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70 posts from September 2007

September 26, 2007

Bill Clinton

Bill Clinton, originally uploaded by Lindsay Beyerstein.

Former president Bill Clinton speaking at the opening plenary session at the Clinton Global Initiative.

Presidents of Wal-Mart and World Bank

Left: President and CEO of Wal-Mart, H. Lee Scott Jr.

Right: President of the World Bank Group, Robert B. Zoellick

At the opening plenary of the Clinton Global Initiative.

President Arroyo

President Arroyo, originally uploaded by Lindsay Beyerstein.

The president of the Philippines at the Clinton Global Initiative meeting in New York City.

Al Gore at the Clinton Global Initiative

Al Gore, originally uploaded by Lindsay Beyerstein.

I am currently at the Clinton Global Initiative in Manhattan, NY.

Here's former VP Al Gore at the plenary session. Click through to see more pictures from CGI.

September 25, 2007

Government Accountability Officers to unionize

Analysts at the Government Accountability Office voted to unionize by 2-to-1 margin.

The GAO workers will be joining the International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers (IFPTE).

Thousands to participate in DHS dirty bomb simulation

The Department of Homeland Security is preparing to stage the largest counter terrorism exercise ever mounted in the United States. On October 15-19th, national, state, and municipal authorities test their ability to respond to dirty bomb attacks:

The TOPOFF 4 Full-Scale Exercise is based on National Planning Scenario 11 (NPS-11). The scenario begins as terrorists, who have been planning attacks in Oregon, Arizona, and the U.S. Territory of Guam, successfully bring radioactive material into the United States. The first of three coordinated attacks occurs in Guam, with the simulated detonation of a Radiological Dispersal Device (RDD), or “dirty bomb,” causing casualties and wide-spread contamination in a populous area near a power plant. Similar attacks occur in the hours that follow in Portland and Phoenix. [DHS]*

More than 15,000 thousand federal, State, and local officials representing over 275 agencies will take part in the TOPOFF 4 Full-Scale Exercise (T4FS).

The full-scale simulation will test intelligence gathering, prevention, and response. Multiple federal agencies will be involved. Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Defense will hold concurrent exercises. The State Department will coordinate concurrent activities in Canada, Australia, and the UK. Representatives from private companies will also participate, according to the DHS website.

This mammoth undertaking will generate a lot of useful information emergency preparedness and counter terrorism. However, this exercise won't do any good unless decision-makers are prepared to act on the results.

In 2004, representatives from 50 agencies convened in Baton Rouge to test their response to "Hurricane Pam," a fictitious major hurricane that struck new Orleans. Unfortunately, virtually none of the recommendations that came out of the Pam exercise had been implemented by the time Hurricane Katrina struck.

Let's hope the authorities pay more attention to the lessons of T4FS.

*As DCist notes, the Guam-Oregon-Arizona scenario seems like an odd choice.

Double or nothing...

I've said it before and I'll say it again, the neocons are compulsive gamblers. They backed the war in Iraq, and now they're ready to go double or nothing on Iran.

Dan Froomkin documents the latest:

Via Andrew Sullivan, I find Dan Friedman writing for the American Thinker: "All the damaging consequences of all the blunders the President has committed to date in Iraq are reversible in 48- to 72-hours - the time it will take to destroy Iran's fragile nuclear supply chain from the air. And since the job gets done using mostly stand-off weapons and stealth bombers, not one American soldier, sailor or airman need suffer as much as a bruised foot." [WaPo]

HT: Digby.

September 24, 2007

RAW STORY: Israel struck missile cache in Syria, not nuclear site

My colleague Larisa Alexandrovna reports that the Syrian facility bombed by Israeli fighter jets on September 6th was a missile site, and not a nuclear facility.

Sources told RS that Syrians were attempting to modify these missiles to deliver chemical payloads with the help of the North Koreans. The missiles themselves also originated in North Korea.

The Israeli attack on the Syrian missile site was allegedly payback for a serious accidental explosion at a Syrian weapons facility in July, 2007.

Federal agent indicted for cyber-stalking with DHS database

A federal agent with the Department of Commerce was indicted by a federal grand jury in California on 19 September for using a Department of Homeland Security database to cyber-stalk his former girlfriend:

According to the indictment, Mr. Robinson was sworn in as a Special Agent for the Department of Commerce, Office of Export Enforcement, Bureau of Industry and Security, on March 31, 1997. In November 2002, Mr. Robinson began a romantic relationship with a person identified in the indictment by her initials, S.S. The relationship lasted approximately seven months and ended acrimoniously. The indictment alleges that, during the course of their relationship and after S.S. tried to end it, Mr. Robinson made numerous threats to S.S., including threatening to have her deported and to kill her and her family.

The indictment further alleges that from approximately May 2003 through March 2004, Mr. Robinson accessed a government database known as the Treasury Enforcement Communications System (TECS) at least 163 times to track the travel patterns of S.S. and her family. Federal agents are authorized to use that database only in the performance of their official duties and not for personal reasons. In addition, law enforcement agents receive training in TECS security and privacy, and are issued unique passwords to access TECS so that their use of the system can be monitored.

The indictment further alleges that on June 1, 2004, agents from the Department of Commerce interviewed Mr. Robinson, and he admitted that he had accessed the TECS database approximately ten to fifteen times to track S.S.’s travel in and out of the United States. In fact, at the time Mr. Robinson made that statement, he was well aware that he had accessed the system at least 163 times between May 1, 2003 and March 22, 2004. [US DOJ]

Robinson is scheduled to appear in court on October 11.

September 23, 2007

Cooking style: Empiricist

Halo Effect, originally uploaded by Lindsay Beyerstein.

Amanda asks: What is your cooking style?

I love cookbooks and recipes. I'm especially fond of family recipes.

I love America's Test Kitchen because they are models of evidence-based cooking. They aren't afraid to experiment, but they subject their results to blind tastings and test their recipes exhaustively. If I make something out of ATK book, I can be confident that it will actually turn out the way it's described.

If I'm cooking from a recipe, I always follow it exactly the first time. If I like the results well enough to replicate the dish, I may repeat it exactly several times in order to make sure that I really know how to make it. Then I'll start tweaking it, one variable at a time, to get it exactly the way I want it.   My pad thai recipe is a very slight variation on the ATK pad thai. (I found I liked more shallots and a little less oil than they called for. I omit the beansprouts.)

It drives me (irrationally) crazy when people neither follow, nor write down their own recipes. I applaud innovation. There's no reason anyone should be bound to someone else's recipe. But if you don't write down your own procedure, how can you duplicate your results next time, or systematically improve on them?