Posts tagged ‘israel’

Wm. Eli Trashes London!

I realize the title is a bit forced. The worst thing is that if you unscramble the anagram, it’s still a bit forced. Oh, well; they’re both cromulent titles/headlines.

First, some heartening news, as horrible as it is: the Iraq Study Group’s report, which says again that we’re losing the war, our troops, and the hearts and minds of all people involved, has made a lot of people unhappy. However, public opinion seems to be pretty much in line with its claims (which seems unusual; typically expert analysis disagrees with “common knowledge”). The UN seems to be pretty upset with this whole imbroglio as well. It appears that even some Republicans are starting to view the situation from a more realistic point of view, and are beginning to search for a way out of this quagmire before it ruins the political party. Could there be a glimmer of hope for a withdrawl from Iraq? I am not aware of any way to do it without leaving Iraq less stable than it was with Saddam around, but it might still be for the best at this point.

How’s this for some really shiny news: a Firefly MMORPG appears to be on the horizon. Assuming this is as cool as I hope it is, it almost makes me wish I owned a Windows box. Almost.

NASA has announced plans to go ahead with Bush’s (perhaps ill-conceived) plan to put a permanent base on the moon by 2020. This could be really cool, or it could be a huge waste of money. I’m not sure anyone knows which it will become, but several other countries are interested in joining in on this project. We shall see what happens.

There has been another ceasefire between the Israelis and Palestinians, even though the Palestinians continued to launch rockets into Israel several hours after the supposed ceasefire began. Ordinarily I wouldn’t put much stock in this, but it has lasted a surprisingly long time. There was a bit of intra-Palestinian violence recently, but the truce has lasted remarkably well. In fact, this seems like the best news in the Israeli/Palestinian conflict since about 1993.

For the first time in a really long while, I don’t have any really bad news to post. Huzzah!

Wet Nude Spa

I suspect my anagrams are showing more than Hannibal Lecter’s, but I didn’t want another boring title.

Israel has ended its blockake of Lebanon, now that UN troops supplied by Europe have begun to take charge of the area. Near as I can tell, Israel has now completely withdrawn its military presence from Lebanon. Although I am not optimistic that this will mark the start of a more peaceful era in the region, it’s at least a new direction for events to take. We’ll see how well this all works.

Also, here is an interesting/scary portrait of a hardcore member of the religious right (and a Wikipedia biography of her). Special thanks to muddbstrd for the first link. To summarize: this woman has accepted large amounts of illegal campaign donations, presided over the Florida election recount in 2000, and claims that it is a sin to separate church and state. It’s a bit creepy that such people are playing such a prominent role in the government, and that they have such widespread support: Rep. Harris has been elected for 2 terms now. Now that Tom DeLay has resigned, I seem to be noticing several other people with unethical and unconstitutional agendas, most notably in the Republican party. I realize that the segment of the population with whom I associate is a bit skewed, but I still can’t understand how people like this have so much support. Are they elected by uninformed people who don’t know about Rep. Harris’ views, or do they actually agree with her? Is there really a significant part of the country that believes that separation of chuch and state is a bad thing? Am I only reading about the really outlandish claims because they are the only ones who can get into sensationalist stories these days? Can anyone actually find a good argument to back up a statement such as, “If you’re not electing Christians, then in essence you are going to legislate sin” or a similar claim about putting the 10 Commandments in courthouses?

Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook, has heard the complaints of the Facebook members and added more privacy settings to the News Feed and Minifeeds on the site. It was pretty special to see 750,000 people stand up in protest to the Feed over the course of about 3 days. I wish people could do this for more important issues, such as all the human rights issues that China is having. Unfortunately, it seems that people will only do stuff like that if the consequences directly affect them. Still, it was pretty cool to be a part of this and have a satisfactory conclusion.

Finally, it seems that Amazon Unbox,’s new system to sell and distribute DRM’ed movies, has some very spyware-like characteristics to it. It seems to call home quite often, and has some very odd behavior when you try to uninstall it. A choice quote from the article that was also on the Slashdot synopsis: “to be allowed the privilege of purchasing a video that I can’t burn to DVD and can’t watch on my iPod, I have to allow a program to hijack my start-up and force me to login to uninstall it.” This seems like a kind of bad deal. Hopefully other consumers will be aware of this and either explicitly accept it or not use Unbox.

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.

As always, more news

Hezbollah and Israel are still firing rockets/missiles at each other. The Arab world has called on Israel to restrain itself, though the United States appears to support the Israeli retribution. This could very well turn into a fairly significant war, since the official Lebanon government still seems to be doing nothing about the conflict.

In the meantime, the UN Security council has unanimously voted to impose sanctions against North Korea forbidding any country from importing or exporting missile-related materials into/out of the country. To be perfectly honest, this is a pleasant surprise for me; I expected the UN’s response to be much more ambiguous. This should send a strong message to Korea.

Here’s some more good news: Pepsi, when offered a chance to buy Coke’s trade secrets, did the right thing and notified both Coke and the FBI. Three suspects have been arrested. This puts Pepsi on my short list of “good” companies, along with Google, CostCo, and DEKA (who make the Segway, a home dialysis system, lots of other great products, and major supporter of FIRST).

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.

Another news spike

Nothing interesting has happened for nearly a week, and all of a sudden, lots of things are out there! The space shuttle Discovery appears to have launched without incident, and is on its way to take a German dude to the ISS. Former Enron executive Ken Lay died of a heart attack (note that this brought up an excellent example of why Wikipedia should not be trusted (edit: link is broken; use the WayBack Machine to see the article) as much as an actual encyclopedia, since its information is not guaranteed to be correct). Although neither of thise is particularly important news, I thought I’d add them in anyway. More importantly, North Korea had a failed missile test which has prompted much of the rest of the world to be quite alarmed. UN Security Council meetings and economic sanctions appear to be following quite quickly. The test included a Taepodong-2 missile which, if successful, could hit the west coast of the USA. It appears as though Korea will have another missile test in the near future. In Europe, the Italians are cracking down on people who supposedly helped the CIA kidnap people and transfer them to countries where they were tortured. If this is part of the alleged secret CIA torture system throughout Europe, there is a lot more to be uncovered. However, it appears so far to just be a few people. Finally, Israel has continued its incursion into the West Bank, this time attempting to stop Palestinians from firing grenades into villages. The military activity began a week ago when Palestinians kidnapped an Israeli soldier, the first such abduction in over a decade.

Right. I think that’s all for the moment… Oh! and the World Cup final seems to be Italy versus France.

Perhaps I was wrong about Iran

Up until now, I’ve been thinking the US has been making a big stink about Iran’s nuclear programme over nothing: just another superpower hoping that their enemies will not be given their inalienable right to improve their lot. However, I’ve been reading more on the subject, and it looks like there may very well be a sinister undercurrent to Iran’s drive for nuclear research. It’s a bit conspicuous when you step up your nuclear research while at the same time calling for another country (within missile range, no less) to be wiped from the face of the Earth. I kind of like the Russian deal, which is that Russia will supply Iran with reactor-grade nuclear fuel to be used in Russian-designed power plants, and Iran will return the spent fuel to assure that it is not diverted to make weapons. The US doesn’t seem to be going for that either, however, and I’m still confused as to why not. Whatever happens, it should finish up in a few more months.

Here’s the weird thing, though: suppose that Iran is actually doing this to be able to nuke Israel. If they hit Jerusalem, this will make Muslims, Christians, and Jews all angry, and since Iran wants to stay on the good side of at least the Muslims, I doubt that will happen. So suppose that Iran nukes the rest of Israel, and leaves Jerusalem alone. This would have absolutely catastrophic effects for Iran as well as Israel, because the rest of the world would be so surprised, appalled, and outraged that nearly every major country in the world would declare war on Iran and conquer it. Surely Iran doesn’t want to be conquered. Wiping out Israel in such a manner would also wipe out Iran itself. Consequently, I doubt Iran is planning to nuke Israel. Therefore, I believe that it is in Iran’s best interests to not nuke Israel. However, if this is the case, why try to develop nuclear weapons at all? To be used in some sort of blackmail/coercion? To counter any country that tries to invade (I don’t think Iran needs defenses to repel any invading countries any more; that ended about a decade ago with Iraq)? Making nukes to repel any aggressors who wouldn’t invade unless Iran builds nukes seems unnecessarily circular, and would only hurt Iran. Why would they do this? Perhaps they really are just trying to build power plants? But if that’s the case, why aren’t they being more cooperative with other countries? Something isn’t adding up in all of this.

Consequences of the USA being a “role model”

See what happens when the US advocates a policy of pre-emptive strikes? Now, Binyamin Netanyahu is advocating a pre-emptive strike against Iran if they haven’t been dissuaded to stop their nuclear reserach in a couple months. Although he is no longer prime minister of the country, he was back in 1996, and I think it likely that he could get elected again if he really wants to. His opinion carries a lot of weight in the Israeli government.

Right. I have to get back to Algorithms grading, so I can then get back to PerCog, so I can then get back to grad school apps, so I can get back to clinic, so I can get back to ACM, so… fuck. No sleep for Alan again.