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Archive for February 2011

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After the Holocaust

Murdered Sephardic Jewish Community Remains Without a Voice

February 28th 2011

Jewish Topics - Bulgarian Jews
Jews Being Processed for Trains by Bulgarian Officials

Annually, it is repeated in the contemporary media how ‘Bulgaria became the only Nazi-allied country in World War II to protect its entire Jewish population’ or that ‘Bulgaria saved all of its Jews from the death camps.’ While ultimately, members of the Bulgarian government, the Bulgarian public, and the Bulgarian Orthodox Church, did in fact take laudable actions which halted the deportation of 50,000 Jews from ‘Old’ Bulgaria to German death camps in Poland, there is no reason why the Bulgarian government should not discuss the 13,000 Jews they dispossessed, imprisoned, and deported from their own land of ‘United’ or ‘New’ Bulgaria. (See Video of Jewish deportations)

Here are the facts. On March 1, 1941, Bulgaria entered into a pact with the Axis powers and participated in the German-led attack on Yugoslavia and Greece. As a reward from Adolf Hitler, Bulgaria received most of the Balkan area known as Thrace and Macedonia. Stating that Thrace and Macedonia were their ancient Bulgarian lands, they proudly declared the territory ‘United’ or ‘New Bulgaria’ and, within one month, initiated a national campaign of Bulgarization which ended with Bulgaria deporting all of the areas 13,000 Jews, who were subsequently exterminated at the Treblinka death camp in German-occupied Poland. Read more ..

The Battle for Libya

Slippery Slope: Libya and the Lessons of Previous No-Fly Zones

February 28th 2011

Military - USAF Desert Storm

Twenty years ago, at the close of the 1991 Gulf War, the imposition of a UN-mandated no-fly zone contributed to the formation of a safe haven for Iraqi Kurds, resulting in the liberation of nearly three million people from Baathist dictatorship a full decade before the rest of Iraq. In 1992, new UN-mandated no-fly and no-drive zones were established in southern Iraq and the Balkans to contain rogue regimes and protect civilians from government repression. Given the current developments in Libya, it is natural to consider employing such options once again. Yet history shows that exclusion zones are particularly tricky operations. If not configured properly, they can be worse than useless, signaling fecklessness instead of resolve while providing little real protective value to civilians. Read more ..

Oil on Edge

Regulatory Flaws, Repeated Violations Put Oil Refinery Workers at Risk

February 28th 2011

Energy / Environment - tesoro refinery
Tesoro Refinery. Credit: Emma Schwartz/The Center for Public Integrity

One evening last April at the Tesoro Corp.’s refinery in Anacortes, Washington, Matt Gumbel and six co-workers cautiously returned to service a stack of giant, radiator-like tubes filled with volatile hydrocarbons. The tubes, known as heat exchangers, tended to leak, especially during start-up, and workers sometimes armed themselves with long, steam-spewing lances to keep any escaping vapors from igniting.

Nearby, another stack of exchangers droned at full temperature and pressure.

Away from work, Gumbel, 34, enjoyed off-trail snowboarding and driving his turbocharged sports compact. On the job, he had a reputation as a meticulous worker. One has to be. Gasoline and other fuels are made from hot, sometimes barely contained brews of combustible substances. Gumbel knew the hazards intimately; he’d followed his father’s footsteps into a job at the refinery. Read more ..

The Battle for Libya

U.S. and NATO Intervention in Libya: Options, Risks, and Benefits

February 28th 2011

Military - F-15E Refuels
F15e Refuels

Muammar Qaddafi has vowed to fight to the bitter end, raising the prospect of a protracted and bloody conflict with opportunities for exploitation by radical Islamist elements. Although external military intervention could help prevent a very bad outcome, such action carries its own risks and potential complications.

The United States and other NATO members have the military capability to intervene directly and effectively, reducing the regime’s ability to use raw military power against its population. This could be accomplished relatively quickly by using air and naval assets from the U.S. 6th Fleet in the Mediterranean and NATO aircraft from Sicily or southern Italy to establish no-fly, no-drive, and no-sail zones in northern Libya. In addition, intervention could have important psychological effects, bolstering the opposition’s morale and weakening that of pro-regime forces. Read more ..

Islam on Edge

Much to Fear in Continued Instability Caused by the Islamic Revolution

February 28th 2011

Islamic Topics - Muslim brotherhood

The Muslim world, from North Africa to Iran, has experienced a wave of instability in the last few weeks. No regimes have been overthrown yet, although as of this writing, Libya was teetering on the brink.

There have been moments in history where revolution spread in a region or around the world as if it were a wildfire. These moments do not come often. Those that come to mind include 1848, where a rising in France engulfed Europe. There was also 1968, where the demonstrations of what we might call the New Left swept the world: Mexico City, Paris, New York and hundreds of other towns saw anti-war revolutions staged by Marxists and other radicals. Prague saw the Soviets smash a New Leftist government. Even China’s Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution could, by a stretch, be included. In 1989, a wave of unrest, triggered by East Germans wanting to get to the West, generated an uprising in Eastern Europe that overthrew Soviet rule.

Each had a basic theme. The 1848 uprisings attempted to establish liberal democracies in nations that had been submerged in the reaction to Napoleon. 1968 was about radical reform in capitalist society. 1989 was about the overthrow of communism. They were all more complex than that, varying from country to country. But in the end, the reasons behind them could reasonably be condensed into a sentence or two. Read more ..

Economic Recovery on the Edge

Judge Orders Quicken Loans to Pay $2.7 Million Award in West Virginia Fraud Case

February 28th 2011

Economy - Quicken Loans HQ

A West Virginia judge has slapped online mortgage giant Quicken Loans Inc. with more than $2.7 million in punitive damages and legal costs after finding the lender had defrauded a borrower by misleading her about her loan and using an inflated property appraisal.

Ohio County (W.Va.) Circuit Judge Arthur Recht awarded the borrower just under $2.17 million in punitive damages. He also ordered that Quicken pay her attorneys nearly $600,000 in legal fees and costs. In a ruling last year, Recht had called Quicken’s conduct “unconscionable.” Read more ..

Internet on Edge

China Temporarily Blocks Access to LinkedIn

February 28th 2011

China Topics - Chinese Peeps Online

China has stepped up its policing of Internet usage in the country, temporarily blocking access to LinkedIn, the largest networking site for professionals, as well as searches for the name of the U.S. ambassador.

The networking site went offline on Friday shortly after one user set up a forum discussing the idea of a Jasmine Revolution in China. The reference to the word jasmine is the name some have attached to widespread anti-government protests that have swept through Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and other countries in the Middle East.

Last week, Chinese authorities mobilized tens of thousands of security forces ahead of Internet calls for Jasmine Revolution protests. Rights groups said that at least 80 prominent activists and dissidents were detained or confined to their homes in advance of the demonstrations. The protests drew up to several hundred people in more than a dozen cities. Read more ..

Edge on Corruption

A Corrupt Politician's Worst Nightmare is the Swiss 'Lex Duvalier'

February 28th 2011

Economy - International Currency 3

On February 1, 2011, the Swiss Restitution of Illicit Assets Act (RIAA), commonly referred to as “Lex Duvalier,” came into effect. This law provides for the freezing, forfeiture, and restitution of assets of politically exposed persons or their close associates. It applies in cases where a request for mutual assistance in criminal law matters cannot produce an outcome owing to the failure of state structures in the requesting state (the politically exposed person’s country of origin). The former leader of Haiti, Jean-Claude Duvalier, whose USD 6.2 million has been frozen in a Swiss bank account since 1986, will now have to return the money to its rightful owners—namely, the Haitian people. In a recent interview, Swiss attorney Enrico Monfrini, who represents the Haitian government in the legal battle, noted that, “Duvalier’s 6.2 million in Swiss banks is not a large amount compared with the hundreds of millions the former leader allegedly stole, but morally, repatriation of the money would be a huge victory.” Read more ..

The Edge of Terror

The Truth Left Behind: Holding the Hostage

February 28th 2011

Terrorism - Daniel Pearl w/a Gun to his Head

By the morning of Thursday, January 24, 2002, Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl’s family, friends and colleagues had alerted everyone from the U.S. State Department to Pakistani police that the reporter had been missing since 7 p.m. the night before. Pakistani cops were scouring Pearl’s laptop at the home where Pearl was staying, searching for clues to his whereabouts.

In an urgent call about 2:10 a.m. to the U.S. Consulate in Karachi, Asra Nomani, co-director of the Pearl Project and then a Wall Street Journal reporter on book leave, said she and Pearl’s wife, Mariane, hadn’t heard from him for almost eight hours since he had called to say he was off to an interview with a cleric, Sheik Mubarak Ali Shah Gilani. A Marine guard told her to call back in the morning to talk with Randall Bennett, the U.S. regional security officer. Meanwhile, she alerted The Wall Street Journal, which called the State Department in Washington. Mariane called Pearl’s parents. Read more ..

Edge on Environment

Environmental Benefits are Silver Lining in Australian Flood Clouds

February 28th 2011

Australia Topics - Aussie in her Flooded Home

Heavy seasonal rains that began late last year in Australia caused floods that devastated parts of the country. But experts say the downpours also reinvigorated parched rivers and wildlife sanctuaries, including one of Australia's most valued wetlands.  The Macquarie Marshes in New South Wales, an internationally recognized breeding ground for thousands of birds, are teeming with life for the first time in years following a protracted drought.

It has been a decade since New South Wales's Macquarie Marshes were so vibrant.  A long-standing drought had turned the internationally renowned wetlands, about 650 kilometers northwest of Sydney, into a dusty wilderness.  However, months of heavy rain have brought a gradual revival. The region has a rich diversity of flora and fauna, from giant river red gum trees, rare frogs and reptiles to the pink Cockatoo and the turquoise parrot. Read more ..

Border War

Mexico Criticizes U.S. Coordination in Drug War

February 28th 2011

Mexican Topics - Mexican Drug Police2

Mexican President Felipe Calderon rejected accusations that a lack of coordination in Mexico is undermining the fight against drug cartels, saying rivalry within U.S. intelligence agencies is to blame. He made the comments in an interview published on February 22 in Mexico's El Universal newspaper. 

The Mexican leader told the paper the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, the Central Intelligence Agency and Immigration and Customs Enforcement do not coordinate with each other on security matters, and said the agencies were rivals. Read more ..

The Battle for Libya

Jihadist Opportunities in Libya

February 28th 2011

Libya Topics - Libyans say Juden Raus!

Militant Islamists, and specifically the subset of militant Islamists we refer to as jihadists, have long sought to overthrow regimes in the Muslim world. With the sole exception of Afghanistan, they have failed, and even the rise of the Taliban in Afghanistan was really more a matter of establishing a polity amid a power vacuum than the true overthrow of a coherent regime. The brief rule of the Supreme Islamic Courts Council in Somalia also occurred amid a similarly chaotic environment and a vacuum of authority.

However, even though jihadists have not been successful in overthrowing governments, they are still viewed as a threat by regimes in countries like Tunisia, Egypt, and Libya. In response to this threat, these regimes have dealt quite harshly with the jihadists, and strong crackdowns combined with other programs have served to keep the jihadists largely in check. Read more ..

Islam on Edge

The Future Role of Islam in Nations Torn by Uprisings

February 28th 2011

Islamic Topics - Pakistan antiblasphemy rally
Rached Ghannouchi returns to Tunisia

All across North Africa and the Middle East, ordinary citizens have staged massive protests in recent weeks calling for the end to autocratic rule. They want better government, less corruption and greater economic opportunity. They come from all walks of life, including once-banned Islamic groups.

During his 23 years in power, former Tunisian President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali cracked down on opposition groups, including proponents of Islamic rule. But with Mr. Ben Ali now gone, Rachid Ghannouchi, the leader of the banned Islamist Ennahdha party, has returned to Tunisia after 22 years of exile. At the airport he greeted his supporters and brushed stereotypes aside. Read more ..

No Plan for Oil Interruption

Libyan Turmoil, $100-a-Barrel Oil Power Republican Drilling Push on Capitol Hill

February 28th 2011

Energy / Environment - Offshore Oil Rig

The Libyan uprising and triple-digit oil prices are reinvigorating GOP-led attacks on White House offshore drilling policies—a collision that will burst into public view next week on Capitol Hill.

Republicans will press Interior Secretary Ken Salazar on offshore drilling restrictions when he appears before two committees to defend the Interior Department’s fiscal year 2012 budget plan.

It will be Salazar’s first Capitol Hill appearance since uprisings in North Africa and the Middle East began, sending oil prices to their highest levels in more than two years. Read more ..

Labor on Edge

Wisconsin: The Question

February 28th 2011

Contributors / Staff - Armstrong_Williams
Armstrong Williams

Two points jump out at me as I watch the union protests in Wisconsin.

First, the “new era of civility” is over, and second, that union myrmidons continue to put their own self-interests above the rest of the taxpayers and nation.

If you recall after Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, Arizona Democrat, was shot Jan. 8, the left was quick to vilify the right for so-called vitriol and hostile rhetoric. They claimed the alleged shooter Jared Loughner to be the poster child for what happens to normal folks that listen to too much Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity. Except, we found out that was all a red herring; Mr. Loughner turned out to be a fairly apolitical nut job. But still, everyone from CNN to President Obama demanded that we “tone down the rhetoric.”

Yet I saw Mr. Obama accuse Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, a Republican, of an “assault on unions.” Sounds like violent rhetoric to me. I also see that the union protesters are carrying signs comparing Mr. Walker and the Republicans to Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and the Nazis, as well as several with Mr. Walker in target crosshairs. Well, I guess it was a nice, “civil” 3 weeks. Civility is not the main concern that the protests reveal, but I do find it both amusing and disappointing at the same time. Read more ..

Edge of the Future

Pathological Profits Make for a Disposable Planet

February 28th 2011

China Topics - Chinese woman masked

Some years ago in New England, a group of environmentalists asked a corporate executive how his company (a paper mill) could justify dumping its raw industrial effluent into a nearby river.  The river—which had taken Mother Nature centuries to create--was used for drinking water, fishing, boating, and swimming.  In just a few years, the paper mill had turned it into a highly toxic open sewer.

The executive shrugged and said that river dumping was the most cost-effective way of removing the mill’s wastes. If the company had to absorb the additional expense of having to clean up after itself, it might not be able to maintain its competitive edge and would then have to go out of business or move to a cheaper labor market, resulting in a loss of jobs for the local economy. Read more ..

Farhud Arab-Nazi Alliance Vibrant and Must Not be Obscured

February 28th 2011
Last weekend, I was amazed as I watch an apparent Book TV re-run Edwin Black speaking on his book The Farhud. I guess I am one of the many who had no idea this was the case, that Arabs and Nazis enjoyed a vibrant alliance across Europe and the Middle East. I have been the Holocaust Museum in Washington twice and never saw this there. This fits right in with the entire room of survivors and experts in the synagogue on Book TV agreeing that the Holocaust Museum obscures this information. But why? I then went onto this website and discovered Lyn Julius' review of The Farhud (see Edwin Black's 'The Farhud' Makes for Uncomfortable but Necessary Reading, Arts December 27, 2010). I have now purchased a copy. Black stated and Julius warned: "This book is a nightmare..." I cannot sleep with this book in my mind. It is a nightmare. With the uprisings in the Arab world now playing out, no wonder Book TV ran the lecture again. But are we to see to another nightmare in the near future? This is the question.

Inside Islam

Understanding Shariah Finance and Islamic Banking in American Finance

February 28th 2011

Corporate Logos - Citibank

The Middle East, with its exotic tropical sirocco winds, is also now the haven and leader of a new form of finance that is enticing the world with the alluring scent of its petrodollars. Substantial profits are to be made, and gold plated Bentleys, mansions on the Palm Jumerah Island, and golf courses designed by Tiger Woods only add to the mystique behind the veils. However, more than Dubailand and dreams of riches lurk behind the Islamic ideologues who invented the concept of Islamic Finance, and they are ones who are promoting this form of "interest-free, Muslim friendly, ethical investment" worldwide. Read more ..

Internet on the Edge

Would Shakespeare Have Survived the Web?

February 28th 2011

Book Topics - Shakespeare

When William Shakespeare was growing up in rural Stratford-upon-Avon, carpenters at that East London site were erecting the walls of what some consider the first theater built in Europe since antiquity. Other playhouses soon rose around the city. Those who paid could enter and see the play; those who didn’t, couldn’t.

By the time Shakespeare turned to writing, these “cultural paywalls” were abundant in London: workers holding moneyboxes (bearing the distinctive knobs found by the archaeologists) stood at the entrances of a growing number of outdoor playhouses, collecting a penny for admission.

At day’s end, actors and theater owners smashed open the earthenware moneyboxes and divided the daily take. From those proceeds dramatists were paid to write new plays. For the first time ever, it was possible to earn a living writing for the public.

Money changed everything. Almost overnight, a wave of brilliant dramatists emerged, including Christopher Marlowe, Thomas Kyd, Ben Jonson and Shakespeare. These talents and many comparable and lesser lights had found the opportunity, the conditions and the money to pursue their craft. Read more ..

Be Fair to University of Wisconsin Press

February 28th 2011
As an alum of the University of Wisconsin, I think your recent letter writers who have called for drastic budget reviews at the University of Wisconsin Press should rethink their position. Knowledge is precious and sometimes its value does not make itself known immediately. The publishing track record of the press might seem irrelevant today, but in the years to come it may be praised for keen foresight and a great contribution. Be fair to the press. It has a valuable role to play.

Internet on the Edge

Hate in the Digital Age

February 28th 2011

Computer Topics - Shadowy Computer User

The Internet and social media are proving to be a double-edged sword.  While they expand the possibilities of commerce and information-sharing, they are also used by terrorists to recruit members, to promote hate, and even to reveal ways to make bombs.  The Simon Wiesenthal Center, a global Jewish human rights organization, has been tracking potential online violence and issued a report in New York City Thursday entitled 'Digital Terrorism and Hate 2011'”  

The report, issued on DVD, documents how terrorists and hate groups use such digital technologies as the Internet, smart phone apps, Skype, YouTube and e-books to not only distribute hate messages, but to act on them as well. Read more ..

The Bear is Back

Arms Made in China and Russia Continue to Penetrate Latin America

February 28th 2011

Russian Topics - Chavez and Putin
Vladimir Putin and Hugo Chavez

Russian military sales have become so frequent in recent years that they no longer make for major headlines. However, as Washington policymakers continue to voice concern about Iran’s growing influence in Latin America, some alarmists argue that Russia’s eagerness to supply the region with weapons is likely to trigger a “soft arms race” and present itself as a threat to the United State’s historic hegemony in the Western Hemisphere. Adherents to this point of view persist in looking at Moscow through a nostalgic Cold War lens that sees Russia (and probably China) as a growing and certain threat to U.S. national security. Little, if anything, is heard of WashingtonWashington concerns about other countries (like Israel or France) selling weaponry to the region. Read more ..

Colombia on Edge

Colombia Militarizes its Drug Conflict and Risks Resembling Mexico

February 28th 2011

Latin American Topics - Pres Juan Manuel Santos of Colombia
President Juan Manuel Santos of Colombia

Colombia’s never ending conflict with the country’s drug dealers has demonstrably decreased since the mid-1990s, although the U.S. public’s demand for foreign narcotics has not. While Washington’s anti-narcotics efforts have succeeded in reducing the tempo of drug production and transport out of Colombia, it also has facilitated a massive boom in Mexican drug trafficking as well. Although the face of the drug conflict in Mexico is similar to that which has been seen in Colombia, the causes and the probable solutions to Mexico’s tectonic drug-eradication problem remain distinct. Mexico’s meteoric rise in drug trafficking deserves to be seen as the result of the successes and failures of a U.S. policy that originally was applied to Colombia and later moved on to Mexico. Read more ..

No Plan for Oil Interruption

Oil Prices Surge as Libyan Revolt Rages

February 28th 2011

Energy Topics - Oil Barrels 400px

Global stocks dipped again on February 23 as oil prices soared to new highs on fears that the revolt in Libya could spread.  International oil companies, such as BP and Shell, have already cut production or evacuated staff in the troubled African country. Analysts say the impact of such unrest upon the world economy will be far-reaching, whether or not dictator Muammar Gaddafi's regime survives.

Grainy YouTube video shows no letup in the popular but deadly uprising against Libyan leader Muammar Gadhafi. The dictator has resorted to rambling speeches to exhort fellow Libyans to "bring your sons home" even while he has ordered snipers to fire on demonstrators as well as aerial bombardment. Critics vow to continue their protests despite Gadhafi. Read more ..

The Race for Alt Fuel

Over-Fertilization is Bad for the Environment and Bad for Biofuel

February 28th 2011

Energy / Environment - Biofuel field

A study conducted by Rice University researchers shows how farmers can save money on fertilizer while they improve their production of feedstock for ethanol and alleviate damage to the environment.

The research has implications for an industry that has grown dramatically in recent years to satisfy America's need for energy while trying to cut the nation's reliance on fossil fuels.

The Houston TX team led by postdoctoral researcher Morgan Gallagher as part of her dissertation at Rice discovered that corn grain, one source of ethanol, and the stalks and leaves, the source of cellulosic ethanol, respond differently to nitrogen fertilization.

The researchers found that liberal use of nitrogen fertilizer to maximize grain yields from corn crops results in only marginally more usable cellulose from leaves and stems. And when the grain is used for food and the cellulose is processed for biofuel, pumping up the rate of nitrogen fertilization actually makes it more difficult to extract ethanol from corn leaves and stems.

This happens, they discovered, because surplus nitrogen fertilizer speeds up the biochemical pathway that produces lignin, a molecule that must be removed before cellulosic ethanol can be produced from corn stems and leaves. Read more ..

The Nano Edge

Researchers Introduce First Complete Millimetre-Scale Computing System

February 28th 2011

Science - UM nano-pressure monitor

A prototype implantable eye pressure monitor for glaucoma patients is believed to contain the first complete millimeter-scale computing system.

And a compact radio that needs no tuning to find the right frequency could be a key enabler to organizing millimeter-scale systems into wireless sensor networks. These networks could one day track pollution, monitor structural integrity, perform surveillance, or make virtually any object smart and trackable.

Both developments at the University of Michigan are significant milestones in the march toward millimeter-scale computing, believed to be the next electronics frontier.

Researchers presented papers at the International Solid-State Circuits Conference (ISSCC) in San Francisco. The work is being led by three faculty members in the University of Michigan Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science: professors Dennis Sylvester and David Blaauw, and assistant professor David Wentzloff. Read more ..

Battle for Libya

There is More Than Meets the Eye in Peru's Disaffiliation from Libya

February 28th 2011

Latin American Topics - President Alan Garcia of Peru
Peruvian President Alan Garcia

On February 21, 2011, Peru surprised the international community by formally suspending its diplomatic ties with Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi, insisting that they would not be restored until the violence against the civilian population was halted. While other Latin American nations responded in various ways to Gaddafi’s flagrant and erratic behavior, Peru is the lone hemispheric nation that has officially cut off relations with Libya.

Peruvian President Alan García declared diplomatic links “suspended” as a means of protesting the unprecedented violence that Gaddafi has unleashed on his own people. Furthermore, García posted on his official website that his intentions were to speak with UN Security Council officials in order to create an internationally-mandated air exclusion zone over Libya. This would prevent the use of Libyan warplanes to carry out raids against the civilian population. Read more ..

Film Review

No Strings Attached: A Forgettable Movie about Unsatisfying Sex

February 28th 2011

Film - No strings attached

No Strings Attached. Director: Ivan Reitman. Starring: Ashton Kutcher, Natalie Portman. Length:  111 minutes

One line which people are likely to remember from the otherwise pretty forgettable No Strings Attached, directed by Ivan Reitman from a screenplay by Elizabeth Meriwether, is spoken by the disgruntled roommate of Emma (Natalie Portman) as the latter is engaged in one of her frequent bouts of noisy copulation with Adam (Ashton Kutcher), an old acquaintance. Adam, unsurprisingly, has readily agreed to Emma’s proposal that they should remain "sex friends" only, avoiding all emotional entanglements, but of course we know from the beginning how this is going to work out for them — as you, too, will know it even without having seen the movie. But this takes nothing away from the comic snap of the roommate’s line, which is delivered in the form of a complaint: "I can’t focus on my porn with all this sex going on around me!"

What may take away from it among the more thoughtful sort of movie-goers is this: in our culture today it is becoming increasingly difficult to tell the difference between porn and "sex," which is just one of the difficulties under which this movie labors. Shortly after Adam and Emma have sealed their deal for no-strings-attached sex, Adam notices a stranger walking his dog who has just seen the two of them parting. For some reason, Adam thinks he needs to explain their relationship to the dog-walker. "We’re sex friends," he says. "Friends who have sex."  Read more ..

Islam on Edge

Scientists Date the Famed Bamiyan Buddhas as part of Restoration Attempt

February 28th 2011

Art Topics - Bamiyan Buddha diagram

The world watched in horror as Taliban fanatics ten years ago blew up the two gigantic Buddha statues that had since the 6th century looked out over the Bamiyan Valley in what is now Afghanistan. Located on the Silk Road, until the 10th century the 55 and 38 meter tall works of art formed the centerpiece of one of the world's largest Buddhist monastic complexes. Thousands of monks tended countless shrines in the niches and caves that pierced a kilometer-long cliff face.

Since the suppression of the Taliban regime, European and Japanese experts, working on behalf of UNESCO and coordinated by the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS), have been endeavoring to secure the remains and restore access to the statues. The fragments are being very carefully examined, as prior to the explosion the Buddha statues had barely been researched. For a year and a half now, scientists from the Chair of Restoration, Art Technology and Conservation Science have been studying several hundred fragments at Germany's Technical University of Munich (TUM). Their findings not only contribute to our understanding of this world cultural heritage site, they may also enable the parts recovered to be reassembled. Read more ..

A Thirsty World

Michigan student Invents Solution Bringing Clean Water to Undeveloped Countries

February 28th 2011

Environment Topics - Water wheel

Cynthia Koenig knows that by reinventing the wheel she could change the world. In a few months, she hopes to make a difference in India.

Koenig, a graduate student at the University of Michigan, created the WaterWheel, a 20-gallon rolling water barrel and Wello, the business that distributes it in developing countries, where clean water is scarce.

After graduation this spring from U-M’s Stephen M. Ross School of Business, Koenig plans to launch a pilot program in Rajasthan, India to test the WaterWheel’s social impact and health benefits. Her goal is to sell 5,000 wheels in 12 months, positively impacting the lives of 40,000 people. She is working with an Indian company to manufacture the wheel. Read more ..

Edge of Life

Canadian Researcher Lists More than 4,000 Components of Blood Chemistry

February 28th 2011

Science - University of Alberta blood research

After three years of exhaustive analysis led by a University of Alberta researcher, the list of known compounds in human blood has exploded from just a handful to more than 4,000.

"Right now a medical doctor analyzing the blood of an ailing patient looks at something like 10 to 20 chemicals," said U of A biochemist David Wishart. "We've identified 4,229 blood chemicals that doctors can potentially look at to diagnose and treat health problems." Read more ..

Edge on Biology

Scientists Reveal Secret of Migrating Sea Turtles

February 28th 2011

Science - Sea turtle brains
Central nervous system of Tritonia diomedea

From the very first moments of life, hatchling loggerhead sea turtles have an arduous task. They must embark on a transoceanic migration, swimming from the Florida coast eastward to the North Atlantic and then gradually migrating over the course of several years before returning again to North American shores. Now, researchers have figured out how the young turtles find their way.

"One of the great mysteries of animal behavior is how migratory animals can navigate in the open ocean, where there are no visual landmarks," said Kenneth Lohmann of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

"The most difficult part of open-sea navigation is determining longitude or east-west position. It took human navigators centuries to figure out how to determine longitude on their long-distance voyages," added Nathan Putman, a graduate student in Lohmann's lab and lead author of the study. "This study shows, for the first time, how an animal does this." Read more ..

The Toxic Edge

Use of Toxic Acid Puts Millions at Risk

February 28th 2011

Energy / Environment - BP Refinery Explosion

It was a disturbingly close call, closer than it appeared at the time. On July 19, 2009, an explosion rocked an oil refinery in Corpus Christi, Texas, critically injuring a worker and spawning a fire that burned for more than two days. The blast at the Citgo East refinery unleashed a chemical unknown to many Americans, though it is capable of sweeping into dozens of communities, sickening or even killing as it moves.

Hydrofluoric acid, known for its ability to quickly travel long distances in a cloud, is extremely toxic. It causes lung congestion, inflammation and severe burns of the skin and digestive tract. It attacks the eyes and bones. Experiments in 1986 detected the acid at potentially deadly levels almost two miles from the point of release. Read more ..

Book Review

The Israel Test: A Warning to a World in Peril

February 28th 2011

Book Covers - The Israel Test

The Israel Test. George Gilder. Richard Vigilante Books. 2009. 320 pages.

Back in the sixties, I remember coming upon Marshall McLuhan's "Understanding Media" and recognizing the work of a prophet who was opening up a radically new way of looking at the world. It was he who gave us the now familiar expressions "global village" and the "medium is the message." McLuhan's writing caused a furious critical reaction among the best-known intellectuals of the time. The same thing happened in the eighties with Paul Johnson's revisionist history Modern Times.

I had the same experience in reading George Gilder's bok, The Israel Test. Gilder has now written over 15 books, including the incendiary Sexual Suicide (later reprinted as Men and Marriage), the ground-breaking Wealth and Poverty, which helped fuel the supply-side revolution, and more recently Microcosm, marking his emergence as high-tech guru. Gilder now directs Discovery Institute's Technology Program while practicing venture capitalism on the side.

So ideas indeed have consequences. And Gilder offers plenty of provoking ideas in his new book. The Israel Test employs passion and lively prose to explore the historical and present-day significance of the Jewish people, particularly in the context of capitalism and technology breakthroughs. The book is divided into three chapters. "The Israel Test according to Gilder" can be summarized by a few questions: What is your attitude toward people who excel you in the creation of wealth or in other accomplishments? Do you aspire to their excellence or do you resent it? Caroline Glick, the dauntless deputy managing editor of the Jerusalem Post sums it up: "some people admire success. The enviers hate Israel." Read more ..

Book Review

The Age of Fracture: An Intellectual of America and the Twentieth Century

February 28th 2011

Book Covers - Fracture

The Age of Fracture. Daniel T. Rodgers. Harvard, 2011. 360 pages.

In The Age of Fracture, Daniel Rodgers offers an elegant, often eloquent, history of intellectual life in the last quarter of the twentieth century. Primarily interested in the construction of ideas that shaped conceptions of history, society, and responsibility, he analyzes texts from an eclectic array of academic thinkers across the political spectrum. Rodgers argues that in the 1940s and 1950s, social scientists and political philosophers established the terms of the debate on a range of issues concerning the self and society, obligations and justice, morality and destiny. To these postwar intellectuals, ideas had severe consequences, contexts and nature constricted human action, and history loomed very large indeed. While the turmoil and chaos of the 1960s caused tremors, it was not until the quakes of oil embargoes, unemployment, and inflation in the 1970s, that fault lines in this ideological consensus emerged. Into this breach, a lexicon of microeconomic principles, which had been forming for decades in libertarian circles that stressed agency, contingency, and reason emerged, promising solutions to seemingly intractable problems of disco-era stagflation. Instead of focusing on property and production, workers and owners, these economists celebrated instead the slight of (an invisible) hand that produced wealth and fostered the virtues of competition. Read more ..

The Battle for Libya

Obama Should Flatten Libya's Air Force and the Criminal Qaddafi

February 24th 2011

Libya Topics - Libyan cargo plane

President Barack Obama finally stirred himself to address the carnage in Libya, saying the "suffering and bloodshed is outrageous and it is unacceptable." Without calling on Muammar Qaddafi to step down - as he did to Mubarak for far less - he announced no sanctions or punishment. He left it to Qaddafi. "The Libyan government has a responsibility to refrain from violence, to allow humanitarian assistance to reach those in need and to respect the rights of its people," he said. "It must be held accountable for its failure to meet those responsibilities and face the cost of continued violations of human rights." Read more ..

Airline News

Hawaiian Adds Osaka in Asia Expansion

February 23rd 2011

Travel - Hawai'i Air jet

Hawaiian Airlines pushed its growth envelope in recent days when it announced new daily nonstops between Honolulu and Osaka, Japan. The new route is the airline's third new Asian destination in recent months. Hawaiian's inaugural flight from Honolulu International Airport to Osaka's Kansai International Airport is scheduled for July 12. 2011.

"The response to our new Haneda service has been stronger than expected," stated Mark Dunkerley, Hawaiian's president and CEO, "and we have accelerated our plans to offer our authentic Hawaii travel experience to Osaka, Japan's second most populous region. Our new service will help meet strong travel demand from Osaka, and provide a welcome boost to Hawaiian tourism." Read more ..

The Battle for Libya

Libyan Revolution Makes Oil Markets Shudder and Promises More Shocks to Come

February 22nd 2011

Energy Topics - EIA Oil data table

Unlike energy produced in most African states, nearly all of Libya’s oil and natural gas is produced onshore. This reduces development costs but increases the chances that political instability could impact output — and Libya has been anything but stable of late.

Libya’s 1.8 million barrels per day (bpd) of oil output can be broken into two categories. The first comes from a basin in the country’s western extreme and is exported from a single major hub just west of Tripoli. The second basin is in the country’s eastern region and is exported from a variety of facilities in eastern cities. At the risk of oversimplifying, Libya’s population is split in half: Leader Moammar Gadhafi’s power base is in Tripoli in the extreme west, the opposition is concentrated in Benghazi in the east, with a 600 kilometer-wide gulf of nearly empty desert in between. Read more ..

Pakistan on Edge

Revelations Seek to Link Diplomat Raymond Davis to Taliban Militants in Pakistan

February 22nd 2011

PakistanTopics - Raymond Davis

As US newspapers lifted a self-imposed gag on the CIA links of Raymond Davis, in place at the request of the US administration, according to intelligence sources, the alleged killer of two Pakistanis had close links to the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) terrorist organization.

The New York Times reported on February 21 that Davis “was part of a covert, CIA-led team of operatives conducting surveillance on militant groups deep inside the country, according to American government officials.”

This contradicts the US claim that Davis was a member of the ‘technical and administrative staff’ of its diplomatic mission in Pakistan. Read more ..

Pakistan on Edge

Fears Grow for the Safety of US Diplomat Raymond Davis Now Imprisoned in Pakistan

February 21st 2011

PakistanTopics - Raymond Davis

Pakistani authorities said on February 21 that steps are being taken to keep imprisoned US diplomat Raymond Davis safe from harm.  US officials have expressed fears about his safety as anti-American sentiment has flared after he shot and killed two Pakistanis in Lahore in what he said was an attempted robbery last month. President Obama declared last week that diplomatic immunity should be respected in this case, even while on February 21 an anonymous Pakistani official reportedly said it is "beyond any shadow of a doubt" that Davis was working for the CIA. Sources in the US confirm that Davis, formerly an operator in US special forces who later worked for Xe – the security firm formerly known as Blackwater – worked as a 'protective officer' or bodyguard for US embassy personnel. Read more ..

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