Friday, February 12, 2016

A Quick Run Around the Web--February 12, 2016 (Updated)

  • "Women and Guns"--Marie Claire. Long article and multi-media post about firearms with an emphasis on women. For instance, the first section provides statistics (but remember the observation about lies, damn lies, and statistics) on gun ownership and use by women. There is a section that provides viewpoints on firearms rights by Hillary Clinton and Carly Fiorina. I haven't read the whole thing, but at first blush it appears to attempts to more balanced than most of the anti-gun propaganda. I have to shake my head in disgust, though, at the final section where a woman is interviewed about her feelings on buying or using a gun, and admits that she fears how she would act in a violent encounter and doesn't want the responsibility of potentially taking another person's life. My opinion is that if she has such strong doubts of how she acts under pressure, and doesn't want the responsibility of owning and using something that is dangerous, she has much more serious emotional or personality issues, and probably shouldn't be driving a car. 
  • "Duracoat Vs. Cerakote – By a Subject Matter Expert"--The Firearms Blog. To sum up the article, both products work equally well; cerakote is cured with heat, so it cures quickly, while Duracoat is air cured, and can take weeks to fully cure; because of the aforementioned methods of curing, Duracoat is better for coating optics, electronics, and other heat sensitive items; and the cited expert likes Duracoat for more complex projects.
  • "How Many Rounds Are Fired On Average In A Gunfight?"--Concealed Nation. Some statistics on gun fights involving law enforcement.
  • "The Overhyped Headshot - Briefing Room"--SWAT Magazine. From the article:
The man operating the table had a Beretta 92 with a set of Crimson Trace Lasergrips. I asked if I could borrow it for a demonstration. After double and triple checking it to make sure it was clear, I handed it to the customer. Stepping back and holding up my fist, I said, “This is about the size of the brain at five yards. Every time you have a sight picture, activate the laser.” I then moved my fist up, down, sideways, and diagonally. The laser never came on.
  • "K-selection Approaches – Banking at the Edge?"--The Anonymous Conservative. "Along with credit default swaps and other exotic instruments, the total notional derivatives value is about $1.5 quadrillion – about 20% more than in 2008, beyond what anyone can conceive, let alone control if unexpected turmoil strikes." And, as the author explains, the only thing propping it all up is the credit worthiness of everyone involved--credit worthiness that is in decline as European banks lose value.
  • "The Biggest Reason to Fear Economic Trouble in China"--American Interest. 
... the people who know China’s situation the best, who have access to inside information that the rest of us don’t, have been giving pretty clear signals that they are terrified of unrest. And while the accelerating capital flight from China has a lot to do with the economy, it is another sign that insiders want out for other reasons, too.
Something big seems to be happening in China, and the increasingly desperate attempts by the regime to assert power suggest that the people who run the country are losing their confidence in the future. Even more than collapsing equity prices or a volatile currency, the political situation in China should make everyone very, very worried.
Mercenaries are back. Once brandished as villainous outlaws, they are emerging from the shadows to once again become a mainstream instrument of world politics. The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has hired hundreds of Latin-American mercenaries to fight the Iranian-backed Houthis in Yemen. After years of struggling against Boko Haram, Nigeria finally employed mercenaries to do the job, and they did. Russia’s President Vladimir Putin has sent mercs to ‘liberate’ eastern Ukraine, a conflict that still simmers. Mercs are reportedly working in parts of Iraq.

    States are not the only consumers in the market for force. The extractive industry and humanitarian organisations hire mercs to protect their people and their assets in the world’s most dangerous places. Arsenal ships full of armed contractors act as privateers in the Gulf of Oman and other pirate-infested waters. Mercenaries stalk cyberspace as ‘hack-back companies’: cybermercs who will hack those who hack their clients, deterring hackers in the first place. In 2008, the actress Mia Farrow considered hiring Blackwater to stage a humanitarian intervention in Darfur to end the genocide there. Some, such as Malcolm Hugh in Privatising Peace (2009), think that mercenaries should augment thinning United Nations peacekeeping forces, an argument with some merit. Others have suggested that the international community use them to defeat Daesh/ISIS, and the super-rich have toyed with the possibility of using mercenaries for their own purposes.
      Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu has implied that Turkey will take action after the capture of the town of Azez in Syria, a strategic corridor between Aleppo and Turkey for rebel groups, by Syrian regime troops backed by Russian airstrikes.
        Speaking to reporters en route to Turkey from the Netherlands, Davutoğlu said that he had told German Chancellor Angela Merkel of the need to stop Russia in Syria in order to prevent further influxes of refugees to Turkey and Europe from the region, the Hürriyet daily reported on Friday. When asked whether Turkey will take action to reopen the corridor to Aleppo, Davutoğlu said, “Wait for the next few days and you will have the answer,” daily Hürriyet reported on Friday.
        Keep in mind that this conflict is rooted in competing plans to run a natural gas pipeline through Syria to provide natural gas to Europe: one proposed pipeline would lead from the Gulf of Arabia up through Syria and Turkey, to Greece. The other would be from Iran through Syria and under the sea. Iran's recent decision to switch the pricing of petroleum from Dollars to Euros should probably be viewed in this context, rather than merely a snub to the United States.
        • Related: "Exclusive: U.S. Allies Now Fighting CIA-Backed Rebels"--The Daily Beast. "Iraqi militias who once fought ISIS with U.S. help are now working with Russian and Iranian forces to crush American-backed rebels in the strategic Syrian city of Aleppo, two defense officials have told The Daily Beast."
        Relations between Russia and Turkey have been dismal since late November, when a Turkish fighter jet shot down a Russian bomber on the border with Syria, killing its pilot. That began a war of words between Moscow and Ankara that ought to concern everyone, since the former has several thousand nuclear weapons and the latter is a member of NATO. 
        Kremlin propaganda against Ankara has increased of late, setting the stage for further confrontation. ... Russian media outlets initially blamed the Sinai crash of Metrojet 9268 last autumn on the Islamic State.... However, the Kremlin has abruptly shifted course and now blames the mass murder on Turkish ultranationalist terrorists, without any evidence provided to support that explosive assertion. 
        Where things may be going between Russia and Turkey, ancient enemies who have warred many times over the centuries, was evidenced this week, when the Kremlin announced large-scale surprise military exercises in the regions of the country that are close to Turkey. Troops were moved to full combat readiness, the last stage before a shooting war, with Sergei Shoygu, the Russian defense minister, announcing on TV: “We began our surprise check of the military preparedness in the Southwest strategic direction.”
        That would be the direction of Turkey. These snap exercises involve the Southern Military District and the navy’s Black Sea Fleet, which are deeply involved in Russia’s not-so-secret secret war in eastern Ukraine. However, they also involve the navy’s Caspian Sea flotilla, which is nowhere near Ukraine.
        This implies that the snap exercises, which have been prominently featured in Kremlin media, are about Turkey, not Russia. This goes back to recent events on the ground in Syria, where the Kremlin-backed regime of Bashar al-Assad is slowly crushing its opponents, thanks to prodigious military help from both Russia and Iran. Regime forces are closing in on Aleppo, Syria’s biggest city, and 50,000 civilians have already fled the city in panic.
                  • Remember how the fight in Syria had supposedly shifted into one intended to destroy ISIS? Neither do I. "ISIS have used chemical weapons and can make their own chlorine and mustard gas, warns CIA director"--Daily Mail. "CIA director John Brennan has warned that ISIS fighters have already used chemical weapons and have the capacity to make small quantities of deadly chlorine and mustard gas. The terrorist organisation was already believed to have smuggled weapons of mass destruction into Europe, according to a UN report." I would take this with a grain of salt. Mustard gas is easy to make--it can even be the result of accidents. The real issue is whether they can safely mass produce it and package it in delivery systems. That seems doubtful given their resources and capabilities. 
                  (Update: added underlined portions to comments on "Women and Guns"; and added a comment regarding the roots of the Syrian conflict).

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