I know that the nature we are concerned with ultimately is human nature. That is the point of the beautification movement, and that finally is the point of architecture. Winston Churchill said, ‘First we shape our buildings, and then they shape us.’ The same is true of our highways, our parks, our public buildings — the environment we create. They shape us.
-Claudia “Lady Bird” Johnson
Environmental champion and First Lady of the United States during the presidency of her husband, Lyndon B. Johnson.
Population boom in cities in mountainous regions of China has led to a project to level more than 700 mountains in China’s Gansu province and other provinces, to make room for urban development. Two years into the project Chinese scientists at Chang’an University have questioned the undertaking.
This is reminiscent of an ancient Chinese fable, ‘The Foolish Old Man who Removed the Mountains’. In the tale, a 90-year-old man convinces his disbelieving neighbour that he can dig away, stone by stone, two mountains that block the way from his house. Because he succeeds (albeit with the help of deities) the fable is often cited — including by Mao Zedong — to illustrate the power of perseverance. But in our view, China should heed the story’s title: earth-moving on this scale without scientific support is folly.
The tearing down of mountains was embarked on with little review of the cost and benefits of land creation. In Yan’an, much of the soil excavated from mountains and used to fill the valley is loess, a silty soil that subsides when wet. Building on loess, loamy deposits, is not the best choice.
by Efraim Inbar
BESA Center Perspectives
As long as the military branch of Hamas remains independent, there is no Palestinian unity. Under the current accord, instead of the PA regaining lost Gaza, Hamas is gaining better access to the West Bank. The current Western stance, which supports the continuation of a fragmented Palestinian polity, makes the establishment of a stable Palestinian state more unlikely than ever. Moreover, acceptance of a growing role for Hamas is inimical to Israeli-Palestinian peaceful co-existence.
A historically unprecedented number of foreign fighters have gone to Syria. Some have joined extremist factions. EU counter-terrorism co-ordinator Gilles de Kerchove estimates that over 2,000 Europeans have gone to Syria to fight, mainly from Belgium, Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands, and the UK. Many are now returning home posing an increased threat to Western countries. Norwegian academic Thomas Hegghammer found on average one in nine foreign fighters returned home to take part in a domestic terror plot.
A dark side is evidence that some of the foreign fighters in Syria have been involved in brutal atrocities. A highly graphic video was released in 2013, a prisoner is shown being beheaded with a knife, some of the perpetrators speak Dutch (Flemish) and French.
In March, French counter-terrorism police arrested 23-year-old Ibrahim B., a returning fighter from Syria, who was preparing to strike in the southern French region of Côte d’Azur. Some 900 kilos of explosives were found in the suspect’s temporary apartment near Cannes.
The Long War Journal lists a sampling of the terrorist activity outside Syria from returning fighters, fighters from over 70 countries are now fighting in Syria.
Why are so many foreign fighters streaming to Syria?
Ten generals and five other senior military officers have been found guilty in courts-martial of providing arms and information to Boko Haram extremists, the Nigerian newspaper Leadership broke the story, though the military insisted there was no truth in the reports.
It seems that the Taliban who handed over Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl to the U.S. Special Forces team in the prisoner exchange in Afghanistan were disapointed the Americans “did not stop to talk or exchange polite greetings.”
But once on the ground, the Americans, to the dismay of the Taliban, proved uninterested in any pomp. They rushed through the encounter and did not stop to talk or exchange polite greetings, as is customary in Afghanistan, even during hostage releases. The narrator complained that they had managed to shake hands with only two of the Americans, and that one of them had hastily shoved his left hand forward, considered a particularly rude gesture in Afghanistan.
Astronomers previously studied the Hubble Ultra Deep Field (HUDF) in visible and near-infrared light in a series of images captured from 2003 to 2009. The HUDF shows a small section of space in the southern-hemisphere constellation Fornax. Now, using ultraviolet light, astronomers have combined the full range of colors available to Hubble, stretching all the way from ultraviolet to near-infrared light. The resulting image — made from 841 orbits of telescope viewing time — contains approximately 10,000 galaxies. NASA Press Release
Jason Heap did not get the job as a chaplain in the Navy. The Navy did not divulge the details of the decision due to privacy concerns. After the Army recognized ‘Humanism’ as a religious preference many thought there would soon be a humanist chaplain.
Chaplains, historically and by definition, are people of faith,” said retired reserve Chaplain Ron Crews, executive director of the Chaplain Alliance for Religious Liberty. “You can’t have an ‘atheist chaplain’ any more than you can have a ‘tiny giant’ or a ‘poor millionaire’.
“The United States said on Monday it plans to work with and fund the new Palestinian unity government formed after an agreement by the Fatah and Hamas factions” NBC News
“The European Union will work with the new Palestinian unity government, on condition it sticks to the principle of peace with Israel based on a two-state solution, it said on Tuesday.”
“The United Nations on Tuesday welcomed the new Palestinian unity government and said it was ready to lend its full support in efforts to reunite the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, a spokesman said.” TimesofIsrael
Hamas is not a group that will recognize Israel, commit to nonviolence, and accept all prior agreements. The “the new government will be made up of technocrats”; frontmen who will supposedly run this new unity government and represent it publicly.
On Facebook General Martin E. Dempsey made the following statement:
In response to those of you interested in my personal judgments about the recovery of SGT Bowe Bergdahl, the questions about this particular soldier’s conduct are separate from our effort to recover ANY U.S. service member in enemy captivity. This was likely the last, best opportunity to free him. As for the circumstances of his capture, when he is able to provide them, we’ll learn the facts. Like any American, he is innocent until proven guilty. Our Army’s leaders will not look away from misconduct if it occurred. In the meantime, we will continue to care for him and his family. Finally, I want to thank those who for almost five years worked to find him, prepared to rescue him, and ultimately put themselves at risk to recover him.
There are many questions on the prisoner exchange of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl and 5 Gitmo terrorist.
Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl was captured in 2009 in Afghanistan. At the time of his capture he was a private. BreitBart reports that Bergdahl was promoted twice in captivity and is scheduled for another promotion in June to staff sergeant. Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl was held captive by the Taliban and was just released in a prisoner exchange that was arranged by the White House through negotiations with the Taliban.
Brad Knickerbocker at the Christian Science Monitor reports that Bergdahl’s story is one of recovery, reunion with his family, and military debriefings. “Those debriefings also will include difficult questions about how and why he happened to be in a position where he fell into the hands of Taliban fighters.”
At this point in the developing narrative, Sgt. Bergdahl seems to have grown disillusioned with the mission, bitter about the Army and especially higher ranking enlisted men and officers, and simply walked off – gone “outside the wire” or protective base limits – and disappeared.
There are questions surrounding the circumstances of Bergdahl’s capture with mixed reactions from the military community.
Brian Ross on ABC reported:
The terror group is calling their release a major victory. New video posted this morning on an Afghan news website shows the five former detainees arriving in Qatar with no sign they are under any sort of custody or guard. Online video shows the men receiving a kind of hero welcome.
The Miami Herald quotes Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel that Qatar had agreed “to ensure that security measures are in place and the national security of the United States will not be compromised” by the release of the five men, all of whom had been placed on a list of terrorist suspects that the United States felt were too dangerous to release.