Sunday, June 25, 2006

Military Intelligence

Military Intelligence: "Why Iraq WMD Finds Were Kept Secret

June 23, 2006: The revelation that Coalition forces have discovered about 500 shells containing chemical weapons (mostly sarin nerve gas and mustard gas) since 2003, most of which are pre-1991 Gulf War vintage, leads to the question as to why the U.S. waited so long to reveal this. The U.S. government has taken a beating for supposed failures to find weapons of mass destruction in the press, and from political opponents. There have been some discoveries that have made the news, most notably an incident in May, 2004, when terrorists used a 155-millimeter shell loaded with sarin in an IED. The shell detonated, exposing two soldiers to sarin nerve gas (both of whom survived and recovered). It is this attack that provides one explanation as to why many of the finds have been classified.



If the United States were to have announced WMD finds right away, it could have told terrorists (including those from al-Qaeda) where to look to locate chemical weapons. This would have placed troops at risk – for a marginal gain in public relations. A successful al-Qaeda chemical attack would have been a huge boost for their propaganda efforts as well, enabling them to get recruits and support (many people want to back a winner), and it would have caused a decline in American morale in Iraq and on the home front.



The other problem is that immediate disclosure could have exposed informants. Protecting informants who provide the location of caches is vital. Not only do dead informants tell no tales, their deaths silence other potential informants – because they want to keep on living. A lack of informants leads to a lack of human intelligence, and the troops don't like being sent out on missions while short on intelligence – it's easy to get killed. This has led to media coverage (particularly around 'milestone' deaths) and



The biggest danger with intelligence is in its over-use. This might sound odd, but it is the biggest concern many decision-makers in wartime have to make. Protection of an intelligence advantage can be so important that it might require allowing an enemy action to go forward (like the 1940 bombing of Coventry – Churchill allowed that to occur rather than risk exposing the British ability to read German codes), or it might require high-level approval of a mission (like the 1943 operation in which Thomas G. Lanphier shot down the plane carrying Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto – the decision to attempt the mission was made by the Secretary of the Navy). In the world of intelligence, decisions are rarely simple, and easily answered. A great deal of consideration goes into the decisions based on the intelligence provided, and when to release the information to the public. – Harold C. Hutchison"

Information Warfare

Information Warfare: "How The Media Assists al Qaeda

June 22, 2006: The Marine Corps investigation into the incident at Haditha, Iraq, has come to one major conclusion: There was no cover-up attempt. This is, of course, contrary to the claims made by Congressman John Murtha, that a cover-up occurred. In this case, the false claims have raced around the world – and have quite a head start on the truth. The truth of the matter is that the report does not exonerate the officers – it points out they failed to ask the right questions. It is not a good thing, but it is a far cry from the claims of a deliberate cover-up of known wrongdoing.



This is not the first time that such claims have been made. Last year, the claims centered around torture at the detention center in Guantanamo Bay, most notably in a speech by Senator Richard Durbin on the Senate floor in July, 2005. The Department of Defense investigated, and determined that no torture had occurred. In fact, some of the incidents where the line was crossed came about due to provocation by detainees under interrogation (one incident involved an interrogator smearing a detainee with red ink after the detainee spat on her).



Later in 2005, there was Newsweek reporting that a Koran had been flushed. This led to riots after Islamist politicians used the coverage to fan a frenzy. Again there was an investigation – and it turned out that not only were the bulk of the incidents unintentional, but that the only flushing of the Koran was done by a detainee.



Another such incident involved the alleged massacre at Jenin in April, 2002. The resulting investigations from the United Nations found no evidence of a massacre involving hundreds (as claimed by various reports from Palestinian sources and echoed by human rights groups and the press). Instead, the total number of casualties was set at 52, of which only 22 were confirmed as civilians.



These incidents form a pattern. In these cases, the press jumped on the claims of massacres and/or torture. This resulted in not just a lot of time spent by the military responding to the original charges, but there were also the editorials and commentaries to deal with. These generated a lot of space, and many of those allegations get used by al-Qaeda for recruiting.



When the investigations are concluded, the original claims are often found to have been greatly overhyped. But all too often, these reports are buried in the middle of the newspaper, and do not make the newscasts. This results in the misleading impressions staying. All too often, this means that the troops overseas have a much tougher job than they would otherwise have. – Harold C. Hutchison (haroldc.hutchison@gmail.com)"

Friday, June 23, 2006

Peace deal offers Iraq insurgents an amnesty - World - Times Online

Peace deal offers Iraq insurgents an amnesty - World - Times Online:

"Peace deal offers Iraq insurgents an amnesty

From Ned Parker in Baghdad and Tom Baldwin

THE Iraqi Government will announce a sweeping peace plan as early as Sunday in a last-ditch effort to end the Sunni insurgency that has taken the country to the brink of civil war.

The 28-point package for national reconciliation will offer Iraqi resistance groups inclusion in the political process and an amnesty for their prisoners if they renounce violence and lay down their arms, The Times can reveal.

The Government will promise a finite, UN-approved timeline for the withdrawal of all foreign troops from Iraq; a halt to US operations against insurgent strongholds; an end to human rights violations, including those by coalition troops; and compensation for victims of attacks by terrorists or Iraqi and coalition forces.

It will pledge to take action against Shia militias and death squads. It will also offer to review the process of “de-Baathification” and financial compensation for the thousands of Sunnis who were purged from senior jobs in the Armed Forces and Civil Service after the fall of Saddam Hussein.

The deal, which has been seen by The Times, aims to divide Iraqi insurgents from foreign fighters linked to al-Qaeda. It builds on months of secret talks involving Jalal al-Talabani, the Iraqi President, Zalmay Khalilzad, the US Ambassador, and seven Sunni insurgent groups.

Mr al-Talabani told The Times that after a “summit” in Baghdad about a month ago the groups made clear their willingness to commence talks with the Iraqi Government, although he was awaiting a formal response.

But one big potential obstacle is whether the US would be willing to grant an amnesty to insurgents who have killed US soldiers but who are not members of extreme groups such as al-Qaeda. The Bush Administration is thought to be split on the issue.

“This is very hard for us, particularly at a time when American servicemen are facing prosecution for alleged war crimes — and others are being captured and tortured,” a senior US official said.

With 2,500 US soldiers having died in Iraq, to grant an amnesty would be a “huge political football” before the November mid-term elections in the US, he said. But he added: “This is what we did after the Second World War, after the Civil War, after the War of Independence. It may be unpalatable and unsavoury but it is how wars end.”"

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Wired News: Test Tube Meat Nears Dinner Table

Wired News: Test Tube Meat Nears Dinner Table

What if the next burger you ate was created in a warm, nutrient-enriched soup swirling within a bioreactor?

Edible, lab-grown ground chuck that smells and tastes just like the real thing might take a place next to Quorn at supermarkets in just a few years, thanks to some determined meat researchers. Scientists routinely grow small quantities of muscle cells in petri dishes for experiments, but now for the first time a concentrated effort is under way to mass-produce meat in this manner.

Henk Haagsman, a professor of meat sciences at Utrecht University, and his Dutch colleagues are working on growing artificial pork meat out of pig stem cells. They hope to grow a form of minced meat suitable for burgers, sausages and pizza toppings within the next few years.

Currently involved in identifying the type of stem cells that will multiply the most to create larger quantities of meat within a bioreactor, the team hopes to have concrete results by 2009. The 2 million euro ($2.5 million) Dutch-government-funded project began in April 2005. The work is one arm of a worldwide research effort focused on growing meat from cell cultures on an industrial scale.

"All of the technology exists today to make ground meat products in vitro," says Paul Kosnik, vice president of engineering at Tissue Genesis in Hawaii. Kosnik is growing scaffold-free, self-assembled muscle. "We believe the goal of a processed meat product is attainable in the next five years if funding is available and the R&D is pursued aggressively."

A single cell could theoretically produce enough meat to feed the world's population for a year. But the challenge lies in figuring out how to grow it on a large scale. Jason Matheny, a University of Maryland doctoral student and a director of New Harvest, a nonprofit organization that funds research on in vitro meat, believes the easiest way to create edible tissue is to grow "meat sheets," which are layers of animal muscle and fat cells stretched out over large flat sheets made of either edible or removable material. The meat can then be ground up or stacked or rolled to get a thicker cut.

"You'd need a bunch of industrial-size bioreactors," says Matheny. "One to produce the growth media, one to produce cells, and one that produces the meat sheets. The whole operation could be under one roof."

The advantage, he says, is you avoid the inefficiencies and bottlenecks of conventional meat production. No more feed grain production and processing, breeders, hatcheries, grow-out, slaughter or processing facilities.

"To produce the meat we eat now, 75 (percent) to 95 percent of what we feed an animal is lost because of metabolism and inedible structures like skeleton or neurological tissue," says Matheny. "With cultured meat, there's no body to support; you're only building the meat that eventually gets eaten."

The sheets would be less than 1 mm thick and take a few weeks to grow. But the real issue is the expense. If cultivated with nutrient solutions that are currently used for biomedical applications, the cost of producing one pound of in vitro meat runs anywhere from $1,000 to $10,000.

Matheny believes in vitro meat can compete with conventional meat by using nutrients from plant or fungal sources, which could bring the cost down to about $1 per pound.

If successful, artificially grown meat could be tailored to be far healthier than any type of farm-grown meat. It's possible to stuff if full of heart-friendly omega-3 fatty acids, adjust the protein or texture to suit individual taste preferences and screen it for food-borne diseases.

But will it really catch on? The Food and Drug Administration has already barred food products involving cloned animals from the market until their safety has been tested. There's also the yuck factor.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Telegraph | News | Ayatollah's grandson calls for US overthrow of Iran

Telegraph | News | Ayatollah's grandson calls for US overthrow of Iran

Ayatollah's grandson calls for US overthrow of Iran
By PHILIP SHERWELL
(Filed: 18/06/2006)

The grandson of Ayatollah Khomeini, the inspiration of Iran's 1979 Islamic Revolution, has broken a three-year silence to back the United States military to overthrow the country's clerical regime.

Hossein Khomeini's call is all the more startling as he made it from Qom, the spiritual home of Iran's Shia strand of Islam, during an interview to mark the 17th anniversary of the ayatollah's death.

"My grandfather's revolution has devoured its children and has strayed from its course," he told Al-Arabiya, an Arabic-language television station. "I lived through the revolution and it called for freedom and democracy - but it has persecuted its leaders."

He also made clear his opposition to Teheran's alleged development of a secret nuclear weapons programme. "Iran will gain real power if freedom and democracy develop there," he said. "Strength will not be obtained through weapons and the bomb."

Mr Khomeini, 47, is a Shia cleric, but he believes that the holy men who have run the country since 1979 - to whom he dismissively refers as "wearers of the turban" - abused their power following the overthrow of the Shah.

The Dubai-based satellite channel's website spelt out his backing for armed intervention by America, a country excoriated as the Great Satan by his grandfather and Iran's current rulers.

It stated: "As for his call to President Bush to come and occupy Iran, Hossein Khomeini explained that 'freedom must come to Iran in any possible way, whether through internal or external developments.

If you were a prisoner, what would you do? I want someone to break the prison [doors open]'."

His approach is even more hardline than that of fiercely anti-regime Iranian exiles, who oppose military action while urging the US to back a domestic uprising.

It is the first time he has voiced his bitter opposition to the regime since Teheran engaged on its nuclear confrontation with the international community under Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, its virulently anti-US president.

At home, the regime has recently faced violent protests by ethnic Azeris and demonstrations by students' and women's groups.

Mr Khomeini briefly emerged as an unlikely critic of the Islamic Republic in 2003, when he called for armed invasion during a visit to Washington and New York.

The cleric returned to Iran at his family's insistence and was protected from retribution by his grandfather's widow, Batol Saqafi Khomeini.

It is not clear why he has chosen now to speak out again or whether the regime was aware that he would be talking to Al-Arabiya after banning other media organisations from interviewing him. A translation of his comments, made on May 31, was first released last week by the Middle East Media Research Institute.

He said that if he came to power in Iran, one of his first acts would be to make wearing the hijab (veil) an optional choice for women.

Mr Khomeini's mentor is believed to be the regime's best-known religious critic, Grand Ayatollah Ali Montazeri, who was released from house arrest in Qom in 2003 after six years for criticising the rule of Ayatollah Ali Khameini.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Guardian Unlimited | The Guardian | New embryo test to screen for 6,000 diseases

Guardian Unlimited | The Guardian | New embryo test to screen for 6,000 diseases:

Ian Sample in Prague
Monday June 19, 2006
The Guardian

British fertility specialists have developed a powerful new way to test embryos for inherited diseases, offering hundreds of couples their first realistic chance of having healthy children. The procedure has been hailed as a big advance, boosting the number of diseases clinics can test for from about 200 to nearly 6,000.

It will allow doctors to test for the first time a vast array of inherited diseases for which the specific genetic mutation is not known, such as Duchenne's muscular dystrophy (DMD) and some forms of cystic fibrosis. Using the technique, doctors can examine every embryo created for a couple through IVF, and determine whether each is healthy and unaffected, a carrier of the disease, or destined to develop the full-blown medical condition."

North Korea said to have fueled missile for test�|�Reuters.com

North Korea said to have fueled missile for test�|�Reuters.com

The New York Times, quoting American officials, reported on its Web site that booster rockets were loaded onto a launch pad and fuel tanks fitted to a missile. This could not be confirmed, but U.S. and other officials have said satellite images show fuel tanks and key components of a missile positioned at the test site.

'FINISHING STAGE'

The South Korean daily Dong-A Ilbo quoted a Seoul government official as saying the launch could be imminent.

"We think North Korea has poured liquid fuel into the missile propellant built in the missile launching pad. It is at the finishing stage before launching" but the South Korean government did not know if fueling was completed, he said.

Experts say if the missile is not launched 48 hours after fueling, the fuel will start to break down and damage the missile.

The test preparations came as six-country talks on North Korea's nuclear programs are stalemated and international attention has shifted to concerns that Iran is building a nuclear weapon, which Tehran denies.

If they test, the North Koreans "undoubtedly would bring upon themselves tougher sanctions from Japan and a cooling (in relations) from South Korea and China so it's not cost free for them, but it suggests they are not happy where they are in terms of the six-party process," said Michael Green, a former senior Asia adviser to President George W. Bush.

Pyongyang now regrets a joint statement adopted by the six countries participating in the negotiations -- the United States, South and North Korea, Japan, Russia and China -- which requires it to give up its atomic ambitions, he told Reuters.

It is also unhappy with a U.S. crackdown on financial transactions involving cash earned by the North through illegal activities like currency counterfeiting, he said.

Norway to House Seeds in Doomsday Vault

Norway to House Seeds in Doomsday Vault

Norway to House Seeds in Doomsday Vault

By DOUG MELLGREN, Associated Press Writer

Sunday, June 18, 2006


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(06-18) 18:42 PDT OSLO, Norway (AP) --

It sounds like something from a science fiction film — a doomsday vault carved into a frozen mountainside on a secluded Arctic island ready to serve as a Noah's Ark for seeds in case of a global catastrophe.

But Norway's ambitious project is on its way to becoming reality Monday when construction begins on the Svalbard Global Seed Vault, designed to house as many as 3 million of the world's crop seeds.

Prime ministers of Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Finland and Iceland were to attend the cornerstone ceremony on Monday morning near the town of Longyearbyen in Norway's remote Svalbard Islands, roughly 620 miles from the North Pole.

Norway's Agriculture Minister Terje Riis-Johansen has called the vault a "Noah's Ark on Svalbard."

Its purpose is to ensure the survival of crop diversity in the event of plant epidemics, nuclear war, natural disasters or climate change, and to offer the world a chance to restart growth of food crops that may have been wiped out.

The seeds, packaged in foil, would be stored at such cold temperatures that they could last hundreds, even thousands, of years, according to the independent Global Crop Diversity Trust. The trust, founded in 2004, has also worked on the project and will help run the vault, which is scheduled to open and start accepting seeds from around the world in September 2007.

Oil-rich Norway first proposed the idea a year ago, drawing wide international interest, Riis-Johansen said.

The Svalbard Archipelago, 300 miles north of the mainland, was selected because it is located far from many threats and has a consistently cold climate.

Those factors will help protect the seeds and safeguard their genetic makeup, Norway's Foreign Ministry said. The vault will have thick concrete walls, and even if all cooling systems fail, the temperature in the frozen mountain will never rise above freezing due to permafrost, it said.

While the facility will be fenced in and guarded, Svalbard's free-roaming polar bears, known for their ferocity, could also act as natural guardians, according to the Global Diversity Trust.

The Nordic nation is footing the bill, amounting to about $4.8 million for infrastructure costs.

"This facility will provide a practical means to re-establish crops obliterated by major disasters," Cary Fowler, the trust's executive secretary, said in a statement, adding that crop diversity is also threatened by "accidents, mismanagement and shortsighted budget cuts."

Already, some 1,400 seed banks around the world, most of them national, hold samples of their host country's crops.

But these banks are vulnerable to shutdowns, natural disasters, war and lack of funds, said Riis-Johansen.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

ABC News: Rat Study Shows Dirty Better Than Clean

ABC News: Rat Study Shows Dirty Better Than Clean:

"WASHINGTON Jun 16, 2006 (AP)— Gritty rats and mice living in sewers and farms seem to have healthier immune systems than their squeaky clean cousins that frolic in cushy antiseptic labs, two studies indicate. The lesson for humans: Clean living may make us sick.

The studies give more weight to a 17-year-old theory that the sanitized Western world may be partly to blame for soaring rates of human allergy and asthma cases and some autoimmune diseases, such as Type I diabetes and rheumatoid arthritis. The theory, called the hygiene hypothesis, figures that people's immune systems aren't being challenged by disease and dirt early in life, so the body's natural defenses overreact to small irritants such as pollen."

Grains can mimic all kinds of natural body reactions, and can promote an immune system attack. Living in a super clean environment may make it easier for sub threshold threats to the immune system to promote a more aggressive response. Also, lack of omega3 encourages inflammation, which is the state of the body when it is fighting infection.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Associated Press Post-al-Zarqawi Raids Kill 104 Insurgents

Associated Press Post-al-Zarqawi Raids Kill 104 Insurgents:

"Post-al-Zarqawi Raids Kill 104 Insurgents

By KIM GAMEL
Associated Press Writer


BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) -- American and Iraqi forces have carried out 452 raids since last week's killing of terrorist leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, and 104 insurgents were killed during those actions, the U.S. military said Thursday.

Maj. Gen. William Caldwell, a U.S. military spokesman in Baghdad, said the raids were carried out nationwide and led to the discovery of 28 significant arms caches.

He said 255 of the raids were joint operations, while 143 were carried out by Iraqi forces alone. The raids also resulted in the captures of 759 'anti-Iraqi elements.'"

My Way News - Iraq Announces Info From Al-Zarqawi Raid

My Way News - Iraq Announces Info From Al-Zarqawi Raid:

"BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) - Iraq's national security adviser said Thursday a 'huge treasure' of documents and computer records was seized after the raid on terror leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi's hideout, giving the Iraqi government the upper hand in its fight against al-Qaida in Iraq.

National Security Adviser Mouwafak al-Rubaie also said he believed the security situation in the country would improve enough to allow a large number of U.S.-led forces to leave Iraq by the end of this year, and a majority to depart by the end of next year. 'And maybe the last soldier will leave Iraq by mid-2008,' he said.

Al-Rubaie said a laptop, flashdrive and other documents were found in the debris after the airstrike that killed the al-Qaida in Iraq leader last week outside Baqouba, and more information has been uncovered in raids of other insurgent hideouts since then.

He called it a 'huge treasure ... a huge amount of information.'

(AP) Iraqi National Security Adviser Mouwafak al-Rubaie holds up a copy of a document purported to have...
Full Image
When asked how he could be sure the information was authentic, al-Rubaie said 'there is nothing more authentic than finding a thumbdrive in his pocket.'

'We believe that this is the beginning of the end of al-Qaida in Iraq,' al-Rubaie said, adding that the documents showed al-Qaida is in 'pretty bad shape,' politically and in terms of training, weapons and media.

'Now we have the upper hand,' he said at a news conference in Baghdad. 'We feel that we know their locations, the names of their leaders, their whereabouts, their movements, through the documents we found during the last few days.'"

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Scientists respond to Gore's warnings of climate catastrophe

Scientists respond to Gore's warnings of climate catastrophe:

"We should listen most to scientists who use real data to try to understand what nature is actually telling us about the causes and extent of global climate change. In this relatively small community, there is no consensus, despite what Gore and others would suggest.

Here is a small sample of the side of the debate we almost never hear:

Appearing before the Commons Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development last year, Carleton University paleoclimatologist Professor Tim Patterson testified, 'There is no meaningful correlation between CO2 levels and Earth's temperature over this [geologic] time frame. In fact, when CO2 levels were over ten times higher than they are now, about 450 million years ago, the planet was in the depths of the absolute coldest period in the last half billion years.' Patterson asked the committee, 'On the basis of this evidence, how could anyone still believe that the recent relatively small increase in CO2 levels would be the major cause of the past century's modest warming?'

Patterson concluded his testimony by explaining what his research and 'hundreds of other studies' reveal: on all time scales, there is very good correlation between Earth's temperature and natural celestial phenomena such changes in the brightness of the Sun.

Dr. Boris Winterhalter, former marine researcher at the Geological Survey of Finland and professor in marine geology, University of Helsinki, takes apart Gore's dramatic display of Antarctic glaciers collapsing into the sea. 'The breaking glacier wall is a normally occurring phenomenon which is due to the normal advance of a glacier,' says Winterhalter. 'In Antarctica the temperature is low enough to prohibit melting of the ice front, so if the ice is grounded, it has to break off in beautiful ice cascades. If the water is deep enough icebergs will form.'

Dr. Wibjrn Karln, emeritus professor, Dept. of Physical Geography and Quaternary Geology, Stockholm University, Sweden, admits, 'Some small areas in the Antarctic Peninsula have broken up recently, just like it has done back in time. The temperature in this part of Antarctica has increased recently, probably because of a small change in the position of the low pressure systems.'

But Karln clarifies that the 'mass balance' of Antarctica is positive - more snow is accumulating than melting off. As a result, Ball explains, there is an increase in the 'calving' of icebergs as the ice dome of Antarctica is growing and flowing to the oceans. When Greenland and Antarctica are assessed together, 'their mass balance is considered to possibly increase the sea level by 0.03 mm/year - not much of an effect,' Karln concludes.

The Antarctica has survived warm and cold events over millions of years. A meltdown is simply not a realistic scenario in the foreseeable future."

Monday, June 12, 2006

Techdirt: Forget Messing With Vonage, Skype's Free Calls Plan Messes With The FCC

Techdirt: Forget Messing With Vonage, Skype's Free Calls Plan Messes With The FCC:

"Forget Messing With Vonage, Skype's Free Calls Plan Messes With The FCC
from the come-and-get-us? dept

Last month, we wondered if Skype's surprising move to free up all local calls to US and Canadian phone lines was simply an attempt to sink the Vonage IPO (if so, perhaps it was mission accomplished). However, in light of the news that an Appeals Court has upheld rules that apply CALEA wiretapping laws to VoIP, Tim Lee is wondering if the move has a lot more to do with avoiding wiretapping regulation. First off, by being free, the company can make a stronger argument that the rules shouldn't apply, as it doesn't quite fall under the 'quacks like a duck' test, the FCC likes so much. However, the second argument Tim makes is that, when push comes to shove, Skype might just threaten to turn off SkypeOut, rather than comply -- and the larger the userbase at that point (free or not), the angrier those folks are likely to be, potentially creating a larger political problem for those supporting CALEA enforcement on Skype. Pretty sneaky, if true, but either way it could make for an interesting battle in the next year or so."

Doctors call for 'fat tax' on Coca-Cola and Pepsi | the Daily Mail

Doctors call for 'fat tax' on Coca-Cola and Pepsi | the Daily Mail

Doctors will this week declare war on America's soft drinks industry by calling for a 'fat tax' to combat the nation's obesity epidemic.

Delegates at the powerful American Medical Association's annual conference will demand a levy on the sweeteners put in sugary drinks to pay for a massive public health education campaign.

They will also call for the amount of salt added to burgers and processed foods to be halved.

The moves come as U.S. doctors - like their British counterparts - are becoming increasingly alarmed at the growing number of deaths linked to obesity.

The resolution will put doctors on a collision course with Coca-Cola and Pepsi, plus the likes of McDonald's and Burger King.

Sales of soft drinks in U.S. schools are in decline ahead of the introduction of guidelines allowing only healthier low-calorie drinks, plus milk and certain fruit juices, over the next two years.

But the medical association wants to go further. Delegates at its Chicago conference are gunning in particular for high fructose corn syrup, the sweetener which is added to everything from ketchup to cola.

One American politician labelled it the 'crack of sweeteners' because it is so widespread.

Some U.S. cities and states already levy taxes on soft drinks or junk foods that raise £500million a year, said Michael Jacobsen, director of the Centre for Science and the Public Interest, an independent health watchdog. But earmarking tax revenue for programmes promoting better diet would be a first, he added.

Doctors call for 'fat tax' on Coca-Cola and Pepsi | the Daily Mail

Doctors call for 'fat tax' on Coca-Cola and Pepsi | the Daily Mail

Doctors will this week declare war on America's soft drinks industry by calling for a 'fat tax' to combat the nation's obesity epidemic.

Delegates at the powerful American Medical Association's annual conference will demand a levy on the sweeteners put in sugary drinks to pay for a massive public health education campaign.

They will also call for the amount of salt added to burgers and processed foods to be halved.

The moves come as U.S. doctors - like their British counterparts - are becoming increasingly alarmed at the growing number of deaths linked to obesity.

The resolution will put doctors on a collision course with Coca-Cola and Pepsi, plus the likes of McDonald's and Burger King.

Sales of soft drinks in U.S. schools are in decline ahead of the introduction of guidelines allowing only healthier low-calorie drinks, plus milk and certain fruit juices, over the next two years.

But the medical association wants to go further. Delegates at its Chicago conference are gunning in particular for high fructose corn syrup, the sweetener which is added to everything from ketchup to cola.

One American politician labelled it the 'crack of sweeteners' because it is so widespread.

Some U.S. cities and states already levy taxes on soft drinks or junk foods that raise £500million a year, said Michael Jacobsen, director of the Centre for Science and the Public Interest, an independent health watchdog. But earmarking tax revenue for programmes promoting better diet would be a first, he added.

First they came for the smokers, and I said nothing, because I was not a smoker...

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Radio controlled night vision spycar toy! SCI FI Tech


SCI FI Tech

If you've got a budding spy in the family, the perfect gift to nurture his clandestine impulses this holiday season may be the Spy Video Car. Essentially a remote-control car with a camera attached to it, it seems pretty much designed with only devious uses in mind. The night vision-equipped camera is mounted slyly on the front of the car, and it sends its signal up to 75 feet back to the user. Using a fashionable set of eyeglasses with a small screen over one eye, little Junior can hide in a closet somewhere while sending the Spy Video Car on reconnaissance missions all around the house, nurturing his budding peeping tendencies. When we tried out the car, however, the screen was basically impossible to use with both eyes open, so while trying to get the car into the bathroom he'll also learn the valuable skill of winking. The Spy Video Car should be in stores this holiday season and will cost between $99 and $159. — Adam Frucci

Death Could Shake Al-Qaeda In Iraq and Around the World

Death Could Shake Al-Qaeda In Iraq and Around the World: "It is unclear which of 39-year-old Zarqawi's lieutenants, or deputy emirs, will attempt to fill his role. But whoever succeeds him will be hard-pressed to achieve the same level of notoriety or to unite the foreign fighters in Iraq under a single command, analysts said.

Some European and Arab intelligence officials said they had seen signs before Zarqawi's death that the number of foreign fighters going to Iraq was already waning. For recruitment efforts, the importance of Zarqawi's death 'cannot be overestimated,' Germany's foreign intelligence chief, Ernst Uhrlau, told the Berlin newspaper Der Tagesspiegel.

Guido Steinberg, an expert on Islamic radicalism at the German Institute for International and Security Affairs in Berlin, said other groups of foreign fighters that kept a loose alliance with Zarqawi, such as Ansar al-Sunna, might turn away from al-Qaeda in Iraq now that he is gone.

'It's a great loss for the these jihadi networks,' said Steinberg, who served as a counterterrorism adviser to Gerhard Schroeder when he was chancellor of Germany. 'I don't think there is any person in Iraq able to control this network the way Zarqawi did. It's very decentralized. He was the only person in Iraq who could provide the glue.

'By losing Zarqawi, they run the danger of losing Iraq as a battlefield to the nationalist insurgents and others who aren't interested in bin Laden or the global jihad.'"

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

America: from Freedom to Fascism

America: from Freedom to Fascism

"FOUR STARS" (Highest Rating).The scariest goddamn film you'll see this year. It will leave you staggering out of the theatre, slack-jawed and trembling. Makes 'Fahrenheit 9/11' look like 'Bambi.' After watching this movie, your comfy, secure notions about America -- and about what it means to be an American -- will be forever shattered. Producer/director Aaron Russo and the folks at Cinema Libre Studio deserve to be heralded as heroes of a post-modern New American Revolution. This is shocking stuff. You'll be angry, you'll be disgusted, but you may actually break out in a cold sweat and feel a sickness deep in your gut; I would advise movie theatre managers to hand out vomit bags. You may end up needing one."

--- Todd David Schwartz, CBS

Hey, some of the first reviews of this awesome movie are in, and the critics also like this movie! Hope it gets a wide showing when it comes out! Watch the trailer and tell your friends!

Special forces to use strap-on 'stealth wings'


Special forces to use strap-on 'stealth wings'
By MATTHEW HICKLEY, Daily Mail

Elite special forces troops being dropped behind enemy lines on covert missions are to ditch their traditional parachutes in favour of strap-on stealth wings.

The lightweight carbon fibre mono-wings will allow them to jump from high altitudes and then glide 120 miles or more before landing - making them almost impossible to spot, as their aircraft can avoid flying anywhere near the target.

The technology was demonstrated in spectacular fashion three years ago when Austrian daredevil Felix Baumgartner - a pioneer of freefall gliding - famously 'flew' across the English Channel, leaping out of an aircraft 30,000ft above Dover and landing safely near Calais 12 minutes later.

Wearing an aerodynamic suit, and with a 6ft wide wing strapped to his back, he soared across the sea at 220mph, moving six feet forward through the air for every one foot he fell vertically - and opened his parachute 1,000ft above the ground before landing safely.

'Massive potential'

Now military scientists have realised the massive potential for secret military missions.

Currently special forces such as the SAS rely on a variety of parachute techniques to land behind enemy lines - or else they must be dropped by helicopter.

Existing steerable square parachutes can be used - opened at high altitude of 27,000 ft - but jumpers then have to struggle to control them for long periods, often in high winds and extreme cold, while breathing from an oxygen tank to stay alive.

Alternatively they can freefall from high altitude, opening their parachutes at the last possible minute, but that limits the distance they can 'glide' forward from the drop point to just a few miles.

Now German company ESG has developed the strap-on rigid wing specifically for special forces use.

Resembling a 6ft-wide pair of aircraft wings, the devices should allow a parachutist to glide up to 120miles, carrying 200lb of equipment, the manufacturers claim.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Somali Islamists Declare Victory; Warlords on Run - New York Times

Somali Islamists Declare Victory; Warlords on Run - New York Times:

"After months of fierce fighting, Islamic militias declared Monday that they had taken control of Somalia's capital, Mogadishu, defeating the warlords widely believed to be backed by the United States and raising questions about whether the country would head down an extremist path.

The battle for Mogadishu has been a proxy war, of sorts, in the Bush administration's campaign against terrorism, with the warlords echoing Washington's goal of rooting out radical Islam and the presence of Al Qaeda in the region.

But as the warlords who have ruled over Mogadishu for the last 15 years went on the run on Monday, it appeared that Washington had backed the losing side, presenting the administration with a major setback at a time of continued sectarian violence in Iraq and the resurgence of the Taliban in Afghanistan."

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Vast DNA Bank Pits Policing Vs. Privacy

Vast DNA Bank Pits Policing Vs. Privacy

Vast DNA Bank Pits Policing Vs. Privacy
Data Stored on 3 Million Americans

By Rick Weiss
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, June 3, 2006; A01

Brimming with the genetic patterns of more than 3 million Americans, the nation's databank of DNA "fingerprints" is growing by more than 80,000 people every month, giving police an unprecedented crime-fighting tool but prompting warnings that the expansion threatens constitutional privacy protections.

With little public debate, state and federal rules for cataloging DNA have broadened in recent years to include not only violent felons, as was originally the case, but also perpetrators of minor crimes and even people who have been arrested but not convicted.

Now some in law enforcement are calling for a national registry of every American's DNA profile, against which police could instantly compare crime-scene specimens. Advocates say the system would dissuade many would-be criminals and help capture the rest.

"This is the single best way to catch bad guys and keep them off the street," said Chris Asplen, a lawyer with the Washington firm Smith Alling Lane and former executive director of the National Commission on the Future of DNA Evidence. "When it's applied to everybody, it is fair, and frankly you wouldn't even know it was going on."

But opponents say that the growing use of DNA scans is making suspects out of many law-abiding Americans and turning the "innocent until proven guilty" maxim on its head.

"These databases are starting to look more like a surveillance tool than a tool for criminal investigation," said Tania Simoncelli of the American Civil Liberties Union in New York.

The debate is part of a larger, post-Sept. 11 tug of war between public safety and personal privacy that has intensified amid recent revelations that the government has been collecting information on personal phone calls. In particular, it is about the limits of the Fourth Amendment, which protects people from being swept into criminal investigations unless there is good reason to suspect they have broken the law.

Once someone's DNA code is in the federal database, critics say, that person is effectively treated as a suspect every time a match with a crime-scene specimen is sought -- even though there is no reason to believe that the person committed the crime.

At issue is not only how many people's DNA is on file but also how the material is being used. In recent years, for example, crime fighters have initiated "DNA dragnets" in which hundreds or even thousands of people were asked to submit blood or tissue samples to help prove their innocence.

Also stirring unease is the growing use of "familial searches," in which police find crime-scene DNA that is similar to the DNA of a known criminal and then pursue that criminal's family members, reasoning that only a relative could have such a similar pattern. Critics say that makes suspects out of people just for being related to a convict.

Such concerns are amplified by fears that, in time, authorities will try to obtain information from stored DNA beyond the unique personal identifiers.

"Genetic material is a very powerful identifier, but it also happens to carry a heck of a lot of information about you," said Jim Harper, director of information policy at the Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank in Washington concerned about DNA database trends.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

LiveScience.com - Proposal to Implant Tracking Chips in Immigrants

LiveScience.com - Proposal to Implant Tracking Chips in Immigrants: "

Scott Silverman, Chairman of the Board of VeriChip Corporation, has proposed implanting the company's RFID tracking tags in immigrant and guest workers. He made the statement on national television earlier this week.

Silverman was being interviewed on 'Fox & Friends.' Responding to the Bush administration's call to know 'who is in our country and why they are here,' he proposed using VeriChip RFID implants to register workers at the border, and then verify their identities in the workplace. He added, 'We have talked to many people in Washington about using it....'

The VeriChip is a very small Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) tag about the size of a large grain of rice. It can be injected directly into the body; a special coating on the casing helps the VeriChip bond with living tissue and stay in place. A special RFID reader broadcasts a signal, and the antenna in the VeriChip draws power from the signal and sends its data. The VeriChip is a passive RFID tag; since it does not require a battery, it has a virtually unlimited life span.

RFID tags have long been used to identify animals in a variety of settings; livestock, laboratory animals and pets have been 'chipped' for decades. Privacy advocates have long expressed concerns about this technology being used in human beings.

In a related story, Colombian President Alvaro Uribe allegedly remarked to visiting U.S. senators Jeff Sessions (Alabama) and Arlen Specter (Pennsylvania) that microchips could be used to track seasonal workers. 'President Uribe said he would consider having Colombian workers have microchips implanted in their bodies before they are permitted to enter the U.S. for seasonal work,' Specter told Congress on April 25."

WSBTV.com - News - Woman Hit By Lightning While Praying

WSBTV.com - News - Woman Hit By Lightning While Praying:

DAPHNE, Ala. -- Worried about the safety of her family during a stormy Memorial Day trip to the beach, Clara Jean Brown stood in her kitchen and prayed for their safe return as a strong thunderstorm rumbled through Baldwin County, Alabama.

But while she prayed, lightning suddenly exploded, blowing through the linoleum and leaving a blackened area on the concrete. Brown wound up on the floor, dazed and disoriented by the blast but otherwise uninjured.

She said 'Amen' and the room was engulfed in a huge ball of fire. The 65-year-old Brown said she is blessed to be alive.

Firefighters said its likely she was hit by a bolt of lightning that apparently struck outside and traveled into the house yesterday afternoon. She was found lying on the floor by her 14-year-old granddaughter.

Fire officials think the lightning likely struck across the street from the couple's home and traveled into the house through a water line. The lightning continued into the couple's backyard and ripped open a small trench.

A family member said he will no longer assume it is safe to be indoors during a lightning strike.

Dime-sized hail and wind gusts of up to 45 miles-per-hour moved across coastal Baldwin County. As much as three inches of rain fell in some areas in three hours."

BREITBART.COM - Ancient Scroll May Yield Religious Secrets

BREITBART.COM - Ancient Scroll May Yield Religious Secrets:

By NICHOLAS PAPHITIS
Associated Press Writer

ATHENS, Greece

A collection of charred scraps kept in a Greek museum's storerooms are all that remains of what archaeologists say is Europe's oldest surviving book _ which may hold a key to understanding early monotheistic beliefs.

More than four decades after the Derveni papyrus was found in a 2,400- year-old nobleman's grave in northern Greece, researchers said Thursday they are close to uncovering new text _ through high-tech digital analysis _ from the blackened fragments left after the manuscript was burnt on its owner's funeral pyre.

Large sections of the mid-4th century B.C. book _ a philosophical treatise on ancient religion _ were read years ago, but never officially published.

Now, archaeologist Polyxeni Veleni believes U.S. imaging and scanning techniques used to decipher the Judas Gospel _ which portrays Judas not as a sinister betrayer but as Jesus' confidant _ will considerably expand and clarify that text.

'I believe some 10-20 percent of new text will be added, which however will be of crucial importance,' said Veleni, director of the Thessaloniki Archaeological Museum, where the manuscript is kept.

'This will fill in many gaps, we will get a better understanding of the sequence and the existing text will become more complete,' Veleni told The Associated Press."

[...]

The scroll contains a philosophical treatise on a lost poem describing the birth of the gods and other beliefs focusing on Orpheus, the mythical musician who visited the underworld to reclaim his dead love and enjoyed a strong cult following in the ancient world.

The Orpheus cult raised the notion of a single creator god _ as opposed to the multitude of deities the ancient Greeks believed in _ and influenced later monotheistic faiths.

"In a way, it was a precursor of Christianity," Pierris said. "Orphism believed that man's salvation depended on his knowledge of the truth."

Veleni said the manuscript "will help show the influence of Orphism on later monotheistic religions."

BREITBART.COM - Ancient Scroll May Yield Religious Secrets

BREITBART.COM - Ancient Scroll May Yield Religious Secrets:

By NICHOLAS PAPHITIS
Associated Press Writer

ATHENS, Greece

A collection of charred scraps kept in a Greek museum's storerooms are all that remains of what archaeologists say is Europe's oldest surviving book _ which may hold a key to understanding early monotheistic beliefs.

More than four decades after the Derveni papyrus was found in a 2,400- year-old nobleman's grave in northern Greece, researchers said Thursday they are close to uncovering new text _ through high-tech digital analysis _ from the blackened fragments left after the manuscript was burnt on its owner's funeral pyre.

Large sections of the mid-4th century B.C. book _ a philosophical treatise on ancient religion _ were read years ago, but never officially published.

Now, archaeologist Polyxeni Veleni believes U.S. imaging and scanning techniques used to decipher the Judas Gospel _ which portrays Judas not as a sinister betrayer but as Jesus' confidant _ will considerably expand and clarify that text.

'I believe some 10-20 percent of new text will be added, which however will be of crucial importance,' said Veleni, director of the Thessaloniki Archaeological Museum, where the manuscript is kept.

'This will fill in many gaps, we will get a better understanding of the sequence and the existing text will become more complete,' Veleni told The Associated Press."

[...]

The scroll contains a philosophical treatise on a lost poem describing the birth of the gods and other beliefs focusing on Orpheus, the mythical musician who visited the underworld to reclaim his dead love and enjoyed a strong cult following in the ancient world.

The Orpheus cult raised the notion of a single creator god _ as opposed to the multitude of deities the ancient Greeks believed in _ and influenced later monotheistic faiths.

"In a way, it was a precursor of Christianity," Pierris said. "Orphism believed that man's salvation depended on his knowledge of the truth."

Veleni said the manuscript "will help show the influence of Orphism on later monotheistic religions."