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Archive for September 2011

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Edge on Terrorism

American Terrorist Anwar al-Awlaki may be Gone but Jihadists are Still in the Building

September 30th 2011

Terrorism - Arab terrorist
Anwar al Awlaki

Imam Anwar al Awlaki held two important positions in the cobweb of international Jihadi terror. First, he was one of the emerging younger leaders of al Qaeda after the killing of Osama Bin Laden. Out of Yemen, from which his family originates, he had built a network of recruits capable of performing missions in the Arabian Peninsula, but also communicating with the Shabab of Somalia and many cells inside the West. His reach in recruitment was as far as Jihadists have been indoctrinated. The Nigerian Abdelmutalib, known as the Christmas day bomber in the U.S., was also connected to the Yemeni-based cleric. In a sense, al Awlaki was one of the most effective al Qaeda international officers. His loss will undoubtedly be felt –at least for a while - within the ranks of the network. Read more ..

Medical Edge

Contagion of Anti-Biotic Resistant Super-Bugs is Spread by Roads

September 30th 2011

Transportation Topics - Broken Road

Antibiotic resistant E. coli was much more prevalent in villages situated along roads than in rural villages located away from roads, which suggests that roads play a major role in the spread or containment of antibiotic resistant bacteria, commonly called superbugs, a new study finds.

Many studies on various infectious diseases have shown that roads impact the spread of disease, however this is the first known study to show that roads also impact the spread of antibiotic resistant bacteria, said Joe Eisenberg, co-author and professor at the University of Michigan School of Public Health.

Researchers at the U-Michigan SPH and colleagues from Universidad San Francisco de Quito, and Trinity College studied a region in northwest Ecuador for five years, focusing on antibiotic resistant E. coli and the common antibiotic paring of ampicillin and sulfamethoxazole. Read more ..

The Way We Are

Abusive Men Likely to Repeat Violence if Attraction to Women is Merely Superficial

September 30th 2011

Social Topics - Abused woman

Abusive men who select partners mainly based on appearance are likely to be violent again after completing an abuser intervention program, according to a new University of Michigan study.

Fifty-nine percent of those who mentioned at least one physical trait as the reason for their attraction were violent again after the program, compared with 39 percent who did not mention physical traits as a reason.

"This finding is consistent with the notion that offenders who view their partners superficially will be less likely to end their violence," said Daniel Saunders, professor of social work and the study's lead author.

This type of offender was also more likely to mention their own needs as reasons they were attracted to their partners. They had histories of very severe forms for violence—throwing their partners and hitting them with objects. Read more ..

Hawaiian Airlines a Nightmare

September 30th 2011
I just came across your Action Line article about Hawaiian Airlines trying to scam bill a passenger for $105 for ordinary on-board luggage (see Hawaiian Airlines Tries to Bill $105 for Ordinary Permitted Luggage, Action Line, August 1, 2011). This is an all-too common occurance. I recently flew Hawaiian Airlines and I found the seats to be sardine-like, the food inedible, service uncommonly rude, and the entire experience a nightmare. I applaud the passengers for fighting back on their credit card. I wish I had.

The Digital Edge

Smart Accessories Could Be the Next Big Thing

September 30th 2011

Technology - IC Layout

Energy Micro has reassessed its application areas to include ‘smart accessories’; devices that connect to and are powered by smart phones, tablets and other mobile devices. The company has also modified its strategic goals; from 1 percent market share to $1b revenue by 2020.
The addition of two new families to its range of ultra low power Cortex-M based MCUs could help the company realise its goals. The long awaited Giant Gecko and hitherto unannounced Leopard Gecko families of MCUs more than double the company’s portfolio of devices, while also driving down the standby current to just 400nA.

Coupled with a faster core and larger memory options, it creates a product portfolio that now also includes a QFP64 package option, said to be in high demand amongst customers. Read more ..

Israel and Palestine on Edge

Letter from Prague: What the Betrayal of Czechoslovakia in 1938 Can Teach Us About The World and Israel Today

September 30th 2011

 - sudetenland_1938

"We have no interest in oppressing other people. … It is not so much the country of Czechoslovakia; it is rather its leader, Edvard Benes. He has led a reign of terror. … The Czech maintenance of a tremendous military arsenal can only be regarded as a focus of danger. We have displayed a truly unexampled patience, but I am no longer willing to remain inactive while this madman ill-treats millions of human beings."- Adolf Hitler, September 1938.

Visiting the Czech Republic prompts thoughts of the 1938 Munich agreement. Analogies with Nazism and the 1930s are overused today, made even more tasteless and cliché-ridden by the fact that many of those using them know very little about the situations then and now. Read more ..

The Magnetic Edge

Cloaking Magnetic Fields Prevent Magnetic Leaks

September 30th 2011

Science - magnetic field

Spanish researchers have designed what they believe to be a new type of magnetic cloak, which shields objects from external magnetic fields, while at the same time preventing any magnetic internal fields from leaking outside, making the cloak undetectable.
The development of such a device, described as an 'antimagnet', could offer many beneficial applications, such as protecting a ship's hull from mines designed to detonate when a magnetic field is detected, or allowing patients with pacemakers or cochlear implants to use medical equipment. In their study, published in the Institute of Physics and German Physical Society's New Journal of Physics, researchers have proved that such a cloak could be built using practical and available materials and technologies, and used to develop an array of applications.

Take, for example, a patient with a pacemaker undergoing an MRI scan. If an MRI's large magnetic field interacts with the pacemaker, it can cause serious damage to both the device and the patient. The metal in the pacemaker could also interact with and distort the MRI's large magnetic field, affecting the machine's detection capabilities.The researchers, from Universitat Autňnoma de Barcelona, are aware that the technology could also be used by criminals to dodge security systems, for example in airports and shops, but they are confident that the new research could benefit society in a positive way, while the risks could be minimized by informing security officials about potential devices, enabling them to anticipate and neutralize problems. Read more ..

Free the Egyptian Blogger

September 29th 2011

The non-profit Mideast Freedom Forum Berlin (MFFB) urges the German Foreign Minister to plead for the immediate release of the Egyptian blogger Maikel Nabil Sanad before his hearing of an appeal which is scheduled for October 4, 2011. The 25-year old Maikel Nabil Sanad was sentenced to three years in prison because of his criticism of the military leadership in Egypt. Maikel Nabil Sanad criticized the brutal proceedings of the military against protestors and meticulously described the many human rights abuses. At a military court he was accused of having spread false information and having insulted the military. Without a lawyer present and without the possibility to inform his family, he was sentenced in a summary procedure. To protest for his release and against his unfair treatment Maikel Nabil started a hunger strike in August and a partial thirst strike since the middle of September. A hearing of an appeal is scheduled for October 4. Nobody knows if Maikel Nabil will still be alive at that day. It is against democratic standards to sentence civilians at military courts. The right of free speech of course has to include the right to criticize the military. Maikel's voice is an important voice for democracy, for peace, against Islamism and authoritarian rule; a voice that needs every support, and a voice that points to the possibility that a democratic Egypt will stand for peace in the Middle East. Maikel Nabil Sanad is the first public conscientious objector in Egypt. He calls himself pro-Israel and fights for a reconciliation and friendship with Israel. He is the only blogger who is imprisoned in Egypt at present. In letters to Germany's State Department and the chairpersons of the Foreign Policy and the Human Rights Committee of the German parliament, the MFFB urged Westerwelle and the politicians to plead for the immediate release of Maikel Nabil and to support the democratic opposition members in Egypt who are advocating for a good relations with Israel and therefore for peace in the Middle East.

Sebastian Mohr represents the Mideast Freedom Forum Berlin.

Allegations that the White House Extorted Israel on Pal Statehood Veto

September 29th 2011

We are troubled by the allegation that the White House has threatened to withhold its veto in the UN unless Israel expresses support for continued funding of the PA. The allegation was made by the greatly respected Member of Knesset Dr. Arieh Eldad. Although MK Eldad's accusation has not been confirmed by the parties and will probably be denied, Dr. Eldad’s accusation is believable. Over the years he has proved himself to be a highly credible Member of Knesset with unimpeachable integrity. The behavior of both the Israeli government and the Obama administration is consistent with the truthfulness of the allegation. The Israeli government has issued several public statements supporting the continued financing of the PA. There would be no reason for such pronouncements in the absence of pressure from the Obama Administration; at most the Israeli government would make no public statements whatsoever about a US bill concerning financial aid to the Palestinian Authority pending in Congress. Further, the White House has been vigorous in its efforts to avoid having to cast the veto promised by President Obama.  It clearly pains the White House to be faced with the prospect of breaking its pattern of coddling Mahmoud Abbas and the PA. We agree with those members of Congress who support the pending bill to halt all funding to the PA if it proceeds with trying to obtain recognition of a Palestinian state in the UN.

Steven M. Goldberg, Esq. is National Vice Chairman of the ZOA.

Iran's Nukes

World Tensions Grow as Iran Sends Warships to America's East Coast

September 28th 2011

Iran - Iranian clerics and sailors

Iran has upped the ante in its perennial conflict with the West. On September 28, Iran’s Defense Minister Gen. Ahmad Vahidi says the Islamic Republic has begun large-scale production of domestically-developed cruise missiles capable of destroying “giant warships” – according to Iran - and has a range of 124 miles (200 kilometres). Vahidi said an unspecified number of "Ghader," or "Capable" as the missile is called in Farsi, were delivered to the Revolutionary Guard's navy, which is assigned to protect Iran's sea borders in the Caspian Sea and the Gulf of Oman. This development, and the prospect of Iranian warships entering sea lanes near the United States, has raised concern. In addition, Iran also has short and medium range ballistic missiles capable of hitting Mideast targets such as Israel and U.S. military bases in the Persian Gulf. Read more ..

Environmental Justice

The Plight of the Waterless in Detroit

September 28th 2011

Social Topics - Water is Our Right

In Detroit, the business of water is a dirty one. Thousands of residents have their water shut off every year, but the issue reflects more than just unpaid bills. The shutoffs are at the heart of how the Great Lakes are being stewarded. As the world’s supply of fresh water dwindles, the Great Lakes will only continue to become more of a focal point. Who gets the water in these lakes and who goes without? The ways in which water equity issues play out in Detroit may foreshadow what’s on the horizon for other U.S. cities—and even the world.

Detroit resident Keith Bragg wears a faded blue jacket and stands behind a small wooden lectern. He glances down every now and again, but for the most part he keeps his head up. His voice and eyes are clear as he begins to tell the assembled crowd how he found himself without water. Read more ..

The Medical Edge

Clowning Around is Serious Business in Israeli Medicine

September 28th 2011

Israel Topics - Medical clowns

Medical clowns from all over the world are heading to Israel for a congress to learn more about the country's unique model of clown therapy.

Israel didn't invent the notion of entertainers cheering hospitalized children. In many countries, volunteers decked out in crazy hats, jumbo shoes and red foam noses regularly bring their bags of tricks to pediatric wards.

But the Israeli program Dream Doctors did blaze the trail for professionalizing "clown therapy" as a standardized, research-backed healthcare discipline. In late October, the organization will host an international congress of medical clowning associations to share the theories and practices of this unusual approach. Read more ..

After the Holocaust

A Second Generation Group Looks Back Nine Years Later

September 28th 2011

History-Genocide - Holocaust survivor and flag

For the global Holocaust survivor community, a void was filled when Generations of the Shoah International (GSI) was formed in October 2002. What began with nine people in seven cities has grown into the largest family of survivors organization in the world as well as the bridge between the survivor community and major Holocaust organizations and institutions globally. We are proud to have accomplished all this without receiving funds from any program devoted to assisting needy survivors and without soliciting membership dues.

An all-volunteer organization, GSI devotes its efforts to two important areas: freely sharing information and resources towards the goals of Holocaust education, remembrance and commemoration; and promoting and remaining responsive to the interests of survivors and their descendents. Read more ..

Religous Tolerance

Christian pastor faces Death Penalty in Iran for Refusing to Recant his Faith

September 27th 2011

Iran - Pastor Yousef Nadarkhan
Pastor Yousef Nadarkhan

A Christian pastor may be executed in Iran if he refuses to give up his faith. Rev. Yousef Nadarkhani has twice refused to recant his Christian faith during two court hearings held in Rasht, Gilan Province, September 25- 26. According to Christian Solidarity Worldwide, recanting will again be demanded at sessions scheduled for September 27-28, and that if he continues to refuse, he will be executed thereafter. He belongs to the Church of Iran, an evangelical Christian denomination.

Pastor Nadarkhani was tried and found guilty of abandoning Islam in September 2010 by the court of appeals in Rasht. The verdict was delivered verbally in court, while written confirmation of the death sentence was received nearly two months later.

At the June 2011 appeal, Iran's Supreme Court upheld Nadarkhani’s sentence, but asked the court in Rasht that had issued the initial sentence to re-examine whether or not he had been a practicing Muslim adult prior to converting to Christianity. The written verdict of the Supreme Court’s decision included provision for annulment of the death sentence if he recants his faith. Read more ..

Guatemala on Edge

Evil Times in Guatemala make for Difficult Choices in Fight against Narco-Terror

September 27th 2011

Latin American Topics - Guatemalan special forces
Guatemala 'Kailbil' special forces

The Guatemalan elections are taking place against a complex background of a largely impoverished population yearning for some semblance of law and order. The September 11th presidential elections resulted in a run-off between Otto Perez Molina, a conservative former general and Manuel Baldizon, a wealthy businessman running as a populist.

Guatemala is far from being a solid state. It is a state where insecurity, corruption and drug trafficking has destroyed its foundations. Institutional corruption is such that people have lost all confidence in their government up to the point that people often refuse to pay taxes or take the law into their own hands by conducting public lynching of suspected criminals.

As Mexican drug cartels control most of the trafficking of drugs to the United States, Guatemala has become a bastion of organized crime. Guatemala shares an uncontrolled border with Mexico. For a very long time it has had weak state institutions. This makes Guatemala a perfect transit country for the passage of drugs on their way to the U.S. Indeed, more than one ton of cocaine passes through Guatemala every single day. Read more ..

The Mortgage Meltdown

Mortgage Industry Tanks, Fraud Continues at Countrywide

September 27th 2011

Economy - Foreclosure

The mortgage market was struggling in March 2007 when Countrywide promoted Eileen Foster to executive vice president and tapped her to take over the company’s mortgage fraud unit.

Home prices were sputtering, borrower defaults were climbing, and the industry leader, Countywide, would soon be forced to ask Bank of America for an infusion of capital to help it keep afloat.

The fraud investigation unit was also struggling. The company had laid off several experienced investigators, according to Foster. Those who remained were faced with an ever-growing number of fraud complaints.

Foster had roughly two dozen investigators working for her, but only four or five had real investigative chops, Foster says. Many of the rest had been brought over to the unit from clerical jobs, she says. Read more ..

Oil Addiction

How to Weaken the Power of Foreign Oil

September 27th 2011

Energy Topics - Oil Barrels 400px

Our country has recently gone through a sober national retrospective on the 9/11 attacks. Apart from the heartfelt honoring of those lost—on that day and since—what seemed most striking is our seeming passivity and indifference toward the well from which our enemies draw their political strength and financial power: the strategic importance of oil, which provides the wherewithal for a generational war against us, as we mutter diplomatic niceties.

Oil’s strategic importance stems from its virtual monopoly as a transportation fuel. Today, 97 percent of all air, sea and land transportation systems in the United States have only one option: petroleum-based products. For more than 35 years we have engaged in self-delusion, saying either that we have reserves here at home large enough to meet our needs, or that the OPEC cartel will keep prices affordable out of self-interest. Read more ..

War Against the Weak

Virginia Eugenics and the Possibility of Compensation

September 27th 2011

Book Covers - War Against the Weak

Everyone knows that Nazi Germany designated Jews and others for mass murder. Some know that Hitler’s racial ideas were inspired by the early 20th century pseudo-scientific American eugenic concepts he studied and adopted. But few are aware that long before Jews and blacks were targeted by eugenicists, white Virginian Appalachians with dark hair were chosen for extinction. They were not only targeted by academics, but by Virginia’s own state government. The state perniciously traced their ancestry and, periodically, agents rounded them up and dispatched them to sterilization mills.

More than 27 states joined the shameful decades-long campaign. Virginia led in developing the legal concepts and merciless enforcement that propelled eugenics into the annals of genocide.

In 2002, Gov. Mark R. Warner promulgated a formal apology to the thousands the state had coercively sterilized, some as late as the 1970s. Since then, other culpable states have issued their own apologies. Only one state, North Carolina, has advanced beyond mere words of regret and is now contemplating official compensation to surviving victims. Should Virginia follow in the footsteps of North Carolina, and who should pay compensation?

Remember the history. The academic and financial elite believed better men and women could be cultivated using the same techniques a farmer would employ to create a better herd of cattle or field of wheat—eliminate the bad stock and proliferate the good. Eugenicists planned to eliminate all those who did not resemble themselves, 10 percent at a time—as many as 14 million people at a slice. The goal: eliminate the reproductive future for some 90 percent of Americans. Read more ..

The Edge of Terrorism

Investing Terror-free

September 27th 2011

Money Bands=Happiness

Most people have no idea that many of the companies they do business on a daily basis also do business with terrorists or those who support terrorism.

Unwitting investors also are unaware that their money is invested in the stocks and bonds of companies that indirectly fund terrorism, nuclear proliferation, and genocide.

A decade after the September 11 attacks, terror-free investing is an innovative way to fight back against the enemies of liberal democracies. Terror-free investing, in concert with measures such as global sanctions, can have a measurable policy impact.

Terror-free investing is based on the idea that publicly traded companies should be accountable for their business dealings with our nation’s adversaries, specifically, state sponsors of terrorism. Information available to all institutional investors indicate that, as of March 31, there were approximately 625 publically traded companies around the globe operating in Iran, Syria, North Korea, and Sudan. Read more ..

The World on Edge

Palestinian Statehood Would be Diplomatic Disaster

September 27th 2011

Contributors / Staff - Armstrong Williams Headshot
Armstrong Williams

The world is abuzz with the possibility of a U.N. vote to recognize a Palestinian state. Should this vote take place, it would be a disgrace and a diplomatic debacle for Israel, the Palestinians and the United States.

Since its founding in 1948, Israel has lived under the constant threat of physical danger, surrounded by hostile regimes committed to its obliteration. In recent weeks, Israel’s diplomatic ties with Turkey, at one time its closest ally in the Muslim world, unraveled completely. Meanwhile, across the border in Egypt, Israeli diplomats literally ran for their lives as a lawless mob stormed the Israeli Embassy. These events, combined with the Palestinian Authority (PA) seeking U.N. recognition, are creating a perfect storm of diplomatic danger.

PA efforts to secure statehood represent an abandonment of the very foundation of the peace process, which requires the Palestinians and Israelis to negotiate directly to resolve their conflict. The PA lusts for statehood despite its near-total reliance on foreign aid to prop up its frail economy and the government’s physical and political division between PA-controlled areas on the West Bank and the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip.

The proposition of Palestinian statehood today is ludicrous. This would involve bestowing legitimacy on a government that includes a radical, Islamist terrorist group which is committed to the destruction of its neighbor Israel, has championed use of suicide terrorism to murder innocents, and has indiscriminately fired thousands of rockets into Israeli towns and cities after Israel withdrew completely from Gaza.

Should the U.N. really grant the precious gift of global recognition to a PA that pays salaries to known terrorists imprisoned in Israeli jails, honors suicide terrorists as martyrs and holds them up as role models for children? Read more ..

The Medical Edge

An Organizing Principle for our Sense of Smell

September 27th 2011

Science - Brain Light

The fact that certain smells cause us pleasure or disgust would seem to be a matter of personal taste. But new research at the Weizmann Institute of Science shows that odors can be rated on a scale of pleasantness, and this turns out to be an organizing principle for the way we experience smell. The findings, which appeared September 26 in Nature Neuroscience, reveal a correlation between the response of certain nerves to particular scents and the pleasantness of those scents. Based on this correlation, the researchers could tell by measuring the nerve responses whether a subject found a smell pleasant or unpleasant.

Our various sensory organs have evolved patterns of organization that reflect the type of input they receive. Thus the receptors in the retina, in the back of the eye, are arranged spatially for efficiently mapping out visual coordinates. The structure of the inner ear, on the other hand, is set up according to a tonal scale. But the organizational principle for our sense of smell has remained a mystery: Scientists have not even been sure if there is a scale that determines the organization of our smell organ, much less how the arrangement of smell receptors on the membranes in our nasal passages might reflect such a scale. Read more ..

The Arab Spring

Arab Spring—or Islamist Winter?

September 27th 2011

Egypt - Members of Muslim Brotherhood

A fierce debate is gripping Israel’s defense and intelligence community over fateful questions that have arisen from the recent period of Middle Eastern turmoil.

The first, most basic question concerning defense officials is: Can stable states eventually emerge around Israel from the chaos and uncertainty that has replaced the old regional order?

Alternatively, will the Arab states be hijacked by powerful, radical Islamist currents that have been deceptively dormant until now, lying in wait for a golden opportunity to fill a vacuum? Moreover, if the Islamists do take over, is it inevitable that they will drag the region into war?

In January of this year, just as the Arab revolts began spreading like wildfire, Maj.-Gen. (ret.) Yaakov Amidror—who would go on to become Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s national security advisor—expressed an unequivocal and discomforting prognosis. Read more ..

Israel and Palestine on Edge

Don’t Reward the Palestinians’ Lawfare Campaign with Statehood

September 27th 2011

Palestine Topics - Mahmoud Abbas at parliament

The United Nations’ potential blessing of a Palestinian state in an end run around direct negotiations with Israel will add a dangerous new dimension to the Palestinians’ decades-long campaign of conventional and unconventional war against the Jewish state—the commencement of a full-blown “lawfare” campaign against Israel and its allies.

UN-sanctioned lawfare against Israel is nothing new. In 2004, the International Court of Justice (ICC), at the instigation of the UN General Assembly, declared that the security fence Israel erected to block Palestinian terrorists from infiltrating from the West Bank—a fence which helped dramatically reduce the number of suicide bombers penetrating Israel—is illegal, even though many countries, including the U.S. and Saudi Arabia, have erected fences on their border. Did we mention that Israel is the only UN member state barred from serving on the International Court?

In 2010, the European Court of Justice aided the economic warfare campaign against Israel by ruling that products made by a Jewish-owned company based in the Jewish community of Mishor Adumim in the West Bank didn’t qualify for the same customs duties exemption allowed to Palestinian companies in the West Bank and all companies within Israel’s 1967 borders. Read more ..

Economic Recovery on Edge

Countrywide Protected Fraudsters by Silencing Whistleblowers

September 27th 2011

Economy - Home Foreclosure

In the summer of 2007, a team of corporate investigators sifted through mounds of paper pulled from shred bins at Countrywide Financial Corp. mortgage shops in and around Boston.

By intercepting the documents before they were sliced by the shredder, the investigators were able to uncover what they believed was evidence that branch employees had used scissors, tape, and Wite-Out to create fake bank statements, inflated property appraisals and other phony paperwork. Inside the heaps of paper, for example, they found mock-ups that indicated to investigators that workers had, as a matter of routine, literally cut and pasted the address for one home onto an appraisal for a completely different piece of property.

Eileen Foster, the company’s new fraud investigations chief, had seen a lot of slippery behavior in her two-plus decades in the banking business. But she’d never seen anything like this. Read more ..

The 2012 Vote

Jews Defect from Obama in Droves

September 27th 2011

Obama Admin Topics - Obama AIPAC

In a column published two months ago, I commented on the findings of an opinion poll by Dick Morris which indicated that, contrary to the predictions of most political commentators, the Jewish community’s century-long nexus with the Democratic Party was dramatically eroding as Jews increasingly began to absorb Obama’s negative approach to Israel.

The stunning electoral upset in New York's Ninth District—the most Jewish-populated congressional district in the United States, which had not elected a Republican candidate since 1922—indisputably confirmed this. The defeat of the Democratic candidate 54%—46% was a massive display of non-confidence in the Obama administration and could represent a watershed in Jewish commitment to the Democratic Party. Even if a majority of Jews continue to back Obama, the level of defections from a record support of 78 percent at the last election represents a massive turnabout. Read more ..

Hostile Environment

Overfishing in Brazil leads to Piranha Attacks on Swimmers

September 26th 2011

Animals - Piranha

At least one hundred swimmers in northeastern Brazil were bitten by voracious piranhas – toothy Amazonian fish that folklore contends can strip the flesh from living animals and people.

Authorities in the State of Piauí have decided that it is time to somehow reduce the population of the silvery fish found in Brazilian freshwater lakes and rivers that appear in ravenous large schools.

According to local media over the September 24-25 weekend, vacationing swimmers were hospitalized in the town of José de Freitas after suffering bites on their feet and toes. Romildo Mafra, local director of the Brazilian Environmental Affairs in the town said “Since there are no other predators, the piranhas have begun to attack swimmers.” The attacks occurred approximately 30 miles from Terezin, the capital of Piauí. Read more ..

The Race for Biofuel

From Woodchips to Biofuel

September 26th 2011

Technology - Wood Chips

It’s not every day that an Israeli company based on the science of a Nazi collaborator wins a huge US contract. But HCL Clean Tech, which offers a process to turn wood chips into biofuel, just received a $100 million bond package from the Mississippi state legislature to build plants in Grenada, Booneville, Hattiesburg and Natchez for products in the cosmetics, pet food, and lubricants industries.

The plants will take wood chips from region, where there is a surplus of pine trees, and begin processing them in 2012 in Grenada. Three bigger plants will be opened in 2015, 2017 and 2019, according to the deal. Most of the funding will go toward building the facilities, while $5 million is earmarked for infrastructure and training.

The new project is expected to create about 800 new jobs, with the average salary not too shabby at $67,500 plus benefits. Backers of the bill, which was approved almost unanimously, believe these jobs - some 200 new positions in Natchez alone - will be readily filled by locals. Read more ..

The Drug Wars

The Other Forgotten War

September 26th 2011

Crime Topics - Drug War

As the Obama administration reviews its Afghanistan and Pakistan policy, looking for creative means to challenge extremist funding, the drug trade is increasingly coming into focus.

Afghanistan's booming narcotics industry generates much of the money that flows into terrorists' coffers, and increased production in recent years has overlapped with a sharp rise in Taliban attacks on coalition forces. Captured Taliban have confessed that most of their funding comes from the drug trade. And it is an open secret that much of Afghanistan's illicit money is through commodities and trade.

Indeed, Afghanistan's production of narcotics is greater than that of Colombia, Peru, and Bolivia combined. According to the United Nations Office of Drug Control (UNODC), Afghanistan accounts for more than 90 percent of the world's opium production and is the largest supplier of cannabis.

Opium is one of the few commodities Afghanistan produces that outsiders value. It is estimated that over one-third of Afghanistan's GDP is derived directly from narcotics activities. Some observers believe the narcotics industry makes up as much as half of Afghanistan's economy. In a country of high unemployment, the industry employs upward of one million laborers, from farmers to warehouse workers to truck drivers. Read more ..

Europe on Edge

The Crisis of Europe and European Nationalism

September 26th 2011

Travel - Germany-castle

A few years ago, the idea that Europe was not going to emerge as one united political entity was regarded as heresy by many leaders. The European enterprise was seen as a work in progress moving inevitably toward unification - a group of nations committed to a common fate. What was a core vision in 2008 is now gone. What was inconceivable, the primacy of the traditional nation-state is now commonly discussed, and steps to devolve Europe in part or in whole (such as ejecting Greece from the eurozone) are being contemplated. This is not a trivial event.

Before 1492, Europe was a backwater of small nationalities struggling over a relatively small piece of cold, rainy land. But one technological change made Europe the center of the international system: deep-water navigation. Read more ..

The Drug Wars

Drugs Not Mere Criminality But Part Of Chavez-Iran Asymetric War

September 26th 2011

Social Topics - Narcotics

The war against Mexican drug cartels is often portrayed as a war against a criminal operation taking place in Mexico. Furthermore, it is also portrayed as a problem between the United States and Mexico.

However, we would argue as we have done repeatedly in the past that drug cartels constitute, willingly and unwillingly, part of an asymmetric war not only against the United States but against many countries in the region, as well. This asymmetric war is sometimes intentional and sometimes unintentional. It sometimes has clear targets and sometimes not. We have strong reasons to believe that the U.S and Latin American policy makers have failed to understand this situation in Latin America and consequently are failing to develop policies capable of responding to this phenomenon.

The concept of asymmetric war was revived in the continent by the distribution in the Venezuelan army of a book called “The Peripheral War and Revolutionary Islam,” written by a Spanish anarchist, Jorge Verstringe. The book was distributed in order to inject the army with a new military doctrine. That doctrine basically lauds radical Islamist methods as well as terrorist warfare. The idea of asymmetric war is that suicide bombers, terrorists, as well as the use of nuclear and biological weapons could be adopted to achieve a political goal. Read more ..

The Race for Solar

Congressional Republicans Take a Closer Look at Obama-Solyndra Solar Connections

September 26th 2011

Obama Admin Topics - Obama solyndra
President Obama meets Solyndra executives

House Republicans have sunk their teeth into the bankruptcy of an Obama administration-backed solar firm, and they made it clear this past week that they’re not letting go. Unlike other GOP-led probes of the White House that quickly faded away, Republicans are vowing to intensify their investigation into the California-based Solyndra. The company declared bankruptcy and laid off 1,100 workers this month just two years after receiving a $535 million stimulus-law loan guarantee from the administration.

The incident has ignited a firestorm in Washington, leaving the White House scrambling to defend itself against Republican allegations that the administration missed a series of red flags that hinted at Solyndra’s pending financial collapse. The debacle is a messaging nightmare for the White House, which has invested a huge amount of political capital in the stimulus law and its clean energy agenda. Read more ..

The Caribbean on Edge

Caribbean Islands' Economies Too Dependent on Sun and Sand

September 26th 2011

Travel - Princess Juliana airport

As globalization has carried with it a greater degree of potential for economic integration among different nations, the tiny English-speaking Caribbean states are fighting for their place in an ever-shrinking world. Aside from the potential boon associated with globalization, the spread of free trade and increased competition between transnational corporations could pose another considerable threat to vulnerable Caribbean nations that are often ill-equipped to retaliate against more economically formidable societies.

As far back as the eighteenth century, national economies experienced the initial phases of industrial capitalism. During this era imperial powers, such as England and Spain, exploited the colonies, forcing them to export raw materials to the mother-countries for processing, which prevented the Caribbean islands from achieving a proper degree of progress. For instance, the island nation of Saint Kitts and Nevis historically had come to depend heavily upon on sugar exports and had the potential to complete the entire production process from inception to launch. Read more ..

The 2012 Vote

Who is Herman Cain and Where does He Get his Money?

September 26th 2011

Politics - Herman Cain

Georgia businessman and former talk radio host Herman Cain won an upset victory in the Presidency 5 GOP straw poll on the evening of September 25 in Florida. Cain, a Tea Party favorite, secured 37 percent of the vote. Texas Gov. Rick Perry finished a distant second, with about 15.4 percent of the vote. And former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney finished third, with about 14 percent of the vote.

Who is Herman Cain, and who is funding his presidential campaign?

Cain is the former head of the National Restaurant Association. It was in a leadership role with this group that Cain challenged then-President Bill Clinton about Clinton's proposed health care reforms at a town hall meeting in Kansas City, Mo., in 1993. Cain, who was the chief executive officer of Godfather's Pizza, would ultimately serve as the trade group's president and CEO. Read more ..

The 2012 Vote

Billionaire Buffett replaces Plutocrat Soros as GOP Boogeyman

September 26th 2011

Economy - Warren Buffett

Exit: George Soros. Enter: Warren Buffett, stage left.

Buffett, the investment mogul and Berkshire Hathaway CEO, is slowly drifting into the role Soros played during the first decade of this century: billionaire boogeyman to the right, and go-to example cited by the left to show that one can support Democrats’ economic policies and still be pro-business.

A frequent spot holder on Forbes’s list of the world’s wealthiest individuals, Buffett endorsed President Obama in 2008, but has not historically been an overly political figure – until now. In August, he penned an op-ed in the New York Times asking policymakers to raise taxes on millionaires and billionaires like himself. He has claimed he pays a lower tax rate than his secretary, thanks to a tax structure that favors those whose income comes from investments. Read more ..

Iran’s Nukes

Shiite Jurisprudence, Political Expediency, and Nuclear Weapons, Part 2

September 24th 2011

Iran - Ahmadinejad at Iranian nuclear plant

In Islamic law, ijtihad refers to a personal juridical philosophy. In the classic books of usul al-fiqh (legal theory), a mujtahid (practitioner of ijtihad) is defined as someone who possesses an intellectual faculty that enables him to deduce God’s orders from the primary sources of Islam (namely, the Quran and hadith), rational reasoning, and the conditional consensus of early Islamic interpreters of the law. A mujtahid— who may hold the title faqih or mufti—has the authority to issue a fatwa, or religious ruling.

Ijtihad is defined not as a credential attainable by methodical steps but rather as an intellectual faculty. This means that not just any aspirant can attain the status. Two means exist for reaching ijtihad: receipt of a certificate from one’s teacher—a well-established mujtahid himself—or publication of one’s writings, which will indicate clearly the sufficiency of one’s intellectual faculties. Once a student has attained ijtihad, he is forbidden from following another mujtahid and must perform his religious duties according to his own legal understanding. For those who are not scholars or who have not attained the status of mujtahid, the requirement, according to most jurists, is that they follow the most learned (aalam) mujtahid. Therefore, choosing a mujtahid as a source of emulation is not an arbitrary decision; one must be certain about the religious credentials of the mujtahid he follows. In addition to his intellectual ability, a mujtahid must be a living, adult, Twelver Shiite male of legitimate descent who is just and sane. Read more ..

South Africa on Edge

Afrikaner Farmers Migrating to Georgia

September 23rd 2011

Russian Topics - Afrikaner Farmer Piet Kemp
Afrikaner Emigrant, Farmer Piet Kemp (credit: Y. Weeks, VOA)

Piet Kemp’s family farmed in southern Africa for three centuries. But now at age 66, this Afrikaner farmer has traded South Africa’s Eastern Transvaal for Eastern Georgia. Here, he is reviving wheat and corn production on what was once a Soviet collective farm. Kemp says he has no regrets.

“I have a new life here,” he explained. “I try to make friends with all the people in Georgia, learning their culture. I have been here since 3rd of March, and I have not heard of one murder in Georgia in this time. I didn’t hear about any bank robbery. I didn’t hear about any one hijacking.”

It was not just high crime rates that prompted Kemp to leave South Africa. “There is no security of land, absolutely no security of land in South Africa,” he stressed. Read more ..

Nature on Edge

Conservationists Trying to Save, Reproduce Endangered Frogs

September 23rd 2011

Animals - La loma tree frog
La Loma tree frog (credit: Brian Gratwicke, National Zoo)

Forty percent of all the frogs in the world are in danger of extinction, according to the Smithsonian Institution. Pollution, pesticides, climate change and now a fungus are taking a toll on this diverse group of amphibians. Until recently, the central rain forest of Panama was rich in frog species. Smithsonian conservationist Brian Gratwicke is directing a campaign to save and reproduce in captivity some of the world’s most endangered frogs.

Sierra Llorona is a tropical rainforest in Central Panama. It’s rich in all sorts of flora and fauna, especially frogs. Read more ..

Edge on Space

Scientists Discover One Planet Orbiting Two Stars

September 23rd 2011

Science - Kepler 16-B
Artist’s conception of planet (dark circle) orbiting two suns. (credit: NASA)

Astronomers say they have discovered a planet that orbits around a pair of stars. It is the first time a so-called circumbinary system has been detected.

Movie fans might be familiar with “Star Wars, Episode IV: A New Hope,” the blockbuster movie from 1977. Luke Skywalker stands on his stark home planet Tatooine. As he gazes pensively into the distance toward a pinkish sky, an orange sun descends toward the horizon, with a smaller white sun following close behind.

Well, move over, Tatooine, says John Knoll of Industrial Light and Magic, which created the special effects for the Star Wars films.

“Again and again we see that the science is stranger and cooler than the fiction,” Knoll said.

Tatooine now has to make way for reality: Kepler-16b, the first planet known to definitively orbit two stars—a circumbinary planet. Read more ..

Religious Tolerance

Former Muslim Seeks to Enlighten Americans on Politically Incorrect Truth about Islam

September 23rd 2011

Book Covers - Quran Dilemma

It's been 10 years since Muslim terrorists carried out the 9/11 attacks. Yet polls show that most Americans still have very little understanding of Islam.

A former Muslim is looking to change that by revealing the politically incorrect truth about the Koran. Al Fadi, a Saudi native, said it's no coincidence that a majority of the 9/11 hijackers came from Saudi Arabia.

"When I lived in Saudi Arabia, not only did I look at non-Muslims as second class, you would look at non-devout Muslims as second class citizens," Fadi said. "If Islam has to prosper, be the superior religion, then certain steps must be taken by its followers, including spreading Islam at any cost, including the sword and killing any opposition," he said.

Real Life Under Islam

These days al Fadi, which is a pseudonym, lives in the West. He also left Islam for Christianity, a move that would bring a death sentence in his native country.

"The Koran will emphatically say in chapter 4, verse 157 that the crucifiction never took place, that someone else was made to look like Jesus and was put in his place," Fadi explained.

It's been 10 years since Muslim terrorists carried out the 9/11 attacks. Yet polls show that most Americans still have very little understanding of Islam.

A former Muslim is looking to change that by revealing the politically incorrect truth about the Koran. Al Fadi, a Saudi native, said it's no coincidence that a majority of the 9/11 hijackers came from Saudi Arabia. "When I lived in Saudi Arabia, not only did I look at non-Muslims as second class, you would look at non-devout Muslims as second class citizens," Fadi said. "If Islam has to prosper, be the superior religion, then certain steps must be taken by its followers, including spreading Islam at any cost, including the sword and killing any opposition," he said. Read more ..

The 2012 Vote

Obama’s Dilemma: U.S. Foreign Policy and Electoral Realities

September 23rd 2011

Obama Admin Topics - Obama in deep thought

The United States is moving into an election cycle, which will affect American international behavior and therefore the international system.

The United States remains the center of gravity of the international system. The sheer size of its economy (regardless of its growth rate) and the power of its military (regardless of its current problems) make the United States unique. Even more important, no single leader of the world is as significant, for good or bad, as the American president. That makes the American presidency, in its broadest sense, a matter that cannot be ignored in studying the international system.

The American system was designed to be a phased process. By separating the selection of the legislature from the selection of the president, the founders created a system that did not allow for sudden shifts in personnel. Unlike parliamentary systems, in which the legislature and the leadership are intimately linked, the institutional and temporal uncoupling of the system in the United States was intended to control the passing passions by leaving about two-thirds of the U.S. Senate unchanged even in a presidential election year, which always coincides with the election of the House of Representatives. Coupled with senatorial rules, this makes it difficult for the president to govern on domestic affairs. Changes in the ideological tenor of the system are years in coming, and when they come they stay a long time. Mostly, however, the system is in gridlock. Thomas Jefferson said that a government that governs least is the best. Read more ..

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