There is an excellent, fairly all-encompassing article in this week's New Yorker magazine by Seymour Hersh about "cyber war" and what it it and is not and the recent history of it all.
It brings up so many points.
Did you know that the country's first "Cyber Czar", so to speak, is a graduate of--ulp--the online "University of Phoenix"? Yow. It's old news, too, that he was far from the President's first pick for the job. Get this--he came to the job from his position as head of security at e-bay.
Not to belittle the man or his capabilities since I don't know him but here you go:
In theory, the fight over whether the Pentagon or civilian agencies should be in charge of cyber security should be mediated by President Obama’s coördinator for cyber security, Howard Schmidt—the cyber czar. But Schmidt has done little to assert his authority. He has no independent budget control and in a crisis would be at the mercy of those with more assets, such as General Alexander. He was not the Administration’s first choice for the cyber-czar job—reportedly, several people turned it down. The Pentagon adviser on information warfare, in an e-mail that described the lack of an over-all policy and the “cyber-pillage” of intellectual property, added the sort of dismissive comment that I heard from others: “It’s ironic that all this goes on under the nose of our first cyber President. . . . Maybe he should have picked a cyber czar with more than a mail-order degree.” (Schmidt’s bachelor’s and master’s degrees are from the University of Phoenix.)
And here's an issue: The Department of Homeland Security recently signed a memorandum with the Pentagon that gives the military authority to operate inside the United States in case of cyber attack.
The Department of Homeland Security just handed over the country in times of computer attack, to the military, just like that.
That's bad enough, since it puts the military in control of the country, but who decides if we're "under attack"?
What really becomes apparent is that any future "cyber attack" or "cyber war" should not and cannot be looked on through any prism of our past experience, it would seem. Most countries and people go into the "next war" or next conflict, assuming it will be like the past, as is so commonly known. This kind of attack would certainly take us into realms we've absolutely never experienced.
The good things?
For one, the article points out that the openness of the web creates lots of safeguards--like between power grids across the country, for example.
Additionally, an attack meant for one computer can go elsewhere quickly and attack things it isn't meant to--again, due to that openness--as we recently found with the Stuxnet virus.
Third, it's not like the Chinese, for instance, would necessarily want our system--our country--to "go down" since they own us, Wall Street and all. Most all of the world is in this together.
Here's a shocker, to me: A retired four-star Navy admiral, who spent much of his career in signals intelligence, said that Russia, France, Israel, and Taiwan conduct the most cyber espionage against the U.S. “I’ve looked at the extraordinary amount of Russian and Chinese cyber activity,” he told me, “and I am hard put to it to sort out how much is planning for warfare and how much is for economic purposes.”
Israel? Our "ally"? Spying on us? And that much? The country who wouldn't exist, but for the US?
And Taiwan?? Who we're supposed to defend, if they were attacked by China? Nice.
It's not a complete surprise but it does get me some.
Finally, then, there is this: Jeffrey Carr, a Seattle-based consultant on cyber issues, looked into state and non-state cyber espionage throughout the recent conflicts in Estonia and Georgia. Carr, too, said he was skeptical that China or Russia would mount a cyber-war attack against the United States. “It’s not in their interest to hurt the country that is feeding them money,” he said.
Hopefully that can be the good news out of all this--we're all in this together.
Maybe that's what can and will save us.
Humankind will have "learned" something after all.
But then, there's always the anarchic terrorists who don't operate by rules.
It’s a perennial: nearly every recession leads pundits to proclaim that the job market is facing structural challenges, and that higher unemployment is here to stay. During the 1981-82 recession, now seen as a classic cyclical recession, the economist Barry Bluestone warned that, as a result of structural issues, there might not be “much recovery in terms of overall employment in the United States.” Yet, by 1984, unemployment was back to where it had been before recession hit. A 1964 survey of economists found that more than half believed structural issues were playing a significant role in limiting the number of jobs; three years later, unemployment was below four per cent. And, during the Great Depression, even F.D.R. thought that unemployment might well be stuck at a permanently higher level. Recessions are, among other things, crises of confidence, and one manifestation of lack of confidence is the conviction that this time we’re not going to be able to climb our way out. --James Suroweicki, The New Yorker Magazine
So it may not be "the end of the world as we know it", folks. Let's let calmer heads prevail.
It was 1967 when Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. endured a hurricane of criticism when he came out publicly against the war in Vietnam and called the United States government “the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today.”
Fact is, he hadn't seen anything near what we've become in that respect.
Could there be a worse, more congested and so, dangerous intersection in the area than the mess that is I-435 West, out South, as it connects to I-35 North and South?
A one-lane exit ramp that comes off 3 or 4 lanes and goes into BOTH the North and South directions of I-35.
When not that many people lived out in Olathe and Gardner and Paola, it was fine but how many years ago was that?
I was out there a week or two ago and it was backed up at least a mile or more. And I believe it happens daily, Monday through Friday, at minimum.
Finally, with the Kansas State budget the way it is, don't expect a fix any time too soon. I can't imagine KDoT has money in the budget to tackle what would most surely be a multi-million dollar expansion, that would give more lanes to dump into I-35.
What is most stunning to me, just now, at this moment in time, is how totally disconnected most Americans around me are to the fact that so many fellow-Americans are falling in economic ranks and becoming part of the lower class, after having been formerly solidly middle-class their entire lives.
It seems no one is paying attention to what is happening to their/our country.
Read this and see if you don't agree that it sounds like something right out of Orwell's classic, "1984". He only missed us by a few years:
The psychological torture of Pvt. Bradley Manning—who has now been imprisoned for seven months without being convicted of any crime—mirrors the breaking of the dissident Winston Smith at the end of “1984.” Manning is being held as a “maximum custody detainee” in the brig at Marine Corps Base Quantico, in Virginia. He spends 23 of every 24 hours alone. He is denied exercise. He cannot have a pillow or sheets for his bed. Army doctors have been plying him with antidepressants. The cruder forms of torture of the Gestapo have been replaced with refined Orwellian techniques, largely developed by government psychologists, to turn dissidents like Manning into vegetables. We break souls as well as bodies. It is more effective. Now we can all be taken to Orwell’s dreaded Room 101 to become compliant and harmless. These “special administrative measures” are regularly imposed on our dissidents, including Syed Fahad Hashmi, who was imprisoned under similar conditions for three years before going to trial. The techniques have psychologically maimed thousands of detainees in our black sites around the globe. They are the staple form of control in our maximum security prisons where the corporate state makes war on our most politically astute underclass—African-Americans. It all presages the shift from Huxley to Orwell.
The façade is crumbling. And as more and more people realize that they have been used and robbed, we will move swiftly from Huxley’s “Brave New World” to Orwell’s “1984.” The public, at some point, will have to face some very unpleasant truths. The good-paying jobs are not coming back. The largest deficits in human history mean that we are trapped in a debt peonage system that will be used by the corporate state to eradicate the last vestiges of social protection for citizens, including Social Security. The state has devolved from a capitalist democracy to neo-feudalism. And when these truths become apparent, anger will replace the corporate-imposed cheerful conformity. The bleakness of our post-industrial pockets, where some 40 million Americans live in a state of poverty and tens of millions in a category called “near poverty,” coupled with the lack of credit to save families from foreclosures, bank repossessions and bankruptcy from medical bills, means that inverted totalitarianism will no longer work.
We increasingly live in Orwell’s Oceania, not Huxley’s The World State.
"The U.S. will spendmore on the war in Afghanistanthis year, adjusting for inflation, than we spent on the Revolutionary War, the War of 1812, the Mexican-American War, the Civil War and the Spanish-American War combined." --Nicholas Kristof,The New York Times
It's the holidays, technically, and I had some time on my hands, so I was putzing around out here on the internets, reading different things I wanted to check out when I ran across the following article, resplendent with facts, figures, statistics...
And a dire forecast. (Don't miss statistics no. 6 and 8, below, too--they're doozies).
The Working Poor
As the middle class in America continues to be slowly wiped out, the number of working poor continues to increase. Today, nearly one out of every three families in the United States is considered to be "low income". Millions of American families are finding that they can barely make it from month to month even with both parents working as hard as they possibly can. Blue collar American workers from coast to coast are having their wages decreased at a time when it seems like the cost of virtually every monthly bill is going up. Unfortunately, there is every indication that things are only going to get worse and that average American families are going to be financially squeezed even more in the months and years to come.
The Working Poor Families Project has just released their policy brief for the winter of 2010-11. What they have discovered is that the number of working poor in the United States is higher than they have ever seen it before and it continues to increase at a staggering pace. The following are some of the key findings for 2009 that were pulled right out of their report....
* There were more than 10 million low-income working families in the United States, an increase of nearly a quarter million from the previous year.
* Forty-five million people, including 22 million children, lived in low-income working families, an increase of 1.7 million people from 2008.
* Forty-three percent of working families with at least one minority parent were low income, nearly twice the proportion of white working families (22 percent).
* Income inequality continued to grow with the richest 20 percent of working families taking home 47 percent of all income and earning 10 times that of low-income working families.
* More than half of the U.S. labor force (55 percent) has “suffered a spell of unemployment, a cut in pay, a reduction in hours or have become involuntary part-time workers” since the recession began in December 2007.
Unfortunately, things are not going to be getting any better for the working poor. In the new "one world economy" that our politicians keep insisting is so good for us, millions upon millions of American workers now find that they have to compete for work with laborers on the other side of the globe that are willing to work for slave labor wages. This is causing millions of jobs to leave the United States and it is forcing wages down.
Millions of Americans now find that they are making substantially less than they used to. If that has happened to you, perhaps you can take comfort in the fact that you are not alone. Or perhaps it is not that comforting. In any event, American workers are not just competing with each other anymore. Now there is the constant threat that all the jobs could just be sent overseas.
As wages are forced down, a record number of working Americans are finding themselves forced to turn to food stamps and to other government anti-poverty programs. Millions of Americans have been forced to take part-time jobs in order to supplement their incomes. Millions of others have been forced to take part-time jobs because that is all they can find.
This is all part of a long-term trend. The numbers don't lie. About the only people doing well are those on Wall Street and the very rich. Nearly every other segment of the population is getting poorer.
The following are 10 statistics that I have shared previously, but I think that they do a really good job of highlighting the plight that the working poor in this country are now facing....
#1 In 2009, total wages, median wages, and average wages all declined in the United States.
#2 Since the year 2000, we have lost 10% of our middle class jobs. In the year 2000 there were about 72 million middle class jobs in the United States but today there are only about 65 million middle class jobs. Meanwhile, our population is getting larger.
#3 As 2007 began, only 26 million Americans were on food stamps, but now42 million Americans are on food stamps and that number keeps rising every single month.
Globalism has permanently changed the game. The middle class way of life that so many millions of Americans have been enjoying for so many decades is disappearing.
Just because things were a certain way yesterday does not mean that things are going to be the same way tomorrow. The long-term economic trends that this column keeps talking about day after day after day are taking us all to a very dark economic place.
But instead of facing reality, our federal government, our state governments and our local governments just keep borrowing massive amounts of dollars to try to paper over all of our problems.
It is not going to work. Unless something is done to fix our structural economic problems, the economic decay is just going to get worse and all of this debt is eventually going to collapse our entire financial system.
If you are a member of the working poor I wish I had better news for you. Things are not going to be getting better, and unfortunately millions more Americans will probably be joining you soon.
As I said, for clarification of what a "flash mob" is, compared to what happened here in town at Crown Center last week with the Hallelujah Chorus, notice how, in this group and their performance, it really did seem like a "flash". It seemed as though it was spontaneous and "just happened," as opposed to the few hundred people standing around, waiting for the beginning of the song here.
As I said earlier, too, don't get me wrong, I'm not knocking what happened with the chorus at all. In fact, I said it then and I'll say again, I wish I had been there. It just didn't seem like a "flash", that's all.
President Obama won the honor of being the man Americans admired most in 2010, according to a Gallup/USA Today pollreleased Monday.
Twenty-two percent of Americans surveyed said that the president is the person they hold in highest esteem, granting Obama the titled of "Most Admired Man" for the third year in a row in the annual survey.
What I can't figure?
George W. Bush placed second...
America, for a minute there, I gave you a lot of credit.
Have you seen these videos of the Philipine corrections institutions people, dancing to songs together?
I remember when these first came out--I think the first one I saw was of them doing Michael Jackson's "Thriller". It was a very popular video.
Anyway, at first, I only just enjoyed the video and was surprised. But then, with time, after seeing more and more of these videos, it got me to thinking--what a difference in cultures, the Philippine and ours in the US.
I feel it's fairly safe to say that you/we won't be seeing any such videos coming out of our penal system anytime soon. I think we Americans view "punishment" a great deal differently, by and large, than at least the Philippinos, if not most of the rest of the world.
Now, I don't know if, in their penal system, they have low-, medium- and high-security prisons, to begin, let alone if this is the low, mid- or high-security group show here. I assume it either is or is the equivalent of, our low-security level.
Anyway, this country, the Philippines, clearly sees a benefit to having and organizing these performances. I'm sure they see it as keeping everyone busy and giving them something to work towards and improve at, etc.
It will just never happen here in the US, for better or worse.
First, I think it's safe and fair to say we Americans think this is too feminine or just not masculine enough or some such.
Second, if you'll notice--and I'm sure you did, it was almost impossible to miss--there are both women and men dancing together here. That would never fly here in the States, unless I'm mistaken.
Third and finally, I think this would be viewed as letting these people have "too much fun" while they're incarcerated. Sure, they're locked up, but there they are, dancing away and having what looks to be far too much fun.
Between the dancing and the mixed-sex mingling, most Americans are going to see this as just far too much fun and not the reason people are incarcerated.
For better or worse, I just noticed the differences and couldn't help but point it out here.
We seem to be big on punishment and shorter on stressing and financing, as a country and culture, education.
Besides the excellent article yesterday in The New York Times on the need and intelligence of cutting the US' defense/military budget, there was another terrific one by Thomas L. Friedman (a last, before his 4 month sabbatical so he can write a book) on the hard choices we, as Americans, are going to have to start making if we're going to have balanced budgets. And a working society.
He cites one Kasim Reed, Atlanta, Georgia's relatively new Mayor and what he's done for and with the city. It's an important article and one which I'd recommend you read (see link below).
Rather than cover the article, I want to merely quote Mr. Reed here, as a lesson for mayors of cities, legislators in state and federal governments and even for you and me--"Mr., Mrs. and Ms. America", as it were:
“We are not going to be what we have been for the last 50 years if we don’t change, and everybody in a position to have more than two people listening to them needs to be saying that, because the time we have to make the adjustments is running out. We need to get on with it. Whether it’s the deficit, education or investing in young people or immigration — we are not tackling [them] in the fundamental ways required. We’re just doing it piecemeal. We’re just playing and surviving. And we need to be very clear where just surviving takes you: it takes you to a lifestyle of just survival.”
“The bottom line is that for the country to do and to be what we have been ... there must be a generation tough enough to stick out its chin and take the hit. ... It is time to begin having the types of mature and honest conversations necessary to deal effectively with the new economic realities we are facing as a nation. We simply cannot keep kicking the can down the road.”
"We are leaving an era where to be a mayor, governor, senator or president was, on balance, to give things away to people. And we are entering an era where to be a leader will mean, on balance, to take things away from people. It is the only way we’ll get our fiscal house in order before the market, brutally, does it for us." --Thomas L. Friedman, Columnist, The New York Times
There is an excellent article in The New York Times today, wherein a reporter (Javier Hernandez) writes briefly of and then interviews now-outgoing Chancellor of the New York School District Joel Klein.
Besides being an interesting look at an intelligent, hard-working guy who tried to help the students and school system, it reads as--possibly--a pretty good lesson, if you will, for our Kansas City School District Superintendent John Covington.
Mr. Klein's self-criticism: "We weren't bold enough."
(Understand, I'm not saying Mr. Covington is not being bold enough, by any means. He has done monumental work on this District.)
How cool (or spooky?) is this? I'm reading a review of the Coen brothers' new film, "True Grit", online at The New York Times. I finish and I suddenly, somewhat shockingly notice that there is a little box to the right of the end of the column, showing me I can scroll down through all the local--that's Kansas City--theaters, showing me exactly where and when this movie is playing.
The nation’s richest taxpayers just got a windfall in the federal tax deal extorted from President Obama by Republican senators. States should not shy away from asking for more help from those most able to pay.
Many governors claim tax increases are ill-advised during a recession, but more experienced economists say it is better to raise taxes on the rich than to lay off workers and cut spending, in effect offsetting Washington’s attempts at stimulus. The federal government missed a chance to begin to act rationally about its long-term deficit by giving away the store to the rich in the tax deal. States should not make the same mistake. --Editorial, today, The New York Times
• The United States maintains troops at more than 560 bases and other sites abroad, many of them a legacy of a world war that ended 65 years ago. Do we fear that if we pull our bases from Germany, Russia might invade?
• The intelligence community is so vast that more people have “top secret” clearance than live in Washington, D.C.
It's obscene, what we spend on defense and the military. In fact, let me go a step further--it's insane. It truly is crazy. It has no base in reality. (Absolutely no pun intended).
It makes no sense to spend this much on the military and on bases and weapons and weapons programs, not when nearly 10% of us are unemployed; Not when so many of us can't afford our own health care; Not when so many can't afford college educations. Not when our infrastructure needs so much investment; Not when we need to spend, far more wisely, on technology and research and development, instead, on computers and technology and that same health care I mentioned earlier and on our children's and grandchildren's futures; And it makes no sense at all, considering the budget deficits we have. The "military-industrial complex" is doing fantastically, thank you very much, while the rest of the country is going to hell in a handbasket. Well, except for the bankers, but that's another story. (There is even an editorial in the NY Times today, too, pointing out how short--in the billions--states are with their budgets and debts, yet we have military bases in Germany and Italy. It is lunacy).
Even people from the military are saying the same things, too, so don't think this is coming from "the Left", trying to make us "weak on defense":
“Republicans think banging the war drums wins them votes, and Democrats think if they don’t chime in, they’ll lose votes,” said Andrew Bacevich, an ex-military officer who now is a historian at Boston University. He is author of a thoughtful recent book, “Washington Rules: America’s Path to Permanent War.”
More: Let me be clear: I’m a believer in a robust military, which is essential for backing up diplomacy. But the implication is that we need a balanced tool chest of diplomatic and military tools alike. Instead, we have a billionaire military and a pauper diplomacy.The U.S. military now has more people in its marching bands than the State Department has in its foreign service — and that’s preposterous.
Now-former President Dwight D. Eisenhower had it right--and warned us--when he said "Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired, signifies in the final sense a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed."
I'm on Facebook, as any of my friends will tell you (oh, boy, am I ever) and I LOVE iPads and iPhones and iPods. (I had an old "Shuffle" but it broke. I want an iPad so badly it nearly hurts).
But I was killing some time this week and went into one of the remaining dinosaurs of our world, anymore.
I went into a private, small, local and locally-owned bookstore.
To be specific, I went into Rainy Day Books in Fairway. (It's not far from my daughter's house).
Just wandering the aisles, looking at all the different books, the sizes, the colors, the textures, the stories, everything, it occurred to me that this is what a computer or e-book "reader" doesn't give or deliver.
Sure, you can still hold your Kindle or whatever but the book? And the bookstore?
This is where I remain a luddite. Or druid, or something.
Give me that "old time religion" of the book, with all its texture and maybe even clumsiness.
KIPTUSURI, Kenya — For Sara Ruto, the desperate yearning for electricity began last year with the purchase of her first cellphone, a lifeline for receiving small money transfers, contacting relatives in the city or checking chicken prices at the nearest market.
Charging the phone was no simple matter in this farming village far from Kenya’s electric grid.
Every week, Ms. Ruto walked two miles to hire a motorcycle taxi for the three-hour ride to Mogotio, the nearest town with electricity. There, she dropped off her cellphone at a store that recharges phones for 30 cents. Yet the service was in such demand that she had to leave it behind for three full days before returning.
That wearying routine ended in February when the family sold some animals to buy a small Chinese-made solar power system for about $80. Now balanced precariously atop their tin roof, a lone solar panel provides enough electricity to charge the phone and run four bright overhead lights with switches.
As small-scale renewable energy becomes cheaper, more reliable and more efficient, it is providing the first drops of modern power to people who live far from slow-growing electricity grids and fuel pipelines in developing countries. Although dwarfed by the big renewable energy projects that many industrialized countries are embracing to rein in greenhouse gas emissions, these tiny systems are playing an epic, transformative role.
Okay, so two things need to be taken from this article, I think.
The first is that it proves we can do this, very nearly house by house, here in the States. We don't need to--and shouldn't--wait for our big power grid corporation to go solar. We can and should do it on, with and for our own houses, one by one. To heck with the big energy company.
Again, from the article: With the advent of cheap solar panels and high-efficiency LED lights, which can light a room with just 4 watts of power instead of 60, these small solar systems now deliver useful electricity at a price that even the poor can afford, he noted. “You’re seeing herders in Inner Mongolia with solar cells on top of their yurts,” Mr. Younger said.
The second take-away is that the solar panel the woman got for her African village hut was from, gulp, China.
We need to get busy, folks, right here in the good old US of A on big time solar power technology and production.
As the President pointed out many times.
As I said in an earlier post this month---we can do this.
What's great about Christmas--and getting older--is that, once you've learned that giving is what it's all about and you've accepted that, long ago, you also get to the point where re-connecting with long-time friends is what Christmas and the holidays is all about, too.
And here's where technology comes in and helps.
Yesterday, I texted "Merry Christmas" to every friend I had in my phone, and for whom it was appropriate and warranted. Naturally, I wanted to make sure it wasn't a nuisance to any. ( hope and assume it wasn't).
And I think I surprised--pleasantly surprised--some of those old friends. Several, at least, I think and in fact.
Some had moved away.
Others I just hadn't spoken to in a long time.
It was nice.
I hope you re-connected--or that you do--this holiday season.
An analysis of more than a hundred thousand documents recently leaked by a disgruntled elf has revealed several surprising facts about the North Pole’s most famous citizen.
· Santa and several top elves colluded to circumvent a ban on Chinese-made toys, despite pressure from the North Pole community to deliver only toys made locally.
· Santa has, over the years, acted to undermine potential successors, privately disparaging one of his nephews as “lazy,” another as “not really committed to the whole Christmas thing,” and yet another as “incapable of growing a beard of the appropriate size, if you know what I mean.”
· Senior North Pole officials were astonished when an elf in Santa’s cabinet proposed halting a long-standing program monitoring pouting and crying. “For years, we’ve been telling people that they’d better not do this,” one said in a confidential cable, “and now we’re removing all restrictions? What’s next? Decriminalizing the failure to watch out?”
· After Santa suffered a serious hip injury, in the late seventies, the Prime Minister of Norway offered him access to several chimneys to conduct entrance and egress exercises.
· A reported mixup in 2004 that brought eleven-year-old Jack Keller, of Seattle, a book of math games instead of a football was not accidental: Santa was sending a message.
· During home visits last Christmas, Santa spied on the C.E.O.s of several Fortune 500 companies, and collected personal data including but not limited to credit-card and frequent-flier numbers.
· The song “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus” has more basis in truth than was previously thought; elves worried for years about Santa’s philandering, which began to decrease only recently, after Mrs. Claus discovered an illicit text message from an Arizona school-board member.
· Santa doesn’t enjoy going to certain St. Louis suburbs. “They just give me the creeps,” he told one top elf.
· Most cookies left out for Santa end up being fed to the reindeer.
· In 2007, Santa suppressed the delivery of gifts to more than a thousand residents of Los Angeles as a result of his displeasure with the movie “Fred Claus.”
· Just this year, Santa accepted a payment of twelve million dollars to keep Charlie Sheen on the “nice” list.
· A potential environmental disaster was kept secret by the North Pole in 2008, after a large bag filled with painted blocks from Vietnam fell from Santa’s sleigh into the Anglezarke reservoir, in Lancashire, raising fears of lead contamination. Elves with scuba gear and flashlights were sent in to retrieve the blocks under cover of night.
· Contrary to popular belief, Santa cannot really tell when you’re sleeping or when you’re awake, but he will fly into a rage if his ability to do so is questioned. ♦
If you didn't think China was a big enough player already in the world economies and markets and weren't concerned about where they already are and where they're headed, maybe you should be now.
First, a definition: "rare earth" materials are in chemistry, oxides of therare-earth metals. They were once thought to be elements themselves. They are widely distributed in the earth's crust and are fairly abundant, although they were once thought to be very scarce. Generally, the name of an earth is formed from the name of its element by replacing-umwith-a; e.g., the earth of cerium is ceria. Mixed rare earths are used in glassmaking, ceramic glazes, glass-polishing abrasives, carbon arc-light electrode cores, and catalysts for petroleum refining. Individual purified rare earths have many uses, e.g., in laser, fiber-optic transmission amplifiers, and night-vision goggles. Important rare-earth minerals include bastnasite, cerite, euxenite, gadolinite, monazite, and samarskite.
There are 17 of them, too, by the way.
Okay, that said, there's two more things you need to know about these "rare earths", as they are called.
First, they're needed for new technology products: The 17 rare earth elements are used in high-tech electronics, magnets and batteries, with applications in hybrid cars, renewable energy, computer monitors and weapons.
The second--and maybe most important thing you need to know about these rare earths is that China controls 97 percent of global supplies of the elements and, oh yeah, they use quotas and taxes to limit exports.
Can you say "Got the world by the cajone's?"
China slashed the export quota by 40 percent this year and plans to trim it further next year. It has already announced increased export taxes on rare earths in 2011.
China's export restrictions have caused "world prices for some of the rare earths to rise dramatically higher than China's domestic prices," which has hindered efforts in other countries to develop expertise in the manufacturing of clean technology products, USTR said.
"In September 2010, China reportedly imposed a de facto ban on all exports of rare earths to Japan, causing even more concern among China's trading partners," USTR said.
China says its curbs are for environmental reasons and to manage supplies.
Outside of an out-and-out, old-fashioned war, can you imagine a better way to both bring the rest of the world to its knees or to control where technology is going than by owning and controlling---and limiting the distribution of--these rare earths?
Hang on to your hats, folks, the next century looks like it's gonna' be a bumpy ride.
Even if you ignore the fact that Republicans are taking over the House of Representatives next January.