Saturday, October 1, 2011

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Democratic Dictatorship Wears A Suit

Democratic Dictatorship is a term I came up with to describe Milosevic's Serbia.
It applies when the ruling power in a state allows elections, opposition parties, and a 'free' media, whilst simultaneously manipulating the system to ensure it maintains control.

There are many ways of doing this. A good example in Serbia was when the authorities, after much outside pressure, granted an opposition group a radio broadcast license and a frequency. So far, so legal.

At the same time it also granted two music stations frequencies, one each side of the opposition station. The music stations had powerful transmitters which drowned out the opposition. So far, still so legal.

In Egypt two things this week which might fit the definition caught my attention.
The first is the appearance on state television of the head of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF).

Egypt state TV has always followed the Arab media diktat that 'whatever the man in charge does is the most interesting thing which happened in the world today', so it wasn't the appearance of Field Marshall Tantawi which caught my attention, it was his rather smart black suit.

For the first time, Mr Tantawi, as perhaps we might call him, was not dressed in his military uniform.

Now, it might be that all those medals and that braid are beginning to get too heavy for a man in his 70's, or, it could be that Field Marshall Tantawi is considering a switch to the Presidency. more

Frau Merkel, it really is a euro crisis!

Angela Merkel told German industry today that we are not facing "a euro crisis, but a debt crisis."

She is wrong. Total levels of private and sovereign debt in the eurozone are lower than in the UK, the US, and far lower than in Japan.

Greece’s debt levels are around 250pc of GDP, at the lower end of the developed world.

Spain’s sovereign debt is admirably modest at around 65pc. Italy’s household debt level is the envy of the rich world. It has a primary budget surplus. Italy has many problems, but the budget deficit is not one of them.

So why is there such a destructive and long-festering crisis in the eurozone? Why have three countries required an EU-IMF bail-out? Why is the ECB having to shore the debt markets of five countries — soon to be six — with direct bond purchases, including Spain and Italy?

Not because of debt, except in the most superficial sense.

The reason this crisis keeps grinding ever deeper is because the euro itself is a machine for perpetual destruction. The currency is fundamentally warped and misaligned. more

U.S. apparently not ready for women on the front lines

Pentagon officials woke up Tuesday morning to the news Australia has now decided its military women can work in any combat job, including commando units, in the Australian armed forces.

It's news that puts another ally at odds with U.S. policies, and could result in American male troops and Australian female troops fighting together in Afghanistan.

"Now all of the roles on the front line will be determined on the basis of merit, not on the basis of sex, so a very significant reform announced by the government today," Australian Defence Minister Stephen Smith said. The change will be fully phased in over the next five years.

At the Pentagon, officials had no official reaction to the Australian decision. The U.S. military is grappling with what it considers the massive social change implemented earlier this month when gay men and lesbians were allowed to openly serve after the repeal of the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy.

On September 20, when the repeal was legally lifted, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta seemed to make a promise that more change could be coming, saying, "I am committed to removing all of the barriers that would prevent Americans from serving their country and from rising to the highest level of responsibility that their talents and capabilities warrant. These are men and women who put their lives on the line in the defense of this country, and that's what should matter the most." more

Time-lapse video of the Aurora Borealis in the skies over Silkeborg, Denmark

Stagflation: Scourge of the ’70s stalks us still

As we teeter toward what could be the third U.S. recession in a decade, experts can’t help but sift through economic history to look for precedents. The eye is immediately drawn to the last decade of the recession trifecta – the 1970s.

That lost decade for the economy and the stock market was marked by a set of conditions so glaring that they popularized a previously obscure economic term: stagflation.

You’d think stagflation – the combination of high inflation and stagnant economic growth – would be of little help in understanding our current decade. After all, inflation rates in North America are running at a little over 3 per cent, compared with about 13 per cent at the end of the 1970s.

But veteran portfolio manager Don Coxe thinks there’s a new kind of stagflation. It may not be as dramatic as the stagflation that crippled the 1970s, but it may help explain the stalled economic and equity-market cycle. more

Canada: 1.4 million out of work (and likely rising)

The stewards of Canada's economy are meeting in Ottawa this afternoon to take the temperature of the recovery after G20 meetings in Washington over the weekend.

The meeting between Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Finance Minister Jim Flaherty and Bank of Canada Governor Mark Carney highlights the urgency of the world's policy makers to be on the same page as the global rebound slows.

The meeting also follows Mr. Carney's celebrated clash with Jamie Dimon, the CEO of JPMorgan Chase, who lashed out at the central bank chief over regulatory reform measures in a private meeting with bank officials.

Canada's fiscal standing is the envy of the G7. Thus, there's some wiggle room for the Harper Tories as they work through their pledge to slash the deficit. So here's a thought for the three men most key to Canada's fortunes as they meet today: Please remember the almost 1.4 million Canadians who can't find work.

While Canada's jobs market has rebounded from the recession, the jobless rate remains high, at 7.3 per cent, and it's forecast to climb to 7.5 per cent and remain above the 7 per cent mark for some time. For young people, it's much worse. more

From parchment to personal computers, Dead Sea Scrolls go online

Two thousand years after they were written and decades after they were found in desert caves, some of the world-famous Dead Sea Scrolls went online for the first time on Monday in a project launched by Israel's national museum and web giant Google.

The appearance of five of the most important Dead Sea scrolls on the Internet is part of a broader attempt by the custodians of the celebrated manuscripts — who were once criticized for allowing them to be monopolized by small circles of scholars — to make them available to anyone with a computer.

The scrolls include the biblical Book of Isaiah, the manuscript known as the Temple Scroll, and three others. Surfers can search high-resolution images of the scrolls for specific passages, zoom in and out, and translate verses into English.

The originals are kept in a secured vault a Jerusalem building constructed specifically to house the scrolls. Access requires at least three different keys, a magnetic card and a secret code.

The five scrolls are among those purchased by Israeli researchers between 1947 and 1967 from antiquities dealers, having first been found by Bedouin shepherds in the Judean Desert.

The scrolls, considered by many to be the most significant archaeological find of the 20th century, are thought to have been written or collected by an ascetic Jewish sect that fled Jerusalem for the desert 2,000 years ago and settled at Qumran, on the banks of the Dead Sea. The hundreds of manuscripts that survived, partially or in full, in caves near the site, have shed light on the development of the Hebrew Bible and the origins of Christianity. more

The end of online privacy

In January of this year, researchers at the San Francisco-based Electronic Frontier Foundation tried an experiment. The online privacy advocacy group set up a Web page, and collected and stored the browser information of everyone who visited it.

There were no tricks. The site would not steal any data or urge casual visitors to install tracking software. It would simply log the same basic information almost all Internet users in the world inadvertently hand over each time they visit a website, including their time zone and Internet-protocol (IP) address – important clues to their location.

The most alarming result of the study of more than 470,000 Web surfers is that 83.6 per cent of them had an instantly identifiable, totally unique fingerprint: Their particular combination of settings and information was unlike that of any other user, increasing the chance they could be personally identified, even though they had done nothing but make a few clicks of the mouse. more

Ancient Aliens: S03E09 - Deadly Weapons

PART ONE:



PART TWO:



PART THREE:

Syria: The revolution will be weaponised



On August 31, I met up with a trusted acquaintance called Abu Omar (not his real name). I had been waiting for this meeting with anticipation, as the people involved were extremely hard to reach. They were constantly evading the regime.

Abu Omar called the night before to let me know it was going to happen. The next morning I awoke excited. Adding to my nervous energy, the mobile network in town was shut off. Unable to call Abu Omar, I decided to go to the café near where we had last met, hoping he would find me.

Concurrently, he was sitting in the car near where he had last dropped me off, hoping I would find him. Two hours after the pre-arranged time, he pulled up to the café. He asked me what devices I had and instructed me to remove the batteries from my mobile phone.

We drove north to Rastan, a city with a strong opposition presence. The last time I was there, several weeks earlier, I had counted 50 tanks along the perimeter of the town. As we drove toward the town, the scene was wholly different, not a single tank in sight. Rastan felt liberated.

Abu Omar was a senior coordinator in the country's six-month-old uprising and was involved in opposition activities since 2007. He lamented that to date, the revolution had only succeeded in costing the lives of three thousand people.

"After Libya, many people said it was a mistake to have a peaceful revolution and if they had done it like the Libyans they would be free by now," he said. more

Mexican drug lords enjoy exotic 'narco zoos'

These are not your average petting zoos.

As Mexican authorities crackdown on drug king-pins, they are having a hard time figuring out what to do with the exotic lions, tigers, monkeys and parrots confiscated from lavish ranches.

"This is an ongoing situation occurring in Mexico; when they [security forces] find private zoos and animals on different properties," said Adrian Reuter, an expert on the animal trade with the World Wildlife Fund in Mexico.

"They [drug lords] like charismatic animals that symbolise power and strength: big cats such as lions, tigers and jaguars, along with big snakes, monkeys and nice looking birds," he told Al Jazeera. "In some cases 20 or 30 animals have been found in pretty impressive facilities."

Mexican authorities seized more than 5,500 illegal animals and plants during a nationwide operation in July, the Associated Press reported.

"The traffickers see themselves as the top predators in their food chain and they want to have other top predators in their zoos," Arthur Jeon, co-editor of Global Animal magazine, told Al Jazeera. "They are probably thinking it is the law of the jungle. It is a weird, twisted way of showing how macho they are, and a bad cliché."

Mexican drug trafficking organisations earn between $15-30bn per year from their illicit shipments to the US, according to a State Department report published in 2010. Fulfilling strange, expensive desires is not difficult for increasingly wealthy gangsters. more

Nepal: Children for sale (some of the "orphans" Westerners adopt aren't actually orphans)



Orphaned, abandoned or trafficked? That is the question facing foreigners who wish to adopt Nepali children.

International adoption services have provided a lucrative business to poverty-stricken Nepal. But in 2007, Nepal stopped adoptions for two years as it investigated claims of child trafficking.

After adoptions resumed, law enforcement remained weak.

By the end of 2010, many countries including the US, stopped granting visas to children from Nepal. This was in response to unscrupulous agents falsifying children's status as orphans so they could be adopted overseas.

Today, loopholes remain in Nepal's adoption processes and the government has been slow to formulate new policies, creating more problems for children in orphanages.

101 East investigates the scam behind an industry borne from the desire to love a child. source

Argentina recovery offers hope to Greeks (although, that was a much different world then)



As Greece struggles to pay its debts, across the Atlantic, there is one country that has already been through a similar economic crisis.

Nine years ago, Argentina became the biggest economy ever to go bust.

Argentines are keenly aware of the similarities between the events taking place in their country and what is now happening in Greece.

But Argentina managed to bounce back, with exports sky rocketing and a booming tourism industry based on a devalued currency. more

Coca-Cola chief criticises US tax rules, says China "more business friendly"

Coca-Cola now sees the US becoming a less friendly business environment than China, its chief executive has revealed, citing political gridlock and an antiquated tax structure as reasons its home market has become less competitive.

Muhtar Kent, Coke’s chief executive, said “in many respects” it was easier doing business in China, which he likened to a well-managed company. “You have a one-stop shop in terms of the Chinese foreign investment agency and local governments are fighting for investment with each other,” he told the Financial Times.

Mr Kent also pointed to Brazil as an example of an emerging economy that is making itself attractive to investment in ways that the US once did.

“They’re learning very fast, these countries,” he said. “In the west, we’re forgetting what really worked 20 years ago. In China and other markets around the world, you see the kind of attention to detail about how business works and how business creates employment.”

Mr Kent argued that US states did not compete enough with each other to attract businesses while Chinese provinces were clamouring to draw investment from international companies. Meanwhile, he said, China’s budget discipline and rapid economic growth made it an appealing place to set up operations. more

Half Of Philadelphia Area 20-Somethings Are Unemployed

It is a sad statistic and a sign of the times: half of the Philadelphia area 20-somethings are unemployed.

Kristen Kane, Director of Social Media and Recruiting for Kane Partners, a Lansdale staffing agency, explains why 20-somethings are having so much trouble.

“There are so many ‘millenials’ that when they graduate they have this sense of entitlement. (They say) ‘I’m going to get a job at a high paying amount.’ I think they are selling themselves short,” Kane said. “It’s actually a three-step process: One is submitting your resume; two is landing the interview; and it’s not until the third step, the job offer, that you actually have a choice to say yes or no.”

Kane explains the other challenge today’s job market poses.

“Fifty percent of today’s job market is called ‘hidden.’ The jobs are available, they are just not being advertised.”

They are not advertised because companies are looking to their employees to refer people they know. Because of that, Kane said networking has never been more crucial. more

Chicago may introduce "city income tax"

As Mayor Rahm Emanuel prepares to present his first budget next month, Chicago Inspector General Joseph Ferguson is tossing out dozens of ways to raise more money and cut the size of city government.

Many of them are politically poisonous: a city income tax, tolls on Lake Shore Drive, higher ambulance fees. Others could conceivably gain traction: making garbage pickup more efficient, cutting layers of management and making all city employees work 40 hours a week.

Each of the 63 ideas, Ferguson says, is pointed toward highlighting the desperate plight of city finances in the coming years and the need for action to head off a financial meltdown.

"The problem is so severe that to honestly and fully address the budget imbalance will almost certainly require difficult choices that reduce the services the city delivers, increase taxes and fees on city residents, or more likely a combination of both," Ferguson indicated. more

Why did Obama give bunker-buster bombs to Israel?

In late 2009, the Obama administration transferred 55 so-called bunker-buster bombs to Israel. The 5,000-pound bombs conceivably put Israel in the position to attack Iran's buried nuclear facilities--or to target Hezbollah's buried bunkers in Lebanon.

The revelation, first reported by Newsweek's Eli Lake Friday, received independent confirmation via a sensitive U.S. diplomatic cable released by WikiLeaks last month.

In a November 2009 meeting among senior American and Israeli military and diplomatic officials, "both sides . . . discussed the upcoming delivery of GBU-28 bunker busting bombs to Israel, noting that the transfer should be handled quietly to avoid any allegations that the USG [U.S. government] is helping Israel prepare for a strike against Iran," the leaked Nov. 18, 2009 U.S. cable states. ThinkProgress's Ali Ghraib first reported on the U.S. cable.

Israel had earlier requested the deep-penetrating bombs from the Bush administration, Lake reported. But according to Lake's report, Bush had deferred the Israeli request, not wanting to give Israel a "green light" to bomb Iran. (However, another leaked U.S. cable discusses Israeli media reports suggesting the Bush administration transferred an earlier shipment of GBU-28 bombs to Israel, in 2005. "All media continued coverage of the forthcoming arms sale by the U.S. of GBU-28 bombs to Israel," an unclassified April 2005 U.S. diplomatic states.)

American policymakers had--and indeed have--many reasons to be wary of Israel initiating a confrontation with Iran--chief among them the roughly 150,000 American troops the United States currently has deployed on either side of Iran in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as other forces and assets assigned to bases in Qatar, Bahrain and elsewhere in the Persian Gulf region. more

Greece is slipping into the abyss: Civilization is literally breaking down, and the nation shows what's in store for the rest of us

As the economic crisis worsens, the very fabric of society in Athens is being ripped apart as the Greeks lose their good humour and generosity.

Greek grannies are as ubiquitous and iconic as Greek cats. Dressed immaculately in widow’s black, and with their grey hair neatly styled, they are proud figures. They are treated with respect by even the most rebellious youths, and acknowledged by all as the head of the fiercely maternal family groups that bind Greek society together.

The old lady I saw on the street in Athens this week was typical, except in one shocking respect. She was begging. Beggars are normal here these days, but almost all are immigrants or drug users. This was different. The image of this proud woman sitting on a plastic crate outside the supermarket with her hands out has stayed in my mind. If a symbol is needed to illustrate the unravelling of Greek society, then this is it.

The Athens I knew 20 years ago has changed radically. I used to tell British friends that despite its chaos, it was a very civilised city. When I moved here, you didn’t have homeless people sleeping on the streets, there was little crime and the sick and needy were looked after. That civility is vanishing fast. With economic doom becoming ever more likely, it sometimes feels as if the fabric of society is being ripped asunder.

Muggings used to be a rarity; not any more. Walk down the main streets of central Athens at night and you will see people sleeping rough. The other day I had to deal with a young man who had passed out on my doorstep. He may have been drunk, but in these crisis-stricken days, it is just as likely that he was high on crack cocaine, now selling for 5 euros a hit. I wasn’t going to risk disturbing him – I had my children with me.

My area of central Athens is a relatively “bad” location, but there are much worse places. The neighbourhood of Psirri borders the popular tourist attractions. Ten years ago, Psirri was rejuvenated. Bars and cafes opened, old buildings were restored. A live jazz club opened that was an instant hit. The club is gone now, and most of the shops are closed. The area became so dangerous that people simply stopped going there. Now it’s riddled with drugs. People shoot up on the street and accost anyone foolish enough to stray through the area for money. And all of this takes place a short walk from the Acropolis. more

Company will load loved ones' ashes into ammunition

A pair of Alabama conservation enforcement officers think they've come up with the perfect way for avid hunters to honor their loved ones for eternity.

Officers Thad Holmes and Clem Parnell have launched Holy Smoke LLC, a company that will, for a price, load cremated human ash into shotgun shells, and rifle and pistol cartridges.

It's the perfect life celebration for someone who loves the outdoors or shooting sports, Parnell says.

"This isn't a joke. It's a job that we take very seriously," he said. "This is a reverent business. We take the utmost care in what we do and show the greatest respect for the remains."

The company, launched in July, shipped out its first two orders on Sept. 16 - one from Florida and one from Kentucky - Holmes says.

It has established www.myholysmoke.com to promote the service and traffic on it has been growing , Holmes says.

For $850, one pound of ash will be loaded into 250 shotgun shells. The ash is mixed in the cups that hold the shot, not the powder.

The same amount of ash will fill the bullets of 100 standard caliber center-fire rifle rounds or 250 pistol rounds. For the rifle and pistol ammunition, the ash is put into the tips of hollow-point bullets with the cavity sealed with wax.

Any remaining ash is shipped back to the customer, along with the loaded ammunition. more

Hamas: 'Resistance' against Israel is only option left for Palestinians

Hamas leader Khaled Meshal told an international conference in Iran on Saturday that "resistance" was the only option left for the Palestinians.

Meshal was addressing the "5th International Conference in Support of the Palestinian Intifada" in Iran’s capital Tehran.

"Palestinians must resort to resistance no matter how costly it is, until Palestine is free and Israel is destroyed," Meshal said.

Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who also spoke at the conference on Saturday, assailed a two state solution for Israel and the Palestinians, saying the Palestinian bid for statehood at the United Nations is doomed to fail.

Khamenei told the conference, which was attended by other by senior Palestinian militant leaders as well as Mashaal, that the Palestinians should not limit themselves to seeking a country based on the pre-1967 borders because "all land belongs to Palestinians."

"Our claim is freedom of Palestine, not part of Palestine. Any plan that partitions Palestine is totally rejected," Khamenei told the conference.

"Palestine spans from the river (Jordan) to the sea (Mediterranean), nothing less." more

Carjacked couple spot criminals on holiday 1,200 miles away

A Belgian couple on holiday in Spain spotted the armed criminals who had carjacked them at gunpoint a month previously in Liege, 1,200 miles away.

The unnamed pair saw Luc Jadoul, 47, and his girlfriend Gaëlle Deloge, 20, on a beach in Alicante.

Mr Jadoul and Miss Deloge had threatened the couple with a gun and hijacked their Nissan SUV while making a dramatic escape from a Belgian courthouse just four weeks before.

In a coincidence, compared by police to winning the lottery, the crime victims were amazed to see Jadoul and Deloge sunning themselves on the Torrevieja beach last weekend.

Incredibly, the stolen car was also parked nearby, just yards from where the carjackers were sunbathing.

Keeping their heads and showing a "sangfroid" praised by the police, the holidaymakers let down the tyres on the car and called the authorities, who made an "easy" arrest. more

Britain to bask in hottest October ever as heatwave continues through the weekend

The autumn heatwave is expected to reach its peak this weekend after Friday saw temperatures of 84F (29.2C)

Forecasters are predicting that the current record high for October of 84.9F (29.4C) will be shattered as the autumn heatwave reaches its peak this weekend.

They believe they could even top 86F (30C) or higher in some parts of the country.

The forecast comes as the country entered its fourth day of an unprecedented Indian summer which has seen it experience temperatures higher than the Bahamas and Hawaii.

Eleanor Crompton, Met office forecaster, said: "There is a good chance of records being broken and temperatures could even get as high as 30C (86F)."

Temperatures yesterday reached 84F (29.2C), the hottest for the end of September on record. more

ROSAT: ANOTHER satellite to crash land soon, and the odds of it hitting someone are even higher

The world was gripped by the Nasa UARS satellite that fell back to Earth last Saturday – and now there’s another that’s plummeting back from orbit.

In late October or early November a Germany astronomy satellite – called ROSAT- will plunge uncontrolled back to Earth.

While slightly smaller than UARS, the German satellite is expected to have more pieces survive re-entry. The German space agency estimated that it has a 1-in-2000 chance of hitting someone - higher than the 1-in-3,200 odds NASA gave for UARS.

The German ROSAT satellite was launched in 1990, 'died' in 1998 and weighs two and a half tonnes.

The German space agency estimates that 30 pieces weighing less than two tons will survive re-entry. Debris may include sharp mirror shards.

The German space agency puts the odds of somebody somewhere on Earth being hurt by its satellite at 1-in-2,000 — a slightly higher level of risk than was calculated for the Nasa satellite.

Again, it seems certain that information on when - or where - the satellite might land will be scant. more

Recent flooding spawns new wave of aggressive mosquitoes in Vermont

Flooding from Tropical Storm Irene appears to have spawned a new wave of particularly aggressive mosquitoes in Vermont, keeping the threat of a potentially fatal disease alive well into the fall, according to the state Health Department.

“The flooding seems to have caused another hatch,” Erica Berl, an infectious disease epidemiologist at the Vermont Department of Health, said Friday.

Mosquitoes can carry Eastern equine encephalitis, a virus that last week killed emus at a farm in Brandon.

In addition to emus, the virus can cause illness in horses, alpacas, llamas and people. No cases in people have been reported in Vermont.

Berl said although mosquitoes might be more aggressive, they are not any more likely to carry the virus than more docile mosquitoes.

The Health Department encouraged Vermonters to prevent mosquito bites with clothing and bug spray.

“We’re not at the point yet where we think people should not be out during (peak mosquito) times,” Berl said.

People should be wary of mosquitoes until the first hard frost, she said. more

Ron Paul: US-born al-Qaida cleric 'assassinated' -- Don't Americans have right to trials before executions, regardless of who they are?

Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul is condemning the Obama administration for killing an American born al-Qaida operative without a trial.

Paul, a Texas congressman known for libertarian views, says the killing of Anwar al-Awlaki on Yemeni soil amounts to an "assassination." Paul warned the American people not to casually accept such violence against U.S. citizens, even those with strong ties to terrorism.

Anwar al-Awlaki was considered one of the most influential al-Qaida operatives wanted by the United States. U.S. and Yemen officials say he was killed in a U.S. air strike targeting his convoy Friday morning.

Paul made the comments to reporters after a campaign stop Friday at Saint Anselm College in New Hampshire. He said America's leaders must think hard about "assassinating American citizens without charges." source

Researchers Hack Voting Machine for $26

Campaigning for the 2012 presidential race has already begun, but what the candidates don't know is that come election day, hackers could be the ones whose votes have the biggest impact.

Researchers from the Argonne National Laboratory in Illinois have developed a hack that, for about $26 and an 8th-grade science education, can remotely manipulate the electronic voting machines used by millions of voters all across the U.S.

The researchers, Salon reported, performed their proof-of-concept hack on a Diebold Accuvote TS electronic voting machine, a type of touchscreen Direct Recording Electronic (DRE) voting system that is widely used for government elections.

(Diebold's voting-machine business is now owned by the Denver-based Dominion Voting Systems, whose e-voting machines are used in about 22 states.)

In a video, Roger Johnston and Jon Warner from Argonne National Laboratory's Vulnerability Assessment Team demonstrate three different ways an attacker could tamper with, and remotely take full control, of the e-voting machine simply by attaching what they call a piece of "alien electronics" into the machine's circuit board.


The electronic hacking tool consists of a $1.29 microprocessor and a circuit board that costs about $8. Together with the $15 remote control, which enabled the researchers to modify votes from up to a half-mile away, the whole hack runs about $26. more

Our Affirmative Action President

If I wrote a piece arguing that Barack Obama is our first Affirmative Action President, would I be put down as a racist? Or a realist?

Most people under fifty who went to academically competitive universities in the United States saw what has come to be known as Affirmative Action babies: Minority students, mostly black, who simply could not cut the work at the competitive college level.

Forget bringing up some Herrnstein & Murray Bell Curve arguments about “racial differences in intelligence” or some such: A lot of the minority students simply did not have the cultural and educational background to cut it.

In my own case in the early ’90’s, I remember quite clearly talking to an African American student who had no idea who Napoleon III was. The first Napoleon—Napoleon Bonaparte? Sure, he’d seen the movie. But Napoleon III? President of the Second Republic, ruler of the Second Empire, the Revolution of 1848? Not a clue. In fact at first, I think he thought I was pulling his leg about there being a “Napoleon the Third”.

This young man was smart—smart enough to realize that he had been accepted to Dartmouth because he happened to be black. He struggled academically all the while—because he was simply unprepared for the exigencies of a place like Hanover. His high-school had not equipped him with the tools needed to succeed—

—which was of course the tragedy of Affirmative Action:
Tens of thousands of minority students were granted places at elite American colleges and universities which they were simply unprepared to handle. They could speak the academese, they could fake it on a one-on-one interview, they were careful to suck-up to the university administration, which made their presence possible—

—but when you got down to brass tacks, they could not cut the work.

They weren’t stupid. They were simply unprepared. more

Why Barack Obama could be America’s last big government president

This week Gallup is unveiling a series of in-depth analyses of “Americans’ views on the role and performance of government” based on its annual Governance Survey. The first overview, released on Monday, is a real-eye opener. According to Gallup, Americans are expressing historic levels of negativity towards the US government, with “a record high 81 percent of Americans dissatisfied with the way the country is being governed,” including 65 per cent of Democrats, and 92 per cent of Republicans. Gallup concludes by stating that “Americans’ various ratings of political leadership in Washington add up to a profoundly negative review of government,” ratings which are likely to get worse during the lead up to next year’s presidential elections.

Congress’s job performance takes a real hammering at 82 per cent disapproval, with 69 per cent of Americans declaring they have “little or no confidence” in the legislative branch of government (consisting of the US Senate and House of Representatives), an all-time high, and up from 63 per cent a year ago. Gallup’s polling also finds that more than half of Americans “have little or no confidence in the men and women who seek or hold elected office.” Congressional disapproval is even higher in some other recent polls – 84 per cent according to CBB/Opinion Research, and 87 per cent in the latest Associated Press/GfK survey. The RealClear Politics average now stands at 83.3 per cent disapproval, with just 13.5 per cent approval for Congress. more

Modern-day Maoists worry Chinese authorities

A group of Maoists commemorating the 35th anniversary of Mao Zedong’s death in the northern Chinese city of Taiyuan was violently broken up by police. Chinese authorities have no patience for these Mao-lovers, who seem to have forgotten the former communist leader’s authoritarian streak and retained only the idyllic vision of a fairer society. One Chinese Maoist gives us his account.

The unrest occurred on September 9, when several dozen Maoists gathered in Taiyuan, chanted revolutionary slogans and delivered inflammatory speeches based on Mao’s Little Red Book. At the end of the demonstration, police tried to arrest the leader of the movement. Other protesters rallied to protect him, shouting “Long live Chairman Mao!” Nine people were arrested, but the organiser managed to escape. Most participants were active members of the website “Utopia”, the biggest leftist forum on the Chinese Web.

For this new generation of Maoists, the Chinese Communist Party has betrayed their leader’s roots by succumbing to capitalism and world trade. As a result foreign companies have been allowed to run amok in China, exploiting the country’s low-paid workers and wreaking havoc on the environment. In today's China, where disparities between groups are rapidly growing, Maoists are attracting an ever-growing following among the poor and working classes, which have been hard hit by unemployment and inflation. Their growing popularity, however, has also drawn the wrath of local authorities.

Though he has been gone for over 30 years, Mao’s legacy is still controversial. His supporters mainly remember the progress made under his rule, from 1949 to 1976 – rapid industrialisation, improved literacy, lower death rates… Yet they overlook the era’s darker chapters.

Mao imposed a Soviet-style rule on China, with a one-party system and economic collectivism. His vision of a ‘great leap forward’ is widely considered to have had catastrophic effects, leading to one of the biggest famines in the country’s history. In 1966, Mao launched the Cultural Revolution to ‘purge’ the party of its ‘political enemies’. Overall, Mao’s rule is believed to be one of the deadliest periods in Chinese history, with an estimated 50 to 70 million deaths. more

Teenage girl dies in Japan 'exorcism'

A 13-year-old girl suffocated after she was strapped down and doused with water by her father and a monk who were trying to expel an "evil spirit", Japanese police said Tuesday.

Fifty-six-year-old monk Kazuaki Kinoshita and the girl's 50-year-old father Atsushi Maishigi were accused of what police described as "waterfall service": strapping the victim Tomomi Maishigi to a chair and dousing her face with water.

News reports said the two men poured water over her as an "exorcism" with the father holding the girl down while the monk chanted sutras.

Miss Maishigi's mother called an ambulance after her daughter fell unconscious, but it was too late. She was confirmed dead early the next morning.

"The cause of death is suffocation," the police official said.

A police spokesman said the attack allegedly took place in Kumamoto in the country's south on the night of August 27.

Reports said the the girl's parents had turned to the monk after the youngster had suffered several years of mental and physical ill health that doctors had not been able to resolve.

The monk, who belongs to a religious group deriving from a Buddhist sect, said that the girl was possessed by an evil spirit, the private network TBS said.

Her parents had taken her to one of the group's facilities equipped with a water pump and made her go through the dousing practice about 100 times before, the broadcaster said.

The pump pulls water from underground and draws it to a height of 2.5 metres (eight feet), from where it falls on the person sitting below, TBS said. source

US building $100 million prison for Afghanistan (on your dime, of course)

FedEx shares tumble as global growth stalls

Postal company FedEx saw its shares tumble on Wall Street as the world's second-largest package delivery business warned that demand is sliding across the globe.

FedEx, whose vast operations make it a bellwether for the health of the global economy, admitted that shipments in the last quarter fell shy of forecasts as growth came close to stalling in several economies. The Memphis-based company said shipments inside the US dropped 3pc, while demand inside Asia for overnight delivery services also declined, causing the company to trim its annual profit forecast.

Like its major rival UPS, and most Wall Street economists, FedEx began 2011 expecting US economic expansion of between 3pc and 4pc. The faltering US recovery, alongside the escalation of Europe's debt crisis, has hit an industry whose growth typically mirrors the gross domestic product of the countries it operates in.

"Slower international trade growth will limit the company's ability to capitalise on recent international expansion," said David Vernon, an analyst at Sanford C Bernstein.

However, FedEx said it would stick with its $4.2bn (£2.7bn) investment plan, with much of it expected to replace its fleet of aircraft with more fuel-efficient jets. The company reported profits of $464m for the three months to the end of August, up 22pc from the same period last year.

FedEx shares were down 8.6pc at $66.30 in late morning trading. more

Another Devastating Drought Is Expected Next Year In Texas

Remember when Wichita Falls, Texas experienced 100 days of heat over 100 degrees? Unfortunately this rare heat wave is expected to return in full next year.

Forecasts from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration are already anticipating more drought this winter and next year, so residents should brace themselves for another year with minimal rain, intense winds, unbearable heat and plenty of economic losses.

This year's drought hurt economy and jobs in Texas a lot more than the recession, especially in the agricultural sector. A multi-year drought of this magnitude would cause immense short- and long- term damage. Texas is the nation's leader in cotton and beef production, and both have been heavily hit this year.

In the short-term, Texas farmer's might have another disastrous year growing corn, wheat, rice, and cotton. This past year, Texas suffered $8.7 billion in agricultural losses. Farmers are hesitant to plant seeds this fall, but continue to do so with a little hope for rain and a lot of faith in their crop insurance plans. more

"EU Banks Infected"

Gold being tested; should hold better than most anything but is a trade war starting?

n spite of the fact that the global stock sell off (Crash) is dragging gold down up to hundreds of dollars (from its peaks near 1900 US) gold should hold better than any commodities, even oil.

Silver is seeing some leverage spill out, and so is Gold. But in big stock crashes gold gets dragged down as funds had profits in the gold sector, and after markets settle down (when will the crashing stop?) gold should still be well over $1000 by that time. Gold had established a good base right at $1000 well before this stock rally started in 2009 with the QE and that market rally in March - about 2009.

That QE rally lasted about a year and a half, and that rally is what is being taken apart as another big round of QE from the Fed looks less likely to emerge.

The 'operation twist' to push out the maturity of US Treasuries the Fed tried had a reverse effect of hurting the nervous markets. Gold got dragged down as did silver, but silver is still highly leveraged in principle and has further to correct than gold. But both metals still have a goodly amount to drop if these world stock crashes are only getting started.

We alerted subscribers last weekend that gold and especially copper and resources were well over bought given the global slowdown -last Saturday. We also stated we expected the USD to hold 77 on the USDX which it did admirably. more

Trade deficit with China cost nearly 2.8 million U.S. jobs since 2001

The growing trade deficit with China has eliminated or displaced nearly 2.8 million U.S. jobs since 2001 -– or about 2% of all domestic employment during that period, according to a briefing paper from the Economic Policy Institute.

California was the hardest hit, losing nearly 455,000 jobs from 2001 to 2010 due to trade with the Asian giant, according to Robert Scott, the institute’s director of trade and manufacturing policy research. Texas lost nearly 233,000 positions the same way.

The increase in imports from China is only part of the picture, according to Scott. Since the Chinese yuan is pegged to the U.S. dollar, the currency remained artificially low, making U.S.-made goods more expensive in China and pushing down exports.

And heavy competition and cheap labor from abroad has pushed down wages for U.S. workers and reduced their bargaining power -– especially among the 70% of the workforce without a four-year college degree. In 2006, for example, a full-time median-wage earner lost $1,400 due to globalization, according to the report.

Since China entered the World Trade Organization in 2001, the trade deficit has boomed to $278 billion in 2010 from $84 billion in 2001.

Over that period, nearly 70% of the U.S. jobs lost were in manufacturing. Factory positions working with computer and electronic parts were especially depleted, but other jobs in apparel, textile fabrics and motor vehicles and parts were also significantly affected. source

5.1 Magnitude Earthquake ANDAMAN ISLANDS, INDIA REGION - 1st Oct 2011

A magnitude 5.1 earthquake has struck the Andaman Islands, India Region at a depth of 29.4 km (18.3 miles), the quake hit at 12:48:59 UTC Saturday 1st October 2011.
The epicenter was 305 km ( 189 miles) WNW of Myeik (Mergui), Myanmar
No Tsunami Warning Issued - No reports of Damage or Injuries reported at this time

5.9 Magnitude Earthquake OFF WEST COAST OF THE SOUTH ISLAND, NEW ZEALAND - 1st Oct 2011

A magnitude 5.9 earthquake has struck off the West Coast of the South Island, New Zealand at a depth of 34.9 km (21.7 miles), the quake hit at 10:54:34 UTC Saturday 1st October 2011.
The epicenter was 200 km ( 124 miles) Southwest of Snares Islands, New Zealand
No Tsunami Warning Issued - No reports of Damage or Injuries reported at this time

Note USGS has this earthquake registered as a 5.6 Magnitude. Also would like to Note that the 4,8 Magnitude of the South island was registered by USGS as 4.8 Magnitude this was in fact a 5,8 Magnitude.

Reference Number: 3587479
NZDT: Fri, Sep 30 2011 11:42 pm
Magnitude: 5.8
Depth: 160 km

4.8 Magnitude Earthquake TONGA - 1st Oct 2011

A magnitude 4.8 earthquake has struck Tonga at a depth of 204.1 km (126.8 miles), the quake hit at 10:16:41 UTC Saturday 1st October 2011.
The epicenter was 185 km ( 114 miles) Southwest of Hihifo, Tonga
No Tsunami Warning Issued - No reports of Damage or Injuries reported at this time

5.6 Magnitude Earthquake NEAR ISLANDS, ALEUTIAN ISLANDS, ALASKA - 1st Oct 2011

A magnitude 5.6 earthquake has struck near Islands, Aleutian Islands, Alaska at a depth of 5.8 km (3.6 miles), the quake hit at 09:23:48 UTC Saturday 1st October 2011.
The epicenter was 139 km ( 86 miles) Southwest of Attu Station, Alaska
No Tsunami Warning Issued - No reports of Damage or Injuries reported at this time

5.1 Magnitude Earthquake NEAR ISLANDS, ALEUTIAN ISLANDS, ALASKA - 1st Oct 2011

A magnitude 5.1 earthquake has struck near Islands, Aleutian Islands, Alaska at a depth of 30 km (18.6 miles), the quake hit at 09:18:53 UTC Saturday 1st October 2011.
The epicenter was 134 km ( 83 miles) Southwest of Attu Station, Alaska
No Tsunami Warning Issued - No reports of Damage or Injuries reported at this time

4.8 Magnitude Earthquake CERAM SEA, INDONESIA - 1st Oct 2011

A magnitude 4.8 earthquake has struck the Ceram Sea, Indonesia at a depth of 50.4 km (31.3 miles), the quake hit at 08:27:06 UTC Saturday 1st October 2011.
The epicenter was 175 km ( 108 miles) WNW of Ambon, Moluccas, Indonesia
No reports of Damage or Injuries reported at this time

2nd typhoon in a week lashes rain-soaked Philippines - 30th Sept 2011

The second typhoon in a week has made landfall in the northern Philippines which is still reeling from floods alongside several Asian countries.

Typhoon Nalgae slammed ashore midmorning Saturday south of northeastern Palanan Bay with winds of 100 mph (160 kph) and stronger gusts.

It is making a similar path across the rain-soaked Luzon Island as an earlier typhoon that killed at least 50 people, left thousands stranded on rooftops and sent huge waves that breached a seawall in Manila Bay.

Hundreds of thousands have hunkered down in evacuation centers with rainfall of about an inch (2 and a half centimeters) an hour.

More than 600 are dead or missing in monsoon floods and storms in Southeast Asia, China, Japan and South Asia in the last four months. Source

Texas Wildfires Still Raging: 5000 Acres Northeast of Abilene - 30th Sept 2011

As wildfires burn statewide in unstable, windy conditions, Texans learn that the historic drought will last at least through winter and possibly until 2020.

With wildfires raging across 2500 acres of drought-parched fuels near the West Texas town of Snyder, and a 5000 acre fire moving into Big Bend National Park, the last thing Texas needs is more wind. Unfortunately, the Texas Forest Service has warned for days that the forecast for September 30, 2011, calls for hot, dry, unstable conditions creating a critical fire weather situation.

"It is extremely dry today with low relative humidity and 20 to 25 mph winds," according to Marq Webb, Public Information Officer with the Texas Forest Service. "With these weather conditions added to extremely dry fuels, you can expect rapid fire spread today.

And so it begins. At 2 p.m. on September 30, 2011, the Texas Forest Service reported nine new fires started by lightning in the Southeast Texas Fire Complex involving 40 acres now burning in Walker County; 94 acres burning in Newton county, one acre in Harden County; one acre in San Augustine County; one acre in Houston County; 6.5 acres in Shelby County'; one acre in Lamar County; 12 acres and 25 acres in Wood County and six acres in Red River County. Read More

Southeast Asia reels from floods as storm whacks Vietnam - 30th Sept 2011

A tropical storm whacked into Vietnam on Friday, forcing 20,000 people to be evacuated, as the Philippines braced for a new typhoon and several Asian countries reeled under floods after some of the wildest weather this summer. Prolonged monsoon flooding, typhoons and storms have wreaked untold havoc in the region, leaving more than 600 people dead or missing in India, Thailand, the Philippines, Japan, China, Pakistan and Vietnam in the last four months. In India alone, the damage is estimated to be worth $1 billion, with the worst-hit state of Orissa accounting for $726 million. Several studies suggest an intensification of the Asian summer monsoon rainfall with increased atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations, the state-run Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology said. Still, it is not clear that this is entirely because of climate change, especially in India, it said.

After pummeling the Philippines and China this week, Typhoon Nesat was downgraded to a tropical storm just before churning into northern Vietnam on Friday afternoon with sustained wind speeds of up to 73 mph (118 kph), according to the national weather forecasting center. Heavy rains were reported in northern and central areas. Warnings were issued for flash floods and landslides in mountainous regions, and for flooding in low-lying areas. High winds whipped through the streets of the capital, Hanoi.

The storm had flooded streets across the southern Chinese island of Hainan on Thursday, forcing some 300,000 people to flee their homes, China’s official Xinhua News Agency said. On Tuesday, Nesat bashed the Philippines, killing at least 43 people and leaving 30 others missing after causing one of the worst floods in decades in the capital, Manila. Read More

Plutonium detected outside compound of Fukushima plant - 1st Oct 2011

The government has detected plutonium apparently from the crippled Fukushima Daiichi power plant outside the compound of the plant for the first time, science ministry officials said Friday.

The plutonium was detected at six locations in Fukushima Prefecture, including Iitate village around 45 kilometers northwest of the Fukushima complex, they said, adding the amounts were small and posed no danger to health.

The radioactive substance may have been carried by vapor or fine particles from the nuclear plant, said an official of Tokyo Electric Power Co., the operator of the plant.

Plutonium has an extremely long half-life and is associated with a high risk of cancer if it enters the human body by breathing or other means. As plutonium is heavy, it does not spread far.

The Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology also detected radioactive strontium at various locations including one around 80 km from the plant. Source

Japan government lifts evacuation advisory for 20-30 km zone - 1st Oct 2011

The Japanese government on Friday lifted its advisory for residents living in areas between 20 and 30 kilometers from the Fukushima Daiichi power plant to evacuate due to the nuclear crisis at the plant, scaling down the evacuation zone five months after its designation.

"This is major progress following the nuclear accident, and we will support residents' steady and safe return," nuclear disaster minister Goshi Hosono said in announcing the decision reached during a government meeting to discuss measures to deal with the world's worst nuclear accident in 25 years.

Efforts to decontaminate land polluted with radioactive substances and restoration of infrastructure are expected to proceed to pave the way for the actual return of around 26,000 people who are currently staying outside the so-called Evacuation-Prepared Area in Case of Emergency.

The advisory covered the entire town of Hirono and parts of the cities of Minamisoma and Tamura, the town of Naraha and the village of Kawauchi, all in Fukushima Prefecture. A total of around 58,500 people resided in those areas. Read More

First cantaloupe, now lettuce: California farm recalls 90 cartons of romaine over listeria fears - 30th Sept 2011

California-based True Leaf Farms is recalling 90 cartons of chopped romaine lettuce as it may be contaminated with listeria, though no related illnesses have been reported.

Listeria is a frequent cause of U.S. food recalls but concerns over the bacterial contamination are heightened due to an outbreak linked to cantaloupes grown in Colorado, which has already killed 13 people and infected 72 people across 18 states.

There is no connection between the lettuce recall and the outbreak tied to cantaloupes, the Food and Drug Administration spokesman Douglas Karas said on Friday.

It is the fourth listeria-related food recall since Colorado's Jensen Farms voluntarily recalled cantaloupes linked to the outbreak on Sept. 14.

Only one of the four subsequent recalls -- of cantaloupes by Kansas food processor Carol's Cuts LLC -- was related to the outbreak. Read More

Navy's first unmanned stealth drone one step closer to aircraft carrier landing - 30th Sept 2011

LinkThe U.S. Navy's latest stealth drone has completed a series of rigorous summer flight tests - taking it one step closer to its first automated carrier landing.

Reaching speeds of 180 knots, two experimental X-47B drones have completed their summer test schedule to evaluate software and other modifications before the first test aircraft carrier landing in 2013.

While the X-47B is expected to usher in a new era of unmanned aircraft, critics have raised concerns over the lack of human control in increasingly deadly military hardware. Read More


More cracks and loose marble found on quake damaged Washington Monument - 30th Sept 2011

It is one of the nation's most iconic structures.

But during last month's earthquake, the Washington Monument was severely shaken, causing large chunks to fall and cracks to appear in the 130-year-old building - forcing its closure to the public.

Now a special 'difficult access team' is scaling the 555 foot obelisk to work out how much marble fell off after it emerged Thursday new cracks and chips had been found.

Bill Line, a spokesperson for the National Park Service said that engineers found loose mortar and some cracks after preliminary inspections. Read More

Occupy Wall Street: Thousands of Protesters Descend On Manhattan.... is this the start of a middle class uprising?

New York City police are bracing for a weekend of mayhem in lower Manhattan with thousands expected to risk arrest as the Occupy Wall Street protest moves into its third straight week.

The movement, whose members have vowed to stay through the winter, are protesting issues including the 2008 bank bailouts, foreclosures and high unemployment.

And the increasing presence of more affluent-looking demonstrators is fuelling questions over whether this is the moment a frustrated middle America is uniting for a national uprising.

The protest encampment in Zuccotti Park in downtown Manhattan is festooned with placards and anti-Wall Street slogans.

There is a makeshift kitchen and library, and celebrities from filmmaker Michael Moore to actress Susan Sarandon have stopped by to show solidarity.

Grungy youths sleeping on the street, topless women waving signs stating 'I love this country', and ageing hippies have won their share of national headlines for their cries of rebellion.

But among these protesters are also men wearing suits and mothers who have driven in from the suburbs. Read More

4.2 Magnitude Earthquake EASTERN TURKEY - 1st Oct 2011

A magnitude 4.2 earthquake has struck Eastern Turkey at a depth of 2 km (1.2 miles), the quake hit at 07:07:22 UTC Saturday 1st October 2011.
The epicenter was 17 km ( 10.5 miles) Northwest of Arhavi, Turkey
No reports of Damage or Injuries reported at this time

4.6 Magnitude Earthquake SPAIN - 1st Oct 2011

A magnitude 4.6 earthquake has struck Spain at a depth of 15 km (9.3 miles), the quake hit at 07:14:37 UTC Saturday 1st October 2011.
The epicenter was 7 km ( 4.1 miles) Northeast of Quiroga, Spain
No reports of Damage or Injuries reported at this time