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Archive for May 2014

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The Edge of Arts

Alleghany Meadows Offers Creative Workspace for Artists in Colorado

May 31st 2014

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Justin Donoforio and Brooke Cashion, residents of Santa Cruz, Calif. moved to the Roaring Fork Valley after they heard about Alleghany Meadows through their ceramics community. The pair contacted him to see if they could be a part of the shared workspace they’d also heard rumors of; both were looking for Colorado residency before applying to school. They’ll soon ship off to Fort Collins, but have high hopes of returning to the artists’ enclave they found in Carbondale.

“We wanted to be in this area, and because we were able to get studio space, we came here,” says Cashion. Their story is not unique for S.A.W. (Studio for Arts and Works), but it’s not the only story between its walls either.

Inside the 6,500-square-foot building in Carbondale, which used to house a mechanic’s shop, are 20-plus studio spaces for working artists — from ceramicists and sculptors to jewelers and painters. They can come and go as they please, simply paying a monthly rental fee to the building’s owner, Alleghany Meadows, who is also an artist. Read more ..


The Hamas-PLO Union

Hamas Wants 40,000 on US-Funded PA Budget

May 31st 2014

Gaza Militants

Differences between Fatah and Hamas may delay the formation of a Palestinian unity government and its announcement by PA President Mahmoud Abbas, Palestinian sources said Wednesday.

On Tuesday, Fatah and Hamas officials who met in the Gaza Strip said that Abbas was expected to announce the unity government, which would be headed by PA Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah, on Thursday. But the sources said that the two parties have still not agreed on three major issues concerning the implementation of the Fatah-Hamas reconciliation deal that was signed in the Gaza Strip last month.

The sources told the Palestinian Al-Quds newspaper that one of the obstacles hindering the formation of the unity government is related to the status of the Palestinian security forces. Read more ..


Haiti on Edge

Chikungunya Fever Virus Strikes Devastated Haiti

May 31st 2014

Already struck hard by a cholera epidemic that started in 2010, the island nation of Haiti now faces a new threat in the expanding chikungunya virus, authorities said on May 28. “We have had 8,201 deaths from cholera since its reappearance in Haiti in 2010, while 830,601 cases have been confirmed,” Health Minister Florence Duperval said on May 29.

A second deadly disease, that had already been spreading among the Caribbean islands, Asia, Africa, Europe and Australia, has emerged as a second health crisis in Haiti. Transmitted by mosquitoes, the virus causes high fever and severe joint pain, disproportionately striking poorer neighborhoods where homes often have no windows or screens. “We are putting in place steps to fight the chikungunya outbreak which is being felt almost nationwide,” Duperval added. The measures include fumigation and medications, she said. Read more ..


Jewry on Edge

Inside the Presidents Conference and the J Street Vote

May 30th 2014

Edwin Black

The fractious public reaction to the April 30 rejection of J Street’s membership by the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations has been based on widespread dissemination of false information about the process, according to exclusive interviews with sources close to the Presidents Conference process. The sources declined to be named because, while fully conversant with all aspects of the J Street vote, they were not authorized to speak publicly. But they emphasize that J Street was rejected not by the “Left or Right” or a “right-wing minority” but by the overwhelming voting consensus of the 50-member organization. Moreover, the sources say, J Street supporters were in a smaller minority than initially apparent because just two voting blocs controlled 8 of the 17 yes votes.

By way of background, after a year of trying, the controversial lobby J Street was rejected by a wide margin for membership in the Presidents Conference, the umbrella group for 50 American Jewish communal organizations. The lopsided vote rang in at only 17 for, and 22 against in a process that required 34 yes ballots out of 50 voting member groups. But digging into the numbers reveals more than previously apparent about who voted yes and who did not, Conference sources say.

J Street bills itself as pro-Israel, but has engendered controversy among the pro-Israel community about its true intentions. Since its April 30, 2014 membership rejection vote, public vitriol by J Street and its supporters in the Conference and the Jewish media has been directed at the Conference as an organization, and, in a few instances, its executive vice chairman, Malcolm Hoenlein, personally. The fallout included a threat by a Reform Judaism leader to break away as well as sarcastic jibes on J Street’s website, which are still live at press time more than a month after the vote.
Read more ..


Book Review

A Story of Protest and Prison During the Vietam War

May 30th 2014

Resister

Register. Bruce Dancis. Cornell University Press. 2014. 384 pp.

“On December 14, 1966, at the age of eighteen, I stood before a crowd of three hundred people at Cornell University, read a statement denouncing the war and the draft, and tore my draft card unto four pieces.” Bruce Dancis, a college freshman, then dramatically walked to a mailbox and sent the mutilated card to his draft board. He was the first Cornell student to do so. “I made a stand against the war and the draft. I became part of a tiny minority of young men ---an estimated three thousand—who went to federal prison instead.”

Resister, Bruce Dancis’s absorbing portrayal of the tumultuous sixties from his vantage point as leader of Cornell’s Student for a Democratic Society, describes what it was like to challenge the world’s most powerful nation in the midst of a war that saw millions of Asians and 58,000 U.S. troops die, a failed war for which no-one at the highest level of our government has ever been held accountable.

Dancis and anti-war opponents like him were widely praised but also damned. Inspired by hatred for the war, the draft, black liberation and sexual freedom, the emergence of the New Left and Catholic Left and the possibilities it presented seemed a golden opportunity to seriously change the country’s direction. Many of their opponents believed the SDS and similar rebel groups symbolized the decline of order, stability, tolerance and civil patriotism, a frontal assault on values where people knew their place and politics stopped at the water’s edge.

Dancis was a Jewish kid from the Bronx and schooled at the Ethical Culture Society in Manhattan. His father had been a WWII conscientious objector and both parents, politically active, were ardent anti-Communists. By the time he arrived in Ithaca in 1966, the idea of student power was already alive on some campuses. But the more the war expanded, the more dead and wounded soldiers, the more the government fought the protestors, the more did Dancis become active with Cornell’s SDS branch. Kirkpatrick Sale’s definitive history, SDS, recognized Dancis’s role. “Inspired by SDSer Bruce Dancis’ draft card destruction,” Sale wrote, the SDS called for a controversial “burn-in” in Central Park's Sheep Meadow for April 15, 1967. Sale went on to depict the event as “an important symbolic moment for the anti-draft movement [because] combined with the beginnings of the West Coast group called Resistance, which was launched this very same day with a call for a mass turn-in of draft cards in the fall, this was to reverberate throughout ivied halls around the country.” The New York Times’ Tom Wicker went further, suggesting that, if the U.S. “had to prosecute 100,000 Americans in order to maintain its authority,” it would be more difficult to pursue the war since “It would then be faced not with dissent, but with civil disobedience on a scale amounting to revolt.” Read more ..


Broken Government

Highway Robbery on the High Seas

May 30th 2014

Cargo Ship

It's no secret that special interests regularly shape policy in Washington, costing taxpayers money and sacrificing honest policy debate to reward particular industries. The most recent example comes in the form of two objectionable provisions slipped into the Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Act of 2014, recently passed by the House and now in committee in the Senate. The passage of this bill with these sections would not only divert scarce U.S. food-aid resources toward a handful of cargo-ship owners and away from the 2 million or so hungry people abroad, but would also foreclose future public debate on the issue.

Using food-aid funds to support the maritime industry is so ridiculous that Jon Stewart's "The Daily Show" satirized the idea this past fall. Yet the maritime industry seeks to take advantage of the fact that this bill routinely passes Congress with little attention, and often by a voice vote, by inserting two sections aimed at protecting their interests. Read more ..


The Edge of Murder

Why Is It So Hard To Stop 'Honor Killings'?

May 30th 2014

Pakistani honor victims

In some societies, it is common for men to think of wives and daughters as both assets and liabilities. So long as they are obedient to their fathers and husbands, they are a source of pride. But if they disobey and show independence, they become a source of shame and may even be murdered to protect the family's "honor."

Here are five things to know about "honor killings" and why they are so hard to stop.

How frequent are honor crimes?
According to UN statistics available, some 5,000 honor killings a year are reported worldwide. But many experts believe the real number is much higher because many honor crimes are often hidden from the police.

The hiding of honor crimes is possible because they often take place within a family. Leading members, including females, decide that the woman or girl who has compromised the family's honor must be put to death. The crime is kept secret through a code of silence.

Jacqueline Thibault, whose Swiss-based association Surgir protects potential victims of honor killings in the Middle East, says murders are often reported as suicides. In some cases, there is no "need" for a murder because the family pressure is so great that the victim commits suicide herself.

Are honor crimes unique to the Muslim world?
No, honor crimes are found in many parts of the globe and are not tied to any single religion. Countries where they take place are as diverse as Brazil and India, Pakistan and Albania.  However, they occur with the greatest frequency in the Middle East and South Asia and only sparingly in South America and Central Asia, as well as among some immigrant populations in Europe. Read more ..


The Battle for Ukraine

Vostok Battalion, A Powerful New Player In Eastern Ukraine

May 30th 2014

Russian tourists in eastern Ukraine

Rumors that battle-hardened Chechen fighters from Russia's notorious Vostok Battalion are active in eastern Ukraine have been swirling for weeks.

They unexpectedly materialized on May 29 when dozens of heavily armed men identifying themselves as members of the Vostok Battalion stormed the separatists' headquarters in central Donetsk, evicting the motley band of pro-Russian rebels that had occupied the building since March.

The brazen raid, conducted in broad daylight, has plunged the region into new uncertainty. The emergence of such a widely recognizable Russian military structure in eastern Ukraine has also raised questions about Moscow's role in the conflict.

So what is the Vostok Battalion and what is it doing in eastern Ukraine? The Vostok ("East") Battalion was formed by Chechen warlord Sulim Yamadayev in 1999, at the onset of the second Chechen war. Read more ..


The Race for Batteries

Fire Risk Makes Panasonic Recall Laptop Batteries

May 30th 2014

Battery

More than 43,000 laptop battery packs have been recalled by Panasonic following three of the packs in Asia overheating and providing a fire. The company has also declared a separate recall in Europe as a safety precaution. Two of the overheating incidents occurred in Japan in 2014 and the third was in Thailand in 2013. The fire-risk batteries were sold to Asia-based consumers with two types of laptops - Panasonic's CF-S10 and CF-N10 series - between April and October 2011. The second recall involved battery packs sold with Panasonic's Toughbook CF-H2 tablets between June 2011 and May 2012.  Panasonic issued the following statement: "Because of a manufacturing problem, these particular battery packs may overheat and, in rare instances, cause the notebook to ignite."

Panasonic claimed that no-one had been hurt in any of the Japanese or Thai incidents. The Japanese electronics producer declared the companywill replace the batteries free of charge. Read more ..


The Battle for Syria

Assad's Bombing Raids Kill 14 Per Day in Syria

May 30th 2014

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A Syrian activist group said government air raids have killed nearly 2,000 civilians this year in and around Aleppo, the country's largest city.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said on May 30 that 567 children and 283 women were among those killed in the northern city, which is a stronghold for opposition fighters.

The figure, which relies on the Britain-based group's contacts with activists and others on the ground, amounts to 14 civilians killed each day between January 1 and May 29.

The Observatory's Rami Abd al-Rahman tells VOA the ongoing violence makes it impossible to hold free and fair presidential elections on June 3, as planned. Read more ..


Obama's Second Term

Obama's Empty Foreign Policy Vision

May 30th 2014

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It was billed as President Obama's comeback speech on foreign policy, a response to mounting criticism — both foreign and domestic — that his international leadership has been a failure. A "big picture" address, it would outline the president's foreign policy vision as it stands five-and-a-half years since he entered the White House.

Yet the commencement address yesterday at West Point failed to deliver on either count. Instead, it reinforced the impression of a lackluster commander-in-chief with an empty foreign policy vision.
In many respects this was a highly defensive speech, one that will do little to allay growing fears, both at home and abroad, that American leadership is in decline on the world stage. It was delivered by a president seemingly obsessed with image and public perception, rather than the long-term strength of America's foreign and security policy. Read more ..


Obama's Second Term

The Republican Strategy Regarding VA Secretary Shinseki

May 30th 2014

It’s not that House Republican leaders think Eric Shinseki is doing a good job as secretary of the scandal-ridden Department of Veterans Affairs. It’s that they think his ouster could give President Obama an easy way out of a widening crisis.

Over the last several days, Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) have resisted an increasingly bipartisan chorus of calls for Shinseki’s resignation following reports of concealed waiting lists and preventable patient deaths at VA healthcare facilities.

Their position has been noteworthy, particularly as Shinseki has lost support among even Democratic stalwarts like Rep. Steve Israel (N.Y.), the party’s campaign chief and a confidante of Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (Calif.).
While Boehner said last week he is “getting closer” to calling for Shinseki to step down, he has argued that the secretary’s ouster would follow a predictable pattern of political scandals: anger grows, a top official gets the boot, the administration can say it took action, and public attention would quickly dissipate. Read more ..


Obama's Second Term

The End of the Line for VA Secretary Erick Shinseki

May 30th 2014

Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki is widely expected to lose his job as the White House seeks to quell a rising controversy over mismanagement at his agency.

White House press secretary Jay Carney offered little support for Shinseki’s position on Thursday, repeatedly brushing aside questions about whether President Obama had the four-star general’s back.

Instead, Carney reiterated the president's pledge to seek “accountability” for secret waiting lists at VA facilities that may have contributed to the deaths of veterans.
Carney said Obama expected a preliminary report from Shinseki “by the end of this week,” setting up Friday as a possible time for Shinseki’s dismissal. Read more ..


Science is a Winner-Take-All Game

May 30th 2014

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As new research documents growing inequalities in health and wealth, the gap between "haves" and "have-nots" is growing in the field of scientific research itself, says University of Michigan sociologist Yu Xie.

"It's surprising that more attention has not been paid to the large, changing inequalities in the world of scientific research, given the preoccupation with rising social and economic inequality in many countries," said Xie, research professor at the U-M Institute for Social Research and professor of sociology, statistics and public policy.

The forces of globalization and internet technology have altered the intensities and mechanisms of the basic structure of inequalities in science, he points out.

In fact, Xie says, scientific outputs and rewards are much more unequally distributed than other outcomes of well-being such as education, earnings or health. Read more ..


The World Cup

World Cup Soccer Hosts See Big Attendance Increases

May 30th 2014

Big soccer clubs in nations that host the World Cup enjoy significant bumps in attendance after the event, which provides at least a small ray of sunshine amid the howls of protest from Brazilians over the extravagant hosting costs.

Economists have shown that the cost of hosting big sporting events like the World Cup dwarf any perceived economic benefits for the host.

However, the 15-to-20 percent attendance boost Brazil will enjoy after the World Cup offers a bit of a consolation, says University of Michigan sports economist Stefan Szymanski—though it still won't offset the price to host the event. Read more ..


The Way We Are

Pakistani Beats Wife to Death for Cooking the Wrong Meal

May 29th 2014

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A judge in Brooklyn NY found an elderly Pakistani immigrant guilty for the murder of his wife. Brooklyn Supreme Court judge Matthew D’Emic said he had considered a verdict of manslaughter in the gruesome case, but found that Noor Hussain, 75, had intended his wife’s death.

Hussain killed his wife, Nazar Hussain, 66, on April 2, 2001, by beating her to death because she cooked lentils even though he had “demanded that she make goat for dinner.” Defense attorney Julie Clark said in her closing argument on May 29, “He demanded that she make goat for dinner. She said, ‘No, I made gram,’ a traditional savoury dish. She continued, “He had told her he wanted a particular type of meat for dinner, goat meat, and she refused. So he took up a stick to discipline her for not making the meal he wanted.” Read more ..


The Race for Nuclear

How Nuclear Power Can Stop Global Warming

May 29th 2014

Nuclear waste overseas

When the Atlantic Navigator docked in Baltimore harbor soem months ago, the freighter carried the last remnants of some of the nuclear weapons that the Soviet Union had brandished in the cold war. During the past 20 years more than 19,000 Russian warheads have been dismantled and processed to make fuel for U.S. nuclear reactors. In fact, during that period more than half the uranium fuel that powered the more than 100 reactors in the U.S. came from such reprocessed nuclear weapons.

In addition to reducing the risk of nuclear war, U.S. reactors have also been staving off another global challenge: climate change. The low-carbon electricity produced by such reactors provides 20 percent of the nation's power and, by the estimates of climate scientist James Hansen of Columbia University, avoided 64 billion metric tons of greenhouse gas pollution. They also avoided spewing soot and other air pollution like coal-fired power plants do and thus have saved some 1.8 million lives.

Read more ..

The Anthropological Edge

Earliest Human DNA Shows Unforeseen Mixing with Mystery Population

May 29th 2014

Neanderthal man

Another ancient genome, another mystery. DNA gleaned from a 400,000-year-old femur from Spain has revealed an unexpected link between Europe’s hominin inhabitants of the time and a cryptic population, the Denisovans, who are known to have lived much more recently in southwestern Siberia.

The DNA, which represents the oldest hominin sequence yet published, has left researchers baffled because most of them believed that the bones would be more closely linked to Neanderthals than to Denisovans. “That’s not what I would have expected; that’s not what anyone would have expected,” says Chris Stringer, a paleoanthropologist at London’s Natural History Museum who was not involved in sequencing the femur DNA. Read more ..


The Way We Are

The Symbolism of Cliven Bundy, States' Rights and Slavery

May 29th 2014

America is a land of stories. We love to use stories about individuals to extract general principals about society as a whole. The story of Cliven Bundy is no exception. His story about an armed standoff versus the Federal Government this past April was illustrative to many of the principles that we are a government of the people, that individual rights are sacrosanct, and that states have the right to decide how to govern the lands and people within their territories. But the story didn’t end there unfortunately.

Given the bully pulpit for the first time in his life, Mr. Bundy foolishly squandered his opportunity to have America hear his story. Instead, he launched into a misguided and racist diatribe about African Americans, stating that he believed the fact that “they never learned to pick cotton,” accounted for the social ills of single motherhood and high black male incarceration rates. He went on to speculate, “I’ve wondered, are they better off as slaves, picking cotton and having a family…?” The entirety of his rant has been relentlessly reported, and the real principles undergirding his story have been lost in the ensuing media feeding frenzy. Read more ..


The Hamas-PLO Union

The Devil in the Details of Palestinian Reconciliation

May 29th 2014

How -- and if -- Hamas and Fatah overcome formidable security, institutional, and political roadblocks should dictate the international response to their unity deal and joint government.

As rival Palestinian factions Hamas and Fatah prepare to announce the names of ministers for a joint technocratic government as soon as this week, it remains unclear how the various provisions of last month's tentative reconciliation deal will be implemented in practice. On a wide array of issues -- security, public employees in the Gaza Strip, the dormant legislature, future elections, and the composition of the Palestine Liberation Organization -- uncertainty still reigns. How these issues are resolved -- assuming they are resolved at all -- should dictate U.S. and international policy toward Palestinian reconciliation efforts. Read more ..


The Nuclear Edge

Russia, China, and Iran: American Nuclear Nightmares

May 29th 2014

Fifty years ago, the CIA produced a Special National Intelligence Estimate (SNIE) on China's nuclear weapons program for President Lyndon Johnson. Overhead photography taken three weeks earlier revealed that a Chinese installation in Lop Nor was definitively a nuclear test site and would come online in two months. However, the CIA estimated, China would not have the necessary amount of fissionable material, which the United States assumed would come from a small plutonium reactor at Baotou, until mid-1965.

Seeking to make sense of the conflicting timelines, the CIA began to speculate: perhaps the Soviets had transferred additional fissionable material, perhaps the CIA was unaware of other enrichment sites, or, perhaps, as is often the case in large undertakings, progress among the different elements of China's nuclear program had merely become uneven. In conclusion, the SNIE reads, the available facts "do not permit a very confident estimate of the chances of a Chinese Communist nuclear detonation in the next few months. Clearly the possibility of such a detonation before the end of the year cannot be ruled out—the test may occur during this period. On balance, however, we believe that it will not occur until sometime after the end of 1964." Seven weeks later, China tested its first nuclear bomb on October 16, 1964, a highly enriched uranium implosion device. Read more ..


The Battle for Syria

ISIS Committing Atrocities Against Civilian Population in Northern Syria

May 29th 2014

ISIS

Evidence is mounting that the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) is systematically committing atrocities in eastern and northern Syria, its areas of control.

While individual incidents of brutality have been well-documented, the near-impossibility of on-the-spot reporting in the area controlled by the organization has made it difficult to build a general description of the situation there. However, as more and more witnesses come forward, the picture is gradually becoming clearer.

Public executions are a regular weekly occurrence in Raqqa city, the provincial capital controlled by ISIS. In a number of verified cases, the bodies of executed people have been “crucified” — placed on crosses in public areas after execution by other means, supposedly to act as a deterrent to others. (Note: at least one crucifixion of a living victim by an Islamist group has occurred recently, in Yemen.) Read more ..


Broken Education

Anti-Jewish Books Still in Newton

May 29th 2014

Blackboard classroom

New information has surfaced regarding the Newton Public School controversy. Compelled to comply with state law, the school’s administrators recently were forced to release an initial batch of 9th- and 10th-grade history lesson plans used to teach about the Middle East. Most of the information, initially withheld from the public despite requests from parents, taxpayers and even a Newton alderman, was delivered to Americans for Peace and Tolerance (APT’s) offices in response to a public records request. Once our request is completed, we will post the records on this website. Newton citizens, especially those who are Jewish, will not be pleased.

For two years, we have been told by Superintendent David Fleishman and others that the Arab World Studies Notebook (ASWN) was removed from all classrooms and has not been used to teach Newton students since 2011. But the official documents we received show that Newton South High School assigned readings from the AWSN to 9th-grade students in at least three separate classes in the last school year – months after claims that it was “eliminated.” Read more ..


Islam on Edge

The Month of April as Great Britain Confronts Islamic Issues

May 29th 2014

London buses

April Item 1: The number of so-called taxi-rapes has snowballed to such an extent that a British judge recently issued a warning that no woman can expect to be safe while travelling in a cab. April Item 2: Ibrahim Munir, an exiled senior leader of the Muslim Brotherhood now living in Britain, when asked if violence would be an option, replied, "Any possibility." April Item 3: "Do I have to change my religion to get the best [banking] deal?" — Lloyds Bank customer, quoted in The Daily Telegraph.

Islam and Islam-related issues were omnipresent in Britain during the month of April 2014, and can be categorized into three broad themes: 1) The British government's growing concern over Islamic extremism and the domestic security implications of British jihadists in Syria; 2) The continuing spread of Islamic Sharia law in all aspects of British daily life; and 3) Ongoing questions of Muslim integration into British society. Read more ..


The Way We Are

Teenagers Live Extraordinary Lives to Make a Difference

May 28th 2014

family with teenagers

While most teenagers in the United States spend their time juggling school, home and friends, there are a few who are choosing a different life. They are charting their own path to make a difference in the world. They recently gathered in Los Angeles to discuss their work and what makes each of them unique.

Fifteen-year-old Winter Vinecki has accomplished more than most people have in a lifetime. “I recently completed a marathon on all seven continents and became the youngest person in the world to do so. I really was doing this for my dad,” she said.

Vinecki’s father was diagnosed with a rare and aggressive form of prostate cancer when she was nine. He died 10 months later. ”When he was first diagnosed, I immediately knew I had to do something to help him. That’s when I formed Team Winter for prostate cancer research and awareness," said Vinecki. Read more ..


The Edge of Space

Hubble's Dazzling Mission Nears Its End

May 28th 2014

LL Orionis from Hubble

The Hubble Space Telescope has changed the way we see the universe. For almost a quarter of a century, it has sent vast amounts of data and images from space. A new exhibit at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum in Washington documents how Hubble’s remarkable success has hinged on its ability to be repaired and serviced in orbit. 

Hubble was launched aboard the Space Shuttle Discovery in 1990. Mission Control saw something it hadn’t expected: fuzzy images. Hubble Space Telescope Program Manager Douglas Broome delivered the troubling news:

“The conclusion we’ve come to is that a significant spherical aberration appears to be present in the optics, in the optical telescope system optics,” he said. In other words - the outer edge of Hubble's primary mirror had been ground too flat, off by roughly one-fiftieth the thickness of a human hair. In 1993, a shuttle mission carried a replacement camera, WFPC2 and an instrument with corrective lenses called COSTAR for astronauts to install on the telescope. Read more ..


The Economic Edge

Alpaca Farmer Shears His Way to Success

May 28th 2014

Small Farm

It’s shearing season at Sugarloaf Farm just outside Washington, where most of the alpacas don't seem to mind getting a haircut.

But whether they like it or not, the 130 animals will have their woolly fleece sheared. It will keep them from getting overheated during the summer months while generating a cool profit for farm owner Kevin Brandt.

“We’re finding that there are more people in the marketplace looking for alpaca yarns because it’s considered to be hypoallergenic, and it’s really as soft as cashmere,” he said.

Fleece quality
Brandt keeps both types of alpacas at his farm; the Huacaya and the Suri. “The Suri has the long, dreadlock-like fiber and the Huacaya has the fluffy, teddy bear style,” he said. The animals provide three different grades of fleece.

The finest comes from the animals’ back, hip and shoulder and is usually made into clothing. The next-best grade comes from the neck. The third-grade fleece, from the legs and belly, is a coarser fiber that is used for rugs and accessories. Read more ..


Afghanistan on Edge

5 Myths About US Troops in Afghanistan

May 28th 2014

US 10 MT departing

Troops don’t matter. The Afghan “surge” didn’t work so there’s no reason to keep many US troops there. The Afghan “surge” actually did work—as far as it was allowed to. Although violence levels remained high (unlike in Iraq, where they plummeted), the partial surge President Obama authorized in 2009 took back Helmand and Kandahar Provinces from Taliban domination. Afghan troops have held on to most of the key gains in that critical area with much more limited assistance. But Obama called the surge home before it could shift to the east, as was planned and required. The Afghan surge demonstrated quite clearly how important US troops can be.

Al Qaeda is “on the ropes.” No, it just isn’t. Al Qaeda affiliates have grown dramatically in reach, strength, combat power, and territory controlled. Most notably, the al Qaeda franchise in Iraq rebounded from near-defeat in 2011 to a force that now controls significant areas in Iraq while also operating in Syria. Bin Laden’s successor, Ayman al Zawahiri, continues to mediate between dueling al Qaeda franchises in Syria from his hideout in Pakistan. He’s certainly not too busy running from us to concern himself with such matters. Read more ..


The Cyber Edge

Cybersecurity: America’s Achilles’ Heel

May 28th 2014

NYSkyline

The Cybersecurity Framework, which was announced on February 12, 2014, by President Obama, has very little new to offer to the private sector. It’s only a guide to how everyone should be conceptualizing and communicating about cybersecurity concerns.

The report comes a year after the president first announced his Executive Order on “Improving Critical Infrastructure Cybersecurity” in his 2013 State of the Union address.

This framework is said to increase the cooperation between the government and the private sector. However, it fails to take the overall responsibility for addressing the vulnerabilities of the U.S. national security and economy to cybercrime, cybermanipulation of markets, denials of service, and theft of intellectual property. Read more ..


Broken Bookselling

Amazon Pushes Back Against Widespread Charges of Extortion --Warns of Protracted Battle with Hachette

May 28th 2014

Amazon box

Amazon pushed back--and hard against widespread accusations of extortion and bullying with an unusual public statement. It read

We are currently buying less (print) inventory and "safety stock" on titles from the publisher, Hachette, than we ordinarily do, and are no longer taking pre-orders on titles whose publication dates are in the future. Instead, customers can order new titles when their publication date arrives. For titles with no stock on hand, customers can still place an order at which time we order the inventory from Hachette -- availability on those titles is dependent on how long it takes Hachette to fill the orders we place. Once the inventory arrives, we ship it to the customer promptly. These changes are related to the contract and terms between Hachette and Amazon. At Amazon, we do business with more than 70,000 suppliers, including thousands of publishers. One of our important suppliers is Hachette, which is part of a $10 billion media conglomerate. Unfortunately, despite much work from both sides, we have been unable to reach mutually-acceptable agreement on terms. Hachette has operated in good faith and we admire the company and its executives. Nevertheless, the two companies have so far failed to find a solution. Even more unfortunate, though we remain hopeful and are working hard to come to a resolution as soon as possible, we are not optimistic that this will be resolved soon. Read more ..


The Bear is Back

The Cool War Cometh

May 28th 2014

Putin

No, Russian President Vladimir Putin has not ushered in the return to The Cold War with his assault on the integrity of Ukraine. But he has confirmed that the United States and his Russian regime–very likely as long as he lasts–is engaged in a bitter new geopolitical contest. The Obama Administration–and its predecessor Bush II–had refused to acknowledge the onset of this conflict. Washington now finds itself wrong-footed in Ukraine, a crowning blow to an already growing perception of U.S. foreign policy failure and general retreat across a worldwide screen. That’s leading to a replay of old rivalries, if on a more temperate scale.

But the situations of both countries–especially Russia–has changed dramatically in the almost three decades since the Soviet Union imploded. But its hold on Germany and the rest of Central and Eastern Europe under Communist domination is gone if not forgotten. Moscow retains a huge nuclear arsenal and missile delivery systems that make it one of the world’s greatest potential purveyors of weapons of mass destruction. But there are multiple signs that the overinvestment in the Soviet military-industrial complex on which post-Soviet Russia has been coasting is about played out. Putin’s repeated effort to rebuild Russia’s limping conventional military has largely failed. And his economy, while rewarding a new urban class, still cannot cope with a collapsed agriculture and an almost total dependence on fossil fuel exports is eroding rapidly under the impact of the American shale gas revolution Read more ..


The Edge of Terrorism

The Proliferation of Suicide Bombing in the Middle East and Beyond

May 28th 2014

Child Suicide Bomber

Suicide bombings make for frequent headlines in most newspapers.  Today, AP reported the suicide bombing of a bus full of South Korean Christian tourists waiting at the Egypt-Israel border crossing in Sinai.

While suicide attacks to achieve martyrdom are not new, they have gradually become a more prominent feature in the Islamist arsenal.  Particularly troubling is the extent to which most are directed at civilian targets.

In 2006, researchers in Australia showed that between 1981 and 2006, 1200 suicide attacks constituted 4 percent of all terrorist attacks in the world and killed 14,599 people–32 percent of all terrorism-related deaths.  The study also revealed that 90 percent of these attacks occurred in Iraq, Israel, Afghanistan, Pakistan, or Sri Lanka.

Another study reports that in the ten years after September 11, 2001, there were 336 suicide attacks in Afghanistan and 303 in Pakistan, while there were 1,003 documented suicide attacks in Iraq between March 20, 2003, and December 31, 2010. Read more ..


The Race for Alt Energy

Hard Truths, Difficult Choices: Recommendations to the G-7 on Bolstering Energy Security

May 28th 2014

Better Place EV charging

In advance of next week's G-7 meeting in Brussels aimed at seeking ways to strengthen Europe's energy security, Dr. Gal Luft, co-director of the Institute for the Analysis of Global Security (IAGS), and a member of ACD's Board of Advisors, "calls on Europe to strike a better balance between environmental and energy security strategies, adopting a more positive sentiment toward currently rejected sources of base load electricity like coal, nuclear power and unconventional gas," said IAGS' press release. 

  

"Dr. Luft also argues that while diversifying the European electricity sector away from Russian natural gas is a worthy goal, diversification of transit routes, especially lessening the dependence on Ukraine, which has proven to be an unreliable transit country, should be of higher priority. He also calls for a grand bargain with Turkey, one which on the one hand supports Turkey's aspirations to become a land bridge for Caspian and East Mediterranean energy while on the other persuades Turkey to facilitate the transit of LNG tankers through the Bosporus.

Read more ..

The Race for Batteries

Can Graphene Make Large Scale Electricity Storage Viable?

May 28th 2014

Toyota Prius PHEV

n a new project entitled 'Electrochemical Energy Storage with Graphene-Enabled Materials' the university researchers are working with a number of commercial partners, including Rolls-Royce, Sharp and Morgan Advanced Materials. The commercial partnership is viewed as crucial for the development of the future applications of graphene. In total Graphene@Manchester is currently working with more than 30 companies from around the world on research projects and applications.

But before we build the batteries we need to know how graphene will interact with the chemical components specifically electrolytes, explained Professor Andrew Forsyth from the School of Electronics and Electrical Engineering. Read more ..


The Edge of Science

Driving Your Car or Fly Your Plane Via Brainwaves

May 28th 2014

Eye biometrics

Scientists from the Technical Universities of Berlin and Munich have demonstrated that an airplane can be flown without touching the yoke - controlled only by the brain of the pilot. In an experiment, the scientists wired the brain of the test person with an electroencephalograph through a dozens of electrodes. An algorithm developed at the Berlin TU deciphered the electrical signals from the brain and transformed them into control instructions for an airplane - actually it was a flight simulator with a rather realistic visual representation of the environment and with real control elements. However, the test person did not even touch these control elements, instead he "flew" the plane by means of the signals right from his brain in a demonstration. Read more ..


Book Review

Jewish Resistance: The Big Picture

May 27th 2014

jewish resistance against the Nazies

Jewish Resistance Against the Nazies. Catholic University Press. 2014. 640 pp.

What more is there to say about the Holocaust that hasn’t been said before?

Herded into concentration camps, one-third killed far from the death camps, dragged from their homes in the Baltics, Ukraine, Poland, Belgium, France, Greece, Croatia and every other country under Nazi and Fascist control, one- and a half million of their children slaughtered, their women and girls raped, and still far too many people believe that they didn’t fight back. But if anyone resisted and fled where could they find sanctuary? Who would hide them? How could my Ukrainian Jewish aunt and her family and neighbors in the small town of Lyubar have defied the einsatzruppen, Christopher Browning’s “ordinary men” and their homicidal Ukrainian and Romanian henchmen before she and others were hung and shot by them? Who actually believes that otherwise peaceable civilians could successfully battle an enemy who by 1941 had conquered much of Europe? Yet, in spite of all the obvious limits, many did fight back as best they could.

Richard Middleton-Kaplan, professor of English and Humanities at Harper College, has wisely observed, “Given the evidence that exists to disprove the myth [that Jews did not resist], a historian might consider the issue to require no further discussion. But if Jewish resistance has been amply demonstrated to specialists, public perception remains unaware of the proof.”

Patrick Henry’s masterly collection of cerebral and quite readable essays in Jewish Resistance Against the Nazis, proves that Jews fighting the Nazis and their allies, violently and nonviolently, was fairly common. Frequently relying on unfamiliar sources, Henry’s essayists depict all kinds of resistance, from futile skirmishes with a handful of axes, hammers and rocks as in the late 1944 revolt at Auschwitz, then the last remaining death camp, to the larger revolts in the Bialystok, Vilna and Warsaw ghettos. Read more ..


The Edge of Healthcare

Refugees in Jordan, Syria Denied Cancer Treatment for Lack of Funds

May 27th 2014

Syrian refugees

The U.N. refugee agency says hundreds of refugees in Jordan and Syria are being denied cancer treatment because of lack of funds.

UNHCR’s top medical expert, Paul Spiegel, told VOA that decisions on who gets treatment and who does not are made on the basis of cost. He said helping the largest number of people with the limited amount of money on hand is usually the determining factor.  

“For the colleagues themselves that have to deal with this, it is extremely difficult and we sometimes try to help them, to give them counseling," said Spiegel. "We have a standard operating procedure that can be shared with both the doctors and the refugees to say this is what happens, and we do this in order to help the most amount of people. But no matter which way you look at it, it is a horrible experience.”   Read more ..


The Race for Nuclear

Niger Signs Long-Delayed Uranium Deal with Areva

May 27th 2014

Nukuler plants in Amerika

The government of Niger said Monday that it has renegotiated its expired mining contract with the French uranium company Areva, after more than two years of negotiations. Activists say they are cautiously optimistic about the terms of the new deal, in which Areva has promised to increase royalties to the country and invest in local infrastructure.

The exact terms of the new contract have not yet been made public, but according to a joint statement by Areva and Niger’s government, Areva has agreed to operate under the framework of the country’s 2006 mining code, which requires paying an increased share of profits to the government and has fewer tax exemptions.

Niger is one of the world’s largest producers of uranium and yet remains one of the poorest countries in the world. Activists say it is about time Niger got a fair share of the mining profits. Ali Idrissa is the national coordinator for Publish What you Pay (PWYP) Niger/ROTAB, a network of organizations that campaign for transparency and accountability in the mining sector. He said the signing of the contract is a promising step forward, but not enough.  Read more ..


Islam on Edge

Pregnant Pakistani Woman Stoned to Death by Family in front of Courthouse

May 27th 2014

Pakistan protest green flag

A pregnant woman was stoned to death Tuesday by her own family outside a courthouse in the Pakistani city of Lahore for marrying the man she loved.

The woman was killed while on her way to court to contest an abduction case her family had filed against her husband. Her father was promptly arrested on murder charges, police investigator Rana Mujahid said, adding that police were working to apprehend all those who participated in this "heinous crime."

Arranged marriages are the norm among conservative Pakistanis, and hundreds of women are murdered every year in so-called honor killings carried out by husbands or relatives as a punishment for alleged adultery or other illicit sexual behavior. Read more ..


The Edge of Terrorism

Protect American Commercial Fleet From Shoulder-Fired Missiles

May 27th 2014

Boeing 787

Speaking at the Institute for National Security Studies at Tel Aviv University, former CIA director General David Petraeus issued a serious warning about the international threats posed by shoulder-fired surface-to-air missiles (Manpads) in the hands of al Qaeda and other terrorists.  Petraeus referred to the January 27th downing of an Egyptian military helicopter by a Russian Strela-2 missile (aka SA-7) by al Qaeda-affiliated Ansar Beit al-Maqdis in the Sinai Peninsula. “Shooting down a helicopter with an apparent shoulder-fired missile is a big deal. … Our worst nightmare [was] that a civilian airliner would be shot down by one,” he said. … “The concern over an attack on civilian aviation flows not only from the loss of passengers’ lives, but also from the likely economic consequences that would follow—a worldwide grounding of air traffic that might bring the global economy to a screeching halt.” Read more ..



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