Finally, after some 4-1/2 months of Israeli- Palestinian negotiations, some kind of game plan is beginning to emerge. Finally, some sort of indication about how this is all supposed to work – the logistics of the process, what a number of the key actors (namely the US and the Israelis) are thinking – is coming out into the open. US President Barack Obama, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and US Secretary of State John Kerry all spoke to the Saban Forum in Washington over the weekend, and a careful reading of what they said – as well as comments chief Israeli negotiator Tzipi Livni made at Tel Aviv University this week – provide an indication of where the process is now, where it is headed, and some of the pitfalls. Here is a look at some of the essential issues. Security The penny, at least in the US, has dropped – in fact, it dropped months ago – and there is a realization that nothing moves unless Netanyahu is confident that Israel’s security will not be compromised by a future agreement. Any agreement Israel makes, Netanyahu told the Saban Forum via video hook-up on Sunday, “must enable us to protect the peace, or conversely to protect Israel, in case the peace unravels.
That often happens in our region. So there must be iron-clad security arrangements to protect the peace, arrangements that allow Israel to defend itself, by itself, against any possible threats. And those security arrangements must be based on Israel’s own forces. There is no substitute for that.” Since words like these – “Israel must be able to defend itself, by itself, against all possible threats” – are said so often by so many, they lose their impact; the ear no longer takes notice. But Netanyahu means it, and the Americans know he means it – and as a result, they have set up a team apparently unprecedented in size and scope to look at Israel’s security requirements after an agreement, and to suggest solutions. These types of security analyses have been done numerous times over the last 20 years of Israeli- Palestinian talks, but apparently not to the extent being undertaken now, led by Marine Corps Gen. (ret.) John Allen. “Never before – ever – has the United States conducted such an in-depth analysis of Israel’s security requirements that arise from the potential of a two-state solution,” Kerry said at the Saban Forum on Saturday. “Never.” More
ANTARCTICA – It’s official: East Antarctica is pushing West Antarctica around. Now that West Antarctica is losing weight–that is, billions of tons of ice per year–its softer mantle rock is being nudged westward by the harder mantle beneath East Antarctica. The discovery comes from researchers led by The Ohio State University, who have recorded GPS measurements that show West Antarctic bedrock is being pushed sideways at rates up to about twelve millimeters–about half an inch–per year. This movement is important for understanding current ice loss on the continent, and predicting future ice loss. They reported the results on Thursday, Dec. 12 at the American Geophysical Union meeting in San Francisco. Half an inch doesn’t sound like a lot, but it’s actually quite dramatic compared to other areas of the planet, explained Terry Wilson, professor of earth sciences at Ohio State. Wilson leads POLENET, an international collaboration that has planted GPS and seismic sensors all over the West Antarctic Ice Sheet. She and her team weren’t surprised to detect the horizontal motion. After all, they’ve been using GPS to observe vertical motion on the continent since the 1990′s. They were surprised, she said, to find the bedrock moving towards regions of greatest ice loss. ‘From computer models, we knew that the bedrock should rebound as the weight of ice on top of it goes away,” Wilson said.
“But the rock should spread out from the site where the ice used to be. Instead, we see movement toward places where there was the most ice loss.” The seismic sensors explained why. By timing how fast seismic waves pass through the earth under Antarctica, the researchers were able to determine that the mantle regions beneath east and west are very different. West Antarctica contains warmer, softer rock, and East Antarctica has colder, harder rock. Stephanie Konfal, a research associate with POLENET, pointed out that where the transition is most pronounced, the sideways movement runs perpendicular to the boundary between the two types of mantle. She likened the mantle interface to a pot of honey. “If you imagine that you have warm spots and cold spots in the honey, so that some of it is soft and some is hard”” Konfal said, “and if you press down on the surface of the honey with a spoon, the honey will move away from the spoon, but the movement won’t be uniform.
The hard spots will push into the soft spots. And when you take the spoon away, the soft honey won’t uniformly flow back up to fill the void, because the hard honey is still pushing on it.” Or, put another way, ice compressed West Antarctica’s soft mantle. Some ice has melted away, but the soft mantle isn’t filling back in uniformly, because East Antarctica’s harder mantle is pushing it sideways. The crust is just along for the ride. This finding is significant, Konfal said, because we use these crustal motions to understand ice loss. “We’re witnessing expected movements being reversed, so we know we really need computer models that can take lateral changes in mantle properties into account.” Wilson said that such extreme differences in mantle properties are not seen elsewhere on the planet where glacial rebound is occurring. “We figured Antarctica would be different,” she said. “We just didn’t know how different.” Extinction Protocol
NEW YORK — Back in 1998, 14-year-old Alfredo Carrasquillo and his friends were heading to a Bronx apartment where they planned to smoke pot and listen to some Tupac when a cop car pulled up on the curb “as if it was a movie or something.” The cops ordered Carrasquillo and his friends to stand against a fence and then began patting them down and going through their pockets. “I knew I had a bag of weed on me but I wasn’t going to volunteer myself to be arrested,” Carrasquillo said. “Then one officer finds the weed and he says, ‘You should have told me about it before, but now I’m going to have to take you in.’” That incident — and the night in jail that followed — was Carrasquillo’s introduction to the practice known as stop-and-frisk, a lynchpin of police policy in New York since the mid-’90s that has only grown more pervasive since Carrasquillo’s youth.
Every year in New York City, the police stop hundreds of thousands of people and frisk them for guns and drugs, often arresting them for possession of small amounts of pot. Largely because the vast majority of those stopped and arrested are black and Latino, this practice has caused an uproar, culminating in a bill introduced on Wednesday that would legalize marijuana in the state. Carrasquillo, who is black, Puerto Rican and Cuban, has become a prominent figure in the debate. The morning after the bill was announced, Carrasquillo spoke about his history of pot arrests while sitting at the Brooklyn headquarters of VOCAL-NY, the drug-reform advocacy group that employs him as a community organizer. More
Don’t look now, America, but another very predictable consequence of Obamacare is beginning to play out. Not only are customers losing their insurance plans – the plans Obama said they could keep – but now, insurance companies are dropping physicians from coverage plans as well. As reported by The Wall Street Journal: UnitedHealth Group, Inc., the nation’s largest provider of privately managed Medicare Advantage plans, has dropped thousands of doctors from its networks in recent weeks – spurring protest from lawmakers and physician groups and leaving many elderly patients unsure about whether they need to switch plans to keep seeing their doctors.
Obamacare regulations ‘driving our actions’- The paper said physicians in at least 10 states have received termination letters. Some of those letters have cited “significant changes and pressures in the health-care environment.” In addition, the notices inform doctors that they can appeal the decision within 30 days, but that means doctors and patients won’t know for certain who is in, and who is out of, UnitedHealth’s Medicare Advantage networks before open enrollment to switch Medicare plans ends on Dec. 7. The insurer said its provider networks change constantly, and it expects its Medicare Advantage network “to be 85 percent to 90 percent of its current size by the end of 2014.” But the company would not say how many providers are being curbed in individual states, or what criteria it is using to cut them. Company officials say they are making their decision based on financial concerns – concerns that are being influenced solely by the mandates contained in Obamacare. Officially, they say United Healthcare is taking the action to provide more value for its customers, but that is corporate-speak for, “We’re making this move because we’ve been forced to do it.” More
When it came to covering the Nelson Mandela memorial, most commentators focused on President Obama’s tacky “selfie” or his handshake with Castro. Dr. Savage, however, was more concerned about Obama’s speech, in which he compared Mandela to America’s Founding Fathers (Free audio
). “That’s like saying our Founding Fathers were communists,” said Savage. After all, “Mandela was a member of the Communist Party who supported the murderous dictatorship in Cuba” and other far left regimes. Dr. Savage is an expert on natural healing who doesn’t hesitate to criticize modern medicine when he feels it’s appropriate. In the case of the flu shot, he’s against it, telling his audience that we can reduce our chances of coming down with such illness by practicing simple common sense hygiene, like regular hand washing with soap and water (Free audio
Quite an imbalance in weather records this week. Even the AGU fall meeting in San Francisco
where the best and brightest global warming scientists were meeting was surrounded by record (such as 25F in San Jose Dec 9th) and near record setting low temperatures, though the irony was lost on many of them. In other cold and snowy news, the Egyptian capital of Cairo sees snowfall for the first time in 112 YEARS
Here are some other nearby temperatures for December 9th, the first full day of the AGU Fall Meeting: More
Heavy snow and travel disruptions will spread from St. Louis to Pittsburgh Friday night, then to Philadelphia, New York City and Boston Saturday. The snowstorm will span more than 1,000 miles. Thanks to recent Arctic air making roads and sidewalks much colder compared to previous storms, enough snow to shovel and plow is in store from parts of Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, West Virginia, Virginia, Maryland and New Jersey to much of Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine. Not only will the storm make roads and sidewalks slippery, raising the risk for slip-and-fall incidents and auto accidents, but it is likely to cause many flight delays and cancellations.
The visibility will be poor, runways will become snow covered and aircraft will need to be de-iced. Snow will fall on and impact every major city and rural area from St. Louis to Boston, including Chicago, Detroit, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia and New York City. The area encompasses about 110 million people. The storm will spread across the Midwest late Friday into Friday night and over the Northeast Saturday and Saturday night. A mixture of snow, sleet and rain will mitigate accumulations across central Missouri and eastward along the Ohio River. However, enough wintry mix will fall to make roads slippery. Long stretches of along the I-70, I-75, I-80 and I-90 corridors may be snow covered in the Midwest. More
It was as they say, a good ol’ fashion lake effect pounding — a snowburst — 60 to 72 inches of snow (confirmed). Put simply, they got hammered — all of this while a major lake effect research project is going on east of Lake Ontario (http://owles.org/
). 6:00 p.m. Update: Winter storm watch cancelled: Winter weather advisory is in effect for all of Central New York for this weekend. The sun is out in the North Country. The band of lake effect snow that was east of Lake Ontario is now a shadow of its former self. It’s south of Syracuse and has broken up into smaller bands of snow. Now that the wind is from the northwest off Lake Ontario, in Central New York, it will still take several hours for the residual snow showers to break down. Generally, 1 to 4 inches of new snow is possible south and southeast of Lake Ontario. In between those snow showers the sun will be in and out of the clouds. In the wake of this lake effect event, parts of Oswego, Jefferson and Lewis Counties are now under 2 to 5 feet of snow. If you have ever shoveled, and who hasn’t, you know that snow has weight — even Lake effect powder. Pile that up enough and lake effect quickly settles under it’s own weight. More
Police have issued a warning to shopkeepers and businesses in Belfast after a bomb partially exploded on the pavement in the popular Cathedral Quarter on one of the busiest nights in the run-up to Christmas, following a telephoned warning. Police and army bomb experts are attending the scene, where hundreds of people have been evacuated from restaurants and other premises, including nearby apartments. The small explosion happened at around 6.45pm on Friday in the Exchange Street West area and Talbot Street has been cordoned off. The warning was received about an hour earlier by the Irish News. UTV understands the device was in a box on the pavement, near a car, when it exploded. The area was being cleared when it went off – police with sniffer dogs are conducting searches in the wake of the explosion. There are no reports of any injuries. ”The exact nature of tonight’s explosive device in the Cathedral area has not yet been established,” a PSNI spokesman said. An emergency centre has been set up at City Hall for evacuated residents. UTV
A Kansas man who authorities say in the past made threats to engage in violent jihad against the U.S. was charged Friday for allegedly plotting to detonate a car bomb at the Wichita Mid-Continent Airport. Terry L. Loewen, 58, an aviation technician who FBI agents say was inspired by Usama bin Laden, spent months planning the attack and was intent on using his employee access card to drive the vehicle loaded with explosives to a terminal, Barry Grissom, the U.S. Attorney for the district of Kansas, said, citing the criminal complaint. Loewen planned on dying in the explosion as a martyr, Grissom said. The complaint says an undercover FBI employee told Loewen about a recent trip overseas and a meeting with members of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. This agent told Loewen that “brothers” were interested in his airport access, and asked if he’d be willing to plant “some type of device,” the complaint said. Loewen allegedly responded, “Am I interested? Yes. I still need time to think about it, but I can’t imagine anything short of arrest stopping me.” The U.S. citizen allegedly wrote to the FBI agent that he was inspired by Usama bin Laden and Anwar al-Awlaki. More
A student armed with a shotgun entered a Colorado high school Friday looking for a specific teacher, then shot one student who confronted him before apparently killing himself, police said. Hospital officials said the injured student was in critical condition. Another student suffered a minor wound, said Arapahoe County Sheriff Grayson Robinson,adding authorities were not sure it was a gunshot wound. Police did not release the name of the student who died from the apparently self-inflicted gunshot wound. Video shot from helicopters showed students leaving the building in orderly fashion, with their hands raised. They were then frisked by security officers before moving on. The school is about 8 miles east of Columbine High School in Littleton, where two teenage shooters killed 12 classmates and a teacher before killing themselves in 1999. Fox News
The snow that has blanketed much of the Middle East turned Cairo white on Friday – with local news reports claiming it was Egypt’s capital’s first snowfall in 112 years. The city averages less than an inch of rain each year, and hundreds stopped their walk to work or school to snap pictures of the falling flakes, tweeting their delights. In Jerusalem, local media reported that schools and roads were closed, and transport suspended after four inches of snow – the most since 1953.
Palestinian and Israeli children shaped clusters into snowmen across the divided capital, with boys shrieking with delight as they put the finishing touches to a frosty man outside the gold-domed Al Aqsa mosque. ”Last week, the chief rabbis asked Jews around the world to pray for rain in Israel since winter had begun with a dry spell,” Jewish online magazine Tablet reported.“Apparently, it worked.” Snow, sleet and icy winds have covered Syria, Lebanon and Jordan, deepening the troubles of many war refugees, living in freezing tents. Many have melted snow on their stoves, their only source of drinking water. The Huffington Post
The United States government hasn’t decided on the legality of Bitcoin just yet, but federal regulator have determined that a Utah man must stop mining and selling physical copies of the crypto-currency to online customers. Mike Caldwell of Sandy, UT has for years been offering a novelty of sorts for sale over the internet. In exchange for a nominal fee, he’ll hand-mint personalized, tangible Bitcoins that are then shipped around the world and used for online transactions. Each coin is protected by several levers of security, including a touch-sensitive hologram, and Caldwell says he’s minted the equivalent of around $82 million dollars’ worth of the items. Production of his “Casascius” physical Bitcoin has been recently brought to a halt, however, after Caldwell received a letter from the Department of the Treasury’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, or FINCEN.
He announced on his website in late November that he had suspended taking orders “pending resolution of some concerns I have as to regulatory issues,” and now two weeks later he’s opened up and admitted that his Bitcoin business is the latest to be busted by federal regulators. “They considered my activity to be money transmitting,” he told Wired’s Robert McMillan of the FINCEN letter, and the Treasury insists that such activity adhere to certain regulations. Caldwell isn’t convinced he’s doing that, though, and isn’t sure what the future holds for the Casascius coin. The coins are made in Caldwell’s Sandy residents and are crafted from real metal. The 1 BTC item, worth around $863 as of this writing, is minted from solid brass and weighs around an ounce. He had been up until now selling other denominations as well, including the 25 BTC version electroplated with gold. More
Senior National Security Agency officials in the United States say they’ve considered making a deal with former contractor Edward Snowden that would give amnesty to the leaker charged with espionage if he stops disclosing secret documents. Both the director of the NSA and the government official in charge of the agency’s Snowden task force tell CBS News that they’ve considered the possibility of cutting a deal with the 30-year-old former contractor, who fled the US for Hong Kong earlier this year with a trove of top-secret documents. Snowden, who is reportedly now working in Russia after being granted temporary asylum there in August, might be able to return to the US and avoid prosecution if the American government agrees to an amnesty deal that would likely put an embargo on the stolen cache of files.
Asked by CBS News’ John Miller on Thursday, the NSA official tasked with leading a specialized group in charge of the Snowden case said “it’s worth having a conversation about” a possible amnesty pact with the subject of his probe. “I would need assurances that the remainder of the data could be secured, and my bar for those assurances would be very high. It would be more than just an assertion on his part,” Rick Leggett of the Snowden task force told Miller. “It’s not unanimous,” Leggett added, however, and NSA Director Gen. Keith Alexander admits that he isn’t exactly in favor of suspending charges against Snowden, who is accused of theft and espionage. Alexander admitted to Miller that the entire situation is quite a dilemma, but said that in his opinion, “I think people have to be held accountable for their actions.” Should Snowden be granted amnesty, Alexander suggested, other government employees or contractors with access to sensitive information could consider it a go-ahead from the federal government to leak documents on their own accord and know a life-time imprisonment isn’t the only possible outcome. More
As the shock sinks in of North Korea’s extraordinary announcement of the execution of leader Kim Jong Un’s uncle and former protector, government officials and analysts are trying to decipher what the brutal move means. The ruthless disposal of Jang Song Thaek Kim’s uncle by marriage who had, until recently, been regarded as the second-most powerful figure in the secretive, nuclear-armed nation — has serious implications for North Korea, its neighbors and the United States, observers said. But exactly what is going on inside the notoriously opaque North Korea regime remains as murky as ever. ”We don’t have a clear sense of this at all,” said Victor Cha, a senior adviser at the Center for Strategic and International Studies who represented the United States in nuclear talks with North Korea. Some saw the execution, reported early Friday by North Korean state media, as a chilling demonstration of total control by Kim, the young leader who came to power two years ago. ”I think what he’s telling people — the United States, South Korea, China, others — is that he is his own man, that you are going to have to deal with him,” said Philip Yun, executive director of the Ploughshares Fund, a nuclear nonproliferation group. More
US Secretary of State John Kerry discussed the provisions for Israel’s security in the future Palestinian state with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon in Jerusalem Friday, Dec. 13, just two days after Iran’s Revolutionary Guards chief Maj. Gen, Mohammad Ali Jafari laid bare an issue embodied in the Nov. 24 Geneva accord.which is of high relevance to Israel’s security. After a lecture captioned “Islamic Revolution against Global Arrogance,” which he delivered at the Imam Sadegh University in Tehran Wednesday, Dec. 11, a student asked the Revolutionary Guards commander whether any of the Western powers in Geneva had asked for Iran’s missiles to be reduced. “We will never do this,” he replied. Asked by another student to clarify his statement that Iranian missiles can reach Israel, Jafari replied: “We are still increasing the range of our missiles, but currently the Supreme Leader has commanded that we limit the range of our missiles to 2,000 km.” The general therefore released to the public four facts already known to Israeli, Saudi and Turkish leaders,say DEBKAfile’s military sources: More