TOP SECRET: Your Briefing on the CIA’s Cold-War Spy Satellite, ‘Big Bird’ – Alexis Madrigal – Technology – The Atlantic

Here’s your mission, should you choose to accept it: build a camera that can take high-resolution photographs of the Earth from orbit and return them to the Central Intelligence Agency. There’s only one catch: you don’t get to use a computer or a single kilobyte of network bandwidth.

That’s the task that the United States government gave to a group of engineers at the optical instruments company Perkin-Elmer in Danbury, Connecticut at the height of the Cold War. It was October 1966 and the new development of the new satellite system, Hexagon, was underway. The project was a follow-on to very successful Corona satellite program and a complement to the higher-resolution Gambit satellite.

All these programs required 315,000 feet of film to be dropped in re-entry vehicles from orbit and retrieved in mid-air by U.S. forces. Gambit and Hexagon were declassified late this year, and its engineers were profiled this week by the Associated Press.

TOP SECRET: Your Briefing on the CIA’s Cold-War Spy Satellite, ‘Big Bird’ – Alexis Madrigal – Technology – The Atlantic

China’s Shaky Economic Foundation – NYTimes.com

As the Wukan protests evolved into an international media event, a provincial party official, under pressure from Beijing, stepped in and swiftly negotiated a truce acceptable to the villagers. This week Prime Minister Wen Jiabao asserted that “China can no longer sacrifice farmers’ land rights for the sake of reducing the cost of urbanization and industrialization.”

Once again China’s leadership has succeeded in the complex task of managing social unrest. The eye of the world is now shifting away.

This is a serious mistake. Like China’s leadership, the world should continue to play close attention to Wukan and to the tens of thousands of incidents of rural unrest that occur each year in China, the vast majority resulting from land grabs. Why? Because what happens to China’s peasants is crucial to our collective future.

China’s Shaky Economic Foundation – NYTimes.com

Loss of faith in democracy could make 2012 the most frightening year ever | Mail Online

The dawn of a new year is usually a time of hope and ambition, of dreams for the future and thoughts of a better life. But it is a long time since many of us looked forward to the new year with such anxiety, even dread.

Here in Britain, many economists believe that by the end of 2012 we could well have slipped into a second devastating recession. The Coalition remains delicately poised; it would take only one or two resignations to provoke a wider schism and a general election.

But the real dangers lie overseas. In the Middle East, the excitement of the Arab Spring has long since curdled into sectarian tension and fears of Islamic fundamentalism. And with so many of the world’s oil supplies concentrated in the Persian Gulf, British families will be keeping an anxious eye on events in the Arab world.

Loss of faith in democracy could make 2012 the most frightening year ever | Mail Online

As China Surges In Space, Russia Stumbles

The two largest space powers outside the U.S. had wildly divergent records in 2011, with Beijing boasting 19 launches and demonstrating in-orbit docking for a future space station while the Kremlin ordered an investigation into a string of high-profile engineering failures plaguing Russia’s space program.

The implications for Russia of a nosedive in the quality of its space efforts could be especially serious. The failures have been condemned by President Dmitry Medvedev, and the efforts at recovery will be watched carefully beyond Russia. The troubles have hit just as NASA has become reliant on its International Space Station (ISS) partner for manned spaceflights and as Moscow seeks to expand its commercial reach with launches from South America.

Meanwhile, China—only the third nation to develop its own capability to launch humans into orbit and long a player in commercial launch services—is growing increasingly confident.

Russia Falls, China Rises in Space Efforts | AVIATION WEEK

The Coming Collapse of China: 2012 Edition- By Gordon G. Chang | Foreign Policy

In the middle of 2001, I predicted in my book, The Coming Collapse of China, that the Communist Party would fall from power in a decade, in large measure because of the changes that accession to the World Trade Organization (WTO) would cause. A decade has passed; the Communist Party is still in power. But don’t think I’m taking my prediction back.

Why has China as we know it survived? First and foremost, the Chinese central government has managed to avoid adhering to
many of its obligations made when it joined the WTO in 2001 to open its economy and play by the rules, and the international community maintained a generally tolerant attitude toward this noncompliant behavior. As a result, Beijing has been able to protect much of its home market from foreign competitors while ramping up exports.

Not long ago, everything was going well for the mandarins in Beijing. Now, nothing is. So, yes, my prediction was wrong. Instead of 2011, the mighty Communist Party of China will fall in 2012. Bet on it.

The Coming Collapse of China: 2012 Edition- By Gordon G. Chang | Foreign Policy

Many experts predict slower economic recovery in 2012 | GARP

Puffing and plodding, the American economy needed all of 2011 to build a bit of momentum going into the New Year.

Job growth picked up, and the economy kicked into a higher gear late in the year.

Enjoy it.

The prediction from most economic forecasters is that it will not last, and that the pace will slow and could even falter. The path ahead holds many hazards.

GARP – Story

EDITORIAL: Being Christian is a death sentence – Washington Times

Persecuted Christians are fleeing from the Middle East in increasing numbers. The United States should open its doors to them as a guaranteed safe haven.

America has long been a beacon of hope for the world’s refugees, and members of religious minorities in the Middle East are in increasing need of relief. They have never had things easy, facing both official and popular intolerance from the Muslim majorities among whom they live. But as the region becomes less stable, intolerance has turned to active persecution and violence.

EDITORIAL: Being Christian is a death sentence – Washington Times

KAHLILI: The coming war with Iran – Washington Times

Iran’s tyrannical leaders, determined to make the Islamic regime a nuclear-armed state, are preparing for war. That’s exactly what the United States and Israel might have to deliver, and soon. @-Text.rag:Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei ordered the Revolutionary Guards in May to speed up the regime’s nuclear-bomb program and arm its missiles with nuclear warheads. Now, sources reveal, Ayatollah Khamenei has ordered the guards to prepare for war.

In a recent meeting of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, it was decided that the possibility of an attack by Israel or America in 2012 is real and that the country’s forces need to prepare several contingencies for war. …

KAHLILI: The coming war with Iran – Washington Times

Without Economic Changes, America Can’t Contain China

The key turning point in China’s economic development came only weeks after the 9-11 attacks, when it became a member of the World Trade Organization. The bargain that China made in return for unfettered access to overseas markets was that it would abandon mercantilist policies such as export subsidies and currency manipulation that distorted trade flows. We now know that China took full advantage of its new-found market access without eliminating discriminatory trade practices. By the end of the Bush years, the United States had accumulated a trillion-dollar deficit in its merchandise trade balance with China and Beijing was holding vast currency reserves America needed to borrow to cover federal debts.

But as that latter point implies, the economic chronicle of the new era wasn’t just about China’s rise, it was also about America’s decline. Policymakers in Washington failed to foster conditions in which the U.S. economy could keep up with the rest of the world, and thus the U.S. share of global output slid from 32 percent the year President Bush took office to 24 percent today. After increasing jobs by 20 percent in each of the two preceding decades, the economy produced no net additional jobs at all during the first ten years of the new millennium. An average of over 40,000 manufacturing jobs disappeared every month for ten straight years, due in no small part to the flood of cheap Chinese goods inundating the market.

Without Economic Changes, America Can’t Contain China

Did 9/11 mark the start of America’s real decline? It marks a major turning point in its trade with China. China got to eat America’s lunch, and the rest of America too.

9/11 marks the rise of Islam, and some suggest a sign from God about impending disaster.