October 2003


NASA reports:

A massive solar flare erupted from the surface of the Sun at 9:51 UTC on October 28, 2003. The solar flare persisted for more than an hour, peaking at 11:10 UTC. Associated with the flare was an ejection of a billion tons or more of gas from the Suns tenuous outer atmosphere, or corona. Both the flare and the coronal mass ejection accelerated electrically charged particles to very high energies and hurled them at near the speed of light directly toward the Earth. It takes light roughly 8 minutes to travel from the Sun to Earth, and these particles made the trip in less than an hour. NOAA is predicting that the coronal mass ejection will hit the Earths magnetosphere sometime early tomorrow (Oct. 29), probably at or before 12 noon UTC.

Mike Davis writes:

Sunday morning in San Diego. The sun is an eerie orange orb, like the eye of a hideous jack-o-lantern. The fire on the flank of Otay Mountain, which straddles the Mexican border, generates a huge whitish-grey mushroom plume. It is a rather sublime sight, like Vesuvius in eruption. Meanwhile the black sky rains ash from incinerated national forests and dream homes.

It may be the fire of the century in Southern California. By brunch on Sunday eight separate fires were raging out of control, and the two largest had merged into a single forty-mile-long red wall. The megalopolis’s emergency resources have been stretched to the breaking point and California’s National Guard reinforcements are 10,000 miles away in Iraq. Panic is creeping into the on-the-spot television reports from scores of chaotic fire scenes.

Fourteen deaths have already been reported in San Bernardino and San Diego counties, and nearly 1000 homes have been destroyed. More than 100,000 suburbanites have been evacuated, triple as many as during the great Arizona fire of 2002 or the Canberra (Australia) holocaust last January. Tens of thousands of others have their cars packed with family pets and mementos. We’re all waiting to flee. There is no containment, and infernal fire weather is predicted to last through Tuesday.

It is, of course, the right time of the year for the end of the world.


Ventura County firefighters watch a twister of flame rise from a back fire in Simi Valley, California.

CNN reports:

(CNN) — Voracious wildfires in Southern California — the worst in a decade — have killed 14 people, and one man who lost his home in Simi Valley lamented, “There is nothing left.”

At least 10 fires had burned more than 280,000 acres and destroyed at least 600 homes by Sunday night.

Fires blazed as far north as Simi Valley in Ventura County, east to San Bernardino County and south to San Diego County. San Diego officials said about 30 homes were burned at Scripps Ranch on Sunday night, and 150 burned in the area earlier.

CNN reports:

ROME, Italy — Actor Jim Caviezel, who plays the son of God in Mel Gibson’s controversial film “The Passion of Christ” has been struck by lightning during shooting.

Caviezel was uninjured, but a producer described how he saw smoke coming from the actor’s ear.

An assistant director on the film, Jan Michelini, was also hit — for the second time in a few months.


Jill Lawless, Associated Press, Writes:

LONDON Three Concordes swooped into Heathrow Airport Friday, joining in a spectacular finale to the era of luxury supersonic jet travel.

The last regular passenger flight from New York arrived with every seat filled, a feat that had become increasingly rare for a plane that was a technological marvel but a commercial flop.

Flight 002 landed just past 4 p.m., minutes after two other British Airways Concordes. One flew from Edinburgh, Scotland, carrying winners of a competition, and the other had taken off from Heathrow an hour and a half earlier and carried invited guests on a loop over the Bay of Biscay.

Radio Free Asia, via Snow Lion Publications, reports

In letter left behind after his death, Nyima Drakpa describes torture

WASHINGTON, Oct. 6, 2003--The Tibetan monk who died last week while serving a prison term for putting up anti-Chinese posters has left behind a letter, obtained by Radio Free Asia (RFA), in which he describes torture he suffered at the hands of his Chinese jailers.

The letter, dated April 1, 2001 and addressed to Tibet's exiled leader the Dalai Lama, was intended for release after Nyima Drakpa's death. Nyima Drakpa, in his late 20s, died at 4 a.m. on Oct. 2 in Dawu (in Chinese, Daofu) County, an historically Tibetan area now part of China's Sichuan Province, according to sources who spoke on condition of anonymity.

"On March 22, [2000], when I was in Lhasa, four Public Security people from Dawu County came and arrested me," he wrote. "Without asking anything, they beat me so severely that I couldn't speak. Without food or even a drop of water, I was put on a plane and escorted to Chengdu, where I was detained for 10 days."

"During those days I was beaten severely and couldn't move because I was in so much pain. Without any pity, they made me half-dead and my legs became numb. Under such severe pain and torture, I confessed that I had put up the posters. Therefore last year, on Oct. 5, the Karze Court sentenced me to nine years' imprisonment," he wrote. "I am still suffering. I cannot eat well and my legs remain damaged by the beatings. I know I will not survive long. I am not afraid of death."

"I appeal to His Holiness the Dalai Lama to let the world know of this. All our Tibetan brothers and sisters should know how the Chinese are illegally bullying us with torture and imprisonment. Every one of us should be united
and protest against China."


JOEL GAY, Anchorage Daily News, reports:

A Japanese corporation wants to thrust the Interior community of Galena into international limelight by donating a new, unconventional electricity-generating plant that would light and heat the Yukon River village pollution-free for 30 years.

There’s a catch, of course. It’s a nuclear reactor.

Not a huge, Three Mile Island-type power plant but a new generation of small nuclear reactor about the size of a big spruce tree. Designers say the technology is safe, simple and cheap enough to replace diesel-fired generators as the primary energy source for villages across rural Alaska.

William Raspberry, Washington Post, writes:

“The Bush administration has stuck its hand into a coconut called Iraq, grabbed a fistful of oil and control, and now is finding it difficult to get out. It is trapped by its power and its greed. Now it screams for help from the United Nations (which it had earlier dismissed as irrelevant and inconsequential). And all the administration would have to do is to turn loose some control, and it might be able to withdraw with dignity.”

“But like the monkey, it places greater value on the spoils of war than on freedom for the Iraqi people, reconciliation with the world order and what might very well be the soul of our nation.”

JANELLE BROWN, The New York Times, reports:

IT was 9 o’clock on a Friday night at Mamasan’s Bistro in the Mission District and the food was running a little late, but no one seemed to mind. Two dozen diners perched on folding chairs, listening to a hip-hop D.J. spin classic De La Soul in the glow of the Christmas lights dangling overhead. The restaurant’s proprietor, a willowy 37-year-old woman who would reveal only her first name, Lynette, was in the kitchen placidly doctoring coconut yams on her crowded four-burner stove.

‘’This place has become my second home,'’ said Carlos Castille, an artist, as he sipped a coconut-mango cocktail. ‘’There’s a comfort to it. It’s so mellow. I’ve brought all my friends.'’

But securing a seat at Mamasan’s is not easy. The restaurant, which also happens to be Lynette’s apartment, has no sign, and the only way you will ever find it is if someone tells you where it is (a quiet street, a hidden door, up a dark stairwell to the top apartment). Even then, you can’t just show up: you must have an invitation. To get one you need an introduction from a previous guest. This may seem as if it’s a complicated way to get a plate of grilled salmon, but Mamasan’s Bistro is not a legal endeavor. Its kitchen lacks the certificates, permits and inspections required by the city of San Francisco. And although the coconut-mango cocktails flowed, Lynette does not have a liquor license.

(via BoingBoing)

CHICAGO (AP) Six people were killed Friday in an extra-alarm fire that trapped workers in smoke-filled stairways and hallways of a Cook County administration building in the heart of downtown, officials said.

The dead were among 13 victims overcome by smoke who were not discovered until after the fire had been brought under control and firefighters were conducting a floor-by-floor search of the 35-story building. Some of those trapped had called 911 on their cellular phones.

AP Photo
Dekyi, curator of the Potala Palace collection in Lhasa, Tibet, holds a nobleman’s cap, made of gold and silver and adorned with turquoise.

AP via CNN reports:

SANTA ANA, California (AP) –For years, only those who climbed to the fabled “roof of the world” glimpsed the sacred treasures of the Dalai Lamas.

Now, the Western world will get a firsthand look at the items used in lavish ceremonies and daily rituals at the Potala Palace by the Dalai Lamas and their courts when nearly 200 rare objects go on display for the first time outside of Lhasa, Tibet.

“Tibet: Treasures From the Roof of the World,” which opens Sunday at The Bowers Museum, is the first stop on a two-year tour of the United States.


Jim Banke, Space.com, reports:

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — China reached a milestone in human history Tuesday with the launch of its first piloted spaceflight into Earth orbit.

Blasting off from a remote space base in the Gobi Desert atop a Long March 2F rocket, a single Chinese astronaut named Yang Liwei is circling the planet every 90 minutes aboard the Shenzhou 5 spacecraft, according to the official Xinhua News Agency.

As a result, China has become only the third nation on Earth capable of independently launching its citizens into orbit. The former Soviet Union was first in 1961, followed by the United States in 1962.

Leander Kahney, WIRED News, reports:

The brand new “Big Mac” supercomputer at Virginia Tech could be the second most powerful supercomputer on the planet, according to preliminary numbers.

Early benchmarks of Virginia Tech’s brand new supercomputer — which is strung together from 1,100 dual-processor Power Mac G5s — may vault the machine into second place in the rankings of the worlds’ fastest supercomputers, second only to Japan’s monstrously big and expensive Earth Simulator.

The Big Mac’s final score on the Linpack Benchmark won’t be officially revealed until Nov. 17, when the rankings of the Top 500 supercomputer sites are made known at the International Supercomputer Conference.

But Jack Dongarra, one of the compilers of a Top 500 list, said Tuesday that preliminary numbers submitted to him suggest Big Mac could be ranked as high as second place.

By Wes Phillips, Stereophile Magazine, writes:

How does it feel to be One of the beautiful people?

Apple’s 30GB iPod is an extremely sexy gadget. As a piece of industrial design, it is remarkable in its beauty and operability. As an extension of Apple’s lifestyle-friendly suite of music-photography-video applications, it is a screaming success. It’s fun to use, and if just seeing one is enough to induce lust, actually holding one is enough to tempt a righteous man to larceny. But is it a serious piece of kit worthy of serious consideration by an audiophile?

Surprisingly enough, I believe the answer is yes. The open nature of the iPod’s playback formator, more properly speaking, its lack of a single playback standardmeans that the player can offer the sound quality its owner demands of it. Presumably, that could even include options not currently supported, including space-hogging, hi-rez digital files. However, that will happen only if audiophiles take hard-drive-based players seriously enough to participate in the ongoing dialog concerning their use and possibilities.

Fortunately, that’s already happening, as a quick Google of the subject will reveal. Users are actively seeking better sound, even as they trade stories about how much fun they’re having with the product as it currently exists.

And why shouldn’t they be happy? With the iPod, you can have your cake and eat it, too. On the outside, all that the rest of the world will see is that you’re one of the iPod-totin’ beautiful people; no one will ever know that under those headphones you’re listening to monstrously good-sounding, hi-rez digital copies of your favorite demo discs. Baby, you’re a rich man!

Ben Berkowitz, Reuters, reports:

LOS ANGELES, Oct 9 (Reuters) - Three days after a Princeton graduate student posted a paper on his Web site detailing how to defeat the copy-protection software on a new music CD by pressing a single computer key, the maker of the software said on Thursday it would sue him.

In a statement, SunnComm Technologies Inc. said it would sue Alex Halderman over the paper, which said SunnComm’s MediaMax CD-3 software could be blocked by holding down the “Shift” key on a computer keyboard as a CD using the software was inserted into a disc drive.

“SunnComm believes that by making erroneous assumptions in putting together his critical review of the MediaMax CD-3 technology, Halderman came to false conclusions concerning the robustness and efficacy of SunnComm’s MediaMax technology,” it said.

SunnComm, which trades on the Over-the-Counter Bulletin Board, said it has lost more than $10 million of its market value since Halderman published his report.

According to a NEC-Mitsubishi Press Release:

CHICAGO October 6, 2003 Setting a new trend among computer users in the workforce, multi-monitor computing can contribute to increased productivity and enhanced employee satisfaction among corporate users. NEC-Mitsubishi Electronics Display of America, Inc., the number one stand-alone vendor of flat panel desktop displays, ATI Technologies the University of Utah, today released the results of the first ever systematic study of productivity increases across ordinary office tasks using multiple monitor configurations.

Linda Goldston and Lori Aratani, Mercury News, report:

For all the jokes on late-night TV, the circus atmosphere and more than enough candidates to elect governors in all 50 states, California’s multimillion-dollar recall drama Tuesday ended like any election — with a winner.

Except this time the victor was a world-famous movie star.

And Arnold Schwarzenegger threw himself a party like no other.

Adam Mynott, BBC South Asia correspondent, writes:

The sacred cow, one of the enduring symbols of the Indian capital Delhi, is gradually being moved from the streets.

The authorities have decided there are too many of them and they are not just a nuisance but also a menace.


At the Big Green Gathering 2003 (held in the heart of the Mendip Hills, near Cheddar, Somerset, England) on Saturday the 2nd of August 2003, the World’s First Solar-Powered Internet Rickshaw was launched across a muddy field amidst an atmosphere of hilarity, surprise and downright disbelief.

Following their their debut event in 2002 at the Big Green Gathering, Wireless.psand.net returned a year later intent on entertaining and educating surprised festival goers and crew alike. Supplying site-wide wireless access using a satellite dish for Internet connectivity had become second nature to the Wireless.psand.net crew. On the look out for a further challenge, they were determined to demonstrate just how “mobile” mobile can get.

To put the event into perspective, the Big Green Gathering is a annual get together of people attempting to provide inspiration and education on alternative approaches to daily living that could lead to a cleaner and healthier future for local and global communities. Conventional distributed mains and fossil fuel generated power are disallowed, leading to a demonstration of inventive technologies that are hopefully less harmful to the planet.



JEFF KOLKEY and ERIC R. OLSON, The Northwest Herald (Illinois), report:

Eight people were killed and five were in critical condition at area hospitals late Wednesday after a five-vehicle accident on Interstate 90.

The crash occurred just before 3 p.m. on eastbound I-90 as traffic slowed about a half-mile west of the Hampshire-Marengo toll plaza.

In the right lane of traffic, one semitrailer rear-ended the semi in front of it, Illinois State Police said.

The rear truck then caromed into a mini tour bus in the left lane, tearing apart the back end of the bus and killing seven of its 22 passengers on impact, state Trooper Doug Whitmore said.

An eighth passenger died Wednesday evening after being transported to Rockford Memorial Hospital.

“This was a major, major accident,” Whitmore said.

Police would not release the names of those killed in the crash until their family members could be notified.

The 22 people aboard the bus were returning to Chicago after visiting Anderson Gardens, a Japanese garden in Rockford, Whitmore said.

They were members of a group called International Women Associates, a fellowship group for long-term visitors to Chicago. The women ranged in age from 40 to older than 70.

Most were in their 60s and 70s, according to area hospitals where they were treated.

clover_kicker, kuro5hin.org, writes:

In every tech’s life, there comes a time when management starts to insist on better documentation.

Perhaps a round of layoffs or outsourcing is imminent. Perhaps the simmering disdain between techs and management has escalated into open hatred. Either way, you are clearly on the way out, and management wants to grease the wheels for your successor.


A schoolboy has impressed experts at US space agency Nasa after capturing a rare picture of a meteor burning out above his home town [Pencoed] in south Wales. (BBC)

WantToKnow.info reports:

The CIA has declassified over 18,000 pages of documents on extensive mind control programs carried out since the early 1950s. [..]

A declassified CIA document dated 7 Jan 1953 describes the experimental creation of multiple personality in two 19-year old girls. “These subjects have clearly demonstrated that they can pass from a fully awake state to a deep H [hypnotic] controlled state by telephone, by receiving written matter, or by the use of code, signal, or words, and that control of those hypnotized can be passed from one individual to another without great difficulty. It has also been shown by experimentation with these girls that they can act as unwilling couriers for information purposes.” (CIA Mori ID 190684, 1/7/53)

Another declassified document dated 10 Feb 1954 describes an experiment of relevance to the creation of unsuspecting assassins: “Miss [whited out] was instructed (having previously expressed a fear of firearms) that she would use every method at her disposal to awaken Miss [whited out] (now in a deep hypnotic sleep). Failing this, she would pick up a pistol nearby and fire it at Miss [whited out]. She was instructed that her rage would be so great that she would not hesitate to “kill” [whited out] for failing to awaken. Miss [whited out] carried out these suggestions to the letter including firing the (unloaded) gun at [whited out] and then proceeded to fall into a deep sleep. After proper suggestions were made, both were awakened. Miss [whited out] expressed absolute denial that the foregoing sequence had happened.” (CIA Mori ID 190691, 2/10/54)

EDITH BEVIN, (Australian) Northern Territory News, reports:

A five-year-old Territory girl shocked teachers when she showed her class how to make a bong out of a Coke bottle during a “show and tell'’ session.

— Next Page »