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Thursday, January 14, 2016

Xi Jinping, China Background, and More

One of the things that is obvious is that a lot of the people in the West don't understand Xi Jinping and China and what exactly they're up to. Moreover, the Chinese have stated outright that in general most people in the West don't understand enough of their background to have a genuine idea of why they hold certain positions. This post will hopefully address some of these issues and help you with some background.

- China makes no sense to a lot of people because they've grown up and been indoctrinated into Western views. A core question which comes up over and over again with China/Russia is Western vs opposing views. Think of it like this, if you were given the chance to undergo accelerated evolution/economic growth and saw and the mistakes that the West had made would you try to avoid them? Any sane person would say yes and that is fundamentally the core issue that is at play at the moment. There's another issue at play. It's incredibly obvious that they basically have made significant strides into observing Western practices and penetrating and/or subvertign Western intelligence, politics, defense, etc... They know exactly what they're up against, the system that is being proposed to them and they basically don't like what they see. To me, it's the same fundamental problem that every person who tries to subvert existing systems faces. In the case of Assad, Putin, Jinping, etc... they know they're systems inside out and they're basically taking and picking the best pieces of what the West has to offer and then rejecting the rest...
Kevin Rudd - Imagining China in 2023 - China's Domestic and Foreign Posture under Xi Jinping
The rise of Xi Jinping and destruction of Bo Xilai by John Garnaut
China’s One Belt One Road Initiative and its Evolving Growth Strategy, Jul 13
- over and over again you get the same feeling that Western perception of China as being slightly condescending whether it be via the media, diplomatic services, defense, etc... Listen to the tone alone from some Western commentators and you'll hear this. What's worse is that the Chinese also perceive this and openly state this at times as well. I grew up around a lot of Chinese/traditional Asian people (from a very young age) and the West needs to understand that from a young age there are extremely strong family ties and a hierarchical structure that is learnt and adhered to. Anytime a Western diplomat says they understand Chinese culture and then proceed to get things wrong they look arrogant and incredibly silly (factor in their history of being colonised by foreign entities and it makes things worse). In the real world this means that diplomats, intelligence, defense staff, and so on are in a poor position to be able to understand their motivations and culture. At the very least people in key positions should be given a broad overview. In reality, people should probably be rotated in/out of China to get a better understanding of the way things work over there. It's one thing to learn the language, it's another to live with them, and another to be born into the culture
BBC  Panorama   The Xi Factor BBC Documentary 2015
Documentary movie - China's Sexual Revolution National Geogrephic BBC
- look at their development and what officials sometimes say and it becomes obvious that there is a feeling of making up for lost time. People in the West are very poorly equipped to understand this. What's worse is that you need sufficient background in history, philosophy, sociology, intelligence, defense, economics, etc... to make genuine sense of a lot of Chinese actions. China is run by technocrats. However, look further at the background of the upper echelon in China and you'll see that they have incredibly varied backgrounds often do not fit the Western stereotype that they were 'born' into the role of leadership. While the US/West may be trying to force their version of democracy upon them they have a form/type of democracy already. Moreover, they do listen to people at the bottom. How they gain this knowledge, how and what they do with it is radically different though. Neither the US or China are naive. They know each one is trying to undermine/usurp the other no matter what they may say in public. Position regarding Falun Gong makes more sense if you understand that they believe that their desired ideology is better, that the CCP is looking and doing a good job of looking after China, Western attempts at inflitration via third parties such as rebel movements, etc... Any attempt to bring down power of CCP will be met forcefully whether that threat comes internally or externally. Unlike what is commonly stated in the West force is not the first mechanism to re-establish social harmony. They will escalate only if they see/feel the need to
Orville Schell - Wealth and Power - China's Long March to the Twenty-First Century
China Ghost Cities, and The World Powers Building a Megalopolis City - Jing Jin Ji
Deng Xiaoping - The Making of a Leader (Documentary of 2007)
- one thing that they're trying to do is to create a societal framework based on law as well as virtue. This is very distinct to that of the West and could result in massive changes. A good example of this is the following. In the West, large firms consider it crucial/nonsensical to not do their best to avoid tax. They play know the law and bend it and find loopholes around it. What if societal norms pushed companies to not exploit tax loopholes? Another example is the following. Think about the nature of the elderly in Chinese versus Western culture. In the West people tend to be sent off to 'elderly homes' while in traditional Chinese culture the family tends to maintain a tight knit community where people take care of one another. I think these are the types of situations that the Chinese are trying to address as they undergo their accelerated evolution/growth... Moving towards more hands off management of State Owned Enterprises. It will be more about capital management rather than hands on firm management. 98% of Huawei is employee owned though not publicly listed? You get the feeling that they're trying to create an ideal utopian/society and they will do everything they can to stop others from interfering with their plan. If they do become another world superpower they will probably be remain that way for a very long time. Their use of experimental governance (and Special Economic Zones) has been very wise. It effectively allows them to take small bets and seeing whether they work. Much more efficient than standard governance where you can often end up in endless, expensive reviews and you still often are just taking a leap into the unknown when you finally do make a decision. Despite all of this they still have significant problems. People who are close to members of the Chinese leadership have exploited their relationships to make millions/billions of dollars on the side (you could argue that people in the West are the same though but I doubt it's to the same extent and it's probably better hidden). Crazy levels of corruption in China, apparently. Proper investigations could last for decades. My guess is that people who 'disappear' may be undergoing some form of re-education (and obviously investigation). If they do not pass/comply my guess is that they are banned/constrained from subsequent activity in that area
Understanding Xi Jinping's Grand Reform Strategy _ The New School
The BRICS Option -  International Schiller Institute Event
[Panel Discussion] China-India Relations in the Xi-Modi Era
Xi Jinping and China's New Era of Reform
China’s One Belt One Road Initiative and its Evolving Growth Strategy, Jul 13
Exposing The Changing Face Of Superpower China
- put the current kerfuffle in the Chinese share markets into perspective. People have said over and over again that they worry about China/Russia attempting to cause a collapse of US power around the world. I don't think it's like that. They're looking to erode it. In fact, I think they're willing to play a decades long game in order to achieve this. For instance, let's think about what would happen if the US dollar were suddenly to collapse. China could be in a lot of trouble because they are one of the largest holders of US debt in the world. They need something to fall back on in order to save themselves (as well as others if the US is in terminal decline). They need a fall back poistion and to a certain extent they have that now with the Renminbi/Yuan being given SDR/reserve currency status
- any Chinese empire will likely to be far larger/inclusive than that of the US empire. In some ways it will be similar in others very dissimilar. They will not interfere as directly in local affairs as the US/Western empire but they will also look out for their own interests. You can already see it happening with basically all traditional non-partners of the West lining and basically looking for ways to push the US out of their own region. Whether this is through subversion or hybrid warfare it doesn't really matter. It's happening and there's little that they can do about it. There's one major difference in perspective. US believes in massive blocks or global dominance. The Russians/Chinese prefer smaller deals (whether to divide and conquer or to simplify is the obvious question). obviously, this translates into differing perspectives. Western perspective says that they are irresponsible and poor steward for intenational affairs. For me, there's the  obvious difficulty is that the more players are involved the more likely poor comprises need to be made and the more likely negotiations are likely to be strung out. think about ASEAN, TPP, Middle East, etc... incredibly complex and it seems as though China/Russia have similar perspectives. Belief in the West (and past experience) indicates that without a 'world order' of some sort there is chaos
U.S.-China Under Xi Jinping - From Strategic Collision to Common Purpose
- a lot of people seem incredibly naive. The US is clearly not the benevolant leader that media often makes them out to be. It's also clear that China will travel roughly the same path. Strategies that they've used that are similar include dividing and conquering of enemies, repression/suppression of enemies, use of economics in order to gain leverage, use of puppet governments, extensive use of PSYOPS and propaganda, engagement in proxy warfare, supporting of rebels in neigbouring territories, etc... Hong Kong previously used to pass on technology to China that was previously under sanction. Hong Kong is example of one country, two systems but it's possible that it could fade away in the future. Taiwan is also likely to be used as a springboard for sensitive technology which makes the current US administration stance towards of only limited weapons sales to Taiwan make more sense. They want to push out as far as realistically possible which means that they'll require close to half a dozen aircraft carriers in the short to medium (2-3 decades) term future. Thereafter, it will be a case of what their economy can afford and what they need
- don't make the assumption that they are stupid or naive. They've cornered off most areas where most others are likely to try to curtail them. They have stolen or breached security into most areas of Western intelligence and defense that would consider important to them strategically or during a time of conflict. The only real question is how up to date their information is, whether they can implement their own native versions/designs, the quality of their implementations, training, etc...
- tightly controlled media. Somewhat similar to Russia in that history feels like it's changing all the time. They are aware of flaws in their system and are making attempts to deal with them. There are definitely internal debates over policy decisions. It's no where near as singular as Western media makes it out to be sometimes. Like the duck joke that you sometimes hear. Calm on top, paddling madly beneath. A lot of analysts who don't understand the culture well enough or only understand parts of the puzzle. Confucian ethic is to look after one another. There may be no formalised checks and balances like Western democracies but there are competing interests and systems built into the system as it currently exists already. You only have a genuine chance to make change/debate at a certain point in the Chinese political system. It must occur in private though in order to maintain stability and 'face' though
Who is Xi The Knowns and Unknowns of China's Political Future _ The New School 
- people keep on saying that in a straight out fight that China would be overpowered because US/Allied bases surround it. That it has no real power projection capability, etc... Think carefully though, who honestly wants to go to war with China? Even if China is technically second after the US in terms of GDP (after currency conversions) there are people that are saying that by virtue of the fact that more investment is coming out of China than the US now that China has become more important in terms of the global economy. This is especially the case with regards to countries surrounding China. China now outsripts the US in terms of investment in all surrounding countries. Moreover, it's clear that they have a multi-pronged strategy revolves around strengthening military, eroding Western influence, growing economic power, etc... Moreover, technically the US is far more unstable than China economically if you take away that fact that it is a reserve currency. The only question is whether or not China can continue to execute their strategy successfully over the long term. There's also this, owing to the fact that that Western intelligence and defense services have grown so large and the intermingling of economics and national security affairs it has made itself more difficult to watch/police. It's not difficult to see how the Chinese have been able to procure so much information that they shouldn't have. At worst, they have older versions of most pieces of Western military technolgy (and undoubtably they'd be working to develop counter measures). At best, they're basically reading everything off verbatim as the US/West works on it (else this is a surreptitious handover of power). Any battle between the US and China is unlikely to go off as smoothly as people think
Superpower China military force infoleaks advanced fighter aircrafts outnumber Russian
China Military The Chinese Navy force second to USA Fleet ranks number 2 in the world
- problems with military corruption possibly severe. People are possibly paying for promotions. Not to say Chinese aren't ready for combat. Drills and co-operation with neighbouts increasing and getting more professional. Practice of sending kids/money abroad for study is somewhat of a hedge agains internal problems if they arise. Xi is a conservative, loyal to party, not corrupt, not considered overly brilliant but possibly a saviour of the CCP/China, etc... Chinese leadership understand that modern economics built on arbitrary mechanisms and framework. CCP/China consider bursting of asset bubbles corruption? Interesting observation that no 'princelings' that are of any worth have fallen? Westerners don't seem to understand that despite restrictions capital flow out of China has been quite liberal for quite some time and strategies have been quite creative. Friends and family, doctored invoices and dodgy accounting, even people street markets can be running operations as a side business...
Roderick MacFarquhar – The Rise of Xi Jinping
- it has been speculated that if the US empire collapses then we may have trouble elsewhere because we essentially have what I call 'enforced peace'. Namely, peace/arrangements that have resulted in peace because of the superiority of US military technology and economic power. This has been exacerbated by the fact that they haven't really been successful (or had the desire) at extricating themselves from various conflicts. As such, some people think living without the US watching over things is unthinkable. The thing is this, if Russia and China continue to modernise (as indicated in other posts previously they have managed to beg, borrow, steal, build, etc... anything that they would really require to field a competitive fighting force) they will clearly be able to step into the breach. The obvious difference is that they will do things on their own terms. Allies and neutrals needs to convince the US to let go (if it's inevitable that China becomes the world's superpower) and setup alternatives to fill in any potential vaccums. Chinese should be encouraged to send people to conflict zones (with lower levels of suspicion) if the West honestly wants China to take on global peacekeeper type role. Chinese may see this as somewhat of a trap to keep them weak if they are not ready yet though... In the COW (Corellations of War) project it has been proven that democracy doesn't lead to peace nor harmony... Indications point to the fact that previous Chinese global leadership was more peaceful than current Western leadership (not as simple as that. History of internal conflict....)? Clear invitations by China made to the US and others to BRICS and AIIB projects but US was not forthcoming
The BRICS Option -  International Schiller Institute Event
Vice President Xi Jinping Policy Speech February 15, 2012
- forget about convincing China on some issues. I think that North Korea will remain as a buffer state for as long as the US continues to remain in the region? Complex relationship with others. Rivals with some neighbours but clear shared economic interests. Lingering difficulties over territories and war acts from past with other neighbouts. Some people say that China doesn't have bases overseas for expeditionary excersises. Clearly, laying string/network of ports and establishing agreements regionally/globally in spite of what is sometimes said by some people. China now surpasses US as largest trading partner for every country in Asian region.
China Rebirth of Superpower Empire on The Rise - Full Documentary HD 中国 2016
- some people who have switched sides (any way) seem incredibly naive. It feels like they don't know enough of either system. I think a lot of people would be a lot more neutral if they'd done more research. Currently power consolidation and anti-corruption drive. Apparently, only 3% of corrupt people go to jail. Biggest sources of corruption in China are inputs of production; land, capital, energy. These are areas are being targeted
Tigers and Flies - Xi Jinping's Anti-Corruption Campaign

- alternative news/debate channels for those who are interested

- I've had to build some web scraping tools of late. NodeJS and other JS frameworks provide this already apparently
Free: Learn Web Scraping with Node.js @ Udemy

- nice overview of how modern RADAR systems work
A question about how stealth and Radar detection works?

- funny that given the NSA had to shutdown part of their own meta-data program that Australia has it's own. Makes you wonder whether or not the US would pipe content via Australia to pickup the content via a third party source

- old coins can be worth more than their face value though how much can vary

- you may get an offer to write/review for Packt Publishing at some point in your life if you're in the FOSS world

- perhaps we should just Re-Burger it? LOL
The Yes Men Fix the World

- tools for listing/editing MP3/ID3 tags

- dealing with non-standard characters with 'sed'

- Russia has expanded its military operations in Syria to include a second airbase as well as other posts, according to a U.S. official briefed on the latest intelligence from the region – even as President Obama expresses muted optimism that Russian President Vladimir Putin eventually will “shift” his strategy and work with the West.

Moscow’s presence has grown to a total of four forward operating bases, including recently added bases in Hama and Tiyas. But the most concerning to the Pentagon is the second airbase in Shayrat which can support fixed-wing aircraft, greatly expanding Russia’s capability for airstrikes, which began on Sept. 30.
- With the attacks in Paris putting new pressure on US President Barack Obama to show progress in the stalemated war against terrorists, defence analysts are calling for an intensified campaign of raids to disrupt the group's leadership, gather intelligence and build momentum.

"The goal is to start a chain reaction of intelligence-driven raids that increase in frequency and expand in scope over time," said Robert Martinage, a former deputy assistant secretary of defence for special operations under Mr Obama. "The metric becomes can you disrupt and dismantle the network faster than the enemy can repair and regenerate it?"
- "We will chase and fight any American force deployed in Iraq," Jafaar Hussaini, a spokesman for one of the Shiite armed groups, Kata'ib Hezbollah, told the Reuters news agency. "Any such American force will become a primary target for our group. We fought them before, and we are ready to resume fighting."
"All Iraqis look to (the Americans) as occupiers who are not trustworthy," Muen al-Kadhimi, a senior aide to the militia leader of the Iran-backed Badr Organization, told Reuters.
- Devastating – but now largely forgotten – testimony to Chilcot points to parallels between 2003 and today that should be there for all to see: the dangers of trying to topple dictators without filling the power vacuum they leave behind; of bombing a country without taking responsibility for what’s happening on the ground; and of military intervention increasing, rather than diminishing, the terrorist threat.
- “The United States has employed a raiding strategy in a variety of countries, and the results have been far from encouraging,” said Mark Moyar, visiting scholar at the Foreign Policy Initiative. “During the Bush administration, huge numbers of raids failed to prevent the resurgence of the Taliban or the flourishing of Iraqi insurgent groups,” he said, while the Obama administration’s reliance on Special Operations raids in Afghanistan ultimately failed to prevent the Taliban from gaining ground over the past year.

The nighttime raids by the Joint Special Operations Command during the surge in Iraq did, however, knock al Qaeda in Iraq leadership off balance to a significant degree, killing large numbers of militants and allowing the Iraqi security forces to find their footing.
- Addressing the Politburo last week, Xi said Marxist political economy could “help conduct economic analysis in a scientific way, improve the capability of managing a socialist market economy, and better answer problems of economic development”, in the face of the extremely complex economic situation at home and abroad.
- The motion looks set to pass given the broad majority held by Ms Merkel's "grand coalition" of conservatives and Social Democrats.

Lawmakers from the pacifist Left party have warned that the government is raising the risks of an attack on German soil by joining the mission.

They have promised to vote against it and challenge the deployment in court.

Some members of the opposition Greens also have reservations.

"This deployment is combustible and politically and militarily wrong. Showing solidarity with France cannot mean undertaking something that's wrong," Greens politician Hans-Christian Stroebele said, adding he feared more civilian victims.

German foreign minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, a Social Democrat, told Bild daily that patience was needed and, pointing to the ongoing talks in Vienna, stressed that a political process for Syria's long-term future was essential.

"Bombs and rockets alone will not conquer terror, that will only happen though politics," he told Bild.
- I remember only too well being a junior. I was basically scared stiff of anyone who was more senior than me – everyone in the business.

When someone said jump, I said how high? I knew nothing and even basic office processes seemed complex to me. I even remember being scared of the fax machine and the photocopier.

However, when I encounter juniors today, they seem so different to when I was starting out. They seem to know everything. Or at least they think they do. Although this is rarely the case.

What this shows is that junior staff need a lot of support to learn how to be a productive member of the team. However, very often, they just don't get it. 

There's rarely a process for teaching young team members about the things that happen in an office that most of us take for granted. Basic stuff like how to work the telephone system and what happens with the mail.

Plus, all too often the junior is treated like a second-class citizen; certainly that has been the case at many of the places I have worked.
- Russia has begun building two modern military compounds on the far eastern Kuril islands, defence minister Sergei Shoigu said Tuesday, heightening long-running tensions with Japan over the disputed islands.

Russia is "actively carrying out construction of military compounds on the islands of Iturup and Kunashir", Shoigu said at a meeting with military top brass, according to the ministry's website.

Relations between Moscow and Tokyo have been strained for decades because of the status of the four southernmost islands in the Kuril chain, known as the Northern Territories in Japan.

Some 19,000 Russians live on the remote rocky islands, occupied by Soviet troops in the dying days of World War II.

The two countries have never officially struck a peace treaty and the lingering tensions over the issue have hampered trade ties for decades.
- On the front lines of the battle against the Islamic State, suspicion of the United States runs deep. Iraqi fighters say they have all seen the videos purportedly showing US helicopters airdropping weapons to the militants, and many claim they have friends and relatives who have witnessed similar instances of collusion.

Ordinary people also have seen the videos, heard the stories and reached the same conclusion - one that might seem absurd to Americans but is widely believed among Iraqis - that the United States is supporting the Islamic State for a variety of pernicious reasons that have to do with asserting American control over Iraq, the wider Middle East and, perhaps, its oil.

"It is not in doubt," said Mustafa Saadi, who says his friend saw US helicopters delivering bottled water to Islamic State positions. He is a commander in one of the Shiite militias that last month helped push the militants out of the oil refinery near Baiji in northern Iraq alongside the Iraqi army.

The Islamic State, also known as ISIL or Daesh, is "almost finished," he said. "They are weak. If only America would stop supporting them, we could defeat them in days."

US military officials say the charges are too far-fetched to merit a response. "It's beyond ridiculous," said Colonel Steve Warren, the military's Baghdad-based spokesman. "There's clearly no one in the West who buys it, but unfortunately, this is something that a segment of the Iraqi population believes."
- “The continued development and testing of destructive [anti-satellite] ASAT systems is both destabilizing and threatens the long-term security and sustainability of the outer space environment,” Frank Rose, assistant secretary of state for arms control, verification and compliance, said in February.

China has conducted several tests of anti-satellite weapons, including a 2007 test that left tens of thousands of pieces of dangerous debris floating in space. The debris continues to threaten both manned and unmanned satellites.

Meanwhile, a polar-orbiting National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration satellite, NOAA 16, broke up in space mysteriously last week, according to the Air Force’s Joint Space Operations Center.

“The cause is still unknown at this point,” said John Leslie, a NOAA spokesman.

Air Force Space Command spokesman Nick Mercurio said no satellites or other objects were detected near the NOAA 16 prior to the breakup on Nov. 25. The debris currently is not posing a risk to other satellites, he said.
- At issue is the 1987 treaty banning intermediate-range missiles based on land, which was signed by President Ronald Reagan and Mikhail S. Gorbachev, then the Soviet leader, and has long been viewed as one of the agreements that sealed the end of the Cold War.

The Obama administration charged in July 2014 that the Russians had violated the treaty, popularly known as the INF accord, by developing and testing a prohibited ground-launched cruise missile.

Repeated attempts to persuade the Kremlin to resolve the issue have failed. Rose Gottemoeller, the senior State Department official for arms control, told a joint meeting of the House Armed Services and Foreign Affairs Committees that Russian officials had never acknowledged developing the prohibited system and instead had focused on leveling “counteraccusations,” which she dismissed as spurious.
- Yes, of course Iraq added a new excuse, a new pretext, to a list of Islamist grievances that range from the way women dress and behave to the rights of gay people (including the right to live, in Isis territory) and the impiety of laughter and music. And – yes – Britain’s participation in the campaign against Isis in Syria as well as Iraq will probably make them hate us more.

But they hate us pretty comprehensively already. When Isis talks about “the crusaders”, it doesn’t don’t just mean today’s soldiers and their political leaders, but Godfrey of Bouillon (1060-1100) and everyone else in between.

For these jihadis, Iraq is only a recent chapter in a very long book of history; they are now immersed in writing the next. The question facing MPs in this vote is whether Britain wants to pick up its pen too.
- Moscow opposes any NATO extension to former communist areas of eastern and southeastern Europe, part of an east-west struggle for influence over former Soviet satellites that is at the center of the crisis in Ukraine.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said in September that any expansion of NATO was “a mistake, even a provocation”. In comments to Russian media then, he said NATO’s so-called open door policy was “an irresponsible policy that undermines the determination to build a system of equal and shared security in Europe.”

RIA news agency cited a Russian senator as saying on Wednesday that Russia will end joint projects with Montenegro if the ex-Communist country joins the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation. The Adriatic state of 650,000 people is expected to become a member formally next year.
- The allegations of American collusion with the Islamic State are aired regularly in parliament by Shiite politicians and promoted in postings on social media. They are persistent enough to suggest a deliberate campaign on the part of Iran's allies in Iraq to erode American influence, US officials say.

In one typical recent video that appeared on the Facebook page of a Shiite militia, a lawmaker with the country's biggest militia group, the Badr Organisation, waves apparently new U.S military MREs (meals ready to eat) - one of them chicken and dumplings - allegedly found at a recently captured Islamic State base in Baiji, offering proof, he said, of US support.

"The Iranians and the Iranian-backed Shiite militias are really pushing this line of propaganda, that the United States is supporting ISIL," Warren said. "It's part of the Iranian propaganda machine."

The perception plays into a widening rift within Iraq's ruling Shiite elite over whether to pivot more toward Iran or the United States. Those pushing the allegations "want to create a narrative that Iran is our ally and the United States is our enemy, and this undermines Abadi, who is America's ally," Sowell said.
- In a part of the world where outcomes are often confused with intentions and regional complexities enable conspiracy theories to thrive, the notion that the United States is colluding with the Islamic State holds a certain logic, according to Mustafa Alani, director of the Dubai-based Gulf Research Centre. Most Arabs are too in awe of American might to believe that it is deliberately adopting a minimalist approach, he said.

"The reason is that the Americans aren't doing the job people expect them to do," he said. "Mosul was lost and the Americans did nothing. Syria was lost and the Americans did nothing. Paris is attacked and the Americans aren't doing much. So people believe this is a deliberate policy. They can't believe the American leadership fails to understand the developments in the region, and so the only other explanation is that this is part of a conspiracy."

On the streets of Baghdad, most Iraqis see no other explanation.

"The image of the US was damaged in the region, so they created Daesh in order to fight them and restore their image," said Mohammed Abdul Khaleq, a journalist for a local TV station who was drinking coffee in a cafe favoured by writers, most of whom said they agreed.

A rare dissenting voice was offered by Hassan Abdul-Wahab, 23, selling luggage in a nearby shop. "It is true that most people believe that," he said. "But it's not based on reason. It's based on racism - because Iraqis don't like Americans in the first place."
- When the Grand Mufti of Australia invited us to debate the "causative factors" behind the Paris terror attacks our political leaders should have risen to the challenge. They should have seized the opportunity to elaborate on the flawed logic and troubling premise behind Ibrahim Abu Mohammed's comments. They should have engaged in a polite but robust debate that respected the intelligence of the Grand Mufti and the community. They should have done so because we can't tackle radicalisation without fighting the battle of ideas.
- If the war was about defeating ISIS, how long would it take these global powers and NATO, with trillions of dollars in military budgets, to wipe these untrained and ill equipped ISIS fighters off the map? The problem is not defeating ISIS. The global powers are locked in an impasse over the post-ISIS power structure in the region, meanwhile giving ISIS time to gain momentum, conduct propaganda, recruit militants and attack Western cities.
- The Pentagon lavished nearly $150m of taxpayer money on villas with private security, flat screen TVs and three course meals for “special events” for US government staff in Afghanistan, an official watchdog has found.

The defense secretary, Ash Carter, is under pressure to explain why the Task Force for Business and Stability Operations (TFBSO) spent about a fifth of its budget on external residences in Kabul instead of accommodating the employees at American military or diplomatic bases.

The demand from John Sopko, head of the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (Sigar), comes just a month after he questioned the Department of Defense’s outlay of nearly $43m “for what is likely to be the world’s most expensive gas station”.
- Prince Charles is demanding "North Korean-style" pre-conditions in television interviews, including advance knowledge of precise questions, the right to oversee editing and even to block a broadcast if he does not approve of the final product.

The Independent has learnt that the Prince of Wales will only speak to broadcasters on the condition they have signed a 15-page contract, demanding that Clarence House attends both the "rough cut" and "fine cut" edits of films and, if it is unhappy with the final product, can "remove the contribution in its entirety from the programme".
- Even if they had used encryption, what would that prove? Are we ready to endorse the precept that no human communication can ever take place without the US government being able to monitor it? To prevent the CIA and FBI from "going dark" on terrorism plots that are planned in person, should we put Orwellian surveillance monitors in every room of every home that can be activated whenever someone is suspected of plotting?
- Your employees have been shot at by armed insurgents. Multiple times. Your work crews have been attacked by small arms and mortar fire, machine gun fire, and rocket-propelled grenades. One of your teams also was ambushed and assaulted by rocket and machine gun fire. Finally, an IED (improvised explosive device) took out one of your vehicles, killing the driver and seriously injuring two security guards.

You suspend operations due to security concerns and ask the Government to push back the delivery date. The Government accedes to your request. But it’s too late; the die has been cast. The IED incident led to severe workforce disruption among security personnel. They walked off the job. You miss the new delivery date, and the Government terminates your contract soon thereafter.

What just happened and what are your rights?
- With less than two months until the Iowa caucus opens the 2016 primary season, Donald Trump's poll-leading candidacy continues to cause increasing anxiety among Republican Party leaders worried about how he can be stopped from actually getting the nomination. Trump poses two overall problems for the party. One is how freely he insults, denigrates, and offends a variety of groups—to the extent that Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank flat-out calls him a bigot and a racist and criticizes other Republican candidates for being hesitant to call out Trump in the same way. The political problem for the party, of course, is that Trump's ignoble attitudes in this respect will become associated with the party as a whole.
Senior media operatives are treated as "emirs" of equal rank to their military counterparts. They are directly involved in decisions on strategy and territory. They preside over hundreds of videographers, producers and editors who form a privileged, professional class with status, salaries and living arrangements that are the envy of ordinary fighters.

"It is a whole army of media personnel," said Abu Abdullah, a second defector who served in IS's security ranks but had extensive involvement with its propaganda teams.

"The media people are more important than the soldiers," he said. "Their monthly income is higher. They have better cars. They have the power to encourage those inside to fight and the power to bring more recruits to the Islamic State."
- It is a measure of how cold the West’s relations with Russia have become that NATO’s membership invitation to Montenegro — a small, poor Balkan state with a military force of 2,000 and no strategic significance save putting the last bit of Europe’s Mediterranean coastline under the alliance — would provoke furious cries of “provocation” and “encirclement” from the Kremlin.

Secretary of State John Kerry insisted that NATO is not focused on Russia “per se,” but the inescapable perception is that that’s exactly where the old Cold War alliance is once again. Inviting Montenegro into the alliance at a time when Russia and NATO are pursuing different military goals in Syria was a message to Moscow that it does not have a veto over Western actions.
- In a yellowed letter, nearly a millennium old, a Jewish trader sings the praises of his Muslim business partners; pages from medieval Hebrew and Christian bibles sit side by side with those of an eighth-century Qur’an. Egypt’s history of religious pluralism is rich and nuanced. So too, unfortunately, is the track record of those in power who have exploited and manipulated religious differences down the centuries to serve their own ends.
- France's government published a guide on Friday on how to survive a terrorist attack, coupled with a warning from the prime minister that people must learn to live with the risk.

Advice in cartoon-strip form, to appear on posters in public places like train stations and available online, recommends three key responses: flee, hide and raise the alarm.
- The Saudi-Iranian rivalry plays out throughout the region, the memo said, most recently and strikingly in the Saudi military intervention in Yemen. There, it said, “Saudi Arabia wants to prove that it is ready to take unprecedented military, financial and political risks in order not to fall into a disadvantageous position in the region.”

In Syria, Saudi Arabia’s aim was always to oust President Bashar al-Assad, and that has not changed, the memo said.

But it suggested that the recent shift in Saudi leadership has added new factors in the Middle East. “The concentration of economic and foreign policy power on Mohammed bin Salman contains the latent danger that, in an attempt to establish himself in the royal succession while his father is still alive, he could overreach with expensive measures or reforms that would unsettle other members of the royal family and the population,” the memo observed, adding, “That could overstrain the relations to friendly and above all to allied states in the region.”
- The problem is that there are real challenges in the Vienna process designed for this very purpose. Which of the Syrian opposition groups are terrorists? Could Bashar al-Assad take part in the future election planned for 2017? How can there be any success without the Syrian regime or opposition at the table? This requires real hardheaded diplomacy – the sort that yielded the unlikely agreement between the United States and Iran on the nuclear issue. But such success does not happen without extensive involvement of senior decision-makers from all the key stakeholders, as co-ordinated by world-class negotiators and mediators. The UK has the capability and is well positioned to make a real difference in this non-military sphere. The question is, will it do so?
- “The government doesn’t force its opinion on you,” she said. “What happens is you’re robbed of the ability to form opinions.”
- “Germany is the first country in the world to show they can uncouple growth from burning of fossil fuels,” said Jim Yong Kim, president of the World Bank. “This is the main task of our generation.”

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

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...