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The Edge of Nature

Cooking Oils Make Better Pesticides

February 8th 2012

Science - samuel gan-mor
Samuel Gan-Mor of the Volcani Institute (credit: Israel21C)

Thin-skinned vegetables such as tomatoes and zucchini are susceptible to insect infestation and fungi, and even new organic pesticides are not completely safe, says Israeli agriculture scientist Samuel Gan-Mor.

He’s got a new approach that could revolutionize the way bugs are kept from crops: a mixture of edible, off-the-shelf canola oil, soybean oil, cottonseed oil and even the slightly more expensive olive oil.

Seeds, the starting point of all oils, have developed complex evolutionary tricks to avoid being preyed upon. Unknown active ingredients in these oils, probably paired with the ability to block the breathing pathways of invertebrates and hamper their mobility, may explain why the oil solution developed by Gan-Mor and his colleagues works. Read more ..


Tibet on Edge

Tibetan Exile Administration Reports More Protest Self-Immolations

February 8th 2012

Tibet - Tibetan nun self-immolating

The India-based administration of Tibetan exiles is citing “unconfirmed reports” that more Tibetans in areas under Chinese control have self-immolated in protest against Beijing’s policies. The apparent immolations are the latest sign of spreading unrest.

Tibetan Exile Administration Cabinet Minister and spokeswoman Dicki Chhoyang says the reported immolations took place on Friday, in Serthar, a Tibetan area of China’s Sichuan province. “Unconfirmed reports state that three Tibetans were involved, two of them aged in the 60s and 30s respectively,” she noted. “All three have sustained injuries, but their exact condition and whereabouts remain unknown.” Read more ..


Lebanon on Edge

Hariri Murder Suspects to be Tried In Absentia

February 6th 2012

Lebanon Topics - Hariri and Nasrallah
Former PM  Saad Hariri; Hassan Nasrallah

The UN-backed Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL), based in the Netherlands, will try four Hezbollah suspects in absentia for the 2005 murder of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, hopefully in 2012. The tribunal came to this conclusion as a last resort after Beirut was unable to locate and arrest the suspects—Salim Ayyash, Mustafa Badreddine, Hussein Anaissi, and Assad Sabra.

Hezbollah has not commented on the issue, but its leader Hassan Nasrallah had previouslydismissed the indictments, calling the STL a tool of U.S. and Israeli policy to hurt the terrorist group. Nevermind that the tribunal was formed by Lebanon’s request under former Prime Minister Saad Hariri, Rafik Hariri’s son. It is the first international court with the authority to prosecute terrorist acts.

The UN investigation into Hariri’s murder has become a divisive issue inside Lebanon, with Hezbollah pressuring Lebanese authorities against cooperating—pressure which eventually led to the collapse of Saad Hariri’s government last year. In November, Hezbollah and its allies in the Lebanese cabinet were expected to block Beirut’s funding of the court in a vote. But that meeting was postponed and current Prime Minister Nijab Mikati, in a surprising move, transferred the funds to the UN anyway, angering Hezbollah. Read more ..


The 2012 Vote

Obama says He is Still Learning on the Job

February 6th 2012

Presidential - Barack Obama

During an interview that aired February 6y on NBC's "Today" show, President Obama said that he gets "better as time goes on" at his job and that he believes the grassroots movement that propelled him to victory in 2008 will help him win a second term. "What's frustrated people is that I've not been able to implement every aspect of what I said in 2008. Well, it turns out our Founders designed a system that makes it more difficult to bring about change than I would like sometimes. But what we have been able to do is move in the right direction," Obama said.  "And you know what? One of the things about being president is you get better as time goes on," he added.

The president defended his record, arguing that he has been successful despite his confrontations with Congress. "We've been able to get a lot done. Not as fast as we want; sometimes it's messy; the process is frustrating," Obama said. The president was asked to comment on Republican front-runner Mitt Romney, but he sidestepped any direct discussion of his presumptive general-election opponent. Nevertheless, Obama made subtle mention of Romney's effective tax rate. Obama has suggested raising taxes on those who make their money through investments rather than simple income. Read more ..


The Digital Edge

Google and Facebook Knuckle Under and Remove Offensive Content from Indian websites

February 6th 2012

Computer Topics - Shadowy Computer User

Google and Facebook removed allegedly offensive content from some of their Indian websites on February 6, following a court ruling seen as a test for online censorship in the world's largest democracy. The two online giants are among 21 Internet companies that are responding to an Indian court decision ordering them to block material deemed offensive to Hindus, Muslims and Christians.

At the heart of the dispute is a law passed in India last year that makes companies responsible for user content posted on their websites and requires them to remove such content within 36 hours in case of a complaint.
 
The judge hearing the case against the companies warned that unless they cooperated in protecting religious sensibilities, they could face a government crackdown on online expression “like in China.” Read more ..


BDS--The Economic Jihad

Boycott Israel Movement at University of Pennsylvania Disinvites Jewish Media from Conference

February 5th 2012

Israel Topics - BDS_Israel

A Boycott Divest Sanction (BDS) effort organized by students at the Ivy League University of Pennsylvania actively disinvited a reporter of the local newspaper, the Exponent, from attending their forum. Last week, the Jewish Exponent published an article reporting that organizers of the National BDS Conference had barred the paper from covering the weekend conference, but the organizer denied the claim.

The Jewish Telegraphic Agency reported that Matt Berkman, a BDS conference organizer and graduate student at Penn, argued that a writer for the Exponent had published biased articles against the BDS effort to “bring an end to Israel’s system of oppression, segregation and dispossession,” through calls for boycotts and divestment of Israel and Israeli products. Due to the alleged biased reporting, the Penn BDS group disinvited the reporter. They did say that another Jewish Exponent reporter, whose coverage he felt had been fairer, may be able to attend. Read more ..


Environment on Edge

EPA to Warn Residents of South Texas Against Eating Cancer-Causing Contaminated Fish

February 5th 2012

Energy / Environment - Donna Reservoir fish texas

In the latest chapter of a long-running border environmental mystery, U.S. federal and state officials plan a visit to south Texas this coming week. Representatives from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Texas Department of State Health Services (TDSHS) are expected to be in the area around South Alamo, Texas, from February 6 to 12. The purpose of their trip is to inform residents about the risk of eating contaminated fish from the Donna Reservoir and Canal.

Located in Hidalgo County just north of the Rio Grande, the Donna Reservoir and Canal is an EPA Superfund site. Historically used to supply drinking and irrigation water to the surrounding region, the 400-acre reservoir and connecting canal system were put on a federal priority list for action in 2007. The listing came after excessive levels of chemical PCBs were detected in fish beginning nearly two decades ago. Sampling by the Texas Department of Parks and Wildlife has documented the presence of PCBs in the tissue of fish from the Donna site. Read more ..


Iran on Edge

Saudi Arabia blocks Ayatollah Khameini's Website

February 5th 2012

Iran - Assaholah Ali Khameini

Iranian news websites report that Saudi Arabia has blocked the official website of Iran's Supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, which is available in a dozen languages, including Arabic. "Shafaf" says Khamenei's website was blocked by Saudi officials ahead of his sermons for Friday Prayers on February 3, parts of which the Iranian leader delivered in Arabic.
 
The hard-line "Shafaf" website posted a screenshot of the page it claims Saudi users get when they try to access Khamenei's website. The website claims Saudi officials decided to block Khamenei's official website because of what it described as Iran's influence on the "Islamic awakening." Iranian officials have been using the term as part of their efforts to put their own stamp on the Arab Spring uprisings, which they claim have been inspired by Iran's own 1979 revolution. Read more ..


The Battle for Syria

Arab and Muslim Outrage over Security Council Veto by China and Russia on Syria

February 5th 2012

Syrian Issues - Syria Protest

Arab countries and Muslim organizations are reacting angrily to a veto by Russia and China of a UN Security Council draft resolution based on an Arab League plan to end the violence in Syria. Western governments also issued highly critical remarks about Moscow's veto, suggesting Russia is more interested in protecting a naval base it leases from Syria and lucrative weapons contracts with President Bashar al-Assad's government than preventing the killing of thousands of people.

Russia has repeatedly referred to the draft UN resolution as being written by Western powers. In fact, it was drafted by Arab League countries and submitted to the Security Council by Morocco -- with Western backing -- after Arab League monitors witnessed Syrian Army snipers killing unarmed antiregime protesters. The Arab League's plan called for Assad to step down and be replaced by his deputy until elections can be held. Russia said it put too much blame on Assad's regime for the deaths in Syria. Read more ..


Obama and Israel

Obama Administration's Back Door to Israel: Made Possible Via a Red Phone?

February 4th 2012

Obama Admin Topics - Obama and Ross

When Dennis Ross resigned his position as a senior White House advisor on the Middle East a few months ago, he ended twenty years of involvement in the peace process, garnering praise from Israelis and barely concealed hatred from the Palestinians. Many felt that his exit indicated the unofficial abandonment of the peace process by the Obama administration.

Now, however, it appears that Dennis Ross is back, or rather, he never left.

According to an article published Monday in Haaretz, the White House is maintaining a decidedly unusual relationship with Ross. Reporter Barak Ravid, who specializes in breaking behind-the-scenes stories from anonymous sources reports that the administration has installed a direct, secured telephone line to Ross's office. Read more ..


Inside Europe

International Court of Justice Favors Germany over Italy in Dispute over War Crimes

February 4th 2012

UN Topics - International Court The Hague
President Hisashi Owada of the International Court reads out sentence.

The United Nations International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruled on February 3 that Italy has violated its obligation to respect Germany"s immunity under international law by allowing civil claims seeking reparations for Nazi war crimes to be brought against it in Italian courts.

Germany filed the case in December 2008 after a court in Italy ordered Berlin to compensate an Italian civilian sent to a German labour camp in 1944. Germany had claimed that the ruling failed to respect the jurisdictional immunity that it has a right to under international law.

Germany had also claimed that it had already paid reparations under international treaties with Italy and argued that as a sovereign State it has immunity in Italian courts. At the same time, it fully acknowledged the untold suffering inflicted on Italians during the war. Read more ..


The 2012 Vote

Trump's Endorsment of Romney is Deemed Unremarkable

February 3rd 2012

Politics - mitt romney
Mitt Romney

Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz (Fla.) said the expected endorsement of Republican front-runner Mitt Romney by reality show host Donald Trump was "a non-news event" and mocked both for making millions "firing people" during an interview on the morning of February 2." It really wouldn't be surprising if Donald Trump supports Mitt Romney, because they both like firing people and they've both made millions doing it," Wasserman Schultz said on MSNBC. "Donald Trump is such a cartoon character, an endorsement no matter who he chooses is like Bugs Bunny making an endorsement."

A source close to Romney's campaign told The Hill on February 2 that Trump would endorse the former Massachusetts governor at the casino he owns in Las Vegas. The confirmation capped a dizzying day with early reports from The New York Times and The Associated Press, stating Newt Gingrich's campaign expected the endorsement to come their way and other reports suggesting Trump would back Romney. Read more ..


The 2012 Vote

Boehner and House Act on White House Promises to Small Business

February 3rd 2012

Politics - Capitol Senate
The United States Senate

An exasperated Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) on February 2 tried to drive a wedge between President Obama and the Democratic-controlled Senate, pointing out that a series of jobs bills the president endorsed have already passed the House. Boehner used his weekly press conference to respond to the  "Startup America" initiative the president announced this week, in which the White House said Obama was sending to Congress legislative proposals to help small businesses and new companies. House Republicans noted with glee that they have already passed four of the bills Obama is “sending up.”

“Well guess what, Mr. President? We’ve done our work,” Boehner told reporters, employing a mocking tone that he's used repeatedly in recent weeks when discussing the president’s agenda. “Call [Majority Leader] Harry Reid [D-Nev.] and see if the Senate’s ever going to do anything over there.”
Boehner held up each of the House-passed bills, which aim to make it easier for small businesses to access capital and attract new investors. Two bills would extend tax write-offs for small businesses and expedite the visa system for foreign workers.
Read more ..


Edge of Iran

Iran Celebrates 33rd Anniversary of Islamic Revolution with 24/7 TV Channel in Spanish

February 1st 2012

Iran - Hispan TV

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran officially launched a Spanish-language satellite TV channel, saying it would deal a blow to "dominance seekers" – remarks that were apparently directed at the United States and Europe. Iran's broadcasting company said Hispan TV, the first Spanish-language channel airing from the Middle East, will offer news, documentaries, and Iranian films 24 hours a day.

The launch is the Islamic Revolution's latest attempt to reach audiences throughout Latin America and Spain. This follows Ahmadinejad's tour of the region in January, which included stops in Cuba and visits to Venezuela, Nicaragua and Ecuador. Iran has signed economic and security agreements, for example, with Venezuela. Read more ..


The 2012 Vote

Romney Appears Confident of Primary Win in Florida

January 31st 2012

Politics - Mitt Romney expansive

After days of often bitter campaigning, Republican voters in the southeastern U.S. state of Florida are choosing their favorite candidate to run for president. Former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney expressed confidence before voting started. The Florida Republican primary election on Tuesday, Jan. 31, comes just over a week after he was soundly defeated in the South Carolina primary.

Strong debate performances and heavy advertising that attacked Romney's top rival - former House speaker Newt Gingrich - helped Romney surge in the polls. Recent opinion polls show Romney has a double-digit lead over Gingrich in Florida. Romney's campaign has taken on a confident tone. Romney told the media that he still has plenty of work cut out for him, especially in convincing conservative Republicans and Tea Party people that he is their man. Gingrich' had contended that Romney is actually a "Massachusetts moderate" who has not supported Republican basics, Romney contends that as governor he cut state spending. 

Regarding to a hot-button issue for conservatives, Romney said he is a convert as to abortion. "I was in a state where being a social conservative was not easy," he said, recounting how he changed his views on abortion as he considered a bill on embryonic stem cell research. "When people go out and say things about my record that aren't accurate, why, that would create an impression that I have to work hard to correct."
Read more ..


The Battle for Syria

Assad's Opponents Escalate Resistance and Bomb a Gas Pipeline

January 30th 2012

Egypt - Egyptian pipeline blast

Syrian officials are blaming what they call a "terrorist group" for blowing up a gas pipeline during the early morning hours on January 30, as activists report clashes elsewhere in the country. Syria's state news agency said the blast occurred near Telkalakh, close to the Lebanese border.  There have been several pipeline attacks since a popular uprising began last March against Syrian President Assad al-Bashar, but it is not clear who is responsible for them.  Some Syrian cities have faced energy shortages after the attacks.

Meanwhile, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said in a statement to the French news agency that clashes killed six members of the country's armed forces and four civilians in Hirak, in the southern province of Daraa. A day earlier, the British-based activist group reported 72 people killed across the country, including 41 civilians, mostly in the Damascus suburbs and the central cities of Homs and Hama. The reports could not be independently confirmed because Syria bars foreign journalists from operating freely in the country.

Syria's government defended the capital from rebel fighters on January 29, with security forces deployed across the city and around 2,000 troops backed by tanks and armored vehicles launching an assault to retake suburban areas. Sustained fighting rocked at least four districts around Damascus, the country's largest city and seat of President Assad's power. The offensive pushed into predominantly Sunni Muslim areas of the capital's eastern outskirts that have slipped from government control over the past two weeks. The Damascus suburbs have seen large demonstrations demanding the removal of Assad, a member of the minority Alawite sect, an offshoot of Shi'ite Islam that has dominated the mostly Sunni Muslim country for the last five decades. Read more ..


Internet on Edge

SOPA and PIPA Spur Lobbying Spike

January 27th 2012

Congressional issues - SOPA PIPA Wiki Image

Companies that lobbied on the two bills spent at least $104.6 million in the fourth quarter of 2011, more than double the $49.3 million they laid out in the previous quarter, according to research by the Center for Responsive Politics.

Likewise, the number of clients represented by lobbyists who worked on the issues of intellectual property enforcement and online piracy -- the ones central to the Stop Online Piracy Act in the House (H.R.3261) and its Senate companion, the Protect Intellectual Property Act (S.968) -- increased by more than 100 percent, to 154, the Center found. The third-quarter figure was 72.

And, in remarkable harmony, the number of lobbyists hired by companies and other groups that lobbied on the bills also just more than doubled, from 462 to 956.

It's impossible to say how much of the money spent on lobbying was directly connected to SOPA and PIPA, since the reporting forms don't require that level of detail. Read more ..


Inside Central Asia

Kyrgyz Convicts Sew Their Mouths Shut in Protest against Inhuman Conditions

January 26th 2012

Asia Topics - kyrgyz prisoner

Almost seven thousand prisoners in Kyrgyzstan upped the ante in their hunger strike against prison authorities in the Central Asian republic. To protest what they consider excessive force used by prison guards to put down a riot at a prison facility, 1,319 of the 6,680 prisoners involved in the hunger strike have sewn their mouth shut. According to spokesperson Eleonora Sabatarova of the prison system, 600 prisoners have been transferred to medical facilities within the prison system as a result of malnutrition. Prisoners have sewn their mouths shut in order to prevent forced nutrition.

The hunger strike began on January 17, a day after Kyrgyz security forces shut down rioting at a prison in Bishkek. One prisoner died as a result, while hundreds were injured. Public Defender Tursunbek Akun said on January 24 in a press conference that prisoners have issued a series of demands that must be met so that they will remove the stitches from their mouths and return to eating. Said Akun, “The are complaining about the aggression and the loss of their rights.”  Akun added “Prison authorities claim that the convicts threw boiling water on them on January 16 during an inspection, and the prisoners say the riot police beat them for no reason” according to a local news source. Read more ..


The Battle for Syria

Russia Slammed At UN For Supplying Arms To Syria

January 25th 2012

Syrian Issues - Syrian Protesters

British, French, and American representatives to the UN have slammed Russia for supplying arms to Syria. During a January 24 Security Council meeting on the situation in the Middle East and Palestine, U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice called on all countries to cease selling arms to Damascus. She spoke without specifically targeting Russia, although she has recently expressed concern about Moscow selling bullets to the volatile country, where more than 5,000 people have been killed during the 10 months of pro-democracy protests. "We are concerned by recent reports of shipments of arms and munitions to the Syrian government," she said. "We call on supplier countries to voluntarily halt arms transfers to the regime, and we encourage all nations to join the widening effort to stop the flow of weapons to the Assad regime." Rice also called on the international community to stand together to end the bloodshed in Syria, and for President Bashar al-Assad to step down. She added that it was long past time for the Security Council to pass a strong resolution on Syria. Read more ..


Somalia on Edge

US Special Forces Rescue Hostages in Somalia

January 25th 2012

Somalia Topics - Somali Militants

A U.S. military operation has freed two aid workers – an American woman and a Danish man – who were kidnapped by gunmen three months ago in central Somalia. In a statement Wednesday, President Barack Obama praised U.S. special operations forces who hours earlier freed Jessica Buchanan and Poul Hagen Thisted during a daring pre-dawn raid. Buchanan and Thisted worked for the Danish Demining Group, a unit of the Danish Refugee Council that helps clear landmines and other explosives in conflict zones in Africa and the Middle East. They were kidnapped in October in the central Somali city of Galkayo. The aid group said Wednesday that both were freed unharmed and are at a safe location.

Officials in Somalia say several U.S. helicopters carried out the raid under cover of darkness. They say there was a gunbattle and at least nine militants were killed. Just before his State of the Union address in Washington late Tuesday, President Obama could be heard by television microphones congratulating Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, apparently for the success of the rescue operation. Officials say armed criminals, or pirates, appear to be responsible for the kidnapping. Somali pirates have increasingly carried out land-based kidnappings as foreign governments have increased security on the seas. Read more ..


Broken Banking

Feds Investigating Alleged Fraud at GE’s Former Mortgage Unit

January 24th 2012

Corporate Logos - General Electric

Federal authorities are investigating possible fraud at General Electric Co.’s former subprime mortgage arm amid increased public pressure to hold Wall Street accountable for its role in the financial crisis.

The FBI and the U.S. Justice Department are looking into potentially criminal business practices at Burbank, Calif.-based WMC Mortgage Corp. during the home-loan boom, according to four people with knowledge of the investigation. They declined to be identified because of the sensitivity of the investigation.

The government is asking whether WMC used falsified paperwork, overstated borrowers’ income and other tactics to push through questionable loans, two of the people said. They said the probe appears to be focusing on whether senior managers condoned improper practices that enabled fraudulent loans to be sold to investors.

“It’s mostly about: Did they knowingly sell mortgages into the secondary market that they knew were fraudulent?” said one person with direct knowledge of the investigation.

A spokesman for the FBI declined to comment, and the Justice Department did not return telephone calls.  Read more ..


The 2012 Vote

Former Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour Dampens Political Firestorm with Republican Cash

January 24th 2012

Politics - Haley Barbour
Haley Barbour

Last month, about two dozen deep-pocketed Republicans gathered in New York City to hear a money pitch from then-Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour. A prodigious GOP fund-raiser, Barbour was already in high gear on his next political mission — raising tens of millions of dollars for two powerful groups to help the GOP take control of the White House and Congress. Billionaire financier Ken Langone, a founder of Home Depot who co-hosted the event, said “the response was very good.” He declined to offer details.

Well before leaving the governor’s mansion last week, Barbour, the former super lobbyist and Republican Party leader, started traveling around the country, hitting up donors for six- and seven-figure checks for American Crossroads, and its affiliate, Crossroads GPS. Those groups, created by GOP strategists Karl Rove and Ed Gillespie, are aiming to raise $300 million this election — up from the $71 million they raised in 2010. And now they have arguably the most successful fundraiser in recent decades helping them out. Read more ..


The Digital Edge

Megaupload Founder At Center Of Internet Copyright Infringement Case

January 24th 2012

Computer Topics - Shadowy Computer User

Kim Dotcom, the founder of one of the world's largest file-sharing websites, is accused by U.S. authorities of being a money launderer who built up a fortune through Internet piracy. The German-Finnish computer programmer and businessman is the creator of the Megaupload empire -- a file-sharing service that includes Megavideo and 17 other domain names.

Dotcom denies the charges. The case against the enigmatic 38-year-old is so complicated that a New Zealand judge on January 23 said he needs up to two days to determine whether Dotcom should be eligible for bail. When Dotcom was arrested in New Zealand on January 20, police who raided his country estate at the request of the U.S. FBI had to cut him out of a safe room where he was barricaded. Dotcom's lawyer said he sealed himself in the room because he was frightened and panicked. Police found he had 45 different credit cards under various names as well as three different passports. Dotcom reportedly also goes by the names Kim Schmitz, Kimble, and Kim Tim Jim Vestor.  Read more ..


The 2012 Vote

GOP debate: Romney Says He'll Only Release Two Years of Tax Returns

January 24th 2012

Politics - Mitt Romney expansive
Mitt Romney

Mitt Romney said that he will only release two years of his tax returns. He also said there will be "no surprises" in the returns that he will release on Tuesday. The former Massachusetts governor said he disagreed with his father, former Michigan Gov. George Romney (R), who released 12 years of returns while running for president. "I agree with my dad on a lot of things but we also disagree," Romney said at Monday night's GOP debate. "Going out with 12 years of returns is not something I'm going to do. I'm putting out two years, which is more than anyone else on this stage. I think it'll satisfy the interest of the American people... I think that's the right number."

The issue has dogged Romney for weeks and hurt him in South Carolina. In two straight debates he dodged and gave vague answers on the matter, leading to boos at the last debate. After losing Saturday's South Carolina primary, Romney said he'd release his 2010 returns and a 2011 estimate on Tuesday in an effort to put the issue to rest. But the issue came up again Monday night. Romney tried to pivot the conversation to his economic plan, saying: "The real question is not my taxes but the taxes of the American people." Read more ..


Edge on Terrorism

Deadly Terrorist Bombs Rock Shi'ite Neighborhood in Baghdad

January 24th 2012

Iraq - Baghdad bomb

Four car bombs exploded in mainly Shi'ite areas of Baghdad on January 22, killing at least 13 people and wounding more than 70 others. Local authorities say the first blast in Baghdad's Sadr City struck day laborers waiting for work.  The bombing killed at least eight people there, and wounded more than 20 others. Another explosion in the same district killed at least two people and wounded at least a dozen more.

Two bombs exploded later in northern Baghdad, killing three people in the city's Shula and Hurriya districts.

One of the men who had been waiting for work in Sadr City when the first bomb exploded said it was "like a black storm."  "I felt myself thrown on the ground," Ahmed Ali told to the Reuters news agency. "I fainted for a while then I woke up and hurried to one of the cars to take me to the hospital."

Some reports from Iraq say that a car bomb was detonated near a bakery, while others say that it targeted people waiting to buy heating fuel. A roadside bomb also exploded on the deadly Muthanna airport road in central Baghdad, wounding at least six people. Read more ..


Europe on Edge

IMF Calls for Robust European Action on Debt Crisis

January 23rd 2012

Europe Topics - Euro money

The chief of the International Monetary Fund is calling for European governments to take more aggressive action to resolve the continent's debt crisis. The IMF's managing director, Christine Lagarde, said Monday that the 17 nations that use the common euro currency should boost the size of their financial rescue fund, lower already-low lending rates and adopt policies to bolster economic growth. She said the eurozone's current temporary $570 billion bailout fund could be added to the planned permanent $650 billion rescue fund set to take effect in July, something European leaders have not been intending to do. Lagarde said the extra money could help cover future debt problems beyond the bailouts already secured by Greece, Ireland and Portugal.

"We feel that a stronger firewall is needed. Why? Because without it, countries like Italy and Spain, for instance, that are fundamentally, fundamentally able to repay their debt could potentially be forced into a solvency crisis by abnormal financing costs. And this would have disastrous implications for systematic stability,'' said Lagarde. The IMF leader said the Washington-based agency is expecting slower economic growth across the globe this year and would make specific projections on Tuesday. She said even the world's largest economies can expect a downturn this year, with weaker economies hit harder. "Capital flows to emerging markets have already dropped off, and growth as I said is expected to be lower, even in the most vibrant part of the world economy. Low-income countries in particular are especially vulnerable," said Lagarde. Read more ..


The Edge of Terrorism

Nigeria: Population Exchange Follows Bomb Terror

January 23rd 2012

Nigeria - nigeria victim

"Kano is still in shock. The coordinated series of attacks in different parts of the city lasted about three hours", reported Catholic Bishop John Namazi Niyiring of Kano, the largest city in northern Nigeria. It was there on the evening of January 20 that Boko Haram Islamist terrorists detonated bombs that killed at least 178 and injured hundreds more. A spokesman for a local hospital said on January 22 that he expected more deaths as a result of the bombs and so could not give a final death toll.

Bishop Niyiring described the dramatic hours thusly: "The attackers seemed well trained and wore camouflage uniforms like those used by the Mobile Police Force. This misled some civilians that directed themselves towards the terrorists, believing them to be policemen, and were killed without mercy. Among the targets hit with explosive devices are the headquarters of the Regional Police, the Security Service, Customs and Immigration Department, in addition to the police station.”

“After the bombs, the members of the commando started shooting all those who were in the vicinity of these objectives, in particular those who wore a uniform. A good number of terrorists were foreigners, especially from Niger and Chad. Some of these are probably foreigners waiting for legal regulation and were recruited by Boko Haram. Even some of the Catholic Church structures were damaged, but priests and religious were not affected. But we have news of some of our parishioners among the victims", concluded Bishop Niyiring. Read more ..


The Digital Edge

Intel, Samsung 'Smell Blood in the Water'

January 23rd 2012

Computer Topics - computer chip

Since 2009, Intel, Samsung and TSMC have boosted capital spending significantly, IC Insights noted. In 2010, TSMC doubled its capital spending compared to 2009, while Samsung tripled its semiconductor capex spending, IC Insights said. In 2011, Intel doubled its capex compared to 2010, IC Insights said. Collectively, the planned capex spending of Intel, Samsung and TSMC is forecast to be $30.7 billion in 2012, nearly 3 times as much as the group spent in downturn-plagued year of 2009, IC Insights said.

Samsung said it would spend about $6.5 billion in capital expenditures to support its logic ICs, more than it is planning to spend on memory capex—$5.7 billion—for the first time. IC Insights noted that Samsung currently does lucrative business as the foundry for Apple Inc.'s A4 and A5 applications processors. While reports have been circulating that Apple is looking to transfer all or some of this business to TSMC, IC Insights noted that Samsung does not want to lose it. Read more ..


The Arab Fall in Egypt

Armed Bedouins Storm Sinai Resort

January 23rd 2012

Arab Topics - Bedousins Storm Egypt

Some 70 armed Bedouins are reportedly holding employees of a Sinai resort hostage, demanding over $650,000 in ransom for their safe release.

The incident likely stems from growing discontent over Bedouin exclusion from the new Egyptian government that took shape after Hosni Mubarak's ouster last year. Last week, some Bedouin leaders protested "forged parliamentary elections" while threatening armed confrontation with those in power.

"We will not allow a parliament without Bedouin representation... forged through the alliance between the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces and a certain Islamic party," said one tribesman. Read more ..


Iran's Nukes

Congress Wary About Conflict with Iran

January 23rd 2012

Military - Stennis B

Lawmakers from both parties are wary of a U.S. military conflict with Iran as tensions continue to escalate between the two countries. The U.S. just left Iraq and is still fighting in Afghanistan, making many in Congress worried about getting involved in another conflict in the Middle East. But, at the same time, most lawmakers say military action must be on the table to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons. That dilemma — and what to do about it — is poised to play out in the halls of the U.S. Capitol as well as the White House in the coming months, starting with President Obama’s State of the Union address on Tuesday.

In a series of interviews, lawmakers expressed a divide that didn’t always fall on partisan lines about how to stop Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons, and whether to get the U.S. military involved to do so. “The tension is pretty high right now,” said Rep. John Kline (R-Minn.), an Armed Services committee member and retired Marine who carried the nuclear football for Presidents Carter and Reagan. “We cannot let them close the Strait [of Hormuz], and should they try, then we really do run the risk of exchanging fire,” Kline said. “I don’t think they’re going to do it, but I also don’t think of them as a truly rational actor.” Read more ..


Edge of Terrorism

Death Toll in Nigeria Still Rising after Boko Haram Bomb Attacks

January 22nd 2012

Nigeria - President Goodluck Johnson
Nigerian President Goodluck Johnson

Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan traveled to the northern city of Kano on January 22 as the death toll from the coordinated attacks on January 20 by the Islamist militant Boko Haram organization continues to rise. An estimated 170 people have now died, most of them police officers and soldiers, from the bombings and shootings at police stations and government buildings in Nigeria's second largest city.

The attacks, claimed by Boko Haram, are described as the group's deadliest ever. President Jonathan, who is Christian, met with the Emir of Kano, the city's Muslim traditional leader, and vowed to bring what he described as "terrorists" to justice.

The group says it aims to implement strict Sharia law across Nigeria.  A spokesman for Boko Haram said the carnage was in response to the arrest of several sect members in Kano. Soldiers patrolled on Sunday, January 22, in the northern city to ensure security and reassure residents the violence would not be repeated. Hospital spokesman did not discount the possibility of a greater death count, since they believe that more bodies have yet to be brought to the morgue. Residents fled in terror from the bomb scene. Read more ..


The Digital Edge

Piracy Debate Shows Web is Catalyst for Change, Says Wyden

January 22nd 2012

Technology - pipa protest

The leading opponent of the Protect IP Act (PIPA) in the Senate said the decision to shelve the bill shows the Internet has the ability to affect change in Washington.

“The events of the last week demonstrate clearly that the Internet is the catalyst for the important changes Americans want in government,” Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) told reporters on Friday afternoon, referencing the week of online protests against PIPA and its House counterpart the Stop Online Piracy Act. “Senator Reid’s decision to pull PIPA from the floor is the right one. Legislation impacting the future of the Internet is simply too important to get wrong,” he said.

Wyden first raised concerns about PIPA and its predecessor the Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeits Act (COICA) in 2010, arguing the legislation posed a clear threat to free speech online. Both bills cleared the Senate Judiciary Committee unanimously. Read more ..


Edge of Terrorism

Northern Nigeria Faces Apparent Ethnic Cleansing

January 21st 2012

Nigeria - Nigeria christmas day bomb
Christmas Day, 2011, bombing in Abuja

"I am trying to get in contact with Mgr. John Namanza Niyiring, Bishop of Kano but the lines do not work", reported Catholic Archbishop Ignatius Ayau Kaigama of Jos in central Nigeria. On the evening of January 20, in Kano, northern Nigeria's largest city, a series of coordinated bomb attacks and armed assaults hit several targets, among which where some police stations.

"Last night, I spoke with the pastor of the church of Our Lady of the Apostles who, over the phone, and told me he was forced to hide because he was under attack. But the information that we have so far are still fragmentary, and we are waiting for confirmation. Telephone lines are interrupted, I do not know if it is due to a technical problem or other causes. The situation is still confusing. We will see how the government reacts to this new attack", said the Archbishop of Jos.

A 24-hour curfew has been imposed in Nigeria's second-largest city, Kano, after a coordinated series of bomb attacks. Nigerian police say at least seven people have been killed in the bombings that targeted police and government offices in the northern city. The Islamic extremist group Boko Haram has claimed responsibility for the attacks. Read more ..


Oil Addiction

Labor Union Leaves BlueGreen Alliance Over XL Pipeline

January 20th 2012

Energy Topics - Keystone Pipeline

The Laborers’ International Union of North America (LIUNA) left the BlueGreen Alliance Friday, citing a disagreement with the group’s members over the Keystone XL pipeline. LIUNA, a vocal Keystone supporter, took aim at other unions for opposing the project. “We’re repulsed by some of our supposed brothers and sisters lining up with job killers like the Sierra Club and the Natural Resources Defense Council to destroy the lives of working men and women,” LIUNA General President Terry O’Sullivan said in a statement. The BlueGreen Alliance, a coalition of environmental groups and labor unions, confirmed LIUNA’s exit Friday afternoon. “The BlueGreen Alliance regrets the decision of the Laborers' International Union of North America to leave our strategic partnership of labor and environmental organizations,” the group’s executive director, David Foster, said in a statement.

The move underscores the intense political divide among unions over the pipeline, which would carry oil sands crude from Alberta, Canada, to refineries along the Gulf Coast. AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said earlier this month that the group’s membership has been unable to come to a unified position on the pipeline Read more ..


Afghanistan on Edge

France Suspends Afghan Military Operations After Troop Deaths

January 20th 2012

Europe Topics - Nicolas Sarkozy headshot2
Nicolas Sarkozy

France has suspended its military operations in Afghanistan and may withdraw its force from that country after an Afghan soldier shot dead four French troops and wounded several others. The French government has described Friday's attack against the soldiers as an assassination. French officials say an Afghan soldier killed the four troops during a training exercise at a base jointly operated by French and Afghan forces in the eastern province of Kapisa. Several other soldiers were wounded.

This is the second time in a month that Afghan soldiers have killed French troops. The assault brought to 82 the number of French soldiers killed during the decade they have operated under the NATO mission in Afghanistan. French President Nicolas Sarkozy announced he was suspending all French military operations in the country and dispatching his defense minister and other top officials to check out the situation there. Sarkozy said if security measures were not met for French soldiers and for recruiting Afghan soldiers, France may withdraw all of its roughly 4,000 forces from the country. He said French troops were in Afghanistan to fight against terrorism and the Taliban, not to be shot at by allies. Read more ..


Democracy on Edge

'Freedom In The World' Index Calls 2011 A 'Year Of Hope'

January 20th 2012

Politics - freedom house

The U.S.-based pro-democracy group Freedom House has called the popular uprisings that swept the Arab world in 2011 the greatest challenge to authoritarian rule since the collapse of Soviet communism, and said they have brought hope to people around the world who live in countries with oppressive governments. The conclusions come in Freedom House's latest "Freedom in the World" index, which has been published annually since 1972 and measures the ability of people to exercise their political and civil rights in 195 countries and 14 territories."

In the one region of the world -- the Middle East, which has been immune to the wave of democracy that affected every other region of the world back in the '70s, '80s, and '90s -- democracy is now a potential in that region," the group's vice president for research, Arch Puddington, told RFE/RL in connection with the report's publication. He said the political upheaval that began in Tunisia and spread to Egypt and other Arab countries shows that democracy is possible even in the most repressive of societies. Puddington added that "people are no longer willing to accept the old despotic ways of rule, and for this reason, we see the year 2011 as one that is cause for optimism and not for despair." Read more ..


The 2012 Vote

Gaffes and Anti-Media Rant Dominate Acrimonious Republican Debate

January 20th 2012

Politics - republican debate

A fiery attack by Newt Gingrich on the news media for raising questions about his acrimonious divorce set the tone for a bruising Republican presidential debate that featured tough critiques of the presumptive front-runners - and more gaffes for Mitt Romney. Gingrich was pressed by moderator John King to comment about recent interviews given by Gingrich's second ex-wife, Marianne, in which she said that Gingrich had requested an open relationship. "I think the destructive, vicious, negative nature of much of the news media makes it harder to govern this country, harder to attract decent people to run for public office. And I am appalled that you would begin a presidential debate on a topic like that," Gingrich said, prompting a standing ovation from the crowd. 

"I am frankly astounded that CNN would take trash like that and use it to open a presidential debate," Gingrich added. The former House Speaker went on to denounce the story as "false" and accuse the media of raising the issue to protect President Obama. "I am tired of the elite media protecting Barack Obama by attacking Republicans," Gingrich said. Read more ..


The 2012 Vote

Gingrich Ends Conversation on 'Open-Marriage' Claims as Ex-Wife Appears in TV Tell-All

January 19th 2012

Politics - Newt Gingrich 4_2011
Newt Gingrich

Newt Gingrich abruptly ended a news conference on January 19 when pressed on his extramarital affairs. “I’m not going to say anything about Marianne,” Gingrich said with an edge to his voice as he was pressed with questions about an explosive interview his ex-wife Marianne Gingrich has given to ABC. Marianne Gingrich claimed her former husband asked her for an “open marriage” so he could continue a romantic involvement with a congressional aide who eventually became his third wife, Callista Gingrich.

“It’s an issue I confront every time it comes up, and I confront it exactly the same way it comes up — and the people seem to be satisfied by it,” Gingrich said when asked by a reporter if he thought he needed to further address the matter. Reporters tried to ask Gingrich more specifically about his ex-wife’s charges, but he refused to answer.

“I just answered you — that’s my answer,” he responded testily before trying to move on to the endorsement his campaign received the same day from Rick Perry, who bowed out of the race. “I want to thank all of you for being here, I’m delighted Gov. Perry endorsed me and I look forward to tonight at the debate,” he said before walking off quickly. Read more ..


Economy on Edge

World Bank Downgrades Global Growth Forecast

January 19th 2012

Economy - One Million Dollars

The World Bank has scaled back its growth forecast for the global economy in 2012, as a result of Europe's ongoing debt problems. Although the world lending institution says the eurozone crisis appears to be under control, it is warning developing countries to brace for an economic slowdown and the possibility of a deepening economic crisis. The world's economy is expected to grow more slowly this year. Hans Timmer, head of development projects at the World Bank, projects overall growth in 2012 at around 2.5 percent - more than a full percentage point below the bank's initial estimate. "This will be a very slow recovery and it will take many, many years before the damage done by the great recession and the damage done by the imbalances created in a boom period before the recession are undone," said Timmer.

Developing countries will continue to outpace growth in richer, more developed economies but emerging countries face significant risks.  World Bank economist Lin Yifu says that includes reduced capital flows and trade if the European crisis worsens. "The sovereign debt crisis in the eurozone has appeared to be contained, however the risks of global freezing up of capital markets as well as a global crisis, similar to what happened in 2008 are real," said Yifu. Read more ..


The Digital Edge

SOPA Critics Win Round In Fight Over Internet Control

January 19th 2012

Computer Topics - Stop Sopa

A storm of protest from free-speech activists, popular Internet sites, and Internet users has prompted several U.S. lawmakers to drop their support for proposed Internet antipiracy legislation, including some co-sponsors of the controversial bills. Legislators switched sides as protests on January 18 blanketed the Internet and drew attention around the world to what the lawmakers now say are flaws. The "Stop Online Piracy Act" (SOPA) in the House of Representatives and the so-called "Protect Intellectual Property Act" (PIPA) in the U.S. Senate have been a top priority for lobbyists from entertainment companies, publishers, pharmaceutical firms, and others who say the legislation is critical to reducing online piracy.

The aim of the bills is to curb access to overseas websites that sell pirated films, music, and other copyrighted content -- U.S. companies would be barred from doing business with these sites. But Internet sites and tech companies argue that the proposals are so heavy-handed they would undermine innovation and free-speech rights, while also compromising the function of the Internet. Wikipedia, the world's free online encyclopedia, shut down for a day on January 18 in protest. Google and others used black censorship bars to draw attention to details in the draft laws. Read more ..



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