Wednesday, June 18, 2008

RBS issues global stock and credit crash alert

The Royal Bank of Scotland has advised clients to brace for a full-fledged crash in global stock and credit markets over the next three months as inflation paralyses the major central banks.

"A very nasty period is soon to be upon us - be prepared," said Bob Janjuah, the bank's credit strategist.

A report by the bank's research team warns that the S&P 500 index of Wall Street equities is likely to fall by more than 300 points to around 1050 by September as "all the chickens come home to roost" from the excesses of the global boom, with contagion spreading across Europe and emerging markets.

RBS issues global stock and credit crash alert
RBS warning: Be prepared for a 'nasty' period

Such a slide on world bourses would amount to one of the worst bear markets over the last century.

RBS said the iTraxx index of high-grade corporate bonds could soar to 130/150 while the "Crossover" index of lower grade corporate bonds could reach 650/700 in a renewed bout of panic on the debt markets.

"I do not think I can be much blunter. If you have to be in credit, focus on quality, short durations, non-cyclical defensive names.

"Cash is the key safe haven. This is about not losing your money, and not losing your job," said Mr Janjuah, who became a City star after his grim warnings last year about the credit crisis proved all too accurate.

RBS expects Wall Street to rally a little further into early July before short-lived momentum from America's fiscal boost begins to fizzle out, and the delayed effects of the oil spike inflict their damage.

"Globalisation was always going to risk putting G7 bankers into a dangerous corner at some point. We have got to that point," he said.

US Federal Reserve and the European Central Bank both face a Hobson's choice as workers start to lose their jobs in earnest and lenders cut off credit.

The authorities cannot respond with easy money because oil and food costs continue to push headline inflation to levels that are unsettling the markets. "The ugly spoiler is that we may need to see much lower global growth in order to get lower inflation," he said.

  • Morgan Stanley warns of catastrophe
  • More comment and analysis from the Telegraph
  • "The Fed is in panic mode. The massive credibility chasms down which the Fed and maybe even the ECB will plummet when they fail to hike rates in the face of higher inflation will combine to give us a big sell-off in risky assets," he said.

    Kit Jukes, RBS's head of debt markets, said Europe would not be immune. "Economic weakness is spreading and the latest data on consumer demand and confidence are dire. The ECB is hell-bent on raising rates.

    "The political fall-out could be substantial as finance ministers from the weaker economies rail at the ECB. Wider spreads between the German Bunds and peripheral markets seem assured," he said.

    Ultimately, the bank expects the oil price spike to subside as the more powerful force of debt deflation takes hold next year.

    Original here

    Diamonds on Demand

    Lab-grown gemstones are now practically indistinguishable from mined diamonds. Scientists and engineers see a world of possibilities; jewelers are less enthusiastic

    • By Ulrich Boser
    • Photographs by Max Aguilera-Hellweg
    • Smithsonian magazine, June 2008

    I'm sitting in a fast-food restaurant outside Boston that, because of a nondisclosure agreement I had to sign, I am not allowed to name. I'm waiting to visit Apollo Diamond, a company about as secretive as a Soviet-era spy agency. Its address isn't published. The public relations staff wouldn't give me directions. Instead, an Apollo representative picks me up at this exurban strip mall and drives me in her black luxury car whose make I am not allowed to name along roads that I am not allowed to describe as twisty, not that they necessarily were.

    "This is a virtual diamond mine," says Apollo CEO Bryant Linares when I arrive at the company's secret location, where diamonds are made. "If we were in Africa, we'd have barbed wire, security guards and watch towers. We can't do that in Massachusetts." Apollo's directors worry about theft, corporate spies and their own safety. When Linares was at a diamond conference a few years ago, he says, a man he declines to describe slipped behind him as he was walking out of a hotel meeting room and said someone from a natural diamond company just might put a bullet in his head. "It was a scary moment," Linares recalls.

    Bryant's father, Robert Linares, working with a collaborator who became a co-founder of Apollo, invented the company's diamond-growing technique. Robert escorts me into one of the company's production rooms, a long hall filled with four refrigerator-size chambers bristling with tubes and gauges. As technicians walk past in scrubs and lab coats, I glance inside the porthole window of one of the machines. A kryptonite-green cloud fills the top of the chamber; at the bottom are 16 button-size disks, each one glowing a hazy pink. "Doesn't look like anything, right?" Robert says. "But they will be half-caraters in a few weeks."

    In 1796, chemist Smithson Tennant discovered that diamond is made out of carbon. But only since the 1950s have scientists managed to produce diamonds, forging them out of graphite subjected to temperatures as high as 2,550 degrees Fahrenheit and pressures 55,000 times greater than that of earth's atmosphere. But the stones were small and impure. Only the grit was useful, mostly for industrial applications such as dental drills and hacksaw blades. Over the past decade, however, researchers such as Linares have perfected a chemical process that grows diamonds as pure and nearly as big as the finest specimens hauled out of the ground. The process, chemical vapor deposition (CVD), passes a carbon gas cloud over diamond seeds in a vacuum chamber heated to more than 1,800 degrees. A diamond grows as carbon crystallizes on top of the seed.

    Robert Linares has been at the forefront of crystal synthesis research since he started working at Bell Labs in Murray Hill, New Jersey, in 1958. He went on to start a semiconductor company, Spectrum Technologies, which he later sold, using the proceeds to bankroll further research on diamonds. In 1996, after nearly a decade working in the garage of his Boston home—no kidding, in the garage, where he'd set up equipment he declines to describe—he discovered the precise mixture of gases and temperatures that allowed him to create large single-crystal diamonds, the kind that are cut into gemstones. "It was quite a thrill," he says. "Like looking into a diamond mine."

    Seeking an unbiased assessment of the quality of these laboratory diamonds, I asked Bryant Linares to let me borrow an Apollo stone. The next day, I place the .38 carat, princess-cut stone in front of Virgil Ghita in Ghita's narrow jewelry store in downtown Boston. With a pair of tweezers, he brings the diamond up to his right eye and studies it with a jeweler's loupe, slowly turning the gem in the mote-filled afternoon sun. "Nice stone, excellent color. I don't see any imperfections," he says. "Where did you get it?"

    "It was grown in a lab about 20 miles from here," I reply.

    He lowers the loupe and looks at me for a moment. Then he studies the stone again, pursing his brow. He sighs. "There's no way to tell that it's lab-created."

    More than one billion years ago, and at least 100 miles below the surface of the earth, a mix of tremendous heat and titanic pressure forged carbon into the diamonds that are mined today. The stones were brought toward the surface of the earth by ancient underground volcanoes. Each volcano left a carrot-shaped pipe of rock called kimberlite, which is studded with diamonds, garnets and other gems. The last known eruption of kimberlite to the surface of the earth happened 47 million years ago.

    Diamonds have been extracted from almost every region of the world, from north of the Arctic Circle to the tropics of western Australia. Most diamond mines start with a wide pit; if the kimberlite pipe has a lot of diamonds, miners dig shafts 3,000 feet or more deep. In areas where rivers once ran over kimberlite seams, people sift diamonds from gravel. Loose diamonds used to turn up in fields in the Midwest in the 1800s; they were deposited there by glaciers. Most geologists believe that new diamonds continue to form in the earth's mantle—much too deep for miners to reach.

    The word "diamond" comes from the ancient Greek adamas, meaning invincible. People in India have mined diamond gems for well over 2,000 years, and first-century Romans used the stones to carve cameos. Over the ages, diamonds acquired a mystique as symbols of wealth and power. During the 16th century, the Koh-i-Noor, a 109-carat diamond from the Kollur mine in southern India, was perhaps the most prized item on the Indian subcontinent. Legend held that whoever owned it would rule the globe. "It is so precious," noted a writer at the time, "that a judge of diamonds valued it at half the daily expense of the whole world." Great Britain got the stone in 1849 when Lahore and Punjab became part of the British Empire; the diamond now sits in the Tower of London, the centerpiece of a crown made for Queen Elizabeth in 1937.

    And yet diamonds are simply crystallized pure carbon, just as rock candy is crystallized sugar—an ordered array of atoms or molecules. Another form of pure carbon is graphite, but its atoms are held together in sheets rather than rigidly attached in a crystal, so the carbon sloughs off easily, say, at the tip of a pencil. Thanks to the strength of the bonds between its carbon atoms, diamond has exceptional physical properties. It's the hardest known material, of course, and it doesn't react chemically with other substances. Moreover, it's fully transparent to many wavelengths of light, is an excellent electrical insulator and semiconductor, and can be tweaked to hold an electrical charge.

    It's because of these admittedly unglamorous properties that lab-produced diamonds have the potential to dramatically change technology, perhaps becoming as significant as steel or silicon in electronics and computing. The stones are already being used in loudspeakers (their stiffness makes for an excellent tweeter), cosmetic skin exfoliants (tiny diamond grains act as very sharp scalpels) and in high-end cutting tools for granite and marble (a diamond can cut any other substance). With a cheap, ready supply of diamonds, engineers hope to make everything from higher-powered lasers to more durable power grids. They foresee razor-thin computers, wristwatch-size cellphones and digital recording devices that would let you hold thousands of movies in the palm of your hand. "People associate the word diamond with something singular, a stone or a gem," says Jim Davidson, an electrical engineering professor at Vanderbilt University in Tennessee. "But the real utility is going to be the fact that you can deposit diamond as a layer, making possible mass production and having implications for every technology in electronics."

    At the U.S. Naval Research Lab, a heavily guarded compound just south of the U.S. Capitol, James Butler leads the CVD program. He wears a gold pinky ring that sparkles with one white, one green and one red diamond gemstone, all of them either created or modified in a lab. "The technology is now at a point that we can grow a more perfect diamond than we can find in nature," he says.

    Butler, a chemist, pulls from his desk a metal box that brims with diamonds. Some are small, square and yellowish; others are round and transparent disks. He removes one wafer the size of a tea saucer. It's no thicker than a potato chip and sparkles under the fluorescent light. "That's solid diamond," he says. "You could use something like this as a window in a space shuttle."

    The military is interested in lab-grown diamonds for a number of applications, only some of which Butler is willing to discuss, such as lasers and wearproof coatings. Because diamond itself doesn't react with other substances, scientists think it's ideal for a biological weapons detector, in which a tiny, electrically charged diamond plate would hold receptor molecules that recognize particular pathogens such as anthrax; when a pathogen binds to a receptor, a signal is triggered. Butler, working with University of Wisconsin chemist Robert Hamers, has produced a prototype of the sensor that can detect DNA or proteins.

    The largest single-crystal diamond ever grown in a lab is about .7 inches by .2 inches by .2 inches, or 15 carats. The stone isn't under military guard or at a hidden location. It's in a room crowded with gauges and microscopes, along with the odd bicycle and congo drum, on a leafy campus surrounded by Washington, D.C.'s Rock Creek Park. Russell Hemley, director of the Carnegie Institution's Geophysical Lab, started working on growing diamonds with CVD in 1995. He pulls a diamond out of his khakis. It would be hard to mistake this diamond for anything sold at Tiffany. The rectangular stone looks like a thick piece of tinted glass.

    Hemley and other scientists are using laboratory and natural diamonds to understand what happens to materials under very high pressure—the type of pressure at the center of the earth. He conducts experiments by squeezing materials in a "diamond anvil cell," essentially a powerful vise with diamonds at both tips.

    A few years ago, Hemley created one of the hardest known diamonds. He grew it in the lab and then placed it in a high-pressure, high-temperature furnace that changed the diamond's atomic structure. The stone was so hard that it broke Hemley's hardness gauge, which was itself made out of diamond. Using the super-hard diamond anvil, Hemley has increased the amount of pressure he can exert on materials in his experiments up to four million to five million times greater than atmospheric pressure at sea level.

    "Under extreme conditions, the behavior of materials is very different," he explains. "Pressure makes all materials undergo transformations. It makes gases into superconductors, makes novel super-hard materials. You can change the nature of elements."

    He discovered, for instance, that under pressure, hydrogen gas merges with iron crystals. Hemley believes that hydrogen might make up a portion of the earth's core, which is otherwise composed largely of iron and nickel. He has been studying the hydrogen-iron substance to understand the temperature and composition of the center of our planet.

    In another surprising discovery, Hemley found that two common bacteria, including the intestinal microorganism E. coli, can survive under colossal pressure. He and his colleagues placed the organisms in water and then ratcheted up the diamond anvil. The water solution soon turned into a dense form of ice. Nevertheless, about 1 percent of the bacteria survived, with some bacteria even skittering around. Hemley says the research is more evidence that life as we know it may be capable of existing on other planets within our solar system, such as under the crust of one of Jupiter's moons. "Can there be life in deep oceans in outer satellites like Europa?" asks Hemley. "I don't know, but we might want to be looking."

    Hemley hopes to soon surpass his own record for the largest lab-grown diamond crystal. It's not clear who has produced the largest multiple-crystal diamond, but a company called Element Six can make wafers up to eight inches wide. The largest mined diamond, called the Cullinan diamond, was more than 3,000 carats—about 1.3 pounds—before being cut. The largest diamond so far found in the universe is the size of a small planet and located 50 light-years away in the constellation Centaurus. Astronomers with the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics discovered the gigantic stone a few years ago, and they believe the 2,500-mile-wide diamond once served as the heart of a star. It's ten billion trillion trillion carats. The astronomers named it Lucy in honor of the Beatles' song "Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds."

    Natural diamonds aren't particularly rare. In 2006, more than 75,000 pounds were produced worldwide. A diamond is a precious commodity because everyone thinks it's a precious commodity, the geological equivalent of a bouquet of red roses, elegant and alluring, a symbol of romance, but ultimately pretty ordinary.

    Credit for the modern cult of the diamond goes primarily to South Africa-based De Beers, the world's largest diamond producer. Before the 1940s, diamond rings were rarely given as engagement gifts. But De Beers' marketing campaigns established the idea that the gems are the supreme token of love and affection. Their "A Diamond Is Forever" slogan, first deployed in 1948, is considered one of the most successful advertising campaigns of all time. Through a near total control of supply, De Beers held almost complete power over the diamond market for decades, carefully hoarding the gemstones to keep prices—and profits—high. While the company has lost some of its power to competitors in Canada and Australia over the past few years, it still controls almost two-thirds of the world's rough diamonds.

    Diamond growers are proud of the challenge they pose to De Beers and the rest of the natural diamond industry. Apollo's slogan is "A Diamond Is for Everyone." So far, though, Apollo's colorless gems cost about the same as natural stones, while the company's pink, blue, champagne, mocha and brown diamonds retail for about 15 percent less than natural stones with such colors, which are very rare and more expensive than white diamonds. Meanwhile, consumers may well be receptive to high-quality, laboratory-produced diamonds. Like most open-pit mines, diamond mines cause erosion, water pollution and habitat loss for wildlife. Even more troubling, African warlords have used diamond caches to buy arms and fund rebel movements, as dramatized in the 2006 movie Blood Diamond. Actor Terrence Howard wears a diamond lapel pin with Apollo stones. He told reporters, "Nobody was harmed in the process of making it."

    Half a dozen other companies have begun to manufacture gem-quality diamonds using not CVD but a process that more closely mimics the way diamonds are created in the earth. The method—basically an improvement on how scientists have been making diamonds since the 1950s—requires heat of more than 2,000 degrees and pressure 50 times greater than that at the surface of the earth. (Both the heat and pressure are more than what CVD requires.) The washing machine-size devices can't produce stones much larger than six carats. These HPHT diamonds—the initials stand for high pressure and high temperature—have more nitrogen in them than CVD diamonds do; the nitrogen turns the diamonds amber-colored. For now, though, the process has a significant benefit over CVD: it's less expensive. While a natural, one-carat amber-colored diamond might retail for $20,000 or more, the Florida-based manufacturer Gemesis sells a one-carat stone for about $6,000. But no one, Gemesis included, wants to sell diamonds too cheaply lest the market for them collapse.

    Gemologists plying everyday tools can seldom distinguish between natural and lab-grown diamonds. (Fake diamonds such as cubic zirconia are easy to spot.) De Beers sells two machines that detect either chemical or structural characteristics that sometimes vary between the two types of stones, but neither machine can tell the difference all the time. Another way to identify a lab-produced diamond is to cool the stone in liquid nitrogen and then fire a laser at it and examine how the light passes through the stone. But equipment is expensive and the process can take hours.

    Diamonds from Apollo and Gemesis, the two largest manufacturers, are marked with a laser-inscribed insignia visible with a jeweler's loupe. Last year, the Gemological Institute of America, an industry research group, began to grade lab-grown stones according to carat, cut, color and clarity—just as it does for natural stones—and it provides a certificate for each gem that identifies it as lab grown.

    The diamond-mining companies have been fighting back, arguing that all that glitters is not diamond. De Beers' ads and its Web sites insist that diamonds should be natural, unprocessed and millions of years old. "Diamonds are rare and special things with an inherent value that does not exist in factory-made synthetics," says spokeswoman Lynette Gould. "When people want to celebrate a unique relationship they want a unique diamond, not a three-day-old factory-made stone." (De Beers does have an investment in Element Six, the company that makes thin industrial diamonds.)

    The Jewelers Vigilance Committee (JVC), a trade group, has been lobbying the Federal Trade Commission to prevent diamond manufacturers from calling their stones "cultured," a term used for most of the pearls sold today. (People in the mined diamond business use less-flattering terms such as "synthetic.") The JVC filed a petition with the agency in 2006, claiming that consumers are often confused by the nomenclature surrounding lab-grown diamonds.

    From the beginning of his research with CVD more than 20 years ago, Robert Linares hoped that diamonds would become the future of electronics. At the heart of almost every electrical device is a semiconductor, which transmits electricity only under certain conditions. For the past 50 years, the devices have been made almost exclusively from silicon, a metal-like substance extracted from sand. It has two significant drawbacks, however: it is fragile and overheats. By contrast, diamond is rugged, doesn't break down at high temperatures, and its electrons can be made to carry a current with minimal interference. At the moment, the biggest obstacle to diamond's overtaking silicon is money. Silicon is one of the most common materials on earth and the infrastructure for producing silicon chips is well established.

    Apollo has used profits from its gemstones to underwrite its foray into the $250 billion semiconductor industry. The company has a partnership Bryant Linares declines to confirm to produce semiconductors specialized for purposes he declines to discuss. But he revealed to me that Apollo is beginning to sell one-inch diamond wafers. "We anticipate that these initial wafers will be used for research and development purposes in our clients' product development efforts," Linares says.

    Before I leave the Apollo lab, Robert and Bryant Linares take me into a warehouse-like room about the size of a high-school gym. It's empty, except for large electrical cables snaking along the floor. The space will soon be filled with 30 diamond-making machines, the men say, nearly doubling Apollo's production capacity. It will be the world's first diamond factory, they say. "There was a copper age and a steel age," Bryant says. "Next will be diamond."

    Ulrich Boser is writing a book about the world's largest unsolved art heist.
    Photographer Max Aguilera-Hellweg specializes in medical and scientific subjects.

    Original here

    Mississippi River overflows 19 levees

    By Lisa Shumaker

    CHICAGO (Reuters) - The swollen Mississippi River has flowed over the top of 19 levees in Missouri, Iowa and Illinois, and another 29 levees are at risk, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said on Wednesday.

    The river overtopped at least nine levees overnight as water levels rose in the Midwest's worst flooding in 15 years. The river was cresting in Burlington, Iowa, but has yet to reach its peak in many areas where the levees have already failed.

    The compromised levees stretch from Dubuque, Iowa, to St. Louis and protect hundreds of thousands of acres of homes and farmland.

    "We basically have about three dozen levee systems we're concerned about overtopping as the river continues to rise," said Ron Fournier, spokesman for the Corps' Rock Island District, which had 11 of the 19 levees overtopped.

    The 11 levees in the Rock Island District were protecting 68,000 acres, according to a map from the Corps of Engineers. The eight levees north of St. Louis protect 2,200 people and about 40,000 acres of agricultural land.

    Once the river flows over the levee, it usually erodes the levee from the other side, causing a breach.

    The levees in New Orleans broke during Hurricane Katrina in 2005, causing catastrophic flooding.

    (Reporting by Lisa Shumaker; editing by Jim Marshall)

    Original here

    Lawmaker takes 9/11 doubts global

    Special to The Japan Times

    In a September 2003 article for The Guardian newspaper, Michael Meacher, who served as Tony Blair's environment minister from May 1997 to June 2003, shocked the establishment by calling the global war on terrorism "bogus." Even more controversially, he implied that the U.S. government either allowed 9/11 to happen, or played some role in the destruction wrought that day. Besides Meacher, few politicians have publicly questioned America's official 9/11 narrative — until Diet member Yukihisa Fujita.

    Yukihisa Fujita addresses the Diet
    Speaking out: Democratic Party of Japan lawmaker Yukihisa Fujita addresses the Diet and Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda on his doubts about the official story of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on the U.S. COURTESY OF YUKIHISA FUJITA

    In January 2008 Fujita, a member of the Democratic Party of Japan, asked the Japanese Parliament and Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda to explain gaping holes in the official 9/11 story that various groups — including those who call themselves the "911 Truth Movement" — claim to have exposed.

    Fujita, along with a growing number of individuals — including European and American politicians — are leading a charge to conduct a thorough, independent investigation of what happened on Sept. 11, 2001.

    "Three or four years ago I saw some Internet videos like 'Loose Change' and '911 In Plane Site' and I began to ask questions," Fujita said in an interview, "but I still couldn't believe this was done by anyone but al-Qaida.

    "Last year I watched more videos and read books written by professor David Ray Griffin (a professor emeritus of philosophy of religion and theology at Claremont Graduate University who wrote the most famous Truth Movement book, 'The New Pearl Harbor') about things such as the collapse of World Trade Center No. 7. This building, which was never hit by an airplane, collapsed straight down. Between the videos showing the way it fell, and the numerous reports of explosions, many are convinced that this building was demolished."

    Fujita's presentation to the Diet and Fukuda focused a great deal on yet another aspect of 9/11 that now quite a few around the world find extremely suspicious: the Pentagon crash.

    "I don't think (a) 767 could have hit the Pentagon," Fujita reckons. "There is no evidence of the plane itself. Almost nothing identifiable was left on the lawn or inside. The official story says the entire plane disintegrated, but the jet engines in particular were very strong (two 6-ton titanium steel turbine engines). And the damage to the building is much smaller than the size of the supposed airplane. The official claims just don't fit the facts."

    While some label that claim "wacky" and label critics of the official 9/11 story "conspiracy theorists," Fujita has impressive company. For one, former Maj. Gen. Albert Stubblebine, who was commanding general of U.S. Army Intelligence and Security until 1984, is quoted on the "Patriots Question 911" Web site as saying, "I look at the hole in the Pentagon and I look at the size of an airplane that was supposed to have hit the Pentagon. And I said, 'The plane does not fit in that hole.'

    "So what did hit the Pentagon? What hit it? Where is it? What's going on?"

    Fujita urges the Bush administration to put the issue to rest simply by showing videos that show the plane that hit the Pentagon. Instead, only a few grainy images have been released to the public. More disconcertingly, many videos taken by surrounding businesses were confiscated by the FBI immediately after the Pentagon explosion.

    The Pennsylvania crash, like the Pentagon explosion, also yielded virtually no recognizable plane parts at the crash site. Rather, small pieces of debris were found up to 10 km away. The official story — that the plane "vaporized" when it hit the ground — is inconsistent with the evidence left by every other plane crash in the history of aviation.

    Plane crashes always yield plane fragments, Fujita explained, which can be identified by the plane's serial number, but that's not the case for the four planes which crashed on 9/11. Strangely, the U.S. government managed to produce passports and DNA samples of individuals killed, but no identifiable plane parts. In an online article entitled "Physics 911," 34-year U.S. Air Force veteran Col. George Nelson notes, "It seems . . . that all potential evidence was deliberately kept hidden from public view."

    Fujita has largely relied on the voluminous amount of video and written material published in books and on the Internet, including the "Patriots Question 911" site, on which hundreds of allegations are leveled against the official story by senior officials from the military, intelligence services, law enforcement, and government, as well as pilots, engineers, architects, firefighters and others.

    While not many other Japanese have taken an interest in this story, a few notable individuals besides Fujita have disputed the U.S. government's version, including Akira Dojimaru, a Japanese writer living in Spain. In his book, written in Japanese, "The Anatomy of the WTC Collapses: Flaws in the U.S. Government's Account," he uses photos, drawings and blueprints of the WTC buildings to back up his claim that buildings one and two could not have fallen in the manner they fell due to the plane crashes and subsequent fires. "And even if it was conceivable that they could fall due to the damage that day," Dojimaru wrote in an e-mail, "they never would have collapsed horizontally, and would have scattered steel beams and smashed concrete much farther than 100 meters."

    For Fujita, it was Dojimaru's meticulous research, combined with the aforementioned Web sites, that convinced him the official story was nothing more than a house of cards.

    One book that Fujita found unconvincing was the "9/11 Commission Report."

    "The head of the 9/11 Commission is close with (U.S. Secretary of State) Condoleezza Rice and (Vice President Dick) Cheney. One commission member (Sen. Max Cleland) resigned, saying the White House did not disclose enough information."

    On Democracy Now's radio show in March 2004, Cleland even went as far as to say, "This White House wants to cover it (the facts of 9/11) up."

    More recently, a New York Times article in January quoted Thomas Kean, the chairman of the 9/11 Commission, as saying that "the CIA destroyed videotaped interrogations of Qaeda operatives," and concluded that that "obstructed our investigation."

    Following the lead of Fujita, Karen Johnson, a conservative Republican senator from Arizona, has publicly voiced her doubts about 9/11 before the U.S. Senate. Inspired by Blair Gadsby — who on May 27 started a hunger strike to bring attention to the 911 Truth Movement — Johnson, like Fujita, is encouraging politicians to conduct a thorough, independent investigation.

    Fujita, who worked for more than 20 years for the international conflict resolution NGO group MRA and the Japanese Association for Aid and Relief (AAR), has become something of a global cause celebre since his extraordinary questioning at the Diet. In February 2008, he participated in a conference at the European Parliament led by EMP Guilietto Chiesa calling for an independent commission of inquiry into 9/11. While in Europe, he met with NGOs from 11 European countries to discuss 9/11.

    One month later Fujita spoke at the "Truth Now" conference in Sydney, Australia. One focus of these meetings was the Italian documentary "ZERO," whose release will mark the first time the 9/11 movement's message has moved from the "cyberworld" to public venues. Fujita has also spoken about his 9/11 doubts on two U.S. radio shows, one hosted by Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul, and another by Alex Jones of

    He is also making ripples in Japan. Fujita was featured in a March 2 article by well-known critic Takao Iwami on "How to deal with doubts about 9/11" in the Sunday Mainichi weekly. He was also featured in a March 26 Spa! magazine piece headlined, "European conference discusses 9/11 doubts."

    However, not everyone is enthralled with Fujita's bold line of questioning.

    "One person showed strong anger towards me," Fujita noted, "and another (Japanese person) threatened my life. A few others advised me to be extremely careful."

    Still, Fujita says, the vast majority — around 95 percent — have been positive.

    "One man said, 'You're a true samurai.' Another man came all the way from Okayama in western Japan to thank me personally. And among other Parliament members, I received only words of encouragement and support."

    While in Europe, Fujita met British former MP Meacher, who dared to question the official story when it was still considered gospel. Time, the Iraq war and well-sourced online videos are emboldening many people, including politicians, to step out of the cyberworld and voice their doubts in newspapers, magazines, theaters, and — most importantly — government chambers.

    "Now Blair is gone, and Bush will soon be gone," Meacher told Fujita. "Our time is coming."

    Send comments on this issue and story ideas to

    Original here

    Report: Exams reveal abuse, torture of detainees

    WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Former terrorist suspects detained by the United States were tortured, according to medical examinations detailed in a report released Wednesday by a human rights group.

    A U.S. serviceman with his dog watches a detainee at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq in 2003.

    A U.S. serviceman with his dog watches a detainee at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq in 2003.

    The Massachusetts-based Physicians for Human Rights reached that conclusion after two-day clinical evaluations of 11 former detainees, who had been held at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and in Afghanistan.

    The detainees were never charged with crimes.

    "We found clear physical and psychological evidence of torture and abuse, often causing lasting suffering," said Dr. Allen Keller, a medical evaluator for the study.

    In a 121-page report, the doctors' group said that it uncovered medical evidence of torture, including beatings, electric shock, sleep deprivation, sexual humiliation, sodomy and scores of other abuses.

    The report is prefaced by retired U.S. Major Gen. Antonio Taguba, who led the Army's investigation into the Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse scandal in 2003.

    "There is no longer any doubt that the current administration committed war crimes," Taguba says. "The only question is whether those who ordered torture will be held to account."

    Over the years, reports of abuses at Abu Ghraib and allegations of torture at Guantanamo prompted the Bush administration to deny that the U.S. military tortures detainees.

    Since only 11 detainees were examined "the findings of this assessment cannot be generalized to the treatment of all detainees in U.S. custody," the report says.

    However, the incidents documented are consistent with findings of other investigations into government treatment, "making it reasonable to conclude that these detainees were not the only ones abused, but are representative of a much larger number of detainees subjected to torture and ill treatment while in U.S. custody."

    Four of the men evaluated were arrested in or taken to Afghanistan between late 2001 and early 2003 and later were sent to Guantanamo Bay, where they were held for an average of three years before being released without charge, the report says. The other seven were detained in Iraq in 2003 and released within a year, the report says.

    All the subjects told examiners that they were subjected to multiple forms of torture or ill treatment that "often occurred in combination over a long period of time," the report says.

    While the report presents synopses of the detainees' backgrounds based on interviews with them, the authors did not have access to the detainees' medical histories. Therefore, there's no way to know whether any of the inmates may have had medical or mental problems before being detained.

    Among the ex-detainees was an Iraqi in his mid-40s, identified only as Laith, whom U.S. soldiers took into custody in October 2003 and who was released from Abu Ghraib in June 2004. According to the report, Laith was subjected to sleep deprivation, electric shocks and threats of sexual abuse to himself and his family.

    "They took off even my underwear. They asked me to do some movements that make me look in a very bad way so they can take photographs. ... They were trying to make me look like an animal," Laith told examiners, according to the report.

    According to the report, Laith said the most "painful" experiences involved threats to his family: "And they asked me, 'Have you ever heard voices of women in this prison?' I answered, 'Yes.' They were saying, 'Then you will hear your mothers and sisters when we are raping them.' "

    The examiners concluded in the report that "Laith appears to have suffered severe and lasting physical and psychological injuries as a result of his arrest and incarceration at Abu Ghraib prison."

    Another detainee, Youssef, was detained by U.S. soldiers nearly seven years ago when he tried to enter Afghanistan from neighboring Pakistan without a passport, the report says. He initially was held in an Afghan prison, where he describes "being stripped naked, being intimidated by dogs, being hooded and being thrown against the wall on repeated occasions," the report says.

    A few months later, he was taken to the Guantanamo Bay facility, where he was subjected to interrogators who would enter his cell and force him to lie on the floor with his hands tied behind his back to his feet, the report says.

    Youssef said the interrogators wanted him to confess of involvement with the Taliban, the report says.

    Based on its investigation, the report calls on the U.S. government to issue a formal apology to detainees subject to torture and ill treatment by the military since fall 2001 in Afghanistan, Iraq, Guantanamo Bay and elsewhere.

    The rights group also demands that the Bush administration:

    • "Repudiate all forms of torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment";

    • Establish an independent commission to investigate and report publicly the circumstances of detention and interrogation at U.S.-run prisons in Afghanistan, Iraq and Guantanamo Bay;

    • Hold individuals involved in torturing detainees accountable through criminal and civil processes; and

    • Monitor thoroughly the conditions at U.S.-run prisons all over the world.

    Original here

    So what's in the new copyright bill?

    So what does the proposed copyright legislation, Bill C61, have in store for you? Aside from not being able to download free music any more, it puts all sorts of limitations on intellectual property and how it can be used.

    The Canadians' worst fear is that the bill has been unduly influenced by the powerful U.S. music, movie and TV lobby, which managed to get the U.S. Congress to pass the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, which gives corporations such as the music industry unprecedented powers to investigate and enforce copyright law. Among other things, the DMCA is unclear about the concept of "fair use," which Canada calls "fair dealing," which allows use of content for purposes such as satire.

    • To figure out what's in the bill — the good as well as the bad — we've asked University of Ottawa law professor Jeremy deBeer to discuss it with our readers on Wednesday, June 18, from 12 p.m. to 1 p.m. Join us then or leave a question in advance.

    The bill proposes to drop the personal penalty for infringement from $20,000 per case to $500; however, the bill keeps the provision that anyone who has cracked or avoided digital-rights management controls is liable for a fine of $20,000 per infringement.

    And how will the bill reconcile itself with another proposed law, the secretive Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA), which would allow border guards to seize devices that they suspect of containing material that infringes copyright, and would force Internet service providers to reveal the identities of suspected infringers without a court order?

    To figure out what's in the bill — the good as well as the bad — we've asked University of Ottawa law professor Jeremy deBeer to discuss it with our readers on Wednesday, June 18, at 12 p.m. to 1 p.m.

    Prof. deBeer specializes in classic and intellectual property law, and the intersection between property, IP and torts, and is a member of the law faculty's law and technology group. He has worked for the Department of Justice and as legal counsel to the Copyright Board of Canada.

    He has written about the constitutional implications of copyrights, the role of copyrights in the music and entertainment industries and the notion of balance in copyright and patent law.

    Editor's Note: editors will read and allow or reject each question/comment. Comments/questions may be edited for length or clarity. HTML is not allowed. We will not publish questions/comments that include personal attacks on participants in these discussions, that make false or unsubstantiated allegations, that purport to quote people or reports where the purported quote or fact cannot be easily verified, or questions/comments that include vulgar language or libellous statements. Preference will be given to readers who submit questions/comments using their full name and home town, rather than a pseudonym.

    Jack Kapica, moderator, writes: Welcome, Prof. Jeremy deBeer, and thank you for joining our discussion about the contents of the proposed amendments to the copyright legislation. We'' start off with this question:

    Brian Lowry from Fredericton writes: Jeremy — do we really need to care what's in this bill, given that it almost certainly will either die before being passed, or simply be defeated?

    Jeremy deBeer answers: Yes, Brian, I think we should all should care deeply about what's in this bill. It has serious consequences for all Canadians.

    There are no guarantees what will happen with the political situation in Canada. If the Conservatives stay in power, the fate of the bill will turn on the attitudes and actions of Canadian voters. And if they don't, the principles in this bill could form the basis for future proposals. Either way, this stuff is important.

    So no matter what your perspective is, you should make your views known to people that matter. You can start by sending your MP a letter saying how your feel (no stamp needed if you send c/o the House of Commons K1A 0A6).

    J Swede from Edmonton writes: Two Questions: 1. Let's say I have purchased a DVD from the store (Alien, for example). Under the new law, am I able to rip this DVD for viewing on my iPod Classic? 2. If I am able to format shift this DVD to my iPod, what's the difference between ripping it myself and downloading an already ripped version using P2P? I already own a licence to view this particular movie and I find it a lot easier and quicker to download the already ripped versions rather than do it myself. Am I breaking the law? If so, why? I've already paid to view this movie ...

    Jeremy deBeer answers: This is a long-winded answer, but it is an important question, so please bear with me.

    What you describe doing is commonly called "format shifting" — moving content you've legally acquired from one format to another, like DVD to iPod. Though Industry Minister Jim Prentice correctly explained that the Bill contains provisions to permit ordinary activities like format shifting, the devil is in the details.

    Ripping DVDs to laptops, iPods or even backup discs would not be allowed under the proposed law. The various format shifting exceptions only apply to music, photos, books, newspapers, magazines and — get this — videocassettes, like VHS and Betamax tapes. Yah, I know. Weird. What century are we in?

    If you do want to digitize your VHS collection, though, the good news is that you can do that. But only under certain conditions. You've got to own, not rent or borrow, the tape. You can't get rid of the old tape without deleting the copies first. It has to be your own iPod, computer or DVD that you're copying to. And no selling, lending or giving away the copies, not even to close friends or family.

    Back to the DVD example for a second. Even if you were allowed to format shift your DVDs (which under this Bill you're not), you'd probably be technologically prevented from doing so. Most DVDs are region coded, so, for instance, the disc you bought legally in Europe won't play in your machine back home.

    Under the proposed law, circumventing the "technological measure" is prohibited, even if you just want to watch the disc, let alone copy it. If you think that doesn't matter, because you won't get caught, ask yourself how you'll find the tools do make your movie-watching possible. Those tools are outlawed, and people caught circulating them could be subject to a million-dollar fine (literally) and up to 5 years in jail.

    So that is one practical example of how the infamous anti-circumvention provisions would operate if this Bill becomes law.

    Oh right, to answer, your question: no. You can't do that. Sorry.

    Steve Ireland from Smiths Falls, Canada, writes: If I happen to miss an episode of a favourite TV show, I find it very convenient to download the show using BitTorrent and watch it after normal airing times. Would the bill prevent us from doing that? ...

    Jeremy deBeer answers: Steve: You might think that what you're doing is in effect not all that different from "time shifting" so it should be allowed. Sorry to tell you that's its not.

    Under the proposed law, you'd be allowed to use your PVR to record shows from satellite or cable. (That is, as long as you don't keep a library of shows longer than necessary to watch at a more convenient time.) But this doesn't apply to anything streamed over the Internet. And it certainly doesn't apply to downloading a show if you missed the last episode.

    Using BitTorrent to do this would be infringement of the worst kind, because you'd be both downloading and uploading. That's big-time infringement.

    Jim Sst from 700th Mission Cap Canada writes: Please give an idea of exactly what "statutory damages" means.

    Jeremy deBeer answers: Great question to begin with, Jim. There's been a lot of talk about the proposed law limiting "statutory damages" to $500 if the infringement was for private purposes.

    So what are statutory damages? Well, it means the Copyright Act says that copyright owners can win a case without proving how much harm, if any, they've really suffered from a defendant's activities. They don't have to prove to a court they've actually lost any money if they elect to claim statutory damages.

    Statutory damages are good for copyright owners, because with all of the conflicting evidence about the effects of p2p file sharing, for example, it would be pretty hard to prove actual damages. This is why the RIAA was able to win $220,000 last year from a Minnesota single mother for sharing 24 songs online. There's no way the record companies could have come up with evidence that they lost that much money over two CDs worth of music. But they didn't have to, because the U.S. statute (like the Canadian one) spells out a range of damages that courts can award automatically.

    There you go. That's statutory damages in practice.

    Lorne Kelly from Kemptville, Ontg., writes: There seems to be confusion over whether the $500 and $20,000 charges would take the form of a fine or a lawsuit, and whether the charge is per song or per suit/fine. Can you clarify? ... I do not believe the CIRA/RIAA when they say they are not interested in suing fans. CIRA already tried to obtain IPs of file sharers, why else would they do that? ...

    Jeremy deBeer answers: All right. Staying on the topic of statutory damages, you're right, Lorne, that there's a lot of confusion about how this $500 limit would work.

    First, it isn't a fine like a ticket for speeding or littering or something. The police won't enforce it. It's up to copyright owners themselves to file a lawsuit, if that's what they want to do. And I share your skepticism about promises not sue ordinary Canadians for file sharing.

    Second, the proposed new law says that a copyright owner can collect only $500 total in statutory damages for all copyright infringements committed before the lawsuit was filed. But — and here's a big but — this only applies to infringements done for private purposes. And the limit doesn't apply to infringements made possible by circumventing digital locks. And it won't get you off the hook even for private infringements committed after you've been sued.

    I wish I could tell you what qualifies as "private purposes," but the truth is that nobody really knows for sure. Ripping a DVD to your laptop is probably private. Using a P2P network to share files probably isn't.

    So I don't think the proposed limitation would stop a court from awarding damages in the hundreds of thousands of dollars against file sharers, like we've seen in the United States. Still, the idea of limiting statutory damages like this is a good one. With a little more clarity in scope, it could make most people happy.

    Wallace McLean from Canada writes: How do the changes to photography provisions impact the consumer and the public?

    Jeremy deBeer answers: Very interesting that you bring this up, Wallace. This aspect of the proposed law has been mostly overlooked by the media, but it matters in practice to a lot of people.

    Current copyright law in Canada says that if you commission a photograph (or portrait or engraving), then by default you're the copyright owner. The proposed law would change that to make the photographer the owner instead.

    That means you probably couldn't stop the photographer from using photos of your wedding or your baby however he or she wants to. You could, of course, change this by contract, but only if you're smart enough to do so, and you'd probably have to pay for it.

    Now, to go along with this change, there's a proposed new provision that would allow you to use those commissioned photos for private or non-commercial purposes. So e-mailing them to grandma might be okay, but posting to a public Facebook page puts you over the line.

    And, as far as I can tell, it would still be strictly prohibited to tamper with any technological locks on the photo, or to mess with the photographer's watermark, for example. The bottom line, then, is that the photographer calls the shots when it comes to copyright.

    Marty McFly from Toronto writes: I don't really understand the part in the bill discussing crossing the border with copyrighted materials. Can you clarify this and also how they plan to enforce it?

    Jeremy deBeer answers: There's a bit of misunderstanding here. THIS Bill doesn't do much when it comes to cross-border issues. What you might be thinking of is the likely new Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement, or ACTA for short.

    A bunch of governments, including Canada's, have been negotiating this new international agreement over the past while. Nobody really knows what's being talked about, because there's been almost no transparency and no public consultation of Canadians.

    But rumours are that parts of the agreement could give customs and border officials more powers to seek out copyright-infringing files. It might mean searches of your laptop or iPod, but is that really going to happen? Who knows. I can't say.

    I can say, however, that if you're concerned about this, you should speak out. Demand a public consultation on ACTA, and don't take no for an answer.

    Joe Technicality from Hamilton writes: So I'm your average kid on the block who likes to download a movie now and again (using torrent-based software) for personal viewing only. Are they coming after me? And in Canada, does my ISP have the right/duty to disclose my Internet usage to the enforcing agencies of this proposed legislation?

    Jeremy deBeer answers: Well, I think I've already touched on some of the issues, but here's my answer for you.

    Using torrent-based software means your both uploading and downloading at the same time. That's how torrents work. It means what you call "personal viewing" ain't. It's not personal, that is.

    Are "they" coming after you? If "they" are the record companies and movie studios, maybe. Depends who you believe.

    Better question is, can they come after you? That requires a bit of co-operation from your ISP. A court decision (called BMG v. Doe) a few years back held that ISPs didn't have to turn over subscriber information, but that case was pretty fact-specific. The court gave copyright owners step-by-step instructions on how to make ISPs disclose this kind of info, and there's not much I can see in the bill that would change the court's ruling.

    Mike Bleski from Greater Sudbury writes: A few general questions. 1. When an artist or copyright holder releases his or her materials for public release, say, on or on their personal website, you can't download it unless they have a free usage policy posted? 2. I have heard talk about searches on electronic devices at the border. Will there be content searches on MP3 players, laptops, and related devices?

    Jeremy deBeer answers: That's the normal rule, yes. The copyright owner gets to say whether or not you can download their content. Maybe they'll have a "free usage policy" such as a Creative Commons licence. Maybe they won't. But it's up to them.

    Now, there's a very odd section of the proposed bill that applies especially to teachers and educational institutions. That section says that educators are allowed to download all they want for teaching and training purposes unless the copyright owner says otherwise. And there's no requirement that the teachers deal "fairly" like is necessary with other exceptions.

    That turns copyright law on its head. I'm not saying that educators don't need more flexibility. Just that this approach seems strange and unworkable. There are better alternatives.

    Charles Morgan from Montreal Canada writes: Don't TPMs really enable businesses to offer a variety of new and innovative services at a variety of price points (e.g. $20 to "buy" a film; or $3 to "rent" the same film by downloading a copy for time-limited use)? Who would make investments in copyright protected works (music, films) knowing that Canadian law doesn't protect property in digital form?

    Jeremy deBeer answers: This is really good question. I don't know there's a right answer, though. Do TPMs enable new business models, or stifle them? Ask different people and you'll get different answers, mostly based on speculation, assumptions and maybe some anecdotal evidence.

    I do know that there are lots of folks investing time and effort and money in innovative products and services online without legal prohibitions on circumventing TPMs. Apple's announcement (before the new Bill was tabled) that it would roll out online movie rentals in Canada is a good anecdotal example. The number of record labels moving away from TPMs is another.

    But in the end, I think it comes down to this. We really don't know whether TPMs will help or hinder online business. We don't even know what online business will look like in 3, 5 or 10 years. So my take is that it isn't worth the risk of unintended consequences by codify anti-circumvention provisions.

    The Israeli government just recently decided to take a "wait and see" approach to TPMs. I think that's the right way to go.

    Jonathan Migneault from Canada writes: How will the concept of fair dealing work after this bill is passed? Will Rick Mercer face legal consequences if he uses a movie clip for satirical purposes on his show?

    Jeremy deBeer answers: Well, I won't speak to the Rick Mercer example specifically, but the topic of satire and parody is a crucial one. Unfortunately, there's nothing in the bill to talk about. The government left this out of the reforms.

    The U.S. and many other countries have in their "fair use" rules room for people to express themselves through satires or parodies of other works. Canadian law currently allows "criticism" but in the past, courts have held that this doesn't allow parody.

    I think (for various complicated reasons) that a court would rule differently today, and say that parodies are permitted in Canada if they're fair. But the government could have helped out a lot by expanding the scope of fair dealing in a more general way.

    What the bill does is set out a number of specific things that, under certain limited conditions, are allowed as exceptions to copyright. I've already explained the technicalities attached to format and time shifting. The so-called educational exceptions are even more laden with limitations.

    Anyway, short answer is: no permission for parody in this bill.

    Bill Jones from Canada writes: My brother in the United States can rent and download movies straight to his computer from Netflix. I can't get similar service here in Canada. Why are my options so limited? Are U.S. providers afraid of our weak copyright protections?

    Jeremy deBeer answers: I'm not sure about Netflix, but like I answered another question, Apple has announced that online movie rentals are coming to Canada (regardless of the good or bad state of our copyright law).

    The commercial reality is that there are all kinds of complicated reasons a service like this would or would not come to Canada. Copyright is one reason, I'm sure, but I think the overall competitive and regulatory environment is a bigger deal for companies.

    And really quickly, there might be examples of innovative companies not coming to Canada because our laws are not flexible enough. For a long time you couldn't get TiVo north of the border. One reason was rumoured to be the legal liabilities that the company might have incurred because, unlike in the US, Canadian customers weren't have been allowed time-shift, which is what the TiVo does.

    Xavier Spriet from Windsor Canada writes: Since 1997, we've already been paying a blank media levy on all new blank media purchases, and the CRIA has already distributed over a hundred million dollars from that levy alone. Could you please explain what the overlap between the goals of the new bill and the goals of the levy might be, and what the ramifications are for the Canadian consumer?

    Jeremy deBeer answers: Well, small technicality, but it isn't actually CRIA collecting and distributing the money from the private copying levy. It is actually another organization called the CPCC, which represents not only record labels but also performers and composers as well. And I think the levy revenues are closer to a quarter of a billion dollars, but whatever.

    Your point is that now we've got some provisions in the new bill that allow format-shifting for free (like moving CDs to iPods) at the same time we've got a private copying system that charges people for essentially the same activity (like moving CDs to other CDs). I understand your frustration. It doesn't make sense.

    For what it's worth, the government has committed to a fall consultation on the private copying system, so you'll have your chance to be heard then. Why they'd come out with this law first, without a recent consultation, is beyond me.

    For the consumer, the practical answer is that you'll continue to pay the levy on blank CDs. Take comfort knowing that most of that money goes to support the Canadian music industry.

    Bill Jones from Canada writes: Even though the protections in the U.S. Digital Millenium Copyright Act are much stronger than those in this bill, don't some artists still use innovative techniques such as Radiohead's 'pay what you want' model? Just because locks exist doesn't mean that they will be used. Aren't artists still free to innovate in their content delivery?

    Jeremy deBeer answers: I like this question, because it is a common one. For the most part, there's nothing in the bill that would force anyone to use digital locks on their content. So what's the problem?

    I've asked a lot of artists — musicians, filmmakers, authors and others — this exact question. And almost all of them tell me it isn't that simple.

    One of several things they often say is that when some copyright owners choose to lock down content, consumers get frustrated. When consumers get frustrated, they look for alternative sources of music, like P2P networks. That's bad for the whole business.

    Another thing actual creators are quick to point out is that they need access to existing material to create new content. Documentary filmmakers are a perfect example. These creators can't do their job if their locked out of content, even if what they ultimately want to do would be legally permitted as a fair dealing.

    That's why organizations representing creators, like the Documentary Organization of Canada and the Canadian Music Creators Coalition have come out strongly against digital locks and against this bill. Some rights-holders feel much differently, I know. It shows how deep the divisions are over this issue, even among copyright owners themselves.

    Brett Johnson from Ottawa writes: I think the fears that are being propagated over Bill C61 being a carbon copy of the U.S. DMCA are unfounded. Critics are calling it the "Canadian Digital Millennium Copyright Act", but is this really true since there are clearly a number of exceptions which benefit private users and are not found in the U.S. legislation?

    Jeremy deBeer answers: Whatever you want to call the bill, the differences between it and U.S. law aren't all that different. All or most of the "consumer-friendly" balancing provisions in the bill, like format and time shifting for example, are probably allowed in the U.S. under its more general "fair use." On that point, I actually think consumers would benefit if this bill were more like U.S. law.

    The Canadian bill does set out a "notice and notice" system for ISPs, which is quite different from the U.S. law. That's a pretty good feature of the bill.

    Mostly, I think the label comes from the similarity in terms of the anti-circumvention provisions. And those are the most significant parts of the bill.

    Daniel Pollack from Toronto writes: Critics of the bill say that it affects consumer privacy. Isn't it true that PIPEDA will apply to the uses of TPMs just as it does to any other technologies? How is it different?

    Jeremy deBeer answers: Okay, time is running out, but this is a good one. The answer is that yes, I think Canada's existing privacy law would apply to technological measures and copyright-related enforcement activities, just like anything else.

    Note though that the privacy laws apply to conduct, not to technologies. There are a few other points worth mentioning. Canada's privacy legislation isn't all that strong, it comes with a pile of exceptions, and it can be trumped by contracts in some circumstances.

    I totally admit that's a problem for privacy lawyers, not copyright lawyers, but the issues are related. We've seen the Privacy Commissioner come out an express concerns about technological measures and rights management information practices, which is good. I think more people need to talk about these issues, so that all concerns are heard.

    Jonathan Migneault from Canada writes: Is there any evidence that Minister Jim Prentice met with interest groups like Fair Copyright for Canada when he worked on this bill? When he was interviewed on the CBC's As it Happens he completely avoided this question (along with the concern that U.S. corporations had undue influence on the process).

    Jeremy deBeer answers: If enough people demand it, I can't see how the government can ignore public outcry. So, like I said at the beginning, no matter what your perspective on the bill, speak up. The government needs to hear what you think.

    Gerry Hollerman from Toronto writes: I work in a library in the private sector which recirculates information, particularly professional readings, to individuals throughout our firm. We also perform a great deal of research on behalf of professionals in both print and electronic media. Our library is among the dozens of libraries in hospitals, accounting firms, law firms and other corporate entities in Toronto alone. Our staff work hard to remain within the bounds of the "fair dealing" provisions of the Copyright Act as interpreted by the Supreme Court in Law Society of Upper Canada vs. CCH Canada Ltd. That case provided us with a good deal of assurance that we were within our rights to reproduce and share copyrighted materials, within certain limits, for the purposes of research. Without those rights, we would be unable to function. Or at the very least the cost of licensing or subscribing to many publications, both in paper and online, would become exorbitant. Will the proposed changes to the Copyright Act change in any way or to any degree our ability to reproduce and share copyrighted materials?

    Jeremy deBeer answers: Yes, the new bill will affect your ability to reproduce and share copyrighted materials. One quick concrete example concerns interlibrary loans. If you want to send a digital copy of materials that you would have sent by snail mail in the old days, that's okay. But you have to take measures to ensure that the recipient doesn't make copies and that the recipient can't use the copy you sent for more than five days. Whether this means you need to draft new contracts with your ILL partners, or start using TPMs is unclear. What is clear is that this bill will have significant effects on you and your activities.

    Jack Kapica, moderator, writes: We've gone beyond out hour-long limit, and should close this discussion. I want to thank all those who wrote questions and offer our apologies for not answering all of them. I especially want to thank Jeremy deBeer for helping us all out trying to understand what the government wants from us in this complicated and contentious bill.

    Original here

    Cellphone Addiction

    Call us the never-off society.

    We tote our iPhones, LGs and BlackBerrys with us so we can contact anyone, anywhere, any time--and so we can be reached instantly. According to a recent Pew Internet & American Life Project survey, 51% of those polled said it would be very hard to give up their cellphones, up from 38% in 2002. The cellphone, in fact, was the most coveted technology in the survey, ahead of Internet access and television.

    In Pictures: Are You A Connection Junkie?

    Video: Confessions of an Uber-Connected Gal

    But have mobile devices become too much of a good thing? While they provide constant access to people and information, they also make us more anxious and demanding. There's no excuse anymore for missing a call, e-mail or text message. "If you don't pick up a girl's phone call and you're dating her--my god, expect to buy flowers for her," says Shaun Mehtani, a restaurateur in Morristown, N.J.

    And a network glitch can wreck your entire day. "When you're having a text conversation and the service drops, it's like your whole world has ended," says Megan Young, a graduate student at Baylor University in Waco, Texas.

    These aren't the frustrations of an isolated few, but of the mobile majority. Our phones have become such a big part of how we're able to function that it begs the question: Are we addicted to our cells?

    Experts say constant use of mobile devices hasn't been diagnosed as an addiction--yet. But some contend that it's fast on its way to being classified as a disease similar to drug addiction, alcoholism or gambling.

    David Greenfield, a psychologist who is an expert on Internet-related behaviors, says he predicted a decade ago that people would become ultra-dependent on mobile devices, even more than they are on PCs and laptops. Since phones don't weigh much and fit easily into a pocket or a purse, "the threshold is even easier to cross, and there's no end to it," Greenfield says. "You're pretty much hooked in wherever you are, if you want to be."

    Greenfield says constant and continual use of untethered devices produces chemical responses in the body similar to gambling. When compulsive gamblers win a hand, they are motivated to keep playing till they win again--no matter how much they lose in between.

    It's the same with mobile texting and e-mailing, he says. "Every once in a while you'll get a good [text message or e-mail] between Viagra ads and Uganda money schemes," Greenfield says. "That's a hit, and it's a powerful reinforcer."

    Others, however, aren't convinced that high-usage of mobile devices is an addiction or even detrimental to most people's quality of life, if kept in check. "I believe [dependency] happens, but the extent to which it plays a harmful role in your life, that is another matter," says Scott W. Campbell, an assistant professor at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, who studies cellphone behaviors. "I don't think it's as harmful as substances or [that it] needs treatment," he says.

    Campbell, however, notes that mobile devices were first seen as a convenience for accessing people and data without having to be indoors and only when absolutely necessary. Now, they've morphed into on-call pagers and mini laptops full of digital content. "The technology has come to own many of us," he admits.

    To avoid feeling stressed, set limits on usage, experts say. John Horrigan, associate director of Pew's Internet project, says limits vary greatly by temperament and age. Younger people who grew up with wireless technologies tend to have a higher threshold for dealing with all the calls, e-mails and texts clogging their phones, while older people tend to feel annoyed and distracted by them.

    And if you think you have cellphone overload now, you ain't seen nothin' yet. Experts say usage will only increase as smart phones become more sophisticated and powerful, likely replacing laptops in the future.

    The growth in cellphone service subscribers and revenues support the trend. In just two years, the number of subscribers in the U.S. increased eight-fold to 225 million, or 84% of the population, in 2007 from 34 million, or 13%, in 2005, according to wireless industry association CTIA. Meanwhile, industry revenues soared to $139 billion from $19 billion. Worldwide, 3 billion people have mobile service.

    Despite the inexorable mobile tide, Greenfield says there's little clinical evidence that the devices improve quality of life. Mehtani agrees that his iPhone hasn't made him happier--but it has improved his business, he asserts.

    "I wouldn't say it's made my life better. It's made my life efficient," he says. "When my employees are communicating with each other, I'm cc'd so I don't have to be briefed."

    Original here

    Justices Turn Down Appeal by Exxon

    WASHINGTON (Reuters) — The Supreme Court declined on Monday to hear an appeal by Exxon Mobil seeking to dismiss a lawsuit by 11 Indonesian villagers.

    The Indonesians claim the company’s security forces committed human rights abuses at a natural gas processing plant in Aceh Province.

    The justices, following the recommendation of the federal government, turned down the company’s appeal without comment.

    The lawsuit was filed in 2001 in federal court in Washington. In 2007 a federal appeals court upheld a district court judge’s refusal to dismiss the entire lawsuit. It rejected the company’s arguments that the case raised political questions outside the jurisdiction of United States courts.

    Exxon’s appeal to the Supreme Court involved whether the district court’s denial could be immediately appealed. The justices’ rejection of the appeal allows the lawsuit to go forward.

    Original here

    Airplanes of the future could be self-healing

    Image: Airliner

    A new technology inspired by the self-healing powers of plants and animals may allow damaged planes to fix themselves on the fly and point out even minuscule holes to mechanics upon landing. If the technique pans out, then aircraft, wind turbines and perhaps even spaceships of the future may boast embedded circulatory systems with an epoxy resin that can bleed into holes or cracks and then fluoresce under ultraviolet light to mark the damage like a bruise during follow-up inspections.

    The system could be a particular boon for lightweight, plastic-based composites known as fiber-reinforced polymers. Such polymers have recently grown in popularity with aircraft, spacecraft, automotive and wind-turbine manufacturers, who use the materials like protective layers of skin.

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    Number of refugees worldwide rises to 11.4 million

    LONDON (AP) -- Tents, sacks of food and a replica of a burnt-out village hut appeared in Trafalgar Square on Tuesday as a tourist hotspot became a refugee camp to highlight the plight of millions of people displaced in Darfur and elsewhere.

    The display, set up to mark World Refugee Day this week, came as the U.N. refugee agency reported a record 11.4 million people were driven from their home countries last year.

    U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres said numbers were rising again after several years of decline in which refugees returned to countries including Afghanistan, Sierra Leone, Liberia and Angola.

    "Now, unfortunately, with the multiplication of conflicts and the intensification of conflicts, the number is on the rise again," said Guterres, standing amid white U.N. tents erected in the square as part of the "Experience Darfur" exhibition.

    "People being forced to move, unfortunately, will be one of the characteristics of the 21st century," he said.

    In its annual report released Tuesday, the UNHCR said 11.4 million people were forced to leave their countries in 2007, compared to 9.9 million in 2006. Another 26 million were displaced within their own countries by conflict or persecution, up from 24.2 million the year before.

    Nearly half the world's refugees are from war-torn Afghanistan and Iraq. UNHCR said there are 3.1 million displaced Afghans, most in neighboring Pakistan and Iran, and 2.3 million Iraqi refugees, mostly in Syria and Jordan. Another 2.4 million Iraqis are internally displaced, an increase of 600,000 since the start of 2007.

    The number of internally displaced people grew last year in Afghanistan, Sri Lanka and Yemen, as well as in the Central African Republic and Chad, where thousands of refugees have crossed the border from the Sudanese region of Darfur.

    Up to 300,000 people have died and 2.5 million have been displaced since ethnic African tribesmen took up arms against Sudan's Arab-dominated government five years ago. The government is accused of responding by unleashing the tribal militia known as janjaweed, which have committed the worst atrocities against Darfur's local communities.

    Around half a million Sudanese have sought refuge abroad, the UN report said, including some 300,000 in Chad, and violence has also spilled across the border from Darfur.

    "Darfur is like an earthquake," Guterres said. "It has an epicenter in Darfur itself, but then the waves spread and instability is created also in the countries around, as is the case in Chad and the Central African Republic. And that's why it is so urgent for the international community to be engaged to make sure there is a political solution in Darfur, to bring stability to the whole region."

    Organizers of the mock refugee camp said they hoped it would bring the situation in Darfur home to politicians at Parliament, a few hundred yards away, as well as to Londoners and tourists visiting Trafalgar Square.

    "The burning house had quite a strong impact. It was quite emotive," said 22-year-old student Charlotte Snowdon, who stopped by the exhibition. "When you see something and can experience it for yourself, it makes you understand it more."

    The UNHCR report also said that in Colombia, where the government has fought a decades-long war with left-wing guerrillas, as many as 3 million people have left their homes, while more than 550,000 have become refugees in other countries.

    Most refugees end up taking shelter in neighboring countries. UNHCR said the top refugee-hosting countries included Pakistan, Syria, Iran, Germany and Jordan.

    The group said 647,000 asylum applications were made around the world in 2007, a 5 percent increase on 2006 and the first rise in four years. The top destinations for asylum seekers were the United States, South Africa, Sweden, France, Britain, Canada and Greece.

    It is not just war that drives forced migration. Guterres said bad governance, environmental degradation and rising food prices were generating instability and "new patterns of forced displacement" in many regions.

    The report did point to progress in some areas, noting that 2.8 million refugees and displaced people returned home in 2007.

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    'My beautiful little angels': Agony of mother of two children 'gassed by estranged husband on Father's Day'

    A mother has spoken of her utter devastation after her two "little angels" were killed by her estranged husband.

    Brian Philcox, 53, drove Amy, seven and Owen, three, to a remote country lane on Father's Day.

    Once there he attached a hosepipe to the exhaust, fed it through the window and left the engine running.
    Tragic: Amy, seven, and Owen, three, died together in their father's Land Rover. Below, Brian Philcox, who is believed to have gassed himself and the children

    Their bodies were found huddled on the rear seat of the Land Rover parked in the isolated lane in Tal-y-cafn, North Wales.

    Yesterday the distraught mother of the children, Evelyn Philcox, 37, spoke of her horrendous loss.

    She said: "My family and I are absolutely devastated about the loss of Amy and Owen.

    "They were more than everything to us - they were our world and a reason for living.

    "Amy was a very artistic child and was labelled by her teachers at Windmill Hill Primary School as exceptional.

    "She was a strong-willed little girl and loved to be in the middle of whatever was going on."

    She said: "Owen was very loving little boy and very affectionate. He would always play with my hair which he found comforting.

    "Owen loved playing with his Thomas the Tank engine and Lazytown toys.

    "Every night they would both get into bed with me and we would read books and sing together. The children loved story time in bed with me at night.

    "We cannot believe what has happened and how they have so unfairly and tragically been taken away from us.

    "They are our beautiful little angels and will be greatly missed and they will always be in our hearts."

    Mr Philcox, who was chairman of the Federation of English Karate Organisations (FEKO), and his wife were going through a bitter divorce and he had been due to attend a court hearing this week at which his estranged wife was seeking possession of the family home.

    Tributes: A policeman stands guard outside Mr Philcox's home in Runcorn today, where friends and well-wishers had laid flowers and cuddly toys

    He had told neighbours he would rather burn the four-bedroom maisonette down than hand it over to his wife.

    In the weeks leading up to the Father's Day tragedy he had contacted pressure group Father 4 Justice to tell them of his desperation over the divorce.

    On Friday Mr Philcox, who saw his children regularly, picked them up from their mother and was seen playing football with them in a nearby park.

    Scene of the tragedy: The country lane in North Wales where he parked his car. Below, forensic officers investigate dense woodland

    On Saturday he took them to Llangollen in North Wales where they visited the miniature railway.

    When he failed to return from the scheduled contact visit on Saturday evening Mrs Philcox alerted police who launched a hunt for the missing children.

    The three bodies were found on Sunday afternoon down an isolated country lane.

    Post mortems were carried out and revealed all three had died from carbon monoxide poisoning.

    A message left by Mr Philcox - in which he told her he had left her a present - sparked a bomb scare.

    A suspect package found at his home proved to be a hoax but Army bomb disposal teams were called in the carry out a controlled explosion on a parcel sent to Mr Philcox's stepson Ryan McAuliffe.

    The tragedy happened in the picturesque Conwy Valley

    Last night neighbours said the community was still reeling after the loss of the popular young children.

    One man said: "I will never forget hearing their mother cry 'My babies, my babies,' after police had broken the news to her that her two lovely young children were dead.

    "She was absolutely hysterical and I never want to see anything like it again. It was horrific and the whole community feels for her at this time."

    Coroner John Hughes opened and adjourned an inquest in Wrexham into the deaths of the two children and their father.

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    Can the Enemy Build a Super-Soldier?

    Imagine bad guys able to fight without sleep. Or enemy soldiers with hardware implanted in their brains that makes them better able to target U.S. troops than U.S. troops are able to target them. How about future foes able to outfox GIs thanks to the "pharmaceutical intervention" that has improved their "brain plasticity"? Or American soldiers rendered flat-footed and lethargic because a crafty nemesis has been slipping lead into their food.

    Just because the U.S. military now lacks what defense eggheads call a peer competitor — a country capable of beating us in a head-to-head confrontation — that doesn't mean it lacks for imagination in conjuring fearful foes. Sure, it was easier for John F. Kennedy to blow smoke about a non-existent "missile gap" with the Soviet Union, or for Ronald Reagan to convince us of the need for a "Star Wars" missile shield when Moscow was still our superpower rival (it may no longer be, but we're still spending $10 billion annually on missile defenses).

    In the inaugural edition of the Pentagon's annual Soviet Military Power booklet, published in 1981, then Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger warned: "There is nothing hypothetical about the Soviet military machine. Its expansion, modernization and contribution to projection of power beyond Soviet boundaries are obvious." (He was referring to Moscow's invasion and occupation of Afghanistan that had occurred two years earlier — and fell apart eight years later with the Russians' humiliating defeat, followed two years after that by the demise of the Soviet Union itself.)

    But if the old Soviet soldier was portrayed as 10 feet tall, the Pentagon has a tougher task today, now that the Soviet juggernaut is gone. The new warning: our potential enemies may be only six feet tall today (okay, five-seven), but they could be 10 feet tall tomorrow.

    Today's equivalent of Weinberger's Soviet Military Power booklet is titled simply Human Performance, and it was written by the JASONs, a band of top scientists that advises the Defense Department. Completed in March, it has surfaced thanks to Steven Aftergood, who issues a weekly compendium of interesting government documents for the nonprofit Federation of American Scientists. The report warns that potential foes — none is named, although there is a backwards nod to "East German Olympic athletes" — could put better troops on the battlefields of tomorrow through medication, surgery and mind training. While such changes are not imminent, the study says, the science behind them needs to be monitored carefully so the U.S. military can anticipate what it might face in a future war.

    Soviet Military Power was illustrated with cartoonish drawings of Moscow's latest and greatest weaponry, but Human Performance, equal parts Dr. Strangelove and Dr. Frankenstein, is crammed with complex equations and charts that make it tougher to dismiss. "Little is known about the present activities of adversaries in using/developing human performance modifiers," the report says. "This possibility now should be considered with some seriousness, because of rapid advances in understanding brain function, in developing therapies for brain and spinal chord damage, and in psycho-pharmacology." (Try to ignore the misspelling of "spinal cord.")

    Understanding "brain plasticity" could let adversaries basically rewire their troops' minds, "permanently establishing new neural pathways" that could "increase troop effectiveness or modify troop behavior and/or emotional responses." New "neuropharmaceuticals" (and you thought the Pentagon was interested only in anti-depressants) "may have the additional effect of weakening or overwriting existing memories," the JASONs warn. They could end up being used "in training programs or field operations." ("The market for these drugs in foreign cultures," the report adds darkly, "should also be monitored.)

    If drugs aren't ready, implanting devices to send signals directly into enemy soldiers' brains might work. "Although the present technical capabilities are not impressive, one can consider the potential that an adversary might use invasive interfaces in military applications," the report says. "An extreme example would be remote guidance or control of a human being." (The Pentagon is limiting this kind of work to bugs. The neural tweaks detailed in Human Performance would be performed by "an adversary who may not be guided by the same cultural or ethical concerns that govern U.S. military operations," the report says.)

    A big battlefield advantage will be gained by the side that wins the race on "the manipulation and understanding of human sleep," the study notes. "Suppose a human could be engineered who slept for the same amount of time as a giraffe (1.9 hours per night). This would lead to an approximately twofold decrease in the casualty rate. An adversary would need an approximately 40% increase in the troop level to compensate for this advantage."

    The scientists also warn that U.S. troops could be weakened by taking diet supplementals obtained from local shops in faraway lands (a 2003 report found 90% of special forces troops and 76% of support troops take such nutrients, including energy boosters, vitamins and protein powders). "Such markets could serve as a method of intentionally poisoning U.S. personnel," the report warns, helpfully suggesting the use of lead salts mixed in with nutritional supplements. "Lead poisoning has a slow onset of symptoms that are easily misdiagnosed in the early stages," it adds. "These symptoms include fatigue, irritability, and difficulty in concentration." That sounds familiar. Based on reports from U.S. troops serving in Afghanistan and Iraq, nefarious enemies may already be at work.

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