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March 2006

Photo of Charles Taylor in Handcuffs

From the BBC web site: Charles Taylor in handcuffs. I asked around about the black vest and was told:

It's a body armor vest, with the pocket in the front to put a ceramic plate. It's raining, and they give him a wet jacket, so the nylon can look like leather on the picture, and they dind't adjust the size for that fat guy.

Also, I now have a Flickr photoset of related photos.

MEANWHILE, on the subject of Taylor: Slate gives me credit for one of Alex Harrowell's better lines.

Update on the Wild & Crazy Armenian Brothers in Kenya: Send in the Crocodiles!

From the Kenya Times, this entertaining passage:

After a long silence, Artur Margaryan, now says he has brought to his residence more dogs and crocodiles to beef up his security. This is in addition to the ten dogs he had imported earlier. Westlands legislator Fred Gumo and his Makadara counterpart Reuben Ndolo should probably be warned not to take their threats to storm his residence, lest they be devoured by the crocodiles.

There's something reminiscent of The Old Lady Who Swallowed the Fly here. I've been wondering where this story is going. Perhaps it will end with the the Arturs being eaten by their, er, security forces.

(Who is cleaning up after all the animals, anyway? They have how many killer dogs? Wonder how it smells in there.)

I remain really interested in finding out who these guys are and where they came from.

On a more somber note, while these clowns hole up with large but untraceable amounts of cash, famine spreads across East Africa. And meanwhile Kenya is also having an outbreak of measles because of lack of vaccinations.

See also my previous posts:

Below the cut is an abundance of related links along with what I thought was the best line from each.

Continue reading "Update on the Wild & Crazy Armenian Brothers in Kenya: Send in the Crocodiles!" »

Lucent, Alcatel, & China: Issues of National Security & Censorship Technologies

Luencent Technologies, inc. (LU) -- which subsumed the legendary Bell Labs -- is in merger talks with Alcatel (ALA). Matt Armstrong of Mountain Runner makes an interesting point about the NYT story Lucent Talks Raise Issue of Security.

An important Alcatel relationship was ignored here: the relationship with China. Alcatel Shangahai Bell (ASB) is a substantial partnership with equally substantial backing from its near equal partner. Alcatel is the majority partner in ASB at 50% + 1 share. It is worth reading through this presentation by ASB's Executive Vice President of Sales & Services from November 2005. ASB is particularly active and successful in Africa and elsewhere.

See also BusinessWeek (via Telecommunications Industry and Regulation).

FreehaoOf course, this all raises national security issues. But even if you feel comfortable with those, try googling "Alcatel Shanghai censorship." I find that you come up with some rather interesting material. This is from IEEE Spectrum magazine in an article by Steven Cherry, The Net Effect:

China's Internet is the most efficiently censored in the world. . . .

Now China's experiment in cyberspace censorship is about to take a dramatic turn. A massive upgrade to the country's Internet will soon give China a robust, state-of-the-art infrastructure easily on a par with any in the developed world. China Telecom Corp., in Beijing, is investing US $100 million in what it calls the ChinaNet Next Carrying Network, or CN2.

The former national telephone monopoly is snapping up new network routers from four of the largest telecommunications equipment companies in the world: Cisco Systems and Juniper Networks of the United States; the French giant Alcatel; and Huawei Technologies, the only Chinese company to get a CN2 contract. During the next 12 months, the routers—the vertebrae of an Internet backbone—are to be installed in 200 cities throughout China's 31 provinces, autonomous regions, and municipalities.

Few doubt that China will emerge as a 21st-century global power. The questions now are about when it will emerge and what kind of power it will be. The issue of how China continues to censor its Internet, even as its infrastructure becomes vastly more sophisticated, has implications beyond what ideas China's populace—almost one-fifth of humanity—will be allowed to tap into. For one thing, if censorship technology flourishes in China, it will be easier and cheaper for it to also take root elsewhere. "The concern I have is that this is laying the foundation for a much more intrusive and censorship-friendly Internet infrastructure for all countries," says Roger Clarke, a consultant in Canberra, Australia, affiliated with the Australian National University. "The features that China wants installed in intermediating devices and software will gradually find their way into all of the suppliers' products, if only because it's cheaper that way."

Whether China's Internet censorship continues at the same level or—with its powerful new equipment—increases will probably play a significant role in answering the "What kind of global power?" question. Experts say that up to now, there have been technological constraints on the amount of censorship possible at the router level. In the network now taking shape in China, those constraints will be largely eliminated, making censorship more a matter of politics than of technology.

So there is a whole other way to read the potential security issues involved in a Lucent-Alcatel deal, having to do with irrevocable matters of technology transfer that will be used for upgrading their censorship capabilities in ways that can be exported worldwide: to quote a business headline from two years ago, "Alcatel Shanghai Bell Delivers Next-Generation Solutions." Let's help out that next generation and can this deal.

(On the other hand, in Today's Global Economy, as they say, there is of course the chance that this horse is already way out of the barn.)

ON A RELATED NOTE, Rebecca MacKinnon has a fine post on the subject of Yahoo and China.

You can engage in China and choose not to do certain kinds of business. Yahoo! has placed user e-mail data within legal jurisdiction of the People's Republic of China. Google and Microsoft have both chosen not to do so. Why did Yahoo! chose to do this?  Either they weren't thinking through the consequences or they don't care.

(Via BoingBoing & Dan Gilmore.)

Charles Taylor Caught! Then, Nigeria deports Charles Taylor to Liberia!

From Reuters:

MAIDUGURI, Nigeria (Reuters) - Nigeria captured fugitive former Liberian President Charles Taylor on the border with Cameroon on Wednesday and deported him to Liberia, easing its embarrassment at his escape earlier in the week.

The dramatic arrest and deportation came hours before President Olusegun Obasanjo was due to meet U.S. President George W. Bush, who has been pushing for Taylor to face war crimes charges in a special U.N.-backed court for years.

"President Obasanjo has ordered the immediate repatriation of Charles Taylor to Liberia ... to help the government of Liberia which had requested custody of the former president," Nigerian Information Minister Frank Nweke said in a statement.

Journalists saw Taylor, dressed in a white safari suit and surrounded by about 20 soldiers, walk onto the tarmac at Maiduguri airport, in Nigeria's far northeast, and board a Nigerian presidential jet.

On the subject of Taylor's arrest, Global Witness has issued this eloquent statement:


The ending of impunity for heads of state responsible for conflict, and crimes against humanity could be a step closer today with the dramatic arrest of Charles Taylor as he sought to flee Nigeria to Cameroon.

The speed with which Charles Taylor has been captured by vigilant Nigerian customs officials is to be congratulated. Not withstanding any further security breaches or accidents, Charles Taylor will finally have his day in court – be it in Freetown or The Hague – to face trial for the 17 counts of crimes against humanity and war crimes that he has been indicted for by the United Nations appointed Special Court for Sierra Leone.   

As a result of his arrest the chance for regional security and the prospects for peace have increased. The trial of Taylor will bring to an end many years of violent conflict that have blighted the region and caused untold suffering to millions of people. 

Taylor used revenues derived from diamonds and timber to fuel two bloody conflicts in which hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians died. Justice must be done, the ending of impunity for sitting and ex heads of state that have been responsible for some of the worst human rights abuses in the last twenty years must be tackled by the international community.

“The international community and Nigeria must now ensure that Taylor is speedily and successfully handed over to the Special Court for Sierra Leone and stands trial for the crimes against humanity with which he has been indicted,” said Alex Yearsley of Global Witness.

See also The Yorkshire Ranter post Who Are You Going to Massacre Next?, mirrored here:

Charles Taylor has been re-nailed, after a day or so of freedom on the lam from the UN Special Court for Sierra Leone. I was amused by this description of his arrest on the Nigerian-Cameroonian border:

The former Liberian leader had arrived at the frontier in a Range Rover jeep with diplomatic corps number plates, a trader working at the Gamboru-Ngala border post told AFP news agency.

"He was wearing a white flowing robe," said Babagana Alhaji Kata.

"He passed through immigration but when he reached customs they were suspicious and they insisted on searching the jeep, where they found a large amount of US dollars.

"After a further search they discovered he was Charles Taylor."

Flowing white robes, a Range Rover and a pile of cash, eh? His innate style didn't desert him. Like 50 Cent, but with more violence. Wasn't his last album called The Massacre, too?

Taylor's "spiritual adviser" - now there's a busy man - had been saying that he was seeking political asylum in Syria, Ethiopia, Venezuela, Equatorial Guinea or Gabon. These states will now be spared the embarrassment of having to answer. The spiritual adviser, by the way, is an American evangelical Protestant of Indian extraction, one  Dr. Kilari Anand Paul - the very notion of caring for Charles Taylor's immortal soul, though, reminds me of the John Donne poem about "who shall give me grace to begin" seeking God's grace.

"Dr" Paul (the doctorate isn't real), it seems, specialises in bizarre, rocambolesque interventions in war zones and offering the consolations of religion to murderous bastards. There is an interesting article here including the skinny on his "Dr", and he has a website here. He also has a Boeing 747, which could have come in handy, and a bad reference from the Southern Baptist Missions Board, who doubt his financial probity...

And here's Doug Farah on the subject of Taylor's arrest:

What has complicated the issue for Obasanjo, if one wants to give him the benefit of the doubt, which I am not sure he deserves, is that Taylor’s financial power allowed him to ally himself with many of the most powerful and corrupt in Nigeria, including senior members of the government and perhaps even members of Obasanjo’s own family.

Taylor’s arrest may open the way for Obasanjo to begin cleaning house and take down some of the structures Taylor is participating in, including the widespread “bunkering” or theft of oil before it enters the official state system. But the ongoing, warm U.S. relationship with Obasanjo should be contingent on Obasanjo’s willingness to tackle the entire corrupt structure that has choked the life from one of Africa’s potentially most vibrant economies.

It is a good day for West Africa and those seeking to end the impunity that has ravaged the region for generations. It is a good day particularly for the thousands of victims of Taylor’s wars in Liberia, Sierra Leone, Ivory Coast and Guinea. The amputee victims, the rape victims and the child soldiers may now have at least a small measure of closure when the architect of their misery finally faces justice.

And here is Laura Rosen's post:

Liberia's Charles Taylor arrested. A friend knowledgeable about US policy to West Africa writes, "[Nigerian president] Obasanjo can’t afford to play any more games, and Taylor will be sent to the tribunal, it looks like via Liberia.  Reuters reports that Obasanjo has ordered his immediate repatriation.  (UNMIL has a chapter VII mandate to make the arrest and transfer, and nobody wants him in Liberia, so this will go very quickly once he’s there.)   Obasanjo overplayed his hand, and got burned by the overwhelming response from Washington yesterday.  Never have I seen a better example of the White House, State Department, House and Senate, Democrats and Republicans, working together to send such a strong, clear signal.  US leadership yesterday may have saved West Africa from years of additional mayhem and suffering." More on what Taylor's arrest could mean for the region here.

Superconducting Magnet Quench

These are pictures from the STAR detector at the RHIC facility at Brookhaven that my father, John G. Cramer, brought to lunch today.  He was running on the machine at Brookhaven as part of the STAR Collaboration.  The first two are from a "normal" collision of two gold nuclei, producing several thousand particles in the center of the detector.  The next four show the results of a superconducting magnet quench that happened at noon on March 25, 2006.

The quench dumped all the protons they were planning to use for the next four hours of collisions, which hit the accelerator walls and produced a flash of radiation picked up the the STAR detector. I'm told the accelerator recovered after a couple of days.

Here is the sequence of pix with his captions. Click on them to see bigger images:


1.  Central collision of two gold nuclei with collision energy 25,610 GeV as recorded by the STAR detector at RHIC in August, 2000. (End View)

And the second one . . .


2.  Central collision of two gold nuclei with collision energy 25,610 GeV as recorded by the STAR detector at RHIC in August, 2000. (Side View)


3.  Catastrophic superconducting magnet quench;  all stored proton beam dumped abruptly when magnetic field went to zero, as recorded in STAR detector (End View)


4.  Catastrophic superconducting magnet quench;  all stored proton beam dumped abruptly when magnetic field went to zero, as recorded in STAR detector (Side View)


5.  Next view of catastrophic superconducting magnet quench;  all stored proton beam dumped abruptly when magnetic field went to zero, as recorded in STAR detector (Side View)


6.  Next view of catastrophic superconducting magnet quench;  all stored proton beam dumped abruptly when magnetic field went to zero, as recorded in STAR detector (End View)

And here we are right after we came back from lunch.

Kathryn Cramer & John G. Cramer

See also these sites: MRI Scanner Superconducting Magnet Quench, a diagram with a video, & Superconducting Magnet Issues (CERN).

Charles Taylor Escapes!

_39388539_taylor300Alex Harrowell of The Yorkshire Ranter just emailed me:

Looks like Charles Taylor's done flew the coop and done a runner from Nigeria to escape extradition to the UN Special Court for Sierra Leone.

And on his blog, Alex writes:

Liberian ex-dictator, war criminal and utter bastard Charles Taylor has done a runner from his Nigerian exile to avoid extradition to the UN Special Court for Sierra Leone, says the Nigerian government. Taylor has been living in comfortable exile in Calabar, Nigeria since an unairworthy Boeing 727 belonging to Ali Kleilat rescued him from his overthrow in 2004. Last week, Liberia's new president Ellen Johnston-Sirleaf issued a request for his extradition.

According to the Nigerian government, he's levanted. 5 security officers have been arrested as a pathetic sop to world opinion. This is bad news. Taylor was responsible for destabilising the whole of West Africa, reintroducing slavery to work his diamond mines, recruiting 10 year old kids into his army, hacking people's limbs off as a form of revolutionary terror, and more.

I am insanely disappointed by this news and the obvious Nigerian army partisanship (they are widely thought to have been complicit in his rise to power) that let the bugger get away.

Press reports last week said that Taylor had been summoned to the Nigerian capital Abuja on board an aircraft registered 5N-FGO. This plane is a Dassault Falcon 900 business jet belonging to the Nigerian Government, with "Federal Republic of Nigeria" titles on the fuselage.

Soj at Flogging the Simian writes:

Interesting. I wonder who composed the "security people" who were watching Taylor. I should mention that he was never in a prison or something, just a very expensive home that Nigerian police were supposed to be monitoring.

Here's the story from Reuters:

Charles Taylor said to have disappeared
Tue Mar 28, 2006 1:20 PM GMT

ABUJA (Reuters) - Former Liberian President Charles Taylor, wanted for war crimes by a court in Sierra Leone, has disappeared from his residence in southeastern Nigeria, the presidency said on Tuesday.

A statement said Nigeria would investigate whether Taylor had escaped or been abducted. President Olusegun Obasanjo has ordered the arrest of all security staff attached to Taylor, who has lived in exile in Nigeria since 2003.

From the Mail & Guardian yesterday:

As one of Charles Taylor’s closest advisers warns of “bloodshed and chaos” if the former Liberian president is extradited, analysts say the international community must act quickly to prevent his supporters from re-arming.

Taylor, currently in exile in Nigeria, faces 17 counts of crimes against humanity brought by an internationally backed special court in Sierra Leone.

The Global ONLINE Freedom Act of 2006 (HR 4780)

There are two very different bills with very similar names that are sometimes being discussed interchangeably. Short version: Global ONLINE Freedom Act of 2006 (HR 4780) mostly good; Global INTERNET Freedom Act (HR 4741) lame.

HR 4741 attempts to address the problem of Internet censorship, but its authors seem innocent of the fact that the US is exporting the tools to do the thing the bill's authors want combated.

On  the other hand, HR 4780, on a quick read through, looks pretty good and would sort out a lot of the Google-China type issues, and also seem to me to lay the groundwork for restricting exports of SmartFilter-type stuff, and also some of the most worrisome DRM enforcement tools that may be developed. (Wouldn't it be great to kill DRM by keeping the enforcement tools from being exported from the US into the global market?)

Before leaping into the fray, I want to have HR 4780 explained to me by someone who really knows how to read this sort of thing, but it looks awfully good to me.

Both Rebecca MacKinnon and the EFF have weighed in and have misgivings with the part of the bill specifying that would require US Internet companies to hand over all lists of forbidden words provided to them by "any foreign official of an Internet-restricting country." But I find one passage of Danny O'Brien of the EFF's discussion of what he'd like to see instead at least as problematic as what he intends to replace.

Don't Do Direct Business with Forces of State Oppression

Companies should be prohibited from providing intentional ongoing support and assistance to those who abuse human rights in foreign countries. While many products such as filtering software, Internet monitoring programs and programs to unlock protected data can have multiple uses, American companies should not be actively and knowingly providing services that facilitate censorship or repression.

This is sufficiently vague as to allow for implementation along the lines of a trade embargo in which individuals needing access to US technology to overcome their oppression might be denied it in the name of not doing business with oppressive states.

And MacKinnon remarks,

But we must act in a way that respects the rights of people in other countries as much as we respect our own rights.

These are nice ideals, but I don't see how any kind of Internet filtering technology could be meaningfully restricted without ways of monitoring what was being filtered. My preferred tactic is adding censorware and related technologies to the Munitions List such that their export would require State Department approval, which would be given or not on a case-by-case basis. This would also require a recognition on the part of the US firms creating censorware that it is in a sense a military-type technology and needs to be handled accordingly.

Even if it is not perfect, HR 4780 has a lot to recommend it. Reporters Without Borders apparently supports the bill, and I am tentatively inclined to do likewise. Also, while HR 4780 does not specifically add censorware to the Munitions List, it lays the groundwork for that possibility.

Certainly, we don't need yet another situation in which the US plays global cop, but the bill is aimed mostly at policing our own technology exports in a situation in which we are exporting the tools for dystopia.

Melbourne IT Censors Political Satire at the Request of the Office of Australian Prime Minister John Howard

200406033_p4124003jpg343vSurely, Melbourne IT, home to any number of phishing sites [P O Box 99800, EmeryVille, CA linked to is Melbourne IT's privacy protection address], and the company that allowed the Panix domain hijacking a while back, had to draw the line somewhere. And here's where they drew it: political satire. From the Sydney Morning Herald:

One of the many online newsletters and blogs I consume regularly is written by Richard Neville, a social commentator and, to people of my generation, one of the driving forces of the Australian counter-culture in the 1960s. . . . On March 8, Neville posted a spoof website on the internet, purporting to be a speech by John Howard apologising for Australia's involvement in the Iraq war. It was just the sort of speech Howard might have made if he had apologised and many believed it to be genuine.

That impression was exactly what was intended. That's how satire works. It was greatly heightened by the website ( being a direct copy of the Prime Minister's website ( Neville's spoof immediately received thousands of hits, helped along by his own email marketing and word of mouth.

Then, a day later, the site disappeared. . . . He tried to contacted Yahoo! which had sold him the web hosting package and the domain name for $9.71, but no one got back to him.

    In that email, he asked six questions:

    · Who ordered the closing of the site?

    · On what grounds?

    · By what authority?

    · Through what mechanism?

    · Why in secret?

    · Will I get a refund from Yahoo!?

After a few days Neville found that the problem was not with Yahoo! but with Melbourne IT, the domain name registrar.  . . . Melbourne IT shut down the site after it received calls from the Prime Minister's office and the Australian Federal Police, through its agency called the Australian High Tech Crime Centre. Melbourne IT's chief technology officer, Bruce Tonkin, says the registrar acted only because Neville's site looked like the Prime Minister's real site and infringed on intellectual property rights.

What, after all, will innocent children think if they were to see the Australian Prime Minister satirized in public! We must think of the children!

Neville writes:

The domain name,, is hosted by Melbourne IT. In less than 36 hours of its launch, following 10,500 visits to the site, the plug was pulled. By who? On what grounds? It took three days for Melb IT to make contact with me and help lift the veils of confusion. After receiving a phone call from Greg Williams of the People, Resources & Communications Division at the Department of the Prime Minister & Cabinet, Melb IT put the domain name on HOLD, where it remains. This domain cannot be transferred to another, more resilient host, for 60 days. In addition to the complaint from John Howard’s office, Melbourne IT said they had received calls from THREE Federal Police, and provided the name of an agent from the Australian High Tech Crime Centre. As far as I know, my passport has not met the same fate as my domain name.

See also Tim Longhurst.

[Advisory: as a Panix customer, I am unsure why Melboure IT remains in business.]

What Have We Done for You Lately: A Couple of New Books

076530617401_aa240_sclzzzzzzz_Yesterday, David brought home a couple of books I thought I ought to mention. First of all, below on the left, there is the 900+ page bound galley of our new anthology The Space Opera Renaissance, forthcoming from Tor in July. (I snarfed the cover image to the immediate right from the Amazon page where you can pre-order it.)

On the lower right is a cover for the trade paperback of volume 1 of The Science Fiction Century, ed. David G. Hartwell, which comes out in April.

Space Opera Renaissance bound galley plus finished copy if The Science Fiction Century, Pt. 1, in trade paperback

"Affordable" Transplants in China

This morning, I happened across a really subtle page on Flickr with a screenshot promoting the idea of going to China for one's organ transplants on the basis that it is easier to get a transplant match and is cheaper than a transplant in the US. All the photos on the site from which the screen shot is taken are of caucasians, and the target market for these transplant services seems to be Americans. I was seaching on the tag "censorship" and at first I didn't get it. When I did, I nearly choked on my coffee.

Here's the screenshot:


Though the issue of where the organs come from is never really addressed on the pages of the Yeson site I read, there is the general implication that matches are not too hard to come by in China as compared to the US. In his blog, Dr. Yeson remarks:

Currently, more than 17,000 people in the United States are waiting for liver transplants. According to the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS), about 5,300 liver transplantations were performed in the United States in 2002.

Also, there is a discussion of using living donors.

The site never does explain why it might be easier in China to finding matching donors for Americans than it would be in the US. The general implication is that there is a far larger pool of available organs to draw upon. But the fellow on Flickr helps out with this link:
Majority of China's Transplants Come from Prisoner's Organs

Increasing numbers of patients with liver cirrhosis or renal failure from regions including South East Asia, North America, Europe and Australia are flying to China for organ transplants. China has become the world's center for organ trade and transplants. But, what China may not be revealing to the world, is that the main source for organ transplants come from executed convicts.

According to the U.S.-based China Information Center, due to higher survival rates of liver and kidney transplants, China's hospitals are experiencing a boom in this business. As such, recently, there have been moves to expand facilities and make liver treatment and transplant more accessible to patients.

Think about this the next time you hear a story about Yahoo getting someone in China arrested.

See also this document, Sale of Human Organs in China, from the website of the US State Dept.

(On the other hand, sometimes grim tales of organ transplants are not true.)

Insitutionalizing the Kenya Media Raid: A proposed bill to turn the current self-regulated Media Council of Kenya into a statutory media council, "essentially becoming a censorship body."

Over the past few days, I've spent a lot of time combing through the media overage of the aftermath of the Kenya media raids, which were an appalling spectacle of a corrupt government attempting to choke off the Kenyan public's access to information about the functioning of their own government. The crux of the issue is whether it is proper for the press to question the actions of the government: this is one of the most basic issues involving freedom of the press and the need for transparancy. The current Kenyan government does not wish to be criticized.

What emerges from the aftermath of the media raids is that one piece of what has gone very wrong with the current government there is the arrival of two very strange Armenian investors, Artur Margaryan and Artur Sargysan, who strut around Nairobi with an I already bought this country; what's your problem? attitude, when asked questions about their business and their involvement by the media. The details are floridly jaw-dropping; really over the top. And the media raids seem to have come about not because the Kenyan media is irresponsible, but rather because the sitting government has so much to hide.

So now the Kenyan Parliament has reopened. And on that opening day, Kenya's President Kibaki remarked:

Although the freedom of the Press cannot be over-emphasised, it is clear that it must be exercised within the bounds of responsibility.

SO. What are those bounds to be? Hmm? Well. There is this "Media Bill" which will turn the Media Council of Kenya into a censorship body. From Embassy: Canada's Foreign Policy Newsweekly:

So far, a total of six Kenyan journalists have been arrested and charged in court of publishing rumours likely to cause alarm. They are two from the Standard group and four from a weekly newspaper, The Citizen.

The media fraternity is gripped with fears that it's facing a chilling period. The government has published a Media Bill due to be tabled in parliament for enactment. According to the Bill, press accreditation of those considered rebel journalists is to be withdrawn. The current self-regulated Media Council of Kenya would be transformed into a statutory media council, essentially becoming a censorship body. The Bill will also allow for the creation of a media content commission that, with a fine tooth comb, will check on content in both electronic and print media to ensure the media toe the government line. Toeing the line will also be expected of public publications published by the civil society and the faith community.

Faced with this uncertain future, the Media Council of Kenya has called for a media stakeholders meeting to be held Friday, March 24 to launch a campaign against the Bill. . . .

The Chairman of Media Council of Kenya Board of Trustees Dr. Absalom Mutere described the raid on the Standard group as "exhibition of raw power," adding "my take is we ain't seen nothing yet."

Scary stuff. In the past few weeks of combing through this stuff, I've become rather fond of the Kenyan media. If the media raids were to become institutionalized through this legislation, it would be a loss to all of us. So let's do something about it.

How about the rest of us try to find out what is going on there. Who are these Armenian "investors"? I think we can find out. What is their real business, and how is the money flowing through the Kenyan political establishment? I think we should help out by taking a worldwide interest in this.  I think we would all be better for it.

(I would be very interested in hearing from anyone with expertise on Armenian organized crime.)

Year's Best SF 11 Table of Contents

Ybsf11coverPosting the Hugo Awards nomination list reminds me that I hadn't gotten around to posting the table of contents for our Year's Best SF 11 yet. Here it is. The stories are in alphabetical order, by author, rather in the order they appear in the book. (I may fix that later.) It's a longish table of contents this year, since Nature resumed their Futures column of science fiction short-shorts, and we took a number of those. Though our Year's Best Fantasy series is now published by Tachyon and will appear as a trade paperback, the Year's Best SF volume is being published as a paperback original by HarperCollins as usual.

“Mason’s Rats” by Neal Asher
“Lakes of Light” by Stephen Baxter
“Ram Shift Phase 2” by Greg Bear
“On the Brane” by Gregory Benford
“Toy Planes” by Tobias S Buckell
“What’s Expected of Us” by Ted Chiang
“I, Robot” by Cory Doctorow
“When the Great Days Came” by Gardner R Dozois
“Oxygen Rising” by R Garcia y Robertson
“Second Person, Present Tense” by Darryl Gregory
“Angel of Light” by Joe Haldeman
“The Forever Kitten” by Peter F Hamilton
“City of Reason” by Matthew Jarpe
“Third Day Lights” by Alaya Dawn Johnson
“The Edge of Nowhere” by James Patrick Kelly
“I Love Liver: A Romance” by Larissa Lai
“New Hope for the Dead” by David Langford
“A Case of Consilience” by Ken MacLeod
“Rats of the System” by Paul McAuley
“A Modest Proposal” by Vonda N McIntyre
“Sheila” by Lauren McLaughlin
“The Albian Message” by Oliver Morton
“Deus Ex Homine” by Hannu Rajaniemi
“Beyond the Aquila Rift” by Alastair Reynolds
“And Future King” by Adam Roberts
“Dreadnought” by Justina Robson
“Guadaloupe and Heironymous Bosch” by Rudy Rucker
“Bright Red Star” by Bud Sparhawk
“Ivory Tower” by Bruce Sterling
“Girls and Boys Come out to Play” by Michael Swanwick
“Ikiryoh” by Liz Williams

Hugo Nominations: Yes, we are nominees!

The Hugo Awards ballot is out, and David and I are both nominated. We're nominted jointly (along with Kevin Maroney) in the Best Semi-Prozine Category for The New York Review of Science Fiction, and David is nominated in the Best editor catgory. Here's the ballot:

Best Novel (430 ballots cast)
Learning the World
, Ken MacLeod (Orbit; Tor)
A Feast for Crows, George R.R. Martin (Voyager; Bantam Spectra)

Old Man's War, John Scalzi (Tor)
Accelerando, Charles Stross (Ace; Orbit)
Spin, Robert Charles Wilson (Tor)

Best Novella (243 ballots cast)
James Patrick Kelly (Tachyon)

"Magic for Beginners", Kelly Link (Magic for Beginners, Small Beer Press; F&SF September 2005)

"The Little Goddess", Ian McDonald (Asimov's June 2005)

"Identity Theft", Robert J. Sawyer (Down These Dark Spaceways, SFBC)

"Inside Job", Connie Willis (Asimov's January 2005)


Best Novelette (207 ballots cast)
"The Calorie Man", Paolo Bacigalupi (F&SF October/November 2005)

"Two Hearts", Peter S. Beagle (F&SF October/November 2005)

"TelePresence", Michael A. Burstein (Analog July/August 2005)

"I, Robot", Cory Doctorow (The Infinite Matrix February 15, 2005)

"The King of Where-I-Go", Howard Waldrop (SCI FICTION December 7, 2005)


Best Short Story (278 ballots cast)
"Seventy-Five Years", Michael A. Burstein (Analog January/February 2005)
"The Clockwork Atom Bomb", Dominic Green (Interzone May/June 2005)
"Singing My Sister Down", Margo Lanagan (Black Juice, Allen & Unwin; Eos)
"Tk'tk'tk", David D. Levine (Asimov's March 2005)
"Down Memory Lane", Mike Resnick (Asimov's April/May 2005)

Best Related Book
(197 ballots cast)

Transformations: The Story of the Science Fiction Magazines from 1950 to 1970
, Mike Ashley (Liverpool)

The SEX Column and Other Misprints, David Langford (Cosmos)
Science Fiction Quotations, edited, Gary Westfahl (Yale)
Storyteller: Writing Lessons and More from 27 Years of the Clarion Writers' Workshop, Kate Wilhelm (Small Beer Press)
Soundings: Reviews 1992-1996, Gary K. Wolfe (Beccon)

Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form (364 ballots cast)
Batman Begins Story, David S. Goyer.  Screenplay, Christopher Nolan and David S. Goyer.  Based on the character created, Bob Kane. Directed, Christopher Nolan.  (Warner Bros.)
The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe Screenplay, Ann Peacock and Andrew Adamson  and Christopher Markus & Stephen McFeely.  Based on the novel, C.S. Lewis.  Directed, Andrew Adamson. (Walt Disney Pictures/Walden Media)
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire Screenplay, Steven Kloves.  Based on the novel, J.K. Rowling.  Directed, Mike Newell.  (Warner Bros.)
Serenity Written & Directed, Joss Whedon.  (Universal Pictures/Mutant Enemy, Inc.)
Wallace & Gromit in the Curse of the Were-Rabbit Screenplay, Steve Box & Nick Park and Bob Baker and Mark Burton. Directed, Nick Park & Steve Box.  (Dreamworks Animation/Aardman Animation).

Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form (261 ballots cast)
Battlestar Galactica "Pegasus"  Written, Anne Cofell Saunders. Directed, Michael Rymer. (NBC Universal/British Sky Broadcasting)

Doctor Who "Dalek"  Written, Robert Shearman. Directed, Joe Ahearne.  (BBC Wales/BBC1)
Doctor Who "The Empty Child" & "The Doctor Dances"  Written, Steven Moffat. Directed, James Hawes. (BBC Wales/BBC1)
Doctor Who "Father's Day"  Written, Paul Cornell. Directed, Joe Ahearne. (BBC Wales/BBC1)
Jack-Jack Attack  Written & Directed, Brad Bird.  (Walt Disney Pictures/Pixar Animation)
Lucas Back in Anger  Written, Phil Raines and Ian Sorensen. Directed, Phil Raines.  (Reductio Ad Absurdum Productions)
Prix Victor Hugo Awards Ceremony (Opening Speech and Framing Sequences).  Written and performed, Paul McAuley and Kim Newman. Directed, Mike & Debby Moir.  (Interaction Events)
(There are seven nominees due to a tie for fifth place)

Best Professional Editor (293 ballots cast)
Ellen Datlow (SCI FICTION and anthologies)
David G. Hartwell (Tor Books; Year's Best SF)
Stanley Schmidt (Analog)
Gordon Van Gelder (F&SF)
Sheila Williams (Asimov's)

Best Professional Artist (230 ballots cast)
Jim Burns

Bob Eggleton
Donato Giancola
Stephan Martiniere
John Picacio
Michael Whelan
(There are six nominees due to a tie for fifth place)

 Best Semiprozine (219 ballots cast)
Ansible, ed. Dave Langford
Emerald City, ed. Cheryl Morgan
Interzone , ed. Andy Cox
Locus, ed. Charles N. Brown, Kirsten Gong-Wong, & Liza Groen Trombi
The New York Review of Science Fiction, ed. Kathryn Cramer, David G. Hartwell & Kevin J. Maroney

Best Fanzine (176 ballots cast)
Banana Wings
, ed. Claire Brialey & Mark Plummer

Challenger, ed. Guy H. Lillian III
Chunga, ed. Andy Hooper, Randy Byers & carl juarez
File 770, ed. Mike Glyer
Plokta, ed. Alison Scott, Steve Davies & Mike Scott

Best Fan Writer (202 ballots cast)
Claire Brialey
John Hertz
Dave Langford
Cheryl Morgan
Steven H Silver

Best Fan Artist (154 ballots cast)
Brad Foster
Teddy Harvia
Sue Mason
Steve Stiles
Frank Wu

John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer of 2004 or 2005 [Not a Hugo – Sponsored, Dell Magazines] (186 ballots cast)
K.J. Bishop (2nd year of eligibility)
Sarah Monette (2nd year of eligibility)
Chris Roberson (2nd year of eligibility)
Brandon Sanderson (1st year of eligibility)
John Scalzi (1st year of eligibility)
Steph Swainston (2nd year of eligibility)
(There are six nominees due to a tie for fifth place)

Here are Locus's comments on our two categories. Best Editor:

Sheila Williams is a first-time nominee in the Best Editor category; she took over editorship last year of Asimov's SF Magazine from Gardner Dozois, who for the first time since 1987 has not been nominated in this category (Dozois won 15 times out of 19 consecutive nominations from 1987 to 2005). Ellen Datlow has 12 previous nominations in this category, and has won twice, in 2002 and 2005. None of the other nominees has ever won a Hugo. David G. Hartwell has 14 previous nominations in this category, and 31 nominations overall, holding the record for most nominations by anyone who has not won a Hugo. Stanley Schmidt has 27 previous nominations, including every year in this category since 1980. Gordon Van Gelder has 14 previous nominations, including every year in this category since 1998.

. . .and Semiprozine:

All the Best Semiprozine nominees are veterans; the newest, Emerald City, has 4 previous nominations, and won in 2004 in the Fanzine category. Ansible has been nominated 14 times previously, and has won 5 times in the Fanzine category, and once, last year, in the Semiprozine category. Locus has been nominated in the amateur magazine, fanzine, or semiprozine categories every year since 1970 with just one exception (1979), and has won 26 times. The New York Review of Science Fiction has been nominated 17 times in this category, every year consecutively since 1989, though it has never won.


CensorWare for Australia?
Plus Who decides what stays & goes? Is this all yet another move to make the Internet more like TV?

Just when you thought that censoreware was only for oppressive goverments, and for use with children, and institutions by that treat their employees like children -- the US Military, General Electric (GE), Procter and Gamble, Exxon Mobil, Blue Cross Blue Shield, Bayer, Conagra Foods, Lockheed Martin, British Telecom, Fujitsu, Volvo, Kohler, and Tiffany & Co.)* -- politicians in Australia propose to turn censorware on their population: Labor to force porn block

(We already know that where such systems are in place, for example Secure Computing's SmartFilter, they block a whole lot more than what any reasonable person would consider porn.)

Internet service providers (ISPs) will be forced to block violent and pornographic material before it reaches home computers if Labor wins the next federal election. Under the policy, announced by Opposition Leader Kim Beazley today, international websites would be banned by the Australian Communications and Media Authority if they contained graphic sexual or violent material, rated R or higher. The bans would be maintained by ISPs.

The policy aims to protect the two-thirds of Australian households where no internet filters are in place because of a lack of technical knowledge or cost. Mr Beazley said all households would be included in the policy unless there was a specific request for access to such material.

It was "too hard" for many parents to install internet blockers on their computers to prevent offensive material being downloaded, he said.  . . . Any user can also report material to Australian Communications and Media Authority and if it is found to be hosted in Australia and banned, an ISP is ordered to take it down within 48 hours or face penalties. If the content is illegal, but hosted overseas, it is referred to federal police and filter providers add it to the blocked list.

"No child in Australia need be exposed to harmful and offensive content," Mr Coroneos said.

Gotta love that bit about giving members of the public the opportunity to block "offensive material" for the whole country. The possibilities for that are endless: evolution, birth control, liberal politics, breastfeeding. Even if the Internet were merely held to the standards of television and not as harshly censored as it is by such systems as SmartFilter, a whole lot would disappear.

Think I'm kidding about them maybe pushing breastfeeding off the Internet? I'm not.Note also that Kirstie Marshall, a member of the Victorian Legislative Assembly in Australia, was ejected from parliament for exposing her breast breastfeeding her newborn child.

Think of all the stuff you see on the internet that you almost never see on TV; think of it gone.

(Via Anthony Baxter.)

Flashman at Electron Soup has a few suggestions:

The flip-side of 'opt-out of the clean feed' is 'opt-in to the dirty dwarf-porn bukkake feed'. Put your name on our list, dear citizens, if you want to declare that you don't like our censorship, and that you want access to all the nasties on the net. Yeah, sure, I'm totally fine with that intrusion on my privacy. . . .

If Kim Beazley wants to offer peace of mind to parents, he should at most mandate that ISPs maintain an opt-in clean feed. Additionally, he should ascertain whether the nation's children are being taught healthy internet habits, in the same way that 'stranger danger' and other safety issues are addressed.

Here's a simple solution that's much more workable and costs virtually nothing: use your parenting skills.

UPDATE: Cory Doctorow has a really interesting post on the subject of the application of "local" community standards to the Internet in the context of the obscenity section of the Communications Decency Act in the US:

Online sexual material is obscene if any community in US objects
The Supreme Court of the United States has declined to hear an important case about obscenity and the Internet, leaving anyone who publishes sexual material on the Internet in uncertainty about whether they're open to federal penalties.
At stake is the obscenity section of the Communications Decency Act, which bans publishing "obscene" material on the net. The problem is that US courts use "local standards" to determine whether something is obscene -- so if in the eyes of some local community, the material is obscene, then you can't distribute it there.

But the Internet can distribute material into all communities in the country, and because the Communications Decency Act is federal, prosecutors can bring their charges in the most sex-o-phobic corner of the country (say, the conservative Catholic private town that the guy who founded Domino's Pizza is building in Florida).

And to echo the point I keep hammering on, zero-tolerance for something like the abstract concept of nudity is not necessarily even of benefit to children, as "local community standards" can prevent women from the most basic of mamalian acts: breastfeeding their infants.

MEANWHILE, an Australian firm out of Perth, Scotland has made a deal to "provide its 'broadband condom' service in Guatemala." Tracking this stuff is becoming like a game of whack-a-mole!

UPDATE: See Mark Pesce's Op-Ed: Net filters lose battle in the end.

Kenya: More on the Mysterious Armenian Brothers

   Artur Margaryan 
  Photo by by mwasb (Boniface Mwangi).

The Kenyan investigative journalists have been doing an amazing job of investigating the mysterious Armenian brothers who have become embroiled in the growing corruption scandal in Nairobi in the aftermath of the Kenyan media raids of a few weeks ago. (Among other things, the brother are alledged to be the white guys on cell phones in the TV station security cam footage of the raid.)

Kenya's journalists are writing articles faster than I can blog them, so I've added a Typelist on the subject to my left-hand sidebar, giving links to articles of interest so I can just toss in new ones as I go along. I have my theories of what is going on here, but the pool of available information is growing so fast that I'll hold off on theorizing.

Here are a few favorite items from the links in the sidebar. First of all, they have IDed Artur Margaryan's intriguing bodyguard:

Ms Shefana Igbal, is a daughter of a renown Mombasa businessman said to be close to businessmen in the underworld and particularly drug barons, our sources confided to us. The armed woman is known for her daring driving skills and apart from chauffeuring Artur Margaryan around the city, she also doubles as a bodyguard.

This next item is of Jamesian narrative complexity. Parse the point of view on this one: Kenya: Michuki Questioned As 'Armenian' Plot Thickens
Michuki further claimed that the Group intended to publish a series of stories linking key government officials to the Al-Qaeda terrorist group, sources close to the Committee said. "It was a government action. The Standard Group has a propaganda unit which wanted to run stories that key government officials have Al-Qaeda links," a source close to the committee said of Michuki.

So, the Standard -- raided by police apparently under orders from Michuki -- reports that someone said that Michuki claimed that the Standard was going to run stories linking various government officials to Al Qaeda. Kenyan politics has a very subtle aesthetic. I feel like this is what I went to grad school in literature for! As Alex Harrowell remarks, ". . . yes, the government tactically leaked the information that the opposition were accusing them of terrorism in order to bash them for playing the terrorism card . . . or something."

Artur Margaryan, on the other hand, is not a subtle fellow. Gotta love this quote:

Margargran, interjected: "Your country's budget is not enough for the country. It is not enough to hire us."

. . . and this one:

Foreigner Artur Margaryan yesterday told Internal Security Minister John Michuki to stop commenting on their issue until investigations are complete. . . . He also cautioned Michuki against commenting on issues "he knows nothing about".

Margaryan can't possibly mean that bit about AQ, can he? He keeps going on about being a Christian.

Meanwhile the Standard manages to be at least a little forgiving and takes Michuki's side against Margaryan:

What sticks in the craw is that Michuki is just the latest in Artur Margaryan's line of fire. Wearing his arrogance and disdain proudly and loudly this man seems bent on belittling every prominent Kenyan he comes across.

A number of editorialists called for the Armenian brothers to be expelled from Kenya, but interestingly Health Minister Charity Ngilu made a somewhat tortured argument as to why they should not be deported:

HEALTH Minister Charity Ngilu yesterday asked the government not to deport the two Armenians at the centre of the mercenaries row before Kenyans knew their true identity and motive. Ngilu who is the Kitui Central MP said the duo should remain in the country so that Kenyans can get to the bottom of the truth.

Why would a health minister come to the aid of guys who seem a bit too cozy with the world of drug trafficking?

And then there's this business article which makes a sad but remarkable claim:

Two brothers from the Trans-Caucasian republic of Armenia are believed to be the only significant foreign investors Narc has so far managed to attract.

One of the most interesting things about these investors is that they have no need of bank accounts:

THE saga surrounding two Armenians, variously referred to as mercenaries and investors on the other hand took a new twist yesterday, when it become apparent that the duo have no known accounts in any Kenyan bank. Sources close to the Central Bank of Kenya (CBK) have confirmed that Mr Artur Margaryan and his brother Arur Sargayan, neither operate a bank account indivindually, nor in any of the companies associated with them. Neither the Brotherhood International Company, nor any other company associated with them has a bank account in any of the 42 banks registered in Kenya, or in any of the existing forex bureaux in Kenya. . . . This means that the Sh 150,000 the duo are claiming to be spending daily cannot be accounted for, alluding to a possibility of massive money laundering in the country.

And don't miss this batch of photos by the talented young Kenyan photographer, Boniface Mwangi.

And there's this piece, suggesting that the members of the current administration have been unlucky and have been having problems with their life expectancy. Subtext is all. And that subtext does beg the question of the identity of that "snake" of John Michuki's now infamous remark, "When you rattle a snake, you should be prepared to be bitten by it."

This does all have a kind of startup/venture capital feeling about it. Perhaps the MacGuffin in this strange tale is the eighty million dolars worth of cocaine -- "1.1 metric ton shipment, confiscated in December 2004" -- that's been sitting around in a warehouse for a while, that the Kenyan government has just agreed to destroy. If you were a criminal, woudn't you want it? That may be the simplest explaination for what's driving this circus.

Wonder how much of it is left.

(See also The Yorkshire Ranter. and the tHiNkEr’S rOoM.)

The BSA, MPAA and RIAA have officially objected to a proposal to let the public break DRM that "threatens critical infrastructure and endangers lives."

I've got a lot on my plate today, so I don't have time to do more than just mirror this post from BoingBoing, except to say that what is at issue here is extremely serious.

MPAA/RIAA/BSA: No breaking DRM, even if it's killing you (literally!)        

        The BSA, MPAA and RIAA have officially objected to a proposal to let the public break DRM that "threatens critical infrastructure and endangers lives." They argue that if it becomes legal to break DRM that could kill you that it might harm their business:

In order to protect their ability to deploy this dangerous DRM, they want the Copyright Office to withhold from users permission to uninstall DRM software that actually does threaten critical infrastructure and endanger lives.

Link (via EFF Minilinks)

Even without this wrinkle, I think DRM has some serious human rights implications for human rights if force-exported throughout the world. This current bit seems to me clear evidence that the music and entertainment industries are being willfully ignorant and negligent about the human rights issues.

US Navy Battles Pirates off Somalia

Burcadbadeed01From the Associated Press:

Two U.S. Navy warships exchanged gunfire with suspected pirates Saturday off the coast of Somalia, and one suspect was killed and five others were wounded, the navy said.

Seven other suspects were taken into custody after the early-morning shootout, said Lt. Cmdr. Charlie Brown, spokesman for the U.S. Navy's 5th Fleet.

No sailors were wounded in the battle, which occurred at about 5:40 a.m. local time, approximately 25 nautical miles off the Somali coast in international waters.

The battle started after the USS Cape St. George and USS Gonzalez, which were patrolling as part of a Dutch-led task force, spotted a 30-foot fishing boat towing smaller skiffs and prepared to board and inspect the vessels.

The suspected pirates were holding what appeared to be rocket-propelled grenade launchers, the navy said. When the suspects began shooting, naval gunners returned fire with mounted machine guns, killing one man and igniting a fire on the vessel.

The caption to the AP photo on the right reads: Plumes of smoke rise from a suspected pirate vessel after an exchange of gunfire with U.S. Navy warships on Saturday. (AP Photo/U.S. Navy, Daniel Sanford).

So far, the news stories about this have been devoid of mentions of the transitional government of Somalia's pirate-fighting contract with Top Cat Marine Security. Do let me know if you find any.

UPDATE: Well, if it isn't Jim Kouri of all people who mention's Top Cat in his syndicated new story! Someone should ask Kouri if he has checked why Top Cat hasn't shown up for duty in Somalia yet. Perhaps he could ask those intelligence sources he mentions in his next paragraph:

The Somali government -- a government practically in exile because of warlords, Al-Qaeda and Wahhabi terrorists -- has signed a contract with a US security company that specializes in marine special operations. The hope is that the security firm will put an end to the proliferating piracy in that African region.

New York-based Topcat Marine Security signed a deal worth more than $50 million with the Somali Transitional Federal Government, which is temporarily based in Nairobi, to escort ships traveling through Somali waters.

According to intelligence experts . . .

Customs to Privatize? reports that the Customs bureau may seek private sector help. I read this with a dirty mind, especially in the context of the unauthorized spy equipment found in the Customs area  of the Guam airport. This looks to me like another great opportunity to compromise security in the name of security.

Customs and Border Protection only has 80 inspectors to validate the security plans for about 10,000 companies that have applied to be part of the Customs-Trade Partnership Against Terrorism program, Jayson Ahern, the agency's assistant commissioner of field operations, told the House Homeland Security Economic Security Subcommittee at a hearing.

He said the agency plans to hire 40 more inspectors within the next 45 days, but is "not where we need to be."

For the first time, the agency is considering hiring private companies to validate the security plans of some companies that primarily work out of countries with a low risk of terrorism activity, Ahern said.

An opportunity like this does not come along every day! Big earning potential for the right company! Get your foot in the door as a customs contractor!

Guam's Red-Light Zoning Proposal: "Look at a map"
How Will This Zoning Proposal Square with the US Military's Prohibition on Facilitating Human Trafficking?

This post started as a remark on a weird little news story that I happened across this morning and evolved into something more serious and substantial, raising the issue of whether the Guam Zoning Board is taking the US Military's ban on facilitating human trafficking at all seriously.

One of the things I love about blogging strange goings on in far-flung places is that when you start following their news-feeds you encounter the most bizarre stuff. This morning's special is a zoning proposal in Guam that I know is never, ever, going to come to my neighborhood. From Pacific Magazine: GUAM: Red Light District Plan Still On

Tourism officials and executives from the hotel and restaurant sectors in Guam are moving ahead with plans to rezone the Tumon tourist district and establish a “red light district” that would group all adult entertainment outlets in one area.

Bart Jackson, Guam Hotel and Restaurants Association chairman, said yesterday that the organization is moving ahead with its plan to rid Tumon of adult entertainment businesses that may destroy the island’s image as a family destination.

“Right now, we are moving forward. We have been researching legislation in other jurisdictions like Los Angeles, New York, St. Paul, and Philadelphia, which have all launched this kind of rezoning legislation in their locales,” Jackson said. . . .

The government of Guam is considering the establishment of a red light district to ensure that adult-oriented establishments are not mixed with the predominantly family-oriented establishments catering to the island’s visitors. The establishment of a red light district that would host the island’s massage parlors, strip joints, and other adult entertainment fare was already discussed by a joint task force composed of representatives from the Guam Visitors Bureau, Department of Public Health and Social Services, Guam Police Department, and Department of Revenue and Taxation.

Hmm. Love the justification of comparing this proposal with zoning in large American cities, but based on the superficial details available in the article, this sounds like it has more in common with zoning in San Francisco in the 1870s than with that of twenty-first century NYC.

Guam's problem is not the kind of problems with adult entertainment establishment encountered by big cities. Why might there be some kind of plausible need for this rezoning? Well, I gather the US Military is considering explaining their presence there by a lot. From the Washington Times: Guam seen as pivotal U.S. base

ANDERSEN AIR FORCE BASE, Guam -- The U.S. Pacific Command is moving forward with plans to recast the posture of its military forces in the western Pacific and Asia with the new pivot point to be a robust base on the island of Guam.
    "Look at a map," said the command's leader, Adm. William J. Fallon, as he flew toward Guam after a weeklong trek through Southeast Asia. He pointed to the relatively short distances from Guam to South Korea; the Taiwan Strait, across which China and Taiwan confront each other; and Southeast Asia, the frontier of terror in Asia.
    U.S. officers often talk about the "tyranny of distance" in the Pacific Command's area of operations, which runs from the west coast of North America to the east coast of Africa. Guam, when it is fully operational, will provide a base for land, naval and air forces closer to targets than for forces on the U.S. mainland or Hawaii. Guam was a major air base during the war in Vietnam.

The fly in this ointment is as of January 30th, 2004, "U.S. troops, government civilians and defense contractors worldwide now are expressly forbidden from involvement with people illegally trafficked across borders, most often for illicit sex." From the Navy Times in 2004:

Wolfowitz orders moves to halt human trafficking

By William H. McMichael
Times staff writer
U.S. troops, government civilians and defense contractors worldwide now are expressly forbidden from involvement with people illegally trafficked across borders, most often for illicit sex.

The decree comes in a Jan. 30 memo from Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz stating that trafficking in persons “will not be facilitated in any way by the activities of our service members, civilian employees, indirect hires or DoD contract personnel.”

Trafficking involves criminal efforts to lure or kidnap people, usually young women, across borders, entrapping them and forcing them into prostitution. It is practiced in many countries, including the United States.

Trafficking in persons “is a violation of human rights; it is cruel and demeaning; it is linked to organized crime; it undermines our peacekeeping efforts; and it is incompatible with military core values,” Wolfowitz said.

The memo, sparked by a national security directive signed by President Bush on Feb. 25, 2003, that mandated a “zero tolerance” for trafficking, was sent to all military service secretaries, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs, combatant commanders and Defense Department inspectors and legal specialists. Pentagon officials confirmed Feb. 12 that it carries the “full weight and authority” of a directive.

There is a much more detailed discussion of the meaning of this policy in Keith J. Allred's article Human Trafficking: Breaking the Military Link.

In another remarkable innovation, on 15 September 2004 the Department of Defense's Joint Service Committee on Military Justice proposed several changes to the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ), a federal criminal code that applies to active duty military personnel worldwide, at all hours of the day, regardless of their deployment status.23 Under the UCMJ, U.S. military personnel can be tried for military offenses such as disrespect and failure to obey orders, as well as the more traditional criminal offenses.24 Among the proposals was a suggested new criminal offense of "patronizing a prostitute," intended to completely eliminate U.S. forces from the equation of demand for paid sexual services anywhere worldwide. Under the proposed legislation, patronizing a prostitute would become a crime for all military personnel after 1 July 2005.25 The new offense would punish the soldier-customer even if the sex act is consensual and prostitution is legal in the country where the act occurs.26

SO. What, then, is going to happen in Guam if the US Military expands its presence and the proposed Red-Light rezoning takes place? Will US military personnel etc. be strictly forbidden from setting foot there? Will the rules on not facilitating human trafficking be enforced? Or not? How is this going to work?

Perhaps those in charge of making the prohibition on facilitating human trafficking ought to have a little talk with the Guam zoning board before Guam sets up their little Red Light theme park, yes?

(Thanks GW!)

Bush Confronted on Nuclear Pact

There is a beautiful story in the LA Times this morning on Bush's failure to fool all of the people all of the time, even at a carefully managed event: Bush Confronted on Nuclear Pact

While speaking about Medicare, the president gets a surprise challenge from a negotiator of the nonproliferation treaty that India never signed.
By Peter Wallsten, Times Staff Writer
March 16, 2006

WASHINGTON — Two weeks after signing a controversial nuclear cooperation agreement with India, President Bush had a surprise encounter Wednesday with one of the original negotiators of the very anti-nuclear treaty that critics say is threatened by the deal.

The exchange capped an afternoon of unusually confrontational questions posed to Bush by a public audience — a change for a White House that has frequently organized friendly crowds to show Bush in a positive light.

The India challenge came from Lawrence Weiler, 85, a resident at the Washington-area retirement center that was the venue for the Wednesday event, intended to promote the president's new Medicare prescription drug program.

When Bush opened the floor to questions, and one man stood to thank the president for making U.S. civil nuclear technology available to India, Weiler could not contain himself.

"Mr. President, there are some — and I guess I would include myself — who have different views about the Indian agreement, because they're concerned about the effect that the agreement will have on the capacity of India to stimulate its own production of nuclear weapons," he said.

Weiler told Bush that he was one of the few surviving negotiators of the 1970 Nonproliferation Treaty, which was ratified by the world's major nuclear powers and more than 180 other nations to limit the spread of nuclear weapons.

India never signed the treaty, and critics charge that Bush's plan to let U.S. firms begin sharing civil nuclear technology with India would help that country expand its weapons program and invigorate a nuclear arms race by inspiring other nations to ignore the treaty.

Weiler, who worked for the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency, went on to ask Bush to consider adopting a "no first use" policy on nuclear weapons as an additional enticement to keep the treaty intact.

Kenya: "He was accompanied by a woman who on Monday he claimed was his bodyguard."

In the aftermath of the Kenya media raids, there have been conflicting reports of the involvement of "Russian mercenaries" in one aspect or another of the situation. Now we are getting a few more specifics, and boy are they strange. First of all, there's this story from the Nation: NARC Politician is Linked to Armenians

The Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) yesterday linked a Narc politician to a press conference by two former Soviet bloc foreigners Langata MP Raila Odinga describes as mercenaries.

And the movement accused the Government of providing state security to Mr Artur Sargsyan and Mr Artur Margaryan, who they claimed were "international criminals." . . .

In a move that added more mystery to the saga behind the two Armenians, the former Roads minister claimed Mr Sargsyan, who had been said to have flown into the country a few minutes before the Press conference, was in fact in the country. . . .

The two said they had been introduced to both Mr Odinga and Mr Kalonzo Musyoka by another businessman, and had been asked by Mr Odinga and Mr Musyoka to fund the ODM's no-vote campaign in the last year's November 21 referendum on the proposed Constitution.

They said they refused to do this, saying they never helped to fund political work, but said that instead they agreed to a request by Mr Odinga to lend him $1.5 million (about Sh108 million).

Mr Odinga and Mr Musyoka have denied the claims and accused the Government of being behind the allegations "to tarnish the integrity of ODM leaders". . . .

"It is clear to us that the presence in Kenya of the two persons of questionable character and integrity is with the express knowledge of the Government at a very high level," he said at Parliament Buildings in Nairobi.

The leaders also queried the source of huge sums of money for the Armenians' investment and the bank through which the transactions were carried out.

And then there's this one, also from Kenya, which identifies the company involved as Brotherlink International: Confusion As Police Confront Armenian

The eight had gone to House 977 on Glory Road, off Runda Grove, as an advance team to provide security for detectives investigating the activities of Mr Margaryan and his brother, Mr Artur Sargsyan.

Mr Margaryan was to have been interviewed by Nairobi deputy provincial CID chief Isaiah Osugo, who was appointed last week by police commissioner Mohamed Hussein Ali to investigate claims by Lang'ata MP Raila Odinga that the brothers were mercenaries.  . . .

Mr Margaryan repeated his claims that he had in the past met Mr Odinga. He said it was between December 13 and 15, last year in Dubai, when he allegedly gave him the equivalent of Sh100,000 in UAE currency (dirham), to spend as he wished.

He said his brother would be returning to Kenya next week.

He went on: "I will go to court as well as demand protection from the Government because it was my right to ask for protection."

Mr Margaryan acknowledged that his company Brotherlink International Ltd had entered into a contract in January this year to rent the house. His company was involved in various businesses including car imports, electronics and real estate. . . .

Asked to explain why his brother's particulars were missing from the passenger manifest on the flight he claimed he had taken from Dubai to Kenya, he said all passengers from Arab countries used their mothers' names and not their own or their fathers'. . . .

After his brief chat with the journalists, Mr Margaryan returned to his compound and later drove off in a dark blue Subaru whose number plates were hidden behind strips of cardboard. He was accompanied by a woman who on Monday he claimed was his bodyguard.

This sure is getting interesting. I wonder where it will go.

MEANWHILE IN UGANDA, Peter Wadron (see my previous post) is facing charges. The Arms Dealer of the Lord turns out to also be a Bounty Hunter of the Lord as well: Jailed American Wanted to Grab Kony

Dr Peter Waldron, an American facing charges of illegal possession of arms, planned to use a Congolese rebel militia to capture Joseph Kony, the elusive leader of the Lord's Resistance Army.

A highly placed source said Waldron planned to claim the $1.7 million bounty on Kony's head. Ugandan and US officials, however, remained tightlipped about the case, which is set to raise more eyebrows about Waldron and his involvement in Uganda.

The Inspector General of Police, Gen. Kale Kayihura, told Daily Monitor that a charge of terrorism could be added after initial police investigations linked Waldron to anti-government propaganda. Among Waldron's various businesses and professional interests is a publication Africa Dispatch which has been critical of the arrest of Dr Kizza Besigye and the deployment of armed men at the High Court in Kampala during his trial in January.

"Obviously the Criminal Investigations Department have established a link between Waldron and several Congolese that were arrested in connection with illegally possessing guns," Kayihura said yesterday.

Until now the arrest of Waldron, an IT consultant with the Ministry of Health, who doubled as a born-again businessman with a variety of interests, has perplexed most observers.

Daily Monitor can now reveal that Dido Manyiroha, Waldron's co-accused, is one of the topmost leaders of Movement Révoluntionaire du Congo (MRC), a rebel outfit operating in Eastern Congo.

"He [Waldron] made a deal with MRC to do an operation in Garamba Park where Kony and his group are said to be hiding." a security source who declined to be named said.

"He promised to claim the reward on Kony's capture and share it with the group afterwards. He also advanced them $20,000 to organise the operation."

The International Criminal Court in The Hague has issued an arrest warrant for Kony, his field commander Vincent Otti and others, and has promised a reward of $1.7 million (over Shs3 billion) for his capture.

"MRC promised Waldron they have the men and the capacity to grab Kony because they are Congolese and they know the forests,"
the source added.

Praise the Lord, pass the amunition. Or something. (Thanks GW!) WALDRON UPDATE, 3/28/06: Waldron has been released and deported from Uganda. See Soj.

KENYA UPDATE: The Nation (whose registration process I finally managed to get to work) has some more lovely details on the Amrenian brothers:

Mr Musyoka emerged from a one-and-a-half hour session with the CID officer tasked to investigate the mercenaries allegations, Mr Isaiah Osugo, to state that he has never requested for funding from the two Armenians.

He said Mr Sanghani introduced the two foreigners, whom he described as "flamboyantly endowed in gold chains, rings, bracelets and watches" at the Grand Regency's Summit Club in late November last year.

"Whilst at the club, businessman Raju Sanghani walked over to where I was seated accompanied by two persons who were casually dressed and introduced them as businessmen from Dubai," Mr Musyoka said.

Mr Sanghani is the former owner of Guilders International Bank, chairman of Real Motors Group and an estate management firm.

During the 10-minute encounter, Mr Musyoka said one of the two foreigners introduced himself as a relative of the Armenian President and that he had set his eyes on a top political seat in his country.

In apparent reference to Mr Sargsyan, he said the Armenian told him of his business interests in DR Congo and inquired if Mr Musyoka could use his influence as a former Foreign minister to introduce him to President Kabila.

"I informed them that I knew President Kabila but was not well-acquainted with him. That was the end of our discussion," narrated the Mwingi North MP.

Contacted last evening, Mr Sanghani confirmed he had introduced Mr Musyoka to the two men in an "accidental" meeting.

He said the two were associates of a Dubai businessman, Mr Zakher Omar, a friend he had met in Mumbai, India, last year. Mr Omar deals in general commodities, steel rolling and real estate development in Dubai and India.

"He and l met accidentally at the hotel l was staying in and we got talking. I tried to interest him in investing in Kenya especially in real estate..."

"Sometime in November he came with two people he introduced as Arthur and James. He claimed they were members of the "royal" family in Armenia," Mr Sanghani said in a telephone interview.

He said that one evening during the three or four days which Mr Omar and his associates spent in the country, he took them to the Summit Club in the Grand Regency where they met Mr Musyoka.

"It was a casual, accidental meeting. I introduced them and told Mr Musyoka that they were members of the Armenian "royal" family. Indeed, l told him that one of the men was a presidential aspirant. I also told him that the men were interested in investing in gold and diamonds in the Democratic Republic of Congo," Mr Sanghani said.

On the face of it, these guys sound to me more like criminals and con-artits than mercenaries as such.

(See also The Yorkshire Ranter.)

Taking the Plame Wars to a Whole New Level

Now HERE's a news article that caused me to create a new tag: What were you thinking? The Chicago Tribune seems to be trying to outdo Bob Novak. Not content to out one CIA agent, they're trying to collect the whole set, or at least want us to think that's what they've done. (This reminds me a bit of the fake reports that Google Earth was being used to spy on our troop positions.) What were they thinking, anyway?

Here's the spin du jour: Forget Scooter Libby, the CIA has bigger problems. The pocket watch swings back and forth. You're getting sleepy, very sleepy: Forget Scooter Libby. Forget Scooter Libby. Got it?

Larry C. Johnson has a really good post on the subject that I'm going to mirror in it's entirety.

Well, the theater of the absurd that tries to pass for journalism has gone to new lows with a goofy story in today's Chicago Tribune. The article, Internet Blows CIA Cover claims, "It's easy to track America's covert operatives. All you need to know is how to navigate the Internet."

Oh really? Okay Mr. Crewdson (the author of this nonsense). Please search the internet and identify 100 CIA officers for me. Go ahead. Give it a shot. Oh, I forgot, first you need a name. You do not just enter a random name and come up with a flashing sign that says, "this guy is CIA". So really what you are saying is that if I tell you someone works for the CIA you can do a search and find out that someone, who is a private consultant, once worked for the U.S. State Department? In other words, you first have to be tipped off to look at a particular person.

Well, Valerie Plame was safe until the White House pointed reporters in her direction. Even if Crewdson's assertion that Valerie's cover was "thin" (it was not), what we know for a fact is that her neighbors did not know she worked for the CIA. Only those who had a need to know knew.

Crewdson insinuates, but doesn't demonstrate, that a simple search of the internet enables one to easily identify CIA employees. The true story is more complicated. Crewdson's searches were conducted after the names of individuals and companies appeared in the news. He searched on those names and found links to the U.S. Government. Nowhere on the internet will you find a list of undercover folks that says, "they really work for the CIA". Crewdson is right about one point, the CIA has done a lousy job of developing effective cover positions. But that is a failure of leaders like Tenet rather than officers, such as Valerie Plame.

But here is what is really fascinating. Crewdson says he identified 2600 CIA officers but, out of concern for national security, declined to out them. Thank you Mr. Crewdson. At least you understand that blowing someones cover, even a thin one, would be an act of treason. I am in favor of having Crewdson give Bob Novak a lesson in journalistic ethics and responsibility.

There is no such thing as ironclad cover. Whether Valerie Plame's cover was thin or deep, the basic fact remains--she was an undercover intelligence officer and expected senior government officials to protect this secret. Scooter Libby, Karl Rove, and Dick Cheney, who learned that she was a CIA officer, were obligated to protect that secret. Instead, they betrayed Valerie and helped destroy an intelligence network that was devoted to trying to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. That's the real story that true Americans should be fretting over.

I share Johnson's scepticism that the Chicgo Tribune's reporters have done what they claim. If they really had, they wouldn't have published the article. (And the scenario seems to come from an alternate universe in which the printed phone book was never invented.) But it does seem that this takes the Plame Wars to a whole new level in which our intelligence agents are now to be outed in bulk and not individually. While the agency is not staffed entirely by perfect angels, and while I enjoy a good outing as much as the next blogger, if we are to have intelligence services at all, this kind of political operative gamesmanship has got to stop.