Scots troops in record ice cap crossing

Fridtjof Nansen’s original expedition

A team of Scottish soldiers has completed a treacherous crossing of the Greenland ice cap in record time.

The group of regular recruits and members of the Territorial Army followed a route first conquered 120 years ago and rarely attempted since. When famed Arctic explorer Fridtjof Nansen led his team across in 1888 it took roughly 43 days. The Scottish team completed the 450 mile trip in 27 days.

Their aim had been to do it in 30-35.

They were the first in 20 years to complete the crossing.

The crossing truly is “one of the great crossings” and kudos to the brave and capable men who accomplished this feat.

My kind of soldiers.

Pathways to Terror

Scientists believe they have a clearer idea of what makes a terrorist after interviewing a group of Islamic extremists in Pakistan. The project constructed psychological “profiles” to describe how Jihadists were led into their violence…

The picture that emerges is of largely intelligent people finding direction in the networks of associates they keep.

Professor Canter’s group conducted a series of interviews with 49 terrorists – people convicted of bombing and killings. The work was done outside of the UK because of the refusal of the British authorities to facilitate the research at home.

The team used an interview technique known as the “repertory grid” – a method that allows an individual to express their understanding of themselves and the world around them by indicating who is important in their lives.

“The work on pathways into terrorism indicates that it comes out of a social process; it comes out of a series of contacts that terrorists have with other individuals,” Professor Canter told BBC News.

“These may be friends and associates; they may be members of their family. But more typically, they will be some sort of person they look up to, who may be a senior individual within a terrorist organisation, or maybe a teacher that they feel provides them with some feelings of self-worth and significance if they will take part in violent activity.”

Truly interesting ideas and analyses – no less because I’ve spent a significant portion of my life with fighters for national liberation, dedicated anti-colonial freedom fighters, just as likely to be called “terrorists” by Establishment fearmongers.

I don’t think Professor Canter identifies a clear difference between armed resistance and terrorism. The classic definition – acceptable to military theoreticians unencumbered by ideology is resolved by who is the target: military, police, those who function directly on the battle line on behalf of occupying and colonial bodies vs. indiscriminately attacking a civilian population.

But, the article – and I will get round to reading the complete research paper – seems to mirror exactly my personal, admittedly-subjective experiences.

We’re the Government. We’d Rather Pay for It

Retired Glenwood Springs car dealer John Haines’ hope of donating a giant chunk of snow -white marble to the federal government to replace the cracked Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery is stalled again.

Haines’ hoped-for donation, which has sat outside the Yule Quarry near Marble since it was cut for the tomb in 2003, didn’t even rate a mention in a 34-page Department of the Army report to Congress this week on replacement and repair options for the deteriorating tomb.

Haines’ marble isn’t just any marble. It was cut from the same Yule Quarry where the original gold-veined marble for the Tomb of the Unknowns was mined nearly 80 years ago. The marble on the outside of the Lincoln Memorial also came from that quarry. The tomb replacement piece was cut after a nearly five-year search for an unflawed piece that would look like the original.

“It’s not doable. A citizen can’t just give us any piece of marble and say, ‘This is what we’ll use to replace the tomb,’ ” said Thurman Higginbotham, deputy superintendent of Arlington.

There are idiots – and then there are idiots who work for the government.

Opec cuts output to keep oil above $100 a barrel

Oil prices rebounded after Opec announced a surprise cut in production in an attempt to halt the recent decline in the cost of a barrel of crude.

BTW, if you have the habit of reading reliable sources around the world [including this blog, of course ūüôā ], you expected this. Essentially, the discussion revolved around establishing $100 a barrel as the floor price.

Brent Crude, which yesterday slipped as low as $99.34, rebounded to $100.63 a barrel after Opec claimed it was reining in production because the world is now oversupplied with oil.

The unexpected cut in production was announced early this morning after Opec members met in Vienna. The cartel said that its members would abandon production increases that were announced this summer – when the oil price had soared to nearly $150 a barrel – and would stick to their previous quota limits

Most of the 520,000 a day cut will have to come from Saudi Arabia, which announced a production increase in July when political pressure from the West was at its height.

George W’s buddies, eh?

No joke! Al Franken wins Dem primary – UPDATED

Republican U.S. Sen. Norm Coleman, Democratic Senate candidate Al Franken and Independence Party Senate candidate Dean Barkley will be vying for your votes in November Рin Minnesota…

Hours after polls closed, Coleman had received better than 90 percent of the Republican vote and Franken had garnered just under 70 percent of the vote in the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party primary.

Former Minnesota planning commissioner Dean Barkley, whom Gov. Jesse Ventura had appointed to serve out the term of late Sen. Paul Wellstone in 2002, bested the other Independence Party candidates in his party’s primary with about 60 percent of the vote.

The already low expected primary turnout will likely be rock bottom in the Independence Party when all votes are tallied. With about half of precincts reporting, there were about 7,000 votes in the Independence Party’s primary compared to about 80,000 in the Republican primary about almost 160,000 in the Democratic primary.

Tee hee.

UPDATE: And many months later, the Minnesota Supreme Court finally agrees that Al Franken is the Senator from Minnesota.

Google backs satellite project to provide Net access for 3 billion

Google has thrown its weight behind ambitious plans to bring internet access to 3 billion people in Africa and other emerging markets by launching at least 16 satellites to bring its services to the unconnected half of the globe.

The search engine has joined forces with John Malone, the cable television magnate, and HSBC to set up O3b Networks, named after the “other 3bn” people for whom fast fibre internet access networks are not likely to be commercially viable.

They will announce an order for 16 low-earth orbit satellites from Thales Alenia Space, the French aerospace group, as the first stage in a $750 million project to connect mobile masts in a swath of countries within five degrees of the equator to fast broadband networks.

Greg Wyler, the technology entrepreneur who founded O3b Networks, said its satellites would be operational by the end of 2010. Wireless spectrum required for the service had been secured through the International Telecommunication Union.

I know Malone has been interested in projects like this for a long time. Google’s addition is no surprise either. Interesting to see HSBC’s participation.

The pervasiveness of cable and telephone access masked the size of the rural market unserved for long periods in the United States. Yet, that need offered the opportunity for DirecTV and DISH as startups as television providers.

The same sort of absence of infrastructure – on a much larger scale – is true in the 3rd World and developing nations. Internet access via satellite might be more cost effective than cellular access. There certainly ain’t anyone there rolling out copper or fibre.

San Antonio will be first U.S. city with poop-powered electricity

San Antonio has unveiled a deal that will make it the first U.S. city to harvest methane gas from human waste on a commercial scale and turn it into clean-burning fuel.

San Antonio residents produce about 140,000 tons a year of a substance gently referred to as “biosolids,” which can be reprocessed into natural gas, said Steve Clouse, COO of the city’s water system. “You may call it something else,” Clouse said, but for area utilities, the main byproduct of human waste – methane gas – will soon be converted into natural gas to burn in their power plants.

The city approved a deal where Massachusetts-based Ameresco Inc will convert the city’s biosolids into natural gas, which could generate about 1.5 million cubic feet per day, he said…

Following the agreement, more than 90 percent of materials flushed down the toilets and sinks of San Antonio will be recycled, he said. Liquid is now used for irrigation, many of the solids are made into compost, and now the methane gas will be recycled for power generation.

There’s a great deal of these semi-United States that haven’t yet figured out how to turn any aspect of recycling into productive use. I don’t know what it is about Texas – between T. Boone Pickens, Austin and rainwater capture and San Antonio reprocessing human poop – you’d think there were more than a few people over there with brains.

Outside of the governor’s mansion and the state legislature, that is.

Chinese uranium smugglers spared jail

Three Chinese men have been spared jail after they smuggled a ball of depleted uranium into the country, ignorant the 274-kg shiny lump was a health threat, local media reported. The three scrap merchants bought the ball of low-radiation uranium metal in Kyrgyzstan last year, haggling a dealer down to a price of $2,000.

They smuggled it into China, evading customs checks but apparently ignorant the interesting metal could be dangerous. One of them hid it in his father-in-law’s home in Xinjiang.

“They were surprised that at night when the lights went out the treasure sparkled and glittered, and Wang chipped a piece from it and kept it beside his bed, sometimes playing with it,” the report said of one of the men…

Determined to make a dollar from their find, the men decided to have the ball priced by an expert and Wang took a piece thousands of kilometers to Beijing. “To prevent the sample being lost or stolen on the way, Wang used tape to stick the unidentified treasure to his body, and it never left him day and night,” the report said.

After an expert identified the substance as degraded uranium, the men were arrested on suspicion of smuggling. A prosecutor decided not to charge the men, accepting their argument that they did not know what they had smuggled.

The report said they haven’t come down ill – yet. I imagine it’s likely they will.

I’d love to see the trail back to where the DU originated?