Think Again
Mar 23, 2009
By James R. Gaines

Two readers peruse one of the last editions of the Rocky Mountain News before the newspaper folded. Photo by Doug Collier/NewscomA FLYP conversation on Web-inspired identity crises for journalism and art: After the revolution, what will newspapers and museums look like?

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Feb 27, 2009
By James R. Gaines

The first test of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s deployment of U.S. “smart power”—coupling “hard” military power with economic and political aid, cultural exchanges and imaginative forms of public diplomacy—could be Pakistan. Certainly, that country will be among its severest tests.

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Feb 25, 2009
By Sean Piazza

In the last few months of “firsts” and historical milestones, it seems many people—through the rose-colored glass—somehow have forgotten one significant setback of November 4: the passage of Prop 8. Considering the economic recession (for you optimists) / depression (let’s be honest) of the past year, let’s consider the gay marriage initiative in terms of economics.

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Feb 23, 2009
By Alan Stoga

During Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s recent stop in Beijing, the Chinese leaders were polite when asked in public about their massive holdings of U.S. government securities. Their standard language these days is: “we have always managed the foreign exchange reserves with a long-term, strategic perspective, combining safety, liquidity and profitability,” and “overall, China’s assets are safe.”

 

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Feb 19, 2009
By James R. Gaines

What will post-meltdown, post-industrial America look like? A terrific story in the latest Atlantic addresses the subject of FLYP’s current-issue cover story on Detroit. “Perhaps no major city in the U.S. today looks more beleaguered,” writes the Atlantic’s Richard Florida.

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Feb 11, 2009
By Matthew Schaeffer

 
The lab at Fort Detrick has level 4 status, which means it is authorized to handle and do research upon the most deadly known pathogens, such as anthrax. The fort has been involved in peacetime biological weapons research since World War II. Photo by Olivier Douliery/ABACAUSA/Newscom

The Army just announced it is suspending almost all research with dangerous pathogens being carried out at its biodefense lab at Fort Detrick, Md., one of the largest facilities of its kind in the country.

The suspension is a result of inconsistencies in the lab’s records, which were revealed after an inventory review found that some pathogens stored at the base were not listed in the facility’s database.

The suspension, which could last as long as three months, will interrupt dozens of research projects while officials undertake a new inventory of all hazardous materials being used and stored at the lab.


The federal government tightened rules for working with toxic pathogens after the 2001 anthrax attacks. More than seven years later, serious questions remain as to how vulnerable the U.S. is to a bioterror attack. Last fall, FLYP partnered with ProPublica to examine the threat in Microbe Attack.

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Feb 10, 2009
By Alan Stoga

During the last several days, our allies in the war President Obama says we must fight—the one against the Taliban in Afghanistan and the spillover into Pakistan—stood up to be counted.

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Feb 03, 2009
By James R. Gaines

In the complex triple-carom geopolitics of the crisis in Afghanistan, the Taliban have just given Russia another nudge toward the center of the action. A Taliban attack today (Tuesday, Feb. 3) has taken out a bridge in the Khyber Pass, which is a critical supply route for U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan.

Until recently, 80 percent of all allied supplies for Afghanistan flowed through the mountains of Pakistan, but Taliban attacks have made drivers unwilling to make the trip. Attacks on NATO supply depots in the area took out 300 cargo trucks and Humvees in December alone, forcing the allies to turn for alternative routes to former Soviet clients in Central Asia, where Russia still has interests and influence.

The new U.S. envoy, Richard Holbrooke, has his hands full at the moment dealing with Afghanistan and Pakistan, but as FLYP reports in the current issue, his brief will inevitably include all the powers relevant to the area, including India, Iran, China—and Russia. The historical irony is thick: we armed Osama Bin Laden and his fellow mujahadeen to force the Soviet Union out of Afghanistan, and now Moscow holds the key to the supplies we need to get them out.

Photo by Fahad Pervez/PPI Photo/Newscom

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Jan 12, 2009
By Alan Stoga

A month ago, Gen. Barry McCaffrey—President Bill Clinton’s drug czar and a retired, highly decorated Army general—visited Mexico, and came away shocked. In what he called his “After Action Report,” he wrote: “Mexico is on the edge of the abyss—it could become a narco-state in the coming decade.”

General McCaffrey believes that a stable Mexico is central to U.S. security, but what he sees happening across our southern border is anything but stable.

Here are some of his key points:
  • “The Mexican state is engaged in an increasingly violent, internal struggle against heavily armed narco-criminal cartels that have intimidated the public, corrupted much of the law enforcement and created an environment of impunity to the law.”
  • “Mexico is not confronting dangerous criminality—it is fighting for survival against narco-terrorism. A terrible tragedy is going to take place in the coming decade if we don’t ally ourselves with the courageous Mexican leadership of the Calderon administration.”
  • “Mexico is on the edge of the abyss—it could become a narco-state in the coming decade.”
  • “The outgunned Mexican law enforcement authorities face armed criminal attacks from platoon sized units…heavily armed drug gangs with high powered military automatic weapons. Perhaps 90% of these weapons are smuggled across the US border.” See FLYP: "Guns Without Borders"

General McCaffery’s report deserves to be widely read; download the PDF here.

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Jan 05, 2009
By Alan Stoga

George Bush may have only a few days left in office, but his throw-the-environment-under-the-bus administration is still hard at work trying to create new facts that could have long-term consequences. Although Obama’s environmental team theoretically can review many of these changes, the arcane process of governmental rule making could make at least some of them almost impossible to alter. Some of the more dangerous changes: • Just before Christmas, the Environmental Protection Agency ruled that government officials couldn’t consider greenhouse gas output when considering applications by utilities seeking to build new coal-fired plants. This seems intended to allow last minute approvals of new power plants in South Carolina, Michigan, Utah and elsewhere; none of these plants would employ so-called “clean coal” technology that is not yet commercially available. • The EPA also issued a new regulation to allow mountaintop mining to affect rivers and streams as long as the mining company promises to eventually repair any damage. Since mountaintop mining is a process whereby the tops of mountains are scooped off and dumped into adjacent valleys, it’s hard to imagine that after-the-fact remedial action would be very effective. The policy changed by the EPA restricted the process if it affected water quality. • On the last day of 2008, the Bush administration finalized a huge giveaway of 2.6 million acres of Oregon public forestland to the timber industry. The Western Oregon Plan Revisions (PDF) rezoned thousands of acres of Oregon forest managed by the federal Bureau of Land Management to make them available for industrial logging, with potentially disastrous environmental consequences. • The EPA also finalized a decision to allow perchlorate , a known toxin and a major component of rocket fuel, in drinking water—ignoring expert advice and basing the decision on an abstract model rather than human data. • In December, the Administration decided that the Clean Water Act only applied to commercially navigable waters, sharply restricting the Act’s reach. This was the capstone of policies that leave career officials “no longer able to ensure the safety and health of the nations’ waters,” according (PDF) to the House of Representatives’ Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. When Clinton left office eight years ago, he pardoned scoundrels, and his staff stole the “w’s” off the White House computers. Bush’s parting gifts to his successor—and the rest of us—could have far graver consequences.

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