December 19, 2012

ARA Libertad finally free to sail home from Ghana

Filed under: Africa, Americas, Government, Military — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 15:05

If you’ve been following the debt-related travails of the Argentine navy’s flagship, you’ll recall that the ship was impounded on a visit to Ghana back in October. The BBC is now reporting that the ship has been released, and Argentinian sailors will be able to take the frigate home after a UN court decision:

The Libertad set sail from Ghana’s main port of Tema after a United Nations court last week ordered its release.

Argentina sent almost 100 navy personnel to man the three-masted training ship.

It was impounded after a financial fund said it was owed money by Argentina’s government as a result of a debt default a decade ago.

[. . .]

In November, sailors on board the Libertad reportedly pulled guns on Ghanaian officials when they tried to board the vessel to move it to another berth.

The lengthy diplomatic row began when the ship was prevented from leaving Ghana on 2 October, after a local court ruled in favour of financial fund NML Capital. The fund is a subsidiary of US hedge fund Elliot Capital Management which is one of Argentina’s former creditors.

Initial report on the seizure here and here.

Clever wording can’t take away an enumerated constitutional right

Filed under: Law, Liberty, Politics, USA — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 13:54

Megan McArdle on the pious hopes of those who hope to bring in draconian gun control regulation by abstruse and intricate verbal gymnastics:

Others are suggesting a de-facto ban, accomplished either through a huge tax, or a ban on ammunition. Oh, I’ve also seen calls to limit the amount of ammunition people can buy, but I don’t think those people have thought this through. For starters, the number of bullets used by a typical rampage shooter is about what a target shooter or hunter might go through in an afternoon or two of range practice. And most gun homicides are not rampage shootings; they have one or two victims, and a correspondingly small number of cartridges expended. Moreover, even a very strict per-purchase limit would permit people to accumulate ammunition over time.

No, the people who want to tax guns at 17,000%, or ban ammunition, or make cartridges cost $2,000 apiece, are the only ones hinting at something that might make a real dent in America’s unusually high rate of gun homicide. Except for one thing: you can’t do an end-run around an enumerated right with some sort of semantic game. Chief Justice John Roberts is not Rumplestiltskin; he is not bound by the universe to disappear if you can only find the correct secret word.

You cannot accomplish back-door censorship by taxing at 100% all profits of any news corporation named after a “carnivorous mammal of the dog family with a pointed muzzle and bushy tail, proverbial for its cunning.” You cannot curtail the right to protest by requiring instant background checks and a 90-day waiting period on anyone who wants to assemble with 500 of their friends in a public area. Nor can you restrict the supply of ink used to print Korans. If you pass a law like that, the Supreme Court will say “nice try, guys” and void all the painstakingly constructed verbal origami that was supposed to make civil liberties infringement look like an innocent exercise of the taxing power.

Leslie Frazier, calm man in a crazy job

Filed under: Football — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 09:12

At the Star Tribune, Jim Souhan explains why Vikings head coach Leslie Frazier deserves consideration for coach of the year … and a contract extension:

That Frazier has won eight games this season after winning three in 2011 is impressive, but it is not nearly as impressive as his ability to becalm a franchise that has given “Chaos Theory” a bad name.

In the past year or so, Frazier has dealt with a major injury to franchise player Adrian Peterson. He has dealt with the great Percy Harvin complaining during a minicamp and on the sideline in Seattle, then being lost for the season.

Frazier has managed a struggling young quarterback. He has replaced one of his hand-picked coordinators. He has faced down a midseason slump that could have unraveled the team.

Now, 14 games into his first full season following an offseason not limited by a lockout, Frazier has positioned the Vikings to compete for a playoff spot. His team is 8-6 despite Christian Ponder’s erratic play and the loss of Harvin. Young players have improved. Role players have contributed.

Frazier has accelerated the development of a rebuilding team while turning major disruptions into nothing more than minor annoyances.

He is the first Vikings coach since Grant who can turn potential controversies into footnotes. Had Harvin screamed on the sideline at Childress or Tice, the story would have become a national talking point. With Frazier, the story withered on the vine.

Frazier is giving Wilf the competitive team he craves and the class organization he demands. He is winning games in December with a team considered a year or two away from contention. He and General Manager Rick Spielman are following a methodical blueprint that should lead to sustainable success.

Not all submarines are equal

Filed under: Military, Technology, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 09:02

Strategy Page on the US Navy’s need to work with — and even consider buying — modern diesel-electric submarines:

The U.S. Navy continues to debate the issue of just how effective non-nuclear submarines would be in wartime, and whether the U.S. should buy some of these non-nuclear boats itself. This radical proposal is based on two compelling factors. First, the U.S. Navy may not get enough money to maintain a force of 40-50 SSNs (attack subs.) Second, the quietness of modern diesel-electric boats puts nuclear subs at a serious disadvantage, especially in coastal waters. With modern passive sensors, a submerged diesel-electric sub is often the best weapon for finding and destroying other diesel-electric boats. While the nuclear sub is the most effective high seas vessel, especially if you have worldwide responsibilities and these nukes would have to quickly move long distances to get to the troubled waters, the diesel electric boat, operating on batteries in coastal waters, is quieter and harder to find.

[. . .]

For much of the past decade the U.S. Navy has been trying to get an idea of just how bad the threat it. Thus from 2005 to 2007 the United States leased a Swedish sub (Sweden only has five subs in service), and its crew, to help American anti-submarine forces get a better idea of what they were up against. This Swedish boat was a “worst case” scenario, an approach that is preferred for training. The Gotland class Swedish subs involved are small (1,500 tons, 64.5 meters/200 feet long) and have a crew of only 25. The Gotland was based in San Diego, along with three dozen civilian technicians to help with maintenance.

For many years before the Gotland arrived, the U.S. Navy had trained against Australian diesel-electric subs, and often came out second. The Gotland has one advantage over the Australian boats, because of its AIP system (which allows it to stay under water, silently, for several weeks at a time). Thus the Gotland is something of a worst case in terms of what American surface ships and submarines might have to face in a future naval war. None of America’s most likely naval opponents (China, North Korea or Iran), have AIP boats yet, but they do have plenty of diesel-electric subs which, in the hands of skilled crews, can be pretty deadly.

Exiting gracefully from Instagram

Filed under: Business, Media — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 00:02

Lots of folks are furious about Instagram’s recently announced changes to their terms of service. If you’re an Instagram user and don’t want to sign up for the changed TOS, here’s Roberto Baldwin‘s recent Wired How-To on rescuing your Instagram photos and closing your account:

First you’ll want to download all of your photos. Instaport will download your entire Instagram photo library in just a few minutes. Currently the service only offers a zip file download of your photos, although direct export to Flickr and Facebook are in the works.

Once the photos are downloaded, you can upload them to another photo service. Some of the Gadget Lab staff is fond of the new Flickr app and service.

After you’ve removed your photos from Instagram, you can quickly delete your account and pretend you’ve never even heard of Lo-Fi filter.

But once you delete your account, that’s it. Instagram cannot reactivate deactivated accounts and you will not be able to sign up for Instagram later with the same account name.

H/T to Nick Packwood for the link.

Update: Charles Cooper at CNET News:

From the outset, let’s note a couple of points that ought to be abundantly clear to anyone watching the unfolding controversy about the upcoming changes to Instagram’s terms of use.

A) Instagram — and thus by definition, Facebook, the site’s corporate parent — is entirely within its rights to change the terms of use governing how photos uploaded by people using the service get used.

B) Facebook’s management is comprised of incredibly smart folks.

Given that A and B are true, the powers that be who are running the company must either be amazingly tone deaf or crazy as loons.

It’s obviously not the latter, so we’re left with the conclusion that the people at the top, so impressed by the sound of their own voices, have lost touch with the people who helped turn them into gazillionaires — in other words, the users.

The “digital divide” didn’t play out quite the way they thought

Filed under: Economics, Education, Gaming, Media, Technology, USA — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 00:01

In Gregg Easterbrook‘s weekly NFL column, he often discusses non-football topics like this one:

A decade ago — perhaps as recently as five years ago — analysts and educators feared a “digital divide” in which the affluent have access to advancing electronics and the disadvantaged do not, granting the affluent yet another edge in life’s contest. But what if the reverse has happened?

[. . .]

That made this article striking, with research showing children from disadvantaged families now waste more time with video games and on the Internet than do children from affluent homes. Publicly subsidized programs to provide computers and Internet to the disadvantaged were rationalized as tools for education. How are they actually used? The article quotes Vicky Rideout, author of a study on the subject, saying, “Despite the educational potential of computers, the reality is that their use for education or meaningful content creation is minuscule compared to their use for pure entertainment.”

Video games are a really tempting way to avoid studying. If they had been around when I was a teen, there’s no way I would have read so many books or spent three or four hours after school each day at the high school, doing extracurriculars and sports. I might instead have wasted my time with electronics.

Girls and women are taking over college admissions; 57 percent of undergraduate students at four-year colleges are female. There are many reasons, and surely one is that teen girls waste less time on video games than teen boys do. If disadvantaged teen boys are wasting more time than affluent teen boys, that makes the picture worse.

Conservative commentators often “harrumph” about rising living standards for the disadvantaged, many of whom now have air conditioning, laptops and other items once associated with affluence. It’s good that living standards are rising, and it’s good that the digital divide is disappearing. The spread of computers and Internet service into disadvantaged homes creates equity in access to the information and services available on the Web. But society needs to be aware of the downsides of electronics. Those computer and software gifts being opened this holiday season might, especially for teen boys, backfire.

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