New Boss at the CIA: Brennan’s “Legal Framework” for Drone Killings
By James Gundun
Bueno, no duden que me gusta el nuevo boss de la CIA. Es el segundo post que le regalo en enero. En el primero ofrecí una breve biografía, con algo fusilado de Wikipedia, y comentarios un poco malévolos con el sello de codondesastre, faltaría plus. Aqui he seleccionado para el distinguido personal que me visita, el artículo de James Gundun, quien mete el dedo en el ojo (ocular) del asunto. Va de áreas de operaciones, materiales y medios (como en los papers de ciencia) y algunos tejemanejes del quehacer de Brennan y sus adláteres entre ellos, los que hereda del anterior director víctima de una batallita doméstica. Gundun es especialista en contraterrorismo. Su blog se llama "The Trench".Veremos si les entretiene.
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As the majority of Washington’s political and media establishments concentrate their firepower on Senator Chuck Hagel’s nomination for U.S. Defense Secretary, John Brennan is doing what he does best and slipping through the shadows. Rumored since President Barack Obama secured his second term in office, Brennan has finally received a formal nomination to replace the scandalized David Petraeus and advance his work at the CIA. Disturbingly but not surprisingly, many American pundits have welcomed Brennan’s promotion as a logical choice for the CIA’s Directorship and expect a smooth confirmation.
They generally avoid real discussions over the areas of operations affected (and afflicted) by U.S. counter-terrorism, instead preferring the glamorous statistics of high-profile kills and Brennan’s alleged construction of a “legal framework” for drones – as recently claimed by the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York (SDNY).
Brennan’s positives are easy to list: “More al Qaeda leaders and commanders have been removed from the battlefield than at any time since 9/11.” He has applied his extensive influence to “literally building” and leading the National Counterterrorism Center, which entailed the coordination of various military, intelligence and civilian departments across the globe. In the process Brennan has become one of Obama’s most trusted advisers, so close that, “I don’t think we’ve had a disagreement.”
“For the last four years,” Obama announced from the East Room, “as my Adviser for Counterterrorism and Homeland Security, John developed and has overseen our comprehensive counterterrorism strategy – a collaborative effort across the government, including intelligence and defense and homeland security, and law enforcement agencies.”
However this fantasy hits a steel wall in Yemen, where Brennan and U.S. Ambassador Gerald Feierstein may be the most despised Americans to touch its soil. The immediate reaction to Brennan’s promotion has been overwhelmingly negative for good reason, as he reinforces the single-mindedness and unaccountability that drives an assortment of U.S. counter-terrorism platforms being constructed around the nation. Brennan now inherits Petraeus’s “secret” agreement with Yemen’s former dictator, Ali Abdullah Saleh, and was even deployed to Sana’a on multiple occasions during the country’s ongoing revolution; he would assist Feierstein in facilitating the Gulf Cooperation Council’s (GCC) unpopular power-sharing agreement when a drone strike didn’t require overseeing.
Brennan told the Wilson Center in April 2012, “Yemen was fortunate that they do – did have a degree of political pluralism there, Ali Abdullah Saleh in fact allowed certain political institutions to develop, and we were very fortunate to have a peaceful transition from the previous regime to the government of President Hadi now.”
A known intimate of Saudi Arabia’s royal circle, Brennan’s promotion also corresponds to recent investigative reporting on Saudi bombings in Yemen. Now he’s promoted less than a week later, highlighting the obvious favoritism and imperialism that assisted his rise atop the CIA.
Given that Brennan has been nominated, in part, to embed the CIA deeper into Yemen, his presence is ultimately counterproductive to defeating al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) and improving relations with Yemen’s people. “Traveling through the Arabian Peninsula where he camped with tribesmen in the desert” has done little to promote their human rights and dignity, which are trampled on daily by the national government and its foreign partners. Victims of drone strikes have no recourse, and Yemen’s revolution has been blocked by opportunistic relations with the ruling General People’s Congress (GPC) and oppositional Joint Meeting Parties (JMP).
Washington’s Pakistani “model” has been improved by establishing better relations with the transitional government, led by Saleh’s former VP Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi, but the same hostility is repeating within those who serve as the real front lines against AQAP.
A “keen understanding of a dynamic world” is noticeably absent from Yemen’s counterterrorism operations. During a prolonged defense of the CIA’s targeted killings, orchestrated throughout 2012 and Yemen’s emerging bombardment, Brennan claimed that drones don’t cause as much resentment as commonly believed. He never acknowledged a revolution amid the Obama administration’s micromanaging of a “political crisis,” and has no relationship with the people that are needed to stop AQAP at its roots.
What Brennan will ensure is that AQAP’s status remains viable, and that Yemen remains under the firm grip of Washington and Riyadh.
To overrule these “results,” as Obama calls them, flattery and hyperbole are piled onto Brennan’s shoulders in an effort to democratize him, so to speak. Instead of a calculated killer that has taken his share of civilian life, Brennan is heralded as a “legendary, tireless patriot” and a model of American “integrity.” Ethics and values are stressed as a counterweight to the perceived constitutional violations that drone warfare entails.
“There’s another reason I value John so much, and that is his integrity and his commitment to the values that define us as Americans. He has worked to embed our efforts in a strong legal framework. He understands we are a nation of laws. In moments of debate and decision, he asks the tough question and he insists on high and rigorous standards. Time and again, he’s spoken to the American people about our counterterrorism policies because he recognizes we have a responsibility to be [as] open and transparent as possible.”
The SDNY recently refused to address the killing of 16-year old U.S. citizen Abdulahman al-Awlaki, son of AQAP cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, on the grounds that the Obama administration never released information on his killing. Unlike his father, whose droned body was held aloft as a trophy by Brennan and company, Abdulrahman’s murder was first denied, then silenced and finally labeled an “outrageous mistake” by an anonymous official more than a year later.
His or her statements were planted within a glowing profile of the CIA veteran.
Brennan was incapable of bringing a shred of peace to Yemen as Obama’s counterterrorism adviser and remains helpless at the CIA – he can only deliver death and destruction. His tireless drone fleet will always kill civilians in between terrorists and the process will stay classified to Americans and Yemenis alike. The Predator and its sole purpose of killing serves as a permanent symbol of U.S. imperialism, and lacks the ability to build relationships at the local level. Mere flyovers cause terror. This policy violates America’s morals, the spirit of the Nobel and the strategic essence of counterinsurgency all at once. A plan that fails to kill more militants than it creates doesn’t qualify for counter-terrorism or counterinsurgency – expedient recklessness is a more accurate definition.
“What scares me about drone strikes is how they are perceived around the world,” retired general Stanley McCrystal told Reuters in a new interview, coincidentally implicating Brennan himself. “The resentment created by American use of unmanned strikes... is much greater than the average American appreciates. They are hated on a visceral level, even by people who’ve never seen one or seen the effects of one.”
Until U.S. policy undergoes a radical shift in fundamentals, a change unlikely to occur under Brennan, America has already lost its small war in Yemen.
James Gundun is a political scientist and counterinsurgency analyst. His blog, The Trench, covers the underreported areas of U.S. foreign policy. Follow him on Twitter @RealistChannel.
Copyright © 2013 Global Research
sábado, 12 de enero de 2013
viernes, 11 de enero de 2013
|He descubierto una foto poco conocida que descubre una mesa de trabajo como la que me llamó la atención el día en que visité a Doña Celia Sánchez Manduley en su despacho del entonces Palacio Presidencial. Recoge el instante en que, ensimismada, atiende una comunicación telefónica. Celía solía llamar a mi padre a casa, casi siempre para decirle que fuera "a despachar en Once". Once era (es) una calle del Vedado, un barrio habanero, donde se encontraba su casa. Digamos que formaba el centro en torno al que ella organizaba una buena parte de sus múltiples y variopintas tareas. Once no era una oficina gubernamental, ni un pseudo ministerio. Era un piso bastante sencillo, decorado con buen gusto y con frecuencia tomado por niños de su extensa familia a los que había que sumar sus múltiples ahijados, y hasta los hijos de los miembros de la guarnición militar. Allí iban a visitarla "su" gente. Quienes la querían. Personas nada cortesanas, campesinos venidos de los confines de las provincias orientales, combatientes de la Sierra. En la foto que muestro Celia tal vez organizaba documentos históricos. Noten que son papeles manoseados. Puede que se trataran de cartas solicitando su intervención para resolver algún problema. Hoy hay hospitales que llevan su nombre. Y se han erigido monumentos que la verdad distan mucho de recoger su apariencia. Hay uno en el Parque Lénin verdaderamente espantoso. Pero el mito no podrá devorar la memoria viva. Su ejemplo de inteligencia y sensibilidad. No, sé que no soy imparcial. La quiero y pienso en ella. Hasta la victoria Aly, Norma, Manina, siempre presente compañera.|
jueves, 10 de enero de 2013
"The revelation comes from the work of Egyptologist Kim Ryholt of the University of Copenhagen, who has been studying papyrus slave contracts found in a rubbish dump in the ancient Egyptian temple city of Tebtunis.
“I am your servant from this day onwards, and I shall pay 2½ copper-pieces every month as my slave-fee before Soknebtunis, the great god.”
This is part of the translation of 100 of these papyrus slave contracts that Ryholt has spent years trying to collect and analyse. The documents were scattered in fragments across Egypt, Europe and the US after they were illicitly excavated. In one example, a contract was divided between Copenhagen and the British Museum.
Ryholt is the first to analyze these papyri collectively, publishing his findings in a recent article titled: A Self-Dedication Addressed to Anubis – Divine Protection against Malevolent Forces or Forced Labour?
Among his findings was that these voluntary slaves also signed up their descendants.
“I am your servant with my children and the children of my children,” read the contracts, which were written in Demotic script – an ancient Egyptian language.
It is unclear how the temple slaves generated any income in order to pay their monthly fee, but Ryholt says that they likely performed various kinds of manual labour in their “spare” time.
“Slaves in antiquity, as in modern times, were generally allowed to earn some money on their own,” says Ryholt. However, he concedes that we are rarely told how they generated income, though he does mention one example of a literate slave called Ptolemy who made some earnings working as a “dream interpreter.”
Ultimately, the real mystery is why anybody would willingly become a slave. Ryholt argues that these individuals were not driven by some inexplicable masochist streak – as one may be tempted to assume – but were poor individuals at the bottom of the social hierarchy seeking asylum from a worse fate: forced labour.
While these contracts bound them as slaves, they also protected them from being subject to forced labours such as digging canals and other harsh and often fatal projects. However, as temple slaves, they were mainly engaged in agriculture and were exempt from forced labour.
This loophole for escaping forced labour was likely only open during a 60 year period from around 190 BC to 130 BC, with no other evidence that this practice existed during other periods in ancient Egypt. Ryholt speculates that this is because reigning monarchs could not afford losing too many potential labourers to temples in the long-run".
Muchos y muchas/os de vosotros/as tal vez habeis hecho el firme propósito de comenzar a practicar algún deporte en 2013. Es por descontado algo muy sano. Y que no repercute exclusivamente en el cuerpo sino que está científicamente probado que tonifica el sistema nervioso central y beneficia al cerebro.
Consulté con una psiquiatra clínica y me confirmó que la práctica sistemática de cualquier actividad física es muy recomendable. Mejora significativamente el estado de ánimo, alivia el estrés y, en cuadros de depresión puede ser un factor coadyuvante a la curación (aunque la depresión es una enfermedad lo suficientemente seria para intentar resolverla exclusivamnente en el gimnasio)
Los mecanismos moleculares de cómo el entrenamiento físico influye en la actividad cerebral son complejos y no están del todo investigados.
Aquí he escogido varios experimentos realizados en rata y presentados en la reunión anual de la Sociedad de Neurociencias en 2012 celebrada en NY. Cabe resaltar que se comprobó que en las ratas que practicaban ejercicio (por supuesto, en modelos experimentales) aumentaba el número de neuronas del hipocampo (centro de la memoria). Lo que no ocurría en los animales "sedentarios". Es la buena noticia. Pero los científicos se preguntaron si el efecto del ejercicio, (los cambios encontrados) era permanente o si como sucede con los músculos ejercitados, pierden consistencia y masa al abandonarse la práctica deportiva. La respuesta resultó indicar que los cambios revertían: sin ejercicio el numero de neuronas disminuía. La lección es que para tener beneficios no hay que abandonar los buenos propósitos de año nuevo.
"It is well established that exercise bolsters the structure and function of the brain. Multiple animal and human studies have shown that a few months of moderate exercise can create new neurons, lift mood and hone memory and thinking.
But few studies have gone on to examine what happens next. Are these desirable brain changes n may be particularly relevant at this time of year, when so many people start new exercise programs. Helpfully, two recent animal studies that were presented at the 2012 annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience in New Orleans have taken on the issue and may have relevance for people, though the results are disquieting.Of the two experiments, the more dramatic looked at what happens to the brain’s memory center when exercise is stopped.Researchers from the University of Sao Paulo in Brazil began by allowing half of a group of healthy, adult rats to run at will on running wheels. Rats enjoy that activity and, for a week, they enthusiastically skittered on their wheels. The animals were also injected with a substance that marks newborn neurons in the hippocampus, or memory center of the brain, so that the scientists would be able to track how many cells had been created. Inactive animals, including people, create new brain cells, but exercise is known to spark the creation of two or three times as many new hippocampal neurons. A separate control group was housed in cages with locked wheels, so that they remained sedentary. They were also monitored for new brain cell growth. After a week, the runners’ wheels were locked and they, too, became inactive. A week later, some of the exercised and control rats completed memory testing that required them to find, then remember, the location of a platform placed along the wall of a small swimming pool. (Rats aren’t fond of being in the water, and the platform allowed them to clamber out.) Those with better memories remembered and paddled to the platform more quickly. The remaining animals completed the same memory test after either three weeks or six weeks of inactivity. Afterward, the researchers compared the animals’ performance on the memory test, as well as the number of new brain cells in the hippocampus of each group of rats. They found that, after only a week of inactivity, the rats that had run were much faster on the water maze test than the control animals. They also had at least twice as many newborn neurons in the hippocampus. But those advantages faded after several more weeks of not running. The brains of the animals that had been inactive for three weeks contained far fewer newborn neurons than the brains of the animals that had rested for only one week. The brains of the animals that had been inactive for six weeks had fewer still. The animals inactive for three or six weeks also performed far worse on the water maze test than the animals that had been inactive for only a single week. In fact, their memories were about as porous of those of the control animals, “indicating,” the authors write, “that the exercise-induced benefits may be transient.” The other new study of exercise-induced brain changes found that they were similarly fragile, although this study explored the impacts of exercise on mood. In earlier experiments by the same group of scientists, from McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, rats given access to a running wheel, toys and other types of environmental enrichment were able to use serotonin, a neurotransmitter involved in anxiety and other moods, more efficiently. After several months of exercise, the exercised animals became noticeably less anxious and more resilient to stress during behavioral testing. But that savoir-faire dissipated rapidly if they were removed from the cages with running wheels and toys. In their latest experiment, also presented at the Society for Neuroscience meeting, the researchers reported that after 10 weeks of running, followed by three weeks of inactivity, the running rats’ brains were almost indistinguishable from those of animals that had never exercised. They had almost comparable levels of an enzyme in the brain that affects the synthesis and uptake of serotonin. It was as if they had never run. In other words, the brain benefits “wear off quickly,” said Dr. Michael Mazurek, a professor of neurology at McMaster, who oversaw the study. “This is analogous to what happens to muscle bulk or heart rate following exercise withdrawal.” Gilberto Xavier, a professor of psychology at the University of Sao Paulo and senior author of the study of hippocampal neurons, agrees. “Brain changes are not maintained when regular physical exercise is interrupted,” he said, adding that, “though our observations are restricted to rats, indirect evidence suggests that the same phenomenon occurs in human beings.” Meaning that the lessons of both studies point in the same direction. For the ongoing health of our minds, as well as for the plentiful other health benefits of exercise, it might be wise to stick to those New Year’s exercise resolutions". (La información en inglés procede del NYT)
miércoles, 9 de enero de 2013
Todo el mundo y su hermano ya domina el arte de ahorrar en desplazamientos: Consultar Kayak, para ofertas de última hora, arriesgarse a las terroríficas sorpresas de Ryanair (que puede convertir un trayecto europeo en la mayor aventura de su vida). Subirse a EasyJet y que le extravíen su maleta. No faltan quienes usan Airbnb, CouchSurfing, Priceline, HotelTonigth etc.
You’ve mastered the art of modern travel savings: your airfare alerts are set up on Kayak; you flit around Europe on cheap carriers like EasyJet andRyanair (with vacuum-packed clothing in a carry-on to avoid baggage fees). You stay in apartments rented through Airbnb when you’re not bunking with locals through CouchSurfing, bidding on Priceline or snapping up last minute rooms on HotelTonight. From the remotest corners of the earth, you stay in touch with your significant other over Gchat and your folks over Skype — when Grandma will let you off FaceTime, that is.
You could probably shave a few more cents off travel costs by downloading five new apps and bookmarking 10 new sites. But in 2013, the real savings will come to those who go retro — not by sending postcards with actual stamps (that’s what the Postagram app is for), but by stepping away from the screen, or using it differently, to find old-fashioned tactics that can save you big. Here are nine old-school tips for getting the most out of your travel buck this year.
1. PICK UP THE PHONE
No se olvide que es posible hacer gestiones prácticas por teléfono. Así, se recomienda contactar directamente con el sitio al que quiere ir. En USA, antes de lanzarme a mis excursiones por las bellas Smoky M., dedicaba (muy poco) tiempo para llamar a moteles en la ruta y averiguar cómo estaban de plazas, precios y condiciones. Luego detecté uno o dos muy confortables y me hice clienta. Lo de solicitar descuentos puede colar, según la estación. No olvidar las agencias de viaje: Se puede obtener información útil.
We think we can get everything done online these days, but sometimes a simple phone call is your best bet for saving money. Speak with an innkeeper and learn of potential discounts on extended stays or information on how to get there from the airport by public transit. Contact the specific location where you’ll pick up your rental car and reserve a compact to avoid getting “upgraded” to a bigger vehicle that will increase (sometimes even double) your gas costs. Call travel agencies that strike special deals with airlines to get you prices below anything you’ll find online.
2. CHOOSE CHEAP COUNTRIES
Hay países y países. Aquí comentan la diferencia entre viajar a Noruega y hacerlo a Bolivia. Viajar dentro de USA en un coche propio puede salir muy a cuenta. Hay que planear los objetivos del viaje, y centrar bien nuestros intereses. Por ejemplo en NY hay que contar con el precio de las entradas a los museos, aunque nos limitemos a nuestros favoritos. Sin incurrir en derroches en restaurantes de mucho lujo o bares muy trendy ( tampoco hay que matarse en Mcburgueserías), en NY se puede disfrutar de una variadísima oferta culinaria.
Cuba es un país muy interesante y relativamente económico: pueden alojarse en alguna casa particular y degustar los platos típicos en los restaurantes privados. Hay muchísimo para explorar.
Goodbye Norway, hello Bolivia. Or as Gary Arndt of the Everything Everywhere blog put it, “Cheapest dorm bed in Zurich = nice room in Bangkok.” Extrapolate that to tour guides, museum entries, food and more, and the savings start to add up. Of course, keep in mind how much it will cost you to get there in the first place. Luckily, a lot of the cheaper countries are also cheap to fly to; Matthew Kepnes, the blogger known as Nomadic Matt, put together a list of 10 “Cheap Places to Travel on the U.S. Dollar,” which includes Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Peru, Hungary and Romania. Another option: put together the 10 places you’d most like to go and price out the basics — a task most easily done by browsing guides in the travel section of your local bookstore.
3. SPLURGE WHEN IT MATTERS
Hay que ser selectivo a la hora de ajustar el presupuesto. No es imprescindible volar en preferente. Valore qué es lo que más le interesa.
Most travelers will never be across-the-board cheapskates. Street food, nosebleed theater seats and bunk beds are not for everyone. But you don’t have to be a purist. For each trip, decide on a themed splurge or two — transportation, food, arts, lodging — and save on the rest. You don’t need to fly business class, stay at the Four Seasons, sit in the front row on Broadway and have the 27-course tasting menu at Chez Truffle. You’ll be surprised what a thrill it is to ride a crowded public bus to a Michelin-starred restaurant, or step out of a Vienna youth hostel gussied up for the Opera Ball.
4. PICK UP THE LOCAL PAPER
Atienda a la información local para enterarse de lo que se cuece en el lugar que visitamos. Allí encontrará ofertas nada turísticas.
No listings are more up-to-the-minute than Friday arts supplements, alternative weeklies or the local editions of Time Out magazine (now free in London, by the way). Get ’em on actual paper while they last. You’ll not only find the nontouristy (read: cheaper) scene laid out for you in one handy package, but often come across coupons or specials you certainly won’t find on Yelp.
5. NO MORE SIM SWAPS
Ojo a las tarjetas telefónicas. Entérese de lo que ofrecen. En Cuba por ejemplo, el acceso a internet es carísimo (6 euros la hora).
Cellphones aren’t exactly old-school, but here’s what is: attempting the complicated dance of swapping out SIM cards as you cross borders or choosing among the confusing options for international SIM cards. In 2012, though, most big American cellular providers came out with reasonably priced international overseas data and texting plans. I once used SIM cards from around the world; my collection is now gathering (tiny amounts of) dust atop my bureau now that I’m a happy customer of AT&T’s international package. Actual phone calls are still expensive, though, so be sure you’ve got money in your Skype or Google Voice accounts to call for that restaurant reservation.
6. ADJUST YOUR MENTAL BUDGET
Ponga los pies en el suelo a la hora de escoger actividades recreativas. Considere lo que gastaría en casa.
Appalled that a romantic weekend getaway for two will cost you $1,000? Don’t worry; it won’t. For some reason, people always assume that the alternative to travel is to stay home and spend nothing. Instead, you should be subtracting what you save by not being home. Surely you would have gone out for dinner and a movie one night, at least, so knock off $100. Add in gas, groceries, electricity, etc., and you’ve got at least another $50. Your weekend now cost $850.
7. USE A GUIDEBOOK — YOUR OWN
Hágase su propia guía de viaje: Así lo hice cuando recorrí la Toscana y me resultó divertido y muy práctico. Encontré un hostal excelente en el centro de Florencia, genial. Hay que señalar que la oferta era variadísima. Así que dedicar tiempo en la web, algunas páginas impresas y ya está.
I still carry a Moon or Lonely Planet or Frommer’s travel guide around when I travel — as backup, if nothing else. But those books are pricey, and there’s so much free information online that, with a little copying and pasting (and printing out), you can come pretty close to matching them with your own bespoke travel guide. So, in a retro twist, no Wi-Fi needed.
Even better, turn it into a PDF file (easily done through programs like Microsoft Word) and send it to your tablet device. I’ll admit that some additional technology can make things even easier: Stay.com helps you create a guide with maps that can be printed or retrieved on your mobile device, and TripAdvisor’s new City Guides allows you to download 60 cities’ worth of maps, information and user reviews to be used offline, free.
8. BUY DIRECT
Comprar directamente los billetes, como se ha hecho siempre, puede salir a cuenta. Mi comentario es según de qué destino se trate. Por ejemplo, para Cuba recomiendo Air France comprado directamente y mirando mucho la fecha, claro.
There was a time not so long ago when we bought airline tickets by calling airlines instead of logging onto sites like Travelocity and Expedia.
Southwest long ago opted out of those online travel agencies, but other airlines are edging away from them as well. In other words, buying direct is coming back, only nowadays in online form. George Hobica, founder ofAirfare Watchdog, has been seeing more and more airlines offer special fares that show up only on their own Web sites, or restrict certain features (like seat selection or discounts on checked luggage) to those who book directly through them. “It’s more important than ever for consumers to sign up for the airlines’ e-mail feeds to get promo codes and sale fares,” Mr. Hobica said.
9. STAY PUT
Ha veces la gente quiere abarcar demasiado y va de un lado a otro como una maleta. Es la peor manera de viajar. Recuerdo un "tour" por la antigua URSS (Rusia y otras repúblicas). Fue matador aunque espléndido. Aquí se recomienda permanecer en un sitio (o dos) y se da como buena una estancia de una semana.
No, this is not another call for the by-now clichéd “staycation,” in which you explore your wonderful home city as a tourist. (This is why we have weekends.) It’s simply a call for less frantic trips.
Sure, you could use discount airlines to dash between London, Paris, Barcelona, Rome and Florence during your two-week break. Instead, try staying a week in just two of the places you most want to go. You’ll reduce transportation costs, get discounts on metro passes and longer-term lodging and, best of all, find local spots you’d never come across on a rushed attempt to tick off top tourist attractions. Frequent the same restaurant and you might even get a dessert on the house once the staff starts to recognize you.
martes, 8 de enero de 2013
El presente artículo recoge parte de un informe publicado por "Nature" en el que se analizan posibles catástrofes planetarias. Se trata de situaciones más bien raras pero factibles. Entre ellas se explican las consecuencias de una enorme erupción volcánica, del desarrollo de alguna descomunal tormenta solar, o de la ocurrencia de desplazamientos masivos de agua, algo como tsunamis gigantescos. Y también de la muerte de plantas y animales por infecciones fúngicas.
Los hongos son bastante menos famosos que los temidos virus o las populares bacterias. Pero las infecciones fúngicas de cultivos vegetales pueden privar de alimento a millones y millones de seres humanos. Pongamos por ejemplo, la acción letal masiva de un hongo que ataca la patata. Dicha plaga existe y origina cuantiosas pérdidas económicas anuales.
Si consideramos la posibilidad de diseñar hongos contra plantas, animales o aquellos capaces de atacar al propio ser humano, estamos ante una de las armas biológicas más peligrosas a nivel planetario.
No obstante, la verdad es que no hace falta rizar el rizo: basta tener en cuenta los efectos negativos que la acción humana provoca en el medio ambiente. Por los casos estudiados se sabe que favorecen la expansión de hongos y su fortalecimiento.
En "Death by fungus" encontrarán datos y argumentos.
Death by fungus
Although viruses and bacteria grab more attention, fungi are the planet's biggest killers. Of all the pathogens being tracked, fungi have caused more than 70% of the recorded global and regional extinctions3, and now threaten amphibians, bats and bees. The Irish potato famine in the 1840s showed just how devastating such pathogens can be. Phytophthora infestans (an organism similar to, and often grouped with, fungi) wiped out as much as three-quarters of the potato crop in Ireland and led to the death of one million people.
Potato blight is still a threat: 13_A2, a highly aggressive strain of P. infestans, is now rampant in Europe and North Africa. Across the globe, Phytophthora causes some US$6.7 billion in annual damages, according to a 2009 estimate4. Sarah Gurr, a plant pathologist at the University of Oxford, UK, estimates that the worst theoretical potato infestation would deprive 1.3 billion people of food each year. Other major staple crops face similar threats, such as rice blast (Magnaporthe oryzae), corn smut (Ustilago maydis), soya bean rust (Phakopsora pachyrhizi) and wheat stem rust (Puccinia graminis). The stem-rust superstrain Ug99 has in recent years slashed yields in parts of Africa by as much as 80%.
If all five crop staples were hit with fungal outbreaks at the same time, more than 60% of the world's population could go hungry, says Gurr. “That's apocalyptic”, but unlikely, she says — “more of a James Bond movie”. David Hughes, a zoologist at Pennsylvania State University in University Park, adds that terrorists could use fungi to wreak havoc by targeting economically important crops. In the 1980s, for example, a possibly deliberate infection wiped out cacao crops in northern Brazil, changing the country's demographics and ecology as people moved from unproductive farms to the cities and cleared more rainforest. “If you wanted to destabilize the world, you could easily introduce rubber blight into southeast Asia,” he says, which would trigger a chain reaction of economic and political effects.
Modern agriculture has exacerbated societies' vulnerability by encouraging farmers to plant the same strains of high-yield crops, limiting the variety of resistance genes among the plants, says Gurr. “We've skewed the arms race in favour of the pathogen,” she says. “That's why we're on the brink of disaster.”
Researchers estimate that there are 1.5 million to 5 million species of fungi in the world, but only 100,000 have been identified. Reports of new types of fungal infection in plants and animals have risen nearly tenfold since 1995 (ref. 3). Gurr suggests that climate change might be a culprit.
Humans have cause for concern as well. In the past decade, a tropical fungus called Cryptococcus gattii has adapted to thrive in cooler climes and invaded the forests of North America's Pacific Northwest. By 2010, it had infected some 280 people, dozens of whom died. Although fungi are not spread as easily from person to person as viruses, for example, and anti-fungal agents can effectively tackle most infections, there are still reasons to worry. Fungi continue to evolve, and once they are established in an ecosystem, they can be almost impossible to wipe out.
Given these trends, experts say that fungi have not received enough attention from researchers and governments. “I'd be very surprised if an abrupt fungal infection killed a large swathe of people. But it's not impossible,” says Matthew Fisher, an emerging-disease researcher at Imperial College London. “Complacency is not a recommended course of action.”
lunes, 7 de enero de 2013
|Tridente de SEAL|
John O. Brennan
(From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)
|John Brennan : Barack Obama ha seleccionado para dirigir la CIA a un especialista en inteligencia con 25 años de experiencia y detallados conocimientos del mundo árabe, tanto por su dominio de la lengua como por destacadas misiones sobre el terreno.|
|Asesor de tres presidentes, analista, administrativo y hasta empresario en el sector de la seguridad durante una etapa de su impresionante carrera, se dice que a diferencia de otros espías estadounidenses, favorece la investigación frente a la brutalidad. Existen datos que apoyan que la CIA ha practicado, en algunos interrogatorios a presuntos terroristas, en Guantánamo, la "técnica" del submarino (provocar síntomas de asfixia al sumergir la cabeza del sujeto en agua, preferentemente en un WC sucio). Entre otras acciones sobre el terreno, Brennan tuvo que ver en la captura y muerte de Osama Bin Laden.|
|La "Compañía" de Langley, Virginia, creada en 1947, cuenta en su historial con una colección de sonoros fracasos entre los que destaca el trágico 11/S, que todavía nadie entiende cómo llegó a producirse. En 2012 el entonces director de la Agencia se vió envuelto en un abigarrado lío en torno a una infidelidad matrimonial que le obligó a dimitir.|
|United States Homeland Security Advisor|
January 20, 2009
|Preceded by||Kenneth Wainstein|
|Director of the National Counterterrorism Center
August 27, 2004 – August 1, 2005
|President||George W. Bush|
|Preceded by||Position established|
|Succeeded by||John Redd|
|Born||September 22, 1955 (age 57)
North Bergen, New Jersey, U.S.
|Alma mater||Fordham University
University of Texas, Austin
After leaving government service in 2005, Brennan became CEO of The Analysis Corporation, a security consulting business, and served as chairman of the Intelligence and National Security Alliance, an association of intelligence professionals. Brennan's 25 years with the CIA included work as a Near East and South Asia analyst, as station chief in Saudi Arabia, and as director of the National Counterterrorism Center.
President Obama is set to nominate Brennan as his next director of the Central Intelligence Agency during the afternoon of January 7, 2013.