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Feb 11, 2007

U.S. to Attack Iran This Year?

Posted by in category: geopolitics

From Guardian Unlimited:

Target Iran: US Able to Strike in Spring
Despite denials, Pentagon plans for possible attack on nuclear sites are well advanced

US preparations for an air strike against Iran are at an advanced stage, in spite of repeated public denials by the Bush administration, according to informed sources in Washington.

The present military build-up in the Gulf would allow the US to mount an attack by the spring. But the sources said that if there was an attack, it was more likely next year, just before Mr Bush leaves office.

Neo-conservatives, particularly at the Washington-based American Enterprise Institute, are urging Mr Bush to open a new front against Iran. So too is the vice-president, Dick Cheney. The state department and the Pentagon are opposed, as are Democratic congressmen and the overwhelming majority of Republicans. The sources said Mr Bush had not yet made a decision. The Bush administration insists the military build-up is not offensive but aimed at containing Iran and forcing it to make diplomatic concessions. The aim is to persuade Tehran to curb its suspect nuclear weapons programme and abandon ambitions for regional expansion.
Robert Gates, the new US defence secretary, said yesterday: “I don’t know how many times the president, secretary [of state Condoleezza] Rice and I have had to repeat that we have no intention of attacking Iran.”

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Feb 9, 2007

‘Doomsday’ vault design unveiled

Posted by in category: defense


The final design for a “doomsday” vault that will house seeds from all known varieties of food crops has been unveiled by the Norwegian government.

“The Svalbard International Seed Vault will be built into a mountainside on a remote island near the North Pole. The vault aims to safeguard the world’s agriculture from future catastrophes, such as nuclear war, asteroid strikes and climate change.”

Source: BBC

“There are, for instance, well over 100,000 distinct varieties of rice, compared to the 400 or so breeds of dog out there,” Cary Fowler, executive director of the Global Crop Diversity Trust, told LiveScience. “These represent all the options that crops have for developing in the future, the raw material for plant evolution.”

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Feb 8, 2007

Nuclear terrorism risk seen growing

Posted by in categories: existential risks, nuclear weapons

Two new reports on global security conclude with a growing risk for nuclear terrorism Reuters report today.

The EastWest Institute and Chatham House, the two think-tanks behind the reports, cite that more states are pursuing their own nuclear ambitions and that the materials and engineering effort for a bomb “have all become commodities, more or less available to those determined enough to acquire them”.

The vulnerability of nuclear power plants are mentioned. This is highly relevant considering all the new power plants under planning or construction. Read about the planned terrorist attack on a nuclear power plant in Australia, “Australia nuclear plant plot trial opens in Paris”, Reuters.

But most suprisingly:

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Feb 6, 2007

US Missile Defense System Aces Test

Posted by in category: defense

From CNN:

KEKAHA, Hawaii (CNN) — The Pentagon’s Missile Defense Agency shot down a dummy target missile over the southern Pacific Ocean during a test of the U.S. missile defense shield early Saturday, according to an agency spokeswoman.

First, a dummy ballistic missile was fired from a U.S. mobile launch platform in the Pacific Ocean in a simulated attack.

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Feb 4, 2007

Researchers of the World: Unite to Support European Commission Open Access Policy

Posted by in category: open access

ec flagThe European Commission, the European Research Advisory Board (EURAB) and the European Research Councils have each recently recommended adopting the policy of providing Open Access to research results.

(Very similar recommendations are also being made by governmental research organisations in the United States, Canada, Australia, and Asia.)

There are powerful non-research interests lobbying vigorously against these policy recommendations, so a display of support by the research community is critically important at this time.

A petition in support of the European Commission policy recommendation is now being sponsored by a consortium of European organisations:

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Jan 30, 2007

Enriched Uranium Sale in Georgia Disrupted

Posted by in category: nuclear weapons

From CNN:

TBILISI, Georgia (Reuters) — Georgian special services have foiled an attempt by a Russian citizen to sell weapons-grade uranium for $1 million in the Georgian capital, a senior Interior Ministry official said on Thursday.

The official said Oleg Khintsagov, a resident of Russia’s North Ossetia region, was arrested in early 2006 and a closed court soon after convicted him to 8 1/2 years in prison.

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Jan 25, 2007

Iran and North Korea’s Nuclear Cooperation

Posted by in categories: geopolitics, nuclear weapons

From The Daily Telegraph:

North Korea is helping Iran to prepare an underground nuclear test similar to the one Pyongyang carried out last year.

Under the terms of a new understanding between the two countries, the North Koreans have agreed to share all the data and information they received from their successful test last October with Tehran’s nuclear scientists.

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Jan 25, 2007

Space Arms Race, Here we Come!

Posted by in categories: military, space

From WIRED.com:

The revelation last week that China had slammed a medium-range ballistic missile into one of its aging satellites on January 11 and littered space with junk fragments has created its own form of political debris in Washington, D.C.

The test, which the United States military had long anticipated, has touched off debate over how the U.S. government should interpret and respond to China’s actions.

“It’s a very provocative act,” said Gregory Kulacki, a senior analyst and China expert with the Union of Concerned Scientists. However, “policy makers should respond on the basis of accurate information, not military rhetoric and propaganda.”

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Jan 23, 2007

Nick Szabo’s Chemical Microreactors

Posted by in categories: nanotechnology, space

From the Unemumerated blog, this piece was originally written in 1993:

Using materials native to space, instead of hauling everything from Earth, is crucial to future efforts at large-scale space industrialization and colonization. At that time we will be using technologies far in advance of today’s, but even now we can see the technology developing for use here on earth.

There are a myriad of materials we would like to process, including dirty organic-laden ice on comets and some asteroids, subsurface ice and the atmosphere of Mars, platinum-rich unoxidized nickel-iron metal regoliths on asteroids, etc. There are an even wider array of materials we would like to make. The first and most important is propellant, but eventually we want a wide array of manufacturing and construction inputs, including complex polymers like Kevlar and graphite epoxies for strong tethers.

The advantages of native propellant can be seen in two recent mission proposals. In several Mars mission proposals[1], H2 from Earth or Martian water is chemically processed with CO2 from the Martian atmosphere, making CH4 and O2 propellants for operations on Mars and the return trip to Earth. Even bringing H2 from Earth, this scheme can reduce the propellant mass to be launched from Earth by over 75%. Similarly, I have described a system that converts cometary or asteroidal ice into a cylindrical, zero-tank-mass thermal rocket. This can be used to transport large interplanetary payloads, including the valuable organic and volatile ices themselves into high Earth and Martian orbits.

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Jan 23, 2007

Apocalypse Scale

Posted by in category: existential risks

Now with graphical goodness.

(Click small one for big one.)