Thursday, March 26, 2015

"Countdown": Roundtable on WJLA's "Your Voice, Your Future" series updates on Afghanistan, Iran (especially), and drone use

Countdown Part 1” was aired as a 31-minute roundtable by News Channel 8 of WJLA in Washington DC Tuesday night March 24, as part of the “Your Voice Your Future” series.
Scott Thuman hosted. Four panelists on location included Jamed Abdi (NIAC), Adelle Nazaria, Faheem Younous, and Clifford May.  Also, by remote Skype, appearing was Rep. Dutch Ruppersnerger (D-MD), Joce Sterman, Zainab Chaudhary, and Kanal Nawas.
At issue were three topics:  Obama’s troop levels in Afghanistan, especially given the presence of ISIS as maybe more dangerous than the Taliban;  how to work with Iran as a pseudo-ally against ISIS in Syria while still not giving in on its nuclear program, and what to do about commercial (or even personal) drones that could be used as terror weapons.
Netanyahu’s visit wasn’t talked about much, although the Maryland congressman insisted that Israel would be defended.   The biggest issue is the idea that Iran, with a nuclear weapon, could destroy Israel, as with an EMP blast, or could give it to terrorists to attack western countries.  The discussion went back to 1979 and the “death to America” of the hostage crisis.  It would have been nice to cover the situation in Yemen and the recent participation of Saudi Arabia, and possible connections between ISIS and Boko Haram.    
Note Ted Bolton's op-ed (from an advisor to Ted Cruz) in the New York Times today, "To stop Iran's bombs, bomb Iran", link here. Think Progress opined about this on Facebook today. 

Monday, March 16, 2015

NBC Dateline airs "Escape: Swept Away" special about the 2004 tsunami in the Indian Ocean

NBC Dateline aired a special  (2 hrs)“Escape: Swept Away” about people surviving the tsunami on Dec. 26, 2004, that would strike Thailand and many other areas around the Indian Ocean. The link is here

The documentary stresses the true stories of many families.  Particularly important is the surprise, and the way various people realized that this unusual behavior of the water in the ocean really did mean a tsunami.

One teenage boy had dreamed about an auto accident that happened, and then dreamed about the tsunami, but the family went anyway.

One family was snorkeling when the beginning of the wave started.

One man reports begging another to abandon his own family to save him, a complete stranger.

The middle portion of the film documents “the third wave”.

This documentary makes a good supplement to “The Impossible” reviewed Dec. 21, 2012 here.
Wikipedia attribution link for NOAA map of trusnami travel times (p.d.) 

Thursday, March 12, 2015

NBC: "The Real Blacklist" looks at the Litvinenko polonium poisoning case

Thursday night, NBC Dateline aired an episode of a new subsubseries, “The Real Blacklist”, covering the murder of former Russian agent, Alexander Litvinenko.  On Jan. 21, 2014 I had reviewed “Poisoned by Polonium: The Livinenko File” on my Movies blog.
Litvinenko was poisoned by polonium 210 in his tea at the Pine Bar in the Millennium Hotel in London in 2006. He literally burned to death from the inside.  Other people in the hotel would have been exposed to lower amounts and would face increased cancer risks.  This was essentially a mini dirty bomb in downtown London.
Much of the documentary concerned suspect Andrey Lugnovy.  He claims not to have known about the poison. He lost most of his hair himself temporarily.
The main link is here. Note the map of the Pine Bar and the results of detailed swabbings.
The report believes that a hit like this has to have come from the very top  -- Vladimir Putin.

Polonium 210 is extraordinarily expensive even for organized crime, and would normally be available only with the assistance of a nuclear state.  Putin probably thought that the cause of the death would go undetected for a long time, but Litvinenko lived and suffered much longer than usual.  

Monday, March 02, 2015

CNN and AC360 offer special "The Rise of ISIS"

Anderson Cooper, of AC360, hosted a special report Monday night, March 2, 2015, “The Rise of ISIS” (aka “The ISIS Threat”), with many panelists.  The main link is here
The guests included Mark Hertling, Rob Baer, Graham Wood (author of the Atlantic article), Karime Bernoume, and a parent, Christianne Boudreau, of a Canadian who went to Syria, believing he was going on a humanitarian mission.
The concept that a radical group would hold territory was shocking in early 2014, but became logical in retrospect.  The ability of ISIS to overrun Mosul and other areas in northern Iraq comes partly from the fact that the government in Baghdad is partly Shiite, and people didn’t trust it;  that was a bigger factor than mere military failure. 

Another factor was the people in that part of the world have a Hobson’s choice when dealing with dictators; “It’s me, or the jihadists”.
The program covered the ransacking of artefacts in Mosul.  ISIS has a triage system by which it steals and sells objects, or it destroys them if it thinks they were “idols”. 
They also described life in Raqqa, which has been compared to a prison. 
The program lightly covered the social media recruiting (but not the latest news concerning Twitter, Ryot story here .There is another “diaspora” network which is distributed so that it is harder to monitor. 
They did not get into the idea that civilians in the US would eventually find themselves in the crosshairs or lone wolves or other unforeseen operations.  The concern in larger in Europe, where many more people have been radicalized. 
The panel was a bit like a New Channel 8 “Your Voice You Future” roundtable. 

Wikipedia attribution link for map of Syria   by UN- OCHA, under Creative Commons 3.0 Share-Alike license.