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Archive for April 2017


The North Korean Threat

North Korea Missile Attempts Fails

April 16th 2017

N Korean troops

A North Korean missile fired from the east coast of the country Sunday “blew up almost immediately,” officials said.

The U.S. Pacific Command said the missile, which came near the city of Sinpo, “blew up almost immediately,” but the type of missile was still being assessed.

The failure came one day after Pyongyang celebrated one of the biggest propaganda events of the year – the 105th birthday of the late North Korea founder Kim Il Sung, Kim Jong Un’s grandfather.

The failed launch also comes ahead of Vice President Pence’s arrival in Seoul, South Korea for talks about how to handle Kim’s regime. Pence had been in contact with President Trump about the test. Read more ..


The Edge of Terrorism

Time for the US To Stop Arming its Enemies

April 16th 2017

Taureg-terrorists

No one expects the Trump administration to reverse the disastrous effects of the Obama-supported Muslim Brotherhood's hijacking of the "Arab Spring" in the Middle East that increased the regional contest for supremacy in the Islamic world.

The rivalry has intensified between the Sunni camp led by Saudi Arabia and the Shiite camp led by Iran - each with its pet terrorist organizations.
It's hard to overstate how much damage was done by the Obama administration's misjudgment that Sunni jihadists and Shia Iran were somehow friendly to us and could be useful tools of American policy. 

But using jihadi groups claiming to be less violent than al-Qaeda and ISIS resulted in the Benghazi massacre of four Americans, including Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens, and the destabilization of Egypt, Libya, Yemen, and Syria, and elsewhere. Read more ..


Book Review

Richard Haass Less than Forthcoming in "A World in Disarray"

April 15th 2017

Muammar Qaddafi

When the Berlin Wall fell in November 1989, experts agreed that the world would soon be a more peaceful and democratic place. But with war raging across the Middle East and showdowns looming from Eastern Europe to Asia, Richard Haass’s A World in Disarray is a primer on how they went wrong.  Haass is president of the Council on Foreign Relations, the country’s premier foreign-policy think tank, so he’s in a position to know.  But his book is vague, meandering, and about as penetrating as a strand of overcooked spaghetti.  The only insight it offers is into how alarmingly shallow the US foreign-policy establishment has become.

Haass served as special assistant to President George H.W. Bush during the 1991 Gulf War and then as the State Department’s director of policy planning during the run-up to the 2003 invasion of Iraq.  Unfortunately, the only effect has been to lock in a world view that is self-serving and contradictory. He writes that post-invasion Iraq “proved far less ripe for democratic change than had been anticipated by the war’s proponents,” as if people like Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld had any interest in democratizing Iraq in the first place. (They didn't.) He writes that the Iraqi collapse led to the rise of “subnational identities tied to set, tribe, and ethnicity” and that “Sunni anger and humiliation stoked recruiting for both al-Qaeda and subsequently ISIS.” But he doesn’t mention the role of close US allies such as Saudi Arabia in building such forces up.  (By 2009, then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was warning that “donors in Saudi Arabia constitute the most significant source of funding to Sunni terrorist groups worldwide.”)

He criticizes the Obama administration for abandoning Egyptian strongman Hosni Mubarak during the Arab Spring because it would be “taken as a sign in Riyadh and elsewhere that the United States could not be expected to back its friends of long standing.” But he doesn’t explain why the US should be friends with such a nightmarish dictatorship.  He notes that in order “not to alienate the Saudis,” the US held its tongue when the kingdom sent troops to crush pro-democracy demonstrations in neighboring Bahrain. But he avoids saying whether this was a good policy or not. 

A World in Disarrayalso criticizes America and its allies for failing to put Libya back on its feet after toppling Muammar Gadhafi but doesn’t mention the role of Qatar, which joined the anti-Gadhafi campaign at Clinton’s behest and then distributed some $400 million in military aid to Salafist rebels so that they could spread havoc from one end of the country to the other.  It accuses Barack Obama of “an act … of omission” for failing to fund anti-Baathist rebels in Syria, when in fact CIA was spending close to a billion dollars per year.  Haass assails the White House for not responding more forcefully when Syrian President Bashar al-Assad was accused of using poison gas in August 2013, but neglects to mention that Obama only pulled back when Director of National Intelligence James Clapper informed him that the case against Assad was less than a “slam dunk.” He says that the US should have proceeded regardless with a concerted assault on “important military and political targets over several days involving both aircraft and cruise missiles.” But then he cautions a few pages later that “the rapid collapse of the Assad regime [in 2015] without careful preparation for what would take its place would likely have paved the way for ISIS to establish a caliphate in Damascus, something to be resisted at all costs.” So why would a massive missile barrage not have produced the same disastrous result two years earlier? A World in Disarray doesn’t explain.

Finally, Haass is less than forthcoming about his own role in the great Middle East debacle.  He says of the run-up to the invasion of Iraq: “The road to a transformed Middle East, it was widely believed, ran through Baghdad. I did not share this view, but I had little opportunity to challenge those who did, given the structure of decision making in the George W. Bush administration.” In fact, he had ample opportunity when the New Yorker’s Nicholas Lemann called him for an interview just as the war was getting underway. Instead of letting loose with his misgivings, though, he mounted a vigorous defense, accusing the French of “being disingenuous” in objecting to the invasion and declaring that Bush was right to proceed without UN approval.

“This is a way, I believe, quite honestly, of preserving the UN’s potential viability in the future,” he said. “We’ve not destroyed it. We’ve just admitted, though, that it can’t do everything, when the great powers of the day disagree.”

These are the weasel words of someone who had just gotten the nod to become head of the Council on Foreign Relations – which Lemann correctly describes as “one of the foreign-policy world’s plummiest jobs” – and didn’t want to say anything to queer the deal. Estimates of Iraqi war deaths from March 2003 to June 2006 run as high as 600,000, all because the Bush administration thought it had a unilateral right to disregard both the UN and world opinion in general. Judging from A World in Disarray, Haass still hasn’t faced up to the enormity of his mistake.

- See more at: http://historynewsnetwork.org/article/165504#sthash.YDg3Ug9L.dpuf

When the Berlin Wall fell in November 1989, experts agreed that the world would soon be a more peaceful and democratic place. But with war raging across the Middle East and showdowns looming from Eastern Europe to Asia, Richard Haass’s A World in Disarray is a primer on how they went wrong.  Haass is president of the Council on Foreign Relations, the country’s premier foreign-policy think tank, so he’s in a position to know.  But his book is vague, meandering, and about as penetrating as a strand of overcooked spaghetti.  The only insight it offers is into how alarmingly shallow the US foreign-policy establishment has become.

Haass served as special assistant to President George H.W. Bush during the 1991 Gulf War and then as the State Department’s director of policy planning during the run-up to the 2003 invasion of Iraq.  Unfortunately, the only effect has been to lock in a world view that is self-serving and contradictory. He writes that post-invasion Iraq “proved far less ripe for democratic change than had been anticipated by the war’s proponents,” as if people like Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld had any interest in democratizing Iraq in the first place. (They didn't.) He writes that the Iraqi collapse led to the rise of “subnational identities tied to set, tribe, and ethnicity” and that “Sunni anger and humiliation stoked recruiting for both al-Qaeda and subsequently ISIS.” But he doesn’t mention the role of close US allies such as Saudi Arabia in building such forces up.  (By 2009, then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was warning that “donors in Saudi Arabia constitute the most significant source of funding to Sunni terrorist groups worldwide.”)

He criticizes the Obama administration for abandoning Egyptian strongman Hosni Mubarak during the Arab Spring because it would be “taken as a sign in Riyadh and elsewhere that the United States could not be expected to back its friends of long standing.” But he doesn’t explain why the US should be friends with such a nightmarish dictatorship.  He notes that in order “not to alienate the Saudis,” the US held its tongue when the kingdom sent troops to crush pro-democracy demonstrations in neighboring Bahrain. But he avoids saying whether this was a good policy or not. 

A World in Disarrayalso criticizes America and its allies for failing to put Libya back on its feet after toppling Muammar Gadhafi but doesn’t mention the role of Qatar, which joined the anti-Gadhafi campaign at Clinton’s behest and then distributed some $400 million in military aid to Salafist rebels so that they could spread havoc from one end of the country to the other.  It accuses Barack Obama of “an act … of omission” for failing to fund anti-Baathist rebels in Syria, when in fact CIA was spending close to a billion dollars per year.  Haass assails the White House for not responding more forcefully when Syrian President Bashar al-Assad was accused of using poison gas in August 2013, but neglects to mention that Obama only pulled back when Director of National Intelligence James Clapper informed him that the case against Assad was less than a “slam dunk.” He says that the US should have proceeded regardless with a concerted assault on “important military and political targets over several days involving both aircraft and cruise missiles.” But then he cautions a few pages later that “the rapid collapse of the Assad regime [in 2015] without careful preparation for what would take its place would likely have paved the way for ISIS to establish a caliphate in Damascus, something to be resisted at all costs.” So why would a massive missile barrage not have produced the same disastrous result two years earlier? A World in Disarray doesn’t explain.

Finally, Haass is less than forthcoming about his own role in the great Middle East debacle.  He says of the run-up to the invasion of Iraq: “The road to a transformed Middle East, it was widely believed, ran through Baghdad. I did not share this view, but I had little opportunity to challenge those who did, given the structure of decision making in the George W. Bush administration.” In fact, he had ample opportunity when the New Yorker’s Nicholas Lemann called him for an interview just as the war was getting underway. Instead of letting loose with his misgivings, though, he mounted a vigorous defense, accusing the French of “being disingenuous” in objecting to the invasion and declaring that Bush was right to proceed without UN approval.

“This is a way, I believe, quite honestly, of preserving the UN’s potential viability in the future,” he said. “We’ve not destroyed it. We’ve just admitted, though, that it can’t do everything, when the great powers of the day disagree.”

These are the weasel words of someone who had just gotten the nod to become head of the Council on Foreign Relations – which Lemann correctly describes as “one of the foreign-policy world’s plummiest jobs” – and didn’t want to say anything to queer the deal. Estimates of Iraqi war deaths from March 2003 to June 2006 run as high as 600,000, all because the Bush administration thought it had a unilateral right to disregard both the UN and world opinion in general. Judging from A World in Disarray, Haass still hasn’t faced up to the enormity of his mistake.

- See more at: http://historynewsnetwork.org/article/165504#sthash.YDg3Ug9L.dpuf

When the Berlin Wall fell in November 1989, experts agreed that the world would soon be a more peaceful and democratic place. But with war raging across the Middle East and showdowns looming from Eastern Europe to Asia, Richard Haass’s A World in Disarray is a primer on how they went wrong.  Haass is president of the Council on Foreign Relations, the country’s premier foreign-policy think tank, so he’s in a position to know.  But his book is vague, meandering, and about as penetrating as a strand of overcooked spaghetti.  The only insight it offers is into how alarmingly shallow the US foreign-policy establishment has become.

Haass served as special assistant to President George H.W. Bush during the 1991 Gulf War and then as the State Department’s director of policy planning during the run-up to the 2003 invasion of Iraq.  Unfortunately, the only effect has been to lock in a world view that is self-serving and contradictory. He writes that post-invasion Iraq “proved far less ripe for democratic change than had been anticipated by the war’s proponents,” as if people like Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld had any interest in democratizing Iraq in the first place. (They didn't.) He writes that the Iraqi collapse led to the rise of “subnational identities tied to set, tribe, and ethnicity” and that “Sunni anger and humiliation stoked recruiting for both al-Qaeda and subsequently ISIS.” But he doesn’t mention the role of close US allies such as Saudi Arabia in building such forces up.  (By 2009, then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was warning that “donors in Saudi Arabia constitute the most significant source of funding to Sunni terrorist groups worldwide.”)

He criticizes the Obama administration for abandoning Egyptian strongman Hosni Mubarak during the Arab Spring because it would be “taken as a sign in Riyadh and elsewhere that the United States could not be expected to back its friends of long standing.” But he doesn’t explain why the US should be friends with such a nightmarish dictatorship.  He notes that in order “not to alienate the Saudis,” the US held its tongue when the kingdom sent troops to crush pro-democracy demonstrations in neighboring Bahrain. But he avoids saying whether this was a good policy or not. 

A World in Disarrayalso criticizes America and its allies for failing to put Libya back on its feet after toppling Muammar Gadhafi but doesn’t mention the role of Qatar, which joined the anti-Gadhafi campaign at Clinton’s behest and then distributed some $400 million in military aid to Salafist rebels so that they could spread havoc from one end of the country to the other.  It accuses Barack Obama of “an act … of omission” for failing to fund anti-Baathist rebels in Syria, when in fact CIA was spending close to a billion dollars per year.  Haass assails the White House for not responding more forcefully when Syrian President Bashar al-Assad was accused of using poison gas in August 2013, but neglects to mention that Obama only pulled back when Director of National Intelligence James Clapper informed him that the case against Assad was less than a “slam dunk.” He says that the US should have proceeded regardless with a concerted assault on “important military and political targets over several days involving both aircraft and cruise missiles.” But then he cautions a few pages later that “the rapid collapse of the Assad regime [in 2015] without careful preparation for what would take its place would likely have paved the way for ISIS to establish a caliphate in Damascus, something to be resisted at all costs.” So why would a massive missile barrage not have produced the same disastrous result two years earlier? A World in Disarray doesn’t explain.

Finally, Haass is less than forthcoming about his own role in the great Middle East debacle.  He says of the run-up to the invasion of Iraq: “The road to a transformed Middle East, it was widely believed, ran through Baghdad. I did not share this view, but I had little opportunity to challenge those who did, given the structure of decision making in the George W. Bush administration.” In fact, he had ample opportunity when the New Yorker’s Nicholas Lemann called him for an interview just as the war was getting underway. Instead of letting loose with his misgivings, though, he mounted a vigorous defense, accusing the French of “being disingenuous” in objecting to the invasion and declaring that Bush was right to proceed without UN approval.

“This is a way, I believe, quite honestly, of preserving the UN’s potential viability in the future,” he said. “We’ve not destroyed it. We’ve just admitted, though, that it can’t do everything, when the great powers of the day disagree.”

These are the weasel words of someone who had just gotten the nod to become head of the Council on Foreign Relations – which Lemann correctly describes as “one of the foreign-policy world’s plummiest jobs” – and didn’t want to say anything to queer the deal. Estimates of Iraqi war deaths from March 2003 to June 2006 run as high as 600,000, all because the Bush administration thought it had a unilateral right to disregard both the UN and world opinion in general. Judging from A World in Disarray, Haass still hasn’t faced up to the enormity of his mistake.

- See more at: http://historynewsnetwork.org/article/165504#sthash.YDg3Ug9L.dpuf

When the Berlin Wall fell in November 1989, experts agreed that the world would soon be a more peaceful and democratic place. But with war raging across the Middle East and showdowns looming from Eastern Europe to Asia, Richard Haass’s A World in Disarray is a primer on how they went wrong.  Haass is president of the Council on Foreign Relations, the country’s premier foreign-policy think tank, so he’s in a position to know.  But his book is vague, meandering, and about as penetrating as a strand of overcooked spaghetti.  The only insight it offers is into how alarmingly shallow the US foreign-policy establishment has become.

Haass served as special assistant to President George H.W. Bush during the 1991 Gulf War and then as the State Department’s director of policy planning during the run-up to the 2003 invasion of Iraq.  Unfortunately, the only effect has been to lock in a world view that is self-serving and contradictory. He writes that post-invasion Iraq “proved far less ripe for democratic change than had been anticipated by the war’s proponents,” as if people like Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld had any interest in democratizing Iraq in the first place. (They didn't.) He writes that the Iraqi collapse led to the rise of “subnational identities tied to set, tribe, and ethnicity” and that “Sunni anger and humiliation stoked recruiting for both al-Qaeda and subsequently ISIS.” Read more ..


The Battle Against Caliphate

What We Know About the GBU-43/B, 'Mother of All Bombs'

April 15th 2017

Land Mine

The “Mother of All Bombs,” the GBU-43/B Massive Air Blast, is the most powerful non-nuclear weapon in America’s arsenal, and it was used for the first time in combat on April 13 in Afghanistan against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.

If you’ve never heard of this bomb, you’re likely not alone. To help you get educated about it, here are some facts to know:

According to globalsecurity.org, it’s the largest-ever satellite-guided, air-delivered weapon in history, made to replace the unguided 15,000-pound BLU-82 Daisy Cutter that was used in Vietnam and early on in Afghanistan.

The MOAB was developed in only nine weeks in 2003 to be available for Operation Iraqi Freedom. Then-Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said it was created to put pressure on Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein to stop fighting against the coalition. The smart bomb was never used during that war.

The MOAB was loaded into a C-130 Hercules, where it sat in a cradle on an airdrop platform until the whole platform was pulled off the plane at a high altitude by a drogue parachute, which is used to slow it down. Once in the air, the weapon was quickly released from the platform to keep up its forward momentum. The grid fins then opened to stabilize it and guide it to its target.

According to globalsecurity.org, on Sept. 11, 2007, the Russian military announced it had tested the “Father of all Bombs,” the world’s most powerful non-nuclear air-delivered munition. Read more ..


The Race for Batteries

Separator Layer Can Make Lithium-ion Batteries Fireproof

April 15th 2017

batteries

Lithium-ion batteries, though being considered as the power source of choice for today’s electric vehicles, are having a significant disadvantage: They are not fireproof. Even worse, they tend to catch fire under overload and short circuit conditions which can occur as a consequence of accidents. Researchers from the Stanford University have developed a potential solution.

The reason why lithium ion batteries can start burning so easily is that the electrolytes necessary to enable the exchange of electrons between cathode and anode are flammable and highly reactive. Though battery manufacturers have tried to minimize this risk through internal protective covers or by adding flame retardants, the risk persists, acknowledged Stanford researcher Kai Liu. In addition, these measures have side effects: They reduce the energy density and ion mobility which in turns reduces the battery performances.

Read more ..

The Trump Era

Untangling U.S. Foreign Policy

April 15th 2017

Truman Bldg/State Dept HQ

American geopoliticians in the 100 years the U.S. was coming of age as the superpower had the "luxury" of facing a relatively monolithic enemy. From the early 30s, it was fascism dominated by Mussolini and then Hitler until his downfall at the conclusion of World War II. Stalin and his worldwide Communist apparatus moved into that role in the immediate postwar period.

It was only with the implosion of the Soviet Union in 1990 that Washington planners faced what had been the more normal historical array of a number of powerful national and imperial entities vying for power. Turning their hand to this complex has confronted American policymakers - however the disproportionate size and power of their country - with new and perplexing conflicting interests.
Nowhere is that problem more apparent than with Washington's relations with the Russians. The muddled argument now taking place in the public arena is only the most obvious expression of this. Read more ..


The Wall

Trump’s Top Cop Announces Plan to Prioritize Criminal Alien Cases

April 15th 2017

US Border Patrol arrest

Attorney General Jeff Sessions traveled to the US-Mexico border, to speak with Department of Homeland Security personnel. Sessions told U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents at the Port of Nogales in Arizona that more illegal immigrants should be prosecuted as criminals. According to Sessions’ memo (See video below), The person in the position known as a border security coordinator, will be directed to coordinate with the Department of Homeland Security to ensure border security prosecutions.

During his remarks, the Attorney General announced that he has issued a memorandum  to United States Attorneys that mandates the prioritization of criminal immigration enforcement. The memo directs federal prosecutors to focus on particular offenses that, if aggressively charged and prosecuted, can help prevent and deter illegal immigration. Read more ..


The Race for EVs

Electromobility: The Big Leap has Yet to Come

April 14th 2017

Electric car Israel

The annual Electromobility Index from consultancy Roland Berger and the fka automotive technology research institute (Aachen, Germany) certifies Germany and France the leading positions in terms of technology. Though the market shows growth in all regions, the market share for electric vehicles is still very low.

The Electromobility Index periodically compares the competitive positions of the seven most important automotive geographies China, France, Germany Italy, Japan South Korea and USA in terms of technology, industrialization and market.

According to the study, Germany currently holds the technology pole position in the race about electromobility – a little bit surprising, given the success of Tesla in the US and the relatively high market penetration of electric vehicles in France. Wolfgang Bernhardt, Roland Berger Partner and expert for automobile markets, explains why.

Read more ..

The Race for Nuclear

A Bankruptcy of Nuclear Proportions

April 14th 2017

Nuclear Reactors

On March 29, Westinghouse Electric Co., a subsidiary of Japanese conglomerate Toshiba, filed for bankruptcy. The U.S.-based nuclear power company has been building two state-of-the-art nuclear power plants in Georgia and South Carolina, but it has been plagued by delays and cost overruns. The filing sent Toshiba scrambling to cut its losses by March 31, the end of Japan's fiscal year. The Japanese conglomerate ended up writing down over $6 billion on its nuclear reactor business. But Toshiba's troubles don't end there; the firm is also working to sell off a portion of its chip manufacturing holdings.

The U.S. government is worried about what the sale of Westinghouse could mean for the future of traditional nuclear power in the United States and for nuclear power in China, which is keen to learn the secrets of a Western firm such as Westinghouse. The Japanese government, meanwhile, is wary of how Beijing could benefit in the long term, should a Chinese firm acquire Toshiba's semiconductor unit. Read more ..


Turkey on Edge

Turkey's Vainglorious Referendum

April 14th 2017

Erdogan

This Sunday, millions of Turks will vote to endorse or reject constitutional amendments passed in January by Turkey's parliament. An opinion piece published by the German news agency Deutsche Welle explains that the "crucial" amendments "give all the power to one person, with almost no accountability," eliminating what is left of democracy in Turkey. Virtually all observers agree that if the referendum passes, Turkey will be transformed into an authoritarian state.

But I (along with a few others) disagree. Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan years ago arrogated all the powers that the constitutional changes would bestow on him. He is already lord of all he sees for as long as he wants, whether through democratic means or by fixing election results. If the referendum passes, it will merely prettify that reality.

Read more ..

The Battle For Syria

US Intercepts Syria Gas Plans

April 13th 2017

Syria fighting injured baby

The United States intercepted communications between Syrian military and chemical weapons experts discussing plans for a poison gas attack in Idlib province, CNN reported, citing an unidentified senior intelligence official. The White House said in a declassified intelligence assessment that it "is confident that the Syrian regime conducted a chemical weapons attack, using the nerve agent sarin".

The US report alleges that the chemical agent was delivered by a Syrian Su-22 fixed-wing aircraft that flew over the village of Khan Sheikhun at the time of the attack, which killed at least 87 civilians, including 31 children, on 4 April.

"Additionally, our information indicates personnel historically associated with Syria's chemical weapons programme were at Shayrat airfield in late March making preparations for an upcoming attack in northern Syria, and they were present at the airfield on the day of the attack," the US government report reads.

Read more ..

The Edge of Terrorism

WhatsApp Message Links German Bus Bombing to ISIS

April 13th 2017

ISIS Army

Notes left at the scene of Tuesday's bombing of a bus carrying the German Borussa Dortmund soccer team and circulated among ISIS supporters via WhatsApp suggest a connection to the terror group.

Three pipe bombs hit the bus as the team left its hotel before a Champions League match. One player and a police officer were injured and the bus's glass shattered.

A copy of the note circulated on WhatsApp claimed the attack came in reaction to Germany's participation in the fight against ISIS. It refers to the deaths of 12 "unbelievers" who were killed by "our blessed brothers in Germany." Britain's Daily Star newspaper reports this refers to the December attack on a Berlin Christmas market. Read more ..


The North Korean Threat

Trump Surprises Progressives and North Korea with Coal Sales to China

April 13th 2017

Coal Train

Rather than accepting their cargo of essential coking coal, China sent away a flotilla of 12 North Korean freighters to their home ports, according to an exclusive Reuters report. China has relatively few natural resources for such a large population and landmass, and relies on coal for its power plants and steel-making facilities. In the meantime, China placed a huge order for American coal from American producers. 
 
Reuters cited as its source for the news to be at the Dandong Chengtai Trade Co., which is the biggest buyer of North Korea's coal. According to Dandong Chengtai, there were 600,000 tons of North Korean coal waiting at several ports, while there are now 2 million tons of coal stranded at Chinese ports that must be returned to North Korea.
 
On February 26, China publicly committed itself to punishing North Korea for furthering its ambitions of producing nuclear weapons and intercontinental ballistic missiles.
 
Nearly half of North Korea’s source of foreign trade comes from coal sold to China. Targeting by China of coal will produce a dramatic economic impact. In February, China declared that it was banning North Korean imports for the rest of this year.
 
China is North Korea's largest source of trade and aid and targeting coal imports are meant to produce a dramatic economic result.
 
China will increase the amount of coal it buys from U.S. producers, marking a significant change. Between late 2014 and 2016, no coking coal from the U.S. was exported to China. But in February, coal shipments from the U.S. to China amounted to more than 400,000 tons.
Read more ..

Media on Edge

Dishonest New York Times Fudges the Student Data

April 13th 2017

New York Times Bldg

The New York Times had a stunning headline. Foreign applications to U.S. colleges have fallen by 40%. Except it’s not true. Here’s what’s happening behind the headlines.

The New York Times claims Donald Trump’s immigration ban has damaged U.S. colleges when it comes to foreign students.   It called this the ‘Trump Effect.’

The newspaper relied on this report. So, we read the report, the accompanying press release and the survey results. The truth is far different than what the Times writes.

Nearly 300 colleges and universities were surveyed. When it comes to foreign student applications: 38% reported a decline; 35% reported an increase; and 27% reported no change. In other words — a wash. The difference between this year and last year is statistically insignificant. Read more ..


Safe Travel

Lithium-ion Battery Shipping Sees new Regulations

April 13th 2017

Battery-single-use

IATA, the International Air Transport Association, has changed its IATA DGR (Dangerous Goods Regulations) concerning the shipping of lithium batteries. Since January 1, 2017 lithium batteries that were previously not covered by labeling requirements have become partially subject to them.

The FBDi e.V. (German Professional Association of Component Distribution) summarizes the most important changes as follows:

Labeling requirement – The number of shipment items not subject to labeling requirements according to Pi 967 and PI 970 (max. 2 batteries / 4 cells) is limited to 2 per shipment. This affects lithium-ion and lithium-metal batteries integrated into a device. They require a label even where not more than 2 batteries or 4 cells per shipment are contained per shipment item (not subject to labelling), but more than 2 shipment items per shipment are shipped.

Read more ..

The Digital Age

Smartphone Fingerprint Security Vulnerable

April 13th 2017

Smart phone

No two people are believed to have identical fingerprints, but researchers at the New York University Tandon School of Engineering and Michigan State University College of Engineering have found that partial similarities between prints are common enough that the fingerprint-based security systems used in mobile phones and other electronic devices can be more vulnerable than previously thought.

The vulnerability lies in the fact that fingerprint-based authentication systems feature small sensors that do not capture a user's full fingerprint. Instead, they scan and store partial fingerprints, and many phones allow users to enroll several different fingers in their authentication system.

Identity is confirmed when a user's fingerprint matches any one of the saved partial prints. The researchers hypothesized that there could be enough similarities among different people's partial prints that one could create a "MasterPrint."

Nasir Memon, a professor of computer science and engineering at NYU Tandon and the research team leader, explained that the MasterPrint concept bears some similarity to a hacker who attempts to crack a PIN-based system using a commonly adopted password such as 1234. "About four percent of the time, the password 1234 will be correct, which is a relatively high probability when you're just guessing."

Read more ..

Block Review

“Shaken Earth” by Martin Barillas Offers the Blood and Sinew of 1930s Guatemala

April 10th 2017

Martin Barillas

Get the Book
Shaken Earth. Amazon Kindle

 

History, in its purest form, is a collection of facts about past events. As a discipline, however, historians impose an interpretation onto selected facts in order to tell a story about the past, from a given perspective.

 

Historical novels, if they’re well-written, carry the process a step further – that historical perspective is fleshed out, given blood and sinews and filled with the breath of human drama. Martin Barillas’ novel about 1930s Guatemala, with one foot in a rapidly modernizing world and the other in a romantic past of Spanish high culture and indigenous mystery, conveys familiarity. It is a place where Barillas spent much of his youth, visiting his father’s family, drinking in their stories, and walking their roads. The era about which he writes was still within their living memory and the result is a highly compelling tale that evokes the flavor of a specific time and place – one that intersects with American history, as well.

 

The heroine is Soledad, a fiery Latina who, in the course of Shaken Earth, is courted, marries, betrays her husband Mariano and, in the end, is (perhaps) reconciled with him. Against that framework, we are introduced to Central America’s dizzying development, glorious promise, revolutionary madness, and (possible) settlement into modernity. Read more ..


Israel on Edge

Breaking: Israelites Flee Egypt

April 10th 2017

Edwin Black

 

A

 

pproximately two million Children of Israel are now encamped in the Sinai following their extraordinary exodus from Egypt yesterday. Just days ago, they were slaves to Pharaoh. Today, they are free men and women, destined for self-determination in a land of their own. Only now are the details of their fantastic experience coming to light.

 

The dramatic sequence of events began some weeks ago with the unexpected return of exiled prince Moses, who previously fled Pharaoh’s wrath after slaying a taskmaster. In his daring appearance at the Palace, the inarticulate Moses, speaking through his brother Aaron, declared himself to be the personal emissary of a powerful new “God,” previously unknown to the Royal Court. Moreover, Moses asserted that his God was the protector of the Children of Israel, who have been in bondage for more than four centuries in Egypt.

 

The entire Royal Court was aghast as Moses demanded that the Children of Israel be permitted to travel three days into the desert for an unprecedented “feast and sacrifice” to their God. Making clear that he was not asking a Court indulgence, Moses looked straight at Pharaoh, stamped his roughhewn staff and issued the ultimatum that would be his rallying call during the coming days: “Let my people go.”

 

Laughter echoed throughout the hall as Pharaoh sneered, “Who is your ‘God?’  I know him not. Nor will I let Israel go!” Read more ..


Russia on Edge

A Brave New World for the Kremlin

April 10th 2017

Russian soldiers Red Square

Every country faces generational change. Evolutions in technology, culture, social mores and global affairs can leave a gulf between young and old that neither can easily bridge. In Russia, that gulf is especially vast. As of this year, 27 percent of Russians were born after the fall of the Soviet Union, and that number will jump to nearly 40 percent within the next decade. The rising generation was never Sovietized. Most of them, moreover, are too young to remember the tumultuous 1990s, a decade of war, financial crisis and political disarray.

Unlike the older generations, they don't recall President Vladimir Putin's promises to save Russia or the measures he took to stabilize the country after its post-Soviet tailspin. In fact, they've never really known life without him. For Putin, the situation poses an unfamiliar challenge.

Read more ..

Christians at Risk

ISIS Claims Responsibility For Church Bombings In Egypt

April 10th 2017

Coptic Girl

Egypt's president called for a three-month state of emergency Sunday after at least 44 people were killed and more than 100 more were injured in two Palm Sunday suicide attacks at Coptic Christian churches, each carried out by the ISIS terror group.

Sunday's first blast happened at St. George Church in the Nile Delta town of Tanta, where at least 27 people were killed and 78 others wounded, officials said.

Television footage showed the inside of the church, where a large number of people gathered around what appeared to be lifeless, bloody bodies covered with papers.

A second explosion – which Egypt’s Interior Ministry says was caused by a suicide bomber who tried to storm St. Mark's Cathedral in the coastal city of Alexandria -- left at least 17 dead, and 48 injured. The attack came just after Pope Tawadros II -- leader of the Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria -- finished services, but aides told local media that he was unharmed. Read more ..


The Iranian Threat

Iran Sponsored Shi'a Militia Launches Terror Group to Fight Israel

April 10th 2017

Golan Heights

An Iranian supported Shi'a militia, Al-Nujaba, says it formed the "Golan Liberation Army" to fight Israel, the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) reports.

"This army has been trained and has detailed plans. If the Syria regime asks us to, we are ready to act to liberate the Golan [from Israel] along with our allies," Al-Nujaba spokesman Hashem Al-Mousawi said in a March 8 interview with Iran's Tasnim news agency.

Al-Mousawi also admitted that the new militant group is "part of the PMU [Popular Mobilization Units]," an Iraqi-backed umbrella organization comprised of numerous Shi'a militias, including some with close ties to Iran. The Golan Liberation Army emerged from the Iranian led "resistance" axis and consists of "special forces who have received training and equipment," he said. Read more ..


The Trump Era

Trump’s Payment Plan: Like It Or Not, Mexicans Will Buy U.S. A Security Wall

April 9th 2017

Truncated border fence

President Donald Trump faces problems in the building of a security barrier or “border wall” between the United States and Mexico. But thanks to some GOP lawmakers, including Alabama Congressman Mike Rogers, who is a senior member of the Armed Services Committee, and serves as Chairman of the Subcommittee on Strategic Forces, there is a new bill introduced in the House of Representatives that will help in achieving this important security barrier. Part of Trump’s border security plan is the use of surveillance drones to alert Border Patrol agents.

Congressman Mike Rogers introduced HR 1813, the Border Wall Funding Act of 2017. This bill, which is supported and endorsed by FAIR, the Federation for American Immigration Reform, would impose a 2% fee on all remittances headed south of the US border. Remittances, or wire transfers, are commonly used by illegal immigrants to move money from the US to their home countries. In 2014, Mexico alone received over $24 billion in remittances sent from the US, while other South and Central American countries received over 15% of their GDPs in the form of remittances. Read more ..


Trump's Attack on Syria Justified by Barbarism

April 7th 2017

This week, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad again used chemical weapons to brutally massacre innocent Syrian men, women, and children. There is absolutely no place in human society for chemical weapons, and those who would use these barbaric tools must be held accountable. President Trump's missile strike was a measured response to deter further use of chemical weapons by Assad and the Syrian regime.  However, this strike will not solve the Syrian crisis nor provide humanitarian assistance to millions of Syrians so desperately in need. President Trump must now present to the American people and Armed Forces a comprehensive, long-term strategy for ending the Syrian crisis, providing stability to the region, removing Assad, and holding him accountable for his crimes.”


China on Edge

Asia's Dilemma: China's Butter, or America's Guns?

April 7th 2017

The East is Red

Flying into Singapore's Changi Airport, one is struck by the fleet of ships lined up off shore, the tendrils of a global trade network squeezing through the narrow Malacca Strait. Singapore is the hub, the connector between the Indian Ocean, South China Sea and Pacific. Since the late 1970s, with little exception, trade has amounted to some 300 percent of Singapore's total gross domestic product, with exports making up between 150 and 230 percent of GDP. Singapore is the product of global trade, and the thriving multiethnic city-state can trace its trade role back centuries.

Having arrived in Singapore from Auckland, the contrast was stunning. It's not that New Zealand isn't heavily integrated into global trade networks — some 50 percent of its GDP is based on trade, and since its early days as a British colony it has been heavily dependent on distant trade partners. Read more ..


The Trump Era

U.S. Launches Missiles at Syrian Base Over Chemical Weapons Attack

April 7th 2017

Darkly ominous missiles

The United States fired 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles at Syria overnight in response to what it believes was a chemical weapons attack that killed more than 100 people. At least six people were killed, Syria claimed, but the Pentagon said civilians were not targeted and the strike was aimed at a military airfield in the western province of Homs. The action completed a policy reversal for President Donald Trump — who once warned America to stay out of the conflict — and drew anger from Damascus and its main ally, Russia.

The missiles were launched from the USS Ross and the USS Porter in the Mediterranean Sea toward Shayrat Airfield. American officials believe it was used by the government of Syrian President Bashar Assad to carry out a strike on Tuesday involving chemical weapons that resulted in the deaths of more than 100 people. Read more ..


The Edge of Terrorism

San Francisco State U. Partner An-Najah Still Promoting Terrorism

April 7th 2017

Syrian jihadis silhouette

In 2016, the Middle East Forum (MEF) launched a campaign calling on San Francisco State University (SFSU) President Leslie Wong to end the schools's 2014 memorandum of understanding (MOU) with An-Najah University — a college in the West Bank that promotes radicalism and Palestinian violence. Since that time, Palestinian Media Watch (PMW) has documented two cases of a Najah student group promoting terrorism.

Last month, PMW reported that Shabiba — the Palestinian Authority (PA) student movement at Najah — displayed a logo on Fatah's official Facebook page featuring a coat of arms on a "resistance" fist. The coat of arms was in the shape of the PA map, claiming all of Israel as "Palestine." It was accompanied by the violent slogan, "From the sea of blood of the martyrs, we will create a state."

Read more ..

Israel on Edge

Russia Recognizes ‘West Jerusalem’ as Israel’s Capital

April 7th 2017

Jerusalem flags

In a statement released today by its Foreign Ministry on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, Russia took the unusual step of removing ambiguity about its stance on West Jerusalem. After explaining that it is “deeply concerned” about the absence of active negotiations between Israel and the Arabs on the creation of an Arab state in Judea and Samaria, Russia spelled out its stance on Jerusalem. “We reaffirm our commitment to the UN-approved principles for a Palestinian-Israeli settlement, which include the status of East Jerusalem as the capital of the future Palestinian state. At the same time, we must state that in this context we view West Jerusalem as the capital of Israel,” read the statement.

Read more ..

The Battle for Syria

Why Did Assad Use Nerve Gas?

April 6th 2017

Syria fighting injured baby

It is hard to explain why Bashar Assad used nerve gas -- probably Sarin -- in the town of Khan Sheikhoun in Syria’s northern Idlib province. On the surface, at least, it would seem to be a totally counterproductive and reckless move likely to anger the Europeans, the Americans, and even his patrons the Russians. Then why would he do it?

It was a surprise, coming as it did immediately after U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley announced that “regime change” in Syria was no longer a priority and the U.S. focus would be on ISIS. This was a major change from the Obama administration and should have reassured Assad that he could hang on as ruler of Syria. But some pundits saw the U.S. policy shift as a perverse incentive for Assad, making it possible for him to believe he could use highly lethal chemical weapons without fear of retaliation. The Sarin would thus be a test of whether the new policy was real. To some degree, the announcement by the British prime minister that the UK had no retaliatory plans despite the attack might seem to be evidence for this argument.

Read more ..

Media on Edge

CNN's Discrediting Refusal to Cover the Susan Rice Story

April 6th 2017

CNN

Bloomberg's Eli Lake dropped a bombshell on Monday: Obama National Security Adviser Susan Rice was responsible for "unmasking" the identities of Trump officials in intelligence intercepts, and spreading this information around the government.

Now House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes has emphasized that the fact identities were unmasked does not validate President Trump's claim Obama surveilled him and his campaign. Further, there is no evidence that Rice did anything illegal and, given the ongoing Trump-Russia investigation, reasons may yet emerge to justify the unmasking.

Read more ..

The Edge of Defense

Glove Biosensor Detects Nerve Agents

April 6th 2017

Worker contemplates nuclear waste

An international team of researchers from the University of California, San Diego and the Australia-based Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) have devised a disposable 'lab-on-a-glove' enabling the wearer to identify health-threatening biochemical agents through a simple and secure swipe across a surface to be tested.

The researchers used tailor-made printable inks stencil-printed as serpentine patterns on regular purple nitrile powder-free exam gloves to create stretchable, yet robust conductive circuits. The thumb is used as a sample collection surface and only sports a printed stretchable carbon disk to ensure the adhesion of analyte residues.

At the tip of the index, part of an electrochemical cell is printed, immobilizing the enzyme organophosphorus hydrolase (OPH) capped with a conductive semi-solid gel matrix (covering an enzymatic OPH/Nafion layer) for analyte diffusion from the collection pad towards the OPH enzyme layer on the working electrode. The enzyme reacts to the presence of organophosphate (OP) compounds, also known as nerve agents for their high neurotoxicity.

Read more ..

UK on Edge

Brexit's Potential to Fracture the U.K.

April 5th 2017

British army privates on parade

Splitting from the European Union will inevitably strain the United Kingdom's territorial integrity. Those pushing for Scotland and Northern Ireland to secede from the United Kingdom are using Brexit to justify their agendas. Brexit will also open a debate between the central government in London and the country's devolved governments about who will control the powers that will be repatriated from Brussels. With authority over policy areas such as agriculture, fisheries, industry and the environment returning to the United Kingdom after Brexit, the administrations of Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland will push London to transfer many of those attributions to them.

The United Kingdom has a devolution system, according to which different policy powers from the United Kingdom's Parliament have been transferred to assemblies in Cardiff and Belfast, and to the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh. Read more ..


The Race for Nuclear

Westinghouse bankruptcy Puts $8.3B in Federal Loan Guarantees for Vogtle Plant at Risk

April 4th 2017

nuke tower

The Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing of Toshiba’s Westinghouse unit is raising concerns among many stakeholders. Not the least of them are Trump administration officials worried about the fate of federal loan guarantees extended for the construction of the Vogtle plant in Georgia.

If Westinghouse halts construction on the nuclear power project, it could jeopardize the completion of the entire plant, triggering repayment of the $8.3 billion loan from Southern.

A Department of Energy spokesperson said the agency is "keenly interested" in Westinghouse's bankruptcy proceedings and that the administration expects all companies to "honor their commitments" to finish the project.  Read more ..


Media On Edge

I Criticised Hamas and My Life in Turkey Became a Nightmare

April 4th 2017

Erdogan

My greatest sin was to argue: "The fact that there are no Israeli casualties does not mean Hamas does not want to kill; it just means Hamas, for the moment, cannot kill. It was a beautiful, sunny day in December 2006 when I met Shimon Peres at his Tel Aviv office. At one point in our conversation, he began to talk about how things were beginning to go wrong in Turkey. He said: "Do not forget ... when holiness begins, reason ends." I knew he was right. In 2006, the then Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, was widely viewed as a Muslim democrat, a pro-EU reformist, a pro-business liberal; or, at worst, a postmodern Islamist — not just an Islamist. In reality, I argued in my Hurriyet column, he was just another Islamist zig-zagging between his ideological and pragmatic selves. He was successfully deceiving much of the Western world. Read more ..


Leakgate

Obama Advisor Susan Rice involved in anti-Trump Leaking Operation

April 4th 2017

Susan Rice

On Monday, the alternative news media went viral over reports that Susan “Benghazi” Rice, who had served as President Obama’s national security adviser, was the so-called anonymous “senior official” mentioned in previous reports of the unmasked names of the Trump transition team.

According to a growing number of sources, the woman who went on television news shows and openly lied repeatedly about the Battle of Benghazi in 2012,  the had the identities of the GOP presidential candidate and his staff leaked to the news media, always on board with Democrats bashing President Trump.

Veteran Bloomberg News reporter Eli Lake, who is celebrated as a reliable and honest newsman, reported that it was Obama’s dishonestly partisan National Security Adviser Susan Rice who was the person who ordered the “un-masking” of the  U.S. persons in raw intelligence reports. Lake also reported that she directed intelligence officials to unmask — identify — members of the Trump transition team.

Read more ..

The Edge of Terrorism

The Muslim Brotherhood, Fountain of Islamist Violence

April 4th 2017

Muslim Brotherhood Marching

What to make of the Muslim Brotherhood (MB)? During the Obama years, it became commonplace for the U.S. administration and its Western acolytes to portray the Muslim Brotherhood as a moderate option to "more radical" Muslim groups. Thus, for example, U.S. director of National Intelligence James Clapper incredibly described the organization as "largely secular"[1] while John Esposito of Georgetown University claimed that "Muslim Brotherhood affiliated movements and parties have been a force for democratization and stability in the Middle East."[2]

On the other hand, in 2014, the United Arab Emirates formally designated[3] the Muslim Brotherhood and its local and international affiliates, including the U.S. based Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR),[4] as inter-national terrorist groups. Read more ..


Combatting Jew Hatred

Initial Victory For Plaintiffs in Path-Breaking Lawsuit Against ASA For its Boycott of Israel

April 3rd 2017

boycott Israel t-shirt

The United States District Court for the District of Columbia (D.C.) has rejected efforts by the American Studies Association (ASA) to suppress a lawsuit filed against the Association by its own members challenging the ASA’s adoption of a boycott of all Israeli academic institutions. The judge ruled in favor of the ASA professors in four out of six claims, and authorized the case to go forward.

According to the plaintiffs, the boycott adopted by ASA in December 2013 was a concerted effort by a small number of BDS activists, including founding members of the U.S. Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (USACBI), who abused their leadership positions in ASA to make anti-Israel activism the central focus of the Association. They charge that ASA’s activism breached its contractual duty to its members, and that the boycott was pushed through in violation of the ASA’s own rules governing how votes should be conducted. Read more ..


Russia on Edge

Russia: Rubber Ducks and Green Paint

April 1st 2017

Lev Ponomaryov protesting 2009-08-31

For all the hyperbole in Washington about Russian hacking, Russian disinformation, Russian influence, and Russian espionage, the really remarkable events in Russia over the weekend appear barely to have registered.

One hundred years after the assassination of the last Czar, and two-and-a-half decades after the fall of the communist regime, Russian people have taken to the streets.

In early March, anti-corruption activist Alexei Navalny posted a report on YouTube detailing the corruption of Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev. After more than 13 million views in roughly three weeks, people, including a large number of teenagers, answered Navalny’s call for public protest. They flooded the streets of 95 Russian cities, as well as London, Prague, Basel, and Bonn. Many carried rubber ducks — or real ducks — referring to reports of a luxury duck farm on one of Medvedev’s properties. Read more ..


The Battle Against the Caliphate

Who Will Dominate Iraq and Syria after ISIS?

April 1st 2017

War Damage Syria

On the surface, the wars in Syria and Iraq are continuing at full intensity. The fight between Iraqi government forces and Islamic State in western Mosul is proving a slow, hard slog.

This week, government forces captured the police directorate and the courts complex in the city, moving toward the denser warren of the Old City. The jihadists are fighting for every inch of ground.

Further west, the US-supported Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) succeeded in cutting the last road from the Islamic State capital of Raqqa to its stronghold in Deir al-Zor.

In the fight between the Assad regime and the Sunni Arab rebellion against it, a rebel attempt at a counterattack in the city of Deraa has led to renewed bloodshed. The regime is continuing its attacks on rebel-held Eastern Ghouta east of Damascus, despite a new Russian-brokered cease-fire. Read more ..


The Race for Alt Fuel

We Use American Fuel for Electricity. Why not Transportation?

April 1st 2017

Oil Barrels 400px

When it comes to lighting our homes and powering our electronic devices, we’re so used to having a full menu of American-made resources, we’ve come to take it for granted. It’s about time we demand all-American fuel to power our vehicles.

Think about it: The energy sources used to make electricity in this country are all created and consumed here in the United States. Whether it’s natural gas, hydroelectric, coal, wind, solar, or nuclear (check out this cool map showing what gets used where), power generation uses all-domestic “feedstocks,” creating American jobs and growing our economy.

We don’t need to import any of those sources, or the technology needed to process them, because we already have them here at home. Read more ..


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