Blackwater Review

Defense Secretary Gates will review allegations of misconduct in Afghanistan levied against the company formally known as Blackwater during its training of an Afghan police force.

Defense Secretary Gates will review allegations of misconduct in Afghanistan levied against the company formally known as Blackwater during its training of an Afghan police force. "The review comes a day after a leading Democrat said the Pentagon should consider barring it from applying for a contract to train Afghan police. The Pentagon said it could not bar the company from applying for the billion-dollar police training contract. A spokesman for company, now called Xe, said it welcomed the review. A spokesman for the company, Mark Corallo, said Xe has an excellent record of training security personnel in Afghanistan.

However, in a letter to Mr Gates at the end of February, Senate Armed Services Committee chairman Carl Levin cited allegations of misconduct against the firm made before the committee. He said there was evidence of misconduct in a previous subcontract awarded to a Blackwater affiliate to conduct weapons training for the Afghan National Army. Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell said of Mr Gates' response: 'He is looking into it and he takes it seriously. He shares [Mr Levin's] concerns.' But he said it was not possible to bar the company without following strict regulations. 'You can't willy-nilly choose not to do business with a company,' he said. 'There are strict criteria for pursuing debarment. They are afforded due process. They are afforded legal standards.'"

​There are two kinds of failure – but only one is honorable

Malcolm Gladwell teaches "Get over yourself and get to work" for Big Think Edge.

Big Think Edge
  • Learn to recognize failure and know the big difference between panicking and choking.
  • At Big Think Edge, Malcolm Gladwell teaches how to check your inner critic and get clear on what failure is.
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Why the ocean you know and love won’t exist in 50 years

Can sensitive coral reefs survive another human generation?

  • Coral reefs may not be able to survive another human decade because of the environmental stress we have placed on them, says author David Wallace-Wells. He posits that without meaningful changes to policies, the trend of them dying out, even in light of recent advances, will continue.
  • The World Wildlife Fund says that 60 percent of all vertebrate mammals have died since just 1970. On top of this, recent studies suggest that insect populations may have fallen by as much as 75 percent over the last few decades.
  • If it were not for our oceans, the planet would probably be already several degrees warmer than it is today due to the emissions we've expelled into the atmosphere.

Vikings unwittingly made their swords stronger by trying to imbue them with spirits

They didn't know it, but the rituals of Iron Age Scandinavians turned their iron into steel.

Culture & Religion
  • Iron Age Scandinavians only had access to poor quality iron, which put them at a tactical disadvantage against their neighbors.
  • To strengthen their swords, smiths used the bones of their dead ancestors and animals, hoping to transfer the spirit into their blades.
  • They couldn't have known that in so doing, they actually were forging a rudimentary form of steel.
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Health care: Information tech must catch up to medical marvels

Michael Dowling, Northwell Health's CEO, believes we're entering the age of smart medicine.

Photo: Tom Werner / Getty Images
Sponsored by Northwell Health
  • The United States health care system has much room for improvement, and big tech may be laying the foundation for those improvements.
  • Technological progress in medicine is coming from two fronts: medical technology and information technology.
  • As information technology develops, patients will become active participants in their health care, and value-based care may become a reality.
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