Monday, August 28, 2017

Refugees from Somalia in Kenya camp compete for scholarship in Canada

The Washington Post has a feature story Sunday about Ayan Abdi, one of 5000 refugees from Somalia at a camp in Kenya.  She is competing for a scholarship that would enable her to migrate to Canada.

The heavily illustrated story is by Kevim Sieff, here
There is a picture of a blackboard naming the teachers in a secondary school. 
By The original uploader was Mkimemia at English Wikipedia - Transferred from en.wikipedia to Commons., CC BY-SA 3.0, Link

Friday, August 25, 2017

North Korea fires three short range missile tests while Trump is distracted by many other problems.

CNN reports that North Korean spies were caught trying to steal plans and parts for DPRK’s long range missile program in a detailed story by Nick Paton Walsh et al Friday.  The story even shows life in a Ukrainian prison.

Today, at about the same time that Hurricane Harvey was exploding into Category 4 as it headed for the south Texas coast, and as Trump signed his transgender ban, and pardoned Sheriff Arpaio, Kim Jung Un took advantage of the distraction to fire three short range missiles into the sea of Japan (story).  All three blew up.  

All this played out on a CNN screen tonight as I was at a happy hour social in Washington DC near GWU.

Update: Aug 28

North Korea fired a single missile over northern Japan today. No info on payload.  Not sure if an ICBM.  CNN story.  If was fired from a populated area near Pyongyang to send the message that a US attack on North Korea would kill many civilians. Trump said "all options are on the table."  

Monday, August 21, 2017

Diplomats in Cuba injured by covert sonic device, a possible future terror threat?

There are disturbing reports of diplomats in Cuba being injured by covert “sonic attacks”, as in this CNN story

The associates showed symptoms of concussion and particularly hearing loss.  The device seems to have emitted a subsonic boom.

The incident is disturbing because it could be another way for a foreign agent to go after an enemy covertly in a western country or the US.  One thinks of Putin’s polonium incident.
In 1978, a man kidnapped by left wing radicals in Italy was deafened deliberately by being blasted with classical music through earphones.
There are other YouTube videos suggesting that Trump using sonic weapons against North Korea. 
By Jakub Szypulka - Own work, CC BY 4.0, Link

Friday, August 18, 2017

"Reslient Societies" twitter feed warns that Washington Post has broken media blackout on EMP

The Twitter handle Resilient Societies  “The Foundation for Resilient Societies” )  says that the Washington Post broke the unwritten media blackout on talking about EMP with a speculation that North Korea could cause a high altitude blast over Japan (high parabola) and cause temporary power disruption.  It might be more than temporary/    (Mark Fisher and David Nakamura). 

The twitter feed also noted a site “38North   saying Congress knows that a reentry survival is not essential to EMP.

By User:Photocopier - Wikipedia in english, page "High-altitude nuclear explosion", Public Domain, Link

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Terror attack in Spain comes to violent conclusion on in coastal town

NBC News has a detailed account so far of events in Barcelona, Spain and the town of Cambrils, to the south, link here

It appears that this was a complex and coordinated attack.  At least five attackers are dead as of now, as the coastal town was on lockdown.

The attack, like many others in Europe, shows the extreme nihilism of young men (and some women) radicalized into radical Islam and returning from ISIS.

It’s pretty obvious that, at a moral level, the KKK and ISIS are about on the same plane.  Trump could say that.

Wikipedia attribution link for Cambrls by Kuhn, CCSA 3.0 

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Washington Post explains how Trump can use the nuclear football, and warns about August 15 particularly as North Korea's "Liberation Day"

The Washington Post has a speculative article, “Who Is Kin Jong Un, and What Will He Decide to Do?” There have been reports about his education in Switzerland, as a boy, where he looks more engaging.  His appearance now seems to be modeled after his grandfather, and does not appeal to me, and probably not to many westerners.  The Post piece by Anna Fifield discusses the speculations about his personality and apparent ruthlessness.  I have to admit that even an independent blogger making fun of him could start an incident.

The Post points out that Tuesday Aug. 15 is Liberation Day (from Japan).  This logically leads to speculation that Un could launch a missile over Japan two days from now.  Given the position of the International Date Line, that means that a volley could occur as early as perhaps 4 PM Monday Aug. 14 EDT. 

The other big date is Monday Aug. 21, when US military exercises start. 
It sounds likely that if there is an incident a missile(s) would land in the ocean much farther from Guam or any other populated location than North Korea warned.  There could be a risk that a nuclear detonation at sea could be attempted to make a statement, if the vehicle survives re-entry.  There could be a danger of an EMP strike over some areas, if an explosion at higher altitude was possible.  That idea has been mentioned “in passing” maybe twice on CNN by commentators, but former CIA director James Woolsey has warned that the DPRK can do this from a satellite now. 

Update: Aug 15

The Wall Street Journal reports Kim Jong Un has blinked, feeling pressure from China.  Trump, in NYC in his own suite now, can claim his tough talk worked.  

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Susan Rice: "It's not too late for North Korea"

Susan Rice, national security adviser from 2013 to 2017 under Obama, does have an op-ed in the New York Times, p. A21, “It’s not too late for North Korea”.  
But Bari Weiss retorts to this column with “Are We All Doomed?” and questions whether people on the East Coast need to be ready to house nuclear refugees (I asked that myself recently on Wordpress). 

Jimmy Kimmel keeps making fun of “Drunk Donald Trump’s” threats. 

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

DIA reports that North Korea has miniaturized nukes for ICBM's; Trump's threats; analysts mum on EMP

The cat’s away the mice play.  I got a bizarre message from a Facebook friend today as I pulled in to a gas station, and a half hour later in a restaurant I looked at the news. Here it is, from the Washington Post, by Joby Warrick, Ellen Nakashima, and Anna Fified, “North Korea now makingmissile-ready nuclear weapons, U.S. analysts say.” 

President Trump later made this fire and brimstine statement from his summer home in New Jersey, in a meeting. He had his arms crossed as he spoke.

Some good questions arise.  Why did the DIA come up with this assessment so suddenly.  Two weeks ago, just before a major missile test, the DIA hinted that North Korea could launch miniaturized nukes at the US by maybe early 2018. But apparently it is right now.

There are two provisos. One of these is that the ICBM tests apparently have burned up on re-entry.  

We don’t know whether on a “line drive” path they would survive re-entry. 

The other idea is that North Korea could likely produce more devastation with a high altitude blast, causing an EMP effect, if in fact it was still high enough when entering North America.  James Woolsey has said that North Korea can do that with satellites now.  But there seems to be very little reliably reviewed information on how difficult this would be for an enemy to do. It's not clear how much power a weapon would need.  

One possible provocation that comes to mind is the idea that North Korea could prove its ability to survive reentry by launch a nuclear blast out in the middle of the north Pacific Ocean well away from any land.  Another is that it could launch an EMP blast in this unpopulated area, possibly disabling ships below and aircraft.  It could then demand that US completely withdraw from protecting South Korea.  Trump cannot let things get this far.  In fact, there are also reports that North Korea issued threats against Guam today. 
DIA says North Korea has about 60 nuclear devices.  Some of these are thought to be about twice the size of Hiroshima.  Still, the blast effects would be much smaller than from Soviet or Chinese hydrogen bombs.

US military commentators did express confidence in the ability of US systems to shoot down DPRK missiles today.

Kim had uttered threats right after the UN sanctions were applied this past weekend.

Update: Aug. 10

DPRK's "4 missile test" aimed at Guam seems silly.  When does an enemy give away its plans?  Is this a feint?  The missiles would get shot down. The latest.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

The idea of "shared responsibility", homophobic purges in Chechnya (and Russia), and the dangers to free speech in democratic societies

Tara Isabella Burton has an important article in Vox, “HowRussia’s strongmen use homophobia to stay in power.” 

There is particular attention to Chechyan Republic president Ramson Kadyrov, with the purges of gays.

Burton goes on to explain how the idea of an “honor killing” is part of a larger political concept called “shared responsibility” which is more common in authoritarian cultures.  Every extended family member is considered responsible for the actions of one person.  The idea then invites the idea of “otherness” or exclusion which tends to connect to racism, anti-Semitism, or other ideas that we find in the US sometimes with the alt-right.

But the idea of “shared responsibility” (“I am my brother’s keeper”) can be politically dangerous in democratic societies, was with proposal in the US to gut laws relieving service providers of potential downstream liability for crimes committed by their users which they cannot know about in advance (the “Backpage” controversy, see my main blog, Aug. 2). 

A related essay is “A psychological assessment of Trumpsupporters has revealed 5 key traits about them”, on Raw Story by Bobby Azarian. Note the “authoritarian personality syndrome”, “social dominance orientation” and especially “relative deprivation.” 

Friday, August 4, 2017

Australian town bars construction of synagogue out of fear of targeting; an existential problem for any person or group that others dislike?

Milo Yiannopoulos reports a story from Australia where Bondi, a suburb of Sydney, denied permission for construction of a Jewish synagogue near a beach over fears that it would make the area a target for radical Islamic terrorism. 

It’s pretty easy to say that the terrorists win, that this is giving in.  Of course, when there is an actual incident, it is the victims who personally pay; in the end there are no victims. This is all basic existentialism. But it is also official cowardice. 

But following this example, it is too easy, for example, for a landlord to refuse to rent to an outspoken Jew or perhaps gay person on the fear that it could make a whole building a target.  I’ve wondered about this ever since 9/11 in the days of permissive self-publication.   

Even on AC360, it sometimes seems that Anderson Cooper is loose with the passive voice of the words “was targeted”.  

Milo has made some other provocative posts, criticizing the EU for requiring some countries to take more refugees and take their fair share of the supposed risk of more terror attack. 

By Adam.J.W.C. - Own work, CC BY-SA 2.5, Link

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Trump's "Raise" Act and a bizarre confrontation at the White House press briefing

Today, President Donald Trump announced support for a “Raise”  Act that will reduce legal immigration by up to 50% over the next several years, and that would increase competitive requirements for getting most green cards.

The immigration system would shift more away from a family basis to one based on individual skill and merit, including job skills and especially speaking English.
White House policy wonk Stephen Miller got into a bizarre confrontation with Jim Acosta over a poem on the Statue of Liberty and on the English requirement.  Miller said that to suggest that immigrants from countries outside Britain and Australia were unlikely to speak English would be profoundly insulting to most immigrants.  Miller spoke of Acosta's "cosmopolitan bias" as if that were elitism.

Acosta himself is Cuban American, whose ancestors were taught English in the US.  Acosta's grandparents came to the US about the time of the Cuban Missile Crisis.  Acosta has questioned the point system, which would, for example, discriminate against older immigrants. 

The CNN story is here
Trump insists that immigrants who come here be able to support themselves.  That is quite different from Canada, which has a program to allow individuals to sponsor and financially support refugees.