M-J Milloy has sent word

that he’s going to devote a significant amount of attention to the developing Asian Bird flu (H5N1) story on his new blog EPIDEMIca. M-J was a top-notch investigative reporter who changed his life to pursue an interest in infectious diseases – I can’t think of a better combo for someone who’s going to sift through the news and rumours about this potentially civilization-altering story.

The current outbreak in Thailand, Vietnam and China of bird flu – the H5N1 variety of the influenza virus – could be the start of a global pandemic of the flu. All public-health officials believe that the world is overdue for a pandemic, like those that killed hundreds of millions in 1918 and 1967. So far, bird flu has infected and killed only a few score of humans, but if the avian influenza virus mutates and acquires the ability to be transmitted from human to human, and not just from infected birds to humans, a pandemic will likely explode.

The Economist published

a piece that looks at the problems with introducing high-tech passports: Border controls. From last month.

The World Economy will ROCK:

Will Bono’s next gig be World Bank president? I seriously doubt it, but this story is getting some serious press at the moment.

Sy Hersh is at it again:

The Coming Wars: What the Pentagon can now do in secret. “The President has signed a series of findings and executive orders authorizing secret commando groups and other Special Forces units to conduct covert operations against suspected terrorist targets in as many as ten nations in the Middle East and South Asia.”

Details of the Red Cross report

about the Guantanamo prison facility have leaked, and they’re not pretty: Red Cross Finds Detainee Abuse in Guantánamo.

Must-read:

at the Daily Kos: Terrorist Strategy 101. Very cogent and concise description of what’s going on and why the current policies do not address the issues adequately.
By Pericles, aka Doug Muder.

There’s no surer signal

that a leader is dead than the denials. Well today we have a whopper: Doctors Deny Reports of Arafat’s Death.

Update: Arafat actually held on for a lot longer than expected, but now (Nov 11) he has finally slipped out of his coma. Any prognostications on the what this means for the future of the region would be wild speculation at this point.

Josh Marshall

has published a post with an extended quote from his own article in The Atlantic this summer that very clearly makes the distinction between the two foreign policy stances at play in this election. I wonder if John Robb has a reaction to this. Unfortunately for me I haven’t been following his site closely enough of late.

My own view is that non-state actors and others outside the state system were some of the prime movers, though often hidden, behind most if not all of the battles of the latter period of the Cold War. The fighting occurred within the context of the state system, with one side or the other jockeying for control of one of the dozens of proxies for either the US or the Soviet Union, but that doesn’t mean it was just an extension of earlier state-centric battles. Just because groups were coopted by one side or the other doesn’t obviate the fact that there were a lot of non-state actors of great – primary -significance. Iran-Contra, Afghanistan in the Soviet era, the rise of narco-terrorists in Columbia and elsewhere in Central America – all of these involved non-state actors and weren’t primarily about a state per se but much more diffuse control and power issues. You might say I agree with the Democratic vision as expressed in the article and would take the analysis even further.

The latest US Chief

Weapons Inspector for Iraq has produced his report – remember David Kay’s report wasn’t good enough for this administration – and it goes from bad to worse. According to the Washington Post, the report discounts the Iraqi arms threat and that Saddam wanted WMDs, but had no concrete plans or program to develop them.

Via DangerousMeta

comes a choice quote by Dick Cheney: “And the question in my mind is how many additional American casualties is Saddam Hussein worth? And the answer is not very damned many. So I think we got it right, both when we decided to expel him from Kuwait [in 1991], but also when the president made the decision that we’d achieved our objectives and we were not going to go get bogged down in the problems of trying to take over and govern Iraq…” Read the whole quote in The Australian.