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Egypt's Second Revolution

Egypt Rushes Vote on Draft Constitution

November 29th 2012

Nov 2012 protests

Amidst ongoing clashes in response to Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi's decree granting himself near-absolute power, Egypt's Constituent Assembly surprised the country and began voting Thursday on a draft constitution. The assembly will vote on each of the draft's 234 articles and, upon passing the document, will send it to Morsi for approval. Once approved by the president, the constitution will be put to a public referendum.

Today's vote comes after Morsi gave the assembly an additional two months -- until February -- to complete its work. But with protests mounting in the streets, Morsi's supporters in the assembly quickly wrapped up deliberations and prepared for the unscheduled Thursday vote. They seem to hope that rushing through the constitution will help stem the current crisis aimed at the president, as Morsi has said he would relinquish the powers he recently bestowed upon himself once the constitution is ratified in a referendum. Read more ..


The Edge of Terrorism

US Prisons Could House Gitmo Detainees Says GAO

November 29th 2012

Prison bars

Military and federal prisons in the United States could house the 166 detainees currently held in Guantánamo Bay, but there are legal and logistical complications that would require the facilities to be modified, a report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) found.

The GAO report, which was requested by Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), investigated prisons run by the military and Justice Department for their viability to house Guantánamo detainees, many of whom are accused of terrorism charges.

The report found there were 98 federal Bureau of Prisons facilities that have custody of inmates charged with or convicted of terrorism-related crimes, and six Defense Department facilities that can house service members charged with crimes for more than one year. But to equip those facilities to house Guantánamo detainees, modifications would be needed to ensure the safety of U.S. personnel and to deal with legal issues housing foreign nationals. Read more ..


Jewry on Edge

Hungarian Jewish Community Files Lawsuit After Politician Calls for List to be Compiled of Jews Who Pose “National Security Risk”

November 28th 2012

Concentration Camp Survivor

Hungary’s Jewish community has initiated a criminal procedure today against a Hungarian far-right politician in that country who recently urged the government to compile a list of Jews who pose a “national security risk.”

According to a video posted on Jobbik’s website, and reported by Reuters, Marton Gyongyosi, who leads Jobbik’s foreign policy cabinet, told Parliament: “I know how many people with Hungarian ancestry live in Israel, and how many Israeli Jews live in Hungary.”

“I think such a conflict [between Hamas and Israel] makes it timely to tally up people of Jewish ancestry who live here, especially in the Hungarian Parliament and the Hungarian government, who, indeed, pose a national security risk to Hungary.”

The Unified Hungarian Jewish Congregration released a statement today announcing their legal action that read in part:”The fact that a far right party can address Nazi principles in the Parliament is shocking and disappointing for the
Hungarian Jewish Community and for every Hungarian Democrat.” Read more ..


Egypt's Second Revolution

Protests Continue to Rage Against Egyptian Presidential Decree

November 27th 2012

Flames in Cairo

Thousands of protesters in Cairo's Tahrir Square are rallying against Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi, hours after the president told the nation's top judges that elements of his new decree granting himself more powers and authority must stand. Morsi's promise to enforce the constitutional declaration only in certain cases has done little to lessen the anger of those who see him as a dictator in the making. Protesters chanted for his downfall Tuesday and that of the Muslim Brotherhood's Supreme Guide. Many here feel it is the Brotherhood that pushed Morsi to expand his powers, despite his formal break with the organization that helped him win the presidency. Opponents said that words aside, the president has not changed the decrees themselves, which put his decisions above judicial review on a temporary basis.​​ Read more ..


The Edge of the Universe

Super-Jupiter Sized Exoplanet Discovered

November 26th 2012

Exoplanet candidate UCF-1.01

Astrophysicists at the University of Toronto and other institutions across the United States, Europe and Asia have discovered a 'super-Jupiter' around the massive star Kappa Andromedae. The object, which could represent the first new observed exoplanet system in almost four years, has a mass at least 13 times that of Jupiter and an orbit somewhat larger than Neptune's.

The host star around which the planet orbits has a mass 2.5 times that of the Sun, making it the highest mass star to ever host a directly observed planet. The star can be seen with the naked eye in the constellation Andromeda at a distance of about 170 light years.

"Our team identified a faint object located very close to Kappa Andromedae in January that looks much like other young, massive directly imaged planets but does not look like a star," said Thayne Currie. "It's likely a directly imaged planet." The researchers made the discovery based on an infrared imaging search carried out as part of the Strategic Explorations of Exoplanets and Disks with Subaru (SEEDS) program using the Subaru telescope located in Hawaii. Read more ..


Egypt's Second Revolution

Egyptian President Meets Judges Amid Continued Riots

November 26th 2012

Egyptian

Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi is due to meet with the country's Supreme Judicial Council, as judges try to persuade the president to limit the sweeping powers he granted himself last week. The decree has sparked protests by opposition activists, who continued to camp out in Cairo's Tahrir Square for a fourth day Monday demanding Morsi reverse his decision.  

The president is defending a decree placing his decisions above judicial review, stressing in a statement that the move is temporary.

The argument has done little to quell the unrest, expected to peak again Tuesday because of what his opponents see as a power grab. Opponents and supporters of the president have called for rival mass rallies in the city on Tuesday. "The precedent that he is making, that he is unquestionable, even for a few months, is really annoying and worrying and is really not the thing you expected from an elected president,” said political activist Wael Khalil.
Read more ..

The Digital Edge

International UN Conference in Dubai Hopes to Re-shape Internet including Censorship

November 25th 2012

Russian computer user

Government officials from around the world will descend on Dubai next month to revise a treaty that could have a major effect on the future of the Internet. The 193 member countries of the United Nation's International Telecommunications Union (ITU) will meet in Dubai to update the International Telecommunications Regulations treaty for the first time since 1988. The treaty governs how telephone calls and other communications traffic are exchanged internationally.

A lot is at stake in the upcoming negotiations: Observers say some of the proposals put forward by countries for the treaty conference could threaten Internet freedom, encourage online censorship and expand a United Nations agency's authority over the Internet. The treaty negotiations run by the ITU will take place in Dubai over a two-week period from Dec. 3 to Dec. 14. Read more ..


The Arab Winter of Rage in Cairo

Egyptians Torch Muslim Brotherhood Offices to Protest Power Grab

November 24th 2012

Muslim Brotherhood bus burning 10 2012

Demonstrators set alight the offices of the Muslim Brotherhood in cities across Egypt on November 23 following President Mohamed Morsi’s decree granting himself greater powers. Defying enraged protesters, Morsi said to supporters assembled outside the presidential palace in Cairo, “Political stability, social stability and economic stability are what I want and that is what I am working for," adding "I have always been, and still am, and will always be, God willing, with the pulse of the people, what the people want, with clear legitimacy."

In response, opposition protesters chanted “Morsi is ignorant; he will burn down the country.” Police beat Morsi’s opponents with batons on side streets leading from Cairo’s Tahrir Square. Young unemployed men and soccer hooligans joined the affray, pelting security forces with rocks and debris. Mohamed ElBaradei, a Nobel-laurate and former UN diplomat, was among Egyptian political leaders who joined the protests. Read more ..


The Way We Are

Rate Of Suicide By Hanging/Suffocation Doubles In Middle-Aged Men And Women

November 24th 2012

Praying to a purple sky

A new report from researchers with the Johns Hopkins Center for Injury Research and Policy finds the majority of the previously reported increase in suicide in the U.S. between 2000 and 2010 is attributable to an increase in hanging/suffocation, which increased from 19 percent of all suicides in 2000 to 26 percent of all suicides in 2010. The largest increase in hanging/suffocation occurred among those aged 45-59 years (104 percent increase). The results are published in the December issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

"Suicide recently exceeded motor vehicle crashes as the leading cause of injury death in the U.S.; this report is the first to examine changes in the method of suicide, particularly by demographics such as age," said lead study author Susan P. Baker, MPH, a professor with and founding director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Injury Research and Policy, part of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. "While suicide by firearm remains the predominant method in the U.S., the increase in hanging and suffocation particularly in middle-aged adults warrants immediate attention." Read more ..


The Edge of Mars

Melt Water on Mars Could Sustain Life

November 24th 2012

Valles Marineris

Near surface water has shaped the landscape of Mars. Areas of the planet's northern and southern hemispheres have alternately thawed and frozen in recent geologic history and comprise striking similarities to the landscape of Svalbard. This suggests that water has played a more extensive role than previously envisioned, and that environments capable of sustaining life could exist, according to new research from the University of Gothenburg, Sweden.

Mars is a changing planet, and in recent geological time repeated freeze and thaw cycles has played a greater role than expected in terms of shaping the landscape. In an attempt to be able to make more reliable interpretations of the landscapes on Mars, researchers have developed new models for analysing images from the planet. The process of analysing satellite images from Mars has been combined with similar studies of an arctic environment in Svalbard. Despite the fact that Svalbard is considerably warmer than Mars, the arctic landscape shows a number of striking similarities to certain parts of Mars. Read more ..


The Edge of Climate Change

USA's Ancient Hurricane Belt Reveals Insights into Shifting Equator

November 23rd 2012

Hurricane Sandy Lashes Ocean City

The recent storms that have battered settlements on the east coast of America may have been much more frequent in the region 450 million years ago, according to scientists. New research pinpointing the positions of the Equator and the landmasses of the USA, Canada and Greenland, during the Ordovician Period 450 million years ago, indicates that the equator ran down the western side of North America with a hurricane belt to the east.

The hurricane belt would have affected an area covering modern day New York State, New Jersey and most of the eastern seaboard of the USA. An international research team led by Durham University, UK, used the distribution of fossils and sediments to map the line of the Ordovician Equator down to southern California. The study is the first to accurately locate and map the ancient Equator and adjacent tropical zones. Previous studies had fuelled controversy about the precise location of the ancient equator. The researchers say the new results show how fossils and sediments can accurately track equatorial change and continental shifts over time. Read more ..


Operation Pillar of Defense

The ABC's of the Iron Dome

November 22nd 2012

Iron Dome

Over the eight days of Operation Pillar of Defense, the Iron Dome system intercepted more than 420 rockets fired from the Gaza Strip. The system is the result of tireless work over many years, and the results speak for themselves.

The core team that led the Iron Dome development was comprised entirely of graduates of the Technion, the Israel Institute of Technology, in Haifa. In an interview published on the Technion website,  some of Iron Dome's developers spoke about their work.

"Credit for the system’s success is shared by the hundreds of engineers, technicians, and managers who took part in its development; but the people sitting here with me are definitely the key players,” said a team member identified only as H., a 1975 Technion graduate. “The development of Iron Dome transformed our lives, dictating a hectic work week and some weekends," H. said. "I never got home before 11 p.m., and of course I didn’t take a single day off for three whole years. But I don’t regret a single moment.” Read more ..


Broken Government

Jesse Jackson Jr Cites Federal Probe and Resigns from Congress

November 22nd 2012

Jesse jackson jr

Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-Ill.) submitted a letter announcing his resignation from Congress to Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) on Wednesday, according to a Boehner aide. "For seventeen years I have given 100 percent of my time, energy, and life to public service," Jackson wrote. "However, over the past several months, as my health has deteriorated, my ability to serve the constituents of my district has continued to diminish. Against the recommendations of my doctors, I had hoped and tried to return to Washington and continue working on the issues that matter most of the people of the Second District. I know now that will not be possible."

Jackson's resignation comes amid reports that he is being investigated by the Justice Department for allegedly misusing campaign donations to redecorate his home. Reports earlier this month said Jackson was negotiating a plea deal with federal investigators that would require him to resign from Congress, citing health reasons, and repay the campaign funds. Read more ..


Operation Pillar of Fire

Hamas-Israel Ceasefire Announced

November 21st 2012

IDF Soldiers

Israel and Hamas have just agreed through Egyptian and American intermediaries to a ceasefire brokered on the eighth day of intensive Israeli fire on the Gaza Strip and terror rocket attacks out of the enclave, Israeli. First word of the truce came from a Palestinian official who has knowledge of the negotiations in Cairo, where US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was also pursuing peace efforts. Clinton then announced the ceasefire in a press conference in Cairo. Israeli sources said the Jewish State had agreed to a truce, but would not lift its blockade of the Palestinian territory, which is run by the Islamist Hamas movement. But no other detailsa could be learned.

More than 140 Palestinians and five Israelis have been killed in the fighting that began last Wednesday. The ceasefire was sealed despite a bus bomb explosion that wounded 15 Israelis in Tel Aviv earlier in the day and despite more Israeli air strikes on the Gaza Strip. Read more ..


The Congo on Edge

Congo Rebels Vow to Overthrow Government

November 21st 2012

Soldiers

Rebels in the Democratic Republic of Congo have vowed to seize more territory and topple President Joseph Kabila. The M23 rebels held a rally Wednesday at a stadium in the eastern city of Goma, which they captured a day earlier. Rebel spokesman Vianny Kazarama said the rebels plan to keep on moving. "President Kabila brought war planes and big guns, but he was unable to defeat us," he said. "That is a clear sign that we are part of God's plan; we were sent by God and this will not end here," said Kazarama.
​​Hundreds of Congolese police and troops surrendered their weapons at the rally.

Kazarama said the rebels' next goal is Bukavu, 100 kilometers to the south. He said the group already controls the town of Sake, also south of Goma, and plans to eventually reach Kinshasa, the capital, more than 1,500 kilometers to the west. Read more ..


America and France

France Accuses America of Hacking Sarkozy's Computers

November 20th 2012

Obama and Sarkozy

The United States used U.S.-Israeli spy software to hack into the French presidential office earlier this year, the French cyberwarfare agency has concluded, according to the newsmagazine l'Express.

The magazine reported late Tuesday that the computers of several close advisers to then-president Nicolas Sarkozy – including Chief of Staff Xavier Musca – were compromised in May by a computer virus that bears the hallmarks of Flame, which was allegedly created by a U.S.-Israeli team to target Iran's nuclear program. Anonymous French officials pointed the finger at the United States.

“You can be on very good terms with a 'friendly' country and still want to guarantee their unwavering support – especially during a transition period,” an official told the magazine. The alleged spying attack took place a few days before the second round of the French presidential elections, which Sarkozy lost to Francois Hollande, a socialist.                               Read more ..


Operation Pillar of Defense

Sec of State Clinton to Confer with Israeli Premier on Gaza Conflict

November 20th 2012

Hilary Clinton
Rocket fired from Gaza

Diplomats are pushing for a peaceful resolution to the latest reigniting of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. President Barack Obama is sending Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to Israel, Ramallah and Cairo to meet with regional leaders as the cross border conflict between Israel and Palestinian militants in Gaza enters its seventh day.

Clinton, who had been with Obama on a visit to Cambodia, left Tuesday to go to Jerusalem, where she will meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. She will also meet with Palestinian leaders and Egyptian officials on the trip, which the White House says will focus on U.S. interest in a peaceful outcome to the conflict.

"It's not a matter of leverage; it's a matter of what is in everybody's best interests," Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes told reporters when pressed about Clinton's trip. "It is not in the interests of the Palestinians and the people of Gaza for there to be an escalation of this conflict. That would bring with it a huge cost."

Rhodes said there are many ways to de-escalate the violence, adding that the bottom line for the U.S. is ending Hamas rocket fire.

UN, Egypt weigh in
Diplomacy has so-far failed to stop the cross-border attacks, with the latest U.N. Security Council meeting on the situation ending late Monday without reaching an agreement. Meanwhile, smoke rose from Gaza City Tuesday as Israel pushed ahead with its air campaign against Hamas militants, who have been firing rockets toward Israeli communities. Officials say the death toll has risen to more than 100 Palestinians and three Israelis. Tuesday's Israeli air strike hit the Islamic National Bank in Gaza City, destroying the inside of the bank and damaging the basement. Read more ..


The Toxic Edge

Study Spotlights High Breast Cancer Risk for Plastics Workers

November 19th 2012

Smokestacks

For more than three decades, workers, most of them women, have complained of dreadful conditions in many of this city’s plastic automotive parts factories: Pungent fumes and dust that caused nosebleeds, headaches, nausea and dizziness. Blobs of smelly, smoldering plastic dumped directly onto the floor. “It was like hell,” says one woman who still works in the industry.

The women fretted, usually in private, about what seemed to be an excess of cancer and other diseases in the factories across the river from Detroit. “People were getting sick, but you never really thought about the plastic itself,” said Gina DeSantis, who has worked at a plant near Windsor for 25 years.

Now, workers like DeSantis are the focal point of a new study that appears to strengthen the tie between breast cancer and toxic exposures. The six-year study, conducted by a team of researchers from Canada, the United States and the United Kingdom, examined the occupational histories of 1,006 women from Ontario’s Essex and Kent counties who had the disease and 1,146 who didn’t. Adjustments were made for smoking, weight, alcohol use and other lifestyle and reproductive factors. Read more ..


The Edge of Space

Rogue Planet Wandering Through Space

November 19th 2012

Exoplanet candidate UCF-1.01

Astronomers using ESO's Very Large Telescope and the Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope have identified a body that is very probably a planet wandering through space without a parent star. This is the most exciting free-floating planet candidate so far and the closest such object to the Solar System at a distance of about 100 light-years. Its comparative proximity, and the absence of a bright star very close to it, has allowed the team to study its atmosphere in great detail. This object also gives astronomers a preview of the exoplanets that future instruments aim to image around stars other than the Sun.

Free-floating planets are planetary-mass objects that roam through space without any ties to a star. Possible examples of such objects have been found before, but without knowing their ages, it was not possible for astronomers to know whether they were really planets or brown dwarfs -- "failed" stars that lack the bulk to trigger the reactions that make stars shine. Read more ..


Operation Pillar of Defense

Ceasefire and Truce Discussions with Hamas Flounder

November 19th 2012

Bibi

Following reports that truce talks in Cairo had already failed, the Arab media reported Monday on Israel's terms for a ceasefire between Hamas and the Jewish state. The reports come from Arab sources, and have not been confirmed by Israel. Nonetheless, they appear to constitute some of the likely conditions Israel would demand for any cessation in the fighting. More than 1,000 Gaza targets were hit since the operation began last Wednesday. At least 10 Palestinians were killed in Air Force airstrikes including women and children on Sunday. The army also killed the head of Hamas' rocket unit, Yahia Abia.

While the prime minister is waiting for the cessation of rocket fire in order to start negotiations for a ceasefire, state officials stressed that "If there will be a way to meet the operation's objectives without a ground offensive it would be preferable, otherwise – we are ready for a ground operation." Read more ..


Operation Pillar of Defense

Contradictory Reports of Cease-Fire Circulate in Israel and Gaza

November 18th 2012

IDF On Guard

Contradictory rumors regarding the outcome of cease-fire negotiations between Hamas and Israel have increased dramatically in recent hours. A Hamas spokesman told Al Jazeera that Israel and Hamas have agreed to 90 percent of the terms of a new cease-fire. Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi is reportedly meeting the evening of Nov. 18 with a delegation led by Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal and another delegation led by Palestinian Islamic Jihad Secretary-General Ramadan Abdullah Shallah.

While Israeli officials have told news outlets that the government is in talks with Cairo on a cease-fire, Israeli officials are now denying reports that an Israeli envoy actually traveled to Cairo Nov. 18 for cease-fire talks. Meanwhile, Turkey appears to be trying to integrate itself into the cease-fire talks with reported plans for Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu to travel to Gaza on Nov. 20. Read more ..


Broken Banking

Banks Push to Keep Bailout-era Lifeline

November 18th 2012

JP Morgan Chase

The financial industry is hoping to avoid its own “fiscal cliff” at the end of the year when a guarantee program for bank accounts is set to expire.

The Transaction Account Guarantee (TAG) program, which was created during the financial crisis, provides government guarantees to non-interest bearing bank accounts used by small businesses and municipalities. The program serves as a backstop for accounts worth more than $1.4 trillion.

Banking lobbies warn that the expiration of the program could destabilize financial markets and are beginning a last-minute push for an extension in the lame-duck session of Congress.

“It’s kind of the fiscal cliff of the financial sector,” said Paul Merski, executive vice president for congressional relations for the Independent Community Bankers of America. “$1.4 trillion is a serious amount of cash to become uninsured abruptly at the stroke of midnight.”

Lobbyists for banks say they already have significant support for another two-year extension of the program, which was first created in 2008, and are working to make sure it’s included in whatever legislation makes it to President Obama’s desk before the end of the year.

The TAG program applies to transaction accounts, which businesses and governments typically use to set aside large amounts of cash for brief periods of time. Although the program was originally created at the height of the financial crisis to prevent bank runs, financial lobbyists contend the economy is still too tenuous to do away with the lifeline that it provides. Read more ..


Operation Pillar of Defense

Hamas Producing Long-Range Rockets in Gaza Strip

November 17th 2012

Karrar UAV

New intelligence indicates forces in Gaza may be manufacturing long-range rockets locally. If this is the case, a significant ground force offers the Israelis the best chance of finding and neutralizing the factories making these weapons. Meanwhile, Israel continues its airstrikes on Gaza, and Gaza continues its long-range rocket attacks on major Israeli population centers, though Israel claims its Iron Dome defense system has intercepted most of the rockets.

Israel appears to be positioning itself for a ground operation, perhaps as early as the night of Nov. 17. The Israeli Cabinet on Nov. 16 approved Defense Minister Ehud Barak's request to call up 75,000 reservists, significantly more than during Operation Cast Lead in 2008-2009. The Israeli army meanwhile has also sought to strengthen its presence on the borders with Gaza. Primary roads leading to Gaza and running parallel to Sinai have been declared closed military zones. Tanks, armored personnel carriers, self-propelled artillery and troops continue to stream to the border, and many units already appear to be in position. Read more ..


The Petraeus Scandal

Petraeus Testifies Benghazi Debacle was a Terrorist Attack

November 17th 2012

Libyan rioters at US consulate Sep 2012 #1

Former CIA Director David Petraeus testified before lawmakers on on November 16 and claimed that classified intelligence strongly suggested the deadly raid on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, was a terrorist attack, but that the Obama administration withheld the suspected role of specific al-Qaeda affiliates.

Petraeus, a decorated four-star Army general, resigned on Friday, November 9, as the nation's spy chief as a result of an adulterous relationship with his biographer, Paula Broadwell.

Gen. Petraeus told the lawmakers that reason why the Obama White House and his security team avoided references to terrorist groups suspected of carrying out the violence was to prevent the perpetrators from knowing that the U.S. intelligence and counterterrorism officials were seeking their capture. Read more ..


Operations Pillar of Defense

Gaza and the New Middle Eastern Order

November 17th 2012

Rocket

The conflict unfolding in the Gaza Strip takes place against a starkly different regional backdrop than the last round of fighting in late 2008 and early 2009. The old regional order that existed then has been swept away, replaced with a new order which is uncertain and, until now, untested. This emerging crisis will be the first such test, and will reveal much about how the recent years' uprisings have affected key regional actors and the relations among them.

The old order in the Middle East was founded on mutual interests, and looked something like a hub-and-spoke alliance system with the United States at its center. U.S. allies in the region shared, above all, an interest in stability and economic prosperity, though each defined stability differently. For Washington, stability required political and economic reform; for our allies, it often meant the preservation of an increasingly shaky status quo. Read more ..


Operation Pillar of Defense

Israel Destroys Gaza Headquarters while Hamas vows Revenge

November 17th 2012

Hamas headquarters Gaza

The Israeli military has shut down the main roads around the Gaza Strip, a sign that it is poised to launch a ground offensive on the Palestinian enclave that could explode into an all-out war. Israeli airstrikes on the Gaza Strip early Saturday, November17, destroyed the Hamas Cabinet headquarters. Hamas leader Ismael Haniyeh was not in the building at the time of the strike. Also on November 17, Israel's missile defense system destroyed a Hamas missile over the skies of Tel Aviv.

The strikes followed an exchange of rocket fire on the previous day between Israel and Palestinian Hamas terrorists in Gaza with one Palestinian rocket landing in a field outside Jerusalem. Hamas claimed responsibility for the unprecedented attack on the holy city. Hamas' rockets also struck in the vicinity of Tel Aviv. Israel responded by calling up thousands more military reserves for a potential force of 75,000 reservists. Overnight on November 16-17, Israel stepped up its airstrikes and destroyed at least 120 missile batteries and 20 tunnels. This brought the total number of targets to 830. Read more ..


The Edge of Space

Most-Distant Galaxy Candidate Found-- Light Traveled 8 Billion Years

November 17th 2012

protoplanetary disk

A team of astronomers including Carnegie's Daniel Kelson have set a new distance record for finding the farthest galaxy yet seen in the universe. By combining the power of NASA's Hubble Space Telescope, Spitzer Space Telescope, and one of nature's own natural "zoom lenses" in space, they found a galaxy whose light traveled 13.3 billion years to reach Earth. Their work will be published in The Astrophysical Journal.

The diminutive blob--only a tiny fraction of the size of our Milky Way galaxy--offers a peek back in time to when the universe was 3 percent of its present age (13.7 billion years). The light from this newly discovered galaxy, named MACS0647-JD, is from 420 million years after the Big Bang.

Eight billion years into its journey, this light took a detour along multiple paths around a massive galaxy cluster called MACS J0647+7015. Due to the gravitational lensing, the research team, led by Marc Postman of the Space Telescope Science Institute, observed three magnified images of MACS0647-JD with the Hubble telescope. The cluster's gravity boosted the light from the faraway galaxy, making the images appear brighter than they otherwise would, enabling astronomers to detect them more efficiently and with greater confidence. Without the cluster's magnification powers, astronomers would not have seen this remote galaxy. Read more ..


Operation Pillar of Defense

Israel Calls Up Troops and Reserves to Engage Gaza

November 16th 2012

IDF troops

Josh Hantman, a spokesman for Israel’s Ministry of Defense, has confirmed that Defense Minister Ehud Barak has approved further call-ups of reserve soldiers. A diplomatic source in Jerusalem said the number of troops was 75,ooo, however Hantman would not confirm this.

Israeli daily Haaretz reports that Israeli government secretary Hauser is conducting a telephone poll of ministers to get the okay. The move would be approved by the Security Cabinet tonight.

In comparison to recent Israeli operations, the number of troops being discussed is quite high. For Operation Cast Lead in 2008 10,000 reserves were called up, and for Israel’s Second Lebanon War in 2006, 60,000 troops were called up.

Alon ben David, the chief military correspondent for Channel 10 news in Israel said that “Military sources advise to be ready for significant expansion of “Pillar of Defense”.
Read more ..


Operation Pillar of Defense

IDF Drops Leaflets Over Gaza as Ground Incursion Nears

November 16th 2012

Jets vapor trail

Thursday November 15, 2012 – the IDF dispersed leaflets above several locations in the Gaza Strip to warn local residents to stay away from members of Hamas, and other terror organizations’ and facilities which may pose a risk to their safety.

The leaflets state: “Important announcement for the residents of the Gaza Strip: For your own safety, take responsibility for yourselves and avoid being present in the vicinity of Hamas operatives and facilities and those of other terror organizations that pose a risk to your safety. Hamas is once again dragging the region to violence and bloodshed. The IDF is determined to defend the residents of the State of Israel. This announcement is valid until quiet is restored to the region. Israel Defense Forces Command.”

The leaflets stress that Hamas is dragging the region toward violence, and that the IDF is prepared to defend the residents of the State of Israel until quiet is restored to the region. Read more ..


Operation Pillar of Defense

Israel and Hamas Intensify Combat in Gaza

November 16th 2012

Troops

Combat between Israel and Gaza-based terrorist groups flared up late Wednesday following the killing of Ahmed al-Jaabari, the highest-ranking Hamas leader killed by the Israelis since early 2009. According to the source, Israel's air force continued pummeling Hamas targets in the Gaza Strip on Wednesday, after killing 10 people, including al-Jaabari.

The attacks were launched amid the large-scale Israeli military Operation Pillar of Defense against Gaza, which began Wednesday afternoon and was officially aimed at Hamas' top leadership and its infrastructure in Gaza, including its stocks of rockets, training camps, rocket-launching sites and police stations, said the Israeli source. While the Palestinian National Authority is the recognized governing body for the Palestinian people, the PNA only controls the West Bank. Hamas is the de factor government of Gaza and several other Islamic terrorist groups are active there including the Palestinian Islamic Jihad and members of the Salafists. Read more ..


After the Spill

BP and US Reach $4.5B Settlement for Gulf oil Spill

November 15th 2012

offshore oil rig

BP has reached a $4.5 billion settlement with the U.S. government to resolve criminal and securities claims over a 2010 well blowout that claimed 11 lives and spilled millions of barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico.

The British oil giant will pay $4 billion in fines and other payments, the largest criminal penalty in U.S. history, to resolve claims with the Justice Department over the accident that badly harmed Gulf ecosystems and reshaped U.S. offshore drilling policy. The company has also agreed to pay $525 million to the Securities and Exchange Commission to resolve separate claims.

“All of us at BP deeply regret the tragic loss of life caused by the Deepwater Horizon accident as well as the impact of the spill on the Gulf coast region,” said BP CEO Bob Dudley in a statement. U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder and other Justice Department officials have scheduled a 2 p.m. press conference in New Orleans to discuss the settlement. Read more ..


Israel and Palestine

Israel Launches Large-Scale Retaliation for Palestinian Rocket Attacks

November 14th 2012

Israeli Jet Dive Bombing

Responding to months of rocket barrages by Hamas-led terror groups targeting more than a million Israeli civilians, the IDF today launched a widespread campaign targeting military infrastructure and operatives in the Gaza Strip. The campaign has been identified by Israeli military officials as "Operation Pillar Of Defense," and began with a pin-point strike targeting Ahmed Jabari, the commander of Hamas's military wing and a terrorist linked to hundreds of terror operations over the span of decades.

Jabari was Hamas's "chief of staff," and was second-in-command of the Iranian proxy's al-Qassam Brigades. His history of terrorism stretches back to the early 1980s. In 1982 he was arrested and spent 13 years in jail for terror activities, and after his release he rose through the ranks of Hamas. He was in charge of Hamas's military operations during the Second Intifada, the widespread suicide bombing campaign targeting Israeli civilians in the early 2000s, and oversaw the kidnapping of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit in 2006.

Also reportedly killed by early Israeli attacks was Raed Al Attar, Jabari's second-in-command, raising speculation that Israel is deliberately seeking to degrade Hamas's military leadership. Hamas commanders routinely go underground during major hostilities with Israel, including historically utilizing medical facilities, and the targeting of Jabari and Al Attar was done at the beginning of what the IDF is identifying as a widespread campaign. Read more ..


Broken Government

Top Commander in Afghanistan Pulled into Petraeus Scandal

November 13th 2012

Gen John Allen USMC

The top U.S. Commander in Afghanistan Gen. John Allen is under investigation for “potentially inappropriate” communications with the woman who sparked the inquiry that led to former CIA Director David Petraeus’s resignation, a senior defense official said Tuesday.

The FBI provided the Pentagon with 20,000-to-30,000 pages of potentially inappropriate communications between Allen and Jill Kelley, the woman who went to the FBI this summer after receiving threatening emails, a senior defense official said. The FBI investigation into those harassing emails ultimately uncovered the affair between Petraeus and his biographer Paula Broadwell.

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said in a statement early Tuesday that the FBI had referred the matter to the Pentagon, and Panetta has ordered a Defense Department Inspector General investigation. Read more ..


Isarel and Gaza

Is Another Gaza War in the Offing?

November 12th 2012

IDF On Guard

As a series of Hamas war crimes send hundreds of rockets into civilian areas of southern Israel, the IDF and the civilian government are scrambling to come up with an effective response. Two trenchant analyses of possible responses were published on Sunday, outlining the government's options and their likely decision. Ron Ben-Yishai, writing in YNet, says that Hamas wants to continue its racist attacks on Israeli civilians "without dragging Israel into an extensive military campaign." They have assumed that "the current Israeli government will not want to launch a major military operation before the elections," which are scheduled for January.

Israel could confound this strategy by attacking in force, but this would invite serious diplomatic consequences due to the presence of the Hamas-supporting Muslim Brotherhood government in Egypt. To balance all these interests will not be "an easy task." Read more ..


Media on Edge

BBC Director General Quits over False Accusations in Pedophile Investigation

November 11th 2012

BBC behind bars

Chris Patten, a British diplomat who negotiated Hong Kong’s transition to Chinese control who is now the chairman of the BBC governing trust, said on November 11 that unless the state-controlled media dinosaur makes significant changes it could be doomed to extinction. "The basis for the BBC's position in this country is the trust that people have in it," Patten said. "If the BBC loses that, it's over."Patten said that public confidence in the BBC must be restored in order to compete with private media conglomerates such as Rupert Murdoch’s media behemoth. "If you're saying, 'Does the BBC need a thorough structural radical overhaul?', then absolutely it does, and that is what we will have to do," said Patten, who was once a senior member of Prime Minister David Cameron's Conservative Party.

Patten’s warning came after the resignation of BBC Director General George Entwhistle on November 10, who had but two months in the job. Entwhistle threw in the towel and took the blame for the airing false child sex abuse allegations against Alistair McAlpine, a former politician. Entwistle said the report, broadcast on November 2, reflected “unacceptable journalistic standards” and should not have been broadcast. Read more ..


America on Edge

Petraeus Resigns as CIA Chief over Extramarital Affair

November 9th 2012

Petraeus

CIA Director David Petraeus has resigned because of an extramarital affair. Petraeus announced the decision in a letter to President Obama released Friday after telling the president the news on Thursday.

“Yesterday afternoon, I went to the White House and asked the president to be allowed, for personal reasons, to resign from my position as D/CIA,” he wrote.

“After being married for over 37 years, I showed extremely poor judgment by engaging in an extramarital affair. Such behavior is unacceptable, both as a husband and as the leader of an organization such as ours. This afternoon, the president graciously accepted my resignation,” he wrote. Petraeus's wife, Holly, works at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau set up by the Wall Street reform bill. The shocking news could end a sparkling Washington career for Petraeus, who has been mentioned as a presidential candidate. Affairs can end any political career, but are particularly unacceptable for the nation’s top spy given national security implications. Read more ..


The Battle for Syria

Syrian Nightmare Worsens at 11,000 Refugees Flee in Single Day

November 9th 2012

Syrians by VOA photog Elizabeth Arrot

Dispatches from Mideast media and diplomatic sources indicate the Syrian crisis has escalated to a new level of carnage and human misery. The Daily Star of Lebanon reports: "Thousands of Syrians fled their country on Friday in one of the biggest refugee exoduses of the 20 month war after rebels seized a border town. Syria's fractious opposition was meeting in Qatar, under increasing pressure from the United States and Qatar to unite and form a credible body capable of ruling the country effectively if President Bashar al-Assad falls. The United Nations said 11,000 refugees had fled in 24 hours, most to Turkey. The exodus is testing the patience of Ankara, the most militarily capable of Syria's neighbours and a strong opponent of Assad. Ankara has long said a full-blown refugee emergency would demand robust intervention."

One town alone yielded thousands of residents pouring out of the Arab and Kurd town, in the northeastern oil-producing province of Hasaka, 600 km (375 miles) from Damascus.

Turkey's Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan hit out at world powers on the U.N. Security Council over their inaction. "It is very strange. There are currently atrocities being committed in Syria and these atrocities are being directed by a state leader," he said. "How far will this go? When will the permanent members of the Security Council take responsibility?" Read more ..


The Two Koreas

S. Korean Presidential Frontrunner Willing to Meet North's Leader

November 8th 2012

Park Geun-hye

South Korea holds a hotly-contested election December 19 to choose a successor to President Lee Myung-bak. He is limited to a single five-year term under South Korea's constitution. Park Geun-hye, the front-runner from the governing party,  spoke to correspondents in Seoul Thursday for the first time during her current run. Saying the situation on the Korean peninsula is in an unprecedented state of flux, Park is portraying herself as the best candidate to lead during this critical time. Addressing correspondents in Seoul, the Saenuri (New Frontier) Party presidential candidate noted tensions in Northeast Asia are on the rise, unlike in any previous period.

“If it helps in moving forward South-North relations, I am willing to meet with the new North Korean leader," Park said. "But, importantly, I will not seek a meeting just for the sake of having a meeting. Rather, such a summit must involve an honest dialogue on issues of mutual concern.” Read more ..


The Vote Aftermath

Obama's Election Victory and National Impasse

November 7th 2012

Obamas

The United States held elections last night, and nothing changed. Barack Obama remains president. The Democrats remain in control of the Senate with a non-filibuster-proof majority. The Republicans remain in control of the House of Representatives. The national political dynamic has resulted in an extended immobilization of the government. With the House -- a body where party discipline is the norm -- under Republican control, passing legislation will be difficult and require compromise. Since the Senate is in Democratic hands, the probability of it overriding any unilateral administrative actions is small. Nevertheless, Obama does not have enough congressional support for dramatic new initiatives, and getting appointments through the Senate that Republicans oppose will be difficult. Read more ..


The 2012 Vote

Can America Avoid another Election Debacle?

November 6th 2012

Vote Buttons

What if Hurricane Sandy had taken place one week later? What would happen if the elections were disrupted seriously in a number of states, to a point where polling places could not open and people could not travel to the polls?

The answer is, there is no answer.

There is no federal law or precedent for postponing a federal election, or having the outcomes in critical states based only on early voting or voting in portions of the states. The law does give some leeway to states to choose electors if that cannot be accomplished on Election Day — but just imagine letting a state legislature unilaterally determine the outcome of a presidential election.
When the New York primary elections slated for Sept. 11, 2001, were postponed, that was a decision affecting local, not federal, elections, and it was a decision made by executive order.

Imagine if we had Election Day under the immediate cloud of a massive hurricane and Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett (R) decided to use his executive power to shut down voting in Democratic-dominated Philadelphia but allowed voting go ahead in Republican-heavy western Pennsylvania. Or imagine Corbett canceling the vote in the state and letting the Republican legislature choose electors, when the state’s voters would likely have gone for the Democratic candidate. Or imagine if it were left to President Barack Obama to postpone the presidential contest in which his fate was at stake. Or imagine if the Supreme Court were called in to review whether an action of this sort by the president was legitimate.

Read more ..


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