Thursday, 26 November 2009

WWII 'Samurai Submarines' found

Subs could surface & assemble bomber aircraft in minutes.

Marine archaeologists have found two World War II era Japanese attack submarines near Pearl Harbour, decades after they were sunk by the US navy to keep their revolutionary technology away from the Soviets, who were demanding access after the war.

During WWII, the Japanese designed these submarines as the ultimate stealth weapon; they could pop up, assemble and launch bomber aircraft within minutes and then submerge. They were almost certainly built to target the critical US East Coast cities of New York and Washington as well as Panama further south. Fortunately for the Americans, WWII ended before these subs could be used, as they were developed late in 1944 and in small numbers. In fact, up to five of these subs were part of the Japanese fleet that fell into US hands after the war. They were towed to Pearl Harbour for inspection. Later, the US, chary of sharing the advanced technology used with the Soviets, scuttled the subs south of Oahu outside Hawaii without bothering to record the exact location.

Archaeologist Terry Kerby of the Hawaii Undersea Research Laboratory has looked for these submarines in manned submersibles since 1992. One, the I401, was found in 2005 and two more (the I14 and I201) were discovered this year. Two more remain missing, the I400 and the I203; the former is supposed to be one of the largest non nuclear submarines ever built.

Each sub kept up to three aircraft in a watertight hanger, each of which could be armed with 1800 lb bombs. Part of Japan's Sen Taka class, these were the fastest submarines on earth in their time, zipping along underwater at 22 knots. They could also dive deeper than any other Japanese submarine and stay underwater for up to a month. Conventional features included retractable deck guns, retractable diving planes and a sleek profile for speed.

The submarines were designed to carry and launch folding wing plane bombers by catapult within minutes after surfacing and dive underwater immediately. Experts say that the I14 could go 37,500 miles, or one and half times around the earth, without refuelling and then launch its bombers. The largest I400 submarines were 400 feet long with technology that was way ahead of the time. Nobody on earth had that kind of long range capability until the era of nuclear submarines and intercontinental ballistic missiles much later.

The US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Van Tilburg says that these samurai subs now belong to the ocean and that people should protect them as they would protect reefs and wildlife. "It is a very fitting place for them. It's dark and quiet, it's deep and cold. They can rest there for quite a while," he told the National Geographic.


Monday, 23 November 2009

Indian Merchant Naval Officer’s killer gets eighteen years

“Incomprehensible and evil attack,” says British judge.

Kunal Mohanty (pic courtesy Crown Office)

London, Nov 14 Christopher Miller has been jailed for at least eighteen years for his unprovoked racial killing of Indian merchant naval officer Kunal Mohanty in Glasgow in March this year. Mohanty had chosen Glasgow to appear for his Masters exams. His wife was expecting their first child at the time of the murder.

Judge John Beckett found the attack "as incomprehensible as it was evil" at the sentencing. Miller, a 25 year old unemployed man, had slashed Mohanty’s neck with a knife in Central Glasgow as the Indian officer and friends were walking down the street. Miller had approached Mohanty and asked for a cigarette. When Mohanty replied that he did not smoke, Miller pulled out a lock knife without warning and slashed his neck. A doctor who tried to save Mohanty testified that the 18cm wound, which severed the carotid artery and jugular vein, was one of the worst injuries he had seen in 29 years of practice.

While Mohanty lay bleeding, Miller was caught on CCTV cameras whooping and celebrating the attack in a nearby car park with a friend. He later burned his clothes to destroy evidence.

Miller’s brother Jamie testified that the killer had told him later that he had “done a Paki”. Miller had claimed all through the trial that the attack was not racist but a botched drunken mugging attempt that had gone “horribly wrong.” His lawyer had claimed that the fact that Mohanty was an Asian was “irrelevant” to the tragic death. The jury did not buy this, convicting Miller unanimously of murder. Neither did the judge, who told Miller in the courtroom that his behaviour after the murder suggested that he was anything but sorry at the time. "You went on to commit further crimes and appeared to celebrate them,” he said, referring to Miller’s behaviour later at an Asian takeaway, where he behaved aggressively with staff, threatening them, shouting racial abuse and spraying them with ketchup. “There can be no justification for slashing the neck of a man who had done you no harm whatsoever. Everyone in this country should feel shame for what you did.”

Kunal’s brother Kanishk is justifiably angry. “This is supposed to be a developed country. I fail to understand what kind of developed country it is where citizens of that country can do something like this to someone simply because they are different,” he said. Meanwhile, back home in Jalandhar, Kunal’s father Devendar Mohanty expressed some satisfaction that the killer had been convicted. He told the media, "Yes, I know my son will not come back, but I am happy that something has been done". Kunal’s mother Suman is less forgiving. “This sort of criminal should be hanged,” she said. “I wish there was the death penalty in England.”

Postscript: In connected developments, British authorities have expressed concern over the activities of racist and neo Nazi organisations in recent days after the far right British National party achieved its best result so far in a Scottish election; at least some British newspapers, including the Guardian, fear that the Miller verdict will only increase tensions in Glasgow. The BNP has been accused of orchestrating racist confrontations in the past.


Sunday, 15 November 2009

Locomotive Breath

All systems are go now. Lock and load time.

Goals: Neutralising any threats to corporate profitability, our vibrant democracy and the American-oops, Indian- way.

the moolah that can be made by the ongoing pillage of resources in India.

Collateral damage:
A billion people, give or take. The environment. Small stuff like that.

Threats: Pesky tribals who worry about their piddly pieces of land. Annoying environmental groups who carp about the decimation of heritage. Doomsday prophets who whine about Climate Change. Naxalites and Maoists. Humanists and other such endangered species. Governments who waver on the road to globalisation and capitalisation, especially before elections.

Biggest threat: Country emerging from stupor with faculties intact.

Action taken:
• Unlimited money, legal and other muscle lined up? Check.
• Capitalism and globalisation sold as the only way to salvation? Check.
• Laws suitably amended for plunder? Largely; work in progress.
• Privatisation polices in line with corporate expectations? Check.
• Industry still blinkered and focused on bottomlines? Check.
• Middle class neutralised? Sensex ticker still mesmerising? Lemmings still stuporous? Check.
• Governments and bureaucracy in pocket? Check.
• Foreign firms with prior experience at managing fallout of greed on board? Check.
• Corporate media co-opted? Check. Other media browbeaten? Not enough.

To Do List
• More of action taken stuff, see above.
• TV anchors to be more self righteous: helps in a billion people letting off steam impotently.
• Government to be persuaded to take the law and order path instead of the equitable one wrt tribals, while solving the Naxalite issue.
• Cultivate more Kodas.
• Beef up PR departments. (Note: Use the term ‘corporate responsibility’ a lot.)
• Browbeat and buy media. (Note: Use model successfully used in the US, UK and Australia)
• Outsource dirty tricks department to companies like Monsanto, if possible, as blaming foreigners works as a good substitute for solving problems. (Note: examine possibilities of the GM and mining lobbies partnering in ongoing plunder)


From Tull: The train it won’t stop going, now it won’t slow down.


Or Yipikaye etcetra. That’s from Die Hard and is more appropriate.


Thursday, 12 November 2009

Security Update

Israeli commandos board and arrest containership near Cyprus.
Prime Minister Netanyahu told the Israeli parliament that the 'Francop' had been seized about 100 miles off the Israeli coastline and those elite Israeli commandos had found that arms and ammunition on board. The Francop, an Antiguan registered 2003 built vessel, apparently claimed to be on a humanitarian mission and tried to evade capture. The BBC reported that the Francop has been taken to Ashdod port in Israel for inspection. Israeli defence sources claim that the arms were destined for Hezbollah and had been shipped by Iran. However, the operators of the Francop, Cyprus based UFS, told the media that they were unaware of the contents of the owners, were not the owners of the ship, and were in any case legally not permitted to check what was in the containers. "That is the responsibility of the customs authorities at the ports we call", a spokesperson for UFS said. The containers in question originated in Iran, according to Israeli sources. The Francop was on a voyage from Iran bound for Syria or Lebanon, with intermediate calls in Yemen and Sudan. The crew of the vessel has denied any knowledge about the armaments in question.

Senior NATO adviser criticises British government for not investigating piracy links to terrorists. Lord Jopling says "paying off pirates could encourage terrorist groups into further acts of piracy." Jopling has written a report for NATO. Titled, "The Growing Threat of Piracy", the report says that much greater effort is needed to examine links between piracy and terrorism. “There is as yet no evidence that money goes to terrorists, but given all of the rumours that al Qaeda has active cells in Somalia, it would not be of huge surprise if there is a connection there," it says. "We will not find out until the government takes the initiative with other interested states to look at the magnitude of the sums involved and where the money is going.” Industry analysts say that a declared link between terrorism and piracy could queer the pitch for ransom payments, as they would then become illegal in the UK, being considered as funding terrorism. The British Home office had promised four months ago to investigate links between Somali pirates and Al Shabaab in Somalia, who many believe is part of the Al Qaeda network. The present scenario allows shipowners to pay ransoms and be reimbursed by insurers. If this is the reason for the government dilly-dallying, observers say, it is a dangerous game they are playing.

Union Home Ministry refuses to confirm Nov 2 intelligence alert warning of sea based terrorist strikes. Earlier, an ANI/Times Now report had said that an alert had been issued by the Intelligence Bureau for Mumbai, Bangalore, Chennai and Kolkata following information that about three dozen members of the Lashkar e Taiba were planning to attack from the sea, and that the Navy, police and Coast Guard had been put on a nationwide high alert in all these cities as well as in Ahmedabad.
The alert was based on specific information, the news channel claimed. The reasons for the authorities refusing to confirm the IB warning are unclear, but security experts say that these attacks are linked to plans of Pakistan based terror outfits to unleash a major attack to mark the first anniversary of the Mumbai attacks. The arrest of terror operatives in the US and the subsequent FBI warning to India alerting authorities to possible attacks on prominent boarding schools in North India as well as on a military establishment in Delhi bear this thinking out.


Tuesday, 10 November 2009

Billion Dollar Baby

Turku, October 31 It is the largest and most expensive cruise ship in the world, with a price tag of anywhere between 1.4 and 1.9 billion dollars. Oasis of the Seas, probably the most opulent passenger ship the world has ever seen, has sailed after it was handed over to the Royal Caribbean Cruiseline by STX's shipyard in Turku, Finland last week.

The luxurious Oasis of the Seas has a massive passenger capacity of 6360 and will carry 2160 crew. It has 2700 staterooms and 28 loft suites, the largest one with an 80 square metre balcony and a Jacuzzi. Sixteen decks high, with a LOA of 360m and a beam of 47m, it is the epitome of extravagance.

Other statistics are equally staggering: Twenty one swimming pools and an ice cube making capacity of 50 tonnes a day guarantee that guests are kept cool and refreshed. Other on board facilities include a casino, spa, shops and restaurants, pool surfing, rock climbing and a zip line. The liner has 5000 kilometers of electrical wiring, 90,000 m2 of carpeting, a science lab, twelve thousand plants including real trees and an aqua park. A veritable museum and cultural centre, with 7000 pieces of art on display, not to speak of the hosting of Broadway and ice shows, the 225,000 behemoth will carry its high living passengers at a speed of just over 20 knots.

It also has seven themed 'neighbourhoods', a new concept which allows passengers to choose their surroundings based on their personal preferences or moods. For example, one neighbourhood, Boardwalk, will take holidaymakers to the nostalgic seaside piers of their youth. The first amphitheatre at sea, AquaTheater, will be the biggest freshwater pool at sea, ever. This will be a pool and rock climbing area by day and a theatre by night. The Royal Promenade will have, in addition to the more common luxury features of present day ships, a skylight and a ' Rising Tide bar', which is a bar that will move between three decks of the ship, allowing customers to get on and off at different level promenades. There will also be a shopping mall, shops and cafes, a champagne bar and a horde of other coffee shops and salons. An 'adults only’ solarium at the bow will feature whirlpools. The sports deck will have basketball, two flowriders, two rock walls, "oasis dunes" and mini golf. An indoor theatre seats 1,300 guests.


Central Park

Amongst some other 'neighbourhoods, the Royal Promenade, Pool and Sports Zone, Vitality at Sea Spa and Fitness Centre, Entertainment Place and Youth Zones will each offer a whole gamut of mind boggling activities in a setting of your choosing. If you want more excitement, you could always stroll in the first park at sea, or use a zip line that races diagonally nine decks above an open air atrium. Moreover, if you want to retire to your loft suite, you can enjoy panoramic views of the ocean with floor to ceiling windows.

Richard Fain, the chief executive of Royal Caribbean, told reporters at the launch, 'Part of the thought process of the ship is to overcome the old myths people have about cruising. It's very hard to look at a vessel like this and think that cruising is secondary when you can choose rock climbing, surfing or zip lining.'

The splendorous ship, that took two and a half years to build, is now en route from Turku to its home port of Fort Lauderdale in the US, where some further upgradation to its amenities will take place before it makes its 4 day maiden voyage to Labadee in Haiti on December 1. She will be cruising mainly in the Mediterranean thereafter, or at least until her equally lavish sister vessel, "Allure of the Seas" hits the waves in 2011.

As for the billion dollar question, “What will a trip on the most expensive luxury liner in the world cost? Well, as they say, "If you have to ask, you can't afford it."



Cleaning up the ‘Great Pacific Garbage Patch’

Knowledge of the existence of the ‘Great Pacific Garbage Patch’ is hardly new: believed to be roughly twice the size of Texas, the “Plastic Vortex”, another name for this area, is a vast area of the Pacific awash with garbage. It does not have strict boundaries, which vary seasonally. Moreover, although floating patches and small pieces of plastics and garbage have been long reported by fishermen and seamen transiting the zone little was known about the magnitude of the problem until Project Kaisei was launched last year.

Project Kaisei (Kaisei is Japanese for Ocean Planet) uses the Tall ship Kaisei to determine the best way to clean up this ‘8th Continent’: research is being conducted to determine whether the all pervasive plastics found in this huge area can be collected and recycled effectively. Plastics kill marine life, enter human food chains and have an overall detrimental effect on human and animal health. Unfortunately, over 60% of plastics and other wastes (including rubber and aluminium) in the ocean come from land based sources and move around with tides, currents and winds once they are waterborne. Even worse, plastics degenerate into smaller pieces over time and with ultraviolet effect. It is a huge problem: we produce 260 million tonnes of plastic annually, and National Geographic says that 85 million plastic bottles are used every three minutes.

The ‘Garbage Patch’ is not all pervasive or dense; it consists mainly of millions of minute pieces of degenerating plastic and other garbage that accumulate or are trapped within spiralling clockwise currents between Japan and the American continent. Nevertheless, signs of the degeneration are ominous and obvious in good weather. Mary Crawley, one of the founders of the project, says, "I've been out to the same part of the ocean 30 years ago, and then it was clean oceanic wilderness. Now it's like a dump." Crawley was on board the ‘Kaisei’ along with two dozen other scientists and key personnel to research the gyre and find solutions. She told CNN, "When you're first out there, you see this beautiful, beautiful deep blue ocean. And then you look closer, and you see that there's this proliferation of floating garbage. And depending on what part of the ocean one's in, you can stand on the bow of the boat and count 400 pieces of garbage. Or in some places, you might only find 25 to 50 pieces."

The Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California, San Diego, also lent its research ship ‘New Horizon’ to the Project. Along with the Tall Ship Kaisei, the vessels covered 35000 miles in the region, collecting and analysing samples and examining options. They found some larger pieces of plastic and other garbage, but what shocked them was “the density and the pervasiveness and extent" of small plastic particles they found. Both ships started sampling the water to collect organic life about 400 miles off the coast of California. Out of more than a hundred samples, not a single net returned without little plastic particles. “Because they (plastic pieces) are so small, it's hard to find water without it," Crowley said. Experts say that the effect on the health of other marine life and humans eating this contaminated fish could hardly be positive.

Project Kaisei is busy researching ways to recycle the deadly plastic. Crowley says the goal is to fund multiple expeditions every year, including on commercial fishing vessels, to do so. "We would go out there with large commercial fishing vessels and bring back tons of garbage. And then we would work with our recycling partners and we'd recycle this material."

One problem is that calm weather is required for collecting the garbage. The Project is contemplating the possibility of installing a recycling plant on a ship, which could collect garbage round the clock in good weather. Also being examined: ways to convert plastic to fuel or building material using advanced and patented technology.