Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Dennis Miller: Pinheads of the Year (2008)

Dennis Miller - Pinheads of the Year (2008)

Dennis Miller takes on the issue of who should be considered the top pinhead of 2008.

Happy New Year! - Auld Lang Syne

Auld Lang Syne - Theme from "Waterloo Bridge" (1940)

Of all the classic Hollywood films ever made, "Warerloo Bridge", a somewhat obscure title, happens to be one of the most popular in China, especially among college students. There are even audio guides for students to practice their English by reciting dialogue from this film. [Hopefully, the student guides are better spell checked than the above karaoke video. ;)] The reason for why this particular film has become so endeared among the Chinese is anyone's guess. One possibility is that the popularity of Gone with the Wind (1939) in China led many to seek other movies starring Vivien Leigh.

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"Auld Lang Syne" is a Scottish poem written by Robert Burns in 1788 and set to the tune of a traditional folk song (Roud # 6294). It is well known in many English-speaking countries and is often sung to celebrate the start of the new year at the stroke of midnight on New Year's Day. -- Wikipedia

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Dear Friends,

Have a safe and Happy New Year!

See you in 2009. ;)

All My Best - c

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NYE fireworks around the world

Globally Networked Anarchy (#Griot)

h/t: Roderick Jones, Counterterrorism Blog

The year 2008 saw the hype fall away from virtual worlds but in contrast social networks are going from strength to strength and are being increasingly used as protest vehicles around the world.

While the utility of Facebook and Twitter (using the #griot descriptor to report on the riots in Greece) have been widely reported upon, some of the more interesting and interactive information can still be found in Second Life, which bodes well for the future of virtual worlds.

Whether it be web-forums, Facebook or Second Life, virtual communities will continue to be an increasingly important part of the National Security picture in 2009.

Full report and links relating to this phenomena over at the MetaSecurity blog.

Facebook Bans Jihadist Groups Page

Terror threat in London "severe"

"Islamic Rage Boy" -- The Daily Mail

With the death toll in Gaza reaching 340, London has been put on a "high state of alert" following the violent clashes outside of the Israeli Embassy in Kensington and the worrying statistic that thousands of terrorism suspects are in the UK.

Lord Stevens the head of the Met disclosed the figure that up to 4,000 terrorism suspects are active in the UK, and stated that police and MI5 were "still too under funded and undermanned to cope with the task they face in the decades to come. And that's how long this will last."

Security chiefs in London are concerned that the escalation of violence in Gaza with the prospects of a ground offensive by the IDF could provoke a violent response by Arab and Muslim Londoners with minority elements influenced by Al-Qaeda plotting reprisal attacks in London. -- The London Daily News

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The Real Islam? Muslims supporting terror in London protest

Pat Condell: Appeasing Islam

Europe's cultural suicide. For further reading, here are two excellent books on the appeasement of Islamic extremism in Europe: While Europe Slept: How Radical Islam is Destroying the West from Within by Bruce Bawe and Londonistan by Melanie Phillips.

Die you anti Islamic INFIDEL!

Reply to Pat Condell. Don't you know that Islam is a religion of peace? Allah Akbar. <-- video: Hamas Attack FAIL

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Coast Guard's Top 10 Videos of 2008

Coast Guard's Top 10 Videos of 2008

The U.S. Coast Guard's top 10 video compilation for 2008 highlights the service's operations during a year marked by record cocaine seizures and dramatic search and rescue cases.

Coping With a Traumatic Event

Excerpt from CDC: Mass Casualty Event Preparedness and Response

What Is a Traumatic Event?

Most everyone has been through a stressful event in his or her life. When the event, or series of events, causes a lot of stress, it is called a traumatic event. Traumatic events are marked by a sense of horror, helplessness, serious injury, or the threat of serious injury or death. Traumatic events affect survivors, rescue workers, and the friends and relatives of victims who have been involved. They may also have an impact on people who have seen the event either firsthand or on television.

What Are Some Common Responses?

A person’s response to a traumatic event may vary. Responses include feelings of fear, grief and depression. Physical and behavioral responses include nausea, dizziness, and changes in appetite and sleep pattern as well as withdrawal from daily activities. Responses to trauma can last for weeks to months before people start to feel normal again.

Most people report feeling better within three months after a traumatic event. If the problems become worse or last longer than one month after the event, the person may be suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

What Is PTSD?

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is an intense physical and emotional response to thoughts and reminders of the event that last for many weeks or months after the traumatic event. The symptoms of PTSD fall into three broad types: re-living, avoidance and increased arousal.

* Symptoms of re-living include flashbacks, nightmares, and extreme emotional and physical reactions to reminders of the event. Emotional reactions can include feeling guilty, extreme fear of harm, and numbing of emotions. Physical reactions can include uncontrollable shaking, chills or heart palpitations, and tension headaches.

* Symptoms of avoidance include staying away from activities, places, thoughts, or feelings related to the trauma or feeling detached or estranged from others.

* Symptoms of increased arousal include being overly alert or easily startled, difficulty sleeping, irritability or outbursts of anger, and lack of concentration.

Other symptoms linked with PTSD include: panic attacks, depression, suicidal thought and feelings, drug abuse, feelings of being estranged and isolated, and not being able to complete daily tasks.

What Can You Do for Yourself?

There are many things you can do to cope with traumatic events.

* Understand that your symptoms may be normal, especially right after the trauma.

* Keep to your usual routine.

* Take the time to resolve day-to-day conflicts so they do not add to your stress.

* Do not shy away from situations, people and places that remind you of the trauma.

* Find ways to relax and be kind to yourself.

* Turn to family, friends, and clergy person for support, and talk about your experiences and feelings with them.

* Participate in leisure and recreational activities.

* Recognize that you cannot control everything.

* Recognize the need for trained help, and call a local mental health center.

What Can You Do for Your Child?

* Let your child know that it is okay to feel upset when something bad or scary happens.

* Encourage your child to express feelings and thoughts, without making judgments.

* Return to daily routines.

When Should You Contact Your Doctor or Mental Health Professional?

About half of those with PTSD recover within three months without treatment. Sometimes symptoms do not go away on their own or they last for more than three months. This may happen because of the severity of the event, direct exposure to the traumatic event, seriousness of the threat to life, the number of times an event happened, a history of past trauma, and psychological problems before the event.

You may need to consider seeking professional help if your symptoms affect your relationship with your family and friends, or affect your job. If you suspect that you or someone you know has PTSD, talk with a health care provider or call your local mental health clinic.

Kenny Wayne Shepherd - Blue On Black (Acoustic)

Kenny Wayne Shepherd - Blue On Black (Acoustic)

Nite falls and I'm alone
Skin, yeah chilled me to the bone
You turned and you ran, oh yeah
Oh slipped, right from my hand

Blue on black
Tears on a river
Push on a shove
It don't mean much
Joker on jack
Match on a fire
Cold on ice
A dead man's touch
Whisper on a scream
Doesn't change a thing
Don't bring you back
Blue on black
Oh yeah, blue on black

Blind, oh, now I see
Truth, lies and in between
Wrong can't be undone
Oh slipped, from the tip of
Your tongue

Blue on black

Kenny Wayne Shepherd & Noah Hunt 2005

Little Blue Pills Among the Ways CIA Wins Friends in Afghanistan

By Joby Warrick, Washington Post Staff Writer

The Afghan chieftain looked older than his 60-odd years, and his bearded face bore the creases of a man burdened with duties as tribal patriarch and husband to four younger women. His visitor, a CIA officer, saw an opportunity, and reached into his bag for a small gift.

Four blue pills. Viagra.

"Take one of these. You'll love it," the officer said. Compliments of Uncle Sam.

The enticement worked. The officer, who described the encounter, returned four days later to an enthusiastic reception. The grinning chief offered up a bonanza of information about Taliban movements and supply routes -- followed by a request for more pills.

For U.S. intelligence officials, this is how some crucial battles in Afghanistan are fought and won. While the CIA has a long history of buying information with cash, the growing Taliban insurgency has prompted the use of novel incentives and creative bargaining to gain support in some of the country's roughest neighborhoods, according to officials directly involved in such operations.

In their efforts to win over notoriously fickle warlords and chieftains, the officials say, the agency's operatives have used a variety of personal services. These include pocketknives and tools, medicine or surgeries for ailing family members, toys and school equipment, tooth extractions, travel visas, and, occasionally, pharmaceutical enhancements for aging patriarchs with slumping libidos, the officials said.

"Whatever it takes to make friends and influence people -- whether it's building a school or handing out Viagra," said one longtime agency operative and veteran of several Afghanistan tours. Like other field officers interviewed for this article, he spoke on the condition of anonymity when describing tactics and operations that are largely classified.

Officials say these inducements are necessary in Afghanistan, a country where warlords and tribal leaders expect to be paid for their cooperation, and where, for some, switching sides can be as easy as changing tunics. If the Americans don't offer incentives, there are others who will, including Taliban commanders, drug dealers and even Iranian agents in the region.

The usual bribes of choice -- cash and weapons -- aren't always the best options, Afghanistan veterans say. Guns too often fall into the wrong hands, they say, and showy gifts such as money, jewelry and cars tend to draw unwanted attention.

"If you give an asset $1,000, he'll go out and buy the shiniest junk he can find, and it will be apparent that he has suddenly come into a lot of money from someone," said Jamie Smith, a veteran of CIA covert operations in Afghanistan and now chief executive of SCG International, a private security and intelligence company. "Even if he doesn't get killed, he becomes ineffective as an informant because everyone knows where he got it."

The key, Smith said, is to find a way to meet the informant's personal needs in a way that keeps him firmly on your side but leaves little or no visible trace.

"You're trying to bridge a gap between people living in the 18th century and people coming in from the 21st century," Smith said, "so you look for those common things in the form of material aid that motivate people everywhere."

Among the world's intelligence agencies, there's a long tradition of using sex as a motivator. Robert Baer, a retired CIA officer and author of several books on intelligence, noted that the Soviet spy service was notorious for using attractive women as bait when seeking to turn foreign diplomats into informants.

"The KGB has always used 'honey traps,' and it works," Baer said. For American officers, a more common practice was to offer medical care for potential informants and their loved ones, he said. "I remember one guy we offered an option on a heart bypass," Baer said.

For some U.S. operatives in Afghanistan, Western drugs such as Viagra were just part of a long list of enticements available for use in special cases. Two veteran officers familiar with such practices said Viagra was offered rarely, and only to older tribal officials for whom the drug would hold special appeal. While such sexual performance drugs are generally unavailable in the remote areas where the agency's teams operated, they have been sold in some Kabul street markets since at least 2003 and were known by reputation elsewhere.

"You didn't hand it out to younger guys, but it could be a silver bullet to make connections to the older ones," said one retired operative familiar with the drug's use in Afghanistan. Afghan tribal leaders often had four wives -- the maximum number allowed by the Koran -- and aging village patriarchs were easily sold on the utility of a pill that could "put them back in an authoritative position," the official said.

Both officials who described the use of Viagra declined to discuss details such as dates and locations, citing both safety and classification concerns.

The CIA declined to comment on methods used in clandestine operations. One senior U.S. intelligence official familiar with the agency's work in Afghanistan said the clandestine teams were trained to be "resourceful and agile" and to use tactics "consistent with the laws of our country."

"They learn the landscape, get to know the players, and adjust to the operating environment, no matter where it is," the official said. "They think out of the box, take risks, and do what's necessary to get the job done."

Not everyone in Afghanistan's hinterlands had heard of the drug, leading to some awkward encounters when Americans delicately attempted to explain its effects, taking care not to offend their hosts' religious sensitivities.

Such was the case with the 60-year-old chieftain who received the four pills from a U.S. operative. According to the retired operative who was there, the man was a clan leader in southern Afghanistan who had been wary of Americans -- neither supportive nor actively opposed. The man had extensive knowledge of the region and his village controlled key passages through the area. U.S. forces needed his cooperation and worked hard to win it, the retired operative said.

After a long conversation through an interpreter, the retired operator began to probe for ways to win the man's loyalty. A discussion of the man's family and many wives provided inspiration. Once it was established that the man was in good health, the pills were offered and accepted.

Four days later, when the Americans returned, the gift had worked its magic, the operative recalled.

"He came up to us beaming," the official said. "He said, 'You are a great man.'"

"And after that we could do whatever we wanted in his area."

Monday, December 29, 2008

"Spacey" New Year's Rose Parade Float

Update: Bayer Advanced won its ninth consecutive Rose Parade trophy with its Garden of Oz float. (PRNewsFoto/Bayer Advanced)

The Bayer Advanced Garden of Oz Tournament of Roses Parade float will feature more than 12,000 roses including one that traveled "Over the Rainbow" on NASA’s space shuttle. (PRNewsFoto/Bayer Advanced)

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The Wizard of Oz - Poppies Scene

Yellowstone Earthquake Swarm

44.43°N 110.67°W, Summit Elevation 9203 ft (2805 m)
Volcano Alert Level: NORMAL
Aviation Color Code: GREEN

Earthquake swarm beneath Yellowstone Lake continues.


Released: December 29, 2008 05:00 PM MST

The University of Utah Seismograph Stations reports that a notable swarm of earthquakes has been underway since December 26 beneath Yellowstone Lake in Yellowstone National Park, three to six miles south-southeast of Fishing Bridge, Wyoming. This energetic sequence of events was most intense on December 27, when the largest number of events of magnitude 3 and larger occurred.

The largest of the earthquakes was a magnitude 3.9 (revised from magnitude 3.8) at 10:15 pm MST on Dec. 27. The sequence has included nine events of magnitude 3 to 3.9 and approximately 24 of magnitude 2 to 3 at the time of this release. A total of more than 250 events large enough to be located have occurred in this swarm. Reliable depths of the larger events are up to a few miles. Visitors and National Park Service (NPS) employees in the Yellowstone Lake area reported feeling the largest of these earthquakes.

Earthquakes are a common occurrence in the Yellowstone National Park area, an active volcanic-tectonic area averaging 1,000 to 2,000 earthquakes a year. Yellowstone's 10,000 geysers and hot springs are the result of this geologic activity. A summary of Yellowstone's volcanic history is available on the Yellowstone Volcano Observatory web site (listed below). This December 2008 earthquake sequence is the most intense in this area for some years and is centered on the east side of the Yellowstone caldera. Scientists cannot identify any causative fault or other feature without further analysis. Seismologists continue to monitor and analyze the data and will issue new information if the situation warrants it.

The University of Utah operates a seismic network in Yellowstone National Park in conjunction with the National Park Service and the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS). These three institutions are partners in the Yellowstone Volcano Observatory.

Data are transmitted to the University in real-time by radio and satellite links from a network of 28 seismographs in the Yellowstone area and are available on the web. Seismologists continue to analyze data from this swarm of earthquakes and provide updates to the NPS and USGS and to the public via the following web pages.

Information on U.S. earthquake activity including Yellowstone can be viewed at the U.S. Geological Survey web site:

Information on earthquakes can also be viewed at the University of Utah Seismograph Stations web site:

Seismographic recordings from Yellowstone seismograph stations can be viewed online at:

Persons who felt any of the earthquakes are encouraged to fill out a survey form on the USGS 'Did You Feel It?' web site:

Geologic information, maps, and monitoring information for Yellowstone can be found on the Yellowstone Volcano Observatory web site at:

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The Yellowstone Volcano Observatory (YVO) is a partnership of the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), Yellowstone National Park, and University of Utah to strengthen the long-term monitoring of volcanic and earthquake unrest in the Yellowstone National Park region. Yellowstone is the site of the largest and most diverse collection of natural thermal features in the world and the first National Park. YVO is one of the five USGS Volcano Observatories that monitor volcanoes within the United States for science and public safety.

Recent Earthquakes for Yellowstone

Read about Yellowstone's Supervolcano

Discovery: Learn More About Supervolcanos

Try Your Hand at Cryptanalysis

The “cryptanalysts” who work in the FBI Laboratory are experts in breaking codes and ciphers of all kinds, but this time we asked them to create one for us just for fun.

Your mission—if you choose to accept it—is to crack the code below and reveal the hidden message.

Hint: If you want a primer on basic cipher systems and how to break them, see the article Analysis of Criminal Codes and Ciphers.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Mumbai, Corporate Security and Indo-Pakistani Conflict

Monsoon arriving in Mumbai. Photo by Azhar Chougle.

Mumbai, Corporate Security and Indo-Pakistani Conflict

By Fred Burton, Stratfor

The Trident-Oberoi and Taj Mahal hotels in Mumbai reopened Dec. 21, less than one month after the Nov. 26 Mumbai attack that left more than 170 people dead. During that crisis, hotel guests and visitors became trapped after coming under attack from militants using guns, grenades and other weapons to kill indiscriminately. As the investigation into the perpetrators of the Mumbai attack continues, New Delhi has demanded that Islamabad take action to control its militant proxies and militants operating from Pakistan. Because Islamabad has not yet met New Delhi’s demands, Pakistan and India stand on the brink of military confrontation.

Prior to the attacks, India’s increasingly precarious security situation and the inability of Indian security forces to effectively address the deteriorating situation had already made the country less attractive to businesses. A series of bombing attacks throughout the country in 2008, attacks against executives and above all, the Mumbai attack, all have showcased the danger of doing business in the South Asian country at present. And if military confrontation between India and Pakistan erupts in the wake of the Mumbai attacks, multinational corporations quite possibly could face a number of new threats from militant groups in addition to more traditional security problems. Because the exact nature and locations of potential Indian military action against Pakistan are not known, the specific problems multinational corporations might face cannot fully be predicted. Regardless, corporations should be prepared to respond to a number of problems with the potential to disrupt their operations and the security of their personnel.

Facilities and Personnel Security

If conflict breaks out between India and Pakistan, corporate operations will be affected regardless of whether a particular business finds itself in the line of fire. Pakistani retaliation to an Indian strike could take the form of traditional military action, but it also could well involve asymmetric warfare. In this scenario, Pakistan would act through its militant proxies — who could well target Westerners associated with multinational corporations in a bid to damage the Indian economy.

Previous attacks throughout India have shown that numerous militant organizations can cause serious damage and high body counts. But these attacks largely focused on Indian targets — including crowded marketplaces, theaters and mosques — that would cause high casualty numbers among the local population or would damage landmarks. The attacks in Mumbai widened this target set to include foreigners and Jewish interests. While the Taj and Oberoi hotels probably were attacked in part because of their status as Mumbai landmarks, the direct targeting of foreigners indicates the hotels also were chosen in a bid to strike Westerners. (It goes without saying that the attack on Nariman House was intended to target Jews and Israeli interests.)

The Mumbai attacks showed that attacking locations where Westerners are known to congregate, rather than attacks against marketplaces or cinemas that will primary kill Indian nationals, could well be a more efficient and effective way for militants to use their limited resources. And as hotels and other traditional soft targets harden their facilities and implement new security countermeasures to prevent further Mumbai-style attacks, militants will seek less-secure venues that will achieve the same result.

Such targets could include apartment complexes or neighborhoods that primarily house Westerners — similar to the 2004 attacks on the Saudi Arabian Oil Co. residential facilities in Al Khobar, Saudi Arabia — or other soft targets such as Western-style marketplaces or restaurants. Though most multinational corporations operate in hardened facilities away from city centers, affording better access control and countersurveillance, their employees cannot remain behind walls at all times. And even within multinational corporate compounds, security cannot be fully guaranteed.

The Mumbai attack has renewed fears that insiders could be used to carry out future attacks on multinational corporate facilities. Ajmal Amir Kamil, the only Mumbai attacker taken alive, reportedly has told police that at least five people in the Mumbai area aided the attackers in their preparations for the attack. Kamil reportedly told investigators these persons provided information about various locations in the city and police stations, though they were not involved in the actual attacks. Indian media reports also note that an intern chef at the Taj may have assisted the attackers’ preparations by providing access to various parts of the hotel, though the Taj has denied the man’s involvement. Unconfirmed reports also hold that some of the attackers wore hotel uniforms, indicating possible staff collusion.

Given the high level of technical sophistication displayed in the way responsibility was claimed for the attack, and given that workers in the information technology industry were involved in previous attacks, the IT sector should be especially vigilant about the potential for militant attacks with inside assistance. While the investigation into how the attackers planned their mission is still ongoing, militants seeking to use the lessons from Mumbai might make renewed attempts to infiltrate multinational corporations to gain information that could be used to launch an attack.

Corporations should also take into account the possibility of Hindu-nationalist-led protests against the Mumbai attack long after the attack itself, which could disrupt business operations. Such a delay between a triggering event and the protests themselves has precedent in the February 2002 protests that occurred months after the December 2001 Kashmiri militant attacks on the Indian parliament. These protests continued sporadically through the summer of 2002, involving extensive violence and many casualties. Similarly, the militant group Indian Mujahideen (IM) said many of its recent attacks were in retaliation for the 2002 communal riots in Gujarat in which more that 1,000 (mostly Muslim) people were killed. Indian military action against Pakistan could be the trigger needed to incite widespread public protests against the Mumbai attacks.

The Gateway of India was built to commemorate the 1911 visit of Queen Mary and King George V. Several decades later, in 1948, the last British troops left India through the gateway arch. Photograph by Alan Smith/Stone/Getty Images.

Travel Security

Multinational corporations have long noted the problems of keeping track of employees traveling for either business or personal reasons. Travel during a military conflict poses special problems in this regard. The Mumbai attack showcased those problems, while also adding another layer of concern for corporate security managers. Though hotels have long been a favored target of militant attacks, the prolonged nature of the Mumbai conflict and the reports of Western hostages being held in the hotels made the situation even more problematic for those seeking to identify the people inside.

Efforts at locating employees were further complicated when Indian security forces cut off communication lines inside the hotels to isolate the attackers and prevent them from communicating with one another. Once employees were located inside, security managers also faced difficult decisions about what form of transportation to use when moving employees away from the scene of the crisis.

In the event of a military confrontation between India and Pakistan, corporations would be likely to face similar challenges in locating employees traveling in the country and in removing them from dangerous situations. In the event India chooses to carry out targeted airstrikes against Pakistan, all civilian aircraft could be grounded and Indian airspace frozen. In this scenario, executives and other travelers in India would be unable to leave the country until the ban is lifted.

In the long run, corporate travelers in India (and elsewhere) will continue to face the threat of militant targeting of hotels, especially as other militant groups observe the success of the Mumbai attackers. While the Taj and Oberoi were known as high-quality luxury hotels suitable for Western executives, a number of other similarly situated luxury hotels in the city also house high-profile guests that could make an attractive target for militants.

Taj Mahal Palace Hotel.

It is possible the Mumbai attackers chose the Taj and Oberoi because security at the two facilities was not as prominent or visible as in other hotels. In any case, that the Mumbai attackers pre-positioned explosives and other weapons for their use inside the hotel indicates they conducted extensive preoperational surveillance of the targets and likely understood the security countermeasures present in each location. Given the Mumbai attackers’ successful penetration of these hotel facilities and similar attacks in the region, corporations and travelers should be prepared for similar attacks in the future.

These problems reinforce the importance of implementing a consistent travel security plan for employees that allows personnel managers to know the full itinerary of traveling employees, allowing a more effective response to emergency situations. Ultimately, it is impossible to predict the exact location or timing of emergencies. Even so, employees should be fully briefed on contingency plans for avoiding — and escaping from — emergencies, as well as points of contact to report their status to increase the odds of surviving future Mumbais.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Nuclear Mules

Concealed inside a suitcase was this steel pipe with a lead lining, concealing 15 pounds of depleted uranium bound for the United States. ABC News, 2002.

Kenya Arrests Two in Uranium Smuggling Bust

By Fred Mukinda, Nairobi Daily Nation.

Kenyan authorities have arrested two men found carrying an 8-inch, 20-pound container of uranium, the Nairobi Daily Nation has reported.

The Kenyan Flying Squad, a rapid-response antitheft unit, indicated it found the cylindrical container in a small backpack held by Bwambale Nason Ndyambo of Uganda and David Juma Osoma of Congo.

Authorities charged the two men with possession of uranium, alleging that they bought the material in the Democratic Republic of Congo for roughly $51,000 and intended to sell the material in Nairobi for around $1.3 million.

“The substance was found to have [a] high degree of radiation and [is] therefore very dangerous. No person is allowed two meters around it for more than an hour,” Flying Squad chief Musa Yego said.

The majority of of the radiation produced by the material appears to be absorbed by the container, added Arthur Koteng, deputy head of the Kenyan National Radiation Protection Board.

The container, which bears markings indicating it was filled in 1993, is now in storage in a secured concrete chamber at the board facility, Koteng said. “At the moment, nobody is allowed to touch it except experts with protective clothing,” he said.

Some experts have expressed concern that such material could be dispersed in a radiological "dirty bomb". - # # # - More

One burning question remains unanswered -- Who are these not so bright and very soon to be dead men from two of the world's poorest countries working for? - c

Happy Holidays

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Manual for the Surveillance of Vaccine-Preventable Diseases

A new field manual from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) provides current guidelines for those directly involved in surveillance of vaccine-preventable diseases, especially personnel at the local health departments.

For each of the vaccine-preventable diseases, this manual includes a chapter describing the importance of rapid case identification; the importance of surveillance; disease reduction goals; case definitions (including clinical description and case classifications); epidemiologically important data to be collected during case investigation; activities for enhancing surveillance; activities for case investigation; and activities for outbreak control. Other chapters include information on surveillance indicators; surveillance data analyses; reporting adverse events following vaccination; and enhancing surveillance. In addition, the manual includes a section reserved for insertion of state-specific guidance for VPD surveillance and extensive appendices.

The Manual for the Surveillance of Vaccine-Preventable Diseases (PDF 3.43MB)

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Artforms of Nature

Selected plates (of 100) from Ernst Haeckel's Kunstformen der Natur (Artforms of nature) (1904). All images, click to enlarge.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Resale is the New Black

Resale is the New Black

Second-hand stores seem to be doing well across the country.

Adele R. Meyer, executive director of the 1,000-member National Association of Resale and Thrift Shops (NARTS), tells the Wall Street Journal the industry keeps growing, especially during slow times.

A recent survey of members found that 66.2 percent of resale stores saw sales climb between January through August 2008, compared with the same period of 2007. The average increase was 35 percent. The survey found that 85.8 percent of stores have seen an increase in new customers and 74.5 percent are seeing new suppliers or donors. -- Source

Second-Hand Fashions [video]

If I could get the world to dance, it would look like this.

Where the Hell is Matt? (2008)

14 months in the making, 42 countries, and a cast of thousands. Thanks to everyone who danced with me. -- Matt Harding

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Mistletoe Moments

Mistiletoe Kissing Tool

"Under the Mistletoe" -- Description: Aperature F/5; Shutter 1/60; Lens 18-55 mm; Backyard of home in Hollister, CA, Early evening; Jacob, Ainsley, and Caleb Cockerham.

Mistletoe This...

Get Ready to Scrimp and Save, Says Economist Shilling

Hoping for a quick return to the consumer spending habits of past quarter-century, when "financial discipline" meant remembering to withdraw enough home equity to get a new SUV every two years? Forget about it, says Gary Shilling.

We are indeed going to return to the past, but it's going to be the enforced frugality of the 1930s and 1940s, not the debt-fueled orgy of the past couple of decades.

As the charts below show, in the last 25 years our total consumer debt load has ballooned from about 50% of GDP to almost 100%:

We've also raided our home-equity piggy banks, pulling out an increasing amount each year until house prices collapsed. At the same time, our savings rate has dropped from more than 10% of disposable income to zero:

Over the next several years, Shilling says, these trends will continue to reverse, placing enormous pressure on consumer spending. Unable to borrow anymore and seeking to replenish our demolished retirement accounts, we'll have no choice but to go on a "saving spree."

And this is not good news for the thousands of companies — domestic and international — that got fat and happy over the past two decades selling us things. -- Source

Bush shoe-thrower "incensed by bullet-riddled Koran"

"He talked incessantly about the subject. -- He must have been a charming dinner companion," writes Robert Spencer.

Bush shoe-thrower "incensed by bullet-riddled Koran"

The young Iraqi journalist who hurled his shoes at President George W. Bush had been incensed by a story he covered about an American soldier who used a copy of the Koran for target practice, according to his family.

Muntathar al-Zaydi, 28, who became an overnight hero in the Arab world, worked as a reporter for the popular al-Baghdadiya satellite TV station.

In May he was sent to report on an incident in Radwaniyah, west of Baghdad, in which Islam’s holy book was found riddled with bullets from an American sniper.

"He talked incessantly about the subject," recalled his elder brother Uday. It was one of a number of assignments that appear to have radicalised Zaydi during his brief journalistic career. -- Source