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Archive for November 2014

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The Way We Are

Netherlands Wants Organs Harvested from Euthanased Patients

November 30th 2014

Doctors in the Netherlands are developing a protocol which will increase the number of organs from people who request euthanasia. Erasmus Medical Centre in Rotterdam and the University Hospital of Maastricht have written national guidelines which are being studied by the Dutch Transplant Foundation.

If the procedures are approved, they would be binding on hospitals and doctors throughout the country.

Spurring on this study is the feeling among transplant surgeons that healthy organs are sometimes wasted when patients are euthanased. In the words of a medical ethics expert with the Royal Dutch Medical Association, Gert van Dijk, “An estimated 5 to 10% of people who are euthanased could be considered for organ donation. Five percent does not seem like much, but this still means 250 to 500 potential organ donors every year.” Read more ..

America on Edge

UN Committee Against Torture Condemns American Police Brutality

November 29th 2014

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The U.N. Committee Against Torture has condemned reported police brutality and excessive use of force in the United States, especially against minority groups.

The 10-member watchdog committee's report, released Friday, urged U.S. authorities to crack down on perpetrators and punish those suspected of torture or ill treatment.

The Committee Against Torture did not examine the August killing of Michael Brown, the black teenager shot by a white police officer in Ferguson, Missouri. While calling Brown’s death a tragedy, the panel said it could not comment on the case because it had to respect the judicial decision that exonerated the officer, Darren Wilson. Read more ..

Edge of Tolerance

Pope Francis Visits Turkey to Discuss Reconciliation with Orthodox Christians

November 29th 2014

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Pope Francis is in Istanbul on his three-day visit to Turkey. The Pontiff visited important religious sites ahead of talks with head of the Orthodox Christian church as part of reunification efforts.

The pope started his two-day visit to Istanbul visiting the Sultan Ahmed Mosque also known as the Blue Mosque. He was guided by Istanbul’s chief Mufti who recited Koranic verses about the Virgin Mary.

Turkish media reports the pontiff asked for permission to pray. The act was interpreted as a gesture of reconciliation between the faiths, a key part of the pope’s visit. But Vatican officials chose to describe the act as a “silent moment of adoration of God.”

Pope Francis then visited the Hagia Sofia, for a thousand years, Christianity's most important church that later came under the Ottomans for 500 years as a mosque. The building has been a museum since the formation of the Turkish secular republic. Read more ..

Europe on Edge

Europe's North-South Corridor Remains Incomplete

November 29th 2014

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Twenty-five years after Poland's Solidarity and other dissident movements brought about the collapse of the Berlin Wall and promised a reunified Europe, the continent's political map suggests that this vision has been largely fulfilled. Nations that once lived behind the Wall’s ideological divide have joined the European Union to help build a secure, prosperous region from the Atlantic Ocean to the Baltic and Black seas.

But economic and infrastructure maps portray a different picture. Europe integration remains dangerously incomplete. A glaring problem is in Central Europe, where national networks of railroads, power lines, communications links—and notably oil and gas pipelines—remain largely disconnected from each other and from Western Europe. Nations from Estonia and Poland to the Balkans lack the connections running north-south and east-west essential to making them fully part of a single European market. Read more ..

Obama's Second Term

Obama Faces a Winter of Healthcare Challenges

November 29th 2014

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The Obama administration is facing a slew of healthcare challenges as the winter holidays approach.

While this fall has been a far cry from last year, when HealthCare.gov was melting down, 2014 has brought wholly unexpected problems to the fore for federal health officials and the White House.

Take the conflict surrounding Jonathan Gruber, the ObamaCare consultant whose suggestion that a "lack of transparency" and voters' "stupidity" helped the law pass, went viral.

Though Democrats have sought to distance themselves from Gruber, his remarks have become a new flashpoint in debate over healthcare reform, invigorating GOP critics as the party prepares to take control of the Senate. Read more ..

Race and Racism

Ferguson Police Officer who Shot Michael Brown Resigns

November 29th 2014

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The police officer who fatally shot teenager Michael Brown has resigned from the Ferguson Police Department.

Darren Wilson, who has been on administrative leave since the August shooting, announced his resignation effective immediately on Saturday, one of his attorneys told the Associated Press. His resignation comes nearly a week after a grand jury decided against charging Wilson in the killing of the unarmed African-American teenager, sparking national protests across the country.

More protests were held in Chicago, New York, San Francisco and Oakland. In Chicago, around 200 people held a protest near the city’s tourist-heavy Magnificent Mile shopping area. Read more ..

Book Review

The Good War: Why We Shouldn't Have Gone to War in Afghanistan

November 29th 2014

The Good War: Why We Couldn’t Win the War or the Peace in Afghanistan. Jack Fairweather. Basic Books. 2014. 416 pp.

The American war in Afghanistan goes on and on and on. General Martin Dempsey, who chairs the Joint Chiefs of Staff, was quite honest when he said that to get rid of ISIS, our latest enemy in the never-ending War on Terror, 80,000 US troops will be needed.

While few in Washington will publicly admit that we are in a trap from which we cannot easily extricate ourselves, unable to withdraw or “win” in so complex, varied and perplexing region, there’s something about the place that has attracted would-be conquerors’ passion to control and change so poor, largely illiterate, intensely religious and tribal poppy-growing country as Afghanistan.

Many veteran journalists have been on the scene and written about their experiences. Among the latest and best are the Wall Street Journal’s Anand Gopal’s new, fresh, and biting No Good Men Among the Living: America, the Taliban, and the War Through Afghan Eyes, in which he reveals over and again the failures of America’s military intervention, perhaps even worse than even cynics back home believed. General (ret.) Daniel Bolger’s Why We Lost: A General’s Inside Account of the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars, places much of the blame on US Generals – A bit too much, since he omitted politicians, lobbies and our bellicose home front warriors. Still, his NY Times Op Ed put it best when he defined insanity and US military policies in Afghanistan “as doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. I think we’re there.”

Other worthy books detail how our two wars have badly damaged, even broken so many of our troops. Among the more haunting are Anne Jones’ They Were Soldiers: How the Wounded Returned from America’s Wars, the Untold Story and Yochi Dreazon’s new book The Invisible Front: Love and Loss in an Era of Endless War. Read more ..

Oil Addiction

Oil Prices Plunging--OPEC and Russia On Their Knees

November 29th 2014

Arab Oil Derick

In a way, the message of OPEC’s inaction today—deciding not to cut supply—is analogous to the challenge that confronted GM and Microsoft in recent years: if it wants to remain relevant in a world it once dominated, and at times made tremble, it needs to change its game.

For much of the rest of the world, including great power-consuming nations like the US and China, the message is very different—that of an ill-defined but temporary window in which to solve big strategic problems until very recently thought to be intractable.

The trigger for this new state of affairs is dual—the US shale-oil boom, which has wholly muffled the geopolitical disruptions behind previously skyrocketing oil prices, and soft demand from a transforming Chinese economy. Read more ..

The Water's Edge

The Future of Our Oceans

November 29th 2014

Stormy Seas

The ocean is undergoing global changes at a remarkable pace and we must change with it to attain our best possible future ocean, warns the head of The University of Western Australia's Oceans Institute.

One of the global leaders in ocean science, Professor Carlos Duarte has shared his insights on the future of the world's oceans in a paper published in the international open-access journal Frontiers in Marine Science.

In the paper Professor Duarte explains the grand challenge researchers face in addressing global change and the future state of the ocean.

"The ocean is under significant impact by anthropogenic global pressures such as ocean acidification, warming, overfishing and pollution, resulting from the impact of human activity on major processes that regulate the functions of the planet," he said.

"Dependence on resources including water, energy and key elements has prompted a suite of changes at the global scale and we are now facing the impacts of climate change, a loss of biodiversity and deteriorating water quality. Read more ..

The Race for Solar

Are Quantum Dot Solar Cells Commercially Viable?

November 29th 2014

Test Tubes

A Korean research team has developed a technology which produces highly-efficient inverted colloidal quantum dot solar cells and could pave the way to a new generation of cheaper solar cells. The solar cells claim an optical conversion efficiency of 4.31 percent, which is a 1.7-fold increase from the 2.47 percent efficiency of conventional quantum dot solar batteries.

The research team, which comprised Professor Kim Jin-young, Professor Park Jong-nam from the Interdisciplinary School of Green Energy at Ulsan National Institute of Science and Technology (UNIST), and student Kim Gi-hwan, claims to have manufactured highly-efficient solar cells by synthesizing zinc oxide in liquid state, and coating the synthesized material at the top of a quantum dot. The new solar cells should have a high energy conversion efficiency and be less expensive to make than conventional inorganic solar cells. Read more ..

The Problem with Coal

Will China Really Cut Coal?

November 28th 2014


According to Hu Tao, an ecologist and environmental economist who directs the China program at the World Wildlife Fund, not much has changed. On his recent visit to a coal-fired power plant, the scrubber was turned off for “inspection,” he explained at a talk at the Woodrow Wilson Center’s China Environment Forum on November 24. How often were such machines inspected, Tao inquired? Well, if no one from the government was visiting, the plant manager told him, the machine is turned off every day.

That is the current context for China’s recent decree that the country will never consume more than 4.2 billion metric tons of coal per year, the action following a historic agreement with the U.S. to begin to combat climate change. Already, caps on the amount of coal a given locality can burn seem to have dropped coal’s share of total energy in China for the first time in the 21st century, though overall it has tripled since 2000. “The vast majority of China’s CO2 emissions are a result of coal combustion,” said Jake Schmidt, director of the Natural Resources Defense Council’s international program at the CEF event. Read more ..

The Ancient Edge

Electron Scans Reveal Origins of Teotihuacan Stone Faces

November 28th 2014

Laser burst

Dramatic stone masks, iconic finds in the ancient Mexican city of Teotihuacan, were supposed to be made from a jadelike stone. Many researchers also thought the large faces were made on the site of the pre-Columbian metropolis. Instead, they seem to have been made in workshops a great distance to the south of the city. And they are made of softer stone like serpentinite and polished with quartz. Quartz does not appear around Teotihuacan, bolstering the notion that the masks were made far away. “Almost everything that has been written about the making of the Teotihuacan masks is untrue,” says Jane Walsh, an anthropologist at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C.

New details about the manufacture of these old and valuable masks are coming to light, thanks to modern technology: a special analytical scanning electron microscope that can identify the atoms and minerals that make up the stone, and show miniscule marks left by the artisans who carved them. Timothy Rose, a geologist at the Smithsonian, presented the results of microscope studies last week at the annual meeting of the American Vacuum Society, a group of material scientists, in Baltimore. “We examined about 150 of these masks with good provenance, from several museum collections,” says Rose, who works with Walsh.


Driving on the Edge

The Worst Places to Drive in America on Thanksgiving

November 27th 2014

Millions of people traveling for Thanksgiving will face daunting traffic problems that critics say have been magnified by Washington’s inability to move a long-term bill to pay for new highway projects.

With a nor’easter bearing down on the Eastern Seaboard this Thanksgiving, it’s expected to be an especially brutal few days on the road.

Congress hasn’t approved a long-term highway bill since 2005, and it’s become much more difficult to move legislation since then because of a variety of reasons, including the end of earmarks that directed money toward specific lawmaker-backed projects and a financial crisis and recession that made it tougher to move big-budget bills.

Business groups, labor unions and other players have pressed Congress since then to focus on infrastructure, but to little avail. Read more ..

America on Edge

What to Watch as the Ferguson Drama Continues to Unfold

November 27th 2014

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The long Thanksgiving holiday weekend is going to be dominated by one story: Ferguson and its aftermath.

Protests are likely to quiet as families gather around the table to celebrate the holiday - with many discussing the grand jury’s decision in Ferguson, Mo., to not bring an indictment against police officer Darren Wilson in the shooting death of Michael Brown, an 18-year-old African American. The political world has taken notice of Ferguson, particularly with demonstrations spreading across the country. The degree to which the story continues to dominate discussions may depend on five factors.

Will President Obama go to Ferguson?

Obama, the nation’s first black president, has already addressed the racially-charged Ferguson decision twice. The president is unlikely to make a trip on Thanksgiving, and the Secret Service would surely want to make sure any presidential visit is safe. Read more ..

The Way We Were

Thanksgiving and the Geopolitics of Colonial America

November 27th 2014

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The first winter took many of the English at Plymouth. By fall 1621, only 53 remained of the 132 who had arrived on the Mayflower. But those who had survived brought in a harvest. And so, in keeping with tradition, the governor called the living 53 together for a three-day harvest feast, joined by more than 90 locals from the Wampanoag tribe. The meal was a moment to recognize the English plantation's small step toward stability and, hopefully, profit. This was no small thing. A first, deadly year was common. Getting through it was an accomplishment. England's successful colony of Virginia had had a massive death toll — of the 8,000 arrivals between 1607 and 1625, only 15 percent lived.

But still the English came to North America and still government and business leaders supported them. This was not without reason. In the 17th century, Europe was in upheaval and England's place in it unsure. Read more ..

The Way We Are

The Challenge Presented to America by the Ferguson Tragedy

November 27th 2014

With federal investigations into the killing of black American teenager Michael Brown in train, it may be some time before the rage over police officer Darren Wilson’s actions and his exoneration by a grand jury dies down. But when it does, the soul-searching over root causes of this and similar fatalities will need to continue.

Looking beyond the burning issue of whether the United States justice system is inherently racist, many commentaries have already pointed to persistent and growing disparities between blacks and whites (and Hispanics and Asians…) in health, education and employment as one of the deeper causes of friction between the law and black communities. The increasing segregation of black and white America thanks to white flight, and the latter’s consequent lack of understanding of black problems is another. Read more ..

Iran's Nukes

Qatari Report: Alleged Fatwa Prohibiting Iran from Feveloping Nuke is Fake

November 27th 2014


Many in the Arab world are skeptical that Iran will give up its nuclear program.  They view any Iranian assurances that they will only pursue their nuclear program for peaceful purposes to be a campaign designed to deceive the west.   These commentators within the Arab world fear that the west will buy into the Iranian deception, granting them either concessions on their nuclear program that will harm Arab interests or, if the Iranians do indeed make concessions on their nuclear power, it will be in exchange for giving the Iranians a free hand to dominate the Arab world.

According to a report in MEMRI, Qatari journalist Abd Al Hamid Al Ansari wrote in Al Watan: “All signs indicate that Iran will manage to continue its nuclear program. Iran will not step back or give up what it regards as its legitimate right to obtain nuclear technology. According to its viewpoint, if less noble countries, such as Israel, Pakistan, India and North Korea, have managed to obtain nuclear weapons, how can the international community deny this to Iran, with its noble civilization?” Read more ..

The Caliphate

The Islamic State Reshapes the Middle East

November 27th 2014

IS Caliphate victory parade

Nuclear talks with Iran have failed to yield an agreement, but the deadline for a deal has been extended without a hitch. What would have been a significant crisis a year ago, replete with threats and anxiety, has been handled without drama or difficulty. This new response to yet another failure to reach an accord marks a shift in the relationship between the United States and Iran, a shift that can’t be understood without first considering the massive geopolitical shifts that have taken place in the Middle East, redefining the urgency of the nuclear issue.

These shifts are rooted in the emergence of the Islamic State. Ideologically, there is little difference between the Islamic State and other radical Islamic jihadist movements. But in terms of geographical presence, the Islamic State has set itself apart from the rest. While al Qaeda might have longed to take control of a significant nation-state, it primarily remained a sparse, if widespread, terrorist organization. It held no significant territory permanently; it was a movement, not a place. Read more ..

Edge of Tolerance

Two Major U.S. Media Outlets Report False Accusations Against Israel

November 26th 2014


At least two major media outlets have this week reported the shocking statistic that 40 percent of of Palestinian children detained in Jerusalem have been sexually abused by Israeli police. There’s only one problem – the statistic is entirely fabricated.

Writing for the International Business Times, contributor Tabatha Kinder reported the following:

Around 600 Palestinian children have been arrested in Jerusalem since June 2013, the International Middle East Media Centre news agency reports. This means approximately 240 minors could have been abused during their arrest or investigation by Israeli authorities, according to the Palestinian Prisoners Club (PCC).

The PCC say the “daily arrest campaigns” inflicted on young Palestinians living in the historic capital are a “collective punishment against Palestinian residents of Jerusalem”. Read more ..

Media on Edge

NYT Correspondent Jodi Rudoren Assails Critics as 'Noisy Group of Advocates'

November 26th 2014

Jodi Rudoren, the New York Times bureau chief in Israel, has launched an unprecedented attack on pro-Israeli critics of her journalism, declaring that there “is a very active and very noisy group of advocates who has decided that tearing apart coverage of the conflict is a good tool of advocacy.”

Rudoren was speaking at a conference held at Israel’s Bar Ilan University last weekend which focused on media coverage of Operation Protective Edge, launched against the Hamas regime in Gaza by the IDF over the summer in response to thousands of rocket attacks on Israeli population centers. Read more ..

Supreme Leader says Iran will continue Support for Hamas, Hezbollah, and Islamic Jihad

November 26th 2014

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said on Tuesday that his country will continue to support the Islamic Jihad terror group in Gaza as well as rival Hamas and Lebanon-based Hezbollah.

The three terror organizations have collectively fired many thousands of rockets at Israel.

“We are not bound by religious differences; we equally supported Shiite #Hezbollah along w/#Hamas & #IslamicJihad and will keep doing that,” he posted on a Twitter account widely believed to be operated by his office, adding, “We strengthened our Palestinian brothers’ fist in #Gaza & other areas & will do so. As I already said #WestBank should also be armed like Gaza.” Read more ..

Obama's Second Term

Obama Takes on Pro-Immigration Hecklers

November 26th 2014

President Obama shot back at hecklers Tuesday who interrupted his speech in Chicago, insisting they "get the facts."

Back in his hometown, Obama pitched his sweeping executive actions on immigraton to a pre-dominantly Polish-American crowd.

Midway through his remarks, three protesters rose up and began criticizing his deportation policy.
"You have been deporting families," a heckler yelled. The president urged the demonstrator to stop shouting before he fired back.

"What you're not paying attention to is the fact that I just took an action to change the law, so that's point No. 1," Obama said, his words echoing to 1,000 attendees. "Point No. 2, the way the change in the law works is that we're reprioritizing how we enforce our immigration laws generally." Read more ..

Race and Racism

A Second Night of Violence Roils Ferguson MO

November 26th 2014

The center of protests shifted somewhat away from Ferguson, Mo., on Tuesday night and Wednesday morning to marches in cities across the country.

A day after the grand jury decided not to charge officer Darren Wilson in the fatal shooting of black teenager Michael Brown, Gov. Jay Nixon (D) announced a significant increase in the National Guard presence.

Some of the 2,200 National Guard members, up from around 700 on Monday night when there was looting and arson, helped secure businesses. Police closed off one street that had been at the center of the unrest.

Authorities in Ferguson used pepper spray and tear gas as protesters set a police cruiser ablaze and smashed windows at City Hall, but the town saw far less destruction than the previous night. Read more ..

The Way We Are

An Odd Reason to Advocate Same-Sex Marriage

November 26th 2014

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A Mississippi woman wants the state Supreme Court to recognise gay marriage – so that she can divorce a partner she married in San Francisco.

Lauren Beth Czekala-Chatham, a 52-year-old credit analyst, who already had two children from a failed heterosexual marriage, moved to California in 2008 so that she could marry Dana Ann Melancon. But the relationship soured and they separated in 2010.

When Ms Czekala-Chatham, who now has a new girlfriend, applied for a divorce, citing adultery and habitual cruel and inhuman treatment, she failed. The state predictably argued that Mississippi could not grant a divorce for a marriage which it did not recognise. It was a result that she found devastating. In her eyes, divorce was an important dimension of the social recognition of marriage. Read more ..

Books and Authors

How Paperbacks Brought Modernism to Main Street America

November 25th 2014

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Seventy-five years ago, paperback books returned to the United States with the brandname Pocket Books, which began publishing its mass-market paperbacks, sold at a quarter each, with ten titles, among them: Frank Buck’s Bring ‘Em Back Alive, Bambi by Felix Salten, James Hilton’s Lost Horizon and Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights. Returned, because nineteenth-century printers often bound books in paper, yet the practice had all but disappeared during the early part of the twentieth century. It may seem odd to commemorate the advent of cheap pulpy books instead of the far more significant anniversary: the signing of the Hitler-Stalin Pact on August 23, 1939.

But the saga of cheap paperbacks’ arrival on American soil is intimately tied to the Second World War and its aftermath in a number of ways, deriving from and contributing to wartime innovation, necessity, mobility and censorship. Read more ..

America on Edge

Ferguson Verdict means 'Black Lives hold no Value' says Congressional Black Caucus Leader

November 25th 2014

Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-OH)

The chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus said a grand jury's decision not to indict a white police officer who shot and killed a black teenager last summer sends the message that "black lives hold no value."

Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-Ohio), the CBC's leader, called the decision a "miscarriage of justice" in a written statement.

"It is a slap in the face to Americans nationwide who continue to hope and believe that justice will prevail," she added. "This decision seems to underscore an unwritten rule that Black lives hold no value; that you may kill Black men in this country without consequences or repercussions. This is a frightening narrative for every parent and guardian of Black and brown children, and another setback for race relations in America," Fudge said. Read more ..

Obama's Second Term

Ferguson Missouri in Flames Following Announcement in Michael Brown case

November 25th 2014

Robert McCulloch, the St. Louis County prosecutor, announced Monday night that the jury had found no probable cause exists to file a cause of indictment against Wilson.

The jury had considered five charges against Wilson, ranging up to first-degree murder.
McCulloch said that the grand jury met for 25 sessions over the course of three months, and that their heir deliberations took two days.

It was not clear whether McCulloch or his office asked for an indictment at any point during the proceedings. Brown's family released a statement expressing its profound disappointment in the decision, but asked for demonstrators to keep their protests peaceful.

"While we understand that many others share our pain, we ask that you channel your frustration in ways that will make a positive change," the family's statement said. "We need to work together to fix the system that allowed this to happen. Join with us in our campaign to ensure that every police officer working the streets in this country wears a body camera. We respectfully ask that you please keep your protests peaceful." Read more ..

The Caliphate

How ISIS is Re-Shaping the Mideast and the World

November 25th 2014

Nuclear talks with Iran have failed to yield an agreement, but the deadline for a deal has been extended without a hitch. What would have been a significant crisis a year ago, replete with threats and anxiety, has been handled without drama or difficulty. This new response to yet another failure to reach an accord marks a shift in the relationship between the United States and Iran, a shift that can’t be understood without first considering the massive geopolitical shifts that have taken place in the Middle East, redefining the urgency of the nuclear issue.

These shifts are rooted in the emergence of the Islamic State. Ideologically, there is little difference between the Islamic State and other radical Islamic jihadist movements. But in terms of geographical presence, the Islamic State has set itself apart from the rest. While al Qaeda might have longed to take control of a significant nation-state, it primarily remained a sparse, if widespread, terrorist organization. It held no significant territory permanently; it was a movement, not a place. Read more ..

Travel Edge

New Terahertz Radiation Device May Improve Airport Security

November 24th 2014

We are all familiar with the hassles that accompany air travel. We shuffle through long lines, remove our shoes, and carry liquids in regulation-sized tubes. And even after all the effort, we still wonder if these procedures are making us any safer. Now a new type of security detection that uses terahertz radiation is looking to prove its promise. Able to detect explosives, chemical agents, and dangerous biological substances from safe distances, devices using terahertz waves could make public spaces more secure than ever.

But current terahertz sources are large, multi-component systems that sometimes require complex vacuum systems, external pump lasers, and even cryogenic cooling. The unwieldy devices are heavy, expensive, and hard to transport, operate, and maintain. Read more ..

The Race for Nuclear

New Light Shed on Nuclear Reactor Fuel Behavior During Severe Events

November 24th 2014

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A new discovery about the atomic structure of uranium dioxide will help scientists select the best computational model to simulate severe nuclear reactor accidents.

Using the Advanced Photon Source (APS), a Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Science User Facility, researchers from DOE’s Argonne National Laboratory and Brookhaven National Laboratory, along with Materials Development, Inc., Stony Brook University, and Carnegie Institution of Washington, found that the atomic structure of uranium dioxide (UO2) changes significantly when it melts.

UO2 is the primary fuel component in the majority of existing nuclear reactors, but little is known about the molten state because of its extremely high melting point. Until now, the extremely high temperature and chemical reactivity of the melt have hindered studies of molten UO2. This lack of fundamental information has made it difficult to evaluate issues associated with the interaction of molten UO2 with a reactor's zirconium cladding and steel containment vessel. Read more ..

Environment and Society

Is South American Grass-Fed Beef Really Green?

November 24th 2014

Paraguayan gaucho and cattle

In the Americas, three nations prevail as leading consumers and producers of beef: the United States, Brazil, and Argentina. From burgers to filet mignon, beef is often considered a staple food, even a delicacy. Its consumption is deeply ingrained in some cultures, but only a few understand the impact of industrial demand of cattle products. Most people are not aware that beef production is directly responsible for producing vast levels of greenhouse gases and expanding deforestation, especially in the Amazon forest region. In fact, in the past 25 years forests with an area the size of India have been cleared in Central and South America.

Although demand for beef has stagnated in the U.S. and certain Latin American countries, worldwide consumption continues to expand, and producers in the Western hemisphere are eager to supply. Read more ..

America and Israel

American Jews Fund Anti-Israel Activities

November 24th 2014

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On the Israeli political spectrum, there are positions that are out of the realm of acceptable values on both the extreme right and the extreme left.

As Israel has seen a new string of violent and deadly terror attacks, a Knesset Member from the extreme left-wing Meretz party, Tamar Zandberg, went to Kafr Kanna to show her solidarity with the terrorist who was killed while trying to stab Israeli police officers – Khair al-Din Hamdan. She proclaimed that the officers who defended themselves were “part of the policy of racist discrimination directed against the Arab minority in Israel, a policy directed and implemented from on high by the Prime Minister and his cabinet.” Read more ..

Technology and Privacy

Upstart Uber and its 'God View' Ignites Privacy Fight

November 24th 2014

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Ride-sharing giant Uber’s ability to monitor users’ movement without their knowledge is exposing what some critics call a gaping hole in the nation’s privacy laws.

Unlike some other types of data, regulators cannot limit what companies are able to do with information about customers' location, which could show where people live, sleep and travel.

As more and more smartphone applications track people’s movements, privacy advocates say that’s creating a recipe for disaster.
“Right now we protect health data, we protect financial data, we protect kids’ data, but location isn’t protected,” said Alvaro Bedoya, the executive director of Georgetown University’s Center on Privacy and Technology.

“As long as a company is not deceiving you about how they’re using the data, they can pretty much do whatever they want with it,” he added. Read more ..

The Way We Are

Who Will Stop Wal-Mart's 'Wreaking Havoc' on the American Dream?

November 24th 2014

For the third consecutive year, Wal-Mart workers and thousands of their community allies will participate in strikes and protests nationwide on Black Friday to demand higher wages, better working conditions, consistent scheduling and full-time work. In recent weeks, labor actions at the world's largest retailer have escalated. Wal-Mart workers at more than 2,100 stores nationwide signed a petition requesting that the company commit to paying its workers $15 an hour and provide them with "consistent, full-time hours." Wal-Mart workers in the Los Angeles area participated in the company's first-ever sit-down strikes. Outside the stores, their actions attracted the support of many community organizations, including teachers, environmental groups, clergy members and civil rights leaders. Read more ..

I'm No Lame Duck, Says President Obama

November 24th 2014

President Obama is governing like a man with nothing left to lose.

After being dealt a stinging midterm rebuke at the ballot box, Obama has gone on offense — most notably with executive action on immigration that could shield 5 million illegal immigrants from deportation.

The White House is winning news cycles and setting the national agenda, despite a Republican Congress that felt emboldened after their electoral gains. And the shift is infusing confidence into the White House and a Democratic base disheartened after the midterms. “We feel good on how the last two and a half weeks have gone here,” senior presidential adviser Dan Pfeiffer said Friday at a Christian Science Monitor breakfast. Read more ..

The Edge of Climate Change

Sunlight Controls Fate of Carbon Released from Thawing Arctic Permafrost

November 24th 2014

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Sagavanirktok River, Alaska. Credit: George W. Kling

Just how much Arctic permafrost will thaw in the future and how fast heat-trapping carbon dioxide will be released from those warming soils is a topic of lively debate among climate scientists.

To answer those questions, scientists need to understand the mechanisms that control the conversion of organic soil carbon into carbon dioxide gas. Until now, researchers believed that bacteria were largely responsible.

But in a study scheduled for online publication in Science, University of Michigan researchers show for the first time that sunlight, not microbial activity, dominates the production of carbon dioxide in Arctic inland waters. Read more ..

Israelis and Palestinians

The Lethality of De-Judaizing Jerusalem

November 21st 2014

Western Wall

As an example of what the insightful commentator Melanie Phillips referred to as a “dialogue of the demented” in her book The World Turned Upside Down, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is continuing a long tradition of attempting to de-Judaize Jerusalem by expressing his mendacious notion that, as he put it, “Jerusalem has a special flavor and taste not only in our hearts, but also in the hearts of all Arabs and Muslims and Christians,” and “Jerusalem is the eternal capital of the Palestinian state and without it there will be no state.”

The same scholar of history who wrote a doctoral dissertation that questioned the extent and truthfulness of the Holocaust was now making his own historical claim that there had never been a Jewish presence and history in the world's holiest city. Read more ..

The Edge of Terrorism

Purposely Sacrificing Children in Gaza

November 21st 2014

Hamas Kid

What kind of a society consciously and purposely sacrifices its own youth for political gain and tactical advantage? Suicide bombers are an escalation of a small-arms war introduced during the first Intifada (1987-1993) and championed by Palestinian leaders, even prior to Arafat’s arrival from Tunis in July 1994. Today the overwhelming majority of Palestinian Arabs nurture a blind hatred of Israel. They created a cultural milieu of vengeance, violence and death - preparing their children to be sacrifices in a death cult. Proud parents dress up their toddlers not in clown costumes, but with suicide belts, and countless others celebrate their children’s deaths with traditional sweet holiday cakes and candies.

It is clear that in Palestinian society something has gone dreadfully wrong. Children in Palestinian communities in the West Bank and Gaza are turned into “self-destructing human bombs” capable of carrying out casualty terrorist attacks in the struggle between Palestinians and Israelis - a phenomenon whose seeds can be traced to the first Intifada.

Clearly horrified by the use of children in armed conflict, Israeli author and peace advocate Aharon Megged wrote during the first Intifada:

“Not since the Children’s Crusade in 1212 … has there been a horror such as this – no people, no land where adults send children age 8-9 or 14-15 to the front, day-after-day, while they themselves hide in their houses or go out to work far-far away. They continue, and send them time-after-time, and don’t stop them even when they know they are liable to be killed, maimed, beaten or arrested.” Read more ..

Mexico on Edge

The Iguala Dissappearances: A Historical Watershed for Mexico and a Vital American Issue

November 21st 2014

Mexico memorial

The disappearance and presumed death of 43 students from Iguala, Mexico is symptomatic of a much more serious problem.
According to the government, the students, who have been missing since late September in the State of Guerrero, were killed and burned by members of the gang, Guerreros Unidos (United Warriors). It was the police, themselves, in the town of Iguala who handed over the students to the gang. The Guerreros Unidos are among the major traffickers of poppy and marihuana in Mexico.
The young students aspired to become teachers in rural areas in the State of Guerrero. They traveled to Iguala in order to raise funds for their schools. According to Mexican Attorney General, Jesus Murillo Karam, the Mayor of Iguala and his wife instructed the local police to attack the students to prevent disruption of an event organized by the wife. These same students had come to Iguala before to protest   the assassination of the leader of the Farmers’ Union, presumably at the hands of the Mayor, himself. Read more ..

Oil Addiction

How Landrieu's Desperate Keystone gambit Died in the Senate

November 21st 2014

Click to select Image

Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) told reporters on Monday night that she had the 60 votes she needed to approve the Keystone XL pipeline. But secretly, she knew she was one short. Behind the scenes, Landrieu furiously lobbied Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.), hoping he’d become her 60th vote. She also targeted Sen. Angus King, the independent from Vermont, and the Democratic senators due to retire at the end of the year, Sens. Carl Levin (D-Mich.) and Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.), according to lawmakers familiar with the negotiations. She hoped a member of the Senate Democratic leadership, most likely Senate Democratic Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), would cross the party’s base and cast a yes vote that could save her Senate career.

It was a big gamble. Getting enough votes to advance Keystone would give her a victory to talk about in the run-up to her Dec. 6 runoff election against Rep. Bill Cassidy (R-La.). Read more ..

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