Taliban photographs bring the war home to France

One Taliban fighter is clad in the bulletproof vest of a dead French soldier. Another proudly shows off a French walkie-talkie. Yet another wears a camouflaged French Army helmet.

A glossy six-page photo spread published in Paris Match and featuring a group of insurgents who say they killed 10 French soldiers in Afghanistan on Aug. 18 has reinforced uneasiness about France’s military presence there.

The spread reflected the Taliban’s media strategy of undercutting support for the war in Europe and raised concern about journalists’ giving insurgents a platform. Above all, it fed a broader debate about a war that is seen as increasingly protracted and deadly – and that is unpopular in several European NATO countries with troops on the ground in Afghanistan…

The 10 deaths were France’s worst military loss in 25 years. Since the ambush President Nicolas Sarkozy has repeatedly ruled out withdrawal of French troops…

But at home in France his words were drowned out by the emotional reaction of family members of the dead soldiers to the magazine report.

Chantal Buil, the mother of a dead soldier, wrote a letter to Sarkozy, pleading with him to withdraw from Afghanistan.

Stop following the example of President Bush,” the letter read, according to the magazine le Nouvel Observateur. “Let’s stay French. Let’s get our soldiers out of the quagmire.”

Is self-censorship still anything more or less than censorship? I believe that political decisions should be part of pretty much every aspect of life – given how connected this world and life have become.

India struggling to rescue flood victims

Indian troops and aid workers are struggling to reach hundreds of thousands of stranded people across flood-devastated northern India. Nearly half of the 1.2 million people displaced by the rising flood waters after the Kosi River burst in Nepal two weeks ago have been rescued said Prataya Amrit, a disaster official in the Indian state of Bihar.

The massive relief effort was the first to deploy all three branches of India’s military: the army, the navy and the air force, said Amrit.

Despite having more than 5,000 troops deployed across the state to rescue marooned communities and provide food and medical supplies, the rising flood waters left even more villagers stranded…

The relief was disjointed, and many areas saw displaced people camped out on whatever high ground they could find – embankments, railway tracks, bridges.

Aid workers from Unicef and the European Union tried to work out how best to provide help and distribute aid.

“We are going from place to place trying to assess the needs of the people, see what gaps there are and how we can fill them,” Malini Morzaria, from the European Commission’s Humanitarian Aid department, said.

At the end of the Cold War, the world discussed joint peaceful uses for our military. Neocon politics has taken all of that off the table. My homeland has assumed the imperial mantle still reeking of the British stain – that the sun was never supposed to escape.

I have no doubt that NGO’s from the United States and Canada are delivering aid as quickly as possible. Bush and Cheney – and McCain – are focused on getting a billion dollar$ to Georgia to buy more tanks.

Sony recalls 440,000 Vaio laptops – only caused “minor” burns

Sony Engineering review meeting

Sony is recalling 440,000 Vaio laptop computers worldwide because of wiring faults that could cause overheating. Sony said wires have been put in the wrong position near the hinge, while a flaw in the circuit board that controls the screen also may cause overheating…

Sony has received 209 reports of overheating worldwide, including seven incidents where people received minor burns, Associated Press reported.

This ain’t just bad batteries, folks. Someone screwed up the assembly design.

This is not what should reach the marketplace as everyday production from one of the leading consumer electronics firms on the planet.

Tony Blair’s bodyguard forgets loaded gun in Starbucks crapper

An investigation has been launched after a police firearms specialist left a loaded gun in a Starbucks cafe in central London. The officer, who has reportedly provided personal protection for the former prime minister Tony Blair, left the pistol in the toilets after she visited the coffee shop last week. The gun was found by a member of the public…

The majority of British officers do not carry guns, aside from specialist officers whose duties include guarding dignitaries or responding to armed incidents.

She had left the semi-automatic Glock 17 gun in the toilet of the cafe after taking off her belt. She later bought a coffee, not realising she had left the weapon behind. Reports this morning suggested it was left on the floor of the cafe’s toilets for 20 minutes.

An investigation is being carried out by Scotland Yard’s directorate of professional standards. It is understood the officer has been relieved of her duties while the investigation is under way.

No kidding? Now, I’m relieved.

German power company leads with “clean coal” pilot station

Beneath the gargantuan grey boiler towers of Schwarze Pumpe power station which pierce the skies of northern Germany, a Lilliputian puzzle of metal boxes and shining canisters is about to mark a moment of industrial history. This mini power plant is a pilot project for carbon capture and storage (CCS) – the first coal-fired plant in the world ready to capture and store its own CO2 emissions. Next week the pilot – an oxyfuel boiler – will be formally commissioned.

A cloud of pure oxygen will be breathed into the boiler. The flame will be lit. Then a cloud of powdered lignite will be injected. The outcome will be heat, water vapour, impurities, nine tonnes of CO2 an hour, and a landmark in clean technology.

The CO2 will then be separated, squashed to one 500th of its original volume and squeezed into a cylinder ready to be transported to a gas field and forced 1,000m below the surface into porous rock where it should stay until long after mankind has stopped worrying about climate change.

The plant operators, Vattenfall, have worked furiously for two years to get the pilot running. They funded the 70m-euro project themselves because they wanted to lead a technology they believe solves the conundrum of providing energy security through plentiful coal supplies whilst avoiding the CO2 emissions blamed for climate change…

A little bit of time-wasting in the article, interviewing people with political views on the project and no interest in the science and economics.

We’ll know in a year or so whether progress towards a demonstration plant is justified – followed by realistic numbers on costs vs. benefits.

H-P goes green with laptop-in-a-bag

HP says it has found a way to reduce notebook packaging materials by 97 percent, and cut transportation costs by 31 percent. The computer giant has won Walmart’s “green” Home Entertainment Design Challenge, by packaging a Pavillion dv6929 in a messenger bag capable of doubling as a shipping container. As a result, less styrofoam and cardboard are consumed, and a bulk shipment can occupy less space in ships and trucks, in theory resulting in less fuel expenses.

While its messenger-bag pilot program will not save money initially because of development costs, benefits could be substantial in widespread use. This will not carry over to shoppers however, who will be expected to pay a “negligible” increased price.

The bag is described as tan and canvas-like, with an “aqua” theme featuring a blue and green design on the front. The case is made from 100 percent recycled material.

Using their creative staff for something more than campaigns for gaming laptops, eh?

I wonder how and why they missed the back-to-school market?

Baritone bucks are lucky in love

This new finding might do Barry White proud — deeper voices can help male deer get it on.

Scientists investigated male fallow deer, which regularly groan 60 mating calls per minute during breeding season to attract females — although they can groan up to 90 times per minute right after sex.

“They must be the most vocal deer species in the world,” said researcher Alan McElligott, a behavioral ecologist now at the University of Nottingham in England.

After tracking a herd of the deer from dawn until dusk for a month in Ireland, sometimes in heavy rain, the researchers discovered the males with the deepest groans were typically luckiest at love. These bucks were not just the best lovers — they also were the best fighters in contests for dominance among the males (though they were not the always biggest in terms of body size)…

The link between how dominant these bucks are and how deep their groans are might be hormones such as testosterone, suggested researcher Elisabetta Vannoni, a behavioral ecologist at the University of Zurich in Switzerland.

I just think the horniest males – also were the noisiest. Bragging about it.

Kashmir’s “children of conflict” rise up in anger

They eschew violence, but are seething with anger. They are Indian Kashmir’s new generation of radicalized separatists who are proving a huge challenge to New Delhi by spurring the biggest demonstrations against India in two decades.

“The older generation is tired.” said Zaffar, a 23 year-old student in Srinagar, Kashmir’s summer capital, in a street under curfew where dozens of heavily armed police patrolled. “Our generation has understood what the problem is…”

Protests by hundreds of thousands of Kashmiris in the last month highlight how a younger generation who know little but war are taking the lead and radicalizing a separatist movement that had tentatively talked peace with New Delhi…
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Russia sets conditions for withdrawal of remaining troops from Georgia

Russia will withdraw its troops from the “buffer zone” it has created in Georgia when they are replaced by international peacekeepers and once the Georgian government has signed non-aggression pacts with the breakaway regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, said Moscow’s ambassador to London, Yuri Fedotov…

I think the European Union is knocking at an open door,” Fedotov said. “If the EU proposes a very clear plan on how to prevent a potential confrontation and further shelling in the territory of South Ossetia … then its not difficult to deploy 200 or 400 people in the zones and to allow Russia to withdraw its personnel. It depends on political will…”

As a further condition for withdrawal, he said the situation on the ground would have to “stabilise” and non-aggression agreements would have to be drawn up between Tbilisi and the two breakaway regions…

Russian leaders have blamed Saakashvili for starting the conflict. The Georgian president claims he only sent his troops into South Ossetia in an abortive attempt to pre-empt a long-planned Russian invasion aimed at occupying Georgia and removing him from office.

Either Saakashvili is a complete idiot – trying out a so-called pre-emptive strike against Russia – or the more likely scenario already offered of the Georgian functioning as a catspaw for Bush and Cheney to strike an October surprise for McCain the the U.S. election.

Since Cheney is over there, right now, bringing a billion dollar payoff – which looks more likely?