My kind of hero


Lance Corporal Tasker and Theo – in action, better days

A bomb-sniffing army dog who died in Afghanistan on the day his handler was killed has been honored with Britain’s highest award for animal bravery.

Springer spaniel mix Theo was posthumously awarded the Dickin Medal on Thursday at a London ceremony.

Theo worked for five months in Afghanistan with Royal Army Veterinary Corps Lance Cpl. Liam Tasker, searching out roadside bombs.

Tasker was killed in a firefight with insurgents in Helmand Province in March 2011. Theo suffered a fatal seizure hours later at a British army base, likely brought about by stress.

The soldier and his dog were brought back to Britain on the same military flight.

Since 1943 the Dickin Medal has recognized wartime gallantry by animals, from carrier pigeons to a World War II commando collie.

No surprise to me – Lance Cpl. Tasker’s mom said she’s certain the dog died of a broken heart.

Presidential election sets a new low for China bashing

As America’s election season nears its finish, the debate seems to have come unhinged. Nowhere is that more evident than in the fixation on China – singled out by both President Barack Obama and his Republican challenger, Mitt Romney, as a major source of pressure bearing down on American workers and their families. Get tough with China, both stressed in the presidential debates, and the pain will ease.

Nothing could be further from the truth. Consider the following charges:

Currency manipulation. Since China reformed its exchange-rate regime in July 2005, the renminbi has risen 32% relative to the dollar and about 30% in inflation-adjusted terms against a broad basket of currencies. These are hardly trivial amounts, and more renminbi appreciation can be expected in the years to come.

Unlike Japan, which was pressured by the West into a large yen revaluation in 1985 (the “Plaza Accord”), the Chinese have opted to move gradually and deliberately. American officials call this “manipulation,” arguing that market forces would have resulted in a sharper renminbi appreciation than has occurred. Fixated on stability – a concept alien to US politicians and policymakers – the Chinese prefer, instead, to play a more active role in managing the adjustment of their currency. I call that prudence – perhaps even wisdom. Two lost decades later, the guinea pig, Japan, might have a view on which approach works best.

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Colin Powell endorses Barack Obama for president

Powell joined “CBS This Morning” on Thursday and with 12 days to go before the presidential election publicly endorsed President Obama for reelection for the first time.

I voted for him in 2008 and I plan to stick with him in 2012 and I’ll be voting for he and Vice President Joe Biden next month…”

“When he took over the country was in very, very difficult straits. We were in the one of the worst recessions we had seen in recent times, close to a depression. The fiscal system was collapsing. Wall Street was in chaos, we had 800,000 jobs lost in that first month of the Obama Administration and unemployment peaked at 10 percent. So we were in real trouble. The auto industry was collapsing, the housing was started to collapse and we were in very difficult straits. And I saw over the next several years stabilization come back in the financial community, housing is now starting to come back after four years, it’s starting to pick up. Consumer confidence is rising.”

Summarizing the past four years under Obama, Powell said “Generally, we’ve come out of the dive and we’re starting to gain altitude.” He added, “The unemployment rate is too high, people are still hurting in housing but I see that we’re starting to raise up.”

Turning to foreign policy, Powell said he saw “the president got us out of one war, start to get us out of a second war and did not get us into any new wars. And finally I think that the actions he has taken with respect to protecting us from terrorism have been very very solid. And so, I think we ought to keep on the track that we are on.”

Speaking to Mitt Romney’s foreign policy views, Powell expressed his concern about Romney’s changing positions on international affairs. “The governor who was saying things at the debate on Monday night was saying things that were quite different from what he said earlier,” referring to Romney’s performance at the foreign policy debate earlier in the week. “I’m not quite sure which Gov. Romney we would be getting with respect to foreign policy,” he added…

And, despite his endorsement of a Democratic candidate in two presidential elections, Powell says he remains a Republican. “I think I’m a Republican of a more moderate mold,” he said before adding, “That’s something of a dying breed I’m sorry to say.”

The right wing controlling today’s Republican Party – from the Tea Party to Larry Kudlow who coined the acronym RINO – would say, again, that Colin Powell is a Republican In Name Only. Like members of my family who walked away from that party after 50 years of loyal service – because traditional American conservative values have been diminished and replaced by theocracy, bigotry and a monolithic commitment to corporate wealth.

The number of folks who still call themselves Republicans – and are willing to support the whole nation struggling to get out from under this Great Recession – continues to shrink. Still – it’s nice to hear positive support from one of the leading voices remaining on that side of the aisle.

Keep tabs on your baby via an iPhone or iPad

Belkin has announced the launch of its WeMo Baby device that turns any iOS device into a digital baby monitor. Comprising a Wi-Fi connecting baby monitor and an accompanying iOS app, the WeMo Baby lets anxious parents listen to high-quality audio from their baby’s room whether they’re in the next room or the other side of the world … though it’s probably not a good idea that the baby is left that unattended.

Once the inoffensive-looking device is installed in a nursery (or anywhere you want to listen to for that matter), users download the free iOS WeMo Baby app and connect it to their existing Wi-Fi network. They can then use an iPhone or iPad to listen in to streaming audio using 3G/4G or Wi-Fi.

There’s no video like we’re seen previously on the iBaby monitor and BabyPing, but there is a visual indicator of baby noise, complete with a dial going from a contented green to ominous orange. Because there’s no range limit as is often the case with traditional baby monitors, and listening does not require an additional receiver, it’s claimed the WeMo Baby will allow parents to travel further afield while their little-ones sleep…

The Belkin WeMo Baby will support up to six users. It is “Coming Soon” and it will sell for US$90.