Monday, April 25, 2016

CNN waffles on showing Zakaria's "Why They Hate Us"

Mysteriously, CNN postponed its special by Fareed Zakaria’s “GPS” tonight, of “Why They Hate Us”.  The online newsletter adweek says it learned about the postponement at 3:30 PM today (Monday, April 25, 2016) here.  Huffington had announced the postponement at 11:55 AM. 
Curiously, Fareed Zakaria had updated the story “Why They Hate Us” at 2:46 PM EDT today with no mention of the show.  Adweek and Newsy say CNN has not announced when the show will air.  CNN Pressroom has a story about the broadcast (before postponement) here. 

CNN has postponed episodes before when there is breaking news.  But there really isn’t today – the Prince story from Minnesota had already happened several days ago.

Zakaria has taken the position that what “they” hate is the modern world, that has left them behind – but not so much just the US, Europe, or even the Jews.

Zakaria calls Saudi Arabia “The Devil We Know” but says as a practical matter we need to maintain their “friendship”.  I wonder about satirical movies like “A Hologram for the King”, maybe not as divisive as “The Interview”.
Oddly, the Washington Post printed the show as airing at 10 PM. 


At the midnight hour, the "Why the Hate Us" banner would show at the bottom of the screen for 2-3 seconds before changing to "Battle for the White House" after switching channels to CNN HD.

Update: 5/24

The film aired Monday night 5/23.  See my "cf" blog. 

Friday, April 22, 2016

There's some moderation in conservative speculation about ISIS interest in WMD's

There have been recent reports, especially from European and British journals, that experts fear ISIS will try to use a radioactive or nuclear weapon somewhere in Europe or especially Russia soon.

There are voices of moderation, however, pointing out how difficult it is to make a weapon that would really contaminate property,  But the psychological fear of even slight contamination could make some property uninhabitable or unsellable, driving some of the “bourgeoisie” into poverty, bringing them low, so the radical thinking goes. Inverse has a temperate article by Ben Guarino March 22 here. Global Risk Insights has a slightly more sobering assessment here.

Could ISIS really pull off an EMP attack?  Mike Pearl has a reasonably balanced perspective from May 2015 in Vice.

I have reported about Ted Cruz talking about EMP, but Philip Bump reports in The Fix Blog in the Washington Post January 15 that Rick  Santorum and Ben Carson had talked about it (as has Newt Gingrich). Bump reports that the device is much harder to pull off than the scaremongerers say (like in the movie “One Second After”) but agrees it is conceivable.  The pulse comes in three phases.  Bump says that a major solar storm from the Sun is a much more likely event (which we barely missed in 2012).

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

South Carolina ponders bill implementing downstream liability for those who host refugees

South Carolina is considering a bill that would expose churches and social service organizations that register and help resettle any overseas political refugees to downstream civil liability for any “crimes” that the refugees commit. Mark Hetfield and Jack Moline have an op-ed on p. A17 of today’s Washington Post, “A bill that fails refugees and religion” 
The bill is in the state senate.  It would seem to apply to refugees from any country for any reason, including LGBT refugees from Russia and African countries as well as Syrian refugees.
But the occurrence of “Trojans” among Syrian refugees makes the moral case for hosting them much more problematic at a personal level. 

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Gay flight attendants boycott working on Air France flights to Iran

Some gay flight attendants are boycotting working on flights to Iran as Air France resumes service to Tehran, as in this Daily Beast story.

The airline maintains gay and all other employees have security and are kept away from hostile authorities in all countries it serves.
Nevertheless, the story raises questions about the ability of companies to maintain total non-discrimination if they have to send western-based employees to Muslim or other authoritarian countries (like Russia, or much of Africa, to work).

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Turkey demands that Germany prosecute a comedian for speech within its own borders

The Washington Post has a major editorial “Will Germany defend free expression?  Turkey’s leader tries to export repression by demanding Berlin prosecute a comedian”.   The online version inserts “Ms. Merkel” into the title.

The case concerns a March 31 show by comedian Jan Bohmermann, where he makes fun of Turkey’s president Erdgogan.  “Abusive criticism” of a foreign leader is now allowed under German law, although satire is.

Turkey is supposed to be a moderate Islamic country and friend of the US.  But Erdgoan’s behavior, jailing journalists, seems hard to get.  And it is a dangerous precedent if a non-western less democratic country can blackmail a western country to prosecute one of it’s citizens for speech within the western country.  What about SNL? The case even loops back to returning Syrian refugees.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

The possibility of a North Korean nuclear attack on Hawaii, Alaska, or even Pacific Northwest comes back on the table

Barbara Starr of CNN reports that North Korea may be planning a mobile ballistic missile launch that could contain a miniaturize nuclear warhead.

There are varying speculations about whether DPRK could reach as far as Japan, Guam, Hawaii, the Alaskan Aleutians, or in the most extreme cases, British Columbia and Washington state. Intelligence services do not know whether the missile or warhead would actually “work”.

But similar speculations were made back as early as 2002.

This blog post title says "possibility",  Is it more like a "thinkability"?
A good question would be whether NORAD would intercept any such missile close to North America.  A missile might be capable of a high altitude explosion capable of an EMP effect over part of the northern Pacific.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Ukraine echoes many of Russia's attitudes toward LGBT issues

Here’s an odd story.  Voters in the Netherlands, itself one of the world’s most liberal on LGBT issues, could throw a monkey wrench in plans to offer LGBT protections in the Ukraine if the Netherlands doesn’t ratify the Ukraine’s joining an EU agreement.
Ukraine has toyed with a Russian-style law, and the Washington Blade reports serious disruption of LGBT events in the Ukraine in a story by Michael Lavers.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Donald Trump's "family values" and the Wall (put Mexico "Under the Dome")

Donald Trump has released his strongman plan for making Mexico pay for a “Green Monster” wall along the southern border with Mexico.  He would use his own interpretation of the US Patriot Act to stop payments from illegal residents in the US to relatives in Mexico, highlighting Mexico’s lack of welfare programs or social safety nets (effectively run by drug cartels in many areas, rather like ISIS).

 He would relax the rule once Mexico made a downpayment on the wall.  Reuters has the story here.

Bob Woodward and Robert Costa have a more detailed story here.

Trump’s own explanation on his site on the Wall is here.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Graham Allison warns of larger attacks on nuclear power plants, intending to create a "Fukushima"

Graham Allison and William H. Tobey have a particularly sobering piece in the New York Times Tuesday, April 5, 2016, p. A25, “Could there be a terrorist Fukushima?”  I thought of the 21-year old scientist Taylor Wilson monitoring the radiation from Fukushima across the Pacific Ocean (link given with movie review March 25).  But, Allison and Robey resurrect the scenarios of flying planes into nuclear power plants (which Al Qaeda had considered for 9/11) as well as much larger direct attacks by cells, which would be much less likely in the US than Europe.  A dirty bomb could make a square mile of a city uninhabitable, but a nuclear power plant attack might create a Chernobyl for much larger area, conceivably an entire city downwind.
Ironically, Wilson has proposed plans to strengthen the US (and worldwide) power grids (from EMP and solar storm threats) with small underground fission generators, which he and investors like Peter Thiel say could be made much safer from attack than today’s systems.  It sounds like something presidential candidates (most of all Ted Cruz and Donald Trump) ought to be talking about.

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Sobering remarks from Ploughshares Fund on dirty bomb threat from ISIS and other groups, made at nuclear summit in Washington right after Obama's own speech

The nuclear summit at the Washington DC convention center lead to some alarming remarks, not so much just from president Obama,  but from Joe Cirincione , of the Ploughshares Fund, summary article here . The CNN story has many videos and includes Obama’s remarks.

News reports discusses security breaches at Belgium’s nuclear power plants and spying on employees, possibly one murder.  There are conflicting reports on the reported death and whether papers or material from the person could have been stolen.

Furthermore, early Saturday, coalition forces struck a chemical lab in Mosul at a university thought to have radioactive weapons.

Experts say that a dirty bomb is relatively “easy” to build, although some say that most people would run great personal risk of fatal personal exposure in doing so.  Some experts at the convention said they are surprised it hasn’t happened already, at least in Europe. A dirty bomb going off in a major city could make a square mile or so unusable for years, and make real estate in an area worthless, sending many leveraged people into bankruptcy and homelessness and undermine the stability of the financial system. Smugness and insularity about these sorts of possibilities turn into moral issues.
It’s unclear how much practical risk there is with lower risk items, like isotopes used in hospitals for radiation therapy, or how well secured they are.  Are materials like this kept in less secure outpatient buildings?  Recent cyber-attacks on hospitals don’t inspire confidence in their preparedness.