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Japan After the Quake

Japan's IT Industry Faces Double Dip

May 9th 2011

Computer Topics - Hand on Mouse

Japan's IT market had overcome the negative impact of the global financial crisis and was expected to experience another year of positive growth, but it now looks to be headed for a double dip in 2011. According to a new International Data Corporation (IDC) forecast, the central government, local governments, and corporations will prioritize their recovery efforts and postpone non-essential IT spending.

Meanwhile, the prospect of another period of economic stagnation is hurting corporate and consumer confidence, leading to a decline in capital expenditure and consumption, and to IT expenditure freezes. The disaster has also disrupted supply chains in many industries. Although every effort is being made to restore production levels, there are supply shortages of certain components and materials. Converged mobile devices (such as smartphones) will likely be impacted. IDC believes that Japan's IT market is being constrained not only by declining demand but also by limited components supply. Read more ..


The 2012 Vote

Gingrich Taps Texan to Manage his GOP Presidential Bid

May 8th 2011

Politics - Newt Gingrich 4_2011
Newt Gingrich

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich will tap Rob Johnson to manage his GOP presidential bid.

Rick Tyler, Gingrich’s long time communications aide who will be campaign press secretary, said Johnson will get the top campaign post. Johnson became an adviser to Gingrich about six weeks ago.

The 36-year-old Johnson is well known in Texas GOP circles, but running Gingrich’s presidential drive is likely to be considerably more challenging than his previous experience. Johnson ran Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s successful re-election campaign last year. Earlier he served as campaign manager for Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst in 2002 and then became his chief of staff.

Tyler said Johnson’s “special strength is how to harness the Internet for modern campaigns. He did that in Texas and he will have the same capability for Gingrich nationally.” Read more ..


Islam's War Against Christianity

Pakistani Christians Flee Muslim Assault in Punjab Region

May 2nd 2011

PakistanTopics - Muslims attack Pakistani Christians

At least 20 people, including police officials, were wounded as 500 Muslim demonstrators attacked the Christian community in Gujranwala city on April 29, Minorities Concern of Pakistan has learned. The attackers, who accused certain members of the Christian community of committing blasphemy, entered a Christian missionary school and broke the furniture there and also attempted to attack a church in Gulzar Colony. Read more ..


Inside the Catholic Church

Outpouring of Polish Pride following Beatification of John Paul II

May 2nd 2011

Christian Topics - Poles commemorate John Paul II

As the late Pope John Paul II was beatified in the Vatican, many in his home country, Poland, were jubilant. But Poland’s attachment to the late Pope stems from more than just national pride, since many credit him with helping to overthrow the communist state.

In the town of Wadowice in southern Poland, John Paul II is everywhere. His face flutters from flags lining the streets, and he beams down on passers by from statues and photographs. Wadowice is the late Pope’s home town. He was born Karol Wojtyla in 1920, in a three-room flat that now houses a museum filled with his personal affairs - his cradle, his skis and a doily made by his mother. Read more ..


The Obama Edge

White House Smacks Rev. Franklin Graham for 'Birther' Talk

April 25th 2011

Presidential - Barack Obama

The White House slammed influential evangelical leader the Rev. Franklin Graham on Monday for questioning President Obama's birthplace.

Graham, a son of the Rev. Billy Graham who has served as a spiritual adviser to several presidents with his father, said on ABC's "This Week" on Sunday that Obama "has some issues to deal with" when it comes to his birth certificate.

"It's interesting that a minister would [use] Easter Sunday to make preposterous charges," White House press secretary Jay Carney responded Monday.

Graham made the remarks while saying he was open to supporting Donald Trump as a GOP presidential candidate. Trump has questioned whether Obama was born in the U.S., leaping to the top of opinion polls on GOP presidential candidates in the process.

Obama's campaign released his birth certificate in 2008 to prove he was born in Hawaii.

The younger Graham has irked the Obama White House before — the Pentagon revoked his invitation to a prayer ceremony last year after it was revealed he called Islam an "evil" religion in 2001. He also claimed last year that Obama was born a Muslim. Read more ..


Edge of Computing

Production Issues Hit iPad-2 Shipments

April 25th 2011

Computer Topics - iPad 2

Production issues hit iPad 2 shipments Manufacturing problems at Apple Inc., led to a shortfall in iPad 2 shipments in the first quarter, prompting IHS iSuppli to reduce its forecast for 2011.

IHS iSuppli now forecasts Apple will ship 39.7 million units for all models of the iPad this year, down 9.1 percent from the February forecast of 43.7 million. Based on IHS iSuppli’s final estimate of 15.1 million units shipped in 2010, IHS iSuppli now predicts total iPad shipments will rise 163.3 percent in 2011, down from the 189.6 percent predicted in February.

The firm has slightly increased its 2012 forecast for iPad shipments, to 62.6 million units, up from the previous forecast of 61.6 million.

Apple Wednesday posted first quarter results that beat consensus analysts' expectations and said it sold a record number of iPhones during the quarter. But the company reported selling fewer iPads than analysts expected. Read more ..


Earthquakes

Israel to Get Earthquake Alerts by Phone

April 25th 2011

Computer Topics - I-phone

Israelis are to get earthquake and tsunami alerts by mobile phone, television, radio, sirens, pagers, and even their desktop computers courtesy of eVigilo, an Israeli company that has developed an emergency alert platform, IADC (Integrated Alert Distribution Center).

eVigilo developed the IADC, which is operated by the Israeli Home Front Command, to give Israelis advance warning of missile and rocket attacks, but in the wake of the devastating earthquake and tsunami in Japan in March, Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel's Prime Minister, decided to include earthquake warnings, which are to be sent to the population seconds before an earthquake occurs. Read more ..


The Battle for Bahrain

Bahrain Accuses Iranian's Hezbollah of Fomenting Riots

April 25th 2011

Bahrain Topics - Bahrain enraged protesters

Media reports suggest that Bahrain's government is now accusing the Iranian-backed militant group Hezbollah of training opposition members who are demanding more freedom and equal rights in the small Gulf nation.

A confidential report sent to the U.N. last week, reportedly saw Bahrain accusing opposition figures as having been trained at Hezbollah camps in Iran and Lebanon.

Details of meetings are laid out, especially between Hezbollah and leaders of Bahrain's opposition movements, including Haq and Wefaq. Read more ..


The Edge of Computing

Study Warns 63% of Chip Fabs in Earthquake Zones

April 25th 2011

Asia Topics - taiwanese semiconductor plant

Nearly two-thirds of the total worldwide semiconductor manufacturing capacity is located in seismically active areas, including more than 90 percent of foundry capacity, according to a report by an industry market research firm.

The report notes that since the early days of chip production in Silicon Valley, the semiconductor industry has always had the bulk of its manufacturing located in seismically active regions. “It appears that, over time, the IC producers and their customers have just come to accept this situation as a fact of life,” said the report. Read more ..


The Battle for Syria

Syria's Assad Regime Kills Demonstrators in Ongoing Unrest

April 18th 2011

Syrian Issues - Syrian Protests March 2011

Human rights campaigners reported from Syria that some seven people were killed by President Bashar al-Assad's security forces overnight on April 17 in the central town of Homs, while several others were injured. Homs is the third-largest city in Syria, and is home to diverse cultural landmarks and a sizeable Christian minority.

The violence comes less than a day after gunmen, also suspected to be members of the country's security forces, killed three people and wounded dozens during a funeral for an anti-government protester in Homs. Thousands of people rallied across the country on April 17, which marked Syria's commemoration of independence from the Ottoman Empire. Read more ..


Palestinian Terror

Israel Arrests Palestinian Teenage Terrorists who Confess to Massacring Fogels--No Regrets

April 18th 2011

Israel Topics - Fogel Family
Murdered members of the Fogel family

Two teenage Palestinians from the village of Awarta near the Itamar Jewish settlement in Israel have been arrested for the murder of five members of the Fogel family on March 11, in a murder that shocked even many Palestinians.

Palestinian students Amjad Awad (19) and Hakim Awad (18) (not related to each other) both confessed to the brutal stabbings of Ehud and Ruth Fogel, along with three of their children, Yoav, 11, Elad, 4, and Hadas, 3 months old (who was decapitated by some accounts.)

Both Awads were active in the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and reconstructed the crime for Israeli Shin Bet investigators. According to Ha'aretz, the two acted independently of any terrorist oorganization and decided they would carry out the murder on the Friday afternoon before it took place. The two left Awarta, masked, at 9 p.m. carrying an umbrella, several knives and wire cutting shears. It took them about 10 minutes to cut the fence to the settlement, and once inside they broke into an empty home and stole an M-16 rifle, a weapons cartridge, a vest and a helmet. Read more ..


Inside Nigeria

Nigeria's President Goodluck Jonathan is Likely Winner in Re-Election

April 18th 2011

Africa - Nigeria election

An official of Nigeria’s Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) says the chairman of the electoral body is likely to officially announce the outcome of the presidential election on April 18.

Nick Dazan, INEC’s assistant director of public affairs, says preliminary reports of some observers who monitored Saturday’s presidential election suggest the vote was largely free and fair.

“So far, the results have been officially collected and announced and by later today, more states should be collected and announced at the presidential coalition center here in Abuja. Immediately [after] all the results have been collected, they will be tallied and then officially announced by the chairman of the commission, Professor Attahiru Jega,” Dazan said. Read more ..


Japan After the Quake

Cell Phone Image Sensor Supply Threatened by Japan Quake

April 18th 2011

Science - Image sensor chip India

The supply of CMOS image sensors, becoming ubiquitous in cell phones and notebook computers, has been affected by the Japan earthquake of March 11. In turn this is affecting the manufacture and distribution of camera modules for cell phones, according to market research firm IHS-iSuppli. Two wafer fabs, belonging to companies responsible for about 17 percent of global CMOS image sensor supply, have been closed for periods since the March 11 quake.

IHS-iSuppli did not quantify the level of disruption or whether it believed that mobile phone makers could build from inventory until normal supply chain service resumes.

Toshiba's Iwate wafer fab, which produces logic chip and CMOS image sensors for mobile phone cameras was due to resume partial operation in April, but the plant was hit by the strong aftershocks of April 7 and April 11. That plant is now due to restart partial production on April 18.
Read more ..

Ecuador on Edge

US Relations with Ecuador Sour Upon Dismissal of American Ambassador

April 13th 2011

Obama Admin Topics - Amb Heather Hodges
U.S. Ambassador Heather Hodges

Late on the afternoon of April 5, the Ecuadorian government of President Rafael Correa declared United States Ambassador Heather Hodges to be persona non grata. A WikiLeaks cable, published in the Spanish newspaper El País, supplied the principal motivation provoking Correa to take this grave action. This marks the second time in the past month that a U.S. ambassador has been forced to relinquish their a in a Latin American country because of a leaked diplomatic cable.

Drafted by Hodges, the cable condemned Correa’s appointment of Police Commander Jaime Hurtado. It cited investigations dating back to 2006 and 2007 that had found Hurtado guilty of embezzlement. The leaked document mentioned that President Correa knew about the investigations and its findings regarding Hurtado, but nevertheless selected him for the position because he could be more easily manipulated due to his compromised status. When given the opportunity to explain or defend this cable, Hodges declined to do so because the cable was obtained illegally. This situation arose at a time at when the relationship between both states was already tenuous.

Ecuador’s Foreign Relations Minister, Ricardo Patiño has declared that the government’s actions were aimed solely at Hodges, and not at the country she represents. For Ecuador, this was an important distinction to be made. Nonetheless, the dismissal could have important ramifications for one of Ecuador’s outstanding political interests; specifically, the renewal of the Andean Trade Promotion and Drug Eradication Act (ATPDEA). Read more ..


After the Holocaust

Dutch Media Links Nazi Spies with Post-War Espionage for the U.S.

April 13th 2011

History-Genocide - Dutch Jews and transport
Dutch and German Nazis escort Jews into deathcamp transport

In May, the Dutch will commemorate their war dead on the 4th and celebrate the anniversary of Liberation Day on the 5th. It was in 1945 that Allied forces, spearheaded by Canadian troops, freed the Netherlands from Nazi occupation. Old soldiers and witnesses to Nazi cruelties and carnage are dying off, and World War II stories are beginning to feature in the Dutch press. The Dutch daily De Volkskrant printed on April 12 a number of war-time photos published by the Dutch Institute for War, Holocaust and Genocide Studies (NIOD) called “The big 40-45 Book” referring to the years in which the Netherlands was occupied by Nazi Germany.

The paper describes the publication as magnificent, as it does away with the stereotypical black and white images of war. The invention of Technicolor film at that time during the war provides a surprisingly modern look to many of the pictures. Many of the photos have never been seen before. They have been found in attics or discovered in antique shops. Some of them were made by German soldiers who attempted to resemble tourists in the prostrate little country, while others offer eye-witness views of atrocities. Read more ..


The Battle for the Ivory Coast

Laurent Gbagbo Captured

April 11th 2011

Africa Topics - Laurent Gbagbo
Laurent Gbagbo

Defiant Ivory Coast leader Laurent Gbagbo has been captured at his Abidjan residence, after an assault by French and U.N. forces, and fighters of his rival, Alassane Ouattara.

A spokesman for the Ouattara forces, Seydou Ouattara, told VOA French to Africa service that Gbagbo was captured after an assault on the residence Monday and taken to Ouattara's headquarters at the Golf Hotel.

French armored vehicles had been seen advancing on the residence ahead of Gbagbo's capture.  The French embassy in Ivory Coast and Ouattara representatives in New York say it was Ouattara's men who detained the incumbent president. Read more ..


The 2012 Vote

Lugar sitting on $3M campaign war chest

April 11th 2011

Politics - Richard Luger

Senator Dick Lugar (R-Ind.) raised just over $973,000 in the first quarter of the year, his campaign announced Monday, easily outraising his GOP primary challenger. 

The longtime senator, who faces a challenge from the right next year from Indiana State Treasurer Richard Mourdock, will report more than $3 million cash on hand.

Mourdock's camp said last month that he will report raising between $125,000 - $150,000 during the first quarter and has said throughout that the candidate doesn't expect to best Lugar when it comes to fundraising.

"I'm enthusiastic about a great campaign that our supporters are waging," Lugar said in a statement. "We started this campaign months ago because I wanted to be clear about my intention to seek reelection in 2012." Lugar's camp touted donations from close to 5,000 individual donors so far this cycle, 88 percent of which are from donors in Indiana, according to the campaign. Read more ..


Religious Freedom

China Engages in Massive Crack Down on Christian Worshippers

April 11th 2011

China Topics - Chinese evangelical Christians

Police in China detained hundreds of Christian worshippers as they gathered for an outdoor service in Beijing. The detentions are the latest in a crackdown on individuals and groups deemed by the government to pose a threat to social stability.

The worshipers were from the unregistered, Christian, Shouwang House Church in Beijing. Their church leaders asked them to gather at an open-air venue for Sunday services on April 10, after they were evicted from their usual place of worship last week. Read more ..


Edge of Computing

Microsoft Alleges Google Pattern of Walling off Access and Data Needed by Competitors

April 4th 2011

Computer Topics - Google tablet HOneycomb

The news was released through a blog posting by Brad Smith, Microsoft's senior vice president and general counsel. Smith alleges that Google has engaged in a "broadening pattern of walling off access to content and data that competitors need to provide search results to consumers and to attract advertisers."

Smith argues that one reason for filing a complaint against Google in Europe is because Google's behavior here is more extreme. In the U.S. Smith said Microsoft's Bing search engine has about a 25 percent market share but Google has about 95 percent of the search market in Europe. Read more ..


Japan after the Quake

Sensor Shortage Hits Global Automakers

April 4th 2011

Automotive - car door

Japanese and global automotive production is being hit by the lack of an airflow sensor, according market research firm IHS Automotive. Global automobile production is likely to see a further marked drop in vehicle production—beyond that due to missing Japanese production—within a matter of weeks, the analyst said.

One estimate puts global vehicle output slumping 30 per cent within six weeks. And this is just one example of the difficulties being faced by automakers as a result of the earthquake and tsunami that hit Japan on March 11. Read more ..


Edge of Terrorism

Argentina is Accused of Secret Dealings to Absolve Iran of Deadly Bombings

April 4th 2011

Argentina Topics - Hector Timmerman
Hector Timerman

Argentine Foreign Minister Hector Timerman began a visit to Israel on April 2 in the midst of a serious uneasiness in relations between the two countries that emerged following accusations that the South American country has entered into a secret pact with the Islamic Republic of Iran. According to a leaked document noted by Perfil, an Argentine daily, Timerman had offered a deal with Iran to suspend the so far inconclusive investigations into the bombings at the Israeli embassy in 1992 and the AMIA Jewish community center in 1994. According to the paper, opponents of the Islamic regime in Tehran leaked the documents. Read more ..


Campus Rape

New Federal Guidance on Campus Sex Assault Probes in Offing

April 4th 2011

Social Topics - Campus crime

The Obama administration is taking new steps to address one of the most common crimes on college campuses: sexual assault. Speaking on April 4 at the University of New Hampshire, a school known for its proactive approach to combating sexual violence, Vice-President Joe Biden and Education Secretary Arne Duncan are unveiling new regulatory guidance on how colleges and universities must respond to student complaints of campus sexual assault.

Schools have an obligation, under the federal law known as Title IX, to investigate such complaints and to take prompt and effective action to end any harm from sexual violence. For years, college administrators have criticized the federal government for its lack of specific and consistent instruction on how to resolve student claims of campus rape; the confusion, critics say, has resulted in campus judicial processes that can leave student victims feeling further victimized. Read more ..


The Battle for Libya

Congress Shell-Shocked at Home as US Forces Bomb Libya's Gadhafi

March 28th 2011

Libya - Libyan Revolt
Libyan revolt

Congress returns to Washington this week to confront a scenario few lawmakers envisioned when they left town less than 10 days ago: a third U.S. war in the Arab world.

The question is now: What should Congress do about it?

President Obama’s sudden move to deploy American military forces in Libya caught lawmakers by surprise, leading to criticism from both Republican and Democratic leaders that the president failed to adequately consult with Congress or clearly define the mission. Read more ..


The Beltway's Edge

Poll: Planned Parenthood Cut Splits Voters by Gender, Race

March 28th 2011

Politics - Capitol Building at night

Likely voters are split on whether Congress should cut funding for Planned Parenthood, according to a new poll conducted for The Hill that also found a significant gender gap on the issue.

Fifty percent of women polled oppose eliminating funding for Planned Parenthood, while 38 percent said the group’s federal funds should be eliminated. More men (46 percent) would cut Planned Parenthood’s funding than leave it alone (43 percent).

Single people, young people and blacks were also much more likely to be opposed to cutting federal funds for Planned Parenthood.

Only 26 percent of single people supported cutting Planned Parenthood funds compared to 51 percent of married people. Fifty-five percent of voters over the age of 65 back the cuts, while just 31 percent of voters aged 18 to 39 agree. And just 9 percent of black voters agree, compared to 45 percent of white voters. Read more ..


Islam's War with Christians

Thousands of Christians flee Muslim Violence in Ethiopia

March 28th 2011

Africa Topics - Ethiopian church burned by Muslims
Burned church in Ethiopia

Thousands of Christians have been forced to flee their homes in Western Ethiopia after Muslim extremists set alight approximately 50 churches and dozens of Christian homes. Reportedly, one Christian has been killed and many more have been injured. Some 3,000 to 10,000 refugees have fled, following attacks that began March 2 after a Christian in the community of Asendabo was accused of desecrating the Koran. Ethiopian national police went to the area two weeks ago and were overwhelmed by Muslim mobs. Read more ..


Japan after the Quake

Japan Warns that Water Supply is Unsafe for Children

March 23rd 2011

Japan - Japanese Water

The government of Tokyo, Japan's largest city, warned on March 23 that consumers should not give water from the public water distribution system to infants. Tests have shown that levels of radioactivity in the water is now at two times the level considered safe for children.

Japanese authorities found that water in Tokyo registered at least 210 Becquerel units of radiation. Normally, the level would register approximately 100 Bq.

Since March 22, Japanese national nuclear safety personnel have been monitoring radiation levels in seawater along the northeastern coast of Japan near Fukushima, where nuclear reactors continue to spew radioactivity following the devastating earthquake and tsunami on March 11. Read more ..


The Battle for Libya

Scope of US involvement in Libya War Questioned after Gadhafi Compound Hit

March 21st 2011

Military - F-15E Refuels

American and European forces expanded their assault in Libya on Sunday, with airstrikes damaging the compound of Col. Muammar Gadhafi, as questions mounted about the scope and duration of U.S. involvement there.

Late Sunday, a cruise missile badly damaged the Libyan leader’s compound in Tripoli. The Associated Press reported that half the three-story administration building had been knocked down. Gadhafi’s whereabouts were not immediately known, but several hundred of his supporters were said to be in the compound, apparently acting as human shields. Read more ..


Japan after the Quake

US Government Offers Potassium Iodide Pills to American Personnel in Japan

March 21st 2011

Health/Medicine - Potassium iodide

The State Department — citing an “abundance of caution” amid the nuclear crisis in Japan — is offering pills to protect the thyroid gland against radiation to U.S. personnel and dependents in various areas of that country.

But the updated travel warning issued early Monday says the potassium iodide (KI) pills are a precaution and should not be taken unless there’s a future instruction from the U.S. government.

The pills help protect the thyroid by blocking absorption of radioactive iodine that may be released in a nuclear accident, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Read more ..


Edge on Public Housing

Philadelphia Housing Authority Spent Millions Improperly

March 21st 2011

Politics - Phila Public Housing-Richard Allen Homes

The agency in charge of low-income housing for Philadelphia paid $30.5 million to outside law firms over a three-year period and couldn’t fully explain what the money paid for, according to a new audit.

The Housing and Urban Development inspector general said the Philadelphia Housing Authority, which made payments to 15 law firms between April 2007 and April 2010, failed to provide auditors with basic information such as what the money was for and who would be performing the services. Additionally, the audit found that the authority made “unreasonable and unnecessary” payments to outside attorneys with the goal of obstructing similar audits from the IG. Read more ..


Japan After the Quake

Concerns Spike in Japan as New Explosions Wrack the Fukushima Daiichi Nuke Plant

March 15th 2011

Energy Topics - Fukushima nuke plant
Aerial view of Fukushima nuclear plant

The nuclear reactor situation in Japan has deteriorated significantly. Two more explosions occurred at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant on March 15.

The first occurred at 6:10 a.m. local time at reactor No. 2, which had seen nuclear fuel rods exposed for several hours after dropping water levels due to mishaps in the emergency cooling efforts. Within three hours the amount of radiation at the plant rose to 163 times the previously recorded level, according to Japan’s Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency.

Elsewhere, radiation levels were said to have reached 400 times the “annual legal limit” at reactor No. 3. Authorities differed on whether the reactor pressure vessel at reactor No. 2 was damaged after the explosion, but said the reactor’s pressure-suppression system may have been damaged possibly allowing a radiation leak. After this, a fire erupted at reactor No. 4 and was subsequently extinguished, according to Kyodo. Kyodo also reported the government has ordered a no-fly zone 30 kilometers around the reactor, and Prime Minister Naoto Kan has expanded to 30 kilometers the range within which citizens should remain indoors and warned that further leaks are possible. Read more ..


Labor on Edge

Axed from House Committee Name, Labor Goes on High Alert

March 14th 2011

Politics - richard trumka, AFL-CIO

The GOP’s decision to drop “labor” from the name of a House committee is being interpreted by some union officials as the curtain-raiser to their efforts to pressure the Obama administration on workplace laws and regulations.

Several labor leaders contacted by The Hill said changing the name of the House Education and Labor Committee to the House Education and the Workforce Committee shows that a new boss is in town, and one not friendly to unions.

“During the [Newt] Gingrich Congress, they used the committee to gut [the Occupational Safety and Health Administration], to weaken overtime laws and undermine the rights of the workers who want to bargain for a better standard of living,” Bill Samuel, the AFL-CIO’s director of government affairs, told The Hill. Read more ..


The Weapon's Edge

Marine Corps Chief Plans to Get Troubled F-35B Fighter Plane Off Probation

March 14th 2011

Military - F-35b

Marine Corps Commandant Gen. James Amos intends to petition Defense Secretary Robert Gates to waive a two-year probation sentence for his service’s version of the F-35 jet, if the program shows improvement.
Marine Corps brass want to get the F-35B variant “off [probation] sooner rather than later,” Amos told the House Appropriations Defense subcommittee March 9.
To make that happen will require the approval of Defense Secretary Robert Gates or his replacement. So Amos plans to compile a set of “metrics” to help the Defense secretary make that decision. Read more ..

Pakistan on Edge

A Compromised Security Detail may have led to Assassination of Pakistan's Minister for Minorities Affairs

March 14th 2011

PakistanTopics - Shabaz Bhatti death car 2

Pakistan's slain minorities affairs minister Shahbaz Bhatti was using his official residence as a smokescreen and actually lived in a rented house with his family in Sector I-8/3, where he was gunned down in a morning ambush in Lahore on March 2.

Yousuf Nishan, Bhatti’s brother-in-law, confirmed that the minister was living with his mother and the family in the ground portion of the rented house.

“The impression that he was keeping his office as his residence in Sector I-8/4 was created deliberately,” said Nishan. “Even the security escort of the minister was unaware that he used to slip from the backdoor into a private car for his actual residence in I-8/3 with his mother and return the same way in the morning.” This showed that he was keeping his actual address secret, as “he did not even trust his own security guards, particularly after the killing of Salmaan Taseer,” said Bhatti’s brother-in-law. A senior police official confirmed Nishan’s claims. Read more ..


Japan After the Quake

Japan Warns of Possible Meltdown at Nuclear Power Plant

March 12th 2011

Energy / Environment - Nuclear danger sign

Japanese officials are cautioning that a nuclear meltdown may occur at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant near the town of Okuma. According to Japan’s Jiji Press, some of the reactor’s nuclear fuel rods were briefly exposed to the air after the reactor’s water levels dropped through evaporation. A fire engine is currently pumping water into the reactor and the water levels are recovering, according to an operator of the Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO), which operates the plant. A TEPCO spokesman said the company believes the reactor is not melting down or cracking and that workers are currently attempting to raise the water level. Read more ..


Afghanistan on Edge

Gates: U.S. Troops Could Stay in Afghanistan Beyond 2014

March 7th 2011

Military - Army in Afghanistan

Defense Secretary Robert Gates said on March 7 that U.S. troops could remain in Afghanistan beyond the 2014 date set by President Obama to transfer responsibility to Afghan forces. When asked about a long-term military presence while speaking to U.S. troops in Afghanistan, Gates said that a smaller number of American forces could remain.

"Obviously it would be a small fraction of the presence that we have today, but I think we're willing to do that," Gates said, according to the Associated Press. "My sense is, they [Afghan officials] are interested in having us do that."

Afghan government officials have indeed asked for U.S. help beyond 2014, but that request could be met with opposition from the American public, which has become increasingly war-weary. The Afghan government and the U.S. have been working on a long-term security accord, in part because the U.S. seeks to keep Afghanistan, the base for the 9/11 attacks, free of terrorist activity. Read more ..


The Battle for Libya

Britain Investigates Gadhafi's Ties to the London School of Economics

March 7th 2011

Arab Topics - Gadafi son
Saif al-Islam Gadhafi

An independent investigation has been launched in Britain into a top university's links with Libya after the university's director resigned over the controversy.

Britain’s London School of Economics had been put under the spotlight because of its ties to Gadhafi and his family.

Under investigation

The university accepted a research grant worth more than $2 million from a foundation run by Gadhafi’s son, Saif al-Islam Gadhafi.

On March 3, the university’s director resigned, the first high-profile Briton to lose his job in connection with British business links with Libya.  Sir Howard Davies told the BBC that he had to take responsibility for the damage done to the university’s reputation.

"I think the school will recover, it's a fine institution, which I have become very fond of," said Davies. "But I think it will recover more quickly if I accept responsibility for two errors of judgment." Read more ..


The Mortgage Meltdown

Maryland Property Tax Lien Auctions Rigged, Says Witness

March 7th 2011

Economy - Tax Auction

A key witness in a federal probe of corruption in Maryland property tax-lien sales has stated under oath that he rigged bids for years while representing a Florida bank and other firms that bought liens at annual sales auctions, newly unsealed court records show.

Baltimore real estate attorney John Reiff said he and two law partners helped fix bids for the purchase of “large numbers” of property tax debts, called tax liens, sold by tax assessors at auctions in Baltimore and several other Maryland counties between 2003 and 2007, according to court filings made public for the first time last month. Read more ..


Edge on Environment

As Oil Prices Ascend, Environmentalists Sue Chicago for the 'Dead Zone'

March 7th 2011

Environment Topics - Gulf of Mexico dead zone

Oil prices rose to a fresh 2-1/2 year high early on March 7, climbing above $106 a barrel, as the violence in Libya continues to unsettle the market,” CNNMoney reports.

“The benchmark U.S. contract, West Texas Intermediate, for April delivery was up $2.26, or 2.1 percent, to $106.68 a barrel. Oil prices are currently trading at the highest levels since September 2008.”

BP’s chairman called on regulators to allow deepwater oil drilling Monday.

AFP reports: “Last year's massive Gulf of Mexico oil spill sparked by an explosion on a BP-leased platform is no reason to stop deep sea drilling, the group's chairman Carl-Henric Svanberg said on March 7.

"If we truly learn from this accident, I see no reason to close off the deep water as an area for future oil exploration and production,’ BP chairman Svanberg told a conference in the southern Swedish city of Malmoe on oil spill risk management.” Read more ..


Border Wars

Amid ATF Flap, Dems Pressure Obama to OK New Gun Trafficking Rules

March 7th 2011

Congressional issues - Gun collection

More than 40 House Democrats are calling on President Obama to approve new rules granting federal regulators more authority to crack down on gun trafficking to Mexico.

The request comes at an unfortunate time for the lawmakers, however, as the Department of Justice (DOJ) has just launched a probe into reports that hundreds of guns were lost amid a federal sting designed to track firearms by letting known smugglers buy them with impunity.

The Democrats want the White House to require border-state gun dealers to report bulk purchases of assault weapons and other long guns—a change requested by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) in December. Last month, the the White House rejected ATF’s request to expedite the appeal, arguing that the heightened border violence is not emergency enough to circumvent normal procedures. Read more ..


Edge on Washington

Democrat Henry Waxman says GOP is a “Party of Science Deniers”

March 7th 2011

Congressional issues - Henry Waxman 2
US Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif)

The Republican Party is the “party of science deniers,” a top House Democrat said on March 7.

Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), an ardent proponent of climate-change legislation, criticized Republicans for their attempts to block the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from regulating greenhouse gas emissions during a speech at the Center for American Progress Monday.

“I’ve never been in a Congress where there was such an overwhelming disconnect between science and policy,” Waxman, the former chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, said.

“Republicans in Congress have become the party of science deniers and that is profoundly dangerous,” he said.

Waxman lamented the growing divide between liberal Democrats and Republicans on climate change, accusing the GOP of ignoring the consensus among scientists that human activity is contributing to warming. Read more ..



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