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Archive for October 2012

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The Edge of Space

Physicists Confirm First Planet Discovered in a Quadruple Star System

October 31st 2012

Exoplanet candidate UCF-1.01

Justin Crepp, assistant professor of physics at the University of Notre Dame, provided the high-contrast imaging observations that confirmed the first extrasolar planet discovered in a quadruple star system. He is a coauthor on a paper about the discovery, "Planet Hunters: A Transiting Circumbinary Planet in a Quadruple Star System," recently posted to the open-access arXiv.org, and submitted for publication to the Astrophysical Journal.

Crepp's images revealed that the system involved two sets of binary stars. The planet was first noticed by volunteer citizen scientists studying publicly available Kepler data as part of the Planet Hunters citizen science project. Crepp says human observers sometimes are more likely than computer algorithms to recognize planets orbiting binary stars because the complex systems do not produce periodic fluctuations like planets orbiting a single star. Read more ..


The Urban Edge

Sustainable Cities Must Look Beyond City Limits

October 31st 2012

Minneapolis skyline

Cities leaders aspiring to transform their cities into models of sustainability must look beyond city limits and include in their calculation the global flow of goods and materials into their realm, argue researchers in the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences journal Ambio.

Many cities are now developing sustainable strategies to reduce pollution and congestion, improve the quality of life of their citizens, and respond to growing concern about human impact on climate and the environment. But sustainable city initiatives often ignore the environmental footprint from imported goods and services such as food, water, and energy to cities: sustainability, it seems, stops at the city limits. Ultimately, this will not add up to a planet able to support over nine billion people. Read more ..


The Obama Edge

Leaving No One Behnd

October 31st 2012

Barack Obama

Remember when Barak Obama had a silver tongue? Was a great orator - maybe so much so that it didn't matter what he said, it just mattered that he was the coolest guy in the room, or on the platform, or in front of adoring crowds in front of some phony Greek columns in Denver? Remember that, because it's over.

He's not cool. He's not hip. He's not even terribly articulate; the teleprompter has become the butt of jokes people don't want to make about the President himself. But this really couldn't have been an accident, a slip of the tongue, could it? Could the President of the United States really have said in the wake of Hurricane Sandy that "Americans leave nobody behind?" After Benghazi, did he really have the nerve to use the words that soldiers use to reassure themselves that their comrades will do everything they can to support them?

At a Red Cross relief/campaign stop, President Obama told the audience and the video camera that Sandy was tough, but, "America's tougher. And we're tougher because we pull together, we leave nobody behind, we make sure we respond as a nation and remind ourselves that whenever an American is in need, all of us stand together to make sure we're providing the help that's necessary." From the man who left American soldiers on the battlefield.

The President is the Commander in Chief of the United States Armed Forces. It was bad enough that he and his minions -- Secretary of State Clinton, UN Ambassador Susan Rice, Press Secretary Jay Carney -- all spun a knowing lie about "the video," made a show of asking Google to take it down and had the videographer arrested in the dead of night and clapped into jail. They knew better then and now. But it all pales in comparison to what we now know about the failure of the commander in chief to respond to the call of soldiers in battle -- when the battle started, how long it was running, where the enemy was and what was needed on the ground. Read more ..


The Drug Wars

Columbian Terrorist Group Continues Killing Cops and Soldiers

October 31st 2012

FARC Terrorists

Six police officers were killed and one was wounded during a terrorist ambush in a rural area of southwest Colombia, a U.S. drug enforcement source stated.

The police officers were riding four motorcycles when they were attacked with gunfire on Monday afternoon in the southwestern province of Cauca, according to source.

The Colombian government immediately blamed the ambush on members of Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC which is designated as a terrorist group by the U.S. State Department.

The attack came as negotiators from the Colombian government and FARC announced they had initiated peace talks in Oslo, Norway on Oct. 18, 2012, aimed at ending their nearly five-decades-long armed conflict. The second phase of the talks is set to begin in Cuba's capital of Havana on Nov. 15, which is ideal for FARC since it is a Marxist organization. Read more ..


The Edge of Space

Mars Soil Similar to Hawaiian Volcanic Soil

October 31st 2012

Mars Rover

The soil on Mars appears to be very similar to the volcanic soils of Hawaii, according to scientists at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, NASA.

The results come after the first chemical and mineralogy tests performed on Martian soil scooped up and taken aboard NASA’s Mars rover, Curiosity. NASA said the soil analysis was carried out by the rover’s Chemistry and Mineralogy instrument (CheMin). The U.S. space agency said the study concluded that the Mars soil sample “is similar to weathered basaltic soils of volcanic origin in Hawaii.”

"Our team is elated with these first results from our instrument," said David Blake of NASA Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, Calif. "They heighten our anticipation for future [chemistry and mineralogy] analyses in the months and miles ahead for Curiosity." Curiosity scooped up the sample in an area of Mars called NASA scientists call “Rocknest.” The sample was then sifted to exclude any particles larger than 0.006 inch (150 micrometers), roughly the width of a human hair. Scientists said the sample contained two basic components dust and sand. Read more ..


America on Edge

Woman Moves Into Commonly Male Domain

October 31st 2012

Volvo truck

Almost one-third of small businesses in the United States is owned by women. That number is on the rise, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, especially in fields which were once dominated by men.

Chances are, a few decades ago, a moving company, with all of its trucks and heavy duty equipment, would have been owned by a man. But Apple Transfer, a company located in Fredericksburg, Virginia, belongs to Barbara Ayers.

She is president and CEO of the company, which helps move households and businesses all across the U.S., and overseas. Ayers started the company with her brother Joe Garlick, in 1988. When they started out, it was just the two of them.

“We actually had one small truck, on trade," she says. "He did the moving and I took care of the office." Today, she oversees a fleet of trucks and a large storage facility, employing up to 100 people during peak moving season. Read more ..


Broken Borders

Starting All Over in Immigration Reform

October 31st 2012

US Border Patrol arrest

What do Americans really think about immigrants?
Consider the case of Sgt. Dan Zapalski. As he prepared to go into battle, his colonel berated him for acting like a "fathead Pollack ... typical of all stupid, emotional, first-generation Americans -- impractical, burdensome and unreasonable." What ticked off the colonel was Zapalski's refusal to be left behind. A leg wound suffered during the Normandy invasion had left him unfit for duty, but Zapalski didn't care. He wanted to go anyway.

The colonel begged the sergeant to think of his widowed, immigrant mother: What would she do if she lost her son?"I pointed out that my widowed mother was proof of why I was obligated to go," Zapalski recalled in "September Hope," John McManus' book about World War II's Operation Market Garden. "[T]he principal reason being the debt to my country for taking care of her and giving her the opportunity to raise three kids without much trouble." Read more ..


Myanmar on Edge

UN: Opium Production in Burma Grows for Sixth Straight Year

October 31st 2012

Burmese Generals

The United Nations says opium production in Burma has gone up for the sixth consecutive year, despite increased government efforts to curtail output of the crop used to make heroin.

An annual report by the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime said Wednesday that state eradication efforts destroyed poppies on nearly 24,000 hectares of land in 2012, more than triple that of last year. Nonetheless, farmland used for opium cultivation rose by 17 percent to 51,000 hectares.

Burma, the world's second largest producer of opium after Afghanistan, has promised to eradicate the drug completely by 2014. But the likelihood of achieving that goal is now in question, since U.N. data says production of the crop has risen every year since 2006.

The U.N. report said rising prices and increased demand in China and the rest of Asia continues to attract poor farmers to the opium business. It said farmers can receive 19 times as much for opium as for rice, and will not likely turn away from growing the crop unless alternate livelihoods are available. Read more ..


The Iranian Threat

Sudan's Iran Alliance Under Scrutiny

October 31st 2012

Yarmouk Weapons Factory

Sudan's accusation that Israel bombed a Khartoum weapons plant last week has drawn attention to long-standing Israeli complaints of alleged Sudanese cooperation with Iran in smuggling weapons to Palestinian militants. Sudan and Iran have been allies for decades and boosted military ties under a 2008 agreement. As part of that relationship, two Iranian warships docked at Port Sudan on Monday, in what both sides described as a "routine visit". But, allegations that the two allies also cooperate in arms smuggling have grown since the October 24 explosions at Khartoum's Yarmouk weapons facility.

Khartoum complex raises suspicions

​​The Satellite Sentinel Project, a U.S.-based monitoring group, says images of Yarmouk taken before and after the pre-dawn incident suggest the complex housed "highly volatile cargo" that exploded when struck by air-delivered munitions. Sudanese authorities say four people were killed and blamed the destruction on Israeli warplanes. Since the incident, Israeli defense commentators have claimed that the volatile cargo at Yarmouk included missiles made under Iranian supervision for smuggling through Sudanese and Egyptian territory to Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip.

Israeli officials decline to comment on what happened at Yarmouk, but repeat their accusations of Sudanese-Iranian coordination in arms smuggling. Read more ..


Iran's Nukes

Iran Pulls Back from Nuclear Brink

October 31st 2012

iran_nuclear_scientist

Iran pulled back from the nuclear brink in August, when that country's nuclear engineers converted a stockpile of enriched uranium to fuel rods. That decision delayed an imminent Israeli strike on Iran's nuclear facilities, Israel's defense minister told The Telegraph. Still, Iran could enter a "zone of immunity" starting next spring or summer, thereby forcing a decision whether to attack Iran's nuclear facilities, Ehud Barak said. Mr Barak said this decision “allows contemplating delaying the moment of truth by eight to 10 months”. As for why Iran had drawn back, the minister said: “There could be at least three explanations. One is the public discourse about a possible Israeli or American operation deterred them from trying to come closer. It could probably be a diplomatic gambit that they have launched in order to avoid this issue culminating before the American election, just to gain some time. It could be a way of telling the IAEA [International Atomic Energy Agency] 'oh we comply with our commitments’.” Read more ..


Europe on Edge

Eurozone Unemployment hits Record High

October 31st 2012

Spainish squatters

Unemployment in the eurozone hit a record high in September, with nearly 150,000 more jobs lost as the debt crisis
continues to undermine an economy slumping into recession, official data show.

The 17-state eurozone had a jobless rate of 11.6 per cent in September, up from 11.5 per cent in August, with the numbers out of work rising to 18.49 million from 18.34 million, the Eurostat data agency said on Wednesday.

The increase over the past year is well over two million.

The highest unemployment rate was recorded again in Spain, where 25.8 per cent of adults are out of work. Further layoffs are likely to follow next year as more of the country's 60 billion euro ($78m) programme of budget austerity kicks in. Austria posted the lowest rate of 4.4 per cent and benchmark Germany and the Netherlands each on 5.4 per cent. Read more ..


America After Sandy

New York, New Jersey Begin Recovery After 'Sandy'

October 31st 2012

Hurricane Sandy New York

President Barack Obama promised help for storm victims on the East Coast of the United States assistance ahead of a visit to New Jersey on Wednesday. New Jersey beach communities were among the hardest hit by super storm Sandy - which killed at least 43 people - as she came ashore Monday night. New York City was also dealing with continued power outages and mass transit stoppages, but is slowly trying to restart business in the country's financial capital.

Wednesday morning the New York Stock Exchange is due to reopen. Mayor Michael Bloomberg said the trading floor did not sustain any damage and is fully operational.

The city is also working to get its mass transit system back on track. Some 8.5 million people use public transport daily. As of Tuesday evening, limited bus service was beginning in the five boroughs, but subway service remained halted, because flooded tunnels still need to be pumped of millions of gallons of water. Read more ..


The Prehistoric Edge

Mass Extinction Study Provides Lessons for Modern World

October 31st 2012

Aurochs Skeleton

The Cretaceous Period of Earth history ended with a mass extinction that wiped out numerous species, most famously the dinosaurs. A new study now finds that the structure of North American ecosystems made the extinction worse than it might have been. Researchers at the University of Chicago, the California Academy of Sciences and the Field Museum of Natural History will publish their findings Oct. 29 online in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The mountain-sized asteroid that left the now-buried Chicxulub impact crater on the coast of Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula is almost certainly the ultimate cause of the end-Cretaceous mass extinction, which occurred 65 million years ago. Nevertheless, "Our study suggests that the severity of the mass extinction in North America was greater because of the ecological structure of communities at the time," noted lead author Jonathan Mitchell, a Ph.D. student of UChicago's Committee on Evolutionary Biology.

Mitchell and his co-authors, Peter Roopnarine of the California Academy of Sciences and Kenneth Angielczyk of the Field Museum, reconstructed terrestrial food webs for 17 Cretaceous ecological communities. Seven of these food webs existed within two million years of the Chicxulub impact and 10 came from the preceding 13 million years. Read more ..


America After Sandy

Hurricane Sandy: A Lesson in Why Governments Really Matter

October 31st 2012

Hurricane Sandy Lashes Ocean City

Grover Norquist, the anti-tax crusader, has famously said that he has no wish to eliminate government, but only to “shrink it to the size where we can drown it in a bathtub.” Americans up and down the east coast can be grateful in the wake of Hurricane Sandy that he has not yet succeeded, or they might well have drowned in their own homes.

For those who wonder just what it is our tax dollars pay for, consider just a small list of government actions before and during the storm that made it far less catastrophic than it might have been:

    The Commerce Department’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which is responsible for tracking the path of hurricanes and other storms, predicted days in advance – and with astonishing accuracy – both the path and strength of Hurricane Sandy. That gave governments throughout the region time to plan a response. Read more ..


Islam's War Against Christianity

Muslim Persecution of Christians Continues

October 31st 2012

Coptic Girl

The aftermath of collective punishment for Pakistan's Christians—the inevitable byproduct of the notorious Rimsha Masih blasphemy case, concerning a possibly mentally challenged, 14-year-old Christian girl falsely accused of desecrating a Quran—was more dramatic than the blasphemy case itself. Indeed, knowing what was in store for them, some Christians even held a symbolic funeral procession, carrying a Christian leader in a coffin and digging a grave for the "deceased."

Their apprehension proved too true—especially after another pretext for Muslims to riot emerged: the YouTube Muhammad video. After Friday prayers, Muslims attacked, killed, and robbed the Christians in their midst, who account for a miniscule 1.5% of Pakistan's population. St. Paul's Church in Mardan was attacked by hundreds of Muslims armed with clubs and sticks. After looting and desecrating the church, they set it on fire (see picture here). Next, Muslims raided a nearby church-run school; they looted and torched it, as well, and burned down a library containing more than 3,000 Christian books. Although the library also contained thousands of books on Islam—making the Muslim mobs' actions blasphemous under Pakistan's law—"the attack continued for more than three hours, with minimal efforts by the authorities to stop it." Read more ..


Oil Addiction

Detroit Refinery Expansion Adds More Canadian Crude, Brings More Worries

October 31st 2012

Oil Barrels

In an economically distressed pocket of southwest Detroit known by its ZIP code — 48217 — the weekend of September 7-9 was one of the worst, pollution-wise, residents like Theresa Shaw could remember. “I started smelling it on Thursday,” said Shaw, who immediately suspected the Marathon Petroleum Co. refinery a half-mile from her house. “I kept the windows closed because I couldn’t breathe. On Friday, I thought, ‘What the heck are they doing?’ My eyes were just burning, my throat was hurting, my stomach was hurting. I was having migraine headaches. “The smell, it was like this burning tar, with that benzene and that sulfur. I wanted to scream.”

Shaw retreated to her sister’s house on the north side of town. Responding to citizen complaints, the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality traced the powerful odor to Marathon, which had been cleaning several large vessels, and wrote up the company for a nuisance violation. Marathon says it is “committed to environmental responsibility” and acted quickly to correct the odor problem, a byproduct of plant maintenance. Read more ..


The Obama Edge

The Benghazi Scandal Will Not Go Away

October 31st 2012

Nonie Darwish headshot

Americans need answers as to why the Obama administration had no response to the eight-hour terror attack on the US consulate in Benghazi and who was involved in the decision not to go to their aid despite their repeated requests for help. And why is the producer of the "Innocence of Muslims" video still in a California jail cell, allegedly for violating his parole, while none of the people who refused to rescue Ambassador Christopher Stevens and these immensely courageous former Navy SEALS has been even been named and charged with negligent homicide, or even reckless endangerment?

From the Muslim world's viewpoint, the Obama administration's behavior makes perfect sense: The Muslim world is used to, and expects, victims of terror not to act. It is an unforgivable violation of Sharia law for non-Muslims to fight back against jihadi assaults. As Muslims interpret such passivity, those who want to appease the Muslim world and its Sharia law are expected to freeze when faced with Islamic terror -- freezing is the only acceptable response. Read more ..


Islam On Edge

Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood Plan Belligerent Pan-Islamic Super-State

October 31st 2012

Qaradaqi in Cairo

Recent comments by the head of the Muslim Brotherhood [MB], the winner of the recent elections in Egypt, and others, provide yet another jolting reminder of the ruling party's plans for the Middle East.

With the presidency under its control, members of the MB apparently believe they must oversee a comprehensive process of Islamization of the Egyptian state and society, before they can turn their sights on their final goal, the creation of a pan-Islamic super-state that will encompass the region, and then wage war on Israel.

In an October 19 Egyptian Channel One television broadcast, made available by the invaluable MEMRI, Egypt's President can be seen deep in prayer. The prayer session included a sermon by Futouh Abd Al-Nabi Mansour, a cleric in charge of religious endowment in the Matrouh governorate of northwest Egypt. Mansour called out to the worshipers: "O Allah, destroy the Jews and their supporters." [Note: The call takes on anti-Semitic tones rather than hiding behind the usual code word of "Zionists." – the Editor]. The call to destroy the Jews did not disturb Morsi's prayers. (See "Egyptian President Morsi Joins Preacher in Prayer for Dispersal of the Jews," Middle East Media Research Institute, Video Clip No. 3614, October 19, 2012) Read more ..


The Iranian Threat

Why Iran Wants to Attack the United States

October 31st 2012

Iranian Women

An Iranian-American used car salesman pleaded guilty this month to conspiring with Iranian agents to assassinate the Saudi ambassador to the United States. Mansour Arbabsiar's guilty plea would appear to be the end of this story, but in truth it raises more questions than it answers.

The facts were never really in dispute. U.S. officials learned of the plot early on and built an airtight case. The assassin Arbabsiar tried to hire was in fact a DEA informant. Once arrested, Arbabsiar confessed. At the direction of law enforcement, he then called his cousin and Quds Force handler, Gholam Shakuri. With agents listening, Shakuri insisted Arbabsiar go ahead with the plot. "Just do it quickly. It's late."

But why was the Quds Force, which had earned a reputation for operational prowess even among its enemies, so eager to move forward with an obviously flawed operation? Arbabsiar appears to have been a weak character who "wants to be important," as a government-retained psychiatrist determined. He was drawn into the plot by his cousin, a general in the Quds Force, the arm of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps responsible for external operations. So the real question is: What was the Quds Force thinking?

Read more ..

Media on Edge

Journalistic Sham: Haaretz Acknowledges Misleading ‘Apartheid’ Survey Report

October 31st 2012

Haaretz

A recent survey presented by “Haaretz” newspaper claimed that the majority of Jews in Israel advocate the establishment of an apartheid regime, and further claimed that most Israelis believe that currently there are areas in the Jewish state in which apartheid measures are already exercised.

The survey relied on a sample of 503 respondents, and was referenced in articles published by media outlets all over the world, allegedly revealing a series of racist views and extreme nationalist opinions among the Jewish citizens of Israel. However, an in-depth analysis of the survey performed by Israeli media watch dog ‘Presspectiva’ presents a different depiction of Israeli opinion. Presspectiva was able to obtain a full copy of the survey, enabling them to take a close and accurate look at the survey’s findings.

According to their analysis, the conclusions in this survey were misrepresented by the Haaretz article, details were omitted, and Gideon Levy’s coverage of the survey was not objective and contained information that was intentionally distorted. Read more ..


Media on Edge

The Haaretz Poll Travesty, NIF Funding, and the Durban Strategy

October 31st 2012

Haaretz

There is now broad agreement in Israel that the pseudo-poll and headline published by Haaretz on Oct. 23 (“Majority of Israelis support apartheid regime in Israel”) was a mistake, to understate the case.

Haaretz published a correction (albeit a brief note on page 5, rather than as a major headline, as was the case for the original poll). Gideon Levy published a half-hearted retraction or explanation that primarily served to signal that even he, a hard-core warrior, realized the error. In columns and talk shows across the Israeli spectrum, the manipulative methodology and shallow questions were dissected.

However, a great deal of damage has been done outside Israel, where this farce was used to further the campaign of anti-Israel political warfare and demonization. The Guardian Independent, the Globe and Mail (Toronto) and the Sydney Morning Herald ran the story accompanied by headlines as misleading as that of the original Haaretz piece: “Many Israelis support apartheid-style state, poll suggests” and “The new Israeli apartheid.” Read more ..


The Race for Hydrogen

A Molecular Glance on Solar Water Spliting: The Hunt for Electron Holes

October 31st 2012

Ocean scene

Hydrogen production by solar water splitting in photoelectrochemical cells (PEC) has long been considered the holy grail of sustainable energy research. Iron oxide is a promising electrode material. An international team of researchers led by Empa, the Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Science and Technology, have now gained in-depth insights into the electronic structure of an iron oxide electrode – while it was in operation. This opens up new possibilities for an affordable hydrogen production from solar energy.

Hematite, the mineral form of iron oxide (or trivially, rust), is a promising anode material for photoelectro-chemical cells (PEC) because of its affordability, availability, high stability and good spectral match to the solar spectrum. Although it has the potential of a 15 percent solar-to-hydrogen energy conversion efficiency, its actual efficiency is lower than that of other metal oxides. This is due to hematite’s electronic structure, which only allows for ultrashort electron-hole excited-state lifetimes. Read more ..


The Obama Edge

Having our Soldiers' Back

October 31st 2012

Leon Panetta

The government of Israel traded 1,700 Palestinian terrorists for Sgt. Gilad Shalit, an IDF soldier kidnapped and held by Hamas in the Gaza Strip. The Israelis have been known to trade live terrorists for the bodies of its soldiers held by its enemies. That's what it means to have your soldiers' collective back. And their families' back.

Navy SEALS Glen Doherty and Tyrone Woods knew the risks they took having volunteered for service in the American armed forces. They were in a war zone; they knew what the enemy could do, but it's hard to imagine they ever considered that their government didn't have their back. That the U.S. government would deny them rescue, deny them reinforcements, deny them cover. What must they have felt in those hours, knowing it was only a matter of time until they died -- not because their government didn't know, not because their comrades couldn't reach them, but because their comrades weren't sent.

Riding Amtrak Sunday, I read an article in the magazine about Jill Biden's new book, When Daddy Goes to War. Dr. Biden, stepmother of an Army National Guardsman who served a tour in Iraq, has -- along with Michelle Obama -- been a public face in support of our troops. Her book is about "the sacrifice of one military family -- the endless worry, the prayers, the love, the lonesomeness..." Mrs. Biden talks about "gestures of kindness" her family received while Beau was in Iraq. "I can't tell you how many times people would come up to me -- I mean strangers, complete strangers -- and say, 'I'm praying for your son.' As a mom, you can imagine what that means." Read more ..


Energy from Waste

An Energy Future in Waste Plastics

October 31st 2012

John Bordyniuk and oil from plastic
John Bordyniuk of JBI and oil from plastics.

The next big thing in fuel could come from repurposed plastic. However, only seven percent of plastic waste in the United States is recycled each year, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. A company in Niagara Falls, New York, is working to increase that percentage, with an eye toward reducing America’s dependence on foreign oil.

It's a machine known as the “plastic-eating monster.” Every hour, thousands of kilograms of shredded milk jugs, water bottles, and grocery bags tumble into its large combustion chamber. The waste plastic comes from landfills and dumps across the United States. John Bordyniuk, who runs his namesake company, JBI, Inc., invented the new process for converting plastic into a range of fuels. Read more ..


The 2012 Vote

Chevron Oil Sweetens the Pot with $2.5 Million to Conservative Super PAC

October 31st 2012

Chevron

The dearth of large contributions being made by big corporations to super PACs so far this election has ended.

Chevron Corp., ranked No. 3 on the Fortune 500 list of largest U.S. companies, made a $2.5 million contribution on Oct. 7 to the conservative Congressional Leadership Fund, a super PAC dedicated to electing Republicans to the House and Senate.

Following the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision in 2010, which allowed corporate money to be spent on elections, there were predictions that companies would tap their treasuries and flood races with unlimited cash.

Instead, the bulk of the giving has come from individuals — like casino magnate Sheldon Adelson. Adelson and wife Miriam gave at least $14.5 million in the first 17 days of October, boosting his total giving to the controversial political organizations to a remarkable $53 million. It would take 10,600 contributions of $5,000, the maxiumum allowed to candidates, for Adleson to reach that amount were he giving directly to campaigns. Read more ..


The 2012 Vote

Mayor Bloomberg to President Obama: Don't Come to the Big Apple

October 31st 2012

Click to select Image

Mayor said he didn’t want to “diss” Obama, but told him everyone has “lots of things to do” in storm's aftermath.

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg (I) said President Obama offered to visit the city in the wake of Hurricane Sandy but Bloomberg told him that everyone has “lots of things to do” instead.

Bloomberg said he didn’t want to “diss” Obama and was flattered by the offer. Obama is scheduled to visit New Jersey on Wednesday, where the hurricane made landfall. The mayor said that trip would represent the whole region.

“What I pointed out to them is we would love to have him, but we have lots of things to do,” Bloomberg said at a press conference. “I’m not trying to diss him. But I know he had planned a trip to New Jersey, and I said that is fine. It represents the whole region. ... He has got a lot of things to do, and I was flattered that he offered to come.” Read more ..


The Business Edge

Franken-storm Sandy takes $20 Billion Bite out of US Economy

October 31st 2012

Hurricane Sandy is expected to take a $20 billion bite out of the U.S. economy.

The massive storm has put much of New York City in darkness, closed Wall Street and prevented use of the New York subway system for as much as a week, making it extremely difficult, if not impossible, for thousands to get to work in the nation’s largest city.

The storm also brought economic activity to a screeching halt for two days in other major cities along the East Coast, including Philadelphia and Washington, D.C.

Still, experts say that nationally, any negative economic effects from the storm are unlikely to be felt until after Election Day, meaning the economics of Sandy might not be a game-changer for President Obama or Mitt Romney. Read more ..


Turkey on Edge

Turkish Government Allows Kurdish Language Classes

October 30th 2012

Kurdish Newspaper

Years of Turkish state policies of assimilation have put the Kurdish language under threat. But now the government is allowing Kurdish classes as part of the government's policy to ease restrictions on the use of the Kurdish language.

Halil Cecem is giving an elementary lesson in Kurdish to university medical students at Diyarbakir's Dicle University. Until the late 1980s, the Kurdish language did not officially exist and speaking it was a serious offense. But Kurdish classes are part of the government's policy to ease restrictions on its use. Cecem welcomes the move. He says it is a beautiful feeling because the people had so many expectations, and the government responded. He says unfortunately it has taken many years - 50 to 60 - and it is only just being implemented. Read more ..


South Africa on Edge

South Africa’s Census Reflects Progress

October 30th 2012

Jacob Zuma

South Africa’s census shows the nation is fifth in African population, with 51.7 million people. President Jacob Zuma said the census shows progress in the African economic powerhouse.  President Jacob Zuma said the 2011 census shows South Africa is young, and on the rise.

The 2011 census, released Tuesday, shows the nation has 51.7 million people, an increase from 44.8 million in 2001. That puts South Africa well behind Nigeria, the African population leader with 166 million people, according to U.N. estimates.  Ethiopia, Egypt and Congo come next.

Two South African provinces led in growth: Gauteng province, home of the Johannesburg-Pretroia metroplex was up 33 percent. And the Western Cape, home of Cape Town, saw its population increase 28.7 percent.

The census lists 79.2 percent of the population as black, a small increase from the last census, and 8.9 percent of the counted population is listed as white, a slight decrease. In a speech to ministers, Mr. Zuma said nine out of 10 households have access to water, and 73 percent use electricity as a main source of cooking.  But he said almost 13 percent of the population lives in shack settlements. Read more ..


Oil Addiction

Plastic Could Fuel US Move Away from Foreign Oil

October 30th 2012

Plastic-oil

The next big thing in fuel could come from repurposed plastic. However, only seven percent of plastic waste in the United States is recycled each year, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. A company in Niagara Falls, New York, is working to increase that percentage, with an eye toward reducing America’s dependence on foreign oil.

It's a machine known as the “plastic-eating monster.” Every hour, thousands of kilograms of shredded milk jugs, water bottles, and grocery bags tumble into its large combustion chamber. The waste plastic comes from landfills and dumps across the United States.

John Bordyniuk, who runs his namesake company, JBI, Inc., invented the new process for converting plastic into a range of fuels. A load of shredded plastic gas tanks, removed from junkyard automobiles, awaits its turn with the plastic-eating monster. First, many different kinds of unwashed plastics are melted together. Read more ..


America on Edge

State and Federal Disaster Relief: Expect the Best But Prepare for the Worst?

October 30th 2012

Hurricane Sandy Lashes Ocean City

As Hurricane Sandy bears down on the East Coast, it seems like an opportune time to revisit federal disaster relief. Even in an election year, this may be one of those rare topics where most Americans can agree. There is a strong argument for the federal government serving as a backstop against risk, and pitching in when natural and human induced catastrophes outstrip local capacities to respond.

The current federal disaster response system dates to the mid-20th century. Before that, Congress responded to floods, earthquakes, and fires on an ad hoc basis - usually by passing specific legislation authorizing the purchase and distribution of aid. (This legislation was not always popular: President Grover Cleveland vetoed a bill providing drought assistance to Texas. Backing him was Clara Barton, founder of the Red Cross, who thought local and private actors had the situation well in hand.) Read more ..


The 2012 Vote

Presidential Campaigns Resume

October 30th 2012

us voters

Mitt Romney will resume campaigning Wednesday with a trio of events in Florida, while President Obama has canceled his election events to stay in Washington to monitor fallout from the storm the ravaged the East Coast.

Romney's move effectively ends the temporary suspension in the presidential campaign triggered by the landfall of Hurricane Sandy.

Even though Obama will be focusing on coordinating response to the storm, his campaign has shown an awareness of the fact the election is only a week away. The White House updated reporters early Tuesday morning with the president's work on response efforts to Sandy and released photos of Obama meeting with federal officials. Both campaign have been wrestling with how to best balance the demands of a presidential race and the need to project the appropriate sensitivity as the Eastern seaboard grapples with the aftermath of the storm. Read more ..


The Obama Edge

Obama and The Women's Lobby

October 30th 2012

Obamacare

The Affordable Care Act mentions “breast” 44 times, “prostate” not once. It also establishes an elaborate and expensive network of special programs to promote women’s health. Programs for men are nowhere to be found. What explains the imbalance?

When President Obama took office, he promised to insulate his administration from organized lobbyists. Yet, from day one, he granted the women’s lobby unprecedented influence. The results should trouble fair-minded feminists.

The 2009 stimulus program set the pattern. The president had originally called for a two-year “shovel-ready” plan to modernize roads, bridges, electrical grids, and dams. Women’s activists were appalled. Op-eds appeared with titles like “Where Are the New Jobs for Women?” and “The Macho Stimulus Plan.” More than 1,000 feminist historians signed an open letter urging Mr. Obama not to favor a “heavily male-dominated field” like construction: “We need to rebuild not only concrete and steel bridges but also human bridges.” Kim Gandy, president of the National Organization for Women (NOW), attacked the “testosterone-laden ‘shovel-ready’ terminology.” Christina Romer, who chaired the President’s Council of Economic Advisers, would later say, “The very first e-mail I got . . . was from a women’s group saying, ‘We don’t want this stimulus package to just create jobs for burly men.’” Read more ..


Myanmar on Edge

Myanmar’s Ethnic Violence: Where Is Suu Kyi?

October 30th 2012

Aung San Suu Kyi
Aung San Suu Kyi

Over the past week, violence between Buddhists and Muslims in Rakhine State, in the western part of Myanmar, has flared up badly once again. According to reports in local media and the news wires, over the past seven days at least sixty —and as many as one hundred— people have been killed in clashes. The local security forces allegedly have been firing on some crowds, and other reports suggest that the refugee camps set up for Muslims in the area have already become so overcrowded that they can no longer hold new arrivals.

The cause of the new violence is very murky, with reports and rumors suggesting that some local activists, or even the security forces, have been triggering the clashes in order to lead to a crackdown on Muslims. Other reports suggest that some local fights between young men sparked the violence.

But amidst the murkiness and the chaos, a larger question has arisen: Who in Myanmar’s leadership is going to take a serious, progressive approach to solving this ethnic tension? Though President Thein Sein has passed laudable economic and political reforms, his government has been mostly silent on the violence in Rakhine state, refusing to allow the Organization of the Islamic Conference to open offices to help investigate and potentially resolve the violence. It remains unclear whether the security forces are directly involved in the violence, and whether Thein Sein has tried to restrain local commanders, or even has total control over them. Read more ..


Faster and More Furious

New Report on Fast & Furious Revels Obama's DOJ Incompetance

October 30th 2012

Guns for sale

Although lawmakers and government watchdog groups are focusing on the Benghazi consulate attack, especially the discovery of more and more information that contradicts what the American people were told by the Obama White House, the administration and the Obama re-election campaign, many have not forgotten the so-called Operation Fast & Furious debacle and cover-up. On Monday, U.S. lawmakers released the second part of their report on the "gun-walking" scheme that contributed to the deaths of more than 200 Mexicans and at least two American law enforcement agents.

House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-CA) and Senate Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) yesterday released the second installment of their final report on Operation Fast & Furious. Their latest release chronicles the U.S. Department of Justice’s management failures, specifically finding fault with five senior Justice Department officials for failing to identify red flags indicating reckless tactics. Read more ..


Palestine on Edge

Washington's Failure to Rein in UNRWA

October 30th 2012

UNRWA Refugee Camp

General Assembly resolution 194 of December 11, 1948, offers two options, repatriation and resettlement, to achieve the reintegration of the Palestinian Arab refugees "into the economic life of the Near East." Yet, U.S. Department of State documents from 1949 through the early 1950s reveal that despite the lip service paid to repatriation, Washington and its allies effectively equated reintegration with the resettlement of the refugees in the neighboring Arab states.

Historical Context
Economic development has been viewed by successive U.S. administrations as the key to integrating regions and peoples, and since the 1930s, their vision of this endeavor was largely modeled on the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) project.

Created by an act of the U.S. Congress in 1933, the TVA was conceived as a regional economic development agency. It was tasked with responsibilities for flood control, electrification, reforestation, fertilizer production, agricultural education, and river navigation throughout the Tennessee Valley, an area that includes the state of Tennessee, parts of Kentucky, Mississippi, and Alabama, and smaller portions of Georgia, North Carolina, and Virginia. Read more ..


The Battle for Syria

UN Envoy Says Syria Situation Worsening

October 30th 2012

Contreras

Arab League envoy Lakhdar Brahimi says the situation in Syria is getting worse, and that the international community must unite to help the Syrian people find a solution to the 19-month crisis.

After talks Monday in Moscow with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, Brahimi said he was sorry a holiday cease-fire did not take hold, but that the failure would not discourage efforts to find a solution.

"We shall continue to work as hard as we possibly can, and in cooperation with everybody inside Syria and outside of Syria, to bring the level of violence down, put an end to it and launch Syria on the road to building the new Syria," Brahimi said.

The envoy also said the United Nations is not sending a peacekeeping operation to Syria. He had called for the Syrian government and rebels opposed to President Bashar al-Assad to observe a truce during the Muslim Eid al-Adha holiday, but both sides continued fighting. Read more ..


America After Sandy

American East Awakes to Devastation as Obama Declares Major Disasters

October 30th 2012

Click to select Image

Emergency officials along the U.S. east coast are assessing damage from the massive storm named Sandy, which is now blamed for at least 28 U.S. deaths. President Barack Obama has declared "major disasters" in the northeastern states of New York and New Jersey, where the storm has flooded low-lying areas, damaged structures and caused widespread power outages. Tuesday's declarations free up federal disaster funds to help with disaster relief efforts.  During a Tuesday conference at the White House, the president also pledged to deliver additional resources to hard-hit areas. The storm moved ashore late Monday south of New York with hurricane-strength winds.  It weakened as it moved inland. Read more ..


The Obama Edge

The Night our Consulate was Attacked--Was Obama in charge—or not?

October 30th 2012

Amb. Christopher Stevens, killed in Libya #2

Much has been made of President Obama’s considerable use of the pronoun “I” on the night he announced to the nation the killing of Osama bin Laden. As Mark Bowden notes in his recently published account of the killing and the decision-making that led up to the operation, The Finish, the president was not shy about putting himself front and center when it came to the decision to proceed with the operation: “I directed Leon Panetta … I was briefed … I met repeatedly with my national security team … I determined … and authorized … Today at my direction.” 

While a bit over the top when it comes to the “me” factor, nevertheless, the president is indeed commander in chief and, under the Constitution, with its unitary executive, he is, as the text of that document asserts, the sole holder of “the executive power.” Unlike many of the state constitutions of the time, the national executive authority was not divided among various state office holders nor as under the Articles of Confederation—the country’s first federal constitution—was it in the hands of the national assembly. So, whether critics of the president liked his rhetoric or not, whether they felt it was unseemly or not, it wasn’t out of bounds from a constitutional perspective. Read more ..


The 2012 Vote

Obama and the Women’s Lobby

October 30th 2012

No Obamacare

The Affordable Care Act mentions “breast” 44 times, “prostate” not once. It also establishes an elaborate and expensive network of special programs to promote women’s health. Programs for men are nowhere to be found. What explains the imbalance? 

When President Obama took office, he promised to insulate his administration from organized lobbyists. Yet, from day one, he granted the women’s lobby unprecedented influence. The results should trouble fair-minded feminists.

The 2009 stimulus program set the pattern. The president had originally called for a two-year “shovel-ready” plan to modernize roads, bridges, electrical grids, and dams. Women’s activists were appalled. Op-eds appeared with titles like “Where Are the New Jobs for Women?” and “The Macho Stimulus Plan.” More than 1,000 feminist historians signed an open letter urging Mr. Obama not to favor a “heavily male-dominated field” like construction: “We need to rebuild not only concrete and steel bridges but also human bridges.”

Read more ..


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