Sunday, September 30, 2012

The Huffington Post, in a story by Daniel Flynn and Leigh Thomas, reports that France will tax the super-rich at 75%


Well, in France at least, the fantasies of the old "People's Party" seem to be coming home to roost.

The Huffington Post, in a story by Daniel Flynn and Leigh Thomas, reports that France is imposing a 75% tax on the super-rich “in order to stay in the center of the Euro zone”.

I presume that this is an income tax, not an expropriation of accumulated wealth.  But I’m not sure.

Naturally, there is fear that the “pinko” tax will drive a lot of businessmen from France and backfire on the French economy.

Could a measure like this work for Spain, Italy and Portugal -- and Greece?  Is this the beginning of Eruope's "purification" -- or the end of it? 

The link is here.



Saturday, September 29, 2012

Zakaria, NYTimes look at how Germany, Netherlands keep workers retrained and employed; more on Dubai


Fareed Zakaria has reported on CNN how a few countries in northern Europe maintain better employment stability than does the US or many of the more troubled countries.

In Germany, the key ingredient is employer-paid apprenticeships, such as at Siemens.  In the Netherlands, there is a concept of a “mobility center” to retrain workers, along with a concept borrowed from Denmark called “flexicurity”.  Zakaria showed how the system works at Philips.  Employers pay the difference in salary as employees are retrained for other jobs.

Zakaria explained in his one hour special “Putting America to Work” on CNN, aired several times recently.


Zakaria also explored the idea of government subsidies to specific industries, like shipbuilding in South Korea. Shipbuilding has become much smaller in the US (in the 60s, the Newport News Shipbuilding and Drydock Company was a big player while I was stationed at Fort Eustis, VA).

Zakaria also explored New York State’s support of the nanotechnology industry.

The New York Times recently explored the shortage of skilled workers in some towns and companies in Germany, by Jack Ewing (Sept. 24), “The trade-off that created Germany’s jobs miracle”, link here

All of these reports bear on the way both candidates Romney and Obama address the employment issues. It sounds as though employers can be expected to bear much more responsibility for training workers, probably closer to the Obama platform.  Government support of specific industries (even solar as with Solyndra) runs the risk of turning to pork.  CNN says “you don’t pick winners and losers; you look at the science”.

Zakaria also reported on tourism in Dubai.  I must admit that it sounds like a fascinating, otherworldy destination.  Real estate prices have fallen there like everywhere else.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Ecumenical Accompaniment Program poster seeks donations; a major simulation of a major crisis coming over Iran before election


I saw a poster at a local Presbyterian Church in Arlington VA, “help George Meek serve the West Bank”, with mention of an “Ecumenical Accompaniment Program”, which does have an advanced website explaining its purpose and functioning, here

The Outlook Section of the Washington Post, on Sunday Sept. 23,  has a three part simiulation by Karin Sadjapour and Blake Hounshell, “What if Israel bombed Iran?”, link here

The scenario imagines an incident on a Thursday night in October, during president Obama’s family dinner in the White House, and simulates the events in Washington, Tehran, and Tel Aviv.  There is no question that this sort of incident can put the president on the spot politically, an observation that increases the probability that it may really happen in October.  

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Iran will substitute Internet access with its own state-run service; flashpoint over its nukes is approaching


The “National Security” page of the Washington Post is reporting Thursday that Iran is preparing its own separate state-run Internet, which will be the only online service available to ordinary Iranians, who mostly use 56K dialup. 

This strategy is different from China, which is on the main Internet but heavily censors western sites (as well as internal political dissent).  It’s interesting how totalitarian states view that it is essential to control “ordinary people”  (especially those who are “different”) and keep them on a tether, to maintain stability.

The story by James Ball and Benjamin Gottlieb is here

In the meantime, the Obama administration is massing naval forces near the Strait of Hormuz, as tensions escalate over Israel’s threat of a pre-emptive strike to prevent Iran from being able to possess or make nuclear weapons, possibly meaning that it could pose an EMP threat in the region.  

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Commentators note the radical Islamic leveraging of asymmetry

Check out the grating commentary Wednesday by Daniel Pipes in the Washington Times (slow to get indexed) "Islamic violence advances Shariah Law: Is the U.S. ready to accept second-class status?", link (wesbite url) here.

Pipes is right, in that radical Islam seems to be knocking individualism over like a bowling pin strike;  governments are to be told what to do by individuals, and individual Americans are to be blamed for their outrage.  It seems like asymmetry run amok.

Thomas Friedman of the New York Times more or less says the same things, with more detail but a more temperate tone, here.

On CNN, an Egyptian professor (I can't find the name now) pointed out the nonsense of protesting "insults to the prophet" but not against the bloodshed going on from the Syrian government.

But we do have a problem when a huge part of the world defines its identity and purpose from a dictated religious belief, and demand that no one can ever walk on top of it.

But, after all, there were stories like that in the Old Testament, too.

There's more about the "other" cartoon controversy surfacing in France  What's next?  Mixing up cartoons with "clown questions"?  Stay tuned.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

CNN: Afghan security trainees are sometimes turning on American soldiers


CNN reported Sunday night the incidents of Afghan soldiers being trained by US security forces for internal police work suddenly turning on their American trainers.  In some cases, perpetrators have complained about insults to Allah by Americans, both soldiers and by Americans at home.

The latest story was not on CNN yet, but an older UKr story (from July) is here.

CNN reported that an Afghan trainee shot two or more servicemen suddenly, out of religious zealotry, when the soldiers had put their weapons down for regular cleaning.  

The recent incident about the “film”, seems deliberately exaggerated by Al Qaeda, is complicating peacekeeping in Afghanistan, and the trend of demands that the US government censor its citizens’ speech seems to continue.

NBC has a report here:
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Friday, September 14, 2012

Alarm about American speech increases because of film, but evidence suggests attacks would have happened anyway


The Los Angeles Times is reporting that film permit for “Desert Warriors” (aka “Innocence of Muslims”) has been pulled from public street view, at law enforcement request (both local and FBI), out of caution, from an LA location.  The permit was supplied by “FilmL.A.”   This is said to be an unusual step for security. The story (Sept. 13) is here.

But ABC News this morning issued a much more alarming story, about at Joint Intelligence Bulletin by the FBI and Department of Homeland Security, to the effect that extremist groups eager to “export anger” could stir up violent incidents a home in the US or Europe.  No specific threats were mentioned, but already there have occurred apparent “copycat” threats in Texas and North Dakota, which were quickly found to be hoaxes.  The ABC story is here

I have not been able to find the original of the Bulletin online.  It seems to be jumping to conclusions for the media to say that the film itself has endangered national security, but a newsfeed on the bottom of a CNN screen this morning said that.. NTAS has no active alerts right now.  

CNN’s religion editor  Dan Gilgoff nexplains why Muslims are so offended by some visual depictions of Muhammad.  He discusses a  1977 film called “The Message” (Moustapha Akkad)  where he is depicted as a shadow.  The prohibition also relates to idol worship, also well known in Judaism and Christianity both. (I remember that particularly from third grade, when I confessed in a religion class to having “idols”!)


The Wall Street Journal, in an opinion piece today by Husain Haqqani, argues clearly that radicals are trying to use the film as an excuse for violence.  Had the film not appeared, another pretext for rioting would have been found.  I strongly agree with this interpretation (and said so on Facebook yesterday).  “Conservative” columnists are coming around to this view.  The link (paywall) is here

The Washington Post has reported that the White House had asked Youtube to review the film Tuesday, and CNN reports that YouTube has said that the film is within its TOS requirements within the US and most western countries.  (That surprises me.) But it appears that the film will be pulled in the Middle East.
There is a letter to the Editor of the Washington Post today arguing that producers of the film have shouted “fire” in a “world that should have free speech” but doesn’t.  The link is here.

There are additional reports that the video did not gain widespread traction in the Middle East until "someone" added the Arabic subtitles (which they could have made up) and sent it to Egyptian journalists, deliberately. 

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Controversial film associated with protests is on YouTube, explained on Wikipedia


There’s more about the film (previous post).  It is simply called “Innocence of Muslims” and does not refer to destructive acts. (My comment in yesterday's post about the unprintable nature of the title was based on an inaccurate media identification of the title.) 

A typical YouTube trailer is here

Wikipedia now has an entry describing the film here.  I still do not see it on imdb. 

It was directed by Sam Bacile and runs an entire 120 minutes (so it is not a short, like “Submission”).

It appears that, at least at present, there are “free” versions of the full movie on YouTube broken into short segments.
   
The Israeli filmmaker, apparently also a real estate developer, is reported to have gone into hiding, according to an Associated Press story on “Entertainment Weekly”.  The link is here

The film has been described as "amateurish" in the media, despite subtitles in Arabic.

Later reports claim that the filmmaker is Egyptian and Coptic Christian.  The filmmaker had supposedly been under criminal charges that may have precluded his legal use of the Internet.  Supposedly 14 minutes of the film have been shown on Egyptian television.

There are reports that the Arabic subtitles and Twitter feeds have been deliberately manipulated.

There are reports that fundamentalist pastor Terry Jones has promoted the film. 

Some are comparing this to the Jyllands-Posten Cartoon Controversy in Denmark a few years ago.


Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Obscure "extremist" film from US preacher (or right-wing extremist) causes violent uproars in Egypt, Libya


Major news media are reporting on major unrest in both Egypt and Libya, over popular indignation over obscure “right wing” film made by pastor Terry Jones, which is said to insult or “hurt the feelings” of Islam.
  
An American Consulate officer in Libya was killed in the attacks. This is certainly a disturbing development on a 9/11 anniversary. 

David Aristo has a detailed account on CNN here

Russell Goldman of ABC news has an earlier story about the “film” which has, indeed, a very offensive title.  I could not find the film on “imdb.com”.  The ABC news story with the details, however disturbing, is here. I did not find the actual film on YouTube (it might violate TOS) or anywhere else, so I'm not sure how it surfaced in the Middle East.  (Note: Title found, discussed in Sept. 12 post, below.)

In the age of the Internet, a media project that is small and otherwise obscure, sometimes from small interests with little funding or domestic visibility, sometimes may go “viral”, and may attract extreme anger in some cultures where the entire meaning of life is seen in terms of religious or tribal values  -- even in countries that have passed through a cycle of "Arab Spring".  

Hillary Clinton is spoke about this Sept. 12. She said that the violent demonstrators in Libya are a small minority of the entire people. She said there now are four lives lost, and it is not clear what has happened to the remains.

Her remarks will appear shortly at the State Department website at this link.

But later Richard Engel, of NBC News, said that demonstrators were demanding that the US pass laws against publication of media (including directly posting on the Internet) of materials directly offensive to Muhammad.  Of course such laws would obviously violate the U.S. First Amendment.

NBC is also reporting that the video is indeed available (somewhere) and has Arabic subtitles. Again, if it is available, will YouTube or the service provider (whoever) pull it on TOS issues?  My understanding is that it probably would violate most providrs' "acceptable use" policies. (See Sept. 12 post).

Mitt Romney, however, has already spoken out for free speech on the Internet and accused the Obama administration's sentiments as indirectly encouraging protests (as shown in Dnesh D'Souza's film "2016: Obama's America", movies blog, Aug. 29).

The President Obama spoke. He said that the administration is working with the Libyan government to bring to justice those who attacked personnel in the embassy.  He did say he rejects speech that denigrates the religious beliefs of others, but said that this cannot justify violence.

A reporter asked "Is this war?" at the briefing.

The president's remarks will be available very shortly at this White House link.

Wikipedia attribution link for photo map of Libya.


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Friday, September 7, 2012

Britain's Prince Harry will "pay his dues"; the news on Iran's nukes grows grim


Britain’s Prince Harry, having enjoyed his party in Las Vegas and swim with Lochte, will now “pay his dues” as Captain Harry Wales in a deployment in Afghanistan, sharing a small hut with another officer in the field.  He will fly helicopters but probably not contact individual Afghans.

In Britain, military service is a royal duty.  It’s rather like our own draft, with the logic of deferments reversed.

ABC News has a story by Lama Hasan.

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The Wall Street Journal Friday had a detailed story about the latest concerns over the Iran nuclear program, “What we know about Iran’s nukes” , by Olli Heinonen and Dimon Henderson, here
  
The WSJ also had a major story on Israeli civil defense preparedness.  I saw no direct mention of EMP.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Drug-resistant TB is a big concern in India


Simon Denyer has an article on p. A23 of the Thursday Sept. 6 Washington Post about increased attention by the government of India to tuberculosis in the country, as drug-resistant strains mount.

The link for the story is here

In some communities, the government has enforced programs of supervision making sure that patients take medication even when symptom free.  Incomplete medication may contribute to the development of drug resistant strains, which don’t respond to any known antibiotics.

In developed countries, tuberculosis usually remains asymptomatic in people with completely intact immunity, but tends to occur with HIV, chemotherapy, various tumors, and sometimes in extreme age.  It can greatly complicate custodial care of elderly who may have been exposed in much earlier generations. 

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Spain may be a fun place to visit and tour, but residents are leaving and taking their Euros out


The New York Times has a disturbing story Tuesday about the outflow of money and people from Spain, due to fears that it may have to drop the euro and that its own currency would then be worth little.
   
Some people are transferring their savings to banks in Britain or even Singapore, and some people are leaving to find jobs in these countries (or maybe in China). 

The story gives an example of a Bilabo resident who runs a travel service here.

I remember Bilbao, visiting it in April 2001, to see the Guggenheim museum. I was able to get a one-bedroom apartment (two days) for just $100 a night.  I found being in the city something like being on another planet.  As I arrived there, a major marathon was just finishing.  The ETA headquarters were nearby, but everything was quiet. At night, people would assemble in bars to watch soccer; pubs were so packed that it was hard to order food.  It was a bizarre place (sort of like it belonged in one of Clive Barker's other "Dominions" in "Imajica"), with signs in both Spanish and Basque. You had to take a bus (one hour) from San Sebastian to get to it, a relatively large city. I remember that San Sebastian seemed very rich, with its famous circular beach front.

I was there before the Euro, and dealt with the peseta. But in US Dollars, prices then were much less in Spain than in France.  Spain and Portugal had the reputations then of being bargains for visitors.  

The NYT story by Landon Thomas on the front page is here

Attribution link for San Senastian picture.  Looks like a setting for a Hitchcock mystery. It would be fun to live there, maybe even after a crash.  

Monday, September 3, 2012

New book notes that Romanians long for return to communism and its job "stability"


More than 50% of Romanians long for a return to the economic stability of Communism, according to a new book by Lucian Bola, “The History and Myth of Romanian Consciousness”.

The communist government guaranteed citizens a job and a home, in the four decades before the fall of Ceausescu in 1989, but defied “economic logic”.
   
When Communism collapsed, a million people were left jobless.
  
Capitalism, some Romanians feel, allows some people to get rich only at the expense to others.
Social conservatism, then, instructs that economic freedom requires that people within small social units (families) learn to take care of each other and accept such as a fundamental moral idea, creating new questions about consistent individual freedom, and about institutions like marriage (since everyone has to take care of others anyway).

A number of years ago, 20-20 reported on the horrible state of children in some post-Communist Romanian orphanages.

There is a story about Bola in the Washington Times, a special, by Vlad Odobescu, link here

The story also gives the history of the presidency of Traian Basescu. 

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Iran is close to tipping point on nuclear fuels program


Iran is well on the way to completing a site to manufacture nuclear fuel, according to an IAEA report, in a story in the New York Times Aug. 30 by David Sanger and William Broad, link here

Iran has completed about three-fourths of the centrifuges it would need in order to support the production of its own nuclear weapons.

In recent days, the GOP has accused the Obama administration of being weak on Iran.

Allowing Iran to manufacture nuclear weapons is particularly dangerous, because it could pass them on to terrorists who could try to use them in a clandestine way, such as with high altitude nuclear blasts to produce EMP effect, over Israel or maybe even the U.S.

There is still a concern that Israel will reach a tipping point and make a pre-emptive strike, a development that Panetta had predicted last spring.