Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Chevron's Brazilian Oil Spill and Drug War Mercenaries (Link Round-Up 11/22/11)


"Conventional wisdom" about why the Egyptian revolution happened is wrong
Egypt’s was no cartoon dictatorship that indiscriminately banned protests. For at least a decade before Mubarak’s ouster, Egyptians were doing their politics outdoors. Citizens assembled daily on highways, in factory courtyards, and in public squares to rally against their unrepresentative government. Mubarak’s regime responded with a million-man police force that alternately cajoled and crushed the demonstrators. The goal was not to ban protests, but to obstruct any attempt to unify different groups and prevent sympathetic bystanders joining them. 
Egypt’s uprising happened when three distinct currents of protest—labor, professional, and popular—finally converged. That convergence transformed a routine political demonstration calling for reforms into a nationwide cry for regime change. Together, the protesters defeated a formidable police force and brought down a tenacious president. Now they are shaping the politics of post-revolutionary Egypt, resisting the military rulers’ efforts to take them off the streets.
Chevron's Brazilian oil spill leaves more questions than answers
On Wednesday, November 23, Chevron is expected to give further explanations about the disaster in a public hearing of the Environmental Committee of the Senate, along with Minister of Environment Izabella Teixeira, Minister of Mines and Energy Edison Lobao and representatives of the National Petroleum Agency (ANP) and IBAMA.
Anti-Islam is the new Antisemitism for European nationalists
Data in the study was mainly collected in July and August, before the worsening of the eurozone crisis. The report highlights the prevalence of anti-immigrant feeling, especially suspicion of Muslims. "As antisemitism was a unifying factor for far-right parties in the 1910s, 20s and 30s, Islamophobia has become the unifying factor in the early decades of the 21st century," said Thomas Klau from the European Council on Foreign Relations, who will speak at Monday's conference.
The obscure Pentagon office paying mercenaries to fight the U.S. War on Drugs
In 2009, a bureaucratic shift plucked the responsibility for training Afghanistan’s police out of the State Department’s hands. Suddenly, the contract — worth about $1 billion — landed with CNTPO. CNTPO quietly chose Blackwater for the contract, even though Blackwater guards in Afghanistan on a different contract stole hundreds of guns intended for those very Afghan cops. 
The incumbent holder of the contract, Blackwater competitor DynCorp, protested. It didn’t help that a powerful Senate committee discovered Blackwater’s gun-stealing antics. In December, DynCorp finally received the contract — administered by an Army office, not CNTPO.
The Illinois water pump that may have been hacked
It’s misleading to say that they’re connected to the Web. It makes it sound like the SCADA system has its own website or that the control engineers are playing online games from their desktops. That’s not the case. The reality is that in order to save money, the control servers are connected to the same local area network (LAN) as the front office computers, which do have Internet access. Therefore, if a bad guy can take over a desktop belonging to the receptionist, for example, he’ll very quickly figure out how to connect with the control servers that are part of the same LAN. In order to avoid this from happening, control servers are supposed to be on an entirely separate network. (This is called being “air-gapped.”) However, setting up two completely separate networks can be a very costly exercise, and a lot of small utilities just don’t bother to do it.
The problems with defining a "Greater Iran"
But if “Greater Iran” usually has secular-nationalist roots, the concept has also been taken up by some members of Iran’s clerical leadership. LiveLeak reported in 2010 that Ayatollah Mohammad Baqer Kharrazi, Secretary-General of Hezbollah-Iran, forwarded a plan for “reestablishing” a “Greater Iran,” encompassing all territories of the Achaemenid Persian Empire. Kharrazi’s scheme is grounded both in a conviction of Persian cultural supremacy, especially over the Arabs, and in Shia eschatology. According to the memo, his plan was designed to anticipate the “establishment of global government led by the Mahdi,” the messiah-like “hidden Imam” of Shiite end-of-days doctrine.
Study shows insects swap bacteria by drinking from the same plant
In this study, Caspi-Fluger only worked with whiteflies, but it’s likely that plants could also transmit bacteria to other arthropod groups. After all, the same strains of Rickettsia are also found in aphids, leafhoppers and mites. It will be interesting to see if the bacteria can form a stable relationship with insects that suck it up from plants, and whether it gets passed down from mother to daughters. If so, plants could act as unwitting match-makers that create new lasting alliances between insects and bacteria.

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