|Dave Levinthal||February 20th 2013|
Center for Public Integrity
Nearly $3 million and counting. That's how much money outside interest groups have spent ahead of the Feb. 26 party primary for Illinois' 2nd District special congressional election.
The bulk of the funding — more than $2.5 million through Tuesday — has been spent by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg's anti-gun super PAC Independence USA PAC, according to Federal Election Commission records.
The organization is joined by four other political committees that have also bought ads that advocate for or against one of the three main Democratic candidates battling to fill the seat, vacated by Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr., D-Ill., who is facing federal felony charges. Only about one in 10 House races attracted as much or more outside attention during the entire two-year 2012 election cycle. Read more ..
The Edge of Healthcare
|Miriam Kresh||February 19th 2013|
The old song says, parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme. Let’s add echinacea, garlic and basil. Most are culinary herbs with poetic histories. All are green medicines that you can harvest at will.
The herbs don’t take up much space, if not much space is what you have. I myself grow about 15 kinds of herbs on my little apartment balcony, in containers. A culinary/medicinal herb I love to have there is chickweed, a wild herb that’s easy to grow at home.
You can get creative and recycle an old sink or worn-out buckets as containers, but herbs thrive in ordinary plant pots. Weeding and adding organic plant food to the water every 2-3 weeks guarantee thriving, healthy plants. Seed packets provide information on how deeply to sow, the right months of the year for sowing, and the best sun/shade conditions. If buying little starters, consult the plant nursery. Or start your herb garden with upcycled supermarket herbs. You’ll love picking fresh, green medicine that you grew yourself. Read more ..
The Genetic Edge
|Clare Ryan||February 18th 2013|
University College London
The first animal model of recent human evolution reveals that a single mutation produced several traits common in East Asian peoples, from thicker hair to denser sweat glands, an international team of researchers report.
The team, led by researchers from Harvard Medical School, Harvard University, the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, Massachusetts General Hospital, Fudan University and University College London, also modeled the spread of the gene mutation across Asia and North America, concluding that it most likely arose about 30,000 years ago in what is today central China.
"There are three parts to this study" said Professor Mark Thomas, UCL Research Department of Genetics, Evolution and Environment, and an author on the paper. Read more ..
The Edge of Climate Change
|Christer Nilsson||February 18th 2013|
Ecologists from Umeå University and the Norwegian University of Science and Technology in Trondheim have studied fish communities and fish habitat and reviewed the importance of winter conditions for fish in streams and rivers in cold regions. The findings are now being published in the journal BioScience.
It is well known that winter can be a stressful season for plants and animals in streams and rivers. It is reasonable to assume that more extreme weather conditions are the most taxing, but the ecological significance of this is poorly understood.
The research team, headed by Professor Christer Nilsson at Umeå University, describes how extreme conditions – especially those associated with ice formation and ice break-up – vary over time and affect both the non-living river environment and its fish. For example, streams can fill up with ice and kill all the fish that do not manage to flee to backwaters or stretches with deep, quiet water that is not filled with ice. Young fish are especially vulnerable. Read more ..
|Ganesh Sahathevan ||February 18th 2013|
American Center for Democracy
Despite the claims by proponents of Islamic finance that there is a "pent-up demand" for Islamic financial products, in reality there seems to be a growing disinterest in such products. Regardless, the proponents continue to argue for adjusting the conventional secular financial system to sharia, regardless the market's dwindling interest.
The decision by HSBC late in 2012 to significantly downsize its worldwide Islamic banking operations serves to illustrate the point. According to Reuters , HSBC made the decision despite being one of the pioneers in developing Islamic finance within the international banking sector. In 2012, HSBC was the first Western bank to issue an Islamic bond, when Its Middle East unit sold a US $500 million sukuk. Read more ..
The Edge of Immigation
|Susan Ferriss||February 17th 2013|
Center for Public Integrity
Americans whose spouses have been exiled for years as a result of strict immigration penalties took their plight to Congress Thursday, begging legislators to help them as lawmakers discuss overhauling immigration laws.
Some of the affected families met with a key figure in the immigration fight, Rep. Luis Gutierrez, D-Ill., who told them that he believes there is a new bipartisan spirit in Congress, and a readiness to eliminate at least some of the mandatory penalties Congress approved in 1996. Members who approved the punitive laws in 1996 said they wanted to try to deter illegal immigration by punishing offenders more harshly. The penalties have split up families for years at a time.
The punishments, mandatory terms of exile known as “bars,” must be imposed on an undocumented spouse when he or she tries to go through the process of becoming a legal resident. Americans have a right to sponsor foreign spouses for legal residency, but their citizenship does not trump the penalties Congress currently requires be handed down. Read more ..
The Edge of Medicine
|Jim Ritter||February 16th 2013|
When hospital patients have to be readmitted soon after discharge, hospitals look bad. A high readmission rate also can result in reduced Medicare reimbursements. But a study of spine surgery patients has found that the standard method used to calculate readmission rates is a misleading indicator of hospital quality. Loyola University Medical Center neurosurgeon Beejal Amin, MD, and his colleagues found that 25 percent of the readmissions of spine surgery patients were not due to true quality-of-care issues.
Results are reported in a featured article in the February 2013 issue of the Journal of Neurosurgery. "We have identified potential pitfalls in the current calculation of readmission rates," Amin said. "We are working on modifying the algorithm to make it more clinically relevant."
Medicare is trying to improve patient care by penalizing hospitals with poor outcomes. One key outcome measure is the readmission rate. Medicare may begin to withhold reimbursements to hospitals with excessively high readmission rates. Read more ..
|Chris Hamby||February 16th 2013|
The Center for Public Integrity
A group of House Democrats introduced legislation this week that aims to protect workers from combustible dust – a fire and explosion threat that has killed or injured hundreds in recent decades. Workers across a range of industries face dust dangers from materials as varied as sugar, coal, wood and plastic. The federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration began the process of issuing a rule to address the hazard in 2009, but its progress has stalled. The new bill, announced Thursday, would compel the agency to issue interim protections within a year and set deadlines for finalizing a permanent rule.
“While OSHA has taken some limited steps to protect workers and property from combustible dust explosions, the widely recommended protections necessary to prevent these explosions are caught up in red tape and special interest objections,” Rep. George Miller, the senior Democrat on the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, said in a statement announcing the bill’s introduction. Read more ..
Armenia on Edge
|Robert Coalson||February 15th 2013|
No one knows for sure how many Armenian citizens are living abroad. But almost none of them will be able to vote in the country's February 18 presidential election.
Under the revised Electoral Code, only Armenians working in embassies and other government representations or those working for a few large companies, as well as members of their families, will be able to cast their ballots from outside the country.
The rest of the enormous amount of expatriated Armenian citizens will either have to return to Armenia to vote or sit out the poll entirely.
Of course, the far larger diaspora of ethnic Armenians -- many of whose families emigrated in the early 20th century or during the Soviet period and who are not now Armenian citizens -- has never been eligible to vote. Armen Zakarian is a 63-year-old realtor living in the Los Angeles area. He is a U.S. citizen of Armenian origin, but has been active on social media, calling attention to the disenfranchisement of Armenian citizens living outside the country. Read more ..
|Dave Levinthal||February 14th 2013|
Center for Public Integriy
The 2012 election, the most expensive on record, left the political action committees of many top lobbying firms hurting for cash. The PAC sponsored by Patton Boggs, for example, the nation's biggest lobbying firm, ended the 2012 presidential election cycle with 20 percent less cash than it did after the 2008 presidential election cycle — nearly $146,000, versus $183,000 records show. It also ended the 2010 midterm election cycle with slightly more available cash. Patton Boggs has no comment on its PAC activity, said Kevin O'Neill, deputy chairman of the firm's public policy department.
The firm's dozens of recent clients include AT&T, Citigroup, Delta Airlines, Facebook, FedEx, General Electric, Goldman Sachs, the Lance Armstrong Foundation, National Association of Broadcasters, Northrop Grumman, Raytheon, Visa and Wal-Mart, according to filings with the U.S. Senate. Read more ..
The Edge of Terrorism
| Jim Kouri||February 14th 2013|
The struggling Libyan government on Tuesday requested assistance from Western nations and Arab leaders in setting up a border security strategy in order to prevent defeated Islamic terrorists from retreating from Mali and entering Libya, according to Middle East news reports.
One of Libya's attractive locations for Islamists is the city of Benghazi which was already a hotbed of terrorist activity, according to an Israeli police and counterterrorism source, David Nachman.
Libya's federal government in Tripoli continues its struggle to provide security and public safety for its people after deposing and killing its brutal dictator, Muammar Khadhafi in 2011. Libyan leaders fear that al-Qaeda and al-Qaeda-affiliated terrorists will retreat from a powerful offensive by the French Foreign Legion and other French fighters who are working with Nigerian troops to help Mali's leaders in crushing radical Islam in that fledgling nation. Read more ..
The Edge of Terrorism
|Matthew Levitt||February 13th 2013|
The Washingon Institute
The announcement by Bulgaria that the airport bus bombing there last July was likely the handiwork of Hezbollah operatives now has European officials scrambling to decide what, if anything, to do about the fact that the group has now resumed executing attacks on European soil.
In the 1980s, Hezbollah carried out attacks across the continent, and since then it has used Europe as a near-abroad where it could conveniently raise money, procure weapons and provide logistical support for attacks to be carried out elsewhere. But the Bulgarian investigation raises as many questions as it answers. In particular, why would Hezbollah specifically choose to carry out an attack there? And why now?
While it kept up its relentless campaign of military and terrorist activities targeting Israel, and despite unabated tensions with the West, Hezbollah had not carried out a successful spectacular attack targeting Western interests beyond Israel since the 1996 Khobar Towers bombing in Saudi Arabia. Read more ..
Obama's Second Term
|Amie Parnes||February 12th 2013|
President Obama will use his State of the Union speech Tuesday to turn public opinion against automatic spending cuts and argue that some of the money to replace the cuts should instead come from higher taxes. He will use the prime-time TV address to argue the economy would be damaged if $85 billion in automatic spending cuts were to go ahead on schedule on March 1, and will seek to set up Republicans to take the blame if they do.
Obama will spend a significant portion of his address talking about jobs and the economy, according to White House aides, who say the president will strike a similar tone as he has in recent days in calling for a “balanced” package of spending cuts and tax hikes to replace the sequester. Senate Democrats aim to introduce a sequester replacement bill by Thursday that will include tax hikes and spending cuts. Republicans in Congress say they are willing to replace the sequester, but only with new spending cuts. Read more ..
The Catholic Church on Edge
|Zach Pontz||February 12th 2013|
Pope Benedict XVI’s announcement Monday that he is planning to retire on February 28th, the first time a sitting pope will have stepped aside since the 14th century, has elicited reaction from several Jewish leaders around the world.
Monday, Israeli chief rabbi Yona Metzger praised his inter-religious outreach and current relations between Israel and the Vatican.
“During his period (as pope) there were the best relations ever between the church and the chief rabbinate and we hope that this trend will continue,” a spokesman quoted Metzger as saying after the pope announced he would resign. “I think he deserves a lot of credit for advancing inter-religious links the world over between Judaism, Christianity and Islam.”
Britain’s Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks also responded to Monday’s announcement, praising the pope’s character and recalling a meeting they had in 2011. “I was honored to welcome Pope Benedict XVI to Britain on behalf of non-Christian faiths in 2010 and spend time with him during a visit to the Vatican in 2011,” he said. Read more ..
The Edge of Trafficking
|Jim Kouri||February 11th 2013|
The serious threats of international organized crime, corruption, trafficking in narcotics and dangerous drugs, and human trafficking are overwhelming and too enormous for any one country to tackle alone, according to officials serving on the United Nation's Committee on Social, Humanitarian and Cultural Affairs.
The U.N. committee’s general discussion on crime prevention, criminal justice and international drug control, revealed the challenges posed by illicit drugs, crime, corruption and terrorism are part of the United Nations' development and security agenda.
“All these issues are connected, so we cannot address them in isolation. They are also transnational -- and they are too big for countries to confront on their own,” said Yury Fedotov, the executive director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC). “Development needs security to succeed,” he said in a statement. “It needs solid, functioning institutions, grounded in the rule of law.” Read more ..
America's Darkest Edge
|Jordy Yager||February 10th 2013|
The largest gun show in the D.C. area has raised its admission fee to help bankroll its fight against President Obama’s push for tighter firearm restrictions.
Thousands of gun enthusiasts are descending upon the “Nation’s Gun Show” at the Dulles Expo Center this weekend and, for the first time in five years, are being greeted with a higher cost of entry as the gun rights community wages a tough, and costly, campaign to stop Obama and Congress from stiffening certain gun laws.
“Admission has gone up because we are using the money to fight so you can keep and bear your guns,” read the sign on the front doors to the gun show. “We have already spent $25,000 this year to stop impending legislation by hiring lawyers, lobbyists, and writing bills.”
Entry lines stretching around the giant exhibition center resulted in waits of up to 30 minutes on opening day Friday afternoon as parked cars spilled over into the neighboring shopping plaza less than 15 miles from the resort where House Democrats at their annual retreat just a day earlier unveiled proposals for an assault weapons ban, a limit on magazine capacity, and universal background checks for gun buyers. Read more ..
The Economy on Edge
|Steve Baragona||February 9th 2013|
After nearly four decades of fishing, this season might be David Goethel's last. The New England Fisheries Management Council has cut the amount of cod fishermen like Goethel can catch in the Gulf of Maine by 77 percent. “For us, it basically means we’re all done," Goethel says.
Under the new limits, he says he'd reach his quota of cod in just a few days of fishing. And other fish are effectively off limits, or out of reach, for his kind of boat and equipment. While today’s catch, and the number of fishermen chasing it, are a fraction of what they were a half-century ago, the council’s decision is devastating for those like Goethel who have hung on. “I’m 59 years old. This is all I’ve ever done," he says. "How you’re going to pay for things? I have no idea. Basically, if we don’t work, we don’t eat. Pretty simple.” Read more ..
The Indian Edge
|Aru Pande||February 8th 2013|
Despite more people turning to e-books in the digitized world, the printed word is still a first choice for the majority in India. Foreign publishers are increasingly tapping into the South Asian country to take advantage of the world's third largest English-language book market, which, unlike others, is seeing double-digit growth.
Forget e-readers. For many Indians, like Shema Kallimel, there is no comparison to turning the pages of a hardback. "My dad says as a kid, when I didn’t know how to read and write, I would take his big fat books and just start flipping," she said.
She is not alone. While a technology boom has meant the closing of bookstores in many parts of the world, here in India the market for books is thriving. The boom is evident in the more than 1.4 million people who will visit the annual New Delhi World Book Fair, where 1,100 exhibitors from India and around the world display their latest books. Read more ..
|Bennie Becker||February 8th 2013|
Stephen Colbert told House Democrats on Friday that people liked colonoscopies more than Congress, that he's "best frenemies" with Nancy Pelosi, and sang a dramatic rendition of the "Star Spangled Banner." It's all in a morning’s work when you invite the late-night comedian over for a visit.
The comedian sat down with House Democrats at their annual retreat on Friday for a wide-ranging conversation in which Colbert slipped in and out of the conservative character he plays on his talk show.
Colbert, according to a person in the room, discussed his “best frenemies” relationship with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), and his own sister’s congressional race in South Carolina. Read more ..
The Way We Are
|Tom Banse||February 7th 2013|
Mia MacCollin doesn't contain her excitement when her dog, a black Labrador mix named Boston, finds the buried treasure he's been looking for: the native Oregon white truffle. These unique mushrooms, which grow underground near the roots of trees, can fetch hundreds of dollars per kilogram at retail.
Mia and Boston are finishing up a two-day course in truffle foraging at a Douglas fir plantation south of Salem. MacCollin and 15 other dog owners have each paid nearly $600 to attend. In France, truffle hunters historically relied on the keen noses of pigs, while Italy is home to a special breed of truffle dog. In the United States, a small cadre of dog trainers and truffle lovers promotes the use of all sorts of breeds. Read more ..
|Robert Coalson||February 6th 2013|
It was something of a wake-up call for many in Russia. In December 2011, a pair of pretty, articulate, 20-year-old twins from Vladimir Oblast were asked on a television game show, "What is the Holocaust?"
The two consulted together for a few awkward moments. One of them admitted frankly that the term "says nothing to them." Finally, with time running short, Yevgenia Karatygina turns to the camera and says, "We think that the Holocaust is wallpaper paste."
Video of the shocking scene was viewed hundreds of thousands of times online, and it provoked a serious discussion about how the Holocaust is taught in the schools of the country whose troops (along with those of other former Soviet republics) liberated the Nazis' largest concentration and death camp at Auschwitz in Poland. The sisters -- Yevgenia and Ksenia -- appeared on RFE/RL's Russian Service in March 2012 with Holocaust Fund Chairwoman Alla Gerber. At the time, Yevgenia explained that they were taught a bit about the Holocaust in their school but that the sisters were more interested in other things. Read more ..
Smoking on Edge
|Tom Balmforth||February 5th 2013|
MOSCOW -- Denis Svidorov takes a drag on his cigarette, looks at the scene around him, and wonders whether it will soon be a thing of the past. It's lunchtime at a dingy cafe near Moscow's Belarussky train station and there are smokers at nearly every table. Even the no-smoking room is cloaked in thick tobacco haze as weary waitresses load up trays of beer and "chebureki," the meat-and-cheese pastries popular in Russia.
Svidorov, a 35-year-old salesman, has smoked a pack a day for the last two decades and has no intention of quitting. But he may soon have to forget about lighting up indoors, thanks to a stringent antismoking bill expected to pass its final parliamentary reading in parliament's lower house this month. Read more ..
America on Edge
|Terrence Sterling||February 3rd 2013|
The rate of drug overdose from prescription opioids increased seven-fold in New York City over a 16-year period and was concentrated especially among white residents of the city, according to latest research at Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health. The study is one of the earliest and most comprehensive analyses of how the opioid epidemic has affected an urban area.
There are two classes of prescription opioids: analgesics, or painkillers like Oxycontin (oxycodone), and methadone, which is used to treat heroin addiction but which carries a risk of overdose. Using data from the city's Office of the Chief Medical Examiner for the period 1990-2006, the researchers examined the factors associated with death from prescription opioids versus heroin, which historically has been the most common type of opioid fatality in urban areas. Read more ..
The Afganistan War
|Douglas Birch||February 3rd 2013|
Center for Public Integrity
When U.S. defense department auditors arrived at the large new Imam Sahib Border Police Company headquarters in Afghanistan’s Kunduz province last fall, they discovered just a dozen men, only half of them in uniform, and two-thirds of the compound’s green masonry buildings unoccupied and apparently empty.
The facility, completed two months earlier at a cost to the United States of $7.3 million, was designed to provide a base for 175 border police to help provide security along Afghanistan’s rugged frontier with Tajikistan, an infiltration route for militants and perhaps the most important transit corridor for Afghan heroin headed to Russia.
But according to the latest report by John F. Sopko, the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, inspectors found a nearly deserted compound. All but three of the 12 buildings were locked, and no one had keys. The inspectors wrote that they were forced to judge construction quality by peering through the windows. Read more ..
The Media on Edge
|Nancy Palus||February 2nd 2013|
Media advocacy groups say the offensive by French and Malian troops against Islamist militants in northern Mali has taken place largely out of view, as journalists’ access has been severely limited. Little by little local and international reporters are getting into the north, but some say access remains difficult.
Many journalists covering the situation in Mali - especially foreign reporters - have spent a good bit of time trying to get beyond Sévaré, the central town that was the dividing line between the government-controlled south and rebel-held north.
Reporters who were in Mali when fighting broke out in January said the military blocked journalists from entering two of the first towns to see combat - Konna and Diabaly - for several days. When journalists finally arrived the towns were full of soldiers and residents appeared afraid to recount what they saw. The press advocacy group Reporters Without Borders has expressed concern about what it calls "a grave obstruction," urging the Malian and French authorities to allow reporters to move about freely. Read more ..
Edge of Terrorism
|Martin Barillas||February 1st 2013|
Cutting Edge Senior Correspondent
On February 1, a suicide bomber detonated an explosive device in front of the U.S. embassy in Ankara, the capital of Turkey. The detonation killed the bomber and a Turkish guard in an attack that government sources are blaming on local Leftist factions.
Both Turkey and the U.S. condemned the attack. U.S. State Department officials warned U.S. citizens to stay clear of all U.S. diplomatic installations in Turkey.
Besides the two fatalities, a woman was seriously injured in the bombing, while two Turkish guards sustained less serious injuries in the blast that occured at approximately 1:15 pm local time.
Turkish Interior Minister Muammer Guler told reporters that there has been no immediate claim of responsibility, but Guler said "preliminary information" gives indications that domestic left-wing militants are responsible. According to the AP wire service, the bomber is most likely a suspected member of the outlawed Revolutionary People's Liberation Party-Front, or DHKP-C. Read more ..
Nairobi on Edge
|Jill Craig||January 31st 2013|
The Nairobi slum of Mathare is home to more than half a million people, but it has only three government schools. Low-cost community schools attempt to fill the gap. But most of these educators are inadequately trained -- so one organization is now teaching the teachers.
More than 18,000 children attend one of the 75 schools in Nairobi’s Mathare Valley slum -- operating without government support, trained teachers, or funding -- according to an organization called Dignitas Project. To help, Dignitas provides professional development training to teachers and school administrators.
Charles Mutibo, Head Teacher at Hope Compassion Center, says the program has helped him deal with the many challenges his students face. “One is the resources for learning. Resources in most of the schools in Mathare are not there," he said. "And also the security aspect is a concern. We also have a problem with water, food.” Read more ..
China on Edge
|Matthew Hilburn||January 30th 2013|
The stifling pollution currently plaguing much of northeastern China has reached levels so high it is beyond the measurements used in the U.S. to chart air quality.
“What Beijing is experiencing–and even worse in the provinces–is off the charts from anything we experience in the United States, and likely more than anything we’ve experienced in our country’s history,” said John Walke, the director of the Climate & Clean Air Program at the Natural Resources Defense Council, a Washington, D.C.-based environmental group. Read more ..
Pakistan on Edge
|Sharon Behn||January 29th 2013|
Barely one-fifth of Pakistan's women work in paid jobs, according to the International Labor Organization. The group says a lack of safe, secure public transportation is one of the reasons even skilled and educated women are unable to break out of a cycle of grinding poverty.
Covered in the traditional headscarf as she waits in Islamabad's crowded Abpara market, nurse Farzana Liaqat says women don't feel safe using public local buses, and often have to wait hours for a seat. In Pakistan, typically the two front seats next to the driver are reserved for women. The rest of the bus is for the men.
Syed Saad Gilani, who has studied the question of decent public transport for women for the ILO, says women complain of being inappropriately touched, pushed and humiliated on buses. Farzana Liaqat says there's not much women can do about getting harassed. Read more ..
|Megan R. Wilson||January 29th 2013|
More than one-third of federal regulations move through the early stages without input from the public, according to a government watchdog. The Government Accountability Office (GAO), an investigative arm of Congress, conducted a study of federal rules and found that 35 percent of “major” regulations — those with an economic impact of $100 million or more — are issued without a public comment period.
“This is a missed opportunity, because GAO found that when agencies did respond to public comments they often made changes to improve the rules,” the report says. From 2003 to 2010, federal agencies and departments published 568 major rules and 30,000 non-major rules, according to the GAO. Officials failed to offer a notice of proposed rulemaking on 35 percent of the major rules and 41 percent of the non-major rules, the study found. From 2008 to 2009, the percentage of major rules without an notice increased from 26 percent to 40 percent. Read more ..
The Arab Winter of Rage
|Rachel Ehrenfeld & Ken Jensen||January 28th 2013|
News reports on the surge of violence in countries afflicted by the Arab Spring are bewildering, averting the Western readers' attention from the economic hardship it has generated.
While the U.S. and its Western allies were mostly cheering on the sidelines and their media supported the revolution, little, if any attention was paid to the economic ruin it caused. Instead of more freedom and economic reform, these countries are now ruled by the Muslim Brotherhood and its affiliates, who care more about imposing Shari'a than the welfare and rights of their populaces. Two years into this "Spring attack," reality is setting in and the U.S. and international lending organizations are sweating to convince the new regimes to accept billions of dollars to shore up their economies. The prevailing wisdom is that a) if we give them money to prop up the economy, they will have to abide by the conditions of the loans, and b) that they'll use the funds accordingly. However, money is fungible and the Muslim Brothers' agenda to spread political Islam by all means has greater similarities the Bolsheviks economic agenda, than Western style individual and economic freedoms. Read more ..
Iran on Edge
|Martin Barillas||January 27th 2013|
Cutting Edge Senior Correspondent
Iran’s official ISNA news service published photographs of the public amputation of a man’s finger that took place on January 23 in the Islamic Republic. The photos released by ISNA show a bearded, blind-folded man being led to a machine that appears to resemble an industrial device or rotary saw. Reportedly, one of his digits was severed by the executioners in the city of Shiraz, who were wearing black hoods to conceal their identity. Shiraz’s prosecutor, Ali Alghasi, vowed that punishment for crimes will become increasingly severe, even while he did not explain why.
The news agency alleged that he had been charged with robbery and adultery in the city located in Fars, a province in Iran’s southwest. He was also an alleged ringleader of a criminal organization. Besides the amputation, the man was sentenced to receive 99 lashes, a common punishment in Iran, as well as three years in prison. The photographs of the convicted criminal do not reveal any emotion or suffering on his part. Even so, say some observers, he may have been drugged. Read more ..
The Battle for Syria
|Sam Orez||January 27th 2013|
Read more ..
Jordian Albawaba news site is reporting: "Syria had planned to explode a bomb during the Haj (pilgrimage) season last year, a former military officer has said. Imad Al Haraki, a Syrian officer who worked for the Syrian consulate in the Red Sea resort of Jeddah, told the London-based Al Hayat daily that he had been selected by the Syrian government to carry out the act of terrorism on the ninth day of Dhul Hijja when around three million people gathered at the Arafat Mount, the peak of the pilgrimage rituals. The former deputy General Consul, Shawqi Shamat, conveyed the mission orders to him, he said.
The newspaper adds, “I was vacationing in Thailand with my family when I received a phone call from the deputy Consul telling men that I was to carry out an operation in the sacred city of Makkah, but without specifying the location” he told the daily. “I was told that I would return home to Syria following the bombing and lead a lavish life.” However, Al Haraki chose on October 23 to alert the Saudi authorities about the plot and three diplomats in the consulate were deported two days later, according to the article published by Al Hayat on Saturday. Haj started on October 24 and the Arafat Mount gathering was on October 25.
|Craig Macaulay||January 27th 2013|
Ice cores drilled in the Greenland ice sheet, recounting the history of the last great warming period more than 120,000 years ago, are giving scientists their clearest insight to a world that was warmer than today. In a paper published in the journal Nature, scientists have used a 2,540 metre long Greenland ice core to reach back to the Eemian period 115-130 thousand years ago and reconstruct the Greenland temperature and ice sheet extent back through the last interglacial. This period is likely to be comparable in several ways to climatic conditions in the future, especially the mean global surface temperature, but without anthropogenic or human influence on the atmospheric composition.
The Eemian period is referred to as the last interglacial, when warm temperatures continued for several thousand years due mainly to the earth's orbit allowing more energy to be received from the sun. The world today is considered to be in an interglacial period and that has lasted 11,000 years, and called the Holocene. Read more ..
The Edge of Terrorism
|J. Millard Burr & Rachel Ehrenfeld||January 26th 2013|
Years of growing presence and illegal activities of Iranian linked Shiite, the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), the IRGC's Qods Force and the Lebanese Hezbollah members in Latin America were underestimated by US authorities and mostly ignored. But over the past seven years Iran established 11 embassies and 17 Islamic centers in Latin America, all serve to advance Iran's influence in the region. Recently Hezbollah's involvement with drug gangs in Mexico and elsewhere could no longer be ignored. To counter these activities, President Obama signed "Countering Iran in the Western Hemisphere Act" into law on December 28, 2012. Read more ..
China on Edge
|William Ide||January 25th 2013|
When chemicals recently contaminated a river in China’s northern Shanxi province, it took authorities five days to report the incident. While the mayor offered an apology and chemical plant officials were dismissed, the spill ended up affecting drinking water in several cities downstream. It also dealt another blow to public confidence in the government.
Official statistics indicate China has around 1,700 water pollution accidents each year, and up to 40 percent of the country’s rivers are seriously polluted. Not only are natural water sources polluted, but they are becoming scarce as well. Beijing is one place where the debate over water quality and quantity is coming to a head.
“Of the more than 100 rivers that there are now in Beijing, only two or three can be used for tap water – and those are the ones that the government in Beijing is protecting," says Zhao Feihong, a water researcher at the Beijing Healthcare Association. "Those are the ones that we can use water from, the rest of the rivers if they have not dried up, then they are polluted by discharge.” Read more ..
Inside the Middle East
|Tafline Laylin||January 25th 2013|
The Egyptian government announced earlier this week that a plan to bridge the distance between Egypt and Saudi Arabia across the Gulf of Aqaba is going to become reality in the very near future. A longstanding proposal previously rejected by former President Hosni Mubarak, a bridge linking the Sinai Peninsula and Saudi Arabia is expected to cement ties between those two countries while alienating just about everyone else. And don’t even get us started on the environmental damage that will be caused. This news comes despite the work of Egyptian activists who have been trying to convince the government that the $3 billion bridge slated to cross Ras Mohamed National Park, which currently protects coral reefs, dive sites and a slew of endangered species, would cause irreparable environmental damage. Read more ..
The Digital Edge
|Jim Erickson||January 24th 2013|
Gangs now occupy two spaces: the streets and the Internet. A new University of Michigan study reports that, in addition to carrying guns, gang members have armed themselves with social media sites such as Twitter, Facebook and YouTube to incite dares, trade insults or make threats that may result in homicide or other crimes.
Researchers have described this new interaction as "Internet banging." They examine several factors, including the role of hip-hop music in this phenomenon and urban masculinity's influence on social media behavior. Desmond Patton, assistant professor of social work, said it's unclear if Internet banging only involves males or one ethnic group. However, gang-related violence disseminated over social media appears to be a male-dominated behavior that is shaped by fewer employment opportunities for minorities. Read more ..
Environment on Edge
|Kent Paterson||January 23rd 2013|
In the U.S.-Mexico border town of Sunland Park, New Mexico, lead and arsenic contamination is a legacy that’s been passed down through the generations. Federal and state environmental authorities have long identified the shut-down Asarco smelter in neighboring El Paso, Texas, which operated for more than a century, as the likely source of much of the pollution, as well as the remains of an old gas refinery that sits on the banks of the Rio Grande.
A report by the New Mexico Office of the Natural Resources Trustee (NMONRT) stated that Asarco’s smelting operations in close proximity to what later became the city of Sunland Park triggered “environmental concerns” of impacts on crops and human health from excessive smoke as far back as the 1920s. Read more ..
Mali on Edge
|Martin Barillas||January 22nd 2013|
Cutting Edge Senior Correspondent
Reports are circulating in France that Qatar, the wealth petroleum-state on the Arabian peninsula, may have sided with the Islamist insurgents currently wreaking havoc in the central African republic of Mali. Last week, two members of the French parliament accused Qatar of providing material support to Malian Muslim terrorists, thus throwing gasoline onto the flames of speculation over the raging conflict that now involves the French military.
The odd-couple accusers, rightist Marine Le Pen and leftist Michelle Demessine, are demanding answers from Qatar, small in size but huge In terms of oil reserves. “If Qatar is objecting to France’s engagement in Mali it’s because intervention risks destroying Doha’s most fundamentalist allies,” Le Pen said in a statement on her party’s website, following Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim al-Thani’s demand for dialogue with the Islamists. Read more ..
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