Articles of Interest, July 7, 2008

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Iraq says may agree timetable for U.S. withdrawal

BAGHDAD (Reuters) – Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki raised the prospect on Monday of setting a timetable for the withdrawal of U.S. troops as part of negotiations over a new security agreement with Washington.

It was the first time the U.S.-backed Shi’ite-led government has floated the idea of a timetable for the removal of American forces from Iraq. The Bush administration has always opposed such a move, saying it would give militant groups an advantage.

In a statement, Maliki’s office said the prime minister made the comments about the security pact — which will replace a U.N. mandate for the presence of U.S. troops that expires on December 31 — to Arab ambassadors in the United Arab Emirates.

“In all cases, the basis for any agreement will be respect for the full sovereignty of Iraq,” the statement quoted Maliki as saying.

“The current trend is to reach an agreement on a memorandum of understanding either for the departure of the forces or a memorandum of understanding to put a timetable on their withdrawal.”

It said Maliki, who is on an official visit to the United Arab Emirates, was responding to questions from the ambassadors about the security talks with the United States.

Medic in famous photo dies after PTSD struggle

During the first week of the war in Iraq, a Military Times photographer captured the arresting image of Army Spc. Joseph Patrick Dwyer as he raced through a battle zone clutching a tiny Iraqi boy named Ali.

The photo was hailed as a portrait of the heart behind the U.S. military machine, and Doc Dwyer’s concerned face graced the pages of newspapers across the country.

But rather than going on to enjoy the public affection for his act of heroism, he was consumed by the demons of combat stress he could not exorcise. For the medic who cared for the wounds of his combat buddies as they pushed toward Baghdad, the battle for his own health proved too much to bear.

On June 28, Dwyer, 31, died of an accidental overdose in his home in Pinehurst, N.C., after years of struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder. During that time, his marriage fell apart as he spiraled into substance abuse and depression. He found himself constantly struggling with the law, even as friends, Veterans Affairs personnel and the Army tried to help him.

“Of course he was looked on as a hero here,” said Capt. Floyd Thomas of the Pinehurst Police Department. Still, “we’ve been dealing with him for over a year.”

The day he died, Dwyer apparently took pills and inhaled the fumes of an aerosol can in an act known as “huffing.” Thomas said Dwyer then called a taxi company for a ride to the hospital. When the driver arrived, “they had a conversation through the door [of Dwyer’s home],” Thomas said, but Dwyer could not let the driver in. The driver asked Dwyer if he should call the police. Dwyer said yes. When the police arrived, they asked him if they should break down the door. He again said yes.

“It was down in one kick,” Thomas said. “They loaded him up onto a gurney, and that’s when he went code.”

Dwyer served in Iraq with 3rd Squadron, 7th Cavalry Regiment as the unit headed into Baghdad at the beginning of the war. As they pushed forward for 21 days in March 2003, only four of those days lacked gunfire, he later told Newsday. The day before Warren Zinn snapped his photo for Military Times, Dwyer’s Humvee had been hit by a rocket.

Obama to accept before 75,000+

Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) will leave the hall of the Democratic National Convention in Denver and deliver a rock-star-style acceptance speech at nearby Invesco Field at Mile High, quadrupling his live audience, the party announced Monday.

The speech, in the stadium that is home of the Denver Broncos, will be on the fourth and final night of the convention, Aug. 28.

Adding to the historic resonance of the first nomination of an African-American for president, that date is the 45th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream Speech.”

The move means additional expense for the television networks, where executives are having a conference call Monday to discuss the logistics of moving their cameras and anchors to the new location after months of planning for a finale in the smaller Pepsi Center, where the rest of the convention will be held.

The convention hall has a capacity of 19,000, compared to more than 76,000 at Invesco.

In 2004, there were rumors about the Republicans moving their final night out of Madison Square Garden to Yankee Stadium, but it didn’t happen.

There’s precedent for the Obama move. In 1960, John F. Kennedy accepted his nomination at Memorial Coliseum, next to the Democratic National Convention in the Los Angeles Memorial Sports Arena.

Matt Burns, communications director of the Republican National Convention, responded: “Not surprisingly, Senator Obama and his fellow Democrats are more focused on stagecraft and theatrics than providing real solutions to the challenges facing our nation. A change of venue for a political speech isn’t the kind of change the American people deserve or expect.”

Ich bin ein trans-Atlanticist.

Obama Refines Plans for Germany Trip

Barack Obama’s planned European tour might make a major whistlestop in front of the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin. The candidate’s schedule isn’t set, but a Berlin appearance before the end of July looks likely.

Plans for a visit by Barack Obama, the presumed Democratic candidate for President of the United States, have moved forward — slowly — in Berlin, where he may give a speech before the Brandenburg Gate this summer.

Germany’s ambassador to Washington, Klaus Scharioth, has reportedly worked for weeks to convince Obama’s campaign that the candidate’s only large European appearance should take place in Berlin. Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier talked to Obama by phone last April and learned that he might visit Germany. In the meantime, according to SPIEGEL sources, Steinmeier’s staff has set plans in motion for an Obama appearance in the capital by the end of July.

Both Steinmeier and his boss, Chancellor Angela Merkel, have expressed willingness to meet Obama. A member of Obama’s campaign has already met with Berlin’s mayor, Klaus Wowereit, and the Secret Service has reportedly started to investigate security questions surrounding a visit.

No location has been announced, but the Berlin Senate has reportedly been asked whether Obama can speak in front of the Brandenburg Gate, where former US President Ronald Reagan gave a famous speech in 1987. Reagan made a show of asking then-Soviet premier Mikhail Gorbachev to “tear down” the Berlin Wall.

The reactor of Iran's Bushehr nuclear power plant. Iran insists its nuclear programme is peaceful

Iran has resumed A-bomb project, says West

Iran has resumed work on constructing highly sophisticated equipment that nuclear experts say is primarily used for building atomic weapons, according to the latest intelligence reports received by Western diplomats.

The work is aimed at developing the blueprint provided by Dr AQ Khan, the “father” of Pakistan’s nuclear bomb, who sold Iran details of how to build atom bombs in the early 1990s.

Iran’s Revolutionary Guard, which has overall responsibility for the country’s nuclear programme, has set up several civilian companies to work on the programme whose activities are being deliberately concealed from the United Nations nuclear inspection teams.

The companies, based on the outskirts of Tehran, are working on constructing components for the advanced P2 gas centrifuge, which can enrich uranium to weapons grade two to three times faster than conventional P1 centrifuges.

For Better or Worse, Sex in Space Is Inevitable

Weddings in space could be right around the corner, and experts figure the inevitable cosmic consummation will be just around the next corner.

The Japanese firm First Advantage and the U.S.-based private spaceflight firm Rocketplane Global, Inc., announced last week they will host weddings in space for about $2.3 million (240 million yen) apiece.

For all we know, sex in space has already taken place. But NASA officials aren’t talking about that much.

Beyond space tourism as a platform for steamy shenanigans, space missions are the perfect petri dishes for close encounters, and this year NASA certainly has a busy flight schedule, with five missions planned. And more countries than ever are now venturing into space, with Japanese astronaut Koichi Wakata slated to become Japan’s first long-duration space flyer this year and China gearing up for its first spacewalk scheduled for October.

Things will get even more interesting with future long-duration missions envisioned for the moon, Mars and beyond.

“To say that astronauts are some superior beings who cannot have interests in any kind of sexual feelings for three years … I just don’t buy it,” said Jason Kring of Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Florida. Kring also pointed out the possibly negative consequences of pregnancies in a microgravity environment.

“Are we going to sterilize our crew members before sending them to Mars?” said Kring, who studies the psychological effects of long-duration space missions.

Meanwhile, nobody claims to know whether “it” has happened already in space.

Do not be fooled by the west’s propaganda on Islam

There is an ongoing slander campaign against Islam, claiming that it is a religion that promotes violence and hinting that it seeks world conquest.
Before you buy the malarkey that is being produced by people with their own agendas or prejudices or who are just plain ignoramuses, follow these few suggestions.

Compare the history of Islam with the history of Europe, which for centuries was called Christendom. An objective look will show you that Christendom wins by a landslide when it comes to violence and wars. After all, Europe and its offspring did not come to dominate the world, including the Islamic countries, because they practiced the gentle virtues of Jesus.

As for the common practice of cherry-picking Scripture from holy writings and presenting it out of context, just check out what Christians call the Old Testament. There you will find God advocating a double standard of morality, condoning slavery, ordering the Israelites to commit genocide and committing infanticide himself on a mass scale. I don’t believe you will find anything comparable in the Quran.

The word “jihad,” which is so over-used these days, has, like a lot of words, more than one meaning. It means basically to struggle, but this can be personal or spiritual, or a peaceful political struggle. Only if Islam is attacked are Muslims required to defend it. As for that obnoxious propaganda term “Islamo-fascist,” just recall that fascism is a European invention by nominal Christians. To my knowledge, the only fascist governments ever to exist on this planet were all European and nominally Christian.

Another canard is that Islam promotes forced conversion. Not so. Even when the Arab empire was expanding, rarely were any of the conquered people forced to convert. The Quran even forbids it, as I recall. Naturally, once Muslims were in charge, a lot of people decided it was in their own self-interest to convert, but this is just one of the sleazy aspects of human nature.

I remember when Florida elected its first Republican governor of the 20th century. I saw plenty of people crawl out from under their rocks and convert to the Republican Party, drawn by the smell of patronage. With some rare exceptions, human beings always act in what they perceive, rightly or wrongly, to be in their self-interest.

It was Christian Europe that slaughtered the Jews, and nothing remotely resembling the Holocaust is to be found in the history of Islam. In fact, during the past, when Jews were being persecuted by Christian Europe, they frequently fled to and found sanctuary in the Muslim countries. Until Israel was established, practically every Muslim country had sizable Jewish populations dating back centuries. And there are still Jews and Christians in some Muslim countries.

A final suggestion is that when you hear some individual radical Muslim being quoted, just remember he is one of a billion people and speaks only for himself and his small following. And be wary of the quotations he uses, for they are often deliberately fabricated or distorted.

If Muslims really desired to conquer the world, don’t you think it’s strange that we’ve been living in peace with them for nearly a millennium and a half, except for those times when we attacked them (the Crusades, the European colonial movement and our invasion of Iraq)? Don’t forget either that some of the countries the Bush administration calls allies are themselves Muslim — Egypt, Jordan, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, etc.

You have nothing to fear from Islam. The al-Qaida movement is a tiny percentage of Muslims and wouldn’t be the force it is except for the fact that the Bush administration has gone out of its way to make all of Osama bin Laden’s propaganda become true.

Farrakhan urges Emancipation Day throng to work to be truly free through activism

By CHRISTINE LETT

ST. CROIX – This year’s celebration of the 1848 Emancipation was one of deep reflection of the sacrifices made 160 years ago to the day by enslaved Africans to win freedom from the Denmark, the islands’ colonial power.

On Thursday, on the same ground where freedom from slavery was won on July 3, 1848, keynote speaker Minister Louis Farrakhan, leader of the Nation of Islam, told Virgin Islanders that while slaves were emancipated the work to be truly free was not yet done.

Emancipation, in Latin, simply means a freeing of the hands, he said. It does not mean freedom from the master, Farrakhan said.

The activism, which calls for deep sacrifices, skipped an entire generation because the sacrifice is not yet “real,” he said. Many have not experienced true freedom – the ability to be independent, to fulfill their own destinies. In today’s world this means owning your own business, growing your own foods, Farrakhan said.

Farrakhan called for activism in this generation “to make the work that took place 160 years ago real.”

Crowd-Controlling MEDUSA Ray Gun Puts Voices Inside Your Head [Medusa]

Corporation claimed this week that it is ready to begin production on the MEDUSA, a damned scary ray gun that uses the “microwave audio effect” to implant sounds and perhaps even specific messages inside people’s heads. Short for Mob Excess Deterrent Using Silent Audio, MEDUSA creates the audio effect with short microwave pulses. The pulses create a shockwave inside the skull that’s detected by the ears, and basically makes you think you’re going balls-to-the-wall batshit insane. The MEDUSA can also “produce recognizable sounds” and is aimed primarily at military uses, but New Scientist revealed there are other uses in the works, too.

And if you’re thinking ear plugs are this thing’s Kryptonite, think again. Lee Sadovnik of Sierra Nevada Corp. said normal audio safety limits are off the table since the sound bypasses the eardrums and emanates from within the skull. “The repel effect is a combination of loudness and the irritation factor,” he said. “You can’t block it out.”

Wet blanket James Lin of the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department at the University of Illinois in Chicago wants more testing done, however, because of the perceived health ramifications of such a device. Lin said lower, whisper-level intensities work fine, but the higher incapacitating levels expected by the military could fry more than a few brains out on the battlefield. “I would worry about what other health effects it is having,” Lin said. “You might see neural damage.”

And those “other uses” hinted at above? Try subliminal advertising; or suggestive subconscious comments that you don’t really “hear” but can influence decision-making anyway. Or, alternatively, the beam can be ramped up to 11 and just kill you outright.

Pioneer Develops 400GB Optical Disc

Pioneer has developed an optical disc that can hold up to 400G bytes of data easily surpassing previously announced prototypes.

The new disc manages to pack 16 layers, each with a 25G-byte capacity, into a conventional 12-centimeter diameter optical disc. The new discs are similar to Blu-ray Disc technology and slight changes to the hardware on a Blu-ray drive would allow the new Pioneer discs to be used on one.

Pioneer doesn’t have any plans to commercially produce the disc but is looking to work with disc manufacturers who would make it themselves. The technology is about ready to enter commercialization, said Michiko Kadoi, a spokeswoman for Pioneer in Tokyo.

A one-sided Blu-rayDisc has 25G bytes of capacity, far less than the Pioneer disc.

Currently dual-layer 50G byte discs are the highest capacity discs available commercially. Various companies have worked on higher capacity discs and TDK previously announced development of a 6-layer disc with 150G byte capacity but that has yet to reach the market.

Getting a clear signal from each recording layer has been a stumbling block for higher capacity discs with more layers, but Pioneer says it has managed to solve this problem by employing technology it developed for DVDs. The new disc has a structure that reduces interference from adjacent layers and so accurate playback is possible from all 16 layers, the company said.

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