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Friday, January 29, 2016

Conspiracy Theories, Understanding Propaganda, and More

- everytime you go through history things are a lot more complex than they actually seem. One thing is fundamentally clear though is that if you meet the average Australian, Japanese, Russian, American, Chinese, Korean, Saudi Arabian, Iranian, etc... person they couldn't care less about a lot of the things that the government seems to want. However, one thing is obvious. It's the feeling of betrayal which leads certain people to take a completely different perspective of things. When they discover that things aren't how they appear or are purported to be they can go on a completely different tangent. That's very obvious with a lot of conspiracy theorists and alternative news channels out there. If you feed people propaganda and they figure things out they're much more likely to 'turn'. It's best to be honest when you can
NATO looks to combat Russia's 'information weapon': document
- you need to forget the idea that any country is 'exceptional'. Look deeper and you'll uncover that most countries have alternative/parallel programs doing the exact same thing. For instance, while it has been documented that the Russians and Chinese have so called 'web brigades' of humans who leave comments on forums and after articles in an attempt to persuade or muddle the situation it's clear that they (as well as the US) have also come up systems to defend against and in order to achieve the exact same thing. At times it seems some of this stuff is just too crazy to be true...
http://dtbnguyen.blogspot.com/2015/12/understanding-propaganda-us-anti-war.html- there is obviously a crazy level of surveillance on now. I don't think a lot of people would have a problem with it if it wasn't the fact that abuses of the surveillance/intelligence seemed to be occurring. If things were consistent things would be a lot easier to accept. The problem is that with the advent of modern hybrid warfare, covert operations, false flag operations, etc... things have become far more complex. Claims that senators, politicians, other people being spied on... and that intelligence is being used as 'leverage' (blackmail)(I doubt most people would have a problem if this was being used for pure screening purposes. Some of the claims just seem very wrong though). Problems with consistency with application of laws which is frustrating with for many 'whistleblowers'. If some people leak classified material and aren't reprimanded why are others (unless for actual operational/tactical/strategic purposes)? It doesn't seem right?
Silenced (2014)
SILENCED - Whistleblower Documentary w. Thomas Andrew Drake, Jesselyn Raddack + James Spione
- claims that Hoover used intelligence as leverage against US political elite (including president)(Chinese/Russians have done this for a long time if you look back through history)? Feels like the notion of what democracies should be and what they've ended up as is being eroded a lot of the time and if this is the case, the US is effectively a pseudo-democracy especially when you consider how big of a factor financial backing plays as part of their electoral process. Power shifts towards security services with each new enemy it seems. Deliberate or accident? Over and over again, it feels like that virtually all possible attacks can be prevented based on whitleblower accounts? Bad decisions being made over and over again which is what is allowing terrorist attacks to slip through? Claims by whistleblowers of politicisation of intelligence to the point that it feels like they're just pinning the blame on whoever they want, that intelligence is being mishandled/deliberately corrupted/mis-translated, burried evidence, using subterfuge to hide files that would otherwise come up via FOI requests, that they're struggling to find the right balance between desire for intelligence and savings lives, troubling claims that the US works way too closely with some terrorist/rebel groups and that they are partly causing their own problems, profiteering from terrorist attacks, software which allows for profiteering from such attacks/launder money/financial fraud, people's livelihoods being threatened (journalists, whistleblowers, etc...) who want to speak out, whistleblowing made extremely difficult via rules/regulations, etc...
- some conspiracy theorists/alternative news outlets are clearly just looking to make a name for themselves. Others lack credibility because they're theories are so outlandish that they feel almost impossible
- over and over again the question runs through your head whether or not our world only exists this way because of what happens beneath the surface. If this is the case, can you live with it?
- from the moment we enter school we're taught to take a position and argue for it. It's almost like a self referential loop that almost leads to us taking on an ideology and doesn't allow us to develop our critical thinking/reasoning skills (conspiracy or not)
- almost any conspiracy can be proven given the advent of data mining and the Internet
- given the nature of these operations it feels like the only way you can keep your sanity and keep grounded is to come up with your own definition that sounds about right and ten stay rooted to that. For instance, for me a democracy means that the voice of the people are heard, listened to, people have of any background have a genuine chance at power, there are checks/balances in case of abuse, genuine chance of advancement based on merit not on arbitrary and constantly changing variables, etc...
- interesting perspective/overview of conspiracy theorists. Information warfare via WikiLeaks? Clearly, a lot of it is just a data dump designed to make it easier to get to worthwhile content, some of it is deliberate mis-information, etc... Claim that 98% of time bad decisions comes down to incompetance rather than conspiracy theories seems hard to believe given enough background. Use morals singularly as the basis for foreign policy to your peril. In the real world you need actual/practicable solutions. One core idea to all conspiracy theorists is their belief that their will one day be a New World Order/One World Government... If you think about how democracies work this is very difficult to believe but if you dig deeper it becomes obvious how this is achieved. Think tanks, some organisations, the public service, concentrated media, certain random powerful/wealthy individuals/organisations (in both West and other places there has been a tendency for private enterprise to help the security services if required), etc... act as third party proxies to help achieve this... What sounds like crazy stories from China, Russia, Iran, etc... making more sense
- the Russians sound completely crazy at times. It's only clearer if you dig deeper what they're getting at. It's effectively the same issue with the Chinese. If the ideology is a threat to the existing ideology, it's rejected in much the same way that US/Western (other countries as well) citizens often consider themselves and their societies 'exceptional'. Soros knows that Chinese actual power is not comensurate with their existing status within existing Western organisations such as the IMF. Believes in a 'New World Order' concept. Believes that US economic power and other supremacy is getting eroded. Fined for market rigging/insider trading in multiple countries. He helped the Nazis/Gestapo confiscate goods from fellow Jews in the past. Bush administration ordered CIA to de-stablise Iranian regime recently (by funding terrorist groups, protesters, NGO's, etc...). Widely known/broadcast throughout global media. Funding of the order of $40 million USD in the Iranian operation. So called 'elite' (Ted Turner, Bill Gates, David Rockefeller, Oprah Winfrey, etc...) discussing philantropy but also some very controversial theories such as 'culling' of the human population. Soros believes that in the battle of success versus truth most people in the US believe in the former
- whistleblowers say that if you understand it and expose it then they're in trouble? They will try to bury the truth somehow. Controlling the inquiry (and who gets appointed to run it) is the easiest way to control it. Working for the security services almost means that you must get your hands dirty at times. Operation 40 was an a operation that involved covert assasinations of 'unfriendly' foreign heads of state. Approved by Nixon? Run by CIA. JFK assasination an inside job? Possible 60 minutes episode but it was killed. No coverage whether to refute, confirm, etc... aided by existing security legislation, corporate media, cronyism, stripping of whistleblower protection, apathy of public, etc... Cover ups occur constantly in spite of what we believe
- claims that Skull and Bones group form the core of the CIA like Cambridge/Oxford are known recruitment areas for MI5/MI6. Claims that CIA has been using drugs to fund operations whether directly or via third parties. Global intelligence services using certain banks globally as fronts for 'black operations'. Obvious question is if this is the only way they can fund their operations? Given that it's clear that they may also be profiteering via other avenues likely that it may also serve other purposes
- growth in alternative media at expense of current/establishment media outlets? Wonder whether it'e because of the messaging and wheter it's because it's the same message on repeat? Even for the most ardent nationalist some propaganda is surely a turnoff?
- explores the possibility that society is being dumbed down and our field of thought limited deliberately in an attempt to achieve harmony? In the context of democracy we can achieve totalitarianism without having to use force. Find it hard to believe that this is a genuine, delirate, long term strategy though. Lenin thought that propaganda such as slogans, repitition, etc... was core to winning?
- two of the names mentioned behind the scenes are Kissinger and Soros. Kissinger background was Jewish. Family left Germany because of Nazism. Strong at debating/rhetoric in high school. Drafted into military and worked in intelligence/defense/administration for an extended period before he entered the political world. Allegations that he was recruited by KGB. Scholarship offers to Harvard after being 'discovered' by those amongst the establishment. In fact, Rockeffeler family/group themselves took an interest in him and sort of guided him through Washington. Concerns that Rockeffeler had undue influence over Kinsinger and his dealings in Washington. Geographical unions and interdependency is idea behind greater future global peace and prosperity. 600 elitists who control/shape world into NWO (New World Order)? Kissinger would be arrested for war crimes if he travelled? Previously I mentioned that some whistleblowers (Binney) worried that population control was actual foreign policy. Apparently, this policy has been around for quite a while but never really mentioned in public. US policy, NSSM 200 (a version of 1944 British policy by King George) openly states that since third world population growth was a threat to Western power and therefore measures needed to be taken to curb this. Thirteen key countries where massive population control programs control programs would be undertaken (the two obvious ones China and India are missing from the list but obviously given the policies of China one wonders whether or not they were effectively put under durress into implementing a 'one child policy' in return for financial, development loans?). It would be done by controlling IMF loans, sterilisation, food control, wars, etc... If certain people are appointed to commissions we should be wary of any possible outcome. For some people the outcome is irrelevant as opposed to whether the national interest. Some US foreign policy makes much more sense given that some US 'elite' believe that victory is the only viable choice. Never, ending war is a self fulfilling prophecy given this background. Kissinger still has strong/undue influence over US foreign policy?

- it's fundamentally clear that behind the scenes it's almost undeclared war between China and the US for regional and global supremacy at times. Watch the timing of some events (launch of their local stealth fighter program during US official visit, launch of own meta-data program when US program was shut down, etc...) and it becomes clear that essentially China is basically sticking it to the US at times saying that their system of government is just as valid and good as the US way of life (and the exact same vice-versa)... The battlefield has simply switched over to the economic, intelligence, etc... world

- crowd sourcing of public policy? Limited success... and there were a lot of people who actually circumvented it to try and maintain the current status quo

- recently have been working on some text analysis software. Had to look at some FOSS summarising software

- you won't understand the problem with anonymisation and the problem of civil liberties unless you dig deeper

- interesting map of the sectarian division in the Middle East
What Is the Difference Between Sunni and Shiite Muslims--and Why Does It Matter?

- one of frustrating things that you'll find out is that Windows 8 keys aren't compatible with Windows 8.1 media in spite of the difference basically being a service pack. The answer is to use generic keys apparently (334NH-RXG76-64THK-C7CKG-D3VPT for Core, XHQ8N-C3MCJ-RQXB6-WCHYG-C9WKB for Professional) and then switching back to the proper key or else just downloading the most appropriate media from Microsoft (free)

- ever wondered what superheroes existed worldwide? I have...

- apparently, almost impossible to duplicate/clone modern SIM cards owing to server side checking as well as more tamper proof SIM card technology

- something so simple can create so much trouble if not working properly

- just let them get on with it. Nothing we can really do. Given the troubles of the Yak-141 program (somewhat similar though much older USSR equivalent program to the JSF), the JSF program, and Golitsyn's ramblings part of me wonders whether the JSF program was somewhat of a poison challice. Even if you could get it done it would undoubtably be very costly and difficult to build. Part of the problem with the program is that even with experience you can't predict/manage the project easily because it feels like a lot of it is being done from scratch. If they had of made it of a more open architecture other partner nations could have contribute more to it's core development without necessarily having to compromise on security (think open box vs black box security models...). Possibly even help to bring the development part of the program to a close quicker?
- this practice is actually reasonably common amongst Asian people who often never even had the luxury of guaranteed food safety (for anyone who could afford it). Even when people have migrated they have often been a stigma that people have brought problems (and standards) with them. For instance, some Asian businesses are known to have engaged in improper food handling/safety locally in order to gain a buck. Hence, they try to source from places they can trust...

- there are actually a lot of ex-service/veteran organisations around the world.

Some qutoes in the recent media:

- But in a more balanced fight — such as versus Soviet armored columns in a European blitzkrieg — the results would have been very different. Not only would the Soviets come with better tactics, they’d have more heavily-armored tanks. The Pentagon was painfully aware that M-72’s rockets would bounce off those tanks’ frontal shielding.

That’s why, in May 1977, the U.S. Army hired the Brunswick Corporation — a large manufacturer that started off making pool tables and bowling balls in 19th century — to design a whole new weapon. Brunswick’s California-based defense division would refine the design of a spherical rocket dubbed the Rifleman’s Assault Weapon, or RAW.
- Chinese oil major Sinopec is building a filling station on an island in the South China Sea, as China continues to expand its civilian infrastructure in the disputed waterway, entrenching its reach in the maritime heart of Southeast Asia.

The filling station and accompanying storage tank on Woody Island in the Paracels will take a year to complete, the company, whose listed flagship is Sinopec Corp , said on its microblog on Monday.
- Genuinely independent middle powers are actually attractive partners for friend and putative foe alike. They also have more potential diplomatic leverage than countries whose every move is an all-too-predictable reflection of, and supplement to, that of its principal ally.

Outsourcing effective responsibility for foreign and security policy to the US or anyone else wouldn’t be wise even if we could afford the obligations this involves. It looks even more indefensible, unnecessary and unproductive in the current environment. New Zealand’s experience suggests that Australia’s future defence direction is at least worth debating.
- Firstly, the US’s allegations that the Islamic State is preparing to use chemical weapons must be looked at in light of the US’s incredibly limp-handed offensive against ISIS. Not only have the US’s so- called bombing attacks on the Islamic State been shockingly ineffective, but now that Russia has begun her own bombing of ISIS, the US has gotten hopping mad.

As revealed here,  the US has been behind ISIS for some time now. So if ISIS is now deploying chemical weapons, one must ask if the US is also behind this development.

The US’s repeated claims that other countries are using BW and CW must be viewed in the perspective of its own activities. When the US changed its domestic legislation to give itself immunity from violating its own biological weapons laws,  it was done so apparently to grant itself leeway to deploy a country-wide bio/chem attack, via this delivery system.

The US has now been caught red- handed in another covert program, facilitated by a secret handshake with selected pharmaceutical companies, to supply pre-determined targets with “imposter pharmaceuticals.” These imposter pharmaceuticals, which come in the same packaging as ordinary pills, will cause heart attacks/strokes in those who unwittingly consume them.
- Mainstream Western media usually cast Putin's popularity as the result of Russians' heavy reliance on government-controlled television, i.e. 'brain-washing.' But such a one-sided view may misrepresent the relationship between power and public opinion. Tellingly, only 34 percent of Russians say they trust the media.

The 'brain-washing' theory also misses what is possibly the most significant feature of modern Russia: for the first time since the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union (if not the 1917 revolution) government policies reflect the attitudes and opinions of the conservative majority of Russians rather than a Westernizing, neo-liberal (or Marxist) elite.
- Nabiullina has come under criticism from members of the Duma for being far too slow in building the gold reserves of the ruble. Russia today is the world’s second largest gold producer after China, and China has been building its Peoples’ Bank of China gold reserves in recent years at a feverish pace. Western central banks, led by the Federal Reserve, since gold backing for the dollar was abandoned in August, 1971, have done everything, including brazen market manipulation, to discourage gold currency reserves around the world.
- The APCs are being transferred via the Excess Defense Article (EDA) program, which grants excess military equipment from the United States without cost to qualified allied countries. Manila did have to pay 67.5 million pesos ($1.4 million) to cover transport costs, however.
- Screen Australia will suffer its third round of cuts in 18 months while the government scraps the Book Council of Australia as part of $52.5 million in cuts to the Arts and Communications, $47 million of which it will redirect to major Hollywood film studios for Thor and Alien sequels.
- According to the Daily Dot, nearly 5 million usernames and passwords associated with Gmail accounts have been leaked on a Russian Bitcoin forum. Here's what you should know.

The list has since been taken down, and there's no evidence that Gmail itself was hacked—just that these passwords have been leaked. Most sources are saying that lots of the information is quite old, so chances are they were leaked long ago—though others are claiming 60% of the passwords are still valid (not to mention really, really horrible).

5 Million Online Passwords Leaked, Check Yours Now [Updated]

To check if your password was one of the leaked, plug your Gmail address into this trusted tool from KnowEm. Alternatively, if you aren't comfortable giving out your email, you can change all your passwords now.

No matter what you do, make sure you using a strong password on all your accounts and that you've enabled two-factor authentication. Hit the link to read more.
- Most critically, according to prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu, Leviathan has enough gas to yield Israel’s first-ever energy export deals—offsetting the state’s increasing isolation over its reluctance to hold comprehensive peace talks with the Palestinians. “Our ability to export gas enhances the strength of the state of Israel… It makes Israel much more resilient to international pressures,” he recently told the Knesset’s economics committee.
The threat of a formal declaration of independence by Taiwan is a clear red line for Beijing. In July of 1995, China began an almost yearlong campaign of intimidation in an attempt to unduly influence Taiwan’s first democratic election for its president, which featured a pro-independence candidate Lee Teng-hui. Beijing quite literally fired a series of “warning shot” missile tests less than 40 miles off Taiwan’s bow. This provocation was followed by a second wave of missiles, live ammunition exercises and a “mock Taiwan invasion” in November.

In December, the United States finally responded by sending the USS Nimitz aircraft carrier strike group towards the Taiwan Strait. While several months of quiet followed, China launched additional ballistic missile warning shots in early March and conducted all-out war games with the participation of some 40 naval vessels, 260 aircraft and 150,000 troops—effectively a Chinese Communist blockade of the Taiwan Strait. In response, President Bill Clinton moved the USS Independence aircraft carrier strike group already stationed in the Pacific to waters much closer to Taiwan and then summoned the USS Nimitz from the Persian Gulf, ordering it to proceed at high speed.

To the chagrin of Beijing’s leadership, it intimidation backfired and helped Lee Teng-hui win 54 percent of the vote. Once America’s carrier strike groups steamed into the area, Beijing also realized it had no answer for an American force commanding both the seas and skies above.

In this way, this Third Taiwan Strait Crisis was simultaneously an “ah hah” epiphany and a “never again” moment for Beijing. Since 1996, China has not only sought to develop a world-class navy—along with an anti-access strategy and anti-ship ballistic missiles designed to keep America’s carriers away from Taiwan. China has also steadily transformed its air force from a motley collection of aging aircraft into a modern armada capable of going stealthy toe to missile toe with any rival in the region.
- The Homestead Act of 1862 is one of America’s best-known and beloved laws. By giving away federal land for free to anyone who settled and cultivated it, the act enshrined the governing principle of the newly ascendant Republican Party: government should act to help the average man help himself build a better life. Together with the Land Grant College Act and the Pacific Railroad Acts, the Homestead Act placed the federal government squarely on the side of the average American in his or her quest to live in comfort and with dignity.

Today we have no frontier, no untapped source of federal lands. We do, however, have the same issue the Homestead Act tried to solve. Millions of low-to-moderately skilled, native-born and immigrant Americans live in places where they can’t find decent work while a vast new economic frontier unfolds in Southern and Western states such as Texas, Florida and North Carolina. These wide open spaces are enticing enough to encourage millions of Latin Americans to undertake dangerous and expensive journeys, yet millions of other Americans remain mired in ghettoes, depressed steel towns and struggling regions like Appalachia and the Mississippi Delta.
- In a recent interview on a Russian news program, Konstantin Syvkov said more than 300 artillery pieces concentrated on a half-mile line outside of Hama produced a so-called "fire wave" that greatly aided the Syrian offensive at first. "This method consumes a lot of ammunition, but it is very effective in getting through fortifications," Syvkov said. "This allowed the breakthrough via the enemy defenses."
- If prices continue to fall, there will be losers outside the oil patch. The drive toward renewable energy technologies will be slowed. Median stock prices for solar energy companies have fallen almost 30 percent in a month, tracking the decline in oil prices. Sales of electric cars also move in step with the price of oil.

There will also be winners -- millions of them. For every $10 drop in the price of a barrel of oil, world economic output increases by almost half a percentage point. Prices at the gasoline pump have already dropped about 50 cents a gallon. That translates to about $500 a year in savings for the average gas-guzzling U.S. household.

And if the history of oil prices has taught us anything, it's that these low prices will continue -- until they don't.
- Though the number of rigs exploring for oil in American fields has collapsed since December, U.S. production remains near historic highs at about 9.3 million barrels a day.

Shale muscled into the middle of the cost curve in the $30 to $70 cost level, but the price of producing a barrel of oil is still heading downward, Lee said.

"Cost deflation in the sector is pretty spectacular due to low utilization in the services sector, but also productivity gains," he told CNBC's "Squawk on the Street."
- Launched in 2001, the SCO is composed of China, Russia, former Soviet republics Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan with the aim of strengthening political, trade, intelligence, security and military ties between the border-sharing members. Iran, Afghanistan, Mongolia, India and Pakistan are currently observers, but the latter two are expected to be official members by next year.
- “The transition phase between communist and post-communist Poland was very painful for a large part of the population,” Mr. Smolar said. “For a lot of people, especially the older population, it was perceived as a catastrophe.”

Now there are concerns that the party, simmering in opposition for so long, will seek to redress a litany of grievances, even if it means bending the Constitution.

“This is not the problem in Poland only,” said Aleksander Kwasniewski, Poland’s left-wing president from 1995 to 2005. “This is happening in countries across Europe. This is the problem of democracy in general. Traditional democracy is in crisis.”
- The researchers observed similar walking patterns — a stiff, nearly immobile right arm accompanying otherwise normal movement — in four other prominent Russian officials: Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev; former Minister of Defense Anatoly Serdyukov; Sergei Ivanov, chief of the presidential administration of Russia; and Commander of the Western Military District Anatoly Sidarov.

Other footage and photographs that the scientists examined showed that the Russian officials were all right-handed and did not appear to suffer from any impairment of their right arms, except as exhibited while they were walking.

That, Bloem told Live Science, was when things became "reallypeculiar."

The odds of all five Russian officials suffering from Parkinson's and exhibiting precisely the same symptoms that appeared on the same side of the body and at the same stage of degeneration were slim. Bloem and his colleagues knew there had to be another explanation, and they found it — not in medical literature, but in the pages of a KGB training manual. [3 Myths About Parkinson's Disease]

"It literally says, when you're walking, don't move the right arm, keep it close to the holster and be ready to draw the gun," Bloem described.
- “Since November 2012, when Xi took the helm of the [Communist Party] CCP, Freedom House’s China Media Bulletin has noted over 40 instances—in 17 countries and international institutions—of Chinese information controls negatively affecting free expression outside China,” she said. “These are likely only the tip of the iceberg. The CCP’s interventions and influences extend to a surprising range of media, including pop music, hot air balloons, and video games.”
Prague, Dec 15 (ČTK) — Czech arms dealers have “discovered” Saudi Arabia and the military material export to the country has risen more than six times in the past two years, daily Mladá fronta Dnes (MfD) writes today, citing data from the Industry and Trade Ministry.
- “Defending our national interests always involves risk,” Bush said in a speech on national security policy in the wake of the Paris terrorist attacks. “But the greatest risk of all is the risk of military inferiority. Today, that is the direction we are headed.”

It’s difficult to imagine a more wrongheaded statement.

The U.S. spends far more on defense than any potential adversary--or any combination of adversaries. According to estimates by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, the U.S. spent $610 billion in 2014. Of the top-spending seventeen countries, the U.S. accounted for 40 percent of total defense spending. Of the remaining sixteen counties, all but Russia and China are U.S. allies, partners, or friends. Russia and China combined spent $300 billion less than the U.S. alone.

The U.S.’s massive spending advantage actually understates the extent of its dominance, because China’s and Russia’s militaries face real problems. A recent RAND Corporation report argued that, despite increased Chinese defense spending, shortfalls in airlift capabilities, logistical weaknesses, poor training, lack of professionalism, and endemic corruption, (among other problems), will prevent the People’s Liberation Army from conducting effective offensive operations in the near future. And Russia’s faltering economy has forced Moscow to scale back plans to modernize its military and reduce its operations.
- With the collapse in oil prices has come a reckoning. At least 18 of the newcomers have filed for bankruptcy so far this year, and many others are now struggling with debt servicing costs. Barclays predicts that the default rate for speculative-grade companies - increasingly made up of oil and gas firms - will double over the next year.

Standard & Poor's ratings service recently warned that an astonishing 50 per cent of US energy junk bonds are at risk of default, or $US180 billion ($249 billion) in total. If we extrapolate this out to the $US2 trillion of debt sold globally by energy and mining companies since 2010, the numbers begin to look strikingly similar to the sub-prime mortgage lending which front ran the financial crisis. Of the $US2 trillion of mortgage lending that became distressed, $US800 billion was sub-prime and $US1.2 trillion of the supposedly less risky Alt-A.
- Much is said these days about the mismatch of missions and resources for the U.S. military. Indeed, the chants of neoconservatives on Capitol Hill have grown quite loud: more military spending, more personnel, more weapons. A recent RAND Corporation report also warned that failing to deploy a large enough military could “lead to a failure of the U.S. strategy and subsequent regret.”

But the solution is not to spend more. It is to reassess foreign policy objectives and decide whether they are worth the cost. Better to scale back an over-ambitious strategy than to waste scarce resources pursuing dubious goals.
- Of course, the United States has made space part of its way of war for decades—using satellites to guide bombs, relay signals, and gather intelligence. The U.S. is still by far the world leader in space, with some 400 satellites in Earth’s orbit, including nearly 200 military models. That’s according to the nonprofit Union of Concerned Scientists, an advocacy group based in Massachusetts. By UCS’s count, Russia possesses the second-largest space force—89 satellites including around 50 belonging to, or working for, the armed forces (PDF).
- A weaker ruble has helped inbound Russian tourism jump 13 percent in the first nine months of the year, despite simmering geopolitical tensions that have marred diplomatic relations and trade ties with the West.
- Performed at Northrop Grumman's B-2 Depot and Modification Center in Palmdale, PDM includes a complete restoration of the B-2's outer surfaces; servicing of its moving parts such as landing gear, control surfaces and ejection seats; and software / hardware upgrades.
- If conflict did break out, Hanoi could target Chinese-flagged merchant container and oil ships in the South China Sea, said Thayer, who said he was told this by Vietnamese strategists.

The aim would be not to defeat China's superior forces but "to inflict sufficient damage and psychological uncertainty to cause Lloyd's insurance rates to skyrocket and for foreign investors to panic", Thayer said in a paper presented to a Singapore conference last month.

Vietnam's foreign ministry did not respond to requests for comment on this story.
- Kirby said Washington wanted to work to establish a "better, more transparent more effective relationship" with China in the region and had been in contact with both Taiwan and China on this on Wednesday. He declined to elaborate.

David McKeeby, another State Department spokesman, said the arms package included two Perry-class guided-missile frigates; $57 million of Javelin anti-tank missiles made by Raytheon and Lockheed Martin; $268 million of TOW 2B anti-tank missiles and $217 million of Stinger surface-to-air missiles made by Raytheon, and $375 million of AAV-7 Amphibious Assault Vehicles.

The State Department said the frigates were being offered as surplus items at a cost of $190 million. The package also includes $416 million of guns, upgrade kits, ammunition and support for Raytheon's Close-in Weapons System.

Analysts and congressional sources believe the delay in the formal approval of the sales was due to the Obama administration's desire to maintain stable working relations with China, an increasingly powerful strategic rival but also a vital economic partner as the world's second-largest economy.
- Xi called on all nations to respect cyber sovereignty.

"No country should pursue cyber hegemony, interfere in other countries' internal affairs or engage in, connive at or support cyber activities that undermine other countries' national security," he said.

Countries have the right to independently choose their own path of cyber development and model of cyber regulations, he said.

The right for countries to participate in international cyberspace governance as equals should be respected by all, Xi said.

Stressing maintenance of peace and security, the president urged the international community to cooperate to combat cybercrimes and Internet terrorism.

He said nations should work together to prevent and oppose the misuse of cyberspace for crimes such as terrorism, drug trafficking, money laundering and gambling.

All cybercrimes, be they commercial theft or hacker attacks, should be handled in accordance with laws and international conventions, he said.

"No double standards should be allowed in upholding cyber security," Xi said. "We cannot just have the security of one or some countries while leaving the rest insecure; still less should one seek the so-called absolute security for oneself at the expense of the security of others."
- There were 122 F-16 Class A mishap accidents for the period from FY 89 to FY 98. These accidents consisted of mishaps involving destroyed aircraft. A total of 272 F-16 aircraft had been destroyed from the introduction of the F-16 in 1975 to 2003. F-16 manufacturer Lockheed Martin determined that half of Class A F-16 accidents were caused by pilot error.
Regrettably, the FDA persists in falsely claiming that GE foods qualify as Generally Recognized as Safe, and to this day, it continues to exempt them from the requirement of safety testing.
- "I think anybody who still has a huge bill for developing infrastructure, these people are in deep trouble," Mr Xie added.

The analyst refused to name names, but he said at least one Australian company could go under.

He said globally more miners faced collapse.

"I do see bankruptcies, even major players who seem very large, I think bankruptcies are quite possible in 2016," Mr Xie forecast.

"I think tier two, tier three companies ... will be in trouble, especially the ones who were expanding very rapidly, buying assets and trying to increase in size by buying assets at very high prices."

Earlier this month, global miner Anglo American said it would sack 85,000 workers out of a 135,000-strong workforce and close or sell mines, including in Australia, as it merges six divisions into three.

Mr Xie said there were few buyers for Anglo's four Australian coal mines which are on the market.
- ABOARD THE LITTORAL COMBAT SHIP MILWAUKEE, VIRGINIA CAPES – The littoral combat ship Milwaukee, the Navy’s newest ship, broke down Dec. 11 and had to be towed more than 40 nautical miles to Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek, Virginia.

The ship suffered an engineering casualty while transiting from Halifax, Canada, to Mayport, Florida, and ultimately its home port of San Diego. The cause is being evaluated by ship’s crew and technical consultants.

Initial indications are that fine metal debris collected in the lube oil filter caused the system to shut down, according to a Navy statement provided to Navy Times. The cause of the metal debris in the lube oil system is not known and assessments are ongoing.
- The CH-4 can strike from an altitude of about 16,000 feet and fly at up to 112 miles per hour, according to an article in China Space News, a publication run by C.A.S.C.

“What is clear is that the price of one Caihong-4 drone is much lower than the price of an advanced battle tank on the international arms market,” said the article, published in March.

The loss of a drone is “affordable even when military budgets are tight or in small countries,” it noted.

Chinese-built drones and aircraft are generally built to compete on price, experts say. Technological limitations mean the finished products do not often perform at the same level as their Western counterparts, but they are cheaper — and have far fewer restrictions on who can buy them.
- Western media often use videos from Russia’s anti-terror campaign in Syria to depict airstrikes by the US-led coalition. This is due to the coalition’s reluctance to share more information about its operations, a Russian Defense Ministry spokesman said.

Unlike the Russian anti-terror operation command in Syria, the US-led coalition has not organized coverage for journalists in the region. “I have to stress that no-one has ever heard of the reporters’ press-tours to the anti-ISIS coalition’s bases,” Major General Igor Konashenkov told journalists in Latakia, Syria on Wednesday.

“As a result even the most reliable international TV channels – I am sure unintentionally – are often using the footage of Russian airstrikes to illustrate the airstrikes by the anti-ISIS coalition,” he said.
- When Jabhat al-Nusra decided to attack the US-backed secular Hazm movement in March, after accusing it of being an “agent of the west”, Hazm decided to disband rather than retaliate, and the majority of its fighters joined the Shamiya Front. Which raises the question: what will David Cameron’s moderate fighters do when Jabhat al-Nusra in turn brands them “agents of the west”? Will they fight back? Or will they disband, as Hazm did, to spare “the blood of the mujahideen”? We don’t know. Worryingly for David Cameron, neither does he.
- The IRGC Air Force capabilities are not, per se, a strategic threat to Israeli operations. Iran's most modern aircraft include some MiG-29s that Tehran acquired in the early 1990s and old Russian Sukhoi jets. Some of Iran's MiG-29s were grounded for years and, although Iran's Air Force commander, Shah Safi, boasted in 2010 that Iran’s MiGs were finally operational, they are no match to Western aircraft. The Sukhois Iran has are an older version of the plane downed by Turkey last month.
- The GPL is the sole licence that takes the factor of human greed into consideration: it ensures that if one builds on the work of someone else and distributes it, then one has to also make one's changes available. In other words, share and share alike.
- Feight, from upstate New York, pleaded guilty in 2014 to providing material support to terrorists and was this week sentenced to eight years behind bars.

He told a US District Court he was first approached by Glendon Scott Crawford, the plot’s mastermind and member of the Ku Klux Klan, to help create a mobile X-ray device to sterilise medical waste. Feight said he only learned later that the machine was intended for use to target Muslim terrorist cells operating in the US.

“Potential targets were never discussed with me,” Feight said.

The married father-of-three said he became afraid to drop out of the plot after Crawford introduced him to two seemingly dangerous investors in the project. The pair were actually FBI undercover agents.
- Moldova’s problem is not that it’s a failed state. It’s a state where almost nothing has ever actually worked. In 2013, forty EU judges journeyed to Chișinău to observe how different state institutions functioned. They didn’t. Jobs that ought to be off-limits to political appointments—heading the banks, overseeing the police—are the specialty of political appointees. Four in five Moldovans profess no faith in the rule of law. Ninety percent of judges may be convicted of corruption when tried, but only last year, for the first time in Moldovan history, did one go to jail. Moldova is a state that cannot even pretend to control the real estate it calls its own. Roads are in disrepair if they’re paved at all. The national rail system is single-track—two trains cannot simultaneously operate in opposite directions. The complete lack of national interconnectedness is most evident in the presence of the notorious baroni locali, the “local bosses” who govern largely beyond Chișinău’s reach. Justice in Soroca, a town in the north, is meted out by a bulibaşa, a gypsy king called Artur. Oleg Bădărău, the mayor of a village called Bahmut, was hauled to trial in 2012 when he was discovered to have raised his own private militia.

- as usual thanks to all of the individuals and groups who purchase and use my goods and services

Monday, January 18, 2016

Anonymous Group, Random Thoughts, and More

One point leads to another. The latest group/movement to come into the limelight is 'Anonymous'. As you'll see their background is varied and at times it's hard to distinguish their exact intent...

- despite what they say there's a lot of difficulty distinguishing whether or not they are activists or merely trouble makers at times. Part of the time you feel as though if they focused more on change they might be able to do something substantial and create a genuinely better world... It also helps to deal with the stigma and attacks that come about directly as a consequence of some of their 'less productive activities
Anonymous Documentary - How Anonymous Hackers Changed the World Full Documentary
- at the other at the end of the scale you have some like Aaron Swartz who was at the more productive end of the sacle. Middle class background with obvious intellectual gifts. Gave birth to watchdog.net and openlibrary.org. Worked on trying to achieve free PACER access (legal library/database from the US government). Got into trouble for this with the US government (for circumventing the normal system I guess?). Worked on a 'Progressive Change Movement', demandprogress.org to increase number of liberal candidates in US politics. Also worked on trying to liberalise first world scientific journal access to everyone by developing custom crawlers/automated download software (search this blog for examples of such software. Can be really basic or really difficult depending on the circumstances) to download articles and re-distribute them for free? Sometimes it seems the security/intelligence/law enforcement engage in bizarre activities at times... It's like they're searching for a purpose even though they're much more important things that they could be doing? Was he targeted because he was a threat to the system or did he just go about things the wrong way?
National Geographic The Story of Aaron Swartz  Anonymous Full Documentary
- 'TrapWire' progarm similar to what you see in 'Person of Interest' series though much less evolved probably (half of you thinks whether or not entertainment industry and other parts of government are linked given this 'coincidence'). Thomas Drake (former NSA senior staff member) acknowledges domestic PSYOPS/propaganda operations and overly close relationship betewen media, intelligence community, and government. Says the state has turned in on itself. Questions over the line between national security and corporatism. Also clear that US is struggling to find the line between national security and a free and democratic society (this is supposed to be dealt with via the constitution?). Clear that many democracies are psuedo-democracies now and exist all over the world (what is an actual 'democracy' though? The most common definition seems to be one based on Western structures even though alternate/valid structures have also been found elsewhere throughout the world). Time and again, obvious question is whether or not they've gone too far. Trying to stop coverage of h/activists via manipulation and leverage over both media and h/activists. Don't get trouble with Project PM? A lot of companies openly advertise on their websites who they work for and what they work on???
Anonymous - The Hacker Wars Full Documentary
- if you read between the lines it's pretty obvious that the US has a position of if we can't prevent it, we'll find a way to catch you with their intelligence capability... 
- it's obvious that these groups/movements have been penetrated, used, subverted, etc... from time to time and used to for various purposes by various agents
- sometimes it feels like the many social systems are self defeating. Those who favour a particular ideology are fed updwards through a system. Those who might have the ability to change things for the better aren't? How do you have progress while having to adhere to certain ideologies? Problem which faces nearly all social systems? At times, it feels like even if God himself came down and offered us solutions for all of our problems you'd think that humanity would reject him??? System protects itself not necessarily the best solutions for out problems?

- a lot of the time when you hear the mind boggling costs of running modern jets you wonder why we don't have at least a small number of modern propeller based planes for counter insurgency operations. Cost a fraction (acquisition and running) of what a 'fast jet' costs and delivers a lot of the same capability. Used in many other parts of the world for these operations and have lower airfield requirements which makes them easier and cheaper to deploy. Possibly more susceptible to being shot down?

- interesting book if you're into Tom Clancy type books

- playing Blu-Ray discs using FOSS alternatives is a bit cumbersome at times. It may require fetching libraries from another source

- free first aide courses are available online
FREE: St John Ambulance Online First Aid Course & Certificate

- had do do some work on voiceprint/pattern recognition recently...

- there's heaps of free DJ software out there now with the advent of FOSS

- depending on the environment you grow up in you may be a fervent believer in capitalism or globalism but after seeing the impact on environmental ecosystems around the world (arbable/land loses it's fertility when used in mass production type scales, destruction of habitat/animal ecosystems, etc...) and the nature of what constitutes prosperity, I've had to review my own perspectives. Human science and technology either needs to better integrate into our environment or else people need to at least partially go off the grid. People say this will lead to loss of jobs and prosperity but if you think about it carefully 'prosperity' is just a human concept (prosperity means bigger cars/houses, more advanced technology but if they basically do the same thing is there really progress?). Do you actually need a huge house, the latest car, etc... or is it something that you'd like? If you go slightly off the grid you free yourself of human abstractions which essentially make yourself a slave to an external set of numbers and models which are based on someone else's belief of what it means to be happy? Take yourself partially off the grid and you don't have to worry about the dangers of GMO foods, environmental destruction, and so on... Moreover, what happens about local actors, musicians, scientists in globalisation? Since they have access to the rest of the world why should they bother with harnessing what local talent you have? Feels like a waste so much of the time especially when you see a lot of good, talented, hard working people not being able to make much use of their abilities and training... I guess I'm only a partial believer in globalisation when it provides something of genuine value, something that can not be found locally, etc...

- a while back sourceforge.net was acting very strangely. Apparently, they started integrating/bundling ads into software without permission which resulted in a backlash

- people have been talking about such science/technology for all eternity. I wonder whether it will work this time?

- some Windows systems actually have the Windows key installed in the actual BIOS itself apparently. Great solution especially for those who have had the experience of fading stickers. Thankfully, there are programs which help you to find/extract them should you forget

- if you're wondering about hardware specification requirement differences between Windows 7, 8, and 10 there aren't really any changes that make a difference

- working with large firms can be incredibly frustrating at times. Apparently, after Google purchased FeedBurner they neglected it. There are now strange bugs in various places and you need to use workarounds for known bugs. One of them is a 512K limit on the size of a blog feed. I had to change my default string feed from, http://dtbnguyen.blogspot.com/feeds/posts/default to http://dtbnguyen.blogspot.com/feeds/posts/default?max-results=150 and change the feed size to 'Small' to get things to work. Combined with other bugs down stream at linux.org.au and planet.linux.org.au and it's been fun, fun, fun!

- adding stereo width to Ableton music productions

- using glue compression in Ableton

Quotes in the media:
- The rationale for U.S. government support for weapons exports varies. Along with the defense industry lobby, the administration—which by law must approve all weapons transfers overseas—emphasizes the need to keep defense industry production lines moving to be able to supply U.S. forces in the event of an unexpected crisis. And with defense industry jobs in nearly every congressional district and military contractors channeling millions in campaign contributions to both parties, lawmakers remain reluctant to cut weapons industry subsidies.

Facing modest post-cold war reductions in military spending, the weapons industry has, for the most part, ducked the challenge of conversion to nonmilitary production (see In Focus: Defense Conversion) and looked increasingly to overseas weapons sales to bolster production lines and profit margins. This plan hasn’t worked: Runaway costs for military equipment have priced most of the world out of the market, and demand has declined.

As a result, U.S. taxpayers have underwritten a growing share of the costs of military exports. In 1993 the U.S. authorized foreign military sales valued at a record $36 billion, a level unprecedented even during the cold war. By 1995 the sales volume had fallen to $12.6 billion. But over the same period, federal subsidies for weapons exports actually rose slightly—from $7 billion to $7.6 billion per year.
- New cargo planes on order for the U.S. Air Force are being delivered straight into storage in the Arizona desert because the military has no use for them, a Dayton Daily News investigation found.

A dozen nearly new C-27J Spartans from Ohio and elsewhere have already been taken out of service and shipped to the so-called boneyard at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Tucson. Five more are expected to be built by April 2014, all of which are headed to the boneyard unless another use for them is found.

The Air Force has spent $567 million on 21 C-27J aircraft since 2007, according to purchasing officials at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. Sixteen had been delivered by the end of September.

The Air Force almost had to buy more of the planes against its will, the newspaper found. A solicitation issued from Wright-Patterson in May sought vendors to build more C-27Js, citing Congressional language requiring the military to spend money budgeted for the planes, despite Pentagon protests.
- Peter Steiniger runs a website that enthusiastically chronicles the German MiG experience, and is replete with stunning photos and heartfelt tributes to the Fulcrum. And yet Steiniger says: “Would I want to go to war with it? No. Except for the [AA-11 Archer system], the cockpit was terribly labor-intensive. Our overall [situational awareness in beyond visual range] setups was in the map case.” In other words, the pilot had to put his head down, break out the paper, and figure out where he was.

Although a small number of Fulcrums continue to be upgraded—Poland’s MiGs are receiving new mission computers, navigation technology, and even a Rockwell Collins UHF/VHF radio—other air forces, except for an inordinate number of former Soviet-aligned states, never queued up to buy the Fulcrum after the cold war. “The MiG-29 really got exposed with the fall of the Iron Curtain,” Clifton says. “You don’t see further foreign sales. Who’s bought it? Nobody.” As to the wisdom of upgrading the Fulcrum into a modern, data-linked, multi-role fighter, Clifton says, “Go buy an F-16. It would be more economical, and it’s a better airplane.”

Today the Russians are offering for export a better MiG, the -35. “Over the years, the Russians modified the MiG-29. They tweaked it, improved it,” says Ben Lambeth. “The MiG-35 looks like a MiG-29, but it has much more capability.” So far it has attracted only one potential customer: India. The new jet will reportedly join the Russian air force in 2016. But the attention of Western analysts—and almost certainly the syllabus of the Air Force Weapons School—is now focused on the products of a different aviation design bureau.
- The defense and foreign aid budgets are the largest single source of government funding for private corporations. More than half of U.S. weapons sales are now being financed by taxpayers instead of foreign arms purchasers. During fiscal year 1996 (the last year for which full statistics are available), the government spent more than $7.9 billion to help U.S. companies secure just over $12 billion in agreements for new international arms sales. The annual $7.9 billion in subsidies includes taxpayer-backed loans, grants, and government promotional activities that help U.S. weapons makers sell their products to foreign customers. Also, the provision of low-cost facilities and extensive subsidies for research and development and mergers and acquisitions to major contractors fosters a “risk-free” environment in which weapons makers have little economic incentive to produce effective systems at affordable prices. Furthermore, a portion of the $120 billion the Pentagon spends each year on contracts with U.S. defense contractors is being wasted on defense pork—that is, redundant or unneeded weapons systems. Such subsidies and spending for defense pork can interfere with the fulfillment of legitimate security needs.
- We do know that the development contract will be cost-plus-reimbursable-incentive, meaning that a percentage will be added to the direct material, labor, and overhead costs in order to create a profit margin for the contractor. That percentage will vary with a subjective assessment of how well Northrop Grumman is performing as it works to design and test the prototypes. Loren Thompson of the Lexington Institute called that approach “out of sync” with the Obama Administration’s Better Buying Power (BBP) enthusiasm for fixed-price deals. However BBP has been interpreted throughout the bureaucracy, fixed-price was never meant as a panacea. For unfashionable is preferable to uneconomical, and some historical experiences suggests that the Air Force might be getting this right.
- Yitzhak Rabin was the first Israeli leader to move from stage one to stage two of the strategy of “the iron wall” in relation to the Palestinians. He practised what Jabotinsky had preached: he negotiated from strength and he went forward towards the Palestinians on the political plane. For him, at least in the twilight of his political career, military power was not an end in itself but a means to an end: a negotiated settlement of the century-old conflict between Jews and Arabs in Palestine. Rabin appreciated the value of military power but, unlike the politicians of the right, he also understood its limits. That is his true and enduring political legacy. It is as relevant today, when a third Palestinian intifada seems in the making, as it was 20 years ago.
- So my car has been unable to turn itself on these past 3 weeks.

I have gotten around this by always parking on a hill (both at home and at work), and doing a rolling jump start to get me going. Of course, this is not ideal, as I cannot travel to a destination that does not have a hill :| Stalling, especially in rush hour, is no longer an enjoyable pastime, however I do always keep a set of jumper leads in my car.
- Chinese hackers have gained access to designs of more than two dozen major U.S. weapons systems, a U.S. report said on Monday, as Australian media said Chinese hackers had stolen the blueprints for Australia's new spy headquarters.

Citing a report prepared for the Defense Department by the Defense Science Board, the Washington Post said the compromised U.S. designs included those for combat aircraft and ships, as well as missile defenses vital for Europe, Asia and the Gulf.

Among the weapons listed in the report were the advanced Patriot missile system, the Navy's Aegis ballistic missile defense systems, the F/A-18 fighter jet, the V-22 Osprey, the Black Hawk helicopter and the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.
- Whether out of hubris, fear or lack of competence, Mr. Obama has elected to take a meandering middle course. But that is nothing new for his policies in the Middle East. In the end, adding special ops to Syria isn't anything new. It’s not even really newsworthy, other than to remind that brave soldiers are once again going in harm's way on our behalf. Let's hope their missions are worthy of the risks we ask them to take.
- “This Stryker parade won’t fool anyone in Moscow,” says retired Army Colonel Douglas Macgregor. “The Russians don’t do many things well, but they have been subverting, destabilizing, invading and conquering their neighbors since Peter the Great. And what’s our response: a small unit of light armored trucks.”
- Lockheed Martin's IT staff say they encounter 1 million "incidents" a day.  They have to filter through these, distinguishing "white noise" from serious threats.

The Maryland data center from which information was taken is a state of the art facility, built in 2008.  It covers 25,000 square-feet and cost $17M USD to build.  But even with relatively modern systems and protections, defenses were still not strong enough to hold off the sophisticated and savvy attacker.
- Despite the exceptional defense offered by Iron Dome, and the IAF, and despite the exceptional strikes on enemy forces, this [current] equation is bad for Israel. Fifty one days of conflict, all over Israel, that disrupted lives. Thankfully, we sustained low casualties, but this is before they learned their lessons. We want to do things better,” Nahushtan said. “We want to be able to hit every place that they fire from. We need another kind of intelligence, and another kind of direct strike capability. We have to decide that we want this. We must also invest in subterranean warfare. In terms of intelligence, we should strive for higher resolution, and automation.”
- Revenues from oil are inherently unstable and tend to cause epidemics of governmental corruption. Countries which suffer from this “resource curse” tend to grow much more slowly economically over time as putting oil revenues into a welfare state is much more attractive politically than reinvesting the wealth to boost economic performance. From 1965 to 1998, the GDP per capita of oil exporting countries decreased on average by 1.3 percent per year, while in the rest of the developing world, it grew by an average of 2.2 percent per year.
- TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — The slogan "Death to America" is not aimed at the American people, but rather American policies, Iran's supreme leader said in comments reported on his official website Tuesday.
Khamenei says the "aim of the slogan is not death to American people. The slogan means death to U.S. policies and arrogance." The slogan has "strong support" In Iran, he said.

Khamenei and hard-liners in the Iranian government remain deeply suspicious of the United States and view its policies a threat to the country.
- Labor assistant treasury spokesman Andrew Leigh said that for 40 years Australian incomes at the bottom grew faster than those at the top. But from the 1980s, inequality grew, he said.

"Since Neighbours first went to air, the income share of the top 1 per cent has doubled," he said. "The income share of the top 0.1 per cent has tripled."
- The death rate among white middle-aged Americans is rising at an alarming rate, even as death rates for all other Americans are falling. The increase is concentrated among whites with meager educations and is “largely accounted for by increasing death rates from drug and alcohol poisonings, suicide and chronic liver diseases and cirrhosis,” according to two Princeton University scholars, one of whom was just awarded the Nobel in economics.

Their findings should awaken Americans to the price we pay for pursuing economic policies that enrich the few at the expense of the many.
- The United States has strongly criticized President Vladimir Putin's military intervention in Syria's 4-1/2-year civil war, and President Barack Obama has predicted it could lead to a quagmire for Russia.

But Obama has had little success in affecting the conflict himself. Washington has targeted Islamic State in more than a year of air strikes, and last week Obama ordered the first U.S. troops into Syria - a small contingent of up to 50 special operations forces who will advise U.S.-backed rebels.
- The median wage, adjusted for inflation, has been stuck at about $550 a week since 1999. The pretax incomes reported on 90 percent of tax returns in 2013 were in real terms about the same as way back in 1966, up just $191, or six-tenths of 1 percent, after 47 years.

The big income gains were among the top 1 percent, especially the upper reaches of that group. Among the top hundredth of 1 percent, average real income soared from $5.5 million to $25 million over those 47 years. That’s a growth rate 590 times greater than what the bottom 90 percent experienced, a disparity made even greater because those at the top saw their federal income tax burdens fall by about three times as much as the bottom 90 percent.

The Congressional Research Service looked at people who had been out of work for two years or more in 2013 and found they were more likely to be male and older. Among the unemployed, 8.2 percent of workers under age 35 had spent two years or more without a job. For workers age 45 or older, that rate more than doubled, to 18.2 percent.

Here is an even more disturbing fact: Long-term unemployment rates were essentially the same for those with a high school diploma and those with a four-year college degree.
- “Let me let you in on a little secret,” said Rice, a Stanford Graduate School of Business professor. "There is no such thing as an international community. There are self-maximizing, self-interested states that will push their interests as far as possible.”
- “Here’s my bottom line: America must always lead on the world stage. If we don’t, no one else will … But US military action cannot be the only - or even primary - component of our leadership in every instance,” he said in a speech to the West Point graduating class of 2014 that included a pledge to aid Syrian opposition groups.
"Since President Obama took office, a series of foreign policy plans and visions have been put forward; assurances have been made. But too often, strong words have been followed by weak actions, or no actions," he said. "The result has been a general loss of US credibility, making successful foreign policy nearly impossible. President Obama's diplomatic efforts cannot work if our allies lack confidence in US commitments, and our opponents do not fear US warnings."
- When Russia launched a series of airstrikes against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) in late September — arguably done to bolster its longtime ally, Syrian President Bashar Assad — many American conservatives lauded Russian President Vladimir Putin's show of strength while deriding what they suggested was President Obama's lack of resolve in helping to end Syria's bloody civil war. Many of these same conservatives have lamented America's lack of leadership in helping to abate the refugee crisis that the war has created while blasting Obama's refusal to directly confront ISIS in the field.

But one could credibly argue that contrary to his critics' averments, the Obama administration — where Putin is concerned — is not weak; rather, it is arguably taking a page out of conservative icon President Reagan's playbook book by engaging the Russians in an arms race while simultaneously planning for hostilities in Eastern Europe should the need arise.

Since 1999, Russia's greatest growth industry has been bolstering its military industrial complex. This past June, Putin stated that, "It's clear that the efficiency of the military-industrial complex is the most important source of economic growth." Putin has also created a program in which military draftees can opt to serve in defense-related industries that employ approximately 2.5 million Russians.
- HONG KONG — For the past eight years, the Chinese government has showered its former enemies in Taiwan with economic gifts: direct flights, commercial deals, even an undersea water pipeline. Trade is up more than 50 percent, and mainland tourists, once barred from traveling to the island, now arrive in droves, nearly four million last year alone.

But Beijing has discovered, again, that money can’t buy love.
- The investment bank analysed 550 Australian M&A deals over two decades and found that on average, the acquiring company's share prices had underperformed the market by 1 per cent or more in the first 12 months.
Finally, acquisitions of private companies fared better than takeovers of listed companies, the research found, which may be attributable to the fact that private companies are more likely to be mispriced, and therefore may be cheaper. 
- However much Japan reiterates its Nonproliferation Treaty pledge to abjure nuclear weapons, and complies with IAEA inspections, China worries about Japan’s nuclear weapons potential. If Japan goes forward with the Rokkasho operation when economic arguments are decidedly against it, China’s concerns will multiply many times over. Everyone is aware that if the plant were put to military use, it would be capable of producing more than a thousand bombs’ worth of plutonium per year. In these circumstances, international inspections cannot provide a “timely” warning of diversion to military use. Japan’s argument, that plutonium drawn from power reactors is not useful for bombs, conflicts with what weapon scientists say.
- A standard radar pointed at the surface receives large amounts of noise — junk reflections from the earth’s surface. This noise obscures any low-flying objects from radar scans at higher altitudes. A dedicated look-down/shoot-down radar filters out this noise and allows interceptors to detect and engage these lower-flying aircraft from above.
- For many in the West, it seems obvious which side is right: strongmen like Assad and Putin clearly are guilty of abject cynicism and ruthless pragmatism. Such rulers use the vocabulary of international rules only when it suits them; they pose as faithful devotees to the strictures of international law because they are desperate for any rationale that might excuse their brutal exercise of power. If these same rules stood in the way of their political ambitions then they would just as easily trample all over them. Who in their right mind would take a lesson on proper international conduct from Bashar al-Assad, a man whose government uses barrel bombs to terrorize civilian populations, or from Vladimir Putin, who brazenly used the language of national self-determination to justify the invasion and annexation of Crimea?

But charges of cynicism and outright hypocrisy can cut both ways. It is true, after all, that war is only justified under international law if waged in national self-defense or if authorized by the UN Security Council. Neither of these conditions would appear to be met with regard to U.S. bombing missions against targets in Syria (not to mention the 2003 invasion of Iraq). Nor is it uncommon for the West to turn its gaze from egregious violations of human rights, or to unevenly apply international rules, such as by backing Kosovo’s declaration of independence while opposing self-rule for other breakaway regions.
- But even today there is resistance to fully live test torpedoes, as obsolete ships used for sinkex commonly have a homing beacon, so nothing goes wrong for the cameras
- The truth is that international order is a messy, contested and often contradictory bundle of purported rules and expectations; it certainly does not provide a clean and clear-cut set of principles that can be applied in an objective fashion by world leaders. Instead, international order offers a variety of normative prescriptions that statesmen can and do use to justify vastly different policies, both liberal and decidedly non-liberal alike. International order is a repository of norms, but it is neither fixed nor agreed upon, and there is nothing inherently liberal about it.
- In 2009 then-General David H. Petraeus, the man who would become the commander of Obama’s second surge a year later, famously noted that leaders “have to promote reconciliation. You can’t kill or capture your way out of an industrial-strength insurgency.” Yet that is exactly what American leaders have done virtually every year of the war. I was deployed in Afghanistan during the height of the surge (2010–11) and observed firsthand how American policy was focused almost exclusively on militarily defeating the Taliban. Pakistani journalist Ahmed Rashid was even more direct. In a recent email message he sent me, he wrote, “The U.S. military was always against negotiations especially when Petraeus was in Afghanistan.”
- "We must improve our economic, technological and military prowess, otherwise we will be large but not powerful, appearing strong but actually being weak."
- Don’t kid yourself. The Islamic State (IS) isn’t even the most lethal terror group operating today: Nigeria’s Boko Haram wins that title. Regardless, before there was IS, there was al Qaeda, which brought us 9/11 and the Madrid and London bombings; before al Qaeda there was Hezbollah and Hamas; and before Hamas there was the Abu Nidal group, Black September and various other PLO factions. Europe saw more terrorist attacks — and more deaths from terror attacks — in the 1970s and 1980s than it has seen since 9/11. The Islamic State may now be the flavor du jour for the world’s angry young men, but if every single IS fighter in Syria and Iraq is obliterated, the Middle East will still seethe — and so will the banlieues of Paris.

And no, it’s not just Islam. Right-wing extremists in the United States still kill more people than jihadists. The 2011 attack in Norway — which left 77 people dead — was carried out by a single far-right terrorist, Anders Behring Breivik. Since 2006, more than half of all deaths in terror attacks in the west have been caused by non-Islamist “lone wolf” attackers, most motivated by right wing extremism or separatist sentiments. You can’t even count on Buddhists to be peaceful: on Oct. 23, 2012, for instance, Buddhists militants attacked the Burmese village of Yan Thei and massacred more than seventy people, including 28 children, most of whom were hacked to death.   
- The cheapest and easiest way to reduce the benefits of terrorism is to stop overreacting. That 129 people were killed in the Paris attacks is a terrible tragedy and a vicious crime, but 16,000 people in the United States are murdered each year in “ordinary” homicides, 30,000 die in accidental falls, 34,000 die in car crashes, and 39,000 die of accidental poisoning. We should mourn each and every death, and we should take all reasonable steps to prevent more deaths from occurring and punish those responsible for intentionally inflicting harm.

But we need to stop viewing terrorism as unique and aberrational. The more we panic and posture and overreact, the more terrorism we’ll get.
- A senior NATO commander said last month that the number of Russian submarine patrols had risen to levels not seen for a decade as UK defence officials warned Russia was exploring plans to cut underseas communications cables which carry nearly all the world’s internet traffic.
- “My sense [is] you will have candidates in both parties arguing, not for a once-in-a-generation buildup, but a buildup beyond what the program is currently,” Brose said, adding later: “As you look to next year’s election, spending less on defense doesn’t strike me as a winner.”

Yet how such a buildup will be funded in the federal budget remains an open question, Kosiak said. Will there be a tax hike or tax cuts? Will entitlements be cut or left alone? Will there be parity on the non defense side?

“Both Republicans and Democrats agree we need more money for defense,” Kosiak, “but how does that fit into the overall [federal budget] package.”

Mackenzie Eaglen, an American Enterprise Institute analyst and former congressional defense aide, said Congress will have to find funding for the Pentagon's efforts in the Mideast, Europe and the Pacific, or it will have to choose from among some politically unpopular options: shuttering units, closing bases, or cutting contractors or depot workers.

“There's no magic sauce here,” Eaglen said. "The entire economy needs to grow or you're cutting defense under any scenario."
- Last year, The Fiscal Times compared Facebook’s photo tagging system with the FBI’s billion dollar facial recognition system — the one that’s supposed to ID the bad guys. The test was done by the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a tech trade group, which found the FBI’s system was accurate only 85 percent of the time compared with Facebook’s system that works 97 percent of the time.

In one case, the FBI’s facial recognition system matched a suspect’s photo with the wrong name one in seven times.

The FBI story is still a good result compared with, say, Healtcare.gov — the billion dollar website that never worked well and cost taxpayers a bundle. Or the IRS’s inability to keep millions of taxpayers’ Social Security numbers from being stolen. Or how about the Office of Management and Budget letting the personal information of 25 million federal workers be hijacked by hackers?

A few examples of federal I.T. expertise:

    A failed electronic health record program that was supposed to allow the Pentagon and Veterans Affairs to share files. DOD canceled it when the cost of the program was projected to top $28 billion. The original system was supposed to cost $1 billion.
    The Virtual Case File System, for which the FBI paid contractors $170 million. The bureau eventually decided the program as conceived would never work -- and canceled the contract.
    The Secure Border Initiative, which was supposed to create a virtual fence between the U.S. and Mexico. Homeland Security canceled it after spending $1 billion on just 53 miles of fence. The entire border is 1,954 miles.
    The Business Modernization Program, launched by the IRS in the 1980s. The program’s goal was to help the IRS manage files. More than 20 years and $7 billion later, it's still not done.
    The Kinetic Energy Interceptor, an anti-ballistic missile system that would take down enemy rockets early in flight; Northrup Grumman was the contractor. After the DOD spent $1.2 billion on it, the Obama administration canceled the program because it simply didn't work.
- A Coalition senator who was supposed to announce the Turnbull government's decision to create a team of "behavioural economics" advisers once slammed the Gillard government for pursuing similar ideas.

Senator Arthur Sinodinos was due to reveal plans on Monday of the federal government's decision to create a new team of economic advisers, to be housed inside the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet.

The team will be asked to design policies using insights from behavioural economics, a field of economics that recognises that people do not always make decisions on a purely rational basis.
In 2013, Mr Sinodinos slammed the Gillard government for experimenting with behavioural economic theories, accusing it of using them for "economic and social regulatory engineering" rather than listening to the Australian people.
- Despite presiding over a vast hydro-engineering industry—there are more than 87,000 dams in China, most of which have been built since 1978—Beijing’s politicians have yet to prove they can keep their cities safe from flood and drought.

Since 2008, the number of Chinese cities affected by floods has more than doubled. Severe and extreme droughts, too, have become more serious since the late 1990s. Chronic water shortages in northern China have led to the construction of a $81 billion canal to transfer water south to north.

“The rate of flooding is a national scandal,” says Kongjian Yu, the dean of Peking University’s College of Architecture and Landscape Architecture. “We have poured more than enough concrete. It’s time to invest in a new type of green infrastructure.”

For the first time, Yu feels he may be preaching to the converted.

In September, the government rubber-stamped the development of 16 model “sponge cities”—an ecologically friendly alternative to the gray urban expanses of modern China. These will require infrastructure retrofits of existing cities all over China, ranging from Xixian New Area in the north, with about 500,000 people, to Chongqing in the south, with a population of 10 million.
- The U.S. military receives intelligence from a large number of analysts from a variety of agencies, both military and civilian, on any given subject or target — much of it contradictory — which leaves the information open to subjective interpretation and possible manipulation at more senior levels, both civilian and military.
- So, as Russia nicked Crimea off Ukraine in the name of protecting the Russian-speaking population, so too is Turkey enraged at Russia's air strikes on Syria which drop bombs on ethnic Turkmen. Russia, meanwhile, cheerfully bombs anyone opposed to Assad as a way to preserve him and maintain its own regional power. So for Putin, IS is simply convenient rhetorical cover that allows him to bomb whoever stands in Assad's way.

No one likes IS, but everyone ultimately has greater, conflicting concerns. Partly that's because most nations recognise IS has no air force, no history of military victories against capable enemies and controls a largely empty swath of land, which it has recently commenced losing. Western nations might be keen to see that process complete itself, but the truth is they have little appetite for making it happen.
- There are striking similarities between Erdogan’s Turkey and Putin’s Russia, not least their ability and propensity to move conflicts into the covert arena. While Russia’s intervention in Syria may have cynical intent, the Turks are acting in support of their national interests in Syria with equal ruthlessness.

Ankara is often guilty of neglecting attacks on Isis and hitting the Kurds (who are in so many ways the most effective force against the jihadists) instead, smuggling weapons in the guise of humanitarian convoys (something we saw the Russians doing in Ukraine), and being willing to support groups which are often jihadist in their own terms. Turkish military intelligence organisation (MIT) is every bit as cynically opportunist as the Russian military spy agency (GRU), and Erdogan every bit as erratic, brutal and ambitious as Putin.
- North Korean men have been issued a mandate to cut their hair in the same style as leader Kim Jong Un, according to reports.

The Sun reported the dictator, who sports a ‘shaved at the sides and long at the top’ style, has demanded all men emulate his trademark look, also favoured by his late father and grandfather.

The cut is apparently known as the “ambitious style” in North Korea.

According to the report, women have also been ordered to sport the signature ‘bob cut’ of the leader’s wife, Ri Sol-ju.

The mandates have allegedly caused a spike in revenue for hairdressers, who are struggling to keep up with the demand for those eager to avoid punishment.

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