Saturday, March 30, 2013

"Amateur" blogger in Britain documents major arms trafficking in Syria against rebels


A British “Mr. Mom” blogger has documented a lot of arms trafficking to the government of Syria, according to a CMM story here
  
The blogger is Elliott Higgins, and he calls his blog “Brown Moses”.


The link for the blog (on “Blogger”) is here. Higgins indicates that he does take care with fact-checking before he publishes. 
   
This particular story does show the value of “blogger journalism”, a topic on my own main “BillBoushka” blog.  
   
Apparently he does all his research at home in Britain.  This is certainly what one calls a “niche blog”.  

Friday, March 29, 2013

How far can North Korean missiles reach now?


MSNBC published a map with concentric circles centered on North Korea showing how far missles canm reach.  The link for the “map exercise” is here

The longest possible missile, the Utna, could reach 6200 miles.  That could possibly reach as far east as Las Vegas or Reno Nevada.   

Although intelligence says that North Korea does not have the ability to put a miniaturized nuclear warhead on most of its missiles, one cannot be absolutely sure even now, and the capability could exist in a few years if not stopped. 

North Korean verbal threats escalated Friday after the US flew stealth bombers in the area.  

The greatest practical risk from a missle could be an EMP blast over a wide area.  The most obvious short term risk is to South Korea, and that could have a huge effect on consumer products and computers manufactured in the region.  South Korea, ironically, may have the world’s fastest Internet, and it seems like an obvious target. 

Huffington Post on AOL reports a "state of war" declared by North Korea on the South, but I thought that had already existed with North Korea cancelled the armistice of 1953.  Maybe the dominoes can still fall.  
  

CNN, through Fareed Zakaria's GPS blog, reports "No, North Korea can't hit Hawaii", link here

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Amanda Know faces re-trial; she need not go, but re-extradition would be legally controversial


Amanda Know got a call at 2 AM PDT  (at home in Seattle) Tuesday from her attorney in Italy that she will be tried again for the “murder” for which her conviction was overturned last year.

The trial might not happen until early 2015.  She does not have to go.  But if she is convicted, and if a new conviction is upheld by the Italian appeals system, she could face extradition from the US to serve a sentence.  But some legal experts say this will not happen, because extraditing her would violate the US standard of double jeopardy.  On the other hand, extradition could be required by US treaties.  This question would apparently wind up in American courts, maybe even the Supreme Court.
  
Even if she is not extradited after re-conviction, she cannot travel to Europe or perhaps many other countries again. 
  
The ABC News story by Phoebe Natanson is here
   
Americans need to be wary when overseas, and realize that they have to live with the possible consequences of the legal system of the country in which they are visiting.  

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

North Korea reiterates threats against US, South Korea; lack of precise intelligence is cause for alarm


North Korea has reiterated its threats against Guam, Hawaii, and even mainland United States, according to the latest AP stories.  And a sobering story on MSN this morning suggests that North Korea fits the profile of a nation that could attack suddenly.  The greatest practical threat is obviously to South Korea, link to story by Foster Klug, "Wait, then Attack", here

North Korea is angered by UN sanctions and has canceled the 1953 armistice with South Korea.  Technically, it is in a state of war with South Korea now.
  
Although the capability of  North Korea to reach American soil seems to lack credibility, the lack of precise intelligence on its exact capability (at least as far as the Obama administration is willing to report candidly to mainline media) is certainly cause for concern, maybe even alarm. 
   
The conventional ground and air assault on Washington by North Korean elements in the film “Olympus Has Fallen” is not credible, but a localized EMP blast might be.  The scenario in the film “Red Dawn” last fall, with an EMP blast on the West Coast, was a little more credible, even if rather silly in the way the film plays out.  

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Cyprus garnishes bank accounts: just to target the Russies? Or out of Leftist desperation?


I remember the wild calls from the radical Left (like the People’s Party of New Jersey) in the early 1870s to confiscate accumulated (and undeserved) wealth for “the people”.  That’s what it sounds like Cyprus is doing now, as it says it will confiscate 10% of bank deposits in the country, prompting a run.
  
This is a confiscation of accumulated wealth, not of income.  It sounds like the Bolsheviks!
  
Except that a lot of it seems motivated by Russian deposits, as explained here in Bloomberg Business Week, link. Cyprus apparently lured the Russians down there, despite their ability to cry “nyet”.
The EU, this morning, is urging Cyprus not to garnish bank accounts with balances of less than 100,000 euros, Huffington story here

I recall, in the mid 1970s, during the New York City financial crisis (the “Ford to City: Drop Dead” incident) that there was talk of garnishment taxes in the City to prevent total disorder.  The Teacher’s Union, remember, relented at the last minute.   Back in those days, saving the 35-cent fare was a big deal.  

I seem to recall that a Libertarian Party college friend of mine visited Cyprus and Greece in 1998.


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Update:
Latest information is "NO" (as with the name of the movie);  Cyprus will reject the "harsh" EU bailout to avoid the garnishment.

Is all of this the result of "demographic winter"? 

Monday, March 18, 2013

WSJ editorial notes US vulnerability to nuclear attack from North Korea, a suddenly returning epiphany


The Wall Street Journal this morning, in an editorial, called “Obama’s Missile-Defense Reversal” a “tacit admission that the U.S. will soon be vulnerable to attack”, link here

It also notes the “liberal” objection to Ronald Reagan’s Star Wars back in 1983.
  
One problem that seems particularly disturbing is the inconsistency in supposedly official assessments of North Korean capability.   Generally, it’s thought that North Korea cannot reach the continental US with a deployable missile, but it may be able to reach Alaska or Hawaii.  It’s pretty obvious that it would soon be able to attack South Korea with nuclear weapons if it even has one detonatable weapon.  And it has called off the armistice that ended the Korean War, meaning that technically it is in a state of war with South Korea now.
  
The practical threats are much more likely to involve an EMP assault rather than a fubbblown detonation, and that was the pretext of the second “Red Dawn” film last fall (My “cf” blog, Nov. 22, 2012).  Of course, the rest of that film was pretty preposterous.
  
The reduction on defense spending, as a result of sequester, suddenly seems dangerous.  Reduction has occurred in tandem with growing needs for entitlements.  Could North Korea’s “Un” be playing on this?  It sounds as if his attitude is one of nihilism, like that of a typical terrorist.
   
One implication of all of this bluster is that the “domino theory” that led us into the Korean and later Vietnam wars may not be all bunk after all.   For someone who went through the military draft in 1968 (and lived through the moral debate on deferments) this takes on a surprisingly personal aspect.   

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Pasteur Institute in Paris results a near "cure" for HIV with new anti-retroviral medication trial


Michael Smith, on ABC News, is reporting that at least fourteen patients in France have been successfully treated for HIV infection, with initial medication therapy started within two months of infection, and were able to stop anti-retroviral therapy “without a rebound”.  However, some patients were on the medication for between one and seven years. 

However, all fourteen still have microscopic amounts of HIV, not normally detectable. But this should still make them ineligible for blood or organ donation.
   
Michael Smtih has a story for ABC News March 15 here.  
  
The treatment took place at the Pasteur Institute in Paris, which became well known during the initial AIDS epidemic in the 1980s.   

Thursday, March 7, 2013

North Korea threatens US with nuclear attack (and EMP blast); is such a strike even possible?


In the mid 1990s, when I was writing my first “Do Ask Do Tell” book and considering military policy (and recalling the days of the Vietnam era draft and the Cold War) I considered North Korea the most serious threat that we had.  I wasn’t fully aware of how dangerous Al Qaeda could be, and Saddam Hussein seemed to be “in his place”.  That was how it seemed during the Clinton area.

Early this morning, North Korea issued a threat of a nuclear strike against the United States, including Washington.  The Korean language version suggests that this would happen only if the US (or its ally South Korea) invades North Korea, but the English version, very loosely “translated” hints that the attack will happen per-emptively, probably in response to UN sanctions.

The statement seems to refute the idea that the new leader takes visits by ordinary American stars (Dennis Rodman) very seriously.  Maybe such visits play into his hands.

A recent test suggests that North Korea may have achieved the miniaturization necessary to carry a nuclear warhead on a long distance ICBM and explode it, possibly at high altitude for an EMP effect.

But intelligence suggests that the range of North Korean rockets might reach Alaska or northwestern Canada or conceivably the Pacfiic Northwest, or particularly Hawaii (Pearl Harbor).  An attack would sound at least technically conceivable.  It sounds unlikely that it could get past NORAD defenses.  Yet the threat behind the rhetoric is grave enough to make one wonder if a pre-emptive strike to wipe out all of North Korea’s installations is really in order.

Even so, George Tenet had told Senate intelligence in 2003 that North Korea was capable of lobbing a missile as far as the US Pacific Northwest.  

This is not something that can be "negotiated", like the Cuban Missile Crisis.

Iran does not have a comparable level of threat, but it is possible that Iran could “give” a warhead to a terror group that could launch an EMP attack from a cargo ship off shore.  That might be harder to stop with NORAD defenses, but still should be preventable. 
  
The Washington Post has a story this morning by Chico Harlan, link here
  
AOL greeted its users this morning with a graphic story in the Huffington Post by Edith M. Lederer and Hyung Jin Kim, here. 
  
This certainly brings back the mood of the Cold War that I grew up with, including the Domino Theory.  Now, its rogue states rather than ad hoc terror groups that could pose the greatest threat.  But we thought twenty years ago because of Saddam Hussein. 
  
So far Thursday morning, the story has a low profile on the major networks.  That could change.
   
Newt Gingrich may be right about some of this. Next time the power goes out and there is no storm, make sure your laptop boots up and your car starts.  If they don’t, it’s over for all of us.  Like in the NBC show “Revolution”.  

Update: 

ABC World News started with this story and took it very seriously. The story by Johee Cho is here.

NBC buried the story in the middle of Nightly News and sounded less alarmed.


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NBC called it "predictable but worrisome" online. Neither network mentioned the grim EMP possibility. Tonight Jimmy Kimmel used the threat to make light of Rodman's trip, saying if smart people can't broker peace, then stupid people could.  He also said that this is real "news", whereas Facebook Timeline is not.

North Korea also says that its official "truce" with South Korea is over, as if it could attack at any time.  

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Did the Soviets really increase their missile threat during the Cuban Missile Crisis? Or were Kennedy (and Johnson and McNamara) warmongers?


President Kennedy exploited the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962 for his own political advantage, according to an article (:The Real Cuban Missile Crisis”) on p. 73 of the January/February 2013 Atlantic, p. 73, by Benjamin Schwarz, link here

The US still had enormous superiority over the Soviets at the time, but the biggest danger for annihilation came from submarine-launched missiles, not from, Cuba, according to the article.  The missiles in Cuba would have taken hours to launch. 

The article takes the position that Kennedy actually increased the risk of nuclear Armageddon.  Later, Johnson would use the Gulf of Tonkin and the domino theory to drag young men into the war in Vietnam. 

I had reported on the National Archives exhibit on the Crisis Oct. 22, 2012.  The exhibit has also been shown at Oak Ridge, TN.
  
A PBS documentary “The Man Who Saved the World”, reviewed on the TV blog Oct. 23, 2012, shows that the Soviets had the ability to destroy the IS with Atlantic submarines (massing at the time of Kennedy’s quarantine), which totally eclipsed the missile battery in Cuba.  

Monday, March 4, 2013

Obama rebufs Rodman's visit to North Korea


Does Dennis Rodman’s visit to North Korea, because its leadership likes hoops, mean anything?  Supposedly high Communist party officials attended a basketball game. 

The White House is reported to be irked, that the DPNK would play games with more macho American sports celebrities while allowing its own people to starve and punishing whole families for generations (up to three) for the political sins of one person.  (Anderson Cooper covered the “family punishment” on AC360 tonight.)
  
The ESPN story (Disney) is here.

Does the visit mean that Un is maybe a little less threatening with his testing of nuclear weapons, and reports of miniaturizing them so they could possibly reach the Pacific Northwest?

Hard to say. However, On Piers Morgan on CNN Monday night, Dan Rather said that any opening from any public American to North Korea could mean progress and retreat from danger, and Piers tended to agree. 
  
Kim Jong Un supposed to have shown his bluster now.  He is reported to want President Obama to call him. 
  
A possible EMP threat to the US northwest some day from North Korea should not be ignored. 

News reports have mentioned at least one American being held in North Korean gulag. 

Sunday, March 3, 2013

British pastor reports kidnapping of non-Muslims in Syria at DC church service; more on Shariah and "threat" to Americans


Today, at the First Baptist Church of the City of Washington DC, Rev. Anthony Peck. General Secretary of the European Baptist Federation, addressed the communion service with “An Intimation of Grace in a Suffering World”.   The sermon started out by considering “why bad things happen to good people”.  He spoke specifically about the plight of Christians in Syria, known to some who want Shariah, and about kidnapping of Christians who try to leave Aleppo and travel on open roads. 
  
Newsmax has an article (“The Shariah Threat to America”) from Dec. 2012 maintaining that “Shariah is the only form of religious law extant that is also meant to apply to people of other faiths, I,e, non-Muslims”.  The article discusses the way some states have passed constitutional amendments (American Laws for American Courts”)  banning the use of any foreign religious law that could result in abridgement of a fundamental right of a person in the U,S. I’m surprised that such a mechanism would be needed.  The Newsmax article  (by Fred Grandy) is here
  
The link for Public Policy Alliance and American Law for American Courts is here
  
  
This topic seems to need more media coverage soon.  

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Manning pleads guilty to some hacking charges, not to "aiding enemy"; BBC has short film on Manning


Bradley Manning has plead guilty to 10 of 22 charges against him, according to many media reports.  He is likely to be sentenced to serve 20 years in prison. His plea does not admit to aiding the enemy. 
  
Manning said that he believed that the American people need and have a right to know the “true cost of war”.
   
The UK Guardian story is here.
  
The Guardian offers a 19-minute short film “The Madness of Bradley Manning”, linked on the article.  The film discusses his same-sex relationship. (See my cf blog April 7, 2010 for the leaked film).
   
Manning was recycled in Army basic but the Army needed computer specialists in Iraq.  Manning felt that the “powers that be” were so self-serving that “we were doomed” if this wasn’t exposed.  He was particularly enraged at the targeting of people.  He was considered unfit to carry a weapon well before he was arrested.  He was also upset when he returned home on leave about being rejected by his partner and others.  Manning was disciplined for another incident (striking a female soldier) and discharged, and then turned in by a civilian hacker.