Daily Archives: November 23, 2008

Australian prime minister hails plan for an Asia-Pacific Union by 2020

FINANCIAL/SUMMIT

“Our ambition remains to create an Asia-Pacific community by 2020 with a broad agenda, that brings together the United States, China, India, Indonesia, Japan and the other countries of the region.” Australia’s Prime Minister Kevin Rudd speaks during the first pleanary session at the G20 Summit on Financial Markets and the World Economy at the National Building Museum in Washington, November 15, 2008.

PM defends Asia-Pacific Union plan

ABC Australia | Nov 21, 2008

By Sabra Lane

TONY EASTLEY: The Prime Minister will have plenty of time to review his plans for an Asia-Pacific community as he wings his way today to the annual APEC forum.

Kevin Rudd is flying to Peru via Honolulu and Acapulco – a 32 hour trip.

Before leaving Mr Rudd reaffirmed his determination to set up a European Union style forum in the Asia-Pacific region.

The Prime Minister says early negotiations have gone well and he dismissed reports that the plan has been poorly received.

From Canberra, Sabra Lane reports.

SABRA LANE: Kevin Rudd flagged his grand plan for an EU-style union in the Pacific in June. Back then he said there was a need for such an organisation embracing political, security and economic challenges as, he argued, no current forum addressed all three issues.

It was reported earlier this week there’d been a cool reception to the idea around the region. Not so, according to the Prime Minister, who gave a keynote address in Canberra last night to the Kokoda Foundation, a not-for-profit think tank on future security challenges.

KEVIN RUDD: Our ambition remains to create an Asia-Pacific community by 2020 with a broad agenda, that brings together the United States, China, India, Indonesia, Japan and the other countries of the region, with a broad agenda to deal with the political, economic and security challenges of the future. As we know, no such body in the region does that at present. It is time we moved towards such a body.

SABRA LANE: Richard Woolcott, a former career diplomat who once headed the Department of Foreign Affairs was recalled from retirement to travel the region and gather support for Mr Rudd’s idea.

Yesterday afternoon Mr Woolcott gave a face to face briefing to the Prime Minister.

KEVIN RUDD: I’m pleased that the initial consultations in the region of my special envoy for the Asia-Pacific community, Richard Woolcott, has gone well. More discussions will occur. I’ll be discussing the proposal further with leaders in Lima this weekend. Our discussions will continue in capitals as well in the year ahead and my special envoy will be looking to consult with the new US administration at the earliest opportunity.

SABRA LANE: The Prime Minister says the new union wouldn’t be a substitute for any current organisation. He says ASEAN, the Association of South-East Asian Nations, formed in the 60s, is an example of the kind of progress his new Asian-Pacific community might achieve.

KEVIN RUDD: ASEAN was created at the height of the cold war when the future of the region was much less than certain. ASEAN has developed cooperation rather than confrontation as the driver of responses to new challenges that the region faces.

This experience illustrates the importance of pre-emptively shaping our future environment to position the region to address future challenges. This is a key factor driving this Government’s proposal for an Asia-Pacific community.

SABRA LANE: Mr Rudd is now travelling to Peru for the APEC summit. Due to an industrial dispute in Tahiti, his travel plans have changed. He’s flying to Lima via Honolulu and Acapulco, a journey taking 32 hours, 28 of them in the air. And if he happens to bump into George Bush in Peru, the Prime Minister might hope the following praise, given last night, will be telegraphed ahead helping to sooth any lingering anger the President may feel over the leaking of that phone call.

KEVIN RUDD: I think an outstanding success of the Bush administration has been the way it has managed the China relationship in what could have gone radically in the wrong direction.

TONY EASTLEY: The Prime Minister Kevin Rudd ending that report by Sabra Lane.

Bug-sized spies: US develops tiny flying robots

Associated Press | Nov 21, 2008

DAYTON, Ohio: If only we could be a fly on the wall when our enemies are plotting to attack us. Better yet, what if that fly could record voices, transmit video and even fire tiny weapons?

That kind of James Bond-style fantasy is actually on the drawing board. U.S. military engineers are trying to design flying robots disguised as insects that could one day spy on enemies and conduct dangerous missions without risking lives.

“The way we envision it is, there would be a bunch of these sent out in a swarm,” said Greg Parker, who helps lead the research project at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton. “If we know there’s a possibility of bad guys in a certain building, how do we find out? We think this would fill that void.”

In essence, the research seeks to miniaturize the Unmanned Aerial Vehicle drones used in Iraq and Afghanistan for surveillance and reconnaissance.

The next generation of drones, called Micro Aerial Vehicles, or MAVs, could be as tiny as bumblebees and capable of flying undetected into buildings, where they could photograph, record, and even attack insurgents and terrorists.

By identifying and assaulting adversaries more precisely, the robots would also help reduce or avoid civilian casualties, the military says.

Parker and his colleagues plan to start by developing a bird-sized robot as soon as 2015, followed by the insect-sized models by 2030.

The vehicles could be useful on battlefields where the biggest challenge is collecting reliable intelligence about enemies.

“If we could get inside the buildings and inside the rooms where their activities are unfolding, we would be able to get the kind of intelligence we need to shut them down,” said Loren Thompson, a defense analyst with the Lexington Institute in Arlington, Virginia.

Philip Coyle, senior adviser with the Center for Defense Information in Washington D.C., said a major hurdle would be enabling the vehicles to carry the weight of cameras and microphones.

“If you make the robot so small that it’s like a bumblebee and then you ask the bumblebee to carry a video camera and everything else, it may not be able to get off the ground,” Coyle said.

Parker envisions the bird-sized vehicles as being able to spy on adversaries by flying into cities and perching on building ledges or power lines. The vehicles would have flappable wings as a disguise but use a separate propulsion system to fly.

“We think the flapping is more so people don’t notice it,” he said. “They think it’s a bird.”

Unlike the bird-sized vehicles, the insect-sized ones would actually use flappable wings to fly, Parker said.

He said engineers want to build a vehicle with a 1-inch wingspan, possibly made of an elastic material. The vehicle would have sensors to help avoid slamming into buildings or other objects.

Existing airborne robots are flown by a ground-based pilot, but the smaller versions would fly independently, relying on preprogrammed instructions.

Parker said the tiny vehicles should also be able to withstand bumps.

“If you look at insects, they can bounce off of walls and keep flying,” he said. “You can’t do that with a big airplane, but I don’t see any reason we can’t do that with a small one.”

An Air Force video describing the vehicles said they could possibly carry chemicals or explosives for use in attacks.

Once prototypes are developed, they will be flight-tested in a new building at Wright-Patterson dubbed the “micro aviary” for Micro Air Vehicle Integration Application Research Institute.

“This type of technology is really the wave of the future,” Thompson said. “More and more military research is going into things that are small, that are precise and that are extremely focused on particular types of missions or activities.”

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On the Net:

Air Force Research Lab

Black and white Masonic groups officially recognize each other

prince_hall_afam-_freemasons_nov_2008

Milton ‘Toby’ Fitch, left, and David Cash sign the resolution officially recognizing each other’s Masonic organizations, putting an end to 138 years of disregard. Members of the black lodge had voted for recognition four years ago. Members of the white lodge agreed in September. Photo by Jason Arthurs

News Observer | Nov 22, 2008

State’s two Masonic groups join

By Richard Stradling

RALEIGH – Members of the state’s two Masonic organizations — one black, one white — ended 138 years of mutual disregard Friday by signing a resolution recognizing each other as brother Masons.

The resolution, signed near the end of a nearly two-hour ceremony full of formality and speeches, ended a vestige of the segregation era, during which the two groups — one white, the other black — spent decades following the ancient tenets and teachings of freemasonry while each pretended the other didn’t exist.

“Today’s a historic day, because we’re here to say we’re brothers again,” said David Cash, a Methodist minister from Kannapolis and grand master of the white group, the Ancient, Free and Accepted Masons of North Carolina.

Cash and his counterpart, Milton “Toby” Fitch Jr. of the Most Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons of North Carolina and Its Jurisdictions, signed the document in the old House chambers of the State Capitol. They sat at a table where North Carolina’s resolution to secede from the Union was signed 148 years ago.

Both Prince Hall and AF&AM Masonic groups carry on the traditions of a fraternity founded by building craftsmen in medieval Europe. The state’s AF&AM organization was founded in 1787, though some of the individual lodges date back earlier. The state’s Prince Hall group was founded in 1870.

Pomp and pride

Despite shared roots and goals, their members did not officially recognize each other as Masons until Friday.

“We are of the same family,” said Dan Blue Jr., a Prince Hall Mason and state legislator from Raleigh. “This is an opportunity to complete a circle.”

The ceremony, which had the feel of a peace treaty signing, was years in the making.

Members of the Prince Hall Masons unanimously passed a resolution recognizing their white counterparts as true Masons at their annual meeting in 2004. But a similar resolution failed several years in a row at AF&AM meetings, despite impassioned pleas from the group’s leaders.

This year, in September, it passed 642-328, leading to Friday’s gathering, which filled not only the old House chamber but also the old Senate, where the overflow watched on a big-screen TV.

Membership in the larger, white lodge has fallen from 73,000 at its peak in 1981 to less than 50,000, even as the state’s population has soared. But Friday’s ceremony was a reminder of the devotion of many Masons to the organization and the influential people it attracts. U.S. Rep. Bob Etheridge led the pledge of allegiance, and former state Supreme Court justices Henry Frye and James Exum Jr. also spoke.

The resolution signed Friday does not merge the groups in any way, but it should lead to cooperation between them.

Cash, the AF&AM grand master, said representatives of the two groups are meeting to work out visitation issues and protocol. For example, he noted, Prince Hall Masons have a dress code, while the AF&AM does not.

“They are a little bit more formal,” he said.

That formality was on display Friday, as Prince Hall members in particular wore colorful aprons around their waists and medallions around their necks. A color guard of Prince Hall Masons with epaulets on their shoulders, two rows of buttons down their chests and hats covered with white feathers lined the aisle of the old House chamber with raised swords as officers from the two organizations filed in.

Earlier this fall, Fitch and the Prince Hall Masons made Cash an honorary member. Friday, Cash returned the gesture, reading a framed resolution with a preacher’s shout in his voice before the two men embraced before a shower of flashbulbs and a standing ovation.