Archive for January 2015
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|Bliss Baker||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, â€˜Avoiding Bioenergy Competition for Food Crops and Landâ€™, 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 â€“ 50% of global food production is wasted â€“ 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.
|Omri Ariel||January 30th 2015|
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 ..
|Christoph Hammerschmidt||January 30th 2015|
Researchers of the JÃ¼lich 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
|Armstrong Williams||January 29th 2015|
Most of the discussion following President Obamaâ€™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 Iranâ€™s illicit nuclear weapons program.
Members of Congress who are concerned by the ongoing nuclear progress of the worldâ€™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 Tehranâ€™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.
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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 costsâ€”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.
The War on Terror
|Joshua Gleis||January 29th 2015|
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 summerâ€™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
|Michael Cook||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
|Jay Ogilvy||January 29th 2015|
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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" â€” 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.
The Way We Are
|Peter Finn||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 â€œfake rendition processâ€ designed to make him feel he was â€œbeing transferred to some far, faraway secret prison.â€
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
|Paul Buckley||January 29th 2015|
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 ..
|Roberta P. Seid||January 29th 2015|
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While the global anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) campaign has officially hit Americaâ€™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 â€œcondemned any such boycotts as prima facie violations of academic freedom.â€ 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 â€œutterly antithetical to the fundamental values of the academy, where we will not hold intellectual exchange hostage to the political disagreements of the moment.â€
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 Israelâ€™s self-defense after the eruption of the second Palestinian intifada (uprising) in 2000 stoked these views.
South of the Border
|Cameron McKibben||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 ..
|Alexander Bolton ||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 Obamaâ€™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:
â€¢ Sen. Roy Blunt (Mo.), the vice chairman of the Senate Republican Conference, pledged at a press conference that Senate Republicans would do â€œeverything we can to persuade at least half a dozen Democrats that they should join us,â€ adding, â€œyou donâ€™t know how these legislative battles go if you donâ€™t have them, and we intend to have this one.â€ Read more ..
|Martin Barillas||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.
â€œThe 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,â€ said Archbishop Kaigama.
His comments followed a fatal attack in Maiduguri â€“ a city in northeastern Nigeria â€“ where dozens were killed and thousands displaced by a Boko Haram attack on January 25. â€œI 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 assistanceâ€ 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
|Martin Barillas||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 Sarkysianâ€™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 worldâ€™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
|George Friedman||January 27th 2015|
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 ..
|Star Parker||January 27th 2015|
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 â€“ the Fair Housing Law of 1968.
This case highlights how some policies that followed civil rights era legislation â€“ in this case government low-income housing projects â€“ 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 â€œthriving racially and economically inclusive communities.â€ 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
|Laura Bailey||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 ..
|Laura Bailey||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 amyloidsâ€”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
|George Friedman||January 24th 2015|
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
|Soeren Kern||January 24th 2015|
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 â€“ including what it calls "Londonistan" â€“ 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
|Martin Barillas||January 24th 2015|
Cutting Edge Contributor
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, â€œThe Jewish community feels itself on the edge of a seething volcano.â€ 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 â€œHostages in a kosher supermarket held [up] by an African jihadist, who reportedly already killed two victimsâ€¦ The scenes are out of a war movie.â€
â€œBut 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 â€˜disaffected, alienated, frustrated, unemployed.â€™ No other group of frustrated unemployed has resorted to such behavior.â€ Read more ..
|Nancy Sheftel-Gomes||January 23rd 2015|
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 ..
|Mark Weisenmiller||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 â€œISIS (the international terrorist group) is already here, we are in your PCâ€™s, in each military base.â€ 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
|Scott Wong and Alexander Bolton ||January 22nd 2015|
The 2016 GOP primaries donâ€™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 â€” and their spouses â€” in places like Iowa, New Hampshire South Carolina and Florida is crucial to getting a leg up on the competition â€” particularly with a crowded field.
And the prospective GOP contenders arenâ€™t taking any chances. Read more ..
The 2016 Vote
|Mike Lillis ||January 22nd 2015|
House Democrats think the GOPâ€™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 partyâ€™s midterm drubbing last November.
But now that new Republican proposals are taking a hard conservative line on the issues of immigration and abortion â€” bills GOP leaders have prioritized to launch the 114th Congress â€” Democrats see an opening to motivate younger voters and steer them into their tent.
â€œItâ€™s almost as though theyâ€™re creating the strategy for us, bringing up these bills,â€ 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 Democratsâ€™ optimism, finding that President Obamaâ€™s approval rating among millennials has jumped 19 percentage points since December. Read more ..
The War on Terror
|Marialaura Conte||January 22nd 2015|
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 terroristâ€™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 â€˜communicativeâ€™ 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 â€˜media sensitivityâ€™ 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 laicitÃ©. Read more ..
Obama's Second Term
|Martin Barillas||January 21st 2015|
Cutting Edge Contributor
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
|John Chapin||January 21st 2015|
As he enters his seventh year at the nationâ€™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.
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 donâ€™t let our fears blind us to the opportunities that this new century presents," the president said. Read more ..
The Healthy Edge
|William Raillant-Clark||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 ..
|Stephen Bryen and Shoshana Bryen ||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 isnâ€™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 Â§ 112b â€“ United States international agreements; transmission to Congress). It is more surprising that those who disagree with the president donâ€™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
|George Friedman||January 20th 2015|
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 ..
|Diego DiGhero||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
|Ben Cohen||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.
â€œI think so,â€ Lord Sacks said, when asked whether Islamists presented the greatest security challenge to the community. â€œBe aware though, just how small a minority that is of the Muslim community.â€
Lord Sacks also revealed that a terror plot against the Jewish community in Manchester had been foiled by police.
The plot, he said, â€œwould have targeted synagogues and Jewish schools, and luckily that was thwarted by the police. So this is not just a scare about nothing â€“ this is very real.â€ Read more ..
The War on Terror
|Newt Gingrich||January 19th 2015|
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 â€œinnocent victims of terrorism.â€
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: â€œOur 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.â€ Read more ..
The War on Terror
|Martin Barillas||January 19th 2015|
Cutting Edge Contributor
Iran has confirmed that General Mohammed Ali Allahdadi, who had been in Syria while giving â€œcrucial adviceâ€ 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 Iranâ€™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
|John Chapin||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 Mitchellâ€™s Pulitzer Prize winning historical romance, the film premiered in 1939 and followed the tumultuous love story of Scarlett Oâ€™Hara and Rhett Butler against the backdrop of the burning cities and hardships of war in the American South.
Films from a mix of genresâ€“Star Wars, Titanic, The Godfather, Lord of the Ringsâ€“round out the top 5, according to a survey of 2,276 U.S. adults who were asked, â€œWhat is your favorite movie of all time?â€
AMERICAâ€™S TOP 10 FAVORITE FILMS
1. Gone With the Wind
2. Star Wars
4. The Godfather
5. Lord of the Rings
6. Sound of Music
7. Dirty Dancing
8. Wizard of Oz
9. Itâ€™s a Wonderful Life
Source: Harris Interactive Poll Read more ..
The War on Terror
|Doug Bernard||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
|Victor Beattie||January 19th 2015|
British Prime Minister David Cameron said Britain faces a â€œsevereâ€ 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 â€œhomegrown violent extremism.â€
Appearing on the CBS program "Face the Nation" on Sunday, Cameron said Britain faces a â€œsevere threatâ€ and that an attack is â€œhighly likely.â€
"This threat keeps morphing because itâ€™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 worldâ€™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 weâ€™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.
"Weâ€™ve seen action now in Belgium, in Greece, Berlin and other locations as well, and it shows the nature of the threat weâ€™re facing right now. Itâ€™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
|Martin Barillas||January 19th 2015|
|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 Nismanâ€™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 â€œI 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.â€ Read more ..
|Rick Halperin||January 16th 2015|
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 armyâ€™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 â€” information that refutes postwar claims of German veterans that they had to go along or face dire consequences. Read more ..
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