Showing posts with label World. Show all posts
Showing posts with label World. Show all posts
18 June 2014

The Woman Who Invented Iraq

Gertrude of Arabia, the Woman Who Invented Iraq

The story of the British intelligence agent who rigged an election, installed a king loyal to the British, drew new borders—and gave us today’s ungovernable country.
She came into Baghdad after months in one of the world’s most forbidding deserts, a stoic, diminutive 45-year-old English woman with her small band of men. She had been through lawless lands, held at gunpoint by robbers, taken prisoner in a city that no Westerner had seen for 20 years.

It was a hundred years ago, a few months before the outbreak of World War I. Baghdad was under a regime loyal to the Ottoman Turks. The Turkish authorities in Constantinople had reluctantly given the persistent woman permission to embark on her desert odyssey, believing her to be an archaeologist and Arab scholar, as well as being a species of lunatic English explorer that they had seen before.

She was, in fact, a spy and her British masters had told her that if she got into trouble they would disclaim responsibility for her. Less than 10 years later Gertrude Bell would be back in Baghdad, having rigged an election, installed a king loyal to the British, re-organized the government, and fixed the borders on the map of a new Iraq. As much as anyone can be, Gertrude Bell could be said to have devised the country that nobody can make work as a country for very long—no more so than now.

The Middle East as we know it was largely the idea of a small coterie of men composed of British scholars, archaeologists, military officers and colonial administrators who were called the Orientalists—this is the “orient” according to the definition first made by the Greeks, meaning everything east of the Mediterranean as Alexander the Great advanced to seize it.

For decades, beginning in the mid-19th century, the Orientalists had explored the desert and found there the ruins of the great powers of the ancient world—Egypt, Assyria, Babylonia, Persia. Through archaeology they revealed these splendors to the modern world and, from their digs, stuffed Western museums with prizes like the polychromatic tiled Ishtar Gates of Babylon, moved to the Pergamon Museum in Berlin, or the Cyrus Cylinder, containing the Persian king Cyrus’s new creed of governance as he conquered Babylon, shipped to the British Museum.

They wondered why such resplendently rich and deeply embedded pre-Christian urbanized cultures ended up buried by the drifting sands of the desert, completely unknown and ignored by the roaming Arab, Turkish and Persian tribes above. The many glories of Babylon, for example, lay unexplored not far from the boundaries of Baghdad.
The Middle East as we know it was largely the idea of a small coterie of men composed of British scholars, archaeologists, military officers and colonial administrators who were called the Orientalists.
Among the explorers, a state of mind developed that was patronizing and paternalistic. If they had not made these discoveries, who would know of these great cities? If Arabs took the artifacts it would be, to these men, mindless looting; if the Western scholars shipped them home, often in vast consignments, it was to preserve them for posterity.

The Ottomans had managed Arabia through a decentralized system of provinces called valyets, run by governors they appointed. Tribal, sectarian and territorial conflicts made it a constantly turbulent place, despite the hammer of Ottoman rule. Under a more centralized system the place would have been ungovernable. But the Turks never entertained the Western idea of nation building, it was as much as they could do to keep even a semblance of order.

The Orientalists thought differently. The Western idea of nation building was the future of Arabia. As World War I drew to its end and the Ottoman Empire collapsed, the Orientalists saw an opportunity to bring modern coherence to the desert by imposing new kingdoms of their own devising, as long as the kings would be compliant with the strategic interests of the British Empire.

Into this coterie of schemers came two mavericks, both scholars, both fluent Arab speakers, both small in stature and psychologically fragile, both capable of extraordinary feats of desert exploration—a young man called T.E. Lawrence and Gertrude Bell, a more seasoned connoisseur of the desert life.

Both had been recruited before World War I to gather intelligence on the Ottomans. Both were hard to accommodate within a normal military and diplomatic machine and so ended up working for a clandestine outfit in Cairo called the Arab Bureau, which was more aware of their singular gifts and more tolerant of their habits.

Bell’s epic desert trek in 1913-14 was already legendary. Her objective had been a city called Hail that no European had reached since 1893. Under the cover of archaeological research, her real purpose was to assess the strength of a murderous family called the al Rashids, whose capital Hail was.

The Rashids had been kicked out of Riyadh by the young Abdul Aziz bin Abdurrahman al Saud, otherwise known as Ibn Saud, who was to become the founder of Saudi Arabia.

Despite the rigors of the terrain, Bell was as susceptible to the spiritual appeal of the desert as others like her young protégée Lawrence. “Sometimes I have gone to bed with a heart so heavy that I thought I could not carry it through the next day,” she wrote. “Then comes the dawn, soft and benificent, stealing over the wide plain and down the long slopes of the little hollows, and in the end it steals into my heart also….”

When she reached Hail, the Rashids were suspicious and put her under what amounted to house arrest in the royal complex.

But as a woman, Bell enjoyed an advantage over male colleagues that she was to deploy on many missions: molesting or harming women was contrary to the desert code of conduct, even in a family as homicidal as the Rashids. For a week or so, Bell was warmly entertained by the women of this polygamous society, and the women’s gossip provided a rich source of intelligence on palace intrigues, of which there were many. From this she was able to see what her British minders valued: That the Rashids were yesterday’s men and the Saudis would likely be a formidable and independent power in Arabia. The Rashids released her, and she went on to Baghdad, Damascus, and home to London.

It was inside knowledge like this that put Bell in an influential position when the war ended and the European powers decided how they would carve up Arabia. Lawrence had committed himself to the princes of the Hashemite tribe, notably Feisal, with whom he had fought against the Turks, and promised Damascus to them. But unknown to Lawrence, a secret deal had been cut with the French, who wanted control of the eastern Mediterranean and were to get Damascus while Britain would fill the vacuum left by the collapse of the Ottoman Empire by re-drawing the map of Arabia.

The British were more aware than the French of the importance that oil would assume. Syria, the new French subject state, was unpromising as an oil prospect. The first Middle Eastern oil field began pumping in Persia at the head of the Persian Gulf in 1911, under British control, and geologists suspected, rightly, that vast oil reserves lay untapped in both Persia and Iraq.

While Lawrence left the Paris Peace Conference in 1919 stricken by the guilt for a British betrayal of his Arabs to which he had not been a party, Bell was sent to Baghdad, where Feisal was to be given his consolation prize: the throne of a new Iraq.

As well as the prospect of huge oil reserves, this new Iraq was crucial to the lines of communication to the great jewel of the British Empire, India. And, ostensibly, it was the diplomats and generals of the Indian administration who ran the show in Baghdad. But they depended on Bell as an expert and a negotiator, fluent in Arabic and used to the schisms and vendettas of the region. In fact, many of the decisive meetings as the British struggled to create a provisional government took place in Bell’s own house.

On August 23, 1921, at a ceremony in central Baghdad, Feisal was installed as the monarch of Iraq, even though he had no tribal roots in the country to assist his legitimacy. “We’ve got our king crowned,” wrote Bell with relief. And she made a claim about this election that would be echoed decades later by Saddam Hussein, that Feisal had been endorsed by 96 percent of the people, even though he was the only candidate and the majority of the population was illiterate.

Indeed, Bell was so carried away with her confidence in the nation she had helped to create that she crowed: “Before I die I look to see Feisal ruling from the Persian frontier to the Mediterranean.”
In reality, the Iraqi borders had been arbitrarily drawn and disregarded 2,000 years of tribal, sectarian, and nomadic occupation. The Persian frontier was the only firmly delineated border, asserted by mountains. Beyond Baghdad the line drawn between Syria, now the property of France, and Iraq was more cartography than anthropology. Nothing had cooled the innate hostilities of the Shia, in the south, who (in a reversal of the current travesty in Baghdad) were virtually unrepresented in Bell’s new assembly, and the Sunnis to the north, as well as the Kurds, the Armenians and the Turks, each with their own turf. Lawrence, in fact, had protested that the inclusion of the Kurds was a mistake. And the desert border in the south was, in Bell’s own words, “as yet undefined.”

The reason for this was Ibn Saud. Bell wrote in a letter to her father, “I’ve been laying out on the map what I think should be our desert boundaries.” Eventually that line was settled by the Saudis, whose Wahhabi warriors were the most formidable force in the desert and who foresaw what many other Arabs at the time did: Iraq was a Western construct that defied thousands of years of history, with an alien, puppet king who would not long survive and internal forces that were centrifugal rather than coherent.

For a while, Bell was the popular and admired face of the British contingent in Baghdad. An American visitor pleased her by calling her “the first citizen of Iraq.” The Arabs called her “Al Khatun,” meaning a noble woman who earned respect. She went riding and swimming every day, somewhat diminishing the benefits of that by chain smoking in public. She also made no secret of the fact that she was an atheist. It seemed that she was more comfortable in the company of Arabs than she had been among her peers in Cairo.

Lawrence, for example, while respectful of her scholarship, thought that Bell “had no great depth of mind” and politically was a poor judge of people and “changed direction like a weathercock.” Sir Mark Sykes, a crusty diplomat who had colluded with the French to give them Damascus, was more defiantly a misogynist. He called her “a silly chattering windbag, an infernal liar, a conceited, gushing, rump-wagging, blethering ass.”

Sometimes Bell revealed a dark self-knowledge. In 1923 she wrote to her father: “At the back of my mind is that we people of war can never return to complete sanity. The shock has been too great; we’re unbalanced. I am aware that I myself have much less control over my own emotions than I used to have.”

By then she had only three years to live, and was becoming frail from overwork. She described her routine in a letter: “I get up at 5:30, do exercises till 5:45 and walk in the garden till 6 or a little after cutting flowers. All that grows now is a beautiful double jasmine of which I have bowls full every day, and zinnias, ugly and useful. I breakfast at 6:40 on an egg and some fruit…leave for the office by car at 6:55 and get there at 7…”

As well as administrating in the manner of a colonial official, she often acted like a viceroy, receiving a stream of tribal sheiks, Arab officials or simply citizens with grievances. The king had to be managed, as he sat in his garden “in full Arab dress, the white and gold of the Mecca princes.” But she also devoted much of her time to a personal passion: creating the Iraq Museum in Baghdad where she gathered a priceless collection of treasures from the world of antiquity—reminding herself and the Iraqi people how the earliest urban civilizations had flourished around the Tigris and Euphrates.
There were, though, other loves that belied the appearance of a desiccated, workaholic spinster. She lived with the memories of two passionate romances, both thwarted.

At the age of 24 she became engaged to a young diplomat but her rich industrialist father deemed it an unsuitable match and, in the compliant Victorian manner, she ended it. Her second affair was far deeper, tragic and, in its effects, everlasting. She fell in love with Colonel Charles Doughty-Wylie, a soldier with a record of derring-do with appropriate movie star looks. But Doughty-Wylie was married, and as long as the war occupied them both neither could see a way out. Bell was, however, completely besotted:

“I can’t sleep,” she wrote to him, “I can’t sleep. It’s one in the morning of Sunday. I’ve tried to sleep, every night it becomes less and less possible. You, and you, and you are between me and any rest; but out of your arms there is no rest. Life, you called me, and fire. I flame and I am consumed.”
He responded in kind: “You gave me a new world, Gertrude. I have often loved women as a man like me does love them, well and badly, little and much, as the blood took me…or simply for the adventure—to see what happened. But that is all behind me.”

Doughty-Wylie died in the amphibious assault on the Turks at Gallipoli in 1916—ill-conceived by Winston Churchill as an attempt to strike at the “soft underbelly” of the Ottoman Empire.
Bell died at her house by the Tigris in Baghdad in July 1926 at the age of 57.  She had taken an overdose of barbiturates, whether deliberately or accidentally it was impossible to tell. Lawrence by then was a recluse, in flight from the road show devised by the American journalist Lowell Thomas that had turned him, as Lawrence of Arabia, into the most famous man on Earth.

But it was Gertrude Bell, who was never a public figure, who had left the greater mark on the Middle East, for better or worse.

King Feisal, who had been ailing for some time, died in Switzerland in 1933, at the age of 48, to be succeeded by his son Prince Ghazi. The monarchy was brought down by a pro-British military coup in 1938, a regime that would ultimately mutate into that of Saddam Hussein’s in 1979.

Beers of the World Cup 2014

17 June 2014

Is The 'Super' Banana The Answer To All Our Troubles?

A super-enriched banana genetically engineered to improve the lives of millions of people in Africa will soon have its first human trial, shown here is a young girl in the Democratic Republic of Congo on November 3, 2013

A super-enriched banana genetically engineered to improve the lives of millions of people in Africa will soon have its first human trial, shown here is a young girl in the Democratic Republic …

A super-enriched banana genetically engineered to improve the lives of millions of people in Africa will soon have its first human trial, which will test its effect on vitamin A levels, Australian researchers said Monday.
The project plans to have the special banana varieties -- enriched with alpha and beta carotene which the body converts to vitamin A -- growing in Uganda by 2020.

The bananas are now being sent to the United States, and it is expected that the six-week trial measuring how well they lift vitamin A levels in humans will begin soon.

"Good science can make a massive difference here by enriching staple crops such as Ugandan bananas with pro-vitamin A and providing poor and subsistence-farming populations with nutritionally rewarding food," said project leader Professor James Dale.

The Queensland University of Technology (QUT) project, backed by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, hopes to see conclusive results by year end.

"We know our science will work," Professor Dale said.

"We made all the constructs, the genes that went into bananas, and put them into bananas here at QUT."

Dale said the Highland or East African cooking banana was a staple food in East Africa, but had low levels of micro-nutrients, particularly pro-vitamin A and iron.

"The consequences of vitamin A deficiency are dire with 650,000-700,000 children world-wide dying ... each year and at least another 300,000 going blind," he said.

Researchers decided that enriching the staple food was the best way to help ease the problem.

While the modified banana looks the same on the outside, inside the flesh is more orange than a cream colour, but Dale said he did not expect this to be a problem.

He said once the genetically modified bananas were approved for commercial cultivation in Uganda, the same technology could potentially be expanded to crops in other countries -- including Rwanda, parts of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya and Tanzania.

"In West Africa farmers grow plantain bananas and the same technology could easily be transferred to that variety as well," he said.
16 June 2014

Concerns Raised About Sittwe Development

Concerns raised about Sittwe development

Bangkok, Jun 16 : A group of NGOs has called for greater transparency on plans for India’s $214m transport project to link Myanmar’s port of Sittwe with the landlocked Indian state of Mizoram.

The development, involving port reconstruction, dredging of the Kaladan River, and a new 130 km long road, is going on without any consultation with affected communities in Arakan and Chin states, the Kaladan Movement alleged in a statement.

The Indian industrial conglomerate Essar is overseeing the project and is currently reconstructing Sittwe port to handle large ships and renovating Paletwa town port facilities.

“The highway component of the Kaladan Project is to be built by an as yet unnamed Burmese construction company, and the exact route of the highway or timeframe for its construction has never been publicly announced,” said the group of NGOs.

The entire project is scheduled to be completed in 2016.
11 June 2014

The Korean Grandmothers Who Sell Sex

Women in snow
: Koreans could once be sure that their children would look after them in their old age, but no longer - many of those who worked hard to transform the country's economy find the next generation has other spending priorities. As a result, some elderly women are turning to prostitution.

Kim Eun-ja sits on the steps at Seoul's Jongno-3 subway station, scanning the scene in front of her.

The 71-year-old's bright lipstick and shiny red coat stand out against her papery skin.

Beside her is a large bag, from which comes the clink of glass bottles as she shifts on the cold concrete.

Mrs Kim is one of South Korea's "Bacchus Ladies" - older women who make a living by selling tiny bottles of the popular Bacchus energy drink to male customers.

But often that's not all they're selling. At an age when Korean grandmothers are supposed to be venerated as matriarchs, some are selling sex.

Start Quote

I can't trust my children to help - they're in deep trouble because they have to start preparing for their old age”
Mr Kim
"You see those Bacchus Ladies standing over there?" she asks me. "Those ladies sell more than Bacchus. They sometimes go out with the grandpas and earn money from them. But I don't make a living like that.
"Men do proposition me when I'm standing in the alleyway," she adds. "But I always say, 'No.'"
Mrs Kim says she makes about 5,000 Won ($5, or £3) a day selling the drinks. "Drink up fast," she says. "The police are always watching me. They don't differentiate."

The centre of this underground sex trade is a nearby park in the heart of Seoul. Jongmyo Park is a place where elderly men come to while away their sunset years with a little chess and some local gossip.
Men playing board game in Jongmyo park
It's built around a temple to Confucius, whose ideas on venerating elders have shaped Korean culture for centuries. But under the budding trees outside, the fumbling transactions of its elderly men and women tell the real story of Korean society in the 21st Century.

Women in their 50s, 60, even their 70s, stand around the edges of the park, offering drinks to the men. Buy one, and it's the first step in a lonely journey that ends in a cheap motel nearby.

The men in the park are more willing to talk to me than the women.

Find out more

Stock image of Korean woman (posed by model)

Standing around a game of Korean chess, a group of grandfathers watch the match intently. About half the men here use the Bacchus Ladies, they say.
"We're men, so we're curious about women," says 60-year-old Mr Kim.

"We have a drink, and slip a bit of money into their hands, and things happen!" he cackles. "Men like to have women around - whether they're old or not, sexually active or not. That's just male psychology."

Another man, 81 years old, excitedly showed me his spending money for the day. "It's for drinking with my friends," he said. "We can find girlfriends here, too - from those women standing over there. They'll ask us to play with them. They say, 'Oh, I don't have any money,' and then they glue on to us. Sex with them costs 20,000 to 30,000 Won (£11-17), but sometimes they'll give you a discount if they know you."

South Korea's grandparents are victims of their country's economic success.

As they worked to create Korea's economic miracle, they invested their savings in the next generation. In a Confucian society, successful children are the best form of pension.

But attitudes here have changed just as fast as living standards, and now many young people say they can't afford to support themselves and their parents in Korea's fast-paced, highly competitive society.

Woman and ad for Korean smartphone
The government, caught out by this rapid change, is scrambling to provide a welfare system that works. In the meantime, the men and women in Jongmyo Park have no savings, no realistic pension, and no family to rely on. They've become invisible - foreigners in their own land.

Start Quote

One Bacchus woman said to me 'I'm hungry, I don't need respect, I don't need honour, I just want three meals a day'”
Dr Lee Ho-Sun
"Those who rely on their children are stupid," says Mr Kim. "Our generation was submissive to our parents. We respected them. The current generation is more educated and experienced, so they don't listen to us.
"I'm 60 years old and I don't have any money. I can't trust my children to help. They're in deep trouble because they have to start preparing for their old age. Almost all of the old folks here are in the same situation."

Most Bacchus women have only started selling sex later in life, as a result of this new kind of old-age poverty, according to Dr Lee Ho-Sun, who is perhaps the only researcher to have studied them in detail.

One woman she interviewed first turned to prostitution at the age of 68. About 400 women work in the park, she says, all of whom will have been taught as children that respect and honour were worth more than anything.

"One Bacchus woman said to me 'I'm hungry, I don't need respect, I don't need honour, I just want three meals a day," Lee says.

Police, who routinely patrol the area but are rarely able to make an arrest, privately say this problem will never be solved by crackdowns, that senior citizens need an outlet for stress and sexual desire, and that policy needs to change.

But law-enforcement isn't the only problem.

Graffiti on the street showing an elderly couple kissing Graffiti on a street on Seoul
Inside those bags the Bacchus Ladies carry is the source of a hidden epidemic: a special injection supposed to help older men achieve erections - delivered directly into the vein. Dr Lee confirms that the needles aren't disposed of afterwards, but used again - 10 or 20 times.

The results, she says, can be seen in one local survey, which found that almost 40% of the men tested had a sexually transmitted disease¬ despite the fact that some of the most common diseases weren't included in the test. With most sex education classes aimed at teenagers, this has the makings of a real problem. Some local governments have now begun offering sex education clinics especially for seniors.

Hidden in a dingy warren of alleyways in central Seoul, is the place where these lonely journeys end - the narrow corridors of a "love motel" and one of the grey rooms which open off them.

Inside, a large bed takes up most of the space, its thin mattress and single pillow hardly inviting a long night's sleep. On the bed-head is a sticker: for room service press zero; for pornography press three; and if you want the electric blanket, you'll find the wire on the far side of the bed.

So here you have food, sex, and even a little warmth all at the touch of a button. If only it were that simple outside the motel room, in South Korea's rich, hi-tech society.

But for the grandparents who built its fearsome economy, food is expensive, sex is cheap, and human warmth rarely available at any price.
10 June 2014

Turkey, Burma, Peru, Antarctica, France ... the most incredible spots on Earth not overrun by tourists

The spectacular Zhangye Danxia hills of China. Picture: rolando000
The spectacular Zhangye Danxia hills of China. Picture: rolando000 Source: Flickr
IT’S one thing to tick off seeing the iconic sites around the world, but to stumble across places so remote and untouched is even more exhilarating.
We’ve put together a list of the most incredible locations around the world that have managed to stay off the beaten track. We’re so glad they did.

Rock tombs in Myra, Lycia, Turkey
The preserved rock cut tombs in the ancient city of Myra were carved into cliffs and were a common form of burial for the wealthy.
Eerie but awesome at the same time. Picture: jiuguangw
Eerie but awesome at the same time. Picture: jiuguangw Source: Flickr
Hallstatt, Austria
One of the most picturesque villages in Europe, it lies tucked away between a lake and a spectacular mountain range. Breathtakingly beautiful, it became prosperous after making its wealth through the mining of salt.
Straight off a postcard. Hallstatt, Austria.
Straight off a postcard. Hallstatt, Austria. Source: ThinkStock
Huacachina, Peruvian desert
This tiny oasis in the Peruvian desert is home to slightly more than 100 people showcasing rare life in the desert dunes.
Respite from the desert heat. Picture: Nouhailer.
Respite from the desert heat. Picture: Nouhailer. Source: Flickr
The Bastei Bridge in the Elbe Sandstone Mountains, Germany
The Bastei is a rock formation towering 194 metres above the Elbe River in Germany with one of the best lookout points in Europe. In 1851 the old wooden bridge was replaced by this more secure stone one.
Bastei bridge is camouflaged with the rock face.
Bastei bridge is camouflaged with the rock face. Source: ThinkStock
Zhangye Danxia Landform, Gansu, China
These incredibly rich coloured rock formations are made up of red sandstone and mineral deposits that were created over 24 million years.
The amazing shapes were formed by wind and rain that carved valleys, waterfalls, towers and ravines into the rock face.
This looks like a landscape painting. Picture: epherterson.
This looks like a landscape painting. Picture: epherterson. Source: Flickr
Procida, Italy
One of the best-kept secrets in the Bay of Naples in Italy, Procida is a cluster of picturesque pastel houses and fishermen that has remained relatively hidden from the tourist beat.
Life hasn’t changed much in Procida. Picture: JJKDC.
Life hasn’t changed much in Procida. Picture: JJKDC. Source: Flickr
Chichilianne, Rhone Alpes, France
Towering above this French town lies Mont Aiguille, a 2000 metre high mountain made of limestone and surrounded by steep cliffs
The daunting mountain towers over the village. Picture: girolme.
The daunting mountain towers over the village. Picture: girolme. Source: Flickr
Deception Island, Antarctica
With a distinctive horseshoe shape, Deception Island is one of the most remote places on earth.
Offering sanctuary to animals including hundreds of penguins, its unique landscape is made up of barren volcanic slopes, steaming beaches and ash-layered glaciers.
It’s rare to see humans this far south. Picture: ravas51
It’s rare to see humans this far south. Picture: ravas51 Source: Flickr
Monument Valley, Utah
Monument Valley is made up of a cluster of vast sandstone buttes, the largest reaching 300 metres above the valley floor with access via dirt road or tour group only.
The impressive three sisters rock formations. Picture: Ron Cogswell
The impressive three sisters rock formations. Picture: Ron Cogswell Source: Flickr
Fès, Morocco
The ancient Leather Souq is the world’s oldest leather tannery. Numerous stone pots are filled with different coloured dyes, a practice that dates back to the 11th century.
Huge vats of dyes date back over 900 years. Picture: fr.zil.
Huge vats of dyes date back over 900 years. Picture: fr.zil. Source: Flickr
Bagan, Burma
The ancient city of Bagan is home to one of the world’s greatest archaeological sites. Thousands of incredible temples were built by the kings of Bagan between 1057 and 1287 and over 2000 survive today.
It’s not ancient without some King’s temples.
It’s not ancient without some King’s temples. Source: ThinkStock
Meghalaya, India
Looking like a movie set straight out of The Hobbit, the Meghalaya hills receive nearly 480 inches of rain every year. The valley floors of this remote rainforest are transformed into rivers meaning the only means of travel is via a series of bridges.
A series of man made bridges links the forest. Picture: fixing-shadows.
A series of man made bridges links the forest. Picture: fixing-shadows. Source: Flickr
Craco, Matera, Basilicata, Italy
The medieval village of Craco is now an abandoned ghost town after a series of landslides forced its residents out. Rumour has it that the ruins are now inhabited by ghosts.
Eerie ruins are now haunted by ghosts. Picture: Andrea Tomassi.
Eerie ruins are now haunted by ghosts. Picture: Andrea Tomassi. Source: Flickr
Quinta da Regaleira, Sintra, Portugal
This unique estate is classified as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO and features a series of wells that were used for ceremonial purposes including Tarot initiation rites.
Walk down ancient initiation wells.
Walk down ancient initiation wells. Source: ThinkStock
Horseshoe Bend, Colorado River, Arizona
Shaped like a horseshoe, this majestic natural bend in the Colorado river is only accessible by hikers.
The most incredible spots you don’t know about
Nature never ceases to amaze us. Picture: tailwindsphotography Source: Flickr
27 May 2014

These Are The World’s Best Police Cars: Veyrons, Aventadors and Huracans

Try to run from this.
Try to run from this. Source: Supplied
THINK twice before you put your foot to the floor knowing these guys are around.
Complementing your standard patrol car, there are some extremely high-performance beasts lying in both Australian and international law enforcement garages.

Dubai (UAE) - Lamborghini Aventador, Ferrari FF, Bugatti Veyron, Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG, Nissan GT-R, McLaren MP4-12C and Audi R8
Easily, the police force with the most impressive garage is in Dubai. The drool-worthy collection of cars is mainly used to patrol tourist areas, with the normal stable of Toyota Camrys in suburban areas.

Who wants a job with the Dubai police?
Who wants a job with the Dubai police? Source: Supplied
Italy - Lamborghini Huracan, Lotus Evora S and Lamborghini Gallardo
The Italian police also have a few supercars lying around, with the most recent being the Lamborghini Huracan, which was donated this year. The cars not only patrol the highways, but have refrigeration compartments to transport organs at up to 325km/h.

Donated by Lamborghini to the Italian police, you’d be game to take on this V10 power hou
Donated by Lamborghini to the Italian police, you’d be game to take on this V10 power house. Source: Supplied
Australia - Porsche Panamera, Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution, HSV GTS, FPV GT R-spec, Volvo S60 Polestar
While most of Australia’s high performance vehicles are just used for promotion and community events, the locally made FPV and HSV models have been known to pop out on the streets every now and then to chase those drivers who are game enough to try get away from their 400kW.

Talk about presence. Australia’s fastest ever police car.
Talk about presence. Australia’s fastest ever police car. Source: Supplied
UK - McLaren 12C Spider, Lotus Evora S, Lexus IS-F, Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution
On paper, the UK’s list looks like it’s a stellar garage, but unfortunately the McLaren is just for show, leaving the Poms with a single Lotus to hold the bulk of the sports car weight.

Not many cars can weave through traffic as quick as this Lotus.
Not many cars can weave through traffic as quick as this Lotus. Source: Supplied
USA - Undercover Nissan GT-R, Dodge Charger, Cadilac CTS-V
Probably the most boring out of this list, the Americans only really have a few Dodge Chargers lying around. However, there is an undercover Nissan GT-R somewhere around the country, so watch out speeding Americans.

The definition of American muscle is what will take you down on the road.
The definition of American muscle is what will take you down on the road. Source: Supplied
Germany - Audi R8 GTR, Brabus Rocket, Porsche 911
The Germans certainly know how to make a nice car, so it’s fitting to see that they have three of the hottest and fastest cars in the world lying in their police garages.

Catching criminals on roads without speed limits can only be done with cars like this, we
Catching criminals on roads without speed limits can only be done with cars like this, we assume. Source: Supplied
26 May 2014

Chin-Mizo Cultural Festival Celebrated in US

By Katherine Klingseis

Actors act out the history of the Chin-Mizo people at the Chapchar Kut festival at Seven Flags Fitness event center, 2100 N.W. 100th St. in Clive, Sunday. (Photo: Katherine Klingseis/The Register)

Hundreds of Chin-Mizo people from across the United States gathered to celebrate one of the culture’s greatest festivals in Clive on Sunday.

This was the first year the Des Moines branch of the Mizo Society of America hosted Chapchar Kut, an event that celebrates the annual clearing of forests for rice paddies to be planted.

Chin-Mizo people are originally from the Burma-India area. Many Chin-Mizo immigrated to the United States as refugees from Burma in 2007.

Now, there about 3,000 Chin-Mizo people living in the United States and about 300 in the Des Moines area.

More than 800 people from the Mizo Society of America’s 13 branches celebrated Chapchar Kut in the Des Moines area Saturday and Sunday.

“There are more guests than we could’ve expected,” said Lal Rin Sanga, a member of the Des Moines-area Chin-Mizo community.

The event’s first day was devoted to sports, particularly soccer. The second day featured a cultural program that included music, dance and acting at Seven Flags Fitness event center, 2100 N.W. 100th St. in Clive.

The annual festival is “very important” to the Chin-Mizo people, Sanga said.

“First, we wanted to keep up the good things of the culture of our country,” Sanga said. “It’s also the only event where we can meet friends from our old country who live in other states.”

Ro Dinga, vice president of the Mizo Society of America, said the festival has three main purposes: to maintain their forefathers’ tradition, to gather Chin-Mizo people together and to preserve their culture.

“It’s to encourage people not to forget their motherland,” Dinga said.

Chapchar Kut serves as a way for adults to teach children the Chin-Mizo culture. It also encourages the Chin-Mizo people to work together, Sanga said.

“It’s to remind our people we are from one community,” Sanga said. “We can achieve things with the community that we cannot do alone.”

10 December 2013

How the Pentagon fell in love with drones

Unmanned aerial vehicles and smart bombs are the quintessential weapons of our age. And not just for Americans

War from afar: How the Pentagon fell in love with dronesFlight deck crew prepare to launch the Navy experimental unmanned aircraft, the X-47B, aboard the USS Theodore Rosevelt, Nov. 10, 2013. (Credit: AP/Steve Helber)
Excerpted from "American Arsenal:"
In the last years of the twentieth century, two weapons changed the way that America fights air wars: smart bombs (bombs that “see” a target using a television camera or a radiation sensor, or that head for a programmed location) and UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles). Smart bombs came into their own in the first Gulf War. Reconnaissance UAVs proved their worth in Bosnia and Kosovo in the late 1990s, and offensive UAVs began firing missiles in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and elsewhere a few years later.

The American public got its first look at smart bombs on January 17,1991. Iraq had invaded Kuwait five months earlier, and President George H. Bush had put together a UN-backed coalition to force its withdrawal. Iraq had the world’s fourth-largest army, at 955,000 men, and it faced a coalition force only two-thirds that size. America’s last experience of a real war had been the long disaster of Vietnam—nineteen years from start to finish, 58,000 American dead, and 153,000 wounded—and even experienced military officers feared that the Gulf War might be a reprise of Vietnam. Gen. Edward Meyer, a former Army chief of staff, predicted that America would suffer ten thousand to thirty thousand casualties in driving Iraq out of Kuwait. Saddam Hussein was counting on exactly that and reportedly told U.S. ambassador April Glaspie, “Americans cannot stand 10,000 dead.”
Americans watched the war in their living rooms. Tomahawk cruise missiles flew by journalists’ Baghdad hotel windows and blew up government buildings. One after another, American fighter planes “plinked” Iraqi tanks with Maverick missiles, and CNN replayed the video clips: the pilot locked the missile’s sensor onto the tank’s image, pushed a button, and the missile did the rest. By the time the coalition’s ground attack began in mid-February, the Iraqi army had already been seriously degraded. One Iraqi general said, “During the Iran war, my tank was my friend because I could sleep in it and know I was safe. . . . During this war my tank became my enemy. . . . [N]one of my troops would get near a tank at night because they just kept blowing up.” Although only 8 percent of the bombs dropped were smart bombs, they did 75 percent of the damage.

Gen. Meyer and Saddam Hussein vastly overestimated U.S. casualties— only 346 Americans died in the Gulf War, and less than half of those in combat. On a statistical basis, American soldiers in the war zone were safer than had they stayed at home in civilian life.5 Iraqi casualties, both military and civilian, were much higher, but even they were low by the standards of Vietnam—four thousand Iraqi civilians and thirty-five thousand soldiers dead, while about one million Vietnamese civilians and two million soldiers had died. Smart bombs made that reduction possible. One Iraqi battalion commander reported that only one of his soldiers was killed in the air war, but that all his vehicles were hit. The Gulf War coalition destroyed Iraq’s military capabilities, but it left Baghdad standing—unlike Tokyo, Hiroshima, Nagasaki, Dresden, Hamburg, or Berlin in World War II. The Air Force was finally able to deliver what it had promised in the 1930s: striking military targets while avoiding homes, schools, and hospitals. Where the Norden bombsight had failed, smart bombs succeeded.

The Gulf War taught America that future wars should be nearly bloodless, at least for its own soldiers. (On average from September 11, 2001, through 2012, about 540 Americans died each year in Iraq and Afghanistan. More died on average every two days in World War II, and that from an America with less than half the 2012 population.) And world opinion would no longer tolerate the widespread civilian casualties of Korea or Vietnam. On February 13, two fighter-bombers used laser-guided smart bombs to attack Baghdad’s Amiriyah shelter, which had been mistaken for a military command center. A bomb went down the shelter’s airshaft and killed 408 civilians, provoking outrage in the Arab world and protests in Europe and America.
Engineers have been tinkering with UAVs since the early days of aviation. In World War I, the Naval Consulting Board, chaired by Thomas Edison, funded a gyroscopic autopilot for an anti-ship “aerial torpedo” to be developed by Elmer Sperry and Peter Hewitt. The torpedo was designed to fly a preset magnetic course at a fixed altitude, wait until an engine revolution counter determined that it had achieved the desired range, and then dive onto an enemy ship that was had been calculated to be below. In flight tests, an autopilot-controlled seaplane flew a thirty-mile course and automatically dropped a bag of sand that missed the target by two miles, which was not bad for 1917. The Navy placed an order for six aerial torpedoes— stripped-down airplanes without seats or pilot controls that could carry a payload of a thousand pounds of explosive. The torpedo’s initial flight tests were unsuccessful, and the war ended before it saw service. Sperry also contributed an autopilot to the Army for a UAV, the “Kettering Bug,” named after its designer, Charles Kettering. The Bug could carry two hundred pounds of explosives seventy-five miles. After a successful flight test, the Army ordered a hundred planes. Like the Navy’s aerial torpedo, the Bug did not see combat.
Neither the Navy’s aerial torpedo nor the Army’s Bug had any external guidance, and both services saw the need for radio control if UAVs were to hit a specific target such as a ship or an artillery emplacement. The Navy lost interest in radio-controlled planes in the mid-1920s, while the Air Corps persisted into the 1930s, when it abandoned investment in UAVs in favor of the Norden bombsight and the B-17 heavy bomber.

Germany’s World War II V-1 “buzz bomb,” like America’s World War I aerial torpedo, was an unguided UAV flying on autopilot. Its mission was to hit any populated area in southern England, which did not require intelligence. The most successful smart bomb of World War II was the Japanese Kamikaze plane. Its guidance system was a human pilot, but it proved what a guided bomb could do. Kamikaze attacks sank 34 U.S. ships, damaged 384 others, and killed 4,900 sailors. Fourteen percent of the Kamikazes survived intense anti-aircraft fire and fighter defenses to strike a ship, and they sank 8.5 percent of those they struck.

“Operation Aphrodite” was a plan to turn worn-out B-17 and B-24 heavy bombers into smart bombs: strip out all guns, armor, seats, and other unnecessary gear; stuff the bomber with thirty thousand pounds of high explosive; put a television camera in the nose; and fly it by radio from a mother ship, which would direct the plane to its target. Twenty were launched, and all failed—shot down, crashed because of control problems, or exploded prematurely. Lieutenant Joseph P. Kennedy, John Kennedy’s older brother, died in an Aphrodite explosion on August 12, 1944. The Allied generals abandoned Aphrodite as unworkable in late January 1945.

Throughout its history, the Air Force has shown more interest in new aircraft than in new munitions. The Korean air war was mostly fought with World War II weaponry, with the exception of new jet fighters.9 After Korea, the Eisenhower administration’s New Look military strategy emphasized nuclear weapons. The Air Force entered the Vietnam era with an array of nuclear missiles, a fleet of B-52 strategic bombers designed to carry four nuclear bombs each, fighter-bombers designed for high-speed, low-level nuclear attack, conventional “iron” bombs that were little advanced from those it had possessed in 1945, and only two smart bombs, both developed by the Navy.

Aware that it needed better weapons, the Air Force enlisted Texas Instruments and the Army’s Redstone Arsenal to develop what would become the Paveway laser-guided smart bomb: one plane would shine a pulsed, invisible, infrared laser beam on a target, and another plane, flying at approximately twelve thousand feet, would drop a bomb anywhere in a one-thousand-foot-diameter imaginary “basket” around the target, which was reflecting infrared radiation from the first plane’s laser beam. The bomb would look for radiation at the right infrared frequency that had a beat that synchronized with the laser’s pulsing. When it found that combination, it would lock on, head for the target, and destroy it. Texas Instruments had not yet designed a defense system, so it faced credibility problems in a competition against a rival system proposed by a more experienced North American Aviation subsidiary. The responsible Air Force officer bypassed the normal contracting process and convened a “generals board” that included recently retired Air Force chief of staff Curtis LeMay. The Air Force approved Paveway and sent units to Vietnam for combat testing in 1968— just as President Johnson announced a halt to bombing of North Vietnam.

From 1965 to 1968, the United States had rained bombs on North Vietnam in Operation Rolling Thunder. The Thanh Hoa Bridge across the Song Me River, for example, was the target of eight hundred American sorties that dumped ten thousand pounds of explosives. The bombs had scarred the bridge, but the anti-aircraft guns and surface-to-air (SAM) missiles that surrounded it shot down 104 American pilots, and the bridge remained standing. The Long Bien Bridge across the Red River in Hanoi was another apparently impregnable target—three hundred anti-aircraft guns and eighty-five SAM sites kept twenty-six supply trains crossing the bridge every day from China and the port of Haiphong. In 1972, when Nixon renewed bombing of North Vietnam with the Linebacker campaign, smart bombs took out both bridges in a matter of days.

Political success did not follow military success. As a bombing exercise, Linebacker was enormously successful, but the United States lost the war. Linebacker did convince the Air Force to continue to invest in improved short-range smart bombs such as Paveway. These were launched from warplanes in combat, and they fit solidly into the Air Force’s precision bombing doctrine. Long-range cruise missiles, developed in the 1970s and introduced in the early 1980s, were another story. These jet-propelled, subsonic unmanned airplanes are descendants of the German V-1 buzz bomb. They fly at low altitude to evade enemy radar, are self-guided to fly a programmed route, have a range of about fifteen hundred miles, and can carry either a nuclear or conventional warhead of up to two thousand pounds. They are smart bombs, but they make the pilot less important. They do not need a sophisticated bomber—subsonic B-52s, submarines, or surface ships could launch them from a distance. In 1977, President Jimmy Carter cancelled the Air Force’s prized supersonic B-1A bomber when cruise missiles became available. A French general said in an interview, “The B-1 is a formidable weapon, but not terribly useful. For the price of one bomber, you can have 200 cruise missiles.” Air Force officers groused that the United States might as well subcontract the next war to Pan Am. But at a cost of more than $1 million each, cruise missiles are not weapons for routine use. Their advantage is that they can be launched from afar, but they cost significantly more than short-range smart bombs, carry a smaller payload, and are somewhat less accurate, so the Air Force’s pilots and warplanes kept a role in aerial combat.

Immediately after the Gulf War, the Air Force and Navy began development of the Joint Direct Attack Munition ( JDAM) guidance kit, which could be bolted onto conventional bombs. JDAM bombs are ideal for fixed targets such as airfields, oil refineries, or power plants. GPS navigation systems are susceptible to jamming, so JDAM couples GPS guidance with an inertial guidance system that determines the bomb’s position by measuring its acceleration, similar to the guidance systems used in ICBMs. JDAM is inexpensive (about $20,000 per kit) and, unlike laser- or television-guided smart bombs, does not require target visibility—feed it the coordinates of the target, and cloud cover and dust are no impediment.

Smart bombs became standard munitions. In the 1995 NATO bombing campaign in Bosnia, 98 percent of the bombs dropped were smart. In the 1999 bombing in the Kosovo operation, precision bombing finally won a war without the need for a land invasion: Serbian premier Slobodan Milosevic gave up when he lost popular support after NATO hit Belgrade government buildings, the telephone system, and the Yugoslav power grid. “Precision” did not mean that the operation was bloodless or free from blunders, however. NATO hit an Albanian refugee column that it mistook for a Serbian convoy, and a JDAM bomb destroyed the Chinese embassy in Belgrade when someone entered the wrong GPS coordinates.

In the 1970s, the Pentagon assigned the Army the job of developing a battlefield reconnaissance drone code-named “Aquila.” The drone’s specifications kept growing: night vision, laser designation for smart bomb attacks, a secure data link, armor. Only a few expensive prototypes were built, and the program was canceled in 1987. But when Israelis drones proved their worth in scouting Syrian radar sites in the Bekaa Valley in 1982, the Navy took note and acquired the Pioneer drone from an Israeli defense firm. The Pioneer was a simple reconnaissance drone, much like the original specification for the Aquila. The Navy used it successfully as a spotter for its battleships’ sixteen-inch guns in 1991 in the Gulf War.

The Air Force was less interested in UAVs than was the Navy, and it invested in them later than it did in smart bombs. It was the CIA, congressional Republicans, an Israeli engineer, and a small San Diego defense firm—not the Air Force—that would make the UAV an important American weapon.
Abraham Karem, an Israeli designer of drone aircraft, moved to the United States in the 1970s but was unable to find a job with a defense firm. So he started his own company, Leading Systems, and worked above his garage. He received seed money from the Pentagon to develop an unmanned drone aircraft. His UAV exceeded its contract’s specifications, flying 650 hours without a crash, but the contract for further development went to another Israeli defense firm, and Leading Systems went broke.

Two brothers, Neal and Linden Blue, owned a cocoa and banana plantation in Nicaragua in the 1970s. They became friendly with the Nicaraguan dictator Anastasio Somoza, who was opposed in a guerilla war by the Sandinista Liberation Front, and the Blues saw UAVs as a way to attack the Sandinistas’ gasoline storage tanks. They bought a small defense contractor, General Atomics, from Chevron in 1986. General Atomics purchased Leading Systems’ assets in bankruptcy and kept Karem working on an improved version of his drone, the GNAT-750, which made its first flight in 1989. The CIA and the Turkish government bought multiple GNAT-750s.

The Blues were looking to the long term: they believed that once the Air Force saw that it was in danger of losing control of a growing segment of military aviation, it would bend to the inevitable, just as it had in the 1950s when it took up missiles despite seeing them as a threat to its prized bomber fleet. And rather than just wait for the Air Force to come to its senses, the Blues pushed. General Atomics spent more on political contributions as a percentage of sales than did any other defense contractor. Its specialty was offering junkets to key congressional staffers (a practice that is now illegal). Its congressional supporters included conservative Southern Californian Republican representatives Jerry Lewis and Randy “Duke” Cunningham. In 2005, Cunningham pled guilty to federal charges relating to bribery (not by General Atomics), and Lewis’s reputation was sullied by charges of favoritism toward General Atomics and other contractors. Lewis was not indicted, but when the Republicans regained control of Congress in 2010, his party did not offer him his old post as chairman of the House Appropriations Committee.

General Atomics developed the Predator as the GNAT-750’s successor, and it first saw service in Bosnia in 1995. Predators were at that time reconnaissance-only airplanes, roughly the size of a small Cessna. They were underpowered (Rotax, the company that manufactured the engine, was best known for snowmobiles), were not equipped with radar to see through clouds, had no de-icing equipment, and were difficult to land. Lewis had forced the Predator on the Air Force in 1994 with an earmark. “If it had not been for an earmark, the Predator would not have been in Bosnia,” Lewis told Fox News in 2006. “And that mission served our country very, very well. A classic illustration of earmarks at their best.” General Atomics’ political strategy worked—Congress forced the Air Force to invest in drones. In 2000, Republican senator John Warner laid out his goal for the Pentagon: one-third of its purchased aircraft should be unmanned by 2010. The Congressional Unmanned Systems Caucus remains a potent political force as of this writing, with sixty representatives who are members.

There was some resistance. Most Air Force generals come from the ranks of fighter pilots, and as Hap Arnold pointed out in 1944, drone aircraft threaten to make fighter pilots obsolete. When the Air Force did reluctantly take up UAVs, it hired a civilian contractor to control them. Only when it found that its contractor was hiring retired Navy pilots did it assign its own pilots to unmanned aircraft, and even then it paid them less than “real” pilots and gave them no career advancement credit for flight hours. By September 2001, nineteen of the sixty-eight Predators that had been delivered to the Air Force had been lost, many due to operator error. The Air Force viewed them as toys. General Atomics fixed the Predator’s performance problems—bigger turboprop engine, de-icing equipment, higher ceiling, greater payload. But it still had customer problems with the Air Force.

Gen. John Jumper was named Air Force chief of staff the week before the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center. He had commanded U.S. and Allied air forces in the Bosnia and Kosovo campaigns. Unlike many in the Air Force, Jumper saw the potential of UAVs, though their limitations frustrated him. A Predator operator could spot an enemy tank, for example, but that was it. The operator would then have to send the location of the tank to a bombing coordinator, who would send two planes—a designator plane to “paint” the tank with a laser beam, and a second plane to destroy it with a smart bomb. During that delay, the tank might have fired on American troops or left the area entirely. Jumper’s solution was to add a “laser ball” to his Predators so that an operator could designate a target, keep the laser beam on it even if it moved, and then call in a plane for a laser-bomb strike. But for “fleeting, perishable targets that don’t require a big warhead and that we can just go ahead and take care of,” Jumper saw even that as an unnecessary delay. He armed the Predator with its own laser-guided missiles—a pair of hundred-pound Hellfire anti-armor missiles. That solution married a UAV to a smart bomb; Predators could fly for hours, their operators sitting in cubicles in trailers near Las Vegas, taking breaks so that their attention did not flag, going home to their families as they handed the planes—still in flight—over to the next shift. When a target appeared, an operator could designate it with his laser ball and destroy it with his Hellfire.

The post-9/11 war in Afghanistan showed what an armed Predator could do—kill Al Qaeda leaders. Smart bombs can hit a target, but a Predator armed with a smart bomb can often identify what is inside the target. It can hover above a building for hours, watching people entering and leaving, and it can follow an automobile down a highway. Commanders could make fine distinctions about acceptable “collateral damage” to civilians—should a car carrying an Al Qaeda leader and an unknown companion be destroyed? What about a leader and his wife? What about a leader and his three children? In the past, bombs had been made bigger to compensate for their inaccuracy, but smart bombs reversed that trend. Their precision meant that bombs could be made smaller, just big enough to destroy a targeted house but leave the neighbor’s house standing.

As of this writing, the drone’s operator, not a computer, decides when an American weapon will be fired. The operator examines the video feed and determines whether an attack is authorized under his orders. (Although visual confirmation is no guarantee, as leaked 2007 footage of a mistaken and deadly helicopter attack on civilians in Iraq shows.) But computers will become more involved, and the idea that humans can effectively oversee computers is illusory: in 1988, the guided- missile cruiser USS Vincennes shot down Iran Air Flight 66, killing all 290 on board. The airliner was ascending, was flying its scheduled route, and had its civilian transponder operating, but the Vincennes’s Aegis computer system mistook the Airbus A300 for an Iranian F-14 fighter-bomber. Pressed for time, and believing the Vincennes was under attack, the crew accepted the computer’s “advice” and fired two missiles at the plane, destroying it.

As image-recognition and artificial intelligence software improve, computers will demonstrate an improved ability to distinguish tanks from taxis and terrorists’ vans from school buses. Operators will learn to trust the computers, and when the computer says to fire, operators will obey. As UAVs proliferate, American drones will face enemy drones on the battlefield, and delays to call a human operator will be seen as intolerable. Computers will be given authority to fire, just as computers have been given the authority to risk billions of dollars in flash trading against other computers despite the occasional disastrous loss.

Allowing computers to make life-and-death decisions may be inevitable, but it is frightening. In his 1953 short story “Second Variety,” science fiction author Philip K. Dick imagined a war in which autonomous American killer robots could distinguish and kill enemy soldiers. Then the military took the next step—giving the computerized factories that produced the killer robots autonomy to design improved models. Dick’s story does not end well for the human race.

UAVs and smart bombs are not yet an incarnation of Dick’s nightmare scenario, and they have transformed America’s arsenal. Older weapons were unusable: chemical weapons were simultaneously horrifying and militarily ineffective, and nuclear bombs are disproportionate—like arming bank guards with dynamite. Combinations of smart bombs with UAVs, however, have shown themselves to be both usable and adaptable.

When to use them is another question. After Vietnam, the United States embraced what came to be known as the “Weinberger-Powell doctrine,” named after Reagan’s secretary of defense, Caspar Weinberger, and Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman Colin Powell. According to the doctrine, before the United States would initiate military action, national security must be threatened; all political, economic, and military means must be exhausted; a clear objective and a plausible exit strategy must exist; and the action must have broad public and international support. The 1991 Gulf War fit the Weinberger-Powell doctrine, but later interventions in Somalia, Bosnia, and Kosovo arguably did not. In the run-up to Bosnia, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright asked Powell, “What’s the point of having this superb military that you’re always talking about if we can’t use it?”

After 9/11, with the availability of smart bombs and UAVs, the Weinberger- Powell doctrine is effectively obsolete. Military force is often the first choice for the United States, supplanting diplomacy or other efforts. America is supposedly not at war in Yemen or Pakistan or Somalia, but Air Force drones strike there regularly. Because there is no risk to the pilots, there is little public scrutiny. And the CIA operates its own drones, with no public scrutiny at all. Legal and ethical questions remain unanswered: Should a Predator attack on a known terrorist in his car be considered an act of war or an assassination? What about terrorists who are American citizens? Who decides on legitimate targets?

At present, the United States has a technological lead in both smart bombs and UAVs. Historically, however, no nation has been able to maintain a weapons monopoly indefinitely—the American monopoly of the atomic bomb lasted only four years, and its monopoly of the hydrogen bomb less than that. Once other nations begin to use drones routinely, America may have to rethink its position on cross-border anti-terrorist attacks. What, for example, would the United States say about Russian UAV attacks on Chechen rebels in the mountains of neighboring Georgia, or a drone attack that the Chinese considered launching against a drug lord in Burma?

China has offered its drones for sale at an air show, and other countries have doubtless produced them as well. Export controls are unlikely to be effective in controlling proliferation. The United States sells UAVs and smart bombs to its allies, and the weapons are lost on the battlefield. Reverse-engineering the hardware of captured weapons would be relatively simple, although re-creating the firmware, which is certainly encrypted, would be more difficult. (The Iranians, however, claim they decrypted the video of a crashed American drone.) But America’s enemies have competent programmers and hackers, and digital espionage requires nothing more than access to the right computer.

Iran and North Korea waste their time trying to make seventy-year-old nuclear weapons and fifty-year old ICBMs. They are repeating Saddam Hussein’s mistake—developing weapons that oppose the United States symmetrically. Tanks and airplanes failed Hussein, but Iraqi insurgents have used suicide bombers and IEDs, decidedly asymmetric weapons, far more effectively against coalition forces in both Iraq and Afghanistan. A better R&D strategy for America’s enemies would be to develop robotic IEDs that combine off-the-shelf technologies—an explosive-stuffed model airplane guided by GPS, for example, or an IED built using a radio- controlled car with a video camera in its nose. The next arms race has only just begun.

Excerpted from “American Arsenal:A century of waging war” by Patrick Coffey. Copyright 2013. Oxford University Press. All rights reserved.
Patrick Coffey was born in 1945 in Chicago, Illinois and received a Ph.D. in physical chemistry from St. Louis University in 1973. He has founded or co-founded several companies that develop chemical instrumentation and software. "Cathedrals of Science," his first book, won the 2008 PROSE prize for the best book on chemistry or physics published by a scholarly press. He is at present a visiting scholar at the University of California, Berkeley.
06 December 2013

Nelson Mandela: Famous Quotes

RIP Madiba...

On his ideals (1964 trial)

Nelson Mandela (© Reuters) "During my lifetime I have dedicated myself to this struggle of the African people. I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons will live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for. But, my lord, if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die."

On becoming an anti-apartheid leader

Nelson Mandela (© Reuters)
'I had no epiphany, no singular revelation, no moment of truth, but a steady accumulation of a thousand slights, a thousand indignities and a thousand unremembered moments produced in me an anger, a rebelliousness, a desire to fight the system that imprisoned my people. There was no particular day on which I said, Henceforth I will devote myself to the liberation of my people; instead, I simply found myself doing so, and could not do otherwise.'

On revenge

Nelson Mandela (© Reuters)
 'You will achieve more in this world through acts of mercy than you will through acts of retribution.'

On leadership

Nelson Mandela (© Reuters)

'The first thing is to be honest with yourself. You can never have an impact on society if you have not changed yourself... Great peacemakers are all people of integrity, of honesty, but humility.'

On racism

Nelson Mandela (© Reuters)

'No one is born hating another person because of the colour of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.'

On hatred

Nelson Mandela (© Reuters)
''As I walked out the door toward the gate that would lead to my freedom, I knew if I didn't leave my bitterness and hatred behind, I'd still be in prison.'

On life's challenges

Nelson Mandela (© Reuters)
'After climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb.'

On courage

Nelson Mandela (© Reuters)
''I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.'

On resentment

Nelson Mandela (© Reuters) 'Resentment is like drinking poison and then hoping it will kill your enemies.'

On doing the right thing

Nelson Mandela (© Reuters)

'We must use time wisely and forever realize that the time is always ripe to do right.'

On communication

Nelson Mandela (© Reuters)
'If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart.'

On changing the world

Nelson Mandela (© Reuters) 'Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.'

On prison

Nelson Mandela (© Reuters)

'It is said that no one truly knows a nation until one has been inside its jails. A nation should not be judged by how it treats its highest citizens, but its lowest ones.'

On freedom

Nelson Mandela (© Reuters)

'To be free is not merely to cast off one's chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.'

On hope

Nelson Mandela (© Reuters)

'It always seems impossible until it's done.'

20 Ways to Overcome Shyness

Can you remember the last time you stepped into a room full of strangers and felt that self-conscious and awkward feeling rush over you? Or that heart thumping moment when you wanted to ask someone on a date, but were too shy to do so? Or wanting to approach someone for business, but was too hesitant to actually do it? That anxiety in the pit of your stomach in social situations? Does it always feel like something is holding you back?

Regardless of whether you are introverted or extraverted, we can all relate to that feeling of shyness at some point in our lives. Socially, we tend to have the misconception that only introverts experience shyness, but that is not true. Shyness has more to do with being uncomfortable with one’s self, especially around other people.

This article is the result of collaboration between Amanda Linehan, an introvert, and Tina Su, an extravert. Together, we wanted to shed some light on the topic of shyness in a collective perspective from both extremes. We will also share the ways that we used to turn shyness into personal empowerment.

The Three Components of Shyness

According to Dr. Bernardo J. Carducci of the Shyness Research Institute, shyness has three components:
  • Excessive Self-Consciousness – you are overly aware of yourself, particularly in social situations.
  • Excessive Negative Self-Evaluation – you tend to see yourself negatively.
  • Excessive Negative Self-Preoccupation – you tend to pay too much attention to all the things you are doing wrong when you are around other people.
Can you relate? When you are experiencing shyness, can you fit your state of mind into one or more of the above categories? We sure can.

Why Do We Experience Shyness?

We all experience shyness differently and on varying degrees. However, root cause can be boiled down to one of the following reasons:

1. Weak Self Image

This is especially true to our experiences in high school. We would believe in the fallacy that our unique qualities were not interesting, cool or worthy of anyone’s admiration.We would try to fit in with everyone else, resulting in us not feeling like ourselves.
  • Amanda: Looking back I’m not even sure I knew what my unique abilities were, I just knew that everybody else seemed to be a cooler, more interesting person than I was, so I tried to imitate them…poorly.:)
  • Tina: I thought of myself as cool, because I was loud, and worked very hard at keeping that image. It was of course, a false image that I worked hard to keep. It was exhausting and I was exceedingly self conscious. Even though people didn’t view me as shy, but I felt shy most of the time with a lot of built up anxiety. Turns out, the ‘cool’ kids themselves have weak self images and wanted to fit in with everyone else.

2. Pre-occupation with Self

When we’re around other people, we become extremely sensitive to what we’re doing, as if we’ve been put on center stage. This creates anxiety and makes us question our every move. Our focus centers around ourselves and particularly on “what I was doing wrong”. This can cause a downward spiral.
  • Amanda: Coupled with a weak self image,I didn’t thinkIwas doing anything right! And this would start a cycle that I couldn’t get out of. What I understand now is that is that most people are not looking at me with the detail thatI was looking at myself.
  • Tina: I too was very sensitive to my every move around other people. My senses were heightened to the way I talked, walked, laughed, etc. My focus was on how to not screw up in front of other people, and this made me very nervous. What I understand now is that everyone is so caught up with their own insecurities that they hardly notice yours.

3. Labeling

When we label ourselves as a shy person, we psychologically feel inclined to live up to those expectations. We may say to ourselves, “I am a shy person, than it must be true that I am shy. This is how I am, and this is the way things are.” When we label something, that thing has the perception of being fixed and therefore we must live up to the expectations of the labeling.
  • Amanda: I was known by others as a shy person, or a quiet person, and this perception held me captive at times. People expected me to be a certain way and so I was. And knowing that other people regarded me as shy, in addition to my not wanting to be shy, resulted in great anxiety when I was with people. I really wanted to show myself to others when I was around them, but it was easy to simply go along with what others expected from me.
  • Tina: Deep down, I felt the anxieties from shyness often, yet, when I’m around people, I had to live up to the expectations that I wasn’t shy. My experiences with shyness would manifest in unusual ways, like when I’m ordering food, when I call someone on the phone, or speak to strangers. I would never let that side of myself show, but I do experience it. In those moments, I can hear myself say, ‘I am shy.’

How to Overcome Shyness

We’ve both experienced different variations of shyness, and through practice and increased awareness we have both overcome this. The following are tips that have helped us overcome this uncomfortable feeling.
Photo by Lauren

1. Understand Your Shyness

Seek to understand your unique brand of shyness and how that manifests in your life. Understand what situation triggers this feeling? And what are you concerned with at that point?

2. Turning Self Consciousness into Self Awareness

Recognize that the world is not looking at you. Besides, most people are too busy looking at themselves. Instead of watching yourself as if you are other people, bring your awareness inwards. Armed with your understanding of what makes you shy, seek within yourself and become the observing presence of your thoughts. Self awareness is the first step towards any change or life improvement.

3. Find Your Strengths

We all have unique qualities and different ways of expressing ourselves. It’s important to know and fully accept the things we do well, even if they differ from the norm. If everyone was the same, the world would be a pretty boring place.
  • Find something you are good at and focus on doing it. An identifiable strength will boost your natural self esteem and your ego, helping you better identify with yourself. It is a short term fix, but will give you the confidence you need to break your self-imposed barrier of fear.
  • See how your unique strength gives you an advantage. For example, Amanda is a naturally quiet person who prefers to spend time alone. She learned that she listens better than others and notices things that others miss in conversations. She also discovered that her alone time has given her a better understanding of herself.

4. Learn to Like Yourself

Practice appreciating yourself and liking the unique expression that is you. Write a love letter to yourself, do things you enjoy, give gratitude for your body and its effortless functions, spend quality time getting to know yourself, go on a self-date.

5. Not Conforming

Trying to fit in like everyone else is exhausting and not very much fun. Understand that it is okay to be different. In fact, underlying popular kid’s public displays of coolness, they too are experiencing insecurities, self-consciousness, and awkwardness. Accept that you may not be perceived as the most popular social butterfly, and you may not want to be either. At the end of the day, being popular will not make you happy. Accepting your unique qualities can set you free.

6. Focus on Other People

Rather than focusing on your awkwardness in social situations, focus on other people and what they have to say. Become interested in learning about others, and probe them to talk about themselves. You can try pondering the question while interacting: What is it about this person that I like?

7. Releasing Anxiety through Breath

Anxiety and fear can feel overwhelming if you are practicing to become more assertive in order to overcome this fear.
  • One simple technique to calm this anxiety into manageable bites is taking deep breaths with your eyes closed, while concentrating on just your breaths. Inhale and exhale slowly while clearing out all thoughts.
  • Another technique is from yoga: counting as you inhale and then as you exhale. Slowly leveling out your inhale and exhale duration. Example, 4 count for in and 4 for out. Once your breaths are leveled, add an extra count during your exhale. This means slowing down your exhale by just a tad as compared to your inhale. Continue for a few minutes until you are comfortable, than add another count to your exhale. You can easily do this in the bathroom, or in a spare room of when you need it.

8. Releasing Anxiety through Movement

One way of viewing anxiety is that it is blocked energy that needs to be released. We can release this energy through physical movement.
  • Exercises like jogging or walking will help to re-channel some of the blocked energies, but also helps by pulling you out of the situation and shifts your state of mind. This refreshed state of mind will help by adding perspectives to things.
  • Another effective technique is a simple muscle meditation/exercise. Sit down or lie down. Bring awareness to every part of your body, starting from your toes and moving up your body to the top of your head. At every part of your body, tighten the muscles at the center of awareness for 3-5 seconds, and then relax. Repeat this until you get to the top of your head. Remember to breathe.

9. Visualization

Visualizing yourself in the situation as a confident and happy person helps to shape your perception of yourself when you are actually in the situation. Close your eyes, sit back somewhere relaxing, listen to some relaxing music, imagine yourself in a scene or situation and see yourself the way you would like to be. In this scene, how do you feel? What do you hear? Do you smell anything? Are you moving? What do you see? Get all your senses involved to make it real.

10. Affirmation

Words can carry incredible energy. What we repeatedly tell ourselves, gets heard by our unconscious mind, and it acts accordingly. If we repeatedly tell ourselves that we are incapable, and too shy to do anything, we will become increasingly aware of evidence to back up this ‘fact’, and our actions will always match what we tell ourselves. Similarly, if we repeatedly tell ourselves that we are capable, confident, and wonderful human beings, our unconscious mind will likely surface the awareness that gives evidence to this new ‘fact’. While, we can’t lie to ourselves, positive visualization and affirmation are helpful in placing us along the road of positive thought patterns.

11. Do Not Leave an Uncomfortable Situation

When we leave shy situations, what we are really doing is reinforcing our shyness. Instead, face the situation square in the face. Turn the fearful situation into a place of introspection and personal growth. Become the observer and dig into yourself, answer the questions: why do I feel this way? What caused me to feel this way? Can there be an alternative explanation to what is happening?

12. Accept Rejection

Accept the possibility that we can be rejected and learning to not take it personally. Remember, you are not alone and we all experience rejections. It is part of life and part of the learning process. The key lies in how you handle rejections when they come. It helps to be mentally prepared before they happen:
  • Never take it personally. It was not your fault. It just wasn’t meant to be. The scenario was not the best fit for you.
  • Find the lesson – what did you learn? There is a lesson ingrained in every situation. And through these life lessons lies the potential for you to become a better person, a stronger person. Nothing is lost if you can find the lesson. See these as the blessings in disguise.
  • Move on. Recognize that when you fall into self-pity, you are not moving forward. Nothing will be changed from your self-pity. When you start to recognize this, it becomes clear that only energy is wasted while we feed to our problem-seeking ego. Pick yourself up, dust off the dirt and move on to the next thing. Try again, try again, try again. It will pay off!

13. Relinquish Perfectionism

When we compare ourselves, we tend to compare ourselves with the most popular person in the room or we compare ourselves with celebrities we see on TV. We set excessive expectations by comparing ourselves unreasonably to people unlike ourselves and wonder “why can’t I be that?” We carry with us a vision of another’s perfection and expect ourselves to fit that exact mold. And when we don’t fit, we beat ourselves up for it, wondering why we are such failures. You see, the problem lies in our emphasis on fitting into a vision we have created in our minds, which is not us. Let go of this perfect image, create visions of yourself out of the Being from who you are, naturally; and let that expression flow, naturally.
shyness2.jpg Photo via g2slp

14. Stop Labeling Yourself

Stop labeling yourself as a shy person. You are you, you are unique, and you are beautiful. Can’t we just leave it at that?

15. Practice Social Skills

Like any other skill, social skills can be cultivated through practice and experience. The more you put yourself out there, the easier it becomes next time. If you have a hard time knowing what to say, you can practice what to say ahead of time.

16. Practice Being in Uncomfortable Situations

Sometimes, it is not the social skills we lack, but rather the lack of self confidence that we may succeed, and a heightened fear that we will fail. Placing yourself in these uncomfortable situations will help to desensitize your fear towards the situation. The more you force yourself to face it, and to experience it completely, you will realize that it is not that bad after all. It may be hard for your ego to accept at first, but quickly you will find that you can just laugh and enjoy it.

17. The Three Questions

During social settings where you may experience nervousness, periodically ask yourself the following three questions. Doing so will distract yourself from more self-destructive thoughts. Make it your mantra:
  1. Am I breathing?
  2. Am I relaxed?
  3. Am I moving with grace?

18. What is Comfortable for You?

Going to bars and clubs isn’t for everyone, and that’s okay. Understand what feels comfortable for you, and find people, communities and activities which bring out the best in you. You can be just as equally social in settings that you connect with on a personal level, than the popular social settings. You don’t have to be doing what “everyone” else is doing. Besides, everyone else isn’t necessarily happy, despite your perception as such.

19. Focus on the Moment

Becoming mindful of what you’re doing, regardless of what you’re doing, will take focus away from the self. When you are having a conversation, forget about how you look, focus on the words, fall into the words, become absorbed in the words. The tones. The expression. Appreciate it and give gratitude for it.

20. Seek and Record Your Successes

As you overcome this condition we’ve been labeling as shyness, you will have many wins and realizations about yourself. You will gain insights into the truth behind social scenarios. You will start to view yourself differently and come to recognize that you can become comfortable and confident. When these wins and realizations happen, make sure to keep a notebook and write them down. Keeping a journal of your successes will not only boost self confidence, but also shift your focus towards something that can benefit you.