Monday, August 31, 2015

Fareed Zakaria speaks up on world population demographics (again)

Sunday, Fareed Zakaria reported extensively (Aug. 30 GPS) on concerns by many governments that families, especially non-immigrant, are not having enough children.  This may be a repeat of a broadcast from June (14).  

Denmark is sponsoring trips abroad for heterosexual married couples, because (straight) couples tend to have more relations and children when away from home. 

Other European countries are well known for their paid maternity and often paternity leave.
South Korea is trying to make weddings less expensive.  And Japan is seen as the epicenter of the population bust.

Singapore (see TV blog for today for related story about forced integration of ethnic groups) has tried to implement strong pro-natalist policies but still has a population dearth.

Russia had a day in June for couples to bear "patriots". 

The US is keeping up its population because if immigration, as lower income minorities tend to have more children.  Donald Trump’s ideas of immigration could actually cause the US to stop replacing its workforce.
In Europe, rich western countries find that immigrant, especially Muslim, populations have much higher birthrates than natives, and this could leave to serious security and political problems.

Forbes had published an article in 2012, "What's behind Europe's decline? It's the birth rates, stupid" in 2012, here.  In in February 2015, the Telegraph ran an article "How Europe is slowly dying despite an increasing world population", link

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Grisly discovery near Vienna highlights overwhelming migration crisis for Europe from Middle East

Liz Sly has a big story in the Washington Post Sunday morning, “As tragedies shock Europe,  bigger crisis looms: Most Syrian refugees are stranded in worsening conditions in the Middle East”, link here.  Much of this story is motivate by the discovery of a truck near Vienna with over 71 migrants dead from a trip through Hungary, tied to an Eastern European crime syndicate.

One can only remember the issue of asylum, and recognize it seems pretty remote from most Americans born and raise here under middle class circumstances (or better), where you “take care of your own”. 

Sly has also written that much of the leadership of ISIL comes from the former minions of Saddam Hussein.

The New York Times wrote on Aug. 31, "Europe must reform its deadly asylum policies" here.  How would the refugees be housed? 

Monday, August 24, 2015

Sam Nunn (former GA Senator associated with DADT) warns on dirty bomb threat in op-ed

The Washington Post has an alarming op-ed on p. A23, Monday August 24, 2015, “The Dirty Bomb Threat”, by Sam Nunn and Andrew Bieniawski (but not Charles Krauthammer).  The link is here
The thrust of the article is to argue that hospitals no longer need to use the potentially most dangerous materials (cesium) for radiation therapy, and could relieve themselves of some security and liability exposure by switching to other materials.

After 9/11, there was a lot of talk of dirty bombs (or “radiological dispersion devices) in the media for about six months. 
The device would not kill people and might not even expose people to significant radiation. But it could destroy property values quickly, especially in dense urban areas.  It is possible to imagine it not simply in connection with “jihad” but with extreme Left-wing class warfare known from the past (as in the CNN series “The 70s”) and such possibilities were known in the 80s even if not widely discussed.   For example, property owners would really owe money on property now worth zero and not be covered by insurance companies  (war risks and radiological damage is usually not covered), so the government would have the political problem of indemnifying them.  Renters could be better off.
This would not be a device easily deployed by a “lone wolf” and would normally require a more orchestrated plot, which might have a better chance of being detected by normal counter terrorism intelligence.  Such devices could be deployed by state actors (like North Korea, or Iran).

In the period shortly after 9/11, there was a lot of attention, especially from Sam Nunn, about accounting for loose nuclear waste overseas, most of all in the former Soviet Union (including many of the Republics, including probably the Ukraine).  I even got a bizarre couple of emails (one with a detailed map of Russia) about this in the 2002 period (and my April 2002 hack on a legacy site might have been related to it). There are reasons to think that some of the material might be concentrated in NW Russia, in the general area near the Finnish border.

Sam Nunn is a former Democratic Senator from Georgia, and was instrumental in challenging President Clinton’s first attempt to lift the ban on gays in the military in 1993.  Eventually, he and Charles Moskos wound up with an idea like “don’t ask, don’t tell”, now repealed.  Moskos gave up support of DADT after 9/11 when he started arguing for a military draft.

There is another threat sometimes debated by the “right”, like Roscoe Bartlett, of EMP devices, which have been discussed here before. Although most commentators “fret” over high-altitude nuclear blasts (like the novel “One Second After”), there is a possible danger from smaller conventional microwave flux devices which the Army uses now in deployed areas (like Afghanistan) and has used in Iraq (and could have left behind for ISIS to find).  The Washington Times had an article about this way back in 2009, as did Popular Mechanics in 2001, on the retail shelves one week before 9/11 (link ).   Forbes wrote about this on a larger scale July 2014 here

The idea of smaller devices has been little discussed (except in places like Maloof’s book “A Nation Forsaken”, book reviews April 13, 2013).  But a couple weeks ago I got an email (seems legitimate) about products from Fairview Microwave, which appeared legitimate.  Why would I get it?  This isn’t the sort of product that gets advertised in spam.

Picture: Afghanistan, Fort Eustis VA museum. 

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Major DC church will help Haiti; temporary relief in Uganda; could overseas service help more with student debt?

Today, at the First Baptist Church of the City of Washington DC, the interim preaching pastor Stan Hastey mentioned a donation program to help a church in Haiti, destroyed by the 2010 earthquake, rebuild. It did not include trying to send people.

However, as reported here, local churches do send people, even college or upper high school age, to Central American countries, and (as noted in the film “We Come as Friends”) to African countries on missions.

Last evening, I was having dinner in a Silver Spring bistro before the movie, and a waitress mentioned that she teaches second grade.  I asked why she needed to moonlight in a restaurant, because I thought teacher’s salaries had improved.  She said, it was all about student loan debt.

So, putting things together, it would make sense to relieve a debt problem with service in difficult areas overseas, with Peace Corps or many other things.  And sending young adults to authoritarian or violent countries is no small order.  Many of them, for example, are quite anti-gay.

The Huffington Post reports that the situation in Uganda has improved after the country’s anti-gay law was “invalidated”, but that was more on a parliamentary measure and it could come back, story here

News media also report Jimmy Carter teaching Sunday school today in Plains, GA, (two sessions) with people driving hours to hear him, especially many immigrants. Carter still plans to go to Nepal with Habitat for Humanity after his treatments. 


Saturday, August 22, 2015

"Citizen intervention" on train in Belgium raises questions about bystander "responsibility"

CNN has been covering all day the “citizen’s arrest” made by three young Adult Americans (two in the military or National Guard) and one Brit (and one Frenchman) on a high-speed train as it passed through Belgium from Amsterdam to Paris. This was very much a new "Strangers on a Train" movie. 
The best news story seems to be here

This is frightening; given current security, this could happen anywhere. Note that there has been little more information recently about the May 2015 Amtrak crash in Philadelphia.

One important point concerned the “moral” accountability of citizen bystanders in this sort of situation, reminding one of the United Flight 93 event, or even the shoebomber incident in 2009. The British observer said, "Don't just stand by or run."  I can remember back in the 1960s, during the Vietnam era, before I was drafted, than in a public emergency, you go to someone "in uniform". 

Monday, August 17, 2015

New York Times, and Time Mag, report on world refugee crisis; why a Christian converted to Islam

An op-ed in the New York Times Monday, p. A19, by Zeynep Tufekci, “The Plight of Refugees, the Shame of the World”, link here, particularly when it comes down to quoting Angela Merkel on an answer she gave to an immigrant student.

The author thinks the world is rich enough to solve this crisis with policy, or “institutional response, not ad hoc charity”.  The latter is what Christian churches want, the former was a question on a 12th grade government test in 1961.

There is a good Blogspot  ("Em' Talkery") posting ("Displaced People") on this matter here.
Time, in an article by Naina Bajekal, p. 49, Aug. 24, 2015,  (link with paywall) depicts “Europe’s new border crisis” with a picture of a refugee camp in Calais, France, trying to get through the Chunnel to England.

Look also at this essay on Vox by Jeremy Spencer, “I was a rural, homeschooled, Christian kid; then I converted to Islam”, link here. Note the comment on equality toward the end, and his comment on when force is justified.  Note also a long story in the New York Times Tuesday, "Religion meets rebellion: How ISIS lured three friends: London girls heeded siren call tailored to teenage dreams an vulnerabilities", here

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Church in Arlington VA sends volunteers to El Salvador, and even Haiti

At a Community Assistance event at Mt. Olivet Methodist Church in Arlington VA, I noticed that the church supports sending volunteers to a Habitat for Humanity program in El Salvador.

This country is one of the most dangerous in Central America, and is responsible for “sending” a large number of illegal minor immigrants to the US.

It is, for example, much more dangerous than Belize. Previously, I’ve written about mission efforts in Nicaragua, Guatemala, and (in Africa) Kenya. 

The church also seems to be working on a program to support volunteerism in Haiti.

It would be very difficult for most individuals (especially young) to deal with this. 

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Is China's devaluation leading to a lot of rear end hot air? Anything to please the Stansberry crowd?

The media is making a lot of China’s devaluation of the renminbi, measured in yuan, rather obviously intended to make Chinese goods even easier to sell in the west and make Chinese labor even cheaper (rather anti-Maoist, to be sure).  The Telegraph has a typical explanation, here
Yahoo! has an explanation of the market’s concern, is that China is trying to get the IMF to add the yuan to the basket of “reserve currencies”.  This might be related to Porter Stanberry’s speculations that the use of the dollar as a reserve currency will stop someday, and that somehow that would bring ATM’s in the US to a halt! 

At the end of the day, the Dow was about flat, and the markets seemed to be calming down. Retiree portfolios could be hit by the stock slide, and some bond portfolios with exposure to Greece, Puerto Rico, or some other countries could be hurting, but other bond prices could rise. 
Neil Irwin of the New York Times has written about “currency wars”, but suggested that no country can continue growing as a first class power if it overly restricts the use of its currency. 
In my own “practice”, I got a lot of unsolicited emails in late 2013 about using my domain name in China, where I am supposedly banned.  There are a lot of domain name scams in China (explained here in a piece from Canada ).  But it’s curious to me that media companies – Hollywood movie studios in particular  -- have to be so concerned about selling in China, in an environment where individual freedom of speech and thought are not valued the way they are here.   

There's another big story today about China's orphans, such as here on CNN, along with a Blogspot posting on one US family's attempt to adopt, and the social media popularity of the family's efforts.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Lessons for our culture from Cecil the Lion

While calls for extradition of a dentist from Minnesota for his role in killing a protected lion, Cecil, in Zimbabwe and legal ambiguities mount (Washington Post story)  biologists are teaching us a lot about big cat social values.
Sometimes “weaker lions” leave a pride and start their own, but often they are killed as are their cubs, supposedly so that females will go into estrus and allow strongest lions to propagate their genes (Yahoo) . This is probably not always done, but it isn’t hard to imagine what this would me for human society.  Something like Nazism. But biologists have pointed out that killing the strongest (and protected lions) weakens the gene pool.  We should ponder this a little more deeply.
Wikipedia attribution link for Cecil picture, by Daughter3, under Creative Commons 2.0 Share Alike License. 

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Washington Post editorial sees Central America asylum issue for children still to be acute

The Washington Post has weighed in on the asylum crisis with an editorial Wednesday August 5, 2015, p. A16, “A family crisis: Detaining young asylum-seekers in camps is unsustainable”, link here with online title more blunt, “confining asylum-seeking children”.

There is talk of a compromise over what looks like a two-week waiting period.
Children can be released to “relatives” or “state-licensed programs” or “legal guardians”.  It is the latter that sounds controversial.  Is that what they would be looking for? 
Churches are still quite determined to run mission programs in Central American countries, even El Salvador, which sounds like the most dangerous.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Big story on continued Israeli expropriation of Palestinian homes, land, apparently without compensation, even requiring debris removal

Palestinian educator Nureddin Amro leads of the Washington Post Outlook section Sunday August 2, 2015 with the long piece “Israel wrecked my home, now it wants my land”, link here
He chronicles the destruction of most of his family’s home near the Jerusalem Old City, followed by orders from Israel that he remove the debris from the demolition, and Israel’s claim that this is public land, taken without compensation.


Saturday, August 1, 2015

Vaccine for Ebola developed quickly, seems to work, and could lead to protection of all of West Africa relatively soon

A vaccine for Ebola has proved practically 100% effective in Guinea, according to a major story in The Guardian today, link here
This trial, reported by World Health Organization (press release), raises the likelihood that everyone in West African countries (where the virus seems to “sleep” in animal populations) could be vaccinated (at no personal cost, free) soon.  Public health objectives would dictate that doing so would be the most effective way to quickly protect the rest of the world indirectly.  No longer would there be any significant risk of an incident like what we saw in Dallas, with other cases, too, coming to the US or western countries, again.  This turns a corner on the war against Laurie Garret’s “Coming Plague”.
It would be important to know if immunity to related viruses (like Marburg) is conferred, or vaccines covering other variations will be developed quickly.