Thursday, December 23, 2010

Israel Can't Live With Christmas, Can't Live Without It

Although founded as a Jewish state, Israel has an Arab Christian minority.

Not surprising, considering the present borders of Israel encompass places Jesus is said to have lived, such as Nazareth. This has been a cash cow for the Israeli tourism industry, who hosts tourists all year round, especially during Christmastime.
Israel is preparing for the arrival of 90,000 tourists this Christmas by promoting access to holy sites and ensuring safety for all.
Nearly 2.4 million Christian tourists are expected to visit Israel by the year's end, according to the ministry of tourism. One-third of the Christian tourists are pilgrims visiting holy sites in the West Bank and Jerusalem.
Nazareth, the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, the Via Dolorosa and the Mount of Olives are located in Israel. Bethlehem is in the West Bank.
On one hand, Israeli tolerance for Christianity can be seen by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's Christmas greetings yesterday to Israeli and global Christians alike.

On the other hand, the holiday cheer didn't extend to a Nazareth suburb this year.
"The request of the Arabs to put Christmas trees in the squares in the Arab quarter of Nazareth Illit is provocative," Mayor Shimon Gapso told AFP. 
"Nazareth Illit is a Jewish city and it will not happen -- not this year and not next year, so long as I am a mayor," he said of the northern Israeli town.
"Nazareth is right next door and they can do what they want there," he said.
His decision angered the town's Arab and Christian minority, who accused him of racism.
And the holy culture wars rage on. Happy Festivus.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Yes To Biogas, No To Biomass (and Maybe To Biodiesel)

The Swedish city of Kristianstad runs almost entirely on biogas.
Instead, as befits a region that is an epicenter of farming and food processing, it generates energy from a motley assortment of ingredients like potato peels, manure, used cooking oil, stale cookies and pig intestines.
A hulking 10-year-old plant on the outskirts of Kristianstad uses a biological process to transform the detritus into biogas, a form of methane. That gas is burned to create heat and electricity, or is refined as a fuel for cars.
Once the city fathers got into the habit of harnessing power locally, they saw fuel everywhere: Kristianstad also burns gas emanating from an old landfill and sewage ponds, as well as wood waste from flooring factories and tree prunings.
While the United States has no fossil fuel-free cities yet, there are some promising developments for biofuels in the country, such as $30 million in grants going towards biofuel research and Chicago high school students learning how to produce biodiesel - and sharing the knowledge with others:
“These city kids are reaching out to rural schools,” said Brian Sievers, WYMHS math teacher and the biodiesel club sponsor. Sievers said his five-member club had enough materials donated to build two biodiesel processors and wanted to share one with a school that didn’t have access to as many resources. 
The WYMHS biodiesel club collected used cooking oil, built one biodiesel processor, and produced biodiesel. Club members tested the emissions of their biodiesel at an Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) vehicle testing facility in Chicago. 
Biomass, on the other hand, is quite unpopular with some communities across the United States.
The first organized opposition to biomass plants in southern Indiana rose up in the tiny town of Milltown on the Blue River, where Milltown's main business is an outfitter for canoers who want to float down the river on hot summer days. When a startup company called Liberty Green Renewables LLC quietly purchased land near the river for a new plant to be fueled by waste wood, the community's Paul Revere--a lively woman named Cara Beth Jones--roused friends and neighbors to speak out against what they believed would be a blow to their modest tourist economy and an industrial intrusion in their little town. They put out yard signs and showed up at state permit hearings to point out holes in the company's plan. They convinced their Crawford County commissioners to pass an ordinance requiring a local license for a new industrial facility.
With the economic uncertainty, who knows if and when private or public capital for widespread biowaste energy plants will come...or if they can even be pitched to communities across the country.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Even Communists Love Social Media

Cuba recently launched its very own "version" of Wikipedia, called EcuRed.
In EcuRed's entry on the U.S., for instance, the site notes that America has taken "by force territory and natural resources from other nations, to put at the service of its businesses and monopolies." Presidents gazed longingly at fertile, delicious Cuba "like those who admire a beautiful fruit that will end up falling in their hands."
While my Spanish is rusty, I imagine this is about as impartial and informative of a source as Conservapedia.

Also worth nothing that Cuban citizens (not the government) have developed their very own version of Craigslist as well, called Revolico, with some interesting origins:
"The List" for those who for some strange reason does not know them, are lists of mailing addresses that were created a few years old with the aim, in the beginning, to announce the purchase, sale and exchange of hardware typically used . It was a way to support the "homebuilding" or the eagerness and curiosity characteristic of the Cuban, to enter the world of computing in a more informal and less institutional. This trend was growing, and it was not just hardware, more and more people had access to Email, today will announce many things, and a few of us who rely on this handy tool for everyday life.
In the most natural I think an active and cooperative community, which functions as a single body, governed by the collective intelligence and mass. Each and every one, protect our interests and therefore the group, so it is not surprising that when one or two have wanted to come to mess noise in the system and discuss politics, religion or any other troubled topic, have not place and most have responded.No statutes or rules defined, everyone knows what can and what not.
Meanwhile, China has launched its own "version" of Twitter, called "Red Microblog" to dispense handy Chinese Communist Party slogans and encouraging words from Mao in an effort to counter public dissent on the internet.

But the very fact that the CCP has dived into social media may be a sign of the times in China:
"The era of the microblog has hit China," said Dr Steven Dong at the Global Journalism Institute at Tsinghua university in Beijing. "This would not have been possible two years ago, but the Olympics, the Shanghai Expo and the Guangzhou Asian Games have affected China's politics, economy and culture," he said.
"This is a good platform for discovering and spreading news about mass incidents," he added, although he noted that newspapers are still more trusted.
According to EnfoDesk, a Chinese analyst, there will be 75 million microbloggers in China by the end of 2010, an 837 per cent increase from last year. The firm estimates that the number will double next year and then to 240 million by 2012.
The lesson here for authoritarian regimes? If you can't beat the free market capitalists' new fangled "social media" programs, then join 'em...Like Hugo Chavez.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Some Widely Different Perspectives On Wikileaks

Wikileaks is an intelligence operation specifically designed to erode particular relationships the US has with allies.
And I wonder whether, in fact, there aren't some operations internationally, intelligence services, that are feeding stuff to WikiLeaks, because it is a unique opportunity to embarrass us, to embarrass our position, but also to undermine our relations with particular governments.
For example, leaving aside the personal gossip about Sarkozy or Berlusconi or Putin, the business about the Turks is clearly calculated in terms of its potential impact on disrupting the American-Turkish relationship.
Wikileaks is an attempt to weaken the Obama Administration's global reputation.
“This will obviously damage Obama and his policies,” says Sergei Strokan, a foreign affairs columnist with the Moscow business daily Kommersant. “Obama made a strong emphasis on international affairs, outreach to the Muslim world, and resetting relations with Russia. These leaks show that many diplomats take a privately cynical view of those goals, or are actually working at cross purposes to them. All these disclosures will be a serious blow to America's new image in the world, and will only undercut Obama.
Wikileaks is a website that runs in conjunction with US intelligence.
Is there some tacit understanding between the website and the US government? It may be worth asking. And what does it mean to other countries that are on the radar screen of WikiLeaks?
Wikileaks is the raw data of history.
 Causation and contingency are laid before us: a quarter-million instances of American foreign policy being enacted, or 391,832 points of data that future historians will use to write the history of this war in Iraq. And from that raw data: new approaches to the truth, yes, but not truth itself.
Wikileaks' latest release is benefiting Israel.
A senior member of the ruling Islamist-rooted Justice and Development Party (AKP) also pointed at Israel on Wednesday.
"One should look at which country is content (with the leaks). Israel is extremely content," AKP deputy chairman Huseyin Celik said, according to Anatolia news agency.

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