Wednesday, January 24, 2007

HyperBike Has NASA Looking Twice -

posted: 22 January 2007
04:47 pm ET

The Hyperbike is a working prototype created by inventor Curtis DeForest for a human-powered vehicle that will be faster than a traditional bicycle and much safer.


In creating the HyperBike, DeForest tried to remedy the flaws of the standard bicycle. For one thing, it has no seat; the rider stands upright. Also, the arms are used for additional power. DeForest describes pedaling the HyperBike as "swimming on dry land." Motor vehicle speeds of at least fifty miles per hour are easily attained.

The wheels are sixty-four inches apart at the road surface and only twenty-six inches apart at the top of their eight-foot diameter; racing wheelchairs also use heavily cambered wheels.

One of the most interesting differences lies in the greater stability of the HyperBike. A conventional bicycle has the center of gravity higher than the spinning axis of the wheels. The HyperBike positions the rider in such a way as to put the center of gravity below the wheel axis.

Apparently, it is the stability and balance of weight relative to spinning forces that has NASA interested. These factors would make the Hyperbike a good choice for low gravity environments. The NASA-funded Space Alliance Technology Outreach Program has invested some capital in the development of the next model.

Bicycles in low gravity? I think I've heard that one before - don't all the prospectors on the Moon have one?

The solitary [lunar] prospector, deprived of his traditional burro, found the bicycle an acceptable and reliable, if somewhat less congenial, substitute. A miner's bike would have looked odd in the streets of Stockholm; over-sized wheels, doughnut sand tires...
(Read more about lunocycles)

Lunocycles figure in Robert Heinlein's 1952 novel The Rolling Stones.

Check out these other futuristic one- and two-wheeled vehicles:

Via HyperBike: Hype or Hope?.

(This Science Fiction in the News story used with permission from - where science meets fiction.)

Saturday, January 20, 2007

The Harm Principle - Wikipedia

Well, the harm principle is quite populare and well-known among liberal-minded people (in the old libertarian sense of the term) .
As long as the actions of someone don't cause any harm to someone else, the government should not be allowed to interfere with this person's sovereignty over his/her own body and mind.

John_Stuart_Mill actually argued that people's freedom was justified primarily on utilitarian grounds. Leaving someone free to act as he/she wishes does benefit society as a whole (on the ground that this person knows better about his/her own welfare than anybody else who - obviously - doesn't understand his body and mind the way she/he does.) Liberty is not an end in itself. Only their own perception of hapiness/suffering matters.

Interestingly, the French article on the Harm principle is giving a different perspective on the issue.
Should someone be held liable for causing harm to a third person ONLY because he/she acted in a way that brought some harm? Should someone be also held liable for causing harm INDIRECTLY because he/she didn't act when in a position to RESCUE a third person from getting into troubles.
For most of us, the answer would be "yes" I guess. If we ever see someone drowning, we should not let that person if we can swim right away!
However, in some cases, there could be some contradictions with the first definition of the harm principle: In case we misunderstand the situation by interfering with someone's freedom when he doesn't need help. The result would be an embarrassing "mind your own business"
Even more complex are the cases where people are obviously harming themselves without be aware of the consequences of their actions. That's the case for young children (who needs to be supervised by adults) and some elder-aged people (who also need to be supervised by adults once it is clear that their mental skills are failing them).
Taken to the extreme, these new interpretations can lead effectively to a "benovolent" dictatorship. Let us imagine that a very small minority of "elites" keep control of other people's life on the ground that they are not educated enough to understand that they may "harm" themselves!
We are back to the first definition of the "harm" principle.


The harm principle is articulated in John Stuart Mill's On Liberty. Mill argues that the sole purpose of law should be to stop people from harming others and that should people want to participate in victimless crimes, crimes with no complaining witness, such as gambling, engaging in prostitution, then they should not be encroached in doing so.

Mill defines the harm principle in Chapter One as follows:

The object of this Essay is to assert one very simple principle, as entitled to govern absolutely the dealings of society with the individual in the way of compulsion and control, whether the means used be physical force in the form of legal penalties, or the moral coercion of public opinion. That principle is, that the sole end for which mankind are warranted, individually or collectively, in interfering with the liberty of action of any of their number, is self-protection. That the only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilized community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others. His own good, either physical or moral, is not sufficient warrant. He cannot rightfully be compelled to do or forbear because it will be better for him to do so, because it will make him happier, because, in the opinion of others, to do so would be wise, or even right... The only part of the conduct of anyone, for which he is amenable to society, is that which concerns others. In the part which merely concerns himself, his independence is, of right, absolute. Over himself, over his own body and mind, the individual is sovereign.

The harm principle is in part the basis for certain political stances of the United States Constitution and Libertarian Parties.

[edit] See also

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Racism, ratings and reality TV: now Big Brother creates a diplomatic incident - The Guardian

Here is a modern dilemma for TV broadcasters:

From their own perspective... The credibility of a TV reality show is based on showing entirely all the social interactions between a group of people without any censorship.
Now, noone pretends that these people are supposed to be role-models. They are just as good (or as bad) as the average guy (girl) in the society.
It cannot be a surprise then that such things as racist bullying take place when a person from an ethnical minority group is stuck in the same house with a group of other (low-educated?) people from the ethnical majority group.

From the perspective of the person who has been bullied (Shilpa Shetty)... She has been humiliated in public in front of millions of viewers.
From the perspective of the viewers from India: An Indian celebrity has been humiliated publicly. Are they going to enjoy the show?

That's the modern dilemma of anyone working in the media industry: The media is Power. The images that are shown may be taken as examples to follow by countless other viewers. Media professionals can't ignore it.

From the perspective of someone like me reading the news today, I have mixed feelings.
First feeling: This is disgusting and dangerous.
Second feeling: This is the real world and people have to be aware that racism does exist. After all, racism often starts with stupid jokes.


· Complaints over Channel 4 show hit record 22,000
· Police to investigate abuse of Bollywood film star

Owen Gibson, Vikram Dodd and Randeep Ramesh in Delhi
Thursday January 18, 2007
The Guardian

Protesters in Patna, India, shout slogans against the producers of Celebrity Big Brother
Protesters in Patna, India, shout slogans against the producers of Celebrity Big Brother. Photograph: Associated Press

Three days ago it was merely the below par fifth season of a faltering reality TV franchise. But as the storm over the alleged racism of its participants intensified, Celebrity Big Brother yesterday sparked demonstrations on Indian streets, consternation in Downing Street, condemnation from the chancellor on a state visit to Bangalore and a police investigation.

The Channel 4 show has always courted controversy but has never before been on the verge of sparking an international incident. Yet as the number of complaints from outraged viewers topped 22,000, the Indian government spoke out against the programme and Hertfordshire police confirmed it would investigate allegations that Bollywood star Shilpa Shetty had been subjected to racist abuse by three white fellow housemates.

The number of complaints looked sure to rise last night as Channel 4 broadcast a furious row between Shetty and Jade Goody. Speaking after the argument to another housemate, Cleo Rocos, Shetty said: "I'm representing my country. Is that what today's UK is? It's scary. It's quite a shame actually."

Rocos said: "I don't think there's anything racist in it." But Shetty replied: "It is, I'm telling you."

Later, glamour model Danielle Lloyd, talking to Goody, said that the Bollywood star should "fuck off home".

India's information and broadcasting minister Priyaranjan Dasmunsi appealed to Shetty to appear before the Indian high commission in London when she came out of the house. "If there has been some racism shown against her in the show, it is not only an attack on women but also on the skin and the country," he said.

Media regulator Ofcom said last night it had received 19,300 complaints, more than double its previous record, while a further 3,000 were made to Channel 4 directly. A separate online petition launched by the newspaper Eastern Eye had last night attracted 20,000 signatures.

Hertfordshire police said it would formally investigate 30 complaints. A spokesman said: "Hertfordshire constabulary is investigating allegations of racist behaviour in the Big Brother house, and will be conducting an inquiry, including a review of tapes."

Channel 4 and Endemol executives met yesterday to discuss the row, but privately may be rubbing their hands. Tuesday night's show was watched by 4.5 million people, 1 million more than Monday's.

The furore was sparked by a series of incidents centred on a group of contestants led by Goody, who earned millions after finding fame on the non-celebrity version of the show, and including her boyfriend Jack Tweed, Lloyd and former S Club 7 singer Jo O'Meara. At one point Goody, after a row with Shetty, had said: "You need elocution lessons. You need a day in the slums. Go to those people who look up to you and be real. You fucking fake."

Ratings, and voting revenues, are likely to soar further after Goody and Shetty were last night pitted against one another when they received the most nominations to be evicted from the house on Friday.

Last night, Channel 4 released a statement insisting that there had been no overt racism, and claiming that the clashes were based on class and cultural differences.

But in India, the row has managed the rare feat of uniting all political parties. Communists, Hindu nationalists and the ruling Congress party have all demanded action be taken to preserve Shetty's dignity. "[Big Brother] is holding a mirror to British society. It is no aberration. We should thank Channel 4 for revealing the hidden biases of Britain," Mahesh Bhatt, a Bollywood director, told the Guardian.

Dozens of Shetty's fans took to the streets in Patna, eastern India, to protest against what they said was her humiliation, burning straw effigies of the show's producers. In Bangalore, Gordon Brown faced journalists questioning him on the merits of a reality show he claimed not to have seen. "I understand that in the UK there have already been 10,000 complaints from viewers about remarks which people see rightly as offensive," he said. "I want Britain to be seen as a country of fairness and tolerance. Anything that detracts from that I condemn."

Later Tony Blair's spokesman added: "What clearly is to be regretted and countered is any perception abroad that in any way we tolerate racism in this country."

In one exchange, Goody was heard saying of Shetty: "She makes me feel sick. She makes my skin crawl", while her now evicted mother Jackiey continually referred to her as "the Indian". Later Lloyd claimed that the Bollywood star "wants to be white" and called her a "dog".

After Shetty cooked a roast chicken dinner, Lloyd had said: "They eat with their hands in India, don't they. Or is that China?" She added: "You don't know where those hands have been."

The complaints were further fuelled when Tweed was reported as calling Shetty a "Paki". Channel 4 insists that in fact the word he used, which was bleeped out, was "cunt".

FAQ: The law

Are the alleged remarks covered by any law?

Chief superintendent Ali Dizaei, adviser to the Black Police Association, said section 22 of the Public Order Act 1986 could apply as it talks about broadcasting "involving threatening, abusive or insulting visual images or sounds". An offence would be committed if Channel 4 intended "to stir up racial hatred" or if "racial hatred is likely to be stirred up".

Could Channel 4 or staff on the programme face criminal investigation?

Yes. Section 22 says those who could be guilty of an offence would be "persons providing the programme service", the producer and director, and "any person by whom offending words or behaviour are used".

Mike Schwarz, a solicitor specialising in public order law, said: "Channel 4 and the three contestants making the remarks could be prosecuted under the 1986 Public Order Act or the 1997 Prevention of Harassment Act."

What are the police doing?

Hertfordshire police, which covers the Big Brother house, had 30 calls from the public "relating to alleged racist behaviour", and passed them to the broadcasting regulator Ofcom.

This seemed at odds with the definition of a racist incident in the 1999 Macpherson report which defined a race hate crime as "any incident which is perceived to be racist by the victim or any other person".

Last night the force appeared to be reversing its position, saying it would be conducting an inquiry, "including a review of tapes", said a spokesman for Hertfordshire Police.

Vikram Dodd

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

NASA Finally Goes Metric -

By Staff

posted: 08 January 2007
04:00 pm ET

When NASA returns astronauts to the Moon, the mission will be measured kilometers, not miles.

The agency has decided to use metric units for all operations on the lunar surface, according to a statement released today.

The change will standardize parts and tools. It means Russian wrenches could be used to fix an air leak in a U.S.-built habitat. It will also make communications easier, such as when determining how far to send a rover for a science project.

NASA has ostensibly used the metric system since about 1990, the statement said, but English units are still employed on some missions, and a few projects use both. NASA uses both English and metric aboard the International Space Station.

The dual strategy led to the loss of the Mars Climate Orbiter robotic probe in 1999; a contractor provided thruster firing data in English units while NASA was calculating in metric.

The decision comes after a series of meetings between NASA and 13 other space agencies around the world, where metric measurements rule.

"When we made the announcement at the meeting, the reps for the other space agencies all gave a little cheer," said Jeff Volosin, strategy development lead for NASA's Exploration Systems Mission Directorate. "I think NASA has been seen as maybe a bit stubborn by other space agencies in the past, so this was important as a gesture of our willingness to be cooperative when it comes to the Moon."

Informally, the space agencies have also discussed using Internet protocols for lunar communications, the statement said.

"That way, if some smaller space agency or some private company wants to get involved in something we're doing on the Moon, they can say, 'Hey, we already know how to do internet communications,'" Volosin said. "It lowers the barrier to entry."

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Saturn Moon Has Lakes, "Water" Cycle Like Earth's, Scientists Say - National Geographic News

Richard A. Lovett
for National Geographic News
January 5, 2007

Saturn's giant moon has lakes and a "water" cycle remarkably similar to Earth's, new evidence suggests.

But Titan's lakes aren't made of water. Instead, they probably consist of liquid methane, which plays the role of water in Titan's superchilled climate, the researchers say.

The lakes were discovered by radar mapping when the Cassini spacecraft, now orbiting Saturn, did a close flyby of northern Titan last July.

The flyby revealed dozens of large, dark patches resembling lakes, up to 40 miles (70 kilometers) in diameter. (See more Saturn photos from Cassini.)

When the lakes were first discovered, the scientists noticed riverlike drainage channels that probably conducted moisture from the surrounding highlands.

This indicates that the lakes were fed by methane rains falling at higher elevations, said Ellen Stofan, lead author of a study in yesterday's issue of the journal Nature.

But some lakes had no such inlet streams. That means that there must be methane aquifers—"methanofers," Stofan called them—not far below the surface.

"Just like on Earth, if you dig deep enough, the depression fills up with water," said Stofan, who shares her time between the Proxemy Research corporation in Virginia and University College London in England. "There's a subsurface methane table."

Some of Titan's lakes also appear to lie in calderas formed by "cryovolcanism," but this doesn't mean that the methane in these lakes came from the volcanoes.

"Just like at Crater Lake in Oregon, once you have a depression, it will fill up with liquid," Stofan says.

Just Like Earth

Like other Titan researchers, Stofan is amazed by how many similarities Titan has to Earth.

"It's amazing that so far away, with such exotic materials, there's this hydrological cycle that's occurring that we dont see anywhere else in the solar system but on Earth," she said.

"If you were standing on the shores of these lakes, in some ways they would look familiar," she added.

"The methane would be transparent, so you could see pebbles on the bottom. And the largest lake is 70 kilometers [43 miles] across, so there's probably enough [distance] for waves to form."

In fact, she said, some of the radar images appear to show that the lake surfaces are choppier near the shores, a possible indicator of wave action.

The next step, Stofan said, is to watch how the lakes change as Titan's 29-year-long seasonal cycle switches from winter to spring.

Learning more about Titan's methane cycle will help us understand our own planet better, added Christophe Sotin of the University of Nantes in France.

"Titan is the only other place in the solar system where liquid is present at the surface," Sotin said by email.

Liquids are believed to be necessary for life.

"On Titan we don't expect life at the surface, because the temperature is too small—minus 179 degrees Celsius [minus 290 degrees Fahrenheit]," Sotin said.

But, he added, the study of methane helps us understand the processes that allow the existence of any liquid, including water. For liquids to persist for billions of years, for example, there must be a long-term equilibrium between such forces as evaporation and rainfall.

"By studying Titan, we may better understand the evolution of any planet, including Earth," he said.

Cassini is slated to study Saturn and its moons until at least June 2008.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Conscientious Rejector? - Yahoo News

First Lieutenant Ehren Watada still refuses Iraq deployment orders, calling the war illegal. A six-year prison term could result. Preliminary hearings are set for Thursday.

By the Hot Zone Team, Tue Jan 2, 6:38 PM ET
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First Lt. Ehren Watada, a 28-year-old Hawaii native, is the first commissioned officer in the U.S. to publicly refuse deployment to Iraq. He announced last June his decision not to deploy on the grounds the war is illegal.
Lt. Watada was based at Fort Lewis, Washington, with the Army's 3rd (Stryker) Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division. He has remained on base, thus avoiding charges of desertion.
He does, however, face one count of "missing troop movement" and four counts of "conduct unbecoming an officer and a gentleman." If convicted, he faces up to six years in prison.

Watada's court martial is on February 5. A pre-trial hearing is set for January 4, with an added scope of controversy: the Army has ordered two freelance journalists, Sarah Olson and Dahr Jamail, to testify against Lt. Watada at the hearing. Both journalists are fighting the subpoenas.
Kevin Sites recently spoke with Lt. Watada about the reasoning behind his decision, the controversy the decision has caused and how he is dealing with the repercussions.
Lt. Watada spoke on the phone from his family's home in Hawaii. Click here to listen to the full audio version of the conversation. A transcript of the interview follows.

KEVIN SITES: Now, you joined the Army right after the US was invading Iraq and now you're refusing to go. Some critics might look at this as somewhat disingenuous. You've taken an oath, received training but now you won't fight. Can you explain your rationale behind this?

EHREN WATADA: Sure. I think that in March of 2003 when I joined up, I, like many Americans, believed the administration when they said the threat from Iraq was imminent — that there were weapons of mass destruction all throughout Iraq; that there were stockpiles of it; and because of Saddam Hussein' ties to al-Qaeda and the 9/11 terrorist acts, the threat was imminent and we needed to invade that country immediately in order to neutralize that threat.
Since then I think I, as many, many Americans are realizing, that those justifications were intentionally falsified in order to fit a policy established long before 9/11 of just toppling the Saddam Hussein regime and setting up an American presence in Iraq.

SITES: Tell me how those views evolved. How did you come to that conclusion?

WATADA: I think the facts are out there, they're not difficult to find, they just take a little bit of willingness and interest on behalf of anyone who is willing to seek out the truth and find the facts. All of it is in the mainstream media. But it is quickly buried and it is quickly hidden by other events that come and go. And all it takes is a little bit of logical reasoning. The Iraq Survey Group came out and said there were no weapons of mass destruction after 1991 and during 2003. The 9/11 Commission came out and said there were no ties with Iraq to 9/11 or al-Qaeda. The president himself came out and said that nobody in his administration ever suggested that there was a link.
And yet those ties to al-Qaeda and the weapons of mass destruction were strongly suggested. They said there was no doubt there were weapons of mass destruction all throughout 2002, 2003 and even 2004. So, they came out and they say this, and yet they say it was bad intelligence, not manipulated intelligence, that was the problem. And then you have veteran members of the CIA that come out and say, "No. It was manipulated intelligence. We told them there was no WMD. We told them there were no ties to al-Qaeda. And they said that that's not what they wanted to hear."

SITES: Do you think that you could have determined some of this information prior to joining the military — if a lot of it, as you say, was out there? There were questions going into the war whether WMD existed or not, and you seemingly accepted the administration's explanation for that. Why did you do that at that point?

WATADA: Certainly yeah, there was other information out there that I could have sought out. But I put my trust in our leaders in government.

SITES: Was there a turning point for you when you actually decided that this was definitely an illegal war?

WATADA: Certainly. I think that when we take an oath we, as soldiers and officers, swear to protect the constitution — with our lives as necessary — and those constitutional values and laws that make us free and make us a democracy. And when we have one branch of government that intentionally deceives another branch of government in order to authorize war, and intentionally deceives the people in order to gain that public support, that is a grave breach of our constitutional values, our laws, our checks and balances, and separation of power.

SITES: But Lieutenant, was there one specific incident that happened in Iraq or that the administration had said or done at a certain period that [made you say] "I have to examine this more closely"?

WATADA: No, I think that certainly as the war went on, and it was not going well, doubts came up in my mind, but at that point I still was willing to go. At one point I even volunteered to go to Iraq with any unit that was short of junior officers.

SITES: At what point was that?

WATADA: This was in September of 2005. But as soon as I found out, and as I began to read and research more and more that the administration had intentionally deceived the public and Congress over the reasons for going to Iraq, that's when I told myself "there's something wrong here."

SITES: Was there any kind of personal conviction as well, I mean in terms of exposure to returning soldiers or Marines — the kinds of wounds they suffered, the kinds of stories that they were bringing back with them — did that have any kind of influence or create any factors for you in coming to this decision?

WATADA: Sure, I felt, well, in a general sense I felt that when we put our trust in the government, when we put our lives in their hands, that is a huge responsibility. And we also say that "when we put our lives in your hands, we ask that you not abuse that trust; that you not take us to war over flimsy or false reasons; that you take us to war when it is absolutely necessary." Because we have so much to lose, you know — the soldiers, our lives, our limbs, our minds and our families — that the government and the people owe that to us.

SITES: Was there a fear that played into that? Did you see returning soldiers with lost limbs? Was there a concern for you that you might lose your life going to Iraq?

WATADA: No, that had nothing to do with the issue. The issue here is that we have thousands of soldiers returning. And what is their sacrifice for? For terrorism or establishing democracy or whatever the other reasons are. And I saw the pain and agony etched upon the faces of all these families of lost soldiers. And I told myself that this needs to stop. We cannot have people in power that are irresponsible and corrupt and that keep on going that way because they're not held accountable to the people.

SITES: You know on that note, Lieutenant, let me read you something from a speech that you gave in August to the Veterans for Peace. You had said at one point, "Many have said this about the World Trade Towers: never again. I agree, never again will we allow those who threaten our way of life to reign free. Be they terrorists or elected officials. The time to fight back is now, the time to stand up and be counted is today." Who were you speaking about when you said that?

WATADA: I was speaking about everybody. The American people. That we all have that duty, that obligation, that responsibility to do something when we see our government perpetrating a crime upon the world, or even upon us. And I think that the American people have lost that, that sense of duty. There is no self-interest in this war for the vast majority of the American people. And because of that the American soldiers have suffered.
There really is a detachment from this war, and many of the American people, because there is no draft, or for whatever reason, because taxes haven't been raised, they don't have anything personally to lose or gain with this war, and so they take little interest.

SITES: Do you think President Bush and his advisers are guilty of criminal conduct in the prosecution of this war?

WATADA: That's not something for me to determine. I think it's for the newly-elected congress to determine during the investigations that they should hold over this war, and pre-war intelligence.

SITES: But in some ways you have determined that. You're saying this is an illegal war, and an illegal act usually takes prosecution by someone with criminal intent. Is that correct?

WATADA: Right, and they have taken me to court with that, but they have refused — or it will be very unlikely that the prosecution in the military court will allow me to bring in evidence and witnesses to testify on my behalf that the war is illegal. So therefore it becomes the responsibility of Congress, since the military is refusing to do that. It becomes the responsibility of Congress to hold our elected leaders accountable.

SITES: Now this is the same Congress though that in a lot of ways voted for this war initially. Do you think that they're going to turn around and in some ways say that they were wrong? And hold hearings to determine exactly that, that they made a mistake as well? It seems like a long shot.

WATADA: Right, well I think some in Congress are willing to do that, and some aren't. And that's the struggle, and that's the fight that's going to occur over the next year.

SITES: Let me ask you why you decided to go to the press with this. In this particular case you're the first officer — there may have been other officers that have refused these orders, but you're the first one to really do this publicly. Why did you do that?

WATADA: Because I wanted to explain to the American people why I was taking the stand I was taking — that it wasn't for selfish reasons, it wasn't for cowardly reasons.
You know, I think the most important reason here is to raise awareness among the American people that hey — there's a war going on, and American soldiers are dying every day. Hundreds of Iraqis are dying every day. You need to take interest, and ask yourself where you stand, and what you're willing to do, to end this war, if you do believe that it's wrong — that it's illegal, and immoral. And I think I have accomplished that. Many, many people come up to me and say, "because of you, I have taken an active interest in what's going on over in Iraq."
And also, you know, [I want to] give a little hope and inspiration back to a lot of people. For a long time I was really without hope, thinking that there was nothing I could do about something that I saw, that was so wrong, and so tragic. And I think a lot of people who have been trying to end this war felt the same way — that there was just nothing that they could do. And I think by taking my stand publicly, and stating my beliefs and standing on those beliefs, a lot of people have taken encouragement from that.

SITES: You've said that you had a responsibility to your own conscience in this particular situation. Did you also have a responsibility to your unit as well? I just want to read you a quote from Veterans of Foreign Wars communications director Jerry Newbury. He said "[Lt. Watada] has an obligation to fulfill, and it's not up to the individual officer to decide when he's going to deploy or not deploy. Some other officer will have to go in his place. He needs to think about that." Can you react to that quote?

WATADA: You know, what I'm doing is for the soldiers. I'm trying to end something that is criminal, something that should not have been started in the first place and something that is making America less safe — and that is the Iraq war. By just going there and being willing to participate, and doing my job, or whatever I'm told to do — which actually exacerbates the situation and makes it worse — I would not be serving the best interest of this country, nor the soldiers that I'm serving with. What I'm trying to do is end something, as I said, that's illegal, and immoral, so that all the soldiers can come home and this tragedy can come to an end.
It seems like people and critics make this distinction between an order to deploy and any other order, as if the order to deploy is just something that's beyond any other order. Orders have to be determined on whether they're legal or not. And if the order to deploy to a war that is unlawful, if that is given, then that order itself is unlawful.

SITES: How did your peers and your fellow officers react to your decision?

WATADA: I know that there have been some people within the military who won't agree with my stance, and there have been a lot of members of the Army of all ranks who have agreed with what I've done. And I see it almost every other day, where someone in uniform, or a dependent, approaches me in person, or through correspondence, and thanks me for what I have done, and either supports or respects my stand.

SITES: You've remained on base, and that's been a situation that can't be too comfortable for you. Can you fill us in on what that's been like there?

WATADA: I think that for the most part, people that I interact with closely — I have been moved, I'm no longer in the 3rd Striker Brigade, I'm over in 1st Corps — treat me professionally, politely, but keep their distance. I don't think anybody wants to get involved with the position that I've taken, either way. People approach me in private and give me their support.

SITES: Tell me about the repercussions you face in this court martial.

WATADA: Well I think with the charges that have been applied to me and referred over to a general court martial, I'm facing six years maximum confinement, dishonorable discharge from the army, and loss of all pay and allowances.

STES: Are you ready to deal with all those consequences with this decision?

WATADA: Sure, and I think that's the decision that I made almost a year ago, in January, when I submitted my original letter of resignation. I knew that possibly some of the things that I stated in that letter, including my own beliefs, that there were repercussions from that. Yet I felt it was a sacrifice, and it was a necessary sacrifice, to make. And I feel the same today.
I think that there are many supporters out there who feel that I should not be made an example of, that I'm speaking out for what a lot of Americans are increasingly becoming aware of: that the war is illegal and immoral and it must be stopped. And that the military should not make an example or punish me severely for that.

SITES: Do you think that you made a mistake in joining the military? Your mother and father support you in this decision, and your father during the Vietnam War refused to go to Vietnam as well, but instead joined the Peace Corps. He went to his draft board and said, "let me join the Peace Corps and serve in Peru," which is what he did. Do you think in hindsight that that might have been a better decision for you as well?

WATADA: You know I think that John Murtha came out a few months ago in an interview and he was asked if, with all his experience, in Korea, and Vietnam, volunteering for those wars -- he was asked if he would join the military today. And he said absolutely not. And I think that with the knowledge that I have now, I agree. I would not join the military because I would be forced into a position where I would be ordered to do something that is wrong. It is illegal and immoral. And I would be put into a situation as a soldier to be abused and misused by those in power.

STIES: In your speech in front of the Veterans for Peace you said "the oath we take as soldiers swears allegiance not to one man but to a document of principles and laws designed to protect the people." Can you expand upon that a little bit — what did you mean when you said that?

WATADA: The constitution was established, and our laws are established, to protect human rights, to protect equal rights and constitutional civil liberties. And I think we have people in power who say that those laws, or those principles, do not apply to them — that they are above the law and can do whatever it takes to manipulate or create laws that enable them to do whatever they please. And that is a danger in our country, and I think the war in Iraq is just one symptom of this agenda. And I think as soldiers, as American people, we need to recognize this, and we need to put a stop to it before it's too late.

Monday, January 01, 2007

2006 Bangkok bombings - Wikipedia

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2006 Bangkok Bombings
Location Bangkok, Thailand
Target(s) 8 locations (map) :

• Bus stop (Victory Monument)
• Police post (Saphan Khwai, Phaya Thai District)
Seacon Square shopping mall
• Market (Khlong Toei district)
Khae Rai intersection (Nonthaburi Province)
• Police post (Sukhumvit Soi 62)
• Restaurant (Khlong Saen Saeb, Pratunam Pier, near CentralWorld)
• Telephone booth (CentralWorld)

Date 31 December 20061 January 2007
18:00 PM – 00:05 AM (UTC+7)
Attack Type Unknown
Fatalities 3
Injuries ~ 38
Bangkok Post frontpage, January 1, 2007
Bangkok Post frontpage, January 1, 2007

The 2006 Bangkok bombings occurred on December 31, 2006 and January 1, 2007, during New Year's Eve festivities in the Thai capital. Four explosions went off almost simultaneously in different parts of the city at around 6:00 p.m. local time (1100 GMT). There were at least seven small explosions taking place within 90 minutes of each other, in the capital and the surrounding metropolitan area. In total, eight explosions occurred during the night. As of January 1, 2007, three people were confirmed dead and more than 38 injured.[1]

Authorities ordered all public New Year's Eve events cancelled, including the countdown at the CentralWorld shopping center and the alms-giving at Sanam Luang.[2]

One man was arrested carrying an explosive device. Nobody claimed responsibility for the bombings, and both the Thai Rak Thai party and deposed Premier Thaksin Shinawatra denied involvement.[3] The initials "IRK" were found written in marker in four places at three bomb sites. The IRK is a an Afghanistan-trained urban guerilla terrorism unit.[4] However, Interior Minister Aree Wong-araya shrugged off suggestions that the culprits were Muslim terrorists.[5] A meeting between Premier Surayud Chulanont and various security and intelligence agencies on the evening of December 31 failed to officially identify culprits for the attacks.[6] However, on January 1, Surayud announced that the bombings had nothing to do with the southern insurgency, noting that, "I don't think they would come here as they could get lost in Bangkok."[7] Surayud blamed the "old power clique" was behind the bombings. However, he noted that he was not referring only to the deposed government of Thaksin Shinawatra, but to all those who had lost political power due to the coup.[8]



[edit] Bombings

The Victory Monument, site of one of the bombs
The Victory Monument, site of one of the bombs

Six explosives went off almost simultaneously in Bangkok, killing three and injuring at least 36 people, as revellers were about to start celebrating the New Year's Eve.

  • Victory Monument. Seventeen people were injured. Two Thais died at the hospital from injuries. The bomb was placed in a bus-stop shelter and went off at around 6:00 p.m. A second bomb went off nearby shortly after.[9][10][11] One Hungarian was reported injured.[12] The bomb ripped through the bus stops, shattered windows at the nearby restaurant and sent debris in all directions.
  • Khlong Toei, near the Na Ranong intersection. A bomb hidden in a trash can near a Chinese spirit shrine exploded and injured three people, including a 10-year-old girl. A 61-year-old man died at the hospital from injuries. The explosion caused a secondary explosion in a number of cooking gas cylinders that were situated nearby.[9]
  • Saphan Khwai intersection, Phaya Thai District. Another bomb went off at a police box. Two people were injured. Witnesses saw a man dropping a grenade from a pedestrian bridge onto the police box, seriously injuring 1 person. Residue of C4 and TNT were found at the scene.[9]
  • Seacon Square Shopping Mall, Prawet District. An unexploded bomb was found in a trash can near a gold shop on the first floor inside the mall. It was removed to the carpark where it exploded, creating panic but causing no injuries. Authorities ordered all shoppers to evacuate the mall, one of Bangkok's largest, and all shops to close.[9]
  • Khae Rai intersection, Mueang district, Nonthaburi Province (13°51′31″N, 100°31′15″E). A police box was bombed but no injuries were reported.[9]
  • Sukhumvit Soi 62. A police box at the entrance of the soi was bombed, but no injuries were reported.[9]

New Year's celebrations at CentralWorld and Sanam Luang were cancelled.[13]

However, two more bombs exploded almost immediately after midnight in the vicinity of CentralWorld. Three Serbs, two Englishmen, two Thais, and one Irishman were among those injured.

  • Best Sea Foods restaurant on Khlong Saen Saeb near Pratunam Pier and CentralWorld. Three foreigners and two Thais were injured. One of the foreigners' legs was blown off by the blast. The foreign tourists were having dinner at the restaurant.[14][2]
  • A public telephone booth at the pedestrian flyover linking CentralWorld and Gaysorn Plaza. Several foreigners were injured.[14][2]
  • Three additional unexploded bombs were found in the area.[citation needed]
    Khaosan Road, where a bomb was found undetonated
    Khaosan Road, where a bomb was found undetonated

Police investigated several other incidents.

  • A suspected bomb was investigated at the Buddy Bar on Khaosan Road about half an hour after midnight. Tourists had earlier been ordered to leave the area.[14] The bomb report later turned out to be false.[15]
  • By 1 a.m., police disabled another bomb at the Suan Lum Night Bazaar before the bomb could explode.[14][2]

[edit] Victims

The wave of bombings claimed three deaths, all of whom where Thai nationals: two individuals were killed at the moment of the explosion, while one died after being brought to the hospital. Songkran Kanchana, 36 and Ekkachai Ruangpoom, 26, were at the Victory Monument, while Suvichai Nak-iam, 61, was at Khlong Toei.

An additional 38 persons standing nearby the blast zones were also injured. Amongst the victims, eight foreigners were hurt: 2 British men, 3 Hungarians, 2 Serbs and 1 American.[1].

Location Deaths Injuries
Victory Monument 2 Thai 15 (1 Hungarian, ?)
Khlong Toei 1 Thai 6
Saphan Khwai 0 2
Seacon Square Shopping Mall 0 0
Khae Rai Intersection (Thai: สี่แยกแคราย) 0 0
Sukhumvit Soi 62 0 0
CentralWorld (Best Sea Foods restaurant) 0 2 Thais
3 foreigners
CentralWorld (pedestrian flyover) 0 6 foreigners
Total 3 ~38

[edit] Bombs

Police General Ajiravid Subarnbhesaj claimed that all eight bombs were placed in 3x5-inch boxes and detonated by digital alarm clock. Traces of M4 high explosive booster were found in all of the bombs.[16] Other military ordinance sources claimed the bombs were all Ammonium Nitrate Fuel Oil (ANFO)/M4 bombs.[17] This would make the bombs the same type as found in a car outside of Thaksin Shinawatra residence in August 2006 .

[edit] Responsibility

[edit] Forewarning of the bombings

Authorities had earlier warned of an escalation of the South Thailand insurgency during the New Year period.[18]

Thai Military Intelligence and the Special Branch received intelligence that there would be bombs in up to 30 places in Bangkok and surrounding areas, particularly popular shopping malls like Siam Paragon, the Mall Bangkapi, and Seacon Square.[19]

[edit] Identify of the bombers

Nobody claimed responsibility for the bombings, and both the Thai Rak Thai party and deposed Premier Thaksin Shinawatra denied involvement.[3]

The initials "IRK" were found written in marker in four places at three bomb sites - a pillar near a bus stop at Victory Monument, a phone booth near Gaysorn Plaza, a phone booth near Pratunam Pier, and a phone booth near Big C Rajdamri. The IRK is a an Afghanistan-trained urban guerilla terrorism unit. However, Interior Minister Aree Wong-araya shrugged off suggestions that the culprits were Muslim militants.[20] Senior junta leadership agreed that Muslim terrorists were not involved, and that the initials were meant to frame the IRK and muddy the waters.[21]

The junta attributed the bombings to various groups. Government security sources blamed the "old power clique," a possible reference to members of the government of deposed Premier Thaksin Shinawatra.[22] Other security sources said that the bombings might provide the junta with reason to seize Thaksin's sizable personal assets.[23] The Thai Rak Thai party denied orchestrating the bombings and warned the junta not to point fingers without facts.[24] "Based on the government's information and intelligence agencies, it was the work of people who lost power, but I cannot clearly say which group was behind it," he said.[25]

Anti-Thaksin newspaper editor Sondhi Limthongkul said he believed the bombings were orchestrated by "undercurrents", supporters of the deposed government of Thaksin Shinawatra, who wanted to discredit the junta, but he cited no evidence.[26]

A meeting between Premier Surayud Chulanont and various security and intelligence agencies on the evening of December 31 failed to officially identify culprits for the attacks.[27]

However, on January 1, Surayud announced that the bombings had nothing to do with the southern insurgency, noting that, "I don't think they would come here as they could get lost in Bangkok."[28] He claimed that the "old power clique" was the mastermind. He claimed that he was not referring only to the deposed government of Thaksin Shinawatra, but to all those who had lost political power due to the coup.[29]

[edit] Aftermath

[edit] Further bombings

On January 1 2007, an explosion occurred inside a mosque in Chiang Mai, injuring four people. The mosque keeper claimed that a grenade had been lobbed in, but an army bomb expert claimed the blast was caused by the premature explosion of a bomb being built by the mosque keeper[30].

[edit] Security measures and junta responses

Several foreign embassies issued travel warnings to their citizens in Bangkok warning that further attacks are possible.[31]

The junta ordered the military to the streets of Bangkok to control the situation. 6,000 checkpoints were setup throughout Bangkok. Army Commanders for the North, Northeast, and the South are on placed on alert. Bangkok Governor Apirak Kosayothin ordered all 50 districts in Bangkok to collect all their rubbish bins.[32][33]

Junta head Sonthi Boonratkalin cut short his hajj and flew back from Saudi Arabia to meet with the junta leadership in the afternoon of January 1, 2007[34] Later on that same day, assistant police commissioner Jongrak Juthanon was assigned to lead an investigation into the deadly incidents.[35]

[edit] References

  1. ^ a b BBCNews, Thai PM blames rivals for blasts, January 1, 2007
  2. ^ a b c d New Year's Eve bombs kill 2 in Bangkok, Associated Press, 31 December 2006.
  3. ^ a b The Nation, Ousted PM denies involvement in New Year's eve bomb attacks, January 1, 2007
  4. ^ Thai Rath, สุรยุทธ์-ประณาม แก๊งป่วน ผู้สูญเสียอํานาจ, 2 January 2007
  5. ^ The Nation, Militants not seen as likely culprits, 2 January 2007
  6. ^ The Nation, Meeting fails to establish culprits of Bangkok bomb attacks: spokesman, January 1, 2007
  7. ^ The Nation, Suspicion falls on Thaksin allies, 2 January 2007
  8. ^ The Nation, Surayud blames old power clique behind Bangkok bomb attacks, January 1, 2007
  9. ^ a b c d e f The Nation, String of blasts rock Bangkok, killing 2, January 1, 2007.
  10. ^ Festivities off as bombs disrupt Bangkok; two dead, 25 injured, MCOT, December 31, 2006.
  11. ^ The Nation, Bangkok bomb death toll rises to three, 1 January 2007
  12. ^
  13. ^ The Nation, New Yew countdown cancelled after bombs, January 1, 2007
  14. ^ a b c d The Nation, Two more bombs explode at Central World, Pratunam, January 1, 2007
  15. ^ The Age, Two die in Bangkok blasts, January 1 2007.
  16. ^ The Nation, Who set the bombs? The mystery can only deepen, 2 January 2007
  17. ^ The Nation, Militants not seen as likely culprits, 2 January 2007
  18. ^ Sunday Herald, Authorities fear new year attacks from militants, December 31, 2006
  19. ^ Thai Rath, 1 January 2006
  20. ^ The Nation, Militants not seen as likely culprits, 2 January 2007
  21. ^ Thai Rath, สุรยุทธ์-ประณาม แก๊งป่วน ผู้สูญเสียอํานาจ, 2 January 2007
  22. ^ The Nation, Old power clique suspected of being behind Bangkok bomb attacks: source, January 1, 2007
  23. ^ The Nation, CNS may seize Thaksin's assets following bomb attacks: source, January 1, 2007
  24. ^ The Nation, TRT denies masterminding bombs, January 1, 2007
  25. ^ The Nation, Surayud suspects "power losers", January 1, 2007
  26. ^, “สนธิ”ฟันธงฝีมือคลื่นใต้น้ำบึ้มป่วนกรุง สั่งสอน คมช.-รัฐบาล, December 31, 2006
  27. ^ The Nation, Meeting fails to establish culprits of Bangkok bomb attacks: spokesman, January 1, 2007
  28. ^ The Nation, Suspicion falls on Thaksin allies, 2 January 2007
  29. ^ The Nation, Surayud blames old power clique behind Bangkok bomb attacks, January 1, 2007
  30. ^ The Nation, Grenade lobbed into Chiang Mai mosque, January 1, 2007
  31. ^ The Nation, Foreign embassies issue travel warning on Bangkok, January 1, 2007
  32. ^ Thai Rath, 1 January 2007
  33. ^ Matichon, 1 January 2007
  34. ^ The Nation, Sonthi to return to Bangkok this afternoon, January 1, 2007
  35. ^ Bangkok Post, Bomb type identified, chief investigator named, January 1, 2007