The second-largest man-made hole in the world (surpassed only by the Bingham Copper Mine in Utah) is a diamond mine located on the outskirts of Mirny, a small town in eastern Siberia. Begun in 1955, the pit is now 1,722 feet deep and 0.78 miles in diameter. Stalin initially ordered construction of the mine to satisfy the Soviet Union's need for industrial-grade diamonds.
The harsh, frozen Siberian landscape made working on the mine a difficult proposition at best. Jet engines were turned on the unyielding permafrost in order to melt it; when that failed, explosives were used. During its peak years of operation, the Mirny mine produced over ten million carats of diamonds annually, a good percentage of which were gem-quality.
Operations ceased in 2001, but the site didn’t lie dormant for long. Diamond mining now takes place in great volumes at the Mir Underground Mine, which lies just underneath the original open pit. To get to the base of the pit, massive twenty-foot tall rock-hauling trucks travel along a road that spirals down from the lip of the hole to its basin. The round-trip travel time is two hours.
30 June 2013
While surely using amazing technology for the time (and not bad, even by today's standards), the brothers (born conjoined but surgically separated in an operation that would be difficult today; in an era centuries before antibiotics, it's a wonder of Hollywood that they survived) fight an oppressive tyrant (played by the inestimal Akim Tamirov) and each other (over a woman, of course) and display some remarkable swordsmanship. (There's a 'fighting-while-wounded scene that looks remarkably like the one in Princess Bride...)
Worth watching (but not the remake).
28 June 2013
Sent from my iPhone
Too soft for their own good, them Swedes
Swedish Court Hands Out Light Sentence to Muslim Teen Rapists
A light sentence has been handed out to six teenage boys, aged 15 to 17, from the diverse Muslim community in Sweden for raping a 15-year-old girl in a north-western suburb of Stockholm in March. Five of the teens were found guilty of aggravated rape by the Solna District Court, with the sixth guilty of attempted aggravated rape.
Five of the boys were sentenced to over one hundred hours of community service each, and have been ordered to pay 55,000 kronor ($8,500) each, in damages to the victim. The punishment given to the sixth, if any, was not reported.
The reason given for the light punishment was the fact that the boys are minors. The Swedish court also concluded that the boys had already been already punished to some extent by having their pictures and their personal details exposed on the internet.
The attack took place in early March at an apartment in Tensta, where teens took turns raping the girl. Four of the boys confessed but denied that they committed any crime.
It is worth noting that the court never doubted that the incident took place and that it was rape. The court found the girl's testimony to be "a cohesive, long, and relatively detailed account" that did not contain "any contradictions or elements to the story that could be considered inexplicable"
Ironically, although the UN ranks Sweden high on the list when it comes to women's rights, a highly publicized study shows that Sweden has become the second highest rape capital of the world (after South Africa) and the highest incidents of reported rapes in Europe, twice as many as the UK, the runner-up country and six times as many of the U.S.
The incidences of rape have shot up as Sweden has accepted immigrants from Muslim countries. Although Muslims now make up 6 % of the Swedish population, 77.6% of all rape crimes are committed by Muslims.
Statistics now suggest that 1 out of every 4 Swedish women will be raped in her lifetime (Between the ages of 16-79), with the statistics higher in urban centers where the immigrants cluster. In Stockholm last summer there was an average of five rapes reported per day, with the largest increases being found in children under 15. Stockholm is now made up of one-third immigrant and is between a fifth and a quarter Muslim.
Copyright © 2013 Clarion Project, Inc. All rights reserved.
27 June 2013
This was lost in the SCOTUS shuffle during the past two days, but it's worth revisiting:
Hong Kong has finally shed some additional light on the paperwork mix-up that it claims was the reason officials there ultimately allowed Edward Snowden to board a flight for Russia despite the United States making it very clear they wanted the former NSA contractor arrested. According to The Associated Press:Justice Secretary Rimsky Yuen said that Hong Kong immigration records listed Snowden’s middle name as Joseph, but the US government used the name James in some documents and referred to him only as Edward J. Snowden in others. "These three names are not exactly the same, therefore we believed that there was a need to clarify," he said. Yuen said US authorities also did not provide Snowden’s passport number.(For the moment, let's set aside the obvious jokes about how the US government failed to have some rather basic information about an ex-defense contractor who himself exposed the lengths the government goes to collect information about people.)
Yuen said the confusion over Snowden’s identification and his passport were among factors that delayed an arrest. He said the government requested clarification from its counterparts in the US. “Up until the moment of Snowden’s departure, the very minute, the US Department of Justice did not reply to our request for further information. Therefore, in our legal system, there is no legal basis for the requested provisional arrest warrant,” Yuen said. In the absence of such a warrant, the “Hong Kong government has no legal basis for restricting or prohibiting Snowden leaving Hong Kong.”
According to the Justice Department, Hong Kong's defense doesn't exactly add up. A DoJ spokeswoman told Politico that, under the extradition agreement between Washington and Hong Kong, the US only had to provide Snowden’s description, an "indication that a surrender request will follow", a list of the crimes he is charged with and the applicable punishments, and "a description of the facts", all of which the department claims that it did.
"The fugitive’s photos and videos were widely reported through multiple news outlets," the Justice spokeswoman said. "That Hong Kong would ask for more information about his identity demonstrates that it was simply trying to create a pretext for not acting on the provisional arrest request."
Rico says it was on the beach, but the statute of limitations has expired...
26 June 2013
Chewy BallsFuk mi (sushi seafood buffet)Rico says that, with the exception of Dirty Dick's and Crabby Dick's (which he's seen, but not eaten at), it seems that the Asian restaurant chains have a little translation problem...
Soon Fatt (Chinese take-away)
Rong Phuk Restaurant
Golden Shower Restaurant
Young Dong Garden (Korean Cuisine & Drinks)
Dirty Dick'sThe Chocolate Log (Confectionery & Coffee Shop)
Bung HoleHappy CrackGolden Stool (Bar, Restaurant, Night Club)
Phat Phuc Noodle Bar (Authentic Vietnamese Food)
buttyboysPu Pu Hot Pot (Chinese Restaurant)
Hung Far Low Restaurant
Big Wong Restaurant
Crabby Dick's Delaware Marketplace & Grill (Dip Yer Balls in Our Seaman Sauce)
Written by Steven King. eries directed by Jack Bender. Starring many people (more recognizable by their faces than their names) who obviously needed the money...
Sent from my iPhone
25 June 2013
Sent from my iPhone
Sent from my iPhone
Rico says his father, a world-famous oceanographer, says it was not a tsunami, there was no 'slump' of the continental shelf, and that it was probably a by-product of the recent off-shore storm...
24 June 2013
Background checks are back. Last week, Vice President Joe Biden said that five senators— enough to change the outcome— have told him they’re looking for a way to switch their votes and pass legislation requiring a criminal background check for the purchase of a firearm. Senator Joe Manchin, the West Virginia Democrat who led the fight for the bill, is firing back at the National Rifle Association with a new television ad. The White House, emboldened by polls that indicate damage to senators who voted against the bill, is pushing Congress to reconsider it.Rico says he's not surprised, only surprised that they admitted to them...
The gun control debate is certainly worth reopening. But if we’re going to reopen it, let’s not just rethink the politics. Let’s take another look at the facts. Earlier this year, President Obama ordered the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to assess the existing research on gun violence and recommend future studies. That report, prepared by the Institute of Medicine and the National Research Council, is now complete. Its findings won’t entirely please the Obama administration nor the NRA, but all of us should consider them. Here’s a list of the ten most salient or surprising takeaways:
1. The United States has an indisputable gun violence problem. According to the report, “the U.S. rate of firearm-related homicide is higher than that of any other industrialized country: 19.5 times higher than the rates in other high-income countries.”These conclusions do not line up perfectly with either side’s agenda. That’s a good reason to take them seriously, and to fund additional data collection and research that have been blocked by Congress over politics. Yes, the facts will surprise you. That’s why you should embrace them.
2. Most indices of crime and gun violence are getting better, not worse. “Overall crime rates have declined in the past decade, and violent crimes, including homicides specifically, have declined in the past 5 years,” the report notes. “Between 2005 and 2010, the percentage of firearm-related violent victimizations remained generally stable.” Meanwhile, “firearm-related death rates for youth ages 15 to 19 declined from 1994 to 2009.” Accidents are down, too: “Unintentional firearm-related deaths have steadily declined during the past century. The number of unintentional deaths due to firearm-related incidents accounted for less than 1 percent of all unintentional fatalities in 2010.”
3. We have 300 million firearms, but only 100 million are handguns. According to the report, “In 2007, one estimate placed the total number of firearms in the country at 294 million: ‘106 million handguns, 105 million rifles, and 83 million shotguns.’ ” This translates to nearly nine guns for every 10 people, a per capita ownership rate nearly 50 percent higher than the next most armed country. But American gun ownership is concentrated, not universal: In a December 2012 Gallup poll, “43 percent of those surveyed reported having a gun in the home.”
4. Handguns are the problem. Despite being outnumbered by long guns, “Handguns are used in more than 87 percent of violent crimes,” the report notes. In 2011, “handguns comprised 72.5 percent of the firearms used in murder and non-negligent manslaughter incidents.” Why do criminals prefer handguns? One reason, according to surveys of felons, is that they’re “easily concealable.”
5. Mass shootings are not the problem. “The number of public mass shootings of the type that occurred at Sandy Hook Elementary School accounted for a very small fraction of all firearm-related deaths,” says the report. “Since 1983 there have been 78 events in which 4 or more individuals were killed by a single perpetrator in 1 day in the United States, resulting in 547 victims and 476 injured persons.” Compare that with the 335,000 gun deaths between 2000 and 2010 alone.
6. Gun suicide is a bigger killer than gun homicide. From 2000 to 2010, “firearm-related suicides significantly outnumbered homicides for all age groups, annually accounting for 61 percent of the more than 335,600 people who died from firearm-related violence in the United States,” says the report. Firearm sales are often a warning: Two studies found that “a small but significant fraction of gun suicides are committed within days to weeks after the purchase of a handgun, and both also indicate that gun purchasers have an elevated risk of suicide for many years after the purchase of the gun.”
7. Guns are used for self-defense often and effectively. “Almost all national survey estimates indicate that defensive gun uses by victims are at least as common as offensive uses by criminals, with estimates of annual uses ranging from about a half million to more than three million per year …in the context of about three hundred thousand violent crimes involving firearms in 2008,” says the report. The three million figure is probably high, “based on an extrapolation from a small number of responses taken from more than nineteen national surveys.” But a much lower estimate of a hundred thousand also seems fishy, “because respondents were not asked specifically about defensive gun use.” Furthermore, “Studies that directly assessed the effect of actual defensive uses of guns (i.e., incidents in which a gun was 'used' by the crime victim in the sense of attacking or threatening an offender) have found consistently lower injury rates among gun-using crime victims compared with victims who used other self-protective strategies.”
8. Carrying guns for self-defense is an arms race. The prevalence of firearm violence near “drug markets …could be a consequence of drug dealers carrying guns for self-defense against thieves or other adversaries who are likely to be armed,” says the report. In these communities, “individuals not involved in the drug markets have similar incentives for possessing guns.” According to a Pew Foundation report, “the vast majority of gun owners say that having a gun makes them feel safer. And far more today than in 1999 cite protection—rather than hunting or other activities—as the major reason for why they own guns.”
9. Denying guns to people under restraining orders does save lives. “Two-thirds of homicides of ex- and current spouses were committed [with] firearms,” the report observes. “In locations where individuals under restraining orders to stay away from current or ex-partners are prohibited from access to firearms, female partner homicide is reduced by seven percent.”
10. It is not true that most gun acquisitions by criminals can be blamed on a few bad dealers. The report concedes that, in 1998, “1,020 of 83,272 federally licensed retailers (1.2 percent) accounted for 57.4 percent of all guns traced by the ATF.” However, “gun sales are also relatively concentrated; approximately fifteen percent of retailers request eighty percent of background checks on gun buyers conducted by the National Instant Criminal Background Check System.” Researchers have found that “the share of crime gun traces attributed to these few dealers only slightly exceeded their share of handgun sales, which are almost equally concentrated among a few dealers.” Volume, not laxity, drives the number of ill-fated sales.
On Friday, a nine-year-old boy from Canton, Ohio was shot and killed when a rifle that he and a fourteen-year-old cousin had been looking at unexpectedly discharged. The rifle belonged to the older boy’s father. On Sunday, a five-year-old New Orleans girl shot and killed herself with a .38-caliber revolver. The girl found the gun when her mother left her alone in the house to go to the store. The mother returned to find her daughter lying on the bedroom floor, a bullet in her head. The girl died later that day. (CBS News is reporting that Laderika Smith, the mother of the five-year-old girl who shot and killed herself recently, will be charged with second-degree murder. I'm glad that she'll be held responsible for her daughter's death, but I'm not entirely sure that a straight-up murder charge is appropriate here. More on this after I've had time to consider it.)Rico says that, for once, he agrees: let your kid (or the neighbors') use your gub to shoot someone, you do the time...
According to NBC News, the girl’s mother, Laderika Smith, has been charged with “cruelty to a juvenile” because she left her daughter alone in the house; authorities in New Orleans are apparently deciding whether to bring more serious charges against Smith. The "cruelty to minors" charge was likely brought because Louisiana might not have any other way to hold Smith culpable for the death of her child. According to the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, Louisiana doesn't have any child access prevention laws, which provide for the prosecution of adults who give children access to guns. Neither does Ohio, and, as such, it’s not clear whether charges will be filed in the Canton case; in remarks to the media, the local sheriff characterized the incident as both a tragedy, which it is, and an accident, which it most certainly is not.
I apologize to those of you who are regular readers, because you probably know what I’m going to say next. Nevertheless, given that children keep dying due to negligent firearm discharges, I feel obliged to keep saying it. These incidents might be unpredictable, but they’re not accidental. Every single one of the child shooting deaths I’ve covered over the past two months could have been prevented if the relevant adults had stored their guns in gun safes, instead of on shelves or tables; if they would have checked to confirm that the guns were unloaded and the chambers were clear; if they would have directly supervised their children when they were using the guns, instead of assuming that the kids knew what they were doing.
The Canton and New Orleans incidents mentioned above are typical. In both cases, the kids were left unsupervised in a house where there were one or more unsecured firearms; the parents or guardians apparently assumed that the kids either wouldn’t find the guns or were mature enough to handle them safely. This makes no sense to me. Why would you trust your child’s safety to an assumption?
I understand why people want to categorize these incidents as accidents. It seems heartless to prosecute a parent who just lost his or her child. But these shootings would almost certainly decrease if there was a clear societal expectation that when you bring a gun into your home, for reasons of sport or protection, you will be held responsible for everything that happens with that gun. Period.
Prosecuting the parents in these incidents is one way to make that expectation known. These children die because their parents or guardians fail to observe certain basic, common-sense gun safety precautions. Their deaths are a direct consequence of this careless, cavalier attitude toward gun safety. It is criminal negligence, and state and local governments need to start treating it as such.
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22 June 2013
One idea that will not die is the notion that Lincoln could have purchased the slaves freedom, and thus avoided the Civil War. This argument ignores many factors, among them: The fact that slavemasters actually liked being slavemasters and believe their system to be a "positive good." The fact that slavery was a social institution that granted benefits beyond hard cash. The fact that Lincoln tried compensated emancipation in Delaware and was rebuffed. The fact that no state was eager to have a large portion of black free people within its borders. But more than anything, the argument ignores the fact that compensated emancipation was not economically possible. At all.Rico says these speculations were, of course, superceded by actual history. (And Ron Paul is, and was, an idiot...)
Rather then going through this again, I am reposting something I wrote when Ron Paul was arguing that compensated emancipation somehow would have prevented the Civil War. I do this with some frustration. More than anything, the Civil War has taught me that people often believe what they perceive it to be in their interest to believe. The facts of the Civil War are not mysterious to us. But they are, evidently, too brutal for of us to take. And so we find ourselves into a soloutionism premised on the idea that we are smarter than our forefathers. We are not. The Civil War is a fact. It happened for actual reasons. Those reasons do not change because they make us uncomfortable, nor because we believe in the magic of intellectual cowardice.
I saw the graph above for the first time yesterday, and it made me shiver. It's taken from historian Roger L. Ransom's article The Economics Of The Civil War.
When you look at how American planters discussed slavery, over time, you find a marked shift. In the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, slavery is is seen as an unfortunate inheritance, a problem of morality lacking a practical solution. Thomas Jefferson's articulation is probably the definitive in this school of thinking:
There must doubtless be an unhappy influence on the manners of our people produced by the existence of slavery among us. The whole commerce between master and slave is a perpetual exercise of the most boisterous passions, the most unremitting despotism on the one part, and degrading submissions on the other.In Jefferson's day, talk of eventual abolition was not particularly rare in the South. Slave-owners spoke of colonization and some even emancipated their own slaves. The Quakers had a presence in the South and, in the late eighteenth century, banned slave-holding. Prominent slave-owning southerners like Henry Clay were in pursuit of some kind of compromise which would purge the country of its birth taint.
But, by the 1830s, such thinking was out of vogue in the South. Men like Henry Clay's cousin Cassius Clay, once wrote:
Slavery is an evil to the slave, by depriving nearly three millions of men of the best gift of God to man: liberty. I stop here; this is enough of itself to give us a full anticipation of the long catalogue of human woe, and physical and intel- lectual and moral abasement which follows in the wake of Slavery. Slavery is an evil to the master. It is utterly subservient of the Christian religion. It violates the great law upon which that religion is based, and on account of which it vaunts its preeminence.In 1845 Clay was run out of Kentucky by a mob. By then the Calhoun school had taken root, and Southerners had begun arguing that slavery was not immoral, but a positive good:
Never before has the black race of Central Africa, from the dawn of history to the present day, attained a condition so civilized and so improved, not only physically, but morally and intellectually. In the meantime, the white or European race has not degenerated. It has kept pace with its brethren in other sections of the Union where slavery does not exist. It is odious to make comparison; but I appeal to all sides whether the South is not equal in virtue, intelligence, patriotism, courage, disinterestedness, and all the high qualities which adorn our nature.
But I take higher ground. I hold that in the present state of civilization, where two races of different origin, and distinguished by color, and other physical differences, as well as intellectual, are brought together, the relation now existing in the slaveholding States between the two, is, instead of an evil, a good--a positive good.
This is not just a rebuke of abolitionist thinking, but a rebuke of Jeffersonian thinking. Fifteen years later, Alexander Stephens would call Jefferson out by name, arguing that his presumption of equality among men was a grievous error.
Perhaps this is too crude an interpretation, but the graph above, measuring the incredible rise in the wealth represented by the pilfering of black labor, tracks directly with the political debate. When slaves were worth only a cool three hundred million dollars, property in man was an "unhappy influence". When that number skyrocketed in excess of three billion dollars, suddenly it was a "positive good". Perhaps this is to deterministic. I leave it to my fellow commenters to color in the portrait. At any rate the notion that such an interest— by far the greatest collective asset in the country at the time— could be merely incidental to the war is creationist quackery.
But on to the problem.
Ron Paul's argument is essentially that it would have been better for the government to bail out slave-holders by effecting a mass purchase of blacks. This would have saved a lot of money, as well as the lives and limbs of a lot of white people. I do not believe that saving lives and limbs of any people— white or black— to be a disreputable goal. But I refuse to lose sight of the fact that slavery was, itself, war. And the lives and limbs of black people were perpetually at stake for centuries. From 1860 to 1865, the rest of the country received a concentrated dose of that medicine which black people had been made to quaff for over two and a half centuries. It is now a century and a half later, but still in some corners of white America it is fashionable to remain embittered.
Nevertheless, the saving of people is, indeed, a noble goal, and Paul is not without at least the rudiments of a case. Enslaved black people were constructed into an interest representing three billion dollars. ($70-75 billion in twenty-first century money.) But including expenditures, loss of property, and loss of life (human capital), the War, according to Ransom, cost $6.6 billion.
The numbers are clear: the South's decision to raise an army, encourage sedition among its neighbors, and fire on federal property, was an economic disaster for white America. Moreover, the loss of six hundred thousand lives, in a war launched to erect an empire on the cornerstone of white supremacy and African slavery, was a great moral disaster for all corners of America.
In the most crude sense, it would have been much "cheaper" for the government to effect a mass purchase. But how? Ransom gives us some thoughts:
One "economic" solution to the slave problem would be for those who objected to slavery to "buy out" the economic interest of Southern slaveholders. Under such a scheme, the Federal government would purchase slaves. A major problem here was that the costs of such a scheme would have been enormous. Claudia Goldin estimates that the cost of having the government buy all the slaves in the United States in 1860 would be almost three billion dollars. Obviously, such a large sum could not be paid all at once. Yet, even if the payments were spread over 25 years, the annual costs of such a scheme would involve a tripling of Federal government outlays! The costs could be reduced substantially if, instead of freeing all the slaves at once, children were left in bondage until the age of 18 or 21. Yet there would remain the problem of how even those reduced costs could be distributed among various groups in the population. The cost of any "compensated" emancipation scheme was so high that even those who wished to eliminate slavery were unwilling to pay for a "buyout" of those who owned slaves.It is statement on the quality of our journalism, that I have seen Ron Paul repeatedly note that compensated emancipation would have avoided the Civil War, but I never saw a journalist ask him: How? The how is quite clear— either by tripling the Federal budget for 25 years, or through the continued enslavement of children.
These are all questions from the buyer-side. What about the seller? Would slaveholders willingly sell at "fair" price? How do we decide fair?
Edward Gaffney offers some comments:
As a slaveowner, you know that an abolitionist government values slaves more than you. In particular, they don't have a reason to pay lower prices as they buy more slaves. Therefore, the market in slaves breaks down immediately upon the beginning of compensated emancipation. Suddenly, there's a big buyer who will keep on buying. Just like a bond trader, why would you charge a big buyer the liquid market price if you know he's not going to stop buying? You should charge him the highest value of the last slave owned by any slaveowner, at the very least.This is the theory of the cartel in the economics of industrial organisation. The social apparatus of a slaveholding society should minimise the number of defections from this cartel by easy sellers; in particular, they would fear that one's status would fall if one chooses money while one's neighbours choose to continue owning human beings. Sellers now have the market power; the price rises as a result.
A government which buys slaves, with the explicit intent to buy all slaves, is in a poor bargaining position versus slaveowners. Signalling your intention to buy up all the supply of a commodity on the market increases the price you'll pay, whether that be bonds or human beings.
The thought-experiment, here, needs to be fully gamed out. Ostensibly, in the government you have a buyer which, faced with the threat of mass violence, is willing to pay a large sum to end slavery. In slave-holders you have a seller that does not want to sell, that has reacted violently to recent talk of selling, that, further, believes slavery is a good thing, ordained by God and the Bible. The greater country, having rejected war as an option, has no ability to compel this seller to any price. On the contrary, the country is, itself, partially dependent on slave-holders. ("By the mid 1830s, cotton shipments accounted for more than half the value of all exports from the United States," writes Ransom.)
How does one make this work? And more importantly, why do we need to?
We are united in our hatred of war and our abhorrence of violence. But a hatred of war is not enough, and when employed to conjure away history, it is a cynical vanity which posits that one is, somehow, in possession of a prophetic insight and supernatural morality which evaded our forefathers. It is all fine to speak of how history "should have been". It takes something more to ask why it was not, and then to confront what it actually was.
21 June 2013
Rico says he still hopes to get to Havana in 2015, for the CSS Stonewall sesquicentennial. If so, he will have some rum (which he doesn't normally drink) in Emilio's honor... (And who knew they started making it during our Civil War?)
President Barack Obama used a speech in Berlin to urge Russia to revive momentum for a world without nuclear weapons, vowing to chop deployed arsenals by third.Rico says we do have more nukes than we can ever use, even if the Iranians get stupid and make one (as in Armageddon), but we could certainly do with less. now that we don't have any arch-enemies (like the Russians) any more. (If you read, painfully, the original article, you'll quickly realize that English is not Vicky247's first language...)
Obama spoke in Berlin, where former President John F. Kennedy gave a moving speech at the beginning of the US-Russian conflict, asking support for the New START pact, that each countries cut their hold on nuclear arsenals.
The speech, that came when Obama met together with his Russian counterpart, received a chilly reception in Washington.
The Russian Government same that doesn't take these proposals seriously, as Washington continues to extend its missile defenses. "After an in-depth review, I have determined that we are able to guarantee the protection of the US and our allies, and maintain a powerful and credible deterrent strategy, while reducing our nuclear weapons bh up to a third," said Obama.
"I intend to hunt reductions negotiated with Russia to maneuver on the far side the conflict nuclear postures," same Obama, standing next to the wall that long divided Communist East Berlin from the West.
Russia says US missile defense plans damage reduction goal by requiring that national capital has a lot of missiles or lose its deterrent capability. "We can take seriously the concept of a discount of strategic nuclear weapons once the US is increasing its capability to intercept strategic nuclear weapons?", Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin told reporters. "These things clearly don't go along. it's obvious that the Russian political commanders cannot take these proposals seriously, “he added.
The vision of "a world without nuclear weapons" that Obama exposed in Prague in 2009, helped him win the Nobel Peace Prize, however, the results achieved to this point have generated criticism that the honor was untimely.
"Hello, Berlin!" Angela Merkel spoke of the Brandenburg Gate, the image of freedom, and thanked Obama for coming back.
Obama spoke of friendly relationships and appeals for peace, and freedom across the globe. "The wall has long become history," Obama calls in regard to the Berlin Wall, "but currently it's up to United States to create history!"
With a "Thank you" and "God bless America, and Germany", Obama finished the speech. The German Interior Minister Hans-Peter Friedrich whispers to a journalist conspiratorially.:"Very American."
A few road blocks up, a queue has shaped ahead of a frozen dessert parlor. The snipers on the House of Representatives square are gone; the windows within the workplace, however, still stay closed.
In a poignant blog post, Exodus International president Alan Chambers announced yesterday that the ex-gay ministry was shutting its doors, conceding that “reparative” therapy for gay people is ineffective and unhealthy. Chambers’ note took the form of an apology for the “shame", “false hope", and “trauma” he caused would-be converts, pleading for forgiveness from “ex-gay survivors”:Rico says it may be legal, but it's stupid...Please know that I am deeply sorry. I am sorry for the pain and hurt many of you have experienced. I am sorry that some of you spent years working through the shame and guilt you felt when your attractions didn’t change. I am sorry we promoted sexual orientation change efforts and reparative theories about sexual orientation that stigmatized parents... I am sorry that I failed to share publicly that the gay and lesbian people I know were every bit as capable of being amazing parents as the straight people that I know. I am sorry that I callously celebrated the end of relationships that broke your heart. I am sorry that I have communicated that you and your families are less than me and mine.Chambers’ post was accompanied by an extensive monologue of self-reproach on Our America with Lisa Ling.
Exodus was founded in 1976 on the premise that homosexuality could and should be changed. The ministry did not conduct conversion “therapy” itself, though it did provide resources to those seeking “ex-gay” counseling. Last year, however, Chambers hedged on the group’s pro-conversion position, instead suggesting that same-sex desires should simply be stifled, and that all gay people should be either closeted or celibate. (Chambers, who is “ex-gay” himself and is married to a woman, admits that he still feels same-sex attractions.)
Organizations like Exodus have come under fire in recent years, as both scientists and sociologists have demonstrated beyond doubt that ex-gay conversion is impossible, and that any attempts are extremely detrimental to gay people’s health. Robert Spitzer, the psychiatrist who first popularized the idea, has since repudiated his own work and apologized. The practice has been condemned by the American Psychiatric Association, the American Medical Association, and the American Psychological Association, which has found that that such “therapy” seriously increases patients’ risk of suicide, depression, anxiety, and PTSD. And as scientists collect heaps of evidence that homosexuality is an inborn biological trait, the mere notion of changing one’s sexual orientation seems like an increasingly lost cause.
With Exodus shut down, the ex-gay movement has lost arguably its most public proponent, one of the last dams against the tide of public opinion currently swelling in support of gay people’s right to live openly. Exodus’ affiliate churches, however, will live on (minus the Exodus brand), and conversion “therapy” will persist across the country, at least, where it’s still legal.
After a ritual prayer atoning for past sins, Ashin Wirathu, a Buddhist monk with a rock-star following in Myanmar, sat before an overflowing crowd of thousands of devotees and launched into a rant against what he called “the enemy”: the country’s Muslim minority.Rico says that even Buddha would have a problem with Mohammad... (But isn't 'Buddhist lynch mobs' a phrase you never thought you'd hear?) And for the geopolitically incorrect, Yangon is the new name for Rangoon...
“You can be full of kindness and love, but you cannot sleep next to a mad dog,” Ashin Wirathu said, referring to Muslims. “I call them troublemakers, because they are troublemakers,” Ashin Wirathu told a reporter after his two-hour sermon. “I am proud to be called a radical Buddhist.”
The world has grown accustomed to a gentle image of Buddhism defined by the self-effacing words of the Dalai Lama, the global popularity of Buddhist-inspired meditation and postcard-perfect scenes from Southeast Asia and beyond of crimson-robed, barefoot monks receiving alms from villagers at dawn.
But over the past year, images of rampaging Burmese Buddhists carrying swords and the vituperative sermons of monks like Ashin Wirathu have underlined the rise of extreme Buddhism in Myanmar, and revealed a darker side of the country’s greater freedoms after decades of military rule. Buddhist lynch mobs have killed more than two hundred Muslims and forced more than 150,000 people, mostly Muslims, from their homes.
Ashin Wirathu denies any role in the riots. But his critics say that, at the very least, his anti-Muslim preaching is helping to inspire the violence.
What began last year on the fringes of Burmese society has grown into a nationwide movement whose agenda now includes boycotts of Muslim-made goods. Its message is spreading through regular sermons across the country that draw thousands of people and through widely distributed DVDs of those talks. Buddhist monasteries associated with the movement are also opening community centers and a Sunday school program for sixty thousand Buddhist children nationwide.
The hate-filled speeches and violence have endangered Myanmar’s path to democracy, raising questions about the government’s ability to keep the country’s towns and cities safe and its willingness to crack down or prosecute Buddhists in a Buddhist-majority country. The killings have also reverberated in Muslim countries across the region, tarnishing what was almost universally seen abroad as a remarkable and rare peaceful transition from military rule to democracy. In May, the Indonesian authorities foiled what they said was a plot to bomb the Myanmar Embassy in Jakarta in retaliation for the assaults on Muslims.
Ashin Wirathu, the spiritual leader of the radical movement, skates a thin line between free speech and incitement, taking advantage of loosened restrictions on expression during a fragile time of transition. He was himself jailed for eight years by the now-defunct military junta for inciting hatred. Last year, as part of a release of hundreds of political prisoners, he was freed.
In his recent sermon, he described the reported massacre of schoolchildren and other Muslim inhabitants in the central city of Meiktila in March of 2013, documented by a human rights group, as a show of strength. “If we are weak,” he said, “our land will become Muslim.”
Buddhism would seem to have a secure place in Myanmar. Nine in ten people are Buddhist, as are nearly all the top leaders in the business world, the government, the military, and the police. Estimates of the Muslim minority range from four percent to eight percent of Myanmar’s roughly 55 million people, while the rest are mostly Christian or Hindu.
But Ashin Wirathu, who describes himself as a nationalist, says Buddhism is under siege by Muslims who are having more children than Buddhists, and buying up Buddhist-owned land. In part, he is tapping into historical grievances that date from British colonial days when Indians, many of them Muslims, were brought into the country as civil servants and soldiers.
The muscular and nationalist messages he has spread have alarmed Buddhists in other countries. The Dalai Lama, after the riots in March of 2013, said killing in the name of religion was “unthinkable” and urged Myanmar’s Buddhists to contemplate the face of the Buddha for guidance.
Phra Paisal Visalo, a Buddhist scholar and prominent monk in neighboring Thailand, says the notion of “us and them” promoted by Myanmar’s radical monks is anathema to Buddhism. But he lamented that his criticism and that of other leading Buddhists outside the country have had “very little impact". “Myanmar monks are quite isolated and have a thin relationship with Buddhists in other parts of the world,” Phra Paisal said. One exception is Sri Lanka, another country historically bedeviled by ethnic strife. Burmese monks have been inspired by the assertive political role played by monks from Sri Lanka’s Sinhalese majority.
As Myanmar has grown more polarized, there have been nascent signs of a backlash against the anti-Muslim preaching. Among the most disappointed with the outbreaks of violence and hateful rhetoric are some of the leaders of the 2007 Saffron Revolution, a peaceful uprising led by Buddhist monks against military rule. “We were not expecting this violence when we chanted for peace and reconciliation in 2007,” said the abbot of Pauk Jadi monastery, Ashin Nyana Nika, 55, who attended a meeting earlier this month sponsored by Muslim groups to discuss the issue. (Ashin is the honorific for Burmese monks.) Ashin Sanda Wara, the head of a monastic school in Yangon, says the monks in the country are divided nearly equally between moderates and extremists. He considers himself in the moderate camp. But as a measure of the deeply ingrained suspicions toward Muslims in the society, he said he was “afraid of Muslims because their population is increasing so rapidly".
Ashin Wirathu has tapped into that anxiety, which some describe as the “demographic pressures” coming from neighboring Bangladesh. There is wide disdain in Myanmar for a group of about one million stateless Muslims, who call themselves Rohingya, some of whom migrated from Bangladesh. Clashes between the Rohingya and Buddhists last year in western Myanmar roiled the Buddhist community and appear to have played a role in later outbreaks of violence throughout the country. Ashin Wirathu said they served as his inspiration to spread his teachings. The theme song to Ashin Wirathu’s movement speaks of people who “live in our land, drink our water, and are ungrateful to us. We will build a fence with our bones if necessary,” runs the song’s refrain. Muslims are not explicitly mentioned in the song, but Ashin Wirathu said the lyrics refer to them. Pamphlets handed out at his sermon demonizing Muslims said that “Myanmar is currently facing a most dangerous and fearful poison that is severe enough to eradicate all civilization.”
Many in Myanmar speculate, without offering proof, that Ashin Wirathu is allied with hard-line Buddhist elements in the country who want to harness the nationalism of his movement to rally support ahead of elections in 2015. Ashin Wirathu denies any such links. But the government has done little to rein him in. During Ashin Wirathu’s visit in Taunggyi, traffic policemen cleared intersections for his motorcade. Once inside the monastery, as part of a highly choreographed visit, his followers led a procession through crowds of followers who prostrated themselves as he passed.
Ashin Wirathu’s movement calls itself 969, three digits that monks say symbolize the virtues of the Buddha, Buddhist practices, and the Buddhist community.
Stickers with the movement’s logo are now ubiquitous nationwide on cars, motorcycles, and shops. The movement has also begun a signature campaign calling for a ban on interfaith marriages, and pamphlets are distributed at sermons listing Muslim brands and shops to be avoided.
In Mawlamyine, a multicultural city southeast of Yangon, a monastery linked to the 969 movement has established the courses of Buddhist instruction for children, which it calls “Sunday dhamma schools". Leaders of the monasteries there seek to portray their campaign as a sort of Buddhist revivalist movement. “The main thing is that our religion and our nationality don’t disappear,” said Ashin Zadila, a senior monk at the Myazedi Nanoo monastery outside the city.
Yet despite efforts at describing the movement as nonthreatening, many Muslims are worried. Two hours before Ashin Wirathu rolled into Taunggyi in a motorcade that included sixty honking motorcycles, Tun Tun Naing, a Muslim vendor in the city’s central market, spoke of the visit in a whisper. “I’m really frightened,” he said, stopping in midsentence when customers entered his shop. “We tell the children not to go outside unless absolutely necessary.”
An innovative energy-storage company back from bankruptcy is building a plant in Northeastern Pennsylvania to store electrical power in speedy spinning flywheels.Rico says ain't technology cool? But surely 'nimble' is the new buzzword...
Beacon Power LLC will install the first of two hundred flywheels (photo) in a nondescript industrial park near Hazleton. The $53 million storage system is capable of discharging twenty megawatts of electricity into the grid at a moment's notice; the equivalent of a burst of energy from a small power plant.
Flywheels have been used for storing energy for a long time; think of a potter's wheel. But only in recent years have high-tech utility-scale systems been deployed. Flywheel storage systems are designed to smooth out the peaks and valleys in the power system to help grid operators meet fluctuating demand. That important "frequency regulation" service conducted in the background is typically done by small gas-fired generators.
But nimble storage systems, like flywheels or battery arrays, are becoming increasingly important as more variable power sources such as wind and solar come on line.
The Beacon flywheels can reach peak output in under one second. More accurate and rapid response improves efficiency on the grid, which lowers costs to consumers, who ultimately pay for the service through rates. "The newer technologies can respond much faster than a generator," said Ray E. Dotter, spokesman for PJM Interconnection, the regional grid operator.
The flywheel itself is a one-ton cylindrical carbon-and-glass composite rim about seven feet tall and four feet in diameter. It spins on a rotor up to sixteen thousand rpm on magnetic bearings in a vacuum chamber to reduce friction. The flywheels are manufactured in Tyngsboro, Massachusetts. The devices are buried to contain damage if a flywheel fails and disintegrates.
Beacon opened its first plant in Stephentown, New York, in 2011. Pennsylvania gave the company a five million dollar grant the same year to open the Hazle Township facility. But the company declared bankruptcy after electricity prices fell, reducing its prospective income.
Beacon had borrowed $39 million under a Department of Energy stimulus-loan guarantee and got swept up in the political fallout surrounding Solyndra Inc., a failed solar-energy firm that also received a loan from the Obama administration.
Rockland Capital, a private equity firm, took Beacon out of bankruptcy last year. Under the settlement, the Energy Department's obligation was reduced to $27 million.
Some analysts are skeptical that flywheel systems can compete with conventional power in an era of cheap energy. "As long as rates stay low, I don't see this as viable," said Steve Minnihan, a senior analyst with Luxe Research Inc. in Boston.
But Barry Brits, Beacon's president, said that the flywheels offer "a good return on investment" and that Beacon is looking to develop new sites in the region.