General Assembly vote at UN upgrades Palestinian status

The United Nations has voted overwhelmingly to recognise a Palestinian state.

The vote, which was taken at a meeting of the body in New York on Thursday, represents a long-sought victory for the Palestinians but a diplomatic defeat for the US, with 138 countries voting in favour of the upgrade.

Nine countries voted against it and 41 others abstained…

The new status is an indirect recognition of the Palestinians’ claims on statehood in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza Strip. It allows them to join a number of UN agencies, as well as the International Criminal Court (ICC).

Immediately after the results were announced, US ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice reiterated the US opposition – blah, blah, blah…

The US and Israel voted against recognition, joined by Canada, the Czech Republic, Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Nauru, Palau and Panama…

Meanwhile, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon renewed his call for the resumption of direct negotiations between Israel and Palestine.

“Today’s vote underscores the urgency of the resumption of meaningful negotiations,” Ban said.

“My position has been consistent all along. I believe that the Palestinians have a legitimate right to their own independent state. I believe that Israel has the right to live in peace and security with its neighbors. There is no substitute for negotiations to that end…”

There were celebrations in cities across the West Bank, as well as in Gaza, where the Hamas government offered tepid support for the bid and allowed backers to express their solidarity with the move.

In Bethlehem, fireworks were shot into the night sky, and churches rang their bells at midnight to mark the occasion.

Israel has functioned as a client for the United States in every region of the world. The rationales offered by the US, today, aren’t any different from excuses rolled out for every land grab, every act of imperial arrogance over decades.

The reaction from most of the world puts the lie to our government’s poppycock self-portrayal as the heart of democracy and liberation. The United States played a role in the UN General Assembly perfectly comparable to that of Republicans in our Congress. And just as deserving of contempt.

From the Cold War 1.0 – United States planned to nuke the moon

You could easily skip by it in an archive search: a project titled “A Study of Lunar Research Flights.” Its nickname is even more low-brow: “Project A-119.”

But the reality was much more explosive. It was a top-secret plan, developed by the U.S. Air Force, to look at the possibility of detonating a nuclear device on the moon.

It was hatched in 1958 – a time when the United States and the Soviet Union were locked in a nuclear arms race that would last decades and drive the two superpowers to the verge of nuclear war. The Soviets had also just launched Sputnik 1, the world’s first satellite. The U.S. was falling behind in the space race, and needed a big splash.

“People were worried very much by (first human in space Soviet cosmonaut Yuri) Gagarin and Sputnik and the very great accomplishments of the Soviet Union in those days, and in comparison, the United States was feared to be looking puny. So this was a concept to sort of reassure people that the United States could maintain a mutually-assured deterrence, and therefore avoid any huge conflagration on the Earth,” said physicist Leonard Reiffel, who led the project…

The military considerations were frightening. The report said a nuclear detonation on the moon could yield information “…concerning the capability of nuclear weapons for space warfare.” Reiffel said that in military circles at the time, there was “discussion of the moon as military high ground.”

That included talk of having nuclear launch sites on the moon, he said. The thinking, according to Reiffel, was that if the Soviets hit the United States with nuclear weapons first and wiped out the U.S. ability to strike back, the U.S. could launch warheads from the moon.

“These are horrendous concepts,” Reiffel said, “and they are hopefully going to remain in the realm of science fiction for the rest of eternity…”

Or the platform of the Arizona Republican Party

By 1959, Project A-119 was drawing more concern than excitement…

Project planners also weren’t sure of the reliability of the weapons, and feared the public backlash in the U.S. would be significant,” Reiffel said…

Contacted by CNN, the Air Force would not comment on Project A-119.

Has there ever been a branch of anyone’s military willing to admit how truly stupid and useless some of their projects may be?

Dutch scrap archaic blasphemy law

Dutch authorities have decided to approve a motion abandoning a law under which it is a crime to insult God.

A majority of parties in parliament said the blasphemy law was no longer relevant in the 21st Century…

The legislation, introduced in the 1930s, has not been invoked in the last half century. However, it still remains illegal under Dutch law to be disrespectful to police officers or to insult Queen Beatrix, the country’s monarch…

The BBC’s Anna Holligan, in The Hague, says that there was much debate about the issue after a Dutch court ruled that the far-right anti-Islam politician Geert Wilders should be allowed to criticise Islam, even if his outspoken opinions offended many Muslims.

In 2008, a coalition government decided against repealing the blasphemy law in order to maintain support from a conservative Christian political party.

But, sooner or later, even the opportunism of professional politicians will be overcome by freedom-loving voters. Eventually, people realize that most “coalitions” are arranged to share power – not principles.

The future of the internet is intelligent machines, an Industrial Internet

As we know it today, the internet has been largely about connecting people to information, people to people, and people to business. Monetization strategies range as widely as the options available, and for all the success, there are more failures. While many of the advancements have been extraordinary – even unthinkable a short time ago – too often we’re still left asking, “to what end?”

The internet can give consumers nearly anything with just a click, but global economies remain challenged. The internet has become the biggest library in the world, but education is just now beginning to take advantage and change. The internet can provide businesses with unprecedented data, but true insight remains contentious and change is slow.

The real opportunity for change is still ahead of us, surpassing the magnitude of the development and adoption of the consumer internet. It is what we call the “Industrial Internet,” an open, global network that connects people, data and machines. The Industrial Internet is aimed at advancing the critical industries that power, move and treat the world.

There are now many millions of machines across the world, ranging from simple electric motors to highly advanced MRI machines. There are tens of thousands of fleets of sophisticated machinery, ranging from power plants that produce electricity to aircraft that move people and cargo around the world. There are thousands of complex networks ranging from power grids to railroad systems, which tie machines and fleets together.

This vast physical world of machines, facilities, fleets and networks can more deeply merge with the connectivity, big data and analytics of the digital world. This is what the Industrial Internet Revolution is all about.

The Industrial Internet leverages the power of the cloud to connect machines embedded with sensors and sophisticated software to other machines (and to us) so we can extract data, make sense of it and find meaning where it did not exist before. Machines – from jet engines to gas turbines to CT scanners – will have the analytical intelligence to self-diagnose and self-correct. They will be able to deliver the right information to the right people, all in real time. When machines can sense conditions and communicate, they become instruments of understanding. They create knowledge from which we can act quickly, saving money and producing better outcomes…

In the near future, I expect nothing short of an open, global fabric of highly intelligent machines that connect, communicate and cooperate with us. This Industrial Internet is not about a world run by robots, it is about combining the world’s best technologies to solve our biggest challenges. It’s about economically and environmentally sustainable energy, curing the incurable diseases, and preparing our infrastructure and cities for the next 100 years.

RTFA. What’s above is the first half. Rather than edit the whole content down to a size manageable for a blog post, I really urge you to read the complete article. And I thank Om Malik for inviting Jeff Immelt to write the first of a series of guest articles at GigaOm.

Hamburger machine churns out custom burgers at industrial speed


No Green Card

Hamburgers are a multi-billion dollar business, and while fast food chains have got the process down to an efficient production line process, making them is still labor intensive with armies of burger flippers and sandwich assemblers. In a move that could put millions of teenagers around the world out of their first job, Momentum Machines is creating a hamburger-making machine that churns out made-to-order burgers at industrial speeds and aims to use it in its own chain of restaurants.

According to Momentum Machines, making burgers costs $9 billion a year in wages in the United States alone. The company points out that a machine that could make burgers with minimum human intervention would not only provide huge savings in labor costs, but would also reduce preparation space with a burger kitchen replaced by a much smaller and cheaper stainless-steel box.

This self-contained, automatic device sees raw ingredients go in one end and the completed custom-made burgers come out the other at the rate of up to 400 per hour. The machine stamps out the patties, uses what the company says are “gourmet cooking techniques never before used in a fast food restaurant,” applies the toppings (which are cut only after ordering to ensure freshness), and even bags the burgers.

Momentum will open its first restaurant, real soon now. They say their machine can pay pay for itself in less than a year.