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Campus Hate

‘I Felt Afraid’ -- Lawsuit Claims Public University Fostered anti-Semitism on Campus

June 20th 2017

Magen David Swastika

A group of students and community members filed a lawsuit Monday against San Francisco State University and its leaders, alleging that the public school has fostered a climate of anti-Semitism “marked by violent threats to the safety of Jewish students on campus.”

“I didn’t have the right to speak on my own campus; I felt afraid as a Jewish student,” said Jacob Mandel, who just graduated from San Francisco State. It wasn’t just that he was being shouted down at events by students politically opposed to Israel, he said in an interview, but that “the administration was actively working against me. … I felt really powerless.”

Dan Ojeda, university counsel for San Francisco State, responded with a brief statement soon after the lawsuit was filed Monday in the U.S. District Court of the Northern District of California: “The University was not aware of the complaint and has not had an opportunity to review or respond to it.

“We have been working closely with the Jewish community, among other interest groups, to address concerns and improve the campus environment for all students.  Those efforts have been very productive and will continue notwithstanding this lawsuit.”

The suit comes at a time when Muslims and other groups feel increasingly vulnerable, and as debate heats up over free speech and academic freedom on campuses nationally, after controversial speakers have been canceled, protested and shouted down on some campuses — and have even sparked violence and rioting. Read more ..


Palestinians on Edge

U.N. Report Blames Israel for Palestinian Men Beating Their Wives

June 18th 2017

Arab internet

A new report by a United Nations expert, and submitted to the U.N. Human Rights Council, blames Israel in part for Palestinian men beating their wives — offering more fuel to those in the Trump administration seeking to leave the council over its anti-Israel bias.

The document, first reported by U.N. Watch, which monitors the international body, was written by Dubravka Šimonović — the Special Rapporteur on violence against women — who filed dual reports based on her trips to the region in 2016. The report in question focuses on the “causes and consequences” of violence against women in the region.

Read more ..

The Edge of Justice

Employee Penalized By Airports Authority For Passover Files Amicus Trump Travel Ban Case

June 15th 2017

Nathan Lewin and Alyza D. Lewin

Lewin & Lewin filed a friend-of-the-court brief in the Trump travel ban litigation to alert the Supreme Court to the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals’ conflicting rulings and the  double standard demonstrated by 10 appellate judges  between  a claim of religious anti-Muslim discrimination and a comparable claim of religious bias made by an Orthodox Jewish woman. Susan Abeles’ friend-of-the-court brief demonstrates the disparity in the Fourth Circuit between the summary rejection of her claim of anti-Jewish religious employment discrimination and the Fourth Circuit’s approval of claimed anti-Muslim bias in the Presidential travel ban.

After working for the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority for 26 years, Susan Abeles lost her job for observing Passover, an important Jewish religious holiday. A Virginia federal district court and the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against Ms. Abeles. Ms. Abeles’ appeal to the Fourth Circuit was supported by the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, the American Jewish Committee, and the National Jewish Commission on Law and Public Affairs. Read more ..


The Urban Edge

Hyper-Local Air Pollution Maps Show Air Quality At Street Level

June 12th 2017

Chicago skyline

The maps were developed with the use of Google Street View cars that were equipped with a sensor system from enviromental sensor company Aclima (San Francisco, CA) designed to collect high-quality air pollution data on moving vehicles day after day. The data was collected over the course of a year in 78 square miles of Oakland, California, providing one of the largest data sets of air pollution ever measured of single city streets according to the researchers.

The new mobile technique is claimed to map urban air pollution at 100,000 times greater spatial resolution than is possible using traditional stationary government air quality monitors, of which there is typically only one for every 100 to 200 square miles. As a result, it enables users to see how dramatically air pollution can vary on even a block-by-block basis and could, say researchers, address major air quality monitoring gaps worldwide as well as shed light on the health effects on city dwellers.

Read more ..

The Farhud

Farewell Salim Fattal, Custodian of Farhud Memory

June 2nd 2017

Expelled Jews from Arab countries

Ever heard of Salim Fattal? Most Jews, especially those in the English-speaking world, will not recognise the name. But among the Jews of Iraq, Salim Fattal is a giant of a man. First and foremost, he will be remembered as the custodian of the memory of the Farhud, the 1941 pogrom which sounded the beginning of the end for the Jewish community of Iraq.

Salim Fattal died on May 31, in Israel at the age of 87. A writer, film director and pioneer of Arabic broadcasting in Israel, his passing occurred 76 years to the day since the outbreak of the Farhud, an event he did so much to document. In 2012, he came to London to show to members of my organisation Harif the first episode of the TV series he made in the 1960s, recording eye-witness testimonies. Salim Fattal broke down while recalling the murder of his uncle in the Farhud. Read more ..


India on Edge

A Monumental Shift in India's Caste System

May 28th 2017

Dalit Woman in native dress

The basis of India's caste system is the preservation of the purity of blood, and, if India is honest with herself, such ideology is a close cousin to the Aryanism that drove Nazi Germany to eventually murder countless millions in order to promote "racial purity."

According to the Manusmriti — the manual on the caste system — the blood of the upper castes gets polluted when there is a mixed marriage with someone from a lower caste. Detailed instructions are therefore outlined in order to prevent inter-caste relations of any kind, including marriage. The consequences of violating them can be dire: in some cases, families have publicly lynched their sons and daughters because they were in an inter-caste relationship. Read more ..


The Battle for Syria

Syria Has Effectively Ceased to Exist

May 27th 2017

Medvedev and Assad

On my last night in Damascus, some younger members of the Ministry of Information-sponsored delegation in which I was taking part decided to have a drink. It was late April, and the bars and restaurants were doing good business in the cool and breezy evenings. An inebriated Russian journalist, accompanied by a uniformed Russian soldier entered the bar opposite our hotel in the Old City where my colleagues were sitting. Words were exchanged. An altercation began.

At a certain point, the Russian journalist produced a pistol and aimed it at the forehead of one of the delegation's participants. He then entered our hotel, and threatened one of the employees there, all with his uniformed colleague silently accompanying him. Read more ..


Germany on Edge

Europe: Muslim Atrocities against Women? So What!

May 24th 2017

Turkish Flags

It happened again last week. Two Turkish nationals in Schwerin, Germany were arrested for raping a 13-year-old girl after forcing themselves into her home.

Recently, a judge in Germany acquitted a Turkish drug dealer of raping one of his customers last August. He had forced himself on her for four hours and left her incapacitated for weeks. He told the judge that in the culture from where he came, what she "had experienced as rape" might be considered merely "wild sex."

What "culture" is this?

According to the Turkish women's rights organization "We Will Stop the Murders of Women," which publishes monthly reports, in March of this year alone, 35 women were killed; 14 others were exposed to sexual violence, and 63 children were molested. Many children, the report said, had been sexually abused for years, and often attempted suicide. Read more ..


Campus Hate

Proposed Michigan Law would Suspend Students for Suppressing Speech

May 21st 2017

Boycott Divest Israel demo

A Michigan state senator recently introduced a bill that would require public institutions to suspend students found responsible for disrupting speech. Senate Bill 350 is one of two free-speech bills (the other is SB 349) proposed by Republican Sen. Patrick Colbeck, both of which would expand free-speech protections for college student and eliminate so-called “free speech zones.” “Schools are not abiding by the First Amendment now despite clear legal precedent for them to do so.”

[RELATED: MAP: Campus free-speech bills gaining steam nationwide]

SB 350, though, proffers an additional stipulation that would require all public colleges and universities in the state to adopt a “statement warning that any student who has twice been found responsible for infringing upon the expressive rights of others will be suspended for a minimum of 1 year or expelled.”

Read more ..

Campus Hate

Chinese-American Yale University Dean called out for 'White Trash' Remarks

May 18th 2017

Yale University

A Chinese-American dean at Yale University who has advocated cultural sensitivity in the past has had to apologize for her own insensitive remarks about white people. In her reviews of gyms, cinemas, and restaurants on the Yelp website, she mused on food that she presumed “white trash” would like to eat while also denouncing employees she called “barely educated morons.”
 
Dean June Chu of Pierson College at prestigious Yale University had to eat her words that had been circulated for several months. They were revealed by the Yale Daily News, which took the trouble of publishing screenshots of Chu’s remarks. 
 
Chu wrote of a Japanese restaurant, “To put it quite simply: If you are white trash, this is the perfect night out for you!” She added, “This establishment is definitely not authentic by any stretch of any imagination and perfect for those low class folks who believe this is a real night out. Over salted and greasy food. Side note: employees are Chinese, not Japanese.”
Read more ..

America on Edge

When Party Line Becomes Dogma

May 11th 2017

Juda Engelmayer

There was a time when issues were so clear that the we were all on the same page of right and wrong.  It used to be when the PLO would hijack an airplane, it was terrorism.  Today, the divide between good people is so vast that the perspective one has depends on his or her broader ideals; are they freedom fighters or terrorists?

We see too this in politics today.  I was at a discussion with Congress member Grace Meng (D - New York) earlier this week, and she expressed frustration with this situation.  Meng mentioned she was talking with colleagues and suggested that the Democratic Party should be open to a pro-life candidate who espouses many of the Democratic Party’s other ideals; she was rebuffed, and then urged by women’s groups to back off that opinion.

It occurred to me that there are so many areas where we have become deeply entrenched in political identity that we see no difference between individual policies and party line - and party line has become dogma.  We no longer look at right or wrong.  We treat policy like a zero-sum game. We pick a complete side and hold firm.  This is the reason bipartisan support is so hard to come by today in Congress and within many legislative bodies in the United States.  We get little accomplished because we cannot afford to yield anything to the “other side” – even if the other side has a position you might otherwise endorse.

If you are a Republican, you must be a hard-liner conservative, and if you are a Democrat, you must see issues more and more through the lenses of the likes of Senators Elizabeth Warren or Bernie Sanders, with little tolerance for the centrist point of view.

The Democratic party is becoming more isolationist.  Congresswoman Meng lamented that people with deep religious beliefs often feel they have no place in the Democratic Party because of their traditions and values on certain social issues. She reflected on how, in her run for office, she encountered many in her district who share so many Democratic values – religious matter aside - yet could not find an encouraging reason to vote Democrat. They felt isolated. Read more ..


The Trump Era

Gay Organist Admits to Homophobic, Nazi Graffiti Hoax

May 4th 2017

Trump1

Just after Donald Trump won the election in November, an Episcopal church in Bean Blossom, Indiana, was supposedly vandalized with graffiti that included a swastika, homophobic language, and the words “Heil Trump.” The incident generated widespread media coverage and liberal comment at the time.
 
In Brown County, St. David’s Episcopal Church in Bean Blossom is known to affirm homosexual relationships and solemnize homosexual marriages. At the time, the news was reported by the Washington Post and other media that the graffiti typified other such supposed manifestations of hatred inspired by the Trump election. 
Read more ..

Europe on Edge

Austrian President Predicts 'All Women' will Wear Muslim Headscarves

April 28th 2017

Muslim Woman

Austrian president Alexander Van der Bellen has predicted that soon “All women” in his country may be asked to  wear headscarves in “solidarity” with Muslims, citing prejudice members of the Islamic face. In his statements on Monday, Van der Bellen also said that it is  "every woman's right to wear whatever she likes."
 
But in reference to alleged discrimination faced by Muslims in Austria, Van der Bellen said that "if this continues... with the widely spreading Islamophobia, the day will come when we have to ask all women to wear a headscarf – all – out of solidarity to those who do it for religious reasons."
 
After being broadcast on ORF, the president’s remarks did not sit well with some people on social media. “Dexter” wrote on Twitter: “This world is going to shitter in a hand basket and it's people like this Austrian President that tries to normalize it.. Make America Great Again. No sharia.” 
Read more ..

Ending the Caliphate

Mosul Children Reveal the Nightmare of ISIS Schooling

April 27th 2017

ISIS Battle Position

On a morning in late March, 20 children are standing between bombed houses and burned-out cars in front of an elementary school on a street in eastern Mosul. When you ask them what they learned inside, they talk about killing. Their teacher was Islamic State (IS), which had a stronghold here. "Daesh, Daesh," the children shout, using the Arabic pejorative for IS, with strong, excited voices, as if the sound concealed an unbelievable secret.

The children are between the ages of 6 and 13. Their backpacks are too large for their bodies, they wear sandals and their T-shirts have holes. Some ate eggs that morning, others didn't. As the children wait for the gate to open, they call out and laugh. Their happiness is real, but if you look through it, you can see the war in their small, hardened faces.

IS conquered Mosul in June 2014. When it tried to create a state, it didn't stop at acquiring land, people, a doctrine and a flag. It also pushed into every crevice of social life -- it controlled the economy, administered justice and created lesson plans that fit its views. The goal of IS was to create a worldview, which also led it to take over Mosul's schools. Read more ..


The Race for EVs

Electromobility: The Big Leap has Yet to Come

April 14th 2017

Electric car Israel

The annual Electromobility Index from consultancy Roland Berger and the fka automotive technology research institute (Aachen, Germany) certifies Germany and France the leading positions in terms of technology. Though the market shows growth in all regions, the market share for electric vehicles is still very low.

The Electromobility Index periodically compares the competitive positions of the seven most important automotive geographies China, France, Germany Italy, Japan South Korea and USA in terms of technology, industrialization and market.

According to the study, Germany currently holds the technology pole position in the race about electromobility – a little bit surprising, given the success of Tesla in the US and the relatively high market penetration of electric vehicles in France. Wolfgang Bernhardt, Roland Berger Partner and expert for automobile markets, explains why.

Read more ..

UK on Edge

Brexit's Potential to Fracture the U.K.

April 5th 2017

British army privates on parade

Splitting from the European Union will inevitably strain the United Kingdom's territorial integrity. Those pushing for Scotland and Northern Ireland to secede from the United Kingdom are using Brexit to justify their agendas. Brexit will also open a debate between the central government in London and the country's devolved governments about who will control the powers that will be repatriated from Brussels. With authority over policy areas such as agriculture, fisheries, industry and the environment returning to the United Kingdom after Brexit, the administrations of Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland will push London to transfer many of those attributions to them.

The United Kingdom has a devolution system, according to which different policy powers from the United Kingdom's Parliament have been transferred to assemblies in Cardiff and Belfast, and to the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh. Read more ..


Media On Edge

I Criticised Hamas and My Life in Turkey Became a Nightmare

April 4th 2017

Erdogan

My greatest sin was to argue: "The fact that there are no Israeli casualties does not mean Hamas does not want to kill; it just means Hamas, for the moment, cannot kill. It was a beautiful, sunny day in December 2006 when I met Shimon Peres at his Tel Aviv office. At one point in our conversation, he began to talk about how things were beginning to go wrong in Turkey. He said: "Do not forget ... when holiness begins, reason ends." I knew he was right. In 2006, the then Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, was widely viewed as a Muslim democrat, a pro-EU reformist, a pro-business liberal; or, at worst, a postmodern Islamist — not just an Islamist. In reality, I argued in my Hurriyet column, he was just another Islamist zig-zagging between his ideological and pragmatic selves. He was successfully deceiving much of the Western world. Read more ..


Russia on Edge

Russia: Rubber Ducks and Green Paint

April 1st 2017

Lev Ponomaryov protesting 2009-08-31

For all the hyperbole in Washington about Russian hacking, Russian disinformation, Russian influence, and Russian espionage, the really remarkable events in Russia over the weekend appear barely to have registered.

One hundred years after the assassination of the last Czar, and two-and-a-half decades after the fall of the communist regime, Russian people have taken to the streets.

In early March, anti-corruption activist Alexei Navalny posted a report on YouTube detailing the corruption of Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev. After more than 13 million views in roughly three weeks, people, including a large number of teenagers, answered Navalny’s call for public protest. They flooded the streets of 95 Russian cities, as well as London, Prague, Basel, and Bonn. Many carried rubber ducks — or real ducks — referring to reports of a luxury duck farm on one of Medvedev’s properties. Read more ..


Inside Oman

Oman--The Middle East's Most Surprising Country

March 23rd 2017

Saudi Oil

Oman, where I have spent the past week, is an Arab country unlike any other. Count the ways. Islam has three main branches: Sunni (about 90 percent of all Muslims), Shiite (about 9 percent) and Ibadi (about 0.2 percent). Oman has the only Ibadi-majority population in the world. Being a tiny minority in the larger Muslim context, rulers of Oman have historically kept away from Middle Eastern issues. Part of the country was isolated mountainous desert terrain, part was focused on the seas, especially on India and on East Africa. For two centuries, the Omani empire competed with the Europeans for control of the Indian Ocean; indeed, Oman ruled the African island of Zanzibar until 1964, making it the only non-European state to control African territory. Read more ..


Europe and Turkey

Europe's Turkish Awakening

March 17th 2017

Turkey students

Turkey, officially, is a candidate for full membership in the European Union. It is also negotiating with Brussels a deal that would allow millions of Turks to travel to Europe without visa. But Turkey is not like any other European country that joined or will join the EU: The Turks' choice of a leader, in office since 2002, too visibly makes this country the odd one out.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who is now campaigning to broaden his constitutional powers, which would make him head of state, head of government and head of the ruling party -- all at the same time -- is inherently autocratic and anti-Western. He seems to view himself as a great Muslim leader fighting armies of infidel crusaders. This image with which he portrays himself finds powerful echoes among millions of conservative Turks and [Sunni] Islamists across the Middle East. That, among other excesses in the Turkish style, makes Turkey totally incompatible with Europe in political culture. Read more ..


Palestinians on Edge

PA Law "Murders Women Twice"

March 14th 2017

Arabs Smoking

Palestinian women's rights groups are demanding the revocation of an article of Palestinian Authority law that they say allows criminals to get away with murder. According to Article 99 of Penal Law No. 16 of 1960, the family of a murder victim is permitted to "waive its personal right" to justice and forgive the crime. In such cases, the length and severity of punishment is significantly reduced.
 
However, given that the vast majority of violence against Palestinian women is domestic, the family of the murder victim is often the family of the murderer as well. Thus, the Palestinian Director of the Women's Courts Project in the TAM organization Victoria Shukri explained, "In 95% of the murders of women in Palestine, the [victim's] personal right is waived."
Read more ..

The Anthropological Edge

Australia was Colonized by a Single Group 50,000 Years Ago

March 9th 2017

Neanderthal man

There are two central mysteries about human history in Australia. First, when did people arrive on the world's southernmost inhabitable continent? And second, how did they colonize it? A paper in Nature offers new answers, based on an extensive analysis of decades-old DNA.


The Edge of Film

The Oscars Reflect Talent, but also Money and Politics

February 10th 2017

Meryl Streep
Meryl Streep

The 89th Academy Awards are upon us, and critics and Hollywood insiders are placing bets on which nominees will go home with the coveted statuette. The idea of the Academy is to judge films on their artistic merit, but as always, political considerations and even current events can have an impact on who wins an Oscar.

Damien Chazelle’s nostalgic musical La La Land may be the big winner this year. The film offers a tribute to Hollywood musicals, has great cinematography, good music and a tear-jerking story; but, some critics question if the film really deserves all of its 14 nominations. That number has been equaled by only two other movies throughout Hollywood history: the 1950s drama All About Eve starring Bette Davis, and James Cameron’s 1997 Titanic.

Ads, money influence Oscars

Giovanna Chesler, director of the Film and Video Studies program at George Mason University in Virginia, says that as in any other campaign, robust advertising and a large amount of money can have as much influence as artistic merit in securing a film’s road to the Oscars.

She says that in some categories, such as the Documentary category, filmmakers have to submit a $50,000 fee just to be considered for a nomination. She says such fees guarantee screenings of the prospective nominees’ films in core markets during the Oscar season.

A filmmaker herself, Chesler says she has renewed faith in the Oscars because, as she puts it, “in this year’s nominees you see more talent reflected, not just the marketing ability of the industry.”

Oscars less white

There are more nominations for minority films and actors. She points to art films like Moonlight, a coming-of-age drama about an African-American boy growing up in a drug-infested community, and Denzel Washington’s movie adaptation of the play Fences, about a struggling husband and father who, despite his personal flaws, is working hard to make his mark in the world. Read more ..


The War Against Christianity

Five Coptic Christians Brutally Murdered in Egypt, Bodies Found With Throats Slashed

January 29th 2017

Coptic Girl

Five Coptic Christians have been brutally murdered and had their throats slashed in four different incidents in Egypt over a two-week timespan, a persecution watchdog group reports. As it has been reported that four Coptic Christians have been murdered during the first two weeks of 2017, the body of a fifth slain Copt was found last Monday.

According to World Watch Monitor, the body of 37-year-old married father of two, Ishak Ibrahim Fayez Younan, was discovered in his Cairo residence by his brother on Jan. 16. Reports indicate that Ishak, who worked at a soda factory in Cairo for the last 13 years, had his throat slashed while he was in an apartment he rented. His wife and other family members live in their permanent residence in a village in Upper Egypt.

Read more ..

Turkey on Edge

Turkey's 'Lifestyle Massacre'

January 25th 2017

Turkish military parade with flags

Last year was no doubt an annus horribilis for Turkey. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said that 1,178 people were killed between July 2015 and December 2016 in Turkey's fight with the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK). Bomb attacks by the Islamic State (ISIS) claimed another 330 lives. Those numbers exclude 248 people who died during the bloody coup attempt of July 15, as well as 9,500 apparent PKK members who were killed by Turkish security forces. Turkey also claims that it killed 1,800 ISIS members since July 2015. These numbers put the total death toll in Turkey at 13,056, in a span of fewer than 17 months.

Just when most people thought that would be the final death toll for 2016, on December 10, a twin bombing in Istanbul outside a soccer stadium killed at least 38 people, and injured another 136. A week later, a suicide car-bomb in central Turkey killed 13 off-duty soldiers aboard a bus and wounded 56 more. Read more ..


The War Against Christianity

One Million Christians Reportedly Martyred in Ten Years

January 20th 2017

Coptic Girl

Nearly 1 million Christians have been murdered for their faith over the last decade, according to research conducted by a think tank affiliated with the Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in Massachusetts. Additionally, the annual report by Gordon-Conwell's Center for the Study of Global Christianity found that as many as 90,000 Christians were martyred in the last year, or approximately 900,000 or more.
 
The finding that one Christian every six minutes were killed in 2016 was leaked by Italian sociologist Massimo Introvigne in a December 2016 interview. The report on the leak received considerable media attention before the actual release of the annual report. The center asserts that an average of 90,000 Christians have died each year on average from 2005 to 2015.
 
An email from the organization to supporters read, "In the last week, several news organizations reported on the persecution of Christians around the world and cited our figure of 90,000 Christian martyrs in 2016." 
Read more ..

The Race for AI

AI Ethics under Scrutiny

January 11th 2017

Terminator Robot

The newly launched Ethics and Governance of Artificial Intelligence Fund aims to foster global research that advances AI for the public interest, a focus that in itself will probably be subject to debate.

Initially funded with $27 million from the Knight Foundation; LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman; the Omidyar Network; the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation; and Jim Pallotta, founder of the Raptor Group, the new fund will also seek to advance public understanding of AI.

The MIT Media Lab and the Berkman Klein Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University will serve as the founding anchor institutions and are expected to reinforce cross-disciplinary work and encourage intersectional peer dialogue and collaboration.

“AI’s rapid development brings along a lot of tough challenges,” explains Joi Ito, director of the MIT Media Lab. “For example, one of the most critical challenges is how do we make sure that the machines we ‘train’ don’t perpetuate and amplify the same human biases that plague society?

Read more ..

The Trump Era

CUFI Action Fund to Host Fly-In This Week

January 10th 2017

USA/Israel

On Tuesday and Wednesday, the Christians United for Israel (CUFI) Action Fund is hosting a fly-in with more than 260 Christian leaders from across the country. During their visit, the leaders, representing 49 states, will lobby their Senators in support of pro-Israel legislation and President-elect Donald Trump’s nomination of David Friedman to be US Ambassador to Israel. Two allied organizations, the Hispanic Israel Leadership Coalition and the Philos Project have joined this effort and are also sending representatives.
 
Tuesday evening, attendees will gather at the Hyatt Regency Capitol Hill to hear from Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), CUFI founder and Chairman Pastor John Hagee, David Brog, CUFI’s founding executive director and a member of the group’s Board of Directors, and Gary Bauer, Washington Director of the CUFI Action Fund.
Read more ..

The Trump Era

Democratic Strategist Not Sure Chicago Torture Video Constitutes a Hate Crime

January 5th 2017

Campus crime

Tonight, CNN’s Don Lemon gathered a panel to discuss the story of a disturbing Facebook Live video out of Chicago in which a group of young black adults broadcast their torture of a young white mentally disabled man. While holding their victim hostage, they cut his scalp, burned him with cigarettes and kicked him, all while shouting “f*ck Donald Trump! F*ck white people!”

At the beginning of the conversation, Lemon turned to CNN political commentator and Democratic strategist Symone Sanders. Stating that he can’t say it’s a hate crime because police are still investigating, he asked the former Bernie Sanders campaign spox her thoughts.

Read more ..

The Robotic Age

Robots with Hands Controlled by "Light-Nerves"

January 3rd 2017

Metal Mickey

Being compliant, soft robotics offer promising solutions to emulate human limbs in prosthetic applications, where touch and force sensing ought to be combined with full prehension capabilities.

Though, reliable sensor implementation can be difficult on flexible extremities such as finger-like grips. This is what a team of researchers from Cornell University (Ithaca, NY) proposed to address with a novel type of soft waveguide-based light sensors readily embedded into deformable grips.

Their paper "Optoelectronically innervated soft prosthetic hand via stretchable optical waveguides" published in Science Robotics details the fabrication and operation of chemically inert stretchable and flexible optical waveguides made up of an optically transparent core (2dB/cm propagation loss at 860nm) clad into a light blocking elastomer. Once fitted with a LED on one end and a photodiode on the other end, these elastomeric optical waveguides can be monitored for any deformation (stretching, bending, compression) affecting light propagation.

Fabricated using cheap custom molds obtained through 3D printing, the elastomeric optical waveguides unveiled in this paper had an overall square profile of 3mm by side, with an inner core 1mm wide. Several of them could be accommodated within the fingers of a pneumatically-actuated soft prosthetic hand to actually try their sensing capabilities in a real application context.

Read more ..

The Robotic Age

iPhone Manufacturer Foxconn Plans To Replace Almost Every Human Worker With Robots

December 31st 2016

Smart phone

Foxconn, the Taiwanese manufacturing giant behind Apple’s iPhone and numerous other major electronics devices, aims to automate away a vast majority of its human employees, according to a report from DigiTimes. Dai Jia-peng, the general manager of Foxconn’s automation committee, says the company has a three-phase plan in place to automate its Chinese factories using software and in-house robotics units, known as Foxbots.

The first phase of Foxconn’s automation plans involve replacing the work that is either dangerous or involves repetitious labor humans are unwilling to do. The second phase involves improving efficiency by streamlining production lines to reduce the number of excess robots in use. The third and final phase involves automating entire factories, “with only a minimal number of workers assigned for production, logistics, testing, and inspection processes,” according to Jia-peng.

The slow and steady march of manufacturing automation has been in place at Foxconn for years. The company said last year that it had set a benchmark of 30 percent automation at its Chinese factories by 2020. The company can now produce around 10,000 Foxbots a year, Jia-peng says, all of which can be used to replace human labor. In March, Foxconn said it had automated away 60,000 jobs at one of its factories. Read more ..


The Trump Era

Progressives Vow 'Direct Action' on First Day of Trump Administration

December 21st 2016

Donald Trump Laconia NM Michael Vadon Jul 16 2015 03

Despite President-elect Donald Trump’s final victory in the Electoral College, his opponents within and without government are already preparing the ground for opposition over the next four years. Coupled with President Obama’s vow during his final White House press conference that he intends to be vocal after leaving the White House, groups affiliated with him are getting ready for protests on Inauguration Day and political action afterwards.

The Electoral College votes will be formally certified by Congress on January 6. Among those vowing resistance are progressive gadfly Michael Moore, and also Ryan Clayton of Americans Take Action. He was quoted by the Common Dreams website,  "This is an uprising—a new resistance starts here today, with the largest 50 state pro-democracy demonstration in American history." He was referring to the protests at state capitals all over the country where protesters greeted members of the Electoral College with shouting and taunts. For weeks, electors endured stalking, death threats, and harassment that neither President Obama nor Hillary Clinton sought to deplore. Read more ..


Jewry on Edge

Passover Punishment Case Continues to Wander Through the Courts

December 15th 2016

Nathan Lewin and Alyza D. Lewin

Susan Abeles’ saga began in 2013 when she took time off to observe the last two days of Passover, just as she had done annually for the past 26 years. During those years, Abeles, an Orthodox Jew, worked for the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority (MWAA), mainly as a data specialist. The MWAA is the governmentally-created public body that oversees Reagan National Airport in the District of Columbia and Dulles International Airport in Virginia. In 2013, the MWAA stunned Abeles by suddenly labeling her annual Passover time off as “AWOL” absenteeism. The charge arose not because Abeles failed to notify her supervisors in advance, which she did multiple times in writing, but because the authority disapproved of how she reminded her supervisor, who was also on leave and could not reached. Read more ..


Islam on Edge

Indonesian Woman Flogged for Close Proximity with a Man

November 28th 2016

Burqa Muslim woman

An Indonesian woman screamed in agony Monday as she was caned in Aceh, the latest in a growing number of women to be publicly flogged for breaking the province's strict Islamic laws.

Aceh is the only province in the world's most populous Muslim-majority country that imposes sharia law. People can face floggings for a range of offences -- from gambling, to drinking alcohol, to gay sex.

In the latest caning, five people -- two women and three men -- were flogged in front of a cheering crowd at a mosque in the provincial capital Banda Aceh.

The 34-year-old woman who yelled in pain had been found guilty of spending time in close proximity with a man who was not her husband in contravention of Aceh's Islamic regulations. Read more ..


Palestinians on Edge

Lebanon Begins Building 'Security Wall' Around Palestinian Refugee Camp

November 21st 2016

Hezbollah

The first blocks of an isolation wall were erected around the largest Palestinian refugee camp in Lebanon this week, as a plan to build 'security' cordons and watchtowers around Ain al-Hilweh came into effect.

The security wall forms part of an agreement between Palestinian factions and the authorities in Lebanon in attempt to contain recent confrontations between Palestinians inside the camp and the Lebanese army, Lebanese and Palestinian officials claim.

The isolation wall is set to be completed within the next 15 months, according to a report by Lebanon-based al-Modon news site

"Four towers will be constructed," Ain al-Hilweh's Hamas official Abu Ahmad Faysal earlier this month told Lebanon's Daily Star.

Read more ..

The Trump Era

Did CAIR Leader Just Call for Overthrow of the U.S. Government

November 11th 2016

Daniel Pipes bw

The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) successfully presents itself to the media as a benign civil rights organization, comparable to the NAACP or the ADL, a description that conservatives ineffectively rail against. In this light, perhaps a tweet sent out just after midnight EST on Nov. 9 by Hussam Ayloush, long-time head of CAIR's Los Angeles office, will help awaken the press to CAIR's true Islamist identity.

Ayloush wrote:

Ok, repeat after me:
Al-Shaab yureed isqat al-nizaam.
(Arab Spring chant)

That second line is Arabic ("الشعب يريد إسقاط النظام‎‎") for "The people wants to bring down the regime."

In other words, Ayloush unambiguously and directly called for the overthrow of the U.S. government.

Comments: (1) Ayloush may be the most vicious of the CAIR leaders. So far as I know, for example, he's the only one of them to bandy about the term "Zionazi," as evidenced in his e-mail below, dated March 18, 2002.

(2) Ayloush is not a marginal figure but someone with access to the heights of American power, including the White House.

According to an Investigative Project on Terrorism analysis in 2012, he

was a delegate to the 2012 Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C. [and] ... attended at least two White House meetings. The logs show Ayloush met with Paul Monteiro, associate director of the White House Office of Public Engagement on July 8, 2011 and Amanda Brown, assistant to the White House director of political affairs Patrick Gaspard, on June 6, 2009. According to reliable sources, Monteiro was White House liaison for secret contacts with CAIR, especially with Ayloush.

Read more ..

Media on Edge

Media Watchdog Calls Out Reuters for False Reporting on West Bank Water Shortage Story

November 7th 2016

Water Supply

A major international news agency falsely blamed Israel for water supply issues in a Bethlehem-area Palestinian village in an article published earlier this week, a US-based media watchdog group exposed on Thursday.

The Reuters piece in question alleged that Mekorot — Israel’s national water company — was “responsible for supplying water to Palestinians” in the West Bank. Furthermore, the article highlighted claims by Al Jab’a village residents that the Mekorot system “supplies water only intermittently and at low pressure” and their fears that their community’s illegally-built reservoir could be demolished by Israel.

This, the HonestReporting watchdog group said on Thursday, painted an inaccurate picture of the true water situation in the West Bank. HonestReporting cited a March 2016 NGO Monitor report, which noted that — according to the 1995 Oslo II Agreement — the Palestinians are “free to build any and all components of the water and sanitation sector, subject to the approval of the JWC [Joint Water Committee.] Read more ..


The Digital Edge

VCR Era Ends Due To Lack Of Chips – And Demand

November 4th 2016

Television Array

Funai, the last manufacture of video cassette recorders – better known as VCRs – decided to end production at the end of August, reportedly due to difficulty of obtaining key components (see here and here for two reports with some numbers).

Let's be honest: we knew this amazing product would get its "end of life" notice sooner rather than later, as digitally based recording has taken over, and fewer and fewer VCRs are in use. I'll admit it: I still have a VCR and use it with my CRT display and digital-TV over-the-air converter box; you might call it a modest way of walking the walk and living a more-analog life.

My intention here is not to lament the VCR's passing, as its time had truly come and gone; such is progress.

Read more ..

Vote 2016

If Elected, Trump Will Probe Anti-Israel Intimidation on Campuses

November 3rd 2016

Donald Trump Laconia NM Michael Vadon Jul 16 2015 03

A Donald Trump administration would ask the Justice Department to investigate coordinated attempts to intimidate Israel-supporters on US campuses, a senior adviser to the Republican presidential candidate revealed to The Algemeiner on Monday in a new policy announcement.

“Colleges are generally being far too lenient in allowing the pro-Palestinian community to deprive those in the pro-Israel camp of their First Amendment right to free speech,” said attorney David Friedman — with whom Trump regularly consults on matters related to the Jewish state. “This is a serious constitutional deprivation, so it is something that must be looked at.” Read more ..


The Digital Edge

IoT Growing Faster Than the Ability to Defend It

November 2nd 2016

Google Glass

With this year’s approaching holiday gift season the rapidly growing “Internet of Things” or IoT—which was exploited to help shut down parts of the Web this past Friday—is about to get a lot bigger, and fast. Christmas and Hanukkah wish lists are sure to be filled with smartwatches, fitness trackers, home-monitoring cameras and other wi-fi–connected gadgets that connect to the internet to upload photos, videos and workout details to the cloud. Unfortunately these devices are also vulnerable to viruses and other malicious software (malware) that can be used to turn them into virtual weapons without their owners’ consent or knowledge.

The recent distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks—in which tens of millions of hacked devices were exploited to jam and take down internet computer servers—is an ominous sign for the Internet of Things. A DDoS is a cyber attack in which large numbers of devices are programmed to request access to the same Web site at the same time, creating data traffic bottlenecks that cut off access to the site. In this case the still-unknown attackers used malware known as “Mirai” to hack into devices whose passwords they could guess, because the owners either could not or did not change the devices’ default passwords. Read more ..



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