SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) – Associate Professor Darren Sun as well as a team of talented scientists at the Nanyang Technological University in Singapore have developed a new material called Multi-use Titanium Dioxide over the past five years. It may very well clinch the “world’s most useful substance” title from Graphene, which is a substance composed of pure carbon. According to the team’s research, Multi-use Titanium Dioxide can be used to increase lifespan of batteries, produce clean water and hydrogen from waste water, create antibacterial dressings for wounds and a lot more.
It is produced by converting titanium dioxide crystals, which are inexpensive, into nanofibers. These nanofibers are incorporated into flexible filter membranes. These membranes and include mixtures of copper, zinc or carbon depending upon what the material is going to be used for. A black version of this material has also been created and it contains titanium dioxide in crystalline form. It will probably make its way in to future lithium ion batteries as the material greatly improves the lifespan, capacity too by using anodes made from carbon modified titantium dioxide nanoparticles. The team is forming a spin off company so that development can be taken further. They’re also looking for partners who can help them commercialize this material. Impressive stuff, isn’t it?.-www.shafaqna.com/English
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) --THE Czech Republic already has one of the world’s most liberal approach to recreational drug possession. And it will get more liberal still: beginning next year the government will allow marijuana to be distributed by pharmacies (a Czech pharmacy is pictured above) for patients with a prescription.
Lawmakers in parliament’s lower house overwhelmingly passed a bill clearing the way for legal, but regulated medical marijuana on December 7th. The law must still be approved by the Senate and signed by the president, which are largely formalities in a legislative process dominated by the lower house. Some 126 of the 154 MPs present approved the bill.
One of the bill’s authors was Pavel Bém, the former mayor of Prague, a doctor by trade, who said the goal of the changes is to “"make medical marijuana accessible to the patients who need it and most of whom use it already now, unfortunately at variance with the Czech law." He insisted that this will not pave the way for increased recreational use of marijuana.
In practice, cannabis use is widespread in the Czech Republic. It is not uncommon to see pub-goers smoke pot openly on the sidewalk outside their local tavern. A significant number of watering holes even sell marijuana under the counter. Individual possession of 15 grams of marijuana is already decriminalised – a volume three times greater than what is possible to purchase in an Amsterdam coffee shop. Czechs can possess up to 1.5 grams of heroin without facing criminal charges under guidelines codified in 2009. While a recent government report found that marijuana use has declined among young people, around 20 % of Czechs between the ages 15-34 use the drug each year.
Medicinal marijuana is increasingly common in the United States – 20 states plus the District of Columbia allow it in some form and two of those states even allow recreational use – but it remains a rarity in Europe. The Netherlands is one of the few countries with a clear legal platform for the practice, although other places like Austria allow some cultivation of the plant for medicinal purposes under the auspices of the Ministry of Health.
Imported marijuana will make up the Czech pharmaceutical supply for the first year as regulators allocate maximum five-year licenses to domestic growers. A tender process overseen by the State Drug Control Institute will monitor the buying and selling of the cannabis. Medical insurance would not cover the cost of medicinal marijuana under the proposed legislation.
In a country where government contracts are choice territory for corruption it remains unclear whether these changes will make marijuana consumption a less hazy issue. Medical patients will not be able to grow their own marijuana under the legislation; they will need to obtain a doctor’s prescription and then get their treatment in a pharmacy. But the cultivation of up to five plants for personal use by even non-medicinal users is already decriminalised. So much for clearing the air.
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) – Kuwaiti riot policehave used stun grenades, tear gas and smoke bombs against thousands of demonstrators who blocked a major road south of the capital.
Thousands of opposition supporters planned a rally to protest against a new electoral law on Sunday. The country's security forces completely sealed off the original protest site in Kuwait City, so organisers told supporters via Twitter to gather instead at Mishref, some 20km south of the capital.
Although most roads leading to the new location were quickly closed off by police, thousands of people still managed to get through and immediately started marching.
They briefly cut off the sixth ring road, the main motorway in the south of Kuwait, before calling off the demonstration barely an hour after it began.
The opposition had called the march to protest against an amendment to an electoral law ordered by the emir last month ahead of a snap December 1 parliamentary election.
"After we have expressed our message of rejecting any play in the constitution, we announce the end of the procession," said the organisers on their Twitter account named "The Dignity of a Nation."
Reports of arrests
Activists said a number of protesters were rounded up but there were no immediate reports of injuries.
The emir, Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah, met late on Sunday with four opposition figures, including two former Islamist MPs, in what appeared to be a mediation effort aimed at ending the stalemate.
Former MP Mohammad Hayef said on Twitter that the emir told them he would accept that the constitutional court rule on the disputed amendment to the electoral constituency law which triggered the current stand-off.
It was the first official meeting between the emir and the opposition since the dispute began several weeks ago.
Earlier, hundreds of members of the elite special forces and police, backed by armoured vehicles, deployed at two sites the opposition had set for Sunday's demonstrations and blocked roads leading to them.
The government had vowed to use force if necessary to prevent the march, saying that processions and demonstrations are illegal without a permit.
A government statement late on Saturday said the interior ministry had not given permission for Sunday's demonstration, nor had it received a request from the organisers for one.
Interior minister Sheikh Ahmad al-Humud al-Sabah told the official news agency KUNA that security guards would maintain public order and curb any illegal activities.
Security forces used tear gas to break up two protests by tens of thousands of demonstrators in the past two weeks in which more than 130 protesters and 16 policemen were injured.
Almost all opposition groups have said they will boycott the December 1 poll in protest at what they see as a bid to create a rubber stamp assembly.
The opposition, made up of Islamists, nationalists and liberals, won a February general election but the constitutional court quashed the vote in June and reinstated the previous pro-government parliament which was dissolved last month.
Opposition leaders insist they have no desire to undermine the ruling Al-Sabah family, and on Friday pledged their loyalty to the emir while renewing their demand for the new electoral law to be repealed.— www.shafaqna.com/English
Source: Al Jazeera
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) — British officials have reportedly rejected a request made by the United States to use its military bases in the UK as staging grounds for a possible attack on Iran.
According to The Guardian, the British government spurned the request citing advice from the attorney general’s office that such an attack could violate international law.
"The UK would be in breach of international law if it facilitated what amounted to a preemptive strike on Iran," a senior Whitehall source toldThe Guardian.
"It is explicit. The government has been using this to push back against the Americans," the source added.
The report also said that US diplomats have lobbied for the use of British bases in Cyprus, and for permission to fly from US bases on Ascension Island in the Atlantic Ocean and Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean, both of which are British territories.
The United States, Israel and some of their allies accuse Iran of pursuing non-civilian objectives in its nuclear energy program with Tel Aviv recently stepping up its threats against the Islamic Republic.
Iran rejects the allegations, arguing that as a signatory to Non-Proliferation Treaty and a member of International Atomic Energy Agency it is entitled to develop and acquire nuclear technology for peaceful purposes.
Iranian officials have repeatedly said that Iran will never initiate a war but will give a crushing response to any military strike against the country, warning that any such measure could result in a war that would spread beyond the Middle East.— www.shafaqna.com/English
Source: Press TV
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) — The US government has already proven its intent to see all evil, with the use of Orwellian programs like TrapWire. But it can now hear all evil too, as law enforcement agencies implement a tool able to store, analyze and identify voices in seconds.
‘Voice Grid Nation’ is a system that uses advanced algorithms to match identities to voices. Brought to the US by Russia’s Speech Technology Center, it claims to be capable of allowing police, federal agencies and other law enforcement personnel to build up a huge database containing up to several million voices.
When authorities intercept a call they’ve deemed ‘hinky’, the recording is entered into the VoiceGrid program, which (probably) buzzes and whirrs and spits out a match. In five seconds, the program can scan through 10,000 voices, and it only needs 3 seconds for speech analysis. All that, combined with 100 simultaneous searches and the storage capacity of 2 million samples, gives SpeechPro, as the company is known in the US, the right to claim a 90% success rate.
According to Slate.com’s Ryan Gallagher, who spoke with SpeechPro president Aleksey Khitrov, the software is already being used in many different countries and for ‘noble causes’ only – like in Mexico, where Voice Grid helped identify and apprehend kidnappers during a ransom call, thus saving their victim’s life.
Both the FBI and the NSA have expressed interest in the program, which is also expected to be used at 911 call centers and police precincts. And sample lists would, of course, contain ‘persons of interest’ – known criminals, terror suspects or people on a watch list.
Or would it?
The definition of ‘suspect’ has been known to be loosely interpreted by US law enforcement agencies in the past. What with the FBI branding people as ‘terrorist suspects’ for buying waterproof matches or flashlights, and the Department of Homeland Security urging hotel staff to notify authorities immediately if a person has tried to use cash and/or hung a ‘do not disturb’ sign on their door, it’s easy to see why many are spooked by the idea that not only can the government see you at all times, it can also hear you.
In fact, combined with the capabilities of TrapWire, this would give law enforcement agencies an unprecedented ability to effectively dismiss both the country’s founding documents and any notion of privacy you may have had.
An unsuspicious, law-abiding citizen would obviously have to read his private messages or broadcast his phone calls out loud to be considered above-board. If he's whispering into his handset, however, the DHS is relying on its “citizen spies” to pounce and denounce the poor guy.
So, law enforcement agencies now have TrapWire to ‘all the better to see you with’ and Voice Grid ‘all the better to hear you with’. That plus the Patriot Act is effectively turning America into the land of the-no-longer-free-and the very agencies that set out to protect their people and their land into the big bad wolf.
The Patriot Act is probably one of the most controversial pieces of legislature in American history, an acronym that, for all the old and new security bureaus, Provides Appropriate Tools Required (to) Intercept (and) Obstruct Terrorism. But the tools included in the bill weren’t – and still aren’t –considered appropriate by many. Wiretaps and electronic surveillance were legalized. Arrests were made on a daily basis. When the number of those detained reached 1,200, officials stopped counting. Personal records no longer remained personal – and that was only the domestic beginning.
Officially, 1,200 special interest detainees were held and investigated under the Patriot Act. The Justice Department examined more than 700 of them and none were ever linked to any terrorist group or plot.
Nevertheless, upon his resignation in 2004, former Attorney General John Ashcroft’s letter stated that “The objective of securing the safety of Americans from crime and terror has been achieved.” This should have meant the end of the Patriot Act, for it included a “sunset” provision, to expire in December 2005. Seven years later, it’s still in place and regularly being enforced…not necessarily for a war against terror.
Statistics show that the so-called sneak-and-peak, a search warrant that can be executed without prior warning, is mostly used for drug-related crimes. Between 2006 and 2009, 1,618 delayed-search warrants were issued for drugs, 122 for fraud – and only 15 for terrorism.
The National Defense Authorization Act allows the indefinite detention of anyone deemed a terror suspect – American citizen or not. And if you look at what makes a potential suspect, you can pretty much expect to be taken in every time you answer your phone.
So bottom line:you can be heard making a hotel reservation and then seen trying to pay cash, for example, or looking stressed at breakfast and then detained as a suspect under the NDAA whilst police comb through your files using a warning-less warrant.—www.shafaqna.com/English
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) — Police in Sydney, Australia, fired tear gas at protesters staging a demonstration against the anti-Islam film that has sparked mass public outrage across the Arab world.
Hundreds of demonstrators threw projectiles at officers outside the US consulate in Sydney, shouting “Down, down USA,” AFP reported.
Protesters waved banners calling for the beheading of those who insulted the Prophet Mohammed, news outlet the Australian reported.
Police pushed the protesters back, and the crowd later marched to nearby Hyde Park.
One protester was reportedly hospitalized with a head injury, and is in stable condition.
Seven ambulances arrived at the demonstration as tensions increased.
Sydney's security forces were prepared for the rally, authorities said, which continued throughout the evening.
"We are sick and tired of everyone mocking our beloved prophet," protester Houda Dib told the Australian. "They were aggravating the situation by pushing our brothers. This is supposed to be a peaceful protest."
"They call us the terrorists," demonstrator Sarah Jacob said in a separate interview. "But everyone is terrorizing our people."—www.shafaqna.com/English
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) — U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has said that Iran has a right to use nuclear energy meant for peaceful purposes, but it should abide by its international commitments.
“Iran has a right to the use of peaceful nuclear energy,” Clinton stated during a joint press conference with Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa in Jakarta on Monday, the Times of Israel reported.
“But Iran must abide by its international obligations and cannot be permitted to get a nuclear weapon,” she added.
China reiterates call for diplomatic solution to Iran nuclear issue
Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi has said that the dispute over Iran’s nuclear program should be resolved only through diplomatic channels.
Yang made the remarks during a joint press conference with Clinton in Beijing on Wednesday.
“China believes any dialogue between Iran and the 5+1 group, which comprises five UN Security Council members plus Germany, will play a positive role. All parties should remain committed to negotiation with a sober state, seriously consider suggestions from involved parties, give more attention to positive ideas in the suggestions and coordinate on them,” the Chinese foreign minister stated.
China participates in the dialogue with earnest attitude and advocates a sober and objective judgment of the situation, he added.
He also said, “China strictly abides by the resolutions of the UN Security Council and opposes unilateral sanctions. China will not accept the decision of unilateral sanctions if other countries are also punished.”
In addition, part of an article published on Ynetnews on Monday reads, “For the first time in months the (Israeli) prime minister (Benjamin Netanyahu) has allowed diplomacy to take center stage” in regard to Iran’s nuclear program. —www.shafaqna.com/English
Source: Tehran Times
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) — As students head back to school with the latest tablets, laptops and smartphones in their knapsacks, some parents worry this abundance of gadgets could be affecting their children's grades and health.
"I think there is a limitation that needs to be put on technology because you can get so far pulled into this vortex," said Samantha Kemp-Jackson, "Are we raising a whole generation of anxious wired people because of the draw that it has?"
Kemp-Jackson, a Toronto-based parenting advisor and author of MultipleMayhemMamma.com, said that even she needs to take her own advice, admitting her twin sons and daughter are sometimes too connected.
"My two three-year-olds, they play on the computer. They play games on the iPad. They know how to use a smartphone," Kemp-Jackson said. "It's actually kind of disturbing. My eight-year-old daughter goes to her grandparents' house and shows my parents how to use the computer."
Research data suggests the more non-classwork time students spend on computers and online, the more likely it is their grades could suffer.
A 2006 Winona-State University study, for example, surveyed 137 students in a general psychology class and found that laptops, a useful tool, were also the greatest source of distraction during lectures.
A 2010 joint study by Ohio State University and Open University of the Netherlands surveyed 219 students and found a relationship between Facebook use and negative academic performance. It found Facebook users had GPAs in the 3.0 to 3.5 range and studied one to five hours a week; non Facebook users had GPAs in the 3.5 to 4.0 range and studied 11 to 15 hours a week.
Screen time can also contribute to obesity, which can have an impact on health and grades.
According to the Active Healthy Kids Canada 2012 report card, 10- to 16-year-olds get an average of 6 hours and 37 minutes of daily non-classwork screen time. Only 19 per cent of this age group met the Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology's sedentary behaviour guideline of no more than two hours of recreational screen time per day.
Another study released in June 2012 in the journal Child Development followed 6,250 children from kindergarten through fifth grade and found that those who were obese scored lower on math tests than non-obese children.
"Our study suggests that childhood obesity, especially obesity that persists throughout the elementary grades, can harm children's social and emotional well-being and academic performance," the study's lead author, Sara Gable, an associate professor of nutrition and exercise physiology at the University of Missouri-Columbia, said in a release.
Set goals and boundaries
To offset the effects of screen time, Benjamin De Graaf advises the fathers he works with to get their kids involved in activities where they can socialize and at the same time be physically active.
De Graaf is the father of a 13 year-old son himself and also the operations manager for Young and Potential Fathers, a community-based organization in Toronto that provides parenting workshops for Black fathers.
"One thing I am doing with my son is I bring him to the YMCA," de Graaf said, "I want him to get acclimated and understand that on Saturday mornings, on weekends, we are going to go to the gym and this is what we are going to do."
To help kids achieve a healthy academic balance, parents and children also need to set goals at the beginning of the academic year and determine homework times, de Graaf said. He believes parents should also do what he calls "modeling behaviour," where children get some sort of reward for completing homework or chores.
"It could be set times that are given. Like, as soon as they come home we get the homework done right away, and then after the homework is done then they will have a little bit of time to get on the internet or play with a device," said de Graaf.
One of the things that de Graaf teaches in his workshops with new fathers is that while it's important to set goals and parameters, it’s even more important to develop a routine.
"I tell the men here direction without follow-up is useless. Your child won't understand that you are serious about what you said if you don't follow up and enforce it," de Graaf said, "For example if it's, 'Do your home work after school' for two nights of the week, and the next two or three it's 'Do whatever you want,' you are setting yourself up to fail."
Every child is different
Boundaries should be tailored to the individual child, Kemp-Jackson said. Parents need to consider a range of factors, such as the age of their kids and what they think is unacceptable when it comes to using computers, tablets, smartphones and video games.
"I really think it depends on the child, their maturity level and what they're using it for. You have to look at various factors when making your decisions," Kemp-Jackson said.
And before setting children up with the latest gear, parents also need to consider whether or not schools even allow students to bring certain gadgets to class.
"Some teachers are very open with having technology and they might be advocating that students have them. And other teachers might say no," said Kemp-Jackson.
University of Toronto professor Clare Brett thinks parents need to be flexible when it comes to parenting this tech generation. Brett lectures on technology-based learning at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, and she said that parents should negotiate with their kids.
"I have two sons and I've been through this route. And I never did the 'you may not do this.'" Brett said, "I talked, but I always talked to them about what they were looking at and what they thought about it.
"Rather than putting yourself in that position where you make these absolutes, 'No you may not do this unless,' you should have a conversation. You learn something else and then you make suggestions."
The bottom line, she says, is that technology can become addictive and parents need to be vigilant.
"I think that anything that becomes so absorbing that it stops you from doing anything else is not a good thing," Brett said.—www.shafaqna.com/English
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) — Phablets seem to be the in thing these days, and if you’re wondering what that is, it’s basically a phone + tablet, i.e. a device that blurs the line between smartphone and tablet. The Samsung Galaxy Note is a perfect example of such a device. However if you’re the sort that believes that 5.3”-5.5” is still too small for a tablet, then this concept design by Patrik Eriksson might be worth checking out. Pictured above is a folding device that when folded together resembles a smartphone. However when unfolded, it becomes a tablet thanks to its flexible OLED display that hides the hinge in the middle. This allows users to slip the device into their pockets and transform it into a full sized tablet when needed. We’re not sure why the designer chose Sony as the brand, perhaps he was inspired by the Tablet P, who knows? In any case foldable devices have been done before, like the Sony Tablet P and the Kyocera Echo, but we admit that we like Eriksson’s design and the use of a flexible OLED. What do you guys think? Would you be interested in such a device, or would you rather keep your smartphone and tablet separate?—www.shafaqna.com/english
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) — Google released a cloud-based version of their Google Wallet app, which lets you use any credit or debit card by either Visa, MasterCard, American Express, or Discover.
Google Wallet itself is still a very exclusive app that is available only on select devices, like the Galaxy Nexus smartphone and Nexus 7 tablet, the Galaxy S III, etc., and only in select countries.
The new Google Wallet cloud-based app is more secure too, because it moves your sensitive personal info from the secured storage area of your phone to a secure Google server with only the wallet ID remaining on the phones’ secure storage to facilitate transactions at the point of sale.
You can also lock and disable your Google Wallet account through your online account page should you lose your phone or have it stolen.
The new Google Wallet app is available for customers in the USA only.—www.shafaqna.com/english