Pakistan troops make steady gains in South Waziristan

Refugees arrive at a checkpoint at Bannu, at the edge of Waziristan
Daylife/AP Photo used by permission

Security forces claim…to have made steady gains in their assaults on militants’ strongholds in South Waziristan and army officials said they were surprised by low level of resistance.

‘The area has been heavily mined. There are a lot of improvised explosive devices and mines. But the level of resistance from the militants is not very high,’ one of them said…

They are now poised to enter the strategic Kotkai valley. Troops are also believed to have launched attacks from the north to enter Makin.

Meanwhile, an anti-Baitullah militant group has offered support for security forces against the TTP. ‘We are with the security forces and, if called, we would fight alongside them against Baitullah’s men,’ a spokesman for the Misbahuddin group said…

More than 100,000 people have fled South Waziristan where the government has launched a major ground assault against the Taliban, officials said on Sunday…’Some 80,000 people had already left Waziristan before the operation. More people are coming out. In the last two days about 1,500 families or you can say some 22,000 people have left the area,’ he added…

A spokeswoman for the UN refugee agency in Pakistan confirmed that authorities had registered more than 100,000 displaced people.

It appears that the long-awaited offensive against the Pakistan Taliban has begun.

Will the Taiban melt back into the hills, join the Pashtun shuttle forth-and-back between Pakistan and Afghanistan? Standing and fighting may seem heroic; but, it is not the most sensible option.

Web giants join support for users, net neutrality

Daylife/Getty Images used by permission

Internet heavyweights are weighing in on the net neutrality debate, sending a letter to Federal Communications Commission Chairman Julius Genachowski this morning supporting his push for new rules.

The CEOs of Amazon, Google, Facebook and Twitter, along with some telecommunications and media firms such as EchoStar and XO Communications, sent their letter after a barrage of letters from bipartisan lawmakers criticized a new rule. A vote this Thursday would begin the process of creating new rules on how Internet service providers control access to the Web. Critics have warned Genachowski’s push for stronger and broader rules for access to the Web would hurt investment in networks run by AT&T, Comcast, Verizon and other firms that run Internet networks.

The tech companies, many from Silicon Valley, disagreed. They wrote that Genachowki’s push for rules that would prevent carriers from blocking applications like theirs would help spur more technological innovation and support economic growth.

“We believe a process that results in common sense baseline rules is critical to ensuring that the Internet remains a key engine of economic growth, innovation, and global competitiveness,” the CEOs wrote in the letter.

RTFA. There’s not much content – except that it’s an opportunity to see who really is on your side.

That presumes “you” is a user of the Web for personal uses – maybe even a lot of business use like telecommuting. The obvious split is becoming clear between those who fear communications expanding outside of their profit arena versus ordinary citizens of Earth who enjoy the expanding capabilities.

The other division is between mostly Republicans who come down on the side of profitable restrictions and mostly Democrats coming down on the side of free access. A case where corporate lobbyists obviously demand support from their traditional flunkies.

Which retailer is first on the street with Windows 7?

At shops in the bustling Xinyang market in Shanghai, fake Apple iPhones and Bose speakers were displayed alongside bootleg copies of Microsoft’s Windows 7 operating system, a week before it officially was to go on sale.

Which version do you want? Ultimate? Normal? English or Chinese?” one shopkeeper asked, proudly pointing out her ample supply of discs packed in unmarked white boxes.

People in mainland China have been able to buy pirated copies of the newest version of Microsoft’s Windows franchise this month for just 20 yuan, or $2.93, each — a fraction of list prices, which are as high as $320…

“The big issue that is driving piracy in China today is price,” said Matthew Cheung, an analyst at the research firm Gartner. “If you’re trying to sell a program that costs 2,000 yuan to a student living on 400 yuan a month, that’s simply not going to work out for most consumers…”

Violation of intellectual property rights has been a sore spot in China’s relations with its major trading partners, even as it has cracked down on rampant piracy of everything from Gucci bags to software.

Comparative incomes, cost of living, always make a difference. I grew up in a neighborhood with folks poor enough to steal shoes for the winter. And that wasn’t out of the ordinary.

Times change.

Conservationist hunters and anglers lobby for climate bill

An unlikely lobbying group is pressing the U.S. Senate to curb greenhouse gas emissions: American hunting and fishing groups who fear climate change will disrupt their sport.

Hunters and anglers are mainly a Republican Party constituency representing tens of millions of votes in the U.S. heartland and could help swing crucial votes as the Senate tries to pass legislation to cut carbon output.

Twenty national hunting and fishing groups urged senators in a letter last month to ensure “the climate legislation you consider in the Senate both reduces greenhouse gas emissions and safeguards natural resources…”

These groups will be going up against powerful Washington lobbies — the coal and oil industries, for example — that are pushing hard to soften any mandatory pollution controls…

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Vegetarian spider lives off plant protein

A spider that dines almost exclusively on plants has been described by scientists. It is the first-known predominantly vegetarian spider; all of the other known 40,000 spider species are thought to be mainly carnivorous.

Bagheera kiplingi, which is found in Central America and Mexico, bucks the meat-eating trend by feasting on acacia plants…

The jumping arachnid, which is 5-6mm long, has developed a taste for the tips of the acacia plants – known as Beltian bodies – which are packed full of protein…

The ants and acacia trees have co-evolved to form a mutually beneficial relationship: the aggressive ants protect the trees from predators, swarming to attack any invaders; and in return for acting as bodyguards, the ants get to gorge on the acacias’ Beltian bodies themselves…

One of the study’s authors, Professor Robert Curry, from Villanova University, Pennsylvania, told BBC News: “The spiders basically dodge the ants.

“The spiders live on the plants – but way out on the tips of the old leaves, where the ants don’t spend a lot of time, because there isn’t any food on those leaves.”

But when they get hungry, the spiders head to the newer leaves, and get ready to run the ant gauntlet.

Professor Curry said: “And they wait for an opening – they watch the ants move around, and they watch to see that there are not any ants in the local area that they are going after.

“And then they zip in and grab one of these Beltian bodies and then clip it off, hold it in their mouths and run away. And then they retreat to one of the undefended parts of the plant to eat it.”

Whoda thunk it?