though they’re creating the strategy for us, bringing up these bills,” Rep. Joseph Crowley (N.Y.), vice chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, said Wednesday.

A recent poll by The Washington Post and ABC News has fueled the Democrats’ optimism, finding that President Obama’s approval rating among millennials has jumped 19 percentage points since December. Read more ..


The War on Terror

After #JeSuisCharlie how do We Deal with the Muslim World?

January 22nd 2015

Click to select Image

What is left after the viral and global outrage that led millions of people to the streets to express their identification with the victims of the massacre in Paris? The urgency to take the necessary steps to understand Islam and the radical challenge it poses to the West.

Clear, impacting, sensational. So must be in terrorist’s mind the message connected to his actions. He/she has no time to lose, he/she must obtain the most spectacular effect reaching as many targets as possible: hit the enemy, obtain a victory and this way glorify God. He/she wants to reach heaven, the reward for his/her courage.

What about the collateral damage, the innocent victims left on the ground? They're not a problem, because, above all, it is the intention of the action of the Jihadist that wins: affirm the truth of God eliminating the unfaithful. In this project the ‘communicative’ question is of the maximum importance for the global radical Islamic terrorists.

This is demonstrated by their online magazines, websites, videos-releases which they spread, their skill in the use of social media, ideal places for recruiting new militants. And perhaps, with this ‘media sensitivity’ view, you can also understand the target chosen last 7 January, a target capable of provoking a global reaction like the one recorded by the principal Western newspapers: break into the newsroom of a weekly, when the editorial meeting is taking place and everybody is present and make a killing. Killing the signatures of a newspaper well-known (and even threatened) for its corrosive, controversial and debated satire in France, but also defended as a symbol of freedom of expression, the pride of French laicité. Read more ..


Obama's Second Term

Congressional Response to State of the Union Speech is Mixed

January 21st 2015

Democrats and Republicans in Congress expressed a mix of reactions to President Barack Obama's State of the Union address, with a particular focus on his economic policies and the ongoing international negotiations on Iran's nuclear program.

After the January 20 speech at the Capitol in Washington, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi called Obama's speech a "powerful vision of opportunity and prosperity" for American families, and highlighted his plans to help those in the middle class.

But Republicans in the Senate, who reclaimed a majority this year, questioned how the president would fund those initiatives. Senator Cory Gardner expressed opposition to raising money through new taxes. Read more ..


Obama's Second Term

In State of the Union, Obama Seeks Congressional Action

January 21st 2015

Click to select Image

As he enters his seventh year at the nation’s helm, President Barack Obama put forward an agenda he said will strengthen national and global security.

Speaking from the U.S. Capitol Tuesday evening, Obama addressed the nation and a Congress in which Republicans control both the Senate and the House of Representatives after winning sweeping victories in the November elections.

At a time of riveting global crises, Obama's speech was mostly about domestic issues, but he touched on several pressing foreign policy challenges.

National security

Obama acknowledged as commander-in-chief his first duty is defending the country.

"We lead best when we combine military power with strong diplomacy; when we leverage our power with coalition building; when we don’t let our fears blind us to the opportunities that this new century presents," the president said. Read more ..


The Healthy Edge

How the Brain Responds to the Restoration of Eyesight

January 20th 2015

Recent scientific advances have meant that eyesight can be partially restored to those who previously would have been blind for life. However, scientists at the University of Montreal and the University of Trento have discovered that the rewiring of the senses that occurs in the brains of the long-term blind means that visual restoration may never be complete.

"We had the opportunity to study the rare case of a woman with very low vision since birth and whose vision was suddenly restored in adulthood following the implantation of a Boston Keratoprosthesis in her right eye," explained Giulia Dormal, who led the study.

"On one hand, our findings reveal that the visual cortex maintains a certain degree of plasticity - that is the capacity to change as a function of experience - in an adult person with low vision since early life. On the other, we discovered that several months after the surgery, the visual cortex had not regained full normal functioning." The visual cortex is the part of the brain that processes information from our eyes.

Scientists know that in cases of untreatable blindness, the occipital cortex - that is the posterior part of the brain that is normally devoted to vision - becomes responsive to sound and touch in order to compensate for the loss of vision. "This important brain reorganization represents a challenge for people encountering eye surgery to recover vision, because the deprived and reorganized occipital cortex may not be capable of seeing anymore after having spent years in the dark," Dormal said. Read more ..


Iran's Nukes

The Case Act: A Lesson from History

January 20th 2015

A movement is afoot on Capitol Hill to force President Obama to submit any agreement between the United States and Iran to lawmakers, even if it isn’t a treaty requiring ratification. The administration, not surprisingly, says there is no reason to do so. It is not terribly surprising that the president is not conversant with the 1972 Case Act (1 U.S. Code § 112b – United States international agreements; transmission to Congress). It is more surprising that those who disagree with the president don’t appear to have looked it up.

In 1969 and 1970, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee learned that significant covert agreements had been arranged between the U.S. government and South Korea, Laos, Thailand, Ethiopia, Spain, and more.

The Democrats at the time controlled both Houses of Congress, but it was Republican Senator Clifford Case (NJ) who authored the legislation that bears his name. The language is simple; the implications vast:

a) The Secretary of State shall transmit to the Congress the text of any international agreement (including the text of any oral international agreement, which agreement shall be reduced to writing), other than a treaty, to which the United States is a party as soon as practicable after such agreement has entered into force with respect to the United States but in no event later than sixty days thereafter.

However, any such agreement the immediate public disclosure of which would, in the opinion of the President, be prejudicial to the national security of the United States shall not be so transmitted to the Congress but shall be transmitted to the Committee on Foreign Relations of the Senate and the Committee on International Relations of the House of Representatives under an appropriate injunction of secrecy to be removed only upon due notice from the President. Read more ..


Europe on Edge

The European Union, Nationalism and the Crisis of Europe

January 20th 2015

Euro money

European media has been flooded for the past week with leaks about the European Central Bank's forthcoming plan to stimulate the faltering European economy by implementing quantitative easing. First carried by Der Spiegel and then picked up by other media, the story has not been denied by anyone at the bank nor any senior European official. We can therefore call this an official leak, because it lets everyone know what is coming before an official announcement is made later in the week.

The plan is an attempt to spur economic activity in Europe by increasing the amount of money available. It calls for governments to increase their borrowing for various projects designed to increase growth and decrease unemployment. Rather than selling the bonds on the open market, a move that would trigger a rise in interest rates, the bonds are sold to the central banks of eurozone member states, which have the ability to print new money. The money is then sent to the treasury. With more money flowing through the system, recessions driven by a lack of capital are relieved. This is why the measure is called quantitative easing. Read more ..


The Caliphate

ISIS Threatens to Kill Japanese Hostages

January 20th 2015

The Islamic State group has released a video purporting to show two Japanese hostages and threatening to kill them in 72 hours if Japan does not pay the militants $200 million.

The video posted on January 20 on jihadist websites shows a black-clad person with a knife speaking in English along with two kneeling men wearing orange jumpsuits. It identifies the men as Kenji Goto and Haruna Yakawa.

The militant criticizes Japan's support for Western military efforts to battle the group.

Japanese forces are not part of the U.S.-led coalition that has conducted more than 1,700 airstrikes on Islamic State targets in Iraq and Syria since August. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe pledged on January 17 to give $200 million in non-military aid to countries fighting the Sunni extremists. Read more ..


The War on Terror

Britain Foils Muslim Terror Attack on Jewish Community

January 20th 2015

Lord Jonathan Sacks, the former British Chief Rabbi, has told the BBC that the greatest threat currently facing British Jews comes from radical Islamists.

“I think so,” Lord Sacks said, when asked whether Islamists presented the greatest security challenge to the community. “Be aware though, just how small a minority that is of the Muslim community.”

Lord Sacks also revealed that a terror plot against the Jewish community in Manchester had been foiled by police.

The plot, he said, “would have targeted synagogues and Jewish schools, and luckily that was thwarted by the police. So this is not just a scare about nothing – this is very real.” Read more ..


The War on Terror

Here's Why the United States is Losing the Fight Against Islamist Terror

January 19th 2015

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The United States has been at war with radical Islamist terrorism for at least 35 years, starting with the November 1979 Iranian seizure of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran and taking of 52 American hostages. President Jimmy Carter , in his State of the Union address two months later, declared the American captives “innocent victims of terrorism.”

For the next two decades, radical Islamist terrorism grew more powerful and more sophisticated. On Sept. 11, 2001, a remarkably sophisticated effort by Islamist terrorists killed nearly 3,000 Americans in New York City, Washington, D.C., and western Pennsylvania.

In response to the worst attack on U.S. soil since Pearl Harbor, President George W. Bush told a joint session of Congress: “Our war on terror begins with al Qaeda, but it does not end there. It will not end until every terrorist group of global reach has been found, stopped and defeated.” Read more ..


The War on Terror

Iranian General Confirmed Dead after Israeli Airstrike in Syria

January 19th 2015

Iran has confirmed that General Mohammed Ali Allahdadi, who had been in Syria while giving “crucial advice” to Syrians fighting terrorists, was killed in an Israeli air strike in Syria that also killed several members of Hezbollah. The latter is a Shiite Muslim terrorist organization that serves as proxy for Iran in Lebanon. Among the dead is the son of a leading Hezbollah official who was assassinated in Damascus in 2008. Israeli television news confirmed that Israel had conducted the raid. Hezbollah has supported the forces of Syrian dictator Bashr al-Assad.

Allahdadi is not the first Iranian general to die in Syria. Iran has accused Israel of complicity in the 2013 death of Gen. Hassan Shateri . Shateri was a commander in Iran’s Revolutionary Guard.

According to Hezbollah, the air raid targeted two Hezbollah vehicles on January 18 while combatants were inspecting positions close to the Israeli-controlled frontier on the Golan Heights. Among the dead is Hezbollah commander Mohammad Issa, who had been with the organization since the age of 15. Another casualty is Abbas Hijazi, the son of Kamal Hijazi and a founder of Hezbollah. Read more ..


The Way We Are

'Gone With the Wind' Remains America's Favorite Film

January 19th 2015

It might be 75 years old, but the American Civil War saga Gone With the Wind remains firmly in the hearts of American moviegoers.

Based on Margaret Mitchell’s Pulitzer Prize winning historical romance, the film premiered in 1939 and followed the tumultuous love story of Scarlett O’Hara and Rhett Butler against the backdrop of the burning cities and hardships of war in the American South.

Films from a mix of genres–Star Wars, Titanic, The Godfather, Lord of the Rings–round out the top 5, according to a survey of 2,276 U.S. adults who were asked, “What is your favorite movie of all time?”

AMERICA’S TOP 10 FAVORITE FILMS

1. Gone With the Wind
2. Star Wars
3. Titanic
4. The Godfather
5. Lord of the Rings
6. Sound of Music
7. Dirty Dancing
8. Wizard of Oz
9. It’s a Wonderful Life
10. E.T.

Source: Harris Interactive Poll Read more ..


The War on Terror

Obama to Discuss Cyber-Terror Threat in State of the Union Address

January 19th 2015

In his State of the Union address Tuesday night, President Barack Obama is expected to focus on several new cybersecurity and privacy proposals recently announced by the White House. The measures call for greater information sharing between the federal government and private companies, and new security initiatives to prevent high-profile hacks.

At a White House meeting recently with Congressional leaders, President Obama said both parties could agree to strengthen cybersecurity. The recent attack at Sony pictures and a hack of a Pentagon twitter feed by supporters of the Islamic State group, he said, underscore the need to act. Read more ..


The War on Terror

European and American Officials Warn of Severe Terror Threat

January 19th 2015

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British Prime Minister David Cameron said Britain faces a “severe” threat of terrorist attack, while a European law enforcement official describes the security environment as "difficult". A U.S. lawmaker also warns of a growing threat of “homegrown violent extremism.”

Appearing on the CBS program "Face the Nation" on Sunday, Cameron said Britain faces a “severe threat” and that an attack is “highly likely.”

"This threat keeps morphing because it’s the same fundamental problem, extremist Islamist terror. The threat has changed and altered, but still based on the fundamental problem of a poisonous death cult narrative, which is a perversion of one of the world’s major religions," said Cameron.

Cameron said the struggle against these extremists will take a long time and require international cooperation.

"If we take the issue of Islamic extremist terrorism coming out of Iraq and Syria, it is going to take a very long time to deal with this. While we’ll have to show a great deal of perseverance, we cannot do this on our own as Western countries. We need a functioning government in Iraq, a functioning government in Syria to be the legitimate authorities that with us help to stamp out this perversion of the Islamic religion," said Cameron.

Rob Wainwright, the director of the European Union law enforcement agency Europol, said a determined police response is underway in the wake of the January 7 and 9 terrorist attacks in France that killed 17 people.

"We’ve seen action now in Belgium, in Greece, Berlin and other locations as well, and it shows the nature of the threat we’re facing right now. It’s spread across so many European countries, perpetrated by a community of perhaps thousands of people who have been radicalized on the Internet, by their conflict experience in Syria and Iraq, and many of them have returned to European society with perhaps some of them with the intent and capability to carry out the attack," said Wainwright. Read more ..


The War on Terror

Mysterious Death of Prosecutor Alleging Iran's Links to Argentine President

January 19th 2015

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Argentine President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner

Natalio Alberto Nisman, a special prosecutor in Argentina who for ten years had investigated links between Iran and Argentina in the deadly 1994 terrorist bombing of a Jewish community center in Buenos Aires, was found dead in his apartment on January 18. When family members were unable to contact him, his mother found him dead in the bathroom of his 13th floor apartment in the Puerto Madero area of Buenos Aires.

According to Argentine law enforcement sources, a 22 calibre pistol was found near Nisman’s body. Argentine media is reporting that his death was the result of suicide. So far, the suicide theory has not been independently verified.

One of the investigators of the crime, Viviana Fein, told the press “I will not venture to offer a hypothesis. We now have to find the details of the cause of death. I cannot say whether or not it was a suicide. I am asking you for prudence. I will conduct the investigation. I trust the federal police and the prefecture.” Read more ..


Book Review

Marching into Darkness: A German Army Bent on Genocide

January 16th 2015

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Marching Into Darkness:The Wehrmacht and the Holocaust in Belarus. Waitman Wade Beorn. Harvard University Press, 2014. 314 pages

It is a deeply held belief in some circles that the German military was a professional fighting force largely blameless in the Holocaust that killed 6 million Jews in World War II.

But a University of Nebraska at Omaha history professor takes a close look at the German army’s complicity in rounding up and executing Jews in Belarus in the opening months of the Eastern Front in 1941.

Marching Into Darkness: The Wehrmacht and the Holocaust in Belarus by Waitman Wade Beorn, assistant professor of history and the Louis and Frances Blumkin professor of Holocaust and Genocide Studies at UNO, ought to be on the reading list of anyone interested in the German army or battles on the Eastern Front in World War II.

The writing style is more academic than in popular histories, but this book can be highly recommended for anybody interested in military ethics, and in the importance of strong and principled military leadership.

Beorn, a 2000 graduate of the U.S. Military Academy and an Iraq war veteran, paints a complex picture. Most German soldiers in the region were, at the very least, willing to do nothing as Belarusian Jews were murdered. Others were willing to actively take part.

But there was a minority who refused to take part and even hid Jews. In many cases, these officers and soldiers were not punished — information that refutes postwar claims of German veterans that they had to go along or face dire consequences. Read more ..



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