Cell phones tie Afghan embassy attackers to Pakistan ISI

Taking fingerprints of one of the dead attackers
Daylife/AP Photo used by permission

The top U.S. military officer accused Pakistani intelligence on Thursday of backing violence against U.S. targets including the American Embassy in Afghanistan…

Admiral Mike Mullen said Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence agency (ISI) played a role in the September 13 attack on the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, supporting militants known as the Haqqani network. That network, he said, is a “veritable arm” of the ISI.

The embassy attack was the latest in a series of violent episodes that were a blow to U.S. efforts to bring the Afghan war to a peaceful close.

Pakistan’s interior minister rejected the U.S. accusations of Islamabad’s links to the Haqqanis, one of the most feared insurgent groups operating in Afghanistan. The minister, Rehman Malik, also warned against a unilateral U.S. ground attack on the Haqqanis, who are based in Pakistan’s ungoverned tribal territories…

A complete break between the United States and Pakistan — sometimes friends, often adversaries — seems unlikely, if only because the United States depends on Pakistan as a route to supply U.S. troops in Afghanistan, and as a base for unmanned U.S. drones…

But support in the U.S. Congress for curbing assistance or making conditions on aid more stringent is rising rapidly. And Mullen, CIA Director David Petraeus and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton have all met their Pakistani counterparts in recent days to demand Islamabad rein in militants.

Bruce Riedel, a former top CIA analyst with close ties to the Obama White House, which he once advised, told Reuters administration officials have told him that militants who attacked the U.S. Embassy and NATO headquarters in Kabul on September 13 phoned individuals connected with the ISI before and during the attack.

Following the attacks, Riedel said, U.S. security forces collected cell phones the attackers had used. These are expected to provide further evidence linking militants to ISI.

RTFA for beaucoup details.

The old saw still cuts wood: With friends like this…who needs enemies? And I have to wonder what is required for Pakistan to get serious about joining the community of nations.

Yes, I know all the history and have my own opinion about how things got this way. But, between no legal structure encompassing tribal bandits and apparently little or no inclination to divest backwards elements inside portions of the military and ISI, Pakistan will remain a well-armed and therefore more dangerous variation on the gangster turf which lies between Afghanistan and India. That adds nothing to the future of the people of Pakistan.

Man wins dumpling eating contest — then dies

A 77-year-old Ukrainian man won a jar full of sour cream for coming first in a dumpling eating contest and then promptly died, local media reported on Wednesday.

Ivan Mendel ate 10 dumplings in half a minute to win first place and a one-liter jar of sour cream in the contest held in the town of Tokmak in the southeastern Zaporizhya region on September 18, Fakty I Kommentarii newspaper said.

Shortly afterwards, Mendel became unwell and died, according to local news websites.

Dumplings, called “vareniki” in the former Soviet republic, are a staple of Ukrainian cuisine and are often stuffed with a range of fillings from mushrooms to cherries.


They didn’t say what the stuffing was for the contest? I prefer potato.

Light bulb saga illuminates Republican abandonment of principle

“Oh, look – a picture of my God”
Daylife/Getty Images used by permission

How many Republicans does it take to screw in an energy-efficient light bulb? The answer to that riddle tells us much about the state of the Republican Party in 2011.

The light bulb ban has become a rallying cry on the right. Rush Limbaugh called it an alarming advance of “statism.” Minnesota Representative and Republican presidential candidate Michele Bachmann promised that “President Bachmann will allow you to buy any light bulb you want in the United States of America.”

The fact that there is no light bulb ban should in no way spoil the fun, of course…

The law passed the House with 95 Republican votes and was signed by President George W. Bush. There were no riots in the streets. Yet by the time Republicans took over the House in January 2011, this previously uncontroversial legislation had become the basis of an ideological war. Between 2007 and 2011, energy waste and pollution seem to have become inviolable conservative principles.

The Republican congressman who was co-author of the 2007 bill, Representative Fred Upton of Michigan, renounced his own work. Republican Representative Joe Barton, who had previously claimed the spotlight to apologize to BP for all the fuss about its little oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, introduced a bill repealing most of Upton’s energy-efficiency provisions. (Bachmann called her version of repeal the Light Bulb Freedom of Choice Act, arguably her crowning legislative achievement.)

A radical reversal on light bulbs won’t shake the foundations of the republic, but it’s indicative of a party that is unmoored from both philosophy and substantive politics. Republicans today are defined not by what they are for but almost exclusively by what they are against. And they are against just about everything — including many things they used to be for…Republicans increasingly reject the tissue of their own proposals and their own reasonable history.

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A smartphone designed for everything you worry about

Japanese mobile phone giant NTT DoCoMo is developing a smartphone that will measure radiation levels. The design was inspired by worries over the health implications of the radiation leak at the Fukushima nuclear plant.

The phone will come with changeable “jackets” which will also be able to measure bad breath and body fat…

At the Combined Exhibition of Advanced Technology, hosted near Tokyo next month, DoCoMo will show off three smartphone ‘jackets” that are fitted with sensors, to monitor body mass as well as level of skin-damaging ultraviolet light.

But the shell that measures radiation levels is likely to prove the most popular.

“Many customers have been nervous about radiation since the Great East Japan Earthquake,” said DoCoMo’s spokesman Daisuke Sakuma.

We had been thinking what services we can provide to address these needs as a telecom carrier,” he added.

Just think of the possibilities:

Point your smartphone at a mirror and ask “does this outfit make my butt look fat?”

Take a photo of your date and determine what your prospective children might look like.

Record a speech from a political candidate and it will tell you the percentage of lies.

Aargh! – Pirates win almost 9% in Berlin regional vote

With laptops open like shields against the encroaching cameramen, the young men resembled Peter Pan’s Lost Boys more than Captain Hook’s buccaneers when they were introduced Monday as Berlin’s newest legislators: They are the members of the Pirate Party.

Asked if they were just some chaotic troop of troublemakers, Christopher Lauer, newly voted in as a state lawmaker for the district of Pankow, replied with no lack of confidence, “You ought to wait for the first session in the house of representatives.”

By winning 8.9 percent of the vote in Sunday’s election in this city-state, these political pirates surpassed — blew away, really — every expectation for what was supposed to be a fringe, one-issue party promoting Internet freedom. The Pirates so outstripped expectations that all 15 candidates on their list won seats…

These men in their 20s and 30s, who turned up at the imposing former Prussian state parliament building, some wearing hooded sweatshirts, and one a T-shirt of the comic book hero Captain America, were no longer merely madcap campaigners and gadflies. They had become the people’s elected representatives…

They are absolutely not a joke party,” said Christoph Bieber, a professor of political science at the University of Duisburg-Essen. While there was certainly an element of protest in the unexpectedly large share of the votes the Pirates won, they were filling a real need for voters outside the political mainstream who felt unrepresented. “In the Internet, they have really found an underexploited theme that the other political parties are not dealing with,” Mr. Bieber said.

The state election in Berlin on Sunday was full of surprising results. The pro-business Free Democrats, Chancellor Angela Merkel’s coalition partners in the federal Parliament, crashed and burned, again, receiving less than 2 percent of the vote. That is well below the 5 percent needed to remain in the statehouse. The Green Party continued to build on its recent successes and may well become one of the governing parties in Berlin.

While issues like online privacy and data protection may seem incredibly narrow, even irrelevant, to older voters, for young people who often spend half their waking hours online, much of it on social networking sites where they share their most intimate moments, it is anything but a small issue. And the Pirates’ call for complete transparency in politics resonates powerfully with a generation disillusioned by the American case for war in Iraq and galvanized by WikiLeaks’ promise to put an end to secrecy.

The Pirates’ surprisingly strong showing came as further evidence of voter dissatisfaction in Germany with the established parties, and what many see as their inability to look beyond self-interest and focus instead on the needs of their constituents…

The effort made to build a sustainable Germany after World War 2 included a reliance on democracy long ago subverted in the United States. In almost every state, the deck is thoroughly stacked against a minor party getting on the ballot. And the 2-Party private club owns all the people who administer and regulate the process. Still, these folks are an inspiration.

Of course, the number of articles appearing on radio and TV, in mass media newspapers across the USA – relating the tale of this minority miracle – is less than coverage of the average NFL quarterback developing a hangnail on his throwing hand.

Feathers trapped in amber reveals Dinosaurs covered in color

Color is coming to the formerly black-and-white Mesozoic world of dinosaurs and early birds.

Not exactly high-definition color, and some formidable characters may show up in the same old drab and scaly wardrobes; they are dinosaurs, after all, with a reputation for resistance to change. But in time, you can look for splashes of color in museum dioramas of feathered figures from the age of dinosaurs.

For more than a decade, hardly a season has passed without more discoveries of dinosaur and bird fossils in China bearing impressions of feathers and traces of chemical coloring agents. Now, in Canada, paleontologists have found 70-million-year-old amber preserving 11 specimens showing a wide diversity of feather types at that time…

Preserved pigment cells encased in the amber, along with other evidence, suggested that the feathered animals had an array of mottled patterns and diffuse colors like modern birds, scientists at the University of Alberta, led by Ryan C. McKellar, said in a report…

In a commentary accompanying the report, Mark A. Norell…noted that only now, with these amber specimens added to the Chinese finds, “are we beginning to understand just how diverse feather types were in the Mesozoic,” roughly the age of dinosaurs from 250 million to 65 million years ago.

Dr. Norell went on to point out that amber preserves “not only the microstructure, but the actual visual color as well — features not preserved in typical compression fossils.” In other amber 94 million years old, he said, the feathers did not appear to be as diverse.

Another research approach is being tested by a team led by Roy A. Wogelius of the University of Manchester in England. In the same journal, they report results of an advanced X-ray method for detecting minute geochemical traces, including metals like copper, that are long-lived biomarkers of coloring agents in feathered fossils…

Although “research into fossil feathers is still at a nascent stage,” Dr. Norell wrote, evidence is mounting that feathers were part of the earliest stages of dinosaur evolution, and now “we are filling in the colors.”

In China, Confuciusornis and a few non-avian dinosaurs appeared to have had ruddy feathers; Sinosauropteryx, a reddish banded tail; and Anchiornis probably resembled a woodpecker, with a black body, banded wings and reddish head comb.

Dinosaur exhibits in your friendly neighborhood museum may sprout colored feathers soon. 🙂