|Rodger Baker and John Minnich||March 24th 2015|
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 ..
Obama's Second Term
|Kevin Cirilli||March 17th 2015|
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 ..
|Tammi Rossman-Benjamin||March 13th 2015|
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 ..
|Anav Silverman||February 16th 2015|
“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 ..
The Edge of Medicine
|Larry Greenemeier||February 15th 2015|
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 ..
The World on Edge
|Ian Morris||February 12th 2015|
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 ..
America and Israel
|David McCabe||February 9th 2015|
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 ..
The Water's Edge
|Evan Lehmann||February 7th 2015|
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 ..
Financing the Flames
|Edwin Black||February 7th 2015|
Times of Israel
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.
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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 ..
Argentina on Edge
|George Friedman||February 5th 2015|
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 ..
The Genetic Edge
|Jennifer Frazer||February 2nd 2015|
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When HIV jumped from chimpanzees to humans sometime in the early 1900s, it crossed a gulf spanning several million years of evolution. But tobacco ringspot virus, scientists announced last week, has made a jump that defies credulity. It has crossed a yawning chasm ~1.6 billion years wide.
And this is likely bad news for its new host, the honeybee, matchmaker of crops and bringer of honey. These are two services for which humans are both eternally indebted, and, in the case of the former, possibly unable to live without. Bees pollinate the majority of our fruit and nut crops and many vegetables — some 90 all told — without which humanity would be nutritionally impoverished. Yet shortages are a possibility we are confronting, as bee populations in America have declined in recent years for reasons that seem to be both diverse and elusive. Colony collapse disorder, as whatever it is is called, was first reported in 2006 and has spread globally. Many viruses, parasites, and pesticides have been implicated, but no smoking gun has emerged.
Europe on Edge
|George Friedman||January 27th 2015|
The story is well known. The financial crisis of 2008, which began as a mortgage default issue in the United States, created a sovereign debt crisis in Europe. Some European countries were unable to make payment on bonds, and this threatened the European banking system. There had to be some sort of state intervention, but there was a fundamental disagreement about what problem had to be solved. Broadly speaking, there were two narratives.
The German version, and the one that became the conventional view in Europe, is that the sovereign debt crisis is the result of irresponsible social policies in Greece, the country with the greatest debt problem. These troublesome policies included early retirement for government workers, excessive unemployment benefits and so on. Politicians had bought votes by squandering resources on social programs the country couldn't afford, did not rigorously collect taxes and failed to promote hard work and industriousness. Therefore, the crisis that was threatening the banking system was rooted in the irresponsibility of the debtors. Read more ..
Palestinians on Edge
Congresswoman Nita Lowey (D-NY), Ranking Democrat on the House Appropriations Committee and the Staate and Foreign Operations Subcommittee, today issued the following statement on Palestinian actions related to the International Criminal Court:
"Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s recent actions before the United Nations Security Council and the International Criminal Court (ICC) clearly indicate an abandonment of the goal of a negotiated two-state agreement and ignore the necessary compromises that all sides must make for peace.
"For decades, the United States has been the Palestinian Authority’s partner by generously providing billions of dollars to foster security cooperation with Israel, support economic development, and address the humanitarian needs of the Palestinians. At the same time, our assistance has included specific conditions in order to discourage provocative actions aimed at undercutting the peace process. Read more ..
The Edge of Terrorism
|George Friedman||January 8th 2015|
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Wednesday's deadly attack against a French satirical publication has the potential to upset relations between European states and their Muslim citizenries. The strategic intent behind such attacks is precisely to sow this kind of crisis, as well as to influence French policy and recruit more jihadists. Even though Islamist extremism is, at its core, an intra-Muslim conflict, such incidents will draw in non-Muslims, exacerbating matters.
Three suspected Islamist militants attacked the Paris office of the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo with high-powered assault rifles, killing 12 people. Among the dead are the editor and cartoonist Stephane Charbonnier, who was on a hit list appearing in al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula's Inspire magazine for "insulting the Prophet Mohammed." Eyewitness said they heard the attackers shouting, "We have avenged the Prophet Mohammed," and chanting, "God is Great" in Arabic. This is the third such attack in a Western country in less than three months. The Paris incident involves perpetrators who displayed sophisticated small arms and small unit training.
Whether or not these attacks are the handiwork of self-motivated grassroots jihadists and cells or of individuals tied to international jihadist entities, such incidents aggravate tense relations between the Western and Muslim worlds. This is all the more significant in Europe, where states are experiencing the rise of right-wing nationalism and Muslim communities have long experienced disaffection. The jihadist objective is to get the states to crack down harder on Muslim communities in order to further their narrative that the West is waging war on Islam and Muslims.
The Islamic State
|Aymenn Jawad Al-Tamimi||January 7th 2015|
Situated in the northern countryside of Aleppo province, the town of Azaz–the center of the Azaz district–is the nearest major settlement to the Bab al-Salama border crossing that leads into the southern Turkish city of Kilis. At the present time, Azaz town is controlled by the group Liwa Asifat al-Shamal ("The Northern Storm Brigade"), which is affiliated with the Islamic Front rebel coalition. Also present within Azaz town but lacking any governing authority is Syria’s al-Qa’ida affiliate Jabhat al-Nusra. To the east of Azaz town lies the smaller settlement of Sawran, beyond which is a frontline, an area of no-man’s land of about 800 meters to a kilometer, and then the localities of Doudyan and Dabiq to the northeast and southeast, solely controlled by the Islamic State (IS). Northern Storm also solely controls the town of Sawran. Read more ..
The Race for LEDs
|Scott Elder||January 1st 2015|
I've had it with LED lamps. The world has been told that LEDs are the future, in part because they are economically the right form of long-term lighting, and there are environmental benefits as a great aside. Well, maybe the environmental argument is true, but the economical one is not.
My wife has converted a substantial amount of our home lighting, as well as our holiday decoration lighting, to LED bulbs. Despite all this investment, I have yet to experience the primary benefit of long life. This made me sit down recently and ask myself why.
As it turns out, the answer is quite simple. The lifetime is not a function of the LED, but rather the total circuit solution.
Figure 1 shows the schematic for an incandescent light bulb. As I once read in a college textbook, the analysis of this circuit is left to the reader.
Contrast the Figure 1 schematic with the Figure 2 schematic that shows an offline LED lamp schematic minus the LEDs. As I'll show soon, there is no need to analyze the Figure 2 circuit operation. Read more ..
Europe on Edge
|Shiryn Ghermezian||December 15th 2014|
British-Jewish Member of Parliament for the Conservative Party Lee Scott told BBC London last week that he has received five death threats over the past year because of his Judaism and was also called a “dirty pig.”
Scott, the MP for Ilford North, and his wife check their cars every day because of the threats. He has also stopped holding drop-in surgeries, and his constituents now must make appointments to see him. He said the anti-Semitic abuse began during the last election when he was called a “dirty pig” by two people who said they would kill him. Read more ..
The Edge of Food
|Ruthie Blum||December 11th 2014|
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Ever get hungry at work and wish you could ordering a pizza? That’s exactly what happened to Doron Marco and his team at White Innovation, an Israeli company based in Rishpon, established four years ago to “engineer ideas” for manufacturers. (The name “White” is a metaphor for what is created when all the colors on the light spectrum are blended together.)
“We think of a problem in the market, and find a solution,” Marco tells ISRAEL21c. “And then we seek out the right partner to share it with and develop a plan to create a product.”
So rather than merely moaning about the empty cupboard at their office one evening, Marco’s staff of eight began to brainstorm, as they always do. This time, however, rather than trying to come up with a technological solution for someone else’s company, they focused on their own.
“We thought it would be great to have some contraption for making meals materialize with no fuss or mess,” Marco recounts. “Like on Star Trek.”
Russia on Edge
|Victoria Arnold||December 4th 2014|
Russian courts have banned more Muslim literature and a video on the ownership of Orthodox saints' relics as "extremist", Forum 18 News Service notes. They have also banned a US-based Russian language website with the text of a hadith collection held by Sunni Muslims to be the most important Islamic book after the Koran. Ravil Tugushev, a lawyer challenging the website ban, noted that "many native Muslims of the Russian Federation do not know Arabic and read Russian translations of the holy texts, including those on the internet". Also, Sakhalin prosecutors are trying to ban a book containing verses from the Koran.
Mufti of Asiatic Russia Nafigulla Ashirov described the case as "complete insanity" for being based on verses of the Koran. Commenting on the banning by Artyomovo Municipal Court of 13 Islamic texts as "extremist", Mufti of Saratov Mukaddas Bibarsov stated that if the hadith collection is banned "you should ban books of all religions, without exception, because each of us believes his religion exceptional and the truth". Officials have refused to discuss any of the cases with Forum 18. Read more ..
The Way We Are
|Michael Cook||November 30th 2014|
Doctors in the Netherlands are developing a protocol which will increase the number of organs from people who request euthanasia. Erasmus Medical Centre in Rotterdam and the University Hospital of Maastricht have written national guidelines which are being studied by the Dutch Transplant Foundation.
If the procedures are approved, they would be binding on hospitals and doctors throughout the country.
Spurring on this study is the feeling among transplant surgeons that healthy organs are sometimes wasted when patients are euthanased. In the words of a medical ethics expert with the Royal Dutch Medical Association, Gert van Dijk, “An estimated 5 to 10% of people who are euthanased could be considered for organ donation. Five percent does not seem like much, but this still means 250 to 500 potential organ donors every year.” Read more ..
The Water's Edge
|David Stacey||November 29th 2014|
The ocean is undergoing global changes at a remarkable pace and we must change with it to attain our best possible future ocean, warns the head of The University of Western Australia's Oceans Institute.
One of the global leaders in ocean science, Professor Carlos Duarte has shared his insights on the future of the world's oceans in a paper published in the international open-access journal Frontiers in Marine Science.
In the paper Professor Duarte explains the grand challenge researchers face in addressing global change and the future state of the ocean.
"The ocean is under significant impact by anthropogenic global pressures such as ocean acidification, warming, overfishing and pollution, resulting from the impact of human activity on major processes that regulate the functions of the planet," he said.
"Dependence on resources including water, energy and key elements has prompted a suite of changes at the global scale and we are now facing the impacts of climate change, a loss of biodiversity and deteriorating water quality. Read more ..
|Rachel Avraham||November 27th 2014|
Many in the Arab world are skeptical that Iran will give up its nuclear program. They view any Iranian assurances that they will only pursue their nuclear program for peaceful purposes to be a campaign designed to deceive the west. These commentators within the Arab world fear that the west will buy into the Iranian deception, granting them either concessions on their nuclear program that will harm Arab interests or, if the Iranians do indeed make concessions on their nuclear power, it will be in exchange for giving the Iranians a free hand to dominate the Arab world.
According to a report in MEMRI, Qatari journalist Abd Al Hamid Al Ansari wrote in Al Watan: “All signs indicate that Iran will manage to continue its nuclear program. Iran will not step back or give up what it regards as its legitimate right to obtain nuclear technology. According to its viewpoint, if less noble countries, such as Israel, Pakistan, India and North Korea, have managed to obtain nuclear weapons, how can the international community deny this to Iran, with its noble civilization?” Read more ..
European Jewry on Edge
|Shiryn Ghermezian ||November 6th 2014|
Britain’s Labour Party leader Ed Miliband said British Jews for the first time in their lives fear for their children’s futures amid a rise in anti-Semitic attacks in the UK, the Daily Mail reported on Tuesday.
“Some have told me how, for the first time in their lifetime, they are scared for their children’s future in our country,” Miliband said. “Others have expressed a general unease that this rise in anti-Semitism could signal that something has changed – or is changing – in Britain.” Read more ..
|Joanna Paraszczuk||October 29th 2014|
Chechen Islamic State (IS) militants in the Syrian town of Kobani have urged Chechens in Europe to either join in the fighting in Syria, or commit acts of terror in Europe.
In a video published by ShamToday on October 26, the media wing associated with the predominantly Chechen Islamic State (IS) faction Katibat Al-Aqsa, a Chechen militant named Musa Abu-Yusuf Shishani calls on the Chechen diaspora to join IS.
The video, in Chechen, was shared on several pro-Islamic-State Russian-language social media accounts on October 26 and offers insights into the attitudes of Chechen IS militants who are on the frontline in Kobani. (It was removed by YouTube on October 27) Read more ..
|Wendell Potter||October 26th 2014|
Center for Public Integrity
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During the last few weeks of this year, most of us will need to make a decision about our health insurance coverage for 2015, regardless of whether we get it through an employer or buy it on our own. But unless you live in California, chances are you won’t find much information about how satisfied people are with their existing health plans or how many complaints are filed against them.
Now that the law requires us to have health insurance — and buy it from a private insurer unless we’re eligible for a government program like Medicare or Medicaid — you’d think it would be easy to discover which health plans rank the best and which ones bring up the rear.
There are some online resources to find out how much various plans would cost in monthly premiums and out-of-pocket expenses. If you can’t get coverage at work and want to compare costs among competing health plans, you can go to healthcare.gov, maintained by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, or a private online source like healthinsurance.org, which has been around since 1994.
|Niall Stanage||October 22nd 2014|
Ben Bradlee, the legendary editor who led The Washington Post during the Watergate scandal, died Tuesday, according to the newspaper. He was 93. Bradlee’s 23-year tenure as the Post’s executive editor will forever be associated with the events that brought down President Nixon.
The story was revealed by Post reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein with the vigorous support of Bradlee, and concluded with Nixon’s resignation in August 1974, 26 months after the Post had published its first story about a break-in at the Democratic National Committee headquarters in Washington.
At the beginning, Nixon’s White House press secretary, Ron Ziegler, played down the matter as a “third-rate burglary attempt.” In the end, it resulted in guilty verdicts against 48 people. Many of them — including Nixon chief of staff H.R. Haldeman and White House aide John Ehrlichman — served prison terms. Read more ..
Ukraine on Edge
|Bohdana Kostiuk||October 22nd 2014|
What priority should a country give to retrieving, identifying, and burying its war dead?
Ask Yaroslav Zhylkin, the head of Ukraine's casualty-recovery efforts, and he'll begin with an anecdote about the U.S. response when two American soldiers went missing in Afghanistan in 2006.
More than 8,000 soldiers and a group of forensic scientists, he says, were involved in that search.
In Ukraine, by contrast, a single group of 30 volunteers has assumed responsibility for retrieving fighters killed in battle in the eastern Donbas region.
The group -- dubbed Black Tulip after the cargo plane tasked with shipping the bodies of soldiers killed during the Soviet war in Afghanistan -- began its work on September 3. Read more ..
The Race for Alt Energy
|Paul Buckley||October 16th 2014|
The prospect of capturing the kinetic energy from everyday movements and converting it into electrical energy is a step closer with researchers at The University of Auckland, New Zealand, constructing an energy harvester consisting of a snake-shaped strip of polydimethylsiloxane.
The silicone strip acts as a flexible cantilever that bends back and forth with body movements. The scientists attached the cantilever to a conducting metal coil with a strong neodymium, NdFeB, magnet inside, all enclosed in a polymer casing. When a conductor moves through a magnetic field a current is induced in the conductor.
In order to extract the electricity generated, there is a need to include special circuitry that takes only the positive voltage and passes it along to a rechargeable battery. In previous work, this circuitry includes a rectifying diode that allows current to flow in one positive direction only and blocks the reverse, negative, current. Unfortunately, the development of kinetic chargers has been stymied by current diode technology that requires a voltage of around 200 millivolts to drive a current.
University of Auckland researchers, Jiayang Song and Kean Aw side-stepped the voltage obstacle by using a tiny electrical transformer and a capacitor, which acts like a microelectronic battery. The charger, which weighs a few grams, oscillates and moves the coil back and forth through the neodymium magnetic field and produces 40 millivolts. The transformer captures this voltage and stores up the charge in the capacitor in fractions of a second. Once the capacitor is full it discharges sending a positive pulse to the rechargeable battery, thus acting as its own rectifier. Read more ..
The Bear is Back
|Charles Fairbanks||October 15th 2014|
What have we learned from the Russian seizure of Crimea and the Western reaction to it? President Obama seems to have learned nothing; he is more obstinate in pursuing failed policies than Jimmy Carter or Neville Chamberlain. Informed discussion of foreign policy has now expanded to include wide and valuable questioning of Obama's indecisive, yielding tactics-and his general vision of a world without enemies. But something in the middle is still missing, and that something is important. What have we learned about the former Soviet bloc, and about ourselves?
Like France and Britain in the years between the great wars, 1919-1939, we have committed ourselves to the defense of an international order in Eastern Europe, including the former Soviet Union, that we don't really have the energy or will to defend. The two epochs are very different, of course. For all Putin's hostility to the West and its aspirations, and despite his skillful manipulation of Russian populist sympathies, his are nothing like the volcanic energies of a Hitler or Mussolini, and his people are nothing like the eager, war-hungry Germans and Italians of that time. Read more ..
The World on Edge
|Sim Tack||October 14th 2014|
As student protests in Hong Kong continue, memories of the 1989 Tiananmen Square demonstrations naturally spring to mind. Less iconic but no less notable were the Hungarian Revolution of 1956, which began as a student movement; the 2007 Venezuelan protests, which started with a group of students demanding constitutional reform; and the 1929 protests in Paris, which challenged the role of churches in education.
Of course, each student movement is unique; the one underway in Hong Kong concerns Hong Kong affairs, not widespread democratic reform in China proper. And yet all such movements share characteristics that transcend borders, making them an ideal phenomenon through which to study geopolitics.
Student protests lay bare the social and cultural layers that move beneath the surface of geopolitics, much like subsurface currents flow beneath the waves of the oceans. Human geography forms the foundation of society and thus the systems that govern it. Even if we regard the state as the highest level of global policymaking and interaction, these social undercurrents are what move the generations, ideologies and cultural changes that shape the constraints under which states operate. Read more ..
The Bear is Back
|George Friedman||October 9th 2014|
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Russian President Vladimir Putin celebrated his 62nd birthday Tuesday in a peculiar fashion: by himself in the Siberian forests. For the past few days, Putin's spokesman, Dmitri Peskov, has brushed off journalists' questions about why the president decided not to celebrate his birthday in Moscow or do other work as he has in previous years. This is just another odd piece to an increasingly complex puzzle surrounding the stability and future of the Russian president and his government.
Russia is in the eye of the perfect storm. Though the crisis with Ukraine has been reduced to a simmer, Russia has seen a strategic reversal in its critical borderland. In addition, the crisis moved the West to enact sanctions on Russia and loosen many financial and economic ties to the country. Now the Kremlin is in the midst of an economic crisis that is every bit as serious as the Ukraine situation. In the past two days, Russia's central bank used $1.6 billion of its currency reserves to shore up the Russian ruble. Since the start of 2014, the central bank has injected $51 billion in currency reserves to keep the currency stable. The Russian economy is projecting flat growth for 2014, while foreign investment into Russia has fallen by 50 percent. The Kremlin may have $630 billion in its reserves, but these funds are being used quickly in an attempt to fill the cracks.
The Toxic Edge
|David Hasemyer and Zahra Hirji||October 3rd 2014|
Center for Public Integrity
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School Superintendent Kevin Wilson tugged at his oversized belt buckle and gestured toward a field less than a mile from Nordheim School, where 180 children attend kindergarten through 12th grade. A commercial waste facility that will receive millions of barrels of toxic sludge from oil and gas production for disposal in enormous open-air pits is taking shape there , and Wilson worries that the ever-present Texas wind will carry traces of dangerous chemicals, including benzene, to the school.
“Many of these students live outside of where they could be exposed,” said Wilson, a contemplative man with a soft Texas accent. “But we are busing them to the school, putting them in the direct path of something that could be harmful to them. It makes you think: Are we doing what’s best for the students?”
|Alexandra Jaffe ||October 3rd 2014|
It didn’t take long after Ebola spread to the United States for it to spread to the campaign trail.
North Carolina Speaker Thom Tillis (R) on Thursday became the first Senate candidate to weigh in on the news of the diagnosis of Ebola in the U.S., calling for a ban on travel from Ebola-affected nations.
“Keeping the American people safe must be our nation’s top priority, and the White House should immediately ban travel from from Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea to contain the spread of Ebola,” he said in a statement. Read more ..
|Peter Clarke||October 2nd 2014|
Nikola Tesla was a scientist who brought us the basics of wireless power transfer, AC power, the AC motor, the polyphase system, radio circuits and radio control, frequency inductive heating, gaseous/fluorescent lighting, and electric clocks, to name a few of his innovations.
I lived only a few miles from Tesla's Wardenclyffe laboratory in Shoreham on Long Island, N.Y., for most of my life, and I have been to the historic site there where Tesla purchased 200 acres of a former potato farm in 1901 from James Warden. Teslas only remaining laboratory building still stands there today. His initial goal was to establish a wireless telegraphy plant. The lab and 187-foot-high transmitter tower (with 120 feet below the ground) were constructed and financed by J.P. Morgan.
The site was in ruins and vandalized when I visited it just before recent efforts managed to save this bit of important history. It was heartbreaking for any scientist or engineer to see such an important piece of engineering history potentially lost forever.
In 2012 an Indiegogo campaign to save Nikola Teslas former laboratory was led by cartoonist Matthew Inman from Oatmeal and Jane Alcorn, president of the Tesla Science Center at Wardenclyffe. They were successful. The campaign needed $850,000, and $1.37 million was raised along with a combined grant from New York State for an additional $850,000. A bid was made on the property, and the lab was snatched from a developer who was going to demolish the site to make way for residential properties. Read more ..
Israel on Edge
|Bernard Banks||October 1st 2014|
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Below read the full transcript of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s remarks before the United Nations General Assembly on September 29th, 2014.
Thank you, Mr. President. Distinguished delegates, I come here from Jerusalem to speak on behalf of my people, the people of Israel. I'e come here to speak about the dangers we face and about the opportunities we seek. I'e come here to expose the brazen lies spoken from this very podium against my country and against the brave soldiers who defend it.
Ladies and gentlemen, the people of Israel pray for peace, but our hopes and the world' hopes for peace are in danger because everywhere we look militant Islam is on the march. It' not militants. It' not Islam. It' militant Islam. And typically its first victims are other Muslims, but it spares no one: Christians, Jews, Yazidis, Kurds. No creed, no faith, no ethnic group is beyond its sights. And it' rapidly spreading in every part of the world.
Israel on Edge
|Rachel Avraham||September 30th 2014|
Hours after Netanyahu’s speech in front of the UN General Assembly last night, the Israeli political establishment reacted to Netanyahu’s remarks. “Netanyahu knows how to give a speech and I agreed with a number of words, but the problem is that the world is not listening,” head of the Israeli Opposition Haim Herzog stated. “We have speeches that remain on paper.”
But there were members of the opposition that praised Netanyahu’s speech. MK Eli Yishai of Shas stated, “It was not a politician’s speech. It was a speech full of pride in the Jewish people and the country. Netanyahu’s speech is a wake-up call to the world and also a late-wake up call that people continue to prefer to ignore.”
Likud Party members voiced similar remarks. Chairman of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee MK Ze’ev Elkin stated that he “welcomed Netanyahu’s appropriate response to the lies and slander of Mahmoud Abbas, while I call on the Prime Minister and Cabinet to move beyond words to action. It is unthinkable that Abu Mazen, who depends on us for every step along the way for everything, will continue to benefit from our help while maintaining a diplomatic and media war against us.” Read more ..
The Edge of the Universe
|Ron Cowen||September 29th 2014|
Astronomers have discovered the largest known gas cloud in the Universe. The mammoth nebula may be the first imaged filament of a spidery arrangement of galaxies, gas and dark matter that traces the large-scale structure of the cosmos. The team used a brilliant quasar, seen as it appeared when the Universe was less than 3 billion years old, to illuminate the faint gas in the beacon’s neighborhood.
The flood of light from the quasar (one of a class of intensely bright galaxy cores, thought to be black holes going through a spurt of growth) prompts hydrogen atoms in the gas to emit a characteristic wavelength of ultraviolet radiation. As the Universe expands, the radiation subsequently stretches into longer wavelengths, becoming visible light. Astronomers Sebastiano Cantalupo and Xavier Prochaska of the University of California, Santa Cruz, and their colleagues recorded that light using the Keck Observatory atop Hawaii’s Mauna Kea volcano. The Keck images reveal a gas cloud that is 460,000 parsecs (1.5 million light years) in length — or more than ten times the diameter of our own Milky Way galaxy. It is the first detection of radiation from a cloud “on scales far beyond a galaxy”, Prochaska says. Read more ..
The Ebola Outbreak
|Sam Levin||September 23rd 2014|
Fox News and agencies
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released a report Tuesday predicting as many as 550,000 to 1.4 million cases of the Ebola virus in Liberia and Sierra Leone alone, by the end of January.
The CDC calculations are based, in part, on assumptions that cases have been dramatically underreported. Other projections haven't made the same kind of attempt to quantify illnesses that may have been missed in official counts.
CDC scientists conclude there may be as many as 21,000 reported and unreported cases in just those two countries as soon as the end of this month.
“The model shows — and I don’t think this has been shown by other modeling tools out there — that a surge now can break the back of the epidemic. It also shows that there are severe costs of delay," CDC Director Dr. Thomas Frieden said in a press conference Tuesday.
The agency's numbers seem "somewhat pessimistic" and do not account for infection control efforts already underway, said Dr. Richard Wenzel, a Virginia Commonwealth University scientist who formerly led the International Society for Infectious Diseases.
Separately, the World Health Organization (WHO) warned in a new report that the number of people infected with the Ebola virus could reach 20,000 by the beginning of November if efforts to contain the outbreak are not accelerated. Read more ..
Battle for Ukraine
|Claire Bigg||September 17th 2014|
As the separatist conflict simmers in eastern Ukraine, supporters from both camps fight on in another war -- a war of words. The result is a torrent of new slurs -- often cryptic, at times clever, always insulting.
Here are some of the most common terms:
Russian synonyms for "neo-Nazis," literally followers of World War II-era Ukrainian nationalist Stepan Bandera. The "logi" suffix lends an additional pejorative connotation.
From the onset of the pro-European Maidan protests in Kyiv, Russian authorities have repeatedly branded the demonstrators -- and more generally any Ukrainians supporting efforts to steer their country out of Moscow's orbit -- "banderovtsy."
A hero to Ukrainian nationalists, Bandera collaborated with Nazi Germany in a bid to create an independent Ukrainian state. The Nazis subsequently arrested him and his associates. He was assassinated in 1959, a killing widely attributed to the Soviet KGB secret services. Read more ..
Scotland on the Edge
|Kathleen Moore||September 15th 2014|
As he sips a pint of beer at an outdoor cafe, Bartosz Maroszek lapses into a Scottish accent as broad as the nearby River Tay.
The 26-year-old Dabrowa Gornicza native came to Scotland seven years ago to take up a job as a coffin varnisher in a place he'd never heard of.
After being picked up at the bus station by Maroszek's new employer, "We thought we were going to stay in Edinburgh," he says. But the car kept driving north. "'Where are we going?' I asked. They said, 'Perth.' I said, 'Oo! Where is that?'"
Nowadays Maroszek calls Scotland his second home, one he shares with his partner Gosia and their 2-year-old son, Michal, who he calls his "wee terror." Still with the same coffin-maker, Maroszek has been given added responsibilities by his boss. And on September 18 he'll be doing the same as millions of others living in Scotland -- voting in a referendum on whether Scotland should be an independent country. Read more ..
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