Al Qaeda Plot To Crash UK Internet Stopped By Scotland Yard

Another terrorist plot, and another case where John Kerry was proven to be right when discussing the importance of intelligence and law enforcement in fighting terrorism. The Times of London reports:

SCOTLAND YARD has uncovered evidence that Al-Qaeda has been plotting to bring down the internet in Britain, causing chaos to business and the London Stock Exchange.

In a series of raids, detectives have recovered computer files revealing that terrorist suspects had targeted a high-security internet “hub” in London.

The facility, in Docklands, houses the channel through which almost every bit of information on the internet passes in or out of Britain.

The suspects, who were arrested, had targeted the headquarters of Telehouse Europe, which houses Europe’s biggest “web hotel”, containing dozens of “servers” , the boxes which contain the information that makes up the web.

Security experts say the plot against Britain’s internet “hub” reflects the constantly changing threat from Al-Qaeda and related Islamic extremist groups.

Last year MI5 uncovered intelligence which suggested that Islamic terrorist suspects had carried out reconnaissance of the huge Bacton complex of gas terminals on the Norfolk coast. The threat led to the deployment of armed guards around the plant.

There’s even a reference to the influence of 24:

The Telehouse hub is nicknamed CTU after the counter-terrorist headquarters in the American television series 24. It is designed to provide back-up power for all Britain’s vital network services in the event of a large-scale terrorist attack elsewhere.

Classic Science Fiction Novels

There sure are a lot of science fiction geeks in the blogosphere. It looks like I have a little reading to do. This list of classic Science Fiction books is being posted around the blogosphere, with bloggers placing ones they’ve read in bold. I’ve read the majority, and fortunately, should I decide to finish the list, at least seven others are in the piles of books around home that I want to read but never got around to.

The Lord of the Rings, J.R.R. Tolkien
The Foundation Trilogy, Isaac Asimov
Dune, Frank Herbert
Stranger in a Strange Land, Robert A. Heinlein
A Wizard of Earthsea, Ursula K. Le Guin
Neuromancer, William Gibson
Childhood’s End, Arthur C. Clarke
Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, Philip K. Dick

The Mists of Avalon, Marion Zimmer Bradley
Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury
The Book of the New Sun, Gene Wolfe
A Canticle for Leibowitz, Walter M. Miller, Jr.
The Caves of Steel, Isaac Asimov
Children of the Atom, Wilmar Shiras
Cities in Flight, James Blish
The Colour of Magic, Terry Pratchett
Dangerous Visions, edited by Harlan Ellison
Deathbird Stories, Harlan Ellison
The Demolished Man, Alfred Bester
Dhalgren, Samuel R. Delany
Dragonflight, Anne McCaffrey
Ender’s Game, Orson Scott Card
The First Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever, Stephen R. Donaldson
The Forever War, Joe Haldeman
Gateway, Frederik Pohl
Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, J.K. Rowling
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams
I Am Legend, Richard Matheson
Interview with the Vampire, Anne Rice
The Left Hand of Darkness, Ursula K. Le Guin
Little, Big, John Crowley
Lord of Light, Roger Zelazny
The Man in the High Castle, Philip K. Dick
Mission of Gravity, Hal Clement
More Than Human, Theodore Sturgeon
The Rediscovery of Man, Cordwainer Smith
On the Beach, Nevil Shute
Rendezvous with Rama, Arthur C. Clarke
Ringworld, Larry Niven
Rogue Moon, Algis Budrys
The Silmarillion, J.R.R. Tolkien
Slaughterhouse-5, Kurt Vonnegut
Snow Crash, Neal Stephenson
Stand on Zanzibar, John Brunner
The Stars My Destination, Alfred Bester
Starship Troopers, Robert A. Heinlein
Stormbringer, Michael Moorcock
The Sword of Shannara, Terry Brooks
Timescape, Gregory Benford
To Your Scattered Bodies Go, Philip Jose Farmer

Happy Birthday Douglas Adams

Today is the birthday of Douglas Adams, author of the classic five volume trilogy, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. I thought I’d celebrate with some quotes from his work:

The Guide is definitive. Reality is frequently inaccurate.

He hoped and prayed that there wasn’t an afterlife. Then he realized there was a contradiction involved here and merely hoped that there wasn’t an afterlife.

Humans are not proud of their ancestors, and rarely invite them round to dinner.

It is no coincidence that in no known language does the phrase ‘As pretty as an Airport’ appear.

There is a theory which states that if ever anybody discovers exactly what the Universe is for and why it is here, it will instantly disappear and be replaced by something even more bizarre and inexplicable. There is another theory which states that this has already happened.

Human beings, who are almost unique in having the ability to learn from the experience of others, are also remarkable for their apparent disinclination to do so.

Nothing travels faster than the speed of light with the possible exception of bad news, which obeys its own special laws.

Space is big. You just won’t believe how vastly, hugely, mind- bogglingly big it is. I mean, you may think it’s a long way down the road to the chemist’s, but that’s just peanuts to space.

A common mistake that people make when trying to design something completely foolproof is to underestimate the ingenuity of complete fools.


The Right Wing’s Resemblance to Stalinism

Think Progress reports that Morton Kondracke has called referred to the move to dump Fox from covering a Democratic debate as “junior grade Stalinism.” Funny, I’ve noticed Stalinist tendencies on the right for quite a while:

The obvious number one example is the use of Fox News as a propaganda organ pretending to be a real news outlet.

The K Street Project forced corporations and their lobbyists to only play ball with Republicans, just as it was necessary to be a member of the Communist Party in the USSR.

The politicization of the Justice Department had several Stalinist tendencies including dumping prosecutors on political grounds, violating the law with the “national security letters,” supporting violations of the Geneva Convention, and ignoring issues of election integrity.

Conservatives ignore established science on issues such as evolution and climate change while promoting faux-science such as is seen at the Discovery Institute, reminiscent of Stalinist support for Lysenkoism, which also denied established evolutionary science.

That’s not to mention the authoritarian tendencies seen by the Republicans as they support the social agenda of the religious right.

The Truth Behind the Anti-Climate Change Documentaries

There is a whole industry to debunk established science by right wingers, ranging from evolution to climate change. I’ve had a number of posts in the past on how the anti-science right has misquoted scientists to attempt to “prove” their claims. We now have a good example with those who deny the science behind climate change. The Guardian reports:

A Leading US climate scientist is considering legal action after he says he was duped into appearing in a Channel 4 documentary that claimed man-made global warming is a myth. Carl Wunsch, professor of physical oceanography at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, said the film, The Great Global Warming Swindle, was ‘grossly distorted’ and ‘as close to pure propaganda as anything since World War Two’.

He says his comments in the film were taken out of context and that he would not have agreed to take part if he had known it would argue that man-made global warming was not a serious threat. ‘I thought they were trying to educate the public about the complexities of climate change,’ he said. ‘This seems like a deliberate attempt to exploit someone who is on the other side of the issue.’ He is considering a complaint to Ofcom, the broadcast regulator.

It shows how difficult it is to argue against established science when they have to resort to distorting the words of scientists as there are rarely reputable scientists willing to support their claims.

The Failed Attorney General: New York Times Calls on Bush to Dismiss Gonzales

The New York Times has called for the removal of Alberto Gonzales for his many failures:

During the hearing on his nomination as attorney general, Alberto Gonzales said he understood the difference between the job he held — President Bush’s in-house lawyer — and the job he wanted, which was to represent all Americans as their chief law enforcement officer and a key defender of the Constitution. Two years later, it is obvious Mr. Gonzales does not have a clue about the difference.

He has never stopped being consigliere to Mr. Bush’s imperial presidency. If anyone, outside Mr. Bush’s rapidly shrinking circle of enablers, still had doubts about that, the events of last week should have erased them.

First, there was Mr. Gonzales’s lame op-ed article in USA Today trying to defend the obviously politically motivated firing of eight United States attorneys, which he dismissed as an “overblown personnel matter.” Then his inspector general exposed the way the Federal Bureau of Investigation has been abusing yet another unnecessary new power that Mr. Gonzales helped wring out of the Republican-dominated Congress in the name of fighting terrorism.


Report Predicts Dire Consequences of Climate Change

Two reports show the where we stand with regards to climate change. A draft document of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s second report on the consequences of climate change paints a dire picture:

The harmful effects of global warming on daily life are already showing up, and within a couple of decades hundreds of millions of people won’t have enough water, top scientists will say next month at a meeting in Belgium.

At the same time, tens of millions of others will be flooded out of their homes each year as the Earth reels from rising temperatures and sea levels, according to portions of a draft of an international scientific report obtained by The Associated Press.

Tropical diseases like malaria will spread. By 2050, polar bears will mostly be found in zoos, their habitats gone. Pests like fire ants will thrive.

Conservatives with a “flat-earth” mentality who deny the consensus of modern scientific thought often cherry pick information which appears to contradict these preditions, ignoring the fact that the problems are not expected until future dates. Short term we might even see the appearance of improvements:

For a time, food will be plentiful because of the longer growing season in northern regions. But by 2080, hundreds of millions of people could face starvation, according to the report, which is still being revised.

The report includes a long list of adverse effects of climate change if current trends continue, but also offers hope:

Many – not all – of those effects can be prevented, the report says, if within a generation the world slows down its emissions of carbon dioxide and if the level of greenhouse gases sticking around in the atmosphere stabilizes. If that’s the case, the report says “most major impacts on human welfare would be avoided; but some major impacts on ecosystems are likely to occur.”

While many of these effects could be prevented if action is taken, The New York Times charges that an upcoming report shows that the actions taken by the Bush administration have been ineffective:

If President Bush requires any more proof that he sits on the wrong side of the global warming debate, he should listen to his own scientists. An internal draft of a report the administration will soon forward to the United Nations shows that his program of voluntary reductions has done little to stop the rise in greenhouse gases generated in this country.

There is no sign that this report will alter Mr. Bush’s thinking; he contemptuously dismissed a similar report five years ago as bureaucratic boilerplate. But we are hopeful that it will add momentum to the bills circulating in Congress that would impose mandatory limits on these gases, a course Mr. Bush has opposed since renouncing his own 2000 campaign pledge to do just that.

The document — a distillation of expert views in various federal agencies — will show that Mr. Bush is making modest progress towards his goal of making sure that emissions of carbon dioxide and other gases grow at a slower rate than the economy. But it will also show that in absolute terms, emissions will grow nearly as fast in the next decade as they did in the last, when they increased by 11.6 percent. This is not much better than business as usual. And as national policy it is clearly unacceptable.