Tuesday, December 28, 2010

"Executive Decision": how much power does an administration really need to protect national security?; more on Wikileaks

The Washington Post ran a controversial editorial on Dec. 22, “Executive Decisions”, about whether a president’s decision to target an American enemy abroad needs judicial review. The link is here.

The case specifically involved “Anwar al-Aulaqi, the U.S.-born Yemeni cleric and al-Qaeda operative”.

It is true that apparently this relates only to actions taken overseas. Perhaps it could apply here if law and order broke down domestically because of some kind of massive incident. Then the idea is frightening, but so would be the circumstances that it would take to lead to it.

However, Jonathan Manes and Pardiss Kebriaei, a legal fellow with the ACLU and a staff attorney for the Center for Constitutional Rights, have an LTE today in the Post raising constitutional concerns.

The CCR has signed on to an important document online, “An open letter to US officials regarding free expression in the wake of the Wikileaks controversy,” pdf document here.  CCR has a short article about House Judiciary Committee hearings on the issue Dec 22 here.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

US uses "blacklist" to coerce European countries into passing "3 strikes" laws on copyright infringement

Gwen Hinze has a major story for Electronic Frontier Foundation, “Not-so-gentle persuasion: U.S. bullies Spain into proposed website-blocking law”, link here.

The article links to a Spanish story about a 2009 law which would require ISP’s to enforce a “three strikes” policy on those accused of copyright infringement, link (“The Peace”) here (Spanish). 

Apparently the "El Pais" story is based on cables provided by WikiLeaks, which supports the notion that most of the cables leaked by Assange's minions are really about coverups that have little or nothing to do with national security for anyone.

The “Special 301 Report” lists countries thought to be permissive with copyright infringement and especially movie and music piracy. It seems to be politically motivated from contributions by huge media interests.

In the US, the “three strikes” rule has been politically unpalatable, and instead Congress will be considering COICA (see the “Bill Boushka” blog).

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

"Russia Now" reports on Russian internal passports; China has an issue, too

A paid supplement Dec 15 in the Washington Post, “Russia Now”, has an article by Darina Shevchemko, “Internal passports: ‘Without registration, you’re a nobody’; No more Mr. Nobody: The government will ease the registration process for Russians whose lives are often hampered by resulting red tape.” The internal passports, separate from regular ones, are left over from the Stalin years but still affect people who have moved to the big cities on their own for work. Online, the supplement pulls up a different article at The Washington Post, “A Traveler’s Road to Enlightenment” by Frederick Bernas, link here.

The insert also has a brief about Leonid Parfyonov “speaking out” for journalists’ freedom.

China also has an issue with internal passports, as shown in this CIA archive video.

Russian relief map attribution link on Wikipedia here.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Students in Britain protest tripling of college tuitions, making them more like those of the US

Prince Charles (the film "Harmony") and a companion in a Rolls Royce sedan were subjected to a paintball attack by student protesters, as the British Parliament considered (and apparently passed) tripling the college tuition for students up to $15000 a year, as well as other big austerity cuts in social services.

Prime Minister David Cameron had his college education free. So, it seems, "like isn't fair", 

In the United States, students are more used to the idea of debt (today), but not in Britain.

Wikipedia attribution link for London picture here.

Monday, December 6, 2010

So Wikileaks is "aiding and abetting": It's getting silly out there; also, leaks on UFO's, Chinese hacking, Russian instability

CBS News has a story saying that the government fears that Wikileaks is making infrastructure node points marks for terrorism; some are not well protected and might give people “ideas”. I’ve personally always found this kind of thinking rather infantile. Vital infrastructures should be well protected, and not left with weaknesses that are “secrets in plain sight”. (Remember the “bump keys” fiasco a few years ago?)

The link for the CBS story, by David Martin, is here.

I remember similar concerns being expressed about many website shortly after 9/11. Over time, the panic died down.

CNET reports (and EFF disseminated on Twitter) that MasterCard has pulled the plug on contributions to Wikileaks, here.  For now, Wikileaks can be reached by changing the TLD to “.ch”. (No, I won’t give the direct link. Figure it out. It isn’t hard.)

CNET also reports that Assange has said that some of the leaked cables refer to UFO’s (see my TV blog Dec. 2 regarding Dick Cheney’s elliptical comments.)

But James Glanz and John Markoff of the New York Times have a disturbing story (Sunday Dec. 5) “Vast hacking by a China fearful of the Web”, discussing 2009 cables recently published by Wikileaks, link here.  The Chinese are worried that “the Web cannot be controlled.”

The NYTimes has also dicussed leaks dealing with serious instability in Russia.

It seems as though the fearmongering in Congress and among politicians over Assange is totally out of control.

Why is the government so careless that secrets get out so quickly?  Even as information is share among various departments and agencies, why isn't it secured?  How classified is this info, really, if everybody could see it?  Same question about other countries.  Don't information classfication systems in the workplace (TS, SCI, crypto, etc) work at all?

Update: Dec 7

George Washington University (where I got my BA in Math in 1966) has advised students not to cite Wikileaks in academic work, not because of any university objection on academic integrity grounds, but because a documented record of a student's having knowingly accessed classified information could jeopardize a security clearance at a job in the future, link here.

Dec. 9

See my main "BillBoushka" blog. Are people who comment on Wikileaks documents online risking getting security clearances? Also, today, MasterCard, Visa and PayPal had DOS outages, now resolved.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Wikileaks is getting stomped as a "nuisance"

Well, it looks like Wikileaks is in for a lot of trouble. Its domain registrar in the US pulled its registration, and both Paypal and Amazon have kicked it out. As of this evening, the site was still not up anywhere, although some of its YouTube videos still work.

Companies were giving “promotion of illegal activity” or TOS violations and particularly “nuisance” (attracting denial-of-service attacks, although that sounds like giving in to bullying) as the reason for cutting the cord.

It will be hard for Assange to put the site up somewhere and not leave footprints (deadending, like someone who “goes up”), leading to his extradition.  I still share some of Assange's spirit, to be the guy who said "I told you so."

Still, prosecuting him the US looks like a very dubious idea.

The federal government has told employees not to look at Wikileaks documents even at home if they don't have clearance.  I can understand banning looking at it at work, but thinking you can police what employees view at home is just plain silly -- or dangerous, too.

First picture: that's a Radio Shack mug shot of me, not Assange.  Second picture: Ballston Common, Arlington VA.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Prosecuting Julian Assange could open a hornet's nest for journalists (with no "Lizbeth")

There are rumors that the Obama Administration will try to prosecute Julian Assange under the Espionage Act of 1917 source)  and Findlaw here), as with this Washington Post story by Ellen Nakashima and Jerry Markon. Nov. 30, here. Jeffrey Smith (CIA counsel in 1995 and 1996) has argued in the Post the same day “Prosecute Wikileaks, then reform our espionage laws”.

Justin Elliot has an article on Salon indicating that prosecution of Assange would set an extremely dangerous precedent. The link is (website url) here (in the Salon "War Room").

Theoretically, journalists and bloggers could be held responsible for publishing or maybe even linking to leaked information, even though until now this has almost never happened. Congress is likely to think about the responsibilities of journalists and bloggers when revising espionage laws, however.

I have personally received about four tips, shared them all with law enforcement, and disclosed only two (the bizarre 2002 hack on one of my web pages dealing with nuclear threats, and a bizarre email about oil fields in Nigeria, Aug. 2008).

This morning on C-SPAN, Candice Miller R-MI ) told the House of Representatives that Wikileaks should be shut down. Ironically, she mentioned the shutdown of 82 websites Nov. 29 for selling counterfeit goods and for intentional copyright infringement.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Wikileaks State Dept release on foreign corruption imminent

As of Saturday night, Nov. 27, the newest Wikileaks release of masses of documents, passing through the State Department, relating to corruption in foreign governments (and US negotiating positions) had not appeared – although a link to download BitTorrent software and access other Wikileaks material through P2P (maybe a dangerous option for some home users) is now present. (Your ISP might watch how much of this you do.)

Reuters released a major story Wednesday Nov. 24, with link here.
Julian Assange has also made new documents available to newspapers in Spain and France.

A friend who works in a sensitive area said that bloggers should not give links to leaked data, that they might be party to compromising the security of innocent civilians in other countries (like Afghanistan now). However, “the cat’s out of the bag” and probably raiding a lot of birds’ nests.

Here is a Democracy Now YouTube video of Assange talking about last summer’s leak on Afghanistan, with a violin solo in the background at the start.

Second picture: On 23rd St NW, between GWU and State Dept in Washington DC

Nov. 29Politics Daily has this snarky story, " about the leak, "Leaking of Secret U.S. Cables Sparks Diplomacy Crisis", here.

Wikileaks calls the affair "Cable Gate", so here I go: it's fair game now, and here's the link.

Richard Clark told CNN that without "trust" a government cannot conduct diplomacy, and that the leak has destroyed "trust" in the US.  Is that what happens in an era of blogging?

Friday, November 26, 2010

NY Times: South Korea has severe problems with eldercare because of demographics; also, jobs in Afghanistan, Pakistan

Last Saturday (Nov. 20, 2010), on my “Bill Retires” blog, I covered Phillip Longman and his cover story on Foreign Policy, “Old World: The Graying of the Planet – and How It Will Change Everything” (links at that post). Today, Nov. 26, The New York Times, in its series “The Vanishing Mind: The War on Dementia”, in a long and detailed article by Pam Belluck, greets front page print edition viewers with “In the land of the aging, children counter Alzheimer’s”, link here.

The story specifically concerns the population demographics of South Korea, where birthrates are lower than in the US and where, the story says, 9% of people over 65 have significant dementia. The tone of the story becomes alarming. It’s ironic that a story like this appears just as hostility from North Korea is making the more obvious headlines.

South Korea has a long term care insurance system, paid for by 6.6% increase in health premiums. But that doesn’t abrogate the filial demands for hands-on caregiving. Even though nursing homes have tripled, they have long waiting lists, and authorities say we can’t keep building them. South Korea already has 30 million cases of dementia, and South Korea’s demographic winter problems are among the most severe in the world. So the country is training people in caregiving and recognizing symptoms, including simulating the experience.

Then the article says “So the authorities promote the notion that filial piety implies doing everything possible for elders with dementia, a condition now called chimae (pronounced chee-may): disease of knowledge and the brain which makes adults become babies. But South Korea’s low birth rate will make family caregiving tougher.”

Picture: A DC Metro ad for "Jobs that make a difference" (link) involving USAID and right now, jobs for civilian natives in Afghanistan, and (according to job listings on the site) US citizens with professional disciplines to work in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Pope's advice on condoms welcome in HIV prevention, but may be overstated

Rachel Donadio has written some analysis in the New York Times questioning the recent news that Pope Benedict had written, in his book “Light of the World” and other places, statements that sometimes health concerns – prevention of HIV transmission and other STDs – may outweigh Vatican objections to contraception and homosexual behavior, and provide moral justification for condom use. The story is “Pope’s comments on condoms sow confusion”, (website url) here

The UN Aids Global Report (link ) praised the Pope’s words.

There is a correlated story on my GLBT blog today (Thanksgiving Day).

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

North Korea attacks island in the South; the start of something?

NBC Today (on “Today in 2 Minutes”) reports a skirmish where North Korea attacked a small island (Yeonpyeong) belonging to South Korea. At least one South Korean soldier was killed. American forces were not involved. The South Koreans also maneuver from Baengnyeong Island.

I still remember when war broke out in Korea in 1950, when I was barely old enough to understand what war meant. I even remember a discussion on a porch on grandmother’s house in Ohio with my Mother and a cousin.  It was my first exposure to the idea that men could get drafted to go off and fight to protect others.

It’s not clear if this "incident" will go anywhere, but during the Clinton years there was more concern about future conflict with North Korea than there was with Al Qaeda.

MSN’s Internet headline was “North Korea attacks” as if it were “Mars Attacks”.

Picture: Street in Kipton, Ohio; I spent summers in the house at the end of the street from the late 1940s through the early 1960s. The town seems like a history museum now.

Monday, November 22, 2010

North Korea shows of modern nuclear processing, may have many more warheads

ABC News tonight with Diane Sawyer reported on a “show and tell” by North Korea to UN scientists, of a modern nuclear processing facility installed apparently in 2009, with possibly up to 10 warheads possible. Previously, George Tenet of the CIA had said it was possible to lob a warhead toward Alaska, or the Canadian or US Pacific northwest.

This sounds like a major escalation in North Korea’s “capability.”

Sunday, November 21, 2010

FP Magazine documents Adam Chesser, Internet propaganda and the "South Park" controversy

Here’s another important long story in Foreign Policy, Nov. 2010, “Watching the Watchers: Al Qaeda’s new strategy is all about using our own words and actions against us; and it’s working”, p. 60, by Jarret Brachman, link here.

All this is tied to the efforts of (and then indictment of) Zachary Adam Chesser (“Abu Talhah Al-Amrikee”), and the whole “fake South Park preacher fatwa”, apparently related to some Comedy Central episodes that had made fun of Muhhamad and the nearness of the incident site to Viacom.

The video below ties a number of these threads together, including the Times Square incident on May 1.

But the FP article details (at some length) how the likes of Chesser are trying to get others to use the Web as an ideological battlefield to win “converts” (not “arguments”).

Much of this seems to relate back to indignation. Back in the early 1970s, the radical Left spread a lot of talk by leaflets about how to spread hate against the “capitalist pigs” etc. Personally, during the younger days of my adult life, I have seen all of this sort of thing before.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Palestinian man held as "blasphemous" anonymous blogger on West Bank

The New York Times is reporting on p A5 Tuesday Nov. 16 about Palestinian man Waleed Hasayin, from the West Bank town of Qalqilya, for supposedly maintaining a blog or website said to be stirring up everyone with “secular” values that question Islamic religious values (to say the least) and to some people bringing up the notion of aiding the “enemy” (“Israel”). Actually, the blogger called himself pseudonymously Waleed al-Husseini, and Hasayin has been held by Palestinian authorities who maintain he is that blogger.   Anonymity, however valued as a right, did not work. There is fear that his case could turn into one like the Jyllands-Posten Cartoon controversy or even Salman Rushdie. The link  (story is "A blogger's irreverence infuriates West Bank Muslims", by Isabel Kershner) is here.

This blogger post “Why I Left Islam” seems to be his. The writer says that he does not consider Christianity or Judaism “better” than Islam, but he calls Islam an “authoritarian religion”.  The blog has the headband "Proud Atheist: Rational critics of religion" Note the word "rational"; pure logic can lead us into unending mazes.

It's interesting to ponder why many religious or somewhat tribal communities cannot tolerate dissent. On the other hand, it's true that Palestinians have indeed had land and homes expropriated from them by force by Israel (for "settlements" that supposedly support "security"), and it's understandable how this would be a source of shame, the most unacceptable of all emotions.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Arlington VA church has important mission connections to Mexico, Belize

Today, after the Sunday service, the Trinity Presbyterian Church in Arlington VA presented some of its mission plans for 2011, with emphasis on Belize, and on some areas of northern Mexico.

In Belize, there was talk of work on an orphanage and of the infrastructure damage from hurricanes this fall, particularly to communications and the Internet.

In Mexico, there is an effort called the “Frontera de Cristo” in about six cities near the border. The most stable of these cities is Aqua Prieta (“Black Water”), but generally safety of visitors has not been as big a problem as reported in the media. The ministries are varied and include community centers and medical clinics. There is also a coffee business (“Faith journey coffee”) that brings in revenue through connections through a town on the Guatemala border without economic middlemen.

On May 22, 2008 on the drama blog, I covered another mission from a Baptist church in Nicaragua called Nacascolo.

Trinity also has a mural now diagramming the political situation on the West Bank between Palestine and Israel.

Monday, November 8, 2010

The happiest countries on earth emphasize social solidarity within families, not personal choice

ABC “Good Morning America” had a segment Monday morning on the “happiest places in the world” and these included Denmark, Singapore, and an area of Mexico. What was common to all of these was family connections, and that people spend an average of seven hours a day engaged socially with other people in real life, much of it blood family and parents. Similar findings have been reported about “Blue Zone” areas before.

Singapore was interesting particularly because of the strictness of its public conduct laws and conservative culture.

This doesn’t sound very good for introverts, as I wrote on my “BillBoushka” blog Sunday. It also doesn’t sound very good for “psychological creativity”, the ability to be selective about people in your life. You don’t get to choose or select relatives.

There is something about social structures: they seem so critical for well-being and survival of the group, but then the "strongest" members of the group will bully less assertive members into subservience to the group's goals. 

Thursday, November 4, 2010

EU will introduce a "right to be forgotten online"

The “Red Tape Chronicles” on MSNBC reports today that the European Commission for the European Union will push for a legal “right to be forgotten” online, an idea proposed on some recent books such as Mayer-Schonberger’s “Delete” (Book review blog, May 13, 2010). Apparently most of the concern has to do with keeping logon information and tracking visitors for advertising. It’s unclear whether postings about other people in blogs or on social networking sites would have to be deleted after some period of time.

In the United States, John Boucher was defeated in the November 2010 midterm, so his controversial bill may be less likely to go forward, some say. In the US, privacy advocates want an option “do not track” that would work like “do not call”.

The link is here.

The European Union Commission statement is here.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Major source on laser printer plot had been at Gitmo

NBC Nightly News is reporting that a source who uncovered the laser printer cartridge plot had been a prisoner at Gitmo for four years. After release, the Saudi was sent to a Saudi “rehabilitation center” for change of beliefs. The idea that a government would have to rehabilitate thought is shocking, but we do that all the time in some other scenarios.

NBC news is also talking about an auditape received from Qasim al Raymi of “AQAP” (Al Qaeda Arabian Peninsula”) link here, story by Mike Ishikoff.

Also, check this Washington Post story by Tara Bahrampour, "Out of Suburbia: Internet helped Muslim convert from Northern Virginia embrace extremism at warp speed", about Zachary Adam Chesser, link here.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Wikileaks releases Iraq War Logs, over Pentagon objections

Okay, here we go: Wikileaks releases the largest classified leak and expose in history, it says. The Iraq War logs comprise 391,832 reports, from 2004-2009. The basic link now is working now The site is up, but very busy, with some timeout errors.

The site is claiming over 100000 deaths in Iraq, including over 66000 civilians, apparently from allied fire.

I’ve been told that the site may be putting more civilians, who gave information to Americans, in jeopardy. I’m told even that bloggers who link to the documents are compromising lives, but I’m also told that the “damage is done.”

Personally, Assange is hard to judge. I won’t try to do that myself. But the motto of the site is “searching for truth” and I am a psychological feminine, I’m told.

The War Logs have a number of categories, starting with “criminal events”, and later “friendly action”.

Here’s a random news account, from the Lubbock, TX paper, Oct. 24 (website url) link.

Update: Oct. 26

The Washington Post has an editorial "Wikileaks's leaks mostly confirm earlier Iraq reporting", link here. The Post believes the leaks could undermine forming and keeping a stable Iraqi government that can stand alone.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Jeopardy host: China's "Little Emperors" (only kids) are "little brats"; Britain makes draconian cuts

Tonight, Jeopardy asked, in the final round, what country had used the word “Little Emperors” for its young people. Two out of three (not bad) got it right: China, based on the one-child per family policy of 1979. Host Alex Trebek characterized China’s “only child”’s as “little brats”. Rather strong. Are all only children spoiled and self-centered? I’m an only child.

Also, today, Britain announced stunning and draconian cutbacks in welfare programs and the military budget because of debts stemming from the 2008 financial crisis. In Britain, the Prime Minister can “just do it”; he or she doesn’t have to go through Parliament. Even the Queen had her budget cut (no Christmas party). But the boys have their own lives anyway.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Developing nations take advantage of our "demographic winter"

Ted Fishman has a sobering article in the New York Times Magazine for Oct. 17, “As Populations Age, a Chance for Younger Nations”, link (website url) here.

Fishman goes into a long discussion on how China can compete by cheating its older citizens, and relying on a “natural family” safety net that the West has socialized. For example, grandparents raise kids on the countryside whereas working age adults go to the cities to work. That’s kind of an inverse of Mao’s “Cultural Revolution” of the 1960s.

Fishman is author of “Shock of Gray: The Aging of the World’s Population and How It Pits Young Against Old, Child Against Parent, Worker Against Boss, Company Against Rival and Nation Against Nation”, which seems similar to “The Aging of the Great Powers” by Jackson and Howe et al, which I reviewed on my books blog Jan. 22, 2009.

The New York Times has also recently discussed the long period of deflation in Japan, which has certainly contributed to low fertility and the aging of its population.

People from immigrant groups into Europe tend to send money to relatives at home, even parents and sideway relatives, not just their own children.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Hillary Clinton says Chile mine rescue shows that government is necessary even in a more "conservative" or "limited government" environment

On Thursday, Oct. 14, Hillary Clinton, while hinting at her hope for grandchildren from one daughter (sounds like pressures), discussed the role of government in the Copiapo mine rescue in Chile  This is a country that has preached small government and privatized social security.  But, Hillary said, it took over the rescue from a private mining company and spent about $1 million per each of the 33 miners to effect a successful rescue. The last miner was up by about 7 AM EDT Thursday.  He was the crew foreman.

She also said she had never imagined being Secretary of State.

Wikipedia attribution link for Chile map.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Britain to means test "pro natal" welfare benefit

Britain will start means-testing child benefits paid to better-off families in 2013, according to a story by Landon Thomas, Jr. in the New York Times, today, October 4, 2010, link here

In Europe, many countries had begun increasing per-child benefits in order to reverse the birth dearth among “native” populations. In Europe, paid parental leave benefits are common, which they are not in the United States.

The measure occurred while some conservative politicians in the United States have started talking about means-testing social security, which is different in concept in that it is largely funded by worker "contributions" (mandatory wage taxes).

The story reports that about 42% of the welfare benefit goes to families “not in need”.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Masdar is a planned, sustainable city near Abu Dhabi

Nicolai Ourousoff has a front page story in the New York Times, Sunday Sept. 26, “In Arabian Desert, a Sustainable City Rises, Walled and Lofty,” about Masdar, a one mile square planned city 17 Km SE of Abu Dhabi. The city has extremely high density, passive solar heating and wind, very narrow streets and a subway populated by driverless electric cars (rather like some of the Philadelphia subway with its single street cars), as well as a conventional modern subway and elevated Metro. It would make a good setting for sci-fi film.

Occupancy was to begin in late 2010. It's not clear what qualifies someone to live there (other than money). The spirit of the project, modern Arabia, recalls Dubai.

Here is a short film sponsored by the City.

The link is here.  For the “Critics’ Notebook” story. The New York Times also has a reading comprehension quiz on its learning page (teachers, note!) There is another visual tour of Masdar in the article. Many of the pictures seem to be animated.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Bizarre firmware worm affecting nuclear power plants in Iran, elsewhere

MSNBC and the AP carry a story by asser Karimi on a computer worm, Stuxnet, that can affect the operations of a nuclear power plant. The work has also been found in Iran, Indonesia, and the U.S. It does not seem to affect ordinary home computers.

But the question comes up about protecting critical infrastructure such as power grids, that are not supposed to be easily connected to the public Internet, but sometimes somehow are. It may be more likely that infected firmware is sent to the power plants. The worm may come from Russia. It’s not clear how much research work conventional anti-virus companies have done on the worm since it seems to be directed at process control.

The MSNBC link is here.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

George Will: Over geological time spans. The Earth is all right (but maybe the people aren't)

Conservative (and baseball-loving) George Will has a perspective on climate change, “The Earth Doesn’t Care, about what is done to it or for it,” in Newsweek, link here.

Geologic time is so great compared to man’s activity that eventually the oceans would dissolve all the carbon man had emitted. But in the timeframes that matter to man, climate change and the “inconvenient truth” really can matter to people’s lives, most of all in low-lying and storm or drought prone areas of the planet. In geopolitical terms, it really could matter.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Russian government uses trumped up copyright charges to goad Microsoft into helping it shut down dissidents

Clifford J. Levy has a shocking story on the front page of the Sunday September 12 New York Times, “Above the Law: Using Microsoft, Russia Suppresses Dissent”, link here.

Russia, in the Putin area of authoritarian capitalism, is using copyright law as a proxy for going after dissident groups. Particularly, it has goaded Microsoft into assisting it with raids for supposedly using pirated software, against organizations that challenge government policy. One such group was the Baikal Environmental Wave, link.

Reportedly, Russia does not harass organizations which support its government.

The story is hitting the news at a time when mass litigation against bloggers and computer users for copyright infringement is going on in the United States, as reported in the “BillBoushka” blog on Sept. 8 and 10. Although there may be more legal justification for the cases in the US, the parallel is disturbing. For people whose speech is threatening to the agenda of those in control, it’s temping to use “legal terrorism” and make up charges in order to force them to spend money to defend themselves, in order to silence them.

In the Russian cases, computers were sometimes returned after being cleaned of “subversive” data that the government did not want disseminated, and sometimes the computers were deliberately infected with viruses.

Update: Sept. 21:  Media have reported that Microsoft has agreed to stop cooperating with these sorts of witchhunts in Russia.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

CNN's Zakaria: we underestimate intentions, overestimate capacity, of Al Qaeda and others

CNN has an op-ed interview with Fareed Zakaria today, “Did the U.S. overreact to 9/11?” with the text link here.

Zakaria makes the point that the US tends to underestimate the evil intentions of some enemies, but overestimate their ability to carry out their intentions. This was true with the Soviet Union during the Cold War, he says. We start out with an initial failure of imagination and then run away with fantasy.

Al Qaeda is definitely weaker in its ability to coordinate or carry out any major initiative. On the other hand, radicalism and indignation has spread to the young in certain communities, leading to individual bad acts.

Another discussion on CNN Saturday noted that the United States is still dependent on immigration for brain power in basic research and technology engineering, and always has been. In fact, Microsoft opened a development center in Vancouver rather than Seattle because it was easier to import talent into Canada. Yet the work visa issue for technology in the US has been controversial ever since technology employment became unsteady in the Dot-com bust.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

CNN presents opposing views on NYC mosque; but the Florida pastor comes across as a millstone

CNN's Soledad O'Brien will interview Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, behind the proposed Islamic Center in New York, on "Larry King Live" Wednesday Sept. 8, 2010.

The story indicates that Rauf stands behind temperance and moderation in the pursuit of religious faith.

Personally, I’ve remained pretty neutral about all this, but it seems that the First Amendment certain protects the building of a facility for any faith in any community, as far as any zoning or government regulation is concerned.

The positive spin on Rauf’s proposal is diametrically opposed to the attention given to Florida pastor Terry Jones with his planned “burning” of the Koran. On Tuesday night, Anderson Cooper, on his 360 program, did a “Keeping ‘em honest” interview which became contentious.

One is reminded of Francois Truffaut’s 1966 film of Ray Bradbury’s “Fahrenheit 451” for Universal and J. Arthur Rank, about book burning. And the Nazis did it in the 1930s. Jones is starting to sound like another kind of Fred Phelps.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Zakaria interviews Browder on Magnitskiy case, about Russian mafia controlling government, even Putin; also, London's radical imam

Today, Sept. 5, Fareed Zakaria interviewed investor William Browder, who was first detained at the Moscow airport and then expelled, but after he had gotten his money out. But through a bizarre chain of events, an ordinary Russian tax lawyer, Sergey Magnitskiy, would be put in prison on charges trumped up by police and prosecutors controlled by the Russian Mafia, just as in the Dragon Girl movies. Magnitskiy died on 16 November 2009 in a Russian prison after horrible deterioration. Visit the site dedicated to him, here.

Fareed also got into a “polyphonic” debate with one of the UK’s most notorious radical imams, Anjem Choudary, who claims that democracy and separation and church and state are contradictory to Islam and Shariah.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Videos, blogs and social media all have a big impact on international human rights

Google’s own corporate blog had two major postings in August on the Internet and advancement of human rights (and political dissidence) overseas. The most important posting appears Aug. 24, “What do you think about human rights (and your rights) online?", here. The posting discusses the role of user-generated video in human rights, and has a label of “video”.

There is an earlier posting “How do you advance online free expressions” Aug. 12, also posted on YouTube’s official blog (“Broadcasting ourselves”) here with labels of “free expression” (like mine, “international free speech”) and “policy and issues” (which most of my blogs are about by default).

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Anwar al-Awlaki deemed the "bin Laden of the Internet"

USA Today on Wednesday ran an important story by Aamer Madhani, about Anwar al-Awlaki, 39, deemed the “bin Laden of the Internet”, with link for the story here.

Unlike bin Laden, who is normally reclusive and hides out with a low profile, al-Awlaki acts like a Pharisee, broadcasting his ideology with sermons on the Internet. And apparently he wants to apply radical Islam by force to the entire world, apparently as much to make everything “virtuous” as to settle religious insults over occupied lands. In that sense he sounds a bit like Sayyid Qutb, or any totalitarian who wants to bring everyone to the same level, low.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Indigenous Amazon man lives in open "solitary confinement"

Here’s a story on Slate about a middle-aged man, the last survivor of an indigenous tribe, living alone in a protected (from burning and logging and clearning) 31-square-mile area of the Amazon rain forest of Brazil. The story, “The Most Isolated Man on the Planet”, by Monte Reel, has link here.

I live in a world without conventional emotional commitment, but I can’t imagine life in what amounts to open solitary confinement.

What this man experiences is something like “The Road”, as if a catastrophe had destroyed every other human being in his community. This almost sounds the reverse of the “alien contact problem.”

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

China's schizophrenia continues!

Keith B. Richburg, Washington Post foreign correspondent in Beijing, reported Tuesday “Knowing cultural value of virginity, Chinese women try surgical restoration”, link here. Perhaps that’s an odd conflagration of Confucian values in “The People’s Republic of Capitalism”. In the US, soap operas (like “Days of our Lives”) refer it with some degree of brutality.

But yesterday Bill Gertz reported in The Washington Times, “China targets U.S. troops with arms buildup; Pentagon cites ‘anti-access’ missiles in report”, link here .

The range of missiles would reach to the Middle East and probably past Australia.

All of this reminds me that in April 2001, in the early days of the Bush administration, well before 9/11 symptoms appeared, there was a confrontation over China and Taiwan that for a few days created quite a bit of fear.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

The flood in Pakistan

20% of the land area of Pakistan is under water, much of it in the northwest along the Indus river, so this is apparently not a sea level issue. It’s hard to imagine how this could happen, as news reports have generally focused on much of Pakistan being mountainous.

CNN has a gallery of particularly startling pictures here.

The poverty of much of this country is quite striking. Yet for years (going well back into the 1980s), long before people were concerned about radical Islam, technically skilled people from Pakistan have moved to Canada and the US and worked in information technology.

However on Aug. 17 ABC Nightline was describing “missions of mercy” in a “Taliban stronghold.”

We’ve only begun to imagine the political ramifications of global warming.

Wikipedia has a NASA photo of the Indus valley, comparing 2009 to summer 2010, with a detailed text explanation, here.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

UAE, India demand more right to monitor Blackberry, Skype, etc

Governments overseas are stepping up pressure to be allowed to monitor wireless networks and web traffic, especially given recent flaps with the United Arab Emirates and India.

Research in Motion, a Canadian company providing Blackberry software, is particularly difficult for some countries to monitor because of its design, leading to threats to ban RIM and sometimes other companies out of security concerns.

The most important story was by Miguel Helft Aug. 2, 2010 in the New York Times here

A factor in the UAE situation was a dispute with wireless carrier Etisalat, which UAE suspected of planting spyware on some devices. UAE wanted Blackberry to allow it a back door to watch wireless carriers and certificate authorities (see Internet Safety Blog Aug. 14).

Erika Kinetz has an AP story about India’s threat to shut down Blackberry services on Aug 31 and its battles with Google and Skype over the need to monitor traffic, here

Governments are saying that the open design of the Internet, especially wireless and mobile, as well as the possibility of steganography, makes it easier for the bad guys, terrorists, to misuse than for people to use properly.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Western consumers getting free ride on China's working conditions; bad karma?

Americans and consumers in all western countries have grown accustomed to goods mass-produced in China, and on August 10, the Washington Times ran a big story, “In China, workplace deaths a small cost; productivity tops safety laws”, link here.

China’s statist capitalism (a oxymoron for a People’s Republic coming out of Maoism) still becomes fragmented into a corrupt system involving local governance in provinces and autonomous regions.

China has about 5 million underground coal miners, and about 1 in 1000 die; in the US there are 83000, and about 1 in 10000 die.

The media has often reported the highly regimented nature of Chinese factory work, as well as the living conditions in quarters.

All of this happens in a country that holds so much American debt.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Visit to the Flight 93 National Memorial in Pennsylvania: permanent memorial under construction, 2nd temporary memorial is open

Well, in a week that the Obama administration said that our worst threat still comes from Al Qaeda, and when the Nuclear Threat Initiative was active again on its email list, and the Washington Times wrote an op-ed (Friday) on “The United States of Arabia” and another on how World War II ended (hint, yellowcake and plutonium), I went up to the New Temporary Visitor Location (west ridge) for the Flight 93 National Memorial near Shanksville, PA, about 10 miles on the line from the Allegheny Mountain Tunnel on the Pennsylvania Turnpike. Here’s the latest from the National Park Service, link.

Above, a picture of the "mushroom cloud" after the 9/11 crash of Flight 93.
Above. plans for the permanent Flight 93 National Memorial, very near the crash site.
Above, west end of Allegheny Mountain Tunnel, near the crash site. The plane didn't miss the Turnpike by much.

Update: Oct. 17, 2011

Here is a video on the site as completed by Sept. 11, 2011.  I expect to visit the site soon. The NPS video shows the new monuments structure.

Update: Oct. 26, 2011.

I visited the site today. Please see the "BillBoushka" blog today for details.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

DC area "gay" publication interviews man from Uganda seeking asylum; cultural problems are explained

The July 29, 2010 issue of the Metro Weekly has an important inverview (p. 24) with Kushaba Moses Mworeko, who had left Uganda to seek political asylum in the United States, and now lives in limbo. The interview is conducted by Will O’Bryan, with photography by Todd Franson. The link is here

The interview gives a good perspective on the cultural perspective in sub-Saharan Africa contributing to ferocious anti-gay attitudes, as well as susceptibility to extreme religious ideology and sometimes terrorism.

Moses says, “Africans, in general, have their own culture. If you are gay, not having kids, what is going to happen to you? When you die, you are dead. What happens to the family? It’s dead”. That quote is put into a panel.

The oldest boy is looked at the person who will continue the family. In some tribal areas, if a boy has no sons by a wife, he is encouraged to take a second wife to have a male heir.

The oldest child is also expected to help raise the siblings, particularly an issue in Africa where so many parents are lost to AIDS.

Wikipedia attribution link for Uganda map.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Population Reference Bureau points out contradictions in world population outlook

Page 6 of the Friday July 30 New York Times has a summary story on worldwide population demographics, by Sam Roberts, “As population keeps rising, effects vary by region’ the young man be a ‘demographic dividend’ in places”, link here.  The online title is “Population research presents sobering prognosis”.

Wordlwide, 267 babies are born every day, and 108 die daily, so world population will top 7 billion in 2011. But in many developed countries, the number of working adults supporting the retired and elderly keeps decreasing proportionally.

There is more discussion at the site of the Population Reference Bureau, and its 2010 World Population Data Sheet, here.

The right wing often points out that high income people in developed countries have a political and social obligation to have more children, to offset the “political dangers” of depending on immigration, to do the society’s “grunt work” as well as bear the risk of massive child rearing. Tuesday, on my main blog, I discussed the concept of some on the right wing that the “atomization” of society and loss of interdependence coming with smaller families within the wealthier can lead to an unsustainable sort of freedom.