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)
Monroeville, Alabama -- I have many doubts and concerns over the formulation and publication of "Go Set a Watchman" by Harper Lee, but the release could not come at a better time.
If we are to accept that the Atticus Finch found in "Go Set a Watchman" is not a discarded draft never intended for publication, but rather a deeper look into a more complex character, then the evolved
I have many doubts and concerns over the formulation and publication of "Go Set a Watchman" by Harper Lee, but the release could not come at a better time.
If we are to accept that the Atticus Finch found in "Go Set a Watchman" is not a discarded draft never intended for publication, but rather a deeper look into a more complex character, then the evolved.
Atticus Finch, formerly a respected paragon of virtue (especially as played by Gregory Peck in the movie version), is by contemporary standards deeply flawed by racism.
Are we now forced to reevaluate Ms. Lee's fictional hero just as we have collectively undergone a spasm of reevaluation of reevaluate symbols and causes related to the Confederacy?
Was Atticus Finch a racist who should be condemned and stricken from study, or do we continue to laud him for overcoming ignorance, and at least during the events of Mockingbird — in a crucible of fire — for overcoming his own flaws to act honorably?
Do we view him in the context of his times, or retroactively reinterpret him only by modern standards of enlightenment?
I have always believed there is great value in studying the flaws of mankind and men —even fictional characters. All of us are flawed. All of us are diminished in some form by prejudice and bias. If a fictional character is to be realistic, he must struggle with imperfections and weaknesses. (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)
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>
Lerner, K. Lee. Radiation exposure in Lerner B.W., Lerner K. Lee, eds. Worldmark Global Health and Medicine Issues (WMGH). Cengage, 2015
Radiation exposure occurs any time that electromagnetic rays or fast-moving particles interacts with living tissue. Ionizing radiation is particularly damaging to tissue; examples include x rays, gamma radiation, and fast-moving subatomic particles such as neutrons. Biological damage caused by exposure to ionizing ranges from mild tissue burns to cancer, genetic damage, and ultimately, death.
While radiation in the form of heat, visible light, and even ultraviolet light is essential to life, the word "radiation" is often used to refer only to those emissions which can damage or kill living things. Such harm is specifically attributed to radioactive particles as well as the electromagnetic rays with frequencies higher than visible light (ultraviolet, x-rays, gamma rays). Harmful electromagnetic radiation is also known as ionizing radiation because it strips atoms of one or more of their electrons, leaving highly reactive ions called free radicals which can damage tissue or genetic material.
There are, however, potential benefits of controlled exposures to certain kinds of radiation, which can be used for the detection, diagnosis, and treatment of certain diseases. (download to read more)
Analysis by specialists (medical, government, security personnel, etc.) enhances situational awareness, reduces situational analysis uncertainties, boosts the capacity to act and react with what Howitt and Leonard describe as situational anticipation, and enables crisis mangers to more quickly recognize and respond to novelty in crisis situations. more
After a disaster the role of the incident commanders and other decision makers, must eventually must shift from assisting coordination of emergency search, rescue, and relief operations to positioning resources and preparing personnel for integrated recovery operations. 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>
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)
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. A rare view of the four reactors in operation the day of the accident at Chernobyl. The New Structure Confinement (NSC dome) being built to slide over the original sarcophagus shielding Reactor #4 damaged in the 1986 Chernobyl explosion is shown far left. Reactors 5 and 6 were built out of frame to the right of the cooling pond shown were never loaded with fuel or brought online. 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)