Special thanks go to Magnifico for starting this venerable series.
Lead Off Story
Palestinian Teen Killed In Suspected Revenge Attack By Hard-Line Israelis
A 17-year-old Palestinian boy from East Jerusalem was abducted and killed early Wednesday — a suspected act of revenge for the killing of three Israeli youths that comes amid heightened tensions.
The murder highlights a growing fear that there will be more cases of violence not between the Israeli military and Palestinian armed groups, but by vigilante groups on both sides taking matters into their own hands.
The body of Mohammad Abu Khdeir, from the Shuafat neighborhood, was found reportedly burned and with signs of torture by police in a forest outside Jerusalem.
Witnesses told Palestinian news website Maan News that surveillance footage showed what appeared to be Israelis forcing Abu Khdeir into their car in front of a supermarket before speeding off.
The killing sparked protests in occupied East Jerusalem — hundreds of Palestinian youths threw stones at Israeli security forces. Soldiers retaliated by launching deafening sound bombs, tear gas, rubber-coated steel bullets, and reportedly live ammunition at the youths.
Vatican Gives Official Backing To Exorcists
Exorcists now have an extra weapon in their fight against evil – the official backing of the Catholic church. The Vatican has formally recognised the International Association of Exorcists, a group of 250 priests in 30 countries who liberate the faithful from demons.
The Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano reported this week that the Vatican's Congregation for Clergy had approved the organisation's statutes and recognised the group under canon law.
More than his predecessors, Pope Francis speaks frequently about the devil, and last year was seen placing his hands on the head of a man supposedly possessed by four demons in what exorcists said was a prayer of liberation from Satan.
The head of the association, the Rev Francesco Bamonte, said the Vatican approval was cause for joy. "Exorcism is a form of charity that benefits those who suffer," he told L'Osservatore.
Fighting Google: Europe Eyes Digital Agenda To Better Compete With The US
To the competition regulators in Brussels, Google has something akin to frequent flier status. Hardly a week goes by that an injured company doesn't deliver incriminating information about the Internet giant to the European Union capital.
The flood of complaints is coming from a growing number of markets where the company wasn't previously active. On June 11, Competition Commissioner Joaquín Almunia wrote a letter to his colleagues on the European Commission, the EU's executive, outlining some of these markets. The letter states that they include "social networks, video catalogue, streaming, mobile phone operating systems and apps." Among the latest complainants, the letter notes, is an advertising platform, the alliance of European photo agencies known as CEPIC, the Open Internet Project, which unites European publishers, and Deutsche Telekom. It can be safely predicted that Google's compliance with EU competition law will be closely monitored for a long time to come.
The competition commissioner claims the allegations are always in the same vein -- that Google is using its dominant position to force competitors out of an increasing number of markets. It's likely that Almunia will also have to tighten the conditions it is imposing on Google as part of current market abuse proceedings being conducted against the company. Almunia had wanted to end the proceedings by requiring the company to make relatively harmless concessions. Now, however, he writes to his fellow commissioners: "Once the comments from complainants are received during the summer, we will need to evaluate whether their arguments and evidence may justify a potential rethink of some aspects of the remedy."
It's not only the Spanish commissioner who appears to be waking up to the seemingly unstoppable advance of massive American Internet firms. In an essay recently published in the respected Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung newspaper, German Economics Minister Sigmar Gabriel, who is head of the center-left Social Democratic Party (SPD), wrote that people needed to stand up against the "brutal information capitalism." He argued "only the European Union has the power required to change the political course and rewrite the rules."
Southeast Asia Fears Fallout Of Mideast Chaos
Four gun-wielding rebel fighters sit relaxing on a wall, their faces concealed by scarves and ski masks. All are Indonesians who came to Syria to join the Islamist insurgency, the cameraman says, speaking Indonesian peppered with Arabic phrases.
“Brothers in Indonesia, don’t be afraid, because fear is a temptation from Satan,” says one of the fighters in the YouTube video on an Islamist website.
As Sunni Islamist rebels surge from Syria into Iraq, security officials in Southeast Asia and Australia worry the conflict is radicalizing a new generation of militants, who are being influenced to an unprecedented degree by social media.
In the 1990s, several hundred Indonesian, Malaysian and Philippine Muslims trained with al-Qaida in Afghanistan and brought their skills and ideology home, inspiring attacks such as the 2002 Bali nightclub bombing that killed 202 people.
At least 30 Malaysians and 56 Indonesians are estimated by security officials to have gone to fight in Syria, although security analysts say the true number is likely higher.
George Takei Slams Hobby Lobby Ruling, Calls For A Nationwide Boycott
Oh myyyyyyy…George Takei is pissed off (in his own super calm way) at the conservative wing of the Supreme Court and rightly so. Takei posted his response to the unprecedented decision on the website for his play, Allegiance: A New American Musical and it’s a beautiful take down of the ruling and the reasoning (in the loosest sense of the word) behind it:
Takei then applies The Muslim Test to the ruling:
The Muslim Test is very simple: Take any conservative claim that they are being oppressed by evil secularists or rival religions, replace “Christianity” with “Islam” and see if the offended party is still quite as gung-ho. Conversely, take any demand for special privileges, insist that they be granted to Islam as well and watch the odd conservative head explode.
Clearly, the Hobby Lobby ruling utterly fails the Muslim Test. It is almost inconceivable that the 5 deeply conservative “Christians” on the court would argue that Muslim business owners could use Sharia to dictate the personal lives of their employees in any way whatsoever. Remember, to the right wing, the only religion that qualifies for “religious freedom” is Christianity. Specifically, Republican Christianity.
Takei also highlights the screaming hypocrisy of a company that is so opposed to abortion that it invests money in companies that sell actual abortion drugs and buys its cheap products from China where mandatory abortions are common. Think about that: Hobby Lobby is willing to profit from abortion while claiming to be religiously opposed to it.
As Numbers Grow, Single Women Emerge As Political Powerhouse
The decline of marriage over the last generation has helped create an emerging voting bloc of unmarried women that is profoundly reshaping the American electorate to the advantage, recent elections suggest, of the Democratic Party. What is far from clear is whether Democrats will benefit in the midterm contests this fall.
To alter that picture, and to try to prevent Republicans from capturing a Senate majority in November, Democrats and allied groups are making an aggressive push to woo single women — young and old, highly educated and working class, never married and divorced or widowed. This week, they seized on the ruling by the Supreme Court’s conservative majority, five men, that family-owned corporations do not have to provide birth control in their insurance coverage, to buttress their arguments that Democrats better represent women’s interests.
But the challenge for Democrats is that many single women do not vote, especially in nonpresidential election years like this one. While voting declines across all groups in midterm contests for Congress and lower offices, the drop-off is steepest for minorities and unmarried women. The result is a turnout that is older, whiter and more conservative than in presidential years.
Half of all adult women over the age of 18 are unmarried — 56 million, up from 45 million in 2000 — and now account for one in four people of voting age. (Adult Hispanics eligible to vote, a group that gets more attention, number 25 million this year.) Single women have become Democrats’ most reliable supporters, behind African-Americans: In 2012, two-thirds of single women who voted supported President Obama. Among married women, a slim majority supported Mitt Romney.
“You have a group that’s growing in size, and becoming more politically concentrated in terms of the Democrats,” said Tom W. Smith, director of the General Social Survey at the University of Chicago’s National Opinion Research Center.
Goldman Says Client Data Leaked, Wants Google To Delete E-mail
Goldman Sachs Group Inc said a contractor emailed confidential client data to a stranger's Gmail account by mistake, and the bank has asked a U.S. judge to order Google Inc to delete the email to avert a "needless and massive" breach of privacy.
The breach occurred on June 23 and included "highly confidential brokerage account information," Goldman said in a complaint filed last Friday in a New York state court in Manhattan.
Goldman did not say how many clients were affected, and wants Google's help in tracking down who might have accessed the data. The Wall Street bank also said Google "appears willing to cooperate" if there is a court order.
Google, Goldman and Goldman's law firm did not immediately respond on Wednesday to requests for comment.
Science and Technology
First Exoskeleton Gets FDA Approval For U.S. Sales
A motorized exoskeleton, designed to help paralyzed people walk again, just earned U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval. It is the first such device to do so.
The device, called ReWalk, straps on user's bodies and helps those with certain spinal-cord injuries to sit, stand, and walk. Users have to wear a backpack to carry the ReWalk's computer and battery. They also have to wear a wrist device with buttons to tell the motorized legs when to stand up, sit down, or start walking. But it's not like users are punching every step into their wrist controllers--ReWalk legs also respond to movements of the user's torso, so that leaning forward triggers a step. (Popular Science gave the device an Invention Award in 2009 and a Best of What's New award in 2011.)
The new FDA approval means ReWalk's maker, Argo Medical Technologies, or Argo, can now market its products in the U.S. Over the past few years, Argo and other companies that make similar products have tested their exoskeletons on people. Argo has previously sold ReWalk devices to rehabilitation centers in the U.S. but the FDA approval marks the start of sales of ReWalk devices to Americans for private use. Each device will likely cost $65,000 to $68,000, the Telegram reported in March.
The FDA's announcement about ReWalk details what it is—and isn't—cleared for. It's approved for specific spinal cord injuries, but it's not recommended for people with other severe neurological injuries. The FDA also says users should undergo training before strapping the ReWalk on, and so should a helper for the user—maybe a spouse or a home health aide. Interestingly, the announcement also says the device isn't for climbing stairs. This is a departure from some earlier news reports about the ReWalk, which showed users going up stairs in the exoskeleton.
Ninety-Nine Percent Of The Ocean's Plastic Is Missing
Millions of tons. That’s how much plastic should be floating in the world’s oceans, given our ubiquitous use of the stuff. But a new study finds that 99% of this plastic is missing. One disturbing possibility: Fish are eating it.
If that’s the case, “there is potential for this plastic to enter the global ocean food web,” says Carlos Duarte, an oceanographer at the University of Western Australia, Crawley. “And we are part of this food web.”
Humans produce almost 300 million tons of plastic each year. Most of this ends up in landfills or waste pits, but a 1970s National Academy of Sciences study estimated that 0.1% of all plastic washes into the oceans from land, carried by rivers, floods, or storms, or dumped by maritime vessels. Some of this material becomes trapped in Arctic ice and some, landing on beaches, can even turn into rocks made of plastic. But the vast majority should still be floating out there in the sea, trapped in midocean gyres—large eddies in the center of oceans, like the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.
To figure out how much refuse is floating in those garbage patches, four ships of the Malaspina expedition, a global research project studying the oceans, fished for plastic across all five major ocean gyres in 2010 and 2011. After months of trailing fine mesh nets around the world, the vessels came up light—by a lot. Instead of the millions of tons scientists had expected, the researchers calculated the global load of ocean plastic to be about only 40,000 tons at the most, the researchers report online today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. “We can’t account for 99% of the plastic that we have in the ocean,” says Duarte, the team’s leader.
He suspects that a lot of the missing plastic has been eaten by marine animals. When plastic is floating out on the open ocean, waves and radiation from the sun can fragment it into smaller and smaller particles, until it gets so small it begins to look like fish food—especially to small lanternfish, a widespread small marine fish known to ingest plastic.
Muscle-Powered Bio-Bots Walk On Command
new generation of miniature biological robots is flexing its muscle. Engineers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign demonstrated a class of walking "bio-bots" powered by muscle cells and controlled with electrical pulses, giving researchers unprecedented command over their function. The group published its work in the online early edition of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
"Biological actuation driven by cells is a fundamental need for any kind of biological machine you want to build," said study leader Rashid Bashir, Abel Bliss Professor and head of bioengineering at the U. of I. "We're trying to integrate these principles of engineering with biology in a way that can be used to design and develop biological machines and systems for environmental and medical applications. Biology is tremendously powerful, and if we can somehow learn to harness its advantages for useful applications, it could bring about a lot of great things."
Bashir's group has been a pioneer in designing and building bio-bots, less than a centimeter in size, made of flexible 3-D printed hydrogels and living cells. Previously, the group demonstrated bio-bots that "walk" on their own, powered by beating heart cells from rats. However, heart cells constantly contract, denying researchers control over the bot's motion. This makes it difficult to use heart cells to engineer a bio-bot that can be turned on and off, sped up or slowed down.
The new bio-bots are powered by a strip of skeletal muscle cells that can be triggered by an electric pulse. This gives the researchers a simple way to control the bio-bots and opens the possibilities for other forward design principles, so engineers can customize bio-bots for specific applications.
"Skeletal muscles cells are very attractive because you can pace them using external signals," Bashir said. "For example, you would use skeletal muscle when designing a device that you wanted to start functioning when it senses a chemical or when it received a certain signal. To us, it's part of a design toolbox. We want to have different options that could be used by engineers to design these things."
Well, that's different...
In June, a jury in Fresno, California, decided that Bobby Lee Pearson, 37, was guilty of burglary -- but they accidentally signed the "not-guilty" form, instead, and by the time Judge W. Kent Hamlin caught the error, he could not change it (because of "double jeopardy"). Pearson walked out a free man, went to his sister's home, got into a fight hours later, and was stabbed to death by the sister's boyfriend.
Bill Moyers and Company:
The Lies That Lead to War
This week Bill speaks with investigative journalist Charles Lewis about
why facts, logic and reason are often missing in the rush to war