Daily Archives: August 26, 2008

Agenda 21 – The UN Blueprint for the 21st Century

“Effective execution of Agenda 21 will require a profound reorientation of all human society, unlike anything the world has ever experienced a major shift in the priorities of both governments and individuals and an unprecedented redeployment of human and financial resources. This shift will demand that a concern for the environmental consequences of every human action be integrated into individual and collective decision-making at every level.”

– excerpt, UN Agenda 21

Wise Up Journal | Aug 20, 2008

Agenda 21 Enforcement

As described in my previous article on Sustainable Development, Agenda 21 was the main outcome of the United Nation’s Earth Summit held in Rio de Janeiro in 1992. Agenda 21 outlines, in detail, the UN’s vision for a centrally managed global society. This contract binds governments around the world to the United Nation’s plan for controlling the way we live, eat, learn, move and communicate – all under the noble banner of saving the earth. If fully implemented, Agenda 21 would have the government involved in every aspect of life of every human on earth.

Agenda 21 spreads it tentacles from Governments, to federal and local authorities, and right down to community groups. Chapter 28 of Agenda 21 specifically calls for each community to formulate its own Local Agenda 21: ”Each local authority should enter into a dialogue with its citizens, local organizations, and private enterprises and formulate ‘a Local Agenda 21.’ Through consultation and consensus-building, local authorities would learn from citizens and from local, civic, community, business and industrial organizations and acquire the information needed for formulating the best strategies.” – Agenda 21, Chapter 28, sec 1.3

Interestingly, in April 1991, fourteen months before Earth Summit, Prince Charles held a private two day international conference aboard the royal yacht Britannia, moored off the coast of Brazil. His goal was to bring together key international figures in an attempt to achieve a degree of harmony between the various countries that would gather at the Summit. Al Gore was present, along with senior officials from the United Nations and the World Bank.

At the summit 179 nations officially signed Agenda 21 and many more have followed since. Nearly 12,000 local and federal authorities have legally committed themselves to the Agenda. In practice this means that all their plans and policies must begin with an assessment of how the plan or policy meets the requirements of Agenda 21, and no plans or policies are allowed to contradict any part of the Agenda. Local authorities are audited by UN inspectors and the results of the audits are placed on the UN website. You can see how many local authorities in your country were bound by Agenda 21 in 2001 here. The number has increased significantly since then.

The official opening ceremony was conducted by the Dalai Lama and centered around a Viking long-ship that was constructed to celebrate the summit and sailed to Rio from Norway. The ship was appropriately named Gaia. A huge mural of a beauiful woman holding the earth within her hands adorned the entrance to the summit. Al Gore lead the US delegation where he was joined by 110 Heads of State, and representatives of more than 800 NGO’s.

Maurice Strong, Club of Rome member, devout Bahai, founder and first Secretary General of UNEP, has been the driving force behind the birth and imposition of Agenda 21. While he chaired the Earth Summit, outside his wife Hanne and 300 followers called the Wisdom-Keepers, continuously beat drums, chanted prayers to Gaia, and trended scared flames in order to “establish and hold the energy field” for the duration of the summit.

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Italian MP vows to ‘continue Knights of Malta fight to defend Christianity’

Northern League MP Mario Borghezio burst into a church in the northern city of Genoa shouting anti-Islam statements. He vowed to “continue the fight of the Knights of the Order of Malta to defend Christianity.”

Times of Malta | Aug 26, 2008

by Michael Carabott

A report on Islamonline stemming from Cairo has quoted an Italian Northern League politician as vowing to “continue the fight of the Knights of the Order of Malta to defend Christianity”.

The report was in reference to a report published in yesterday’s issue of the Financial Times which said a far-right Italian party is planning to table a draft law that would effectively block the construction of mosques in Italy.

The Northern League will present to parliament next week a bill that requires regional approval and a local referendum for building mosques.

It would also mandate that mosques should have no minaret or loudspeakers calling the faithful to prayer. The motion demands that mosques will have to be at least one kilometre away from any nearby church and that sermons be delivered in Italian, not Arabic.

The motion, according to Islamonline, is only supported by the small, ultra-Catholic UDC party with no immediate support from Berlusconi’s Forza Italia party or from the ex-Fascist National Alliance.

The website also mentioned that on 8 August, Northern League MP Mario Borghezio burst into a church in the northern city of Genoa shouting anti-Islam statements. He vowed to “continue the fight of the Knights of the Order of Malta to defend Christianity.”

The website said the Sovereign Military Order of Malta began as a Christian charity in Al-Quds in 1080 to provide care for poor and sick pilgrims to the Holy Land.

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Knights of Malta info

8 year old Saudi girl seeks divorce

A Saudi Arabian court is to rule next month on the divorce of an eight-year-old girl from a man in his fifties.

Telegraph | Aug 24, 2008

The girl, who still does not know she is married, lives with her parents in the town of Unayzah, 135 miles north of the capital Riyadh. The marriage had been arranged in secret by her father.

She is preparing to start the new year at primary school in the town, which is located in the conservative Najd region of the country – the spiritual homeland of the Islamist Wahhabi movement that has long dominated the kingdom.

According to the Arabic-language newspaper Al-Watan, which reported the case, the divorce suit has been filed by the girl’s mother.

Her relatives have contacted human rights groups in the kingdom to try to arrange legal help to annul the marriage.

However, the husband has refused, saying he has done nothing wrong.

Saudi Arabia’s justice system is based on a conservative interpretation of Sharia law, but also incorporates some aspects of tribal custom from the people of the Arabian peninsula.

Polygamy is common and arranged marriages involving pre-adolescent girls and older men are occasionally reported.

The rate of child marriage rates in the Middle East is lower than in parts of Africa and south Asia, but there is a particular problem in Saudi Arabia and Yemen.

In April another eight-year-old girl won a divorce after fleeing from her husband, aged 28, and arriving in the main court in the capital Sana’a.

A United Nations report on child marriage in 2005 found that 100 million girls were expected to marry by the age of 18 before 2015. The worst countries for child marriage were Niger, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Afghanistan, India and Bangladesh.

How RFID Tags Could Be Used to Track Unsuspecting People

Average consumers may not realize how many RFID tags they carry around. The devices are embedded in personal items and even some clothing.

Related

E-Passports ‘can be cloned’
Microchipped passports the Government claim are foolproof can be cloned in minutes, it has been reported.

A privacy activist argues that the devices pose new security risks to those who carry them, often unwittingly

Scientific American | August 2008

Radio-frequency identi fication (RFID) tags are embedded in a growing number of personal items and identity documents. Because the tags were designed to be powerful tracking devices and they typically incorporate little security, people wearing or carrying them are vulnerable to surreptitious surveillance and profiling. Worldwide, legislators have done little to address those risks to citizens.

By Katherine Albrecht

*excerpts*

If you live in a state bordering Canada or Mexico, you may soon be given an opportunity to carry a very high tech item: a remotely readable driver’s license. Designed to identify U.S. citizens as they approach the nation’s borders, the cards are being promoted by the Department of Homeland Security as a way to save time and simplify border crossings. But if you care about your safety and privacy as much as convenience, you might want to think twice before signing up.

The new licenses come equipped with radio-frequency identification (RFID) tags that can be read right through a wallet, pocket or purse from as far away as 30 feet. Each tag incorporates a tiny microchip encoded with a unique identification number. As the bearer approaches a border station, radio energy broadcast by a reader device is picked up by an antenna connected to the chip, causing it to emit the ID number. By the time the license holder reaches the border agent, the number has already been fed into a Homeland Security database, and the traveler’s photograph and other details are displayed on the agent’s screen.

Although such “enhanced” driver’s licenses remain voluntary in the states that offer them, privacy and security experts are concerned that those who sign up for the cards are unaware of the risk: anyone with a readily available reader device—unscrupulous marketers, government agents, stalkers, thieves and just plain snoops—can also access the data on the licenses to remotely track people without their knowledge or consent. What is more, once the tag’s ID number is associated with an individual’s identity—for example, when the person carrying the license makes a credit-card transaction—the radio tag becomes a proxy for that individual. And the driver’s licenses are just the latest addition to a growing array of “tagged” items that consumers might be wearing or carrying around, such as transit and toll passes, office key cards, school IDs, “contactless” credit cards, clothing, phones and even groceries.

RFID tags have been likened to barcodes that broadcast their information, and the comparison is apt in the sense that the tiny devices have been used mainly for identifying parts and inventory, including cattle, as they make their way through supply chains. Instead of having to scan every individual item’s Universal Product Code (UPC), a warehouse worker can register the contents of an entire pallet of, say, paper towels by scanning the unique serial number encoded in the attached RFID tag. That number is associated in a central database with a detailed list of the pallet’s contents. But people are not paper products. During the past decade a shift toward embedding chips in individual consumer goods and, now, official identity documents has created a new set of privacy and security problems precisely because RFID is such a powerful tracking technology. Very little security is built into the tags themselves, and existing laws offer people scant protection from being surreptitiously tracked and profiled while living an increasingly tagged life.

Beyond Barcodes

The first radio tags identified military aircraft as friend or foe during World War II, but it was not until the late 1980s that similar tags became the basis of electronic toll-collection systems, such as E-ZPass along the East Coast. And in 1999 corporations began considering the tags’ potential for tracking millions of individual objects. In that year Procter & Gamble and Gillette (which have since merged to become the world’s largest consumer-product manufacturing company) formed a consortium with Massachusetts Institute of Technology engineers, called the Auto-ID Center, to develop RFID tags that would be small, efficient and cheap enough to eventually replace the UPC barcode on everyday consumer products.

But the possibility that the security of such cards could be compromised is just one reason for concern. Even if tighter data-protection measures could someday prevent unauthorized access to RFID-card data, many privacy advocates worry that remotely readable identity documents could be abused by governments that wish to tightly monitor and control their citizens.

China’s national ID cards, for instance, are encoded with what most people would consider a shocking amount of personal information, including health and reproductive history, employment status, religion, ethnicity and even the name and phone number of each cardholder’s landlord. More ominous still, the cards are part of a larger project to blanket Chinese cities with state-of-the-art surveillance technologies. Michael Lin, a vice president for China Public Security Technology, a private company providing the RFID cards for the program, unflinchingly described them to the New York Times as “a way for the government to control the population in the future.” And even if other governments do not take advantage of the surveillance potential inherent in the new ID cards, ample evidence suggests that data-hungry corporations will.

Living a Tagged Life

According to the patent, here is how it would work in a retail environment: an “RFID tag scanner located [in the desired tracking location]… scans the RFID tags on [a] person…. As that person moves around the store, different RFID tag scanners located throughout the store can pick up radio signals from the RFID tags carried on that person and the movement of that person is tracked based on these detections…. The person tracking unit may keep records of different locations where the person has visited, as well as the visitation times.”

Protecting the Public

If RFID tags can enable an amusement park to capture detailed, personalized videos of thousands of people a day, imagine what a determined government could do—not to mention marketers or criminals. That is why my colleagues in the privacy community and I have so firmly opposed the use of RFID in government-issued identity documents or individual consumer items. As far back as 2003, my organization, CASPIAN (Consumers Against Supermarket Privacy Invasion and Numbering)—along with the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse, the Electronic Privacy Information Center, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the American Civil Liberties Union, and 40 other leading privacy and civil liberties advocates and organizations recognized this threat and issued a position paper that condemned the tracking of human beings with RFID as inappropriate.

In response to these concerns, dozens of U.S. states have introduced RFID consumer-protection bills—which have all been either killed or gutted by heavy opposition from lobbyists for the RFID industry. When the New Hampshire Senate voted on a bill that would have imposed tough regulations on RFID in 2006, a last-minute floor amendment replaced it with a two-year study instead. (I was appointed by the governor to serve on the resulting commission.) That same year a California bill that would have prohibited the use of RFID in government-issued documents passed both houses of the legislature, only to be vetoed by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.

On the federal level, no high-profile consumer-protection bills related to RFID have been passed. Instead, in 2005, the Senate Republican High Tech Task Force praised RFID applications as “exciting new technologies” with “tremendous promise for our economy” and vowed to protect RFID from regulation or legislation.

Meanwhile the RFID train is barreling forward. Gigi Zenk, a spokesperson at Washington’s licensing agency, recently confirmed that there are 10,000 enhanced licenses “on the street now—that people are actually carrying.” That’s a lot of potential for abuse, and it will only grow. The state recently mustered a halfhearted response, passing a law that designates the unauthorized reading of a tag “for the purpose of fraud, identity theft, or for any other illegal purpose” as a class C felony, subject to five years in prison and a $10,000 fine. Nowhere in the law does it say, however, that scanning for other purposes such as marketing—or perhaps “to control the population”—is prohibited. We ignore these risks at our peril.

Note: This article was originally published with the title, “RFID Tag–You’re It”.

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The science behind “The Clone Wars” animated film

“The clone troopers, now proudly wearing the name of Imperial stormtroopers, have tackled the dangerous work of fighting our enemies on the front lines. Many have died in their devotion to the Empire. Imperial citizens would do well to remember their example.”

– Emperor Palpatine during the Declaration of a New Order

“A weapon they are. Obey orders without question for good or ill. For now they fight for us. Who is to say what the future holds?”

– Yoda

In the animated film Clone Wars, the Republic’s heros Yoda and Obi-Wan Kenobi utilize faceless genetically modified human clone troopers (background) manufactured for the sole purpose of warfare, to help fight their battles with the “Separatists”.

How close has science brought us to clone armies squaring off against blaster-wielding droids?

Scientific American | Aug 11, 2008

The Science of Star Wars: The Clone Wars–Q&A with Author Jeanne Cavelos

By Adam Hadhazy

The new animated film Star Wars: The Clone Wars features an army of cloned soldiers doing battle with droids on far-flung planets. For those of us who grew up watching the Star Wars movies, droids and laser blasters are almost as real as cell phones and Wi-Fi. But what in Star Wars qualifies as remotely plausible, according to our understanding of science, and what is pure fantasy? To help answer this question, ScientificAmerican.com spoke with Jeanne Cavelos, a science fiction writer and author of The Science of Star Wars [read excerpts from the book here]. When her book came out, researchers had spotted less than two dozen planets around other stars—that figure is now over 300—and South Korean researcher Woo Suk Hwang was five years from rocking the world with his fraudulent claims of cloning the first human cells. We asked Cavelos to update us on how George Lucas’s vision has fared.

How far have would you say researchers have come with cloning in the last few years, and will we ever have clone armies like in Star Wars?

We have cloned many different animals at this point—cats, dogs, sheep—and there is very little holding us back from cloning humans except ethics and law. It’s entirely conceivable that we will see humans cloned for medical or reproductive purposes in the coming decades. The link between genes and behavior has also become much better understood in recent years, and like the Imperial armies in Star Wars, human clones could probably be genetically altered to be obedient and programmable. One area of Star Wars cloning technology that is not very realistic according to today’s science is the limited amount of time the clones have to grow and learn. Nevertheless, cloning technology is something in Star Wars that we will be seeing more of soon.

What do you think about all of the exoplanets that have turned up since you first wrote your book?

It’s amazing that George Lucas predicted this universe full of planets and aliens. When Star Wars came out in 1977, scientists thought that planet formation was a fluke. Now they are saying that half of the stars out there may have planets.

So do you think we are getting closer to finding alien life forms?

Absolutely. It’s amazing to think about all the potential life out there. And it’s looking more and more likely that we might find life right here in the solar system. George Lucas came up with Star Wars before we knew about extremophiles, which are life-forms that can live in bizarre, extreme situations. We had thought that life was this fragile flower that could only develop if conditions were just right—it’s the “Goldilocks” principle. But instead, we have found life-forms that can survive boiling and subzero temperatures or live deep underground with no sunlight whatsoever. These sorts of conditions probably aren’t conducive to the rise of complex, intelligent life, so a lot of life out there in the universe will probably be rather primitive.

What’s a possible reason for why the Star Wars universe could have so many humanoids?

It seems that the human species, or whatever its equivalent is in that faraway galaxy, either colonized all these worlds or was genetically “seeded” on many planets. This species became dominant somehow. It’s unlikely though that one species could live on so many planets without some kind of respiratory assistance. Each atmosphere is a quirky mixture of ingredients found only on that planet; you wouldn’t have the same mixture of oxygen and carbon dioxide as we do. It’s nice to see people in Star Wars just land on any old planet and get out of their spaceships without a problem, but it’s not realistic.

But one thing Lucas does do well is show a huge variety of life on these various planets. It helps you get an idea of the crazy abundance of different species, and this will probably be closer to the truth than we once imagined it would be.

Robots, or droids, as they are called in Star Wars, seem to be getting a lot more common than they were years ago. Was George Lucas right about them, too?

Well, nowadays we have the Roomba, that’s the little robotic vacuum cleaner some people seem to like. Then there’s the Honda Asimo robot that looks like an astronaut, which is pretty much as good as C-3PO at getting around. One of the major areas where people have brought robots into the home is with toys. There were those Furby robots from a while back that would talk to you and pick up what you say, and were banned from the Pentagon. You also see a lot of robots designed and built recently to mimic animals, like geckos and dragonflies.

NASA is now developing these softball-size robots—if you recall Luke’s lightsaber training with the floating ball that shoots him in Episode IV—that float in zero gravity and maneuver with six fans. They can record temperature and pressure, can go into areas that are too dangerous for astronauts to go into, and be like a canary in a coal mine.

You also see robots fighting wars in Star Wars. We have devices like that deployed in Iraq called SWORDS that can detect roadside bombs, and now they are putting weapons on these. Then there are predator drones, too. There’s also the “Big Dog” army robot in development by DARPA [Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency]; it looks like an Imperial walker but with dog legs. This two-and-half-foot-tall machine keeps its balance even on ice, and it could serve as an equipment-carrying pack robot for soldiers.

What about robotic intelligence and emotions? What are some insights since you published your book?

Science has made huge strides in robot technology since the first Star Wars movie came out, and even just since Episode I was released in 1999. But the main thing robots still lack is intelligence and emotion—we don’t have heroic robots like R2-D2 that take on risks, or skittish robots like C-3PO, either. Researchers who are developing artificial intelligence are realizing that emotions are needed to make robots rational; we usually think of these as being opposed to one another, but we need emotions to operate in a useful way. For example, people with frontal lobe disorders have trouble making decisions because, like computers, they go through every possible action before making a move. People with normal brains, though, have a feeling about a situation and that helps them to make a quick decision.

There are ideas to introduce a chemical reward system in robots similar to what humans have, or to program emotional states. If we are in a tough situation, say, stranded on the Star Wars desert planet Tatooine, we focus on survival by pushing ourselves to the limit and being more watchful of our environment. Likewise, robots could quickly “decide” to access their emergency power and shut down nonessential functions. Overall, emotions could make a robot more efficient in achieving its goal.

How practical is the transgalactic travel in the Star Wars universe?

The characters talk about moving in spaceships at “light-speed” or “making the jump into hyperspace” interchangeably, and there are some problems with that nomenclature. After all, light-speed is not very fast! If you were traveling at light-speed, it would take you over four years to reach the nearest star system, Alpha Centauri, because it is over four light-years [24 trillion miles] away.

What seems to be going on in Star Wars is that they travel through so-called wormholes. Einstein’s theory of relativity tells us that we might be able to make wormholes to fold space in on itself in order to make the shortest distance between two points. All of space is warped by gravity. Think of it this way: Say space is a sheet hanging over a clothesline. If you want to get around to the other side of the sheet, you could go up to the clothesline and then down the other side, but it would be much faster just to tunnel directly between the two sides of the sheet.

Wormholes, if they exist, are probably smaller than atoms and survive for only fractions of a second. The way to make use of one theoretically is to “open” one up with a huge amount of energy and then keep it open and expand it with an exotic kind of matter. This matter would need to have negative mass or energy to exert an antigravitational force to hold the wormhole open long enough to let a spaceship pass through. This seems to be what Han Solo is doing with the Millennium Falcon when he makes [a] jump to hyperspace. You can sort of think of “light-speed” as slang in the Star Wars universe.

Obviously, we’re very far away from any kind of technology that would take us rapidly to another star. NASA’s new Orion spaceship, which will be out in 2014, is designed just to get us back to [the] moon and [to] Mars. But someday we could have interstellar travel like they use so frequently in Star Wars.

What about laser weapons? Are we any closer to having those, and are they realistic?

Who wouldn’t want to have a blaster? They are so cool. Right now we have low-powered lasers than can blind people, or higher power ones that burn skin or clothing—kind of like a long-distance flamethrower. The most powerful lasers we have that I know of have about 2.2 megawatts of power, which can destroy enemy missiles from thousands of miles away. These are rather similar to what we see in Star Wars.

But for these lasers we need enough equipment to fill up a truck or even a building. We can’t exactly fit this laser technology into a holster just yet. The best lasers are still only 30 percent efficient and the rest of their energy is lost as heat. You also have to cool the laser down to keep it working properly, plus you need to put a lot of power in to get a lot of power out.

There are wireless TASERs now about the size of a flashlight. They send out an ultraviolet laser beam that breaks up air molecules between them and the target. This releases ions, and then electricity can be sent through the air to knock someone out, or even give them a heart attack if you’re not careful. It’s kind of similar to when Princess Leia was stunned by the storm troopers near the beginning of the first movie [Episode IV: A New Hope]. There are also prototypes of stun grenades that superheat moisture in the air, which makes an explosive flash and bang that can stun people.

Let’s talk lightsabers.

Ah, lightsabers. When I first saw Star Wars, I was 17 years old, and I thought they were laser beams. But that doesn’t make any sense because a laser beam wouldn’t come to a point after a few feet. Also, the laser wouldn’t be visible unless there was a lot of dust in the air to scatter light and illuminate the beam. Plus, laser lightsabers would pass through each other like flashlight beams, which wouldn’t make for a very fun fight.

So I think plasma is a better candidate. This ionized gas is made by lightning, is what the sun’s made out of, and is even used in plasma TVs. You can contain plasma using electric and magnetic fields, which exert inward pressure to match the plasma’s outward pressure. This means you could make different shapes, like a lightsaber–esque cylinder. But there are some problems: You couldn’t create a tip, and plasma would leak and vaporize the skin off Luke Skywalker’s hands. And as with a laser, you couldn’t fit all the necessary machinery to generate the plasma into a sword handle. Plus, the beam would need to be millions of degrees and far denser, in terms of energy, than anything we have now. But if somehow you could do all that, sure enough, the lightsaber would cut through metal and bone. The fields containing plasma would repel other lightsabers, so they would work like what you see, except it would radiate a great deal of heat, about as much of the sun. Jedi would have really bad sunburns.

How do you think “The Force” works in the Star Wars universe, and could it exist in ours?

The most difficult thing about trying to explain The Force is that it does so many different things: It can levitate objects, read others’ thoughts, influence the weak-minded, reveal visions of the past and the future, detect disturbances or presences, and even allow for life after death.

The best chance we have of explaining The Force is through the midi-chlorians, which were introduced in the new trilogy. Lucas explains these midi-chlorians as organisms that live within our cells and allow us to feel The Force. The element that seems scientifically based here is the sensing of someone strong in The Force. You can compare this to creatures living in water that generate small electrical fields. Some fish generate these fields, and these can sense when other fish come into these fields as well as the strength of the field put out by the approaching fish.

Or maybe The Force is similar to magnetism. Birds sense magnetic fields with cells in their beaks and eyes, called cryptochromes. Birds may actually “see” the magnetic field, so you can imagine a similar kind of thing happening in Star Wars. If Darth Vader is standing in the next room, maybe you can see the emissions of The Force like a magnetic aura around him.

Related

By 22 BBY, genetic alterations were complete, and 200,000 units had been produced through Kaminoan gestation pods.

Clone troopers were identical, genetically-modified soldiers bred and trained to serve in the Republic’s army during the conflict that came to be known as the Clone Wars

The most infamous work of the Kaminoans was their design and development of the Galactic Republic’s clone army. Using the Mandalorian bounty hunter Jango Fett as the template, the Kaminoans produced and trained a massive army of clone soldiers for the Republic at the behest of Jedi Master Sifo-Dyas. Their work eventually brought them to the brink of destruction again, as their world was targeted by the Separatists to end the supply of clone soldiers. The Kamino Defense Force, manned by specially trained clone troopers (including the ARC troopers) defeated the Separatist forces.