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World War III almost happened on this day, 30 years ago

by Magnifico Thu Sep 26th, 2013 at 12:58:09 AM EST

Stanislav Petrov had just settled into the commander's chair for night duty when the Soviet Union's early-warning satellite system reported that all hell was breaking loose.

"Suddenly the screen in front of me turned bright red," said Petrov. "An alarm went off. It was piercing, loud enough to raise a dead man from his grave."

"The computer showed that the Americans had launched a nuclear strike against us."

Minuteman launch

The uneasy quiet inside a secret bunker at Serpukhov-15 was disrupted just past midnight on September 26, 1983 by the warning of an incoming attack. The data from the satellite indicated a missile had been launched by the Americans. In a moment, another launch was detected, and then another. Soon, the system was "roaring".

This was not a drill. According to the data scrolling across the screen, the Soviet Union was under attack by five intercontinental ballistic missiles. "The warning system's computer, weighing the signal against static, concluded that a missile had been launched from a base in the United States."

There was precious few seconds to pause. On the panel in front of the 44-year-old lieutenant colonel of the Soviet Air Defense Forces "was a red pulsating button. One word flashed: 'Start.'"

"For 15 seconds, we were in a state of shock," he said. "We needed to understand, what's next?"

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24/7/365 - Drone War Changed America

by Magnifico Sun Nov 27th, 2011 at 04:02:52 PM EST

The way in which the United States wages war has dramatically changed in the past decade. America is now "protected" by drones that fly all over the world, around the clock, every day of the year. Ten years ago, the U.S. Air Force had only a single MQ-1 Predator drone.

"We've now got 57 Predators up, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, looking at different target points around the world," says Air Force Maj. Gen. James Poss. Poss helps oversee the Air Force's surveillance programs, which mostly revolve around drones.

The quote comes from an 11-minute news segment, "War By Remote Control: Drones Make It Easy", broadcast on NPR's All Things Considered.

Poss says the Air Force now recruits more pilots for unmanned aircraft than fighter and bomber pilots combined. A lot of the skills pilots need are the same -- spatial awareness, quick critical thinking skills -- but unlike pilots for manned aircraft, remote pilots don't need perfect vision. They don't need to worry about getting airsick. And combat can bring different strains, too.

"Unlike a person that deploys to combat, our remotely piloted aircraft force never leave combat," Poss says. Also, "you do leave your ground control station and drive home and you have to mow the lawn."


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Stock Exchange Mega Merger Mania

by Magnifico Thu Feb 10th, 2011 at 05:49:36 AM EST

Deutsche Börse AG, the owner and operator of the Frankfurt Stock Exchange (FWB Frankfurter Wertpapierbörse), is in advanced merger talks with NYSE Euronext, the owner and operator of the New York Stock Exchange.

The deal would create the "world's largest financial market," the New York Times reports. "Deutsche Börse would own as much as 60 percent of the new company, which would be incorporated in the Netherlands," leaving a symbolic satellite "headquarters" in Lower Manhattan for the Americans.

"Die Deutsche Börse will die New Yorker NYSE schlucken. / The German stock market will swallow the New York Stock Exchange", Der Spiegel reports.

"The global capital markets would benefit from the creation of the most efficient, transparent and well-regulated markets for issuers and clients around the world," the two corporations said in a joint statement without a hint of sarcasm.

Hooray! Just the thing to create more jobs. Another set of international financial institutions staged to grow 'too big to fail' and too big to regulate.

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Drought aggravated Amazon closer to tipping point of collapse

by Magnifico Sun Feb 6th, 2011 at 06:08:14 AM EST

The Amazon rainforests suffered a devastating drought last year. This was the second one-in-100 year drought since 2005 for the rainforests. News of the drought was left unreported by The New York Times and most other American media corporations, but ignoring it will not make its troubling global impact disappear.

Researchers from the U.K. and Brazil analyzed a decade of satellite-derived rainfall data to compare the two droughts and have just published their findings on the 2010 Amazon Drought in Science this week. They found that the 2010 drought was worse than the 2005 drought and predict the dying trees will release significantly more CO2 into the atmosphere than did the dying trees five years earlier.

The massive tree deaths are prompting fears that the Amazon is at its 'climate tipping point', The Guardian reports. Meaning the dying Amazon will flip from being a carbon sink to a major carbon source, emitting CO2 as its trees die from drought, then rot or catch fire and burn. "Such a feedback loop could cause runaway climate change, with disastrous consequences."

frontpaged - Nomad

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Europe is Doomed: Snowpocalypse Edition

by Magnifico Tue Dec 21st, 2010 at 08:08:26 AM EST

A casual and rambling survey of wintery news from across Europe for the month of December 2010.

RadioFree Europe: Europe Battles On Through Winter Onslaught

Northern Europe continues to battle against ice and snow, which have disrupting road, rail, and air traffic. In Poland, where temperatures have fallen to as low as -33 degree Celsius, authorities say 12 people froze to death overnight, bringing the country's overall death toll caused by harsh weather in the past three days to at least 30. Many of the victims were homeless people.

Heavy snowfall in the Old Town in Gdansk, Poland. (Reuters)

frontpaged with minor edit - Nomad

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CIA yanks top spy from Pakistan after cover blown, death threats

by Magnifico Sat Dec 18th, 2010 at 03:28:08 PM EST

The CIA's drone war is escalating in Pakistan and may have the potential to quickly slip out of control.

54 people were killed in U.S. drone-launched missile attacks, the Associated Press reported on Friday.

Three American missile attacks killed 54 alleged militants Friday close to the Afghan border, an unusually high number of victims that included commanders of a Taliban-allied group that were holding a meeting, Pakistani officials said.

The attacks took place in the Khyber tribal region, which has been rarely struck by American missiles before over the last three years. That could indicate a possible expansion of the CIA-led covert campaign of drone strikes inside Pakistani territory.

These attacks coincide with news that "the CIA yanked its top spy out of Pakistan after his cover was blown and his life threatened".

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Oil Will Drive the U.S. to More Wars Unless America Changes

by Magnifico Mon Dec 6th, 2010 at 12:13:18 AM EST

The United States of America is the world's biggest military spender and allocates more on its war machine than any other nation in the world. The U.S. paid $661 billion to the armaments industry in 2009, a recession year, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI). "This represented 43 percent of the total global spend, and was $47 billion higher than the 2008 U.S. expenditure, according to SIPRI." America has increased military spending by 63 precent since 2000, according to SIPRI. This increase has partially been driven by the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Joseph Stiglitz and Linda Bilmes estimate the "budgetary and economic costs" of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan will now be "between $4 trillion and $6 trillion". An upwards revision of 25 percent in just two years. The U.S. has already spent $1 trillion in Iraq and "spending in Iraq and Afghanistan now comes to more than $3 billion weekly, making the wars a major reason for record-level budget deficits."

The Obama administration was seeking a record $708 billion for the 2011 defense budget. Even with growing budget pressures, the Pentagon expects it budget to grow by 1 percent a year. When Americans have compelling domestic needs such as jobs, health care, education and a decaying infrastructure, why does it keep spending so much of its national wealth on its war making capacity?

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Conman posing as Taliban scams U.S. in sham negotiations

by Magnifico Tue Nov 23rd, 2010 at 10:27:38 AM EST

The United States was scammed out of "a lot of money" by an impostor from Pakistan posing to be a high ranking Taliban leader, The New York Times reports this morning.

The man, posing as Mullah Akhtar Muhammad Mansour, held secret talks with U.S., NATO, and Afghan officials, including Afghan President Hamid Karzai, and then after three meetings disappeared.

Not surprisingly, these so-called "high-level discussions... appear to have achieved little" and American officials have "given up hope that the Afghan was Mr. Mansour, or even a member of the Taliban leadership."

Promoted by Colman: I have no idea what to do with this, other than to bury my head under a pillow. So screwed up.

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Human extinction within the next 100 years

by Magnifico Mon Jun 28th, 2010 at 02:13:52 PM EST

Another wise old man thinks we humans are doomed.

Frank Fenner sees no hope for humans is how The Australian, Rupert Murdoch's rag, puts it. Virologist Frank Fenner, who oversaw the eradication of smallpox, now predicts that it is possible humans may be extinct by the end of this century.

Frank Fenner doesn't engage in the skirmishes of the climate wars. To him, the evidence of global warming is in. Our fate is sealed.

"We're going to become extinct," the eminent scientist says. "Whatever we do now is too late."

Fenner is 95 years old and I don't know if it is just that he is nearing the end of his life that his outlook is bleak, or if it is an insight gleaned from his long life.

"Homo sapiens will become extinct, perhaps within 100 years," he says. "A lot of other animals will, too. It's an irreversible situation. I think it's too late. I try not to express that because people are trying to do something, but they keep putting it off.

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For Sale: Blackwater

by Magnifico Tue Jun 8th, 2010 at 02:53:05 PM EST

Reuters and other news outlets are reporting that the company formerly known as Blackwater is pursing a sale of the company.

Xe Services announced its decision in a brief statement that gave few details, the agency said.

Owner and founder Erik Prince said in a statement that selling the company is a difficult decision, but constant criticism of Xe helped him make up his mind, according to the agency.

I think it isn't so much that Prince couldn't stand the constant criticism, but rather after Blackwater mercenaries massacred 17 Iraqi civilians in Nisoor Square in Baghdad on the September 16, 2007, he couldn't shake public attention to his once-fly-below-the-radar operation.

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DB wants ICE running from Cologne to London via the Chunnel

by Magnifico Fri May 28th, 2010 at 02:28:53 PM EST

Spiegel has posted an interview with Rüdiger Grube, the CEO of Deutsche Bahn, 'I Never Thought the Job Would Be Easy'. Here are some points from the interview that I found interesting.

  • DB's goal is to run the trains 90% on time.

  • €1 million is being spent to overhaul the coffee machines on ICE trains.

  • DB needs up to "up to 300 new trains for long-distance rail travel", an order they estimate to be worth €5 billion.

  • DB is trying to buy Arriva, the British transport operator, for €2.7 billion.

  • DB is investing €41 billion on German rail over the next 5 years.

  • DB is €15 billion in debt.

Also, Grube thinks French and British operators are blocking the DB from running ICE trains to London via the Channel Tunnel.

Read more... (30 comments, 601 words in story)

Hayek vs. Keynes: Epic Rap Battle

by Magnifico Tue Jan 26th, 2010 at 01:31:56 AM EST

About the video:

Econstories.tv is a place to learn about the economic way of thinking through the eyes of creative director John Papola and creative economist Russ Roberts.

In Fear the Boom and Bust, John Maynard Keynes and F. A. Hayek, two of the great economists of the 20th century, come back to life to attend an economics conference on the economic crisis. Before the conference begins, and at the insistence of Lord Keynes, they go out for a night on the town and sing about why there's a "boom and bust" cycle in modern economies and good reason to fear it.

Lyrics and a mp3 are available at the website of EconStories and in case it wasn't obvious from the video and lyrics about whose side the video skews toward, Papola and Roberts position becomes clear when they were interviewed by NPR about the economists' rap battle.

Papola's growing interest in the influential but little-known economist eventually led him to discover libertarian economist Russell Roberts, co-author of the popular blog Cafe Hayek and host of the EconTalk podcast.

Papola was an executive producer at Spike TV and "in 2009, he cold-called Roberts and left a 'long, ranting message' about how he was interested in the business cycle and monetary policy." Papola and Roberts oppose governments using economic stimulus as a means to revive an economy that has collapsed into a recession.

As Hayek fans, this didn't make Papola and Roberts too happy. They wanted to find a way to critique Keynes' theories and give Hayek the attention they thought he deserved... The resulting 6 1/2-minute music video tells the story of Keynes and Hayek going out for a night on the town. While drinking and rolling with their homies, they lay out the basics of their theories.

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Keeping Britain Safe... for the Goverment

by Magnifico Sat Jan 23rd, 2010 at 04:21:47 AM EST

On Friday, British Home Secretary Alan Johnson announced that the Labour government was going to raise the UK terror threat level evidently just for the hell of it. Johnson said "there was no intelligence to suggest an attack was imminent," The Guardian reported. "The change was not specifically linked to [any] increased threat from international terrorism".

Don't PanicThe current terrorism threat level is Severe

This means that a terrorist attack is highly likely.

"Johnson said the new level meant people needed to be 'more aware'," BBC News reported. Aware of what?

Perhaps with the general election due to take place on or before 3 June, the government is hoping the British public will be cowering in fear? After all, Johnson said "The number one job of the government is to keep the public safe".

But how, exactly, has the Labour government kept the British people safe?

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A giant has fallen: Economist Paul Samuelson dies at 94

by Magnifico Tue Dec 15th, 2009 at 06:26:58 AM EST

Paul Samuelson, the Noble Prize winning economist whose ideas helped shape the foundations of modern economics, died after a brief illness at his home in Belmont, Massachusetts. He was 94.

In 1970, Samuelson was the first American to receive the Nobel Prize for economics. He was cited by the prize committee "for the scientific work through which he has developed static and dynamic economic theory and actively contributed to raising the level of analysis in economic science".

The New York Times reports the Massachusetts Institute of Technology announced that Samuelson had died on Sunday. At MIT, Samuelson helped build the school into "into one of the world's great centers of graduate education in economics." Students and colleagues of Samuelson included fellow Nobel laureates George Akerlof, Robert Engle, Lawrence Klein, Paul Krugman, Franco Modigliani, Robert Merton, Robert Solow, and Joseph Stiglitz.

"Paul Samuelson was both a path-breaking and prolific economic theorist and one of the greatest teachers that economics has ever known," said Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke, a former student of Samuelson's told the Wall Street Journal. "I join with many other former students and colleagues of Paul's in mourning the passing of a titan of economics," he said.

frontpaged - Nomad

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LQD: An American neocon on European neopacifism

by Magnifico Sat Dec 5th, 2009 at 12:28:23 PM EST

Robert Kaplan, the resident neocon at The Atlantic, in his essay, "The Fall of the Wall", last week asked:

What does the European Union truly stand for besides a cradle-to-grave social welfare system? For without something to struggle for, there can be no civil society—only decadence.

In his latest dispatch, "Let's Go, Europe", Kaplan writes that "NATO staggers on" and that "just keeping Europe on the ground, in uniform, in Afghanistan represents an achievement of sorts" for the Obama administration that "that we should not belittle".

According to Kaplan:

Because the cause of international peace and security sometimes requires a willingness to fight, and humanitarian rescue missions often rely on skills honed in combat, the U.S. has, since the end of the Cold War, had to try to enlist Europe in its grand strategy, despite what some might legitimately consider Europe's neopacifism.

The caveats placed on European troops in Afghanistan aren't the only problem. The anemic level of European military spending in general is also a factor: only four countries (Great Britain, France, Greece, and Turkey) allocate at least two percent of their GDPs to defense--a requirement of all NATO members. And Greece and Turkey are well-armed only in the anticipation of fighting each other. Then there is Europe's continuing failure to form a rapid response force for out-of-area military emergencies.

At home, Europe's social safety net is estimable. But what will the European Union, now with its own president and foreign minister, work toward abroad? After all, a neopacifist Europe is the result not only of the continent's ethical awakening following centuries of war, but of a new strategic context in which Europeans simply face no credible security threat.


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CIA planned assassination in Germany

by Magnifico Thu Dec 3rd, 2009 at 03:16:32 PM EST

After the terrorist attacks in the United States on 11 September 2001, the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency planned an assasination of an al-Qaeda financier. The CIA carried out this operation in Germany without the knowledge of the German government, but with the help of Blackwater and it's CEO Erik Prince.

"This program died because of a lack of political will," according to an anonymous source quoted in the article, "Tycoon, Contractor, Soldier, Spy", by Adam Ciralsky in the January 2010 issue of Vanity Fair.

Among the team's targets, according to a source familiar with the program, was Mamoun Darkazanli, an al-Qaeda financier living in Hamburg who had been on the agency's radar for years because of his ties to three of the 9/11 hijackers and to operatives convicted of the 1998 bombings of U.S. Embassies in East Africa. The C.I.A. team supposedly went in "dark," meaning they did not notify their own station--much less the German government--of their presence; they then followed Darkazanli for weeks and worked through the logistics of how and where they would take him down.

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Biden's role in shaping America's policy toward Afghanistan

by Magnifico Wed Dec 2nd, 2009 at 01:55:30 AM EST

The New York Times Magazine has a detailed and largely name-sourced article written by James Traub of how Joe Biden has changed the office of the U.S. Vice President since the departure of Dick Cheney. The piece, "After Cheney", primarily focuses upon Biden's foreign policy role in the Obama administration and his influence on the White House's Afghanistan debate. The article also touches upon how Biden is departing from the Cheney precedent.

Biden was reluctant accept Barack Obama's invite to be his running-mate and lose "his role as a Senate baron". According to Joe Podesta, who headed Obama's transition, Biden "didn't want to be the guy in charge of x portfolio". Like Cheney before him, Biden wanted to the final person to speak to the president before a decision was to be made. "On foreign policy," Traub writes, "Biden has largely realized his wish".

He attends the president's daily briefing every morning with James L. Jones, the national-security adviser; often Biden will stay behind for a few minutes to raise other issues. He has a weekly lunch with the president and no staff members. He sits in on most of the "principals' meetings" of top national-security officials, which occur about once a week; unlike Cheney, a silent presence at these sessions, Biden has plenty to say. Biden attends every important meeting on foreign policy the president holds.

Obama announced 30,000 more troops - afew

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LQD: "Debunking the Dumping the Dollar Conspiracy"

by Magnifico Thu Nov 5th, 2009 at 04:57:32 AM EST

Originally published on October 8th

In response to Robert Fisk's the 'U.S. Dollar is Doomed' article in the Independent on Tuesday, Dean Baker, an American economist and co-founder of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, has an essay at Foreign Policy "Debunking the Dumping-the-Dollar Conspiracy".

Baker points out the scenario Fisk outlined in his anonymous sourced article has been a "persistent, recurring conspiracy theory" over the past decade.

Fisk says, the dollar will suffer a severe blow to its international standing and the United States might struggle to pay for its oil...

Fisk's theory would make a good plot for a Hollywood movie, but it doesn't make much sense as economics. It is true that oil is priced in dollars and that most oil is traded in dollars, but these facts make relatively little difference for the status of the dollar as an international currency or the economic well-being of the United States.

Baker explains that any market "requires a unit of measure" and while the dollar is convenient, "there would be no real difference if the euro, the yen, or even bushels of wheat were selected as the unit of account for the oil market."

"It's simply an accounting issue," he writes.

We don't need no stinkin' conspiracies - diary rescue by Migeru

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LQD: "There Is No Left and There Is No Right Any More In Europe"

by Magnifico Tue Sep 29th, 2009 at 12:30:54 PM EST

Journalist Michael Goldfarb argues that only centrists remain in Europe in a short essay at GlobalPost: "Left, right, left, right -- halt!!! one, two".

And now come the stories about the rise of the Right, the collapse of the Left!!

Stop it.  Stop it right now, all editors, reporters, and think-tank types with good degrees from fancy private colleges opining in quarterly journals few people read.  Stop writing this tripe right now!!!

There is no left and there is no right any more in Europe, at least not by the historic definitions of those terms.  There is only a center ground and all politicians with a hope of electoral success occupy it.

Europe's left -- with its historic ties to statist socialism is dead, dead, dead.

Goldfarb writes that Francois Mitterand killed the left 30 years ago, with Tony Blair issuing the coup de grâce 15 years ago. On the right, Goldfarb writes that British Conservatives today are pale imitations of Thatcherites. Angela Merkel is not going to attack Germany's unions and Nicolas Sarkozy is not dismantling the socialist state.

Left and right have meaning only where radical politics have real purchase in a society.  In Europe that is only at the fringe so there is no need to apply those terms in Europe. The U.S. is different. The fringe has taken over a mainstream political party turning the Republicans into the only party in the civilized world that is truly radical. So you can use the appelation "right-wing" when discussing U.S. politics.  But the Republicans are not counter-balanced by a radical party of the left.  The only people who see radicalism in the Democrats are the propagandizers of the "right." Impartial observers have yet to detect it. Therefore America has a "right-wing" but no "left-wing."

I agree with his assessment of the U.S. America does not have a leftwing, even the Progressive caucus of the Democratic Party are more centrist than radical lefties. So as consequence, the pull on American politics is constantly to the right.

However, not being in Europe I don't have a good feel if Goldfarb's assessment is correct. Is the left and the right today in Europe just shadows of their past? Are European politicians a collection of centrists?

Comments >> (37 comments)

LQD: Population growth as Ponzi scheme

by Magnifico Tue Sep 15th, 2009 at 07:38:35 AM EST

The 'Rebuilding the Economy' series at the Christian Science Monitor has an article that asks Is population growth a Ponzi scheme?

Notions that population growth is a boon for prosperity - or that national political success depends on it - are "Ponzi demography," says Joseph Chamie, former director of the population division of the United Nations.

The profits of growth go to the few, and everyone else picks up the tab.


Diary Rescue by Migeru

Read more... (44 comments, 342 words in story)
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