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Tuesday, May 30, 2017

If Only Hiring Were So Simple, Random Stuff, and More

- you read some of the articles out there about recruitment practices and things sound so simple... I've watched the recruitment process (from multiple perspectives) only to be completely mystified by some of what happens. I'll try to cover some of what happens in this post
- the spread of bots, candidate filter and other technologies can get help but also get in the way...
- technically, the global economic growth is on a downward long term spiral but sometimes it feels like there are artificial shortages out there? I think it may be a case of employers and employees simply being too picky? That said, as I've said previously I've tried running 'fake ads' from time to time (from the perspective of both employer and employee) to see what the market out there was like and something 'just doesn't feel right'?
- in spite of my previous point the total number of candidates suitable for positions out there are very few. Unlike standard bell curve formulas which you get with regards to physical and mental characteristics (which says that most people are fairly similar with some 'outliers') it's the inverse here. For a single position you may get several hundred to several thousand applicants (for an average job. This may skyrocket to thousands, tens of thousands, and more for a single position if the organisation in particular is popular) with only a handful being even remotely suitable and even then they will never be a 'perfect fit'. Applicants will need some form of training no matter what?
- it can be really difficult cutting through some of the doublespeak/double entendres. Some rough translations... Do you know a particular language? translates to, "we've chosen our technologies and that's that OR we're really inflexible and can't be bothered learning other languages, etc?" Are you certified? translates to, "have you paid someone to give us assurance that you have some base knowledge (in spite of the fact they could device the tests themselves, many brain dumps are available for a lot of certification tests, etc...)?" How much experience do you have? translates to, "We really can't be bothered or don't have the time to train you? OR We're too busy, don't have the resources, time to train you, don't believe that people can learn at different rates OR We're can appear stubborn in the way we run our business, etc?" Can you work under pressure? translates to, "We are extremely busy OR We're workaholics OR We intend to throw a large share of the workload at you OR We're struggling with our budget so we need someone to take large chunk of the workload OR Our current staff aren't really maximising their potential or abilities so you'll have to take on a large workload, etc..." They're overqualified? translates to, "People may be insecure around you? OR We're somewhat 'laid back' so someone who doesn't fit in with this ethos won't really fit in OR We don't believe that this company will fit with you ambitions OR You may actually be overqualified for the position, etc..." Anything goes translates to, "You don't know what's going to happen. Things are somewhat lawless around here OR Bring some safety gear or medication to work because things are pretty difficult or rough around here OR Satan is a consultant (or a part shareholder) to the company (obviously, the people in the organisation will say that Satan isn't really a bad guy once you get to know him. He's just misunderstood?), etc..." We have a relaxed culture? translates to, "We can appear to be bit lazy at times? OR We like to get along during and after work OR We struggle to get along so have to try to come up with ways to gel with one another OR We literally couldn't find any friends of family to join the organisation, etc..." Good interpersonal skills translates to, "Some really dumb stuff happens around here so try to bear with us OR It's a really stressful job so try to be tolerant OR We sometimes take things out on one another when things get problematic so learn to forgive us"
- you can spin things in the recruitment world into comical fashion at times... In the context of development, it means can you re-arrange a particular set of letters and numbers in such a way that they produce a particular set of results In the context of programs, it means how long have you spent pointing and clicking a particular set of windows and buttons in such a way to produce similar results? In the context of sales and marketing, it means how good are you are at convincing (or conning according to some people) people into purchasing our products? In the context of customer service, it means are you able to deal with what clients throw at you (the worry here is if the organisation is large or the products or services in question are of a low quality. It can make for a very difficult work day)?
- some people think that working with/for ruthless companies and individuals is a good thing but they neglect to notice one thing. They can be difficult to read because because of this. If you've ever come across people who flip flop on answers to the same question literally 5 to 10 minutes apart without any new information to them then you'll realise how difficult it can be to gauge them, work with them, etc... You may need to worry about what happens if there is an internal conflict as well? Are the results genuinely fair? I wonder whether or not my news bias detector could be modified to uncover the character of candidates and companies?
- never believe completely what people or organisations say in the advertisement (I consider company material and candidate CV's advertising). After all, who wants to work for a horrible company or with horrible people (imagine if job ad boards were brutally honest. It would actually be pretty funny...)? The irony is that a lot information is relatively easy to verify. If someone provides you with answers which simply don't make sense try to figure out whether it is something wrong with you or with the other side. Based on what I've seen it feels like sometimes when people are at a particular level of competence it then simply comes down to who they ultimately like (in spite of people not admitting otherwise?) Whether it's for those who can't find employment or those who can't find employees I often wonder whether or not the problem to do with perception? The irony is that the truth would make things easier for everyone but the law sort of gets in the way in some circumstances?
'How to Get a Job at the Big 4 - Amazon, Facebook, Google & Microsoft' by Sean Lee https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YJZCUhxNCv8
- once you've established if/when an individual or organisation may be providing 'alternative facts' you need to determine whether they're doing it for the 'right reasons' and proceed from there...
- multiple people have told me that you should try to 'cover yourself' as much as you can in the workforce. This is particularly obvious if someone continually supplies you with a train of answers that don't quite make sense. For instance, if someone says that turnover is low but details of their telephone directory, staff directory, etc... indicates otherwise you should probably be worried how far they're willing to push things as a company? This is even in the case of the organisations or individuals who are generally considered higher up the chain? Until recently, I didn't realise how much some people and some organisations engage in 'public relations management'?
- this brings me to my next point. Face the facts, you can't judge a book by it's cover. If you just looked at the security incidents surrounding Microsoft and Google alone you would assume that they are amongst the lesser IT firms in the world? The irony is that they both have extremely high valuations and extremely popular places to work. For those companies with an online presence verifying certain information is easy. At others, your best choice may be to fake being a potential client to gather information
- recruiters have their place in the HR world but clearly their jobs are as salespeople who have a lot of industry connections and a database of data regarding organisations and candidates out there. Don't be surprised if they 'massage some data or information'
- you can use private investigators or recruiters to do background checks on candidates but just like other businesses if you look around they'll often have 'questionable backgrounds as well'. The worry is that they'll just try to charge you to do things for something they can do nothing about? Everyone has to make a money right? Try and find a way to fix your problem as quickly as possible without them (the key question problem is whether or not you can change something to elicit a change of situation or circumstances freely? The impression that I get after working with multiple sides of the equation is that the less people you involve the better (it doesn't matter whether this involves the public or private sector). It can often solve things a lot quicker and more adequately because you're in control of the situation. A good example if the following. If a client is is running out of performance issues a consultant may charge to install faster storage or to increase network bandwidth. The problem is that you can also attack the problem by imposing quotas. The latter is obviously cheaper while the former is more expensive but it is also the issue you'll more likely face if you bring in the consultant...) or else draw up a flat fee contract up front so that you can properly budget... The difficulty with the latter is whether or not you can come up with something realistic because often the person paying doesn't really know what's involved...
- the world of HR can manifest itself in strange ways. People are human and organisations are effectively composites of humans so try to think about that if you're struggling to comprehend how something has gone awry... For me, one of the most interesting one is the moral ambiguity scale. Just how far are they willing to go (good example is the following if the company is flush with cash but is over billing someone do they tell the client or not? What is done with the money if not? Do they follow the law and spirit of it or do they attempt to bend the truth? If an organisation makes a mistake and loses some money who is accountable especially if it is known/not known who the source of the problem is?)? Moreover, do they support you if you lack experience or try to humiliate you? At the other end of the scale, if things are currently inefficient but you can provide a better solution do they welcome it or are they embarrassed by it? Is communication clear or ambiguous?
- one interesting thing to try is to see what happens if you make a mistake, give only a partial answer or provide an emotional response/reaction that is unexpected but then change it during an interview. It provides clues into the mindset of some people particularly if you're supposed to work with one another
- don't get too hung up about 'ability tests' which often have little to nothing to do with how well you may be able to ultimately do your job. If you use experience, stock price, capitalisation etc... as a means of tracking the success of these mechanisms in choosing future employees you'll realise that there isn't as strong of a correlation as you'd be led to believe...
- two things to definitely be aware of are if the organisations in question are too keen or not keen enough... Either way, they are warning signs which could indicate low internal morale, high workload, you're very high or low down the order of candidates, that other staff members could be using you as a means of escaping their present circumstances, lack of resources, etc...
- this pertains to wage, salary, and benefits package as well. If they're too driven by money or benefits the they can easily lose sight of the work or life in general (it's also tells you something about the organisational mentality. Certain companies know outright that realistically what they offer isn't that much different from others in the marketplace and this is their only method of luring candidates. Moreover, over the long term this particular culture doesn't really stay that way. Good examples of this are Macquarie Bank which used have a reputation of being a 'Millionaire's Factory' and Google which used to have a reputation for their 20% project program and gourmet food but both have basically 'cut back' now...). The ideal situation is to find those who are motivated to roughly the same point that you are (work/life balance is really a misnomer because certain people see their job as a hobby, others hate their job, others prefer genuine balance, etc...), motivated by roughly the same things, working on something that you're interested in, where people are paid well (and in a way that makes sense), are competent, are respectful of one another, etc... People can try to 'assimilate' with one another but in reality it doesn't really make everyone happy?
- one other thing to note about any potential wage, salary, and benefits package are the offsets. For instance, if you look up about life in Silicon Valley, London, Sydney, Tokyo, Rome, Paris, Beijing, Shanghai, New York, etc... you'll realise that things balance out. A good example of this is the cost of living versus what you earn. In many cases you can often struggle to make ends meet (doesn't matter what the occupation and field or work is unless you are at the extreme upper end. To genuinely have savings you'll need to curb your lifestyle somewhat in a lot of cases. A good example of this was the Google engineer who decided to live in the company car park to help save up for a home)
- the next best thing is to find people who fulfill as many of the above criteria as possible but are flexible and accept one another as they are...
- don't take stock too much of industry or certain types of awards (they're sometimes voted on by a small subset of people with most things are 'relative'). If you've spent enough time working with enough people or organisations you'll wonder how some people make lots of money and others not? If you dig even further and understand how capitalism works and society has evolved you'll see that it is somewhat 'clubby'. While the conspiracy theorists out there draw a long bow they do have somewhat of a point?
- which reminds me beware of some claims. Some numbers may sound impressive but for some individuals and organisations when you try to stack them up against one another they aren't?
- maintain a public profile or portfolio of some sort (try to make them money generating projects if possible so no one can claim that that is 'invalid experience'). It doesn't matter whether you part on good terms or bad terms with any organisation. Due to any number of reasons they may not be able or may not want to supply details of what you did. This is your fall back. No one can dispute what you've done if it's out in the open. That said, beware of some of the problems with some publicly accessible websites
- if you examine everything overall, one of the things that feels obvious is that our unemployment figures are 'off' possibly because employers and employees are too picky (everyone ways to do what they want and be paid for it but there are obviously a limited number of opportunities), people/organisations aren't being given a chance (I've seen a lot of people (at multiple levels) who were extremely well qualified but looked over for the strangest of reasons?), etc...
- it's difficult to judge candidates and organisations either way to be honest. One measure is to look through the work of your rough cohort and see whether or not you can do everything that they can do? The problem here is that things are somewhat stacked against you if you come from a poorer background (examine the way capitalism works in general and you'll realise that things stacked against them from the outset). Still, try to factor this out if possible. Figure out how much different you are based on whether you had the same resources from the outset... (as an aside would love to know how things would pan out if everyone had access to the same education, healthcare, resources, etc... from the moment they were born? My guess is that most of us wouldn't be much that different?)
- this is by far the most interesting aspect of capitalism. If you look over thousands of years technically the conspiracy theorists are correct. It's basically the same bloodlines/families running things with capital buildup going towards these people over time. What's interesting for me is that technically they could hire more people and it would have almost no impact on their overall power/status within society and things would technically be better? It's almost like the limiting factor is capitalism (or at least our particular form of it?) itself sometimes? Over time, you'll learn to respect those who have genuinely built something from the ground up rather then those who have been a bit luckier...

Random Stuff:
- one of the things I didn't get was why certain people are pushed to certain extremes. For instance, the Anonymous Group and the Occupy Movement (one of the interesting things about some amongst Anonymous and some of the other crackers out there is that they sort of blame you for having lax security if you are somehow broken into?). Basically, what's happened is things just went too far and that meant it was harder to 'bring them back'. If you examine certain parts of the media it feels like they're trying to demoralise/stop an uprising at times in spite of things getting progressively worse (look at the data overall and do some background checking on certain people in the media. They often seem to be connected in some way with the security services, oligarchs, etc?)?
Is Max Keiser a Plant?
Keiser Report - Welcome to White House aka Profit Source (E1072)
- this brings me to my next point, it's damn obvious that a lot of whistleblowers have no idea what they've done wrong? Basically, they've looked around and they've seen some wrongdoing. Technically, what's being done is against some sort of law so it's really a question of certain people wanting to do whatever they want without oversight. The obvious question is whether or not what they've done is justified?
- if something feels like a Honeypot by crackers it's possibly because it is? The most frustrating thing is when they overlap frequency bands and they sort of interfere with one another? As far as I'm concerned people should just change the economics and download stuff them via them until it clearly don't make sense and they stop doing it (there aren't that many Open Wifi hotpots as there used to be and those that exist seem to invite you to use their connections now with an appropriate SSID (such as Guest, something with Free in the name, etc... Even those without an appropiate SSID often have a mechanism telling you that it's free for public use as well...) and little to no limitations based on what I've seen)? Interesting the battle with supposed good and supposed bad on the ICT world especially given the recent revelations regarding Vault-7?
- latest in defense
Russian Military Supporting Syrian Forces Against US Coalition
Jordan's Devasting Move In The War on Syria
'Europe didn't give a damn about terror until it came to its own borders' -  Alan Dershowitz
ISIL - Target Russia - Featured Documentary
Trump’s behavior at NATO is a national embarrassment
Procurement: Arabia Rescues MiG
- like I said in my previous post, what's going on with all the airplane weirdness of late?
- latest in science and technology
The Listening Post - Facebook and the ethics of moderation
Mark Zuckerberg Reveals the 5 Strategies That Helped Facebook Grow at an Insane Rate
- latest in finance and politics
Winning the Battle to Control Your Mind
Keiser Report - Bitcoin Stealing Gold's Thunder (E 1076)
[149] False Scarcity, Confederate Statues, Julian Assange, & Federal Urine Tests
What's behind the latest crisis in the Philippines - Inside Story
What is Iran's endgame in Syria - UpFront
Morsi's son - US fails to defend democracy despite talk in media
- reminds me of when I was working with someone from a major US networking company (we'll leave their name out) who said that they wanted to use Kaspersky but couldn't basically because it was from Russia? Technically, they still see themselves as rivals in global politics?

Random Quotes:
- Outbreaks of extremely cold air from the Antarctic, known as friagens, occur during the winter months. The friagen of 2003 killed more than half of all the country's alpacas when temperatures plunged to minus 35 Celsius. Last winter's cold weather reportedly killed 50,000 alpacas in the southern Puno region.

The fact that these deaths have occurred in the summer months do make it very unusual, but alpacas are not quite as tough as people often think.

They are not particularly good at foraging in cold or snowy weather. They also do not carry much body fat and their coats contain no water-resistant lanolin.

In recent days, there have been reports of heavy rain in the region. It may be that the animals' coats have been penetrated by water, making them vulnerable to the combination of low temperatures and strong winds.

Alpaca wool is a major export in Peru. More than $150m of fleeces are sent abroad each year. 
- Mr Temby said the best way to avoid being attacked by a kangaroo is to keep a safe distance, never give them food and to watch for signs of aggression, such as standing on their toes, scratching their stomach or growling.

If a kangaroo does attack, never stand tall and face the animal because it might be interpreted as a challenge to fight.

"There is real danger there," he said. "These blokes who think they're macho and go and spar with a kangaroo ... that's the dumbest thing you can do."
- Sex strikes are a common form of political action in Kenya.  In 2009, thousands of women undertook a week long sex strike to bring an end to a months-long political impasse.
- Defying prohibitions against the import of South Korean products into communist-controlled North Korea, Chinese and North Korean traders are bringing large quantities of South Korean produced foodstuffs across the border after first covering boxes with Chinese markings, sources say.

The trafficked goods include food, cooking pots and other utensils, and a wide range of special sauces, Chinese sources working on the border told RFA’s Korean Service.

“Hundreds of boxes of a famous South Korean ramen noodle brand produced at a factory in China are brought into North Korea without any restriction, as long as their labels are written in Chinese characters,” RFA’s source said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

“These South Korean products are not produced at all in North Korea and are purchased mostly by restaurants in [the North Korean capital] Pyongyang.”

“Simply by removing their trademark, most South Korean food products get through customs without difficulty,” he said.

Among the most popular products brought into North Korea are sauce for Bulgogi, a Korean-style marinated and barbecued beef, and stone pots made for serving Bibimbap, a hot mixed-bowl meal of vegetables and cooked rice, sources said.
- Battles in Afghanistan, Kosovo and elsewhere have earned Germany's Leopard 2 battle tank a reputation for being indestructible. In one case, Canadian forces managed to drive a Leopard through a massive Taliban bomb blast and survive.

However, Turkish troops fighting the terrorist group Daesh in northern Syria have had a different experience. According to reports, Daesh fighters in the city of Al Bab have destroyed ten Leopard 2A4 battle tanks.
- He said there was a better chance of resolving the escalating conflict through diplomacy.
He reiterated his earlier statement that the United States could not be relied upon to defend the Philippines if an armed confrontation developed with China.
“America will not die for us,” Duterte said, pointing out the US did not lift a finger when China was building structures recently on the disputed islands.
“Now they’re there. [The US] allowed them to be finished,” he said.
- Serbia is not entirely pro-Russian -- it is, after all, an EU accession candidate, and about 40 percent of the population is pro-EU. But Russia holds joint military exercises there (the latest one was in November) and a majority of Serbs are sympathetic to Russia because of historic ties and a deep distrust for NATO. In other former Yugoslav states, where Russia doesn't have allies as open as Nikolic and similarly broad popular support, its influence is more underhanded. 

Russia backs the Putin-style regime in Macedonia and saw 2015 protests against it as a Western attempt to take over the country. In Montenegro, where the government is pro-Western and about half the population backs membership in Western structures, Russians were accused last year of plotting a coup and the assassinations of top officials. The accusations could have been a political ploy, but Russia has a clearly expressed interest in keeping Montenegro out of NATO.

In one way or another, Russia is involved in every Balkan nation, and that involvement is increasingly active. It includes a Serbian-language propaganda machine and a network of friendly local nongovernmental organizations and media outlets. If things heat up, political and military interference won't be out of the question. Unlike his predecessor Boris Yeltsin in the 1990s, Putin doesn't believe spheres of influence are an obsolete concept.
- Psychological operations by the United States began in mid-February 1981 and continued intermittently until 1983. These included a series of clandestine naval operations that stealthily accessed waters near the Greenland-Iceland-United Kingdom gap, and the Barents, Norwegian, Black, and Baltic seas, demonstrating how close NATO ships could get to critical Soviet military bases. American bombers also flew directly towards Soviet airspace, peeling off at the last moment, sometimes several times per week. These near-penetrations were designed to test Soviet radar vulnerability as well as demonstrate US capabilities in a nuclear war.[19]

    "It really got to them," told Dr. William Schneider, [former] undersecretary of state for military assistance and technology, who saw classified "after-action reports" that indicated U.S. flight activity. "They didn't know what it all meant. A squadron would fly straight at Soviet airspace, and other radars would light up and units would go on alert. Then at the last minute the squadron would peel off and return home."[19]

In April, the United States Navy conducted FleetEx '83, the largest fleet exercise held to date in the North Pacific.[20][21] The conglomeration of approximately forty ships with 23,000 crewmembers and 300 aircraft was arguably the most powerful naval armada ever assembled. U.S. aircraft and ships attempted to provoke the Soviets into reacting, allowing the U.S. Office of Naval Intelligence to study Soviet radar characteristics, aircraft capabilities, and tactical maneuvers. On April 4 at least six U.S. Navy aircraft flew over Zeleny Island, one of the Kurile Islands. In retaliation the Soviets ordered an overflight of the Aleutian Islands. The Soviet Union also issued a formal diplomatic note of protest, which accused the United States of repeated penetrations of Soviet airspace.[22]
- On at least three occasions, NORAD systems failed, such as on 9 November 1979, when a technician in NORAD loaded a test tape, but failed to switch the system status to "test", causing a stream of constant false warnings to spread to two "continuity of government" bunkers as well as command posts worldwide.[25] On 3 June 1980, and again on 6 June 1980, a computer communications device failure caused warning messages to sporadically flash in U.S. Air Force command posts around the world that a nuclear attack was taking place.[26] During these incidents, Pacific Air Forces (PACAF) properly had their planes (loaded with nuclear bombs) in the air; Strategic Air Command (SAC) did not and took criticism, because they did not follow procedure, even though the SAC command knew these were almost certainly false alarms, as did PACAF.[citation needed] Both command posts had recently begun receiving and processing direct reports from the various radar, satellite, and other missile attack detection systems, and those direct reports simply did not match anything about the erroneous data received from NORAD.[citation needed]
- Most of the US speakers at Davos are also members of the Rockefeller/CFR, see below. Every Fed chairman since WW2 and most secretaries of State, Treasury, Defense and CIA have been CFR members. See member lists at cfr dot org.

CFR Davos speakers:  Stephen Adler (Reuters), Ajay Banga (Mastercard), Marc Benioff (Salesforce), David Cote (Honeywell, FRBNY), Ray Dalio (Bridgewater), Kevin Delany (Atlantic Media), Thomas Donilon (Brookings), Laurence Fink (BlackRock, CFR director), Rana Foroohar (CNN, FT), Thomas Friedman (NYTimes), Orit Gadiesh (BainCo), Kenneth Hersh (Carlyle), Tom Keene (Bloomberg), Frederick Kempe (Atlantic Council), Alan Murray (TimeInc), Ruth Porat (Google), Ken Rogoff (Harvard), David Rothkopf (Foreign Policy), Nouriel Roubini (NYU), David Rubenstein (CarlyleGrp, CFR director), Sheryl Sandberg (Facebook), Andrew Sorkin (NYTimes), Joseph Stiglitz (Columbia), Larry Summers (Harvard), and Fareed Zakharia (CNN).
- Tom, let’s be clear about why the United States is bogged down in Afghanistan

Here’s the answer in one word: Pakistan.

It is not, as Tom asserted the other day, because the U.S. military shifted from a small, special forces approach, to a large conventional approach. It is much more because the U.S. permitted the Pakistani government to relocate Afghan Taliban and al Qaeda to safe havens in North Waziristan and Baluchistan. That in turn has led to this never ending Afghan war and the suffering of its people.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani said on Jan. 16, 2017 that perpetrators of recent attacks in Afghanistan were “living and being recruited from Pakistan.” And he was correct when he said last August that, “Our country is in an unannounced 14-year war with Pakistan.” Why did he say that? Because he knows that the Afghan Taliban is just a Pakistani puppet.

Why do American presidents permit this situation to go on? Partly because they buy into the fiction that they must support Pakistan, lest its nuclear weapons fall into the hands of Islamic fundamentalist terrorists. In other words, Pakistan is using its nuclear weapons to blackmail the United States and the United States has gladly fallen for it.

It’s quaint that U.S. worry about a “rogue commander” with “radical sympathies” seizing control of a Pakistani nuclear bomb. The fact is the Pakistani Army radicalized and went rogue many years ago — beginning under Zia-Ul-Haq in 1976.

There is only one way for President Donald Trump to prevent Pakistan from installing its puppet Taliban rule: permanently station U.S. troops in Afghanistan, just like in South Korea.
- BabaLooey's picture
BabaLooey flaminratzazz Jan 26, 2017 5:05 PM

Trying to talk sense to a liberal is akin to teaching your dog physics.
flaminratzazz's picture
flaminratzazz BabaLooey Jan 26, 2017 5:16 PM

had to shoot the dog, he was teaching the cat equal rights, fvkin traitorous bastard.
- All babies are cute and axolotls stay babies forever. Well, sort of. The axolotl is the only amphibian that becomes an adult without taking an adult form. Instead, it stays in the water for the rest of its life and retains its gills so it looks just like a large tadpole, a large tadpole with healing superpowers, that is. Indeed, axolotls can regenerate various parts of their bodies, even parts of their brains, and they readily accept transplants from other creatures, growing these organs to full size and functionality.
- Aronov, who is originally from Russia but now lives in West Bloomfield, Michigan, said: 'I took a trip to Alaska and stayed in a lodge in Dillingham with a small group of photographers.

'Every day we would be flown on a plane across a lake and dropped off near a small creek frequented by brown bears searching for easy-to-catch salmon.

'After observing the bears for several days, it became apparent that the style of fishing varies greatly from one individual bear to another.

'This particular bear in the photos outdid them all. He would observe the fish swimming by for a few minutes, selecting a prey.

'Once committed to an attack, he would jump up into the air, lifting all four paws from the ground, to then slam the water with his impressive 400lb mass, creating a huge fountain with some of the stunned salmon caught up in it.
- Iran launched a ballistic missile Sunday in defiance of a U.N. resolution that ordered the Islamic Republic to stop such tests, U.S. officials revealed to Fox News.

In October, U.S. Navy warships came under missile attack by Iran-backed Houthi rebels in the same area of the southern Red Sea just north of the Bab al Mandab Strait.

For the first time in history, a U.S. destroyer successfully shot down incoming enemy missiles using SM-2 missiles in the October attack.  

Days later Tomahawk cruise missile launched from the USS Nitze destroyed the Houthi radar installations responsible for firing on the U.S. warships. 
- The INS Vikramaditya and INS Vikrant, India’s first indigenously built aircraft carrier, are both fitted with so-called ski-jump assisted Short Take-Off But Arrested Recovery (STOBAR) launch systems for launching aircraft, whereas the second carrier of the new Vikrant-class, the INS Vishal, will likely use a catapult assisted take-off but arrested recovery (CATOBAR) aircraft launch system, incorporating the new electromagnetic aircraft launch system (EMALS) technology (See: “Confirmed: India’s Next Aircraft Carrier Will Be Nuclear”).

“[The] STOBAR system imposes limits on the operational range and armament of aircraft operating from the carrier given that ski-jump takeoff and arrested carrier landings necessitate a high thrust-to-weight ratio for successful take-offs and can only be conducted with lightweight aircraft,” I explained elsewhere. The MiG-29K Fulcrum fighter jet is a STOBAR aircraft, whereas the F/A-18 and Rafale fighter jets can be launched with the CATOBAR launch system.
- TAMPA, Florida: On any given day at MacDill Air Force Base, web crawlers scour s
ocial media for potential recruits to the Daesh group. Then, in a high-stakes operation to counter the extremists’ propaganda, language specialists employ fictitious identities and try to sway the targets from joining Daesh (Islamic State) ranks.
At least that’s how the multimillion-dollar initiative is being sold to the Defense Department.
A critical national security program known as “WebOps” is part of a vast psychological operation that the Pentagon says is effectively countering an enemy that has used the Internet as a devastating tool of propaganda. But an Associated Press investigation found the management behind WebOps is so beset with incompetence, cronyism and flawed data that multiple people with direct knowledge of the program say it’s having little impact.
Several current and former WebOps employees cited multiple examples of civilian Arabic specialists who have little experience in counter-propaganda, cannot speak Arabic fluently and have so little understanding of Islam they are no match for the Daesh online recruiters.
It’s hard to establish rapport with a potential terror recruit when — as one former worker told the AP — translators repeatedly mix up the Arabic words for “salad” and “authority.” That’s led to open ridicule on social media about references to the “Palestinian salad.”
- South Africa's dire water shortage means that some civil servants are having to give each other lifts to the other side of town just to find a working toilet.

According to the News 24 website, employees at the Department of Social Development in Mpumalanga in the east of the country are having to drive 6km (4 miles) to a shopping mall in order to answer the call of nature. The department is a local office helping South Africans alleviate poverty and provide social welfare services, but staff complain that they are having to leave clients in the lurch as they go in search of lavatories.

"I kept on asking why I am not attended to and I was told that the person who has to help me went to the bathroom, as there was no water in the building," one client told News 24.

Management say they are doing all they can to alleviate the situation and have provided daily water cans for staff, but point out that the water shortage is a nationwide event that is affecting millions. Elsewhere in Mpumalanga, the drought has already caused problems in schools and hospitals.

Across South Africa, recent heavy rains have not done much to ease the shortages. The IOL.co.za news portal says that levels at the Vaal Dam, which supplies water to Johannesburg, have risen for the 11th week in a row but the situation is still "dire". In Cape Town, officials say that residents and businesses are still using 7m litres (1.5m gallons) too much each day, and have warned people against waste. Gardeners, have been told they may only use one bucketful of water at a time, and then only on Tuesdays and Saturdays.
- “The Muslim world has a rich tradition of exploration,” Mars One said in a long post on its website.

It then quoted a Koranic verse and added: “The verse from the Koran above encourages Muslims to go out and see the signs of God’s creation in the ‘heavens and the earth’.”

“The most influential example of this was the Moroccan Muslim traveller Ibn Battuta, who from 1325 to 1355 travelled 117,000 kilometres, visiting the equivalent of 44 modern countries.”
- Filipinos found out that the Russians are just Americans with no money.  Maybe Mr. Duterte can push somebody out of a helicopter and fix it.
- The top American commander in Afghanistan, Gen. John Nicholson, heads to Capitol Hill on Thursday where he is likely to endure intense questioning from Senate lawmakers who've grown weary of the endless military mission there. There's a long list of reasons why the United States can't yet extract from its longest war, and chief among them is the competency of Afghanistan's air force, which according to the United Nations’ latest assessment is responsible for a troubling pattern of botched airstrikes that have led to a stunning rise in civilian casualties.

Compared to 2015, last year the loss of innocent life caused by Afghan-initiated airstrikes doubled to 252, according to the U.N. That figure includes civilians killed and wounded. And while American military officials allege those numbers are grossly inflated, they have nevertheless begun to fast-track training for a new cadre of Afghan tactical air controllers who, from the ground, can warn pilots when they are at risk of causing collateral damage.

Here's what the numbers say: Afghanistan's primary attack pilots are firing their weapons during four of every 10 combat missions, a rate more than three times greater than that of their U.S. Air Force counterparts, according to a Military Times analysis of figures provided by American and Afghan defense officials. What remains an issue of debate is whether the surge in civilian casualties is to blame on the Afghans being overly aggressive or undisciplined, whether it's a symptom of the hasty training necessitated by their rapid growth, or whether it's just the inevitable result of assuming greater responsibility for their country’s security. 
- Father Daniel: “The idea that a popular uprising took place against President Assad is completely false. I’ve been in Qara since 2010 and I have seen with my own eyes how agitators from outside Syria organized protests against the government and recruited young people. That was filmed and aired by Al Jazeera to give the impression that a rebellion was taking place. Murders were committed by foreign terrorists, against the Sunni and Christian communities, in an effort to sow religious and ethnic discord among the Syrian people. While in my experience, the Syrian people were actually very united.

Before the war, this was a harmonious country: a secular state in which different religious communities lived side by side peacefully. There was hardly any poverty, education was free, and health care was good. It was only not possible to freely express your political views. But most people did not care about that.”
- NATO spokesperson Oana Lungescu told the BBC in no uncertain words that the alliance feels that "outlets like Sputnik are part of a Kremlin propaganda machine which are trying to use information for political and military needs." 

Sputnik's content, Lungescu added, is meant "not to convince people, but to confuse them, not to provide an alternative viewpoint, but to divide public opinions and to ultimately undermine our ability to understand what is going on, and therefore take decisions if decisions need to be made."

Sputnik UK editor Nikolai Gorshkov repudiated the spokeswoman's claims, noting that they bordered on the "conspiratorial," and added that as unpleasant as it is, he's gotten pretty used to having such allegations thrown up against the agency's work. "It's extremely unfair but we've been on the receiving end of other similar accusations in the past, without any substantive evidence being provided," he said.

The attacks have been coming with regularity. Earlier this month, UK Secretary of Defense Michael Fallon accused Sputnik and RT of 'weaponizing misinformation', and urged NATO and the Western powers to "do more to tackle the false reality promoted through Soviet-style misinformation." Russian commentators were amused by the politician's remarks, pointing out that they were a signal that the alternative viewpoints presented by Russian foreign-language media are bringing a much justified end to the mainstream outlets' position as the only game in town for news and opinions.
- MOSCOW (Sputnik) — RT and Sputnik Editor-in-Chief Margarita Simonyan said Sunday that the Western establishment considers Russia "abnormal" by default and gave CIA some caustic advice on how to prevent Russia from being perceived as "normal" in the West.

"For the majority of the Western establishment, the idea that Russia is normal is as wild as the suggestion that the Earth is square… Everyone stopped caring about facts long ago. There is a conclusion that Russia is abnormal with all that follows. Facts have to be adjusted to fit the conclusion," Simonyan wrote in her blog.

According to the RT editor-in-chief, part of the establishment's dislike for US President Donald Trump stems from his seeming willingness to review the relationship with Russia.

Simonyan gave a few acerbic recommendations to the CIA on how to ensure that the public opinion of Russia does not change, including constant reminders about hackers and Trump's relations with Moscow.

"Remind people about the cunning of RT and Sputnik. Use the most fear-inducing vocabulary. There is no need to look for a newsworthy event, the people are used to it," Simonyan wrote.
- If the rule of law and democracy are to survive in America we will need to address the decline in the public’s understanding of, and support for both. While we celebrate the Ninth Circuit’s decision on Trump’s ban, we also must initiate a national conversation about democracy and the rule of law. Civics education, long derided, needs to be revived.

Schools, civic groups, and the media must to go back to fundamentals and explain what basic American political values entail and why they are desirable. Defenders of democracy and the rule of law must take their case to the American people and remind them of the Founders’ admonition that: “If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary. In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself.”

We need to remember that our freedom from an arbitrary or intrusive government depends on the rule of law and a functioning democracy. We need to rehabilitate both – before this crisis of faith worsens.
- The New York Times adds that “Some allies are shifting focus to other potential partners for new sources of trade and investment, relationships that could influence political, diplomatic, and military ties. Many are looking to China, which has adroitly capitalized on a leadership vacuum in world affairs by offering itself – ironies notwithstanding – as a champion for global engagement.”

Not so fast. The existing world order was fashioned by the U.S. after the end of WWII, when it was the only major power. Japan and Germany were defeated and devastated. The USSR, U.K., and France were greatly weakened by the Nazis. If anyone now sought to form a new world order, reflecting their values and interests, that power would have to contend with Russia, Japan, Iran, India and the U.S. – among others.

The U.S. had (and to significant extent still has) a messianic Wilsonian complex. It believes that it is called upon to bring to the nations of the world the kind of liberal democracy it has. True, this belief was never purely idealistic. It often served to provide legitimacy to the U.S. pursuing its interests, and was used for domestic political purposes, to stratify liberal and neoconservative constituencies. Nevertheless, it led the U.S. to send in troops to stop ethnic cleansing in Kosovo and to stop atrocities in Libya, and to spend half a trillion dollars on trying to build liberal democracies in Afghanistan and Iraq. It also led the U.S. to support nascent liberal political groups and NGOs in scores of authoritarian countries.

China used to have a messianic complex of its own in its Communist days. In those days it too was willing to make considerable sacrifices in order to bring to other nations (especially on its borders) what it considers the regime to be valued (and to benefit its interests). However, ever since China shifted to authoritarian capitalism, it has lost such ambitions and has focused on building up its economy and gaining influence in its region, mainly by economic means. It has shown very little appetite for playing a global role. Indeed, it was often been chastised for not stepping up to the plate, for not providing more humanitarian aid, peace keeping forces, and not acting as a “responsible” stakeholder. Privately, Chinese officials often express amazement at America’s willingness to risk the lives of its young, and billions of dollars, to play a global role.

There are very few signs that suddenly China is willing to invest significantly in forming and undergirding a world order. For instance, a major element of the existing order is freedom of navigation, which the U.S. has worked hard to ensure by engaging in hundreds of freedom of navigation enforcements acts (called “assertions”) against friend and foe alike. China does not have the navy or the inclination to play such a role. It objects to armed humanitarian intervention; no one should expect it to send troops to stop genocide. Above all, it is very unlikely that China will be willing to send its troops to push out the troops of a nation that invaded another, as the U.S. did in 1991 when Saddam’s troops invaded Kuwait. That is, to uphold the most fundamental principle of the international order, the Westphalian norm.

If China is to be called upon to serve as the new champion of the world order, it will be rather different and one of a much lower profile than the one the U.S. forged and led. Indeed, the major element of world order China has expressed a keen interest in recently is trade. “No one will emerge as a winner in a trade war,” President Xi Jinping told the world’s economic elite, assembled in Davos. China has very strong reasons to ensure that world trade will be as free as possible. It badly needs to be able to buy raw materials and energy sources and to sell its products overseas. Indeed, China started negotiations to form its own free trade zone, albeit it a regional one. The Chinese president also declared support for the protection of the environment because it is “a responsibility we must assume for future generations.” But this is about as far as it goes.

It is too early to predict whether Trump will succeed in largely curtailing U.S. global commitments or if his cabinet, comprising more leveled-headed people, and Congress will get the U.S. to follow a different track. However, one can safely assume that just because Trump may engender some vacuum, does not mean that China – or any other nation – will step in to fill it. The prevailing order was formed under the special conditions that prevailed at the end of WWII. Under current conditions, a more multi-polar and less ordered world is much more likely to follow.
- LJ: I call it a bureaucratic imperative. Large bureaucracies like the CIA, like the State Department, like the Department of Defense, when they face a crisis of some sort, and they don’t have a ready answer to it or a quick and easy fix, often times being encouraged to literally throw money at a problem and do anything because it is considered a high priority. And by making something a high priority, people no longer have to worry about being accountable for what they are doing. And I think it is exactly what took place here, that there was no regard for the accountability of it. And they had the added benefit of it operating behind a veil of secrecy. So, therefore, the average person would not know what they were doing. And by virtue of being able to operate in the dark, they could do this kind of thing without fear of being discovered and being asked to explain themselves in public. Because had they been put in a witness chair and asked to explain it, they would not have had a good explanation.
- Core of Socialism: The workers, the craftsmen, the artists own their production, meaning, they are not hourly wage slave of people with the capital.

Core of Capitalism: You work for the owners of capital, the bankers/investors.

Core of Communism: Power reside within the state, meaning, communism is super-capitalism.

Core of Religion: You don’t need proof (high faculty brain), you need faith.

Core of Fascism: When either capitalism and communism fail. Fascism is a by-product of power structures. Fascism wouldn’t last 5 hours in a socialist system.

So you know my “leaning” biases, I am an agnostic liberal, meaning, I don’t believe in any of these as well as liberal views can work.

However, socialism would be the least damaging to humanity, because in its core, it would not lead to too much. On the other hand, the others that I just listed are dangerous, because they are run by ideologues, meaning, opportunists.
- Carfentanil is legally used as a sedative for large animals like elephants. It became involved in the growing opioid epidemic this past summer. The DEA confirmed more than 400 seizures of carfentanil across eight U.S. states from July through October, according to the Associated Press. Ohio was the hardest hit by the powerful drug’s sudden rise and 343 of those seizures were made in the Buckeye State.
- “If they want to overcome this artificially created confrontational stage, they have it in their power,” Lavrov added, noting that there are no facts to stand on, regarding alleged interference in the electoral process in the United States, France, and Germany by Russian hackers.

“Show us the facts,” the diplomat said.

“For some reason, when we are accused of something, no one requires any facts. I haven’t seen a single fact proving that we allegedly attempted to break into some websites of the Democratic Party, or were supposedly doing something in France and Germany,” the minister said.

Lavrov added that Angela Merkel's statement on the need to discuss cybersecurity within the framework of the NATO-Russia Council was a signal to a complete restoration of its work.

“As we began to talk about cybersecurity today, Chancellor Merkel has put forward a very interesting idea that the NATO-Russia Council (NRC) would have to deal with this problem. If the Chancellor of Germany, one of the leading NATO member states, speaks in favor of NATO tackling cybersecurity, I assume that at least Berlin wants the NRC to resume its full functioning, and not just limit itself to discussions,” Lavrov noted.
- Researchers in Germany have successfully tested a miniature treadmill built for ants with the hopes of deciphering the insects’ navigation capabilities, which could prove invaluable to the field of miniature robotics.

The ants were tethered to a support beam using a filament of dental floss, which was glued to their backs, but allowed them enough mobility to move freely on their spherical ‘treadmills.’

The team then placed the tethered ants on air-suspended Styrofoam balls, which were light enough to move in concert with the ants’ changes in direction, detected using the optical sensor from a computer mouse.
- A Gallup poll has revealed that citizens of four NATO nations would sooner count on Russia to defend them rather than the United States, Bloomberg reported on Friday, reflecting the changing perceptions of the US's role in global security.

Between October and December 2016, WIN/Gallup International asked around a thousand people in 66 countries who would be their go-to ally if attacked. While the military might of the US was still the first choice for most of the respondents polled, people from Greece, Turkey, Bulgaria and Slovenia - all members of the transatlantic NATO alliance - opted for Russia when asked whom they felt they could count on if they felt under threat.

Other countries which preferred Russian over American protection included China, Iran, and Serbia. Russia itself chose China as their main ally, while Americans voted for the UK. Iraq, Bosnia, and Ukraine, countries with deep ethnic, religious and political divides, were split roughly evenly between Russia and the US.
- Russia defense heavyweight Rostec will partner with the UAE Ministry of Defence to co-develop a fifth-generation light combat fighter, company CEO Sergey Chemezov said at IDEX in Abu Dhabi Monday.

Development, which is based upon its MiG-29 twin-engine fighter aircraft, will kick off in 2018, and will take an estimated seven to eight years, Chemezov said during a media briefing with journalists. He elaborated in an exclusive one-on-one interview with Defense News.

“That’s not fast, because it takes quite a long period of time to develop,” he said speaking through a translator. “We anticipate local production here in the Arab Emirates, for the needs of Emirates. And of course [we expect development to support the needs of] the neighboring countries."

Details about how the partnership would be structured have not been finalized, though Chemezov said it could potentially function as a joint venture between the company and UAE or UAE's domestic suppliers.
- The US is currently implementing a 30-year program to modernize its aging nuclear arsenal, including bombers and land- and submarine-based ballistic missiles. Critics have pointed to the program’s $1 trillion price tag, saying the country cannot afford it, according to Reuters.

“The United States will not yield its supremacy in this area to anybody,” White House spokesman Sean Spicer told reporters, when asked to clarify the president’s comments. “Our goal is to make sure that we maintain America’s dominance around the world, and that if other countries flout it, we don’t sit back and allow them to grow theirs."
- The AEOI said on January 28 that Iran had started injecting UF6 into IR-8 centrifuge machines in an important phase of the country’s research and development plans.

Iran has successfully conducted all mechanical tests of the machines over the past three years, the AEOI said, adding that the IR-8 machines have the capacity to enrich uranium some 20 times faster than the IR-1 ones.
- Those ‘Israeli’ SAM’s being sold to India were probably stolen from US defense contractors.
- According to Reuters, “If the People’s Liberation Army went to war tomorrow, it would field an arsenal bristling with hardware from some of America’s closest allies: Germany, France and Britain.” Reuters substantiates this claim – Chinese advanced surface warships largely field French and German diesel engine designs under the hood; Chinese destroyers field French sonar technology, as do anti-submarine warfare (ASW) helicopters and surface-to-air missiles; British propulsion technology and airborne early warning radars can be found in several PLA fighters, bombers, and anti-ship aircraft. Additionally, “some of China’s best attack and transport helicopters rely on designs from Eurocopter, a subsidiary of pan-European aerospace and defense giant EADS.”
- This USAF F-16 crashed twice, but was repaired both times - hence it got named 'Twice as Nice'. It was later sold to Israel. The first crash was in 1984 - sometimes when aircraft systems designers integrate various components into an airframe, they forget to examine what happens if a component should fail. Such was the case in the original F-16 design. An electrical connector (cannon plug) came loose and unfortunately the wiring for critical components like brakes and arrestor hook all went through the same connector. The pilot attempted to land the aircraft and engage the arrestor wires. Both wires were missed and the aircraft went off the end of the runway. The pilot stayed with the aircraft and the rescue crews had to cut through the canopy to reach hime - the hole in the canopy can be seen in the photo. After this accident they changed the electrical schematic and wiring harness so that those features went through different connectors now. The second crash occurred a few years later. Cause of mishap was a stuck throttle cable at 70% power. The incident happened at MacDill and the pilot landed the aircraft then ejected when he couldn't stop it. It then went off the end of the runway. 
- At this point he decided to give up. "To Microsoft, feel free to fill your developers’ website with articles about Bash on Windows, about Visual Studio 2017," he wrote. "But we, developers, not only need great tools but also need to make money. You give us great tools, and we try to create useful apps for your ecosystem but if you treat us like this, how can we continue engaging?

"To developers, if you are thinking about making Windows app as a fun project or a college homework, it is fine. Developing Modern Translator helped me to learn so many things from Node.js, React.js to product design and marketing. I even got job offers thanks to my experiences. But to make something serious, I am sorry, but at least in my opinion, I would say no," he wrote.
- Throughout 2015 and 2016 several prominent YouTubers reported a loss of video monetization when covering certain topics or for having particular opinions. YouTube claimed this was due to tighter enforcement of existing rules, even if true this will restrict the type of content that gets made and is a form of censorship.

Here we believe people should be able to express their opinions and choose their topics. If existing services cannot allow that, then let's make some that will. The question is, how to disrupt a platform as well established as YouTube? It cannot be on their terms; we think we might have an answer, decentralization by torrents and tailored matchups for monetization. *More on the monetization to come soon.

Rather than needing massive data centers with humongous bandwidth costs, torrents depend on many people sharing videos from their home computers. While this has been possible for many years through bit torrent, bit torrent applications have steep learning curves; this site aims to make the torrent experience seamless by working entirely in the web browser.
- The Navy swelled from 245 ships in 1916 to a peak of over 6,000 during World War II, downsizing between conflicts and bulking up during the Korean and Vietnam Wars. From the 1970s, the Navy gradually began to shrink to a total battle force of 275 ships as of September 2016.

But that fleet includes 10 aircraft carriers, 22 cruisers, 63 destroyers, 11 amphibious assault ships and 68 submarines, 14 of which are armed with nuclear warheads. These are far more powerful than the fleets of World War II. So comparing the navies of the past and today is “like comparing the telegraph to the smartphone; they’re just not comparable,” Ray Mabus, the secretary of the Navy under President Barack Obama, said in 2012.

Lawmakers in both parties have already expressed deep skepticism about Mr. Trump’s military spending proposal, in part because of its potential to increase the nation’s deficit and in part because of the administration’s assertion that it would deeply slash nonmilitary spending to compensate.

But the president’s desire to expand the military was a core promise during his campaign for the White House.
- Because the Patriot has to be pointing in the direction of the missile, he said, one of Russia's systems can defend an area that would require at least four American ones to cover.

Besides, he said, Russia's S-400, unlike the US system, is able to shoot down any flying objects, cruise and ballistic missiles, fighter jets, bombers and attack aircraft – virtually everything that can fly is threatened by the S-400.

Litovkin also noted that Russia is planning to supply its S-400 system only to India and China, even though many states would like such a system.
- The new BBC television drama, "SS-GB," tells the fictional story of the Nazi occupation of Britain during the Second World War. Adapted from the novel of the same name by Len Deighton, the story ponders the dilemma faced by British police detective, Douglas Archer (played by Sam Riley), in working for his country's fascist occupiers.

This is all fine as far as it goes. The problem comes with the drama's depiction of a wartime alliance between Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union. Such an alliance is established in the opening scene of the first episode in the context of a "German-Soviet friendship week" ceremony in London, involving the Nazis presenting a visiting Soviet delegation with a British spitfire fighter aircraft as a gift. Then, later, plumbing the depths of crudity, we see a large poster of Karl Marx hanging between two giant Swastika flags on a building in Nazi-occupied central London.

Artistic and dramatic license is one thing, historical distortion with a transparent ideological and political motive is something else entirely.

In this particular case, with this BBC drama, the historical distortion amounts to insulting the millions of Soviet troops and civilians who perished in the most brutal conflict the world has known. Despite attempts by Western ideologues over the years since to inflate the role of the British, American, and other Western allied forces in defeating the Nazis, the role of the Red Army on the Eastern Front, where 80 percent of all combat during the war took place, was central to the war's outcome. Indeed without the epic resistance of the Soviet Union to the Nazi war machine, fascism would undoubtedly have prevailed in Europe with all the ensuing cataclysmic consequences. 
- Air defense commander General Farzad Esmaili told state television that a domestically manufactured air defense system dubbed Bavar 373, which was "more advanced than the S-300," would be tested very soon. "The S-300 is a system that is deadly for our enemies and which makes our skies more secure," he said.
- The 'plans' for a nuclear submarine, or an aircraft carrier, or a fighter jet, or a heavy guided missile cruiser, are all approximately 20,000 pages in large format 40" drawings. That would weigh about two metric TONS. Even with a team of 100 engineers working 24/7 it would take 3-4 YEARS to fully grasp what you were dealing with.
- So from the time Putin became president of the Russian Federation, he has executed a plan. While Americans were focused on Afghanistan, Iraq, solving the Arab-Israeli conflict, tax cuts, promoting democracy in the Middle East, Obama’s birth certificate, the Tea Party, the debt ceiling, government shutdowns and the Affordable Care Act, Russia rebuilt its military capability and rethought its war-fighting doctrine. At the same time, Putin sought to rebuild Moscow’s global prestige, mostly by taking advantage of American missteps (at home and abroad), to offer an alternative. This has provided the Russians an opportunity to begin building new spheres of influence — which is helped immeasurably by the confusion, polarization and instability that Moscow has sowed in the West through social media, television and cash.

So what does this all mean in the Middle East? It was not that long ago that the United States was the predominant power in the region. In many ways it still is, given Washington’s continued diplomatic, military and commercial influence, especially when it comes to arms sales. Even so, Russia has reestablished itself as a power in the region. At the very least, the reliably pro-American Arab Gulf states understand that they must now take into account Russian interests and objectives. This is something they have not had to do for 25 years.

Much of the shift in regional power dynamics stems from the Russian intervention in Syria, which began in late September 2015 — an operation that a fair number of Western analysts (including this one) thought would be short-lived, ineffective and damaging to the Russian military. As odious as it has proven to be, Moscow has achieved a number of important objectives. The Russians have signaled that they will stand by their allies, drawing a distinction between Moscow and Washington, which many in the region believe to be feckless. They have also forced important American allies like Turkey and Israel to turn to Russia as they seek to achieve their objectives in Syria. Putin has also made common cause with the Iranians who, like the Russians, chafe at the regional political order established by the United States. 
- In the beginning, God created a health-care system. But she quickly found it to be a thankless and terribly complex endeavor, so she decided to create the heavens and the Earth. The Earth was covered in darkness, so she said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. “That was easy,” she thought, so she decided to go back to health care.

“Let there be coverage,” she declared. And from the void came the questions: “You mean single-payer coverage? Universal coverage, or separate programs for the poor and the elderly? How high should we set the deductibles? Should we provide tax credits? If so, should they be refundable? What about guaranteed issue? Community rating? You’re gonna want to cover preexisting conditions, right, God?”

So she went back to creating the land and seas.

Okay, I may be making the health-care challenge sound harder than it is, but clearly Republicans have been struggling with it, and I think I know why. First, Obamacare has set a new baseline, and President Trump has promised that their replacement won’t just hit the baseline, it will surpass it. Second, the fundamental logic of affordable coverage for all goes against their basic brand such that they’ve set up an impossible goal: better, cheaper coverage than Obamacare that reduces the government’s footprint in the sector.
- “It's all well and good to renovate the suburbs, to put us in beautiful buildings, but for us nothing changes - we still have a hard time finding work," laments Marwan, 22, who has been going to the bureau once a week to send off resumes since the start of the year.

He lives on the Allende housing estate, and is looking for a technician’s job "anywhere, day or night" so he can support his mother, who’s unemployed with three dependent children.

Marwan says the current crop of politicians have little insight into the reality of life in the Paris suburbs.

“They don’t care about people in this area, so we don’t give a damn about them," he says.

Believing that he has "nothing to gain", Marwan has decided not to vote in the upcoming presidential election.

It’s a view shared by Fanir, 23, who is looking for a job in fiber optics. He says he won’t vote because “it will not change my life”, and that none of the presidential candidates were going to make it easier for him to find a job.

Fanir was scathing in his criticism of the current president, saying that: "Five years later, we can say that Fran├žois Hollande did nothing at all!"
- Endowed with such near-panoptic capabilities, it is little wonder why US lawmakers are least perturbed by their nation's continued slide across many global indices, including an infrastructure which Trump justifiably likened to Third World levels.

But why bother with such trifles when an army of US intelligence employees and private contractors can snoop on the best ideas, concepts and patents being developed in real-time by unsuspecting foreigners worldwide? If blueprints can't be pilfered due to declared proprietorship in the open source domain, trapdoors still remain open for the denial, disruption and degradation of a variety of developmental undertakings worldwide. US software is now a malignant parasite residing in the body of the global host — reminiscent of plots from the Alien movie franchise.
- These are not the words of a leader who is confident in the future. This exasperation reeks of defeat. And in any case, what he said basically sums up the biggest problem with the EU. It’s run by unelected bureaucrats who don’t have to consult ordinary people on what to do, and those political systems rarely survive for very long.
- "The mentality of those close to Trump appears to be working on the basis that the US drives the world – and it doesn't anymore," he said.

"China is now the biggest importer for 70 countries in the world."

O'Neill, who was Commercial Secretary to the Treasury in 2015 and 2016, sees signs of improvement in global trade despite some of Mr Trump's anti-trade rhetoric and the political shock of last year's Brexit vote.

O'Neill urged Australia to now give a similar priority to building economic links with India and Indonesia to what it gave China in the recent past.

"Three of the five of the leading populated countries in the world are in your back yard and five of [the biggest] 10 are in your backyard," he said.

"I would encourage forward-thinking policy makers here, who have probably thought more carefully about the changing dynamics of the interplay with China than many around the word, to do the same about India and Indonesia. That will give you added benefits going forward."
- All this hysteria about the CIA hacking and spying....I asked my TV if it was spying on me. It answered `No, of course not`.
- "Cambodia does not owe a brass farthing to the US for help in destroying its people, its wild animals, its rice fields and forest cover," he wrote in the Cambodia Daily.

American Elizabeth Becker, one of the few correspondents who witnessed the Khmer Rouge's genocide, has also written that the US "owes Cambodia more in war debts that can be repaid in cash."

Mr Hun Sen pointed out that craters still dot the Cambodian countryside and villagers are still unearthing bombs, forcing mass evacuations until they can be deactivated.

"There are a lot of grenades and bombs left. That's why so often Cambodian children are killed, because they don't know that they are unexploded ordnance," he said.

"And who did it? It's America's bombs and grenades."

A diplomat posted in Phnom Penh between 1971 and 1974 told Fairfax Media the food the US supplied Cambodia came from excess food stocks.

"I remember well that shipments of maize were made," he said.

"Cambodians do not eat maize so it was fed to the animals."

He pointed out that the US refused to normalise relations with Vietnam until it accepted to take on the US debt of the former southern regime.
- The NBN Co is back with another round of "facts", something in the same vein as those its chief Bill Morrow was spouting a few weeks back.

Whenever the taxpayer-funded company comes up with these "factual" blog posts, technology publications report it as though it were gospel. Moses descending with the tablets of stone could not command more respect.

But taking a more cynical approach uncovers the convenient use of language designed to hide the fact that the whole decision to go with the mongrel mix — that's what I call the multi-technology mix — is turning out to be a disaster.

The company attempts to create an aura of mystery in its narrative by stating at the outset, "The NBN rollout is very complex... (blah, blah, blah)." In other words, simpleton, if you are unable to understand why we are implementing it this way, it is because you do not comprehend many things. You are a fool, we are the wise ones. Listen to us.
- Lawrence reminded listeners that during the Korean War, the US Air Force destroyed every structure higher than one story in the country.

"The main complaint of the US pilots during the war was that there was nothing left to bomb," Lawrence says.

Bombings also eliminated 20% of North Korean population, and this, according to Lawrence, is the real reason behind North Korea's determination to ensure its safety through nuclear weapons and its reluctance to negotiate.

"This has been erased [from history textbooks]," Lawrence says. "That's how we maintain the fiction of wild North Korean irrationality."
- Rockefeller often spoke about the importance of American capitalism, which he said “brought more benefits to more people than any other system in any part of the world at any time in history.”

"The problem is to see that the system is run as efficiently and as honestly as it can be," he added.
- The defense analyst said that American anti-submarine warfare has largely been subpar compared to that of other countries, notably the United Kingdom and Canada which excel in this type of warfare.

Thompson has been critical of the US Navy, saying that has "a very dysfunctional and corrupt culture."

"They suppress evidence that aircraft carriers are vulnerable in exercises. That's well-documented in my book. Officers, who tried to report in publications that carriers were destroyed in exercises are harassed and kicked out of the Navy," he suggested.
- “In the United States, you’re only one illness or accident away from financial ruin,” said Craig Antico, co-founded of the charity RIP Medical Debt.

Five years ago, they took an idea that sprung from the Occupy Wall Street movement to help everyday Americans by buying their debt from collection agencies.

“So far we’ve been able to clear about $25 million for about 16,000 people, but we’re now scaling up our business, because there’s so many groups of doctors, nurses, and family donors who want to help,” he says. Their charity has plans to buy another $4 billion of medical debt, which is expected to aid around 300,000 Americans.

“It’s estimated that 15 million people per year wipe out their complete savings because of medical debt,” Antico says. “And debt collection has a long tail, with people often chased for 5 to 10 years for payment.”

Those in the industry like Antico have long known how complicated health has become in the country. “There’s something wrong - for all that expenditure, we don’t even have better health outcomes,” he notes.
- Naval research chemist at the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) have developed an armor which is transparent, lightweigt and enables damaged armor to be repaired immediately while in the field, said the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory Public Affairs.

“Heating the material above the softening point, around 100 degrees Celsius, melts the small crystallites, enabling the fracture surfaces to meld together and reform via diffusion,” said Dr. Mike Roland, senior scientist, NRL Soft Matter Physics. “This can be accomplished with a hot plate, akin to an iron, that molds the newly forming surface into a smooth, flat sheet with negligible effect on integrity.”

“Because of the dissipative properties of the elastomer, the damage due to a projectile strike is limited to the impact locus. This means that the affect on visibility is almost inconsequential, and multi-hit protection is achieved,” Roland said. 
- Most technologies end up with two alternatives, one owning roughly 85% of the market and the other holding most of the remaining 15%. Given this has happened repeatedly over the years, perhaps it was foolish to expect the Ubuntu phone experiment to last.
- The Fairfax reports said historically the ATO had settled with companies and ended up with about half of what was sought; in 2015, for example, the tax office was targeting a figure of $5.7 billion and ended up getting almost $3 billion.,

It said that if companies did not sign up to the voluntary reporting regime, then mandatory disclosure may be imposed.

Fairfax said the Board of Tax chairman Michael Andrew had indicated that European companies were generally more compliant when it came to the code. This was because there were similar measures in their home countries, designed to create more transparency about their tax affairs.
- In the new report, scientists measured rates of RNA recoding in several cephalopod species. They found that squids, cuttlefish and octopuses — the smartest kinds of cephalopods — frequently edit RNA, in about one out of every two transcribed genes. What's more, RNA editing most often targeted cephalopod genes related to nervous system functions. “It was making tweaks that really make a neuron a neuron,” Rosenthal said.

There was one exception. A type of cephalopod called a nautilus lacked such high rates of RNA recoding. Nautiluses, though, aren't known for their intelligence. Could “massive RNA-level recoding,” as the scientists wrote in their new study, be related to the animals' smarts?

The study did not provide conclusive evidence that RNA recoding was the reason for cephalopod smarts. But it offered “tantalizing hints toward the hypothesis that extensive recoding might have contributed to the exceptional intelligence,” Eisenberg said, of the squids, octopuses and cuttlefish. “Of course, at this point it's just an enticing idea to think about, and we would need much more evidence to say anything definitive in this direction.”

Bass, who was not involved with this new research, agreed that the idea was enticing. It made “perfect sense” that the more sophisticated cephalopods would rely on recoding, she said, “because that would allow them to diversify their nervous system.”

The cephalopod brain boost, after all, could use more explanation. “Of all the branches of life you have two that have real behavioral complexity,” Rosenthal said. There are vertebrates, such as birds and mammals, and there are cephalopods. “And that's it.” (It's been more than 500 million years since the last common ancestor of humans and octopuses.)

Widespread RNA editing comes at a cost. If a mutation occurs at an editing site, the animals' cells can no longer tweak it. “You can't mess around with that underlying structure,” Rosenthal said. It turns out that these squids and octopuses have much lower rates of DNA mutation — which Rosenthal called the “currency of evolution” — than other organisms. In other words, while most animals adapt and evolve through changes in DNA, they seemed to prioritize RNA recoding.

To further investigate how the animals curb their DNA mutation rate in favor of RNA recoding, Rosenthal plans to manipulating cephalopod genetics using the CRISPR-Cas9 gene editing technique. He'll just have to keep the octopus tank lids shut tightly each night.
- Symantec says it has been blocking attacks for the last three years that it attributes to Longhorn. In a security research blog it states, "The tools used by Longhorn closely follow development timelines and technical specifications laid out in documents disclosed by WikiLeaks. Given the close similarities between the tools and techniques, there can be little doubt that Longhorn's activities and the Vault 7 documents are the work of the same group."

Reading between the lines this is as close as Symantec can get without directly stating that the CIA and Longhorn could be one and the same.

A CIA spokesperson Heather Fritz Horniak told Reuters that the disclosures from WikiLeaks "not only jeopardize U.S. personnel and operations, but also equip our adversaries with tools and information to do us harm. It is important to note that CIA is legally prohibited from conducting electronic surveillance targeting individuals here at home, including our fellow Americans, and CIA does not do so."
- For citizens of the NATO countries who insist on blindly supporting the NATO war machine every time it kicks into action anywhere around the globe, and who buy into the rhetoric about helping people around the world and protecting interests abroad, ask yourself this: when was the last time that any war, anywhere, amounted to anything more than a swindle for the benefit of the bankers and the war industry, or anything less than a bloodbath for the average man or woman in the target country?
- Mr Evans labelled Mr Trump as "manifestly the most ill-informed, under-prepared, ethically challenged and psychologically ill-equipped president in US history".
- On the morning of April 4th 2017, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, on the verge of a military victory against the terrorist insurgency in his country and on the eve of peace talks that would secure his position as president, decided to use chemical weapons he didn’t have against a target of no military significance in front of as many cameras as possible to cross the one red line that would insure his own government’s downfall.

Soon after, the Academy Award-winning White Helmets–noted for their Oscar-worthy performances, persistent proximity to Al Qaeda, and financial dependence on USAID–bravely risked their lives, handling Sarin victims barehanded against every protocol in the book.

Without presenting a shred of evidence, President Donald Trump boldly launched a military strike against Shayrat airfield because “national security interest,” promising to help the “beautiful children” (*offer does not apply to babies in Gaza, Yemen, Pakistan, or basically anywhere else).

That military strike, a volley of 59 Tomahawk land attack missiles of which 23 actually made it to their target, failed to take out a single runway or even keep the airbase from operating for even 24 hours, but was a complete success for ExxonMobil, Raytheon and Donald Trump.
- Speaking in no uncertain terms at a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin late last month, Elvira Nabiullina, the Governor of Russia’s central bank, stated: “We have finished working on our own payment system, and if something happens, all operations in SWIFT format will work inside the country. We have created an alternative.”

Now maybe this story taken by itself is no big news. But let’s look at it the context of recent events:

Russia just created its first ever representative office of the Bank of Russia abroad…in Beijing. This move brings Russia one step closer to issuing its own sovereign yuan-denominated bonds.

Meanwhile the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China is now officially acting as a renminbi clearing bank in Russia, which expands local settlement business in direct yuan-ruble trade and follows Russia’s 2015 inclusion of the renminbi on its official reserve currency list.

Are you starting to see the bigger picture? Again, no one of these stories is a silver bullet, but they’re all related and they all point in the same direction: China and Russia are preparing for the inevitable(?) split with the US-dominated, dollar-denominated, SWIFT-networked global(ist) financial architecture.

Cheesy Tomato Based Pasta Recipe, Adding Subtitles to Video Files, and More

This is the latest in my series on quick, easy, and tasty meals:   http://dtbnguyen.blogspot.com/2018/08/cheapeasyhealthy-tomato-based-pa...