Monday, January 31, 2011

better listen to juju...,


Video - eight year old girl tugs Mubarak's sleeve.

how much longer can mubarak hang on?

Independent | The old lady in the red scarf was standing inches from the front of am American-made M1 Abrams tank of the Egyptian Third Army, right on the edge of Tahrir Square. Its soldiers were paratroops, some in red berets, others in helmets, gun barrels pointed across the square, heavy machine guns mounted on the turrets. "If they fire on the Egyptian people, Mubarak is finished," she said. "And if they don't fire on the Egyptian people, Mubarak is finished." Of such wisdom are Egyptians now possessed.

Shortly before dusk, four F-16 Falcons – again, of course, manufactured by President Barack Obama's country – came screaming over the square, echoes bouncing off the shabby grey buildings and the giant Nasserist block, as the eyes of the tens of thousands of people in the square stared upwards. "They are on our side," the cry went up from the crowds. Somehow, I didn't think so. And those tanks, new to the square, 14 in all that arrived with no slogans painted on them, their soldiers sullen and apprehensive, had not come – as the protesters fondly believed – to protect them.

But then, when I talked to an officer on one of the tanks, he burst out with a smile. "We will never fire on our people – even if we are ordered to do so," he shouted over the roar of his engine. Again, I was not so sure. President Hosni Mubarak – or perhaps we should now say "president" in quotation marks – was at the military headquarters, having appointed his new junta of former military and intelligence officers. The rumour went round the square: the old wolf would try to fight on to the end. Others said it didn't matter. "Can he kill 80 million Egyptians?"

Anti-American sentiment was growing after Mr Obama's continued if tepid support for the Mubarak regime. "No, Obama, not Mubarak," posters read. And Mr Mubarak's face appeared with a Star of David superimposed over his face. Many of the crowd produced stun-gun cartridge cases fired last week with "Made in the USA" stamped on the bottom. And I noticed the lead tank's hull bore markings beginning "MFR" – at this point a soldier with a rifle and bayonet fixed was ordered to arrest me so I ran into the crowd and he retreated – but could "MFR" stand for the US Mobile Force Reserve, which keeps its tanks in Egypt? Was this tank column on loan from the Americans? You don't need to work out what the Egyptians make of all this.

hush now, and don't forget your "genuine" interests...,

Haaretz | Israel urges world to curb criticism of Egypt's Mubarak. Jerusalem seeks to convince its allies that it is in the West's interest to maintain the stability of the Egyptian regime. Israel called on the United States and a number of European countries over the weekend to curb their criticism of President Hosni Mubarak to preserve stability in the region.

Jerusalem seeks to convince its allies that it is in the West's interest to maintain the stability of the Egyptian regime. The diplomatic measures came after statements in Western capitals implying that the United States and European Union supported Mubarak's ouster.

Israeli officials are keeping a low profile on the events in Egypt, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu even ordering cabinet members to avoid commenting publicly on the issue.

Senior Israeli officials, however, said that on Saturday night the Foreign Ministry issued a directive to around a dozen key embassies in the United States, Canada, China, Russia and several European countries. The ambassadors were told to stress to their host countries the importance of Egypt's stability. In a special cable, they were told to get this word out as soon as possible.

EU foreign ministers are to discuss the situation in Egypt at a special session today in Brussels, after which they are expected to issue a statement echoing those issued in recent days by U.S. President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Obama called on Mubarak to take "concrete steps" toward democratic reforms and to refrain from violence against peaceful protesters, sentiments echoed in a statement Saturday night by the leaders of Britain, France and Germany.

"The Americans and the Europeans are being pulled along by public opinion and aren't considering their genuine interests," one senior Israeli official said. "Even if they are critical of Mubarak they have to make their friends feel that they're not alone. Jordan and Saudi Arabia see the reactions in the West, how everyone is abandoning Mubarak, and this will have very serious implications."

Netanyahu announced at yesterday's weekly cabinet meeting that the security cabinet will convene tomorrow to discuss the situation in Egypt.

aljazeera english blacked out across most of the u.s.

HuffPo | Canadian television viewers looking for the most thorough and in-depth coverage of the uprising in Egypt have the option of tuning into Al Jazeera English, whose on-the-ground coverage of the turmoil is unmatched by any other outlet. American viewers, meanwhile, have little choice but to wait until one of the U.S. cable-company-approved networks broadcasts footage from AJE, which the company makes publicly available. What they can't do is watch the network directly.

Other than in a handful of pockets across the U.S. - including Ohio, Vermont and Washington, D.C. - cable carriers do not give viewers the choice of watching Al Jazeera. That corporate censorship comes as American diplomats harshly criticize the Egyptian government for blocking Internet communication inside the country and as Egypt attempts to block Al Jazeera from broadcasting.

The result of the Al Jazeera English blackout in the United States has been a surge in traffic to the media outlet's website, where footage can be seen streaming live. The last 24 hours have seen a two-and-a-half thousand percent increase in web traffic, Tony Burman, head of North American strategies for Al Jazeera English, told HuffPost. Sixty percent of that traffic, he said, has come from the United States.

aljazeera in cairo shut down...,

HuffPo | Egyptian state TV reported Sunday morning that the Al Jazeera office in Cairo is being shut down and Al Jazeera reporters are losing their press credentials in Egypt.

Al Jazeera correspondent Dan Nolan tweeted the news at about 11 a.m. local time, adding that Al Jazeera's licenses were revoked, per state media.

Nolan quickly added, "Don't worry we'll still report what's happening in #Egypt no matter what new restrictions they put on us."

Another Al Jazeera employee Evan Hill put the news this way: "State TV announces Al Jazeera's broadcasting license and press cards are being revoked. Our bureau is packing up."

Al Jazeera released a statement on Sunday that it "strongly denounces and condemns the closure of its bureau in Cairo by the Egyptian government." The network says it received notification from authorities on Sunday morning that information minister [Anas al-Fikki] had ordered the suspension of Al Jazeera. It also vowed to "continue its strong coverage regardless."

Follow the latest developments in Egypt by watching the Al Jazeera English livestream here and following our live blog here.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

archaic superorganisms in the social media age...,

quoth Tom: I'm asking things about the superorganisms. Have they always been there, and it will take some kind of insight to recognize them? Or are they very difficult to see? Or very easy to see, like are they ethnic nations or something, just like huge anthills? Attacking each other when under collective stress. And, each ant seems to belong to only one anthill. Is that true of people too, or can one person belong to more than one superorganism at the same time?

quoth I: I think I'll begin watching what happens across the Islamic world between Shia and Sunni now that hegemonically sanctioned "establishments" have been put in play.

NYTimes | Mr. Suleiman has run Egypt’s General Intelligence Service since 1993, taking over as the nation was battling Islamic extremists. He is 74 years old and, like Mr. Mubarak, fought in two wars with Israel.

He is said to hold a similar worldview, deeply distrusting Iran, favoring close relations with Washington, supporting the cold peace with Israel, and against easing up on the Muslim Brotherhood, the principal opposition group in Egypt. He has managed most of Egypt’s hottest issues, including dealing with Hamas, Hezbollah and Sudan.

With the choice of Mr. Suleiman, experts said it was clear that Mr. Mubarak was playing to what he now views as his most important constituency, perhaps the only one that can ensure his safety and a smooth exit from power — the military.

with the soldiers' consent...,

NYTimes | Thousands of army troops stepped in late Friday to reinforce the police. By Saturday morning, a sense of celebration took over the central squares of the capital as at least some members of the military encouraged the protesters instead of cracking down on them.

It was unclear whether the soldiers in the streets were operating without orders or in defiance of them. But their displays of support for the protesters were conspicuous throughout the capital. In the most striking example, four armored military vehicles moved at the front of a crowd of thousands of protesters in a pitched battle against the Egyptian security police defending the Interior Ministry.

But the soldiers refused protesters’ pleas to open fire on the security police. And the police battered the protesters with tear gas, shotguns and rubber bullets. There were pools of blood in the streets, and protesters carried at least a dozen wounded from the front line of the clashes.

Everywhere in Cairo, soldiers and protesters hugged or snapped pictures together on top of military tanks. With the soldiers’ consent, protesters scrawled graffiti denouncing Mr. Mubarak on many of the tanks. “This is the revolution of all the people,” read a common slogan. “No, no, Mubarak” was another.

One camouflage-clad soldier shouted through a megaphone from the top of a tank: “I don’t care what happens, but you are the ones who are going to make the change!”

By Saturday night, informal brigades of mostly young men armed with bats, kitchen knives and other makeshift weapons had taken control, setting up checkpoints around the city.

Some speculated that the sudden withdrawal of the police from the cities — even some museums and embassies in Cairo were left unguarded — was intended to create chaos that could justify a crackdown. And reports of widespread looting and violence did return late Saturday night, dominating the state-controlled news media.

“How come there is no security at all?” asked Mohamed Salmawy, president of the Egyptian Writers Union. “It is very fishy that the police had decided to leave the country completely to the thugs and angry mobs.”

The Mubarak government may have considered its security police more reliable than the military, where service is compulsory for all Egyptian men. While soldiers occupied central squares, a heavy deployment of security police officers remained guarding several closed-off blocks around Mr. Mubarak’s presidential palace.

how do you attack an organisation? you attack its leadership

Guardian | Julian Assange awakes to talk, from the nap he has stolen in an armchair at the Norfolk country house where he is staying. He has been up all night disseminating, on his WikiLeaks site, US State Department cables and documents relevant to the momentous events unfolding in Egypt, and they make remarkable reading.

The American diplomats writing the cables leaked to Assange report many of the reasons for the Egyptian uprising: torture of political dissidents, even common criminals, to obtain confessions; widespread repression and fear; and – of special interest to anyone who follows WikiLeaks – the increasingly important role of internet activism, opposition blogging and communication with democratic movements within and without the country over the web.

As ever with the diplomatic memorandums published by WikiLeaks – an act of dissemination for which Assange has become public enemy number one in the US – the cables are, ironically, testimony to the professionalism and straight- talking of the US State Department. Assange concedes that the cables contain "a relative honesty and directness, and quite a lot of wannabe Hemingway".

This is exactly what WikiLeaks considers itself established to do, exactly the kind of moment in history that Assange's organisation feels it can illuminate for the world – and to which it may even have contributed, he claims, "by creating an attitude towards freedom of expression", and by being read by Egyptians themselves. This should be one of the great days in the history of his organisation: Assange and a group of his colleagues huddled over a thicket of laptop computers, downloading, following events, sharing news and occasionally whooping at it. It is one hell of an hour in WikiLand, but a weird one, too, for other things are also on Assange's mind.

Tomorrow a book he considers to be an attack on him will be published by journalists with whom he once closely collaborated at the Guardian, sister newspaper to the Observer. Neither the Guardian nor Assange now speaks of one another with affection. The front page of the International Herald Tribune on the kitchen table next door carries an article of record length by the executive editor of the New York Times, Bill Keller, charting what Keller sees as an odyssey through the dealings with a difficult man, after which a "period of intense collaboration and regular contact with our source" came to a close – and an acrimonious one at that. Keller's article appears reasoned, I say to Assange, who retorts that he finds it "grotesque".

Moreover, in eight days' time Assange must face an extradition hearing instigated by authorities in Sweden, wishing to question him over alleged sex offences, a subject that his lawyers had advised him not to speak about in this interview. The hearings in London are due for 7-8 February – and on the first night, "right in the middle of the hearings", says Assange, "BBC Panorama will broadcast a sleazy piece" about Wiki-Leaks. "It's a mad scramble to get books out that self-justify their roles in all this," claims Assange, "instead of getting on with the job of writing about the information and the cables themselves." It was not, he concedes, always this way.

egypt: death throes of a dictatorship

Independent | The Egyptian tanks, the delirious protesters sitting atop them, the flags, the 40,000 protesters weeping and crying and cheering in Freedom Square and praying around them, the Muslim Brotherhood official sitting amid the tank passengers. Should this be compared to the liberation of Bucharest? Climbing on to an American-made battle tank myself, I could only remember those wonderful films of the liberation of Paris. A few hundred metres away, Hosni Mubarak's black-uniformed security police were still firing at demonstrators near the interior ministry. It was a wild, historical victory celebration, Mubarak's own tanks freeing his capital from his own dictatorship.

In the pantomime world of Mubarak himself – and of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton in Washington – the man who still claims to be president of Egypt swore in the most preposterous choice of vice-president in an attempt to soften the fury of the protesters – Omar Suleiman, Egypt's chief negotiator with Israel and his senior intelligence officer, a 75-year-old with years of visits to Tel Aviv and Jerusalem and four heart attacks to his credit. How this elderly apparatchik might be expected to deal with the anger and joy of liberation of 80 million Egyptians is beyond imagination. When I told the demonstrators on the tank around me the news of Suleiman's appointment, they burst into laughter.

Their crews, in battledress and smiling and in some cases clapping their hands, made no attempt to wipe off the graffiti that the crowds had spray-painted on their tanks. "Mubarak Out – Get Out", and "Your regime is over, Mubarak" have now been plastered on almost every Egyptian tank on the streets of Cairo. On one of the tanks circling Freedom Square was a senior member of the Muslim Brotherhood, Mohamed Beltagi. Earlier, I had walked beside a convoy of tanks near the suburb of Garden City as crowds scrambled on to the machines to hand oranges to the crews, applauding them as Egyptian patriots. However crazed Mubarak's choice of vice-president and his gradual appointment of a powerless new government of cronies, the streets of Cairo proved what the United States and EU leaders have simply failed to grasp. It is over.

if I were in Israel and I had any influence, I'd want to make that deal now!


Video - Clinton holding forth at Davos.

TheCanadianPress | Former U.S. President Bill Clinton criticized the Republicans for their small-government policies Thursday, saying America has to stop "conducting its public policy as if it was in a parallel universe divorced from reality."

He also urged Israel to make peace with the Arabs, saying the Jewish state will never have a better partner that the current Palestinian leadership.

Clinton spoke for an hour before an adoring audience of global leaders from business, government and academia, who interrupted his words several times with applause — never more loudly than when he said Israel should seize what he described as the chance for comprehensive peace with the Arab world.

"If I were in Israel and I had any influence, I'd want to make that deal now," he said. Referring to a comprehensive peace offer mooted by the Arab League in 2002, he said: "All these countries have offered Israel a political, economic and security partnership, not just peace, not just normalization ... but a genuine partnership." In Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas, Clinton said, "they've got the best partner in the West Bank that they've ever had."

"All these things should make peace more likely... Can anyone imagine the Middle East or in particular the Israelis and Palestinians, will be better off if we do not do this now?"

The sides seemed tantalizingly close to a deal in Clinton's last days as president, when he mediated actively in 2000 and 2001, but talks fell apart and the sides went through some four years of deadly violence.

Various efforts since then have failed.

Clinton said he believes the public on both sides would support an agreement, and he professed to be "struck how ... political systems continually produce governments" that go against what "all public opinion polls show would be popular."

Clinton noted that the Arab world was currently in some turmoil, after the revolution in Tunisia and given the anti-government rioting in Egypt.

"It is a manifestation of the yearning for change and accountability and shared progress moving throughout the world, particularly throughout the Middle East and North Africa ... to be part of a modern world that works," he said. This, too, should "animate the parties to make a peace agreement" that could yield economic benefits for all sides, Clinton argued.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

now the guardian's post hoc narrative on wikileaks

Guardian | Back in the days when almost no one had heard about WikiLeaks, regular emails started arriving in my inbox from someone called Julian Assange. It was a memorable kind of name. All editors receive a daily mix of unsolicited tip-offs, letters, complaints and crank theories, but there was something about the periodic WikiLeaks emails which caught the attention.

Sometimes there would be a decent story attached to the emails. Or there might be a document which, on closer inspection, appeared rather underwhelming. One day there might arrive a diatribe against a particular journalist – or against the venal cowardice of mainstream media in general. Another day this Assange person would be pleased with something we'd done, or would perambulate about the life he was living in Nairobi.

In Britain the Guardian was, for many months, the only paper to write about WikiLeaks or to use any of the documents they were unearthing. In August 2007, for instance, we splashed on a remarkable secret Kroll report which claimed to show that former Kenyan president Daniel Arap Moi had been siphoning off hundreds of millions of pounds and hiding them away in foreign bank accounts in more than 30 different countries. It was, by any standards, a stonking story. This Asssange, whoever he was, was one to watch.

Unnoticed by most of the world, Julian Assange was developing into a most interesting and unusual pioneer in using digital technologies to challenge corrupt and authoritarian states. It's doubtful whether his name would have meant anything to Hillary Clinton at the time – or even in January 2010 when, as secretary of state, she made a rather good speech about the potential of what she termed "a new nervous system for the planet".

She described a vision of semi-underground digital publishing – "the samizdat of our day" that was beginning to champion transparency and challenge the autocratic, corrupt old order of the world. But she also warned that repressive governments would "target the independent thinkers who use the tools". She had regimes like Iran in mind.

Her words about the brave samizdat publishing future could well have applied to the rather strange, unworldly Australian hacker quietly working out methods of publishing the world's secrets in ways which were beyond any technological or legal attack.

Little can Clinton have imagined, as she made this much praised speech, that within a year she would be back making another statement about digital whistleblowers – this time roundly attacking people who used electronic media to champion transparency. It was, she told a hastily arranged state department press conference in November 2010, "not just an attack on America's foreign policy interests. It is an attack on the international community." In the intervening 11 months Assange had gone viral. He had just helped to orchestrate the biggest leak in the history of the world – only this time the embarrassment was not to a poor east African nation, but to the most powerful country on earth.

It is that story, the transformation from anonymous hacker to one of the most discussed people in the world – at once reviled, celebrated and lionised; sought-after, imprisoned and shunned – that this book sets out to tell.

Within a few short years of starting out Assange had been catapulted from the obscurity of his life in Nairobi, dribbling out leaks that nobody much noticed, to publishing a flood of classified documents that went to the heart of America's military and foreign policy operations. From being a marginal figure invited to join panels at geek conferences he was suddenly America's public enemy number one. A new media messiah to some, he was a cyber-terrorist to others. As if this wasn't dramatic enough, in the middle of it all two women in Sweden accused him of rape. To coin a phrase, you couldn't make it up.

Since leaving Nairobi, Assange had grown his ambitions for the scale and potential of WikiLeaks. In the company of other hackers he had been developing a philosophy of transparency. He and his fellow technologists had already succeeded in one aim: he had made WikiLeaks virtually indestructible and thus beyond legal or cyber attack from any one jurisdiction or source. Lawyers who were paid exorbitant sums to protect the reputations of wealthy clients and corporations admitted – in tones tinged with both frustration and admiration – that WikiLeaks was the one publisher in the world they couldn't gag. It was very bad for business.

At the Guardian we had our own reasons to watch the rise of WikiLeaks with great interest and some respect. In two cases – involving Barclays Bank and Trafigura – the site had ended up hosting documents which the British courts had ordered to be concealed. There was a bad period in 2008/9 when the high court in London got into the habit of not only banning the publication of documents of high public interest, but simultaneously preventing the reporting of the existence of the court proceedings themselves and the parties involved in them. One London firm of solicitors over-reached itself when it even tried to extend the ban to the reporting to parliamentary discussion of material sitting on the WikiLeaks site.

Judges were as nonplussed as global corporations by this new publishing phenomenon. In one hearing in March 2009 the high court in London decided that no one was allowed to print documents revealing Barclays' tax avoidance strategies – even though they were there for the whole world to read on the WikiLeaks website. The law looked a little silly.

But this new form of indestructible publishing brought sharp questions into focus. For every Trafigura there might be other cases where WikiLeaks could be used to smear or destroy someone. That made Assange a very powerful figure. The fact that there were grumbles among his colleagues about his autocratic and secretive style did not allay the fears about this new media baron. The questions kept coming: who was this shadowy figure "playing God"? How could he and his team be sure of a particular document's authenticity? Who was determining the ethical framework that decided some information should be published, and some not? All this meant that Assange was in many respects – more, perhaps, than he welcomed – in a role not dissimilar to that of a conventional editor.

shadowbanking regulatory complications...,

NYTimes | Goldman limits Facebook investment to foreign clients. In a statement on Monday, the firm said: “In light of this intense media coverage, Goldman Sachs has decided to proceed only with the offer to investors outside the U.S. Goldman Sachs concluded that the level of media attention might not be consistent with the proper completion of a U.S. private placement under U.S. law.”

A report by The New York Times, published late on Jan. 2, that Goldman had invested $450 million in Facebook and would create a special-purpose investment vehicle for clients, citing people involved in the deal, appeared to prompt the regulatory scrutiny. “The transaction generated intense media attention following the publication of an article on the evening of January 2, 2011, shortly after the launch of the transaction,” the firm said in its statement Monday.

Goldman had not been planning to initiate the offering that night, but it sped up the process after The Times called the firm seeking comment, according to an executive who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak.

That night, a Goldman spokesman declined to comment. Late that night, before the report was published, executives in Goldman’s private wealth-management unit e-mailed their clients about the offering, people who received the e-mail said.

Goldman added in its statement on Monday that the decision was made on its own and “was not required or requested by any other party.”

Foreign investors will still be able to participate in the Goldman offering because they are not subject to the S.E.C. rules on solicitation in private offerings. However, all partners of Goldman, whether based in the United States or abroad, will not be allowed to invest, according to people briefed on the matter.

It is unclear how much money Goldman will raise for Facebook. In a private memorandum to clients when it made the offering, it said it planned to raise as much as $1.5 billion. The minimum investment is $2 million. The overall deal pegged Facebook’s value at $50 billion.

While the offering was oversubscribed — perhaps by as much as three times — with American clients now ineligible to participate, it is not clear whether Goldman or Facebook will lower the size of the offering. A majority of Goldman’s high-net-worth clients are based in the United States, and these investors may be upset over being denied a potentially lucrative opportunity afforded to investors in Europe and Asia.

For Goldman executives who manage money for wealthy families, so-called special investments have long been a major selling point in luring clients to the firm. The argument to prospective clients is that by placing their money with Goldman, they have access to the same investment opportunities as the firm, long considered one of the world’s smartest investors. Fist tap Arnach.

one ring to bring them all and in the darkness bind them

Fortune | As Facebook starts to host all sorts of commerce -- and is now mandating the use of its currency -- perhaps it's time to stop thinking of it as a company and start thinking of it as a country. "The strength of a nation's currency is based on the strength of a nation's economy." Richard Nixon, circa 1971, announcing that foreign governments could no longer convert U.S. dollars into gold.

"If you're a very large company, and supporting you is going to cost us tens of millions of dollars, then we want to at least have an understanding of how you're going to use what we're doing, and that you're not going to just import the data but also contribute back to the ecosystem and make peoples' Facebook experience better." —Mark Zuckerberg, circa 2010, explaining its agreements with social game companies that bring in 30% revenue cuts to Facebook.

Earlier this week, Facebook announced that by July 1 developers that have apps on the site must make their users pay for virtual goods using Facebook's official currency, Facebook Credits. Along with Credits come fees: 30% of every credit spent goes to Facebook.

Smaller developers, of course, aren't pleased. They would rather avoid paying Facebook altogether. Facebook, meanwhile, would rather avoid being a site that confuses its users with dozens of currencies.

At first glance, the move suggests Facebook has become a monetary autocracy, forcing the companies critical to its success to use its currency, and to pay a fee for doing so. But on second thought, isn't that more or less how taxes work? As Facebook grows and starts to host all sorts of commerce, perhaps it's time to stop thinking of the social network as a company. Maybe it's best to think of it as a country.

Imagine, for a moment, that you're the central banker of a country with nearly 600 million residents. Your economy is growing quickly, and the bigger it gets, the more foreign investors are knocking at your door, trying to hawk their wares and build within your borders. Nobody knows how much your economy is actually worth -- some place the GDP at $50 billion, making it the 73rd largest economy in the world, though everyone agrees that your country will be a global force for years to come.

But there's one sector of your economy that won't fall in line. By the end of the year, it'll be worth over a billion dollars and it has proved to be sustainable even during an economic downturn. But a lot of the companies that make up the industry don't want to use the national currency. They'd rather use their own currencies and avoid a hefty 30% tax on all transactions.

But, as a wise central banker, you know that for a country to grow its economy, it needs a singular currency so the proletariat doesn't get confused. You've been able to convince the largest companies to use the national currency, but rogue stragglers remain. What do you do?

Tell them they can either use the currency or get the hell out.

Friday, January 28, 2011

assange's computer conspiracy to destroy invisible government

zunguzungu |“To radically shift regime behavior we must think clearly and boldly for if we have learned anything, it is that regimes do not want to be changed. We must think beyond those who have gone before us, and discover technological changes that embolden us with ways to act in which our forebears could not. Firstly we must understand what aspect of government or neocorporatist behavior we wish to change or remove. Secondly we must develop a way of thinking about this behavior that is strong enough carry us through the mire of politically distorted language, and into a position of clarity. Finally must use these insights to inspire within us and others a course of ennobling, and effective action.”Julian Assange, “State and Terrorist Conspiracies”
The piece of writing (via) which that quote introduces is intellectually substantial, but not all that difficult to read, so you might as well take a look at it yourself. Most of the news media seems to be losing their minds over Wikileaks without actually reading these essays, even though he describes the function and aims of an organization like Wikileaks in pretty straightforward terms. But, to summarize, he begins by describing a state like the US as essentially an authoritarian conspiracy, and then reasons that the practical strategy for combating that conspiracy is to degrade its ability to conspire, to hinder its ability to “think” as a conspiratorial mind. The metaphor of a computing network is mostly implicit, but utterly crucial: he seeks to oppose the power of the state by treating it like a computer and tossing sand in its diodes.

He begins by positing that conspiracy and authoritarianism go hand in hand, arguing that since authoritarianism produces resistance to itself — to the extent that its authoritarianism becomes generally known — it can only continue to exist and function by preventing its intentions (the authorship of its authority?) from being generally known. It inevitably becomes, he argues, a conspiracy:
Authoritarian regimes give rise to forces which oppose them by pushing against the individual and collective will to freedom, truth and self realization. Plans which assist authoritarian rule, once discovered, induce resistance. Hence these plans are concealed by successful authoritarian powers. This is enough to define their behavior as conspiratorial.
The problem this creates for the government conspiracy then becomes the organizational problem it must solve: if the conspiracy must operate in secrecy, how is it to communicate, plan, make decisions, discipline itself, and transform itself to meet new challenges? The answer is: by controlling information flows. After all, if the organization has goals that can be articulated, articulating them openly exposes them to resistance. But at the same time, failing to articulate those goals to itself deprives the organization of its ability to process and advance them. Somewhere in the middle, for the authoritarian conspiracy, is the right balance of authority and conspiracy.

His model for imagining the conspiracy, then, is not at all the clich√© that people mean when they sneer at someone for being a “conspiracy theorist.” After all, most the “conspiracies” we’re familiar with are pure fantasies, and because the “Elders of Zion” or James Bond’s SPECTRE have never existed, their nonexistence becomes a cudgel for beating on people that would ever use the term or the concept. For Assange, by contrast, a conspiracy is something fairly banal, simply any network of associates who act in concert by hiding their concerted association from outsiders, an authority that proceeds by preventing its activities from being visible enough to provoke counter-reaction. It might be something as dramatic as a loose coalition of conspirators working to start a war with Iraq/n, or it might simply be the banal, everyday deceptions and conspiracies of normal diplomatic procedure.

the time's dealings with julian assange

NYTimes | As for our relationship with WikiLeaks, Julian Assange has been heard to boast that he served as a kind of puppet master, recruiting several news organizations, forcing them to work in concert and choreographing their work. This is characteristic braggadocio — or, as my Guardian colleagues would say, bollocks. Throughout this experience we have treated Assange as a source. I will not say “a source, pure and simple,” because as any reporter or editor can attest, sources are rarely pure or simple, and Assange was no exception. But the relationship with sources is straightforward: you don’t necessarily endorse their agenda, echo their rhetoric, take anything they say at face value, applaud their methods or, most important, allow them to shape or censor your journalism. Your obligation, as an independent news organization, is to verify the material, to supply context, to exercise responsible judgment about what to publish and what not to publish and to make sense of it. That is what we did.

But while I do not regard Assange as a partner, and I would hesitate to describe what WikiLeaks does as journalism, it is chilling to contemplate the possible government prosecution of WikiLeaks for making secrets public, let alone the passage of new laws to punish the dissemination of classified information, as some have advocated. Taking legal recourse against a government official who violates his trust by divulging secrets he is sworn to protect is one thing. But criminalizing the publication of such secrets by someone who has no official obligation seems to me to run up against the First Amendment and the best traditions of this country. As one of my colleagues asks: If Assange were an understated professorial type rather than a character from a missing Stieg Larsson novel, and if WikiLeaks were not suffused with such glib antipathy toward the United States, would the reaction to the leaks be quite so ferocious? And would more Americans be speaking up against the threat of reprisals?

Whether the arrival of WikiLeaks has fundamentally changed the way journalism is made, I will leave to others and to history. Frankly, I think the impact of WikiLeaks on the culture has probably been overblown. Long before WikiLeaks was born, the Internet transformed the landscape of journalism, creating a wide-open and global market with easier access to audiences and sources, a quicker metabolism, a new infrastructure for sharing and vetting information and a diminished respect for notions of privacy and secrecy. Assange has claimed credit on several occasions for creating something he calls “scientific journalism,” meaning that readers are given the raw material to judge for themselves whether the journalistic write-ups are trustworthy. But newspapers have been publishing texts of documents almost as long as newspapers have existed — and ever since the Internet eliminated space restrictions, we have done so copiously.

Nor is it clear to me that WikiLeaks represents some kind of cosmic triumph of transparency. If the official allegations are to be believed, most of WikiLeaks’s great revelations came from a single anguished Army private — anguished enough to risk many years in prison. It’s possible that the creation of online information brokers like WikiLeaks and OpenLeaks, a breakaway site announced in December by a former Assange colleague named Daniel Domscheit-Berg, will be a lure for whistle-blowers and malcontents who fear being caught consorting directly with a news organization like mine. But I suspect we have not reached a state of information anarchy. At least not yet.

wikileaks cables detail u.s. dealings with egypt

NYTimes | It was Hillary Rodham Clinton’s first meeting as secretary of state with President Hosni Mubarak, in March 2009, and the Egyptians had an odd request: Mrs. Clinton should not thank Mr. Mubarak for releasing an opposition leader from prison because he was ill.

In fact, a confidential diplomatic cable signed by the American ambassador to Egypt, Margaret Scobey, advised Mrs. Clinton to avoid even mentioning the name of the man, Ayman Nour, even though his imprisonment in 2005 had been condemned worldwide, not least by the Bush administration.

The cable is among a trove of dispatches made public by the antisecrecy group WikiLeaks that paint a vivid picture of the delicate dealings between the United States and Egypt, its staunchest Arab ally. They show in detail how diplomats repeatedly raised concerns with Egyptian officials about jailed dissidents and bloggers, and kept tabs on reports of torture by the police.

But they also reveal that relations with Mr. Mubarak warmed up because President Obama played down the public “name and shame” approach of the Bush administration. A cable prepared for a visit by Gen. David H. Petraeus in 2009 said the United States, while blunt in private, now avoided “the public confrontations that had become routine over the past several years.”

This balancing of private pressure with strong public support for Mr. Mubarak has become increasingly tenuous in recent days. Throngs of angry Egyptians have taken to the streets and the White House, worried about being identified with a reviled regime, has challenged the president publicly.

On Thursday, Mr. Obama praised Mr. Mubarak as a partner but said he needed to undertake political and economic reforms. In an interview posted on YouTube, Mr. Obama said neither the police nor the protesters should resort to violence. “It is very important,” he added, “that people have mechanisms in order to express legitimate grievances.”

It is not known what Mrs. Clinton said to Mr. Mubarak in their first meeting, at the Red Sea resort of Sharm el Sheik. But she set the public tone afterward, when she was asked by an Arab television journalist about a State Department report critical of Egypt’s human rights record.

“We hope that it will be taken in the spirit in which it is offered, that we all have room for improvement,” Mrs. Clinton said, adding that Mr. Mubarak and his wife, Suzanne, were friends of her family, and that it was up to the Egyptian people to decide the president’s future.

The cables, which cover the first year of the Obama presidency, leave little doubt about how valuable an ally Mr. Mubarak has been, detailing how he backed the United States in its confrontation with Iran, played mediator between Israel and the Palestinians and supported Iraq’s fledgling government, despite his opposition to the American-led war.

if social media's so liberating - why all those boots still on the ground?

NYTimes | I think Morozov is brilliant and his book is a useful provocation. I also think he’s dead wrong.

Sure, the first decade of the 21st century has seen anti-Western authoritarianism hold its ground, and there’s no question the people running repressive systems are quick studies who’ve learned to exploit, or suppress, a revolutionary technology that challenges them. Still, they’re swimming against the tide. The freedom to connect is a tool of liberation — and it’s powerful.

I am writing this on my return from Tunisia, where Facebook gave young protesters the connective muscle to oust an Arab dictator, and as I watch on YouTube images of brave young Egyptians confronting the clubs and water-cannons of President Hosni Mubarak’s goons.

“All they have, all they have,” says one bloodied protester of the brute force he’s encountered. Yes, when all you have is a big hammer — and that’s what’s left in the arsenal of decaying, nepotistic Arab regimes — everything looks like a nail.

The truth is these men — add the 23-year rule of the ousted Tunisian dictator Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali to the reigns of Mubarak and Muammar el-Qaddafi of Libya and you have almost a century of despotism — are relics to whom a wired world has given the lie.

Organization, networking, exposure to suppressed ideas and information, the habits of debate and self-empowerment in a culture of humiliation and conspiracy: These are some of the gifts social media is bestowing on overwhelmingly young populations across the Arab world.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

bacteria farming amoeba

Wired | Colonies of a bizarre microbial goo have been found practicing agriculture at a scale tinier than any seen before.

Animals such as ants, snails and beetles are known to farm fungus. But the slime mold’s bacterial-farming trick takes it into a whole new realm..

“If you can pack your food source with you, it’s a serious advantage,” said molecular biologist Debra Brock of Rice University, co-author of the slime-mold study, published Jan. 19 in Nature.

Dictyostelium discoideum, the best-known of a group of creatures called slime molds, spends part of its life as a single-celled amoeba feeding on bacteria that grow in decomposing leaves on forest floors.

When food is short, hundreds of thousands of amoebas come together, fusing into a single entity. It may crawl off as a slug in search of richer pastures, then form a stalk topped by a “fruiting body” that bursts to disperse a few lucky amoebas-turned-spores. Or it may form the stalk right away, without crawling.

It’s been thought that slime molds simply scavenge, eating bacteria they like and oozing out the rest. In laboratories, researchers “cure” slime molds of their bacteria by allowing them to purge themselves on Petri dishes. But Brock, who studies how slime-mold cells communicate and self-organize, kept finding bacteria in the fruiting bodies of some slime molds and not others.

When grown in the lab, the unusual fruiting bodies grew both the slime mold and the bacteria.

“The typical response to finding two species in a culture is, ‘Ick, I don’t want this!’” said evolutionary biologist Kevin Foster of Oxford University, who wasn’t involved in the study. “[Brock's team] had the insight to realize this was more than a simple contamination, that something else was going on here.” Fist tap Dale.

yeast nasty...,

LiveScience | It doesn't take much to get the fungus that causes thrush and other infections in the mood. New research suggests that in addition to chemical signals from its own species, the yeast, called Candida albicans, also gets turned on by the so-called pheromones sent out by other species.

And when turned on, this yeast isn't selective. If cells of the opposite sex aren't around, then it mates with same-sex partners, according to Richard Bennett, one of the study researchers and an assistant professor at Brown University in Rhode Island.

This type of fungus is a natural inhabitant of our bodies, particularly our guts, but, given the opportunity, the yeast can also cause harmful infections, ranging from a superficial thrush infection in the mouth to potentially lethal blood infections among those with weakened immune systems.

C. albicans cells come in two forms: white and opaque, names derived from the appearance of their colonies. Opaque cells are the reproductive ones. They produce a pheromone that prompts other opaque cells to turn on genes associated with mating. In the presence of this pheromone, the opaque cells also put out long projections that search for another cell with which to fuse (the yeast equivalent of sex), according to Bennett.

The white cells do not reproduce, but they also respond to the pheromone, which activates an entirely different set of genes. They become sticky, and start to glom together and to surfaces, such as a catheter, forming what is known as a biofilm. This is a common route to harmful infections.

The researchers synthesized a variety of pheromones produced by this species and a variety of other fungal species, and found that the white and opaque cells were not picky about a trigger for their responses. The normal opaque cell pheromone is a string of 13 amino acids, which are organic compounds.

“In some of the pheromones eight of 13 residues were different,” Bennett said. “That’s why we were so surprised with these pheromones. We didn’t expect them to work because they look so different.”

It is not unusual for one species to respond to pheromones from another, however, it is unusual for that response to lead to productive mating, he said.

C. albicans' lax standards may mean that it could respond to other signals from its environment, including signals directly from the host. The next step, Bennett said, is to figure out how these findings fit in with disease.

The research was published online today (Jan. 24) by the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Fist tap Nana.

do bacteria have intelligence?

WeirdAsianNews | This is done within the framework of laying puzzles, akin to Sudoko-style grids, which present simple rules to the bacteria, which are able to establish their own unique traffic schemes within the grids.

The ability to solve logical problems clearly suggests the possibility that they can be trained.

The research team, headed by Ryo Taniuchi, conducted an experiment involving 16 kinds of bacteria aligned in a cage with colors and identical numbers. Each colony contained similar genetic characteristics, depending on what type of cell it held within the puzzle box.

“…We are interested in the advantages that recombination (the swapping of large blocks of genetic information) could have played during the advent of life. We are investigating both the benefits that recombination gives for the creation of new genetic diversity and the protection that recombination provides against the accumulation of deleterious mutations…,” said Taniuchi.

The bacteria respond to one of four colors to solve the problem by utilizing a class of enzymes capable of DNA recombination. These enzymes transmit messages about the location and color of undifferentiated bacteria in the remaining cells of the grid.

The genetic information stored in these “messages” prevents the bacteria from differentiating and becoming the same color as the bacteria-transmitters. Thus, scientists can observe the pattern as undifferentiated bacteria determine what color path to take to solve the problem.

The question remains:

Why are scientists in Japan harvesting intelligent bacteria?

Perhaps it involves the search for knowledge concerning very rich, very complex population-level behavior, such as that found in an ant colony?

So watch out for that moldy bread you may have forgotten to throw out.

Just to be on the safe side, the next time you come across a slice, salute it out of respect. Fist tap Big Don.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

beauty and the beast...,

u.s. can't link pfc manning to assange

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy


MSNBC | U.S. military officials tell NBC News that investigators have been unable to make any direct connection between a jailed army private suspected with leaking secret documents and Julian Assange, founder of the whistleblowing website WikiLeaks.

The officials say that while investigators have determined that Manning had allegedly unlawfully downloaded tens of thousands of documents onto his own computer and passed them to an unauthorized person, there is apparently no evidence he passed the files directly to Assange, or had any direct contact with the controversial WikiLeaks figure.

Assange, an Australian national, is under house arrest at a British mansion near London, facing a Swedish warrant seeking his extradition for questioning on charges of rape. Assange has denied the allegations.

WikiLeaks' release of secret diplomatic cables last year caused a diplomatic stir and laid bare some of the most sensitive U.S. dealings with governments around the world. It also prompted an American effort to stifle WikiLeaks by pressuring financial institutions to cut off the flow of money to the organization.

U.S. Attorney General Eric holder has said his department is also considering whether it can prosecute the release of information under the Espionage Act.

Assange told msnbc TV last month that WikiLeaks was unsure Army PFC Bradley Manning is the source for the classified documents appearing on his site.

"That's not how our technology works, that's not how our organization works," Assange said. "I never heard of the name of Bradley Manning before it appeared in the media."

He called allegations that WikiLeaks had conspired with Manning "absolute nonsense."

concise history of social media...,

The History of Social Networking
Via: Online Schools

the palestine papers







What the Palestine papers tell us – video

Guardian associate editor Seumas Milne and Middle East editor, Ian Black, discuss the leak of secret notes from years of negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

the digital ecology - what are we missing?

Quoth I;
The digital ecology cannot credibly be claimed as anything predetermined by its architects beyond their original goal of failsafe communications routing.
Quoth Tom;
I've been thinking about this for a long time, and of course you must be right. Still, I feel like maybe we're missing something.
Paul Baran and the Origins of the Internet
In 1962, a nuclear confrontation seemed imminent. The United States (US) and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) were embroiled in the Cuban missile crisis. Both the US and the USSR were in the process of building hair-trigger nuclear ballistic missile systems. Each country pondered post-nuclear attack scenarios.

US authorities considered ways to communicate in the aftermath of a nuclear attack. How could any sort of "command and control network" survive? Paul Baran, a researcher at RAND, offered a solution: design a more robust communications network using "redundancy" and "digital" technology.

At the time, naysayers dismissed Baran's idea as unfeasible. But working with colleagues at RAND, Baran persisted. This effort would eventually become the foundation for the World Wide Web.

Baran was born in Poland in 1926. In 1928, his family moved to the US. He attended Drexel University where he earned a degree in electrical engineering. Afterward, Baran married and moved to Los Angeles where he worked for the Hughes Aircraft Company. Taking night classes at UCLA, he earned an engineering master's degree in 1959--the same year he joined RAND.

At that time, RAND focused mostly on Cold War-related military issues. A looming concern was that neither the long-distance telephone plant, nor the basic military command and control network would survive a nuclear attack. Although most of the links would be undamaged, the centralized switching facilities would be destroyed by enemy weapons. Consequently, Baran conceived a system that had no centralized switches and could operate even if many of its links and switching nodes had been destroyed.

Baran envisioned a network of unmanned nodes that would act as switches, routing information from one node to another to their final destinations. The nodes would use a scheme Baran called "hot-potato routing" or distributed communications.

Baran also developed the concept of dividing information into "message blocks" before sending them out across the network. Each block would be sent separately and rejoined into a whole when they were received at their destination. A British man named Donald Davies independently devised a very similar system, but he called the message blocks "packets," a term that was eventually adopted instead of Baran's message blocks.

This method of "packet switching" is a rapid store-and-forward design. When a node receives a packet it stores it, determines the best route to its destination, and sends it to the next node on that path. If there was a problem with a node (or if it had been destroyed) packets would simply be routed around it.

In a recent interview with Wired magazine, Baran discussed his vision of how the new technology might be used. "Around December 1966, I presented a paper at the American Marketing Association called 'Marketing in the Year 2000.' I described push-and-pull communications and how we're going to do our shopping via a television set and a virtual department store. If you want to buy a drill, you click on Hardware and that shows Tools and you click on that and go deeper."

In 1969, this "distributed" concept was given its first large-scale test, with the first node installed at UCLA and the seventh node at RAND in Santa Monica. Funded by the Advanced Research Projects Agency and called ARPANET, it was intended for scientists and researchers who wanted to share one another's computers remotely. Within two years, however, the network's users had turned it into something unforeseen: a high-speed, electronic post office for exchanging everything from technical to personal information.

In 1983, the rapidly expanding network broke off from its military part, which became MILNET. The remainder became what was called ARPANET. In 1989, the ARPANET moniker was retired in favor the "Internet," which had also been described as the "information superhighway." These days, the Internet continues to expand, stringing together the World Wide Web, an all-encompassing, affordable, universal multimedia communications network (see related RAND Review article).

Today, RAND continues to conduct research in this area. CEO and President of RAND Jim Thomson recently recalled Baran's contributions. "Our world is a better place for the technologies Paul Baran has invented and developed, and also because of his consistent concern with appropriate public policies for their use."

could ripple protests topple u.s. allies?


CNN | The big regional lesson of Tunisia, according to Houdaiby, is that people have learnt they can bring about change themselves.

"What happened in Tunisia will of course impact the way people think. They know if they want things to change, at one point they will be able to change things"

But he adds Mubarak's regime has also learnt lessons, offering to subsidize bread and other essentials, albeit Houdaiby suspects, only until the current crisis seems over.

No doubt though, he says, the government's vehement denials ironically show how troubled it is by the Tunisian revolt.

"When you have the minister of foreign affairs saying that Tunisia could not be compared with Egypt and the situation is completely different and it is ridiculous that people are making any sort of comparison that says that they are worried."

And if they are worried in Egypt, with its large, tough state security forces, then other regional leaders may well be troubled too, warns El-Erian, spokesman for Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood. "If Egypt tumbles then watch the region follow, if change comes in Egypt, not in Tunisia, it will be domino sequences."

Indeed in the long run the United States may be the big loser. Many of the regimes on the defensive, like Mubarak's, are long-standing US allies.

And that says El-Erian -- who calculates that in a democratic Egypt the Muslim Brotherhood would have a large say -- could have serious implications for the United States.

"We are reflecting the opinion of the people and opinion and sentiments here are against the politics and policies of the United States in the region," he said.

It may sound like a bold statement, but on the streets of Tunisia, Jordan, Lebanon and Egypt to name but a few, U.S. credibility has taken a hammering over the past decade.

Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have only served to fuel popular anger with the U.S. over the regional autocrats they support.

The implication is if the winds of change do blow down one or two of the region's rulers the political voices emerging may well bring a new dynamic to such intractable problems as Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

That alone could reset the region in a way unimaginable today.

the age of resource revolts? really?


Video - Love from Malaysia to the Great People of Tunisia. Street vendor's sacrifice did not go in vain

TomDispatch | He was a poor 26-year-old trying to eke out a living and help pay for his sisters' schooling. He met the deep corruption of the Tunisian regime face to face in the most everyday and humiliating way -- in the form of bribes he couldn’t afford just to keep his little stand open and the power of a bureaucracy to shut him down on a whim. In frustration, in protest, he doused himself with paint thinner and burned himself to death (though it took days for that death to come).

His name was Mohammed Bouazizi; he came from the town of Sidi Bouzid, which you’ve never heard of; and his is a terrible story. Now, he’s known across the Middle East as the man who started the Tunisian revolution and will undoubtedly go down in history -- along with Thich Quang Duc, the Buddhist monk who calmly seated himself in a Saigon street in June 1963 and started a political firestorm by immolating himself to protest a repressive American-backed South Vietnamese government; and Jan Palach, the Czech student who did the same in Prague’s Wenceslas Square in January 1969 as a response to the Soviet invasion of his country. In all three cases, others followed their painful example. In all three cases, sooner or later it ended badly for the powers-that-be.

Across the Middle East today, immolations are on the rise and nervous American-backed autocrats are listening to the rumbling from below, like the Egyptian demonstrators already reportedly chanting, “We are next, we are next, [Tunisian dictator] Ben Ali, tell [Egyptian autocrat Hosni] Mubarak he is next.”

In his act, however happenstantially, Bouazizi combined two crucial things that ensure the upheavals he began won’t be restricted to Tunisia. At his little stand, he sold fruit, and to die, he used a petroleum-based product. Basic foods and fuel are experiencing startling price rises globally. Behind the Tunisian events, like recent riots in Algeria, Jordan, and elsewhere, lie the rising cost of things that people can’t do without. In Algeria, young rioters torching buildings were also chanting, “Bring us sugar!” As Michael Klare, TomDispatch regular and author most recently of Rising Powers, Shrinking Planet, points out, we’ve entered the age of resource revolts and there’s no turning back. Fist tap Rembom.

uhmurka's approach to peace talks - FAIL!!!


Video - The Palestinian Authority (PA) has denounced Al Jazeera's release of the Palestine Papers.

CSMonitor | The 'Palestine papers' released Sunday by Al Jazeera – leaked documents suggesting Palestinians were prepared make sweeping concessions on East Jerusalem, "right of return" demands, and other long-time sticking points in negotiations – are unlikely to make life easier for anyone.

The Palestinian leadership is likely to retreat at least for a time into intransigence, some Middle East analysts say, given the widespread perception in the Arab world that the documents – most dating from 2008 – show the Palestinians prepared to give away too much.

Israel, its international image already tarnished by its return to settlement construction, will see that image darken further as critics may see the documents as confirmation that Israel never has been serious about reaching a two-state solution.

But the documents’ release may cause the most trouble for US-led peace talks.

RELATED – Palestine Papers: 5 disclosures that are making waves
The released documents revealing surprisingly generous Palestinian offers going unanswered by the government of then-Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. Some critics of the US talks say the apparent intransigence of Israel in the face of Palestinian concessions mean that it is simply foolish for the US to continue working on its stated goal of "narrowing differences" – especially when the current Israeli government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is seen as less compromising than Mr. Olmert’s.

In reality, the talks President Obama launched last September stalled well before Al Jazeera’s bombshell, but the Obama administration has continued to insist it is pursuing the talks, though for the time being in an indirect format. “The U.S. remains focused on a two-state solution and will continue to work with the parties to narrow differences on core issues,” State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said in a statement Sunday.

“That [State Department] statement would not have passed the laugh test even before these documents came out, so it certainly can’t be taken seriously now,” says Daniel Levy, director of the Middle East task force at the New America Foundation in Washington. These revelations underscore the impossibility that the present approach will achieve a two-state solution, he says. “This is a failed policy.”

In the weeks since Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton confirmed in a Washington speech that the US would revert to speaking bilaterally to the parties to try to reduce the differences between them, many outside experts have suggested the US needs to act more forcefully to get the peace process moving again.

Some regional experts have suggested that President Obama should lay out the “framework” for a two-state solution as the US sees it. David Makovsky, a peace-process expert at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, has shared with administration officials and others from the region a map he has created, showing potential land swaps between Israel and the Palestinians. His map draws two-state borders that would not leave most of Israel’s largest settlements marooned in a future Palestine, while also avoiding a “Swiss cheese” Palestinian state.

Others say any solution imposed from the outside will never work.

What the Al Jazeera documents confirm, some critics of the administration’s approach say, are two-party “negotiations” so asymmetrical that they will never deliver results.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Aryan

how will we feed the world in 2050?


Video - Oliver Food Glorious Food!

Independent | The finite resources of the Earth will be be stretched as never before in the coming 40 years because of the unprecedented challenge of feeding the world in 2050, leading scientists have concluded in a report to be published next week.

Food production will have to increase by between 70 and 100 per cent, while the area of land given over to agriculture will remain static, or even decrease as a result of land degradation and climate change. Meanwhile the global population is expected to rise from 6.8 billion at present to about 9.2 billion by mid-century.

The Government-appointed advisers are expected to warn that "business as usual" in terms of food production is not an option if mass famine is to be avoided, and to refer to the need for a second "green revolution", following the one that helped to feed the extra 3 billion people who have been added to the global population over the past 50 years.

In the hard-hitting report, commissioned by the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills, the scientists will warn that the era of cheap food is over, and that governments around the world must prepare to follow the leads of China and Brazil by investing heavily in research and the development of new agricultural techniques and practices.

The authors of the Foresight report, Global Food and Farming Futures, will argue that to boost crop yields to the level needed to provide enough food for all by 2050 every scientific tool must be considered, including the controversial use of genetically modified (GM) crops – which have been largely rejected by British consumers.

They will suggest that the public needs to be better convinced of the benefits of GM food, and will advocate an educational campaign to improve acceptance of what they see as one of a set of innovative technologies that can contribute to and improve food security in the coming century. "We say very clearly that we should not tie our hands behind our backs by dismissing GM," said one of the report's authors.

The scientists are expected to recommend that GM technology should be shifted away from the private sector to one that is mostly funded and deployed by publicly funded bodies, in order to avoid what is seen as the stranglehold of large agribusiness companies such as Monsanto.

To combat the huge amounts of food waste – up to 40 per cent of food bought in developed countries ends up being thrown away – the scientists are also expected to recommend changes to legislation covering "sell by" dates. Relaxing these restrictions, the scientists will argue, could help to reduce the enormous amount of edible food discarded by British consumers.

They also want to see a massive injection of funds into agricultural research, to reverse the decline of public funding in recent decades as a result of successive governments viewing agriculture as low priority in times when food was cheap and plentiful.

The report's conclusions and recommendations mirror closely those of a French study published last week on how to feed the world in 2050. The report by two leading research institutes, in a project entitled Agrimonde, found that nothing short of a food revolution is needed to avoid mass famine. "A few years ago the world and Europe was producing too much food, and food was getting cheaper and cheaper. Now world agriculture lies at the heart of major worldwide challenges, and [this report] tells us why business as usual is not an option," said Patrick Caron, one of the Agrimonde authors.

Like the UK's Foresight report, the French study found there is no overwhelming obstacle to feeding a global population of 9.2 billion people, provided food yields are boosted, waste is cut both after harvesting and in the kitchen, and food distribution is improved.

However, the French study also suggested there are two possible routes to feeding the world. One involves unsustainable improvements in crop yields which do not take into account the detrimental impact on the environment, while the other is a sustainable route which will involve people in the developed world consuming less and decreasing their average food intake.

"The world can properly feed 9 billion people by 2050, but it will depend on what's on our plates and what is wasted from our plates," said Sandrine Paillard, who contributed to the Agrimonde study.

People in the developed world could decrease their food consumption – as measured by daily energy intake – by an average of 25 per cent and still have a healthy diet, she said.

bolognese alchemists claim working cold fusion reactor


Video - Bolognese alchemists claim working cold fusion reactor.

Physorg | The latest news occurred last week, when Italian scientists Andrea Rossi and Sergio Focardi of the University of Bologna announced that they developed a cold fusion device capable of producing 12,400 W of heat power with an input of just 400 W. Last Friday, the scientists held a private invitation press conference in Bologna, attended by about 50 people, where they demonstrated what they claim is a nickel-hydrogen fusion reactor. Further, the scientists say that the reactor is well beyond the research phase; they plan to start shipping commercial devices within the next three months and start mass production by the end of 2011.

The claim
Rossi and Focardi say that, when the atomic nuclei of nickel and hydrogen are fused in their reactor, the reaction produces copper and a large amount of energy. The reactor uses less than 1 gram of hydrogen and starts with about 1,000 W of electricity, which is reduced to 400 W after a few minutes. Every minute, the reaction can convert 292 grams of 20°C water into dry steam at about 101°C. Since raising the temperature of water by 80°C and converting it to steam requires about 12,400 W of power, the experiment provides a power gain of 12,400/400 = 31. As for costs, the scientists estimate that electricity can be generated at a cost of less than 1 cent/kWh, which is significantly less than coal or natural gas plants.

“The magnitude of this result suggests that there is a viable energy technology that uses commonly available materials, that does not produce carbon dioxide, and that does not produce radioactive waste and will be economical to build,” according to this description of the demonstration.

Rossi and Focardi explain that the reaction produces radiation, providing evidence that the reaction is indeed a nuclear reaction and does not work by some other method. They note that no radiation escapes due to lead shielding, and no radioactivity is left in the cell after it is turned off, so there is no nuclear waste.

The scientists explain that the reactor is turned on simply by flipping a switch and it can be operated by following a set of instructions. Commercial devices would produce 8 units of output per unit of input in order to ensure safe and reliable conditions, even though higher output is possible, as demonstrated. Several devices can be combined in series and parallel arrays to reach higher powers, and the scientists are currently manufacturing a 1 MW plant made with 125 modules. Although the reactors can be self-sustaining so that the input can be turned off, the scientists say that the reactors work better with a constant input. The reactors need to be refueled every 6 months, which the scientists say is done by their dealers.

The scientists also say that one reactor has been running continuously for two years, providing heat for a factory. They provide little detail about this case.