Archive for January, 2013

Babies can read your mind! Research shows one-year-olds can guess thoughts through empathy

January 31, 2013

 

  • Study shows children as young as 18 months old can see the world from another’s perspective
  • It was previously believed that this ability only emerges by the ages of four to seven
  • Study also shows that the development of the ability occurs at the same time across cultures

By Damien Gayle

The Daily Mail

 

Infants as young as 18 months old can guess what other people are thinking, a new study claims.

A study of children from rural China, Ecuador and Fiji found that their ability to see the world from others’ perspectives emerges much earlier than previously thought.

It was previously thought that this ability to empathise only emerges in children between the ages of four and seven, but children from different countries develop it at different ages.

 
I'm sensing a degree of annoyance: A new study claims that toddlers can see the world through another's eyes from as young as 18 months, contradicting previous research which suggested the ability emerged laterI’m sensing a degree of annoyance: A new study claims that toddlers can see the world through another’s eyes from as young as 18 months, contradicting previous research which suggested the ability emerged later

Researchers say their findings could also shed light could shed light on the social skills that differentiate humans from chimpanzees, our closest evolutionary relatives.

The team from the University of California, Los Angelese used a form of the false-belief test – which is one of the few cognitive tasks that youngsters can do that primates cannot.

In the classic version of the test, one person comes into a room and places an object like a pair of scissors into a hiding place. A second researcher then enters and puts the scissors in his pocket.

When the first person returns, researchers ask the child: ‘Where do you think the first person will look for the scissors.’

 

More…

 

The task evaluates whether children have developed a theory of mind, which is an ability to understand the perspectives of other people – in this case that of the person who doesn’t know where his scissors have gone.

Children in Western countries usually start to give the correct answer – that the person will look in the original hiding place – by the ages of four to seven, but children in other countries give that answer at different ages.

But noting previous studies that showed children seemed to understand the concept earlier if researchers tracked youngsters’ eye movements rather than directly asking the question, the UCLA team decided to investigate whether cultural differences in dealing with adults could be obscuring the cognitive leap.

 
Universal: The findings show no only that children develop this kind of mind-reading ability much earlier than was previously thought but also that it emerges at a similar time across disparate culturesUniversal: The findings show no only that children develop this kind of mind-reading ability much earlier than was previously thought but also that it emerges at a similar time across disparate cultures

The researchers studied 91 children from three communities in China, Fiji and Ecuador aged from about 19 months to five years old with a live-action play that was similar to the classic false-belief test.

HOW AGGRESSION IS A NORMAL RESPONSE TO SEEING CUTE BABIES

Reaching out to pinch a infant on the cheeks may seem an incongruously aggressive response to the sight of such a vulnerable individual, but a new study claims it is actually normal.

Researchers in the U.S. found that people watching a slideshow of cute pictures popped more bubbles on a sheet of bubble wrap than those watching funny or neutral pictures.

The findings offer insight into the aggressive sounding exclamations people often give when they see things they regard as adorable, such as: ‘I want to eat you up!’
Rebecca Dyer, a graduate student in psychology at

Yale University who presented the study to the annual meeting of the Society for Personality and Social Psychology, said she believes its ‘almost a sense of lost control’.

‘You know, you can’t stand it, you can’t handle it, that kind of thing,’ she told LiveScience.

The only difference in their version of the test was that as the other person came in to pocket the scissors, he paused, held his chin, and said: ‘Hmm, I wonder where they’ll look for the scissors.’

Video recordings of the children’s reactions to the play showed that the youngsters consistently looked at the hiding place, indicating that they expected the first man to search for the scissors where he had left them.

It was this understanding of what the first person believes and what he doesn’t know that the researchers said required the children to make sophisticated inferences about how others see the world.

The findings show that children develop this kind of mind-reading ability much earlier than was previously thought and also that it emerges at a similar time across disparate cultures.

That suggested that cultural differences had indeed affected previous research. This could be because in many societies parents don’t ask children apparently pointless rhetorical questions like ‘what is the cow doing’, when adults already know the answer.

Lead researcher H. Clark Barrett, an anthropologist at UCLA, told LiveScience that children in those cultures may be confused by such questions and might think ‘Why are you asking me? You should know it.’

Wind turbines – not just hateful but ruddy dangerous too!

January 31, 2013

By Environment

The Daily Telegraph (London)

Another one bites the dust (photo SWNS)

Richard Dawkins you are WRONG. There IS definitely a God – and for proof, look no further than His decision to topple a ruddy great wind turbine at Bradworthy in Devon just a day before my first ever appearance on Question Time.

With luck, this will mean a wind turbine question pops up. I do hope so, for it will give me the perfect opportunity to the point out yet another of the myriad reasons why wind turbines are such a monstrous and utterly indefensible blight. Apart from being ugly, noisy, expensive, inefficient, destructive to wildlife and incapable of doing the one thing that notionally they’re supposed to do – “reduce CO2” – they are also BLOODY DANGEROUS.

For chapter and verse on this go to Caithness Windfarm Information Forum. It has compiled a list of accidents and fatalities caused by wind turbines. Since the 1970s, for example, there have been at least 133 fatalities caused by wind turbines. The worst of these was an accident in Brazil last year when a turbine fell onto a bus, killing 17 passengers.

Really, though, given the proliferation of wind farms in the last five years – and given their inherent instability and the number of wind turbines now being placed irresponsibly next to people’s homes or to roads – it’s amazing that the death and injury rate hasn’t been higher.

At this site – Windbyte – you’ll find plenty more examples of recent near misses.

The turbine bought for £55,000 by the “eco-friendly” Gorran School in Cornwall, which seized up and showered the playground with debris.

Blades ripped off three turbines by high winds in Huddersfield.

Another one down in Shropshire.

Etc.

And lest you think this is the perniciously biased propagandising of an evil climate change denier probably in the pay of Big Oil, Big Carbon, Big Koch, etc allow me to remind of the latest convert to the anti-wind cause. Here is what one man wrote in a letter to Torridge district council objecting to plans to erect an 84 metre turbine at Witherdon Wood in one of the loveliest parts of North Devon.

I am James Lovelock, scientist and author, known as the originator of Gaia theory, a view of the Earth that sees it as a self-regulating entity that keeps the surface environment always fit for life… I am an environmentalist and founder member of the Greens but I bow my head in shame at the thought that our original good intentions should have been so misunderstood and misapplied. We never intended a fundamentalist Green movement that rejected all energy sources other than renewable, nor did we expect the Greens to cast aside our priceless ecological heritage because of their failure to understand that the needs of the Earth are not separable from human needs. We need take care that the spinning windmills do not become like the statues on Easter Island, monuments of a failed civilisation.

Amen brother.

James Delingpole is a writer, journalist and broadcaster who is right about everything. He is the author of numerous fantastically entertaining books, including his most recent work Watermelons: How the Environmentalists are Killing the Planet, Destroying the Economy and Stealing Your Children’s Future, also available in the US, and in Australia as Killing the Earth to Save It. His website is www.jamesdelingpole.com.

Top Egypt official called Holocaust a U.S.-invented ‘myth’

January 31, 2013

U.S. Army soldiers show the German civilians of Weimar the corpses found in Buchenwald concentration camp.

 
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nazi_concentration_camps

In an article published by the Muslim Brotherhood in 2010, the official, who is close to President Mohammed Morsi, also reportedly claimed that 6 million Jews moved to the U.S. during World War II.

A top Egyptian official close to President Mohammed Morsi reportedly referred to the Holocaust as a “myth”, in a 2010 article published by the Muslim Brotherhood.

Haaretz logo.svg
  Daily Newspaper

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caust-a-u-s-invented-myth.premium-1.500629

JERUSALEM (JTA) — A top Egyptian official close to President Mohamed Morsi called the Holocaust a myth.

“The myth of the Holocaust is an industry that America invented,” Fathi Shihab Eddim reportedly claimed in recent days.

Shihab Eddim reportedly is responsible for appointing the editors of all state-run Egyptian newspapers.

“U.S. intelligence agencies in cooperation with their counterparts in allied nations during World War II created it [the Holocaust] to destroy the image of their opponents in Germany, and to justify war and massive destruction against military and civilian facilities of the Axis powers, and especially to hit Hiroshima and Nagasaki with the atomic bomb,” Shihab Eddim reportedly said.

He claimed that the 6 million Jews moved to the United States during World War II.

In response to the Egyptian’s claim, Rabbi Marvin Hier, founder of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, said in a statement, “The time has come for the State Department to inform the Egyptian government that the United States can no longer tolerate such anti-Semitic rants and Holocaust denial behavior from another top Egyptian official.”

Shihab Eddim’s remarks became public just days after Morsi was accused of saying in 2010 that Zionists are “the descendants of apes and pigs.”

File:United States Holocaust Memorial Museum after the shooting.jpeg

Holocaust Museum, Washington DC (seeing is believing…)

White House warns Syria over ‘weapons to Hezbollah’

January 31, 2013

In wake of reported Israeli Air Force (IAF) strike on Syria, Iran issues threat to Israel; Hezbollah, Russia condemn alleged attack on a military research center in Damascus.

The White House has warned Syria not to transfer weapons to Hezbollah in neighbouring Lebanon.

The warning came amid contradictory claims of an Israeli strike in Syria.

Syria says Israeli war planes bombed a military research centre north-west of Damascus, but the US and others say lorries carrying weapons bound for Lebanon were hit.

Israel has maintained silence about the incident, but Syria has made a formal complaint to the UN.

Damascus says it reserves the right to defend itself, while its allies Russia and Iran have strongly denounced the attack.

Map
Continue reading the main story

Possible targets

  • Jamraya Centre: Reported scientific research centre responsible for developing chemical weapons
  • Weapons convoy: Lorries carrying Russian-made SA-17 anti-aircraft missiles to Hezbollah bases in Lebanon

The Syrian army statement about the incident, carried on state media, said Israeli fighter jets had carried out a direct strike on a scientific research centre in Jamraya, killing two people and wounding five.

By Paul Wood

But a US official told the BBC the target was a convoy carrying SA-17 surface-to-air missiles. Some rebel groups have said they targeted the Jamraya centre.

Israel has declined to comment.

The latest developments have struck a country in turmoil. Syrian President Bashar al-Assad continues to cling to power despite a 22-month conflict that has killed more than 60,000 people.

Syria protest

White House deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes did not confirm details of Israel’s raid itself, but had a warning to issue to Syria.

“Syria should not further destabilise the region by transferring weaponry to Hezbollah,” he said.

Continue reading the main story

Analysis

image of Jim Muir Jim Muir BBC News, Beirut


Amid a welter of contradictory reports and rumours, it seems to be established that Israel did mount a lightning air strike inside Syria, despite complete silence from Israeli officials.

That is their normal practice on such occasions. Additionally, they know that intervening in the complex Syrian internal conflict carries big political risks, not least being accused of teaming up with the rebels.

That is exactly what has happened, with Syria and its allies Iran and Hezbollah saying the attack exposed complicity between Israel, the West, and the Syrian opposition.

Israel knows that intervening in such a way would be likely to embarrass the rebels and strengthen President Assad politically. Whatever prompted it to act must have been compelling enough to override that consideration.

Israel has made it clear that arms transfers from Syria to Hezbollah would constitute a red line.

Most Western accounts believe such an arms convoy was the target. If the Jamraya complex was instead – or also – hit, as Damascus insists, the Israelis must have suspected that something seriously dangerous was going on there.

News of the attack does not appear to have generated much alarm in Washington, says the BBC’s Paul Adams.

Indeed, he says, the presence in Washington of Israel’s military intelligence chief suggests the Obama administration may have been told about the raid beforehand.

But Syria’s foreign ministry summoned the UN commander in the Golan to deliver a formal protest, saying Israel’s action violated the 1974 disengagement agreement between the two sides, who remain technically at war.

A UN observer force has been in place in the Golan since 1974, with the task of providing “an area of separation and for two equal zones of limited forces and armaments on both sides of the area”.

“Syria holds Israel and those who are protecting it at the Security Council responsible for the results of the attack and confirms its right to defend its land and sovereignty,” Syria said in a letter to the UN, reported by state media.

But Syria itself is hardly in a position to do much, says the BBC’s Jim Muir in Beirut.

‘Unprovoked attacks’

Both Hezbollah and Iran are also under pressure at the moment, and Israel’s calculation must be that none of those hostile parties has an interest in triggering a regional conflagration right now, our correspondent says.

Later, the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon expressed “grave concern” over reports of Israel’s action, and called on all concerned to respect international law.

Syria’s allies denounced Israel’s action, while Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi condemned the alleged air strike as an “overt assault based on the West’s policy” to undermine stability in Syria.

Russia – a stalwart defender of Syria on the international diplomatic scene despite its warming trade and economic ties with Israel – also took a strong stance.

“If this information is confirmed,” said the foreign ministry, “then we are dealing with unprovoked attacks on targets on the territory of a sovereign country, which blatantly violates the UN Charter and is unacceptable, no matter the motives to justify it.”

Earlier Syria’s ambassador to Lebanon warned Damascus could take a “surprise” decision to retaliate.

Continue reading the main story

Israeli media reaction

“Israel is closer today to confrontation on the northern front more than it has been at any point since the Second Lebanon War.” Alex Fishman, Yedioth Ahronoth

“It could be seen as a hint to other countries, like Turkey and the US, that a military attack on Syria to topple the regime may be an option.” Zvi Barel, Ha’aretz

“There have been many signs in recent days that winds of war are blowing in the north. But… an attack, which did or did not take place, will not lead to an immediate round of combat in the north.” Amir Rapaport, Ma’ariv

“If Israel acted, as foreign publications say, the ball is in Assad’s court. The problem is that in the current situation, he has no court and does not have much to lose. A wounded lion is a dangerous lion.” Boaz Bismuth,Yisrael Hayom

US Vice-President Joe Biden is travelling to Germany, where he is expected to discuss the situation in Syria with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and the Syrian opposition leader, Moaz al-Khatib.

Weapons facility

The Syrian army statement said the Jamraya centre – which was focused on “raising our level of resistance and self-defence” – was damaged in the attack, and specifically denied reports that an arms convoy had been hit.

It said “armed terrorist gangs” – a term the government uses to describe rebel groups – had tried and failed repeatedly to capture the same facility in recent months.

But an opposition activist told the Washington Post that, although there had been two attacks on the centre early on Wednesday, “we did not hear any airplanes… Unless the airplanes were silenced by some technology.”

“I mean, is it possible for an air fighter to attack at night, and we don’t even hear its sound?”

Some reports suggest the facility could be Syria’s Scientific Studies and Research Centre, known by its French acronym CERS, believed to be the state organisation responsible for developing biological and chemical weapons.

Lebanese military and internal security forces say there has been increased activity by Israeli warplanes over Lebanon in the past week, and particularly on Tuesday and the early hours of Wednesday morning.

There is increasing concern in Israel that Syria’s chemical weapons could fall into Hezbollah’s hands.

Correspondents say Israel is also concerned the Shia militant group could obtain anti-tank and anti-aircraft missiles, thus strengthening its ability to respond to Israeli air strikes.

Israel believes Syria received a battery of SA-17s from Russia after an alleged Israeli air strike in 2007 that destroyed a Syrian nuclear reactor near Deir Ezzor in eastern Syria, analysts say.

Wednesday’s reported attack came days after Israel moved its Iron Dome defence system to the north of the country.

Truck Mounted Russian-made SA-17 missiles

Notre Dame of Paris Celebrating 850 Years With New Bells

January 31, 2013
France Notre Dame BeLLS.jpg

Jan. 31, 2013: Visitors gather around new bells in front of the Notre Dame cathedral, in Paris. (AP)

VILLEDIEU-LES-POELES, France – Nine enormous bronze bells have made their way on flatbed trucks from a Normandy foundry to what is hoped will be their home for centuries to come, Notre Dame Cathedral, helping the medieval edifice to rediscover its historical harmony.

The bells, named after saints and prominent Catholic figures, will be on display at the Paris cathedral from Saturday through Feb. 25. Then, they will be hoisted to its iconic twin towers, where they will replace older bells that became discordant.

The new bells are scheduled to ring for the first time March 23, in time for Palm Sunday and Easter week.

Eight of the nine new bells were cast in a foundry in the Normandy town of Villedieu-les-Poeles. The ninth — a “bourdon,” or Great Bell, named Marie — was cast in the Netherlands and then sent to Normandy to join the others.

The president of the foundry rang the bells, to the cheers of onlookers, before the nine new bells were sent on a convoy of trucks Thursday from Villedieu-les-Poeles to Paris.

They are joining the cathedral’s oldest surviving bell, a Great Bell named Emmanuel, to restore the 10-bell harmony originally conceived for Notre Dame’s bell towers.

The old bells, which dated from different periods throughout Notre Dame’s history, were out of tune with each other and with Emmanuel, which has hung in the cathedral since the 17th century, according to cathedral officials.

So the diocese decided to have new ones cast as part of celebrations marking 850 years since the beginning of the cathedral’s construction in 1163. It took nearly 90 years to build.

The arrival of the bells “is historic precisely because since the 18th century, we haven’t experienced such an event,” the cathedral’s rector, Patrick Jacquin, told Associated Press Television News.

“During the French Revolution, they (the bells) were all brought down and broken except the great bell, Emmanuel, which is here and four other bells that were recast in the middle of the 19th century …. This will complete in a definitive manner the entire set of 10 bells as conceived … in the Middle Ages.”

The euro2 million ($2.7 million) bell-casting project was funded by donations, cathedral officials say.

“Historically the idea of this project was to recreate the old bells of Notre Dame in terms of power, in terms of tune, which means that there will be again 10 bells ringing into the cathedral as it used to be in the Middle Ages and up until the French Revolution,” said Paul Bergamo, president of the Cornille-Havard Foundry in Villedieu-les-Poeles.

One of the new bells was named Jean-Marie, after Cardinal Jean-Marie Lustiger, a Jewish-born convert to Catholicism whose mother was killed at the Auschwitz death camp and who later worked to reconcile Catholics and Jews. Lustiger was archbishop of Paris from 1981 to 2005; Jean-Marie was the name he adopted when he converted to Catholicism.

“This is a wonderful return to history and at the same time an extraordinary leap forward because it means that with these bells we are going to endure for the centuries to come,” the rector said.

Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/world/2013/0
1/31/new-bells-en-route-for-paris-notre-dame
-cathedral/#ixzz2JaZhQFzb

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Notre_Dame_de_Paris

Defiant Iran plans to speed up nuclear fuel work

January 31, 2013

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (C) visits the Natanz nuclear enrichment facility, 350 km (217 miles) south of Tehran, April 8, 2008. REUTERS/Presidential official website/Handout

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (C) visits the Natanz nuclear enrichment facility, 350 km (217 miles) south of Tehran, April 8, 2008.  Credit: Reuters/Presidential official website/Handout

By Fredrik Dahl

VIENNA | Thu Jan 31, 2013 2:00pm EST

VIENNA (Reuters) – Iran has announced plans to install and operate advanced uranium enrichment machines, in what would be a technological leap allowing it to significantly speed up activity the West fears could be put to developing a nuclear weapon.

In a letter to the International Atomic Energy Agency, Tehran said it would introduce new centrifuges to its main enrichment plant near the central town of Natanz, according to an IAEA communication to member states seen by Reuters.

The defiant move will increase concerns in the West and Israel about Iran’s nuclear ambitions, which Tehran says are entirely peaceful, and may further complicate efforts by big powers to negotiate curbs on its enrichment program.

Enriched uranium can fuel nuclear power plants, Iran’s stated aim, or provide material for bombs if refined to a high degree, which the West suspects is Tehran’s underlying purpose.

A new generation centrifuge could, if successfully deployed, refine uranium several times faster than the model Iran now has.

“It is certainly a provocation to increase any enrichment capacity at all,” a senior Western diplomat said.

It was not clear how many of the upgraded centrifuges Iran aimed to put in place at Natanz, which is designed for tens of thousands of machines, but the wording of the IAEA’s note implied it could be up to roughly 3,000.

Analysts say U.N. sanctions have limited Iran’s access abroad to special steel and other components needed to produce sophisticated enrichment machines in larger numbers. Iran says it is able to manufacture them domestically.

Iran has for years been trying to develop centrifuges more efficient than the erratic 1970s IR-1 model it now uses, but their introduction for full-scale production has been dogged by delays and technical hurdles, experts and diplomats say.

Iran’s announcement coincides with wrangling between Tehran and six world powers over when and where to meet next, delaying a resumption of talks aimed at reaching a negotiated deal and avert a new Middle East war.

European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, who handles contacts with Iran on behalf of the big powers, said in Brussels on Thursday that she was “confident there will be a meeting soon,” without elaborating.

The powers – the United States, France, Germany, Britain, Russia and China – want Iran to scale back its enrichment to ensure it remains within peaceful dimensions and submit to stricter U.N. nuclear inspections.

“We along with the other U.N. Security Council members have called upon the Iranians to freeze enrichment work during negotiations,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov was quoted as saying by Interfax news agency.

Western states have intensified the sanctions pressure on Iran over the past year, targeting its lifeline oil sector. This has inflicted increasing damage to Iran’s economy but its clerical leadership is showing no sign of backing down.

Israel, believed to be the Middle East’s only nuclear-armed state, has hinted at possible military action against Iran if sanctions and diplomacy fail to resolve the nuclear stand-off.

Signaling impatience, Israeli government spokesman Mark Regev said: “While the world continues to talk about setting a time and place for the next meeting with Iran, Tehran continues to race toward building a nuclear bomb.”

GAME CHANGER?

Iran asserts a right to enrich uranium for peaceful purposes and has repeatedly refused to halt the work, a stance underlined anew by its new centrifuge plans. Centrifuges spin at supersonic speed to increase the ratio of uranium’s fissile isotope.

Iran said it would use the new model at a unit in Natanz, where it is now refining uranium to a fissile concentration of up to five percent, according to the IAEA’s communication.

The IAEA “received a letter from the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI) dated 23 January 2013 informing the Agency that ‘centrifuge machines type IR2m will be used in Unit A-22’ at the Fuel Enrichment Plant (FEP) at Natanz,” it said.

The IAEA said it had asked Iran, in a letter earlier this week, to provide technical and other information about the plans. A unit can house more than 3,000 centrifuges.

About 10,400 IR-1 centrifuges were installed at Natanz as of late last year, an IAEA report said in November, but diplomats in the Austrian capital said they expected a jump in that figure in the next update from the U.N. agency due around February 22.

The nuclear watchdog, whose mission it is to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons in the world, regularly inspects Natanz and other, declared Iranian nuclear sites.

Nuclear expert Mark Fitzpatrick of the International Institute for Strategic Studies think-tank said that employing more efficient centrifuges at Natanz could be “a most unfortunate game changer,” depending on how many there were.

“Using the IR-2m in large numbers would enable Iran to enrich uranium much faster,” Fitzpatrick said.

Iran says it refines uranium to power a planned network of nuclear energy plants. But just one of these plants would take many years to complete, raising many questions abroad about the motivations of a major oil and gas producer speeding up its accumulation of enriched uranium and, since early 2010, refining to a level beyond the 5 percent suitable for civilian energy.

The part of Iran’s enrichment work that most worries Western diplomats – to a fissile purity of 20 percent – is carried out at the Fordow underground facility near the town of Qom.

This higher level of enrichment represents a significant step closer to weapons-grade uranium. Iran says it needs 20 percent uranium to fuel a medical research reactor in Tehran. So far, all the centrifuges deployed there are the old model.

(Additional reporting by Mark Heinrich in London, Steve Gutterman in Moscow, Justyna Pawlak in Brussels, Dan Williams in Jerusalem; Editing by Mark Heinrich)

At Chuck Hagel Confirmation Hearings: “Why Has Iran Endorsed You?”

January 31, 2013

Senator Jim Inhofe asked Chuck Hagel why the Iranians had endorsed his nomination for secretary of defense:

Video:

http://www.weeklystandard.com/blogs/senator-defs
ec-nominee-why-have-iranians-endorsed-you_699049.html

“Given that Iran, the people — I’m quoting right now from Iran — people of the Middle East, the Muslim region and North Africa, people of these regions hate America from the bottom of their heart,” said Inhofe. “It further said Israel is a cancerous tumor in the heart of the Islamic world. They further said Iran’s warriors are ready and willing to wipe Israel off the map. The question I’d like to ask you, and you can answer for the record if you’d like, why do you think the Iranian foreign ministry so strongly supports your nomination to be the Secretary of Defense?”

Hagel responded, “I have a difficult enough time with American politics, Senator. I have no idea, but thank you. And I’ll be glad to respond further for the record.”

http://www.weeklystandard.com/blogs/senator-defsec-
nominee-why-have-iranians-endorsed-you_699049.html

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In this May 8, 2012 file photo, Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., center, and Rep. John Mica, R- Fla., left, listen as Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla., right, speaks during the first meeting of the House and Senate conference on the transportation bill on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh, File)

Oklahoma Republican Sen. James Inhofe did not hold back in his questioning of former Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel during Hagel’s confirmation hearings to be secretary of defense Thursday.

After first rambling through most of his questions, Inhofe, the ranking member on the Senate Armed Services Committee, listed off a series of anti-American and anti-Israeli statements by Iranian leaders.

He then pointedly asked, ”The question I would like to ask you and you can answer it for the record if you like: Why do you think the Iranian foreign ministry so strongly supports your nomination to be secretary of defense?”

“I have a difficult enough time with American politics, senator,” Hagel responded. “I have no idea.”

Read more: http://dailycaller.com/2013/01/31/inhofe-to-h
agel-why-does-iran-back-your-nomination-video/#ixzz2Ja3vECL8

Hagel: I will always do my best for our nation

Above: Chuck Hagel

Related:

article photo

 
Above: Chuck Hagel speaks after President Obama’s announcement that Hagel has been nominated as secretary of defense on Monday, Jan. 7, 2013. REBECCA S. GRATZ/THE WORLD-HERALD

China’s Air Pollution Is So Bad That One Entrepreneur Is Selling Fresh Air in Cans

January 31, 2013

 

Cold weather, lack of wind and a dearth of environmental regulations have lately created a perfect storm of toxic smog in northern China. Air pollution has gotten so extreme in China’s capital, ABC News reports, that “it is literally off the charts: more than 20 times the maximum safety level.”

Some of Beijing’s factories are temporarily closing, flights are being cancelled and emergency rooms are filling up with people having severe respiratory reactions to the toxic air they have been breathing.

According to a report on ABC World News, the air quality index in Beijing has reached a height of 755. Higher numbers mean worse pollution, and anything over 300 is considered “an emergency.” By comparison, the worst-polluted city in the U.S., Bakersfield, California, reached a peak air quality index of 159 last year.

Perhaps most notably, the notoriously silent Chinese government has recently sent out emergency warnings about the air quality in Beijing for the first time. But many Chinese citizens clearly feel that not enough is being done, according to ABC:

The air is so bad that wealthy Chinese entrepreneur, Chen Guangbiao, is selling fresh air in soft drinks cans, similar to bottled drinking water. Each can is sold for 5RMB or about 80 cents. Chen is well known for his charitable donations and publicity stunts. He says he wants to stimulate awareness of environmental protection among government officials and citizens by selling the canned fresh air.

“If we don’t pay attention to environmental protection, in 10 years every one of us will be wearing gas masks and carrying oxygen tanks on the streets,” Cheng told ABC News. “By that time, my canned fresh air will be a necessity for household,” he predicts.

Sound familiar? In the 1987 comedy Spaceballs, a Star Wars spoof, a corrupt president uses up all the air from his world, and then schemes to steal fresh air from another planet. In this scene, he outwardly denies the crisis while sucking down cans of “Perri-air: canned in Druidia, naturally sparkling, salt-free air.”

Read more: http://blogs.smithsonianmag.com/sma
rtnews/2013/01/chinas-air-pollution-is-so-bad-tha
t-one-entrepreneur-is-selling-fresh-air-in-cans/#ixzz2JZz8xbmi

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Smoking chimneys and the cooling tower of a coal-burning plant stand next to electric pylons on a hazy day in Wuhan, Hubei province, Dec. 6, 2012. China will spend 350 billion yuan ($56 billion) by 2015 to curb air pollution in major cities. (Reuters)

Thailand Expected To Win Back Honors as Top Rice Exporter; India and Vietnam Follow

January 31, 2013

Rice shipments from Thailand are poised to surge 15 per cent this year to help the country win back the top-exporter slot.

Government sales are accelerating from its record stockpiles, an industry group said Wednesday.

Exports may climb to 8 million metric tonnes this calendar year, assuming sales of 1.5 million tonnes from state inventories, from 6.95 million tonnes in 2012, said the Thai Rice Exporters Association (TREA).

Workers in a rice field on the outskirts of Chiang Mai in Thailand

Workers in a rice field on the outskirts of Chiang Mai in Thailand. Photograph: Alamy

Last year, India and Vietnam sold more than Thailand as shipments tumbled 35 per cent to the lowest level since 2000, according to the US Department of Agriculture’s figures.

Rice, the staple for half the world, has dropped 16 per cent from a three-year high in September 2011 as inventories tracked by the United Nations’ Food & Agriculture Organisation (FAO) swell to a record, curbing food costs. Thailand started buying rough (paddy) rice from farmers above market rates in October, 2011, to lift domestic prices and rural incomes.

Bangkok Post Logo

“The 8-million-ton target will be achieved as the government has to speed up government-to-government sales,” the TREA’s president Korbsook Iamsuri, told the media. Thailand has around 17 million tonnes of milled rice in stockpiles, the group estimates.

The government has bought 9 million tonnes of unmilled rice and expects to purchase as much as 11 million tonnes during the current harvest, Commerce Minister Boonsong Teriyapirom said Jan 23. The country will maintain an export target of 8.5 million tonnes for this year, according to the Department of Foreign Trade.

“Thailand will be more aggressive in terms of exporting the rice,” Samarendu Mohanty, a senior economist at the International Rice Research Institute, said in an email dated Wednesday. “It has no other choice.”

The strength of Thailand’s currency against the dollar, reducing the appeal of shipments from the country, may hamper rice sales, Mr Korbsook said. The Thai baht has gained 2.7 per cent this month, the second-best exchange-rate performance in Asia after the Indian rupee.

“A sharp rise in baht in recent weeks has made buyers hesitant to place orders as the price in dollar terms has increased,” Mr Korbsook said. “This is a key obstacle in addition to the state purchase program, which has raised costs.”

Stockpiles in Thailand will climb to a record 11.7 million tonnes in the 2012-2013 season, according to the USDA, which estimates Thai exports will be 8 million tonnes, followed by India at 7.5 million tonnes and Vietnam at 7.4 million tonnes.

World output of milled rice in 2012-2013 is forecast at an all-time high of 465.6 million tonnes, according to the USDA. The FAO has forecast global reserves climbing to 169.8 million tonnes by the end of 2012-2013.

Rice for March delivery was unchanged at $15.525 per 100 pounds on the Chicago Board of Trade Wednesday afternoon Thailand time. Price of 5 per cent Thai white variety was at $599 a ton, compared with $430 from India and $390 from Vietnam, data from the exporters’ association showed.

 

Site Israel Attacked In Syria Apparently Long Believed Arming Terrorist Organizations

January 31, 2013

Reported air strike appears to have targeted site that fits definition of Syria’s Scientific Studies and Research Center, which has been labeled a state organization responsible for developing biological, chemical weapons.

.IAF plane takes part in maneuvers [file]

IAF plane takes part in maneuvers [file] Photo: IDF spokesperson

Although details are still sketchy, Wednesday’s reported air strike appears to have targeted a military research center near Damascus – a center that fits the definition of Syria’s Scientific Studies and Research Center, known by its French acronym, CERS.

Syrian state television said Israel had hit “scientific research centers aimed at raising the level of resistance and self-defense,” a description that fits well with CERS, which has been labeled a state organization responsible for developing biological and chemical weapons and transferring them to Hezbollah and Hamas.

Back in 2010, Brig.-Gen. (res.) Nitzan Nuriel, a former director of the National Security Council’s Counter-terrorism Bureau, issued a warning to the international community, saying CERS would be demolished if it continued to arm terrorist organizations. The facility has long been on Israel’s radar as a top national security threat.

The Jerusalem Post

In 2005 then-US president George W. Bush designated CERS a weapons proliferator, and in 2003 the US Treasury banned trade with three of its subsidiaries.

In 2004, Israel’s Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center said CERS was developing ricin-based chemical weapons.

In the confusion of conflicting reports, the narrative that dominated Wednesday’s headlines held that Hezbollah had tried to import strategic weapons from Syria to add to its growing arsenal, and that a weapons convoy had been struck.

It is too soon to know which claim is true. It is possible that both are.

Hezbollah is pointing more than 50,000 rockets at Israel and can strike deep into the Israeli home front, meaning the IDF needs to retain its operational edge and ensure that in any future conflict it will not be hindered by new Syrian arms.

The coming hours and days should shed more light on what occurred in Syria on Wednesday, and what the repercussions of the reported airstrike might be.

Syrian state television said Israel had hit “scientific research centers aimed at raising the level of resistance and self-defense,” a description that fits well with CERS, which has been labeled a state organization responsible for developing biological and chemical weapons and transferring them to Hezbollah and Hamas.

Back in 2010, Brig.-Gen. (res.) Nitzan Nuriel, a former director of the National Security Council’s Counter-terrorism Bureau, issued a warning to the international community, saying CERS would be demolished if it continued to arm terrorist organizations. The facility has long been on Israel’s radar as a top national security threat.

In 2005 then-US president George W. Bush designated CERS a weapons proliferator, and in 2003 the US Treasury banned trade with three of its subsidiaries.

In 2004, Israel’s Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center said CERS was developing ricin-based chemical weapons.

In the confusion of conflicting reports, the narrative that dominated Wednesday’s headlines held that Hezbollah had tried to import strategic weapons from Syria to add to its growing arsenal, and that a weapons convoy had been struck.

It is too soon to know which claim is true. It is possible that both are.

Hezbollah is pointing more than 50,000 rockets at Israel and can strike deep into the Israeli home front, meaning the IDF needs to retain its operational edge and ensure that in any future conflict it will not be hindered by new Syrian arms.

The coming hours and days should shed more light on what occurred in Syria on Wednesday, and what the repercussions of the reported airstrike might be.