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The Edge of Crime

Does Three-strikes Law as Actually Deter Crime?

October 22nd 2012

jail door closeup

Contrary to what police, politicians and the public believe about the effectiveness of California’s three-strikes law, research by a University of California, Riverside criminologist has found that the get-tough-on-criminals policy voters approved in 1994 has done nothing to reduce the crime rate.

In a rigorous analysis of crime in California and the nation, sociology professor Robert Nash Parker determined that crime has been decreasing at about the same rate in every state for 20 years, regardless of whether three-strikes policies are in place or not.

Parker’s findings appear in the paper “Why California’s ‘Three Strikes’ Fails as Crime and Economic Policy, and What to Do,” published recently in the California Journal of Politics and Policy. The online journal publishes cutting-edge research on national, state and local government, electoral politics, and public policy formation and implementation. Read more ..


Russia on Edge

Russian Booklet for Migrant Workers Stirs Controversy

October 21st 2012

Russian employment poster

A new manual designed to help migrants from Central Asia has caused a storm in Russia's second city because of its apparent racist content. The local prosecutor's office in St. Petersburg has launched preliminary investigations into "Instructions for Labor Migrants," which was recently published in Kyrgyz, Tajik, and Uzbek. The booklet has been printed by the Look Into The Future publishing house and is seemingly intended as an aid for thousands of migrants from Central Asia, many of whom are employed as construction workers in Russia’s major cities.

Along with legal information concerning Russian rules and regulations, the booklet also provides some social advice. Among other things, it warns labor migrants not to spit in the street, not to squat, not to litter, and not to wear bathrobes or tracksuits in public places. Read more ..


Inside India

Starbucks Opens First Store in India

October 21st 2012

Starbucks

The world's largest coffee chain, U.S.-based Starbucks Corporation has opened its first store in India. The move comes at a time when coffee is winning new fans in India, traditionally a tea-drinking country.

From a 370 square-meter outlet spread over two levels in an upscale Mumbai neighborhood, Starbucks began serving its first cappuccinos and lattes in the Indian market. Both in its décor and products, the Starbucks flagship store has an Indian touch. There are vintage trunks, hand carved-wooden screens and tables of Indian teak.

The coffee it serves is prepared with coffee beans grown in India. Some food items such as chicken tikka Panini, cardamom croissants, and tandoori cottage cheese rolls have a local flavor. And to suit the pockets of a cost-conscious market, Starbucks has priced some products lower than in other countries - it will sell a "short" espresso for a little more than $1.50. Read more ..


The 2012 Vote

Stealth Spending On The Rise As 2012 Election Approaches

October 21st 2012

Bundles of Cash

If there was a silver lining for open-government advocates in the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2010 ruling that unleashed corporate and union spending on elections, it was that the identity of those who pay for all those annoying ads would be made public on a regular basis. It hasn’t quite worked out that way. Since Labor Day, spending by outside groups taking advantage of the high court’s Citizens United decision totaled a little more than $229 million, including unions. Forty-four percent of the total — $100 million — has come from non-disclosing, nonprofit corporations. The clearest example comes from the top two spenders, two organizations that share the same post office box in Washington, D.C.

American Crossroads, the so-called super PAC co-founded by Republican strategist Karl Rove, has spent $33.1 million since Labor Day, according to Federal Election Commission records. Its top donor is Texas billionaire and businessman Harold Simmons, who along with his company, Contran Corp., has given $13 million to the group so far this election, according to a Center for Public Integrity review of Federal Election Commission records. Second is Crossroads GPS, the nonprofit sister organization of American Crossroads, also co-founded by Karl Rove, which has spent $30.3 million. Its top donor is — unknown. Crossroads GPS was organized as a nonprofit, “social welfare” organization. The Internal Revenue Service does not require it to disclose its donors to the public, nor does the FEC. Read more ..


The Battle for Syria

Turkey's Challenge and the Syrian Negotiation

October 20th 2012

Fire big

Syrian Information Minister Omran al-Zubi harshly criticized the Turkish government early last week over Ankara's proposal that an interim government succeed the al Assad regime, saying that "Turkey isn't the Ottoman Sultanate; the Turkish Foreign Ministry doesn't name custodians in Damascus, Mecca, Cairo and Jerusalem." Being the spokesman for a pariah regime requires a mastery of propaganda. Al-Zubi has not disappointed in this regard, mounting a strong rhetorical offensive against Syria's powerful northern neighbor.

While his latest rebuke of Turkey will not save the al Assad regime (much less his own career), he is tapping into a powerful narrative in the region, one that will have stronger and stronger resonance in the Arab world as Turkey is forced to play a more assertive role in the region. Read more ..


Argentina on Edge

No Liberty For Libertad: Argentina's Battle With Hedge Fund Billionaire For Navy Vessel Continues

October 20th 2012

Libertad

The incredible story of the Argentine vessel detained in Ghana at the request of a hedge fund tied to billionaire Paul Singer continues.  On Thursday, a court in Ghana rejected the Argentine state’s request to grant the Fragata Libertad diplomatic immunity, despite it being a military ship.  NML Capital, the hedge fund, is looking to extract payment from the Argentine state on sovereign bonds that were part of the largest sovereign debt default in 2001 and 2002.  The Administration of Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner called Singer’s Elliott Capital a “vulture fund” and accused it of using immoral and “usurious practices,” while claiming the vessel is protected by immunity granted by the Vienna Convention.

The story seems more suited for a novel than business journalism.  When the 103-meter ARA Libertad docked at the Ghanaian port of Temma, they never expected to stay for so long.  At the request of NML Capital, a Cayman Islands-based hedge fund tied to Paul Singer’s Elliott Capital, a court in the capital city of Accra granted an injunction that forced the vessel to remain at port until a commercial dispute was settled. Read more ..


Afghanistan on Edge

Afghan Woman's Beheading Latest In Alarming Trend

October 20th 2012

Afgan Women in Burka

A disturbing spate of violent attacks against women has gripped western Afghanistan, where over a dozen women have been killed this year. In the latest incident, an 18-year-old identified only as Najibullah was arrested on October 13 in connection with the gruesome torture and beheading two days earlier of a woman in the western city of Herat, near the border with Iran.

Mahgul, a 25-year-old newlywed, was found dead outside her home by her family, who then carried her mutilated body to the local Department for Women's Affairs to raise awareness of her killing. Najibullah, who gave a confession in front of journalists and television cameras on October 15, said he was forced to carry out the act by his aunt, Mahgul's mother-in-law, Parigul. He said Parigul restrained Mahgul, while he took a sharp knife and beheaded her. Read more ..


America on Edge

Dallas Suburbs Lead in Attempts to Deny Public Information Requests

October 19th 2012

Paper Stack

Among the state’s biggest cities, several sprawling Dallas-area suburbs tallied the highest rate of requests to Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott last year to keep government information secret, according to a recent examination by the Center for Public Integrity.

The probe examined the number of attempts by the 20 largest Texas cities to block public requests for information in 2011, then looked at how those numbers stacked up for each city, according to the rate of requests per 100,000 population. The “winners” were not the state’s biggest cities. McKinney had the highest rate of requests asking that Abbott allow the withholding of documents sought by citizens under the Texas Public Information Act. Next up were McAllen, Garland, Mesquite, Plano and Arlington. Fort Worth was ranked eighth and Dallas ninth, giving the Fort Worth/Dallas metroplex seven of the top 10 in the rankings.

The investigation also looked at the cities’ batting averages in getting their requests approved by Abbott’s office. McKinney won full or partial approval to withhold information in 95 percent of its cases; most of those requests were partially approved, meaning some information did have to be released. Read more ..


The Edge of Space

Planet Found in Nearest Star System to Earth

October 19th 2012

Exoplanet candidate UCF-1.01

European astronomers have discovered a planet with about the mass of the Earth orbiting a star in the Alpha Centauri system — the nearest to Earth. It is also the lightest exoplanet ever discovered around a star like the Sun. The planet was detected using the HARPS instrument on the 3.6-metre telescope at ESO's La Silla Observatory in Chile.

Alpha Centauri is one of the brightest stars in the southern skies and is the nearest stellar system to our Solar System -- only 4.3 light-years away. It is actually a triple star -- a system consisting of two stars similar to the Sun orbiting close to each other, designated Alpha Centauri A and B, and a more distant and faint red component known as Proxima Centauri. Since the nineteenth century astronomers have speculated about planets orbiting these bodies, the closest possible abodes for life beyond the Solar System, but searches of increasing precision had revealed nothing. Until now. Read more ..


Iran's Nukes

Iran's Warns of 'Global Battles' Should it Be Attacked

October 19th 2012

Iranian Revolutionary Guard

General Hossein Salami of Iran's Revolutionary Guards said that any strike against Iran will trigger regional conflict. Israel will "definitely" face fierce retaliation if it attacks Iranian nuclear sites, vowed the acting commander of Iran's powerful military organization Guards on October 18.

The remarks by Gen. Salami appear to be part of Iranian efforts to portray any strike against it as the trigger for a regional conflict that could draw in Iranian proxies, such as Lebanon's militant Hezbollah group, on Israel's borders. Iran's suspect nuclear program has topped the international agenda and pressure on Tehran is mounting.

Israel has threatened to strike Iran's nuclear facilities if Tehran doesn't stop uranium enrichment — a process that can be a pathway to nuclear arms. The West and its allies fear Iran's ambitions mask a pursuit of atomic weapons, a charge Tehran denies, saying its nuclear program is only for peaceful purposes such as power generation and cancer treatment. Read more ..


The 2012 Vote

Pennsylvania Governor Benefited from Untraceable $1.5 Million Donation

October 18th 2012

Bundles of Money

At a campaign stop near Philadelphia early in his 2010 bid for governor, Republican Tom Corbett announced “we’ve got to raise money,” that it was the “number-one” priority. In an answer to his prayers, that same July day, a $1.5 million contribution arrived from — Wisconsin?

Officially, the donation was from the Wisconsin affiliate of a D.C.-based political organization called the Republican Governors Association. The $1.5 million could not travel directly from the RGA to Corbett. Pennsylvania law bans candidates from accepting corporate money and the RGA accepts millions of dollars from some of the nation’s largest businesses. 

Also, state law requires all non-individuals to establish PACs in Pennsylvania. In a single day, the $1.5 million gift traveled from the D.C.-based parent organization to the RGA Wisconsin PAC, to the RGA Pennsylvania PAC and finally to Corbett’s campaign account.

By the time the donation reached Corbett, it was impossible to identify the original source of the cash or whether the donation was permissible under state law. The well-traveled donation is a prime example of “an elaborate money-laundering scheme, which is legal,” used by the RGA with success in a number of races for governor in 2010, according to Pennsylvania Common Cause Executive Director Barry Kauffman. Read more ..


The 2012 Vote

Debating Presidential Candidates try to Make Hay before Election Night

October 18th 2012

Obama and Romney road show

President Barack Obama and his Republican opponent, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, were back on the campaign trail Wednesday, after Tuesday night's contentious debate. Both candidates tried to build on the points they made during the debate.

President Obama, Governor Romney, and their running mates fanned out across political swing states on Wednesday, with each man trying to convince voters that his side had won the debate.

Obama paid yet another visit to the crucial states of Iowa and Ohio. In Mount Vernon, Iowa, the Democratic candidate repeated his contention that Romney’s economic agenda differs from the successful plans of previous presidents. ​​“His tax plan does not add up. His jobs plan does not create jobs. His deficit reduction plan adds to the deficit. So, Iowa, everybody here has heard of the New Deal. You have heard of the Fair Deal. You have heard of the Square Deal. Mitt Romney is trying to sell you a sketchy deal," he said. Read more ..


Serbia on Edge

Accused Mass-Murderer Karadzic Disavows Any Responsibility

October 16th 2012

Mass Grave, Srebrenica
Mass grave at Srebenica.

Bosnian Serb wartime political leader Radovan Karadzic has begun his defense at the UN war crimes tribunal by denying all allegations against him. Karadzic is facing 10 charges of genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity committed during the 1992-95 Bosnian War.

One charge relates to a massacre by Bosnian Serb troops at Srebrenica in July 1995 in which some 8,000 Bosnian Muslim men and boys were killed. "I never, ever allowed even the possibility for the smallest atrocity to take place, let alone any atrocities on a mass scale, or for any of these people to be permanently removed from Serbian territory," Karadzic said. "I did not, nor did anyone else that I know of."
Read more ..


Russia on Edge

Opposition Sees Fraud In Russia Voting

October 15th 2012

Putin

Russia’s opposition is alleging that nationwide local elections have been marred by widespread violations, including multiple voting and stuffing of ballot boxes. Early partial results of the October 14 vote for offices in 77 of Russia's 83 regions have indicated victories for the ruling United Russia party of President Vladimir Putin. Like last December’s parliamentary elections and the March presidential poll, opposition activists have accused authorities of an organized campaign to skew votes in favor of candidates who support the government. The partially Western-funded Golos monitoring group said it had recorded more than 1,000 electoral violations nationwide.

Putin said the election results confirm popular nationwide support of the current government. Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev has dismissed claims of violations, saying he knew of no “serious irregularities.” Medvedev added that it appeared United Russia candidates had done well in the voting and that the party was on track to perform better than in the December State Duma parliament vote, in which it lost dozens of seats. Most local and regional governments are already dominated by United Russia. In some cases, fewer than 15 percent of registered voters cast ballots.

The October 14 vote marked the first nationwide elections since Putin returned to office in the Kremlin in May to start an unprecedented third term as president. October 14 also featured the first voting for regional governors since Putin abolished such votes in 2004. Putin said at the time that getting rid of gubernatorial votes was needed to protect Russia from separatism and crime. Early results suggested that United Russia incumbents had won or were heading to victory in all five governorship races -- in the Amur, Bryansk, Novgorod, Belgorod, and Ryazan regions. Read more ..


Turkey on Edge

EU Critiques Turkey and its Challenges to Free Media

October 15th 2012

Turk flags

The European Union has strongly criticized Turkey for its record on media freedom in its annual report on the progress of prospective EU members. The EU says "increasing concerns" about court cases against reporters endanger Turkey's bid for membership. The rights group International Federation of Journalists reports there are around 75 journalists currently jailed in Turkey, mainly because of how they covered issues deemed by the government to be controversial.

The Turkish government, which calls this week's EU report biased, says the journalists are being held for crimes such as supporting conspiracies against the government or “aiding terrorists” by publishing detailed articles on national security issues, such as the Kurdish insurgency. The U.S.-based Committee to Protect Journalists is expected to release a report later this month detailing the state of media freedom in Turkey. “Turkey has a legal problem,” said Nina Ognianova, an analyst with CPJ. “According to local groups, at the end of last year, 2011, there had been between 3,000 and 5,000 pending cases - criminal cases - against journalists on a variety of charges that stretch from insulting ‘Turkishness’ to trying to influence the outcome of a trial.” Read more ..


Obama and Israel

Obama is Urged to Cut Ties with Muslim Brotherhood

October 14th 2012

obama

The Simon Wiesenthal Center has urged President Barack Obama to issue a public condemnation of the call by the Muslim Brotherhood's Supreme Guide, Mohammad Badie, for jihad against Israel. The human rights advocacy group also asked Obama to cut off of all contact with the organization until the threat is withdrawn. Complicating the issue is that the newly-installed president of Egypt, Mohammed Morsi, is a prominent member of the organization.

In a speech reported in al Ahram on October 11, Badie said, "The Jews have...spread corruption on earth, spilled the blood of believers and in their actions profane holy places, including their own." Badie issued a cry to Arabs to confront Israel "through Holy Jihad, high sacrifices and all forms of resistance", while adding, "Zionists only understand the language of force and will not relent without duress." Read more ..


The Race for Wind

Wind Turbines Take Steep Toll On Birds And Bats

October 14th 2012

Wind machine on dairy farm

Wind power is key to efforts to produce clean, limitless energy and to slow global warming. It's one of the world's fastest-growing energy industries. But there is mounting evidence that expanding "wind farms" are taking a toll on airborne wildlife. Thousands of birds and bats are killed every year by collisions with the the wind towers and their giant blades. Environmental activists are taking the wind energy industry to court to find a solution.

Estimates by the Department of Energy indicate that in the United States alone, there will be more than 100,000 wind turbines by 2030. John Anderson is policy director at the American Wind Energy Association. “As time goes on, I think you will see wind replacing older plants that are being taken offline, but we are really capturing the new installation market," he said. 

But wind energy developers, in California and West Virginia, are being sued by environmental groups. A growing number of groups contend that hundreds of thousands of birds and bats are being killed every year by wind turbines, mostly at night when bats and migratory birds fly around mountain ridges where many wind farms are located.   Read more ..


The Environmental Edge

Egypt Environment Activists Fighting Back Over Sinai Red Sea Bridge

October 13th 2012

Red Sea bridge

A grassroots environmental group of activists are continuing to put pressure on the Egyptian government to end its plans to develop and erect a bridge linking the Sinai Peninsula with Saudi Arabia. Praised by the government as a means of boosting trade, business and easing travel between the two countries, environmental activists are crying foul over where the bridge aims to be built: right on the Ras Mohamed National Park – one of Egypt’s natural wonders home to coral reefs, dive sites and endangered species. ”If they build this bridge, coral reefs, endangered species and at least 22 dive sites will all be gone,” Ibrahim Mohamed, an activist with the anti-bridge group IBRedSea stated.

The organization is a conglomeration of a group of concerned citizens calling for the project to be scrapped over environmental concerns that have arisen. Two protected islands, Tiran and Sanafir will be hit hard by any development, with the potential of becoming void of any life in their surrounding area. Read more ..


The Way We Are

Weather Increases Mobile Phone Calls to Loved Ones--Research Proves What Everyone Knows

October 13th 2012

Rain

Who we call and how long we speak to them changes with the weather, according to new research by experts at Newcastle University. Analysing the call patterns of 1.3 million mobile phone users, the team found that in ‘uncomfortable’ weather – such as very hot, humid, wet or cold weather – call length increased but the number of people we made contact with went down. Apparently “isolating” ourselves during more unpleasant weather, research lead Dr Santi Phithakkitnukoon said the data showed that we were also more likely to contact our close friends and family than our wider network.
 
Publishing their findings today in the online academic journal PLOS ONE, Dr Phithakkitnukoon said the study offered an insight into how phone use data sets could help us understand human relations and interactions.
Read more ..

The Edge of Space

When Galaxies Collide and Devour Each Other

October 13th 2012

Massive black hole disrupting star formation

Using gravitational "lenses" in space, University of Utah astronomers discovered that the centers of the biggest galaxies are growing denser – evidence of repeated collisions and mergers by massive galaxies with 100 billion stars. "We found that during the last 6 billion years, the matter that makes up massive elliptical galaxies is getting more concentrated toward the centers of those galaxies. This is evidence that big galaxies are crashing into other big galaxies to make even bigger galaxies," says astronomer Adam Bolton, principal author of the new study.

"Most recent studies have indicated that these massive galaxies primarily grow by eating lots of smaller galaxies," he adds. "We're suggesting that major collisions between massive galaxies are just as important as those many small snacks."

The new study – published recently in The Astrophysical Journal – was conducted by Bolton's team from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey-III using the survey's 2.5-meter optical telescope at Apache Point, N.M., and the Earth-orbiting Hubble Space Telescope. The telescopes were used to observe and analyze 79 "gravitational lenses," which are galaxies between Earth and more distant galaxies. A lens galaxy's gravity bends light from a more distant galaxy, creating a ring or partial ring of light around the lens galaxy. Read more ..


Haiti After the Quake

Islam Gains Ground in Devastated Haiti

October 13th 2012

Haitian mosque
Haitian mosque untouched by 2010 earthquake.

Various forms of Christianity and Afro-Caribbean religions are dominant in Haiti, but Islam has shown a noticeable increase in followers since the 2010 earthquake that killed more than 300,000 people and left more than 1 million others homeless. Haiti's capital, Port-au-Prince, is now home to at least five mosques. Islam has also shown noticeable growth elsewhere in the Americas, especially in Brazil and Paraguay.

School teacher Darlene Derosier, a mother of two, helped build one of the mosques in her neighborhood. She said she converted to Islam after losing her home in the earthquake and the death of her husband a month later. "For me the victory is that you lived, but you did not think you would," she said.

People of many religions arrived in Haiti following the earthquake to lend assistance. But Muslim convert Kishner Billy, who hosts a nightly TV program, said that Muslims appear to have had the most lingering impact. " Read more ..


The Edge of Terrorism

Girl Shot By Taliban Becomes Global Icon

October 12th 2012

Malala Yousafzai

In December, when the United Nations declared October 11 as the date for an annual International Day of the Girl Child, it said attention needed to be focused on promoting girls' rights. On October 11, when the newly minted UN day made its debut, global attention was focused on Malala Yousafzai -- the 14-year-old schoolgirl from Pakistan's northwestern Swat Valley who was shot this week by the Pakistani Taliban for defending her right to an education.

The Pakistani Taliban (TTP) expected to silence her campaign, which she had carried out since the age of 11 through an online diary she wrote for the BBC. Instead, they created an international icon for girls' rights and made her known the world over simply as Malala. At European Union headquarters in Brussels on October 11, young schoolgirls at a launch event for Day of the Girl Child held up photos of Malala along with signs saying "Save the Girls." Read more ..


The 2012 Vote

Social Media Transforms Debate Viewership

October 12th 2012

Teenager texting

Computers and mobile devices are transforming the speed and means by which voters get information about candidates. Social media sites like Twitter and Facebook are steadily replacing traditional sources as the delivery method of choice for a generation of new voters.

As she gears up for this year’s election, Center College student Kelly Bolton, who's on the campus of the vice presidential debate, is getting political updates not from television or traditional news sources, but instantly, through her phone.  “You know what’s happening, when it’s happening.  And that’s exciting in a political season because you want to know where the polls are standing, or if Romney said something or Obama said something,” Bolton said. The information is delivered to her phone through social media sites like Facebook and Twitter, which have grown in popularity as more Americans own mobile devices.
 
During the first debate between President Barack Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney, the Pew Research Center says one in ten Americans watched the debate while also following news about it on their computers or mobile devices. “We gathered around a television and watched it. But everybody had their phones out too because if Mitt Romney said something, and we Republicans liked it, we wanted to Tweet that,” Bolton said. Read more ..


The 2012 Vote

Veep Biden Unleashed at TV Debate with a Polished Ryan

October 12th 2012

Biden Ryan debate

Vice President Biden was the dominant figure in Thursday night’s vice presidential debate with Mitt Romney’s running mate, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.). But whether that will help or hinder the Democratic ticket in its battle to retain the White House remains to be seen.

A combative, energetic performance from Biden — replete with sharp jabs at Ryan and regular outbursts of dismissive laughter — was the key ingredient of the night and seemed likely to drive the discussion in the aftermath.

To Democrats, Biden delivered exactly the kind of impassioned, scrappy performance they were desperate to see after President Obama's widely criticized passivity in his initial clash with Romney last week. “If Obama had been this strong, the election would be over now,” liberal talk show host Bill Maher wrote on Twitter. Read more ..


Destination Israel

Top 10 Christian Sites at Sea of Galilee

October 11th 2012

Church of Transfiguration

More than 60 percent of the 3.4 million tourists who visited Israel last year were Christian. And though Jerusalem is a significant stop in tracing the steps of Jesus in the Holy Land, the real must-see is the Sea of Galilee area nearly 100 miles to the north.

The Sea of Galilee — really a lake that modern Israelis call the Kinneret — lies on the ancient Via Maris trade route that linked Egypt with the northern empires. The location and the excellent fishing drew many Greek, Roman and Jewish settlers – including the families of Jesus of Nazareth and his disciples Simon, Andrew, Peter, Philip, Nathaniel (Bartholomew), John and James.

According to Matthew 4:23: “And Jesus went about all Galilee teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all manner of sickness and all manner of disease among the people.” That’s why no Christian pilgrimage to Israel is complete without visiting these top 10 sites: Read more ..


The Edge of Climate Change

Mapping Greenhouse Gas Emissions Building by Building and Street by Street

October 11th 2012

Minneapolis skyline

Arizona State University researchers have developed a new software system capable of estimating greenhouse gas emissions across entire urban landscapes, all the way down to roads and individual buildings. Until now, scientists quantified carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions at a much broader level.

Dubbed "Hestia" after the Greek goddess of the hearth and home, researchers presented the new system in an article published October 9 in Environmental Science and Technology. Hestia combines extensive public database "data-mining" with traffic simulation and building-by-building energy-consumption modeling. Its high-resolution maps clearly identify CO2 emission sources in a way that policy-makers can utilize and the public can understand. Read more ..


The Iranian Threat

Iranian Terror Attack is Ongoing Concern for NYPD Due to New York’s Large Jewish Population

October 10th 2012

NYPD and flag

According to New York City’s police chief, Ray Kelly, there is an ongoing concern for the NYPD of an Iran- sponsored terror attack in the city. Citing New York’s large Jewish population, and the increasing threat of retaliation from Iran as sanctions over their nuclear program continue to cripple them domestically, The New York Post quoted Kelly as saying, “Obviously if there’s any action involving Israel and Iran we have to be very cognizant of the potential of retaliation here in New York City.” Kelly made these statements at an anti-terror conference called NYPD SHIELD. A recent study by the UJA-Federation of New York, shows that there are more than 1 million Jews in New York’s five boroughs.

The New York Post article also quotes NYPD Lt. Kevin Yorke of the Intelligence Division as saying, “Within the last year, we’ve seen a worldwide increase in incidents involving the stockpiling of explosives, the surveillance of targets, and a number of very significant plots and attacks[... ]That increase in activity is in direct relation to Iran’s nuclear-weapons program and the tension surrounding it.” Read more ..


American History Edge

Remembering the Black Berets and the Struggle for La Raza in New Mexico

October 10th 2012

Chicano power demo 1960s

A little more than a half-century after conquered New Mexico became a U.S. state, resistance and rebellion percolated throughout the land. Dispossessed of their land base, thousands of people joined the Alianza Federal de las Mercedes, an organization of Spanish and Mexican land grant heirs led by Reies Lopez Tijerina, demanding the return of their patrimony.

The Alianza’s 1967 armed take-over of the Tierra Amarilla court house and subsequent National Guard deployment cast international attention on an unresolved issue that remains very much alive in the 21st century.

Across New Mexico, young people calling themselves Chicanos demanded recognition of and respect for their Spanish language, their culture and their history. And in the barrios of Albuquerque, Las Gorras Blancas, the Black Berets, rose up to challenge the power structure.

Founded in 1969 and similar to the Black Panther Party, the Berets mounted community patrols, opened free medical and dental clinics, fed hungry children and issued a 12-point program that called for Chicano self-determination, community control of institutions, armed self-defense and liberation. Ahead of the times, the program attacked machismo by name and upheld equality for women. Read more ..


The Edge of Health

Many Millions Suffer from Depression

October 10th 2012

Click to select Image

More than 350 million people around the world suffer from depression, says Dr. Shekhar Saxena, director of the WHO's Department for Mental Health and Substance Abuse. “When we say depression, we are talking about the mental disorder, which is very specific and is much beyond the usual feelings of sadness that everybody gets once in a while. The disorder of depression is characterized by sustained sadness for two weeks or more and also interference with day-to-day work or other everyday responsibilities. So it’s actually a disease than just an emotional state,” Saxena said.

And there are many causes. “There are biological causes – change in the neurotransmitters in the brain – but also personality and environmental factors, which all give rise to what we then see – the syndrome of depression,” he said. Dr. Saxena said trained medical professionals should be able to diagnose depression not only by a physical examination, but by asking the right questions. Those questions center on a person’s emotional state. Are there long periods of sadness or crying? Does a person have low self-worth, a feeling that life has no meaning or suicidal thoughts? Read more ..


The Edge of Medicine

Rapid Genome Sequencing Potentially Saves Newborns' Lives

October 9th 2012

Premature Baby

Researchers have developed a powerful DNA-reading computer program that can diagnose potentially fatal genetic disorders in newborns in only two days, instead of the several weeks now required.  The technology means that infants born with these disorders can receive immediate, life-saving treatment.

Doctors know of at least 3,500 diseases caused by a single defective gene.  Most of the newborns who wind up in neonatal intensive care units are critically ill with one of these genetic disorders.

Treatments are available for about 500 of the diseases.  But physicians often work against the clock.  Some of these genetic disorders are not easy to diagnose on the basis of symptoms alone.  Whole-genome sequencing -- scanning the newborn's DNA for suspect genes -- usually takes between four and six weeks, and many babies die before the test results are returned. Read more ..


America on Edge

The Emerging Doctrine of the United States

October 9th 2012

Soldiers In Afghanistan

Over the past weekend, rumors began to emerge that the Syrian opposition would allow elements of the al Assad regime to remain in Syria and participate in the new government. Rumors have become Syria's prime export, and as such they should not be taken too seriously. Nevertheless, what is happening in Syria is significant for a new foreign doctrine emerging in the United States -- a doctrine in which the United States does not take primary responsibility for events, but which allows regional crises to play out until a new regional balance is reached. Whether a good or bad policy -- and that is partly what the U.S. presidential race is about -- it is real, and it flows from lessons learned. Read more ..


The 2012 Vote

Romney Scores the Obama Doctrine: 'Hope is not a Strategy'

October 8th 2012

Mitt Romney

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney said the risk of conflict in the Middle East has grown under President Barack Obama's leadership. In a speech at the Virginia Military Institute in Lexington on October 8, Romney called for a "change of course" in the region. The Republican candidate pledged to "roll back" Obama's defense cuts, which he called "arbitrary." Speaking to the assembled cadets, Romney said "Hope is not a strategy," in an allusion to a well-worn Obama campaign phrase.

"I believe that if America does not lead, others will; others who do not share our interests and our values, and the world will grow darker, for our friends and for us," Romney said at VMI. He asserted that Obama's failure to project strength abroad has left the US at the mercy of terrorists in the Mideast, such as the attack on the American consulate in Libya which killed the American ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans. Read more ..


The Digital Edge

Britain Unveils Major Effort to Fight Global Online Crime

October 8th 2012

Shadowy Computer User

Britain has launched a multi-million-dollar global initiative to help fight organized criminals and terrorists using the Internet. The plan was rolled out at an international gathering in Budapest aimed at making the Internet more secure.

Speaking at the international "Budapest Conference on Cyberspace," British Foreign Minister William Hague said Britain wants to lead a worldwide effort to stem the rapidly growing number of cyberspace attacks threatening companies and governments.

"It has never been easier to become a cybercriminal than it is today," said Hague. "It is now possible to buy off-the-shelf malicious software designed to steal bank details for as little as 3,000 [British] pounds, including access to a 24-hour technical support line. As foreign secretary, I see frequent evidence of deliberate and organized attacks against intellectual and government networks in the United Kingdom."
Read more ..

Edge of Immigration

Immigration Advocates Hail New Mexico Court Action on Driver's Licenses

October 8th 2012

Border sign

Immigrant advocates in New Mexico praised a court settlement announced last week that effectively laid to rest a controversial driver’s license certification program implemented by the state Motor Vehicle Division (MVD) last year.

In a mutually-agreed upon resolution to a legal challenge filed against the program, New Mexico First Judicial District Judge Sarah M. Singleton issued a permanent injunction against Demesia Padilla, secretary of the New Mexico Taxation and Revenue Department, ordering the state official from further carrying out the Foreign National Residency Certification Program, which was officially launched to weed out undocumented, non-residents who claimed New Mexico residency in order to obtain a state driver’s license. Certification opponents charged that the program had a different purpose.

“This discriminatory program was clearly intended to fuel an anti-immigrant political agenda in New Mexico, and we are relieved that it did not prevail,” said Maria Cristina Lopez, board member of the statewide immigrant and labor advocacy group Somos un Pueblo Unido. “We’re all for fighting fraud and abuse, but the state should not be wasting tax payer money by targeting people based on their race and national origin. It’s simply unacceptable in New Mexico,” Lopez said in a statement. Read more ..


The Desert Edge

Roll-up ‘Shade and Shelter’ Cardboard Protects Desert Dwellers

October 7th 2012

Desert Shade

Israeli designer Ohad Lustgarten designed Shade and Shelter as part of his final project at Shenkar College of Design, the same center that spawned living lace made from bacteria. The six foot tall prototype constructed out of cardboard looks like a giant centipede when it is unwound but then coils up to provide a lightweight shelter against sand, sun and wind.

A lightweight modular design that can be easily transported, Shade and Shelter stands at six feet and has enough space inside to fit few people lying down. When it is unravelled on a flexible central fiberglass pole, the shelter creates a barrier on one side, and wrapped completely it functions as a complete shelter.

The upper slats are slightly narrower and have grooves that direct rainwater into collecting pools. Although the part of the shelter that is open is bound to allow some water to pass inside, remaining water can be purified and then used for cooking, drinking and whatever other needs the inhabitants might have. Read more ..


The Arab Winter of Rage

Syrian Christians Seek Peaceful Solutions to Raging Civil War

October 7th 2012

Sisi Street Armenian Quarter Aleppo

Syria's conflict is sometimes cast as a religious one, between the Sunni majority and the leadership of an Alawite minority. Yet the secular government has its defenders, who look to it as a protector of all minority rights, especially for Christians.

At the Greek-Melchite Catholic Church in the historic Christian quarter of Old Damascus, Father Rafi Halawe said Syria's dozens of minority religious groups are searching for a peaceful resolution. Syria's Christians make up one of the earliest groups woven into the nation's multireligious fabric. But some see a threat to centuries of coexistence in the current conflict.

Halawe said there are religious sects that exist only in Syria, and that they are trying to find an end to the violence through dialogue and reconciliation. He said it is religious extremists who stand in the way, and he blames the arrival of armed elements who seek to label others as non-believers. Read more ..


Africa on Edge

Billions of Dollars Lost Each Year to Illegal Logging

October 6th 2012

Congo Forest

The joint report, called Green Carbon / Black Trade, says between 30 and 100 billion dollars are lost each year to the illegal timber trade.  Much of the loss is centered in key logging countries in Central Africa, the Amazon Basin and South East Asia.  

​Besides the diversion of revenues away from development, the trade also harms efforts to mitigate climate change and also leads to political instability. UNEP says deforestation, much of it from logging in tropical rainforests, is responsible for nearly 20 percent of all carbon emissions, 50 percent more than the amount from shipping, aviation and land transport combined. The UN says deforestation is responsible for nearly 20 percent of global carbon emissions.

Revenues from illegal logging have been used by various rebels and terrorist groups, from the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia to the Lord’s Resistance Army in Uganda. Some groups, like militias in the North Kivu region of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, engage in a number of illegal activities with international ramifications.  They include the poaching of rhino, elephants, and other wildlife, as well as illegal logging. Read more ..


The Edge of Nature

Why we Need Insects--Even Pesky Ones

October 6th 2012

Bee and pollen

At first blush, many people would probably love to get rid of insects, such as pesky mosquitoes, ants and roaches. But a new study indicates that getting rid of insects could trigger some unwelcome ecological consequences, such as the rapid loss of desired traits in plants, including their good taste and high yields.

Specifically, the study--described in the Oct. 5, 2012 issue of Science and funded by the National Science Foundation showed that evening primroses grown in insecticide-treated plots quickly lost, through evolution, defensive traits that helped protect them from plant-eating moths. The protective traits lost included the production of insect-deterring chemicals and later blooms that gave evening primroses temporal distance from plant-eating larvae that peak early in the growing season. These results indicate that once the plants no longer needed their anti-insect defenses, they lost those defenses. What's more, they did so quickly--in only three or four generations. Read more ..


The Iranian Threat

Is Iran’s Currency Crisis Evidence That Sanctions Are Working?

October 5th 2012

A fistful of rials

Both the Obama administration and Iran’s President Ahmadinejad have blamed the recent dramatic fall in value of Iran’s currency on international sanctions. It is a convenient explanation for both—for the White House, it suggests that U.S. strategy towards Iran is working; for Ahmadinejad, it deflects responsibility away from his own policy decisions and toward an external scapegoat.

But as my colleague Patrick Clawson explains, sanctions are only partly to blame for Iran’s economic travails. The currency crisis and associated inflationary spiral has its origins in the Ahmadinejad government’s mismanaged subsidy reform initiative. Sanctions have indeed exacerbated the problem, both by raising the cost to foreign firms of doing business with Iran and reducing the regime’s foreign exchange earnings. The increasing threat of war has also played a role, deepening Iranians’ worries about economic stability and increasing their inflationary expectations, and thus leading them to dump rials and seek safe haven in dollars and other hard currency to protect their savings. Read more ..


Brazil on Edge

Role of the Private Sector in Brazil's Chaotic Transport Sector

October 5th 2012

Brazilian airport train

On July 27, a violent truck drivers’ strike occurred in the Brazilian state of Rio Grande do Sul, which eventually encompassed Brazil’s entire trucking industry. Among other issues, they were protesting the National Agency of Terrestrial Transports’ (ANTT) new highway safety regulations. On the same day, the agency issued measures concerning a significant 2.87 percent price increase in highway tolls. Both controversial decisions reflect not only a strained road infrastructure, but also an urgent need for profound structural improvement in the country’s highway system. The lack of coherence in the region’s trucking industry derives from deep-rooted inadequacies and a lack of government investment. Since 1980, Brazil has witnessed a steady decrease in its public transportation investment, now at only 0.7% of its 2010 GDP. The dearth of appropriate planning and a complex regulatory environment have only amplified this problem.

The operational failures of the Brazilian transportation system have had a detrimental effect on the country’s broader economy. Combined with other concerns including excessive taxes and bureaucracy, the obviously inadequate infrastructure is largely responsible for the colossal lack of competitiveness known as the “custo Brasil” (in English, the “Brazil cost”) that afflicts the country. Brazil’s freight haulage productivity especially suffers from the excessively complex logistics involved in disbursement. In 2007, transport costs represented a gargantuan 13 percent of Brazilian GDP, compared to the United States’ relatively efficient 7 percent. Thus, it costs an average of $1,240 USD to export a container of freight while the same task requires only $990 USD in the United States. This particularly damages the pre-eminent agrifood sector’s performance, therefore multiplying both external and internal prices. Read more ..



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