Monday, May 29, 2017

Zakaria on GPS slams Trump's perspective on where the real terror threats are


On Sunday, Fareed Zakaria criticized President Donald Trump’s behavior in Saudi Arabia, Israel and Europe, particularly for cozying up to Saudi Arabia when the kingdom has, out of self-preservation for the royal family, spread the most extreme form of Wahhabism throughout the Sunni Muslim World. Trump scathed the leadership of the Muslim world for policies that leave their peoples in “squalor”. But his characterization of a terror-supporting state seemed to be directed at Iran, not Saudi Arabia.

True, Iran could strike at Israel and could support WMD’s that could be delivered covertly to the U.S.  But North Korea is a much more immediate and dangerous threat.  And ISIS was born in extreme Sunni Islam and could get its hands on some kinds of WMD’s (like radioactive devices) at some point.

Zakaria also offers this perspective in his “What in the world?” segment on the lack of freedom of thought on college campuses, and the demand for conformity from both the Left and Right.

ISIS is making inroads into Southeast Asia, especially the Philippines, invited extra-judicial martial law from Rodrigo Duterte, already using vigilantism against drug users.  Here is the CNN story,  TWT has been warning readers about this.  Some of the print-on-demand book industry depends on plants in the Philippines, which may be in affected areas.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Trump ponders staying in Paris climate change agreement, with a dangerous caveat


John Sutter has an op-ed about the wording of the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, and whether Trump will allow the U.S. to stay in.

The Paris agreement apparently does not require a country’s contribution to reduction in climate change become more ambitious with time.  That wording may persuade Trump to allow the U.S. to stay in.



The article an video are really quite graphic in the dire consequences ahead. A most inconvenient truth indeed.

Update: Sunday May 28

A conservative source indicates that Trump has told insiders he still intends to pull out, but then it gets complicated.

Update: Monday, May 29

Ted Cruz argues that Trump should withdraw from the climate pact. Cruz notes job loss in the US, but claims it doesn't require other countries to do their part and that it will not reduce warming significant.y.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

British intelligence clamps down on sharing intelligence with US after apparent leak to New York Times, which went viral on blogosphere


Manchester police and British authorities have warned the US that they will not continue sharing intelligence on counter-terrorism. President Donald Trump was scolded in Brussels today about the leak.

Specifically, the problem concerns a New York Times article that I added a link to on the previous blog post last night before I went to bed.  Apparently the photos and other details were classified. I guess you could say bloggers are part of the problem, as we have every incentive to share "intelligence" that we find.  This time it wasn't Wikileaks, it was a major newspaper.  The article apparently released the name of the prime suspect before British authorities were ready to announce it, and also showed sensitive photos of the devices.

OAN correspondent Trey Yingst tweeted the issue early today at first without a supporting link, and I retweeted, adding a comment about Trump's apparent sharing of Israeli intelligence with Russia.  Very shortly thereafter I saw that this was a "new" problem and that the NYTimes was involved, and that the president had not directly caused the problem, although he is responsible for it.  Trump has ordered the DOJ to investigate the leak.  It seems very unlikely to me that the NYTimes (or any blogger who relinked) has any exposure to real legal liability.

The latest Washington Post story on Trump's "orders" is here.  This can be a serious problem, because US authorities need overseas intelligence about possible novel threats, especially WMD.

Wikipedia attribution link for picture of incident site by Dixon, under CCSA 2.0.


Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Manchester attack; Trump calls terrorists "losers"


There is no reason to belabor the details of terror attack in Manchester England Monday night at the concert of Ariana Grande, but Peter Bergen has a disturbing analysis on CNN of how the explosive was probably constructed, using hydrogen peroxide, a common bleach.

Trump made a point of calling terrorists “losers” (or "evil losers in life") in more than one speech abroad, not just “monsters”.  Other commentators have said that Trump simply could have said that murdering civilians is prohibited by the Koran (but there are those who question this).

The Daily Telegraph opines on Trump’s speech in Saudi Arabia here.
 
I passed a protest poster in Baltimore recently, claiming ordinary people shouldn’t be bothered with concerns about Syria and Korea.  I couldn’t disagree more.
Update: May 24:

Detailed New York Times analysis of the evidence in Manchester by C. J. Chivers.

Monday, May 15, 2017

North Korea launches intermediate range missile


North Korea fired a test of a medium range missile with a very high parabolic path, to 1200 miles altitude (highest enough for EMP) and 400 miles distance, toward eastern Russia and possibly Alaska.

CNN has the details today here

Charlie Rose tonight on PBS was rather cavalier on speculating that North Korea might already have the capability to hit the US, at least western Alaska or Guam.

North Korea might have been behind the ransomware attack, which so far had little effect on the US. The Guardian has a story to that effect.



Update: May 23

Media have posted more stories about North Korea's malware engines (training young adults in China).  There was another missile test, aimed toward Japan, about 300 miles, and indications that North Korea is getting "better" at this. And there seems to be a breaking interchange with the South right now,

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

"Paul" explains the Arabic language and its many dialects


Paul, of Language Focus, has an interesting video “The Arabic Language and its Amazing History and Features”.



There are versions of the language for speech, writing and religious study.  It seems very logical, even if very alien to western people.

Monday, May 8, 2017

Militia activity leads to malnutrition in Congo due to plant that is poisonous without lengthy cooking


ABC News recently covered the famine in Somalia, South Sudan, northern Nigeria and Yemen, but the Pulitzer Report has an important story regarding famine in the Congo, associated with paralysis.



People in the area eat a staple root, cassava; but safe preparation requires hours of soaking in water to leech out certain cyanide compounds.  People living in insecure areas overrun by militias often do not have time to prepare the roots properly, and consume them when they still contain a cyanide, and become poisoned.

The Pulitzer story is here.

Wikipedia attribution link for Munusco image, CCSA 2.5,

Monday, May 1, 2017

Religious right in US seems to be building alliances with Putin supporters, partly over anti-gay attitudes


Rosalind S. Helderman and Tom Hamburger have a front page story in the Washington Post linking some Christian conservatives in the U.S. to some elements in Putin’s Russia.  In print, it is “’Values’ tilt GOP right to Russia”, and online “Guns and Religion: How American conservatives grew closer to Putin’s Russia”.  The principals deny any connection to the hacks related to the election or to Donald Trump’s activities.

But the connection reminds me of some evangelical elements intervening in Africa, helping spawn anti-gay attitudes particularly in Uganda.

In Russia, Putin is concerned about the low birth rates and the idea that gay men in particular, if allowed to be public, can undermine family size and population for others.  Authoritarianism often reinforces an idea that “outlier” people need to be compelled to conform to fitting in to the social structures set up by others (conventional families), which becomes a self-reinforcing ideology that takes on personal importance for some people.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

In northern Nigeria, people return to villages to find their kids gone


The Washington Post has a frightening story on p. A13 of the Washington Post by Kevn Sieff, about people returning home to Damasak in northeast Nigeria, to find most of their children gone after Boko Haram left, apparently kidnapped into the sex trade.

Many refugees spill into Niger and then migrate north to Italy to flee to Europe  But very recently Italy has been working with Libya to stop the migration across the Mediterranean (to Lapedusa, as in the recent film “Fire at Sea”).

Wikipedia pd. Image of Michelle Obama sign related to the attacks.

Monday, April 24, 2017

North Korea takes hostages


So, the era of “strategic patience” is over.  And here’s the setup with the DPRK.

The robot kingdom with a god-king (who looks fat and foppish, “dressed to kill”) seems to be closer to having long range ICBM’s than we had thought.  The forecasts of their ranges keep creeping up, all the way to Washington now.  The time table seems compressing, conceivably before 2020.
Furthermore, North Korea wants to have several of these so it could keep fighting in case of a pre-emptive strike.  And it may be better able to bury the testing and locations than had been thought.

 (Although the recent blast in Afghanistan might well have been intended to send a message.)

The other component is a challenge to Trump’s “America First”.  For the time being, North Korea has taken the entire country of South Korea hostage, so to speak, as well as Japan.  So it can continue to build up its ICBMs and nukes, maybe even a hydrogen bomb.

Conservative Post commentator Charles Krauthammer says we have cards to play, mainly China, “not your friend, a currency manipulator”, here   Krauthammer also gives a link to Post coverage of the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962 (when I was a “patient” at NIH).

Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly said that this country could be at grave risk before the end of Trump’s term, to CNN, Sunday morning, here.

Update: April 27

Trey Yingst reports on Trump's briefing of the Senate at the Executive Office building Wednesday.

OANN reports that Trump warned that war on the Korean peninsula can happen.  Trump made an odd comment about young heads of state. 

Friday, April 14, 2017

NSA could stop North Korean missiles by hacking; Parade suggests DPRK could have longer range missiles than previously thought



There's another story suggesting that the US could hack into North Korea's missile systems and invoke malware if any missiles actually approached the IS.  Missiles toward Japan or South Korea (more likely) would allow much less time for detection.  The story appeared on Business Insider.


The speaker here still thinks that North Korea's cyber capabilities are limited and that China helped out a lot with the Sony Pictures hack.

Update: April 15

North Korea displayed ICBM canisters in a military parade today, suggesting it could have (or soon have) missiles capable of reaching some parts of the U,S., or that it might have submarine launch capabilities, CNN story. Yet today we did not see a nuclear weapons test.

A North Korean intermediate range missile test from NE North Korea failed and exploded seconds after launch, BBC story,   American NSA hackers could have been involved.  North Korea's plan seems to be to survive a pre-emptive strike, if it can build several nuclear ICBM's capable of reaching the US

Here is ABC's account on "what to know now". 

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Trump administration may pre-emptively attack North Korea now if there is a hint of another nuclear test; underground bunker buster in Afghanistan


NBC News has released an “exclusive” news story to the effect that the Trump Administration is preparing to launch a pre-emptive conventional strike against North Korea if intelligence shows that another major DPRK nuclear test is imminent.

But China, South Korea, and Japan would all be consulted.

A grave risk could be a blitzkrieg attack by the DPRK on the South, as Seoul is not far away.


There is a perhaps a slight risk that a DPRK missile could reach Japan, and that it could be armed with chemical weapons. We are not as sure as we would like to be that DPRK cannot put some sort of crude nuclear device or dirty bomb on a missile that could reach that far, and this would seem to be a marginal risk.  We cannot be absolutely sure that a missile could not reach as far as Alaska or Hawaii.  George Tenet had issued such warnings during the Bush administration.  Obviously DPRK could try some kind of cyber attack on American companies (like Sony), but that would have taken preparation.

About two weeks after Trump’s inauguration, I had tweeted “@realDonaldRrump” that North Korea was the single most dangerous enemy we have. I wonder if it was noticed.

Trump’s attitudes have changed in the past couple of weeks. There is speculation that the 11 ton GBU-43/B-MOAB bunker buster, the largest conventional weapon the US has, was dropped on an ISIS underground hideout in Afghanistan, near the border of Pakistan, to send a message to North Korea, not to count on hiding its nuclear tests underground.

Economic conditions in Afghanistan have deteriorated from the inability of westerners to come and work without being kidnapped.

Suddenly Trump admits relations with Russia are lousy. And Sean Spicer has to apologize for calling Assad the worst monster of all time, worse than Hitler. Stalin, Pol Pot, and Idi Amin (and Saddam Hussein, who also used chemical weapons on his own people in 1988).

Is it good to have an oil company executive as Secretary of State -- to "negotiate" Apprentice-style with China and Middle Eastern countries?

Is Trump starting to let Jared Kushner become shadow president instead of Steve Bannon?

Wikipedia attribution link for picture of Seoul Plaza, CCSA 4.0. 

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Time Magazine reports ISIS trying to gather material for a dirty bomb from loose radioactive waste sites, mostly in the former USSR


Time Magazine for April 17 has a frightening cover story by “Simon Shuster”, “The Uranium Underworld: ISIS Wants a Dirty Bomb – and It Knows Where to Get One.”  The online article (paywall) is only a little less explicit, “Inside the Uranium Underworld: Dark Secrets, Dirty Bombs”, frpm Tblisii, Georgia (former USSR republic).

Former Senator Sam Nunn and the Nuclear Threat Initiative have long pressed for recovery of nuclear waste from the former USSR, much of it in the outlying republics. There was a film about this in 2005, “The Last Best Chance”.

The article points out that a contaminated truck bomb or pressure cooker device could produce victims who cannot be safely treated by emergency personnel.



Of course, a dirty bomb would make some areas unusable and destroy real estate wealth, so an urban target especially could be enticing to a politically motivated (especially left-wing) terrorist attacking the “rentier class”.  This idea has been known, if almost never discussed openly, since the 1970s.  Wealth that had been inherited probably would never be recovered, again a goal that used to be articulated by the extreme Left back in the early 1970s.

In late 2002, I received an unsolicited email with a pdf showing the location of nuclear waste sites in Russia.  I did sent it to the FBI.  

Time also has a story today reporting that the Stockholm truck attacker had been denied asylum, and also a story where Hillary Clinton says we should start accepting some Syrian refugees again.

Wikipedia image attribution: 
By Bill Ebbesen - Transferred from en.wikipedia to Commons., CC BY 3.0, Link

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

There are no words


There are no words.

ABC timeline and story on chemical weapons in NW Syria, against civilians, even hospitals.  Not since Bosnia.  Or Pol Pot.  Or the Holocaust.

War crimes.  Obama did very little.  But, Trump gets support from Putin, and so does Assad.

And the DPRK did a medium range missile test today.

Wiki: p.d. ethnic map of Syria. 

Monday, April 3, 2017

Belarus mentions the idea of "social parasite" in its official decrees, referring to past Communism and the extreme left


Note a Washington Post editorial Monday morning, “At the Barricades in Belarus”. The protests concern president Lukashenko’s 2015 decree that “freelancers” and housewives who work less than 183 days a year be fined as “social parasites”.

The idea of undeservedness is a variation of unearned privilege, something that the radical Left wants to do away with.  I remember that from the People’s Party of New Jersey back in 1972.  But we’re not reminded much about this as official policy often.  But in the US, some red states want able bodied Medicaid recipients to work, like migrant farm workers paid by piece work, if necessary.

Note is made on the terror attack on a Metro in St. Petersburg, Russia this morning, developing story.

Public domain picture of Victory Square in Minsk.