Iraq records huge rise in birth defects, the Cost of War, Continued….

It played unwilling host to one of the bloodiest battles of the Iraq war. Fallujahs homes and businesses were left shattered; hundreds of Iraqi civilians were killed. Its residents changed the name of their “City of Mosques” to “the polluted city” after the United States launched two massive military campaigns eight years ago. Now, one month before the World Health Organisation reveals its view on the legacy of the two battles for the town, a new study reports a “staggering rise” in birth defects among Iraqi children conceived in the aftermath of the war.High rates of miscarriage, toxic levels of lead and mercury contamination and spiralling numbers of birth defects ranging from congenital heart defects to brain dysfunctions and malformed limbs have been recorded. Even more disturbingly, they appear to be occurring at an increasing rate in children born in Fallujah, about 40 miles west of Baghdad.

via Iraq records huge rise in birth defects – Health News – Health & Families – The Independent.

There is “compelling evidence” to link the increased numbers of defects and miscarriages to military assaults, says Mozhgan Savabieasfahani, one of the lead authors of the report and an environmental toxicologist at the University of Michigan’s School of Public Health. Similar defects have been found among children born in Basra after British troops invaded, according to the new research.

US marines first bombarded Fallujah in April 2004 after four employees from the American security company Blackwater were killed, their bodies burned and dragged through the street, with two of the corpses left hanging from a bridge. Seven months later, the marines stormed the city for a second time, using some of the heaviest US air strikes deployed in Iraq. American forces later admitted that they had used white phosphorus shells, although they never admitted to using depleted uranium, which has been linked to high rates of cancer and birth defects.

The Iraq War happened.  Even when many in this country can’t remember how Wall Street destroyed the economy four years ago and are now poised to vote for a Wall Street Tycoon, err, “Job Creator, we also forget about the nearly decade long occupation of Iraq.   There’s going to be more to this story.  I’ll write about it from time to time, but if anyone wants to dedicate their lives to solving a real and horrid problem…this is a good one.

You can also continue to advocate against offensive, BASED-ON-UTTER-BULLSHIT WARS!!

The problems they cause tend to last for generations.  Generations.

If you’re wondering why I fight for peace so hard, this is reason N!.

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One again, time will tell…but this looks like yet another Foreign Policy Homerun for the Kenyan Muslim Usurper

WASHINGTON –  North Korea raised hopes Wednesday for a major easing in nuclear tensions under its youthful new leader, agreeing to suspend uranium enrichment at a key facility and refrain from missile and nuclear tests in exchange for a mountain of critically needed U.S. food aid.

It was only a preliminary step but a necessary one to restart broader six-nation negotiations that would lay down terms for what the North could get in return for abandoning its nuclear weapons program. Pyongyang pulled out of those talks in 2009 and seemingly has viewed the nuclear program as key to the survival of its dynastic, communist regime, now entering its third generation.

via North Korea Says It Will Halt Nuclear Activities | Fox News.

The agreement, as per, includes the verification step so necessary to make this stuff happen.

It also opened the way for international nuclear inspections after years when the North’s program went unmonitored.

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said the agreement, which was announced at separate but simultaneous statements by the long-time adversaries, was a modest step but also “a reminder that the world is transforming around us.”

“We, of course, will be watching closely and judging North Korea’s new leaders by their actions,” Clinton told a congressional hearing.

I’m all for giving the new kid a chance to be decent and get NK back to being part of the human race.

The Short History of False Rumors and Those Who Believe Them

This little lie has been fun to watch worm it’s way around the world.  I’ve seen this happen before, and since I’m sure it will happen again, I’d like to point out exactly how this stuff happens, and what exactly it results in (well, we saw that last Tuesday, but I digress a wee bit early).

First up, the seed, in this case coming from an anonymous Indian government beauracrat

An Indian government source told the NDTV channel: ‘The huge amount of around $200 million would be spent on security, stay and other aspects of the Presidential visit.’

 That’s it.  That’s all it takes for one of these things to take off.   This is then reported as “news reports” in other stories…

President Obama’s trip to India will cost the U.S. $200m-a-day, it was reported today.

The visit – part of a 10-trip to Asia – will take place amid unprecedented levels of security in the city of Mumbai, where terrorists killed at least 173 people two years ago.

Then the story goes to Drudge, and the torrent is on.  Fox, of course, gets in on the action early.  They do this with the same “other people are saying” b.s. they use to introduce a lot of disinformation.

The details on the trip, extensively reported in the Indian media but strongly disputed by U.S. officials, read like lyrics for a hawkish version of “The 12 Days of Christmas.” 

The president will be accompanied by 40 aircraft, 3,000 people, a fleet of cars and 34 warships, according to a string of blow-by-blow news updates. The Press Trust of India quoted an official in the state of Maharashtra pegging the cost at $200 million a day. 

Read the full Fox story here.

The lie also gets play on their other TV networks.   At this point, it has now been reported as outrageous fact all over AM radio, News Corpse various networks, etc.  *AND* more importantly, the Secret Super-Patriot Warning System, also known as your crazy uncle/aunt/cousin forwarding emails fill with wild rumors and baseless rants by the thousands very night.  This is actually one of the biggest factors in spreading this kind of disinfo.

We know this story is making the email rounds because A) it is taylor-made for this kind of conspiracy nutjobbery and B) someone who gets a lot of her information from email forwards mentioned it publicly.

“Republican Paul Ryan has suggested sharp cuts in Medicare and Social Security. Are you willing to make cuts there?” Cooper asked. But [Michelle] Bachmann [R-MN] wasn’t initially interested in discussing Medicare and Social Security. Instead, she responded to Cooper by arguing about a much more pressing matter: the cost of President Obama’s upcoming trip to India.

“Well I think we know that just within a day or so the President of the United States will be taking a trip over to India that is expected to cost the taxpayers $200 million a day,” Bachmann said. “He’s taking two thousand people with him. He’ll be renting out over 870 rooms in India. And these are 5-star hotel rooms at the Taj Mahal Palace hotel. This is the kind of over-the-top spending, it’s a very small example, Anderson.”

But wait: $200 million a day? Snopes.com says that the $200 million figure, which has been picked up by right-wing blogs, is “probably false.” Snopes traced the rumor back to an anonymous Indian government official, quoted in a Press Trust of India article published on Tuesday. Factcheck.org calls the claim “highly doubtful,” and points out that the entire war in Afghanistan currently costs about $190 million a day (h/t AJC).

So now the lie has made it halfway around the world before the truth can put its boots on.

Not only that, and I’ll get another post of this, but when asked what the cut from the budget, it’s crap like this the Republicans brings up.  They want to cut myths from the budget.  That’s the plan to balance it, make up crap and then cut it.

At this point the lie has become the “truth” and anyone who questions it is on the conspiracy.  In this part of the play, we have dupes like CNN coming in and “de-bunking.”

(CNN) — It’s a story that originated from a single, unnamed sourced in India — but it quickly gained momentum, spreading like wildfire among critics of the Obama administration in the United States and eventually, the airwaves.

The claim: The United States will be “spending a whopping $200 million per day” on President Barack Obama’s trip to Asia.

That’s roughly the amount the federal government spends each day on the war in Afghanistan. The figure has been dismissed by the White House as “wildly inflated.”

What’s more, the claim doesn’t appear to hold water.

There’s a couple standard response to this de-bunking.  First up is “Oh, it’s CNN they’ll say anything.” or, in this particular case, “They didn’t debunk it because they didn’t give the real number (which is assumed to be astronomical)”.    In this case that is difficult because spending on security is not something that is normally publicly divulged (quick sidenote:  Obama’s is the first administration *ever* to voluntarily release comprehensive spending figures on intelligence, they were quickly attacked for it.)

So on the one hand you have a wildly inflated figure (probably a mis-translation of rupees to dollars, $200M rupees is about $4.5M dollars, which sounds close to what similar trips have cost) and on the other hand you have the (Big Bad Evil) Government saying they can’t tell you the real number.

So the rumor keeps alive and, in fact, grows.    Note all those right-wing blogs and the echo chamber.  Less than 1% will ever post a retraction or clarification.  Those blogs get archived.  And then, two years later, we’ll hear this spending come up as a whisper campaign issue, like Obama being a Muslim, and being a Socialist and Obamacare raising the deficit, all rumors, all false, and all believed by the same group of people.

Luckily, after a pattern shows up, and keeps showing up, it can be studied.  Here it turns out that the results are not surprising, but it is good to know, precisely, how much bullshit your average Fox Viewer believes…

Those who rely on Fox News are more inclined to believe rumours, a study looking at the behavioral patterns of viewers of reports pertaining to the Ground Zero mosque in has concluded.
According to the study, a typical viewer who reported a low reliance on Fox News believed 0.9 rumors on average, while a similar respondent with a high reliance on Fox believed 1.5 rumors – an increase of 66 percent. On the contrary, people who relied heavily on CNN or NPR believed fewer false rumors. High reliance on CNN reduced the number of rumors believed by 23 percent, while heavy use of NPR reduced belief by 25 percent.

Read more: http://www.digitaljournal.com/article/298969#ixzz14iFLSgHg

You can also see, from the study, *why* it is that Fox viewers are so prone to believing in, and voting according to, rumors and lie.   It is not only their faith in a bad actor (Fox) but their hatred of less biased news sources like CNN and NPR, both of which have showed consistently and over time, to do a better job informing their viewers/readers of the real world  (which is why they are evil to the Fox afficianado, they are just like the older neighborhood kid who told you Santa Claus wasn’t real.  Fox News would never do that.)

So you can add one more lie/rumor to the big list of them.   This is how it happens.  I’m sure you’ll see it on comment boards and chain mails, rants and raves, and other racist rationalizations.  It’ll keep coming up.  

It’s a lie, a big one, and as last Tuesday proved, the Big Lie works.  You just have to keep saying it, over and over again.

Clearing off the desktop…

…sometimes I fall behind.  So to catch up, I just dump a lot of stuff with short commentary and reboot the browsers so my computer can think again.

Here goes…

First up is an acknowledgement of the change to Arizona law.  This took away the worst of it, but I’d expect the rest to be bad enough to fall on its own.

Here’s some of the local reaction to the immigration law.  The march took place before the changes.

Some Fox revisionism.  Seriously, WTF.

The smoke monster gets lose in the gulf.

They caught some guy who doesn’t know how to make a good bomb.

Who did what now?  You don’t say.

Federal money is only *sometimes* evil.  How very Hindu of you

No need for that extra $130 for a 3G iPad.  $99 3G iPhone works fine.

Some speculation by a sci-fi guy about Jobs hatred of flash.

More on the immigration law change in Arizona.

Tattle tales!  How silly.   I say let people strip in the name on art, like that.  This’ll get tossed.

The global warming witchhunt continues in VA via the Cooch.

A good Street Fighter movie? Unpossible.  Possible…

It’s like a cliche now.

The Tea Party takes the Republicans to a new dimension, and beyond.

The alternate question about who “introduced” nukes to the Middle East.

Wonderful reading about the longest living organism(s).

Obama, Democrats, and GOP at odds over financial regs

http://content.usatoday.com/communities/theoval/post/2010/04/obama-the-democats-and-gop-at-odds-over-financial-regs/1

Looks like it’s time for the next round of “Whats actually in the bill?”

UPDATE:  We’ll get to what’s in the bill later.  One other news story that fits into this agenda (and it ain’t an accident) is the recent news of the prosecution of Goldman Sachs.

Wall Street’s preeminent investment bank, Goldman Sachs, was charged Friday by the government with fraud in marketing exotic mortgage-backed securities before the financial crisis.

The Securities and Exchange Commission brought the civil charges in federal court in Manhattan with a lawsuit against Goldman and one of the bank’s vice presidents.

The charges relate to so-called collateralized debt obligations — complex securities tied to the performance of subprime mortgages — that Goldman created in 2007 near the end of the housing boom.

The value of the securities plunged in the mortgage meltdown that began later that year, helping to set off the global financial crisis.

This was Sach’s own version of “too big to fail”.  Since they had their hands in so many pies, it only made sense to bet against themselves, in the twisted logic of the money-makers-movers-and-shakers.

They are probably totally hosed here.  This is going to shut them up, and some others, about the new regulations.  Personally I’m for them (in a general sense).  I like the idea of a Consumer Protection Agency.  Many whistles were blown in the Fed’s direction as far back as 2000 about the shady crap, but it didn’t make it far enough up the chain.  Hence the CPA.

I also like more light on the derivatives and more complex weird products being sold.  Just like Enron (and under the same guy), Wall Street was making loads of cash by hiding all the risk (and loss).  More light makes that harder, and in the global age, after a global meltdown, international havens for sums that large are going to be hard to come by (in the long run).  Our recent move to go after the “Swiss Bank Account” b.s. is a good example of this.

The (R)’s are in a tough place, again.  Having to argue that Obama is owned by the banks (bailout) and a socialists against them (new regulations) while trying to stymie legislation wanted by the majority of the country and the majority of the government.  My guess would be misdirection as their strategy.

Thai Tea Party Gets Within Hare’s Breath of Mad Hatter

Not sure what that means, but since it’s a Carroll reference, I think that’s o.k.

Regardless, here’s the news.

Bangkok, Thailand (CNN) — Thailand’s Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva declared a state of emergency Wednesday, hours after anti-government demonstrators stormed the country’s parliament.

Speaking on nationwide television, he said the “purpose is to restore peace and order and to stop the spreading of false information to the Thai public.”

For a better understanding on the dispute, CNN has put this together.

Robots Taking Over the Runways and Dreamscapes

First up, from the far, far east….

(TSUKUBA, Japan) A new walking, talking robot from Japan has a female face that can smile and has trimmed down to 43 kilograms (95 pounds) to make a debut at a fashion show. But it still hasn’t cleared safety standards required to share the catwalk with human models.

Developers at the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology, a government-backed organization, said their “cybernetic human,” shown Monday, wasn’t ready to help with daily chores or work side by side with people — as many hope robots will be able to do in the future.

“Technologically, it hasn’t reached that level,” said Hirohisa Hirukawa, one of the robot’s developers. “Even as a fashion model, people in the industry told us she was short and had a rather ordinary figure.”

[full story]

Interesting stuff for the second and third generation human-like robots.  Give us another generation of robotics engineers, looking at art like this, and we’ll be there for sure.

That artist, BTW, is Choe U-Ram, and you can see one of his nightmares in motion here.

I have another video that’s yet to be online about this stuff.  Quite frankly, I think it would be very bad for humanity if we were to create an AI.  I know that’s the dream of a lot of computer scientists and robotics experts, but there is the potential, nay the certainty, of calamity along that path.   Any sufficiently advanced AI (i.e. one that qualified is all respects as a “mind”) is going to have the capacity, as we do, to ignore any and all constraints placed upon it by the outside world.   Such is the nature of consciousness.

In that line of thinking, providing an intelligence with the vast power that could come from a body of steel and and effectively infinite life, and one is well on down the road to madness.   And, unfortunately, for a real AI, madness *must* be an option.   So as much as I love the robots, and the cool stuff we can make nowadays, there needs to be a rather firm limit on what kind of power we are going to give them, as they will certainly want to take more…if we make them anything like us.

The First Two Chapters Are Up

As mentioned a little while back, I am putting the blog on hold and writing a book.

O.k. I didn’t do such a good job of that (as the latest posts can testify) but that hasn’t stopped the book from coming along nicely.

They can read be read here.

I’d love to get some feedback on what I’ve done so far.  There is contact information in that post as well, if anyone wants more information.

The most of the book I am going to post online for free is the first three chapters (and very few graphs, and no appendices, which is where the pudding is, so to speak).  I am currently going between editing and writing (editing takes a lot longer).

I’ve always been a fan of the shareware model for software distribution and something of a fan of the street performer protocol as a way to make money and give stuff away at the same time.  That’s the only reason for the tease and, quite frankly, it’s high time I tried to sell a bit of my writing rather than just giving it away for free, as I have done for a good long while now.

Thanks, and I hope you enjoy it!

Woot! 10K Views and Did You Know 2008 (and 2007)

So my first, and worst, Fallout 3 video just passed 10,000 views on ye olde YouTube.  I know that’s not much for some of the popular videos, but it’s a decent enough milestone for a month or so.

In personal book news, we’re past 30 pages and chapter 3 is a slight bit of research away from completion.

In order to keep you distracted and prime you a bit for my book, take a look at the world in 2008 (and 2007).  This is the world I am talking to, and the one I’m writing about.  This is the world I was made for.

(oh…and sexy new WordPress, good work guys and gals).  I think they got the news that I had switched applications...and upped the ante.

Did You Know 2008

Did You Know 2007

BTW, next year you guys need to expand beyond China, India and the U.S.   One of the fun little tidbits I like to mention is that there are more Muslims in India than Americans on the planet.  Hmm, I guess that is still focused on India.  As a quick news note here (and I know I’m not supposed to be blogging so this will be brief), while what I just said is true, it was some nuts fighting over Paradise (Kashmir) that pulled the latest bullshit.  They were most likely from Pakistan, but probably had extended family in India.  Recall, India and Pakistan became two seperate countries about the same time the United States became one (World War II through the Civil Rights Era).  They’ve still got a lot of stuff to work out.  As long as we can avoid a war that kills hundreds of millions, we can sadly call it a win.

Chinese government makes “Chinese Democracy” somewhat relevant.

Here’s the story so funny it can only come from China.

Axl Rose isn’t exactly the renegade rocker he was in the late 1980s, but he’s still rock ‘n roll enough stir up a controversy.

An article in a Chinese newspaper today blasted the singer’s new album “Chinese Democracy”as a “venomous attack”on the nation and suggested the long-awaited Guns ‘N Roses release “turns its spear point on China.”

The story was printed in a publication put out by China’s ruling Communist Party, and quoted unnamed sources from Internet message boards that suggested the lyrics were inflammatory and critical of China.

Excerpts from these online chats slammed the album as a plot by Western adversaries to “grasp and control the world using democracy as a pawn,”the Associated Press reported. The new album dropped Sunday after fans held on through 17 years of myriad false starts and production delays after Guns ‘N Roses began recording in 1994.

[full story]

For those that don’t know, Guns ‘N Roses “Chinese Democracy” is the Duke Nukem Forever of the music world.

For those curious about GnR’s “new” sound…

Also as a quick note; when a whole government is reduced to quoting “unnamed sources from Internet message boards” you know they are stretching.  And you know without a doubt this is propaganda.

The funny part about this for me is that I recently ran across a far more inflammatory (ha!) bit of anti-Chinese propaganda in American pop culture.

This one comes in the form of “Liberty Prime” a giant, nuke-throwing, Chinese-hating robot.

Here you can see him in action, and set to some lovely classical music.  Listen for the robot’s voice.  He’s rather agressive in his feelings toward China and Communism (understandable, as a nuclear war with China causes all the “Fallout” in 2077).

Robots and Pirates in the News (Ninja absent…but they’re Ninjas…so…)

There have been major news stories in the last couple of weeks involving robots and pirates making war.  The ninjas are staying out of the spotlight, but as that is their nature, this shouldn’t be noted as evidence that they aren’t very busy.

First up, the pirates…

NAIROBI, Kenya (CNN) — Pirates who hijacked a crude oil tanker off the coast of Kenya are approaching a Somali port, the U.S. Navy says.

The Sirius Star — a crude “super tanker” flagged in Liberia and owned by the Saudi Arabian-based Saudi Aramco company — was attacked on Saturday more than 450 nautical miles southeast of Mombasa, Kenya.

The crew of 25, including British, Croatian, Polish, Filipino and Saudi nationals, are reported to be safe.

U.S. Navy Fifth Fleet Cmdr. Jane Campbell said the super tanker weighs more than 300,000 metric tons and “is more than three times the size of a U.S. Navy aircraft carrier.”

Oil industry insiders say a tanker of this size can carry up to 2 million barrels of oil, and the ship’s operator, Dubai-based Vela International Marine Ltd, says it is fully laden.

[full story]

That piracy has been on the rise off Africa’s east coast is nothing new.  The general lawlessness of the area contributes to, well, lawlessness, which is an environment in which the pirate thrives.

One of the problems with this piracy issues is that people (governments and private companies) have been giving into pirate ransom demands to release ships and crew.  This then funds the pirates to attack more and bigger ships.  That super tanker mentioned above has over $100,000,000 worth of oil on it, and enough to cause a major environmental problem  (the Exxon Valdex spilled about 10 million barrels, this tanker has about 2 million…but cleanup would be severely problematic, see: pirates).

Not to be outdone, the Robots have also been making news around the world…

Pakistan has summoned the US ambassador in Islamabad to protest at a US missile attack deep inside Pakistani territory on Wednesday that killed five people.

The attack, in Bannu district, killed five local militants, officials say.

Previous drone attacks have been in the strip of territory along the Afghan border known as the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata), a region where huge areas are under the control of militants rather than the central government.

But Bannu is in the North West Frontier Province where the government claims far more control.

“The American ambassador has been called to the Foreign Office to lodge a protest over the missile attack in Bannu,” a foreign ministry official told Reuters news agency.

The US embassy said that ambassador Anne Patterson would relay Pakistan’s concerns to Washington.

[full article]

Some intersting stuff there with the robots.  The U.S. has been using these unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV’s) or “flying robots” to take the fight to the enemy in places where it is quite difficult for leg-bearing humans to wander.

The question of using robots to fights one’s battles (which goes against something of the “warrior spirit”) is going to be an exercise left to the reader, but I can’t help but look at the news stories of the week and have the immediate reaction of…

…aim the robots at the pirates. 

Trust me, you want to get this whole thing resolved before the ninja make an appearance…which they won’t…poeple will just start dying.

With that truth in mind, you can see how the ninjas actually are in effect.  They’ve been a big part of the “Surge” in Iraq.  You don’t hear about exactly what they’ve done, and you won’t for years and years, but they’ve been very, very busy. 

WASHINGTON (CNN) — The dramatic drop in violence in Iraq is due in large part to a secret program the U.S. military has used to kill terrorists, according to a new book by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Bob Woodward.

The program — which Woodward compares to the World War II era Manhattan Project that developed the atomic bomb — must remain secret for now or it would “get people killed,” Woodward said Monday on CNN’s Larry King Live.

“It is a wonderful example of American ingenuity solving a problem in war, as we often have,” Woodward said.

In “The War Within: Secret White House History 2006-2008,” Woodward disclosed the existence of secret operational capabilities developed by the military to locate, target and kill leaders of al Qaeda in Iraq and other insurgent leaders.

National security adviser Stephen Hadley, in a written statement reacting to Woodward’s book, acknowledged the new strategy.

[full story]

And there you have it.

The absolute latest in robot, pirate, and ninja news.