Tuesday, September 10, 2013

never forget that civilization is only six meals thick...,

theatlantic | Syria has been convulsed by civil war since climate change came to Syria with a vengeance. Drought devastated the country from 2006 to 2011.  Rainfall in most of the country fell below eight inches (20 cm) a year, the absolute minimum needed to sustain un-irrigated farming. Desperate for water, farmers began to tap aquifers with tens of thousands of new well.  But, as they did, the water table quickly dropped to a level below which their pumps could lift it. 

In some areas, all agriculture ceased.  In others crop failures reached 75%.  And generally as much as 85% of livestock died of thirst or hunger.  Hundreds of thousands  of Syria’s farmers gave up, abandoned their farms and fled to the cities and towns in search of almost non-existent jobs and severely short food supplies.  Outside observers including UN experts estimated that between 2 and 3  million of Syria’s 10 million rural inhabitants were reduced to “extreme poverty.”

The domestic Syrian refugees immediately found that they had to compete not only with one another for scarce food, water and jobs, but also with the already existing foreign refugee population.  Syria already was a refuge for quarter of a million Palestinians and about a hundred thousand people who had fled the war and occupation of Iraq.  Formerly prosperous farmers were lucky to get jobs as hawkers or street sweepers.  And in the desperation of the times, hostilities erupted among groups that were competing just to survive.

            Survival was the key issue.  The senior UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) representative in Syria turned to the USAID program for help. Terming the situation “a perfect storm,” in November 2008, he warned  that Syria faced “social destruction.” He noted that the Syrian Minister of Agriculture had “stated publicly that [the]  economic and social fallout from the drought was ‘beyond our capacity as a country to deal with.’”  But, his appeal fell on deaf ears:  the USAID director commented that “we question whether limited USG resources should be directed toward this appeal at this time.”  (reported on November 26, 2008 in cable 08DAMASCUS847_a to Washington and “leaked” to Wikileaks )

            Whether or not this was a wise decision, we now know that the Syrian government made the situation much worse by its next action. Lured by the high price of wheat on the world market, it sold its reserves. In 2006, according to the US Department of Agriculture, it sold 1,500,000 metric tons or twice as much as in the previous year.  The next year it had little left to export; in 2008 and for the rest of the drought years it had to import enough wheat to keep its citizens alive.

            So tens of thousands of frightened, angry, hungry and impoverished former farmers flooded constituted a “tinder” that was ready to catch fire.  The spark was struck on March 15, 2011  when a relatively small group gathered in the town of Daraa to protest against government failure to help them.  Instead of meeting with the protestors and at least hearing their complaints, the government cracked down on them as subversives.  The Assads, who had ruled the country since 1971,  were not known for political openness or popular sensitivity.   And their action backfired.  Riots broke out all over the country,  As they did, the Assads attempted to quell them with military force.  They failed to do so and, as outside help – money from the Gulf states and Muslim “freedom fighters” from  the rest of the world – poured into the country, the government lost control over 30% of the country’s rural areas and perhaps half of its population.  By the spring of 2013, according to the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), upwards of 100,000 people had been killed in the fighting, perhaps 2 million have lost their homes and upwards of 2 million have fled abroad.  Additionally, vast amounts of infrastructure, virtually whole cities like Aleppo, have been destroyed. 

Despite these tragic losses, the war is now thought to be stalemated: the government cannot be destroyed and the rebels cannot be defeated.  The reasons are not only military: they are partly economic-- there is little to which the rebels could return;  partly political – the government has managed to retain the loyalty of a large part of the majority Muslim community which comprises the bulk of its army and civil service whereas the rebels, as I have mentioned, are fractured into many mutually hostile groups;  and partly administrative  -- by and large the government’s  structure has held together and functions satisfactorily whereas the rebels have no single government.

the one who is unwilling to work shall not eat!

NYTimes | As a self-described “true Southern man” — and reluctant recipient of food stamps — Dustin Rigsby, a struggling mechanic, hunts deer, doves and squirrels to help feed his family. He shops for grocery bargains, cooks budget-stretching stews and limits himself to one meal a day. 

Tarnisha Adams, who left her job skinning hogs at a slaughterhouse when she became ill with cancer, gets $352 a month in food stamps for herself and three college-age sons. She buys discount meat and canned vegetables, cheaper than fresh. Like Mr. Rigsby, she eats once a day — “if I eat,” she said.
When Congress officially returns to Washington next week, the diets of families like the Rigsbys and the Adamses will be caught up in a debate over deficit reduction. Republicans, alarmed by a rise in food stamp enrollment, are pushing to revamp and scale down the program. Democrats are resisting the cuts. 

No matter what Congress decides, benefits will be reduced in November, when a provision in the 2009 stimulus bill expires. 

Yet as lawmakers cast the fight in terms of spending, nonpartisan budget analysts and hunger relief advocates warn of a spike in “food insecurity” among Americans who, as Mr. Rigsby said recently, “look like we are fine,” but live on the edge of poverty, skipping meals and rationing food. 

Surrounded by corn and soybean farms — including one owned by the local Republican congressman, Representative Stephen Fincher — Dyersburg, about 75 miles north of Memphis, provides an eye-opening view into Washington’s food stamp debate. Mr. Fincher, who was elected in 2010 on a Tea Party wave and collected nearly $3.5 million in farm subsidies from the government from 1999 to 2012, recently voted for a farm bill that omitted food stamps. 

“The role of citizens, of Christianity, of humanity, is to take care of each other, not for Washington to steal from those in the country and give to others in the country,” Mr. Fincher, whose office did not respond to interview requests, said after his vote in May. In response to a Democrat who invoked the Bible during the food stamp debate in Congress, Mr. Fincher cited his own biblical phrase. “The one who is unwilling to work shall not eat,” he said. 

On Wednesday, the Department of Agriculture released a 2012 survey showing that nearly 49 million Americans were living in “food insecure” households — meaning, in the bureaucratic language of the agency, that some family members lacked “consistent access throughout the year to adequate food.” In short, many Americans went hungry. The agency found the figures essentially unchanged since the economic downturn began in 2008, but substantially higher than during the previous decade.
Experts say the problem is particularly acute in rural regions like Dyersburg, a city of 17,000 on the banks of the Forked Deer River in West Tennessee. More than half the counties with the highest concentration of food insecurity are rural, according to an analysis by Feeding America, the nation’s largest network of food banks. In Dyer County, it found, 19.4 percent of residents were “food insecure” in 2011, compared with 16.4 percent nationwide.

states where the most people go hungry

247wallst | The states with the lowest food security, not surprisingly, are among the poorest in the country. In all 10 states, the median household income was less than the national median of $50,502. In Mississippi and Arkansas, the two worst states for food security, median income was less than $40,000. Of the 10 states with the lowest food security, eight had the highest poverty rates in the country.

Ross Fraser, spokesperson for hunger-relief charity Feeding America, explained that having low food security does not necessarily mean families are starving. While people may feel full after eating, nutritious food is expensive. “Often, people have to make unfortunate choices about what they put in their stomachs.” Fraser added.

Indeed, according to a 2012 Gallup-Healthways survey, people in nine of the 10 states were less likely to eat healthily on a daily basis than the nation as a whole. Missouri and Tennessee were third and second worst in the country by this measure.

It may surprise some that, in fact, the majority of the 10 states with food access problems have higher-than-average obesity rates. Mississippi and Arkansas had the second and third highest obesity rates in the country in 2012. “The lack of healthy food among families in these states,” explained Fraser, “is one of the reasons you have very poor people who are obese. It is because they’re not able to afford nutritious and high protein food.”

Based on a three-year average between 2010 and 2012, the USDA‘s report, Household Food Security in the United States in 2012, identifies the states with the highest proportion of residents who had low or very low food security. The report measures how many households have low food security — defined as being able to eat three square meals a day, but forced to reduce the quality of the food they eat — and very low food security — defined as having food intake reduced and eating patterns disrupted because of a lack of affordability. The 2000-2002 and 2007-2009 averages also were considered. 24/7 Wall St. also reviewed poverty, income, education and food stamp recipiency data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2011 American Community Survey, as well as the obesity and access to food data for 2012 from the Gallup-Healthways 2012 Well-Being Index.

These are the states where the most people go hungry.

Monday, September 09, 2013

why it's vitally important to find something useful and valuable to do, and do it with excellence...,

datamining | Similarity breeds connection. This principle—the homophily principle—structures network ties of every type, including marriage, friendship, work, advice, support, information transfer, exchange, comembership, and other types of relationship. The result is that people's personal networks are homogeneous with regard to many sociodemographic, behavioral, and intrapersonal characteristics. Homophily limits people's social worlds in a way that has powerful implications for the information they receive, the attitudes they form, and the interactions they experience. Homophily in race and ethnicity creates the strongest divides in our personal environments, with age, religion, education, occupation, and gender following in roughly that order. Geographic propinquity, families, organizations, and isomorphic positions in social systems all create contexts in which homophilous relations form. Ties between nonsimilar individuals also dissolve at a higher rate, which sets the stage for the formation of niches (localized positions) within social space. We argue for more research on: (a) the basic ecological processes that link organizations, associations, cultural communities, social movements, and many other social forms; (b) the impact of multiplex ties on the patterns of homophily; and (c) the dynamics of network change over time through which networks and other social entities co-evolve. Fist tap Dale.

people whose full-time professional focus is on race, politics, and history - consider Double-0 racist...,

the root | Last week, in his remarks commemorating the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, President Obama did what many would argue has become a signature move in his speeches to black audiences: In the midst of a professorial history recap featuring paragraphs of his characteristic soaring rhetoric, he slipped in several hundred words about cultural pathology.

Specifically, he primarily blamed African Americans for the way "progress stalled" after the civil rights activism that was being celebrated. "The anguish of assassinations set off self-defeating riots. Legitimate grievances against police brutality tipped into excuse-making for criminal behavior," he said. He chastised those who he said acted "as if we had no agency in our own liberation, as if poverty was an excuse for not raising your child, and the bigotry of others was reason to give up on yourself."

Some called it "tough love." Not surprisingly, people like conservative pundit Bill O'Reilly ate it up.

But from the point of view of plenty of black observers -- people whose full-time professional focus is on race, politics and history -- the commentary amounted to unhelpful and ahistorical victim blaming: inappropriate at best and a cynical version of Bill Cosby-level armchair sociology at worst. And they weren't alone. Mother Jones' Lauren Williams reported on the immediate post-speech reactions of listeners on Twitter, who were, to put it mildly, ticked off.

It's worth noting that we've been here before. The response to this chunk of the president's speech was not unlike the reception to his commencement address at Morehouse College, in which he made the perplexing choice to lecture men graduating from a top HBCU about making excuses. (Is it that any remarks to African Americans, no matter how successful they may be, demand a personal-responsibility theme?) Even the first lady has followed this pattern, conjuring an unfounded myth at Bowie State's graduation when she referred to "the slander that says a black child with a book is trying to act white," and lamenting that "too many of our young people" aim to be "a baller or a rapper."

But guess what? As the dust settles around the latest iteration of this now pretty predictable commentary, I'm almost looking forward to when the president does it again.

To be clear, it's not because I agree with him. Not at all. In fact, as I listened last week from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, I was full of dread at the idea of hearing a distorted and painfully oversimplified message.

is crime and poverty data-aggregation racist?

theatlantic | A service called "Ghetto Tracker" appeared online at the beginning of this week and quickly drew criticism for its racist and classist overtones. Shortly after, the site was renamed "Good Part of Town." Its creator, who would only identify himself as a 30-something-year-old in Tallahassee, told Gawker: "This was originally seriously developed as a travel tool and the name 'Ghetto Tracker' was meant to be something that people would remember."

The basic premise of Ghetto Tracker/Good Part of Town -- to crowdsource travel advice – actually isn’t so outrageous, but the framing, even without the word "Ghetto" in the name, and the intention -- to label whole geographic areas as "good" or "bad," "safe" and "unsafe" -- make the operation distasteful.

Yet in the growing field of geo-web applications, incorporating safety judgments into navigational aids is becoming increasingly common. Accusations of reinforcing racist or classist stereotypes could be lobbed at any of those apps. "In any form," writes Emily Badger at The Atlantic Cities, "this idea toes a touchy line between a utilitarian application of open data and a sly wink toward people who just want to steer clear of 'those kinds of neighborhoods.'"

So how should we think about these apps? When does technology step over that line from being merely useful to becoming insidiously stereotype-enforcing?

Anyone can investigate a neighborhood by looking up local crime rates, median income, and demographics online – not to mention the information gleaned from word-of-mouth reports. To perform such research and then make a decision about traveling to a particular area involves critical thinking, which is hardly objectionable. The ethical problem occurs when your mobile device takes over that thinking for you. Fist tap Dale.

Saturday, September 07, 2013

a dayyum watch because sixth sense too far ahead of its time...,

livemint | There has been much amusement at the way Samsung’s Pranav Mistry spoke English on Wednesday night in Berlin, Germany. The 32-year-old was picked to release the Galaxy Gear smartwatch. This is a watch that connects to and displays the screen content of your mobile phone, which can stay in your pocket or bag.

The Gear is the first product innovation Samsung has put out before Apple. Mistry’s being picked for launching it globally tells us something about how he’s regarded within the company.

Mistry is from Palanpur in northern Gujarat, and to me his speech has the inflection of the western Gujarati, which is to say Kathiawari.

He probably speaks Gujarati like Gandhi, who was from the southern part of western Gujarat, and like Jinnah. Even many Gujaratis from central and southern Gujarat—Ahmedabad, Vadodara, Surat—would find Mistry’s Palanpuri accent amusing, though in Gujarati, of course.

The interesting thing about the town—it is hardly a city, with barely over 100,000 people—of Palanpur is that it is man for man the most productive, most brilliant city in South Asia.

When I visited the diamond bourse in Tel Aviv, Israel, I was not surprised to observe that it was totally dominated by two communities. The Polish and other Eastern European Hasidics with their black coats, black hats and ringlets, and Palanpuri Jains with the singsong accent of Mistry.

And so, Jews and Gujjus.

Palanpuris control half the market in the world’s unpolished diamonds, and they have no equal, even among Marwaris.

It is usually in the field of business and enterprise that the Palanpuri shines and so it is unusual that young Mistry picked academia (he is from Massachusetts Institute of Technology, US) as his calling, then moving to a corporate job.

At another event, whose video is available on YouTube, he talks about fantasy and innovation. Mistry says his inspiration isn’t from science fiction, as is the case with many of the other technology masters around him. It is Hindu mythology that is the root and source of his creativity.

He finds ideas in the texts and in their stories. This shows him to be grounded in his culture, which is something the English-medium Indian usually discards, even though he makes the pretence of worshipping it.

In my opinion, this rootedness is far more important intellectually for Indians than knowledge of Western popular culture, which passes for sophistication in our country.

What amused Twitter was not the content of Mistry’s talk. It was the way he delivered it.

An Indian speaking like a native before foreigners embarrasses us because the accent betrays a lack of sophistication that stigmatizes all Indians.

This, of course, says more about us than about the person speaking.


careful playing with that magic box eugene...,

a new model of the universe | Many people have worked at the problem of the fourth dimension

Fechner wrote a great deal about the fourth dimension. From his discussions about worlds of one, two, three and four dimensions there follows a very interesting method of investigating the fourth dimension by means of building up analogies between worlds of different dimensions, i.e. between an imaginary world on a plane and the three-dimensional world, and between the three-dimensional world and the world of four dimensions This method is used by nearly all those who have ever studied the problem of higher dimensions, and we shall have occasion to meet with it further on.

Professor Zollner evolved the theory of the fourth dimension from observations of " mediumistic " phenomena, chiefly of phenomena of so-called " materialisation ". But his observations have long been considered doubtful because of the established fact of the insufficiently strict arrangement of his experiments (Podmore and Hislop).

A very interesting summary of almost all that has ever been written about the fourth dimension up to the nineties of last century is to be found in the books of C. H. Hinton These books contain also many of Hinton's own ideas; but, unfortunately, side by side with the valuable ideas there is a great deal of unnecessary dialectic such as always accumulates round the question of the fourth dimension.

Hinton makes several attempts at a definition of the fourth dimension from the physical side, as well as from the psychological. Considerable space is occupied in his books by the description of a method, invented by him, of accustoming the mind to cognition of the fourth dimension. It consists of a long series of exercises for the perceiving and the visualising apparatus, with sets of differently coloured cubes, which are meant to be memorised, first in one position, then in another, then in a third, and after that to be visualised in different combinations.

The fundamental idea which guided Hinton in the creation of this method of exercises is that the awakening of " higher consciousness " requires the " casting out of the self " in the visualisation and cognition of the world, i.e. the accustoming of oneself to know and conceive the world, not from a personal point of view (as we generally know and conceive it), but as it is. For this it is necessary, first of all, to learn to visualise things not as they appear to us, but as they are, even if only in a geometrical sense; from this there must develop the capacity to know them, i.e. to see them, as they are, also from other points of view besides the geometrical.

The first exercise suggested by Hinton consists in the study of a cube composed of 27 smaller cubes coloured differently and bearing definite names. After having thoroughly learned the cube made up of smaller cubes, it has to be turned over and learned and memorised in the reverse order. Then the position of the smaller cubes has to be changed and memorised in that order, and so on. As a result, according to Hinton, it is possible to cast out in the cube studied the concepts " up and down ", " right and left ", and so on, and to know it independently of the position with regard to one another of the smaller cubes composing it, i.e. probably to visualise it simultaneously.

in different combinations. This would be the first step towards casting out the self-elements in the conception of the cube. Further on, there is described an elaborate system of exercises with series of differently coloured and differently named cubes, out of which various figures are composed. All this has the same purpose, to cast out the self-elements in the percepts and in this way to develop higher consciousness.

Casting out the self-elements in percepts, according to Hinton's idea, is the first step towards the development of higher consciousness and towards the cognition of the fourth dimension.

He says that if there exists the capacity of vision in the fourth dimension, that is, if we are able to see objects of our world as if from the fourth dimension, then we shall see them, not as we see them in the ordinary way, but quite differently.

We usually see objects as either above or below us, or on the same level with us, to the right or to the left, behind us or in front of us, and always from one side only—the one facing us—and in perspective. Our eye is an extremely imperfect instrument; it gives us an utterly incorrect picture of the world. What we call perspective is in reality a distortion of visible objects which is produced by a badly constructed optical instrument—the eye. We see all objects distorted. And we visualise them in the same way. But we visualise them in this way entirely owing to the habit of seeing them distorted, that is, owing to the habit created by our defective vision, which has weakened the capacity of visualisation.

But, according to Hinton, there is no necessity to visualise objects of the external world in a distorted form. The power of visualisation is not limited by the power of vision. We see objects distorted, but we know them as they are. And we can free ourselves from the habit of visualising objects as we see them, and we can learn to visualise them as we know they really are. Hinton's idea is precisely that before thinking of developing the capacity of seeing in the fourth dimension, we must learn to visualise objects as they would be seen from the fourth dimension, i.e. first of all, not in perspective, but from all sides at once, as they are known to our " consciousness ". It is just this power that should be developed by Hinton's exercises. The development of this power to visualise objects from all sides at once will be the casting out of the self-elements in mental images. According to Hinton, " casting out the self-elements in mental images must lead to casting out the self-elements in perceptions ". In this way, the development of the power of visualising objects from all sides will be the first step towards the development of the power of seeing objects as they are in a geometrical sense, i.e. the development of what Hinton calls a " higher consciousness ".

did he get fed up being poor and exploited at the institute?

wikipedia | Pranav Mistry (born 1981) is an Indian computer scientist. He joined Samsung electronics as the Director of Research in 2013, and leads the Think Tank. He introduced Samsung Galaxy Gear smart watch in September 2013.[1] Previously he was a research assistant and a PhD candidate at MIT Media Lab. Before joining MIT, Pranav worked as a UX Researcher with Microsoft. Pranav holds a Master's degree in Media Arts and Sciences from MIT and Master of Design from Industrial Design Center, IIT Mumbai. He has completed Bachelors’ degree in Computer Science and Engineering from the Nirma Institute of Technology in Gujarat.[2][3] He is from Palanpur, which is situated in northern Gujarat in India. Mistry is best known for his work on SixthSense.[4][5][6] Among some of his other work, Pranav has invented Mouseless – an invisible computer mouse; SPARSH – a novel way to copy-paste data between digital devices; Quickies – intelligent sticky notes that can be searched, located and can send reminders and messages; Blinkbot - a gaze and blink controlled robot; a pen that can draw in 3D; and a public map that can act as Google of physical world. Pranav’s research interests include Augmented reality, Ubiquitous computing, Gestural interaction, AI, Machine vision, Collective intelligence and Robotics.

erno rubik's magic cube...,

wikipedia | Permutations: The original (3×3×3) Rubik's Cube has eight corners and twelve edges. There are 8! (40,320) ways to arrange the corner cubes. Seven can be oriented independently, and the orientation of the eighth depends on the preceding seven, giving 37 (2,187) possibilities. There are 12!/2 (239,500,800) ways to arrange the edges, since an even permutation of the corners implies an even permutation of the edges as well. (When arrangements of centres are also permitted, as described below, the rule is that the combined arrangement of corners, edges, and centres must be an even permutation.) Eleven edges can be flipped independently, with the flip of the twelfth depending on the preceding ones, giving 211 (2,048) possibilities.[25]
 {8! \times 3^7 \times (12!/2) \times 2^{11}} = 43,252,003,274,489,856,000
which is approximately 43 quintillion.[26]
The puzzle is often advertised as having only "billions" of positions, as the larger numbers are unfamiliar to many. To put this into perspective, if one had as many standard sized Rubik's Cubes as there are permutations, one could cover the Earth's surface 275 times.
The preceding figure is limited to permutations that can be reached solely by turning the sides of the cube. If one considers permutations reached through disassembly of the cube, the number becomes twelve times as large:
 {8! \times 3^8 \times 12! \times 2^{12}} = 519,024,039,293,878,272,000.
which is approximately 519 quintillion[26] possible arrangements of the pieces that make up the Cube, but only one in twelve of these are actually solvable. This is because there is no sequence of moves that will swap a single pair of pieces or rotate a single corner or edge cube. Thus there are twelve possible sets of reachable configurations, sometimes called "universes" or "orbits", into which the Cube can be placed by dismantling and reassembling it.

Centre faces: The original Rubik's Cube had no orientation markings on the centre faces (although some carried the words "Rubik's Cube" on the centre square of the white face), and therefore solving it does not require any attention to orienting those faces correctly. However, with marker pens, one could, for example, mark the central squares of an unscrambled Cube with four coloured marks on each edge, each corresponding to the colour of the adjacent face; a cube marked in this way is referred to as a "supercube". Some Cubes have also been produced commercially with markings on all of the squares, such as the Lo Shu magic square or playing card suits. Thus one can nominally solve a Cube yet have the markings on the centres rotated; it then becomes an additional test to solve the centres as well.
Marking the Rubik's Cube's centres increases its difficulty because this expands the set of distinguishable possible configurations. There are 46/2 (2,048) ways to orient the centres, since an even permutation of the corners implies an even number of quarter turns of centres as well. In particular, when the Cube is unscrambled apart from the orientations of the central squares, there will always be an even number of centre squares requiring a quarter turn. Thus orientations of centres increases the total number of possible Cube permutations from 43,252,003,274,489,856,000 (4.3×1019) to 88,580,102,706,155,225,088,000 (8.9×1022).[27]
When turning a cube over is considered to be a change in permutation then we must also count arrangements of the centre faces. Nominally there are 6! ways to arrange the six centre faces of the cube, but only 24 of these are achievable without disassembly of the cube. When the orientations of centres are also counted, as above, this increases the total number of possible Cube permutations from 88,580,102,706,155,225,088,000 (8.9×1022) to 2,125,922,464,947,725,402,112,000 (2.1×1024).

Algorithms: In Rubik's cubers' parlance, a memorised sequence of moves that has a desired effect on the cube, is called an algorithm. This terminology is derived from the mathematical use of algorithm, meaning a list of well-defined instructions for performing a task from a given initial state, through well-defined successive states, to a desired end-state. Each method of solving the Rubik's Cube employs its own set of algorithms, together with descriptions of what effect the algorithm has, and when it can be used to bring the cube closer to being solved.
Many algorithms are designed to transform only a small part of the cube without interfering with other parts that have already been solved, so that they can be applied repeatedly to different parts of the cube until the whole is solved. For example, there are well-known algorithms for cycling three corners without changing the rest of the puzzle, or flipping the orientation of a pair of edges while leaving the others intact.
Some algorithms do have a certain desired effect on the cube (for example, swapping two corners) but may also have the side-effect of changing other parts of the cube (such as permuting some edges). Such algorithms are often simpler than the ones without side-effects, and are employed early on in the solution when most of the puzzle has not yet been solved and the side-effects are not important. Most are long and difficult to memorize. Towards the end of the solution, the more specific (and usually more complicated) algorithms are used instead.

Relevance and application of mathematical group theory: Rubik's Cube lends itself to the application of mathematical group theory, which has been helpful for deducing certain algorithms - in particular, those which have a commutator structure, namely XYX−1Y−1 (where X and Y are specific moves or move-sequences and X−1 and Y−1 are their respective inverses), or a conjugate structure, namely XYX−1, often referred to by speedcubers colloquially as a "setup move".[28] In addition, the fact that there are well-defined subgroups within the Rubik's Cube group, enables the puzzle to be learned and mastered by moving up through various self-contained "levels of Difficulty". For example, one such "level" could involve solving cubes which have been scrambled using only 180-degree turns. These subgroups are the principle underlying the computer cubing methods Thistlethwaite and Kociemba, which solve the cube by further reducing it to another subgroup.

Friday, September 06, 2013

a moment of abject lucidity brought to you by retired colonel lawrence wilkerson

Chris Hayes: What do you think when you watch him talk about the Iraq experience. Do you think we’ve learned our lesson?

Lawrence Wilkerson: In some ways perhaps, in other ways not. My first reaction and this in no way meant to be cold. It is meant to be the exact opposite. What’s the difference in a child dying of sarin gas in the night, a child dying in the morning with napalm, and a child dying in the afternoon with white phosphorous? Personally as a soldier I rather die of the sarin gas than the other two; those other two perfectly legal. And many people in Syria are dying of other causes than chemical weapons. So I have a real problem with this from that point of view.

Chris Hayes: So you question drawing this ring around this class of weapon in the way the civilized world, if we can use that phrase, has basically said you can’t do this.

Lawrence Wilkerson: The main reason we have a chemical weapons ban and the success we do with over a hundred and eighty eight countries members of the convention is because they aren’t very good weapons. That’s the real reason. Look at why the United States continues to use depleted uranium, white phosphorous, wouldn’t join the land mine ban and so forth is all because we find utility in the weapons. That’s not to be cold. That’s simply to be rational about it.

harridans and soulless whores in the flotsam and jetsam tanks...,

visibleorigami | I watching that corrupt hack John Kerry yesterday at the Senate hearings and I noticed, sitting behind him, this extraordinarily corrupt looking woman. The arrogance and imperious disdain on here features was palpable. She looked depraved in the way that only a lifetime of depravity will confer on a person. I wondered who she was. In the process of watching this dog and pony show, where Senate leaders were conveying virtual blowjobs on those being inquired of, one them, who had been playing poker on his cellphone the whole time (John McCain) mentioned how delighted they were to have the wife of John Kerry back in the flotsam/jetsam tank. It turned out to be her.

This is Origami and I do want to stay metaphysical so let's keep that in mind as we go. Looking at John Kerry's face was an experience.

The Satanic aspect of his persona was near hypnotic. If you play poker and... I have, enjoyably so, you know what a 'tell' is. Kerry was Tell City. The tics and giveaways were many. He was lying out of his ass, which I am confident happened to be on his neck at the time. He and his smug and 'in on it', privileged associates, on both ends of the charade, were engaged in a hideous mockery of all that they were put into power to defend against.

What is it that these twisted fiends want? What makes them think (how can they be so confident?) that they will get away with these massive violations? The forces arrayed against them are not inconsiderable. One answer is that the power of Israeli blackmail and dirty money leverage is so strong that all of these men and women are compelled to go along with it. On the other hand, Israel will definitely get hit, as well they should. There’s a real puzzle here. There's a real confidence on both sides. The bad guys, which are, at this moment, Israel and her bitch, America (England and France would be on this list but they're a tad stymied at the moment) seem to think they can do whatever they please. They're talking about a sixty day window of freedom to bomb at will with... with the option of another 30 days. It's ridiculous but... remember, 'no boots on the ground', 'no boots on the ground' as if that were to matter at all, given this enormous opportunity to carpet bomb Syria. What happened to the limited strikes over no more than several days? This was all a set up to go to a completely compromised, bought and sold congress, under the pretense of adhering to the letter of the law and coming away with far more than they would have had before.

Meanwhile, the confidence factor with the Syrian government, Hezbollah, Iran and Russia (don't forget China) is also very high. Someone has to be wrong in their presumptions. I can only pray and hope that it is the Satanic nation of Israel and their crack whore police state, bitch- America that's delusional about their optimism and capacity. I'm confident that both the United States and Israel are going down. Given that, it makes sense that sooner or later they will make the big mistake. Hubris is a guaranteed fall, quite often a spectacular fall and those fateful words of Nietzsche are indisputably true, “those whom the God's will destroy, they first drive mad.” We are seeing that. It's going on before our eyes.

the syrian war what you're not being told...,

stormcloudsgathering | In this video we're going to show you evidence that the Syrian government was framed in the chemical weapons attack of August 21st, 2013, we're going to explain why they were framed, and we're going to propose a course of action.

The use of chemical weapons on civilians in the Syrian conflict was a crime against humanity. As such it should be the subject of a real criminal investigation, and those responsible should be brought to justice. However, if the U.S. and NATO have their way that's not going to happen. In their book a simple accusation is as good as a conviction and therefore there's no point providing any real evidence. Let's just skip right to missile strikes shall we?

This really isn't surprising to anyone who's been paying attention though.
The United States has had Syria and Iran in their cross hairs for a long time. The plans for these wars have been in the works for over a decade.

[Wesley Clark video]

There are three primary psychological techniques that the powers that be in any given era use to build up the public support needed to take a country to war:

1. Create the impression that the aggressor is actually acting in self defense or in defense of a helpless nation. This can be done by exaggerating the danger posed by an enemy, fabricating an attack and blaming it on the enemy, or by intentionally provoking the enemy into a response.

2. Build up a crusade mythology, one that presents the aggressors as fighting for a higher ideal, or for the good of all humanity. In our current era the meme of “Spreading Democracy”, “Fighting Terrorism” or "Defending human rights"are the most commonly used.

3. De-humanize the enemy. War is mass murder, therefore presenting the enemy as evil, barbaric, or subhuman is essential unless you want your citizens and your soldiers questioning the morality of their actions. This pattern is often supported and augmented by a sense of cultural or racial superiority. The way Islamophobia is capitalized on to build moral support for this phony war on terror is a perfect example.

The U.S. government has a long illustrious history of using these techniques, and they keep using them because they work.

[clip Patrick Clawson Washington institute September 21st, 2012]

The United States has been trying to get Iran under its thumb for a long time. In 1953, the CIA and the UK's MI6 organized a coup to topple the democratically elected prime minister of Iran Mohammad Mossadegh. They then installed the Shah as their puppet. The Shah, who also just happened to be brutal dictator, ruled until 1979 when he was overthrown during the Iranian revolution.

The U.S. didn't like that so they tried to take Iran down by arming and funding Saddam Hussein against the Iranians. This was during the Iranian Iraq war, also referred to as the first Persian Gulf War which lasted from 1980 to 1988. The U.S. continued its support for Iraq even though they knew full well that he was using chemical weapons against the Iranians.

This now declassified top secret memo from Nov. 4, 1983 documents chemical weapons use by Iraq, and discusses Iran's likely reactions.

Here's a second memo, written on Feb. 24, 1984 to the director of Central Intelligence predicting that Iraq will use nerve agents against Iran.

Note that the source of these documents is Foreign Policy Magazine which is an extremely pro-establishment publication by any standards.

In spite of this, friendly diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Saddam continued. This video of Donald Rumsfeld, then special envoy of President Ronald Reagan meeting with Saddam, was taken on December 20, 1983, which was after the first memo. This means that those running the U.S. knew Saddam was killing people with poison gas and they didn't care. Taking down Iran was more important to the U.S. government than protecting human rights, and it still is.

Saddam failed to defeat Iran, so the U.S. switched tactics, and for a long time they tried going after Iran directly by accusing them of building nuclear weapons in order to justify military strikes. However, this line of worn out propaganda didn't gain any traction, largely because the U.S. government had lost most of its credibility in their trumped up claims about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction. You can only cry wolf so many times before people start rolling their eyes.

Their agenda fell apart completely when elements within the CIA and Mossad came forward stating that there was no evidence that Iran even intended to build such a weapon.

Not to be deterred by little details like the truth, these chicken hawk neo-cons decided to go after Syria to get to Iran. They know that Syria and Iran have a mutual defense agreement and if NATO forces enter Syria Iran will be drawn into the fight, and then these little deranged psychopaths in suits will get their war.

We still have to maintain appearances though, we wouldn't want people to think this was about controlling the world's oil supply and protecting the petrodollar would we? No, no, put those crazy conspiracy theories out of you mind. We're here to spread democracy and freedom with 50 caliber machine guns and drone strikes.

If it were obvious that the U.S. was attacking Syria it would be very difficult to obtain international or domestic support, so rather than attacking Syria directly the U.S. and NATO have been running a proxy war by arming and funding the Syrian rebels. To obscure the source of this support U.S. allies in the region such as Qatar and Saudi Arabia have been used to purchase weapons and then route them to Syria via Turkey.

This pattern of arming and funding dictators or extremist groups to get take down non-cooperative governments has been a key element in America's foreign policy since the creation of the CIA after World War II. 

[Clinton clip]

Let's not just talk about this in general sense. Who was running that operation?

[Zbig clip]

Just in case you're thinking this is irrelevant to this current situation we should point out that Zbigniew Brzezinski is an acknowledged friend and mentor to Barack Obama.

[Obama Zbig clip]

History proves that these dictators and extremists that the U.S. government installs are disposable and the very qualities that made them useful against enemies are later used to demonize them and thereby providing the justification for a full on invasion. This should be taken as a warning to those rebel groups that the U.S. is using to to destabilize Syria right now.

Now who are these Syrian rebels, this Free Syrian Army that the U.S. government so vocally supports? Well, while the West has tried to paint them as local freedom fighters, the reality is that the conflict has attracted foreign Jihadist from multiple countries, many of whom openly declare their intent to replace Assad's secular government with Sharia law. Numerous mainstream reports are already surfacing of Sharia motivated atrocities committed by the rebels. These reports are backed up by video footage that is far too graphic for me to show here. If you do a google search you can videos of men being beheaded and women being shot by rebels from the Al-Nusra Front. Yet the U.S. government isn't deterred by these details. They still want to help these extremists topple the Syrian government.

Funny isn't it how they require FBI background checks to buy a deer rifle in the states, but if you're a foreign Jihadist trying to overthrow a government that Washington isn't on good terms with they'll send you rocket launchers and heavy artillery no questions asked? And how do you reconcile the fact that the U.S. is fighting religious extremists in Afghanistan calling them terrorists, while supporting those same groups in Syria calling them freedom fighters. It doesn't make sense at all if you take the U.S. government's propaganda at face value.

cash rules everything around me CREAM get the money dollah, dollah bill y'all....,

slate | While the U.S. Congress and the Obama administration have been debating Syria, the fallout from the civil war in Libya turns out to be producing a crisis in world oil markets as "workers and armed militias that guard oil installations are pushing federalist demands and calling for a bigger share in the country's oil wealth":
Oil industry executives say Zeidan's shaky central government risked widening violence that could descend into civil war if it uses force to recapture oilfields.
Libya's oil production has fallen further to around 150,000 barrels per day (bpd) - from around 1.4 million bpd in April - confined to offshore rigs protestors cannot reach, a National Oil Corp (NOC) official said.
Armed groups have also threatened to close the Wafa gas field, which if shut would cause severe power shortages in the capital, an oil official told Reuters.
Wafa, in the south west, is the only major gas field left open to supply power stations. Libya is importing much more diesel and fuel oil for electricity plants that previously relied on gas.
Obviously the proximate loser here is the domestic economy of Libya. But Libya's oil is unusually high-quality stuff, so its withdrawal from global markets has a substantial impact on worldwide prices.

Thursday, September 05, 2013

some of you would've had to change your draws...,

who's at the top of this war pyramid?

In this sixth part of the ongoing Sibel Edmonds Gladio B conversation, we ask the question: Who is at the top of the pyramid. We look beyond the usual suspects and follow the money back to the industries and lobbies whose existence depends on the perpetuation of boogeymen enemies.
Listen to the previous parts of this series:

naw boo-boo, go sitchyass down somewhere...,

maddowblog | If there's anyone in America who should go enjoy a little quiet time right about now, it's failed former Pentagon chief Donald Rumsfeld. Nevertheless, he just keeps talking, appearing this morning on Fox News (thanks to my colleague Tricia McKinney for the heads-up).
...Rumsfeld, who earned public scorn for his leadership of the Pentagon during the Iraq War, said Obama didn't need to ask Congress for authorization and may have made a mistake in doing so.

"Now, did he need to go to Congress? No. Presidents as commander in chief have authority, but they have to behave like a commander in chief."

He referred to Obama as "the so-called commander in chief," and questioned whether a strike on Syria would be effective given the way Obama has handled it.
Rumsfeld, who seemed generally supportive of intervention in Syria, added that President Obama "doesn't have the kind of support that President Bush had in respect to his military actions."
Yep, he really said that.

Part of me continues to wonder why Rumsfeld is still allowed to speak in polite company. Lance Armstrong isn't asked for his opinions about athletes and performance-enhancing drugs; Miley Cyrus isn't sought out for analysis on public modesty; so why should anyone take seriously what Donald Rumsfeld has to say foreign policy and the use of military force abroad?

And yet ol' Rummy just can't seem to help himself -- he's talking about the incomplete justifications for military intervention; he casually attacks the president's patriotism; and he routinely makes incoherent, self-defeating observations about national security.

Don't go away mad, Rumsfeld. Just go away.

Wednesday, September 04, 2013

i'm so broke, I can't even pay attention...,

theatlanticcities | Human mental bandwidth is finite. You’ve probably experienced this before (though maybe not in those terms): When you’re lost in concentration trying to solve a problem like a broken computer, you’re more likely to neglect other tasks, things like remembering to take the dog for a walk, or picking your kid up from school. This is why people who use cell phones behind the wheel actually perform worse as drivers. It’s why air traffic controllers focused on averting a mid-air collision are less likely to pay attention to other planes in the sky.

We only have so much cognitive capacity to spread around. It's a scarce resource.

This understanding of the brain’s bandwidth could fundamentally change the way we think about poverty. Researchers publishing some groundbreaking findings today in the journal Science have concluded that poverty imposes such a massive cognitive load on the poor that they have little bandwidth left over to do many of the things that might lift them out of poverty – like go to night school, or search for a new job, or even remember to pay bills on time.

In a series of experiments run by researchers at Princeton, Harvard, and the University of Warwick, low-income people who were primed to think about financial problems performed poorly on a series of cognition tests, saddled with a mental load that was the equivalent of losing an entire night’s sleep. Put another way, the condition of poverty imposed a mental burden akin to losing 13 IQ points, or comparable to the cognitive difference that’s been observed between chronic alcoholics and normal adults.

The finding further undercuts the theory that poor people, through inherent weakness, are responsible for their own poverty – or that they ought to be able to lift themselves out of it with enough effort. This research suggests that the reality of poverty actually makes it harder to execute fundamental life skills. Being poor means, as the authors write, “coping with not just a shortfall of money, but also with a concurrent shortfall of cognitive resources.”

This explains, for example, why poor people who aren’t good with money might also struggle to be good parents. The two problems aren’t unconnected.

“It’s the same bandwidth," says Princeton’s Eldar Shafir, one of the authors of the study alongside Anandi Mani, Sendhil Mullainathan, and Jiaying Zhao. Poor people live in a constant state of scarcity (in this case, scarce mental bandwidth), a debilitating environment that Shafir and Mullainathan describe in a book to be published next week, Scarcity: Why having too little means so much.

What Shafir and his colleagues have identified is not exactly stress. Rather, poverty imposes something else on people that impedes them even when biological markers of stress (like elevated heart rates and blood pressure) aren’t present. Fist tap Dale.

the "common good" is a hopelessly lost cause...,

slate | You are a bad person if you send your children to private school. Not bad like murderer bad—but bad like ruining-one-of-our-nation’s-most-essential-institutions-in-order-to-get-what’s-best-for-your-kid bad. So, pretty bad.

I am not an education policy wonk: I’m just judgmental. But it seems to me that if every single parent sent every single child to public school, public schools would improve. This would not happen immediately. It could take generations. Your children and grandchildren might get mediocre educations in the meantime, but it will be worth it, for the eventual common good. (Yes, rich people might cluster. But rich people will always find a way to game the system: That shouldn’t be an argument against an all-in approach to public education any more than it is a case against single-payer health care.)

So, how would this work exactly? It’s simple! Everyone needs to be invested in our public schools in order for them to get better. Not just lip-service investment, or property tax investment, but real flesh-and-blood-offspring investment. Your local school stinks but you don’t send your child there? Then its badness is just something you deplore in the abstract. Your local school stinks and you do send your child there? I bet you are going to do everything within your power to make it better.

And parents have a lot of power. In many underresourced schools, it’s the aggressive PTAs that raise the money for enrichment programs and willful parents who get in the administration’s face when a teacher is falling down on the job. Everyone, all in. (By the way: Banning private schools isn’t the answer. We need a moral adjustment, not a legislative one.)

There are a lot of reasons why bad people send their kids to private school. Yes, some do it for prestige or out of loyalty to a long-standing family tradition or because they want their children to eventually work at Slate. But many others go private for religious reasons, or because their kids have behavioral or learning issues, or simply because the public school in their district is not so hot. None of these are compelling reasons. Or, rather, the compelling ones (behavioral or learning issues, wanting a not-subpar school for your child) are exactly why we should all opt in, not out.

 I believe in public education, but my district school really isn’t good! you might say. I understand. You want the best for your child, but your child doesn’t need it. If you can afford private school (even if affording means scrimping and saving, or taking out loans), chances are that your spawn will be perfectly fine at a crappy public school. She will have support at home (that’s you!) and all the advantages that go along with being a person whose family can pay for and cares about superior education—the exact kind of family that can help your crappy public school become less crappy. She may not learn as much or be as challenged, but take a deep breath and live with that. Oh, but she’s gifted? Well, then, she’ll really be fine. Fist tap Dale.

education is not free, equitable, or public...,

salon | “Indescribably insane”: A public school system from hell. Pennsylvania's right-wing governor drains public schools of basic funds -- and the sickening details will shock you. Want to see a public school system in its death throes? Look no further than Philadelphia. There, the school district is facing end times, with teachers, parents and students staring into the abyss created by a state intent on destroying public education.

On Thursday the city of Philadelphia announced that it would be borrowing $50 million to give the district, just so it can open schools as planned on Sept. 9, after Superintendent William Hite threatened to keep the doors closed without a cash infusion. The schools may open without counselors, administrative staff, noon aids, nurses, librarians or even pens and paper, but hey, kids will have a place to go and sit.

The $50 million fix is just the latest band-aid for a district that is beginning to resemble a rotting bike tube, covered in old patches applied to keep it functioning just a little while longer. At some point, the entire system fails.

Things have gotten so bad that at least one school has asked parents to chip in $613 per student just so they can open with adequate services, which, if it becomes the norm, effectively defeats the purpose of equitable public education, and is entirely unreasonable to expect from the city’s poorer neighborhoods.

The needs of children are secondary, however, to a right-wing governor in Tom Corbett who remains fixated on breaking the district in order to crush the teachers union and divert money to unproven experiments like vouchers and privately run charters. If the city’s children are left uneducated and impoverished among the smoldering wreckage of a broken school system, so be it.

To be clear, the schools are in crisis because the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania refuses to fund them adequately. The state Constitution mandates that the Legislature “provide for the maintenance and support of a thorough and efficient system of public education,” but that language appears to be considered some kind of sick joke at the state capital in Harrisburg.

It’s worth noting that the state itself runs the Philadelphia School District after a 2001 takeover. The state is also responsible for catastrophic budget cuts two years ago that crippled the district’s finances. And in a diabolical example of circular logic, the state argues that the red ink it imposed, and shoddy management it oversees, are proof that the district can’t manage its finances or its mission and therefore shouldn’t get more money. Fist tap Dale.

banksterism, bubbles, and the titanic betrayal of public trust...,

automaticearth | On July 18th, the city of Detroit filed for Chapter 9 municipal bankruptcy, the largest such filing in US history. After kicking the can down the road, with increasing desperation, for many years, then end of the line has been reached. The city is finally admitting that far too many financial promises have been made, and that the majority of these simply cannot be kept. It does not matter whether the promise-holders have a good case for receiving services or needing payments, or whether those promises are legally protected.

Promises that cannot be kept will not be kept. It is as simple as that. To complicate matters, however, the architecture of the financial system prioritizes promises, in a perhaps counter-intuitive, and certainly self-serving, manner. This will make the task of allocating extremely scarce resources to stakeholders lower down the financial food chain very much more difficult. It is time for a good look at the range of promises made, the competing needs of the recipients, the leverage enjoyed by powerful players in shoring up their own position, and the real world implications for municipalities far beyond Detroit.

Outside of Detroit, for the time being, one would hardly think the United States was standing on the edge of a major financial precipice. Optimism is riding high in America at the moment. Markets have been booming until recently, and consumer sentiment is at its highest level in a long time. People have been spending freely and having no trouble justifying it to themselves.

Tuesday, September 03, 2013

granny's first weed cookie, now really happy, soon really hungry, finally really sleepy

the soul of our nation...,

commondreams | This is how it works.

The US has been providing Egypt with nearly $2 billion a year in "aid" since 1979.  Most of this is military aid.  That "aid" is then used to buy weapons from American corporations.  So in reality most of US foreign aid becomes more welfare programs for the military industrial complex.

Because of current civil war conditions in Egypt the Obama team is having to hold off on providing more aid to that embattled nation.  A recent Pew Research Center poll found that 51% of respondents said it's better to cut off military assistance to Egypt, while 26% backed continued aid.

The "aid" now on temporary hold would include: F-16 fighter jets from Lockheed Martin; M1A1 tanks from General Dynamics; and Apache attack helicopters made by Boeing Co.

CBS News reported on August 20: "The billion dollars in aid Congress approved for Egypt does not go directly to Cairo, it goes to places such as Archbald, Pennsylvania. The General Dynamics factory there makes parts for the M1A1 tank. General Dynamics is filling an order for 125 tank kits for the Egyptian Army.  One-hundred-thirty people work at the Archbald facility."

You can imagine the workers at the Archbald facility want this "aid" to continue.  Archbald Mayor Ed Fairbrother says the jobs are "extremely important" to the community. "They are some of the best jobs we have in the community," he says. "Those are the kinds of jobs that sustain communities and families."

There are 44 companies in Pennsylvania involved in production of the M1A1. The interesting thing is that Egypt does not need the tanks and many of the "kits" are still in crates after being delivered to their military.

American communities have become addicted to war spending and military production. As most traditional manufacturing industry has moved overseas seeking cheaper labor the best jobs in most parts of the nation are building weapons.  It's thus no coincidence that the #1 industrial export product of our nation is weapons.  And what is our global marketing strategy for that product line? Hello Syria!

i forgot my phone

Monday, September 02, 2013

not buyin it...,

this cat's voice and accent are special effects...,

everything else is merely conversation...,

The fourth dimension is unknowable. If it exists and if at the same time we cannot know it, it evidently means that something is lacking in our psychic apparatus, in our faculties of perception; in other words, phenomena of the region of the fourth dimension are not reflected in our organs of sense. We must examine why this should be so, what are our defects on which this non-receptivity depends, and must find the conditions (even if only theoretically) which would make the fourth dimension comprehensible and accessible to us. These are all questions relating to psychology or, possibly, to the theory of knowledge.

Further, we know that the region of the fourth dimension (again, if it exists) is not only unknowable for our psychic apparatus, but is inaccessible in a purely physical sense. This must depend not on our defects, but on the particular properties and conditions of the region of the fourth dimension itself. It is necessary to examine what these conditions are, which make the region of the fourth dimension inaccessible to us, and to find the relation between the physical conditions of the region of the fourth dimension and the physical condition of our world. And having established this, it is necessary to see whether in the world surrounding us there is anything similar to these conditions, that is, whether there are any relations analogous to relations between the region of three dimensions and that of four dimensions.

The History of the Dollar, its Relation to Oil, and the Real Motives Behind the Wars of the Past Two Decades

Sunday, September 01, 2013

strategic plan - definitely! narrative plan - not so much...,

guardian | Massacres of civilians are being exploited for narrow geopolitical competition to control Mideast oil, gas pipelines. Few recall that US agitation against Syria began long before recent atrocities, in the context of wider operations targeting Iranian influence across the Middle East.

In May 2007, a presidential finding revealed that Bush had authorised CIA operations against Iran. Anti-Syria operations were also in full swing around this time as part of this covert programme, according to Seymour Hersh in the New Yorker. A range of US government and intelligence sources told him that the Bush administration had "cooperated with Saudi Arabia's government, which is Sunni, in clandestine operations" intended to weaken the Shi'ite Hezbollah in Lebanon. "The US has also taken part in clandestine operations aimed at Iran and its ally Syria," wrote Hersh, "a byproduct" of which is "the bolstering of Sunni extremist groups" hostile to the United States and "sympathetic to al-Qaeda." He noted that "the Saudi government, with Washington's approval, would provide funds and logistical aid to weaken the government of President Bashir Assad, of Syria," with a view to pressure him to be "more conciliatory and open to negotiations" with Israel. One faction receiving covert US "political and financial support" through the Saudis was the exiled Syrian Muslim Brotherhood.

According to former French foreign minister Roland Dumas, Britain had planned covert action in Syria as early as 2009: "I was in England two years before the violence in Syria on other business", he told French television:
"I met with top British officials, who confessed to me that they were preparing something in Syria. This was in Britain not in America. Britain was preparing gunmen to invade Syria."
The 2011 uprisings, it would seem - triggered by a confluence of domestic energy shortages and climate-induced droughts which led to massive food price hikes - came at an opportune moment that was quickly exploited. Leaked emails from the private intelligence firm Stratfor including notes from a meeting with Pentagon officials confirmed US-UK training of Syrian opposition forces since 2011 aimed at eliciting "collapse" of Assad's regime "from within."

So what was this unfolding strategy to undermine Syria and Iran all about? According to retired NATO Secretary General Wesley Clark, a memo from the Office of the US Secretary of Defense just a few weeks after 9/11 revealed plans to "attack and destroy the governments in 7 countries in five years", starting with Iraq and moving on to "Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Iran." In a subsequent interview, Clark argues that this strategy is fundamentally about control of the region's vast oil and gas resources.

Much of the strategy currently at play was candidly described in a 2008 US Army-funded RAND report, Unfolding the Future of the Long War (pdf). The report noted that "the economies of the industrialized states will continue to rely heavily on oil, thus making it a strategically important resource." As most oil will be produced in the Middle East, the US has "motive for maintaining stability in and good relations with Middle Eastern states":

russia and iran mull their syria options...,

rferl | U.S.-led military intervention in Syria would put Washington on a collision course with two unwavering allies of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad -- Iran and Russia.

Just how Tehran and Moscow might react is a key part of the calculus that U.S. President Barack Obama must consider in weighing his course of action in Syria.

Although analysts agree that neither country is likely to respond with direct military support for Assad, they also don't expect Tehran or Moscow to sit back passively. Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) has said that an attack against Assad is a "red line" that would trigger a response, although it has not said what that response might be.

Iran's reaction to date has been mild, with Tehran condemning both the use of chemical weapons and threats of foreign military intervention.

According to Will Fulton, an Iran analyst with the American Enterprise Institute in Washington, the IRGC would likely not risk a direct confrontation with the United States but could act through proxies, including Hizballah in Lebanon or Shi'ite militias in Iraq.

Tehran would also seek to capitalize on anti-U.S. reaction at home and across the region. "I think we will absolutely see more condemnations, more warnings from IRGC and hard-line officials, and this will of course play into, especially, the IRGC's narrative that the conflict in Syria is a conspiracy of Israel and the West," Fulton says. "So they will use this attack to fuel that narrative and it will become a recruiting tool and a narrative defense of their own foreign interference in Syria."