Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Obama administration restores US diplomatic ties with Cuba

WASHINGTON — The United States will restore full diplomatic relations with Cuba and open an embassy in Havana for the first time in more than a half-century after the release of an American contractor held in prison for five years, American officials said Wednesday.
In a deal negotiated during 18 months of secret talks hosted largely by Canada and encouraged by Pope Francis, who hosted a final meeting at the Vatican, President Obama and President Raúl Castro of Cuba agreed in a telephone call to put aside decades of hostility to find a new relationship between the United States and the island nation just 90 minutes off the American coast.
The contractor, Alan Gross, boarded an American government plane bound for the United States on Wednesday morning, and the United States sent back three Cuban spies who have been in an American prison since 1981. American officials said the Cuban spies were swapped for a United States intelligence agent who has been in a Cuban prison for nearly 20 years and said Mr. Gross was not technically part of the swap but released separately on “humanitarian grounds.”  
Continue readingIn addition, the United States will ease restrictions on remittances, travel and banking relations, and Cuba will release 53 Cuban prisoners identified as political prisoners by the United States government. Although the decades-old American embargo on Cuba will remain in place for now, the administration signaled that it would welcome a move by Congress to ease or lift it should lawmakers choose to...

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

ISIS-like ideology flourishes in Canada


Leaders of the Canadian Muslim community have repeatedly condemned ISIS practices blaming it of extreme and misguided interpretation of the Quran and deviation of the right path of the true Islamic teachings. However, examining the views of leading Canadian imams and Islamic books that are being sold or distributed for free in Canada, reveals similarities to ISIS ideology.
The Walk in Islamic Info Center (WIIC), a Toronto-based organization dedicated to Dawah (propagating Islam) activity, distributes for free at Dundas Square in downtown Toronto the book, Human Rights in Islam and Common Misconceptions.” The book stipulates “two exceptions as legitimate sources of slaves,” ...

​Sorry, Putin. Russia’s economy is doomed

A funny thing happened on the way to Vladimir Putin running strategic laps around the West. Russia's economy imploded.
The latest news is that Russia's central bank raised interest rates from 10.5 to 17 percent at an emergency 1 a.m. meeting in an attempt to stop the ruble, which is down 50 percent on the year against the dollar, from falling any further. It's a desperate move to save Russia's currency that comes at the cost of sacrificing Russia's economy. So even if it "works," things are about to get a lot worse.
It's a classic kind of emerging markets crisis. It's only a small simplification, you see, to say that Russia doesn't so much have an economy as it has an oil exporting business that subsidizes everything else. That's why the combination of more supply from the United States, and less demand from Europe, China, and Japan has hit them particularly hard. Cheaper oil means Russian companies have fewer dollars to turn into rubles, which is just another way of saying that there's less demand for rubles—so its price is falling. It hasn't helped, of course, that sanctions over Russia's incursion into Ukraine have already left Russia short on dollars.
h/t Doug D.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Conservative Muslim student at U of Michigan becomes hate crime victim


A Muslim student at the University of Michigan who holds conservative and libertarian beliefs has been viciously attacked with vandalism left on his apartment door that called him a “dick” and “scum,” told him to “shut the fuck up,” and included an image of the devil as well as eggs and hot dogs. 
The vandalism posted on junior Omar Mahmood’s apartment door stated “you scum embarrass us,” “you self-righteous dick,” “you have no soul,” “everyone hates you you violent prick,” and other messages. 
Some of the warnings were posted on paper that included a print out of Mahmood’s satirical essay he wrote recently for the conservative campus publication the Michigan Review that poked fun of liberals’ victimhood mentality. That column, titled “Do the Left Thing,” caused an uproar among some on campus and triggered his termination as a columnist from the mainstream Michigan Daily student newspaper...

Plus (and it's great stuff) READ THE ‘HOSTILE’ COLUMN THAT GOT THE STUDENT WRITER SUSPENDED BY UNIVERSITY OF MICHIGAN'S CAMPUS NEWSPAPER:

Do the Left Thing  
TRIGGER WARNING! 
It was one of the coldest days of this winter past, and I was hurrying along the Diag to class. The blistering cold did not turn my eyes from all the white privilege falling around my. All those white snowflakes falling thick upon the autumn leaves, burying their colors. Majoring in womyn’s studies, I’ve learned that oppression comes in many forms. 
Sometimes we fail to notice it because it’s just everywhere – just like that white snow.
As I walked, I slipped on a patch of wet leaves lining the steps of the Hatcher, and I fell forward headfirst onto the steps of the library. If it hadn’t been for the left hand that I thrust out right before my fall, I would have ended up just another statistic in the war on colored people. As it were, a white cis-gendered hetero upper-class man came down the steps just as I was falling. He looked at me with that white man’s burden face that I see too often on this racialized campus.
 
“Cold, isn’t it?” 
Behind his words I sensed a patronizing sneer, as if he expected me to be a spokespersyn for my whole race. He offered his hand to help me up, and I thought to myself how this might be a manifestation of the patriarchy patronizing me. I doubt he would’ve said those violent words had I been white, but he would take any opportunity to patronize a colored m@n or womyn. People on this campus always box others in based on race.  Triggered, I waved his hand aside and got up of my own accord...
 

Live update on Muslim terrorist hostage taking in Sydney



A robot bomb disposal unit has been deployed to the cafe following a gunfight between police and a Muslim terrorist displaying an Islamic flag who took a number of people hostage in Sydney, Australia. Several hostages were reported wounded.

Background with regular updates HERE

Saturday, December 13, 2014

After sucking on the public teat for her whole adult life, Loony Libby Davies plans to retire

To will suck up more public funds from her golden, publicly funded pensions.

Good riddance to this 9-11 conspiracy promoting loon.

Should We Fear Our Machine Overlords?


This year has brought renewed optimism about the prospects for strong artificial intelligence and new expressions of fear about its dangers. And some prominent people have expressed optimism and fear simultaneously. Stephen Hawking argues that AI is progressing rapidly, possibly leading to the biggest event in human history– the creation of  general machine intelligence that exceeds that of humans. Hawking also argues that creating more intelligent machines might also be the last such event because they will takeover.  Elon Musk, the entrepreneurial creator of Tesla and Space X, sees strong AI as a demon that we will unleash on humanity.
One might dismiss these concerns as the latest manifestation of a fear that goes back to the Romantic Era. It was first represented by Frankenstein’s monster, who symbolized the idea that “all scientific progress is really a disguised form of destruction.” But Hawking and Musk are serious people to whom attention must be paid.
On balance, I think the threat posed by autonomous machine intelligence is overblown.  A basic error in such thinking is the tendency to anthropomorphize AI. Humans, like other animals, are genetically programmed in many instances to regard their welfare (and that of their relatives) as more important than the welfare of any other living thing. But this motivation is rooted in evolution: those animals that put their own welfare first were more likely to succeed in distributing their genes to subsequent generations. Artificial intelligence is not  necessarily the direct product of biological evolution, nor of any process resembling it...