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unhappycamper's Journal
unhappycamper's Journal
December 1, 2013

An Army in transition awaits West Point cadets as wars end, military budgets shrink


New challenges await West Point graduates:?The seniors at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point are poised to become the first in a generation to enter a force preparing not to fight insurgents in Iraq or Afghanistan but to confront shrinking budgets and a postwar identity crisis. In doing so, they will take the helm of Army units made up of combat-seasoned veterans.

An Army in transition awaits West Point cadets as wars end, military budgets shrink
By Ernesto Londoño, Published: November 28

WEST POINT, N.Y. — They were fourth- and fifth-graders when terror struck on Sept. 11, 2001, and they have only hazy recollections of the day that galvanized the young men and women who filled these halls in the decade that followed.

Now, the seniors at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point are poised to become the first in a generation to enter a force preparing not to fight insurgents in Iraq or Afghanistan but to confront shrinking budgets and a postwar identity crisis. In doing so, they will be taking the helm of Army units made up of combat-seasoned veterans.

Unlike the cadets that came before them, those in West Point’s class of 2014 have learned about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan as historical examples, rather than conflicts that would soon dominate their lives and careers. With graduation just months away, the students at this idyllic campus of gothic buildings on the banks of the Hudson River are wrestling with the same existential questions bedeviling Army leaders: What kind of military does the country want? And how much is it willing to spend on it?

“A lot of people want to frame this issue as if the American people, particularly politicians, want us to do more with less,” said Luke Schumacher, 22, a fourth-year cadet from Indianapolis. “If that’s the case, we’re playing a fool’s game. The fundamental challenge for our generation of officers is not learning how to do more with less but selectively determining what we’re going to do and what we’re going to do well.”
December 1, 2013

Ben Cohen: from ice cream man to Pentagon budget warrior


Ben Cohen (right), cofounder of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream company, has opposed the F-35 jet, which may be based in Vermont near Burlington.

Ben Cohen: from ice cream man to Pentagon budget warrior
By Bryan Bender
November 29, 2013


Cohen, an entrepreneur who helped build a global brand with flavors such as Cherry Garcia before selling his company to Dutch conglomerate Unilever for $326 million, has embarked on a unique undertaking in the world of philanthropic entrepreneurs: combatting what he considers bloated, wasteful Pentagon weapons programs.

Among his targets is the F-35 joint strike fighter — a maligned, $857 billion project — and the tentative decision by the military to base a squadron of the advanced jets at a Vermont Air National Guard base near Burlington.

Cohen recently made a contribution to the Washington-based Project on Government Oversight, a nonprofit watchdog group, to investigate details of the F-35 procurement process, according to people with knowledge of the donation. Cohen estimates he has contributed $1 million to various contract-monitoring efforts since selling his company in 2000 and plans to keep spending.

He also recently financed a University of Massachusetts study comparing the economic impact of defense spending with public investments in education and other social programs. Cohen said his goal is raising questions about Pentagon assertions that big-ticket weapon systems are the key to making the nation safer.
December 1, 2013

What’s Good For Bill Gates Turns Out To Be Bad For Public Schools


And, actually, bad for Microsoft too, as we learned recently

What’s Good For Bill Gates Turns Out To Be Bad For Public Schools
by David Morris
Published on Saturday, November 30, 2013 by On the Commons

Schools have a lot to learn from business about how to improve performance, declared Bill Gates in an Op Ed in the Wall Street Journal in 2011. He pointed to his own company as a worthy model for public schools.


Needless to say, the whole process of what has come to be called “high stakes testing” of both students and teachers has proven devastatingly dispiriting. According to the 2012 MetLife Survey of the American Teacher, over half of public school teachers say they experience great stress several days a week and are so demoralized that their level of satisfaction has plummeted from 62 percent in 2008 to 39 percent last year.

And now, just as public school systems have widely adopted the Microsoft model in order to win the Race to the Top, it turns out that Microsoft now realizes that this model has pushed Microsoft itself into a Race to the Bottom.

In a widely circulated 2012 article in Vanity award-winning reporter Fair Kurt Eichenwald concluded that stacked ranking “effectively crippled Microsoft’s ability to innovate. “Every current and former Microsoft employee I interviewed—every one—cited stack ranking as the most destructive process inside of Microsoft, something that drove out untold numbers of employees,” Eichenwald writes. “It leads to employees focusing on competing with each other rather than competing with other companies.”
December 1, 2013

Bangladesh Garment Factory (Gap) Ablaze As Worker Anger Boils


"We think it’s an act of arson committed by workers from both inside the factory complex and outside."

Bangladesh Garment Factory Ablaze As Worker Anger Boils
- Andrea Germanos, staff writer
Published on Saturday, November 30, 2013 by Common Dreams

Workers are suspected of causing a fire that engulfed one of Bangladesh's biggest garment factories which produces clothing for well-known retailers including the Gap and Walmart.

Firefighters were still battling flames on Friday after the 10-story building in the industrial district of Gazipur was set ablaze around midnight on Thursday.

Fifteen trucks carrying garments were also reportedly set ablaze.

"We were the biggest supplier of Gap in Bangladesh," Nur-e-Alam, a senior manager of factory owner Standard Group, told Reuters. "Our cargoes were ready for shipment and all that was burnt up."
December 1, 2013

US delegation offers 'nice gesture' on NSA fallout



Two US politicians visited Berlin on Monday in an attempt to repair the damage caused by Snowden's revelations on the extent of NSA surveillance. But there was little in the way of cooperation with the German parliament.

US delegation offers 'nice gesture' on NSA fallout

They were in Berlin, it soon became clear, as diplomats rather than parliamentarians. The US delegation that visited the German capital on Monday (25.11.2013) consisted of two Democratic members of the US Congress - Senator Christopher Murphy of Connecticut and Congressman Gregory Meeks of New York - here to show that they "understand the depth of the hurt that has been done," as Murphy put it.

But that was not all. "We hope, between actions of the Congress and bilateral actions between the Obama administration and the new government here, that we can set a new path forward," Murphy offered in the midst of a string of meetings with German politicians from Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle to Interior Minister Hans-Peter Friedrich and several counterparts in the Bundestag too.

Then, at a panel discussion that rounded off the day's meetings, Murphy banged a familiar drum - the importance of German-US ties. "A crisis should not represent an opportunity, but that is the reality," he said, while Meeks underlined how fondly President Barack Obama remembered his triumphant trip to Berlin as senator in 2008.

Murphy and Meeks' main intention appeared to be to defend the line taken by the US government - though German concerns were valid, mass surveillance and data collection was being carried out by "good people" at the National Security Agency ("They are not doing surveillance for surveillance's sake," he insisted) and that they were "true believers" in the transatlantic relationship. This last point was proved by what they called a "reinvestment" in that alliance through the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) between the European Union and the United States - an agreement that was thrown into crisis by the revelations unveiled by Edward Snowden.
December 1, 2013

Dear Uncle Sam: We’re Proud of Our Exports


The U.S. Treasury Department has precipitated a debate with its criticism of the German export surplus, and now the European Union is involved in it. Here's an open letter from Handelsblatt to the United States.

Dear Uncle Sam: We’re Proud of Our Exports
Handelsblatt, Germany
By Jan Mallien
Translated By Ron Argentati
13 November 2013
Edited by Eva Langman

Dear Uncle Sam,

Your criticisms hit home with us. First, your Treasury secretary wrote that, simply, “Germany was hampering economic stability in Europe and hurting the global economy.” Then Paul Krugman and his buddies piled on, followed by top economist Adam Posen who — in all seriousness — called Germany a “low-wage” country.

But you have to understand: Exports are our pride and joy! The Brazilians have their soccer teams, the Russians their space rockets and we have our snazzy export goods — printing presses from Heidelberg, for example, or racy sports cars from Stuttgart. Whether you believe it or not, the workers employed by our exporting factories earn really good wages! Every one of your burger flippers would turn green with envy if they ever heard what a Porsche assembly line worker is paid.

But putting emotions aside for the moment, what angers us is that your criticism is actually right on target. With our permanently high foreign trade surplus numbers, we're mainly hurting ourselves in the long run. But nobody over here wants to hear that.

Year after year we sell more goods abroad than we import into Germany. Shiny Mercedes and technically sophisticated drill presses flow out to the world. In return, we only amass financial debt from those countries least able to afford it. Unfortunately, these financial obligations carry with them a significant risk of loss. The money winds up, for example, in Greek government bonds or the U.S. mortgage market. When a nation such as Greece buys more foreign goods than it sells in export goods, it eventually ends up unable to pay its bills. Thus, permanent surpluses are a serious problem.
December 1, 2013

Pacific island nations demand tighter controls on $70 billion a year tuna fishing industry


Pacific island nations demand tighter controls on $70 billion a year tuna fishing industry
By Agence France-Presse
Sunday, December 1, 2013 0:36 EST

The future of the world’s largest tuna fishery will be decided at a meeting in Australia this week, with Pacific island nations demanding tighter controls on a catch now worth US$7.0 billion a year.

A record 2.65 million tonnes of tuna was hauled from the Pacific last year, accounting for 60 percent of the global catch, with most of the fishing conducted by so-called “distant water” fleets from as far afield as Europe, the United States, China, Korea and Taiwan.

Island nations, many of which rely on tuna for a significant portion of their income, fear stocks are becoming unsustainable and want action at the December 2-6 meeting of the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) in Cairns.

“If distant water nations support sustainability of the resource, then they need to commit to a 30 percent reduction in catches,” Marshall Islands fisheries director Glen Joseph said.

unhappycamper comment: I suspect the term "distant water nations" will become part of climate change terminology.
December 1, 2013

Ukraine opposition calls new rally after baton-wielding police attack 1,000 protesters


Ukraine opposition calls new rally after baton-wielding police attack 1,000 protesters
By Agence France-Presse
Sunday, December 1, 2013 1:53 EST

The Ukrainian opposition hopes to muster tens of thousands of demonstrators on Sunday and give new momentum to demands for President Viktor Yanukovych to step down amid a row over ties with the European Union.

Three main opposition parties said they were establishing “a national resistance task force” after riot police brutally dispersed a rally of opposition supporters and wounded several dozen on Saturday.

The rally was broken up by baton-wielding police who attacked about 1,000 protesters on Independence Square in the capital Kiev in the early hours of Saturday morning.

About 10,000 people had gathered in central Kiev on Friday night calling for Yanukovych’s dismissal after the president refused to sign a key political and free trade agreement with the EU.
December 1, 2013

Leaked paper shows major policy split in UN on international drug war


Leaked paper shows major policy split in UN on international drug war
By Jamie Doward, The Observer
Saturday, November 30, 2013 19:32 EST

Major international divisions over the global “war on drugs” have been revealed in a leaked draft of a UN document setting out the organisation’s long-term strategy for combating illicit narcotics.

The draft, written in September and seen by the Observer, shows there are serious and entrenched divisions over the longstanding US-led policy promoting prohibition as an exclusive solution to the problem.

Instead, a number of countries are pushing for the “war on drugs” to be seen in a different light, which places greater emphasis on treating drug consumption as a public health problem, rather than a criminal justice matter.

It is rare for such a document to leak. Normally only the final agreed version is published once all differences between UN member states have been removed.
December 1, 2013

U.S. Army software pirate: settles suit for $50 million


U.S. Army software pirate: settles suit for $50 million
By George Chidi
Saturday, November 30, 2013 18:11 EST

A small software firm in Texas has a big payday against an unlikely software pirate: the U.S. Army.

The U.S. Department of Justice and the Army settled with Apptricity, an enterprise planning and logistics software firm, for $50 million this week after pressing claims that the Army had installed its applications on many thousands more computers than the Army had contracted to use.

While the Department of Justice has not commented on the settlement, Apptricity’s chief financial officer Randy Lieberman told the Dallas Morning News that the settlement is “a multiple of our annual revenues.”

Apptricity began working for the Army as a subcontractor in 2004, brought in by Computer Sciences Corp. to provide software to help the Army keep track of its widely scattered people and equipment. The firm appears to have been a victim of its own success. Its software automatically integrates from upgrade to upgrade, which in the diffuse technology environment of the Army means that it may often be the only thing that works consistently from base to base, both at headquarters and in the field.

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