These are all the Blogs posted on Friday, 19, 2010.
Friday, 19 November 2010
The last thing Africa needs is more cool
Matthew Parris speaks truth to black power in The Times:
Bumped into Libby Purves at a press preview of Fela! at the Olivier at the National Theatre in London. Excellent night. Libby's review is right: the audience loved it. So, mostly, did I. A sort of Nigerian rock musical, led by its Broadway star, the show is a homage to the life of Fela Kuti, the Black Power-inspired challenger to Nigerian dictators, who started as a jazz funk African superstar. But in the thumping music the real life history gets lost. Call me a soulless whitey, but I can never forget the question that John Birt always put to TV programme- makers. Again and again he would ask: "What's your argument?"
Here's mine. If Fela was anything like the sexy, strutting coxcomb portrayed in Fela! then Fela is the problem, not the solution. Nigeria doesn't need more cool. Lagos doesn't need more nightclubs. The whole troubled continent doesn't need more swagger, self-assurance or even pride. Pelvic thrusting is not the answer. Funk and spunk are not enough.
What Africa needs is more honest accountants, more simple competence, more dependables, more plodders, more bribe-resisters, more sea-green incorruptibles. And more public respect for the quiet virtues. Without meaning to, rap music says it all: the cult of the Big Man, the adulation of swagger, the ethos of strut, the worship of prowess, and the admiration of rascality, the tsotsi and the gang, are the curse of Afro-culture from Bangui to Brixton.
But the soft bigotry of low expectations dictates that Afro-Carribean men are admired - by "whitey" as well as by other gang members - for strutting and thumping. This, rather than "poverty" (nobody in Britain is really poor) or "racism" (Britain is not racist) explains why black boys do so badly in school, while Chinese girls do so well.
Right-wing groups like the English Defence League are turning parts of Britain into recruiting grounds for Islamic extremists, police have said.
The EDL emerged last year and has held demonstrations in a number of towns and cities against radicalisation.
But the West Midlands Counter Terrorism Unit has told BBC Radio 5 live there is evidence EDL events can encourage extremists.
Officers also say they are worried about radicalisation inside prisons.
Many EDL demonstrations and counter-demonstrations have ended in violence, and Det Supt John Larkin says they have witnessed signs of radicalisation afterwards.
Why is it that Muslims are not responsible for their own "radicalisation" but are automatically radicalised? Yet the EDL, actually formed in response to Muslim attacks on British soldiers, must be held to account not only for their own actions but for the violent reactions of Muslims. And why does the BBC never use the word "disproportionate", a word it is disproportionately fond of in the context of Israel, to describe those Muslim reactions?
"In some areas, we have evidence that once they have gone and the high-profile policing of the event has occurred, there's fertile ground for those groups who would come in to encourage people to have this reality - this is the way white Western society sees us," he said.
"And that's a potential recruiting carrot for people and that's what some of these radicalisers look for - they look for the vulnerability, for the hook to pull people through and when the EDL have been and done what they've done, they perversely leave that behind."
EDL leader Tommy Robinson said it was "ridiculous" to blame his organisation.
"9/11 was our fault, 7/7 was our fault, there's been 17,000 terrorist attacks since September 11th, I guess they're our fault," he said.
"I guess the last 1,400 years of history, where Islam's been at war with non-Islam, is our fault. It's ridiculous.
"We're not the cause. The root cause of the problem is the Koran, it's Islam."
The West Midlands Police is stuffed full of Muslims and Muslim sympathisers, which accounts for why that corrupt and stupid organisation has it exactly backwards. It was the West Midlands Police who complained to the regulators that the documentary Undercover Mosque, which exposed Muslim "extremism" - actually mainstream Islamic doctrine - was itself a form of extremism. By their lights, it is more dangerous to make a film about Muslims blowing people up than to blow people up.
The German government has urged citizens to remain calm and not to let the recent terror alerts affect their daily lives, according to a communique issued at a meeting of the interior ministers of the country's 16 federal states.
"International terrorism aims to spread fear in our country. This we will not allow," German Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere said at the gathering in the northern city of Hamburg. "We ask all citizens to continue living their lives as before, without fear, in peaceful cooperation with one another and heightened vigilance for one another."
The talks came on the same day Namibian police at Windhoek airport intercepted a suspected bomb with a detonator and running clock on an Air Berlin plane bound for Munich. Germany's Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA) said on Thursday that the device was found inside a laptop case wrapped in plastic, adding that investigations were ongoing as to whether the explosive would detonate.
Germany is on heightened alert following Wednesday's announcement that a terrorist attack was being planned for the country. Daily newspaper Der Tagesspiegel reported that the United States had told Berlin that between two to four al-Qaeda militants were on their way to Germany and Britain to attempt attacks at the end of November.
Among the targets are said to be Germany's popular Christmas markets, scheduled to open in the coming days. Security has been stepped up at airports and train stations across the country, and de Maiziere called on all citizens to be vigilant. "From today, there will be a visible police presence. I thought it should be explained to citizens," de Maiziere told reporters at a news conference in Berlin on Wednesday. "There is reason for concern, but no reason for hysteria."
Meanwhile, the head of Germany's police union has criticized the government for not sufficiently preparing the German public for possible terrorist attacks. In comments made to the daily newspaper Hamburger Abendblatt, Konrad Freiberg said on Thursday that there were "serious security deficits," and that "everything humanly possible" must be done "to protect the public from risk."
I blog but I don't tweet. Why would anyone want to know that I popped into Sainsbury's to buy toilet roll - quilty or not quilty, that was the question - and thought of picking up some Utterly Butterly (can you believe it's not butter) but thought better of it?
The next generation is terribly important. More important by far than any previous generation. We know this because they don't have a moment to waste: they storm around the streets babbling into their headsets and travel on 160mph trains; they eat on the go, washing down nutritionally condensed solids with high-"performance" drinks, and they like to read the news on their mobiles, before it has broken.
It's for this generation that Mark Zuckerberg has tailored his new Facebook messaging system, a generation whose commonplace little doings can be communicated not so much in real time as in surreal time: a millisecond before it has even happened.
I can't help but feel that there's a whiff of self-delusion about this craving for speed, this insistence on the instantaneous. Do these people really not have a minute to spare? Because, statistically, we Brits manage to spare 260 of them a day watching TV. And aren't their communications - as one suspects in the light of the Twittering twits - a matter of high-priority bilge?
Correction: I tweet statistically, just as I walk statistically on 1.999 legs. Another thing - is a statistical minute longer than a New York minute, but shorter than a Northern Line minute?
Our prescience on Stuxnet Malware is confirmed by the New York Times
Today's New York Timesconfirmed what I speculated about over three years ago, during a sidebar discussion with a defense scientist at an Intelligence Summit in St. Petersburg, Florida in March 2007. While attending a session on the Congressionally- chartered Electronic Magnetic Pulse (EMP) Commission, I mused about whether a radio frequency weapon could be developed to disrupt power supplies for Iranian enrichment cascade halls. By varying the power inputs, I speculated that could destabilize the whirling dervishes of centrifuges sending them spinning out of control, crashing and burning, as it were. I then speculated further that the Israelis might have the technical capabilities of doing that via the internet, disrupting the software that controlled the power supplies for centrifuges in Iranian enrichment facilities. Certainly, the Israelis had the motivation and intellectual resources to undertake that arduous and intricate strategic electronic development program given their prowess in computer security software development and specialized military cyber warfare units in the IDF. It should not be lost, that according to sources the Israeli Ministry of Defense (MOD) receives more than 15,000 cyber attacks daily, that it has successfully warded off to maintain strict electronic and internet security.
That germ of speculation in early 2007 surfaced in 2009 in a post on "The Necessity of Thinking Outside the Box" about Israeli cyber warfare capabilities to deal with Iranian nuclear enrichment. Further, posts identified Stuxnet, as the Malware that infected tens of thousands of Iranian computers using industrial infrastructure software such as the SCADA control systems developed by Siemens.
The paternity of the worm is still in dispute, but in recent weeks officials from Israel have broken into wide smiles when asked whether Israel was behind the attack, or knew who was. American officials have suggested it originated abroad.
The new forensic work narrows the range of targets and deciphers the worm's plan of attack. Computer analysts say Stuxnet does its damage by making quick changes in the rotational speed of motors, shifting them rapidly up and down.
Changing the speed "sabotages the normal operation of the industrial control process," Eric Chien, a researcher at the computer security company Symantec, wrote in a blog post.
Those fluctuations, nuclear analysts said in response to the report, are a recipe for disaster among the thousands of centrifuges spinning in Iran to enrich uranium, which can fuel reactors or bombs. Rapid changes can cause them to blow apart. Reports issued by international inspectors reveal that Iran has experienced many problems keeping its centrifuges running, with hundreds removed from active service since summer 2009.
"We don't see direct confirmation" that the attack was meant to slow Iran's nuclear work, David Albright, president of the Institute for Science and International Security, a private group in Washington that tracks nuclear proliferation, said in an interview Thursday. "But it sure is a plausible interpretation of the available facts."
Intelligence officials have said they believe that a series of covert programs are responsible for at least some of that decline. So when Iran reported earlier this year that it was battling the Stuxnet worm, many experts immediately suspected that it was a state-sponsored cyberattack.
Until last week, analysts had said only that Stuxnet was designed to infect certain kinds of Siemens equipment used in a wide variety of industrial sites around the world.
But a study released Friday by Mr. Chien, Nicolas Falliere and Liam O. Murchu at Symantec, concluded that the program's real target was to take over frequency converters, a type of power supply that changes its output frequency to control the speed of a motor.
The worm's code was found to attack converters made by two companies, Fararo Paya in Iran and Vacon in Finland. A separate study conducted by the Department of Homeland Security confirmed that finding, a senior government official said in an interview on Thursday.
Then, on Wednesday, Mr. Albright and a colleague, Andrea Stricker, released a report saying that when the worm ramped up the frequency of the electrical current supplying the centrifuges, they would spin faster and faster. The worm eventually makes the current hit 1,410 Hertz, or cycles per second - just enough, they reported, to send the centrifuges flying apart.
In a spooky flourish, Mr. Albright said in the interview, the worm ends the attack with a command to restore the current to the perfect operating frequency for the centrifuges - which, by that time, would presumably be destroyed.
"It's striking how close it is to the standard value," he said.
The computer analysis, his Wednesday report concluded, "makes a legitimate case that Stuxnet could indeed disrupt or destroy" Iranian centrifuge plants.
Pat Condell in fine fettle on the UN "Human Rights" Council. Thanks to Gates of Vienna for this. G of V warns that Condell uses a "moderately naughty word" in the video, but I'm buggered if I can work out what it is. Perhaps it's one of those words that sounds naughtier to Americans.
While using American University's database for recording faculty publications, one professor noticed something unusual. After filling in information on authors, the title, the journal, the year, the volume, the pages, whether it was refereed, whether it was international, who publishes the journal, etc.-he came to a box asking whether this was sustainability research.
He was baffled. "What is sustainability research, anyway?" he wondered.
It's everywhere, in the middle of everything. See?