[SurvivaBall schematic for personal global warming shelter prototype, compliments of the Yes Men.]
MISC. MILITARY URBANISM
SurvivaBall Protects Corporate Execs: "Members of the Yes Men, a group of environmental and corporate ethics activists, gave a presentation at a trade conference pretending to be Halliburton executives touting large inflatable suits that provide corporate managers safety from global warming." (photos)
Japanese eye big bill to relocate US forces: "Plans to realign American forces in Japan by 2014 represent the most significant shift of US military forces in Asia since the Vietnam War. They come at a time when Asia's threat levels, as seen in Japan, are far higher than even five years ago. China's intermediate-range missiles, now aimed at Taiwan, can also reach Japan's southern shores. North Korea claims that it has weapons of mass-destruction capability."
Solar-Power Military Housing: "The military housing building boom under way in the U.S. has hit the beach in Hawaii where a $2.3-billion partnership is building the world’s largest solar-powered and sustainable community. Faced with inadequate units and new demands from returning Iraq and Afghanistan veterans as well as the positioning of one of the Army’s six new Stryker Brigades, Army Hawaii Family Housing now is overseeing construction of 5,388 units, renovation of another 2,506 units and infrastructure replacement on Oahu. The work flows from the Military Housing Privatization Act of 1996, which was designed to engage private developers."
Europe’s new nuclear reactors will not be 9/11-proof: "New nuclear reactors planned to be built across Europe are not designed to withstand a 9/11-style aircraft attack by terrorists, a leaked report has revealed."
Brazil city slashes crime by closing its bars early: "A bold and controversial law that shuts down bars and restaurants after 11 p.m. has turned Diadema, one of Brazil's most violent cities, into an urban model, officials say. The law has cut homicides by nearly half and has slashed other crimes by as much as 80 percent after forcing nearly all of the city's 4,800 bars and restaurants in 2002 to stop selling alcohol between 11 p.m. and 6 a.m. Since then, the homicide rate has dropped by 47 percent, traffic accidents by 30 percent, assaults against women by 55 percent, and alcohol-related hospital admissions by 80 percent, according to Miki."
Battlefield: U.S. by Laura K. Donohue: "Pentagon spies are treating the homeland like a war zone. The scrutiny of the NSA is deserved, but the Senate and the American public may be missing a broader and more disturbing development. For the first time since the Civil War, the United States has been designated a military theater of operations. The Department of Defense — which includes the NSA — is focusing its vast resources on the homeland. And it is taking an unprecedented role in domestic spying."
ISRAEL / PALESTINE - BORDER URBANISM
Israeli Supplier Cuts Gas to Palestinians: "Palestinian gas stations started shutting down and motorists lined up at pumps after an Israeli fuel company cut off deliveries Wednesday, deepening the humanitarian crisis following Hamas' rise to power. An end to fuel supplies for the West Bank and Gaza could cripple hospitals, halt food deliveries and keep people home from work — a devastating scenario for an economy already ravaged by Israeli and international sanctions. The Israeli company Dor Energy, the sole fuel provider to the Palestinians since interim peace agreements in the mid-1990s, cited growing debts for its decision."
Eucalyptus vs. Arabs: "What is the connection between the eucalyptus tree and Jewish-Arab relations? A poster hanging in a nursery for eucalyptus trees reads, "Eucalyptus - an economic, ecological and political alternative." The poster also explains that the eucalyptus, a tree imported from Australia to dry the swamps, helps "preserve the land on the individual and national levels." It does not indicate which nation is meant, but the clear implication is that it helps protect the Jewish nation against the Arab nation that threatens to take control of the land, that planting eucalyptus trees can ensure the land remain under Jewish cultivation."
Peretz approves expansion of four West Bank settlements: "Defense Minister Amir Peretz has approved expansion of four West Bank settlements, the first such approvals under his tenure. The expansion orders enlarged the settlements' "jurisdictional area," a designation which in many cases serves as a prelude to construction of new settlement neighborhoods. Most of the settlements involved are located close to the pre-1967 war Green Line border."
Israel opens Gaza cargo crossing: Israel's new defence minister has ordered the main cargo crossing with the Gaza Strip to be re-opened.
Israel village tries to breach barrier with Palestinians: "At the top of a hill, the long-time resident of this Israeli communal farm stops as a finished section of a barrier being built by the Jewish state in and around the occupied West Bank comes into view. On the other side lies the Palestinian village of Qaffin. [...] But unlike many Israelis who welcome having nothing to do with Palestinians after years of violence and dashed peace hopes, Lieber and other leaders of the communal farm are trying to breach the razor-topped barrier to help their neighbours."
[Image: The GBD-III is the world's most powerful, totally portable, diode pumped green laser targeting and illumination system.]
Lasers to dazzle drivers at Iraqi checkpoints: "US soldiers in Iraq are to use lasers to dazzle drivers who fail to slow down at military checkpoints. But use of these weapons is also controversial as they have the potential to cause permanent harm. Lasers designed to cause permanent blindness were internationally banned under a UN agreement in 1995. The laser device to be rolled out in Iraq is about 25 centimetres long and can be fixed to the barrel of an M-4 rifle. The US military plans to attach the laser to thousands of weapons given to soldiers in Iraq."
50 wi-fi enabled CCTV cameras in central London: "cameras in the conventional system can only be monitored and refocused from a central control room.But live footage from the wi-fi cameras can be viewed from anywhere covered by the network and they can be controlled locally as well.Ultimately,the police could be watching on a handheld device from around a corner as a crime happens before leaping out to arrest the suspects,having collected the evidence electronically before moving."
Scanner in works to detect nuclear weapons - Livermore lab, others working on reliable device for U.S. ports: "scientists at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and other national labs have been [...] developing new super-scanners to do what no existing scanner can: detect with 100 percent reliability a nuclear weapon concealed within one of the roughly 10 million huge cargo containers that enter the United States every year."
Invention: Bomb jammer: "a US inventor is patenting a way to defeat remote-controlled explosives using ... a series of transmitters [that] would create a self-sustaining bubble of radio frequency noise to prevent terrorists from sending a trigger signal to a hidden bomb.
Automatic Chemical Agent Detector Alarm (ACADA): "The ACADA is an advanced point-sampling, chemical warfare agent detection system that continuously monitors for the presence of nerve agents and blister chemicals using IMS (Ion Mobility Spectrometry) technology. It provides early warning of chemical attacks and can be remotely deployed, vehicle mounted or carried by soldiers."
[Image: Bernard Khoury in the NYT, 2006.]
Middle-East Pieces by NICOLAI OUROUSSOFF: Architect Bernard Khoury takes on the reconstruction of Lebanon, "He has particular contempt for what he says is the pseudohistoric vision of the city favored by Solidere, a development company founded in 1994, which has rebuilt a large area around the Green Line, so named for the vegetation that colonized the strip of abandoned buildings dividing east from west Beirut. Where the war's most intense fighting took place there is now a chic shopping district in the French colonial style — red tile roofs, arcaded streets and sandstone facades — which Khoury, who has become one of the project's most outspoken critics, dismisses as a saccharine image of the past.
"It's a kind of censorship in the middle of the city, a fairy tale," he said, waving his cigar. "It has no relationship to our lives today."
Khoury's criticism of Solidere is not driven simply by disgust at one developer's commercialism. It is a reflection of the difficult path faced by a generation of young Lebanese architects who, having grown up first in a Westernized city — with all that Modernism seemed to promise — and then in the shadow of war, are now trying to piece together a vision for the future."
Give me a shelter: Solar-powered tents, inflatable housing, buildings in a bag. A brief history of Architecture for Humanity (AFH).
Afghan women start businesses, help reconstruct a torn nation: "Women make decorative pieces at the All Afghan Women's Union workshop in Kabul. Some 10,000 women entrepreneurs have been trained in Afghanistan."
PRIVATIZATION (WAR & SECURITY)
Party on at Saddam's palace: "Tuesday night is karaoke night at Saddam Hussein's former Republican Palace in central Baghdad's fortified Green Zone."
Afghanistan, Inc.: A CorpWatch Investigative Report: "Contractors in Afghanistan are making big money for bad work. A highway that begins crumbling before it is finished. A school with a collapsed roof. A clinic with faulty plumbing. A farmers’ cooperative that farmers can’t use. Afghan police and military that, after training, are incapable of providing the most basic security. And contractors walking away with millions of dollars in aid money for the work. The Bush Administration touts the reconstruction effort in Afghanistan as a success story. Perhaps, in comparison to the violence-plagued efforts in Iraq and the incompetence-riddled efforts on the American Gulf Coast, everything is relative. A new report “Afghanistan, Inc.,” issued by the non-profit organization CorpWatch, details the bungled reconstruction effort in Afghanistan."
Dismantling Iraqi Life: "On the corrosive effects of the Bush administration's reconstruction efforts. The image of the Bush administration in Iraq as a bumbling giant, overwhelmed by the destructive forces within Iraqi society, is a pernicious misrepresentation. A close look at the facts on the ground demonstrates that the American occupation itself has been the primary destructive force in Iraq as well as the direct or ultimate source of the bulk of the violence; that the American military, in its zealous pursuit of the resistance, still generates much destruction; and that American reconstruction efforts have -- through greed, corruption, and incompetence -- only deepened the infrastructural crisis. The American presence in Iraq continues to be a force for deconstruction."
Iraq's partition fantasy: "The supporters of an Iraq divided into three ignore the lessons of Iraq's history, says Reidar Visser.The idea of tripartite break-up, on the other hand finds little resonance in Iraqi history. In testimony to their sublime artificiality, contemporary partitionist misnomers like "Shi'istan" and "Sunnistan" are altogether absent from the historical record; like much of the pro-partition advocacy they exist solely in the minds of outsiders who base their entire argument on far-fetched parallels to European political experiences."
In the Black(water) by Jeremy Scahill: "Tens of thousands of Hurricane Katrina victims remain without homes. The environment is devastated. People are disenfranchised. Financial resources, desperate residents are told, are scarce. But at least New Orleans has a Wal-Mart parking lot serving as a FEMA Disaster Recovery Center with perhaps the tightest security of any parking lot in the world. That's thanks to the more than $30 million Washington has shelled out to the Blackwater USA security firm since its men deployed after Katrina hit. Under contract with the Department of Homeland Security's (DHS) Federal Protective Service, Blackwater's men are ostensibly protecting federal reconstruction projects for FEMA. Documents show that the government paid Blackwater $950 a day for each of its guards in the area."