Aug. 29, 2005. It was the worst of times.
At 6:10 a.m., Katrina made landfall near Buras-Triumph, La., winds howling at 125 miles an hour. Within hours, it destroyed or degraded most of infrastructure in a 90,000-square-mile area and disrupted the lives of millions.
Emergency responders faced a logistical nightmare. Everything essential to speeding aid -- transportation networks, power and communications -- was wiped out. A veteran responder likened the challenge to "landing an army at Normandy, with a little less shooting." Read More
Why are we so shocked by implausible events of massive consequence?
Nassin Nicholas Taleb explores that question in his bestselling book, The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable.
Taleb is Lebanese. As a child, his world seemed like paradise. His parents told him war was impossible. When war came, they said it wouldn’t last. Yet violence wracked Lebanon for decades. In retrospect, the spiral of destruction seemed inevitable not inconceivable. How could they have not seen it coming? Read More
John Forbes Nash Jr. had a beautiful mind. Ron Howard said so.
Howard directed "A Beautiful Mind," the 2001 film about the prize-winning mathematician. The movie was artful. (Much of the story line was "cinematized," Howard explained, because "Nash is not particularly communicative about that sort of thing [his life]." But what Nash can do with numbers is fine art indeed. The letter of recommendation a professor wrote to get Nash into graduate school was one sentence long -- "This man is a genius." Read More
Heroic. That’s the word for the Coast Guard’s response when Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf Coast in 2005. It got to the scene fast — four hours before Army National Guard units arrived — and began rescue operations immediately.
Ultimately, the Coast Guard rescued more than 33,000 people. Along the way, it provided food, water, shelter and medical supplies to survivors. It also managed the response to environmental threats, including oil spills. Read More
At 8:44 p.m. Feb. 11 — for just a second — man made night into day.
A short-range ballistic missile was launched from a sea-based platform off California’s Point Mugu Naval Air Warfare Center. Moments later, the airborne laser carried aloft in a specially modified 747 detected it.
Then, it cranked up the high-energy laser. That beam struck home, burning a small hole in the missile. A split-second later, its structural integrity destroyed, the missile vaporized in a tumbling corkscrew.
Within two minutes of launching, it was all over. Read More
“Tell them that this is just the trailer. Just wait till you see the rest of the movie.”“It’s a small example. A preview.”“The rest of the film remains to be seen.”These comments come from one of the last calls made by the terrorists in Mumbai, India, as they butchered innocents in November 2008. Read More
Waging war requires serious acts, along with sober words. And in that arena, the Obama administration has yet to prove itself. Indeed, at times it seems the White House is intent on fighting another war — one in which the perceived enemy is America’s defense industries. Read More
“More than trade follows the flag.” — Historian John KeeganViking marauders ravaged Europe for more than 200 years, but they didn’t start out that way.Decades before the long ships began to plunder the islands and northern coast of Great Britain, Scandinavian traders worked the sea routes connecting the Western world. As they bought, sold and bartered, they noted the rich warehouses of the coastal towns, the great wealth stored in the churches and cathedrals. Then, they came back with sword and ax. Read More
Muhammad bin Nayef is Saudi Arabia’s chief counterterrorism official. A member of the royal family, he’s in charge of fighting terrorists. That is why they tried to kill him.
Last August, a known terrorist — Abdullah Hassan Taleh al-Asiri — declared he wanted to surrender personally to the prince. Saudi officials regarded the announcement as a small victory in the war on terror. Read More
They were fast friends. And when they found a common cause — online — they began to consider themselves as something more: brothers in arms. The Web led them into a worldwide web of terror.
No, we’re not talking about this month’s story of five young men from Virginia who were picked up on terrorism charges in Sargodha, Pakistan. This story goes back years, to two young men from Atlanta. Read More
It was a war the president did not want to fight. In the end, he had no choice. He ordered 40,000 additional troops into the fray.
Upon his 2006 swearing-in as president of Mexico, Felipe Calderón inherited a nation at war with itself. It’s a multi-front conflict, with a handful of powerful cartels fighting to control a network of multinational criminal enterprises.
Make no mistake; it is nothing less than a war. One cartel, Los Zetas, was even founded by pros: former commandos and deserters from the Mexican military. Read More
West Point's motto reads "Duty, honor, country." But from the start, America has always had some military leaders who couldn't distinguish between serving self and selfless service.
Take Horatio Gates. An indispensable field commander, he was the hero of Saratoga.
He was also after George Washington's job. Throughout the American Revolution, Gates spent as much time scheming how to embarrass and humiliate Washington as he did battling the British. Read More
Politics Down Under can be pretty upside-down.
Kevin Rudd led his Labor Party to victory in Australia’s 2007 election. Shortly after settling into the prime minister’s office, Rudd and his team did something rarely seen from the leadership of a left-leaning party: call for a big increase in defense spending. Read More
Weather changed. People died. They called it the “Little Ice-Age,” a period that spanned the mid-1600s.
As global temperatures dropped, the number and frequency of wars rose. Worldwide mortality rates increased. Famines struck across Asia. The pattern of human misery seemed so significant that, some 300 years later, historian Eric Hobsbawm labeled it “the 17th century crisis.” Read More
He followed an unpopular president. He received a strong election mandate. He changed the tone in Washington, D.C.
He said human rights mattered, that America’s image in the world had to be remade.
He would receive a Nobel Peace Prize.
As the end of his presidency’s first year drew near, the future looked bright. He had brought change — change that mattered.
It was 1977. The next year was very bad. Read More