Thursday, March 26, 2015

Yew's death makes us ponder authoritarianism in Singapore, without corruption; India's Internet restrictions

The New York Times has an interesting issue “A Rebuff to India’s Censors”, link here . The issue is a law called Section 66A which had been intended to deter speech contributing to terrorism (after the 2008 Mumbai attack) but instead has been used suppress normal criticism or personal communications.  The ruling also said that only government, not private groups, could force social media companies to take down troubling posts.
The death of Singapore’s former president Lee Kuan Yew (WSJ covers Bill Clinton’s attendance at the funeral here ) is also notable.  Singapore, a city-state whose only natural resource is its harbor and climate, built a prosperous economy with very little or no corruption (compared, say, to China and Russia) despite a somewhat authoritarian system that did limit personal freedom, especially open speech.  Singapore was noted in the 80s and 90s for strict cleanliness and anti-littering laws, with canings as punishment (even for visitors).  Yew also claimed to be pro-family and pro-natalist ("Asian values"), but nevertheless Singapore has more recently struggled with a low birth rate.  There is an idea in some political circles and progress and stability – and respect for future generations – only happens with a lot of discipline on the individual (especially the “divergent” or “factionless” today). Usually that results in a lot of corruption of leadership (like in Russia).  But in Singapore it did not.  Of course, Singapore is smaller. The Singapore Symphony Orchestra made a lot of recordings of obscure romantic works in the 1980s for Records International and Marco Polo labels. 
A coworker vacationed in Singapore in 1999.  
Wikipedia attribution link for photo of Marina Bay Sands, by “Someformofhuman”, under Creative Commons 3.0 Share-Alike license.  

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Group claiming to represent ISIS "names names" and addresses of soldiers online, a form of asymmetric warfare

A group that claims to represent ISIL has “published” (on an offshore location) a "hit list" comprising about 100 of the names and homes addresses of active duty US military, according to major news media, such as NBC (here )  Apparently the story originated with Reuters.
Similar claims had been made last autumn, and included civilian journalists.  However, this time the information is reported to be more specific.
It would not require hacking to get the information, which is sold by data banks like “Been Verified” and “Instant Checkmate”, which in turn have acquired the data from public records.
The US military has allowed reporters to identify some soldiers in operations, possibly compromising them.  It’s likely that this practice will change, and it will be harder to get detailed reporting on overseas strikes.  All branches of the services are contacting the servicemembers and families involved and launching criminal investigations.  Most of the specific  servicemembers are probably currently deployed now.  The open and "gatekeeper-less" nature of the Internet adds a new element to asymmetric warfare. 
Depending on wording and circumstances, the publication of such a list on the web (with imputed instructions to would-be “lone wolves”) would probably be viewed legally (under US federal law) as a conspiracy or threat and not be protected by the First Amendment.  But legal fine tuning would be needed to separate from “fantasy” postings, discussed on my main blog March 21. 

Military personnel, even at a senior level, live both on and off base.  Most bases admit occasional non-employee civilian visitors with proper identification for legitimate purposes, for example visiting on-base museums.  This practice could change.  

The "personalization" of asymmetric warfare and psychological conflict is not new.  A good example is the mentality behind the younger Tsarnaev's engravings on the boat before he was apprehended. This kind if thinking was sometimes found on the radical Left when I was coming of age.  Soldiers in Vietnam and DOD workers were viewed as personally "complicit" in the minds of some.  

Friday, March 20, 2015

Refugee (and asylum) crisis: does the Syrian issue transport to the same for gays?

David Miliband has an indicative story on p. A17 of The Washington Post Friday, March 20, 2015, p. A17, “How to aid Syrian refugees”, titled “U.S. should boost resettlement of Syrian refugees”, link here. There is a related article on WND Faith from December 2014 here
It’s his Third suggestion that gets attention.  Milibank mentions Syrian communities in the US in states like California, Michigan and Pennsylvania.  He says some persons in these communities would be prepared to sponsor and house refugees and support them.  This sort of idea is difficult for the administration to propose, because it would put individual Americans in the moral spotlight. So it’s not talked about.
Imagine the same idea with refugees from anti-gay places (Russia, Nigeria, Uganda, Gambia, not to mention most of the Muslim world).  It was talked about in southern states in 1980 with respect to the Cuban refugees then, but did not work out particularly well. 
Curiously, on a brief volunteer experience yesterday at a local church, this exact topic came up in conversation.  Word spreads fast.  I actually heard this on the Crop Walk in Arlington last October, too. The faith-popular word for this idea is "radical hospitality".  
On the Russian anti-gay law, remember how far downhill Putin has gone since it was introduced, with all of his aggressive "nationalistic" moves, and now weapons deployment.

Update: March 22

This morning, Fareed Zakaria noted that the US took in only 588 refugees in 2014, compared to the millions hosted by Jordan and Turkey, which even try to provide free health care. 

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Netanyahu waffles back toward "net neutrality" on a 2-state solution

Back in the mid 1970s when I worked for NBC at 30 Rock in NYC, an orthodox Jewish co-worker said, “Give the Palestinians their homeland so we can just get along”, and then admitted that not many in his faith cohort wanted to hear that. 

So Benjamin Netanyahu, after addressing Congress separately (and leading to the “treason” debate, complementing impeachments of the past) now waffles back, admitting that he isn’t committed to a one-state world.  The White House is furious, as the New York Times explains here  as do other media outlets.
Netanyahu said he feared that a Palestinian state would become a refuge for terrorists, especially ISIS.  He also, somewhat rightfully, says that a nuclear Iran can bring an end to the Israeli state, with one high-altitude blast (EMP).  But Iran and ISIS are enemies of each other. 
Yet, to secure itself, Israel has taken land away from individual Palestinian families without compensation, as we have often discussed here.
People often believe that, to survive, especially to have a future for their children, they have to maintain “tribal” loyalty, and base moral systems around that loyalty, regardless of whether the cause is right or wrong eventually by history.  Does that make individual people participating responsible for the causes of their leaders.  Pastors like Rick Warren say no, that carries “personal responsibility” too far.  But terrorists have to be held responsible for what they do as individuals, regardless of the external peer pressures on them, right?  How do we reconcile individualism and group-think?  No wonder religious groups go to war to prove that they are “right”.  So do nationalities (Nazis, Soviets, today’s Russians). 
Take note of the “Freedom from Religion Foundation”. Little Ron Reagan, a libertarian, says he doesn’t fear “burning in hell”.  (Could he run for president for the LP?) 

Monday, March 16, 2015

"A Star Is Born" in southern France (ITER)

On Sunday, Fareed Zakaria reported on a project in southern France to “create a star” on earth, a plasma fusion nuclear reactor as a potential power plant.  His video link is here
The New Yorker has an article (“A Star in a Bottle”) from 2014 by Raffi Khatchadourian, here.  He says that time is running out.
Alok Jha reports on the project (called ITER, for International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor) for the Guardian here.
Picture of hardware from ITER and Kent Zilla on Wikipedia, attribution under Creative Commons 3.0 Share Alike. 

Friday, March 13, 2015

Bird flu H7N9 in China has a chance to become a global pandemic

The current bird flu epidemic in China, H7N9, jumps to humans more easily than does H5N1 and could become a pandemic threat, the journal Nature reports, with the secondary story in the Washington Post today on p. A3 by Lenny Bernstein, link here.  Fatalities in China from H7N9 have increased rapidly.
Bird Flu is exacerbated in China because in some communities people live in very close proximity to feed and livestock.

There would be an obvious question as to why more is not done about a vaccine for people, ahead of time, even before next flu season. 

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Putin's aggression now said to make NORAD nervous

Barbara Starr, of CNN, reports that US and Canadian military defenses of the homeland against missile attacks by NORAD may be questioned in light of Vladimir Putin’s latest aggression. These comments came from Adm William Gortney before the Senate Armed Services Committee, link here.  Russia has a new missile which we apparently don't know how to intercept, and tests have been closer than every before.  Is Russia arming up for a new Cold War?  The anti-gay propaganda law almost fits in as a warning strike. 
The comments are disturbing because NORAD would also have to be able to defend against a high-altitude electromagnetic pulse blast (as depicted in the novel “One Second After”). 
Former Baltic Soviet Republics, especially Lithuania, are nervous now.  The NBC series “Scorpion” suggests that Putin will move in Belarus, and a hack that I received in 2002 suggests that Finland could be at risk some day again.  

Update: March 16

CNN reports that Putin admitted he was thinking about arming his nuclear warheads before invading Ukraine.  And someone I know with some contact to the White House suggests that Putin is going out of his mind.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Lithuania institutes male-only conscription as a hedge against possible Putin aggression

Lithuania, which was formerly a Soviet republic, is restoring military conscription for men.  Fareed Zakaria mentioned this on his GPS show on CNN today.  It was not clear the exact ages or service terms.  Zakaria reported that about 70 countries in the world have a draft, including, of course, Israel. Switzerland requires able-bodied civilian men to be weapons trained at home.  In some countries, the draft was a reason for lifting older bans on gays in the military. Business Insider reports the story here
Lithuania is also reported to have issued a “survival manual” for civilians in case of a Russian invasion started by Vladimir Putin’s antics. As we know from our own Vietnam era draft, governments consider conscription as a tool to stay away from the brink. 

Lithuania is a member of the European Union, but fears NATO could not act fast enough, at least in the beginning of an assault. 
In other stories, there are reports of arrests in relation to the assassination of Boris Nemtsov, and one suspect committed suicide, link here
Wikipedia attribution link for map of Lithuania, showing historical changes, here. (pd, author Knutux).

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Interesting international travel show in DC

I took a gander at the Travel and Adventure Show at the Convention Center in Washington DC today (link). 
There were some audience shows, and I watched a very interesting slide show about travel in Australia.  The presenter emphasized that, because of the size of the continent, a two-week trip could probably only adequately cover one section of the country.  The presentation emphasized the southern coast (like "The Twelve Apostles"), including Tasmania, and then focused some attention to Queensland, the Barrier Reef, and finally the northern jungle and then the center, where Ayers Rock is located.
Next door I overheard another presenter put in a plug for Kazakhstan, a former Soviet Republic a hevily Islamic population.
The admission was $16 cash for adults, and the show continues Sunday.

There was a fair amount of new material compared to last year. 

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Documentary banned in India because one interview scene includes supposed hate speech ("India's Daughter")

India has banned the broadcast of a documentary Leslee Udwin, “India’s Daughter”, about the gang rape of Jyoti Singh, because the film contains an interview where one of the convicted rapists blames the victim. ABC News has a story here from its Australian bureau.

The story was reported on CNN Wednesday morning.  India wants the film banned worldwide, at least until that scene is removed.  But the filmmaker insists that the scene needs to be included for journalistic integrity.  Others see including it as promoting hate speech. Does a journalist have a responsibility to let, say, the Westboro Baptist Church articulate its views in a documentary? Same question for the KKK. 

Sunday, March 1, 2015

More on radicalization; notice the way an ISIS bride experiences her life, in her own words

There’s a lot of attention to why teens in the West are attracted to ISIS, such as this piece by Jethro Mullen on CNN, link here.   A lot is said about people needing something to belong to, and distrust of a “winner take all” world.  It does seem likely that the teens really believe the “end of the world” apocalyptic ideology, or could be in a position to believe it.  And the parents don’t see it.
One female from Scotland who migrated to Syria and became an “ISIS bride” makes very revealing comments in her Tumblr blog post.  Notice how the culture is predicated on the total dedication of every aspect of (marital) sexuality to religious purposes, as if the knowledge that everyone has to conform actually makes it work.