Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Israel will not warn U.S before attacking Iran, if it decides to attack

The Associated Press has a story on the Huffington Post Feb. 28 by Kimberly Dozier, that Israel will not warn the US before striking Iran to knock out its nuclear facilities if it decides to do so.  The link is (website url) here

This is serious.  Israel says that this policy would prevent the United States from being blamed for the attack by Iran and other radicals.  But it could be much harder for the US to brace itself for the Strait of Hormuz closing attempt, or for attacks around the world, possibly in the US. 

The AP’s own site is being revised and right now its stories have to be linked from member sites.

But recent gasoline price hikes seem to be related to speculation over fear of action in the Middle East.  Israel’s announcement will surely cause prices to spike again.  Also related are smaller domestic pipelines leaks and refinery fires.

Remember, the second "gasoline shortage" of 1979 was related to Iran. 

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Why is Azerbaijan group advertising a crisis to US audience? (Short film: "The Passenger")

Today, I saw a red banner ad on a Metro bus in the DC area about an crisis in Azerbaijan (with Armenia) that I’ve never heard of.  I couldn’t whip out the camera fast enough for a photo.  Here’s what the International Crisis Group says about it (link).

From the look of the banner, it’s on the scale of the crisis in Tibet with China. 

There is a short film on YouTube (13 min), “The Passenger: Armenia and Azerbaijan Without War” by the Armenia-Azerbaijan Media Bias Project, with no English subtitles, ending with a handshake scene on the border with ordinary citizens.  The countries look modern.

Wikipedia attribution link for picture of local carpet  


I found another such banner when boarding Metro bus in Rosslyn VA Sunday night, "Khojaly, A Human Tragedy Against Azerbaijan",  There is an "Azerbaijan American Alliance", link here (requires enabling scripts and popups).  The website asks for recognition of a tragedy 20 years ago, around 1991.  I certainly would appreciate explanatory comments.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Two western journalists killed in Syria

Two journalists, Marie Colvin (USA)  and Remi Ochlik (France), have been killed in Homs in Syria.  This follows on the recent death of a New York Times journalist. They apparently died as a result of government shelling with artillery.

BBC has a major detailed story with analysis by Lyse Doucet, link.

There’s a hug gap between “citizen journalism” in the west, blogging under authoritarian regimes, and professional news reporting in this area of the world which seems to get only more dangerous.  Major news networks emphasis overseas crises because they take so many chances to work there.

The Red Cross does not yet have access to remove the bodies.

Wikipedia attribution link for picture of Shuhadaa Square, link

Friday, February 17, 2012

Aghan society still adheres to tribal values, a puzzle to westerners

The New York Times pushed down on the front page the story of the death in Syria of its correspondent, Anthony Shadid, to a disturbing story by Alissa J. Rubin, “A Childhood Lost to Pay for the Sins of Others”, link here. This refers to the practice of “selling” girls in tribal Afghan society to pay for misdeeds by family elders.  Typically the girls wind up in arrange marriages and a kind of slavery, but it isn’t hard to imagine them winding up in the sex trade – and Ashton Kutcher’s “Real men don’t buy girls.”

The article describes the practical reality of tribal society, where national law and justice is not operative.  Throughout history, probably most people (until modern decades) grew up in cultures where local governance by family elders was more influential than the official political system.  In low income areas in the US, it translates into gangs.  In religious cults, it means extremely strict family values which often oppose women’s independence outside of the home (and sometimes supports polygamy).  In less well managed school districts, it means bullying, allowed to run out of control.  Call it something, call it “tribal realism”.  The Bible even seems to support the idea is some places.  It is true, tribes are expected to “take care of all their own”.

Here’s another clip, “Trouble Waters”, from MSNBC, Feb. 14, on the Strait or Hormuz.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Iran situation is getting worse quickly, maybe

CNN has a video of life aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln in the Strait of Hormuz, which is only two miles wide at one point.

Link for Wikipedia map of Strait of Hormuz.

ABC News also just reported one escalating tensions, and said that 10% of the oil used in the US and 20% in the World flows through the Strait.

It's not clear that sinking a ship could close a 10000-foot wide channel.

US forces are playing cat-and-mouse, while authorities warn of Iranian attacks around the world, possibly at Israel-related sites in the US, but more likely overseas in third world countries, where they have been attempted and have backfired.

Iran is still humiliated by the recent assassination of one of its nuclear officials.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Protests against China's policy on Tibet occur in Washington DC today; arrests at Memorial Bridge; impassioned speeches at White House

Today, I did visit a demonstration in front of the White House and Lafayette Square Park for Tibetan independence, or at least more autonomy from Chinese control.  An “heir apparent” from China will visit president Obama soon, and that seems to have motivated  the protest.

Around 10:30 AM today, some protesters were arrested draping a sign (“Tibet will be free”) from the Memorial Bridge acorss the Potomac River.  Some protesters rappelled from the bridge (NBC4 story here).

The “Campaign for Tibet” website is here.

I have thought about visiting China and taking the train to Lhasa (big deal).  But could I be arrested as a visitor to China because I have blogged about the issue (from the US)?  Does anyone know?

Here is the first video of a speech.  Sorry, the camera wouldn’t focus.
The camera focused much better for the next clip.
I caught some of this personal interview:

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Brazil sues Twitter of motorist's busting of speed traps

Brazil is suing Twitter over communications from drivers who tweet warnings about speed traps and police roadblocks.  CNN has the story (website url) here.  

Twitter apparently may be able to limit the display of offending tweets just in Brazil. But in the US, Twitter probably couldn’t be held liable because of Section 230.  Possibly there could be issues in national security or leakage (but then you get into the shield problem).

Service providers could be seriously compromised by downstream liability overseas even if it would not happen in the US.  YouTube is fighting a case in Italy (Feb. 24, 2010) where Italy assess criminal liability to executives for invasion of privacy or incitement of a hate crime in its company for content on its servers.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Newsweek has major story on the persecution of Christians

Newsweek, which I seem to receive free these days at my business mailbox (I never asked for it), has a confronting article by Ayaan Hirsi Ali, “The War on Christians”, link here
She goes into detail about a number of countries, particularly Sub-Saharan, such as Nigeria.  The politics of the Sudan and Darfur are especially sensitive. 

In the United States, mainline churches typically send groups to work in poverty-stricken areas in Central America, sometimes near drug zones, but generally not to Africa, where radical Islam is still perceived as a much more existential threat.

The article comports with the “persecution” concept that I presented earlier.

What is it that drives religious domination of others?

Friday, February 3, 2012

Panetta doesn't deny his belief that Israel will attack Iran this spring

Washington Post opinion writer, David Ignatius, traveling in Brussels, wrote that Defense Secretary Leon Panetta believes that Israel is likely to attack Iran in April or May to prevent Iran from proceeding further in development of nuclear weapons.  The original link is here

The obvious concerns about retaliation (itself pre-emptive) have been voiced this week: sinking ships in the Strait of Hormuz (and the administration is not as confident privately that it can stop it) and terror attacks in the US, including cyberattacks. 

According to Robert Windrem of NBC news, Panetta does not deny his concern, with the “Open Channel” MSNBC story here

With a story like this, “ordinary people” often wonder, “what can I do about this?”  That is, “I can only be prepared to survive with my family.”  Otherwise “it’s none of my business”.  When I was in the Army and we gave animal names to other soldiers, “The Ostrich” was one of our favorite code names.

From CNN, the anti-Gospel goes as follows:

Thursday, February 2, 2012

British tourists detained, deported for tweets

In a scenario that vaguely recalls the film "Like Crazy", two British tourists are being detained and deported for a "threatening tweet", as in this Huffington Post story by Allie Compton, link.  They also went on a watch list quickly.

Homeland Security is putting people from modern western countries like Britain on lists because it is difficult to parse them from hostile immigrants, as from Pakistan and other places, as in this World News (website url) story. It takes loosely worded statements on social media quite seriously.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Iran said to pose a major domestic terror threat to US, replacing Al Qaeda as the biggest danger

Officials in the intelligence community told the US Senate that Iran is somewhat likely to attempt terrorist attacks within the United States or western countries.  

Iran is provoked by economic sanctions, a recent assassination, and skirmishes over the Straits of Hormuz.  The biggest existential problem is that Israel would mount a pre-emptive attack, but that the United States, being softer, larger and less socially cohesive, would make a much easier target for retaliation. Or Iran could try to close Hormuz, and the US Navy could partially reopen it (though sunken ships are hard to remove) and provoke retaliation. 

Iran is becoming a bigger threat than Al Qaeda (which it does not have close ties with because of the Sunni v. Shiite issue) and has ties to Hezbollah in Latin America, Chavez and Castro.  Iran seems to be moving from the typical fascist model to the extreme Left dictatorship model  (toward North Korea), even if predicated on religion.

The Washington Times has warned a few times that a small boat off US waters could launch a nuclear blast in order to produce an EMP (electromagnetic pulse) effect over a wide area.