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The Edge of Climate Change

Virginia Town Forced to Adapt to Rising Seas

September 20th 2013

Hurricane Sandy Lashes Ocean City

No one is far from the water in Norfolk, Virginia, where citizens are feeling the impact of climate change.

The port city, home to the largest naval base in the world, is a vital part of the region's economy and is critical to the nation's security. At high tide and during storms, water floods streets.

Sea level is rising faster here than anywhere else on the U.S. East Coast. The city, and its residents, are learning to adapt to a warmer world.

Rising water
Jeff Miskill lives just steps away from the Lafayette River in a house his grandparents bought in the 1950s. “In the past, when we would have a storm, the water would not come up even to the yard, just on any storm,” he said. Read more ..

Iran's Nukes

Startling Revelations From an Iranian Smuggling Case in Hamburg

September 19th 2013

Iran Nuclear Equipment centrifuges

I rarely attend trials, but this one is special.

On July 24, 2013, the main hearing in the case of German businessman Rudolf M. and Iranian-Germans Gholamali K., Kianzad K., and Hamid Kh. opened at Hamburg’s Higher Regional Court. The defendants are charged with exporting 92 German-produced specialized valves for use in Iran’s Arak plutonium reactor and arranging the shipment of 856 nuclear-usable valves from India to Iran in 2010 and 2011.

The reasons why the UN Security Council has ordered Iran to halt the construction of the Arak reactor are compelling. If this nuclear plant comes online in 2014, as the Iranians anticipate, it could produce enough weapons-grade plutonium for two bombs a year. The smuggling of nuclear valves from Germany is therefore of exceptional significance and tops the latest UN list of reported alleged violations of the sanction regime against Iran.

Recently, an important detail of this smuggling operation was revealed on the German public television current affairs program, Fakt: “German officials clearly (knew) about this illegal trade since 2009 and did nothing about it for years.” How so? Did such an explosive shipment really take place before the very eyes of the German security services? Read more ..

The Edge of Nature

New Study Profiles Rhino Horn Buyers

September 18th 2013

Rhino, black, Tanzania

One of the biggest markets for illegally poached rhino horns is Vietnam. Now, a new study profiles the consumers driving that demand and how they view the horns as symbols of status and power.

It’s easy to grasp just how big the demand is. In the first half of this year, hundreds of rhinos have been killed in South Africa alone. “South Africa is home to about 75 percent of the world’s rhinos. And since 2008, has been experiencing quite a dramatic increase in the poaching of rhinos for their horns -- up from less than 20 a year to 668 in 2012 and already 635 in 2013,” said Dr. Jo Shaw, rhino coordinator for the World Wildlife Fund South Africa. She said that demand for rhino horns existed long before the huge spike in trafficking to Vietnam and China. Read more ..

After the Holocaust

Should Iraq’s Jewish Archive be Returned to Baghdad?

September 17th 2013

Iraqi Jews Landing in Israel

A few years ago, in response to a Palestinian critic who made a disparaging remark about the fact that I don’t speak Arabic, I felt compelled to write an article explaining why that is the case. I said that under different circumstances, I could have been born in an Arab country and grown up speaking Arabic. My father’s family had been settled in Iraq for generations, but they fled to England in 1941—the same year that Baghdad’s Jews were convulsed by a June pogrom known as the farhud—presaging a much larger exodus of Iraqi Jews over the next decade.

Among my father and his relatives, there was little nostalgia for the old country, and therefore no reason, as they saw it, to ensure that their children born outside Iraq learned Arabic. It’s not that they didn’t appreciate the centrality of Iraq to Jewish history; this was the land where the Talmud Bavli (Babylonian Talmud) was completed, where scholarship flowed from the Jewish academies of Sura and Pumbedita (now the city of Fallujah, site of some of the most brutal fighting during the war in Iraq), and where, in modern times, Jewish merchants flourished alongside Jewish writers and musicians. Read more ..

Afghanistanon Edge

Author Provides Glimpse Into Afghanistan's Secret Subcultures, Hidden Worlds

September 16th 2013

Afghan institute of music

Underground converts to Christianity, shadowy male cross-dressers, and gay bloggers are not usually associated with Afghanistan. And yet they are part of the real but often unseen world Afghans live in.

That unknown side of Afghanistan is the topic of a new book, "Afghan Rumor Bazaar: Secret Sub-Cultures, Hidden Worlds, and the Everyday Life of the Absurd," by Nushin Arbabzadah, an Afghan-born writer currently living in the United States.

Arbabzadah, a lecturer at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), was frustrated by the Western media's often one-dimensional coverage of Afghanistan. Her book attempts to go beyond bombs and burqas to provide readers with new perspectives on a country many mistakenly assume to know.

"I'm much more interested in nonconformist people," she says. "I'm not interested in the established facts about Afghanistan and the kind of people who are usually used to represent Afghanistan. I focused on unusual people on the margins of society and those who don't conform to mainstream standards of Afghanistan." Read more ..

Broken Healthcare

Fires At Russia's Psychiatric Facilities Highlight Neglect

September 15th 2013

Russian Fires

It was at least the second deadly blaze at a psychiatric hospital this year.

In the early hours of September 13, a fire ripped through an aging and dilapidated psychiatric hospital, burning at least 37 people to death in a village in northwestern Novgorod Oblast. It came just months after a psychiatric hospital in Moscow's suburbs was engulfed by fire in April, killing 38, including patients trapped in wards behind barred windows.

On the heels of lethal fires at schools and nightclubs, the blazes signal haphazard safety regulations in Russia. But they also shine a spotlight on the decrepit state of psychiatric facilities. If changes aren't made, Lyubov Vinogradova, executive director of the Independent Psychiatric Association, says such tragedies will continue to happen. Read more ..

The Edge of Terrorism

Jihad 2020: Assessing Al-Qaida’s 20-Year Plan

September 15th 2013

Osama bin Laden in mufti

Since the Arab uprisings erupted two and a half years ago, the global jihadi movement has metastasized to a variety of new locales across the Arab world, most recently in Syria, Libya, Sinai and Tunisia. While these upheavals surprised many in the region, al-Qaida had predicted such events unfolding in a 20-year strategic plan (2000-2020) that came to light in 2005. That blueprint has gone according to plan so far, albeit more because of outside and structural forces than the efforts of jihadis themselves. As a result, the movement was well-positioned to take advantage of the new developments.
In his book “Al-Zarqawi: Al-Qaida's Second Generation,” Fouad Hussein details al-Qaida’s 20-year plan, which has seven phases, with 2013 representing the beginning of the fifth. Here is how al-Qaida, which leaked the plan to Hussein, envisioned each of them playing out: Read more ..

The Battle for Syria

Report Emerges on Worst Human Rights Abuse Yet Found in Syria

September 14th 2013

Click to select Image

Atrocities and massacres have been regular occurrences in Syria’s two-and-half year civil war, but Human Rights Watch provided details Friday about one of the worst massacres carried out by forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad.

The Human Rights Watch (HRW) report documents in exacting detail the summary executions of 248 people by Syrian government forces and allied irregular units in the mainly Sunni Muslim towns of al-Bayda and Baniyas on May 2 and 3 this year. The dead included women and children, some of them infants.  Read more ..

Turkey and Kurdistan

PKK Fighters Halt Withdrawal from Turkey

September 13th 2013

PKK (Kurdish Worker's Party) Fighter

Rebel fighters of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) announced Monday that they would stop withdrawing from Turkish soil as part of a planned agreement with the government of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. Citing the “irresponsible attitude” of leaders in Ankara to Kurdish interests in the peace process, the group said it would remain committed to a ceasefire for the time being.

PKK fighters, headed by their imprisoned leader, Abdullah Öcalan, declared a ceasefire in March 2013 and started to withdraw fighters into Northern Iraq in May. In exchange, the Turkish government, lead by the Islamist AK party, agreed to enact reforms aimed at improving Kurdish rights.

But neither side has fully implemented the agreement. In August, Erdoğan accused the PKK of only withdrawing 20 percent of its 2,500 fighters. At the same time, Erdoğan failed to bring a package of reforms before parliament that could allow more Kurdish-language education programs and devolve greater power to the mostly Kurdish southeast. Read more ..

Healthcare on Edge

Aging Nations Look to Vietnam to Fill Nursing Gap

September 12th 2013

nurse w/stethoscope

Two countries with the world’s oldest populations, Japan and Germany, are training geriatric nurses in Vietnam to help fill critical health care gaps at home.

This month, 100 young Vietnamese are heading to Germany as part of a new project to train geriatric nurses for work in the European country. The trainees have just finished a six-month language and culture course in Hanoi, and they will spend the next two years in a vocational training program. If they pass the final exam, they can work in Germany as fully qualified geriatric nurses.

One of them, 24-year-old Huong Thi Thi, said she is excited about the move. “In Germany there is modern medicine and nursing. In Vietnam, particularly caring for the elderly, is very new. I want to come to Germany to gain more knowledge and experience in caring for the elderly.” Read more ..

The Edge of Healthcare

Horn of Africa Polio Outbreak Thwarts Global Eradication Effort

September 11th 2013

Nigeria Polio vaccination

The global community came tantalizingly close earlier this year to ridding the world of polio.  But then in May, the eradication effort took a powerful blow. The virus turned up again in the Horn of Africa, first in Somalia. 

The Banadir region of Somalia, which includes a Mogadishu refugee camp, is thought to be the so-called “engine” of the Horn of Africa polio outbreak.

In June, three-year-old Mohamed Naasir became ill.  His mother, Khadija Abdullahi Adam, said soon after one leg became permanently disabled. “My son was fine, but he started having a high fever which lasted for almost four days," she explained.  "I gave him medicine, but there was no change.  The following morning he said to me ‘Mom, I can’t stand up.’”

The virus has spread at a rapid pace, triggering massive vaccination efforts. Earlier in 2013, polio was confined to three so-called “endemic countries” -- Nigeria, Afghanistan and Pakistan -- where the virus has never been snuffed out.  Combined there were fewer than 100 cases in those three countries. Read more ..

The Way We Are

Growing Demand Drives Illicit Global Animal Trade

September 10th 2013

Bonobo chimp

Thai and American officials are reporting progress in a combined effort to curb the global trade in illicit wildlife. But they say the problem is growing because of increased demand worldwide for endangered animals and lucrative parts of their bodies.

Thai authorities are trying to make a dent in what has become a multibillion dollar illicit business, taking endangered animals from their natural habitats and selling them or parts of them on the black market.

For the past several years, Thailand has had ally on the law enforcement front to combat the trade, the United States government. A key official on the American side is William Brownfield, the State Department's assistant secretary responsible for the global fight against illegal drugs and organized crime, who investigates, arrests, prosecutes and incarcerates illicit traders. “Illegal wildlife traffickers are definitely criminals," Brownfield said. Read more ..

The Edge of Charities

Some Charities Claiming to Support Veterans Spend Heavily on Overhead

September 9th 2013

Soldier Crying

Over four years, as increasing numbers of veterans returned home from wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, a charity called Disabled Veterans Services of Pompano Beach, Fla., reported raising more than $8 million in cash and nearly $4 million in donated goods that it claimed would help disabled and homeless veterans.

But barely a nickel of each dollar the charity raised in cash went directly to help veterans, a News21 analysis shows. Although it claimed to have sent about $2.5 million in donated drugs and medical supplies to a Boston homeless shelter, the shelter said it received just one shipment worth about $210,000.

Another charity, Help Hospitalized Veterans of Winchester, Calif., spent only 25 cents of every dollar it raised on arts-and-crafts kits and “craft care specialists” as “diversion therapy for veterans facing extended hospitalization.” Most of the rest of the money, according to the charity’s filings with the Internal Revenue Service, paid for mass mailings soliciting more money and urging Americans to volunteer at veterans’ hospitals and become pen pals with patients. Read more ..

After the Holocaust

New Holocaust Study Says Surviving Trauma Can Make Men Live Longer

September 8th 2013

Holocaust survivors

Perhaps the most memorable words about struggle and resilience come from German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche: "What doesn't kill me makes me stronger."

A surprising new study looking at World War II appears to draw the same conclusion, saying male survivors of the Jewish Holocaust lived longer than peers of the same age who escaped Europe before the war.

The research, published by the U.S.-based Public Library of Science, compares the lives of 55,000 Polish Jews who emigrated to Israel before and after the war.

What it discovers is that men who lived through the Holocaust as boys or young men lived as much as 18 months longer than those who didn't -- an astonishing finding that co-author Avi Sagi-Schwartz says could be attributed to a phenomenon known as "post-traumatic growth." Read more ..

The Battle for Syria

Return Of Chemical Warfare Resonates Among Survivors In Iran, Iraq

September 7th 2013

Dead Syrians

Hoshmand Morad vividly remembers the day his city suffered the deadliest chemical-weapons attack ever carried out on a civilian population.

The air suddenly smelled of apples. Pink, white, and yellow clouds cast a pall over the city. Dead bodies littered the road.

These are childhood memories for Morad, who was just 6 years old when his native city of Halabja, in Iraq's Kurdish region, was targeted in a chemical bombing campaign carried out by Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein's air force. Human Rights Watch estimates that as many as 5,000 residents of the city were killed and 10,000 injured in the March 16, 1988, attack. Many died instantly from the effects of the sarin, VX, and mustard gases believed to have been used. Others suffered from severe blisters and vomiting before succumbing, according to eyewitnesses and various reports. Read more ..

The Edge of Healthcare

TB Origins Found in Africa

September 6th 2013


The origins of humans have been traced to Africa. And now, so have the origins of tuberculosis. New research shows the evolutionary trees of both humans and TB have grown side-by-side.

TB bacteria originated in Africa at least 70,000 years ago. That’s the finding of a team of researchers led by Professor Sebastien Gagneaux of the Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute. But why study the history of TB?

Gagneaux said, “At the end of the day, it’s a certain kind of historic question and there have been long discussions about where TB came from originally. That’s on the one hand. On the other hand, the idea is that by learning from the past and how infectious disease evolves over time, this potentially could give us some clue about the future of the TB epidemic.” To trace the origins of TB researchers relied on genetic material, which is relatively easy to come by. Read more ..

Egypt’s Second Revolution

Egyptian Courts Crack Down on Islamist Protesters

September 5th 2013

Brotherhood Demo Post-Coup

Former Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi will go on trial for inciting violence against protesters last year, announced the the country’s top prosecutor earlier this week. The Egyptian Army’s ongoing detention of Morsi, held incommunicado since a coup in early July, shows the military’s renewed willingness to use the judiciary to crack down on the Muslim Brotherhood.

Fourteen other co-defendants, including senior Brotherhood figures, will also be charged for provoking violence outside the Presidential Palace last December. At the time, thousands of anti-Morsi demonstrators had gathered near the palace to voice their discontent over a new Islamist-drafted constitution. Morsi asked the Republican Guard and police minister to restore order, but they refused. The president’s aides allegedly enlisted their supporters to break up the sit-ins; Morsi supporters used weapons and firebombs to disrupt the demonstrators, leaving 10 peaceful protesters dead. Read more ..

The Battle for Syria

The Chemical Watershed as Momentum Shifts Again in Syrian Civil War

September 5th 2013

Syrian Chemical Weapons

Two and a half years after the beginning of the uprising, Damascus has become an eerily empty city. The streets were deserted last Friday evening in the remaining regime-controlled districts -- from Bab Tuma in the east to Mezzeh in the west -- where there is still electricity, running water and phone service.

The Syrian capital was bracing itself for the worst. Last Thursday alone, over 10,000 people reportedly fled across the border into Lebanon, and hundreds of families of soldiers have left their apartments.

The headquarters of the intelligence agencies had been largely vacated and, according to one guard on duty, nearly all Alawite officers and generals had headed for the port city of Tartus and the surrounding area. Read more ..

The Edge of Climate Change

Warmer Planet Fuels More Wildfires

September 4th 2013


A warmer planet is helping to fuel more wildfires in the United States, according to a new study. Environmental scientists at Harvard University predict that by 2050, wildfire seasons will be three weeks longer, up to twice as smoky, and will burn a wider area in the western part of the country.    

Fires in the Western United States have gotten worse since the 1970s. Scientists at Harvard University School of Engineering and Applied Sciences looked at past weather conditions and wildfires to find out why.
“In some regions, like the Rocky Mountains, really temperature is the driving force, but elsewhere variables like relative humidity can play a role," said Loretta Mickley, an atmospheric chemist and co-author of the study. "If one year is particularly moist, for example, in the Great Basin, Nevada, Utah area, then that will foster a lot of vegetation growth and then the following year all that vegetation can feed wildfires and their spread.” Read more ..

The Edge of Sport

Female Athlete Breaks Record with Cuba to US Swim

September 3rd 2013

Ocean scene

U.S. endurance swimmer Diana Nyad has become the first person to swim from Cuba to Key West, Florida without the protection of a shark cage. 

Diana Nyad swam for about 53 hours, covering a distance of 177 kilometers from Hemingway Marina in Havana, Cuba to Smathers Beach in Key West, Florida.   

Onlookers crowded around the 64-year-old swimmer when she came ashore in Key West. Nyad's lips were swollen, and she appeared exhausted, dazed and determined when she addressed the crowd. 

"I've got three messages. One is, we should never, ever give up. Two is, you are never too old to chase your dreams. Three is, it looks like a solitary sport, but it's a team," said Nyad. Medics then escorted the record-breaker off the beach to receive medical attention.  Read more ..

The Digital Edge

Autotalks to Get Cars 'Talking' On the Road by 2015

September 2nd 2013

Traffic Jam

Vehicle-to-vehicle communication systems are the latest trend in road safety, as they warn drivers of impending hazards. The roads could become a great deal safer thanks to new Israeli technology.

For drivers, overtaking a truck is always a risk. Now, the latest craze of the auto technology arena, vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) communication systems – or, cars that can “talk” to one another in real time – is promising to lessen that risk and heighten road safety.

Autotalks, founded and headquartered in Israel, has become a world leader in V2V as well as vehicle-to-infrastructure (V2I) technology, which enables, for example, traffic lights and other infrastructure to respond to an emergency vehicle’s needs.

In 2008, Israeli entrepreneurs Nir Sasson and Onn Haran founded Autotalks to fill a need in the automotive industry. They implemented a sophisticated wireless technology in a smart chipset that allows cars to exchange data. Read more ..

Broken Immigration

Rubio Heckled Over Immigration Reform At Conservative Summit In Florida

September 1st 2013

US/Mex Border fence

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) faced hecklers angry with his leadership on immigration reform at a Friday Tea Party summit in his home state. According to reports, Rubio was met with cries of "No amnesty!" as he gave an address during the opening session of the Americans for Prosperity's Defending the American Dream Summit in Orlando.
The Florida senator joined a handful of other potential 2016 Republican presidential contenders, including Texas Gov. Rick Perry and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, at the summit on Friday. Texas Sen. Ted Cruz will keynote Saturday's closing session.

Rubio didn't once mention immigration reform during his speech, focusing instead on themes of limited government and criticism of Obama's policies, most prominently his healthcare law. Read more ..

The Battle for Syria

Ethnic Armenians In Syria Brace For Missile Strikes

August 31st 2013

Bombing in Syria Mar 2012

As the United States and its allies lay plans for what many believe will be a sustained missile strike inside Syria, the sizable ethnic Armenian community in that country is bracing for the worst.

Zhirayr Reisian, a spokesman for the Syrian diocese of the Armenian Apostolic Church, said Armenian Service that the estimated 100,000 ethnic Syrians in Aleppo were aware of the dangers that could lie ahead but were trying to continue with normal life.

"After all, we are residents of this city and this country. We are part of the people of this country," Reisian said. "If something is going to happen to all, it will also happen to us. If something happens, we are sure to use our means to be helpful with whatever we can to anyone who suffers and is in need of help." Syrian Armenians interviewed say they have begun preparing for possible missile strikes, and many say they will take shelter in the basement of their buildings, if necessary. Read more ..

Defense on Edge

'Hello, Hello, Dmitry': Fabled Cold War Hotline Turns 50

August 30th 2013


It is sometimes hard to separate the myth from the reality of the Moscow-Washington hotline, which turned 50 years old on August 30.

The hotline is not a telephone that sits in the offices of the two most powerful leaders in the world and can be picked up personally by either for urgent calls. That image comes from movies which, in America at least, have commonly portrayed the hotline as a red phone -- red being the color for emergencies.

A popular U.S. film in 1964, "Dr. Strangelove," showed the American president phoning the Soviet premier, with the main concern being if they could hear each other: "Hello, hello, Dmitry. Listen, I can't hear too well. Do you suppose you could turn the music down just a little? That's much better, yes. Fine, I can hear you now Dmitry, clear and plain and coming through fine. I am coming through fine, too, eh? Good. Well then, as you say, we are both coming through fine. Good." Read more ..

The Toxic Edge

Increasing Mercury Levels in Pacific Fish Stocks

August 29th 2013

Click to select Image

University of Michigan researchers and their University of Hawaii colleagues say they've solved the longstanding mystery of how mercury gets into open-ocean fish, and their findings suggest that levels of the toxin in Pacific Ocean fish will likely rise in coming decades. Using isotopic measurement techniques developed at U-M, the researchers determined that up to 80 percent of the toxic form of mercury, called methylmercury, found in the tissues of deep-feeding North Pacific Ocean fish is produced deep in the ocean, most likely by bacteria clinging to sinking bits of organic matter. The study also confirmed that the mercury found in Pacific fish near Hawaii likely traveled through the air for thousands of miles before being deposited on the ocean surface in rainfall, said U-M environmental scientist Joel Blum. Read more ..

Russia on Edge

Russian Artist Who Painted Putin In Lingerie Flees, Fearing Arrest

August 29th 2013


A Russian artist who painted President Vladimir Putin in lingerie stroking the hair of Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said threatening phone calls and the fear of arrest compelled him to flee St. Petersburg for France.

In a telephone interview with Konstantin Altunin he said does not want to return to Russia.

"Today, I appealed to the French prefecture in Paris because I have no other [option]. I would gladly get [local residence and work permits] so that I can be useful to France and to work and pay taxes," he said. "But now, I am forced to request political asylum because I fled very quickly without luggage or money."

On August 26, police seized several of Altunin's paintings that poked fun at the head of the Russian Orthodox Church and lawmakers who promoted controversial legislation against "gay propaganda." Altunin defended his artistic freedom and described the Russian authorities' response to his paintings as "very unpleasant and very ugly." Read more ..

Broken Healthcare

Healthcare Costs Will Mushroom as Injured Veterans Age

August 28th 2013


Jerral Hancock wakes up every night in Lancaster, Calif., around 1 a.m., dreaming he is trapped in a burning tank. He opens his eyes, but he can’t move, he can’t get out of bed and he can’t get a drink of water.

Hancock, 27, joined the Army in 2004 and went to Iraq, where he drove a tank. On Memorial Day 2007 — one month after the birth of his second child — Hancock drove over an IED. Just 21, he lost his arm and the use of both legs, and now suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder. The Department of Veterans Affairs pays him $10,000 every month for his disability, his caretakers, health care, medications and equipment for his new life.

No government agency has calculated fully the lifetime cost of health care for the large number of post-9/11 veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan with life-lasting wounds. But it is certain to be high, with the veterans’ higher survival rates, longer tours of duty and multiple injuries, plus the anticipated cost to the VA of reducing the wait times for medical appointments and reaching veterans in rural areas. Read more ..

Egypt's Second Revolution

Political Islam Unpopular in Egypt

August 27th 2013

Coptic Christian mourners

The head of Egypt’s weekly Christian newspaper calls the ouster of former president Morsi a people’s coup, not a military takeover. Youssef Sidhom says his country is in a struggle against political Islam.

Sidhom is editor-in-chief of the Sunday weekly called Watani, which translates to “My Homeland.” He says after “decades of oppression” under former ruler Hosni Mubarak, he – along with many Egyptians – believed the Muslim Brotherhood had the right to try to govern the country in the interests of all Egyptians. However, Sidhom said that did not happen.

“Months and months had elapsed when they failed to do so. And there has been during the past year of the rule of President Morsi an accumulating level of bitterness and anger on [the] part of Egyptians -- that the Muslim Brotherhood are only clever in taking power in their hands and ousting every other political faction.” He said by late June, many Egyptians had rejected Mr. Morsi’s policies.

“Egyptians enormously went down to the streets – whether Christians or Muslims – saying enough is enough and we’re not taking any more of the rule of Morsi. And I have to admit they were very lucky that their anger, which erupted, was sided by the Egyptian military,” he said. Read more ..

Inside Israel

Tibetan Monks Chant Prayers of Peace in Jerusalem

August 26th 2013

Tibetan Monks Peace Prayers2

The sounds of Tibetan monks chanting, an Iranian playing the santoor, western African style music, Rastafarian and reggae beats, as well as some Israeli rock, among other musical genres could recently be heard pulsating from Jerusalem's Tower of David in the Old City.

The international and local rhythms made up the beats of the second annual Jerusalem Sacred Music Festival part of the Jerusalem Season of Culture, whose musical venues were located in different parts of the city including the YMCA, Tzidkiyahu's Cave, and Hebrew University.

The three day festival (August 20-23) attracted at least 1,000 visitors each night to the Tower of David according to director, Eilat Lieber. "It was very important for me to bring this unique festival to the Tower of David," Lieber told Tazpit News Agency. Read more ..

The Battle for Syria

Forget the Red Line and Engage in Syria

August 26th 2013

Dead Syrians

On Wednesday, Aug. 21, Bashar Assad's regime in Syria all but certainly used chemical weapons to kill hundreds of civilians, including dozens of women and children. That was just one day after the first anniversary of President Obama's warning that Assad's use of chemical weapons was a "red line" that would "change my calculus."

The red line has proved to be a hollow threat. Both prior to and after Obama's August 2012 statement, credible reports gave strong reason to think that such weapons had been used. Indeed, after this latest outrage, the administration has not only refused to blame Assad, it announced that it would bring the matter to the United Nations Security Council, a time-tested recipe for further inaction.

The administration's reluctance to get involved in Syria is wholly understandable. Such an arbitrary humanitarian trigger for military involvement makes little sense. After all, to date more than 100,000 Syrians have been killed, mostly by bullets, artillery and missiles. Why should Washington change its policy just because the Assad regime altered its modality of killing? Is the murder of 1,000 innocents with sarin gas worse than that of 100,000 with conventional weapons? Read more ..

Inside Politcs

'America Votes' spent nearly $1 million on Wisconsin recall

August 25th 2013

Gov Scott Walker

America Votes, a national liberal nonprofit group with significant union funding, made the 2011 and 2012 Wisconsin recall elections a top priority, providing a major cash infusion to a handful of groups that helped organize the efforts.

Documents show the nonprofit gave a combined $940,000 to four organizations that tried to boot Republican Gov. Scott Walker and several other GOP lawmakers out of office.

America Votes, which aims “to coordinate and promote progressive issues,” raised $11.1 million from July 2011 through June 2012 and spent $9.6 million, according to an IRS filing obtained by the Center for Public Integrity.

Of the total, $725,400 went to the Greater Wisconsin Committee and $150,000 went to We Are Wisconsin, a nonprofit launched shortly after Walker announced his controversial legislation that restricted collective bargaining. America Votes also gave nearly $45,000 to Citizen Action of Wisconsin and $20,000 to Wisconsin Progress. Read more ..

Broken Labor

OSHA Rule Targets Worker Exposure to Silica

August 24th 2013

Health and Human Services Washington D.C.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration on Friday proposed a long-awaited rule to control worker exposures to silica, a toxic mineral that can cause the deadly lung disease silicosis, lung cancer and other ailments.

The rule could save nearly 700 lives and prevent 1,600 new cases of silicosis each year, OSHA chief David Michaels told reporters in a conference call. Tiny silica particles are unleashed through activities such as sandblasting, concrete-cutting and a form of oil and gas drilling called hydraulic fracturing, or fracking.

“This proposal is long overdue,” Michaels said. “OSHA’s current standards are dangerously out of date and do not adequately protect workers’ health.” The agency estimates that 2.2 million workers, most of them in construction, are exposed to silica in the United States. The rule will likely take “many months” to become final, Michaels said, with public hearings planned for March. Read more ..

US and Afghanistan

Afghan President Hopes for US Help for Families of Bales' Victims

August 24th 2013

Staff Sgt Robert Bales

Afghan President Hamid Karzai says the life sentence handed to an American soldier convicted of massacring 16 Afghan civilians “will not replace the loss” that his nation has suffered.  Speaking in Kabul Saturday, he also said he is in no hurry to sign a security pact with the United States that Washington insists is needed before the bulk of U.S. forces leave the country in 2014.

President Karzai spoke to reporters in the Afghan capital, a day after a military jury sentenced U.S. Army Staff Sergeant Robert Bales to life in prison without the possibility of release.

The Afghan leader said he did not favor capital punishment, but even if the American soldier had been given the death penalty it would not turn back the clock.

“A life sentence to him or a death sentence to him will not bring back our children that he killed, will not bring back the happiness of those families and will not replace the loss that the Afghan nation suffered. We are more in trying to bring an end to the sufferings of the Afghan people rather than seeking revenge that will not bring back the lost children of ours,” he said. Read more ..

Ancient Days

Researchers Reveal Mysteries of Caveman Cuisine

August 23rd 2013

Cave painting, Altamira, Spain

Thank God for bad Stone Age chefs, says archaeologist Hayley Saul at the University of York. “We like dirty pots. People who can’t cook very well," she said. "They burn food onto their pots, that’s what we’re after.”

It’s from those charred remnants of prehistoric dinners that she and her colleagues isolated the first evidence of a spice used in cooking. They found microscopic traces of garlic mustard in crusts on 6,000-year-old pots found in Germany and Denmark.

Garlic mustard grows wild today throughout Europe and western Asia. And it’s an invasive species in North America. “The leaves smell like garlic, but the seeds taste like mustard,” Saul explained. “Hence the name garlic mustard.” Prehistoric use of spices has been hard to study because plants decompose quickly and are not usually preserved. But when plant cells decay, they leave behind petrified outlines of themselves in silica. Studying these outlines, Saul found modern garlic mustard seed was an excellent match. Read more ..

The Environment on Edge

Scientists Work to Save Disappearing Kelp Forests

August 22nd 2013


Underwater kelp forests are sometimes called the rainforests of the sea, but - like the verdant jungles on land - the vast beds of seaweed are disappearing, hurting fisheries and coastal communities worldwide.  A project off the coast of California is helping to restore them.

Divers are working in the waters off the Palos Verdes Peninsula in places known as barrens, which once were home to thriving kelp forests. Today, these parts of the seabed are thick with sea urchins, creatures that have proliferated because of pollution and other human activities. The divers are killing some of urchins to thin the population, which is sickly and malnourished.  This restores the natural balance, says David Witting of the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration.

“That will allow the kelp to establish itself," he said. "Once there's a healthy kelp forest system, the urchins tend to feed off of the broken-off pieces of adult kelp, rather than foraging on the juvenile kelp.” Scientists regularly head out to sea for the restoration work on the 60-hectare project. Read more ..

The Battle for Syria

Drought Called a Factor in Syria’s Uprising

August 21st 2013

mexico drought

Two-and-a-half years ago, a group of children in the Syrian city of Dara’a triggered one of the bloodiest conflicts in the 21st century when they painted some anti-government graffiti on a school wall in the ancient farming community.

The children were quickly detained and tortured, leading to widespread protests in the city that were met with harsh repression.  The government’s brutal response led to a nationwide revolt that has now stagnated into a bloody stalemate with no end in sight. 

Dara’a is a mostly agricultural community in a region that has suffered an unrelenting drought since 2001. Some experts say it’s no accident that Syria’s civil war began there. In 2009, the United Nations and other international agencies found that more than 800,000 Syrian farmers and herdsmen had been forced off their lands because of drought, with many crowding into cities like Dara’a.  Additionally, thousands of illegal wells were drilled, drastically lowering the nation’s ground water supply. Read more ..

The Environment on Edge

Houston Sprawl Leaves Wildlife Stranded

August 20th 2013

cougar/American mountain lion

Houston, Texas, and its surrounding suburbs are growing fast and sprawling out into natural forest areas that are the habitat for many species of indigenous wildlife. Local leaders as well as environmentalists are seeking some sort of balance between growth and preservation of nature.  But time is running out.

On a ranch in the woods northwest of Houston, several young deer who were left orphaned when their mother was killed, are growing to maturity within a safe, fenced-off area.

Nearby,  at the Friends of Texas Wildlife Center northwest of Houston, volunteers help care for a variety of injured animals. There, a red-tailed hawk is recovering from what may have been a collision with a glass window.

Center Director Lisa Wolling is helping him exercise his wings so he can be returned to his natural world. "He needs to be in this flight area to be able to [be in] flight condition and get his endurance back up," she said. Animals throughout this area are facing a crisis as developers build more homes and more roads to link them to Houston. Read more ..

The Edge of Medicine

Plastic Surgeons’ Pro Bono Surgery Frees Young Orange County Woman from Daily Bullying

August 19th 2013


Twenty-seven year old Sarah Simmering has dealt with an enormous, disfiguring tumor on her nose since she graduated from college. The benign tumor, known as Rhinophyma, grew hideously large over time and caused years of daily ridicule and bullying. Renowned Newport Beach facial plastic surgeon, Dr. Kevin Sadati, heard about Sarah’s story from a colleague and was inspired to help change this young woman’s life.

Following Sarah’s college graduation, the tumor on her nose was controlled by medication; however, soon medications were no longer enough to suppress the growth of the mass on her face. She was not able to join the work force due to her condition, and a lack of money and medical insurance prevented Sarah from receiving effective medical treatment. Read more ..

Israel and Palestinians

To Get an Israeli-Palestinian Agreement, U.S. Needs to Re-engage

August 18th 2013

Obama Peres Biden

Having coaxed Israelis and Palestinians back to the negotiating table after an unprecedented drought of talks, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry can claim at least a measure of vindication for his seemingly single-minded focus on the peace process. But now that negotiations have commenced, that same single-mindedness could prove the talks' undoing and the unraveling of Kerry's achievement.

In approaching the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Kerry was wise to put aside the settlements-first approach that bedeviled the Obama administration's first term. The process that Kerry has put together appears instead to pick up, structurally speaking at least, where the 2007-2008 "Annapolis process" between then-Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas left off. Read more ..

Islams' War Against Christianity

Muslims Burn 47 Churches in Egypt

August 17th 2013

Coptic woman weeping at funeral

As the death toll from recent violent clashes in Egypt continues to climb with 556 now reported dead and thousands more injured Australia's Egyptian community remains in shock.

"We who stand for 80,000 Christian Egyptians in Australia are deeply saddened by events and the tragic loss of life in Egypt on Wednesday. No matter the difference in our political or religious stance, it is unacceptable to see such bloodshed and the destruction of public buildings and churches throughout Egypt," the leaders of the Coptic Orthodox Church of Australia, Bishop Anba Suriel and Bishop Daniel said in a joint statement this morning.

Egypt is under a state of emergency and facing a humanitarian disaster with security forces firing on protesters supporting deposed president Mohamed Morsi, a member of the Muslim Brotherhood. Heavily armed police have opened fire on men, women and children in Cairo and regional centres. Read more ..

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