Commentary: Pakistan bombshell by Arnaud de Borchgrave

The prestigious Council on Foreign Relations’ 25 experts-strong, 71-page task force report on the [Afghan] crisis, says, given “the complex political currents of Pakistan and its border regions … it is not clear U.S. interests warrant” the costly war, “nor is it clear that the effort will succeed…”

The same week CFR published its gloomy assessment of the Afghan war, one of Pakistan’s most influential journalists, the editor of a major newspaper, made the “off the record” — which now means go ahead and use it but keep my name out of it — rounds in Washington to deliver a stunning indictment of all the players.

Samples:

— All four wars between India and Pakistan (1947, 1965, 1971 and 1999) were provoked by Pakistan.

— There is no Indian threat to Pakistan, except for what is manufactured by Pakistan’s Inter-Service Intelligence agency…

— Pakistan has a big stake in Afghanistan. And America’s own exit strategy is entirely dependent on Pakistan. Our army has a chokehold on your supply lines through Pakistan. And Pakistan wants to be the U.S. proxy in Afghanistan. ISI wants to make sure Pakistan doesn’t become a liability in Afghanistan…

— There is no chance whatsoever for the United States and its NATO and other allies to prevail in Afghanistan. No big military successes are possible. All U.S. targets are unrealistic. You cannot prevail on the ground. ISI won’t abandon Taliban. And if Taliban doesn’t have a major stake in negotiations with the United States, these will be sabotaged by Pakistan…

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Decades of data show troposphere is warming

Not only is Earth’s surface warming, but the troposphere — the lowest level of the atmosphere, where weather occurs — is heating up too, U.S. and British meteorologists have reported.

In a review of four decades of data on troposphere temperatures, the scientists found that warming in this key atmospheric layer was occurring, just as many researchers expected it would as more greenhouse gases built up and trapped heat close to the Earth.

This study aims to put to rest a controversy that began 20 years ago, when a 1990 scientific report based on satellite observations raised questions about whether the troposphere was warming, even as Earth’s surface temperatures climbed.

The original discrepancy between what the climate models predicted and what satellites and weather balloons measured had to do with how the observations were made, according to Dian Seidel, research meteorologist for the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration…

The first satellite data on troposphere temperature was gathered in 1979, but neither weather balloons nor these early satellite weather observations were accurate measures of climate change, Seidel said.

“They’re weather balloons and weather satellites, they’re not climate balloons and climate satellites,” she said. “They’re not calibrated precisely enough to monitor small changes in climate that we expect to see…”

This latest paper reviewed 195 cited papers, climate model results and atmospheric data sets, and found no fundamental discrepancy between what was predicted and what is happening in the troposphere. It is warming, the study found…

Scientists at NOAA, the United Kingdom Met Office and the University of Reading contributed to the paper, published on Monday in Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews – Climate Change, a peer-reviewed journal.

The junk science crowd won’t read it – or comprehend it if they did. Governments mostly will ignore the information.

Forgive my cynicism; but, I have little confidence in most human beings responding to scientific analyses of human problems – when we barely get past ideology or superstition for issues affecting the whole species.

Network congestion boosting 3G femtocell giveaways

Technology that improves mobile phone reception indoors is starting to break into the mass market as operators struggling with network congestion have started to distribute these devices for free.

A femtocell is a small, low-power indoor base station for 3G mobile phone networks, enabling operators who struggle with network capacity to improve indoor coverage at a much lower cost than the alternative of adding more large mobile phone towers.

The emerging femtocell market has so far remained a small business partly due to the high costs of technology, but this year the wholesale price has dropped below $100, enabling operators to give them away for free.

Google-backed Ubiquisys — one of the top firms in the new market — told Reuters it expects millions of femtocells using its technology to be sold next year, compared with 2010 volumes in hundreds of thousands…

“There have been some launches since summer and a few operators have started giving them away free to customers, like AT&T in some cities,” he said…

In addition to Ubiquisys, major technology firms like Cisco , Samsung Electronics, Alcatel-Lucent and Huawei make femtocells.

The devices are plugged into a customer’s broadband Internet connection, like a wireless Internet base station, and allow users to make calls or use data services with their regular 3G mobile phones.

With near $100 smartphones starting to hit the stores, and use of video on phones starting to proliferate, most telecoms operators around the world are struggling with network capacity.

Fearful of losing customers, only a few have publicly admitted to the problem of keeping pace with data traffic, but 63 percent are experiencing difficulties, a global survey of 30 operators by telecoms software firm Amdocs showed last week.

I’m not holding my breath; but, I guess I will call T-Mobile to see if I can wangle something like this out of them.

We haven’t had a landline in years. Mostly we use Skype. But, our T-Mobile cheapo Samsung phones are what we carry for use away from a computer or iPad around Lot 4.

Just in case your cockles need warming…

There is a classic Italian “peasant” soup called ribollita (which, literally translated, means “re-boiled”) that you’ll often see on posh Italian restaurant menus these days. I’m not knocking it, as it remains one of my favourite soups for cold nights (not to mention a great way to use up stale bread), but with all the lashings of extra virgin, parmesan and pancetta, I can’t help questioning its working class commitment …

Serves 6

10 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
100g pancetta, diced (optional)
2 red onions, diced
2 carrots, diced
4 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
Bunch of flat-leaf parsley, chopped
1 tin of borlotti beans
1 tin of chopped tomatoes
500ml light chicken or veg stock
Half a small savoy cabbage, cored and roughly chopped
250g ciabatta, crusts off and torn into chunks (preferably a day old)
A fat nugget of parmesan, with rind

1 Heat half the oil in a large, wide pan. 2 Once hot (but not smoking) add the (optional) pancetta, followed a couple of minutes later by the onion, carrot, garlic and parsley. Give it a good stir. 3 Put a lid on it and cook slowly for 20-30 minutes, stirring regularly. 4 Tip half the beans in with the veggies and mash the other half with a potato masher before stirring them in too. 5 Pour in the tinned tomatoes and the stock, and chuck in any old rind of parmesan (it’s wise to keep these as they are a great source of flavour). 6 When the soup has come to the boil, stir in the roughly chopped cabbage leaves and turn down to the lowest heat. 7 Season well, stir in the chunks of bread and put the lid back on the pan. Don’t play with it too much as you want nice chunks of bread. 8 After 10 minutes, turn off the heat, pour in another healthy glug of olive oil and let it sit with the lid on for a good 5 minutes before serving with yet more oil and some grated parmesan.

OK. Jump over to here for many more recipes for soups and stews. The GUARDIAN does folks a service by reminding us how easy and substantial cold weather cooking can be.

As for the Ribolitta, easy as pie. Ignore the tiny whine from Allegra McEvedy. Beaucoup workingclass homes have extra virgin olive oil and parmesan in the pantry. I guess she’s never heard of FoodTV; but, every American has. Families with my Italian heritage would have some pancetta in the fridge – if not, bacon works just fine.

This time of year, though we might use chicken stock, I try to remember to ask for a couple of turkey necks on our Saturday morning trip to town for grocery shopping – and I make my own slow-simmered turkey stock.

Enjoy the recipes.

Clinical trials on the way for spinal cord injuries

StemCells Inc has filed for Swiss regulatory approval for the first clinical trial of its nerve stem cells in patients with spinal cord injuries as much as a year old, the company said…

“To date, the focus has been on the acute spinal cord injury phase,” StemCells CEO Martin McGlynn said in a telephone interview. “That’s an important area to address, but the largest unmet need is those who have passed that immediate acute phase of injury…”

StemCells Inc, based in Palo Alto, California, said the relevant ethics committees have approved the trial, which it plans to conduct in Switzerland due to the expertise of the investigator and the institution it selected as well as the strong network in Europe for spinal cord patients and referrals.

A study published earlier this year showed that mice treated with StemCells’ nerve stem cells — which are extracted from aborted fetuses — were able to walk better than those treated with ordinary human skin cells or a placebo, even when the treatment came weeks after their injury.

The cells are a form of stem cell, the master cells of the body. These are technically adult stem cells, taken from the partly developed brains of fetuses and tested for qualities showing they are destined to form particular types of nerve cells…

Patients in the StemCells trial will receive a single infusion of cells into the spinal cord. Results are expected within months of the treatment.

Politicians and the religious nutballs they fear the most will waste a certain amount of time standing in the way. The pols will step aside – because they know the average American wants this research to continue. The nutballs will be swept aside by history.

Gay couple use Skype to legally celebrate their marriage in Texas

You’ve heard of a long distance relationship but what about a long distance marriage? And by marriage, we mean the ceremony, not the subsequent relationship.

We all know how useful Skype can be for maintaining relationships that otherwise wouldn’t be possible. However, a couple in Texas took things to the next level by getting married over Skype. Though a Skype wedding is pretty remarkable in itself, there’s something else extraordinary about this marriage ceremony: It is the first legal same-sex wedding in Texas.

Mark Reed and Dante Walkup had been together ten years when they decided it was high time they tied the knot. Unfortunately, though they wanted nothing more than to get married in their native Texas, theirs is a state that does not legally allow same-sex couples to marry. However, Reed and Walkup were not to be deterred and the two came up with a way to have a legal wedding without flying family and friends to another state.

Jay Morris writes that the couple traveled to Washington D.C. back in May to receive their certificate of marriage. Fast forward five months and the two were married in Texas, with a D.C. official (accompanied by several witnesses) marrying them via Skype.

Bravo, Mark and Dante.

Take it one more step around the nutball reactionaries and the homophobic government of Texas.

Law school “mortified” by lingerie photo shoot in library

Officials at the prestigious Brooklyn Law School rented the school’s library to the fashion brand Diesel for an undisclosed fee, “expecting a tasteful photo shoot,” because apparently they’ve never seen a single Diesel ad, and didn’t bother to Google it.

Shocking: True to its brand, Diesel’s resulting ads aren’t even Dolce & Gabanna–style suggestive, they’re just quirky soft-core porn stills. In this case, the images are a whole bunch of campy, fairly cute library fantasies, featuring “students” wearing underwear reading “Tonight I am your teacher,” and mounting each other on bookshelves.

One would think a place like Brooklyn Law might welcome this sexy attention, but no! Some uptight students now claim the ads are “gross” and “embarrassing,” and the school might sue the brand. It’s not yet determined whether the ads will even run outside the Diesel website, since Brooklyn Law claims they’re a breach of contract.

Interim dean Michael Gerber wrote a schoolwide e-mail yesterday saying: “We are as shocked and mortified as you must be by these photographs,” which assumes a lot. “When the school gave its permission to do the shoot, [we were] assured that the photos would be in good taste. They are not.” Again, good taste is all relative. And this guy’s an attorney?

In any case, Diesel got its attention — and hopefully a lot of Brooklyn Law kids are laughing about this.

So, a law school where no one did any due diligence. Har!