Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Zoom


Le Tour, originally uploaded by brooner.

Me, a twit?

Yes, I'm a twit. I've started using Twitter... and I like it.

Damn.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Keeping Watch



Mexican Drug War Erupts; Gangs Diversify into Kidnapping

The new Mexican president, Felipe Calderón, has launched an aggressive campaign using the Mexican Army to confront violent drug traffickers.

Roughly 25,000 soldiers have been dispatched throughout the country. While the Army has met with success, there are concerns about their respect for human rights.

According to government figures, major army operations in nine states have led to more than 22,000 arrests and the seizure of 50 tons of cocaine and 40,000 weapons. The operations, government officials say, have shaved $9 billion a year from the cartel's roughly $23 billion drug trade.

But in nearly every state where the army has deployed, residents have accused soldiers of grave human rights violations that now number in the hundreds. Here in the western state of Michoacan, Calderón's home state, more than 100 such violations have been alleged, including the fatal shooting Jan. 12 of a 17-year-old boy at a checkpoint.

In an anti-narcotics plan now before Congress, President Bush has proposed sending the Mexican military $205.5 million in equipment in 2008, more than 40 percent of the proposed outlay for the year. The Merida Initiative, as the program is known, designates a portion of Mexico's proposed $950 million package for 2008 and 2009 for human rights training for police, prosecutors and prison officials, though none for the army. |In Mexico, War on Drug Cartels Takes Wider Toll - Washington Post|

The Mexican Army, unlike the US Army, is designed for internal control rather than the projection of force overseas, so this role is not as unusual for the Mexican Army as it may seem at first glance to US citizens.

The Mexican Army has taken over the drug interdiction role for a variety reasons. First, there is widespread corruption among the local law enforcement, as recent developments in Baja California, Mexico indicate:
In an open letter published in the [Baja California's] major daily newspapers, Gen. Sergio Aponte Polito named about three dozen municipal, state and federal police officials.

Aponte said the officials have been protecting immigrant smugglers and bank robbers and have worked as guards for drug traffickers. He said agents with the state's anti-kidnapping unit in Tijuana had themselves conducted kidnappings, then negotiated the ransom.

Aponte said top Tijuana police officials with the previous mayoral administration – he did not name them – are constantly approaching the current police chief, a military lieutenant colonel on leave, offering to act as go-betweens with organized crime. |General accuses police officials of corruption - Sign On San Diego|(emphasis added)
Another reason the Army is taking the lead is because the drug traffickers are using military grade hardware including assault rifles, grenades and grenade launchers.
In the last two decades, hundreds of police, soldiers and politicians have been convicted of working for the cartels.

One entire unit of army special forces deserted in the late 1990s to form a paramilitary commando called the Zetas, who work as bloody enforcers for the Gulf Cartel.

Their rival, the Sinaloa Cartel, imitated their paramilitary style by training hundreds of would be enforcers in special weapons and tactics.

After years of beheadings and reprisal massacres, these two cartels recently reached a truce, only to turn their wrath on the federal government, according to Mexican and US drug officials.

The level of firepower of the drug gangs has been shown in raids on cartel safe houses in recent weeks.

Police stormed one middle-class Mexico City home to find 30 guns, 12 grenade launchers, 30 grenades and more than 40 bullet-proof jackets with the initials FEDA – a Spanish acronym for "Special Forces of Arturo Beltran", an alleged drug gang leader.

A raid on a Tijuana warehouse used by a cartel for training even unearthed a shooting range and assault course.

Low ranking police officers complain they are outgunned and are risking their lives for salaries which are as low as $600 per month.

"How are we supposed to confront these guys if they come at us?" Osiel Mendoza, a Mexico City police officer, said to Al Jazeera.

"We need the army to wipe them out." |Mexico's 'narco' uprising - Al Jazeera|(emphasis added)
It appears that the Mexican Army is having some success. The downside, however, is that the drug gangs are increasingly turning to kidnapping as a quick way to raise cash.
Corporate security experts estimate that drug gangs are now responsible for 30 to 50 kidnappings a day in Mexico and that ransoms often run to $300,000....

The phenomenon is spilling over into the United States. Phoenix police investigated more than 350 kidnappings last year, a 40 percent increase from the year before. Most are tied to crackdowns in Mexico, said Detective Reuben Gonzales of the Phoenix Police Department.

The rise in kidnapping prompted a recent warning from the U.S. Embassy in Mexico City about the dangers Americans might face as they travel in Mexico. ''Dozens of U.S. citizens were kidnapped and/or murdered in Tijuana in 2007,'' across from San Diego, according to the advisory, which was issued April 15. ''Public shootouts have occurred during daylight hours near shopping areas.''...

''Drug trafficking is not producing for them as it did in the past,'' Mexican Attorney General Eduardo Medina Mora said last month in Washington. "So they are moving into other crimes, such as extortion, kidnapping, car theft.''

However, the rise in kidnappings also shows that Mexico's law enforcement problems go beyond narcotics. Distrust of the police, who may be involved in some of the abductions, and fear that victims will be harmed make kidnapping one of Mexico's most underreported crimes.

Mexican officials say that only a third of kidnappings are reported to police, but corporate experts say it's more like one in 10. |Mexican drug gangs find profit in kidnappings - Miami Herald|(emphasis added)


The Mexican president has suggested that the United States has a special responsibility given its role in creating the drug and gun problem.

Calderon argues the US government has a responsibility to help out because US drug users fund the traffickers - analysts estimate that Mexican drug trade to the US is worth around $10 billion to $30 billion a year.

Most of the weapons fuelling the bloodshed are also bought in US gun stores and smuggled south over the Rio Grande...

"It's a bi-national problem," said a senior US drug official in Mexico... |Al Jazeera|
While I'm sure there's some truth to that claim, organized crime isn't buying grenades and grenade launchers from US gun stores. Those are either from the Mexican military or from foreign suppliers.

I think it's fair to say that Mexico is suffering a fate similar to Colombia where the greed and brutality generated by the drug trade has corrupted most of the institutions of the State.

I wish there were a quick solution to this problem, but I think it's going to intensify rather than abate any time in the near future.

Shimmer


GTA IV - Liberty City, originally uploaded by aaronboy84.

Grand Theft Auto & Cultural Irresponsibility

Keith Stuart gives GTA IV a huge compliment in the Guardian.

Today I went to Rockstar and played GTA IV for several hours... It is a game of simply breathtaking scope, filled with wit and smut and beautifully engineered violence....

[W]hen things go horribly wrong [in the game] you usually just end up laughing - this is one of those rare games... where failure is rewarded, usually with carnage and destruction. I laughed a lot...

[T]he story is rife with moral choices; for the first time in the series you'll be shaping the narrative, personalising it.... the relationships you must form and manipulate as you go through the missions, the way in which the mobile phone and in-game web browser take the place of traditional menu screens, pushing the game forward in a seamless satire on digital communication.

I can't score GTAIV, there's plenty I don't know yet. I was never a massive fan of the series, I enjoyed the previous titles, but I saw the flaws. But one thing's for sure. This is an important game - important in a way that Halo 3 wasn't - important because it is so ambitious, so detailed, so confident in its originality and inventiveness.

It would sort of be an act of cultural irresponsibility not to play it. |Link|

Take me to your leader, Earthling.


Curious Squirrel, originally uploaded by ::novocainated::.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Motherfucker!

A friend directed to the Society for Librarians who say Motherfucker.

A gem from their collection of stories:

To the self-centered asshole who spent twenty minutes in the library drive-through, insisting that we give her an inter-library-loan book whose hold had expired three days ago, all while idling in the 80-degree heat in her Hummer:

HAPPY FUCKING EARTH DAY, MOTHERFUCKER!

|Link|

Friday, April 25, 2008

Going it Alone

Hersh and the Hegemon

[Question:] What do you think of Bush's legacy to the world?

[Seymour Hersh:] He's done more to terrify the world than anybody I know. The world is so much more dangerous.

I have a very wise friend, born in Syria, who's a businessman in the West now.

Right after the bombing began in Iraq he said to me: "This war will not change Iraq - Iraq will change you" and so I've seen it come and it's very scary. |Link|

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

The importance of good conversation

I'm not usually a fan of "human interest" stories, but I thought this one in the Guardian was touching and highlights the importance of good conversation (as well as beer) in life.

The son of an elderly widower who could not find a drinking buddy has provided him with two new companions after advertising the post at a rate of £7 an hour, plus expenses.

When he moved from a flat to a care home 20 miles from his old stomping ground of Barton-on-Sea, Hampshire, Jack Hammond, 88, a radar technician during the second world war, struggled to find someone suitable to have a beer with.

As a last resort his son Mike, 56, put a notice in the post office asking for someone with similar interests or background to accompany his dad, a former charge engineer at a Lancashire power station, to the Compass Inn in Winsor, twice a week for a couple of hours.

He was so inundated with offers - including one from a 16-year-old - that he interviewed candidates by phone before asking a shortlist of three to join him and Jack for a trial drink. The successful pair, Trevor Pugh, 78, a retired kitchen fitter from Southampton with a military background, and Henry Rosenvinge, 58, a former doctor, will now spend several nights a week with Jack chatting about military history and current affairs. |Wanted: two drinking pals for dad - Guardian|

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Wolverines!



I'm not sure if this is rightly considered machinima or just video game art, but I thought it was great, especially the Red Dawn allusion.

Thanks to Spammy T for the link.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Hard Landing


DWI, originally uploaded by bikeracer.

Musings on Criminalization and the Drinking Age

The issue of the legal drinking age seems tied to wars. We send young men and women off to fight and potentially die at 17 or 18 years of age and it seems inconsistent to many legislators to then say that these citizen soldiers are not competent enough to drink alcohol responsibly. So seven states are now proposing to lower the drinking age to 18.

Three states would lower the drinking age only for soldiers while four states (including my home of Minnesota) want to lower the drinking age for the entire population.

Kentucky, Wisconsin, and South Carolina have introduced legislation to lower the drinking age for troops to 18.

Four other states - Missouri, South Dakota, Minnesota, and most recently Vermont - would extend the privilege to the general population. However, South Dakota would only allow 18-20 year olds to buy low-alcohol beer. Advocates of a lower drinking age argue that teenagers are drinking, and that the secrecy encourages binge drinking among young people.

"Our laws aren't working. They're not preventing underage drinking. What they're doing is putting it outside the public eye," Hinda Miller, a Vermont state senator, told reporters yesterday, after a committee took up her bill to study lowering the drinking age.

"So you have a lot of kids binge drinking. They get sick, they get scared and they get into trouble and they can't call because they know it's illegal."


While the move would be popular with college students and other young people obliged to pay for fake ID if they want a night on the town, there is concerted opposition to lowering America's drinking age.

Mothers Against Drunk Driving and other pressure groups say raising the drinking age a generation ago has cut traffic related deaths among young people by 13%.

States that do lower their drinking age would also pay a heavy penalty under current legislation that would require them to forfeit 10% of their highway fund from the federal government. |US states consider lowering drinking age - Guardian|
What I think is interesting is the threshold for determining that an policy's enforcement is not worthwhile from cost-benefit perspective.

Prohibition in the 1920's was abandoned because of its many negative effects, including empowering organized crime. Similar arguments are made for legalizing some "soft" drugs such as marijuana.

You cannot totally stop people from using drugs and the negative consequences in terms of gangs, corruption, racialization of injustice must all be considered.

Prostitution is another frequent candidate for legalization. And with sex work such as pornography being legal, it seems inconsistent to ban escort services for doing the same thing, just not filming it.

The recent Eliot Spitzer case showed that prostitution is very common in American society and very rarely prosecuted. Spitzer was singled out because of his position (and party affiliation perhaps).

But there are other crimes that we cannot [totally] stop, but we never consider decriminalizing. For instance, pedophiles have high recidivism rates, but I'm not aware of anyone who has seriously suggested decriminalizing it.

I think one key difference between substance abuse and prostitution on the one hand and pedophilia is that substance abuse and prostitution are a consensual crimes while pedophilia is a crime of violence and/or coercion.

Many people probably reject my premise that we should even use a cost-benefit analysis to determine what actions we criminalize and what actions we merely tolerate. People object to substance abuse or prostitution on moral or religious grounds.

To my mind religious grounds are not acceptable bases for legislation since we live in a multi-ethnic society with a host of religions and the government should not privilege one religious view over another.

The government should base its laws on public policy. Of course, public policy often becomes a code word for the majority's religious views. But it shouldn't be that way. Public policy should be the outcome of our best sociological research into the cost-benefit analysis of criminalization versus legalization.

Update: It's probably naive of me to think that politicians and agencies wouldn't "game" any cost-benefit system to justify whatever religious viewpoint they hold, or the prejudice de jour, similar to the ways the Bush administration used specious arguments to justify torture.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

The Moral Economy of Property Distribution

So I've been reading about the Outer Space Treaty recently and several critics contend that we need a new property law paradigm to deal with the inadequacies of our current property paradigm.

The dominant property paradigms are the centrally planned communist system which is widely considered discredited, the socialist-communal model and finally the free market, individual exploitation model.

Under the Outer Space Treaty, space is both a common resource for all of mankind and a resource that individual nations, corporations and states can exploit.

This seems like a contradiction that will have to be resolved if we are to make the leap into space.

Ossetian Children


en route Kurta-Tbilisi, originally uploaded by joshua_kucera.

MicroRepublics and MicroRepublicans

The spat between Russia and Georgia has the potential to erupt into a wider conflict. Now that NATO is talking about accepting members right on Russia' doorstep, the stakes are definitely getting higher. One more potential flashpoint for the next President to keep an eye on lest Americans troops find themselves committed in Ossetia, yet another piece of ground most Americans have never of before.

Yesterday Vladimir Putin ordered his officials to strengthen economic ties and provide consular support to residents in the separatist republic.

The president said Russia would recognise legal entities registered in Abkhazia and in South Ossetia, another breakaway region. The move stops short of recognising Abkhazia's claim to independence, but only just.

Russia's foreign ministry yesterday insisted it did not want confrontation. But yesterday's move will enrage Georgia's pro-western and US-backed government, which accuses Moscow of attempting to annex its rebel regions

by stealth. Last night Georgia's foreign minister, David Bakradze, said Russia's move amounted to a "legalisation of the de facto annexation process". Georgian officials said Tbilisi was preparing "an adequate response". In London, the Foreign Office was moved to delve into the confrontation, saying the move "would only increase tensions in the region".

Putin's provocative action appears to be a deliberate response to Georgia's unsuccessful attempt this month to join Nato. Leaders of Nato, meeting in Bucharest, deferred Georgia's and Ukraine's application for the alliance's membership action plan, despite strong support from the US president, George Bush. But Nato countries agreed Georgia would join eventually. And when it does, the alliance's mutual defence commitment will include sorting out the problem of Abkhazia, a lush micro-republic on the Black Sea's eastern coast that is a 45-minute drive from Putin's summer residence in the resort of Sochi. |How a tiny breakaway province could become the new cold war frontline - Guardian|

Feeling Green


Duck, originally uploaded by alvial111.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Trust Misspent

Phillip Carter is a pretty eloquent writer, which is one of the reason he writes for Slate and blogs at the Washington Post now. His recent article Plan Fubar would be hilarious if it weren't so tragic.

I'm speechless at his recent expression of disappointment with President Bush.

In an interview with ABC News correspondent Martha Raddatz...President Bush dropped [a] bomb that has curiously not provoked much response.... [President Bush admitted to Raddatz] that his own certainty about the [Iraq] mission was more important than telling the truth to the American people [about the civil war exploding there].

I [Phillip Carter] was in Iraq during this time in 2006. I remember well how the violence spiraled out of control after the Samarra mosque bombing in February 2006.

How every single indicator pointed in the direction of doom... how we felt like spectators watching a civil war engulf Iraq, with too few troops to make a difference, and no political direction to do so.

All through this period, I remember the president, his senior aides and senior military commanders toeing the party line that things were going swimmingly. The dissonance between the rhetoric from Washington and our experience in Iraq was stark.

[We] knew the... truth. Being deceived by our senior political leaders... hurt morale by undermining confidence in the chain of command...

It's disappointing to hear now, two years after the fact, that the president was knowingly bull----ing us the whole time. And that he justified such dishonesty in the name of supporting the troops and protecting their morale. That's an insult to America's men and women in uniform... |Adding Insult to Injury - Intel Dump (now at WaPo)|


Fair enough.

Shhhh!

National Library Week

ILoveLibraries.org - Supporting One of Our Nation's Most Important Resources
For most Americans, this is the week that taxes are due. But it's also National Library Week.

Although, I'm not so down with that. Knowledge is power every week of the year. And libraries are certainly still spaces where people come together to learn and share... but in another sense the entire Internet is my library now.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Project 515: Separate and Unequal

Sarah gave me a report from Project 515. Project 515 documents all the ways that the denial of the right to marry discriminates against gays and lesbians.

In some ways, the marriage ban defeats anti-corruption measures like Minnesota Statute 204B.19(subsection 2), which prevents corruption in the election judging process and reads:

Individuals not qualified to be Previous match election judge Next match s. No individual shall be appointed
as an Previous match election judge Next match for any precinct if that individual:
(a) is unable to read, write or speak the English language;
(b) is the spouse, parent, child or sibling of any Previous match election judge Next match serving in the same precinct or
of any candidate at that election;... |Minnesota Legislature's Office of Revisor of Statutes|
This statute on its face does not apply to two gay men living in the same house in the same precinct and both being an election judge.

Minnesota has a reputation for being progressive, but not on the gay marriage ban so far. New York and Massachusetts both allow gay marriage, although other states don't have to accept that marriage certificate under the final version of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).

I think marriage is good for society and people, on balance and should be encouraged. The US Supreme Court talks about a fundamental right to marry, but how fundamental can it be when it's only allowed to straights and some bi-sexuals?

I support opening marriage (at least in Minnesota) open to everyone.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Addicted to Love


Day 105: Addicted to Love, originally uploaded by fuzzirella.

Process Addictions

Previously, I blogged about a presentation I attended on people in crisis, especially the suicidal.

One of the topics discussed there was process addiction, which was a new concept for me.

Based on some quick research, examples of process addictions are gambling addictions, Internet addictions (e.g. obsessive Second Life or video games), hoarding, eating disorders. Here's a link to the Encyclopedia of Medicine definition.

I also found this item which discusses the life process model of addiction versus the disease model of addiction.

The proponents of the life-process model of learning addictive behavior argue that the biological mechanisms that might account for addictive behavior have not been accurately identified, and thus do not warrant using the term "disease." The process-learning model prefers to emphasize the individual's ability to overcome "addiction" by skills-based cognitive and behavioral rehearsal - learning coping skills - relearning or "unlearning" behaviors that do not work for us. The process learning distinction does not refer to chemically induced physical withdrawal symptoms. This may require medical hospitalization and monitoring to maintain medical safety.

The successful resolution of addictive-behavior may involve practicing a greater degree of personal autonomy, repairing damaged relationships, developing coping skills, or refining personal strengths that embellish vital living. Critics of the life-process learning model emphasize that the lack of ability to identify specific (biological) disease mechanisms does not negate the characteristic disease course, morbidity, or mortality observed with addiction. Thereby the disease concept assumes that problems of addictions meet all the requirements to warrant using the term disease. |The Process Addiction Model: Non Chemical Behavioral Dependencies - The Hart Center.com|


I wonder if people with strong obsessive-compulsive tendencies might be more prone to process addictions.

Monday, April 07, 2008

Patriotism Floats

Freedom to Dissent

[This] case is made difficult not because the principles of its decision are obscure but because the flag involved is our own.

Nevertheless, we apply the limitations of the Constitution with no fear that freedom to be intellectually and spiritually diverse or even contrary will disintegrate the social organization.

To believe that patriotism will not flourish if patriotic ceremonies are voluntary and spontaneous instead of a compulsory routine is to make an unflattering estimate of the appeal of our institutions to free minds.

We can have intellectual individualism and the rich cultural diversities that we owe to exceptional minds only at the price of occasional eccentricity and abnormal attitudes. When they are so harmless to others or to the State as those we deal with here, the price is not too great.

But freedom to differ is not limited to things that do not matter much. That would be a mere shadow of freedom. The test of its substance is the right to differ as to things that touch the heart of the existing order.

- West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette, 319 U.S. 624 (1943)

Thanks to Janelle for sharing.

Snow Geese

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Runaway Climate Change

I have more coverage over at my other group blog on Global Warming, the Carbon Copy, but here's the Guardian's coverage of this news.

In a startling reappraisal of the threat, James Hansen, head of the Nasa Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York, calls for a sharp reduction in C02 limits.

Hansen says the EU target of 550 parts per million of C02 - the most stringent in the world - should be slashed to 350ppm...Instead of using theoretical models to estimate the sensitivity of the climate, his team turned to evidence from the Earth's history, which they say gives a much more accurate picture....

Hansen said that he now regards as "implausible" the view of many climate scientists that the shrinking of the ice sheets would take thousands of years. "If we follow business as usual I can't see how west Antarctica could survive a century. We are talking about a sea-level rise of at least a couple of metres this century."

The revised target is likely to prompt criticism that he is setting the bar unrealistically high. With the US administration still acting as a drag on international efforts, climate campaigners are struggling even to get a 450ppm target to stick. |Climate target is not radical enough - Guardian|

Helmand Province


2Parade, originally uploaded by Abdur-Rahman.

The Phone is for You, It's the Taliban

Interesting post about how the Taliban love their cell phones to follow up (and help explicate) recent news coverage about the Taliban threatening to bomb cell phone towers in Afghanistan if the services weren't shut off at night, apparently it's to protect their bases in the mountains were they hide at night. Nothing like USAF cluster bombs to ruin a good night's sleep.

Today the Taliban can't seem to get off the mobile phone. In the past six years, Afghanistan has gone from no mobile (and virtually no fixed) telephone service to 10% mobile phone penetration. The Taliban have participated in this technological development. Recently they attracted attention by threatening to blow up mobile phone towers if they were not switched off at night, claiming that NATO was using their signals to track their locations.

As National Assembly member Shukria Barakzai stated, this claim "does not make any sense." They can still be tracked during the day. And if they really wanted to avoid detection, they could turn off their phones or take out the batteries! In any case, a friend of mine who negotiated the release of two of his Afghan staff who had been taken hostage by Taliban in Wardak (just next to Kabul) said that it was always difficult to reach the kidnappers at night, because they moved away from the road up into the mountains where the reception was poor. Finally they had to explain to the Taliban that they needed to stay within the coverage range to reach a deal.

Perhaps the Taliban don't trust their rank and file to turn off their phones.... Or maybe they just want to show how much damage they could do and how present they are in different parts of the country. Mobile telephone operators are among the best informed people about the territorial penetration of the Taliban. Setting up a cell phone tower anywhere in Afghanistan requires the consent of whoever "controls" the territory, or at least has the power to blow up the cell phone tower.|Rubin: Taliban and Telecoms -- Secret Negotiations Just Got Easier, and at a Price You Can Afford! - Informed Comment: Global Affairs|

Downtown Lawrence after the game

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Basketball Riots

In case you don't follow basketball, the University of Kansas (KU) beat the University of North Carolina and will play Memphis for the national title. My law degree is from KU and Lawrence is probably my favorite town in Kansas, so I really hope the students aren't rioting and trashing the place.

Famine rides a black horse

Riots are a fascinating (and terrifying) manifestion of people power. I've never been in a riot, but I've several accounts from those who survived rioting and I think I'd rather pass on that experience. But riots appear to be on the horizon for much of the world.

In the US we complain about the rise in fuel prices, but the inflation that accompanies fuel increases has increased the price of food, combined with the drought caused by global warming, the rising cost of food is having a tremendous impact on the security of the poor and developing nations.

A global rice shortage that has seen prices of one of the world's most important staple foods increase by 50 per cent in the past two weeks alone is triggering an international crisis, with countries banning export and threatening serious punishment for hoarders.

With rice stocks at their lowest for 30 years, prices of the grain rose more than 10 per cent on Friday to record highs and are expected to soar further in the coming months.

Already China, India, Egypt, Vietnam and Cambodia have imposed tariffs or export bans, as it has become clear that world production of rice this year will decline in real terms by 3.5 per cent. The impact will be felt most keenly by the world's poorest populations...

Rice is the staple food for more than half the world's population. This is the second year running in which production - which increased in real terms last year - has failed to keep pace with population growth. The harvest has also been hit by drought, particularly in China and Australia...

The shortage has afflicted India, too... although China has said it is secure in its supplies of rice, the fact that the government has offered to pay farmers more to produce more rice and wheat suggests otherwise.

The sharp rise in rice prices has been driven by many factors, not least by a race between African and South-east Asian countries to secure sufficient stocks to head off the risk of food riots and social unrest.

Fears over the potential impact of the rice crisis has been heightened by estimates by both the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation... and comments from the World Bank president... estimating that '33 countries around the world face potential social unrest because of the acute hike in food and energy prices'...

Analysts have cited many factors for the rises, including rising fuel and fertiliser expenses, as well as climate change. But while drought is one factor, another is the switch from food to biofuel production in large areas of the world, in particular to fulfil the US energy demands. A continuing change in the global diet is also putting a further squeeze on rice. In China, for example, 100 million rural migrants to the country's big cities have switched from a staple of wheat to rice as they have become wealthier.

Rapid recent price increases are also likely to have a dangerous secondary effect of stoking further inflation in emerging countries...|Food Riots fear after rice price hits a high - Observer|

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Furry


sweet loves, originally uploaded by SarahDeer.

Time for a Trim?

I just caught the hair of my sideburns in my cell phone. I'm thinking this is a sign to re-evaluate the sideburns. I like them most of the time...

Sniper with Dragunov


National Police Sniper, originally uploaded by C14FSO.

Sniper hunter: Soldier Wearable Acoustic Targeting System

I'd never heard of the company QinetiQ North America Technology Solutions Group before, but their new technology for locating gunfire sounds like a winner.

The individual warfighter can now immediately go from defensive to offensive posture following sniper contact in urban and rural environments. Ears™ is the first wearable, complete sniper detection/location system, and provides both audio and visual cueing. Using a single battle-proven integrated multi-sensor package, the revolutionary miniaturized system enables rapid threat elimination. The warfighter package weighs under 1 lb and is also available in a vehicle configuration for travel and base use at 5 lbs – both using just one watt of power. |Soldier Wearable Acoustic Targeting System (SWATS) - QinetiQ North America|
I saw this over at Defense Review, who also reference the ShotSpotter technology that many cities are implementing, but that requires a significant infrastructure and SWATS is amazingly light.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Watchful


flores para confucio, originally uploaded by ibarak.

Balance

Most temperate plants have a chilling requirement that serves to release dormancy before growth can resume. Like Minnesotans, they thrive in the spring and summer only when sufficiently chilled by cold winter temperatures.

- University of Minnesota Extension Yard and Garden News