EXCLUSIVE: Confidential U.S. assessments show Afghanistan not ready to govern on own
State Department tries to hide risks of corruption
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Confidential U.S. assessments, which the State Department tried to hide from the public, show nearly all Afghan Cabinet ministries are woefully ill-prepared to govern after the U.S. withdraws its troops, often describing the gaps in knowledge, capability and safeguards as “critical” and describing an infrastructure in danger of collapsing if left to its own accord.
The State Department USAID reports, obtained by The Washington Times, paint a sobering portrait about the impact of the billions of dollars the U.S. has spent on nation-building over the past decade.
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An Inadequate Defense Budget? Compared to Whom? Compared to When?
Many Republicans and numerous Democrats, especially on the House and Senate Armed Services Committees, have been characterizing the US defense budget as inadequate. They propose to release the Pentagon from the statutory spending caps set by the Budget Control Act of 2011 and its “sequestration,” which would keep some, but not all, Pentagon spending in the neighborhood of $500 billion, annually, for several years. The Joint Chiefs of Staff, the Secretary of Defense and any other Pentagon official near a microphone have been cheering them on.
Absent from all their talking points are three salient facts:
- President Obama’s 2015 request for all national security related programs would exceed $1 Trillion;
- the US outspends any other nation, especially presumed threat nations, by a huge amount, and
- under the dreaded sequestration, the Pentagon portion of national security spending would remain at historically high levels.
There is a major mismatch between the actual size of the US defense budget and the characterization of inadequacy given to it. The enormity of the US defense budget, even under sequestration, is readily apparent in both relative and absolute terms.
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Stephen E. Arnold
PART I Imagine the Internet without Search Engines
Centrifuge Systems proposes an interesting idea in “Big Data Discovery Without Link Analysis Is Like The Web Without Google.” Centrifuge Systems asks readers of the short article to imagine using the Internet without a search engine. How would we locate information? It would be similar to the librarian’s favorite description of the Internet all the contents of a library spilled on the floor. The article continues to explain that big data without link analysis works the same as the Internet without a search engine.
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PART II Google and IBM Struggle
At my age, I don’t own stocks. I don’t own anything because life in rural Kentucky is simple. The news about Google’s and IBM’s most recent financial results struck me as an MBA discussion group problem.
IBM issued “IBM Reports 2014 First Quarter Results.” What surprises did the $100 billion giant sprint on me? In a nutshell, declining revenues and profits. The bright spots were IBM’s consulting revenues and the company’s cloud computing. Other parts of the business were less robust. Overall IBM faces major challenges in hardware where no easy fix seems evident. Search as manifested in the Watson initiative will have to deliver.
In “Google Inc. Announces First Quarter 2014 Results” made clear that the Google was able to pump up its revenue. I noted the word “great” as Google’s way of describing the last 12 weeks’ financial performance. I noted that profit was down. Explanations included accountants being accountants and acquisitions. For me, the shift to mobile and the now-familiar dependence on one major revenue stream were important. Google may have to do more to keep up the appearance that it is the same super star that burst upon the scene more than a decade ago. Aging pro athletes and Hollywood starlets know the drill well. More effort goes into staying young at an increasingly higher cost. Is search as Google defines it up to the task of paying for personal trainers and plastic surgeons?
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Stephan A. Schwartz
This is the truth that the mainstream corporate media will not address. Only citizen action is going to reverse this decline into oligarchy and, frankly, I’m not sure the American people have it in them any longer to rise up against the destruction of our democracy. We’ll know from the 2014 elections.
American Democracy No Longer Works
THE THOM HARTMANN PROGRAM – Truthout
Washington politicians don’t give a damn about you or me. They only answer to billionaires and giant corporations. Thanks to forty years of Supreme Court decisions, American politics is no longer about the “will of We The People” – it’s only about the money.
As a result, we longer have a functioning democracy in America.
Robert David STEELE Vivas
For the past several months I have been spammed by a variety of authors who have been at best indiscriminate and at worst offensive spam. Most of them are using lists of top Amazon reviewers that are being indiscriminately and probably illegally circulated by book clubs as well as spammer networks.
On further investigation I have found that an spam and variation of the Nigerian fraud industry has been built up within Amazon, especially Kindle but less so and also CreateSpace.
AMAZON DOES NOT CARE.
Repeated reports to Amazon have failed to elicit a response. What is happening is that a legion of spam authors, many based in Pakistan and India, are creating Kindle titles with hot words like “make money” or “weight loss” and then they are spamming the world to try to sell the book via kindle, starting with the unfortunately top reviewers. My examination of several of these titles show ingenious crap. Cleverly package, not worth the time to order and certainly not worth any money.
AMAZON DOES NOT CARE.
There appears to be zero interst at Amazon about the abuse of its top reviewers. There appears to be zero interest about Amazon about Kindle now being a variation of a Nigerian fraud factory. Indeed, Amazon, for all its vaunted cloud and other technical expertise, does not appear to have the brains to use data mining and filtering to rapidly identify and block spam products from being loaded and then marketed with spam reviews.
I am offering this story to WIRED but urge one and all to mobilize eyeballs. I believe that the basic cultural problem is that Bezos does not actually value knowledge — he is in the business of selling “packages” and his lack of focus on quality control on the easiest packages to “fake” is now creating a very ugly underbelly for the Amazon enterprise.
The priority after MoneyLab (2): redefining value within and beyond the money form
How can we arrive at common decisions on what is to be valued? Do we value personal bonds or do we value anonymity? Do we value community or do we value individuality? Is there a way to bridge these apparent opposites or dissolve their inherent contradictions, or will they forever be in conflict? What do we value about ourselves? What do we value about others? What do we value in nature, in work, in leisure? And how can we embed these values — both moral and economic — in the very money-form? Ultimately, if we are talking about creating a radically different society, the question of value will have to somehow be detached from money.
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Studies such as Nass et. al.’s “Cognitive Control in Media Multitaskers” have demonstrated on a general level that media multitaskers are actually rapidly task-switching and that the attentional costs of switching focus degrades efficiency in accomplishing individual tasks. But that research is just the beginning. Important to infotention is what is not yet known about how effective attentional training can be.
“Members of Desimone’s lab are now studying how the brain shifts its focus between different types of sensory input, such as vision and hearing. They are also investigating whether it might be possible to train people to better focus their attention by controlling the brain interactions involved in this process.
“You have to identify the basic neural mechanisms and do basic research studies, which sometimes generate ideas for things that could be of practical benefit,” Desimone says. “It’s too early to say whether this training is even going to work at all, but it’s something that we’re actively pursuing.”
Read more at http://scienceblog.com/71642/how-the-brain-pays-attention/#6CSjmbufhdePSLK1.99
Stephan A. Schwartz
Once again California is leading the nation. This time in green building technologies and standards. I think this is very good news.
California’s Net Zero Energy Building To Reshape US Construction Industry
CARL STERNER – CleanTechnica
California’s recent revisions to Title 24 put in place ambitious performance goals: all residential buildings must be Zero Net Energy (ZNE) by 2020, and all commercial buildings must follow suit by 2030. The code also applies to retrofit projects that pass certain thresholds. (A ZNE building produces as much energy on-site as it consumes on an annual basis.) These changes promise to reshape the construction industry in significant ways – and not just in California. Here’s how.
Do Humans Have the Ability to Sense the Future? This Survey of Experiments So Far Says….Yes!
Can we sense the future before it happens? That question was at the heart of a set of nine experiments that sparked widespread controversy and debate when Professor Daryl Bem published his results in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology in 2011. The reason: Bem’s results were positive, suggesting that we can in some way do the seemingly impossible, and somehow ‘know’ (precognition) or ‘feel’ (presentiment) things before they even occur. The controversy grew even further, however, with widespread coverage in science media outlets of attempted replications from others that failed to find the same astonishing results. A number of scientists and ‘skeptics’ poured scorn on Bem’s experiments, and prominent skeptic James Randi was even moved to award his infamous ‘Pigasus Award’ to Bem “for his shoddy research that has been discredited on many accounts by prominent critics”.
In a previous post I pointed out that this focus on replications with negative results had glossed over the fact that there had also been a number of positive replications, suggesting that there might just be something to Bem’s original results. And now, a meta-analysis of 90 experiments which replicated Bem’s research, performed in 33 different laboratories (in 14 different countries and involving 12,406 participants), has offered significant support for the theory that humans can indeed sense the future:
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