Reading Julius Caesar is a wonderful exercise in propaganda detection and discussions about such detection in Caesar's commentaries are the quickest way to reveal a person' s depth of scholarly acquittance with the material. (download to read more)
For all their flaws and imperfections, especially as judged by contemporary standards, and for whatever failings history may eventually affix to them, the institutions of the British monarchy and the leadership of Churchill saved western civilization during the Second World War. (download to read more)
The Russian invasion of Ukraine has posed novel problems related to nuclear safety for the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Western intelligence communities, and media outlets because this is the first time a large scale shooting war has threatened multiple nuclear power plants. Early concerns about perils posed by radioactive materials stored at the damaged and decommissioned Chernobyl nuclear power plant have now turned to fears about evident damage to the Zaporizhzhia (also spelled Zaporizhia) nuclear plant located on the Dnipro river-fed Kakhovka reservoir in a southern area of Ukraine now occupied by Russian forces.
The deaths in San Antonio of more than 50 migrants found in trailer-truck abandoned in Texas summer heat... Right now, vulnerable migrants are dehumanized into political footballs as the United States border policies swing between overly permissive and overly restrictive extremes... I would hope that people on both the left and right in American politics would look at this tragedy as a reminder that shaping a cogent and consistent border policy that maintains U.S. integrity, discourages illegal migration, and protects us from the worst in other societies is important. It is equally important to treat genuine asylum seekers with dignity and treat those who simply want to work with the basic protections and security green cards provide. In sum, we should strive for policies that are both humane and emblematic of a great nation substantially built by people from other lands. (download full text)
Policymakers must now assume that Iran has the enriched uranium it needs to build a nuclear weapon. Containment is a failure as Iran’s breakout time is now essentially at zero. [Additional background for non-scientists is appended]. According to estimates prepared from International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) reports and Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS), Iran now has sufficient stores of highly enriched uranium (e.g., HEU or 60 percent enriched uranium ) to fashion a crude nuclear weapon.  As I predicted in March, Iran now has sufficient HEU, the required centrifuges, and the skill to rapidly increase enrichment of weapon-grade uranium (e.g., WGU or 90 percent enriched uranium) within a few weeks.  … (download to read more)
Ten things to know about the war in Ukraine, including Putin's potential use of a tactical nuclear weapon in Ukraine: 1. Time is now an ally of Ukraine. With Western logistical support, time is now on Ukraine's side. Until recently time was viewed as something that worked against Ukraine. Given Russia's superior numbers, the defeat and occupation of Ukraine was widely viewed (myself included) as just a matter of time. The stout Ukrainian resistance combined with Russian Army and Air Force arrogance and incompetence have now, however, turned time into a Ukrainian asset. Absent substantial help from China, or Putin's use of tactical nuclear weapons (for political purposes his most viable WMD option) the war has devolved into one of attrition that gives a constantly resupplied Ukraine a fighting chance. 2. Putin's WMD reasoning. A war of attrition increases the potential that Putin will resort to the use of a tactical nuclear weapon. How likely is it that Putin might pursue a nuclear option? If Putin is irrational then rational analysis will not yield medium or high confidence assessments of his potential decisions, but one way to approach this problem is to assess negative outcomes a rational Putin might weigh in deciding whether to use a nuclear device. 3. Perilous options. Should Putin attempt the use of a tactical nuclear weapon, he not only faces the prospect that (1) subordinates may not follow orders, but also (2) that a nuclear weapon fizzles. If either of those things happen, it is the end of the Putin regime. 4. A military plundered by corruption. How much confidence does Putin have in his command and control? …. 5. How potent is the Russian nuclear threat? There is also great uncertainty regarding the state of Russian nuclear weapons. Given the state of Russian military infrastructure and performance, it is questionable whether the Russian have adequately maintained and replenished enriched uranium or plutonium stocks. Nuclear weapons also depend on other components that degrade with time… (download to read more)
Based on reports by the U.S. Department of Defense, the Open Nuclear Network (ONN) and other open source intelligence, here are 10 things you need to know about the North Korea missile program and the latest North Korean missile test:
1. With a flight duration of 71 minutes, the March 24, 2022 test, assumed to be a Hwasong-17 missile test, was the longest duration flight by a North Korean ICBM. The missile reached an estimated altitude of 3730 miles (6,000 km) and 3850 miles (6,200 km) according to respective reports from Japan and South Korea. The launch was nearly vertical, ranging only 730 miles (1,180 km) to fall into the Sea of Japan, but if the missile had been launched on a standard ballistic missile trajectory, the estimated range would reach across the continental United States. (download to read more)
March 22, 2022 Russian media is a tightly controlled instrument of state propaganda. Sadly, large segments of our western media are now independently engaged in cheerleading that often crossed into propaganda. The Ten Essential Techniques and Elements of Propaganda. Go ahead... test it against all sides in all wars. Although formulated for war, with some minor modifications the list is also applicable to political and culture war propaganda.
"1. We don’t want war; we are only defending ourselves.
2. Our adversary is solely responsible for this war.
Iran's nuclear window narrows. Ten things you need to know about the nuclear capacity of the Islamic Republic of Iran in order to offer cogent analysis of Iran’s compliance with the existing Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) and/or ongoing negotiations by the U.S. to adapt that agreement before joining it once again as a participating party.
Based on a recent International Atomic Energy Agency’s (IAEA) Iran Verification and Monitoring Report of March 3, 2022 , and subsequent Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS) analysis , Iran is continuing to advance its nuclear capabilities, hide nuclear research facilities, and thwart international inspections. (download to read more)
Reality intrusion on Iran nuclear talks: Iran's nuclear progress renders the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) essentially moot. Even with revisions proposed by the Biden Administration, recommitment to the JCPOA would provide little protection.
The JCPOA is intended to provide a one-year window of safety between Iran's commitment to build a nuclear weapon and the possession of sufficient enriched uranium to construct such a weapon. Iran has already reduced that window of time to weeks. (download to read more)
With regard to the Steele Dossier, the question I address is not the ultimate truth or falsity of those assertions. My concern is the subsequent scrutiny laid on the dossier as well the subsequent use of unsubstantial claims to enhance ratings or advance partisan interests. The who, what, when, where, and why regarding the media and political use the now discredited Steele Dossier is an story import for journalistic integrity. It hauntingly smacks of a publish-then-verify attitude that pumps ratings, or worse, a willingness to publish unverified and potentially unverifiable allegations because they support a preconceived partisan narrative. Both practices should be anathematic to the ethical practice of journalism. (download to read more)
I am a scientist, an author, occasionally a journalist, and an editor of science and factual media. I'm not a literary scholar, but I have read all of Hemingway's published works and spent many days with his personal writings and photos preserved in the Hemingway archives at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library.
Spelunking in the collection donated by Mary Welsh Hemingway was always one of my favorite personal diversions when in Boston. After making a reservation with a research librarian, I'd jump on the Red Line from Harvard to the JFK/UMass exit. That being sufficient "T" time, I would take a taxi back to my room at the Harvard Club in Back Bay or to the house I rented in Cambridge, just off campus on Kirkland Place.
It would be hard to mistake the Hemingway room, adorned as it is with a mounted antelope head from his 1933 safari, a lion-skin rug, and his portrait.
My explorations in the Hemingway collection were admittedly cursory. l followed my own interests and requested material related to Hemingway's coverage of the Spanish Civil War and WWII. I confess to an almost promiscuous voyeurism in viewing rarely seen writings and photos of someone whom I felt I already knew intimately. Great writers have the ability to span time, distance, and differences to make their readers intimate companions.
Six decades after his death, Hemingway still has legions of us who think we know him. We think we understand him, and we envy and try to emulate his life, his writing, or both.(download to read more)
Dedication: For my grandsons: Owen Cafferty Lerner and Cary Cafferty Lerner.
Expert opinion varies as to how the current COVID-19 global pandemic will end. Many questions still lack answers.
Most public health experts argue that eradicating or eliminating the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19 is no longer possible. The probability is that, even with broad vaccination programs, the virus will remain endemic (i.e., persisting at some level in the human population), if not globally, at least regionally.
Previously, only two viruses, the deadly smallpox virus and the rinderpest virus that causes disease in cattle, have been declared eradicated (i.e., removed from any presence in the general population and consigned to laboratories designed to house and study dangerous pathogens).
Sadly, the chances are very slim–virtually nonexistent–that the SARS-CoV-2 virus can be eradicated. Even if it were possible to vaccinate everyone, this would not eliminate the virus because of its zoonotic nature. Zoonotic viruses have an undiscovered animal reservoir that harbors the virus and allows it to exist, reproduce, and mutate outside the human body (download to read more)
Pensacola FL-- Bravo zulu maximus for Chuck Yeager on his service, a life fully and well lived, and for his "no bridge too low" approach to all of it.
Today is a day for solitary reflection on life, and also probably a good bit of bourbon. A legendary icon and true American hero has passed. General Chuck Yeager, always a man among men–and for a time, THE man among men–died last night at age 97.
What the force is to the Jedi, Yeagerisms are to pilots. It is a force that binds us and training must be undertaken to properly use it. Yeager's way was THE way.
Yeager was a WWII hero who once shot down five enemy aircraft in a single day, and a legendary test pilot. As Yeager would dismissively say, he was the first pilot "confirmed to exceed the speed of sound and live to talk about it," but he was also the originator of Yeagerisms, and it was this quality and force of character that Tom Wolfe so aptly later captured and immortalized in The Right Stuff.
Every pilot who has ever kicked a rudder to line up at the top of a loop, landed a crippled plane, ejected from a flaming hunk of falling metal, or walked away from a crash understands Yeagerisms. No matter their personal titer of the right stuff, no matter their accent, they will invariably drawl out the tale in a way that shows they believe doing your duty or your job is the most important thing, but also that coolness while doing it is THE thing. (continued at continued at https://blogs.harvard.edu/kleelerner/chuck-yeager-no-bridge-too-low/ )
In a disaster, the coronavirus pandemic providing a ready example, cries to abandon caution and gamble on solutions can lead to spectacular success and deadly failures.
President Trump continues to tout an antibiotic and anti-viral drug called hydroxychloroquine as a potential treatment for Covid-19. More than just promoting the treatment, Trump urges its use, including prophylactic use.
With regard to efficacy, Trump said, "It may work, it may not." Moreover, because the drug has proven relatively safe when used under other specific circumstances (e.g., treatment of malaria, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, and other autoimmune diseases), Trump asserts, "What is there to lose?"
At a minimum, a loss of scientific rigor and the potential to repeat some of the same mistakes made the hasty FDA approval of azidothymidine, aka AZT or Retrovir, in 1987. Like hydroxychloroquine, AZT wasn't a new compound, it was created in the 60s as chemotherapy drug. AZT proved ineffective for that purpose but was dusted off and, in desperation to stem rising HIV/AIDS deaths, tried as an anti-viral. Encouraging success from flawed trials and political pressure pushed the FDA into a rapid approval. While AZT arguably offered some benefits, and became part of the cocktail of drugs developed in the 90s to control AIDS, patients also suffered debilitating side effects, problems related to over dosage, and drug resistance.
In the current battle against SARS-CoV-2 and Covid-19 pandemic, the FDA has granted an emergency use authorization for hydroxychloroquine, and clinical use of the drug has been tried in China, Italy, and other places where critically ill patients had no other options. There is a spectrum of anecdotal evidence, from highly encouraging to "of no use" to potentially dangerous.
I hope the president is right, but even if he is ultimately proven correct then it's not because of his scientific insight but rather prophetic fulfillment of the saying, "Even a blind squirrel occasionally finds a nut." He certainly isn't using science.
In support of using hydroxychloroquine, Trump cites a "French study" that he claims shows "spectacular" or "encouraging" results. Alas, the paper announcing the French group's findings, 'Hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin as a treatment of COVID-19: results of an open-label non-randomized clinical trial' (published in the International Journal of Antimicrobial Agents (IJAA) (See Note #1) was subsequently denounced by the journal's publisher, the International Society of Antimicrobial Chemotherapy (ISAC), who said that the organization "shares the concerns regarding the above article published recently in the International Journal of Antimicrobial Agents (IJAA). The ISAC Board believes the article does not meet the Society’s expected standard, especially relating to the lack of better explanations of the inclusion criteria and the triage of patients to ensure patient safety." (See Note #2) more
Originally published 22 March, 2020, Updated: 10 April, 2020.
Any assessment of Soleimani's acts, expenditures, and influence in creating satellite militias across the Middle East over the past decade, especially with his expenditures made possible by the economic boost to the Iranian economy after the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (hereafter referred to as the Iran nuclear agreement), will quickly dispel any assertions that recent escalations in tensions with Iran are the result of the U.S. pulling out of that deal. That's Tehran's line, and those who push it become pro-terrorist propagandists. The Iranian nuclear agreement, with the economic boost and cash it brought Iran–along with the Obama administration's weakness toward Iran–fueled the regional instability and terrorism orchestrated by Iran.
Iran will, of course, threaten retaliation, and because they can only fight asymmetrically, Iran will probably mount a violent response, most likely through proxies, against innocent civilians or U.S. diplomatic missions. "Death to America" will once again be the chant du jour. In the end, however, allowing Iran to dictate or constrain our policy and actions by threat of asymmetrical warfare is capitulation to terror.
Courage is required. We must see through those proxy smokescreens and hold Tehran accountable by ensuring that the price for such acts is ultimately too steep a price to pay even for a theocracy exhorting martyrdom. Cost versus benefit calculus must be made to apply to both sides. … Questions about presidential notifications to Congress are inherently contextual, and the requirements surrounding notifications to Congress rely on several factors, the first being whether an action is a Title 50 covert action that requires prior congressional notification...However, even if one determines that the U.S. structured the airstrikes on Soleimani to allow potential deniability if things went wrong (thus making the operation potentially classifiable as a covert operation), many exceptions exist to the Title 50 notification requirements. "Traditional military activities" are exempt and, as defined under 50 U.S.C. 3093(e)(2), provide an exception that would apply in the killing of Soleimani. This was an attack by U.S. military forces in a defined theater of operations (Iraq) against an Iranian military commander of a group designated an enemy and/or terrorist group. As the strike was conducted by U.S. armed forces under U.S. military command, the airstrikes count as traditional military activities. That makes the killing Title 10 action, not a Title 50 action. (more)
Around the world, women and children shoulder a disproportionate burden of the pain and suffering caused by disease, disorder, and dogma. The struggle for women's rights is a struggle for human rights… [Photo Essay] (more)
"Journal" is a mix of professional and personal photos. In addition to working in some of Earth's most beautiful and challenging environments, access to restricted sites and the opportunity to work quietly in venues normally crowded with tourists is a cherished facet of LMG work.
While representative, there is no attempt to create a detailed diary, per se. In general, personal photos taken while living/working in London, Paris, Provence, Italy, Cambridge/Harvard, Washington, Texas, and along the Gulf Coast are not included. (See Life Bits and other albums). Archival family photos are maintained in a select--access album.
I have exercised editorial discretion with regard to publishing photos, especially for a diverse audience. In many cases, prior and existing confidentiality agreements limit what I can post, or require that I publish only excerpts of work in captions and associated stories.
I carry a camera primarily to document and storyboard -- but I attempt to adhere to the ethical standards articulated by the National Press Photographers Association. Accordingly, news photos and video are unstaged and I attempt to remain unobtrusive and not alter the natural action of the subjects. Post-processing is limited to (1) cropping and rectifying (adjusting horizon lines) that does not alter meaning or essential context; (2) minor adjustments in exposure and lighting settings to enhance details without radically altering composition or natural colors; and (3) desaturating color photos to create black and white photos.
Washington -- Officials at the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID) in Fort Detrick, Md. have temporarily suspended all biosafety level 3 (BSL-3) and biosafety level 4 (BSL-4) operations. USAMRIID conducts research into defensive countermeasures against biological warfare and is the only Department of Defense laboratory equipped to conduct research with the world's most lethal biological agents.
After conducting on-site inspections in June, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) inspectors determined that USAMRIID labs failed to meet biosafety standards In July, the CDC issued a "cease and desist" order that suspended USAMRIID'S registration with the Federal Select Agent Program (FSAP). Without FASP certification, labs are not allowed to possess or handle disease-causing select agents nor conduct toxins research.
Based on her intelligence, experience, demeanor, and capacity, I think Gina Haspel is the right person to be CIA Director. I was impressed with her testimony during confirmation hearings. I agree with her that "the C.I.A.'s post-Sept. 11 interrogation program " did damage to our officers and our standing in the world. "
I do not equivocate on denouncing torture. Torture is the resort of the unskilled interrogator, the desperate, the sadistic and the cruel. I do not defend the policy of implementing Enhanced Interrogation Techniques (EIT) post 9/11, nor rendition (all renditions are, btw, extraordinary) to black sites, but I understand why they were implemented.
Arguments about their effectiveness are to me moot because, as I have written, in the long run torture does far more harm to the torturer. It should never be U.S. policy.
As to the role DCI Haspel in running a black site prison while EITs were in practice. At the time, EITs were the law, and EITS were not considered torture. One can debate how severe or mild the EITs werecompared to other forms of torture routinely practiced in other parts of the world, but that begins to defend EITs in I ways I personally do not wish to defend them. It is straightforward enough to assert that they were the law and sanctioned by the DOJ as part of the post-9/11 reaction of a desperate, hurting, fearful and angry nation.
While EITs were policy it was the CIA and officers within the CIA who led the push-back against use of EITs and lobbied for a reversal of DOJ policy and their eventual discard.
Auburn, Alabama — The most recent political football propelled a playful piece I wrote a few years back about about the differences between college and pro ball into the top 1% in terms of Academia readership within the last 30 days.
Yet again, President Trump is able to manipulate media coverage and lead the unwashed about using division and diversion. Normally I'd just be amused, but we have fellow citizens in real peril in Puerto Rico, brave men and women in our Armed Forces poised on the brink of war with North Korea (fault for which spreads across administrations and decades), and there still no bipartisan effort to fix costs and coverage problems with health care.
The Republic cracks under the tectonic tensions created by a right played as puppets by a lout-in-chief and a left devoted to polluting their own well by weakening, defaming, and destroying the best hope to defend and advance progressive enlightenment in a dangerous world.
A feverish madness is now epidemic across the political spectrum. Instead of tackling important issues we have collectively engaged in reality television-like pedestrian spectacle across a number of issues. We continue to do so at peril to valid concerns (of both Left and Right) and the Republic itself.
For me the solution is clear: Stand (both literally and physically) beside those who kneel.
Peaceful protest is a fundamental First Amendment right secured with the American blood and treasure since the founding of the Republic. No matter how distasteful the display (whether kneeling or burning flags), patriots do not fear peaceful protest, and in fact protect the right to protest precisely when it is most uncomfortable or incompatible with their views. Protestors can do no injury to the memory or sacrifice of soldiers, but we can squander their sacrifice by seeking to compel behavior deemed as patriotic. (more)
It was grey, raining, and cool in Cambridge yesterday during Harvard's 366th Commencement, but Harvard president Drew Gilpin Faust was on fire. Her Annual Report to the Alumni Association turned into a brave, brilliant, soaring -- and I hope game changing — defense of free speech and the role of the universities in both protecting and nurturing free speech on campus.
Once again, Harvard sets the standard, and those who have shown intellectual cowardice on this issue should feel great shame. (more)
Inauguration Day for the next President of the United States is a time when patriots are separated from the merely partisan. Once every four years, patriots set aside their partisan differences to celebrate a peaceful transition of the Presidency in the world's most powerful nation. We are called to show respect for the office, if not for the office holder. In so doing, we show respect for America, we embrace our Constitution, and our best hopes. We show respect for our fellow citizens and ourselves. (more)
For those of you wondering why I recently took an impassioned interest in defending the Electoral College, the Intelligence Community Assessment (ICA) from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence on Russian meddling in the recent U.S. elections explains my combative stance.
Whether intending to elect or defeat a foreign candidate or cause, influencing elections is an old game played globally by both Russian and U.S. intelligence agencies. Destabilizing institutions and reducing confidence in government are often key components. The ICA acknowledges that "Russia, like its Soviet predecessor, has a history of conducting covert influence campaigns focused on U.S. presidential elections" and that recent efforts, including "press placements to disparage candidates perceived as hostile to the Kremlin" were an escalated use of existing techniques.
For many us familiar with Russian tradecraft, the Bear's paw prints were abundant and easily visible months before the election.
Omitting classified supporting evidence that would reveal methods and sources, the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), and the National Security Agency (NSA) cooperated to draft the ICA. Their joint conclusion -- based on evidence known by 29 December 2016 and offered with generally high confidence -- was that Russian hacking, along with propaganda and disinformation efforts (including the creation and dissemination of fake news), were undertaken with the direct knowledge and approval of Russian President Vladimir Putin and other senior Russian officials. The Russian effort, initially designed to "denigrate Secretary Clinton and harm her electability and potential presidency" and eventually included efforts to "help President-elect Trump’s election chances when possible by discrediting Secretary Clinton and publicly contrasting her unfavorably to him" (about this last assertion, the NSA offered only moderate versus high confidence).
The Russian effort was part of a continuing and "longstanding desire to undermine the U.S.-led liberal democratic order" by undermining "public faith in the U.S. democratic process." (continued... (more)
Saint Amant, La. — A slow-moving tropical system dumped record rains across southeast Louisiana, with some places reporting more than two feet of rain over a three-day period in mid-August 2016. Cresting floodwaters from several rivers eclipsed previous records. Federal disaster officials characterized the rainfall as "historic," and President Obama declared a "major disaster."
Water rose so fast in some areas that emergency services and shelters also needed quick evacuation. Rescue helicopters plucked people from rooftops and dropped water during the day to stranded motorists cut off by floodwaters as a ragtag fleet of volunteers with small fishing boats, airboats, and hunting canoes joined state and federal rescue efforts to save neighbors from fast-rising waters. (more)
Washington --- Is "American exceptionalism" now hubris?
With socioeconomic indicators regarding quality-of-life issues portraying America as far from first, with America's civil discourse corrupted by the shameful shouting exhibitions in the Republican primaries, with Americans —both left and right -- increasingly drawn toward polarizing populist movements, and with American exceptionalism increasingly scorned globally --or cast in a negative light as an implicitly interventionist creed--a number of pieces recently published in the BBC and elsewhere have essentially asked, "is 'American exceptionalism' hubris?" [more]
The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) recently confirmed that laboratory tests of samples taken following Daesh attacks on Kurdish forces southwest of Erbil in August 2015 tested positive for sulphur mustard. (see Reuters dispatch by Anthony Deutsch, "Exclusive: Samples confirm Islamic State used mustard gas in Iraq - diplomat" < http://mobile.reuters.com/article/idUSKCN0VO1IC >)
Reuters reported that a OPCCW representative "speaking on condition of anonymity because the findings have not yet been released, said the result confirmed that chemical weapons had been used by Islamic State fighters." This is the second documented use by Daesh/ISIS forces following tests that confirmed use of mustard gas by Daesh/ISIS forces in Syria.
As the Reuters dispatch also points out, the precursors and technology to make these weapons are easy enough to find or create in oil producing regions, and so it is possible ISIS is developing them de novo. More ominous would be if new weapons are be created from remnants of Syria’s former stockpile because it would mean faulty accounting for the weapons supposedly dismantled under international supervision back in 2014.
The Syrian stockpile was allegedly dismantled under international supervision as part of a deal to avoid potential US/UN intervention following the use of Sarin nerve gas by forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad against a rebellious area near Damascus in 2013. Assad denied he authorized use of chemical weapons. (more)
Paris — A few hours before dawn, local French anti-terrorist police barricaded Place Jean Jaurès and streets located near the Basilica Saint Denis. They raided a suspected terrorist hideout located on Rue du Corbillon. Police met armed resistance. Initially there were two waves of gunfire and explosions spaced at about 15 minute intervals, then a long pause. Heavy firing resumed about three hours later. Just before dawn there were large explosions and multiple bursts of gunfire. (more)
Suffering stunned sorrow and anguish, it is tempting to try to understand the unspeakably vile murder of innocent worshipers in a Charleston church in terms of ready-made labels. Most of America, and the world at large, will be tempted to see this as white-on-black hate crime, and in terms of lingering racial hatreds in the South. If so, the analysis is already scripted.
Regardless the deranged murder's motives, close examination of his muddy justifications will be -- as hate often is -- ultimately unfathomable. The only suspect is Dylan Roof, a 21-year-old white male, his Facebook page has a photo of him sporting the flags of Rhodesia and apartheid-era South Africa, a period in history that ended just as the alleged killer was born. His young eyes seem filled with old hatreds. With a shooter so young, we are forced to collectively ask, "Who creates these monsters?" <more>
Cambridge, Mass. — The earliest Texas Rangers were hard men in a hard land. They saw the world in black and white, the word "alleged" having little meaning with regard to dispensing frontier justice -- which often consisted of a mere formality of trial before hanging. Among these rugged men rode one Ranger, Jabez Lamar Monroe Curry (1825-1903, with a more scholarly disposition and ties to Harvard. <more>
Kyiv (Kiev), Ukraine — In civil conflicts, even the terminology over who is rebel, traitor, or terrorist becomes contentious. Ultimately history, shaped by the victorious, will decide.
The West assumes the parties in this crisis are sharply polarized. Akin to the Spanish Civil War, while neighbors may differ with intense and lethal passions, the factions, fidelity, and goals are, at least at the outset, deeply nuanced.
Several clocks count down toward renewed unrest. As in other revolutions or rebellions, the patience of the people who deposed the prior Ukrainian government is not endless. They seek tangible improvements in their daily lives from the interim government (and any subsequently elected government).
History has shown us that once rebellion is in the blood, it becomes easier to take a second drink. (more)
Pripyat, Ukraine — The now iconic Ferris wheel and rides at the never-used carnival built for 1986 Soviet May Day celebrations rest in the radioactively-poisoned town of Pripyat, the closest city to the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant destroyed in the cataclysmic explosion in 1986. Now a ghost town located just 3 km from the plant, the city was evacuated and subsequently abandoned Soviet clean up crews or "liquidators" — many who died or suffered deleterious health effects — briefly lived in Pripyat during early emergency containment operations at Chernobyl. (more)
Chernobyl Nuclear Exclusion Zone, Ukraine -- On the Ukrainian holiday commemorating victory over the Nazis in WWII, a return to the entombed, but still smoldering, reactor at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant makes vivid another great war waged following the nuclear accident in 1986. The fight to contain the shattering explosion that exposed the nuclear core had all the hallmarks of war. It was brutal and costly, governments lied and blundered, and lives were devalued and sacrificed in a grisly calculus.
Heroes fought bravely, but heroes were also thus anointed as poor compensation for unnecessary, and often unknowing, sacrifice. After the war was won--or more aptly a temporary truce with nature secured--those called to duty were cast adrift to lead uncertain lives. (more)
Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant, Ukraine -- Construction continues on the New Safe Confinement (NSC) dome intended to cover the sarcophagus entombing the remains of the No. 4 reactor at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant destroyed by explosion in 1986.
Following the April 1986 accident, then Soviet Union threw "liquidators" (soldiers, miners, and impressed workers) into hastily construction of the original sarcophagus. Built with great loss of life due to radiation exposure and subsequent illness, Soviet engineers soon calculated the original containment building would last only about 30 years and would require constant maintenance to mitigate leaks. (more)
Cambridge, MA -- From the outset, Edward Snowden has deviated substantially from typical "whistleblower" behavior.
At a Harvard Kennedy School of Government forum on NSA Secrecy and National Security held in April 2014, a select panel of national security experts, including John Deutch, Director of Central Intelligence from1995 to 96, discussed Snowden's revelations of NSA domestic spying using technology. Deutch characterized the NSA program cast into the public eye by Snowden as "very much in the interests of the United States and counter-terrorism."
Other panel participants included moderator Graham Allison (Director, Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs), Jane Harman (Director, President and CEO, Woodrow Wilson Center), J, Dina Temple-Raston (NPR Counterterrorism Correspondent and Harvard Neiman Fellow), David Sanger (Chief Washington Correspondent of the New York Times), and Joseph Nye (Dean, Harvard Kennedy School (1995-2004).
The panel strongly agreed that Snowden's disclosures of U.S. technology and intelligence gathering capacity and protocols were extremely damaging to defense and the security of the United States, including security against both terrorism and criminal activity.
Cambridge, Mass.-Every autumn a madness for football in America manifests in fans of both the pro and college game. In both cases, the fever does not subside until a new champion is crowned. Although the level of football played in the pros is substantially higher-and played by the bigger, faster, and most skilled of the post-college crop-college football holds distinct advantages over the professional game. Many football fans have both pro and college favorites but college football has an authenticity the pro game lacks, and its combination of intimate connection and passionate play is why college football is superior to the pro game. Here are 10 reasons why the collage game is superior to the pro game: (more)
Washington — An attack on Syria may indeed spread the war -- and risks escalation and backlash -- but larger interests are at stake. Like it or not, the US is the world's sheriff in these matters.
A deeply flawed analysis recently published in the Guardian exposes the weakest of all arguments against the West taking action, that being because, "chemical weapons are far from being the greatest threat to Syria's people."
The point is that WMD use is a threat to ALL humanity. (more)
Cambridge, Mass. July 3, 2013 -- It's the sesquicentennial of Pickett's charge at the Battle of Gettysburg on July 3, 1863.
Given the significant advantages enjoyed by the industrialized North, without a loss of resolve by the Union or significant foreign intervention on behalf of the South, the American Civil War was a "lost cause" for the Confederates from the outset. That the outnumbered and outgunned rebel soldiers earned early victories and thrust into Pennsylvania in 1863 owed significantly to superior military leadership.
Both Union and Confederate soldiers fought and sacrificed, but during the war's early years, Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee, Lt. Gen. Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson, Maj. Gen. J.E.B. Stuart, and others simply outmaneuvered vastly stronger Federal forces.
Following failed attempts to break the Union army flanks at Gettysburg, it was, however, Lee's insistence on a charge designed to break the center of the Yankee lines that marked the beginning of the end for the Confederacy. <more>
Pétionville Internal Displacement Camp, Haiti -- Unaccustomed to comfort, the young woman roused herself from the shade and shelter provided by her tent. She shifted her nursing baby to her left hip, and swept back the remaining bit of flap serving as her front door to step into the heat, dust, and din of Haiti. Displaced Haitian mothers still struggle to ensure their children have food and access to medical care, often spending a considerable amount of time each day traveling between aid distribution sites and clinics. Life in the displacement camps places an extra hardship on women, who are still expected to assume responsibility for domestic chores, cooking, and child care…" (more)
SANTIAGO, Chile — Writing finished, a late night walkabout for a cerveza while working in Santiago, Chile, a few weeks ago ended with me sitting with a woman at a bar hosting a lusty karaoke night. That's karaoke with verses sung in Spanish, of course.
My drinking companion, wearing a dress considerably too short for her age and the cool fall Chilean weather, first approached me outside the bar and offered me a successive series of services. There were no strings attached, just fees. (more)
[Author's note: In April 2013, along with a half-dozen other journalists and writers from around the world, I was allowed access to photograph inside the media-restricted Fukushima exclusion zone. As a form of protest, a local official (identified and described below) unlocked gates to the contaminated zone then off limits. Accompanied by a translator, I was then allowed to take photos of the instrumentation used to monitor radiation levels, contaminated soil removal facilities, and other sites. I was in the zone for two hours, — a time calculated to offer a reasonably safe level of radiation exposure. — K. Lee Lerner]
NAGADORO, Japan — Following the 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Japan. the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) initially reported the safe scram — execution of a nuclear plant’s emergency reactor shutdown plan — of Tokyo Electric Power Company’s (TEPCO) Fukushima Daiichi plant located about 150 miles north of Tokyo. (more)
Rikuzentakata, Japan — A memorial Senbazuru (1000 origami cranes) hangs from a piling at the heavily damaged dock in Rikuzentakata, Japan. In the distance are remnants of a flood gate through which a deadly wall of water swept inland to claim the largest loss of life of any city lying in the broad band of destruction along the northwest coast of Japan. following the 2011 earthquake-triggered tsunami. (read)
Jakarta, Indonesia — UNHCR and other agencies, including the International Organization of Migration (IOM), argue that displaced people are highly vulnerable to exploitation and trafficking. Advocacy groups contend that maritime ports across Asia, including the docks of Jakarta, Indonesia, are ports to prostitution and work slavery for displaced people lured or taken from disaster zones and economically distressed areas of South Asia. At an international meeting to discuss security issues related to human trafficking and displaced populations. Both relief and law enforcement personnel agreed that displaced populations are at special risk for exploitation. UNHCR officials, granted anonymity due to the fact they were not authorized to speak to the press, said that Jakarta's dusty and dangerous docks serve as one of the main hubs for human trafficking in Asia. (more)
Madhapur, India — The remains of statues thrown into a lake in Madhapur, India, during Hindu festivals from years past lay scattered on the exposed lake bed. Local annual precipitation is now sufficient only to form temporary pools in the lowest parts of the lakebed. A decade ago, the lake supported local fishermen. (more)
HYDERABAD, INDIA-Now home to more than eight million people in the metropolitan area, Hyderabad, the capital city of the Indian State of Andhra Pradesh, and nearby Secunderabad, have long experience with the plight of displaced people and the civic tensions displacements create. An area shared by Muslims and Hindus, deadly terrorist bombings in February 2013 again stirred religious and cultural tensions in an area where land disputes concerning displaced people continue over grants dating to the 1947 Indian partition with Pakistan (which eventually evolved into the Islamic Republic of Pakistan and the People's Republic of Bangladesh). (more)
Geneva, Switzerland — With major disasters on the rise, media’s short attention span leaves millions alone on the road to recovery
Driven from their homes and communities, displaced people are vulnerable to violence, exploitation, poverty, and disease. In a chorus of languages that crosses continents, displaced people also lament that the media’s short attention span to their plight leaves them voiceless and alone on the road to recovery.
In contrast to the flow of media-enticing bloodshed provided by conflicts, the hardships and perils facing those displaced by natural disasters usually slip quickly from news headlines. Media attention inevitably shifts international attention from one natural disaster to another. (more)
Maasai Mara, Kenya — I have crossed the Sand River into bush country.
Among the great natural wonders of the world, the Maasai Mara National Reserve in Kenya (also spelled Masai Mara) and the Serengeti National Park in Tanzania form a contiguous savanna of open range grasses with clumps of umbrella-like acacia trees and scrub.
Two flights by small prop planes from Nairobi were required to reach a short dirt airstrip located deep in the Mara.
Even at the cusp of the migration, recent terrorism in Kenya has greatly reduced visitors to both the Serengeti and Mara. During a long day of exploration, I crossed paths with only two other jeeps. For much of the time, it was truly wondrous isolation.
Well guarded from poachers, yet still wild, it's a place a man armed only with a camera is easy prey. (more)
Nairobi, Kenya — Both the Kiberia and Mathare slums of Nairobi, exist in the shadows of areas of relative affluence. An upward move from the shantytowns in both slums is procurement of a state built and subsidized apartment at the edge of the slum.
Inside the slums, in some cases literally in the shadow of those tall apartment buildings a shadow economy exits. Based on both currency and barter, the economy helps residents to survive, but on thin margins and without hope to participate in the larger economy or contribute to sustained economic development. (more)
Nairobi, Kenya — In both the Kibera and Mathare slums of Nairobi, Kenya, life is hard and perilous. The slums are among Africa's largest. Depending on the number people displaced from rural areas by civil strife, disease, and grinding poverty, Kibera can rank among the world’s largest slums. Up to two million people live in challenging conditions.
Mothers walk children to school through streets littered with garbage and filled with violence. Regardless, children are also expected to venture out on their own to help gather the water and fuel needed for daily existence. (more)
Nairobi, Kenya — In both the Kiberia and Mathare slums of Nairobi, life is hard and perilous. The procurement and storage of clean water are consuming facets of daily life; and the sanitation infrastructure inadequate to prevent disease. Containers for storing clean water are coveted. (more)
Nairobi, Kenya— Based on forensics analysis provided by the United States Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), police officials in Kenya now say that a recent explosion in downtown Nairobi shopping mall, Sunday, was an act of terrorism. Originally thought to be an electrical explosion, officials now say a fertilizer-based bomb killed one person and injured 37 others. (more)
CAIRO -- Living on the outskirts of Cairo, near scenes of sporadic fighting with Muslim factions since the 2011 Revolution, residents of the Zabballen Coptic Christian Community express fear that repression and clashes will increase if the Muslim Brotherhood and the more ultraconservative Salafis continue to gain political strength.
The Zabbaleen, who characterize themselves as the "people of the trash," are a minority community of approximately 60,000 Coptic Christians who gather, process, and attempt to recycle waste generated in Cairo. (more)
TAHRIR SQUARE, Cairo — While Egypt's Revolution has, at least for now, moved into a battle for ballots, the legacy of Arab Spring remains bloodied by bullets and bombs in Syria.
The destruction, danger, and death in Syria is not new. groups in Egypt tried to raise awareness during the 2012 Egyptian Presidential campaign, both as a direct call to action and as warning of what might happen should civil war break out in Egypt. (more)
Cairo -- Tight security protected a continuing presidential election ballot counting process in Cairo. While failing to secure the votes needed to avoid a runoff, Muslim Brotherhood candidate Mohamed Mursi's apparent first place finish in Egypt's first ever truly contested presidential election assured him a spot in the June runoff. Behind tight security, vote counting continued in Cairo on Friday to determine whether Pan-Arab Karama (dignity) Party's Hamdeen Sabbahi (also spelled Sabahi) or former Prime Minister Ahmed Shafiq will face Mursi.
Sabbahi , described as a Nasserite for his support of Gamal Nasser's mix of pan-Arab nationalism and socialism, remains popular across a spectrum of religious interests. Shafiq, a former air force officer, Minister of Aviation, and stop-gap Prime Minister in the final days before Hosni Mubarak's ouster is more polarizing. A Mursi-Shafiq showdown will put many of Egypt's Tahir Square revolutionaries "in the teeth of a tiger," i.e., faced with voting for an Islamist candidate anathematic to the liberalized democratic ideals of the revolution or an openly pro-Mubarack "feloul" (remnant) of the old regime.
Notably absent is Abdel Fattah el-Sisi (simply known as Sisi), without question as Chief of the Egyptian Armed Forces, the most powerful man in Egypt. Sisi holds the real power. He has operated a quiet campaign, primarily defending the interests of the Egyptian military, especially their perceived relationship as friend to the people and guardians of the revolution. (more)
CAIRO — As the 2011 revolt spread from nearby Tahrir Square, revolutionary flames from a government building set ablaze licked perilously close to the Cairo (Egyptian) Museum that houses many of humanity's most cherished archaeological treasures and antiquities.
With its tourist industry subsequently decimated -- vividly evidenced by empty museum courtyards and cafes normally teaming with tourists -- a major challenge to whatever political faction ultimately controls still undefined presidential powers will be to restore stability to an increasingly troubled Egyptian economy.
Regardless the political countenance that will gaze upon Egypt, protection of antiquities is vital. (more)
CAIRO — On the eve of a historic presidential election set to shape the future of Egypt's ongoing revolution, results from absentia ballots cast by Egyptians living abroad gave Muslim Brotherhood candidate Mohamed Morsi, an early lead. During the 48 hour pre-voting "silent period" in which official campaigning is forbidden, pro-Islamist supporters received a boost when the Egyptian Foreign Ministries released absentia counts from 33 countries. (more)
CAIRO, EGYPT--With voting set to start Wednesday, supporters of candidates and a spectrum of advocacy groups converge on Tahrir Square, the cradle of the 2011 Egyptian Revolution, for last-minute campaigning and debates. Polls point to uncertainty over the outcome of Egypt's upcoming presidential election. Security forces stationed near the site are cautious and on alert as crowds grow nearing the first round of balloting.
Although differing in aspirations for the revolution, Egyptians interviewed argued that the revolution's future was equally uncertain, hinging in part on which parties and leaders will first exercise post-military control of the country. (more)
Cambridge, Mass--The International Society for Infectious Diseases (ISID) – Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTD) Meeting, held July 2011 in Cambridge, was the first global gathering of experts focusing on a group of diseases that globally afflict more than one billion people, yet receive only a fraction of the money and media attention directed towards AIDS, malaria, and tuberculosis programs.
Scott Halstead lectured on vaccine development and the global spread of Dengue at the conference. Discussions concerning the best use of funding and ways to spur awareness of NTD impacts, found passionate supporters who differed about whether basic science research, vaccine development, NGO treatment programs, or community- based public health programs should receive priority. (more)
Paris -- Our apartment on Rue Vavin is right in heart of Hemingway’s Paris described in the middle portions of A Movable Feast (which covered the time Hemingway lived at 113 Rue Notre Dame des Champs). Gertrude Stein’s 27 Rue de Fleurus studio is one block over, and I walk by it almost daily to buy mandarins. The Jardin du Luxembourg and my pétanque courts are a mere 40 meters away.
Hemingway’s lean prose is offset by his expansion of time and distance.
In that expansion lies literary detail and significance, but in purely physical terms Hemingway’s walks are far shorter and the hills slighter in grade than they read in A Movable Feast and The Sun Also Rises.
I often take morning coffee at Le Select, and frequent the other “principal cafés,” le Dome, Le Rotund, and Le Coupole. All are still operating near the tortuous intersections of the Boulevard Montparnasse, with the Boulevard Raspail and Rue Vavin. All are an easy two minute walk.
For all the cafés and the tourists they attract, this side of the 6th is far quieter and more livable than the Senate/St. Germain side. Le Select can be crowded at times, but a bit father up Rue Delambre lies a favorite of Henry Miller, the Café de la Liberté. It’s almost always quiet, and thus a good place have a conversation.
The walk to la Liberté on the Rue Delambre takes me past the spot where Hemingway first met Fitzgerald. The Dingo Bar is gone, and but the old wooden bar remains inside a trendy café.
Siem Reap, Cambodia — If all of the infectious diseases of mankind were listed in order of incidence, Dengue fever (also known as Breakbone Fever) would rank among the top ten. Yet, it’s officially a neglected disease, receiving less than one half of one percent of the funding spent on AIDs, malaria, and tuberculosis.
Although standing water provides a ready breeding ground for many disease vectors, including the mosquitoes that transmit Dengue Hemorrhagic Fever, agricultural rice paddies are also needed to sustain the population and provide for economic exports. In Siem Reap the paddies are in close proximity to the town.
Workers also labor -- some clearing landmines -- in areas with high mosquito concentrations, increasing their risk of contracting Dengue Hemorrhagic Fever
Dengue is endemic in at least 115 countries and spreading globally. There is no cure. Of the 30,000 to 50,000 people who die each year, children under five are especially vulnerable. Dengue perpetuates poverty, robbing millions of their economic health. In the poorest and most vulnerable regions, Dengue steals already slim chances to live a long, productive, and healthy life. (download to read more)
Moscow -- In November 2006, former Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko, an ex-KGB and FSB officer living in London who defected to British Intelligence in 2001, was killed after ingesting radioactive poison laced with polonium-210.
Only advanced state-level agencies have the resources to manufacture polonium-210. More specifically, analysis of trace elements and decay rates have allowed British Atomic Weapons Establishment investigators to trace the specific polonium-210 used to kill Litvinenko to a reactor in Russia.
Polonium-210 emits alpha particles at 803 kilo-electron volts (keV). Unlike gamma rays, alpha particles don't penetrate clothing or skin. In some ways, polonium is a perfect poison. It can be carried through airports and even skip past sophisticated radiation detectors.
Dangerous when breathed, injected or ingested, polonium-210 poisons victims from the inside to produce a slow and tortured death, the exact kind of death one might intend for a defector deemed a traitor to his country by his former colleagues because it serves as punishment and warning. Those in the know, suspect, but unless one is looking for it, polonium-210 poisoning may slip past detection, with the victim's death attributed to industrial-strength rat poison. Investigative agencies are left in a murky fog of conflicting facts and enigmatic radioactive trails.
While Russian intelligence services certainly had the motive and means, tracing polonium-210 to a reactor in Russia does not create and open and shut case.
Polonium-210 is specifically manufactured inside nuclear reactors to reduce static electric buildup in components of nuclear reactors, but It also has commercial uses and is a component of products openly available. Static electrical charges allow dust to cling to objects. Polonium ionizes air passing over it, the charged air then binds with and electrically neutralizes dust, allowing it to be easily blown away. (more)
Under mandatory evacuations, I sent Brenda and Ellie (the last child left at home) to Texas for both Hurricanes Ivan (2004) and Katrina (2005).
Ivan scored a direct hit, the eye passed right over Sibley. Katrina devastated the Mississippi coast and caused the levee breach that flooded New Orleans, but located in the northeast quadrant of Katrina, Mobile Bay and the Gulf Coast to Pensacola also suffered severe damage.
I weathered both storms at Sibley with an array of pets that could not be evacuated. Most boats not anchored out were lost. Power was out for weeks with Ivan and about a week with Katrina. Until the National Guard found its footing -- resources after Katrina were justifiably concentrated on Mississippi and New Orleans -- it was time to fire up the motorcycle, strap a pistol to my hip, and help out wherever needed. (more)
Firenze, Italia -- I regard spirituality as an intensely private matter . While I often have great personal respect for people of faith as well as the wisdom to be derived from religious thought, there is no place for the supernatural in science. What I define as spirituality, beyond the superficial observance of calendars and rituals, that comes closest to traditional conceptions of a soul is that part of you that can't helped but be moved by the dedication of people to life, work, and art undertaken as part of their faith. My personal list of spiritual places in this world would include the humanistic Pantheon in Paris, and the chairs in front of Newton's tomb at Westminster Abby where, for a good part of my life, I made an annual December pilgrimage to reflect on the year past over the "quod mortale fuit Isaaci Newtoni" and the achievements of others honored in scientist's corner.
If I had to pick one place that to me is incredibly moving to me, however, it would be Firenze. Although better known for its treasures of art and architecture, Florence portrays passion for the fusion of art and science like no other city in the world. (read more)