Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Could Russia cut off US Internet overseas as act of war?

CNN now has a provocative story suggesting that Russia (or China) could wage war on the US by cutting trans-oceanic Internet cables, with the CNN story by Douglas Rushkoff.

Of course, that would make it difficult for Russian or Chinese hackers to disrupt infrastructure in the US, a threat recently getting attention because of Ted Koppel’s book “Lights Out”, which I will read soon.  Maybe Sony would never have been hacked.  Well, that is, unless foreign agents came to our shores and played saboteur, Hitchcock-style, in our own workplaces.

Maybe 20% of my own traffic comes across an ocean from overseas (is not confined to the Western Hemisphere).  Despite being banned, my legacy sites do have traffic from places like China and Saudi Arabia

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

A primer on Nationalist China, and more on recent hostilities with the People's Republic of Capitalism

Saturday, near the Newseum in Washington DC, as I was leaving an exhibit on broadcast news reporting of the Vietnam war (TV blog, Oct 24), I encountered a father explaining the status of Taiwan, or the Republic of China (ROC) to his son.  In earlier times we called it “Nationalist China” or even “Formosa”.

The People’s Republic of China will not maintain diplomatic relations with any country that recognized ROC.  That resulted in RIC’s expulsion not only from the UN Security Council but also the entire UN in 1971, an event often forgotten.  All of this is explained in a Wikipedia article here.

There were skirmishes around this issue early in the Bush administration in 2001, long before 9/11.  (I even recall the issue of foot and mouth disease at airports and on shoes. How little did we know our sensibilities would change.)

There’s a similar dispute now about a US warship in the South China sea, CNN story with video here. The US says that the artificial islands built by China don’t “count”.  What about some artificial islands near Dubai, all to be submerged someday by rising sea levels?  Trump is right: China is not our "friend".

Nevertheless, Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg gave a speech in Chinese at Tsinghua University in Beijing. It's a good question as to whether it's good to expect people to do business with a society hostile to our kind of individualism.
Wikipedia attribution link for P.D. NASA image of Tapei, link. 

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

NY Times provides map showing gradual resettlement of Syrian refugees within the US

The New York Times has a “map study” showing where Syrian refugees have resettled in the United States.  So far the total is 1854, compared to 92991 in Germany. Most are settled in communities where there are other Syrian refugees, or where they have relatives.  Refugees are expected to become self-sufficient in a year. There are nine agencies which supervise the resettlement (including volunteers).

By comparison, the US took in 120,000 during the Mariel Boatlift in 1980, which actually resulted in churches in southern states trying to find individual sponsors to house them.
Picture: Syria, VA, near the Blue Ridge Mountains, about 100 miles from Washington DC and a completely different world.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Cuba's long time aversion to the Internet; China tracks down dissident family members across borders

Vox has an article tracing the very slow growth of Cuba’s Internet, where only about 5% of people have access, and where there are thirty-something hotspots on the whole island.  The link is here.

Outside of North Korea, Cuba has been one of the world’s most repressive countries, on the theory that that having information should be a social or political privilege.

In the mean time, China has demonstrated it will cross international borders to bully family members of dissidents, as shown in this story  about a kidnapping in Myanmar.

Friday, October 16, 2015

CNN reports ISIS trying to hack US power grid

CNN Money led off Friday morning with an alarming story, “ISIS is attacking the US Energy Grid”, link here

The story says they are “terrible at it”, and features a video describing the Bloom Box, which helps distribute power locally through fuel cells.  NASA has considered the idea for space travel, and the devices are being tried in California. Bloom has yet to go public. 
But, to get back to the scare story,  it simply should not be possible for a hacker, all the more overseas or any disaffected domestic person, to get to the power grid, or to any electric utilities control systems,  from his computer.  

The New York Times added to this narrative Saturday, here.  Will there be a cyber Pearl Harbor?

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Political violence in Jerusalem gets "personal", something that happens more often than we admit

A CNN op-ed  by Alan Elsner points out a terrifying reality of the recent street violence in Jerusalem:  it’s simply personal now.  He writes: “It’s almost as if Palestinians are sending Israelis a message: If we are suffering, we want to make sure that you suffer to.”

It’s a mindset that reminds me of how some of the military draft and deferment system (and even Special Training Company during Basic) during the Vietnam era used to work:  If I’m exposed to the risk of maiming, disfigurement and sacrifice, so should you. To avoid it was “cowardice,” a word we don’t use that way much today. 

I wonder if some street violence in US cities isn’t motivated by the same animus.  When some people see others “getting out of things” that they had to deal with, they may see these potential victims as having it coming to them, as living off their sacrifices.  But it was somewhat that kind of thinking that drove so much of the violence in the early to mid 20th Century, from Bolshevism to Nazi Germany. 

But for one’s life to end that way is particularly ugly.  It almost makes the idea of a memorial service an afterthought, and perhaps unwelcome.  

Pictures: from recent S.C. trip 

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

New York Times gives detailed story of Syrian refugee family settled in northern New Jersey

The New York Times today has a detailed story by Liz Robbins about the life of a Syrian refugee family placed in Jersey City, link here.

Relatively few refugees can be placed in major coastal cities like New York or Washington because of high housing costs.  But the article explains how the family was screened, and how groups like the International Rescue Committee and Church World Group have formed partnerships with government.

Financial aid is provided for a limited period, during which time the refugee parents (at least one of them) needs to find work.  Many factors are considered in allowing someone in, including the availability of relatives, and sometimes sexual orientation.

The underlying question is whether an increase in refugees would require getting organizations to find more potential volunteer sponsors.  Nobody wants to talk about this yet, but it could become a theme in 2016.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Public relations firms ask for interviews; right now, I can pass along he links

I got an email regarding an interview request for Christal M. Jackson, head of the charity “Head and Heart Philanthropy”, link here. This is a social impact agency emphasizing “communities of color”, and seems to mentor social value entrepreneurs.

I’m not really set up for interviews requested by public relations, I am beginning to wonder if I could set myself up better to do this in 2016.  In the meantime, I can pass along the link.
If big-time organized efforts to help resettling refugees (now from Syria or Central America) becomes a priority in 2016, could an organization like this play a role?  It seems to work at various levels and form its own little seed activities. 


Monday, October 12, 2015

Activist try to counter ISIS abuse of social media; encrypted terror threats may be impossible for law enforcement to detect now

Simon Cotte has a rather interesting article in The Atlantic, Oct. 8, 2015, about a “volunteer” anti-ISIS activist nicknamed Mikro, somewhere probably in eastern Europe (maybe a former Soviet republic) who helps Twitter blacklist suspect accounts.  It’s not clear how he gets paid (ask that about Snowden, too), or whether innocents could get misidentified.  The link to the story is here.
And NBC News reports FBI director James Comey as saying that “dozens” in the US are in encrypted communication with ISIS, and currently US intelligence or law enforcement is unable to monitor them.


Sunday, October 11, 2015

The US has effectively outsourced the Central American refugee problem to Mexico

Sonia Nazaro has a disturbing front-page article in the New York Times Sunday, “The Refugees at our Door: We’re paying Mexico to keep people from reaching our border, people fleeing violence in Central America”, link here (big illustration online).

The article goes on to say we’ve essentially “outsourced” the  Central American refugee problem to Mexico (the biggest problem country is El Salvador, but it may even include Guyana; more about that another time).  The film "The Golden Dream" (Movies blog, Sept. 15) presents this problem in docudrama. 
The article says we need to cooperate with other countries on this just as Europe does now with Syrians.  American charities would have to go a long way (with Catholic Charities leading now).

Update: March 5, 2019

The Pulitzer Center reports "Fleeing Violence, Mexicans Seek Asylum in the U.S."  So not all the problem comes from Central America. 


Thursday, October 8, 2015

Doctors Without Borders creates controversy with its own characterization of the mistaken attack that killed 22 people in Afghanistan

Doctors Without Borders has a statement on its website calling for an independent fact-finding investigation, after colleagues were killed in US air strikes at Kunduz, Afghanistan, link here, which hit one of the organization’s facilities, killing 22 people.

But the Obama administration has issued a rare apology, after press reports indicated that Doctors Without Borders had called the raids a “war crime”, 

I’ve even heard that people are reducing discretionary giving to DAB because of the war crime language.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

AP reports FBI sting intercepted Russian criminal plot to sell nuclear waste to possible terrorists

The AP reports that the FBI has broken up several attempts in eastern Europe (Moldova) by Russian criminals to acquire and then sell radioactive materials, possibly to ISIS or other Islamic extremists, possibly to make “dirty bombs” in western cities.  The material seemed to be cesium, enough to contaminate several city blocks.

The Huffington Post maintains that the Russian smugglers tried to sell directly to ISIS, but the FBI plays down identifying any particular Muslim group, here

AP’s own Bigstory link for the reporting of Desmond Butler  and Vadim Ghirda is here

ABC is also reporting that Russia stopped cooperating with the US on rounding up loose nuclear materials around Jan 1 because of tensions over Ukraine.

I'll give a link to the most recent report I find at the Nuclear Threat Initiative (Sam Nunn), on civilian HEU overseas, here. The  NTI will surely have more to say about this story soon. 

The main damage to an area would be economic.  Homeowner’s insurance would not cover radiation damage to the value of the property, putting the indemnification risk back on the government and politicians in Congress or any affected country’s legislature.

In 2002, the Bush administration arrested one suspect, Jose Padilla, and held him in a Navy brig (Time account ).

Monday, October 5, 2015

Fascism may be getting traction in Greece

Another ominous sign, in a story in the New York Times by Matthaios Tsimtakis, “Greece’s fascists are gaining”, link here.  
So history repeats itself.  Greece’s financial crisis and hardships, and now the refugee crisis, and Islamophobia.
What this shows is that down the road, it can lead to pressure on ordinary citizens (eventually even possibly to personally house or sponsor refugees) because of the complex political motives behind the policies of their governments.  But at a personal level, this becomes a moral issue.

Wikipedia attribution link for picture of world's first computer from ancient Greece, by Marsyas, under Creative Commons 2.5 generic license. 

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Bullying attacks free speech from ordinary secular bloggers in India

Sonia Faleiro has a sobering article in the New York Times on the erosion of free speech in India by intimidation, link here
Forces trying to make India into a religious country, Hindu, have been “blamed”. But what seems notable that rather obscure bloggers, who might not normally have reasonably been on a radar screen for their readership volumes, have been attacked and some have self-censored. The government seems rather unconcerned.