Archive for April 2015
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|Shoshana Bryen||April 30th 2015|
The End of Greatness Why America Can't Have (and Doesn't Want) Another Great President. Aaron David Miller. Palgrave Macmillan, 2014. 288 pp. $28
"Whether one agrees with his conclusions or not..."
"I doubt many readers will agree with all of his arguments â€“ I don't..."
"You may disagree with him at times, as I did..."
That's three out of the four book jacket blurbs on Aaron David Miller's new book, The End of Greatness: Why America Can't Have (and Doesn't Want) Another Great President. And it is the first clue that this book is an invitation (challenge) for you to go where Miller goes and envision American history as he envisions it â€” or not. In a political era that demands followers â€” left or right â€” it is refreshing to read a book that doesn't worry about what you think, but provides a clear and compelling picture of what the author thinks.
Best known as a Middle East policy adviser to both Democratic and Republican Secretaries of State, Miller takes on American political history, ranking Presidents as Indispensable, Near Great, Politically Astute, and the Rest of The Guys. Along the way, he wonders if the U.S. is ungovernable.
There are only three Indispensables: George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, and Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Non-controversial. Most Americans would, and in fact do, say the same when asked. But why? According to Miller, these presidents fundamentally changed the country through a confluence of crisis, character, and capacity to shape events. "We assume inevitability for the American enterprise because of where we now sit, a kind of inexorability that everything was destined somehow to turn out the way it did. We should not." "Nation-encumbering crises," the sort that make the country markedly different by their end, are ones that Miller finds can call forth the character and capacity of Great Presidents. Read more ..
|Robert E. Moffit||April 29th 2015|
Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) has a simple question: How and why did Congress qualify as a "small business" eligible for special taxpayer subsidies under the Affordable Care Act (ACA)? For anyone in a real small business â€” private employers who get no such subsidies â€” the very idea is absurd. But getting a straight answer is as difficult as getting Lois Lerner's IRS emails.
In search of answers, Vitter proposed subpoenaing documents from the District of Columbia Health Benefits Exchange Authority. But his colleagues on the Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee recently voted (14 to five) to block the effort. They've tried to justify their lack of curiosity by calling the proposed subpoena an unnecessary "distraction" or an invitation to a "protracted" legal fight. But these are rather obviously lame excuses. Read more ..
|Jordain Carney ||April 29th 2015|
Supporters of an important bill on Iran are walking through a political minefield as they work to set up a series of amendment votes that Democrats warn could bring down the legislation.
Approximately 60 amendments have been put forward so far, with almost half of Senate Republicans seeking to challenge President Obamaâ€™s handling of the controversial nuclear negotiations with Iran.
While the legislation crafted by Sens. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) and Ben Cardin (D-Md.) has been endorsed by the White House, Democrats are warning that all bets are off if controversial amendments are attached.
â€œAmendments that undermine the administrationâ€™s negotiations or structurally alter this careful bipartisan compromise should be rejected by the Senate,â€ said Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), who voted for the legislation during a Foreign Relations Committee markup earlier this month. Read more ..
The Race for EVs
|Christoph Hammerschmidt||April 27th 2015|
Though the sales figures of electric vehicles fall short of vendorâ€™s expectations, the number of available models will continue to climb, Predicts market researcher Frost & Sullivan. Plug-in hybrid vehicles (PHEV) are rapidly gaining market share over battery electric vehicles â€“ driving range continues to be the decisive factor for customers.
Currently, 70 % of all available electric vehicles are battery-electric vehicles (BEVs); 25% are PHEVs. Frost & Sullivan Automotive and Transportation analyst Prajot Sathe believes that within the next three to four years the share of PHEVs will grow which translates into a faster market growth for this category compared to BEVs. The reason Sathe sees a higher demand for vehicles with high driving range. As an example, the analyst quotes BMWâ€™s i3 which is available as a pure BEV and with an optional range extender. The latter achieves clearly higher sales figures, the release suggests. Read more ..
Turkey on Edge
|George Friedman||April 27th 2015|
The United States is not about to be weighed down by the historical baggage of the Caucasus. To Turkey's pleasure and Armenia's regret, U.S. President Barack Obama did not utter the word "genocide" on April 24 when he commemorated the 100th anniversary of a massacre of 1.5 million Armenians at the hands of Ottoman Turks. Obama is not the Pope; he is the president of the United States, and the global hegemon appears to be in tune with its geopolitical instinct.
A great deal of diplomatic energy has been exchanged between Washington and the Turkish and Armenian lobbies in recent weeks. Not only have decisions had to be made about what word to use to describe the historical event, but there are also questions about the level of official that should attend the Armenian commemoration versus the Turkish commemoration for the Battle of Gallipoli. Read more ..
The Way We Are
|Marla Paul||April 27th 2015|
Most psychiatric disorders - including depression -- do not predict future violent behavior, according to new Northwestern Medicine longitudinal study of delinquent youth. The only exception is substance abuse and dependence.
"Our findings are relevant to the recent tragic plane crash in the French Alps. Our findings show that no one could have predicted that the pilot - who apparently suffered from depression - - would perpetrate this violent act," said corresponding author Linda Teplin, the Owen L. Coon Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. "It is not merely a suicide, but an act of mass homicide."
The study did find, however, that some delinquent youth with current psychiatric illness may also be violent. For example, males with mania were more than twice as likely to report current violence than those without. But these relationships are not necessarily causal.
Delinquent youth with psychiatric illness have multiple risk factors -- such as living in violent and impoverished neighborhoods. These environments may increase their risk for violent behavior as well as worsen their psychiatric illness.
"Providing comprehensive treatment to persons with some psychiatric disorders could reduce violence," said Katherine Elkington, study first author and an assistant professor of clinical psychology in psychiatry at Columbia University Medical School and New York Psychiatric Institute. "We must improve how we address multiple problems -- including violent behavior -- as part of psychiatric treatment." Read more ..
|Natalie Foxon Phillips||April 27th 2015|
4D printing is unfolding as technology that takes 3D printing to an entirely new level.
The fourth dimension is time, shape shifting in fact, and the ARC Centre of Excellence for Electromaterials Science (ACES) at the University of Wollongong is helping to set the pace in the next revolution in additive manufacturing.
Just as the extraordinary capabilities of 3D printing have begun to infiltrate industry and the family home, researchers have started to develop 3D printed materials that morph into new structures, post production, under the influence of external stimuli such as water or heat - hence the name, 4D printing. Read more ..
The 2016 Vote
|Judd Gregg||April 27th 2015|
With Hillary Clintonâ€™s formal declaration that she is running for president, there has been a great deal of chatter from within her party that she is not liberal enough.
She needs to move left, some Democratic voices say.
Clinton, of course, lost the nomination to then-Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) in 2008 because he got to her left and dominated the caucus states, where the base of the party has disproportionate influence.
By the time Clintonâ€™s team seemed to realize what was happening, Obama had an insurmountable lead.
Could this occur again?
It seems unlikely. But even that is not the real story.
The real story is just how far left the Democratic Party has moved. Does Hillary move with it?
Just consider these facts and positions.
The Obama presidency has been built on the theme of class warfare. Read more ..
|Jordain Carney||April 27th 2015|
|Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Florida)|
Conservative Republicans are looking for ways to force Democrats to walk the plank in a series of tough votes over Iran.
GOP senators want to attach amendments to the recent deal struck between Sens. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) and Ben Cardin (D-Md.) that would allow Congress to weigh in on any agreement reached between the Obama administration and Iran over the latterâ€™s nuclear program.
The White House and Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) are warning against changes that could erode support from Democrats and President Obama.
But the GOP is looking for options that would place Democrats between the proverbial rock and a hard place, forcing them to choose between opening themselves up to attack by voting against the amendments, or angering Obama and Reid by backing them. Read more ..
The Race for Batteries
|Paul Buckley||April 22nd 2015|
Researchers the University of Wisconsinâ€“Madison and Brookhaven National Laboratory have developed a novel X-ray imaging technique to study the electrochemical reactions in lithium-ion rechargeable batteries containing iron fluoride which can store three times the energy of existing batteries.
â€œIron fluoride has the potential to triple the amount of energy a conventional lithium-ion battery can store,â€ explained Song Jin, a UWâ€“Madison professor of chemistry and Wisconsin Energy Institute affiliate. â€œHowever, we have yet to tap its true potential.â€
Graduate student Linsen Li worked with Jin and other collaborators to perform experiments with a state-of-the-art transmission X-ray microscope at the National Synchrotron Light Source at Brookhaven. The researchers collected chemical maps from actual coin cell batteries filled with iron fluoride during battery cycling to determine how well they perform. Read more ..
Greece on Edge
|George Friedman||April 21st 2015|
The Greek crisis is moving toward a climax. The issue is actually quite simple. The Greek government owes a great deal of money to European institutions and the International Monetary Fund. It has accumulated this debt over time, but it has become increasingly difficult for Greece to meet its payments. If Greece doesn't meet these payments, the IMF and European institutions have said they will not extend any more loans to Greece. Greece must make a calculation. If it pays the loans on time and receives additional funding, will it be better off than not paying the loans and being cut off from more?
Obviously, the question is more complex. It is not clear that if the Greeks refuse to pay, they will be cut off from further loans. First, the other side might be bluffing, as it has in the past. Second, if they do pay the next round, and they do get the next tranche of funding, is this simply kicking the can down the road? Does it solve Greece's underlying problem, which is that its debt structure is unsustainable? In a world that contains Argentina and American Airlines, we have learned that bankruptcy and lack of access to credit markets do not necessarily go hand in hand. Read more ..
Financing the Flames
|Edwin Black||April 21st 2015|
Lawsuits may soon be coming.
A stunning new Israeli Supreme Court decision has upheld most of a 2011 Israeli law enabling civil recovery actions against those that proliferate Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) against Israeli individuals, companies, and institutions. Most of the Law Preventing Harm to the State of Israel by Means of Boycott was sustained in a recent ruling â€” the court's strongly-worded majority opinion, seven concurring opinions and dissent covered 233-pages. The newly enabled addition to Israel Civil Tort Law 62A covers the total Israeli domain, that is, the Jewish State delineated in 1948 and all territory under Israeli control, including the West Bank. As such, those suffering losses by BDS activity can sue for actual damages. Punitive damages are disallowed under the ruling. Critics are predicting litigation against the New Israel Fund (NIF) and its NGO grantees that promote BDS.
For its part, the NIF and its grantees that fought hard against the law during the run-up to the Supreme Court decision have almost universally condemned the decision as an attack against freedom of expression and democracy.
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By way of background, the NIF was pivotal in the early establishment of the international anti-Israel boycott through its funding of the Coalition of Women for Peace and other activities. After widespread criticism, the NIF stopped funding the Coalition of Women for Peace. However, many key NIF grantees, such as Partners for Progressive Israel (PPI), remain vibrantly involved in the BDS movement.
For example, a February 2015 PPI policy statement published on its website, accessed April 20, 2015, states: "PPI supports a selective, targeted boycott of Israelâ€™s occupation of the West Bank, not at Israel as a whole. The conception of a selective boycott first adopted by PPI called for a boycott of goods produced by the settlements." However, several PPI web pages devoted to boycotting settlement products were found blanked out when accessed after the Supreme Court ruling. These include such pages as one entitled "boycott-settlement-products." Read more ..
Egypt on Edge
Mohamed Morsi, who was elected President of Egypt following the revolution in which former President Hosni Mubarak was overthrown, was sentenced to 20 years in prison.
The Egyptian court ruled that Morsi, who was ousted after only a year in office, is responsible for the death of protesters during the riots that broke out in Egypt in 2012.
Morsi faced four separate charges, including espionage, and for some of them could be charged with the most severe punishment of all â€“ the death penalty. In addition to Morsi, 11 other senior officials in the Muslim Brotherhood were sentenced to 20 years in prison, including the partyâ€™s General Secretary, Mohamed Beltagy, and former head of Parliament, Essam el-Erian. Read more ..
The Digital Edge
|Peter Clarke||April 20th 2015|
Annual shipments of wearable cameras will surpass 30 million units by 2020 according to market research firm Tractica. GoPro rugged and waterproof cameras for sports applications are leading the field at present but more general consumer, enterprise and public safety applications are not far behind and will drive strong growth in the second half of this decade, Tractica claims. Wearable cameras are a logical extension of the smartphone camera, enabling hands-free functionality that allows users to capture both planned and spontaneous moments by using body or head mounts or by clipping the camera to clothing.
The market for wearable cameras is an early stage and experiencing rapid growth as the use cases for wearable cameras expand. Tractica forecasts that wearable camera shipments will increase from 5.6 million in 2014 to 30.6 million units annually by 2020. That is equivalent to a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) over the period of about 32 percent. Read more ..
|David Rothkopf||April 18th 2015|
President Barack Obama and other administration officials touting the qualities of the interim nuclear accord with Iran regularly cite â€œsnap-backâ€ provisions as a fail-safe within the agreement. The idea is that, if Iran violates the terms of the deal, sanctions that otherwise would be lifted as a reward for entering into the arrangement would immediately be reimposed.
It is an appealing idea. Whatâ€™s more, it is a necessary one if anyone anywhere is to believe that the deal is truly enforceable. However, as former U.S. secretaries of state Henry Kissinger and George Shultz pointed out in their recent thoughtful, constructive critique of the interim agreement that appeared in the Wall Street Journal, the notion that somehow a button can be pushed and the entire panoply of multilateral and bilateral sanctions that have been put in place over the past dozen or so years to put pressure on Iran would suddenly be back in force strains credulity. Read more ..
|Jim Little||April 18th 2015|
In the community's must-do file, add an urgent cautionary note for the Huron campus worksite in Endicott that sits atop a toxic pool of trichloroethylene. About 1,500 people work at the former IBM site where the ground and water table is contaminated with the chemical that IBM used in its manufacturing operations. TCE vapors have been detected in the buildings at the property that IBM sold in 2002 to Huron Real Estate Associates. BAE Systems Electronics, i3 Electronics (formerly Endicott Interconnect), Binghamton University and other smaller firms have operations on the property. An expert on TCE contamination recently told a workers and residents meeting in Endicott that employees at the location ought to be getting more information about the TCE vapor testing and the chemical's concentration levels in the indoor air. State and federal regulations have weak provisions mandating notification to workers when TCE is detected in workplaces. Workers ought to know whether the air they inhale at work carries TCE vapors and what the concentration is. Of particular concern in Endicott and at other spill sites across the country is that TCE exposure is now associated with birth defects for women exposed to it for short periods of time over days or weeks. TCE exposure has previously been linked to several serious human diseases. In 2011, the federal Environmental Protection Agency determined the chemical was a carcinogen.
The problem with TCE wafting into workplaces in Endicott may continue for years. Earlier this month in reporting on an in-depth look on the 35-year-old cleanup, writer Tom Wilber found there is no remedy for draining the pool of solvents from under the manufacturing site. Wilber learned from Alex Czuhanich, an engineering geologist with the state Department of Environmental Conservation, it may take years before a proven remedy is found. That leaves the workers in those buildings facing years of additional exposure. Meanwhile, the known risks from the TCE vapors at concentrations measured in a few micrograms per cubic meter of air is uncertain. The state Health Department determined after a 2005 study that the TCE levels at the Huron campus present a "low" health risk to people working there. That decision remains "under review" as more information comes to light, said Health Department spokesman Jeffrey Hammond. Such reassurances provide little comfort to those working in those buildings and even smaller comfort to pregnant workers whose unborn children may be especially vulnerable to health problems from TCE exposure.
|Omri Ariel||April 17th 2015|
Thousands of Yazidi women are being held captive in the Islamic State's Shariya refugee camp in Iraq, on the border with Syrian Kurdistan. Few of them managed to escape, and now tell the horrifying stories of those who were left behind. These women go through a special kind of hell â€“ being treated like cattle, sold as sex slaves and forcefully married off to abusive, violent husbands. This treatment is part of the jihadists' "big plan" â€“ to establish a radical Islamist nation, a "caliphate", based on Sharia law as it was implemented in the seventeenth century, in the early days of Islam.
In an article on CNN, the women who fled IS describe how they were sent to enslavement warehouses, where they were lined up in groups of 50 and put on display in front of men in order to be chosen as their wives or sex slaves. These stories have been confirmed by doctors who examined them and say they have found evidence of repeated sexual assault. Read more ..
The Iranian Threat
|Isi Leibler||April 15th 2015|
The announcement of the Lausanne joint statement concerning the framework of the U.S. deal with Iran highlighted the extent of President Barack Obamaâ€™s subterfuge and deception. We also witnessed the blatant contempt of Iranâ€™s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who rejected key components of the â€œagreementsâ€ and referred to Americaâ€™s â€œdevilishâ€ objectives while his audience chanted â€œDeath to America.â€ Yet Obama continued insisting that a genuine framework for a deal had been achieved and dismissed Khameneiâ€™s remarks as merely for â€œdomestic consumption.â€ He reiterated that Iran would not become a nuclear power â€œunder his watch.â€
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is now no longer a voice in the wilderness. There has been a surge of condemnations from wide sections of the media, including many liberal and even Obama stalwarts who, ironically, effectively vindicated Netanyahuâ€™s congressional critique of the deal â€” which they had previously mocked. Read more ..
The Edge of the Universe
|Jason Wright||April 14th 2015|
After searching 100,000 galaxies for signs of highly advanced extraterrestrial life, a team of scientists using observations from NASA's WISE orbiting observatory has found no evidence of advanced civilizations in them. "The idea behind our research is that, if an entire galaxy had been colonized by an advanced spacefaring civilization, the energy produced by that civilization's technologies would be detectable in mid-infrared wavelengths -- exactly the radiation that the WISE satellite was designed to detect for other astronomical purposes," said Jason T. Wright, an assistant professor of astronomy and astrophysics at the Center for Exoplanets and Habitable Worlds at Penn State University, who conceived of and initiated the research.
The research team's first paper about its Glimpsing Heat from Alien Technologies Survey (G-HAT) is published in the Astrophysical Journal Supplement Series. Also among the team's discoveries are some mysterious new phenomena in our own Milky Way galaxy. Read more ..
Technology and Society
|Tony Trueman||April 14th 2015|
Facebook can help people recover from mental health problems but it needs to be used cautiously and strategically as it can also make symptoms worse, new research shows.
Dr Keelin Howard told the British Sociological Association's annual conference in Glasgow on April 15 that users she interviewed found their paranoid, manic and depressive symptoms could worsen as well as improve.
Dr Howard, of Buckinghamshire New University, carried out research with 20 people aged 23-68 who had experienced conditions such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, depression and anxiety.
She told the conference that social media like Facebook could provide a source of social support and connection that were important for recovery. Some participants were positive about Facebook, saying it helped them recover by making them feel less alone, allowing them to express themselves and be part of an online community. Read more ..
|George Friedman ||April 14th 2015|
"Empire" is a dirty word. Considering the behavior of many empires, that is not unreasonable. But empire is also simply a description of a condition, many times unplanned and rarely intended. It is a condition that arises from a massive imbalance of power. Indeed, the empires created on purpose, such as Napoleonic France and Nazi Germany, have rarely lasted. Most empires do not plan to become one. They become one and then realize what they are. Sometimes they do not realize what they are for a long time, and that failure to see reality can have massive consequences.
World War II and the Birth of an Empire
The United States became an empire in 1945. It is true that in the Spanish-American War, the United States intentionally took control of the Philippines and Cuba. It is also true that it began thinking of itself as an empire, but it really was not. Cuba and the Philippines were the fantasy of empire, and this illusion dissolved during World War I, the subsequent period of isolationism and the Great Depression. Read more ..
|Jordan Fabian||April 14th 2015|
President Obama pleaded with Jewish groups to back his nuclear framework deal with Iran during a private meeting at the White House on Monday.
The president held separate meetings on Monday with leaders of major Jewish organizations and a group mostly comprised of Jewish Democratic supporters and donors.
Obama made an â€œemphatic and passionateâ€ case during the nearly 90-minute meeting with Jewish organizations that the deal is the best way to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon, according to an official from a group that participated.
â€œConcerns were raised and there was a fair amount of back and forth,â€ the official, who requested anonymity to describe the events of the meeting, said. â€œThere were some folks walking in who support and favor the deal and there were some who have deep, deep concerns about the deal. I donâ€™t think anyoneâ€™s fundamental view was changed by the conversation.â€ Read more ..
The Edge of Climate Change
|David Biello||April 13th 2015|
Crickets chirp and bees buzz from sedum flower to flower atop the post office in midtown Manhattan during a visit to the 9th Avenue facility on a perfect New York City fall day. On a sprawling roof that covers most of a city block a kind of park has been laid, sucking up carbon dioxide and other air pollution, filtering rainfall, making it less acidic.
Such verdant roofs may form part of an effective strategy for both cooling buildings and helping combat climate change, according to recent research. Other solutions cited in a study include white roofs that reflect more sunlight back to space or hybrid roofs that combine aspects of white and green, or planted, roofs. Read more ..
Israel on Edge
|Omri Ariel||April 13th 2015|
They took nothing from their old home, crossed the border by foot in the dark and had gun bullets flying over their heads. Now they serve at the same base in the IDF's elite 8200 intelligence unit. Their story is one of bravery and determination
As they look at pictures and videos showing the ruins of the battle-scarred Syrian city of Aleppo, the three brothers who are now serving in the IDF's elite intelligence 8200 unit can barely recognize the place they grew up in. Channel 2 News Online met them for an exclusive interview.
They were raised as Syrian children, but learned biblical Hebrew in Jewish education centers. Their parents told them from a very early age that someday they were all hoping to flee Syria and make Aliyah to the holy land. When they heard about other families who managed to escape from the Syrian regime and cross the border into Israel, their determination grew stronger. Read more ..
The 2016 Vote
|Juan Williams||April 13th 2015|
The most stunning political news of the year to date is last weekâ€™s revelation that a group of super-PACs has already raised $31 million to support the presidential bid of Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas).
Read more ..
And last week also brought the most intriguing political news of the year â€” the federal indictment of Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.). The heart of the prosecutorâ€™s case against Menendez is that a PAC donation by a wealthy donor amounted to a bribe to get the senator to use his office to help the businessman avoid federal fraud charges.
Menendez denies wrongdoing, as does the businessman.
The bigger point, however, is that there is no restraint on the amount of big money suddenly flowing into political action committees. In addition, anonymous money pouring into non-profit groups affiliated with candidates is reaching flood levels.
And donâ€™t forget the unprecedented big money being raised directly for each of the 2016 presidential campaigns.
|Armstrong Williams||April 13th 2015|
As if the Islamic Republic of Iran's determined pursuit of nuclear weapons, track record of bloody terrorism, aggressive geopolitical power grabs, abhorrent human rights violations and history of lies were not enough â€“ President Obamaâ€™s recent interview should prove to everyone just how dangerous the framework agreement announced in Lausanne really is.
In an interview with Tom Friedman, President Obama said, "Iâ€™ve been very clear that Iran will not get a nuclear weapon on my watch."
That last bit bears repeating: "Iran will not get a nuclear weapon on my watch." This confirms what many of us have suspected all along: the framework agreement will enable Iran to acquire a nuclear weapon; the mullahs in Tehran will just have to wait a little while. Read more ..
The Race for Batteries
|Jean-Pierre Joosting||April 13th 2015|
Market research predicts that solid state thin film battery markets at $9 million in 2014 are forecast to reach $1.3 billion by 2021. Rapid growth toward the end of the forecast period is anticipated as technology improves the cost structure of the manufacturing. Solid state thin film batteries are ideal for powering energy harvesting applications. According the study, "Solid state electronics brings the same advantages to batteries as it has brought to all other industry segments it touches. Printed circuit board manufacturers are finding that they can achieve a rapid return on investment from substantially decreasing the energy costs associated with using storage by wave soldering the storage onto the boards during the manufacturing process."
The quality of energy storage is better with solid state thin film batteries. Data for thin film batteries using very thin substrates illustrate the longer cycle life that can be achieved. Applications include power bridging, permanent power, and wireless sensor networks. Read more ..
The Race for Natural Gas
|David Biello||April 12th 2015|
Gas likes to escape. That's bad news for the atmosphere when the gas in question is methane, the primary component in natural gas that is a much stronger greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. But burning natural gas results in half the greenhouse gas pollution than coal, making it appealing as fuel in an era of combating climate change.
Thanks to a bonanza of natural gas liberated from deep shales by new techniques, the U.S. is burning more and more of the fuelâ€”and considering using more natural gas in more places, such as fuel for trucking. But if the amount of methane escaping is too high, such widespread use might prove a disaster for climate change. And that's why a group of scientists set out to better estimate how much methane is escaping in the U.S. To do that, they surveyed more than 200 sets of field measurements and scientific papers from the past 20 years to learn whether increasing use of natural gas could prove a climate boon or bane. Read more ..
The Edge of Medicine
|Hannah Hoag||April 12th 2015|
The virus that caused the 1918 influenza pandemic probably sprang from North American domestic and wild birds, not from the mixing of human and swine viruses. A study reconstructs the origins of influenza A virus and traces its evolution and flow through different animal hosts over two centuries. â€œThe methods weâ€™ve been using for years and years, and which are crucial to figuring out the origins of gene sequences and the timing of those events, are all flawed,â€ says lead author Michael Worobey, an ecologist and evolutionary biologist at the University of Arizona in Tucson.
Worobey and his colleagues analyzed more than 80,000 gene sequences from flu viruses isolated from humans, birds, horses, pigs and bats using a model they developed to map evolutionary relationships between viruses from different host species. The branched tree that resulted showed that the genes of the deadly 1918 pandemic virus are of avian origin. Read more ..
The Iranian Threat
|Ari Morgenstern||April 12th 2015|
Pastor Saeed Abedini, Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian, and former Marine Corps Sgt. Amir Hekmati represent the essence of what makes America American â€” yet today all three are unjustly imprisoned in Iran.
That these individuals languish in jail while their captors repeatedly dine with America's secretary of state is of course repugnant. But such commentary would be rejected as shortsighted by the defenders of the Obama administration's negotiations with Tehran. They would no doubt tell us to look at the bigger picture and approach international diplomacy with the detached realism that necessitates sacrificing a few for the many.
But given the values they represent, might the unjust incarceration of these three American citizens â€” a pastor, a journalist and a Marine â€” inform our larger understanding of striking a deal with the Islamic Republic? Read more ..
|Bernard Banks||April 12th 2015|
AFP, I24, and agencies
Pope Francis used the word "genocide" on Sunday to describe the 1915 mass murder of Armenians in a move likely to severely strain diplomatic ties with Turkey. "In the past century our human family has lived through three massive and unprecedented tragedies," he said during a solemn mass in Saint Peter's Basilica to mark the centenary of the Ottoman killings of Armenians. "The first, which is widely considered 'the first genocide of the 20th century', struck your own Armenian people," he said, quoting a statement signed by Pope John Paul II and the Armenian patriarch in 2001. Many historians describe the killings as the 20th century's first genocide, but Turkey hotly denies the accusation.
While Francis did not use his own words to describe the murders as genocide, John Paul II's use of the term provoked a sharp reaction from Turkey at the time, and citing the beloved former pope will again ruffle feathers. Read more ..
|Yael Klein||April 12th 2015|
Read more ..
The Islamic State released a new video on Sunday featuring its operatives destroying the old city of Nimrud in Iraq. The city is situated in Iraq's modern day Nineveh region. In the video, the IS men are shown using bulldozers and explosives to turn the archeological treasures into debris. The terrorist organization has been destroying ancient sites throughout Iraq as part of what it calls "the war against false idols."
see the video here
"God has honored us in the Islamic State to remove all of these idols and statutes worshiped instead of Allah in the past days," one of the operatives stated. "Whenever we seize a piece of land, we will remove signs of idolatry and spread monotheism."
Qatar on Edge
|Onn Winckler||April 12th 2015|
Middle East Quarterly
Most states do not divulge all demographic parameters of their population. At times, this data is unavailable due to the weakness of the regime as is the case with many sub-Saharan African countries and, more recently, with Yemen, Syria, and Iraq due to their prolonged civil wars. In other countries, such as the United States, Belgium, and France, there is a lack of data on the religious composition of the population due to official separation of church and state.
While none of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states have ever published the religious composition of their indigenous populations, Qatar has lagged further behind: It does not even make public the total size of its indigenous population, considered "a national secret." As the online editor of a Qatari-based business publication was told when approaching the Qatar Statistics Authority (QSA) for the data: "We regret to inform you that the required data is not available." Read more ..
The Edge of Terrorism
|Rachel Ehrenfeld||April 10th 2015|
In a recent report to Congressional Committees on Biological Defense, the General Accountability Office (GAO) revealed that the Defense Department has not followed its own directive to update its list of biological agents that pose the greatest threat to the military. The DoD list on new biological threats serves as a guideline for the government's investments in countermeasures such as vaccines and new drugs. Yet, it has only been updated twice since its creation in 2000. The GAO reports that Pentagon officials stated they were under the impression that the DoD directive was no longer in effect.
Billions of of dollars were spent by the DoD from 2001 to 2013 on research and development of medical countermeasures. However, without updated lists, GAO was not able to determine whether DoD was dealing with the latest deadly biological agents. Even in the years that DoD did update the list, the GAO audit found that it didn't reach out to the department's Chemical and Biological Defense Program and other concerned agencies. Read more ..
The Edge of Terrorism
|Abha Shankar||April 10th 2015|
A year ago, he wanted to join the U.S. Army to kill his fellow soldiers. When that didn't work, 20-year-old John T. Booker repeatedly expressed his desire to join the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) or commit a suicide attack in the United States on the terrorist group's behalf.
Booker, a convert to Islam who changed his name to Mohammed Abdullah Hassan, said American soldiers are enemies to Muslims, and the Quran sanctions killing enemies anywhere.
FBI agents arrested Booker Friday morning just outside Fort Riley, a military base near Manhattan, Kan. He was driving a van loaded with what he thought was 1,000 pounds of explosives. In fact, the bomb was rendered inert by FBI agents and informants. He is charged with attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction, attempting to blow up government property and providing material support to the Islamic State. Read more ..
Turkey on Edge
|Burak Bekdil||April 10th 2015|
Middle East Forum
In 2008, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas's official news agency, Wafa, reported that Israel had released poison-resistant rats to drive Arab residents of Jerusalem out of their homes. Scientists are still trying to understand how rats are trained to distinguish between Muslim, Christian and Jewish residents of a city.
In 2011, Saudi Arabia announced that it had "detained" a vulture carrying an Israeli leg band. The griffon vulture was carrying a GPS transmitter bearing the name of Tel Aviv University, and was condemned for being a part of a "Zionist espionage plot." We are still waiting to hear if the bird was beheaded or sentenced to life in prison. Read more ..
Turkey on Edge
|Burak Bekdil||April 10th 2015|
Turkey is probably one of the best social laboratories in the world to prove why Islamist ideology cannot be compatible with a culture of humor, dissent and protest. It also offers a unique experience that shows how Islamists can even violate one of their religion's most fundamental teachings for the sake of worshipping a leader's cult of personality.
At a parliamentary session in February, Turkish deputies gathered to debate a controversial security bill. Instead of debate, a brawl broke out. The session ended after five MPs were taken to the hospital.
That bill, sponsored by the government but fiercely rebuked by the opposition, has just taken effect, adding to fears that Turkey is fast becoming a police state. Read more ..
|Mark Hyman||April 10th 2015|
Behind the Headlines
You can find papers on just about every side of a topic. Think tanks, advocacy groups, and activists churn out reports arguing their side of a contested issue. Some are authoritative. Others should be read with skepticism. Case in point. A British medical association recently published this report that claimed to have reviewed fracking â€œthrough a comprehensive public health lens.â€ The report prompted several prominent British doctors to publicly oppose fracking on health grounds.
Then it was reported several of the paperâ€™s claims were not accurate. Some of the report was written by an anti-fracking activist who had no medical training, whatsoever. Some papers are indeed sketchy. On the other hand, much credibility is given to peer-reviewed studies. There are considered near-pure science. Read more ..
The Digital Edge
|Matthias Poppel||April 9th 2015|
Matthias Poppel, chief operating officer for EnOcean GmbH claims that all of the technologies are in place to allow the Internet of Things to flourish. All that is needed are the standards and the vision to overcome the fragmented nature of the applications space.
A major challenge implementing the Internet of Things (IoT) is deploying large numbers of sensor and actuator nodes and connecting them in a suitable way. The characteristics of energy-harvesting wireless technology make it the perfect fit to bridge the last mile in an IoT network: small devices working without cables and batteries allowing a simple installation as well as quite easy gradual up-scaling in the number of deployed units. At the same time, the components require minimal service and maintenance effort. Read more ..
The Edge of Terrorism
|Bernard Banks||April 9th 2015|
from AFP and agencies
French television network TV5Monde said Thursday that it had been hacked by individuals claiming to belong to the Islamic State group, who brought television broadcasts to a halt and and hijacked its websites and social networks. The Paris-based company was able to partially resume television broadcasts by 1:00 am (2300 GMT) after a three-hour blackout, the network's director-general Yves Bigot told AFP, but added its systems had been "severely damaged" by an "unprecedented attack".
The hackers posted documents on TV5Monde's Facebook page purporting to be the identity cards and CVs of relatives of French soldiers involved in anti-IS operations, along with threats against the troops. Read more ..
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