November 25, 2012

Posted by orrinj at 9:50 PM

ONCE YOU COMPROMISE...:

Pressure Grows on Egyptian Leader After Judicial Decree (DAVID D. KIRKPATRICK, November 25, 2012, NY Times)

[T]he justice minister, Ahmed Mekki, the influential leader of a judicial independent movement under Mr. Mubarak and one of Mr. Morsi's closest aides, was actively trying to broker a deal with top jurists to resolve the crisis.

The situation is the most acute test to date of the ability and willingness of Mr. Morsi, Egypt's first freely elected president and a former leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, to engage in the kind of give and take that democratic government requires. But he also must contend with real doubts about the willingness of his anti-Islamist opponents to join him in compromise. Each side is mired in deep suspicion of the other, a legacy of the decades when the Brotherhood survived here only as an insular secret society, demonized as dangerous radicals by most of the Egyptian elite.

"There is a deep mistrust," said Emad Shahin, a political scientist at the American University in Cairo who studies the Brotherhood. "It is an ugly round of partisan politics," he said, "a bone-crushing phase."

The scale of the backlash against the decree appeared to catch Mr. Morsi's government by surprise. "In his head, the president thought that this would push us forward, but then it was met with all this inflammation," Mr. Mekki said. He faulted the president for failing to consult with his opponents before issuing it, but he also faulted the opponents for their own unwillingness to come to the table: "I blame all of Egypt, because they do not know how to talk to each other."

Government and party officials maintained that Mr. Morsi was forced to claim the expansive new powers in order to protect the process of writing the country's new constitution, and that the decree would be in effect only until the charter was in place. A court of judges appointed under the Mubarak government was widely rumored to be about to dissolve the elected constitutional assembly, which is dominated by Mr. Morsi's Islamist allies -- just as the same court had previously cast out the newly elected Islamist-led Parliament -- and the decree issued by Mr. Morsi on Thursday gave him the power to stop it.

...everyone else is obligated.  
Posted by orrinj at 2:35 PM

THE CULT OF ME:

Election Spurred a Move to Codify U.S. Drone Policy (SCOTT SHANE, 11/25/12, NY Times)

Facing the possibility that President Obama might not win a second term, his administration accelerated work in the weeks before the election to develop explicit rules for the targeted killing of terrorists by unmanned drones, so that a new president would inherit clear standards and procedures, according to two administration officials.

The matter may have lost some urgency after Nov. 6. [...]

The attempt to write a formal rule book for targeted killing began last summer after news reports on the drone program, started under President George W. Bush and expanded by Mr. Obama, revealed some details of the president's role in the shifting procedures for compiling "kill lists" and approving strikes. Though national security officials insist that the process is meticulous and lawful, the president and top aides believe it should be institutionalized, a course of action that seemed particularly urgent when it appeared that Mitt Romney might win the presidency.

"There was concern that the levers might no longer be in our hands," said one official, speaking on condition of anonymity. With a continuing debate about the proper limits of drone strikes, Mr. Obama did not want to leave an "amorphous" program to his successor, the official said. The effort, which would have been rushed to completion by January had Mr. Romney won, will now be finished at a more leisurely pace, the official said.

Ah, the conceit that he's the only human trustworthy enough to wield power....

Posted by orrinj at 2:30 PM

YOU'D THINK BEING UNREAD WOULD HAVE DISQUALIFIED HIM TOO:

Nobel literature winner Herta Mueller calls 2012 choice of China's Mo Yan a 'catastrophe' (Associated Press, 11/25/12)

Herta Mueller, the 2009 winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature, says the choice to give this year's award to Mo Yan is a "catastrophe" that never should have happened, and accuses the Chinese writer of praising the Asian country's tough censorship laws.

In an interview published in Swedish daily Dagens Nyheter on Saturday, the Romanian-born author -- whose struggle under Nicolae Ceausescu's dictatorship has influenced most of her works -- says she wanted to cry when she learned of the 2012 laureate choice. She says she feels "it's a catastrophe," and an "incredibly upsetting" choice.

Posted by orrinj at 10:53 AM

THUS EVER MALTHUSIANISM:

Growing food in the desert: is this the solution to the world's food crisis? : Philipp Saumweber is creating a miracle in the barren Australian outback, growing tonnes of fresh food. So why has he fallen out with the pioneering environmentalist who invented the revolutionary system? (Jonathan Margolis, 11/25/12, The Observer)

[T]he work that Sundrop Farms, as they call themselves, are doing in South Australia, and just starting up in Qatar, is beyond the experimental stage. They appear to have pulled off the ultimate something-from-nothing agricultural feat - using the sun to desalinate seawater for irrigation and to heat and cool greenhouses as required, and thence cheaply grow high-quality, pesticide-free vegetables year-round in commercial quantities.

So far, the company has grown tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers by the tonne, but the same, proven technology is now almost ready to be extended to magic out, as if from thin air, unlimited quantities of many more crops - and even protein foods such as fish and chicken - but still using no fresh water and close to zero fossil fuels. Salty seawater, it hardly needs explaining, is free in every way and abundant - rather too abundant these days, as our ice caps melt away.

So well has Sundrop's 18-month project worked that investors and supermarket chains have lately been scurrying down to Port Augusta, making it hard to get a room in its few motels, or a table at the curry restaurant in the local pub. Academic agriculturalists, mainstream politicians and green activists are falling over each other to champion Sundrop. And the company's scientists, entrepreneurs and investors are about to start building an £8m, 20-acre greenhouse - 40 times bigger than the current one - which will produce 2.8m kg of tomatoes and 1.2m kg of peppers a year for supermarkets now clamouring for an exclusive contract.

It's an inspiring project, more important, it could be argued, than anything else going on in the world. Agriculture uses 60-80% of the planet's scarce fresh water, so food production that uses none at all is nothing short of miraculous.


Posted by orrinj at 10:06 AM

BE YOUR OWN HOSTESS:

Hostess went off long before its Twinkies (Christopher Caldwell, 11/23/12, Financial Times)

[T]he dark age of US cuisine was a golden age of good jobs. Hostess, 80 per cent unionised, was a throwback. It was also $1bn in debt. Hostess had asked its 18,500 workers to take steep wage cuts and sought to extricate itself from responsibilities to pay into pension funds until 2015. Executives warned the company would die otherwise. They were not bluffing. The company blamed one of its bakers' unions for having "launched a campaign to cripple the company's operations". Those workers accused the company's investors of "vulture capitalism". An argument is about to begin on whether the bakers or the bankers were right.

If there was mismanagement, it was well-meaning mismanagement. Far from being stripped by union-bashers, Hostess was an experiment in union promotion. As Fortune magazine has pointed out, the private equity company Ripplewood Holdings, its top shareholder after 2009, sought out union-friendly companies to strengthen. Ripplewood was close to Richard Gephardt, former House minority leader, and other Democrats.

Fear not, Twinkling Good Vanilla Snack:

Remember those golden vanilla snack cakes from when you were a kid? Soft, springy and full of rich creamy white filling. Well, these snack cakes will bring you right back to Saturday morning cartoons and school lunch boxes, without the chemical additives. These cakes won't last through a nuclear winter like the urban legend says, they are so good they will disappear in a twink of the eye! 

vanilla snack cakes

snack cake filling

1) Preheat the oven to 350°F. Spritz a filled cake pan (aka cream canoe pan) with a light layer of cooking spray. Set aside.

2) Place all ingredients except beaten egg whites into a large mixing bowl. Beat until smooth.

3) Working in thirds, fold the beaten egg whites into the batter. Take care to keep the batter light; fold, don't beat.

4) Fill each section of the snack cake pan 2/3 full. The cakes will puff quite a bit during baking, but will shrink back during cooling. Bake the cakes in a preheated oven for 8-12 minutes, until golden brown.

5) Remove the pan from the oven and let cool for 5 minutes. Using a flexible spatula, gentle remove each cake and cool flat side down on a rack until completely cool. In the meantime, prepare the snack cake filling.

6) In a small saucepan cook flour and milk over medium heat until a paste forms. Stir constantly and do not allow mixture to brown. Remove from heat and let cool 1 minute. Add vanilla and stir until smooth. Press a piece of plastic wrap down on the surface of the paste to avoid forming a skin and set aside to cool completely.

7)In the bowl of your mixer beat butter, shortening, and sugar until fluffy, scraping bowl to fully incorporate ingredients. Add cooled flour/milk mixture and continue to beat 5 minutes on medium-high speed until smooth and creamy. Use to fill snack cakes or cupcakes. Filling will remain creamy; store at room temperature 3-4 days.

8) To fill snack cakes: Place about 1 cup of filling into a clean pastry bag fitted with a round pastry tube, or use filling tool included with snack cake (cream canoe) pan. Gently insert the tube into the underside of the cake, about halfway through the cake. Using gentle pressure, squeeze a small amount of filling into the cake. You'll feel the cake expand under your fingers. Do not overfill, or the cake will burst. Repeat for a total of 3 times per cake. Store cakes well covered at room temperature for up to 4 days.

Posted by orrinj at 9:51 AM

NO ONE HAS IT HARDER THAN THEIR FATHER DID:

Peace in our time? Scientist makes bold prediction that war is on the wane and will halve over next 40 years (LEON WATSON, 23 November 2012, DailyMail)

'The number of conflicts is falling,' said Professor Hegre. 'We expect this fall to continue. We predict a steady fall in the number of conflicts in the next 40 years.

Futurologist: Research by Professor Håvard Hegre suggests conflict will halve by 2050

'Conflicts that involve a high degree of violence, such as Syria, are becoming increasingly rare.

'We put a lot of work into developing statistical methods that enable us, with a reasonable degree of certainty, to predict conflicts in the future.

'A conflict is defined as a conflict between governments and political organisations that use violence and in which at least 25 people die. This means that the model does not cover either tribal wars or solo terrorists like Anders Behring Breivik.

'In the 1700s it was normal to go to war to expand your country's territory. This strategy has passed its sell by date. But, demands for democracy may be suppressed with violence and result in more violence in the short term. As in Libya.'

His research has found there has been a decrease in armed conflicts and the number of people killed since World War II and this trend will continue.

'War has become less acceptable, just like duelling, torture and the death penalty.'

Infant mortality, calculated by the UN up to 2050, is one of the key factors in Professor Hegre's model.

'Countries with a high infant mortality rate have a high probability of conflict. Infant mortality is now decreasing everywhere.'

The UN has also estimated population structure up to 2050. The population is expected to grow, but at a slower pace than today, and the proportion of young people will decrease in most countries, with the exception of countries in Africa.

The International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis in Vienna has extrapolated the level of education up to 2050.

The simulation model is also based on the last 40 years' history of conflicts, of all countries and their neighbours in the world, oil resources and ethnicity. The conflict data were collated by the Uppsala University

'Economic changes in society have resulted in both education and human capital becoming important. A complex economy makes political violence less attractive.