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Archive for August 2017

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Palestinians on Edge

Israeli Courts Allow Palestinians to Sue PA for torture

August 21st 2017

Palestinian Authority police

It is one of the most bizarre in years, as it involves Palestinian Authority citizens coming before the courts of the Israeli “occupation” to get justice for their mistreatment by their own PA law enforcement.

Eight Palestinians were disqualified from receiving damages when the court ruled they had been involved in common crimes and their treatment was a local Palestinian issue.

But the majority of the group – represented by West Bank resident and Israeli lawyer Menachem Kornvich – will now take part in hearings before the court on the amount of damages they can expect to receive. A team of Israeli lawyers representing the PA, including Yosef and Yehonatan Arnon, will attempt to minimize those damage claims.

According to the court, PA officials tortured various plaintiffs by “beating them on all parts of the body, hitting them with lead pipes, extinguishing cigarettes on their bodies, hanging them in torture positions for hours and starving them.” Read more ..

The Race for Solar

Australian €7m project Develops Large Perovskite Colar Panels

August 21st 2017

Solar Array

A €7m project in Australia is aiming to develop large panel solar cells using low cost perovskite materials.
 
Perovskite solar cells are cheaper to produce and have a high absorption efficiency in sunlight, and can be engineered to result in various optical and electronic properties but struggle with lifetime. Perovskite solar cells or modules can also be used to boost standard silicon (Si) solar technology when engineered to absorb a spectral range that is complementary to the optical range of silicon cells. By stacking the perovskite solar cells or modules on top of Si solar cells, power conversion efficiencies above 30 percent can potentially be achieved, beating the best single junction Si solar cells.

Greatcell Solar, the Australian materials company formerly called Dyesol, has been awarded a AUS$6m (€4m) grant from the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) for the Perovskite Solar Cell Technology - Large Area Module Development Project.

The company is also raising a minimum of AUS$5m (€3.5m) as part of the project funding.  This will enable Greatcell to accelerate the scale-up and prototyping activities to commercialise the company's technology.

Read more ..

Significant Lives

Dick Gregory – A Underappreciated Sherpa On The Climb To Economic Freedom

August 21st 2017

Armstrong_Williams

Seldom a month goes by when I do not speak in glowing terms about my business mentor and brother in spirit Dick Gregory. My brother was many things – he was a ruthless social critic who always spoke his mind, he was an outspoken civil rights activist, and he introduced an entire generation to healthy lifestyles through his wildly popular Bahamian Diet. He was an epic conspiracy theorist who could spin yarns out of the most disparate of threads. Many others will recall his countless acts of kindness and candor, of humility and strength, and his amazing sense of humor. But I most fondly remember brother Gregory for getting me started on the road to financial freedom.

As a young man and recent college graduate, I moved to Washington, DC from a rural farm town in South Carolina to work as a presidential appointee in the Department of Agriculture. I really loved my job – it was exciting to be in the midst of the government and having the chance to get involved in issues that directly affected my community back home. My official portfolio APHIS at Ag included working to assist rural farmers, helping them to keep their farms in the face of the decline of small-scale agriculture in the United States. It is an issue I am still passionate about to this day.

But I quickly realized that in moving to Washington which was then, as it is now, one of the most expensive cities in the country – that passion alone doesn’t pay the rent. My government salary of under $25,000 per year in 1982 was just not going to cut it. I was driven by necessity and my father to look for ways to supplement my government salary when I was introduced to Dick Gregory's Bahamian Diet in Baltimore, Md. Read more ..


The Trump Era

Trump is Right-- the Alt-Left is Violent

August 19th 2017

Star Parker right crop

British writer and theologian G.K. Chesterton observed, "It is hatred that unites people — while love is always individual."

The use of hatred to mobilize has a long and bloody history. We should understand why it works so well. It taps into human weakness. It exploits the unwillingness of individuals to take responsibility for their own lives, to courageously confront life's ambiguities and inconsistencies, and still move forward constructively. It's so much easier to blame someone else.

This is what racism is about.

Speaking to the horrible incident in Charlottesville, President Donald Trump condemned the "egregious display of bigotry and violence" on "many sides" that's "been going on for a long time in our country." The president appealed for the "hate and violence" to stop and that we "come together as Americans."

For these remarks the president is being attacked.

Read more ..

Media on Edge

UK Terrorism Expert Ridicules CNN Comparison Of Barcelona Carnage To Charlottesville Incident

August 19th 2017

CNN HQ logo

Robin Simcox, a Thatcher Fellow at the Heritage Foundation, dismissed allegations in an appearance on Fox News that the terrorist attack in Spain was a work of a copycat emulation of the incident in Charlottesville VA that resulted in the death of a protester. On Thursday, CNN’s Wolf Blitzer appeared to draw parallels between the Charlottesville incident and the attacks in Spain. The latter caused the deaths of 14 innocents, and injured dozens more.

Speaking to show host Tucker Carlson Fox , Simcox said on Thursday: “I find that really hard to believe, really. Jihadists have been carrying out these kinds of attacks way before Charlottesville. This year alone you’ve seen a truck being used in Stockholm and London, and before that you’ve seen Nice and Berlin. So I don’t find that really credible.” Read more ..


The Battle for Syria

How Syria Continued to Gas its People as the World Looked On

August 18th 2017

Dead Syrian Christian children

In the spring of 2015 a Syrian major general escorted a small team of chemical weapons inspectors to a warehouse outside the Syrian capital Damascus. The international experts wanted to examine the site, but were kept waiting outside in their car for around an hour, according to several people briefed on the visit.

When they were finally let into the building, it was empty. They found no trace of banned chemicals.

"Look, there is nothing to see," said the general, known to the inspectors as Sharif, opening the door.

So why were the inspectors kept waiting? The Syrians said they were getting the necessary approval to let them in, but the inspectors had a different theory. They believed the Syrians were stalling while the place was cleaned out. It made no sense to the team that special approval was needed for them to enter an empty building. Read more ..


The Iranian Threat

Iran Building Missile Factory in Syria

August 18th 2017

Iranian missile

Iran is reportedly building a facility in northwestern Syria to manufacture long-range Scud missiles, Israel’s Channel 2 reported Tuesday.

According to the report, security experts who analyzed photos of the site say the construction indicates that explosives would be stored there. The analysts also compared the facility in Syria to a rocket factory near Tehran, concluding there was a strong resemblance between the sites, indicating Iran’s involvement.

“The facility has one entrance, an administrative section, a production area and a storage wing, while some of the buildings appear to be for manufacturing ammunition. Large dirt mounds to protect the facility are also visible in the images,” the report said.

Last Sunday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel was closely monitoring the situation in Syria and would act against any threats. Read more ..


Venezuela on Edge

Venezuelan Jews Fleeing Turmoil Get ‘Lifeline’ In Israel, Encounter New Challenges

August 18th 2017

El Al Boeing 747-200

As the political and economic situation in Venezuela becomes increasingly unstable, Jews are fleeing the South American nation, with many choosing to immigrate to Israel. 

Conditions in Venezuela began deteriorating in 2013 following the death of the country’s former president, Hugo Chavez, and the ascension of his chosen successor Nicolas Maduro, a former bus driver.

During the past four years, inflation has skyrocketed under Maduro’s rule, leading to shortages in food and basic supplies such as medicine and toilet paper. Venezuelans stand in long lines—sometimes for 12 hours—just to obtain bare essentials.

“There is no value to life right now in Venezuela,” Adele Tarrab, a Venezuelan Jew who moved to Israel with her family in 2015, told JNS.org. “I’ve actually seen people get killed for bread.”  Read more ..


America on Edge

There is No Time for Moral Midgetry

August 18th 2017

Armstrong_Williams

While our hearts go out to those killed and injured amidst violent conflicts between white supremacist and Neo-Nazi demonstrators and counter-protesters in Charlottesville, VA one thing is clear: bigotry and racial hatred were the primary causes of the casualties. That fact must be firmly and clearly stated, and roundly condemned by our leaders.
 
Of course, there is plenty of blame to go around. Protesters and counter-protesters alike were responsible for outbreaks of fighting and violence that presaged the tragedy that we sadly witnessed, in which a man drove a car into a crowd of people, killing one woman and wounding several others.  What is known thus far about the perpetrator, judging by published excerpts from his social media postings and photographs of him at the Charlottesville march, is that he appears to have strong political leanings.  And what’s more, the man has a name: his name is James Alex Fields.
 
The sentiments that presumably drove Fields to commit such a horrific crime also have names: bigotry, racial animosity, white supremacy, and possible neo-Nazism.  We must be clear about naming the evils in our midst, calling them out and banishing, lest they, through want of identification, imbed themselves unconsciously into our own souls.  When the spirit of evil – one that we all as humans struggle with – becomes so strong that it finally spills out of our souls and into the streets it has reached a critically dangerous point of development. 
Read more ..

North Korea's Nukes

Forget Those Comparisons with the Cuban Missile Crisis

August 17th 2017

Un-generals

President Trump’s threat to unleash the greatest “fire and fury” in history against North Korea has prompted many hasty comparisons to the Cuban missile crisis. The initial speculation has focused particularly on the potential restraining influence of senior administration officials, especially Secretary of Defense James Mattis (a retired Marine general) and National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster (a former Army general). Ironically, however, examining today’s impasse from the perspective of 1962 actually demands turning the essence of the Cuban missile crisis upside down.

In 1962 the question was whether the civilian commander-in-chief could successfully face down the determined and united resistance of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (as well as that of most of his own advisers and the leaders of Congress). JFK was a fully-committed Cold Warrior, as demonstrated by his administration’s covert war in Cuba and efforts to assassinate Fidel Castro. But, unlike the Joint Chiefs, he understood that risking war between nations possessing nuclear weapons was no longer a rational option, one which could lead to what he vividly described as “the final failure.” “It is insane that two men, sitting on opposite sides of the world,” he remarked at a White House meeting, “should be able to decide to bring an end to civilization.” Once the first shot was fired, he warned, all bets were off.

Read more ..

Inside Film

Brooklyn Soundstage Company Acquires Staten Island Prison for $7M

August 17th 2017

jail door blue

New York state has closed on a $7 million acquisition with the Greenpoint-based soundstage company Broadway Stages for a 69-acre former prison facility in Staten Island. The new facility is expected to draw in lots of television and movie productions that are looking to film authentic jail scenes.

Broadway Stages agreed to invest $20 million for maintenance work, renovations and the future construction of six soundstages in the old Arthur Kill Correctional Facility as part of the acquisition. The facility sits on the water’s edge in Staten Island’s neighborhood of Rossville.

The recent popularity of prison-themed shows, like Orange is the New Black, are increasing productions’ needs for jail locations, Broadway Stages president and CEO Gina Argento told Crain’s. She explained that her company can gain an edge over its city competitors by having a prison facility in its portfolio.

Argento said, "A lot of productions have had to go Upstate to film prison scenes. To have a prison in the city that has such a feeling of authenticity to it is going to be very attractive to a lot of productions that are otherwise based in the city."

According to Crain’s, “Broadway Stages won a state solicitation for buyers of the site over three years ago, but was delayed in part in closing on the deal by State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli. DiNapoli's office had directed scrutiny at Argento after her name arose in an investigation by federal and state prosecutors into Mayor Bill de Blasio's campaign fundraising.

Read more ..

Destination India

Top 10 Street Foods of Northern India

August 17th 2017

India Street Scene

One of the greatest pleasures of street food in Northern India is to discover that there is more to Indian cuisine than chicken tikka masala.

For many first-time travellers to India one of the greatest pleasures is discovering its amazing street food. Surprisingly, there’s infinitely more to subcontinental cuisine than the rather bland offerings of tikka masala and chicken korma.

Street food, whether sweet or savoury, fiery or mild, is eaten by all and it’s not unknown for there to be lively debate amongst friends and family about which is the best. As well as giving your stomach a treat, trying street food helps support hard-working vendors, many of whom have been plying their trade with great skill for many years. So here’s our guide to the best street food of northern India – try each one with a steaming cup of the nation’s rocket-fuel, masala chai. Read more ..


The Race for BioFuel

The Future of Biofuel Isn’t Corn—It’s Algae

August 16th 2017

algae

When they hear “biofuel,” people tend to assume you’re talking about corn. That makes sense, given that corn is anticipated to provide 80 percent of this year’s ethanol production — much more, say, than algae — until we consider a few numbers.

By all accounts, microalgae is less land-intensive than corn production, and although it can pull double duty, providing high-quality feed for fish farms, it doesn’t compete with food crops. Furthermore, even by by the largely pro-corn Renewable Fuel Association’s water-consumption standards, corn ethanol is a thirsty fuel: Drinking 2.8 gallons of water for every gallon of fuel refined, corn is often outclassed in efficiency by algae-based fuels. Read more ..


Healthcare on Edge

Will Killing Obamacare Kill People

August 16th 2017

Premature Baby

We have the greatest healthcare in the world. To suggest people are turned away from life-saving treatment over their ability to pay is just not true.

Health insurance – or who pays for service – is a different issue than healthcare.

Let’s flip the argument. Did Obamacare make us healthier? No, according to the National Center for Health Statistics. It reported life expectancy in the U.S. declined for the first time in nearly 25 years.   The overall death rate increased.  With Obamacare in place, more Americans are dying than ever before. Read more ..


The Edge of Health

Food Color for Health

August 16th 2017

nurse w/stethoscope

Pigments made by beets may help boost resistance to disease and the nutrition value of crops.

Color in the plant kingdom is not merely a joy to the eye. Colored pigments attract pollinating insects, they protect plants against disease, they confer health benefits, and are used in the food and drug industries. A new study conducted at the Weizmann Institute of Science, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, USA, has now opened the way to numerous potential uses of betalains, the highly nutritious red-violet and yellow pigments known for their antioxidant properties and commonly used as food dyes.

Betalains are made by cactus fruit, flowers such as bougainvillea, and certain edible plants – most notably, beets. They are relatively rare in nature, compared to the two other major groups of plant pigments, and until recently, their synthesis in plants was poorly understood. Prof. Asaph Aharoni of Weizmann’s Department of Plant and Environmental Sciences and Dr. Guy Polturak, then a research student, along with other team members, used two betalain-producing plants – red beet (Beta vulgaris) and four o’clock flowers (Mirabilis jalapa) – in their analysis. Read more ..


Israel and Lebanon

Hezbollah Head Threatens Israel on Second Lebanon War Anniversary

August 16th 2017

Rockets

The Israeli enemy has reached the rock bottom, while we have reached the peak,” claims the head of the Hezbollah terror group.

On the anniversary of the Second Lebanon War, Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah announced to his followers that Israel “fears” the Lebanon-based terror group’s growing power.

Addressing crowds on Sunday in a ceremony marking the 11th anniversary of what Hezbollah calls the “Divine Victory,” the Second Lebanon War in 2006, Nasrallah warned that the cost of an Israeli war on Lebanon would be “very high.” He called on “the Israeli enemy” to consider dismantling the Dimona reactor, which he has threatened to attack in the past. Read more ..


The Battle for Syria

Stormclouds over Syria

August 16th 2017

F-35

In the past five weeks, U.S. forces in Syria have struck directly at the Assad regime and its allies in Syria no less than four times. On May 18, U.S. warplanes struck regime and allied militia forces that breached a 34-mile exclusion zone around a U.S. outpost in southeastern Syria. Then on June 8 and June 20, the United States shot down Iranian-made drones as they approached the outpost.

But the most dramatic event so far was the June 18 downing of a Syrian air force Su-22 by a U.S. Navy F/A-18 Super Hornet. This took place after regime forces attacked a town held by the U.S.-aligned Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) near Tabqa, in northern Syria. The Su-22 dropped bombs near the SDF fighters, ignored U.S. warnings, and was then shot down.

The downing of the Su-22 threatened to bring Washington and Moscow into conflict in the war-torn country. In the aftermath of the incident, Russia announced the end of deconfliction arrangements with U.S. forces and that it had decided to treat future U.S. flights west of the Euphrates River as hostile. Read more ..


North Korea's Nukes

North Korea Says It Won't Fire Missiles At Guam, After All

August 15th 2017

North Korean rocket Apr 2012

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un reviewed his military's plans to rain "an enveloping fire" around the U.S. territory of Guam — but opted not to fire missiles at this time, according to state media. Despite the stand-down, some Guamanians were alarmed after two radio stations aired an erroneous emergency alert Tuesday.

Kim visited the Korean People's Army as the self-imposed mid-August deadline for a missile demonstration approached, the Korean Central News Agency reports. But after hearing the plan and considering it, Kim opted not to give the order to launch missiles, but instead "would watch a little more the foolish and stupid conduct of the Yankees," the report says. Kim also warned that the U.S. should not test North Korea's self-restraint. Read more ..


Russia and Iran

Russia Re-examines Relationship with Iran

August 15th 2017

Khameni and Khomeini

As the Islamic State (IS) has been in steady retreat, Iran and Russia are facing real difficulties sustaining their partnership. Each took advantage of the fight against IS to further its military campaign in Syria. Both sides avoid discussing their differences, keeping their critics from making the most of the situation, but both fail to completely conceal the friction. In 2016, Moscow and Tehran jointly shielded Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's regime from the opposition and sought to preserve the remaining state institutions. In an attempt to freeze the six-year-long civil war, Russia is currently opting for agreements beyond the peace talks in Astana, Kazakhstan — that is, behind Iran’s back. Examples include the de-escalation zone in southwest Syria that Russia negotiated with the United States in Amman, Jordan, as well as de-escalation zones in eastern Ghouta and northern Homs, both of which were negotiated in Cairo. Read more ..


India and Israel

Israel-made Fence Systems to Transform India's Border

August 15th 2017

Indian army privates on parade

is deploying along its volatile border with Pakistan a smart Israel-developed fencing system having a 'quick response team' mechanism which strikes when the CCTV-powered control room detects an infiltration attempt.

The is implementing an ambitious project called the comprehensive integrated border management system (CIBMS) as part of the government's plan to completely seal the Indo-Pak and India-borders in the next few years.
 
The is tasked with guarding the over 6,300-km-long two borders and its chief, in an interview to PTI, said the new frontier guarding systems will bring a "sea change", for the first time, in this domain.
Read more ..

The Race for Autonomous Cars

Mobileye Plans Test Fleet of 100 Self-driving Cars

August 14th 2017

Traffic Jam

Having concluded the acquisition of the smart imaging company Mobileye, Intel announced first projects with company in the field of autonomous driving. Mobileye will build a fleet of 100 fully automated vehicles (Level 4) on the roads of the USA, Europe and Israel. The first cars are scheduled to start operation this year.

Building cars and testing them in real-world conditions provides immediate feedback and will accelerate delivery of technologies and solutions for highly and fully autonomous vehicles,” said Amnon Shshua, CEO and CTO of Mobileye and soon-to-be vice president of Intel Corp. "Geographic diversity is very important because different regions have very diverse driving styles, road conditions and traffic signs. Our goal is to develop autonomous vehicle technology that can be offered anywhere, so we have to test and train the vehicles at different locations." In the planned vehicle fleet, Mobileye will contribute its own competences in the fields of computer vision, sensor technology and sensor fusion and map creation, while Intel is contributing resources in the field of open computing platforms, data centers and 5G communication.

Read more ..

The Edge of Cyber

Iot Devices Becoming 'Cyberweapon Of Choice' For Attackers

August 14th 2017

Shadowy Computer User

A new report from cloud and security solution provider F5 Labs (Seattle, WA) examines how attackers have developed botnets - or "thingbots" - to target IoT devices.

IoT devices, says F5, have become "the cyberweapon delivery system of choice" for attackers building botnets - collections of Internet-connected devices that are infected and controlled by a common type of malware. Botnets can overwhelm systems with traffic with distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks, steal data, send spam, and allow an attacker access to the device and its connection.

According to the latest report, IoT attack activity grew 280% from the prior six-month period. This included "massive growth" due to the Mirai malware - which turns networked devices running Linux into remotely controlled bots that can then be used as part of a botnet - and subsequent attacks.

Read more ..

North Korea's Nules

North Korea's Guam Missile Strike Ready This Week

August 13th 2017

Un-review troops

North Korea says a plan that could see it fire four missiles near the US territory of Guam will be ready this week. State media said Hwasong-12 rockets would pass over Japan and land in the sea about 30km (17 miles) from Guam, if the plan was approved by Kim Jong-un.

It denounced Donald Trump's warnings of "fire and fury" and said the US leader was "bereft of reason". The US has warned the North its actions could mean the "end of its regime". US Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis said Pyongyang would be "grossly overmatched" in any war against the US and its allies. The BBC's Rupert Wingfield-Hayes, who is in Guam, says there is a sense that the North Korean threat is rhetorical, as most people feel that if they really did strike with missiles it would be suicidal for the North Korean regime. Read more ..


North Korea's Nukes

Pentagon Readies Pre-emptive Strike Against North Korea

August 13th 2017

B-1 Bomber

The Pentagon has a detailed plan for a military strike on North Korea, dispatching heavy bombers from Guam – the fortified U.S. territory that Pyongyang is threatening with missiles. The plan would be to launch heavy B1-B bombers from Guam's Andersen Air Force Base, limiting the flight time. U.S. forces have conducted practice maneuvers as recently as Monday, NBC News reported – and have done 11 sets of exercises. The bombers would get an escort from fighter jets providing protection. Satellites and drones would aide in the effort.

The planes would not carry nuclear payload, but would likely be armed with precision weapons designed to take out North Korea's array of missiles and missile launch sites.

'Of all the military options … [Trump] could consider, this would be one of the two or three that would at least have the possibility of not escalating the situation," retired Adm. James Stavridis told the network. He added: 'A single long-range strike against against the nuclear program, a cyber offensive would be the second. Those are the only two military options that ought to be in serious consideration.' The military has six of the powerful bombers already in position on Guam. Read more ..


The Race for Batteries

Solid State Lithium Batteries Readying for Market

August 11th 2017

Batteries-small-assorted

Hitachi Zosen in Japan has developed a prototype solid-state lithium-ion battery that it intends to commercialise over the next two years.

“We can offer solid-state lithium-ion batteries that are on par with the liquid type in performance even now,” said Takashi Tanisho, president of Hitachi Zosen, in reports. Solid-state batteries are more durable and have better temperature performance.

It has shipped samples of the battery to potential customers in the aerospace and automobile industries and plans to commercialise the technology in small cells by 2020, working with a local battery maker.

Hitachi Zosen has also been working on the technology for cars and has shipped samples to Honda’s research arm. “There are many companies working on solid-state batteries,” Tanisho said.

Read more ..

The Trump Era

Los Angeles Council Wants Companies To Disclose Work On Trump's Border Wall

August 11th 2017

US/Mex Border fence

The city council of Los Angeles voted this week to draft legislation that would require all companies seeking to do business with the city must reveal whether they are working on the wall along the Mexican border. The law would require companies to reveal whether they are helping to build a wall along the Mexican border, arguing that Angelenos deserve to know.

At a Tuesday meeting, the City Council voted to draft a law that would require companies seeking or doing business with the city to disclose contracts to help design, build, or provide supplies for “any proposed border wall between Mexico and the United States of America.”

Democrat Gil Cedillo said, “We want to know if there are people who do business with the city of Los Angeles ... who wish to profit from building a wall that would divide us from our nearest and dearest neighbor Mexico.” Cedillo proposed the law. He told local media that President Trump’s proposed wall is not only “repugnant,” but also racist and xenophobic. Read more ..


The Edge of Terrorism

UK's Flawed Solution to Prison Radicalization – Terrorist Group Therapy

August 11th 2017

Prison bars

While the most positive news in the war on Islamic terrorism has come from military successes against ISIS in Mosul and Syria, the overlooked recent failures by authorities to effectively deal with home grown Islamists is a cause for growing concern.

Whether it is by downplaying the threat or attempting to come up with snappy-sounding strategies to deal with the growing list of suspected terrorists "known to the authorities," the West is struggling to reverse the tide of radicalization, particularly in the prison system. The latest example is the UK's plan to deal with imprisoned Islamic terrorists by creating "separation centers" that would "...have an individualized care and management plan which sets out realistic, achievable targets, while also taking into account the complex, ideological/political nature of some of the risks that need to be targeted." Read more ..


Inside Books

Amazon’s Buy Box Shake-Up: An Update

August 11th 2017

Amazon box

We wrote in May that Amazon had begun allowing third-party booksellers to win featured status in a book’s “Buy Box.” That’s a problem because authors don’t earn royalties on sales of books by third-party retailers, whose source is often unclear. Since then, we’ve heard from a number of you about how the change affected you as authors and self-publishers, and we’ve spoken to Amazon about the new policy.

David Naggar, Amazon’s VP of Kindle Content, explained that only brand new books—not “like new”—are allowed to win the Buy Box. Vendors are required to describe their books as “new” only if they are in fact new books retailed directly from the publisher. Advanced review copies (“ARCs”) and remaindered copies should not be advertised as “new,” according to Amazon. Naggar explained that it’s unclear how third-party sellers would obtain copies that are not ARCs, remainders, or other second hand books. Those copies, he explained, should only win the Buy Box if the publisher has no copies available through Amazon to allow it to fill the order promptly. The problem lies in part with resellers who label their books as “new” when they are actually secondhand books that look new. Read more ..


The Genetic Edge

One Small Step for Medicine, One Giant Leap for Eugenics

August 10th 2017

walking on beach

On August 2 scientists published the results of the first experiments conducted on human embryos using the gene editing tool CRISPR/Cas9 in the United States [1]. These experiments have shown greater efficacy in editing embryos than previous attempts. At first glance, it might seem like efforts to prevent the inheritance of genetic disease, or treat it at an early stage, are a good thing to pursue. Nonetheless, some elements of these experiments – including both methodology and intentions – raise serious ethical concern.

Reproductive exploitation of women

In order to conceive human embryos for these experiments, the scientists needed human eggs. They therefore recruited healthy women who were paid to undergo ovarian stimulation to produce eggs for the research. Ostensibly these women did not “sell” their eggs but were “compensated” for their “time, effort, and discomfort” and presumably also for risks associated with the process.

Read more ..

The Iranian Threat

Iran Trying to Crash US Ships and Aircraft

August 10th 2017

Nimitz

"Despite repeated radio calls to stay clear," the Iranian drone went out of its way to complicate the jet's landing, Eric Pahon, Pentagon spokesperson said in a statement sent to Business Insider. The F/A-18 had to maneuver to avoid the approaching drone, missing it by around 100 feet. 

The drone was unarmed, and remotely piloted. A US aircraft carrier isn't something any pilot worth his salt would not be aware of. As this was the 13th unsafe and unprofessional interaction between the US Navy and Iran's maritime forces this year, it can be assumed Iran meant to do it.

Landing a speeding aircraft on a ship at sea presents plenty of difficulty without having a marauding drone bother the pilot on approach, and this just represents one of the ways Iran tries to harass, and ultimately crash US ships and aircraft. Read more ..


Author Profile

Walid Phares--Foreign Policy Advisor Offers Ideas That Become Action

August 10th 2017

Walid Phares new

Alhough he served as a foreign policy advisor to the Trump campaign in 2016, Dr. Walid Phares did not join the ranks of the administration in 2017. After election-day, as he returned to the private sector, he told diplomats and journalists, who continued to seek his assessments, that he “remains at the service of the President elect and later his administration, when needed.”

Dr. Phares is a veteran when it comes to advising presidential candidates and lawmakers. Back in 2011, he was appointed as a senior national security advisor to Republican candidate Mitt Romney, who asked Phares to review the Middle East related chapter of his own book No Apology: The Case for American Greatness (March 2010) and who later endorsed the Phares’ book which predicted the Arab Spring before it happened, titled The Coming Revolution, published in October 2010.

The Beirut-born scholar, who immigrated to the United States in 1990, has not only published several books and numerous articles, but has been prolific in national and international media interviews. The impact of his expertise, particularly on Jihadism, Islamism, Iran’s strategies, minorities’ issues and human rights in the Middle East, can clearly be found in number of congressional discourses, European Parliament policy conferences, the 2012 and 2016 presidential campaigns and the present administration.

Phares had briefed candidate Trump in the fall of 2015 but was not officially appointed until March 2016. Among the many talking points he advanced for the campaign on Fox News, French, British, Asian as well as Arab media was the call for an “Arab Alliance against Terror.” First published back in 2011 on al Arabiya, Phares’ concept of a NATO-like coalition was circulated in several arenas before advocated as a Trump foreign policy component in 2016. The idea, which Phares had discussed with a few Arab leaders early on, materialized when President Trump addressed fifty Arab and Muslim leaders in Riyadh earlier this year. Read more ..


The Race for NatGas

Houston Startup Plans $2 Billion Permian Pipeline

August 9th 2017

Oil Pipes2

Houston pipeline startup Permico Energia hopes to build a $2 billion natural gas liquids pipeline across Texas from the booming Permian Basin to refining and port access near Corpus Christi.

The pipeline project includes building a fractionator near Corpus Christi to separate the NGLs into individual products - ethane, propane and butane - as well as products pipelines to carry the ethane and more to Houston-area markets like Mont Belvieu. The products typically are exported sold to the petrochemical sector and heating markets.

For a privately owned startup without projects under its belt and a massive price tag, full financing could still be quite a ways off. However, Permico co-founder and CEO Jeff Beicker said the company has funding commitments from unnamed South Korean investment banks and pension fund institutions. The company said it has about $800 million committed by Korean pension funds, but Permico isn't naming the funds. Read more ..


North Korea's Nukes

North Korea Threatens Guam

August 9th 2017

NK Military Parade Apr 2012

North Korea said it is 'carefully examining' a plan to strike the U.S. Pacific territory of Guam with missiles, just hours after President Donald Trump told the country that any threat to the U.S. would be met with 'fire and fury.' 

A spokesman for the Korean People's Army, in a statement carried by the North's state-run KCNA news agency, said Wednesday the strike plan will be 'put into practice in a multi-current and consecutive way any moment' once leader Kim Jong Un makes a decision.

Guam, which is roughly 2,128 miles from North Korea, is home to both Andersen Air Force Base and Naval Base Guam housing thousands of American service members and their families. 

Roughly 28 percent of the island is occupied by the U.S. military. The base houses bomber assurance and deterrence missions, including six B-52s which the air force says provide 'strategic global strike capability [to] deter potential adversaries and provide reassurance to allies' and that they are ready to go. Read more ..


The Weapon's Edge

Chinese Drones - A Risk to U.S. Army

August 9th 2017

Flying Robot

The U.S. Army has shut down drones made in China and used by the Pentagon.  What took them so long?

As we now have it, the U.S. Army has issued a Memorandum for the Record on August 2nd essentially ordering the discontinuation of the use of DJI (Dajiang Innovation Products) drones. DJI is a Chinese company; its products are commercial UAVs.  The Army, Navy, other services, and other government agencies use these products extensively.

The Army's Memorandum directed the Army to cease all use of DJI items, uninstall all DJI applications and software from Army computers, remove all batteries and storage media from DJI equipment and secure the equipment awaiting further directions from the Army. Read more ..


The Trump Era

More Than 1.1 Million Fewer Americans on Food Stamps Under Trump

August 8th 2017

onions peppers parsley radish

More than 1.1 million Americans dropped off the food stamp rolls since President Trump took office in January 2017, according to the latest U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) statistics on food stamp enrollment.

Participation in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) dropped to 41,496,255 in May 2017, the most recent data available from the USDA, from 42,691,363 in January 2017 when Trump took office. According to the latest data, SNAP enrollment during the first few months of Trump’s presidency decreased by 2.79 percent.

Food stamp participation on average in 2017 has dropped to its lowest level since 2010, and the latest numbers show that this trend is continuing. Trump proposed cuts to SNAP in his 2018 budget proposal, suggesting that states match up to 20 percent of federal money allotted for the food stamp program and expand work requirements for able-bodied adults receiving food stamps.

Read more ..

Book Review

Historian Tauber Ends the Myth of Deir Yassin

August 7th 2017

UNRWA Refugee Camp

The battle for Deir Yassin was a milestone in the Israeli-Arab conflict, but exacting historical research reveals that no individuals were killed outside of battle, and that the myth was the result of a hasty Irgun propaganda effort. A review of a new book.

The battle which took place at Deir Yassin on April 9, 1948 should not have been different than any other battle in the War of Independence. For various reasons, the battle went haywire and dozens of Arab citizens were killed (the exact number is disputed), many women were shot, and much property was looted to aid Jews who were in dire straits due to the war.

The events of Deir Yassin became a key symbol in the consciousness of both Arabs and Jews. All those involved, past and present, didn’t hesitate to use demagoguery, half-truths, and unverified data to confirm their prejudices. The claims being made may have declarative value, but certainly no scholarly or factual value. Read more ..


Broken Borders

College Park MD Considers Giving Noncitizens Local Voting Rights

August 7th 2017

Vote Buttons

Officials in College Park are weighing a plan that would make their city the largest in Maryland to give undocumented immigrants a right to vote in local elections, a long-standing practice elsewhere in the state that has drawn new scrutiny amid the simmering national debate over immigration.

The Prince George’s County city, home of the flagship University of Maryland campus and some 30,000 residents, is considering a measure to let noncitizens cast ballots for mayor and City Council — making it the latest target in a movement that has had more success in Maryland than anywhere else in the United States.

College Park officials are debating the charter amendment after a divisive national election in which immigration played a prominent part. Many left-leaning cities, including Baltimore, are now at odds with President Donald J. Trump's initial efforts to fulfill a campaign promise to crack down on immigration violations. Read more ..


The Race for EVs

Toyota EV Aims for Solid State Battery Breakthrough

August 7th 2017

Better Place EV charging

Toyota (Aichi Prefecture, Japan) is reportedly working on a new type of battery for electric vehicles (EVs) that it hopes to commercialize by the early 2020s.

Rather than being based on current lithium-ion technology, the new battery is to be solid state . This would offer a host of advantages for electric vehicles so equipped, including improved safety, significantly increased driving range, and reduced charging time.

The company is planning a new electric vehicle - built on an all-new platform - that will use the new batteries. According to reports, the new EV will recharge in "just a few minutes," compared to the usual 20 to 30 minutes recharge time for lithium-ion batteries.

Previously having focused on hybrid electric and hydrogen fuel cell vehicles, Toyota late last year announced plans to produce long-range EVs.

Read more ..

Debbigate

Debbie Wasserman Schultz Changes Story about Stolen Laptop

August 6th 2017

Debbie Wasserman Schultz

Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL) said in an August 3 interview with her hometown newspaper that a laptop computer -- which she closely drilled the chief of the Capitol Police earlier this year -- was not hers, but actually belonged to her former IT assistant Imran Awan. She also claimed that investigators are targeting Awan because of his race and religion. Awan is a Muslim from Pakistan who is a naturalized American citizen.

During the exchange with Chief Matthew R. Verderosa in a House Appropriations subcommittee hearing on May 18, Wasserman Schultz said during an annual police budget hearing, “If a Member loses equipment and it is found by your staff and identified as that member’s equipment and the member is not associated with any case, it is supposed to be returned. Yes or no?” Verderosa replied that the laptop is important to “an ongoing investigation,” but Wasserman Schultz pressed on regardless.

Read more ..

The Race for AI

Is Artificial Intelligence an Existential Threat?

August 6th 2017

Terminator Robot

It is not unusual for disrupting technologies to be embraced and feared—and not necessarily in that order. That was and will continue to be true for all technologies that bring both benefit and risk; it is a duality in which many technologies have to exist. Examples throughout history have been the airplane, the automobile, unmanned weapons systems, and now even software – especially the software which powers artificial intelligence (AI).

Last week at a U.S. governors’ conference, Elon Musk, the CEO of the engineering companies SpaceX and Tesla, reportedly told the assembled politicians that “AI is a fundamental existential risk for human civilization,” sounding the alarm bell. This is not the first time Musk has expressed this concern, he’s done so as early as 2014. Many have branded him a Cassandra, and if he is, he’s not a lone-wolf Cassandra; he’s joined in those views by the likes of Stephen Hawking, Bill Gates, and other experts. It is not surprising there is an equal number of experts who question Musk’s concern and believe his alarm bell is tolling for a non-existent threat.

Read more ..


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