Since the very first Snowden leak a year ago, one of the more common refrains from defenders of the program is "but it's just metadata, not actual content, so what's the big deal?" Beyond the fact that other programs do collect content, we've pointed out time and time again that the "just metadata, don't worry" argument only makes sense if you don't know what metadata reveals. Anyone with any knowledge of the subject knows that metadata reveals a ton of private info. Furthermore, we've even pointed out that the NSA regularly uses "just metadata" to pick targets for drone assassinations. As one person called it: "death by unreliable metadata."

The US and British militaries insist that this is such an expert program, but it's curious that they feel the need to deliver faulty information, few or no statistics about civilian deaths and twisted technology reports on the capabilities of our UAVs. These specific incidents are not isolated, and the civilian casualty rate has not changed, despite what our defense representatives might like to tell us.

The 342-page report warns of civil war, a humanitarian crisis or even war with China. That becomes an even more deadly concern because of the North’s chemical, biological and nuclear weapons.

The news broke this morning that the NSA (US), the GCHQ (UK), and the FRA (Sweden) have been actively working to subvert the cryptography that makes our society tick, by planting backdoors in most if not all commercial cryptography software. This means that these agencies have deliberately made all of us vulnerable as we conduct our banking business, as we go to the hospital, and as we talk privately online. Our society depends on our ability to keep secrets, and the deliberate planting of backdoors, the deliberate subversion of our infrastructure, is nothing short of a declaration of war. Even according to U.S. Generals.

The Pentagon has concluded that the time has come to prepare for war with China, and in a manner well beyond crafting the sort of contingency plans that are expected for wide a range of possible confrontations. It is a momentous conclusion that will shape the United States’ defense systems, force posture, and overall strategy for dealing with the economically and militarily resurgent China. Thus far, however, the military’s assessment of and preparations for the threat posed by China have not received the high level of review from elected civilian officials that such developments require. The start of a second Obama administration provides an opportunity for civilian authorities to live up to their obligations in this matter and to conduct a proper review of the United States’ China strategy and the military’s role in it.

For me the idea that humanity is the only glimmer of intelligence in the universe makes all our petty squabbles and politics more damning. It means that the people in power are risking stakes they cannot comprehend for gains so short term that they're not even visible on a geological scale, much less a cosmic one. Imagine all that humanity could accomplish, the colonies of life and reason spreading throughout the cosmos, every planet we visit and terraform would bring new and unique life into the universe, imagine the wonders we could create and then realize that we risk it all over things which won't matter in 40 years or which would be better solved using reason. Add to it the fact that we risk all of that potential not only for ourselves but for the universe at large, and it is an awesome responsibility.

The First World War was an unprecedented catastrophe that killed millions and set the continent of Europe on the path to further calamity two decades later. But it didn’t come out of nowhere. With the centennial of the outbreak of hostilities coming up in 2014, Erik Sass will be looking back at the lead-up to the war, when seemingly minor moments of friction accumulated until the situation was ready to explode. He'll be covering those events 100 years after they occurred. This is the 78th installment in the series.

Both schools of thought, however, assume that the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki with new, more powerful weapons did coerce Japan into surrendering on August 9. They fail to question the utility of the bombing in the first place -- to ask, in essence, did it work? The orthodox view is that, yes, of course, it worked. The United States bombed Hiroshima on August 6 and Nagasaki on August 9, when the Japanese finally succumbed to the threat of further nuclear bombardment and surrendered. The support for this narrative runs deep. But there are three major problems with it, and, taken together, they significantly undermine the traditional interpretation of the Japanese surrender.

My North Korean name is Shin In-kun (South Korean name: Shin Dong-hyuk). I was born on 19 November 1982. I was a political prisoner at birth in North Korea.

Two foundational beliefs have colored our views of nuclear weapons since the end of World War 2; one, that they were essential or at least very significant for ending the war, and two, that they have been and will continue to be linchpins of deterrence. These beliefs have, in one way or another, guided all our thinking about these mythic creations. Ward Wilson who is at the Monterey Institute of International Studies wants to demolish these and other myths about nukes in a new book titled “5 Myths about Nuclear Weapons“, and I have seen few volumes which deliver their message so effectively in such few words. Below are Wilson’s thoughts about the two dominant nuclear myths interspersed with a few of my own.

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