January 23rd, 2011
Us F-22 Raptor
Yahoo News/Associated Press
BRUSSELS – Chinese officials recently unveiled a new, high-tech stealth fighter that could pose a significant threat to American air superiority — and some of its technology, it turns out, may well have come from the U.S. itself.
Balkan military officials and other experts have told The Associated Press that in all probability the Chinese gleaned some of their technological know-how from an American F-117 Nighthawk that was shot down over Serbia in 1999.
Nighthawks were the world's first stealth fighters, planes that were very hard for radar to detect. But on March 27, 1999, during NATO's aerial bombing of Serbia in the Kosovo war, a Serbian anti-aircraft missile shot one of the Nighthawks down. The pilot ejected and was rescued.
It was the first time one of the much-touted "invisible" fighters had ever been hit. The Pentagon believed a combination of clever tactics and sheer luck had allowed a Soviet-built SA-3 missile to bring down the jet.
The wreckage was strewn over a wide area of flat farmlands, and civilians collected the parts — some the size of small cars — as souvenirs.
"At the time, our intelligence reports told of Chinese agents crisscrossing the region where the F-117 disintegrated, buying up parts of the plane from local farmers," says Adm. Davor Domazet-Loso, Croatia's military chief of staff during the Kosovo war.
"We believe the Chinese used those materials to gain an insight into secret stealth technologies ... and to reverse-engineer them," Domazet-Loso said in a telephone interview.
A senior Serbian military official confirmed that pieces of the wreckage were removed by souvenir collectors, and that some ended up "in the hands of foreign military attaches."
Efforts to get comment from China's defense ministry and the Pentagon were unsuccessful.
China's multi-role stealth fighter — known as the Chengdu J-20 — made its inaugural flight Jan. 11, revealing dramatic progress in the country's efforts to develop cutting-edge military technologies.
Although the twin-engine J-20 is at least eight or nine years from entering air force inventory, it could become a rival to America's top-of-the-line F-22 Raptor, the successor to the Nighthawk and the only stealth fighter currently in service.
China rolled out the J-20 just days before a visit to Beijing by U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates, leading some analysts to speculate that the timing was intended to demonstrate the growing might of China's armed forces.
Despite Chinese President Hu Jintao's high-profile visit to the United States this week, many in Washington see China as an economic threat to the U.S. and worry as well about Beijing's military might.
Parts of the downed F-117 wreckage — such as the left wing with US Air Force insignia, the cockpit canopy, ejection seat, pilot's helmet and radio — are exhibited at Belgrade's aviation museum.
"I don't know what happened to the rest of the plane," said Zoran Milicevic, deputy director of the museum. "A lot of delegations visited us in the past, including the Chinese, Russians and Americans ... but no one showed any interest in taking any part of the jet."
Zoran Kusovac, a Rome-based military consultant, said the regime of former Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic routinely shared captured Western equipment with its Chinese and Russian allies.
"The destroyed F-117 topped that wish-list for both the Russians and Chinese," Kusovac said.
Russia's Sukhoi T-50 prototype stealth fighter made its maiden flight last year and is due to enter service in about four years. It is likely that the Russians also gleaned knowledge of stealth technology from the downed Nighthawk.
The F-117, developed in great secrecy in the 1970s, began service in 1983.
While not completely invisible to radar, its shape and radar-absorbent coating made detection extremely difficult. The radar cross-section was further reduced because the wings' leading and trailing edges were composed of nonmetallic honeycomb structures that do not reflect radar rays.
Kusovac said insight into this critical technology, and particularly the plane's secret radiation-absorbent exterior coating, would have significantly enhanced China's stealth know-how.
Alexander Huang of Taipei's Tamkang University said the J-20 represented a major step forward for China. He described Domazet-Loso's claim as "a logical assessment."
"There is no other stronger source for the origin of the J-20's stealthy technology," said Huang, an expert on China's air force. "The argument the Croatian chief-of-staff makes is legitimate and cannot be ruled out."
The Chinese are well-known perpetrators of industrial espionage in Western Europe and the United States, where the administration has also been increasingly aggressive in prosecuting cases of Chinese espionage.
Western diplomats have said China maintained an intelligence post in its Belgrade embassy during the Kosovo war. The building was mistakenly struck by U.S. bombers that May, killing three people inside.
"What that means is that the Serbs and Chinese would have been sharing their intelligence," said Alexander Neill, head of the Asia security program at the Royal United Services Institute, a defense think tank in London. "It's very likely that they shared the technology they recovered from the F-117, and it's very plausible that elements of the F-117 got to China."
More From Yahoo
Stojanovic reported from Belgrade. Associated Press reporters Snjezana Vukic in Zagreb, and Peter Enav in Taipei contributed to this report.
January 23rd, 2011
Twitter and Facebook don't connect people – they isolate them from reality, say a rising number of academics
An American student checks in on his smart phone. Critics of social networking say it is having an isolating effect on users. Photograph: Najlah Feanny/Corbis
Paul Harris in New York
The way in which people frantically communicate online via Twitter, Facebook and instant messaging can be seen as a form of modern madness, according to a leading American sociologist.
"A behaviour that has become typical may still express the problems that once caused us to see it as pathological," MIT professor Sherry Turkle writes in her new book, Alone Together, which is leading an attack on the information age.
Turkle's book, published in the UK next month, has caused a sensation in America, which is usually more obsessed with the merits of social networking. She appeared last week on Stephen Colbert's late-night comedy show, The Colbert Report. When Turkle said she had been at funerals where people checked their iPhones, Colbert quipped: "We all say goodbye in our own way."
Turkle's thesis is simple: technology is threatening to dominate our lives and make us less human. Under the illusion of allowing us to communicate better, it is actually isolating us from real human interactions in a cyber-reality that is a poor imitation of the real world.
But Turkle's book is far from the only work of its kind. An intellectual backlash in America is calling for a rejection of some of the values and methods of modern communications. "It is a huge backlash. The different kinds of communication that people are using have become something that scares people," said Professor William Kist, an education expert at Kent State University, Ohio.
The list of attacks on social media is a long one and comes from all corners of academia and popular culture. A recent bestseller in the US, The Shallows by Nicholas Carr, suggested that use of the internet was altering the way we think to make us less capable of digesting large and complex amounts of information, such as books and magazine articles. The book was based on an essay that Carr wrote in the Atlantic magazine. It was just as emphatic and was headlined: Is Google Making Us Stupid?
Another strand of thought in the field of cyber-scepticism is found in The Net Delusion, by Evgeny Morozov. He argues that social media has bred a generation of "slacktivists". It has made people lazy and enshrined the illusion that clicking a mouse is a form of activism equal to real world donations of money and time.
Other books include The Dumbest Generation by Emory University professor Mark Bauerlein – in which he claims "the intellectual future of the US looks dim"– and We Have Met the Enemy by Daniel Akst, which describes the problems of self-control in the modern world, of which the proliferation of communication tools is a key component.
The backlash has crossed the Atlantic. In Cyburbia, published in Britain last year, James Harkin surveyed the modern technological world and found some dangerous possibilities. While Harkin was no pure cyber-sceptic, he found many reasons to be worried as well as pleased about the new technological era. Elsewhere, hit film The Social Network has been seen as a thinly veiled attack on the social media generation, suggesting that Facebook was created by people who failed to fit in with the real world.
Turkle's book, however, has sparked the most debate so far. It is a cri de coeur for putting down the BlackBerry, ignoring Facebook and shunning Twitter. "We have invented inspiring and enhancing technologies, yet we have allowed them to diminish us," she writes.
Fellow critics point to numerous incidents to back up their argument. Recently, media coverage of the death in Brighton of Simone Back focused on a suicide note she had posted on Facebook that was seen by many of her 1,048 "friends" on the site. Yet none called for help – instead they traded insults with each other on her Facebook wall.
Turkle's book has also hit home because her previous works, The Second Self and Life on the Screen, seemed more open to the technological world. "Alone Together reads as if it were written by Turkle's evil Luddite twin," joked Kist.
But even the backlash now has a backlash, with many leaping to the defence of social media. They point out that emails, Twitter and Facebook have led to more communication, not less – especially for people who may have trouble meeting in the real world because of great distance or social difference.
Defenders say theirs is just a different form of communication that people might have trouble getting used to. "When you go into a coffee shop and everyone is silent on their laptop, I understand what she is saying about not talking to one another," Kist said. "But it is still communicating. I disagree with her. I don't see it as so black and white."
Some experts believe the debate is so fierce because social networking is a new field that has yet to develop rules and etiquette that everyone can respect and that is why incidents such as Simone Back's death appear so shocking. "Let's face it, I see no sign of anyone unplugging," said Kist. "But, perhaps, we need to involve a 'netiquette' to deal with it all."
He also pointed out that the "real world" that many social media critics hark back to never really existed. Before everyone travelled on the bus or train with their heads buried in an iPad or a smart phone, they usually just travelled in silence. "We did not see people spontaneously talking to strangers. They were just keeping to themselves," Kist said.
More From The Guardian
January 22nd, 2011
In his surprise farewell from his MSNBC show Friday night, Keith Olbermann alluded to the classic broadcast-apocalypse film 'Network,' and its angry, ranting protagonist, Howard Beale. Turns out, it may have been more than a brief note in his goodbye.
Olbermann could channel his own ranting anchor on a Hollywood set, as Entertainment Weekly reports that he could join screenwriter Aaron Sorkin's potential new cable news-themed show. EW writes that Sorkin followed Olbermann while writing the pilot, and a source tells the site that the newly free anchor could contribute on-screen rants to the show.
Sorkin, who just won a Golden Globe for his screenplay for 'The Social Network,' penned the award-winning 'The West Wing,' and the single season of 'Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip,' a take on Saturday Night Live. This show would be a sort of hybrid of the two.
There would, of course, be potential hurdles to any role for Olbermann. Bill Carter of the NY Times reports that, in the terms of his exit agreement with NBC, Olbermann is barred from appearing on television -- for an unspecified period of time -- though he's clear for radio and internet. Any pilot would take a while to be filmed and then picked up, though, so the ban may expire by the time it's ready to air.
Olbermann announced his abrupt departure on his show Friday, thanking his audience and telling him that he was in awe of their support and activism.
More From Huff
January 22nd, 2011
NY State Senator Jim Alesi fell off a ladder and broke his leg at someone else's unfinished home three years ago - and now he's blaming the homeowners for his injury. Alesi is also suing the home builder, Louis DiRisio.
This comes as a shock to DiRisio, who says the front door of this Perinton home was locked when Jim Alesi tried to go inside in January of 2008. DiRisio says Alesi went down around to the back and found an unlocked door to the basement.
"He had absolutely no right whatsoever to be in that home," DiRisio says. "He didn't have permission. He was a trespasser."
In fact, the homeowners had the option to press criminal trespassing charges against Alesi, who suffered serious injuries that required surgery when he fell from the ladder. But the homeowners tell us they didn't want to make a bad situation worse for the Senator.
The under-construction home was already sold by the time Alesi decided to check it out, but Alesi apparently thought it was still for sale.
Page two of Alesi's filing says "the premises were not reasonably safe." When he decided to try to climb a ladder -- because there was no functional staircase in the unfinished home -- the filing indicates that Alesi was placed at risk because of "the negligence of the defendants." Thus, Alesi concludes that his injuries were not his own fault.
"Look, it's a job site," DiRisio said. "A home under construction. There was a ladder going from the basement to the first level of the home, and he slipped going up the ladder. The ladder didn't break. There wasn't a malfunction there. In fact, I still have the ladder if you want a photo of it." Then DiRisio added, "I suppose it might not have been safe for someone who is not familiar with operating a ladder, or for someone without proper footgear."
DiRisio showed us the ladder, which does appear to still be in solid working shape.
So why would Alesi sue now, three years later? The homeowners told us he never complained after the injury, nor did he thank them for declining to press charges.
The statute of limitations for trespassing runs out after three years. That means that as of this past Tuesday, the homeowners could no longer sue Alesi for trespassing on their property. As it turns out, that's the exact same day he filed his suit against them.
Friday afternoon, Senator Alesi called us back and would only read a statement over the phone. He said, "My attorney has filed a civil lawsuit on my behalf... beyond that I have no comment." When I tried to ask questions, the Senator hung up the phone.
The couple who lives in the home is shocked. Lou DiRisio says there will be no settlement with Alesi. "The support that I've received from friends, family, people I don't even know... it's been amazing."
January 22nd, 2011
ABC News Political Director Amy Walter reports:
In the first ever "straw poll" of New Hampshire Republican party committee members sponsored by ABC News and WMUR and sanctioned by the state Republican party, ex-Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney took 35 percent of the 276 valid ballots cast. This is just 3 percent more than Romney took in the 2008 GOP primary, when he finished in second place behind Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz.
Coming in a distant second was Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, with 11 percent. Paul took 8 percent in the 2008 GOP primary.
Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, who is spending the early part of next week in the Granite State, came in third with 8 percent.
In fourth place was ex-Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, who has yet to visit the first-in-the-nation-primary state, with 7 percent.
This is by no means a scientific sample, but it was a good early canvass of the sentiments of the state's most active Republican voters.
The "straw poll" was open only to the 426 registered members of the Republican committee, and 65 percent of those commitee members participated.
The take away: Romney's still the solid frontrunner here, but there's plenty of room for another Republican to break through here. Pawlenty's showing was also impressive, given how new he is to the scene. He has, however, been working New Hampshire, as have his suporters.
The Republican committee members were also asked to pick the issue that was the "most important for the Republican nominee to focus upon":
Reducing the size of the federal government: 49 percent
Reducing the size of federal debt/deficit 15 percent
Stimulating the economy to create jobs; 14 percent
Repealing health care: 7 percent
THE ABC NEWS NOTE BLOG ROLL
CR editor's note: The possible Bigfoot sighting means about as much as a straw poll in New Hampshire...however someone up in Washington, somewhere in Washington probably did think that they might have seen a sasquatch in Washington...ipso facto Presidential straw polls