Friday, October 31, 2003

U.S. Officials See Hussein: "Saddam Hussein may be playing a significant role in coordinating and directing attacks by his loyalists against American forces in Iraq, senior American officials said Thursday.

The officials cited recent intelligence reports indicating that Mr. Hussein is acting as a catalyst or even a leader in the armed opposition, probably from a base of operations near Tikrit, his hometown and stronghold. A leadership role by Mr. Hussein would go far beyond anything previously acknowledged by the Bush administration, which has sought in its public remarks to portray the former Iraqi leader as being on the run and irrelevant.

Officials acknowledged that the reports of a significant role by Mr. Hussein could not be corroborated, and one senior official cautioned that recent intelligence reports contained conflicting assessments.

Nonetheless, three senior officials described reports of a larger role by Mr. Hussein as credible, and a Defense Department official said the information had given a fresh sense of urgency to the American-led manhunt for the former Iraqi leader.

'There are some accounts that say he is somehow instigating or fomenting some of the resistance,' a second American official said of the intelligence reports.

Baghdad, meanwhile, was unnerved Thursday by more explosions and a terrorist threat against schoolchildren."

Monday, October 27, 2003

Iraqis Get Used to Life Without Hussein, and Many Find They Like It: "On Friday evening, the American authorities lifted the curfew on Baghdad starting early Sunday morning, saying life here was returning to normal. Across the city on Saturday, numerous Iraqis agreed and provided ample evidence. Streets swarmed with people shopping and socializing. Coffee houses were packed. Families strolled; vendors clogged the sidewalks.

The manager of a travel agency said he is busy for the first time in more than a decade, primarily booking thousands of vacations to the Kurdish areas of northern Iraq, where Iraqis had been forbidden to travel since 1991. 'People feel free to travel now, and they want to go because there's amazing scenery up there, and it's clean and safe,' said Ahmed Abdel Hamid, the manager.

Outside the city passport office on Saturday afternoon, dozens of Iraqis milled about, waiting to apply for travel papers. Rouda Jasim Ali sat under a tree outside the office, obviously proud as she held travel papers just issued by the Coalition Provisional Authority, written in English and Arabic.

She had never left the country before, 'but now I am going to visit my uncle in Jordan,' she said with a grin.

At the Ratidain state bank, Hussein Salman, an accountant, sat on a bag holding eight million dinars, or $4,000, in small bills. He was waiting to deposit it "
WorldNetDaily: Al-Qaida planned U.S. forest fires: "In August, Australian authorities launched an investigation into reports al-Qaida planned to spark bushfires in a new wave of devastating terror attacks.

A June 25 FBI memo to United States law enforcement agencies revealed a senior al-Qaida detainee claimed to have developed a plan to start midsummer forest fires in the U.S
The memo, obtained by the Arizona Republic newspaper, said an unidentified detainee revealed he hoped to create several large, catastrophic wildfires at once.

"The detainee believed that significant damage to the U.S. economy would result and once it was realized that the fires were terrorist acts, U.S. citizens would put pressure on the U.S. government to change its policies," the memo said.

The detainee told investigators his plan called for three or four operatives to travel to the U.S. and set timed explosive devices in forests and grasslands.
In fact, Arab terrorists in Israel have started dozens of major forest fires over the years. And al-Qaida has been known to learn from and take inspiration from the activities of Palestinian Arab terrorists � who, for instance, first pioneered airline hijackings.

As far back as 1988, Israeli police caught more than a dozen Palestinian adults in the act of setting fires, while other Arabs confessed to arson after arrest. Some fires followed specific calls by underground Arab terrorists. A leaflet issued by the Palestinian uprising's underground leadership called for ''the destruction and burning of the enemy's properties, industry and agriculture.''
Telegraph | News | After Tony and Kofi fail, Brad and Jennifer try Mid-East diplomacy: "After Tony and Kofi fail, Brad and Jennifer try Mid-East diplomacy
By Inigo Gilmore in Jerusalem
(Filed: 26/10/2003)

Bill Clinton failed, Tony Blair drew a blank and Kofi Annan made little progress. But now a team of Hollywood film stars is about to visit the Middle East on a private peace mission, in the belief that their charms will work magic on the Israeli-Arab conflict.

Brad Pitt, his wife, Jennifer Aniston, and Danny DeVito are among the stars who aim to succeed where world statesmen have stumbled.
In a region suffering from peace initiative fatigue, however, Israelis and Palestinians have greeted news of the Hollywood initiative with bemusement and incredulity.

For some, the prospect of DeVito sitting down to talk peace with Hamas militants over a cup of sweet tea, or Pitt breaking bread at a sabbath dinner with hardline Jewish settlers, is preposterous.

Oz Almog, an Israeli sociologist, said: "Following Arnold Schwarzenegger's election as governor in California, it seems we are now joining the Hollywood revolution.

"From time to time, some celebrities think that they might help, and the media amplifies their mission. But this is an incredibly complex situation and I am afraid they are naive.

"Many Palestinians do not even have television sets. What is more, for the past three years here no one has listened to anyone, so what makes these people think they will listen to Danny DeVito?""
: "42 die in Baghdad carnage
By Paul Sims, Evening Standard

Up to 42 people are feared dead today after five large explosions ripped through the centre of Baghdad in the bloodiest day of terrorism since the end of Saddam Hussein's regime.

The blast blew down a 40ft section of the wall in front of the three-storey Red Cross building, destroying a dozen cars and shattering a water main. Emergency services fought to control the blaze as ambulances swept through the city, ferrying the injured to hospital. Witness Salah Mansour as he said: 'When the driver reached near the Red Cross building he got down from the vehicle and a guard went up to ask him why he had stopped there.

'The driver said he was trying to fix the car and then the blast just went off.'

In apparently co-ordinated attacks across the city at the height of the morning rush hour, four police stations were also targeted, bringing the total dead to at least 37. At least 225 other people were injured, 160 of them civilians. In north-east Baghdad, eight people died in a blast near a police station." Home US: "Bill Gates (pictured) on Monday offered the first public look at Longhorn, the next generation of the Windows PC operating system that he said would be Microsoft's 'biggest release of this decade and the biggest since Windows 95.'

However, the Microsoft chairman gave no timetable for the launch of the software, which has already slipped to a later timetable than originally thought. With Longhorn now not expected before 2006, Microsoft faces a gap in its new product cycle that has left a question over its growth rate in the meantime.

Steve Ballmer, chief executive officer, has called Longhorn a 'bet the company' product for Microsoft and insisted it will not be released before the company is confident it is ready.

Despite the delays, Microsoft gave an early look at the next Windows on Monday in an effort to build backing for the operating system among the many independent software developers who write their own applications to run on PCs. Microsoft's success depends heavily on expanding the loose community of developers who produce code that runs on its operating system, rather than defecting to the rival Java community, which is supported by IBM, Sun and others.
At the heart of the next Windows will be a new format for storing data that Microsoft has worked on intermittently for more than a decade. Rather than each software application saving information in a different format, a new standardised file system known as WinFS will create a single, unified system.

That means users will be able to find any information on their own PCs or across their corporate networks with a single search, then collate different types of data, whether in the form of text documents, spread sheets, video or audio recordings, Microsoft executives said.

Other key technologies in Longhorn will include a more powerful 3D graphics capability known as Avalon, which has been adapted from high-performance computer game systems, and a communications technology called Indigo, which will let users integrate information from other sources with data held on their desktops.

The company also said Longhorn would be more secure and reliable. Mr Gates first promised these things with the "Trustworthy Computing" initiative he launched three years ago, but Microsoft has been embarrassed this year by a spate of computer worms and viruses that exploit weaknesses in Windows."

Sunday, October 26, 2003 : Attack Drives U.S. Forces From Baghdad HQ: "BAGHDAD, Iraq Oct. 27

BAGHDAD, Iraq Oct. 27 � The U.S. occupation authority retreated from its headquarters after Iraqi insurgents attacked the heavily guarded hotel with a missile barrage that killed an American colonel, wounded 18 people and sent the visiting U.S. deputy defense secretary scurrying for safety. The bold blow at the heart of the U.S. presence here clearly rattled U.S. confidence that it is defeating Iraq's shadowy insurgents.

Paul Wolfowitz, the shaken-looking but unhurt Pentagon deputy, said the strike Sunday against the Al Rasheed Hotel, from nearly point-blank range, "will not deter us from completing our mission" in Iraq.

"We'll have to get the security situation under control," Secretary of State Colin Powell told NBC TV.
Wired News: Three R's: Reading, Writing, RFID: "Radio-frequency identification tags -- which have been hailed as the next-generation bar code -- consist of a microchip outfitted with a tiny antenna that broadcasts an ID number to a reader unit. The reader searches a database for the number and finds the related file, which contains the tagged item's description, or in the case of Enterprise Charter, the student's information.

Unlike bar codes, which must be manually scanned, RFID-tagged items can be read when they are in proximity to a reader unit, essentially scanning themselves. The school uses passive RFID tags that are activated when radio waves from the reader reach the chip's antenna. (Active RFID tags incorporate a battery that constantly broadcasts the chip's ID number and are much more expensive.)

The technology has raised a ruckus in recent months, as companies such as Wal-Mart move from bar codes to RFID to track merchandise and libraries place the chips in books to streamline loans. Privacy advocates worry that the technology will be used to track people without their knowledge.

But for Stillman, whose public school is located in a gritty Buffalo neighborhood, RFID is about accounting for the whereabouts of his charges and streamlining functions.

'Before, everything was done manually -- each teacher would take attendance and send it down to the office,' he said. 'Now it's automatic, and it saves us a lot of time.'

The charter school's 422 students wear small plastic cards around their necks that have their photograph, name and grade printed on them, and include an embedded RFID chip. As the children enter the school, they approach a kiosk where a reader activates the chip's signal and displays their photograph. The students touch their picture, and the time of their entry into the building is recorded in a database. A school staffer oversees the check-in process.

The school spent $25,000 on the ID system. The $3 ID tags students wear around their necks at all times incorporate the same Texas Instruments smart labels used in the wristbands worn by inmates at the Pima County jail in Texas. Similar wristbands are used to track wounded U.S. soldiers and POWs in Iraq and by the Magic Waters theme park in Illinois for cashless purchases.

But the Buffalo school is believed to be the first facility to use the technology to identify and track children."

Saturday, October 25, 2003

Wired News: The Great Library of Amazonia:

"Getting to this point represents a significant technological feat. Most of the material in the archive comes from scanned pages of actual books. This may be surprising, given that most books today are written on PCs, e-mailed to publishers, typeset on computers, and printed on digital presses. But many publishers still do not have push-button access to the digital files of the books they put out. Insofar as the files exist, they are often scattered around the desktops of editors, designers, and contract printers. For books more than a few years old, complete digital files may be lost. John Wiley & Sons contributed 5,000 titles to the Amazon project -- all of them in physical form.

Fortunately, mass scanning has grown increasingly feasible, with the cost dropping to as low as $1 each. Amazon sent some of the books to scanning centers in low-wage countries like India and the Philippines; others were run in the United States using specialty machines to ensure accurate color and to handle oversize volumes. Some books can be chopped out of their bindings and fed into scanners, others have to be babied by a human, who turns pages one by one. Remarkably, Amazon was already doing so much data processing in its regular business that the huge task of reading the images of the books and converting them into a plain-text database was handled by idle computers at one of the company's backup centers.

The copyrights to these titles are spread among countless owners. How was it possible to create a publicly accessible database from material whose ownership is so tangled? Amazon's solution is audacious: The company simply denies it has built an electronic library at all. 'This is not an ebook project!' Manber says. And in a sense he is right. The archive is intentionally crippled. A search brings back not text, but pictures -- pictures of pages. You can find the page that responds to your query, read it on your screen, and browse a few pages backward and forward. But you cannot download, copy, or read the book from beginning to end. There is no way to link directly to any page of a book. If you want to read an extensive excerpt, you must turn to the physical volume -- which, of course, you can conveniently purchase from Amazon. Users will be asked to give their credit card number before looking at pages in the archive, and they won't be able to view more than a few thousand pages per month, or more than 20 percent of any single book.

Manber has built a powerful, even mind-boggling tool, then added powerful constraints. 'The point is to help users find a book,' says Manber, 'not to make a new source of information.'"

Amazon will unveil a new search engine of sorts that lets you search for text in almost 120,000 books. More to come. Wow!

Thursday, October 23, 2003 - Iraqi official says limited German, French help won't be forgotten - Oct. 23, 2003

"MADRID, Spain (CNN) -- A top Iraqi official attending an international conference on raising funds to rebuild Iraq warned Thursday that France and Germany's limited donations would not be forgotten.

Ayad Allawi, the current head of Iraq's U.S.-appointed governing council, said he hoped German and French officials would reconsider their decision not to boost their contributions beyond funds already pledged through the European Union.

'As far as Germany and France are concerned, really, this was a regrettable position they had,' Allawi said. 'I don't think the Iraqis are going to forget easily that in the hour of need, those countries wanted to neglect Iraq.'

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan -- also attending the conference -- urged the international community to give billions of dollars to rebuild the nation, saying reconstruction cannot wait until a sovereign Iraqi government is established."

Wednesday, October 22, 2003

News: "Iran bows to Europe over nuclear crisis
By Angus McDowall in Tehran

22 October 2003

Iran has agreed to more intrusive nuclear checks and to freeze its uranium enrichment programme in an important concession to the foreign ministers of Britain, France and Germany."

Tuesday, October 21, 2003

Yahoo! News - Soldiers Must Wait for Their Iraqi Wives:

"PENSACOLA, Fla. - Two National Guard soldiers who married Iraqi women against their commander's wishes will have to wait at least eight months to return home with their brides, according to a lawyer for one of the soldiers.

The women's visas will take at least that long to process by mail because the State Department is not issuing visas in Iraq (news - web sites), said Richard Alvoid, an attorney hired by Sgt. Sean Blackwell's family.

The wait could be even longer if the military decides to charge the men with disobeying orders, Alvoid said.

Blackwell, 27, and Cpl. Brett Dagen, 37, were Christians who converted to Islam so they could be married under Iraqi law. Their commanders took the unusual step of ordering the men not to marry.

The soldiers, members of the 3rd Battalion of the Florida Guard's 124th Infantry, are expected to remain in Iraq at least until February. The men had wanted to send their wives, both physicians, to the United States sooner because of threats from anti-American Iraqis."

Sunday, October 19, 2003 | Handheld computers:

The next big thing that wasn't�or was it?

IS IT time to declare the demise of the handheld computer, also known as the personal digital assistant (PDA)? A lot of people suddenly think so, for despite high hopes that the devices�made by such firms as Palm, Sony, HP and Dell�would someday become ubiquitous, annual sales have stayed flat at around 11m units worldwide. This compares poorly with PCs, around 130m of which are sold every year, and mobile phones, with sales of around 460m units. �The PDA market will never be a mass market,� says Cindy Wolf, an analyst at In-Stat/MDR, a market-research firm. Almost everyone who wants a PDA, she says, now has one.

Palm springs eternal
In contrast, sales of smartphones, high-powered mobile handsets capable of doing most things PDAs can do, are rising fast. Smartphones can be used to store addresses and phone numbers, download small pieces of software (such as games), browse the internet while on the move, store and play music, and jot down brief messages. And, of course, they are also telephones. Why carry both a phone and a PDA around, when you can carry a single hybrid device? Fewer than 4m smartphones were sold during 2002, but nearly 12m will be sold this year, says Neil Strother of In-Stat/MDR. Although final sales figures are not yet available, it seems very likely that sales of smartphones overtook sales of PDAs in the third quarter of this year.

�The PDA is dead,� says David Levin, the boss of Symbian, the leading maker of smartphone software. Anssi Vanjoki of Nokia, the world's biggest mobile-phone maker, agrees. PDAs without wireless connectivity are doomed, he says. Even as Nokia, Sony Ericsson and other handset makers build PDA-like functions into their smartphones, some PDA makers are adding phone capability to their handhelds.The two camps have arrived at the same result�a hybrid PDA-phone�from opposite directions.

David Nagel of PalmSource, the firm that licenses the Palm operating system to makers of phones and PDAs, dismisses the idea that one camp or the other has won. To say that there is a single �killer device� is, he says, an oversimplification, for there is room for a whole range of PDA-like devices in the marketplace�of which smartphones, in his view, are just one kind. PalmSource is, he says, well placed to compete with Symbian and Microsoft to provide the software to power pocket-sized devices.

Friday, October 17, 2003

New Scientist:

Meet the people shaping the future of science

This interview was first published in New Scientist print edition, subscribe here

I want to live forever
Photo: Timothy Archibald

Cynthia Kenyon thinks we can have it all: health, wealth, hordes of children - and a long life. A very long life. She disagrees with prevailing ideas that we can only live longer by paying a high price in terms of reduced fertility or a sluggish metabolism. What made this professor of biochemistry and biophysics at the University of California, San Francisco, so sure? A little worm. James Kingsland was keen to discover the secret


"How would you go about developing an anti-ageing drug?

It's just a question of finding a drug that would mimic the changes that we've made in worms, flies and mice. Basically we should have a hard look at the insulin and insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1) endocrine systems. The receptors for both have been shown to control ageing in mice: if you mutate either they live longer. I suspect the key will be to target those systems. In fact, I have helped to found a company, Elixir Pharmaceuticals, that is trying to do just that."
So when can we expect the big breakthrough - an anti-ageing drug?

It could come at any time. A compound in red wine, resveratrol, has just been found to increase the activity of a longevity protein that affects the insulin/IGF-1 system in worms. So we may already have a drug, though it might not be that simple. But the fact that there's this compound already in red wine, it really makes you optimistic, doesn't it?

It's only a matter of time?

Yes, it's all about time!

But for now, caloric restriction seems the one proven way to extend lifespan. Is that why you've virtually given up carbohydrates?

That's not necessarily why I do it. I do it because it makes me feel great and keeps me slender. And I don't feel really tired after a meal. But I think if I wanted to eat in a way that extended lifespan this is how I would do it. In fact, I stopped eating carbohydrates the day we found that putting sugar on the worms' food shortened their lifespans.

How does it work?

I eat a diet that keeps my insulin levels low. So, for example, at breakfast I have bacon and eggs with tomatoes and avocados. It's bit like the Atkins diet. I don't actually know if I eat fewer calories, but I feel great and I weigh what I did in high school. I certainly wouldn't want to be hungry all the time, but I'm not, I'm never hungry. I tried caloric restriction just for two days but I couldn't stand it, being hungry all the time.

What don't you eat?

I don't eat sweets, bread, pasta, potatoes or rice. I actually do eat lots of carbohydrates, just not starchy ones, the ones that turn into sugar quickly in your body. I eat lots of vegetables and salads, and lots of fish and nuts, cheese, eggs and meat. People are now studying these low-carb diets like Atkins and the zone diet scientifically.

How do you know it's doing you any good?

My blood profile is off the scale. Apparently triglycerides are very good indicators of your insulin and glucose levels. Anything below 200 [milligrams per decilitre] is good, and mine is 30! And my "good" cholesterol (HDL) is 86 [mg/dl], which is fabulous.

Suppose we all lived to 150. Would we just be prolonging the misery of unhealthy old age?

I think it would be fabulous to live to 150. Remember, if you're like these worms, at 150 you would be just the same as a normal 75-year-old. Of course you want to be in good health - providing you are in good health and you love life, you want to live longer. These long-lived worms stay young longer. That's the thing that's so hard for people to grasp: it's not just being healthy longer. It's being young longer. The worms have told us it's possible.

Thursday, October 16, 2003

Yahoo! News - Iraq War Swells Al Qaeda's Ranks, Report Says: "LONDON (Reuters) - War in Iraq (news - web sites) has swollen the ranks of al Qaeda and galvanized the Islamic militant group's will, the International Institute for Strategic Studies said on Wednesday in its annual report.

The 2003-2004 edition of the British-based think-tank's annual bible for defense analysts, The Military Balance, said Washington's assertions after the Iraq conflict that it had turned the corner in the war on terror were 'over-confident.'

The report, widely considered an authoritative text on the military capabilities of states and militant groups worldwide, could prove fodder for critics of the U.S.-British invasion and of the reconstruction effort that has followed in Iraq.

Washington must impose security in Iraq to prevent the country from 'ripening into a cause celebre for radical Islamic terrorists,' it concluded. 'Nation-building' in Iraq was paramount and might require more troops than initially planned."

"On the plus side, war in Iraq has denied al Qaeda a potential supplier of weapons of mass destruction and discouraged state sponsors of terrorism from continuing to support it," the report said.

"On the minus side, war in Iraq has probably inflamed radical passions among Muslims and thus increased al Qaeda's recruiting power and morale and, at least marginally, its operating capability," it said.

"The immediate effect of the war may have been to isolate further al Qaeda from any potential state supporters while also swelling its ranks and galvanizing its will."


Magnus Ranstorp, terrorism expert at Britain's St Andrew's University, told Reuters the report's findings would drive home the importance of rebuilding Iraq and other conflict zones.

"Military planners and the law enforcement community are fully aware of the consequences of failed states," he said.

"I think it's probably worthwhile for politicians to keep in mind our responsibility to provide sustained and long term reconstruction in war-torn countries, so they don't fly back into anarchy or become incubators of terrorism."

Tuesday, October 14, 2003

New Scientist: "Humanoid robots capable of performing somersaults and complex martial arts moves were demonstrated at Asia's largest electronics and computing fair in Tokyo on Saturday.

Visitors to CEATEC 2003 (Combined Exhibition of Advanced Technologies) met Morph3, a human-like robot about 30-centimetres tall developed by researchers at the Chiba Institute of Technology in Japan. It can perform back flips and karate moves thanks to 138 pressure sensors, 30 different onboard motors and 14 computer processors.

Another miniature humanoid robot on display was Fujitsu's HOAP-2. This droid has been programmed to perform moves from the Chinese martial art taijiquan, as well as Japanese Sumo wrestling stances.

HOAP-2 is designed as an aid to robotics research and therefore runs on open source, Linux-based software. Fujitsu believes it will sell between 20 and 30 of the robots to universities and companies in 2004.

But impressive as these high-kicking robots are, Frederic Kaplan, at Sony's robotics laboratory in France, says making more agile robots is not the biggest challenge facing robotics researchers at the moment.

'There are challenges in terms of mechanics still, but the biggest gap would be in intelligence,' he told New Scientist. 'One of the key things we are looking at now is developmental robotics, where a robot learns.'"
Saudi Arabia to hold democratic elections - The Washington Times: World
JIDDA, Saudi Arabia � Saudi Arabia announced its first-ever democratic elections yesterday, to be held within a year in all 14 of its regions.
A council for each region will be selected as a step toward implementing reforms promised by King Fahd in May and long backed by the de facto leader, Crown Prince Abdullah.
Saudi Arabia, an absolute monarchy, has an appointed advisory Shura Council instead of a national parliament, and it has never had elections for public office at any level.
Poll suggests most in Baghdad don't want troops to leave too quickly: "When Gallup set out recently to poll Baghdad residents, the biggest surprise may have been the public's reaction to the questioners: Almost everyone responded to the pollsters' questions, with some pleading for a chance to give their opinions.

'The interviews took more than an hour to do, people were extremely cooperative with open-ended questions,' said Richard Burkholder, director of international polling for Gallup. 'People went on and on.'

But many of those Iraqis still have sharply mixed feelings about the U.S. military presence.

The Gallup poll found that 71 percent of the capital city's residents felt U.S. troops should not leave in the next few months. Just 26 percent felt the troops should leave that soon.

However, a sizable minority felt that circumstances could occur in which attacks against the troops could be justified. Almost one in five, 19 percent, said attacks could be justified, and an additional 17 percent said they could be in some situations.

These mixed feelings in Baghdad come at a time when many in the United States are urging that the troops be brought home soon.

Almost six in 10 in the poll, 58 percent, said that U.S. troops in Baghdad have behaved fairly well or very well, with one in 10 saying 'very well.' Twenty 20 percent said the troops have behaved fairly badly and 9 percent said very badly.

Gallup, one of the nation's best-known polling operations, hired more than 40 questioners, mostly Iraqi citizens directed by survey managers who have helped with other Gallup polling in Arab countries. Respondents were told the poll was being done for media both in Iraq and outside their country, but no mention was made that the American polling firm was running it."
Telegraph | News | EU viewed by China as world power to rival US: "The European Union is the world's rising superpower, poised to overtake both America and Japan as the biggest trade and investment force in China, according to a strategic policy paper published by Beijing yesterday.

The Chinese government said the EU was transforming the global landscape with its successful currency launch and strides towards a joint foreign policy, defence, and judicial union.

Describing EU integration as 'irreversible', Beijing marvelled at Europe's 25-35 per cent share of the global economy and its projected 450 million population after expanding into the former communist bloc next year.

The white paper follows a flurry of Sino-EU ventures, including the Galileo global satellite system, described as a direct challenge to the American GPS monopoly in space.

The two sides are also working together on nuclear research."

Monday, October 13, 2003

Degeneration Y: Adam is on the eve of extinction - National -

"In Australia, ahead of the book's release here today, Professor Sykes said men would last for only another 5000 generations before dwindling fertility and a decrepit Y chromosome consigned them to the history books along with Neanderthals and trilobites.

Women, on the other hand, could look forward to plum jobs, good pay, tax-deductible child care, subsidised tampons, clean bathrooms and global peace.

'This . . . is a look into the future at how the Y chromosome will deteriorate, and I think it certainly will,' Professor Sykes said. 'The timescale is debatable but I think it is inevitable.

'I predict that the Y chromosome will be so damaged by that time that males will only be 1 per cent as fertile as they are now.'

The Y chromosome, which carries the genetic switch to turn babies into boys at six weeks of gestation, is doomed, he argues in his book. 'The Y chromosome is a genetic ruin, littered with molecular wreckage . . . a graveyard of rotting genes. It is a dying chromosome and one day it will become extinct.'

He said men could be rescued with 'massive intervention', but it would be quite possible to survive without them."
Moscow prepared to stage pre-emptive strikes - "While taking pains to play down possible new nuclear threats to NATO, the Kremlin has made it clear it is prepared to use pre-emptive strikes against perceived threats and will continue to mobilise Russia's vast nuclear arsenal to deter a new generation of low-level instability on its borders.

A wide-ranging new doctrine for Russian military preparedness, presented to NATO generals in Colorado Springs, Colorado, last week, states that large-scale war with the US or NATO has for the first time 'been excluded from the spectrum of the most probable conflicts'.

Yet it warns that Russia must be prepared for a growing number of conflicts - such as the US-led war in Iraq - waged outside the authority of the United Nations, and wars increasingly motivated as much by economics or the interests of what it termed 'big transnational companies' as by national security.

Terrorism and instability in the former Soviet states along its borders are seen as Russia's greatest military peril, and Kremlin officials have emphasised that the kind of pre-emptive strikes upon which the US has relied in Iraq - the subject of substantial criticism from Moscow - are potential tools for the Russian armed forces as well. "
Monkeys Control Robotic Arm With Brain Implants ( "Scientists in North Carolina have built a brain implant that lets monkeys control a robotic arm with their thoughts, marking the first time that mental intentions have been harnessed to move a mechanical object.

The technology could someday allow people with paralyzing spinal cord injuries to operate machines or tools with their thoughts as naturally as others today do with their hands. It might even allow some paralyzed people to move their own arms or legs again, by transmitting the brain's directions not to a machine but directly to the muscles in those latent limbs.

The brain implants could also allow scientists or soldiers to control, hands-free, small robots that could perform tasks in inhospitable environments or in war zones."
What's that I hear in the distance? Is it the marching of a robot army, slowly inching it's way closer?

Sunday, October 12, 2003

News: "Suicide bombers driving two cars attacked a central Baghdad hotel yesterday where senior US officials and CIA agents are thought to have been staying. At least six people were killed and 32 wounded.

All of the dead and most of the injured were Iraqis. But the blast, aimed at a hotel full of American officials, showed the effectiveness of the resistance in its campaign to destabilise the US presence.

The heavily guarded Baghdad hotel was used by American officials, security agents, members of the Iraq Governing Council and US building contractors. It was also believed by Iraqis to house members of the CIA and there were rumours in Baghdad that it was home to members of Mossad, the Israeli intelligence service."
Many soldiers, same letter / Front Page -The Olympian

"Letters from hometown soldiers describing their successes rebuilding Iraq have been appearing in newspapers across the country as U.S. public opinion on the mission sours.

And all the letters are the same.

A Gannett News Service search found identical letters from different soldiers with the 2nd Battalion of the 503rd Airborne Infantry Regiment, also known as 'The Rock,' in 11 newspapers, including Snohomish, Wash.

The Olympian received two identical letters signed by different hometown soldiers: Spc. Joshua Ackler and Spc. Alex Marois, who is now a sergeant. The paper declined to run either because of a policy not to publish form letters.
It describes people waving at passing troops and children running up to shake their hands and say thank you.

It's not clear who wrote the letter or organized sending it to soldiers' hometown papers.
Sgt. Christopher Shelton, who signed a letter that ran in the Snohomish Herald, said Friday that his platoon sergeant had distributed the letter and asked soldiers for the names of their hometown newspapers. Soldiers were asked to sign the letter if they agreed with it, said Shelton, whose shoulder was wounded during an ambush earlier this year.

"Everything it said is dead accurate. We've done a really good job," he said by phone from Italy, where he was preparing to return to Iraq.

Sgt. Todd Oliver, a spokesman for the 173rd Airborne Brigade, which counts the 503rd as one of its units, said he was told a soldier wrote the letter, but he didn't know who. He said the brigade's public affairs unit was not involved.

"When he asked other soldiers in his unit to sign it, they did," Oliver explained in an e-mail response to a GNS inquiry. "Someone, somewhere along the way, took it upon themselves to mail it to the various editors of newspapers across the country."
Lt. Col. Bill MacDonald, a spokesman for the 4th infantry Division that is heading operations in north-central Iraq, said he had not heard about the letter-writing campaign.

Neither had Lt. Cmdr. Nick Balice, a spokesman for U.S. Central Command in Tampa, Fla.
'A Gift From God' Renews a Village ( "A dozen years after Saddam Hussein ordered the vast marshes of southeastern Iraq drained, transforming idyllic wetlands into a barren moonscape to eliminate a hiding place for Shiite Muslim political opponents, Iraqi engineers have turned on the spigot again.

The flow is not what it once was -- new dams have weakened the mighty Tigris and Euphrates rivers that feed the marshes -- but the impact has been profound. As the blanket of water gradually expands, it is quickly nourishing plants, animals and a way of life for Marsh Arabs that Hussein had tried so assiduously to extinguish.

In Zayad, a tiny hamlet about 210 miles southeast of Baghdad that was one of the first places to be flooded, residents have rushed to reclaim their traditions. Kerkush drove to the port city of Basra to buy a wooden boat known as a mashoof. His children assembled fish nets. Other relatives scoped out locations to build a house of reeds.

The marsh has once again assumed its omnipresent role in the village. Women clad in black head-to-toe abayas wade into the water to wash clothes. The mullet found in the murky depths, though small and bony, is grilled for dinner every night. Swamp grasses are cut to feed the cows and sheep that will eventually be traded for water buffalo.

'Everyone is so happy,' Kerkush said as he watched his son stand in a mashoof and steer it like a gondolier with a long wooden pole. 'We are starting to live like we used to, not the way Saddam wanted us to live.'

A Simple Life Destroyed

Born in 1949, Kerkush remembers a childhood identical to those described by his father and his grandfather. It was, he believes, a way of life little changed since the days of the ancient Sumerians who lived near the marshes and were the first humans to practice irrigated farming.

The progress of the 20th century -- the advent of cars and computers, of television and telephones -- did not penetrate the dense reed beds and narrow waterways that protected their village.

"It was a very simple life," he recalled. "We would fish. We would collect the reeds. We would plant rice."

They rarely ventured more than a few villages from home, and outsiders rarely ventured into the marshes. In hamlets such as Zayad, home to about 120 families, everyone is related and marriage among cousins is common.

The marsh dwellers were largely unknown to the outside world, even to other Iraqis, until British explorer Wilfred Thesiger chronicled the seven years he spent with them in his 1964 book "The Marsh Arabs." The marshes, he wrote, were a place where one could encounter "stars reflected in dark water, the croakings of frogs, canoes coming home at evening, peace and continuity, the stillness of a world that never knew an engine."

Saddam drained the marshes in an attempt to destry the marsh arabs, an ancient people who had not supported him. Now the U.S. and Iraq are trying to restore this vital ecosystem.
Yahoo! News - Shiite Muslims Converge on Iraq Holy City: " Last week, al-Sadr followers clashed with the U.S. military in Baghdad's Sadr City, a 2 million-resident slum and Iraq's largest Shiite enclave, where the young cleric holds sway. The battle killed two American soldiers and at least one attacker.

Al-Sadr's newly founded militia � the Imam al-Mahdi Army � challenges a U.S. military ban on carrying arms in public without a license.

On Friday, al-Sadr, said to be 30, told worshippers in the town of Kufa, south of Baghdad, that he had formed a rival government and called on Iraqis to express their support for "our new state" through peaceful demonstrations.

"This poses some danger to me personally," he told worshippers about his decision, "but the interest of the public takes precedence. I have formed new ministries for our new state, the state of dignity, pride and freedom."

Such announcements are likely to reinforce the view held by the U.S.-led occupation authorities that al-Sadr remains a source of potential unrest in Iraq � largely through his appeal to poor Shiites at a time when 60 percent of the country's adult population is unemployed and the U.S.-sponsored plan to restore Iraqi sovereignty is moving slowly.

Al-Sadr's relative youth and lack of religious credentials have limited his appeal in the majority Shiite community, dominated by aging clerics who have avoided a confrontation with the Americans. However, his appeal is strong among young and disadvantaged Shiites at a time when the United States has failed to kickstart the Iraqi economy.

The religious challenge also comes at a time of strains between the Americans and the Iraqi Governing Council over the issue of Turkish troops in the country. Last week, the Turkish Parliament approved a Turkish government request to deploy peacekeepers in Iraq, a moved hailed by Washington which is desperate for help in stabilizing this country after a war the Americans launched in March.
But the Iraqi Governing Council, in an internal vote, rejected the Turkish proposal, expressing fears that peacekeepers from neighboring countries could end up interfering in Iraq's internal affairs. Turkey has long battled an ethnic Kurdish insurgency, and Kurds in northern Iraq fear that Turkish troops could turn on them."

Friday, October 10, 2003 - Study: New study shows that fellatio may reduce the risk of breast cancer - Oct. 2, 2003:
"Women who perform the act of fellatio on a regular basis, one to two times a week, may reduce their risk of breast cancer by up to 40 percent, a North Carolina State University study found.
"I think it removes the last shade of doubt that fellatio is actually a healthy act," said Dr. B.J. Sooner of Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, who was not involved in the research. "I am surprised by these findings, but am also excited that the researchers may have discovered a relatively easy way to lower the occurance of breast cancer in women."

The University researchers stressed that, though breast cancer is relatively uncommon, any steps taken to reduce the risk would be a wise decision.

"Only with regular performance will your chances be reduced, so I encourage all women out there to make fellatio an important part of their daily routine," said Dr. Inserta Shafteer, one of the researchers at the University. "Since the emergence of the research, I try to fellate at least once every other night to reduce my chances."
At first my comment was going to be "I'm not making this up! This isn't the Onion, this is from CNN!" But then I thought about it, and looked at the page again, and noticed this page is from CNM news! It's a hoax! hahaha! I didn't notice the stupid doctor's name at first either. Bet this one is tearing through the web right now, and I guess I'm kind of helping that. Oh well. I know that writing a blog involves heavy responsibilities. I stay up at night sometimes thinking about that. Is Sex Necessary?:
Alan Farnham

"Fans of abstinence had better be sitting down. 'Saving yourself' before the big game, the big business deal, the big hoedown or the big bakeoff may indeed confer some moral benefit. But corporeally it does absolutely zip. There's no evidence it sharpens your competitive edge. The best that modern science can say for sexual abstinence is that it's harmless when practiced in moderation. Having regular and enthusiastic sex, by contrast, confers a host of measurable physiological advantages, be you male or female. (This assumes that you are engaging in sex without contracting a sexually transmitted disease.)

In one of the most credible studies correlating overall health with sexual frequency, Queens University in Belfast tracked the mortality of about 1,000 middle-aged men over the course of a decade. The study was designed to compare persons of comparable circumstances, age and health. Its findings, published in 1997 in the British Medical Journal, were that men who reported the highest frequency of orgasm enjoyed a death rate half that of the laggards. Other studies (some rigorous, some less so) purport to show that having sex even a few times a week has an associative or causal relationship with the following:
- Improved sense of smell:
- Reduced risk of heart disease:
- Weight loss, overall fitness:
- Reduced depression:
- Pain-relief:
- Less-frequent colds and flu:
- Better bladder control:
- Better teeth:
- A happier prostate?"
This article is 100% not fake. I think

Thursday, October 09, 2003

Conversation With Khomeini - The ayatollah's grandson calls for a U.S. invasion of Iran. By Christopher Hitchens: "A sentence of death for apostasy cannot really be pronounced, or acted upon, unless there is 'an infallible imam,' and there is no such thing. The Shiite faithful believe in a 'hidden imam' who may one day be restored to them, but they have learned to be wary of impostors or false prophets. In any event, added Khomeini, there was an important distinction between what the Quran said and what an ayatollah as head of state might say. 'We cannot nowadays have executions in this form.' Indeed, he added, it was the policy of executions that had turned the Islamic revolution in Iran sour in the first place. 'Now we have had 25 years of a failed Islamic revolution in Iran, and the people do not want an Islamic regime anymore.'

It's not strictly necessary to speak to Hossein Khomeini to appreciate the latter point: Every visitor to Iran confirms it, and a large majority of the Iranians themselves have voted for anti-theocratic candidates. The entrenched and reactionary regime can negate these results up to a certain point; the only question is how long can they do so? Young Khomeini is convinced that the coming upheaval will depend principally on those who once supported his grandfather and have now become disillusioned. I asked him what he would like to see happen, and his reply this time was very terse and did not require any Quranic scriptural authority or explication. The best outcome, he thought, would be a very swift and immediate American invasion of Iran.

It hurt me somewhat to have to tell him that there was scant chance of deliverance coming by this means. He took the news pretty stoically (and I hardly think I was telling him anything he did not know). But I was thinking, wow, this is what happens if you live long enough. You'll hear the ayatollah's grandson saying, not even 'Send in the Marines' but 'Bring in the 82nd Airborne.' I think it was the matter-of-factness of the reply that impressed me the most: He spoke as if talking of the obvious and the uncontroversial.

That reminded me to ask him what he thought of the mullahs' nuclear program. He calmly said that there was no physical force that was stronger than his faith, and thus there was no need for any country to arm itself in this way. No serious or principled Shiite had any fear of his belief being destroyed by any kind of violence. It was not a matter for the state, and the state and religion (he reiterated) ought to be separated—for both their sakes.

Hossein Khomeini operates within an entirely Quranic frame of reference, but what he has to say is obviously of great interest to those who take the secular 'regime change' position. "

Interesting article with Khomenei's grandson, who would like to see the U.S. invade Iran

Monday, October 06, 2003

Police Subdue a Tiger in Harlem Apartmento the sounds of enormous jungle roars, a police sniper rappelled down the side of a Harlem apartment building yesterday and fired tranquilizer darts through an open fifth-floor window to subdue � seat belts, please � a 350-pound Bengal tiger.

The daring, and creative, bit of sharpshooting helped end an episode in which the New York Police Department, unaccustomed to bagging big game, nonetheless managed to sedate the beast. Officials planned to send the tiger, temporarily being held at the Center for Animal Care and Control on 110th Street, to a conservancy in Ohio.

What the tiger, along with a four- to five-foot reptile called a caiman, was doing inside a cluttered apartment in the Drew Hamilton Houses at Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Boulevard and 141st Street remained a mystery yesterday.

In a news conference at the scene, Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly said the police became involved in the case on Wednesday when the apartment's resident, Antoine Yates, called to say he had been bitten by a pit bull. When the police went to investigate, Mr. Kelly said, Mr. Yates met them in the lobby. He went to Harlem Hospital with bites on an arm and a leg.

On Thursday, the police got an anonymous tip saying a wild animal was somewhere in the city. On Friday, another call directed them to the exact address. On Friday night, the police found no one home, but talked to a neighbor who complained of large amounts of urine and a strong smell coming through the ceiling, Mr. Kelly said. The neighbor said her daughter had seen the tiger.

Yesterday, the tiger's existence was confirmed. after a hole was cut in the apartment door."

Keeping a tiger in your apartment. Now that's really optimistic.
I found a new site that has descriptions of the 16 Myers Briggs types that I think is among the best so far. It's the Kiersey site. Kiersey is the man who took the 16 MBTI types and sorted them into 16 temperments. I'm INTP, and I'm finding that all my friends are ISTP's or ENTJ's, with one ENTJ and one INFP. Scroll all the way to the bottom for the type descriptions. The other articles on the site are also very good.
Here's the link:

Sunday, October 05, 2003 - Foxlife - Fox Features - Kites Inspire New Extreme Sports: "Some thrill-seekers are taking the phrase 'Go fly a kite!' to new heights.

That's right, kiting is making a comeback with a twist. A growing number of daredevils are adding the childhood wind toys to their favorite outdoor activities, speeding them up and creating new sports, such as kite skating, skiing, snowboarding and even kite surfing.

Known as kite traction sports, the activities have seen a gradual increase in participants over the past decade � but have bloomed in the last couple of years, particularly kite surfing, according to kite traction enthusiast Bob Childs.

"The appeal � for some is the all-out speed and power," said Childs, 42, who sells kite sports equipment on "For some it is the sense of motion using only the force of the wind. I personally like both."

Kite traction enthusiasts, who are mostly between 25 and 30 but can be as young as 15, hold competitions around the world. The sports are most popular in Hawaii, the southern East Coast and entire West Coast of the U.S., Australia, Europe and South America, according to Childs.

All the kite sports involve holding onto � or being attached to � the strings of a power kite (a large kite that provides a lot of lift and pull), which can double the speed. Kite skaters, for instance, can hit 60 miles per hour with the power of a strong wind. And kite surfers can reach new heights with Mother Nature's help.

"On the bay, I watch these guys get, like, 30 feet of air," said Beth Mertz, a San Francisco, Calif., resident who snowboards and wakeboards. "Windsurfers get a couple feet, but with the kite they will fly through the air."

Other kite-inspired sports include kite buggying, which is racing around in a small go-kart-like vehicle with a power kite attached, and the particularly treacherous kite jumping, in which people can go 30 feet high over distances of a few hundred feet and perform flips and twists.

"This is surely the most dangerous of all kite traction sports and often leaves enthusiasts with broken bones," said Childs. "Kite jumping should only be performed on soft sand." "

So some idiot thinks he can fly 30 feet into the air, travel hundreds of feet horizontally at great speed, do flips and twists in the air while his kite pulls him along, then be flung against the earth at some unexpected moment of the wind's choosing, and expect to emerge unharmed?

Now that's optimistic

Saturday, October 04, 2003

Report Offered Bleak Outlook About Iraq Oil: "The Bush administration's optimistic statements earlier this year that Iraq's oil wealth, not American taxpayers, would cover most of the cost of rebuilding Iraq were at odds with a bleaker assessment of a government task force secretly established last fall to study Iraq's oil industry, according to public records and government officials.

The task force, which was based at the Pentagon as part of the planning for the war, produced a book-length report that described the Iraqi oil industry as so badly damaged by a decade of trade embargoes that its production capacity had fallen by more than 25 percent, panel members have said " - Top Stories - Angry Ex-Iraqi Soldiers Charge U.S. Troops; 4th ID Soldier Killed in Attack
"BAGHDAD, Iraq � An angry mob of former Iraqi soldiers charged at U.S. troops and Iraqi police on Saturday, throwing rocks during a protest to demand jobs and back pay -- prompting U.S. and Iraqi security to fire shots, killing at least one and wounding 25 according to witnesses and hospital officials.

Among the injured are two Iraqi policemen, said Dr. Abbas Jafaar, an official at a nearby hospital said.

Also Saturday, the military said that a 4th Infantry Division (search) soldier was killed and one was wounded in an attack in southeast Baghdad. The patrol was hit Friday night with small arms fire and a rocket-propelled grenade in the As Sadiyah (search) region.

The unrest, which began outside an American base in central Baghdad, spilled into the upscale Monsour (search) district, where four liquor stores were burned along with an Iraqi police car.

The Americans fired shots in the air to drive back the stone-throwing mob, and the Iraqi police fired into the crowd, witnesses said. "

Wednesday, October 01, 2003

Kuwait foils smuggling of chemicals from Iraq :

Kuwaiti security authorities have foiled an attempt to smuggle $60 million worth of chemical weapons and biological warheads from Iraq to an unnamed European country, a Kuwaiti newspaper said on Wednesday.

The pro-Government Al-Siyassah, quoting an unnamed security source, said the suspects had been watched by security since they arrived in Kuwait and were arrested "in due time." It did not say when or how the smugglers entered Kuwait or when they were arrested.
Iraqi Interior Minister Nouri Al-Badran met on Tuesday with Sheik Nawwaf and discussed cooperation between the two countries in security matters. His visit is the first by an Iraqi interior minister to Kuwait since 1990.