Ken Novak's Weblog
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Ken Novak's Weblog


daily link  Saturday, August 09, 2003


Iraqi Trailers Said to Make Hydrogen, Not Biological Arms: "Engineering experts from the Defense Intelligence Agency have come to believe that the most likely use for two mysterious trailers found in Iraq was to produce hydrogen for weather balloons rather than to make biological weapons, government officials say. .. [Recently]  Iraqi officials have repeated the claims of Iraqi scientists that the trailers were used to fill weather balloons [used in artillery practice]..

The State Department's intelligence branch, which was not invited to take part in the initial review, disputed the findings in a memorandum on June 2. The fact that American and British intelligence analysts with direct access to the evidence were disputing the claims included in the C.I.A. white paper was first reported in June, along with the analysts' concern that the evaluation of the mobile units had been marred by a rush to judgment.

But it had not previously been known that a majority of the Defense Intelligence Agency's engineering team had come to disagree with the central finding of the white paper: that the trailers were used for making biological weapons.  .. [A US} official said members of the engineering team had been angry that the agency issued the joint white paper with the C.I.A. before their own work was completed. The official said the question of how that had happened was being examined by the defense agency's inspector general as part of a broader inquiry that began in June.."

  9:11:52 AM  permalink  


daily link  Friday, August 08, 2003


Solar-powered ice-cream carts hit Bangkok streets: "Bangkok ice-cream vendors who currently pedal their carts in the baking sun are hoping to benefit from a locally invented device that will allow them to store energy and drive their carts using solar power. A 50 x 60cm solar cell built into the cart roof will capture solar power in a battery. Pracha Prakoonsuksapan, the managing director of AHT (Asia), a local freezer-manufacturer who has developed what he calls a solar-cell ice-cream cart, told The Nation that once the battery is fully charged, the vendor can switch to a mode that allows the motor to drive the cart. It should be able to store energy for two hours after the sun has disappeared. An initial prototype is expected to carry 150kg of ice cream at 15km per hour."  2:59:33 PM  permalink  

NYT series "on the damaging impact that American, European and Japanese agricultural subsidies and trade barriers have on farmers in developing nations.  The following is an archive of all the editorials from the series."  10:21:29 AM  permalink  

Politics & Science: Great little website from a House investigation.  "The report Politics and Science in the Bush Administration finds numerous instances where the Administration has manipulated the scientific process and distorted or suppressed scientific findings. Beneficiaries include important supporters of the President, including social conservatives and powerful industry groups."   9:52:08 AM  permalink  

Korea road maps: "With the agreement to hold six-sided talks (among North Korea, South Korea, China, Russia, Japan and the United States), an opportunity again exists for resolving the crisis. Provided, that is, that the parties this time have a comprehensive road map ..  The goal would be, in effect, to facilitate the transformation of North Korea into a large economic development zone rather than an assembly line for weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missiles...

For Beijing, the building blocks with which it can assemble a road map are the following. The first is a U.S. non-aggression assurance to North Korea, co-sponsored by China. The second is South Korean and Japanese economic aid in the form of development project funding. The third comprises nuclear inspections conducted by China and Russia -- in close collaboration with the International Atomic Energy Agency -- to verify the complete dismantling of North Korea's plutonium and uranium-based weapons programs. Each of the above countries is singularly suited to carry out the specified activities based on an assessment of political feasibility and capabilities. For example, it would be politically unfeasible for Japan to participate in nuclear inspections in North Korea, given the intrusive nature of such an activity. Furthermore, the Pyongyang regime would not agree to Japanese inspectors, but would be less objectionable to Chinese or Russian inspectors if the incentives were deemed acceptable...

The basic fact of this current nuclear crisis is that Pyongyang needs assistance for its economic reform while Washington requires strict verification of North Korea's nuclear rollback. Left to these two parties, however, a long-term resolution would be remote and the nuclear crisis will increasingly threaten stability in Northeast Asia. If China were to sponsor a multilaterally agreed road map as discussed above, it would become more difficult for either side to renege on core commitments. The primary benefit of a Chinese road map would be a continuity of political support -- a feature that the ill-fated 1994 U.S.-North Korea Agreed Framework lacked from its inception when the Republicans won control of both the Senate and the House of Representatives. The ensuing Republican effort to undermine the nuclear accord -- combined with North Korea cheating on its obligations -- contributed to the agreement's demise."

Also, a high ranking defector offers his advice, emphasizing the Chinese role, and including acceptance of tens of thousands of defectors from North Korea.

  9:12:58 AM  permalink  

U.S. Troops Hailed in Southern Iraq: "American Troops Aren’t Under Fire in Southern Iraq"  8:21:46 AM  permalink  


daily link  Thursday, August 07, 2003


Diamond necklace exposed Bhutto money-laundering trail: "in 1995 two companies, SGS and Cotecna, took up a contract for customs inspection of goods being imported into Pakistan.   [A Swiss] judge cited letters showing that 6% of the amount paid by the Pakistani government under the inspection contract would be paid as commission to companies registered in the British Virgin Islands. One of these, Bomer Finances Inc, received $8.2m and another, Nassam Overseas Inc, received $3.8m, the judge found.

The beneficial owner of Bomer Finance is Ms Bhutto's husband, Asif Ali Zardari, but in reality she shares the assets with him and has the power of disposition, the judge said.  The beneficial owner of Nassam Overseas is Nasir Hussain, who at the time was Ms Bhutto's brother-in-law, he added.

Evidence of Ms Bhutto's role in Bomer Finance emerged from a visit to London during which she bought a diamond necklace at a Knightsbridge jeweller's.  The £117,000 bill was paid partly in cash and partly with money from Bomer Finance's account. "

  11:06:42 PM  permalink  

Blix on the war: "The former chief United Nations weapons inspector, Hans Blix, yesterday added his voice to the debate on America's postwar administration of Iraq. Dr Blix denounced the US-led war as a violation of international law, and accused the White House of having other reasons to invade besides "the officially pronounced purpose to find and destroy weapons of mass destruction".

"I cannot see that the action, in the way it was justified, was compatible with the UN Charter," Dr Blix said on Swedish radio. "An important element surely was the need to show striking power after the terror attack on September 11, 2001.""

  11:03:56 PM  permalink  


daily link  Wednesday, August 06, 2003


German defmin favours expanded Afghan peacekeeping: "German Lieutenant-General Norbert Van Heyst said that expanding the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), which currently numbers about 5,000 soldiers, into the provinces would require up to 10,000 additional troops. Canada, which will provide the bulk of the NATO peacekeeping force, has said the international community was not prepared to deploy thousands of additional troops needed to take ISAF beyond the capital. About two dozen ISAF soldiers have died in hostile and non-hostile incidents since its deployment. "  8:11:55 AM  permalink  

A Khomeini Breaks With His Lineage to Back U.S.: "The grandson of the late Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the strident Iranian cleric who built his Islamic revolution on a platform of attacking all things American, said today that the overthrow of Saddam Hussein would allow long-awaited freedoms to flourish throughout the region, and if they did not, United States intervention would be welcomed by most Iranians.

The grandson, Sayyid Hussein Khomeini, also suggested that any Iraqi Shiites calling for an Islamic theocracy here were misguided, probably financed by Iran and lacked the experience or understanding to know how badly the Iranian revolution had failed. ..

The young Mr. Khomeini apparently holds none of his grandfather's animosity toward the United States, correcting a reporter forming a question about the American occupation of Iraq to note that it should be called a "liberation." ..

Mr. Khomeini indicated that he could be the vanguard of a considerable number of senior Shiite clerics who are opposed to the way the clergy ruling Iran have used religion as a form of oppression and who will move to Iraq's shrine cities once the violence ebbs. But at present he is little known. ..

"Naturally if the Hawza is located in a free country," he said, using the common word for the entire Shiite seminary movement, "that will give space for debate, for free discussions and so of course there will be an exodus from Qum." The holy city of Qum is Iran's leading religious center. "If Qum remains under the same kind of oppressive atmosphere, everyone will come to Najaf," he added, referring to the Iraqi holy city. ..

He noted the incongruities separating the seminary cities on opposite sides of the border. In Qum, he said, most religious scholars oppose mixing politics and religion but toe the line in public because that is what the supreme leader demands.   The senior ayatollahs of Najaf, on the other hand, oppose mixing politics and religion but have been making some political remarks — demanding elections over who will write the constitution, for example — because that is what the Iraqi public expects of them. 

Rather than religious rule, he suggested that Shiites should overcome their historical persecution complex by pushing for a democratic government that respects their rights.

He grinned at the idea that he was following in the footsteps of other famous revolutionary offspring, like the daughters of Stalin and later Castro, who split with their families and sought refuge with the United States.

Mr. Khomeini said he broke with his grandfather in the early days of the revolution over the killing of people with even minor links to the shah's regime, which he did not believe religious law sanctioned. ..

Mr. Khomeini said that some Muslims in Iraq were quick to label the Americans as infidels, and that would probably be the case no matter how much the United States acted for the good of Iraq. "All the countries in the region fear Iraq becoming a free, liberal, democratic state," he said. "

  12:19:20 AM  permalink  

Weapons of Mass Confusion: Gordon in NYT: "Saddam Hussein, the theory holds, ordered the destruction of his weapon stocks well before the war to deprive the United States of a rationale to attack his regime and to hasten the eventual lifting of the United Nations sanctions. But the Iraqi dictator retained the scientists and technical capacity to resume the production of chemical and biological weapons and eventually develop nuclear arms. Mr. Hussein's calculation was that he could restart his weapons programs once the international community lost interest in Iraq and became absorbed with other crises. That would enable him to pursue his dream of making Iraq the dominant power in the Persian Gulf region and make it easier for him to deter enemies at home and abroad."  12:10:46 AM  permalink  


daily link  Tuesday, August 05, 2003


Shaking Up the Neighbors: NYT's Tom Friedman: "Shortly after the 25-member Governing Council was appointed in Iraq, the head of the Arab League, Amr Moussa, questioned the U.S.-appointed Council's legitimacy. "If this Council was elected," complained Mr. Moussa, "it would have gained much power and credibility." I love that quote. I love it, first of all, for its bold, gutsy, shameless, world-class hypocrisy. Mr. Moussa presides over an Arab League in which not one of the 22 member states has a leader elected in a free and fair election. On top of it, before the war, Mr. Moussa did all he could to shield Saddam Hussein from attack, although Saddam had never held a real election in his life. Yet, there was Mr. Moussa questioning the new U.S.-appointed Iraqi Council, which, even in its infant form, is already the most representative government Iraq has ever had. But I also love Mr. Moussa's comment for its unintended revolutionary message: "power and credibility" come from governments that are freely "elected." If only that were the motto of the Arab League. Alas, it is not, but it might be one day.."  11:19:17 PM  permalink  

Solar Technology for the Soldier: "An initial project between the NSC and the University of Massachusetts, Lowell, led to a breakthrough chemical process, known as "cold sintering," that resulted in the formation of Konarka. The cold sintering technology facilitates materials processing at relatively low temperatures, which allows Konarka to create photovoltaic cells without exposing the materials to destructive high temperatures in the manufacturing process, enabling the company to develop flexible cells on lightweight, flexible materials, rather than on glass or silicon. Under the current program, Konarka will supply prototypes of modules and demonstrate their ability to charge batteries and operate military equipment"  8:27:24 PM  permalink  


daily link  Monday, August 04, 2003


Solar Cell Pushes Efficiency Barrier: "Spectrolab, a subsidiary of The Boeing Company has achieved an what they claim is an unprecedented conversion efficiency for a terrestrial concentrator solar cell. Using concentrated sunlight, these photovoltaic (PV) cells can convert 36.9 percent of the sun's energy to electricity,.. "During the last few years, multijunction solar cells have doubled the power output of large commercial satellites.  We believe that further optimization of the improved terrestrial concentrator cells will yield the potential to surpass 40 percent conversion efficiency," said Dr. Nasser Karam, Spectrolab vice president for Advanced Technology. "  The tested cell was .25 square centimeters in size.  It was an improvement over the last generation by being tuned to terrestrial, rather than space, sunlight.  Press release says that several modules are already being tested throughout the world by photovoltaic concentrator system manufacturers. The research was funded by NREL and the Air Force.  8:03:02 PM  permalink  

Revolutionizing Science and Engineering Through Cyberinfrastructure: Executive summary of NSF Blue Ribbon Advisory Panel report.  "The Panel's overarching finding is that a new age has dawned in scientific and engineering research, pushed by continuing progress in computing, information, and communication technology, and pulled by the expanding complexity, scope, and scale of today's challenges. The capacity of this technology has crossed thresholds that now make possible a comprehensive “cyberinfrastructure” on which to build new types of scientific and engineering knowledge environments and organizations and to pursue research in new ways and with increased efficacy."  2:58:06 PM  permalink  

Redwoods go high tech, and High-tech trees take their own temperature:  Berkeley researchers use new wireless motes in forest research:   "For years, Dawson's research on the moisture that giant redwoods absorb from fog has involved the installation of 30 pounds of gear - including data loggers, sensors and wires - onto trees that stand 300 feet tall in the redwood groves of Santa Cruz and Sonoma counties.  Each [new] wireless sensor, or micromote, measures less than three cubic inches and is capable of transmitting radio signals at 50 kilobytes per second. .. "These devices need to run for months on a size C battery, streaming a variety of environmental data out of the trees for data processing," said Culler. ..

The old, industrial-age sensors cost $3,000, while the Mica sensors -- made by Crossbow Technologies of Santa Clara using UC Berkeley technology -- cost about $250 each.  The motes accurately chart temperatures and humidity and show the profound differences between tree tops and branches near the bottom..  Other sensors to be added include one equipped with a tiny probe to measure the interior temperature of the tree and the velocity and quantity of water flowing inside the tree.. "

The redwood grove used in the test are at the UC Botanical Garden in Strawberry Canyon. The researchers plan to expand the wireless network later this year to include redwood groves in Big Basin Redwoods State Park in Santa Cruz County and at a site in Sonoma County. 

Project Leader is "David Culler, a UC Berkeley professor of computer science, and his researchers, along with a team led by UC Berkeley computer scientist Kris Pister, who calls the technology "smart dust."  While Pister's team worked to make the motes smaller and smaller, Culler wrote an operating system for the tiny computers onboard. He called it "tinyOS."  .. Other researchers on the project include Robert Szewczyk and Joe Polastre, UC Berkeley graduate students in electrical engineering and computer sciences, and Wei Hong and David Gay, researchers at the Intel Research Berkeley laboratory. "

Companies: In addition to Crossbow Technologies,  "one San Jose company, Digital Sun, is marketing a sensor system designed for gardeners that monitors temperature and soil moisture and waters the plants when they need it. A Massachusetts company, Sensicast Systems, is also marketing tinyOS sensor systems.   Bosch and Honeywell are also looking into wireless sensor nets.  Wineries are very interested in the possibility of precisely monitoring areas or plants within vineyards, and several are working with Intel on a project. "

  2:49:21 PM  permalink  

Digital (Fill in the Blank) Is on the Horizon: "Since 1999, just before the technology boom collapsed, the percentage of households in the United States with personal computers — which many experts thought was leveling off — has in fact increased to 64 percent from 50 percent. At the same time, the share of households online has risen to 59 percent from 33 percent, and the use of digital cameras has climbed to 17 percent of households from less than 3 percent, according to Odyssey's research. ..

[A new] project, called Mealtime, will run for about four months, beginning the middle of this month. The companies supplying equipment and technology include Whirlpool, Icebox, IBM, Hewlett-Packard and Sears. Besides the networked oven that can also chill food, each household will have a refrigerator linked to the Internet for automated reordering of groceries through Peapod, the online grocer." 

  1:29:33 PM  permalink  


daily link  Sunday, August 03, 2003


In DSpace, Ideas Are Forever: "A number of universities, from the California Institute of Technology to M.I.T., are creating ''institutional repositories'' designed to harness their own intellectual output. M.I.T.'s archive, perhaps the most ambitious, is called DSpace (www.dspace.org). "  9:56:44 PM  permalink  

World Officials Agree to Share Ecology Data: "Officials from more than 30 countries agreed today to expand monitoring of the atmosphere, the oceans and the land and to create a system for sharing the resulting data. At a meeting here organized by the Bush administration, the officials said the goal of the 10-year effort was to fill in big gaps, primarily in developing countries, in the network of instruments recording earth's vital signs. The resulting benefits, like better crop and weather forecasts, are to be shared by rich and poor countries alike.  .. At the meeting here, administration officials said Mr. Bush had committed $25 million as a matching contribution to help developing countries link up to the global network for tracking what Donald L. Evans, the commerce secretary, called "the heartbeat of Mother Earth.""  9:34:34 PM  permalink  

What: Mob Scene. Who: Strangers. Point: None. Young people practice making smartmobs.  "The telephone-wielding crowd was the latest incarnation of something called flash mobs. Called into being on short notice by Web sites and e-mail distribution lists, flash mobs meet at an appointed time, engage in some organized spontaneity for a few minutes, then rapidly disperse. The activities are innocent, if mysterious, and tend to bring together loose groupings of surprisingly conventional looking young adults.

Brimming with such a lack of purpose, the fad has found a home in Berlin and across Germany. On Monday, at 5:05 p.m., mobbers have been called to gather at the washing machine display in a department store in the German city of Dortmund, eat a banana, and leave. But events have also been organized in Rome, Vienna and Zurich. Australia is planning one.

As might be suspected, New York is the acknowledged place where people first used the latest technology to gather and delight in pointlessness. In June, more than 100 people gathered in the rug department of Macy's, claiming to a bewildered clerk that they were looking for a "love rug" for their suburban commune. The concept quickly took on a life of its own, propelled by e-mail, cellphones and the Internet.  ..

On Saturday, a flash mob collected near the American Embassy in Berlin, and far from deriding Iraqi policies or some other momentous topic, they wore silly hats, waved flags and popped Champagne. "Here's to Natasha!" they toasted, before vanishing.  Tobias von Schönebeck, a tour guide, shook his head when he heard about how the phenomenon was traced back to Macy's. "This is just the sort of thing that happens when you forbid New York to smoke."

  9:32:45 PM  permalink  

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