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The Edge of Health

Salve for Sick Buildings

September 19th 2012


The Better Air system infuses indoor air with probiotics, leaving no room for germs and allergens to cause illness and body odor.

House mold, smelly armpits, dust mites, “sick building syndrome” and hospital-borne bacterial infections now face tough competition: Israeli startup Better Air has developed a novel air filtration system that uses millions of “good” bacteria called probiotics to overtake the “bad” bacteria and their associated contaminants infiltrating indoor living, healing and workspaces. Like the probiotics we ingest to promote good gut health, Better Air’s BioZone system uses a similar good bacteria to keep out the unwanted bacteria and related allergens that can cause sickness, infection and foul odor in homes, offices, hospitals – and even on bodies.

Better Air co-founder Yuli Horesh became interested in the field of bacteria, when his grandmother died as a result of a rare hospital-borne bacterial infection. Horesh was determined to do something about the rising incidence of fatal hospital-acquired infections, and the effects of sick buildings. The technology he adopted, based on research at Ghent University in Belgium, can be a paradigm shifter. Read more ..

The Geology Edge

Will Submerged Atlantis Supervolcano Cause Giant Tsunami?

September 19th 2012

Thera, Santorini

The Mediterranean Sea basin, especially that portion bordered by Greece, Turkey, Lebanon and Israel will soon have a new Marine Center that will help to reveal some of the secrets of this ancient and historical body of water. This includes the ancient seaport of Ceasarea, which was built and made famous during the reign of King Herod the Great and was partially destroyed by earthquakes and subsequent tsunamis, such as those caused by mega volcano eruptions in Greece, Crete, and Turkey more than 3,000 years ago.

Much historical romanticism surrounds the destruction of the ancient city-state of Atlantis, the exact location of which has been said to have been anywhere from islands in the Mediterranean to an actual continent in either the Atlantic or Indian Oceans.

The stories of Atlantis were written by the Greek poet and historian Homer, who placed Atlantis on the present day Greek island of Santorini, which is actually a large and presently dormant supervolcano Read more ..

The 2012 Vote

Republicans Worry that Romney will Blow his Election Chances

September 19th 2012


Republicans are worried that Mitt Romney is blowing a presidential race he should be winning, following publication of his comment that 47 percent of Americans pay no income tax and are dependent on the government.

Two GOP Senate candidates distanced themselves Tuesday from the remarks, revealed in a leaked video from a private fundraiser. And Republican strategists warned that the candidate’s words could fire up the Democratic base while alienating independent voters.

President Obama seized on the remarks to raise funds, while Romney sought to shift discussion to a 1998 video of Obama, then an Illinois state senator, discussing his support for the redistribution of wealth. Read more ..

Edge of Terrorism

Jihadi Terrorists and Muslim Brotherhood Silence Dissidents with Crucifixion

September 18th 2012

Yemeni terrorists

Shocking evidence has emerged from the Mideast about an escalation in the persecution of Christians in Muslim countries. According to a report in Lebanon Today, at least one man was crucified and two others were otherwise executed by the jihadist group Ansar al-Shariah that had taken control of a region in Yemen and imposed Islamic religious law, known as shariah. The jihadists accused the trio of being agents or spies for the United States and crucified them several months ago. The MEMRI website has photographs of the jihadists’ victims .

A caption to a video of a victim of crucifixion explained that he was an accused “spy who was executed by extremists for placing sensors in militant’s cars to direct U.S. attacks on them.”

A report issued to subscribers only by the MEMRI website showed a photograph of the victim crucified on an electric pylon in south Yemen’s Abyan province. Translated, a sign affixed above the victim’s head displayed the flag of the Al-Qaeda-linked group and a text from verse 5:33 of the Koran: “The recompense of those who wage war against Allah and His Messenger and do mischief in the land is only that they shall be killed or crucified or their hands and their feet be cut off from opposite sides, or be exiled from the land. That is their disgrace in this world, and a great torment is theirs in the Hereafter.”


Argentina on Edge

Argentines Taking it to the Streets in Protest Against President Kirchner

September 18th 2012

Cacerolazo protests Argentina

On Thursday, September 13, Argentina witnessed the largest protest to date under the administration of incumbent president Cristina Fernández de Kirchner. Reminiscent of the “cacerolazos,” the demonstrators who famously protested with pots and pans against the 2001-2002 collapse of the Argentine financial sector, thousands of Argentines gathered in the main plazas and intersections of cities across the country including Buenos Aires, Rosario, Córdoba, and Mar del Plata.

Images from the manifestations have revealed Argentines chanting, holding anti-government signs, and banging kitchen pans. Using social media like Facebook and Twitter to mobilize, demonstrators gathered in front of the presidential residence in the northern Greater Buenos Aires region of Olivos while others marched along the major avenues of the capital to gather in the Plaza de Mayo.

Since her 2011 reelection, in which she won 54 percent of the vote, President Fernández de Kirchner has steadily lost support among Argentine citizens, mainly due to feelings of both economic and personal insecurity. According to the Argentine newspaper Clarín, signs held by protesters addressed a myriad of the population’s major concerns: “Cristina, give back the country. We don’t fear you,” “Stop the inflation,” “No to constitutional reform. No to the re-reelection,” “We want freedom to use our savings,” “Security,” and “No to the reduction of our liberties”. These signs are the latest exemplifications of an abrupt, if not unexpected, loss of support for the once-popular president. Read more ..

The Violent Roads of Mexico

Mexico's Supreme Court Re-Asserts Civilian Control over War on Drugs

September 18th 2012

Mexican soldiers at the beach

In a key 8-2 decision on Tuesday, August 21, Mexico’s Supreme Court struck down the core provision of a law that had allowed the military to try criminal offenses against civilians by military tribunals. A crucial decision for preserving civilian power over the uncertain and often questionable judgment of the military, this ruling once again reveals the damage that Mexico’s Drug War has done to the Mexican people and the country’s rule of law.

The case involved the June 2009 killing of Bonfilio Rubio, an indigenous man, after soldiers fired on his bus at a checkpoint near the town of Huamuxtitlan, in southern Mexico. The military’s attorney argued that it had jurisdiction over the case since part of the military code, Article 57 II (a), read that all crimes committed by soldiers on duty are considered crimes concerning military conduct, rather than crimes against civilians. However, a Mexican federal law ensures that “military courts in no case and for no reason may extend their jurisdiction over people who do not belong to the army.” [4] The Supreme Court therefore maintained that a military tribunal for military offenses against civilians was found to be blatantly unconstitutional. Read more ..

The Automotive Edge

Car Sharing As A Smartphone App - The Key To Future Urban Traffic

September 18th 2012

The demand for flexible mobility in urban areas through car sharing models is what automotive electronics expert company wants to address with a kind of "universal key" for all kind of shared vehicles and geographies. The key is implemented as a smartphone app which communicates with the vehicle through Near Field Communications (NFC). The new key is much more versatile and cost effective than existing systems, the company claims.

The centrepiece of the carhsaring key is a digital cryptographic key which is exchanged between by the smartphone and the vehicle through the app. Before a user can enter a car, Continental sends an unforgeable data record to the handset. This record will be stored on the SIM card and represents the right to access a specific vehicle. When the user takes over the car, the data including authentication, vehicle identification and vehicle technical status has to be transferred across a distance of a few centimetres to the vehicle. For this purpose, an NFC reader is installed inside the car - for instance behind the windscreen near the door. Another NFC reader inside the vehicle verifies the digital key before the engine can be started. Read more ..

The Arab Winter of Rage

Muslim Protests and Riots Continue over Muhammad Movie

September 17th 2012

Cairo embassy protest Sep 2012

Hundreds of protesters rioting against an anti-Islam film torched a press club and a government building Monday in northwest Pakistan, sparking clashes with police that left at least one person dead. Demonstrations also turned violent outside a U.S. military base in Afghanistan and at the U.S. Embassy in Indonesia. Meanwhile, the leader of the Shi'ite militant group Hezbollah called for sustained protests in a rare public appearance before thousands of supporters at a rally in the Lebanese capital, Beirut. Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah accused U.S. spy agencies of being behind events that have unleashed a wave of anti-Western sentiment in the Muslim and Arab world.

​​The protests followed demonstrations and violence in about 20 countries since last Tuesday when the American ambassador in Libya and three of his staff were killed in an attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi as protests spread from neighboring Egypt. Read more ..

The Ancient Edge

Oldest Roman Fortification in Germany Found

September 17th 2012

Romans and Picts

In the vicinity of Hermeskeil, a small town some 30 kilometers southeast of the city of Trier in the Hunsrueck region in the German federal state of Rhineland-Palatinate, archaeologists from Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) have confirmed the location of the oldest Roman military fortification known in Germany to date. These findings shed new light on the Roman conquest of Gaul. The camp was presumably built during Julius Caesars’ Gallic War in the late 50s B.C.

Nearby lies a late Celtic settlement with monumental fortifications known as the “Hunnenring” or "Circle of the Huns," which functioned as one of the major centers of the local Celtic tribe called Treveri. Their territory is situated in the mountainous regions between the Rhine and Maas rivers. "The remnants of this military camp are the first pieces of archaeological evidence of this important episode of world history," comments Dr. Sabine Hornung of the Institute of Pre- and Protohistory at JGU. "It is quite possible that Treveran resistance to the Roman conquerors was crushed in a campaign that was launched from this military fortress." Read more ..

Broken Healthcare

As Kidney Disease Kills Thousands, Scientists Scramble for Answers

September 17th 2012


In this tiny Sri Lankan village, rice farmer Wimal Rajaratna sits cross-legged on a wooden bed, peering out toward lush palm trees that surround his home. Listless and weak, the 46-year old father of two anxiously awaits word on whether his body can accept a kidney donation that offers his only chance of survival.

In Uddanam, India, a reed-thin farmer named Laxmi Narayna prepares for the grueling two-day journey he takes twice every week. For most of his 46 years, his job involved shimmying up palm trees to harvest coconuts at the top. He now spends most of his time negotiating the more than 100-mile bus trips he takes to receive the dialysis treatments that keep him alive.

Ten thousand miles away, in the Nicaraguan community of La Isla, Maudiel Martinez dreads returning to the rolling sugarcane fields where he spent most of his teenage years at work with a machete. Blood tests by the sugar company that employed him found that his kidneys were seriously damaged — and exertion beneath the tropical sun could tip the 20-year-old’s health into a lethal spiral. In three countries on opposite ends of the world, these men face the same deadly mystery: their kidneys are failing, and no one knows why. Read more ..

The Weapon's Edge

Angola Still Riddled With Landmines,

September 16th 2012

Land Minee

Ten years after the end of the civil war in Angola, the country still remains, despite its best efforts, one of the most unexploded mine-affected countries in the world. The African nation was due to finish the demining by 2013, but the Angolan government is requesting a five-year extension to complete the task.

Cautiously, meter after meter, a deminer checks if the ground is clear of mines and unexploded devices. He is working on a demining zone operated by the NGO Norwegian People's Aid five hours east of the capital city, Luanda. His team has been here for two months, just steps away from a village.

Most villagers have been living here for a long time. They left during the fighting, and came back when the war ended in 2002, only to find their land riddled with mines.  Angie Labento, who has been living here for 20 years, already sees a difference since the demining operation started.

"We are very thankful; soon the kids will be able to run around. We were afraid before, so we are very thankful,” says Labento.

But the main life-changer is yet to come for the villagers. The team is working to reopen for them access to the water tank located in the middle of the minefield. Soon, they will finally have water running down the taps again, for the first time in decades. According to the United Nations Development Program, more than 80,000 people in Angola have been maimed by landmines since war broke out in 1975, and thousands more were killed. One out of eight Angolans lives in a landmine-affected community, and the 30 years of war have riddled all provinces with mines. Read more ..

Germany and Israel

Germany Reconsiders Sale of Submarines to Egypt

September 15th 2012

Deutschen Kriegsmarine unterseeboot 400

The planned sale of two German made attack submarines to Egypt is being reconsidered by the German government, according to Der Spiegel, after Israeli lobbying against the sale intensified in recent months.

In late November of 2011, Germany approved a deal that would send two Type-209 submarines to the Egyptian government, however, Israel began its efforts to stop the sale in early September.

According to the Der Spiegel report, Germany’s Federal Security Council would cancel the sale “if the Egyptian government pursues a policy hostile to Israel. That’s a personal promise [Angela] Merkel gave to Netanyahu.” Read more ..

Edge of Terrorism

Police Interrogate Christian Film-Maker of 'The Innocence of Muslims'

September 15th 2012

Nakoula Bassely Nakoula

U.S. probation officials in California have questioned the man allegedly behind the controversial film that sparked violent protests in the Muslim world. Sheriff's officials said on September 15 that Nakoula Basseley Nakoula was questioned in Cerritos near his home for possible probation violations stemming from a 2010 bank fraud conviction.

They say the terms of his probation include a five year ban on using computers or the Internet, without approval from a probation officer. Police say Nakoula left his home voluntarily to be interviewed by federal authorities. Authorities say he was not arrested or detained.

The film, titled The Innocence of Muslims, sparked protests in regions including the Middle East, Africa and Asia because it mocked the Prophet Muhammad. In an earlier interview with U.S.-government-funded Radio Sawa, the alleged director of the film said his fellow Arabs "have to learn to demonstrate peacefully." He said any allegation the U.S. government was involved in the making of the movie is "ridiculous" and that "America has nothing to do with the film." Radio Sawa says the man refused to confirm his identity, but that a source who provided the contact information identified him as Nakoula Basseley Nakoula. Read more ..

Broken Borders

Conflict over Water Resources Bubbles Up in Northern Mexico

September 14th 2012

Mennonites in Mexico

For the second time in less than two weeks, Mexican farmers have blocked the railroad that runs south of Ciudad Juarez in an intensifying protest against the over exploitation of water. As many as four hundred farmers from the north-central and northwestern parts of Chihuahua state began staging a camp-in September 12 at the Ferromex railway tracks near the town of Villa Ahumada, preventing trains from passing through the zone and obstructing the construction of a gas pipeline. Representing members of historic, collectively-owned farm lands known as ejidos, the protesters insisted that the National Water Commission (Conagua) resume investigating and shutting down illegal wells and small dams in the Carmen River Basin. They also demanded that federal environmental officials sanction all those who have opened up new farms in pasture lands and violated environmental laws. Read more ..

The Edge of Nature

Tree Deaths Linked to Climate Change

September 13th 2012

Aspen Tree Death

Hot and dry conditions triggered by climate change are killing the world's trees, according to a new report which examines dozens of scientific articles on the subject.  

Stanford University graduate student William Anderegg has seen this forest die-off firsthand. His doctoral thesis documents the impact of drought on trembling aspen, the most common tree in North America.

“These are complete hillsides of trembling aspens that are dying off," Anderegg says. "And when the main tree in a forest goes, you tend to see a lot of the other species, especially the grasses and the wild flowers, tend to disappear as well. But you lose a lot of those species from those forests.”

With colleagues from Stanford and North Arizona State University, Anderegg co-authored the new report which presents a picture of accelerating worldwide tree deaths that appear to be linked to changes in the global climate. Read more ..

The New Libya

Slain Ambassador Stevens Leaves Behind a Diplomatic and On-Line Legacy

September 13th 2012

Ambassador J Christopher Stevens
Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens

A senior U.S. State Department official killed on September 11 at the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya was not only a diplomat in real life but in the virtual world as well. Sean Smith, an information management officer, was better known as “Vile Rat” on EVE, a popular online science fiction video game in which nearly 400,000 players explore, fight and build communities in space.

As news of his death broke, popular gaming sites and forums exploded with outpourings of grief at the loss of a prominent member of the EVE community. Mark Heard, another EVE player who goes by “Seleene,” noticed something was wrong when he saw “Vile Rat” type an expletive and then “gunfire” on the instant messaging service Jabber.

In an online tribute, Heard says his first thought was, “Oh, hell, he’s in another one of those places” with spotty Internet and lax security, like Smith’s previous post in Baghdad. But this time was different. Heard and other EVE players say they have lost one of their most important members. “Sean was one of the most well known and respected diplomats for one of the most powerful alliances in EVE. He helped shape the universe we all play in,” said Heard, adding that diplomacy in the game is as complex as anything you would see in the real world. Read more ..

The Violent Roads of Mexico

Mexico Awash in the Blood of Endless Narco-War

September 12th 2012

Mexican soldiers on the march

As the administration of Mexican President Felipe Calderon enters its final weeks, parts of Mexico remain awash in blood from the so-called narco war. And Mexico’s old beach resort of Acapulco is among the most violent places. Practically on a daily basis, executions, shoot-outs and the discovery of dismembered bodies disturb the social peace.

The state of Guerrero’s biggest city, Acapulco is a hub of violence that extends into the countryside and reverberates back into the Pacific port city. “The corridor of the Costa Grande of the state, from Acapulco to the municipality of La Union that borders the state of Michoacan, has been a constant news item because of the criminal acts that are now common in the zone,” recently wrote a reporter for the Guerrero daily El Sur. Read more ..

Broken Banking

Financial Crisis Offers Lessons for Future

September 12th 2012

Lehman Bros

Four years ago, the collapse of Lehman Brothers, a huge financial firm, marked the start of the worst recession in decades.  Frightened investors dumped stocks, banks stopped lending, the economy shrank, and millions of people lost jobs, homes, and savings.  The crisis prompted financial firms and regulators to make changes intended to prevent another financial disaster.  But some experts say it could happen again.
Since the crisis, committees investigated what went wrong, regulators demanded that banks take less risk, and Congress passed new laws.  Many of the regulations that spell out the practical details of these laws are still being written, amid intense lobbying by financial firms and other interests.  Prosecutions for alleged fraud have frustrated one key investigator who says they have mostly targeted low-ranking people.  Bart Dzivi, was Special Counsel to the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission. "They have not really focused on trying to round up the senior officers at the major institutions who may have had criminal culpability," he said. Read more ..

Iran's Nukes

Obama Snubs Bibi in Pursuit of a Line in the Sand for Iran

September 11th 2012

Obama and Netanyau

A request for a bilateral meeting of President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on the sidelines at the upcoming U.N. General Assembly was refused by the American leader. Both governments reported that President Obama would not agree to the Israeli request. While the Israelis said that their request was refused, White House spokespersons said President Obama had a scheduling conflict. There may come a meeting at a later time.

The Obama administration's rejection of Netanyahu's request demonstrated how strained U.S./Israeli relations have become. Obama will be in New York on September 24-25, while Netanyahu arrives later. White House sources claimed that a meeting outside of the international conclave is a possibility.

Such a request from a head of state from an allied country, coming about as Israel has grown increasingly worried about Obama’s wait-and-see approach to Iran, which continues its nuclear weaponization program and its threats to annihilate Israel. Netanyahu has demanded so-called “red-lines” to mark actions made by Iran that would trigger possibly a military response by the U.S. Read more ..

Remembering 9/11

Remembering the Man whose Warnings America Ignored

September 11th 2012

NYPD and flag

Each year on September 11, many police officers and security managers remember the contributions of the Federal Bureau of Investigation's Counterterrorism Chief, the late John P. O’Neill. And Sept. 11, 2012 will be no different.

While the Clinton Administration slept during the terrorists' war against the United States, O'Neill did all he could to fight the radical Islamists who wished to place the American people in harm's way. Unlike America's leadership, O'Neill realized early-on that the Islamists were at war with the United States.

O'Neill faced political opposition from members of the Clinton Administration, who ignored his reports and warnings. On many occasions he was denied funding for his frequent trips to the Middle East to investigate leads on terrorist groups. On several trips, he paid for his own expenses -- plane fare, hotel accommodations, etc. -- in order to wage his one man war against terrorism. Read more ..

The Edge of Climate Change

Destroyed Coastal Habitats Produce Significant Greenhouse Gas

September 10th 2012

Coastal Habiitat
Credit: Duke University

Destruction of coastal habitats may release as much as 1 billion tons of carbon into the atmosphere each year, 10 times higher than previously reported, according to a new Duke led study. The analysis provides the most comprehensive estimate of global carbon emissions from the loss of these coastal habitats to date: 0.15 to 1.2 billion tons. It suggests there is a high value associated with keeping these coastal-marine ecosystems intact as the release of their stored carbon costs roughly $6-$42 billion annually.

"On the high end of our estimates, emissions are almost as much as the carbon dioxide emissions produced by the world's fifth-largest emitter, Japan," said Brian Murray, director for economic analysis at Duke's Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions. "This means we have previously ignored a source of greenhouse gas emissions that could rival the emissions of many developed nations."  Read more ..

The Digital Edge

Why We’re More Likely Than Ever Before To Believe Fake News

September 10th 2012

Fake News in Russia

The story sounded almost too good to be true. Valery Gergiev, a conductor known as a strong supporter of the Putin regime, interrupted a performance at London's Covent Garden to speak out in favor of the feminist performance artists Pussy Riot: "The thing is, yesterday Moscow saw another day of hearings in the fabricated case of Pussy Riot.... I apologize for such a vulgar comparison, but the Russian state is acting like a dominant male in a group of monkeys, compelled to show off his sex organs to make the others fear him." The text of Gergiev’s speech went viral.

But in fact, Gergiev never made the speech -- it came instead from a Russian spoof website called Fognews.com. Gergiev later denied he made the comments, but the damage was already done. Read more ..

The 2012 Vote

Presidential Candidates Seek to Deliver Knock-Out at Debates

September 10th 2012

romney buttons

Three looming debates represent the last, best chance for President Obama or Mitt Romney to force a decisive moment in the presidential race. The Romney team will be especially eager to maximize the opportunity, in light of several polls showing that Obama has widened his previously small lead since last week’s Democratic National Convention.

The president’s boost from that event might well dissipate in the weeks ahead, but, for now, it has bolstered the confidence of the Obama camp — and deepened worries among Republicans. For Romney, the task he faces is to connect with voters, present himself as a candidate worthy to be considered on the same level as a sitting president and persuade the electorate that his plan for the economy would work and Obama’s has failed. For Obama, the priority is to emphasize once again that the election is a choice and Romney is an unacceptable alternative. Read more ..

Israel and America

Israel is Where US Vets Come to Heal

September 9th 2012

The unique Heroes to Heroes Journey to Israel gives America’s disabled veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan a spiritual and physical new start. The pressure sleeve on Harrison Manyoma’s arm relieves the physical wound he received in combat in Iraq. For relief of his emotional wounds, he came to Israel.

“I’ve only been here five days so far and I feel at peace,” says Manyoma, a 35-year-old Houston US Army veteran who was injured during a 2004 tour of duty. “I have been able to interact emotionally while at the same release things that have been in my heart and my spirit.” Manyoma is one of 10 former soldiers suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or traumatic brain injury (TBI) visiting Israel from August 30 through September 9 with the American charitable organization Heroes to Heroes. Read more ..

The Edge of Nature

Tigers Take to the Night Shift to Avoid Encroaching Human Beings

September 8th 2012

Tiger Tiger of the Night

Tigers don’t have a reputation for being very accommodating, but a new study challenges the long-held conservation belief that these large carnivores need lots of people-free space. This new understanding is especially critical because, since the start of the 20th century, the tiger population has declined by 97 percent to approximately 3,000 worldwide largely due to loss of habitat from encroaching cities and agriculture.

Michigan State University graduate student Neil Carter set up motion-detecting camera traps in and around Nepal’s Chitwan National Park to study human-tiger interaction. The park, nestled in a valley of the Himalayas and protected by army patrols, is home to about 120 tigers. But the area is home to people, too. Tourists visit the park and local villagers live on its periphery, where tigers also roam. Read more ..

China on Edge

Sluggish Growth of Chinese Economy Concerns APEC Summit

September 8th 2012

Industrial and Commericial Bank of China
President Hu Jin Tao of China

As Asia-Pacific leaders gather in the Russian city for their annual heads-of-state forum on Saturday, slowing growth and investment in China, Asia's largest economy, is set to dominate the agenda. Despite slower orders for Chinese manufacturers, China's growth still tops seven percent. "In the very near term, I think the key word is stabilization," said Hong Kong economist Shen Minggao, head of China research for Citigroup, who expects to see measures to stabilize the economy and avoid social unrest undertaken. "But promoting consumption or services are deemed longer-term measures," he says. "So in the very near term, they have to go back to the traditional growth engines, for example exports."

At a meeting of APEC ministers held on Thursday, Australian Finance Minister Penny Wong said China has a record of making the right moves. "While there has been some moderation in Chinese growth, our observation would be — and I think that it is a sound one — that Chinese authorities have room to move, to support growth consistent with the plans they have outlined," she said. But according to Dan Ikenson, director of trade policy studies at the Cato Institute, a Washington-based libertarian think tank, Chinese research and development lags behind most other major economies. Read more ..

The Edge of Nature

Could Istanbul Be Hit by a Big One?

September 7th 2012

Turkey Earthquake

The drilling has started for a seismic monitoring network on the Marmara Sea near Istanbul. Specially designed seismic sensors in eight boreholes on the outskirts of Istanbul and around the eastern Marmara Sea will monitor the seismic activity of the region with high precision. In each of the respective 300 meter deep holes several borehole seismometers will be permanently installed at various depths. These detect even barely perceptible earthquakes with very small magnitudes at a high resolution and can thus provide information about the earthquake rupture processes associated with these.

To determine and monitor the seismic hazard of the region and the processes occurring in the fault zone beneath the Marmara Sea off Istanbul with the latest earthquake monitoring technology, the GONAF plate boundary observatory (Geophysical Observatory at the North Anatolian Fault) was set up under the auspices of the GFZ German Research Centre for Geosciences. Read more ..

Destination Israel

Tel Aviv Bids for Artificial Island International Airport At Sea

September 7th 2012

Macau Island Airport
Macau's Island Airport - Simialr to Tel Aviv Plan

There has been talk for a couple of years already that Tel Aviv’s international airport will move to the sea, literally. A proposal has been submitted to create an artificial island off the city’s coast to replace the Ben Gurion Airport, one that services local, domestic and international flights. A couple months ago I interviewed a geologist helping to develop feasibility studies for such a structure. And according to media reports it looks like the crazy plan is going ahead despite environmental risks to the fragile Mediterranean Sea, and security risks of sabotage.

A new committee from the Ministry of Science and Technology in Israel developed a feasibility report for this artificial airport island to be built off the coast of the Tel Aviv suburb Rishon LeZion. Goodovitch Architects have drafted some sketches (above) of how the airport could look. Among the parties involved in the far-flung idea is Elie Schalit, 92, a chairman and founder of the Colbert Group, which builds giant cruise ships. He was the man who built the first ships for Ted Arison and his Carnival Cruise Lines. Read more ..

The Edge of Weather

Deforestation Can Significantly Reduce Tropical Rainfall,

September 7th 2012

Trees burning in Amazon

Deforestation can have a significant effect on tropical rainfall, new research confirms. The findings have potentially devastating impacts for people living in and near the Amazon and Congo forests.

A team from the University of Leeds and the NERC Centre for Ecology & Hydrology found that for the majority of the Earth's tropical land surface, air passing over extensive forests produces at least twice as much rain as air passing over little vegetation. In some cases these forests increased rainfall thousands of kilometres away. By combining observational data with predictions of future deforestation, the researchers estimate that destruction of tropical forests would reduce rain across the Amazon basin by up to a fifth (21 per cent) in the dry season by 2050. Read more ..

The Edge of Food

Wild Bees: Champions For Food Security and Biodiversity

September 7th 2012


Pollinating insects contribute to agricultural production in 150 (84 percent) European crops. These crops depend partly or entirely upon insects for their pollination and yield. The value of insect pollinators is estimated to be €22 billion a year in Europe. Declines in managed pollinators, such as honeybees, and wild pollinator such bumblebees, solitary bees and hoverflies, are therefore of growing concern as we need to protect food production and the maintain wildflower diversity.

Scientists involved in STEP, a large-scale project funded by the 7th Framework Program (FP7) of the European Union, have therefore taken an inclusive approach looking at the status and trends of all Europe's pollinators.

New findings have been presented at a dedicated STEP symposium at the 5th EurBee meeting held in Halle. Prof Simon Potts from the University of Reading, UK and coordinator of STEP opened the discussion: "To help Europe secure sustainable food production and conserve its biodiversity we need to provide policy makers with clear evidence of who pollinates our crops and flowers and what are the best options to safeguard pollination services in a changing world" Read more ..

The Digital Edge

Can Computers "Understand" the Blogosphere

September 7th 2012

Columbia Supercomputer NASA Advanced Supercomputing Facility

Can a computer "read" an online blog and understand it? Several Concordia computer scientists are helping to get closer to that goal.

Leila Kosseim, associate professor in Concordia's Faculty of Engineering and Computer Science, and a recently-graduated doctoral student, Shamima Mithun, have developed a system called BlogSum that has potentially vast applications. It allows an organization to pose a question and then find out how a large number of people talking online would respond. The system is capable of gauging things like consumer preferences and voter intentions by sorting through websites, examining real-life self-expression and conversation, and producing summaries that focus exclusively on the original question.

"Huge quantities of electronic texts have become easily available on the Internet, but people can be overwhelmed, and they need help to find the real content hiding in the mass of information," explains Kosseim, one of the lead researchers at Concordia's Computational Linguistics Laboratory (CLaC lab). Read more ..

The Edge of Nature

Tracking Fish through a Coral Reef Seascape

September 6th 2012

Coral reef and fish

Ocean scientists have long known that juvenile coral reef fishes use coastal seagrass and mangrove habitats as nurseries, later moving as adults onto coral reefs. But the fishes’ movements, and the connections between different tropical habitats, are much more complex than previously realized, according to a recent study. The findings have important implications for management and protection of coral reefs and other marine environments.

A number of studies have demonstrated a strong relationship between the presence of coastal wetlands and offshore fish abundance and fisheries yield, but it has proved difficult to develop quantitative assessment of habitat use by fish or their movement among different habitats. “The rationale for this study,”says Simon Thorrold, a biologist at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI), “was to determine the relative importance of different nursery habitats to reef fishes that spend their adult lives on coral reefs but may spend at least part of their juvenile residency elsewhere.” Read more ..

Skin and Bone

Pentagon, Congress Probe Tissue Contracts

September 6th 2012

Meshed human skin
Human skin, meshed for transplant (credit: Mar Cabra)

The Pentagon has announced a new program to better oversee human cadaver tissue used in Defense Department hospitals around the world and is investigating allegations that some tissue-based medical implants provided to service members may have been obtained improperly, military officials said Wednesday.

At the same time, Congressional investigators say they are looking into government contracts between the Department of Veterans Affairs and RTI Biologics, a Florida-based manufacturer of medical implants made from human bones, skin, ligaments and other tissues. RTI is one of the world’s largest players in the billion-dollar human tissue industry—processing a quarter of all material recovered from cadavers in the United States.

As reported in July, RTI obtained tissues from suppliers in the U.S. and the Ukraine that have been investigated for allegedly forging documents or bullying families into signing donor consent forms. “We are currently in the process of determining if our Military Treatment Facilities—administered by the Army, Navy, and Air Force respectively—have conducted business with RTI or its subsidiary, Tutogen,” Defense spokeswoman Cynthia Smith said in a prepared statement. Read more ..

The Weopan's Edge

Hundreds of Thousands of Deadly Cluster Munitions Destroyed

September 6th 2012

cluster munitions

A new report says governments that joined the treaty banning cluster munitions have destroyed nearly 750-thousand of the weapons since 2008. However, it also says there are credible allegations of new use of the weapons in Syria and Sudan.

Cluster munitions are canisters containing either a few or hundreds of smaller munitions called bomblets. They can be dropped by aircraft or fired from artillery and spread over a wide area. The Cluster Munitions Coalition says they have killed thousands of civilians in nearly 40 countries and territories.

The Cluster Munitions Monitor 2012 report has been released prior to the September 11th meeting of countries that support the treaty or convention. It says the destruction of 750,000 of the weapons means about 85-million bomblets were also destroyed. Read more ..

Edge of the Universe

Explosion of Galaxy Formation Lit Up Early Universe

September 6th 2012

Big Bang

New data from the South Pole Telescope indicates that the birth of the first massive galaxies that lit up the early universe was an explosive event, happening faster and ending sooner than suspected.

Extremely bright, active galaxies formed and fully illuminated the universe by the time it was 750 million years old, or about 13 billion years ago, according to Oliver Zahn, a postdoctoral fellow at the Berkeley Center for Cosmological Physics (BCCP) at the University of California, Berkeley, who led the data analysis.

The data provide new constraints on the universe's first era of galaxy formation, called the Epoch of Reionization. Most astronomers think that early stars came to life in massive gas clouds, generating the first galaxies. The energetic light pumped out by these stars is thought to have ionized the hydrogen gas in and around the galaxies, creating "ionization bubbles" millions of light years across that left a lasting, telltale signature in the cosmic background radiation (CMB). This relic light from the early universe is visible today everywhere in the sky and was first mapped by UC Berkeley physicist and Nobel laureate George Smoot, founder of the BCCP.

"We find that the Epoch of Reionization lasted less than 500 million years and began when the universe was at least 250 million years old," Zahn said. "Before this measurement, scientists believed that reionization lasted 750 million years or longer, and had no evidence as to when reionization began." Read more ..

America and China

China tells Clinton I'm Okay You're Okay in Southeast Asia

September 5th 2012

Hilary Clinton

China says there is no questioning its sovereignty over waters and islands in the South China Sea, some of which are claimed by Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei, Taiwan, and the Philippines. But Chinese officials told visiting Secretary of State Hillary Clinton that they are willing to work with Southeast Asian nations to resolve the dispute peacefully.

Secretary Clinton discussed the South China Sea disputes with Chinese President Hu Jintao and Foreign Minister Yang Jeichi Wednesday.

China has been critical of outside involvement in the dispute, saying foreign governments are trying to divide the region. Speaking to reporters following their talks, Yang repeated China's insistence that this be resolved by the claimants themselves and made clear that China's position is unassailable. The foreign minister says there is plentiful historic and legal evidence for China's sovereignty over the islands in the South China Sea and adjacent waters. As for disputes to those claims, he says these should be discussed by those directly concerned on the basis of respect for historic facts and international law, to be settled through "direct negotiation and friendly consultation." Yang says that the stance is in keeping with a 10-year old "declaration of conduct" between China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, or ASEAN. But the United States believes a more specific "code of conduct" is the way to resolve competing territorial claims on which Secretary Clinton again insisted the Obama administration has no position. Read more ..

The 2012 Vote

State Laws Vary Widely on Voting Rights for Felons

September 4th 2012

Prison bars

Josh and Katy Vander Kamp met in drug rehab. In the seven years since, they have been rebuilding their lives in Apache Junction, Ariz., a small town east of Phoenix. He’s a landscaper; she’s studying for a master’s degree in addictions counseling. They have two children, a dog and a house. Their lives reveal little of their past, except that Katy can vote and Josh can’t because he’s a two-time felon.

She’s been arrested three times, but never convicted of a felony. By age 21, Josh was charged with two — for a drug-paraphernalia violation and possessing a burglary tool. “I didn’t do anything that he didn’t do, and he’s paying for it for the rest of his life,” Katy said.

With voting laws a heated issue this election year as civil rights groups and state legislatures battle over photo ID requirements in this election year, felon disenfranchisement laws have attracted less attention despite the potential votes at stake. A patchwork of restrictions in every state but Maine and Vermont keep about 5.85 million Americans with felony convictions off voting rolls, according to The Sentencing Project, a Washington, D.C.-based criminal justice reform advocacy group. The report also suggests that some races are hit by these laws more than others.

A felon in Maine can vote from prison using an absentee ballot, while a felon convicted of the same crime in Florida, the state with the highest percentage of disenfranchised African Americans in the nation, might never regain the right to vote — even after release. People convicted of more than one felony in Arizona lose gun ownership and voting rights until a county court restores them. Josh Vander Kamp’s first attempt at regaining his rights failed last year. Read more ..

The Edge of Terrorism

Russian Activists Accuse Kremlin Of Trying To 'Forget Beslan'

September 3rd 2012

Beslan Carnage

September 3 was a solemn day in Russia -- the Day of Remembrance of Victims of Terrorist Attacks. In Moscow, wreaths were laid and candles lit at the sites of 12 different terrorist incidents that have taken dozens of lives in the capital in recent years.

But relatives of victims of perhaps Russia's most horrific terrorist attack of all -- the September 2004 hostage-taking at a school in Beslan -- are disappointed with the way their particular pain has been handled. On September 1, 2004, armed Chechen militants seized more than 1,000 children, parents, and teachers who were gathered at the Beslan school to mark the start of the school year. Three hundred and thirty-four people -- including 186 schoolchildren -- died, many of them in the chaotic storming of the school two days later by Russian security forces. Ella Kesayeva, a member of the Beslan Mothers Committee, says Moscow's policy on the tragedy now amounts to a very simple one: "Forget Beslan."


The Edge of Space

First Multi-Planet Binary Star Solar System Discovered

September 3rd 2012

Kepler 36-c from Kepler 36-b

NASA's Kepler mission has found the first multi-planet solar system orbiting a binary star, characterized in large part by University of Texas at Austin astronomers using two telescopes at the university's McDonald Observatory in West Texas. The finding, which proves that whole planetary systems can form in a disk around a binary star, is published in the August 28 issue of the journal Science.

"It's Tatooine, right?" said McDonald Observatory astronomer Michael Endl. "But this was not shown in Star Wars," he said, referring to the periodic changes in the amount of daylight falling on a planet with two suns. Measurements of the star's orbits showed that daylight on the planets would vary by a large margin over the 7.4-Earth-day period as the two stars completed their mutual orbits, each moving closer to, then farther from, the planets (which are themselves moving). Read more ..

The Edge of Food

Camel Milk to Help Treat Diabetes

September 2nd 2012

Baby Camel Feeding

Nomads have always considered camel’s milk a medicine, but only recently has science confirmed it. We’re in agreement – see our 6 green reasons for drinking camel milk.

While folks in Dubai enjoy coffee- and chocolate-flavored camel milk drinks, researchers view the thin, bland milk in a more serious light. Improved blood sugar levels in type 2 diabetics drinking camel milk was proved by Dr. Rajendra Agrawal in the Diabetes  Care & Research Centre in Bikaner, India. This caught the attention of researchers at Cairo University, Egypt, and King Saud University, Saudi Arabia,

At Cairo University, a 4-month trial was conducted involving 54 participants receiving insulin. Of those, 27 drank 500 ml. of camel milk every day. Test results showed that those drinking camel milk had significantly reduced blood sugar and higher C-peptide levels, which indicate improved insulin function. Following this, Prof. Agrawal conducted a 2-year study which concluded with proof that three participants no longer needed insulin. Read more ..

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