Just because it isn’t happening here …

This is how fast everything can go to hell. And this is what children throughout the world go through every day.

That was an ad, with actors. This was real:

As the correspondent said, this is how arbitrary war can be. But even in an arbitrary war, the weapons have to come from somewhere.

Syria’s weapons come from Russia. But Russia isn’t the world’s largest arms exporter (via The Economist):


FIVE countries—America, Russia, Germany, China and France—accounted for three-quarters of international arms exports over the past five years. China tripled its share in that time, overtaking France. It is on track to surpass Germany to become the third-largest arms dealer. Business is brisk. Overall, sales between 2009 and 2013 were 14% higher than the previous five-year period, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, which tracks the arms trade. China sells to 35 mainly low- and middle-income countries, but is also a big importer (two-thirds of its weapons come from Russia). America exports to over 90 nations, with aircraft making up most of its sales. Russia exports more ships than any other country. Its weapons exports have significantly increased, thanks in part to being India’s biggest supplier, accounting for three-quarters of its arms purchases. As for Ukraine, it exports more weapons than Italy or Israel. But with regional tensions flaring, it may choose to keep some of those arms for itself.

That’s right. Business is brisk. People are making a lot of money off of death. But as far as they’re concerned, it doesn’t pay to see who’s dying.

Where is Ukraine?

That’s what 2,066 Americans were asked in a survey.

This is where they put it:


In case you can’t figure it out, the red dots are closer to Ukraine than the blue dots are. What’s really unbelievable is that some people put Ukraine in the middle of the U.S. I really hope they were joking.

But how could this get any worse? Political scientists from Dartmouth and Princeton tell us (from the Washington Post):

On March 28-31, 2014, we asked a national sample of 2,066 Americans (fielded via Survey Sampling International Inc. (SSI), what action they wanted the U.S. to take in Ukraine, but with a twist: In addition to measuring standard demographic characteristics and general foreign policy attitudes, we also asked our survey respondents to locate Ukraine on a map as part of a larger, ongoing project to study foreign policy knowledge. We wanted to see where Americans think Ukraine is and to learn if this knowledge (or lack thereof) is related to their foreign policy views. We found that only one out of six Americans can find Ukraine on a map, and that this lack of knowledge is related to preferences: The farther their guesses were from Ukraine’s actual location, the more they wanted the U.S. to intervene with military force.

So people who were the most unlikely to know where Ukraine is were more likely to say we should intervene militarily in Russia’s takeover of Crimea. Yeah, let’s send American troops to battle the Russians on the Russian border. I wonder how that would end?

Another reason to not visit North Korea

This is the most dangerously insane place in the world (via Talking Points Memo):

Kim Jong Un’s uncle was reportedly given one of the most brutal death sentences imaginable last month.

According to NBC News, which cited a report in a Chinese newspaper, Jang Song Thaek and five of his closest aides were stripped of their clothes, tossed in a cage and eaten alive by a pack of 120 hungry dogs. The dogs had reportedly been starved for five days.

Jang was considered to be the young North Korean leader’s second-in-command.

The details of the execution were published in a newspaper that serves as an organ of China’s Communist Party, but NBC could not independently confirm the report.

North Korea is run by crazy people. And it has nuclear weapons. The nukes probably aren’t a threat to North America, but if I were in China, Japan or South Korea, I would be wvarily looking in that direction.

A customs form for the Moon

i read recently (though I should have known this a long time ago), that when the Apollo 11 astronauts came back from the Moon, they had to fill our a form with Customs.

Which is kind of odd, because at the time, everyone on the planet knew that Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins had just come from the Moon.

Anyway, here’s their customs form:


The most disconcerting part of this form though is the line that says:

Any other condition on board which may lead to the spread of disease:


Because who knew what kind of killer moon virus they would be bringing back? (Yeah, I was probably one of the three people who saw the movie “Apollo 18.”)



The ship of the future and its new captain

This is one of the newest ships in the U.S. Navy’s fleet:


It’s the USS Zumwalt, named after the late Elmo Zumwalt, the Chief of Naval Operations during the Nixon Presidency, and according to Business Insider:

The Zumwalt is the Navy’s biggest destroyer and stands as the tip of the spear in Naval offensive operations. Its technology allows it to mitigate minefields, target submarines, and assault shores with a barrage of low altitude radar-evading missiles, artillery guns, and one day maybe even a magnetic railgun (no joke).

Its “tumblehome” tilted hull allows for a swift, quiet cut through the sea along with radar evasion. As if that weren’t enough, it’s the only destroyer that’s completely electric (the Tesla of naval combat).

So, who’s the Navy going to name to command this futuristic vessel?

Capt. James Kirk.

(Fill in your “Star Trek” joke here.)


The day we almost nuked North Carolina

How many more stories of these near misses are out there that we don’t know about? (From the Guardian and the Washington Post):

Two hydrogen bombs were accidentally dropped over Goldsboro, North Carolina on Jan. 24, 1961 after a B-52 bomber broke up in flight. One of the bombs apparently acted as if it was being armed and fired — its parachute opened and trigger mechanisms engaged.

Parker F. Jones at the Sandia National Laboratories analyzed the accident in a document headed “How I learned to mistrust the H-Bomb.”

“The MK39 Mod 2 bomb did not possess adequate safety for the airborne-alert role in the B-52,” he wrote. When the B-52 disintegrates in the air it is likely to release the bombs in “a near normal fashion,” he wrote, calling the safety mechanisms to prevent accidental arming “not complex enough.”

It’s estimated that if this bomb had gone off, it would have been 260 times more powerful than the atomic bomb that wiped out Hiroshima.

This happened four days after John F. Kennedy was inaugurated. Almost two years later, we were on the edge of nuclear annihilation waiting for Russia to remove nuclear warheads from Cuba.

The actual document can be found here.

Lucky for us, this was the only near miss ever recorded. Right?

In March 1958, an American B-47E bomber flying en route to Britain dropped its payload — an atomic bomb similar to the infamous Fat Boy — on Florence, South Carolina. Yes, you read that right. Luckily, only six people were injured. No one died.

Blessedly, it didn’t detonate. Well, actually, it sorta did.

The payload was released right over the home of Mr. Walter Gregg of Mars Bluff, a small, rural area of South Carolina. While the bomb was smaller than the nuclear monsters to come, the trigger, 7,600 pounds of TNT, went off on impact, obliterating poor Gregg’s house, injuring his family, damaging a nearby church and houses within a five-mile radius. According to local reports, the TNT itself left a crater 70 by 35 feet wide and was big enough to produce a small mushroom cloud. Greggs received a small settlement.

Uh oh! Does the government have something against the Carolinas? Let’s take a look at the result of this one.

Kind of makes you wonder how big can a nuclear bomb get?

Once again, my curiosity leads me to something I didn’t need to know.

The ‘World War Z Survival Challenge’

Don’t know how long this link is going to be active, but the Web site for the movie “World War Z” has a Survival Challenge to help you plan for the event of a zombie apocalypse. And the information is extremely useful for your run of the mill disaster situations. Like this:


Take the challenge here.

A massacre, within walking distance

130916-navy-yard-emergency-hmed-11a.photoblog600I bicycled to work this morning, as usual, and heard a lot of sirens on the way. As I headed along the Waterfront, I watched police cars speed by.

This is Washington. I thought it was some kind of motorcade.

Then I got to work and saw on the Web that there was an “active shooting incident” at the Navy Yard. That’s a military installation about three blocks from Nationals Park. I live four blocks from Nationals Park in the other direction.

And at the end of the day, I see that a heavily armed psychopath went on a rampage and killed 12 people before the police killed him. Seven blocks from where I live.

Crazy people with guns are getting too close to where I live. I expect to see the usual pontificating about gun legislation and the back and forth with the NRA about the right to bear arms vs. the right to live without being shot.

But why bother?

A psychopath with a small arsenal walked into an elementary school and killed 20 first graders less than 10 months ago. Congress didn’t do a thing. Why should we expect anything more when a psychopath with a small arsenal walks into a military installation and kills 12 adults?

And while all this is happening, states are passing this kind of legislation:

Iowa is granting permits to acquire or carry guns in public to people who are legally or completely blind.

No one questions the legality of the permits. State law does not allow sheriffs to deny an Iowan the right to carry a weapon based on physical ability.

The quandary centers squarely on public safety. Advocates for the disabled and Iowa law enforcement officers disagree over whether it’s a good idea for visually disabled Iowans to have weapons.

Let me make this simple.

No. It’s a stupid idea to let blind people carry guns. Just like it’s going to be stupid to let another mass murder go by without taking any kind of action.

But we seem to relish in our right to be stupid. Don’t we?

Stating the obvious: The NSA is trying to crack codes

Every few days or so, there’s another revelation on National Security Agency spying techniques that come from the file dump by former analyst, now Russian refugee Edward Snowden.

Some revelations are pretty interesting. But then a new “revelation” is brought to light, and it makes you wonder if it’s really a revelation.

Like this report yesterday, released by three news organizations. Here’s the summary from Pro Publica:

  • The NSA has secretly and successfully worked to break many types of encryption, the widely used technology that is supposed to make it impossible to read intercepted communications.

  • Referring to the NSA’s efforts, a 2010 British document stated: “Vast amounts of encrypted Internet data are now exploitable.” Another British memo said: “Those not already briefed were gobsmacked!”

  • The NSA has worked with American and foreign tech companies to introduce weaknesses into commercial encryption products, allowing backdoor access to data that users believe is secure.

  • The NSA has deliberately weakened the international encryption standards adopted by developers around the globe.

Encryption is electronic coding of material, designed to ensure its security during transmission. The NSA is a spy agency. The main job of spy agencies is surveillance. Most of the time, that involves cracking code.

So what I gather from the above bullet points is “the NSA is cracking code.”

And were supposed to be surprise by this because …?

I’ve already posted a number of times that in a digital world, you have no secrets. I’ve never been under the impression that governments (and hackers) aren’t trying to unlock encrypted material.

I’d just ask that when these revelations like the material above is released, the news agencies provide some context on what it means. Are they saying it’s bad?

The lead of the Pro Publica story says this:

The National Security Agency is winning its long-running secret war on encryption, using supercomputers, technical trickery, court orders and behind-the-scenes persuasion to undermine the major tools protecting the privacy of everyday communications in the Internet age, according to newly disclosed documents.

But there is no privacy in everyday communications. Rupert Murdock‘s newspapers in London have been busted for hiring private detectives to hack the phone mail of politicians. movie stars and a dead teenager. Anything you post to social media is instantly accessible to people you don’t know. And (since I like posting this video) even your bank records are open to the world:

So, I ask again, why should be be surprised by this NSA “revelation”?

(Oh, yeah. And I hate the word “gobsmacked.”)