random weirdness

Elephant-shaped Ganesh growth cured my ills, Queens man says

Is the Jersey Devil’s range increasing?

The most famous tale of the origins of this cryptid is of Mother Leeds. In 1735, the story goes, the good mother had given birth to twelve children. Said to be a witch, Leeds said that if she had child number 13, it would be the devil himself. Variations of the story say that the Devil was the father, but in any case, the child was born completely normal. Within minutes, it killed the midwife, grew a horse’s head, forked tail, wings and hooves and escaped through the chimney and went directly toward the Pine Barrens.

Sarkozy voodoo kit tops Amazon bestseller list

Pictured: The mystery pink light that appeared over London

Packs of robots will hunt down uncooperative humans

The latest request from the Pentagon jars the senses. At least, it did mine. They are looking for contractors to provide a “Multi-Robot Pursuit System” that will let packs of robots “search for and detect a non-cooperative human”.

Teens convicted of virtual theft

The Leeuwarden District Court says the culprits, 15 and 14 years old, coerced a 13-year-old boy into transferring a “virtual amulet and a virtual mask” from the online adventure game RuneScape to their game accounts.

Woman arrested for killing virtual husband in Maple Story

She is accused of hacking into the profile of a 33-year-old office worker from Sapporo 620 miles away, whose avatar on the Maple Story computer game was married to her character until he unexpectedly demanded a divorce.

The spurned make-believe wife was so angry at being jilted that she logged into the game using her partner’s password and destroyed the character that he had spent a year creating.

news headlines

It just keeps getting busier on the piracy front. Too bad no one’s getting any good pictures.
French troops save 2 hostages from Somali pirates
Hong Kong ship with 22 crew seized near Somalia
Panama-flagged Oil tanker escapes Somali pirate attack

Here’s some all-purpose mayhem for you:
Knifed 666 times each and eaten

Police believe the teenagers were cooked in the flames before their flesh was devoured…. Their private parts had also been cut off in the sickening ritual in a rural area of Russia.

Nigerian militants launch new attacks in “oil war”
Peak Oil, or Just Peak Oil Prices?

So the question is—what does $90 oil do to all the revolutionary changes that were so urgent when oil was flirting with $150? Has the gasoline-fueled, air-conditioned American way of life that was under siege two months ago gotten an eleventh-hour reprieve? Or, like those quiet few minutes in the middle of a hurricane, is the recent oil-price tumble just the calm before the rest of the storm hits?

Receding Waters Leave Toxic Mix
Bear vs. Bike: Cyclist Hits 300-Pound Black Bear

The Future of America’s Space Corps
NASA PAO Wants Everyone To Know Who Pays The Bills Back Home
Nasa selects Mars climate mission
NASA awards $485M Mars project delayed by conflict

The price of the probe increased by $10 million, its launch was postponed by two years, and the science-gathering mission will be cut in half to one year, an official said. NASA chose the University of Colorado’s proposal to study the Martian atmosphere from 20 other ideas to study Mars that were trimmed to just two before a conflict of interest was declared.

UFO sightings connected to Large Hadron Collider experiment?
UFO link to orange lights
UFO mystery in Mill End

This one’s for the incomparable Trevor Blake, so he knows that people are still paying attention:
Quote of the Day: Bucky Fuller on How We Live

“Our beds are empty two-thirds of the time.
Our living rooms are empty seven-eighths of the time.
Our office buildings are empty one-half of the time.
It’s time we gave this some thought.”

Hackers block Qaeda’s 9/11 terror on tape

Georgia Offers Fresh Evidence on War’s Start
DID SAAKASHVILI LIE? The West Begins to Doubt Georgian Leader

And finally, one more post-Soviet hotspot to keep an eye on:
Russian fleet kicks off exercises in Baltic Sea
Wikipedia: Kaliningrad Oblast

all your favorite news stories in one stylish package

Owners hire armed guards to secure ships against pirates
Kidnap ransoms a ‘toll’ to fund terrorist groups

EU mulling military action to tackle Somalia pirates
Tuna fishing vessels seek refuge in Seychelles after threats of piracy

Review: At the Edge of the World (Documentary)
Propaganda: At The Edge of the World Premieres at the Toronto Film Festival

A nonfiction pirate movie that tickles one’s inner eco-radical, “At the Edge of the World” spends a season in the frozen sea with Paul Watson and his militant-mariner Sea Shepherd crew as they try to save endangered mammals from the restaurant suppliers of the Japanese whaling fleet. Docu-cum-chase film may have limited theatrical appeal, but should make a dent in the specialty market and, certainly, the DVD racks.

Google search finds seafaring solution

RAF radar chief: I saw UFO fleet

Wing Commander Alan Turner, 64, said colleagues sat stunned when 35 super-fast vessels appeared on their screens.

Wing Cmdr Turner said six military radars, plus operators at Heathrow, spotted the UFOs east of Salisbury Plain and filed reports on the unexplained phenomenon in 1971.

Three days later, the Ministry of Defence visited the RAF and instructed staff to “never speak about the incident again”.

Hubble Finds a Mystery Object
China Broadcasts Greetings From The Moon
Japanese Beam-Down Solar Power System To Be Tested in Abu Dhabi

7 countries plan Black Sea naval exercises
U.S. warship enters Black Sea, Turkey rules out Montreux breach
Russia eyes Mediterranean as alternative to Sevastopol naval base

Georgia war sparks political battle in Ukraine

Arctic meeting calls for closer international cooperation

The right to assembly: The American Civil Liberties Union is representing dozens of protestors arrested at the RNC

When you’ve got a police presence that’s as strong and as aggressive as this, and where they use as much chemical irritant as these guys have been using—they have two million dollars’ worth of it; you might as well use it up; doesn’t last forever, you know—you’re going to get news people who will be gassed and, you know, who will be arrested. People are being swept up, including journalists, charged with a felony, thrown in jail, and then, you know, they’re sitting there for a day and a half, and then the prosecutors are looking at it and saying, “Oh, there’s no reason. We’ll let you go.”

Judge blocks Ore. logging project

more news

Pirates hijack Thai ship off Somalia
EU approves patrol of Somali sea-coasts
Yemen probes suspected piracy in the Gulf of Aden

Antiwar activists seek expanded police probe

Update on China/Tibet cyberattacks (and Russia/Georgia), and call for testimonials.

Serbia files draft resolution on Kosovo independence legality at the UN
Serbian foreign minister heads to New York

Senator: Georgia Fighting Could Shut Down U.S. Space Program
Experts: Reliance on Russia makes NASA weak

news- georgia etc

It’s important to remember that the news is far away, and staying abreast from moment to moment is not going to change anything. I was at the park barbecuing with my friends, and that was way more important than blogging about Georgia. So here’s a day’s worth of tabs with a minimum of commentary. More at length this weekend, unless not.

I will say this right now, as a reminder to myself: Why is no one asking what the US involvement was in planning Georgia’s offensive into South Ossetia?

Here’s the text of the alleged “ceasefire.” You’ll note that it allows the Russians to “implement additional security measures” for six months. Apart from that, it merely “underlines principles,” which hardly sounds like a binding agreement.

U.S. Launches Airlift to Aid Georgia

President George W. Bush dispatched Navy ships and Air Force planes to deliver aid to war-torn Georgia, bringing a dose of Cold War-style brinksmanship to the confrontation between the U.S. and Russia.

Georgian relief operation hampered as aid workers ambushed
Abkhazian separatist fighters grab land in Georgia
Russia: ‘Forget’ Georgian territorial integrity
Rejuvenated Georgian President Cites U.S. Ties as ‘Turning Point’ in Conflict
U.S.-Russia tensions heighten over Georgia conflict
By Land, Air, Sea & PC, Georgia Tried to Match Russian Arsenal
Missiles Over Georgia; Interceptors in Poland? (Updated)
Longtime Battle Lines Are Recast In Russia and Georgia’s Cyberwar

Meanwhile, in Ukraine:
Ukraine pledges to implement new restrictions on Russia fleet
Russia dismisses Ukraine attempt to limit navy
Ex-Soviet States, Poland Rally for Georgia After War
Conflict in the Caucasus and Ukraine’s Russia Friendly Side

Russia-Georgia conflict raises worries over oil and gas pipelines
Turkish official confirms BTC pipeline blast is a terrorist act
Repairs begin on BTC pipeline in Turkey – source
BP says it has reopened gas taps into Georgia pipeline
Caucasian pipelines: The dangers of the safe route

news- bear baiting in the caucasus

There’s long been a dynamic in the Middle East where Arab leaders gain credibility by fighting Israel (and by extension, the US and the West), even though they get clobbered in the process. It’s widely considered, for instance, that Sadat took part in the 1973 war in order to gain the political capital he needed to pursue peace.

(Politics is a strange world, isn’t it? You have to fight a war in order to create peace. Don’t look at me- I didn’t make it that way.)

I wonder if Saakashvili will be inaugurating the same dynamic along the former Soviet periphery. After fighting a disastrous war, one for which he bears full responsibility, he seems to be in a pretty solid position. Georgia has unified behind him, with the opposition falling into line. All mentions of corruption and repression are gone. Countries like Poland and the Baltics are lining up to support him, and a substantial chunk of the US foreign policy establishment is treating him like a hero.

No telling how long this will last- Serbia united behind Milosevic during the Kosovo war, but still turned on him a year or so later. These circumstances are very different, of course, so we’ll just have to keep an eye on things. If taunting the bear and getting smacked down turns out to be a road to influence, we can expect the fringes of the Russian empire to get a whole lot more unstable.

Georgia accuses Russia of breaking ceasefire
Looting reignites Russia-Georgia tensions
NATO says membership pledge to Georgia stands
Iraq veterans jump from frying pan into the fire
US denies troops fighting in Georgia

Macedonia “Name” Talks Resume

Canada’s Harper aims to bolster Arctic sovereignty
US mission to Arctic will lay claim to gas reserves
Chertoff Hits the North Pole; Arctic Showdown Ahead?

Will Growing Russian/American Tension Affect ISS?
John McCain: America’s Space Program

‘Gitmo On The Platte’ Set As Holding Cell For DNC

Air Force Suspends Controversial Cyber Command

But even if everything all was calm at the Air Force, Cyber Command’s path was far from clear. At a June conference , the command’s emerging leaders couldn’t agree on what exactly the new unit would do. Some said the command’s mission would be the  “protection and defense of the Air Force’s command and control abilities.” Others argued that the “mission is to control cyberspace both for attacks and defense.” (The service even changed its mission statement to read, “As Airmen, it is our calling to dominate Air, Space, and Cyberspace.”) Some believed the Cyber Command would only be responsible for computer networks. Others thought it’d be responsbile for every system that had anything to do with the electromagnetic spectrum — up to and including laser weapons.

U.S. Judge in Wyoming Rules Against Ban on Forest Roads

the news from georgia

It looks like a ceasefire has been declared, but there’s no sense worrying about the details until we see if it goes into effect. Not much evidence of that yet, but it’s too early to tell. There are a few reasons the fighting may be continuing, some less encouraging than others:

  • one or both sides may have just been negotiating to buy time for more military action
  • it can take a while to disentangle forces on the ground
  • local forces, regular or irregular, may be out of command
  • either side could be protecting its lines as it draws back
  • the Russians could be doing some last mopping up to keep the Georgians from recovering too soon

One more thing: there’s lots of talk about a Russian invasion of “Georgia proper.” In fact, as far as actual ground troops go, it sounds like they’ve only gone as far as the strategic junctions from which Georgia could send another wave of troops into Abkhazia or South Ossetia. That implies limited goals, at least on the military front: they’re going to defend their gains in the de facto republics, but they’re not going any further than that. In other words, they’re not going to conquer or occupy the remains of Georgia. Not anytime soon, at least.

There goes the last of what they were fighting to take back:
Georgia pulls forces from disputed Abkhazia gorge

Tbilisi alleges ‘massacres’ near South Ossetia
For context, however, the Russians were claiming the same thing about Georgia a few days ago:
Tribunal on acts of genocide in South Ossetia to be set up
To be blunt, the logic of this sort of conflict calls for ethnic cleansing on either side. It would most likely be carried out by militias to preserve deniability for the state actors.

Nearly 100,000 uprooted by conflict in South Ossetia: UN

Ask Milosevic how long this sort of boost lasts:
Georgia’s Defiant President Finds Support in Midst of War

Before the Gunfire, Cyberattacks
Russian hackers continue attacks on Georgian sites

ANALYSIS-Strategic blunder led Georgia into S.Ossetia folly

Georgia made a strategic miscalculation in trying to rapidly overrun South Ossetia, and as a result has probably lost the region for good, regional analysts say.

While Russian-backed separatists in the breakaway Georgian region helped provoke Georgia into action, it was the belief that its troops could secure a lightning victory that underpinned Georgia’s decision to attack.

“The Georgians rolled the dice and they lost,” said Michael Denison, an expert in Russian and Eurasian affairs at Chatham House, a London-based security think tank.

“It was not an unreasonable calculation to go for a rapid win, but in the end it was a miscalculation.”

With Georgia, Russia at war, where’s Condoleezza Rice?

There will probably be lots more trouble in the Caucasus, but the smart observers are turning an eye now towards Ukraine:
Russia May Turn Focus to Pro-U.S. Ukraine After Beating Georgia
And if Ukraine threatens the Russian Black Sea Fleet’s access to the Crimea, that crisis could happen a lot faster than anyone expects:
Ukraine says it may bar Russian navy

And finally, oil!
Fire Extinguished In Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan Oil Pipeline
Turkey loses $300,000 a day on BTC, exports to resume after repair
BP shuts down Baku pipeline

news- georgia georgia georgia

Still no point in trying to bring you breaking news, but BBC is reporting that Georgian troops have withdrawn from South Ossetia, basing its report on an unidentified interior ministry spokesman:
Georgia ‘pulls out of S Ossetia’

Georgia says its forces have withdrawn from the separatist enclave of South Ossetia, and that Russian troops are now in control of the regional capital.

An interior ministry spokesman told the BBC it was not a military defeat but a necessary step to protect civilians from a “humanitarian catastrophe”.

Georgia says Russia has brought an additional 10,000 soldiers across its frontiers, readying for a raid.

If it’s true (and I’m not saying it is- remember the fog of war), it means Georgia got hosed. They can say it’s not a military defeat as much as they want, but once the Russians hold South Ossetia, Georgia’s not getting back in. Abkhazia will probably be lost, too. And by all reports, Georgia’s military and industrial infrastructure is going to take a long time to recover, too.

See my comments from yesterday for what this means to the US.

A couple of my regular Georgian web sources have been unavailable, which made me look around a little bit. Here’s what I’ve got:
Georgian Web Sites Under Attack
Evidence of Russian Cyberwarfare Against Georgia

Telarus asks about Israeli arms and advisors in Georgia. I saw in the Danger Room the other day that Israel has been pulling way back on this one, but I looked around a little more to see what I could find:
Israel Freezes Out Georgia on Arms
Foreign Ministry: Halt arms sales to Georgia
Quest for info on Arad helped forge arms sales to Georgia
No ruling out more secret ties, but Israel would usually be doing this stuff on the sly as a middleman for US covert action. I think Israel’s got bigger concerns than supporting Georgia right now, especially since the US is doing it so openly.

No one seems to know much new about the earlier explosion and possible Kurdish attack on the BTC pipeline, but the Georgians now say Russian jets have targeted the pipeline. Of course, that’s what you’d expect them to say, so we’ll have to wait to know about this one.
Russian jets targeted major oil pipeline: Georgia
Russia / Georgia conflict sounds alarm bells at threat to vital link in the energy chain

The 1,770-kilometre (1,100mile) Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan (BTC) pipeline, which cost $3 billion (£1.55 billion) to build and was partly underwritten by British taxpayers, entered full service last year. It is the world’s second-longest oil pipeline and pumps about a million barrels a day from Baku, on the coast of the Caspian Sea in Azerbaijan, to Yumurtalik, on Turkey’s Mediterranean coast, where it is loaded on to supertankers. The route also avoids the congested Bosphorus shipping lane.

About 250 kilometres of the route passes through Georgia, with parts of it running only 55 kilometres from South Ossetia. It also runs close to another secessionist Georgian region, Abkhazia.

And that’s not all the oil that flows through there, either:
Azerbaijan halts oil exports via Georgia ports: state oil firm

And finally, a little bit of analysis from the NY Times:
In Georgia Clash, a Lesson on U.S. Need for Russia

The image of President Bush smiling and chatting with Prime Minister Vladimir V. Putin of Russia from the stands of the Beijing Olympics even as Russian aircraft were shelling Georgia outlines the reality of America’s Russia policy. While America considers Georgia its strongest ally in the bloc of former Soviet countries, Washington needs Russia too much on big issues like Iran to risk it all to defend Georgia.

news- pirates, mercenaries and vandals (updated)

Today in history: On this day in CE 455, the Vandals sacked Rome. It’s also the 268th birthday of the Marquis de Sade.

UN to vote on Somali piracy resolution
UPDATE: The UN Security Council has unanimously voted to allow countries to send warships into Somalia’s territorial waters to tackle pirates.

Opposition Activist Attacked in Tbilisi

Kosovo Slams Serbs’ Parallel Council Move

Blackwater: From the Nisour Square Massacre to the Future of the Mercenary Industry

Free Internet eyed as part of airwaves auction
(but they want to take away your porn!)