Sunday, November 30, 2014

Local church discusses medical clinic in Honduras, center of child immigration crisiss

Today, at the Trinity Presbyterian Church in Arlington VA, a speaker presented a charity “Serving at the Crossroads” (link) with focus on a medical and dental clinic in La Entrada, Honduras. That is the country at the epicenter of the child immigration crisis.  The church has sent youth groups to Belize at the end of June the past few years.

The sermon ("Being Isaiah") referred to the return of captured Jewish people from Babylon (now near Baghdad) through what is now Syria.  The sermon offered slides, including one that appeared to be Gaza, and another a war-torn village in Africa (maybe Sierra Leone). 
The closing remarks today by Rev. Judith Fulp-Eickstaedt referred to the loss of “community and connection” and the replacement of “intellectual pursuit” with consumerism.  Libraries are empty while shopping malls are filled, even on a “Brown Friday”.  Our corporate culture regards people as “economic liabilities” or “commodities”.  

Friday, November 28, 2014

Hong Kong protesters face personal blackballing.

Here's a perspective from Foreign Policy on the Hong Kong protests, link. The writer notes that Britain didn't allow completely free elections when Hong Kong was a colony either.

But the most disturbing story is that "average people" seen in the protests are being blacklisted when they try to visit mainland China, especially for business or employment, or to see family.  This sounds not so much like NSA spying in the US, but an earlier time when the FBI kept track of Vietnam era protessters. 

Monday, November 24, 2014

Russia seems to be creeping over Finland; remember 1942?

The Washington Post reports that Vladimir Putin’s Russia has now become more aggressive with Finland, sending military planes into Finnish airspace and chasing Finnish vessels in international waters. The front page story Monday November 24, 2014 by Griff Witte is here

it’s not so clear that Russia is concerned about any ethnicity problem as in the Ukraine.  But it regards Finland as “neutral” and would regard Finland’s joining NATO as unacceptable, even as Finland belongs to the EU. But the three Baltic former republics joined NATO (and remember, that after the 1991 collapse of the former Soviet Union, there was supposed to exist a “Commonwealth of Independent States”).

There has long been some controversy over the origin of the Finnish people, as well as the “Uralic” language, as with this article. Most likely, the Finns (and their unusual language) descended over many millennia in part from peoples in remote areas of central Siberia, as did some peoples in Mongolia and northwestern China.  Could Putin think there cold be a “nationality” problem?

There was an important film about the Russo-Finnish war, “Ambush” (“Tie Rukejarvin”), shown at the University of Minnesota while I lived in Minneapolis.  There was another bizarre Russian film “The Return” in 2003, reviewed on my Movies blog Dec. 28, 2011.

In early April 2002, a passage on my old “doaskdotell” site dealing with terror threats from “suitcase nuclear weapons” was hacked, and some of the overlaying material seemed to name locations near the Russian-Finnish border.  This hack never recurred.  Later in 2002, a party sent me a map of locations of Russian nuclear waste.

My novel manuscript “Angel’s Brother” has a meeting between two important characters in Russia, near the Finnish border, in an early chapter.  At the meeting, an artefact is passed that will later be shown to be connected to a bizarre “biological” attack.  This plotline was developed in early 2003.  It seems as though Putin is making his moves before I can get this book done!

Friday, November 21, 2014

NSA chief says that US power grid is vulnerable to China cyber attack (also probably Russia and Iran)

Admiral Michael Rogers of the National Security Agency has recently warned that China (either the government or at least its favored statist corporations) and two other countries (probably Russia and Iran) and possibly non-state actors (connected to Al Qaeda, ISIS, or Khorasan) have the ability to do considerable damage to the United States power grid, as well as oil pipelines, flood control, and other systems. 

Of course, the most obvious question is, why is the power grid even reachable by the web?  It should not be possible topologically to navigate from my own laptop at home to a Dominion Power major substation, but it sounds like it is.  Maybe there are some Mobius strips, right out of Christopher Nolan movies.

These concerns were first voices in early 2002, after 9/11.

Fox new has a story on Rogers’s remarks, with discussion of how the US derailed Iran’s nuclear program with a hack.  So Iran and other countries could want revenge. 

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

There's no way to settle wars over religion

It’s pretty obvious what can be read into the brazen arrack at a synagogue in Jerusalem early Tuesday, as CNN gives the detailed story here.   Later, Tuesday, both Alan Dershowitz and later Piers Morgan made the point that there is absolutely no way you can negotiate the end of a violent conflict based strictly on religious tenants.

Normally, countries can settle conventional disputes as to who controls what land (although the recent debacle with Crimea and Ukraine doesn’t really support that, either). 
But some people are born into a world where the only object of their existence is to support a tribe (by raising families that perpetuate it) that claims to be the only people who obey the will of God or Allah, or who were somehow chosen as special by God.  There is no way to argue that.  
I was indeed shocked right after 9/11 over the idea of “war over religion”.  I thought we had gotten over that.  I still remember that day, on a corporate retreat on the St. Croix river (which we didn’t cancel) wondering what had really happened.  

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Bird flu found in poultry only (no people, yet) in Britain and the Netherlands

Vox, in a story by Julia Belluz on Nov. 17, is reporting on cases of “bird flu” in animals only, in Europe, resulting in killings of poultry and import-export bans.  Variations of the disease (H5N8) have been found in Britain and in the Netherlands, at least. 
So far, no humans have been infected.  The viruses are very contagious among birds and some other mammals.  In SE Asia, they have sometimes been transmitted to humans and then it has been highly lethal.  It has never been easily transmitted from one human to another, but this may have happened in China or Indonesia in isolated cases.  The Vox story is here
This sounds like something where we ought to be working on a vaccine quickly.  Would this percolate as a pandemic among humans somewhere in the world, it would be much worse than Ebola because it might be transmissible from the air.  Imagine a travel ban from Europe!

ABC had aired a film “Fatal Contact: Bird Flu in America”, directed by David Pearce, in 2005, actually filmed around Richmond, VA.  

Monday, November 17, 2014

Slaying shows the risk taken be people who help others overseas

The slaying of Peter Kassig seems to have stretched the nihilism of ISIS to a new extreme, as detailed in a CNN story here.  Kassig had volunteered as an aid worker in Syria (something not too many of us would do) and had converted to Islam. Yet, ISIS indicated that he had to atone for having been part of the US military.  And ISIS propaganda rhetoric indicates that all Americans are personally on the hook as "apostates" and enemies of Muslims, an idea that stretches a kind of thinking known in the past with some kinds of communism, where the "privileged" were seen as enemies of "the people".  Some observers see changes in the video as a sign of possible weakness.
Somehow I'm reminded of a religious sermon that says service only means something "when it costs you something".  But this?

The UN has a new report on the strategy of ISIS in subjugating civilian populations, here.
There was an impulsive subway attack in New York City that might be related to loan wolf attacks by psychopaths, NYTimes story here.  

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Disturbing behavior in South Korea, Turkey

Well, a major democratic country will dismantle its own coast guard (or put it under a civilian law enforcement agency) after it failed to save passengers in a catastrophic sinking of a ferry in April.  The country is South Korea, even more pressured by its neighbor to the north, and the news story in Today Online is here. I don’t recall that the Italian Navy or coast guard came under this scrutiny after the Costa Concordia.

The attack on US sailors in Istanbul by a left wing youth group tends to emphasize that secular “communists” still tend to make their recriminations even more personal than does almost any other enemy (even radical Islam).   The CNN account of this incident, with rocks and “bagheads” is rather shocking, here  The far Left is capable of its own kind of indignation.  
Pictures:  Skyland, Shenandoah National Park, VA.   I believe my parents stayed in the cabin in the bottom picture on their honeymoon in May 1940.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Is North Korea playing with US partisan politics in releasing the two prisoners?

The United States should ban all civilian travel to North Korea, and probably a number of other countries. That is the tone of an op-ed on CNN Saturday by Christian Wilton, link here. (Note the implied reference to the 80s hit movie "Romancing the Stone".) This follows the release of Kenneth Bae and the "kid" Matthew Miller Friday.  The release does seem timed with the GOP win in the midterm US elections, as if North Korea makes itself look more ready to deal with a "new government" (??) as did Iran when Carter was replaced by Reagan

Other stories report group tours of civilians in North Korea, which are downright dangerous for participants -- especially those who don't bow to statues, or carry Bibles.  Miller's story about the torn visa I really don't get at all.  Some observers say that North Korea is feeling the pressure of the idea of possible trials some day for war crimes.  Sunday, The New York Times discusses the role of James R. Clapper, link

Friday, November 7, 2014

Trojan Horse supposedly planted in US power grid and other infrastructure sites by Russia in 2011

ABC News has been reporting on a “Trojan Horse” style malware planted, according to Homeland Security and other federal sources, on computers involved in running the electric power grid, oil pipelines, wind turbines, and similar infrastructure components.  The ABC News story broke Wednesday night and is here  with a video by Brian Ross.
The Trojan is called “Black Energy”.  But it resembles another Trojan called “Sandworm”.
Planting of the virus seems to be a “Cold War” tactic.  It seems to have occurred before Putin’s adventurism with the Ukraine (and other former Republics, possibly even Finland) and also before the passing of the anti-gay propaganda law in 2013. 
There’s no evidence that the Russian state or Russian “mafia” business interests have tried to activate the virus, or that it could work now.  There’s a good question (debated since about 2002, shortly aftrrt 9/11) as to why critical components, like of the power grid, would be topologically accessible to the public Internet at all.  But a totally separate grid could be infected with flash drives, for example. There is debate as to how much damage a cyberattack on the grid could do, compared to a physical EMP attack.
The story is particularly curious to me for a couple of reasons.  In 2002, a file (a copy of my chapter on my DADT II book, dealing with terrorism, over a passage dealing with suitcase nukes) was hacked, and some of the jibberish appeared to refer to places near the Russo-Finnish border.  This has not happened again.
In my novel “Angel’s Brother” (manuscript) I have a lead character going to work for the CIA after leaving the military, but doing a job that might belong within the DIA (Defense Department) instead.  Soon he is involved in gumshoeing evidence of alien (extraterrestrial) activity planted all over the place.  But the pretext for involving the CIA is the belief that the Russians were the point of first contact, and had stored artifacts of contact in western arctic areas, toward Finland.   There is a puzzle in the book in that an “epidemic” occurs in high altitude areas in the West, but in areas of the world where native people’s had always lived at these altitudes (the Altiplano in South America, or the Himalaya in Asia)

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Spain passes law against hyperlinking to copyright-infringing material; does this matter in the US?

Spain has passed a knee-jerk law which can make it a crime to link (knowingly) to content that infringes on copyright.  This law, which takes effect in early 2015, seems to be a reaction to attempts by advertisers to get around paying royalties to European publishers for thumbnails and other oblique reproductions with simple links (and embeds), and a so-called “Google tax”. 

In the US, links have been regarded as “bibliographic” since 2000, although I think that there are publishers who would try to sue over infringing video “embeds”. (A few sites still claim they can control who can link to them, not very successfully.)   I try to keep my own embeds restricted to sources that appear credible or are owned by the original publisher, but even so I sometimes see some of the embeds go blank (or “go bald”) when their providers were yanked by YouTube for copyright infringement. 
Electronic Frontier Foundation has a detailed story by Jeremy Malcom, “Spanish copyright amendments will shake down news sites and censor the web”, link here.  EFF is very critical here of older companies defending older business models predicating on gatekeeping what can be published.

It’s not immediately clear if this would matter to most speakers in the US, although it could matter to companies that do business specifically in Spain.  It reminds me of the “right to forget” litigation which also started in Spain (which I visited, the Bilbao and Basque areas) in 2001.  This story bears careful watching. 

European (and UK) law is somewhat less protective of individual speech than IS law in general. One wonders how this will play out with social media sites that host jihadist material than seems to incite violence from the mentally unstable, or to recruit (as with this AP video). .  

Wikipedia attribution link for second picture, aerial view of Bilabo, including Guggenheim musuem.  First picture is mine from Hawksbill Mountain Nov. 5.  

Monday, November 3, 2014

Ebola survivors in Africa report post-Ebola syndrome including progressive blindness

ABC News, in a GMA story by Liz Neporent, reports that many Ebola survivors in Africa have a serious “post-Ebola syndrome” which can lead to joint problems,  weakness, and even blindness.  The link for the story is here. It is not apparent if this will affect those who recover with advanced care in the US and western countries.  For example, Brantly and Writebol report feeling weak after recovery but seemed to have been signaling that they were gradually recovering strength.  As far as we know, both Texas nurses are doing well, and Anthony Fauci at NIH had said, "this virus knocks you out."  Both of the first two recovered doctors treated at Emory in Atlanta have been giving plasma donations at close intervals for other patients.  Laurie Garrett had reported total hair loss in her book “The Coming Plague”.  We can only hope that early and aggressive treatment, including antibodies and anti-virals, will prevent these problems. 

Sunday, November 2, 2014

New international report on climate change is especially dire, but some question if the conclusions are "fixed"

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change issued a new report today, discussed on CNN, warning of a near 9 degree raise in global temperature since pre-industrial levels.  CNN discussed the report here is a story by Steve Almasy, link. Here is the Longer Policy Report original from IPC, link.   .
John Coleman, founder of the Weather Channel, has distanced himself from the claims, saying that the climate change proponents hire researchers to reach pre-judged conclusions.  But Weather Channel content tends to ratify climate change, and is often alarmist with its headlines.
But back in 2007, even Doug Hill of WJLA-7 had said at a high school forum that the climate change debate was largely “political”.
Picture:  Green roofs may help a little.  This on the new Drake Apartment building in Washington, DC.