Saturday, April 28, 2007
Walmart Builds Its Own Spy Agency
This article tells about how Walmart is building its own intelligence service. I am not sure I can count how many ways this idea disturbs me. Walmart doesn't exactly have a clean record when it comes to its treatment of its customers, suppliers and workers. I can just imagine what they might want with spooks (activists and union recruiters beware).
Now hiring former cops as security officials is not that unusual. But this goes a fair bit beyond normal store security.
Wal-Mart Stores Inc. has been recruiting former military and government intelligence officers for a branch of its global security office aimed at identifying threats to the world's largest retailer, including from "suspect individuals and groups".
Wal-Mart's interest in intelligence operatives comes at a time when the retailer is defending itself against allegations by a fired security employee that it ran surveillance operations against targets including critics, dissident shareholders, employees and suppliers. Wal-Mart has denied any wrongdoing.
Wal-Mart posted ads in March on its own web site and sites for security professionals, including the bulletin of the Association of Former Intelligence Officers, for "global threat analysts" with a background in government or military intelligence work.
Given how much information Walmart has about most of us. We should maybe be worried.
But Steven Aftergood, who runs the government secrecy project for the Washington-based Federation of American Scientists, said Wal-Mart's efforts appear to go beyond what most companies are doing, raising questions about corporate intelligence work outside of the oversight process in place for government spying.
"It's a troubling new departure in corporate security. We're not just talking about security, we're talking about intelligence operations," Aftergood said.
Edit: Walmart isn't the only company making a spy agency. Blackwater is as well.
Harrison told a meeting of security professionals last year that Wal-Mart was learning to defend itself by using the vast information it routinely collects about its employees, shoppers and suppliers.
Wal-Mart's union-backed critics said culling customer data for intelligence was disturbing.
"The idea that Wal-Mart is creating its own personal CIA should make every American -- Wal-Mart customer or not -- nervous about whether Wal-Mart is invading their privacy or could do so in the future," said Chris Kofinis, spokesman for WakeUpWalMart.com.
Climate Change Hit Austrailia
World wide Asset Bubble
Jeremy Grantham, one of the world's most respected investment advisers, has come to a scary conclusion. That we are facing a worldwide asset price bubble. Basically, the same thing that happened in the nineties with the tech bubble but across almost all asset classes. The counter argument would be that the rise of China and India are driving the price increases. But these to views are generally not exclusive. Asset bubbles tend to get started by real improvements in the economy they then spin out of control due to irrational exuberance.
While euphoria sweeps stock markets here and worldwide, there are at least a few voices of dissent.
One, unsurprisingly, is legendary value investor Jeremy Grantham -- the man Dick Cheney, plus a lot of other rich people, trusts with his money. Grantham, chairman of Boston firm Grantham Mayo Van Otterloo, has been a voice of caution for years. But he has upped his concerns in his latest letter to shareholders. Grantham says we are now seeing the first worldwide bubble in history covering all asset classes.
Everything is in bubble territory, he says.
"From Indian antiquities to modern Chinese art," he wrote in a letter to clients this week following a six-week world tour, "from land in Panama to Mayfair; from forestry, infrastructure and the junkiest bonds to mundane blue chips; it's bubble time!"
"Everyone, everywhere is reinforcing one another," he wrote. "Wherever you travel you will hear it confirmed that 'they don't make any more land,' and that 'with these growth rates and low interest rates, equity markets must keep rising,' and 'private equity will continue to drive the markets.' "....
And what could bring this mother of all bubbles down?
Grantham sees two big potential catalysts that might turn this bull market into a bear: a surge in inflation, leading to higher interest rates, and a squeeze on profit margins, which are currently running way above long-term averages.
As for timing, he concedes that's impossible to predict. But here's the kicker: Even Grantham thinks you probably need to be bullish right now. The reason? Most bubbles, he notes, go through a short but dramatic "exponential phase" just before they burst. Like Japan in 1989 or the Internet in early 2000.
"My colleagues," wrote Grantham, "suggest that this global bubble has not yet had this phase and perhaps they are right. ... In which case, pessimists or conservatives will take considerably more pain."
Friday, April 27, 2007
Jon Stewart Interviewed by Bill Moyer
Thursday, April 26, 2007
Car Bombs Are Not Violence
Here is the story:
U.S. officials who say there has been a dramatic drop in sectarian violence in Iraq since President Bush began sending more American troops into Baghdad aren't counting one of the main killers of Iraqi civilians.
Car bombs and other explosive devices have killed thousands of Iraqis in the past three years, but the administration doesn't include them in the casualty counts it has been citing as evidence that the surge of additional U.S. forces is beginning to defuse tensions between Shiite and Sunni Muslims.
You Can't Handle the Truth
In which we attempt to particupate in a google bombing
Hope and Horror
For five months after her car crash, an English patient displayed "no reproducible evidence of purposeful behavior" and was declared vegetative. Then she was asked, during an fMRI scan, to imagine playing tennis and walking through her home. The scan lit up with patterns that in healthy brains signify language, movement, and navigation. A follow-up report cited anecdotal cases in which Ambien woke brain-damaged people from prolonged unresponsiveness. The happy implication is that some people we thought were finished may be salvageable. The horrifying corollary is that until we find these people, they're buried alive in their skulls.
Pirates Hits of 2006
See it here.
Tuesday, April 24, 2007
Habitable Planet Found?!
The planet has a radius only 50 percent larger than Earth and is very likely to contain liquid water on its surface...And it is close to us. Actually very close (as in 30 closest star close).
...this planet takes only 13 days to complete one orbit round its star. It is also 14 times closer to its star than the Earth is from the Sun.
However, since its host star, the red dwarf Gliese 581, is smaller and colder than the Sun - and thus less luminous - the planet lies in the habitable zone, the region around a star where water could be liquid!
Gliese 581, is among the 100 closest stars to us, located only 20.5 light-years away in the constellation Libra ("the Scales").This is slower than light close. It could be possible to get there.
I expect that a lot of astronomers will be taking a closer look at it. The question is how long until someone gets a look at the atmosphere. A thermodynamic disequilibrium would mean life.
Sunday, April 22, 2007
Turkey's top general called yesterday for military intervention in northern Iraq in comments that will increase regional tensions - already high after a series of verbal exchanges between Turkish and Kurdish leaders.
General Yasar Buyukanit, Turkey's chief of staff, said he believed that Turkish troops had to move across the border to combat rebels from the Kurdish Workers party (PKK).
Ankara accuses the Kurdish regional government of northern Iraq of harbouring the rebels - an allegation the regional government denies.
"From the military point of view, a [military] operation in northern Iraq must be made," said Gen Buyukanit. He added, however, that he had not yet submitted a request to parliament and that "no political decision has been made yet".
This is Turkey's way of saying, "If you don't sort this mess out we will intervene to serve our interests. Our interests and yours do not coincide."If America leaves Iraq, Saudi Arabia might enter the fight to support the Sunni, Iran to support the Shia and Turkey to crush the Kurds.
This might just be a major regional war.
And Russia will be laughing all the way to the bank.
If I Was Iranian...
Scenario: China, the world's preeminent superpower, invades and occupies Canada on a false pretense and lets it descend into civil war. The U.S., a developing nation without nuclear weapons, watches from next door. Then a senior Chinese official who could soon be the country's next president starts singing songs about "bombing the U.S." at political rallies. He gets laughs and applause.
As an American, would you or would you not demand that Washington develop the ultimate deterrent against that madness?