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.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Cabal associated with Pakistan's nuclear program being contacted by many smaller governments

Eli Lake, in a story today (July 29) in the Washington Times, reports that a number of governments are trying to contact members of a cabal associated with Pakistan’s nuclear weapons scientist Abdul Qadeer Kahn. These governments include Brazil, Myanmar, Iran, North Korea, Syria and the Sudan. US intelligence is quite concerned that rogue states may want to have the ability to construct nuclear weapons or to pass them on to potential actors like Al Qaeda. The members are said to be being lured out of “retirement”.

The link for the Washington Times story is here.

The story is provocative since it appears so soon after the opening of the film “Countdown to Zero”.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Wikileaks at the center of controversy (90000 military records about Afghanistan; prosceution of Manning); Is Wikileaks down right now?

Wikileaks continues to be controversial, to say the least.

There is a big story (on “BoingBoing”) about the charging Bradley E. Manning for the “Collateral Murder” video from Iraq discussed and presented April 7 on my “major challenges to freedom” blog. The article contains a detailed photo of the charging documents.

Salon has an angry post “Rules of America’s Rule of Law” by Glenn Greenwald here 

Then on July 25 about 90000 military records were posted on Wikileaks, and the White House says that such postings put American GI’s in Afghanistan(in “Restrepo” conditions) at risk, as well as the outcome of pacification, as in an MSNBC story this morning, link (website url) here. The leaks apparently reported Afghan civilian killings.

When I just tried it at around 11 AM EDT Monday morning, Wikileaks was not working. It seemed to be offline rather than just timing out, from the diagnostics I got from Windows Vista.

Wikileaks is not related to Wikipedia ( source: NBC4).

Update: later Monday:

Wikileaks is up, and this seems to be the best reference to the documents, here.

Daniel Ellsberg appeared on Larry King Live on CNN and compared the Afghanistan (and earlier Iraq "Collateral Murder" video) leak to "The Pentagon Papers."

Update: July 31

MSNBC has a story "Report: Wikileaks suspect blasted Army, society on Facebook; Army broadens inquiry into disclosure of classified materials", link here.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

North Korea threatens nuclear strikes

North Korea has threatened a “sacred war” (despite the atheism of its state) with the use of nuclear weapons if the United States and South Korea continue maneuvers “Invincible Spirit” nearby.

The AP story by Eric Talmadge is here.

It's not clear that North Korea really has a deloyable device, however. It has the raw materials.
The US is using a nuclear powered aircraft carrier for the maneuvers.

It’s ironic and perhaps only coincidental that the North Korean threat emerged as the film “Countdown to Zero” aired in some cities in the US, including Washington.

Obviously, North Korea could threaten South Korea and Seoul, but a former CIA director has said that North Korea is capable of lobbing a missile all the way to Alaska or the US and Canadian Pacific Northwest.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Gel offers hope of drastically reducing HIV infection in women in Africa

A major advance against the spread of HIV and AIDS is Africa, thought to be largely through heterosexual contact, will be announced at the 18th Annual AIDS Conference in Vienna (site ), and concerns a study of a gel conducted in South Africa by the "CAPRISA" trial (900 subjects), which was found to be very effective in reducing the spread of HIV to women.

16 million of the 33 million people infected with HIV worldwide are women. And 60% of people with HIV in Africa are women.

The Washington Post story by David Brown is “Gel found to reduce AIDS risk in women; “this is really a game changer”; Chance of HIV infection cut by 39% or more”, link here.

The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation has a summary report on the conference here with details about a gradual decrease in AIDS related deaths, even as cases rise.

CNN video of CAPRISA report:

Monday, July 19, 2010

Sweden to ban home schooling; Taiwan still fears bully China

According to Michah Elseth of the Washington Times today Monday July 16, “Home school ban in Sweden forces families to mull leaving”, link here.

Some were considering emigrating to the UK, maybe even to the US. But in Sweden home schooling is typically not connected to religious motives.

Sweden will ban home schooling starting July 2011. The country claims that the state-run public system is good enough for everybody.

I met a home schooled kid at a state fair in Minnesota in 1998 and he helped us (the Libertarian Party) with ballet access petitioning. The teen got more signatures than anyone I ever saw.

The Washington Times, in a story by Benjamin Birnbaum, also reported that Taiwan war-gamed (by computer) an attack from China, a situation reminiscent of some tensions in the first months of 2001 under Bush, well before 9/11.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Bizarre videos of UFO's over China surface

Bing today offered a bizarre video of a UFO over Hangzhou, China airport, where it explodes and sends out a plume as it moves. Maybe this could be a comet, but it is certainly a bizarre sight, if valid. The link (for July 9, 2010) is here. The source is "Stupid Videos""

Bing also offers a video of a UFO over Norway with a strange spiral effect. It was determined that this did not amount to northern lights. This is the link.

There are plenty of YouTube videos of UFO’s over China, like this one:

It’s hard to say if some of these are clever fabrications. They don’t quite fit the “Official UFO” mold. The government in China doesn’t seem to object to these the way it objects to “political” Internet speech.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Small countries bond rating may depend on strenght of private businesses, flipping old paradigm in "libertarian" fashion

Floyd Norris has an interesting perspective in the New York Times Business Day on Friday July 16, “How to Tell a Nation Is at Risk”, link (web url) here.

In smaller countries, the “strength” of the private sector may be the best indicator, and we could see the “libertarian” scenario of private business bailing out defaulting governments, In the past, defaulting governments might bring down companies, but now corporate bonding ratings in a country might turn the tables and provide a ceiling for a country’s ratings.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Iraqi emirs offer fatwa calling for "mandatory marriage" to widows

Timothy Williams has a story in the “This Week in Review” section of the July 11 New York Times, “Wanted: Jihadists to Marry Widdows”, link here.

The word “marry” here doesn’t invoke Franz Lehar at all. Some experts believe that the idea is an admission of mission “failure”, whereas others say it has to do with “earthly” reward of family and raising a new generation of jihadists. Marriage is very critical to tribe survival in their society, just as it was at the time of Mohammed.

It’s interesting how marriage is so often arrange to serve other people’s purposes in many parts of the world, sometimes here. It's like the movie "Marty".

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

"Going Dutch" on eldercare

I can remember, as a teen, that people spoke of “going Dutch” with some derision when it came to dating. Men were supposed to provide for women and future babies, right?

So today (July 6) the Washington Times Commentary has two articles about the Netherlands. One is by Ivan Kennedy, “Can America go Dutch? We have to if we want to return to the old America” by Ivan Kenneally, featuring a picture of wooden shoes. Yup, some financial companies like ING tried to rule the world and ran into their own versions of the Financial Crisis of 2008. But the Dutch are credited with creating New York City, and, for that matter a few centuries before, the stock market. The Dutch have always worked on their mix of individualism and state-directed cooperation, and their own version of civility, which may have overreached itself, at least according to another piece by David C. Innes, “Netherlands’ tragedy of state compassion: Socialism undermines more than government solvency,” link here.

The key sentence in his article seems to be “The Dutch have decided that a good society is a compassionate society, and so people should provide for one another's dignity and basic quality of life ... but only through the state. People needn't actually have anything to do with one another directly.” Later, it reads “when it comes to serving the needy, regardless of the family relationship, the modern Dutch consider it enough that they pay taxes.”

The social conservatives have summarized the paradigm of modern liberalism: the government takes care of the common good, so you can make your own choices; you’re only responsible for your own choices. Eldercare, with the whole issue of demographics, is certainly pulling on us. European countries generally do provide more public funding for custodial care than does the U.S., and, when combined with low birth rates and early retirements and public pensions, a totally unsustainable situation is accumulating. And Europe (especially the Netherlands) is running into much more tension over immigration, especially from Islamic countries, partly because family ties in Islamic society are not considered a matter of personal choice the way they have become in the West.

Even in the US, it used to be that you were tethered to your family until you formed one of your own. That started to change in the 1960s. But whether you get to choose all of your emotional commitments seems to remain a morally controversial question in freedom-based societies. And that may be putting it too narrowly.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

China's Internet "publishing license" -- Hong Kong is no workaround?

The relations between western, especially American Internet companies and especially Google, got a lot of attention in the media this week, with a couple of stories in the Washington Post by Ellen Nakishma and Keith B. Richburg on Wednesday June 30 on p A8, and a newer story today July 1 by Joe MacDonald, reporting that China had blocked the Google’s pre-search “suggest” feature on the mainland, to keep users from being reminded of controversial historical events such as Tinanmen Square. The link for the story is (web url) here.

But earlier the Post had reported on the company’s application for a renewal of its “business license” in China – an operating license to allow it to offer content – and its intention to redirect visitors to a server in Hong Kong which is supposed to be technically legal under Chinese law but which the Chinese might rebuff as an end-around to censorship. The company had been doing so but stopped when warned by China but says it intends to resume.

China accounts for only a small part of the company’s earnings now but with 400 million Internet users that portion would normally be expected to grow.

It’s interesting to remember that after the invention of the printing press, European governments required printers to have a “license to publish”, a fact sometimes pointed out by Electronic Frontier Foundation. The Chinese government may be acting just out of desire to stay in power, or out of an ideological notion about the “responsibility” that should go with speech – or both.

On p A12 of the Washington Post on June 30, Steven Pearlstein provided an op-ed suggesting the use of tariffs to level the economic playing field with China – tracing problems all the way back to Nixon’s 1972 visit and giving credit to China for, it its own statist ways, for lifting billions partway out of poverty.

Update: July 12

Here is the EFF story , "China Gives License to Redirected Search of the Free and Open Internet", link here, and users in China can use unfiltered searches from redirection to  (for Hong Kong).  The 1997 handover has interesting political consequences -- but there is concern that there may be more restrictions we don't know about.