Friday, March 3, 2017

Life in Iraq, Random Stuff, and More

- ~40M people. Main industries are petroleum, chemicals, textiles, leather, construction materials, food processing, fertilizer, metal fabrication/processing. Export goods are crude oil 84%, crude materials excluding fuels 8%, food and live animals 5%. Main export partners: China 22.6%, India 21.1%, South Korea 11.2%, United States 7.8%, Italy 6.7%, Greece 6% (2015). Main import partners: Turkey 20.7%, Syria 19.6%, China 19.2%, United States 4.8%, Russia 4.4% (2015)[6]. Obviously, the main reason why it's been in the news of late is because of conflict there
iraq economy
- one of the strange things you'll notice is how drastically different the accounts of recent 'Iraqi history' can be (depending on who tells it). Difficult history between Iran and Iraq in particular. Hard to believe that the Middle East was once stable and the focal point of the world? Most Iraqis acknowledge life was better under Sadam?
Iraq War History 2003-2011
Saddam Hussein - The Life and Death of Iron man of Iraq
Feature History - Saddam's Iraq
Has life in Iraq changed for the better without Saddam Hussein
Iraqi author Tamara Chalabi on Life in Iraq Before & After Saddam
Documentaries Iraq - the Cradle Of Civilization - Documentary History Channel Full Length
Life in IRAQ 1950 _ The Iraqi kingdom المملكة العراقية _ الحياة في العراق
Iran - Iraq War _ 3 Minute History
Young people discuss life in Iraq Burin
A tale of two soldiers ( Iran & Iraq war)
The territory of the modern state of Iraq was defined in 1920 as Mandatory Iraq. It is centered on Lower Mesopotamia (corresponding to historical Babylonia, later also known as ʿIrāq-i ʿArab) but also includes part of Upper Mesopotamia and of the Syrian Desert and the Arabian Desert.

As part of the larger Fertile Crescent, Mesopotamia saw the earliest emergence of civilization in the Neolithic (the Ubaid period) Age and formed a significant part of the Ancient Near East throughout the Bronze Age and the Iron Age (Sumerian, Akkadian, Babylonian and Assyrian).[1] After the fall of the Neo-Babylonian Empire, Mesopotamia fell under Persian and then Greek rule. By the 3rd century, when it was once again under Persian (Sassanid) control, the earlier population was increasingly displaced by Arabs, and the Arabic name al-ʿIrāq dates to about this time.[2] The Sassanid Empire was destroyed by the Islamic conquests and displaced by the Rashidun Caliphate in the 7th century. Baghdad became the center of the "Islamic Golden Age" under the Abbasid Caliphate during the 9th century. Baghdad's rapid growth stagnated in the 10th century due to the Buwayhid and Seljuq invasions, but it remained of central importance until the Mongol invasion of 1258. After this, Iraq became a province of the Turco-Mongol Ilkhanate and declined in importance. After the disintegration of the Ilkhanate, Iraq was ruled by the Jalairids and Kara Koyunlu until its eventual absorption into the Ottoman Empire in the 16th century, intermittently falling under Iranian Safavid and Mamluk control.

Ottoman rule ended with World War I, and Iraq came to be administered by the British Empire as Mandatory Iraq until the establishment of the Kingdom of Iraq in 1933. A republic was established in 1958 following a coup d'état. It was controlled by Saddam Hussein from 1979 to 2003, into which period falls the Iran–Iraq War and the Gulf War. Saddam Hussein was deposed following the 2003 US-led invasion of the country. Over the following years, Iraq came to the brink of civil war, and the situation deteriorated after the withdrawal of U.S. troops in 2011. By 2015, Iraq was effectively divided, the central and southern part being controlled by the government, the northwest by the Kurdistan Regional Government and the western part by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.
iraq history
- you can't really describe things here. Like other parts of the Middle East, completely different way of life. Government corruption a way of life for them. Lots of Iraqis saying that life was better with Sadam and without outside intervention. Life under ISIS has been 'difficult' for those who didn't really want it. Reminds me of Afghanistan, tribal landscape/architecture
life in iraq
Life Returns to Iraq's Streets
Inside Mosul: What's life like under Islamic State?
- Iraqis not looking for 'free speech'. Looking to simply 'live'. Nothing has changed. Pre-war unemployment ~50%, now ~60%. Iraqi defense ministry employed ~400K. Iraqi dinar has lost it's value. People scraping by just like in Afghanistan, http://dtbnguyen.blogspot.com/2017/02/life-in-afghanistan-random-stuff-and.html Government no longer paying people entitlements, pensions, etc... Animals walking down street. Rubbish everywhere. US enforces night curfew at ~6PM. People prefer to travel in groups for security reasons. No utilities. Butchers slaughter and hang animals by side of road. Locals can't compete with other countries regards of 'free trade' because they've been under sanction/war for so long. Academics not used to 'free speech'. Media using 'free speech' to expand sector. Mutual suspicion on the part of Iraqis and US troops. Language issues are a massive problem especially when it comes to maintaining 'social order'. Iraqis don't trust US/Coalition to deliver on their promises. Some Iraqis see US as a 'bigger version of Sadam'? Some Iraqis are clearly 'desperately poor'
HDNET World Report - A Day in the Life of Iraq
- petrol is expensive and diluted in spite of Iraq being an oil producer? Kurds have fought for many years to achieve relative independence. They've managed to find oil which helps to develop their part of Iraq. Oil has helped development but not many of the locals can actually afford many of the luxury goods that are being marketed now? No freedom under Sadam but people weren't hungry, now the equation has been reversed. A lot of unemployment now. Some Iraqis blamce the US for sectarian issues? Many families lost someone. US dealt with it by building walls. Security issues persist even at religious sites such as Mosques. Limited utilities. Much destruction left in cities. Iraqis invented writing? Sectarianism (particularly with regards to inter-marriage) wasn't an issue when Sadam was around, now it is? They just want for basic public safety. Stay within your own sect to avoid safety problems. Problems between the US military and local Iraqis basically sparked an insurgency in Fallujah? Both sides suffered casualties. 3.5k locals killed and 150 US/Coalition soldiers. Fallujah ripped apart by US weapons. Has not been rebuilt yet. Local tribal leaders help to deal with security issues. Same as the Afghans in a way. Refuse to be occuppied by foreigners? Basra is main source of Iraqi oil (~80%). Unemployment a major problem. People waiting at oil fields for jobs. Shanti towns desperately poor
Roadtrip Iraq - Post war documentary
- over and over again discussion of security issues. Sectarianism/tribalism is becoming more pronounced (much like Afghanistan, http://dtbnguyen.blogspot.com/2017/02/life-in-afghanistan-random-stuff-and.html) Most Americans believe the Iraq war was wrong in spite of the belief of the US government at the time. Sadam was better for Iraq in spite of his ruthlessness? ~600K Iraqi deaths. ~4K US/Coalition deaths. Corruption now rampant. 7M living in poverty. Limited electricity and access to clean water and healthcare. Half of all doctors have left country. US has invaded ~18 countries over past century? With exception of 2/3 all others have been failure? All ministries looted except for oil?
Inside Story - Iraq - Ten years after the invasion
- looks like typical Middle Eastern country at 'street level'. Just a little bit poorer then those in West?
IRAQ - LIFE ON STREETS OF BAGHDAD APPEARS TO HAVE RETURNED TO NORMAL
Life in Baghdad - Joy Amid the Chaos of War _ الحياة في بغداد _ FRONTLINE
Iraq street scenes (Before the invasion)
Iraq - Residents resume life in Mosul neighbourhood
'Homeland - Iraq year zero' film shows life for Iraqis before and after US invasion
- has lot's of instance of 'instability'. Tens of thousands of people injured and killed due to internal security issues. 3.2M displaced which includes 1M children. Numbers only include those directly involved in conflict not those who have died of malnutrition, health issues, etc...
Iraq's daily life
New U.N. report shows grim life in Iraq for civilians
Daily life in Iraq's Kurdish city of Erbil
The real life in Iraq
- life in the cities doesn't seem to be too bad. It feels as though it's isolated to areas outside them. Inside cities it's become clear that a lot of work and development is already occurring. Lot's of new building and new products being brought in from the US/West
Daily life in Iraq's Kurdish city of Erbil
- shenanigans occurring between Turkey and Kurds in Iraq. Being the Middle East it shouldn't be surprising that they are haing difficulties with neighbours
Life on the Turkey-Iraq border - 16 Oct 07
Iran - Iraq War _ 3 Minute History
- pictures of life inside Iraq
Photographic Space - Showcasing Life in Iraq
Life in Iraq 2012
Life in Iraq 2012
'Homeland - Iraq year zero' film shows life for Iraqis before and after US invasion
- Iraqi stuff starts at around 17:00. People have become de-sensitised to blasts/fighting. Limited to no instrastructure and utilities. Security checkpoints and security difficulties everywhere. Government corruption means that a once prosperous and well functioning society is no longer viable. Official figures has poverty ~18% but reality is much higher? No money seems to be going into the development of the country? 1M+ Iraqi's killed. Most Iraqi's say that life was more stable under Sadam Hussein, democracy not worth it...
[128] Revolution of Values, Life in Post War Iraq, Depleted Uranium Radioactive Destruction
- US has it's biggest embassy in Iraq. ~1000 people. 6 of them speak Arabic. Lack of basic utilities, jobs, food, life, healthcare, liberty, happiness, etc.. in Iraq. Life was better before US occupation? Little help from US? Alleged war crimes by US contractors? Iraq conflict is all about access to oil resources? 'War on Terrorism' is cover to gain access to resources elsewhere? 1/3 of all homeless in US are US military veterans? http://liberatethis.com/
Dr. Dahlia Wasfi - Life in Iraq Under U.S. Occupation
Living in Limbo - One Veteran's Struggle With Life After Iraq - 2013 _ The New York Times
- internal displacement a problem given societal breakdown. Refugee camps with tens of thousands of people in them. Life in camps difficult with limited utilities and facilities. 3.5M displaced?
Displaced in Iraq - Life in a refugee camp
Children struggle to comes to terms with life in Iraq camp
Iraq status - Life under the rule of IS
BBC News   Iraq crisis Normal life continues in Mosul
The Fall of Mosul (2016) FULL DOCUMENTARY HD
- has obviously had issues with ISIS. If you haven't seen the footage of life under ISIS then there's heaps of footage online. The strange thing is the varying accounts of what it's like. From time to time things don't seem that bad. It's just that every once in a while something horrible happens. 3.5M displaced?
BBC News   Iraq crisis Normal life continues in Mosul
Iraq status - Life under the rule of IS
Iraqi army hits ISIL positions amid Mosul airport push
Iraqi forces advance against ISIL into west Mosul
The Forgotten Children of Iraq - Life After Escaping ISIS
Iraq War 2016 - Kurdish Special Forces & Militia In Heavy Urban Clashes During ISIS Attack On Kirkuk
Iraqi forces reclaim Mosul airport from ISIL
Iraq status - Life under the rule of IS
Iraq - Islamic State inside Mosul - BBC News
Robert Fisk - Life after ISIS (2016)
IS Iraq War _ US strike ISIS video show the real life at Iraq
Life of Islamic State Suicide Bomber Behind the scenes Breaking News February 20 2016
Aftermath Iraq war 2016 ISIS Scenes of Life in Talkif Town North of Mosul city
Life under ISIS Rule, Hidden Camera footage and Escape of Baghdadi's Wife from Iraq (Documentary)
- typical Middle Eastern food. That said, look around every once in a while and there is something special. Okra and lamb soup looks pretty good, http://o.canada.com/life/food/delights-from-the-garden-of-eden-author-explores-rich-history-of-iraqi-cuisine, http://www.saveur.com/article/recipes/makhlama-lahm-iraqi-eggs-with-lamb-and-tomatoes, http://www.sbs.com.au/food/recipes/mandaean-spiced-duck, http://www.sbs.com.au/food/recipes/baked-carp, http://www.sbs.com.au/food/recipes/cleche. Biryani is apparently a very common dish, http://www.sbs.com.au/food/recipes/rice-pilaf-biryani A bit of a strange combination though. One thing I do like the look of is that their food is pretty simple to prepare...
iraq food recipes
Iraqi cuisine or Mesopotamian cuisine has a long history going back some 10,000 years – to the Sumerians, Babylonians, Assyrians, and Ancient Persians.[1] Tablets found in ancient ruins in Iraq show recipes prepared in the temples during religious festivals – the first cookbooks in the world.[1] Ancient Iraq, or Mesopotamia, was home to a sophisticated and highly advanced civilization, in all fields of knowledge, including the culinary arts.[1] However, it was in the Islamic Golden Age when Baghdad was the capital of the Abbasid Caliphate (750–1258) that the Iraqi kitchen reached its zenith.[1] Today, the cuisine of Iraq reflects this rich inheritance as well as strong influences from the culinary traditions of neighbouring Iran, Turkey and the Syria region area.[1]

Meals begin with appetizers and salads – known as Mezza. Some dishes include Kebab (often marinated with garlic, lemon and spices, then grilled), Gauss (grilled meat sandwich wrap, similar to Döner kebab), Bamieh (lamb, okra and tomato stew), Quzi (lamb with rice, almonds, raisins and spices), Falafel (fried chickpea patties served with amba and salad in pita), Kubbah (minced meat ground with bulghur wheat or rice and spices), Masgûf (grilled fish with pepper and tamarind), and Maqluba (a rice, lamb, tomato and aubergine dish). Stuffed vegetable dishes such as Dolma and Mahshi are also popular.[2]

Contemporary Iraq reflects the same natural division as ancient Mesopotamia,[3] which consisted of Assyria in the arid northern uplands and Babylonia in the southern alluvial plain.[3] Al-Jazira (the ancient Assyria) grows wheat and crops requiring winter chill such as apples and stone fruits.[3] Al-Irāq (Iraq proper, the ancient Babylonia) grows rice and barley, citrus fruits, and is responsible for Iraq's position as the world's largest producer of dates.[3]
- Long-eared hedgehog, Marbled polecat, and Persian leopard are probably the most interesting looking local animals
iraq animals
- almost all news you hear about Iraq nowadays is basically mostly about internal security issues. Media intensive websites. They don't really seem to be interested in anything outside of their immediate problems that are facing them. Almost all of the well known news websites is in Arabic. Life for journalists is 'complicated' owing to security issues in general
iraq media
The perilous life of journalists in Iraq - The Listening Post (Full)
- poorly structured documentary. US partly indirectly funding/fueling sectarian violence in Iraq through use of para-military groups to deal with insurgency problem? James Steele worked in Vietnam, El Salvador, etc... Specialist in counter-insurgency. Torture was commonly used technique to extract confessions/information?
Iraq's sectarian war _ James Steele - America's mystery man _ Guardian Investigations
- wouldn't be surprised if this was a 'test'? Surely, a soldier's first instinct is to fire back, take cover, or flee from incoming fire?
Bulletproof Glass Saves Soldier's Life in Iraq
- perspective of some US/Western troops. Note, how difficult and frustrating urban combat is? I've hard from professional soldiers saying why doesn't the enemy fight fair and make things easier? In reality, it's not really different from either side. Both just trying to 'win' so that some (often) strange (but understandable) 'geo-political goal' can be achieved. Note, very different perspectives of locals versus these guys?
Life inside deployment Special - Iraq Military FOB Hunter Arrival - USAF - CES
172nd Stryker Brigade in Iraq in 2006 - Life in Iraq
A day in the life of military operations in Iraq
US veterans on life after the Iraq war - 'I don’t want my son to be afraid of me'
U.S. MARINES IN IRAQ. REAL COMBAT - HEAVY CLASHES _ WAR IN IRAQ
Untold Story of the Iraq War ~ Commandos, Dirty Wars and Col. James Steele
US troops ‘in combat’ in Mosul, some have been wounded – Pentagon
'He Saved My Life' American Soldier Returns to Help Iraqi Captain Fleeing ISIS _ National Geographic

Random Stuff:
- have been fiddling around with data wiping algorithms of late. This field is particularly interesting given that there seem to be so few options out there (algorithm wise). I've been fiddling around with 'scrub' which I found off of Github. Parts of the code seem to be off but it feels like something I can 'experiment with'. Am curious to see how much of a difference particular algorithms really make and whether new algorithms (that I come up with) actually make much of a difference (recovery wise)
delete file from c program
- there aren't actually a lot of FOSS data recovery utilities out there. Read enough of the source code and you'll quickly understand why. Not trivial. Moreover, it doesn't feel as though you can employ clever tricks to get things done. It feels like you require a low level understanding of file formats (based on a lot of algorithm implementations that I've seen). If you've ever dealt with low level file recovery you'll understand what I mean by this...
open source data recovery software
undelete source code
github data recovery
- from the perspective of a developer it's easy to see the appeal of this not so sure about spectators though
- neat tool to get sub-titles from various video websites
- you have to wonder whether or not the Chinese started to train Pandas to only eat bamboo at some point?
- the 'weird countries' are often the most interesting...
- it has to happen at some point right?
- an option for those looking for cheap or free accomodation...
- at times, it feels like a race to see how much damage we can do to the Earth at times?
- so much junk data, so little time...
- it's surprising how little code it takes to build a P2P based network. Lot of interesting ideas out there. You can prety much replicate any current functionality in a P2P based format based on what I'm seeing...
peer 2 peer perl implementation
github p2p social network
github p2p file sharing
simple search engine github
- latest in the ICT sector
- heaps of second hand oil-tankers and ships for sale for cheap (~$12M) on Chinese eBay (TaoBao) at the moment if anyone is interested
- I wonder whether putting up a physical RADAR 'umbrella/shield' around THAAD (inspected by China/Russia/US whenever they want) so that the 'beam' can 'look into' North Korea would be an acceptable solution?
- latest in geo-politics and defense
Theresa May says US and UK can lead world again, ahead of Trump meeting
KFOR denies that Serbian soldiers entered Kosovo
Serbia and Belarus sign several agreements

Random Quotes:
- It all had the look of China’s Communist Party putting the leader of a superpower in his place.

“It’s a potent message for the Party to say ‘we have made China so strong we can snub [the U.S. president] with impunity,’” wrote Jonathan Sullivan, director of the China Policy Institute at the University of Nottingham, on Twitter.

“Sometimes, when people finally get powerful and important, they no longer worry about concealing their bad habits,” said David Mulroney, the former Canadian ambassador to China.

In Hangzhou, Mr. Obama acknowledged “friction,” but smiled it off as normal jostling between two countries. “The seams are showing a little more than usual,” he said.

By the numbers, no one cares more about world opinion than China.

Beijing spends roughly $10-billion (U.S.) every year on “external propaganda,” political scientist David Shambaugh has estimated. It’s enough money to run Manitoba’s provincial government, far more than any other nation spends on its external image – and an obvious mark of how badly China covets global affection.

But if the idea is to show an ancient civilization retaking its peaceful place in the world, that effort has struggled against China’s own hectoring.
- Chinese security services are engaging the most intense collection of intelligence by a foreign power Australia has ever seen. And Australia does not have the resources to stop it.

Spying in Australia today is probably as intense as during the Cold War, security officials say. But it's a new form of intelligence gathering.

In the new era, the Chinese have replaced the Soviets. Instead of listening devices hidden in government offices, or communist moles working their way close to power, spies today sit at computers working on ingenious ways to break into foreign networks, or debrief countrymen who may have come across titbits of useful information.

Information held by the Defence Science and Technology Group of the Department of Defence and CSIRO are also among highly desirable information sought by Beijing. Katherine Griffiths

"China's intelligence gathering is pervasive but not overtly intrusive and by and large not breaking any laws, but it is on an industrial scale," says an expert with connections to the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation who asked to remain unnamed.

Related Quotes

Spying by China is far easier than it was during the Cold War era. Some one million Chinese citizens visit Australia every year on tourist visas. Thousands already live in Australia, and many come and go for business and mix with Australians at all levels of society. They are free to go anywhere an Australian is, and there are far too many for the security services to monitor.

"Chinese Australians doing business in China are very susceptible to pressure from the legal system in a way round-eyes aren't," says Paul Monk, an intelligence expert and author of Thunder From the Silent Zone: Rethinking China. "They put pressure on Chinese Australians, saying 'you are ours'."

The Chinese intelligence services are exploiting Australia's openness, security sources say. The huge number of regular conversations between Chinese citizens and Australian businessmen, public servants and politicians creates a stream of intelligence that is collated by China's security services.

"They are just people with links with China who pass on information in small bits," the expert says. "In themselves the pieces of information are not that significant. But connecting it's an extraordinary effort. It's very hard to avoid it and negate it."
- Israeli voice emotion analytics start-up Beyond Verbal has raised $3 million as part of a Series A round, led by China's KuangChi Science Limited, a member of the Kuang-Chi group.

Tel Aviv-based Beyond Verbal’s technology enables the understanding of emotions, well-being, and health conditions through the human voice.

Founded in 2012, the award-winning company’s emotions analytics technology has numerous applications - from improving call center effectiveness, to quantifying emotions for market research purpose, and all the way to tracking health conditions over time - and is grounded in more than two decades of research by chief science officer, Dr. Yoram Levanon.
- "The average large Australian business (revenue more than $900 million) has at least 18,700 TLS/SSL keys and certificates, 42% more than two years ago. All of these are created manually, most out of the control of any security teams who are supposed to create them. When a breach or vulnerability occurs, it is impossible to remediate."

Hudson said there was a need for education in order that the idea of certificate management was more widely taken up.

Bugs like Heartbleed and and Shellshock have underlined the need to tell the difference between a genuine certificate and a fake one and Venafi has gained from such incidents.

Venafi, a 11-year-old start-up based in Salt Lake City, is a private company that three years back had to reduce a quarter of its staff. Last July, the company had just 250 global customers.

But things seem to be improving now, with 50 of the Fortune top 200 companies having invested in the company's software platform. A year ago, it had also increased its headcount from 100 to 180.
- Yesterday we noted how President Obama received a very undiplomatic welcome in China for his last official visit to the country as Commander in Chief (see "Tarmac Altercation Erupts After Obama Lands In China: Official Shouts "This Is Our Country, Our Airport"").

Upon arrival on Saturday in China as part of his last visit to Asia as US Commander in Chief for the periodic photo-op that is the G-20 meeting, something unexpected happened: a very undiplomatic greeting when an unusual tarmac altercation involving Chinese and U.S. officials, including national security adviser Susan Rice, devolved into a shouting match by a member of the Chinese delegation.

It all started with the actual landing: as AP reports, the first sign of trouble is that there was no staircase for Obama to exit the plane and descend on the red carpet. So, as the photo below shows, Obama used an alternative exit. Needless to say, a diplomatic fuck up such as this one, was not accidental - Beijing was sending a loud and clear message.

Turns out someone manning the Defense Intelligence Agency twitter account over the long holiday weekend was feeling a little snarky and decided to send the following tweet about the incident which reads, "Classy as always China."
- Tony Abbott's grin said it all. When the former prime minister left Parliament House after Thursday's embarrassing lower house debacle he looked perilously close to schadenfreude overdose.

Abbott's government was an incompetent mess from top to bottom; a circus that lurched from one self-inflicted crisis to another until it finally tore itself apart. But at least it never lost a vote in the house.

Abbott will never get the vindication he truly wants – he'll never reclaim the top job – but he's already getting the next best thing: a front row seat to watch as the man who vanquished him falls apart.

Malcolm Turnbull had one job last week: to prove to Australians that his "solid working majority" was real.

Bill Shorten reneged on his promise to be a constructive opposition leader in favour of "schoolboy tricks"; frontbenchers Peter Dutton, Christian Porter and Michael Keenan were guilty of "complacency" for leaving Parliament early; the government whips clearly didn't crack the whip hard enough; the media was making a mountain out of a meaningless, procedural molehill.

It was all very reminiscent of his graceless election night speech. Shorten was a big liar; Labor sent out tricky text messages; the Australian people were too dumb to see through the Mediscare campaign.

The result had nothing to do with his dull and lacklustre campaign. Or his uninspiring and threadbare agenda. Or the previous nine months of backflips, thought bubbles, scandals and sellouts. It wasn't until days later he finally shouldered some of the responsibility for the disaster.

But make no mistake, here too the buck stops with Turnbull. He's at the top of a government that was careless and sloppy.
- After more than three decades of operating McDonald’s restaurants, Ted Lezotte in 2015 sold the last of his six stores in Michigan. Lezotte says looming costly remodeling—one rebuild was estimated at $1.9 million—helped spur his decision. “In today’s financial world, it’s becoming necessary to have more than a couple [of stores] to survive,” he says. The chain is looking for franchisees who have 8 to 10 locations, he says: “Ten kind of gives you a good footing” in case one isn’t doing so well. Of his six stores, one was closed, the rest sold to larger McDonald’s operators.


McDonald’s has long been famous for its small-owner-focused franchise system, in which entrepreneurs with only a store or two would sweat the details of their restaurants, yielding better customer service. Lately, however, the fast-food giant has begun shedding mom and pop owners in favor of bigger operators. Since 2014 the number of U.S. McDonald’s franchise owners has dropped 2.6 percent, while the number of franchised locations has grown 1.2 percent, according to data compiled by researcher FranchiseGrade.com. The chain’s biggest franchisees are getting larger, while those who own five locations or fewer are on the wane.


Getting rid of smaller franchisees allows McDonald’s to speed renovations and the implementation of new technology, such as the self-ordering touchscreens being tested in about 250 locations. Such gear can be expensive, and smaller franchisees often don’t have the capital to pay up—making them less willing to embrace the company’s plans.
- For now, then, Russia’s most direct threat to the West begins and ends in Eastern Europe, and its strongest weapons are spreading disinformation, conducting cyber-operations, and fomenting political unrest. The U.S. should continue to increase support for its NATO allies, keep the economic pressure on Russia to bring about a peaceful resolution in Ukraine, and play a more constructive role in Syria. Delusions of some new “axis of despots” shouldn’t get in the way of those straightforward and limited goals.
https://www.bloomberg.com/view/articles/2016-09-02/nobody-wants-to-join-putin-s-dictators-club
“This anti-Western propaganda radically changed the atmosphere in the society,” said Lev Gudkov, the director of the Levada Center, the opinion polling firm. “It has become militarist.”

Many Russians tapped into a deep-rooted resentment that after modeling themselves on the West following the breakup of the Soviet Union, they had experienced only hardship and humiliation in return.

“Starting from about 1989, we completely reoriented toward the West. We looked at them as a future paradise. We expected that once we had done all that they demanded, we’d dance for them and they would finally hug and kiss us and we would merge in ecstasy,” said Evgeny Tarlo, a member of Russia’s upper house of parliament, on a Russian talk show last year. Instead, he said, the West has been trying to destroy Russia.

The anti-Americanism makes it harder for American culture to make inroads through its traditional means — soft-power routes such as movies, music and education. Last year, Russian policymakers ended a decades-old high school exchange program that offered their nation’s best and brightest the chance to spend semesters at U.S. schools. Few Western artists now perform on Russian soil.

Western diplomats also say privately that they find themselves frozen out of speaking engagements and other opportunities to explain their countries’ positions to Russian audiences. And Russians who work for local outposts of Western companies say their friends and neighbors increasingly question their patriotism.

A handful of business leaders have warned that Russia risks permanently stunting its own economic development with the angry self-isolation.

“I worry that the recent crisis might drive Russia into a certain historic confrontation, hampering the country's development in all spheres,” said former finance minister and Putin ally Alexey Kudrin in an interview with TASS.

But those are lonely voices amid the torrent of anti-Western fury.

“What the government knew was that it was very easy to cultivate anti-Western sentiments, and it was easy to consolidate Russian society around this propaganda,” said Maria Lipman, an independent Moscow-based political analyst who is working on a study of anti-Western attitudes.

Even McDonald’s, long an embodiment of Russian dreams about the West, was targeted for supposed health violations in the fall. Some of its most prominent locations were forced to shut down temporarily. When they reopened, McDonald’s started an advertising campaign emphasizing its local ties and its 25-year history in Russia, playing down the Golden Arches’ global significance as a bright beacon of America.

Last week, one McDonald’s billboard in the heart of Moscow read: “Made in Russia, for Russians.”
- Although China and BRICS do not aim to fundamentally reshuffle the Western-led global order, by all accounts, Beijing intends to "reformat" the rules of the game with the use of new innovative instruments, approaches and a new reserve currency, to revive the global economic growth.

Beijing's intention to create new unified rules of the international investment activity against a background of the inclusion of the yuan in the IMF's basket of reserve currencies appears to be early signs of the upcoming "overturn" of the Western-dominated economic order, according to Viktoria Panova, Director of Oriental Studies Institute at the Far Easter Federal University. "By all accounts, China is seeking to reformat the rules of the game," Panova noted in her analysis for the Russian International Affairs Council (RIAC) think tank. 

She added that though it does not mean that the principles at the core of the rules would be absolutely new, Beijing is likely to use innovative instruments and a new reserve currency. Panova referred to Russian President Vladimir Putin's remark, made in the course of the September press-conference in Hangzhou. "This year, the Chinese presidency proposed that we concentrate on today's key questions. What are these questions? First is how to ensure faster economic growth. Yesterday's instruments, while they have not grown rusty, I hope, no longer produce the desired effects. I am referring to investment, which is subdued, trade, which is not growing, and other dimensions," Putin told journalists. 

However, Panova noted that neither Beijing nor other BRICS members aim to break the existing global system. Indeed, the US-led World Bank Group and the New Development Bank (NDB) set up by the BRICS nations have recently inked a "memorandum of understanding to strengthen their cooperation in addressing global infrastructure needs," according to Xinhua.
- The NATO submarine threat required a different set of countermeasures. The Soviet Navy deployed maritime patrol aircraft and anti-submarine warfare (ASW) task forces—comprised of ASW surface vessels and aircraft carrying vessels with strong ASW capabilities—to patrol the SSBN bastions while Soviet attack submarines defended their approaches. The bastions were also lined with underwater sensors and heavily mined to further limit NATO submarines access.

Tracking CBGs at sea during the Cold War was difficult. To do that, the Soviet Navy created an extensive ocean surveillance system comprised of radar ocean reconnaissance satellites, electronic intelligence ocean reconnaissance satellites, surveillance surface vessels, and maritime patrol aircraft. These platforms were used to create a ‘kill chain’ that fed targeting data to Soviet strike aircraft and submarines, which could then attack NATO vessels with long range anti-ship cruise missiles (ASCMs) and torpedos.

If that all sounds familiar, it’s because China is currently attempting to do something very similar with its military modernization program. It appears to be creating a bastion for its growing fleet of SSBNs by building artificial islands, developing advanced sea mines, deploying underwater sensors, and investing heavily in improved ASW capabilities. It’s also developing a variety of long range anti-ship ballistic missiles (ASBMs) and ASCMs to threaten US forces in the Pacific and limit US access to its littoral region.

The concept’s the same, though new technologies have changed aspects of the execution. Developments in missile technology and maritime reconnaissance systems have made China’s ASBMs and ASCMs more accurate than their Soviet counterparts. And cyberspace and space-based assets, which were in their infancy during the Cold War, now play an increasingly critical role in modern day conflict.

Whether China’s A2/AD strategy will work is something we’ll only find out in the event of conflict. We still don’t know how effective the Soviets’ A2/AD strategy would’ve been because it was never tested in wartime. That’s not to say it wasn’t tested at all, as various American submarine commanders will tell you over a drink. Let’s hope that close encounters discussed at a Navy bar remain the only way these strategies are tested.
- The federal government is poised to force ISPs to block access to overseas retailers who refuse to include GST in the purchase of goods under $1000 by online shoppers from Australia, according a report from consumer advocate Choice.
- U.S. Africa Command said a small team of American special operations forces assisted with evacuating hostages -- a sign of the counterterrorism and military aid program the U.S. has been running in Mali since 9/11.

Briefing documents from 2013 and 2015 reviewed by NBC News detail the American attempt to battle terror groups in the country, and its results.

A 2013 post-graduate study by a U.S. Army major -- a former special operations trainer in Mali --criticized the effort as scattershot and deemed it "anything but a successful strategy."

"Training that was episodically provided rarely diffused or even took hold," his study concluded. "If one were to count up the dollars spent and events participated in, a lot of effort was expended. But what all these efforts added up to was not consistently focused over the long term."

The end result, the study said, was that an opportunity to revamp the Malian army was largely wasted.

"There was no concerted effort by [special operations forces] or anyone else to build the capability of the Malian Army writ large," it said. 
- Former defence secretary Liam Fox says Britain should not rule out sending ground troops into Syria as part of an international coalition.

Writing in the Telegraph, he said: "We may still require an international coalition on the ground, similar to that which forced Saddam Hussein out of Kuwait, if we are to rid ourselves of the Isil scourge."

Also in the Telegraph, Lord Dannatt, the former head of the Army, says Syrian refugees in border camps should be armed, trained and returned "to fight for their villages, towns and cities".

"It may sound harsh, but some of their blood should be shed in the attack on Isil before we even consider committing British ground troops to combat," he said.
- 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.

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