FBI joins criminal probe into Boeing 737 safety certification

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE USA TODAY NEWSPAPER)

 

FBI joins criminal probe into Boeing 737 Max 8 safety certification in wake of crashes

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The FBI has joined the widening criminal probe into how Boeing’s 737 Max 8 jets were deemed as safe in the months before two of them crashed in Indonesia and Ethiopia, leading to a worldwide grounding of the vaunted planes amid scrutiny of U.S. certification standards.

A person familiar with the inquiry told USA TODAY on Wednesday that the FBI is assisting federal transportation authorities in their investigation into the jet’s certification process, which has come under criticism for possible cozy relationships between Boeing and FAA inspectors.

The two crashes killed more than 300 people since October. Transportation Department officials are leading the investigation into the Federal Aviation Administration approval of the passenger jet, while the FBI is providing needed resources, said the person, who is not authorized to comment publicly.

The FBI’s role in the inquiry was first reported by the Seattle Times.

It’s the latest revelation in the Boeing case, with a federal grand jury also looking into safety approvals for the planes and a key congressional panel scheduled next Wednesday to delve into the Max 8 and aviation safety in general.

“In light of the recent tragedy in Ethiopia and the subsequent grounding of the Boeing 737 Max aircraft, this hearing will examine challenges to the state of commercial aviation safety, including any specific concerns highlighted by recent accidents,” according to a statement from the committee, to be chaired by Texas GOP Sen. Ted Cruz. “The committee will hear from a panel of government witnesses on ways to improve the safety of the commercial air transportation system”

News of the FBI’s involvement also comes after Wednesday’s  decision by Europe and Canada to break with U.S. air-safety regulators. The Europeans and Canadians vow to conduct their own reviews of Boeing’s changes to a key flight-control system, not to simply take the Federal Aviation Administration’s word that the alterations are safe.

Those reviews scramble an ambitious schedule set by Boeing and could undercut the FAA’s reputation around the world. It could also mean a likely delay in the resumption of Max 8 flights around the globe. Hundreds of Max 8s are ground and production of more than 4,000 others have been halted amid safety concerns.

Boeing hopes by Monday to finish its update to critical software that can automatically point the nose of the plane sharply downward in some circumstances to avoid an aerodynamic stall, according to two people briefed on FAA presentations to congressional committees.

The FAA expects to certify Boeing’s modifications and plans for pilot training in April or May, one of the people told the Associated Press. Both spoke on the condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to speak about the briefings.

But there are doubts about meeting that timetable. Air Canada plans to remove the Boeing 737 Max from its schedule at least through July 1 and suspend some routes that it flew with the plane before it was grounded around the world last week.

American Airlines, Southwest Airlines and United Airlines, which are slightly less dependent on the Max than Air Canada, are juggling their fleets to fill in for grounded planes, but have still canceled some flights.

By international agreement, planes must be certified in the country where they are built. Regulators around the world have almost always accepted that country’s decision.

As a result, European airlines have flown Boeing jets with little independent review by the European Aviation Safety Agency, and U.S. airlines operate Airbus jets without a separate, lengthy certification process by the FAA.

That practice is being frayed, however, in the face of growing questions about the FAA’s certification of the Max. Critics question whether the FAA relied too much on Boeing to vouch for critical safety matters and whether it understood the significance of a new automated flight-control system on the Max.

CONTRIBUTING: Ledyard King, USA TODAY; Associated Press

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Religions: At War With The World

Religions: At War With The World

 

When I was ten or eleven years old I started going to a local Church of Christ and I remained going there regularly until I was 17. I say this to help those who don’t know me to understand me a little better. I married a lady whom was a ‘non attendee’ Jehovah’s Witness.  I do not claim to be a Bible Scholar, I am not. I have studied the Bible now for just over 50 years. I have done a lot of reading on different beliefs within different Church denominations as well as doing a lot of reading material from Jewish, Islamic, Hindu, Buddhist and several other large ‘Religious’ groups and beliefs. So, this article to you tonight is just simply my views and beliefs on this matter. Like in all of the letters I write to you I am requesting that you take a few moments and think about the subject matter I am speaking with you about.

 

In the Old Testament teachings in the Books of Moses (Jewish Torah) G-d ordered the destruction of all the people who possessed the lands that was to become the Land of Israel. At that point in history G-d did order the deaths of many thousands of ‘Creatures’. (I will explain in a moment). Even Jesus Himself referred to non-Jews as “dogs” and as “people who were not a people”. You see, before the resurrection of Christ the only ‘people’ who had any chance of salvation were the Jews. Since the resurrection of Christ Jesus everyone on the planet is born with the chance of eternal salvation. Now, once the people under the leadership of Joshua did invade the lands but they did not do as God had ordered. The people did not totally wipe the people off of the land, they let many live as since they disobeyed G-d He told them that there would be a remnant of these people mixed in within them and that these people would be a continues thorn in their side. Look at the reality that is Palestine today, that is one hell of a thorn folks. But, in answer to the main question of if it is okay yesterday, today or tomorrow for the Jewish people to use the Scriptures for guidance to commit violence against other people? The answer to that is no, it does not. Scripture does however give all people the right to protect themselves when an act of violence is being lain upon them or their family. Also, nowhere else in Biblical Scripture does the ‘Word Of G-d’ tell the Jewish people or later on, the Christian people to be killers of the ‘non-faithful’.

 

I had been thinking about writing a paragraph of so concerning the ‘Christian Bible’ but simply put, there is no place in the New Testament that Jesus ever told anyone to go and kill people. If a person is a follower of or believer of the Biblical Scriptures then there marching orders is to love, not hate. If we say we are a Christian but our heart is filled with hate toward any people, then Christ is simply not with us. G-d is indeed at war with the world but what He is at war with is the evil upon it and meaning mainly the Devil and His tens of thousands of Dark Angels. G-d hates the sin, not us sinners. And truly, we should all thank G-d for that every day we are still breathing.

 

Now, Islam. I do not claim to be a scholar of Islam but I have studied a lot of their material now for decades. One of the things that the world and our politicians ( especially the Democrats in the U.S.) do not understand is that Islam is not a race, it is not a minority, it is the world’s most dangerous ideology though. I as a person, I as a Christian have no hate for Muslim nor Persian people even though most believe in the Islamic Faith. What the Religion of Islam tries very hard to hide is the fact that they have two ‘Holy Books’ not one. We here in the West when we hear about Islamic teachings and the Islamic Holy Book we are all used to hearing about the Quran and that’s all. What is the Quran then? This is a simple fact, the Quran is one of Islam’s Holy Books, what is it though? It is a book of the ‘saying of the Prophet Muhammad’. If the Quran was the only ‘Holy Book’ that the believers of Islam believed in the world we all live in would be a whole lot safer and friendlier place to live. There is a huge problem though and that is the fact that the ‘real’ Holy Book of Islam is called the Hadith. What is the Hadith and if it is such an important book to the believers of Islam shouldn’t they be quoting ‘in public’ the works of ‘the Prophet’? You see, the Quran is ‘the sayings’ of the Prophet, the Hadith is ‘the works’ of the Prophet. All good believers of Islam if they wish to be a follower of the Prophet must also emulate his works. Read the Hadith people, if there is a sin that Muhammad did not do it would be a rare thing. This man teaches his followers to be liars, cheats, thieves, pedophile and mass murderers, that is how true believer are supposed to live their lives. Islam is at war with the world as are the Christians yet the difference are as different as the Sun and the Moon. For a true believer of Islam all people must convert to their brand of Islam or you will be enslaved or murdered, it is that simple folks.

 

War, really? We are all at war right now yet it seems that the politicians of ‘the West’ have their heads stuck so far up a sand crabs butt it is scary. Will the politicians sell out the people of this planet? What do you think?

 

 

 

Through Ignorance World Leaders Wasted Our Blood And Gold

Through Ignorance World Leaders Wasted Our Blood And Gold

 

Yes I did say our, as in (you and I) we are all part of this world conversation we call our lives. There is a section of the world’s population who have no faith system of any kind, what percent, I don’t know that answer but it probably varies from nation to nation wouldn’t you think? What I am going to get at is this, you don’t have to believe in something, for that something to kill you. Here in the States there are a lot of Atheist type folks who through their lack of knowledge degrade Christianity and Judaism every chance they get. Unfortunately we find many of these people in seats of power throughout many nations.

I want to ask you what you thought when your nation (if yours did) put blood and money into these Islamic nations, putting our soldiers in direct open conflict with various Islamic faith factions. I totally agree that after 911 when the experts figured out that Osama was behind it and they learned that he was in Afghanistan being protected by the Taliban whom would not give him up, we should have removed them from the face of the earth. The bigger problem after running those Satanic embers out of power was in how to rebuild this broken nation both physically via helping them build a national infrastructure and a solid national pride in getting all of it’s people a quality education both boys and girls. But, big but, how do you cure the inside of a person when their moral fiber is evil and they refuse to change their beliefs or culture within their own brains?

Our nations leaders should all have known that there is no way to help create a puppet government that can only stand for as long as we prop it up with a lot of our blood and money and honestly expect the nations of fundamental Islam to not retake everything once we leave? O, but isn’t that the same lesson our leaders didn’t learn in Iraq either? There is a fundamental reality about the Islamic faith at it’s core, they do not believe in democracies as the rule of law.

The whole world is in a position to have it’s ground stained with the blood of their own children. There are many major brewing and open conflict areas on the globe, all are dangerous, but no conflict can ever be as dangerous as one that is about what a group’s Faith teaches, especially if that Faith teaches global enslavement by force. I would like to say to the world, please wake up, but I have no faith that we will. Folks the world of Islam is very much at war with you and they will kill you whether you believe in them or not, they would prefer we all be foolish, it makes us all easier to kill. Only Islamic believers can put an end to Islamic violence that is generated by Islamic believers who believe that they are following the teachings of G-d via the Quran and the Hadith. I believe that there is little chance of this ever happening as I believe that way to many folks within the different clans are complicit with this evil.

 

Inclusion Is Not Always A True Possibility

Inclusion Is Not Always A True Possibility

 

I am compelled to write this article tonight because of some of the events that have occurred with a few of the newly installed members of the U.S. Congress this past two months. The Democratic Party as a whole are learning the realities of trying to be the “All Inclusive Party” in the attempt to broaden their youthful Base of all colors, creeds, faiths while at the same time trying to not anger the old folks of the Party. One of the issues that the Party Leadership must make a decision on is Israel, are they going to support the Nation of Israel or are they going to be the definition of, Anti-Semitic? Two months ago a young lady was elected to Congress from the beautiful State Minnesota. This particular new Congresswoman Ms. Omar is a lady whom is a believer and follower of the Islamic Faith. Ms. Omar is not the only new Congressperson who has been causing conflict within the Party Leadership, there are several others also but in trying to stay true to the title I will narrow this article to issues being raised within the Congress as they have already felt the need to rebuke her twice.

 

Ms. Omar to the shock and awe of the Party Leadership has been daring to go as far as to not kiss the Ring of former President Barack Obama. She has gone as far as to openly ridicule Mr. Obama for his handling the “Islamic Wars” and his treating of Muslims and the “Islamic World”. Ms. Omar, true to her Faith has made several negative comments about Jews and about Israel, I am not at all shocked, are you? To me, it honestly seems that most of the politicians who say they are Democrats are either Atheist or just an empty shirt Follower of the ‘Faith’ they claim to believe in. Republicans on the other hand tend to say they are ‘People of Faith’ but they just never seem to walk that talk.

 

Nancy Pelosi and the Democratic Party are starting to learn a lesson here with Ms. Omar and a few of the other rookie Congressperson’s. To me the lesson is simple, it’s not a truth, a reality, that I like, yet truth, is truth, it shows no favorites toward the left nor the right. The reality that must be realized, recognized and addressed is that of pure hatred. You cannot put wolves in a Henhouse for a long period of time and not expect the wolves to feast just as you cannot expect the chickens to subdue the wolves turning them into Vegans. Somethings cannot be put together for any period of time simply because of the hate and or beliefs of one or more of subjects in question. In recent decades the Democratic Party ‘to me’ has become the “Anti-G-d” Party whom does seek to represent our Nation’s minorities such as Blacks, Hispanics, and Asian. I totally believe that we must all be treated equally by each other yet I am realistic enough to realize this will not be so in our lifetime. The Democrats (the anti-religion party) in their ignorance has looked upon people of the Islamic Faith as though they are just another minority and this mistake will do nothing but further divide their Party and our country.

Are We On The Road To Civilization Collapse?

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE BBC)

 

Studying the demise of historic civilisations can tell us how much risk we face today, says collapse expert Luke Kemp. Worryingly, the signs are worsening.

Great civilisations are not murdered. Instead, they take their own lives.

DEEP CIVILISATION

This article is part of a new BBC Future series about the long view of humanity, which aims to stand back from the daily news cycle and widen the lens of our current place in time. Modern society is suffering from “temporal exhaustion”, the sociologist Elise Boulding once said. “If one is mentally out of breath all the time from dealing with the present, there is no energy left for imagining the future,” she wrote.

That’s why the Deep Civilisation season will explore what really matters in the broader arc of human history and what it means for us and our descendants.

So concluded the historian Arnold Toynbee in his 12-volume magnum opus A Study of History. It was an exploration of the rise and fall of 28 different civilisations.

He was right in some respects: civilisations are often responsible for their own decline. However, their self-destruction is usually assisted.

The Roman Empire, for example, was the victim of many ills including overexpansion, climatic change, environmental degradation and poor leadership. But it was also brought to its knees when Rome was sacked by the Visigoths in 410 and the Vandals in 455.

Collapse is often quick and greatness provides no immunity. The Roman Empire covered 4.4 million sq km (1.9 million sq miles) in 390. Five years later, it had plummeted to 2 million sq km (770,000 sq miles). By 476, the empire’s reach was zero.

Our deep past is marked by recurring failure. As part of my research at the Centre for the Study of Existential Risk at the University of Cambridge, I am attempting to find out why collapse occurs through a historical autopsy. What can the rise and fall of historic civilisations tell us about our own? What are the forces that precipitate or delay a collapse? And do we see similar patterns today?

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The first way to look at past civilisations is to compare their longevity. This can be difficult, because there is no strict definition of civilisation, nor an overarching database of their births and deaths.

In the graphic below, I have compared the lifespan of various civilisations, which I define as a society with agriculture, multiple cities, military dominance in its geographical region and a continuous political structure. Given this definition, all empires are civilisations, but not all civilisations are empires. The data is drawn from two studies on the growth and decline of empires (for 3000-600BC and 600BC-600), and an informal, crowd-sourced survey of ancient civilisations (which I have amended).

“Historic

Click/pinch to enlarge. Here’s the full list of the civilisations displayed above. (Credit: Nigel Hawtin)

Collapse can be defined as a rapid and enduring loss of population, identity and socio-economic complexity. Public services crumble and disorder ensues as government loses control of its monopoly on violence.

Virtually all past civilisations have faced this fate. Some recovered or transformed, such as the Chinese and Egyptian. Other collapses were permanent, as was the case of Easter Island. Sometimes the cities at the epicentre of collapse are revived, as was the case with Rome. In other cases, such as the Mayan ruins, they are left abandoned as a mausoleum for future tourists.

What can this tell us about the future of global modern civilisation? Are the lessons of agrarian empires applicable to our post-18th Century period of industrial capitalism?

Collapse may be a normal phenomenon for civilisations, regardless of their size and technological stage

I would argue that they are. Societies of the past and present are just complex systems composed of people and technology. The theory of “normal accidents” suggests that complex technological systems regularly give way to failure. So collapse may be a normal phenomenon for civilisations, regardless of their size and stage.

We may be more technologically advanced now. But this gives little ground to believe that we are immune to the threats that undid our ancestors. Our newfound technological abilities even bring new, unprecedented challenges to the mix.

And while our scale may now be global, collapse appears to happen to both sprawling empires and fledgling kingdoms alike. There is no reason to believe that greater size is armour against societal dissolution. Our tightly-coupled, globalised economic system is, if anything, more likely to make crisis spread.

Building falling into sea

Climatic pressures are worsening (Credit: Getty Images)

If the fate of previous civilisations can be a roadmap to our future, what does it say? One method is to examine the trends that preceded historic collapses and see how they are unfolding today.

While there is no single accepted theory for why collapses happen, historians, anthropologists and others have proposed various explanations, including:

CLIMATIC CHANGE: When climatic stability changes, the results can be disastrous, resulting in crop failure, starvation and desertification. The collapse of the Anasazi, the Tiwanaku civilisation, the Akkadians, the Mayan, the Roman Empire, and many others have all coincided with abrupt climatic changes, usually droughts.

ENVIRONMENTAL DEGRADATION: Collapse can occur when societies overshoot the carrying capacity of their environment. This ecological collapse theory, which has been the subject of bestselling books, points to excessive deforestation, water pollution, soil degradation and the loss of biodiversity as precipitating causes.

INEQUALITY AND OLIGARCHY: Wealth and political inequality can be central drivers of social disintegration, as can oligarchy and centralisation of power among leaders. This not only causes social distress, but handicaps a society’s ability to respond to ecological, social and economic problems.

The field of cliodynamics models how factors such as equality and demography correlate with political violence. Statistical analysis of previous societies suggests that this happens in cycles. As population increases, the supply of labour outstrips demand, workers become cheap and society becomes top-heavy. This inequality undermines collective solidarity and political turbulence follows.

COMPLEXITY: Collapse expert and historian Joseph Tainter has proposed that societies eventually collapse under the weight of their own accumulated complexity and bureaucracy. Societies are problem-solving collectives that grow in complexity in order to overcome new issues. However, the returns from complexity eventually reach a point of diminishing returns. After this point, collapse will eventually ensue.

Another measure of increasing complexity is called Energy Return on Investment (EROI). This refers to the ratio between the amount of energy produced by a resource relative to the energy needed to obtain it. Like complexity, EROI appears to have a point of diminishing returns. In his book The Upside of Down, the political scientist Thomas Homer-Dixon observed that environmental degradation throughout the Roman Empire led to falling EROI from their staple energy source: crops of wheat and alfalfa. The empire fell alongside their EROI. Tainter also blames it as a chief culprit of collapse, including for the Mayan.

EXTERNAL SHOCKS: In other words, the “four horsemen”: war, natural disasters, famine and plagues. The Aztec Empire, for example, was brought to an end by Spanish invaders. Most early agrarian states were fleeting due to deadly epidemics. The concentration of humans and cattle in walled settlements with poor hygiene made disease outbreaks unavoidable and catastrophic. Sometimes disasters combined, as was the case with the Spanish introducing salmonella to the Americas.

RANDOMNESS/BAD LUCK: Statistical analysis on empiressuggests that collapse is random and independent of age. Evolutionary biologist and data scientist Indre Zliobaite and her colleagues have observed a similar pattern in the evolutionary record of species. A common explanation of this apparent randomness is the “Red Queen Effect”: if species are constantly fighting for survival in a changing environment with numerous competitors, extinction is a consistent possibility.

Despite the abundance of books and articles, we don’t have a conclusive explanation as to why civilisations collapse. What we do know is this: the factors highlighted above can all contribute. Collapse is a tipping point phenomena, when compounding stressors overrun societal coping capacity.

We can examine these indicators of danger to see if our chance of collapse is falling or rising. Here are four of those possible metrics, measured over the past few decades:

Graphics showing collapse risk rising

Click/pinch to enlarge (Credit: Nigel Hawtin)

Temperature is a clear metric for climate change, GDP is a proxy for complexity and the ecological footprint is an indicator for environmental degradation. Each of these has been trending steeply upwards.

Inequality is more difficult to calculate. The typical measurement of the Gini Index suggests that inequality has decreased slightly globally (although it is increasing within countries). However, the Gini Index can be misleading as it only measures relative changes in income. In other words, if two individuals earning $1 and $100,000 both doubled their income, the Gini would show no change. But the gap between the two would have jumped from $99,999 to $198,000.

Because of this, I have also depicted the income share of the global top 1%. The 1% have increased in their share of global income from approximately 16% in 1980 to over 20% today. Importantly, wealth inequality is even worse. The share of global wealth from the 1% has swelled from 25-30% in the 1980s to approximately 40% in 2016. The reality is likely to be starker as these numbers do not capture wealth and income siphoned into overseas tax havens.

Homeless on Wall Street (Credit: Getty Images)

The rich are getting richer, which in past civilisations has created additional stress on societies (Credit: Getty Images)

Studies suggest that the EROI for fossil fuels has been steadily decreasing over time as the easiest to reach and richest reserves are depleted. Unfortunately, most renewable replacements, such as solar, have a markedly lower EROI, largely due to their energy density and the rare earth metals and manufacturing required to produce them.

This has led much of the literature to discuss the possibility of an “energy cliff” as EROI declines to a point where current societal levels of affluence can no longer be maintained. The energy cliff need not be terminal if renewable technologies continue to improve and energy efficiency measures are speedily implemented.

Measures of resilience

The somewhat reassuring news is that collapse metrics are not the entire picture. Societal resilience may be able to delay or prevent collapse.

For example, globally “economic diversity” – a measurement of the diversity and sophistication of country exports ­– is greater today than it was in the 1960s and 1970s, as measured by the Economic Complexity Index (ECI). Nations are, on average, less reliant on single types of exports than they once were. For example, a nation that had diversified beyond only exporting agricultural products would be more likely to weather ecological degradation or the loss of trading partners. The ECI also measures the knowledge-intensity of exports. More skilled populations may have a greater capacity to respond to crises as they arise.

There are some reasons to be optimistic, thanks to our ability to innovate and diversify away from disaster. Yet the world is worsening in areas that have contributed to the collapse of previous societies

Similarly, innovation – as measured by per capita patent applications– is also rising. In theory, a civilisation might be less vulnerable to collapse if new technologies can mitigate against pressures such as climate change.

It’s also possible that “collapse” can happen without violent catastrophe. As Rachel Nuwer wrote on BBC Future in 2017, “in some cases, civilisations simply fade out of existence – becoming the stuff of history not with a bang but a whimper”.

Factory workers welding (Credit: Getty Images)

Our technological capabilities may have the potential to delay collapse (Credit: Getty Images)

Still, when we look at all these collapse and resilience indicators as a whole, the message is clear that we should not be complacent. There are some reasons to be optimistic, thanks to our ability to innovate and diversify away from disaster. Yet the world is worsening in areas that have contributed to the collapse of previous societies. The climate is changing, the gap between the rich and poor is widening, the world is becoming increasingly complex, and our demands on the environment are outstripping planetary carrying capacity.

The rungless ladder

That’s not all. Worryingly, the world is now deeply interconnected and interdependent. In the past, collapse was confined to regions – it was a temporary setback, and people often could easily return to agrarian or hunter-gatherer lifestyles. For many, it was even a welcome reprieve from the oppression of early states. Moreover, the weapons available during social disorder were rudimentary: swords, arrows and occasionally guns.

Today, societal collapse is a more treacherous prospect. The weapons available to a state, and sometimes even groups, during a breakdown now range from biological agents to nuclear weapons. New instruments of violence, such as lethal autonomous weapons, may be available in the near future. People are increasingly specialised and disconnected from the production of food and basic goods. And a changing climate may irreparably damage our ability to return to simple farming practices.

Think of civilisation as a poorly-built ladder. As you climb, each step that you used falls away. A fall from a height of just a few rungs is fine. Yet the higher you climb, the larger the fall. Eventually, once you reach a sufficient height, any drop from the ladder is fatal.

With the proliferation of nuclear weapons, we may have already reached this point of civilisational “terminal velocity”. Any collapse – any fall from the ladder – risks being permanent. Nuclear war in itself could result in an existential risk: either the extinction of our species, or a permanent catapult back to the Stone Age.

Syria ruin

A woman walks in the ruins of a town in Syria following conflict between fighters (Credit: Getty Images)

While we are becoming more economically powerful and resilient, our technological capabilities also present unprecedented threats that no civilisation has had to contend with. For example, the climatic changes we face are of a different nature to what undid the Maya or Anazasi. They are global, human-driven, quicker, and more severe.

Assistance in our self-imposed ruin will not come from hostile neighbors, but from our own technological powers. Collapse, in our case, would be a progress trap.

The collapse of our civilisation is not inevitable. History suggests it is likely, but we have the unique advantage of being able to learn from the wreckages of societies past.

We know what needs to be done: emissions can be reduced, inequalities levelled, environmental degradation reversed, innovation unleashed and economies diversified. The policy proposals are there. Only the political will is lacking. We can also invest in recovery. There are already well-developed ideas for improving the ability of food and knowledge systems to be recuperated after catastrophe. Avoiding the creation of dangerous and widely-accessible technologies is also critical. Such steps will lessen the chance of a future collapse becoming irreversible.

We will only march into collapse if we advance blindly. We are only doomed if we are unwilling to listen to the past.

Luke Kemp is a researcher based at the Centre for the Study of Existential Risk at the University of Cambridge. He tweets @lukakemp.

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If You’re Children Don’t Stand And Pledge Allegiance To Our Flag: Arrest Them?

 

A couple of day ago I reblogged an article from NBC News out of central Florida about a 6th grade student who was arrested because she refused to stand or to pledge allegiance on the morning of February 4th of this year. Their headline was a bit of a tease to draw readers into the story. As it turns out there is more to the storyline. If you wish to read the whole story it was published on 2-19. The original story gives us quite a few facts about events that went on that morning.

Today I have a question for you, I would like to know what you think about this subject matter. This student in Florida was arrested on charges other than not giving any respect to Our Flag. As most folks here in the U.S. know that some NFL football players started a trend by not standing for Our Nation’s Anthem. The players are adults, fining or arresting them is a separate question than the one I am asking today, today I am talking about, asking about our Children and Grandchildren. If children whom are in Public Schools choose not to stand or salute Our Nation’s Flag should they be arrested, sent to ‘Reform School’, shot? Or, do we as a Nation, we as a People show mercy through our strength? Are we still the World’s Melting Pot? Melting Pots are not only about skin color they are also about things such as different religions, cultures, different foods, way of dressing and countless other things. Yet what we cannot become and still remain a Melting Pot, a true Democracy is if we insist that everyone else be exactly like us or should we, arrest all their kids at school? I am just saying, what is ‘the’/’our’ End Game gonna be? Where is ‘The Mark’, that crosses over our personal Line-in-The-Sand when it comes to the Government and our own children?

Sixth-grader arrested in Florida after refusal to participate in Pledge of Allegiance led to confrontation

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF NBC NEWS)

 

Sixth-grader arrested in Florida after refusal to participate in Pledge of Allegiance led to confrontation

He was charged with disrupting a school function and resisting an officer without violence.
By Tim Stelloh

A sixth-grader in Florida was arrested after his refusal to participate in the Pledge of Allegiance escalated into a confrontation with police and school officials, authorities said.

The unnamed boy was charged with disrupting a school function and resisting an officer without violence on Feb. 4, the Lakeland Police Department said in a news release.

A local news outlet, Bay News 9, reported that the confrontation began after the student at Lawton Chiles Middle Academy, near Tampa, called the flag racist and described the national anthem as offensive.

Citing a statement provided to the Polk School District by the boy’s substitute teacher, the station reported that the teacher asked him, “why if it was so bad here he did not go to another place to live.”

“They brought me here,” the boy replied, according to the statement.

After the teacher told him he could “always go back,” she called the school’s office “because I did not want to continue dealing with him,” the station reported.

The district did not respond to a request for comment on Sunday, but a school spokesman told the Ledger, a local newspaper, that students are not required to participate in the pledge.

The spokesman, Kyle Kennedy, told the newspaper that the teacher, Ana Alvarez, wasn’t aware of that policy and would no longer work with the district.

The boy’s mother, Dhakira Talbot, disputed the school’s claims, telling NBC News that her son “is not a disrespectful kid.”

“What I do know is when she asked my son about it, he responded to her enlightening her on his reasonings,” Talbot said. “It wasn’t just that the flag is racist. I don’t teach my children that the flag is racist.”

After the confrontation began, the school’s dean of students tried unsuccessfully to calm the student down, asking him to leave the class 20 times, police said.

“The school resource officer then intervened and asked the student to exit the classroom and he refused,” the department said. “The student left the classroom and created another disturbance and made threats while he was escorted to the office.”

The Lakeland Police Department said in a statement that the boy was not arrested for refusing to stand for or recite the Pledge of Allegiance. “This arrest was based on the student’s choice to disrupt the classroom, make threats and resisting the officer’s efforts to leave the classroom.”

Talbot denied that her son made any threats and said the school “didn’t handle it the way they should have handled it.”

She told NBC News her son was overwhelmed with the situation, and she transferred him to another school.

“I want my son to know, I don’t care what any other parent say or any other parents do, that I’m going to stand up for him,” Talbot said.

Is Tehran spying on Southern California?

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE LOS ANGELES TIMES)

 

Is Tehran spying on Southern California? Feds say O.C. waiter and ‘Chubby’ from Long Beach were agents of Iran

Is Tehran spying on Southern California? Feds say O.C. waiter and ‘Chubby’ from Long Beach were agents of Iran
Authorities allege that two Iranians were operating in Orange County as spies on behalf of Iran. One of the men, Majid Ghorbani, worked at Darya, a popular Persian restaurant in Sana Ana, for more than 20 years. (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

They seemed an unlikely pair of spies.

The older man, Majid Ghorbani, worked at a posh Persian restaurant in Santa Ana’s South Coast Village Plaza. At 59, he wore a thick gray mustache and the weary expression of a man who had served up countless plates of rice and kebab.

The younger man, Ahmadreza Mohammadi Doostdar, was a Long Beach native who held dual U.S.-Iranian citizenship. Round-faced and bespectacled, the 38-year-old answered to the Farsi nickname “Topol,” or “Chubby.”

Yet even as the men sipped coffee at a Costa Mesa Starbucks, chatted outside an Irvine market, or made trips to Macy’s at South Coast Plaza, they were doggedly trailed by federal agents.

Despite the pair’s disarming appearance, U.S. authorities allege they were operating in Orange County as agents of the Islamic Republic of Iran — an accusation that has alarmed many in the local Persian community because it suggests tensions between the U.S. and Iran have spilled over into Southern California.

The men’s goal, authorities say, was to conduct surveillance on Israeli and Jewish facilities in the U.S., and to collect information on members of the Mujahedin Khalq, MEK, an Iranian exile group that has long sought to topple the regime in Tehran and enjoys newfound support among members of the Trump administration.

Within the span of a year — from the summer of 2017 to the spring of 2018 — authorities say the men crisscrossed Orange County and the United States, videotaping participants at MEK rallies in New York and Washington, D.C., and photographing Jewish centers in Chicago.

During that time, the men also flew back and forth between Iran and Los Angeles International Airport, and appeared to be assembling “target packages” — dossiers that would “enable an intelligence or military unit to find, fix, track and neutralize a threat,” according to documents filed in Washington, D.C., federal court.

In at least one instance, the pair were recorded by an FBI listening device as Ghorbani briefed Doostdar on a New York MEK event in September 2017, according to court documents.

“I took some pictures and collected some information of them and some senators that they are working with,” the waiter said, according to court documents. “I have prepared a package, but it is not complete.”

::

The target of the alleged spying, the MEK, is a shadowy organization with a militant past. Up until 2012, it was deemed a terrorist organization by the U.S. State Department. Although few Americans have heard of it, the group has vexed the Iranian government since the revolution of 1979, when members helped to overthrow the shah.

Led by a husband-and-wife power couple — Massoud and Maryam Rajavi — the group was sheltered and armed by Saddam Hussein for nearly 20 years. Known for its female-led military units, the MEK was disarmed after the invasion of Iraq in 2003. Massoud Rajavi went missing that same year and is believed to be dead.

Despite a long history of lobbying U.S. lawmakers and officials for support, few have taken the group seriously — up until now, that is.

President Trump’s national security advisor, John Bolton, is not only a prominent hawk on Iran, he has championed the MEK. Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s lawyer, has also supported the group.

“The MEK in recent years has spent time and money building political capital,” said Daniel Benjamin, director of Dartmouth College’s Center for International Understanding. “Bolton has been the MEK’s most dedicated long marcher.”

Although the Trump administration has not explicitly stated that it seeks regime change in Iran, it has reimposed tough economic sanctions and pulled out of a 2015 nuclear deal. These actions, as well as new, cozier relations with the MEK, have apparently worried Iran enough to act against the group.

In a case similar to the one in Orange County, two Iranians in Albania were arrested in March after allegedly surveilling the MEK. In July, an Iranian diplomat in Germany was arrested on suspicion of plotting to bomb a MEK rally in Paris.

“This is escalation of Iran attempting to attack us,” said Alireza Jafarzadeh, the U.S. deputy director of the National Council of Resistance of Iran — an MEK-linked organization.

::

It is unclear how Ghorbani and Doostdar first came into contact, but investigators believe their first physical meeting occurred behind Darya, the Persian restaurant where Ghorbani had worked for more than 20 years.

Doostdar was born in Long Beach but left at a young age to move to Canada and then Iran. An energy tech consultant, Doostdar had visited the U.S. on only a few occasions, court documents say. His wife gave birth to a baby girl in late August and was hoping to bring her to the U.S.

Ghorbani, whom neighbors and co-workers described as quiet and easygoing, was born in Iran but immigrated to the U.S. in 1995. He kept mostly to himself and lived with his brother and a Pomeranian dog in a quiet Costa Mesa apartment complex not far from the restaurant.

A fellow employee, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because she wasn’t authorized to speak on behalf of the restaurant, said Ghorbani was well-liked and generous. On one occasion, Ghorbani lent money to a co-worker who was struggling, the employee said.

Investigators said Ghorbani also infiltrated meetings the MEK held at Darya. During one meetup in early August, Ghorbani met with MEK members as they discussed sending three American senators to evaluate the group’s base in Albania, according to the indictment.

Rene Redjaian, a spokeswoman for Darya, said the restaurant owners had no idea that Ghorbani was allegedly involved in spying. “Our owners love America and knew nothing about the events that took place at Darya,” Redjaian said.

As time went on, the men continued their alleged covert operation, unaware that federal agents were closing in.

In December 2017, Doostdar returned to Iran allegedly to hand over the intelligence Ghorbani had collected. Unbeknownst to him, FBI agents searched his checked luggage at LAX and found an orange and white CVS pharmacy envelope. Inside the envelope, FBI agents found photos of Ghorbani standing next to people who were at the New York City MEK rally from September 2017. Many of the photographs had names and positions of the individuals written on the back, including one photograph that had “Dr. Ahmad Rajavi, the brother of Massoud,” written on it, prosecutors said in court documents.

In March 2018, Ghorbani traveled to Iran to conduct an in-person briefing about ways to take photos for an upcoming conference supported by the MEK, prosecutors allege.

When he returned April 17, authorities found tucked in his luggage a list written in Farsi that detailed his future tasks, including deeper infiltration into the MEK and recruiting a second person, according to court documents.

The pair never succeeded in allegedly recruiting another operative, however.

On Aug. 9, FBI agents swarmed Darya restaurant and arrested Ghorbani in front of stunned co-workers.

Doostdar was arrested the same day in Chicago.

Both men have been accused of acting as agents of a foreign government without prior notification of the U.S. attorney general and with providing services to Iran in violation of U.S. sanctions. Both men have pleaded not guilty and remain in custody.

Ghorbani’s lawyer has declined to comment on the case. Doostdar’s attorney, Thomas Durkin, said he’s suspicious about the timing of his client’s arrest considering it comes on the heels of Trump reimposing sanctions against Iran.

“There’s political machinations going on between the Trump administration and Iran. Why did the government all of a sudden decide to arrest these people?” he said.

::

The arrests of Ghorbani and Doostdar have left many in Orange County’s Persian community shaken.

“There is a sense of fear in the Iranian community that the regime in Iran are sending people to USA and keeping track of movements,” said Mike Kazemi, an Irvine immigration lawyer.

For those in the Persian community who are against the Islamic Republic but also disagree with the Trump administration’s policies toward Iran, the escalation in tensions has been disconcerting. They say it serves as a reminder of how both American and Iranian officials view members of the Iranian diaspora with suspicion.

“We are in the middle of two hard places,” Kazemi said.

Yet others in the community say they are refusing to allow geopolitics to interfere with their day-to-day lives.

Nasrin Rahimieh, a professor of humanities at UC Irvine, said she understands how recent developments might cause some Persians to feel scared of being too visible.

Throughout her career, Rahimieh said, she has been chastised for either appearing pro-Islamic Republic or anti-Islamic Republic.

But those experiences have left Rahimieh emboldened to speak out against what she said is the fear-mongering rhetoric present in today’s political environment.

“There is such rabid desire to show Iranians as bad actors and as bad agents that it’s had the opposite effect on me,” Rahimieh said. “To paint all Iranians with the same brush is something that needs to be protested.”

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Gov. Shutdown About To Get ‘Really Bad’ For Unpaid TSA Workers

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE HUFFINGTON POST)

 

POLITICS 

01/10/2019 01:11 pm ET

The Government Shutdown Is About To Get ‘Really Bad’ For Unpaid TSA Workers

These essential federal employees are about to miss their first paycheck of 2019.
X

Transportation Security Administration employees would normally receive their first paycheck of the year on Friday, but the government shutdown means that won’t happen. Instead, workers are bracing for the next phase of the shutdown as they worry how to pay for gas, rent and food with no income in sight.

Now, the effects of the shutdown will get a whole lot worse, the TSA employee union and several officers told HuffPost.

“Morale is, I believe, close to rock bottom, and I think things will start getting really bad if this isn’t fixed by this weekend,” one TSA officer told HuffPost, requesting anonymity out of concern over repercussions at work.

TSA employees received their last paycheck on Dec. 28, giving them money that would typically last through the next pay period ― but which will now have to stretch much further. Many TSA workers live paycheck to paycheck, with the starting salary for officers between $25,000 to $30,000 a year. The shutdown has already forced some employees to look for new jobs or take on extra work, TSA staff say, and the pressure is immense for employees and families with no other source of income.

“I don’t know how people are going to get to work next week, when we don’t get a check,” said Joe Shuker, a regional vice president for the TSA employee union. Shuker says many workers will have to choose between the cost of getting to their job at the airport and covering everyday living expenses.

The shutdown is taking an increasing toll on federal workers, adding stress to already difficult work environments such as airport security. As the situation deteriorates at these jobs, some experts warn that it may also increase the risk of corruption at borders, prisons and airports. Meanwhile, the TSA employee union claims that a loss of staff over the shutdown could create a “massive security risk” for travelers if the agency is left short-handed.

People are out of money already.Joe Shuker, a regional vice president for the TSA employee union

Although TSA officers will very likely receive back pay when the government eventually reopens, that does little to help with their immediate expenses and concerns. Because TSA workers are classified as providing essential services, they must continue to work through the shutdown with no pay coming in and can face disciplinary action for unexplained absences.

Already the shutdown has resulted in hundreds of employees calling out of work sick, according to union officials. The TSA has rejected reports of widespread callouts, however, with a representative telling HuffPost that rates are only slightly higher than at this time last year ― but multiple employees say that they do know of some officers who are calling out due to the shutdown.

“No one wants to go to work and not get paid, especially for a job like TSA,” another TSA officer told HuffPost, also on the condition of anonymity.

The shutdown is now in its 20th day, and there is no sign of a breakthrough in negotiations over President Donald Trump’s demand for $5 billion to fund a border wall with Mexico. On Wednesday, Trump abruptly walked out of a meeting with top Democratic leaders ― which Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) described as “a temper tantrum because he couldn’t get his way.”

Hundreds of thousands of federal workers are either furloughed or working without pay during the shutdown, often resulting in them scrambling to make rent or even pay for medicine. Federal workers have already held or planned protests in major cities, including one in Washington, D.C., on Thursday, and Shuker expects more to come if the shutdown isn’t resolved soon.

“I can’t imagine it being a good situation next week, because people are out of money already,” Shuker said.

“We’ve got a lot of dedicated people, man, but sooner or later they’re gonna break.”

Can We Respect The Office Of Our President: Even If We Don’t Respect The President?

Can We Respect The Office Of Our President: Even If We Don’t Respect The President?

 

The first President I remember was the day President John Kennedy got murdered. Since then I have known of all of these Presidents, while they were Our President, some of whom I have little personal respect for. Johnson, Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, B-1, Clinton,  B-2, Obama, Trump. So, that means that I have known 10 Reins of power in my time. Some of the Men who have held this position were Democrats and some were Republicans, some of each were good, some were very not good. Even if we like, or dislike a certain man can we still respect the Office Of The Presidency of Our Country while they were holding it? I have known 10 Presidents, 4 of them Democrats, 6 Republicans. Personally I would give passing grades to 3 of these 10 men at doing at least an okay job of being Our President, of Our Country. The Passing grades would go to 2 Democrats and 1 Republican. Yes I may be a bit harsh on this issue, but shouldn’t we all be, at least on this issue?

 

Now that I got that pet peeve out of the way there are 2 others that I would like to talk with you about. One of these I remember seeing somewhere recently here online. Disrespectful things, at least to me, in my opinion.

Does the Nations Media ever refer to Our President as President, in at least as far back as George Bush Senior? Nowadays we pretty much only hear Obama or Trump did or didn’t do this or that, almost never it seems do I see or hear, President Obama or President Trump, do you?

 

The other pet peeve is how political type posters start off their slogans on how they want you to remember them, when is the last time you ever seen or heard them simply start their slogan or request with the simple word Please? The word Please is meant to simply refer to as a Request. Why is it wrong to say ‘Please vote for me’ instead of simply ‘vote for me’? Why is showing kindness for each other now out of style? Why not say ‘Please Support Our Troops’? is to do so being weak in your eyes? Would you not rather be asked to do something over being ordered to do the same thing?

 

Well, I guess that’s it for my pet peeve quipes of the day, I hope it gave you a moment or two of mental relaxation. I do hope that you are each able to have a good and a safe weekend.

ARJung

writing fairy tales with a steampunk and folkpunk twist

poetry etc.

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