VANCOUVER, British Columbia (Kyodo) Daisuke Takahashi thrust himself into medal contention on Tuesday after a spellbinding performance at the Winter Games in Vancouver clinched third place in the men's figure skating short program.
quinta-feira, 18 de fevereiro de 2010
Two British soldiers have been killed while taking part in a major offensive against the Taliban in southern Afghanistan, the Ministry of Defence said
A soldier, from 1st Battalion Scots Guards, part of the 1 Grenadier Guards Battle Group, was shot this afternoon while fighting rebels in the Nad-e-Ali area of central Helmand in Afghanistan, an MoD spokeswoman said.
Earlier today, a soldier from 1st Battalion Coldstream Guards died in an explosion in the Babaji area. The families of both soldiers have been informed.
Three British soldiers have now died during Operation Moshtarak - a massive joint UK, US and Afghan assault on insurgent strongholds.
Lieutenant Colonel David Wakefield, a spokesman for Task Force Helmand, said of the latest fatality: ''It is with deep sadness I must inform you that a soldier from 1st Battalion Scots Guards was killed this afternoon.
''He was on operations against insurgents in the Nad-e-Ali area of central Helmand, part of Operation Moshtarak, when he was shot and killed.
''He died a soldier taking the fight to insurgents. He'll be sorely missed but he will not be forgotten''.
The soldiers' families have asked for a 24-hour period of grace before more details are released.
Lt Col Wakefield said of the soldier from the Coldstream Guards who died: "He was involved in operations as part of Operation Moshtarak to clear insurgents to the south-west of Patrol Base 4 in the Babaji area of Nahr-e-Saraj in central Helmand so that a checkpoint could be built and a road laid through the area, thereby bringing enduring security and freedom of movement to local people.
"He died in the course of his duty and among his comrades. His courage and sacrifice will be remembered".
Operation Moshtarak, which means "together" in the Dari language, began in the early hours of Saturday morning. It involves about 15,000 Nato and Afghan troops.
UK forces are concentrating their efforts on Nad-e-Ali, with US Marines fighting to take the nearby town of Marjah from the Taliban.
A total of 263 British troops have died since operations in Afghanistan began in October 2001.
In 1955, seven years after the Israeli state was founded, the philosopher Yeshayahu Leibowitz wrote a letter to then Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion. In it, he complained that innocent Palestinians were being killed in Israeli operations. "I do not agree with you," responded Ben-Gurion. "While it is good that there be a world full of peace, fraternity, justice, and honesty, it is even more important that we be in it".
This notion of a well-fortified state that eliminates its enemies by force whenever possible is still supported by a large majority of Israelis. Such actions include assassinations carried out by Israel's military and the Mossad, its foreign intelligence service. Indeed, human rights organizations estimate that the Israeli military has killed more than 100 people in the Palestinian territories in so-called "targeted killings".
The most recent incident that the Mossad is embroiled in shows that the majority of Israelis continue to believe that such killings are justified. In January, the Mossad is said to have killed a weapons buyer from Hamas in Dubai. Earlier this week, authorities in Dubai made public a compilation of surveillance photos showing the members of the alleged hit squad. German intelligence sources say that only an intelligence agency is capable of carrying out such a professional operation. In Britain, government officials were more explicit: They said they were convinced that the Mossad was behind the assassination of Mahmoud al-Mabhouh.
But, in Israel, the debate revolves primarily around two questions. First, did the operation have the Mossad's usual degree of "professionalism"? And, second, should the operation be considered a failure because photos of 11 suspected agents have been made public and the world now believes that the Mossad is not above creating fake passports from friendly countries, such as Germany or Great Britain, or "borrowing" the identities of their citizens.
A Chronicle of Successful Hits
The awe the Mossad inspires among intelligence agencies is mostly due to its history of ambitious operations. It has freed hostages from hopeless situations; it has found a way to bring a Russian MiG-21 fighter jet to Israel at the request of its political leaders; and, during the Cold War, it was known to supply the CIA with classified papers stolen from the Soviets.
But the intelligence service's hit squads have their own mystique. If the Mossad really is behind the recent murder in Dubai, it will be just one in a series of bloody attacks -- though Mossad operations have also seen their share of blunders.
It has not always been clear that the Mossad was behind every deadly attack -- or whether it was some other Israeli unit. The legendary operation to hunt down and kill the "Black September" terrorists who attacked Israeli athletes at the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich, for example, was carried out by a unit formed specifically for that purpose. They eventually eliminated almost all of them -- though they did also kill an innocent Moroccan waiter in Norway after mistaking him for one of the terrorists. And at least once, in Beirut in 1973, the agents disguised themselves as tourists -- just like the "Dubai 11".
It is thought that, during the mid-1970s, then Prime Minister Golda Meir appointed a so-called "X Committee" that was -- and perhaps still is -- responsible for keeping a list of people to be assassinated. At the Mossad, a unit known as "Caesaria" is allegedly tasked with carrying out targeted killings.
It is only in the rarest of cases that Israel will hint at its involvement in an assassination operation. As a rule, the Mossad never acknowledges it participation. Because of this secrecy, it is likely that more deaths have been attributed to the intelligence service than it is actually responsible for. Still, the list of incidents that can fairly safely be attributed to it is long -- and goes back over 40 years.
In the 1960s, for example, the Mossad is thought to have sent letter bombs to German scientists who were helping Egypt to build an advanced missile program. Many of them died.
One of the most spectacular killings attributed to the Mossad took place in 1987 in Tunis, where PLO leader Khalil Al Wazir -- also known as Abu Jihad -- was living. The operation allegedly involved some 30 agents, who reached the Tunisian coastline in small boats. Some of them pretended to be tourists while making their way toward the house of Yasser Arafat's most important henchman. Others took up positions wearing Tunisian army uniforms. Flying overhead during the operation was an Israeli Boeing 707, which was meant to jam all communications on the ground. The assassination squad forced its way into the house and killed a few servants before turning their guns -- and 70 bullets -- on Al Wazir in the presence of his wife and children.
In October 1995, Fathi Shikaki, a member of the Palestinian terrorist group Islamic Jihad, was killed in Malta. The assassin road up on a motorcycle and shot his victim three times in the head. It later emerged that the operation had been meticulously planned long in advance. Indeed, the motorcycle had been stolen two months previously. A dozen agents are believed to have been involved. All of them disappeared without a trace after the hit.
In 1996, Yehiyeh Ayyash, the notorious Hamas bombmaker known as "The Engineer," was killed in the Gaza Strip when his booby-trapped cell phone exploded. This novel method of attack shocked Palestinian militants. It is generally believed that the Mossad was behind the attack.
In September 2004, another member of Hamas -- thought to be Izz Eldine Subhi Sheik Khalil -- met his end in Damascus when an explosive detonated beneath his car. He had been responsible for coordinating the operations of the military arm of Hamas. Though Israel did not officially take responsibility for the attack, it was understood as being a signal to Syria's leaders that even their capital city was not beyond the reach of Israeli agents.
A Few High-Profile Failures
Damascus was also the scene of another death, in February 2008, when a bomb tore apart the Mitsubishi Pajero belonging to Hezbollah leader Imad Mughniyeh, to whom hundreds of deaths have been attributed. Although Israel officially denied having anything to do with the death, most experts believe that the Mossad was at least partly involved -- possibly in collaboration with other intelligence services in the region.
To date, the Mossad's most spectacular failure has been a mission carried out in Amman, Jordan, in September 1997. Two Mossad agents disguised as Canadian tourists tried to kill Hamas leader Khaled Mashal with a lethal nerve toxin which soaks through the skin. The attack failed and Mashal's bodyguards were able to chase down the agents and hand them over to the Jordanian police. Jordanian officials quickly besieged the Israeli Embassy, where four other Mossad agents, giving up their cover, sought sanctuary.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was then forced to admit to the deed to get his agents back safely. He flew to Amman and apologized before the brother of King Hussein -- the king did not want to meet with him in person. After difficult negotiations, Israel handed over the antidote to the nerve agent that had been administered to Mashal as well as the chemical make-up of the opiate, which had allegedly been used in previous operations. In addition, Israel was also forced to release from custody Hamas founder Shiek Ahmed Yassin and dozens of other Palestinians and Jordanians.
In the end, an official investigation concluded that the Mossad had been "fixated on high risk operations." The botched attack was a blemish on the Mossad's reputation. For several years thereafter, it refrained from carrying out targeted killings -- or at least was much more careful about doing so.
Real Target: Iran
If the assassination in Dubai really was carried out by the Mossad, it could prove to be yet another blow to its reputation. Indeed, it has never had one of its hits filmed by others or had the pictures of its hit squad's members publicly displayed.
In fact, the Mossad has been losing a lot of polish on its sterling reputation for a number of years now. Other Israeli intelligence agencies have gained in esteem within Israel. In recent years, Jordan's intelligence service has become just as important to the US as Mossad was in the region.
But this holds true primarily in the field of counter-terrorism. The Mossad's current focus, however, is Iran's nuclear program. In that regard, Israelis say, Mossad has excelled -- away from the public eye.
"WUDERKAMMER-Chen's Architectures and Art Installations"
E Chen's solo exhibition, "Wunderkammer," exhibits his sculpture installations in Ca-lifornia and architecture pro-posals done over the last ten years. His works attempts to reinterpret artificial object space and subvert the functionality of artificial objects, having a close relationship with anti-consumerism. His installations have, after taking on different guises in a number of previous exhibitions, evolved to become independent works totally di-fferent from before. His archi-tecture proposals remain at the concepts on paper stage, but if used to help us understand the relationship between architecture and social structure, and to understand the "means to construct society" rather than "to construct the world," they are very absorbing.
In this exhibition six installation works and three architecture proposals are exhi-bited, exploring possibilities for buildings and individuals and space and ima-gination. "United Paper-Our totem pole" is made from everyday consumer items, using hollowed out product cardboard pro-duct boxes to show the excessively rich material culture of modern people. The "No Strategy" series uses thousands of wooden bricks, together with transformed and reassembled chairs, tales, doors and hanging fans and other ready made fur-niture, in an attempt to deconstruct the established home space. "The Raft of the Medusa" is a sculpture installation made using a tent, quilts and pillows, inspired by "The Raft of the Medusa," the famous painting by Theodore Gericault, drawing on historic events and presenting metaphors for the inner struggles of the individual. "Legally Nature" uses artificial scenery made from wool and wooden boxes, echoing the 2010 Taipei International Floral Expo that is soon to begin. "911"uses ready made products and cardboard boxes to investigate the nature of sculpture.
Taiwan News Online
The agency representing Taiwanese pitcher Chien-ming Wang has confirmed that the 29-year-old right-hander has signed an incentive laden one-year deal to play for the Washington Nationals.
In a move described as more of a gamble than a purchase by a Washington newspaper, the Nationals will pay Wang a guaranteed US$2 million and up to US$3.2 million in incentives for the 2010 season, according to the agency that represents him, Octagon Baseball.
Among the incentives, Wang will receive US$250,000 if he remains on the Nationals Major League roster for more than 60 consecutive days and another US$200,000 if he wins the Comeback Player of the Year Award.
The former New York Yankee will also earn incentives of various magnitudes for starting between 10 and 27 games in 2010, a tall order considering that Wang is not expected to start pitching until May.
The Yankees non-tendered Wang in December after his up-and-down five-year stint with the club. He won more games than any other big league pitcher (38) between 2006 and 2007, but injuries limited him to 27 appearances over the past two years.
In 2009, when he earned US$5 million, Wang was 1-6 with an atrocious 9.64 ERA before being shut down for the season with a shoulder injury.
Taiwan News Online
By Martin Jacques
Christian Science Monitor
The spats between the U.S. and China appear to be getting more numerous and more serious. The Chinese objected in strong terms to Washington's latest arms deal with Taiwan and threatened to take sanctions against those firms involved. President Obama recently accused the Chinese of currency manipulation. At Davos, Larry Summers, the director of the White House's National Economic Council, made an oblique attack on China by referring to mercantilist policies.
The disagreement between China and the U.S. at December's Copenhagen climate summit has continued to reverberate. The Chinese government reacted strongly to Google's claims - supported by the U.S. administration - that cyberattacks against it had originated in China and its statement that it would no longer cooperate with government censorship of the Internet. The U.S. has been increasingly critical of China's unwillingness to agree to sanctions against Iran. And finally the Chinese government is accusing the U.S. administration of interference in its internal affairs by insisting on the meeting this week between Barack Obama and the Dalai Lama in Washington.
The issues of contention have come thick and fast. For the most part, however, they are hardly new. The Chinese reaction to the Taiwan arms deal was entirely predictable, the only novelty being the threatened sanctions. Taiwan remains the most important priority for Chinese foreign policy. Their response to the Dalai Lama in Washington is equally predictable.
Obama's and Summers' statements about currency manipulation and mercantilism, respectively, are a little different. True, they are not entirely new; Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner accused the Chinese of currency manipulation in January 2009. But since Mr. Geithner's ill-judged remark, the U.S. administration has until now chosen to be more discreet.
Google and climate change are relatively new bones of contention. But we should not be surprised by these disputes. China's rise means that it is now involved in areas of the world and on issues where previously it had little or no stake. As China increasingly becomes a global power with interests to promote and defend around the world, it is bound to come into conflict with the U.S. on a growing number of subjects.
It appears that the U.S.-China relationship is entering a markedly different phase. The key question is whether this will lead to growing acrimony between the two countries to the point where the bilateral relationship between them is seriously harmed or whether the generally positive relations of the past three decades can continue.
There is a further underlying change in their relationship, namely China's rise and America's decline. While neither is new, the latter has only begun to be recognized since the global financial crisis. The expressions of the shift in power between the two are numerous. China has become more self-confident and, in a mild way, more assertive.
This has been most evident in the way in which China has - understandably - expressed concern about the value of the dollar, raised the question of a new special-drawing-rights-based reserve currency, and blamed the global financial crisis on the behavior of Western, especially U.S., banks; though it can also be seen in a more general, though subtle, shift in Chinese attitudes.
It would be quite wrong, however, to conclude that there has been a major change in the Chinese approach toward the U.S.
The fundamental Chinese priorities remain as they were defined by Deng Xiaoping. The overwhelming priority is economic growth and lifting tens of millions out of poverty. Creating the most favorable external environment for the pursuit of this objective continues to mean, above all else, a favorable relationship with the U.S.
Although the Chinese may play their hand with a little more self-confidence and with a tad more assertiveness, I see no significant evidence that they have abandoned their tried and trusted position. It has worked well for them and continues to do so. Time is on their side, and they can therefore afford to be patient.
But what of the U.S.? The fact that the U.S. has only just begun to wake up to the fact that it is in decline is a cause for serious concern. It is completely unprepared for what this might mean: that it can no longer deal with others in the way that it has, that it can no longer assume a relationship of superiority in its dealings with China, and that it has to seek a new understanding of China rather than expect the latter to continue to play second fiddle.
This belated awareness of a weakening America has happened too abruptly and too precipitously for its meaning and implications to be properly digested either by policy elites or the American public. Indeed, most are still in denial of the fact. A classic illustration was the widely expressed anger and frustration in media and political circles against President Obama's relatively contrite attitude toward the Chinese during his November visit to China. In fact, Obama was right on two counts: First, the U.S. now has to learn to deal with China on equal terms and, second, it must be mindful of China's role as its creditor.
Put simply: The major concern is not China getting too big for its boots - at least in the short term - but a growing sense of American frustration that its boots are no longer as big as they were or should be, together with an unwillingness or stubborn refusal to understand China on anything other than American terms.
Relations between the two could steadily deteriorate with negative implications for the rest of the world. It will make things more difficult for China and might slow its progress, but the U.S. could suffer even more.
China must not be confused in the American mind with a Soviet Union Mark 2. It is a very different and far more formidable adversary whose ultimate strength is not its military hardware but its economic prowess, and whose diplomatic weapon is not saber rattling but great patience.
Martin Jacques is the author of "When China Rules the World: The End of the Western World and the Birth of a New Global Order".
Taiwan News Online
The Famous IKONOS Satellite Image of Azadi Square
by Ari Siletz
In the days prior to the Bahman 22 anniversary of the Iranian revolution, Khamenei’s forces were making furious efforts to tighten a blindfold on the media so that the world could not see the magnitude of the Iranian opposition. At the same time the opposition movement, with far fewer resources, had to find a way to get the truth out with as little bloodshed as possible.
It was during this time that Mark Brender, the Vice President of Communications at GeoEye (www.geoeye.com), an operator of high-resolution Earth imaging satellites, received a call from an unusual customer. A professor at one of Iran’s universities was wondering if a GeoEye satellite would be in position on 11 February, 2010 to take a picture of Azadi Square at the time when Ahamadinejad was giving his 22 Bahman speech.
I spoke with Mr. Brender who received that historic call, and he was eager to read some of the emails he received from grateful Iranians:
“Dear sirs, I want to say thank you, thank you…” signed a Persian member of the Green Movement.” The Green Movement member was thankful that the satellite image showed the area inside Azadi Square as mostly empty, whereas the streets leading to the square were packed with crowds the regime did not trust enough to let inside. That is, potential opposition supporters.
Here’s another email, “You guys are so incredibly awesome for publicly exposing the fascist Iranian regime and its claim to millions of supporters to the critical eyes of the free...” Awesome because the image also suggests that even the regime’s few trusted supporters may not be very committed. The long line of buses to the south of the square shows how the regime was able to gather the few supporters that it did. They were bused to the location in an organized government effort to pack the event.
One more email, “Your image of Azadi Square is a big help for democracy and the Green Movement in Iran. In all social networks people are expressing their appreciation.”
You get the picture, no need to go on.
I asked Mr. Brender how he felt about GeoEye’s role in giving the world an accurate picture of the democracy movement in Iran, and he humbly said, “We were just the photographers.” Yet he obviously understood the significance of the Iranian professor’s request.
In fact, it was GeoEye who contacted Google to let them know there was a “hot” picture available that the whole world would be interested in seeing. Google then loaded the one-meter resolution, IKONOS image to GeoEye’s Google Earth layer and posted the image on their lat/long blog.
Of course it was by no means certain that GeoEye would be able to fulfill the request of the Iranian professor. He wasn’t just asking for any image of Azadi Square, which would have been a cinch for GeoEye. He was asking for Azadi Square at a particular time, a much taller order for a satellite that’s in orbit around the Earth.
There were two elements of luck involved in getting this time-sensitive satellite image. First, Azadi Square had to be clear of clouds at the time of the ceremonies. Bahman is a winter month in Tehran, increasing the likelihood of clouds. Second, one of GeoEye’s satellites had to be in the right place in its orbit at that time.
Mr. Brender explained the timing problem in this way, “The satellites are sun-synchronous, meaning they follow the sun to get optimal light and consistent shadowing on the ground. They are also only overhead mid-morning on any given day. Just imagine, these satellites are flying 681 kilometers above the earth at an average speed of 7.5 kilometers per second. The Earth’s rotation also decides where they are going to be, since the satellites are in a fixed orbit and make 15 orbits per day while the Earth is constantly spinning beneath them.”
Simply put, the task needed Nature’s cooperation.
The weather obviously cooperated. But to appreciate the second element of luck let’s see what odds we were up against relative to the satellite being in the right place. GeoEye operates two high-resolution imaging satellites, and between the two of them they are able to image any point on the planet every 24 to 36 hours. These polar-orbiting satellites can approximately revisit any point on Earth once every three days or sooner (they repeat their exact orbit every 144 days). So, if customers order a desired location they have to wait until the satellite comes around again in its orbit. If this were a poker game you’d have to be holding a two pair to beat the odds of getting a picture within a one-hour window of the desired time.
GeoEye checked the flight path of their newer, higher resolution satellite, GeoEye-1, well in advance of 11 Feb, and it was scheduled to be nowhere near the right place. If it weren’t for IKONOS, GeoEye’s very first high-resolution satellite, the regime would not have been exposed in this way. IKONOS happened to be passing 225 kilometers to the east of Tehran (somewhere on top of Dasht e Kavir) at 10:47 A.M. on that day. Commanding the satellite to tilt its gaze about 20 degrees to the west, GeoEye caught Despotism in an embarrassing moment.
I light-heartedly asked Brender if GeoEye would be sending a bill to the Iranian freedom movement for this image. He said, “No charge.”
Though their images are usually custom-ordered for a fee, there are special public interest circumstances--the Haiti earthquake, for example -- where providing free images helps with humanitarian causes, while bringing name recognition to the company. Another way of humbly saying, “We were just the photographers.”
Yet GeoEye gave the public an important photograph that no journalist in the world was able to achieve, all taken from outer space where individual governments don’t have any control.
Please, Pulitzer Prize committee, keep this in mind!
1. GeoEye is a publicly traded company (NASDAQ: GEOY) and independent of Google Inc. (NYT: GOOG). Google happens to be one of their customers.
2. GeoEye’s “map-accurate” images can help with accurate crowd estimates. For example, each digital pixel in a GeoEye-1 satellite image represents an object on the ground which measures.41-meter resolution, so it’s capable of seeing the home plate on a baseball diamond. It also offers three-meter geolocation accuracy, which means that customers can map natural and man-made features to within three meters of their actual location on the surface of the Earth without ground control points. In this way any area of Azadi Square or surrounding streets can be calculated to high accuracy, and the crowd estimated. To get a scale for headcount per unit area, you can use the satellite photo of, say, the Obama inauguration ceremony and the figure of 1.5 million attendees for that event.
3. Over the years, GeoEye has helped expose many other secrets in Iran. Their GeoEye-1 satellite image of the enrichment facility north of Qom was seen all around the world. As was their imagery of the Natanz nuclear complex.