Saturday, September 17, 2011

This Ain’t Your Ancestors’ Ice Bridge – Russia To Build Tunnel Across Bering Strait | Singularity Hub

This Ain’t Your Ancestors’ Ice Bridge – Russia To Build Tunnel Across Bering Strait | Singularity Hub

At 64 miles (103 km), it would not only be the longest tunnel in the world, it would more than double the currently longest British Channel Tunnel. It would span the Bering Straight and connect Russia to Alaska. Details are sketchy, but consensus indicates the tunnel would have a highway, high-speed rail tracks, a fiber optic network and pipelines for gas and oil. The total cost for the tunnel is projected at $65 billion USD.

Sounds like a big deal. One would think that such a major undertaking would be big news, announced with all the appropriate press releases and fanfare. Instead, over the past few weeks it’s been a kind of bubbling up through the rumor mill....

-- bth: cool

Friday, September 16, 2011

Excerpt from "Death to the Camera" by Qasem Hossaini on Vimeo

Excerpt from "Death to the Camera" by Qasem Hossaini on Vimeo

Excerpt from "Death to the Camera" by Qasem Hossaini from Michael Sheridan on Vimeo.

Poll: Congress sinks even lower - Mackenzie Weinger -

Poll: Congress sinks even lower - Mackenzie Weinger -

Just 12 percent of Americans approve of how Congress is doing its job, matching the all-time record low, according to a new poll Friday.

The overwhelming dissatisfaction with Congress last hit its rock bottom of 12 percent approval in October 2008, the CBS News/New York Times poll shows.

And members better watch out for their jobs come 2012. Only six percent of voters say members deserve re-election — the lowest percentage ever in the past 20 years, dropping even below the nine percent who thought that before the 2010 midterm elections.

Almost six in 10 voters told the pollsters they didn’t even think their own representative should be re-elected. Typically, Americans poll more positively when asked about their own member, but CBS wrote that the percentage wanting to vote their representative out nears the highest it has ever surveyed....

Poll: Unemployment is now top issue - MJ Lee -

Poll: Unemployment is now top issue - MJ Lee -

Unemployment has jumped to the top of the list of voter concerns, a new poll out Thursday shows.

With the jobless rate refusing the drop below the 9 percent mark, 39 percent of Americans now consider unemployment or jobs the country’s most important problem - that’s up 10 percent from the 29 percent in August....

James Carville: Obama should ‘panic’ - Mackenzie Weinger -

James Carville: Obama should ‘panic’ - Mackenzie Weinger -

...“People often ask me what advice I would give the White House about various things,” Carville wrote on Wednesday. “Today I was mulling over election results from New York and Nevada while thinking about that very question. What should the White House do now? One word came to mind: Panic.”

Carville said Democrats are “past sending out talking points” and said he would tell the president, “The time has come to demand a plan of action that requires a complete change from the direction you are headed.”

Carville’s advice: “Fire. Indict. Fight.”

Obama must fire someone – “No – fire a lot of people” — because the current team is just not working, Carville wrote....

Clinton Popularity Prompts Buyer’s Remorse - Bloomberg

Clinton Popularity Prompts Buyer’s Remorse - Bloomberg

The most popular national political figure in America today is one who was rejected by her own party three years ago: Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Nearly two-thirds of Americans hold a favorable view of her and one-third are suffering a form of buyer’s remorse, saying the U.S. would be better off now if she had become president in 2008 instead of Barack Obama.

The finding in the latest Bloomberg National Poll shows a higher level of wishful thinking about a Hillary Clinton presidency than when a similar question was asked in July 2010. Then, a quarter of Americans held such a view...

Asia Times Online :: The suicide-bomb capital of the world

Asia Times Online :: The suicide-bomb capital of the world

ISLAMABAD - Ten years down the road since the 9/11 terrorist attacks and the subsequent war on terror launched by the United States, Pakistan seems to have been turned into the suicide bombing capital of the world, with the country’s security forces, especially the army and the police, often being targeted by lethal human bombs.

In 303 suicide attacks carried out in almost every nook and corner of Pakistan 4,808 people were killed and 10,149 others injured in the decade to September 11, 2011, according to Ministry of Interior data.

Statistically speaking, that staggering death toll means that on average, suicide bombers have killed 480 people and injured 1,014 others every year across Pakistan since September 11, 2011 - though, post-9/11, the phenomenon first struck in 2002. Likewise, Pakistan has suffered an average 30 suicide bombings every year

of the decade, or four attacks a month.

In comparison, in Iraq, suicide bombers have killed more than 12,000 civilians and wounded more than 30,000 since the war began in 2003, according to study released by the British medical journal Lancet.

The study found that 1,003 documented suicide bombings accounted for 12,284 of 108,624 Iraqi civilian deaths, 11% of those killed between March 20, 2003, and December 31, 2010. During the same period from 2003 to 2010, 79 documented suicide bomb attacks were responsible for the deaths of 200 coalition troops, the study found.

However, attacks have tapered off dramatically over the past year, while those in Pakistan are on the increase. In Afghanistan, meanwhile, in the decade since September 9, 2001 - the killing of Northern Alliance leader Ahmad Shah Massoud by al-Qaeda suicide bombers - a total of 736 suicide attacks have killed 3,755 people, the India-based Institute of Conflict Management and its South Asia Terrorism Portal report....

Times poll finds a souring mood among troops - Army News | News from Afghanistan & Iraq - Army Times

Times poll finds a souring mood among troops - Army News | News from Afghanistan & Iraq - Army Times

After a decade of war in Afghanistan, many troops are losing confidence in the long-term likelihood of success for the U.S. military mission there, and their overall support for President Obama has slipped, according to the latest Military Times annual reader survey.

Slightly less than half of readers said the U.S. is “very likely” or “somewhat likely” to succeed in Afghanistan. The figure is lower among troops who have deployed in support of Operation Enduring Freedom, the survey shows.

That has slipped steadily from 2007, when more than 75 percent of readers surveyed said the U.S. was “very likely” or “somewhat likely” to succeed in Afghanistan....

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Cross-border incursion into Iraq possible at any time, Turkish minister says - Hurriyet Daily News

Cross-border incursion into Iraq possible at any time, Turkish minister says - Hurriyet Daily News

A military incursion into northern Iraq to hunt down members of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, “could be conducted at any moment,” Interior Minister İdris Naim Şahin announced Tuesday.

"An evaluation [for a cross-border operation] is still in the works. But our operations continue to battle crime and criminals on land, as well as maintaining control. A cross-border incursion may be conducted depending on talks with the neighboring countries,” Şahin told reporters following a meeting with a visiting German delegation.

Şahin added that military incursions took place all the time....

- bth: I don't think this is an idle statement.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Veto a State, Lose an Ally -

Veto a State, Lose an Ally -

The United States must support the Palestinian bid for statehood at the United Nations this month or risk losing the little credibility it has in the Arab world. If it does not, American influence will decline further, Israeli security will be undermined and Iran will be empowered, increasing the chances of another war in the region.

Moreover, Saudi Arabia would no longer be able to cooperate with America in the same way it historically has. With most of the Arab world in upheaval, the “special relationship” between Saudi Arabia and the United States would increasingly be seen as toxic by the vast majority of Arabs and Muslims, who demand justice for the Palestinian people.

Saudi leaders would be forced by domestic and regional pressures to adopt a far more independent and assertive foreign policy. Like our recent military support for Bahrain’s monarchy, which America opposed, Saudi Arabia would pursue other policies at odds with those of the United States, including opposing the government of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki in Iraq and refusing to open an embassy there despite American pressure to do so. The Saudi government might part ways with Washington in Afghanistan and Yemen as well.

The Palestinian people deserve statehood and all that it entails: official recognition, endorsement by international organizations, the ability to deal with Israel on more equal footing and the opportunity to live in peace and security.

Israel should see the Palestinian bid for statehood not as a threat, but as a chance to return to the negotiating table and prevent further conflict. Recent polls show that up to 70 percent of Palestinians say they believe there will be a new intifada if the deadlock is not broken shortly; this should encourage Israel to seek peace with the moderate Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas....

-- bth: I think he is correct.

Gunmen kill 22 Shi'ite Iraqi pilgrims: police | Reuters

Gunmen kill 22 Shi'ite Iraqi pilgrims: police | Reuters

(Reuters) - Gunmen killed 22 Iraqi Shi'ite pilgrims in an ambush in the Sunni heartland province of Anbar on Monday, a police official said.

Bombings and killings remain a daily occurrence in Iraq more than eight years after the 2003 U.S.-led invasion although violence has dropped from the height of sectarian fighting in 2006-7.

The pilgrims were traveling from the southern Iraqi city of Kerbala to Syria when they were shot at a checkpoint set up by the gunmen, said Major General Hadi Razij, head of Anbar police.

"There was a big bus and a mini bus containing 30 people, including 22 men and 8 women," he told Reuters. "They took the men and they left the women. They killed the 22 men."

A security source in Anbar police said the incident took place south of the town of Rutba, 360 km (225 miles) west of Baghdad.

The source said the remaining pilgrims, including 15 women, 12 children and two elderly men, had been put in the care of the head of Kerbala's provincial council.

Razij said a search was being conducted for the gunmen, whom he suspected were al Qaeda insurgents....

-- bth: how does al Qaeda maintain any form of local support even amongst Sunnis when they do atrocities like this?

NightWatch 20110912 - KGS - On negotiating with the Taliban

NightWatch 20110912 - KGS

...Afghanistan-Qatar: The United States supports Taliban plans to open political headquarters in Doha, Qatar, by the end of 2011 to spur U.S.-Taliban peace talks and begin negotiations, The Times reported. Qatar offered to host the political office after the US insisted it not be located in Pakistan. The Taliban want assurances that their Doha representatives will not be harassed or arrested.

"It will be an address where they have a political office," said one Western diplomatic source. "It will not be an embassy or a consulate but a residence where they can be treated like a political party." The move has been devised so that the West can begin formal peace talks with the Taliban.

Comment: The US has declined to comment on the report, but such a development would be consistent with recent political reporting about contacts, which Mullah Omar confirmed in his Eid-ul-Fitr greeting on 31 August. It would be an indicator of movement towards political power sharing between the Kabul government and its backers and the Taliban. When the Taliban was in power, only the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan recognized it.

The Coalition has insufficient coercive power to end the Pashtun uprising, so it has little choice but to cede some legitimacy and political authority to the Taliban to try to complement force with talks, which is what occurs in power sharing. Regardless of intentions and motives by political leaders, the opening of talks in Qatar would represent an admission that peace cannot be restored in Afghanistan without the Taliban's cooperation....

Monday, September 12, 2011

Counterfeit Dollars Flooding Afghanistan

Counterfeit Dollars Flooding Afghanistan

KABUL -- Money-exchange dealers in Kabul say they are concerned by the large amounts of counterfeit foreign money that they say is entering Afghanistan from neighboring countries, RFE/RL's Radio Free Afghanistan reports.

Aminullah Owijdan, head of the Kabul-based Money Exchange Dealers Association, told RFE/RL that there has been a huge influx of fake U.S. dollars on Kabul's streets in recent weeks.

"We suspect that countries like Iran and Pakistan are attempting to discredit [and disrupt] Afghanistan's money markets," he said. "Therefore, we are urging the government and security forces to do more in the border areas to prevent [the fake money's] entry into the country."

Dealers have asked locals to report to the police if they find counterfeit banknotes, which are reportedly softer in texture than the originals.

Saif al-Din, professor of economics at Kabul University, told RFE/RL that the entrance of fake currencies into Afghanistan has damaged the economy and disrupted everyday business transactions.

"If the government and security forces are serious about finally tackling this problem, it has to put certain control mechanisms in place to detect forged money and keep it from entering Afghanistan in the first place," he said.

The Kabul Bank has thus far not commented publicly on the issue.

-- bth: so what possible incentive would a poor Afghan have to report that the US dollars he was just paid were counterfeit? Absolutely none. He would not report it. He would pass it on. This is why Iran, most likely, can get away with this.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Is Manufacturing Falling Off the U.S. Radar Screen? -

Is Manufacturing Falling Off the U.S. Radar Screen? -

...  Exactly when China took the lead, ousting the United States from a position held for more than a century, isn’t easy to pin down. The bureau says it may have come in 2009, when Chinese manufacturers generated $1.7 trillion of “value added,” versus America’s $1.6 trillion. (When a $100 sheet of steel, for example, is shaped into a $125 auto fender, the value added is $25.)

Relying on World Bank figures, some economists suggest that China moved into first place in manufacturing last year. Others say that based on measurements of actual purchasing power, the moment has not yet arrived but will come soon.

It may seem remarkable that America’s fall — or impending fall — from first place in manufacturing isn’t generating all that many headlines, certainly not when compared with the controversies over the national debt or persistent unemployment. One reason may be that the nation’s political leaders don’t see manufacturing as a problem. Put another way, they don’t necessarily regard making an engine, a computer or even a pair of scissors as having as much value as investment banking or retailing or a useful Web site.

“You have a culture within the elites of both political parties that says manufacturing does not matter, and industrial policy will do more harm than good,” says Ronil Hira, an assistant professor of public policy at the Rochester Institute of Technology.

But the stark reality of manufacturing’s shrinking share of national output is beginning to force these questions:
Does manufacturing matter? And is the financial sector, which rose as manufacturing declined, an adequate substitute? The financial crisis may have answered that last question with an emphatic no. Certainly, many experts maintain that manufacturing’s contribution to the national health is significantly underappreciated.

Recovery from the recession, they say, would not be so sluggish if there were still enough manufacturers to jump-start an upturn by revving up production and rehiring en masse at the first signs of better times. What’s more, each new manufacturing job generates five others in the economy. Shrinking the relative size of manufacturing has undermined that multiplier effect.

The damage doesn’t end there. The intractable trade deficit is attributable in part to manufacturing’s shaken status. And in many areas, craftsmanship in America has been eroding. Forty percent of the nation’s engineers work in manufacturing, for example, and that profession’s numbers have been declining. That is a particular problem because innovation often originates in manufacturing, frequently in research centers near factories, which aid in the creation of products and the tweaking of them on assembly lines.

As multinationals place factories abroad, they are putting research centers near them, with as-yet-undetermined consequences. At the very least, this trend challenges the view that the United States has the best scientists and research centers and is thus the research-and-development pacesetter....

-- bth: America's political elite couldn't give a tinker's damn about manufacturing jobs. Republicans hate them because they often involve unions. Democrats don't like business subsidies, pollution and if they aren't 'green jobs' they don't get supported at all. As a result, companies in the US are going bankrupt that rely on venture capital and government funds while China give theirs free land, protected markets, 100% interest only loans for 5 years. It is impossible for American companies to compete with Chinese suppliers that are protected and subsidized to that extent when American politicians will not stand up for the American worker. So when the suppliers leave and the middle managers become Chinese, what happens to the intellectual knowledge and know how? It migrates away from America and it will not be coming back.

Mass Military Heroes Fund 911 10th Anniversary Event

The marble of our heroes' headstones - CBS News Video

The marble of our heroes' headstones - CBS News Video