Thursday, May 30, 2013

Naturalized American apparently framed as a "courier" simply by riding a bus in Mexico

I think most Americans who travel abroad are shocked at the arrest of Yania Moldando in Mexico, after authorities claimed to find marijuana under her bus seat on a “routine” security check about 100 miles south of the Arizona border. 
She is a naturalized US citizen married to husband Gary, and the couple reportedly practices the LDS or Mormon faith.
Many observers feel she was framed, in order to extort bribe money in a corrupt system.
Do ordinary American travelers need to look under bus, train or plane seats when in Mexico?  What about the resort areas like Cancun, which I would like to visit some time (to see the Maya ruins).
I have been deep into Mexico once, on Labor Day weekend of 1974, technically the same weekend that my lease in New York City started.  I went by bus to ruins350 miles from Mexico City (Teotihuacan) one day, and went to the archeology museum.  I recall the subway.  I also remember the ragtag appearance of much of the airport, and the slowness of getting out on Monday.
On Sunday, I recall that there was some sort of inauguration in the center of the city.  I was a bystander.
In 1979, the weekend I was moving to Texas from NYC, I actually flew to El Paso and rented a car, and during the weekend drove into Juarez.  I wouldn’t do that today.  A coworker went on a trip by himself about 100 miles into the country. 

It has been long recognized as risky to drive or rent a car in Mexico, but not travel by motorcoach. 
I can recall that Metropolitan Community Church has reported that the government has to approve the chartering of new churches in Mexico.
Time has a good article on the set-up p ossibility, here

Maybe a release will come soon.  Her family is being forced to sacrifice.
Wikipedia attribution link for Mexican government buildings 

Update: May 31

CNN reports that she was freed by a Mexican judge, who threw out the charges.  "I'm free", she said.  I've heard that line before!

Police had not looked a the security video before arresting her.   

Be very careful when traveling to "third world" or less democratic countries.  

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

WHO raises doomsday alarm about new SARS-like virus in Middle East; CNN makes the question personal

CNN got rather blunt with a headline on its strike page, “Should I be concerned about new virus?”, link here?  
WHO has been saying it is a threat to the entire World.  But there are no travel warnings. No particular precautions. 
So far, 55% of the about 45 people infected have died.  Health care workers in the middle East seem to have gotten it from patients, and a few close contacts in the UK got it from family returning from the Middle East.  
What’s curious is that the virus would emerge in Saudi Arabia, with its strict gender segregation which would facilitate social distancing, something we don’t want to see necessary in the US.
The natural reservoir may be bats. 
Some coronaviruses cause only colds in humans, hard to distinguish from the common cold.  But a very few can cause severe pneumonia and kidney and other organ damage.  MERV-CorV seems even more virulent than SARS was in China in 2003, although that may be hard to say so far.   

Sunday, May 26, 2013

British government censors Internet, removes some websites and articles after lone wolf attack in London Wednesday

The British government has removed up to 5700 articles and whole websites from availability in Britain, according to criteria it has developed as  apparently likely to invite self-radicalization by extremists (particularly radical Islam).

The Times of India has a story Sunday afternoon, saying the censorship has started after the Woolwich machete attack Wednesday. The link is here

The British government is examining up to 22 factors.  One of them might be instructions for home-made weapons making. I'll try to find out exactly what these factors are; the story did not list them.  

iGoogle included this as a lead story today for users who signed on to their Google accounts.  It also says that although Google has index over a trillion sites, it’s only a small fraction of what is on the web somewhere.  No clear cut search result of “inspire” was available after the Boston attacks, but it’s likely that the radical publication moves all the time from server to server offshore. 

Apparently the censorship in Britain will go down to specific IP addresses or ranges when they are known.
The censorship is troubling inasmuch as radical elements have encouraged :”do it yourself” violence at home rather than traveling to radical countries for training.  But in the Boston case, the investigation is open just on how much training the elder Tsarnaev received overseas.  It still might be considerable. 

Can rogue states really bring down the power grid with cyberwarfare or hacking?

In the past two weeks, CNN journalist Candy Crowley, on “State of the Union”, has presented several guests who express grave concerns about the ability of Iran (and probably much less so North Korea) to wage cyberwarfare on the United States and attack major infrastructure – the power grid and energy supplies – particularly in northeastern US.  Some speakers said this could dwarf Sandy and the tornadoes.
The guests include Newt Gingrich, Dutch Ruppersburger and Mike Rogers, with a link here
The media seems to be more concerned with cyberattacks than the possibility of electromagnetic pulse attacks, which can actually be localized with non-nuclear devices. 
The Reuters video below (from March 2013) says that a cyberattack could direct power grid components to destroy themselves. 
A good question would be, why can the software controlling the power grid even be accessed at all through the public Internet.  Seeing the grid as like a model railroad layout, why does the topology even allow it?

I woke up to this report by Candy this morning. Slept in after a night in the disco,  Back to reality? 

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Small London attack appears a partial "copycat" of Boston

There was a gruesome attack by two individuals in south London on one returning British soldier, which one  attacker then filmed and bragged about before being shot by British Police.  He claimed “an eye for an eye”, and “apologized” that women and children saw the attack, but claimed women and children see them in the Middle East.
The sounds like a copycat of the rhetoric of the Tsarnaev brothers in Boston.  Incidentally, a third suspect associated with Boston was shot in a confrontation with Police today in Florida.  So the London attack today (at 2 PM London time) appears to be a copycat attack. 
While individual “jihadists” might  believe they are waging “war”, western countries do not target individual public citizens for physically humiliating and maiming attacks in public places;  to do so would be considered a war crime. Most street attacks that happen in the Middle East come from other radical Islamists.  

Fareed Zakaria points out that western troops are in Islamic countries at the invitation of the governments of the countries, which Zakaria says are democratically elected (questionable point).  His speakers also point out that some Muslims, even born in European countries and Britain, are not assimilated.  
The CNN link for the story is here.  CNN videos no longer seem to be emeddable.  

Monday, May 20, 2013

George Meek presents Palestinian Settlement problem in Arlington VA

On Monday, May 20, 2013, George Meek again spoke about Israeli settlements in Palestine, at the Arlington VA Central Library.  This meeting follows up on a similar meeting at the Trinity Presbyterian Church in Arlington VA Dec. 23, 2013. 

This time he showed many more illustrations, and spoke about how, starting in 1948 (or 1967), Palestinian homes were destroyed without notice, often when children were at school.  Palestinian families were even assessed demolition fees.

He also covered the burdensome checkpoints for Palestinian workers and children, who in one case have to crawl through a culvert to go to school. 

Most of the areas he described were relatively near East Jerusalem.  The Palestinian population gets a much lower percentage of the budget from Jerusalem.  
He called upon churches to help raise money to send members for two week stays, and for three-month stays, which cost around $10000.  His organization is the Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine (link).

A couple members of the audience did raise the usual questions about Israel's security, and the reduction of suicide attacks, and seemed to take the position that Palestinians, even civilian families, had made themselves into enemies -- or perhaps international and UN agreements had let them be cast that way/

Wikipedia has a detailed history of the Israeli Settlements in this article.

Meek mentioned two films: "The Gatekeepers" (Movies blog, Feb. 28, 2013) and "Five Broken Cameras".

Update: June 30

Note this chart that Meek has about "Closure Obstacles":

  Update: April 23, 2014

There is a review of the film "Al Helm: Martin Luther King in Palestine" (Connie Field, FilmfestDC) today on the Movie Reviews blog.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

US should help China develop fracking and natural gas as part of reducing global carbon emissions

Today, on his Global Public Square (GPS) program, Fareed Zakaria said that the United States’ carbon footprint has been decreasing as its increase of natural gas increases while dependence on coal decreases.
He also said that the United States should help China develop fracking technology and develop natural gas instead of coal as part of a strategy to reduce global carbon dioxide emissions. 
He admitted that some people see fracking as controversial and said that the debate about it in the ISD is healthful, and that the same debate probably would not happen in China.
The most recent Zakaria item on natural gas seems to be here
Zakaria’s comments fall in line with the “Pickens Plan” for using natural gas as a bridge fuel. 

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

DOJ monitoring of AP phone records without warning raises questions about "whistleblowing" vs. "leaking"

Did the Department of Justice set a dangerous precedent by monitoring the phone records and communications of AP journalists?
It sounds as like the DOJ was pretty focused on a small issue, apparently the source of security leaks regarding terrorist activities (particularly an airplane plot) in Yemen or elsewhere in the Mideast. 
Journalists complain that the action will make other people less willing to talk to reporters in general for whistleblowing purposes.  But the DOJ is claiming that this is simply a matter of employees keeping their promises to safeguard classified information – from everyone.
Al Jazeera has a typical report here
A different problem could occur if an ordinary person – an “amateur” blogger – comes into contact with classified information “accidentally”.  It can happen.  Bloggers may not have the right to offer anonymity, and may have practical issues on when they need to go to authorities over real threats that they might stumble upon. 
CNN reports that there is a documentary in process called “War on Whistleblowers”.  Apparently it is produced by Robert Greenwald, who has produced many films for a company called Cinema Libre (I’ve reviewed many of his films over the years, especially during the Bush administration).  Greenwald seems to believe that the Obama administration is as dangerous as was Bush. 
Greenwald distinguishes between “whistleblowers” and “leakers”.  I’ll look up the film for review soon.  

Monday, May 13, 2013

New coronavirus (SARS) appears in Middle East; Bird flu moderates in China but is theoretically very dangerous; Roman empire ended due to plague

The Weather Channel is reporting on three major world health matters today.
One is an article about recent developments with both H7N9 (bird flu) in China, and a coronavirus resembling SARS in the Middle East.  The news story is here

The new firm of bird flu is a bit harder to control than H5N1 because it doesn’t make birds sick – just mammals.  It’s not apparent that the virus passes person-to-person, although there are one or two disturbing anecdotes.
China has gotten stricter on the sale of live poultry in open markets. 
The new SARS virus may be transmissible person-to-person in really close contact. Remember that in 2003, it really was contained by strict quarantine and social distancing rules. 
The Weather Channel also reports new evidence that a plague epidemic occurred about the time of the fall of the Roman Empire and may have hastened the fall.
It’s apparent that the biggest world pandemic threats now come from conventionally transmissible viral diseases (including smallpoc, if it gets reengineered by terrorists), rather than from STD’s that get “amplified” in a circumscribed population (gay men), as the far Right argued in the 1980s.  Of course, science fiction writers will always imagine new, Dystopia-producing viruses.  What if a virus made reproduction impossible (as in the film “Children of Men” (2006).  

Update: May 15

More concerns have been expressed about additional cases of the SARS-like illness in the Middle East (link) , possible spread to health care workers, and at least one original case in the UK where the virus was transmitted to a family member from a traveler returning from the middle East, but that UK patient had a mild infection (confirmed by specimens) and recovered.

It may happen that people with intact immune systems normally recover.

There are some concerns that it could be spread in Saudi Arabia by the hajj.

Keep up with the World Health Organization (WHO), with latest report today here

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Mixed news from North Korea; Massachusetts local authorities will check for any unusual personal motives in Boston Marathon incident

The reporting on the Boston Marathon incident has calmed down a bit, as the Cleveland situation now occupies media attention.
A few other things need to be noted. , North Korea has moved its missiles away from its launch pad, suggestion that in its own mind, its psychology of pseudo-extortion has “worked” and it can back off.  But it has also sentenced an American tour guide caught on the border to hard labor.  Typical UK Guardian report is here
It strikes me that it will be very important that in Massachusetts for local (Boston, and Commonwealth) authorities to conduct exactly the investigation that states normally do for prosecution under state laws, including grand jury proceedings.  One possibility that hasn’t been mentioned much is that the borthers could have placed the pressure cooker devices near some individual(s) that they wanted to target (after recognizing them) for any number of imaginable reasons.  These could have other legal and social consequences should they develop as valid.   It would be necessary to make sure that there was no connection between any victim or nearby uninjured bystander and either of the brothers.  Normally, this is more a function of local law enforcement.  The most recent information suggests that Tamerlan was not well accepted in his visit to Russia and decided to act on his own when he returned to the US, and became lost in his mind on personal grievances that exploded into fantasy.  But why did his brother fall for him so easily? The younger brother may have actually been more "religious" at the end.  

Update: May 16

CNN has an unpleasant story that the younger brother left a note on the boat that the attacks were "collateral damage" casualties as part of payback", here.  Of course, most casualties in Muslim lands are inflicted by other Muslims, and western countries do not deliberately target and maim individual civilian citizens up close in military operations (those would be war crimes).  It's hard to see how any religious ideology could support that behavior.  

Monday, May 6, 2013

Carbon emissions credits see price collapse, undermining efforts to curb climate change; do investors care?

Here’s an odd setback in the lukewarm strategies to counter climate change: the international price of carbon credits in Europe has crashed. 
The Washington Post reports on this Monday in a story by Anthony Faiola here
Recession, and the drop in industrial activity in Europe is responsible for the crash. However, that is happening while the stock market in the US improves to near record levels.  I was in a discussion about the market with financial planners this morning. 
Investors don’t seem to be paying a lot of attention to either sustainability or the possibility of sudden shocks to the system.
The video above comes from a British foundation 

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Go to Europe for just $84 and no passport

I made a quick trip to Europe today, for $84.  That’s $14 to park and $70 for the one-day ticket to Busch Gardens near Williamsburg, VA.
The park is organized “villages” representing England, Scotland, Ireland, France, “New France” (that’s Quebec, for those who remember the French and Indian Wars from high school American history and James Fenimore Cooper’s novels), Italy (without Amanda Knox) and Germany (including a section called “Oktoberfest”. It's a miniature "Epcot" (my last time to Disney's park was 1983).  

There’s a replica of the Globe Theater, with a “Prates” 4D” show that is actually in imdb (with a date of 1999).  I recall in tenth grade English, in 1958, when we read Shakespeare’s “Julius Caesar”, we had to know the “eight parts of the theater”.  I remember the proscenium doors. 

There is a stream train (The “Prussian State Railroad” that circles the park clockwise, like a high-pressure system.  But it stops only in Scotland, Quebec, and Italy (with a Pompeii survival ride, and a a huge Roman theater).   
The roller coaster rides are numerous. The most futuristic is the Griffon (France), but the Loch Ness Monster (from about 1978) is better known.  There’s a “Da vinci’s Cradle” which honors the gay inventor from the Renaissance.
Right next to Ireland, there is a :”Jack Hanna’s Land”, including an aviary where parakeets actually jump on to people.  There’s also a spectacular serval, who is said to have been an illegal pet near Richmond.

There's also a "Rhine River" cruise which looks pretty real.  The amount of change of elevation (and hilliness) in the park is surprising given the Tidewater location.

You can also "fly" among England, France and Germany on a gondola. 

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Arrest of three men for "cover-up" in Boston shows psychology of "back watching" in many cultures, whatever moral meaning

The media has reported how three “college friends” of  younger Boston Marahon suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev “watched his back” and removed paraphernalia from his dorm room to keep him from “getting out of trouble.”  The three were Azamat Tazhayakov, Dias Kadyrbayev, and Robel Phillipos (the last of the young men was charged “only” with lying to investigators.)
One wonders about the “moral compass” of students who feel that loyalty to another person is more relevant than the “bigger picture” of facing the enormity of the apparent crimes.
It seems, though, that people raised in many cultures overseas or in many communities here feel exactly that way.  There is no “outer truth”; there is only social position.  To a modern individualist, this sounds shocking.
In fact, there was also a video of Dzhokhar playing with a young female relative (“niece”), telling her to get out of the room after kissing him.  It seems again that this is an extension of familial and sibling bonding common in many families, something I never experienced or never had the social poise to experience.
There are two sides to my kind of introversion, or to the need for extroversion that most people experience.

Note: Later information indicates that the brothers first intended the attack for July 4.  It still seems shocking that Dzhokhar was so easily led by his brother.  But maybe not in "their" culture/