Archive for January, 2010
31 Jan 2010

Al Qaeda Planning Surgically-Implanted Bombs

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Body scanners and even cavity searches are unlikely to prove effective against the latest apparent tactic being planned al Qaeda’s suicide bombers.

The Daily Mail reports:

Britain is facing a new Al Qaeda terror threat from suicide ‘body bombers’ with explosives surgically inserted inside them.

Until now, terrorists have attacked airlines, Underground trains and buses by secreting bombs in bags, shoes or underwear to avoid detection.

But an operation by MI5 has uncovered evidence that Al Qaeda is planning a new stage in its terror campaign by inserting ‘surgical bombs’ inside people for the first time. …

A leading source added that male bombers would have the explosive secreted near their appendix or in their buttocks, while females would have the material placed inside their breasts in the same way as figure-enhancing implants.

Experts said the explosive PETN (Pentaerythritol Tetranitrate) would be placed in a plastic sachet inside the bomber’s body before the wound was stitched up like a normal operation incision and allowed to heal.
Umar Farouk Abdulutallab

Failed attempt: Abdulmutallab tried to detonate a bomb sewn into his pants

A shaped charge of 8oz of PETN can penetrate five inches of armour and would easily blow a large hole in an airliner.

Security sources said the explosives would be detonated by the bomber using a hypodermic syringe to inject TATP (Triacetone Triperoxide) through their skin into the explosives sachet.

Western security measures can never be 100% effective against the efforts of suicidal fanatics to destroy innocent lives. The real answers lie in eliminating funding for terrorism, and by applying a principle of reciprocity to discourage attacks on non-combatants. The West needs, first, to destroy the OPEC oil cartel and remove the economic surplus from Islamic hands. Secondly, Western governments should promise that any new successful mass attack on civilian populations in Europe or the United States will result in a retaliatory attack on a target as valuable in the eyes of our barbarous and fanatical adversaries as innocent lives are to us. We should take the advice of Colorado Congressman Tom Tancredo, and promise that, if another mass attack on the West occurs, we will permanently destroy the Muslim holy site of Mecca.

31 Jan 2010

Climategate, then Temperaturegate, then Glaciergate, Now Amazongate

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Christopher Booker, in the Telegraph, adds another glaring example to what is becoming an ever-growing list of exposed scientific falsehoods and wholly-fabricated claims of dire climactic effects.

This time it is the same Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) that asserted that Himalayan glaciers would disappear by 2035 on the basis on a phone conversation has been found to be basing its claims concerning the Amazon rainforest on environmentalist agitprop.

The IPCC made a prominent claim in its 2007 report… citing the WWF as its authority, that climate change could endanger “up to 40 per cent” of the Amazon rainforest – as iconic to warmists as those Himalayan glaciers and polar bears. This WWF report, it turned out, was co-authored by Andy Rowell, an anti-smoking and food safety campaigner who has worked for WWF and Greenpeace, and contributed pieces to Britain’s two most committed environmentalist newspapers. Rowell and his co-author claimed their findings were based on an article in Nature. But the focus of that piece, it emerges, was not global warming at all but the effects of logging.

A Canadian analyst has identified more than 20 passages in the IPCC’s report which cite similarly non-peer-reviewed WWF or Greenpeace reports as their authority, and other researchers have been uncovering a host of similarly dubious claims and attributions all through the report. These range from groundless allegations about the increased frequency of “extreme weather events” such as hurricanes, droughts and heatwaves, to a headline claim that global warming would put billions of people at the mercy of water shortages – when the study cited as its authority indicated exactly the opposite, that rising temperatures could increase the supply of water.

Little of this has come as a surprise to those who have studied the workings of the IPCC over the years. As I show in my book The Real Global Warming Disaster, there is no greater misconception about the IPCC than that it was intended to be an impartial body, weighing scientific evidence for and against global warming. It was set up in 1988 by a small group of scientists all firmly committed to the theory of “human-induced climate change”, and its chief purpose ever since has been to promote that belief.

Read the whole thing.

30 Jan 2010

Largest Known Book Goes on Display in London

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ArtInfo:

At a whopping six-by-three feet (.9 x 1.9 m) (when closed), the Klencke Atlas, the world’s largest book (as opposed to the longest, which the Internet says is a Chinese encyclopedia in 11,000-plus volumes), will be making its first public appearance with its pages open this spring as part of an exhibition of maps at the British Library.

Though huge, the Atlas contains only 37 (very, very large) maps on 39 sheets, which depict the continents and assorted European states as engraved by Blaen Hondius and others. The book is said to have been a gift from Dutch merchant Yohannes Klencke to Charles II upon his restoration to the throne of England in 1660 (no word on whether Klencke also provided the world’s largest bookshelf to store the thing). The book was later gifted to the British Museum by King George III in 1828 as part of a larger collection of topographical materials.

Hat tip to Karen L. Myers.

30 Jan 2010

Unhappy Hipsters

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Lying on his back, watching the passing clouds, he worried over the Nathaniel Hawthorne lookalike’s role in this grim threesome. (Dwell magazine, November 2009)

The blog Unhappy Hipsters exists to mock the spare and alienated modern architectural and interior design aesthetic celebrated by très, très chic Dwell Magazine simply by captioning some of its photos of the sophisticated “at home in the modern world.”

My wife, who brought this one to my attention, is naturally sympathetic to Unhappy Hipsters’ jaundiced viewpoint on expensive moderne minimalism. Our preferred houses tend to be old, and thoroughly cluttered with books, weapons, natural history specimens, Orientalia, and sporting prints. A friend from Yale once described our native habitat as “decorated by Stalky & Co.” Our design aesthetic might be described as Addams Family Excess.

Where do those hipsters keep their books? one always wonders.

Hat tip to Karen L. Myers.

30 Jan 2010

Hitler Does Not Like the Ipad

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Bruno Ganz’s portrayal of everyone’s favorite demented dictator chewing the carpet in Oliver Hirschbiegal’s “Der Untergang” (2004) is becoming a reliable vehicle for parody subtitling.

This time Der Fuehrer is displeased with some of the limitations of the Ipad.

3:59 video

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Personally, I thought the recent version depicting news of Scott Brown defeating Martha Coakley reaching the bunker was a good deal funnier.

30 Jan 2010

Roman Army Knife

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How old is the Swiss Army Knife? Conventional wisdom would hold that the multi-tool pocket knife was invented by Karl Elsener in Ibach Schwyz in 1896.

But as this Daily Mail feature article proves, the idea of a folding knife incorporating additional tools is much, much older.

The world’s first Swiss Army knife’ has been revealed – made 1,800 years before its modern counterpart.

An intricately designed Roman implement, which dates back to 200AD, it is made from silver but has an iron blade.

It features a spoon, fork as well as a retractable spike, spatula and small tooth-pick.

Experts believe the spike may have been used by the Romans to extract meat from snails.

It is thought the spatula would have offered a means of poking cooking sauce out of narrow-necked bottles.

The 3in x 6in (8cm x 15cm) knife was excavated from the Mediterranean area more than 20 years ago and was obtained by the museum in 1991.

The unique item is among dozens of artefacts exhibited in a newly refurbished Greek and Roman antiquities gallery at the Fitzwilliam Museum, in Cambridge.

Experts believe it may have been carried by a wealthy traveller, who will have had the item custom made.

A spokesman said: ‘This was probably made between AD 200 and AD 300, when the Roman empire was a great imperial power. …

‘While many less elaborate folding knives survive in bronze, this one’s complexity and the fact that it is made of silver suggest it is a luxury item.

‘Perhaps a useful gadget for a wealthy traveller.’

29 Jan 2010

Friday, January 29, 2010

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Osama is a warmist. I guess that figures.

Bad news for literature. Patrician Louis Auchincloss dies at 92 (WaPo obit), and Zen recluse J.D. Salinger passed away at 91 (London Times obit).

Bad news for scholarship. King’s College London is planning to eliminate Britain’s only chair in paleography. No money in that, you see.

Why so few conservative or libertarian academics? Two researchers propose “path dependence” as the explanation.

Five stages of democrat grief over the health care reform bill.

28 Jan 2010

Scott Drum on the Liberal Approach to Economics and Obama’s Spending Freeze

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Classmate Scott Drum (a businessman) tries to explain reality to the liberals on our class email list:

Democrats have always had teenager’s approach to household economics. Someone else provides all of the money, and while they may have a vague understanding of how that happens, their primary focus is sparring over how it gets distributed and spent. These issues should be decided by who has the best ideas and who can build the most compelling and emotional stories — but Dad, EVERYONE has a car. It’s not FAIR! Think of all the good things I could do with it! Little thought is given to how it affects Dad’s ability or willingness to bring in more money or what might happen if he were to get sick or lose his job. Because, well, that’s HIS responsibility to us, isn’t it? And if he doesn’t come through, we’ll just scream “I hate you” and tell everyone how mean he is.

Except that in the real world Dad’s interest and ability to keep funding the family is affected by how he’s treated and how the kids spend his money. You simply can’t go on spending sprees, pile up debt, waste money on unproductive pork projects, vilify and punish the very people you’re depending on to produce the money you’re itching to spend. Economic growth and government growth are simply inversely correlated. I know that’s inconvenient, but it’s reality, and eventually people aren’t going to keep lending you more money when you ignore that. The other economic reality is that increasing taxation inhibits growth as well, so the circle of spending and taxing is counterproductive as well. The only way you succeed is with high levels of growth – which requires making it attractive to earn and invest and not spending money on satisfying, but unproductive things. Screaming at Dad, telling him he’s not being fair, and making life difficult for him might make you feel better, but it’s not going to get you where you need to go.

and, mocking the Obama federal spending freeze:

When I opened up my Visa statement, I discovered that my wife had charged a record amount on it last month. “Not to worry,” she told me. “I promise not to spend any more than I did last month – except of course what I have to spend on clothing, restaurants, groceries, home improvements, shoes, things for the kids and travel. My spending on cosmetics and aspirin will be absolutely frozen. Starting a year from now.”

28 Jan 2010

Imperial Russian Hunt

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The BBC has a slideshow of Russian celebrities and ordinary Muscovites out on horseback near the town of Mozhaisk, reenacting an Imperial Russian Hunt in costumes intended to resemble descriptions in War and Peace.

28 Jan 2010

Obama’s State of the Union Speech Analysed

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Cato Institute scholars demolish Obama’s State of the Union message point by point.

9:38 video

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An amusing alternative commentary may be found in HuffPo‘s State of the Union drinking game.

Entire speech 1:09:20 video

Hat tip to Michael Lawler.

28 Jan 2010

Email Humor

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nullclick on photo for larger version

People in Schuylkill County (where I grew up) have a warped sense of humor. It must be something in the coal-infused water.

This is the pull off at SR 61 and Adamsdale Road. A deer was hit there. The couch was dumped there previously.

Day two: the deer was on the couch. Day three: the end table and lamp showed up. Day four: the TV and TV stand showed up.

The Trooper had to call PENN DOT because of all the people stopping to take pictures.

PAY CLOSE ATTENTION TO THE SIGN.

The cardboard caption in front of the deer on the couch reads,

“Sorry Hunters.
Obama ruined healthcare.
We can’t afford to have injured hunters on our conscience,
so I’m staying home!
Sorry,
the Deer.”

No guarantees on the accuracy of the alleged photo location.

Hat tip to Henry Bernatonis.

27 Jan 2010

Scott Brown (Almost) Ties Obama in Zogby Presidential Preference Poll

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Newsmax cheerfully interprets away Obama’s 1.9% winning edge, but, hey! Brown hasn’t even started campaigning yet.

A stunning new poll conducted by Newsmax/Zogby reveals that Massachusett’s new Republican Sen.-elect Scott Brown could defeat President Barack Obama in a presidential election.

The Newsmax/Zogby poll released Tuesday found that the pair would be statistically deadlocked if the presidential election took place today.

The poll indicates surprisingly weak support for the president among independent voters, who favor the tyro Brown by 48.6 percent to 36 percent in a hypothetical matchup against Obama. …

“The real problem for Obama is that he has lost the middle, and losing the middle means losing independents,” McKinnon said. “And it is independents that are responsible for swinging elections one way or the other in this country. So if you lose independents, you’re going to lose the presidency.”

The poll asked likely voters: “If the election for president of the United States were held today and the only candidates were Democrat Barack Obama and Republican Scott Brown, for whom would you vote?”

Based on the 4,163 responses, Obama leads Brown by 46.5 percent to 44.6 percent. That amounts to a statistical tie because the Zogby survey has a margin of error of plus or minus 1.5 percent.

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Even hard-core liberal snark queen Maureen Dowd evidently recognizes the rising star eclipsing the setting one.

He’s The One, all right.

The handsome, athletic pol with the comely wife and two lovely daughters who precipitously rose from the State Legislature to pull us all together.

The fresh face and disarming underdog America’s been waiting for, someone who suffered through his parents’ divorce, watched his mom go on welfare and survived some wayward youthful behavior to become disciplined and successful — a lawyer, a lawmaker and a devoted family guy who does dog duty.

Someone who’s always game for a game of pickup basketball, loves talking sports and even boasts beefcake photos. A pro-choice phenom propelled into higher office by conservatives, independents and Democrats, a surprise winner with a magical aura.

The New One is the shimmering vessel that we are pouring all our hopes and dreams into after the grave disappointment of the Last One, Barack Obama.

The only question left is: Why isn’t Scott Brown delivering the State of the Union?

27 Jan 2010

Former WMD Chief’s Report: Al Qaeda’s WMD Ambitions and Intentions

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Rolf Mowatt-Larssen, currently a Senior Fellow at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, previously Director of Intelligence and Counterintelligence at the U.S. Department of Energy and Chief of the Weapons of Mass Destruction Department for the CIA, has published a 32-page report, Al Qaeda Weapons of Mass Destruction Threat: Hype or Reality?, which asks the obvious question:

Why hasn’t there been an attack up to now by al Qaeda utilizing WMD?

To date, al Qaeda’s WMD programs may have been disrupted. This is in fact one likely explanation, given a sustained and ferocious counterterrorist response to 9/11 that largely destroyed al Qaeda as the organization that existed before the fateful attack on the US. If so, terrorists must continue to be disrupted and denied a safe haven to reestablish the ability to launch a major strike on the US homeland, or elsewhere in the world. …

Or perhaps, al Qaeda operational planners have failed to acquire the kind of weapons they seek, because they are unwilling to settle for anything other than a large scale attack in the US. …

[I]f Osama bin Ladin and his lieutenants had been interested in employing crude chemical, biological and radiological materials in small scale attacks, there is little doubt they could have done so by now. However, events have shown that the al Qaeda leadership does not choose weapons based on how easy they are to acquire and use. …

An examination of the 9/11 attack sheds light on al Qaeda’s reasoning behind the selection of specific weapons, and how that may apply to the role WMD plays in their thinking. Al Qaeda opted to pursue a highly complex and artfully choreographed plot to strike multiple targets requiring the simultaneous hijacking of several 747 jumbo passenger aircraft, because using airplanes as weapons offered the best means of attacking the targets they intended to destroy. If conventional wisdom on assessing WMD terrorism threats had been applied to considering the likelihood of the 9/11 plot, analysts may well have concluded it never would have happened; at the time, it was simply hard to believe any terrorist group could pull off such an elaborate plot utilizing novel, unpredictable weapons that were so difficult to acquire.

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Mowatt-Larssen presents a detailed 15-year (unclassified) chronology of efforts by al Qaeda to acquire WMD.

Graham Allison summarizes the evidence of that chronology in a forward to the report:

This chronology teaches us four important lessons. First, al Qaeda’s top leadership has demonstrated a sustained commitment to buy, steal or construct WMD. In 1998, Osama bin Laden declared that “acquiring WMD for the defense of Muslims is a religious duty.” In December 2001, bin Laden’s Deputy Ayman Zawahiri stated, “If you have $30 million, go to the black market in the central Asia, contact any disgruntled Soviet scientist and a lot of dozens of smart briefcase bombs are available.” A few months later, al Qaeda announced its goal to “kill four million Americans.”

Second, al Qaeda was prepared to expend significant resources to cultivate a WMD capability even during the planning phases of 9/11. In the years leading up to September 2001, we see that bin Laden’s organization never lost its focus on WMD, even while coordinating the 9/11 attacks, orchestrating the simultaneous bombings of the U.S. embassies in Tanzania and Kenya in 1998, and successfully striking the U.S. warship (USS Cole) in 2000.

Third, a clear hallmark of al Qaeda’s WMD approach is to pursue parallel paths to procure these deadly materials. Multiple nodes of the network were assigned to different tasks of the overall WMD effort, acting and reporting independently, ensuring that failure in one cell did not jeopardize the entire operation. By taking into account possible operational set-backs and intelligence breaches, al Qaeda has displayed deliberate, shrewd planning to acquire WMD.

Fourth, al Qaeda has taken part in joint development of WMD with other terrorist groups. This collaboration between the most senior members of separate organizations demonstrates that interest in and motivation to possess WMD are not limited to a single group.

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The single most alarming detail must be:

Pakistani humanitarian NGO Umma Tameer e Nau (UTN), which was founded by Pakistani nuclear scientists with close ties to al Qaeda and the Taliban. UTN was headed by Bashiruddin Mahmood, who had been chief of Pakistan’s Khushab plutonium reactor. … Sometime before August 2001, UTN CEO Bashiruddin Mahmood offer[ed] to construct chemical, biological and nuclear weapons programs for al Qaeda and Libya, in two separate, discreet approaches. …

Mahmood confesses that he was introduced to al Qaeda seniors in Afghanistan in summer 2001, met with Osama bin Ladin around a campfire, and they discussed how al Qaeda could build a nuclear device. Mahmood drew a very rough sketch of an improvised nuclear device. When Mahmood advised Osama bin Ladin that it would be too hard for his group to undertake a nuclear weapons program and develop the billion dollar infrastructure for weapons-usable materials, bin Ladin queries, “What if I already have it? (the nuclear material)”

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Newsmax

Security Management

26 Jan 2010

Laurie Mylroie and Neocon Conspiracy Theory

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Edward Jay Epstein, in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal, explains that the Anthrax spores used in postal attacks around the time of 9/11 had been weaponized by a coating of silicon greatly enhancing their effectiveness as an aerosal. Over 100 scientists had had access to the particular strain of Anthrax, and the FBI’s ham-handed investigative efforts applied such intense scrutiny, pressure, and public accusations that they resulted in two suicides and a public apology including a $5.8 million settlement with no actual resolution.

The crux of the investigative problem is the silicon. None of the scientist suspects or the laboratories they had access to possessed either the specialized equipment or expertise needed to weaponize the Anthrax. Over 8 years later, the case remains open.

The Epstein editorial came to mind this morning, as I was looking through the Memeorandum aggregator page and found a link to this sneering hit piece by Justin Elliott, one of Talking Points Memo’s little leftist elfs.

Elliott is busily trying to marginalize Laurie Mylroie, a Harvard-educated Arabist, who has served on the faculty of Harvard and the Navy War College and as an advisor to Bill Clinton, identifying her as a “crackpot” and conspiracy theorist. I had not been previously familiar with Dr. Mylroie, her books, or opinions, but looking into all this, it is very clear that she has taken a position very much at odds with the prevailing consensus of the foreign policy and intelligence establishments and the media, one attributing a far more significant ties between Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda and an active role on the part of the Iraqi regime in both the first WTC bombing and 9/11.

I don’t own her books (I just ordered two of them), so I don’t know if I agree with her, find any of her evidence persuasive or her reasoning credible, but I am interested in seeing what she has to say. Thank you, Mr. Elliott. Whenever I see the left performing one of their little excommunication-on-the-basis-of-thought-crime ceremonies, I always develop the suspicion that the target of such attention may be perfectly correct.

The TPM hit piece notes that the Department of Defense’s Office of Net Assessment (an internal Pentagon think tank) was employing Dr. Mylroie as recently as 2007 as a consultant to produce reports on Saddam Hussein’s strategy for dealing with UN inspections and his intelligence service. She had previously written in 2005 a History of Al Qaeda. I plan to read it carefully.

The popularly prevailing theory, completely excluding state support for al Qaeda’s terrorist activities, is very useful if you are interested in asserting Iraqi innocence in order to indict Bush, but it does leave a number of important problems unanswered, like where did those weaponized Anthrax spores come from?

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