Monday, April 30, 2012

When a picture doesn't tell the story

Click images to enlarge
Because pictures are of necessity cropped, it is easy for them to miss the real story. We've all seen the deceptive picture cropping that comes out of Pallywood. They, and other groups that do the same thing, do it to add drama to a picture to create a false narrative. 

The above picture is an example of the opposite. It's cropped in such a way as to suck the drama out of it, or perhaps more accurately in this case, to set up a punchline. It looks like a fellow with a ladder leaned against the wall to do a simple repair. You'll have to click on the "Read more" link below to see a version of the picture that is cropped differently, which tells a considerably different story in the process that shows the worker in a much crazier light. 

A much, much crazier light.

Slow Blues

Monday morning, start of the workweek blues with James Cotton.


Sunday, April 29, 2012

Jefferson on Rushmore

Click any image to enlarge
I first posted the above picture of the early stages of the carving of Mount Rushmore in the post Mount Rushmore, Stone Mountain and Crazy Horse. In it you can see a face to the left of Washington. That was going to be where Jefferson was carved, but the decided the rock was unsuitable so they moved him.

I found some pictures from the design phase of Rushmore, and as you can see all of the figures moved around a bit. The final picture is from later in the carving process, where the four are in their familiar positions.

The pictures are from La boite verte, which has a few other good pictures from the carving of the monument.

Instrument Architecture

Click to enlarge
Above is a sample from a series of posters done by Bjoern Ewers for the Berlin Philharmonic. He photographed the inside of instruments, which gives them an architectural feel. There are more of the posters at Wall to Watch's post Music instruments.  

Saturday, April 28, 2012

A soundtrack for Mister Foley

DIY pulsejet engines

The frightening looking engine in the video above, which ends up glowing white hot, is a pulsejet. Pulsejets have very few moving parts. They work by compressing the fuel in the combustion chamber by forcing air in. The fuel is then ignited and as it is exhausted it creates a vacuum which draws in and compresses more fuel and air, as well drawing back some of the hot exhaust. The hot exhaust then triggers further combustion. The result is a pulsing of the exhaust gas which give the engine its name.

A clearer explanation, with diagrams, can be found at Bruce Simpson's How Pulsejets Work page at his website. His website has a wealth of information and is well worth a visit. He has numerous projects he describes, including a pulsejet-powered dragster which he describes as being "terrifying" (I believe that), sells kits, books and in has a lot of general information about the engines.

By the way, the video is not Bruce Simpson. It's from another fellow who's home-brewing a pulse jet.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Stratfor and Mary Oyaya

In this Stratfor article Scott Stewart examines the threat that the al Shabaab, a group grown from the contacts between al Queda and Somalian militants, poses outside of Somalia. 

In particular in Kenya he examines the recent threats al Shabaab has made against Kenya in light of Kenya's successful military incursion into southern Somalia.

The beginning of the article is excerpted below, with a link to the full article at the end of the excerpt.

For the article's Hot Stratfor Babe I naturally turned to Kenyan actresses and model and discovered Mary Oyaya, a young lady who satisfied both conditions and so she's been awarded the honor.

Ms Oyaya is best known to international audiences for her role as Jedi Master Luminara Unduli in Star Wars II, Attack of Clones. I'll confess to not being able to comment on her performance since, although I saw the film, I don't exactly remember anything about it other than the Galactic Senate debating bills and Natalie Portman and young Anakin riding giant fleas as they courted each other.

However, Mary Oyaya has an interesting biography. She's the daughter of 2 U.N. diplomats and wants to eventually also get a postion at the U.N. She has a Masters in International Relations and is working on another in International social Development -- which sounds like just the sort of flap doodle you would expect out an aspiring U.N. do-nothing functionary.

In the meanwhile she's also done a fair degree of modeling and has begun to work in TV and films.

Al Shabaab's Threat to Kenya
By Scott Stewart, April 26, 2012

The U.S. Embassy in Nairobi, Kenya, released a message April 23 informing U.S. citizens in the country that it had received credible information regarding a possible attack against Nairobi hotels and prominent Kenyan government buildings. According to the message, the embassy has reason to believe the attack is in the last stages of the attack planning cycle.

The warning comes as thousands of Kenyan troops occupy much of southern Somalia. Along with a force of Ethiopian troops, local militias and a contingent of African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) troops, the Kenyans are placing heavy pressure on al Shabaab, the al Qaeda-linked Somali militant group in southern Somalia.

This external military pressure has exacerbated frictions within al Shabaab between nationalist and transnationalist elements. Mukhtar Robow, aka Abu Mansur, leads the nationalist faction, which is based in the Bay and Bakool regions. Ahmad Abdi Godane, aka Abu Zubayr, leads the transnationalist faction, which is based in Kismayo.

It has been almost two years since we last examined al Shabaab's interest in conducting and ability to carry out transnational terrorist operations. The current warning in Nairobi provides a convenient opportunity to do so once again.

Al Qaeda in East Africa and the Birth of al Shabaab

Al Qaeda and Somali militants have long interacted. In a 1997 CNN interview, Osama bin Laden told Peter Bergen that his fighters helped the Somali militants in the 1993 battle of Mogadishu, the events memorialized in Mark Bowden's book Black Hawk Down: A Story of Modern War (1999). Bin Laden and a good portion of the al Qaeda leadership relocated to Sudan in 1992, where they remained until 1996. During that period, they established a network of business and operational contacts across East Africa. By that point, they had trained militants in camps in Afghanistan for years. They could well have had operatives in Mogadishu in 1993 and could have provided training to militants involved in the incident.

After leaving Sudan in 1996, al Qaeda maintained its network in East Africa. It used the network to plan and execute the August 7, 1998, twin bombings of the U.S. embassies in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. The Nairobi attack proved deadlier. A massive vehicle-borne improvised device (VBIED) heavily damaged the embassy in Nairobi and several nearby buildings, including the adjacent Ufundi Cooperative Plaza, a high-rise that collapsed from the blast. The attack killed 213 people, including 12 Americans, and wounded some 4,000 others.

Some of the men allegedly affiliated with the 1998 attacks, such as Fazul Abdullah Mohammed, Abu Taha al-Sudani and Saleh Ali Saleh Nabhan, would later be accused of planning and executing the Nov. 28, 2002, attacks in Mombasa, Kenya, in which a VBIED was used to target the Israeli-owned Paradise Hotel and two SA-7 shoulder-fired surface-to-air missiles were launched at an Israeli Boeing 757 passenger jet departing Mombasa's airport. The missiles missed the aircraft, perhaps due to countermeasures, but the VBIED killed 10 Kenyans and three Israelis.

Abdullah Mohammed, al-Sudani and Nabhan all fled to Somalia, where they worked with and were protected by organizations, such as al-Ittihad al-Islam, a long-standing Somali militant group later folded into the Supreme Islamic Courts Council (SICC), formerly the Islamic Courts Union. When Ethiopian troops invaded Somalia in late 2006 and overthrew the SICC, many of the more hardcore elements joined the SICC youth wing, al Shabaab, which then became a separate militant organization. As noted, al Shabaab is not a unified organization. Instead, it is comprises several factions led by individual warlords who each adhere to a slightly different ideology. The al Qaeda-linked foreign fighters in Somalia tend to associate with the more transnationally minded militants, such as the group led by Godane.

Since al Shabaab's spinoff, al-Sudani was killed in an airstrike in southern Somalia in January 2007. Nabhan was killed by a helicopter ambush in southern Somalia in September 2009, and Abdullah Mohammed was reportedly shot at a police checkpoint in Mogadishu in June 2011.

Al Shabaab Attacks Outside Somalia

Just over a month after we published our assessment of al Shabaab as a transnational threat, the group conducted suicide bomb attacks against two targets in Kampala, Uganda, on July 11, 2010. The attacks, which targeted people watching a World Cup soccer match, reportedly killed 74 and wounded another 70.

Shortly thereafter, al Shabaab spokesman Ali Mohamud Rage claimed credit for the attacks, saying they were a response to Uganda's participation in AMISOM. Rage threatened additional attacks against Uganda and also threatened Burundi, which has furnished forces for AMISOM. But the group has not followed up on these threats, and there have been no additional attacks in Uganda or attacks in Burundi.

Kampala is not the only regional capital where militants associated with, or sympathetic to, al Shabaab have conducted attacks. On Oct. 24, 2011, a Kenyan who claimed to be affiliated with al Shabaab conducted two hand-grenade attacks in Nairobi, one at a bus stop and the second at a disco. The attacks killed one person and wounded 20 others. Then on March 10, several hand grenades were thrown at a busy bus stop in central Nairobi while a bus was loading passengers headed to Kampala. That attack killed six and wounded 63. Kenyan officials have called the March 10 attack the deadliest terrorist attack in Nairobi since the 1998 U.S. Embassy bombing.

To date, the attacks in Nairobi involved only grenades and were all directed against soft targets (as were the Kampala attacks). In Somalia, by contrast, al Shabaab has carried out devastating attacks against hard targets. For example, on Feb. 22, 2009, the group launched a suicide VBIED attack against an AMISOM base in Mogadishu that killed 11 Burundian soldiers. On Sept. 17, 2009, a suicide VBIED attack against the AMISOM headquarters at the Mogadishu airport killed 21, including AMISOM's deputy commander, and wounded 40. And on Oct. 4, 2011, al Shabaab detonated a massive VBIED outside a compound that housed government offices in Mogadishu. The attack killed at least 65 people and wounded hundreds of others. Al Shabaab can also conduct standoff attacks with rocket-propelled grenades or mortars launched at hardened targets, as seen by the frequent targeting of the presidential compound in Mogadishu.

Read more: Al Shabaab's Threat to Kenya | Stratfor

Travel In Order Not To Arrive

Get ready for an aimless weekend with Jazzamor.


Thursday, April 26, 2012

Martian avalanche

Click any image to enlarge
I'm a little pressed for time, so I only have time for a quick couple of pictures. Above is a Martian avalanche taken by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. As the Bad Astronomy post Another awesome Martian avalanche (which has links to other pictures of Martian avalanches and their aftermaths) explains:
Spring is approaching us here in the northern hemisphere on Earth once again, and we are experiencing the annual thaw of the winter ice.

Spring is approaching the northern hemisphere of Mars as well, and with it comes the thaw of carbon dioxide ice. Some of that dry ice sits at the tops of cliffs, and when it thaws it dislodges the material there. The rock and debris on Mars then does the same thing it would do on Earth: it falls. Fast.

And when it does, you get [the above pictured] slice of Martian awesomeness.
By the way, the Bad Astronomy post after following a link from a post at the Spanish site Fogonazos which had the below picture of a Martian dust devil. By measuring the shadow the dust devil is estimated to be  a little over 2600 feet (800 meters) in size.

They'll wonder what Packards were

Meru, by W.B. Yeats

Civilisation is hooped together, brought
Under a rue, under the semblance of peace
By manifold illusion; but man's life is thought,
And he, despite his terror, cannot cease
Ravening through century after century,
Ravening, raging, and uprooting that he may come
Into the desolation of reality:
Egypt and Greece, good-bye, and good-bye, Rome!
Hermits upon Mount Meru or Everest,
Caverned in night under the drifted snow,
Or where that snow and winter's dreadful blast
Beat down upon their naked bodies, know
That day brings round the night, that before dawn
His glory and his monuments are gone.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

The next miracle on ice

Turkmenistan goalies dare not block this guy's shots (lick to enlarge)
No, your eyes do not deceive you. Above is a picture of Kurbanguly Berdymukhamedov, the former dentist and current President of Turkmenistan wearing a hockey jersey and holding a hockey stick. You may wonder, considering the fact that Turkmenistan is a desert country, "what's up with that?"

Berdymukhamedov, after getting over his infatuation with his yacht and his plans to turn his resort Avaza into the Monaco of the East as well as the Las Vegas of the East, has settled on a new scheme -- bringing the Olympic Gold Medal in hockey to Turkmenistan. 

It may have something to do with Berdymukhamedov blowing gobs of money on a gigantic sports complex which many observers believe is his first step in attempting to win the rights to host the Olympics in the near future.

Whatever his motive, to create his new hockey teams and prepare them for international competition Berdymukhamedov has ordered the ministers of various departments in his government to each form a hockey team. As the Turkmenistan government website reports:
The Turkmen leader instructed the relevant officials to create hockey teams at the basis of other branches of the national economy and to provide the teams with all necessary equipment and conditions for development.

The Turkmen leader also underlined the necessity of developing an efficient system of material encouragement of sportsmen wining the prize places of the Olympic Games, prestigious international and national competitions, their coaches and other specialists. The President of Turkmenistan demanded the relevant officials to draft a Resolution allowing Masters of Sports and qualified coaches practicing sports at the contract basis.

Minister of Internal Affairs I. Imamkuliev reported on creation of the hockey team of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Turkmenistan.

Commenting on the report, the President of Turkmenistan gave specific instructions to the relevant officials to take all necessary measures to promote such a new for our country sport as hockey and create the modern conditions for training jockey teams for the competitions of various levels.

It was also underlined the necessity to draft an emblem and design of the outfit for each team.

Government agencies as the basis for Olympic gold winning hockey teams? Sounds like a plan to me.  

At an rate, the first tournament -- the President’s Hockey Junior Cup -- was held on World Health Day, which occurs during the Week of Health and Happiness. In that tournament the Burgut team of the State Committee for Tourism and Sports of Turkmenistan came out on top and thus Turkmenistan Championship Hockey was born.

Cooking dog

Yea, my post title was nothing but a a tease. Instead, just little foolishness to get you over hump day. In this video a chef in the guise of a talking dog, rather than getting eaten by you know who, explains how to prepare a bento lunch box. Although the Vienna sausage octopuses are a little weird, the results look pretty tasty.


Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Stratfor and Oxana Fyodorova

George Friedman continues his review of the major world powers by discussing Russia in this installment. He points out that Russia has always had a weak and poorly economy and that its empire has been bound together by strong, centrally controlled security forces.

At the end of the cold War, and realizing they had profound economic problems, Perestroika and Glasnost were attempts by the security apparatus of the Soviet Union to open up the economy while maintaining control that failed miserable for the Russian leadership. The result was a drift into kleptocracy after the U.S.S.R. disintegrated.

Since assuming power Putin has tried to rebuild, albeit in a different manner than the old Soviet model, a strong central security apparatus centered on the Russian heartland with buffer states to provide strategic depth. In this he has been aided by the U.S. being side-tracked from their involvement in Central and Eastern Europe by the aftermath of 9/11, and by the recent political and economic difficulties in the EU.

The beginning of Friedman's article is excerpted below, with a link to the entire article at the end of the excerpt.

For the article's Hot Stratfor Babe it occurred to me that the perfect choice would be a Russian police officer and beauty queen. After an exhaustive search, which took me to corners of the internet I hope to never have to revisit, I located just such a person in Oxana Fyodorova who is a Russian police major, 2002's Miss Universe and, as icing on the cake, the host of an award winning Russian kid's TV show.

Ms Fyodorova was working as a police inspector and studying for advancement at the Russian Ministry of Internal Affairs (MVD) University, which sounds like a charming school, when she took up modeling and started entering beauty pageants. She won Miss St Petersburg in 1999 and, after winning several other pageants, she won the Miss Universe title in 2002.

However, she had to relinquish the title. There were rumors of her being pregnant, but she claims it was because she was outraged by the treatment she got on the Howard Stern show. Since I don't want to end up hanging upside down in a Moscow jail cell getting whipped by an electric chord, even one being wielded by a Hot Stratfor Babe, I hereby accept her excuse over the pregnancy rumors. Shame on you Howard, shame, shame shame!   

Russia's Strategy

By George Friedman, April 24, 2012

The collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 reversed a process that had been under way since the Russian Empire's emergence in the 17th century. It was ultimately to incorporate four general elements: Eastern Europe, Central Asia, the Caucasus and Siberia. The St. Petersburg-Moscow axis was its core, and Russia, Belorussia and Ukraine were its center of gravity. The borders were always dynamic, mostly expanding but periodically contracting as the international situation warranted. At its farthest extent, from 1945 to 1989, it reached central Germany, dominating the lands it seized in World War II. The Russian Empire was never at peace. As with many empires, there were always parts of it putting up (sometimes violent) resistance and parts that bordering powers coveted -- as well as parts of other nations that Russia coveted.

The Russian Empire subverted the assumption that political and military power requires a strong economy: It was never prosperous, but it was frequently powerful. The Russians defeated Napoleon and Hitler and confronted the far wealthier Americans for more than four decades in the Cold War, in spite of having a less developed or less advanced economy. Its economic weakness certainly did undermine its military power at times, but to understand Russia, it is important to begin by understanding that the relationship between military and economic power is not a simple one.

Economy and Security

There are many reasons for Russia's economic dysfunction, but the first explanation, if not the full explanation, is geography and transportation. The Russians and Ukrainians have some of the finest farmland in the world, comparable to that of the American Midwest. The difference is transportation, the ability to move the harvest to the rest of the empire and its far away population centers. Where the United States has the Mississippi-Missouri-Ohio river system that integrates the area between the Rockies and the Appalachians, Russia's rivers do not provide an integrated highway to Russia, and given distances and lack of alternative modes of transport, Russian railways were never able to sustain consistent, bulk agricultural transport.

This is not to say that there wasn't integration in the empire's economy and that this didn't serve as a factor binding it together. It is to say that the lack of economic integration, and weakness in agricultural transport in particular, dramatically limited prosperity in the Russian Empire and the Soviet Union. At the same time, the relative underdevelopment of the empire and union made it impossible for them to successfully compete with Western Europe. Therefore, there was an economic motivation within the constituent parts of the empire and the union to integrate with each other. There could be synergies on a lower level of development among these nations.

Economics was one factor that bound the Russian Empire and Soviet Union together. Another was the military and security apparatus. The Russian security apparatus in particular played a significant role in holding first the empire and then the union together; in many ways, it was the most modern and efficient institution they had. Whatever temptations the constituent republics might have had to leave the empire or union, these were systematically repressed by internal security forces detecting and destroying opposition to the center. It could be put this way: The army created the empire. Its alignment of economic interests was the weak force holding it together, and the security apparatus was the strong force. If the empire and union were to survive, they would need economic relations ordered in such a way that some regions were put at a disadvantage, others at an advantage. That could happen only if the state were powerful enough to impose this reality. Since the state itself was limited in most dimensions, the security apparatus substituted for it. When the security apparatus failed, as it did at the end of World War I or in 1989-1991, the regime could not survive. When it did succeed, it held it all together.

In the Russian Empire, the economic force and the security force were supplemented by an overarching ideology: that of the Russian Orthodox Church, which provided a rationale for the system. The state security apparatus worked with the church and against dissident elements in other religions in the empire. In the Soviet Union, the religious ideology was supplemented with the secular ideology of Marxism-Leninism. The Soviet Union used its security apparatus to attempt a transformation of the economy and to crush opposition to the high cost of this transformation. In some sense, Marxism-Leninism was a more efficient ideology, since Russian Orthodoxy created religious differentials while Marxism-Leninism was hostile to all religions and at least theoretically indifferent to the many ethnicities and nations.

The fall of the Soviet Union really began with a crisis in the economy that created a crisis in the security force, the KGB. It was Yuri Andropov, the head of the KGB, who first began to understand the degree to which the Soviet Union's economy was failing under the growing corruption of the Brezhnev years and the cost of defense spending. The KGB understood two things. The first was that Russia had to restructure (Perestroika) or collapse. The second was that the traditional insularity of the Soviet Union had to be shifted and the Soviets had to open themselves to Western technology and methods (Glasnost). Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev was a reformer, but he was a communist trying to reform the system to save the party. He was proceeding from the KGB model. His and Andropov's gamble was that the Soviet Union could survive and open to the West without collapsing and that it could trade geopolitical interests, such as domination of Eastern Europe, for economic relations without shattering the Soviet Union. They lost the bet.

The Soviet Collapse

The 1990s was a catastrophic period for the former Soviet Union. Except for a few regions, the collapse of the Soviet state and the security apparatus led to chaos, and privatization turned into theft. Not surprisingly, the most sophisticated and well-organized portion of the Soviet apparatus, the KGB, played a major role in the kleptocracy and retained, more than other institutions, its institutional identity. Over time, its control over the economy revived informally, until one of its representatives, Vladimir Putin, emerged as the leader of the state.

Read more: Russia's Strategy | Stratfor

The first 12 years

A nice time lapse video of a girl named Lotte from birth to age 12 by her father Frans Hofmeester. This has been done before, usual by shooting a frame evey day or whatever interval of time they settle on. 

What's interesting about Hofmeester's approach is he filmed a short video every week, and pulled a few frames from each weekly video to build the time lapse. The result is, rather than her just staring at the camera, you get a bit of Lotte's personality with each weekly clip. She appears to be a talkative young lady.

Via Linkiest.

Monday, April 23, 2012

EFLI franchise question

Chennai Swarm at a March practice (click to enlarge)
I received the following question regarding EFLI (Elite Football League of India) franchises, "I was wondering if you knew why some of the teams in the new football league (Efli) are gone like the Punjab Warriors?"

As you know if you've been following my posts on EFLI, the listed EFLI franchises is a very confusing issue. At the moment the EFLI webpage is showing only eight teams logos: Bangalore Warhawks, Pershawar Wolfpack, Pune Marathas, Columbo Lions, Dehli Defenders, Kandy Skykings, Kolkata Vipers and the Mumbai Gladiators..

Neither my beloved Chennai Swarm or the Punjab Warriors are on that list, although both teams still appear in the league schedule with the Swarm slated to play Saturday, Nov 12, amd the Warriors scheduled to play the 13th. 

Also, both the teams are on Facebook: Swarm page and the Warriors page. The Swarm even have pictures of one of their practices up. However, both the Swarm's and Warrior's Facebook pages haven't been updated since March, so who knows? 

To add to the confusion, a March 31st Fox Sports article says the league has 9 teams: Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Bangalore, Hyderabad, Chennai, Pune, Rajasthan and Punjab (which is also what IndiaTelevision reported) while the EFLI Wikipedia page lists a total of 12 teams.

My gut feeling, and this is just speculation on my part, is that the league is still in flux as they assemble it and recruit investors. I know this hasn't exactly answered the question. I'll try to get a hold of the EFLI and see if they will send me an official list of their franchises.

I Have Trouble

Monday morning, start of the workweek blues by Belton Sutherland.


Sunday, April 22, 2012

Adventure magazine covers

Click any image to enlarge
This post features covers from the pulp magazine Adventure and are taken from the MagazineArt archive. Adventure was published from 1910 until 1966 and featured adventure fiction, most of it nautical or western themes. Although, around 1915 it looks like it may have flirted with being more of a women's romance magazine.

U ntil the very end of its run the covers aren't titillating like most pulps. They feature very few buxom, half-naked women in distress. In fact, many of them are very minimal and actually are quite nice graphics.

There are more covers after the jump, and many, many more at the MagazineArt archive

Also, if you like this post you may also like Man's Life magazine covers or Babies for sale, both featuring pulp magazine covers from the MagazineArt archives.

The Fordson Snow Devil

In the 1920s Armstead attached their Snow-Motor kit to a Fordson tractor and created the Fordson Snow Devil. The Snow-Motor was two large screws replacing the wheels of the tractor so it could maneuver in snow. They formed a company to sell the kits, and then pretty much vanished from the records. I have no idea how many they sold, if they ever sold any.

However, the idea of screw-propelled vehicles was revisited during WWII and later the Soviets built a number of different versions of them. You can read about the Soviet versions, and see pictures of them, at the post Strange Screw Vehicles

I believe screw drives were also considered for lunar rovers, but I couldn't find any information about them, so I may be imagining that. However, another post which covers even more screw-driven vehicles is Screw Propelled Vehicles at the website Unusual Off-Road Vehicles.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Day to Night

Click and image to enlarge
The photographer Stephen Wilkes has created a series of pictures of New York city he calls Day to Night. He sets a camera up and takes multiple exposures of a scene and then blends them together to show, using space rather than the passage of time, a smooth transition from day to night.

I've only posted a few examples, you can see the entire series, and his other work, by following the above link to visit his site.  

Stupidity in slow motion

The Danish television show Dumt & Farligt does stupid things and films them in slow motion. The results of the bottle of red wine in the microwave are pretty terrifying.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Stratfor and Peggy Lipton

Enrique Pena Nieto, currently the front runner in Mexico's election planned for July, has announced that if he is elected he plans on creating a Federal paramilitary police force so he can begin to withdraw the Army and Navy from the fight against the drug cartels.

Scott Stewart, in his most recent Stratfor article, uses that announcement to discuss paramilitary police forces in general, and also the attempts Mexico has so far taken to reform their police forces.

The beginning of Scott's article is excerpted below, with a link to the full article, which has a map of the location of Mexico's cartels, at the end of the excerpt.

Special police forces battling druggies naturally brought to mind the old TV show The Mod Squad, and so its female lead, Peggy Lipton, was an easy choice to get the nod as this article's Hot Stratfor Babe.

The Mod Squad was a 1960s TV show that featured some troubled, yet groovy, young kids who got in trouble with the law and agreed to work undercover for the police to avoid jail time. However, they were good narcs not bad narcs because the used their street smarts, grasp of hippie slang and impeccable fashion sense (see picture to right) to infiltrate criminal gangs ran by nefarious adults who were corrupting their peers.

I never really watched the show, although I probably would watch it now on the theory that it has probably aged from being a half-baked police drama to to giggle inducing bit of kitschy, hippie foolishness.

As for Ms Lipton, I was surprised to see how busy she's been when I looked at her credits. I've seen other things she was in, but can't say I remember her in any of them. She has the kind of classic, but vanilla, blonde prettiness that gets cast a lot in Hollywood.

Curiously, she is involved in a bit of a political scandal. In 2004 she had cancer and there were reports that a NY official named Jack Chartier supplied her with a 24-hour chauffeured car payed for by the tax payers of New York. Although she wasn't doing any thing illegal, there is -- or was (I'm too lazy to look up what became of the case) -- an ethics investigation over the matter.

Mexico's Plan to Create a Paramilitary Force
By Scott Stewart,April 19, 2012

Institutional Revolutionary Party presidential candidate Enrique Pena Nieto, the front-runner in the lead-up to Mexico's presidential election in July, told Reuters last week that if elected, he would seek to increase the size of the current Mexican federal police force. Pena Nieto also expressed a desire to create a new national gendarmerie, or paramilitary police force, to use in place of the Mexican army and Marine troops currently deployed to combat the heavily armed criminal cartels in Mexico's most violent hot spots. According to Pena Nieto, the new gendarmerie force would comprise some 40,000 agents.

As Stratfor has previously noted, soldiers are not optimal for law enforcement functions. The use of the military in this manner has produced accusations of human rights abuses and has brought criticism and political pressure on the administration of President Felipe Calderon. However, while the Calderon administration greatly increased the use of the military in the drug war, it was not the first administration in Mexico to deploy the military in this manner. Even former President Vicente Fox, who declared war on the cartels in 2001, was not the first to use the military in this manner. For many decades now, the Mexican government has used the military in counternarcotics operations, and the Mexican military has been used periodically to combat criminals and bandits in Mexico's wild and expansive north for well over a century.

In recent years, Mexico has had very little choice but to use the military against the cartels due to the violent nature of the cartels themselves and the rampant corruption in many municipal and state police forces. The creation of a new paramilitary police force would provide the Mexican government with a new option, allowing it to remove the military from law enforcement functions. But such a plan would be very expensive and would require the consent of both houses of the Mexican Congress, which could pose political obstacles. But perhaps the most difficult task will be creating a new police force not susceptible to the corruption that historically has plagued Mexican law enforcement agencies.

Paramilitary Police Forces

The concept of a paramilitary police force is not new. Such police forces have existed for years in Europe in the form of the Carabinieri in Italy, the Guardia Civil in Spain and Gendarmerie Nationale in France. As the name of the Italian paramilitary police agency implies, such police normally were deployed in remote areas and armed with carbines, heavier arms than those employed by most urban police officers. Indeed, even the British, whose police officers were traditionally unarmed, created well-armed paramilitary police agencies in their rugged and remote colonial holdings.

Some of these organizations still exist, including the Pakistani Frontier Constabulary and the Indian Assam Rifles. In Latin America, the Chilean Carabineros have a long, and sometimes checkered, history. In 2006 the Colombian government established a modern paramilitary police force under the Directorate of Carabineros and Rural Security that was intended to help address the threats posed by the insurgent groups, former-paramilitary criminal bands ("bacrim") and narcotics traffickers in Colombia's hard-to-police rural regions.

Due to the Colombian government's success in combating drug cartels and the country's growing military proficiency, the Colombians increasingly have become involved in training personnel from other countries in a variety of skills, such as helicopter flying and long-range jungle patrolling. This Colombian training is very attractive to countries such as Mexico. For this reason, the Colombians have begun exerting a growing influence on Mexican counternarcotics thinking and strategy. In fact, the Mexican and Colombian attorneys general just signed an agreement April 17 to share information pertaining to narcotics smuggling. Because of this influence, it is likely that the Colombian Carabineros have played a big part in shaping the thinking of Pena Nieto's advisers who suggested a similar paramilitary police force for Mexico.

Unlike military troops, paramilitary police are police officers and receive police training, which is quite different from military training. But paramilitary police officers are normally more heavily armed than regular police officers and receive supplementary military-type training, which involves things like fire and maneuver and patrolling. They also have law enforcement authority, which means they can conduct investigations and make arrests. Although paramilitary police have been accused of human rights abuses in some places, by and large they are better suited for dealing with civilians than are soldiers, and they tend to create less tension. Tensions arising from military actions can be significant: In 2011, the Mexican National Human Rights Commission received 2,200 complaints against the Mexican army and navy.

Pena Nieto also has called for the Federal Police to be expanded from 40,000 to 50,000 officers. Calderon submitted a police reform plan to the Mexican Congress in September 2008 that created the current federal police force. Calderon's reform plan integrated the two existing federal law enforcement agencies, the Federal Preventive Police and the Federal Investigation Agency, into one organization called simply the Federal Police.

Read more: Mexico's Plan to Create a Paramilitary Force | Stratfor

La Flaca

Remember the skinny one this weekend with the music of Jarabe de Palo.


Thursday, April 19, 2012

Magnetic fields visualized

Two artists, Ruth Jarman and Joe Gerhardt., who call their collaboration Semiconductor, put together the above video. It is strangely effective. They've added visualizations of magnetic fields in what appears to be a lab, and have a soundtrack of some scientists talking about magnetic fields with oddball sci-fi sound effects periodically mixed in. 

Drag racing Batmobiles & bikini car wash

I'm never was a big comic book fan, so some of the geeky banter between the two comic book nerds gave me a minor case of the heebie-jeebies, but the race was worth waiting for. Plus there's a bonus bikini car wash bet at the end, but you'll have to watch to see if the girl or the guy loses and has to don the bikini.

Via Retro Thing.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Video of the first EFLI scrimmage game

Number 11, Happy (white jersey), levels the running back
During my coverage the new Elite Football League of India (EFLI) American-style football league, which has been way more in-depth than those slackers at ESPN have managed, I've wondered if I would ever actually get to see one of their games. So, needless to say, I was delighted to get a press release linking to a video of the first EFLI scrimmage game between the Mumbai Gladiators and the Pune Marathas. 

Unfortunately I can't embed the video, but you can see it here: Mubai vs Pune scrimmage

The video is 45 minutes and covers most of the game. By American standards the play is sloppy, but the game is entertaining none-the-less. If you watch it pay particular attention to Pune's number 11, who goes by the nickname Happy. The guy is a brute -- he plays middle linebacker, tight end, running back, punts and returns kicks. 

Proof that I'm not very observant

Yikes! As the fellow in the video so ably proves, it turns out that the Sun is setting in the north these days, which means it must be rising in the south. Seesh, I can't believe I never noticed. Talk about feeling stupid.

Anyway, from reading the comments accompanying the video, it seems that a lot of people have noticed that the poles are zooming all over the place as the Earth wobbles wildly on its axis. Thank God for YouTube, or I would have never known that astounding fact.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Stratfor and Canu Dere

In this Stratfor George Friedman continues his review of the strategic situation of significant powers by discussing Turkey. He points out that Turkey emerged from the breakup of the Ottoman Empire with a number of regional foes -- principally Russia -- threatening them. However, the end of the cold war released that pressure and Turkey has been able to separate itself from its alliance with the U.S. and strike out on a path to try to make itself a major regional power.

It didn't strike me as one of Friedman's better analysis's. For example, his explanation of why Turkey failed to gain membership in the EU seems to gloss over a large number of points, the main one being its human rights record and drift towards Islam was too disturbing for the Europeans.

I think much of Turkey's post war alignment has been driven by the little discussed notion of a Mediterranean-based political entity that a lot of southern Europeans have been interested in. Because of the chasm between the Christian north and the m0slem south it was always a rather dodgy scheme, and I think that polity unraveling has more to do with events in the Mediterranean basin than many people fail to factor in.

Regardless, it is a good read. I've excerpted the beginning of it below, with a link to the full article at the end of the excerpt.

For the articles Hot Stratfor Babe I looked to Turkish actresses and after a highly scientific Google search I selected Canu Dere ax the most qualified choice for the honor.

I confess to knowing nothing about Ms Dere. She's appeared mainly in Turkish television series, although she has also done a handful of movies. i was pretty amused to read one critic say that she was "beautiful,but annoying." If that isn't lukewarm praise, I don't know what is.

Turkey's Strategy

By George Friedman, April 17, 2012

Turkey is re-emerging as a significant regional power. In some sense, it is in the process of returning to its position prior to World War I when it was the seat of the Ottoman Empire. But while the Ottoman parallel has superficial value in understanding the situation, it fails to take into account changes in how the global system and the region work. Therefore, to understand Turkish strategy, we need to understand the circumstances it finds itself in today.

The end of World War I brought with it the end of the Ottoman Empire and the contraction of Turkish sovereignty to Asia Minor and a strip of land on the European side of the Bosporus. That contraction relieved Turkey of the overextended position it had tried to maintain as an empire stretching from the Arabian Peninsula to the Balkans. In a practical sense, defeat solved the problem of Turkey's strategic interests having come to outstrip its power. After World War I, Turkey realigned its interests to its power. Though the country was much smaller, it was also much less vulnerable than the Ottoman Empire had been.

The Russia Problem

At the same time, a single thread connected both periods: the fear of Russia. For its part, Russia suffered from a major strategic vulnerability. Each of its ports -- St. Petersburg, Vladivostok, Murmansk and Odessa -- was accessible only through straits controlled by potentially hostile powers. The British blocked the various Danish straits, the Japanese blocked access to Vladivostok and the Turks blocked access to the Mediterranean. Russian national policy had an ongoing focus of gaining control of the Bosporus both to prevent a blockade and to project power into the Mediterranean.

Therefore, the Russians had a particular interest in reshaping Turkish sovereignty. In World War I, the Ottomans aligned with the Germans, who were fighting the Russians. In the inter-war and World War II periods, when the Soviets were weak or distracted, Turkey remained neutral until February 1945, when it declared war on the Axis. After the war, when the Soviets were powerful and attempted covert operations to subvert both Turkey and Greece, the Turks became closely allied with the United States and joined NATO (despite their distance from the North Atlantic).

From 1945 until 1991 Turkey was locked into a relationship with the United States. The United States was pursuing a strategy of containing the Soviet Union on a line running from Norway to Pakistan. Turkey was a key element because of its control of the Bosporus, but also because a pro-Soviet Turkey would open the door to direct Soviet pressure on Iran, Iraq and Syria. A Soviet-allied or Soviet-influenced Turkey would have broken the center of the American containment system, changing the balance of power. Along with Germany, Turkey was the pivot point of U.S. and NATO strategy.

From a Turkish point of view, there was no other option. The Soviets had emerged from World War II in an extremely powerful position. Western Europe was a shambles, China had become communist and the surplus military capability of the Soviets, in spite of the massive damage they had endured in the war, outstripped the ability of nations on their periphery -- including Turkey -- to resist. Given the importance of the Bosporus and Asia Minor to the Soviets, Turkey was of fundamental interest. Unable to deal with the Soviets alone, Turkey thus moved into an extremely tight, mutually beneficial relationship with the United States.

During the Cold War, Turkey was a strategic imperative of the United States. It faced the Soviets to the north and two Soviet clients, Syria and Iraq, to the south. Israel drew Syria away from Turkey. But this strategic logic dissolved in 1991 with the fall of the Soviet Union. By then, the union had fragmented. Russian power withdrew from the southern Caucasus and Balkans and uprisings in the northern Caucasus tied the Russian military down. Armenia, Georgia and Azerbaijan gained independence. Ukraine also became independent, making the status of the Russian Black Sea Fleet in Crimea unclear. For the first time since the early years of the Soviet Union, Turkey was freed from its fear of Russia. The defining element of Turkish foreign policy was gone, and with it, Turkish dependence on the United States.

The Post-Soviet Shift

It took a while for the Turks and Americans to recognize the shift. Strategic relationships tend to stay in place, as much from inertia as intention, after the strategic environment that formed them disappears; it often takes a new strategic reality to disturb them. Thus, Turkey's relationship with the United States remained intact for a time. Its ongoing attempts to enter the European Union continued. Its relationship with Israel remained intact even after the American rationale for sponsoring Turkish-Israeli strategic ties had diminished.

It is much easier to forge a strategic policy in the face of a clear threat than in the face of an undefined set of opportunities. For Turkey, opportunities were becoming increasingly prevalent, but defining how to take advantage of them posed a challenge. For Turkey, the key breakpoint with the past was 2003 and the U.S. invasion of Iraq. From Turkey's point of view, the invasion was unnecessary, threatened to empower Iran, and posed domestic political challenges. For the first time since World War II, the Turks not only refused to participate in an American initiative, they also prevented the Americans from using Turkish territory to launch the invasion.

Turkey had encountered a situation where its relationship with the United States proved more dangerous than the threat an alliance with the United States was meant to stave off. And this proved the turning point in post-Soviet Turkish foreign policy. Once Turkey decided not to collaborate with the United States -- its core principle for decades -- its foreign policy could never be the same. Defying the United States did not cause the sky to fall. In fact, as the war in Iraq proceeded, the Turks could view themselves as wiser than the Americans on this subject and the Americans had difficulty arguing back.

Read more: Turkey's Strategy | Stratfor

Outer Space

Sander van de Berg downloaded image sequences from NASA's Cassini and Voyager missions to put this video together. It is a nice, and rather unique, use of a of the photography done of Jupiter and Saturn. 

Monday, April 16, 2012

If you like maps

West Indian Atlas title plate (click any image to enlarge)
West Indian Atlas - Windward Passage
West Indian Atlas - Rhunmb Lines & Anchorages at Acores Islands
If, like me, you can spend hours pouring over maps then you need to visit the David Rumsey Historical Map Collection. As they explain in the introduction to the site:
The historical map collection has over 31,000 maps and images online. The collection focuses on rare 18th and 19th century North American and South American maps and other cartographic materials. Historic maps of the World, Europe, Asia, and Africa are also represented.

Popular collection categories include antique atlas, globe, school geography, maritime chart, state, county, city, pocket, wall & case, children's, and manuscript maps. Search examples are United States map, Geology maps, California map, Afghanistan map, America map, New York City map, Chicago map, and U.S. Civil War maps. Browse  map categories: What, Where, Who, When. The collection can be used to study history, genealogy, art, explorations, local and family history.
The site has the maps categorized and also includes a lot of plates that went along with the maps. Further, as demonstrated by the two images below, the maps can be zoomed in to view in considerable detail.

This post continues just a few samples of the maps and plates available at the site. There are more samples after the jump, and of course literally thousands more at the above link. It is a great site for mapophiles, but be warned it will take up a lot of your time.

Zoological Geography - Carnivores
Detail of Zoological Geography - Carnivores

Devil's Son

Monday morning, start of the workweek blues by Skyler Wolf (a.k.a. Devilsson).


Sunday, April 15, 2012

A feature, not a bug

Image via (click to enlarge)
Recently, as reported by AutoBlogGreen, the National automobile Dealers Association has claimed that the new 2025 fuel standards proposed by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration could price new cars out of the reach of up to 7 million consumers. As David Wagner, an analyst for the NADA Used Car Guide points out, "If the price of a vehicle goes up by the government estimate of almost $3,000, millions of people will no longer be able to finance a new vehicle."

This is of course causing some alarm. Naturally, regular Flares readers who know my capacity as a self-appointed muckity-muck in the Green movement are no doubt interested in my take on the matter.

I would like to point out that there is no real cause for alarm. While some peons may like to think they deserve a car to ride from their hovel home to their place of employment, they should remember that it is incumbent upon them that they lower their dreaded Carbon Footprint. For that reason, the little people are going to need to start considering alternate means of transportation to save the Planet from having its ocean's boiled away and/or another ice age.

Might I suggest donkey carts as a perfect alternative means of personal transportation?

As you can see in the picture above, a donkey cart need not be grim and depressing. You can decorate it in a festive manner and be proud to be seen riding it down the street. However, since I'm reasonably certain it would touch-off the animal rights people, I do not recommend painting your donkey to look like a zebra.    

Below is a video showing the ease at which you can parallel park a donkey cart. It leads to the question -- along with saving Gaia, is there anything that a donkey cart can't do that you can do in an automobile?

Good, better, best

In the above video Terry Moore explains how to tie a proper knot in your shoelaces. In the video below an Asian fellow opts for speed. However, even he gets one-upped in the end.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Cycles crafted from watches

Click any image to enlarge
As near as I have been able to discover, a fellow from Brazil makes these little vehicle models. I tried to track down his name, but had no luck. They are amazing. The complex nature of watches works well in giving the models a substantial and mechanical feel.

There are more pictures of the models after the jump, and more at the post Cool Bikes Mаdе Оut Оf Оld Watches where I found these examples.

Budget Vacations - Museum of Broken Relationships

As a public service in these tough economic times I suggest various cheap, educational, inspiring and uplifting vacation destinations you can take your family to visit. Today I would like to recommend the Museum of Broken Relationships.

The museum displays items, with a brief explanation of their significance, sent to them by people whose relationships have gone sour. As Rick Poyner explains in his post Museum of Broken Relationships:
The premise is very simple. Disappointed lovers donate an object that held meaning for them in a relationship. They provide basic details about location and how long their relationship lasted, and write a little story to explain what happened. These anonymous narratives can be terse in the extreme. The can of love incense from someone in Bloomington, Indiana is accompanied by just two words: “Doesn’t work.” Most go into a little more detail and many are very affecting. After 13 years of marriage a man from Berlin decided to leave his wife because he felt their love had cooled. The woman returned to her own country, taking their little dog with her. She was brokenhearted and sent him a package of things that included a flashing dog collar light — she had bought one for the dog so it couldn’t get lost when it ran away in the dark. The man carried it everywhere. About a year after the split, the woman took her life in a hotel room. In the museum, the red collar light flashes forlornly on an illuminated shelf. The man clearly found it unbearable to own. He says it reminds him of a heartbeat.
The museum is located in Zagreb, Croatia so you may need a plane ticket to get there. And I don't want to hear the usual complaints from you ingrates that a plane ticket prices it out of the range of a budget vacation. Did you not read the excerpt above? It has meaningful blinking dog collars and cans of love incense. Who can put a price on that?

Below are some more pictures from their exhibits: