Tagged: US

Economics 101 for our latest Coalition of the Willing

US/UK warplanes are flying sorties, at a cost somewhere between $22,000 to 30,000 per hour for the F-16s, to drop bombs that cost at least $20,000 each, to destroy ISIL hardware.

That means if an F-16 were to take off from Incirclik Air Force Base in Turkey and fly two hours to Erbil, Iraq, and successfully drop both of its bombs on one target each, it costs the United States somewhere between $84,000 to $104,000 for the sortie

Watching today’s endlessly repeated video clip of one of our heroic sorties bombing a freaking pickup truck. At a cost of $85K-104K.

Just send in some creepy salesman from a local used car lot and offer the bandit in charge $20K cash on the spot for his truck – and we’re in business – making the world safe for capitalism.

25 year-review finds no lives saved by annual mammography

Annual mammography failed to reduce breast cancer mortality in women, ages 40 to 59, compared with physical examination or routine care, according to 25-year follow-up data from a Canadian screening program.

Women screened annually by mammography for 5 years had had a breast cancer mortality hazard of 1.05 compared with the control group during the screening period. During follow-up for a mean of 22 years, the mammography group had a breast cancer mortality hazard of 0.99 versus the control group. Neither value was statistically significant…

The findings suggest a need to reassess the value of screening mammography…

The publication drew a quick and forceful response from the American College of Radiology (ACR) and the Society of Breast Imaging (SBI). In a joint statement, officials of the two organizations characterized the results as “an incredibly misleading analysis based on the deeply flawed and widely discredited Canadian National Breast Screening Study (CNBSS).”

Noting the 32% rate of cancer detection by mammography, the ACR and SBI said “this extremely low number is consistent with poor-quality mammography.” Mammography alone should detect twice that many cancers, they added. The organizations noted that a prior outside review of the CNBSS confirmed the poor quality of mammography in the study…

Dr. Anthony Miller and colleagues reported 25-year follow-up data from the CNBSS, which began in 1980. All women, ages 50 to 59, had annual clinical breast examinations, as did women 40 to 49 in the mammography arm. Younger women in the control arm had a clinical breast exam at enrollment, followed by usual care.

The study included 89,835 women enrolled at 15 centers in six Canadian provinces. During the 5-year mammographic-screening period, 666 invasive cancers were diagnosed in the mammography arm and 524 in the control group. During the 25-year follow-up period, 180 women randomized to mammography died of breast cancer, as did 171 in the control group.

The hazard ratio (HR) for breast cancer-specific mortality during the screening period was 1.05 for mammography versus control…

The authors of an accompanying editorial noted that some evidence suggests that improved treatment, rather than breast cancer screening, has fueled the decline in breast cancer mortality in recent years. Regardless of the rates found in different studies, overdiagnosis represents a larger problem…

Referring directly to the ACR and SBI, Miller said the study’s outcome “has to be unwelcome to this highly financially conflicted group, but which will be of substantial interest to policy makers in considering the future of screening for breast cancer.”

Been a spell since I’ve been involved with folks working in oncology. Just as long since I’ve dedicated sufficient reading and online investigation to have an opinion I’d risk someone’s life on.

Please, read the whole article. There are answers – and answers to questions raised by the answers.

Setback in bid to keep US air base on Okinawa


Mayor Inamine [center] and his supporters celebrate re-election

Efforts to relocate a US base on Japan’s Okinawa appeared to suffer a new setback Sunday, 17 years after they began, with the reported electoral victory of an opponent of the project.

The mayor of the town of Nago on the east coast of Okinawa has won re-election, according to the TBS news station after the majority of votes were counted.

Susumu Inamine, supported by several leftist parties, is a strong opponent of the joint project by the US and Japanese governments to move the US Marines’ Futenma Air Station, sited in an urban area in the south of Okinawa, to Nago bay.

Understand, the mayor wants the base off the island altogether!

Last month, more than 17 years after Washington and Tokyo agreed to move the base from the densely populated urban area, the Okinawa government finally consented to a landfill that will enable new facilities to be built on the coast at Nago.

The issue had been deadlocked for years, with huge opposition to any new base among Okinawans fed up with playing host to an outsized share of the US military presence in Japan…

The mayor of Nago does not have the right to overthrow plans to relocate the base but could refuse to approve the use of roads and other facilities necessary for building works…

Okinawa’s Governor Hirokazu Nakaima, long a thorn in the central government’s side, gave the plan his approval after Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe promised Okinawa financial aid of at least $2.9 billion every year until fiscal 2021.

A bribe of $8,000 per resident per year.

Opponents support the removal of the US base from the town of Ginowan but want it relocated out of Okinawa altogether.

Let me insert an educated guess here. Founded on over a half-century of watching our Cold Warriors in action. I guarantee there is a secret treaty stashed in the GOUSA that specifies US troops will leave Okinawa and Japan ONLY when the United States says so – a treaty signed after Japan’s unconditional surrender in 1945.

Japan has even elected national governments on this issue and then rec’d an unpublished phone call from the White House – most recently from Obama in his first term – and then announced they wouldn’t be able to close the US Base in Okinawa. No further discussion allowed. So much for transparency, enlightened democracy.

Ex-Microsoft manager plans first public U.S. marijuana brands

MicropotXP

A former Microsoft executive plans to create the first U.S. national marijuana brand, with cannabis he hopes to eventually import legally from Mexico, and said he was kicking off his business by acquiring medical pot dispensaries in three U.S. states.

Jamen Shively, a former Microsoft corporate strategy manager, said he envisions his Seattle-based enterprise becoming the leader in both recreational and medical cannabis – much like Starbucks is the dominant name in coffee, he said…

Shively laid out his plans, along with his vision for a future in which marijuana will be imported from Mexico, at a Thursday news conference in downtown Seattle.

Joining him was former Mexican President Vicente Fox, a longtime Shively acquaintance who has been an advocate of decriminalizing marijuana. Fox said he was there to show his support for Shively’s company but has no financial stake in it…

Shively told Reuters he hoped Fox would serve an advisory role in his enterprise, dubbed Diego Pellicer after Shively’s hemp-producing great grandfather…

Shively said he ultimately plans to create separate medical and recreational-use marijuana brands. Shively said he also plans to launch a study of the effectiveness of concentrated cannabis oil in the treatment of cancer and other illnesses.

Worth a modicum of discussion. I see this only as a symptom of “early days” in the removal of marijuana from the Prohibition ideology of American politicians, priests and pundits.

For me, it’s just a chuckle that a former MSoft exec who made his mark hustling a crap OS to corporate IT plans to make this his new frontier. Har.

And, BTW, all the major tobacco brands already have their portfolio of trademarked brand names sorted – along with growing fields, etc.. You’re only kidding yourself if you think they won’t jump in when the heavy lifting is over.

University of Sydney developing robots to automate farming

The idea of an automated farm has probably been around since rural electrification started in the early 20th century. Replacing back-breaking labor with robots has an obvious appeal, but so far cheap labor in many countries and the insistence of agriculture on being so darn rural has made automation limited in application. Despite this, Salah Sukkarieh, Professor of Robotics and Intelligent Systems at the Faculty of Engineering and Information Technologies of the University of Sydney, is heading a team working on developing robotic systems for farms with the aim of turning Australia into the “food bowl” of Asia…

With its abundant arable land, Australia has the potential of profiting by meeting this need, but Australian labor costs are high, so automation has the potential to increase yields and improve efficiency by eliminating many manual tasks. The current project is more than just a mechanized farm with robots added. It’s an approach that involves developing intelligent machines that not only carry out manual tasks, but can observe their surroundings and assess situations.

Professor Sukkarieh’s team is testing the new automated systems at the Horticulture Australia regional center in Mildura. The first phase is the development of robots that can patrol orchards and gather data for a “comprehensive in-ground and out-of-ground model…”

Next year, the team will start the second phase, which will see the technology applied to standard tractors to allow them to automatically carry out tasks like applying fertilizers and pesticides, watering, sweeping and mowing.

The third phase is to develop harvesting robots. “The devices we’ve developed already can identify each individual fruit on the tree and its degree of ripeness, which is about 80 percent of the job done. But being able to harvest them is our ultimate goal,” he said.

Would have been happening in the US – and Oz – long ago if farmers didn’t have easy access to cheap migrant labor. And robots don’t distribute e.coli bacteria.

U.S., Canada, U.K. refuse to sign ITU new global telecom treaty

The United States, Britain and Canada have refused to sign a new global telecommunications treaty, warning it would provide a mandate for governmental regulation of the Internet, potentially ending 11 days of fractious talks in Dubai.

In pre-written statements, the three countries informed a summit of the International Telecommunications Union of their decision, with Denmark, the Netherlands, and Kenya making similar announcements…

“It’s with a heavy heart and a sense of missed opportunities that the U.S. must communicate that it’s not able to sign the agreement in the current form,” said Terry Kramer, the U.S. ambassador to the U.N. body.

“The Internet has given the world unimaginable economic and social benefit during these past 24 years. All without U.N. regulation.”

The United States and its allies have fought to ensure the new treaty, which is being revised for the first time since 1988, only applies to traditional telecommunications.

A large bloc of countries led by Russia supports adding language to the treaty that could open the door to more regulation of cyberspace on issues from spam, security and the assignment of addresses to web pages.

Expected – and given the history of how the Web has grown – probably correct. For all the right reasons and a few not-so-right.

At this point in time, laissaiz-faire is no worse than what we already have.

Canada approves the CNOOC-Nexen and Petronas-Progress deals


The shape of ships to load in BC – before they’re likely to load in the GOUSA

Canada will no longer allow state-owned companies to takeover businesses in the nation’s oil sands and will toughen requirements in other industries…after Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper approved CNOOC’s $15.1 billion takeover of Nexen and Petroliam Nasional $5.2 billion takeover of Progress Energy Resources.

The deal by Beijing-based CNOOC is the largest ever takeover by a Chinese company, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. It gives the state-owned company a stake in Canada’s largest oil-sands project and the biggest position in the Buzzard oil field in the U.K. North Sea…

“These were difficult decisions” that reflect “the broad views of Canadians,” Harper told reporters. Canada relies on exports for one-third of economic output and counts on energy products for almost one-quarter of those shipments…

The Cnooc-Nexen transaction is the biggest in Canada since Calgary-based Suncor Energy bought Petro-Canada in August 2009 for about $18 billion…

“We’re obviously quite pleased with the decision,” said Michael Culbert, chief executive officer of Calgary-based Progress, by phone. “We know that this has been a difficult decision to make and we don’t take that lightly…”

The acquisition of Progress by Petronas gives the Malaysian state-owned company gas reserves to build a liquefied natural gas export facility along the British Columbia coast at a cost of C$9 billion to C$11 billion, the companies said this week.

Petronas has the world’s largest LNG-producing site in Sarawak, Malaysia, according to its website, and also operates the world’s largest LNG carrier fleet.

All the parties with a stake in either enterprise have signed off – excepting of course the United States.

The Monday morning quarterbacks in Congress who waste endless time and space whining about the failure of Asian firms to invest in US corporations – will call press conferences to put their stamp of disapproval on the deal. The reasoning will run the whole gamut of Cold War crackpot concoctions. Hypocrisy will run rampant. Not so incidentally, that will probably include the White House.

The controversies about exploitation of the Alberta oil sands will be settled by Canadians, sooner or later. That’s the reason for complaints by American enviro groups that Congress doesn’t listen to, anyway.

I find the Petronas purchase and plans more interesting. This takes away the last bit of reliance Canadians had on American pipelines for transmission of their NatGas for eventual export. They’ll end up with a significant chunk of national income while American politicians sit around worrying about electoral politics vs utilizing a product cleaner and cheaper than coal to run our power plants, vs utilizing a product cleaner and cheaper than oil to run over-the-road trucking and maybe even something more than six NatGas Hondas in San Francisco – someday.

British government accused of war crimes over man held by US for eight years without trial

Human rights campaigners have accused the British government of possible war crimes for failing to secure the release of a man held without trial for eight years by the Americans.

Yunus Rahmatullah, 30, was captured by UK special forces following the invasion of Iraq and handed over to the Americans, who eventually transferred him to Bagram air base. Despite US assertions that he is no longer considered a “security threat” he remains incarcerated in Afghanistan.

The legal charity Reprieve failed to persuade the Supreme Court to come to Mr Rahmatullah’s aid as it rejected the Pakistani’s case by a majority of 5-2 that the British had not done enough to persuade the Americans to hand him over.

But the UK’s highest court also rejected an appeal by the Foreign Secretary that the Court of Appeal had been wrong to issue a writ of habeas corpus – an ancient tenet of English law giving the legal right to be charged or released from arbitrary detention.

Reprieve welcomed the Supreme Court’s decision to dismiss the Government’s appeal to overturn the writ of habeas corpus, adding that there should be a police investigation into whether “grave war crimes may have been committed”…

Jamie Beagent…representing Mr Rahmatullah, said: “We will be drawing the Supreme Court’s findings to the attention of the Metropolitan Police who are currently investigating our client’s case in relation to offences under the Geneva Conventions Act 1957.

I think it as unlikely for the British government to start obeying the Geneva Convention – as the United States. The Bush-Blair Axis decided they needn’t pay any attention at all to international law or human rights. The politicians who followed them into office have neither the courage nor integrity to reverse that decision.

Sites run by black-hat hackers and thieves closed in global raid

Dozens of websites offering credit card details and other private information for sale have been taken down in a global police operation. Britain’s Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA) says raids in Australia, Europe, the UK and US are the culmination of two years of work.

Credit card numbers or bank account details of millions of unsuspecting victims were sold for as little as £2. Two Britons and a man from Macedonia were arrested, with 36 sites shut down.

Some of the websites have been under observation for two years…During that period the details of about two-and-a-half million credit cards were recovered – preventing fraud, according to industry calculations, of at least £0.5 billion…

Not surprisingly, criminal gangs try to recruit the smartest hackers or code-writers to both steal data from unsuspecting internet users, and make their own websites as secure and hard to trace as possible.

But many senior figures at the big internet service providers and domain name registration companies are traditionally anti-establishment and can be suspicious of police interference. They are often reluctant to agree to anything that could be perceived as curtailing the freedom of the web, such as preventing anonymous domain registrations.

SOCA officers and their counterparts at Interpol, the FBI and at other law enforcement agencies around the world, say they have been working hard to “influence” the industry, and they are hoping that those efforts will lead to changes that could make their job easier in future.

Without the help of the industry, or a massive investment in law enforcement, it will be increasingly hard to keep track of the millions of items of illegal data being traded in cyberspace

Of course, the coppers could start hiring geeks of their own. Certainly, the FBI, CIA do that. And the NSA is almost wholly staffed by hackers who are gray – at best.