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.