Ultima Thule

In ancient times the northernmost region of the habitable world - hence, any distant, unknown or mysterious land.

Monday, July 31, 2006

Astronomers Create Prize-Winning Black Hole Site

By Aussiegirl

Here is the link to this interactive black hole web site. Be sure to visit it, it's a lot of fun.
(This is the description of the illustration: A black hole pulls gas from the star orbiting around it. The gas heats up and emits X-rays (in yellow) as it falls into the black hole.)

Astronomers Create Prize-Winning Black Hole Site

by Staff Writers
Baltimore MD (SPX) May 17, 2006

A team of astronomers has created an entire Web site that explores the mysterious henomena known as black holes.

Roeland van der Marel, of the Space Telescope Science Institute, and colleagues created the site – Black Holes: Gravity's Relentless Pull – and won the top 2005 prize in the Pirelli INTERNETional Award competition, the first international multimedia contest for communicating science and technology on the Web.

The site, containing animation and graphics, explores black holes of all sizes, including the supermassives that anchor the centers of most galaxies.

"Our goal is to show that even the most mysterious of things can be understood with the combined application of human thinking and powerful technology," van der Marel said. "We want to convey the importance of scientific thought and hope to instill, especially in the younger generation of viewers, an appreciation for learning and an interest in science."

Van der Marel and colleagues will receive their prize during a ceremony May 16 in Rome. An international jury selected the Pirelli award winners from 1,000 entries from more than 50 countries. Launched in 1996, the award is sponsored by the Italian tire company.

The team created the black holes Web site with the help of a NASA education and public outreach grant.

Revolutionaries push pan-Arabism based on faith

By Aussiegirl

And, as long as we are feeling so cheery about the state of the world, why not cast ourselves into even greater gloom with this prescient piece by David Pryce-Jones from The Australian. Faith-based war and terror is now the uniting force of worldwide Islam, not state-based terror. The death of the nation-state is having repercussions we hadn't even dreamed of. It is a civilizational struggle, and Iran may finish what Al Qaida started.

Revolutionaries push pan-Arabism based on faith | Defence | The Australian

WHAT is going on in southern Lebanon may look like a small-scale struggle between Israel and Hezbollah, two local forces, but in reality far wider issues are to be decided. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran has declared: "Lebanon is the scene of an historic test, which will determine the future of humanity." Allowing for hyperbole, he must be taken seriously.
The ideology of the Iranian revolution separates the world into Muslims and infidels, us and them at war and ordained by God never to make peace. To these revolutionaries, the West, the US, Israel, liberal democracy, is all of a piece -- strong, perhaps, in appearance but inwardly decadent -- so that one good pull will unravel the whole doomed cat's cradle. As faithful Shia Muslims, they also believe the doctrine that the End of Days is foretold, and imminent.

Conditioned by prejudice and emotion, the picture these revolutionaries have of events, and therefore of their enemies, is closed to reality. They are also masters of bluff and deception.

This divergence between intention and practice is what makes it so difficult to deal with them. The way they have concealed and prevaricated over their nuclear program is a pertinent example. True imperialists, they have created the so-called "Shia crescent" that reaches from the Persian Gulf via Syria (whose regime consists of heterodox Shia) to the Mediterranean.

Their hold on Iraq was impressively demonstrated when Nouri al-Maliki, the Iraqi Prime Minister, refused to condemn Hezbollah while addressing Congress on his visit to Washington.

Their preparation of Hezbollah has also been masterly. In the early 1980s, Iranian emissaries began recruiting the Shi'ites of Lebanon. Hezbollah was to spread Shia influence through social and communal activities deftly combined with terror, in the way that the Muslim Brotherhood had long been doing for Sunnis.

This worked well for Iran. The militant arm of Iran, taking hostages and organising suicide attacks against US and European interests, Hezbollah obliged the powers to modify their policies. Hezbollah's then leader could not have been clearer, saying: "We are not fighting so that you will offer us something. We are fighting to eliminate you."

In 2000, Israel withdrew from southern Lebanon, and Tehran claimed this as a victory for Islam. With its militia, its enforcement of sharia law in areas it controls, its banking and properties, its representatives in the Lebanese parliament and cabinet, Hezbollah is a state within a state.

Precluding the country's sovereignty to the extent of making war in its name, Hezbollah has not just extended the Shia crescent but colonised Lebanon for Iran. The Taliban and al-Qa'ida colonised Afghanistan similarly for Sunni revolutionaries.

The Tehran revolutionaries took advantage of the weaknesses of others but they were also lucky. The oil price has given them a free ride. Like Tsarist Russia before it, post-Soviet Russia hopes to extend its reach southwards through Iran and therefore aids the Tehran nuclear program.

US presidents Carter and Clinton turned a blind eye to the attacks against American interests, even when these were murderous. President George W. Bush struck out at the Iraq of Saddam Hussein, inadvertently encouraging Tehran to act as the unchallenged regional power, with the Middle East open before it.

But attacking Israel now, have they not committed the mistake Saddam Hussein made by invading Kuwait? Tehran had only to wait for an estimated three or four years, and it would have the cover of a nuclear weapon. It was surely not a coincidence that Hezbollah attacked Israel on the very day set as a deadline by the international community for the Iranian response to the proposal concerning its nuclear program.

In the light of its prejudices and irrationality, Tehran must have judged that Israel would meekly accept whatever demands were made of it. But whether Tehran miscalculated the Israeli response or deliberately provoked it, the consequences are the same. Iran sees itself representing militant Islam. That is what Ahmadinejad means with talk of a historic test.

The several previous wars with Israel were fought by Arabs in the name of Arab nationalism. At least the dimension of these wars was clear: it was state versus state. Israel's recurrent victories exposed that Arab nationalism was some sort of fiction doing untold damage to Arabs themselves.

The revolutionaries in Iran offer the alternative of Islamic solidarity. Muslim faith in their view has priority over any rival identity of statehood or nationality. Substituting faith for state, they have devised a mutation of nationalism, and potentially this has a far larger dimension. In evident panic, Sunni clerics in Egypt and Saudi Arabia have been quick to repudiate the Shia claim to be representing a universal and militant Islam, and to stake their own claim to Islamic supremacy.

Sunni intellectuals support them. Ahmad Jarallah, editor-in-chief of a Kuwaiti newspaper, openly acknowledged that "the operations of Israel in Gaza and Lebanon are in the interest of people of Arab countries and the international community".

That is the strict political logic now in play. But, in contrast, crowds on Arab streets -- and, of course, the European media -- seem to be applauding Hezbollah for the simple reason that it is killing Jews. Ahmadinejad's historic test may well turn on the battle for public opinion.

Israel is the victim of terror, and its response to Hezbollah is a parallel to the American response to September 11. It is not Israel's purpose to play any part in such issues as the relation between Sunni and Shia. But the fact is that unless and until Iranian imperialism is curtailed, the Lebanese cannot recover their country or fulfil the promise of the Cedar Revolution; Syria can never be free from its tyrannical regime; and the West is menaced not for what it does but for what it is.

Saving itself, rolling back Hezbollah, Israel is exposing the fictions that pass for reality in Tehran. Faith-based war and terror, it is now all too obvious, is an even greater threat to civilisation than state-based war and terror.

When the devil dislikes the stink of brimstone

By Aussiegirl

Unfortunately, Spengler is correct. We've lost the stomach to fight to the finish and to fight ruthlessly. Could we have won WWII with the kind of sensitivities on display today? When we spill tears over 56 civilian deaths and pressure Israel to back off as a result? When even Israel seems to lack the stomach to put it all on the line? Anything less than a complete victory for Israel looks like a victory for Hezbollah. The endless media spin wears down even the most determined president. We are too PC in Iraq. We are too PC about everything -- afraid of world opinion. So concerned with making people like us and convincing everybody that we really only mean well. When are we going to learn that in order to survive you have to wage war ruthlessly and without remorse against a remorseless and ruthless enemy?

Asia Times Online :: Middle East News - When the devil dislikes the stink of brimstone

It's a bit like the devil disliking the stench of sulfur, but Iran's leaders now complain that the United States has thrown the Middle East into chaos in order to reshape the region. That is a man-bites-camel story. With the exception of the late Yasser Arafat, no one has wielded the weapon of instability with greater skill than Iran. Israel's disproportionate response to the July 12 Hezbollah provocation changed the rules of the game in the region. Whether the players have the presence of mind to exploit the new rules remains an open question.

Persia's new imperialists have grasped the shift in circumstances far more quickly than their obtuse counterparts in Washington. The benefits of chaos most likely redound to the US and Israel, even though squeamishness prevents Washington from thinking

this way. The Iranians, who are utterly ruthless, profligate in the expenditure of human blood, and adept at the use of chaos as a strategic weapon, know just what is afoot.[...]

Iran now badly wants a ceasefire so that Hezbollah can claim a draw as a victory. A few Israeli analysts, although evidently not the government of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, understand the game. "In a way, we're playing an old Palestine Liberation Organization game, to precipitate regional instability and then try to bring in international intervention," Israeli defense analyst Michael Oren told the New York Times on July 24. Oren, author of the standard history of the 1967 Arab-Israeli war, advocates an Israeli attack on Syrian armored divisions stationed on the Lebanese border.

Asefi and Oren understand the sea-change in the Middle East better than the US or Israeli government. Despite the vehemence of Israel's initial response to the July 12 incidents, Jerusalem remains squeamish about casualties both among Israeli soldiers and Lebanese civilians. If the enemy employs civilian sites as artillery platforms, and civilians decline to leave after due warning, they are subject to attack. The three-score deaths at Qana are sad, but so were the 180,000 deaths during Lebanon's civil war of 1976-80 and the million deaths during the Iran-Iraq War, including perhaps 100,000 12-to-14-year-old children sent by the Khomeinists into the Iraqi minefields. The political-religious current to which Hezbollah adheres holds the region's record for civilian deaths, despite British Prime Minister Tony Blair's crocodile tears.

Israel's strongest move on the chessboard would be a massive armored incursion into Lebanon to crush Hezbollah combined with limited strikes against Syria. These would be costly in terms of human life, but that is the bill due the devil for fleeing Lebanon six years ago. The Israeli population longs for normalcy, and is loath to sacrifice its young men, a fact with which Hezbollah taunts them. It is far from clear whether Israel will convert a subtle but fundamental change in the regional balance into a strategic breakthrough.

Washington's best move would be an ultimatum to Tehran with a deadline for dismantling its nuclear-weapons program, followed by aerial attacks in the event of non-compliance. Rather than engage the regime of President Bashar al-Assad in Syria, Washington should take the opportunity to destabilize it. Rather than attempt to hold together its Frankenstein monster in Iraq, it should partition the country. Sunnis and Shi'ites already are fleeing mixed neighborhoods and agglomerating into sectarian strongholds, and a broader population exchange is the best formula to suppress bloodshed.

In other words, in pursuit of its own best interests, Washington should do precisely what the Iranian regime fears that it may do. Tehran's paranoia, of course, runs far ahead of Washington's limited imagination. US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is skating in tighter and tighter little circles attempting to limit the war. The US demand for a 48-hour halt in Israeli bombing runs in Lebanon to which Israel acquiesced expresses the delusional hope that Sunni Arab states can be enlisted to oppose Iran and Hezbollah.

Israel, in summary, remains in denial about the failure of its withdrawal policy since 2000, and Washington remains in denial about the absurdity of its plan to stabilize the Middle East through democracy. That gives Iran considerable wiggle room to press ahead from an inherently weakened position.[...]

If Washington really had a conspiratorial bent, it would provoke Tehran into wielding the oil weapon, with the objective of shutting off both Iranian oil exports and its imports of refined product. The world can sustain a loss of Iran's 5% of world oil supply much better than Iran can sustain the loss of 100% of its oil revenues. Gasoline prices in the United States probably would double, ie, to the prevailing level in highly taxed Europe, or the equivalent of $6 a gallon (about $1.60 a liter). The Western economy would suffer, but Iran's economy would implode. The Ahmadinejad regime would collapse in short order.

If Iran could bottle up the Strait of Hormuz, through which two-fifths of world oil exports pass, the position of the world economy might become desperate, but it is likely that the US 7th Fleet could prevent this.

In this scenario, Washington would exploit a one-time shock to oil prices to roll over political obstacles to stringent energy-security measures (rapid exploitation of domestic energy sources, building nuclear power plants, gasoline conservation). US consumption would suffer, but a shift from consumption to investment ultimately would benefit the US economy.

I very much doubt that President George W Bush has either the brains or the stomach to press America's advantage. To a surprising extent, US leaders still swim in the goldfish bowl of the Cold War era. It has not quite dawned on them that the United States, in the parlance of options traders, is "long volatility". [...]

This will not be the first time in history that a power with a potentially winning position frittered away its advantage by inaction. Germany in the First Morocco Crisis of 1905 comes to mind, when the opportunity arose to crush France at a moment when Russia was paralyzed by revolution and Britain had no interest in intervening. The most probable outcome is that Iran will feel emboldened by the resilience of Hezbollah and defy the West on the nuclear issue, and that the United States will attack Iranian nuclear installations this year.

The canary croaks -- JR Dunn

By Aussiegirl

JR Dunn, writing in today's American Thinker, thinks Israel has thrown away a historic opportunity and may have already sown the seeds of its own destruction as a result. He enumerates the mistakes. I'm afraid I agree. Sobering reading.

The American Thinker

Make no mistake – Israel’s July 29th retreat from the village of Bin Jibeil marks the most serious defeat of Western arms to date in the War on Terror.

Whatever occurs from this point on, the retreat (And it is a retreat; there is no other way to spin it. It is not a strategic withdrawal, it is not a redeployment, it is not a retrograde advance. The Israelis left and the Hezbollah are still there. That is called a ‘retreat’.) marks the end of this campaign, a fact only underlined by Israel’s decision to suspend its airstrikes after the Qana raid, which apparently killed a large number of civilians. There is little or no chance of any meaningful resumption of operations from this point on. This war is over, and Hezbollah has won. The Israeli incursion into Lebanon opened as a classic isolate-and-destroy operation. Southern Lebanon, the high seat of Hezbollah, was cut off by a quick and flawless set of air strikes destroying major highways and bridges. The connection to reinforcements and resupply from Syria was effectively severed, as was the alternate resupply route through Beirut airport. Hezbollah was limited to a small and crowded area with little room for maneuver. Israeli artillery and air began preparing the battlespace for exploitation by ground forces, a coup de main which would destroy bases, missile stores and launch sites, and cripple Hezbollah as any kind of fighting force.

With the Sunni Arabs providing guarded approval and the U.S. holding back interference from the UN and Europe, Israel was provided with an unprecedented opportunity to remove, permanently and completely, a strategic threat from its northern flank while changing the balance of forces of the remaining frontline states. Such an opportunity is not likely to recur for years, and will probably never recur in its current state of perfection.

Even at the beginning of last week, it seemed that the Israelis were poised to move. But then something happened. Politicians being so good at covering their tracks, we’ll probably never know the precise details. But the final responsibility lies with Prime Minister Ehud Ohlmert. Ohlmert is the Israeli version of a hack politician, with a lengthy record of jumping from party to party as opportunity offered. He filled a number of minor cabinet positions of the health and minority affairs type without even the trace of distinction such seats offer. Ohlmert’s record is full of bluster against the Palestinians and Arab opposition with little in the way of action to back it up. His current position as head of government is an accident of history, due almost entirely to Ariel Sharon’s poor health. Sharon’s apparently bungled medical treatment well turn out to be one of the more tragic accidents of recent history in the Middle East.

The Missiles of 27 Rajab

By Aussiegirl

This eye-opening and sobering article appeared in Front Page Magazine over the weekend. I'm going to be posting my own thoughts on the matter in a short while. It may be later than we think.
The Missiles of 27 Rajab

This year, we are told, the Muslim commemorations associated with their calendar date 27 Rajab will occur on August 22. On this a most celebratory date in the Islamic calendar, best-selling author and Islamic scholar Robert Spencer reminds that the Prophet Muhammed made his ascension into heaven from the Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, an event known as the Miraj. “[T]he Night Journey has become firmly embedded in the Islamic consciousness,” Spencer notes, “such that Muslims today celebrate it as one of the central events of Muhammad’s life.” And now, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has selected that as an auspicious date to create a light over the skies of Jerusalem such as the world has never seen since the Miraj.

If as the president of the Reform Party in Syria, Farid Ghadry claims, “Ahmadinejad is planning an illumination of the night sky over Jerusalem to rival the one that greeted the Prophet of Islam on his journey,” then it is difficult to imagine anything other than a full-scale Iranian nuclear attack. As Spencer continues, “a nuclear attack on Jerusalem or even an all-out conventional assault against Israel by Iran would be consistent with Ahmadinejad’s oft-repeated denials of Israel’s right to exist and recent predictions that its demise was at hand.” These observations are the latest from a growing list of ominous portents from Iranian and Syrian leaders too horrific to ignore.

Assuming the worst case – a default mental mode for military planners – what ought we to expect to happen the next several weeks? A possible scenario can be constructed based on events of recent weeks and months, although the groundwork for this action has taken years to develop. Let us try to outline what Ahmadinejad and his surrogates in Syria and inside Hezbollah might have on their minds.

To begin we review what we know for certain: 1) Iran has been focused on acquisition of nuclear weapons, working for years with the AQ Khan group and North Korea; 2) Iran has for all intents and purposes declared war on Israel and America (though the U.S. has not understood Iran’s commitment), outlining its war policy as one of utter extermination; 3) Iran has worked unceasingly with North Korean scientists and engineers to improve missile technology, resulting in several models of varying ranges and payloads, and with highly improved mobility over SCUDs; 4) Iran has used surrogate movements and states to support clandestinely attacks on Israel and America (the latter inside Iraq); 5) Iran has positioned large numbers of technologically advanced weapons and the troops from the Iranian Revolutionary Guard to assist inside Lebanon and Syria.

We have confirmed that Iran was a sponsor and participant in North Korea’s early July 2006 missile tests, and have shown rather convincingly that the real testing was the ability to deploy rapidly missile units, each capable of firing several weapons independently. The capstone of the test was that multiple missiles fired on schedule, each simulating many, and that the tests were frighteningly successful. Equally important was that the public misunderstood the real purpose of the tests and vastly underestimated the value derived from them.

If we were investigating this as a possible murder case we’d look for motive, weapon, and opportunity. Motive is easy. Ahmadinejad want to wipe Israel and America off the map. How do we know? Because he told us, repeatedly, in great detail, and with utmost sincerity. Weapons? We are looking at a slate of which we’re told intelligence analysts were unaware. While this is doubtful, it may be factual that analysts were cautious about numbers of missiles and rockets deployed and the willingness of the Hezbollah enemy to employ them. Those doubts ought to be resolved as hundreds of rockets rain down on Israel and increasingly capable weapons are discovered. Opportunity? Made to order, on order. It was an Ahmadinejad-created opportunity, a directed Hezbollah attack on Israel designed to bring in America and allies. It’s all happening, per Iranian plan, and its right there for us to see.

In a July 27 NY Sun op-ed, premier radio talk show host John Bachelor addresses the opportunity issue. The behavior of Syria, Bachelor notes “is meant to provoke Israel and pull America directly into the fighting.” Syria, as Bachelor points out, issued an unacceptable ultimatum to the U.S. “Knowing that America cannot agree….Syria and its sponsor, Iran, are preparing for the next stage of the escalation.” That next stage he affirms is a “shooting war.” To what point? This is where the weapons come into the picture.[...]

Reinforcing the threat, Hassan Nasrallah, Hezbollah leader, warned that “deeper” attacks would be forthcoming. The Israelis, Bachelor says, have accounted for more than 36 such missiles inside Lebanon. They’ve already killed some, but how may more wait across the Syrian border? Dozens? Hundreds? Using the tactics just rehearsed in North Korea suppose Syria, backed to the hilt by Iran, having provoked an Israeli or American strike which provides them sufficient excuse, then floods across the border. Many specially trained battalions with scores of Zelzals and smaller payload missiles dispersed among them will lead. It is probably that many of the weapons and units are already pre-positioned.

These Zelzal missiles if properly dispersed and simultaneously launched – if, in other words, the tactical model developed by the Soviets, taught to the Iranians, and just practiced in front of the world in North Korea is followed – we could expect that existing Israeli missile defense systems would be overwhelmed. Radars would pick scores, perhaps hundreds of missiles launched from a very short distance away all converging on Israeli cities. It would be impossible for upgraded Patriot or any other deployed system to get them all. The leakers would certainly penetrate. Are they going to carry conventional explosives, a serious enough threat by itself, or will these be the ones that carry the dirty warheads, the small fission devices, or the VX nerve gas? Is this the “day or rejoicing” that Ahmadinejad threatens? Does anyone really want to wait until mid August when this attack is launched to learn?

In this scenario inaction is not appropriate. Nor is the reprehensible laundry list of appeasement initiatives drafted by State Department Arabists acceptable. The options for a diplomatic solution have already expired. State has played its hand, and sterner leadership must take charge. Both Syria and Iran must be faced squarely and confronted with the consequences of their actions before they can attack. Iran is clearly attempting to use an attack on Israel to build momentum for an overthrow of that country combined with a defeat of America in Iraq. Rather than wait defensively America must strike Iran, taking out leadership, nuclear, and missile targets. Simultaneously every Iranian revolutionary group must be supported and turned loose to foment revolution inside Iran.

Syria has to be taken out immediately. Leadership targets - regime, Hezbollah, and Iranian - must be attacked and friendly forces put into the border area for missile suppression. U.S. units watching Syria’s back door can strike and raid, thereby collapsing Syrian resistance. Israeli forces need to continue to press Hezbollah terrorists inside Lebanon to keep them off balance. It is critically important that America and Israel supported by whatever allies have the courage to assist, take the fight immediately to the perpetrators. By waiting for a first-strike we are put in a position of playing a retaliation game after we have already endured unacceptable losses in population and perception. Once America and Israel are seen as weak enough to defeat, then the international jackals will all join in for the kill. This is what our enemies hope to accomplish.

How realistic is this plan politically? Probably not very, and that is what is going to be a major setback, possibly one from which it will be extraordinarily difficult to recover. Complicating American reaction to these events is the paralyzing idea prevalent among many Americans that by solving Iraq our troubles in the region are over. This naïve perception is clouding America’s grasp of the scope, breadth, and reality of the threat. We face a crisis of major proportions. Hesitation may be fatal.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

1,173,139,200,000,000, 000,000 miles

By Aussiegirl

If my math is correct, this is the distance across the largest known structure in the universe, according to this article. However, this is just a brief jaunt across town in comparison with the size of the universe itself. But here it seems to get tricky, because according to this article in Wikipedia on the observable universe, size figures may differ according to various factors. At any rate, here are some relevant paragraphs from that Wikipedia article:

The observable universe is a term used in physical cosmology to describe the maximum possible spatial extent of the Universe, as calculated from the space-time radius of curvature, and other astrophysical standards such as quasar distributions.

Both popular and professional research articles in cosmology often use the term "universe" when they really mean "observable universe". The reason for this is that unobservable physical phenomena are scientifically irrelevant; that is, they cannot affect any events that we can perceive, and therefore causally do not exist. They also cannot be measured, and therefore hypotheses about parts of the universe that are not observable may be ignored.

In the sense of a comoving distance scaled to the current conditions, the universe is 13.7 billion light years in radius because the universe is 13.7 billion years old. However, space itself may expand faster than the speed of light making the physical size associated with this much larger. This occurs when space expands while a photon is in transit, hence the photon must traverse a proper distance which is greater than the Hubble distance, or the traditionally defined edge of the observable universe.

There is some disagreement as to exactly how large the observable universe in proper distance is: a study of the cosmic microwave background radiation by WMAP in May 2004 states the universe is at least 78 billion light years in radius, yet the March 2005 issue of Scientific American cites a figure of 46 billion light years in every direction. The ambiguity in size is dependent on the detailed models of Hubble's law, especially the nonlinear nature of dark energy component of the universe which is causing the expansion of the universe to accelerate.

In practice, we can only observe objects as far as the surface of last scattering 300,000 years after the big bang when the universe had cooled sufficiently to permit electrons to bind to atomic nuclei, which brought a halt to the Compton scattering of ambient photons, meaning that the photons can survive long enough to reach Earth. However, it may be possible to infer information from before this time through the detection of gravitational waves

Universe Today � Archive � The Largest Structure in the Universe

The Largest Structure in the Universe
July 27th, 2006

A team of astronomers using the Subaru and Keck telescopes on Mauna Kea has discovered giant, three-dimensional filaments of galaxies extending across 200 million light-years of space. These filaments, which formed a mere 2 billion years after the birth of the universe, are the largest-known structures ever discovered. They are studded with more than 30 large concentrations of gas, each up to ten times as massive as our own galaxy. These giant gas clouds are probably the progenitors of the most massive galaxies that exist in the universe today.

This finding is very important because it gives researchers new insight into the large-scale structure of the cosmos. Astronomers expect the universe to look relatively smooth 2 billion years after the birth of the universe. In summarizing the importance of this finding, astronomer Ryosuke Yamauchi from Tohoku University said, “Something this large and this dense would have been rare in the early universe. The structure we discovered and others like it are probably the precursors of the largest structures we see today which contain multiple clusters of galaxies.”

Giant 3D Filaments of Galaxies
The research group used the Subaru telescope to make a detailed study of a region of sky 12 billion light-years from Earth that is known to have a large concentration of galaxies. They used Subaru’s Suprime-cam camera outfitted with special filters designed to be sensitive to the light from galaxies at that distance. The results showed that this concentration of galaxies is just a small portion of a much larger structure.

The newly found giant structure extends over 200 million light years and has a concentration of galaxies up to four times denser than the universe’s average. The only previous known structures with such a high density are much smaller, measuring about 50 million light-years in scale.

Using Subaru’s Faint Object Camera and Spectrograph (FOCAS) to study the 3D distribution of galaxies in this filament, the team also discovered at least three overlapping filaments that make up the giant structure.

Large Concentrations of Gas
Astronomers knew this region contained at least two large concentrations of gas. One of them, extends across 400,000 light-years. A comparison with the Andromeda Galaxy, thought to be about the same size as the Milky Way Galaxy, shows the relative immensity of this gas structure.

The researchers found that these large concentrations of gas are located near the overlap regions of the filaments.

The Subaru observations were successful in finding much fainter objects than previously discovered in this region. For example, they found 33 new large concentrations of gas along the filamentary structure extending across 100,000 light-years. This is the first time that so many large concentrations of gas, known to astronomers as Lyman alpha blobs, have been discovered in the distant universe.

Astronomers think that such Lyman alpha blobs, named so since they are seen in the Lyman alpha emission line of hydrogen, are probably related to the births of the largest galaxies. In the “gravitational heating” model, the blobs are regions where gas is collapsing under its own gravity to form a galaxy. The”photoionization” model attributes emission from the gas to ionization by ultraviolet light from newborn stars or a massive black hole. The “shock heating” or “galactic superwind” model hypothesizes that the glow of the gas is caused by the death of many massive stars born early in the history of the universe, living out short lives, and then dying in supernova explosions that blow out surrounding gas. Team members Yoshiaki Taniguchi and Yasuhiro Shioya (Ehime University) have been advocating for the galactic superwind model.

Observations with the DEIMOS spectrograph at the Keck II telescope revealed that the gas inside the blobs move with speeds greater that 500 kilometers per second (300 miles per second). The extent of the gas concentrations and the speed of the material within them suggest that these regions must be up to ten times as massive as the Milky Way Galaxy.

The blobs show a great variety in shape and brightness. For example, some show bubble-like features that match computer simulations of galactic winds such as those by Masao Mori (Senshu University) and Masayuki Umemura (University of Tsukuba). There are also diffuse blobs and those consisting of several galaxies.

“Galaxies of various sizes surround us,” said Yuichi Matsuda of Kyoto University.”The large gas concentrations we found may tell us a lot about how the largest of these came to be.”

These results were published in a series of research papers in the Astronomical Journal and the Astrophysical Journal

Pluto thought to be warming up

By Aussiegirl

According to Ask Jeeves, the surface temperature of Pluto is a bone-chilling - 387 F, so it'll have to get a lot warmer than this to tempt tourists to vacation there.
(The illustration is what Pluto looks like seen from Charon, its largest moon.)

Tim Birdnow makes a good comment:
"Let`s see how the Global Warming crowd tries to pin this one on carbon emissions and Exxon-Mobile! It`s almost as if the Sun had something to do with it!"

Pluto thought to be warming up. 26/07/2006. ABC News Online

Astronomers at the University of Tasmania have found that the solar system's smallest planet is not getting colder as first thought and it probably does not have rings.

Dr John Greenhill has collected observations from last month's event when Pluto passed in front of a bright star, making it easier to study.

French scientists have shared the measurements they took in Tasmania that night, which indicate that the planet is unlikely to have rings.

Dr Greenhill says the results are surprising because they show Pluto is warming up.

"It looks as though the atmosphere has not changed from 2002, which is pretty surprising because we expected the atmosphere would freeze out as the planet moved further away from the Sun," he said.

"But so far, if anything, the atmosphere has gotten even denser."

Saturday, July 29, 2006

The Suez crisis -- An affair to remember

By Aussiegirl

July 26, 1956 -- 50 years and 3 days ago -- Gamal Abdul Nasser, president of Egypt, nationalized the Suez Canal and set in motion events that, as this fascinating and in-depth history of the Suez crisis makes clear, "marked the end of an era and the start of another for Europe, America and the Middle East".

The Suez crisis | An affair to remember | Economist.com

The Suez crisis of 50 years ago marked the end of an era, and the start of another, for Europe, America and the Middle East

ON JULY 26th 1956 Gamal Abdul Nasser, president of Egypt, addressed a huge crowd in the city of Alexandria. Broad-shouldered, handsome and passionate, Nasser stunned even this gathering of enthusiastic supporters with the vehemence of his diatribe against British imperialism. Britain had ruled Egypt, one way or another, from 1882 to 1922, when the protectorate gained nominal independence, and continued to influence Egyptian affairs thereafter, maintaining troops there and propping up the decadent monarchy overthrown by Nasser in 1952.

In that speech in Alexandria, though, Nasser chose to delve back even further into history, in a long digression on the building of the Suez canal a century earlier. That gave him the chance to mention the name of the Frenchman who had built the canal, Ferdinand de Lesseps. This he did at least 13 times. “De Lesseps”, it turned out, was the codeword for the Egyptian army to start the seizure, and nationalisation, of the canal. It also launched the start of a new era in the politics of Europe, the Middle East and America.

The Suez crisis, as the events of the following months came to be called, marked the humiliating end of imperial influence for two European countries, Britain and France. It cost the British prime minister, Anthony Eden, his job and, by showing up the shortcomings of the Fourth Republic in France, hastened the arrival of the Fifth Republic under Charles de Gaulle. It made unambiguous, even to the most nostalgic blimps, America's supremacy over its Western allies. It thereby strengthened the resolve of many Europeans to create what is now the European Union. It promoted pan-Arab nationalism and completed the transformation of the Israeli-Palestinian dispute into an Israeli-Arab one. And it provided a distraction that encouraged the Soviet Union to put down an uprising in Hungary in the same year.

It also divided families and friends, at least in Britain and France, with a degree of bitterness that would not be seen in a foreign-policy dispute until the invasion of Iraq in 2003. If that is difficult to understand, remember that the world was a different place then. Many European politicians still believed their countries had a right to run the affairs of others. Many were also scarred by memories of appeasement in the 1930s. Faced with a provocation, even an entirely legal one involving the nationalisation of a foreign-owned asset like the Suez canal, the instinct of such Europeans was to go to war. They and their Israeli partners-in-invasion were restrained, eventually, by the United States, led by a Republican president and war hero, Dwight Eisenhower. The venture involved intrigue, lies, nemesis—and no end of a lesson. How did it come about? [....]

The chief victor of Suez, in the short term, was Nasser. Before the crisis he had faced lingering opposition in Egypt, not only from the former ruling class but also from communists and the radical Islamists of the Muslim Brotherhood. “Pulling the Lion's tail”, and getting away with it, proved wildly popular. As dissidents fled, fell silent or filled its jails, Nasser's Egypt projected itself as the vanguard of Arab nationalism and a beacon to liberation movements across the third world.

Puffed up by his own success, Nasser launched misguided adventures such as a short-lived political union with Syria and disastrous nationalisations of Egyptian industry. And the Nasserist dream inspired a wave of pan-Arab nationalism that helped install lookalike leaderships, with similar flags, propaganda and secret police, across much of the Arab world. Saddam Hussein was one who drew inspiration. Nasser himself was largely discredited by Israel's crushing victory in the 1967 war, but the institutions of Nasserism still lived on, in Egypt and elsewhere, as effective systems of political control. [....]

A wider lesson lies in the interpretation of history. Eden, who had honourably resigned as foreign secretary in 1938 in disapproval of the appeasement of Hitler and, especially, Mussolini, was nonetheless haunted by Neville Chamberlain's readiness to yield to tyrants. His impulses at Suez were surely complex. Eden was far from anti-American or indifferent to American concerns. He had resigned in 1938 partly because he thought his prime minister, Chamberlain, had treated Roosevelt shabbily. Yet he saw Nasser as a “Mussolini” and was plainly determined to avoid any charge of appeasement, even though the essential features of Munich and Suez were wholly different. Instead of saying that those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it, George Santayana might have better said that those who misinterpret the past are condemned to bungle the present.

Mysterious quasar casts doubt on black holes

By Aussiegirl

This article, from the New Scientist magazine, concerns the same quasar and observational data that were discussed in the article, entitled New Picture of Quasar Emerges, posted just below. Here, however, the researchers are bolder in the conclusions they draw from their research, as is clear from the following quotation: "I believe this is the first evidence that the whole black hole paradigm is incorrect," says Darryl Leiter of the Marwood Astrophysics Research Center in Charottesville, Virginia, US, who co-authored the study. He says that where astronomers think they see black holes, they are actually looking at MECOs. This article goes on to give another scientist's dissenting opinion, so I guess we must all stayed tuned to see how this particular problem turns out. Still, if black holes are predicted by Einstein's General Relativity theory, and they turn out not be exist, then what happens to GR?

New Scientist SPACE - Breaking News - Mysterious quasar casts doubt on black holes

Mysterious quasar casts doubt on black holes
NewScientist.com news service
David Shiga

A controversial alternative to black hole theory has been bolstered by observations of an object in the distant universe, researchers say. If their interpretation is correct, it might mean black holes do not exist and are in fact bizarre and compact balls of plasma called MECOs.

Rudolph Schild of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, Massachusetts, US, led a team that observed a quasar situated 9 billion light years from Earth. A quasar is a very bright, compact object, whose radiation is usually thought to be generated by a giant black hole devouring its surrounding matter.

A rare cosmological coincidence allowed Schild and his colleagues to probe the structure of the quasar in much finer detail than is normally possible. Those details suggest that the central object is not a black hole. "The structure of the quasar is not at all what had been theorised," Schild told New Scientist.

A black hole, as traditionally understood, is an object with such a powerful gravitational field that even light is not fast enough to escape it. Anything that gets within a certain distance of the black hole's centre, called the event horizon, will be trapped.

A well accepted property of black holes is that they cannot sustain a magnetic field of their own. But observations of quasar Q0957+561 indicate that the object powering it does have a magnetic field, Schild's team says. For this reason, they believe that rather than a black hole, this quasar contains something called a magnetospheric eternally collapsing object (MECO). If so, it would be best evidence yet for such an object.

Flickering clues
The researchers used gravitational lensing to make their close observation of the quasar. This technique exploits rare coincidences that can occur when a galaxy sits directly between a distant object and observers on Earth.

The gravity of the intervening galaxy acts like a lens. As the intervening galaxy's individual stars pass in front of the quasar, this bending varies, making the quasar appear to flicker.

Carefully scrutinising this flickering allowed the researchers to probe fine details of the quasar's structure that are normally far too small to be resolved by even the most powerful telescopes.

Magnetic sweep
The researchers found that the disc of material surrounding the central object has a hole in it with a width of about 4000 Astronomical Units (1 AU is the distance between the Earth and the Sun). This gap suggests that material has been swept out by magnetic forces from the central object, the researchers say, and must therefore be a MECO, not a black hole.

"I believe this is the first evidence that the whole black hole paradigm is incorrect," says Darryl Leiter of the Marwood Astrophysics Research Center in Charottesville, Virginia, US, who co-authored the study. He says that where astronomers think they see black holes, they are actually looking at MECOs.

According to the MECO theory, objects in our universe can never actually collapse to form black holes. When an object gets very dense and hot, subatomic particles start popping in and out of existence inside it in huge numbers, producing copious amounts of radiation. Outward pressure from this radiation halts the collapse so the object remains a hot ball of plasma rather than becoming a black hole.

Extremely complex
But Chris Reynolds of the University of Maryland, in Baltimore, US, says the evidence for a MECO inside this quasar is not convincing. The apparent hole in the disc could be filled with very hot, tenuous gas, which would not radiate much and would be hard to see, he says. "Especially if you're looking with an optical telescope, which is how these observations were made, you wouldn't see that gas at all," he told New Scientist.

Leiter says this scenario would leave other things unexplained, however. The observations show that a small ring at the inner edge of the disc is glowing, which is a sign that it has been heated by a strong magnetic field, he says. In Reynolds's scenario, one would expect a much broader section of the disc to be heated, he says.

In any case, says Reynolds, it is difficult to draw conclusions from the team's detailed comparisons of their observations with models of black holes because those models are far from definitive. "We know the accretion of gas into black holes is an extremely complex phenomenon," he says. "We don’t know precisely what that would look like."

"It would be truly exciting if there was compelling evidence found for a non-black-hole object in these quasars," Reynolds adds. "I just don't think that this fits."

New Picture of Quasar Emerges

By Aussiegirl

In order to help my readers -- and me -- better understand this report, I've extracted the introduction to the Wikipedia article on quasars: A quasar (contraction of QUASi-stellAR radio source) is an astronomical source of electromagnetic energy, including light, that dwarfs the energy output of the brightest stars. A quasar may readily release energy in levels equal to the output of hundreds of average galaxies combined. In optical telescopes, a quasar looks like a very faint star (i.e. it is a point source), and has a very high redshift. The general consensus is that this high redshift is cosmological, the result of Hubble's law, which implies that quasars must be very distant and hence very luminous. Some quasars display rapid changes in luminosity, which implies that they are small (an object cannot change faster than the time it takes light to travel from one end to the other; but see quasar J1819+3845 for another explanation). The highest redshift currently known for a quasar is 6.4. The scientific consensus is that quasars are powered by accretion of material onto supermassive black holes in the nuclei of distant galaxies, making these luminous versions of the general class of objects known as active galaxies. No other mechanism appears able to explain the vast energy output and rapid variability.

It seems that after observing this far-away stellar object for 20 years, the researchers have proposed, and I quote, a controversial theory that the magnetic field is intrinsic to the quasar's central, supermassive compact object, rather than only being part of the accretion disk as thought by most researchers. If confirmed, this theory would lead to a revolutionary new picture of quasar structure. "Our finding challenges the accepted view of black holes," said Leiter. I wonder what the implications of this research are? Does this mean that black holes don't exist after all? Or is it only that the core of quasars aren't black holes, but some other sort of object? Anyway, I do like the name: Magnetospheric Eternally Collapsing Objects -- "Eternally Collapsing" is so poetic!

(The illustration, a conceptual drawing of the quasar that prompted this new interpretation, is described thus: This artist's conceptual drawing shows the core of a quasar known as Q0957+561. Observations indicate that the quasar contains a 4-billion solar-mass object that astronomers Rudy Schild (CfA), Darryl Leiter (Marwood Astrophysics Research Center) and Stan Robertson (Southwestern Oklahoma State Univ.) have dubbed a magnetospheric eternally collapsing object, or MECO for short. A rotating intrinsic magnetic field (shown in pale yellow) anchored to the MECO generates a magnetic propeller, sweeping out a large region (shown in black) of the inner accretion disk. The magnetic propeller also creates radial outflows of atomic nuclei (shown in indigo blue) and relativistic jets of electrons (shown in red) along the rotation axis. A bright blue-white ring forms where the MECO's rotating magnetic field sweeps the inner edge of the accretion disk, creating a hot, thin boundary layer that pushes matter outward against the intense inward pull of gravity. Outer gas clouds (shown in grey-green) gather together and flow into the accretion disk, heading for the highly redshifted, rotating MECO at the quasar's core. Credit: Christine Pulliam (CfA)

New Picture of Quasar Emerges

In the distant, young universe, quasars shine with a brilliance unmatched by anything in the local cosmos. Although they appear starlike in optical telescopes, quasars are actually the bright centers of galaxies located billions of light-years from Earth.

The seething core of a quasar currently is pictured as containing a disk of hot gas spiraling into a supermassive black hole. Some of that gas is forcefully ejected outward in two opposing jets at nearly the speed of light. Theorists struggle to understand the physics of the accretion disk and jets, while observers struggle to peer into the quasar's heart. The central "engine" powering the jets is difficult to study telescopically because the region is so compact and Earth observers are so far away.

Astronomer Rudy Schild of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA) and his colleagues studied the quasar known as Q0957+561, located about 9 billion light-years from Earth in the direction of the constellation Ursa Major, near the Big Dipper. This quasar holds a central compact object containing as much mass as 3-4 billion Suns. Most would consider that object to be a "black hole," but Schild's research suggests otherwise.

"We don't call this object a black hole because we have found evidence that it contains an internally anchored magnetic field that penetrates right through the surface of the collapsed central object, and that interacts with the quasar environment," commented Schild.

The researchers chose Q0957+561 for its association with a natural cosmic lens. The gravity of a nearby galaxy bends space, forming two images of the distant quasar and magnifying its light. Stars and planets within the nearby galaxy also affect the quasar's light, causing small fluctuations in brightness (in a process called "microlensing") when they drift into the line of sight between Earth and the quasar.

Schild monitored the quasar's brightness for 20 years, and led an international consortium of observers operating 14 telescopes to keep the object under steady around-the-clock watch at critical times.

"With microlensing, we can discern more detail from this so-called 'black hole' two-thirds of the way to the edge of the visible universe than we can from the black hole at the center of the Milky Way," said Schild.

Through careful analysis, the team teased out details about the quasar's core. For example, their calculations pinpointed the location where the jets form.

"How and where do these jets form? Even after 60 years of radio observations, we had no answer. Now the evidence is in, and we know," said Schild.

Schild and his colleagues found that the jets appear to emerge from two regions 1,000 astronomical units in size (about 25 times larger than Pluto-Sun distance) located 8,000 astronomical units directly above the poles of the central compact object. (An astronomical unit is defined as the average distance from the Earth to the Sun, or 93 million miles.) However, that location would be expected only if the jets were powered by reconnecting magnetic field lines that were anchored to the rotating supermassive compact object within the quasar. By interacting with a surrounding accretion disk, such spinning magnetic field lines spool up, winding tighter and tighter until they explosively unite, reconnect and break, releasing huge amounts of energy that power the jets.

"This quasar appears to be dynamically dominated by a magnetic field internally anchored to its central, rotating supermassive compact object," stated Schild.

Further evidence for the importance of the quasar's internally anchored magnetic field is found in surrounding structures. For example, the inner region closest to the quasar appears to have been swept clean of material. The inner edge of the accretion disk, located about 2,000 astronomical units from the central compact object, is heated to incandescence and glows brightly. Both effects are the physical signatures of a swirling, internal magnetic field being pulled around by the rotation of the central compact object - a phenomenon dubbed the "magnetic propeller effect."

Observations also suggest the presence of a broad cone-shaped outflow from the accretion disk. Where lit by the central quasar, it shines in a ring-like outline known as the Elvis structure after Schild's CfA colleague, Martin Elvis, who theorized its existence. The surprisingly large angular opening of the outflow that is observed is best explained by the influence of an intrinsic magnetic field contained within the central compact object in this quasar.

In light of these observations, Schild and his colleagues, Darryl Leiter (Marwood Astrophysics Research Center) and Stanley Robertson (Southwestern Oklahoma State University), have proposed a controversial theory that the magnetic field is intrinsic to the quasar's central, supermassive compact object, rather than only being part of the accretion disk as thought by most researchers. If confirmed, this theory would lead to a revolutionary new picture of quasar structure.

"Our finding challenges the accepted view of black holes," said Leiter. "We've even proposed a new name for them - Magnetospheric Eternally Collapsing Objects, or MECOs," a variant of the name first coined by Indian astrophysicist Abhas Mitra in 1998. "Astrophysicists of 50 years ago did not have access to the modern understanding of quantum electrodynamics that is behind our new solutions to Einstein's original equations of relativity."

This research suggests that, in addition to its mass and spin, the quasar's central compact object may have physical properties more like a highly redshifted, spinning magnetic dipole than like a black hole. For that reason, most approaching matter does not disappear forever, but instead feels the motor-like rotating magnetic fields and gets spun back out. According to this theory, a MECO does not have an event horizon, so any matter that is able to get by the magnetic propeller is gradually slowed down and stopped at the MECO's highly redshifted surface, with just a weak signal connecting the radiation from that matter to a distant observer. That signal is very hard to observe and has not been detected from Q0957+561.

Two reports on ancient reptiles

By Aussiegirl

The first report is about finding fossils of ancient reptiles that swam in ancient Australia. The illustration is a reconstruction of Umoonasaurus demoscyllus showing an adult with crest (top) and juvenile (bottom).

BBC NEWS | Science/Nature | Australian 'Nessie' fossils found

Australia was once home to ancient reptiles that swam in huge icy lakes, fossil evidence suggests.
The large, carnivorous reptiles lived 115 million years ago, during the age of the dinosaurs, when much of the continent was covered in water.

Fossils of two new species of plesiosaur were discovered near Coober Pedy in South Australia.
Plesiosaurs are popular in science fiction and are said to resemble Scotland's mythical Loch Ness monster.

The Australian specimens are described in recent editions of the journals Biology Letters and Palaeontology.

One, known as Umoonasaurus demoscyllus , was about 2.4m (7.2ft) long and had crests on its head, perhaps for display or mating purposes.

"Imagine a compact body with four flippers, a reasonably long neck, small head and short tail, much like a reptilian seal," said the lead author of the two papers, Dr Benjamin Kear of the University of Adelaide.

The other species, Opallionectes andamookaensis , grew to about 5m (16ft) long and had small needle-like teeth.

Some 30 fossils were discovered at an opal mine near the outback mining town of Coober Pedy.

They are made up of the mineral opal, which filled the spaces left by bones when the original fossil-bearing rock was dissolved away by acidic ground water.

The fossils include several skeletons and a complete skull of Umoonasaurus, and a partial skeleton of Opallionectes.

They are thought to be of juvenile animals, suggesting the lake was a breeding and nursery ground.

Scientists believe sea-dwelling adults returned to the shallow inland waters to breed and raise their young.

At the time, Australia was much colder, and the inland ocean would have frozen over in places during the winter.

Scientists believe the creatures might have evolved mechanisms to cope with the harsh climate, such as a faster metabolic rate. They were carnivorous, feeding on fish and squid.

The second report solves a mystery about the nifty crest the male pterosaur sported, the dinosaur version of an expensive red sports car. (Thanks to John Latter and his comment with the link to the journal Palaeontology.)

BBC NEWS | Science/Nature | Flying reptile mystery 'solved'

UK scientists say they have solved the mystery of why prehistoric flying reptiles grew crests on their heads.
A rare skull specimen found in Brazil shows the crest appeared at puberty, suggesting it was used to attract attention from the opposite sex.

University of Portsmouth experts say pterosaurs, which ruled the air during the time of the dinosaurs, flaunted their headgear in sexual displays.

The findings are published in the journal Palaeontology.

Palaeobiologist Dr Darren Naish said the crest was a signal of sexual maturity; used like a peacock's tail to attract a mate.

"It would have been like a gigantic cockerel's comb, a brightly-coloured striking structure used in display," he told the BBC News website.

"We don't know this but we imagine they would have bobbed it around and used it to attract other pterosaurs.

The theory is based on the skull of a species of pterosaur known as Tupuxuara, which was unearthed recently in north-east Brazil.

It was a rare discovery; only a handful of fossil specimens exist in the world and all the others are the remains of adults.

Dr Naish and colleague Dr David Martill examined the skull and found that the crest was different in the juvenile.

Rather than forming one large triangular crest of bone extending from the snout to the back of the head, it was made up of two pieces.

One crest came from the back of the skull and the other from the front of the snout. The crest that sprouted from the front grew backwards, only fusing to form one large crest when the pterosaur reached puberty.

"This is a significant find as it links the growth of the crest to physical maturity and therefore presumably to sex," said Dr Naish.

"The specimen was extremely rare and it is great to be able to piece together a little bit more details about pterosaurs."

Friday, July 28, 2006

Judgment Day

By Aussiegirl

Well, this should certainly put the kibosh on any further "talks" with Iran over incentives to inspire them to give up their nuke program. They already have a program, and it's already being implemented. The program is to wage war on the West and to win. They've already opened the campaign with Hezbollah's attack on Israel. As we saw today, the Arab states, after initially condemning Hezbollah (only because they are Shi'ites and the Sauds and Egyptians don't want Iran to become too powerful), are now suddenly lining up behind them because of overwhelming public opinion on the Arab street. This war is starting on Iran's timetable, but it has to be ended on ours. No more pussyfooting and diplomatic niceties. When are we going to wake up? The war has already started!

Judgment Day

Judgment Day
July 28, 2006

With the international community focused on Iran's quest to develop nuclear weapons, little attention has been paid to Tehran's preparations for a possible showdown with America and its allies. For more than a year, Iran has been preparing, together with terror organizations it controls and finances, for a confrontation code-named "Al-Qiyamah," which is Arabic for "Judgment Day." Hezbollah's unprovoked war against Israel may well be the first step in this Iranian-inspired conflict.

Leading this war effort is Brigadier General, Qassam Sulaymani, who heads the Al-Quds "Jerusalem" Force of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guards. Based in Tehran, the Al-Quds Force is considered responsible for having trained thousands of operatives from Hezbollah, Hamas, and Islamic Jihad. Now Sulaymani has been tasked with coordinating and providing logistical support to the terror organizations that will execute Iran's plans for a confrontation.The plan reportedly includes suicide bombing attacks on America and British targets in the Middle East as well as on Arab and Muslim countries allied with the West.

Participants in Iran's "Judgment Day" plans include Hezbollah in Lebanon, Hezbollah cells in Europe, North America, the Persian Gulf region, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, the leaders of Iraq's insurgency, and the Mahdi Army of Iraq's Muqtada Al-Sadr. Iran's Revolutionary Guards also have reportedly invited operatives from the Mahdi Army to be trained in Iran and have increased its funding to Al-Sadr to over $20 million. [....]

Iran has bluntly expressed its intentions toward America and Israel. In a military parade held in September 2005, during "Sacred Defense Week," Iran flaunted the latest versions of ballistic missiles produced by its military including the Zilzal 1 and 2. The namesake of this missile is a verse in the Qur'an that tells of the final earthquake that precipitates Judgment Day. The missiles were emblazoned with the slogans: "We will trample America under our feet," "Israel should be wiped off the map," "Death to America," and "Death to Israel."

Based on Iran's public statements and Hezbollah's opening salvo of rockets and missiles over Israel's northern border, this appears to be only the beginning of Iran's "Judgment Day" plans. We would be wise to take them at their word.

Ms. Barsky is the director of the Division on Middle East and International Terrorism at the American Jewish Committee

Green Light

By Aussiegirl

John Batchelor has a radio program on in the evenings, and seems to have a lot of sources in the ME. This scenario makes sense to me, and reinforces my own idea that this war is not an accidental engagement that Hezbollah did not expect, but part of a multi-step plan put in motion by Ahmadinejad. (See today's American Thinker article by Amil Imani that I posted below.) Only by creating worldwide misery and chaos do the mullahs in Iran believe they can force the Mahdi to re-emerge from his well and rule the world. They aren't going to be cajoled with baskets of goodies designed to entice them into giving up their nuke program. And, in a way, they used that program to lull the West into believing there was still time -- that Iran wouldn't move until it had the nuke. They either already have one, or don't feel they need it to make their move. Either way, this is not going to be over soon.

Green Light - July 28, 2006 - The New York Sun

Green Light

President Ahmadinejad has returned from his oil-weapon meetings in Central Asia to his bunker in Tehran and has given the green light to Damascus to escalate the Lebanon front by launching long-range missiles into Tel Aviv. Syria and Hezbollah have been told they are to fight on with the certain expectation that Israel will respond to the escalation by bombing Syria's strategic sites and its supply lines into Lebanon. Iran has also told Syria that it expects — hopes — this phase of the campaign will draw in the American warplanes and logistics.

In Beirut, the spiritual leader of Hezbollah, Ayatollah Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah, has issued a fatwa forbidding the entry of international troops or authorities into Lebanon. This means that the prospect of an imposed ceasefire from the United Nations Security Council or from NATO is now minimal or impossible, since any blue helmets or peacekeepers, Muslim or not, will be resisted as if they were Israeli or American occupiers.

In Damascus, the Assad regime has prepared itself for an epochal war that will transform the Syrian culture into a martial cult such as was achieved under the current president's father, the late Hafez al-Assad. President Bashar al-Assad; his brother Mahor, of the presidential guard; his brother-in-law, Assef Shawqat, head of the intelligence forces; and most especially the steely, pharmacist sister, Dr. Bushra al-Assad, all want the coming fight with Israel and America to create a band of brothers that will lead Syria for another two generations. The Assads recall 1967 and 1973 not as strategic defeats but as spiritually liberating events that empowered the Assad regime in the ummah. Syria is resolved, well armed, fatalistic, and inspired by the wealth of Iran, the allegiance of the Iraqi Baathists, the strategic support of Kurdistan, Turkey, Lebanon.

What this all means right now is that Iran can and will continue to resupply Hezbollah on the Lebanon front with arms, ammunition, special forces, sophisticated logistics, an intelligence apparatus, and the long-range Katyushas and missiles that pepper Israel. The supply routes from Iran to Syria are not only air lanes but also overland trucking on tribal routes through Turkey and Kurdistan. Turkey knows this and knows this is tacit support of the Hizbollah and Syria. More striking is that the Kurds in northern Iraq, ostensibly America's strongest ally in the liberation and democratization of Iraq, are openly cooperating with the Iranian military convoys. The Kurds have made a deal with Tehran that looks to the future and the establishment of an independent, oil-rich Kurdistan.

The Kurds aim to drive out or massacre the minority Turkmen in their territory, and they know this will be a casus belli for Turkey. The Kurds will need Iran for an ally and also for a transportation route to get their oil to market.

The Russians must certainly know that Iran is using Turkey and Kurdistan in their war effort, and the Russians have presumably made a decision not to interfere in any fashion with their Caspian Sea neighbor and commercial partner Iran. More puzzling is how al-Maliki and the Shia/Kurd dominated government in Baghdad might not know of the resupply. Did Maliki stand next to President Bush in a joint news conference knowing that the Shia of Iraq are not only cheering the Hezbollah in Lebanon but also that Iraq is an ally of Iran and Syria in the fight?

The resupply from Iran is profound because Hezbollah could not have sustained the fight past the first days without the certainty of endless weaponry and ammunition. The Lebanon war plan is to escalate a step at a time, and this requires the discipline of a confident, well-led, well-connected force.

Iran will not turn off the flow. And the rearming of Lebanon through Syria also includes the very latest, best Russian and Chinese origin equipment, including the SA-18 shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missile, Sagger and Kornet antitank missiles, at least one battery of Silkworm anti-ship missiles, and multiple combinations of Zelzal-2 missiles and Fajr-3,5 rockets that can easily reach Tel Aviv and, with smaller warheads, much farther, to Jerusalem. A decision to strike Jerusalem has not been announced. Nonetheless, high-explosive warheads are poised to strike civilian populations: at least one Scud-type missile has already been found underwater in Haifa harbor.

Iran is committed to its war aim to draw America directly into the fighting. At present, Israel has no plan to bomb beyond Syria. But the logic of the supply lines points to interdiction in Iraq and Turkey and in Iran, itself. Iran believes that when America comes into the fighting, Iran can use the American troops in Iraq as tactical targets and strategic hostages. Iran wants America to strike in force at Tehran and the strategic sites on the southern coast. Iran is desperate to give battle. It believes that America cannot manage a crisis in an election year (e.g., 1980), and that the United Nations Security Council will impose a ceasefire quickly. At that point, Ahmadinejad and the Partisans of the Mahdi will emerge from their deep and hard sites to survey their empire, smoldering, famished, grieving, but victorious over the American crusaders, stretching from the Hindu Kush to the Mediterranean and the ruins of Israel.

Two billion years ago, a natural nuclear fission reactor formed in Africa

By Aussiegirl

I just finished posting a fascinating article about a teenage boy who put together a real, if small-scale, nuclear reactor in his mother's back-yard shed -- so while I'm on the subject of nuclear reactors, I thought I'd post this equally fascinating article about a naturally occurring nuclear reactor that came into being two billion years ago in Africa, and continued operating for many millenia.
Here's a brief description of this natural nuclear reactor from the Wikipedia article: A natural nuclear fission reactor can occur under certain circumstances that mimic the conditions in a constructed reactor. The only known natural nuclear reactor formed 2 billion years ago in Oklo, Gabon, Africa. [13] Such reactors can no longer form on Earth: radioactive decay over this immense time span has reduced the proportion of U-235 in naturally occurring uranium to below the amount required to sustain a chain reaction. The natural nuclear reactors formed when a uranium-rich mineral deposit became inundated with groundwater that acted as a neutron moderator, and a strong chain reaction took place. The water moderator would boil away as the reaction increased, slowing it back down again and preventing a meltdown. The fission reaction was sustained for hundreds of thousands of years.
For other articles on this very interesting, if little-known, topic, see here, here , and here.
Finally, here's the description of the illustration: The remains of the OKLO 15 reactor, however, are intact and can be viewed. The yellow spots, which are well visible in the picture, are uranium oxide of 70% concentration in sandstone.

Hasad�si reaktorok a f�ld felsz�n�n

Fission reactors on the Earth

It is not necessary to search the sky if we want to find ancient, several billion years old reactors. In 1972 a French engineer made one of the most astounding discoveries in the history of science. Bougzigues worked as an analyst for a company producing fuel for nuclear power plants in Provance, France. In the course of his routine measurements he found a strange anomaly.

Discovery of the Oklo reactors

There are two naturally ocurring isotopes of uranium, whose mass numbers are 235 and 238, respectively. (Actually, there is a third isotope, with mass number 236, but its abundance is negligible.) At the time the Earth and the solar system were born, the ratio of the isotopes 235U and 238U was a given value. This ratio has changed significantly since the two isotopes decay with different half-lifes. The half-life of 235U is 700 million years, while that of 238U is 4.5 billion years. Correspondingly, the amount of 235U decreases faster. It is obvious that the half-life of the isotopes is exactly the same everywhere in the world, in all the rocks and stones, which implies that the ratio of the isotopes has changed to the same degree everywhere over the millions of years. Until 1972 several measurements verified this assumption and the ratio of the isotopes with mass numbers 235 and 238 in uranium ores was always found to be 0.7202% with an accuracy of 0.00004%.

In the Pierrelatte factory in 1972, nuclear fuel was manufactured from uranium ore that originated from the Gambian Oklo. Bougzigues made routine measurements during which he found that ratio of isotopes in the uranium ore to be processed is somewhat less than the earlier measured value: 0.717%. Different possibilities were investigated that could cause the measured anomaly. First they ascertained that no spent nuclear fuel had been deposited in the mine. The activity of the ore was too little for that. There were certain theories which tried to explain the phenomenon with the crash of an extraterrestrial space ship or with the existence of an ancient civilization that utilized nuclear energy. However, reality was far beyond even these romantic imaginations. The researchers found the remnants of an ancient, natural nuclear reactor in Oklo!

Remnants of the core of the OKLO 15 natural reactor

During the investigations performed in 1972, the remnants of six natural reactors were found in the Oklo mine and its vicinity. Until now marks of altogether 17 natural reactors have been discovered. Nine of them have been completely mined out. The remains of the OKLO 15 reactor, however, are intact and can be viewed. The yellow spots, which are well visible in the picture, are uranium oxide of 70% concentration in sandstone.

Conditions of the operation of natural reactors

As early as in 1956 a Japanese physicist, Paul Kuroda pointed out the possibility of the existence of natural reactors. There was not much reflection to his statement, even in the scientific life. He worked out the conditions which are necessary for the operation of natural reactors.

Kuroda estimatedthe historical era when natural reactors could be born. Of the two uranium isotopes the one with mass number 235 is fissile. Nowadays the abundance of 235U is only about 0.7%, natural reactors cannot operate. The reason for this is that the 238U isotopes and the other nuclei of the ore catch too many of the neutrons which are necessary to sustain the chain reaction. Moreover, some moderator is also needed to slow down the neutrons to make them easier to cause fission and this moderating material also absorbs neutrons. The usual moderator materials in today's nuclear reactors are water, heavy-water and graphite. Although using presently mined natural uranium and graphite or heavy-water as moderator one can build an operable reactor, neither of these materials are present in nature. On the other hand, the neutron absorbtion ability of water is so high that it is not possible to use it with natural uranium (in which the percentage of the isotope with mass number 235 is not increased, that is not enriched) in a reactor. However, the situation was different 2 billion years ago. At that time the ratio of 235U in uranium was 3% and using this material as fuel, one can in fact build a reactor, even with water moderator! (This is the most widespread enrichment of the power reactors today.)

Kuroda determined the necessary concentration of uranium atoms in the carrying agent of the ore: according to his calculations it should be 70%.

He also determined the critical size of the reactor. If the dimensions are smaller, no self-sustaining chain reaction can start because too many neutrons would escape from the so called reactor core.

Finally, he pointed out that the ore must be porous in order that water can remain in the small pores and play the role of a neutron moderator.

How did the Oklo reactors evolve?

The uranium content of the Gabon uranium ore probably got to the surface by volcanic activity. Later the surface waters dissolved it from the volcanic rock. About 1.7 million years ago there was enough oxigen in the atmosphere for uranium to oxidize. Uranium oxide, however, is insoluble in water and thus it could settle down in high concentration layers.

Operation of the reactors

The Oklo reactors perfectly fulfilled the requirements determined by Kuroda. The reactor cores of large mass and high uranium concentration embedded into porou carrying material, mainly sandstone. The concentration of neutron absorbing materials in the rocks was negligible and the 235U/238U ratio was around 3%. In the porous sandstone there was sufficient amount of water for neutron moderation. Moreover, the water present in the rocks was thermohydraulically coupled to the surface and ground water.

Finally, about 1.7 billion years ago the reactors went critical. The chain reaction was probably started by the spontaneous fission and cosmic radiation. The chain reaction was not at all continuous. As the number of fissions per unit time was increasing, more heat was produced, which lead to the warming up and possible boiling of the water. However, as the amount of moderator decreased, the reactors became sub-critical and thus the rate of fission went down. Accordingly there was a cooling down period, in which water could again filtrate into the rocks and make the reactor critical. This pulsating chain reaction could last for about a million years. The neutron flux in the reactors was probably in the range of 109 to 1021 /cm2s (this means that in a piece of surface of 1 cm2 in one second 109 to 1021 neutrons pass trough in any direction). In today's power plant reactors this quantity is around 1013 to 1014 /cm2s.

When the concentration of 235U dropped below the critical value due to the operation of the reactor and natural radioactive decay, the Oklo reactors stopped for good. Their ancient operation is only observable from the lower 235U/238U ratio.

The Radioactive Boy Scout

By Aussiegirl

Before you read this fascinating -- and true -- story of how a teenage boy succeeded in building a nuclear reactor in his mother's back yard shed, you might want to refresh your knowledge by reading Wikipedia's article about nuclear reactors. Here is Wikipedia's description: A nuclear reactor is a device in which nuclear chain reactions are initiated, controlled, and sustained at a steady rate (as opposed to a nuclear bomb, in which the chain reaction occurs in a fraction of a second and is completely uncontrolled).
Wikipedia also has a short article about David Hahn, the very inventive subject of this Harper's Magazine article, which Ken Silverstein later expanded into a book.
Notice that, along with such exotic materials as americium-241, beryllium, and thorium-232, he made use of the handyman's best friend, duct tape: He surrounded this radioactive ball with a blanket of small foil-wrapped cubes of thorium ash and uranium powder, tenuously held together with duct tape.

The Radioactive Boy Scout

Tale of the Radioactive Boy Scout.

Golf Manor, a subdivision in Commerce Township, Mich., some 25 miles outside of Detroit, is the kind of place where nothing unusual is supposed to happen, where the only thing lurking around the corner is an ice-cream truck. But June 26, 1995, was not a typical day.

Ask Dottie Pease. Cruising down Pinto Drive, Pease saw half a dozen men crossing her neighbor's lawn. Three, in respirators and white moon suits, were dismantling her next-door neighbor's shed with electric saws, stuffing the pieces into large steel drums emblazoned with radioactive warning signs.

Huddled with a group of neighbors, Pease was nervous. "I was pretty disturbed," she recalls. Publicly, the employees of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that day said there was nothing to fear. The truth is far more bizarre: the shed was dangerously irradiated and, according to the EPA, up to 40,000 residents of the area could be at risk.

The cleanup was provoked by the boy next door, David Hahn. He had attempted to build a nuclear reactor in his mother's shed following a Boy Scout merit-badge project. [....]

The Iranian Mullahs' Aim

By Aussiegirl

Until we stop having Ramadan dinners in the White House and believing that this is a great and noble and peaceful religion that has been hijacked by a few extremists, we are doomed to fail. The West has to wake up and smell the coffee -- this writer is laying it out on the line. This is what they truly believe, and as he says, even those nice Muslims that we all know will have to either be swept along or destroyed by the tide. We can't make them love us, and they don't want to just be left alone or get along. And no amount of talks or negotiations or concessions is going to make this go away. We will have to confront Iran militarily, or bring about an internal regime change. Iran has just made its bid to becoming the world's Islamic leader in the war against the West with the incursion by Hezbollah. And the Arab states are hastening to join what they see as the winning side.

The American Thinker

The Iranian Mullahs' Aim
July 28th, 2006

The world is presently at its most wicked. It is beyond human help. It requires only a nudge to implode and prepare for the divine ruler, the Saheb-ul-Zaman (the Mahdi, the Lord of the Age) to come and set it aright. It is the sacred duty and privilege of every Muslim to do all he can to hasten the death of the old world and the birth of the global Islamic Ummah. Thus goes the thinking of Iran’s ruling mullahs and their hand-picked president Mahmood Ahmadinejad.

It seems like the old millennialism thinking, a belief held, in one version or another by several major religions. Indeed it is, with one terribly alarming difference. This time around, a group of believers with tremendous resources is intent upon forcing the issue, making the conditions so dire that the reluctant Saheb-ul-Zaman is left no choice but to appear and assume his universal reign.

The belief in supernatural intervention to set the world aright is scriptural to major religions, including Islam. The Jews have been earnestly supplicating the Lord for the Messiah to come; the Christians are impatiently awaiting the second coming of Christ; and, the Zoroastrians are convinced that Saoshayant is the one who shall come, defeat the trouble-making Ahriman—Satan—and make the creatures again pure.

Up to this point millennialism was a belief and a hope. No one ever aspired to or had the means of making the anticipated events come about. The matter was in the hands of God. The Muslims’ perennial prayer recited every day, posted in mosques and even on bumpers of vehicles has been, “O, Saheb-ul-Zaman, hasten your coming.” The prayer for the advent, thus far, has been limited to passive supplications of the faithful.

It is a well-established fact that beliefs are a potent impetus to action. If you believe your home is about to be burglarized, you secure the house and take other precautions. If you, under the influence of drugs, believe that a bug is burrowing into your skin, you may take a knife to your own body and try to dig the imaginary bug out.

Hence, it is shortsighted to dismiss the mullahs as a bunch of lunatics who are out of touch with reality and that they have no intention of doing catastrophic mischief to compel the Mahdi’s coming. Maybe some arming of the Iraqi Shiites, a little support for Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in Palestine—but no, no major idiocy. After all, they are rational people and in touch with reality. Any large scale troublemaking spells their doom as well. Thus goes the rationalization—the greatest risky tranquilizer of the mind.

Rationalization, compounded by complacency and denial, can be deadly, particularly when the adversaries have different realities. To the fanatic mullahs ruling Iran Sahaeb-ul-Zaman is an absolute reality and his promised advent is irrevocably ordained. This is their reality and their belief and they have every intention of leading their life according to them.

It is foolish for the non-Muslims to dismiss the mullahs and the Bin Ladens as a bunch of fringe lunatics who are going to go away simply by wishing it. The Islamist reality is that the non-Muslims are the ones who deserve to be done away with; they are the ones who have refused to submit to the summons of Allah for much too long; and, it is time for the faithful to get rid of them. This makes for a lopsided contest. The non-Muslims are passively wishing that the nightmarish surge of Islamism is only a temporary fringe phenomenon doomed to die on its own, while the other side is marshalling its huge destructive power to accomplish its aim by eradicating the non-Muslims.

The cabal of fanatical mullahs ruling Iran has lost its patience, not only with the unbelievers, but also with the Mahdi as well. They aim to force his arrival. The mullahs believe they have the means to make it impossible for the Mahdi to tarry any longer by causing unprecedented death and destruction—conditions deemed essential for his coming. The world must hit the very bottom, before the Savior of the world comes to the rescue, so they firmly believe.

The question is: What does prudence demand? Clearly wishing the problem to go away is not a very effective solution in the same way that wishing for the Saheb-ul-Zaman to come has not been. Reasoning and negotiating with the mullahs and their ilk hold very little, if any, lasting promise. There are always the easy ways of denial and appeasement. We are very good at both practices. No, the Muslims have been around for ages. They make some troubles from time to time. But they really are not all that bad and dangerous. We’ll get along. If we have too, we’ll even let them live by the Sharia—their stone-age laws— in our midst. We’ll be reasonable and they will come around. We’ll just have to get along. So goes the line.

One problem: The other side doesn’t think this way. The Islamofascists don’t believe in the notion of “Live and let live.” They believe that the earth is Allah’s and it has been sullied by the heathens, the unbelievers and the kafir for far too long. Now that they have the means, they aim to make the world to their design and bring about the final solution—a nasty reminder of not too long ago Nazism.

Is this alarmist, or even hatemongering? You don’t believe Muslims can be that intolerant and hostile toward non-Muslims and that they’ll never go to the extremes? You know Muslims personally in your neighborhood or your work place and they are nice people? The nice Muslims you personally know are presently small minorities in alien lands. They have to be nice, and they may indeed be nice. Yet, when the main force of Islamofascism surges forward, these nice folks will either have to join it or be swept aside like the rest of the resisters.

The concern is not with individual Muslims who live as solid citizens in democratic societies. They may have developed a taste for the freedom democracy bestows or have simply learned to tolerate it. Our concern is with the gathering Islamofascist storm from the heart of Islamdom. To truly appreciate Islam, you must experience firsthand Islam in power. Take a quick trip to the lands of the Muslims and find out for yourself how horribly they treat the non-Muslims, even the, “People of the book,” Jews and Christians. Try to have a Bible study group or build a church in Saudi Arabia and discover the benevolence of Islamic rule.

The world is a laboratory where the experiment with Islam shows irrefutable results. The Islamic Republic of Iran represents the cutting edge for the newly petrodollar-invigorated Islam. It is determined to complete its task of ending the world of “Dar-ul-Harb”—the non-Muslim world to be warred upon—and establishing the “Dar-ul-Solh,” or “Dar-ul-Salam”—the Muslim world of the Ummah under the rule of the Mahdi. If achieving this aim hinges on the conflagration of the Third World War, the mullahs are happy to make it happen.

Amil Imani is an Iranian born American citizen and pro-democracy activist who resides in the United States of America. He maintains a website.

Amil Imani

Thursday, July 27, 2006

A Middle East chess match

By Aussiegirl

Lipscomb's analysis is dead on. The only variable is whether Israel will take the step necessary to win decisively, or whether the U.S. will pressure Israel to the usual premature cessation of hostilities with a band-aid ceasefire and meaningless international force policing the border area. This is far bigger than that. If Iran isn't confronted, it is in a position to seize an enormous victory here, not only against the West, but also as the pre-eminent leader of the Islamic worldwide jihadi movement. That's why the Saudis et al. have criticized Hezbollah -- not from any love of Israel. And why Zawahiri is jumping on the bandwagon with a "me too" approach. Suddenly they see that Iran has stolen their thunder, and Al Qaeda is seen as increasingly irrelevant.

A Middle East chess match -- The Washington Times

A Middle East chess match
By Thomas Lipscomb
Published July 27, 2006

The Israeli military has already been surprised by the carefully prepared defenses of Hezbollah, just across the Lebanese border. Their leader, Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah, and his Iranian sponsors have clearly not been wasting their time over the past six years. Israel's military has been facing first-rate defenses that are breaking up the effectiveness of invading Israeli armor with both fixed defenses like mines and IEDs and well-employed flexible defenses like anti-tank missiles. Israeli armor is already responding with a quick fix, like installing belly armor to save their highly trained crews if they can't keep their tanks from being knocked out. [....]

Under these circumstances, the Middle East may well be facing another of those interim truces being pressed by the usual clueless international entities that have solved nothing and only ramp up the next level of confrontation. Even if a NATO force moves in to occupy the area south of the Litani River the Lebanese Army couldn't, or wouldn't, occupy according to U.N. Resolution 1559 and Israeli forces declare victory and go home, in reality Hezbollah and Iran become more empowered and Israel becomes the most vulnerable it has ever been.

That kind of "solution" may eliminate any useful Katuysha sites, but it also leaves Mr. Nasrallah's Hezbollah firmly emplaced with its most effective standoff weapon arsenal and the trained forces to employ them no matter what kind of idiotic "demilitarization" clause they agree to and ignore in the negotiated truce. And Lebanon will have made a giant step in undoing its "Cedar Revolution."
Freed from direct Syrian control, Lebanon will have only moved from the host of a stateless terror group to another failed state politically now under Hezbollah's direct control. And Iran becomes the real beneficiary of this proxy war against Israel, gaining a stunning victory in its real battle for the leadership of the Middle Eastern Muslim world -- without a direct confrontation with either Israel or the United States -- that will significantly alter the balance of power in the Persian Gulf. [....]