The Arab Winter of Rage
|Terrence Sterling||September 22nd 2012|
Muslim demonstrators in Islamic countries and elsewhere held new protests Saturday against an Internet video that mocks the Prophet Muhammad. In Bangladesh's capital, Dhaka, at least 10 people were injured in clashes between police and protesters. Security forces fired tear gas and used batons to disperse hundreds of stone-throwing protesters who were part of an alliance of about a dozen Islamic groups. Witnesses say the protesters burned vehicles, including a police van. Some demonstrators were arrested. The alliance that led the demonstration called for a nationwide strike Sunday to protest the Internet video, which was produced in the United States. In Pakistan, a government minister announced a $100,000 award for the death of the person who made the film. The minister urged the Taliban and al-Qaida to help locate and kill the filmmaker. Read more ..
The Arab Winter of Rage
|Eman El-Shenawi||September 21st 2012|
Only a short while ago, Arab Spring economies were fluttering their eyelashes at global investors considering opportunities in the new democracies. Foreign investment, international aid agreements and other economic stimuli to plump up central banks and ailing economies in the region had become a popular trend since the countries - namely Egypt, Libya and Tunisia - began their transitional phases. But excitement over new economic prospects that the countries had been touting has come to an abrupt standstill.
Recent political unrest involving protests against an anti-Islam film which have hit Muslim nations throughout the world, have jolted countries who were involved in a separate bout of political upheaval last year. Analysts agree that Arab Spring states are still far from closing the chapter on their transitional phases, following the 2011 backlash against autocratic governments. The former regimes had left them mired by decades of retrograde economic policies and countless episodes of fiscal corruption. Read more ..
The Edge of Terrorism
|Steven Emerson||September 20th 2012|
Eight House committee leaders have written to Obama administration officials asking about reports the administration is considering an Egyptian request to release blind Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman from prison.
â€œIf these reports are true, such considerations would be extremely disconcerting as release of this convicted terrorist should not happen for any reason,â€ the letter from U.S. Reps. Lamar Smith, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., Mike Rogers, R-Mich., Howard â€œBuckâ€ McKeon, R-Calif., Peter King, R-N.Y., Hal Rogers, R-Ky. , Frank Wolf, R-Va., and Kay Granger, R-Tex., said. Each chairs a significant House committee.
The query was prompted by a story published Monday by The Blaze and discussed by talk show host Glenn Beck. A Blaze staffer said an unnamed Obama administration told him Abdel-Rahmanâ€™s release was being â€œactively considered.â€
Abdel-Rahman is serving a life sentence for plotting a series of bombing attacks on New York tunnels and landmarks. And he is considered the spiritual influence behind the 1993 World Trade Center bombing that killed six people. His imprisonment has become an obsession for some in Egypt, with new President Mohamed Morsi promising to lobby Washington for Abdel Rahmanâ€™s release when he meets U.S. officials. Read more ..
|Joe Eaton and David Donald ||September 20th 2012|
Center for Public Integrity
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Judging by their bills, it would appear that elderly patients treated in the emergency room at Baylor Medical Center in Irving, Texas, are among the sickest in the country â€” far sicker than patients at most other hospitals.
In 2008, the hospital billed Medicare for the two most expensive levels of care for eight of every 10 patients it treated and released from its emergency room â€” almost twice the national average, according to a Center for Public Integrity analysis. Among those claims, 64 percent of the total were for the most expensive level of care. But the charges may have more to do with billing practices than sicker patients. A Baylor representative conceded hospital billing for emergency room care â€œdid not align with industry trends,â€ but said that the hospital since 2009 has reined in its charges.
The Texas hospitalâ€™s billing pattern is far from unique. Between 2001 and 2008, hospitals across the country dramatically increased their Medicare billing for emergency room care, adding more than $1 billion to the cost of the program to taxpayers, a Center investigation has found. The fees are based on a system of billing codes â€” so-called evaluation and management codes â€” that makes higher payments for treatments that require more time and resources.
The Afghanistan War
|Sam Orez||September 19th 2012|
From RT and agencies
After Taliban gunmen destroyed eight Harrier jets at a US camp in Helmand Province, the US military has suffered its worst air loss in one day since the Vietnam War. The Taliban attacked Camp Bastion, the main strategic base in southwestern Afghanistan, on Sept. 14, causing $200 million in damage in the single most destructive strike on a Western base during the war, according to military officials. Two Marines were killed, nine coalition personnel were wounded and six jets costing between $23 million and $30 million were completely destroyed.
The approximately 15 insurgents, dressed in US Army uniforms, had penetrated the base Friday night and instantly began shooting and setting fire to parked Navy-AV-8B Harrier jets when they were inside. Three refueling stations were severely damaged during the attack. â€œIt was a running gun battle for a while, two and a half hours, nonetheless they were able to get to the aircraft before we could intercept them,â€ a military official told the New York Times. Using machine guns, rocket propelled grenades and possibly mortars, most of the aircrafts were demolished. Read more ..
The Arab Winter of Rage
|Iona Craig||September 19th 2012|
|Yemen Embassy attacks|
As black smoke billowed into the sky above the U.S. embassy in Sanaa on Thursday, Sept. 13, demonstrators hacked at the thick glass windows of the security office entrance with pick axes. To the cry of "Death to America!" the angry mob burned an American flag and set SUVs alight inside the heavily guarded compound.
But something was not quite right. How had a few hundred unarmed protesters managed to breach the security of one of the most fortified embassies in the world?
The beginning of the answer to that question lay at the outer perimeters of the security cordon and at roadblocks on the streets approaching the U.S. embassy. As protesters stood chanting on low concrete blocks designed to stop vehicles approaching the compound, Yemen's Central Security Forces, in their camouflage uniforms, blue berets, and distinctive bright blue-and-orange arm patches looked on. Fifty-caliber machine gun "dushkas" mounted on the back of pick-up trucks, stationed under sun-protecting shelters, menacingly faced the crowd. Read more ..
The Edge of Space
|Rick Pantaleo||September 18th 2012|
|Artist's conception: First stars forming after Big Bang (credit: NASA)|
Since they canâ€™t turn back time to witness the creation of the universe almost 14 billion years ago, scientists are working on the next best thing: creating a virtual universe, starting at the beginning with the Big Bang.
With the help of the worldâ€™s third-fastest computer, physicists from the US Department of Energyâ€™s Argonne National Laboratory are developing simulations that will take them on a trip from the origins of the universe until today.
Over the years, scientists have scanned the night skies with telescopes which produced maps of the universe. With the advances in astronomical technology, more details about the cosmos have emerged from these surveys. Taking data from the best sky surveys and running it through Argonneâ€™s Mira Supercomputer, the team plans to produce some of the largest high-resolution simulations of the distribution of matter in the universe. Given the improvements in technology, Salman Habib, one of the project leaders, says it makes sense to try to understand the universe on the biggest possible scale. Read more ..
The Arab Winter of Rage
|George Friedman||September 18th 2012|
Last week, four American diplomats were killed when armed men attacked the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya. The attackers' apparent motivation was that someone, apparently American but with an uncertain identity, posted a video on YouTube several months ago that deliberately defamed the Prophet Mohammed. The attack in Benghazi was portrayed as retribution for the defamation, with the attackers holding all Americans equally guilty for the video, though it was likely a pretext for deeper grievances. The riots spread to other countries, including Egypt, Tunisia and Yemen, although no American casualties were reported in the other riots. The unrest appears to have subsided over the weekend.
Benghazi and the Fall of Gadhafi
In beginning to make sense of these attacks, one must observe that they took place in Benghazi, the city that had been most opposed to Moammar Gadhafi. Indeed, Gadhafi had promised to slaughter his opponents in Benghazi, and it was that threat that triggered the NATO intervention in Libya. Many conspiracy theories have been devised to explain the intervention, but, like Haiti and Kosovo before it, none of the theories holds up. The intervention occurred because it was believed that Gadhafi would carry out his threats in Benghazi and because it was assumed that he would quickly capitulate in the face of NATO air power, opening the door to democracy. Read more ..
The Battle for Syria
|Dan Levin||September 17th 2012|
From VOA and agencies
Iran says advisers from its elite Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps are providing non-military assistance in Syria - and that Tehran may take military action if its closest ally is attacked by outside forces. The statement by guards' commander Mohammad Ali Jafari on Sunday is the first official acknowledgement that Iran has a military presence in Syria, where warfare during a government crackdown on an 18-month-old opposition uprising has left thousands dead. Iranian media quoted Jafari as saying that a number of "Quds Force" members "are present in Syria." He did not indicate how many but said they are providing "intellectual and advisory help."
The Quds Force is a Revolutionary Guards' unit set up to export Iran's ideology. It has been accused of plotting attacks inside Iraq since the ouster of the late dictator Saddam Hussein. U.S. officials this month said Iraq was facilitating the transfer of weapons to Syria by opening its airspace to Iranian aircraft. Baghdad has denied the accusation. Jafari also said any Israeli attack on Iran would trigger retaliatory action against U.S. bases in the region and that trade through the Strait of Hormuz would be disrupted. Read more ..
The Edge of the Universe
|Andre Salles||September 17th 2012|
Eight billion years ago, rays of light from distant galaxies began their long journey to Earth. That ancient starlight has now found its way to a mountaintop in Chile, where the newly-constructed Dark Energy Camera, the most powerful sky-mapping machine ever created, has captured and recorded it for the first time. That light may hold within it the answer to one of the biggest mysteries in physics â€“ why the expansion of the universe is speeding up. Scientists in the international Dark Energy Survey collaboration announced this week that the Dark Energy Camera, the product of eight years of planning and construction by scientists, engineers, and technicians on three continents, has achieved first light. The first pictures of the southern sky were taken by the 570-megapixel camera on Sept. 12.
â€œThe achievement of first light through the Dark Energy Camera begins a significant new era in our exploration of the cosmic frontier,â€ said James Siegrist, associate director of science for high energy physics with the U.S. Department of Energy. â€œThe results of this survey will bring us closer to understanding the mystery of dark energy, and what it means for the universe.â€ Read more ..
|Fred Schulte and David Donald||September 16th 2012|
Center for Public Integrity
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Thousands of doctors and other medical professionals have steadily billed higher rates for treating elderly patients on Medicare over the last decade â€” adding $11 billion or more to their fees and signaling a possible rise in medical billing abuse, an investigation has found.
Medical groups argue that the fee hikes are justified because treating seniors has grown more complex and time-consuming, both due to new technology and declining health status. The rise in fees may also be a reaction, they say, to years of under-charging, and reflect more accurate billing. The fees are based on a system of billing codes that is structured to make higher payments for treatments that take more time and effort.
But an analysis of Medicare claims from 2001 through 2010 shows that over time, thousands of providers turned to more expensive Medicare billing codes, while spurning use of cheaper ones. They did so despite little evidence that Medicare patients as a whole are older or sicker than in past years, or that the amount of time doctors spent treating them on average was rising.
While itâ€™s impossible to know precisely why doctors and hospitals moved to better-paying codes in recent years, itâ€™s likely that the trend in part reflects â€œupcoding,â€ â€” the practice of charging for more extensive and costly services than delivered, according to Medicare experts, analysis of the data and a review of government audits. And Medicare regulators worry that the coding levels may be accelerating in part because of increased use of electronic health records, which make it easy to create detailed patient files with just a few mouse clicks. Many health policy experts have long believed that billing errors and abuses, from confusion over how to pick proper payment codes to outright overcharges, are common in Medicare. But the Centerâ€™s year-long examination has outlined their scope in an unprecedented manner, uncovering a range of costly medical coding mistakes and abuses that have plagued the government-paid health care plan for years and are worsening amid lax federal oversight.
The Edge of Terrorism
|Aaron Mehta||September 15th 2012|
Center for Public Integrity
Since the September 11 terrorist attacks, Americans have been haunted by the idea that terrorist groups around the world could set off a â€œdirty bombâ€ â€” a simple explosive device that would scatter radioactive material to the winds, devastating a city.
Thankfully, that threat has never materialized. But the governmentâ€™s watchdog is sounding alarms that terrorists looking to acquire the radioactive materials for such an attack could find them easily and unsecured at hundreds of hospitals around the country.
A report released Tuesday by General Accountability Office has found that only one out of every five hospitals that use high-risk nuclear isotopes for diagnosis and treatment have the recommended safeguards needed to secure the materials. Over 1,500 hospitals in the U.S. use radiological sources that could be turned into dirty bombs, according to the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), which shares purview over nuclear technologies with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. NNSA has spent $105 million to upgrade security at 321 hospitals, but the agency warns it will take until 2025 to upgrade all of the hospitals on their list. Read more ..
The Obama Edge
|Jim Kouri||September 15th 2012|
While several major news stories were eclipsed by the U.S. embassy attacks in Libya and Egypt, on Wednesday the Department of Energy's Strategic Initiatives director, Morgan Wright, took the opportunity to refuse to appear for a deposition regarding the Solyndra scandal after receiving a Congressional subpoena, according to the chairman of a key House of Representatives committee.
House Oversight and Government Reform Committee chairman Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) called Wright's refusal to appear before Congress "unprecedented and regrettable." Issa sais, "Wright became the first person to ever defy a subpoena for a deposition issued under Oversight Committee authority [which was] first established in 2007 under then Chairman Henry Waxman (D-CA)."
â€œThe decision of this key figure in the Solyndra scandal to ignore his legal obligation to appear for a deposition is unprecedented and regrettable. This reflects poorly on not only Mr. Wrightâ€™s character, but also on Secretary of Energy Chu and other employees who worked on matters related to the loan program," Chairman Issa stated. Read more ..
The Nuclear Edge
|Shaul Shay||September 14th 2012|
Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies
Though Egypt does not currently have a nuclear energy program, that reality could soon change. Newly elected President Mohammed Mursi made clear that Egypt wishes to create a civilian nuclear energy program. Also of concern are statements made by leaders of Mursiâ€™s party, the Muslim Brotherhood, who call for Egypt to pursue a nuclear weapons program. It is presently unclear whether the new president is sincere about his desire for peaceful nuclear energy or if he concurs with his ideological brethren.
Egypt does not currently possess a nuclear energy program, one that could potentially be diverted for weapons purposes. Several factors can be attributed for this reality, including previous leadership priorities, supplier-based constraints, financial difficulties, and safety concerns. Egypt is a member of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons and is the leading proponent of establishing a nuclear weapons-free Middle East. This policy, however, may be changing. Egyptian President Mohammed Mursi recently told a group of Egyptian expatriates living in China that â€œCairo is considering renewing the Egyptian nuclear program, which will be purely for civilian purposes, to provide clean energy to the citizens of Egypt.â€ During that trip, Mursi requested $3 billion from the Chinese to build â€œpower plants.â€ Read more ..
The New Libya
|Saul Roth||September 13th 2012|
World Jewish Daily
Contrary to earlier claims, the Associated Press now reports that "Sam Bacile," the alleged Israeli producer behind an anti-Islam film blamed for sparking riots in Libya, Egypt, and Yemen, is actually a Coptic Christian living in California. Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, 55, told The Associated Press in an interview outside Los Angeles that he was manager for the company that produced "Innocence of Muslims," which mocked Muslims and the Prophet Muhammad and may have incited the frenzied mobs that attacked U.S. missions in Egypt and Libya. He provided initial details about a shadowy production group behind the film.
Nakoula told the AP that he was a Coptic Christian, and said the film's director supported the concerns of Christian Copts about their treatment by Muslims. Read more ..
The New Libya
|Martin Barillas||September 12th 2012|
Cutting Edge Senior Correspondent
Photographs of what is purportedly the body of slain American ambassador John Christopher Stevens have emerged on the Internet. Ambassador Stevens was at the U.S. consulate in the Libyan city of Benghazi, when the consulate's security detail engaged in a firefight with gunmen armed with small arms and rockets.
One photogaph shows the American diplomat slumped over the shoulder of a protester. Ambassador Stevens's vehicle was hit by rocket fire when he and 3 others tried to escape the exchange of fire. They were killed by the armed protesters who used firebombs to incinerate the consulate. Video footage shows protesters wielding rocket-propelled grenades and small arms roaming through the ruined diplomatic compound taking videos and photos with cell phones.
President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton have deplored the killings that came on the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. The U.S. embassy in Cairo was also attacked on September 11. Protesters scaled the walls of the embassy in Cairo and tore down the American flag, while also scrawling Islamic messages on the fortress-like mission's walls. Read more ..
The Battle for Syria
|David Arnold||September 12th 2012|
Voice of America
A United Nations report to be issued this week accuses President Bashar al-Assadâ€™s Syrian government of using its military and an allied militia, the shabiha, to commit war crimes and crimes against humanity to help the regime stay in power.
The document, entitled the Syria report, says the Syrian opposition also has committed rights violations during the uprising that started a year and a half ago, but concludes the government and its allies have been the main perpetrators.
The report is to be presented to the U.N. Human Rights Council by the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay. The Human Rights Council opened a three-week meeting in Geneva on Monday. A panel of U.N.-appointed independent commissioners listened to more than 1,000 accounts of murder, extrajudicial killings, sexual violence and torture during its investigation of human rights violations and war crimes in Syria over the past 18 months. â€œThe shabiha were identified as perpetrators of many of the crimes â€¦â€ Read more ..
The New Libya
|Martin Barillas||September 12th 2012|
Cutting Edge Senior Correspondent
Top diplomat Hillary Clinton has confirmed that an American Embassy official was killed in a firefight at the U.S. Consulate in the Libyan city of Benghazi. Libyan officials have identified U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens as one of the victims of a rocket attack on his vehicle as he was being taken to safety from the consulate which underwent heavy fire. The attackers at Benghazi have blamed their rage on an amateurish video promoted in the United States by controversial Evangelical pastor Terry Jones. The short marginal online video, which is not a documentary, depicts attacks on Christians by Muslim marauders, but also a dramatization of what is purportedly the life of Mohammed, the founder of Islam.
The murders occured on the anniversary of the September 11 attacks.
Deploring the killing, Secretary Clinton said in a statement, "I condemn in the strongest terms the attack on our mission in Benghazi today. .. We are heartbroken by this terrible loss. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and those who have suffered in this attack." Saying that she had called upon Libya President Magariaf for support, Clinton sought to frame the attack in the light of what mobs in Egypt and Libya said is unjustified American denigration of Islam. Read more ..
Obama and Israel
|Jim Kouri||September 11th 2012|
Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyau on Monday blasted the Obama administration's refusal to give the Iranian government a deadline for dropping the Islamist country's nuclear weapons program, an Israeli national police counterterrorism expert stated. The Israelis believe the Obama administration is giving Iran more time to develop a nuclear bomb by its inaction, the Israeli source said. The officials commented on U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's statements on Iran, in which Clinton said the United States does not want to set "a red line" to Iran's nuclear program, the Haaretz daily reported. "Not only do these comments fail to deter Iran, they only serve to calm them," an Israeli official told Haaretz newspaper.
Prime Minister Netanyahu and other members of the Israeli government have stated that they are refusing to get involved in U.S. presidential politics, but Netanyahu is attempting to persuade President Obama to draw a "line in the sand" and to deter the Iranians from building a nuclear device. Read more ..
|Jeremy Herb and Julian Pecquet||September 11th 2012|
Both presidential candidates will mark the 11th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks Tuesday during a campaign shaped by President Obamaâ€™s aggressive electioneering on the killing of Osama bin Laden.
Obama will observe a moment of silence at the White House and attend a ceremony at the Pentagon memorial, while GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney will speak at the National Guard Association convention.
In Congress, House and Senate leaders are coming together on the steps of the Capitol for a remembrance ceremony. Obama and Romney will not repeat the joint appearance at Ground Zero in New York that Obama made during the 2008 presidential contest with GOP candidate Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), a shift that could highlight the politicization of bin Ladenâ€™s death. Read more ..
Pakistan on Edge
|Simon Henderson||September 10th 2012|
AQ Khan, the father of Pakistan's atomic bomb and the worst nuclear proliferator in history, is launching a new political movement. His goal? No less than to become Pakistan's Nelson Mandela.
In contemporary history, few men are as controversial as Pakistani scientist Abdul Qadeer Khan. Celebrated at home as the "father" of Pakistan's nuclear bomb, he saw his international reputation tarnished after it emerged that he handed over crucial nuclear technology to Iran, Libya, and North Korea. The uranium enrichment centrifuges spinning at Iran's giant Natanz facility near Isfahan and the Fordow plant buried deep under a mountain near Qom are based on a design Khan brought to Pakistan from the Netherlands in the 1970s. For his proliferation sins, he was personally sanctioned by the United States in 2009. Read more ..
The Edge of Climate Change
|Kate Ramsayer||September 10th 2012|
American Geophysical Union
For the past four decades, scientists have monitored the ebbs and flows of the icefields in the southernmost stretch of South Americaâ€™s vast Andes Mountains, detecting an overall loss of ice as the climate warms. A new study, however, finds that the rate of glacier thinning has increased by about half over the last dozen years in the Southern Patagonian Icefield, compared to the 30 years prior to 2000.
â€œPatagonia is kind of a poster child for rapidly changing glacier systems,â€ said Michael Willis, lead author of the study and a research associate at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York. â€œWe are characterizing a region that is supplying water to sea level at a big rate, compared to its size.â€ The Southern Patagonian Icefield together with its smaller northern neighbor, the Northern Patagonian Icefield, are the largest icefields in the southern hemisphereâ€”excluding Antarctica. The new study shows that the icefields are losing ice faster since the turn of the century and contributing more to sea level rise than ever before.
Earlier studies determined that between the 1970s and 2000, both icefields, which feed into surrounding oceans as they melt, together raised global sea levels by an average of .042 millimeters each year. Willis and his colleagues found that since 2001, that number increased to 0.067 mm of sea level rise on average per yearâ€”about two percent of total annual sea level rise since 1998. Read more ..
The Iranian Threat
|Dan Levin||September 7th 2012|
From Canadian Agencies
|Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird|
Read more ..
Canada has closed its embassy in Iran and expelled Iranian diplomats in Canada.
Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird just announced that he feared for the safety of diplomats in Tehran following recent attacks on the British embassy in the Iran. "Under the circumstances, Canada can no longer maintain a diplomatic presence in Iran,â€ Baird said Friday. â€œOur diplomats serve Canada as civilians and their safety is our No. 1 priority."
Baird added that Tehran's support for Syrian president Bashar Assad, Iranâ€™s refusal to comply with the UNâ€™s resolutions on its nuclear program and its regular threats to Israel make it a significant threat to global peace. â€œIt is among the worldâ€™s worst violators of human rights; and it shelters and materially supports terrorist groups,â€ said Baird in the far-reaching statement. Baird adeed, â€œMoreover, the Iranian regime has shown blatant disregard for the Vienna Convention and its guarantee of protection for diplomatic personnel.â€
The Edge of Health
|Nick Flaherty||September 7th 2012|
Researchers in Germany and Holland have developed a tiny wireless biosensor that could eliminate the need for blood testing for diabetes.
The researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Microelectronic Circuits and Systems (IMS) in Duisburg worked with Dutch medical firm Noviosens to produce a low power biosensor for blood glucose that combines measurement and digital analysis with both an RF link and can be powered by RF energy in the environment.
For many diabetics checking blood glucose is an everyday part of life, especially for patients with Type-1 diabetes who always have to keep a close eye on their levels as their bodies are incapable of producing the insulin to break down the glucose in the blood. Several times a day, they have to place a tiny drop of blood on a test strip. It is the only way they can ascertain the blood glucose value, so they can inject the correct amount of insulin needed. And this pricking is not only a burdensome: it may also cause inflammation or cornification of the skin. Read more ..
The Way We Are
|William Harms||September 7th 2012|
University of Chicago
Grandparents, an increasingly important source of child care in the United States, vary greatly in the kind of care they provide, depending on their age, resources, and the needs of their children, research at the University of Chicago shows.
A new UChicago study, based on a National Institute on Aging survey, shows that 60 percent of grandparents provided some care for their grandchildren during a 10-year period, and 70 percent of those who did provided care for two years or more. The results mirror recent U.S. Census data showing the importance of grandparents in child care. The 2010 Census reported that 8 percent of grandparents live with their grandchildren, and 2.7 million grandparents are responsible for most of their grandchildren's needs. In 2006, 2.4 million grandparents had that responsibility. Read more ..
Israel's Looming Attack
|Zachary Lichaa||September 6th 2012|
A meeting last month to discuss intelligence matters between the United States and Israel turned confrontational when Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu lambasted Dan Shapiro, the U.S. Ambassador to Israel, for what he believes to be an unsatisfactory American position on Iranâ€™s nuclear program, according to Republican Congressman Mike Rogers who attended the sit down.
â€œThere was no doubt. You could not walk out of that meeting and think that they had not lost their patience with this Administration,â€ Rogers, who chairs the House Intelligence Committee, told WJR radio host Frank Beckmann in Michigan.
Jeffrey Goldberg in The Atlantic first reported on this story.
When Beckmann asked Rogers if there was a shouting match between Netanyahu and Shapiro, something that had been reported in Israeli media last week, Rogers said â€œthere were elevated concerns on behalf of the Israelisâ€.
â€œWeâ€™ve had sharp exchanges with other heads of state and in intelligence services and other things, but nothing at that level that Iâ€™ve seen in all my time where people were clearly that agitated, clearly that worked up about a particular issue where there was a very sharp exchange,â€ Rogers added.
Netanyahuâ€™s concerns were geared towards the Obama administrationâ€™s reluctance to state the White Houseâ€™s â€œred linesâ€ on Iranâ€™s nuclear program, which if crossed, would call for the use of U.S. military force against Iran. Rogers does not think the Israeli or Iranian governmentâ€™s believe that President Obama will use force to stop Iran from developing a nuclear weapon. Read more ..
The Edge of Space
|Gertie Skaarup||September 6th 2012|
University of Copenhagen
|Marsâ€™s north polar ice cap|
(credit: NASA/Caltech/JPL/E. DeJong/J. Craig/M. Stetson)
On Marsâ€™s poles, there are ice caps of ice and dust with layers that reflect past climate variations on Mars. Researchers from the Niels Bohr Institute have related the layers in the ice cap on Marsâ€™s north pole to variations in solar insolation on Mars, thus established the first dated climate history for Mars, where ice and dust accumulation has been driven by variations in insolation. The results are published in the scientific journal Icarus.
The ice caps on Marsâ€™s poles are kilometres thick and composed of ice and dust. There are layers in the ice caps, which can be seen in cliffs and valley slopes and we have known about these layers for decades, since the first satellite images came back from Mars. The layers are believed to reflect past climate on Mars, in the same way that the Earthâ€™s climate history can be read by analysing ice cores from the ice caps on Greenland and Antarctica.
Solar insolation on Mars has varied dramatically over time, mainly due to large variations in the tilt of Marsâ€™s rotational axis (obliquity) and this led to dramatic climate variations on Mars. Read more ..
The 2012 Vote
|Michael Beckel||September 6th 2012|
Center for Public Integrity
While Democrats have touted their grassroots fundraising efforts for the 2012 Democratic National Convention, deep-pocketed corporate donors are helping underwrite the event. Among the corporate sponsors at the Charlotte convention: AT&T Inc., Bank of America, Duke Energy, Time Warner Cable, Coca-Cola, Wells Fargo, UnitedHealth Group, Piedmont Natural Gas, US Airways and law and lobbying firm McGuireWoods.
The corporate sponsorship appears to fly in the face of the Democratsâ€™ pledge to host a â€œpeopleâ€™s convention.â€ The partyâ€™s 2012 â€œhost committeeâ€ is not accepting contributions from corporations, lobbyists and political action committees. Democrats also capped how much money individuals can give at $100,000. Read more ..
The Prehistoric Edge
|Vince Stricherz||September 6th 2012|
University of Washington
The most-studied mass extinction in Earth history happened 65 million years ago and is widely thought to have wiped out the dinosaurs. New University of Washington research indicates that a separate extinction came shortly before that, triggered by volcanic eruptions that warmed the planet and killed life on the ocean floor.
The well-known second event is believed to have been triggered by an asteroid at least 6 miles in diameter slamming into Mexicoâ€™s YucatÃ¡n Peninsula. But new evidence shows that by the time of the asteroid impact, life on the seafloor â€“ mostly species of clams and snails â€“ was already perishing because of the effects of huge volcanic eruptions on the Deccan Plateau in what is now India.
â€œThe eruptions started 300,000 to 200,000 years before the impact, and they may have lasted 100,000 years,â€ said Thomas Tobin, a UW doctoral student in Earth and space sciences. Read more ..
The 2012 Vote
|Julian Pecquet and Pete Kasperowicz||September 5th 2012|
Julian Pecquet and Pete Kasperowicz
Democrats on Wednesday reinstated language in their party platform recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, but only after an unclear vote in which as many delegates appeared to oppose the change as support it.
See the video here.
The party also added the word "God" back into the party's decree, following criticism that it did not include the word at all.
The additions were approved by a voice vote that seemed to split the crowd evenly and confused Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who was leading the proceedings. Villaraigosa looked around the stage and appeared uncertain over how to proceed after an initial vote, in which the "nays" to adding Jerusalem and God back into the platform sounded just as loud as the "ayes."
Villaraigosa called for a second vote with similar results. He then called for a third voice vote, and while it sounded evenly split, he proclaimed that two-thirds of the delegates approved the changes, which sparked some grumbling in the audience. Read more ..
The Obama Edge
|Mark Snowiss||September 4th 2012|
The United States is close to a deal with Egypt's new government for $1 billion in debt relief as part of a U.S. and international assistance package designed to prop up the country's faltering economy and aid its transition to democracy.
A team of senior U.S. diplomats has spent the last week in Cairo finalizing the agreement, which has been delayed by Egypt's political turmoil and caution in Washington about rewarding its newly elected Islamist leadership. Egypt's debt to the U.S. exceeds $3 billion. Senior American officials said Monday a final announcement is expected later this month. U.S. President Barack Obama first pledged economic help for Cairo last year. Obstacles remained to completing the debt relief deal - which is reported to involve a mix of debt payment waivers and complicated "debt swaps." Read more ..
Obama and Israel
|Saul Roth||September 3rd 2012|
Wolrd Jewish Daily
Contrary to recent claims that its military coordination with Israel is excellent, the U.S. has secretly informed Iran that it will not participate in an Israeli air strike on its nuclear facilities.
According to a report published Monday in the Hebrew-language daily Yediot Aharonot: "Senior administration officials reportedly sent messages to Iran, through diplomats from two European states, addressing the possibility that Israel would launch a unilateral strike and establishing that the US expects Iran to not draw it into a conflict by firing on American army bases and aircraft carriers in the Persian Gulf. The report is only the latest in a series of similar stories, all of which appear to illustrate a major rift between the Obama administration and the Netanyahu government over Iran.
These have included a public disavowal of involvement in an Israeli strike by the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, as well as a report of a major dispute between Netanyahu and the U.S. ambassador, which reportedly ended in a shouting match. There is no rift between the U.S. and Israel or between President Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu, the American ambassador to Israel said on Sunday. Speaking to Israel's Channel 2, Ambassador Dan Shapiro admitted that "There is definitely a narrative in the media right now â€“ I'd say an overheated one â€“ about tension between the US and Israel over Iran." Read more ..
The Edge of Space
|Peter Michaud||September 3rd 2012|
Nature hath no fury like a dying star â€“ and astronomers couldnâ€™t be happierâ€¦
An international research team, led by Edo Berger of Harvard University, made the most of a dying starâ€™s fury to probe a distant galaxy some 9.5 billion light-years distant. The dying star, which lit the galactic scene, is the most distant stellar explosion of its kind ever studied. According to Berger, â€œItâ€™s like someone turned on a flashlight in a dark room and suddenly allowed us to see, for a short time, what this far-off galaxy looks like, what it is composed of.â€
The study, published recently in The Astrophysical Journal, describes how the researchers used the exploding starâ€™s light (called an ultra-luminous core-collapse supernova) as a probe to study the gas conditions in the space between the host galaxyâ€™s stars. Berger says the findings reveal that the distant galaxyâ€˜s interstellar conditions appear â€œreassuringly normalâ€ when compared to those seen in the galaxies of our local universe. â€œThis shows the enormous potential of using the most luminous supernovae to study the early universe,â€ he says. â€œUltimately it will help us understand how galaxies like our Milky Way came to be.â€ Read more ..
Obama and Israel
|Saul Roth||September 2nd 2012|
World Jewish Daily
The mood is darkening in Jerusalem.
As the United Nation's nuclear watchdog agency reports that Iran is significantly increasing its nuclear enrichment activities, the United States is backing away from a fight, signaling to Israel that it will significantly scale back a joint military exercise scheduled for October. Israeli officials interpreted the announcement, first reported by Time magazine, as a rebuke.
"Basically what the Americans are saying is, "We donâ€™t trust you," a senior Israeli official told Time. The U.S. was scheduled to send 5,000 troops into the field for what was billed as the largest-ever joint exercise between the two nations. As Time reports, now the U.S. will send as few as 1,200 troops, a 76 percent reduction. Moreover, the U.S. will reduce the "number and potency of the missile interception systems at the core of the joint exercise." Read more ..
The 2012 Vote
|Erik Wasson and Russell Berman||September 1st 2012|
MSNBC host Chris Matthews got into a heated exchange with Republican delegates at a Tampa restaurant early Friday morning following the conclusion of the GOP national convention. Matthews was booed and sworn at as he was leaving the Tinatapas restaurant, which is near the Tampa Bay Times Forum. Matthews turned back and confronted the taunting GOP officials. The Hill witnessed the exchange and interviewed Republican delegates after the confrontation. Matthews told The Hill in a phone interview that after he left the restaurant, he heard a group of guys â€œhecklingâ€ and â€œhooting and holleringâ€ at him.
He headed back into the restaurant to mix it up with them. â€œI wanted to confront them,â€ Matthews said, describing his exchange with the men as â€œtowel-snappingâ€ among guys. Matthews said he told the rowdy group, â€œWhatâ€™s this, a douchebag convention?â€ The Republicans became angry and retorted back. Read more ..
America on Edge
|Scott Stewart||August 31st 2012|
On the morning of Aug. 24, Jeffrey Johnson returned to his former place of work, Hazan Import Corp., and waited on the street outside the building. Johnson, who was wearing a suit and carrying a briefcase, blended into the crowd of people on the street who were rushing to work that morning. As one of Hazan Import's executives, Stephen Ercolino, approached the building, Johnson drew a pistol from his bag and gunned Ercolino down with no warning, making Ercolino a victim of workplace violence. Media reports suggest that Johnson and Ercolino had been involved in several confrontations, at least one of which became physical, and that Johnson held Ercolino responsible for his being laid off. Each of the men had also reportedly filed police reports claiming the other had threatened him.
Violence in the workplace is a serious security problem in the United States and elsewhere, although it is not nearly as widespread as the media coverage suggests. On average, there are around 500 workplace homicides per year in the United States, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. In 2010, the latest year for which statistics are available, there were 518 workplace homicides, and only 12 percent were conducted by a co-worker or former co-worker. This means that while workplace violence incidents tend to get a lot of media attention -- even more so when an incident occurs near the Empire State Building, like the Johnson incident -- they are not common. Read more ..
The 2012 Vote
|Justin Sink||August 31st 2012|
Mitt Romney formally accepted the Republican presidential nomination Thursday in a speech aimed squarely at swing voters disillusioned with President Obama and a still-lagging economy. Arguing that â€œwhat America need is jobs,â€ the former Massachusetts governor asked voters to â€œforget about what might have been and to look ahead to what can be.â€
â€œHope and change had a powerful appeal,â€ Romney said. â€œBut tonight I'd ask a simple question: If you felt that excitement when you voted for Barack Obama, shouldnâ€™t you feel that way now that heâ€™s President Obama? You know thereâ€™s something wrong with the kind of job heâ€™s done as president when the best feeling you had was the day you voted for him.â€
The speech electrified an eager crowd of delegates packed into the Tampa Forum, who rose repeatedly to their feet to cheer and applaud the GOP nominee while waving signs that exclaimed â€œMitt!â€ and â€œBelieve!â€ But Romney's address was clearly aimed at swing voters watching at home, who thus far have been reluctant to embrace a candidate who can seem stiff and private. Read more ..
|Ronnie Green||August 30th 2012|
Center for Public Integrity
|Fisherman Jumps in Water for Safety Drill|
Veteran fisherman Fred Mattera stands atop a fishing trawler at the Point Judith Harbor, seagulls squawking by and a fishy mist in the air, and instructs the seven mostly young, tattooed men standing before him to pull on life-safety immersion suits that cover them from foot to head, to zip up and plunge feet first into the water. Then two groups of fishermen interlock like centipedes and take turns paddling backward until they reach a life raft where, going smallest man first, they pull in one by one.
This is survival training, and the plunge-and-rescue dry run is meant to gird the fishermen for the real thing, which comes too often in an industry beset by a high death rate and fragile federal net of protection.
Commercial fishing is the deadliest vocation in the United States. Four years running, from 2007 to 2010, the Bureau of Labor Statistics ranked commercial fishing as the most dangerous occupation in the United States. From 2000 to 2010, the industryâ€™s death rate was 31 times greater than the national workplace average. Read more ..
|Simon Henderson||August 29th 2012|
|King Abdullah |
This morning, King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia left the country for an undisclosed destination after deputizing Crown Prince Salman to take over his responsibilities in his absence. The reason for the trip has not been revealed, but there is widespread speculation that the eighty-eight-year-old king will head to New York City for medical treatment, perhaps after a brief stop in Morocco. He had operations for a back complaint in 2010 and 2011, and he was almost bent double while standing during an Islamic summit in Mecca two weeks ago. Photographs showed him in obvious discomfort as he left the kingdom today.
Despite the lack of information about the trip, now is a good time to examine Saudi Arabia's regional role and relationship with the United States. The Obama administration sees King Abdullah as a crucial ally in several fields. In Syria, Riyadh is providing arms to the anti-Assad rebels. In the oil market, it has expanded production to offset the drop in Iranian exports caused by nuclear sanctions. Although Riyadh was reportedly disappointed with Washington's swift removal of support for longtime ally Hosni Mubarak in Egypt, the kingdom appears to share many policy objectives with the United States. Washington undoubtedly views Saudi leadership of the Arab and Muslim worlds as useful, not to mention its role as a major oil supplier.
Having Crown Prince Salman stand in for the monarch is no particular relief. Although he serves as defense minister and is, at seventy-six, significantly younger than Abdullah, some have expressed concerns about his own health and his ability to focus on detail. An additional worry is that the House of Saud has no obvious crown-prince-in-waiting behind him. The need for such a candidate has become more urgent in the past year given the deaths of no fewer than two crown princes, Sultan and Nayef, who were half-brothers of Abdullah and full brothers of Salman, yet died within eight months of each other. Read more ..
|Jim Walls||August 29th 2012|
The Center for Public Integrity
|Gov. Nathan Deal|
Perhaps no state illustrates the political perils of ethics enforcement better than Georgia, where the ethics commission has been the nexus of more infighting, vitriol and litigation than a Univision novella.
Keeping track of all the resignations, firings, accusations and countercharges there has challenged even the most knowledgeable observers of Peach State politics. Three executive directors have resigned or been fired since 2006. Two other employees collected $405,000 in damages for allegedly wrongful termination. Lawmakers stripped the agency of 40 percent of its funding, its power to make new rules, even its name.
Today, as public pressure builds for ethics reform in Georgia, the agency faces a host of other challenges: Two former top-ranking officials allege the commission fired them for investigating suspected campaign abuses by Gov. Nathan Deal. Thousands of candidate disclosures swamp the agencyâ€™s online filing system, paralyzing it at peak periods for many users. Violators continue to avoid stiffer penalties because the commission has not devoted the resources to formally notifying them. Thin staffing keeps the staff from reviewing even 10 percent of the tens of thousands of filings it receives each year. Much of this has come to pass, critics say, because the commission answers to the very politicians itâ€™s supposed to regulate and investigate. Legislative leaders set its budget, control its powers and, along with the governor, decide who its five members will be. Read more ..
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