Monday, November 29, 2010

RoadID enhanced

Going jogging? Out in the wilds? For some time you have been able to buy a RoadID bracelet for just in case the worst happens... Now they have 'upgraded' their product to make it even more helpful... Whereas before you had an engraved plate with your emergency information (for example a spouse's telephone number), in the latest iteration each Road ID has a serial number and PIN on the back of the plate. A good Samaritan or emergency responder can log in to their web site and enter the serial number and PIN from the plate to access the information you have entered in your profile e.g. see screen shot below for what information is available... So now you can set up your address, up to five emergency numbers, physician contacts, some medical information such as allergies and blood type, and miscellaneous information. Alternatively the good Samaritan or emergency responder can call a toll free number to access the same information. A nice improvement!

Road ID Wrist ID Sport Review (The Original version)
'Road ID' Bracelet
Interactive Road ID Product Review

Getting to agreement

Today is the start of COP16/CMP6 - the 16th edition of Conference of the Parties of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP) and the 6th Conference of the Parties serving as the meeting of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol (CMP) - the follow-up to Copenhagen, 2009 that is taking place in Cancun , Mexico from November 29th through December 10th.

According to news reports President Obama will not be attending the deliberations... At first blush this might seem to be somewhat of a surprise given the stakes. And what are the stakes? Well, the answer to the question regarding the importance of the Cancun conference depends on one's point of view, and opinions range along a continuum:
  • At one end of the continuum, at the very least it is important because decisions might be made there that could have profound effects on both the world and U.S. economies, and,
  • At the other end of the continuum it is thought to potentially be crucial to the future existence of mankind as we know it.
With so many countries, NGOs, etc. attending, each with their own baggage and multiple, differing opinions regarding what needs to be done, surely this would be a great opportunity for the great uniter to pull another rabbit out of his hat? After all he did it at Copenhagen... as he miraculously achieved unanimous agreement at the NPT Review Conference... as he managed to get the New START agreement... as he got unanimous agreement for UNSC 1887... as he bridged the differences in Honduras with the "Tegucigalpa/San Jose Agreement." Would it not be a good idea to have present that ability to get agreement between parties that have totally opposing positions?

This blogger would argue 'no', that it is better that the President not attend, that it would be preferable to have lower level representation that can work to achieve more limited agreements... And why should this be? Because in this blogger's estimation that would be a superior outcome, and it is preferable to achieve a "more limited", albeit fairly concrete agreement, as opposed to the sweeping "historic" agreements a la Obama, that are more hyperbole-filled than "real."

This blogger's thesis is that the achievement of these "historic" agreements by President Obama has been more due to the artful crafting and composition of documents that the various parties can "agree" to without their having to actually change their positions substantively... That in all the cases cited, President Obama did not somehow convince the various parties to come to a common understanding by the force of his intellect and/or argument, but by devising agreements that contained sufficient ambiguity that the various parties could "agree" to them.

With that in mind let us examine the record highlighted above, starting with Copenhagen 2009.

OK, the first example, Copenhagen 2009, was more nuanced and not universally agreed to be a "win." Opinions on the outcome ranged from a "... meaningful and unprecedented agreement..." (per President Obama), to a "... historic failure that will live in infamy..." (Greenpeace activist), to a "reset" and possibly "... the beginning of a game changer in how the world looks at ending carbon pollution..." (Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress), all the way to the "... end of a long day, start of a long road..." (350.0rg founder). Reactions were definitely mixed across the entire spectrum.

A certain inevitable amount of "spinning" went on after the fact, after all this did include a large number of heads of state from around the globe. 'White House tells amazing inside story of how the Copenhagen Accord was reached' and 'Inside details on Obama's climate change meeting with Wen, Lula, Singh and Zuma' more or less gave the administration's version of how they saved the day, via a briefing given by a "senior administration official" to reporters on the flight back to the United States. Presumably this was supposed to give an account of how President Obama 'saved the day' at Copenhagen... This blogger did not find it persuasive, and in fact it revealed an incredible level of incoherence. One would expect that the President's attendance at this gathering of world leaders would be well planned, but one apparently would be wrong. For example:
  • During the meeting with Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao the U.S. "... had given some transparency language to them..." to discuss. A follow-up question revealed that this was handed over at the meeting between Obama and Wen, a meeting at the end of the last day of the conference! Apparently the earlier arrival of Secretary of State Clinton had not result in any preparation for the President's arrival... Why? It's not as if China's issues with "transparency" suddenly showed up when the President arrived!
  • OK, so the above was concerning but not a huge deal. However, as the narrative by the "senior administration official" goes on, it looks like the most powerful man on the planet flew all the way to Copenhagen for an issue that might concern the fate of the entire planet, and did this all by the seat of his pants. "The President also says to staff, we should meet in a group of three with Lula of Brazil, Singh of India, and Zuma of South Africa..." Unfortunately it looked like this meeting would not occur, because "... Brazil tells us that they don't know if they can come because they want the Indians to come..." and "... we were told Singh was at the airport..." So, if this narrative was true, it would seem that the President didn't have a meeting already scheduled with these worthies! That he suddenly got the bright idea that this might be a good idea... And that it looked like it wasn't going to be possible because some of them were already leaving the conference!
  • Then, apparently, as they were going to the follow-up meeting with Wen they found him with the three (Brazil's Lula, India's Singh, and South Africa's Zuma)!! Hmm. so perhaps credit for saving the conference should have gone to Wen and not to Obama, since according to the "senior administration official" it was Wen that managed to pull together the group after the U.S, had failed to do so!
OK, so this all sounds incredibly amateurish, even putting aside the insinuations that the others might have been engaged in some sort of secret meeting; that the "at the airport" story was possibly a ploy; etc. The entire narrative doesn't make much sense, from the small details (the seating) to the larger narrative (above). Even the silly "seating" story makes no sense! Although, supposedly, "... there aren't any seats, right, I mean, I think if you've seen some of the pictures, there were basically no chairs..." it turns out that "... the President says, "No, no, don't worry, I'm going to go sit by my friend Lula," and says, "Hey, Lula." Walks over, moves a chair, sits down next to Lula. The Secretary of State sits down next to him..." So, if no chairs where were they sitting? On the floor? That would make a good picture, the President and Secretary of State both sitting cross-legged on the floor!

This blogger was not sure what to make of this entire narrative. Even if you believed every word, did the unnamed "senior administration official" somehow feel that the story reflected positively on the President? Presumably the intent of this briefing was to portray the President as having pulled a rabbit out of his hat; however, this blogger would argue that it was more evidence of ineptness than of brilliant maneuvering! And if it's not an exact rendering of what happened, why would they have come up with such a silly story?

Next, let us move back in time to an event that was universally proclaimed as a success, the 2010 NPT Review Conference earlier this year...

At the end of May 2010, the month-long NPT Review Conference wrapped up, adopting a consensus final document, "... the first one achieved... in ten years...". Significant achievement, or...? With the "non-aligned' countries led by Egypt pushing for concrete steps towards a WMD-free zone in the Middle East (MEZFWMD), and other countries pushing for concrete steps towards nuclear disarmament by the "nuclear haves", how exactly did this "agreement" happen? Well, by the process of artful "compromise."

Regarding the timetable for disarmament, the nuclear "haves' managed to make sure that no actual date was set for disarmament, agreeing instead to work towards that goal and to report back on their progress. Regarding the MEZFWMD, the agreed-upon final statement "... calls for holding a conference in 2012 "to be attended by all states of the Middle East, leading to the establishment¨ of such a zone. It also mentions ¨the importance of Israel's accession to the treaty and the placement of all its nuclear facilities under comprehensive IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) safeguards...¨

So President Obama achieved an "agreement' between multiple parties "without any of them actually having to change their positions to come to a commonality of understanding and purpose!" The U.S. got much of what it wanted (a strengthening of the nonproliferation regime; a reinforcement of the IAEA; calls for strengthening export controls; tightening the requirements around treaty withdrawal; and many other provisions), while at the same time the U.S. ignored the parts of the agreement it didn't like (mainly the MEZHWMD), as demonstrated by:
  • The Department of State web page recapping the NPT Review Conference final document, while providing information on the main provisions made no mention of the MEZHWMD at all.
  • As reported, administration officials characterized the conference to be held in 2012 as "a modest step", and said that the U.S. would not pressure any government (read Israel) to attend the conference.
  • The President's statement on the final document then included: "We strongly oppose efforts to single out Israel, and will oppose actions that jeopardize Israel's national security." U.S. National Security Adviser General James Jones characterized this as a "gratuitous" attempt to single out Israel, and indicated that it is the U.S. view "... that a comprehensive and durable peace in the region and full compliance by all regional states with their arms control and nonproliferation obligations are essential precursors for its establishment..." i.e. full peace in the Middle East before a MEZHWMD!
The bottom line? A final document that could be accepted unanimously by the various parties. However, no "real" agreement, since each of the opposing camps focused on the part of the agreement that was palatable to them. The U.S. led the way in selectively picking and choosing the parts of the document that it liked, thereby vitiating the final document...

Next, let us briefly mention the New START agreement.

This blogger's impressions of New START are to be found in detail at the March 28th blog entry "Yawn." In the context of this argument, this "historic" agreement also fits the bill - besides grossly over-stating the very modest cuts that have been achieved, it also contained language that was "agreed" to by both parties without them coming to a common understanding e.g. the language on missile defense, where the U.S. position is that the agreement "... does not contain any constraints on testing, development or deployment of current or planned U.S. missile defense programs...", while the Russians disagree strenuously on this point...

Next, on to United Nations Security Council Resolution 1887.

In September 2009 the United Nations Security Council unanimously passed Resolution 1887. This was immediately hailed as "historic" by President Obama, who chaired the session. The resolution "expresses the Council’s grave concern about the threat of nuclear proliferation and the need for international action to prevent it. It reaffirms that the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and their means of delivery are threats to international peace and security and shows agreement on a broad range of actions to address nuclear proliferation and disarmament and the threat of nuclear terrorism" (see 'Fact Sheet on the UN Security Council Summit on Nuclear Nonproliferation and Nuclear Disarmament UNSC Resolution 1887').

Reactions ranged from those lauding President Obama for achieving a signal victory, to others accusing him of having demonstrated "weakness." President Sarkozy of France managed to strongly push for the resolution, even while "sticking it" to the President. An example of a laudatory reaction, "... Obama has consolidated global support behind the vision and the plan. He has laid the legal and diplomatic basis for enforcing tougher penalties for those that cheat on nuclear treaties. He has gotten all the nuclear nations to agree to new steps to get rid of the weapons they now hold in staggering numbers. It is remarkable progress..."

How did President Obama get the unanimous agreement of countries with very different agendas for a common understanding? Well, that was both an artefact of the how the resolution was written - with sufficient ambiguity to allow states with differing viewpoints to agree on the formulation - as well as the fact that the document did not seriously bind the permanent members to change their existing actions or positions. A few examples to consider:

Section 4 "calls upon all States that are not Parties to the NPT to accede to the Treaty as non-nuclear-weapon States so as to achieve its universality at an early date, and pending their accession to the Treaty, to adhere to its terms;" Seems rather cut and dried, a strong push to bring all companies under the aegis of the NPT. Or was it? As soon as the resolution passed India immediately registered its objections to this, and was promptly reassured by the U.S. Additionally, barely a week earlier many of those who voted for 1887 (and presumably agreed with the need for all non-signatories to accede to the NPT) had voted against a n IAEA resolution urging Israel to accede to the Non-Proliferation Treaty and to place all their atomic sites under UN inspections... (note: the vote passed despite this...)

Section 5 "Calls upon the Parties to the NPT, pursuant to Article VI of the Treaty, to undertake to pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to nuclear arms reduction and disarmament, and on a Treaty on general and complete disarmament under strict and effective international control, and calls on all other States to join in this endeavour;" Although the nuclear powers agreed here to work towards "complete (nuclear) disarmament", who can doubt that this "long and arduous" journey will not be their major focus, and will most certainly be subordinated to the incomparably more important (ahem) issue of nonproliferation? The nuclear "haves" made sure to include no dates for achieving "this endeavor."

Section 7 "Calls upon all States to refrain from conducting a nuclear test explosion and to sign and ratify the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), thereby bringing the treaty into force at an early date;" A long-standing goal of the nuclear "have nots," the "haves" here agreed to achieve this "at an early date." However, there is no evidence of current moves towards achieving this goal any time soon. Both China and the United States have signed but not ratified the CTBT (U.S. - signed by President Clinton in 1996, rejected by the Senate in 1999). The language in 1887 appears to reflect President-elect Obama's commitment to taking the CTBT to the Senate for ratification "at the earliest practical date." At present, however, it is very unlikely that the Senate would ratify the CTBT, even if strongly supported by the President...

Section 9 "Recalls the statements by each of the five nuclear-weapon States, noted by resolution 984 (1995), in which they give security assurances against the use of nuclear weapons to non-nuclear-weapon State Parties to the NPT, and affirms that such security assurances strengthen the nuclear non-proliferation regime;" Here, the nuclear "haves" would appear to have reconfirmed an assurance that they will not use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear weapon states. Apparently fairly cut and dried. But how do we square this with the standard "we won't take any options off the table" formulation that has been brandished against various states, including but not limited to (non-nuclear) Iraq and Iran?

Section 19 "Encourages States to consider whether a recipient State has signed and ratified an additional protocol based on the model additional protocol in making nuclear export decisions;" Note the use of "encourages." By using this "softer" term ("encourages" rather than, say, "requires") Russia can both agree to the resolution and still have the latitude to proceed with supporting Iran's reactor at Bushehr... Similarly, Section 8 which covers the negotiation of a treaty to ban the production of fissile material, "requests all Member States to cooperate in guiding the Conference to an early commencement of Substantive work" (note "requests.")

Bottom line: yet another example of President Obama facilitating the achievement of unanimity, that on closer view reveals its 'success' to be more due to its artful composition than to President Obama somehow having convinced by force of argument Russia, China, etc. to change or moderate their positions...

Next, on to Honduras and the "Tegucigalpa/San Jose" agreement.

As a final example, let us look back to October 2009, when Honduran President Zelaya was bundled out of the country in his pajamas. On October 30th, 2009 the Honduran de facto (Micheletti) government and ousted President Manual Zelaya ostensibly came to an agreement regarding how to resolve the stand-off that had been in place since Zelaya was arrested by the Honduran military and exiled from the country (June 28th.) The U.S. which had been involved in the negotiations and had facilitated the "agreement" swiftly claimed a "breakthrough in negotiations in Honduras," and a "historic agreement." Zelaya also claimed victory and vindication, saying "This signifies my return to power in the coming days, and peace for Honduras." Even Hugo Chavez chimed in enthusiastically...

However, reading between the headlines and perusing a myriad of articles hailing the agreement, it was clear that things didn't seem to add up! Yes, there was an article that covered the formation of a national unity government, and it even provided a deadline (November 5th) for this to happen; however, Zelaya was only to be reinstated upon approval by the country's parliament, and no deadline was provided for that article of the agreement. Given that a large majority of the Honduran Congress had supported his removal and that the de facto government leaders continued to insist that he would never return (for example, Marcia Facusse de Villeda, an aide to Micheletti said, "Zelaya won’t be restored.”), it did not seem likely that Zelaya would be reinstated. Given the 180-degree difference between the expectations of the two sides of who had signed this "historic agreement," it seemed that nothing good would be forthcoming...

Fast forward a week and, sure enough, it began to fall apart - the Honduran Congress was not called out of recess to reinstate Zelaya, and the de facto government had named a unity government, claiming that Zelaya's side had not set forth its members. For his part, Zelaya issued a statement withdrawing from the “Tegucigalpa/San Jose Agreement,” and pre-declared the November 29th election as a fraud - "... we announce that we will completely ignore this electoral process and the results of the aforementioned evils, elections under a dictatorship are a fraud for the people..."

So, it was back to the status quo ante - the de facto government went along with the new elections and chose a new President, while Zelaya's side rejected the entire process as a sham. The U.S. government, which had midwifed the "historic agreement" backed the newly-elected President, to all intents and purposes acquiescing in Zelaya's ouster...

OK, so overall there seems to be a common thread here... "Historic" agreements between parties that have very different positions; "agreements" that do not require the coming to of a common understanding; a "papering over" of differences that ultimately will likely reassert themselves.... In short, strong on symbolism and short on substance. Cancun is too important to get the "historic" treatment!

NPT Review Conference:
NPT on Debategraph
Two Cheers for Multilateralism
Progress on Nukes at the UN?
Iran narrowly wins UN nuclear battle
NPT RevCon ends with a consensus Final Document
A Surprising Consensus on Nuclear Nonproliferation
Understanding the 2010 NPT Review Conference
Post-NPT RevCon Review of the Goal for a NWFZ in the Middle East …And why this goal is so important
Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference Final Document (U.S. State Dept.)
NPT RevCon Produces Consensus Final Document
NPT Rev-Con achieves consensus document
ACA Welcomes NPT Review Consensus
Obama hails 'balanced' non-proliferation accord
Nuke session approves early steps to disarm
U.N. Nuke Meet Ends with Good Intentions and Empty Promises
NPT Review Adopts Outcome Document at Last Moment
Success of NPT Review Conference great news
Commitment to WMD-free Middle East in doubt as NPT conference ends
In NPT, US sacrifices its own policy goals to serve as Israel’s lawyer
Jones: NPT review a "gratuitous" attack on Israel
A Middle East Zone Free of Weapons OF Mass Destruction
Yossi Melman: U.S. sacrificed Israel for success of NPT conference

New START agreement:
Some Preliminary Thoughts on the New START agreement
The Start of a New Obama Narrative
New U.S.-Russian Arms Control Deal Set for Signing
Questions Abound as "New START" Agreement is Completed
US-Russia nuclear pact to be Obama victory
Getting A New START On The Road To Nuclear Arms Reductions
U.S., Russia agree to nuclear arms control treaty

UNSC 1887:
UN Security Council adopts resolution on nuclear safeguards
White House Fact Sheet on UN Security Council Resolution 1887
Text of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1887
India strongly reacts to UNSC resolution on NPT.
U.S.: UN resolution on NPT not directed against India
Ouch! French President Sarkozy slams ‘naive’ Obama for living in 'virtual world’ on Iran
Obama's Nuclear Victory
Building a world without nukes
IAEA urges Israel to allow nuclear inspection

Honduras and the "Tegucigalpa/San Jose" agreement:
Pact to restore ousted Honduran leader in Congress (Oct 30th)
Breakthrough in Honduras (Oct 30th)
Honduran Congress Leader Says Accord Won’t Restore Zelaya (Oct 30th)
Honduras deal a boost for US influence in Latin America (Oct 30th)
Fin de crisis apoya política multilateral de EUA (Oct 30th)
Credit where credit is due (Oct 31st)
Troubles for a Deal — and for Obama — in Honduras (Nov 6th)
Pres. Zelaya: Elections Under a Dictatorship are a Fraud, Micheletti’s Failure to Comply (Nov 7th)

Final note: This blog entry pulls together and incorporates a number of prior individual blog entries to help make the central point...

Random picture

Source: DHS Mubtakar Improvised Cyanide Gas Device Warning.

Ah, the infamous "muktabar of death." This first hit public consciousness in 2006, when Ron Suskind's "One Percent Doctrine' claimed that:

"... [A joint Saudi-US counterterrorist unit] found it [in a jihadist apartment in Saudi Arabia]: plans for construction of a device called a mubtakkar. It is a fearful thing, and quite real….a delivery system for a widely available combination of chemicals--sodium cyanide, which is used as rat poison and metal cleanser, and hydrogen, which is everywhere. The combination of the two creates hydrogen cyanide, a colorless, highly volatile liquid that is soluble and stable in water. It has a faint odor, like peach kernels or bitter almonds. When it is turned into gas and inhaled, it is lethal. For years, figuring out how to deliver this combination of chemicals as a gas has been something of a holy grail for terrorists….Mubtakkar means “invention” in Arabic, “the initiative” in Farsi. The device is a bit of both. It’s a canister with two interior containers: sodium cyanide is in one; a hydrogen product, like hydrochloric acid, in the other; and a fuse breaks the seal between them. The fuse can be activated remotely--as bombs are triggered by cell phones--breaking the seal, creating the gas, which is then released. Hydrogen cyanide gas is a blood agent, which means it poisons cells by preventing them from being able to utilize oxygen carried in the blood...." see 'The Untold Story of al-Qaeda's Plot to Attack the Subway'

Plans for the mubtakar appeared in many places on the web, and "... Thus, it is likely that thousands of jihadis and al-Qaeda sympathizers worldwide also accessed the al-Mubtakkar manual online..." - 'Special Report: Manual for Producing Chemical weapon to be used in New York subway plot available on al-Qaeda websites since 2005.'

Debunked as highly unlikely by Dick Destiny, Stratfor, and others back in 2006, the dreaded mubtakar (reminder:
"It is fairly easy to make. You need someone only modestly skilled to do it.") is resurrected/recycled from time to time (google for numerous links), requiring additional debunking...

And now, November 2010, the DHS in collaboration with ITACG has issued a Unclassified/For Official Use Only Roll Call Release warning about the mubtakar...

Random charts

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Further "self-executing"

The March 29th, 2008 blog entry 'Medellin' looked at 'Medellin v Texas' and noted the apparent difference between "self-executing" and "non self-executing" treaties. An article at Opinio Juris, 'A Head-Spinning Self-Execution Story' discusses the issue of self-execution (and related confusion) through the prism of two defense trade treaties agreed to with the United Kingdom and Australia...

In both of these cases language was inserted into the treaty preamble texts declaring them to be self-executing. However when the Senate took up the ratification of the two treaties it declared them non self-executing notwithstanding the included language. Given that in Medellin the Supreme Court looked to the language of the relevant treaty to determine if it was self-executing or not, this would seem to raise a number of questions and this is discussed in the article...

Random charts

Source: Calculated Risk

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Great quotes

"Whoever technically killed Rafik Hariri, those really responsible were [French President Jacques] Chirac and [US President George W] Bush, who forced him to accept 1559"
- Our go-to guy for great quotes, Walid Jumblatt, see 'Lebanon tense as fingers point over Hariri killing'

Coming to a head?

Tick, tock. Tick, tock... The days and months continue to roll by since the assassination of Rafik Hariri (February 14th, 2005), and the official investigation plods on... Recently, Canadian broadcaster CBC published a 4-part "investigation", "Who Killed Lebanon's Rafik Hariri?" (subtitled "Getting Away with Murder.") The bottom line? Hezbollah, albeit with help...

OK, so let's stipulate that all of this could be true, although there is a fair amount of skepticism out there... For example, the Qifa Nabki web site takes issue with the CBC "investigation's" central thesis that the UNIIIC ignored telecom information for the first several years (note: his criticism provides copious references to and excerpts from UNIIIC reports by Mehlis and Brammertz which reference telecommunications analysis work that the commission had done).

This blogger finds the very first two sentences of the CBC article simply astounding! Quote, "It wasn't until late 2007 that the awkwardly titled UN International Independent Investigation Commission actually got around to some serious investigating. By then three years had passed since the spectacular murder of Lebanon's former prime minister Rafik Hariri." Huh? Is this actually possible? No real investigating for the first three years? While the evidence was "fresh"? While suspects were actually incarcerated and in jail (e.g. "the four generals" - head of general security Maj. Gen. Jamil al Sayyed, Ali al-Hajj, the former police director general, army intelligence chief Brig. Gen. Raymond Azar and the head of the Presidential Guard Brigade, Brig. Gen. Mustafa Hamdan)? Wouldn't this be in contravention of the "guiding principles" of the STL e.g. "to take account of the most stringent requirements for the protection of human rights"(see here), and wouldn't this be a case of providing ammunition to those already looking for opportunities to criticize the UNIIIC and to call for its disbanding?

To this blogger if the CBC contention is accurate then the very premise and existence of the UNIIIC is problematic, while if the CBC contention is inaccurate it does not augur well for the reliability of the rest of the "investigation."

Next, the entire "Captain Wissam Eid had figured it all out but the UNIIIC lost/misplaced his findings" story and the associated time line are also rather bizarre... So, the narrative is that in 2005/2006 Eid had figured out the "red network" and the "networks behind the networks"... He had even received a confirmation direct from Hezbollah, before filing his report with the UNIIIC "in the first months of 2006." Subsequently his boss was targeted "as if to underscore" that he should back off (curiously enough that was in September 2006... one would think that Hezbollah would have done this before he turned in the incriminating report and not after "he had moved on!"). Then Hezbollah waited for a year and a half, and after Eid's work was "found" and he met with UNIIIC investigators, then they kill him too... Again, wouldn't it have been better to kill him a. before he turned in his report, or failing that, b. after he turned in his report, along with having report expunged by one of their operatives (since Hezbollah is supposed to have "infiltrated the commission.")

And actually, what exactly is the relevance of the entire Wissam Eid story to the subject of proving Hezbollah's responsibility (or not) for the Hariri murder, other than from a "human interest" angle? After all, if the specialists from FTS have analyzed all the telecommunications data and have mapped out all the connections, it does seem rather moot...

Additionally, some of the connections are not exactly clear... How exactly did the networks connect "elliptically" with Hezbollah's Great Prophet Hospital, and how did the networks communicate "indirectly" with the pink phones?

Oh yeah, and there appears to be very little in this CBC "investigation" that is new, much of this information was published by Der Spiegel back in May of 2009, see 'Breakthrough in Tribunal Investigation: New Evidence Points to Hezbollah in Hariri Murder'

The bottom line? We'll have to wait for the STL's indictments to know more, and even so those are sure not to be the last word!!

CBC Investigation: Who killed Lebanon's Rafik Hariri?
STL response: Hariri Investigation will not be Deterred by Recent Criticism
Lebanon tense as fingers point over Hariri killing
Trials and tribulations for Mr. Bellemare

Some previous blog entries referencing Lebanon:
Great quotes - Oct 10th, 2010
Random charts - Sep 23rd, 2010
Random picture - Aug 4th, 2010
Great quotes - Jan 10th, 2010
Great quotes - Jul 29th, 2010
Such concern - Jul 24th, 2009
Lebanese elections II - Jun 9th, 2009
Lebanese elections - Jun 8th, 2009
Four years on... - February 16th, 2009
Quotes - Jan 21st, 2009
UNIIIC progress (?!) - December 18th, 2008
Great quotes... - December 10th, 2008
Damned if you do... - November 18th, 2008
Lebanon - good grief - November 11th, 2008
Taking it back - October 28th, 2008
Profile - Oct 20th, 2008
Litmus test quiz - September 2nd, 2008
Everything takes more time... - August 12th, 2008
At Last (Lebanon)! - July 11th, 2008
Self-examination - profound & shallow - July 7th, 2008
Some poll indicators - June 21st, 2008
Make that President Sleiman - May 25th, 2008
Le Sursis - May 21st, 2008
Lebanon - Doha noise - May 20th, 2008
Bad omen... good omen... - May 11th, 2008
Needed in Lebanon III - May 6th, 2008
Headed back down the toilet? - May 6th, 2008
Needed in Lebanon II - May 2nd, 2008
Needed in Lebanon - April 16th, 2008
Misc updates #3 - April 4th, 2008
Rogue's Gallery II - March 26th, 2008
A Rogue's Gallery - March 2nd, 2008
Benazir Bhutto follow-up... - Feb 9th, 2008

Great quotes

"Lorsque tout devient monnayable en lires ou en dollars, lorsqu'il y a un prix pour le devoir de la fonction, un prix pour traiter avec les services de l'État, un prix pour les tâches du gouvernement, un prix pour mettre à exécution les projets publics, un prix pour voter aux élections parlementaires, un prix pour ce qu'on dit ou écrit dans les mass médias, un prix pour légiférer certaines choses, un prix pour certaines sentences judiciaires, lorsque tout a un prix, nous craignons que la corruption ne soit devenue dans notre vie publique un élément appartenant au noyau même de la culture sociale, et que la société soit donc devenue la victime de ce que nous appelons la culture de la corruption"
- Selim Al Hoss, ex-prime minister, speaking about corruption in Lebanon.

More fun with QR

Picture credit: Paris by Raspou Team

In Paris the group Raspouteam ran a “Paris, désordres publics” project, for which they created ceramic tiles with QR codes that they then affixed at select locations around the city (see the video below). The locations chosen were places which had historically been "... the scene of social or morally objectionable historic events. For example the drowning of the Moroccan immigrant Brahim Bouarram by a mob in 1995 or the notorious antisemitic exhibition during Nazi occupation at the Palais Berlitz in 1941..." (see here, here, and here)

U.S. computer retailer Best Buy is now deploying QR codes on the product fact tags in all their stores, reports RetailGeek. "... The customer can use the QR Reader on their smartphone to get detailed information about the product they are considering. They can read consumer reviews, compare features with similar products, and e-mail details to a friend who might be giving advice..."

A Canadian winery, Jackson Triggs Vintners, is now including QR codes on some of their wine labels, and it is reported that "... Consumers who scan the bottle's codes will be able to get information on the wine and link to detailed tasting notes, food pairing ideas, and link to the Facebook fan page and the Jackson Triggs website..."

Google's Mobile blog highlights Google applications, such as Google Sky Map and Google Shopper... Prominently displayed QR codes take you to the Android marketplace to download the applications...

Meanwhile in Japan, Japanese Use Cell Phone QR Bar Code Readers to Check Food Safety, something implemented as far back as 2005!

Previous barcode-related blog entries:
Misc. QR - Nov 19th, 2010
BB QR Code Scanner Pro - Nov 18th, 2010
Random charts - Nov18th, 2010
More QR - Jul 24th, 2010
Misc barcode updates... - Jun 3rd, 2010
Barcode happiness - II - Apr 11th, 2010
Barcode happiness - I - Apr 11th, 2010
Misc update - Jan 30th, 2010
Barcode update - Dec 29th, 2009
No luck - Dec 15th, 2009
QR codes to hit the U.S.? - Dec 13th, 2009
Misc. update (BB/2D barcodes) - Aug 22nd, 2009
QR update - May 19th, 2009
BB & 2D barcodes - Apr 21st, 2009

Friday, November 26, 2010

Random charts

ExoPC first look - II

OK, so this is not the tablet you want to buy if you are one of those who wants something that works straight out of the box, and are not willing to engage in or capable of major tweaking. On plugging in the ExoPC and getting it going you need to immediately install Windows updates and the latest ExoPC UI; create a restore image to a USB stick; and then update the touch screen firmware!

The Windows desktop and the ExoPC UI:

Some screen grabs:

Given the aspect ratio, this blogger wondered re how it would come across when used in portrait mode rather than landscape. As you can see the results varied. With Seesmic you could see more tweets at a time; with IE the web page required scrolling (though you could 'pinch' to fit on the screen); and the ExoPC UI didn't work out well in portrait at all... In addition, when you change the tablets orientation and the accelerometer changed the screen orientation, it was not immediate - the screen goes blank for five to six seconds, then 'comes back' in the new orientation. Two (smallish) blemishes so far!

ExoPC first look

ExoPC first look

The specifications:

Operating System Microsoft Windows 7
Home Premium
UI Layer ExoPC UI Layer
App Store Yes
Multi-touch Capacitive dual-touch, Pressure sensitive
Display 11,6 inches
1366 x 768
135 pixels per inch
RAM (installed / max) 2GB / 2GB DDR2
CPU Intel Atom Pineview-M N450
1.66 GHz - 64 bit support
Graphics Intel GMA 3150
BROADCOM Crystal HD 1080p
Storage SSD 32GB or 64GB
Wireless Wifi 802.11 b/g/n
Bluetooth 2.1 + EDR
Ports USB 2.0 x2, Audio jack, Mini-HDMI, Dock
Card reader SD/SDHC
32GB Max
Accelerometer Yes
Light sensor Yes
Webcam 1.3 MP
Microphone Yes
Speaker Built-in 2 x 1.5W
Battery 4 hours
Dimensions 295 x 195 x 14.0 mm
950 g

With an iPad (left) and the Libretto W105:

The official ExoPC web site:
ExoPC forums
Official Unboxing Gallery


- Pre-production units:

ExoPC slate hands-on
ExoPC hands-on review
ExoPC Slate – iPad Outlook With Tablet And Netbook Capabilities
EXCLUSIF: Premières impressions du prototype de l’EXOPC Slate

- Production units:

Engadget: ExoPC Slate review
L'ExoPC : bien, mais pas fini, conclut Engadget