Sunday, October 28, 2007

Technology, the Stealthy Tattletale

From New York Times
Initially, it seemed like an easy bank robbery. After stealing $7,000 from a PNC Bank in Evendale, Ohio, Kenneth Maples climbed into a white Ford pickup driven by his wife, Jewell, according to a police report. No dye pack exploded, no police sirens screamed in pursuit as the couple’s truck slipped into the anonymity of heavy traffic on Interstate 71 just after 10 a.m. on Sept. 14

But the suspects never had a chance. A Global Positioning System tracking device had been tucked inside the stolen cash, according to the report, allowing a small army of local police officers and F.B.I. agents to follow the signal from on-ramps and overpasses as it moved south into downtown Cincinnati.

Police put up a roadblock, closing five lanes of traffic. As hundreds of vehicles stopped, police converged on the suspects’ truck, sitting just five cars behind the police line.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Ankara plays diplomatic 'hardball' with US

From Guardian Unlimited
Turkey today recalled its ambassador to Washington and warned that it would 'play hardball' to persuade Congress to abandon a bill recognising the historic persecution of Armenians.

The diplomatic rebuke to Washington came amid furious lobbying by Bush administration officials to try to pull back the bill.

The measure, which was endorsed by the house foreign affairs committee, yesterday in defiance of warnings from White House and Turkish officials, would recognise the 1915 massacres and forced deportations of Armenians as a genocide.
So what do you do? Turkey is a fairly good ally. It's also a moderate Muslim state. We want to encourage moderate Muslim states. But apparently there was a genocide, and Turkey is not willing to acknowledge it. Presumably one could distinguish between the Turkish government that was responsible for the genocide (assuming that a Turkish government, e.g., the Ottoman Empire, was responsible) and the current Turkish government. But Turkey is too sensitive to make that sort of distinction.

At bottom is the term we use for the event. Why does it matter to the Turks? Why does it matter to the Armenians? It's only a word used to describe an event in the past. Is there a dispute about what actually happened? Could this be settled by an honest-broker historical investigation that would produce a report on the event as history? Are there any present-day consequences for whether or not the term genocide is used?

This illustrates how important it is to distinguish between truth and consequences. The South African Truth and Reconciliation process was apparently very successful in that regard. Simply bringing out the truth reduces much of the pain suffered by the victims and the survivors. It can be done without also requiring that those responsible pay severe penalties. South Africa managed to do it internally. Can Armenia and Turkey do it internationally — especially since it is unlikely that any damages will ever be paid in any case.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Nanotube Adhesive Sticks Better Than a Gecko's Foot

From Rensselaer Research Review Summer 2007
[According to Pulickel Ajayan, the Henry Burlage Professor of Materials Science and Engineering at Rensselaer,] “Several people have tried to use carbon nanotube films and other fibrous structures as high-adhesive surfaces and to mimic gecko feet, but with limited success when it comes to realistic demonstrations of the stickiness and reversibility that one sees in gecko feet. … We have shown that the patchy structures from micropatterned nanotubes are essential for this unique engineering feat to work. The nanotubes also need to be the right kind, with the right dimensions and compliance.”

“Geckos inspired us to develop a synthetic gecko tape unlike any you’ll find in a hardware store,” Dhinojwala says. “Synthetic gecko tape uses ‘van der Waals interactions’ — the same interactions that hold liquids and solids together — to stick to a variety of surfaces without using sticky glues.”

The material could have a number of applications, including feet for wall-climbing robots; a dry, reversible adhesive in electronic devices; and outer space, where most adhesives don’t work because of the vacuum.

Rory Kennedy: "This Government Does Not Torture People"

From The Huffington Post
I am saddened and angered that America's standing as a global leader in human rights and a country with a deep and abiding respect for the rule of law continues to be undermined by the pro-torture policies of the Bush Administration. And many Americans agree: an essential part of winning the war on terrorism and protecting our country for the future is safeguarding the ideals and principles that Americans hold dear: that torture is not acceptable and the law must be respected.

Unfortunately, as our bedrock principles have eroded, I believe our legislators have been compliant, the media timid, and the courts mostly rudderless and conflicted. We are left - as so often in times of national crisis - to depend on individuals who have the courage to speak out.

In order to change the tide, it is essential that people get involved. For my part, I have initiated the Ghosts of Abu Ghraib Campaign . This is a national audience engagement and action initiative aimed at ending US torture policy. Working Films is directing the Campaign and we have partnered with Human Rights First, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Amnesty International, and the National Religious Campaign Against Torture.

The Campaign launches on October 17, 2007 - the one year anniversary of passage of the Military Commissions Act and little more than 12 months away from the next presidential election.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Sign California AB 1413

ACLU: FISA Flood of 2007:

The ACLU wants everyone to call Washington to urge that Congress not make permanent the cave-in on FISA that it passed last Summer.
By all indications, the House and Senate will cast critical votes within three weeks — deciding whether or not to make the vast new spying powers that they granted the Bush Administration in August permanent. We must not let that happen. Call Reid, Pelosi and your Member of Congress right now. Demand that Congress stand strong by standing up for the Constitution, instead of caving in to the Bush Administration. You can help right now by making three calls for the Constitution:

1. Call House Speaker Nancy Pelosi at (202) 225-4965

2. Call Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid at (202) 224-3542

3. Call your representative in the House (enter your zipcode here to look up their phone number).