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Archive for February 2017

The Edge of Film

The Oscars Reflect Talent, but also Money and Politics

February 10th 2017

Meryl Streep
Meryl Streep

The 89th Academy Awards are upon us, and critics and Hollywood insiders are placing bets on which nominees will go home with the coveted statuette. The idea of the Academy is to judge films on their artistic merit, but as always, political considerations and even current events can have an impact on who wins an Oscar.

Damien Chazelle’s nostalgic musical La La Land may be the big winner this year. The film offers a tribute to Hollywood musicals, has great cinematography, good music and a tear-jerking story; but, some critics question if the film really deserves all of its 14 nominations. That number has been equaled by only two other movies throughout Hollywood history: the 1950s drama All About Eve starring Bette Davis, and James Cameron’s 1997 Titanic.

Ads, money influence Oscars

Giovanna Chesler, director of the Film and Video Studies program at George Mason University in Virginia, says that as in any other campaign, robust advertising and a large amount of money can have as much influence as artistic merit in securing a film’s road to the Oscars.

She says that in some categories, such as the Documentary category, filmmakers have to submit a $50,000 fee just to be considered for a nomination. She says such fees guarantee screenings of the prospective nominees’ films in core markets during the Oscar season.

A filmmaker herself, Chesler says she has renewed faith in the Oscars because, as she puts it, “in this year’s nominees you see more talent reflected, not just the marketing ability of the industry.”

Oscars less white

There are more nominations for minority films and actors. She points to art films like Moonlight, a coming-of-age drama about an African-American boy growing up in a drug-infested community, and Denzel Washington’s movie adaptation of the play Fences, about a struggling husband and father who, despite his personal flaws, is working hard to make his mark in the world. Read more ..

The Trump Era

Palestinians Fear Being Sidelined by Trump White House

February 9th 2017

Palestinans for Yeshua?

Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas, who spent hundreds of hours on the phone and in meetings with U.S. presidents and secretaries of state in the past 12 years, has tried unsuccessfully to reach out to President Donald Trump. Abbas and his aides are alarmed by the possibility of being sidelined at a time when the administration is embracing Israel's prime minister who heads to the White House next week. Here's a look at what's at stake for Abbas and Palestinian hopes for statehood.


In December, the Trump transition team refused to meet with Palestinian officials visiting Washington, putting them off until after the Jan. 20 inauguration, according to senior Abbas aide Saeb Erekat, the main point man for official contacts with the United States. Other advisers say Abbas tried to arrange a phone call with Trump after the November election and again after the inauguration, but received no response to his requests. The White House did not respond to a January letter in which Abbas expressed concerns about possibly moving the U.S. Embassy in Israel to contested Jerusalem. Read more ..

The Edge of Terrorism

Banning The Muslim Brotherhood

February 9th 2017


Two days before he signed the Executive Order on “Protecting the Nation from Terrorist Attacks by Foreign Nationals, the Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) began organizing nationwide protests against the anticipated order, which the mischaracterized the suspension of U.S. visas to Muslim refugees and travelers from only seven out of fifty Muslim-majority countries, as a “ban.”

CAIR was immediately joined by progressive Left organizations that protested the election of Donald Trump as President. Thus Left-leaning ill-informed organizations, CEOs of tech companies (How many of their employees are immigrants, or Work-Visa holders from Iraq, Syria, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen?)  and Democratic-run-States joined forces with MB-affiliated groups to undermine the power of the President and the security of the nation. Read more ..

The Edge of Terrorism

America is Ill-Prepared for Convicted Jihadis Ending Their Prison Sentences

February 8th 2017

Prison bars

The old adage, "Out of sight, out of mind" does not apply to dealing effectively with the threat of Islamism especially in the case of terrorists who have been captured or incarcerated.

Radical Islamic organizations such as al-Qaida and ISIS never forget their members. To them, going to prison is part of the pathway to paradise. Both groups' leaders, Ayman al-Zawahri and Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, spent considerable periods of time locked up. It did nothing to diminish their zeal, but rather, fueled their fervor. Often, as in their cases, what comes out of prison is worse than what went in.

This is further illustrated by the increased number of terrorists released from Guantanamo who rejoin the fight against U.S. military personnel. Almost one in three released prisoners return to the jihadists' fold. This recidivism can be attributed in part to the admonitions terrorists receive to assist those who are captured or imprisoned. That support may include financial help for their families and for legal fees. Read more ..

The Edge of Nature

How Plants Evolved into Carnivores

February 7th 2017

Amazon rainforest

Any insect unlucky enough to land on the mouth-like leaves of an Australian pitcher plant will meet a grisly end. The plant's prey is drawn into a vessel-like ‘pitcher’ organ where a specialized cocktail of enzymes digests the victim.

Now, by studying the pitcher plant's genome—and comparing its insect-eating fluids to those of other carnivorous plants—researchers have found that meat-eating plants the world over have hit on the same deadly molecular recipe, even though they are separated by millions of years of evolution.

“We’re really looking at a classic case of convergent evolution,” says Victor Albert, a plant-genome scientist at the University of Buffalo, New York, who co-led the study. Read more ..

The Race for EVs

Suppliers Battle to Supply Largest Battery Power Stations

February 7th 2017

Electric car Israel

AltaGas and AES are battling for the title of the largest battery power station in the US with systems launching this week.

AltaGas has opened its 20MW Pomona Energy Storage Facility at the site of its existing Pomona generation facility in the East Los Angeles Basin of Southern California, while AES is opening a 30MW system at Escondido in San Diego.

AES will deploy its Advancion 4 storage system to provide 30MW of power for four continuous hours and serve as a 75 MW of flexible resource to the grid, and the company claims this will be the largest system in the US. Altagas claims to provide 80MWh from its 20MW of storage, also claiming the crown. Read more ..

Jewry on Edge

Stunning Court Decision Approves Passover Punishment

February 6th 2017

judge's gavel

Three judges of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit surprisingly rejected the appeal of Susan Abeles a Washington D.C., Orthodox Jew, who was punished by the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority (MWAA) because she took off work for the last two days of Passover 2013, as she had done for the past 26 years that she worked at the agency. Abeles’ closely-watched case evoked amicus briefs by the National Jewish Commission on Law and Public Affairs (COLPA) as well as The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, and the American Jewish Committee. Ms. Abeles' lawyer is Nathan Lewin, the well-known advocate for Jewish religious rights."

For each of the 26 years Abeles worked for the Airports Authority since 1987, she took off for all Jewish holidays on which work is prohibited, including the last two days of Passover. Everyone at her job knew she was an Orthodox Jew. She consistently gave her supervisors a list of the dates of Jewish holidays at the beginning of each calendar year and her supervisors accepted that list as a request for annual leave on the specified Jewish holidays.


Obama and Israel

Obama Gave Unwritten Consent to Iran on anti-Israel Missiles

February 4th 2017

Iranian Qiam missile launch

On January 30, 2017, U.S. sources announced that Iran had conducted a failed test of a new ballistic missile,the Khorramshahr. According to reports, the missile exploded after a 965-km flight.[1] Both Iranian Foreign Minister Zarif (on January 31) and Defense Minister Dehghan (on February 1) stressed that Iran "asks permission from no one in the matter of its defense program."[2]

It should be emphasized that contrary to statements by Iranian regime spokesmen who say that Iran's missile program is defensive, missiles with a 2,000-km range are strictly offensive and strategic. This is why Iran has faced constant demands to stop developing them. Read more ..

The Trump Era

Who are Those Refugees Australia Doesn’t Want?

February 4th 2017

Sydney Opera House

It is hard to complain about Australia — democratic, sunny, cheerful, and oh, those koalas and kangaroos. On a more serious note, Australia is a welcome ally, participating in military operations around the world with American forces and sharing our concerns about aggressive Chinese behavior in the South- and East China Seas. Australia is spending billions to modernize its military forces.

But a few things about Australia should be made clear as President Trump scuttles an Obama-administration deal to take 1,250+ refugees currently in Australian-run internment camps in Papua New Guinea and Nauru. Internment camps? Papua New Guinea and Nauru?

The Wall Street Journal explains:

“Under laws first put in place in 2001, successive Australian governments have required asylum seekers coming by boat to be intercepted. The conservatives, on winning power in 2013, set up a maritime blockade that Mr. Turnbull has offered as a model for Europe. But the system began to unravel after Papua New Guinea’s highest court last year ordered the closure of the Australian-operated immigration center on Manus Island, ruling asylum seekers were being held illegally.” Read more ..

The Way We Are

Go West-- Still Relevant

February 3rd 2017

Baby Boomer

Go West, young man, go west” was a phrase coined in the 1850s.  Some are following that advice today.

Here’s what’s happening behind the headlines.

United Van Lines released its 2016 movers study.  It tracks state-to-state migration patterns.  This includes the origin, destination and reason for each move.  In general, people are moving from the northeast to the west.  The south is also experiencing gains at the expense of the north. According to the report, retirees are resettling in the Mountain states and the Pacific Northwest.  Oregon, Idaho, Washington and Nevada are high-destination states. Retirement and job relocation are the most popular reasons given for moving to southern states. New Jersey, New York, Connecticut and Pennsylvania experienced the largest losses. Read more ..

The Edge of Policing

Is Police Training on Mental Health and Developmental Issues Enough to Stop the Shootings?

February 3rd 2017

Police riot squad

As mentioned in our article, The Dangers of Ignoring Mental Health and Developmental Issues: How Law Enforcement Continues to Fail the Most Vulnerable, adults with severe mental illness generate 1 in 10 of all law enforcement responses. The way in which officers are trained to respond to emergency calls plays a crucial role in deciding between a positive or negative outcome. Though it is an integral part of the solution, can the problem of excessive force be eradicated by training alone?

CIT Training

CIT (Crisis Intervention Team) training is a 40-hour program designed to educate police officers on mental health conditions and medications, connect them with local mental health resources they can call upon when faced with a crisis, and provide scenario-based trainings that introduce strategies for de-escalation. Read more ..

The Trump Era

First Lessons for the Trump White House

February 2nd 2017

Armstrong Williams Headshot

We are barely two weeks into the presidency of Donald J. Trump, and a few things are becoming evident, while still others are slowly crystalizing around a man and an administration that will truly be unlike any other this institution has seen.  And the hard truth is:  He is completely comfortable with that characterization and that anomalous reality.  Some quick observations:
A major cold war is brewing with the press
I’m biased on this, but let’s not kid ourselves: the White House is calling a completely different game with the media now.  All decorum is out the window.  We in the press need to get over it, quickly.  It’s not changing anytime soon.  In fact, if ever there was a topic or time where this administration would “double down” on something, it is with the media.  Team Trump is losing no allies and none of its voter base by attacking the media.  They lose credibility, sure.  And one wonders what dividends that will pay during, for example, a terrorist situation or other crisis of some sort.  But Bannon and his team have made this gambit, and they are comfortable with the outcome.  Watch for this cold war to continue, with no sign of a détente anytime soon.
Full-court press on the Trump agenda
First, I am simply amazed at the breadth of coverage this White House has made in creating executive orders and directives on policy issues.  From building a wall and immigration, to CIA interrogation policies and Gitmo, to Wall Street and manufacturing, to abortion and even hints of a Supreme Court nominee – this White House has tackled many issues in whirlwind fashion.  Not only is the media struggling to stay on top of the issues and delve deeper into the ramifications, but policymakers are also finding it difficult to draft off of his lead.  That is vintage Trump.  He will say he is merely responding to the people (which makes his much-maligned inaugural address sound more intentional) – a group that has been silenced for far too long.

The Trump Era

Dissidents Train Federal Bureaucrats how to Disobey Trump's Policies

February 2nd 2017

Truman Bldg/State Dept HQ

According to a report by the Washington Post, some 180 federal employees have registered for training on the February 4-5 weekend in both the rights of workers and in civil disobedience. The report said that dozens of federal bureaucrats attended a support group that foments opposition to the Trump administration, less than two weeks after the inauguration President Donald Trump. 
While the Post report pointed out the obvious public protests that have emerged since the beginning of the Trump administration, “there’s another level of resistance to the new president that is less visible and potentially more troublesome,” it said. This “growing wave of opposition,” the report said, is from within the federal government and federal employees who are supposed to implement the new president’s policies to the administration: a growing wave of opposition from the federal workers charged with implementing any new president’s agenda.

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