foreign affairs

Oh, good, police in the Mexican state of Sinaloa announced the arrest of drug kingpin and all-around no-goodnik Carlos Leyva earlier today. Carlos has been at the head of the snappily named Beltran Leyva drug cartel, which deals in drugs, small home furninshings and many more drugs, since his older brother Arturo (“The Bearded One”) was killed in a shootout with police two weeks ago.

This arrest marks a major victory in the war on drug cartels that Mexican President Felipe Calderon has been waging with little success for some months. At least, it will be seen as a victory until some underling sees an opportunity, takes over the cartel, and continues business as usual.

So, what, like five minutes ago?

Virginia Foxx, despite spelling her name with a double x in the traditional ‘stripper or pornographic performer’ style, is actually NOT a stripper. Rather, she is a caricature of the old lady from the ‘Where’s the beef?’ commercials if she went off her meds and decided to spend the recent of her brief, mean time on Earth strangled hippies with her ancient, claw-like hands. She also has the honor of being the craziest, most offensive member of Congress to come out of the Carolinas recently, which is really and truly saying something.

After calling the Matthew Shepard murder a hoax and repeatedly using the phrase “tar baby” on the floor Congress, Foxx recently declared the prospect of health care reform to be a bigger threat to the nation than “any terrorist right now in any country.”

Now, I’m no fear-monger, but I have to take issue with the fact that Virginia Foxx (again, not a porn star, despite what her name would lead you to reasonably assume) certainly appears not to hate or fear terrorism at all. Which is just wrong headed. If there’s one thing the last eight years have taught us, it is that nothing is scarier than terrorism. Nothing, anywhere, ever. The very word “terrorism” is, grammatically speaking, literally two thirds PURE TERROR and one third suffix. Nothing is scarier than that. Not health care reform. Not swine flu. Nothing.

So why doesn’t Virginia Foxx hate terrorism? Does it have something to do with her confusing stripper name? That’s a question only she can answer.

But until she can answer it, I think she should step down and relinquish her seat in Congress to someone who we know hates terrorism. For example, this bear in India’s Kashmir, who killed a pair of militants who were holed up in his cave. That bear fucking HATES terrorism. Hates it so much he mauls terrorists, or even just militant guerilla rebels, which are a lot like terrorists, kind of, to death. So even if he is Indian, and a bear, he is a True American. Not like Virginia “Probably Never Been An Adult Film Star But Totally Spells Her Name Like One” Foxx.

Today, we cross the Atlantic to a media environment in which putting a bigoted neo-fascist on live television is still a controversial decision, rather than a basic cable news channel. England’s favorite fascist member of the EU parliament, Nick Griffin, the head of the British National Party – which believes that people who are not white are well,not subhuman, but… yeah, well, subhuman is probably a pretty good way to describe it – was on the BBC’s Question Time last night, over the protests of hundreds of people who, for some reason, didn’t want to see this guy made a total asshole of on live TV.

The appearance, it’s fair to say, did not go well for Griffin, who at various points claimed that every unpleasant thing he’d ever said about any minority was a lie, invented from whole cloth by the media, couldn’t seem to wipe the smile from his face when questioned about whether he denied the Holocaust, and spent most of the program being lambasted by angry audience members, which actually makes really great TV, and which you can get a load of below.

This morning, Griffin has his knickers thoroughly in a twist over the show, lashing out at the BBC for letting people ask him mean questions, because after all, racist shit-bags have feelings, too. The BNP leader described the show as “a lynch mob,” and say what you will about him, Griffin knows a lynch mob when he sees one – his good buddy, KKK leader David Duke, gave him a tutorial on them, you see. Griffin also reportedly feels demonized by the audience and the panel he was part of, but really – when you run an political party whose main goals include the deportation of white citizens… you’re pretty much already a demon.

Do you ever have that sinking feeling that your best effort – isn’t quite good enough?

This would seem very much to be the case concerning global efforts to combat the spread of the A/H1N1 influenza virus – that’s swine flu if your feeling nasty. Since it roared onto the scene months ago, the A/H1N1 virus has continued spreading unabated across the world. So what’s being done to make sure this thing doesn’t get out of hand? Are we hiring help to take the stress off of the embattled school nurses who will be on the front lines when the US school year starts? Or making sure at risk groups like parents of school aged kids get vaccinated?

Nah. We’re making sure all the really important flu prevention techniques are hitting the ground running. Like lame browser video games and homemade YouTube PSAs.

So when your major metro area is shut down by swine flu in the coming months, just remember – we couldn’t have done any better. And that is incredibly pitiful.

This week provided one instance of almost unheard of good news with the release of a study that seems to demonstrate a high school program that teaches students something of value in the real world. and no, it’s not how to make a cutting board.

A study found in the August issue of Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine shows that integrating information about healthy relationships into standard ninth grade health classes reduces incidence of dating violence later perpetrated by students. In addition to seemingly quelling dating violence, the program raised rates of condom use in participating students two years down the road.

Seem too good to be true? Well, only kinda. The program is being tested in Canada, which is already a socialist utopia of sorts, shrugging off  the ill effects of the global recession and providing health care for all of it’s citizens with out anyone having to get all shouty or death threatening over it.

Imagine, enacting an inexpensive, common sense program on violence prevention and safe sex that effectively reduces levels of violence and risky sex. Wacky, right?

Current TV reporters Laura Ling and Euna Lee, are safe and sound back in the US following almost 5 months of imprisonment in North Korea. Their release comes on the heels of a visit to North Korea by former president turned humanitarian/wealthy gadabout Bill Clinton.

Oh, Bill Clinton, is there anything you can’t do?

You can find some handy background on Clinton’s trip over at Caffeinated Politics. Apparently Al Gore and Bill Richardson were among the names on the short list for this diplomatic mission, but at the end of the day, North Korea wanted Bill Clinton. Because everybody wants Bill Clinton, whether they admit it or not.

The bar none best article on this month?

It’s got to be Marc Lynch’s exploration of power and career progress in rap culture – in particular the burgeoning feud between The Game and Jay-Z – and what it says about power and hegemony. Check out the full article here or for the more audio inclined, Lynch’s recent interview on NPR here, which sums up his rather interesting argument up quite nicely.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – if I could, I would vote for Silvio Berlusconi for everything. Not for anything – for everything. From dog catcher to DA, this is the guy I want in charge.

I want my country run by a guy so bad ass that when the sex tapes come out, they come out in volumes. I want a guy who responds to said sex tapes not by apologizing or vacillating or doing a lot of soul searching, but by saying “I’m no saint.” Next question, motherfuckers.

I want to know the man in charge of my nation loves him some three way, is pro-masturbation, and names his beds after fellow world leaders. I want to know that he is hiding archaeological sites on his palatial estate so he can brag about them to the call girls he hires to come to his parties. Come to think of it, I want a leader who can hire escorts and then not even feel obliged to sleep with all of them. And who can, rumors say, help them try to run for political office, which is a nice thing to do. Though, considering that Berlusconi continues to claim that he has never paid for sex, and complaints heard on the tapes seem to verify that ‘in the Putin bed’ wasn’t wasn’t the only way that The Italian Prime Minister was stiffing his escorts, it would seem to be just about the least he could do.

Mark Sanford, John Ensign, which ever Republican legislator is going to become embroiled in a sex scandal, you should all take note. Next time you get caught with your pants around your ankles, and there will be a next time, do the right thing. Man up. Say “Yeah, I slept with that prostitute. And what’s more, I was great.” I think we’ll all respect you more for it.

Look, I know that the global economy is tough, and when things get this hairy, some people are naturally going to turn to crime. But seriously, who the hell steals a truckload of curling stones? Is there a big market for smooth granite rocks of a regulation weight out there that I don’t know about?

Honestly, I kind of hope there is, because otherwise whoever stole fully one third of the Australian national teams curling stone is just a jerk and an idiot. Or a… rabid anti-curling fanatic? An embittered former sweeper?

But as stupid and spiteful the dumbest criminal in Australia this week – that dubious honor goes to Ronald Mitchell, the Nobel Prize hopeful who soaked himself in gasoline before charging at police, who proceeded to taser the suspect, thereby setting him ablaze. Which, all things considered, isn’t exactly a tragedy. I mean yeah, it sucks that the guy burst into flames, but in all of our lives, we make some choices that we know may get us set on fire. Huffing a bunch of gas, then pouring it over yourself, and then running at a cop with a lighter in your hand is one of those choices. C’est la vie.

I understand that going to the Olympics is expensive, and that athletes mostly pay their own way, which still seems kind of weird. As such, I’m generally sympathetic to the ways that the world’s finest athletes make their nut for travelling and competing on the most improtant stage in sport.

But New Zealand tae kwon do competitor starting a brothel to pay his way to London in 2012 seems like a little much. I know, I know, it’s legal in New Zealand, but still – you couldn’t hold a bake sale or something, man?

 Awesomest Toy Ever of Sinister Engine of Doom?

Awesomest Toy Ever of Sinister Engine of Doom?

A question: If you were building a planet striding, globe dominating giant robot designed to crush all who dare stand in it’s way, would you build it in secret? Or would you be savvier than that, and build it right out in the open, billing it as a big, goofy publicity stunt?

If it were me, I’d go with the latter, acting for all the world like my titanic engine of destruction was just a gaudy three story tourist attraction. I’d make sure it could be seen from highway overpasses and let families take their kids their to picnic in it’s towering shadow, never guessing that this overgrown action figure is poised to one day conquer all it surveys.

Now I don’t actually think that the 60 foot tall piece of robot armor recently constructed in Tokyo is actually the most simultaneously impressive and nerdy weapon in the history of warfare. But if it was, and the Japanese military was smart about it, no one would be saying that until this beast suddenly turned on it’s thrusters, drew a particle beam rifle and left a smoldering crater where North Korea used to be.

That said, functioning or not, this life size replica of the classic RX-78 -2 Gundam is wicked cool, and you can check out some really great pictures of it here. Pictures taken, by the way, by a member of the US Navy.

Coincidence? You be the judge. I for one will believe it’s a harmless stunt only when Bandai, who’s footing the bill for the six story tall model mecha, encloses it in an enormous plastic box to safeguard it’s value on EBay.

The item at the top of plenty of military wish lists looks like it’s on it’s way to a battlefield near you with the long awaited XM25 is out of the prototype phase and due to begin field testing in Afghanistan and Iraq this summer.

Designed to eliminate targets in cover, such as snipers standing behind walls or entrenched in caves, the XM25 is a sort of high tech hybrid of carbine rifle and precision grenade launcher that fires High Explosive Air Bursting (HEAB) 25mm rounds. Courtesy of a laser range finder, infrared, built in compass and thermal optics, the rifle can tell it’s user, via a wireless signal, exactly how far away their target is. The user can then tell the rifle how at what distance from the target the 25mm high explosive round should explode in the air, eliminating whatever material, be it trench, cave or door frame, the target is using for cover, and in all likelihood, eliminating the target as well.

Right now, the only ammunition available is the standard HEAB round, but munitions for every situation are in development, including less lethal rounds. Details on ammo and the tech heavy aspects of the last available prototype can be perused at Gizmodo. But the fact is that if even one of these $25 rounds at some point prevents troops under fire in Afghanistan or Iraq from needing to call in artillery fire or air strikes, that are far more potentially hazardous to the lives and welfare of innocent bystanders, then it has served it’s purpose admirably. The XM25 is a gun designed to prevent collateral damage and save civilian lives, and that is fundamentally a good thing.

It also happens to be one of the only ways that the United States is going to come out of the current wars in the Middle East in a better position than we entered them. Whether you believe they’re necessary or not, we’re not going to come to victory in Afghanistan on the back of a Predator drone. We have to stop indiscriminately endangering and harming civilians, and until we do, the mission on the ground – to disable the roots of global terrorist cells, rob their leaders of places to hide and cripple their ability to attack the citizens of the United States – has to be seen as a failure.

In other security news, scientists in the United Kingdom have made a big step forward in detecting concealed weapons. Researchers have unveiled the prototype for a hand held microwave radar scanner that can detect gun like objects discreetly, from a distance and, to hear the inventors tell it, outside of a laboratory environment. What exists right now is a very early but promising iteration of the technology, which resembles in principle a portable airport security sensor that’s limited in what sort of objects in can detect – guns, but not knives – and isn’t able to paint the clear picture of the object that one would get from a larger machine. But more advanced versions of the device could be helping police in the UK get a read on suspicious characters sooner than later, though it’s perceived usefulness as less a security countermeasure and more of a predictor of accuracy in ‘stop and searches’ does have the troubling ring of Newspeak to it. Then again, this is the London Metropolitan Police we’re talking about, so maybe a lack of concern for privacy that shouldn’t be surprising.

Finally, this week also brought a reminder that while microwave radars and laser range finders are all well and good, these things are not what security is ultimately about. At the end of the day, it’s about whatever works for your situation. And if that entails smiting your gigantic enemies with thousands upon thousands of stinging insects, then so much the better.

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