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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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Quick Beef Stew Recipe, Random Stuff, and More

This is the latest in my series on quick, easy, and tasty meals:   http://dtbnguyen.blogspot.com/2017/11/chinese-style-congee-jook-recipe...