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Archive for October 2014

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The 2014 Vote

Hollywood Pumps Cash to Candidates

October 31st 2014

Money Bands=Happiness

Celebrities are putting on a money-raising show, digging into their wallets in a last ditch effort to help Democrats and Republicans before Election Day. 

David Letterman, Ben Affleck, former NFL quarterback John Elway, and “Scandal’s” Shonda Rhimes were among those pitching in to help their candidates of choice with cash right before next week’s midterm elections. The donations made in this past fundraising cycle are largely being funneled to high-stakes matchups that could either keep the Senate in Democratic hands or tilt it to GOP control.

But in some cases, A-listers may be opening their checkbooks for old pals.

“Late Show” host Letterman was one of several high-profile donors to Sen. Al Franken’s reelection campaign. The Minnesota Democrat had worked to fend off Republican businessman Mike McFadden but is expected to survive.

Read more ..

Lebanon on Edge

Hezbollah Society is Battered

October 31st 2014

Hezbollah

Just as any war of attrition taxes a military force, large or small, Syria's war has taken a toll on Hezbollah. Unlike Bashar al-Assad or Iran's Ali Khamenei, who can mute dissent, Hezbollah's ability to project power relies on the support of Lebanon's Shiites.

No public surveys are available that capture the sentiment of these Shiites. Hezbollah keeps a lid on the numbers of its fighters and casualties. Yet, anecdotal evidence suggests that Lebanon's Shiite population is thinning out. Families are searching for better lives away from the "society of resistance" and its perpetual war. In the extended Shiite family I hail from, only one of 11 men and five of 16 women, between the ages of 18 and 50, live in Lebanon today.

Hezbollah is a formidable military force. Its social, media and financial institutions are impressive. Yet the party realizes that, to maintain its edge, it has to nurture its supporters and their needs. After the 2006 July War against Israel, the party's leadership was so embarrassed by the destruction that had befallen the areas of its supporters that it had to deflect Shiite anger toward Lebanon's Sunnis and Druze, accusing them of conspiring against the Shiites to "force them to go back to the days when they worked as shoeshine boys."

Read more ..

Egypt on Edge

Egypt Creates a Buffer Zone with Gaza

October 30th 2014

Egyptian Mil. Police Alexandria

Egypt has once again sealed its Rafah border crossing abutting Gaza, declaring the closure is a response to a suicide bombing carried out October 24th in the Sinai. The bombing killed 33 Egyptian soldiers and triggered widespread national mourning in the nation of some 87 million. 

In recent days, Egyptian security forces have discovered and destroyed hundreds of additional smuggling tunnels that lace into the Sinai. Egyptian officials claim to have located and disabled more than 1,600 smuggling tunnels since Mohammed Morsi was deposed on July 3, 2013.

More than just tunnels, the Egyptian army has also begun razing homes on the Rafah border with Gaza. Reports from homeowners indicate often they only have 3 days to relocate before the bulldozers arrive. Thus far, about 800 homes have been targetted for demolition, the purpose being to create a cleared buffer zone on the Gaza border. 

Read more ..

Obama Called on to Renounce "Chickensh*t" Slur

October 30th 2014

We are deeply concerned by a number of recent public and private criticisms, personal insults and inappropriate characterizations emanating from official sources. These often anonymous, but no less harmful, declarations undermine the common interests of the United States and Israel on the critical issues which face both countries and the real extraordinary cooperation on the security, intelligence, political and other levels. It is the common efforts of these two great democratic allies to address the threat of Iran becoming a threshold nuclear state, the rise of ISIS and other extremist Islamist groups, the conflicts in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, and Libya, and the aftermath of Operation Protective Edge, among other issues of vital significance to both countries, that is of primary importance. It is only natural that there may be disagreements on issues, but we believe those should be discussed privately between the leaders of both countries and there should be no place for personal attacks which undermine mutual confidence and support so essential to advancing the interests of both the United States and Israel. We welcomed the statement of the Administration describing the recent comments made by an unnamed US official in an interview in The Atlantic as ‘inappropriate’ and ‘counterproductive’ and noted the frequent visits and exchanges between President Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu. We ask that the person responsible be held to account and the appropriate steps be taken by the Administration. We call on officials, media and others in the public arena to consider the consequences of the words and deeds. Apologies do not undo the damage and every manifestation of division between these two allies is exploited by the enemies of both.

Robert G. Sugarman is Chairman, and Malcolm Hoenlein is Executive Vice Chairman, of Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations.

 


Financing the Flames

New Israel Fund Under Renewed Scrutiny Over Funding for Israeli NGO Led by Boycott Activist

October 30th 2014

Boycott Israel

The New Israel Fund, the New York-based non-profit which granted nearly $27 million to left-wing and progressive NGOs in Israel according to its latest financial report, is again under scrutiny following revelations of extreme anti-Israel rhetoric by the Executive Director of the Human Rights Defenders Fund (HRDF,) a body supported financially by the NIF.

A just-released fact sheet from NGO Monitor, an Israeli watchdog that monitors foreign funding for Israeli and Palestinian NGOs, discloses that the Executive Director of the HRDF, Alma Biblash, has described Israel in such inflammatory terms as “racist,” and “murderous.”

Biblash also described Israel as a “temporary Jewish apartheid state.” According to NGO Monitor, “Biblash also supports Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaigns and promotes the Palestinian ‘right of return,’ meaning the elimination of Israel as the nation state of the Jewish people.” Read more ..


The 2014 Vote

Latinos No Longer Thrilled by Democrats

October 30th 2014

Democrats have lost their grip on Hispanic voters heading into Election Day—and in turn could lose the Senate because of them.

Even though Latinos split heavily for their party in 2012, mounting evidence suggests Hispanics could sit the midterms out after immigration reform has fallen from the White House agenda.

"There's no question it's going to affect Democrats in this midterm. There's no one to blame but Democrats themselves," said Arturo Carmona, executive director of Hispanic engagement group Presente Action.

A Pew poll out Wednesday revealed Democrats suffered an eight-point drop in support from Hispanic voters nationwide since 2010, down to 57 percent. Meanwhile, Republicans gained six points over the past four years, with 28 percent now saying they support a generic Republican House candidate. Read more ..


Iran on Edge

Iran's Senseless Hanging of a Woman who Defended Herself from Rape

October 30th 2014

The hanging last Saturday of a young Iranian woman convicted of murdering her alleged rapist has caused an international outcry, including condemnation by the US Department of State and the British Foreign Office. Amnesty International, which had led a campaign to save the 26-year-old, said the execution was “deeply disappointing in the extreme”.

Amnesty says Reyhaneh Jabbari was convicted after a “deeply flawed investigation”, and the United Nations office of human rights says her conviction was based on confessions made under threat of torture. Since Iran is a country where Islamic law, with its notable bias against women’s testimony, holds sway one is inclined to believe that. Read more ..


Broken Banking

Building a Banking Union in Europe

October 30th 2014

Euro Symbol

The recent stress tests by the European Central Bank offered few surprises and did not cause any significant political or financial reactions in the Continent. However, these tests were only the beginning of a complex process to build a banking union in the European Union. Unlike the stress tests, the next steps in this project could create more divisions in Europe because national parliaments will be involved at a time when Euroskepticism is on the rise. More important, the stress tests will not have a particular impact on Europe's main problem: tight credit conditions for households and businesses. Without a substantial improvement in credit conditions, there cannot be a substantial economic recovery, particularly in the eurozone periphery.

The European Central Bank had two basic short-term goals for this year's stress tests. On one hand, it had to come up with a test that was tough enough to be credible after tests held in 2010 and 2011 were widely seen as too soft and lacking in credibility. On the other hand, the tests could not produce results dire enough to generate panic. The European Union is going through a phase of relative calm in financial markets, and the European Central Bank was not interested in creating a new wave of uncertainty over the future of Europe's banks.

Read more ..

The Caliphate

Chechen Jihadi in Iraq Tells Compatriots to Kill Americans and Frenchmen

October 29th 2014

Chechen Islamic State (IS) militants in the Syrian town of Kobani have urged Chechens in Europe to either join in the fighting in Syria, or commit acts of terror in Europe.

In a video published by ShamToday on October 26, the media wing associated with the predominantly Chechen Islamic State (IS) faction Katibat Al-Aqsa, a Chechen militant named Musa Abu-Yusuf Shishani calls on the Chechen diaspora to join IS.

The video, in Chechen, was shared on several pro-Islamic-State Russian-language social media accounts on October 26 and offers insights into the attitudes of Chechen IS militants who are on the frontline in Kobani. (It was removed by YouTube on October 27) Read more ..


Russia on Edge

Russians Commemorate the Millions Killed in Stalin's Purges

October 29th 2014

Click to select Image

Hundreds of Russians lined up outside Moscow's former KGB headquarters on October 29 for an annual ritual commemorating the tens of thousands of people executed during the Great Terror of Soviet leader Josef Stalin.

Each victim is granted just a few words -- name, age, occupation, and the date when they were killed, usually by a shot to the head.

Sometimes, the speakers have no connection to the victims they name. Other times, it couldn't be more personal.

"Avramov, Roman Petrovich, 56 years old. My father," an elderly man says in a shaking voice. "Manager of the All-Soviet Bakery-Building Trust. Shot January 8, 1938. After several months they arrested my mother, Avramova, Faina Avramovna. She spent eight years in the Karaganda labor camps. I was 5 at the time."

The ritual is simple but staggering in its reflection of the sheer scope of the Stalin-era purges, when people of every ethnicity, profession, and political leaning were subject to summary arrest, sentence, and execution, often on flimsy political pretexts.

The daylong commemoration, organized by the Memorial human rights organization, comes as a new public survey shows many Russians expect to see a fresh wave of similar repressions in the future.

The poll, conducted by the pro-Kremlin Public Opinion Foundation (known by its Russian acronym, FOM), indicates that 48 percent of Russians surveyed said there was a chance they would live to see a repetition of Soviet-style repressions. Read more ..


The Race for Solar

New Solar Power Material Converts 90 Percent Captured Light to Heat

October 29th 2014

A multidisciplinary engineering team at the University of California, San Diego developed a new nanoparticle-based material for concentrating solar power plants designed to absorb and convert to heat more than 90 percent of the sunlight it captures. The new material can also withstand temperatures greater than 700 degrees Celsius and survive many years outdoors in spite of exposure to air and humidity. Their work, funded by the U.S. Department of Energy's SunShot program, was published recently in two separate articles in the journal Nano Energy.

By contrast, current solar absorber material functions at lower temperatures and needs to be overhauled almost every year for high temperature operations.

 "We wanted to create a material that absorbs sunlight that doesn't let any of it escape. We want the black hole of sunlight," said Sungho Jin, a professor in the department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering at UC San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering. Read more ..


Financing the Flames

U.S. Judge Shields Palestinian Terrorists from Scrutiny

October 29th 2014

Palestinian Liberation Organization with Arafat

Three investigative journalists have filed legal papers to intervene and unseal documents in a U.S. District Court case involving the Palestine Liberation Organization. The Washington Free Beacon broke the story reported by its senior writer Adam Kredo.

Journalists Sharyl Attkisson, Steve Emerson, and Edwin Black, according to court filings, have filed a motion "to publicly disclose secret documents that are believed to provide new details about payments made to terrorists by the Palestinian government," Kredo's article reports. 

The article states, "Lawyers have been fighting for months to force a U.S. District Court in New York to unseal scores of documents and testimony that allegedly detail how the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) has been paying salaries to convicted terrorists. The sealed documents were submitted to the court as part of a 2004 lawsuit brought by terrorism victims seeking damages from the PLO as a result of their attacks on Israel."

The case is Sokolow v. PLO. A memorandum at law states, "This is a motion by three world renowned investigative journalists to intervene in this action bearing on issues of critical public interest for the limited purpose of vindicating the
public’s presumptive legal right of access to records that have been filed under seal or heavily redacted.
The intervenors respectfully submit that, under well-established law, much of it established by this Court
there is no legal basis for maintaining a cloak of secrecy over the contents of public filings in this litigation to which the press and public are presumptively entitled access." Read more ..


Author's on Tour

Human Rights Author Focuses on Money and the Mideast Crisis in North Carolina Series

October 29th 2014

Edwin Black

New York Times bestselling investigative author Edwin Black will detail the financial undercurrents of Mideast conflict during an eight-event, multi-campus scholar-in-residence in Greensboro, North Carolina, sponsored by Guilford College. The presentations will be drawn from Black’s recent bestseller, Financing the Flames: How Tax-Exempt and Public Money Fuel a Culture of Confrontation and Terrorism in Israel, and related research.

Buy Financing the Flames
Learn More About Financing the Flames

On November 3, 2014, Black will open the series at Greensboro College exploring the challenge of the ISIS terrorism threat with an emphasis on the group’s financial resources, including oil smuggling.

On November 4, 2014, reflecting the findings of Financing the Flames, Black will explore the health impacts of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and their relationship to human rights organizations and finances, during a speech at Winston-Salem State University School of Health Sciences. That same day he will also answer general questions about the Mideast crisis for African-American leadership at the Winston-Salem Urban League. The evening of November 4, 2014, Black will deliver the main lecture of the series, “Financing the Flames -- Money and Human Rights in Israel” at Guilford College in Greensboro.

On November 5, 2014, Black will provide a breakfast briefing for Guilford’s international studies majors, emphasizing international law and the Israel crisis. Later that day, he concludes the series with an open discussion for Guilford students about all aspects of the Mideast crisis.

While in the area, Black will also deliver two events for journalism students. “Journalism in the Misinformation Age” is for Guilford College journalism students. The second event, which will be videotaped for the Charlotte Law School Viewpoint Project, will be a memoir about “becoming an investigative reporter” along with insights into oil addiction. Read more ..


The Way We Are

The Language of Deception

October 29th 2014

Perhaps the glory of the English language is that it is so expressive. Its remarkable heterogeneous origins have given it an almost limitless vocabulary. And American English, particularly, has used that tool with an enormous flexibility to make it the international means of communication. One is able with a minimum of linguistic dexterity to capture every meaning, or almost every nuance.

That’s why it is so depressing to note that of late there is a growing tendency to do the opposite, that is, to camouflage real meanings with obfuscation.

It has become the fashion – and interestingly enough the tendency swells as one moves up the educational ladder – to mask real meanings with words or phrases that tell less than one could easily relate. At the moment my favorite bete noir in this regard is the phrase “to reach out to” which has become omnipresent. Read more ..


The Way We Were

Historically Significant Roman Archaeological Find Unearthed in Jerusalem

October 29th 2014

A find of "tremendous historical significance," was announced today in Jerusalem by the Israeli Antiquities Authority. A stone fragment bearing an official inscription in Latin dedicated to Roman emperor Hadrian was found during excavations north of the Damascus Gate. Dr. Rina Avner and Roie Greenwald of the IAA told the press that the inscription's importance is in the naming of Hadrian and his titles. The stone provides a clear date, and thus a tangible confirmation that the Tenth Legion of the Roman army was present in Jerusalem during two important revolts of the Jewish against Roman rule. The archaeologists said that it may be "the most important Latin inscriptions ever discovered in Jerusalem." Read more ..


Obama's Second Term

Democrats Express Concern over Obama's Treatment of Immigrant Mothers and Children in Detention

October 29th 2014

Click to select Image

House Democrats are expressing new concerns about how the Obama administration is handling immigrant mothers and children who were among the thousands detained at the southern border this past summer.

In a letter to President Obama, 32 House Democrats decried the government’s construction of new centers to handle the surge of immigrants, and questioned whether people were being held unnecessarily.

"At the current rates, within one year this Administration will have increased capacity to detain immigrant women and children by more than 4,000 percent,” Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.), who was behind Tuesday's letter, said in a statement.

“As the law requires, there needs to be a better assessment in place to appropriately screen and assess these women and children, many of whom are fleeing violence, torture or persecution in Central America,” she said. Read more ..


The Way We Are

America's Wealthy are Remarkably Well-Off

October 29th 2014

Rising Sun - owned by Larry Ellison

In the supposedly classless society of the United States, the wealthiest Americans are doing remarkably well.

According to Forbes, a leading business magazine, the combined wealth of the 400 richest Americans has now reached the staggering total of $2.3 trillion. This gives them an average net worth of $5.7 billion―an increase of 14 percent over the previous year.

With fortunes far beyond the dreams of past kings and potentates, these super-wealthy individuals enjoy extraordinary lifestyles. Larry Ellison, the third wealthiest man in the United States (with $50 billion, an increase of 22 percent) reportedly has “15 or so homes scattered all around the world.” Among his yachts are two exceptionally big ones, each over half as long as a football field. In fact, they’re large enough for him to play basketball while on board. If a ball bounces over the rail, Ellison has a powerboat following along to retrieve it. Read more ..


Broken Government

Govenment Regulatory Accumulation Hinders Growth of Productivity

October 29th 2014

Click to select Image

Governments worldwide have long recognized that new regulations can create benefits, but always at a cost. More than 30 countries in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) have institutionalized the process of evaluating this tradeoff by assessing new rules' prospective impact — that is, its anticipated costs and benefits — prior to their promulgation. Formal processes for retrospective analysis of specific rules — where a rule's costs and benefits are assessed in hindsight — are much rarer. A third aspect of the regulatory process deserves attention: cumulative impact of regulation.

Over time, as regulations accumulate, an increasing proportion of companies' resources are devoted to compliance. This necessarily diverts resources away from things like the development of new technology or better training for workers. This diversion of resources may be further affected by the interaction of rules. The overlap of rules could potentially increase or decrease the regulatory burden faced by businesses. Read more ..


The Defense Edge

Laser Communications to Thwart Jamming, Interception

October 29th 2014

Laser burst

Networks are said to be one of the U.S. military’s Achilles’ heels. Cutting off communications through jamming or the destruction of infrastructure could be devastating to battlefield commanders. Peer and near-peer competitors such as China, Russia and Iran are reportedly boosting their electronic warfare capabilities.

Laser communications, also known as free space opticals, hold the promise of giving the military a means to transmit high amounts of data and voice that is hard to detect and an alternative to traditional radio frequencies.

Proponents say it is ready for prime time and mature enough for it to proliferate in the military realm more widely. Interest in the technology is also growing in the private sector, which may bring down costs for end users. Read more ..

The 2014 Vote

Senate Democrats Sense the Ground Shifting Beneath Them

October 29th 2014

Click to select Image

Democrats’ path to holding their Senate majority has narrowed, with Republicans pulling ahead in critical states and on the cusp of upsets in several others.

Even some within the party are starting to say their midterm prognosis isn’t good.

“Democrats are, as we’ve talked about before, going to have a bad Election Day, no matter how you slice it,” former White House press secretary Jay Carney told CNN on Tuesday evening.

With wins in West Virginia, South Dakota and Montana all but certain, the GOP feels increasingly optimistic about its chances of flipping Arkansas, Alaska and Louisiana, and nabbing at least one of the two most competitive swing states, Iowa and Colorado. Now, the party is eyeing tightening races in New Hampshire and North Carolina —races Republicans promised all along would be competitive in the end — as signs a GOP wave is building, giving it more options in its pursuit of Senate control. Read more ..


Obama's Second Term

Growing Disappointment with Obama's Handling of Foreign Policy

October 29th 2014

Click to select Image

President Barack Obama has come under intense criticism for his foreign policy, along with many other things. This is not unprecedented. Former President George W. Bush was similarly attacked. Stratfor has always maintained that the behavior of nations has much to do with the impersonal forces driving it, and little to do with the leaders who are currently passing through office. To what extent should American presidents be held accountable for events in the world, and what should they be held accountable for?

Expectations and Reality

I have always been amazed when presidents take credit for creating jobs or are blamed for high interest rates. Under our Constitution, and in practice, presidents have precious little influence on either. They cannot act without Congress or the Federal Reserve concurring, and both are outside presidential control. Nor can presidents overcome the realities of the market. They are prisoners of institutional constraints and the realities of the world. Read more ..


Argentina on Edge

Catholic Bishops Urge Argentines to Release Information on Children Abducted by Dictators

October 29th 2014

Click to select Image

After decades of silence, the Catholic bishops of Argentina have publicly asked for an accounting of children who went missing during military dictatorship of the 1970s and early 1980s. The president of the Catholic Bishops Conference of Argentina, Archbishop José María Arancedo of Santa Fe, has recorded a television/radio spot in concert with the "Abuelas de Plaza de Mayo" (Grandmothers of Plaza de Mayo), in which he asks for information about the whereabouts of minors who were arrested by Argentina’s security apparatus. He is flanked by Estela de Carlotto and Rosa Roisinblit who president and vice-president, respectively, of the Grandmothers. Read more ..


The Way We Are

Adolescent Drinking Binges Lead to Brain Death

October 29th 2014

Heavy drinking during adolescence may lead to structural changes in the brain and memory deficits that persist into adulthood, according to an animal study published October 29 in The Journal of Neuroscience. The study found that, even as adults, rats given daily access to alcohol during adolescence had reduced levels of myelin — the fatty coating on nerve fibers that accelerates the transmission of electrical signals between neurons.

These changes were observed in a brain region important in reasoning and decision-making. Animals that were the heaviest drinkers also performed worse on a memory test later in adulthood. The findings suggest that high doses of alcohol during adolescence may continue to affect the brain even after drinking stops. Further research is required to determine the applicability of these findings to humans. Read more ..


The 2014 Vote

With One Week to Go, Republican Confidence Builds

October 28th 2014

Vote Buttons

The final week in a two-year war for control of the Senate is going down to the wire, with Republicans confident they’ll net at least the six seats they need to gain a majority during President Obama’s final two years in office.

Republicans are all but assured of winning the open seats vacated by retiring Democrats in Montana, South Dakota and West Virginia and have a very good chance of ousting Democratic incumbents in Alaska, Arkansas, Colorado and Louisiana.

The GOP also believes it will win an open seat in Iowa, where Republican state Sen. Joni Ernst is in a dogfight with Rep. Bruce Braley (D).

Democratic incumbent Sens. Kay Hagan and Jeanne Shaheen are polling better in North Carolina and New Hampshire, respectively, but those races aren’t sure things for the party either. Read more ..


Obama's Second Term

Principle, Rigor and Execution Matter in Foreign Policy

October 28th 2014

Obama bummed out

U.S. President Barack Obama has come under intense criticism for his foreign policy, along with many other things. This is not unprecedented. Former President George W. Bush was similarly attacked. Stratfor has always maintained that the behavior of nations has much to do with the impersonal forces driving it, and little to do with the leaders who are currently passing through office. To what extent should American presidents be held accountable for events in the world, and what should they be held accountable for?

Expectations and Reality

I have always been amazed when presidents take credit for creating jobs or are blamed for high interest rates. Under our Constitution, and in practice, presidents have precious little influence on either. They cannot act without Congress or the Federal Reserve concurring, and both are outside presidential control. Nor can presidents overcome the realities of the market. They are prisoners of institutional constraints and the realities of the world. Read more ..


Books and Authors

The Long Forgotten History of Tolerance for Religions of All Kinds in the Middle East

October 28th 2014

Click to select Image

The Middle East is fertile ground for religions. Its deserts, mountains and marshes have inspired mystics and prophets; its tribes have provided followers and fighters who can form a new prophet’s core following; and older, persecuted religions can find refuge in its impassable topography. Also, although much of that region seems today to be suffused with cruelty and violence beyond our imagining, it has historically often been a place of intellectual freedom and creativity - a place for the exchange of ideas, and for their intermingling to create new and startling creeds. The survival there of some of the world’s smallest and most remarkable faith communities proves that.

From the Mediterranean as far as the Zagros mountains that divide Iran from Iraq, there are peoples who believe passionately in reincarnation: one of these, the Druze of Lebanon, will sometimes settle inheritance cases with the help of the dead man’s supposedly re-embodied spirit. A belief, inherited from pre-Christian religions, that the essence of God can be manifest in earthly form means that the Alawites of Syria can regard the Greek philosophers, and also the sun and moon, as worthy of religious reverence. In Iran, the Zoroastrians have clung on to their country’s ancient, pre-Islamic customs: as late as the 1950s they were waging regular war on flies, as creatures of darkness, while they treated dogs (which in the Avesta, are seen as allies of good) with great respect and kindness, giving a dead house-dog an almost human funeral. Underlying these customs are philosophies whose origins lie millennia back in time.

Until the eleventh century AD, the Middle East’s Muslim rulers were disinclined to enforce their religion on their subjects. In subsequent centuries, this changed; many non-Islamic communities were brought close to extinction. But those minorities have never been so threatened as they are today. Iraq’s Christians have declined in number by over 50% in twenty years. The Mandaeans, whose religion was actually founded in Iraq in probably the third century AD, have almost all left their country and are scattered across the world. Even Egypt’s Coptic Christians, who form the region’s largest surviving religious minority, have begun to leave their country in accelerating numbers. Read more ..


The Caliphate

German Intel Warns ISIS can Down Passenger Planes

October 27th 2014

airplanes shadows

Islamic State militants in northern Iraq have modern portable air defense systems that are capable of shooting down a passenger plane, Germany’s Bild am Sonntag newspaper reported citing the country’s foreign intelligence agency.

According to the media report published on Sunday, the Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND) informed the German Bundestag of the threat at a closed session last week. The German intelligence agency said that the Islamic State(IS, formerly ISIS) militants located in northern Iraq have obtained air-defense systems from the captured military arsenal of the Syrian Army, according to the report. The IS militants have obtained the 1970s models as well as modern man-portable air defense systems (MANPADS). These light-weight surface-to-air missile systems can be fired from the shoulder and operated by one person. Read more ..


Broken Healthcare

California Leads in Comparison Shopping for a Health Plan

October 26th 2014

Medical bag

During the last few weeks of this year, most of us will need to make a decision about our health insurance coverage for 2015, regardless of whether we get it through an employer or buy it on our own. But unless you live in California, chances are you won’t find much information about how satisfied people are with their existing health plans or how many complaints are filed against them.

Now that the law requires us to have health insurance — and buy it from a private insurer unless we’re eligible for a government program like Medicare or Medicaid — you’d think it would be easy to discover which health plans rank the best and which ones bring up the rear.

There are some online resources to find out how much various plans would cost in monthly premiums and out-of-pocket expenses. If you can’t get coverage at work and want to compare costs among competing health plans, you can go to healthcare.gov, maintained by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, or a private online source like healthinsurance.org, which has been around since 1994.

Read more ..

Israel on Edge

Defensible Borders in the Age of IS

October 26th 2014

Western/Wailing Wall

How has the tumult in the Middle East affected the debate over Israel’s territorial requirements? For an answer, Mosaic approached Dore Gold, head of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, who has long promoted the concept of defensible borders primarily as a means of meeting Israel’s security needs in the West Bank. Our exchange was conducted by email. 

Q. Before we get to the idea of “defensible borders” itself, can you begin by telling us about your involvement in it?  

A: I became immersed in this issue when I was serving as foreign-policy adviser to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during his first term in the late 1990s. I was tasked with converting the IDF’s “Interests Map” for the West Bank into a form that could be presented to President Bill Clinton; I joined the prime minister for that presentation in the White House Map Room. Four years later, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon asked me to condense the work for his meeting in the Oval Office with President George W. Bush. Read more ..


The Automotive Edge

Why Japan Leads in Electromobility - and Why This Could Change

October 26th 2014

sunset in japan

Is electromobility a strategic issue for Europe's automotive industry or just a propaganda slogan? A study from management consulting service Roland Berger shows where the real technology leaders are. If one sees the supporting role (at best) electromobility plays at the Geneva International Motor Show, one cannot escape the conclusion that despite frenzied design efforts and eye-catching announcements, the European carmakers are only half-heartedly committed to electric driving. Instead, they continue to push the conventional combustion engine technology to the limits.

The 'Electromobility Index' compiled by Roland Berger and the Aachen-based Forschungsgesellschaft Kraftfahrwesen (Research society for Automotive Issues) compares the competitive position of seven leading automotive economies - China, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Korea and the U.S. - under the aspect of electromobility. The index ascribes the clear leadership in this mobility segment to Japan. The country leads in terms of technology as well as in terms of electric vehicle sales. Read more ..


The Digital Edge

Energy Harvesting Gesture Recognition

October 26th 2014

Eye biometrics

Gesture control for electronics could soon become an alternative to touchscreens and sensing technologies that consume a lot of power and only work when users can see their smartphones and tablets. University of Washington computer scientists have built a low-cost gesture recognition system, called "AllSee," that runs without batteries and lets users control their electronic devices hidden from sight with simple hand movements. It uses existing TV signals as both a power source and the means for detecting a user's gesture command.

"This is the first gesture recognition system that can be implemented for less than a dollar and doesn't require a battery," said Shyam Gollakota, a UW assistant professor of computer science and engineering. "You can leverage TV signals both as a source of power and as a source of gesture recognition." Read more ..


The Edge of Terrorism

Brothers Killing Brothers - The Current Infighting Will Test al Qaeda's Brand

October 26th 2014

Syrian Sunni jihadis

Terrorists often resolve internal disputes the old-fashioned way: They kill each other.

This was demonstrated on February 22, 2014, when members of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) are believed to have carried out the suicide attack that killed Abu Khaled al-Suri, a founding member and leader of Ahrar al-Sham, a rival coalition of Islamist rebel groups in Syria. ISIL denied responsibility in a formal press release, and factional killings are not uncommon among Syria's rebels, but ISIL had already acquired a reputation for killing its rivals.

(In November 2013, ISIL apologized for beheading another al-Sham leader, claiming that it mistakenly thought he was a Shiite militiaman, and it has publicly announced executing rival commanders since then.) Read more ..


The 2014 Vote

The Shiny Object Election

October 26th 2014

Vote Buttons

The short-attention span generation has birthed the shiny-object election.

The theme of the 2014 midterms — to whatever extent one is discernable — has been an explosion of one crisis after another, each of which demands an enormous amount of media attention before fading for the next one.

From the Secret Service to ISIS, Ebola to immigration, mistreated veterans to Ferguson and race relations, candidates and the president have been forced to react to the controversy du jour.

Strategists and experts say the result has been bad news for Democrats, who have had a tougher time underscoring their preferred campaign messages on their party’s support for women and the middle class. Instead, each shiny object captivating a media that craves the hottest story has helped Republicans making the elections for the House and Senate all about President Obama. Read more ..


Israel on Edge

Jerusalem Police Bring In One Thousand More Police and Border Guards As Reinforcement Against Riots

October 26th 2014

Palestinian Rock Attackers

Since the murder of 3 month old infant Chaya Zissel Braun by a Hamas terrorist driving into a train station crowd Wednesday evening, Palestinians across East Jerusalem have been rioting in various locations. Silwan, A-tur, Beit Hanina, Shuafat, and the Arab Quarter of the Old City have seen near-continuous rioting. Masked teens and young adults have been throwing rocks, fireworks, and Molotov Cocktails at police, passing cars, buildings, and people. The use of fireworks as a weapon is a recent phenomenon; since they are explosive and easy to obtain, they are becoming a staple of rioters' arsenal in targeting civilians and police. 

Tombstones and monuments in the Har HaZeitim (Mount of Olives) cemetery were defaced and destroyed. The light rail and some buses were attacked, causing damage but no injuries. Read more ..


Global Warming

Past Climate Change was Caused by the Ocean

October 26th 2014

Most of the concerns about climate change have focused on the amount of greenhouse gases that have been released into the atmosphere. ut in a new study published in Science, a group of Rutgers University researchers have found that circulation of the ocean plays an equally important role in regulating the earth’s climate.

In their study, the researchers say the major cooling of Earth and continental ice build-up in the Northern Hemisphere 2.7 million years ago coincided with a shift in the circulation of the ocean – which pulls in heat and carbon dioxide in the Atlantic and moves them through the deep ocean from north to south until it’s released in the Pacific.

The ocean conveyor system, Rutgers scientists believe, changed at the same time as a major expansion in the volume of the glaciers in the northern hemisphere as well as a substantial fall in sea levels. It was the Antarctic ice, they argue, that cut off heat exchange at the ocean's surface and forced it into deep water. They believe this caused global climate change at that time, not carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Read more ..


The 2014 Vote

Twenty Days to Save the World

October 26th 2014

David Webb

When there are no policies to run on, a President Obama to run away from, Democrats go on the attack. I find it interesting and a bit disturbing how easily the left runs successfully for election as centrists for the most part. Many of their policies are not acceptable for the average American.

The mindset of so many Democrats is that they know what’s good for you (but it’s not necessary for them to abide by their rules). In an odd way I have more respect for an outright progressive than the political wolf in sheep’s clothing. We should all be concerned about the level of apathy and disconnect from the political system and knowledge — or lack of knowledge — of Americans who fall for this approach.

Republicans are accused by Erica Payne, founder of The Agenda Project and the Tesseract Group, of being responsible for the spread of Ebola. This is the same organization that did the infamous “Paul Ryan throwing grandma off the cliff” ad in the last election cycle, and is reminiscent of Rep. Alan Grayson (D-Fla.) stating during the ObamaCare debate that Republicans want you to die quickly. Read more ..


America on Edge

Ebola and ISIS Contagion Dominates Sunday Political Talk Shows

October 26th 2014

Growing concerns over the spread of Ebola and the imminent threat posed by ISIS will be the focus of the Sunday morning political talk shows.

Hoping to reassure the public about efforts to contain the deadly virus in the U.S., Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, will again make the rounds Sunday morning.

Meanwhile, Rick Sacra, the American doctor who has been cured of Ebola, will also hit the airwaves. Sacra contracted the deadly virus while working in Liberia before being flown back to the U.S. for treatment.
In a recent interview with MSNBC, Sacra says, "I would go back to Liberia. You know, it's my second home. I've lived there for 15 years of my life." Read more ..


Obama's Second Term

Americans' Short Attention Span has Generated a Shiny-Object Election

October 26th 2014

Click to select Image

The short-attention span generation has birthed the shiny-object election.

The theme of the 2014 midterms — to whatever extent one is discernable — has been an explosion of one crisis after another, each of which demands an enormous amount of media attention before fading for the next one.

From the Secret Service to ISIS, Ebola to immigration, mistreated veterans to Ferguson and race relations, candidates and the president have been forced to react to the controversy du jour.

Strategists and experts say the result has been bad news for Democrats, who have had a tougher time underscoring their preferred campaign messages on their party’s support for women and the middle class. Instead, each shiny object captivating a media that craves the hottest story has helped Republicans making the elections for the House and Senate all about President Obama. Read more ..


Obama's Second Term

U.S.-Israeli Relations are in 'Crisis' Mode

October 25th 2014

"There is a crisis with the Americans and it needs to be addressed as a crisis," said Israeli Finance Minister Yair Lapid on October 25. His remarks followed reports that Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon was prevented from meeting with senior Obama administration officials during his current US visit. "We mustn't pretend there isn't a crisis," Lapid told a crowd in Tel Aviv. "Our relations with the US are vital and everything that can be done must be done to end this crisis."

According to Ynet, the Obama administration refused Ya'alon's request to meet with top officials, including Vice President Joe Biden, Secretary of State John Kerry, and National Security Advisor Susan Rice. Reports have contended that White House officials tried to prevent Ya'alon from meeting with the Samantha Power, the US Ambassador to the United Nations. However, Ya'alon did finally meet with Powers and discussed US objections to the construction of Jewish settlements. Read more ..


Operation Protective Edge

How Hamas Instigated Operation Protective Edge

October 25th 2014

Tunnel  Access Point

Writing in Vanity Fair in an article published Tuesday, Adam Ciralsky offers a definitive account of the threats Israel faced this past summer; especially the threat of Hamas’ attack tunnels.

The threat portrayed by Ciralsky was provided by Israeli intelligence officials who put things together “through electronic intercepts, informants, interrogations of Hamas operatives, as well as computers and satellite imagery obtained from Hamas compounds during the war.” What the intelligence officials determined was “a surprise assault in which scores of heavily armed Hamas insurgents were supposedly set to emerge from more than a dozen cross-border tunnels and proceed to kill as many Israelis as possible.” Given these threats Israel was forced to launch Operation Protective Edge to defend its population.

Read more ..


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