Daily Archives: February 27, 2011

Afghan officials say NATO killed 62 civilians

A wounded Afghan child receives treatment at a hospital in Kunar province

AFP | Feb 24, 2011

KUNAR, Afghanistan — A recent NATO air strike in an eastern Afghanistan valley killed at least 62 civilians including women and children, an Afghan government investigation said Thursday.

On Sunday, Afghan President Hamid Karzai accused NATO of having killed more than 50 civilians in eastern Afghanistan’s troubled Kunar province, and sent a team to inquire into the alleged civilian deaths.

“After three days of investigation, we found out that 62 civilians, including women and children, were killed and 10 others injured in the NATO operation,” the head of the probe team, Shahzada Massoud, who is a Karzai adviser, told reporters in Kunar.

He did not clarify whether any insurgents were killed in the operation, but a member of the probe team, Shahzada Shahid, separately told AFP that 14 Taliban militants had also been killed, on top of the 62.

A spokesman for the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan contacted by AFP refused to comment on the government’s findings before its own ongoing probe was completed.

There have been several instances recently in which civilians have been killed and foreign forces have been accused of indiscriminate or excessive force.

Karzai says such incidents erode support for his Western-backed administration, which faces an Islamic insurgency that has expanded every year since it was launched by the Taliban following their ouster in late 2001.

There are about 140,000 foreign forces, the bulk of them Americans, deployed in Afghanistan under the US leadership to help Kabul defeat the Taliban.

On Thursday, NATO also said it was investigating allegations that fire from one of its planes killed five civilians in Kapisa province, north-east of Kabul.

Local villagers had alleged the men were civilians hunting in the mountains of Alasai district when they were attacked by NATO planes, provincial police chief Abdul Hamid Arkin told AFP.

Civilian casualties are an extremely sensitive issue and have in the past led to major anti-US and government street protests, as well as causing rifts in Kabul’s relations with its Western allies.

Record low temperatures follow snow in San Francisco

Reuters | Feb 26, 2011

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) – Snow fell overnight in the highest reaches of San Francisco, but the Bay area dodged the heavier flurries forecasters had been expecting, the weather service said on Saturday.

Northern California did experience record low temperatures overnight in several cities.

San Francisco got down to 37 degrees, which tied the previous cold weather record for this day set in 1962, said Chris Stumpf, meteorologist with the National Weather Service.

San Jose tied a record low of 33 degrees set way back in 1897, and Oakland got down to 34 degrees, breaking a record set in 1987.

“It was definitely cold enough, but it didn’t have the precipitation that we needed to get any of the snow showers that we were hoping for,” Stumpf said.

“It looks like it’s clearing out right now, and we’ll start to warm up as we go through the week,” he said.

The Twin Peaks area of San Francisco, where elevations are about 900 feet above sea level, received a dusting of snow, and there were also reports of light snow in Los Gatos, a town near San Jose, and the Santa Cruz Mountains, Stumpf said.

The snowfall in San Francisco coated the ground briefly, but quickly melted. No snow was observed in downtown San Francisco and AccuWeather.com meteorologist Dave Samuhel said the dusting would not count toward official records that show the last measurable snowfall in the area 35 years ago.

In southern California, two inches of snow fell along the Grapevine section of the Golden State Freeway north of Los Angeles, but the passage remained open to traffic, said Ryan Kittell, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service.

Meteorologists had been forecasting that snow could fall as low as 1,000 feet above sea level and dust the Hollywood sign on Mount Lee above Los Angeles, which would have been a pristine sight with the Academy Awards happening on Sunday.

Snow did not reach as low at the Hollywood Sign, but it did dust the cities of Palmdale and Lancaster north of Los Angeles, before quickly melting, Kittell said.

Up to 3 inches of rain fell in parts of the mountains and foothills of Los Angeles County overnight and small hail hit valley areas on Saturday morning, but the rain is expected to clear out in time for the Academy Awards ceremony on Sunday.

New Soros investment fund, profiting off Obama’s ‘green energy’ push, hires top Obama energy aide

sfexaminer.com | Feb 24, 2011

By Timothy P. Carney

George Soros — whom we’re always told is not serving his own economic interests at all by promoting liberal politicians and big-government policies — is launching a new investment fund that plans to profit off of the “green energy” boom, which is entirely dependent on government subsidies supported by the groups Soros funds.

As the press release puts it, this fund will “leverage technology and business model innovation to improve energy efficiency, reduce waste and emissions, harness renewable energy, and more efficiently use natural resources, among other applications.” As Soros puts it in the same release: “Developing alternative sources of energy and achieving greater energy efficiency is both a significant global investment opportunity and an environmental imperative.” Cadie Thompson at CNBC’s NetNet flagged this.

So, yeah. The big-government policies advanced by the liberal outfits he funds — like Center for American Progress — will enrich the companies in which Soros is investing.

But this story gets better.

The press release casually mentions whom Soros is hiring to run this new fund: Cathy Zoi. As Cadie Thompson at CNBC’s NetNet (edited by my brother John Carney), puts it,  Zoi was Barack Obama’s “Acting Under Secretary for Energy and Assistant Secretary for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy.” An Al Gore acolyte, Zoi was Obama’s point-woman on subsidizing green tech. Now she’s going to work for George Soros to profit off of subsidized green tech.

If you remember Zoi’s name, it’s because of another green-tech conflict of interest: Zoi’s husband is an executive at a window company, Serious Windows, which the White House regularly held up as a “poster child of green industry.”

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As Gas Prices Rise, Oil Companies Enjoy Multibillion-Dollar Rise in Profits

technorati.com | Feb 26, 2011

by John Egan

Pumped up about skyrocketing gas prices? Many American motorists are.

According to AAA, the average U.S. price for a gallon of gas was $3.33 on Feb. 26, up from $2.70 a year ago. Some experts predict gas prices in some areas of the country could skyrocket to $5 a gallon this summer.

While we’re paying more to fill up, the three largest publicly traded oil companies based in the United States have been filling up on profits.

Those three companies – ExxonMobil, Chevron and ConocoPhillips – collectively pulled in an eye-popping $58.3 billion in profits in 2010, according to financial figures announced in January 2011. Mind you, that’s profit – the amount of money that companies pocket after covering their expenses.

By means of comparison, the net worth of Microsoft founder Bill Gate has been pegged at $53 billion, about $5 billion less than the combined profits of the Big Three oil companies.

Here’s the breakdown of the Big Three’s profits in 2010:

• ExxonMobil: $30.5 billion, up $11 billion from 2009. In a substantial understatement, ExxonMobil’s vice president of investor relations, David Rosenthal, said he was “very pleased” with the company’s financial results for 2010.

• Chevron: $19 billion, up from $10.5 billion in 2009.

• ConocoPhillips: $8.8 billion, up from $4.9 billion in 2009.

Certainly, massive profits for Big Oil are nothing new. And for years, American motorists have been moaning about high gas prices while oil companies have been raking in billions of dollars.

“Enough is enough. We need Congress to stand up to Big Oil and pass legislation that addresses the problems with oil profits and oil use,” Daniel J. Weiss, director of climate strategy at American Progress, wrote in April 2010.

“In short, Big Oil’s profits climb higher and higher as American consumers feel more and more pain at the pump. This needs to stop.”

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US Army wants rapid-fire rubber bullets for crowd control

newscientist.com | Feb 17, 2011

by David Hambling

THE US army is planning to field “rubber bullets” for machine guns. Military officials claim the ammunition will allow them to more effectively quell violent protests without loss of life, but human rights campaigners are alarmed by the new weapon.

The final design for the XM1044 round has not been selected, according to an order placed on the Federal Business Opportunities website last month, but the Joint Non-Lethal Weapons Directorate has been working on a ring aerofoil projectile for some years. The round is a hollow plastic cylinder 40 millimetres across, looking something like a short toilet-paper roll. In flight its shape generates lift, giving it a longer range.

The army’s existing crowd-control rounds are single shots fired from handheld grenade launchers with a range of about 50 metres – the XM1044 would double this range. It would be supplied in belts for the Mk19 grenade launcher, a truck-mounted weapon that can fire almost six rounds per second. The Mk19 has been exported to some 30 countries, including Egypt.

“The US army has a requirement for a rapid-fire non-lethal capability,” says Ken Schulters, project manager for close combat systems at Picatinny Arsenal in New Jersey. “All currently fielded non-lethal ammunition is single shot.”

Firing rapidly at long range is likely to be dangerously inaccurate, says Angela Wright of Amnesty International. “Such a weapon system would allow for a burst of non-accurate fire at a crowd, with high risk of hitting bystanders, ricochets and of hitting vulnerable areas of the body,” she says.

Despite being hollow and plastic, if a round were to strike someone in the head, it could severely injure or kill them, she adds.

Manchester Airport Hires ‘Holograms’

singularityhub.com | Feb 24th, 2011

by Aaron Saenz

Meet John and John. Which is the 'hologram'?

Visitors to Manchester Airport may be a little startled when they meet customer service reps John and Julie – these newest additions to the staff are ‘holograms’. Created by UK based Musion, the EyeSay displays use powerful projectors to create a lifelike image on a transparent surface. By cutting that surface into the shape of people, Musion has created ‘holograms’ that appear to be 3D physical characters. The EyeSay displays play video recordings based on two of Manchester Airport’s actual staff, John Walsh and Julie Capper, and provide automated audio reminders about liquid restrictions and boarding passes.

They are currently on display in Manchester Airport’s Terminal 1, and should help give their human counterparts time to handle more important tasks. Watch the EyeSay ‘holograms’ in action in the video below. I get the feeling I’m looking at the 21st century equivalent of cardboard cut-outs.

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