EDITORS NOTE: All details of Edwin Black’s Passover coverage are taken faithfully from Exodus chapters 5-15, plus Rashi’s Commentary.
Approximately two million Children of Israel are now encamped in the Sinai following their extraordinary exodus from Egypt yesterday. Just days ago, they were slaves to Pharaoh. Today, they are free men and women, destined for self-determination in a land of their own. Only now are the details of their fantastic experience coming to light.
The dramatic sequence of events began some weeks ago with the unexpected return of exiled prince Moses, who previously fled Pharaoh's wrath after slaying a taskmaster. In his daring appearance at the Palace, the inarticulate Moses, speaking through his brother Aaron, declared himself to be the personal emissary of a powerful new "od,"previously unknown to the Royal Court. Moreover, Moses asserted that his God was the protector of the Children of Israel, who have been in bondage for more than four centuries in Egypt.
The entire Royal Court was aghast as Moses demanded that the Children of Israel be permitted to travel three days into the desert for an unprecedented "fast and sacrifice" their God. Making clear that he was not asking a Court indulgence, Moses looked straight at Pharaoh, stamped his roughhewn staff and issued the ultimatum that would be his rallying call during the coming days: “Let my people go.”
Laughter echoed throughout the hall as Pharaoh sneered, "Who is your 'God?' I know him not. Nor will I let Israel go!" Showing little patience, Pharaoh cited reports that Moses had been “disturbing the people from their works” in various building projects wholly dependent upon slave labor. As a punitive measure, Pharaoh proclaimed that henceforth slaves would be compelled to gather their own straw, even as their daily brick quota was maintained. Read more ..
Increasingly stiff limits on carbon emission and minimum fuel economy in most of the world's car markets mean that more plug-in electric cars must be sold. With battery costs steadily falling and the pricetag rising for the new technologies that make cars more efficient, some now envision a world in which all new vehicles have dispensed with combustion engines. It's a lovely vision, but it won't happen for decades, if ever.
Instead, gasoline engines will endure for many more decades, in smaller and far more efficient forms.
They'll often be paired with various types of electrification, from 48-volt enhanced start-stop systems to full plug-in hybrid powertrains.
That's the message offered by two executives from the major global parts supplier Continental, in an interesting piece by Drew Winter in Ward's Auto.
When it's all said and done, and the 2016 political season has come to an end – two things will have assuredly happened. First, we will have elected a new President of the United States. Second, the tone of electoral politics will have changed forever in the United States. Dr. Ben Carson, who announced yesterday that he would be suspending his campaign, has forever changed electoral politics in the United States for the better. He will be remembered as having run one of the most unique and – especially by contrast – dignified campaigns in presidential election history.
To be completely fair to Carson, he did not actively seek the role of presidential candidate; he was drafted into it. After his appearance at the National Prayer breakfast in 2013 (his second, making him and evangelist Billy Graham the only persons to be invited twice speak at the breakfast), in which he criticized so-called progressive policies and called them essentially un-Christian, many people took notice of Carson. The closer they looked, the more they like what they saw. A slow, gentle, but unmistakable mantra began to gather steam among Americans urging Carson to "Run Ben Run." This phrase echoed throughout Carson’s travels through America in the early months of 2014, as he visited cities and towns, speaking at churches, high schools and book signings. It began to take on real significance when a political action committee with the same name was formed.
Carson was initially surprised but appreciative of all of the accolades and encouragement he was receiving from all around the country. He was already transitioning into a retirement after an illustrious medical career, and looking forward to devoting time to personal pursuits. But the clamor from those around the country who saw Carson as a 'Breath of Fresh Air' continued to encourage him and make him consider the fact that God had a plan for him beyond just retiring to a life of comfort and ease. Ever eager to obey and appear willing in the sight of God, Carson seriously considered the options. He ultimately let both his faith and his intellect guide his decision to take the risk and enter the presidential contest. Read more ..
The Daily Beast reports that another change in Glenn Beck’s top staff came as Kraig Kitchin has resigned as CEO of The Blaze. While Kitchin will remain in another position in Beck’s empire, it is Stewart Padveen who will take over as the fourth CEO of The Blaze since the latter part of 2014.
Kitchin had taken charge of The Blaze – Beck’s subscription digital and cable television enterprise in June 2015 after two previous CEOs departed within six months. According to The Daily Beast, senior executives Jeremy Price and Liz Julis also resigned. Several other senior employees are also departing, according to the report, including two producers from Beck’s New York operations. Corporate headquarters are in Texas.
The Daily Beast quoted an un-named source predicting a “mass exodus” of Beck’s staff from the New York studios. The site claims that the 35,000 rented by the Beck organization is setting him back $2 million each year in rent. It was reported that Beck has called on employees to cut costs because of debt. Estimates of the debt ranged from $3 million to $5 million.
The website also claims that multiple sources say that Kitchin was frustrated with friction he had with Jonathan Schreiber, who was named president of Beck’s company Mercury Radio Arts in April 2015. Sources to the Daily Beast said that Kitchin had taken the job with the understanding that Schreiber would not interfere with The Blaze. People familiar with the troubled relationship between Kitchin and Schreiber said that the latter’s meddling became intolerable.
As millions flee war-torn countries where anti-Semitism is rampant, several world leaders are calling on citizens to challenge this hatred everywhere they find it, especially when it comes to young people with anti-Semitic ideologies.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Saturday urged citizens to remain vigilant and to beware of anti-Semitism especially when directed by young people coming from “countries where hatred of Israel and anti-Semitism is widespread.”
Currently, millions of people are claiming to seek refuge throughout Europe as they flee war-battered nations including Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan. 1.5 million refugees including several from throughout the Arab world entered Germany in 2015 alone.
A federal judge who already ruled that former race-car driver Scott Tucker violated U.S. lending laws must now decide whether to order him to pay $1.3 billion for operating an illegal payday-lending business.
The Federal Trade Commission this week asked U.S. District Judge Gloria M. Navarro of Nevada to award the large sum in damages, which it said was how much borrowers were overcharged for the company’s payday loans from 2008 to 2012.
Until court documents were recently unsealed, the size of Tucker’s enterprise was unknown. The Center for Public Integrity and CBS News exposed Tucker’s online business in a 2011 joint investigation. Tucker at that point was best known as a millionaire professional race-car driver in the American Le Mans series.
The investigation revealed that Tucker set up a series of shell corporations to hide his involvement in the payday lending company, AMG Services of Overland Park, Kansas. Once state law enforcement agencies tried to shut down those shell companies for violating payday lending laws, Tucker turned over ownership of the business to the Miami and Modoc tribes of Oklahoma and the Santee Sioux tribe of Nebraska. However, the deal allowed the tribes to keep only 1 percent of revenues.
Russia's engagement in the Syrian Civil War is nothing new. Since the very beginning of the conflict, Russian experts have been present on the ground and advanced Russian weaponry, including SA-17 and SA-22 surface-to-air missiles, has been flowing into the country. Russia has also provided the Assad regime with light arms and ammunition. Without this support, Assad would already have fallen.
So what sparked even greater Russian involvement in Syria? Why did the Russians change their strategy, to include such major undertakings like deploying their air force and using submarine-launched cruise missiles from the Caspian Sea?
There are four factors.
The most important factor was Assad's dire situation. Russia has invested heavily in the regime and was deeply concerned that Assad would fall. With rebel forces in control of Idlib, they would have been well positioned to target the port city of Latakia, which is vital to the survival of the Assad regime. Read more ..
The first people to reach the Americas came from Siberia, now in Russia, in a single group around 23,000 years ago, at the height of the last Ice Age, says a new study.
After reaching Alaska, they apparently hung out in the north - perhaps for thousands of years - before spreading throughout North and South America, said the study based on genomic analysis.
The findings dispel the popular idea that Polynesians or Europeans contributed to the genetic heritage of Native Americans.
The study revealed that the the first people to reach the Americas used a land bridge between Siberia and Alaska called Beringia.
"There is some uncertainty in the dates of the migration and the divergence between the northern and southern Amerindian populations. But as we get more ancient genomes sequenced, we will be able to put more precise dates on the times of migration," said one of the study authors Yun Song, associate professor at University of California, Berkeley. Read more ..
The recent wave of violence and Mahmoud Abbas' threats to dismantle the Palestinian Authority could represent not just a security emergency for Israel, but also an economic nightmare.
More than 1,000 factories in the West Bank rely solely on the manpower of Palestinian workers. And they're just a small part of the financial cost that Israel will pay in the event of the Palestinian administration's collapse.
When the Israeli government was passing power over to the Palestinian Authority 20 years ago, there were approximately 20,000 Palestinians working in government institutions, most in the health and education systems. Today there are more than 150,000 public workers to which we must add pensioners whose monthly checks support about one million people. Read more ..
At some point in the next two years, British voters will decide whether to remain a part of the European Union. This will be the first time Britons have been consulted on the subject since 1975, when 67 percent voted to stay in. If it does decide to leave, the United Kingdom will become the first country to leave the European Union since it was created as the European Community in 1957. The repercussions would be felt not just in Britain, but also across the Continent and indeed across the world. To predict the eventual result of the vote, it is first important to understand the factors that have kept the United Kingdom in the union this long.
The story starts with geography. Britain is a relatively small island situated off a large but historically divided continent. It is narrow, with navigable rivers, natural resources and fertile land. These factors have various implications for the country's development. As an island with narrow dimensions, the coast is always nearby, making a large portion of the population maritime. Add an ample supply of wood, and conditions are ripe for the construction of a strong navy. Read more ..
The main Barnes & Noble website was operational after the late-June relaunch, which was designed to feature better search capabilities and offer an improved user experience. But when the site relaunched, third-party sellers were shut out from the marketplace.
We reported on the outage in early July, when a Barnes & Noble spokesperson acknowledged the problem. "We recently launched our bn.com website without Marketplace going live. Our plan is to have Marketplace back up and live tomorrow," she said - but according to sellers writing to EcommerceBytes, the marketplace was down for the first half of July.
"It has been partially back up since then but is not functioning at 100%," wrote one reader. "We have been receiving and shipping out orders from Barnes & Noble since July 19th, but have still not been paid for any of them." Read more ..
In late June, I traveled to Iraq with the purpose of investigating the role being played by the Iranian-supported Shia militias in that country.
Close observation of the militias, their activities, and their links to Tehran is invaluable in understanding what is likely to happen in the Middle East following the conclusion of the nuclear agreement between the P5 + 1 powers and Tehran.
An Iranian stealth takeover of Iraq is currently under way. Tehran's actions in Iraq lay bare the nature of Iranian regional strategy. They show that Iran has no peers at present in the promotion of a very 21st century way of war, which combines the recruitment and manipulation of sectarian loyalties; the establishment and patient sponsoring of political and paramilitary front groups; and the engagement of these groups in irregular and clandestine warfare, all in tune with an Iran-led agenda.
Imagine: you are window-shopping on a quiet street, perhaps in London or Paris or New York. Something remarkable catches your eye: an ancient coin, a gold chain, a tiny figurine. Impulsively, you enter the shop, where the owner explains to you that the sculpture comes originally from Mesopotamia, that the necklace is Byzantine. It isn't inexpensive, but the shopkeeper has guaranteed its provenance and the price seems fair; and besides, you quite love it. You say yes, and leave the shop with your new treasure tucked safely in a bag.
You may have just handed your money over to the Islamic State. Read more ..
While I was speaking to the packed room, a woman I did not know, sitting in the front row, slowly shook her tear-stained head in disbelief and muttered softly … barely audible … "I never thought I would hear these words in this building."
The woman, it turns out, was of Iraqi Jewish ancestry. The building was the iconic United Nations Headquarters in Manhattan, astride the East River. The event was in a hall routinely used by the UN Security Council. The day was June 1, 2015. The occasion was the proclamation of "International Farhud Day" at the UN as a live global event broadcast by UN TV.
Farhud in an Arabic dialect means violent dispossession. The words I spoke that gripped the woman listening described in detail how the Mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin al-Husseini, leader of the Arab community in Mandate Palestine, organized a blood-curdling massacre by Nazi-allied Arabs against Baghdad’s peaceful Jewish community on June 1-2, 1941. The ensuing mass rape, beheading, murder, burning, and looting spree was the first step in a process that throughout the Arab world effectively ended 2,600 years of Jewish existence in those lands. Ultimately, some 850,000 to 900,000 Jews were systemically pauperized and made stateless in a coordinated forced exodus from the Arab world.
Many Sephardic Jews consider the 1941 Farhud, which murdered and maimed hundreds, to be their Kristallnacht. However, for the past 74 years, neither the facts about the brutal, two-day pogrom, nor the culpability of the Nazified Iraqi and Palestinian Arab perpetrators, nor the expulsion of 850,000 Jewish refugees from the Arab world that followed were topics the UN wanted to hear of. Nor for the past 74 years was this blood-letting and its aftermath commemorated in the vast chronicles of organized Holocaust remembrances. Nor for the past 74 years was this constellation of tragedies commonly known and/or spoken of within the Jewish community. Read more ..
A prototype "Safety Truck" developed by Samsung allows drivers following behind it to "see through" the truck to the road ahead. The truck features a front-facing wireless camera and four rear monitors in the back that provide a streamed real-time view of the traffic conditions in the road ahead to trailing drivers behind the truck. The company developed the truck to help reduce the risk of accidents caused by drivers attempting to pass such large vehicles, which block the view ahead.
The prototype truck was tested in Argentina where two-lane roads - and traffic accidents - are common. Nearly one person per hour dies in a traffic accident there, according to Samsung, and a majority of fatalities are caused by drivers attempting to pass other vehicles. Another advantage of the truck, according to Samsung, is that it could reduce accidents due to sudden braking in the event of a slowdown ahead or an animal crossing the road. Read more ..
Richard Allen of New York City, is said to have quietly raised millions of dollars for Israel. In 2011, he and his wife were awarded the Theodor Herzl Medallion by Israel Bonds and the Israeli Minister of Finance. But lately, Richard Allen has become both the most criticized and the most listened-to man in the New York City Jewish community. What is he now trying to do for Israel, and why?
Richard Allen, you are a businessman. Why did you decide to get involved in public affairs?
JCCWatch.org started in November 2010, with our first internet post — a smiling photo of Uri Zaki, U.S. director of B’Tselem, standing behind a table given to him by our local Jewish Community Center, the JCC in Manhattan. Zaki was raising money to promote an anti-Israel agenda, handing out literature that defames our people, while soliciting contributions, all from inside the JCC in Manhattan.
I love Israel and the Jewish people. The buck stops here. We cannot turn a blind eye to Israel’s detractors. I decided to do something.
We started JCCWatch.org to protest the presence of B’Tselem and the New Israel Fund (NIF) at the Jewish Community Center. The JCC did get this message from the community, and has somewhat modified their public support for nefarious organizations. Read more ..
Bioengineers have invented the world’s first engine that runs on energy created from the process of natural water evaporation at room temperature, by utilizing cleverly engineered artificial muscles.
The small device, created by researchers at Columbia University, is a fully functional engine which can generate 1.8 microwatts of energy – enough to power LED lights or even a tiny car – all for the cost of $5. It works by drawing power from a process never considered to be a potential energy source before.
“Engineered systems rarely, if ever, use evaporation as sources of energy, despite myriad examples of such adaptations in the biological world,” a paper published in Nature by a team of authors, including researchers Xi Chen, Ozgur Sahin and others, claimed.
One donated more than $100 million to the Republicans, the other has been the Clintons’ biggest backer. Now billionaires Sheldon Adelson and Haim Saban, split on U.S. politics, have united to fight boycott threats against Israel.
Adelson and Saban hosted a conference of pro-Israel business executives and activists over the weekend in Las Vegas to begin an initiative aimed at countering the growing threat of international sanctions against Israel.
“That he’s a Democrat and I’m a Republican has really very little to do with it,” said Las Vegas Sands Corp. founder Adelson, who holds the 25th slot on Bloomberg’s Billionaires Index, in a joint interview with Saban on Israel’s Channel 2 on Saturday. While you can “rest assured” the two men will not be supporting the same person in the 2016 presidential election, Saban said, “when it comes to Israel, we are absolutely on the same page.”
Phoenix-based startup Ascent Aerosystems has come up with a new form factor for prosumer drones with its rugged cylindrical-shaped Sprite drone now showing on crowdfunding site KickStarter.
Sprite is the feat of two brothers, Jonathan and Nathaniel Meringer, both keen climbers but also qualified aerospace engineers. They got their first idea of designing their own drone around 2010, when they couldn't find an easy to pack and rugged-enough product to withstand repetitive harsh landings in rocky and mountainous Arizona where both enjoyed finding new routes for rock-climbing.
They had once considered a quadcopter drone with a camera, but none of what they had seen on the market was compact nor tough enough to be stuffed in an equipment bag with rope and water bottles. They had their first prototypes flying in 2013 and many design iterations later, they successfully launched a campaign on KickStarter in May (still some days to go, but Sprite has already raised more than the original $200,000 goal). Read more ..
On July 22, 2011, the Norwegian Anders Behring Breivik killed seventy-seven people in and near Oslo. Not long before he attacked, he emailed a 1,500-page document titled "2083: A European Declaration of Independence," which included conservative critics of radical Islam among his sources. Immediately, some in the media, academic, and think tank worlds declared these persons guilty by association and charged them with shaping Breivik's thought, even though the manifesto cited about the same number of liberals and conservatives.
Yesterday we were given a look inside the mind of another mass killer when the Office of the Director of National Intelligence released Bin Ladin's Bookshelf, a "sizable tranche of documents recovered during the raid on the compound used to hide Usama bin Ladin." The 409 items range from publicly available U.S. government documents to personal letters from bin Laden to family and fellow terrorists. Read more ..
Parched California is already working with Israeli industrialists, government experts and academics on advanced water technologies and long-term strategies to lessen the effects of its severe drought.
One example is the $1 billion ocean-water desalination plant Israel’s IDE Technologies is building to provide 50 million gallons of water daily in the San Diego area starting in November.
But that’s just a trickle compared to the flood of joint projects that could get flowing in the coming dry years.
Israel’s population is 8.3 million, while California’s is 38.8 million. Yet California can implement many aspects of Israel’s holistic approach combining education, technology and water management, says Yossi Yaacoby, director of the WaTech innovation center for Mekorot, Israel’s national water-management consortium. Read more ..
We are at the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II in Europe. That victory did not usher in an era of universal peace. Rather, it introduced a new constellation of powers and a complex balance among them. Europe's great powers and empires declined, and the United States and the Soviet Union replaced them, performing an old dance to new musical instruments. Technology, geopolitics' companion, evolved dramatically as nuclear weapons, satellites and the microchip — among myriad wonders and horrors — changed not only the rules of war but also the circumstances under which war was possible. But one thing remained constant: Geopolitics, technology and war remained inseparable comrades.
It is easy to say what World War II did not change, but what it did change is also important. The first thing that leaps to mind is the manner in which World War II began for the three great powers: the United States, the Soviet Union and the United Kingdom. Read more ..
A group of former IDF soldiers, incensed over an Israeli NGO's claims that they abused Palestinians during last summer’s fighting in Gaza, have taken to social media to fight the allegations.
Under the hashtag #my_truth in Hebrew, the soldiers, many of whom faced heavy fire from Hamas and other terrorist groups during the 50-day Operation Protective Edge, have begun posting stories of cases showing how they went to great lengths to avoid harming Palestinians. They also mentioned cases in which civilians took part in terrorist activity.
The goal of this initiative is to counter damning anonymous testimonies by other troops published by the NGO Breaking the Silence, which frequently publicizes claims that the IDF mistreats Palestinians. Read more ..
To a sound wave, the cosmos has the consistency of chocolate syrup.
That’s one discovery that scientists investigating the Big Bang have made using a new approach that treats the matter in the universe as a peculiar kind of fluid. They have calculated properties that characterize the universe’s behavior and evolution, including its viscosity, or resistance to deformation by sound waves and other disturbances.
“Twenty pascal-seconds is the viscosity of the universe,” said Leonardo Senatore, an assistant professor of physics at Stanford University — just as it is for the ice cream topping.
The viscosity calculation could help cosmologists sleuth out the details of the Big Bang, and possibly someday identify its trigger, by enabling them to track the fluidlike flow of the cosmos back 13.8 billion years to its initial state. Read more ..
They took nothing from their old home, crossed the border by foot in the dark and had gun bullets flying over their heads. Now they serve at the same base in the IDF's elite 8200 intelligence unit. Their story is one of bravery and determination
As they look at pictures and videos showing the ruins of the battle-scarred Syrian city of Aleppo, the three brothers who are now serving in the IDF's elite intelligence 8200 unit can barely recognize the place they grew up in. Channel 2 News Online met them for an exclusive interview.
They were raised as Syrian children, but learned biblical Hebrew in Jewish education centers. Their parents told them from a very early age that someday they were all hoping to flee Syria and make Aliyah to the holy land. When they heard about other families who managed to escape from the Syrian regime and cross the border into Israel, their determination grew stronger. Read more ..
Pope Francis used the word "genocide" on Sunday to describe the 1915 mass murder of Armenians in a move likely to severely strain diplomatic ties with Turkey. "In the past century our human family has lived through three massive and unprecedented tragedies," he said during a solemn mass in Saint Peter's Basilica to mark the centenary of the Ottoman killings of Armenians. "The first, which is widely considered 'the first genocide of the 20th century', struck your own Armenian people," he said, quoting a statement signed by Pope John Paul II and the Armenian patriarch in 2001. Many historians describe the killings as the 20th century's first genocide, but Turkey hotly denies the accusation.
While Francis did not use his own words to describe the murders as genocide, John Paul II's use of the term provoked a sharp reaction from Turkey at the time, and citing the beloved former pope will again ruffle feathers. Read more ..
Matthias Poppel, chief operating officer for EnOcean GmbH claims that all of the technologies are in place to allow the Internet of Things to flourish. All that is needed are the standards and the vision to overcome the fragmented nature of the applications space.
A major challenge implementing the Internet of Things (IoT) is deploying large numbers of sensor and actuator nodes and connecting them in a suitable way. The characteristics of energy-harvesting wireless technology make it the perfect fit to bridge the last mile in an IoT network: small devices working without cables and batteries allowing a simple installation as well as quite easy gradual up-scaling in the number of deployed units. At the same time, the components require minimal service and maintenance effort. Read more ..
Another battle may be brewing between Amazon and one of the world’s largest book publishers.
HarperCollins, which is one of the publishing industry’s “Big Five,” is refusing to sign the exact same contract that three other book publishers just agreed to, reports BusinessInsider, which quotes sources familiar with the situation.
An Amazon spokeswoman confirmed the two companies are in negotiations, saying: “We have offered Harper the same terms for a contract that Simon & Schuster, Hachette and Macmillan have all recently agreed to.”
According to the report, if the two companies don’t come to an agreement before HarperCollins’ current contract runs out, Amazon will stop selling print and digital books from the publisher.
Terror finance trials over the last ten years have frequently involved transfers by individuals of a few thousand dollars to terrorist organizations abroad. Sometimes those cases get as much attention from the news media and law enforcement as multi-million dollar cases of funding terrorism.
This tendency is unfortunate because it causes us to lose sight of the big time patrons of terrorism and their methods. Small transfers are likelier to involve individual actors, small groups, and criminal activity. High-dollar terrorist transactions are likelier to involve state sponsorship, or at least large organizations such as major charities, and sometimes corporations which are targeted for extortion or kidnapping-for-ransom schemes by militants. Read more ..
Approximately two million Children of Israel are now encamped in the Sinai following their extraordinary exodus from Egypt yesterday. Just days ago, they were slaves to Pharaoh. Today, they are free men and women, destined for self-determination in a land of their own. Only now are the details of their fantastic experience coming to light.
The dramatic sequence of events began some weeks ago with the unexpected return of exiled prince Moses, who previously fled Pharaoh’s wrath after slaying a taskmaster. In his daring appearance at the Palace, the inarticulate Moses, speaking through his brother Aaron, declared himself to be the personal emissary of a powerful new "God," previously unknown to the Royal Court. Moreover, Moses asserted that his God was the protector of the Children of Israel, who have been in bondage for more than four centuries in Egypt.
The entire Royal Court was aghast as Moses demanded that the Children of Israel be permitted to travel three days into the desert for an unprecedented "feast and sacrifice" to their God. Making clear that he was not asking a Court indulgence, Moses looked straight at Pharaoh, stamped his roughhewn staff and issued the ultimatum that would be his rallying call during the coming days: "Let my people go."
Laughter echoed throughout the hall as Pharaoh sneered, "Who is your 'God?' I know him not. Nor will I let Israel go!"
Showing little patience, Pharaoh cited reports that Moses had been "disturbing the people from their works" in various building projects wholly dependent upon slave labor. As a punitive measure, Pharaoh proclaimed that henceforth slaves would be compelled to gather their own straw, even as their daily brick quota was maintained. Read more ..
Last week, China's anti-corruption campaign took a significant turn, though a largely overlooked one. The Supreme People's Court released a statement accusing former Politburo Standing Committee member Zhou Yongkang, the highest-ranked official thus far implicated in China's ongoing anti-corruption campaign, of having "trampled the law, damaged unity within the Communist Party, and conducted non-organizational political activities." In Chinese bureaucratic speak, this was only a few steps shy of confirming earlier rumors that Zhou and his former political ally and one-time rising star from Chongqing, Bo Xilai, had plotted a coup to pre-empt or repeal the ascension of Chinese President and Party General Secretary Xi Jinping. Thus, the court's statement marks a radical departure from the hitherto depoliticized official language of the anti-corruption campaign. Read more ..
House Democrats are criticizing President Obama's administration for holding a classified briefing on trade with top administration officials, saying it's an attempt to push a trade program in secret.
Labor Secretary Thomas Perez and U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) Michael Froman will meet with House Democrats on Wednesday in a classified briefing to discuss the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). Members will be allowed to attend the briefing on the proposed trade pact with 12 Latin American and Asian countries with one staff member who possesses an “active Secret-level or high clearance” compliant with House security rules. Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) stated that the administration is being “needlessly secretive.” Read more ..
Last month, in a breathtaking display of anti-Semitism reminiscent of Nazi Germany, members of the student government at South Africa’s Durban University of Technology (DUT) called for the expulsion of all Jewish students from their campus. The very next day, halfway around the world, the student government at University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) engaged in a similar display of anti-Jewish bigotry, nearly denying a highly qualified young woman a position on the student judiciary board after four student representatives brazenly argued that her Jewishness and affiliation with Jewish organizations should make her ineligible for the position. Read more ..
“It’s a hard time to be a Danish Jew whether you’re in Denmark or living outside the country,” said Shimon following the deadly attacks in Copenhagen this past weekend that left Jewish security guard, Dan Uzan dead. “Most people are shocked in the Danish Jewish community. Copenhagen is no longer this isolated paradise – there are real dangers.”
The small Jewish community of Denmark, which numbers around 6,400 people today, was the first Scandinavian country to open its doors to Jews. In 1622, King Christian IV welcomed Spanish and Portuguese Jews from Hamburg and Amsterdam and 62 years later, King Christian V ordained the establishment of a unified Jewish community. During the Holocaust, the Danish resistance movement smuggled 7,220 Jews in fishing boats to the safety of neutral Sweden during the German occupation. Read more ..
For much of its brief history, robot-assisted surgery has been synonymous with Intuitive Surgical, Inc.’s da Vinci system. It’s the only robot with U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval to help surgeons perform a number of laparoscopic soft-tissue procedures, including hysterectomies, gall bladder and kidney removals, prostate cancer treatment and heart valve operations. Da Vinci has improved vastly since Intuitive introduced it more than a decade ago. Like many new technologies, however, it has experienced growing pains, leading some engineers and medical professionals to question whether a single company can meet growing demand while still delivering a safe product.
A team of researchers is looking to address these issues by developing a robotic surgery system based on hardware designs and software that are freely available. In this open-source approach, the builders would keep whatever intellectual property they’ve invested in the project but must make their knowledge and discoveries available to others. Read more ..
At an event in Beijing last November, I had the good fortune to meet the French economist Thomas Piketty, who has sold 1.5 million copies of his book, Capital in the Twenty-First Century, since it was first published in 2013. Pacing up and down in front of a packed auditorium, Piketty explained that because the rate of return on capital is now higher than the growth rate of the global economy, the proportion of the world's wealth that is owned by a small elite will likely keep increasing; in other words, we should expect to see a divergence of wealth as the rich get much richer. As his book says, "capitalism automatically generates arbitrary and unsustainable inequalities that radically undermine the meritocratic values on which democratic societies are based."
No strategic forecaster can afford to ignore this alarming prediction — or the enthusiastic response it got from the audience in Beijing. In the 20th century, the two world wars were the only force powerful enough to reverse the concentration of wealth in the elite and the mounting class conflict; in the 21st century, we seem to be falling back into a comparable world of revolution, political extremism and mass violence. Read more ..
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday doubled down on his intention to speak to a joint session of Congress next month, despite criticism from Democrats who say they will boycott the event.
Netanyahu said he fully intended to make the speech and that he will use the moment to criticize negotiations the Obama administration is holding with Iran, which he argues are endangering Israel. "A bad deal with Iran is forming in Munich that will endanger Israel's existence," Netanyahu said at an event for his Likud Party, according to The Associated Press. "Therefore, I am determined to go to Washington and present Israel's position before the members of Congress and the American people." Read more ..
Every country worldwide will be building walls to defend itself from rising seas within 90 years because the cost of flooding will be more expensive than the price of protective projects, researchers predict in a new study.
The encroaching seawater threatens to flood hundreds of millions of people every year by 2100 as homes that are already below flood heights, or will be, succumb to climbing oceans. If governments fail to take any action, the annual cost of damage stands to reach hundreds of billions of dollars, at best, and as high as $100 trillion under grimmer scenarios, according to the paper, in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
The bleakest outcome could result in nearly 5 percent of the world's population facing yearly floods that drain almost 10 percent from the globe's economy, the paper says. That would require a collision of severe scenarios that involve leaping ocean levels, high numbers of people living along seashores and a lack of defensive efforts. Read more ..
Congressional legislators were astonished last year to learn that the Palestinian Authority was issuing monthly payouts totaling $3-7 million as salaries and other financial rewards to specific terrorists and their families. The money was channeled, in part, through the Ministry of Prisoners pursuant to the Law of the Prisoner. The law set forth a graduated scale, pegging monthly salaries to the length of Israeli jail sentences, which generally reflects the severity of the crime and the number of people killed and/or injured.
Thousands of documents, newly obtained by this reporter through a lawsuit to unseal court-protected files, demonstrate that these payouts are not blind automated payments. Rather, senior Palestinian Authority officials as high as President Mahmoud Abbas scrutinize the details of each case, the specific carnage caused, and the personal details of each terrorist act before approving salaries and awarding honorary ranks in either the PA government or the military. Ministry of Prisoners spokesman Amr Nasser has explained, “We are very proud of this program and we have nothing to hide.” Nonetheless, in response to the international furor, the Palestinian Authority announced it would replace the Ministry of Prisoners with an outside PLO commission known as the Higher National Commission for Prisoners and Detainees Affairs.
The PA is dependent upon foreign donor countries to supply much of its budget, which now exceeds $4.2 billion annually. About ten percent of the PA budget, more than $400 million, is contributed annually by United States foreign aid. The US and many other countries have enacted laws forbidding any payments when the monies directly or indirectly support or encourage terrorism. The interdepartmental bureaucratic notations the Palestinian Authority has recorded on each terrorist before approving the level of salaried compensation is extensive. For example, one prominent case involved Ahmad Talab Mustafa Barghouti, who personally coordinated numerous terrorist acts. These included a January 2002 shooting spree on Jaffa Street in Jerusalem, killing two and wounding 37; a March 2002 shooting spree at a Tel Aviv restaurant, killing three and wounding 31; and finally a March 27, 2002 attempt to smuggle an explosive suicide belt in an ambulance. The Israel Defense Forces arrested Ahmad. On July 30, 2002, a military court concluded that he was responsible for murdering 12 Israelis, and Barghouti was sentenced to 13 life sentences. Read more ..
Argentine President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner announced Jan. 26 that she would reform her country's civilian intelligence organization, the Intelligence Secretariat (SI). Soon after, the office of the president said it would submit a draft law to reform the SI to the Senate on Feb. 3. In addition to changing the organization's name to the Federal Intelligence Agency, the reform is expected to significantly weaken the SI by limiting its ability to gather signals intelligence, revealing a wider political dispute.
Fernandez's motivations for reforming the SI are not completely clear, but concerns that criminal charges could be brought against her and other members of the government once they leave office might have been a factor. Moreover, though the reform appears to be immediately motivated by concerns over the SI's loyalty to Fernandez, it may significantly affect how the Argentine security apparatus functions long after her term in office ends.
Although the Fernandez government has not released the details, the reforms would drastically alter the way the SI functions. Previously, the organization could engage in domestic intelligence collection after obtaining a federal judge's approval, but the new reform will likely require more steps and more oversight. A federal judge would have to request a warrant to conduct intelligence gathering from the prosecutor general's office, and the actual collection process would be either conducted or overseen by that office. The president appoints the prosecutor general, and approval of the reform would grant this post, currently filled by Gils Carbo, significant intelligence collection abilities for the remainder of Fernandez's presidency and likely into the next presidency. Read more ..