Saturday, May 31, 2008

Feminists challenge Islamic terrorists

But, it's not what you think. They want equal rights, sure enough, but to blow themselves up just as much as the men. [emphases added]

In response to a female questioner, al-Qaida No. 2 leader Ayman Al-Zawahri said in April that the terrorist group does not have women. A woman's role, he said on the Internet audio recording, is limited to caring for the homes and children of al-Qaida fighters.

His remarks have since prompted an outcry from fundamentalist women, who are fighting or pleading for the right to be terrorists. The statements have also created some confusion, because in fact suicide bombings by women seem to be on the rise, at least within the Iraq branch of al-Qaida.


Al-Zawahri's remarks show the fine line al-Qaida walks in terms of public relations. In a modern Arab world where women work even in some conservative countries, al-Qaida's attitude could hurt its efforts to win over the public at large. On the other hand, noted SITE director Katz, al-Zawahri has to consider that many al-Qaida supporters, such as the Taliban, do not believe women should play a military role in jihad.

Al-Zawahri's comments came in a two-hour audio recording posted on an Islamic militant Web site, where he answered hundreds of questions sent in by al-Qaida sympathizers. He praised the wives of mujahedeen, or holy warriors. He also said a Muslim woman should "be ready for any service the mujahedeen need from her," but advised against traveling to a war front like Afghanistan without a male guardian.

How bizarre to these Western ears.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

"NASA spacecraft successfully lands near Mars pole"

This is good news.

PASADENA, Calif. - A NASA spacecraft plunged into the atmosphere of Mars and successfully landed in the Red Planet's northern polar region on Sunday, where it will begin 90 days of digging in the permafrost to look for evidence of the building blocks of life.

Less than two hours later, the Phoenix Mars Lander beamed back four dozen black-and-white images including one of its foot sitting on Martian soil amid tiny rocks. Others included the horizon of the arctic plain and ground with polygon patterns similar to what can be found in Earth's permafrost regions.

"Absolutely beautiful," said Dan McCleese, a chief scientist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. "It looks like a good place to start digging."

I'm sure they will get started in no time. Let's hope the Phoenix mission goes very well.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

"Ice-sampling probe set for Sunday landing on Mars"

Let's hope this mission is a success.

PASADENA, California (Reuters) - A new chapter in Mars exploration opens on Sunday when a small robotic probe jets down to the planet's arctic circle to learn if ice beneath its surface ever had the right chemistry to support life, mission managers said on Thursday.

NASA approved the mission, known as Phoenix, after the Mars orbiter Odyssey found ice surrounding the polar caps in 2002. Five probes landed near Mars' equatorial zones, including the rovers Spirit and Opportunity, which discovered signs of past surface water. Odyssey found no sign of buried ice around Mars' equator.

"We're going way to the north," said Peter Smith, a planetary geologist at the University of Arizona in Tucson who heads the Phoenix science team.

Good luck to the team running Phoenix.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

"Robotic suit could usher in super soldier era"

Absolutely cool.

Rex Jameson bikes and swims regularly, and plays tennis and skis when time allows. But the 5-foot-11, 180-pound software engineer is lucky if he presses 200 pounds — that is, until he steps into an "exoskeleton" of aluminum and electronics that multiplies his strength and endurance as many as 20 times.


Jameson — who works for robotics firm Sarcos Inc. in Salt Lake City, which is under contract with the U.S. Army — is helping assess the 150-pound suit's viability for the soldiers of tomorrow. The suit works by sensing every movement the wearer makes and almost instantly amplifying it.

The Army believes soldiers may someday wear the suits in combat, but it's focusing for now on applications such as loading cargo or repairing heavy equipment. Sarcos is developing the technology under a two-year contract worth up to $10 million, and the Army plans initial field tests next year.

And the best line in the story:
"It takes no special training, beyond learning to relax and trust the robot," he said.

When can I get one?

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Fighting panda extinction

Sometimes PETA is just all over the map.

TOKYO (AFP) - Animal rights activists on Wednesday urged Japan to reject visiting Chinese President Hu Jintao's offer of two pandas, saying the crowd-pleasing animals would be miserable in a zoo.

Hu, trying to reconcile with Japan on the first visit by a Chinese president to Tokyo in a decade, offered to lend a male and a female panda to replace Ling Ling, who died last week at Tokyo's Ueno Zoo.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) sent a letter to Foreign Minister Masahiko Komura urging Japan to halt the deal.

The US-based rights group noted that the pandas were being leased, not gifted, and estimated the zoo would pay China around one million dollars a year for each animal.

"Pandas are an endangered species, not a commodity to be traded for human amusement," [Not even for gushing journalists?] PETA campaigner Rie Ichikawa said in the letter.

"In honour of the late Ling Ling -- the panda who spent his entire life in a zoo, where he was denied his freedom, the right to choose his own mate, and everything that was natural and important to him -- we urge Minister Komura to declare that no more pandas will be taken from their homes and sentenced to a life at the Ueno Zoo."

So, PETA's problem is the fact that money is exchanging hands? Or is it that the pandas will be miserable in a zoo? Or is it that the pandas are in captivitiy at all? If that's it, then why stop the deal, since the pandas would still be in captivity in China?

Sometimes, I really don't understand PETA or its motivations.