Thursday, April 27, 2006

Eruption coming

Indonesian Volcano Could Erupt Any Day

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April 27,2006 | JAKARTA, Indonesia -- Indonesia's rumbling Mount Merapi is spewing volcanic ash, magma has fully covered its crater, and a powerful eruption could come any day, a scientist said Thursday.

Authorities said, however, they were not ready to raise the alert to the highest level, which requires immediate evacuation of villagers living on the slopes of the 9,700-foot peak.

The mountain, one of the most active in Indonesia, is still in phase two, they said.

"It's close to eruption," said Dewi Sri, a vulcanologist at a monitoring post near Merapi's peak.

"The crater is fully covered by magma," she said, predicting "an enormous and dreadful eruption" within days.

I remember after Mount St. Helens erupted, that all the way in San Jose, the sky was sooty grey for several days. Can events like this trigger earthquakes, too?

China in Africa

The Associated Press reports that China has signed agreements with Nigeria, and announced they'll "seek closer ties with Africa," to exploit Africa's oil and other resources.

By DULUE MBACHU Associated Press Writer

April 27,2006 | ABUJA, Nigeria -- Chinese President Hu Jintao said Thursday his government will seek closer ties with Africa -- a resource-rich frontier of opportunity for the world's fastest growing economy -- after signing oil and other agreements with Nigeria.

Hu, on the second and final day of his visit to the West African nation, said China is seeking "a strategic partnership" with the continent that would improve living standards for Africa, he said.

China's interest and growing profile has worried Western rivals -- among them countries who may feel their colonial ties should give them an advantage -- for Africa's resources and markets. And some Africans have complained about being flooded with cheap Chinese goods.

:D) Don't you love it? Hey, you guys too?

Nigeria is the top African producer of crude and the seventh largest in the world, normally pumping 2.5 million barrels per day and was the first sub-Saharan Africa stop on a tour that has included the United States, Saudi Arabia and Morocco.

Hu and his Nigerian counterpart Olusegun Obasanjo have signed an agreement that requires Nigeria's Petroleum Ministry to give China's state oil firm preferential access to oil blocks in return for a Chinese undertaking to take over a loss-making refinery in the northern city of Kaduna.

China's economy is growing so fast, its leaders have taken steps to avoid inflation or ballooning bad loans. Growth hit 10.2 percent in the first quarter, and China is hungry for the energy, timber, minerals and other raw materials Africa can provide.

"By the year 2020 ... GDP would quadruple that of 2000 to reach $4 trillion, averaging $3,000 per head," Hu said.

In other deals, Chinese firms will build a hydroelectric power station in the northeastern Mambilla plateau and a fast rail system linking the Nigerian capital Abuja with the economic capital, Lagos.

Two Chinese telecommunication firms, Huawei Technologies and ZTE, will execute large contracts for rural telephone service across Nigeria with the help of concessionary loans from the Chinese government worth more than $200 million.

In January, China's state-controlled oil firm CNOOC announced it had reached a deal to pay $2.3 billion for a 45-percent state in a Nigerian offshore oil field.

In the last five years, China's trade with Africa has grown fourfold to $40 billion in 2005.

I've always said two things about China: first, that their aim is, while not to expand, to retake Taiwan (therefore, their expansion has a military goal); second, that if they were smart (though yes, they are smart), they would forget all about retaking Taiwan, and realize that the modern battlefield is the economic and financial battlefield.

Most people I've discussed it with say that they do indeed recognize that. It may well be true, and if so, they're acting with alacrity to win those battles, while we content ourselves with occasionally going to war. With all the gentlemanly agreements, diplomacy, and sometimes bullying, that the Chinese are doing in Africa, Asia, the mideast (Iran) and the South Pacific, what are we doing? We, uh--well we went to war with Iraq. Maybe Iran soon. Anything else? (clearing throat) Guys?

I still think that China, surrounded as they are by several nuclear countries, several unstable countries, several hostile countries, and several countries with million-man armies (I think they border 19 countries, several of which they've gone to war with in the last several decades), has security and military concerns much more in the forefront. We can afford to think primarily of our economy, we're sheltered by two oceans (well three, the Arctic too) and a thin land bridge, beyond which lie countries unlikely to invade us or have border disputes with us. But China's economy is growing crazily, though with uneven results (they have a growing middle class, I think, but their peasantry and country people are getting squeezed by bandits, just the way they did before the Communists). For us, our middle class has been squeezed to death along with our poor, and I think that over the last five years, we've lost a couple of million jobs, net. So if they are focusing primarily on the economic battlefield, they're winning, hands down.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Don't Nuke Iran

Our government is kicking around the idea of nuking Iran. I feel this would be an atrocity that would shame us for many years to come. Don't do it.

I'm afraid that the lines for World War III have been drawn. The alliance between China, Russia and Iran worries me. But there is a human tragedy in a world war that is so monumental that it can't be explained away. Let us not be responsible for this.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Iran and its Missiles

In this story from several years ago in, Iran's scientists have trained in Russia, learning their missile technology. Interesting development. Iran, 100 years ago and more, often viewed Russia with much alarm, as a bear encroaching on their backyard. But they've apparently become quite cozy, as Iran has with the Chinese as well.

Recently, Iran tested its new Hut missile, a high-speed waterborne missile, which matches what was heretofore the fastest such missile in the world. Why, goodness me: it was a Russian missile that used to be the fastest. Goodness gracious, what a coincidence.