Japanese major arrested while shopping naked – for women’s underwear

These are the sort of jets he pilots

A male Japanese air force major caught naked while shopping for women’s underwear has been suspended from his duties for 10 days.

The man, on his way home from a late-night farewell party for a colleague in early September, stripped off his clothes behind a convenience store before going in and buying panties and pantyhose.

He had just his wallet and his shoes on him,” said the spokeswoman from the Matsushima air base in Miyagi, northern Japan.

“He thought it would be funny if he went into the store stark naked, that it would surprise people.”

It would surprise me.

Maybe it wouldn’t surprise me if I ran a shop next to an RAF base. But, in Japan – sheesh!

U.S. military shoot, then rescue Afghan soldier

Abdul Matin was resting under a tree with seven fellow Afghan soldiers this week when three U.S. helicopters opened fire. Matin was shot in the abdomen, one arm and both legs. He is lucky to be alive. Four other soldiers were also wounded.

Scores of Afghan civilians have been killed in air strikes by international troops in Afghanistan this year, Afghan officials say, feeding a perception that NATO-led and U.S. coalition forces do not take enough care when using air strikes.

Though it is rare for foreign troops to hit their Afghan army allies, the latest incident is the second reported case of friendly fire in less than two weeks. Foreign troops killed nine Afghan soldiers in an air strike in the southeast last month…

In a twist of fate, Matin was evacuated by a U.S. helicopter to a state-of-the-art trauma hospital in Bagram, the main U.S. base in the country, where he is recovering after surgery. Matin speaks slowly and grimaces as he retells his story. “I’m in severe pain,” he says. He does not understand why he was attacked, but insists he is not angry at those who shot him.

“I wanted to fight the Taliban, but in fact, I was shot by my helpers. I don’t know who is my enemy, the Taliban or those who shot at me,” he says.

The usual excuses for friendly fire incidents should not prevail. The helicopters did not come under fire and, so far, no one has claimed they were receiving fire.

There could be and should be adequate means in place to determine whether or not those folks sitting under a tree on the ground are a target of opportunity. How about it?

Landmark decision in Malaysia – court frees jailed blogger

In what lawyers described as a landmark decision, a court in Malaysia on Friday freed one of the country’s best known bloggers, ruling that the government was wrong in detaining him under a draconian internal security law.

Raja Petra Kamarudin, who was arrested in September and detained without trial, was released by the police hours after the court’s decision.

Raja Petra said by telephone that the ruling shows that “maybe there’s less interference than before” in the judiciary.

Opposition politicians have long complained that Malaysia’s mildly authoritarian government uses the Internal Security Act as a tool against its critics. The law allows for indefinite detention without trial.

Other people detained under the act have been freed by courts in the past, often on technicalities. But the judge in this case, Syed Ahmad Helmy Syed Ahmad, challenged the government’s argument that the Internal Security Act was not subject to judicial review.

Tommy Thomas, a prominent Malaysian human rights lawyer, estimates that more than 20,000 people have been detained under the act “for diverse reasons which have nothing to do with communist subversion.”

Some of the best people in the history of the world have deliberate subverted the course of their nation’s governments. That scares the hell out of those stalwarts of elitism who always are convinced they are the only fountainhead of brilliant design and leadership. Ttheir concept of discussion and democracy is filled with the fear that some outstanding wordsmith will crush their power.

It’s true that citizens of any nation may fumble around, gullible and ignorant for a spell; but, sooner or later, the will of people gathers itself along the course of history and dams of brush – and bullshit – are swept aside.

Green future for scrap iron in reducing pollution

Wei-xian Zhang, a professor of civil and environmental engineering, recently concluded a five-year research project in which he and his colleagues at Tongji University in Shanghai used two million pounds of iron to detoxify pollutants in industrial wastewater.

The project, carried out in Shanghai, was the largest in history to use iron in an environmental application. The iron, called zero valent iron (ZVI) because it is not oxidized, was obtained in the form of shavings or turnings from local metal-processing shops for less than 15 cents a pound…

The ZVI project began with small, “benchtop” experiments in the laboratory that used a total of 90 pounds of iron to treat toxins in solution. It graduated in 2005-06 to a pilot test using 2,000 pounds of iron to pretreat wastewater at a treatment plant in the Taopu Industrial District in Shanghai. Wastewater at the Taopu plant, which is generated by small chemical, materials and pharmaceutical companies, had previously been treated with microorganisms alone. ZVI augmented and improved this remediation method.

Following the pilot test, the Shanghai city government approved a grant to construct a full-scale treatment reactor in the Taopu district capable of processing almost 16 million gallons a day of wastewater. This ZVI reactor was connected to the biological treatment plant two years ago and has been in continuous use since. The system was recently certified by Shanghai’s Municipal Environmental Protection Bureau.

Read the article for an idea of the chemistry involved. Personally, I’m emailing a copy of this post to the head of the wastewater treatment plant upstream from the river bosque where we live. Every little bit helps.

A Blue holiday shopping season for Blue products

I wonder if it comes with a Bluetooth remote?

So what’s the least desired electronic gadget this holiday season?

Well, flat-screen TVs and mobile phones are still in, but cash-strapped shoppers are likely to shun anything closely linked to entertainment in the home or car because such electronics are seen as dispensable in an economic crisis.

That includes audio speakers and desktop computers and even GPS navigation systems. A popular item as recently as last year, GPS may fall by the wayside, since they can be pricey and not viewed as essential…

A recent national survey says the dubious distinction of least desirable holiday gift belongs to Bluetooth Headsets, those thumb-sized devices beloved by some for their convenience and ridiculed by others as odd looking.

And an online survey conducted last month on behalf of auction site eBay Inc also found that only 5 percent of those who wanted personal electronics desired a Blu-ray disc player.

Those last-two-named devices fit precisely into the personal category of electronic goodies no one in my family should think of getting for Eideard.

Full steam ahead on geothermal Utah

Raser Technologies Inc. marked the completion of a 10-megawatt geothermal power plant with a ribbon-cutting ceremony at the Beaver County facility located in Thermo. It is the first commercial-scale facility to utilize a new technology that allows the plant to generate electricity using geothermal heated water that is at a much lower temperature than was previously possible, said John Fox, general manager of UTC Power Corp.

The Thermo plant will generate enough electricity to power about 7,000 homes, he said.

UTC developed the technology that would work in conjunction with Raser’s modular power-plant design, he said. He added that the process used to generate power produces no emissions and can provide uninterrupted baseload power in the same fashion as coal or nuclear plants…He said the “closed-loop system” prohibits liquids and gases generated through the power production process from escaping into the environment. It also allows for the recycled use of those byproducts later on.

He said the site in Thermo is using an underground lake that is about the size of Utah Lake, with water at a temperature of approximately 300 degrees. Electricity is generated by 50 modular PureCycle power generation units, whose capacity can be expanded in the future.

Craig Higginson [from Raser] estimated that the Thermo site may contain enough geothermal resources to power a third of the homes in Utah with zero emissions when fully developed. He added that his company is in talks with several utilities, including Rocky Mountain Power, about possible geothermal plant development.

Great to see natural resources sensibly utilized. No earth-shaking technology breakthrough was required. Just sensible off-the-shelf components.

I’m especially impressed by Raser’s modular conception. Too often, folks in the utility business seem to design projects from the top-down. This system allows for easy scale.

Blue State Digital comes to the U.K.

The internet is widely accepted to have played a huge part in the election of Barack Obama. Now one of Obama’s web team is setting up business in the UK. Could the same thing happen in the UK?

If you did not look at Barack Obama’s website in the run-up to the US election, you might like to do so now before the excitement dies down. Not only will it tell you much about the man who is going to be president, it will also tell you much about how he did it.

It also happened because of the internet, according to Thomas Gensemer.

He is the founder of Blue State Digital, the strategy and software company which spearheaded Obama’s online strategy – and he says the knocking on doors, donations and talking to family and friends were all underpinned by the web.

Labour…is developing its web strategy, through a digital company called Tangent.

Its executive director Greg Jackson says there are big differences between the US and Britain – not least, that Americans know exactly when their elections will be held and can plan two years ahead.

He says online campaigning needs that long-term planning.

The article tells us a bit about Thomas Gensemer and his operation and what it brought to the Obama campaign. He’s in England offering to sell the same services.

Obama website – www.change.gov – goes online

Only time will tell whether President-Elect Barack Obama will be able to deliver on his promise to bring change to government, but the Illinois senator has already brought it to the dot-gov domain. Obama’s transition Web site, Change.gov, went live, soliciting suggestions from citizens and providing a guide to the people and procedures behind the transfer of executive power.

In many ways, the site—fairly clearly still a work in progress—resembles that of any other government agency, with biographies of the transition team, backgrounders on the incoming president’s policy priorities, and links to information about the cabinet offices to be filled when the Obamas move into the White House on January 20. But the speed with which the site was launched may nevertheless be an attempt to signal that Obama is serious about his pledge to bring greater transparency to government, and to put more data online more rapidly for public comment. A Change.gov blog, for instance, promises regular updates on the transition process.

Perhaps most surprisingly, there’s a jobs page where visitors can submit applications for non-career positions in the new administration—including, apparently, some that “require Senate confirmation.”

As a long-term geek with political inclinations steep enough that most PR rolls right off my back, I still find this story interesting. Because – in practice – like one or two of the activist organizations that are grounded in the Web, Obama’s history shows some respect and recognizes value in webcentric communities. Suggestions, volunteers, applicants may just get more potential attention than from more traditional means.

So, how many here will be applying for a job?

Mumbai – City of paradise – City of hell

This city, before it was a city, was a scattered seven islands in the choppy waters off the Indian mainland. Over the years, it was reclaimed from the sea, the seven masses joining, and claimed by the teeming country at its back. Dangling off the coast, it became India’s stock-trading and film-making capital and served as its window to the world.

But if the reclaiming was complete, the claiming never was. The city was tethered to the subcontinent by a land bridge in the northern suburbs, 32 kilometers, or 20 miles, from the upper-crust stronghold of South Mumbai, where mainland India felt remote. The rich were in India but not of it. News arrived of distant floods and famines, malfeasance and malnutrition, and they told themselves that theirs was a world apart.

Arriving from overseas, one encounters first this extroverted city. But in the layers below, a strange truth is buried. If the elite live in virtual exile, seeing Mumbai as a port of departure, the city teems with millions of migrants who see it in exactly the opposite way: as a mesmeric port of arrival, offering what is missing on the mainland, a chance to invent oneself, to break with one’s supposed fate.

The lens of Dickens or Horatio Alger offers an easy picture of Mumbai: wealthy and poor, apartment-dwelling and slum-dwelling, bulbous and malnourished. In office elevators, the bankers and lawyers are a foot taller, on average, than the less-fed delivery men.

Brilliant skyscrapers sprout beside mosquito-infested shantytowns. This is at once a city of paradise and of hell.

Anand Giridharadas thinks the paradox of heaven and hell in Mumbai is unique. I think it’s part of what Dicken always wrote about. As did Mark Twain for that matter.

The poorest of the poor realize a much greater leap from abject poverty to just being at the bottom rung of the urban stepladder. The difference is harder for the haves to perceive.

Still a terrific article.