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.