United Nations says Israel must remove settlers

Zohan battles a terrorist

U.N. human rights investigators called on Israel on Thursday to halt settlement expansion and withdraw all half a million Jewish settlers from the occupied West Bank, saying that its practices could be subject to prosecution as possible war crimes.

A three-member U.N. panel said private companies should stop working in the settlements if their work adversely affected the human rights of Palestinians, and urged member states to ensure companies respected human rights.

“Israel must cease settlement activities and provide adequate, prompt and effective remedy to the victims of violations of human rights,” Christine Chanet, a French judge who led the U.N. inquiry, told a news conference.

The settlements contravened the Fourth Geneva Convention forbidding the transfer of civilian populations into occupied territory and could amount to war crimes that fall under the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court (ICC), the United Nations report said.

“To transfer its own population into an occupied territory is prohibited because it is an obstacle to the exercise of the right to self-determination,” Chanet said…

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon reacted to the inquiry’s findings by repeating his position that “all settlement activity in the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem, is illegal under international law”…

Israel’s foreign ministry swiftly rejected the report as “counterproductive and unfortunate.” Palestinians welcomed the report, saying it vindicated their struggle against Israel…

…Hanan Ashrawi, a senior PLO official, told Reuters in Ramallah: “This is incredible. We are extremely heartened by this principled and candid assessment of Israeli violations.”

It’s time to confront American corporations doing business with Israel in the captive lands. Just because the Colonial Israeli government – and Israeli corporations – agree on a policy of Lebensraum makes collaborating US firms no less guilty.

Just a bite can be satisfying enough for a snack

If you’re giving in to cravings for chocolate or other snacks, think smaller, take a bite and wait. A new Cornell study finds that eating smaller portions of commonly craved foods will satisfy a person just as well as a larger portion of the same food would.

“This research supports the notion that eating for pleasure — hedonic hunger — is driven more by the availability of foods instead of the food already eaten,” said Brian Wansink…a co-author of the study, “Just a bite: Considerably smaller snack portions satisfy delayed hunger and craving…”

The study found that portion size has a direct impact on calorie intake — and portion size did not have a direct impact on the level of satisfaction in the person eating the snack. The researchers came to these conclusions after giving one group of 104 adults regular-size portions of the same snack — either chocolate, apple pie or potato chips — and offering another group just a couple of small bites of the same snacks.

Those who ate large portions consumed 77 percent more calories than those who ate a few bites. Although they ate substantially more calories, their hunger decreased the same amount as those eating small portions. For both groups, cravings significantly decreased 15 minutes after eating, and they were equally satisfied.

“So, how much chocolate would you need to eat to be satisfied? Less than half as much as you think,” Wansink said. “If you want to control your weight, here’s the secret: Take a bite and wait. After 15 minutes all you’ll remember — in your head and in your stomach — is that you had a tasty snack.”

Every year I continue a never-ending battle with portion control. Happily, I mostly seem to be winning. At least my weight has declined each of the past 8 years.

My evening chocolate snack is only 47 grams – with damned little sugar. But, other impulsive snacks can be larger – and higher in calories. I’ll start experimenting with this. The whole day.

Home-brewed prostheses created using 3D printers

According to the International Society of Prosthetics and Orthotics (ISPO), there are some 32 million amputees in the world today, around 80 percent of whom live in developing countries where only five percent have been fitted with an artificial limb. It is estimated that 200,000 people lost a limb as a result of the 2010 Haiti earthquake alone. Two low-cost, printable prostheses highlight the potential impact 3D printing could have on the quality of life for millions as the technology becomes more accessible around the world.

When Ivan Owen from Washington State posted a video of his handmade mechanical hand prop on YouTube, little did he expect that he would be contacted by Richard Van As, a South African amputee and fellow craftsman living 10,000 miles away. Together, they designed and built a working prosthetic finger for Richard that we covered last October. After raising money to build more prototypes, the two went on to complete an entire prosthetic hand for a young boy named Liam who was born without fingers on his right hand, the design of which they are sharing online free of charge.

After only a few days, five-year-old Liam had already become proficient at grasping small objects with his “Robohand,” which cost his family nothing. The mechanical fingers were made using a Replicator 2 3D printer and are attached to a brace that is worn over Liam’s hand. The fingers are controlled via cables and return bungees, which, while relatively low-tech, provide a functional and comfortable to wear prosthesis. The design can also be scaled for other individuals using Makerware software.

“We are now expanding our efforts to share the knowledge we’ve obtained freely with everyone as well as building more devices for people in need at no cost,” Owen says. “All of our designs are being released into the public domain and we want to build prosthetics at no cost to people who need them. To do this we are relying on donations and a key component of that is finding ways to share our story across the globe.”

The design of Liam’s Robohand is available for free on Thingiverse with a public-domain license.

More in the article.

Bravo. Geeks truly opening the door to inventive prosthesis design and comparatively affordable prices.

Through their grief, the people of Newtown speak

In a hushed auditorium, harshly lit for television, the families and neighbors of Sandy Hook’s lost children told visiting legislators Monday night to take a stand against gun violence, not always prescribing how.

“You are our elected officials,” said Nicole Hockley, who last held the hand of her 6-year-old son, Dylan, as he lay in a small casket. “It is your duty to create and enforce the laws that protect and help us, using common sense, morals and a sense of humanity to guide you…”

By the hundreds, her neighbors rose and embraced her with applause, as did the legislators. So went the routine all night, where residents aching for gun control or better mental health screening had their say, then left to applause.

Ardent opponents of gun control spoke later, most offering condolences before politely protesting that no new law would have stopped their children’s killer, Adam Lanza. They also were neighbors, and they, too, left to applause.

The bipartisan legislative task force created in response to the shooting deaths of 20 first-graders and six staff members at Sandy Hook Elementary School on Dec. 14 filled the wide stage of Newtown High School…

The hearing was like none at the State Capitol in Hartford. It couldn’t be, not in a town where a firehouse is newly decorated with 26 copper stars, one for each victim. It is a place where most anything can remind residents of what happened on Dec. 14.

David Wheeler, whose six-year-old son, Benjamin, was killed, said the legislators must find a way for authorties to better match information on the emotionally disturbed against a registry of homes with guns. No authority apparently ever challenged Nancy Lanza for keeping an AR-15 and other firearms in a home with a son who had emotional problems.

“It doesn’t matter to whom these weapons were registered. It doesn’t matter if they were purchased legally,” Wheeler said. “What matters is that it was far too easy for another mentally unbalanced, suicidal person who had a violent obsessions to have easy access to unreasonably powerful weapons.”

To gun owners who ask that their Second Amendment rights not be infringed by asking them to give up certain rifles and high-capacity magazines, Wheeler asked about aother right articulated by the Founding Fathers, the inalienable right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

“The liberty of any person to own a military-style assault weapon and a high-capacity magazine and keep them in their home is second to the right of my son to his life — his life, to the right to live of all those children and those teachers,” Wheeler said. “Let’s honor the Founding Fathers and get our priorities straight.”

RTFA and reflect while, time and again, the parents, neighbors and family of the massacre victims speak out against a culture that places a higher priority on gun ownership – than a child’s right to grow and learn and enjoy life.

Full moon rising

 
Have you ever watched the Moon rise? The slow rise of a nearly full moon over a clear horizon can be an impressive sight.

One impressive moonrise was imaged two nights ago over Mount Victoria Lookout in Wellington, New Zealand. With detailed planning, an industrious astrophotographer placed a camera about two kilometers away and pointed it across the lookout to where the Moon would surely soon be making its nightly debut. The above single shot sequence is unedited and shown in real time — it is not a time lapse. People on Mount Victoria Lookout can be seen in silhouette themselves admiring the dawn of Earth’s largest satellite.

Seeing a moonrise yourself is not difficult: it happens every day, although only half the time at night. Each day the Moon rises about fifty minutes later than the previous day, with a full moon always rising at sunset.

If you see a couple of tiny sparks off in the lefthand distance – that’s just me and my cavemates reenacting Quest For Fire.

Thanks, Ursarodinia

Turning lawns into gardens


Jason and Jennifer Helvenston’s front yard garden in Orlando, Floriduh

The seed catalogs have arrived, and for the roughly 15 percent of Americans who appreciate the joys and rewards of growing some of their own crops, this is a more encouraging sign than Groundhog Day or even the reporting of pitchers and catchers to spring training.

Yet several times a year we hear of a situation like the one in Orlando, where the mayor claims to be striving to make his city green while his city harasses homeowners like Jason and Jennifer Helvenston for planting vegetables in their front yard, threatening to fine them $500 a day — for gardening. The battle has been raging for months, and the city’s latest proposal is to allow no more than 25 percent of a homeowner’s front yard to be planted in fruits and vegetables…

But when it comes to the eye of the beholder, weeds are the same thing as beauty: to a gardener, grass is a weed; a row of lettuce surrounded by dark, grassless soil a thing of beauty. To some gardeners, including me, dandelions are a crop.

The situation, then, is not black-and-white. A yard is not either unproductive and “beautiful” — as a lawn — or, as a garden, productive and “ugly.” Many of us can thrill to the look of dead stalks, and even enjoy watching them rot. This is a matter of taste, not regulation.

And small-scale suburban and urban gardening has incredible potential. Using widely available data, Roger Doiron of Kitchen Gardeners International estimates that converting 10 percent of our nation’s lawns to vegetable gardens “could meet about a third of our fresh vegetable needs at current consumption rates.”

Ten percent is optimistic; even 1 percent would be a terrific start, because there is a lot of lawn in this country. In fact it’s our biggest crop, three times as big as corn, according to research done using a variety of data, much of it from satellites. That’s around a trillion square feet — 50,000 square miles — and, since an average gardener can produce something like a half-pound of food per square foot (you garden 100 square feet, you produce 50 pounds of food), without getting too geeky you can imagine that Doiron’s estimates are rational.

Gardening may be private or a community activity; people garden together on common land, and most gardeners I know share the bounty freely. (In parts of England and France, people grow vegetables in their front yards and encourage their neighbors to take them.)

…I recognize that turning lawns into gardens isn’t a panacea, but I also recognize that hounding people for growing vegetables in their front yards is hardly the American way.

Florida seems to be out to achieve special leadership in the “dumb as a hoe handle” school of reactionary politics. I posted about some other stupidity earlier today. In fact, one of the blogs I contribute to has a special graphic header just to illustrate “wacky news from Florida” – originally contributed by one of our editors who lived in Florida.

Morality goon squads in Hasidic Brooklyn neighborhoods


Women’s clothing stores warned not to use mannequins – faceless heads are OK

The Brooklyn shopkeeper was already home for the night when her phone rang: a man who said he was from a neighborhood “modesty committee” was concerned that the mannequins in her store’s window, used to display women’s clothing, might inadvertently arouse passing men and boys.

“The man said, ‘Do the neighborhood a favor and take it out of the window,’ ” the store’s manager recalled. “ ‘We’re trying to safeguard our community.’ ”

In many neighborhoods, a store owner might shrug off such a call. But on Lee Avenue, the commercial spine of Hasidic Williamsburg, the warning carried an implied threat — comply with community standards or be shunned. It is a potent threat in a neighborhood where shadowy, sometimes self-appointed modesty squads use social and economic leverage to enforce conformity.

The owner wrestled with the request for a day or two, but decided to follow it. “We can sell it without mannequins, so we might as well do what the public wants,” the owner told the manager, who asked not to be identified because of fear of reprisals for talking.

In the close-knit world of ultra-Orthodox Judaism, community members know the modesty rules…Women wear long skirts and long-sleeved, high-necked blouses on the street; men do not wear Bermuda shorts in summer. Schools prescribe the color and thickness of girls’ stockings.

The rules are spoken and unspoken, enforced by social pressure but also, in ways that some find increasingly disturbing, by the modesty committees…

Continue reading

Another productive project recycling shipping containers

Yoav Messer Architects’ competition-winning “Econtainer Bridge” will become what could well be the first bridge to be made from disused shipping containers. The bridge will cross the Ayalon River granting entry to the planned Ariel Sharon Park which will transform 2,000 acres of the Hiriya waste dump into a nature reserve to the southeast of Tel Aviv.

The designers of the 160-m bridge intend the reuse of shipping containers to mirror the reuse of the land itself. After developing into a 25 million-ton mountain of waste, Hiriya was closed in 1998. In 2004, a scheme was hatched to rehabilitate the land, and prevent collapse into the Ayalon river.

…When complete, the bridge will connect Lod road from east Tel Aviv directly to Hiriya mountain at the park’s center. The bridge will carry bicycle and foot traffic, and though closed to cars, will see some form of public shuttle vehicle ferry people from car parking into Ariel Sharon Park itself.

Clearly the most notable feature of the bridge is the use of shipping containers, which the project images show being joined two-abreast and end to end with little or no horizontal reinforcement. The conceptual design does depict three vertical legs, each comprised of four uprights arranged in an inverted pyramid. The bridge is currently undergoing detail design ahead of construction, and it will be interesting to see how the scheme adapts to see off the problems posed by the real world…

The company claims that, thanks to the use of shipping containers, 70 percent of the construction work can be carried out at the factory.

So much of our old-fashioned world is rectilinear. Which covers most of what we have to use and reuse. I think shipping containers are just being discovered as a mine of components for ever-more-useful structures.