The Command Post
Global Recon

January 31, 2004

Russia said preparing nuclear maneuvers

So say NOLA / AP:

Russia’s nuclear forces reportedly are preparing their largest maneuvers in two decades, an exercise involving the test-firing of missiles and flights by dozens of bombers in a massive simulation of an all-out nuclear war.

President Vladimir Putin is expected to personally oversee the maneuvers, which are apparently aimed at demonstrating the revival of the nation’s military might and come ahead of Russian elections in March.

Official comments on the upcoming exercise have been sketchy. The chief of Russia’s Strategic Missile Forces, Col.-Gen. Nikolai Solovtsov, was quoted by the Interfax-Military News Agency as saying the planned maneuvers would involve several launches of intercontinental ballistic missiles in various regions of Russia, but he wouldn’t give further details …

… In Washington, the State Department said it has seen reports that Russia has plans to conduct the exercises in February. The department also said Russia is obliged to notify the United States 24 hours before a missile test and has done so in the past.

I should hope so.

Posted by Alan at 12:05 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

January 30, 2004

Castro: I Will Die Fighting

Cuban President Fidel Castro vowed on Friday to die fighting “with a gun in my hand” if the United States invaded Cuba to overthrow his communist government.

“I don’t care how I die, but for sure, if they invade us, I will die fighting,” the 77-year-old leader said at a meeting of anti-free trade activists from across the hemisphere.

And all this time I thought Castro was immortal.

Posted by Michele at 10:39 AM | Comments (13) | TrackBack

January 29, 2004

At Least 10 Dead in Jerusalem Suicide Bombing

A homicide bomber blew up a bus in Jerusalem Thursday morning, killing 10 people and wounding at least 50 about a block away from Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s official residence. Aides said Sharon was at his farm in southern Israel at the time.

The blast, which occurred at about 8:51 a.m. local time on bus No. 19, peeled the roof back like a tin can and catapulted passengers through the windows and down the street. Body parts could be found strewn along the rooftops of buildings.

The explosion coincided with a German-brokered prisoner swap between Israel and the Lebanese guerrilla group Hezbollah, although it was not clear if the two were connected. Officials told Fox News the exchange would go on as scheduled. Hezbollah reportedly praised the bombing on the group’s website.

[More on Hezbollah prisoner swap]

Posted by Michele at 05:45 AM | Comments (10) | TrackBack

January 28, 2004

Davies Resigns After Hutton Criticism

Sky News:

The chairman of the BBC board of governors has resigned following criticism in the Hutton Report.

The BBC suffered its first casualty, Gavyn Davies, as the corporation’s director general, Greg Dyke, “apologised” for “certain key allegations” made by reporter Andrew Gilligan which were false.

Mr Davies offered his resignation at a meeting of the BBC board of governors, which it had accepted with immediate effect.

In a statement, he said there was an “honourable tradition in British public life” of those at the top of an organistion accepting responsibility for what took place within in it.

The development followed criticism for the BBC and Mr Gilligan in Lord Hutton’s report for an “unfounded” story that the Government had lied in its 45 minutes claim about Iraq’s weapons capability.

More:

Posted by Michele at 02:51 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

A Whale of a Story

Ok, so this isn’t really Command Post worthy news, but I couldn’t help posting it:

Sperm whale explodes in Tainan City

A dead sperm whale being transported through Tainan City on its way to a research station suddenly exploded yesterday, splattering cars and shops with blood and guts.

The mind boggles.

Posted by Michele at 11:56 AM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

Frist Aid Put on Leave Over Memos

[AP]

An aide to Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist has been put on leave during an investigation into how Republicans gained access to Democratic memos concerning opposition to President Bush’s judicial nominees.

Manuel Miranda, who works for the Tennessee Republican on judicial nominations, is on leave pending the outcome of the inquiry by the Senate sergeant-at-arms, Frist spokesman Nick Smith said yesterday. In the matter under investigation, Democratic memos stored on a computer server shared by Judiciary Committee members ended up in Republican hands

Posted by Michele at 11:29 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

January 26, 2004

Randhino's Latin America Briefing: Jan 27/04

Winds of Change.NET Regional Briefings run on Tuesdays & Wednesdays, and sometimes Fridays too. This Regional Briefing focuses on Latin America, courtesy of Randy Paul.

TOP TOPIC

  • The Monterrey Summitt: Lots of posturing from the north and the south and very little substance. Some blame it on the media and provide an interesting solution. See inside…

Other Topics Include: Unwanted and obnoxious meddling from Hugo Chávez which enables Bolivia to find unity for all the wrong reasons; Brazil looks to become the regional heavyweight; Colombia get recertified by the US and one wonders why; Castro, the churchbuilder?!?; Southern Exposure, the new group blog on Latin America becomes part of a webzine.

Read The Rest…

Posted by Winds of Change at 06:40 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Powell Chastises Putin Over Democracy

MOSCOW, Russia -- U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell has held talks with Vladimir Putin after unusually blunt comments suggesting the U.S. is worried about undemocratic tendencies shown by the Russian leadership.

In a front-page article published Monday in the major Russian daily Izvestia, Powell said Russian politics were not sufficiently subject to the rule of law and made clear there were limits to the U.S.-Russian relationship without shared values.

While couched in diplomatic terms, Powell's comments were unusually direct from a U.S. administration that has worked closely with Moscow in the U.S.-led war on terrorism and has cooperated on regional issues from North Korea to Iran.

Powell also challenged Russia's policy in Chechnya and -- without citing any countries by name -- its recently assertive dealings to wards nations like Moldova, Ukraine and Georgia.

Full article from CNN...
Posted by at 02:02 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Iranian Elections At Risk

Iranian reformers have warned they may refuse to organise parliamentary elections due to a row over candidates.

A spokesman for reformist President Mohammad Khatami insisted on "fair competition for all the candidates".

"Without such a possibility... we cannot go ahead with such elections," spokesman Abdollah Ramezanzadeh told Iran's student news agency ISNA.

Full Article from BBC...
Posted by at 01:55 PM | Comments (41) | TrackBack

Congressmen Meet With Gaddafi

BBC News:

US congressmen have held talks with Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi on a landmark visit to Tripoli.

The delegates said the meeting was "warm" and that they had discussed renewing ties between Libya and the US.

They also discussed the issue of weapons of mass destruction and visited a nuclear facility near the capital.

Full Article...


Posted by at 01:51 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

January 25, 2004

Get Out The Link!

Many readers have supported us with donations, which we appreciate. But the best way to support The Post is with traffic. So with the final push in New Hampshire to get out the vote, we ask that you help us “Get Out The Link.”

Support Command Post this Monday by sending the www.command-post.org URL to everyone in your contact list who you think might enjoy the site. We’re not picky: we just want to introduce people to The Command Post, and think the day before the primary is a great day to do so.

So “Get Out The Link” on Monday the 25th, and thanks for reading The Post!

Posted by Alan at 10:33 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Hezbollah, Israeli prisoner swap set for Thursday

BEIRUT, Lebanon (CNN) -- Israel and Hezbollah were expected to begin a historic prisoner exchange in Germany this week, the chief of the Lebanese militia group said Sunday.

After years of difficult, secret negotiations, Israel and Hezbollah agreed to the German-brokered exchange -- a dramatic breakthrough after the adversaries traded fire this week along the tense Israeli-Lebanese border. Israel, Hezbollah and Germany all confirmed the swap.

The first stage of the swap is expected to happen Thursday, according to Hezbollah chief Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah, who provided details of the exchange.

Full article...
Posted by at 12:51 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Thailand Kept "Bird Flu" Secret, Vaccine 6 Months Away

CNN:

Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra has admitted his government suspected for "a couple of weeks" the country was facing an outbreak of bird flu.

Thaksin told reporters during a visit to the province of Suphanburi hard hit by the disease that he decided not to reveal the outbreak until Friday in order to avoid mass panic. [...]

The World Health Organization says a vaccine for the disease is at least six months away.

If the disease mutated enough to allow human-to-human transmission, health experts warn that the virus could become a bigger health crisis than SARS. That disease, also a virus, killed nearly 800 people worldwide last year.


Full article...

According to The Globe and Mail, the death toll now stands at seven. Meanwhile, Reuters reports that the Thai government has enlisted the Army and prisoners to help destroy potentially infected poultry. According to Fox News, China has banned poultry imports from Thailand and Cambodia, following the European Union's ban on Friday announced in The Guardian.

Hmm. I feel like salad tonight.

Posted by at 12:43 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Iran MPs challenge reformist ban

BBC NEWS:

The Iranian parliament has approved a bill seeking to change election law and overturn a ban on reformist candidates.

An emergency session of MPs decided to intervene in a crisis sparked by the Guardians Council ban on thousands of candidates from next month's elections.

Under the changes, those approved for past elections would be able to run again unless there is strong evidence to prove they are unfit.


Full article...

Posted by at 12:28 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

January 24, 2004

ComputerGate

Compu-Gate? DemoGate?

Whatever you want to call it, it’s about Democrats discovering that Republican aides hacked/accessed Democrats’ computers to retreive memos on opposing judicial nominees.

And just when they were saying that the investigation was winding down and the story became page 7 or 8 fodder, comes this news:

The Boston Globe reported Thursday that federal experts studying any improper access of Democratic senators’ computer records had confiscated several computers or computer hard drives of the Judiciary Committee and one in Frist’s office. The article also identified a Frist staff member - Manuel Miranda - as being under scrutiny for his computer use.

We’ll keep you updated on this potential (fill in the blank)Gate.

Posted by Michele at 06:43 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Bird flu Spreads In Southest Asia

The New York Times reports that two boys from different provinces of thailand have become infected with the bird flu, and six more people are suspected of having it. A Thai government's spokesman also admitted that the outbreak had been concealed for "a few weeks" to avoid panic.

Vietnam has already confirmed that the disease has killed five people near Hanoi, two more confirmed cases are reported in Ho Chi Minh City, and seven additional suspected cases are being tested in the country.

Chickens from South Korea and Japan, to Vietnam and Thailand, have been dying from the same disease.

According to the Times:

So far, the human cases have resulted from contact with live chickens or their waste. But the World Health Organization, a United Nations agency, has warned repeatedly that if someone becomes infected with the bird flu and the human flu at the same time, the viruses could swap genetic material, creating a new strain that could spread quickly among people.

[. . .]

The three largest influenza epidemics of the 20th century are believed to have started in birds. The A(H5N1) strain now killing chickens across East Asia and infecting humans in Southeast Asia appears to be especially lethal.

[. . .]

The A(H5N1) virus was first documented to have jumped to people in 1997, when sick chickens infected 18 people in Hong Kong, including previously healthy adults, killing 6. All 1.5 million chickens there were slaughtered within three days, a step some influenza experts have credited as preventing a global epidemic.

Two residents fell sick with the disease after visiting their nearby hometown in the main part of China last year, and one of them died. Again, flocks were destroyed.

Cambodia confirmed Friday that bird flu had been killing chickens there. Laos said earlier this week that it was investigating chicken deaths but believed them to be bird cholera. Agence France-Presse reported from the Indonesian island of Bali on Friday that a provincial official had acknowledged the death of thousands of chickens, but blamed it on the Newcastle virus.

There have been unconfirmed reports of chicken deaths in Myanmar as well; Mr. Penkair said that infected chickens had been found in "three or four" western provinces of Thailand, toward the Myanmar border.

China has continued to deny, most recently on Thursday, that it has any cases of bird flu. But Hong Kong officials said on Wednesday that they had found a dead peregrine falcon near the border with the rest of China that was infected with the disease.

There is some concern that because this strain of the bird flu is so adaptable it could combine with a human flu creating a dangerous mutant flu. World Health Organization officials, while calling for humans infected with the flu virus to be quarantined, caution that we need to keep the out break in perspective.

The Associated Press reports:

Scientists have reached no firm conclusions on why the flu is so contagious, but a leading theory is its adaptability. The WHO fears bird flu could combine with a human flu to create a dangerous mutant form.

Dr. Klaus Stohr, head of the U.N. agency's influenza program, recommended Friday that people with bird flu be quarantined to avoid contact with people with regular influenza.

Stohr said, however, that he sees no need for the kind of travel warnings WHO issued during last year's outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome, a flu-like illness that killed nearly 800 people worldwide.

"We have to put things into perspective. There is a chance that something can go wrong but it looks if we act decisively now, then there still is a window of opportunity here to control the disease before it takes on global proportions."

Killing chickens in affected countries is "the key to the solution of the whole problem," Stohr added. "We do not have a problem of international spread by infected humans. We may have a problem of international spread by birds."

Cross-posted from California Yankee.

Posted by Dan Spencer at 08:22 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 23, 2004

Iran To Try Al-Qaeda Captives

Reuters reports that Iran's Foreign Minister, said that Iran would put a dozen al-Qaeda suspects on trial.

According to Rueters:

The most important al Qaeda figure that Western intelligence agencies say may be in Iran is Egyptian Saif al-Adel, the security chief of Osama bin Laden's network.

In addition, Saudi sources said last year that Iran had detained Saad bin Laden, a son of Osama, as well as al Qaeda spokesman Sulaiman Abu Ghaith and Jordanian Abu Musab Zarqawi. The latter has suspected al Qaeda ties and is accused of plotting the murder of a U.S. diplomat in Amman in 2002.

There have been numerous reports that Iran was harboring al Qaeda militants who escaped Afghanistan after the U.S. overthrew Afghanistan's Taliban government after the September 11 attacks. Iran has not identified any of the al-Qaeda suspects.

Cross-posted at California Yankee.

Posted by Dan Spencer at 02:27 PM | Comments (47) | TrackBack

Eyes on Korea: Jan 23/04

Winds of Change.NET Regional Briefings run on Tuesdays & Wednesdays, and sometimes Fridays too. Today’s Regional Briefing focuses on Korea, courtesy of Robert Koehler in Kwangju.

TOP TOPICS

ALSO ON TAP TODAY: Stamp wars, Internet Wars, and History Wars; 3,000 ROK troops to Kirkuk; North Korea makes “bold” concessions; a look into the Great North Korean famine; USFK to leave Seoul; ROK Foreign Minister resigns, with implications for future US-ROK ties; dumb South Korean TV show ideas (but some decent movie ideas), and much, MUCH MORE.

Read The Rest…

Posted by Winds of Change at 09:59 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 21, 2004

Iran Roundup

The following links have to do with the current electoral standoff between hardliners and reformists in Iran. The nature of the standoff is discussed here.

This Economist article argues that the hardliners are in trouble:

Indeed, nearly 18 months have passed since President Khatami threw down the gauntlet by insisting on the passage of two bills, one to rein in the conservative judges who had done so much to nullify his reforms, the other to curb the Council of Guardians, the constitutional watchdog that now threatens even greater emasculation of the majlis. Neither bill has been put into effect, yet Mr Khatami has done nothing to precipitate the crisis he seemed to be calling for. It is his brother, a member of the majlis, who appears to be leading the protests. On Tuesday, the president hinted that he might resign, as most of his cabinet and all of Iran’s state governors are threatening to do unless the banning of the moderate candidates is overturned. However, on Wednesday, while criticising the bans, Mr Khatami stopped short of reiterating his threat. He also called on the reformist MPs to end their sit-in—a plea they rejected.

So the conservatives may get away with it once more. But they face one short-term danger and one longer-term one. Their immediate worry is that the students will be galvanised by the MPs’ sit-in. Many student leaders have been picked off over the years and are now in jail, but new leaders may well arise in their place. The young particularly resent the bans or restrictions on dancing, movies, videos, alcohol, women’s dress and indeed all social mixing of the sexes. And like most Iranians, they hate being citizens of a country considered by George Bush to be part of the “axis of evil”. They know that in their aspirations for democratic change they have the moral support not just of Americans but of Europeans too—Javier Solana, the EU’s foreign-policy chief, criticised the ban on pro-democracy candidates during a visit to Tehran on Monday. And, thanks to watching illicit satellite broadcasts and to keeping in touch with a huge diaspora of Iranians abroad (about 1m in America alone), they are well informed about events outside their country, including the international opprobrium brought about by their country’s nuclear programme.

The longer-term danger for the clerics also lies in the dissatisfaction of the young, but this discontent is not confined to students. Two-thirds of Iran’s 70m people are under the age of 30, and half are under 20. Religious rule has given them an education and, in the right to vote (at 16), a taste of and for democracy. It has not given them jobs, nor can it do so in sufficient numbers to satisfy all those now leaving school unless it allows economic change—including foreign investment—and, inevitably, political reform too. Whether this week’s row ends in climbdown, compromise or crackdown, it will not have banished the prospect of Iran’s next revolution. On the contrary, it will probably have brought it closer.

By contrast, this article from the Economist says that it is the hardliners who have the upper hand:

IN THE view of Mohsen Mirdamadi, one of Iran’s most senior politicians, it smacked of a coup d’état. On January 11th the Council of Guardians, the iron fist of Iran’s formidable clerical establishment, let it be known that it was barring some 4,000 candidates, including 82 serving deputies, from standing in parliamentary elections due on February 20th.

Officially, most of the disqualified candidates are being penalised for their supposed indifference to Islam and to the constitution, and for querying the virtually limitless powers enjoyed by the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. No one doubts that they have been chosen because they support the country’s reform-minded president, Muhammad Khatami, and his dangerously democratic ideas.

The Council of Guardians may be hoping to dissuade Iranians from voting. Last year’s council elections, when the reformists lost power in most big cities, showed that a low turnout favours the conservatives. They hope that their stable 15%-or-so of the vote will win them a disproportionate share of parliament’s 290 seats.

Ever since their sweeping victory in the last parliamentary election, in 2000, reform-minded deputies have backed the president in his struggle against Iran’s roundly disliked, but immensely powerful, conservative institutions. Denied much of their legislative clout, parliamentarians have been reduced to using the chamber to highlight—but not, alas, to curb—the conservatives’ abuses of power.

The Council of Guardians duly avenged itself on the biggest party of whistle-blowers, the Participation Front; just two of its 67 serving deputies were cleared to stand. In Tehran 52% of all candidates were barred. In distant Kurdistan, where ethnic nationalism wears reformist colours, the figure was 59%.

Since rumours of mass disqualifications had circulated long before they were made public, the barred parliamentarians had prepared their response. On January 11th about 80 deputies began a sit-in in the parliament building, to go on “as long as necessary”. If the council refuses to back down, says Reza Khatami, one of parliament’s two deputy speakers (and the president’s younger brother), the agitation will grow and will “take new forms”.

To the regime’s external enemies, these words are a portent—of political implosion, perhaps, foretelling the fatal weakening of the Islamic Republic. In Iran, a different view prevails. Rarely, since President Khatami’s triumphant election in 1997, has the establishment seemed so powerful, or its eventual victory so assured.

This article discusses the cracking of the hardline edifice:

Iran’s Guardian Council said Tuesday it had reversed only about 5 percent of its bans on candidates for seats in parliament despite a poll boycott threat by reformist President Mohammad Khatami’s party.

The 12-man unelected conservative watchdog has barred nearly half of 8,200 candidates from participating in the Feb. 20 election. Allies of Khatami, including 80 of the standing 290 members of parliament, have been most affected.

Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has the last word on all state matters, has urged the Council to review its decisions, but it has been in no apparent rush to lift bans and has until the end of the month to review 3,100 appeals.

“So far … 200 (disqualified) candidates have been approved,” said a statement on the hard-line Council’s Web site. The figure represents about five percent of the bans.

And finally, this article reports that some reformers are resigning their government positions to protest the recent activities of the hardliners:

Several ministers and vice presidents in Iran have handed in their resignations to protest the disqualification by the anti-reformist Guardian Council of nearly half of the candidates for Parliament, a senior government official said today.

“A number of ministers and vice presidents have resigned but they are waiting for the outcome” of the revision by the Guardian Council, Muhammad Ali Abtahi, a vice president, told reporters after a cabinet meeting. “All those who have resigned, including the governors and governor generals, are very determined,” he said.

The ministers submitted their letters last week, but Mr. Abtahi’s remarks marked the first time that the resignations were announced by an Iranian official.

Developing . . .

Posted by Pejman at 10:46 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Sharon Could Be in Trouble

An Israeli businessman was indicted Wednesday on charges of bribing Prime Minister Ariel Sharon with hundreds of thousands of dollars. Justice Ministry officials said they were considering indicting Sharon as well.

The indictment against real-estate developer David Appel complicates the prime minister’s clouded legal situation. The Supreme Court has ruled that an indictment would compel Sharon to leave office pending the outcome of a trial.

….

Sharon was not charged with any criminal wrongdoing, and officials in his office said he was conducting business as usual Wednesday.

That’s bribing Sharon. Not attempting to bribe. Stay tuned to this one.

Posted by Michele at 01:58 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

January 19, 2004

Northwest Used Passenger Data for Gov't Project

WaPo:

Northwest Airlines provided information on millions of passengers for a secret U.S. government air security project soon after the Sept. 11th terrorist attacks, raising fresh concerns among some privacy advocates about the airlines' use of confidential consumer data.

The nation's fourth-largest carrier publicly asserted in September that it "did not provide that type of information to anyone." But Northwest acknowledged Friday it had already turned over three months of reservation data to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's Ames Research Center by that point.

Posted by Michele at 06:39 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

January 17, 2004

Yes!

Yes .. absolutely.

Is Michael Jackson Losing His Mind? (Newsday)

Posted by Alan at 11:21 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

January 16, 2004

Rumors of Castro's Death May or May Not be Greatly Exaggerated

Yesterday, the Seattle Times had this story:

The leftist mayor of Colombia's capital city, who met recently with Fidel Castro in Havana, said yesterday the Cuban president appeared "very sick" during their talks. "He seemed very sick to me," Mayor Luis Eduardo Garzon told Radio Caracol of his December visit to Havana. "You could see he had physical limitations, especially in his speech."

Castro did not go to the 13th Ibero-American summit in Bolivia in November, a venue at which he usually basks in the limelight among admirers of his defiance of the United States. Castro also waited three days this year to celebrate the 45th anniversary of his New Year's Day triumph over the regime of Fulgencio Batista in 1959.

Today, the Miami Herald reports that rumors of Castro's death are flying:

Uncorroborated rumors that Cuban President Fidel Castro had died or suffered a stroke buzzed around Miami-Dade County on Friday, with anxious callers inundating police departments, media outlets and exile groups.

....

The latest rumor -- something that has occurred frequently over the years -- appear to have been spawned from comments published Wednesday from Luis Eduardo Garzón, the leftist mayor of Bogota, Colombia. He said that Castro appeared to be ''very sick'' during their talks in late December.

Cuban American National Foundation executive director Joe called the rumors "wishful thinking."

Posted by Michele at 08:54 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

Bush Appoints Pickering to Bench

President Bush installed Charles Pickering on a federal appeals court Friday, bypassing Democrats who had stalled his nomination for more than two years, sources said.

Bush appointed Pickering by a recess appointment which avoids the confirmation process. Such appointments are valid until the next Congress takes office, in this case in January 2005.

[FOX]

Posted by Michele at 03:34 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Yassin Marked for Death

Israel is set to resume targeted killings of top Hamas militants and leveled a blunt warning to the group's elderly spiritual leader that he tops the list of those to be hunted and put to death.

The threat comes after a Palestinian homicide attacker blew herself up this week at a crossing point between Israel and the Gaza Strip, killing four Israelis.

Deputy Defense Minister Zeev Boim said Hamas founder Sheik Ahmed Yassin topped the list of those the military is stalking.

"Sheik Yassin is marked for death, and he should hide himself deep underground where he won't know the difference between day and night," Boim told Army Radio on Thursday night. "And we will find him in the tunnels, and we will eliminate him."

[FOX]

Posted by Michele at 11:48 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

January 15, 2004

Mars Rover Spirit Moves

vert.rover.ap

Click for larger image

NASA announces rover Spirit has "six wheels in the dirt." Mars Exploration Rover Spirit successfully rolled off its lander platform and on to Martian soil. It didn't go far only about one meter, or three feet.

CNN reports that Spirit will stay put for a couple of days:

The first day we'll kind of hover over soil and take some microscopic images, and the second day we'll actually deploy the instruments on the soil, and then we'll swap instruments, and then we'll stow and get ready to drive.

Project scientists have likened Spirit to a robotic geologist. The rover's mission is to study rocks and soil in an effort to determine whether the cold, desert world once was a warm, wet planet.

Spirit will first analyze rocks and soil near the lander, eventually making its way toward a large crater about 100 meters (300 feet) away. After exploring that area, the rover will literally "head for the hills," making its way toward an area called the "East Hill Complex."

East_Hills_Sol8_380-78.jpg
Click for larger image

NASA isn't certain Spirit can reach those hills. The rover was designed to be able to travel 600 meters. The hills are five times that far away.

NASA deserves a big atta boy for Spirit! Can NASA perform an encore? Sprit's twin, Opportunity, is set to land on Mars a week from Saturday. Keep those fingers crossed.

Posted by Dan Spencer at 08:43 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

President Bush Announces New Vision for Space Exploration Program

The full text of the President's remarks on U.S. space policy, here.

In the past 30 years, no human being has set foot on another world, or ventured farther upward into space than 386 miles -- roughly the distance from Washington, D.C. to Boston, Massachusetts. America has not developed a new vehicle to advance human exploration in space in nearly a quarter century. It is time for America to take the next steps.

Today I announce a new plan to explore space and extend a human presence across our solar system. We will begin the effort quickly, using existing programs and personnel. We'll make steady progress -- one mission, one voyage, one landing at a time.

Posted by Alan at 12:09 AM | Comments (13) | TrackBack

January 14, 2004

Buzzword Alert: "Homicide Bomber"

I log onto FOXNews this morning and see this headline: Homicide Bomber Kills Four at Gaza Border.

"Homicide bomber?" Makes sense ... but typically the press has called such people "suicide bombers," yes? An interesting turn by FOX. FYI, here are the Google News search numbers for both phrases:

"Suicide bomber": 2,970 articles.

"Homicide bomber": 19 articles.

In the Google Search the first usage of "homicide bomber" was in the Jewish Journal on December 18th, in a story titled Saddam Should Face Iraq 'Nuremberg' Trial. The second was a FOXNews article, posted on December 19th, about possible terror threats in New York City.

Posted by Alan at 05:39 AM | Comments (19) | TrackBack

January 13, 2004

Plan for the Peaceful Removal of the Islamic Regime of Iran

A Plan for the peaceful removal of the Islamic Regime of Iran will be announced during a live program broadcast on many Iranian satellite TV and Radio stations. The program starts at 10 AM PST from NITV studios in Los Angeles and will last for 6 hours, including a fundraising segment to support the plan. Other media who have confirmed the live broadcast of this program include Pars TV, Radio Sedaye Iran, Radio Yaran, Radio Sedaye Emrooz, Rangarang TV, Apadana TV, and Lahzeh TV.

This program can also be seen live via the Internet at www.IranRadioTV.com who will provide a FREE link on that day.

via Activist Chat

For more on Iran, please see today's OpEd from Dariush Shirazi.

Posted by Michele at 04:56 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

January 12, 2004

Good Fences

[Fox]

President Bush and Mexican President Vicente Fox sought to mend fences on Monday as Fox praised Bush for his new immigration proposal.

Bush was in Monterrey, Mexico, for the 34-nation Summit of the Americas where leaders gathered to discuss trade, security and other issues. The meeting is being billed as an opportunity for Bush and Fox to improve their strained relationship. Immigration was one issue that Fox felt the U.S. had neglected in the last two years.

"This plan is not amnesty," the president said of his plan to match workers with jobs. "I oppose amnesty because it encourages violation of our laws."

Bush is expected to unveil details of his plan in his State of the Union address on Jan. 20, and it is unclear how they will be received by lawmakers.

"In Mexico this is a very important step forward," Fox said of Bush's proposal, which is designed to provide legal status to millions of undocumented immigrants working in the United States.

Posted by Michele at 04:43 PM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

January 11, 2004

Iran Shuts Out Reformist Candidates

Here is the story:

Iranian reformists walked out of parliament while others staged a sit-in to protest over the conservatives' rejection of election candidates.

Exactly how many of the 8,200 hopefuls for February's legislative elections have been barred was unclear on Sunday. However, initial results from several provinces carried by the official IRNA news agency indicated it was between 50 and 60 percent, Reuters said.

Among those disqualified by a conservative watchdog group was a brother of President Mohammad Khatami and head of the Islamic Iran Participation Front -- the Islamic republic's largest pro-reform party.

Parliament members say about 900 of the 1,700 hopefuls for seats in Tehran have also been disqualified from running.

Also posted on my weblog.

Posted by Pejman at 10:34 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

January 10, 2004

U.S.-Islamic World Forum Opens in Qatar

The U.S.-Islamic World Forum is underway in Doha, Qatar. Organized by the Brookings Institution, the conference brings together dozens of politicians, religious leaders, business leaders and academics from the United States and Islamic countries to promote better understanding.

Read more about the opening of the conference here at the Guardian, and visit the forum's home page here.

Posted by Alan at 10:49 PM | Comments (35) | TrackBack

January 08, 2004

Bush to Announce Manned Mars Mission

[Fox]

President Bush will announce plans next week to send Americans to Mars and back to the moon and to establish a long-term human presence on the moon, senior administration officials said Thursday night.

Bush won't propose sending Americans to Mars anytime soon; rather, he envisions preparing for the mission more than a decade from now, one official said.

The president also wants to build a permanent space station on the moon.


That's no moon.....

Posted by Michele at 09:23 PM | Comments (21) | TrackBack

January 07, 2004

European Hunt for Al-Qaeda Suspect

From The Australian :

The French government said on Wednesday that police across Europe were searching for a passenger who failed to show up for an Air France flight on Christmas Eve and who is suspected of having links with the al-Qaeda network.

"I can confirm to you that we are looking for someone. I can't tell you any more than that," Justice Minister Dominique Perben told French RMC Info radio.


Posted by Alan Brain at 06:42 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 06, 2004

India and Pakistan: Making History

It seems like just yesterday that we were worried about India or Pakistan setting off a nuclear war. And now, they have kissed and made up. Or agreed to, at least.

From the Times of India, the full text of the statement on bilateral talks between Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf:


"The President of Pakistan and the Prime Minister of India met during the SAARC (South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation) Summit in Islamabad .

"The Indian Prime Minister while expressing satisfaction over the successful conclusion of the SAARC Summit appreciated the excellent arrangements made by the host country.

"Both leaders welcomed the recent steps towards normalization of relations between the two countries and expressed the hope that the positive trends set by the CBMs (confidence building measures) would be consolidated.

"Prime Minister Vajpayee said that in order to take forward and sustain the dialogue process, violence, hostility and terrorism must be prevented.

"President Musharraf reassured Prime Minister Vajpayee that he will not permit any territory under Pakistan 's control to be used to support terrorism in any manner.

"President Musharraf emphasized that a sustained and productive dialogue addressing all issues would lead to positive results.

"To carry the process of normalisation forward the President of Pakistan and the Prime Minister of India agreed to commence the process of the composite dialogue in February 2004.

"The two leaders are confident that the resumption of the composite dialogue will lead to peaceful settlement of all bilateral issues, including Jammu Kashmir, to the satisfaction of both sides.

"The two leaders agreed that constructive dialogue would promote progress towards the common objective of peace, security and economic development for our peoples and for future generations

North Korea, Iran, Libya, Pakistan, India...perhaps some day our grandchildren may see world peace.

/end eternal optimism mode

Posted by Michele at 09:04 AM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

North Korea Willing to Stop Nuke Program

North Korea offered to halt all nuclear weapons production Tuesday, calling the proposal a "bold concession" aimed at rekindling six-way talks over its arms programs.

The move comes as the United States, China, Russia, Japan and the two Koreas scramble to arrange a new round of negotiations, with South Korea and Russian saying they are unlikely this month.

North Korea has said before it is willing to freeze its "nuclear activities" in exchange for U.S. aid and being delisted from Washington's roster of terrorism-sponsoring nations.

Full story at Fox

Posted by Michele at 05:42 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

January 04, 2004

Spirit Mosaic

Here's a link to NASA's Spirit images press release, and below is the first horizon composite sent back ... click for a larger image.

Posted by Alan at 10:17 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Spirit Has Landed

NASA's Deep Space Network has received a signal confirming that Mars Exploration Rover Spirit is alive after rolling to a stop on the surface of Mars.

rover.jpg
Fox News: NASA scientists cheer as they get a signal from the Mars Rover Spirit after landing.

On the surface of Mars. How very cool.


Posted by Michele at 01:08 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

January 03, 2004

Elderly Woman Rescued From Iranian Quake

A small bit of good news ... and she's in her 90s. Read it here at ABC.

Posted by Alan at 11:27 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Welcome To Gobal Recon!

A change! We’ve changed the title of our “Hotspots” page to “Global Recon.” We’ll still use this page to cover North Korea, Iran, and other global hotspots … but going forward it will also be the place to find breaking news of immediate interest from all around the world (like the 2003 Northeast Blackout). We hope you enjoy the page, and thanks for reading the Post!

Posted by Alan at 10:24 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

January 02, 2004

Delegation to Visit NK Nuke Complex

Fox:

North Korea has invited a delegation of U.S. nuclear experts from outside the Bush administration to visit its main nuclear complex next week, U.S. officials said Friday.

It will be the first exposure by outside experts to the site since Pyongyang expelled U.N. monitors at the end of 2002, the officials said.

The administration is doing nothing to facilitate the mission but would welcome any new information about the activities at the site, located north of Pyongyang.

The delegation is expected to include Sig Hecker, former director of the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico, a nuclear weapons research center.

Posted by Michele at 12:59 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack