The Way We Are
|Tom Balmforth||June 16th 2013|
He gained renown as the champion of a law against "gay propaganda." He memorably crossed swords with Madonna. And now Vitaly Milonov has a new bone to pick -- fast food.
Milonov, a lawmaker in the St. Petersburg Legislative Assembly, is calling for national legislation to regulate the quality of Russian food and impose limits on the amount of unsaturated fat present in foodstuffs, high levels of which can contribute to heart disease.
On June 5, the St. Petersburg Legislative Assembly passed the first reading of a bill to this effect. It will soon be sent on to the Russian State Duma for consideration at the national level. The legislation proposes outlawing the production, import, and trade of food containing over 2 percent trans fatty acids. Milonov is also calling for such foods to contain a health warning. He singled out fast food restaurants as the worst offenders and expressed hope that his initiative would improve diets. Milonov has also proposed requiring restaurants to label the nutritional value of food on menus. Read more ..
The Architectural Edge
|Antoine Blua||June 15th 2013|
The weight of the traditional steel cable that hoists today's elevators has prevented them going any higher than 500 meters in one run. That means that people going up and down inside the world's tallest building, Dubai's 828-meter-high Burj Khalifa tower, need to switch lifts to go above the top mark.
But in London this week one of the world's leaders in the elevator industry, Finland’s Kone, unveiled its new UltraRope.
Kone President and CEO Matti Alahuhta claims this innovation will "revolutionize the elevator industry for the tallest segment of buildings across the globe." "Kone has an impressive record of new industry innovations," he says. "This is again a major, new breakthrough. And the long-term business opportunities, they indeed look very, very interesting." Read more ..
Greece on Edge
|Saleah Hennessy||June 15th 2013|
Greek police carrying out a crackdown on irregular migration are accused of conducting abusive stop and searches and detaining thousands of people, according to a report published Wednesday. Human Rights Watch says people are being treated unfairly based on their race or ethnicity.
“There are police patrols deployed daily in the center of Athens who are stopping people presumed to be undocumented migrants," says Eva Cossé, a Greece specialist at Human Rights Watch and author of the report. "If you take a look in the center of Athens you will see police officers with 10, 20 people who look like migrants behind them.” Afterwards they are detained on police buses, brought to police stations and held for hours, she said. Read more ..
The Automotive Edge
|Julien Happich||June 14th 2013|
Global V2V penetration into new vehicles will increase from just over 10 percent in 2018 to 70 percent in 2027, with the EU, US, and Japan as key regions adopting V2V in the mid-term.
“V2X market and regulatory dynamics vary greatly from region to region. While the US will decide whether or not to mandate V2X by the end of 2013 with implementation not expected before 2018, in Europe the CAR 2 CAR Communication Consortium (C2C-CC) has issued a MoU signed by major vehicle OEMs including Audi, BMW, Daimler, Honda, Man, Opel, PSA, Renault, Volkswagen, and Volvo committing to deploying pan-European standard Cooperative Intelligent Transport Systems by 2015 to improve road safety, traffic efficiency, and sustainable driving in line with the 2010 ITS EU Directive,” says VP and practice director Dominique Bonte. With multiple trials taking place or planned in the US, Europe, Japan, and Australia and overall awareness about the benefits of cooperative systems increasing, 2013 is clearly a pivotal year for the future of V2X and the use of reserved DRSC spectrum in particular. Read more ..
|Richard H.P. Sia||June 13th 2013|
Center for Public Integrity
|NSA data center|
The Obama administration promised four years ago that it would significantly shrink the number of private contractors working for U.S. intelligence agencies. But a key member of Congress said this week she remains unconvinced the administration has done enough to shift critical intelligence-related jobs back to government employees. The most recent public data from the intelligence community depict a one-year decline of 1 percent in the number of contractors holding security clearances, leaving private-sector workers still holding about 22 percent of all those clearances. In the wake of new controversy about such work, stemming from the recent leak of secrets about U.S. surveillance tactics by a federal contract employee in Washington, officials this week cited the decline as a sign of the administration’s commitment to reduce the outsourcing of intelligence work, reversing a hasty expansion of the contractor population after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. Read more ..
Washington's Republicans and Democrats are haggling over how to finance higher education, including details like the interest rates that students pay for loans. Recent graduates, who are burdened with an average of $26,000 in loans, are watching the debate closely. But some economists say the real issue is controlling the soaring cost of college at a time when post-secondary schooling is crucial to getting a good job and a middle class salary. Experts say these high costs are hurting the whole economy, not just students and their families.
Joshua Jordan earned a doctorate degree in physical therapy. He hopes to open his own practice someday, and says having the expensive graduate degree is good for his patients - but hard on his wallet. “I am currently in debt for $210,000,” he said. Read more ..
America and Azerbaijan
|George Friedman||June 11th 2013|
There is a point where three great powers -- Russia, Turkey and Persia -- meet: the Caucasus. At the moment they converge in a country called Azerbaijan. That fact makes Azerbaijan a battleground for these three great powers, which have competed with each other along various borders for centuries. Until 1991 Azerbaijan was part of the Soviet Union, as was the rest of the South Caucasus. But as the Russian border moved north, Armenia, Georgia and Azerbaijan were once more unveiled by history. Of the three, Azerbaijan won the geopolitical prize of bordering the three great regional powers.
It also emerged as a major energy producer. At the end of the 19th century, half of the oil in the world was produced in Azerbaijan, whose oil fields around the capital, Baku, were developed by the Nobel brothers, famed for dynamite and prizes. This is where they made their fortune. I had the pleasure of dining at their mansion a few years ago, a guest of government officials. Whatever others might have thought in that elegant house, I thought of Hitler urgently trying to reach Baku and its oil, and the fact that his disaster at Stalingrad was actually part of his attempt to seize Azerbaijan's oil fields. Azerbaijan was once the prize of empire. It is now independent in a very dangerous place. Read more ..
Pakistan on Edge
|Sailab Mahsud and Antoine Blue||June 10th 2013|
Tribal elders in a a northwestern Pakistani region are taking extreme measures in an effort to bring electricity to their area, saying that as long as they have no electricity they won't vaccinate their children against polio.
Several hundred residents from villages in Lakki Marwat district staged a protest demonstration on June 10 and turned away polio-eradication teams.
Village elder Zaitullah Betanai stated that polio teams will not be allowed to go about their work until the central government accepts the villagers' demands. "There is an electricity supply line but no electricity, and there is no electricity transformer in the area," Zaitullah said. "We have no mosquito kits and no spray against mosquitoes is arranged so far. Also, there is no ambulance in the area. We want the government to address the four demands immediately." Read more ..
The Urban Edge
|Larry Hardesty||June 9th 2013|
In 2010, in the journal Nature, a pair of physicists at the Santa Fe Institute showed that when the population of a city doubles, economic productivity goes up by an average of 130 percent. Not only does total productivity increase with increased population, but so does per-capita productivity.
In the latest issue of Nature Communications, researchers from the MIT Media Laboratory’s Human Dynamics Lab propose a new explanation for that “superlinear scaling”: Increases in urban population density give residents greater opportunity for face-to-face interaction.
The new paper builds on previous work by the same group, which showed that increasing employees’ opportunities for face-to-face interaction could boost corporations’ productivity. Read more ..
Obama's Second Term
Center for Public Integrity
U.S. District Judge Roger Vinson, who signed an order requiring Verizon to give the National Security Agency telephone records for tens of millions of American customers, attended an expense-paid judicial seminar sponsored by a libertarian think tank that featured lectures from a vocal proponent of executive branch powers.
Vinson, whose term on the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court began in 2006 and expired last month, was the only member of the special court to attend the August 2008 conference sponsored by the Foundation for Research on Economics & the Environment, according to disclosure records filed by the federal judge.
Disclosure records were collected as part of an investigative report that revealed how large corporations and conservative foundations routinely sponsor ideologically driven educational conferences for state and federal judges.
It’s unclear which lectures Vinson attended during the “Terrorism, Civil Liberty, & National Security” seminar. FREE’s website only provides a general agenda for the program and no lecture transcripts. Read more ..
Africa on Edge
Leaders of some of the world’s top foundations say much more needs to be done to encourage the hopes, dreams and ambitions of young girls. The issue was discussed at the Women Deliver conference in the Malaysian capital, Kuala Lumpur.
United Nations Foundation President and CEO Kathy Calvin said investing in girls has long term benefits.
“If we don’t put a girl first, if we don’t start with a girl, we may never have the opportunity to help her as a woman. If you address a girl’s issues across the board, you have a really good chance of ensuring that she will have an opportunity to live a long and healthier life – changing both her life and her family’s.” Maria Eitel, President and CEO of the Nike Foundation, said that often there’s a small window of opportunity to intervene on behalf of girls. Read more ..
The Way We Are
|Henry Ridgwell||June 6th 2013|
Britain has apologized and agreed to pay compensation to thousands of veterans of the Mau Mau nationalist uprising in Kenya, which was brutally suppressed by the British colonial government in the 1950s. It could pave the way for further claims against Britain for its actions in its former colonies.
The uprising by Mau Mau nationalists in 1950s Kenya was brutally suppressed by the British colonial government.
The Kenya Human Rights Commission estimates that 90,000 Kenyans were killed or maimed and 160,000 detained. Torture and rape were common. More than 50 years later, British Foreign Secretary William Hague has apologized and agreed to pay compensation. Read more ..
Palestine on Edge
|Martin Barillas||June 6th 2013|
Cutting Edge Senior Correspondent
Five Christian schools in Gaza face closure if the Hamas-controlled government insists on an order forbidding such co-educational institutions, in accordance with the terrorist group’s interpretation of Islamic law. Rev. Faysal Hijazin, the director of schools for the Latin Catholic Patriarchate in Israel and Palestine said of the controversy, “This will be a big problem. We hope they will not go through with it, but if they do, we will be in big trouble. We don’t have the space and we don’t have the money to divide our schools.”
Fr. Hijazin said on June 3 that although the order did not single out the Christian schools, the five are the only schools with mixed enrolment in Gaza. “We hope they will not go through with it, but if they do, we will be in big trouble. We don’t have the space and we don’t have the money to divide our schools,” he said. Read more ..
Azerbaijan on Edge
|Robert Coalson||June 5th 2013|
If you didn’t know any better, you’d think that dissidents in much of the former Soviet Union were a bunch of foul-mouthed junkie pornographers.
In March, police in Azerbaijan arrested Mahammad Azizov on drugs charges. A few weeks later, they picked up Dashgin Malikov. Days later, Taleh Bagirov was nabbed. On May 9, it was Rashad Ramazonov's turn.
What all these young men have in common, besides denying the charges, is their outspoken criticism of the government of Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev. Azizov and Malikov belong to opposition groups. Bagirov is an imam who gave a sermon criticizing Aliyev days before his arrest. Ramazanov is an opposition blogger.
Rounding up opposition activists on odd and often spurious charges, drug-related or otherwise, is not unique to Azerbaijan. From Russia to Ukraine to Belarus, activists have been charged with crimes ranging from distributing pornography to smuggling caviar to cursing in public.
Heather McGill is a researcher for the London-based rights group Amnesty International. She maintains that the prosecution of activists under various nonpolitical charges complicates the work of organizations such as hers as they try to identify and defend political prisoners. The tactic also provides political cover for authoritarian regimes, she says, as "governments are very keen to claim that they don’t have political prisoners."
"If you claim somebody has committed a criminal offense, then it makes it harder for people to defend that person," she says. "It just makes the case more complex for us and we need to be very, very careful in researching whether that person has in fact done what the authorities claim they have." Read more ..
The Edge of Labor
|Daviel Fowler||June 5th 2013|
American Sociological Association
A new study suggests that the decline of labor unions, partly as an outcome of computerization, is the main reason why U.S. corporate profits have surged as a share of national income while workers' wages and other compensation have declined.
The study, "The Capitalist Machine: Computerization, Workers' Power, and the Decline in Labor's Share within U.S. Industries," explores an important dimension of economic inequality that has been largely overlooked in research and the national discourse.
"Most of the research on growing economic inequality focuses on rising earnings inequality among workers, including the growing income share of the top 1 or 10 percent," said study author Tali Kristal. "But this is only part of the overall picture on rising economic inequality, or as Nobel Prize-winning economist and New York Times columnist Paul Krugman writes, this 'may be yesterday's story.' The other part is the distribution of national income, the total economic pie, between workers' compensation ('labor's share') and corporate profits. It's a zero sum game: whatever is not going to the workers goes to the corporations." Read more ..
|Joe Eaton and David Donald||June 4th 2013|
Center for Public Integrity
Aging Americans worried about their droopy upper eyelids often rely on the plastic surgeon’s scalpel to turn back the hands of time. Increasingly, Medicare is footing the bill.
Yes, Medicare. The public health insurance program for people over 65 typically does not cover cosmetic surgery, but for cases in which a patient’s sagging eyelids significantly hinder their vision, it does pay to have them lifted. In recent years, though, a rapid rise in the number of so-called functional eyelid lifts, or blepharoplasty, has led some to question whether Medicare is letting procedures that are really cosmetic slip through the cracks — at a cost of millions of dollars.
As the Obama administration and Congress wrestle over how to restrain Medicare’s growing pricetag, critics say program administrators should be more closely inspecting rapidly proliferating procedures like blepharoplasty to make sure taxpayers are not getting ripped off.
From 2001 to 2011, eyelid lifts charged to Medicare more than tripled to 136,000 annually, according to a review of physician billing data by the Center for Public Integrity. In 2001, physicians billed taxpayers a total of $20 million for the procedure. By 2011, the price tag had quadrupled to $80 million. The number of physicians billing the surgery more than doubled. Read more ..
The Iranian Threat
A top Argentinian prosecutor has said new evidence strengthens the case against high-ranking Iranian officials accused of involvement in the decades-old bombing of a Jewish center in Buenos Aires in which 85 people were killed and around 300 more wounded.
Alberto Nisman, who presented a 500-page indictment to a federal judge in Buenos Aires on May 29, said intelligence reports from South America, Europe, and the United States underscores the role Iranian officials and diplomats had in sponsoring the 1994 attack on the Asociacion Mutual Israelita Argentina (AMIA) center.
Argentinian courts in 2006 charged eight current and former senior Iranian officials, along with a Lebanese national, with involvement in the attack. The Argentinian government has secured from Interpol international arrest warrants against the eight men. Tehran, which has vehemently denied the allegations, has refused to extradite the suspects to face trial in Argentina. Read more ..
The Cyber Edge
Cybercrime strikes an estimated 1.5 million people every day. That’s about 18 victims every second, 556 million people around the world, every year. While experts say the people who commit these crimes are becoming more sophisticated, you don’t have to be another statistic. There are effective ways businesses and individuals can minimize their risks.
Protecting organizations and individuals from data thieves is a multibillion-dollar industry. There's a good reason. Alan Edwards, the president of WhiteHorse Technology Solutions says anyone with access to the Internet should be worried - because cybercrime is no longer limited to your home, your office or your bank. Read more ..
The Natural Edge
As the crocodile population reaches levels not seen since hunting was banned in Australia’s Northern Territory in the early 1970s, wildlife authorities are reinforcing efforts to protect residents and tourists. School children are taking part in a new “Crocwise” campaign following several fatal attacks in recent years and other near-misses. It is estimated there are 130,000 saltwater crocodiles in northern Australia.
The message to schoolchildren in Darwin is simple: that one of nature’s most efficient killers lives among them.
Rachel Pearce, from the Parks and Wildlife Commission of the Northern Territory, tod schoolchildren in Darwin of the dangers posed by the world’s largest reptile. She showed them a crocodile’s skull, where rows of sharp teeth are embedded. Read more ..
|Dave Levinthal||June 2nd 2013|
Center for Public Integrity
Tobacco giant Reynolds American Inc. last year helped fund several of the nation’s most politically active — and secretive — nonprofit organizations, according to a company document.
Reynolds American’s contributions include $175,000 to Americans for Tax Reform, a nonprofit led by anti-tax activist Grover Norquist, and $50,000 to Americans for Prosperity, a free-market advocacy outfit heavily backed by billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch.
The tobacco company’s donations are just a fraction of the nearly $50 million that those two groups reported spending on political advocacy ads during the 2012 election cycle, almost exclusively on negative advertising. Federal records show that Americans for Prosperity alone sponsored more than $33 million in attack ads that directly targeted President Barack Obama. Read more ..
The Battle for Syria
|Charles Recknagel||June 1st 2013|
Russia's S-300 missile system could dramatically change the stakes in the Syrian conflict if it is sent to Damascus, which Russia has signed a contract to do. Here are laid out five things to know about the air-defense system.
What are the capabilities of the S-300 system?
The S-300 missile system is designed to shoot down aircraft and missiles at a range of 5-to-150 kilometers. That gives it the ability to destroy not only attackers in Syrian airspace but also any attackers inside Israel.
It can track and strike multiple targets simultaneously at altitudes ranging from 10 meters to 27,000 meters.
"The S-300 is Russia's top-of-the-range air-defense system," says Robert Hewson, the London-based editor of "IHS Jane's Air-Launched Weapons." Read more ..
The Edge of Healthcare
|Carol Pearson||May 31st 2013|
May 31 is World No Tobacco Day. The message from the World Health Organization to governments around the globe is to ban tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship. That's to try and prevent children from taking up smoking and to encourage smokers to quit. Tobacco kills nearly six million people every year, and the numbers are only expected to rise.
Terrie Hall is a former smoker. Her grandchildren will never know what she sounded like before she got cancer. She appears in a public service announcement: "If you're a smoker, I have a tip for you. Make a video of yourself before all this happens. Read a children's story book, or sing a lullaby. I wish I had."
Hall is part of a new campaign from The US Centers for Disease Control (CDC) that features stories from former smokers. Bill Busse is another former smoker. "Last year they amputated my left leg because of poor circulation. After surgery, I reached down and found that my foot wasn’t there anymore. That was the day I quit," he recalled. The campaign has renewed interest in quitting, according to Dr. Thomas Frieden of the CDC. "Quitting smoking is the single most effective thing you can do to improve your health," he said. Read more ..
The Edge of Climate Change
|Rosanne Skirble||May 30th 2013|
The 2013 Atlantic Hurricane season could be busier and deadlier than average, according to predictions released Thursday by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration or NOAA.
The six-month seasonal outlook for Atlantic storms will be above average says Jerry Bell, lead Atlantic hurricane forecaster with NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center.
“The outlook is calling for 13 to 20 named storms, of which we expect 7 to 11 to become hurricanes and three to six to become major hurricanes. So this is a lot of activity that we are predicting for this year,” Bell said. These ranges are well above the typical season of 12 named storms, six hurricanes and three major hurricanes. Bell says it is due to a confluence of climatic factors. Read more ..
Edge of Immigration
|Kent Paterson||May 30th 2013|
A high-ranking official from the Mexican state of Guerrero told the press that U.S. deportations of his compatriots are having economic consequences. Netzahualcoyotl Bustamante Santin, Guerrero state migrant secretary, said stepped-up deportations mean a significant reduction in the migrant remittances which have emerged as a mainstay of the Mexican economy in recent decades, especially in Guerrero and other impoverished regions of the nation.
According to Bustamante, more than 28,000 migrants from Guerrero were deported from the U.S. in 2012, putting the southern state in the third place ranking for Mexican deportees’ place of origin. On a break from a tour of communities in the northern part of the state, Bustamante said the economic effects of deportation could be gauged by comparing the amount of remittances received in Guerrero between January and March of this year, when $279 million entered the state, with the same months for 2012, when $309 million flowed into the entity. Read more ..
Iran on Edge
|Golnaz Esfandiari||May 29th 2013|
Iranian presidential candidate and former top nuclear negotiator Hassan Rohani has accused the country’s state-controlled broadcaster of unethical behavior and lies.
He voiced the criticism on May 27 during his first television interview as a candidate with Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB), during which he defended his past performance as nuclear negotiator and rejected accusations that he had been too soft in dealings with the West.
Rohani, who was Iran’s nuclear envoy from 2003 to 2005 and is considered a moderate, suggested that the interviewer, or people at the station behind the scenes, were "illiterate."
He made the comment in response to a question by the interviewer, who said Rohani had presided over a suspension of Iran’s nuclear program. "What you said is a lie, you know it yourself it’s a lie," said a smiling Rohani. He continued, "We suspended the program? We completed the technology. When I say ‘we,’ I don’t mean me, I mean our nuclear scientists." Read more ..
The Center for Public Integrity
British woman living on goat-tramped Caribbean outcropping listed as director for more than 1,200 companies.
At the age of 38, Bradford-born Sarah Petre-Mears is running one of the biggest business empires on earth. Or so it would appear.
Official records show her controlling more than 1,200 companies across the Caribbean, the Republic of Ireland, New Zealand and the UK itself. Her business partner, Edward Petre-Mears, is listed as a director of at least another 1,100 international firms.
But the true location of this major businesswoman is mysterious.
The UK companies register lists 12 different addresses for her, several in London. But none are real homes: several are Post Office boxes, collecting mail for hundreds of different locations, while others merely house the offices of incorporation agencies. Read more ..
The Water's Edge
|Terry Collins||May 28th 2013|
A conference of 500 leading water scientists from around the world today issued a stark warning that, without major reforms, "in the short span of one or two generations, the majority of the 9 billion people on Earth will be living under the handicap of severe pressure on fresh water, an absolutely essential natural resource for which there is no substitute. This handicap will be self-inflicted and is, we believe, entirely avoidable."
The scientists bluntly pointed to chronic underlying problems led by mismanagement and sent a prescription to policy makers in a 1,000-word declaration issued at the end of a four-day meeting in Bonn, Germany, "Water in the Anthropocene," organized by the Global Water System Project and detailed in a pre-conference release.
The full text of the Bonn Declaration: reads:
In the short span of one or two generations, the majority of the 9 billion people on Earth will be living under the handicap of severe pressure on fresh water, an absolutely essential natural resource for which there is no substitute. This handicap will be self-inflicted and is, we believe, entirely avoidable. Read more ..
Libya after Gadhafi
|Selah Hennessy||May 28th 2013|
The end of Moammar Gadhafi's 40-year rule in 2011 was a watershed moment for women, said a new report from Human Rights Watch. Women's rights are at contention as the country begins to draft a new constitution following four decades of dictatorship. The Libyan revolution was an "earthquake" to the cultural status of women in Libya, according to Human Rights Watch.
Liesl Gerntholtz, the group's women’s rights director, said, "Women particularly feel that their participation in the revolution needs to be valued and that they need to be able to continue to be fully part of public life in Libya. But at the same time they want the tools to challenge the discrimination they feel in their private lives as well." Read more ..
The Edge of Space
|Janet Anderson||May 27th 2013|
Magnetars – the dense remains of dead stars that erupt sporadically with bursts of high-energy radiation - are some of the most extreme objects known in the Universe.A major campaign using NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory and several other satellites shows magnetars may be more diverse - and common - than previously thought.
When a massive star runs out of fuel, its core collapses to form a neutron star, an ultradense object about 10 to 15 miles wide. The gravitational energy released in this process blows the outer layers away in a supernova explosion and leaves the neutron star behind.
Most neutron stars are spinning rapidly - a few times a second - but a small fraction have a relatively low spin rate of once every few seconds, while generating occasional large blasts of X-rays. Because the only plausible source for the energy emitted in these outbursts is the magnetic energy stored in the star, these objects are called "magnetars." Read more ..
Israel and Palestine
|Avi Issacharoff||May 26th 2013|
“I am still waiting for a phone call from him,” former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert tells TheTower.org in an exclusive interview.
Revealing never before heard details of talks with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, Olmert was referring to the proposal for a peace agreement that he presented to Abbas in the afternoon hours of a Tuesday, September 16, 2008 meeting in the Prime Minister’s residence in Jerusalem.
“At the end of the meeting” Olmert recalled this week, “we called Saeb Erekat [chief negotiator for PLO] and Shalom [Shalom Turjeman, Olmert's diplomatic adviser]. We asked them to meet the following day, Wednesday, together with map experts, in order to arrive at a final formula for the border between Palestine and Israel.” Read more ..
The Battle for Syria
|Charles Recknagel and Samira Ali Mandee||May 25th 2013|
No one knows precisely how many Iraqi volunteers are crossing the border to fight in Syria, but it is clear there are enough to keep a steady stream of corpses returning home for burial.
The funeral this month of Dhia Mutashar Gatie al-Issawi in Basra is one of many. The young bricklayer, 26, died earlier this month in Damascus while fighting for the Syrian government.
How he got to Syria remains a closely guarded secret. But there was nothing secretive about the funeral, which brought out scores of proud mourners. His brother, Mustafa Mutashar, says he died defending Shi'ite tombs in Syria from desecration.
"At the time, he said that he was going to seek martyrdom defending [the shrine of] Saida Zainab, and our pride increased when we learned of his martyrdom, since we are Shi'ite," Mutashar states. "The funeral procession stretched from Shalamcha to here. It was attended by a representative of the Said's office [of Iraqi Shi'ite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr]." Families Fear Kyrgyz Sons Are Making Way To Syrian Battlefield Read more ..
|Prangtip Daorueng, Prasong Lertrattanavisuth, Sanoh Sukcharoen and Montree Juimoungsri ||May 24th 2013|
Nearly 600 Thais have owned offshore companies in the British Virgin Islands and other havens.
Politicians and billionaire business magnates are among the prominent Thais listed in secret documents as owners of offshore holdings in tropical tax havens.
The list includes the former wife of ousted Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, a sitting senator, a former high-ranking defense ministry official, Forbes-listed tycoons, and a former government minister whose assets in the United States are frozen because of her alleged links to Zimbabwean dictator Robert Mugabe.
Documents obtained by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) and examined by Bangkok-based news portal Isra show nearly 600 Thais owning offshore companies in overseas havens such as the British Virgin Islands (BVI) and the Cook Islands. Some of the entities owned by politicians have been previously self-declared under tough local anti-graft laws, but at least one may have escaped scrutiny from authorities. Read more ..
Iran on Edge
|Mehdi Khalaji||May 24th 2013|
Although Iran will not hold its presidential election until June 14, the winners and losers are already clear. The biggest losers are Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and outgoing president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad; the biggest winner is former president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani.
Rafsanjani Winning before the Vote
In mid-May, the Guardian Council—with Khamenei’s consent, and perhaps even at his request—disqualified Rafsanjani from running in the election. However difficult the decision may have been, it was also essential for Khamenei’s plans. Since 2009, Rafsanjani has become known as a vocal critic of the Supreme Leader and Ahmadinejad. In recent months, reformists began to support his candidacy because they knew that the Guardian Council would prevent their own prominent candidates from running. Read more ..
The Edge of Terrorism
|Walid Phares||May 23rd 2013|
Cutting Edge Terrorism Analyst
The savage slaughtering of a British soldier on the streets of Woolwich, England is not a common random crime; it is an act of terror, an expression of relentless war that is inspired by a jihadist ideology and sponsored by an international network of Salafist indoctrination. The this assertion comes just hours after the killing is to simply repeat points made in reports on similarly-inspired bloody attacks in the West in recent years. Rather, it is to prevent disorienting a shocked public by propaganda being diffused by apologists spreading intellectual chaos, covering up for the real culprit, and confusing audiences in Great Britain and around the world with irrelevant arguments. We will hear some pushing the argument of root causes being the Western presence in Muslim lands.
The two assassins made sure to shout their “political motives” and the cri de guerre, “Allahu Akbar,” in a determined way. They said their actions were in response to Western occupation of Muslim lands. That is the same excuse that was repeatedly given by Osama bin Laden and his al Qaeda jihadists in the 1990s, and increasingly since 2001. The two perpetrators are British citizens, but they act as citizens of the “umma” in defense of an emerging Caliphate. They do not speak on behalf of a community; they speak on behalf of a movement that claims to speak on behalf of a community. In short, they are jihadists, regardless of whether they are rank and file al Qaeda or not. They are part of a movement solidly anchored in a doctrine whether they act as individuals, a pair, or two commandos dispatched by a larger group. Read more ..
|Frederic Zalac, Alex Shprintsen, Zach Dubinsky and Harvey Cashore||May 22nd 2013|
Lawyer Tony Merchant, Canada’s “class action king,” sought secrecy for Cook Islands trust. A prominent Canadian lawyer, husband to a Liberal senator, moved CA$1.7 million (US$1.1 million) to secretive financial havens while he was locked in battle with the Canada Revenue Agency over his taxes, according to documents in a massive leak of offshore financial data.
Tony Merchant of Saskatchewan, dubbed Canada's class-action king because of the large settlements he has won for his clients, transferred the money to a tax haven in the South Pacific and then onward to an account in the Caribbean, according to the files. His wife, Canadian Senator Pana Merchant, and their three sons were named in the documents as beneficiaries of the funds.
The transactions are detailed in a leak of offshore financial information obtained by the Washington, D.C.-based International Consortium of Investigative Journalists. The data covered more than 120,000 offshore companies and private trusts in the Cook Islands and other offshore havens. The Merchants are among the more than 400 Canadians whose names are included in the secret records. Tony Merchant didn’t reply to several requests from CBC News to discuss the matter. Read more ..
Pakistan on Edge
|Daud Khattak and Frud Bezhan||May 21st 2013|
One of the many religious minorities whose plight is documented in the latest U.S. State Department report on religious freedom is the Ahmadiyya community, or the Ahmadis.
The Ahmadis consider themselves Muslim, but that is a view rejected by mainstream Islamic sects. And in Pakistan, Ahmadis have come under assault not only from extremist religious groups but also from the government.
Pakistan’s minority Ahmadi sect has become the target of rising sectarian violence, with its burial grounds, mosques, and homes coming under assault. Authorities have done little to stem the attacks, with the government still refusing to grant the community equal status. Read more ..
The Edge of Healthcare
A new study says little is being done to meet the growing demand for modern contraception methods in poor countries. The Guttmacher Institute says there’s an increasing desire for smaller families.
Guttmacher says between 2003 and 2012 the number of women wanting to avoid pregnancy – and in need of modern contraception – rose from 716 million to 867 million. The sharpest increase was seen, it says, in the 69 poorest countries “where modern method use was already very low.”
Senior fellow Jacqueline Darroch co-authored the study with Susheela Singh and published their findings in a special edition of The Lancet medical journal. Darroch said that the figures are based on household surveys.
“The Guttmacher Institute for a long time has focused on issues of reproductive health and especially the high rates of unplanned child bearing and unplanned pregnancies across the world – the United States, as well as other countries. And part of the answer to both why we have such high rates of unintended pregnancy – and part of the solution – has to do with contraceptive use.” Read more ..
Afghanistan on Edge
|Abubakar Siddique||May 19th 2013|
he very public trading of graft accusations in Afghanistan's parliament this week has all of Kabul talking. It has turned the country's finance minister into an instant hero but also kindled hopes that the issue of corruption will finally be addressed in a more serious manner.
Finance Minister Omar Zakhilwal became an overnight sensation, when, facing potential impeachment, he turned the tables on lawmakers by publicly naming and shaming deputies allegedly involved in corrupt practices. Zakhilwal's detailed accusations shed a spotlight on the world of graft and influence peddling that has come to be associated with men of power in Afghanistan but is rarely discussed in public. Read more ..
The Human Edge
|Rosanne Skirble||May 18th 2013|
Students at the University of Maryland want to make aviation history by building the world's first human-powered helicopter. In 1980, the American Helicopter Society announced an award for the first person to accomplish such a feat.
The $250,000 Sikorsky Prize would go to a vehicle that could hover for 60 seconds, not stray beyond a three-meter-square area, and at some point in the flight reach an altitude of three meters.
The prize has gone unclaimed for 33 years, but the student engineers are confident they can bring it home.
What seemed impossible when William Staruk began his PhD studies at the University of Maryland three years ago, is now within reach. He's part of a 50-member team developing a flyer called the Gamera II. “It has flown for 60 seconds and on a different flight gone to an altitude of nine feet [2.7 meters]." Staruk said. "We’re hoping now to combine both of those into a single flight, get that little bit of extra altitude we need and keep the helicopter controlled and stable so that we can take home the $250,000 Prize.” Read more ..
|Michael Beckel||May 17th 2013|
Center for Public Integrity
When Ed Sheehy looked at his mail one day last fall, he was startled to see his face staring back at him, posed alongside the notorious “Christmas Day Killer.” Sheehy, as a public defender, had represented the man a year earlier. Now Sheehy was running for a seat on the Montana Supreme Court and someone was using the double-murder to accuse him of being soft on crime.
“I was furious,” the 60-year-old Sheehy, who was born in Butte, Mont., and now resides in Missoula, told the Center for Public Integrity. “It was misrepresenting what I did and what I do as a lawyer.” So who was behind the attack?
The mailer showed only that it was paid for by the “Montana Growth Network,” a “social welfare” nonprofit, registered under Section 501(c)(4) of the U.S. tax code. Montana election records revealed next to nothing about the organization, which, because of its tax status, is not required to disclose its donors. The nonprofit’s website says its goal is to make Montana “more business friendly.” Read more ..
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