American Elephants


Did Obama Just Turn the Page on The Complications of the Middle East? by The Elephant's Child

The Saudi royal family are building a 600 mile barrier to fortify the northern frontier of the kingdom. The fence will have radar surveillance towers, command centers and guard posts aiming to protect the Saudi’s oil-rich kingdom from ISIS. There was a suicide bombing and gun attack a week ago which killed two Saudi border guards and their commanding officer. No group claimed responsibility but the attack in a remote desert area came from Iraq’s Anbar province. Relations between Iraq and Saudi Arabia are reportedly deeply strained.

The fence will be built in five layers with razor wire fencing, then a razor wire pyramid, underground movement sensors, then another razor wire fence in top of sand bank, There will be 40 watchtowers equipped with radars and day and night cameras, 7 command and control towers, 18 communication towers and 32 military response stations, 240 rapid response vehicles and 10 surveillance vehicles, not to count patrolling aircraft. I think they mean business.

The capture of the Holy Mosques at Medina and Mecca is reported to be a key ISIS objective. Saudi Arabia is a Wahhabi kingdom. The Royal government is Sunni and there is a significant Shiia minority.

The Wall Street Journal’s weekend interview with Prince Alwaleed bin Talal last November suggested that the Saudi royal family was not happy with the Obama administration’s approach to the Middle East. One of some three dozen living grandsons of the first Saudi King Abdulaziz, this prince is the Arab world’s richest businessman.

The Saudis are deeply concerned about Iran’s efforts to build their nuclear program. They have pre-emptively  condemned any agreement that does not dismantle Iran’s ability to enrich uranium and build a bomb. If Iran does go nuclear, Saudi Arabia would not be far behind. When the U.S. distanced itself from Egypt after the military coup, Russia offered Cairo arms and support.

Here at home, President Obama is “turning the page.” He is still bragging about departing from Iraq and Afghanistan without any sense of his own responsibility for the rise if ISIS. His response:

Will we approach the world fearful and reactive, dragged into costly conflicts that strain our military and set back our standing? Or will we lead wisely, using all elements of our power to defeat new threats and protect our planet?

Congress wants to get a little better information and has invited Bibi Netanyahu to speak to them. The White House is offended.



King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia Has Died at Age 90 by The Elephant's Child

saudiking

King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz al Saud of Saudi Arabia has died at the age of 90, according to a statement from the Royal Court.

Abdullah’s half-brother, Crown Prince Salman, who is 79 years old, was declared king and Prince Mugrin, 69, became crown prince. He became  governor of Riyadh Province in 1962 and ruled the province until 2011 when he became defense minister. He has played an increasingly prominent role in Saudi politics. He is known to favor close political and economic ties with the West.

Most of us know little about the very conservative desert kingdom. The modern kingdom of Saudi Arabia was founded only in 1932. Abdullah had to steer the alliance with America through the 9/11 terror attacks. The kingdom was home to 15 of the 19 hijackers and many pointed out that the ideology of al-Qaeda stemmed from Saudi Arabia’s Wahhabi interpretation of Islam.

When al-Qaeda militants began a wave of violence in the kingdom in 2003 aimed at toppling the monarchy, Abdullah cracked down hard. Security forces battled militants for 3 years, finally forcing them to retreat to Yemen. Abdullah had worked steadily to slowly modernize the kingdom. He was a strong supporter of education, building universities at home and increasing scholarships for students of both sexes.

He also moved to open greater opportunities for women to participate. He gave women seats on the Shura Council, an  unelected body that advises the king and government. Small steps, but big within the kingdom, where the Wahhabi clerics who hold near total sway over society and give the Saud family’s rule religious legitimacy. State-run TV has begun playing music, forbidden for decades. Small careful steps.

Abdullah had 30 children from around 12 wives.



Surprising Life Found Underneath Antarctica! by The Elephant's Child

A team of ice-drillers and scientists in Antarctica have bored a hole through 740 meter thick ice of  a back corner of the Ross Ice Shelf — a slab of glacial ice the size of France that hangs off the coastline of Antarctica and floats on the ocean. The remote water they tapped sits beneath the back corner of the shelf, where the shelf meets what would be the shore of Antarctica if there weren’t any ice. The spot where they drilled sits 850 kilometers from the outer edge of the ice shelf — the nearest place where the ocean lies in sunlight that allows tiny plankton to grow and create a food chain. The animals inhabit a wedge of seawater only 10 meters deep sealed between the ice above and a barren, rocky seafloor below. Scientific American reports on the startling discovery.

They lowered a small custom-build robot down the hole they had bored through the ice sheet. They were stunned to find fish and other aquatic animals living in perpetual darkness and cold underneath 740 meters of glacial ice. They had expected to find nothing but possible scant microbial life.

Ross Powell, a 63-year-old glacial geologist from Northern Illinois University co-led the expedition with two other scientists. “I’ve worked in this area for my whole career” he said — studying the underbellies where glaciers flow into oceans. “You get the picture of these areas having very little food, being desolate, not supporting much life.” Yet the ecosystem has managed somehow to survive incredibly far from sunlight, the source of energy that drives most life on earth.

Fish_1_lowrezThis is the first low-resolution image of a translucent fish that they discovered where it seemed no life should exist. The image reveals two black eyes and various organs visible as colored blobs.
Credit: Whillans Ice Stream Subglacial Access Research Drilling Project   




%d bloggers like this: