valkyrieza: (Default)

By Carien du Plessis
Political Bureau
From IOL.

Cuban-style revolutionary youth spies could be on every street corner if a National Youth Development Agency plan for compulsory community service is approved.

Agency chairman Andile Lungisa told a press briefing yesterday that people as young as 13 in countries like Cuba have become "defenders of the revolution", keeping a close watch on the activities of people in their neighbourhoods.

Read more... )



Cuba is a communist country, not a democracy. There, the 'non-revolutionary activities' are specifically defined.  In our democracy (let's not criticise its quality right now), we do not have 'principles of the revolution' that we must keep to, so this begs the question on which activities should those young minds report on? So what is it exactly we are helping the youth with? Reminds me of those times when USSR led a propaganda campaign in the 1920-30s about the enemies of communism and how those enemies should be reported to the state to be dealt with, harshly. Or does our charming leading party wants to breed the new generation of Pavlik Morozovs?

Plus, R930 million budget?  This is a bigger budget than some government agencies, which do actual work to benefit people, get.

 

valkyrieza: (music guitar hands)
Today's date has been bugging me somewhat. Something was subtly trying to get my attention when I wrote the date on couple of documents I had to sign. When I got home, one of the Russian channels was listing the cultural events that happened that day, also important people's birthdays and memorable films that started today. Then it hit me, today's Lenin's birthday. When I was growing up, it was almost as important to know his birthday as today's kids recognition of the names of the South African sports teams.

If USSR still existed, it would have been a time for demonstrations along the Red Square carrying his pictures and pictures of other leaders of October revolution. Kids would have been required to write poems and stories about the Vladimir Lenin and everything at workplaces would be decked out in cheerful decorations or it would be a public holiday altogether.

 When I was growing up, learning of this date was one of the most important education facts in school. Now, I feel old and somewhat nostalgic for the times, when learning the names and birthdays of Communist Party leaders was compulsory. I suppose childhood memories really are seen through rose-coloured glasses later on.

Today, his birthday did not even get mentioned on the program or anywhere else on Russian TV, much less the overseas media. Times change.
valkyrieza: (NCIS - Tony McGee)

Ancient "Lost City" Discovered in Peru, Official Claims

Kelly Hearn
for National Geographic News
January 16, 2008

 
Ruins recently discovered in southern Peru could be the ancient "lost city" of Paititi, according to claims that are drawing serious but cautious response from experts.

The presumptive lost city, described in written records as a stone settlement adorned with gold statues, has long been a grail for explorers—as well as a lure for local tourism businesses.

A commonly cited legend claims that Paititi was built by the Inca hero Inkarri, who founded the city of Cusco before retreating into the jungle after Spanish conquerors arrived.


© 1996-2007 National Geographic Society. All rights reserved.
valkyrieza: (Default)
I am a bad girl, instead of just browsing the Net I have headed to a very unsafe place, called Take2. It is an online store which offers DVDs, music, books, games and electronics and much reduced prices. I mean, I should not look up on my different wishlists after finally getting my Babylon 5 books. Combined with a newsletter from Amazon.com, searching and looking up various bestsellers and cross-referencing them with the south African site to see, if there is a reprint version, that usually sells between R46 and R52 (About 4-5 EUR).

This is how I discovered and his alternate history '1632' series. He takes a small West Virginian town in the 21st century and transports into the late spring of 1632. From there on, Using factual history and a inmaginative take on what would happen if 21st century democracy meets the 17th century.

Sigh, I found a lot of reprints already begging to be freed from the Take2 shopping cart.

I am a bad bad person, *headdesk*
valkyrieza: (Default)
You know, if it were not for the fact that the Western public did something similar just before World War Two, I would have probably be arguing that the situation is not as bleak as painted in the article.

 The ‘Good Germans’ Among Us

By FRANK RICH

 “BUSH lies” doesn’t cut it anymore. It’s time to confront the darker reality that we are lying to ourselves.

 Ten days ago The Times unearthed yet another round of secret Department of Justice memos countenancing torture. President Bush gave his standard response: “This government does not torture people.” Of course, it all depends on what the meaning of “torture” is. The whole point of these memos is to repeatedly recalibrate the definition so Mr. Bush can keep pleading innocent.

By any legal standards except those rubber-stamped by Alberto Gonzales, we are practicing torture, and we have known we are doing so ever since photographic proof emerged from Abu Ghraib more than three years ago. As Andrew Sullivan, once a Bush cheerleader, observed last weekend in The Sunday Times of London, America’s “enhanced interrogation” techniques have a grotesque provenance: “Verschärfte Vernehmung, enhanced or intensified interrogation, was the exact term innovated by the Gestapo to describe what became known as the ‘third degree.’ It left no marks. It included hypothermia, stress positions and long-time sleep deprivation.”

Still, the drill remains the same. The administration gives its alibi (Abu Ghraib was just a few bad apples). A few members of Congress squawk. The debate is labeled “politics.” We turn the page.

There has been scarcely more response to the similarly recurrent story of apparent war crimes committed by our contractors in Iraq. Call me cynical, but when Laura Bush spoke up last week about the human rights atrocities in Burma, it seemed less an act of selfless humanitarianism than another administration maneuver to change the subject from its own abuses.

As Mrs. Bush spoke, two women, both Armenian Christians, were gunned down in Baghdad by contractors underwritten by American taxpayers. On this matter, the White House has been silent. That incident followed the Sept. 16 massacre in Baghdad’s Nisour Square, where 17 Iraqis were killed by security forces from Blackwater USA, which had already been implicated in nearly 200 other shooting incidents since 2005. There has been no accountability. The State Department, Blackwater’s sugar daddy for most of its billion dollars in contracts, won’t even share its investigative findings with the United States military and the Iraqi government, both of which have deemed the killings criminal.

 

The rest of the article here )

Copyright 2007 The New York Times Company
valkyrieza: (Isn't that special - firefly)
This is a familiar symbol, the Ouroboros. Amazingly enough, even in ancient times the symbol was fairly well known throughout the different parts of the world. Many times, the meaning coinciding. Amazing, that even separated by long distances in antiquity, some concepts or in this case, images - are universal.

Just a random thought arrived by watching "Intelligence" and discovering that  it was filmed in the same location as "Millenium", in which the Ouroboros was an important symbol.
valkyrieza: (Default)
Courtesy of Knowledge News

Human beings have been poisoning each other for centuries. But it wasn't until World War I that science advanced and honor declined enough for humans to do it with the ruthless efficiency of the modern age.

The first lethal chemical attacks in that war were none too sophisticated. German troops simply opened canisters of chlorine gas upwind of the Allies. Later, when the British first released poison gas, the wind blew it right back at them. But gas-filled artillery shells fixed that, and both sides embraced chemical war. Before peace came, there were more than a million chemical casualties, and more than 90,000 deaths.

Today, lethal chemical weapons generally fall into one of three categories. Choking agents, such as chlorine gas, attack the respiratory system and destroy lung tissue. Blister agents, such as mustard gas, burn and blister all tissue, from the skin of your face to the membranes of your eyes, nose, and throat. Nerve agents, the most deadly, disable your nervous system, causing your heart and lungs to fail.

Choking Agents
Chlorine and Phosgene Gas - used in WW1 first.

Blister Agents
Mustard Gas - also used in WW1, in 1917

Nerve Agents
Tabun, Sarin, and VX

In the 1930s, German scientists made a horrible advance in chemical weaponry. Experimenting with insecticides, they discovered tabun and sarin, each hundreds of times more toxic than the cyanide gas used to kill in Nazi death camps. Both attack and disrupt the nervous system, leading to cognitive dysfunction, convulsions, and respiratory and cardiac failure. Like mustard gas, they can be delivered as liquid or vapor, so soldiers need masks and protective suits.

Nazi engineers put the new nerve poison in bombs and artillery shells, but for whatever reason, the weapons stayed on the shelf. Saddam Hussein had no such compunctions during the Iran-Iraq War. In 1984, he started using tabun-filled bombs on Iranian troops, the first ever use of a nerve agent in war. In 1987, he started using tabun, sarin, and VX on Iraqi Kurds.

VX, created by British scientists in the 1950s, is the most deadly nerve agent there is, hundreds of times more deadly than sarin when absorbed through the skin. Just a fraction of a milligram can kill. Fortunately, nerve agents do have a flaw: there are antidotes, such as atropine, that will counteract their effects. But the antidote must be injected immediately to work.

Michael Himick
April 19, 2006

http://www.bt.cdc.gov/agent/agentlistchem-category.asp
For more info on health effects of chemical weapons
valkyrieza: (Default)
Humankind tends to enjoy slaughtering each other, technology just makes it more efficient.

Courtesy of Knowledge News
The nuclear age began in a small laboratory underneath the football field at the University of Chicago in 1942. There, physicist Enrico Fermi conducted the world's first controlled nuclear reaction. Just three years later, World War II ended with the detonation of nuclear bombs over Hiroshima and Nagasaki in Japan. The scientists of the top-secret Manhattan Project did their job terrifyingly well.

Critical Mass

Even before the Manhattan Project, scientists knew that certain elements were unstable, slowly emitting energy as their atomic state changed over time. Some of these radioactive elements, uranium and plutonium in particular, could undergo nuclear fission. That is, the nucleus of their atoms could be split into two fragments, releasing large amounts of energy and a few stray neutrons, too. If these stray neutrons could strike and split other atoms, physicists figured, you could create a sustained nuclear reaction.

The problem is that it's very difficult to create just the right conditions for a sustained reaction. The solution, scientists found, is to concentrate a sufficient mass of radioactive material together, so that when one atom splits, stray neutrons stand a good chance of striking and splitting some neighbors, which then release more neutrons to continue the chaos. The mass necessary to achieve this chain reaction is known as "critical mass."

Yet it's not enough to have a critical mass of uranium or plutonium. You need the right kind of uranium or plutonium, as each exists in several different isotopes. Isotopes of an element may have the same chemical properties, but because they have a different number of neutrons in their nucleus, they have different nuclear properties.

Only uranium-235 and plutonium-239 have the right nuclear stuff for sustainable fission. You can mine uranium ore out of the earth, but almost all of the ore is uranium-238, and you'll need to mine huge amounts to extract even a little U235. The right plutonium is even harder to get, because it doesn't exist in the earth at all. It has to be produced in sophisticated nuclear reactors. Only after these difficult and expensive processes will you have the purified "weapons-grade" material needed for a nuclear weapon.

The thermonuclear weapons in modern arsenals are even more complex--not to mention a thousand times more powerful than the bomb exploded over Hiroshima. First detonated in 1952, thermonuclear, or hydrogen, bombs use the intense heat of a fission reaction to start a second, fusion reaction, in which hydrogen isotopes combine to form helium. To fit together, the hydrogen atoms must lose mass. The mass becomes energy, and kilotons of destructive force become megatons.

Nightmare Device

A 10-megaton nuclear weapon (current U.S. warhead strength) creates an explosion equivalent to the detonation of 10 million tons of TNT--from less than 200 pounds (90 kg) of nuclear fuel. Pressure waves emanating from the blast would exceed 30 pounds per square inch and generate winds in excess of 700 miles per hour (1,125 km/h). Such winds could knock down steel-and-concrete buildings with ease. Even 20 miles (32 miles) away, the blast would shatter windows and uproot trees.

The temperature around the blast would rise in an instant to more than 18 million degrees Fahrenheit (10 million degrees Celsius)--hotter than the sun. Everything in a 2-mile (3.2-km) radius would be vaporized. Further out, materials like glass and steel would melt. Further still, combustible materials would ignite and produce innumerable fires. Even at distances greater than 20 miles (32 km), humans would suffer serious burns from the flash.

And when the dust cleared and the fires were out, the bomb's most insidious effect would remain: radiation. Radiation is all around you. It bombards you every moment of your life, everywhere you go. Don't panic, though. Radiation is simply traveling energy, and most of it is harmless. But some forms, like ultraviolet light and X-rays, are harmful if you're exposed too long. Radiation like this, called ionizing radiation, contains enough energy to break down chemical bonds in substances that absorb it.

Radioactive elements like uranium and plutonium emit, among other things, gamma rays, packing 10,000 times more energy than visible light. Gamma rays can pass right through humans, penetrating tissues and ionizing atoms in your body. This leads to massive cellular damage, resulting in system-wide "radiation sickness" and, with enough exposure, death.

Although damage from the blast, heat, and even radiation burns may heal over time, the ionizing damage done to the DNA in human cells will remain. Sooner or later, the body's own replication of damaged DNA leads to the final danger of a nuclear blast: cancer, mutations, and a host of genetic abnormalities. These last casualties can take years, or even decades, to occur.

Christopher Call
April 18, 2006

Kudos to the Knowledge News people, they do a great job!
valkyrieza: (Default)
Courtesy of Knowledge News

before 30,000 BC - Clever humans develop projectile weapons, first spears and then bows and arrows. The first spears were just sharpened sticks, but the bow was the "killer app" of the Stone Age. The potential energy stored in the bent bow could transfer all at once to the arrow as kinetic energy. Result: lunch, or a dead neighbor.

circa 8,000 BC - Jericho puts up its patented stone walls, among the world's first major defensive fortifications. Later defensive walls would be immense. Babylon's were more than 100 feet high.

circa 4,000 BC - Humans invent the chariot, in the region that is now Russia and Kazakhstan. It quickly becomes the premier war vehicle of its day. Some cultures mounted an archer behind the chariot driver, but most used the vehicle simply as a way to get G.I. Joshua into battle.

circa 1500 BC - Ancient smiths fashion bronze swords, but their effectiveness is limited by the relative softness of the metal. Only developments in iron a few centuries later would allow swords to grow into long, flashy showpieces that could make any warrior brag.

490 BC - The Battle of Marathon in ancient Greece goes badly for the Persians, as the Athenians demonstrate the power of formations. The Athenians fought Greek style, where heavily armored foot soldiers (known as hoplites) locked shields and thrust with spears over the shield wall. The Persians had far greater numbers, but Greek discipline spanked Persian power.

350 BC - Philip II of Macedonia introduces the sarissa, a pike as long as 21 feet wielded by soldiers in a tight phalanx formation. Opposing armies simply couldn't penetrate the wall of pikes--though the Macedonians' pikes had no trouble penetrating them. Philip's son, Alexander the Great, seized the advantage and won every battle he fought.

2nd century BC - Hardy horsemen on the Asian steppes invent the stirrup. In earlier centuries, few people called in the cavalry because it was pretty easy to knock a rider off his horse. The simple stirrup changed all that.

53 BC - A small Parthian force of mounted archers destroys seven Roman legions (more than 40,000 men) at the Battle of Carrhae in Mesopotamia. Though the battle proved the effectiveness of mobile artillery, the Romans continued to depend primarily on infantry. It would cost them dearly.

70 - Roman forces besieging Jerusalem prove they have the stones for artillery, using catapults capable of throwing a 50-pound stone more than 400 yards. Rome pinched the idea from the Greeks, but mastered the art.

378 - Germanic horsemen kill the Roman emperor Valens and crush his army at the Battle of Adrianople near today's Bulgaria. Military historians date this as the beginning of the age of cavalry in Europe. For centuries, the mounted warrior reigned supreme.

678 - The Byzantines employ "Greek fire," a devastating stream of burning liquid that saves their empire. Used primarily in naval combat, the burning liquid adhered to anything it touched. Water couldn't douse it; only sand and urine did the trick. The exact composition of "Greek fire" remains a mystery.

13th century - Plate armor becomes the protection of choice for discriminating European knights. Too many had been caught dead in increasingly unfashionable chain mail, which did little to protect against a bone-crushing blow or a penetrating crossbow bolt. Confronted with plate, bow makers bent over backward to increase firing power.

14th century - Infantrymen finally knock armored cavalrymen off their high horses, with help from some new weapons. The English use the long-range longbow with devastating success in the Hundred Years' War, while pole arms such as the pike and halberd bring victory to the Scots and Swiss.

1453 - Ottoman Turks blast the walls of Constantinople to bits with 70 cannons, including a 19-ton doomsday weapon firing an 800-pound ball. Constantinople falls, and gunpowder use (once confined to China) explodes across Europe. The French put cannons on wheels, the English put cannons on ships, and the Germans put "mini-cannons" in soldiers' hands to replace the crossbow.

17th century - A new and improved "mini-cannon," the flintlock musket, joins with the bayonet to knock earlier firearms and the pike out of infantrymen's arsenal. By the late 17th century, armor is just for show.

1776 - The American Turtle becomes the first submarine used in combat. The seven-foot wooden walnut and its one-man crew (who doubled as the engine) can't quite manage to attach a bomb to the bottom of a British frigate. Yet British officers recognize the threat and move their fleet out of New York harbor.

1862 - The Confederate ship Virginia (originally the Union ship Merrimack) and the U.S.S. Monitor fight to a draw off the coast of Virginia. The ships introduce steel hulls and gun turrets to naval warfare, instantly rendering all other warships obsolete and beginning a naval revolution that culminates in the battleships of World War II.

1903 - The battle for the high ground takes on a new meaning when Orville and Wilbur Wright invent a working airplane. From World War I on, supremacy of the skies becomes crucial to military victory. Aircraft carriers soon supplant battleships as the ultimate projection of force.

1917 - The British army rolls out hundreds of tanks in the World War I Battle of Cambrai in France, routing German forces along a six-mile front. The armored vehicles change the way ground battles are fought and give weary warhorses their first break in centuries.

1944 - As World War II turns against Germany, Adolf Hitler hurls V-2 rockets at the British. With a range of 200 miles and a speed six times faster than any airplane, it is a weapon for which there is no defense. After the war, the United States and Soviet Union use German research, and German engineers, to develop missiles that extend their military reach around the globe.

1945 - U.S. President Harry Truman authorizes the use of atomic weapons on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in Japan. The two bombs dropped kill more than 110,000 people instantly and force Japan to surrender. With the ability to unleash more destructive power in a second than had been dealt in all of human history, "The Bomb" changes not only war, but civilization itself.

Mark Diller and Christopher Call
April 17, 2006

I have only one comment: G. I. Joshua?

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