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Don’t Give In To Evil

20 Apr

FutilityThank you, John Horgan, for writing it.

We Americans are justifiably outraged at the attacks in Boston, which killed three innocent people and injured many more. But over the past 12 years our own nation has killed and maimed thousands of innocent people while carrying out military operations in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan. Estimates of war casualties are notoriously unreliable and should always be viewed with skepticism. But according to the reputable group Iraq Body Count, between 2003 and 2011 U.S.-led coalition forces in Iraq killed 14,906 civilians, including at least 1,201 children.

Such killings continue. On April 8, The New York Times reported that an American airstrike in Afghanistan killed at least 10 children and wounded at least five women. The incident was not even major news; it ran not on the front page of the Times but on page eight, because incidents like these are common. How can we condemn the killings in Boston but excuse the killing of civilians by our soldiers in war zones?

One obvious response is that, unlike the Boston bombers, the U.S. pilots did not want to harm civilians. Their target was a Taliban commander. The U.S. military prefers not to kill civilians and often apologizes when it does. Intention matters, morally and legally; intention is what distinguishes murder from manslaughter. But if you keep doing something over and over again, at some point apologizing and saying you didn’t mean it becomes meaningless. Doesn’t it?

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Giving Beijing The Shivers

20 Apr

SK Nuclear DrillThe longer April’s tensions on the Korean peninsula continue into May, the more incentive there is for bad ideas to put a quick end to the uncomfortable predicament to froth on the surface of the swamp.

As concern about North Korea’s bellicose behavior deepens, calls are growing among pundits and politicians in the United States for China to “do something” about its obnoxious ally. The underlying assumption is that Beijing has the power at least to compel Pyongyang to end its saber rattling and probably to force Kim Jong-un’s regime to mothball its nuclear and ballistic-missile programs.

As I’ve written elsewhere, there is a tendency in the West to overestimate China’s influence on North Korea—unless Beijing is willing to embrace the drastic option of severing food and energy shipments to the hermit republic. But the United States has given Chinese leaders no incentive to incur the risk of having the North Korean state unravel, which could lead to both a refugee crisis and the prospect of a united Korea allied militarily with the United States.

For Beijing to take such a gamble, either there would have to be a large potential reward for action or an equally large potential downside for inaction. Current U.S. policy includes neither feature, and that has to change. If Washington is not willing to offer Beijing the one “carrot” that might cause Chinese leaders to dump the country’s troublesome client—ending the U.S. alliance with Seoul upon Korean reunification—the Obama administration must boost China’s anxiety level.

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Beothuk Culture Inspired By Birds

20 Apr

Beothuk Pendants Based On BirdsThe story of Beothuk culture University of Alberta researcher Todd Kristensen and his U.S. co-author Donald Holly have constructed is an amazing example of how humans exploited a narrow niche in their local environment for both sustenance and insight into another world after death (via Quirks and Quarks).

The distribution of archaeological sites that are attributed to the Little Passage complex, seems to confirm the coastal orientation of the Beothuk who followed on from this prehistoric culture.  There appears to have been a direct correlation between the settlement pattern that favoured sheltered bays, inlets and archipelagos offering strategic access to a full range of resources, with birds acting as a significant part of the diet.

Sea birds such as the Arctic tern and the black guillemot and the now extinct great auk provided both “food and food for thought” for the ancient Newfoundland inhabitants.


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