Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Obama will retaliate against Russia for hacks before Trump comes to office, at some risk of Russian cyber retaliation on US power grid

The Obama administration will take retaliatory steps against Russia for the supposedly proven hacks into both political parties, especially Democrats, during the election.  NBC News has a typical story here.

This will include “naming names” (a Randy Shilts idea), and economic sanctions.  Cyber intrusions from the NSA or CIA could lead to Russian cyber attacks on our infrastructure, as suggested in Ted Koppel’s book “Lights Out”.  It's well to remember Sinclair reports that some utilities have malware in power distribution systems planted there in 2012 that they can't remove.

Russia’s anti-gay propaganda law in 2013, seemingly related to its paranoia over population demographics, seems to have been a prelude to aggression in Ukraine, maybe the Baltics, maybe Finland, and certainly support for Assad in Syria.

Yet Donald Trump thinks Putin will be his friend.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Washington Times presents a disturbing picture of terror recruitment in northern Virginia

Rowan Scarborough of the Washington Times reports on Dec. 27, that over 2016 nine people from northern Virginia, near the nation’s Capitol, have been arrested for promoting terrorism or trying to support ISIS, link here.   One of the individuals, the oldest, had graduated from West Potomac High School (where I have worked as a substitute teacher) and worked as a Metro police officer.

The article mentions recruiting through "gratuitous" social media, but doesn't get into the use of the Dark Web and apps like Telegram (WSJ story in October).

The article also discusses arrests in Minnesota among the Somali community.

The comments on the article are disturbing, some of them concerned with America’s supposed Christian identity.

Sunday, December 25, 2016

UN vote to condemn settlements on West Bank sounds right to an individualist, but not for the 'tribal" idea of security and "friendship"

The U.S. officially abstained from the U.N. action (allowing the Security Council to pass unaminously)  condemning Israeli settlements on the West Bank, as explained in this CNN story Christmas Eve.  The New York Times carries the story here. Netanyahu has summoned home ambassadors from countries which voted for the risk, which eventually includes the US for abstaining. Ambassador Shapiro will be replaced by Friedman under Trump.

Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC), a hawk on national security with whom I often agree, calls for defunding the UN, story .

Lindsey is no fan of Donald Trump, having scorched him in the primary season over the proposed Muslim immigration ban, but Trump iscertainly suggesting he will reverse US policy back for a “friend”. 

I’ve covered the expropriation of property of Palestinian families here before, and there is controversy as to whether Israel is staying within the law and its own “Zone C”.

However, there are many reports to the effect that ordinary Israeli’s sometimes want to move to the settlements for “life style”.  Graham’s idea that having ordinary civilians buffer a supposed enemy is a dangerous one.  The policy is essentially viewing civilians, on both sides, as combatants and that can fuel the idea of targeting civilian non-Muslims in western countries as if they were equally morally guilty (in terms of karma) as “combatants”. 
Wikipedia: By Greater_Jerusalem_May_2006_CIA_remote-sensing_map_.jpg: CIAderivative work: Timeshifter (talk) - Greater_Jerusalem_May_2006_CIA_remote-sensing_map_.jpgThis is a 3500-pixel-wide version of the above-linked original map that is 8,264 × 10,696 pixels, with a file size of 53.3 MB. This 3500-pixel-wide version is 5.54 MB., Public Domain, Link

Update: Dec 28

John Kerry condemns settlements in speech, and Netanuahu replies, NBC story. . Vox has the text of the speech here

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Christmas market investigation in Europe rapping up, but a grim future for European security remians

I won’t belabor the details of the Christmas market truck attack in Berlin, but the very latest story includes the shooting of the prime suspect in Italy and the arrest of three more suspects in Tunisia, CNN story here. Both the original (incorrect) first suspect and then the perpetrator had apparently hidden as “asylum seekers”, later turned down.

There’s no question that Trump can try to make a lot of this as to how asylum seekers will be treated in the U.S.  In "retaliation" ISIS has apparently "published" a list of religious targets in the US, a list which the FBI says is very old and riddled with misspellings and errors.

Michael Birnbaum has a grim front page article in the Washington Post, that for Europe, religious or “resentment” terrorism may be a “fact of life” for decades.

As for internet recruiting, the Washington Post has pointed out  terror groups are using the permissive dark web app “Telegram”) story by Joby Warrick. Young men with petty criminal records and an inability to "get" modern life seem to be particularly drawn to the "brotherhood" of religious cultism.  

Monday, December 19, 2016

Does Poland provide an example of what happens when Populists come to power?

Does Poland provide a window on what can happen when populists come to power?  A front page story in the Washington Post Monday by Anthony Faiola provides a look at the anti-intellectualism  .  Teaching about science and evolution is limited.  Some government support for stay-at-home moms, in a Catholic tradition, happens.  Gay issues are on a back burner (there is no same-sex marriage) although the atmosphere doesn’t seem to be as hostile as in Russia (there was a major vandalism incident though involving a gay community center recently). The most disturbing item in the report seems to be discouragement in some areas against women being on their own, independent of men.

When I did visit Poland, it was described by the State Department as a "moderately developed country" emerging into free markets and capitalism.

Wikipedia attribution link for southern Poland mountains under CCSA 2.5.

Friday, December 16, 2016

Russian hack during election creates threats of future infrastructure and power grid attacks

Many media sources report that Vladimir Putin personally authorized hacks of both Democratic and Republican servers, and deliberately tried to help Trump get elected, partly as a vendetta against Hillary Clinton.  NBC News has a typical report.  President Obama had told Putin in September to “stop it” or there would be consequences. 

But the problem is that could invite counter-attacks from Russia, especially against infrastructure and power grids.  This could provoke a kind of WWIII.

Or it could provoke Putin to become more aggressive in the Baltics, conceivably even Finland.

John McCain is reported to have said that the hacking episode could "destroy democracy" in the US (Time link).  

In the New York Times Sunday, p. 5 (Review section), Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt have an op-ed "Is our democracy in danger?"  They write "Past stability is no guarantee of our government's future survival."  That idea could very well provoke an enemy into an even more ambitious terror attack (something like EMP), justifying the doomsday prepper mentality. 

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Horror in Aleppo

Multiple media sources report the slaughter of civilians in Aleppo today by Assad’s forces in the eastern part of the City, supposedly trying to root out rebels (or ISIS?)

The Guardian has a story on the White Helmets (which is a short film on Netflix) in recent hours, here.
CNN has the latest story on a supposed cease-fire from Russian sources, here.

NBC reports on a report of a cease fire according to rebels after people were burned alive.

Reports of Assad atrocities come from "people who have been credible in the past".

Wikipedia attribution link for White Helmets logo under CCSA 4.0

Friday, December 2, 2016

ISIS fighters could stage bigger attacks in Europe, according to Interpol intel; Mattis is probably a better pick particularly for Trump

Media outlets are reporting disturbing intelligence from Europe that returning ISIS fighter could mount larger attacks, including car bombs, chemical attacks, and personal kidnappings.  NBCNews has a typical story here. Executives, of course, are used to this kind of risk and have extra security, but returning fighters could make a combative political point by going after "ordinary people".  The risk would be much less in the United States (Pulse and Santa Barbara notwithstanding).

Fred Kaplan of Slate has a balanced article on Trump's appointment of Marine Corps general "Mad Dog" Mattis as future Secretary of Defense.  There is criticism that Trump is relying too much on the military for policymaking.  But I think here, Trump needs a general there because Trump has no experience himself with "the draft".  (Well, he got out of it.)  Maddis is actually against torture and believes in following the UCMJ and Geneva Convention by the book.  He also is, relatively speaking, more focused on Iran, Russia and North Korea as opposed just to ISIS when it comes to making priorities.  Trump needs this viewpoint.  He may have a leg up even on homeland security issues like cyberwarfare.   

Monday, November 28, 2016

Why the US "lost" the Vietnam war

There is an important Letter to the Editor in a "Free for Fall" in the Washington Post, Saturday, Nov. 26, 2016, p. A13, "Why South Vietnam was defeated", here.

The letter emphasizes that the withdrawal of US military aid from 1973 on led to the downfall of the South, and eventual capitulation in 1975, even though Vietnam has recovered as a quasi-capitalist country since then.  The Domino Theory, which so affected my own life,

Our military may have won the war, but the politicians lost it.  And the war was fought with a very unequal system of conscription (there was a lottery starting in 1969).  Indeed, the disadvantaged and blacks did proportionally more sacrificing. 

Saturday, November 26, 2016

North Korea could reach Washington DC with nuclear missiles within four years (CNN)

Donald Trump has attracted criticism for his blase attitude toward national security briefings, attending only two of them while Pence (the effective president?) has attended them all.

But the Obama administration has warned Trump's people about the existential danger created by North Korea. First, it's likely to do something provocative on Inauguration Day (UK story).  Furthermore, CNN said on Saturday afternoon (no story yet) that North Korea now may be able to attack South Korea and Japan with nuclear weapons, and will have a missile capable of reaching Washington DC in four years, during the Trump years. We had heard in the past that it might have a missile reaching the Pacific Northwest, or possibly the north central states through the Great Circle routes.  Would NORAD be able to stop them?  Or would an EMP blast over the US be possible?

Trump's past remarks about Kim Jong Un have been ambivalent, and a confrontation between them could be volatile indeed.

There's an important story in the New York Times about economic refugees from "Communist" Venezuela here. 

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Detailed story on attacks on Raqqa surfaces on Twitter

I saw a bizarre story on Raqqa in Arabic in my Twitter feed, which suggests that air strikes are happening and Kurdish fighters are involved, the link here.

The English in the Google translation was a bit muddy and hard to follow.  There is a very interesting photo of the scenery around one of the borders.

CNN has a story by Marwan Hisham on what happens to Raqqa in the future, here.

NYPD and/or FBI has arrested a Brooklyn Uber driver who had traveled to Turkey and Yemen with a recent plot involving Times Square,  The New York Daily News has the details here (from Monday).

Wikipedia attribution:
By Lazhar Neftien -, CC BY 2.0, Link

Sunday, November 20, 2016

OAN correspondent Trey Yingst reports on Aleppo in detail in live feed

OAN correspondent Trey Yingst did a live feed tonight, from Aleppo, Syria if I understood correctly, with the easiest link (20 min) in my own Facebook Timeline here.

Yingst described the decimation of medical services and infrastructure, and the idea that all anyone wants to do is eliminate "terrorists".  Most civilians have very little idea of the political forces, including Assad, Russia, ISIS, and various Islamic and other factions.

Donald Trump seems focused only on ISIS and seems to have little actual knowledge of the details of what is going on as he conducts meetings for his new staff.

I forwarded the address to WJLA7 for live viewing.

CNN has a similar story about attacks on hospitals and civilians, with no availability of medical treatment, here.

Update: Later Nov. 21

Trey Yingst has a second video now, here. 

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Why India's "war on cash" matters

Libertarian sources are reporting heavily on India’s confiscation (or refusal to recognize as legal tender) of larger cash bills, as in this story on FEE, “India’s War onCash”. 

The government fears that people can hide income, assets and wealth from taxation with “off the books” cash transactions.  Good point.
Ultimately, it could lead to a fear that people will hoard cash (what about gold and silver) and not take any risks in investing.  They you get negative interest rates.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Trump may be more sympathetic to West Bank settlements, but Palestinian families would be compensated

William Booth and Ruth Eglash have an important front page story in the Washington Post, “Right-wing Israelis see opening on settlements”. The story says that a Trump administration may be more supportive of Israel with respect to settlements apparently outside of the approved zones (like Zone C) or on private lands previously owned by Palestinians.  But the article says that Palestinian families would be compensated with other land.
Vox Media recently explained how the settlements work by Zone.  The report caused some controversy among some Palestinian-supportive groups who claim that there are many illegal settlements.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Human Rights Watch notes the grim situation for LGBT in Nigeria

Human Rights watch has a scathing report on the results of the "anti-gay marriage law" in Nigeria, here. It was circulated on Facebook by Center Global today.

Despite the nomenclature stressing marriage, the law (like Russia) prohibits promotion of gay organizations or rights.  It also seems to prohibit assembling of people for homosexual encounters.  (In the US, some states like Virginia, used to have such laws.)

Nigeria has been a source of some asylum seekers, whose processing is still somewhat complicated legally and a bit of a mystery with the public, something I have covered a lot on Wordpress recently. 

Friday, November 4, 2016

NBC, CBS report separate intelligence on possible terror threats around the US presidential election next week; some threats involve the Internet and power grids

Some of the more alarming international news goes first on this blog.

NBC News, late Thursday, reported intelligence chatter that suggested threats to the Internet and power grid(s) – apparently through cyberwar – on Election Day.  I posted this on Facebook and it got reshared a lot very quickly.  NBC speculated that the DDOS on Dyn could have been a "dress rehearsal" and seemed to hint that the threats could come from Russia and Vladimir Putin. They could come from non-state actors working for Putin under the table.

But early on Friday, social media started reporting a CBS News story about NDA intercept of Al Qaeda chatter about possible attacks in New York, Texas, and Virginia (apparently including Washington DC) on Monday, within 24 hours of the election. These reports, while vague, would tend to suggest physical attacks of some kind.  It’s not clear yet if this is part of the same story NBC had reported, but it appears that the enemies are different (Russia v. radical Islam).  Al Qaeda is the older group associated with 9/11, and is not the same as ISIS.

CNN mentioned the CBS story (only) at around 11:45 AM this morning (after heavy commercials).  CNN still does not have an obvious link.

WJLA posted a story from its owner Sinclair Broadcasting in Baltimore, which sounded a tad more alarming.  Sinclair had reported on the EMP threat problem (rather unusual from major media companies) in July, in a report aired on WJLA briefly; but a subsequent “Your Voice Your Future” on Aug. 1 could be viewed only by streaming (from a Sinclair or Fox studio in Wisconsin) – Wordpress article.

What to make of this?  I had reviewed Ted Koppel’s book “Light’s Out” in November 2015.  The main way a cyber attack to affect the power grid would be an attack on a smaller utility or cooperative that doesn’t have as good security and that hasn’t properly separately all the power grid devices from the public Internet (as they are supposed to be).  Cascading transformer failures in a region are possible.  Some entrepeneurs (like Taylor Wilson in Nevada) have proposed solutions that could prevent this possibility altogether but would require hundreds of millions of investment.  Why doesn’t Donald Trump talk about this publicly if he wants law, order and security?

Emphasize this again: the mention of Al Qaeda raises the idea of some kind of physical attack, ranging from “infantry” (as in a 2013 attack on a substation in California) or some sort of device.  Hopefully NORAD would stop any incoming high altitude missiles launched off-shore (the scenario in the 2009 novel “One Second After”).  But localized non-nuclear EMP devices (affecting small areas) do exist, as was once discussed in the Washington Times (2009) and Popular Mechanics (2001, one week before 9/11). See posting on this blog March 4, 2010.   The mention of NY and Virginia “obviously” would bring to mind the new WTC site or the Pentagon.  Officials say that there are no specifics in the chatter as to exact targets or methods, and the credibility is still being investigated.  NYPD has its own separate means of investigating chatter.  It's unclear why Texas would appear in the chatter, but Texas Senator Ted Cruz had mentioned the EMP threat to Wolf Blitzer on CNN late March 21, 2016, hours before the Brussels attack.  No other candidate (except Newt Gingrich (GA), who had been a possible VP choice for Trump and who had written the Foreword to "One Second After" an op-ed about EMP after the 2012 derecho) has mentioned the idea openly. Hillary Clinton has mentioned power grid security as a general issue at least once.  I'd like to hear Donald Trump talk about this -- "stay on point".  Actually, I can think of a second reason why Texas is mentioned.  The Texas Interconnection is one of the three major power grids -- Texas has its own grid.  But no state in the western grid was named.

But another reason could be the Curtis Culwell Center Attack in Garland TX (near Dallas) in May 2015.

I've done my best here to "connect the dots" on what I know.  In an alternate universe, I should have had a career in intelligence.  There will surely be more coverage of this threat tonight. But could this development simply help Trump get closer? Both stories are drawing considerable attention, almost viral, from the survivalist and doomsday prepper communities on Facebook.

Update: Nov. 5

WJLA-7 in Washington has aired a short film "Cyber Hit Men for Hire" which says that Russian malware called "Black Energy" has been sitting on some US Utility servers since 2012 and can't be removed.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Orlando police release Mateen's heavily politicized conversation from Pulse

Orlando police have released the audio of the conversations with Omar Mateen when he was attacking the Pulse nightclub in Orlando June 12.

CBS has the story and video here
Mateen’s comments were heavily “political” in a sense of viewing civilians (not necessarily gay or Latino) as effectively combatants in US foreign policy (especially against ISIS), a common idea in radical thinking.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Bergen interviews US military commander, who warns of ISIS influence on young through social media, something Donald Trump will jump on

Peter Bergen, CNN security journalist and now professor at Arizona State, interviews General Joseph Votel of the U.S. Central Command on CNN.

While ISIS is losing territorial integrity with largely specialized operational contributions by the US forces, the danger of ISIS Internet recruiting is likely to grow, according to Votel.

A large segment of mostly younger adults and teens (often in deprived or violent backgrounds) are surprisingly vulnerable to other user-generated content from terror groups on social media.  This could lead to calls for security crackdowns on Internet publishing platforms and more restrictions on what users may do, to relieve a common threat (although most of the propaganda material comes from overseas), particularly if Donald Trump is elected.

Friday, October 28, 2016

ABC reports on why "good" kids are duped into joining ISIS; also porn found on jihadist computers

ABC news reports (Claire Weinraub et al) that honor student Muhammad Dakhlalla had thought he was helping others when he and girl friend Jacyln Young were arrested for trying to fly to Turkey to join ISIS.  They had been students in Mississippi.

He claimed he was na├»ve, and did not grasp the group’s capacity for evil.  After all, it had claimed to restore Muslim law and was helping the poor and disabled.
Another ABC story reports on the amount of violent pornography found on jihadist’s computers and devices when seized on battlefields, in complete violation of normal interpretation of Koranic law.  

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Russia may attack Baltics after US election, conceivably Finland; also Russia has a new EMP weapon

Russia may be building up the biggest confrontation since the Cold War, with strategic plans to recapture the Baltic countries (Estonia, Lithuania, Latvia) in eastern Europe, according to a Vox story here.  Estonia is interesting in that it offers “digital citizenships” to one day visitors.
Putin could test NATO with an invasion early in 2017 with a new president.  It’s hard to say if he would feel more emboldened were Trump to be elected.

But in my own “Angel’s Brother” novel, a US CIA agent travels to Russia, drives N of St Peterburg (following a route in the 1985 novel “The Red Fox” by Anthony Hyde) pretending to vend porn, to pick up a secret weapon stored near an old radioactive waste depot (a pet topic of the Nuclear Threat Initiative).  Then he drives it across the border into Finland (through the ceded area Karelia -- like the "Karelia Suite" of Jan Sibelius" -- near Lake Ladoga), and the Russians chase him, creating an international incident that will be followed by a bizarre ransomware attack on the west.  All of this is fiction.  But it is sounding like an exchange that could start WWIII, so far the province of novelist’s imaginations, could come true. (As I write this and ponder the news story, I realize I have some more loose ends in the manuscript to clean up.)

Russia is said to have unveiled a “Satan 2” nuclear missile that could destroy an area the size of France of Texas, at least with an EMP blast.  (story by Sebasitan Shukla and Laura Smith-Spark).

Wikipedia attribution link for map by Jmienenmaa , CNU 1.2

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

TISA could incorporate a Section 230-like clause; ISHR publishes model law

A couple of brief stories came across my inbox today.

EFF, in an article by Jeremy Malcolm, discussed both TPP and TISA, the Trade in Services Agreement, and argues that the US model for Section 230, protecting service providers from downstream liability for defamation and similar torts, be used as a model worldwide.     This sounds more important in Europe, especially Britain, where defendants generally have a harder time in defamation cases (as Kitty Kelly once explained back in 1997).

The International Service for Human Rights in Geneva today published a “Model Law for the Recgonition and Protection of Human Rights Defender”, pdf here

Sunday, October 23, 2016

China plans to assign every person and every company a public "social karma score" by 2020

According to a story by Simon Denyer in the Washington Post, front page on Sunday, October 23, 2016, China is preparing to develop an extension of the credit score concept in the U.S., an uber-score or “karma score”, or “social credit” score. It could be implemented by 2020

The score would incorporate information about minor legal infractions, civil disputes, family issues like failing to visit or provide for parents or other elderly relatives (“filial piety”), and most of all, social media postings.  Criticism of others or of the government would lower the score.
The writer brings up the 2002 film “Minority Report” and the concept of “pre-crime”.  But it also invokes Communist ideology of a “socialist utopia” in this “People’s Republic of Capitalism”, as Ted Koppel called it.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Private initiatives in Europe help refugees with employment

Liz Alderman has an important article about private initiatives to help refugees in Europe find employment.

There would be the obvious question as to whether this sets an example for the U.S. and Canada.
Alderman has other provocative stories that I noticed, particularly about proposals for “deposit taxes” in Greece to help bridge the financial crisis.  That reminds me of the idea of “negative interest rates”, which eventually penalize people for “hoarding” savings.

Friday, October 7, 2016

NYTimes has detailed story in legal issues surrounding West Bank settlements

The New York Times has a detailed article by Isabel Kershner on the desire of some Israeli’s to build “illegal” settlements on the West Bank (it’s apparently not limited to “Zone C”).

There are limits to how far even a right-wing government in Israel can go in allowing these.  The article suggests that Palestinians are being compensated in eminent domain arrangements, but not allowed to keep their lands.  Some of the land is agricultural.

This story needs to be put in perspective against earlier stories of Palestinians being driven from their homes.

Wikipedia attribution link for picture of Salfit, by Anan Jalal, under CCSA 3.0.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Vladimir Putin threatens to retaliate against NATO if US interferes with his strikes in Syria backing Assad

Russian newspapers, tabloids and Anonymous (and Wikileaks) are all reporting that Vladimir Putin will retaliated against NATO if the US opposes his attacks on civilians in Aleppo to support Assad.  Gay magazines, to ridicule his anti-gay propaganda law in 2013, still show his outdoor horseback pictures with a hairless chest and now big teats. 

The major media hasn’t talked about this much.  Some are saying a “Cuban Missile Crisis II” could start  OAN journalist Trey Yingst (from American University, News2Share, and well known to local station WJLA, having already traveled to conflict areas connected to Russia) tweeted bluntly that Putin was threatening WWIII today (if he shoots down any US planes).   

Monday, October 3, 2016

North Korea plans an "October surprise"

Dugald McConnell and Brian Todd on CNN warn that Kin Jung Un may try an "October Surprise" to disturb the US presidential election, in a an article and video today here.

Beyond Parallel, a website about Korean unification, weighs in on its website here.

It would sound possible that Un could try a direct attack on South Korea, even with a small nuclear warhead, which he seems to have. Imagine how a president Donald Trump would react if this happened his first day in office.

CIA chief John Brennan now warns that North Korea is our most serious national security threat (but that was the belief in the 1990s).  

Friday, September 30, 2016

Bad karma for US tech manufacturers and consumers: Cobalt mining in Congo, possible child labor

Here’s another big story illustrating our possible bad karma.  It seems that we depend on near slave labor (possibly child labor) in the Congo for the cobalt in many of our batteries and laptops.  The heavily illustrated story bt Todd Frankel in the Washington Post is here.  The story begins with a video of a miner descending into darkness, “This Is Where Mobile Technology Begins”.

We also depend on China for rare earth metals used in tech but car companies are trying to break free from this.  Donald Trump would approve.

Wikipedia attribution link for Congo family picture by Julien Harneis, CCSA 2.0

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Question in Zone C and West Bank appropriation: follow-up

I got an answer back from someone deeply involved in the West Bank issue, on why the expropriation of Palestinian homes continues to be a problem, even if Israel is supposedly controlling only Zone C.  The link is here.

Note the original story, too, by Johnny Harris, of why people settle the West Bank today.  It seems to be economic incentives, in the Vox video.
Wikipedia attribution link for picture of Negev by Godot13, under CCSA 3.0

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Russia is starting a new Cold War, with threat to Baltic states (Finland?)

CBS produced a rather frightening look at the “new Cold War” tonight on 60 minutes.  There was a chess-piece-like simulation of how a ground war with NATO would go if Russia were to decide to attack the former Baltic states that had been republics in the Old Soviet Union.   There is also the possibility on both sides to use tactical nuclear weapons with relatively low impacts on nearby civilians (that is hard to imagine – what about the fallout?)  The basic link is here. An African-American Air Force staff general was asked about Putin, whom he saw as an “opportunist”.  

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Vox explains the Oslo Accord areas in the West Bank (especially Area C), but there is no mention of direct "expropriation" of Palestinian homes

Vox Media has set up a very helpful card-stack to explain the entire controversy over relations between the state of Israel and the West Bank, giving a whole history back to 1948.

It also posted a video on Facebook but linked it in a very unconventional manner that makes it impossible for me to find a url or to replay it.

The West Bank settlements actually started with private efforts, from individual families which say settling as a religious duty.  The settlements are actually in a part of the West Bank called “Zone C”, over which Israel has “sovereignty.”  Palestinians have sovereignty over about 18% of the West Bank, but Israeli control over the rest severely hampers their economy.

But the video and cards don’t seem to explain reported practice of eviction of Palestianian families without compensation, as reported here Aug. 2, 2015 and July 24, 2015, and especially  May 20, 2013, from George Meek in Arlington VA, whom I know through the Trinity Presbyterian Church   It was reported here on Sept. 11, 2016 that eight Palestinian individuals had come to the US for a few dats to speak to Congress about the expropriation issue.
Wikipedia source on Areas A, B, and C.  
By UN - OCHA oPt - on OCHAoPt Map Centre.Part of (95 MB), Public Domain,

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Radical Islam: an exploding youth population in authoritarian countries that corrupt religion for their own political agendas

Jon Emont has a couple of recent articles about how population demographics exacerbates the threat of radical Islam.

The least developed parts of the Muslim world have the most children. Authoritarian counties with few legitimate economic opportunities leave young men (and often women) with little else but to join mass movements and fight, for camaraderie, brotherhood, and a sense of false empowerment.  The most important article is here  (Sept. 12, p. A16, Washington Post).

Fareed Zakaria has often echoed this view – a “cancer” in the Islamic world.  But the tendency is for young men in the Muslim world to blame western consumers for effectively cheating the rest of the world.  That’s actually the way the radical, Communist left looked at things in the 60s.    

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Presentation today on Syrian refugees living in Turkey; also, West Bank hearing in Congress

Today, the Trinity Presbyterian Church, on “Rally Sunday”, presented a brief program about food distribution to refugees in Ankara Turkey.

There were many slides shown, including some in Mosul, where people cannot work to earn a living (unless they “convert”), in a volatile and changing environment. No pictures were taken of them – it’s possible that publication could endanger someone overseas.  $10 is supposed to buy enough food for a refugee family in Turkey got several days.

The Ankara Girl Scouts have a web site on Wix about the issue, here.

When I was working for the Minnesota Orchestra in 2002-2003, I met a coworker with (Christian) relatives in Mosul (while under Saddam Hussein), and I have no idea what happened to them.  But a crisis like this can hit personally with few degrees of separation.

Trinity also reports that up to eight persons from Suslya, on the West Bank, and losing their homes to Israeli occupation (apparently without compensation) will speak to a committee Congress on Friday Sept. 23.  It does appear that their logistical and housing arrangements have been taken care of.

I ate with a family headed for Nationals Park, barely time to get there before the game.

Later today, CNN reported the "radical hospitality" of Gander, Newfoundland residents who housed plane passengers for four days after 9/11 when planes could not enter the US.

Wikipedia image:
By Voice of America News: Henry Ridgwell on the Turkish border -, Public Domain,

Saturday, September 10, 2016

North Korea's nuclear threat; Aleppo (Johnson's brain freeze) and Kerry's agreement with Putin

The good news, and the bad news come together.

John Kerry has announced an agreement with Russia for a “cease fire” to curb the violence in Syria, NBC news story. Will this help Hillary Clinton look better?  Will this help stop the flood of refugees?  How would this affect stopping ISIS and maybe taking back Aleppo and Raqqa.

Yes. I could have answered a news moderator’s question about Aleppo.  I would not have stumbled like Gary Johnson did.

NBC News has a detailed story by Cassandra Vinogard on “What you need to know” about North Korea’s latest (apparent) nuclear detonation.  There are many videos.  The upshot: in a few years, North Korea probably could reach the northwestern US (at least Alaska) with a small nuclear warhead on a missile.  The most extreme scenarios have missiles crossing the Canadian NWT and reaching Michigan by a Great Circle.   The latest test was detected by an earthquake.

It sounds conceivable that North Korea could try to launch a high altitude EMP blast, especially over South Korea or Japan (maybe Taiwan or Philippines).  We don’t know if China is really their friend or not.

Wikipedia attribution link for p.d. photo of Youngbyon facility

Monday, September 5, 2016

CNN releases trove of documents showing intended scope of 11-13 attacks

CNN released documents with many videos and news stories today about additional components that ISIS had intended for its Nov. 13, 2015 terror attacks, link here. The documents detail certain individuals, one in particular, fortunately arrested  (in Austria).  The attack had been orchestrated as a “treasure hunt” with operatives given only what they needed to know on encrypted communications.  Some attackers tried to destroy their phones or SIM cards when arrested. 

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Washington Post challenges Americans to accept more Syrian refugees

Saturday morning, the Post has a lead editorial, “10,000 is not enough; the problem’s scale and America’s capacity demand that we accept more Syrian refugees”,  .  Online, the title is, “America has accepted 10,000 Syrian refugees.  That’s still too few.”

But Stephanie Dinan of the Washington Times reports that the US will go beyond the 10000, and that 7% are denied admission, here.

The biggest obstacle, of course, is the popular perception that accepting more refugees would require Americans to accept an existential risk personally.  Syrian refugees are carefully vetted, although Donald Trump et al maintain that real vetting from that part of the world is impossible,  The practical risk is certainly much less than what we live with all the time (like Mexican drug cartels reaching into the US – Post story Saturday by Peter Hermann).

Syrian refugees are normally housed in commercial apartment buildings (or with relatives who know them), and supervised by social service agencies and lots of volunteers per family.  That’s not the case with asylum seekers, where the personal risk taking by hosts may be much greater, and a subject that needs more thoughtful exposition.  In Canada, private sponsorship sometimes leads to more private hosting of refugees (as in Europe sometimes), but there is a history of private “radical hospitality” in the past with the Mariel boatlift from Cuba in 1980.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Customer refuses to tip waitress based on perceived (incorrectly) immigrant status

Here we go, with a horrible story on anti-immigrant bias.  In Harrisonburg VA, a couple writes on a restaurant check for a meal served by a Hispanic-looking woman, “We only tip citizens.”  The waitress is a native born American citizen.  She even says she would serve the couple again.
Presumably, as a job applicant she would have to show a Social Security card (normal for citizens), passport, or a green card or visa.

Friday, August 5, 2016

New Philippines president goes outside the law to execute drug users as well as dealers; US companies do manufacturing there

Note the editorial in the Washington Post today “Death Squads in the Philippines” ,  The title is more telling: “’I will really kill you.’ The new president of the Philippines unleashes a surge of extrajudicial killings of drug dealers and users.”  Note the “extrajudicial”.  That’s not law and order, even in Trump’s world.  The editorial refers to new president Rodrigo Duterte. 
The Philippines houses a lot of outsourced US manufacturing, such as for the print-on-demand production side of the self-publishing book industry.  The country is exposed to severe typhoons (such as what happened in 2013).  
On another matter, there are reports of violence and police activity at gay pride in Uganda this weekend (the second ever).  Check the news for this.  
Wikipedia attribution link for picture of president’s official residence, by Lord Antagonist, under CCSA 3.0.

Update: Aug. 22

Duterte has also blasted the US for failing in Syria, and for allowing the police profiling of blacks to go out of control.  He talks about leaving the UN. This could have the potential to affect US companies operating plants in the Philippines (including on-demand publishers).  The NBC New story by Emma Margolin is here

Thursday, August 4, 2016

FBI sting nets DC Metro police officer, shows how federal anti-terrorism law works; a sinister plot broken in North Carolina

Two big arrests in the news:

In northern Virginia, a Metro police officer was arrested in a sting when the FBI posed as an IS IS contact and apparently purchased phone cards allegedly intended for the group. The Washington Post, in a story by Rachel Weiner, identifies the person today as Nicholas Young, arrested at WMATA headquarters in downtown Washington DC.  (I’ve been in that building – when I went to fill out a police report after a 2013 minor robbery).   Young had worked as a Metro police officer for seven years.  Metro says that the subway system itself was never in danger from him.  He was fired immediately, and his townhome in northern Virginia is closed off for investigation.

It’s important to remember that any support at all for any foreign terrorist group (it could be Hamas or something else, not necessarily ISIS or Al Qaeda) violates federal law and can lead to arrest.  That could include something as innocuous as providing a gift card.  Such arrests are relatively rare in practice, and are usually set up by long-time stings.

.ABC News reports the arrest of Erick Jamal Hendricks, of Charlotte, NC, in a federal sting for trying to recruit other people to launch domestic attacks (for ISIS), especially against US military service-members.  The targets would be identified from a list developed by a previous hacker who is now awaiting sentencing in an Alexandria VA federal court.  The story of risks to service-members on social media was documented in the major media in 2014.