Thursday, April 18, 2013

Crowdsourcing - Boston Bombing - Current

Jim Walsh, a terrorism expert at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Security Studies Program, joins Michael Shure inside “The War Room” to talk about how investigators are crowdsourcing for photos and videos of the Boston Marathon bombings. “What’s different about this [crowdsourcing] effort by law enforcement is the amount of data, as much as 3 terabytes,” Walsh says in explaining the sheer amount of information law enforcement may be able to use in the investigation.

Responding to Terror

Boston terrorism
These days, it is difficult to find common ground on almost anything among Democrats and Republicans, as President Obama has seen time and time again. Partisan wrangling is especially intense around issues of national security. Indeed, President Obama famously (and I believe, erroneously) opposed any official effort to examine the abuses of detainees after 9/11 out of concern that it would devolve into partisan bickering that would derail other items on his agenda. Yet on this task force, Republicans and Democrats agreed—unanimously—that the United States’s most senior officials are responsible for war crimes and abuses of fundamental human rights—torture, enforced disappearances and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment.
The task force report comes at a propitious time. Since 9/11, many have asked how the United States would respond to “the next attack,” with most predicting a devolving spiral of human rights violations and overreactions. But such a response is far from inevitable. Common Dreams

Doublethink - Orwell's term for inconvenient facts ignored

Boston bombing
“doublethink,” which George Orwell described as willingness “to forget any fact that has become inconvenient.”
In sync with media outlets across the country, the New York Times put a chilling headline on Wednesday’s front page: “Boston Bombs Were Loaded to Maim, Officials Say.” The story reported that nails and ball bearings were stuffed into pressure cookers, “rigged to shoot sharp bits of shrapnel into anyone within reach of their blast.”
Much less crude and weighing in at 1,000 pounds, CBU-87/B warheads were in the category of “combined effects munitions” when put to use 14 years ago by a bomber named Uncle Sam. The U.S. media coverage was brief and fleeting.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

"No more killing people - Peace" - Martin Richard

No More hurting people. Peace": 8-year old Martin Richard was killed in yesterday's bombing in Boston.

The New Confederacy

A widely-held and useful definition for confederacy is: A group of people who have united for unlawful practices; a conspiracy. Though, like the word terrorist, which the US government assigns liberally to foreigners - especially those of color who dare stand in the way of power - the words confederacy and conspiracy are not terms the US chooses to use in describing itself.

Venezuela: Disputed Chavism Win in Close Vote

Candidate Nicolás Maduro, designated by Hugo Chávez as his successor, won the elections of April 14, 2013, with 50.66% of the votes. Only 230 thousand votes separated him from his opponent Henrique Capriles Radonski, who disputed the result and called for a recount and street protests.
Read more on Global  Voices »

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

So why are Israelis so damn happy, anyway?

Israeli Families Expecting their imminent demise are fearless,  They have feelings of belonging and importance.
Posted: 15 Apr 2013 11:00 AM PDT
Tiffanie Wen at Open Zion is perplexed:
Elder of Zion

By now everyone in Israel has read the results of the study published earlier this month that showed Israelis ranked among the happiest people among the Western nations, despite an extensive laundry list of problems in their country.

Israel ranked low in terms of income, housing, education and security for example—all things we would typical associate with contentment. As an Asian-American who hails from San Francisco, I could add a few of my own complaints to the list: lack of ethnic food, the outrageous cost of imported goods, the raging summer heat, the marginalization of minorities and refugees, and the famous Israeli frankness that has me constantly fielding questions about why I pay so much for my apartment and my (ever so subtle) fluctuation in weight (Up or down? Eating cakes or working out?), chief among them.

So then why—if they probably can't find a job or afford the apartment that they live in—are Israelis so damn happy?

War has quite a bit to do with it.
The fact is that Israel has been in a perpetual state of war—or under the threat of war—since David Ben-Gurion declared independence in May 1948, the only Western country in the world in which this is the case.

Even during periods of "peace," there still seems to exist, at a minimum, a potential intifada brewing in the West Bank, or chemical weapons making their way into the hands of Hezbollah, or rockets being lobbed into the country from Gaza.

And this has created a fascinating psychological paradox, one that has been studied extensively by Professor Zahava Solomon of Tel Aviv University. On one hand, as she told me in a recent phone interview, the culture of conflict has made Israelis constantly aware of their potential demise; on the other it has made them virtually fearless.
Think about it. How would you act if you woke up every morning thinking that this day could be your last? Or at least took a moment to imagine how you would be eulogized at your funeral? (An exercise that Stephen Covey recommended in his wildly popular “Seven Habits of Highly Effective People,” although admittedly “live in a war zone” did not make the list.)

The point is this: you'd enjoy the day you had.
And if you continued to survive until the next morning, this daily exercise might develop into a mantra for how you lived your life. And you might bother to take that beach day, or spend more time with your family. You might grow a pair and launch that startup you've been thinking about (Boom: Silicon Wadi) or stop a beautiful woman on the street and insist that she have lunch with you, or park on the sidewalk if there was no other parking within a five-block radius. You might climb a mountain, or go scuba diving or backpack in South America for a year. All things that Israelis do in droves, and that, in my opinion, probably lead to a more fulfilling existence.

If constant war or threat of war makes people happy, then people in Iraq and Lebanon must be ecstatic!

Ms. Wen and her TAU professor) is completely clueless.

Haaretz was even more flummoxed:
It’s not clear why Israelis are so happy, despite a relatively poor showing on measures such as housing, income, job security, community support and education. It could be that what makes the average Norwegian happy doesn’t do the trick in Israel. Or maybe Israelis try to appear happy even when they’re not and respond to pollsters accordingly.

Yeah, they are just pretending to be happy to pollsters!

The answer is not such a mystery, and it sheds more light that you might expect.

Happiness comes from many sources, but a critical one is a sense of belonging.

Israelis don't just think of themselves as citizens of a state, of a random set of people with nothing in common except an accident of where they were born. They think of themselves as a family. (This mostly applies to Jews, but not exclusively.)

This is why they can be rude to each other - because there is a knowledge that, just like in your family underneath that rudeness is love. That's why bumping into someone in the store is a lot less likely to escalate into a gunfight. You can yell and threaten and curse - but deep down you know that you are all one people.

There is a second criteria for happiness, especially obvious in the workplace. It is that one must has a sense of accomplishment, of doing something important, and of fulfilling one's responsibility.

Here, again, Israeli Jews share that idea. Just by living in Israel they are making a statement to the world that they are in their home. By sharing the burden of serving in the IDF they know they are defending their people from those who want to kill them. They aren't just anonymous citizens of a state. Everyone is important, because everyone depends on each other.

This is why Ms. Wen doesn't get it. She lives in Israel but only as an outside observer, not as an Israeli. She cannot fathom the sense of fulfillment that comes from these twin senses of belonging and of accomplishment at fulfilling your responsibilities towards those you love.

Ha'aretz, the TAU professor and many of those who live in the Tel Aviv "bubble" are also clueless - because to them Israel is just an abstraction, a land to be analyzed and criticized but not one to be viscerally involved with. To them, the emotional ties of Jews to the land of their forefathers is a silly superstitious myth - and they cannot fathom how it is the source of Israeli happiness and contentment.

This survey, unwittingly, reveals more about Israel's critics than it does about the subjects of the survey itself.

(h/t Ian)