Thursday, April 30, 2009

A Chilling Effect on U.S. Counterterrorism

By Fred Burton and Scott Stewart, Stratfor

Over the past couple of weeks, we have been carefully watching the fallout from the Obama administration’s decision to release four classified memos from former President George W. Bush’s administration that authorized “enhanced interrogation techniques.” In a visit to CIA headquarters last week, President Barack Obama promised not to prosecute agency personnel who carried out such interrogations, since they were following lawful orders. Critics of the techniques, such as Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., have called for the formation of a “truth commission” to investigate the matter, and Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., has called on Attorney General Eric Holder to appoint a special prosecutor to launch a criminal inquiry into the matter.

Realistically, those most likely to face investigation and prosecution are those who wrote the memos, rather than the low-level field personnel who acted in good faith based upon the guidance the memos provided. Despite this fact and Obama’s reassurances, our contacts in the intelligence community report that the release of the memos has had a discernible “chilling effect” on those in the clandestine service who work on counterterrorism issues.

In some ways, the debate over the morality of such interrogation techniques — something we do not take a position on and will not be discussing here — has distracted many observers from examining the impact that the release of these memos is having on the ability of the U.S. government to fulfill its counterterrorism mission. And this impact has little to do with the ability to use torture to interrogate terrorist suspects.

Politics and moral arguments aside, the end effect of the memos’ release is that people who have put their lives on the line in U.S. counterterrorism efforts are now uncertain of whether they should be making that sacrifice. Many of these people are now questioning whether the administration that happens to be in power at any given time will recognize the fact that they were carrying out lawful orders under a previous administration. It is hard to retain officers and attract quality recruits in this kind of environment. It has become safer to work in programs other than counterterrorism.

The memos’ release will not have a catastrophic effect on U.S. counterterrorism efforts. Indeed, most of the information in the memos was leaked to the press years ago and has long been public knowledge. However, when the release of the memos is examined in a wider context, and combined with a few other dynamics, it appears that the U.S. counterterrorism community is quietly slipping back into an atmosphere of risk-aversion and malaise — an atmosphere not dissimilar to that described by the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States (also known as the 9/11 Commission) as a contributing factor to the intelligence failures that led to the 9/11 attacks.

Cycles Within Cycles

In March we wrote about the cycle of counterterrorism funding and discussed indications that the United States is entering a period of reduced counterterrorism funding. This decrease in funding not only will affect defensive counterterrorism initiatives like embassy security and countersurveillance programs, but also will impact offensive programs such as the number of CIA personnel dedicated to the counterterrorism role.

Beyond funding, however, there is another historical cycle of booms and busts that can be seen in the conduct of American clandestine intelligence activities. There are clearly discernible periods when clandestine activities are deemed very important and are widely employed. These periods are inevitably followed by a time of investigations, reductions in clandestine activities and a tightening of control and oversight over such activities.

After the widespread employment of clandestine activities in the Vietnam War era, the Church Committee was convened in 1975 to review (and ultimately restrict) such operations. Former President Ronald Reagan’s appointment of Bill Casey as director of the CIA ushered in a new era of growth as the United States became heavily engaged in clandestine activities in Afghanistan and Central America. Then, the revelation of the Iran-Contra affair in 1986 led to a period of hearings and controls.

There was a slight uptick in clandestine activities under the presidency of George H.W. Bush, but the fall of the Soviet Union led to another bust cycle for the intelligence community. By the mid-1990s, the number of CIA stations and bases was dramatically reduced (and virtually eliminated in much of Africa) for budgetary considerations. Then there was the case of Jennifer Harbury, a Harvard-educated lawyer who used little-known provisions in Texas common law to marry a dead Guatemalan guerrilla commander and gain legal standing as his widow. After it was uncovered that a CIA source was involved in the guerrilla commander’s execution, CIA stations in Latin America were gutted for political reasons. The Harbury case also led to the Torricelli Amendment, a law that made recruiting unsavory people, such as those with ties to death squads and terrorist groups, illegal without special approval. This bust cycle was well documented by both the Crowe Commission, which investigated the 1998 East Africa embassy bombings, and the 9/11 Commission.

After the 9/11 attacks, the pendulum swung radically to the permissive side and clandestine activity was rapidly and dramatically increased as the U.S. sought to close the intelligence gap and quickly develop intelligence on al Qaeda’s capability and plans. Developments over the past two years clearly indicate that the United States is once again entering an intelligence bust cycle, a period that will be marked by hearings, increased controls and a general decrease in clandestine activity.

Institutional Culture

It is also very important to realize that the counterterrorism community is just one small part of the larger intelligence community that is affected by this ebb and flow of covert activity. In fact, as noted above, the counterterrorism component of intelligence efforts has its own boom-and-bust cycle that is based on major attacks. Soon after a major attack, interest in counterterrorism spikes dramatically, but as time passes without a major attack, interest lags. Other than during the peak times of this cycle, counterterrorism is considered an ancillary program that is sometimes seen as an interesting side tour of duty, but more widely seen as being outside the mainstream career path — risky and not particularly career-enhancing. This assessment is reinforced by such events as the recent release of the memos.

At the CIA, being a counterterrorism specialist in the clandestine service means that you will most likely spend much of your life in places line Sanaa, Islamabad and Kabul instead of Vienna, Paris or London. This means that, in addition to hurting your chances for career advancement, your job also is quite dangerous, provides relatively poor living conditions for your family and offers the possibility of contracting serious diseases.

While being declared persona non grata and getting kicked out of a country as part of an intelligence spat is considered almost a badge of honor at the CIA, the threat of being arrested and indicted for participating in the rendition of a terrorist suspect from an allied country like Italy is not. Equally unappealing is being sued in civil court by a terrorist suspect or facing the possibility of prosecution after a change of government in the United States. Over the past few years, there has been a dramatic increase in the number of CIA case officers who are choosing to carry personal liability insurance because they do not trust the agency and the U.S. government to look out for their best interests.

Now, there are officers who are willing to endure hardship and who do not really care much about career advancement, but for those officers there is another hazard — frustration. Aggressive officers dedicated to the counterterrorism mission quickly learn that many of the people in the food chain above them are concerned about their careers, and these superiors often take measures to rein in their less-mainstream subordinates. Additionally, due to the restrictions brought about by laws and regulations like the Torricelli Amendment, case officers working counterterrorism are often tightly bound by myriad legal restrictions.

Unlike in television shows like “24,” it is not uncommon in the real world for a meeting called to plan a counterterrorism operation to feature more CIA lawyers than case officers or analysts. These staff lawyers are intricately involved in the operational decisions made at headquarters, and legal issues often trump operational considerations. The need to obtain legal approval often delays decisions long enough for a critical window of operational opportunity to be slammed shut. This restrictive legal environment goes back many years in the CIA and is not a new fixture brought in by the Obama administration. There was a sense of urgency that served to trump the lawyers to some extent after 9/11, but the lawyers never went away and have reasserted themselves firmly over the past several years.

Of course, the CIA is not the only agency with a culture that is less than supportive of the counterterrorism mission. Although the prevention of terrorist attacks in the United States is currently the FBI’s No. 1 priority on paper, the counterterrorism mission remains the bureaus redheaded stepchild. The FBI is struggling to find agents willing to serve in the counterterrorism sections of field offices, resident agencies (smaller offices that report to a field office) and joint terrorism task forces.

While the CIA was very much built on the legacy of Wild Bill Donovan’s Office of Strategic Services, the FBI was founded by J. Edgar Hoover, a conservative and risk-averse administrator who served as FBI director from 1935-1972. Even today, Hoover’s influence is clearly evident in the FBI’s bureaucratic nature. FBI special agents are unable to do much at all, such as open an investigation, without a supervisor’s approval, and supervisors are reluctant to approve anything too adventurous because of the impact it might have on their chance for promotion. Unlike many other law enforcement agencies, such as the Drug Enforcement Administration or the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the FBI rarely uses its own special agents in an undercover capacity to penetrate criminal organizations. That practice is seen as being too risky; they prefer to use confidential informants rather than undercover operatives.

The FBI is also strongly tied to its roots in law enforcement and criminal investigation, and special agents who work major theft, public corruption or white-collar crime cases tend to receive more recognition — and advance more quickly — than their counterterrorism counterparts.

FBI special agents also see a considerable downside to working counterterrorism cases because of the potential for such cases to blow up in their faces if they make a mistake — such as in the New York field office’s highly publicized mishandling of the informant whom they had inserted into the group that later conducted the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. It is much safer, and far more rewarding from a career perspective, to work bank robberies or serve in the FBI’s Inspection Division.

After the 9/11 attacks — and the corresponding spike in the importance of counterterrorism operations — many of the resources of the CIA and FBI were focused on al Qaeda and terrorism, to the detriment of programs such as foreign counterintelligence. However, the more time that has passed since 9/11 without another major attack, the more the organizational culture of the U.S government has returned to normal. Once again, counterterrorism efforts are seen as being ancillary duties rather than the organizations’ driving mission. (The clash between organizational culture and the counterterrorism mission is by no means confined to the CIA and FBI. Fred’s book “Ghost: Confessions of a Counterterrorism Agent” provides a detailed examination of some of the bureaucratic and cultural challenges we faced while serving in the Counterterrorism Investigations Division of the State Department’s Diplomatic Security Service.)

Liaison Services

One of the least well known, and perhaps most important, sources of intelligence in the counterterrorism field is the information that is obtained as a result of close relationships with allied intelligence agencies — often referred to as information obtained through “liaison channels.”

Like FBI agents, most CIA officers are well-educated, middle-aged white guys. This means they are better suited to use the cover of an American businessmen or diplomat than to pretend to be a young Muslim trying to join al Qaeda or Hezbollah. Like their counterparts in the FBI, CIA officers have far more success using informants than they do working undercover inside terrorist groups.

Services like the Jordanian General Intelligence Department, the Saudi Mabahith or the Yemeni National Security Agency not only can recruit sources, but also are far more successful in using young Muslim officers to penetrate terrorist groups. In addition to their source networks and penetration operations, many of these liaison services are not at all squeamish about using extremely enhanced interrogation techniques — this is the reason many of the terrorism suspects who were the subject of rendition operations ended up in such locations. Obviously, whenever the CIA is dealing with a liaison service, the political interests and objectives of the service must be considered — as should the possibility that the liaison service is fabricating the intelligence in question for whatever reason. Still, in the end, the CIA historically has received a significant amount of important intelligence (perhaps even most of its intelligence) via liaison channels.

Another concern that arises from the call for a truth commission is the impact a commission investigation could have on the liaison services that have helped the United States in its counterterrorism efforts since 9/11. Countries that hosted CIA detention facilities or were involved in the rendition or interrogation of terrorist suspects may find themselves exposed publicly or even held up for some sort of sanction by the U.S. Congress. Such activities could have a real impact on the amount of cooperation and information the CIA receives from these intelligence services.

Conclusion

As we’ve previously noted, it was a lack of intelligence that helped fuel the fear that led the Bush administration to authorize enhanced interrogation techniques. Ironically, the current investigation into those techniques and other practices (such as renditions) may very well lead to significant gaps in terrorism-related intelligence from both internal and liaison sources — again, not primarily because of the prohibition of torture, but because of larger implications.

When these implications are combined with the long-standing institutional aversion of U.S. government agencies toward counterterrorism, and with the difficulty of finding and retaining good people willing to serve in counterterrorism roles, the U.S. counterterrorism community may soon be facing challenges even more daunting than those posed by its already difficult mission.

The The - This is the Day

The The - This is the Day


Well, you didn't wake up this morning
Because you didn't go to bed
You were watching the whites of your eyes turn red
The calendar on your wall is ticking the days off
The calendar on your wall is ticking the days off
You've been reading some old letters
You smile and think how much you've changed
All the money in the world
Couldn't bring back those days
You pull back the curtains and the sun burns into your eyes
You watch a plane flying across a clear blue sky
THIS IS THE DAY -- Your life will surely change
THIS IS THE DAY -- Your life will surely change
You could've done anything, if you'd wanted
And all your friends and family think that you're lucky
But the side of you they'll never see
Is when you're left alone with the memories
That hold your life together like glue

[Can't get this song out of my head this morning. Perhaps this post will help.]

Interview: Taliban in Pakistan - pt. 1 of 2


via Counterterrorism Blog

The NEFA Foundation has obtained an exclusive English-language interview with Haji Muslim Khan, the spokesman of Tehrik-e-Taliban Swat Valley (Pakistan). During the interview, conducted on April 27, Muslim Khan discussed the Taliban implementation of Shariah law in Swat and neighboring regions.

When asked about the notion of "moderate Taliban" versus "hardline Taliban", Khan began laughing and replied, "No, there is no difference... they are the same." Khan also accused U.S. President Barack Obama of ordering a Pakistani military attack on the TTP in Swat, referring to Obama as "an enemy of Islam and Muslims."

Part one of two of the interview is now available on the NEFA Foundation website.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Infrared Intruder Alert System

Infrared Intruder Alert System

Stop axe murderers from trespassing on your property with this infrared alarm system.

The Scariest Thing About the Swine Flu A/H1N1 Flu

The Council on Foreign Relations has just released the transcript to a conference call entitled Global Health Crisis: Swine Flu. Answering questions is top virologist Laurie Garrett, the Council on Foreign Relations' senior fellow for Global Health, and the author of "The Coming Plague: Newly Emerging Diseases in a World Out of Balance," and "Betrayal of Trust: The Collapse of Global Public Health."

The entire conference call is a must-read for those interested in the science behind the outbreak scare. Here's a taste:

GARRETT: I'm very, very worried about -- I want to underscore this -- on December 20th CDC issued a bulletin that said, "We now have a form of H1N1 in the world that is completely resistant to Tamiflu," and Tamiflu is the primary treatment for influenza infection.

So far, thankfully, that type of H1N1 has not recombined and mixed with this, what we're calling swine flu -- which could just as easily be called a bird flu or a human flu because it's got genetic material from all three in it. If we see a recombination now with the Tamiflu-resistant strain, I would say that it's time to go to a higher threshold of pandemic alert. [currently level 4]

Laurie Garrett: Drug-Resistant H1N1 Exists

BREAKING: Flu alert level raised to 5; pandemic 'imminent'

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Test Case: A Preview of Disruption

By Sherry Cooper for the Harvard Business Review

The author shares what she learned about the effect of pandemic on businesses from the SARS outbreak in Toronto.

If an avian flu pandemic strikes, it will have hugely disruptive effects on global society and the economy. I can say this because I have lived through a mini–test case of such an event: the 2003 outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome, or SARS, in Toronto.

During its four-month run in Toronto, ending in June, SARS killed fewer than 50 people. Even China and Hong Kong, the two places that were hardest hit by the virus, suffered “only” 648 deaths in total. Compared with the 1918–1919 influenza pandemic, which killed as many as 50 million people, SARS was quite moderate—but it sure didn’t seem that way in the first half of 2003.

On April 23, the World Health Organization sent out a warning against all unnecessary travel to Toronto, Beijing, and China’s Shanxi province. Travel to and from Toronto plummeted overnight. At least four major Toronto conventions were canceled, leaving hoteliers holding the bag for more than 50,000 room nights. Overall, SARS cost the city’s hotel industry more than Can$125 million; more generally, the tourism industry in the province of Ontario lost more than Can$2 billion in income and jobs.

Toronto’s city life, too, was transformed by the SARS outbreak. More than 15,000 people were quarantined in their homes for ten days. Many businesses, our bank included, designated some essential employees to telecommute in the event that even a single person at the office became exposed to the virus. Mass transit was deserted. Visits to museums, the zoo, theaters, and restaurants declined sharply. In suburban Markham, all 1,700 students and staff in a high school were quarantined after one student picked up the disease from a parent who was a health care worker.

By far, the part of Toronto most severely compromised by SARS was its health care system. Because the first reported SARS patient in the area presented no history of contact with pneumonia (his mother, just back from Hong Kong, had died from undiagnosed pneumonia the week before), hospitals did not recognize right away that this was SARS. Thus, they placed infected individuals in double rooms, exposing other patients, their families, care providers, and other frontline workers to the virus. By the end of the epidemic, nearly half of the reported cases were among the health care workers; three of them died. Even though all hospital procedures were reengineered within 72 hours once it became clear we were dealing with SARS, surveillance and infection control were still inadequate.

Beyond shortcomings in treating SARS itself, the burden on the health care system caused delays in testing for and treating other illnesses. Patients had to postpone or skip essential treatments such as chemotherapy and radiation. Family doctors and specialists were overwhelmed. I visited a physician who had a sign on his door telling patients to go to the nearest emergency room if they had a dry cough or fever. To avoid risk of infection, many people refused dental work, and many dentists refused patients.

Although the impact of SARS on Canadian GDP is difficult to tease out from other factors, the Bank of Canada has estimated that the disease cut second-quarter GDP by 0.6%. Moderate as this estimate sounds, the effect in Toronto was significantly more dramatic, as Toronto represents about 15% to 20% of Canada’s economic activity. The negative economic and social effects of SARS in Hong Kong were even more severe, as it suffered seven times as many cases and fatalities as all of Canada did. During the peak of the outbreak, in the United States—where there were no deaths from SARS—transpacific travel fell 40% below the previous year’s level.

It’s clear from Toronto’s experience with SARS that we cannot afford to wait and see what happens before we prepare for the next pandemic. Because of the nature of the virus and the effective responses of global health officials, SARS was short-lived. We will not be nearly so lucky should the avian influenza become a human pandemic.

Sherry Cooper (sherry.cooper@bmonb.com) is the executive vice president of the BMO Financial Group and the chief economist for BMO Nesbitt Burns. She is based in Toronto.

Mexican doctors claim cover up, flu is more serious than reported

Once again, it looks like the internet is ahead of the official media. Comments left on Reuters and BBC News site paint a much grimmer picture than we’ve been led to believe about the swine flu epidemic in Mexico. And while all comments need to be taken with some dose of suspicion, I don’t think we can completely dismiss this, either. After all, Mexican authorities, already reeling from a sharp drop in tourism, have a strong financial incentive to downplay the size of this problem.

For instance, there’s this from Antonio Chavez, a doctor working in Mexico City:

I’m a specialist doctor in respiratory diseases and intensive care at the Mexican National Institute of Health. There is a severe emergency over the swine flu here. More and more patients are being admitted to the intensive care unit. Despite the heroic efforts of all staff (doctors, nurses, specialists, etc) patients continue to inevitably die. The truth is that anti-viral treatments and vaccines are not expected to have any effect, even at high doses. It is a great fear among the staff. The infection risk is very high among the doctors and health staff.

There is a sense of chaos in the other hospitals and we do not know what to do. Staff are starting to leave and many are opting to retire or apply for holidays. The truth is that mortality is even higher than what is being reported by the authorities, at least in the hospital where I work it. It is killing three to four patients daily, and it has been going on for more than three weeks. It is a shame and there is great fear here. Increasingly younger patients aged 20 to 30 years are dying before our helpless eyes and there is great sadness among health professionals here.
From Alvaro Ricardez, Oaxaca City, Oaxaca, Mexico:
In the capital of my state, Oaxaca, there is a hospital closed because of a death related to the porcine influenza. In the papers they recognise only two people dead for that cause. Many friends working in hospitals or related fields say that the situation is really bad, they are talking about 19 people dead in Oaxaca, including a doctor and a nurse. They say they got shots but they were told not to talk about the real situation. Our authorities say nothing. Life goes on as usual here.
Migdalia Cruz, Phoenix, Arizona:
I have a sister-in-law from San Luis Potosi state in Mexico and we were told that in San Luis Potosi there have been at least 78 deaths, just in that city alone, not 68 in all of Mexico, as is being reported. Schools have been closed until 6 May in this state and in other areas in Mexico. Also, many public venues are being closed, so this makes it more deadly and dangerous than has been stated.
Yeny Gregorio Dávila, Mexico City:
I work as a resident doctor in one of the biggest hospitals in Mexico City and sadly, the situation is far from “under control”. As a doctor, I realise that the media does not report the truth. Authorities distributed vaccines among all the medical personnel with no results, because two of my partners who worked in this hospital (interns) were killed by this new virus in less than six days even though they were vaccinated as all of us were. The official number of deaths is 20, nevertheless, the true number of victims are more than 200. I understand that we must avoid to panic, but telling the truth it might be better now to prevent and avoid more deaths.

It appears that Mexican authorities are sitting on information in an attempt to keep people from panicking - and of course, people are panicking because they have no real information. It sounds like everyone’s assuming that any deaths among young people from atypical pneumonia or respiratory illness were caused by the flu - a not unreasonable assumption, given the lack of information that indicates otherwise. Young, healthy people do not typically die from the flu.

In the meantime, many news sites have activated a Twitter feed to more quickly update their public health clients, and this morning they’re tracking confirmed and suspected cases in Scotland, Costa Rica, Spain, France, Israel and New Zealand. [... and a Mexican tourist in Florida who had just visited Disney in Orlando.]

The strain identified in the U.S. is milder and has not yet killed anyone, but in a pandemic flu, most of the deaths occur in the second and third wave. -- source

Miracle of Duct Tape

Miracle of Duct Tape

Larry Potterfield of MidwayUSA demonstrates the many miracles of duct tape - the ultimate survival tool. From tent repair to makeshift waders, any hunter, fisherman, or outdoorsman can use duct tape.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Forging Blacksmith Tongs

Forging Blacksmith Tongs

Ontario blacksmith and artist, David Robertson, demonstrates how to forge a general pair of tongs for a small workshop.

For more blacksmith craft visit www.artistblacksmith.com.

Pandemic Influenza Preparedness and Response

Pandemic Influenza Preparedness and Response [pdf 1.15Mb]

WHO previously published pandemic preparedness guidance in 1999 and a revision of that guidance in 2005. Since 2005, there have been advances in many areas of preparedness and response planning. For example, stockpiles of antiviral drugs are now a reality and a WHO guideline has been developed to attempt to stop or delay pandemic influenza at its initial emergence. There is increased understanding of past pandemics, strengthened outbreak communications, greater insight on disease spread and approaches to control, and increasingly sophisticated statistical modeling of various aspects of influenza. Extensive practical experience has been gained from responding to outbreaks of highly pathogenic avian influenza A (H5N1) virus infection in poultry and humans, and from conducting pandemic preparedness and response exercises in many countries. There is greater understanding that pandemic preparedness requires the involvement of not only the health sector, but the whole of society. In 2007, the International Health Regulations (2005) (IHR, 2005) entered into force providing the international community with a framework to address international public health concerns.

In light of these developments [right], WHO decided to update its guidance to enable countries to be better prepared for the next pandemic.

Released today, April 27, 2009.

WHO raises its pandemic alert level on swine flu

Modern Metaphor: Advertising’s Work Horse

Herding Cats

Modern Metaphor: Advertising’s Work Horse

Excerpt from Figurative Language in the Electronic Age: On Herding Cats and Lame Ducks (PDF) byPatricia Chantrill, Ph.D.

Metaphors and other rhetorical devices take visual as well as verbal forms. If a multi-national corporation wants to build brand identity or public acceptance, it is often a good tactic to employ a creative advertising team with a reputation for marketing metaphors. One of the most acclaimed examples of metaphoric advertising occurred during the halftime extravaganza of Super Bowl XXXIV in January of 2000. The company was Electronic Data Systems, an organization that’s been around for decades. However, their new millennium identity as a leader in information technology services, coupled with the desire to be known across the globe as simply “EDS,” (I had trouble locating the original name anywhere on their multi-platform, multipage corporate website), prompted them to recruit the talents of the Minneapolis-based advertising firm of Fallon McElligott for their first ever Super Bowl ad spot.

"We've found an extremely visual way to illustrate what EDS does for its clients," said David Lubars, president/creative director at Fallon McElligott. "It's funny, unique and smart, and we think sure to be memorable to the world's largest viewing audiences on Super Bowl Sunday."

Imagine the challenge before the creative team at Fallon McElligott. They were drafted into the mission of demonstrating the essence of EDS in a 60-second time slot. Had they been “literal” types, the advertising team might have used the time to show the corporate logo while a soothing voice-over relays the standard media release about the organization:

EDS is a recognized global leader in providing E-business and information technology services to 9,000 business and government clients in about 55 countries around the world. Having founded the IT services industry more than 35 years ago, EDS delivers high value management consulting, electronic business solutions, business process management, and systems and technology expertise to help clients simplify complexity and achieve superior value in the digital economy. The company brings deep industry practice knowledge to solve challenges in a wide variety of industries, including communications, energy and chemicals, financial services, government, healthcare, products and retailing, and travel and transportation. EDS reported revenues of $18.5 billion in 1999. The company’s stock is traded on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE:EDS) and the London Stock Exchange.

It’s a good thing the advertising team didn’t opt for a straight description; we might have slept through the rest of the Super Bowl. Instead, the team explored “vehicles” for describing EDS’s reputation for deftly “managing the seemingly unmanageable.” According to EDS, technology experts often compare this knack for solving vast technological challenges to—you guessed it— “herding cats.”

Now, I don’t know too many people who have actually attempted to move thousands of house cats across the Great Plains, but those of us with even a passing acquaintance with the less-than-submissive feline can imagine the difficulty easily enough. And that’s the beauty of metaphor: it takes the tenor, an unimaginable abstraction (managing electronic business solutions) and transforms it by way of a vehicle (herding cats) into a vivid and nearly tangible—even if fictitious—event.

A careful analysis of selected details of the ad provides us with an opportunity to appreciate Fallon McElligott’s critical accomplishment and EDS’s metaphoric identity. As you read through the script, pay close attention to those instances where the text relies upon figurative language:

Cowboy #1 [holding old photograph]: This man right here is my great grandfather. He’s the first cat herder in our family. [Begin music.]

Cowboy #2: Herdin’ cats…don’t let anybody tell ya it’s easy. [overhead shot of circling horseman in midst of cat stampede]

Cowboy #3: Anybody can herd cattle. Holdin’ together ten thousand half-wild short hairs…well, that’s another thing all together. [large “herd” of cats bounds toward camera; herders in background]

Cowboy #4 [arm in sling]: Bein’ a cat herder’s probably about the… toughest thing I think I’ve ever done. [switch to shot of cowboy in camp, rolling large ball of string; switch to two cowboys, one hoisted on the other’s shoulders, attempting to rescue several cats from tree]

Cowboy #5: I got this one this morning…right here. And if ya look at his face…it’s just ripped to shreds, ya know? [two cowboys discuss cat scratches as herd and herders move in background]

Cowboy #6: You see the movies… [cowboys on horseback in background as foregrounded cats swim across river]

Ya…You hear the stories, it’s…
[cowboy carries two cats across river]

…I’m livin’ a dream. Not everyone can do what we do. [campfire scene; cowboy removes cat hair with lint roller. Switch to cowboy on range who sneezes while thousands of cats run past him.]

Cowboy #7: I wouldn’t do nothin’ else. [lone cowboy stands with horse]

Cowboy #8: It ain’t an easy job, but when ya bring a herd into town and ya ain’t lost a one of‘em… ain’t a feelin’ like it in the world. [cowboy on horseback, young cat riding in saddle; fade to panoramic silhouette of dozens of cats running ahead of cowboy on horseback.]

In a sense, this is what we do. We bring together information, ideas and technologies…and make them go where you want. [Written, unspoken text over final scenes of herder and cats as they head toward horizon]

[Music builds to crescendo. Voice in background hollers Wooo Hooo! Music ends.] [Fade to EDS logo]

[Voice Over] EDS--Managing the complexities of e-business.

This ad creatively “brings to life” the unwieldy expression “like herding cats.” The setting, in the genre of the epic American Western saga, uses few actors and many real cowboys. Computerized cloning transforms about 60 trained felines into a stampeding “herd” of thousands, filmed separately from the horse sequences and compiled in post-production magic.

Metaphors can be “live” or “dead” according to the degree to which they spark our imagination. If a particular metaphor is overused, it often loses its ability to generate an imaginative leap of faith. We can, as Fallon McElligott has so vividly demonstrated, “resuscitate” a dead metaphor by simply reminding the viewers that the image, indeed, had its genesis in metaphor. When the cat herding ad reports that, “In a sense, this is what we do,” it not only makes explicit the comparison between cat herding and complex technological management, it helps us to revive a metaphor that might otherwise have suffered the untimely demise of overuse. The “cat herding” metaphor is made vivid, just as our understanding of the complexities of EDS’s role in global technologies is made vivid. Metaphor teaches.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Pink Floyd - Pigs on the Wing

Pink Floyd - Pigs On The Wing (pts 1 and 2)

Pigs on the Wing

If you didn't care what happened to me,
And I didn't care for you,
We would zig zag our way through the boredom and pain
Occasionally glancing up through the rain.
Wondering which of the buggars to blame
And watching for pigs on the wing.

You know that I care what happens to you,
And I know that you care for me too.
So I don't feel alone,
Or the weight of the stone,
Now that I've found somewhere safe
To bury my bone.
Any fool knows a dog needs a home,
A shelter from pigs on the wing.

1976: The Epidemic That Never Was

1976: Fear of a great plague

By Paul Mickle, The Trentonian

On the cold afternoon of February 5, 1976, an Army recruit told his drill instructor at Fort Dix that he felt tired and weak but not sick enough to see military medics or skip a big training hike.

Within 24 hours, 19-year-old Pvt. David Lewis of Ashley Falls, Mass., was dead, killed by an influenza not seen since the plague of 1918-19, which took 500,000 American lives and 20 million worldwide.

Two weeks after the recruit's death, health officials disclosed to America that something called "swine flu" had killed Lewis and hospitalized four of his fellow soldiers at the Army base in Burlington County.

The ominous name of the flu alone was enough to touch off civilian fear of an epidemic. And government doctors knew from tests hastily conducted at Dix after Lewis' death that 500 soldiers had caught swine flu without falling ill.

Any flu able to reach that many people so fast was capable of becoming another worldwide plague, the doctors warned, raising these questions:

Does America mobilize for mass inoculations in time to have everybody ready for the next flu season? Or should the country wait to see if the new virus would, as they often do, get stronger to hit harder in the second year?

Thus was born what would become known to some medical historians as a fiasco and to others as perhaps the finest hour of America's public health bureaucracy.

Only young Lewis died from the swine flu itself in 1976. But as the critics are quick to point out, hundreds of Americans were killed or seriously injured by the inoculation the government gave them to stave off the virus.

According to his sister-in-law, John Kent of President Avenue in Lawrence went to his grave in 1997 believing the shot from the government had killed his first wife, Mary, long before her time.

Among other critics are Arthur M. Silverstein, whose book, "Pure Politics and Impure Science," suggests President Gerald Ford's desire to win the office on his own, as well as the influence of America's big drug manufacturers, figured into the decision to immunize all 220 million Americans.

Still, even the partisan who first branded Ford's program a fiasco, says now that it happened because America's public health establishment identified what easily could have been a new plague and mobilized to beat it amazingly well.

To understand the fear of the time you have to know something about the plague American soldiers seemed to bring home with them after fighting in Europe during World War I.

The Great Plague, as it came to be called, rivaled the horrid Black Death of medieval times in its ability to strike suddenly and take lives swiftly. In addition to the half million in America, it killed 20 million people around the world.

It got its name because it was a brand of flu usually found in domestic pigs and wild swine. It was long thought to have come, like so many flus, out of the Chinese farm country, where people and domestic pigs live closely together.

Recent research has shown, however, that the post-WWI flu was brought to Europe by American troops who had been based in the South before they went to war. Medical detectives, still working on the case in the 1990s, determined that a small group of our soldiers took swine flu to Europe and that it spread to the world from there.

How the swine flu got to Fort Dix in 1976 still hasn't been tracked down. At the time, Dix military doctors knew only that a killer flu had made it to the base and that they were lucky more men hadn't died or been sickened seriously.

Weeks after Lewis died, doctors from the Centers for Disease Control and other federal public health officials were meeting in Washington, trying to decide if they should recommend the government start a costly program of mass inoculations.

One doc later told the authors of "The Epidemic that Never Was" that he and others in on the meetings realized there was "nothing in this for the CDC except trouble," especially because a decision had to be made fast to get the immunizations manufactured by the fall.

"...The obvious thing to do was immunize everybody," the doctor said. "But if we tried to do that ... we might have to interrupt a hell of a lot of work on other diseases."

The doctors knew they faced complaints if the epidemic broke out and vaccines weren't ready, as well as criticism if they spent millions inoculating people for a plague that didn't happen.

"As for 'another 1918,' I didn't expect that," the doctor continued in the book. "But who could be sure? It would wreck us. Yet, if there weren't a pandemic, we'd be charged with wasting public money, crying wolf and causing all the inconvenience for nothing ... It was a no-win situation."

By mid-March, CDC Director Dr. David J. Sencer had lined up most of the medical establishment behind his plan to call on Ford to support a $135 million program of mass inoculation.

On March 24, one day after a surprise loss to Ronald Reagan in the North Carolina Republican presidential primary, Ford decided to make the announcement to the American public.

Congress still had to appropriate the money, of course, and that wasn't going to be easy. Even before official congressional consideration of the plan was taken up, there were forces arguing against it.

Another big hurdle was the drug makers, who were insisting the government take liability for any harmful side effects from the vaccine. During congressional hearings in the spring and early summer, lawmakers heard some naysayers who noted that the swine flu of last winter never got beyond Dix and that only one death had been reported.

The president and his experts prevailed, however, and on Aug. 12 Congress put up the money to get the job done. The mighty task was put into the hands of a charismatic 33-year-old physician for the Department of Health, Education and Welfare, Dr. W. Delano Meriwether, a world-class sprinter who still competed in track meets.

Now he was in a race for life, or so he thought. Meriwether was given until the end of the year to get all 220 million Americans inoculated against swine flu.

By Oct. 1, the makers had the serums ready and America's public health bureaucracy had lined up thousands of doctors, nurses and paramedics to give out the shots at medical centers, schools and firehouses across the nation.

Jim Florio, then an ambitious rookie Democratic congressman supporting Jimmy Carter for president, didn't use the situation to take a shot at Ford. He lined up and was the first Jersey resident to take the inoculation.

Within days, however, several people who had taken the shot fell seriously ill. On Oct. 12, three elderly people in the Pittsburgh area suffered heart attacks and died within hours of getting the shot, which led to suspension of the program in Pennsylvania.

Jersey pressed on with inoculations, however. Through the fall, even as more bad reports about the side effects of the vaccine came out, thousands of mostly older people in Greater Trenton lined up outside health centers, schools and firehouses to get the shot, sometimes waiting for an hour.

One of them was Lawrence's Mary Kent, a 45-year-old mother of two teenage boys who couldn't tie the ribbons on Christmas presents only days after she got her shot at the Trenton War Memorial in early December.

On Dec. 16, increasingly concerned about reports of the vaccine touching off neurological problems, especially rare Guillain-Barre syndrome, the government suspended the program, having inoculated 40 million people for a flu that never came.

By year's end, Jack Kent knew his wife was seriously ill and started reading all about the side effects of the president's flu inoculation, especially nerve problems like those his wife was experiencing.

Even before Mary Kent died an invalid at age 51 in January 1982, Kent had joined the hundreds of Americans who filed suit against the government on behalf of children left without a parent due to fatal side effects from the swine flu vaccine.

Kent's sister-in-law, also named Mary Kent, recalled the other day that Jack Kent died in 1997 still angrily blaming the government for giving his wife Guillian-Barre, leading to her death.

The swine flu case of 1976 forever reduced confidence in public health pronouncements from the government and helped foster cynicism about federal policy makers that continues to this day.

Citing the swine flu fiasco, for instance, one scholar recently authored a report suggesting the threat of AIDS has been similarly overblown.

Yet Joseph Califano, one of the earliest to use the word "fiasco" in describing the swine flu affair, came to the conclusion that it all couldn't have been avoided. Califano, whom President Carter appointed Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare after beating Ford in the November election, said the doctors had no choice but to err on the side of the caution.

In "The Epidemic That Never Was," Califano said that faced with the threat of another killer plague with the potential to end millions of lives, the doctors were right to seek an inoculation program.

more pandemic stories

There once was a fisherman from Eyl...

From MEMRI TV: Al-Arabiya TV Interviews Somali Pirates and Displays Their Mode of Operation [video] [enlarge to full-screen if Enlish translation does not appear]

Following are excerpts from two Al-Arabiya TV reports on Somali pirates, which aired on April 19 and 20, 2009.

Reporter: Here in the Somali coastal town of Harardere, Sirius Star, the biggest oil tanker in the world, was anchored, until the pirates released it in exchange for a three million dollar ransom. During the three months in which Sirius Star was held captive, an Al-Arabiya TV news team made an attempt to approach it, aboard a small fishing boat. They managed to get as close as 500 meters from the Saudi vessel before the guards warned them not to come any closer, forcing our colleagues, Al-Zubeir and Al-Bukhari, to return ashore.

A few days before the tanker was released, however, one of the pirates sent us these exclusive images of this enormous Saudi tanker, which is bigger than an American warship or aircraft carrier. A few pirates can be seen here on board the vessel, waiting for the ransom to be paid, but they could not imagine that they would come to a tragic end. Five of them drowned when their boat capsized, with the money, which was dropped from a small airplane in the high seas, just like in these exclusive images of a similar exchange. The difference is that in that case, the boxes with the ransom money were hauled into the hijacked ship.

This incident brought the Somali pirates into the spotlight of world attention. We wanted to talk to one of the most famous pirates, who is known as Boyah, the Emir of the Pirates.

We are about to meet Boyah, one of the pirate leaders in Eyl. Two days ago, this pirate hijacked two Turkish ships near the Gulf of Aden.

Boyah fears that the local Puntland authorities will arrest him, so he asked us to meet him outside Puntland. Even in the middle of the desert, he seemed cautious and did not want to be filmed. Boyah asked us to postpone shooting the interview until he reached his city, Eyl, which is known as the “Pirates’ Capital.”

Boyah: We used to be regular fishermen. Since the collapse of the Somali regime, foreign trawlers have plundered our marine livelihood and have destroyed our boats. When we tried to approach them, they opened fire on us. These problems drove us to take this action. It was the Puntland authorities that allowed the foreign trawlers to rob us of our marine livelihood. As long as no solution is found to this problem, the number of pirates will rise, month by month.

[...]

Reporter: Here in Eyl, we saw what we only read about in geography books. Not only that, but we met Mr. Geography in person. He is a pirate from Eyl, who is jokingly known as “Mr. Geography.”

Mr. Geography: When I was a little boy at school, I excelled in geography. I used to tell my friends about stories and topics I learned in geography. I was in charge of the finances of one of the bands of pirates. We would generally hijack ships outside the Gulf of Aden, and would bring them to the coast of Eyl, where there are narrow bays, beyond the reach of the Puntland authorities. We have GPS devices, which tell us the ship’s course and how many miles it is from us.

Reporter: The pirates take two vessels – one large and the other small. The large one carries their provisions, and when they approach the ship they want to hijack, the small boat, carrying the group of armed men, turns toward the ship, and they board it with a ladder.

Among the ships whose hijacking was overseen by Mr. Geography near the Somali city of Bosaso were two Egyptian cargo ships - Mumtaz and Samarra. The third ship is Italian and is called Buccaneer 72. This footage shows some of the Egyptian hostages on board their ship, Mumtaz, which was hijacked a few days ago opposite the Gulf of Aden. The pirates are demanding ten million dollars in exchange for the release of the three ships.

Captain of hijacked ship: I am the captain of the Mumtaz Masri.

Interviewer: In what region do you operate?

Captain: In Somaliland.

Reporter: Mr. Geography has hijacked many Egyptian ships.

[...]

This is one of 13 ships hijacked near the coast of Eyl. One of the pirate leaders here told us that this ship is Japanese, and the Turkish and Ukrainian hostages on board have been waiting to be ransomed for over three weeks.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Pandemic

The Saturday Matinee continues with a timely short...

Pandemic

The world has come to an end. People are hungry and one dude has a gun.

In the words of the writer/director, Adam Plouff: My final project for school. People's faces explode. I'm not a writer. I just try to make things look good.

Got Milk?

:\ - c

Love in the Afternoon [Entire Movie]

This just feels like a "Classic Movie Saturday." I hope you enjoy one of my all-time favorite movies starring my two favorite actors, Gary Cooper and Audrey Hepburn.

Warning: Chick Flick. ;)

Love in the Afternoon - Audrey Hepburn Fan Movie - Fascination - 昼下がりの情事 - [SPOILER WARNING]

Love In The Afternoon (1957) - [entire movie - 13 pts.]

Another May-December romantic comedy from director Billy Wilder starring Audrey Hepburn, this one pairs her with Gary Cooper in Love in the Afternoon. -- Ariane Chavasse (Hepburn) is the daughter of a private detective (Maurice Chevalier), who has been hired by Mr. X, (John McGiver), a suspicious husband, to find out who his wife (Lise Bourdin) is seeing on the side. When he discovers the woman in the grip of millionaire playboy Frank Flannagan (Gary Cooper), he informs the predictably livid husband who loudly announces his intention to kill the interloper - all while Ariane is eavesdropping. She rushes off to warn Flannagan of his impending demise, which begins a series of afternoon meetings where she adopts the pose of a jaded lover and woman of the world. Intially amused by the ingenue's charade, the middle-aged roue gradually becomes interested in the young woman, and after she disappears, becomes obsessed with finding her. After Flannagan unwittingly tells his story to the suspicious husband in a steam room, he is directed to the detective, her father, who agrees to help Flannagan find her. Wilder's sophisticated romantic fable, shot in spectacular Parisian locations, including the Opera and the elegant Chateau de Vitry, is nearly stolen by Chevalier as the protective pere.

Friday, April 24, 2009

How to Utilize Your Suburban Land During the Economic Collapse

How to Utilize Your Land for Economic Collapse

YouTube user adb024 presents suburban ideas on how to utilize a small amount of land during the economic collapse. Follow him as he tours his property and demonstrates what his tiny garden produces to barter with.

Ideal Plans for a Backyard Rabbit Hutch (pdf)

How to Freeze Vegetables

How to Freeze Vegetables

Blanching -- The Bayou Gardener prepares okra for the freezer. This method works for just about all vegetables that can be frozen.

For more food and gardening tips visit The Bayou Gardener in South Louisiana at www.thebayougardener.com

Pandemic Panic?

"Swine Flu" by Bruce Eagle, acrylic, 24 x 30, via Northern Star Art


"This could be the beginning of the next pandemic, in theory." -- Allison McGeer, M.D., FRCPC, Microbiologist, Infectious Disease Consultant, Department of Microbiology, Mount Sinai Hospital, Toronto Ontario, Canada.


Avian/Swine Flu Update April 23, 2009

Residents of California and Texas

CDC has identified human cases of swine influenza A (H1N1) virus infection in people in these areas. CDC is working with local and state health agencies to investigate these cases. We have determined that this virus is contagious and is spreading from human to human. However, at this time, we have not determined how easily the virus spreads between people. As with any infectious disease, we are recommending precautionary measures for people residing in these areas.

  • Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water, especially after you cough or sneeze. Alcohol-based hands cleaners are also effective.
  • Try to avoid close contact with sick people.
  • If you get sick, CDC recommends that you stay home from work or school and limit contact with others to keep from infecting them.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth. Germs spread that way.

There is no vaccine available at this time, so it is important for people living in these areas to take steps to prevent spreading the virus to others. If people are ill, they should attempt to stay at home and limit contact with others. Healthy residents living in these areas should take everyday preventive actions.

People who live in these areas who develop an illness with fever and respiratory symptoms, such as cough and runny nose, and possibly other symptoms, such as body aches, nausea, or vomiting or diarrhea, should contact their health care provider. Their health care provider will determine whether influenza testing is needed.

Clinicians

Clinicians should consider the possibility of swine influenza virus infections in patients presenting with febrile respiratory illness who:

1. Live in San Diego County or Imperial County, California or San Antonio, Texas or
2. Have traveled to San Diego and/or Imperial County, California or San Antonio, Texas or
3. Have been in contact with ill persons from these areas in the 7 days prior to their illness onset.

If swine flu is suspected, clinicians should obtain a respiratory swab for swine influenza testing and place it in a refrigerator (not a freezer). Once collected, the clinician should contact their state or local health department to facilitate transport and timely diagnosis at a state public health laboratory.

CDC Briefing on Public Health Investigation of Human Cases of Swine Influenza

highlights:

CDC has conducted testing on all seven samples and we've determined that they are swine influenza A, H1N1. These are human infections with swine influenza viruses. These are viruses that usually infect pigs but in this case we're finding the illness in people.

You can get swine influenza without direct contact but it's a bit more unusual. And we believe at this point that human-to-human spread is occurring. That's unusual. We don’t know yet how widely it's spreading and we certainly don’t know the extent of the problem.

This is very late for seasonal influenza. The routine kind of influenza strains that we see every year. That's declining. The regular season is in its pale really. What we're seeing now is different. It's not seasonal influenza, it's what we call Swine Influenza.

Get real-time updates on the investigation by following CDC on Twitter.

Put Your Hands Together. Flash Player 9 is required.

Put Your Hands Together

How bad is it in Pakistan? - This Bad

From Infidels are Cool

Wanna know how screwed Pakistan is? All the areas in red are Taliban controlled, the areas in orange are basically divided (at war,) the areas in yellow are Taliban “influenced” and those teeny weeny green spots? Yeah, that’s Pakistani government controlled.

In other words, the capital of Pakistan is next on their list, and guess where the nukes are?

Read the full story at The Long War Journal - Taliban advance eastward, threaten Islamabad

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Secretary of Defense Robert Gates speaks with reporters at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina following his visit with the 2nd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment.

Of particular interest in this video is Secretary Gates' question and answer session that begins at 2:25. The second question addresses Pakistan. Don't miss it. - c

~ ~ ~

Taliban, 70 miles from Islamabad

Another Missing Element in the AfPak Analysis

By Douglas Farah, for Counterterrorism Blog

To build on my CTB colleague Walid Phares recent post, there is another missing element in the analysis of the Taliban's recent advances in Pakistan.

It is the concept or religious precept of taqiyya in Islam and fully embraced by radical Islamists (including the Muslim Brotherhood.)

It blesses the concept of disguising one's beliefs, intentions, convictions, ideas, feelings, opinions or strategies from the enemy and the infidel. In practical terms it is manifested as dissimulation, lying, deceiving, vexing and confounding with the intention of deflecting attention, foiling or pre-emptive blocking. See this paper for a deeper look at what the term implies.

So, when the Taliban negotiates certain terms of its taking over parts of Pakistan and promises certain behaviors in return for limited power there, they have no intention of keeping to the terms of the agreement.

Under the terms of taqiyya, such behavior, which we widely view as duplicitous, is simply part of the accepted ways to spread sharia law and the caliphate. It has no moral consequence except to raise the esteem of the practitioner of this art in the eyes of his cohorts.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Grace Jones with Luciano Pavarotti

Grace Jones with Luciano Pavarotti

At his fundraiser for Angola in 2002.

Tenor Luciano Pavarotti performing at the opening of the Constantine Palace in Strelna, Russia.

Out with the "V", In with the "U"

RGE 2009 Global Economic Outlook

The global economy is in the middle of a synchronized contraction that will push global growth into negative territory in 2009 for the first time in decades. This will be the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression and the worst global economic downturn in decades. Global trade volumes face their sharpest contractions of the postwar era – trade is expected to contract 12% in 2009 due to the severe and prolonged global demand slump, excess capacity across supply chains and the continued crunch in trade finance.

Many analysts and commentators are pointing out that the second derivative of economic activity is turning positive (i.e. economies are still contracting but a slower rather than accelerated rate) and that green shoots of an economic recovery are blossoming. RGE Monitor’s analysis of the data suggests that the global economic contraction is still in full swing with a very severe, a deep and protracted U-shaped recession. Last year’s economic consensus forecast of a V-shaped short and shallow recession has vanished. While the rate of economic contraction is slowing compared to the free fall rates of Q4 of 2008 and Q1 of 2009, we are still a long way away from the economic bottom and from a sustained recovery of growth. In particular, in Europe and Japan there is little evidence of a positive second derivative of economic activity.

However by the end of Q1 2009, there were some signs that the pace of contraction had slowed in many economies especially in the U.S. and China, where policy responses have been more significant and leading indicators in the manufacturing sector may have bottomed before they did in Europe and Japan. However, major economies including all of the G7 will continue to contract throughout 2009, albeit at a slower pace than at the beginning of the year.

Moreover the global recovery might be sluggish at best in 2010 given the overhang of credit losses of financial institutions, lingering credit crunch, need for retrenchment by overstretched and over-indebted households in current account deficit countries and a slow resumption of demand prompted by extensive government stimulus. [my emphasis]

Some key elements of RGE Monitor’s outlook include:

•Global economic activity is expected to contract by 1.9% in 2009. Advanced economies are expected to contract 4% in 2009. Japan and the eurozone will suffer the sharpest downturns. U.S. GDP will continue to contract, albeit at a slower pace throughout 2009, with negative growth in every quarter.

•Emerging markets will slow down sharply from the stellar growth rates of the past few years, with the BRIC economies growing at half their 2008 pace.

•Deteriorated terms of trade, slower capital flows and tighter credit will push Latin America into recession from the 4.1% growth of 2008. Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Mexico, and Venezuela will all shift to negative territory on a year-over-year basis while smaller countries, like Peru, will experience a significant slowdown.

•Countries in Eastern Europe and the CIS will experience some of the sharpest contractions given the withdrawal of foreign credit and the risk of a severe financial crisis. The reduction in oil revenues and financial stress will contribute to a 5% yoy contraction in Russia and some countries - especially in the Baltics – are at risk of double-digit contractions.

•Export-dependent Asia’s growth will slow significantly to less than 3% in 2009. China will have a hard landing with GDP growth falling to 5.5% while India will slow sharply to 4.3%. All four Asian Tigers (Singapore, Taiwan, South Korea and Hong Kong) as well as Malaysia and Thailand will experience recessions.

•The Middle East and Africa will mark much slower growth, half of their 2008 pace, given the reduction in capital inflows, reduced demand from the U.S. and EU and decline in commodity prices and output. Israel and South Africa will suffer slight contractions.

•The unprecedented fiscal and monetary stimulus may help alleviate the substantial contraction in private demand and reduce the risk of a global L-shaped near-depression. Debt financing may be a challenge for many countries though, especially emerging markets or the most vulnerable Western European economies.

•Job losses during the current global recession might exceed those in recent recession, contributing to increases in defaults and posing additional risks to banks. The unemployment rate in developed countries will reach double-digits by 2010 (as early as mid-2009 in the U.S.) and push more people in developing countries into poverty. Moreover, despite new funding from multilateral institutions, severe contractions will raise the risk of social and political unrest.

•Commodities as a class are likely to come under renewed pressure in 2009 despite some support from production cuts. RGE expects the WTI oil price to average about $40 a barrel in 2009 as demand destruction continues to outweigh crude supply destruction.

The entire RGE 2009 Global Economic Outlook is available to RGE subscribers.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

EPA Declares Human Breath (CO2) a Pollutant

The EPA on April 17 proposed new regulations to control carbon dioxide (CO2) and five other “greenhouse gases” as “pollutants” under section 202(a) of the Clean Air Act.

How powerful is the EPA about to become? They’ve essentially been given the power to regulate the periodic table of the elements. But even though they took 133 pages to say they would regulate six of the most common chemical compounds in nature, there are no specifics about what would be regulated or what standards would be upheld.

The EPA proposal would also regulate methane (CH4), which all humans produce naturally when they “break wind,” nitrous oxide (N2O), hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), perfluorocarbons (PFCs), and sulfur hexafluoride (SF6). -- The New American

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The length of the following video is 1:32. How long can you hold your breath?

Underwater Circus

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Ditch Day: 4/20

Killers often pick special dates for their attack
They 'compete' for high body count, expert says
By Trish Crawford, The Star
This year, April 20 – Hitler's [120th] birthday – will mark the 10th anniversary of the Columbine school killings.

And, psychiatric social worker Loren Coleman is worried, because mass killers often choose special dates and anniversaries for their carnage. The killers at Columbine did, by picking the birthday of one of history's monsters.

The author of the The Copycat Effect: How the Media and Popular Culture Trigger the Mayhem in Tomorrow's Headlines (Simon & Schuster) says the amount of attention this anniversary gets may determine whether any other disaffected males bent on vengeance pick April 20 for their act of destruction.

"Anniversaries can be dangerous," Coleman says. "These individuals compete with each other."

From the 14 deaths at Montreal's 1989 École Polytechnique to Columbine's 1999 death toll of 13 and Virginia Tech's all-time record of 32 deaths, the numbers of fatalities climb as shooters learn from each other, says Coleman, a former university professor and senior researcher at the Muskie School of Public Service in Maine.

Creating a high body count is the goal of these killers, he points out.


Chaining doors to prevent escape or rescue, carrying large amounts of back up ammunition and bringing ties and ropes to restrain victims are all refinements added over time as publicity over school killings reaches angry, disenfranchised males, Coleman says.

In the wake of the recent rampage in Winnenden, Germany, which saw a former student return to his school and kill 12 people there, Coleman called schools "a fish bowl setting with a vulnerable population."

Even people with no connection to a school, such as Pennsylvannia truck driver Charles Roberts, who killed five Amish school girls in October 2006, have picked a school as a site of easy victims. The week before, six female students had been taken hostage and one was killed in Colorado by a 54-year-old man who had chained the front doors shut. Roberts used that trick, too, Coleman says.

The killers are uniformly "homicidal, suicidal, sexually dysfunctional males" who feel powerless and blame others for their problems. Attacking school students – young girls are favoured targets – makes these people feel powerful and strong, Coleman says.

Eleven of the 12 school victims in the attack in Germany last month were females students and teachers.

Stu Auty, president of the Canadian Safe School Network, says it is the universality of the school experience that unites school killers.

"I think part of the reason they pick schools is that everyone has gone to school. In many cases, they have negative feelings.

"During the adolescent years, it can be a searing time.

"If you have been marginalized, those feelings never leave you."

Teenagers' self-esteem rests in "their peer relationships, how they are seen," says Auty, adding that Columbine's bullied, disaffected students who idolized Hitler have become "the template for tragedy."

These kinds of students return to school to wreak havoc, he says, adding that first they telegraph what they are going to do. They also know how to get "the power. They know how to get a weapon."
Columbine students Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold killed 12 students , a teacher, and wounded 23 others, before committing suicide.
The killer in Germany had access to a veritable arsenal of guns in his own home, collected by his father.

The victims may have nothing to do with a person's grievance, says Auty, but the school is still a symbol of pain and suffering.

"It symbolizes everything that is wrong in a person's life," Auty says.

He also points out that it is pretty easy to kill students assembled in large numbers in classrooms they can't escape.

"The students are lined up like a shooting gallery, in a confined area where he (the killer) can make a splash."

Jean Twenge, associate professor of psychology at San Diego State University, says arenas, churches, malls and restaurants have all been sites of mass killings but the school site is most popular because it is so important to the teenage or young adult male killer.

The common thread of "rejection by their peers" runs through these young men looking for revenge, she says.

In her book Generation Me: Why Today's Young Americans Are More Confident, Assertive, Entitled--and More Miserable Than Ever Before (Free Press), Twenge devotes a chapter to school shootings, which she says are perpetrated by people with narcissistic personalities – self-absorbed individuals who blame others for their problems and lack empathy or understanding of others.

"They look to assert their dominance over people who rejected them or didn't treat them well," Twenge says.

Because they are narcissistic, the publicity around the killings becomes very important to them, she says, citing the case of the Virginia Tech killer who sent a "press package" of pictures to NBC, and the Columbine students "who discussed which favorite director would film their stories."

In this scenario, the school is the stage for their show, says Twenge.
~ ~ ~

I propose April 20 to become the official date of Ditch Day. Be safe and have a nice extended weekend students. ;) - c

The Video Mashup Kings work another hot video remix with "Proper Education" by Eric Prydz.