How to Defeat Terrorism

From the very impressive Change This web site, where experts share ideas and solutions via the web, terrorism expert Benjamin Kuipers lays out a step-by-step process for defeating terrorism. Calling the Iraq war a major step backward in the fight against terror, Kuipers writes that mutual trust between communities is an important weapon against the spread of terrorism, as is trust between those communities and their authorities. Once trust is established, Kuipers claims, people turn terrorists in to the police.

Terrorism can be defeated. To do this, first we need to understand how terrorists are kept away in the best case, then how terrorists can fight against this mechanism, and finally what works and what doesn’t work to foil those aims.


Although terrorists are not merely criminals, it is helpful to think about what keeps criminals under control in our society. Ask any police officer: it is not the police and the courts who keep criminals at bay. It is the society as a whole. It is the ordinary people who call the police when they hear a problem starting. It is the ordinary people who trust the police and cooperate with them to bring criminals to justice. The “thin blue line” only works when it is backed up by the vast majority of ordinary people.

This, by the way, is why police brutality is so damaging to law and order in our society. If ordinary people lose trust in the police, they won’t call and they won’t cooperate. If they fear that calling the police to quiet down a loud party could result in their neighbors’ kids being shot dead, they won’t call. And they also won’t cooperate in more serious cases. Without community backup, the “thin blue line” starts to feel very thin indeed. And criminals become bolder.

ChangeThis :: How to Defeat Terrorism

John Mayer’s late-night blues show in Atlanta

From the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:

After his show Sunday at HiFi Buys Amphitheatre, singer-songwriter (and blues enthusiast) John Mayer dropped by Smith’s Olde Bar in Midtown to play a blistering hour-long set featuring material by B.B. King, Buddy Guy and Jimi Hendrix.

Mayer isn’t exactly famous for his blues background, but people who know him from his days in Atlanta are always testifying about his outrageous guitar chops. At Smith’s, those chops were on full display, as Mayer — wearing one of his own T-shirts on stage, and backed by bassist David LaBruyere and drummer JJ Johnson — shredded song after song. By the end of the set, everyone who ever compared Mayer with James Taylor looked terribly imperceptive; this guy is Stevie Ray Vaughan in a folkie’s clothing. If that strikes you as hard to believe, well, you shoulda been there.

Mayer’s late-night show was billed in advance on the club’s Web site as Midnight Blues Benefit Show, which was true enough (since the show began at 12:30 a.m. and benefited Mayer’s Back To You Fund) but which wasn’t exactly helpful to the general public.

In any case, every scenester and their booking agent found out about it, and the place was packed.

Link Mayer’s late-night blues show

Would bin Laden prefer Bush or Kerry?

An article in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution focused on an interesting hypothetical question: Who does bin Laden want to win the presidency?

Bin Laden hasn’t commented publicly about the presidential election. But that hasn’t kept partisans in the United States from divining the political desires of the terrorist mastermind.

While some Republicans claim that Osama wants Kerry, a recent Doonesbury comic suggests that bin Laden wants Bush. The strip blames the Iraq war for creating “an incubator for a whole new generation of holy warriors” and for “so carelessly squandering America’s moral authority.” “May he be re-elected! God willing!” the final captions read. “I’m Osama bin Laden, and I approve this message.”

Juan Cole, a Middle East expert at the University of Michigan, sides with Doonesbury. “My guess is that al-Qaida wants Bush,” he said, adding that Bush has become the poster boy for jihadi recruiters seeking men, money and munitions to fight the invading American infidels. Cole cites Bush’s unequivocal support for Israel and the U.S. invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq as fuel for bin Laden’s anti-American fervor. “Their message is that Americans are coming to invade your country, rape your women and humiliate your men. They wanted the U.S. to attack Afghanistan [and] Iraq,” Cole said. “Al-Qaida wants a series of escalating fights so that, ultimately, they’ll have a really big battle. They think Bush is a sucker for this.”

Bush projects the image of battle-tested commander-in-chief promising to protect Americans in a dangerous world. Kerry, who never fails to invoke his Vietnam experience, counters that Bush’s foreign policy has spawned hatred of the United States and exposed Americans to even greater danger from terrorists.

Patrick Basham, a senior fellow at The Cato Institute, a Libertarian think tank in Washington, notes that foreign policy troubles during election years have often redounded in favor of the incumbent. Voters tend to trust a candidate more who has withstood calamity and kept the nation intact. “Historically, traditionally, a serious national security crisis, as any successful attack would be viewed, has helped the incumbent,” Basham said. “I still think, to go out on a limb, that the most likely type of attack would be a suicide bombing or a car bombing. And we would continue to see a rallying around the flag.”

John Zogby, a pollster, says that politically, “an attack won’t matter much.” “The country is split on George W. Bush and hyper-emotional on both sides. There’s not much pliability or elasticity here,” said Zogby, whose polling clients include The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

The CIA analyst who wrote “Imperial Hubris, Why the West Is Losing the War on Terror” says Bush gave bin Laden “a Christmas present” by invading Iraq. “The gift he received from Washington will haunt, hurt and hound Americans for years to come,” wrote the author, who is anonymous. “We are, overall, in a hell of a fix.”

But that doesn’t mean bin Laden necessarily wants Kerry to be the next president.

“If you take Kerry at his word, it would appear that he would do less to irritate, rightly or wrongly, the fundamentalist Arab world,” Basham said. But “there is every reason to believe that a Kerry administration, at this point in the nation’s political evolution and context, would pursue an equally aggressive policy against al-Qaida.”

Pollster Goeas said bin Laden doesn’t care who prevails on Nov. 2. “He’s not trying to help one side win or the other,” Goeas said. “He just wants to kill Americans.”

Link Would bin Laden prefer Bush or Kerry?

Solar hydrogen – Energy of the Future

A team of Australian scientists predicts that a revolutionary new way to harness the power of the sun to extract clean and almost unlimited energy supplies from water will be a reality within seven years.

Using special titanium oxide ceramics that harvest sunlight and split water to produce hydrogen fuel, the researchers say it will then be a simple engineering exercise to make an energy-harvesting device with no moving parts and emitting no greenhouse gases or pollutants.

It would be the cheapest, cleanest and most abundant energy source ever developed: the main by-products would be oxygen and water. Rooftop panels placed on 1.6 million houses, for example, could supply Australia’s entire energy needs.

“This is potentially huge, with a market the size of all the existing markets for coal, oil and gas combined,” says Professor Janusz Nowotny, who with Professor Chris Sorrell is leading a solar hydrogen research project at the University of NSW Centre for Materials and Energy Conversion. The team is thought to be the most advanced in developing the cheap, light-sensitive materials that will be the basis of the technology.

Link Solar hydrogen – energy of the future

via Dave Pollard

Former Soviet Weapon Designers Take On Wind Power

A Newly Electric Green – Sustainable Energy, Resources and Design

A team-up of engineers from the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and the Makeyev State Rocket Center in Miass, Russia has developed a new model of wind turbine for home use. The “Wind Sail” design is a vertical axis wind turbine (VAWT), and are designed to be used as generators for off-the-grid and distributed-grid systems. The current production model, the WPU-2500, produces 2500 kilowatt hours over the course of a year in typical wind conditions.

VAWT systems have several advantages over more traditional horizontal axis wind turbines. They scale down more efficiently, are usually quieter, and have a much lower rate of bird kills — predatory birds can even rest on the top of a VAWT without trouble. The Wind-Sail system adds another benefit: former weapon designers no longer on the global market.

Link WorldChanging: Another World Is Here: Former Soviet Weapon Designers Take On Wind Power

China As Solar Tech Resource for Developing World

SciDev.Net reports that China plans to train 10,000 technicians from the developing world on the deployment and use of solar power technologies over the next five years.

Describing the plans, Xi Wenhua, director of both the Institute of Natural Energy (INE) and the China Solar Energy Information Centre, told SciDev.Net the training will include programmes on small-scale solar power generation and solar-powered heating and irrigation.

According to Xi, China has some of the most advanced and practical solar energy technologies of any developing country. While admitting that China’s solar energy technologies are less efficient than those of Germany, Japan and the United States, he adds that the cost of producing them is much lower than in industrialised countries.

The costs of solar technologies continue to drop in China as it pushes forward in its plan to get 5% of the country’s power from solar within ten years. But the efficiency and cost of the solar power systems may be secondary to the relationships being built between China and these various developing nations in the realm of alternative power. Remember the observation in last week’s post about BusinessWeek: Someone is going to make a lot of money off of the response to global warming and the shift away from fossil fuels. China is positioning itself to be that someone not by trying to skim the cream of American, Japanese, and European markets, but by becoming the business partner of choice for the myriad nations that will need power to support development but don’t have an existing fossil fuel-based power infrastructure already deeply entrenched.

The value to both China and the developing nations is evident: China gets larger markets for its solar power systems and wraps up a technology relationship with these nascent markets which could last decades, while the developing countries get experience with useful technology and the beginnings of a power infrastructure well-suited for the increasingly diverse and distributed nature of 21st century electricity networks.

Link China As Solar Tech Resource for Developing World

Technology Already Exists to Stabilize Climate

PRINCETON, N.J., Aug. 13, 2004 – Existing technologies could stop the escalation of global warming for 50 years and work on implementing them can begin immediately, according to an analysis by Princeton University scientists.

The scientists identified 15 technologies — from wind, solar and nuclear energy to conservation techniques — that are ripe for large-scale use and showed that each could solve a significant portion of the problem. Their analysis, published in the Aug. 13 issue of Science, indicates that many combinations of these 15 technologies could prevent global emissions of greenhouse gases from rising for the next five decades.

The finding counters the common argument that a major new technology needs to be developed before greenhouse gases can be controlled, said professors Stephen Pacala and Robert Socolow, who conducted the study.

Link Technology Already Exists to Stabilize Climate

Solar Energy Powers Water Treatment Plant

San Rafael, California – July 23, 2004 [] Summer time in Northern California used to mean people would plan when to water the lawn according to times set by the water utility. But South Feather Water and Power Agency wanted to give their customers more options for water use, so they commissioned Sun Power & Geothermal Energy to design and install a 566 kW DC electric solar photovoltaic (PV) system that would cut back on the plants reliance on the electric grid. The 2.2-acre solar system is situated on unused land adjacent to the freshwater treatment plant, and it provides all the electrical power for plant operations during the day.

The treatment plant runs all day, every day of the year. It will still use grid power at night and on rainy days, but surplus energy produced by the PV system on sunny days is automatically sent to the grid for credit with the California utilities company Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) through net metering. The combination of solar energy consumed by the treatment plant and utility credits from PG&E should eliminate the agency’s net annual electric bill completely by 2024 when the system is due to be paid in full.

“Going solar allows us to have more control over our rates,” said Michael Glaze, general manager of South Feather Water & Power. “As PG&E’s rates go up, our ratepayers’ water rates have to go up, too. I can’t imagine that a public agency would sit around and continue to pay an ever-increasing electric bill. When they can have the power for less money, doing nothing just does not make sense.”

Energy costs are one of the largest expenses in running a water treatment facility. In 2003 South Feather’s electric bill exceeded US$ 160,000, and that was up approximately 17 percent from 2002. The 566 kW PV system should generate the equivalent energy needed to supply 200 homes. Having the on-site power source removes South Feather’s demand on the public utility grid and adds energy to the grid during afternoon peak demand periods when California needs it the most. The state has a shortfall of energy on hot summer afternoons when air conditioning is in high use. This is also when solar produces the most energy.

The PV system includes 3,060 Sharp 185 W panels, two Xantrex PV225 inverters and one Xantrex PV45 inverter. The arrays are tilted at a 22.5-degree angle to collect the most sunlight during peak periods on summer afternoons at South Feather’s latitude. Because the silicon panels perform better when they are cool, they are mounted on open steel supports to allow air to flow across the top and bottom of the panels. For those extra hot California afternoons there is a water misting system in the panel supports that turns on when the air temperature reaches 90 degrees Fahrenheit (32 degrees Celsius). A separate water spray system rinses dust off the top surface of the panels during dry periods to keep them clean and productive. South Feather supplies water for the misting system.

The total cost of the PV system was US$ 4 million, and the company received a $2 million rebate on the installation from the California Public Utilities Commission.

Link Renewable Energy News | Half-MW Solar Energy System for Water Treatment Plant

Which fish should we eat? has developed a method that translates information about fisheries and aquaculture into ranked lists of seafoods.

Since publishing our first seafood guide (5), we’ve produced wallet-sized guides and more detailed evaluations in our book Seafood Lover’s Almanac (6) and on our website Consumers have shown surprising interest and willingness to act. Consumers who understand, for example, that Chilean seabass is a market pseudonym for Patagonian toothfish (Dissostichus eleginoides) and that rampant illegal fishing is depleting toothfish and killing endangered albatrosses, are more likely to make another choice.

Our ranking process is standardized, transparent, and updateable. We evaluate wild species and farmed seafood to account for the different conservation concerns associated with wild-capture fisheries and aquaculture. Our analysis is based on five criteria: for wild species, life history characteristics, current level of abundance, habitat quality, management effectiveness, and bycatch. Farming systems are evaluated for their on-site operations (e.g., open net pens versus closed re-circulating tank systems), feed composition, water quality, biological effects (e.g., species is native versus nonnative), and ecological effects (e.g., sensitivity of surrounding habitat). By answering a suite of questions within these categories, we create a comprehensive profile for each species, probing and citing published government reports, scientific journal articles, and industry and trade reports. We use information in the profile to score each species and then for clarity, convert the score into a color-coded seafood recommendation.

For more information about why we shouldn’t eat endangered fish species: Society for Conservation Biology (SCB)

via World Changing

Captured documents provide insight into al-Qaeda’s strategy

Correspondence on the al-Qaeda computer captured recently has been analyzed by Atlantic magazine for insight into the terrorists thinking (emphasis below is mine).

Perhaps one of the most important insights to emerge from the computer is that 9/11 sprang not so much from al-Qaeda’s strengths as from its weaknesses. The computer did not reveal any links to Iraq or any other deep-pocketed government; amid the group’s penury the members fell to bitter infighting. The blow against the United States was meant to put an end to the internal rivalries, which are manifest in vitriolic memos between Kabul and cells abroad. Al-Qaeda’s leaders worried about a military response from the United States, but in such a response they spied opportunity: they had fought the Soviet Union in Afghanistan, and they fondly remembered that war as a galvanizing experience, an event that roused the indifferent of the Arab world to fight and win against a technologically superior Western infidel. The jihadis expected the United States, like the Soviet Union, to be a clumsy opponent. Afghanistan would again become a slowly filling graveyard for the imperial ambitions of a superpower.

Like the early Russian anarchists who wrote some of the most persuasive tracts on the uses of terror, al-Qaeda understood that its attacks would not lead to a quick collapse of the great powers. Rather, its aim was to tempt the powers to strike back in a way that would create sympathy for the terrorists. Al-Qaeda has so far gained little from the ground war in Afghanistan; the conflict in Iraq, closer to the center of the Arab world, is potentially more fruitful. As Arab resentment against the United States spreads, al-Qaeda may look less like a tightly knit terror group and more like a mass movement. And as the group develops synergy in working with other groups branded by the United States as enemies (in Iraq, the Israeli-occupied territories, Kashmir, the Mindanao Peninsula, and Chechnya, to name a few places), one wonders if the United States is indeed playing the role written for it on the computer.

Link The Atlantic Online