Thursday, June 28, 2012

China's microbloggers make slow progress against censorship

You can go to a site called weibo, let Google Chrome translate to English, and see how microblogging in China works.  You have to be able to log in to see specific microblogs, which look more like entries in Facebook’s timeline than in Twitter. The link is this

Keith B. Richburg in Beijing has an article on p. A4 of the June 28 Washington Post, “China’s bloggers are taking risks and pushing for change, one click at a time” (online title), and subtitle “China’s microbloggers”.
Richburg discusses Wu Heng (, who blogs about food safety; Wang Xiaoshan, who also blogs about food safety in the dairy area; Huanguoshan Zonshuji, whose censored blog talks about dressing like the new upper class, and Yu Jianrong, who tries to connect street children with parents.

My movies blog has an entry April 26, 2012 about a Chinese film “High Tech, Low Life” at Tribeca, about a similar blogger named Zola (and a couple others).

The link to the Post story is here.  

The story indicates that China’s censorship is erratic.  Why is an authoritarian government so afraid of “the little guy” being heard globally?  Is it just a matter of staying in power?  Partly, perhaps. But there is also a “Confucian” value system that seems to insist that you earn a place in your social culture before you are heard from, so others are cared for.  It may not make that much sense anymore.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

New study reports marked increase in H1N1 death toll worldwide

Many news outlets are reporting that worldwide, deaths from H1N1 (“swine influenza”) in 2009 may have been as much as fifteen times greater than previously reported.

CNN has a typical story here

The study was published in the British journal The Lancet (which I collected in the mid 1980s during the AIDS crisis).  The total death toll now is said to be over 500000, with more than 50% in Africa and Southeast Asia.

This makes one wonder why we are dragging our feet on an H5N1 vaccine.

The Lancet’s H1N1 page will probably be updated soon, look here.
Pictures (bottom two), from DC Metro, Public Service notices.  

Monday, June 18, 2012

Does EMP possibility justify "zero tolerance" on nukes for North Korea, Iran?

Should the United States and other western nations maintain intransigent positions on the possession of nuclear weapons (and components) by Iran, North Korea, and some other nations?

With Iran, there has been plenty of sabre rattling: threats to close the Strait of Hormuz and cripple oil supplies (maybe effective in the 80s, less convincing now), and talk that Israel could launch a pre-emptive strike this spring (echoing 1981).

The New York Times has a recent topics page on just where the wiggle room remains, here The West might allow just a little HEU to lie around, under strict supervision.

With North Korea, which apparently conducted an underground test in 2006 and has been toying with missile capability, it’s even more ambiguous.  Back in 2002, former CIA director George Tenet had testified that North Korea was capable of lobbing a nuclear missile at the Pacific Northwest.  That sounds less credible now.  There’s a wiki summarizing all of this here

Next fall, NBC is going to air a series, “Revolution”, by J. J. Abrams, that appears to be predicated on the idea that a high altitude nuclear blast over the country (or many of them around the world) could knock out electricity forever.  The Washington Times has, in the past, speculated that terrorists could launch a Scud-like missile with a rogue nuclear weapon from off-shore.  TWT was specific in pointing out that the materials could come from Iran, but it’s obvious that they could come from North Korea, or even unpoliced waste left in the former Soviet Union or perhaps poorly secured today in remote parts of Russia.  The Nuclear Threat Initiative (NTI), originally organized with Sam Nunn, has been warning about these possibilities. 

If one connects all the dots, it’s apparent that rogue states (especially North Korea) could still be more dangerous than decentralized terrorists.  That was Bill Clinton’s impression in the 1990s, and he could turn out to be right after all.

But this grim possibility certainly helps explain the reasons why the West wants “zero tolerance” on some states having any nuclear capability at all.  One day, the “Democratic Republic of North Korea” might have a trebuchet capable of reaching the US.  And Iran could, with an electronmagnetic pulse, wipe out Israel, but not without doing so to the West Bank and Arab neighbors (who are Sunni, though).

The pure Libertarian position, dating back to the days of Harry Browne, has been no intervention in foreign countries (isolationism) and perfect missile and ground "defensive driving". 

Picture: NSA, near Baltimore-Washington Parkway, 2009. 

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Egypt: Muslim brotherhood has won election -- maybe, or perhaps not -- like 2000?

CNN wire services reported late Sunday night that in Egypt, the Muslim Brotherhood's candidate Mohaned Morsi had claimed victory in the presidential election today.  But further recounts are needed, and maybe Egypt is headed for something like the US 2000 election. But that might be progress.

Stories on calls to dissolve parliament seem confusing. Since the Brotherhood has won a majority of seats, it would seem to have every reason to keep the body.

Egypt is said not to have a constitution, and it's hard to say how judicial decisions are made.  But, then again, how are they made in Britain?

As so often the case after revolution, it doesn't seem that the people have any more liberty in practice than they did before.  Revolutions can make things worse.

The CNN wire story is here

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Greece's elections could have major ramifications for US investors

There’s a lot of hype about the elections in Greece Sunday, with the likely result that Greece will drop the euro, and that other weaker nations will follow.

Of course, if these nations go back to their own currencies, those will be very weak.  The end result is investors being stiffed, debts being defaulted and perhaps repudiated.

In the long run, that has political and social ramifications on the idea of saving and accumulating and passing down generational wealth in more stable countries, and idea that the radical left wants to bring down.

Ordinary people in Greece have created a barter economy and their own script currency already, somewhat mimicking the way "intentional communities" based on labor credits work (issues blog discussion of "Twin Oaks" in Virginia, April 7, 2012). 

"Conservative" Fox news has an article on the folly of a united currency without “fiscal unity” here

CNN has an important story by Irene Chapple, here

Sunday, CNN reported that middle class families in Greece were leaving children at orphanages because they could not support them.

Update: June 17

The election Sunday apparently resulted in Greece accepting the "bailout" and staying within the Euro system. 

Sunday, June 10, 2012

The "spailout" of Spain underwhelms

Nature does not give bailouts, Al Gore has warned, either from climate change or from (the new worry) solar storms.  But the Eurozone markets will.  Apparently, European bankers are set for a "spailout", a 100 billion euro (or $125 billion) shore-up of banks in Spain.  Note, that not money for the government itself. Just indirectly.

Spain is apparently getting the largest bailout (indirectly), after Greece, Portugal, and Ireland (the last of which was a shining star for business just a few years ago).

It's not expected to have the same social effects that happened in Greece.  But Spain, like much of Europe, is facing problems with "demographic winter", in a time when France is actually trying to restore the age 60 retirement.

The London Telegraph has an op-ed on the mixed reactions of investors here.   The Washington Times has a Sunday op-ed on it, which is not as right-wingy as I expected, here, probably because it came from the AP. Yet, TWT made this a major email broadcast Sunday morning.

Reuters and Yahoo! write that the "Spain aid deal calms Europe fears" by investors, here (Angela Moon).  My legacy employer ING is limping along at a very measly 6.09.   It's a good thing that I sold employee-accumulated stock in 2002 at $16.

The rain in Spain stays mainly in the plain. 

Saturday, June 9, 2012

AC360: few journalists are reporting atrocities in Syria

On Friday, June 8, Anderson Cooper talked to journalist Robert King about the lack of journalists in Syria willing or able to cover atrocities against children perpetrated by government or other snipers.

The report is very graphic.  Cooper and King said we can't say "we didn't know", like in the 1930s.

However, it is apparently impossible for most news organizations to operate in the country now.

Update: June 12:

The Huffington Post, on AOL, in a story by Edith M. Lederer, writes "Syria Troops Used Children as Human Shields, UN Report Says", link here.   The specific report was not online yet at the UN site, but one can look for it to appear here.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

ITU WCIT-12 document stirs controversy; should Obama administration release the "TD64" report? Downstream liability exclusions at risk?

Here’s a summary on the International Telecommunications Union’s (ITU) WCIT-12 “document” and the idea that it amounts to an attempt to get the United Nations to “take over the Internet”, link here.

There is another document called TD64 which is reported to consolidate all the ITU proposals.  Critics want the Obama administration to make this document public.

I’m not sure what the significance of all this could be for the average user, but possibly limitations on downstream liability built into US Internet law could be put at risk.

EFF tweeted this link on Monday. 

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Syrian rebellion unearths old chestnut -- draft dodging

The unrest in Syria has led to a practice that used to be viewed as a mortal sin in the US in the 1960s -- draft dodging.

Young men have been leaving the country or hiding out in opposition areas, living in poverty, because they don't want to be conscripted to kill their countrymen.

An AP story, on ABC, by Ben Hubbard, is here.

The government is allowing a 90 day amnesty, or 120 days for those overseas.

How I recall the days when young men went to Canada in the 60s. I remember well a college chum's statement at a summer job in 1967 at the Navy Department, "If I thought the military was bad for my body and soul, I would dodge the draft".

I would get drafted in 1968, after graduate school. 

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Chagas disease spreads in Latin America by insect bites, then blood

Chagas disease, a parasitic infection transmitted by insect bites, is getting attention in Latin America.  Infection has a long incubation period and then may be transmitted by blood, and has been compared, somewhat misleadingly, to HIV.  Huffington Post has a story by Andres Jauregui.

The infection can be treated by toxic drugs but only before there are symptoms, which can affect 20% of people.

The Huffington link is here.

PLos Neglected Tropical Diseases has a story here

So far the disease appears only in poverty stricken areas but may have moved into South Texas.   CNN reported on it today.