Saturday, January 14, 2012

Matthew 25

Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink?  And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you?  And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’  And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’

MLK Last Speech

5 Things You Should Know About the FBI's Massive New Biometric Database | Civil Liberties | AlterNet

5 Things You Should Know About the FBI's Massive New Biometric Database | Civil Liberties | AlterNet

...An CJIS/FBI guide instructing officials how to pitch S-Comm to local law enforcement explains that, "Ultimately, LEA participation is inevitable because SC is simply the first of a number of biometric interoperatability systems being brought online by the FBI/CJIS 'Next Generation Identification' initiative."

The document lays out strategies for dealing with resistant police departments, including, "Deploy to as many places in the surrounding locale, creating a 'ring of interoperatability' around the resistant site."

"It's a way of operationalizing wide-sweeping intelligence gathering," Sunita Patel of CCR tells AlterNet.

What could possibly go wrong?

Advancements in the collection of biometric data are double-edged: there's the threat of a massive government surveillance infrastructure working too well -- e.g., surveillance state -- and there are concerns about its weaknesses, especially in keeping data secure.

A breach of a sophisticated, multi-modal biometric database makes for a nightmarish scenario because the whole point of biometric data is that it offers unique ways to ID people, so there's no easy fix -- like a password change -- for compromised biometric data. Pointing to the dangers of identify theft of biometric data, Patel observes that, "Unlike a password, the algorithm of an iris can't be changed."

- bth: an article worth reading in full. It will soon be the case that one cannot travel outside without being identified. Great to advertisers that link facial recognition with Facebook type databases. The article which is worth reading in full also notes that the theft or unauthorized access to this data would have permanent and irreconcilable breaches of personal security. Image the havoc that would be caused if this database were hacked by a foreign power or alternately abused by a totalitarian government.

FBI Facial Recognition Power Point Presentation

Here is a link to an FBI presentation on their broad facial recognition and biometric initiative.

'US prepping facilities for Isra... JPost - Iranian Threat - News

'US prepping facilities for Isra... JPost - Iranian Threat - News

US defense officials concerned Israel will attack Iran over its nuclear program; Obama, US secretary of defense have warned Jerusalem of dangerous repercussions of strike, 'Wall Street Journal' reports.

The United States has begun taking measures to plan for a possible Israeli strike on Iran in order to protect US facilities in the region, the Wall Street Journal reported Saturday.

The contingency planning comes as a result of concern within the US defense establishment that Israel is planning to attack Iran over the Islamic Republic's reported nuclear armament program, according to the newspaper....

This New Army Tourniquet Is Going to Save a Bunch of Lives

This New Army Tourniquet Is Going to Save a Bunch of Lives

... To correct for this, two emergency-room physicians from the Georgia Health Sciences University and Trinity Medical Center in Birmingham, Alabama developed the abdominal aortic tourniquet. It's a wedge-shaped device that sits even with the navel and is tightened, then inflated—using a hand pump—until blood flow to the lower body is halted. This extends the so-called Golden Hour during which an injured person has the highest chance of survival.

"By effectively cross-clamping the aorta with the abdominal aortic tourniquet, you are essentially turning the faucet off," Dr. John Croushorn, Chairman of the Department of Emergency Medicine at Trinity Medical Center said in a press release. "You are stopping the loss of blood from the broken and damaged blood vessels. You are buying the patient an additional hour of survival tim

This New Army Tourniquet Is Going to Save a Bunch of Lives

-bth: fantastic step. Perhaps it will lead to more advances in the treatment of abdominal bleeding from trauma.

e based on blood loss."...

Friday, January 13, 2012

Unprecedented, Tepid Recovery Under Obama Begs Question: Where Did All The Workers Go? -

Unprecedented, Tepid Recovery Under Obama Begs Question: Where Did All The Workers Go? -

... The weak job market has also helped depress wages. Real median annual household income has dropped 5.1% since the recession ended, more than the 3.2% decline during the recession itself — according to a new Sentier Research report.

The smaller labor force is just one of the problems with the current unemployment number. The other is that the jobs being created aren't keeping pace with population growth. Since June 2009, the economy has added 1.4 million jobs, which is below the more than 2 million needed to keep up with population growth and far below the gains experienced at the same point in the previous 10 recoveries — which saw job gains average more than 4 million.

- bth: this article is worth a full read. We need to be careful about talking about just unemployment rates as a percentage of the work force when the work force is actually shrinking as a result of people giving up looking for a job. Also the per household income declines, post recovery, are just unprecedented.

On Pakistan's Government Crisis

Informed Comment: Thoughts on the Middle East, History and Religion

Israel is pushing U.S. toward Iran war, Russian official says - Haaretz Daily Newspaper | Israel News

Israel is pushing U.S. toward Iran war, Russian official says - Haaretz Daily Newspaper | Israel News

Russia fears Israel will push the United States into a military conflict with Iran which could retaliate by blocking oil shipments from the Gulf, a confidant of Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said on Thursday.

"There is a likelihood of military escalation of the conflict, towards which Israel is pushing the Americans," Nikolai Patrushev, who heads the Kremlin's Security Council, told Interfax news agency.

He also said he believes Western countries are getting close to launching a military intervention in Syria, in an attempt to undermine Iran's regional standing.

Patrushev, a former head of the main successor to the Soviet-era KGB, said Tehran could respond by blocking the Strait of Hormuz between Oman and Iran, through which 35 percent of the world's seaborne traded oil passes.

"It cannot be ruled out that the Iranians will be able to carry out their threat to shut exports of Saudi oil through the Strait of Hormuz if faced with military actions against them," Patrushev said in an interview published on Thursday.

Tension over Iranian uranium enrichment, which has moved to a mountain bunker better protected from possible air strikes, has raised fears for world oil supplies and even of war....

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Rachel Maddow: Veterans reprise

Rachel Maddow: A look ahead

Erratic driving an increasing problem among returning combat veterans - Stripes Central - Stripes

Erratic driving an increasing problem among returning combat veterans - Stripes Central - Stripes

...Erratic driving by combat veterans is increasingly a problem on American roadways, The New York Times reported on Wednesday, citing a report by USAA, a leading insurer of active-duty troops. The study found that accidents in which the servicemembers were at fault went up by 13 percent after deployments. The riskiest period appeared to be the six months returning from a deployment....

-bth: dah. Anyone that has ridden with someone coming back knows they dodge trash bags and drive fast and in the middle of the road whenever possible. The astonishing thing is that the stats are only 13% higher.

Marine Corps manual offers a blunt, revealing portrait of Afghan war - The Washington Post

Marine Corps manual offers a blunt, revealing portrait of Afghan war - The Washington Post


It was also during this period that the ISI gained power among the Taliban groups by being the channel for much of the weaponry the United States and Saudi Arabia provided.

“To control the Mujahideen, the ISI formed seven resistance groups, each with a national political party associated with it,” according to the manual. The ISI selected tribes that were rivals of those associated with Afghanistan’s former leaders, who had no love for Pakistan.

The ISI’s purpose was to create “puppets they could control when the war was over” and thus protect their northwestern border. That was needed to ease their fear of a two-front war should India invade from the southeast.

After the war concluded, former mujaheddin began to fight each other for control of the country. By 1994, a group of radical Islamic Taliban forces that had been armed by the ISI took over to end the anarchy. Unable to govern, they “became dependent on al Qaeda and their Pakistani masters for funds and military power,” according to the manual.

After Sept. 11, 2001, the United States and its coalition partners defeated the Taliban, and in 2002 a government headed by President Hamid Karzai was installed. Meanwhile, a new Taliban has emerged. “They still revere Mullah Omar as a spiritual leader, but no longer as the primary political leader of the movement,” according to the manual. This diffused Taliban leadership makes peace talks that much more difficult.

Another portion of the manual introduces the Marines to their Afghan allies, warts and all.

In combat, Afghans from all ethnic groups in the army “generally make excellent soldiers,” according to the manual. “Keep in mind that many ANA [Afghan National Army] soldiers have seen more firefights than you’ve had hot dinners.”

But the manual warns that corruption among officers was in the culture of the old army. “This included skimming pay, rations, and equipment for their own profits,” according to the manual. “Instilling a sense of duty to country and professionalism among the officers has been one of the most frequently-reported challenges,” it goes on to say.

A second problem: “Corruption in the police is endemic” with army units needing to challenge “local police graft, bribery and corruption schemes.”

On Wednesday, the Wall Street Journal reported from Jani Khel, Afghanistan that local police had “erected illegal checkpoints to extort money from the population.”

In offering advice to U.S. Marines in Afghanistan the manual quotes, with one adaptation, T.E. Lawrence, the famous Lawrence of Arabia: “Do not try to do too much with your own hands. Better the [Afghans] do it tolerably than that you do it perfectly. It is their war, and you are to help them, not win it for them.”

-bth: note the persistent leak or release of military documents that describe a very frustrating situation, external support to the Taliban and a stalemate. I think the objective of these releases is not to inform the public but layout a path for continued presence of US forces and to minimize expectations of a drawdown.

U.S. intelligence report on Afghanistan sees stalemate -

U.S. intelligence report on Afghanistan sees stalemate -

The U.S. intelligence community says in a secret new assessment that the war in Afghanistan is mired in stalemate, and warns that security gains from an increase in American troops have been undercut by pervasive corruption, incompetent governance and Taliban fighters operating from neighboring Pakistan, according to U.S. officials.

The sobering judgments, laid out in a classified National Intelligence Estimate completed last month and delivered to the White House, appeared at odds with recent optimistic statements by Pentagon officials and have deepened divisions between U.S. intelligence agencies and American military commanders about progress in the decade-old war.

The detailed document, known as an NIE, runs more than 100 pages and represents the consensus view of the CIA and 15 other U.S. intelligence agencies. Similar in tone to an NIE prepared a year ago, it challenges the Pentagon's claim to have achieved lasting security gains in Taliban strongholds in southern Afghanistan, according to U.S. officials who have read or been briefed on its contents....

-bth: aren't these conclusions generic and obvious to anyone who tries to stay informed on the matter?

A Murder in Tehran | Informed Comment

A Murder in Tehran | Informed Comment

... If you put this all together, you can come to a speculation. The circumstantial evidence would point to a member of the Mojahedin-e Khalq (MEK or People’s Jihadis) terrorist organization. The MEK is known to have been involved in espionage on the Iranian nuclear program, and it wants to overthrow the current government in favor of a Marxist-Islamic regime, working with Israeli intelligence. Mossad does targeted assassinations, as in Dubai. The MEK has a history of pulling off bombings in Iran. One, in 1981, killed over 80 members of the revolution’s political elite, including the prime minister. The MEK is based in part in Iraq and so could acquire sticky bombs easily. It is known to have an operational alliance with Israeli and American intelligence. And that this bombing occurred on an anniversary of a previous one also suggests a terrorist group for which the date is symbolic.

I underline that this conclusion is circumstantial and purely the result of an intellectual exercise, i.e., of speculation. I’m not making an accusation and have no proof of this conclusion. But it is more likely the solution to the mystery than that Thai ninjas or Argentine gauchos did the deed. ...

- bth: Juan Cole's blog posting on this matter is worth reading in full.