Monday, July 31, 2006

Alcohol in Scotland

Jack Law, chief executive of Alcohol Focus Scotland and a member of the Scottish Ministerial Advisory Committee on Alcohol Problems, says children from the age of five should be encouraged to drink wine at home to prevent the toll of alcohol abuse in later life. He believes the practice would cut binge drinking among youngsters by taking the mystery out of alcohol.

I find this Scot's logic insane. Anything adults have problems with can be minimized by childhood immersion? Weak.

Related, a record number of women died from alcohol abuse in Scotland last year.

Kazakh Oil Pipeline to China

PetroChina has announced that a first batch of crude oil has been successfully piped from Kazakhstan to its oil tank field in northwestern Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region via the China-Kazakhstan Pipeline.

The transnational section of the crude oil pipeline linking China to Kazakhstan is 962 km long. It joins a 246 km domestic section, making a total length of more than 1200 kilometers. The pipeline will carry 10 million tons of crude oil per year. It is designed to transmit 20 million tons of oil a year, 15% of China's total crude oil imports for 2005.

This is good for both China and Kazakhstan. Land-locked Kazakhstan has ample natural resources but have been poor at getting those resources to those willing to pay fair-market prices. China needs the oil to fund its growing economy.

This should help America realize how important it is to become energy self-sufficient.

Elections in the Congo

Over the weekend, Congolese voters went to the polls in a national multi-party vote.

Citizens streamed to the polls on foot, by bike, in cars and trucks and even by dugout canoe. No small task given the size of the country, few paved roads and impenetrable jungle. The Democratic Republic of the Congo (which is different than the neighboring Republic of the Congo) is one of the poorest and most violent places on earth.

According to observers, the elections went off without widespread complications.

The elections were aimed at ending a long civil war, with 32 candidates, including incumbent Joseph Kabila, contesting the presidency.

Over 9,000 candidates stood for parliament. Some 25m voters were protected by 17,000 UN peacekeepers.

We'd all like to see peace and prosperity in this part of the world. But do we really think it is going to be realized? Given their track record, whomever gets elected, it will be more of the same -- the few enriching themselves at the expense of the masses. That's the way its always been; the way it will always be.

Pessimistic on Africa? Yea. But I'd love to be proven wrong.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Convenient Outrage in Lebanon

An Israeli missile kills over 50 in the Lebanese town of Qana. Many of the dead are women and children. Israel has said Hezbollah fired rockets from the area and that the people were warned about retaliation. This is certainly not the goal of the Israeli. Now Hezbollah, they specifically try to do this. However, as expected, the outrage is directed at Israel, America and the United Nations.

We read daily about Muslims killing Muslims in Iraq; no outrage. We also know that for the Arabs and Muslims, terrorism is okay if it is directed at Israel, America and UK (this will probably change when Tony Blair leaves his PM post). Europe has basically given up, permitting if not encouraging the segregation and isolation of their foreign nationals.

As long as the Muslims believe the terrorists are justified in shooting rockets (un-guided bombs) into Israel hoping to kill Israelis indiscriminately, Israel and America will stand its ground and fire missiles (guided bombs) at those shooting at them.

There will bound to be women and children killed -- Hezbollah families and sympathizes or just innocents caught in the cross-fire. This has always happened in war; it will continue. This is especially the case when the enemy hides in civilian areas, mosques, schools, etc.

The GWOT is real. It is being fought in Afghanistan, Iraq, Gaza, West Bank Lebanon, Madrid, London, New York, or anywhere where freedom is prized. It will bring in Iran and North Korea. (It will be interesting to see what role China and Russia will play.) To all nations of the world, you are either with us or against us. Unfortunately, most nations will take the passive approach. So it will come down to the U.S. and Israel vs the Muslim world. God help us.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Impotent U.N.

The United Nations is impotent. That's the only diagnosis an objective person can arrive at if you look at the facts. Time and time again, the United Nations has been called upon to protect innocent people and has failed.

At best, the U.N. might be able to feed the destitute. Expecting anything beyond that it beyond anything they have ever been able to do.

Anytime you hear our politicians talk about a UN peacekeeping force or U.N. military force, run. It is code for failure.

From Kofi Annan down through his rank and file, it is a organization for third world dictators funded, to a large extent, by the U.S. taxpayer.

I'd love to see the U.S. say thanks but no thanks and to encourage them, in so many words that their East River facility is needed for a YMCA / homeless shelter, and that they should relocate to another continent.

Emergency-Response Personnel Lack Communication Gear

A survey of nearly 200 cities by the U.S. Conference of Mayors has determined that in four out of five cities, emergency-response personnel still lack equipment to let them communicate with each other or other governments in the area, 44 percent have yet to create or update evacuation plans, and almost 75 percent say they aren’t ready to address an outbreak of pandemic flu.

USA Today noted that the report was released almost five years after the terrorist
attacks of September 11, 2001 and a year after New Orleans was flooded by Hurricane

“Does the public want to hear this? I don't think so,” says Dearborn, Michigan, Mayor
Michael Guido, who heads the conference. He said cities need more money from Washington but must do more on their own – such as making mutual-aid agreements with nearby towns, making plans to share equipment in emergencies, and making advance contracts with private firms for such tasks as debris removal.

Cities “have been left to do it on their own, [and] the property taxpayers of this
country do not have the resources to fund national security,” said Elizabeth, N.J., Mayor J. Christian Bollwage.

The survey covered cities in 38 states, from Bothell, Washington – population 30,150
– to New York City, with 8 million residents. Individual cities’ responses were not made public. Findings included:
-- Most cities said they have not gotten enough funding to let police and firefighters use the same radio systems and other equipment they need to communicate in a crisis. The Department of Homeland Security has distributed more than $2 billion for improved communications.
-- More than 4 in 10 cities reported they either have no evacuation plans, or have not updated them, in the year that has elapsed since the deadly Gulf Coast hurricanes.
-- Cities in the survey gave the Federal Emergency Management Agency an average score of 5.2, on a 1-10 scale, when asked their level of confidence that FEMA would respond quickly after a major disaster.
On a related note, the House approved a bill by a vote of 414-2 to require the development of national standards for emergency communications equipment and to require states and localities to develop emergency communications plans before becoming eligible for federal grant funds.

The bill, H.R. 5852, would establish an Office of Emergency Communications within
the Department of Homeland Security with authority to coordinate all local, state and federal agencies with a role in developing interoperable communications systems.

Friday, July 28, 2006

So You Want To Be My Forest Ranger...

Nationwide, there were 477 attacks and altercations involving forest rangers in 2005, compared with 34 in 1995. Forest rangers are assuming more of a law enforcement role than traditional forest manager.

People go into the forest for all reasons. Most of us, we do so for the exercise, the legal fishing and hunting, fauna and flora, the beauty, the solitude, the escape. For others, it is to party and rave, engage in land-destroying activities (riding off-road vehicles in appropriate areas), do graffiti, de-face or destroy archaeological sites, dump waste, set fires, grow marijuana, cook Methamphetamine, rape/assault/kill, illegally pillage and harvest nature's bounty.

The problems are especially pronounced near urban areas.

I am a conservative and a conservationist. My undergraduate degree is in Zoology. However, I am not on the global-warming bandwagon. Al Gore, Michael Moore and most environmentalists are wackos. They distort, intentionally mislead and out-right lie.

The bulk of these problems are not caused by conservatives. They are caused by idiots and self-serving losers. The majority of them are more to the liberal persuasion than conservative. (Conservative principles are more in harmony with proper land and water stewardship than liberals.) These individuals fail to see the big picture. The solution to their destructive problems is proper education, not liberal diatribes.

We can all help our limited number of forest rangers by doing our parts by practicing those well-establish Leave No Trace principles, teaching our children correct ethics, and setting good examples by our actions, not just our words.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Hugo Chavez's Anti-America Tour

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez is on a tour of Russia, Belarus (he and President Alexander Lukashenko exchanged compliments about each other's leadership styles -- wow!), Qatar, Iran, Vietnam and Mali. He has said the tour is aimed at winning support for Venezuela's bid for a seat on the United Nations Security Council. Scary; but not out of the question considering the UN.

Russia resisted U.S. pressure and is fulfilling a $1 billion arms deal with Venezuela. He hopes to sign a $1 billion defense deal for the purchase of Russian fighter jets and helicopters. He also "eulogized" the Kalashnikov rifle.

According to Chavez, "the United States is the most immoral and cynical empire, worse even than the Roman empire. ... If somebody is going to meddle with us we'll fight back."

This pesky mosquito is interesting to say the least. A leader like this in our hemisphere, coupling his hatred of America, his arming, and his pow-wowing with communists and other dictators, he appears to be moving toward becoming a member of the covenanted "axis of evil" syndicate.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Israel Goes Back Into Lebanon

Israel said that it would occupy a strip inside southern Lebanon with ground troops until an international force could take its place.

As I have thought about the Middle East -- the past, the present and the future -- I keep asking myself two questions. 1) are these fledgling democracies capable of running a western style democracy? And 2) if the west takes a police and/or military role, will be ever be able to leave without it all falling apart?

I believe the answer to both questions is NO.

They say the problem is with the militant arm of Islam. By definition, that does not make sense. There is no militant arm of Christianity, of Judaism, of Buddhism. One does not like to pick at people's faith. But in this case, the issues seems to be inequality and non-tolerance: inequality between the races, the genders, between those of other faiths; no tolerance of opposing views.

The bulk of the killings in Iraq, Sudan, Afghanistan are brother killing brother -- Muslim killing Muslim. They have been doing this for centuries. No reason to assume this will ever change because outsiders want them to change.

In Lebanon, when the Israelis left a few years ago, the Lebanese government did nothing to limit Hezbollah's entrenchment and arming. If Israel would have stayed, they would not be fighting this battle today (although they would be fighting a different one). In Iraq, if the U.S. and coalition forces leave, the terrorists will entrench, arm and rule. In Afghanistan, if the coalition forces leave, the Taliban will assume control. In all cases, without western involvement, Taliban-like governments will be the norm; inequality and intolerance the rule.

Because we have a oil-based economy, we are locked into the region indefinitely. And conversely, because we have little economic interest in the African continent, despite the killings and atrocities, we will commit little to the region. The cut and run policy advocated by the liberals is myopic and based on ignorance.

PS - my biggest concern is that America and Israel will be alone in its battle against militant Islam. European nations are cowards and appeasers. Asia (less China and Japan), Africa, South America nations can contribute little. We will be fighting freedom haters abroad and the liberals at home.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Comcast Service

I get my hi-speed Internet access from Comcast. It took me nearly 8 years to get high speed access at my home. Quest said I was too far from the DSL head end to get access via their service (however my neighbor has DSL). I'd rather have cable speeds anyway.

This past week, I have had intermittent problems with connectivity. Friday, the 3Com modem would reboot itself, stay up for a while and then go off-line. Friday night, it died altogether -- no connectivity at all.

The Comcast Help Desk does a good job. They are friendly and somewhat helpful. However, the company has some serious issues, at least in Utah. According to the Help Desk personnel, and I spoke with at least 3 different people on this matter, there is no place in Utah to return a leased Comcast modem and swap it for one that works. Their only response was to schedule an appointment, have a technician come to your home, and allow them to swap it out.

For me, this forced me to be off-line for 5 entire days. That is an unacceptable length of time for many who work from home, telecommute, etc.

Bottomline is that Comcast has no support program to help people who actually depend on Internet access for their livelihood. They can care less if you are off-line for any period of time.

This model must change. It is too bad there is no real competition in the local hi-speed access market. There might be options for some but not for me. I am stuck with Comcast's half-hearted efforts.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Senate Appropriations Subcommittee - Transportation Bill

The Senate Appropriations Committee on Thursday reported a Fiscal Year 2007 spending bill that includes an obligation limitation of $39.086 billion for the federal-aid highway program and $8.8 billion for transit.

The highway funding level corresponds to the authorizations contained in the Safe,
Accountable, Flexible and Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users
(SAFETEA-LU) reauthorization act and the level passed by the House and recommended by
the President. [SAFETEA-LU, pronounced safety-lew, might be the worst acronym ever created.]

The figure includes some $842 million in Revenue Aligned Budget Authority (RABA) funding for highways, which is subject to the obligation limitation. The bill also appropriates $20 million for the Appalachian Development Highway System and $20 million for the Delta Region Transportation Development Program.

For transit, the committee approved $7.264 billion for formula, bus, research and
administrative programs, the levels contained in SAFETEA-LU. However, the bill falls some $100 million short of the level that is authorized for new starts, with only $1.466 billion proposed to be provided from the General Fund. This also reflects the President's budget proposal.

The appropriators exceeded both the President's proposal and the House bill in the
$1.4 billion appropriation for Amtrak. According to reports some $750 million of that funding is designated for capital programs, and is contingent upon the submission by Amtrak of a capital improvement program. Total funding for the Federal Railroad Administration is some $1.59 billion; $84 million above the FY06 enacted level and $510,000 above the AdministrationÂ’s request. [Amtrak? We're still spending money on this?]

In aviation, the bill provides a total of $14.225 billion in budgetary resources for the FAA, an increase of $476 million over the AdministrationÂ’s budget request. Of this amount, $8.36 billion is provided for Operations. The bill would increase the Airport Improvements Grant program to some $3.52 billion, a substantial increase over the President's request but some $180 million less than proposed by the House bill. The Essential Air Services program would be funded at the same level as in the House, a total of $117 million. The FAA's facilities and equipment program would be funded at $2.55 billion.

The committee approved the SAFETEA-LU authorized level of funding for the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, some $517 million. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration overall level would increase by $5 million over FY 2006 spending, reaching $811 million.

Where does one ever start to assess the appropriateness of a $39B bill? As I am sure there are great and appropriate items in the bill, I am equally sure that there are lousy and inappropriate items. Government is just way to big as so inefficient that it just continueses wasting money.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

The Greatest Ride of All Time

Who would have thought...Only Floyd Landis. After bonking on yesterday's final climb, he finished so far behind that it seemed that Floyd would never climb onto the Paris podium. Oh contrare... As Bob Roll's calls this on his blog: the greatest ride of all time

It may have been the greatest single day ride in the history of the Tour de France. Floyd Landis was barely clinging to life at the end of yesterday's stage. But today, he decimated the crowd, drug himself through determination and true grid to the point where he can now win the Tour de France.

Friday's stage is a cruiser -- no hard climbs. Saturday, the last meaningful stage, is a time trial. Sunday, the last day, could be interesting, but rarely is. Landis is a great time trialists; much better than Oscar Pereiro (#1) or Carlos Sastre (#2).

With only 30 seconds behind him and Pereiro and 18 seconds behind Sastre, Floyd Landis is poised now to win the Tour de France.

Today and for all time, Floyd Landis demonstrated courage and grit beyond compare. How anyone cannot bask in his glory -- so proud of his effort; so proud to be an America. Congratulations Floyd -- a day never to be fogotten by cycling fans!

Stem-Cell Research

President Bush exercised his first veto by rejecting legislation to expand federally supported embryonic stem cell research. He was among just seven presidents who had never vetoed a piece of legislation — all of the others served before 1881.

In an attempt to override the veto, the House voted 235 to 193, 51 votes short of the two-thirds majority required.

He said the vetoed bill "would support the taking of innocent human life in the hope of finding medical benefits for others. It crosses a moral boundary that our decent society needs to respect." He went to say each child on the stage he was delivering his speech from, "began his or her life as a frozen embryo that was created for in vitro fertilization but remained unused after the fertility treatments were complete. . . . These boys and girls are not spare parts."

President Bush said taxpayers should not support research on surplus embryos at fertility clinics, even if they offer possible medical breakthroughs and are slated for disposal.

This is a law against the federal government spending tax dollars on stem-cell research. It is not a law against private companies or organizations doing this research. This is where most American's fail to grasp the story -- they are caught up in the spin.
"Those families who wake up every morning to face another day with a deadly disease or a disability will not forget this decision by the president to stand in the way of sound science and medical research," said Sen. Richard J. Durbin (D-IL.)

Some conservatives also criticized the veto. "I am pro-life, but I disagree with the president's decision," said Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN), a heart surgeon who is weighing a 2008 presidential run. "Given the potential of this research and the limitations of the existing [human embryonic stem cell] lines eligible for federally funded research, I think additional lines should be made available."
The federal government is not required, nor should it be required to solve all of our problems.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Lebanon Demands Compensation from Israel

Lebanon's prime minister Fuad Saniora reported a death toll of 300 and demanded compensation from Israel for the "unimaginable losses" to the nation's infrastructure.

Saniora asked: "Is this what the international community calls self-defense? Is this the price we pay for aspiring to build our democratic institutions?"

The Lebanese government has done a terrible job creating their democratic state. Allowing Hezbollah to operate with impunity in southern Lebanon, allowing weapons to move into the country from Syria, and allowing the missiles to get deployed were the gravest of all policy mistakes. They are paying the price for those errors.

I'd say Israel is showing restraint. They could wipe the country off the map, and take Syria with it. Come into a country -- fire some missiles and kidnap a couple of soldiers -- you will pay the price. You should pay the price.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Rejected Gay Marriage Amendment

The House rejected a proposed constitutional amendment barring gay marriage. The vote was 236 for and 187 against, far short of the two-thirds needed. The Senate killed a similar proposal in June. This was the expected outcome.

The Church's position on same-gender marriage is as follows:
The doctrine of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints affirms marriage between a man and a woman, and opposes same-gender unions and any other sexual relations outside of marriage. Marriage between a man and a woman is ordained of God to fulfill the eternal destiny of His children.

The union of husband and wife assures perpetuation of the race and provides a divinely-ordained setting for the nurturing and teaching of children. This sacred family setting, with father and mother and children firmly committed to each other and to righteous living, offers the best hope for avoiding many of the ills that afflict society.

Israel Exercise Restraint?

The G8 issued a statement on the Israel-Lebanon conflict:

"These extremist elements [Hezbollah] and those that support them [Syria and Iran] cannot be allowed to plunge the Middle East into chaos. [Yet] We call upon Israel to exercise utmost restraint."

Talk about a useless statement. Hezbollah (who killed 241 of our Marines in 1983) has been operating freely in southern Lebanon for years, ever since Israel pulled out its troops. The flegling Lebanese government has never been able to do anything, assuming they wanted to, to rain in the terrorist group.

Let's regroup: we have a terrorist group operating freely in a so-called democracy. They kidnap Israeli soldiers and fire rockets into civilian populations. Israel retaliates. And what is the reaction? Israel is over doing it.

It is obvious the bulk of the world is anti-Semitic -- from government leaders to the media. Israel is fighting our mutual War on Terror -- they are fighting Iran through its cronies.

Whenever Israel pulls back, they have received nothing of value in return. Consider Lebanon, West Bank and Gaza. Be it Hezbollah or Hamas, they are terrorists. They should be eliminated completely -- them and their sympathizers. This is a GWOT.

I really doubt China and Russia are going to support the Muslim cause -- historically, this is not their way. They are secularists. They are economically driven first and foremost. They could care less about Muslim rights.

This is not a problem that can be negotiated away. It never has. Politicians take pride in negotiation. However, it has never solved, and will not solve, this Middle East problem.

Consider the account recorded in the Book of Joshua: when the children of Israel re-entered Canaan (after decades in Egypt, Sinai and southern Israel), they destroyed city after city, killing every living thing from humans to livestock. Their weakness was not doing what the Lord told them to do -- they spared those they were told not to. They then intermarried and became corrupted. The Lord certainly required a politically incorrect war. Understanding this as well as the geographical alignment after the WWI Mandate for Palestine by the League of Nations, the creation of a Jewish State and 1948-49 Israeli War of Independence, the Six-Day War in 1967 are essential to understanding the area's history.

Those that respect and honor freedom need to fight the GWOT with a greater urgency than we currently are demonstrating. These terrorists want all non-Muslims dead. They want freedom eliminated.

If we think these Israeli - Hezbollah - Hamas conflicts are isolated, think again. They go in cycles but they never go away.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Energy Independence

The longer we continue our dependence on Middle East oil, the more money we will spend and the more lives we will lose in trying to keep our economy moving.

The G8 leaders (United States, Russia, Japan, Germany, France, England, Italy and Canada) at this week's summit adopted a resolution on energy that touched on alternatives to fossil fuels, such as biomass and wind, but focused mostly on how to bring more oil to the market, and at cheaper prices.

The world oil supply is important. However, more important to America is our energy independence. As long as we are dependent for over half of our energy from other nations, we are forced to assist with the protection of that source.

The pain we need to experience in order to address this problem is not present. It will take a major event -- a terrorist attack on a American financial target or a Middle East war -- to get people to change. 911 was no longer an issue 4-6 months afterwards. When gas hits $10-15 a gallon, then look for the outrage.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Security Council and North Korea

Despite the news' focus on the Middle East, the U.N. Security Council voted unanimously to approve a resolution demanding that North Korea cease its ballistic missile program and requiring states to help prevent Pyongyang's import or export of ballistic missiles.

The vote represented the strongest international rebuke of North Korea since 1993, when the council adopted a resolution urging North Korea to reverse a decision to withdraw from the 1970 nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

The 15 to 0 vote ended an 11-day diplomatic deadlock that pitted the United States, Japan and Europe against Russia and China.

This is diplomacy at its finest (well done Ambassador Bolton).

Whether Pyongyang will agree to the resolution is another question.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

No More Confiscation of Lawfully Possessed Firearms

On July 13, the United States Senate overwhelmingly passed (84-16) an amendment (#4615) to the Homeland Security appropriations bill (H.R. 5441). This amendment -- sponsored by Senator David Vitter (R-LA) -- prohibits the use of funds appropriated under HR 5441 for the confiscation of lawfully possessed firearms during an emergency or major disaster.

Commenting on the passage of the amendment, NRA-ILA Executive Director and chief lobbyist Chris W. Cox said, "After Hurricane Katrina, the New Orleans Police Superintendent issued orders to confiscate firearms from all citizens, allegedly under a state emergency powers law. With that one order, he stripped the one means of self-protection innocent citizens had during a time of widespread civil disorder. This legislation guarantees that will never happen again."

Various reports indicate that military and law enforcement agencies from the federal government and several states confiscated guns from law-abiding New Orleans residents. The Vitter Amendment prohibits the use of federal funds to seize firearms or restrict firearms possession, except in the circumstances allowed by current federal or state law. Convicted felons and other "prohibited persons" are not protected under this legislation and it does not effect law enforcement operations outside of disaster relief situations.

"In passing this legislation, the United States Senate acted to protect the self-defense rights of citizens when those rights are most vital. There was no 9-1-1 or police to rely on while looters and rapists and thugs ran rampant and honest citizens were left to their own devices to protect themselves, their families and their neighbors. I want to thank Senator Vitter for introducing this amendment and all the Senators who supported it."

In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and the resulting gun confiscations, NRA filed suit in federal court and won a temporary restraining order ending all the illegal gun confiscations. After the City of New Orleans failed to comply with the court’s ruling, NRA filed a motion of contempt that included an order that all seized firearms be returned to their rightful owners.

Due to NRA’s leadership, emergency powers legislation prohibiting government officials from restricting the rights of law-abiding gun owners during declared states of emergency passed in 10 states during the 2006 legislative session, including Louisiana, Mississippi, Florida, South Carolina, Virginia, Alaska, Idaho, Kentucky, New Hampshire, and Oklahoma.

While the passage of the Vitter Amendment in the U.S. Senate represents an important victory for America’s law-abiding gun owners, the job is not yet finished. It is vital that this provision be included in the final version of the bill that emerges from the House and Senate conference committee later this year.

Friday, July 14, 2006

All Roads Through Tehran

Hezbollah was founded in Lebanon by Iranian terrorists, including current Iranian President Ahmadinejad. Their goal is global Islam, not for religious reasons rather for power and control.

Hezbollah has said that the election of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as President of Iran would "revive and rejuvenate" the goals of the Islamic Revolution. With the victory of Ahmadinejad in Iran's presidential race, this country returned to the foundations and revolutionary objectives which Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini founded.
Sheikh Mohammad Al-Kotharani said, "Ahmadinejad's top priority will be to protect the resistance in Lebanon, support the Palestinians in their struggle against Israeli occupying troops, and support Syria."

Ahmadinejad has been a commander of the Qods (Jerusalem) Force in Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps. The Qods force is tasked with "exporting the revolution to Qods through Karbala".

In a speech carried on Iran's state-run radio and television Tuesday, Ahmadinejad vowed to "spread the Islamic Revolution throughout the world."

"Thanks to the blood of the martyrs, a new Islamic revolution has arisen and the Islamic revolution of 2005 will, if God wills, cut off the roots of injustice in the world", the state-run IRNA agency quoted the ultra-conservative as saying.
Israel's retaliation against Hezbollah in Lebanon has been quick and intense. Yet, and as expected, some countries (France, Spain and Italy) feel Israel's response was disproportional. I do not know what the retaliation "rules" are. I do know that Israel has historically shown great restraint, patience and cooperation when confronted with attacks.

If a country harbors terrorists and allows them to participate in the official government, their hands are bloody. In Lebanon, we have an up-start democracy; unfortunately it includes Hezbollah.

I cannot support the Palestinian cause. I cannot support the Iranian cause. Why? Because their causes are unrighteous. Ther goals are the genocide of all Jews, the elimination of Israel, and the creation of an Islamic world (destruction of freedom).

How does one differentiate the "Religion of Peace" Muslims from the "Slit Their Throats" Muslims. The average Joe and Jane Muslim might be "Religion of Peace" Muslims but their leaders are "Slit Their Throats" Muslims.

With Ahmadinejad recruiting Imad Mugniyah, the Lebanese commander of Hezbollah's overseas operations, to oversee retaliation against Western targets if the U.S. orders a strike on Iran's nuclear facilities, they are more brazen in their strategy and tactics.

This is not going to end with Lebanon; it will include Syria, Egypt and Iran. Iran with a nuclear option is the worst of the worst.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

UK Identity Cards

Identity cards have not been included in the UK government's definitive account of Britain's counter-terrorism strategy. Plans for "biometric" visas and passports are included, but the proposed ID card system has been given no place in the strategy.

This goes against claims from the Prime Minister and the Home Office that the cards will enhance national security.

National IDs, with sophisticated two-factor ID elements, are expensive, forgeable and do not enhance national security.

All the British terrorists, as well as all of the 9/11 terrorist, would have possessed these identification cards.

I really don't know why many believe a national ID card will reduce terrorism. There is no evidence to support this claim.

Russia, China and Iran

Russia and China, crossed a major diplomatic threshold in the international effort to curb Tehran's nuclear ambitions. It joined the United States and Europe by agreeing to seek a United Nations Security Council resolution ordering Iran to freeze its nuclear activities or face sanctions.

The movement toward a resolution represents increased anger over Iran's refusal to respond to an international offer of economic and energy incentives in exchange for suspension of the country's uranium enrichment program.

This is a huge step for Moscow and Beijing. Both have long resisted attempts by the United States and Europe to punish Iran at the United Nations. Both have a great economic interest in Iran.

Russia and China, among other nations, believe that what's good for their business interests is also good for the nation as a whole. Security is historically trumped by economics.

Is this just G8 posturing or real policy change?

Israel & Lebanon

The Lebanese guerrilla group Hezbollah surprised Israel with a daylight assault across the border, leading to fighting in which two Israeli soldiers were captured and at least eight killed, and elevating recent tensions. This introduces serious conflicts on two fronts -- Israel is also waging a military operation in the Gaza Strip to free a soldier captured by Palestinian militants on June 25.

Israel responded by sending armored forces into southern Lebanon for the first time in six years.

Israeli warplanes fired missiles at the runways at Rafik Hariri International Airport in Beirut, shutting the airport and potentially stranding thousands of visitors at the peak of tourist season. Israeli warplanes also hit numerous locations in southern Lebanon, adding to the civilian death toll. The Israeli military confirmed the strike, saying that the airport was a target because Hezbollah receives weapons shipments there.

This is war and it is going to get nasty. Israel has shown great restraint. Few expect the restraint to continue.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Soldier-Prisoner Exchange with Hezbollah & Hamas

Seven Israel Defense Forces soldiers were killed and two others were abducted in attacks by guerrillas from the militant Hezbollah organization.

The militants attacked two IDF armored Hummer jeeps patrolling along the border with gunfire and explosives, in the midst of massive shelling attacks on Israel's north. Three soldiers were killed in the attack and two were taken hostage. Later in the day, four IDF soldiers were apparently killed when their tank hit a mine some 6 kilometers inside Lebanese territory.

Hezbollah leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah said that a prisoner exchange was the only way to secure the release of the soldiers, who he said were being held in a "secure and remote" location.

Likewise, Hamas' exiled political leader, Khaled Mashaal, said that the Israeli soldier, Cpl. Gilad Shalit, captured in June, would not be freed without a prisoner swap.

Israel has a history of negotiating prisoner exchanges with her enemies, who have often used hostage taking as a political tool.
In 1985 Israel agreed to the release of more than 1,150 Palestinian prisoners in return for three soldiers taken captive in Lebanon.

Almost 20 years later, a similar deal was reached with the militant group Hizbullah, in which years of German-brokered negotiations led to an agreement between Israel and the militants in early 2004 to release more than 400 militants in exchange for the businessman Tannenbaum Elhanan, who had been captured four years earlier, and the bodies of three soldiers.

Despite a suicide bomber killing 10 Israelis on the day of the prisoners' release, the exchange went ahead without a hitch. Two high-profile guerrilla leaders were among those released, as well as a German national, Stephen Smyrek, who had been caught working for Hizbullah in 1997.

Hamas have also benefited from prisoner exchanges in the past. In 1997, Israel was forced to release the group's spiritual leader, Shaikh Ahmed Yassin, after two Mossad agents were caught by Jordan on a botched mission to assassinate Khaled Mashaal, himself a Hamas leader.
Dispelling reports of a deal with Hamas, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said freeing Palestinian prisoners in exchange for a captured Israeli soldier would be a "major mistake" and said there can be no negotiations with the "bloody organization."

However, Israel's history proves differently. Israel's past mistakes are coming back to haunt them. The terrorists have precedence and are now willing to exploit it. If I were them, I call Olmert's bluff.

Never negotiate with terrorists.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Terrorists in Mumbai

At least 170 people were killed and hundreds more injured after a series of coordinated explosions ripped through Mumbai’s commuter transport network in the middle of the evening rush hour.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the bombings. However, the blasts coming in quick succession, and with a knowledge that this is a tactic employed by Kashmiri militants as well as Islamic terrorist, it is obvious it was a terrorist act.

Terrorist are pure evil. They will never gain victory for their cause with these barbaric and cowardly tactics.

Summer TV Viewing Down...Hurray

Last week was the least-watched TV week in recorded history for the four biggest broadcast networks -- CBS, ABC, NBC and Fox. They averaged 20.8 million viewers during the average prime-time minute last week, according to Nielsen Media Research.

I rarely watch network TV. About all I watch are sports -- I can do other things while semi-watching. If it weren't for the cable stations, I'd see no reason to have a TV at all.

As the networks continue to put out "average" content and with so many other things we can do with our time, the decline of television continues. I am glad. I also hope the decline in Hollywood movie viewing continues to decline. (It is too bad Americans like the idea of going to the movies, because what they are paying for is mediocre at best).

It is all about the content: if the quality is good, the viewers will turn-out and the advertisers will pay the fees. Until then, let the decline continue.

MLB All-Star Game -- Losing Its Appeal

The MLB All-Star game is losing its appeal. Some players selected are not going because of "injury" (preferring to take three or four days off). Players not on the roster that should be (due to the minimum of one player per team mandate). The rule that says the winning league gets World Series home field advantage.

It is an exhibition game and should be treated as such. Remember, players are paid by their teams (their owners and fans); not by MLB.

I'll watch, I always do, but I am not please with Bud Seilig (MLB Commissioner) and some of the players who elected not to participate (Manny Rameriz and Tom Glavine).

American League
P Kenny Rogers, DET
C Ivan Rodriguez, DET
1B David Ortiz, BOS
2B Mark Loretta, BOS
3B Alex Rodriguez, NYY
SS Derek Jeter, NYY
OF Vladimir Guerrero, LAA
OF Ichiro Suzuki, SEA
OF Vernon Wells, TOR

P Mark Buerhle, CWS
P Jose Contreras, CWS
P Roy Halladay, TOR
P Bobby Jenks, CWS
P Scott Kazmir, TB
P Francisco Liriano, MIN ª
P Jonathan Papelbon, BOS
P Mark Redman, KC
P Mariano Rivera, NYY
P B.J. Ryan, TOR
P Johan Santana, MIN
P Barry Zito, OAK

C Joe Mauer, MI
C A.J. Pierzynski, CWS #
1B Paul Konerko, CWS
1B Jim Thome, CWS
2B Robinson Cano, NYY º
2B Jose Lopez, SEA ª
3B Troy Glaus, TOR
SS Miguel Tejada, BAL
SS Michael Young, TEX
OF Jermaine Dye, CWS
OF Gary Matthews, Jr., TEX ª
OF Magglio Ordonez, DET ª
OF Manny Ramirez, BOS ºº
OF Alex Rios, TOR º
OF Grady Sizemore, CLE

National League
P Brad Penny, LAD
C Paul Lo Duca, NYM
1B Albert Pujols, STL
2B Chase Utley, PHI
3B David Wright, NYM
SS Edgar Renteria, ATL
OF Jason Bay, PIT
OF Carlos Beltran, NYM
OF Alfonso Soriano, WSH

P Bronson Arroyo, CIN
P Chris Capuano, MIL ª
P Chris Carpenter, STL
P Brian Fuentes, COL
P Tom Glavine, NYM ºº
P Tom Gordon, PHI
P Trevor Hoffman, SD
P Pedro Martinez, NYM º
P Roy Oswalt, HOU ª
P Jason Schmidt, SF
P Derrick Turnbow, MIL
P Brandon Webb, ARI
P Carlos Zambrano, CHC

C Brian McCann, ATL
1B Lance Berkman, HOU
1B Ryan Howard, PHI
1B Nomar Garciaparra, LAD #
2B Dan Uggla, FLA
3B Miguel Cabrera, FLA
3B Freddy Sanchez, PIT
3B Scott Rolen, STL
SS David Eckstein, STL ª
SS Jose Reyes, NYM º
OF Andruw Jones, ATL
OF Matt Holliday, COL
OF Carlos Lee, MIL

# Final Vote Selection
º Injured, will not participate
ºº Elected not to participate
ª Named as replacement

UPDATE: the AL won again (9 in a row) with a 9th inning, 2 RBI triple from Michael Young, a blown save by Trevor Hoffman, and a save by Mariano Rivera.

End Point Security

Endpoint security is a critical element to an information security policy.

--Consider an investment in extra hardware and software beyond the security package itself.
--Think less about internal routing and firewalling and more about individuals and clients, nodes and endpoints.
--Visitor isolation is absolutely necessary and a big benefit of endpoint security.
--Be wary of bleeding-edge, proprietary technologies. However, leading-edge technology can benefit the organization.
--Endpoint security requires active user involvement, at least to the point of responding when a pop-up comes on the screen informing the user that his laptop is quarantined until he upgrades his virus definitions or turns on his laptop's personal firewall.

In my opinion, the key to effective end point security is less on technology, although some is certainly required, and more on human behavior.

Russian Terrorist #1 Killed in Ingushetia

Chechen warlord Shamil Basayev, Russia's No. 1 terrorist, was killed by security forces in Ingushetia. Basayev claimed responsibility for the Beslan terrorist action on a school in which 331 died. This warlord's trail of blood has been on-going for at least 15 years.

Authorities claim Basayev was planning a terrorist event in Ingushetia to coincide with the forthcoming G8 summit in St. Petersburg.

The world is better today without this killer. Kudos to the Russian forces.

Monday, July 10, 2006

District Level Graduation Rates

A new study sponsored by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation looked at graduation rates on a district-by-district level and found that they are shockingly lower than previously reported by the education bureaucracy. Newt Gingrich made some of the following comments:

In big-city public school districts like Cleveland, Los Angeles, Miami, Dallas and Denver, fewer than 50% of high school students graduate on time. In three districts, the public schools graduate fewer than 40% of their students: In New York City, the graduation rate is 38.9%; in Baltimore, it's 38.5%; and in Detroit, only 21.7% of students who enter public high schools will graduate.

If only 21.7% of students graduate from Detroit schools on time, 78.3% of students fail to graduate. Almost 80% of students -- four out of five -- are failed by our educational system. Why do we tolerate this level of failure? The fact is, in most aspects of life, we don't. If a private company took the money from its customers and then failed 80%, it would be closed in a day.

A high school diploma is the minimum requirement for successful participation in American life. Nationwide, it is estimated that three of every 10 students who start high school won't graduate on time. For minorities, these numbers are worse. One of every two African-American and Latino students won't graduate on time or graduate at all. There are more African American males in prison than there are in college.

The left believe that more money will cure what is wrong with our education system. This is a big lie. Nationally, our education bureaucracy is receiving more than $440 billion a year of our tax dollars to fund our schools, but only about 61% of this is actually spent in classrooms. In Michigan, only 57% of education funds are actually spent on teachers and teaching. The rest goes to the bureaucracy for undefined, unaccountable "overhead." Unless and until we make it a priority to put the welfare of our children over the welfare of the education bureaucracy, our education bureaucracy will continue to consign our children to future poverty and our nation to future failure.

Educational success appears driven, in part, by culture. We cannot assume our public schools will be the sole source of our children's' education. Certainly they need to do better but money is not the answer. Hard work and fundamentals are. They should not be catered to; they should be expected to put in the time and do many things on their own.

The cultural success factor is the family. If the parent(s) are not working with their children on a daily basis, they cannot help their children; they will not know how well their children are doing / not doing; they will not know what they children are being taught / not being taught.

The only successfully run government programs are in the military. All others are bureaucratic nightmares and money pit. I have little hope to see our governmental educational programs ever succeed. That's why charter schools and home schooling are growing -- they can take control over their children's education without the NEA's involvement.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Italy Wins World Cup

Despite being outplayed for most of the match and looking less fit than the French, the Italians won their 4th World Cup title (out of 18 World Cups). They did so on penalty kicks -- the most ridiculous way to settle the greatest championship in all sports.

Too bad most of the talk will be on Zinedine Zidane's red card in overtime. He deserved it but it had nothing to do with the outcome of the match. France still created the action. The Italians sat back and defended -- why not with Cannavaro, Materazzi and Buffon defending and tending goal. On PKs, France was solid, less one PKs. None of this means Zidane, the tourny MVP (Golden Shoe) would have made his instead of Trezeguet's miss.

Italy won, fair and square. Congrats!

Saturday, July 08, 2006

U.N. Conference on Gun Control - Pt 2

The following are the highlights (and lowlights) from the second week of the "U.N. Conference to Review Progress Made in the Implementation of the Programme of Action to Prevent and Eradicate the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All Its Aspects." (For a review of week one, click here.)

Day Five, Friday, June 30: Non-governmental organizations (NGO's) made statements to the meeting. Mary Leigh Blek of the so-called "Million Mom March" made an emotional anti-gun speech to the delegates. Pro-gun groups also made presentations. Japan made an extensive presentation on gun destruction programs. Other countries continued to push the idea of international regulation of ammunition and additional U.N. meetings until at least 2012.

Day Six, Monday, July 3: Innumerable speeches and very little action. The President of the Conference, Ambassador Kariyawasam, from Sri Lanka, released another draft version of the Conference report. The draft again pushes international regulation of ammunition and again proposes U.N. meetings on small arms up to and including 2012. After substantial pressure from NRA, the Conference did not meet on July 4!

Day Seven, Wednesday, July 5: The issue of U.N. regulation of civilian firearms raised its ugly head again. The move was led by Mexico, Colombia, and, of all countries, Canada. Many observers were chagrined that the Canadian delegation would take such an anti-gun stand since there is a new Conservative government in Toronto. Canadian disarmament bureaucrats seemed to be running the delegation. The U.S. held firm on the issue of civilian firearms. The meeting bogged down with little or no resolution of major issues and temporarily adjourned at 6:00 p.m., with an arrangement to come back at 8:00 p.m., and work into the night.

Day Eight, Thursday, July 6: Delegates again agreed to meet in an 8:00 p.m. evening session, with some saying that if agreement could not be reached, the Conference would be deadlocked. The concept of U.N. regulation of civilian firearms seems to refuse to die, even though the U.S. is adamantly holding the line on the issue. The last hours of the Conference were looked upon as the most dangerous time by NRA's team, which closely followed the evening's events.

Day Nine, Friday, July 7: Closing sessions; no action to report -- thank goodness.

Support the NRA and your Second Amendment right.

Friday, July 07, 2006

Pronk Rocks!

Cleveland Indians designated hitter Travis Hafner, aka, Pronk, became the first player in major league history to hit five grand slams before the All-Star break when he connected in the second inning against Baltimore on Friday night.

Lou Gehrig (1934), Sid Gordon (1950), Gentile (1961) and Jim Northrup (1968) all hit four grand slams before the All-Star break.

Hafner homered off Kris Benson to give the Indians a 6-0 lead. It also broke the club record for grand slams in a season that Hafner shared with Al Rosen, who hit four in 1951.

The 29-year-old Hafner is the fourth player to hit five grand slams in a season. Don Mattingly of the New York Yankees set the major league record with six in 1987. Jim Gentile of the Baltimore Orioles (1961) and Ernie Banks of the Chicago Cubs (1955) both hit five.

Hafner was not selected to play in next week's All-Star game in Pittsburgh despite hitting .318 with 25 homers and 74 RBI.

FBI Disrupts NYC Terrorist Plot

The FBI disrupted a terrorist plot to attack the train tunnels beneath the Hudson River -- the PATH commuter train tunnels. The plot involved at least eight people overseas, including an alleged al-Qaida operative arrested in Lebanon.

The martyrdom and explosive plan was intercepted early in the process. The plan appears to have been a water flood directed at New York's financial district.

The FBI had been monitoring the plot's development in Internet chat rooms for several months. They cited the arrest of the Lebanese suspect as a significant break in the investigation.

Monitoring Internet chat rooms? Who's sticking up for these terrorists' rights? Their privacy has been violated. ACLU, where are you in their time of need? Can't we plan a terrorist attack in the privacy of our own virtual world without the government getting in our way?

Norman Mineta Outlines "Transportation Truths"

Reliable and quality transportation are key elements of economic development, emergency preparedness and to a nation's, state's and community's operational viability.

Making his final appearance as the U.S. Secretary of Transportation on 6 July, Norman Mineta outlined a series of "truths" he believes America must face as the nation grapples with the future of its transportation system.

In an address at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Mineta said, "Our transportation system today is at a critical juncture that cries out for bipartisanship - or, more accurately, for statesmanship. And while we have laid important legislative and policy foundations, continued progress requires facing some basic truths." Mineta went on to cite the following:

-- The modern economy and by extension, our transportation systems, are global in nature.

The United States has the strongest, fastest growing economy in the developed world because we have some of the world's strongest transportation systems. But we will lose that competitive edge if we make a habit out of turning our noses up at investors in our seaports, airports, and highways just because they are headquartered outside the United States.

"Security is, and must always remain, a foremost concern. But it is pure folly to think that economic isolationism is an option in today's interconnected world." He said the development of transportation systems has become a major determinant of a nation's economic success. "And while the rest of the world is building up its infrastructure, the United States can ill-afford to close the door on much-needed investments -- even international investments -- in our transportation network.

-- Americans must be concerned with the safety of not just our own, but of the world's transportation systems.

Every year more than 1.2 million people die worldwide as a result of road traffic crashes. By the year 2020, traffic crashes will run ahead of malaria, tuberculosis, and HIV/AIDS among all contributors to the global health burden.

-- Just as morbidity should not be accepted as the price of mobility, so too must Americans reject the unhealthy notion that congestion is a fact of life and that they must learn to live with growing gridlock and an unreliable transportation system.

The economic price tag of congestion is already $200 billion a year, not to mention the largely unmeasured social costs when parents leave for work at dawn, only to get home just as their children are about ready to go to bed. He referred to a plan announced by the U.S. DOT to address traffic congestion nationwide, saying "it will necessitate a cultural change to move from a government-monopoly model for much of our transportation infrastructure toward acceptance of the private sector and market forces."

"Finding a way to tackle congestion more meaningfully and successfully is not a problem for some future generation. It is an urgent challenge for today's leaders."

-- Our transportation systems are lifelines in times of emergency.

"Whether an emergency is caused by a deliberate act of terrorism or results from a natural disaster or a health care crisis such as avian flu, we must be able to depend on our transportation systems to evacuate people in need, to move critical supplies and emergency workers, and to provide essential resources rapidly into affected areas.

"It is no coincidence that terrorists target our transportations systems. They are the heart of modern societies and modern economies."

North Korean Missiles

North Korea test-fired a number of missiles this week including its short to medium range missiles -- Scuds, Rodongs and Taepodong-2 models. All were fired from missile bases on its east coast within the span of a few hours. All landed in the Sea of Japan except their big one, which failed.

The Taepodong 2 intercontinental missile launched on 5 July was aimed at an area of the ocean close to Hawaii. The Taepodong-2 ballistic missile is estimated to have a range of up to 6,000 km, putting Alaska within its reach. The launch apparently failed shortly after take-off and the missile landed in the sea between the Korean peninsula and Japan, a few hundred kilometres from the launch pad.

The United States, China, Japan, South Korea, Canada and Russia are weighing their response to Pyongyang's decision Wednesday to test-fire six missiles in the Pacific. Like Iran, North Korea refuses to end its nuclear weapons program.

On the diplomatic front, Pentagon officials say China's government failed utterly to come through on private pledges to the Bush administration to halt North Korea's missile tests.

This raises the debate over the merits of a world-class missile defense system -- a funded Strategic Defense Initiative. Bush said that the United States had a reasonable chance of shooting down the long-range missile, if it had not failed.
Currently, a fledgling U.S. missile defense system has deployed 11 interceptor missiles in Alaska and California. Its reliability has been questioned, however. Between October 1999 and October 2002, five tests of the interceptor were conducted. One failed. The other four shot down space-borne reentry vehicles of the kind that would carry an enemy warhead into the United States. Since then, the interceptor has failed three straight tests.

The Defense Department’s Missile Defense Agency eventually aims at deploying systems that can stop enemy missiles in all phases of flight -- boost, midcourse and terminal. Patriot missiles deployed by the U.S. overseas can stop short-range missiles in their terminal phase. The interceptors deployed in Alaska and California are supposed to be able to stop long range missiles in midcourse. And missiles that will be launched from 3 U.S. Navy cruisers and 15 destroyers are designed to stop mid-range missiles in midcourse. (Phased deployment of these ships will start this fall.)
A less expensive option might be to establish an NBA franchise in Pyongyang comping Kim Jong-il a suite with Madeline Albright, Jimmy Carter and John Kerry as his viewing partners and Pyongyang "Laker" girls providing him his half-time entertainment.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Consultant Breached FBI's Computers

A government consultant, using computer programs easily found on the Internet, managed to crack the FBI's classified computer system and gain the passwords of 38,000 employees, including that of FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III.

The break-ins, which occurred four times in 2004, gave the consultant access to records in the Witness Protection Program and details on counterespionage activity, according to documents filed in U.S. District Court in Washington. As a direct result, the bureau said it was forced to temporarily shut down its network and commit thousands of man-hours and millions of dollars to ensure no sensitive information was lost or misused.

Organizations of all size should consider their own vulnerabilities and threats. Hiring a consultant or company focused on information and corporate security can handle this request and provide their findings and recommendations. There are so many things that can impact an organization's ability to operate. Doing nothing or ignoring it, is doing your stakeholders a huge disservice.

Having a plan for information and corporate security is business due diligance at its finest.

Don't assume because you are small you have nothing of value. This applies equally to for-profit and not-for-profit organizations, private or public.

Voice over IP

VoIP is one of those technologies that we hope for -- cheaper and integrated. However, it has a long way to go to match the quality of traditional phone service. I still experience many more outages associated with my Internet access than my phone service. In fact, I cannot remember the last time I could not get dial tone. VoIP is a good technology. Time will solve most of the its shortcomings, including the problem for the home user who needs multiple extensions (something the Vonage people never talk about).

An InformationWeek Research survey finds 39% of companies have installed voice over IP, and another 33% will install it in the coming months. 12% say they have no plans to use it. The reasons for VoIP adoption vary. Lower costs leads (cited by two-thirds of those planning to use it), but many respondents also have higher-value returns in mind: 41% cite building a one-stop communications platform, and 36% expect increased collaboration by combining voice with data-sharing, videoconferencing, or presence technology. For the corporate world:

-- VoIP is inevitable
-- It costs more than you think
-- Deployment can be tricky
-- VoIP security is dodgy
-- Cheap calls are just the start

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

China's Hi-End Exports & Economy Grow

China is drifting away from overreliance on cheap, low-end goods to more value-added products. China has witnessed a 30%-150% rise in the exports of telecommunications equipment, auto parts, software and ships since 2005, while the low-end exports are running out of steam.

Made in China no longer guarantees cheap.

China has passed Britain to become the world's fourth-largest economy, according to the World Bank's latest calculations. China produced US$2.263825 trillion in output in 2005, just US$94 million, or 0.004%, more than Britain.

White House Sets Security Agenda for Federal Agencies

The White House Office of Management and Budget has given government agencies 45 days to ensure that they have a prescribed set of security controls in place for protecting sensitive data when it is accessed from remote locations or stored on laptop PCs and other mobile devices.

They are recommending well-established practices from NIST. There is nothing major here, just policies and procedures that have proven reliable and accurate for years.

Policies are essential, but it is policy enforcement that really counts (and what the government fails on again and again).

The 10 Most Destructive PC Viruses Of All Time

Causing close to 100 billion dollars in damage to businesses worldwide, PC viruses have brought the world a massive headache. Here are the 10 most destructive of the past 20 years:

-- CIH (1998)- Estimated Damage: 20 to 80 million dollars worldwide, countless amounts of PC data destroyed.
-- Melissa (1999) - Estimated Damage: 300 to 600 million dollars
-- ILOVEYOU (2000) - Estimated Damage: 10 to 15 billion dollars
-- Code Red (2001) - Estimated Damage: 2.6 billion dollars
-- SQL Slammer (2003) - Estimated Damage: Because SQL Slammer erupted on a Saturday, the damage was low in dollars and cents. However, it hit 500,000 servers worldwide, and actually shut down South Korea's online capacity for 12 hours.
-- Blaster (2003) - Estimated Damage: 2 to 10 billion dollars, hundreds of thousands of infected PCs
-- Sobig.F (2003) - Estimated Damage: 5 to 10 billion dollars, over 1 million PCs infected
-- Bagle (2004) - Estimated Damage: Tens of millions of dollars...and counting
-- MyDoom (2004) - Estimated Damage: At its peak, slowed global Internet performance by 10 percent and Web load times by up to 50 percent
-- Sasser (2004) - Estimated Damage: Tens of millions of dollars.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Happy Birthday, America!

On July 4, 1776, we declared our independence from Britain and Democracy was born. I love this "land of the free and home of the brave". I love the American Dream.

Happy Birthday, America!

Steve Yzerman

Steve Yzerman, the Detroit Red Wings' longtime captain who played his entire 22-year NHL career with Detroit, is retiring. The 41-year-old Yzerman, who was 18 when he joined the Red Wings in 1983.

Yzerman led Detroit to three Stanley Cups and playoff appearances in each of the last 15 years of his career. Only Gordie Howe holds as many franchise records. He has been Detroit's captain since 1986, making him the longest-serving captain in league history.

Thanks for the memories.

Monday, July 03, 2006

Felipe Calderon Wins Mexican Presidency

Most Americans know the name of their President, fewer know the names of other key officials including the VP, Secretary of State, Secretary of Defense, House Speaker, Senate Majority and Minority Leaders. Fewer still know the names of the Canadian Prime Minister (Stephen Harper) or the Mexican President (Vicente Fox).

Yesterday, Mexicans voted for a new President, which was confirmed today: Felipe Calderon has won with 36% of the vote, 1% ahead of his rival, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, the leftist candidate from the PRD/Alliance for the Good of All. Calderon is from Fox's conservative National Action Party. Roberto Madrazo of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) was a distant third.

Obrador would have been more along the lines of Hugo Chavez from Venezuela -- socialist to the core. Calderon is Vicente Fox part dos. He'll be better for middle and upper classes, and probably for America. Neither will change the corruption inherit in Mexican politics.

Although Calderon won, the election is close. Latin America is definitely leaning more and more socialistic. Poor always favor the candidates and parties that promises them free stuff. The entitlement mentality is the same, regardless of the geography or language.

Religious Leaders Meet In Moscow to Draft Religion Statement

Prior to the G8 summit taking place 15-17 July, more than 100 religious leaders from about 40 countries will meet in Moscow to draft a statement on religion, the state and society.

The three-day meeting, hosted by the Russian Orthodox Church, will offer G8 leaders at the St. Petersburg summit ideas about the interaction between faith and politics and will steer clear of theological differences.

Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism and Islam are the four traditional faiths officially recognized by the state; all four will be represented at the meeting. "New religions" will not be represented at the summit because of what organizers see as theological conflicts between them and traditional religions.

It is not clear what voice speaks for Christianity. I am guessing it is at least the Russian Orthodox Church and Catholic Church.

As a side note: I have a son serving a full-time LDS mission in Siberia. While they do not have the success seen in Latin America, they do have more success than the missionaries do in western Europe.

Religious Barriers in Presidential Elections

A new Los Angeles Times/Bloomberg poll shows that anti-Semitism and anti-Catholicism are fading among voters, but uneasiness about some religions persists.

-- 54% said no to the prospect of a Muslim in the White House.
-- 37% said they would not vote for a Mormon presidential candidate.
-- 21% said they could not vote for an evangelical Christian.
-- 15% said they would not vote for a Jewish presidential candidate.
-- 10% were unwilling to cast ballots favoring a Catholic chief executive.

Bottomline: few non-Mormons understand the Mormon religion; most of those that think they do, don't. I compare their understanding and beliefs of Mormonism to historical scientific understanding and beliefs that the universe revolves around the Earth and that the Earth is flat. Getting details about one religious denomination from another is like getting a feature-function-benefit assessment of your company's products or services from a competitor.

All prejudices are rooted in lack of education.

Graduated Drivers License Reduce Fatal Crashes for 16-Year-Olds

Traffic accidents are the leading cause of death for teenagers. Federal figures show that 16-year-old drivers were involved in 957 crashes that killed 1,111 people in 2004.

Most of us probably think that driver education helps reduce crashes on our roads. If you think this, you'd be wrong. There is no scientific proof, despite many attempts, that driver training for our young people actually works. However Graduated Drivers License (GDL) programs do apparently work.

State-sponsored GDL programs contain two or more of the following:

-- A minimum age of 15 1/2 for earning a learner's permit.
-- A waiting period of at least three months after getting a learner's permit before applying for an intermediate license.
-- A minimum of 30 hours of supervised driving.
-- A minimum age of 16 for obtaining an intermediate state license.
-- A minimum age of 17 for full licensing.
-- Driving restrictions at night.
-- A restriction on carrying passengers.

A study conducted by Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health makes the following conclusions:

-- The study found that such programs reduced fatal crashes for 16-year-old drivers by an average of 11%.
-- When the researchers compared states with five program components to states without a program, they found an 18% reduction in fatal crashes involving 16-year-old drivers.
-- Programs with six or seven components were linked to a 21% reduction.

The key to effective an GDL implementation is young driver compliance and education coupled with parental monitoring and enforcement.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Sacred Soccer Rules

Ever wonder why the powers that be (FIFA, EPL, Spanish Liga, MLS...) don't consider making the "beautiful game" a little more enjoyable? This might be the American in me. Consider the following potential changes:

-- Maximum of three player substitutes: why limit it at all? A team has a 23-player roster, why not allow a coach to use as many players as he wants? When the temperature and humidity are high, everyone moves in slow motion after the 60th minute; downright super slow in those games that go into overtime.

-- Stretchers on the field: if the "injured" player really yells ouch, the referee official automatically calls for the stretcher. In most cases, the four stretcher bearers leave the pitch without a player. Real men do everything they can to walk off the field on their own or with the help of teammates. When required, use a golf cart like the NFL.

-- One referee and two linesmen: in professional or World Cup matches, it is not going to break the bank to have a second referee on the pitch. It might not be a bad idea to have two extra linesmen.

-- Moving clock: not sure why the clock cannot stop during an "injury". I guess fans like the subjective "extra time" added on to the end of each half.

-- Instant replay: technology does not seem to have a place in soccer. The most frustrating part of the game is the diving, especially in the penalty box. Questionable fouls in the box, yellow and red cards, and goals should be subject to review. Stop the clock, review it, and get the call right. Soccer (along with basketball; and the reason I quite watching it) puts too much power into the hand of the referee to the point where the ref can directly effect the outcome of a match.

None of these changes will happen. Soccer is the slowest sport of all to change its rules. If the status quo does not impact viewership, there is no financial reason to change.