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The Environment on Edge

Cleanup of Most Challenging U.S. Contaminated Groundwater Sites Unlikely for Many Decades

November 12th 2012

Kingston Plant Spill

At least 126,000 sites across the U.S. have contaminated groundwater that requires remediation, and about 10 percent of these sites are considered "complex," meaning restoration is unlikely to be achieved in the next 50 to 100 years due to technological limitations, says a new report from the National Research Council.  The report adds that the estimated cost of complete cleanup at these sites ranges from $110 billion to $127 billion, but the figures for both the number of sites and costs are likely underestimates.
 
Several national and state groundwater cleanup programs developed over the last three decades under various federal and state agencies aim to mitigate the human health and ecological risks posed by underground contamination.  These programs include cleanup at Superfund sites; facilities that treat, store, and dispose of hazardous wastes; leaking underground storage tanks; and federal facilities, such as military installations. Read more ..

Palestine on Edge

Washington's Failure to Rein in UNRWA

November 11th 2012

UNRWA Protest

General Assembly resolution 194 of December 11, 1948, offers two options, repatriation and resettlement, to achieve the reintegration of the Palestinian Arab refugees "into the economic life of the Near East." Yet, U.S. Department of State documents from 1949 through the early 1950s reveal that despite the lip service paid to repatriation, Washington and its allies effectively equated reintegration with the resettlement of the refugees in the neighboring Arab states.

Historical Context
Economic development has been viewed by successive U.S. administrations as the key to integrating regions and peoples, and since the 1930s, their vision of this endeavor was largely modeled on the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) project.

Created by an act of the U.S. Congress in 1933, the TVA was conceived as a regional economic development agency. It was tasked with responsibilities for flood control, electrification, reforestation, fertilizer production, agricultural education, and river navigation throughout the Tennessee Valley, an area that includes the state of Tennessee, parts of Kentucky, Mississippi, and Alabama, and smaller portions of Georgia, North Carolina, and Virginia. Read more ..


Kenya on Edge

Kenya Introduces Biometrics for Voter Registration

November 10th 2012

Eyeball Surveillance

This week, nearly 1,000 Kenyan election commission officials received training in the use of new biometric voter registration kits. Biometric voter registration uses fingerprints and facial features to uniquely identify each voter. With only four months until elections, officials must work quickly. They face additional pressure in Coast Province, where a secessionist group has threatened to disrupt the voter registration effort.

In a beachside hotel north of Mombasa, 80 officers with the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) spent one week learning to use the kits. Similar workshops were held around the country. The kits were scheduled to arrive months ago from France but were delivered just last week. The delay has raised concern that there is not enough time to register Kenya's 22 million eligible voters.

Annahstacia Mutua, a regional elections coordinator in Coast Province, is undaunted. "Of course there is enough time. When we start the registration, we are going to do it within only one month, then after that we'll do verification. We don't know yet how much time will be allocated for verification of the register, but we believe we have ample time," said she. Next week, the newly trained officers will return home and share their knowledge with nearly 30,000 electoral clerks. Voter registration will begin after this final stage of training. Kenyan law requires that registration must conclude 60 days before the election, now scheduled for March 4th. Read more ..


Education on Edge

Examining Transition from Student to Teacher

November 9th 2012

Students

“It was the hardest thing I ever had to do, emotionally and mentally.” These are not the words we generally associate with a university student who is undergoing teacher training, yet Concordia researcher Anita Sinner has heard similar statements from many such individuals. Every year thousands of students make the transition from student to teacher and the stories of those who struggle are often missing from our conversations. 

“Pre-service teachers who experience varying degrees of struggle have few stories against which to compare their experiences when entering the teaching profession,” Sinner explains. This magnifies a sense of dislocation in the very profession they seek to dedicate their working lives.” By examining the challenges faced by one person transitioning from student to teacher, she hopes to “raise awareness about the stresses of the teaching occupation and works to establish, within teacher culture, alternative perspectives about the profession.” Read more ..


America After Sandy

Israeli Aid Missions Provide Relief to Hurricane Sandy Victims.

November 8th 2012

Staten Island community

An Israeli delegation of trained rescue volunteers will depart to New York on Friday, November 9 to assist victims devastated by Hurricane Sandy.  The delegation is headed by the Shahar Zahavi, the CEO of IsraAID, The Israel Forum for International Humanitarian Aid, an Israeli non-governmental organization (NGO) that has facilitated aid and relief program across the world, including in Haiti, Japan, Turkey, Kenya and South Sudan.

The 12-person delegation will be offering rescue, rehabilitation, and communal resource services to New York residents of Far Rockaway and Long Beach as well as the Atlantic City-Margate area of the Jersey Shore. They will also be identifying areas with vulnerable populations and allocating resources to older people and families with young children who have suffered significant damages to their homes and have no power. Read more ..


China on Edge

China's Hu Issues Warning About Corruption

November 8th 2012

President Hu

China’s once-in-a-decade leadership transition began Thursday, with a warning from the country’s outgoing leader. In a long and wide-ranging speech to mark the beginning of China’s 18th party congress, President Hu Jintao warned that the party and even the country are facing fatal challenges if it does not do more to deal with the problem of corruption. In his final remarks as leader of the political party that single-handedly rules 1.3 billion people and charts the course for the world’s second-largest economy, President Hu had a warning for the Chinese Communist party. "Opposing corruption and building an honest and clean government is a clear stance the party has been adhering to and is an important political issue the people have been paying attention to. If we fail to handle this issue [corruption] well, it could prove fatal to the party and even cause the collapse of the party and the fall of the state," he said. Read more ..


The Vote Aftermath

World Reaction to Obama's Victory

November 7th 2012

Prez Obama at AIPAC 2012

"Warm congratulations to my friend (at)BarackObama. Look forward to continuing to work together," Tweeted David Cameron, the Tory prime minister of the United Kingdom.

The official news service of the Islamic Republic of Iran provided a vivid headline, "Republican's elephant crushed by Democrat's donkey."

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has had a notably strained relationship with President Obama and is a personal friend of defeated GOP candidate Mitt Romney, csaid of the Democrat's victory in a text message to the media, "I will continue to work with President Obama to preserve the strategic interests of Israel's citizens."

A senior official of the Palestinian Authority, Saeb Erekat urged Obama to support Palestinian efforts to seek U.N. General Assembly recognition of an independent state of Palestine. "We have decided to take our cause to the United Nations this month, and we hope that Obama will stand by us," Erekat told Wafa, the official Palestinian news agency. Read more ..


The Pre-historic Edge

How Saber-Toothed Cats and Bear Dogs Got Along, 9 Million Years Ago

November 7th 2012

Ancient bear dog
Ancient Bear Dog - Magericyon anceps

The fossilized fangs of saber-toothed cats hold clues to how the extinct mammals shared space and food with other large predators 9 million years ago.

Led by the University of Michigan and the Museo Nacional de Ciencias Naturales in Madrid, a team of paleontologists has analyzed the tooth enamel of two species of saber-toothed cats and a bear dog unearthed in geological pits near Madrid. Bear dogs, also extinct, had dog-like teeth and a bear-like body and gait.

The researchers found that the cat species—a leopard-sized Promegantereon ogygia and a much larger, lion-sized Machairodus aphanistus—lived together in a woodland area. They likely hunted the same prey—horses and wild boar. In this habitat, the small saber-toothed cats could have used tree cover to avoid encountering the larger ones. The bear dog hunted antelope in a more open area that overlapped the cats' territory, but was slightly separated. Read more ..


Israel on Edge

Video Captures Palestinian Girl Attempting to Provoke IDF

November 6th 2012

Palestinian Girl Provokes IDF Solder Nov 2012

A video shot at a Friday protest in the village of Nabi Salih, in the central West Bank, captured a striking image: that of a young Palestinian girl attempting to provoke Israeli soldiers. Soon thereafter the girl is joined by many other seemingly young people from the village. A senior Israeli Defense Forces source told Ynet that intelligence indicates that pro-Palestinian activists pay Palestinian children from Nabi Salih and other nearby villages to confront the soldiers. “The soldiers are briefed on the fact that these protests are staged for the sake of provocation, so that they could be filmed acting violently and so that those videos could be distributed worldwide in an effort to harm the IDF’s image,” the officer said. See Video

According to Ynet, Abir Kubati, spokesperson of the popular protest coordination committee, said: “I don’t understand what the army wants – they send soldiers into a Palestinian village and then dare to depict themselves as victims because the residents don’t welcome them.” Read more ..


The 2012 Election

The U.S. Presidential Election: A Tempest in a Coffee Cup

November 6th 2012

vietnamese slow drip coffee

Predicting the outcome of the U.S. presidential election is a tough business. Political parties, news agencies and pundits have been sifting through public opinion polls for months, trying to figure out a likely winner.

But no matter how good the calculations, forecasting the future is never a sure thing. For election observers seeking relief from the traditional number crunching, there are plenty of alternatives, so long as you have a sense of humor and a bit of imagination.

7-11 coffee cups

Coffee drinkers who get their caffeine fix at the popular convenience store 7-Eleven have successfully predicted the presidential winner since 2000. The so-called "7-Election" offers voters, or coffee drinkers in this case, a chance to support their favorite candidate by choosing either a blue cup for President Barack Obama or a red cup for Republican Party challenger Mitt Romney. Read more ..


The 2012 Vote

Mystery Donor is Tops among Corporate Donors at $5.3 Million in this Election

November 6th 2012

Bundles of Cash

The biggest corporate contributor in the 2012 election so far doesn’t appear to make anything — other than very large contributions to a conservative super PAC. Specialty Group Inc., of Knoxville, Tenn., donated nearly $5.3 million between Oct. 1 and Oct. 11 to FreedomWorks for America, which is affiliated with former GOP House Majority Leader Dick Armey.

FreedomWorks’ super PAC has spent more than $19 million on political advertising including $1.7 million on Oct. 29 opposing Tammy Duckworth, a Democrat running for Congress in Illinois against tea party favorite Joe Walsh, a first-term incumbent. The buy was more than four times greater than the group’s previous largest single expenditure.

Specialty was formed only a month ago. Its “principal office” is a private home in Knoxville. It has no website. And the only name associated with it is that of its registered agent, William S. Rose Jr., a lawyer whose phone number, listed in a legal directory, is disconnected. Rose released a press release Monday saying the company was created to "buy, sell, develop and invest in a variety of real estate ventures and investments."

In the six-page statement, Rose said he was a "disappointed, yet staunchly patriotic, baby boomer" with concerns about the administration's handling of the terrorist attack on the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya, as well as the Department of Justice's botched "Operation Fast and Furious" gunwalking program. Read more ..


America After Sandy

More Sandy Victims Expected to Flee Homes as Cold Weather Hits

November 5th 2012

Staten Island house

Superstorm Sandy has left thousands of people homeless in the northeastern United States.  But, cold weather could force more storm victims from their homes. According to weather experts, the temperature in areas of New York and New Jersey hardest hit by Sandy could fall to one degree by Monday morning.  Tens of thousands of people have been forced from their homes by the storm and the federal government, the states of New York and New Jersey, and the city of New York are trying to address the issue.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo says despite not having electricity, many people do not want to leave their homes, but will be forced to do so because of the cold.

“It’s starting to get cold; people are in homes that are uninhabitable. It’s going to be increasingly clear that they’re uninhabitable when the temperature drops and the heat doesn’t go on.  That’s when they are going to know they’re uninhabitable," he said. 
U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano says the recovery effort must focus on moving storm victims from shelters into temporary housing.
Read more ..


The Economic Edge

Economists Find Kinship Networks Play Key Role to Access Credit

November 5th 2012

African subsistence farming

In times of financial hardship, or when opportunities arise, the ability to borrow can be critical.  Some people rely on commercial lenders, while others depend on relatives, especially in developing countries. But a new study shows that the presence of banks and relatives together are better than any one source individually.

The research, funded by the Consortium on Financial Services and Poverty (CFSP), suggests that not every household in a village needs to use the banking system directly in order to benefit in terms of buffering consumption, if interpersonal gifts and lending are widespread. 

“Strikingly, an indirect connection [to a bank] is as effective as a direct connection,” economists Cynthia Kinnan and Robert Townsend wrote in a paper published in the American Economic Review, “suggesting that borrowing and lending among households acts to distribute capital from formal financial institutions.”  Read more ..


Mexico on Edge

Mexicans Outraged by Crime Take Security Matters into Their Own Hands

November 5th 2012

Protester Michoacan Mexico

In the final days of the Calderon presidency, anti-crime uprisings are spreading in parts of rural Mexico. Similar to the “citizen uprisings” in the Michoacan indigenous communities of Cheran and Urapicho, residents in a section of neighboring Guerrero state have now taken security matters into their own hands.

The most recent flashpoint is an indigenous zone known as La Cañada, where hundreds of armed residents responded to the ringing of a church bell, women disarmed the local police and locals set up barricades at the entrances to the town of Olinala on October 27. Classes were suspended, and an evening curfew ordered. Infuriated residents also set fire to a home and vehicles belonging to suspected criminals.

Only days later, on October 30, residents of the town of Cualac reportedly took similar action, while inhabitants of Temalacatzingo were also assuming security duties. Read more ..


Pakistan on Edge

Survivor of Taliban Terror Remains Defiant in Pakistan

November 4th 2012

Kainat Ahmad
Kainat Ahmad

Recovered after being struck by a Taliban bullet, 16-year-old Kainat Ahmad is now focused on two things -- continuing her education and seeing her best friend again. Ahmad was wounded during the attempted murder last month of teen peace activist Malala Yousafzai, targeted by the Pakistani Taliban for her criticism of the hard-line group's influence in the restive Swat Valley.

On November 1, Ahmad returned to the girls' school she and Malala attend in Mingora, the capital of the Swat district. Ahmad spent nearly a week in a hospital in Mingora after being struck by a bullet in her right arm when Taliban gunman fired on the vehicle she and Malala were riding in. Malala is slowly recovering in a British hospital from a serious bullet wound to her head. Ahmad says she's looking forward to the day when Malala will join her at school and says everyone in the community is praying for her recovery.  Read more ..


Nigeria on Edge

Nigeria Tackles Maternal Mortality

November 4th 2012

Nigeria Polio vaccination

For many women in Nigeria, a country with one of the highest maternal death rates in the world, the prospect of giving birth can be scary. According to the U.N. children’s organization, UNICEF, more than 150 women die every day in pregnancy-related cases in Nigeria, an average of one death every 10 minutes. It’s no wonder many pregnant women worry about coming out of the hospital or clinic alive.
 
“I asked my family members to embark on prayers for me,” says Eldina Istifanus, a mother of two. “I am sure that is why I am alive today. “I almost died of childbirth complications during my first delivery,” she says. “I was afraid during my second delivery. I remembered my first experience and the experience of my friends who died in the process.” Despite her fears, Istifanus counts herself lucky because she was in a private clinic. “The situation is very bad in public hospitals,” she says. “The workers are not motivated and emergency services are almost absent. I don’t know what would have happened to me if I had gone there.” Read more ..


The 2012 Vote

Who Will Iranian-Americans Vote For?

November 4th 2012

Iranian Americans Protest

On election day, Portland-based journalist Goudarz Eghtedari will abstain from voting; D.C.-based businessman Shahriar Etminani will cast his vote for Republican candidate Mitt Romney; and California-based attorney Mike Kazemi will vote for the Democratic incumbent, Barack Obama. The three differ when it comes to who they think should be the next president of the United States, but they share one thing in common -- all are Iranian-Americans who moved to the United States shortly before or after the 1979 Islamic Revolution. They are among the estimated 1.5 million Iranians who live in the United States, and their votes tell a lot about how one of the campaign's major foreign-policy issues has played out among the relatively small, but significant, voting bloc.

For many Iranian-Americans, how the next administration deals with Tehran is a key determinant of how they will cast their ballots on November 6. Both Obama and Romney say that Iran's possession of a nuclear weapon is not an option. And both candidates have said that military strikes aimed at curbing Iran's controversial nuclear activities should be a last resort. Read more ..


The Edge of Justice

Conservative Groups Attempt to Dislodge Justices in Florida, Iowa

November 3rd 2012

Supreme Court Lady Justice

Conservative outside spending groups have taken to the airwaves in an attempt to kick four Supreme Court justices off the bench in Iowa and Florida for taking positions the groups find objectionable.

In Iowa, one organization, joined by former GOP presidential candidate Rick Santorum, hopes to oust a justice who supports same-sex marriage. In Florida, justices face the wrath of a pro-business group and a physician who object to President Barack Obama’s health care reform law.

Supporters of the justices have paid for ads and mailers and are defending the judges’ records while accusing their opponents of politicizing the court system. The campaigns include television ads and dueling bus tours. Eighteen states, including Iowa and Florida, require their appointed Supreme Court justices to periodically face voters in what are known as “merit retention elections.” Voters are asked whether a judge should remain on the bench. If a majority says no, the governor appoints new justices from a list of names submitted by a nonpartisan nominating commission. Read more ..


The Digital Edge

UN Internet Control Pushed by Iran and China Renews Concern

November 3rd 2012

Hand on Mouse

U.S. Ambassador Terry Kramer on Friday warned that countries like China and Iran are looking to propose troublesome language for a telecommunications treaty that could lead to online censorship and government monitoring of Web traffic. The countries say those proposals are intended to protect computer networks from malicious spam and crack down on online child pornography, but the methods they suggest to accomplish this via the treaty would allow them to see "what information is flowing on the Internet," including what people are doing and saying on the Web, Kramer said at an event hosted by Johns Hopkins University's Center for Transatlantic Relations. 

"There are a variety of non-democratic nations that are seeking to put some content restrictions out there, that are saying they want to know how traffic flows," said Kramer, who is heading up the U.S. delegation for the upcoming treaty conference in Dubai this December.

He said these cybersecurity proposals initially look innocuous, but upon a second look, they propose to broaden the scope of the treaty so it shifts from regulating telecommunications networks to regulating information online. Spam and child pornography are serious Internet threats that need to be cracked down on, but Kramer said these countries are using them to argue for "managing traffic and looking at what's happening where [on the Web].'" He said the U.S. finds such traffic monitoring proposals "completely inappropriate." Read more ..


The Urban Edge

Asia's Newest Megacity Offers Model for Urban Growth

November 2nd 2012

Megacity

Iskandar Malaysia, the first "smart metropolis" of Southeast Asia founded on principles of social integration as well as low carbon emissions thanks to a green economy and green technologies, is a potential template for urban development in emerging countries with burgeoning populations, international experts say.

Malaysia's ambition for the massive new Iskandar development: a model of sustainable development and an economic hub in league with Hong Kong and neighboring Singapore.

And Iskandar is already a powerful magnet for foreign investment, exemplified by openings of expansive new facilities of the UK-based Pinewood Film Studios, Asia's first Legoland theme park, and remote campuses of several western universities (including the UK's Newcastle University, Southampton University and Marlborough College, co-located in Iskandar's 140-hectare "edu-city").

Ongoing creation of the new metropolis is the focus of special meetings of Malaysia's Global Science and Innovation Advisory Council (GSIAC) -- a unique assembly of all-star national and international experts created to inform and assist the nation's sustainable development. GSIAC is chaired by its founder, Prime Minister Dato' Seri Najib Tun Razak. Read more ..


America After Sandy

Hurricane Sandy Reignites Climate Change Debate

November 2nd 2012

Glaciers

The devastation to New York City and the eastern seaboard of the United States from Hurricane Sandy has reignited the debate over global warming.  Many experts believe the warming of the planet is largely caused by the burning of fossil fuels. Hurricane Sandy cut power to about 8 million homes, shut down 70 percent of East Coast oil refineries, and will exceed, economists say, the $15 billion worth of damage caused last year when Hurricane Irene hit New York. New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo said his state must adapt to the reality of more frequent extreme weather events.
 
Carol Werner with the Environmental and Energy Study Institute says climate change scientists have long predicted that intense storms, droughts, and forest fires would result from the rising temperatures and sea levels caused by global warming. “Scientists have been warning us about this for decades, and unfortunately it is all happening much earlier than what they had originally predicted back in the 80s,” Werner said.
Read more ..

The 2012 Vote

A Hardening of Racial Attitudes during the Obama Administration

November 1st 2012

Obama

This might not be a "post-racial" era after all. New research indicates that racial attitudes toward African-Americans have worsened since the election of President Barack Obama. Many people described America as accepting of all races after Obama was voted as the country's first black president in 2008. However, a new poll shows that anti-black sentiments became more common in the last four years.

Since 2008, explicit racism was more common among Republicans than Democrats. In 2012, the proportion of people expressing anti-black attitudes was 79 percent among Republicans, 48 percent among independents and 32 percent among Democrats. If the findings hold during next week's presidential elections, Obama's race may play a factor in voters' choices.

The study's authors include Josh Pasek, assistant professor of communication studies at the University of Michigan; Jon Krosnick, professor of communication and political science at Stanford University; and Trevor Tompson, director of the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research at the University of Chicago. Read more ..


The Urban Edge

Sustainable Cities Must Look Beyond City Limits

October 31st 2012

Minneapolis skyline

Cities leaders aspiring to transform their cities into models of sustainability must look beyond city limits and include in their calculation the global flow of goods and materials into their realm, argue researchers in the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences journal Ambio.

Many cities are now developing sustainable strategies to reduce pollution and congestion, improve the quality of life of their citizens, and respond to growing concern about human impact on climate and the environment. But sustainable city initiatives often ignore the environmental footprint from imported goods and services such as food, water, and energy to cities: sustainability, it seems, stops at the city limits. Ultimately, this will not add up to a planet able to support over nine billion people. Read more ..


Myanmar on Edge

UN: Opium Production in Burma Grows for Sixth Straight Year

October 31st 2012

Burmese Generals

The United Nations says opium production in Burma has gone up for the sixth consecutive year, despite increased government efforts to curtail output of the crop used to make heroin.

An annual report by the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime said Wednesday that state eradication efforts destroyed poppies on nearly 24,000 hectares of land in 2012, more than triple that of last year. Nonetheless, farmland used for opium cultivation rose by 17 percent to 51,000 hectares.

Burma, the world's second largest producer of opium after Afghanistan, has promised to eradicate the drug completely by 2014. But the likelihood of achieving that goal is now in question, since U.N. data says production of the crop has risen every year since 2006.

The U.N. report said rising prices and increased demand in China and the rest of Asia continues to attract poor farmers to the opium business. It said farmers can receive 19 times as much for opium as for rice, and will not likely turn away from growing the crop unless alternate livelihoods are available. Read more ..


The 2012 Vote

Chevron Oil Sweetens the Pot with $2.5 Million to Conservative Super PAC

October 31st 2012

Chevron

The dearth of large contributions being made by big corporations to super PACs so far this election has ended.

Chevron Corp., ranked No. 3 on the Fortune 500 list of largest U.S. companies, made a $2.5 million contribution on Oct. 7 to the conservative Congressional Leadership Fund, a super PAC dedicated to electing Republicans to the House and Senate.

Following the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision in 2010, which allowed corporate money to be spent on elections, there were predictions that companies would tap their treasuries and flood races with unlimited cash.

Instead, the bulk of the giving has come from individuals — like casino magnate Sheldon Adelson. Adelson and wife Miriam gave at least $14.5 million in the first 17 days of October, boosting his total giving to the controversial political organizations to a remarkable $53 million. It would take 10,600 contributions of $5,000, the maxiumum allowed to candidates, for Adleson to reach that amount were he giving directly to campaigns. Read more ..


The 2012 Vote

Mayor Bloomberg to President Obama: Don't Come to the Big Apple

October 31st 2012

Click to select Image

Mayor said he didn’t want to “diss” Obama, but told him everyone has “lots of things to do” in storm's aftermath.

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg (I) said President Obama offered to visit the city in the wake of Hurricane Sandy but Bloomberg told him that everyone has “lots of things to do” instead.

Bloomberg said he didn’t want to “diss” Obama and was flattered by the offer. Obama is scheduled to visit New Jersey on Wednesday, where the hurricane made landfall. The mayor said that trip would represent the whole region.

“What I pointed out to them is we would love to have him, but we have lots of things to do,” Bloomberg said at a press conference. “I’m not trying to diss him. But I know he had planned a trip to New Jersey, and I said that is fine. It represents the whole region. ... He has got a lot of things to do, and I was flattered that he offered to come.” Read more ..


Oil Addiction

Plastic Could Fuel US Move Away from Foreign Oil

October 30th 2012

Plastic-oil

The next big thing in fuel could come from repurposed plastic. However, only seven percent of plastic waste in the United States is recycled each year, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. A company in Niagara Falls, New York, is working to increase that percentage, with an eye toward reducing America’s dependence on foreign oil.

It's a machine known as the “plastic-eating monster.” Every hour, thousands of kilograms of shredded milk jugs, water bottles, and grocery bags tumble into its large combustion chamber. The waste plastic comes from landfills and dumps across the United States.

John Bordyniuk, who runs his namesake company, JBI, Inc., invented the new process for converting plastic into a range of fuels. A load of shredded plastic gas tanks, removed from junkyard automobiles, awaits its turn with the plastic-eating monster. First, many different kinds of unwashed plastics are melted together. Read more ..


China on Edge

Chinese State Newspaper Blasts NY Times Over Wen Story

October 30th 2012

The East is Red

A state-controlled Chinese newspaper is lashing out at the New York Times, just days after the U.S. paper published a story reportedly exposing the hidden wealth of Prime Minister Wen Jiabao's family. The People's Daily, the official mouthpiece of the Communist Party, said Monday in a combative article in its Chinese-language edition that the Times could not be trusted because of its history of "faking" and "distorting" news.

The lengthy article did not respond directly to the Friday story about Wen's finances. Instead, it focused on what it described as "an explosion in plagiarism and fabrication" by the Times, mentioning the past cases of journalists Jayson Blair and Zachery Kouwe. The Chinese government quickly blocked the Times' website Friday after it published the results of a months-long investigation that found Wen's family controlled $2.7 billion in assets. Read more ..


The 2012 Vote

Hurricane Sandy Throws Presidential Race a Curveball

October 30th 2012

Obama and Romney road show

Hurricane Sandy is hitting the presidential race and the East Coast at the same time, throwing both candidates off their schedules and threatening to alter the voter-turnout calculus.

The powerful storm made landfall late Monday, lashing towns along the eastern seaboard with strong winds and rain, knocking out power for more the five million and claiming at least seven lives.

The storm comes at a tough time for both President Obama and GOP challenger Mitt Romney, with the election only seven days away, and polls showing a tight race. Both candidates looked for an appropriate response to the recovery efforts, with their campaigns cancelling events scheduled for Tuesday. Read more ..


Nigeria on Edge

Nigeria Tackles Maternal Mortality

October 29th 2012

Mid-wives

For many women in Nigeria, a country with one of the highest maternal death rates in the world, the prospect of giving birth can be scary. According to the U.N. children’s organization, UNICEF, more than 150 women die every day in pregnancy-related cases in Nigeria, an average of one death every 10 minutes.

It’s no wonder many pregnant women worry about coming out of the hospital or clinic alive. “I asked my family members to embark on prayers for me,” says Eldina Istifanus, a mother of two. “I am sure that is why I am alive today.

“I almost died of childbirth complications during my first delivery,” she says. “I was afraid during my second delivery. I remembered my first experience and the experience of my friends who died in the process.” Despite her fears, Istifanus counts herself lucky because she was in a private clinic. Read more ..


America on Edge

Eastern US Braces for Monster Storm

October 29th 2012

Rain

Forecasters say conditions along the east coast of the United States will deteriorate Monday as one of the biggest storms ever to hit the mainland brings heavy rain and wind to a large section of the nation's most populated region. Hurricane Sandy has been moving up the coast and is expected to join with two winter storm systems, creating a hybrid "superstorm" that could affect up to 60 million residents.  It is expected to make landfall late Monday.

Forecasters expect the storm to bring hurricane-force winds to portions of the coast from Virginia to Massachusetts.  The National Weather Service is predicting a "life-threatening" storm surge that could reach more than 3 meters in New York Harbor. The storm has forced major cities including Washington, Philadelphia and New York to close schools and shut down their public transit systems.  U.S. stock markets are closed Monday, and the United Nations has canceled meetings and closed its offices. Read more ..


The Medical Edge

Anesthesia Drugs Really Do Put Us to Sleep

October 28th 2012

Surgery

When patients are put under anesthesia, they are often told they will be "put to sleep," and now it appears that in some ways that's exactly what the drugs do to the brain. New evidence in mice reported online on October 25 in Current Biology, a Cell Press publication, shows that the drugs don't just turn wakefulness "off," they also force important sleep circuits in the brain "on."

"Despite more than 160 years of continuous use in humans, we still do not understand how anesthetic drugs work to produce the state of general anesthesia," said Max Kelz of the University of Pennsylvania. "We show that a commonly used inhaled anesthetic drug directly causes sleep-promoting neurons to fire. We believe that this result is not simply a coincidence. Rather, our view is that many general anesthetics work to cause unconsciousness in part by recruiting the brain's natural sleep circuitry, which initiates our nightly journey into unconsciousness." Read more ..


China on Edge

New Wave of Tibetan Self-Immolations Hits China

October 28th 2012

Tibetan Self Immolations

Anger and despair appear to be consuming Tibetan areas of China, where at least four more Tibetans have set themselves on fire to protest Chinese rule. The most recent self-immolation took place Friday night in Sankok township in Sangchu county, in China's northwestern Gansu province.  A photo obtained by VOA Tibetan shows 23-year-old Tsepak Kyap engulfed in flames near a bus stop. Witnesses say Kyap suffered severe burns.  It is not known if he survived.  Sources say he was married to an 18-year-old wife, Dorje Dolma.

Earlier Friday, 24-year-old Lhamo Tseten died after walking out of a restaurant and setting himself on fire in Amchok township in Sangchu county. Following Tseten's self-immolation, the London-based rights group Free Tibet said there were reports of Chinese security forces quickly moving into the area.

​​With Friday's two, new self-immolations, there have now been five such protests in Gansu province in just the past week. VOA Tibetan has also learned of two more self-immolations Thursday in Nagchu, in what China has designated as the Tibet Autonomous Region. Read more ..


The Drug Wars

The Importance of 'Pocket Litter' in Tracking Narcotraffickers

October 27th 2012

Border Patrol shakedown

On Oct. 12, a pregnant medical doctor from Guadalajara, Mexico, attempted to enter the United States through the San Ysidro border crossing. The woman reportedly wanted to give birth in the United States so that her child would be a U.S. citizen. U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers arrested the woman, who has since been charged with visa fraud in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California.

Ordinarily, the arrest of a Mexican national for document fraud at a border crossing would hardly be newsworthy. However, this case may be anything but ordinary: Authorities have identified the woman as Alejandrina Gisselle Guzman Salazar, who reportedly is the daughter of Mexican drug lord Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman Loera, one of the world's most wanted men.

If Guzman is indeed the daughter of El Chapo, the arrest could provide much-needed intelligence to those pursuing the fugitive drug lord. Aside from the intelligence gathered during her interrogation, investigators could also learn much from the information she may have been inadvertently carrying on her person. Read more ..


Islam on Edge

Father of Wounded Pakistani Girl Says She Will `Rise Again'

October 27th 2012

Malala Yousafzai

The father of the 15-year-old Pakistani girl shot by the Taliban says her setback was temporary, and that she will "rise again." Ziauddin Yousafzai spoke to reporters about his daughter, Malala Yousafzai, while visiting her Friday in the British hospital where she is being treated for serious injuries.

He said the gunmen who attacked Malala wanted to kill her, but that she is recovering at "encouraging speed and we are very happy." Yousafzai added that his daughter asked about the health of her family members and requested to see school books. "Last night when we met, there were tears in our eyes because of happiness.  Out of happiness.  For some time we all cried a little bit and then she asked her mother, 'How are the two other girls?'  Shazia and Kainat.  She inquired about their health.  And she told me on the phone, 'Please bring me my books of Class Nine and I will attend my examination in Swat.'  The board examination.'' Read more ..


The Future Edge

Robots in the Home: Will Older Adults Roll Out the Welcome Mat?

October 27th 2012

Metal Mickey

Robots have the potential to help older adults with daily activities that can become more challenging with age. But are people willing to use and accept the new technology? A study by the Georgia Institute of Technology indicates the answer is yes, unless the tasks involve personal care or social activities.

After showing adults (ages 65 to 93 years) a video of a robot’s capabilities, researchers interviewed them about their willingness for assistance with 48 common household tasks. Participants generally preferred robotic help over human help for chores such as cleaning the kitchen, doing laundry and taking out the trash. But when it came to help getting dressed, eating and bathing, the adults tended to say they would prefer human assistance over robot assistance. They also preferred human help for social activities, such as calling family and friends or entertaining guests.

Georgia Tech’s Cory-Ann Smarr will present the results this week at the Human Factors Ergonomics Society Annual Meeting in Boston.

“There are many misconceptions about older adults having negative attitudes toward robots,” said Smarr, a School of Psychology graduate teaching assistant.  “The people we interviewed were very enthusiastic and optimistic about robots in their daily lives. They were also very particular in their preferences, something that can assist researchers as they determine what to design and introduce in the home.” Read more ..


The Health Edge

Mother Was Right: Make the Right Choice and Eat a Good Breakfast

October 27th 2012

Breakfast scrambled eggs

Eating breakfast may help keep you from getting fat and making poor food choices, and skipping breakfast sets the brain up to make poor food choices later in the day, according to a new study. Scientists from the MRC Clinical Science Centre at London’s Imperial College, compared the brain scans and eating patterns of people both after eating breakfast and when they were fasting. They found that those who avoid breakfast may overeat throughout the rest of the day, often choosing high-calorie or junk food over healthier selections.

The researchers studied the magnetic resonance images of 21 volunteer test subjects who didn’t eat anything before coming in for their tests. On one those visits, the volunteers were first given a 750-calorie breakfast before the researchers ran the MRI scans. On another visit to the research center, the test subjects weren’t fed any breakfast, but were always served lunch after each scanning session. “Through both the participants’ MRI results and observations of how much they ate at lunch, we found ample evidence that fasting made people hungrier, and increased the appeal of high-calorie foods and the amount people ate,” said Dr. Tony Goldstone, who led the study. Read more ..


Inside America

Jewish Escape Artist Houdini Lives on Each Halloween

October 26th 2012

Houdini

If anyone can escape from the afterlife, it is Harry Houdini.

Born Erik Weisz to Austro-Hungarian Jews, Houdini was arguably the greatest escape artist ever. Magic enthusiasts from around the globe gather annually in a predetermined city to celebrate Houdini. Since Houdini died on October 31, 1926, the gathering takes place on Halloween.

This year enthusiasts picked Fort Worth, Texas for a celebration that includes an effort to contact Houdini during a séance.

Houdini scholar John Cox’s fascination with the magician began when he saw the film “Houdini,” starring Tony Curtis, at age 10. Cox—whose website, wildabouthoudini.com, is a popular destination for Houdini fans—will give a talk on Houdini before the Fort Worth séance and will be at the séance table itself.

“From my childhood my quest to learn the truth about Houdini has just never stopped. It’s amazing to me that I’m still discovering new things every day,” Cox told JNS.org.

Some facts about Houdini are clear. His father was a rabbi, and while this did not necessarily impact his professional life, it did shape his personal life. Houdini had a strict sense of morality and a strong attachment to family. His mother called him “little father” as a boy. No matter where he was in the world, he always said the Kaddish prayer on the anniversary of his father’s death, and he dedicated his first book to his father, who instilled in young Erik a love of study and patience in research.

Houdini first attracted attention as “Harry Handcuff Houdini” on a tour of Europe, where he challenged different police forces to keep him locked up. This revealed his talent for gimmickry and affinity for audience involvement. Soon Houdini extended his repertoire to include chains, ropes slung from skyscrapers, straitjackets under water, and holding his breath inside a sealed milk can. Read more ..


The Digital Edge

In-car Wi-Fi Eight fold Increase Before Decade's End

October 26th 2012

I-phone

IMS Research forecasts the market for Wi-Fi in original equipment manufacturer (OEM) automotive applications will increase eight fold over the next seven years in North America and Western Europe. While the Wi-Fi attach rates in North America and Western Europe are still relatively low with only a small number of manufacturers announcing the inclusion of Wi-Fi as a standard or as an optional extra, it is likely that Wi-Fi will follow a similar trend to Bluetooth, meaning over the next seven years attach rates in new cars will ramp up quickly. Historically, Wi-Fi was not considered for in-car applications, however, several factors have come into play which are creating a significant opportunity for Wi-Fi automotive applications.

First, Wi-Fi has transitioned from being primarily a PC networking technology to a more ubiquitous connectivity solution with a strong presence in a broad range of consumer electronics. While smartphones are the obvious example, eReaders, tablets, portable games consoles and portable media players are among the many consumer electronic devices to incorporate Wi-Fi. Read more ..


The Iranian Threat

Iran and the Next U.S. President

October 25th 2012

Iranian Women

Regardless of who is elected on November 6th, Iran's nuclear program is going to be one of the most important challenges the next president is going to have to confront. Unless Iran's leaders shift course and suddenly decide to suspend their ongoing enrichment of uranium, the continuing progress of the Iranian nuclear program will require additional moves by the United States and the international community. From an American standpoint, it is important to remember that both President Barack Obama and Governor Mitt Romney have committed themselves to preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons and not containing it after it has done so. At the current pace of Iran's nuclear efforts, the Iranian nuclear program will reach a point some time before the end of 2013 where the accumulation of low and medium enriched uranium will make it difficult for the United States to know with confidence that it could prevent Iran's leaders from presenting the world with a fait accompli -- meaning the Iranians might well be able to produce a nuclear weapon so quickly that we would not have time to prevent it. Read more ..



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