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 â€œdirty pig.â€
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 â€œdirty pigâ€ 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? Thatâ€™s exactly what happened to Doron Marco and his team at White Innovation, an Israeli company based in Rishpon, established four years ago to â€œengineer ideasâ€ for manufacturers. (The name â€œWhiteâ€ is a metaphor for what is created when all the colors on the light spectrum are blended together.)
â€œWe think of a problem in the market, and find a solution,â€ Marco tells ISRAEL21c. â€œAnd then we seek out the right partner to share it with and develop a plan to create a product.â€
So rather than merely moaning about the empty cupboard at their office one evening, Marcoâ€™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 elseâ€™s company, they focused on their own.
â€œWe thought it would be great to have some contraption for making meals materialize with no fuss or mess,â€ Marco recounts. â€œLike on Star Trek.â€
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, â€œAn 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.â€ 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: â€œAll 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?â€ Read more ..
European Jewry on Edge
|Shiryn Ghermezian ||November 6th 2014|
Britainâ€™s Labour Party leader Ed Miliband said British Jews for the first time in their lives fear for their childrenâ€™s futures amid a rise in anti-Semitic attacks in the UK, the Daily Mail reported on Tuesday.
â€œSome have told me how, for the first time in their lifetime, they are scared for their childrenâ€™s future in our country,â€ Miliband said. â€œOthers have expressed a general unease that this rise in anti-Semitism could signal that something has changed â€“ or is changing â€“ in Britain.â€ 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 wonâ€™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 â€” and buy it from a private insurer unless weâ€™re eligible for a government program like Medicare or Medicaid â€” youâ€™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 canâ€™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. Bradleeâ€™s 23-year tenure as the Postâ€™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 Nixonâ€™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, Nixonâ€™s White House press secretary, Ron Ziegler, played down the matter as a â€œthird-rate burglary attempt.â€ In the end, it resulted in guilty verdicts against 48 people. Many of them â€” including Nixon chief of staff H.R. Haldeman and White House aide John Ehrlichman â€” 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.
â€œMany of these students live outside of where they could be exposed,â€ said Wilson, a contemplative man with a soft Texas accent. â€œBut 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 whatâ€™s best for the students?â€
|Alexandra Jaffe ||October 3rd 2014|
It didnâ€™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.
â€œKeeping the American people safe must be our nationâ€™s top priority, and the White House should immediately ban travel from from Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea to contain the spread of Ebola,â€ 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 Netanyahuâ€™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 Netanyahuâ€™s speech in front of the UN General Assembly last night, the Israeli political establishment reacted to Netanyahuâ€™s remarks. â€œNetanyahu knows how to give a speech and I agreed with a number of words, but the problem is that the world is not listening,â€ head of the Israeli Opposition Haim Herzog stated. â€œWe have speeches that remain on paper.â€
But there were members of the opposition that praised Netanyahuâ€™s speech. MK Eli Yishai of Shas stated, â€œIt was not a politicianâ€™s speech. It was a speech full of pride in the Jewish people and the country. Netanyahuâ€™s speech is a wake-up call to the world and also a late-wake up call that people continue to prefer to ignore.â€
Likud Party members voiced similar remarks. Chairman of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee MK Zeâ€™ev Elkin stated that he â€œwelcomed Netanyahuâ€™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.â€ 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 beaconâ€™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 Hawaiiâ€™s Mauna Kea volcano. The Keck images reveal a gas cloud that is 460,000 parsecs (1.5 million light years) in length â€” or more than ten times the diameter of our own Milky Way galaxy. It is the first detection of radiation from a cloud â€œon scales far beyond a galaxyâ€, 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.
â€œThe model shows â€” and I donâ€™t think this has been shown by other modeling tools out there â€” 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 ..
Moldova on Edge
|Robert Coalson||September 14th 2014|
A Moldovan newspaper says it was threatened after publishing two scandalous investigative reports on the assets and personal life of the head of Moldova's Orthodox Church.
The Chisinau weekly "Ziarul de Garda" says it received the telephone threats on September 11 after publishing photos of Vladimir, metropolitan of Chisinau and All Moldova, vacationing in Turkey with a woman named Nelli Tcaciuc.
According to an investigation by the newspaper, Vladimir does not live in his official residence or in the apartment that he owns in Chisinau, but rather in a luxurious villa in the Bostanci neighborhood about 5 kilometers from the capital. Read more ..
The Edge of Terrorism
|Asylkhan Mamashuly and Faragis Najibulah||September 12th 2014|
"They have good living conditions and money to buy food and clothes. They drive brand-new Toyotasâ€¦ And they only think about war."
That's how Mukhambetkali Danikhanov describes the life of Kazakhs fighting alongside foreign jihadists in Iraq.
He saw it firsthand after traveling to see his own son, and if the militant group his son joined is the Islamic State, Danikhanov isn't saying. His oldest son, Yerzhan, has been on the Kazakh authorities' wanted list since January 2014. But they won't find him in Kazakhstan. When last seen by his father, the 28-year-old Yerzhan was living in a "city in Iraqi territory" along with his wife and their three children.
"I can't say the exact name of the place. I'm not allowed to," Danikhanov said. Danikhanov says the journey he took from central Kazakhstan's Karagandy Province to Iraq was relatively easy. Read more ..
The Battle for Ukraine
|Dmitry Volchek and Farangis Najibullah||September 11th 2014|
When Vadim Dubovsky hits the highway, his big rig transforms into a well-tuned, Putin-fighting machine.
The Donetsk-born trucker, who moved to the United States 10 years ago, has no love for the Kremlin's actions in his native Ukraine. And he is low on Russian President Vladimir Putin. Very, very low.
That becomes clear once you listen to his silky smooth baritone belting out operatic rants from behind the wheel.
In "Hell Continues To Burn," Dubovsky croons about Russia's return to its Cold War ways of blaming the West for all its problems and misfortunes. He warns that Putin will be held accountable for the annexation of Crimea, the conflict in eastern Ukraine, and the Malaysian airliner brought down in the conflict zone.
"You will not be forgiven. Neither for the Boeing, nor for Crimea, nor Donbas." Dubovsky's song warns Putin "not to expect mercy" for actions that "will not be forgiven." It predicts Putin will be put on trial at The Hague and end up in hell "teaching" demons. Read more ..
Russia and Putin
|Tom Balmforth||September 8th 2014|
God is inside Vladimir Putin. A divine light transfixed Putinâ€™s essence after his secret baptism as a child. We are not worthy of the Russian president.
These were a few of the tenets advanced by radical Russian Orthodox activist Dmitry Tsorionov in a September 7 lecture that marked one of the more bizarre expressions of a many-faceted grassroots cult of personality surrounding Russiaâ€™s paramount ruler.
Feverish Putin adulation layered with irony filled the dimmed auditorium in Moscowâ€™s trendy Kitai Gorod district. Many of the 60 or so attendees filmed the proceedings using iPhones and iPads, sometimes laughing out loud and sometimes breaking into thundering applause.
Proceedings kicked off with a tinny but swaggering rap track dedicated to Russiaâ€™s leader of 15 years that featured the refrain "I go hard like Vladimir Putin." An overhead projector displayed a picture of Putin with a caption that read: "Vladimir Putin and God." Read more ..
|Laura Barron-Lopez||September 7th 2014|
Latino groups on Saturday promised they would "not soon forget" President Obama's move to delay any executive action on the border crisis until after the midterm elections. A White House official said Obama decided to postpone acting on immigration until after November because of the tremulous political season and "Republican's extreme politicization of the issue." But immigrant rights and Latino advocacy groups were quick to place blame on Obama and Democrats after hearing the news.
"To wait nine more weeks means that I must again look my mother in the eye and see the fear she has about living under the threat of deportation every day," said Cristina Jimenez, director of United We Dream, an advocacy group. Read more ..
The Battle for Ukraine
|Robert Coalson||September 6th 2014|
Czech President Milos Zeman sparked a testy exchange with Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt this week at the NATO summit in Wales, declaring that Prague had not yet seen "clear proof" of Russia's intervention in Ukraine.
"President Zeman should ask his own people," Bildt retorted. "I don't know if the Czech Republic has an intelligence service. It does? Then he should ask them."
The spat underscores a development that has surprised many in the West: Some countries on NATO's eastern fringe seem decidedly unconcerned by Russia's intervention in Ukraine and its generally belligerent stance.
The Ukraine crisis has fractured the so-called Visegrad Group -- the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, and Slovakia. From alarmist Poland to Kremlin-friendly Hungary, the group runs the gamut of possible positions. And their disunity is one factor making it difficult for the European Union and NATO to adopt a unified response to Moscow. Read more ..
NATO on Edge
|Brian Whitmore||September 5th 2014|
Oh, what a difference six years and two wars make.
When NATO heads of state gathered in Bucharest back in April 2008, Vladimir Putin pretty much stole the show. The Kremlin leader strutted away triumphantly from that summit after persuading Western leaders not to offer Georgia and Ukraine road maps to eventually join the alliance.
Four months later, Russian troops rolled into Georgia, a move seen by many observers as a dress rehearsal for this year's intervention in Ukraine.
Puitn was, of course, persona non grata at this week's NATO summit in Wales, although he cast a long shadow over it. For the first time since the end of the Cold War, the Atlantic alliance is now treating Russia not as a potential partner with which it can do business but as a problem that needs to be addressed and a threat that must be confronted. "Things have changed dramatically inside NATO," Lauri Lepik, Estonia's ambassador to the alliance, said in an interview. "People realize the seriousness of the situation." Read more ..
|Yael Klein||September 4th 2014|
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While the entire world quivers from the site of the executions of journalists by ISIS, the New York Times exposes today a chilling testimony of a Shia Iraqi soldier who was taken captive by the organization â€“and managed to survive and escape against all odds: "I was fourth in the shooting line. I lay alive among my friends' bodies for hours, until I managed to escape. Between 600 and 800 people were slaughtered'.
A chilling testimony from ISIS' death camp: Ali Hussein Kdahim, a Iraqi soldier of Shia origin, 23, is one of the sole people who are able to tell about the disgracing conditions of captives held by the radical terror organization ISIS. Kdahim was taken, along with hundreds of other armed Sunni soldiers last June, and captivated in a castle in Tikrit â€“ the birth town of a former Iraqi leader, Saddam Hussein. he tells his story from his house in Southern Iraq.
Iran on Edge
|Golnaz Esfandiari||September 2nd 2014|
A newly launched women's monthly run by a prominent female editor has irked Iranian hard-liners, who have accused her of promoting "obsolete" feminist views and ideas that are un-Islamic.
Iran's semi-official Fars news agency reported last week that Shahla Sherkat , editor of "Zanan-e Emruz," will be put on trial by Iran's Press Court on September 7. Fars, said to be close to the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), did not provide details about the charges against Sherkat.
The report has led to concern that action could be taken to shut down the monthly devoted to women's issues. Sherkat, whose previous publication was shut down under the administration of former President Mahmud Ahmadinejad, has not publicly commented on the report. Read more ..
|Benjamin Goad||September 1st 2014|
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Organized labor is pouring millions of dollars into congressional campaign coffers, as unions press to stave off a Senate flip this fall that could spell disaster for their policy agenda during the final years of the Obama administration.On issues ranging from collective bargaining to immigration to worker protections, union officials, advocates and experts say GOP control of the upper chamber could jeopardize what has become a period of significant progress for the labor movement.
â€œThereâ€™s a lot of room for mischief in a Senate thatâ€™s under Republican leadership,â€ said William Spriggs, chief economist for the AFL-CIO.
After an often-rocky relationship with Washingtonâ€™s Democrats in President Obamaâ€™s first term, unions have reason to celebrate this Labor Day. President Obama has in recent months sought to counter congressional gridlock on labor issues with aggressive use of executive power, ordering up regulations to extend overtime pay to some workers and increase the minimum wage for others.
The Edge of Terrorism
|Tom Balmforth||August 31st 2014|
Nadezhda Guriyeva huddled with her children on the floor of the sweltering school gymnasium. An explosive device rested ominously just a few feet away. The two older children, Boris and Vera, were dressed for a folk dance performance to celebrate the first day of school. The festivities never began.
Boris and Vera were among the 334 people, including 186 children, killed amid explosions and a hail of bullets after being held captive for two days in a terrorist attack on School No. 1 in Beslan. Guriyevaâ€™s youngest daughter, Irina, survived. The girlâ€™s escape allowed Guriyeva to survive the aftermath of the horror. "I had no choice," Guriyeva says. â€œI had my little daughter. She was always watching me to see if I cried. I couldn't even cry."
Ten years have passed since armed militants stormed the school on September 1, 2004, and took 1,100 children, mothers and teachers hostage in the gymnasium. The ordeal came to an end 52 hours later. But for the survivors and their loved ones, it changed everything forever. Read more ..
The Ebola Outbreak
|Dina Fine Maron||August 30th 2014|
One glaring fact from the latest report on the Ebola outbreak is that five of the many study authors are dead, killed by the disease that is roiling west Africa. The new analysis, published in the August 29 issue of Science
, reveals that the current Ebola outbreak stemmed from an earlier initial leap from the wild into humans, rather than the virus repeatedly jumping from a natural reservoirâ€”perhaps infected animalsâ€”to humans. By essentially sketching out a high-tech molecular family tree, researchers concluded that the virus spreading in Sierra Leone and nearby countries is the descendent of an original Ebola viral jump, and not new versions of the pathogen that are being repeatedly introduced into the human population. That means the public health response to this outbreakâ€”which focuses on tracking and treating those who have been exposed to people with Ebola, rather than attempting to keep people away from potential animal carriersâ€”has been the right strategy.
That conclusion comes from a sweeping analysis of 99 Ebola virus genome sequences that comprise some 70 percent of the Ebola patients diagnosed in Sierra Leone in late May to mid-June. The virus samples were extracted from the blood of 78 patients early in Sierra Leoneâ€™s outbreak. And the work indicates that the first case of the disease in that country stemmed from the burial of a traditional healer who had previously treated Ebola patients in Guinea. Subsequently, 13 additional women who attended the burial developed Ebola viral disease. Read more ..
The Battle for Ukraine
|Glenn Kates||August 29th 2014|
In early spring, Vladimir Putin deployed soldiers without insignia into the Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea to ensure a quick annexation of the territory.
After a month of denying their very existence, the Russian president nonchalantly acknowledged that the thousands of well-armed fighters, who had previously been cheekily referred to as "little green men," were in fact Russian troops.
Decried in the West, Russians gave the move near unanimous support. A territory was won through military might -- and an overwhelming referendum vote that has not been recognized in the West -- but without a fight.
But now, as Moscow reinvigorates a flailing pro-Russian separatist insurgency with a barely concealed incursion into southeastern Ukraine, indications are that Russian military men are dying. And as captured Russian paratroopers are paraded on Ukrainian television and servicemen are buried in secrecy, some Russians are asking a seemingly simple question: "Are we at war?"
The answer to the question, originally posed in an editorial in the "Vedomosti" business daily, is one that is becoming increasingly obvious for military families. It is the details that they say are not forthcoming. In Kostroma, 1,300 kilometers from Russia's border with eastern Ukraine, family members of a group of 10 Russian paratroopers captured in Ukraine say all their information has come from secondhand, online sources.
One mother, Olga Pochtoyeva, says when she originally approached officials with photos on her son's Vkontakte page that appeared to show he had been taken prisoner in Ukraine, her claims were dismissed as "provocations." "We showed them [these pictures] and they didn't believe it," she says. "It's Photoshop, they told us. I'm sorry, I'd never mistake my son's eyebrows for photoshop." Read more ..
The Edge of Terrorism
|Ze'ev Ben-Yechiel||August 28th 2014|
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The United Nations Relief Works Agency (UNRWA) has come under increasing fire in recent weeks for aiding Hamas in the terror group's war against Israel, with one advocacy group lodging a formal complaint against the organization. As evidence seems to continue to emerge of the use of the agency's schools and clinics as Hamas storehouses, rocket launching sites and tunnel entrances, protest has grown in Israel and abroad that the organization, established to aid the Palestinian Arab refugee population, has far exceeded its mandate by aiding and sustaining the psychological and physical assault on Israeli civilians and infrastructure.
At the same time that evidence was mounting that the UN agency was allowing Hamas to use its facilities to launch attacks on Israel, a number of statements were issued by UN Secretary-General Ban-Ki Moon criticizing Israel for use of disproportionate force. In response, the Legal Forum for Israel drafted a letter to Moon decrying his accusations and denouncing the lack of accountability by the international body for its role in the violence.
Afghanistan on Edge
|Frud Bezhan||August 27th 2014|
The long-running deadlock over the disputed presidential election in Afghanistan is still far from over.
That, however, has not stopped outgoing President Hamid Karzai from fixing September 2 as the date for the delayed inauguration of his successor. What's more, Karzai has formed a special government commission that has begun making last-minute preparations for the historic event.
But there's an elephant in the room -- the mammoth task of auditing all eight million votes cast in the June 14 election has still not been completed and rival candidates Abdullah Abdullah and Ashraf Ghani have still not hashed out the details of a crucial power-sharing agreement brokered earlier this month.
Neither candidate appears willing to back down, and regular disputes have broken out. The audit was temporarily suspended on August 27 after first Abdullah and then Ghani pulled out of the process, casting the election deeper into disarray and clouding the chances for a swift resolution.
Preliminary results put Ghani, a former finance minister, in the lead. But Abdullah, a former foreign minister, has rejected the results and claimed "systematic fraud." It seems optimistic to expect that in less than one week the audit and a complaints adjudication process will have been completed and that both candidates will have accepted the final results and hashed out a political settlement. Nevertheless, the commission Karzai has charged with organizing the inauguration is going full steam ahead with preparations for what it promises will be a "glorious" event. Read more ..
The Battle for Ukraine
|Glenn Kates||August 26th 2014|
It was an "accident."
That was Moscow's official response to how a group of Russian paratroopers ended up in Ukraine. The soldiers -- apparently from a division based in Kostroma, a city on the Volga River north of Moscow -- were captured by Ukrainian forces, who posted videos of some of their interrogations online.
In what appear to be forced confessions in front of Ukrainian military personnel, they say they were misled by their superiors, who told them they were going on a "training exercise."
The videos appeared to confirm what Kyiv authorities had been claiming for months amid denials from the Kremlin -- that Moscow is supplying pro-Russian separatists with military hardware and personnel. The claims had largely been based on circumstantial evidence. But since mid-August, as Russia has attempted to staunch Ukrainian gains against the militants, that evidence has mounted steadily. Read more ..
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