Wednesday, July 31, 2013

A Close Shave

The Washington Examiner reports on a close call with a massive solar flare:

The earth barely missed taking a massive solar punch in the teeth two weeks ago, an "electromagnetic pulse" so big that it could have knocked out power, cars and iPhones throughout the United States.

Two EMP experts told Secrets that the EMP flashed through earth's typical orbit around the sun about two weeks before the planet got there.

"The world escaped an EMP catastrophe," said Henry Cooper, who lead strategic arms negotiations with the Soviet Union under President Reagan, and who now heads High Frontier, a group pushing for missile defense.

"There had been a near-miss about two weeks ago, a Carrington-class coronal mass ejection crossed the orbit of the Earth and basically just missed us," said Peter Vincent Pry, who served on the Congressional EMP Threat Commission from 2001-2008. He was referring to the 1859 EMP named after astronomer Richard Carrington that melted telegraph lines in Europe and North America.
Just signs in the heavens.

Monday, July 29, 2013

U.S. In Cyberwar Against China...

... according to Michigan Republican Rep. Mike Rogers, chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.

A Blip or a Trend? (Updated)

Following the Zimmerman verdict, various groups both inside the Department of Justice and outside the government have attempted to use the verdict to undermine race relations. Although no major riots resulted, there were and continue to be scattered violence seemingly related to the Zimmerman verdict, including this assault and robber in Bethesda, Maryland. In that case, a 28 year old man (ethnicity unidentified) was attacked by 3 black men, one of whom said the attack was for Travyn Martin. Another possible hate crime also occurred in Baltimore, where 10 black teenagers attacked and beat a man.

I see two possible issues--are there more such attacks? and are the attacks more prolonged or brutal than before? Time will tell.

Update: The Bethesda, Md attack was against a white man.

Bank of Cyprus Depositors will Lose...

... 47.5% of their savings in excess of 100,000 euros. Good thing the truly wealthy were given an opportunity to move their money out first.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

AP Seeking List of Montana CCL Holders

The Associated Press is seeking to obtain a list of concealed carry license holders in Montana. (H/t Weasel Zippers).

"Ghosts of the Rio Grande"

The American Prospect has an article about illegal aliens dying on there crossing, and how many of the bodies wind up never being identified, if they are even found.

Islamic Terrorist Sleeper Cells?

Family Security Matters has an article on the dangers of using terms such as "moderate Islam" versus "radical Islam," arguing that the real distinction is between "non-practicing Muslim" versus "practicing Muslim." However, there is also this bit:

In the U.S. our military bases have programs to bring citizens/scientists from Islamic based countries to the U.S. to train them on many of our weapons systems and some of our most highly guarded technology systems. This must stop. Kirtland AFB, NM and Wright Patterson AFB, Ohio are two of the top offenders. Intelligence that would not be provided to the American public is freely provided to foreign nationals from Islamic based countries that support terrorism against us. In addition thousands of foreigners from Islamic based countries are trained at our military bases about aircraft systems and how to fly them. Lackland AFB, Texas is one of our prime offenders in this category. When I was a Special Agent for the Air Force Office of Special Investigations we continuously had open cases on foreign citizens who suddenly left our installations and disappeared into unknown areas of America. I have written previously about ‘sleeper cells'. These are some of the people who go underground into sleeper cells. They are trained military personnel who have a working knowledge of English and have been trained on our weapons systems. Immediately after the attack on 9-11, other Agents and myself were given orders to attempt to track these ‘lost' foreigners down. It was an impossible hunt. There was a major concern some of the 9-11 Islamic hijackers had even trained in our military flight schools.

A War of Independence in Egypt (Updated)

Egyptian forces fight for the future of Egypt, finally turning their guns on the Muslim Brotherhood.

David P. Goldman (aka Spengler) writes about the events on Egypt:

Earlier today, Egypt’s military government arrested former prime minister Mohammed Mursi on charges of conspiring with the terrorist organization Hamas, the Muslim Brotherhood’s Palestinian affiliate. That is as good as it gets in this part of the world. Hamas has murdered 457 Israelis and wounded more than 3,000 since 2000, according to the Israeli government. It is an implacable enemy of the United States as well as the State of Israel. Since taking power, the Egyptian military has shut down illegal tunnel traffic with Gaza, Hamas’ stronghold, and strangled its economy.
Gen. Abdulfatah al-Sisi, the Egyptian military commander, is doing the dirty work of the West. Yet both the Obama administration and the Republican mainstream have denounced the military-led government and demanded the Muslim Brotherhood’s return to power. “Trying to break the neck of the Brotherhood is not going to be good for Egypt or for the region,” a White House official told the New York Times on July 25th, explaining why Obama had canceled the delivery of four F-16s to Egypt. And some prominent neo-conservatives, including Max Boot and Reuel Marc Gerecht, are taking the side of the Brotherhood. It is the world turned upside down, foreign policy as Mel Brooks might have scripted it.
Max Boot's reaction doesn't surprise me. His writings reveal that he has a soft spot for Islamic insurgents.

 Responding to another critic, Goldman writes:

It seems churlish to point this out, but I was right about Egypt from the outset while Gerecht was dead wrong. I predicted a failed state in Egypt on Feb. 2, 2011, observing that then-President Hosni Mubarak’s problems arose from a free fall of the Egyptian economy already in progress. No-one is right all the time, and there is no shame in having been wrong, unless, of course, one insults everyone who might disagree with a view that already has produced a catastrophically wrong forecast.
Gerecht asserts — without a shred of evidence — that Egypt can stabilize its economy by shutting down subsidies. Morsi refused to do so (as the International Monetary Fund demanded) because he did not believe he could do so and survive politically. It is absurd to suggest that restoring the Brotherhood to power in some way would make possible the austerity measures that the Brotherhood could not push through when it had all the power. Who is deluded here may be adduced from the track record.
Half of Egypt’s people live on $1.65 a day or less and the country imports half its food. Its economy is in ruins and cannot be revived by an IMF austerity package, as Gerecht seems to imply. Morsi fell when he ran out of money. The Saudis and other Gulf states refused to bankroll the Muslim Brotherhood, which is seeking to overthrow the Arab monarchies, but immediately lent $12 billion to Morsi’s successors, averting starvation in Egypt for the next year.
Goldman address the deeper flaw, though, in understanding the Middle-East--one apparently shared by all levels of our diplomatic corp and policy makers:

It is hard for Americans to understand that everyone is not like us: are we not an amalgam of all the cultures and races of the world? But that is a fallacy of composition: we Americans are brands plucked out of the fire, the few individuals who rejected the tragedies of the cultures of our origin and embraced something radically different.

The “political philosophy” that has guided so many diligent and clever analysts into absurdities does not address the definitive political phenomenon of our time, namely cultural suicide. The materialism of Hobbes et. al. proceeds from the idea of individual self-preservation to a theory of the state; it does not consider that cultures may veer collectively toward self-destruction. At its worst, so-called rationalist political philosophy turns into the old materialist assertion that being determines consciousness: put people into democratic institutions and they will turn into democrats, just as the Communists asserted that collectivizing the means of production would produce a “new man.” Perhaps something good will come out of all of this: Max Boot and Reuel Marc Gerecht are as close as living writers can come to an embodiment of reductio ad absurdum.
Updated: The Daily Mail is reporting more than 120 dead and more than 1,000 injured in demonstrations across Egypt. The majority of demonstrators supported the Egyptian Army's removal of Morsi, but pro-Morsi supporters were also protesting his arrests. The story suggests that the dead and injured were due to government forces using lethal force, but doesn't actually say so, nor does it support the insinuation with any facts.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Could Riots Hit Italy?


Social unrest and even rioting over the economic crisis and joblessness in Italy would likely begin in the poverty-stricken south, including Naples, Campania Regional Governor Stefano Caldoro said Tuesday.

Caldoro said he agreed with earlier forecasts of social uprisings made by Gianroberto Casaleggio, co-founder of the anti-establishment 5-Star Movement (M5S).

"Riots and revolts will begin here in Naples and Campania," said Caldoro, adding that he was making "a political judgment".
... Caldoro's comments came the same day that the association of Italian chambers of commerce (Unioncamere) and the Labour Ministry warned that Italy will suffer a net loss of 250,000 private-sector jobs this year.

Syria's Exodus

The Guardian reports:

Western countries including the US and Britain may be asked to accept tens of thousands of Syrian refugees because the exodus from the civil war is overwhelming countries in the region, the UN's refugee chief has warned.

With no end to the war in sight, the flight of nearly 2 million people from Syria over the past two years is showing every sign of becoming a permanent population shift, like the Palestinian crises of 1948 and 1967, with grave implications for countries such as Lebanon and Jordan, UN and other humanitarian aid officials say.

One in six people in Lebanon are now Syrian refugees. The biggest camp in Jordan has become the country's fourth-largest city. In addition to those who have crossed borders, at least four million Syrians are believed to have been displaced within their own country, meaning that more than a quarter of the population has been uprooted.

In an interview with the Guardian, António Guterres, the United Nations high commissioner for refugees, said the situation was already far more than just a humanitarian crisis. If a resolution to the conflict was not found within months, the UN will look to resettle tens of thousands of Syrian refugees in countries better able to afford to host them, including Britain. Germany has already offered to take 5,000, but other offers have been limited, Guterres said.

"We are facing in the Middle East something that is more than a humanitarian crisis, more than a regional crisis, it is becoming a real threat to global peace and security," Guterres said.
 And the crises is unlikely to resolve soon.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is not going to lose power unless there is foreign intervention amounting to a full-scale war, according to a leading Middle-East politician.

Iraqi Foreign Minister, Hoshyar Zebari, said with a united army in control of Damascus and the major Syrian cities, Assad “will survive for the foreseeable future”. Mr Zebari, pictured below, is one of the few leaders to be in touch with all parties in the Syrian civil war, including the government and various factions of the opposition, along with their foreign backers.
 I have two points to make in this issue:

First, in a civil war, there will be widespread displacement of populations. This means that no matter how well you have prepared, you may be forced to evacuate or leave a position. However, being a refugee (even if "bugging out" to some other location hundreds of miles away) sucks. You lose control over your life and welfare; you may be herded into refugee camps that are little better than prisons. The lesson is to avoid being a refugee if you can.

My second point is more humanitarian or theological. I try not to get into arguments with people over this, but I don't see where the scriptures support a "rapture" as that term is generally used and understood. I've read the scriptures that are relied on to support the concept of a "rapture," but I think that people are confounding two different events. That is not to say that the Lord won't provide a physical refuge. However, I believe that the United States (and perhaps, more particularly, the Intermountain West) will act as a refuge for Christians, and perhaps other locales around the world. With that in mind, I think the U.S. should accept refugees from Syria--particularly Christians and the minority Muslims. It would certainly be less expensive to bring those refugees here than it would be to militarily intervene in Syria.

Japan Looks At Expanding Offensive Military Capabilities

Japan is considering acquiring offensive weapons and drones and will assume a more active role in regional security, the country’s defense minister said Friday, giving an early glimpse of how the new conservative government could lead the nation further than ever from its postwar pacifism.

The minister, Itsunori Onodera, said Japan should consider such steps as acquiring weapons to strike bases in hostile countries and aerial drones to monitor Japan’s vast territorial waters in response to the growing capabilities of North Korea and China. He spoke after his ministry released an interim report on an overhaul of Japanese defense strategy under way by the administration of hawkish Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, whose Liberal Democratic Party won a decisive election victory on Sunday. The interim report is meant to start debate on the issue before deciding on final changes in the defense policy expected to be announced by the end of the year.

Mr. Abe has vowed to reverse the long decline of his nation, which was Asia’s dominant local power during much of the last century, but recently has seemed to be eclipsed by China. In addition to his economic revitalization strategy known as Abenomics, the prime minister has said he wants to change Japan’s antiwar Constitution, written by American occupiers after World War II, to allow its defense forces to become a full-fledged military. Analysts said acquiring an offensive weapon would be an important symbolic step away from the limitations placed on Japan’s armed forces by the current Constitution.

Mormon Missionary Survives Spain Train Crash

One of the passengers on Wednesday's horrific train crash in Spain was an LDS missionary, who survived and whose prognosis appears good. The train's driver has been arrested.

Decline of Civilization or Intelligence, or Both?

Like something out of "Idiocracy," a bunch of mindless college students (and one teacher) sign a petition to legalize "Fourth (4th) Trimester" abortions.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Christian Persecution in Muslim Countries

Bruce Thornton at the Hoover Institution writes about Christian persecution in Muslim countries in a review of Raymond Ibrahim’s Crucified Again:

Few people realize that we are today living through the largest persecution of Christians in history, worse even than the famous attacks under ancient Roman emperors like Diocletian and Nero. Estimates of the numbers of Christians under assault range from 100-200 million. According to one estimate, a Christian is martyred every five minutes. And most of this persecution is taking place at the hands of Muslims. Of the top fifty countries persecuting Christians, forty-two have either a Muslim majority or have sizeable Muslim populations.

Do We Need to Worry About A Slowdown In China?

An article offering several different points of view at the Atlantic.

President Promises Rising Social Tensions

I've discussed before revelations and prophecies predicting widespread war prior to the Second Coming, including another civil war and violence in the United States. Contrary to expectations, crime rates have actually be declining in most of the industrial world, including the United States, for the past couple of decades. But that actually makes it more important for the wolves-in-sheeps'-clothing to stir up trouble.

Which brings me to this op-ed by J. Christian Adams on "President Alinsky":

Today, America heard threats from the increasingly predictable President Alinsky.
“The position of the middle class will erode further,” Mr. Obama said. “Inequality will continue to increase, money’s power will distort our politics even more. Social tensions will rise, as various groups fight to hold on to what they have, start blaming somebody else for why their position isn’t improving. That’s not the America we know.”
This is standard-fare Das Kapital by Karl Marx. Obama doesn’t even attempt to disguise it, leaving out only the original author’s name. Obama merely adds the threat of social tensions.
For that, thank speech co-author Saul Alinsky.
Alinsky saw social tensions as a necessary circumstance to effective community organizing. Without anger, without the have-nots blaming the haves, it is harder to accumulate power. Alinsky considered the creation of social tensions, or the exploitation of them, as essential to move wealth and power from those who have it to those who don’t.
Obama seems to be well on his way of stoking racial tensions among blacks. A new poll from the WSJ and NBC News shows:

Only 52 percent of whites and 38 percent of blacks have a favorable opinion of race relations in the country, according to the poll, which has tracked race relations since 1994 and was conducted in mid-July by Hart Research Associations and Public Opinion Strategies.

That’s a sharp drop from the beginning of Obama’s first term, when 79 percent of whites and 63 percent of blacks held a favorable view of American race relations.
Meanwhile, with "immigration reform" not advancing as fast as needed for the mid-term elections, the Department of Justice has decided it will be going after states for alleged violations of federal voter laws.

Two important developments this morning. First: Attorney General Eric Holder will announce that the Justice Department will initiate broad nationwide attacks on election integrity measures like Voter ID using the remaining portions of the Voting Rights Act. Last month, the Supreme Court struck down the 1965 triggers that forced 15 states to submit election law changes to Washington D.C. for federal approval.

Second: despite the Supreme Court’s ruling, the Justice Department announced it will try to recapture Texas under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act by showing the state continues to act with a racially discriminatory intent when passing voting laws.

Remember, I've said before that the Democrats are desperately trying to turn Texas blue in order to regain control of the House and, most importantly, insure a democratic victory in the upcoming election.

(H/t Instapundit)

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Measles Outbreak 15 Years After Anti-Vaccination Scare

From Fox News:
When the telltale rash appeared behind Aleshia Jenkins's ears, her grandmother knew exactly what caused it: a decision she'd made 15 years earlier.

Ms. Jenkins was an infant in 1998, when this region of southwest Wales was a hotbed of resistance to a vaccine for measles, mumps and rubella. Many here refused the vaccine for their children after a British doctor, Andrew Wakefield, suggested it might cause autism and a local newspaper heavily covered the fears. Resistance continued even after the autism link was disproved.

The bill has now come due.

A measles outbreak infected 1,219 people in southwest Wales between November 2012 and early July, compared with 105 cases in all of Wales in 2011.

One of the infected was Ms. Jenkins, whose grandmother, her guardian, hadn't vaccinated her as a young child. "I was afraid of the autism," says the grandmother, Margaret Mugford, 63 years old. "It was in all the papers and on TV."
 Just a reminder that life was grim before soap, childhood vaccinations, and antibiotics. Get your kids vaccinated and keep your vaccinations up to date--especially for tetanus.

Michelle Obama Addresses La Raza

The Associated Press (via Breitbart) reports:

The first lady on Tuesday faced immigration _ another new issue for her _ when she delivered the keynote speech in New Orleans at the annual conference of the National Council of La Raza. Immigration is one of President Barack Obama's top second-term priorities, as it is for the Latino advocacy group.

Mrs. Obama urged the group's members to stay encouraged and continue to press the House to follow the lead of the Senate and pass an immigration bill.

"Do not give up because I promise you my husband won't give up until a good bill gets on his desk," she said.
It should be noted that Pres. Obama spoke to NCLR in 2008 and  2011 and met with NCLR leaders in February of this year.

"La Raza" means "the Race,"  The National Council of La Raza is generally portrayed as a benign civil rights organization. For instance, the Huffington Post has described it as:

... the largest national Hispanic civil rights and advocacy organization in the United States—[which] works to improve opportunities for Hispanic Americans. Through its network of nearly 300 affiliated community-based organizations, NCLR reaches millions of Hispanics each year in 41 states, Puerto Rico, and the District of Columbia. To achieve its mission, NCLR conducts applied research, policy analysis, and advocacy, providing a Latino perspective in five key areas—assets/investments, civil rights/immigration, education, employment and economic status, and health. In addition, it provides capacity-building assistance to its Affiliates who work at the state and local level to advance opportunities for individuals and families.
However, it has troubling ties to other, more radical, groups. In April 2006, Human Events published an article on this topic. Among other things, it noted:

Behind the respectable front of the National Council of La Raza lies the real agenda of the La Raza movement, the agenda that led to those thousands of illegal immigrants in the streets of American cities, waving Mexican flags, brazenly defying our laws, and demanding concessions.

Key among the secondary organizations is the radical racist group Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlan, or Chicano Student Movement of Aztlan (MEChA), one of the most anti-American groups in the country, which has permeated U.S. campuses since the 1960s, and continues its push to carve a racist nation out of the American West.

One of America’s greatest strengths has always been taking in immigrants from cultures around the world, and assimilating them into our country as Americans. By being citizens of the U.S. we are Americans first, and only, in our national loyalties.

This is totally opposed by MEChA for the hordes of illegal immigrants pouring across our borders, to whom they say:

“Chicano is our identity; it defines who we are as people. It rejects the notion that we…should assimilate into the Anglo-American melting pot…Aztlan was the legendary homeland of the Aztecas … It became synonymous with the vast territories of the Southwest, brutally stolen from a Mexican people marginalized and betrayed by the hostile custodians of the Manifest Destiny.” (Statement on University of Oregon MEChA Website, Jan. 3, 2006)

MEChA isn’t at all shy about their goals, or their views of other races. Their founding principles are contained in these words in “El Plan Espiritual de Aztlan” (The Spiritual Plan for Aztlan):

“In the spirit of a new people that is conscious not only of its proud historical heritage but also of the brutal gringo invasion of our territories, we, the Chicano inhabitants and civilizers of the northern land of Aztlan from whence came our forefathers, reclaiming the land of their birth and consecrating the determination of our people of the sun, declare that the call of our blood is our power, our responsibility, and our inevitable destiny. … Aztlan belongs to those who plant the seeds, water the fields, and gather the crops and not to the foreign Europeans. … We are a bronze people with a bronze culture. Before the world, before all of North America, before all our brothers in the bronze continent, we are a nation, we are a union of free pueblos, we are Aztlan. For La Raza todo. Fuera de La Raza nada.”

That closing two-sentence motto is chilling to everyone who values equal rights for all. It says: “For The Race everything. Outside The Race, nothing.”

If these morally sickening MEChA quotes were coming from some fringe website, Americans could at least console themselves that it was just a small group of nuts behind it. Nearly every racial and ethnic group has some shady characters and positions in its past and some unbalanced individuals today claiming racial superiority and demanding separatism. But this is coming straight from the official MEChA sites at Georgetown University, the University of Texas, UCLA, University of Michigan, University of Colorado, University of Oregon, and many other colleges and universities around the country.

MEChA was in fact reported to be one of the main organizers of those street demonstrations we witnessed over the past weeks. That helps explain why those hordes of illegal immigrants weren’t asking for amnesty — they were demanding an end to U.S. law, period. Unlike past waves of immigrants who sought to become responsible members of American society, these protesters reject American society altogether, because they have been taught that America rightfully belongs to them.

MEChA and the La Raza movement teach that Colorado, California, Arizona, Texas, Utah, New Mexico, Oregon and parts of Washington State make up an area known as “Aztlan” — a fictional ancestral homeland of the Aztecs before Europeans arrived in North America. As such, it belongs to the followers of MEChA. These are all areas America should surrender to “La Raza” once enough immigrants, legal or illegal, enter to claim a majority, as in Los Angeles. The current borders of the United States will simply be extinguished.

This plan is what is referred to as the “Reconquista” or reconquest, of the Western U.S.

But it won’t end with territorial occupation and secession. The final plan for the La Raza movement includes the ethnic cleansing of Americans of European, African, and Asian descent out of “Aztlan.”
(More on MEChA and similar groups here).  The NCLR states that it rejects the radical position taken by MEChA. (See also here).

Based on what little I've been able to research, NCLR seems less a front organization for MEChA, than simply having interests and memberships that overlap. Nevertheless, NCLR supports laws that would give preference to Hispanic immigrants over immigrants from other parts of the world, and erode control of our borders. As to its future, who knows? It depends on whether it chooses to be a moderate voice or a radicalizing one; truly independent of the radicals, or a tool for the radicals.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

NYPD Don't Use Sights In Close Up Shootings

The Truth About Guns has a story about some of the statistics from the NYPD's annual report on shooting incidents. 

NYPD Success Rate

There were 36 incidents in 2011 in which officers hit at least one subject per incident 28 times, for a success rate of 78%. When officers were being fired upon, they struck subjects two thirds of the time for a success rate of 66.6% (six out of nine such incidents).

Hit Rate

311 shots were fired by officers in the 36 incidents. The hit rate was 12% (36/311). That means that nine out of ten shots fired missed and went somewhere else. In two of the incidents a high volume of shots were fired. Excluding those, the hit rate was 19% (36/193). Looked at the other way around, eight out of ten shots fired missed and went astray. And in 2011, 1 bystander was killed.

Non-Use of Sights

The hit rate validates the reality that sight shooting just can not be used or is not used in CQB situations. That’s supported by the officers themselves. Thirty-four officers (44%) reported that they had used their sights, or 56 percent of the officers shot without them.
Per the NYPD, “utilizing a two-handed grip, standing, and lining up a target using the firearm’s sights is the preferred method of discharging a firearm, but it is not always practical during an adversarial conflict.” Basically, achieving marksmanship mechanics in close quarters combat, is just “a bridge to [sic] far.”
I have a few bones to pick with TTAG's conclusions.

First,  outside of SWAT teams, police shouldn't be engaging in CQB (close quarter battle). They are police, not a Marine platoon clearing buildings in the battle for Fallujah.

Second, there is a problem with a spray and pray attitude toward shooting--namely, the bullets that miss their targets have to go somewhere. You might remember the August 12, 2012, confrontation between the NYPD and a gunman in Times Square, which left 9 bystanders wounded.

Third, while it is possible to draw lessons from police shooting situations--including what works and what doesn't--the fact that police follow a certain practice doesn't mean that it is the correct or best practice (remember the long insistence by the FBI on shooting from the hip)...especially considering how poor most police are in handling and using firearms. What this indicates to me is poor training. The officers are simply firing before they have their weapon fully up into a firing position, so they can't use their sights. I agree that the careful alignment of sights is not possible at short ranges, but there are techniques that rely on just the front sight or using the outline of the back of the firearm to properly align the weapon. It doesn't help, of course, that the NYPD insists on using weapons with extraordinary heavy trigger pulls. Anyway, rather than exploring why 56% of the officers didn't use their sights, the emphasis should be on why 44% were able to do so.

Friday, July 19, 2013

H7N9 Virus Capable of Airborne Transmission

From LiveScience:
One strain of the H7N9 bird flu virus appears to spread easily through the air between ferrets, which are a good model for how the virus may spread in humans, a new study from China says.

Researchers tested transmission of five strains of H7N9, all taken from people who got sick with the virus.

Some ferrets were directly infected with the virus, and others were placed in cages nearby to see if they got sick simply by breathing the same air. All five strains of H7N9 were able to spread through the air between ferrets, but four of the strains did not transmit very well. However, one strain was able to spread very well — it infected 100 percent of the ferrets who were exposed to it through the air.

A Couple Interesting Stories on Crime and Warfare

A couple of interesting articles concerning crime and warfare from the Economist.

First is this article that discloses that not only are murder rates declining, but violent crimes and property crimes, overall, are falling in all developed nations.

Both police records (which underestimate some types of crime) and surveys of victims (which should not, but are not as regularly available a source of data) show crime against the person and against property falling over the past ten years in most rich countries. In America the fall began around 1991; in Britain it began around 1995, though the murder rate followed only in the mid-2000s. In France, property crime rose until 2001—but it has fallen by a third since. Some crimes are all but disappearing. In 1997, some 400,000 cars were reported stolen in England and Wales: in 2012, just 86,000.

What is behind this spectacular and widespread improvement? Demographic trends are an obvious factor. The baby-boom in the decades after the second world war created a bubble in the 16- to 24-year-old population a couple of decades later, and most crimes are committed by men of that age. That bubble is now long deflated. In most Western countries, the population is ageing, often quite fast.

... [But] [t]he sheer magnitude of the improvement in places such as New York and Los Angeles, where the incidence of some crimes has fallen by as much as 90%, cannot be explained just by a young-person deficit.

Steven Levitt, an economist at the University of Chicago, has argued that the legalisation of abortion in the 1970s cut America’s crime rate by reducing the number of children growing up in inner-city poverty and thus predisposed to criminality. But that cannot explain why rates have kept falling long after such an effect should have tapered off, or why crime rates in Britain, where abortion has been legal for longer, began falling later. Jessica Wolpaw Reyes, an American researcher, has argued that the cognitive effects of exposure to lead were a primary determinant of violent crime, and unleaded petrol is to thank for the improvement. But the causal link is far from proven.

Could more criminals being locked up be the answer? The number of people behind bars has grown substantially in many countries over the past 20 years. In Britain the prison population doubled between 1993 and 2012; in Australia and America, it almost doubled. ... But in many places, the drop in crime seems to be down to people not becoming criminals in the first place. ...

Better policing is a more convincing explanation than bigger prisons: the expectation of being caught undoubtedly deters criminals....

Some broad social changes have probably helped. In most countries young people are increasingly sober and well behaved. They are more likely to live with their parents and to be in higher education ....

In America, the end of the crack-cocaine epidemic in the 1990s is widely credited with reducing crime. In Europe, the explosion in heroin use that accompanied the high unemployment of the 1980s has largely receded, even though hard economic times are back. ...

The repopulation of inner cities is probably also a help. A middle-class exodus to the suburbs of the 1950s and 1960s often left behind inner cities blighted by derelict properties and concentrated poverty. George Kelling, the American criminologist who first developed the idea that seemingly small signs of dereliction—such as broken windows—can encourage more significant criminality, points out that inner-centre neighbourhoods such as Harlem in New York, or Amsterdam’s Nieuwmarkt district, have been reclaimed by the well-off. The windows have been mended. Gentrifiers may not always be popular, but they set up neighbourhood watch meetings, clean up empty spaces and lobby politicians to take crime more seriously. They may be a consequence of falling crime that lowers crime further.

The last category of explanations is perhaps the most intriguing: that criminals simply have fewer opportunities [and the rewards have declined].
I would also credit video games and air conditioning, and overall prosperity.

The second article reports on research indicating that people are not inherently warlike.
But a paper in this week’s Science, by Douglas Fry and Patrik Soderberg of Abo Akademi University, in Finland, questions all this. Dr Fry and Mr Soderberg have reviewed what is known about modern hunter-gatherers. They suggest that although such people are far from peaceful they are also far from warlike. Most who die violent deaths in their societies do so at the hands of fellow tribesmen, not “foreigners”. Murderers, this research suggests, humans may often be. But they are not the died-in-the-wool warriors of anthropological legend.

Dr Fry and Mr Soderberg came to this conclusion by scrutinising 21 hunter- gatherer societies from all over the world. They looked at ethnographic studies of these groups, published over the past 100 years or so. Inter alia, these studies recorded homicides and their circumstances.

The two researchers classified such deaths into interpersonal events (what modern policing would dub “domestics”), interfamilial feuds, group-sanctioned executions and intergroup events. Only the latter could be described as war.

China Announces Change to Bank Lending Rates

China said Friday that it is ending controls on bank lending rates in a move toward creating a market-oriented financial system to support economic growth.
Reform advocates see an overhaul of China’s interest rate policy as one of the most important changes required to keep its growth strong. Banks currently lend mostly to state industry rather than entrepreneurs who create China’s new jobs and wealth. Allowing banks to negotiate their own rates with borrowers could channel more credit to private enterprise.
I see this as positive news, although it presents a possible double-edged sword for political and social stability in China. If China can push more money toward entrepreneurs and smaller companies, it may produce a more balanced economy better able to handle falling demand for heavy industry. It may also stimulate innovation by allowing China to better able develop its own startups.

The other consequence, however, is that with more economic freedom, the middle-class may demand more political freedom as well. Likely, this issue will impact local governments more than the central Chinese government, which I understand is more generally viewed as being above the corruption of the local officials.

Obama Administration Considering Military Action in Syria

The Telegraph reports:

Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said he has provided President Barack Obama with options for military strikes in Syria, where the civil war has cost at least 93,000 lives.

He told a Senate hearing that under current conditions, he believed Syrian dictator President Bashar Assad would still be in power in a year's time. "Currently the tide seems to have shifted in his favour," he said.

... Gen Dempsey said that Mr Obama had asked him whether the US "could", but not whether it "should", stage a military intervention. The "issue is under deliberation inside of our agencies of government," the general said.

But in a testy exchange with John McCain, the Republican Senator who is a leading advocate for US intervention, he refused to go into further details or give his opinion.
Gen Dempsey has previously expressed scepticism about deploying US force.
You would think, given his background as a POW in Vietnam, that McCain would not be so cavalier about putting troops in harms way...especially, for something so questionable as intervention in Syria.

I'm not even sure what the object of such intervention would be, other than the Administration and its ideological allies, are insistent on regime change. But to what affect? Does anyone seriously believe that replacing Assad will lead to a more stable situation? I think not. In fact, the limited assistance being proposed will most likely only prolong the war. But perhaps that is the strategy: to suck Jihadists into a continual meat grinder.

Wrist Watch With Built In Radiation Detector

Only $1,500. Full story at Popular Mechanics.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

M-40 Recoilless Rifle Showing Up In Syria

Wired's Danger Room discusses how and why the M-40 Recoilless Rifle is showing up in Syria and other third-world countries, and why it is able to compete against its high-tech replacements.

Poll: The Top Rated SHTF Guns

The Firearms Blog recently asked readers "which one rifle, shotgun and pistol you’d take with you in an emergency." The results were sort of interesting.

The top rifle (29.5%) was the AK platform in one caliber or another, followed closely (25%) for those opting for an AR of some sort; the Mosin Nagant was a distant third at 7%. The top caliber (34%) was the 5.56 mm, followed somewhat distantly by the 7.62x39 (25%). Interestingly, 7.62x54R narrowly beat out 7.62 NATO (7% to 6.5%). 3% wanted the 5.45x39.

The top handgun was a Glock (50%). Only 13% would have chosen a 1911. 50% would also opt for 9mm for the caliber. The .45 ACP trailed significantly at 26%.

The favorite shotgun was the Mossberg 500/590 at 36% with the Remington 870 following close behind at 32%. Apparently every respondent wanted 12 gauge.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Mexican Authorities Arrest Head of Zeta Cartel

News reports indicate that Mexican authorities have arrested the head of the Zeta Cartel:

Miguel Angel Treviño Morales, or “40,” leader of the brutal Zetas paramilitary drug cartel, has been captured, authorities on both sides of the border confirmed. 
Known as much for his brutality as for his binational ties, Treviño Morales, who has ties to the Dallas area, was captured by Mexican marines early Monday near the border town of Nuevo Laredo, signaling the biggest victory against organized crime for the presidency of Enrique Peña Nieto. ...  
... The fact he was captured without a fight caught some, including former FBI agent Arturo Fontes by surprise. Fontes has been tracking Treviño Morales for nearly a decade and believed that he would never be captured alive. 
“He had told his closest associates he’d rather be captured dead than alive,” he said, adding that the region and “Mexico in general is breathing a sign of relief today. I’m especially pleased for so many families, so many victims who may now be able to know what happened to their loved ones. Who killed them and why?” 
Mexican intelligence officials, with some help from U.S. intelligence, had been monitoring the area for months.
USA Today reported on the arrest as well, noting the following:

"He is the most sadistic drug capo in Mexico," said George Grayson, a professor of Latin American politics at the College of William and Mary who has written a book on the Zetas cartel. "He delights in inflicting torture and pain. He deserves to be in the lowest rungs of hell."

... Grayson said the murderous reign of the Zetas could be coming to an end.

"Most of Zetas' top lieutenants are either dead or behind bars, so I suspect that power will fall to his brother — known as El 42 — Omar Treviño Morales. You will see them move from a command-and-control structure to franchises. And that should translate to less violence," Grayson said.
Not everyone agrees on that point, though. From the Wall Street Journal:

Some experts said the Mexican Navy's detention on Monday of the Dallas-raised Mr. Treviño was a victory for the country's new government but was unlikely to change the course of its fight against organized crime. They said it could spark a power struggle within the Zetas and with rival gangs over territory.

The Zetas differ from other drug cartels in that local cells handle most of the crime, from transporting drugs to extorting local businesses, law-enforcement officials and analysts said on Tuesday.

Members often work like franchisees, paying Zetas leadership fees to use the name and the right to run local rackets. That model has allowed the gang to expand rapidly through Mexico and Central America while complicating the government's task in crippling it by targeting its leaders.

"Capturing the head doesn't signal the death knell of the Zetas," said Gavin Strong, the Americas analyst for security firm Control Risks. "They can lose top leadership but the model stays intact."

A similar scenario cropped up in October, when security forces killed Heriberto Lazcano, the previous longtime head of the Zetas. Mr. Treviño quickly took over and imposed order, as local branches picked up slack, law-enforcement officials said.

Investigators and analysts said the most likely candidate to succeed Mr. Treviño is his younger brother and top aide, Alejandro, known as Omar. The younger Mr. Treviño is wanted for drug charges in the U.S., which has offered a $5 million reward for his capture.

Israeli Attack on Russian Missile Battery in Syria, Russians on Alert

Lost in the coverage of the Zimmerman verdict were some significant stories from other areas of the globe. One of those was the Obama Administration's confirmation that, earlier this month, Israel had attacked a Russian missile battery in Syria. From the New York Times:

Israel carried out an air attack in Syria this month that targeted advanced antiship cruise missiles sold to the Syria government by Russia, American officials said Saturday.

The officials, who declined to be identified because they were discussing intelligence reports, said the attack occurred July 5 near Latakia, Syria’s principal port city. The target was a type of missile called the Yakhont, they said.

Mark Regev, a spokesman for the Israeli prime minister, declined to comment on the strike, as did George Little, the Pentagon spokesman.

The Russian-made weapon has been a particular worry for the Pentagon because it expanded Syria’s ability to threaten Western ships that could be used to transport supplies to the Syrian opposition, enforce a shipping embargo or support a possible no-flight zone.

The missile also represented a threat to Israel’s naval forces and raised concerns that it might be provided to Hezbollah, the Lebanese militia that has joined the war on the side of the Syrian government.

The attack against the missiles came to light after Syrian rebels said that they were not responsible for large explosions at Latakia on July 5, and that a missile warehouse had been hit. American officials did not provide details on the extent of the damage or the number of missiles struck.
Revelations like these are not without consequences. As the Guardian Express reports, the Russians have responded by placing their military on high alert:

In a July 13 report from the official Russian news agency, ITAR-TASS, The Russian Defense Ministry has announced what is being described as “the most ambitious [check alert] in the history of post-Soviet test readiness.” A check alert, according to the Defense Ministry is a mobilization for exercises designed “to test the readiness of units to perform assigned tasks, and assessment of the level of training of personnel, staffing and technical readiness units and formations with arms and military equipment.” The alert, according to the ITAR-TASS report, involves more than 80,000 troops, around a thousand tanks and armored personnel carriers, some 130 aircraft and 70 naval vessels.

This massive military alert is seen as a response to the disclosure Friday to CNN, by unnamed US officials, that the destruction of the Russian missiles in Syria was a result of Israeli airstrikes.
There has been slightly more coverage of claims that Taliban fighters from Pakistan have joined the anti-Assad rebels in Syria. What many news outlets are ignoring is the Sunni-Shia root of this assistance.

Many fighters like Suleman believe they must help Syria's Sunni majority defeat Assad's Alawite regime ... an offshoot of the Shia sect. Radical Sunnis view Shias as heretics.
Many of the Pakistani fighters are allegedly from the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), which is known for its affiliation with the al Nusra front, a branch of al-Qaeda.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Book Review: "The Next 100 Years"

The Next 100 Years -- A Forecast for the 21st Century by George Friedman (Amazon link here).

Overview: George Friedman, who is a Stratfor analyst, attempts to predict the general international political trends during the next 100 years. His conclusion is that the United States will remain the single most powerful nation during the next 100 years, notwithstanding challenges from various regional powers. The United States' goal, during that time, will be to keep regional powers from becoming world powers. This will require the United States to maintain control of the seas and to dominate space.

Impressions and Thoughts: Friedman published his book in 2009, which suggests that it was probably mostly written in 2007 and 2008. Thus, it has now been 5 years from its publication, and  can provide some sense if the author correctly identified critical forces and trends. Friedman is careful to be upfront that he has invented certain details--a future history, if you will--to make a more readable narrative. He is also uncertain of specific dates, relying on a basic framework of 20 year periods, which he believes constitute the historical time period for significant events. While perhaps true for the late 19th and the duration of the 20th century, I actually believe that trends will actually accelerate, so his conclusions may actually occur within the next 60 to 80 years, rather than 100 years.

Friedman begins his book by predicting that, rather than declining in power, the United States will actually grow in power, and certainly remain the preeminent world power during the 21st Century.  He notes that geography has played an important role in the power and wealth of nations. The nation that occupies the "hub" of trade has the greatest opportunities to prosper. From the 16th Century onward, the most important trade routes were with Europe, and therefore, the nation(s) that controlled the North Atlantic had the greatest power. Now, however, Asian trade has increased, while the importance of European trades has fallen proportionately. Thus, the nation that can dominate Pacific and North Atlantic trade will be in the greatest position to prosper in the 21st Century. That nation is the United States, which sits astride the Pacific and Atlantic, and already has an economy that, by a degree of magnitude, is larger than its nearest rival.

Friedman spends the next few chapters of his book discussing current forces that are work, His belief is that the U.S.-Jihaddist war is "a passing phase" and "less a coherent movement than a regional spasm." Although fighting and counter-terrorism actions may continue for some time, "the strategic challenge to American power is coming to an end." "The United States has succeeded, not so much in winning the war as preventing the Islamists from winning, and, from a geopolitical perspective, that is good enough." That basic comment--that the United States need only keep some other nation or alliance from winning--is important.

Friedman also believes that much of the cultural conflict in the world is rooted in a fight over the nature and structure of the family--traditionalists versus progressive/feminist/liberal. He suggests that this the upsetting of the traditional family is the root of conflict between the West and Islam. Unfortunately, I think, he lumps all "conservative" family forces together, not distinguishing between Al Qaeda and evangelical Christians. He doesn't seem to understand that the unrest in the Middle East is the consequence of the collapse of Islamic civilization; that the cultural war between Al Qaeda and the West is different from the "Cultural War" within the West. In any event, Friedman writes: "All societies are being torn between traditionalists and those who are attempting to redefine the family, women, and sexuality. ... This conflict is going to intensify in the twenty-first century, but the traditionalists are fighting a defensive and ultimately losing battle. The reason is that over the past hundred years the very fabric of human life--and particularly the life of women--has been transformed, and with it the structure of the family." However, he also notes that "the most meaningful statistic in the world is an overall decline in birthrates." Although Friedman spends some time discussing the concept and implications of demographic winter, it doesn't factor into many of his predictions--except concerning the relationship between the United States and Mexico.

I won't go much into most of Friedman's other predictions in much detail. He believes that the 2020's will see two potential adversaries go down in flames. Russia will lose a second cold war much like it lost the first, and will collapse even further than the Soviet Union did. China, he believes, will be torn apart by internal division, as historically has happened when China opens itself up to foreign trade. The problem is that the coastal regions become rich, while the interior regions remain poor; and that the coastal regions increasingly identify with foreign powers. Thus, Friedman does not see China or Russia as long term rivals of the United States.

Instead, he believes that the most serious rivals to United States power will be from Turkey and Japan, which he believes will become regional economic and military powers. In fact, he believes that there will eventually be a war between the United States and Japan for control of space and the Moon, with a subsidiary war in Europe between Turkey and the U.S.'s ally, Poland (which he sees as a dominant, if not the dominant, European power in 20 or 30 years). Friedman believes that this war will be mid-century.

He sees the war as advancing critical technologies, including space launch and energy production from solar satellites, and propelling the United States into a second golden age, much as WWII gave rise to the economic prosperity of the 1950's and 60's.

His final chapter focuses on divisions in North America. Friedman predicts that, late in the 21st Century "Mexico, after two hundred years, will be in a position to challenge the territorial integrity of the United States, and the entire balance of power of North America." He believes that in response to demographic pressure, the United States will be forced to not only relax immigration restrictions, but eventually, companies  and/or the government will be providing incentives in order to attract immigrants, including from Mexico. But there is more than just this. Friedman notes that, unlike other immigrant groups that are geographically isolated from their home countries, Mexicans retain closer ties to Mexico and, therefore, are less likely to assimilate into American culture. He writes:
But unlike other immigrant groups, Mexicans are not separated from their homelands by oceans and many thousands of miles. They can move across the border a few miles into the United States but still maintain their social and economic links to their homeland. Proximity to the homeland creates a very different dynamic. Rather than a diaspora, at least part of Mexican migration is simply a movement into a borderland between two nations, like Alsace-Lorraine between France and Germany--a place where two cultures intermingle even when the border is stable.
He also notes the concentration of Mexican expatriates and descendants in areas once held by Mexico. "In many ways they represent an extension of their homeland into the United States." By 2060, he believes, "[t]he borderland, extending far into the United States, will become predominantly Mexican. Mexico will have solved its final phase of population growth by extending its nonpolitical boundaries into the Mexican Cession...." "In every sense but legally, the border will have moved north."

He also believes that by 2060, unemployment will begin to rise due to advances in robotics that will displace workers and eliminate the need for attracting immigrants. America will have a surplus population. Yet Mexico will have developed into an important economic power. Friedman believes that this economic prosperity will fuel Mexican nationalism and anti-Americanism at a time that Mexican population along the border region reaches critical mass, and Mexicans in that region see themselves increasingly as Mexican rather than American. He believes that this will exacerbate relations between the two peoples, leading to border and immigration restrictions and internal dispute. He believes that it will lead to the doorstep of civil war, with large protests, terrorism, and with border states resisting the United States government and many supporting succession and/or annexation by Mexico. Friedman predicts that a war will be averted, but it will be by the Mexican president intervening and arguing on behalf of Mexican-Americans. Going into the 2090s, Friedman sees the basic question as which city will be the capital of North America--Washington or Mexico City. Friedman does not attempt to predict this outcome--he believes that is an issue for the 22nd Century, and thus beyond the scope of his book.

I have certain criticisms of the book, some that could have been addressed by the author and some that could not. First, as noted above, I'm disappointed with Friedman lumping conservative Christians with Islamic militants (his "traditionalists"). However, Friedman's views seem to mirror the views of the Federal government--thus the equating of many Christian and libertarian groups with terrorists as disclosed by Homeland Security memos.

Second, and Friedman can't do anything about this, he ignores the prospect of the charismatic leader that shapes, delays, accelerates, or redirects geopolitical forces. I took a class at university that covered European diplomatic history from approximately 1860 through 1945. The professor's premise for the class is that, notwithstanding historical analysis emphasizing geopolitical forces and trends, and intercultural conflict, there was still the place for the individual shaping history. This is the same premise underlying Asimov's character of the Mule in the Foundation trilogy. Reading Friedman's book, I sometimes had the sense of being the people walking into the Foundation's oracle expecting assistance on counteracting the invading tyrant, and instead getting answers to problems that don't exist. Perhaps individuals cannot stop the forces of history, but they can impact these forces, and change the dynamics at critical times. While Friedman describes the United States' grand strategy, I suppose in 2008 that he could not have foreseen an American President that would undermine this grand strategy, or create such deep divisions within the United States.

Third, other than the final chapter on Mexico and Mexican immigration, Friedman does not address any of the forces at work in the United States. He predicts that growing disparity in wealth and power in China will ultimately unbalance that country, but doesn't address some of the same factors in the United States. Perhaps he sees the Federal government as too powerful for regional differences to assert themselves (other than the Mexican problem).

Fourth, Friedman seems to ignore India. He may have good reason to do so, but they are not explained in the book.

Finally, although Friedman discusses declining population, and even cites it as one of the factors leading to the Mexican-American confrontation, he seems to ignore it in other aspects of his book. For instance, he asserts that Japan, Turkey and Poland will arise as regional powers, even though those nations will be dealing with declining populations. Japan and Poland, in particular, have some of the lowest fertility rates in the world. Japan is further facing a marriage crises and a sex crises--the Japanese simply don't want to reproduce. If Japan becomes militarily aggressive in the mid-21st Century, it, too, will be merely a spasm.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Center Point Reflex Sight--Initial Impressions (Updated)

Cabelas is currently having a sale on the Center Point Tactical Open Reflex Sight, with the price reduced from $100 to $30. One of my in-laws, having decided that a high-power scope didn't really work on an AR he wanted to use for self-defense, decided to pick one up to mount on his AR. He also bought an extra for me as an "early birthday present." Since I have a Burris Fast Fire II on another firearm, this provides a bit of an opportunity to compare the two products.

First of all, like all other optics, it is very much of a "you get what you pay for." Although the case is mostly made of aluminum, the cover over the emitter is made of plastic. Also, it is clearly not water resistant. Thus, this is not a sight I would choose for hunting or field use.

The sight comes with a built-in mount for attaching to a Picatinney or Weaver rails.The mount appears to be solid. I haven't used it shooting, so I don't know if the screws will need Lock-tite or not.

Unlike the Fast Fire II, which had a rigid plastic cover that covers the entire device, the Center Point comes with a black silicone cover that only covers the lens. The cover is not very easy to remove, so  I would not mount this on a "go-to" gun unless you decided to leave the cover off.

The Fast Fire II had anti-glare coatings so you don't get reflections from light behind you or additional glare from the emitter. This one does not. So, you can see reflections in the glass from behind you, as well as extra glare from the emitter.

Not having shot it, I don't know yet whether it can handle the recoil from a larger caliber rifle, or if it is limited to small bore. Several of the reviews at the Cabelas site related having problems with the device either stopping to work after use in a .223 or larger rifle, or having the glass fall out. Thus, although there is no caliber limitation listed in the packaging or instructions, this sight may be limited to use in a small bore, rimfire rifle. The sale price of $30 is appropriate for a mount designed only for use on a .22 LR firearm, but for a regular price of $100, it should be able to work on most any small or medium bore rifle. There is a small gap between the mount and the bottom of the unit, through which I can see a couple springs. This suggests to me that whether it works or not, the system was intended to absorb recoil so it could be used for most rifles.

You have five different reticle choices, from a simple dot, to a small cross, to other less useful shapes. You can also select five different brightness levels (unlike the Fast Fire II, you must manually set brightness levels), and between green and red colors. Green is a nice option for use in brighter light. However, whichever color you use, the unit appears to be very bright, even at the lowest intensity levels. In fact, it is almost too bright to use in dim light! Certainly, using the larger and more elaborate reticles, it is bright enough to blot out your view of a potential target in dim light. I would recommend sticking to either the dot or the simple cross shaped reticle.

The objective lens on the Center Point unit is 32 mm. However, there is distortion and shifting of the reticle toward the edges, so you don't get full use of the whole lens.

It uses a standard CR2032 battery, which is included with the sight. It can be replaced by unscrewing a cap on the top of the brightness/color knob. This is nice because it means that you don't need to remove the sight in order to replace the battery.

When I had discussed my Fast Fire II, one of my readers asked about whether you could see the light from the emitter through the front of the lens. With the Fast Fire II, you could not see the emitter through the front of the lens except in a dark room, and then only when up very close. The Center Point unit, however, is a different story. At almost any brightness setting, and inside a building, you can see the emitter fairly easily from about a 45 degree angle above and to the front of the unit. I don't know if you would be able to see it outside. I don't think it would be visible from any great distance, though.

Of course, the real test is actually shooting with the unit. I had mounted it on an SKS, which should answer the issue of whether it can handle a reasonable amount of recoil, or is limited to a .22 LR. It will probably be a week or two before I can out to the range, but I will let you know how it goes.

Updated (July 25, 2012): I took the sight out shooting this past weekend, and my initial impressions are good. As I noted, I had mounted it on an SKS rifle. The sight had been bore sighted, and I only tested it at short ranges--plinking at cans and a couple water filled plastic milk-jugs. I shot approximately 70 rounds without any noticeable problems--it appeared to retain its zero, nothing broke, and all the controls continued to work. The green sight was visible in full midday sunlight even at the lowest setting (I didn't try the red setting). If I have any issues in the future, I will let you know.

Friday, July 12, 2013

"5 Things People Say They Can Or Would Do In A Survival Situation--And Why They Won't"

An article at Death Valley Magazine on "5 Things People Say They Can or Would Do In A Survival Situation--And Why They Won't." Although titled 5 things, the author actually discusses 6:

1.  Bug out on foot.

2.  Drink their own urine.

3.  Trade for goods.

4.  Eat someone.

5.  Defend their house.

6.  Eat cat food.

There is sort of an elitist, "leave it to the professionals," attitude to the article, but the author raises some valid points.

For instance, bugging out on foot is not the best option. The author mentions road blocks and gangs, which is true in many third world countries--particularly where law and order has broken down. Heck, even some of the cities around New Orleans during Katrina closed bridges and roads to stop those bugging out on foot. On the other hand, there are many historical examples of refugees fleeing areas on foot. During WWII, there were Jews that escaped from various ghettos on foot. It won't be easy, it won't be fun, and it may not work, but it is possible. But it should be a last resort, not a first choice. But, remember, you will be a refugee, subject to all the bad things that happen to refugees.

Drinking your own urine. Again, this falls into the category of not the best option. However, people have done so and survived. Some people even think it has health benefits. However, the use of urine in a survival situation is best limited to wetting a cloth or hat to aid in cooling the body.

Trade for goods. I would say that this is the first place the author falls down. Yes, if you or I had to go to a black market in a third world country, the results he predicted could very likely occur. Heck, if you or I were to try to buy something on the black market in the U.S., it probably would turn out badly. But if you and I were adjusting--with everyone else--to a post-disaster situation here, we would learn the rules of safely negotiating for goods as the markets developed.

Eat someone. Again, this is a personality and desperation issue. Obviously, someone like Jeffrey Dahmer would not have an issue with this. Under extreme conditions, certain people have resorted to cannibalism (e.g., the Donner party). Given the cultural mores, I think the author is correct as to this one.

Defend their house. The author's position is that attempting to protect your home against a mob is futile, based on what he knows from the Jakarta riots. And he may be correct, depending on the circumstances. However, the L.A. riots following the Rodney King trial also showed that shop owners were successfully able to protect against mobs and looters. So which is it? The colonial wars fought by Europeans against natives showed over and over how small groups of defenders in prepared positions can slaughter anyone stupid enough to make a frontal assault. Rorke's Drift, anyone? Basic military history shows that the success of a defense relates to how prepared your position is, the moral and skill of the troops involved, and the firepower that can be brought to bear. I have no doubt that a group of American preppers and their neighbors would be better armed than the Chinese apartment dwellers in Jakarta. And unless the mob is extremely motivated (whether by hatred, drugs, anger, or some combination), they probably will not proceed against a stiff armed resistance. If the resistance is strong enough (think of trench warfare) a mob may not even be physically able to approach the defended position. So, if it is just one person facing a mob of 50 people with a front that is 25 people wide, that person is probably not going to be successful. A group of 10 or 15 armed and motivated defenders, though, would present an entirely different situation.

Eat cat food. If you can eat liver pate or fish eggs smeared on a dry cracker, you can eat cat food.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

The Myth of Spain's Golden Age Under the Moors

It is commonly taught and believed that Spain experienced a sort of "golden age" following conquest by the Moors. However, Gates of Vienna has posted a lengthy excerpt from an article discussing the fact that there is no archaeological evidence to support this so-called "golden age." From the article:

Over the past sixty years intensive efforts have been made to discover this astonishing civilization — to no avail. Try as they might, archaeologists have found hardly anything, hardly a brick or inscription, for the first two centuries of Arab rule in Spain. Between 711 and 911 there is almost nothing, with substantial remains only beginning to appear around 925 or 930.

* * * 
The same poverty of material remains and signs of occupation is found throughout Islamic North Africa between the mid-seventh and mid-tenth centuries, and Richard Hodges and William Whitehouse speak of an Arab-created “dark Age” in the region during those years.

What could all this mean? Whatever interpretation we might put on it — and there are several possibilities — one thing is very clear: The opulent and refined Islamic civilization which up till now has been placed alongside and contemporary with a dark, ignorant and impoverished Christian Europe of the seventh to tenth centuries, is a myth. When Islamic cities do appear, in the middle of the tenth century, they are very comparable, in terms of size and level of culture, to the contemporary cities of Christian Europe. Our entire understanding of European and Middle Eastern history during the seventh to tenth centuries needs a radical rethink.

Another Nail In The Coffin Of The Arab World

Much of the Middle-East, particularly OPEC, is wholly dependent on oil production for its income and prosperity. It is that money that is prolonging the collapse of Arab civilization. However, this source of income has been threatened in recent years from development of oil sands and shale oil and gas deposits in Canada and the United States (notwithstanding opposition from our government), and the discovery of large gas deposits in Israel's territorial waters. Now, another potential nail in OPEC's coffin--discovery of a large shale oil deposit in Australia

SOUTH Australia is sitting on oil potentially worth more than $20 trillion, independent reports claim - enough to turn Australia into a self-sufficient fuel producer.
Brisbane company Linc Energy yesterday released two reports, based on drilling and seismic exploration, estimating the amount of oil in the as yet untapped Arckaringa Basin surrounding Coober Pedy ranging from 3.5 billion to 233 billion barrels of oil.
At the higher end, this would be "several times bigger than all of the oil in Australia", Linc managing director Peter Bond said.
This has the potential to turn Australia from an oil importer to an oil exporter.

"If it comes in the way the reports are suggesting, it could well and truly bring Australia back to (oil) self-sufficiency," Mr Bond said.

State Mineral Resources Development Minister Tom Koutsantonis said there were exciting times ahead for SA's resources industry.
 It also provides a more stable, alternative source of energy for China, South Korea and Japan.

Egypt On The Edge of Starvation

David Goldman has been discussing this issue for some time. Now the MSM has picked it up. From Reuters:
Egypt has less than two months' supply of imported wheat left in its stocks, ousted President Mohamed Mursi's minister of supplies said, revealing a shortage more acute than previously disclosed.
Speaking to Reuters near midnight in a tent at a vigil where thousands of Mursi supporters are protesting against the Islamist president's removal, former Minister of Supplies Bassem Ouda said the state had just 500,000 metric tons of imported wheat left. Egypt usually imports about 10 million metric tons a year.
Two and a half years of political turmoil have caused a deep economic crisis in Egypt, scaring away investors and tourists, draining foreign currency reserves and making it difficult to maintain imports of food and fuel.
Egypt is the world's largest importer of wheat, half of which it distributes to its 84 million people in the form of heavily subsidized saucer-sized flat loaves of bread, which sell for less than 1 U.S. cent.
Bread has long been a sensitive issue in Egypt. Former President Hosni Mubarak faced unrest in 2008 when the rising price of wheat caused shortages.
Although it also grows its own wheat, Egypt needs huge quantities of foreign wheat with higher gluten content to make flour suitable for bread.
 I'm guessing that Obama will condition humanitarian assistance on returning the despotic Muslim Brotherhood to power.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

The Firearms Blog Reviews the "Farson" Survival Tool

Link here. It is basically a variant on the Ulu knife, but perhaps a little more versatile because of the handle shape (D-shape). In the comments, it states that the steel is 7CR17 and heat treated to 56-58Rc.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Back to Work...

I took time off from work and blogging to enjoy Independence Day and the weekend. However, even in such attempts there were several events that were notable enough to report.

As long time readers know, I had built an AK74 using a Nodak receiver and parts kit. One of the problems I've had has been cleaning the weapon. At 5.45 mm, it is just enough smaller than .22 bores, that it has been difficult to use a .22 cleaning rod. The rods fit fine--without a patch or brush. But to get a patch through--even cutting them to smaller sizes--I've been having to tap the end of the rod with a small plastic mallet. A couple months ago, I broke the cleaning rod.

My initial plan was to purchase a cleaning rod designed for a .17 caliber rifle. However, based on positive feedback from other people, I first decided to try a .22 Hoppe's Bore Snake. For those of you unfamiliar with the bore snake, it is essentially a long cord that you pull through the barrel. One end is a  small brass weight attached to a nylon cord that acts as a leader; the other half is a braided cord with a couple sets of embedded brushes. Although slightly harder to pull through the AK74 barrel than a standard .22 barrel, it worked quickly and easily. I would definitely recommend the Bore Snake for cleaning the 5.45 barrel.

I had recently reviewed the Burris Fast Fire II and Midwest Industries Mini-Red Dot Mount for AKs. I was able to give it an additional work out this past weekend, and everything is still solid and working well. I was again impressed with how visible the dot was even in direct noon day sunlight and glare.

I also had a couple lessons in "two is one, one is none." We lost almost our entire cherry crop to a late frost that killed most of the blossoms. The few cherries that survived in ripened where quickly stolen by birds and, probably, squirrels. However, we have a fair amount of raspberry canes, that have been producing quite well. (They have done much better for us than our blueberry bushes). We have a grape vine that seems to be doing well this year as well. So, multiple sources of fruits and berries has worked out for this year in spite of the late frost. Although the raspberry canes can't replace our normal cherry crop, we have canned and frozen cherries galore from prior years, and the fresh raspberries are nice.

As for my other lesson, the heat apparently was enough to kill the battery in my vehicle. My wife went to start the car, and as she turned the key, heard a pop and all the electrical went dead--no starter (no even clicking), no dome light, no radio, no way to operate the power windows or locks. I took the old battery out and went to the store where we had purchased it a couple years ago. Fortunately, the battery was new enough that we were still under the free replacement portion of the warranty. Everything seemed to work well with a replacement battery, but it made me wonder about what if the battery died in an emergency situation or somewhere away from home.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Argentina Applies Anti-Hoarding Laws

Argentina plans to apply a law that forces holders of wheat and flour suitable for bread making to sell stock on the domestic market in a bid to contain inflation. 
Interior Commerce Secretary Guillermo Moreno announced the measure in the official gazette today. The 1974 law allows authorities to freeze prices and obliges companies to maintain supply. Those in breach are subject to fines and imprisonment.
This appears to be aimed at commercial enterprises and not individuals, but you never know. The U.S. applied "anti-hoarding" laws during WWI, which included criminal penalties.

(H/t Instapundit)

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Anti-Obama Sentiment in Egypt

As most, if not all, of you already know, the Egyptian military removed Morsi and placed him under house arrest, over the protestations of Obama. However, there is a strong undercurrent of distaste for Obama and Ambassador Anne Patterson.

I, however, wish the Egyptians the best of luck. They face extreme difficulties in turning their economy around, and reducing food prices. The critical factor in the coming weeks will be handling the food and fuel issues. Stability and a pro-Western shift (or at least, neutrality toward Westerners) would help because it might help revive the tourism industry.

Abortion Advocates Chant "Hail Satan"

How apropos. Video and story at CNS News.

Portugal Having Problems With Repaying Bailout

The Daily Mail reports:

Portugal's financial markets nosedived today amid fears that repayments on its £64billion bailout could soon become unsustainable as the government looked set to collapse following a spat over the country's austerity programme.
Share prices dropped by around six per cent in early trading alarming investors and reigniting concerns that the eurozone's strategy for dealing with the financial crisis is flawed. 
The market dip came as Portuguese Prime Minister Pedro Passos Coelho defied calls to resign last night after the resignations of key ministers in a spat over austerity. 
Portuguese Foreign Minister Paulo Portas, the leader of the junior party in the center-right coalition government, quit on Tuesday in protest against plans to continue with tax hikes and pay and pension cuts. 
The previous day, Finance Minister Vitor Gaspar walked out, saying he lacked political and public support for his austerity strategy. 
Portugal is locked into a program of tough budget cuts demanded by its fellow euro countries, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund in return for a 78 billion euro (£66 billion) bailout two years ago.

"States of Decay: Urbex New York & Americas Forgotten North East"

The Daily Mail has more modern ruins photos--this time, from a book called States of Decay: Urbex New York & Americas Forgotten North East.

States of Decay: Urbex New York & Americas Forgotten North East
(Source: The Daily Mail)

Morsi Refuses to Budge

The 48-hour deadline announced by the Egyptian military has come and gone, and Morsi is still defiant:

Military chiefs, vowing to restore order in a country racked by protests over Mursi's Islamist policies, issued a call to battle in a statement headlined "The Final Hours". They said they were willing to shed blood against "terrorists and fools" after Mursi refused to give up his elected office.

Armored vehicles took up position outside the state broadcasting headquarters on the Nile River bank, where soldiers patrolled the corridors and non-essential staff were sent home. But there was no other immediate sign of military action to remove the Muslim Brotherhood president.

In a last-ditch statement a few minutes before the 5 p.m. (11:00 a.m. EDT) deadline, Mursi's office said a coalition government could be part of an initiative to overcome a political crisis. But opposition parties refused to negotiate with him and met instead with the commander of the armed forces.

As the ultimatum expired, hundreds of thousands of anti-Mursi protesters in Tahrir Square in central Cairo let off fireworks, cheered and waved Egyptian flags in celebration.

There was no immediate word from the armed forces, and a spokesman said no fixed time had been set for a statement. Egyptian blogger Su Zee tweeted: "And in typical Egyptian fashion, #egypt is late for its own coup."
 Some of his defiance is, no doubt, due to Obama's continued support.

This leaves the Obama administration in a bind. Obama and his appointees backed the Muslim Brotherhood takeover of Egypt from the beginning, and as late as last week urged moderation and dialogue on the opposition, which means supporting the status quo. This was not only inimical to American interests but downright stupid. Even Islamists have to eat, and the Muslim Brotherhood had no hope forestalling economic collapse.
Obama is all talk and no money, though: the administration cannot squeeze meaningful sums out of Congress for Egyptian aid. The only prospective rescuer with deep enough pockets to keep Egypt from disintegrating is Saudi Arabia, and Saudis almost certainly would make the suppression of the Brotherhood a condition for aid. Whether the Saudis will do so remains a matter of pure speculation. Unlike Turkey, whose huge foreign trade deficit the Saudis have helped cover with tens of billions of dollars of short-term loans, Egypt is no help against Iran, the Saudis’ major strategic worry. But the math says that this is the only scenario that would avert a humanitarian catastrophe in the short term. If the Obama administration cared about the condition of the Egyptian people, it would throw the Muslim Brotherhood under the bus and try its best to broker such a deal.
 Odds of Obama admitting he was wrong about something? Zero.

Docent's Memo (May 16, 2022)

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