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Archive for April 2011

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The Race for Pressure Energy

Piezoelectric MEMS boosts vibration harvester

April 29th 2011

Science - Piezo electric device 2

Electrical engineers from the University of Michigan claim to have invented a technique for micro-machining piezoelectric MEMS that generate 10-times more energy than conventional energy harvesters. The research team said a penny-sized piezoelectric MEMS could generate enough electricity to power medical implants in the body and wireless sensors on motor vehicles.

The energy harvester market for wireless sensor networks is expected to $450 million by 2015, according to Erkan Aktakka, one of the system's developers, working in the lab of professor Erkan Aktakka, principle scientist on the project. Read more ..

After the Holocaust

Why Do American Jewish Committee, Anti-Defamation League, and Others Support European Insurance Companies And Fight Against Holocaust Survivors?

April 28th 2011

Jewish Organizations - David Schaecter
David Schaecter

Did you know that Holocaust survivors – U.S. citizens, many of whom are veterans and Korean War veterans -- do not have the right to go to an American court and sue the insurance companies that refuse to pay family life insurance policies?

After World War II, companies like Allianz, Generali, AXA, Munich Re, Swiss Life, Swiss Re, Zurich and others, refused to honor policies purchased in good faith by Holocaust victims. They demanded original documents and death certificates, resulting in over $20 billion in unpaid debts today. Many Holocaust survivors know their families had insurance, but the companies’ outrageous behavior for the past 65 years has allowed them to deny us our moral and financial legacies.

The insurance companies are not alone in dishonoring our families.  Most people would be shocked to hear that certain Jewish organizations including the American Jewish Committee, the Anti Defamation League, the Claims Conference, B’nai B’rith International, the World Jewish Congress, and the American Gathering, are actively lobbying to support these companies to deny us our rights. We survivors were certainly appalled to learn about their betrayal.

We are outraged by any Jewish groups arrogantly interfering with our rights, especially those who failed to help us in our extreme time of need. We cannot help but wonder whether the general membership of these organizations held a vote to authorize their leadership to lobby members of Congress to support the insurers against Shoah survivors. Read more ..

Fatah Power-sharing Agreement with Hamas Puts US Funding At Risk

April 28th 2011

In response to reports that the Fatah party has reached a tentative power-sharing agreement with Hamas, as the highest ranking Democrat on the House foreign aid subcommittee, I am releasing the following statement:

"Unless Hamas accepts the Quartet Principles, which include renouncing violence and recognizing Israel, the formation of a unity government with Fatah will be a deathblow to the peace process. For decades, the United States has provided assistance to the Palestinian Authority to build government institutions, strengthen security forces, and promote economic development. This aid is predicated on the PA’s commitment to pursuing efforts to establish peace with Israel. A unity government with Hamas would put U.S. assistance and support at risk, based on restrictions I authored as Chair of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on State and Foreign Operations. I strongly urge the leadership of the Palestinian Authority to reconsider forming a unity government with Hamas and to instead return to negotiations with Israel, which are the only hope for a peaceful, stable, and prosperous future for both Israelis and Palestinians.”

Congresswoman Nita Lowey is the former Chair and current Ranking Democrat on the House Appropriations Subcommittee on State and Foreign Operations, which writes the annual U.S. foreign aid bill. She represents parts of Westchester and Rockland Counties in New York.

Sudan on Edge

American Rabbi Celebrates Seder with Emancipated Slaves of Sudan

April 28th 2011

Africa Topics - Rabbi Joseph Polak
Rabbi Joseph Polak in Sudan

Rabbi Joseph Polak, a chaplain for Hillel House at Boston University, traveled to southern Sudan to speak to recently-released slave who managed to escape their bondage to Arab Muslim masters. Recalling the manumission of the children of Israel from their bondage in Pharaoh's Egypt, the rabbi told a gathering of Sudanese on March 23 that they "must be a very special people, because God has listened to your cries," - a reference to their liberation.

The rabbi also led the freed slaves in a chorus of 'Dayenu,' - a song which in Hebrew means 'It would have been enough' that God had freed the Israelites from bondage.

In addition to sharing with his listeners, who were gathered beneath the spreading branches of a huge tree, the story of Passover, Rabbi Polak invited them to a traditional Seder meal of matzah, hard-boiled eggs, and wine that commemorates the hasty preparations of the children of Israel as they left behind their shackles in Egypt. His listeners appeared to appreciate the story, since 175 of them had only recently been released from bondage themselves. One of the women who was interviewed said that Arab marauders had attacked her village and beheaded men and boys, while she was raped and her genitals mutilated. Read more ..

The Battle for Syria

America's Stake in Stabilizing Syria

April 27th 2011

Syrian Issues - Syrian Protests March 2011

The Obama administration says it may look for "targeted sanctions" on Junior Assad's Syria, and "condemns" the violence there, but - hey, look guys, it isn't Libya, for Pete's sake. Asked the difference, White House spokesman Jay Carney said, "We had a Gaddafi regime that was moving against its own people in a coordinated military fashion and was about to assault a very large city on the promise that it would show...that city and its residents no mercy...We had an international consensus to act. We had the Arab League." Read more ..

BP After the Spill

BP’s Iris Cross Has Starred in Two Disaster PR Campaigns

April 27th 2011

Energy / Environment - Iris Cross, BP PR

Last fall, Iris Cross beamed into millions of homes, the friendly BP worker hailing from New Orleans who assured TV viewers that the oil giant wouldn’t stop cleaning up the worst oil spill in U.S. history “until we make this right.”

She became the very public face of BP, a soothing contrast to former CEO Tony Heyward, whose PR gaffes cemented public opinion against the oil company.

This is not the first time Cross sought to soothe public anger from a BP disaster. One of her efforts in 2006 so angered a judge that BP was accused of jury tampering and threatened with fines and contempt charges. Read more ..

Edge of Climate Change

International Study Shows that Arctic Coastlines are Changing due to Climate Change

April 27th 2011

Environment Topics - Nunavut Arctic satellite image - NASA

The coastline in Arctic regions reacts to climate change with increased erosion and retreats by half a metre per year on average. This means substantial changes for Arctic ecosystems near the coast and the population living there. A consortium of more than thirty scientists from ten countries, including researchers from the Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research in the Helmholtz Association and from the Helmholtz Centre in Geesthacht, comes to this conclusion in two studies published in Estuaries and Coasts and online on www.arcticcoasts.org. They jointly investigated over 100,000 kilometres and thus a fourth of all Arctic coasts and their results have now been published for the first time. Read more ..

The War on Malaria

In Kenya, One Community’s Fight against Malaria

April 27th 2011

Health/Medicine - Kenyan Mosquito Scout
Kenyan Mosquito Scout (credit: Michael Onyiego)

As World Malaria Day was observed worldwide April 25, Malindi, a city on Kenya’s coast that is fighting malaria through community action, came to the forefront.

As the world works to eliminate malaria deaths by 2015, sub-Saharan Africa is still struggling to confront the continent’s number-one killer of children under the age of five years old. In Malindi, the fight against malaria is a community affair. The city of about 150,000 is on Kenya’s coast, in one of the country’s two hotspots for the disease. For residents of Malindi, malaria not only is a threat to their lives and their children, it is a threat to their livelihoods. Read more ..

The Environmental Edge

Environmental Lobby Uses Green to Promote Causes

April 27th 2011

Environment Topics - Earth Day (Hands Holding Planet)

On the 41st anniversary of Earth Day, the global celebration of all things green, Washington was once again a target of environmental activism, as environment-focused special interest groups tried to sway Congress to support their efforts. But even the biggest green thumb can’t deny that the legislative landscape for environmental groups has changed dramatically during the past year—and not in a manner favorable to their causes.

A congressional effort to pass comprehensive climate change legislation went down in flames early in 2010 after environmental groups found themselves thoroughly out-lobbied, mainly by electric utilities and the oil and gas industry. And since watching independent voters turn to Republicans in droves during the 2010 election—and the House of Representatives subsequently flip from blue to red—Democrats in the 112th Congress have hardly uttered the words “cap” and “trade” in the same sentence (unless, of course, it was coupled with the word “oppose”). Read more ..

The Military Edge

Iran, Iraq, and America's Next Move

April 27th 2011

Iran - Iranian clerics and sailors

The United States told the Iraqi government last week that if it wants U.S. troops to remain in Iraq beyond the deadline of Dec. 31, 2011, as stipulated by the current Status of Forces Agreement between Washington and Baghdad, it would have to inform the United States quickly. Unless a new agreement is reached soon, the United States will be unable to remain. The implication in the U.S. position is that a complex planning process must be initiated to leave troops there and delays will not allow that process to take place.

What is actually going on is that the United States is urging the Iraqi government to change its mind on U.S. withdrawal, and it would like Iraq to change its mind right now in order to influence some of the events taking place in the Persian Gulf. Read more ..

BDS-Economic Jihad

Economic War Against Israel Seeks Soft Targets

April 27th 2011

Jewish Topics - Anti-Israel Protest at UC Irvine

Israel's detractors have united around a common tactic - boycotts, divestment and sanctions - with the aim of undermining Israel's legitimacy as a nation. In the Bay Area, anti-Israel activists hunt for soft targets that may be receptive to their extremist message. That was true at UC Berkeley last spring when activists tied up student government for weeks with an unsuccessful demand to divest from Israel and the San Francisco Board of Supervisors with an unsuccessful attempt to pass a resolution irredeemably biased against Israel. It was also true recently at UC Hastings College of Law, where an anti-Israel political event dressed in the guise of an academic conference entitled "Litigating Palestine" brought a parade of speakers to demonstrate the latest methods for attacking Israel through the courts.

Challenging Israel's detractors and their embrace of delegitimization is not about stifling anyone's free speech or academic freedom - though they love to make that claim. Indeed, the UC Hastings Board of Directors was not asked to and did not cancel the conference. It simply and appropriately removed the schools' official sponsorship, thereby distancing itself from the anti-Israel message that permeated the proceedings. Read more ..

Edge of Computing

Sheet of Chlorine Gas One Atom Thick to Revolutionize OLED Device Efficiency

April 27th 2011

Computer Topics - I-phone

Chlorine is an abundant and readily available halogen gas commonly associated with the sanitation of swimming pools and drinking water. Could a one-atom thick sheet of this element revolutionize the next generation of flat-panel displays and lighting technology?

In the case of Organic Light-Emitting Diode (OLED) devices, it most certainly can. Primary researchers Michael G. Helander (PhD Candidate and Vanier Canada Graduate Scholar), Zhibin Wang (PhD Candidate), and led by Professor Zheng-Hong Lu of the Department of Materials Science & Engineering at the University of Toronto, have found a simple method of using chlorine to drastically reduce traditional OLED device complexity and dramatically improve its efficiency all at the same time. Read more ..

The Peace of Easter Should be a Lesson for All Religions

April 25th 2011
Coming out of the cathedral after high mass this Easter I was filled with the spirit of peace fully within for myself and for all humanity. It made me wonder if all religions emerge from their houses of worship with the same uplifting internal spirtual to create peace on earth. It would be a gift if that could occur.

American Jewish Committee Picks an Odd Time to Oppose Efforts to Reduce anti-Jewish Campus Hate

April 25th 2011
I think the American Jewish Committee has picked an odd time to oppose efforts by right-thinking people to reduce anti-Jewish campus hatred behavior. Passover should be a time of celebration of freedom for the Jewish peoples and their return to Israel, their homeland, and the resulting democracy that they gave to the world. It should not be a time to wonder if their own organizations are offering aide and comfort to those would see that process reversed. Passover was hardly the right time for such an action.

The Obama Edge

White House Smacks Rev. Franklin Graham for 'Birther' Talk

April 25th 2011

Presidential - Barack Obama

The White House slammed influential evangelical leader the Rev. Franklin Graham on Monday for questioning President Obama's birthplace.

Graham, a son of the Rev. Billy Graham who has served as a spiritual adviser to several presidents with his father, said on ABC's "This Week" on Sunday that Obama "has some issues to deal with" when it comes to his birth certificate.

"It's interesting that a minister would [use] Easter Sunday to make preposterous charges," White House press secretary Jay Carney responded Monday.

Graham made the remarks while saying he was open to supporting Donald Trump as a GOP presidential candidate. Trump has questioned whether Obama was born in the U.S., leaping to the top of opinion polls on GOP presidential candidates in the process.

Obama's campaign released his birth certificate in 2008 to prove he was born in Hawaii.

The younger Graham has irked the Obama White House before — the Pentagon revoked his invitation to a prayer ceremony last year after it was revealed he called Islam an "evil" religion in 2001. He also claimed last year that Obama was born a Muslim. Read more ..

Russia on Edge

Chernobyl 25 Years Later

April 25th 2011

Russian Topics - Chernobyl Today

April 26, marks the 25th anniversary of the worst nuclear accident on record, the explosion of the nuclear power plant in Chernobyl, Ukraine. The fate of 4,500 square kilometer exclusion zone around the old Soviet plant may give a glimpse into future of the area now banned for human habitation around Fukushima.

One quarter century ago a flotilla of trucks and buses evacuated the 330,000 human inhabitants from Chernobyl’s exclusion zone, a massive area almost twice the size of Luxemburg. Today, some biologists have a different name for that zone: Europe’s largest wildlife refuge.

The human story is well told. Centuries old villages vanished from maps, disappearing into the undergrowth. Less has been said about resurgence of wildlife caused by the withdrawal of the hand of man.

Wolves, wild boar, elk, moose, roe deer, foxes, lynx, beavers, badgers,  white-tailed eagles, nesting swans, cranes, black stork and great white egrets now abound, checked only by their natural predators. Read more ..

Edge of Debt

Deficit Spending is the Biggest Threat to America

April 25th 2011

Economy - One Million Dollars
Sen. Mark Kirk (R)

All across Western Europe—the land of platinum-plated social benefits, the 35-hour work week, tony retirement plans and government-funded health care—countries are coming to the realization that they can no longer afford these luxuries amid skyrocketing deficits. Yet here in the United States, as we face a $14.3 trillion deficit, some are calling for increasing our government’s ability to borrow even more money without any concern for spending reform. Congress can’t allow that to happen, lest we become the Europe of the West. Read more ..

Battle for Libya

War in Libya That Drags on Favors Muammar Qadhafi

April 25th 2011

Libya Topics - Muammar Qaddafi

Despite appearances, the current state of the Libyan civil war is not a stalemate. Muammar Qaddafi's forces have adapted somewhat to NATO's control of the air and have continued offensive operations. And although rebel forces in the east are slowly improving their organizational, communications, and combat capabilities, they are far from being able to gain and hold ground against even depleted regime forces. NATO operations have been sufficient to prevent the opposition's defeat, degrading Qaddafi's ability to command and sustain his forces or employ heavy weapons against rebels and civilians. But allied forces have not broken the regime's willingness or ability to continue the fight, and NATO is reluctant to take the military steps needed to turn the tide rapidly.

Both the rebels and NATO will suffer a major setback if the western stronghold of Misurata succumbs to regime attacks. Yet, unless the West acts with more determination and assumes more operational risk, the city will likely fall, perhaps soon.

Two-Front War

Two clear theaters of war have emerged in Libya: an eastern front that has essentially stabilized near Ajdabiya, and a western theater with several compartments. In the east, the pattern of advance and retreat by both sides has now settled into indecisive skirmishing around Ajdabiya, with neither side able to obtain a clear advantage. Regime units are at the end of a long supply line, NATO continues to strike at their heavy weapons and logistical support, and their resort to light forces, while complicating NATO targeting, has not enabled them to advance further against solidifying resistance backed by critical NATO support. For their part, rebel forces still lack the ability to plan and conduct serious offensives and are hard pressed to hold the ground they have gained, even with foreign assistance.

The Race for Hydrogen

Cheaper Hydrogen Fuel Cells are Coming

April 25th 2011

Energy / Environment - Honda Clarity Fueling

Los Alamos National Laboratory scientists have developed a way to avoid the use of expensive platinum in hydrogen fuel cells, the environmentally friendly devices that might replace current power sources in everything from personal data devices to automobiles.

In a paper prepared by Los Alamos researchers Gang Wu, Christina Johnston, and Piotr Zelenay, joined by researcher Karren More of Oak Ridge National Laboratory, describe the use of a platinum-free catalyst in the cathode of a hydrogen fuel cell. Eliminating platinum—a precious metal more expensive than gold—would solve a significant economic challenge that has thwarted widespread use of large-scale hydrogen fuel cell systems. Read more ..

Inside Latin America

Debate Rages over the Future of the Infamous School of the Americas

April 25th 2011

Latin American Topics - Stop School of Americas

The School of the Americas is an institution rarely spoken of in a positive light. This less-than-reputable academy was created at the beginning of the Cold War epoch as a U.S. military training facility for Latin America’s armed and police forces. The School of the Americas (SOA) would grow to become a magnet for negative criticism of United States policy and its reliance on local military regimes to keep leftist elements in check. The base was originally installed in Panama after World War II as a Latin American training center for U.S. ground forces, but broadened its mission and adopted a new name in 1963. The institution moved to Fort Benning, Georgia in 1984 after the signing of the Panama Canal Treaty, in part because of local pressure against having the U.S. sponsored facility remain in Panama. The SOA operated until 2001 and trained over 61,000 soldiers and officers throughout its existence. Read more ..

The Arab Spring

Palestinian Billionaire Airs His Vision of an Independent Palestinian State

April 25th 2011

Palestine Topics - Palestinian millionaire
Palestinian billionaire Munib Al Masri

It is a sight one would not expect in the Israeli-occupied West Bank: An Italian villa complete with ancient Greek statues, Picassos, and manicured gardens reminiscent of Versailles. Palestinian billionaire Munib Al Masri, whose personal wealth represents about a third of the Palestinian economy, has turned his extravagant dream into reality. Al Masri spoke at his lavish home near Nablus about his vision for a Palestinian state.

A palace on a hill overlooking Nablus, complete with authentic works of art from Europe.

"When I was 19, I was in Chicago and I saw a Palladian style house and I said to myself at that time when I go back to my home, Palestine, I would like to build a similar house," said Palestinian billionaire Munib Al Masri. Read more ..

Oil Addiction

Fact-Checking Washington's Rhetoric on Energy and Drilling for Oil

April 25th 2011

Energy Topics - Oil Barrels 400px

With gas prices rising, the rhetoric in Washington about drilling is becoming increasingly intense.

On one side of the battle, is President Obama. He recently outlined a proposal to reduce the country’s dependence on foreign oil by one-third by 2025, while continuing to drill responsibly, beefing up fuel-economy standards and promoting electric vehicles.

On the other side of the battle are Republicans and many drill-state Democrats. While they agree with Obama’s policy agenda broadly, they say the administration is not moving quickly enough to expand domestic oil and natural gas production. Read more ..

Edge of Computing

Production Issues Hit iPad-2 Shipments

April 25th 2011

Computer Topics - iPad 2

Production issues hit iPad 2 shipments Manufacturing problems at Apple Inc., led to a shortfall in iPad 2 shipments in the first quarter, prompting IHS iSuppli to reduce its forecast for 2011.

IHS iSuppli now forecasts Apple will ship 39.7 million units for all models of the iPad this year, down 9.1 percent from the February forecast of 43.7 million. Based on IHS iSuppli’s final estimate of 15.1 million units shipped in 2010, IHS iSuppli now predicts total iPad shipments will rise 163.3 percent in 2011, down from the 189.6 percent predicted in February.

The firm has slightly increased its 2012 forecast for iPad shipments, to 62.6 million units, up from the previous forecast of 61.6 million.

Apple Wednesday posted first quarter results that beat consensus analysts' expectations and said it sold a record number of iPhones during the quarter. But the company reported selling fewer iPads than analysts expected. Read more ..


Israel to Get Earthquake Alerts by Phone

April 25th 2011

Computer Topics - I-phone

Israelis are to get earthquake and tsunami alerts by mobile phone, television, radio, sirens, pagers, and even their desktop computers courtesy of eVigilo, an Israeli company that has developed an emergency alert platform, IADC (Integrated Alert Distribution Center).

eVigilo developed the IADC, which is operated by the Israeli Home Front Command, to give Israelis advance warning of missile and rocket attacks, but in the wake of the devastating earthquake and tsunami in Japan in March, Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel's Prime Minister, decided to include earthquake warnings, which are to be sent to the population seconds before an earthquake occurs. Read more ..

Edge of the Universe

Search for Dark Matter is Now Closer to Detecting Elusive Particle

April 25th 2011

Science - Dark Matter image

Dark matter, the mysterious substance that may account for nearly 25 percent of the universe, has so far evaded direct observation. But researchers from UCLA, Columbia University and other institutions participating in the international XENON collaboration say they are now closer than ever before.

Their new results, announced today at the Gran Sasso National Laboratory in Italy, where the XENON experiment is housed deep beneath a mountain 70 miles west of Rome, represent the highest-sensitivity search for dark matter yet, with background noise 100 times lower than competing efforts.

Dark matter is widely thought to be a kind of massive elementary particle that interacts weakly with ordinary matter. Physicists refer to these particles as WIMPS, for weakly interacting massive particles. The XENON researchers used a dark-matter detector known as XENON100 — an instrumented vat filled with over 100 pounds of liquid xenon — as a target for these WIMPs, which are thought to be streaming constantly through the solar system and the Earth. Read more ..

The Battle for Libya

The Port of Misurata is the Key to Regime Change in Libya

April 25th 2011

Libya - Libyan rebels

The Libyan city of Misurata is the last remaining major rebel outpost in western Libya. Misurata’s access to the sea has enabled regular shipments of food, weapons, medicine and ammunition to sustain the resistance in the face of daily attacks by forces loyal to Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi. Gadhafi’s forces are intent on retaking the port at Misurata, while the Libyan rebels based in Benghazi hope the looming humanitarian crisis in Misurata will persuade the European coalition leading the mission in Libya to deploy ground troops to assist the rebels. Read more ..

The Battle for Yemen

Islamist Militancy: Before and After the Fall of Saleh

April 25th 2011

Yemen Topics - Yemen Crisis

Nearly three months have passed since the Yemeni capital, Sanaa, first saw mass demonstrations against Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh, but an exit from the current stalemate is still nowhere in sight. Saleh retains enough support to continue dictating the terms of his eventual political departure to an emboldened yet frustrated opposition. At the same time, the writ of his authority beyond the capital is dwindling, which is increasing the level of chaos and allowing various rebel groups to collect arms, recruit fighters and operate under dangerously few constraints.

The prospect of Saleh’s political struggle providing a boon to Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) is understandably producing anxiety in Washington, where U.S. officials have spent the past few months trying to envision what a post-Saleh Yemen would mean for U.S. counterterrorism efforts in the Arabian Peninsula. Read more ..

Inside Islam

France Appears More Concerned About Women Putting on Clothes than Taking them Off

April 25th 2011

Islamic Topics - Burka cellphone

Seldom do we object when people wear less in public. Why are the French so riled when some women want to wear more?

The French ban on face veils came into force this week. Based on this law Muslim women who wear a face veil in public places will be fined. Men who force women to wear a face veil may also be fined or face imprisonment. I am no fan of the face veil. But I do support the right of women who don’t want to wear a face veil as much as the right of those who want to for whatever reason.

I have argued elsewhere that from a mainstream Muslim point of view it may not even be an Islamic obligation. The vast majority of Muslims do not see it as such -- most Muslim women in France and elsewhere do not wear one. It is only in places like Saudi Arabia and Afghanistan that it is a prominent form of dress. In France, reports suggest that only about a couple of thousand Muslims (out of 5 to 6 million) wear the face veil. Read more ..

Book Review

Promise and Peril: America at the Dawn of a Global Age

April 25th 2011

Book Covers - Promise and Peril

Promise and Peril: America at the Dawn of a Global Age. Christopher McKnight Nichols. Harvard. 2011.

"My dear Rick, when will you realize that in this world today, isolationism is no longer a practical policy?" Sydney Greenstreet asks Humphrey Bogart in a classic moment from Casablanca (1942). Ever since Pearl Harbor, "isolationist" has been a virtual canard in American life, a term that tars its target (NATO skeptics, Vietnam War skeptics, free market globalization skeptics, et. al.) with the odor of the Nazi apologist. In this important new book, Christopher McKnight Nichols invites a broad reconsideration of the concept by tracing its origins back to the debates over U.S. imperialism at the end of the 19th century and its surprising continuities -- and surprising bedfellows -- over the next-half century.

In brief, Nichols makes a compelling case for thinking about isolationism in a way comparable to that of Michael Kazin's discussion of populism in his 1995 book The Populist Persuasion. (Perhaps not surprisingly, Kazin provides a blurb for Promise and Peril.) Just as the core of populism is located in an anti-elitist sentiment, broadly construed, isolationism rests on a core aversion to avoid overseas conflict. But like populism, isolationism defies easy ideological pigeonholing: depending on the circumstances, it has been claimed by both Right and Left -- sometimes simultaneously. Some isolationist advocates were avowed nationalists for whom unilateral action, including military action, was paramount. Others were passionate pacifists who saw it in humanitarian terms. The concept had commercial, military, and cultural connotations that could overlap or diverge. Recognizing this fact both leads to an at least partial rehabilitation of isolationism, even as it demands precision in grasping and invoking it. Read more ..

Book Review

Is an MBA Even Necessary These Days?

April 25th 2011

Book Covers - Personal MBA

The Personal MBA: Master the Art of Business. Josh Kaufman. Portfolio/Penguin. 416 pages.

No disrespect intended to any person or institution, but is an MBA really necessary? Bill Gates, Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak never got theirs and many, many other successful business people (and book reviewers) lack that degree and seem none the worse for it.

In his new book, author and consultant Josh Kaufman not only explains the reasons he chose not to pursue his MBA, but does a rather masterful job of eviscerating the program in general and, more specifically, the reasons people seek it and why they needn’t and shouldn’t; in his not-so-humble opinion: Money.

Spending around $250,000 or more, says Kaufman, to get an MBA from a top business school is a lousy investment and completely unnecessary. In fact, the whole biz school deal is essentially a money-making enterprise for educational institutions who profit mightily from teaching mostly ancient, arcane, academic approaches to business that track very little with the actual world and the ways it really operates. Further, says Kaufman, there’s no assurance that the instructors are qualified beyond possessing the skills required to teach (if that) and are usually bereft of the experience and achievements that would confirm the efficacy of their instruction. Read more ..

Book Review

The Siege of Washington: 12 Days that Shook America

April 25th 2011

Book Covers - Siege of Washington

The Siege of Washington: The Untold Story of the Twelve Days that Shook the Union. John Lockwood and Charles Lockwood. Oxford. 2011.

Historians like to remind us that collective memory is a process of remembrance and forgetting. In the case of contemporary Civil War historiography, there is a growing recognition that historians themselves have lost sight of something important in recent decades: the depth and power of Northern unionism. Much of the work of the last half-century has focused on American racism (cause in its own right in the case of the Confederacy, fact of life in the case of the Union), or impersonal structural forces like capitalism, whether industrial or slave-based, in the coming of the conflict. And the major social changes of the sixties -- that's the 1960s, not the 1860s -- have placed great emphasis on the role of individual struggles and collective oppression of important demographic segments of the population.

Amid these legitimate and useful avenues of scholarship, it is sometimes hard for students of the war to imagine, much less remember, that millions of Americans had a deep and abiding commitment to the idea of a constitutional republic, one for which hundreds of thousands proved willing to risk their lives. Books like Joan Waugh's recent biography of Ulysses S. Grant, Gary Gallagher's newly published The Union War and Adam Goodheart's recent 1861: The Civil War Awakening have reconnected with these currents. In an indirect but powerful way, so do brothers John and Charles Lockwood in The Siege of Washington. Read more ..

The Battle for Syria

Assad’s Taqiyya Against his Own People

April 25th 2011

Syrian Issues - Day of Rage in Syria Urged

Although the origins of al-Taqiyya are found in fundamentalist dogma regarding propaganda, Ba’athists and other authoritarian regimes in the region have used the practice for decades. In short, once widespread opposition to his one-party regime became evident, Assad needed to shield himself from international retribution. In an effort to buy time, the Syrian dictator announced that he would cancel “emergency law” which forbids demonstrations and limits free speech.

Assad’s lack of credibility immunizes Syrian protesters to his “Taqiyya.” No deception will convince them that the Syrian President’s intentions are good. Read more ..

Oil Addiction

In Philadelphia, Plea for Safer Alternative at Refinery

April 25th 2011

Energy / Environment - Sunoco plant, Phila

Sunoco asserts that there is no “off-site impact” from clouds of toxic acid—to a skeptical audience.

The general manager of the Sunoco oil refinery in Philadelphia defended his company’s decision to keep using an extremely toxic, cloud-forming acid, saying on April 21 that in 40 years “there has not been a single, documented incident of off-site impact or injury to a member of the public.”

Testifying at a legislative hearing on risks posed to workers and neighborhoods by hydrofluoric acid, or HF, the manager, Mike Bukowski, did not find a sympathetic audience, even after explaining that Sunoco had spent $125 million to switch to a modified form of the acid, less likely than standard HF to travel long distances if discharged during an accident. Read more ..

The Edge of Terrorism

The Truth Left Behind: Letting Sleeping Dogs Lie

April 25th 2011

Terrorism - Daniel Pearl

On Thursday, October 16, 2003, a warm and slightly overcast day in Washington, D.C., White House National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice called Daniel Pearl’s widow, Mariane, with some startling information. It was their first conversation ever, and Mariane was caught off guard.

In a cool voice, Rice delivered blockbuster news that would tie the Pearl abduction-murder to the horrors of the 9/11 attacks that preceded it. “We have now established enough links and credible evidence to think that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was involved in your husband’s murder,” Rice said. KSM, as he was called, was the alleged mastermind behind the 9/11 attacks.

“What do you mean ‘involved?’” Mariane Pearl asked. Since the earliest days of discovering that her husband had been murdered, she had suspected Al Qaeda’s involvement. She had never been satisfied with the July 2002 convictions of Omar Sheikh and three co-defendants as closing the case.

“We think he committed the actual murder,” Rice responded.

Rice doled out her information selectively. She didn’t tell Mariane Pearl how officials had reached that conclusion or what evidence they had to back it up. She did not offer any proof that KSM was the killer, nor identify his accomplices in the murder. Most significantly, Rice didn’t let on to what was then one of the Bush administration’s most closely-held secrets—that KSM was being held in a secret CIA prison and had been subjected to waterboarding and other hard-core interrogation techniques. Those facts would turn out to have major consequences. They both raised questions about the reliability of KSM’s confession and created a major obstacle to ever trying him in a U.S. criminal court for Pearl’s murder. Read more ..

The Battle for Libya

Something Fishy In Libyan Assets Discovery

April 25th 2011

Contributors / Staff - Armstrong_Williams

There’s something distinctly fishy about the Treasury Department’s lightning fast and allegedly “surprise” discovery of more than $30 billion in Libyan government assets stored in U.S. banks.

The Obama administration has lauded this as a major and unexpected victory in its effort to dislodge Col. Muammar Gadhafi’s regime. That may be so, but the implications of such a large deposit by Libya have deeper and far more disturbing implications. Could Libya have been in the process of purchasing a major stake in America’s critical infrastructure?

First, it is strange that Libya—a government that has traditionally been wary of storing its assets in a place where they could be confiscated by the U.S. government—would keep almost half of its estimated $70 billion sovereign wealth fund (Libyan Investment Authority, or LIA) in U.S. banks. After all, Libyan assets had been frozen before, most notably in 1986. In fact, most Arab nations, even those friendly to the U.S., had been reluctant to keep their assets within U.S. jurisdiction after the U.S. froze Iranian government assets in 1979. Admittedly, relations with Libya have warmed in recent years since it was removed from the U.S. list of official state sponsors of terrorism in 2005. Still, the old wounds run deep, and Col. Gadhafi is, if nothing else, a shrewd operator. Clearly, if he were taking such a big risk he must have had assurances from on high. Read more ..

Edge of Computing

Integrated Chips to Fuel Smartphone Growth

April 25th 2011

Technology - IC Layout

Silicon integration will be the key differentiator in smartphones which could grow to 600 million units in 2014, driven by expansion in low-cost handsets, according to a presentation at the inaugural Linley Tech Mobile Conference. "The next 300 million smartphones will come from feature phone replacements," said Linley Gwennap, principal of The Linley Group (Mountain View, CA), organizer of the event. "The pressure for smartphone designers will be in reducing systems cost to meet this growing demand for lower cost smartphones and silicon integration is a key," Gwennap said. Read more ..

Edge on Global Warming

Melting Glaciers and Ice Caps on Canadian Islands Play Greater Role in Sea Level Rise

April 25th 2011

Environment Topics - Devon Island Nunavut pic by Alex Gardner

Melting glaciers and ice caps on Canadian Arctic islands play a much greater role in sea level rise than scientists previously thought, according to a new study led by a University of Michigan researcher.

The 550,000-square-mile Canadian Arctic Archipelago contains some 30,000 islands. Between 2004 and 2009, the region lost the equivalent of three-quarters of the water in Lake Erie, the study found. Warmer-than-usual temperatures in those years caused a rapid increase in the melting of glacier ice and snow, said Alex Gardner, a research fellow in the Department of Atmospheric, Oceanic and Space Sciences who led the project. The study is published online in Nature on April 20.

"This is a region that we previously didn't think was contributing much to sea level rise," Gardner said. "Now we realize that outside of Antarctica and Greenland, it was the largest contributor for the years 2007 through 2009. This area is highly sensitive and if temperatures continue to increase, we will see much more melting." Read more ..

Edge on Computing

New Trade Group to Promote Computer Vision App for Future Smartphones and Tablets

April 25th 2011

Computer Topics - I-phone

A handful of vendors is organizing a new trade group to promote computer vision as a killer app for tomorrow's smartphones and tablets. The Embedded Vision Alliance will formally debut in May.

"We believe embedded vision will have a huge impact in mobile devices in the next few years," said Jeff Bier, an organizer of the group and principal of DSP consulting firm Berkeley Design Technology Inc. "It will proliferate in home audio/visual systems and consumers will come to expect it," he said in a talk at the Linley Tech Mobile Conference. Read more ..

The Battle for Bahrain

Bahrain Accuses Iranian's Hezbollah of Fomenting Riots

April 25th 2011

Bahrain Topics - Bahrain enraged protesters

Media reports suggest that Bahrain's government is now accusing the Iranian-backed militant group Hezbollah of training opposition members who are demanding more freedom and equal rights in the small Gulf nation.

A confidential report sent to the U.N. last week, reportedly saw Bahrain accusing opposition figures as having been trained at Hezbollah camps in Iran and Lebanon.

Details of meetings are laid out, especially between Hezbollah and leaders of Bahrain's opposition movements, including Haq and Wefaq. Read more ..

Inside Asia

Psychologists Warn that Therapies Based on Positive Emotions May Not Work for Asians

April 25th 2011

Japan - Japanese girl

Psychologists warn that therapies based on positive emotions may not work for Asians

Thinking happy thoughts, focusing on the good and downplaying the bad is believed to accelerate recovery from depression, bolster resilience during a crisis and improve overall mental health. But a new study by University of Washington psychologists reveals that pursuing happiness may not be beneficial across all cultures.

In a survey of college students, Asian respondents showed no relationship between positive emotions and levels of stress and depression. For European-American participants, however, the more stress and depression they felt, the fewer positive emotions they reported.

The study indicates that psychotherapies emphasizing positive emotions, which can relieve stress and depression in white populations, may not work for Asians, who make up 60 percent of the world population. Read more ..

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