Next Media Animation takes a look back and the life and career of Apple co-founder and chief executive Steve Jobs, who resigned that position late on Wednesday.
Our tale begins with Steve Jobs dabbling in LSD and spiritual enlightenment, which Jobs describes as the "one of the two or three most important things [he had] done in [his] life". Man, look at all the colors. Hey, that gives me an idea for a company logo.
Jobs would then found Apple with Steve Wozniak and a third guy who cashed out his shares way too early, so we didn't bother to animate him. In 1984, Jobs unveiled the Macintosh and forever revolutionized personal computing.
But the good times wouldn't last. John Sculley, the executive Jobs hired away from Pepsi, bounced Jobs from the company he founded.
Jobs would get his revenge by starting another company, Pixar. He produced 'Toy Story' and sold the animation company to Disney for a fat profit.
Jobs finally returned to Apple and defeated arch nemesis Bill Gates to become the baddest mofo in tech. Jobs was then diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and required a live-saving liver transplant.
Apple now faces a threat from Google Android. Thankfully, Jobs passed the baton to chief operating officer Tim Cook.
COMMENTARY: I must admit that I don't like Steve Jobs for personal reasons, many of which I have expressed in previous blog posts. Don't get me wrong, I have great respect for Steve Jobs because he is a brilliant entrepreneur, visionary and eminent technology icon of his era. His "1984" TV commercial for the Mac portrayed IBM as "Big Brother," and was simply brilliant. I actually rallied around Apple because I loved the Mac, but the company where I worked was deeply rooted in IBM hardware and mainframes. The iPod became the first "spoke" in the Digital Hub Strategy, which I have always considered the driving vision and master plan behind Apple. Since Steve Jobs' return to Apple in 1995, the company has become the largest and most valuable (by market value) consumer electronics company in the World. Hope you enjoyed this post.
Courtesy of an article dated August 26, 2011 appearing in Mashable
Apple Inc's Tim Cook, on his first trip to China as the chief executive officer, has visited an iPhone production plant run by the Foxconn Technology Group, which is being accused of improper labor practices.
China is the world's largest mobile market and already Apple's second-biggest market overall, but its growth there is clouded by issues ranging from a contested iPad trademark to treatment of local labor.
Picture handouts dated March 28 and e-mailed to Reuters show Cook seen smiling and meeting workers in the newly built Foxconn ZhengzhouTechnology Park in the north central province of Hebei. The facility employs 120,000 people, the handouts said.
Foxconn is a major part of Apple's global supply chain, assembling most of its iPhones and iPads, but has been hit by a string of worker suicides in recent years that activist groups blame on tough working conditions.
The group is the Taiwan parent of Hong Kong-listed Foxconn International Holdings and Taiwan-listed Hon Hai Precision.
Cook took the reins at Apple in August after the death of the firm's visionary founder, Steve Jobs. His closely guarded itinerary has included talks with Vice Premier Li Keqiang, Beijing's mayor and a visit to one of Apple's two stores in the capital.
On Wednesday, state media reported that China's vice premier promised Cook the country would boost intellectual property protection.
the official Xinhua news agency cited Vice Premier Li Keqiang as saying.
"To be more open to the outside is a condition for China to transform its economic development, expand domestic demands and conduct technological innovation."
Apple has tie-ups with China Telecom and China Unicom to sell its iPhone, with the only other Chinese carrier, China Mobile, the country's biggest mobile operator, also looking to clinch a deal.
Apple is embroiled in a long-running dispute with Proview - a financially weak technology company that claims to have registered the iPad trademark - that is making its way through Chinese courts and threatens to disrupt iPad sales.
COMMENTARY: I would gladly give up one case of Chateauneuf du Pape '04 to find out what Apple CEO Tim Cook told Foxconn management during his visit to the plant concerning their sweat shop conditions, progress on Apple inspections of their plant, and plan to improve worker relations and pay.
Cook's visit to Foxconn makes good public relations--images of the powerful new Apple CEO visiting Foxconn, gives one confidence that finally those sweat shop conditions will end, Foxconn will comply with Apple's Code of Suppliers and everything will be hunky-dorey. As I said in my post prior to this one, Apple is not a socially conscience company. They are all about increasing shareholder value and profitability.
If Apple CEO Tim Cook really wanted to impress me, he would give Foxconn an ultimatum, and if they failed to comply after regular inspections, he would promise to move the manufacturing all Apple products to the U.S. This would create an estimated 250,000 jobs, many of them right here in Silicon Valley, where we need them the most.
I would be very interested in hearing from Apple evangelists--owners of Apple magical devices whether the iPhone, iPad or iPod. Foxconn makes all of them, so you can enjoy that magical experience.
Courtesy of an article dated March 29, 2012 appearing in Reuters and an article dated March 28, 2012 appearing in Brian Fontenot Blog
Though the 9/11 attacks occurred more than a decade ago, Congress continues to exploit them to pass evermore draconian laws on "terrorism," with the Senate now empowering the military to arrest people on U.S. soil and hold them without trial, a serious threat to American liberties, says ex-CIA analyst Ray McGovern.
Ambiguous but alarming new wording, which is tucked into the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) and was just passed by the Senate, is reminiscent of the "extraordinary measures" introduced by the Nazis after they took power in 1933.
And the relative lack of reaction so far calls to mind the oddly calm indifference with which most Germans watched the erosion of the rights that had been guaranteed by their own Constitution. As one German writer observed, "With sheepish submissiveness we watched it unfold, as if from a box at the theater."
The writer was Sebastian Haffner (real name Raimond Pretzel), a young German lawyer worried at what he saw in 1933 in Berlin, but helpless to stop it since, as he put it,
"The German people collectively and limply collapsed, yielded and capitulated."
Wrote Haffner at the time.
"The result of this millionfold nervous breakdown is the unified nation, ready for anything, that is today the nightmare of the rest of the world."
Not a happy analogy.
The Senate bill, in effect, revokes an 1878 law known as the Posse Comitatus Act, which banned the Army from domestic law enforcement after the military had been used —and often abused — in that role during Reconstruction. Ever since then, that law has been taken very seriously — until now. Military officers have had their careers brought to an abrupt halt by involving federal military assets in purely civilian criminal matters.
But that was before 9/11 and the mantra, "9/11 changed everything." In this case of the Senate-passed NDAA -- more than a decade after the terror attacks and even as U.S. intelligence agencies say al-Qaeda is on the brink of defeat -- Congress continues to carve away constitutional and legal protections in the name of fighting "terrorism."
The Senate approved the expanded military authority despite opposition from Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and FBI Director Robert Mueller -- and a veto threat from President Barack Obama.
The Senate voted to authorize -- and generally to require -- "the Armed Forces of the United States to detain covered persons" indefinitely. And such "covered persons" are defined not just as someone implicated in the 9/11 attacks but anyone who "substantially supported al-Qaeda, the Taliban, or associated forces that are engaged in hostilities against the United States or its coalition partners, including any person who has committed a belligerent act or has directly supported such hostilities in aid of such enemy forces."
Though the wording is itself torturous -- and there is a provision for a waiver from the Defense Secretary regarding mandatory military detentions -- the elasticity of words like "associated forces" and "supported" have left some civil libertarians worried that the U.S. military could be deployed domestically against people opposing future American wars against alleged "terrorists" or "terrorist states."
The Senate clearly wished for the military's "law and order" powers to extend beyond the territory of military bases on the theory that there may be "terrorsymps" (short for "terrorist sympathizers") lurking everywhere.
Is the all-consuming ten-year-old struggle against terrorism rushing headlong to consume what's left of our constitutional rights? Do I need to worry that the Army in which I was proud to serve during the 1960s may now kick down my front door and lead me off to indefinite detention — or worse?
Worse still, a few of my neighbors overheard me telling my grandchildren that President Obama should be ashamed to be bragging about having Awlaki, an American citizen, and later his 16 year-old son murdered without a whiff of due process.
"If you hear something, say something!"
COMMENTARY: The $662 billion National Defense Authorization Act H.R. 1540 provides funding for 2012 at $27 billion less than Obama's request and $43 billion less than Congress authorized in 2011.
The bill also contains several detainee provisions that civil liberties groups and human rights advocates have strongly opposed, arguing that they would allow the military greater authority to detain and interrogate U.S. citizens and non-citizens and deny them legal rights protected by the Constitution.
Here's the final voting tallies in the House of Representatives and Senate:
U.S. House of Representatives - 322 FOR, 96 AGANST, and 13 OBSTAINING. The state that came down best for civil liberties was Massachusetts with Niki Tsongas(D) being the only FOR. Here's a small sprinkling of Congressional leaders who voted for NDAA: Nancy Pelosi(D), John Boehner(R), Eric Cantor(weasal), Darrell Issa(R), John Carney(D), Debbie Wasserman Shultz(D), Paul Braun(R), Joe Walsh(R), Mike Pence(R), Andre' Carson(D), Michele Bachmann(R), Tom Cole(R), Tim Scott(R), Virginia Foxx(R), Heath Shuler(D).
U.S. Senate - 93 FOR, 7 AGAINST. Here's a small sprinkling of Senatorial leaders who voted for NDAA: Jeff Sessions (R), Lisa Murkowski(R), Barbara Boxer(D), Dian Fienstein(D), Mark Udall (D), Joe Liberman (DINO), Marco Rubio(R), Richard Lugar (R), Mitch McConnell (R), Olympia Snowe (R), Scott Brown (R), John Kerry (D), Claire McCaskil (D), Harry Reid(D), Lindsey Graham(R), Jim Webb(D), Mark Warner(D), John McCain(R), Carl Levin(D).
It's an election year, and all these punkasses are covering their puckered asses. These punkasses are afraid of their own shadows. If you vote for anything that may be viewed as protecting the rights of a terrorist, or a U.S. citizen suspected of being a terrorist, even if there is no evidence, you could be in trouble with the voters. The "terrorist fear factor" has polluted their thinking process, where they are willing to throw away the U.S. Constitution.
According to the Washington Post, Obama initially had threatened to veto the legislation. In a signing statement released by the White House on Saturday, Obama said he still does not agree with everything contained in the legislation. But with military funding due to expire Monday, Obama said he signed the bill after Congress made last-minute revisions at the request of the White House before approving it two weeks ago.
Here's what the media and many influential individuals within and outside the government are saying about the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA):
"The NDAA would place domestic terror investigations and interrogations into the hands of the military and which would open the door for trial-free, indefinite detention of anyone, including American citizens, so long as the government calls them terrorists. So much for innocent until proven guilty. So much for limited government. What Americans are now facing is quite literally the end of the line. We will either uphold the freedoms baked into our Constitutional Republic, or we will scrap the entire project in the name of security as we wage, endlessly, this futile, costly, and ultimately self-defeating War on Terror."
"The provisions of the Patriot Act allow the government to spy upon U.S. citizens and the NDAA allows the government to whisk a citizen away for no reason other than being suspected of terrorism. So why has this law been passed when it is very easily seen as unconstitutional? The Fourth Amendment grants liberty from unreasonable seizures, while the Sixth guarantees every U.S. citizen a trial in front of a jury. No matter what supporters of the bill might have said about the provisions being misunderstood, the simple fact is that it is unconstitutional."
Supporter of the NDAA, Representative Tim Griffin stated in the Daily Caller:
"Section 1022's use of the word 'requirement' also has been misinterpreted as allowing U.S. citizens to be detained, but this provision does not in any way create this authority. This provision must be read in the context of Section 1022's purpose, which is reflected in its title and relates solely to 'military custody of foreign al Qaida terrorists.' The term "requirement" does not mean that detention of U.S. citizens is optional under this provision."
NDAA has raised such a hornets nest of controversy, prompting President Barack Obama to release the following statement regarding the H.R. 1540 (NDAA):
"I have signed this bill despite having serious reservations with certain provisions that regulate the detention, interrogation, and prosecution of suspected terrorists. Moreover, I want to clarify that my Administration will not authorize the indefinite military detention without trial of American citizens. Indeed, I believe that doing so would break with our most important traditions and values as a Nation. My Administration will interpret section 1021 in a manner that ensures that any detention it authorizes complies with the Constitution, the laws of war, and all other applicable law."
The Huffington Post countered the President with this reponse.
"President Obama says that his administration will not authorize the indefinite detention of American citizens. Yet Obama also said that he would close Guantanamo Bay. Obama also said he would recall the troops from Iraq within 16 months of taking office. Obama also said he would end the Bush tax cuts."
"It doesn't matter the reason these promises were not kept. What matters is that they weren't. Obama says his administration will not authorize the indefinite detention of citizens. But that could change. The interpretation of this bill can change on a dime. These politicians who say there is nothing to fear could quickly change whenever they see fit."
Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch, said after Congress approved the bill said.
“By signing this defense spending bill, President Obama will go down in history as the president who enshrined indefinite detention without trial in U.S. law.”
"No corner of the world, not even your own home, would be off-limits to the military. And there is no exception for American citizens. Section 1031 — one of the indefinite detention provisions — of the Senate-approved version of the NDAA has no limitations whatsoever based on geography, duration or citizenship. And the entire Senate bill was drafted in secret, with no hearing, and with committee votes behind closed doors."
Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), one of the Senate's most conservative members said.
"I'm very, very, concerned about having U.S. citizens sent to Guantanamo Bay for indefinite detention."
Paul said, echoing the views of the American Civil Liberties Union.
"It's not enough just to be alleged to be a terrorist. That's part of what due process is -- deciding, are you a terrorist? I think it's important that we not allow U.S. citizens to be taken."
The problem with NDAA is that as Commander-in-Chief, the President has the latitude to interpret the NDAA act in a way that serves the purposes of the President. He can simply say, that you are being detained indefinitely because you are a "person of interest," and are simply suspected of being a terrorist. There may be no proof you are a terrorist, or giving aid and comfort to a terrorist, but you could be detained "just in case," for an indefinite period, without rights to an attorney, an appeal or trial. Furthermore, all future presidents, whether Democrat or Republican, would have the same latitude.
I know some of you will probably feel just the opposite, you'll read me the riot act, remind me of 911 (yes, I know about that, the illegal invasion of Iraq, all of it), but just remember this, it could be you who is picked up and detained, and then you find out, whoops, that you can't call an attorney, even your family.
Courtesy of an article dated December 31, 2011 appearing in Before Its News
SEOUL—North Koreans bade farewell to dictator Kim Jong Il Wednesday as his body was borne around the snowy capital of Pyongyang in a motorcade that was broadcast on TV a few hours after it happened.
Click Image To Enlarge
Tens of thousands of North Koreans gathered along the procession route, which began and ended at the palace built for his father, North Korean founder Kim Il Sung, and where visitors had lined up for the past week to view his body under a glass case.
North Korea's military held a funeral procession for leader Kim Jong-il, led by his successor son Kim Jong-un, in Pyongyang. Courtesy of Reuters.
The casket bearing Mr. Kim's body was carried atop a black limousine covered in white chrysanthemums, the flower used for mourning in both Koreas. Several dozen other sedans followed behind, carrying members of Mr. Kim's family and leaders of his authoritarian government.
Click Image To Enlarge
Mr. Kim's third son, Kim Jong Eun, walked at the right-front corner of the limousine during brief ceremonies on the palace grounds before and after the procession, which lasted about two hours.
Kim Jong Il's brother-in-law Jang Song Thaek and several generals who were close to him also flanked the car during the ceremonies at the palace, reinforcing other TV images since his death that his son, who is now expected to take control of North Korea, is being protected and guided by his associates.
And, the crying began in earnest along the funeral procession.
It's a Crying Shame (Click To Enlarge Images)
Even the ruthless dictator's youngest sun Kim Jong Eun who takes over for his departed father cried too. He's crying because he is taking over the reins of power, and probably thinking, "Oh, shit, I'm in charge now."
Click Image To Enlarge
Choi Jong-kun, professor of international relations at Yonsei University in Seoul said.
"The point they're trying to make is the leadership is pretty stable. The key thing they want to put out is that succession is going smoothly."
North Korea provided few details about the event and its state-run news agency didn't release information about it until TV broadcasting began, which was at least two hours after it started. Some South Korean TV stations relayed the North's broadcast of the procession for about an hour, then returned to regular programming.
The coverage occasionally showed mourners along the procession route speaking fondly of Kim Jong Il. The mood appeared predominantly somber and calm, although North Korean TV cameras picked out some scenes of people doubled over and even flailing their arms in apparent anguish.
A woman soldier whose name wasn't given said on the North Korean broadcast said.
"The falling snow brings me even more tears because of thoughts about the general's toils. It's as if my heart is being torn to pieces."
The event clearly stretched the capabilities of North Korea's TV broadcaster, one of the chief manufacturers of the regime's projection of might and power. The organization didn't have enough cameras and transmission equipment to cover the motorcade route, resulting in several long stretches in which the procession was out of view. During those times, the broadcaster simply showed shots of crowds waiting for the procession. The 40-kilometer route took the motorcade through much of central Pyongyang .
The procession resembled the one held after Kim Il Sung's death in 1994. At that time, Kim Jong Il walked beside his father's hearse, which appeared to be the same vehicle used Wednesday.
North Korea plans a nationwide memorial event at noon Thursday, when citizens will be asked to observe three minutes of silence. After that, gun volleys will be fired in Pyongyang and nine other provincial capitals, and vehicles will blow whistles, horns and sirens in a final salute.
North Korean state TV broadcast a two-hour tribute to Kim Jong Il on Wednesday morning, chiefly showing images of him as a young man.
Many of the images appeared to be from the 1970s and '80s, when Mr. Kim was rising up in his father's government and aiming to secure his role as the country's eventual leader. The last 30 minutes of the broadcast were devoted to his time as leader.
A narrator said as the image showed Mr. Kim handling products like toilet paper and children's clothes.
"He always took responsibility for the living of all people. He always took care of all North Korean people with his warm love."
COMMENTARY: The death of Kim Jong Il does not end of pain and suffering that the Kim family has inflicted on its people. An estimated 1 million North Koreans are imprisoned in Russian-style gulags where they work as slaves and hundreds them die every day of exposure and starvation. Let there be no doubt, that although the North Korean people are crying for their fallen dictator, they are probably deeply relieved he is gone. But, don't hold your hopes. His son Kim Jong Eun is a real work of art from what I have read. Kim Jong Il by-passed his two older brothers because they lacked the "meanness," wanted in a future leader and dictator. I have a feeling we will be hearing from him very soon, as he tries to proove himself to his little rat rogue nation. In a previous blog post dated December 20, 2011, I reported on Kim Jong Il's death, and you can see more images of the young pudgy new dictator.
After Salman Rushdie’s profile was mistakenly deactivated, he called Facebook a ‘bunch of morons.’ Then the author threatened a Twitter defection after being forced to go by ‘Ahmed.’ Brian Ries on who won out.
For a few hours on Monday morning, Salman Rushdie had just about had it with Facebook.
The social media site had detected a profile over the weekend—his Facebook profile—that it had mistakenly determined was fraudulent. So, without warning, Facebook flipped its switch, digitally executing Rushdie’s profile and removing it from the site. To get it reactivated, he was told, he would have to send a photograph of his passport, thereby proving his identity as the real Salman Rushdie, the Indian-British author of Midnight’s Children and The Satanic Verses, and not a fraud. But when he did as instructed, his profile emerged from its Facebook purgatory with a problem.
Click Image To View Salman "Ahmed" Rushdie's Facebook Profile
“Facebook deactivated my account because they thought I wasn’t me. Now they insist I call myself by the first name I have never used. What a bunch of morons.”
That rarely used first name, Ahmed, is what’s printed on his passport. Salman, technically speaking, is his middle name. And a post about “name standards” on Facebook’s Help Center—which the company on Monday acknowledged is a bit dated and then quickly updated after a query by The Daily Beast—suggested that middle names simply aren’t allowed.
“Or, if F. Scott Fitzgerald was on #Facebook, would they force him to be Francis Fitzgerald? What about F. Murray Abraham?”
Salman Rushdie's Twitter page:
Click Above Image To Visit Salman Rushdie's Twitter Page
Others agreed. The Atlantic’s Alexis Madrigal wondered.
“What is the point of forcing Salman Rushdie to go by Ahmed Rushdie? How does this benefit the social web?”
When reached Monday afternoon, a company spokesperson told The Daily Beast it does permit users to identify by their middle and last names. Rushdie’s profile suspension, and resulting name change, was all a mistake.
The spokesperson said in an official announcement.
“This action was taken in error and Mr. Rushdie’s account has been reactivated with the correct name. We apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused.”
That inconvenience was almost Facebook’s—Rushdie nearly took his presence elsewhere. He wrote in a post earlier in the day, before inviting readers to follow him on Twitter—Facebook’s on-again-off-again competitor.
“As I don’t and will never recognize myself as ‘Ahmed Rushdie’ I will be reducing FB activities to just about zero and cutting back my list of friends to actual friends or at least acquaintances, just to keep in touch. I’m done.”
But later Monday, once Facebook had reinstated the profile as “Salman Rushdie,” the author made a triumphant return. He posted on his profile.
“Victory! Goodbye Ahmed, get back into the passport where you belong. Salman returns.”
And with that return, a confirmation: Facebook users, middle names are A-OK in Zuckerville.
COMMENTARY: It's most unfortunate to see Facebook make an ass of themselves over your name. Everybody knows who Salman Rushdie is. Zuck should personally apologize to Salman for treating him with such outrageous disrespect. A lot of celebrities use different names. Lady Gaga has a real name. So by Facebook's rules she should be asked to change her Facebook name to Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta.
Twenty years ago, novelist Salman Rushdie was a wanted man with a million pound bounty on his head. His novel, The Satanic Verses, had sparked riots across the Muslim world. The ailing religious leader of Iran, the Ayatollah Khomeini, had invoked a little-known religious opinion - a fatwa - and effectively sentenced Rushdie to death. Never before had a novel created an international diplomatic crisis on such a scale, and never before had a foreign Government publicly called for the killing of a private citizen of another country.
The following film documentary looks back on the extraordinary events which followed the publication of the book and the ten year campaign to get the fatwa lifted. Interviews with Rushdie's friends and family and testimony from leaders of Britain's Muslim community and the Government reveal the inside story of the affair. Rushdie himself was forced into hiding for nearly ten years.
British columnist Christopher Hitchens discusses Salman Rushdie's 'The Satanic Verses' and the famous fatwa.
Here's an interview with Salman Rushdie and his response to the Ayatollah Khomeini's fatwa:
Anybody with the balls to imply that the Prophet Mohammed is evil or even Satanic, then have the Ayatollah Khomeini personally call a 'fatwa' for his assassination, can be my Twitter friend anytime. You should've been knighted by the Queen.
In conclusion, I would like to say:
Dear Mr. Salmen Rushdie.
Fuck Facebook. Welcome to Twitter. The only true democratic social network. I hope that we can follow each other. Here's my Twitter page. Yours truly,
Courtesy of an article dated November 14, 2011 appearing in The Daily Beast
We hear incessantly about the rise of China. So much so that it's all a bit too abstract: What does it mean that China's has become a global force? And more importantly, how have they actually accomplished that?
I say rarely seen because The Heritage Foundation boasts that it possesses the only database of China's global investments, and they've actually made it available for public consumption. The charts elegantly show the various sectors that China is investing in around the globe, and where they're doing it. The most obvious thing that's happening: China is using partners from around the world to secure the raw materials it needs to grow. It's investments abroad aren't in technology or industry; they're in metals and energy and power.
Here are their investments around the world in energy:
Click To View Interactive Map
And in metals:
Click To View Interactive Map
The more you look at this chart, the more you start seeing powerful forces at work. For one, you'll notice that majority of China's trading partners aren't in Europe or America: They're in Asia and Africa and South America. In other words, precisely those countries which have always spoken last on the world stage. China is using its economic relationships to create an alternative bloc of power, which can directly compete with the political might of the E.U. and America.
You could call it checkbook diplomacy, and it's vastly different than the bedrock of our own diplomatic efforts. Granted, the U.S. does use its economic relationships abroad as a carrot, but the stick has always been our armed forces. China, by contrast, isn't exactly threatening countries overseas with potential military action (with the exception of Taiwan, of course). Instead, it's doing hundreds of billions in business with countries that are usually also-rans on the global stage. Look, for instance at its dealings with little old Australia:
Click To View Interactive Map
The one country that China is pointedly not investing much in is America. Instead, the only thing they're doing is buying our debt and holding our currency. Here are their investments in the States:
Click To View Interactive Map
And here is a look at what currencies draw their attention; it's almost exclusively our own:
Click To View Interactive Map
This is profoundly clever stuff. China has neutralized our power to oppose it by holding so much of our debt. And it has simultaneously drawn other countries closer to its bloc of power by offering them a taste of its rocketing economy.
COMMENTARY: I can remember as a kid reading about China's famines. The U.S. would even send them bags of rice. Look at them now. Without our humongous military might, what is the United States, really? China has eaten away at us by essentially "buying" other countries and copying everything we make. China presents a huge bloc of votes in the U.N. not just in the Security Council. We need to stop buying their junk, and bring back those jobs. But wait, how could we supply Apple evangelists with their magical devices? Forget I said that.
Ever wondered where the world's deposed dictators go after they are deposed by their followers? They live everywhere.
While we are at it, let's look at some of the scumbag dictators in the Arab World. By the way, many of these Arab World countries receive foreign aid from Uncle Sam. That's right, our taxes go to prop up their regimes. How many of these scumbags have drawn up their exit plans as things heat up? Let's have a look at a few of these punkasses.
Here is one of my all-time favorites Moammar Gadhafi a.k.a. "The Leader" and dictator of Libya. A little know fact about this guy: He has all-female bodyguards known as the "Amazon Bodyguards".
NBC news correspondent Katie Couric interviewed Bashar al-Assad in 2010. Bashar is the son of former Syrian dictator Havez al-Assad. He is 46 years old, 6'2", shy and former opthalmologist. He attended the School of Opthalmology at the University of Damascas and finished his medical internship at a hospital in London, England. He speaks fluent English. You never would guess that he is a cold-blooded killer like his old man.
[Click To View Video]
One February 3, 2011, Christiane Amanpour, a well respected journalsit and incredibly brave news correspondent for CNN, and now working for ABC, under great danger was able to obtain an exclusive interview with Hosni Mubarak the embattled President of Egypt. President Mubarak was finally deposed and fled to the exclusive Red Sea resort city of Sharm el-Sheikh (click to view) where he will live out the rest of his life.
[Click To View Video]
The Four Seasons Hotel, Sharm El Sheikh, is supposedly the new residence of former deposed Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.
No matter what their supposed purpose, there’s something inherently sinister about a secret society. Though most are formed with relatively realistic political and religious goals in mind, their focus on mystery and secrecy has made them the target of countless criticisms and conspiracy theories involving everything from aliens and the occult to world domination. Of course, the reality is usually much more innocuous, but that doesn’t mean that the groups don’t have some fascinatingly weird practices, or that they haven’t had an impact on world events.
10. Ordo Templi Orientis - Ordo Templi Orientis is a mystic organization that was started in the early twentieth century. The group was established along the same lines as the less secretive Freemasons, and supposedly relies on ritual and occult practices as a means for members to move from one level of prestige to another within the organization. The general philosophy of the group was a belief in new age esoteric principles and practices as a method of realizing one’s true identity. Famed occultist and all-around eccentric Aleister Crowley composed much of the group’s lore, including a manifesto called the Mysteria Mystica Maxima, and he later became its head. After his death, the influence and popularity of Ordo Templi Orientis began to wane, but it still exists today and has various chapters scattered across the world, chiefly in the United States, the U.K., and other parts of Europe.
As Aleister Crowley’s popularity as a new age figure has continued to grow, more and more of the teachings of the Ordo Templi Orientis have come to light. As such, the group makes much less of an attempt to be secretive today than it did in the past. This doesn’t mean that they don’t still have some bizarre practices. Chief among these is the group’s fixation on the sexual, especially their teachings on the “adoration of the phallus” and the magic of masturbation.
Famous Members: Aleister Crowley.
9. The Bilderberg Group - The Bilderberg Group is not a secret society per se, but it does operate under a similar veil of mystery, which has made it the subject of countless conspiracy theories and criticisms. The group was started in 1954, and since then it has convened every year as an exclusive, invitation-only conference of various world leaders, captains of industry, and media moguls. The group was originally started as a means of addressing a streak of anti-Americanism that was spreading through Europe following WWII, but over the years it appears to have morphed into a more broad discussion on reaching mutual understanding between cultures.
The Bilderberg Group has become controversial for one key reason: no press is allowed in theconference and no significant details concerning the topics discussed are ever officially released to the public. That kind of secrecy, along with the intense security of the meeting sites, which often feature armed guards, police, and even fighter jets patrolling the skies overhead, has produced a number of conspiracy theories centered on the conference. The most popular is that the group tries to steer the direction of public policy, financial markets, and media in certain prescribed directions of their choosing, perhaps even with the goal of forming a so-called “one world government.” These claims have been brushed aside by the group, which claims global understanding and the end of nuclear proliferation as its main goals.
Famous Members: No members, but attendees have included Ben Bernanke, the royal families of Spain and the Netherlands, World Bank officials, and representatives from major corporations. Republican Presidential candidate Rick Perry (Gov of Texas) has been a guest. Scary isn't it.
8. Hashshashin– The Order of Assassins - The Hashshashin, or Nizari, were a mysterious band of Muslim assassins that operated in the Middle East during the 13th century. The group was made up of Shia Muslims who broke off from a bigger sect and banded together in order to establish a utopian Shi’ite state. Because their number was small, the group used guerilla tactics in their battle against their enemies, including espionage, sabotage, and, most famously, political assassination. The Hashshashin would plant highly trained moles inside enemy strongholds, with instructions to only attack when the time was right. They were known for their extreme discretion in minimizing civilian casualties, as well as their penchant for using stealth to intimidate their targets. As the story goes, enemy leaders would often wake in the morning to find a Hashshashin dagger lying on their pillow, along with a note saying “you are in our grip.” Their legend soon grew, and before the Mongols finally destroyed the group, they became well known contract killers, supposedly performing jobs for the likes of King Richard the Lionheart.
Around the time of their downfall, the library that contained all Nizari records was destroyed, so much of what is known about them today has taken on the status of myth. The most controversial legend centers of the group’s use of drugs and other intoxicants– “Hashshashin” translates roughly as “Hashish user”–which some have said were employed by the members in battle. This has been widely discredited, but the term “Hashshashin” as it refers to the Nizari is believed to be the origin of the modern word “assassin.”
Famous Members: None of note
7. The Black Hand - The Black Hand was a secret society of anti-imperialist political revolutionaries that was started in Serbia in 1912. It formed as an offshoot from Narodna Adbrona, a group that sought to unite all of the Slavic people of Europe under one country. This required the separation of Serbia from the monarchy ofAustria-Hungary, which had annexed the country some years before. With this in mind, the group began disseminating anti-Austrian propaganda and training saboteurs and assassins to disrupt political rule within the province. Their plan was to incite a war between Serbia and Austria, which would give them a chance to free their country and unite the different Slavic nations as one.
Black Hand would be all but forgotten today if not for their unlikely involvement in one of the biggest events of the twentieth century. In 1914, the group engineered the assassination of the Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand. The job was badly botched, and was only completed when a low-level hood named Gavrilo Princip stumbled upon the Archduke’s car and shot him to death at close range (see photo). Still, the results of the assassination were catastrophic. Within days, Austria-Hungary had declared war on Serbia, and after the allies of both countries joined the fray, the small dispute managed to escalate into WWI. The aftermath of WWI eventually led to WWII, and this led to the Cold War, which makes the Black Hand one of the most strangely influential forces of the twentieth century.
Famous Members: Gavrilo Princip (rumored)
6. The Knights of the Golden Circle - The Knights of the Golden Circle was a secret society that flourished in the U.S. during the American Civil War. In the beginning, the group sought to encourage the annexation of Mexico and the West Indies, which they believed would help the waning slave trade to once again flourish. But once the Civil War started, the group switched its focus from colonialism to fervent support of the newly established Confederate government. The Knights soon had thousands of followers, many of whom formed guerilla armies and began raiding Union strongholds in the West. In the Northern states, the mysterious order had an even bigger impact. Many newspapers and public figures engaged in witch-hunts where they accused supposed Southern sympathizers, including President Franklin Pierce, of being members of the Knights of the Golden Circle.
Unlike most secret societies, the Golden Circle didn’t just concern itself with clandestine meetings and mysterious plans. Instead, the group often formed renegade armies and bands of bushwhackers in order to forward their agenda by force. In 1860, a group of the Knights made a failed attempt to invade Mexico. During the war, they robbed stagecoaches and attempted a blockade of the harbor in San Francisco, and a group of them even managed to briefly take control of southern New Mexico.
Famous Members: John Wilkes Booth, Jesse James (above), Franklin Pierce (all rumored)
5. The Thule Society - Lots of secret organizations are suspected of having malevolent ulterior motives, but the Thule Society is one of the few where such suspicions have been proven. The group was unofficially started in Germany just after the end of WWI. It began as a kind of German heritage group that dabbled in the occult, but it quickly transformed into an organization that sought to forward the ideology of the Aryan race, and it took an outwardly racist approach toward Jews and other minorities. The group soon boasted over a thousand members, and even had its own propaganda newspaper. In 1919, members of the Thule Society formed a political organization called the German Workers’ Party. A young Adolf Hitler became a member, and eventually took over the party, which would later become known as the National Socialist German Workers’, or Nazi, party.
Even before the Thule Society became a vehicle for Nazism, the members were involved in some pretty bizarre activities. The strangest was the group’s fascination with the Aryan race, whose origins they tried to trace back to the mythical land of Thule, which the Greeks had claimed was found north of Europe near Iceland and Greenland.
Famous Members: Rudolf Hess, Arthur Rosenberg, Adolf Hitler (rumored)
4. The Sons of Liberty - The Sons of Liberty is the name for a loosely organized group of dissidents that existed in America prior to the Revolutionary War. The group did not exist as a secret society in the traditional sense; rather, it was made up of smaller factions of patriots from across the colonies that united in support of a common goal. When they did meet, it was usually in Boston around an elm tree that has since become known as the Liberty Tree. It was here that the group would formulate their resistance, which included the dissemination of pamphlets and even some sabotage and terrorist activity. This behavior led to the British branding the Sons of Liberty as seditious, and they were often referred to pejoratively as “The Sons of Violence.” The group is most notable today for sowing the seeds of revolution among the colonists with their protest of the Stamp Act, and for coining the now famous phrase “no taxation without representation.”
The Sons of Liberty in Boston were the most famous arm of the group, but there were factions spread out all across the 13 colonies. One group in Rhode Island looted and burned the British trade ship Gaspee in protest of unfair trade practices, while others were known to tar and feather British loyalists. Still, the most famous event engineered by the Sons remains the Boston Tea Party in 1773, when members of the group dressed as Indians and dumped shiploads of overtaxed tea into Boston Harbor.
Famous Members: Paul Revere, John and Samuel Adams, John Hancock
3. Skull and Bones - Ivy League Colleges are known for their many secret societies and student organizations, and of these Yale’s Skull and Bones is probably the most famous. The society taps new students for membership every spring, and the only real prerequisite for membership is that the initiate be a campus leader. As such, athletes, members of the student council, and fraternity presidents are often considered. Skull and Bones counts among its membership U.S. Presidents, Senators, and Supreme Court Justices, which has lead many to argue that the group works as some kind of underground organization for the high-powered political elite. There is no denying that the club is well funded: an alumni organization called the Russell Trust Association bankrolls its activities, and the group supposedly owns an island in upstate New York.
Skull and Bones’ membership is no longer kept secret, but their practices still are. The order meets twice a week, but just what goes on at their meetings has never been revealed. To the disappointment of conspiracy theorists, what rumors have come out are relatively innocuous. The group has supposedly taken part in a number of pranks, and was once even sued by chairman of the Apache tribe, who claimed the Bonesmen were in possession of the skeleton of Geronimo. Beyond this, the group is known for allegedly forcing new members to relate their sexual history to the rest of the society, and for giving out nicknames to each initiate. In a widely reported rumor, President George H.W. Bush was supposedly known as “Magog,” a name given to the Bonesman with the most sexual experience.
Famous Members: George H.W. Bush, George W. Bush, John Kerry
2. The Illuminati - In popular culture and the realm of wild and weird conspiracy theories, no secret organization has become as well known as the Illuminati, who have made frequent appearances in books, movies, and television. The group as it is popularly understood is more or less a myth, but the legend of it dates back to a real organization that existed in Germany in the late 1700s. At the time, the members of the group presented themselves as an order of enlightened free thinkers. The press soon turned against them, and they came to be regarded by many as an underground force of dissidents intent on overthrowing the government, and they were even blamed for inciting the French Revolution. The group disbanded shortly thereafter, but their influence remained strong, and for years after their dissolution they were rumored to still be operating somewhere in the shadows.
Thanks to its constant presence in popular culture, the Illuminati have continued to be feared to this day. Modern conspiracy theorists have asserted that the group survived and now operates as a sinister shadow government, directing world industry and politics as it sees fit. The Bush family, Winston Churchill, and President Barack Obama have all been named as prominent members, but no legitimate evidence of such a group has ever been uncovered. Still, the rumor lives on as one of the most popular, albeit bizarre, of all conspiracy theories.
Famous Members: Goethe, Ferdinand of Brunswick, many others rumored
1. The Freemasons - Although they are less influential and secretive today than they once were, the Freemasons remain one of the most famous fraternal organizations in the world, with a membership somewhere in the neighborhood of 5 million. The group was officially founded in 1717, but documents relating to its existence date back to the 1300s. It was originally created to be a brotherhood whose members share certain key philosophical ideas, among them a belief in a supreme being. The group stresses moral uprightness, and as such many of the chapters have become known for their charitable work and community service. Despite these seemingly harmless practices, the Freemasons are not without their critics. Conspiracy theorists have long targeted them for supposedly being involved in nefarious occult practices, and there have even been whole political groups based around opposition to the group. Churches of all denominations have also criticized the organization, as its moral teachings and esoteric spiritual beliefs have been said to be in competition with more traditional religion.
The Stonecutters, a secret society featured on the Simpsons is based on the Freemasons.
With its huge membership and different lodges scattered across the globe, modern Freemasonry no longer has the same universal principles as it did in the old days. One practice that has remained constant is the method for induction. Initiates must be recommended to the group by someone who is already a Mason, and once a member they must pass through three different degrees of standing before reaching the level of “Master Mason.” Members also have certain prescribed modes of greeting one another, including handshakes, gestures, and passwords, and non-masons are always banned from attending meetings.
Famous Members: Unknown
COMMENTARY: I must now admit that I am a member of a super secret society myself. It's a secret so I cannot talk about it. In fact, I am strictly forbidden to talk about it under penalty of death. That secret shall go with me to my grave.
In the latest installment of the Butterfly Effect we look at how mining the key ingredient in electric cars could end up enriching potential enemies of America, and force another round of innovation to build an even newer kind of battery.
1. Revenge Of The Electric Car
One day in late 2005, after losing yet another bruising political battle to the bean counters inside General Motors, then-vice chairman “Maximum” Bob Lutz heard of a startup called Tesla Motors intending to bring an all-electric sports car to market. Enraged that a bunch of Silicon Valley gearheads could do what he couldn’t, Lutz, in his own words, “just lost it.” He rallied his fellow car guys within GM to develop the prototype of what became the Chevrolet Volt--the “moon shot” justifying the company’s survival and the first in a new wave of electric vehicles just beginning to break on dealers’ showrooms. And while the Volt uses just a tiny bit of gas, it's still powered by a material that is in short supply and controlled by some of the most hard to deal with governments in the world. Its lithium battery might just create a new geopolitical calculus that is just as problematic as the gas-based one electric cars are supposed to extricate us from.
In his new book, Car Guys vs. Bean Counters, a triumphant Lutz mockingly recalls Toyota’s reaction to the Volt’s unveiling in January 2007. “Toyota immediately labeled Volt a clever but meaningless PR exercise, using a battery chemistry, lithium-ion, which was dangerous, unreliable, and far from ready for automotive use. How much sounder, they trumpeted, was their own homely little Prius using (now eclipsed) nickel metal hydride batteries.”
Toyota was wrong. The lithium at the heart of the Volt’s battery is now the gold standard for new electric cars everywhere. But is there enough of the silvery soft metal to eventually power a billion automobiles, and can we mine it fast enough? Or are we trading one finite resource for another? And in doing so, will we also trade our allegiance from OPEC to OLEC--the “Organization of Lithium Exporting Countries?”
2. Peak Lithium?
A month before the Volt announcement, an energy analyst named William Tahil published a paper titled “The Trouble With Lithium.” There simply isn’t enough cheap lithium to go around, he argued, and 80% of the world’s accessible reserves are located in the so-called “Lithium Triangle” of the Chilean, Argentine, and Bolivian Andes (pictured above). “If the world was to exchange oil for Li-ion based battery propulsion,” Tahil wrote, “South America would become the new Middle East. Bolivia would become far more of a focus of world attention than Saudi Arabia ever was.” Even then, we would run out of lithium long before we’d finished electrifying our cars.
Tahil’s paper immediately came under fire for his overly pessimistic predictions. (And hisgeneral credibility.) Researchers at the Argonne National Laboratory outside Chicago--a hotbed of lithium battery innovation--estimate worldwide demand will eventually top out at 8 million metric tons, total. (The Volt’s massive battery array only requires about nine pounds.) That’s well within the U.S. Geological Survey’s conservative estimate of 12 million tons of recoverable reserves. As refining improves and new deposits are discovered, that figure will only go up. And unlike oil, lithium can be recycled; once you get it out of the ground, it’s yours.
That’s easier said than done. Worldwide lithium production was 120,000 tons in 2009, roughly a quarter of which was bound for batteries. But if electric cars achieve just a 5% penetration rate by 2020, according to the British research firm Roskill, the 60,000 tons required for batteries will outstrip the available supply. The bottleneck isn’t “peak lithium,” it’s how fast and how badly we want our electric cars.
3. From Petro-Dictators To Electro-Dictators?
Fortunately for GM and Toyota, Chile’s and Argentina’s lithium deposits are open for business. But the largest lies across the border in Bolivia, containing anywhere from 9 million (the official U.S. estimate) to a credulity-straining 100 million tons of lithium. Bolivia’s president Evo Morales (left) is no friend of the U.S., however; he pals around with Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez and Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. He once expelled the U.S. ambassador and likes to end speeches with the rallying cry, “Death to the Yankees!”
But Bolivia has had no shortage of supplicants. Representatives from China, France, Sumitomo, Mitsubishi and LG Chem--which supplies the Volt’s battery--have all made entreaties. What would happen if Morales gave in and went with a Chinese consortium, or picked a fight with Chile? If the Carter Doctrine was necessary to secure Middle East oil, will there someday be an Obama Doctrine for South American lithium?
“Chile is the one we can rely on," says Steve LeVine, a contributing editor to Foreign Policyand an energy security expert at Georgetown. "But I just got back from Kazakhstan, and they have a lot of lithium, and it’s cheap.” Then again, Kazakhstan is a virtual autocracy ruled for 20 years by the opposition-less President Nursultan Nazarbayev. Afghanistan may also be rich in lithium if reports of a trillion dollars in mineral wealth are accurate. But America’s relationship with president Hamid Karzai is complicated, to say the least.
After Bolivia and Chile, the nation with the largest reserves is China, which knows how to play hard ball with minerals--witness the recent fights over rare earth metal prices when China restricted their exports. While there is no OLEC looming on the horizon, the U.S. once again finds itself staking its way of life on a substance with very complicated geo-politics.
There are four lithium companies currently producing lithium on the world market that can be labelled, essentially, the BIG FOUR. They are:
Currently, the top four companies produce 85% of the worlds lithium.
The other 15% is spread among smaller producers and junior miners.
Here is a list of most of those companies, in order, which may or may not be on your radar screen as investors in this sector, but should be.
5. Rodinia Lithium (formerly Rodinia minerals) (TSX V:RM) 6. Western Lithium (TSX V:WLC) 7. TNR Gold Corp (TSX V:TNR)* 8. Galaxy Resources (ASX:GXY) 9. Orocobre (ASX:ORE) 10. Canada Lithium (TSX V:CLQ) 11. First Lithium (TSX V:MCI)* 12. Reed Resources (ASX:RDR) 13. Linear Metals (TSX:LRM 14. Electric Metal Inc (TSX.EMI) 15. Lomiko Metals Inc. (TSX.LMR)
The above lists contain the largest producers of the "electric metal" and the go getters in the junior mining sector that are charging ahead, full speed, with projects of their own, in lithium rich regions of the world, and plan on either becoming large producers, or getting swallowed in the M and A activity that will (and already has) surrounded the sector in the coming year.
As this second leg of the lithium bull market gets into full swing, it is theelectric car market that has all the cache, so to speak, as every auto maker (eg: Toyota, Honda, GM, Ford, Daimler,BYD, Hyundai, VW, Tesla) ramps up to enter the electric vehicle market with it's own version of either an EV, HEV or both.
In that light it is timely to review the other, wide and varied uses for lithium and lithium carbonate. Currently, aluminum production usurps the majority of lithium produced today, followed by batteries (every kind of battery from your cell phone and laptop, to your EV), glass and ceramic production, airconditioning, lubrications, and more.
Projected Lithium consumption will soar.
4. If It's Not Lithium, It's Something Else
There are two alternatives to entrusting the bulk of America’s lithium supply to Chile, Bolivia, or even Afghanistan--discover new sources closer to home, or innovate our way out. In Bottled Lightning, author Seth Fletcher pays a visit to Western Lithium’s stake in the Nevada foothills where it hopes to mine lithium from clay deposits. A spin-off from Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory called Simbol Mining(a company I profiled in myblog) believes it can meet nearly a fifth of the world’s needs by mining California’s (chemical-rich) Salton Sea.
The other option is to treat Li-ion batteries as a bridge technology on the way to something lighter, cheaper, and better. “We need something with the energy density of gasoline,” says LeVine. “We need the new technology--sulfur-air, zinc-air, lithium-air.” Other teams are working on a battery made of molten melts and salts.
One startup that had eschewed lithium for zinc-air is the Easton, Pennsylvania-based Eos Energy Storage, which is in talks to license its proprietary battery to the automakers. “Zinc is energy dense, safe, and stable,” says Eos CEO Michael Oster. “The U.S. is one of the top five producers in the world, along with Canada and Australia. So, in terms of energy independence, that’s one way to get there.”
Of course, there is always the possibility that lithium isn’t the real bottleneck at all. What keeps LeVine up at night is phosphorous, which is used in the Li-ion chemistry used by A123 Systems and Chinese battery makers. It is also vital to food production and is rapidlyrunning out. (The U.S. doesn’t have much it, either.) And then there are the rare earth metals essential to an electric car’s permanent magnets, 97% of which are found in China. In perhaps a taste of what’s to come, Chinese officials have drastically cut exports since the beginning of the year, causing prices to soar as high as 475%. If this keeps up, oil prices may start to seem like a bargain.
COMMENTARY: It's a scary thought knowing how little Lithium ore the U.S. and other industrialized and developed nations have at their disposal. A lot of that ore is produced in countries run by dictators and people not very friendly to the U.S. and West. In previous blog posts dated February 7, 2011and May 26, 2011, I wrote about even something more sinister: the virtual monopoly that China has in the top rare earth metals and minerals.
Courtesy of an article dated June 30, 2011 appearing in Fast Company