21 June 2004

THIS JUST IN: USA to blame for human rights problems in Arabia


The organisation [Amnesty Internationl] says Gulf states, along with the US, show a “disturbing disregard for the rule of law and fundamental human rights standards”.

It says a region whose rights record had been improving was now using the war as a cover for repression.

Yeah, hardly any of that went on before the invasion of Iraq. The gentle and kind Ba’athists who cared for the poor and down trodden of Iraq until they were swept away by the bloodthirsty mercenaries of the Coalition.

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E-rate, F-grade


The United States Congress has opened hearings into a multi-billion pound scheme to hook poor school districts up to the internet, which is at the centre of allegations of rampant fraud and waste.

Government audits and media investigations have turned up scores of troubling cases in the “E-rate” programme, which is funded with £1.35 billion in annual levies from telephone users. Forty-two criminal investigations are now under way. [emphasis added]


One case to be examined was in El Paso, Texas, where IBM received £18.9 million to build a fibre-optic network powerful enough to serve a small city.

When school staff were overwhelmed by the system’s complexity, IBM charged an extra £14.5 million to build a maintenance support centre.

When a bid for an extra £24.9 million in running costs was rejected by federal regulators, the support centre was dismantled after only nine months in operation.

Auditors are also investigating why officials bought a £540,000 network server suitable for a multinational corporation for the Endeavour elementary school in Cocoa, Florida, with only 650 pupils.

Because it was someone else’s money. The real idiots are the people who thought this would turn out differently than it has.

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NASA sees which way the rocket is flying


Within hours of the first private flight to outer space on Monday, a NASA (news - web sites) official said the agency might offer millions of dollars in prizes to encourage commercial missions to orbit the Earth or land on the moon.

Michael Lembeck of NASA’s office of exploration systems said such prizes would go to private explorers for such landmarks as “the first soft landing on the moon, or for returning a piece of an asteroid to Earth.”

“What we’re looking for is innovation like what Burt Rutan brought to the table today,” Lembeck said, referring to the legendary aerospace pioneer who designed the rocket plane SpaceShipOne that entered outer space 62 miles above the Mojave Desert in California.

Lembeck said NASA would consider offering $10 million to $30 million in prizes to encourage private investors to develop space vehicles. There was even discussion of offering “a couple hundred million dollars for the first private orbital flight,” he said in a telephone interview.

Given NASA’s past history with private space flight, this is like the UN declaring that the Coalition was right in Iraq. I have to give NASA some praise for getting on the band wagon instead of declaring the wheels are falling off.

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Very Dowdful

The ultimate Maureen Dowd skewering. A copy of her most recent column, annotated with hyperlinks to make her points more clear.

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Arab street takes a hike

[source, source]

A day after a U.S. air strike destroyed six homes in this flash- point city, a senior Iraqi official said Sunday that 23 of 26 people killed in the attack were foreign terrorists, including men from Algeria, Saudi Arabia and Yemen.


On Sunday, there were no serious mortar attacks against U.S. forces, no fiery sermons at the mosques, no marches in the street. Instead, Fallujah, a battered city that just weeks ago was the scene of some of the most intense urban combat in Iraq since the occupation began, was functioning normally, with police officers at checkpoints, traffic flowing smoothly and boys selling roasted cashews on the sidewalk.

Looks like every one’s learned a lesson from the siege except western journalists.

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Privateering - Spaceship One flies to space

Spaceship One flight this morning was good. Whether it made it to space is still to be verified. Reports from webloggers on site indicate success. However, headline writers still desperately need the “No Reporters Left Behind” initiative:

Rocket plane reaches Earth’s atmosphere in private space flight

All the way to the atmosphere! Does that mean they rolled it out on the tarmac?

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