Daily Archives: December 8, 2010

Dark forces at work to take Julian Assange to US, says lawyer

Target: Julian Assange’s poster on the Interpol website

thisislondon.co.uk | Dec 8, 2010

by Rashid Razaq, Craig Woodhouse and Martin Bentham

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange’s legal team today claimed “dark forces” had engineered his incarceration as MPs accused the US of “leaning on” British authorities to punish the whistleblower.

Assange, 39, is in Wandsworth prison after he was denied bail at an extradition hearing yesterday over sex assault allegations made by two women in Sweden.

His lawyer, Mark Stephens, said he was shocked at the decision to remand Assange in custody despite Jemima Khan and Ken Loach offering to stand surety.

Bob Beckel Calls For Assange Assassination By Special Forces

He said: “We saw the smirking American politicians yesterday. The honey-trap has been sprung. Dark forces are at work. After what we’ve seen so far you can reasonably conclude this is part of a greater plan.”

Mr Stephens accused Swedish prosecutors of running a “show trial” and said his client had offered to meet investigators in London but had been presented with no details of the allegations.

Assange’s legal team plan to appeal against the bail decision next Tuesday and will take the case to the High Court if unsuccessful. They have also pledged to fight the extradition to Sweden as his supporters fear he could be handed over to the US.

US Defence Secretary Robert Gates described Assange’s arrest as “good news” with lawyers looking at whether they can charge him with espionage offences over the cable leaks.

Keith Vaz, chairman of the Commons Home Affairs Select Committee, said that he would raise Assange’s case with Home Secretary Theresa May when she appears before the committee next week.

“We have to be very careful to ensure that this extradition is not being used for political reasons, rather than the reasons stated, and I am certain that we will be seeking assurances from the Home Secretary,” he said.

Islington North MP Jeremy Corbyn used Twitter to attack American influence. He wrote: “USA and others don’t like any scrutiny via WikiLeaks and they are leaning on everybody to pillory Assange. What happened to free speech?”

Supporters said the stream of revelations on the WikiLeaks website would not be interrupted — today they focused on the release of Lockerbie bomber Abdelbaset al-Megrahi.

Mr Stephens said: “WikiLeaks is a journalistic endeavour by thousands of people. It won’t be stopped so easily. With their editor-in-chief indisposed other people have stepped up.”

Full Story
Julian Assange on Trial in (Third Reich) Sweden


Military One Step Closer to Battlefield Holograms

Wired | Dec 6, 2010

By David Axe

It’s one of those grandiose ideas that gets bandied about by Pentagon scientists and pops up in the press every few years. The “Face of Allah” weapon would beam a massive, lifelike hologram over a battlefield, projecting the image of some deity “to incite fear in soldiers on a battlefield,” according to one researcher.

We last checked in on holographic weapons research two years ago, when the University of New Hampshire was working on some Pentagon-funded projects. Since then, another university team has turned holograms into a reality — but not as tools of war. Not yet, at least.


Project Blue Beam

Optical scientist Nasser Peyghambarian and his teammates at the University of Arizona have demonstrated what The New York Times calls “actual moving holograms that are filmed in one spot and then projected and viewed in another spot.” The Times likens the holograms to the tiny image of Princess Leia that R2D2 showed Luke Skywalker in the beginning of Star Wars, only “a lot more haltingly, as the display changes only every two seconds.”

Hologram with overlay

Peyghambarian’s hologram is created by a suite of 16 cameras that use lasers to record data on “smart” plastic some distance away that, when hit by a special light, project the image in solid-looking 3D. A partner team at Columbia University is studying ways to beam the holo-data via the Internet, to allow 3D video chats or instantaneous transmission of holographic maps, blueprints or medical scans. Peyghambarian said it might take a decade for the technology to become affordable and widespread. Weaponization would be much further behind (though we wouldn’t bet on today’s cash-strapped military to invest in a Face-of-Allah gun). Cost aside, it’s just not very PC.

Early holograms are already a fixture in military headquarters, according to the Times article. A company called Zebra Imaging in Texas has been selling 2-by-3-foot plastic holographic maps to the Pentagon — its “main customer” — for $1,000 to $3,000 a pop. The military “sends data in computer files to the company. Zebra then renders holographic displays of, for example, battlefields in Iraq and Afghanistan.” No goofy 3D glasses required, just a custom-made LED flashlight that “activates” the image encoded in the plastic.

Zebra’s technology has other military applications, such as post-blast IED forensics, according to the company’s Website. “Analysts trying to understand the nature and construction of an explosive device … are able to understand the scene in 3D far better than the classic 2D ‘bird’s-eye view.’”

Japanese retail chain pulls ‘joke’ Nazi costume from stores after complaint from Jewish organization

Japanese retailer Don Quijote pulled a Nazi soldier party costume from its shelves after a U.S.-based Jewish organization complained that it was offensive. Sasahara/AP

DAILY NEWS | Dec 7,  2010

BY Philip Caulfield

A Nazi costume created as “a joke” doesn’t have a U.S.-based Jewish group laughing. And now a discount retail chain in Japan has pulled the outfit from its stores.

Don Quijote Co., a Japanese discount chain, said Tuesday it has stopped selling a Nazi soldier party costume after a Jewish organization in Los Angeles said it was shocked to see the item “replete with swastikas” hanging in stores and called for its removal.

The getup, packaged in a plastic bag under the label, “Party Collection,” included a black jacket with a swastika armband.

The package featured a Nazi swastika symbol, a cartoon drawing resembling Adolf Hitler presenting a straight-armed “Nazi salute” and the words “Heil Hitler” written in Japanese.

It cost about $60 and was on sale at about 10 of the company’s roughly 150 stores, company spokesperson Emiko Onoue told The Wall Street Journal.

A spokesman for Aico, the Japanese novelty goods maker that created the costume, said the company had been producing the costume for seven years and had never received a complaint.

“This was meant purely as a joke, as something that would easily be recognizable,” said Nobuyoshi Nasuzawa, an Aico spokesperson. “If we have complaints will certainly stop sales.”

On Monday, Don Quijote said it would pull the costume after a letter from the Simon Wiesenthal Center, a Los Angeles-based Jewish rights organization, urged that the store stop selling it.

“In December 2010 Nazism is not dead and the swastika is still deployed as a symbol of hatred against all “non-Aryans” including Asians,” the letter said.

Don Quijote spokesperson Kana Kasai told The Associated Press, “We want to fully respond to this letter from the center and are currently working within the company to do so.”

The Wiesenthal Center became aware of the costume after one of its members saw it on sale in Japan.

Don Quijote has stores throughout Japan and is known for its wide offering of cheap costumes and novelty gags.

It has four stores in Hawaii, but the costume wasn’t on sale there.

Nigeria charges Dick Cheney over bribery

Former US vice president Dick Cheney. Photo: AP

Nigeria’s anti-corruption agency on Tuesday charged former U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney over a bribery scheme involving oil services firm Halliburton Co. during time he served as its top official, a spokesman said.

Telegraph | Dec 8, 2010

The charges stem from a case involving as much as $180 million allegedly paid in bribes to Nigerian officials, said Femi Babafemi, a spokesman for the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission.

Halliburton and other firms allegedly paid the bribes to win a contract to build a $6 billion liquefied natural gas plant in Nigeria’s oil-rich southern delta, he said.

Terrence O’Donnell, a lawyer representing Mr Cheney, denied the allegations.

“The Department of Justice and the Securities and Exchange Commission investigated that joint venture extensively and found no suggestion of any impropriety by Dick Cheney in his role of CEO of Halliburton,” O’Donnell’s said in a statement sent to The Associated Press. “Any suggestion of misconduct on his part, made now, years later, is entirely baseless.”

Cancun Climate Conference ‘using as much energy as a village for a year’

The total carbon footprint of the conference, according to the Mexican Government, is 25,000 tonnes Photo: AFP/GETTY

The Cancun Climate Conference is using up as much energy as a small village in England for a whole year.

Telegraph | Dec 7, 2010

By Louise Gray, Environment Correspondent Cancun

More than 190 countries are meeting in the luxury resort for two weeks to discuss the best way to bring down global carbon emissions.

The total carbon footprint of the conference, according to the Mexican Government, is 25,000 tonnes.

This is equivalent to 4,500 UK households for a year or the same amount of carbon as a poor African nation such as Somalia would pump out in two weeks.

The carbon footprint of the conference is five times as much as the last meeting in Copenhagen, even though less people are attending the conference.

There are around 15,000 delegates this year compared to around 45,000 people from governments, media and non-governmental organisations in Copenhagen.

However Herando Guerrero, the chief of staff for the Minister of the Environment, insisted the reason emissions are so much higher is because the Mexican Government are taking more comprehensive measurements.

He said the measurement this year includes all the flights taken by the delegates, energy use and even food.

“The emissions at Copenhagen were estimated at below 5,000 tonnes. In Cancun it will be 4 or 5 times that amount because we are considering everything. Emissions from every trip, all transport, food. We are taking the information to calculate the carbon footprint.”

The Government has also installed a 1.5MW wind turbine on the approach to the conference centre and solar panels on the roof of the Moon Palace Hotel where most meetings are taking place. Delegates are being driven from hotels to the conference centre in buses powered by biofuels.

There are recycling points scattered around the conference but Mr Guerrero admitted the nearest recycling facility is hundreds of miles away in Mexico City.

He said the all the carbon will be offset through protecting forests and planting trees in poor areas of Mexico. The government will pay £7 ($10) to farmers for every tonne of carbon that is “neutralised.”

Altogether the Mexican Government is spending £43 million on the conference, including security and transport.

However Alejandra Serrano, an environmental lawyer in Cancun, said wider environmental issues should have been considered.

She pointed out that Cancun itself is an ‘environmental disaster’. The resort was built 30 years ago on a pristine mangrove island and has since grown uncontrollably.

The huge concrete hotels have destroyed the mangrove forests, meaning the beach has entirely eroded and sand has to be dredged in every two years. The lagoon is polluted and most of the island is now paved.

She said the Government should be bringing in strict regulations to stop further development of the coast, installing proper recycling facilities and protecting the coral reefs and mangrove forests that are left before it is too late.

“With the eyes of the world on Cancun, we should be using this conference to make sure the environment is protected in future,” she said.

Author claims we’re in the grip of a mini ice age

sundaysun.co.uk | Dec 5, 2010

by Mike Kelly

AFTER nearly two weeks of snow and sub zero temperatures rivaling those of Siberia, the old joke about global warming being a good thing has had a new lease of life. So what has happened to doom-laden predictions of the world heating up as glaciers melt? Mike Kelly reports.

FIRST the good news. These bitter winters aren’t going to last forever. The bad news is that they will go on for the next 30 years as we have entered a mini ice age.

So says author Gavin Cooke in his book Frozen Britain. He began writing it in 2008 and it was published last year when experts were scratching their heads at the cause of the bitter winter of 2009/10 which brought England to a standstill. Some said it was a one-off event, with experts predicting snowfall becoming increasingly rare.

Now, 12 months on, the current sub zero spell makes last year look just a bit chilly. Just like kids enjoying ‘snow days’ off school, Gavin ought to be delighted with the cold snap. After all, he can justifiably say ‘I told you so’. But he’s as glum as the rest of us.

“I’m getting sick of it myself,” he said.

When Gavin, 48, of Monkseaton, North Tyneside, began writing the book the acclaimed documentary ‘An Inconvenient Truth’ by former US Vice President Al Gore about global warming, was still fresh in the memory. It detailed how carbon emissions were contributing towards the melting of the polar ice caps causing the world to heat up.

Like Gore, Gavin’s interest in climate change went back to college when he studied energy and environment at what was then Newcastle Polytechnic.

He said: “The more I’ve looked into it the more fascinating it has become.”

He is quick to admit that he hasn’t got the scientific background of those who have spent a lifetime studying climate change. What he has brought to the table is his enthusiasm for the subject, his tracking of the arguments and a desire to make sense of a blizzard of information, so to speak.

To simplify, the basis of his theory seems to be sunspot activity, or rather the lack of it. Sunspots are dark, cooler patches on the sun’s surface that come and go in cycles.

They were absent in the 17th century – a period called the “Maunder Minimum” named after the scientist, Edward Maunder, who spotted it. Crucially, it has been observed that the periods when the sun’s activity is high and low are related to warm and cool climatic periods. The weak sun in the 17th century coincided with the so-called Little Ice Age. The Sun took a dip between 1790 and 1830 and the earth also cooled a little. It was weak during the cold Iron Age, and active during the warm Bronze Age.

AFTER nearly two weeks of snow and sub zero temperatures rivaling those of Siberia, the old joke about global warming being a good thing has had a new lease of life. So what has happened to doom-laden predictions of the world heating up as glaciers melt? Mike Kelly reports.

Throughout the 20th century the sun was unusually active, peaking in the 1950s and the late 1980s. Recently sunspot activity has all but disappeared.

Gavin said: “It is the sun’s energy which keeps the earth warm and the amount of energy the earth receives isn’t always the same. I’ve looked at the evidence for global warming and while I understand and agree with a lot of it, there has been a lot missed out. A major factor is the activity of the sun.”

There is also solar wind – streams of particles from the sun – which are at their weakest since records began. In addition, the Sun’s magnetic axis is tilted at an unusual degree. This is not just a scientific curiosity. It could affect everyone on earth and force what for many is unthinkable – a reappraisal of the science behind global warming.

It was thought that carbon dioxide emissions rather than the sun was the bigger effect on climate change. Now a major re-think is taking place.

The upshot is that Gavin is not alone in predicting we face another 30 frozen years, each getting progressively colder than the last.

Particularly hard hit will be Britain and Northern Europe and it is only after the 30-year period that the effects of man-made global warming will kick in. He said: “When I was writing this it was new. To be honest I was kind of winging it, piecing it together. But recently there has been a sea change among some pretty significant figures.”

They include renowned international climatologist Mike Lockwood of the University of Reading. In 2007 he said the cyclical change in the Sun’s energy was not responsible for climate change. In April this year, writing in the New Scientist Magazine, he did a U-turn and said it was. After a study, he and his team concluded that recent cold British winters have coincided neatly with the biggest fall off in the sun’s activity for a century, contradicting the accepted view that carbon dioxide emissions and other greenhouse gases are likely to warm our climate.

Gavin laughed: “Looking at the weather outside, sometimes I really wish I was wrong. But we had better get used to it.”

Frozen Britain: How the Big Freeze of 2010 is the Beginning of Britain’s New Mini Ice Age by Gavin Cooke is published by John Blake Publishing Ltd and is out now priced at £7.99. Also available on Amazon.

Florida freeze breaks temp records in some cities

More expected to be set Wednesday; orange growers keep eye on fruit

MSNBC | Dec 6, 2010

MIAMI — Parts of Florida woke up to freezing temperatures on Tuesday, with some cities setting records for a Dec. 7 and others expecting to break records on Wednesday.

Fort Lauderdale at 40 degrees (42), and Vero Beach at 31 degrees (38), the National Weather Service reported.

For Wednesday, at least three cities are expected to set Dec. 8 records: Miami at 42, Orlando at 30 and Jacksonville at 21. Tallahassee is forecast to tie its record at 22 degrees.

On Monday night and into Tuesday, temperatures dipped to the edge of freezing for Florida’s big orange growers, but it did not get cold enough to damage the crop, meteorologists and growers said Tuesday.

Overnight lows of 32 to 36 degrees were reported in Polk, Hendry, DeSoto and Highlands counties, the heart of the orange-growing region, the National Weather Service said.

Fruit damage occurs if temperatures are 28 degrees or lower for at least four hours, and early indications were it did not get that cold in the region.

“We did not sustain any damage to the trees or the crop,” said grower John Arnold of the Showcase of Citrus in southern Lake County.

“As the winter progresses, it’s one cold front after the next and we have to be prepared for the worst. This was like a dry run, so we can test our irrigation measures,” added Arnold, who grows more than 50 varieties of citrus on 1,000 acres.

Freeze warnings sent orange juice futures soaring to their highest level in 3-1/2 years on Monday. Another freeze warning was expected through Wednesday morning before temperatures started to rise.

“Tonight will be about the same, maybe slightly warmer,” said National Weather Service forecaster Tyler Fleming in Ruskin. “We’re looking at low 30s.”

Florida’s $9 billion-a-year citrus industry produces about 70 percent of the U.S. crop. Most of the oranges processed for juice are grown in the central interior counties.

Temperatures briefly dipped to 28 degrees in the central east coast counties, whose crops are generally shipped as fresh fruit, but a growers’ survey conducted by the Indian River Citrus League showed no damage.

“The fruit is just fine,” said the league’s executive director, Doug Bournique. “Nobody cut any slush or ice in any of the fruit.”

Growers said the cold spell did them a favor by helping put the trees into their dormant state, which stops them from putting out new leaves that could be easily singed off by subsequent freezes as winter progresses.

However, Bournique said, “We don’t want it any colder.”