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daily link  Monday, February 23, 2004


In health, Canada tops U.S.: "An impressive array of data shows that Canadians live longer, healthier lives than we do. What's more, they pay roughly half as much per capita as we do ($2,163 versus $4,887 in 2001) for the privilege. ..

According to a World Health Organization report published in 2003, life expectancy at birth in Canada is 79.8 years, versus 77.3 in the U.S. (Japan's is 81.9.) "There isn't a single measure in which the U.S. excels in the health arena," says Dr. Stephen Bezruchka, a senior lecturer in the School of Public Health at the University of Washington in Seattle. "We spend half of the world's healthcare bill and we are less healthy than all the other rich countries."  ..

During the last quarter-century, he says, all income groups in Canada also showed gains in life expectancy. During much the same period in the U.S., death rates widened between America's rich and poor, "

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daily link  Sunday, February 22, 2004


Demographics and Development: ""The demographic evolution is there to remind us of this: of the extra 2 billion people that will live on the planet 25 years from now, only 50 million will be born in developed countries." James Wolfensohn, President of the World Bank .. Governments must be aware that there cannot be peace unless they fight poverty, he said. "Today, five billion people live in developing countries. Thirty years from now, it will be seven out of eight billion, and yet one billion people control 80 percent of global resources," he said. Wolfensohn meanwhile underlined that he was worried that domestic matters, Iraq, and military expenditures lie at the heart of the U.S. election campaign. "Not one word will be said about the fight against poverty though it is a key component to achieve stability in the world," he predicted."  12:19:49 AM  permalink  


daily link  Friday, February 20, 2004


Votewatch 2004 - Your Eye On Elections: A volunteer group of US election monitors; could be very useful in preventing (or documenting) another 2000 Florida debacle.  "Votewatch is working with large membership organizations in order to build a coalition of election monitors in 2004 that will help oversee our election process. Volunteers in selected states will be stationed at precincts and inside county registrars in order to closely monitor our elections. "   8:20:01 AM  permalink  


daily link  Wednesday, February 18, 2004


Russian missiles in bad shape: "A Russian ballistic missile has failed to fire for the second time in as many days during military exercises attended by Russian President Vladimir Putin.  In the latest incident the missile, fired from submarine Karelia, was blown up by its automatic safety system, after veering from its flight path. Two test launches were scrapped [before launch] on Tuesday because of "malfunctions".  [There had been an] announcement at the start of exercises last week that the high point would be the launch of intercontinental ballistic missiles to hit targets on the Kamchatka peninsula, 5,000 kms away. "  8:44:14 AM  permalink  


daily link  Tuesday, February 17, 2004


Gapminder world statistics: Interesting source of software, data, and documents on international development, including income distribution and historical trends.  3:41:58 PM  permalink  

California Dreaming No More: "32% of the nearly 1.8 million Latinos who settled in California in the '80s were living in poverty in 1990, compared with 23% by 2000. Likewise, Latino immigrants from the '70s had a poverty rate of just 17% by 2000.  Contrary to stereotypes, about 70% of Latino immigrant children in California graduate from high school, Myers said. And 55% of middle-aged California Latinos who immigrated at least 20 years ago own homes. That number increases to 68% after 30 years of residence." 

Increasing numbers are selling California homes and moving to other, lower cost states. And more immigrants are arriving into other states.  "census figures confirm the trend: Just 25% of newly arrived U.S. immigrants — about half of whom were Latino — settled in California in the 1990s, compared with nearly 38% the previous decade."

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daily link  Monday, February 16, 2004


Why Nerds are Unpopular: Long essay about high schools: excellent, twisted, very perceptive.  11:53:45 PM  permalink  

China link to Libya nuke design: "Investigators have identified China as the origin of some nuclear weapons designs found in Libya last year, the Washington Post newspaper reported. It said the international inquiry found that Chinese designs probably supplied to Pakistan in the 1980s were sold on to Libya by Pakistani-led smugglers.

It quoted officials as saying that some of Libya's documents were in Chinese. The findings raise questions as to whether similar Chinese designs were supplied to Iran and North Korea. ..

Government officials and arms experts said Libya's documents yielded "dramatic evidence" of China's long-suspected role in the transfers of nuclear know-how to Pakistan, according to the newspaper. It said the packet of documents contained detailed, step-by-step instructions for assembling an implosion-type 450-kilogram (1,000 pounds) nuclear bomb that could fit atop a large ballistic missiles. ..

"It was just what you'd have on the factory floor. It tells you what torque to use on the bolts and what glue to use on the parts," one arms expert who had reviewed the designs told the newspaper. He described the blueprints as "very, very old" but "very well engineered".

China's actions "were irresponsible and short-sighted, and raise questions about what else China provided to Pakistan's nuclear programme," Mr Albright told the Washington Post. "  If they were sold on to North Korea by Pakistan, it would be a classic case of 'blowback' on the Chinese.

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daily link  Sunday, February 15, 2004


US software labor market info: "After two years of slight declines, the number of professional software developers rose in the United States last year to 2.35 million, according to IDC, a research company. Today, America has more than four times as many software developers as India, and nearly seven times as many as China. " 

From a review in NYT, "such jobs are not about to disappear from the United States. Statistics on the current job flight are estimates. Forrester Research in a frequently cited study, predicted in late 2002 that 3.3 million services jobs in America would move offshore by 2015, about 500,000 of them in computer software and services.  For all the alarm that report generated, a shift of that size over the next 11 years would be small, given that the American labor force has more than 130 million workers and normally creates and destroys millions of jobs every few months. "

  11:12:15 PM  permalink  

The Impact of Legalized Abortion on Crime: "We offer evidence that legalized abortion has contributed significantly to recent crime reductions. Crime began to fall roughly 18 years after abortion legalization. The 5 states that allowed abortion in 1970 experienced declines earlier than the rest of the nation, which legalized in 1973 with Roe v. Wade. States with high abortion rates in the 1970s and 1980s experienced greater crime reductions in the 1990s. In high abortion states, only arrests of those born after abortion legalization fall relative to low abortion states. Legalized abortion appears to account for as much as 50 percent of the recent drop in crime."  10:10:10 PM  permalink  

The Zarqawi Rules: "Abu Musab al-Zarqawi .. apparently wrote a 17-page planning memo from Iraq to his Al Qaeda colleagues that was obtained by U.S. forces and revealed this week in The Times. If you read the memo properly, you can extract what might be called "Zarqawi's Rules" — maxims for winning the war on terror.

Massive retaliation works. We now know that Saddam Hussein felt free to defy the international community because he thought that casualty-averse Americans would never actually invade his country. At worst, we'd drop a few bombs, which he could survive. Now our enemies know us better, and respect us more. "America, however, has no intention of leaving, no matter how many wounded nor how bloody it becomes," Zarqawi warns his colleagues. This shift in perceptions should deter some attacks all by itself.

Hard power isn't enough. The extensive coalition effort to hunt down terrorists is clearly making progress. "Our enemy is growing stronger day after day, and its intelligence information increases. By God, this is suffocation!" Zarqawi laments.

But he also says only an indigenous Iraqi security force, backed by a legitimate democratic government, can truly put him out of business. Americans are easy targets. But when Iraqis take control, "you end up having an army and police connected by lineage, blood and appearance to people of the region. How can we kill their cousins and sons and under what pretext? This is the democracy; we will have no pretext."

Going into the war, many American planners assumed that first we would establish stability in Iraq, then introduce democracy. But it's now clear that democracy is the stability. You can't establish order unless locals are invested in their own self-rule and thus are eager to chase bad guys. The lesson is that the so-called soft-power programs — the democracy-building seminars, the civil society efforts, the town hall meetings — are not the gooey icing on the cake of law and order. They are the substance of law and order itself.

Soft power isn't enough. Though Zarqawi senses that his time in Iraq is running out, he is already preparing for the next battle: "If, God forbid, the government is successful and takes control of the country, we just have to pack up and go somewhere else again, where we can raise the flag or die, if God chooses us.""

  9:26:08 PM  permalink  

Regional Terrorist Groups Pose Growing Threat: "The shifting picture of the terrorist threat flashed before the authorities in Australia last fall when Willie Brigitte, a 35-year-old French citizen, was arrested on terrorism charges. Mr. Brigitte hardly fit the terrorist profile. He was recruited after Sept. 11 and had never trained in the Afghanistan camps, officials said. His name was not on any country's watch list. He entered Australia without being detected, lived for five months in a Sydney suburb and was believed to be selecting targets for attacks, officials said.

But the most unusual part of the case is that the authorities believe that Mr. Brigitte was a low-ranking member of Lashkar-e-Taiba, a militant Pakistani group that was formed a decade ago with help from Pakistan's intelligence service to fight against India in Kashmir. The group was not known to have operations outside that region.  Before the Taliban were driven from power, Lashkar-e-Taiba trained its men at camps in Afghanistan alongside Qaeda camps. Banned by Pakistan's president, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, it continues to exist with training camps in Kashmir, officials said. Mr. Brigitte had contacts with Lashkar-e-Taiba members in the United States, Canada and Europe, a senior law enforcement official with knowledge of his interrogation said..

The blurring of boundaries is also the case in Algeria, where the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat, better known by its initials as the G.S.P.C., is growing more powerful and expanding its geographical operations, officials said.  A year ago, G.S.P.C. kidnapped a group of European tourists, including nine Germans. The hostages were released after the German government paid a ransom of more than $1 million, a European official said. The money, the official said, has allowed the group to buy weapons, including antiaircraft missiles. The group has increased its activities in Mali and Niger in recent months, officials from several countries said. They say the group's leaders are suspected of setting up training camps in West Africa and of plotting attacks there.  But a senior Western official said finding the camps would be nearly impossible. "That's no man's land," he said."  Ansar al-Islam's expansion into Europe is another regional expansion cited by experts.

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daily link  Tuesday, February 10, 2004


A suspect emerges as key link in terror chain: "Wherever European prosecutors turn these days, as they unravel suspected Islamic terrorist cells and track leads across the Continent, they keep coming across the fingerprints of one man: Abu Musab Zarqawi. Mr. Zarqawi, a one-legged Jordanian Bedouin currently thought to be hiding in Iran, has emerged as a central suspect in one Al Qaeda-related plot after another..

Turkish police investigating last November's twin synagogue bombings in Istanbul arrested members of two Islamic groups they said had contacts with Zarqawi. Moroccan investigators concluded that Zarqawi organized and financed last June's quintuple bombing of Jewish and Israeli targets in Casablanca that killed 35 people. Italian and German police recently arrested three men on warrants charging them with helping would-be martyrs to travel from Europe to Iraq, at Zarqawi's behest.

Though intelligence analysts differ over Zarqawi's exact relationship to Osama bin Laden, they agree it has become clear that he has used his leadership of Al Tawhid, a Jordanian extremist group, to develop links not only with Al Qaeda but also with Ansar al-Islam, a radical Kurdish group based in Northern Iraq, the Lebanese Hezbollah, and with North African cells in Europe...

In a lengthy tirade against Muslim clerics for not embracing holy war fervently enough, Zarqawi acknowledged the losses his allies have suffered in the US-led war on terror and which seem to have catapulted him to prominence. "I address you after the approvers and backers [of jihad] have become in short supply, after the wounds have multiplied and the misfortune has worsened, and after many pioneering knights and legendary heroes have passed away," he said on the tape..

He himself has avoided that fate .. [In] 1999 Jordanian authorities tied him to an aborted plot to attack a tourist hotel in Amman over the millennium, for which he was later sentenced in absentia to 15 years' hard labor.  In 2000 Zarqawi traveled to Afghanistan, where, according to US intelligence, he ran an Al Qaeda training camp that specialized in chemical and biological agents before being wounded in the leg by a US bombing raid during the Afghan war in 2001. He then fled to Iran, and thence to Iraq, where doctors reportedly amputated his leg and fitted him with a prosthetic limb.  It was that visit to Baghdad that prompted US Secretary of State Colin Powell to cite Zarqawi [in 2003] as evidence of links between Al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein ..

It is Zarqawi's link to new Ansar cells in Europe that are of most concern to European investigators [especially] because of his alleged expertise in chemical and biological agents: Men whom authorities link to him were arrested a year ago in London and Paris in possession of small amounts of ricin.."  He is reported to be taking refuge in Iran.

  5:09:38 PM  permalink  

Evidence Ties Al Qaeda to Recent Iraq Attacks: "Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, a Jordanian suspected of ties to Al Qaeda, is now thought likely to have played a role in at least three major car-bomb attacks in Iraq that have killed well over 100 people in the last six months, according to senior American officials. ..

One of Mr. Zarqawi's top lieutenants, Hassan Ghul, a Pakistani, was arrested by Americans near the Iranian border last month, and has been interrogated by American military and intelligence officials. .. In a raid on a safe house in Baghdad on Jan. 23, American officials found an electronic copy of a document believed to have been written by Mr. Zarqawi. That document was a detailed proposal asking senior leaders of Al Qaeda for help in waging a "sectarian war" against Shiites in Iraq in the next six months. Parts of it were made available to The New York Times.  The writer of that document indicated that he had directed about 25 suicide bombings inside Iraq, "some of them against Shiites and their leaders, the Americans and their military, and the police, the military and the coalition forces." A senior United States intelligence official in Washington said Sunday that he knew of "no reason to believe the letter is bogus in any way."

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daily link  Sunday, February 08, 2004


Big Brother in Britain: Does more surveillance work?: "More than 4 million cameras observe all aspects of life, from town centers to transport systems, office towers to banks, commercial zones to residential areas, restaurants, bars, and even churches. .. In 1990, just three towns had systems. Now some 500 do, after a decade in which more than £250 million ($460 million) of public money was funneled into CCTV systems..

A government review 18 months ago found that security cameras were effective in tackling vehicle crime but had limited effect on other crimes. Improved streetlighting recorded better results.  A new report being drawn up by Professor Gill for the government promises to be no more favorable in its assessment of CCTV as a crime-fighting tool.  "I have talked to offenders about this," says Gill. "They say they are not concerned by security cameras, unless they were actually caught by one." ..

France tends to limit coverage to high-risk locations and public buildings, while in Spain, surveillance is tightly controlled. In Austria, it is used primarily for traffic and transport systems. In Germany, it was severely restricted in public spaces until recently."

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daily link  Tuesday, February 03, 2004


Army Study of Iraq War Details a "Morass" of Supply Shortages: "the strategy of starting the war before all support troops were in place, in order to achieve an element of surprise, taxed the postwar resources of local commanders, who in many cases were shifting back and forth between combat operations and the task of restoring civil services.  "Local commanders were torn between their fights and providing resources — soldiers, time and logistics — to meet the civilian needs," the report concluded. "Partially due to the scarce resources as a result of the running start, there simply was not enough to do both missions."

The study's authors saved their most biting critique for the logistics operations. When the combat forces raced ahead, the supply lines — "force flow" in military jargon — could not keep pace. "As the campaign progressed, the force flow never caught up with the operational requirements," it found.  Put more bluntly elsewhere in the study, it said that "no one had anything good to say about parts delivery, from the privates at the front to the generals" at the command headquarters.

Other problems cropped up. While divisional commanders could communicate with one another, officers at lower levels often could not. Units separated by long distances in the fast-moving offensive found their radios suddenly out of range, leaving troops to improvise solutions using mobile phones or secure e-mail messaging.

The study also found that future adversaries could draw several lessons from the war: that American forces' reliance on high-tech surveillance satellites and aircraft could be countered by decoys and the imaginative disguise of weaponry; that more powerful warheads for rocket-propelled grenades, already effective against helicopters and light vehicles like Humvees, could offset American armor; that American forces could be drawn into a protracted, costly urban war, more effectively than they were by the Iraqis; and that American forces are vulnerable to classic insurgency tactics, like car bombs."

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daily link  Sunday, February 01, 2004


The GI's weapon of choice in Iraq: dollars: " In November, the deadliest month for US soldiers in the occupation of Iraq, angry and sometimes desperate calls began streaming back to the US from commanders, complaining that the government wasn't giving them what they needed to battle an intensifying insurgency. But the front-line soldiers weren't calling out for more ammunition .. what they wanted was a little money, enough to restart the Commander's Emergency Response Program, or CERP, a decentralized aid program started shortly after the US occupation began.

The grants, ranging from as little as $1,000 up to $30,000, were designed to get money flowing back into the economy fast. Potholes were filled, schools refurbished, and irrigation canals - choked off by weeds and silt for decades - restored in 12,000 projects across the country. ..

Between May and the end of October, about $80 million was spent. But then the money ran out in the middle of October, and the casualties began to mount. There were both funding problems, and also concerns within the centralized Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) in Baghdad that it didn't have enough oversight of the program.

In November, when little CERP money was available, the coalition casualty count soared to 81 dead from 42 in October and 31 September. In December, after the funding tap was turned back on by congress, which allocated up to $180 million for the program in its 2004 supplemental spending bill, about 40 US soldiers were killed.

"You talk about good will - we could go into a village and fix a well that hadn't worked in 15 years and all of the sudden you've got old women with tears in their eyes and people chanting "President Bush,'' looking like the most staged thing you ever saw in your life,'' says Maj. R.J. Lilli bridge, of the 101st Airborne Division near the northern city of Talafar. "The CERP funds have been a major tool for us." ..

In Samara, in central Iraq, Stryker brigade soldiers arrived Dec. 17 braced for a fight. But according to a report in the Seattle Times, they found many residents were friendly. The soldiers often paid cash - $20 to more than $40 - to residents whose homes were searched and found to be clean of weapons."

US and Coalition military fatalities in Iraq
Month US UK Other* Total Avg/Day
1-2004 39 4 0 43 1.54
12-2003 40 0 8 48 1.55
11-2003 81 1 27 109 3.63
10-2003 42 1 2 45 1.45
9-2003 31 1 1 33 1.10
8-2003 35 6 2 43 1.39
7-2003 46 1 0 47 1.52
6-2003 29 6 0 35 1.17
5-2003 37 4 0 41 1.32
4-2003 73 6 0 79 2.63
3-2003 65 27 0 92 7.67
Total 518 57 40 615 1.95

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Copyright 2006 © Ken Novak.
Last update: 5/16/2006; 2:13:09 PM.
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