Thursday, July 31, 2014

Homeland Security ponders the threat of jihadists raised in the US

The story of American teen and then young adult Muslim, Moner Mohammed Abusalha, who martyred himself in Syria, has startled Homeland Security authorities because he came back home (to Florida) before returning.  The story in the New York Times July 31 is  ”Suicide bomber from U.S. came home before attack; difficulty tracking trips to and from Syria illustrates problems for authorities”, link here  authored by Michael S. Schmidt and Mark Mazzetti.  However, the course of the story may seem “reassuring”, that many radicalized young men are more interested in remaining overseas (in Muslim homelands) to fight for their causes than to bring it back here.  However, the New York Daily News ran a story in which Abusalha rants, “We are coming for you”, link here.  All of this seems to heighten the need to do a full trial in the Boston Marathon case, to find out what makes someone like that tick.  

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Extradition difficulties could compromise "America's Most Wanted"; more on limits of nuclear deterrence; more on child migrant crisis (Maryland governor asks for foster parents)

In the “international area” there are a few concerns today
One of these concerns John Walsh’s show “The Hunt” on CNN (most recently reviewed on the TV blog, July 27).  There is a possibility that a long term fugitive could try to hide in a country with which there would be complications should the US (or a state within the US) try to extradite.  For example, a criminal might hide in Italy, and count on the Amanda Knox situation to make it harder for the US to get him back.
Vox has talked about North Korea’s strategy of threatening nuclear attacks that it can’t possibly carry out (link).  Of course, this is never funny, and that is part of the point.  Acting crazy may seem to improve one’s bargaining position (especially in front of one’s own subjugate people).  But Vox goes on to suggest that Richard Nixon played this game with the Soviets in the early 1970s. Nixon made a goodwill trip to China in 1972 – I remember the television coverage although I haven’t seen the entire opera “Nixon in China” by John Adams – so this claim seems to lack traction. Moreover, when I was “drafted” into the Army in February 1968 and in Basic Combat Training at Fort Jackson, SC, one of the points was that US willingness to put draftees on the ground in combat in Vietnam (in response to the Domino Theory –  a good item for high school history exams now) instead of relying strictly on nuclear deterrence, was indeed part of the strategy of making nuclear war less likely, given how the Cuban Missile Crisis had evolved in 1962.  This might sound more important now given Putin's recent behavior. 

There’s still another item.  The State of Maryland, or Democratic governor Martin O’Malley (so helpful with gay marriage in 2012) now is asking citizens and charities (especially faith-based) for help sheltering children with foster care in the child migrant crisis, since some may be housed in Maryland.   The link fir information and volunteers is here.  There was a story that some migrant children would be housed at a facility in Bristow, VA, near Manassas (Prince William County), link here  but that is uncertain.  No call from the state for volunteers has surfaced in Virginia yet that I have heard of.  No, I am not prepared to become an emergency foster parent, “the Drogheda House” notwithstanding, and that is a karma problem.  

Update: March 27, 2015

Know was finally cleared today (as was Sollectio), detailed story on CNN here

Friday, July 25, 2014

Obama weighs the idea of allowing Central American children file for asylum while still at home : what would that demand of ordinary Americans?

President Obama is said to be weighing offering refugee status to children still in Honduras or possibly other Central American countries while the children are still there, on a case-by-case basis, were danger from gang violence can be shown, according to a Time Magazine story by Denver Nicks, link here. his would sound problematic.  Would a child get status only if prospective sponsors or foster or adoptive parents stepped up in the United States?  How could this work?  Would faith-based groups get involved, pressuring their members?

The Christian Science Monitor, in a story by Francine Kiefer, reports that Central American politicians have told Obama, as he meets with them, “we can’t do it alone”, story here. Does that get personal? 

Thursday, July 24, 2014

CNN reports that artillery has been fired into Ukraine from Russia; rebels kidnap CNN journalist

CNN reports that there is new evidence that Russian forces are firing artillery into eastern Ukraine from Russian territory, as well as providing high-tech artillery to Russian rebels, which brought down Malaysian Flight MH71, story here. This sounds like deliberate aggression.  It reminds me of the Soviet incursion into Hungary in 1956 (when I would have been in seventh grade) and into Czechoslovakia in 1968 (when I had been drafted into the Army).

CNN also reports that one of its freelance journalists (Anton Skiba) has been detained by rebels in eastern Ukraine.  He was taken outside a hotel.   Far from the world of armchair blogging, real war journalism can be as dangerous as combat.  Anderson Cooper worked this way as a young man in southeast Asia and paid his dues.  So has Sebastian Junger.  

Update: July 25:

Ukraine seems to have no control of its eastern regions at all.  Timothy B. Lee has ventured into foreign affairs to write an anlalysis of the collapse of the Ukraine government on Vox here

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

The new right wing and fundamentalist fantasy: "There are no victims, only casualties; we all need to man up for conflict"

Hayes Brown, of ThinkProgress, has put out an op-ed about a piece in the Wall Street journal, by Thane Rosenbaum, that “there are no Palestinian civilians”, TP link here , WSJ link here.  There’s the obvious question, are Gazans and Palestinian civilians “forced” to shield terrorists?  Their society has no “third amendment” (which is largely forgotten in the US).  Matt Bruenig weighed in on the question of whether civilians bear personal moral responsibility for what their governments do here.  A bigger moral question, deserving attention in sermons, is how one behaves when finding himself living in a grossly unjust society.  That would seem to apply to anyone living in the Middle East.  Does a settler on the West Bank, if living that way because he was brought up to do so by family, bear moral hazard and risj for expropriation?   One could extend these arguments to anyone living in the West with some unfair inherited advantage, especially to influence policy.  In that sense, there are no victims, only casualties.  In my own personal situation at 71, I could hardly ever be a “victim” in my remaining years, if I was taken suddenly because of someone else’s outrage over “inequality”.
Perhaps this is just dangerous intellectual self-indulgence.  But then today the Washington Post calls Vladimir Putin’s Russia a “rogue state” in an editorial , as if Putin were a white (if hairless-chested when horseback-riding) Somali warlord.  When you think of post-Soviet nukes and remember the Cuban Missile Crisis (when I was 19), it all rings up. Timothy Garton Ash writes about “Putin’s Deadly Doctrine” of “protecting” ethnic Russians, as if ethnicity really means something in the 21st Century, here.   It does when you have a low birth rate.
As far as whether we are all soldiers at some point – well, I did go through the draft, brokering on the student deferment system of the 60s, winding up sheltered enough.  Maybe that was more cowardly than going to Canada.  But in Basic Combat Training at Fort Jackson, DC in early 1968 (right after Tet), we were taught about the Geneva Convention, which is supposed to protect soldiers as prisoners of war.  It seems like the pundits are forgetting even this.  Maybe so are some of the survivalits building arsenals.

 And, by the way, when I was permanent party in the Army, stationed at Fort Eustis in 1969, wtih well-educated buddies with advanced degrees, most of them saw Russia (the Soviet Union) as much more dangerous than China, even when applied to the Domino Theory., 

Friday, July 18, 2014

The stuff from Gaza, and the targeting of teens, is just horrific; Washington Blade covers it (as well as Washington Times)

First, let’s start out with a commentary in the Washington Times on Wednesday, July 16, “Separating cause and effect in the Middle East: The conflict didn’t follow Israeli occupation, but preceded it”, by Clifford May, link here. May disagrees that Israeli presence and expropriation causes the conflict in Gaza.  He says that Palestinians missed a chance to use peace to build a beachfront real estate boom.  I don’t know whether such an argument could apply in the West Bank, where we’ve covered a lot of work by George Meek (at Trinity Presbyterian Church in Arlington VA) and others on Israeli expropriation of Palestinian property for settlements.
The Washington Times has a particularly grisly report by Jennifer Pompu about the Palestinian teen who was burned alive, July 17, here.  So I was rather shocked to see a story this morning in the Washington Blade, by Lou Chibbaro, Jr., “Jerusalem LGBT Center Falsely Linked to Killing of Palestinian”, link here.   The reader can go to the Blade for details, but it is disturbing enough that even the insinuation was made.   

Wikipedia attribution link for aerial of Gaza in May 2005 

Monday, July 14, 2014

Straight couple gives glowing report on health service with Peace Corps in Uganda; what happens with LGBT volunteers in a country like this?

The Wordpress “Freshly Pressed” collection (which is available to people with Wordpress accounts, whether free or through a provider like Bluehost) offers a selection of original new posts (rather like “next blog” from Google) and today I saw a rather catchy story “A Local’s Perspective”, by “Kelly and Ari” from the Global Health Service Partnership sponsored by the Peace Corps, on a blog called “A Year in Mbarara”, which is another city in Uganda.   The story talked about the rewards of serving in a different culture. The story made no mention of the horrific consequences of the anit-gay law in Uganda.  The consequences of the law is that many possible volunteers could not go to a place like that, and employers or engineering companies, for example, could not send some employees, like recent college grads, there.  Uganda may not have yet experienced the lawlessness of some nearby countries like Kenya and the CAR, but the passage of these laws has been followed by breakdowns in other areas (like Nigeria).  Here’s the URL for the story.

Reddit has a page on LGBT volunteers in the Peace Corps in Uganda and other similar places, and some remain closeted.  That wouldn’t possible for somebody with an aggressive social media presence.   

Thursday, July 10, 2014

ISIS captures some uranium; concern over Earth's magnetic field weakening

ISIS (aka ISIL) commandos seized about 88 pounds of uranium at a university in Mosul in northern Iraq.  But it appears not to be highly enriched.  Slate, referring to a New York Times story, say it “probably” cannot be made into a nuclear bomb or dirty bomb, story here.   Vox media has a piece explaining the ISIS caliphate and why the ideology behind it can become dangerous globally, here.  By the way, I am two degrees of separation removed from someone who lived in Mosul. 

There’s another “apocalyptic” story  today . Laura Dattaro has a story for the Weather Channel indicating that the Earth’s magnetic field is weakening much more rapidly than previously thought, and a gradual magnetic pole flip could start much sooner than 2000 years from now (a concept behind the novel “The HAB Theory” by Allan W. Eckert).  The main practical consequence can be that the Earth’s magnetic field protects it much less effectively against solar storms and coronal mass ejections, allowing the power grids to be seriously compromised. 

Update: July 15, 2014

CNN has a story indicating that it unlikely that ISIS could use this material to make either a nuclear or even a "dirty" weapon.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Zakaria says that nationalism is on the rise everywhere; remember how WWI started

Fareed Zakaria made a general comment on his Global Public Square program Sunday that deserves singling out.  He noted that even in Europe, nationalistic and sometimes rightwing parties and movements are gaining traction. 

Even in richer countries, he said, people are looking for a sense of group or national identity.  Call it eusocialtiy, or the social force that makes people root for soccer, football and baseball (in the US) teams.  The optimism of Denish D’Souza (as in the film “America: Imagine a World Without Her”, Movies blog, July 7) notwithstanding, not everyone has the “luxury” of defining and executing his own individualized expressive life plan in advance.  

That becomes something authoritarian leaders like Vladimir Putin can chew on.  It’s particularly noticeable with anti-gay laws and measures, where homosexuality is said to be un-Russian or anti-African, probably because it runs counter to fertility (or fecundity). 
We’re approaching the 100th anniversary of World War I, which started it all.  And remember how that began.

Update: July 10, 2014 (my 71st birthday)

Got some pictures of the Ukrainian Embassy, the first building on M Street as you turn onto it from Key Bridge.  I guess the Ukraine is a prime example of what Zakaria is talking about. It's also near Frances Scott Key Park.
The C&O Canal is there, and then the Whitehurst Freeway, which my family (parents and me) drove hundreds of times in the 1950s on the way home from church.     

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Palestinian exile follows Israel's return; more on ISIL; Smithsonian invites guest participation in China, Kenya exhibits

Today, Interim Pastor Stan Hastey at the First Baptist Church of the City of Washington DC gave a simple characterization of the decades-long struggle between Israel and Palestine.
The Jews were returning to their ancient homeland, as they had before the time of Christ (after exile to Babylonia, now in Iraq).   But to do so, they believed that they had to drive the Palestinians out of their own homelands.  So returning from one exile leads to another.  Again, this interpretation comports with the work reported here previously by George Meek, concerning the eviction of Palestinians from their homes without compensation. 
The Washington Post today has an important piece by Daniel Byman on p B3 of Outlook, “5 Myths about the Islamic State”, link here.   Byman poohs the idea that ISIS has any immediate aims against the US.


On Saturday afternoon, I went through the Smithsonian Folklife exhibitions on China and Kenya.  That’s a lot quicker, cheaper, and safer than going there.  The Kenya exhibit had a “storytelling” session that invited the audience to “join in”. 

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Fear of surveillance and turf-protection could lead to break-up of Internet as we know it

There’s increasing talk of a “breakup of the World Wide Web” or of a “federated Internet” these days. 
Countries want certain kinds of data hosted only on servers within their borders.
And some African or other third world countries want a model where content senders pay a tariff on ata sent into their countries.  This was a measure associate with the ITU and was never brought to a vote.  A lot of this material is discussed in an Atlantic Monthly article “The End of the Internet? How regional networks may replace the World Wide Web?”, by Gordon M. Golstein, here
Back in Nov. 2013, the Guardian had published an article “NSA Surveillance may cause breakup of the Internet”, by Matthew Taylor, Jemima Kiss and Nick Hopkins, here

But the biggest incentive seems to be foreign governments that don’t want some data published and self-distributed at all. “The right to be forgotten” seems to enter this discussion. 

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Kidnapping and murder of Israeli teens reminds us that in many parts of the world, everyone is viewed as a soldier (casualties v. victims)

Both sides of the activity surrounding the kidnapping and murder of three Israeli high school students by rogue militants on the West Bank, demonstrate the horrible dilemma for kids brought into the world and raised by parents in that part of the world, both sides loyal to religious and political ideologies.
The kids are targeted and punished for what their parents supposedly do, or what the Israeli government does – which, as we have covered here before, often seems to have included taking lands from Palestinians without compensation.  And now, as a story in Vox Media today by Max Fisher, link;  it seems as thought the Isreli government will punish Palestinian civilians for the actions of rogue militants as if they had been coordinated by Palestinian leadership.
In many parts of the world, every citizen, from teenage years on, is a soldier.  They don’t have a choice about it.  It doesn’t add anything to refer to them as victims, but more as casualties. 
It’s well to remember that terrorists regard every citizen who “benefits” from his or her society as a combatant.  No one gets out of watching their back, in their world. 
All of these concerns have to be reflected upon in conjunction with the recent concerns the intentions of “ISIS” (or “ISL”) who have declared their unrecognized Caliphate to be official.  Do they want to rule their own world or ours too?    

Update: July 4

Fareed Zakaria writes on CNN's GPS, "Social media poisoning Middle East politics", here