26 December 2007

Congress: Reform Those Patents

Congress: Reform Those Patents
Robert Weber 12.26.07, 6:00 AM ET
In 1807, after 15 years of litigation, a court finally protected Eli Whitney against infringers of his cotton gin patent. The experience nearly bankrupted him, though, and was a distraction for this prolific inventor.

Some things never change. Exactly 200 years later, we find ourselves with a patent system that has served us faithfully, but needs to be overhauled to reduce devastating litigation and promote innovation.

Naysayers are materializing as legislation to modernize the patent system wends its way through Congress, again. The House has passed a reform bill, and the Senate now has the opportunity to make history, too. Some are asking why we are "rushing" into these changes. We would respectfully remind critics that carefully considered patent reform has been in the works for years.

Opponents of progress have asked stewards of the reform process to take the equivalent of a doctor's Hippocratic Oath to "do no harm." Well, many rightfully believe that the patient is seriously ill and requires intervention. Lightweight reforms--cosmetic surgery--will do the patient absolutely no good.

The last time patent laws were comprehensively updated was more than 50 years ago. In Web time, that's equivalent to the passage of 200 years. Regulating today's intellectual property with those laws is a bit like trying to manage air traffic with systems designed for horse and buggy.

Still, in addition to the flurry of fundamental breakthroughs in the recent past, innovation is now frequently incremental rather than epic. Therefore, many of the damages awards in patent infringement cases are, today, wildly disproportionate. So, why are we awarding patent damages based on the value of the entire car to the inventor of the tire? And why are we making the court system the only venue for challenging a patent's validity? It's expensive, time consuming and acrimonious.

Reform would enable inventors to resolve differences out of court. If cases do make it to the legal system, then awards will be much more reasonable under the new laws.

Unreasonable awards and excessive patent litigation are nothing less than an assault on our economy. According to the National Research Council, patent lawsuits resolved in U.S. District Courts mushroomed from 1,200 in 1988, to nearly 2,400 in 2001. Two professors from the Boston University School of Law, Michael J. Meurer and James Bessen, have found that, in the aggregate, patent litigation costs for complex technologies at public companies began eclipsing patent profits in the late '90s.

According to the Phoenix Center for Advanced Legal & Economic Public Policy Studies, patents of poor quality cost the economy $4.5 billion annually. Research and development budgets now run the risk of being hijacked by legal expenses. Every disproportionate court award might as well be a tax on businesses and consumers, resulting in more expensive and less innovative products.

Let's face it: Litigation by itself makes for a poor long-term business model, and does nothing to promote real innovation.

Patent speculation is a phenomenon that fuels such litigation. Patent speculators produce no products or services; they mostly just sue others for supposed patent infringement. Intel (nasdaq: INTC - news - people ) has noted that U.S. tech companies have contended with 193 patent infringement lawsuits in the past 21 months, with 70% of them originating from patent speculators.

And there is another imperative: We need to be in synch with the rest of the world. One way to accomplish this is to recognize the first applicant to file for a patent as the prospective owner of the idea. Believe it or not, our current system does not give priority to those who are first to file. Doing so will help us reduce controversy over idea ownership, and will enable us to participate more easily in the international marketplace.

As the largest holder of U.S. patents, we feel it is our responsibility, and the right time, to speak out forcefully in favor of reform. We are trying to do our share by unilaterally publishing a first-ever corporate policy aimed at promoting patent transparency and quality. We also initiated, and with others in the private sector, are working with the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office to ensure that citizens have a voice in the patent review process.

But these voluntary efforts, along with recent wise Supreme Court decisions, are not enough.

Progress, not perfection, is the goal. It was so from Eli Whitney's time, and is true today. Congress finally has an historic opportunity to address the thorniest of modern challenges, to secure America's continued role as the leading innovator in the global economy.

Robert Weber is senior vice president for Legal and Regulatory Affairs & general counsel of IBM.

At first glance these comments make a lot of sense! The patent system is in need of reform. But Mr. Weber misses some key points, as would be expected by a person who has made his career as an attorney. He has done a very good job as an advocate for his firm's position. What he misses is how this applies to this legislation affects the larger audience of inventors and therefore the long term good of the economy as a whole.

There are a couple of points to consider as an alternative viewpoint. Eli Whitney patent was number 78. The Patent system was in it's infancy. Whitney's idea was originally not to "sell" the the cotton gin but to use the machines in a new service in the same way a grist mill provided a service. Later in 1818, Whitney, having learned the legalities of the patent process, was able to secure a patent on the milling machine. This idea was not new, and it was not his, but drove through the concept of "interchangable parts" which eventually lead to major changes in the mass production of various goods and evolved into the concepts put forth by the likes of Henry Ford, Edwards Deming and Taiichi Ohno.

"Necessity is the mother of invention". Although IBM is the single "largest holder of US Patents" most innovation happens as a result of necessity. One guy with a hammer thinks "there has to be an easier way". One woman, writing code, thinks the same, One person running a milling machine in a job shop thinks "I can do this better" What if...

The real problem is lies not with the concept of a patent system but the vested interests who want to bend the rules to their own interest. Lawyers who have not "invented" anything but have found ways to make money by making money off of other's ideas. Mr. Weber suggests that Patent speculation is not healthy. He is correct. However, if the new laws only benefit corporate America they will not serve the longer term good of the country.

Unfortunately the cost for a small inventor, wielding a hammer, to learn and understand the patent process is going to cost him well over six figures. Do these inventors exist? Given that 20% of all High School Dropouts fall in the "gifted IQ" range I would say yes. The costs of market entry are prohibitive. Will the proposed legislation stimulate or stifle innovation?

Does innovation happen in Research & Development area of a corporation? Yes, but.... it more than often happens in the field. The caveat being that innovation in certain industries happens in different areas. Innovation in biotechnology happens in a lab, Innovation with software happens in the lab AND in the small bedroom office. Innovation in manufacturing happens on the floor of a small tool and die shop. In most cases the "first to file" is not the single inventor but the corporation with a battery of attorneys. That is why, as Mr Weber suggests, " innovation is now frequently incremental rather than epic"

The Japanese patent office gets over 50,000 hits a day by manufacturer's seeking ways to implement new ideas under the "first to file" concept. There is not "reward" for the small inventor to file and expose his idea to someone who can take it and make it before he or she has learned the way to take their idea to market let alone defend the patent.

We need to consider the effects of patent law changes on each segment of society and not just the attorneys in corporate America who are acting as advocates for their own industry. Perhaps the real focus should be on tort reform and bettering our educational systems

08 December 2007

Investing lessons from a CIA Agent

I think this is a great lesson in alot of areas:

By Mark Skousen
Investors are always warned to avoid the twin relics of Wall Street folly, fear and greed. But during my two years working for the highly secretive Central Intelligence Agency, I learned that there are two worse dangers equally applicable in the financial world: ignorance and arrogance. Let me explain...

I don’t usually tell my subscribers or friends very much about my stint as a junior economic officer at the CIA in the early 1970s, but after reading Tim Weiner’s expose, "Legacy of Ashes: The History of the CIA," I thought it appropriate to reveal some insights I learned there, and how to apply it to one’s finances.

Tim Weiner, a New York Times reporter, tells a depressing story of how the CIA failed repeatedly in its mission to predict international conflicts and attacks on the U.S. For example, to cite two recent examples of bad intelligence, the CIA failed to warn America of the 9/11 terrorist attacks from Islamic extremists; and it gave faulty information on weapons of mass destruction, and thus condemned the U.S. to a misconceived war in Iraq.

My Run-In with Former CIA Director George Tenet

I confronted George Tenet, director of the CIA from 1997 to 2005, on these two blunders at a session I moderated at last year’s New Orleans conference. He could only answer, "Our failures are always publicly trumpeted; but our successes – which were many – are always a secret."

He’s right. When I was at the CIA in the early 1970s, the agency’s mistakes were all too prominent. As a member of the Office of Economic Research (OER), we were in charge of warning the President and Congress of imminent economic crises. But we failed to anticipate the power of OPEC, the 1973-74 energy crisis, and the subsequent gasoline shortages.

A few years later, when Mexico devalued the peso, the CIA economists were silent. They were just as surprised as everyone else. Tim Weiner recounts numerous tales of failed missions by the clandestine service, such as the Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba.

Even when the CIA was right, its successes were suppressed. I co-authored a secret report on the meat shortage in the U.S. as a result of Nixon’s wage-price-controls. (Yes, Virginia, the CIA is into everything.) We predicted that when the price controls were lifted, beef prices would not increase, but would actually fall. But the White House refused to believe our prediction, and buried the report.

The CIA failed repeatedly because of two persistent problems: ignorance and arrogance. More often than not, they just didn’t have the intelligence to know what was really going on in the Middle East, Vietnam or Latin America. And they refused to admit they didn’t know, so they often lied to presidents and Congress.

In sum, billions of taxpayer dollars were wasted on the CIA, and thousands of American citizens, as well as freedom fighters in foreign lands, were killed.

Ignorance is Costly

Is there a lesson here for investors?

Indeed, humility and lack of understanding reality are all too often missing in the lives of investors. How often are we shocked by the unexpected, such as this past summer’s collapse in the mortgage and credit markets, and its ramifications? Could we not see the real estate boom was too good to be true and had to come to a bad ending? If we had studied Austrian economics, we would know that inflationary booms are unsustainable and require a bust.

What about China? If we study the history of emerging markets, we know that booms inevitably turn into busts. Should we not be surprised that after the Shanghai stock index rose 400%, it would fall by 40%-50%? The smart investor uses trailing stops to protect his profits.

How many of us take the time to study the history of Wall Street and the inevitable cycles of greed and fear? How many of us learn by sad experience that stories that are too good to be true usually are just that. We eventually get burned by investing in "sure fire" penny stocks and tax shelters.

Pride Proceedeth the Fall
2007-12-08 09:00:00
Investing lessons from a CIA Agent
There is also the problem of pride. Investors and money managers who have doubled or tripled their portfolio that become "know-it-alls," thinking that beating the market is easy.

A few years ago, a hedge fund manager I know had several years of superior profits, and become highly conceited. He wrote a book about his exploits, full of colored photographs of his expensive lifestyle. But as the old saying goes, pride proceedeth the fall. A few years later, he made a series of blunders in the marketplace, and his accounts blew up. He was forced to declare bankruptcy.

Don’t let it happen to you. "The used key is always bright," says Ben Franklin. Keep informed and know the signs of the times. Stay educated. Attend conferences and keep up on the financial news. And always remain humble, knowing that you never know what’s around the corner.

In Beijing, workers wear masks just to breath. Most have to filter drinking water. But all this is about to change fast as the Chinese government launches one of the biggest initiatives in history to clean up this mess. Our inside-China contacts show us which companies are about to get billion dollar contracts, for gains of 1,046% or more in the coming months... All while U.S. investors are paralyzed by subprime shock waves.

Courtesy: www.investmentu.com

08 November 2007

Bush Is Stuck on Iran

William M. Arkin on National and Homeland Security
Bush Is Stuck on Iran
In an interview with German TV reporters yesterday, President Bush went on again about War III.

Not in reference to Pakistan, mind you - though that's where much of the world's focus has turned this week. Nor does he seem particularly worried about failure in Iraq or Afghanistan, the spread of Islamic extremism, terrorists acquiring nuclear weapons - he didn't mention any of them when asked about his goals for the last year of his presidency.

Rather, Bush remains fixated on Iran. He repeated that he was "absolutely serious" when he warned last month that a nuclear-armed Iran could lead to the ultimate conflagration. And he proclaimed yesterday: "[T]his is a country that has defied the IAEA -- in other words, didn't disclose all their program -- have said they want to destroy Israel. If you want to see World War III, you know, a way to do that is to attack Israel with a nuclear weapon. And so I said, now is the time to move."

It was a stupid, hyperbolic and weak statement. And Bush needs to stop repeating it.

Iran is still at least years away from having nuclear weapons. And with sanctions and international isolation and the preemptive tendencies of the U.S. and Israel, the likelihood of Iran successfully attaining nuclear capability is far less than 50-50.

It's also somewhat unlikely that Iran would move to attack Israel. As Fareed Zakaria observed recently in Newsweek: "Iran has an economy the size of Finland's and an annual defense budget of around $4.8 billion. It has not invaded a country since the late 18th century.... Israel and every Arab country (except Syria and Iraq) are quietly or actively allied against Iran. And yet we are to believe that Tehran is about to overturn the international system and replace it with an Islamo-fascist order? What planet are we on?"

World War III, I've written before, would more likely ignite because of a normal set of events that careens out of control. Events Iraq or the Persian Gulf, for example, could lead to miscues and alerts and mobilizations and people shooting at each other across borders.

Of all the potential crises America and the world faces, Iran seems one of the easiest to put into a harmless box.

At the same time, given the extremism of the Tehran regime, singling out Iran as the one country likely to produce World War III is unnecessarily inflammatory. And so, we can fan the flames, thereby making conflict more likely. Or we can dispassionately and doggedly pursue positive outcomes, secure in the confidence that we are able to prioritize the true threats.

Dem Letter To White House

Thirty senators sent a letter to the White House on Thursday warning President Bush not to take offensive military action against Iran without the consent of Congress. Noticeably absent from the list of signatories is presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama, D-IL.

According to its authors, the letter was designed to clarify the ambiguity of the recent Kyl-Lieberman amendment designating Iran's Revolutionary Guard as a terrorist organization. Obama has been critical of that amendment as well as the Bush administration's aggressive rhetoric towards Tehran. Yet the senator from Illinois turned down a requestion to sign on to the White House letter.

"I was surprised and disappointed," John Isaacs, president of the Council for a Livable World and one of the catalysts behind the letter, told the Huffington Post. "I contacted virtually every office and to me it was a no-brainer that Obama and [Sen.] Biden [whose name was also not on the list] would both sign on. Neither did."

The letter, which was spearheaded by Sen. Jim Webb, D-VA, was signed by presidential candidates Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-NY, who voted for the Kyl-Lieberman provision, and Sen. Chris Dodd, D-CT, who opposed it. The text reads:

"We are writing to express serious concerns with the provocative statements and actions stemming from your administration with respect to possible U.S. military action in Iran. These comments are counterproductive and undermine efforts to resolve tensions with Iran through diplomacy."

Sources knowledgeable with the crafting of the letter said there were two general arguments offered by those who did not sign on in support: that Congress already has the power to declare war, and that the letter text was too vague about defensive and/or covert action against Iran. Notably, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) also declined to attach his name.

Staff for Obama and Biden did not return requests for comment by the time of publication. A list of the signatories is below.

Dear President Bush:
We are writing to express serious concerns with the provocative statements and actions stemming from your administration with respect to possible U.S. military action in Iran. These comments are counterproductive and undermine efforts to resolve tensions with Iran through diplomacy.

We wish to emphasize that no congressional authority exists for unilateral military action against Iran. This includes the Senate vote on September 26, 2007 on an amendment to the FY 2008 National Defense Authorization Act. This amendment, expressing the sense of the Senate on Iran, and the recent designation of the Quds Force of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist, should in no way be interpreted as a predicate for the use of military force in Iran.

We stand ready to work with your administration to address the challenges presented by Iran in a manner that safeguards our security interests and promotes a regional diplomatic solution, but we wish to emphasize that offensive military action should not be taken against Iran without the express consent of Congress.


1. Webb
2. Akaka
3. Baucus
4. Boxer
5. Brown
6. Byrd
7. Cantwell
8. Carper
9. Casey
10. Clinton
11. Dodd
12. Dorgan
13. Durbin
14. Feinstein
15. Harkin
16. Johnson
17. Kerry
18. Klobuchar
19. Kohl
20. Leahy
21. McCaskill
22. Mikulski
23. Murray
24. Reed
25. Rockefeller
26. Sanders
27. Stabenow
28. Tester
29. Whitehouse
30. Wyde

Scapegoating US Diplomats

Scapegoating US Diplomats
For Failures In Iraq

By William Fisher

08 November, 2007

Facing growing scrutiny of the State Department's shortage of experienced diplomats in Iraq - and the Department's announced intention to force Foreign Service Officers to serve in Baghdad against their will -- the leader of America's diplomatic service is charging that critics, "including people who urged the 2003 invasion," are seeking to blame the State Department for their own failures.

"No country's diplomatic corps has people with many of the skills now needed in Iraq: oil and gas engineers, electrical grid managers, urban planners, city managers and transportation planners. If any US defense planner in 2003 thought that the State Department and other civilian federal agencies had such people on staff in large numbers (Arabic-speaking or not) ready to rebuild Iraq, they were wrong," says John Naland, president of the American Foreign Service Association (AFSA).

AFSA represents America's 11,500 professional diplomats. Of these, 6,500 are Foreign Service Officers while 5,000 are Foreign Service specialists, including Diplomatic Security agents. There are another 1,500 or so Foreign Service members at the US Agency for international Development (USAID), the Commerce Department's Foreign Commercial Service, the Agriculture Department's Foreign Agricultural Service and the International Broadcasting Bureau, an independent agency closely allied with State.

Naland points out that between the US invasion in 2003 through 2007, all of the more than 2,000 career Foreign Service members who served at the US mission in Baghdad and the expanding Provincial Reconstruction Teams around the country "did so as a volunteer."

Naland termed it "unfortunate" that late last month the Director General of the Foreign Service, Ambassador Harry K. Thomas, Jr., declared that "the well of volunteers had finally run dry." Thomas announced that, if volunteers could not be found for 48 remaining positions by mid-November, diplomats -- under threat of dismissal - would be ordered to serve at the embassy in Baghdad and in so-called Provincial Reconstruction Teams in outlying provinces. If carried out, it would be the largest diplomatic call-up since Vietnam.

AFSA contends that "directed assignments of Foreign Service members into a war zone would be detrimental to the individual, to the post, and to the Foreign Service as a whole. AFSA urged the State Department to find ways to increase the pool of qualified voluntary bidders."

Under the new order, 200-300 diplomats have been identified as "prime candidates" to fill 48 vacancies that will open next year at the Baghdad embassy and in the provinces. Those notified that they have been selected for a one-year posting will have 10 days to accept or reject the position. If not enough say yes, some will be ordered to go. Only those with compelling reasons, such as a medical condition or extreme personal hardship, will be exempt from disciplinary action.

Diplomats are also angered that Thomas's announcement was made to the news media before it was conveyed to those likely to be deployed under the new policy.

At a 'town hall' meeting in Washington last week, some 300 US diplomats told Thomas what they thought of State's decision to force Foreign Service Officers to take jobs in Iraq.

One attendee, Jack Crotty, a senior Foreign Service officer who once worked as a political adviser with NATO forces, told the Associated Press that the new policy was tantamount to a "potential death sentence." Others expressed serious concern about the ethics of sending diplomats against their will to serve in a war zone while a review of the department's use of private security contractors to protect its staff is under way. Most Embassy staff works in the so-called 'Green Zone' - itself far from immune from incoming mortar and other types of attacks. But members of Provincial Reconstruction Teams (PRTs) are deployed through the country, including in some of most dangerous provinces. Only Diplomatic Security agents are permitted to be armed.

The Associated Press quoted Crotty as telling Ambassador Thomas, "It's one thing if someone believes in what's going on over there and volunteers, but it's another thing to send someone over there on a forced assignment. I'm sorry, but basically that's a potential death sentence and you know it. Who will raise our children if we are dead or seriously wounded? You know that at any other (country) in the world, the embassy would be closed at this point." His comments drew enthusiastic applause from his colleagues.

AFSA President Naland said that a recent survey found that only 12 percent of the union's membership believed Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was "fighting for them."

He said that some critics of US failures in Iraq are seeking to shift blame onto the Foreign Service for their own lack of pre-invasion planning, while others are as basing their comments on "wildly inflated estimations of the capacities of civilian agencies to operate in combat zones such as Iraq."

In the run-up to the 2003 invasion of Iraq, the State Department assembled a series of blue-ribbon task forces to help prepare the Administration for the political, economic, social, cultural and religious challenges that would likely face the 'Coalition of the Willing' once the Saddam Hussein regime was toppled. The group, which included Iraqi exiles and some of the world's most distinguished Middle East scholars, made a series of recommendations. But the Defense Department, then under the leadership of Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, ignored their advice.

In a website statement, Naland attempted to put the Foreign Service's involvement in Iraq into perspective. He said, "Comparisons between the military and the State Department are often made with complete disregard for the facts relating to scale: budgets, personnel and capacity for war-zone service."

Naland pointed out that "the US active-duty military is 119 times larger than the Foreign Service. The total uniformed military (active and reserve) is 217 times larger. A typical U.S. Army division is larger than the entire Foreign Service. The military has more uniformed personnel in Mississippi than the State Department has diplomats worldwide. The military has more full colonels/Navy captains than the State Department has diplomats. The military has more band members than the State Department has diplomats. The Defense Department has almost as many lawyers as the State Department has diplomats."

He said that, in contrast to the military, "the vast majority of Foreign Service members are forward-deployed. Today, in a time of armed conflict, 21 percent of the active-duty military (290,000 out of 1,373,000) is stationed abroad (ashore or afloat). That compares to 68 percent of the Foreign Service currently stationed abroad at 167 U.S. embassies and 100 consulates and other missions."

Naland noted that more than 20 percent of the Foreign Service has served, or is serving, in Iraq since 2003. In the PRTs, which comprise up to 600 members, the Foreign Service component is 10 to 15 percent. There are currently approximately 200 Foreign Service positions at Embassy Baghdad and another 70 or so at the 25 Provincial Reconstruction Teams.

He said, "Foreign Service members receive very little preparation before deploying to Iraq -- less than two-weeks of special training to serve in a combat zone. Contrast that to their predecessors 40 years ago who received four to six months of training before deploying to South Vietnam...."

Naland added that surveys have shown that most Foreign Service volunteers in Iraq have been motivated not by extra pay but by "patriotism and a professional desire to try to advance the Administration's top foreign policy objective."

One of the most serious challenges facing the State Department - and every other government agency involved in Iraq and in the Middle East generally - is the acute shortage of Arabic speakers. This deficit is in danger of crippling US efforts to counter terrorist threats, communicate with prisoners, and build bridges to the Muslim world.

At the State Department, only 10 of 34,000 employees were rated fully fluent in Arabic as of 2006.

The number of Arabic language students in US universities has skyrocketed since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. But the course still ranks behind classical Greek, Latin and even American Sign Language in popularity.

The shortage has spurred an aggressive campaign of recruiting -- including generous sign-on bonuses -- by all U.S. intelligence agencies, including the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), the State Department, the Defense Department, and the Department of Homeland Security.

One result of the shortage, according to the Heritage Foundation, a conservative Washington-based think tank, is that analysts at the CIA, the FBI, the Defense Intelligence Agency and the National Security Agency are "awash in untranslated gleanings of intelligence" in Arabic. Heritage also said there are not enough interpreters to handle detainees in Iraq.

The shortage is also having an effect on US efforts in public diplomacy. Adam Clayton Powell III, a senior fellow at the University of Southern California Center on Public Diplomacy, says, "There are only a half dozen or so US spokesmen who have a sufficient grasp of the Arabic language to appear on radio or television in that part of the world. That means the US is not even part of the dialogue there."

While the language situation appears to be improving, it can only improve slowly. One reason is that Arabic is viewed by many as one of the most difficult languages in the world.

The State Department rates Arabic, along with Chinese and Korean, as a "superhard" language.

But aside from language difficulties, the other key facor relates to policy. As Juan Cole -- professor of history at the University of Michigan and a fluent Arabic speaker-- put it: "Not everyone studying Arabic is thrilled with US policies in the Middle East."

06 November 2007

Defense comes to forefront at China's Communist Party Congres

Defense comes to forefront at China's Communist Party Congress
IDG News Service 11/1/07

Steven Schwankert, IDG News Service, Beijing Bureau
For China technology watchers seeking a road map through the Olympics and into the next decade, the 17th Communist Party Congress in October was a disappointment. China's current president, Hu Jintao, has positioned himself as more of a grassroots, folksy leader than his technocratic predecessor, Jiang Zemin, or China's great reformer, Deng Xiaoping. Hu became president following the end of Jiang's term in 2002.

On the technology stage, Jiang is a tough act to follow. During his 10 years as China's president, Jiang oversaw perhaps the greatest telecommunications infrastructure build-out in history, where China went from having an insufficient number of fixed line telephones to the world's largest mobile market in a decade.

However, Hu was specific in his references to one area of IT guaranteed to raise eyebrows outside the country: defense. "We must build strong armed forces through science and technology. To attain the strategic objective of building computerized armed forces and winning IT-based warfare, we will accelerate composite development of mechanization and computerization, carry out military training under IT-based conditions, modernize every aspect of logistics, intensify our efforts to train a new type of high-caliber military personnel in large numbers and change the mode of generating combat capabilities."

For Germany and other nations that feel they have already been targeted by Chinese cyberattacks, Hu's words are likely to make defense officials in Europe, North America and Japan even more nervous.

"Both military and civilian sectors in China are actively exploring the information warfare concept, which could be gradually developed into a corps of 'network warriors' able to defend China's telecommunications, command, and information networks, while uncovering vulnerabilities in foreign networks," according to Sinodefence.com, an independent China military-monitoring Web site based in the U.K.

Add to this the report that every one of China's local police stations has special officers patrolling the Internet, and suddenly the happy face that Beijing is painting on itself for the 2008 Olympic Games seems more than a bit smeared.

The Chinese leader also devoted a section of his keynote speech to innovation. "We will speed up forming a national innovation system and support basic research, research in frontier technology and technological research for public welfare."

He also said China will "improve the legal guarantee, policy system, incentive mechanism and market conditions to encourage technological innovation and the application of scientific and technological achievements in production," which should be music to the years of intellectual-property rights activists.

Steven Schwankert is Asia desk editor for the IDG News Service.

Bush's Turkey shoot

It's always interesting to come up with a bunch of 'what if' scenario's:

Bush's Turkey shoot
By Pepe Escobar

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, a fine politician, knew even before he set foot in Washington on Monday that President George W Bush could not possibly have anything tangible to offer him on the explosive Turkey vs Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) dossier, apart from Pentagon aerial intelligence passed on to Turkish generals.

Erdogan, although describing himself as "happy" with his talks with Bush, may have left with nothing substantial. But at least he got a sound bite from Bush, who upgraded the PKK to the status of an enemy of America. Bush told Erdogan, "The PKK is a terrorist organization. They're an enemy of Turkey, they're an enemy of Iraq and they're an enemy of the United States."

Pity the US president could not possibly follow his own logic and add that the Party for Free Life in Kurdistan (PJAK - the PKK's Iran arm - is an enemy of Iran, an enemy of Iraq but a friend of the United States - which is arming and financing its fighters.

Last week, talking to his Justice and Development Party members of the Turkish Parliament, Erdogan stressed that he needed Bush to "clearly define [the US] road map" concerning the PKK. That would mean, from a Turkish point of view, direct US intervention against both the PKK and its protector, Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) President Massoud Barzani. Bush promised nothing of the kind.

Erdogan has accused Barzani of protecting "terrorists". Barzani has replied he would not hand over any of his Kurdish cousins accused of staging raids into Turkey from northern Iraq. If Bush did nothing about it, Erdogan said, "we will do our own job", which is what Turkish generals are really itching for: a search-and-destroy-the-PKK invasion of Iraqi Kurdistan. In other words: a new Iraq war. Even after the "Mr Erdogan goes to Washington" mini-movie, the chances of Turkey "doing its own job" remain high.

Blame it on Iran
Bush could not offer anything substantial because he would have had to admit his administration's impotence at securing any of its neo-imperial possessions' borders; this is what led the PKK to use Iraqi Kurdistan in the first place to coordinate its attacks in Turkey.

Iran also was not expecting that Bush would deliver anything to Erdogan. But then there are always the "unknown unknowns" in the bigger picture. Nobody knows whether Bush and Erdogan have discussed the fine print in a World War III (according to Bush) or World War IV (according to deranged neo-cons) scenario, which is being sold by the White House as caused by Tehran.

Way beyond Turkey's troubles with the PKK, it all comes back to the stark fact that Turkey simply cannot accept a virtually independent Iraqi Kurdistan in its southeast border - exactly the outcome sought by the US-Israeli axis.

Bush and his inner circle have bought time to calculate the odds on whom to double-cross. Will it be North Atlantic Treaty Orgaization ally Turkey, with its handy Incirlik base, anti-US public opinion and no oil; or pro-US Iraqi Kurds, with lots of oil and their Israeli-trained peshmerga (armed forces)? Tough call. A poker player familiar with Bush administration methods would bet on a double double-cross, complete with a "blame it on Iran" sequel and a "bomb Iran" grand finale.

Ankara's logic remain flawless, at least from a "war on terror" angle. If Washington invaded both Afghanistan and Iraq to fight "terrorists", Ankara has the same rights to invade its terrorist-harboring neighbor, which just happens to be an American neo-colony. The irony is obviously lost on the Bush administration.

The Turkish leader's visit to Washington was upstaged by a new coup perpetrated by that irrepressible US ally running a failed state, General President Musharraf of Pakistan. But at least the popularly elected Erdogan is now free to impose economic sanctions on Iraqi Kurdistan. Flights from Istanbul to Irbil have already been cancelled. Electricity and food will become scarce. Just the mere threat of sanctions led the PKK to look for a settlement. Last Friday a PKK leader, Abdul Rahman al-Chadirchi, had already started asking Turkey for a peace plan.

Pick your terrorist
At a meeting in Istanbul this past weekend of foreign ministers of all Iraq's neighbors, plus the permanent members of the UN Security Council and selected G8 members, it emerged that a solution for the unholy mess was coming from Iran. Embattled Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki had met with Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki in Baghdad last Wednesday, and "urged Iran to help defuse the border crisis". Tehran duly provided Baghdad with intelligence on the PKK, according to Iranian sources. But Baghdad did nothing - because the Bush administration blocked its every move.

Why? Simple. Tehran intelligence revealed that the PKK - anticipating a Turkish military attack - was now trading Iraqi Kurdistan for northwest Iran. That's what Osman Ocalan, brother of jailed-for-life PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan, and a founding member of the PKK, told The Independent's Patrick Cockburn in Irbil.

As Asia Times Online has reported, the CIA has armed and financed the Iranian arm of the PKK, the PJAK, in its attacks against the Iranian government. Not only does Tehran share the same plight with Ankara, it would also expect Baghdad's cooperation on the issue. No wonder the Bush administration - for which the PKK are "terrorists" and PJAK are not - had to squash the initiative.

But with 15 million Kurds in eastern Turkey, 5 million in Iraqi Kurdistan, 4 million in northwest Iran and 1 million in Syria, "the partition of Kurdistan works in our interests", Ocalan said, referring to PKK's extreme mobility. The Bush administration for its part is not exactly dispirited by the PKK's ability to "destabilize" Iran or Syria.

Erdogan's priorities, on the other hand, as revealed once again this Monday in an interview with Claudio Gallo from Italian daily La Stampa, are admission to the European Union, Turkey's territorial integrity ("if only Baghdad had the will do dismantle the terrorist bases in the north") and the Turkish public's feelings about it. So between Bush and a hard place, he'd rather choose the latter, in the form of a strategic alliance with both Iran and Syria to combat what Ankara sees as dangerous Kurdish separatism. Turkey and Iran - commercially and now politically - are getting closer and closer.

Washington is more the loser because virtually no one in Turkey is shedding tears for what happens to their 57-year-old alliance. According to the June 2007 Pew Global Attitudes Project, no less than 83% of Turkey's public opinion had an "unfavorable view" of the US, ahead of Egypt and Jordan (both at 78%) and Pakistan (68%). All of these governments - but not their populations - are US allies. It's fair to assume these numbers are rising.

Russia for its part cannot but applaud the newfound Turkish-Persian entente. Non-stop Bush administration heavy handedness is actually fast erasing historical grievances and paving the way towards a new Eurasian configuration, with Turkey-Iran getting closer to Russia-China.

Dance, Pandora, dance
Bush's invasion and occupation of Iraq opened a Pandora's box that only now starts to be seen for its true incendiary potential. Turkey threatening to strike Iraq to protect its national security is a carbon copy of Bush invading Iraq in 2003. Moreover, "Iraq" is actually no more; it's been smashed into three virtually independent statelets - exactly what Israel wanted in the first place.

Israel is so keen on an independent Iraqi Kurdistan because this is the way towards a new Kirkuk-Haifa oil pipeline (the old one was shut down in 1948) - which will pass though three American bases and cross US-friendly Jordan. A complicating factor is that at the same time Tel Aviv avidly coddles racist, Kurd-hating Turkish generals.

Turkey badly needs oil, as much as Israel. Turkey most of all cannot stand an independent Iraqi Kurdistan because it is focused on Mosul and Kirkuk's oil wealth. For any Turk with an Ottoman Empire memory, Mosul's oil fields, only 120km from the border, should belong to Turkey; after all they were stolen by the British Empire as it drew the artificial borders of Iraq in the early 1920s.

Both the treaties of Sevres (1920) and Lausanne (1923) did everything to exclude Mosul and Kirkuk - both with a Turkman majority - from Turkey, so the new republic would be deprived of oil. It's not hard to imagine Turkish generals dreaming of a modern Turkey swimming in oil wealth as a certified regional superpower, spreading its wings over the Middle East, the Balkans, the Caucasus and as far as Central Asia. The equation is inescapable: if Washington could invade Iraq to grab its oil, why not neighbor Turkey, who owned the oil in the first place?

Bye bye Washington
The astute Erdogan knew even before setting foot in Washington that the solution to the Turkey-PKK crisis lay in a frank Washington-Tehran dialogue.

But for that to happen, he knew Bush and the neo-cons would have to drop their faithful ally the KRG and their useful destabilizing force, the PKK/PJAK. And they would also have to abandon the pretence that Iraq is "stabilized" while at the same time threatening to attack Iran, which is a regional power not interested in any destabilization.

Unlike scurrilous President General Musharraf in failed state Pakistan, Erdogan is an elected leader whose public opinion will seriously fault him for not caring about the national interest. So for the moment he is "happy" with Bush's sound bite. He'll wait - for just a little while. If nothing moves, Turkey will strike. Hard. And Washington won't even get a phone call.

Pepe Escobar is the author of Globalistan: How the Globalized World is Dissolving into Liquid War (Nimble Books, 2007). He may be reached at pepeasia@yahoo.com.

(Copyright 2007 Asia Times Online Ltd. All rights reserved.

01 October 2007

Al-Qaeda wants a part of Afghan talks

Asia Times
South Asia
Oct 2, 2007
Al-Qaeda wants a part of Afghan talks
By Syed Saleem Shahzad

KARACHI - While the Taliban and the Afghan administration of President Hamid Karzai play political football with the idea of peace talks, the stumbling block remains al-Qaeda, which is firmly opposed to any dialogue unless it can gain something for itself.

Over the past few weeks, the Taliban have responded positively to Karzai's offer of talks, but just when it appeared there might be progress, there's a setback.

Speaking on his return from the United States on Saturday, Karzai said that he was ready to meet Taliban leader Mullah Omar and Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, the leader of another insurgency group, Hezb-e-Islami, for peace talks aimed at sharing power.

But on Sunday, Qari Mohammad Yousuf, a Taliban spokesman, was quoted by Reuters as saying that peace talks with Kabul would not take place as long as the more than 50,000 foreign troops remained in the country. "The Karzai government is a dummy government. It has no authority so why should we waste our time and effort?" Yousuf was quoted as saying. Previously, the Taliban have said that they would talk without preconditions, and they could well revert to this position.

Coincidentally or not, Karzai made his offer hours after one of the biggest bomb attacks in six years killed 30 people in Kabul.

Karzai said that President George W Bush and Ban Ki-moon, the United Nations secretary general, had both supported the idea of peace talks when he met them in the US. Karzai said he would allocate some government posts to the Taliban and that both Hekmatyar and Mullah Omar could stand in elections scheduled for 2009, if they wanted power.

Although Karzai has offered talks before, this was the first time since the Taliban's ouster in 2001 that the Washington-anointed leader had gone as far as to effectively legitimize the insurgency.

Recently, several top Taliban commanders met again in the Pakistani city of Quetta to hold talks with the Afghan government through Afghan tribal elders acting as go-betweens.

These talks are claimed by the Karzai government as proof of debate among Taliban commanders for peace. However, what is overlooked is the ideological strength of al-Qaeda, which has once again wrested control of the hearts and minds of the Taliban, at least in southeastern Afghanistan. And until al-Qaeda's leaders are drawn into the talks, any other dialogue is bound to fail.

Mushahid Hussain Syed, chairman of the foreign relations committee of the Pakistani Senate and also the powerful secretary general of the ruling Pakistan Muslim League, told Asia Times Online: "Only a year ago when I made the proposal that if Mullah Omar is too hardline to talk too, and the Afghan government should start negotiations with Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, the Afghan government was so upset that it officially protested to Pakistan. But I am happy that now Mr Karzai himself has endorsed the same proposal."

There is a delayed realization in the Western camp that the Taliban are a reflection of Afghanistan's majority Pashtun population and that their brand of Islam in fact blends strongly with conservative Pashtun traditions. Even after the Taliban defeat in 2001 by the US and its allies, that same brand of Islam is reflected in Afghan court decisions and in many other matters dealt with by the present administration.

The upshot is acceptance that the Taliban should be accommodated politically as well, yet the Western coalition still does not have the stomach to talk with al-Qaeda, which is exerting its influence from the Pakistani tribal areas of North Waziristan and South Waziristan.

People forget that the reason Afghanistan was invaded in the first place was because of the sanctuary that the Taliban offered al-Qaeda. The majority of Afghanistan's tribal and clerical councils recommended to expel Osama bin Laden after September 11, 2001, but al-Qaeda's influence prevailed.

The US and Pakistan, as partners in the "war on terror", made numerous efforts to split the Taliban and al-Qaeda, and at times they succeeded. Notably, there was major disagreement on strategies between the Taliban and al-Qaeda in 2006, which led to many al-Qaeda leaders leaving the Waziristans and Afghanistan. And this year, a Pakistani-sponsored massacre was carried out in South Waziristan against Uzbek militants by Pakistani Taliban commander Haji Nazeer. Prominent al-Qaeda commanders were expelled from the area, yet after a few months al-Qaeda had regained its influence and all Pakistan Taliban groups and al-Qaeda members are fighting side-by-side against the Pakistani armed forces.

If the al-Qaeda factor is to be neutralized, the group needs to be engaged, just as attempts are being made to embrace the Taliban. When Prince Turki al-Faisal (now ambassador to the United States) was the Saudi intelligence chief, the kingdom kept its channels of dialogue with al-Qaeda open, even after September 11, by using the Taliban leadership.

And recently, Saudi Arabia made a fresh approach at dialogue with al-Qaeda by sending an envoy to speak with it in North Waziristan. (See Military brains plot Pakistan's downfall Asia Times Online, September 26, 2007.)

These talks did not make too much progress, but al-Qaeda is certainly looking for some kind of "amnesty" for itself. Until this happens, the Taliban's commanders in southwestern Afghanistan might win some breathing space, but there can be no guarantee of any lasting political settlement in the region.

Syed Saleem Shahzad is Asia Times Online's Pakistan Bureau Chief. He can be reached at saleem_shahzad2002@yahoo.com

28 September 2007

Receding permafrost is a bone-hunters' bounty

Regardless of your point of view on who is right or wrong with regard to climate change/global warming I don't think that there can be any doubt THAT SOMETHING IS HAPPENING. It's seems that whatever is going on capitolism is thriving...

and if you would prefer not to read the article the video is here:

Receding permafrost is a bone-hunters' bounty
By Dmitry Solovyov

CHERSKY, Russia (Reuters) - One day, climate change could cost the earth. For now, it is a nice little earner for Russian hunter Alexander Vatagin
In Siberia's northernmost reaches, high up in the Arctic Circle, the changing temperature is thawing out the permafrost to reveal the bones of prehistoric animals like mammoths, woolly rhinos and lions that have been buried for thousands of years.

Private collectors and scientific institutes will pay huge sums for the right specimen, and bone-prospectors like Vatagin have turned this region, eight time zones from Moscow, into a paleontological Klondyke.

"Last year someone was paid 800,000 roubles (15,500 pounds) for a mammoth head with two tusks in great condition," said Vatagin.

A brawny 45-year-old, he has a network of helpers: the fishermen and reindeer-herders of the tiny Yukagir ethnic group, whose numbers have dwindled to about 800 people.

"I must have earned the respect of the Yukagir," he said. "Their shamans convened a council and decided to name me a Yukagir," he added. He is now Yukagir No. 456.

These tribesmen are his 'finders', fanning out across the vast emptiness of the tundra seeking valuable artifacts.

At regular intervals, Vatagin flies by helicopter to the main Yukagir settlement, Andryushkino, some 200 km (125 miles) west of the local centre of Chersky, to view the merchandise.

Prehistoric bones are not very hard to find. The permafrost is thawing and breaking up so rapidly that in certain places in the tundra, every few meters (yards) bones poke out through the soil. Some just lie on the surface.

Vatagin pays between 200 and 4,000 roubles per kg of mammoth bones. But it takes a keen eye and local knowledge to find the really valuable stuff.

Tusks, sometimes curled round almost into a circle and reaching up to 5 meters in length, are the most prized finds. A pair of good tusks is a rarity; two tusks and a well-preserved skull can be worth a fortune.

"If he is lucky, a local can earn 200,000 roubles in just one day," said Vatagin, who wears a massive silver ring with a mammoth's head engraved into it. "To earn this money, he would have otherwise have to toil for a year."

But for Vatagin it is not just about money. He himself dives into the ice-cold local rivers to look for relics. The cash he pays the Yukagir tribesmen gives them a living.


Many of the bones retrieved by Vatagin and his adopted tribe end up at the Ice Age Museum in Moscow. The museum makes no secret that scientific discovery goes hand-in-glove with business interests.

Museum official Alexander Svalov has on one of his fingers a ring identical to the one won worn by Vatagin in distant Chersky.

The ring is the symbol of the National Alliance, a close-knit business run by entrepreneur Fyodor Shidlovsky. The company runs the museum, and holds government licenses allowing it to excavate and export prehistoric relics.

Svalov, who is the chief executive of National Alliance, says a well-preserved tusk can sell to private collectors for up to $20,000, while a reconstructed mammoth skeleton can fetch between $150,000 and $250,000.

The bones make their way into museums in places like the United States and South Korea. Now promising new markets are opening up in emerging economies like China too.

"Developing nations are now displaying huge interest in mammoths," says Svalov. "Their economies are growing, they have cash and are starting to develop their museums."


Back in Chersky, Sergei Davydov, a 52-year-old scientist, does not sell the bones he collects. He keeps them to study the effects of climate change, but also because they fascinate him.

"This tooth has an unusual bump here. The mammoth suffered from a terrible toothache. We can only imagine how he must have roared," said Davydov, tenderly rubbing a black tooth the size of a large shoe.

He displays his other finds: a mammoth's giant thigh bones, the horns of a woolly rhino, the jaws of an ancient horse and a cave lion's skull. Bison skulls crowned with sharp horns decorate the interior of his cozy wooden house.

Davydov acknowledges that rising temperatures in Siberia have been a boon for bone collectors. "As the permafrost thaws, we obtain yet more objects for study," he said.

But then he reflects: "From the point of view of humanity, it would have been better if this had never happened," he said.

(c) Reuters 2007. All rights reserved. Republication or redistribution of Reuters content, including by caching, framing or similar means, is expressly prohibited without the prior written consent of Reuters. Reuters and the Reuters sphere logo are registered trademarks and trademarks of the Reuters group of companies around the world.

Supreme Court To Determine If Patent Holders Can Shake Down Entire Supply Chain

Supreme Court To Determine If Patent Holders Can Shake Down Entire Supply Chain
from the more-judicial-patent-reform dept
While Congress continues to fight over patent reform (often missing the bigger issues for those that the lobbyists are most interested in), it's been the Supreme Court that's been doing its best to bring some sanity back to the patent system. After ignoring patent law as being a boring "commercial" dispute for years, the Supreme Court finally realized a few years ago that the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (that handles patent cases) had basically redefined patent law over the last few years, creating much of the mess we're in today. Suddenly, the Court started taking a bunch of patent cases -- and almost every time it slapped down CAFC and brought some common sense back to the patent system. Of course, there's still a lot more to do on that front, and apparently the Supreme Court agrees. It's now taken yet another patent case that could have major ramifications.

This case, officially between LG and Quanta, really concerns the question of how many times patent holders can get a cut of any component found violating a patent. Currently, patent holders will often sue up and down the food chain. So, if you happen to have a patent on a component within a motor that is used in automobile wipers, you could sue the motor maker, the wiper maker and the auto manufacturer -- and get all three to pay, even though the same product is used throughout the supply chain. This case will look at whether or not it makes sense to allow for that type of double, triple or quadruple dipping. Patently O has a good summary of the case, pointing out that it's effectively asking if the concept of the "first sale doctrine," which applies to copyrights, also applies to patents. If the Supreme Court follows its recent trend in overturning CAFC, this could have a big impact on a lot of patent cases. For example, it would entirely derail NTP's latest patent suits. In that case, NTP forced RIM into licensing its (questionable and likely to be invalidated) patents, and is now suing all the service providers who offer RIM's Blackberry -- effectively double dipping. Once again, it's nice to see both the sudden interest in patent law -- and what often appears to be very clear thinking on the part of the Supreme Court on the issue.

Soldier of the Future Gets His Gear On

Soldier of the Future Gets His Gear On
By Noah Shachtman
September 26, 2007 | 2:01:00 AM

TARMIYAH, Iraq -- They were supposed to be wearing the high-tech soldier suits of the future. But when the grunts of the 4th Battalion, 9th Infantry Regiment first started running around with a pile of gadgets on their backs and their helmets, they absolutely hated the gear.
Oh, maybe the Land Warrior gizmo suite -- complete with digital maps, wearable computers and new radios -- might do the bosses some good, the troops told me. And yeah, the equipment was about as close as troops today were going to get to the kind of tricked-out, sci-fi ensemble you might see worn by Halo's Master Chief. But at 16 pounds, on top of an already crushing 60-plus-pound load for grunts, the gear just wasn't worth the weight. The Army brass wasn't exactly thrilled with Land Warrior, either -- it yanked every last dime to fund the get-ups. The half-billion-dollar, 15-year project looked dead.
Cash was on hand to send the 4/9 into battle with Land Warrior, though. And their commanding officer, Lt. Col. Bill Prior, was a big fan. So, this spring, Land Warrior went off to Iraq.
I've just spent a week with Prior and the 4/9 (known as the "Manchus" since their assaults on China in 1901). And much to my surprise, a bunch of the soldiers in the unit are warming up to Land Warrior, especially now that the gizmo ensemble has been pared down and made more tactically relevant. So now the question is: can this once-doomed soldier-of-the-future ensemble spring back to life?
Over the last decade, the military has connected nearly all its command posts and all its vehicles into a kind of internet for battle. That allowed them to, at the very least, see each other's locations and better coordinate attacks.
Individual soldiers, however, still remain largely off the grid -- only now, more than four years into the Iraq war, are many troop teams getting radios of their own. That's a problem because counterinsurgency fights, like the ones in Afghanistan and Iraq, are almost wholly dependent on small groups of soldiers like these. Land Warrior was supposed to be the way to plug them in.
Captain Jack Moore, the commander of the 4/9's "Blowtorch" company, peers into his Land Warrior monocle. Inside is a digital map of Tarmiyah, a filthy little town about 25 kilometers north of Baghdad that's become a haven for Islamists. Blue icons show two of his platoons sweeping through the western half of the town. Two other icons represent Blowtorch soldiers who have teamed up with special forces and Iraqi Army units to raid local mosques with insurgent ties.
A red dot suddenly pops up on Moore's monocle screen: 3rd platoon has found a pair of improvised bombs -- black boxes, filled with homemade explosives. Other troops will circumvent the scene.
As the other platoons move south to north, green lights blink on Moore's map. Each of these "digital chem lights" represents a house checked and cleared. It keeps different groups of soldiers from kicking down the same set of doors twice.
A year ago, these chem lights weren't even part of the Land Warrior code. But after a suggestion from a Manchu soldier, the digital markers were added -- and quickly became the system's most popular feature. During air assaults on Baquba, to the northeast, troops were regularly dropped a quarter or half-kilometer from their original objective; the chem lights allowed them to converge on the spot where they were supposed to go. In the middle of one mission, a trail of green lights was used to mark a new objective -- and show the easiest way to get to the place.
Later, a five-man "small kill team" or SKT, was set up about 10 kilometers north of Tarmiyah to ambush an insurgent crew. But that crew turned out to be larger than expected, and the SKT was suddenly being attacked by 10 Iraqis. Almost instantly, Captain Aaron Miller, stationed two kilometers to the south, was able to respond.
"They didn't have to tell us their location -- we knew it right away. So they could focus on the fight," Miller says.
Miller is still not happy with how much the system weighs. "Look, I need this like I need a 10th arm," he sighs. And all this stuff (Land Warrior does), my cell phone basically does the same at home." But Miller is committed to soldiers being networked. So he's willing to be the digital guinea pig. "It's got to start with someone."
The system has become more palatable to the Manchus because it's been pared down, in all sorts of ways. By consolidating parts, a 16-pound ensemble is now down to a little more than 10. A new, digital gun scope has been largely abandoned by the troops -- the system was too cumbersome and too slow to be effective. And now, not every soldier in the 4/9 has to lug around Land Warrior. Only team leaders and above are so equipped.
"It helped morale a lot," says Lt. Col. Prior. "Leaders need it to track where you're going next, and when to use the right route. But for Joe (average soldier) -- pulling security, climbing through a window -- it was too much."
It still is, for some members of the Manchus.
"If it were five pounds, it'd be money," says Sergeant First Class Benjamin Mulkey. "But right now, it's not worth the weight."
Sam Lee, another sergeant stationed in Tarmiyah, drives back and forth over a stretch of unpaved road. His Land Warrior system has frozen up, and tells him he's a few hundred meters away from his actual location. When he gets out, his fellow soldiers can talk fine over their radios. His Land Warrior model is dead.
And of course, everybody has to be plugged into the system in order for it to be worth a damn. At the end of an exhausting night's worth of house-to-house searches, Lieutenant Michael Bennett loses track of half of his platoon. They aren't very far away -- just a few blocks. But because no one is up on Land Warrior, it takes an hour of bleary-eyed scrambling for the platoon to be reunited.
But while some troops struggle with Land Warrior's basics, new features are being added to the system. Video feeds from small ground robots, pictures from flying drones and data from sniper-detecting sensors should all be available in the Manchus' monocles before their tour is over next fall.
The question is whether the 4/9 will be the last unit to wear the Land Warrior gear. Right now, there is no money in the Defense Department budget to similarly equip another set of soldiers. But the 2nd Infantry Division's 5th Brigade Combat Team is in the process of officially asking for the gear. And Land Warrior allies are also pushing Congress to include $60 to $80 million to give more troops the get-ups.
Neither effort has been successful, so far. So the future of the soldier-of-the-future still remains very much in doubt.

09 September 2007

Eurasian Secret Services Daily Review

Eurasian Secret Services Daily Review
Russian espionage in UK at Cold War level, Moscow does not comment
Russian Foreign Intelligence Service Director speaks out to Moscow newspaper
Lawyers of FSB Lieutenant-Colonel complained about groundlessness of his criminal case
High-ranking replacements to take place in security forces of Russia’s Dagestan
Extremist grouping’s female wing leader was second militant killed by FSB in Karachayevo-Cherkessia
Ukraine’s SBU reveals lack of information concerning acts of terrorism in Ministry of Transport
Yushchenko congratulated employees of military intelligence of Ukraine
Ukrainian military intelligence celebrates its 15 year anniversary
Amount of damage to security of Kyrgyzstan being established in current espionage case
Opening of the files ruined Bulgarian secret intelligence: candidate for mayor

Russian espionage in UK at Cold War level, Moscow does not comment
Unnamed British government sources say Russian espionage in Britain has reached Cold War levels.
The Daily Telegraph writes that about half the 62 diplomatic staff members at the Russian embassy in London are actually involved in spying, including military and commercial intelligence and monitoring dissidents.
According to the paper, their tasks range from seeking military and commercial secrets to monitoring Russian dissidents based in London, most notably Boris Berezovsky, the billionaire and outspoken critic of President Vladimir Putin. Overseas spying by the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR) has probably been accorded a higher priority in recent months, The Daily Telegraph marks. It adds that after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, overseas espionage was reduced temporarily simply because Russia, then in the grips of an economic crisis, could not afford the cost. But sources said they soon returned to their previous levels; the Russian espionage operation in Britain probably returned to Cold War levels a decade or more ago, the paper notes. The British newspaper quoted Mark Pritchard, the Conservative Member of Parliament, who chairs the cross-party parliamentary group on Russia, as saying that the high number of spies as diplomats “beggs the question of whether the Russians are more interested in diplomacy or in spying on Britain for political and military secrets”.
Russian Foreign Intelligence Service does not comment articles of the British press, head of the agency’s Press bureau, Sergei Ivanov, told the Moscow-based news agency RIA Novosti.

Sergei Lebedev

Russian Foreign Intelligence Service Director speaks out to Moscow newspaper
Director of the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR) General Sergei Lebedev said in his interview to the weekly Moskovskiye novosti that elements of the "Cold War " had began to revive in activity of some foreign secret services which organized "coloured" revolutions. He marked that „today Russia became an object of steadfast interest of experts of the certain profile”.
At the same time Lebedev acknowledges that there is a system of interaction between the Russian intelligence and intelligence services of the NATO countries and other western countries. Already for a long time there is an understanding in the international community, including the secret services, of necessity of association of efforts for counteraction to terrorism, the SVR Director marks.
By virtue of the specificics – the SVR has been conducting counteraction to distribution of weapons of mass destruction, organized crime, drug trafficking and to other transnational threats to security and stability in the world on bilateral basis, Lebedev underlines. However in some cases, especially when it is a question of international terrorist groupings, the circle of the partners uniting efforts in struggle against the general harm, can be also wider, the SVR chief notes. „Principles of cooperation have universal character and have been exercised in practice. We have been applying them in interaction with special services of the NATO countries and with partners from the Asian, African and Latin American states”.
Lebedev says relations between the SVR of Russia and their colleagues from the CIS countries have closer character and are under construction on the basis of multilateral and bilateral agreements. „They provide versatile cooperation of security services and intelligence agencies, information exchange on a wide range of issues representing mutual interest. Specific tasks of mutual cooperation have been solved on evereyday basis.” Lebedev names regular meetings of heads of intelligence services of the CIS countries a good tradition.
According to Lebedev, the statements which have appeared recently in the West about radical activity of the Russian intelligence are mismatching the reality. He claims that in comparison with the times of the two main world block opposition, the Russian intelligence has reduced its presence abroad, has essentially reconstructed the activity, reconsidered and narrowed its priorities and refused from globalism.
„The western intelligence agencies have been operating not less, and sometimes even more vigorously (I even would tell, more aggressive), than the SVR.” Lebedev says „Frequent statements about activization of the SVR operations is consequence of political conjuncture, dictated by aspiration of counterintelligence to justify necessity of their existence, expansion of personnel to achieve increase in financing, etc.”
Moskovskiye novosti also writes about Lebedev’s biography. Director of the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service has passed all steps of career in the intelligence, from an operative up to the head of Service. He was born on April 9, 1948 in the city of Dzhizak (Uzbek SSR), the same place where in 1965 he graduated from the school with a gold medal. His father, Nikolai Ivanovich, comes from Siberia, has served in Soviet troops in the WWII participting in fighting from Volga up to Austria, then worked as a driver and died in 1994. His mother, Nina Yakovlevna, a graduate of the Leningrad military-mechanical institute, has survived the Leningrad blockade. After the WWII she obtained higher financial education, worked as a bookkeeper, died in 2007. After graduation in 1970 from the Chernigov branch of Kiev Polytechnical Institute, Lebedev has been left to work in the institute, and later he was elected the secretary of the Chernigov city town committee of Komsomol. In 1971-1972 served in the army in the Kiev military district, then worked in Chernigov oblast Komsomol committee. Since 1973 he served in the state security system, since 1975 - in the foreign intelligence (the First Central administrative directorate of KGB of the USSR). Has obtained counterspy preparation at the Kiev school of KGB and intelligence education at the Red Banner Institute of KGB. In 1978 graduated from the Diplomatic Academy the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the USSR. Speaks German also English languages. Repeatedly has worked abroad: GDR, FRG, West Berlin, Germany. In 1998-2000 - official representative of the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service in the USA. On May 20, 2000, appointed the SVR Director by the decree of the Russian President. Married for more than 30 years, his spouse Vera Mikhailovna is an engineer-chemist. They have two adult sons, two grandsons. Hobbies - work, family, summer dacha.

Lawyers of FSB Lieutenant-Colonel complained about groundlessness of his criminal case
Lawyers of Pavel Ryaguzov, Lieutenant-Colonel of the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) Pavel Rjaguzov have forwarded a complaint on illegality and groundlessness of excitation of criminal case against their client to the Moscow military garrison court, daily Kommersant writes, referring to a report by the Interfax news agency.
Ryaguzov’s detention was mentioned in connection with investigation of the murder of investigative journalist Anna Politkovskaya.
Ryaguzov’s defence underlines in their statement that Pavel Ryaguzov "is, indeed, accused of fulfilment of illegal, in opinion of invstigation, actions which have taken place in 2002, however he does not plead guilty, as he says he has acted within the framework of the legal field".
At the same time, the lawyers acknowedge that actions of Pavel Ryjaguzov and other employees of law enforcement bodies were already repeatedly checked and "recognized lawful by two independent officials representing various offices of Public Prosecutor".
"Checks in the directorate of internal security of the Ministry of Interior, directorate of injternal security of the FSB and in the State Office of Public Prosecutor have also been carried out and they came to the same conclusions", the lawyers mark in their application. In this connection the defence points out that initiation of a criminal case five years later on the facts which have been repeatedly checked up, is illegal.
Ryaguzov’s lawyer, Andrei Trepykhalin, told news agency Interfax that the charge was produced according to the articles on kidnapping and beating a resident of Ponikarov in 2002, extortion, illegal penetration into the dwelling and misuse of authority. Trepykhalin said his client had never been officially tied to the Politkovskaya case, though another security service officer had announced as much previously. The lawyer also said Ryagyuzov was not charged within the framework of the Politkovskaya murder case.

High-ranking replacements to take place in security forces of Russia’s Dagestan
Loud rearrangements have been taking place in security forces of Dagestan, radio Ekho Moskvy reports, referring to online site Kavkaz Times. Probably, the chief of the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) republic directorate, Nikolai Gryaznov, has left his post, radio

Dagestan on map
At the moment Gryaznov is on holidays, however, according to unofficial sources, right after that he either would leave for service for Moscow, or he would head the Russian Academy of FSB in the Russian capital. According to the source of the online site, Gryaznov’s departure is connected with the dissatisfaction with his work in the leadership of Dagestan. Besides cases of abduction of local residents by people in camouflage have become frequent recently in the republic.

Extremist grouping’s female wing leader was second militant killed by FSB in Karachayevo-Cherkessia
AIA already reported, referring to the Public relations centre of the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB), that two militants have been killed in the Russian-Georgian frontier zone, controlled by the Karachayevo-Cherkess border guard unit on September 5. One of them has been identified as Rustan Ionov, born in 1977, a resident of Psyzh, Karachayevo-Cherkess Republic, Moslem name Abu-Bakar. The FSB believes he was the leader of the religious and extremist community in the Karachayevo-Cherkess Republic and involved in the organisation of terrorist acts in the republic. There was no particular infromation on the second militant killed during the exchange of fire.
Daily Komsomolskaya pravda expands on the incident that Ionov was an „emir” of Karachayevo-Cherkessia and he reportedly found refuge in Georgia all the last year. He recruited and trained mercenaries with the support of the international terrorist community, daily alleges. The mercenaries themselves were making explosives and electronic mechanisms to fit them. Ionov was trying to transport 50 of such "homemade products" into Karachayevo-Cherkessia on September 5.
The press-service of Karachayevo-Cherkessia FSB directorate believes 15 kg of explosives would suffice for 50 large acts of terrorism. They say that most likely Ionov had planned to carry out the acts of terror in the North Caucasus, and first of all, in the territory of Karachayevo-Cherkessia.
The person accompanying Ionov was, in fact, Elvira Kytova, known among terrorists under a name of Amina, heading a female wing in his grouping. She recruited and trained suicide bombers and made explosives on pair with Ionov.
According to the FSB directorate press-service, in July and August the FSB operatives together with other law enforcement agencies have detained Ionov’s twenty accomplices.

Yushchenko congratulated employees of military intelligence of Ukraine
Supreme Commander in chief of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, President Viktor Yushchenko has congratulated employees of military intelligence of Ukraine on professional holiday, news agency RBC-Ukraine reports, referring to the press-service of the President.
The President has thanked the leadership of the agency and employees of the service for their work. " You adequately carry out complex mission which has been entrusted you by the state. Our country cannot effectively exist without your work. Without exaggeration, you do maintain safety and protection of the state, of all our citizens", news agency cites Yushchenko salutatory word.
Yushchenko has assured that as the Head of the state and Supreme Commander in chief of the Armed Forces together with the leadership of Ministry of Defence he holds the solution of the complex of problems of the Service in the centre of his attention. " I insist on essential strengthening of the state support that is given to intelligence agencies in modern conditions. It is not a simply wish and promise. My words do have and will have particular results", Yushchenko emphasized in his message.
According to the President, nowadays Ukraine requires "modern analytical, properly equipped, high quality intelligence which will be reliably protecting interests of the state in rigid competitive external conditions"."It is necessary to very carefully consider new tendencies, including present progress of world negotiating process in the collective security area", he added.
Celebrations on the occasion of the 15-th anniversary of the military intelligence om the basis of Central administrative directorate of intelligence of the Defence Ministry of Ukraine took place in the House of Officers in Kiev, according to the press-service of the President.

Ukrainian military intelligence celebrates its 15 year anniversary
Kiev-based daily Segodnya writes that one year after declaration of Ukraine’s independence, on September 7, 1992, a decree on creation of Central administrative directorate of intelligence of the Defence Ministry of Ukraine was signed.
Contrary to ordinary opinion that the nearest neighbours-Russians have been actively interfering in the process of becoming and development of the service, even much more serious resistance had proceeded, so to say, from within, from the local military leaders, the paper marks. – Those were own politicians, officials, militaries, who were putting up different barriers, — Alexander Skipalsky, the first head of the GUR (Main Inteligence Directorate), now Security Service of Ukraine Vice-Chairman, recollects.
He mentions an example when in 1993, a delegation of the Intelligence Department of the US Ministry of Defence paid visit to Ukraine — Skipalsky accompanied the guests. Americans were shown object of radio engineering intelligence Zvezda near Odessa, the Kharkov higher school preparing experts on antiaircraft rocket complexes -300, military airfield at Priluki, where strategic bombers u-160 and u-95, capable to bear nuclear weapons were stationed. The schedule of visit of the US delegation was coordinated on the top-level, the President, Prime-Minister, Minister of Defence knew about it. After Americans have left, in 3-4 days Skipalsky got to know that the SBU agents, his former subordinates from military counterspionage, had been investigating the schedule, people and sites the US delegation visited. They had received the order to prove that as a result of the visit significant damage was ostensibly caused to national interests of Ukraine, and state and military secrets were divulged. — Someone in Ukraine was very much desirable to inflate a big scandal, — Skipalsky recollects those days not without sarcasm.
Little is known about overseas activity of the GUR. However, this closed structure not once appeared in an epicentre of dramatic events at home, Segodnya underlines.
In November 2004, at the height of "the Orange revolution", rebellious "Orange" leaders who had prevented, as they said "a bloody Sunday”, secretly gathered at „the Island”, as the directorate’s basis is called in abbreviated form, at Podole in Kiev. According to the version of the "Orange", divisions of Interior troops were ready to be put forward against the people rallying on the Kiev’s main square.
Then a little time passed and one of potential heroes, the GUR chief Alexander Galaka became temporarily jobless. He was removed from his post, without explanation of reasons. Galaka proved the incompetence of the decision and was restored in his position by the court. Last spring, members of parliament Lev Gnatenko, Oleg Kalashnikov, and others accused GUR of preparation for coup d’etat: three special-task forces groups were allegedly preparing to carry out power capture of the Council of Ministers, the Supreme Rada, to arrest members of the government and parliament members from the national unity coalition. However, according to conclusions of Military Prosecutor’s Office those accusations have not proved to be true, the paper marks.

Ukraine’s SBU reveals lack of information concerning acts of terrorism in Ministry of Transport

Valentin Nalyvaychenko
The Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) announced it had no information from the Ministry of Transport of Ukraine concerning possible preparation of acts of terrorism on the railway, online paper proUA reports, referring to acting head of the SBU, Valentin Nalyvaychenko, who spoke to journalists after session of staff of the interdepartmental commission of the SBU Antiterrorist centre.
«We precisely ascertain absence of information submitted by the Ministry of Transport somehow testifying or specifying possibility of preparation or carrying out of acts of terrorism or other socially dangerous actions», emphasized the acting SBU head. Nalyvaychenko also informed that the session of the commission had been called in connection with the statement of Minister of Transport and Communication, Nikolai Rudkovsky, on September 4, about alleged presence of information concerning preparation of acts of terrorism on the railway. Nalyvaychenko noted that Rudkovsky was invited to session of the Antiterrorist centre, though he had not arrived there. Instead of the minister one of his assistants was present there, the acting SBU head said.

Opening of the files ruined Bulgarian secret intelligence: candidate for mayor
Candidate for mayor of coastal Varna city in Bulgaria, Veselin Danov, said in an interview to Radio Focus Varna that the Bulgarian secret intelligence have been ruined with the opening of the communist secret service files. Danov added that the files of I and II Chief Police Department’s employees shouldn’t have been opened. According to him that act of the state has condemned people to destruction who are working abroad, Focus News Agency reports.
Meanwhile The Sofia Echo expands that some of the sections of the communist-era secret services have been among the best represented by parliament members.
“Breza, Kolos (…) Karamfil-4, Panorama, Electronica, Express, Propaganda, as well as Petyo and Zravkov are the kind of pseudonyms used for agents and collaborators of the secret services who have been elected as parliament members after 1990,” it cites daily Dnevnik. Most of the ex-agents in the parliament, 43, were collaborators to the secret services in the regional departments of the Interior Ministry. Another 10 members of the parliament have been recruited by the Sofia city section of the former secret services.
The duties of agents included collecting information, recruitment, and to exert influence, reported the daily. The next largest group among the parliament members with 21 have been agents for the central management bureau of the secret services, involved in counter-intelligence. The third largest group of agents, 19, were part of the external intelligence. In some cases parliament members were consecutively involved in reporting, intelligence gathering and contra-intelligence, The Sofia Echo adds.

Amount of damage to security of Kyrgyzstan being established in current espionage case
Security services of Kyrgyzstan have indicted the group of persons suspected of gathering and transfer abroad of classified information, news agency Kazahstan segodnya reports. News agency RIA Novosti reported earlier that the persons charged are Defence Ministry pensioner Valery Patsula, Vladimir Berezhnoy, ksat myrkanov and staff officer of Kyrgyz State National Security Committee Alexander Gryb.
"Criminal case has been initiated according to paragraph 302/1 of Kyrgyz Republic Criminal code (transfer or gathering of information making service secret with the purpose of transfer to foreign organizations),” news agency cites a representative of the press centre of the State National Security Committee of Kyrgyzstan(KGNB).
Four persons who earlier served in security forces of Kyrgyzstan have been charged within the framework of this criminal case and are in the investigatory insulator of the KGNB now.
"It is too early to make conclusions and hasty political statements about the high treason case involving employees of the Ministry of Defence and secret services of Kyrgyzstan," press-centre of the State National Security Committee of Kyrgyzstan says in its announcement.
In this connection, the KGNB press- centre has called representatives of mass-media to be more correct in their remarks on the case as "not confirmed facts can provide negative background to the friendship of Kyrgyzstan with the countries, taking a priority place in the foreign policy of the republic". At present investigators have been establishing in what amount the classified information was transferred by the accused, Kazahstan segodnya adds.

08 September 2007

Unrestricted Warfare

Unrestricted Warfare

Qiao Liang and Wang Xiangsui
(Beijing: PLA Literature and Arts Publishing House, February 1999)
Unrestricted Warfare, by Qiao Liang and Wang Xiangsui (Beijing: PLA Literature and Arts Publishing House, February 1999)

[FBIS Editor's Note: The following selections are taken from "Unrestricted Warfare," a book published in China in February 1999 which proposes tactics for developing countries, in particular China, to compensate for their military inferiority vis-à-vis the United States during a high-tech war. The selections include the table of contents, preface, afterword, and biographical information about the authors printed on the cover. The book was written by two PLA senior colonels from the younger generation of Chinese military officers and was published by the PLA Literature and Arts Publishing House in Beijing, suggesting that its release was endorsed by at least some elements of the PLA leadership. This impression was reinforced by an interview with Qiao and laudatory review of the book carried by the party youth league's official daily Zhongguo Qingnian Bao on 28 June.

Published prior to the bombing of China's embassy in Belgrade, the book has recently drawn the attention of both the Chinese and Western press for its advocacy of a multitude of means, both military and particularly non-military, to strike at the United States during times of conflict. Hacking into websites, targeting financial institutions, terrorism, using the media, and conducting urban warfare are among the methods proposed. In the Zhongguo Qingnian Bao interview, Qiao was quoted as stating that "the first rule of unrestricted warfare is that there are no rules, with nothing forbidden." Elaborating on this idea, he asserted that strong countries would not use the same approach against weak countries because "strong countries make the rules while rising ones break them and exploit loopholes . . .The United States breaks [UN rules] and makes new ones when these rules don't suit [its purposes], but it has to observe its own rules or the whole world will not trust it." (see FBIS translation of the interview, OW2807114599).

[End FBIS Editor's Note]

06 September 2007

Newest Spy Gadget: Social Networking

Newest Spy Gadget: Social Networking
By ASHLEY M. HEHER – 14 hours ago

CHICAGO (AP) — As spy gear goes, a social-networking Web site doesn't quite have the same cachet as some of James Bond's high-tech gadgets.

But the U.S. intelligence community is taking a page from popular online hangouts like Facebook and News Corp.'s MySpace to help encourage operatives to share information. In December, agency leaders are launching a social-networking site just for spooks.

The classified "A-Space" ultimately will grow to include blogs, searchable databases, libraries of reports, collaborative word processing and other tools to help analysts quickly trade, update and edit information.

It comes on the heels of the year-old Intellipedia, a Web site modeled after the popular online encyclopedia Wikipedia. Intellipedia has been gaining traction among the intelligence agencies and already has nearly 30,000 posted articles and 4,800 edits added every workday.

Although A-Space will be built with commercially available software, organizers are quick to dismiss any criticism about security, saying all sensitive data will be stored behind a thicket of classified safeguards that they are developing themselves.

The social-networking efforts, led by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, are emerging as the nation's intelligence community comes under renewed criticism for a lack of cooperation and communication — something a new internal CIA report said contributed to the information breakdown before the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

Aside from simply being able to share documents back and forth, experts who are in the same field but work for different agencies could meet each other virtually and swap ideas and information directly. Experts say the current procedures for sharing information is so cumbersome that such communication is now impossible.

"It's just a better way to build and grow that network so that improved analysis can come out the other end," said Robert Cardillo, deputy director of analysis for the Defense Intelligence Agency.

Organizers acknowledge it may be difficult to erase generations of territorial tendencies and prevent spats among the country's 16 intelligence agencies, which often want credit for their own discoveries.

But they hope the influx of younger operatives — half the intelligence analysts employed by the U.S. government have been on the job for no more than five years — will help shelve old feuds and embrace Web tools already in widespread use.

"It's a way to build the social network for all analysts," said Mike Wertheimer, assistant deputy director of national intelligence for analytic transformation and technology, who is leading the initiative. "We put more eyes on more problems."

Development of the $5 million project began in June, and a pilot version will be available in December, with features to be added over the next year. Ultimately, the system may grow to include an unclassified network for use by state and local law enforcement and even some foreign agencies.

Classified information will only be available to individuals with the right security clearance and site minders will work to sniff out inappropriate use, much the way credit card companies look for fraudulent charges.

For example, A-Space will be designed to detect if an expert in Southeast Asian militaries is running inappropriate queries on Latin American drug cartels.

"We're hoping that people will give us the benefit of the doubt," Wertheimer said.

But three months before A-Space is to go live, there's ample skepticism.

Richard L. Russell, a former CIA analyst who teaches at the National Defense University, says the government needs to focus on building better analysis and human intelligence, not fancy tools.

"You may have a great technological infrastructure for managing information, but if you put garbage into it, the output will be garbage," he said.

Others said the initiative is a giant leap for the three-letter agencies that find themselves stumbling to share information through bureaucratic channels and cumbersome firewalls.

"A site that's open to all 16 intelligence agencies, that allows them to chat more freely, I think is a darn good idea and may help them get around some of these issues," said Donald C. Daniel, a security studies professor at Georgetown University. "But it may be hit or miss."

Experts say the service will only be as effective as those who use it. And with many older workers puzzled by their younger colleagues' obsessive use of Facebook and its ilk, full-blown use could take time.

Mark Lowenthal, president of The Intelligence & Security Academy and the government's former assistant director of central intelligence for analysis and production, admits he's baffled by social-networking sites and isn't sure if A-Space is the ultimate solution to fixing problems in the agencies.

But he believes the proposal has merit, especially as baby boomers retire and are replaced by younger analysts.

"Clearly, we don't always behave like a community so anything you can do to help foster that to a degree is a good thing," he said. "We want to do better. Anybody who's dealt with adapting technology to the intelligence community will tell you that the intelligence community has not been brilliant in catching up."

On the Net:

04 September 2007

Ice-free Arctic could be here in 23 years

Ice-free Arctic could be here in 23 years
David Adam, environment correspondent
The Guardian
Wednesday September 5 2007
The Arctic ice cap has collapsed at an unprecedented rate this summer an levels of sea ice in the region now stand at a record low, scientists sai last night. Experts said they were "stunned" by the loss of ice, with an are almost twice as big as Britain disappearing in the last week alone. So much ic has melted this summer that the north-west passage across the top of Canada i fully navigable, and observers say the north-east passage along Russia's Arcti coast could open later this month. If the increased rate of melting continues, th summertime Arctic could be totally free of ice by 2030

Mark Serreze, an Arctic specialist at the US National Snow and Ice Data Centre at Colorado University in Denver which released the figures, said: "It's amazing. It's simply fallen off a cliff and we're still losing ice." The Arctic has now lost about a third of its ice since satellite measurements began 30 years ago, and the rate of loss has accelerated sharply since 2002.

Dr Serreze said: "If you asked me a couple of years ago when the Arctic could lose all of its ice, then I would have said 2100, or 2070 maybe. But now I think that 2030 is a reasonable estimate. It seems that the Arctic is going to be a very different place within our lifetimes, and certainly within our children's lifetimes."

The new figures show that sea ice extent is currently down to 4.4m square kilometres (1.7m square miles) and still falling. The previous record low was 5.3m square kilometres in September 2005. From 1979 to 2000 the average sea ice extent was 7.7m square kilometres. The minimum extent of sea ice usually occurs late in September each year, as the freezing Arctic winter begins to bite.

The sea ice usually then begins to freeze again over the winter. But Dr Serreze said that would be difficult this year. "This summer we've got all this open water and added heat going into the ocean. That is going to make it much harder for the ice to grow back. What we've seen this year sets us up for an even worse year next year." The winter ice has already failed to make up for increased losses in the summer in each of the last two years.

Changes in wind and ocean circulation patterns can help reduce sea ice extent, but Dr Serreze said the main culprit was man-made global warming. "The rules are starting to change and what's changing the rules is the input of greenhouse gases. This year puts the exclamation mark on a series of record lows that tell us something is happening."

The dramatic loss is further bad news for the region's wildlife which relies on the sea ice, such as polar bears. The animals use its coastal fringes to find food, and as the summer ice retreats to the north, they must swim further to hunt for seals. Some colonies of bears have already showed signs of malnutrition and biologists say there could be a severe drop in their population within a few decades, though they may not go extinct.

Yesterday's announcement will also increase political interest in the Arctic, with a number of countries currently jostling to exploit the oil and gas reserves believed to lie under the ocean, which could become more accessible as the icy cover retreats. Last month Russia claimed a huge area around the north pole, and Denmark and Canada are preparing similar claims, which rely on showing that a chain of underwater mountains that runs across the region are connected to their respective continental shelves.