Posts tagged ‘iran’

The hawks are circling Iran again

What the crap is this!? Here are some of today’s headlines:

If you just glanced at today’s headlines, would you think Iran was building a nuke and was likely to have it very soon? I certainly would. It’s only after you read the articles that you find out the actual “story” is that Iran theoretically has enough uranium atoms to make a bomb but would first need to enrich them to become weapons grade, and they won’t have the technical capability to do that for years to come. What the articles don’t even mention is that the uranium is part of Iran’s civilian power program, it’s purified enough to be used in a nuclear power plant but not a bomb, Iran has signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty under which it is given the inalienable right to civilian nuclear power but pledges not to pursue nuclear weapons, and the International Atomic Energy Agency has signed off on the whole program.

What kind of bullshit is this!? This is not newsworthy and will only confuse people more about Iran. It’s like saying that by living near the beach, I’ve amassed enough silicon to build my own computer from scratch (something I’ve thought would be cool to do for years: I want to start with raw materials and make a 2-function calculator or something). Except that when you get down to it, I’d still need to purify and dope the silicon, create transistors and then connect thousands of them in the right order to get anything close to the results I want. So, while it’s technically true that I’ve got access to enough silicon, I’m actually still years away from results (and not actively working on it in the first place). It’s a non-issue.

It really irks me that the press picks up on this drivel while ignoring things like, say, the terrorist building a dirty bomb on US soil, which seems far more interesting, relevant, imminent, and dangerous (original source on page 11 of this leaked FBI document). Bruce Schneier suggests that this isn’t pressworthy because the terrorist wasn’t Muslim. Hooray, anti-Muslim bias in the media!

To be fair, I’ve found three articles on Iran today whose headlines don’t seem overly misleading: Reuters’ Iran “not close” to nuclear weapon: Gates, Politico’s Gates and Mullen disagree on Iran (which at least mentions that not everyone in government thinks Iran is getting a nuke tomorrow, though it does sow the seeds of doubt), and the Tehran Times’ IAEA officials: All materials at Natanz under control (though honestly, no one is going to believe the Tehran Times if it’s the minority dissenting voice about Iranian operations).

and people wonder why I get so frustrated with the media.

News game

After a rousing match, the Good News squadron has beaten the Bad News team 2-1!

Bad News got off to an early start when a 1st grade teacher was sentenced to 15 days in jail for allowing her students to name a stuffed animal Mohammed. This apparently counts as blasphemy under Sharia, which seems ludicrous to me. People name their kids Mohammed all the time; I don’t see how this is any different. Although this was a sharp blow against Good News, their defense rallied when the Sudanese president commuted the jail sentence into just deportation back to the teacher’s native Britain.

At this point, the Good News offense kicked into high gear, and scored a huge goal when 17 US intelligence agencies declassified a report saying that Iran halted their nuclear weapons programme in 2003, contradicting the Bush administration’s warmongering and FUD on the topic. This is wholly consistent with what IAEA has said in the past (which I’ve mentioned several times). Bush has claimed not to have known about this report for more than a week, which seems like a lie considering that he’s been blustering about Iran for months.

My coworker commented that some of his faith in the government has been restored since this report came out; he had previously expected that even if such a report existed, it would be suppressed in order to push the hawkish agenda of those in power. However, I think enough people remember what happened with the Iraq intelligence problems and are afraid of repeating those mistakes that they could actually stand up and force the truth to light. Hurrah for some people in government not being totally corrupt!

These events shook up the Bad News team so much that they gave up another small gain to the Good News players in the last round of the match. Facebook has apologized for Beacon, with its poor implementation. Initially, this system would track people’s purchases on third party sites, even if these people were not logged into Facebook at the time, which founder Mark Zuckerberg has deemed, “simply… a bad job.” They have fixed it so that people can actually opt out of Beacon entirely, and thereby keep their private lives private. This is the second time Facebook has screwed up and fixed it several days later. Hopefully this time they’ll get the hang of what people actually want out of their site.

That led to the final score of the match, with Good News beating Bad News by a goal. Good News fans everywhere are rejoicing, as their team rarely beats the Bad News squad these days. Perhaps this is a sign that their new coaches and strategies will lead the team to better things in the future.

News dump

There’s been a lot of news recently, and I’m sure I’m forgetting something.

Despite the inaction of the country as a whole, the western states have banded together to reduce carbon emissions, thereby joining the rest of the world in combating global warming. It’s pretty cool to watch the whole world (with a couple idiotic exceptions) come together to work on this stuff.

A battle has moved through the British courts over how far the freedom of the press extends: there is currently a scandal over a deal made by Tony Blair’s fundraisers, wherein they offered honours to various people in exchange for off-the-record loans during the campaign season, and then tried to cover up the whole thing. The government, claiming it would mess up the police investigation of the events, repeatedly tried to bar newspapers from discussing the evidence. However, it looks like the high court has sided with the press, and they can publish stories about the scandal. Much of this hinges on an email between Lord Levy and Ms. Turner discussing their deal, but I can’t seem to find a copy of the text online. I suspect this will damage even Tony Blair’s reputation, though I could be wrong about that.

Speaking of scandals and cover-ups, “Scooter” Libby has been found guilty of obstructing justice in the whole CIA leak thing (remember, the one with Valerie Plame?). It’s nice to see that his comeuppance has arrived, but it’s kinda too bad that Special Prosecutor Fitzgerald couldn’t get enough evidence to try others; I strongly suspect Libby was the “fall guy,” and there are others who are equally guilty but will go free.

The Democrats, meanwhile, have been trying to put a timetable on the Iraq war and bring our troops home before Bush leaves the oval office. I strongly doubt this will actually happen, but it’s nice to see that they’re trying to hold him accountable, if only symbolically.

As usual, Bush has been greeted with violent protests every where he goes, because most of the world is reasonable and sees this man is a greedy warmonger. This is happening pretty consistently across all of Latin America, on top of Hugo Chavez’s scathing words against him (Bush is on a tour of the area at the moment).

Finally, the UN is beginning to consider an embargo against Iran over its nuclear programme, but China and Russia are expressing their doubts. We’ll see what happens, but Iran will probably not be faced with strong penalties.

As always, remember to use BugMeNot if you can’t access these or other articles.

Iran launches rocket, still isn’t making nukes

Iran now claims to have launched a rocket into space, although other countries have yet to confirm the achievement. President Ahmadinejad says this is for peaceful satellite launches, but as always, Europe and America don’t believe him. Moreover, Iran has not halted its nuclear programme in spite of the sanctions imposed by the UN in December. The UN security council is convening with Germany about what to do on this front. Many western countries, chief among them the US, are still of the opinion that Iran is developing nuclear weapons, despite the Iranians claims of merely having a peaceful energy programme (to which they’re entitled, having signed the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty in 1970). Moreover, UN inspectors have been allowed to examine Iran’s operations since 1992 and have found absolutely no evidence whatsoever that Iran is trying to build nuclear weapons. As Ahmadinejad has said, it’s time for the West to stop “bullying” Iran into giving up what it is rightfully entitled to.

Different news

Things are at least beginning to change a little in American politics. The Democrats, since taking over the legislative branch of the government earlier this month, have already started passing ethics legislation to try to curb the problems Washington has been having with lobbyists. This is part of their larger plan to make changes now that they’re in power. We’ll see how far these measures actually go, but it’s at least a start. In particular, I hope they actually create an independent investigative group for ethics violations; it seems like many ethics problems in Congress get brushed aside because the people involved are also the ones in charge of policing such actions. Time will tell.

As part of rethinking the Iraq policy, President Bush has begun rearranging the military staff, and is considering sending in 30,000 more troops to the country. I don’t think adding in more troops is a good move; I imagine it would be more demoralizing for Iraqi civilians and give the insurgents hope because they were able to thwart the 140,000 US troops already over there. However, from what I’ve heard from Anderson Cooper’s interviews of soldiers in Iraq, they really need more troops, or else the country will never get out of its current troubles. I’m becoming more and more convinced that there is no way to get Iraq into a better situation in the foreseeable future, and the “best” thing for everyone might just be to pull out and let it sink into civil war for a couple years. I know it sounds heavy-handed, but I still haven’t heard of a strategy that doesn’t eventually degenerate into that anyway.

On a related note, the US death toll in Iraq broke 3,000 over New Years. I realize it’s not much compared to the tens of thousands of Iraqis killed (or the conflict in Darfur, or the Falun Gong persecution in China, etc), but it’s still worth noting.

A bit of a rant: the LA Time’s article that I linked to discusses “next week’s announcement next week” that President Bush is expected to give. Don’t they have editors for these articles? They could at least have someone give a quick once-over to these things. Bah.

The United Nations voted to impose sactions against Iran regarding its nuclear programme, and President Ahmadinejad has (I believe rightly) called these sanctions illegitimate, citing the right of all countries, according to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty of 1970, to develop peaceful nuclear energy programmes. and as former UN weapons inspector Scott Ritter describes in his book Target Iran, the current weapons inspectors in Iran right now can find absolutely no evidence whatsoever that Iran is trying to develop nuclear weapons. So, here’s what we’ve got from Iran at the moment: peaceful nuclear development, denial of the Holocaust, vows to destroy Israel, rejection of every trading package which would supply them with nuclear energy without developing it on their own (including Russia’s very generous offer), and now correctly calling the UN on their misguided sanctions. What on earth are they trying to accomplish? They have all the drawbacks of a real programme and an empty threat, without any of the advantages of either one. Any insight would be appreciated.

It seems that AT&T has given up on their anti-net neutrality stance, though I suspect the issue will flare up again in a year or so. Since the last time I discussed it, I have been convinced that the Electronic Frontier Foundation has a really good stance on the issue: neither “side” on the issue is particularly meritorious (getting rid of net neutrality is obviously a bad thing, but getting the US government to examine and regulate most of the world’s internet traffic is a privacy problem waiting to happen). I don’t have a good solution to this yet, but I’ll keep watching the issue.

There has been a bunch of other news since I last posted, but this is starting to get pretty long. The condensed version: Saddam Hussein was executed, Bangkok experienced a series of explosions New Years Eve which injured/killed surprisingly few people, Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts is wanking that his $200,000 salary isn’t enough money, and Microsoft gave nice laptops to some bloggers hoping they would post good stuff about the company, but instead has received a backlash from other bloggers (who I think are mainly jealous that they didn’t get one). Right… I think that’s all the news for now.

a lot of bad news

The big thing around here is that UCLA Police tasered a student for refusing to show his ID or leave the library. This was caught on camera and can be found on YouTube, though I should post a WARNING: THIS VIDEO IS VERY DISTRUBING, AND WATCHING IT MADE ME PHYSICALLY SICK. If you are still interested, here is the video. The UCLA administration has ordered an independent investigation into the matter, while the student has hired a civil rights attorney and filed a lawsuit for brutal excessive force.

In other news, the US has decided to trade nuclear technology with India. I think this is an absolutely horrible move on many different fronts. India has not signed the Nuclear Proliferation Treaty, and may very well restart its arms race and standoff with Pakistan. Part of the fuel sent to India will be used in civilian reactors, but part is also reserved for military applications that the UN will not be allowed to examine. Finally, this gives the US even less bargaining power to get Iran to stop its neclear programme (which I am given to understand is completely non-weapons oriented; they seem to be pursuing only energy). I got to see Scott Ritter, former UN weapons inspector in Iraq (who resigned because he was convinced they didn’t have WMDs when the politicians kept saying they did), a couple weeks ago, and he said at the time that as soon as the election was over, Bush was going to start pushing the Iran nuclear weapons thing again (which has already started: the US navy has begun moving troops into the Persian Gulf). Ritter, as a former weapons inspector, has pored over the reports of the current weapons inspectors in Iran, and is confident that they have done a good, solid job but have found absolutely no evidence whatsoever of a nuclear weapons programme in the country. I’ve gone off on a tangent, but the main idea is that the US is trying to lie about Iran, and their actions with India are only undermining their position further.

Finally, the scariest news for today: the Military Commissions Act was signed into law today. Among other things, it allows people, even US citizens, to be detained and tortured (by the definition in the Geneva Conventions) without ever being charged or told why they are being held, at the sole discretion of the president. The scariest part about this is that if there are abuses, there is absolutely no way they will ever be disclosed or appealed. If you are wrongfully imprisoned by this law, you will never be given access to a lawyer, you will never be allowed to challenge the legality of your detainment, and you will never be heard from again. I feel very frustrated that the majority of Congresspeople were in favour of this. Due to laws like this, combined with the Real ID Act of 2005 (which requires a National ID card to be carried by everyone starting in 2008, and which was introduced by civil liberties foe Jim Sensenbrenner), it seems that our country has become alarmingly protofascist. It’s really scary stuff.

News is far overdue

First off, there has been a huge backlash against Facebook in the two days since they unveiled their new creepy stalker newsfeed. The group I linked to yesterday already has the membership of about 5% of all of Facebook (and that includes all the Chipotle Burritos, Case Dorms, and residents of Guttlesohn Falls that are signed up, too). This has even prompted many newspapers to take notice. It’s pretty cool to watch so many people actually stand up and protest for what they want.

Having said that, the big news today is that President Bush finally admitted to having a network of secret CIA prisons scattered around the world. I have posted about rumors of these before. It’s pretty discouraging to find that they were true, but slightly hopeful that enough people within the CIA and elsewhere in the government are beginning to stand up and say that this really should stop. edit: Bush went so far as to say that prisoners would be transferred to Guantanamo Bay and given rights from the Geneva Conventions.

Speaking of people getting fed up with unpopular polities, the Democrats tried to have a vote of no confidence on Donald Rumsfeld. It was blocked by Republicans, but at least they’re starting to fight back. For too long have the Democrats just rolled over and let the Republicans do whatever they want. I hope this is a sign of things to come. This comes in the wake of a very controversial speech by Rumsfeld, in which he drew parallels between terrorism today and fascism in the 1930’s, and then attacked Amnesty International (the first group to condemn the secret CIA prisons) for questioning the US. The government tried to censor news agencies that reported on this speech, but they have held strong on their articles.

It’s pretty cool to see everyone starting to wake up and fight back against all of this stuff!

On a less uplifting note, the truce in Darfur is being threatened. I apparently missed when this truce began; does anyone else remember hearing about thata few months ago? The problem here, like in Lebanon until recently (I’ll get to that soon) is that the UN has no actual power, and the countries that make up the UN are reluctant to contribute troops voluntarily (and China, Russia, and India are already arming the fighters).

Going back to less recent news, Europe has committed troops to keeping the peace in Lebanon and attempting to disarm Hezbollah. Both Israel and Hezbollah (and their benefactor, Iran) seem to be claiming victory here: Israel for getting the UN to pledge to try to disarm Hezbollah, and Hezbollah for firing so many rockets and killing so many civilians and not being completely destroyed (yet) in response. I am ever hopeful that the Middle East can settle down, but I don’t think it’s likely to happen until the UN gets a concrete plan to disarm Hezbollah (and then solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but they’ve at least made a little headway here already).

Security guru and all-around awesome dude Bruce Schneier has a pretty rational look at the liquid explosives plot to blow up British airplanes bound for the US (which led to a US ban on liquids; special thanks to Natalie for the link). He mentions some very good points about the futility of our current strategy and how using more investigation and intelligence will work much better than our current strategy of banning everything and making everyone scared. Among other methods, he suggests that watching body language to find nervous, suspicious-acting characters is much more effective than banning liquids or shoes. This reminds me of a 2002 debacle in which airport security forced a woman to drink her own breast milk to “prove” that it was not a terrorist weapon. Although the current rules make exceptions for breast milk, medicine, and a couple other things, the entire situation is ridiculous.

Due to the UN’s hesitation on sanctioning Iran, the US is considering unilateral sanctions instead. Because, you know, unilateral sanctions have worked so well with Cuba. I suspect this is just empty talk, but it’s the sort of thing the Bush Administration is just crazy enough to try anyway.

Right. I think that’s about all the news I’ve been meaning to post. I can now close about 20 Firefox tabs.

Hezbollah declares “open war” on Israel

Friday evening, Lebanese terrorist group Hezbollah declared “open war” on Israel. This comes 3 days after Hezbollah apparently kidnapped 2 Israeli soldiers. In response, Israel bombed the Beirut airport, so Hezbollah attacked an Israeli warship and started launching rockets across the Israel-Lebanon border. Israel then bombed the Hezbollah headquarters, though the leaders of the group apparently escaped without injury. Israeli strategists think that a land incursion into Lebanon would turn into an imbroglio with no end in sight, so they continue to use air strikes. Civilians on both sides of the border are having their homes destroyed, and many civilians are now living in bomb shelters. Anderson Cooper is in Beirut right now reporting the whole thing, and he’s doing a great job (if you’re not familiar with him, he’s quite possibly the best reporter right now: he did much of the coverage of Hurricane Katrina, and has come to fill the role that Connie Chung used to hold. He can be seen on CNN’s “Anderson Cooper 360o“). In the meantime, the Lebanese government has done nothing to stop the fighting. This indicates to many people including myself that the Lebanese government is powerless and Hezbollah has much more of an influence over the populace.

Something I had not previously realized is that Hezbollah is almost completely funded by Iran, which is a growing influence in the area now that Syria has withdrawn from Lebanon. Hezbollah has been firing Iranian rockets into Israel, and they attacked the warship with an Iranian unmanned drone. At this point, my opinion of Iran has sunk pretty far, since they seem to be trying to destroy other countries in the region and advocating genocide along with Hezbollah (kill the Jews!—link provided by mikasaur2000. I realize the movie shows Palestinians while Hezbollah is Lebanese, but the ideology of the two groups is remarkably similar. Except that Hezbollah is full of adults who are actually killing civilians instead of just dreaming about it). I knew Hezbollah was into this whole anti-Israel thing, but I hadn’t realized Iran was hardcore on this issue too.

Train bombing in Mumbai, and other news

There was a terrorist strike on the Mumbai train system reminiscent of the London and Madrid bombings. Several hundred people are injured/killed. I hope Rishad and his family are alright (edit: they’re fine, though his cousin got off one of the trains 10 minutes before the bombs went off. Scary!), though it’s statistically likely that they’re alright: there are 19 million people in Mumbai, and around 500 were in the bombings. No one is certain who did this yet or what their reasons were. I suspect this is going to be really big news.

Congress has begun debating tribunal systems for Guantanamo inmates. It sounds like very little has been accomplished so far, but at least it’s starting.

Finally, the UN may be gearing up for sanctions against Iran for dragging its feet about the nuclear fuel compromise it has been offered. I suspect that sanctions will be imposed but ineffectual (when was the last time that sanctions actually brought about the intended changes to countries?), and eventually either Iran will become a nuclear power or someone will invade the country and find that, like in Iraq, no nuclear weapons program exists. My bet is on the second option, but we shall see. I liked Scott Adams’ take on this whole issue:

I’ll discuss this more soon, but I’m going to bed now.

My own personal Joe, Sentenza, and Tuco, if you will…

The good news: the president of Diebold resigned after enough problems with the ethics of his company, his products, and his personal business dealings. I maintain that if people are hell-bent on electronic voting (and I personally am hell-bent against it), the system should be transparent and open-source so that anyone can both verify that it is correct and formulate improvements to the system.

The bad news: President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran claims that the Holocaust never happened. This is significantly less forgivable than claiming that Israel is a blot in the middle of the Arab world that should be wiped off it. It makes my blood boil to hear people say things like this. I might be able to understand the claims if the Holocaust had happened centuries ago, but some of the people who were in it are still alive today! Is President Ahmadinejad actually trying to claim that my grandfather did not get shipped to France to fight the Nazis? Is he claiming that 20 million Russians did not actually die in some fictional “World War,” and have merely been hiding in their basements lo these past sixty years? He certainly seems to be purporting that everything from Kristallnacht to Auschwitz is an elaborate hoax. Argh!

The ugly news: I have 3 tests to take, a 10-page paper to write, 4 assignments to grade (with 20-ish people turning in each one), 7-ish ACM problems to code up, and 3 more grad school apps that need to be finished this week. I wish I could say I’m almost home, but I’m not.