Friday, September 30, 2005

� The Web-based Office will have its day | Web 2.0 Explorer | ZDNet.com

The Web-based Office will have its day | Web 2.0 Explorer | ZDNet.com: "
September 28, 2005
The Web-based Office will have its day
-Posted by Richard MacManus @ 1:00 am


I first profiled a Web 2.0 office in early September and since then more web-based office products have surfaced. Peter Rip posted recently that he's now 'bumped into an alpha or beta Web-incarnation for every Microsoft desktop product'. He says most are AJAX, but some are Flash or Flex-based (both Macromedia products).

Peter thinks desktop apps are on the way out, because 'no one works at their desktop anymore.' While he rightly points out that office people are spending more and more time on the Net, I don't agree with his conclusion that this necessarily signals the end of desktop apps - yet. A recent Computerworld article states that laptops will soon replace the desktop as the preferred business PC, citing mobility as the main reason for this trend. Microsoft office products - and increasingly OpenOffice and other open source desktop programs - will continue to be used on both laptop and desktop PCs for the forseeable future. The reason is the advanced and wide ranging functionality they offer, together with perceived stability in an office environment.

However I do think that long-term, the writing is on the wall for desktop office applications. Once the current crop of alpha and beta web-based office products reach a level of maturity, they will be ready to challenge Microsoft for the minds and pockets of consumers. One of the keys is achieving the level of functionality that Microsoft Office undeniably has. But there are also issues of online security and reliability that web-based apps will need to address, in time. Office apps are just too important to corporate productivity for CIOs and IT managers to entrust their businesses with web-based apps, without complete confidence in their functionality (ability to do the job efficiently) and performance (security and uptime).

The time for the web-based office will come, mark my words. When broadband is ubiquitous, web functionality is richer, issues of security and reliability have been put to rest, and most importantly of all - when Corporates are ready to make the jump. It may be 5-10 years down the track, it may be longer. For now, let's take a look at the current crop of promising web-based office apps and hope a few of them last the distance.

Ones I mentioned in my initial post:
Writely - 'The Web Word Processor' (note that for creating documents, it uses an HTML editor and then converts to Word format)
FCKeditor is also an MS Word-like web app. It's open source too.
gOFFICE - 'a browser-based online word processor and desktop publishing program'
Num Sum - web-based spreadsheets - except only the author of a spreadsheet can edit it.
Kiko - Online calendar solution powered by Ajax.
Gmail and now the new Yahoo! Mail (Microsoft is rumored to be working on a Hotmail upgrade, codenamed Kahuna)
called S5 - web-based Powerpoint
Webnote - web-based version of Microsoft's OneNote
thinkfree - online Office suite
Openomy - online file-system

And ones Peter has added to the mix:
Bindows
Gliffy
Meebo
Zimbra"

I find this really interesting. I need to investigate these. This could be good, especially for my students who can't afford Microsoft Office, and just need to write papers for school!

CIA faces spy shortages: BREITBART.COM -

BREITBART.COM - Just The News: "CIA faces spy shortages as staffers go private


WASHINGTON (Reuters) - As CIA Director Porter Goss tries to rebuild the agency's global operations, he faces a shortage of experienced spies created by a post-September 11 stampede to the private sector, current and former intelligence officials say.

Goss, who a year ago inherited a CIA wracked by criticism of intelligence failures over Iraq and the September 11, 2001, attacks, has come under fire from critics about the publicized departures of several high-level clandestine officers.

Reform advocates see the loss of senior officials as a natural consequence of changes intended to root out an old guard blamed for lapses that prompted Congress to put the CIA under a new director of national intelligence, John Negroponte.

'The CIA and the intelligence community failed this country pretty badly. That's why there's new leadership at the CIA. Change is not easy,' said Rep. Peter Hoekstra of Michigan, the Republican chairman of the House of Representatives intelligence committee.

But current and former officials say Goss does face problems stemming from the agency's reliance on a robust private contracting market for skilled intelligence and security workers that has grown more lucrative since the September 11, 2001, attacks and the U.S. invasion of Iraq.

'Goss realizes he has a major problem in the (clandestine service) because he's having major bailouts among the old guard and also retention problems all the way down the ranks,' said a former clandestine officer.

Experienced spies have been surrendering their blue staff badges and leaving the CIA in droves, often to return the next day as better paid, green-badged private contractors, current and former officials say."

I want to teach the world to surf, says the man who invented the $100 laptop: Independent Online Edition

Independent Online Edition > Science & Technology >> I want to teach the world to surf, says the man who invented the $100 laptop: "


One man in Boston has a plan that he hopes will bridge the world's gaping digital divide - and quickly. The visionary is Nicholas Negroponte, director of the Media Lab at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and his idea consists of a new kind of laptop computer that will cost just $100 (£57) to buy.

It will also be a little different in design from the sleek machines some of us in the west have learned to love or covet. It will be foldable in different ways, encased in bump-proof rubber and will include a hand-crank to give it power in those corners of the globe where electricity supply is patchy.

The first prototype of the machine should be ready by November and Mr Negroponte - who was one of the first prophets of the internet before most of us understood the word - hopes to put them into production next year.

In fact, he expects to churn out about 15 million of them within one year, shipping most of them at first to children in Brazil, Egypt, Thailand and South Africa.

Describing the unusual design of his sub-laptop yesterday, Mr Negroponte insisted that it would "have to be absolutely indestructible". The mission is to create a tool that children almost anywhere can use and can easily carry between their classrooms and their homes. For that reason, for instance, the AC adaptor cable will double as a shoulder strap.

Support is also coming from closer to home. The Governor of Massachusetts, Mitt Romney, has also committed to buying half a million of the machines for distribution to lower-income school students in the state.

The inspiration of the project, which has backing from US companies including Google, came to Mr Negroponte when he was travelling recently with his wife in Cambodia. He spotted children in a rural area carrying laptops - which the couple's foundation had donated - from school to their homes.

To cut costs, the machines would have a 500-megahertz processor provided by Advanced Micro Devices, which is a little slow by today's lightning-speed standards.

However, it would be set up for wireless connectivity, known as wi-fi, to give users the greatest chance of hooking up to the internet. It would run on a Linux platform, which is freely available, rather than Microsoft's more expensive Windows.
[...]

Other features of the device include being able to switch from a full colour screen to a monochrome alternative, which will much more easily viewed in bright sunlight. In the first models, turning the crank for one minute will provide 10 minutes of power.

Mr Negroponte says that rather than getting more expensive, as some brands do, he hopes that his machines will get cheaper through economies of scale. He pointed out that $100 was still expensive in many parts of the world. And he also expects the technology to improve. "

EU Wants Shared Control of Internet - BREITBART.COM - Just The News

BREITBART.COM - Just The News: "EU Wants Shared Control of Internet
Sep 30 10:00 AM US/Eastern


By AOIFE WHITE
AP Business Writer

BRUSSELS, Belgium

The European Union insisted Friday that governments and the private sector must share the responsibility of overseeing the Internet, setting the stage for a showdown with the United States on the future of Internet governance.

A senior U.S. official reiterated Thursday that the country wants to remain the Internet's ultimate authority, rejecting calls in a United Nations meeting in Geneva for a U.N. body to take over.

EU spokesman Martin Selmayr said a new cooperation model was important 'because the Internet is a global resource.'

'The EU ... is very firm on this position,' he added.

The Geneva talks were the last preparatory meeting before November's World Summit on the Information Society in Tunisia.

A stalemate over who should serve as the principal traffic cops for Internet routing and addressing could derail the summit, which aims to ensure a fair sharing of the Internet for the benefit of the whole world.

At issue is who would have ultimate authority over the Internet's master directories, which tell Web browsers and e-mail programs how to direct traffic.

That role has historically gone to the United States, which created the Internet as a Pentagon project and funded much of its early development. The U.S. Commerce Department has delegated much of that responsibility to a U.S.-based private organization with international board members, but Commerce ultimately retains veto power.

Some countries have been frustrated that the United States and European countries that got on the Internet first gobbled up most of the available addresses required for computers to connect, leaving developing nations with a limited supply to share.

They also want greater assurance that as they come to rely on the Internet more for governmental and other services, their plans won't get derailed by some future U.S. policy.

Policy decisions could at a stroke make all Web sites ending in a specific suffix essentially unreachable. Other decisions could affect the availability of domain names in non-English characters or ones dedicated to special interests such as pornography."

If the EU wants to control the internet, why don't they invent their own? Losers.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Google confirms Ames plan / Search engine plans offices, partnership with space agency

Google confirms Ames plan / Search engine plans offices, partnership with space agency:

Google Inc. confirmed Wednesday that it will build up to 1 million square feet of offices at NASA Ames Research Center and collaborate with the space agency on research surrounding topics such as supercomputing that could benefit everything from moon launches to online searches.

The partnership is intended to blend the expertise and huge resources of one of the leading Internet companies with an army of scientists focused on the stratosphere and beyond.

'Google and NASA share a common desire to bring the universe of information to people around the world,' said Eric Schmidt, the company's chief executive officer, in a statement. 'Imagine having a wide selection of images from the Apollo space mission at your fingertips whenever you want it.'

The partnership, announced late Wednesday at a press conference at the NASA facility, will bring a marquee tenant to the Ames Research Center, located at Moffett Field, a former military airfield near Mountain View that has been struggling to find a new purpose since the military pulled out in the 1990s.

For Google, the new partnership comes at a time when the Internet search engine is expanding by leaps and bounds, hiring on average 10 people per day. Experts say the company, which now employs more than 4,000 people, has ambitions beyond Internet search and could pose a serious threat to Microsoft Corp. for supremacy in desktop consumer computing.

This collaboration with NASA could also portend a new intellectual center for Silicon Valley, one that has been sorely missed since the heyday of Palo Alto's Xerox PARC, a seminal research facility that helped foster much of today's technology.

The details of the real estate part of the deal were vague. Schmidt said that the planning is still in the early stages and that the building on vacant land would take place over the course of many years.

In addition to supercomputing, the research and development between Google and NASA will involve biotechnology, information technology and nanotechnology, the development of extremely small devices.

Google stands to gain from learning about NASA's supercomputers, which could come in handy as the Mountain View search engine compiles even bigger indexes of information and video. NASA leaders cited the benefits of getting access to Google's search expertise to pick out nuggets of information from the volumes of data streaming back from satellites and human space launches."

Which of These Foods Will Stop Cancer? (Not So Fast)

Which of These Foods Will Stop Cancer? (Not So Fast)

Mr. Michelson is one of a growing number of people worried about cancer - because it is in their families or because they have seen friends suffer with the disease - who are turning to diets for protection. Cancer patients, doctors say, almost always ask what to eat to reduce their chances of dying from the disease.

The diet messages are everywhere: the National Cancer Institute has an "Eat 5 to 9 a Day for Better Health" program, the numbers referring to servings of fruits and vegetables, and the Prostate Cancer Foundation has a detailed anticancer diet.

Yet despite the often adamant advice, scientists say they really do not know whether dietary changes will make a difference. And there lies a quandary for today's medicine. It is turning out to be much more difficult than anyone expected to discover if diet affects cancer risk. Hypotheses abound, but convincing evidence remains elusive.

Most of the proposed dietary changes are unlikely to be harmful - less meat, more fish, more fruits and vegetables and less fat. And these changes in diet may help protect against heart disease, even if they have no effect on cancer.

So should people who are worried about cancer be told to follow these guidelines anyway, because they may work and will probably not hurt? Or should the people be told that the evidence just is not there, so they should not deceive themselves?
Dr. Barnett Kramer, deputy director in the office of disease prevention at the National Institutes of Health, said: "Over time, the messages on diet and cancer have been ratcheted up until they are almost co-equal with the smoking messages. I think a lot of the public is completely unaware that the strength of the message is not matched by the strength of the evidence."

[...]

Dr. Tim E. Byers, a professor of preventive medicine at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center in Denver, was convinced that up to 20 percent of cancers were being caused by diet and he wanted to be part of the exciting new research that would prove it.

"I felt we were really on the cusp of important new discoveries about food and how the right choice of foods would improve cancer risk," Dr. Byers sad.

That was 25 years ago, when the evidence was pointing to diet. For example, cross-country comparisons of cancer rates suggested a dietary influence.

"For prostate cancer, if you look around the world, there might be 50-fold or greater differences in rates; they're huge," said Dr. Meir Stampfer, a professor of epidemiology and nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health. "There are also big differences, many-fold differences, around the world for breast cancer and colon cancer."

And when people move from low risk countries to high risk countries, they or their children acquire the cancer rates of their new countries.

At the same time, some cancers were inexplicably becoming more common or, just as inexplicably, fading away in the United States.

In 1930, for instance, stomach cancer was the second leading cause of cancer death in women and the leading cause in men. Now, Dr. Stampfer says, stomach cancer is not even listed in the American Cancer Society's 10 leading cancers.

"So people think, 'What's happened in the past 70 years to make that change?' " he said. "Diet comes to mind."
[...]

Based on these indications, the cancer institute financed two studies on high-fiber diets and colon polyps. In one, 2,079 people were randomly assigned to eat low-fat high-fiber diets or to follow their usual diets. In the other, 1,429 people were assigned to eat high-fiber bran cereals or wheat bran fiber or to eat cereal and bars that looked and tasted the same but that were low on fiber. Fiber, the studies found, had no effect.

"We had high expectations and good rationale," Dr. Schatzkin said. But, he said, "we got absolutely null results."

Now, the largest randomized study ever of diet and cancer is nearing completion, involving 48,835 middle-age and elderly women. The women were randomly assigned to follow a low-fat diet with five servings a day of fruits and vegetables and two of grains or to follow their usual diet. The question was whether the experimental diet could prevent breast cancer.

The study is part of the Women's Health Initiative, a large federal project. When it began, the dietary fat hypothesis was ascendant. But after it was under way, other, less definitive studies failed to find any association between dietary fat and breast cancer.

The Women's Health Initiative diet study's results should be ready early next year, said its principle investigator, Ross L. Prentice, a biostatistics professor at Seattle's Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center.

And if it fails to find an effect?

Dr. Prentice said he would still wonder. Maybe what matters is diet earlier in life, he said, or maybe the women in the study did not stick to their diets.

Others say they suspect they were simply naïve about the cross-country comparisons that persuaded them in the first place.

"People drew inferences that were in retrospect overenthusiastic," Dr. Stampfer said. "You could plot G.N.P. against cancer and get a very similar graph, or telephone poles. Any marker of Western civilization gives you the same relationship."

Because of the striking differences in daily life between people in countries with high cancer rates and those in countries with low rates, diet may have nothing to do with the incidence of the disease, Dr. Schatzkin said. Or diet may play a large role but the questionnaires used to measure what people were eating might have been inadequate to find it.

"That's the problem." Dr. Schatzkin said. "We just don't know."

As for Dr. Byers, who once had such high hopes for the diet and cancer hypotheses, he says he is sadder now, but wiser. "The progress has been different than I would have predicted," Dr. Byers said.

Specific food can affect general health, he added, but as for a major role in cancer, he doubts it. He now believes that it is the amount of food people eat, not specific foods or types of foods, that may make a difference. "I think the truth may be that particular food choices are not as important as I thought they were," Dr. Byers said.
600 barrels of loot found on Crusoe island

Jonathan Franklin in Santiago
Monday September 26, 2005
The Guardian

The archipelago is named after Robinson Crusoe, but perhaps it should have been called Treasure Island.

A long quest for booty from the Spanish colonial era appears to be culminating in Chile with the announcement by a group of adventurers that they have found an estimated 600 barrels of gold coins and Incan jewels on the remote Pacific island.

"The biggest treasure in history has been located," said Fernando Uribe-Etxeverria, a lawyer for Wagner, the Chilean company leading the search. Mr Uribe-Etxeverria estimated the value of the buried treasure at US$10bn (£5.6bn).


600 barrels of loot found on Crusoe island

Jonathan Franklin in Santiago
Monday September 26, 2005
The Guardian

The archipelago is named after Robinson Crusoe, but perhaps it should have been called Treasure Island.

A long quest for booty from the Spanish colonial era appears to be culminating in Chile with the announcement by a group of adventurers that they have found an estimated 600 barrels of gold coins and Incan jewels on the remote Pacific island.

"The biggest treasure in history has been located," said Fernando Uribe-Etxeverria, a lawyer for Wagner, the Chilean company leading the search. Mr Uribe-Etxeverria estimated the value of the buried treasure at US$10bn (£5.6bn).

Article continues
The announcement set off ownership claims. The treasure hunters claimed half the loot was theirs and said they would donate it to non-profit-making organisations. The government said that they had no share to donate.

It also prompted speculation about the contents of what is considered to be one of the great lost treasures from the Spanish looting of South America. Chilean newspapers were filled with reports that the stash includes 10 papal rings and original gold statues from the Incan empire.

The hoard is supposedly buried 15 metres (50ft) deep on Robinson Crusoe island, also known as the Juan Fernández island, home to Scottish sailor Alexander Selkirk, the adventurer immortalised by Daniel Defoe as Robinson Crusoe. Selkirk was dumped on the island and lived alone for four years before being rescued. His exploits brought worldwide attention to the islands.

For centuries treasure hunters have scoured the island in search of booty which was reportedly buried there in 1715 by Spanish sailor Juan Esteban Ubilla y Echeverria.
[...]

This most recent announcement, however, deserves greater credence because of the equipment used by the treasure hunters: a mini robot that can scan 50 metres deep into the earth. The robot, dubbed "Arturito", was invented by Chileans and over the past year has grabbed headlines by breaking some of the country's biggest criminal mysteries.

First, the robot detected the buried arsenal of a rightwing sect known as Colonia Dignidad. The guns and rocket launchers were buried at some 10 metres and while the authorities had searched for years, the robot found the buried weapons almost instantly. Then, in the case of missing businessman Jose Yuraszeck, Arturito was able to analyse the soil and identify the molecular composition of human bones, allowing investigators to dig straight to the body of the murder victim.

Balls of Fire: Bees carefully cook invaders to death

Balls of Fire: Bees carefully cook invaders to death

Susan Milius

Honeybees that defend their colonies by killing wasps with body heat come within 5°C of cooking themselves in the process, according to a study in China.


KILL ZONE. Honeybees mob an invader wasp, revving up their body heat until the attacker dies.
Tan

At least two species of honeybees there, the native Apis cerana and the introduced European honeybee, Apis mellifera, engulf a wasp in a living ball of defenders and heat the predator to death. A new study of heat balling has described a margin of safety for the defending bees, says Tan Ken of Yunnan Agricultural University in Kunming, China.

He and his team also report in an upcoming issue of Naturwissenschaften that the native bees have heat-balling tricks that the European bees don't. That makes sense, the researchers say, since the Asian bees have long shared their range with the attacker wasp Vespa velutina, but the European bees became widespread in Asia only some 50 years ago and so have had much less time to adapt to the wasp.

The attacker wasps are "gigantic," says Thomas Seeley of Cornell University, who studies bee behavior. Of all social insects, the species has the largest workers, with wingspans that can stretch 5 centimeters. The wasps build large versions of the papery nests of hornets found in North America, and they specialize in breaking into other social-insect nests and carrying off larvae as food for young wasps.

"I've seen a single wasp overwhelm a colony of 6,000 bees" of a species that doesn't make heat balls, says Seeley. The invader wasp stands at the nest's entrance as one guard bee after another comes out to defend its home. "The wasp cuts the guard into pieces ... and waits for the next one," says Seeley. When all the defenders are dead, "the wasps strip-mine out the larvae," he reports.

However, a few honeybee species can defend themselves by surrounding an invader. Researchers used to think that the few-dozen bees were trying to sting the wasp, says Seeley. Thermal cameras, however, revealed the balls' soaring heat.

THE BASIC LAWS OF HUMAN STUPIDITY

THE BASIC LAWS OF HUMAN STUPIDITY
by Carlo M. Cipolla
illustrations by James Donnelly


The first basic law of human stupidity asserts without ambiguity that:

Always and inevitably everyone underestimates the number of stupid individuals in circulation.

At first, the statement sounds trivial, vague and horribly ungenerous. Closer scrutiny will however reveal its realistic veracity. No matter how high are one's estimates of human stupidity, one is repeatedly and recurrently startled by the fact that:

a) people whom one had once judged rational and intelligent turn out to be unashamedly stupid.

b) day after day, with unceasing monotony, one is harassed in one's activities by stupid individuals who appear suddenly and unexpectedly in the most inconvenient places and at the most improbable moments.

The First Basic Law prevents me from attributing a specific numerical value to the fraction of stupid people within the total population: any numerical estimate would turn out to be an underestimate. Thus in the following pages I will denote the fraction of stupid people within a population by the symbol å.



THE SECOND BASIC LAW

Stupid Person No. 2Cultural trends now fashionable in the West favour an egalitarian approach to life. People like to think of human beings as the output of a perfectly engineered mass production machine. Geneticists and sociologists especially go out of their way to prove, with an impressive apparatus of scientific data and formulations that all men are naturally equal and if some are more equal than others, this is attributable to nurture and not to nature. I take an exception to this general view. It is my firm conviction, supported by years of observation and experimentation, that men are not equal, that some are stupid and others are not, and that the difference is determined by nature and not by cultural forces or factors. One is stupid in the same way one is red-haired; one belongs to the stupid set as one belongs to a blood group. A stupid man is born a stupid man by an act of Providence. Although convinced that fraction of human beings are stupid and that they are so because of genetic traits, I am not a reactionary trying to reintroduce surreptitiously class or race discrimination. I firmly believe that stupidity is an indiscriminate privilege of all human groups and is uniformly distributed according to a constant proportion. This fact is scientifically expressed by the Second Basic Law which states that

The probability that a certain person be stupid is independent of any other characteristic of that person.

In this regard, Nature seems indeed to have outdone herself. It is well known that Nature manages, rather mysteriously, to keep constant the relative frequency of certain natural phenomena. For instance, whether men proliferate at the Northern Pole or at the Equator, whether the matching couples are developed or underdeveloped, whether they are black, red, white or yellow the female to male ratio among the newly born is a constant, with a very slight prevalence of males. We do not know how Nature achieves this remarkable result but we know that in order to achieve it Nature must operate with large numbers. The most remarkable fact about the frequency of stupidity is that Nature succeeds in making this frequency equal to the probability quite independently from the size of the group.

Thus one finds the same percentage of stupid people whether one is considering very large groups or one is dealing with very small ones. No other set of observable phenomena offers such striking proof of the powers of Nature.


Read the whole thing!

New Google maps hack: See zip codes

Input a zip code, and see it traced out on Google maps!

Chip Helps Electric Outlet Go Broadband - My Way News

Chip Helps Electric Outlet Go Broadband

By YURI KAGEYAMA

TOKYO (AP) - The common electric socket will serve as your home's connection to broadband with a new chip developed by Matsushita Electric Industrial Co. - doing away with all the Ethernet cables or the hassle of hooking up to a wireless network device.

Products are still being developed, but gadgets embedded with the chip from the Japanese manufacturer of Panasonic products can hook up to a broadband network by plugging into the common electrical outlet, company officials said Thursday.

That's because the Osaka-based company has come up with technology to use electric wiring in the home to relay not just electricity but also data.

The technology has been around for some time - including in the United States - but Matsushita's system is unique in that it delivers fast-speed broadband information at up to 170 megabits per second, which is faster than Ethernet.

The advantage is that the lowly electric socket is everywhere. Right now, a broadband outlet still isn't usually available in every room, even in homes that have broadband connections.

In the future home envisioned by Matsushita, people will be able to download and watch high-definition movies in any room of the house that has an outlet.

Attach a special device made by Matsushita into a socket and all you have to do is plug your TV or other gadgets into a socket for instant connection to broadband, which allows for faster transmission of online information than dial-up telephone connections.

Matsushita hopes to eventually sell refrigerators, TVs and other products with the chip already installed.

A network-connected refrigerator may allow users to connect from a mobile phone or laptop to check whether you're low on eggs, for example. Or you may want to turn gadgets off or on, such as your washing machine or air-conditioner, from outside the home.

But for now, an adaptor when plugged into an outlet will allow gadgets with Ethernet connections - even those without the Matsushita chip - to receive broadband.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

USATODAY.com NASA administrator says space shuttle was a mistake

USATODAY.com - "NASA administrator says space shuttle was a mistake:

By Traci Watson
USA TODAY

The space shuttle and International Space Station — nearly the whole of the U.S. manned space program for the past three decades — were mistakes, NASA chief Michael Griffin said Tuesday.

In a meeting with USA TODAY's editorial board, Griffin said NASA lost its way in the 1970s, when the agency ended the Apollo moon missions in favor of developing the shuttle and space station, which can only orbit Earth.

“It is now commonly accepted that was not the right path,” Griffin said. “We are now trying to change the path while doing as little damage as we can.”

The shuttle has cost the lives of 14 astronauts since the first flight in 1982. Roger Pielke Jr., a space policy expert at the University of Colorado, estimates that NASA has spent about $150 billion on the program since its inception in 1971. The total cost of the space station by the time it's finished — in 2010 or later — may exceed $100 billion, though other nations will bear some of that.

Only now is the nation's space program getting back on track, Griffin said. He announced last week that NASA aims to send astronauts back to the moon in 2018 in a spacecraft that would look like the Apollo capsule.

The goal of returning Americans to the moon was laid out by President Bush in 2004, before Griffin took the top job at NASA. Bush also said the shuttle would be retired in 2010.

Griffin has made clear in previous statements that he regards the shuttle and space station as misguided. He told the Senate earlier this year that the shuttle was “deeply flawed” and that the space station was not worth “the expense, the risk and the difficulty” of flying humans to space.

But since he became NASA administrator, Griffin hasn't been so blunt about the two programs.

Asked Tuesday whether the shuttle had been a mistake, Griffin said, “My opinion is that it was. … It was a design which was extremely aggressive and just barely possible.” Asked whether the space station had been a mistake, he said, “Had the decision been mine, we would not have built the space station we're building in the orbit we're building it in.”

Joe Rothenberg, head of NASA's manned space programs from 1995 to 2001, defended the programs for providing lessons about how to operate in space. But he conceded that “in hindsight, there may have been other ways.”"

Anti-War, My Foot - The phony peaceniks who protested in Washington. By Christopher Hitchens

Anti-War, My Foot
The phony peaceniks who protested in Washington.
By Christopher Hitchens



Are they really "anti-war"?
Saturday's demonstration in Washington, in favor of immediate withdrawal of coalition forces from Iraq, was the product of an opportunistic alliance between two other very disparate "coalitions." Here is how the New York Times (after a front-page and an inside headline, one of them reading "Speaking Up Against War" and one of them reading "Antiwar Rallies Staged in Washington and Other Cities") described the two constituenciess of the event:

The protests were largely sponsored by two groups, the Answer Coalition, which embodies a wide range of progressive political objectives, and United for Peace and Justice, which has a more narrow, antiwar focus.

The name of the reporter on this story was Michael Janofsky. I suppose that it is possible that he has never before come across "International ANSWER," the group run by the "Worker's World" party and fronted by Ramsey Clark, which openly supports Kim Jong-il, Fidel Castro, Slobodan Milosevic, and the "resistance" in Afghanistan and Iraq, with Clark himself finding extra time to volunteer as attorney for the génocidaires in Rwanda. Quite a "wide range of progressive political objectives" indeed, if that's the sort of thing you like. However, a dip into any database could have furnished Janofsky with well-researched and well-written articles by David Corn and Marc Cooper—to mention only two radical left journalists—who have exposed "International ANSWER" as a front for (depending on the day of the week) fascism, Stalinism, and jihadism.

The group self-lovingly calling itself "United for Peace and Justice" is by no means "narrow" in its "antiwar focus" but rather represents a very extended alliance between the Old and the New Left, some of it honorable and some of it redolent of the World Youth Congresses that used to bring credulous priests and fellow-traveling hacks together to discuss "peace" in East Berlin or Bucharest. Just to give you an example, from one who knows the sectarian makeup of the Left very well, I can tell you that the Worker's World Party—Ramsey Clark's core outfit—is the product of a split within the Trotskyist movement. These were the ones who felt that the Trotskyist majority, in 1956, was wrong to denounce the Russian invasion of Hungary. The WWP is the direct, lineal product of that depraved rump. If the "United for Peace and Justice" lot want to sink their differences with such riffraff and mount a joint demonstration, then they invite some principled political criticism on their own account. And those who just tag along … well, they just tag along.

To be against war and militarism, in the tradition of Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht, is one thing. But to have a record of consistent support for war and militarism, from the Red Army in Eastern Europe to the Serbian ethnic cleansers and the Taliban, is quite another. It is really a disgrace that the liberal press refers to such enemies of liberalism as "antiwar" when in reality they are straight-out pro-war, but on the other side. Was there a single placard saying, "No to Jihad"? Of course not. Or a single placard saying, "Yes to Kurdish self-determination" or "We support Afghan women's struggle"? Don't make me laugh. And this in a week when Afghans went back to the polls, and when Iraqis were preparing to do so, under a hail of fire from those who blow up mosques and U.N. buildings, behead aid workers and journalists, proclaim fatwahs against the wrong kind of Muslim, and utter hysterical diatribes against Jews and Hindus.

Some of the leading figures in this "movement," such as George Galloway and Michael Moore, are obnoxious enough to come right out and say that they support the Baathist-jihadist alliance. Others prefer to declare their sympathy in more surreptitious fashion. The easy way to tell what's going on is this: Just listen until they start to criticize such gangsters even a little, and then wait a few seconds before the speaker says that, bad as these people are, they were invented or created by the United States. That bad, huh? (You might think that such an accusation—these thugs were cloned by the American empire for God's sake—would lead to instant condemnation. But if you thought that, gentle reader, you would be wrong.)

There are only two serious attempts at swamp-draining currently under way. In Afghanistan and Iraq, agonizingly difficult efforts are in train to build roads, repair hospitals, hand out ballot papers, frame constitutions, encourage newspapers and satellite dishes, and generally evolve some healthy water in which civil-society fish may swim. But in each case, from within the swamp and across the borders, the most poisonous snakes and roaches are being recruited and paid to wreck the process and plunge people back into the ooze. How nice to have a "peace" movement that is either openly on the side of the vermin, or neutral as between them and the cleanup crew, and how delightful to have a press that refers to this partisanship, or this neutrality, as "progressive."

How true. These people aren't even anti-war at all. Just as leftists during the reign of the Soviet Union excused all of THEIR militarism as defensive, or justified, ANSWER and their ilk are just apologists for dictators. I'm a Hitchens fan. He is a leftist who calls it like it is. Despite our different politics, at least he realizes that dictators are no friends of progressives.

Oil reserves are double previous estimates, says Saudi >Independent Online Edition >

Oil reserves are double previous estimates, says Saudi:


"Saudi Arabia, the biggest oil producer, and Exxon Mobil, the largest oil company, yesterday declared that the world had decades' worth of oil to come, in an attempt to calm fears about the record prices experienced in recent weeks.

Forming a powerful alliance, the Saudi oil minister Ali al-Naimi said, at an industry conference in Johannesburg, that the country would soon almost double its 'proven' reserve base, while Exxon's president, Rex Tillerson, spoke of 3 trillion or more barrels of oil that are yet to be recovered.

Mr Naimi said that Saudi Arabia would 'soon' add 200 billion barrels to its current reserves estimate of 264 billion barrels. The level of the kingdom's reserves and future production capacity are a controversial issue, with sceptics suggesting that it is running out of oil. Muhammed-Ali Zainy, of London's Centre for Global Energy Studies, said: 'Since these Opec countries [like Saudi Arabia] are closed, the only information available is available to themselves alone. So they can come up with a new reserves figure and the rest of the world will just have to take it.'
[...]

r Naimi said talk of oil scarcity reminded him of the 1970s, when people also thought the end of the age of oil was at hand. "But in the intervening years, when we were supposedly facing a precipitous decline, world oil reserves more than doubled," he said.

It is widely accepted that demand for oil will rise over the next decade or two. Most projections of how that demand will be met assume that Saudi Arabia will be able to ramp up production to 15 million barrels a day or more by 2020.

However, sceptics, led by the US banker Matthew Simmons, have argued that production in Saudi Arabia's known oil fields is already declining and that no major new fields have been discovered. By extension, these critics suggest the world has reached, or is about to reach, the high point of production.

Separately, Exxon's Mr Tillerson told the convention in South Africa that his company estimated that global energy demand would increase by 50 per cent over the next 25 years. Mr Tillerson said that by some estimates there was as much as 7 trillion barrels of oil yet to be discovered. On a more conservative basis, the world still had more than 3 trillion barrels from conventional fields, oil sands deposits and other sources. "That is more than twice all the oil recovered up to now in all of human history," Mr Tillerson said."

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Space Elevator Concept Undergoes “Reel” World Testing

Space Elevator Concept Undergoes “Reel” World Testing
By Leonard David



A private group has taken one small step toward the prospect of building a futuristic space elevator.

LiftPort Group Inc., of Bremerton, Washington, has successfully tested a robot climber – a novel piece of hardware that reeled itself up and down a lengthy ribbon dangling from a high-altitude balloon.

The test run, conducted earlier this week, is seen as a precursor experiment intended to flight validate equipment and methods to construct a space elevator. This visionary concept would make use of an ultra-strong carbon nanotube composite ribbon stretching some 62,000 miles (100,000 kilometers) from Earth into space.

The space elevator would be anchored to an offshore sea platform near the equator in the Pacific Ocean. At the other end in space, the ribbon would be attached to a small counterweight. Mechanical “lifters” -- robotic elevator cars -- would move up and down the ribbon, carrying such items as satellites, solar power systems, and eventually people into space.

LiftPort’s plan is to take the concept from the research laboratory to commercial development.

Robot lifter

“We were very pleased with the test,” said Michael Laine, President of the LiftPort Group. “It worked really well,” he told SPACE.com.

Monday, September 26, 2005

The Counterterrorism Blog: U.S. Congressman Proposes High-Tech Defense to Prevent Terrorist Infiltration

The Counterterrorism Blog: U.S. Congressman Proposes High-Tech Defense to Prevent Terrorist Infiltration

Rep. Rick Renzi, U.S. Congressman from the 1st District of Arizona, is proposing the deployment of high-tech equipment along the U.S.-Mexico border to prevent infiltration by terrorists. Rep. Renzi represents the largest district, geographically, in the U.S. (except for those districts covering an entire state) and serves on the U.S. House Intelligence Committee and Financial Services Committee. Rep. Renzi's announcement on his "Red Zone Defense" proposal states, "Along with Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV), drones, ground sensors and tower sensors, we need aerostat balloons equipped with night-vision and infrared technology and other intelligence payloads to see into Mexico looking for illegal aliens before they get to the border. This capability will provide a constant stream of real time intelligence, which can then be down-linked to a multi-agency command center." He also notes the volume of terrorist-related border crossings: "In fact, thousands of these special interest aliens (illegal immigrants from terror-related countries such as Pakistan, Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Yemen, Syria, Lebanon and even Iraq) have been apprehended by the U.S. Border Patrol this year, and this number continues to climb."

The use of this type of equipment in Jerusalem and Fallujah have sharply reduced the number of terrorist attacks in those cities. Our own citizens deserve nothing less than the same equipment and devotion of resources.

FOXNews.com - U.S. & World - U.S. Special Forces Kill No. 2 Terrorist in Iraq

U.S. Special Forces killed Al Qaeda’s No. 2 terror mastermind in Iraq, Defense Department officials say.

FOX News has confirmed that Abu Azzam, who was believed to have been in charge of the financing of terrorist cells in the war-torn country, was killed during a raid in Baghdad Sunday. Azzam is thought to be the top deputy to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, Iraq’s most wanted terrorist.

Azzam is the latest in a series of top Zarqawi deputies that been killed or captured by coalition forces in recent months. Zarqawi’s Al Qaeda in Iraq group has taken responsibility for some of the country’s most horrific acts of terror including car bombings, kidnappings and beheadings of Iraqi civilians and westerners.

NOLA.com: T-P Orleans Parish Breaking News Weblog

NOLA.com: T-P Orleans Parish Breaking News Weblog: "Rumors of deaths greatly exaggerated
Widely reported attacks false or unsubstantiated

6 bodies found at Dome; 4 at Convention Center


By Brian Thevenot
and Gordon Russell
Staff writers


After five days managing near-riots, medical horrors and unspeakable living conditions inside the Superdome, Louisiana National Guard Col. Thomas Beron prepared to hand over the dead to representatives of the Federal Emergency Management Agency.


Following days of internationally reported killings, rapes and gang violence inside the Dome, the doctor from FEMA - Beron doesn't remember his name - came prepared for a grisly scene: He brought a refrigerated 18-wheeler and three doctors to process bodies.

'I've got a report of 200 bodies in the Dome,' Beron recalls the doctor saying.

The real total was six, Beron said.

Of those, four died of natural causes, one overdosed and another jumped to his death in an apparent suicide, said Beron, who personally oversaw the turning over of bodies from a Dome freezer, where they lay atop melting bags of ice. State health department officials in charge of body recovery put the official death count at the Dome at 10, but Beron said the other four bodies were found in the street near the Dome, not inside it. Both sources said no one had been killed inside.

At the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center, just four bodies were recovered, despites reports of corpses piled inside the building. Only one of the dead appeared to have been slain, said health and law enforcement officials.

That the nation's front-line emergency management believed the body count would resemble that of a bloody battle in a war is but one of scores of examples of myths about the Dome and the Convention Center treated as fact by evacuees, the media and even some of New Orleans' top officials, including the mayor and police superintendent. As the fog of warlike conditions in Hurricane Katrina's aftermath has cleared, the vast majority of reported atrocities committed by evacuees have turned out to be false, or at least unsupported by any evidence, according to key military, law enforcement, medical and civilian officials in positions to know.

'I think 99 percent of it is bulls---,' said Sgt. 1st Class Jason Lachney, who played a key role in security and humanitarian work inside the Dome. 'Don't get me wrong, bad things happened, but I didn't see any killing and raping and cutting of throats or anything. ... Ninety-nine percent of the people in the Dome were very well-behaved.'

Dr. Louis Cataldie, the state Health and Human Services Department administrator overseeing the body recovery operation, said his teams were inundated with false reports about the Dome and Convention Center.

'We swept both buildings several times, because we kept getting reports of more bodies there,' Cataldie said. 'But it just wasn't the case.'

Orleans Parish District Attorney Eddie Jordan said authorities had confirmed only four murders in New Orleans in the aftermath of Katrina - making it a typical week in a city that anticipated more than 200 homicides this year. Jordan expressed outrage at reports from many national media outlets that suffering flood victims had turned into mobs of unchecked savages.

'I had the impression that at least 40 or 50 murders had occurred at the two sites,' he said. 'It's unfortunate we saw these kinds of stories saying crime had taken place on a massive scale when that wasn't the case. And they (national media outlets) have done nothing to follow up on any of these cases, they just accepted what people (on the street) told them. ... It's not consistent with the highest standards of journalism.'


As floodwaters forced tens of thousands of evacuees into the Dome and Convention Center, news of unspeakable acts poured out of the nation's media: evacuees firing at helicopters trying to save them; women, children and even babies raped with abandon; people killed for food and water; a 7-year-old raped and killed at the Convention Center. Police, according to their chief, Eddie Compass, found themselves in multiple shootouts inside both shelters, and were forced to race toward muzzle flashes through the dark to disarm the criminals; snipers supposedly fired at doctors and soldiers from downtown high-rises.

In interviews with Oprah Winfrey, Compass reported rapes of "babies," and Mayor Ray Nagin spoke of "hundreds of armed gang members" killing and raping people inside the Dome. Unidentified evacuees told of children stepping over so many bodies, "we couldn't count."

The picture that emerged was one of the impoverished, masses of flood victims resorting to utter depravity, randomly attacking each other, as well as the police trying to protect them and the rescue workers trying to save them. Nagin told Winfrey the crowd has descended to an "almost animalistic state."

Four weeks after the storm, few of the widely reported atrocities have been backed with evidence. The piles of bodies never materialized, and soldiers, police officers and rescue personnel on the front lines say that although anarchy reigned at times and people suffered unimaginable indignities, most of the worst crimes reported at the time never happened.

Military, law enforcement and medical workers agree that the flood of evacuees - about 30,000 at the Dome and an estimated 10,000 to 20,000 at the Convention Center - overwhelmed their security personnel. The 400 to 500 soldiers in the Dome could have been easily overrun by increasingly agitated crowds, but that never happened, said Col. James Knotts, a midlevel commander there. Security was nonexistent at the Convention Center, which was never designated as a shelter. Authorities provided no food, water or medical care until troops secured the building the Friday after the storm.

While the Convention Center saw plenty of mischief, including massive looting and isolated gunfire, and many inside cowered in fear, the hordes of evacuees for the most part did not resort to violence, as legend has it."

Sunday, September 25, 2005

The Counterterrorism Blog: First Signs of Daylight in Battle with Zarqawi in Iraq

The Counterterrorism Blog: First Signs of Daylight in Battle with Zarqawi in Iraq

A break between mainstream Sunni Iraqis and fringe Salafist extremists

International terrorism consultant Evan Kohlman has highlighted the split between mainstream Sunni's in Iraq and the Salafist extremists, symbolized by correspondence this past week between the Sunni Association of Muslim Scholars (AMS) and al Qaeda in Iraq. Kohlman references the response of AMS to Zarqawi's declaration of war on the Shi'ite, in which they strongly condemn his actions, and two replies from al Qaeda that display disappointment in the AMS and proclaim Zarqawi was misquoted.

WSJ.com - Battling Google, Microsoft Changes How It Builds Software

WSJ.com - Battling Google, Microsoft Changes How It Builds Software: "Battling Google, Microsoft
Changes How It Builds Software

Delay in New Windows Version
Drove Giant to Develop
Simpler, Flexible Product
Engineers Get Trip to 'Bug Jail'

By ROBERT A. GUTH
Staff Reporter of THE WALL STREET JOURNAL
September 23, 2005; Page A1

REDMOND, Wash. -- Jim Allchin, a senior Microsoft Corp. executive, walked into Bill Gates's office here one day in July last year to deliver a bombshell about the next generation of Microsoft Windows.

'It's not going to work,' Mr. Allchin says he told the Microsoft chairman. The new version, code-named Longhorn, was so complex its writers would never be able to make it run properly.
[Jim Allchin]

The news got even worse: Longhorn was irredeemable because Microsoft engineers were building it just as they had always built software. Throughout its history, Microsoft had let thousands of programmers each produce their own piece of computer code, then stitched it together into one sprawling program. Now, Mr. Allchin argued, the jig was up. Microsoft needed to start over.

Mr. Gates resisted at first, pushing for Mr. Allchin's group to take more time until everything worked. Over the next few months, Mr. Allchin and his deputies would also face protests from programmers who complained he was trying to impose bureaucracy and rob Microsoft of its creativity.

'There was some angst by everybody,' says Mr. Gates of the period. 'It's obviously my role to ask people, 'Hey, let's not throw things out we shouldn't throw out. Let's keep things in that we can keep in.' '

Ultimately, Mr. Allchin's warning proved cathartic and led to what he and others call a transformation in Microsoft's most important product. A key reason: the growing threat from rivals such as Google Inc., Apple Computer Inc. and makers of the free Linux operating system. In recent years these companies have been dashing out some software innovations faster than Microsoft. Google has grown particularly effective at introducing new programs such as email and instant messaging over the Internet, watching how they perform and regularly replacing them with improved versions.

Microsoft's Windows can't entirely replicate that approach, since the software is by its nature a massive program overseeing all of a computer's functions. But Microsoft is now racing to move in that direction: developing a solid core for Windows onto which new features can be added one by one over time.
[...]

Microsoft's holy grail is a system that cranks out a new, generally bug-free version of basic Windows every few years, with frequent updates in between to add enhancements or match a competitor's offering.

The Longhorn crisis helps explain the sweeping restructuring that Microsoft Chief Executive Steve Ballmer announced this week to organize the company into three major business units. A key goal is to force Microsoft to be more nimble in producing and delivering software.

Mr. Allchin's reforms address a problem dating to Microsoft's beginnings. Old-school computer science called for methodical coding practices to ensure that the large computers used by banks, governments and scientists wouldn't break. But as personal computers took off in the 1980s, companies like Microsoft didn't have time for that. PC users wanted cool and useful features quickly. They tolerated -- or didn't notice -- the bugs riddling the software. Problems could always be patched over. With each patch and enhancement, it became harder to strap new features onto the software since new code could affect everything else in unpredictable ways.

The 53-year-old Mr. Allchin, who joined Microsoft in 1990 and is now co-head of the Platform Products and Services Division, says he always disdained the fast-and-loose culture of PC software. The holder of a doctorate in computer science, Mr. Allchin craved discipline in code writing. But in the booming 1990s, when it seemed Microsoft could do no wrong, there was little Mr. Allchin could do. As soon as Microsoft was done with one version it pushed on to the next. Mr. Allchin was haunted by what he calls his "little demons."

In 2001 Microsoft made a documentary film celebrating the creation of Windows XP, which remains the latest full update of Windows. When Mr. Allchin previewed the film, it confirmed some of his misgivings about the Windows culture. He saw the eleventh-hour heroics needed to finish the product and get it to customers. Mr. Allchin ordered the film to be burned.
FROM THE ARCHIVE
• Microsoft's Search Engine Gets Cool Welcome
09/22/05

• Microsoft Sets Big Restructuring Plan
09/21/05

• Microsoft Is in Talks to Buy a Stake in AOL
09/16/05




When the Longhorn project to build an XP successor got started, teams of engineers set off to develop it as they always had. Mr. Gates was especially eager for them to add a fundamental change to Windows called WinFS that would let PC users search and organize information better. One goal was to let users scour their entire computer for work they had done on a subject without needing to go through every individual program or document.

Mr. Allchin says he soon saw his fears realized. In making large software programs engineers regularly bring together all the new unfinished features into a single "build," a sort of prototype used to test how the features work together. Ideally, engineers make a fresh build every night, fix any bugs and go back to refining their features the next day. But with 4,000 engineers writing code each day, testing the build became a Sisyphean task. When a bug popped up, trouble-shooters would often have to manually search through thousands of lines of code to find the problem.

Mr. Gates's WinFS project was so troublesome that engineers began talking about whether they could make the "pig fly." Images of pigs with wings started appearing in presentations and offices.

And Microsoft's culture was facing a new threat. The mass of patches and agglomerations that made up Windows turned it into an easy target for viruses and other Web-based attacks. Mr. Allchin had to divert top engineers into the effort to fix security problems in existing versions of Windows. "The ship was just crashing to the ground," Mr. Allchin says.

In late 2003, Mr. Allchin called on the help of two men. The first was one of Microsoft's best-known "shippers," people known for their ability to turn around troubled software projects. Windows veteran Brian Valentine had a reputation for booming motivational speeches, beer bashes and stunts like showing up to work functions as Elvis, the Easter Bunny or even once a hula girl with a coconut bra.

The second man Mr. Allchin tapped was Amitabh Srivastava, now 49, a fellow purist among computer scientists. A newcomer to the Windows group, Mr. Srivastava had his team draw up a map of how Windows' pieces fit together. It was 8 feet tall and 11 feet wide and looked like a haphazard train map with hundreds of tracks crisscrossing each other.
[Amitabh Srivastava]

That was just the opposite of how Microsoft's new rivals worked. Google and others developed test versions of software and shipped them over the Internet. The best of the programs from rivals were like Lego blocks -- they had a single function and were designed to be connected onto a larger whole. Google and even Microsoft's own MSN online unit could quickly respond to changes in the way people used their PCs and the Web by adding incremental improvements.

In April 2004, Google, seemingly out of nowhere, introduced its Gmail service, competing with Microsoft's Hotmail program. Tiny Internet browser maker Mozilla Foundation beat Microsoft to market with browser features planned for Longhorn.

Most alarming: By July 2004, it became clear that Google was working on a "desktop search" tool for finding information on a PC -- offering some of the features that Mr. Gates's WinFS program was supposed to bring to Longhorn. Google, previously focused exclusively on the Internet, was now stepping onto Microsoft's turf as the creator of software inside the PC.

While Windows itself couldn't be a single module -- it had too many functions for that -- it could be designed so that Microsoft could easily plug in or pull out new features without disrupting the whole system. That was a cornerstone of a plan Messrs. Srivastava and Valentine proposed to their boss, Mr. Allchin. Microsoft would have to throw out years of computer code in Longhorn and start out with a fresh base. It would set up computers to automatically reject bug-laden code. The new Longhorn would have to be simple. It would leave bells and whistles for later -- including Mr. Gates's WinFS, Messrs. Srivastava and Allchin say.

Mr. Allchin signed on to the plan and broke the news to Messrs. Gates and Ballmer. Mr. Allchin remembers that Mr. Gates pushed him to keep going with the original version of Longhorn, saying if the software writers needed more time Microsoft could ship a scaled-down version in the interim. The executives agreed to reserve a final decision until Mr. Ballmer returned from a business trip, according to Mr. Allchin and Mr. Valentine, who was also present."

The Observer | International | Armed and dangerous - Flipper the firing dolphin let loose by Katrina

The Observer | International | Armed and dangerous - Flipper the firing dolphin let loose by Katrina:

by Mark Townsend Houston
Sunday September 25, 2005
The Observer

It may be the oddest tale to emerge from the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Armed dolphins, trained by the US military to shoot terrorists and pinpoint spies underwater, may be missing in the Gulf of Mexico.

Experts who have studied the US navy's cetacean training exercises claim the 36 mammals could be carrying 'toxic dart' guns. Divers and surfers risk attack, they claim, from a species considered to be among the planet's smartest. The US navy admits it has been training dolphins for military purposes, but has refused to confirm that any are missing.

Dolphins have been trained in attack-and-kill missions since the Cold War. The US Atlantic bottlenose dolphins have apparently been taught to shoot terrorists attacking military vessels. Their coastal compound was breached during the storm, sweeping them out to sea. But those who have studied the controversial use of dolphins in the US defence programme claim it is vital they are caught quickly.

Leo Sheridan, 72, a respected accident investigator who has worked for government and industry, said he had received intelligence from sources close to the US government's marine fisheries service confirming dolphins had escaped.

'My concern is that they have learnt to shoot at divers in wetsuits who have simulated terrorists in exercises. If divers or windsurfers are mistaken for a spy or suicide bomber and if equipped with special harnesses carrying toxic darts, they could fire,' he said. 'The darts are designed to put the target to sleep so they can be interrogated later, but what happens if the victim is not found for hours?'"

Friday, September 23, 2005

New York Post Online Edition: Russia is trying to defend the Syrian regime against U.S. pressure and possible U.N. sanctions

New York Post Online Edition: commentary: "RUSSIAN TO SYRIA'S SIDE

By URI DAN


September 23, 2005 -- JERUSALEM - Russia is trying to defend the Syrian regime against U.S. pressure and possible U.N. sanctions, according to a secret Israeli foreign office cable.

'Russia regards Syria as its only foothold in the Middle East,' the report said.

That's quite a change from the days when Moscow also had strong allies in Cairo, Baghdad and elsewhere in the region.

Russia has been trying to upgrade its ties to Syria, beginning with the visit of President Bashar al-Assad to Moscow last January.

But Russia is suddenly worried about Syria's growing isolation in the international arena, due to American charges of Damascus' support of terror in Iraq and because of what the cable called 'the Syrian fingerprints' in the assassination of former Lebanese prime minister Rafik al-Hariri.


Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon recently told The Post the evidence provided by a Syrian officer who defected to France may indicate the Syrian presidency was directly involved in the killing of Hariri, a critic of Damascus.

Assad's problems escalated because Detlev Mehlis, appointed by the U.N. Security Council to investigate the Hariri slaying, has interrogated top officials in Damascus, including the intelligence and military intelligence chiefs and even Assad's brother Maher.

'Russia did not object' to the Hariri investigation at first because it believed 'the damage to Syria would not go beyond its open control of Lebanon,' the cable said.

But the vigor of Mehlis' investigation now has Moscow worried it will lose friends in Damascus who are 'the base of Russia's presence in the Middle East,' it said."

In Syria, democrats chomp at bit | csmonitor.com

In Syria, democrats chomp at bit
Anticipating a new law that will allow the creation of political opposition parties, some Syrians aren't waiting.
By Rhonda Roumani | Correspondent of The Christian Science Monitor



DAMASCUS – Political life in Syria has long been stagnant, dominated by the ruling Baath Party since the 1960s.

But in June, the Baath Party Congress recommended the establishment of a new political party law that would allow the creation of new nonethnic and nonreligious political parties.

Since then, Samir Nashar, a wealthy businessman from Aleppo, has spent weeks on the road, personally recruiting prominent intellectuals, economists, and businessmen to join the National Free Coalition, a new party that hopes to represent Syria's bourgeoisie.

But in a country where new political parties still remain illegal and gatherings of four or more people may be punishable by jail, Nashar's recruitment drive is proving difficult.

"Because of the security services, people don't know how the government will respond to announcements of political parties," said Nashar. "So even though people like our project, they remain fearful of joining."

While analysts say a new party law could take as long as two years to pass, the mere anticipation of such a law has ignited discussions among activists about what new political parties could look like.

And some of the country's boldest activists are looking to jump start the whole process. Nashar says the need to organize has taken on a sense of urgency as the new law could require a new party to have a membership in the tens of thousands to be recognized.

"In a country like Syria, with no real political life, how can we start a party in the thousands?" asks Nashar. "That is why I am opening the dialogue with friends, social organizations, and economists. We want to build a liberal atmosphere before we have a party so that people get to know each other."

Kamal al-Labwani, one of 10 prominent activists arrested in 2001 and released last year, published his vision for The Liberal Democratic Union a few months ago on the Internet.

Historically, opposition parties in Syria outside the National Progressive Front (NPF), a coalition of nine political parties controlled by the Baath Party, have mostly been communists, socialists, or nationalists. But opposition figures like Nashar and Mr. Labwani say that these days their country is in need of "liberalism" and "capitalism."

Nashar says his Free National Coalition will be the first party since the mid-1950s to represent the interests of the middle class. He has visions of a market economy, a democratic system with a division of power and term limits, an emphasis on the rights for women and minority, and the rights of religious groups to form parties - all anchored under the rule of law.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

The Fourth Rail: Toothless Taliban

Toothless Taliban
By Bill Roggio


Afghanistan has successfully conduct its second round of elections since its liberation from the Taliban in 2001. Turnout is estimated at over fifty percent. Despite promises to disrupt the election from al Qaeda and the Taliban, the violence on election day was insignificant. The BBC tallies up the election day violence:

• A skirmish between police and Taliban. Two police and three Taliban are killed.
• A French soldier is killed by a land mine.
• Two rockets fired at a UN compound.
• One Taliban fighter killed during an attack on a police station.
• A candidate's house is bombed, injuring five.
• Three rockets fired at Jalalabad airport.
• A rocket attack on polling station in Andar district of Ghazni province.
• A rocket attack on polling station in Dargam district of Kunar province.

Afghanistan is the former haven of al Qaeda and the model Islamist state for al Qaeda’s desired Caliphate. The Taliban has vowed it would disrupt the elections. Yet all it could accomplish was a series of small engagements that can accurately be described as harassments attacks. Not a single attack achieved the desired result of disrupting the election, closing a polling place or intimidating the Afghan people from voting.

It is not as if the Taliban and al Qaeda had to face an overwhelming army of foreign soldiers and a robust Afghan Army. There are currently 32,000 foreign troops on Afghan soil (20,000 U.S. and 12,000 NATO/ISAF troops), and about 55,000 active Afghan security forces (data is from February 2005, this number is likely larger but not significantly).

It is not as if a robust target environment did not exist. There were almost 6,000 candidates running for office. There were 28,157 polling stations in 6,000 locations throughout Afghanistan, manned by about 200,000 poll workers. The combined Coalition and Afghan security forces could not realistically secure each and every polling station or provide for security for each candidate and poll worker. Yet the Taliban was essentially silent during Afghanistan’s election.

The resurgence of the Taliban has been predicted year after year since their ouster in the winter of 2001. Despite the Coalition’s obvious vulnerabilities that are inherent in defending an election, the Taliban could not come close to making itself heard. This is not power, but impotence. The Taliban may have an underground ‘army’ and access to Pakistan’s chaotic tribal regions, but their ability to influence day to day events and their relevance in the future of Afghanistan diminishes yearly.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Muslim violence destroying economy in southern Thailand

SignOnSanDiego.com > News > World -- Muslim violence destroying economy in southern Thailand

PATTANI, Thailand – The open-air market in this southern Thai city falls eerily quiet on Fridays. Most vendors stay home, terrorized by leaflets threatening to kill or cut off the ears of anyone who works on the Muslim holy day.

After 20 months of insurgent violence, the no-work threat has driven another nail into what is becoming an economic coffin in Thailand’s terrorized southern provinces.

“My business has been bad as customers are afraid to come out,” said Thanchanok Putroy, 39, chopping up a catfish in the market where most stores were shut and buses aren’t running.

Among the hundreds killed in the predominantly Muslim provinces of Pattani, Yala and Narathiwat are police and soldiers, but police records show that 80 percent are civilians – rubber tappers, shopkeepers, civil servants, construction workers and ice cream vendors.

Bombs have exploded at a department store, a cinema complex, the international airport at Hat Yai and a department store owned by the French Carrefour chain. Now investors and tourists have been driven off and some workers are leaving.

“Trade has dropped 70 to 80 percent. Shopkeepers complain loudly. It is very quiet at night and people from outside dare not to come to the area,” said Panya Ongsakul, chairman of the three provinces’ chamber of commerce.

DoD News: Press Briefing on Overview of Operation Restoring Rights in Tall Afar, Iraq

Dramatic success in Tall Afar battle cuts off insurgents supply lines from Syria.

The enemy in this area is -- this is the worst of the worst in terms of people in the world. The enemy here was drawn to Tall Afar for a couple of reasons.



First of all, Tall Afar is positioned along routes that lead from Mosul into Syria. So it was important to the enemy to have freedom of action, not only in Tall Afar, but in western Ninevah province, so they could access sources of external support in Syria. Also, this area is important to the enemy because this enemy -- al Qaeda in Iraq -- wants to foment ethnic and sectarian violence and wants a chaotic environment so that they can operate freely in this area, and ultimately what they hope is that Iraq will fail and descend into civil war. And this area is conducive to those sort of efforts because you have an ethnic minority here: the Turkmen. You have - that - ethnic minority is further divided between a majority of Turkmen Sunna and a minority of Turkmen Shi'ia. And this city of Turkmen exists in an area that also includes other ethnic and sectarian groups, including Sunni Arabs and Izedis, and then also Kurds in the region.



So the enemy moved into here to establish this support base and safe haven. They also moved into this area because there's very dense urban terrain in the city of Tall Afar. It's difficult for our forces, organized as we are as a mechanized force, primarily, to access these areas. And so the enemy went into this safe haven and used it not only to access sources of external support, but they also used this area to train, organize, and equip their forces for employment not only locally here in Tall Afar, but without (sic) the region and potentially throughout the country. So it was very important for us to deny the enemy the ability to use this safe haven and to terrorize this population.



To protect themselves here, what the enemy did is they waged the most brutal and murderous campaign against the people of Tall Afar.



I'd like just to briefly characterize the enemy, describe who we're fighting here. This is an enemy, who when they came in, they removed all the imams from the mosques, and they replaced them with Islamic extremist laymen. They removed all the teachers from the schools and replaced them with people who had a fifth-grade education and who preached hatred and intolerance. They murdered people. In each of their cells that they have within the city has a direct action cell of about 100 or so fighters. They have a kidnapping and murder cell; they have a propaganda cell, a mortar cell, a sniper cell -- a very high degree of organization here. And what the enemy did is to keep the population from performing other activities. To keep the population afraid, they kidnapped and murdered large numbers of the people here, and it was across the spectrum. A Sunni Turkmen imam was kidnapped and murdered. A very fine man, a city councilman, Councilman Suliman (sp), was pulled out of his car in front of his children and his wife and gunned down with about 30 gunshot wounds to his head. The enemy conducted indiscriminate mortar attacks against populated areas and wounded scores of children and killed many others. The enemy here did just the most horrible things you can imagine, in one case murdering a child, placing a booby trap within the child's body and waiting for the parent to come recover the body of their child and exploding it to kill the parents. Beheadings and so forth.



So the enemy's grip over this population to maintain the safe haven was based on fear, coercion, and these sort of heinous acts. And not only were they targeting civilians, brutally murdering them, torturing them, but they were also kidnapping the youth of the city and brainwashing them and trying to turn them into hate-filled murderers.



So, really, there could be no better enemy for our soldiers and Iraqi army soldiers to pursue and defeat and deny the enemy the safe haven in this area.



So I just want to quickly summarize what's occurred here, and then talk about some of the reasons for the success we've had thus far. The regiment began operating here on the 1st of May with our lead squadron, 2nd Squadron. They partnered with the unit that was doing a very effective job at disrupting the enemy here and reinforced their efforts. That was the 1st of the 14th Cavalry.



They began to conduct aggressive offensive operations and reconnaissance operations in the city. The enemy noticed that we're challenging this support base, a base that they desperately wanted to hold onto, so they began to attack our forces in large numbers. And we had stand-up conventional fights against the enemy in this dense urban terrain, where up to 200 of the enemy were attacking our troopers as they conducted operations in this urban area.



The result of those operations were that Iraqi security forces and armed forces killed large numbers of the enemy in those engagements, 30 to 40 of the enemy at a time. So the enemy realized this tactic isn't working, so they went back into harassment attacks -- IEDs, roadside bombs, mortar attacks, sniper attacks against our forces, and attempted to do sort of hit-and-run operations against us.



But our troopers were very aggressive in maintaining contact with the enemy. We have an air/ground team here, so our aerial scouts were able to maintain contact with the enemy as they tried to move into the interior of the city. So we pursued them very effectively.



And we were able to gain access to intelligence here by a very good relationship with the people, who recognized this enemy for who they are and were very forthcoming with human intelligence. In one raid in the beginning of June, for example, we were able to capture 26 targeted individuals, some of the worst people here in Tall Afar, within a 30-minute period. And the enemy began to realize this isn't working either, they can't hide in plain sight anymore.



So what the enemy did in response -- and this was part of this continuous interaction we've had with them since our arrival in this area -- is they intensified their campaign of intimidation over the people. They conducted more sniper attacks against innocent civilians, more mortar attacks.



And in response, we targeted their mortar teams. We killed four of their mortar teams and captured two. We killed about 12 of their sniper teams. And we relentlessly pursued the enemy until the enemy realized that a lot of our power was building now toward Tall Afar because we wanted -- as we were figuring this enemy out, we were preparing for operations to destroy their safe haven in a particular neighborhood of the city.



So as the specter of coalition operations became apparent to the enemy, as we isolated the city, as we improved the effectiveness of our traffic control points to limit their movement, as we continued to pursue the enemy, the enemy responded by sending their fighters, many of them, into the outlying communities to hide in the outlying communities until the operation was over.



But what we did is we conducted effective operations in the outlying areas. Simultaneous with our operations in Tall Afar, we were establishing a permanent security capability along the Syrian border in Rabiya, south of Sinjar Mountain and the town of Sinjar. We took over the town of Bosh (phonetic) from the insurgents and established -- reestablished the police force and the Iraqi army there. We went to the town of Afgani (phonetic) about 12 kilometers north of here. We captured, just out of that one town, one small town of Afgani (phonetic), about 116 of the enemy in three separate operations.



One operation -- that was the most effective -- was an Iraqi army exclusive operation, and then that we established two Iraqi companies and recruited police. The police are done training and now there's a permanent security presence there. The enemy is denied that area. We operated in other outlying communities and captured many more of the enemy. So now, the enemy had that option taken away from them, and they resolved then to defend this safe haven in Sarai. I had a chance to walk downtown today and found a lot of their propaganda in their abandoned fighting positions. And this propaganda was: we cannot afford to lose Tall Afar; we're going to defeat, you know, the coalition forces and Iraqi security forces here. It was exhorting their forces to defend Tall Afar at all costs.



So the enemy then -- as we continue to concentrate our efforts on Tall Afar, we've brought in some very capable Iraqi security forces to help us. The 3rd Iraqi Army Division, which is our partnership unit -- which over the past four months has gained a tremendous amount of capability -- integrated them into our operations completely, and then, we also brought in some additional Iraqi army battalions as well some Iraqi police formations. And the enemy then moved into some of these outlying neighborhoods outside of their support base, and they wanted to take the fight there to divert our attention. They also tried some diplomatic efforts to call off attacks for a couple of weeks and to act as if the problem was solved -- again, a desperate attempt to avoid the removal of this safe haven in Tall Afar.



But we conducted very effective combat operations against the enemy, we being the Iraqi security forces and our forces. These were very complex defenses in neighborhoods outside of the Sarai neighborhood, which was the center of the enemy's safe haven here. They had their command and control in a safe house in the center that was very heavily defended. Outside of that, they had defensive positions with RPG and machine gun positions. Surrounding those positions, they had homes that were rigged to be demolished by munitions as U.S. and Iraqi soldiers entered them, and then, outside of those, they had Improvised Explosive Devices, roadside bombs, implanted, buried into the roads.



But our forces aggressively pursued the enemy in these areas. They were able to defeat these IEDs based on the human intelligence we developed. We exploded many of them with attack helicopter fire or detonated them with our engineers. We penetrated that defense. Our tanks led with our Iraqi infantry in support. We absorbed any energy from their rocket-propelled grenades and machine guns, continued the assault into these safe havens and destroyed their leadership throughout the city. The word then went out that -- to the enemy that put other elements on notice: look, we're being slaughtered here; we need to avoid these very effective combined forces of Iraqi and U.S. forces. But we continued to relentlessly pursue them as we moved to isolate the Sarai district.



And the main engagements in this fight happened really between the 2nd and the 6th of September, a period of time during which we killed 118 terrorists and captured 137 of them. And we think at this point the enemy realized the futility of their defensive efforts.



In Sarai, the most dense urban terrain you can imagine, there was a very complex defense prepared there, with, again, these roadside bombs, buildings rigged for demolition, machine gun positions, sniper positions, and mortars integrated into this. But with our intelligence, our precision fires capability, we were able to severely disrupt that defense and really collapse it all around the enemy.

We had some very heavy fighting on the 5th and 6th of September, during which we killed many of the enemy, who engaged us from their forward defensive positions. And it was at that point that the enemy shifted their approach again to essentially running away from the area. They gave the word to retreat. They did everything they could to blend in with the civilians who were evacuating from this dense urban area to protect them, and we caught them. We were integrated with the population. The people were pointing out who the enemy was. We had Iraqi army who was very good at sensing something isn't quite right when this man is walking down the street with children, and the children look very nervous. This one man in particular was a beheader who had beheaded over 20 people. And we were able to capture him as the children fled, as we came up to talk to this individual, and the children related to us this man said that they had to walk with him or he would kill them.



We captured five of the enemy dressed as women, trying desperately to get out of the area. Just yesterday we captured 104 of the enemy in these outlying areas.



So we relentlessly pursued the enemy as they attempted to break contact with our forces. But we're maintaining contact with them, and we're continuing to hunt them down.



Okay, I want to get to questions. I know you do, too, so I'm just going to quickly summarize why I think this operation has been extraordinarily effective.



The first reason is the close integration with Iraqi security forces, especially our partnership division, the 3rd Iraqi Army Division. I mean, we are really complementary in our capabilities, and we have achieved a very high degree of synergy in our efforts as a result of that.



These Iraqi soldiers are brave. They're courageous. They're building capabilities every day. And we draw strength from their example. I mean, these are men who, like our soldiers, are committed to this mission. They're doing it at great risk to themselves. And in this case, based on the ruthlessness of this enemy, they're doing it at great risk to their families as well. So we're proud, very proud to serve alongside these brave Iraqi soldiers.



Also, we achieved, I think, an unprecedented level of cooperation between civil officials and our partnership units: the police, the mayor and the people. (Laughs.) I think the people are sick and tired of this violence, of this enemy, and they are very grateful for our efforts, and the Iraqi army's efforts in particular, to rid them of this enemy. The cooperation with the people, again: another important element of our success here, the access to the intelligence that that relationship we've developed with the people has given us.



And then, I'll tell you -- (laughs) -- the American soldier: the American people have got to be so proud of our soldiers. I can't tell you how proud I am of the troopers of this regiment. They have relentlessly pursued this enemy in continuous combat operations for well over 14 days. They are tough, they are disciplined, they are compassionate. And America ought to be proud of the Cavalry troopers of this regiment and the soldiers more broadly in our army and the armed services.

Monday, September 19, 2005

CNN.com - Islamic schools under abuse scrutiny - Sep 18, 2005

CNN.com - Islamic schools under abuse scrutiny - Sep 18, 2005:

"ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (AP) -- The accounts are disturbing: beatings, forced sex and imprisonment with shackles and leg irons. Abuse accusations from hundreds of children sent to study at Islamic schools are prompting growing calls from parents and rights groups for a full-scale investigation.

But officials have moved slowly and cautiously in probing the charges of mistreatment in Quranic schools, or madrassas -- pointing to a paradox across much of the Muslim world. It's often easier to tackle Islamic militants than to confront the cultural taboo on publicly airing alleged sex crimes and challenging influential clerics.

Still, if Islamic institutions ever face a reckoning over sexual abuse -- such as the Roman Catholic upheavals in recent years -- it could begin in Pakistan where institutions already are under unprecedented scrutiny by anti-terrorism agents.

'We are forcing people to look this problem in the eye,' said Zia Ahmed Awan, whose group Madadgaar, or Helper, compiles reports of sexual abuse of children in Pakistan. 'It is not anti-Muslim. It is not anti-cleric. We are looking out for the most vulnerable in society.'

Last year, a Pakistani official stunned his nation by officially disclosing more than 500 complaints of sexual assaults against young boys studying in madrassas. Children's rights advocates were elated, feeling their long-standing claims had been validated. They also hoped Pakistan's actions would open related inquiries in other Muslim nations -- similar to the domino effect through parishes after the Catholic abuse scandals broke in the 1980s.

But there's been little progress since.

There have been no significant arrests or prosecutions involving alleged sex abuse in madrassas. Also, the official who made the revelations -- Amir Liaquat Hussain, the deputy minister for religious affairs -- now refuses to discuss the issue after reported death threats and harsh criticism from Islamic leaders. He turned down repeated interview requests by The Associated Press.

Every discussion about Pakistan's madrassas leads eventually in an uncomfortable direction for authorities: the potential problems of leaning too hard on Islamic schools.

The madrassas have ties to influential religious and political groups. The core of madrassa funding is a tour of powerful networks: government aid, Saudi donations and zakat, the traditional Islamic practice of giving alms.

The schools also serve as a social safety net in a nation with a galloping birth rate and nearly one-third of the population under the poverty line -- meaning they cannot afford basic necessities.

Poor families often count on the nation's more than 10,000 madrassas to take one or more young sons to ease financial strains at home. The boys typically receive little more than Quranic studies for an education. But the big dividend for families is the housing, clothes and meals offered the boys. The schools, which have up to 1 million students, operate with almost no official oversight.

'The mullahs think they are above the law,' said Asma Jehanghir, chairwoman of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, a nongovernment agency. 'We have to break this wall of silence.'

An Interior Ministry official confirmed that police are investigating some cases of alleged sex abuse by madrassa instructors. He declined to give further details or to be identified by name because he was not authorized to speak to the media."

Call-by-Web - Lifehacker

Call-by-Web - Lifehacker:

"Call-by-Web
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Quick update: Yes, you can “call” Canada as well as the US.

Point your browser to the NotifyPhoneBasic page. To test the system, enter the number you wish to dial and the text you wish to say.

Add your own phone number and name into the CallerID and CallerIDname fields. Choose a Voice ID between 1 and 10. (I like the masculine tones of number 4. Avoid the French lady who’s number 7.)

Finally, type 0 into the LicenceKey field and click Invoke. The screen will clear and a “Queued” notice will appear. CDyne will place the phone call for you. You may want to call your self a few times to get the hang of things before you try calling out."

Iran's President Does What U.S. Diplomacy Could Not- persuade people he really is an insane maniac bent on getting nuclear missles

Iran's President Does What U.S. Diplomacy Could Not: "Iran's President Does What U.S. Diplomacy Could Not
U.N. Speech Raises Doubts About Nuclear Program

By Dafna Linzer
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, September 19, 2005; Page A12

NEW YORK, Sept. 18 -- Five weeks ago, Iran's new president bought his country some time. Facing mounting criticism after walking away from negotiations with Europe and restarting part of Iran's nuclear program, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad asked the world to withhold diplomatic pressure while he put together new proposals.

On Saturday, dozens of international diplomats, including the foreign ministers of Britain, France and Germany, gathered at the United Nations to hear how Ahmadinejad planned to stave off a crisis.

Instead his speech, followed by a confused hour-long news conference, was able to do what weeks of high-level U.S. diplomacy had not: convince skeptical allies that Iran may, in fact, use its nuclear energy program to build atomic bombs.

Ahmadinejad appeared to threaten as much when he warned from the General Assembly podium that in the face of U.S. provocation, 'we will reconsider our entire approach to the nuclear issue.'

Senior European diplomats said immediately afterward that the speech had been 'unhelpful.' In fact, the opposite may be true.

'The effect of that speech will likely be a toughening of the international response to Iran because it was seen by so many countries as overly harsh, negative and uncompromising,' Undersecretary of State R. Nicholas Burns said in an interview Sunday. 'The strategic aim of a great many countries is to see Iran suspend its nuclear program and return to peaceful negotiations with the Europeans.'

A European diplomat, who could discuss strategy only on the condition of anonymity, echoed Burns's remarks.

'There's no question this will make our case stronger and our task easier,' when board members of the International Atomic Energy Agency meet Monday in Vienna to discuss Iran's case.

During his 25 minutes Saturday, Ahmadinejad delivered what began as a sermon praising the prophets of Islam, Christianity and Judaism and then descended into anti-American vitriol, conspiracy theories and threats.

He expressed doubt that the deadly attacks against the United States on Sept. 11, 2001, were really carried out by terrorists. He said Americans had brought the devastation of Hurricane Katrina upon themselves and that the U.S. military was purposely poisoning its own troops in Iraq.

There were quotes from the Koran, angry finger pointing and attacks on Israel interlaced with talk of justice and tranquility. There was a staunch defense of Iran's right to peaceful nuclear energy, and to enrich uranium to fuel that program. There were no new proposals and little detail about old ones that were reoffered.
[...]

Ahmadinejad's speech, his first major international address as a world leader, highlights a dramatic and conservative shift in foreign affairs for Iran under the new president's leadership. Several diplomats noted that his defiant comments were strikingly different in tone and substance from those delivered from the same podium three months ago by Kamal Kharrazi, who was Iran's foreign minister until Ahmadinejad was elected this summer.

Kharrazi, who addressed a conference on the future of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, spoke in English in an effort to reach an international audience, rather than in Persian, which is spoken almost exclusively in Iran. Although Kharrazi also defended Iran's program, which was built in secret over 18 years and exposed in 2002, he did so without threats.

That text, written by Iranian diplomats eager to see reform of political and religious life, won over countries unsure about Iran's intentions. Tehran declared victory shortly afterward when the IAEA board decided against reporting the country's nuclear program to the Security Council."