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Archive for July 2016

The Edge of Terrorism

Shame on Our Silence

July 31st 2016

ISIS Group with Flags

The almost total absence of public mourning for an 85-year-old Christian priest whose  throat was slit by Islamist terrorists while he led prayer in a small church in Normandy, France, is a scandal.
Even the French have demonstrated less feeling for this horrendous deed than one would expect from an event which took place in the village which once hosted the trial of Joan of Arc, France's national heroine and a saint of French Christianity.

There was no moment of silence in the U.S. Democratic Convention, not unexpected given its total avoidance of the worldwide terrorist threat. One could have expected that Pres. Barack Obama, too, would have made a special effort to acknowledge this incident, so gratuitously evil as to be virtually indescribable. But that might be charged to his continuing effort to obscure the terrorist threat by refusing to name its origin in Islam and his elaborate courting of the terrorist mullahs in Tehran. Read more ..

The Jewish Expulsions

‘How I Bore You On Eagles Wings’ — A Reminder Of Our Humanity

July 30th 2016

Operation Magic Carpet Yemenites

Such troubling times all around us. It seems the world knows no rest: Islamic terror rearing its ugly head and in the most gruesome of manners in Europe and beyond, Turkey morphing from a democracy into an autocracy, divisive election campaigns emphasize once more our differences, highlighting our disagreements... It is almost as if we have lost faith in ourselves, our own humanity hidden from the eye. But is it?

The Jewish concept of “Hakarat Hatuv” (which literally means “recognizing the good” in Hebrew), Gratitude, relates to the importance of expressing one’s appreciation for the good bestowed upon them, both in word and in deed. I have witnessed its incredible effect in my diplomatic life as well as numerous times in my personal one. A few weeks ago, I got to say a special THANK YOU and travelled all the way from New York to Alaska to do so.


Campus Hate

The Jewish Exception to Free Speech on Campus

July 30th 2016

Boycott Divest Israel demo

In 2012, the Electronic Intifada, an online anti-Zionist media outlet that aggressively promotes the anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement, ran a lengthy article suggesting that “allegations of ‘anti-Semitism’ create a real climate of fear” that is “silencing” pro-Palestinian student activists on U.S. campuses. I couldn’t stop laughing when I saw the article, not because of the absurd nature of the charges — that Jewish students were somehow intimidating and silencing pro-Palestinian student activists just by virtue of speaking up about the intimidation, and silencing they themselves were experiencing at the hands of those same activists — I laughed because of the accompanying photograph set beneath the headline. In one concise image, it revealed the utter disingenuousness of the thousand words that followed.

Inside Taxation

Could Fixing An Unfair Tax Code Actually Improve U.S. Health?

July 29th 2016

Money Bands=Happiness

In September of 2013, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Montana) and Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp (R-Michigan) issued a joint statement calling for comprehensive reform of the U.S. tax code which they described as “broken.” It is not broken. In fact, it is perhaps the most effective legislation ever passed by Congress.

Baucus and Camp’s bipartisan mischaracterization stems from either not acknowledging or not understanding what tax law in our country is designed to do: perpetuate the magnification of wealth for those who already have it at the expense of those who will never get it. We absolutely do need to reform the U.S. tax code — not because it is broken, but because it works.


Islam on Edge

Islam, Sexual Violence, and the West

July 29th 2016

Mosque in Berlin Germany
Mosques in Berlin

The mass rape of hundreds of German women mostly by Muslim migrants last New Year's was recently revealed to be far worse than originally acknowledged. Authorities now believe that more than 1,200 women were sexually assaulted – more than twice the original estimate of 500. While more than 2,000 men were allegedly involved, only 120 suspects — about half of them recently arrived migrants — have been identified.

One explanation for why it took half a year for the full extent of the crime to be revealed is the German police's effort to avoid a public backlash against refugees. But ultimately, Holger Munch, president of the German Federal Crime Police Office, acknowledged to the German newspaper Sueddeutsche Zeitung that there is "a connection between the [sexual assaults] and the rapid migration in 2015." Read more ..

Turkey on Edge

Crushing Dissent in Turkey

July 28th 2016

Turkish KFOR soldiers riot training

In 1853, John Russell quoted Tsar Nicholas I of Russia as saying that the Ottoman Empire was "a sick man -- a very sick man," in reference to the ailing empire's fall into a state of decrepitude. Some 163 years after that, the modern Turkish state follows in the Ottoman steps.

Turkey, under President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's rule, was staggering between a hybrid democracy and bitter authoritarianism. After the failed putsch of July 15, it is being dragged into worse darkness. The silly attempt gives Erdogan what he wanted: a pretext to go after every dissident Turk. A witch-hunt is badly shattering the democratic foundations of the country. Read more ..

The Edge of Games

Digging Deeper into Pokemon Go

July 28th 2016

Helping hands

Pokemon Go is an augmented reality game which launched a week ago. Augmented reality games involve the use of technology to map aspects of the game onto the real world. The technology could involve complicated and expensive headsets and body suits, special mats or controllers, or could be as simply as your mobile phone. Pokemon Go uses your mobile phone to show you the real world, with the addition of game elements such as Pokemon which you can interact with. Concerns have been raised about the way the game interfaces with the real world. Some integrations between the virtual world and the game are dangerous, some are offensive and some are disruptive to the operation of government, businesses and private citizens. Read more ..

The Race for EVs

Daimler Pursues All-Electric Truck

July 28th 2016

Traffic Jam

So far, electric driving used to be matter of passenger vehicles and sports cars; trucks and buses stuck to their traditional diesel powertrains, despite all their drawbacks of noise and harmful emissions. This is no longer true: Daimler, not only a manufacturer of coveted luxury cars but also one of the world’s largest players in the market for commercial vehicles, has introduced a relatively large truck with an all-electric powertrain, and the company signalizes that the time is right to bring electric trucks to the global markets. “After 120 years of diesel-driven trucks, electric mobility has arrived at this market”, said Wolfgang Bernhard, general Manager of Daimler’s trucks and buses business unit.

Hitherto, electric trucks could not compete against conventional ones in terms of cost, performance and driving range. “Ten years ago, the battery alone made up one third of the weight of the entire vehicle”, Bernhard said. Now, the technology is advanced enough to match and surpass diesel-driven trucks, albeit only in certain model roles.


The Edge of Terrorism

Islamic Terrorists Slaughter Catholic Priest in France

July 26th 2016


Two Muslim terrorists allied with the Islamic State stormed into a Catholic church in northern France during the midst of the celebration of Mass. They took hostages and then cut the throat of the 86-year-old priest in the church. A team of police trained in special weapons and techniques came to the scene and shot the two militants to death. Bomb disposal units are on hand, seeking any possible explosive devices left behind by the attackers. Two of the hostages were nuns.
In Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray, about 35 miles southeast of the port of Le Havre in Normandy, French soldiers are patrolling the narrow streets near the church where the martyrdom took place. Mourners are gathering at the little church. One of the hostages who survived the assault is being treated for life-threatening injuries, said Pierre-Henry Brandet.

Inside Books

Small Copyright Claims Court Legislation Foreseen

July 26th 2016

Stacks of old books

Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY), a member of the House Judiciary Committee, introduced a bill, entitled the Copyright Alternative in Small-Claims Enforcement (CASE) Act of 2016, H.R. 5757, that would establish an accessible and efficient forum to resolve “small” copyright claims. The legislation, co-sponsored by Rep. Tom Marino (R-PA), would allow individual authors to protect their intellectual property rights without having to file expensive and complicated federal lawsuits.

The Authors Guild has been actively advocating for a small copyright claims court since 2006, when we testified before the House Judiciary Committee about the need for such a venue, citing an Authors Guild survey that revealed most authors do not have effective access to the courts for many of their copyright infringement claims. As the threats to authors’ copyright incentives have increased since that time—due to the growth of digital book piracy and courts’ reluctance to enforce digital rights—so have our efforts to establish a small claims court. Read more ..

Vote 2016

Wrong and Rude on Iran and Israel

July 25th 2016

Tim Kaine

The Democrats are out selling Tim Kaine as a solid citizen, experienced politician, and a great choice for vice president on the Hillary Clinton ticket -- someone who could step in quickly as president if needed. The traditional pro-Israel community, led by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, are undoubtedly preparing to signal their comfort with him as a Clinton running mate, much as they did with the supposedly pro-Israel Barack Obama, twice. Kaine has voted in favor of foreign aid; he has traveled to Israel; he voted in favor of funding some weapons systems for Israel; he has raised a lot of money from liberal Jews (running for governor, senator, and head of the Democratic National Committee).


Turkey on Edge

Coup Attempt in Turkey: A Feast of Pretexts

July 24th 2016

Turkish military parade with flags

Everything looked surreal in Turkey; soldiers inviting the head of the police anti-terror squad for a "meeting" only to shoot him in the head; top brass, including the chief of the military general staff, air force commander, land forces commander and gendarmerie commander, being taken hostage by their own aide-de-camps; then people taking to the streets in their thousands to resist the coup d'état, taking over tanks, getting killed, soldiers opening fire at the civilians, and finally the victorious pro-Erdogan people lynching coup-staging soldiers wherever they could grab them.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan accused his formerly staunchest political ally, a Muslim cleric in exile in the United States, Fethullah Gulen, and his loyalists within the military. Appearing before a crowd of party fans, Erdogan pleaded to Washington for "the terrorist" Gulen's extradition. Read more ..

Saudi Arabia on Edge

Saudis Announce a Turn Away from Wahhabi Cultural Vandalism

July 21st 2016

Saudi princes

The rulers of Saudi Arabia have announced a new program for cultural renovation of architecture associated with the life of Muhammad. As described in the leading pan-Arab daily Asharq Al-Awsat, a Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage (SCTH) has begun planning rehabilitation of sites in Mecca, the direction of prayer for Muslims around the world, and Medina, which includes the Prophet's Shrine, where Muhammad is said to be buried.

The restorations would include Jebel Al-Nur, the "Mountain of Light" in Mecca, where Qur'an is believed to have been first revealed to Muhammad, and locations where he is said to have sojourned. Jebel Al-Nur is a key topic in this discussion. In Medina, sites identified with battles fought by the Muslims, and four early mosques, are due for reorganization and restructuring. Museums drawing on Islamic military history and other themes will be opened and guides to the attractions provided. Read more ..

Turkey on Edge

Why I Rooted for the Turkish Coup Attempt

July 20th 2016

Turkish military parade with flags


The Battle for Libya

The Final Footnote on Gadhafi

July 14th 2016

Muammar Qaddafi


Israel on Edge

On U.S. Military Aid To Israel, Don’t Bite The Hand That Feeds You

July 14th 2016

Bibi Netanyahu with Glasses

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu professes to know America.

“I spent a significant part of my life in the United States. I studied there, I worked there, my beloved father taught there, and my English ain’t too bad either,” he told celebrants at a recent U.S. Independence Day event in Herzliya.

But in the context of the U.S. aid package that awaits his signature, he’s missing the point. While the English language hasn’t changed all that much, America has. So has Israel.
And that’s the problem.

The America he knew so well as a teenager in the mid-60s and from his college days in the mid-70s no longer views Israel as a fledgling and besieged state in existential need of support. Read more ..

Vote 2016

The Uncanny Road Ahead for Trump

July 14th 2016


With the GOP convention finally at hand, team Trump faces the truly daunting task of keeping his brand afloat and maintaining a course to victory in the fall. It appears that the GOP is anything but all hands on deck, with splinter factions threatening to abandon the candidate and some delegates actually planning a convention floor revolt.

And yet, despite the apparent disunity and chaos, Trump’s polling numbers versus his challenger, presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, have barely taken a hit. Coming out of a widely publicized email scandal in which she was spared criminal indictment, Clinton’s reputation as someone who used bad judgment has wounded her deeply. In a newly released New York Times/CBS poll 67 percent of voters indicated that Clinton ‘is not honest and trustworthy.’ And the poll also showed the candidates are essentially neck and neck in the race.

The implication is that Trump need not run a perfect race to beat Clinton, just merely a race free of major blunders. But if past is precedent, a mistake-free performance may be a bit much to ask from Trump. Several times over the past weeks, Trump’s antics have snatched headlines away from a major Clinton scandal and turned attention on himself. The email scandal is a case in point. Read more ..

Antisemitism Rising

Who Do Bigots Blame for Police Shootings in America? Israel, of Course!

July 14th 2016

Alan Dershowitz

In response to the tragic deaths of Philando Castile and Alton Sterling at the hands of police officers in Minnesota and Louisiana, the New York University chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) posted the following on its Facebook page:

"In the past 48 hours another two black men have been lynched by the police.... We must remember that many US police departments train with #IsraeliDefenceForces. The same forces behind the genocide of black people in America are behind the genocide of Palestinians. What this means is that Palestinians must stand with our black comrades. We must struggle for their liberation. It is as important as our own. #AltonSterling is as important as #AliDawabsheh. Palestinian liberation and black liberation go together. We must recognize this and commit to building for it."

Even in moments of national mourning such as these, SJP bigots cannot help but exploit the deaths of innocent Americans to further their own anti-Semitic political agenda, namely to delegitimize and demonize the nation state of the Jewish people.

By implicating Israel in these killings, SJP is engaging in the old trope of blaming Jews for systemic and far-reaching societal problems. This practice was anti-Semitic when some Christian communities used it to blame Jews for plagues, poisonings, and murders; it was anti-Semitic when the Nazis used it to blame Jews for the failing German economy; and it is still anti-Semitic today. There is no more evidence that any of the police who killed Mr. Castile and Mr. Sterling were in fact trained in Israel than there was that Jews were responsible for any of the other crimes that formed the basis for traditional blood libels.


The Race for E-Bikes

Battery Technology Drives E-Bike Boom

July 14th 2016


Improvements in lithium ion battery technology are driving a boom in electric bicycle shipments around the world says a new report from market researchers Navigant Research.

Increasing urbanization and a desire to move away from cars for motorized transportation are creating more opportunities for alternative mobility devices such as e-bikes which will be the highest selling electric vehicle globally with nearly 35 million units sold this year. Navigant predicts the market will grow from $15.7 bn this year to $24.3 billion by 2025.

“Rising levels of population density and traffic congestion are driving interest in different modes of transportation,” says Ryan Citron, research analyst at Navigant Research. “E-bikes are uniquely positioned to be a primary benefactor of this trend since they are low in cost relative to cars, do not require licenses to operate, and can take advantage of existing bicycling infrastructure.”


The Caliphate

Islamic State Shifts Strategy

July 13th 2016

ISIS on the Street

The latest wave of bombings by Islamic State confirm a pattern long observed. As it continues to lose ground in its heartland and its "provinces," so the organization turns back to an intensified focus on international terrorism. This is in line with previous experience of international Salafi-jihadi organizations.

Two points need to be noted. First, considerable past experience shows that the destruction of the physical holdings of Salafi-jihadi groups does not mean their eclipse. Second, and more importantly, Salafi-jihadi networks are today part of a broader process – the revival and flourishing of political Islam. To try to understand them otherwise is to misunderstand them. The patterns of survival of earlier networks confirm this.

That the Islamic State "caliphate" is facing eclipse is no longer under serious dispute. It has lost around 47 percent of its territory in Iraq, according to a June 27 statement by Brett McGurk, the US administration's point man in the fight against Islamic State. The latest loss is the city of Falluja. Read more ..

Kurdistan on Edge

The Case for Kurdish Statehood

July 12th 2016

PKK (Kurdish Worker's Party) Fighter

Why has the West been so supportive of Palestinian nationalism, yet so reluctant to support the Kurds, the largest nation in the world without a state?

The Kurds have been instrumental in fighting the Islamic State (ISIS); have generously accepted millions of refugees fleeing ISIS to the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG); and embrace Western values such as gender equality, religious freedom, and human rights. They are also an ancient people with an ethnic and linguistic identity stretching back millennia and have faced decades of brutal oppression as a minority. Yet they cannot seem to get sufficient support from the West for their political aspirations.

The Palestinians, by contrast, claimed a distinct national identity relatively recently, are less than one-third fewer in number (in 2013, the global Palestinian population was estimated by the Palestinian Authority to reach 11.6 million), control land that is less than 1/15th the size of the KRG territory, and have not developed their civil society or economy with nearly as much success as the Kurds. Yet the United Nations, the European Union, the Arab League, and other international bodies have all but ignored Kurdish statehood dreams while regularly prioritizing Palestinian ambitions over countless other global crises. Read more ..

Campus AntiSemitism

Fighting Discrimination And Protecting The First Amendment On Campus, Not A Zero Sum Game

July 12th 2016

boycott Israel t-shirt

Combating discrimination means clamping down on free speech. Upholding the First Amendment means anything goes on campus.  Encouraging civil discourse and condemning when debate becomes hate is bubble-wrapping students.

With college and high school commencement time upon us, stories emerge daily that student safety measures come at the expense of free speech and critical thinking.  Preventing discrimination and protecting the First Amendment, however, should never be at odds. They are not competing issues.  Both are paramount responsibilities of a university. Schools must do both and they can. 

A close look at the evolution of a recently adopted intolerance policy at the University of California (UC) is a case in point.

A few years ago, UC students, parents, faculty and community members began sharing troubling accounts. Jewish property was vandalized with swastikas after students spoke in favor of Israel, Jewish students on multiple campuses were questioned about their eligibility to hold office and vote on Israel-boycott measures simply because of their religion, and Israel and Jews were blamed for 9/11. “Hitler did nothing wrong,” “Zionists to the gas chamber” and “grout out the Jews” were found on multiple California campuses in the wake of heated anti-Zionist BDS campaigns.


The Battle for Afghanistan

Why Not Zero?

July 11th 2016

Afgan Troops

The Obama administration has announced that it will not cut the U.S. troop deployment in Afghanistan to 5,000 as planned, but will leave 8,400 soldiers to support the Afghan government in its fight against the Taliban.  President Obama said, "Compared to the 100,000 troops we once had there, today, fewer than 10,000 remain."

That is true, but why 8,400?  Why not 50,000?  Why not zero?

In making his announcement, President Obama said, "Even as we remain relentless against those who threaten us, we are no longer engaged in a major ground war in Afghanistan."  That's interesting, but exactly who in Afghanistan threatens the United States?  And how relentless can we be with 8,400 soldiers? Read more ..

Book Review

Islamic Spain in Middle Ages Was No Paradise for Christians, Jews, or Women

July 10th 2016

The Myth of Anduslian Paradise

The Myth of the Andalusian Paradise: Muslims, Christians, and Jews Under Islamic Rule in Medieval Spain. By Dario Fernandez-Morera. ISI Books, 336pp, $59.95 (HB).

There is a widely held belief that in Spain, during the European Middle Ages, Islam, Christianity and Judaism co-existed peacefully and fruitfully under a tolerant and enlightened Islamic hegemony. Dario Fernandez-Morera, associate professor of Spanish and Portuguese at Northwestern University in the US, with a PhD from Harvard, has written a stunning book that upends this myth.

The myth itself has been a comforting and even inspiring story that has underpinned the so-called Toledo Principles regarding religious tolerance in our time. It has buttressed the belief that Islam was a higher civilisation than that of medieval Europe in the eighth to 12th centuries and that the destruction of this enlightened and sophisticated Andalusia should be lamented.

The great Spanish poet Federico Garcia Lorca, a century ago, saw it that way. US President Barack Obama and The Economist magazine have both very recently cited Muslim Andalusia as evidence that Islam has been a religion of peace and tolerance. In short, the myth of Andalusia has been a beacon of hope for working with Islam in today’s world with a common commitment to civilised norms.

This vision was spelled out in Maria Rosa Menocal’s The Ornament of the World: How Muslims, Jews and Christians Created a Culture of Tolerance in Medieval Spain (2002) and reinforced by David Levering Lewis’s God’s Crucible: Islam and the Making of Europe, 570-1215 (2008). But it has deep roots. Edward Gibbon, in his famous 18th-century history of the decline and fall of the Roman Empire, wrote in glowing terms of the 10th-century Umayyad caliphate in Spain as a beacon of enlightenment, learning and urban living, at a time when Europe was plunged in bigotry, ignorance and poverty. Read more ..

Islam on Edge

It's not Personal, It's Islam

July 10th 2016

DELETE Muslims pray on a rug

A widely-publicised Iftar dinner, intended to show that Malcolm Turnbull gets what it means to be inclusive, ended badly after he was advised that one of his guests, Sheikh Shady Alsuleiman, had taught that Islam prescribes death for adulterers, and homosexuals spread diseases. No rogue maverick, Australian-born Alsuleiman is the elected national president of the Australian National Imams Council.

Although insisting that "mutual respect is absolutely critical," Turnbull subjected this prominent Muslim leader to public humiliation. He regretted inviting him to dinner and counselled the sheikh "to reflect on what he has said and recant." In the middle of an election, wanting to limit fallout from the dinner-gone-wrong, held only days after the Orlando massacre, Turnbull stated that his no-longer-welcome guest's views are "wrong, unacceptable, and I condemn them." Read more ..

The Edge of the Solar System

Juno Arrives at Jupiter

July 8th 2016


NASA's Juno spacecraft has successfully entered orbit around Jupiter. At 8:53 P.M. Pacific time, ground controllers received a telemetry tone of 2,327 hertz -- equivalent to the highest D note on a piano keyboard—indicating that Juno's 35-minute engine burn had slowed the spacecraft enough to slip into the giant planet’s gravitational embrace. Launched in 2011 on a nearly five-year interplanetary voyage, Juno is only the second spacecraft to ever orbit Jupiter, after the Galileo mission that explored the giant planet from 1995 to 2003. During its capture into orbit Juno passed just 4,490 kilometers above the Jovian cloud tops, so close that the planet filled half its sky. Even so, Jupiter is so immense that an astronaut riding along would have seen only about 5 percent of the planet’s cloud-shrouded face.

At 9:50 P.M., the maneuver was officially complete as the spacecraft turned its solar arrays back toward the sun. “I won't exhale until we’re sun-pointed again,” Juno's principal investigator Scott Bolton had said at a press conference earlier in the day.

The spacecraft plummeted in from interplanetary space over Jupiter's north pole at about 7:30 P.M., falling ever faster as it plunged deeper into the planet’s gravitational field. Just two days ago its speed relative to Jupiter was nine kilometers per second; midday yesterday, 12 kilometers per second; and by the rocket burn, 54 kilometers per second. The burn reduced its speed by just 1 percent, but that was enough. (Theoretically, the spacecraft was captured by the planet at 8:38 P.M., about halfway through the burn, but confirmation did not come until later.) After skimming so close to Jupiter's upper atmosphere, the spacecraft soared back up from the planet’s cloud tops at about 9:30 P.M. into a looping, elongated orbit out to 8.1 million kilometers.


The Race for EVs

Deadly Tesla Crash Exposes Confusion over Automated Driving

July 8th 2016

Broken Road

How much do we really know about what so-called self-driving vehicles can and cannot do? The fatal traffic accident involving a Tesla Motors car that crashed while using its Autopilot feature offers a stark reminder that such drivers are in uncharted territory—and of the steep cost of that uncertainty.

The sensor systems that enable Tesla’s hands-free driving are the result of decades of advances in computer vision and machine learning. Yet the failure of Autopilot—built into 70,000 Tesla vehicles worldwide since October 2014—to help avoid the May 7 collision that killed the car’s sole occupant demonstrates how far the technology has to go before fully autonomous vehicles can truly arrive.


The Edge of Terrorism

A Kurdish Moment?

July 5th 2016

ISIS Battle Position

Before the so-called Islamic State emerged in the Middle East, not too many had heard of the Kurds. Commonly referred to as “the world’s largest nation without a state” following World War I, international actors skipped over the Kurds when awarding statehood to various actors in the region. As a result, the group was left at the mercy of strong and antagonistic central governments in Ankara, Baghdad, Damascus, and Tehran. As a minority, they remained isolated from international actors, who feared provoking irredentism.

Since the emergence of IS, however, many in the West have become convinced that openly supporting, and even arming, the Kurds in Iraq and Syria is one of the best ways to combat the Salafi-jihadist group. IS has presented the Kurds with their opportunity to solidify their relations with international actors and increase their autonomy en route to their treasured status of independence. Read more ..

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