U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton arrived in Islamabad Friday to patch up tense relations between the U.S. and Pakistan following the raid that killed al-Qaeda terror mastermind Osama bin Laden. Clinton said there is no evidence any high-ranking Pakistani officials were aware of the al-Qaeda leader’s whereabouts.Read it all here.
“There is absolutely no evidence that anyone at the highest levels of the Pakistani government knew he was living just miles from where we are today,” said Clinton.
She also said Pakistan must take “decisive steps” against terrorism.
Clinton was accompanied by the chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Mike Mullen, who called for closer cooperation.
“Now is not the time for retreat or for recrimination,” said Mullen at a news conference, acknowledging that the U.S. raid on bin Laden’s compound caused diplomatic problems with Pakistan. ...
May 27, 2011
Top Italian seismologists are being tried for the manslaughter of 308 people who died in the 2009 L'Aquila earthquake. The president of Italy's National Institute of Geophysics and Volcanology, Enzo Boschi, faces trial along with six other scientists and technicians for failure to predict the disaster.Read it all here.
Italian Judge Giuseppe Romano Gargarella reportedly said the seven scientists offered "imprecise, incomplete and contradictory information" during a televised press conference just 6 days before the earthquake struck, according to the Italian daily Corriere della Sera. During the conference, scientists reassured residents that there was no evidence a major earthquake was imminent. The area had experienced smaller quakes prior to the 2009 L’Aquila earthquake.
According to the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) website, no earthquake has ever been predicted successfully.
The USGS says scientists can only calculate the probability of a potential quake, but do not expect to predict them for the "foreseeable future."
Alan Leschner, chief executive of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, told Fox News that his organization wrote a letter to Italy’s government last year when the scientists were first placed under investigation. ...
May 26, 2011
73-page report released today accuses the National Science Foundation, or NSF, of mismanaging federal funds. Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), the author of the report, said he identified more than $3 billion in mismanagement at NSF, calling for cuts.
The report alleges that taxpayer money has gone to fund such programs as Jell-O wrestling in Antarctica and observing shrimps' ability to exercise on a treadmill.
In the case of the shrimp the National Science Foundation spent $500,000 on the research—although the purpose remains unclear.
Other NSF mismanagement, according to the report, includes excessive operating costs and duplication of operations performed by other agencies.
Here’s an excerpt from the report:"The good news for taxpayers is there is no question NSF has contributed significantly to scientific discovery.
The bad news is a significant percentage of your money is going to what most Americans will consider fraud, waste and abuse, and there are many areas where NSF could contribute far more with better management and smarter targeting of resources.This report identifies over $3 billion in mismanagement at NSF. This includes tens of millions of dollars spent on questionable studies, excessive amounts of expired funds that have not been returned to the Treasury, inadequate contracting practices that unnecessarily increase costs, and a lack of metrics to demonstrate results."
Read Coburn's report here.
In a statement, NSF officials responded to Coburn’s study and defended the agency's work.“While no agency is without flaws, NSF has been diligent about addressing concerns from members of Congress about workforce and grant management issues, and NSF's excellent record of tracking down waste and prosecuting wrongdoing is apparent from Sen. Coburn's report. We believe that no other funding agency in the world comes close to NSF for giving taxpayers the best return on their investment.”
Scientists whose research was targeted in Coburn's report have also accused the senator of misrepresenting their work.
Some questionable behavior outlined in the report was investigated by the NSF’s inspector general. One example includes a senior executive who viewed pornography on his computer for “at least 331 days” on a government computer. According to Coburn’s report, “porn viewing was so pervasive that the cases overwhelmed the agency's IG and undermined the watchdog’s ability to investigate other misspent funds or fraudulent activities.” In 2008, seven of 10 misconduct cases involved viewing online pornography.
NSF projects have led to significant scientific and engineering innovation. However, Coburn’s report outlines some serious waste and repeated patterns of mismanagement.
What do you think? Will it be helpful or hurtful to cut and streamline NSF funding?
May 25, 2011
Is the idea of gender neutral society a fantasy? Perhaps even a myth?
A Canadian couple has announced that their baby will be raised without the burden of a gender identity.
David Stocker and Kathy Witterick hope that by hiding the gender of their baby, 4-month old Storm, the pressures to act in accordance with expected social norms will not be a factor in his or her life.
But this experiment—or perhaps political statement—is hardly original.
In his most recent column, The Telegraph's Ed West points to one fascinating experiment which quickly went awry:. … Children don’t tend to rebel as much as we assume (80 per cent of people vote for the same parties as their parents), but neither do they sexually rebel. That’s because, contrary to what the Wittericks believe, what’s between our legs and what’s between our ears are rarely unconnected.
Back in the 1970s the belief that gender identity is socially constructed was common, and attempts were made, from the US to Britain to Germany to Israel, to raise children in gender-neutral surroundings. ...
And, as West notes, these attempts failed. In Israel, where the experiment was carried out in the Kibbutz, a communal living compound, the next generation of women didn't want to be truck drivers or politicians. They wanted to be mothers. According to anthropologist Melford Spiro, it "all but undid the earlier revolution."
Gender identity isn’t just affected by society but also deeply rooted in nature.
What do you think? Are Storm’s parents making the right decision or harming their baby?
May 24, 2011
In his latest column The Wall Street Journal’s Bret Stephens called President Obama’s 1967 border Israel-Arab peace proposal a “formula for war,” noting Obama’s "telling omissions and self-contradictions" at AIPAC this Sunday.
Here’s an excerpt:. ... When this president wants to make a show of his exquisite diplomatic sensitivity—burgers with Medvedev, bows to Abdullah, New Year's greetings to the mullahs—he knows how. And when he wants to show his contempt, he knows how, too.
The contempt was again on display Sunday, when Mr. Obama spoke to the Aipac policy conference in Washington. The speech was stocked with the perennial bromides about U.S.-Israeli friendship, which brought an anxious crowd to its feet a few times. As for the rest, it was a thin tissue of falsehoods, rhetorical legerdemain, telling omissions and self-contradictions. Let's count the ways.For starters, it would be nice if the president could come clean about whether his line about the 1967 line—"mutually agreed swaps" and all—was pathbreaking and controversial, or no big deal … .
Read Stephens’ column here.
On Friday Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with Obama in Washington a day after the U.S. president delivered a speech outlining a peace plan between Israel and the Palestinian Authority based on 1967 lines.
Netanyahu rejected Obama's plan, citing Israeli security and demographic concerns. Netanyahu’s aides have also pointed out the 1967 lines are not part of an agreed border but designated by Jordanian and Israeli fighters when a ceasefire was called in 1949 to end an earlier war.
May 20, 2011
Donna Ethington remembers the putrid smells and diesel fumes that would waft into her Wilmington office near the Port of Los Angeles. The smell from the trucks and ships at the port was so bad she couldn’t keep the doors and windows open. Just five years later, Ethington is breathing easier.Read it all here.
“My office is right in this port—I’m there 24/7 unless I’m in a meeting somewhere. I can tell you that there has been a huge reduction in emissions,” said Ethington, a member of the Wilmington Neighborhood Council who has lived in the area for 32 years and campaigned for a cleaner environment.
Southern California’s ports have come under pressure from environmental and community groups in recent years over toxic emissions that are linked to cancer and respiratory diseases like asthma. The result is the ports have adopted greener ways of conducting business.
The Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach have imposed stricter environmental rules on the thousands of trucks that transport containers each week and on the diesel-churning vessels that bring in cargo from abroad. Over the last four years the worst types of diesel emissions linked to cancer have fallen by more than 50 percent.
“They are moving in the right direction,” said Morgan Wyenn, project attorney for the National Resources Defense Council, or NRDC, in Santa Monica. “Other ports around the country are starting to copy what the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach have done.”
But the ports have a long way to go.
The ports are a busy trade gateway with a crucial impact on the nation’s economy. More than 40 percent of cargo coming into the United States is transported through the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, making them the largest shipping complex in the country.
Southern California’s port complex has dwarfed its American rivals. It brings in more than double—even triple—the amount of cargo than other U.S. ports, but it also has been responsible for significantly more pollution.
Prior to 2004, the combined port was responsible for more than triple the amount of smog-contributing toxins than the Port of Virginia and triple the amount of cancer-causing emissions than ports in Houston and Seattle.
With the rise of container ships and a bustling industry, air pollution in Southern California grew to the highest rates but with very little action to curb the industry’s effects on communities and the environment....
After a meeting with U.S. President Barack Obama Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel is ready to make concessions for peace but cannot go back to 1967 borders. Netanyahu also said that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas must decide between its fresh reconciliation with Hamas and peace with Israel.Read it all here.
The comments come a day after Obama outlined his peace plan that calls for negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority based on 1967 lines.
“Israel cannot negotiate with a Palestinian government backed by Hamas,” said Netanyahu, calling Hamas a “Palestinian version of al Qaeda.”
Netanyahu met with Obama in Washington on Friday. The leaders held a closed-door meeting in the Oval Office followed by a press session where each delivered statements....
Read the entire piece here.
Jewish refugees who fled Iraq in 1951 register upon arrival in Israel. (Courtesy of Babylonian Heritage Center)
Every year the month of May marks the creation of the State of Israel— for some a celebration. For others, it marks a ‘Nakba’—a catastrophe—that prompts everything from public demonstrations to violent riots around the world.
In the United States and the United Kingdom student organizations, such as the Muslim Students Association and Students for Justice in Palestine, push anti-Israel divestment campaigns on their college campuses. These divestment campaigns perpetuate lies about the State of Israel, painting the Jewish state as racist and a colonial usurper, all this despite the fact it’s no larger than the state of New Jersey and its territory a tiny fraction of the Middle East.
These campaigns demand “right of return”— not a lasting peace with Israelis, but the deliberate destruction of the State of Israel.
The May campaigns also allege that Israelis are committing genocide against the Palestinian Arabs, a ludicrous statement. Figures show that since 1948 this segment of the population has quickly increased to over 4 million.
Beyond the anti-Israel campaigns—movements that have become more like street theater—is the plight of a genuine refugee group that has suffered in total silence.
With the rise of Arab nationalism in the early 1900s, Jews in what became Islamic lands found that they had become a scapegoat. No longer living under colonial rule, their situation began to worsen. Even prior to the establishment of the State of Israel, Jews found that they were being discriminated against under Arab governments. In many cases, being Jewish was practically outlawed due to Nuremberg-style laws.
In 1948 the Arab League declared all Jewish people enemy citizens, regardless of the fact that several had no will or motivation to leave their homes. Throughout the Middle East Jewish bank accounts and property were confiscated, Jews were arrested and fired from their jobs, and synagogues were attacked. Homes were looted, women were raped and people were killed...
May 13, 2011
In a recent article for Guernica, professor Noam Chomsky referred to Osama bin Laden as an "unarmed victim" and asks how Americans would have reacted if "Iraqi commandos landed at George W. Bush’s compound, assassinated him, and dumped his body in the Atlantic." Chomsky decries the former president, arguing his crimes "vastly exceed" those of bin Laden's.
In a scathing rebuttal in Slate earlier this week, Christopher Hitchens ripped Chomsky's piece to shreds. Here's an excerpt:Anybody visiting the Middle East in the last decade has had the experience: meeting the hoarse and aggressive person who first denies that Osama Bin Laden was responsible for the destruction of the World Trade Center and then proceeds to describe the attack as a justified vengeance for decades of American imperialism. This cognitive dissonance—to give it a polite designation—does not always take that precise form. Sometimes the same person who hails the bravery of al-Qaida's martyrs also believes that the Jews planned the "operation." As far as I know, only leading British "Truther" David Shayler, a former intelligence agent who also announced his own divinity, has denied that the events of Sept. 11, 2001, took place at all....Read Hitchens' rebuttal here.