Thursday, November 29, 2007

Striking parallels

What is the standard procedure for explosive demolition of high-rises? Implosion, according to experts speaking on the History Channel feature Modern Marvels.

"The building implodes when the vertical support columns are removed," as the feature story says. One expert noted that an imploded building generally falls in eight or nine seconds.

Both main World Trade Center towers and a third high-rise collapsed in a manner indistinguishable from implosion. The NIST specifically said that the walls of the main towers fell inward because core columns were "shortened" (allegedly by fire heat and buckling). Though trade center collapse times are difficult to ascertain precisely, very rapid falls are seen in videos and collapse times seem to be not much faster than free fall time.

Typically, RDX explosive charges are placed at two points on a column to snap it and a third "kicker" charge blows the piece out horizontally in order to initiate rapid collapse, according to History Channel experts. The two RDX charges are placed in notches burned out of the column by a worker.

RDX is used not only by demolition firms but also by the Pentagon. It packs a detonating velocity of 26,000 feet per second and a pressure of 3 million pounds per square inch.

In some cases, the charges are timed to go off at intervals of fractions of a second. A hotel at Clearwater Beach, Fla., had charges spaced a half second apart, and some of these blasts were visible from the street. Each of the twin towers collapsed after bright, tightly timed blasts went off, but the NIST dismissed these as coincidental jet fuel blasts (jet fuel doesn't pack enough punch to sever a column, the NIST admitted).

If one looks at videos of the trade tower collapses and the various controlled implosions shown on the History Channel, one finds little if any difference, except for scale.

The segment may be purchased online from the History Channel.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Who warned Israelis on 9/11?

Two Israel-based employees of the now-defunct Odigo instant messaging service received a message warning of a big attack in lower Manhattan about two hours before the first plane struck. Stories appeared in Haaretz and the Washington Post (the stories survive on the web but may have been purged from the newspaper web sites).

That's on the public record. After that, the picture gets murky.

Of 4,000 Israeli nationals in New York that day (source: Anti-Defamation League) few were killed in the attacks. Specifically, three died in the twin towers and two were among those listed as plane casualties (let's be clear: military drone planes struck the towers).

So there is at least some ground to believe that the two Odigo employees alerted the Odigo office near the World Trade Center and that those employees messaged Israelis in Manhattan.

Odigo refused to disclose the content of the message but said that Israeli security and the FBI had been notified, apparently after the attacks began, though this point is fuzzy. I don't recall anything on Odigo in the 9/11 commission report, which lacks an index. If you know of some closely held method of searching the report and its appendixes online, let me know.

Now here's a question for New Yorkers Rudolph Giuliani and Hillary Clinton: who tipped off Israelis that an attack was imminent? What does the Israeli government have to say about that?

One later report implied that some terrorist group had sent the message to the Israelis, but this smells like disinformation. It seems more likely that Israeli intelligence knew the attack was coming and that some Israeli spook leaked the information to his or her countrymen. One can't help but wonder whether Israeli intelligence had been monitoring the plotting and that an insider had signaled the plot was a "go" about two hours in advance.

Mere speculation, you object. Yes, and why so? Because U.S. and Israeli authorities have been extremely tight-lipped on a matter that many Americans might wish to know more about, especially in light of the fact that the 9/11 attacks were used to implement the militarist Israel lobby's war agenda.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

9/11 coverage and obstruction of justice

Is it possible that media professionals could face obstruction of justice and conspiracy charges for failing to do their civic duty by passing along information they had on suspicious activity, whether federal or otherwise, regarding the 9/11 attacks?

The First Amendment covers a lot of ground, including the right not to publish information in one's possession. If a news organization or media professional publishes something that could affect a criminal inquiry, the duty to inform law enforcement agencies has probably been fulfilled (unless one chooses a form of publication that cannot reasonably be expected to be seen by the police).

But, if a reporter, editor, publisher or other media person vetoes such a story, then there may be an obligation to report this material directly to some law enforcement agency.

So, reporters and others who are sitting on such material might wish to consider putting together a report with supporting materials and making copies available to investigative authorities. In fact, why not send copies to a number of places: The FBI, the Justice Department, New York City Police, Port Authority Police, Pennsylvania State Police, Washington, D.C., police and the criminal investigation divisions of military services?

Also, we need a responsible historian or two to set up a 9/11 documents archive that makes available online all declassified 9/11 documents. The archive would also be a repository for video, photos, tapes and authenticated reproductions of physical evidence. Reporters would make their notes and amplified reports available.

The archive should get no federal funding and make every effort to stay free of political control.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

News story blockades

About a week ago, the "email to a friend" function repeatedly failed on a Herald of Scotland story about the U.S. refurbishing its Diego Garcia facilities for an Iran air strike.

Today, I'm having the same problem with Yahoo's "email to a friend" function about an AP story concerning congressional testimony about "suitcase nukes." The story provides very good background on the improbability of such a weapon.

I know not whether the block is meant to "cover" for the previous block, or is meant to send a message that "we are in control of communication" or is simply another instance of internet censorship that appears to reflect Israeli militarist propaganda and other needs.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Is America under Israeli military censorship?

If so, a lot of things would make sense.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Waterboarding and 9/11: connecting the dots

Democratic senators are aggravated by Michael Mukasey's refusal to declare whether he considers waterboarding to be torture and hence unconstitutional and illegal.

And, as the Washington Post and others point out, waterboarding was used by the CIA to force Khalid Sheikh Mohammed to talk. The Post properly calls Mohammed the "alleged 9/11 mastermind."

Yes, and Mohammed's "confessions" seem highly reminiscent of the Spanish Inquisition or Stalin's show trial methods. Mohammed's "confessions," as recounted by the 9/11 commission, read like a long cover story for a U.S. covert operation that occurred on 9/11.

So shouldn't lawmakers be connecting the dots here: If waterboarding is reprehensible and can be used to elicit false confessions, doesn't that mean the congressional and "independent" probes of 9/11 are resting on very thin ice? If lawmakers know that waterboarding is wrong and liable to elicit bad "intelligence," shouldn't they be demanding a thorough re-examination of the events of 9/11?

And lest we forget, several of these Democratic senators are presidential candidates who keep trying to avoid the issue of 9/11 treason.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Kremlin weakens its neocon alliance

The attacks of 9/11 spurred Putin to make common cause with U.S. neocons taking aim at Islamic radicals (and others). Putin wanted a free hand to suppress the Chechnyan separatists without constant carping by the United States.

So the Kremlin was in no mood to play up the ludicrousness of U.S. claims about the attacks or to upbraid Washington for staging a deliberate deception on U.S. soil.

But things are different now. Putin administered a stinging rebuke to U.S. neocons by arranging a Caspian nation bloc opposed to a U.S. war against Iran. This means that the U.S. will find those nations balky about permitting their soil to be used for staging areas. Essentially, as one analyst points out, neocon war aims against Iran have been effectively blocked.

Does this mean that Putin and the cheka are now less supportive of 9/11 coverup? Politically, they have little choice but to distance themselves from the 9/11 coverup propaganda put out by the neocons. The political problem is so large that a broad brush technique is necessary. The Kremlin playing a nuanced game concerning 9/11 coverup by the neocons would send a mixed signal concerning its resolute opposition to the continuing "war on Islam," which is how much of the Muslim world sees the "war on terror."

The Russian press, if it continues to be too timid or neutral about Washington's complicity in 9/11, will tend to confuse the Muslim world and hence weaken Putin's Caspian diplomacy.

Such "left gatekeepers" (to borrow a phrase from John McMurtry) as Noam Chomsky will suddenly feel quite isolated concerning their attacks on 9/11 skepticism. However, useful as Chomsky may have been to the Kremlin on certain issues in the past, Russia's political needs will take precedence over a cheka desire not to humiliate those considered friends, or, if not friends, then useful persons.

George Soros, who has chastised AIPAC and the Israel lobby for suppression of dissent in America in its furtherance of a neocon agenda, may find that his adversaries are not quite as strong as previously and that their blunderbusses, such as the Murdoch press, are not quite so sure of themselves. Will the Holocaust survivor extend his criticisms to include the neocon suppression of valid dissent concerning the official tall tales about 9/11?

The billionaire whose philanthropy helped tilt the Warsaw pact into oblivion has thus far feared to tackle that issue, no doubt worrying that he will be marginalized. Yet, avoiding marginalization isn't always productive. Look at the 2004 election, which statisticians believe, with a high level of confidence, was won across the board by Kerry. Interestingly, despite all his donations and his best efforts to block Bush's "re-election" in 2004, Bush "won." Who was it who suppressed the many serious questions about that election's integrity before Bush's second inauguration? Had the questions had sufficient publicity, Congress might have been forced to examine the election and Bush's claim to the throne could have been forestalled. Was it not the Israel lobby, using its powerful influence in the media that blocked the proper exercise of democracy, no doubt because of a desire not to impede the Israel lobby/neocon agenda in the Mideast?

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

NSA shocker fans 9/11 suspicion

Powerful Democratic lawmaker John Conyers is headed for a direct clash with Bush and his security chiefs over highly questionable secret activities that seem to have been authorized well in advance of 9/11.

Conyers sent a letter to National Intelligence Director Mike McConnell and the Justice Dept. demanding details of secret eavesdropping arrangements made seven months before 9/11 that were disclosed in court documents concerning the former CEO of Qwest. Conyers said details were needed in light of Bush's desire to apply retroactive protection from lawsuits to those telecoms that cooperated with the NSA and because of suspicion that Qwest and its CEO were targeted for payback for refusing to comply with the covert demands.

A respected Georgetown University professor of constitutional law told a television audience that 9/11 was amazingly "convenient" for Bush and his associates in that the secretive domestic spying operation showed an intention to seize excessive central power, according to David Edwards and Nick Juliano at Rawstory.

Jonathan Turley told Countdown Monday: "This administration was seeking a massive expansion of presidential power and national security powers before 9/11. 9/11 was highly convenient, in that case."

Turley denied necessarily implying that Bush and his aides welcomed 9/11, "but when it happened, it was a great opportunity to seize powers that they had long wanted at the FBI."

However, a number of professors, some with science degrees, have openly challenged the truthfulness of the official U.S. narrative of the events of 9/11. Additionally, a number of professional statisticians, some of them professors, have expressed strong skepticism concerning the outcome of the 2004 presidential election.

Polls have shown that doubts about 9/11 are widespread among Americans, though the presidential candidates avoid the topic, apparently in part because the Israel lobby doesn't welcome such debate, as is evidenced by the Murdoch press, which is considered one of the biggest cannons of that lobby.

Pre-9/11 machinations of the Bush administration will be taken by many as further evidence of a conspiracy to commit perfidious treason.

Richard French, an RNN television commentator, said that if the surveillance power grab charges are true, Bush is a liar who claimed he had been motivated to authorize warrantless wiretaps by the events of 9/11.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Secret wiretap grab 7 months before 9/11

Seven months before 9/11, shortly after Bush was inaugurated for his first term, the NSA was arranging for wiretap powers that went beyond lawful authority, according to court documents obtained by the Rocky Mountain News.

It appears that Bush may have secretly seized wartime surveillance power -- as soon as he got into office!

Joseph P. Nacchio, former chief of Qwest, a telecom company, tried to use this information in his fight with the U.S. attorney over purported insider trading. He was convicted after the judge agreed to a novel interpretation of insider trading law.

Nacchio said he had been invited to NSA headquarters in February 2001 to discuss a defense contract for improving internet security. During the discussion, the NSA official proposed an arrangement that Nacchio rejected, on advice of Qwest's counsel, as illegal. NSA has suppressed details, but it is apparent that a warrantless wiretap operation was the subject.

Qwest did not get the defense contract, but Nacchio did get prosecuted after he revealed that the feds had asked Qwest to do something illegal. The court papers are the first indication that this wiretap ower was obtained by the NSA long before 9/11 or any sign of war.

Other telecom firms, which obtained contracts, apparently did go along with the NSA program. Bush is demanding that they be retroactively protected by Act of Congress from lawsuits regarding breach of duty to protect privacy.

So I'd like to know: did Cheney go over to Capitol Hill and quietly brief eight members of Congress on this clandestine program in February 2001?

Aside from the Rocky, the New York Times carried a piece on the matter on Sunday.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Mukasey, Podhoretz and Pipes

Mukasey, Podhoretz and Pipes. What do they have in common? For one thing, they all are advisers to the Giuliani campaign.

Norman Podhoretz, who is still with Commentary, formerly published by the American Jewish Committee, is a neocon hawk who favors bombing Iran and who sees questions about 9/11 as obviously nothing but the work of an anti-Semitic conspiracy.

Daniel Pipes, an influential U.S. professor who promotes a Zionist view of Israel, strongly backed the Iraq war, even though he was well aware of the potential for a fratricidal mess. He sees Israel as besieged on all sides, charging that Syria is developing chemical weapons and that Iran is aiming to become a nuclear power. He is worried that too many Muslims in America may prove dangerous to American Jews.

Mukasey, as New York described him, is a graduate of an Upper East Side yeshiva who believes that national security courts should try terrorism cases in secret. Mukasey lived for some time under 24-hour guard stemming from his role as a judge in terrorism cases. He is known as a law-and-order judge.

The fact that Mukasey teams up with two of the most notable voices of the hard-right Israel lobby is quite revealing.

By supporting Giuliani, one must conclude that Mukasey is a hawk who believes that there is a war against terrorism that the United States must wage at full throttle. By joining with Podhoretz and Pipes, Mukasey indicates that he does not wish to face the overwhelming and irrefutable evidence of treason on 9/11 -- a standard position of the Israel lobby. Hence, we can expect that, as attorney general, Mukasey will find ways to rationalize all sorts of "war" measures that vitiate basic American freedoms.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Oh goodness! A veto threat...

Heaven forfend! Bush says he will veto a wiretap bill that doesn't give telecoms retroactive immunity from lawsuits filed on behalf of Americans whose privacy was compromised without benefit of warrants.

And, oh horrors, the Democrats might not be able to muster enough votes to override a veto!!!

Just one point: if Bush vetoes the bill, Congress doesn't have to do anything. OK, maybe the Dems don't have enough moxie to stand up to Bush after the veto, when he screams that the Democrats are jeopardizing national security by not passing a bill. But here's the answer: pass the same bill again. Then they can say Bush keeps vetoing a an important national security bill because he wants telecom firms to be above the law.

The great divide

Much of AIPAC backs the Netanyahu hawks. The Netanyahu-Cheney axis is reflected in the U.S. agreement to play the dummy up game on behalf of Israel's attack on Syria. It's OK to silence everybody, as long as the Israeli hawks are allowed to say what they will.

So we see that the majority of American Judaism is at odds with AIPAC, but, the gag orders everywhere may prevent many Jews from realizing how much they disagree with the Netanyahu crowd, AIPAC and the Israel lobby.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Top court cloud hangs over wiretap bill

The warrantless wiretap bill now in Congress is viewed by many as a cave-in to White House fear-mongering. At any rate, a strong possibility is that it will be so constitutionally botched-up that it will be DOA before it reaches the Supreme Court.

After all, the Constitution doesn't give Congress the power to void the Fourth Amendment protection against warrantless searches of a person's communications and effects. If the ACLU doesn't run that one up to the top court, another group will.

And we see Rockefeller trying slip in retroactive immunity for telecom companies who may have broken laws by improperly acceding to warrantless wiretaps.

There is only one reason for that provision: to block the lawsuits over illegal activity. The companies don't need financial protection. They'll come to terms with the plaintiffs if necessary. This is about Rockefeller and Bush trying to conceal criminal activity.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Israel lobby muzzles 9/11 truth

Let's face facts: the official falsehoods about 9/11 well serve the foreign policy of the hawkish Israel lobby and its counterparts in Israel. After 9/11, Ariel Sharon repeated, word for word, Bush's speech announcing a global war against terrorists. During the run-up to the Iraq war, the Israel lobby was publicly quiet while privately promoting the invasion.

Of course, treason on 9/11 doesn't necessarily point to Israeli involvement. However, it is clear that the government of Israel and its militant U.S. backers view the 9/11 attacks as a boon which they cannot turn away.

When you read Abe Foxman's reports on 9/11 conspiracy theories, you come away with the impression that anyone who suspects treason that day is out to get the Jews. The head of the Anti-Defamation League avoids the topic of serious criticism of the official claims but lets loose with both barrels at people supposedly trying to whip up anti-Semitism, including such easy targets as David Duke. Foxman also bluntly equates suspicion of Israeli intelligence with anti-Semitism. In other words, he's running interference for conspirators, whether he knows it or not.

Commentary magazine, long headed by Norman Podhoretz, has denounced the liberal Tikkun magazine for publishing an article by David Ray Griffin, who suspects radical neocon involvement in the 9/11 attacks. Podhoretz has recommended the U.S. launch an air war against Iran. Tikkun's editor, Michael Lerner, has expressed skepticism concerning the U.S. government's possible role in 9/11, but doesn't accept the idea of a Jewish conspiracy. However, he does denounce the hawkish Israel lobby for pushing America and Israel into Mideast bloodshed.

The Israel lobby's role in muting the media and terrorizing Congress has been well documented. Do you wonder why the media is so reticent about 9/11 truth? The Israel lobby doesn't see 9/11 truth as politically useful. Do you wonder why the Democratic Congress can't force a U.S. withdrawal from Iraq? The Israel lobby doesn't want it. Do you wonder why the Democrats are wishy-washy about proposed attacks on Iran and Syria? The Israel lobby has long had Mideast control on its agenda.

Yes, sure. The Israel lobby isn't operating in a vacuum. There are deals with the oil interests and with the Russians, who want a free hand against the Chechnyans and other Muslim groups.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

The Armageddon cults and the Israel lobby

I enjoyed watching Bill Moyers on PBS last night probing the role of so-called Christian Zionism in the Israel lobby. The show included a thoughtful interview with Tikkun editor Rabbi Michael Lerner, a liberal who denounces the Israel lobby as a pernicious influence, and Dr. Timothy P. Weber, an evangelical skeptical of the Armageddon cults.

Now, in a sense, I am a Christian Zionist and a dispensationalist, but that doesn't mean I claim a railroad-timetable comprehension of the mysteries of biblical prophecy. (For more on my point of view, see my piece Where is Zion? found at

Curiously, the most extreme of these "End Times" cults, led by Pastor John Hagee who favors an attack on Iran as doing a favor to the state of Israel, is endorsed as a good friend by the Israel lobby and politicians such as Sen. Joseph Lieberman and Sen. John McCain.

Yet, most Americans are not strict literalists concerning the Bible and most Americans who consider themselves born-again Christians are not closely aligned with these cults. Moyers and his guests were wondering why these cults have such influence and seem to penetrate the consciousness of so many people.

I think they overlooked the most obvious reason: These cults seem to have inordinate access to television broadcasts. There is big money in televangelism and those preachers who take the "Israel is always right" line may well find that their path is made easier. Worth checking, I'd say.

Lerner argued that these extremist religious views, which are in harness with Israeli's hard right, are bad for America, bad for Israel and bad for the Jews.

My estimate is that the American people have little inkling of the extent to which a very tiny group of Armageddon cultists is tilting policy in favor of the Israel lobby.

Granted extremist Islam is an evil force. But extremist solutions are likely to make matters worse, as we see now in Iraq.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Times confirms doubts about '9/11 mastermind'

Confessions sweated out of al Qaeda chieftain Khalid Sheikh Mohammed are exaggerated and contradictory, intelligence sources told the New York Times.

Though some operatives claimed to have obtained "good intelligence" from Mohhamed through use of torment tactics, others are doubtful, the Times reports today.

The report by Scott Shane, David Johnston and James Risen on a secret reauthorization of harsh interrogation methods, confirms a New Yorker claim that intelligence community professionals had serious reservations about the reliability of Mohammed's statements. The Aug. 13 New Yorker carried Jane Mayer's chilling report on the CIA's "black sites."

Though the Times report, in a clause, calls Mohammed the "chief planner" of the 9/11 attacks, the substance of the Times report raises doubts about such an unqualified assertion. The 9/11 commission relied on what Mohammed purportedly told the CIA about those attacks without being able to question him or listen to interrogation tapes.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Hillary's electability problem

The Whitewater scandal was a long time ago, and anyway, Hillary was cleared, wasn't she?

The Vietnam war was even longer ago, and yet Kerry in 2004 fell victim to a slashing attack on his war record.

Sure Hillary looks like a hip, strong Democrat right now. True, she's fairly popular in her "home" state and in California. But her problem is the rest of the country.

I'd say along about next summer, the Whitewater attack ads will hit: Hillary, the fast-talking lawyer mixed up in sleazy land dealings, bank fraud and a tax problem that ended with the violent death of a close associate. Michael Chertoff, Homeland Security chief and former counsel to the Senate Whitewater inquiry, might be an adviser to the script writers.

The GOP is being very, very quiet about Hillary's scandal-tainted past, hoping she gets the nomination. She's a real target, for sure -- despite the vaunted women's sympathy vote. Women's sympathy only goes so far. Much eager support will wane once Hillary gets the Swiftboat treatment. And her record is a lot more vulnerable to strong criticism than was Kerry's.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

One for Ripley's

Some bolide issues: the object was luminescent and observable just before impact. Usually meteors become invisible as they approach both because their hot exteriors burn off and because their near-earth velocity is so fast that they are not visible to the naked eye.

A local report indicates that the object streaked in at midday, at 15 minutes before noon, which accounts for an ability to see a smoky tail, but not for an ability to detect something arriving at typical meteor speed.

However, Carancas is in the Andes, so perhaps the altitude was high enough so that the burn process hadn't been completed. I couldn't find the elevation, but nearby Lake Titicaca has an altitude of 3827 meters.

It is certainly true that there was once serious concern about crashes of Soviet nuclear-powered satellites. A museum in New South Wales owns fragments of a Soviet satellite. In 2003, there was worldwide alarm as fragments of the 1400-kilogram BeppoSAX research satellite rained down over equatorial regions, with a 1/200 probability of striking a human victim.

Plugging in numbers to crater expert Jay Melosh's crater calculator gives energy results of between 200 million to 300 million joules for the 13-meter wide crater in Peru. Ronald Woodman, director of the Peru Geophysics Institute, was quoted as saying the impact had a 1.5 seismic scale reading. A 1.5 Richter reading is equivalent to 320 pounds of TNT -- a typical early WW2 bomb blast -- which translates to 669 million joules.

Collectively, 400 kilograms worth of debris reached earth after the 1400-kg BeppoSAX orbiter broke up. The object that landed in Peru had a mass in the vicinity of 11 kilograms (25 pounds), according to numbers I plugged into the crater calculator. An 11-kg satellite fragment is conceivable, but I am unsure what altitude to use to try to estimate terminal velocity. That is, the ratio of the object's mass to the crater diameter will vary according to kinetic energy, and the kinetic energy of satellite debris might be quite different from that of meteor fragments.

Another question is whether the outer shell's heat combined with the impact energy was enough to bring hundreds -- probably thousands -- of liters of groundwater to a boil, releasing noxious steam, possibly tainted by hydrogen sulfide, which is fairly often found mixed with groundwater.

It seems plausible that if an aerial bomb struck subsurface water, it might release a burst of steam. However, thousands of bombs fall without triggering underground steam vents. (And of course at high altitudes it takes less heat to boil water and release steam.)

Future reports by meteor experts should prove interesting. If down the road there is a peculiar lack of interest by experts, then we'll know it was no meteor.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Stinkbomb from the sky

An error that appeared in the first draft of this post has been corrected. Hydrogen sulfide was misdesignated as HS2, when it should be H2S.

Because of conflicting data, I had trouble with the energy calculations. So I have erased them from this post and will report them in the next post.

Hydrogen sulfide (H2S) may be the culprit in the strange ailment that afflicted Peruvians who rushed to the meteor crash site.

Hydrogen sulfide is a poisonous gas released during flatulence and in connection with petroleum refining processes. It is found in natural gas deposits and sometimes in groundwater. In low doses, the gas, which has a "rotten egg" odor, induces eye and respiratory irritation and nausea. In higher doses, it is fatal.

The several dozen people who were sickened by the fumes emanating from the crater complained of those symptoms and reported a foul, sulfurous odor.

The bolide apparently plowed below the water table and generated enough heat to boil the water, which, in my estimate, emitted steam laden with H2S. Peruvian geophysicists recognized gray dust around the crater as pulverized meteor rock, showing the likelihood that the bolide hit with enough energy to bring a pondful of water to a boil. Witnesses reported that the meteor streaked to ground as a luminescent fireball, trailing a smoky tail, from some 1000 meters out.

Usually, meteors don't land hot, having burned off their outer layers by the time they hit. But this one may have defied the norm.

Not only was the bolide -- if that's what it was -- unusual in remaining fiery hot in the lower atmosphere, the striking of an H2S-laced water table with enough impact and heat energy to emit poison gas is also quite unusual, I'd say.

Additionally, according to experts, such a bolide event, which occurs roughly every 26 years, often leaves a field of craters from fragmentation of the meteor during descent. No crater field was reported.

So, anyway, just to add to the intrigue: Hydrogen sulfide is used to process deuterium, a neutron moderator used in nuclear reactors. Who knows? Maybe there is a classified technology for using H2S on board a satellite rather than prior to launch, which is what would be expected. And I wondered about the possibility of a reverse process, but have no clue as to whether a sudden infusion of deuterium ("heavy water") into ordinary groundwater could release clouds of H2S. Somehow I think that fairly unlikely.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Meteorite mystery deepens

It seemed that a rare natural fluke may have occurred, whereby a red-hot rock from the sky plowed into an underground water supply and let off a plume of noxious, mineral-tainted smoke.

But, scientists are still wary of the determination by Peruvian experts that the event that occurred near Lake Titicaca was really the crash of a meteorite.

Physicist David L. Griscom argues that not only does the smoke plume not fit the typical meteorite profile, but that the fireball was far out of line with what would be expected of a massive object hurtling into the stratosphere at a typical meteorite speed of 10 to 20 kilometers per second. The object should have "lit up brighter than day in the stratosphere" rather than becoming visible a mere 1000 meters from the surface, as was reported.

Also, the long-duration sound heard by locals is not typical of meteorite strikes, Griscom told me. Of course, we can't be sure how bright the fireball was, nor when it initially appeared, nor how long the sound lasted. As is well known, witness recollections are highly subjective, especially when it comes to sudden, freak events.

Possibly local scientists were mistaken about a meteorite strike and that a subsurface geothermal event somehow created a boiling crater, making noise and, along with rubble, throwing fiery, molten material that was mistaken for fireballs.
But local scientists and authorities have said nothing about molten matter.
Importantly, Peruvian seismic equipment registered an impact at the site, according to a local scientist.

Investigating scientists did say that the rock they had recovered was consistent with a meteorite, being high in iron content. But, the sample was much more rocky than usual, lacking the metallic "glue" that usually helps space rocks survive descent through the atmosphere, according to Jacob Silverman, who wrote two good synopses for How stuff works that appeared today on that site. The urls are

Silverman points out that scientists seem to think that meteorites don't arrive hot, but lukewarm or cold. For one thing, meteorites generally don't spark fires when they land in a forest or a house. But, there is a question as to whether the water really did boil for a while or whether villagers were too excited to give accurate details.

Please see my previous post "Pravda now a joke" and the item concerning a "war satellite" at the bottom of the post "Spooks clash..."

To recap, seismic equipment registered an impact, but details of the crash are wildly at variance with typical meteor crashes. So maybe it was a satellite. But if so, the locals who suffered from noxious inhalations seem to be fine now. So then, perhaps they weren't suffering from radiation sickness. But then, what made the water boil?

I'm sure the UFO researchers are champing at the bit. A case for The X-Files, I'm sure.

So do these oddities validate Pravda's decision to run Sorcha Faal's piece? Not in my mind. Why not run something by a journalist who doesn't also specialize in weird stuff, such as wrapping up the Israeli attack on Syria in some mythological stuff about an ancient burial ground of giants being visited by extraterrestrial vehicles?

Sept. 28 update
New Scientist has a story today that covers much of the same material as the post above.

Another weird conspiracy theory
that I don't vouch for came across my desk. Here it is:

China was incensed at Israel's bombing run that hit North Koreans at a Syrian military installation Sept 6. So Beijing paid back by using one or more of its new satellite-killer missiles to knock out either an Israeli or American spy satellite -- and then played dumb! Just like the Israelis and Bush after the Israeli strike.
The Israelis and Bush knew that if they complained openly, they'd be put in an impossible diplomatic situation, so they grimaced and played dumb too.

Somewhere along the line a wrong energy figure for the seismic recording crept in, it seems. However, the figure of 4.9 tons of TNT quoted by AP may very well be inaccurate. I'll take a further look soon.

Pravda is now a joke

One of the reasons I gave any ink at all (post below) to the possibility that a spy satellite, rather than a meteor, had fallen in Peru was that the report appeared in Pravda, which I guessed had some sympathetic sources in the Kremlin.

A few years ago Pravda published a serious article on Richard Perle that was based on a backgrounder supplied by Znewz1. So I had reason to think the Communist Party newspaper was still serious, though clearly highly political. But honestly I never read Pravda's online English version and so I guess my guard was down.

Now clearly, it is possible that a secret satellite rather than a meteorite crashed in Peru, but the source of the report, Sorcha Faal, has written some other rather weird stuff in the Chariots of the gods vein. One would think Pravda editors would be a bit more selective in publication of internet reports. Their standards are now so low as to make the political voice of communism a ridiculous joke. Unfortunately, the joke was on me to some extent, though I was cautious and my follow-up material posted below (see 'Sept. 26 update') tried to clarify things.

The BBC and others have been focusing on the "mass hysteria" aspect of the story. At first, only a couple dozen people were sickened by the fumes, but the numbers were bumped up to 200 and then to 600 within a few days. At work seems to be the natural tendency of news-hungry reporters to exaggerate and the likelihood that residents will worry that their minor ailments are related.

Another reason for the panicky reaction was an early story in the Peruvian paper Diario La Republica which reported locals sickened by radiation poisoning. That claim was not repeated by the paper, as far as I could tell.

A story today by Andrea Thompson casts doubt on the assessment of Peruvian scientists that a meteorite struck and focuses on the alternative idea that a local geothermal eruption occurred coincidentally with a fireball in the sky.

Her story is at

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Spooks clash over '9/11 mastermind'

Intelligence professionals are sharply critical of testimony provided by the alleged "9/11 mastermind," Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, while in a CIA torment dungeon overseas, according to a New Yorker report.

Jane Mayer, writing for the magazine's Aug. 13 edition, painted a grim picture of the reliability of Mohammed's numerous confessions, though the 9/11 commission rested much of its narrative on the al Qaeda chieftain's purported statements. Mohammed so far has confessed to involvement in 31 criminal conspiracies, a number which Mayer found high even for a top-level terrorist.

Robert Baer, a former CIA officer, told Mayer that all his spook associates were "100 percent certain" that Mohammed did not kill Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl. Similarly, FBI Special Agent Randall Bennett told her that of the many people he quizzed in Pakistan, none named Mohammed as the culprit.

Pearl's wife Mariane was skeptical when Attorney General Alberto Gonzales informed her that Mohammed had confessed to the murder. She'd heard this allegation before, only the information was classified and no evidence was available. Gonzales offered no new evidence and Mrs. Pearl suspected the attorney general was grandstanding in order to deflect political heat from his troubles.

Alcee Hastings, a House Democrat, said that he was disturbed by the methods used to interrogate Mohammed, Mayer reported. Hastings was prevented from revealing details but what went on "ain't right."

Mayer detailed CIA methods of torment that bore the earmarks of Teutonic diligence. Breaking people down was done according to precise technical formulas, based on sensory deprivation, sleep deprivation and other nasty bits of business. Survivors have reported inmates in one Afghanistan hell hole trying to commit suicide by beating their heads against the wall.

Mohammed has been moved to Guantanamo naval base, where he awaits a military tribunal.

The 9/11 commission said it was not permitted to interview Mohammed but was forced to rely on "confessions" he gave to CIA interrogators. Mohammed, of course, did not have access to a lawyer during the questioning. This may seem silly but had he had such access there would be less concern about the validity of his statements, which, on reading the 9/11 panel report, appear to have been a matter of telling interrogators what they wanted to hear.

Yet, leading federal lawmakers have said that they don't wish to investigate 9/11 anew, claiming that the 9/11 commission had wrapped everything up.

Air Force shoots down war satellite?
Pravda is circulating a report that a powerful segment of the U.S. military establishment strongly opposes war with Iran and cites Western press accounts claiming that the U.S. Air Force shot down a spy satellite that would have been used to guide cruise missiles into Iran.

David L. Griscom, a retired naval physicist, said, "I can assure you that the impact in Peru and the fact that villagers were sickened" was "the buzz" on CCNet, an email digest for scientists concerned with climate change and extraterrestrial impacts.

Pravda ruled out a meteor strike based on expert analysis of the impact energy. Evidently the villagers were sickened by radiation given off by the satellite's plutonium 238 reactor.

Pravda's Sept. 20 report says the missile strike against the satellite was launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.

Sept. 26 update
El Diario La Prensa of New York reports today that Peruvian officials were checking into Pravda's claim that a U.S. KH-13 spy satellite appeared to have been felled by the U.S. Air Force in order to impede Bush administration war plans against Iran.

These sites have provided some information on what seems to have occurred near the village of Carancas: (scroll down)

The explanation of Peruvian scientists that a meteorite struck and perhaps unearthed some noxious ground gases doesn't seem altogether implausible. There seems to be no independent confirmation that a KH-13 satellite was downed, though there has been speculation that such a satellite's atomic reactor would sicken people. On Sept. 17, two days after the space object's fall, Peru's Diario La Republica reported that victims were suffering from radiation sickness, but the paper doesn't appear to have repeated that onetime claim.

One good story I've seen on the ET strike is by AP's Monte Hayes. That Sept. 19 story can be found at

Without better corroboration, I can't accept the Pravda story as worth anything at this point. In fact, I checked other articles by the writer, Sorcha Faal, and found them to be highly questionable. Her? work fits in well with the Bermuda Triangle genre. It's possible that Faal got her theory from a science minded blogger who early on posted the idea that a KH-13's atomic reactor had caused crater water to boil. (Sorry, I've mislaid that url.)

Shortly after the object crashed six miles from Lake Titicaca, some experts expressed skepticism that a meteorite would have done what it purportedly did. Jose Machare of Peru's Institute of Mining, Metallurgy and Geology told Agence France Presse that the meteorite's impact seemed to have caused water in the crater to boil for about 10 minutes, which contributed to a noxious gray vapor given off from the site, apparently containing traces of arsenic and sulfur. Sickened locals had complained of a sulfuric odor.

But Jay Melosh, professor of planetary science at the University of Arizona, was initially skeptical, Hayes reported. Boiling water didn't fit the profile since meteorites are generally cold upon impact, having shucked the hot outer layers during descent.

A number of experts, such as Don Yeomans of NASA's Near Earth Object program, doubted the initial meteor claim, suggesting that the event was more suggestive of some geothermal disruption from below the surface. Alex Bevan, an expert on meteorites with the Western Australian Museum in Perth, wondered whether the fireball and the ground explosion were two unrelated events.

Peter Schultz, a meteor crater specialist at Brown University, was intrigued, saying the impact might be an unusual type of meteor strike. He said the crater's size indicated the original meteoroid was at least 10 feet in diameter before breaking up.

At any rate Jose Ishitsaka of Peru's Geophysics Institute confirmed that the 42-foot-wide by 15-foot-deep crater had been caused by a meteor, according to institute president Ronald Woodman, who said the impact registered on seismic equipment as having the energy equivalent of 2.49 tons of dynamite.


Jose Lopez, Puno public health director, reported that seven policemen were among those sickened by crater fumes and given oxygen before being taken to a hospital, al Jazeera reported. They suffered from headaches and nausea, like 200 villagers who also breathed in the fumes.

Renan Ramirez, an engineer with Peru's Nuclear Energy Institute, said testers had found no radiation at the site. The Geophysics Institute gave the same information.

Ramirez said, "It was a conventional meteorite that, when it struck, produced gases by fusing with elements of the terrain."

A writer known as xcamel, posting on, seems to have been quite diligent about finding out what scientists on the scene thought.

Xcamel says scientists think the meteorite met an undergound water supply tainted with arsenic. There are numerous local arsenic deposits which contaminate local drinking water, according to Modesto Montoya, a researcher with the geology institute. Ishitsuka theorized that the red-hot meteorite, upon plowing into the underground water, gave off a column of steam.

Xcamel's post is at

In sum, what we have is an event that the experts found to be very strange, but that could have been simply a very rare natural occurrence. On the other hand, since, as everyone knows, the first casualty in wartime is truth, there are grounds for suspicion. It seems likely that U.S. authorities could easily control the flow of information from the impact zone.

Physicist Griscom questions whether the United States has a satellite-killer capability yet, though he says a self-destruct mechanism is notionally possible. The U.S. does have rocket interceptors that can knock out missiles in subspace, but it is unknown whether these could be used against high-altitude satellites.

So anyway, throw into the mix a writer with a propensity for the fantastic and we have either perhaps a best-seller in the making or some sort of psywar disinformation operation.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Data mining article yanked from net

A student article on federal data-mining research on terrorist "chatter" at social networking sites vanished from the internet edition of the Rutgers student newspaper The Daily Targum today.

The Targum internet edition displayed the print front page, except that the space for the article "Students protest Busch research" was blank when I checked both Microsoft Explorer and Mozilla Firefox browsers on a Rutgers University terminal. A check of the student paper's search function showed the article was recorded. (Let me know whether the story has become visible in the blank spot. Write me at

The net edition is published by College Publisher Network.

Student Nasreen Hussain's story today concerns a student protest held at the Center for Discrete Mathematics and Computer Sciences on the university's Busch campus.

Fred Roberts, head of the Center for Dynamic Data Analysis (DyDAn), told the reporter that his center is one of four formed by the Department of Homeland Security. The other universities involved are Princeton, Rensselaer, Texas Southern and Texas State, along with Alcatel-Lucent Bell Laboratories and AT&T Laboratories, the story said. Additionally, federal weapons laboratories are contributing to the research.

"The work at Rutgers the students are concerned about is not aimed at identifying anti-American sentiments, nor do I believe it can be useful for that," Roberts told Hussain. "It is aimed at picking up 'chatter' about potential terrorist plots, not at picking up opposition to the war in Iraq or opposition to government spying on private conversations. The methods for doing these two things are very different."

Yet, he conceded that "a scientist can never guarantee" that such tools won't be misused. Roberts said that Rutgers' participation in the research means privacy concerns will be addressed. (Go to for further background.)

Roberts has said that sites such as MySpace are not especially confidential, regardless of whether the privacy option is used. He notes that the companies routinely cooperate with law enforcement agencies.

Update Sept. 25
No response was received to emails sent to Roberts or Targum editors.

Today's print Targum makes no mention of the missing item.

Today's online version shows what appears to be a "normal" blank column running down the page. However, the data mining story was the lead of yesterday's print edition but not visible on yesterday's main online page.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Simulating Osama

How does the CIA identify a recorded voice as Osama's?

It uses a program that digitally compares the recording to a voiceprint taken from a sample of his voice considered to be authentic. There has been a lot of research into voiceprints, with numerous proprietary methods invented by telecommunications companies. For example, Cellmax says its voiceprint technology is so good it can discriminate between close relatives with similar voices and can identify a speaker whose voice is altered by a cold.

We must expect that the CIA's technical services division is using the latest, state-of-the-art classified voiceprint technology.

So, does that mean their identification of bin Laden's voice on various internet videos since 9/11 is reliable? Sure, it might be. But advanced voiceprint technology also implies the possibility of near-perfect voice counterfeiting. In fact, implementation of speech authentication security schemes have been slowed because crooks are becoming increasingly sophisticated at fooling such technology, according to some reports.

Another thriving industry is voice simulation. For example, AV Voice Changer Software Gold boasts that "unlike other voice changers, Voice Changer Software Gold changes your voice over the internet in real time and provides an unlimited number of new voices. You can modify your voice by changing voice pitch, voice timbre, applying effects, adjusting advanced tuner and setting equalizer."

So then, how hard would it be to create a program that inputs the voiceprint numbers into a simulator, which then makes you sound like Osama and -- since it is based on Osama's voiceprint -- fools voiceprint analyzers?

We do know that the Osama tapes all seem to have something wrong with the visuals. Either old footage or use of possible lookalikes. But the feds say they rely on the voiceprints. And the press reports that "Osama bin Laden said in his latest video..."
In one case, there was the possibility of lip-synching by a guy in a black beard.

My point is that the news media should be a bit more cognizant of the problem of authenticity. This morning's New York Times kept the Osama tape to four graphs and the headline qualified the bin Laden link with a "said to be." That's progress, maybe.

Bush jumped at the opportunity to say of the "blackbeard" tape that Iraq was mentioned and that al Qaeda's targeting of Iraq was a serious concern. But Bush's judicious phrases showed that he thought it best to avoid saying flatly that the video was an authentic bin Laden broadcast. However, he was happy to play along with those broadcast media that did flatly assert that bin Laden had spoken on the tape.

Another concern: how about the possibility of framing people with phony tapes of voices that sound just like them? The courts need to take notice.

See articles by David Jastrow, June 1, 2007, Speech Technology, Olga Kharif, April 20, 2005, Business Week, and Greg V. Hulme, Oct. 28, 2002, Information Week.

Scientist tackles 'simulated' election
The problem of high tech rigging of results for political ends is pointed up by Steven F. Freeman in his new book Was the 2004 election stolen? Freeman is on tour promoting the book and sounding the alarm over the apparent ease of election fraud and systemwide collusion in coverup.

Freeman, who has a PhD in behavioral science from MIT, charges that the weight of evidence from exit polls points to massive fraud and that claims of pollsters protecting the system are not viable. Everyone is agreed that statistically the results point to a highly improbable outcome but are not agreed on the likelihood of theft. Freeman, a former professor of management, is not a professional statistician but uses statistics as a matter of course in his lines of work.

Freeman, who wrote the book with journalist Joel Bleifuss, gives a good synopsis of his views at To subscribe to his newsletter, visit

Robert F. Kennedy Jr. of Pace University mentions Freeman's work in a Rolling Stone article titled Was the 2004 election stolen?

John Allen Paulos, who is a professional probabilist, is also skeptical of the election result. Search for his home page and read his article.

Additionally, a group of professional statisticians signed a letter expressing skepticism over the election claims.

Rep. John Conyers wrote a foreward to Freeman's book. Conyers, who probed the situation in Ohio, wrote his own book, What went wrong in Ohio? The Conyers report on the 2004 presidential election. Author and commentator Gore Vidal, who wrote an introduction to Conyers' book, told an interviewer that neither the New York Times nor the Washington Post deigned to review the book and that the Boston Globe gave it only a brief, cursory mention.

Vidal believes the 9/11 attacks were allowed to happen as part of a coup by the Bush bunch in order to transform America into a police state that is compliant with a grandiose international agenda. Conyers' views on 9/11 treason are difficult to find via Google but I would guess that he views the subject as politically intractable at this point.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Greenspan stokes controversy over 9/11

Adding fuel to the firestorm over Alan Greenspan's charges of a White House fraud concerning the Iraq war is another, related, observation by the former Fed chief:

If al Qaeda's 9/11 strike was really part of a plot to disrupt the U.S. economy, why was there no follow-up attack? Greenspan wonders in his memoir, The age of turbulence: adventures in a new world.

"There was no bigger question in Washington than, Why no second attack? If al Qaeda's plan was to disrupt the U.S. economy, as bin Laden had declared, the attacks had to continue."

Greenspan has no answer for this puzzle, though he mildly raises the issue of some restrictions on personal privacy immediately after the attacks. But he certainly doesn't seem to be convinced that it was a security crackdown that prevented further strikes.

(The index of Greenspan's book contains no reference to the anthrax attacks which early on were bruited as some sort of follow-up, and used by the White House and its supporters to inferentially link Saddam to the 9/11 strike.)

Greenspan, who was airborne over the Atlantic rather than in his office near the trade center at the time of the attacks, wrote, "Whatever their publicized angst over Saddam Hussein's 'weapons of mass destruction,' American and British authorities were also concerned about violations in an area that harbors a resource indespensable for the functioning of the world economy.

"I am saddened that it is politically inconvenient to acknowledge what everyone knows: the Iraq war is largely about oil."

Greenspan is on record as telling the White House that, if oil security was to be ensured, Saddam would have to be removed.

However, at the time he made his recommendation, there was somewhat less awareness of the strong evidence of treason within the Bush administration on 9/11. At the time he penned his memoir, the evidence had mounted. It seems likely that his wife, NBC newswoman Andrea Mitchell, would have kept him posted on the increasingly troubling questions concerning 9/11 coverups.

Greenspan avoids anything but generalizations regarding 9/11, ducking blow-by-blow accounts of meetings concerning 9/11 details, leading one to suspect that there's a lot about 9/11 that he feels it unwise to discuss out loud.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Telecom shield bill targets your liberty

Supposedly there's a big wrangle going on in Washington over curtailing some of the more obnoxious elements of the NSA wiretap law that was sneaked through at the last minute before recess.

But, says the New York Times, "Democratic leaders" see a deal on a measure to hold telecom firms immune from lawsuits for cooperating with government wiretap demands when another wiretap bill replaces the current one, which expires automatically in five months. (The most likely "leader" mentioned is John D. Rockefeller, head of the Senate intelligence committee.)

McConnell said that because of court rulings, the wiretap data flow had shrunk to a tiny stream by comparison with the time when the government had free rein to eavesdrop.

At the moment, telecom firms face lawsuits over their duty to protect customers from improper invasions of privacy by government officials. In the past, before the Times bared the NSA warrantless wiretap story, major telecom firms had for years turned a blind eye to spooks and FBI wiretappers operating out of telecom facilities. No touchy questions were asked about legalities. Now, however, these corporations are on their guard against eavesdropping that isn't legally justified.

So there's the real problem that's bothering McConnell, Rockefeller and the oligarchs. Easy backdoor spying on political or economic adversaries is being thwarted. The return of this unseemly practice is the aim of the telecom shield law. If telecoms can't be held accountable for ensuring that legal responsibilities are met concerning privacy and improper searches, then neither can the government and those who misuse it be restrained and held accountable.

Quantum developments peril communications

Nearly all encrypted data that moves over the internet or via secure electronic channels, such as your debit/credit card transactions, is based on a combined public key-private key system. The public key system uses numbers composed of very large primes, which, using classical computation, are considered extremely difficult to

However, researchers say they have proved that quantum factoring is feasible and are suggesting methods of making quantum computation practical. A paper by an Australian team, with some funding from the U.S. Office of Disruptive Technologies, said its experiment provided a "proof of the use of quantum entanglement for arithmetic calculations." The team, headed by Andrew White of the University of Queensland suggested checking for ways to craft quantum factoring algorithms that take advantage of the specific computer design used.


Another team, led by Chao-Yang Lu of China's University of Science and Technology, used four photonic qubits (units of quantum information) to factor the number 15.

Further research, the authors say, should be directed at coherent manipulations of more qubits, construction of complex multiqubit gates and quantum error correction."


A pay-to-read article on the topic may be found at New Scientist.

Though the number 15 is dwarfed by the primes used in electronic encryption, the race is on, and there's no telling how long it will be before someone is reading everyone else's stuff. Whoever does so first might become Emperor of Terra.

Well, what about a different encryption system? There's the rub. There doesn't seem to be a good alternative to the public key-private key method for electronic communications. It was a revolutionary development, and revolutionary developments can't be ordered up like a cup of coffee.

Market wobbles
The Fed's attempt to smooth out the market, and the economy, with a major rate cut follows classical regulatory policy. But it doesn't address current emergent problems: the fear of subprime effects; the unforeseen instabilities inherent in burgeoning quant computer trading; awareness that U.S. security officials are grasping for full access to virtually all private financial transactions; and the unsettling possibility that nearly all secure electronic communications are on the verge of being compromised; and that there is no back-up plan to uphold the modern financial communications infrastructure.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Nominee ain't too bright, or...

He's just another humdrum low-life conspirator.

Mukasey's record as a federal judge was to back Bush's extremist presidential power position in the "war on terror." In a recent Wall Street Journal op-ed piece the ex-judge chastised the crybabies who were worried about our basic American freedoms being imperiled by the sickeningly named Patriot Act.

His point is that America is fighting a dangerous, insidious enemy and must resort to very stern measures. Good point... If you're an idiot and have no idea that forces within our own government stabbed America in the back and then used the incident as a pretext to pile up central power.

No wonder people like Schumer think well of him. Schumer, who backed the Iraq war resolution, has never taken notice of the obvious and extensive evidence of treason and had little problem with the U.S. emulating Israel's brutal interrogation methods.

Mukasey will be expected to make sure the Justice Dept. does nothing about the treason, not that the FBI isn't already well in hand. He will be expected to make sure the FBI "gets the tools it needs" to wiretap and spy on "dangerous enemies of the state" who know that treason occurred and want to do something about it.

Mukasey is a New York lawyer who served the power elite before becoming a judge. Today, he's an adviser to the Giuliani campaign. Giuliani has hinted that something might be amiss when he made a point of saying that he was incredulous at how the twin towers collapsed -- but otherwise he has "played the game" of staying out of the controversy over evidence of massive treason.

Among Mukasey's clients was Roy Cohn, onetime aide to Joe McCarthy. Though Mukasey is right behind Bush-style "McCarthyism," I believe that McCarthy would have had Mukasey on his list of dupes and fellow travelers, based on the old credo: if it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it must be a duck.

In the meantime, Bush has kicked out the apparently nonpartisan lawyer slated as interim attorney general and installed a fellow whose factional credentials seem to ensure that traitors need not worry.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Scientific debate over WTC collapses heats up

A scientific debate over the plausibility of the official theory of the World Trade Center collapses is gaining momentum as a Cambridge University engineering lecturer joined the fray by tackling a big hole in the National Institute for Standards and Technology investigation.

The lecturer, Keith A. Seffen, did a study on whether the collapse times -- which were close to the free fall rate -- were plausible and found that they were, according to a BBC news report. Seffen and several other scientists have worked to fill in the gap left by the NIST, which published nothing about the matter.

Seffen's paper is to be published in the Journal of Engineering Mechanics.

Among reasons that the sudden, rapid, symmetrical collapses have generated skepticism is that the top section of each building was lighter than the corresponding bottom section. Usually, it takes a heavier object to plow throw a lighter one in order to reduce it to shambles rapidly.

Let's spike the conspiracy theorist phrase

The phrase has been turned into a pejorative -- a cheap shot and an easy way to scornfully blow off a critic. Reporters who use it may say that, objectively, the phrase is accurate. But, the Murdoch press and others have made it into a term of derision, and reporters and editors should avoid such labeling.

Personally, I wouldn't mind being termed a treason theorist.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Bush desperately needs another '9/11'

Faced with all the obstacles in his path, why does Bush continue his Mideast/Iraq policy?

Answer: he and his co-conspirators may have another "9/11" up their sleeves.

After the 2006 Democratic victory, Bush announced a troop "surge," knowing very well that once troops are overseas it becomes politically very difficult for Congress to force their return.

He now says a "gradual reduction" from the surge level is possible, which really means nothing. But Petraeus has said that a reduction will be forced by wear and tear on the troops, who are continually being recycled back to Iraq and whose tours are subject to arbitrary extension. The commander has said this level of commitment in Iraq is damaging the military's global capabilities and can't be maintained.

But consider the slew of laws and executive orders that have been emplaced that can easily be used for imposition of martial law in America and the waiving of basic American freedoms for political dissidents (see Project Censored's top 25 censored stories at Simultaneously, the U.S. is becoming increasingly bellicose toward Iran and is setting up a border conflict that might easily be used to justify escalated hostilities.

There's only one problem: The U.S. lacks enough troops to maintain the neocon policy of "pacifying" the Middle East through the soft underbelly of Iraq.

There are two ways to get more troops: set up mercenary brigades or re-institute the draft. Right now, Iraq is full of U.S.-paid mercenaries ("contract employees") but they are not easily constituted into a major fighting force -- plus they're very costly.

Yet a draft seems unthinkable. The resistance would be gigantic. Yet that resistance could well be smothered by a new wave of terrorism-inspired hysteria and propaganda sweeping the nation. For the Bush bunch, the danger of a second massive stab in the back has been that they will be targeted for doing a poor job in the "war on terror." But Bush's term is winding down and he is tending toward lame-duck status anyway. So, politically, how much does he have to lose from such an act, especially now that all the tools are at hand to impose martial law? Who would dare stop the ruling clique from also imposing a draft?

However, chances that Bush could again protect all of spookdom from accountability in a second massive terror attack aren't very high. Heads would have to roll this time. So whose heads will be sacrificed by the conspirators? Something to ponder.

Friday, September 7, 2007

Edwards, Breitweiser and 9/11

Jersey girl Breitweiser, one of the 9/11 widows who lobbied for an independent panel to investigate the attacks, made a political appearance with Edwards.

Though the lawyer turned activist and liberal blogger does not make explicit her concerns about conspiracy, that implication is what gets certain neocons so fired up against her and the others. Despite a dirty deal by Dems to vouchsafe the 9/11 commission coverup, Breitweiser has properly scorned the report as headed by people with sharp conflicts of interest.

Edwards is lagging, and he doesn't have much to lose in alienating the coverup media by working with 9/11 activists. Good move. At least he doesn't come off like a deer in headlights like he did a couple months back when questioned by a 9/11 truth activist.

Hopefully he can somehow work with responsible members of the 9/11 truth movement -- oh, I can hear the Murdochocracy now: Edwards consorts with wingnuts... Who cares? If you're gonna fight, then fight.

The quant menace: connecting the dots

When the number of computerized quant traders was relatively small, there was little need for them to interact much. But as the potential for huge profit crowds the investment field with quants, the potential for national and global economic catastrophe increases.

As one quant manager said in a Wall Street Journal story today: last month's sudden massive plunges in quant (as in high quantity trading fund) performance was a consequence of too many players. He of course is trying to fine-tune his fund's algorithms.

But the real trouble with computerized statistical arbitrage -- which relies on statistical analysis and the law of large numbers to favor profitability -- is not that it doesn't work, but that that eventually it will be such a powerful market force that it can't work as planned.

What happened in August seems to have been triggered by some unknown quant's short-selling. But short-selling is a key component of arbitrage pricing theory, a technique for taking advantage of statistical patterns in the market. That short-selling spree evidently triggered a round of forced repurchases, with massive losses.

As these arbitrage programs proliferate and their volumes grow, the statistical nature of the market is bound to change. That is, you get a "new force" that, like the market it mirrors, is highly non-linear. Non-linear processes have a strong tendency to become erratic, unpredictable and even mathematically chaotic.

Yes, some traders will improve their algorithms and squeeze out those who are less capable. But, the competitive process will mean that optimization of algorithms will reach a limit. In fact, it's a mathematical fact that an algorithm always has some maximum efficiency. You can't improve on it forever. Optimal algorithms may vary somewhat but they'll all have about the same bang for the buck.

So as computer arbitrage techniques race toward equilibrium, the quants face the likelihood of further sudden catastrophic losses at times that aren't terribly predictable. Of course, one could design an algorithm to monitor -- statistically and via espionage -- the subset of quant traders, but eventually this tactic will also zero out in value as others follow suit.

Consider several computerized players playing poker. Once optimal poker algorithms are achieved, the most probable outcome for any player, assuming each has unlimited funds, is to break even. If each player begins with a finite stake, then the player with the largest (using statistically meaningful differences) stake is most likely to eventually take all, with all the others going bankrupt. If each player has about the same finite stake, that means that there is an equal chance that any player will eventually bankrupt all the others.

This analogue may seem excessively simple. But these "forces" work the same, whether in poker or in a crowded APC field.

However, in the computerized poker games, a cascade effect isn't considered. But sudden, catastrophic APC movements can interact with each other and cascade into the general market, wreaking havoc.

The Bush administration's Wall Street watchers have failed to connect the dots, or, if they have, the intelligence has not reached higher officials. Yet the likelihood of one or more horrific economic shocks poses a far more terrifying threat to national security than anything that occurred on 9/11.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Mob slips terror net?

The mob can breathe easier... maybe. Organized crime links to terrorism showed up in a Homeland Security data mining operation, but the program, developed by national weapon lab scientists, was killed because other programs are commercially available cheaper, an HS spokesman said.

The pattern recognition program had been criticized for failing to meet privacy concerns, though the reputed misuse of data appears to have been a trivial technical foul. The data had already been vetted for privacy concerns, but just not for this specific program.

Whether we are witnessing the emergence of a row between feds and mobsters over 9/11 complicity is still a matter of conjecture. Certainly the mob's help was required in making World Trade Center steel disappear so quickly, and in quite a few other areas of the coverup.

In the JFK assassination aftermath, such a feud did break out. The mob backed New Orleans DA Jim Garrison's campaign to nail the CIA in the murder. The mob felt that the CIA, which did indeed carry out the assassination, had been trying to steer attention away from the agency by inferentially suggesting that the Mafia was behind the slaying. (Certainly organized crime at least agreed to the hit and had a major hand in the coverup.) Eventually mob boss Carlos Marcello, who had been named as an assassination suspect by a congressional inquiry, was sent to prison on federal bribery charges in what seemed to be an attempt to placate Warren commission doubters with the notion that the real killer had been locked up.

It's my thinking that Marcello was forced by mob families around the nation to take the dive in order to get the heat off the mob in general following publication of the congressional report.

So even though the mob, the CIA and top oligarchs eventually came to terms, the disagreement lasted for years and was extremely dangerous. Not only did many witnesses die but the feud could have exploded into a gigantic political firestorm at any moment.

Are we witnessing such a situation now? I'd say there's a good chance. Increasingly, serious professionals are publicly voicing severe doubts about official 9/11 claims. If you were a mobster involved -- or even not involved -- in the 9/11 coverup, wouldn't you be jittery? Wouldn't you be likely to protect your interests? Even if you believe in omerta, many of those involved aren't "stand-up guys" in that respect.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

China go-between stokes Clinton warchest

Check out yesterday's Wall Street Journal for a sharp piece of investigative reporting on seemingly shady contributions to Hillary Clinton's campaign.

A businessman named Hsu who is a big backer of Hillary and Democrats seems to have used a working class Chinese family in San Francisco to funnel $55,000 to Clinton's campaign and another 150k in lolly for other Dems. The businessman was an early promoter of "engagement" with the Chinese communist government, the Journal noted.
In today's edition, Hsu claims the contributions were by a man named Paw who is now working for him and that nothing illegal had occurred. Paw's father, a mail carrier, and other members of the Paw family live at an address in San Francisco previously used by Hsu.

The Journal pieces appeared during the transition from Bancroft control to Murdoch takeover. Given Murdoch's own coziness with Chinese reds and his detente with Hillary, it looks like the staff chose their publication time wisely.

Update Aug. 30
Hsu has been a fugitive from California for 15 years, reports the LA Times. He was facing three years in prison in a stockholder swindle. Rather than escaping to Hong Kong, as was assumed, he went to New York and resumed his wheeling and dealing, this time becoming a major Democratic Party contributor.

He was hiding in plain sight, often being photographed at Democratic events. Yet, Clinton's staff evidently did no check on Hsu's background to forestall questions about "Asian moneymen" that dogged her husband's campaign.

Hsu may have felt that being politically connected would protect him, as well it might have, had not the WSJ staff had the nerve to run a story that the incoming Murdoch may well have found objectionable.

I'm also wondering about the source of Hsu's wealth. Did Beijing have anything to do with his obtaining seed money for new ventures? Did a connection with Beijing have anything to do with his ability to evade arrest? These are questions for the FBI, of course -- if we could trust that bureau, which we can't.

Wiretap wobbles
Intelligence chief Mike McConnell's public admission that telecom companies are a crucial part of warrantless wiretapping may have damaged the government's claim that lawsuits against those firms must be barred based on the "state secrets" privilege.

But, even had he not said so, wouldn't introduction of the state secrets argument imply that the telecom companies were involved? So the secrets must be about specific aspects of the raft of surveillance programs authorized by Bush after 9/11. Yet it is hard to believe that judges aren't competent to winnow out those aspects that must remain classified.

Upon signing the bill into law, Bush himself said that he wants Congress to pass better (he meant retroactive) lawsuit liability protection for entities that "allegedly helped" American security. The term "allegedly" was no doubt inserted by a lawyer, but its use is logically absurd. That is, "allegedly" means "yes or no." So if telecom firms didn't help, they don't need liability protection. They only need that protection if they helped the NSA or other spook outfits. So we have Bush and McConnell both in effect lifting the states secret ban when it suits their public policies.

As I said in a Znewz1 circular, though Congress rushed through a bad provisional warrantless wiretap law, what we really see is that the control clique is scrambling to try to regain their accustomed unfettered access to anybody's communications. In the wake of the New York Times' NSA disclosures, a number of news reports pointed out that long before 9/11 feds had enjoyed special "national security" arrangements with telecom firms whereby company executives simply looked the other way and didn't inquire about warrants.

The lawsuits have forced these firms to tighten up and make sure that laws are obeyed. Their best protection against liability is a warrant issued by a court.
But even a crooked judge is not going to grant the unfettered access that spook control freaks, representing the Council of Oligarchs, want. This lack of access may not have much to do with terrorists, but it has a lot to do with the economic advantage that comes with being an insider.

Bush is right about the current law being inadequate: it's inadequate for the oligarchs. Because telecom lawyers will be watching every P and Q for the remaining five months of the interim law's time span. Telecom statisticians, who are top rank, will be, or should be, watching government activity for signs of irregularity that could imply abuse.

The "system" has always relied on the power of intimidation. We can listen in at any time. So don't cross us. But now that effect is greatly weakened. The intimidators and control freaks have to go to all the bother of sending out spook crews to monitor specific political or economic "undesirables."

But even if a pro-oligarch law eventually is passed by Rockefeller and others, the telecom firms could still face hassles. A judge might view a hold-harmless clause with jaundiced eyes if their is sufficient evidence to indicate the firm should have had reason to believe that the government order was illegal. Obeying an illegal order can itself be illegal.

Kryptograff blog back
My Kryptograff blog came back to life (coincidentally with Gonzales' ouster) and after I asked Google/Blogger whether a federal agency had ordered the blog censored.
So far they haven't replied to my email.

That account has been beset with morphing bugs. I take that as a back-handed compliment to our influence.

Fisk joins 9/11 doubters
Go to The Independent and search Fisk to read British journalist Robert Fisk's puzzlement about a number of 9/11 mysteries.

He denies being a witting part of a coverup conspiracy but says some facts are just too hard to ignore. Though his column indicates he doesn't know much about 9/11 inconsistencies, at least we are seeing a shift in attitude by a well-known journalist. And, his paper didn't kill the piece.

In the age of the internet, a British journalist can have quite an impact in America. Remember the Downing Street memos?

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Tenet seen as 9/11 slacker

The CIA's inspector general says George Tenet should be held accountable as the director who failed to institute proper coordination and planning that might have thwarted al Qaeda's attacks of 9/11.

I scanned the executive summary and found that the review team had ignored the truth: that al Qaeda was only a dupe in the attacks which were carried out by federally protected operatives. So the report is essentially worthless and simply tends to maintain the ludicrous fictional account. The IG should be held accountable for helping cover up treason.

It just dawned on me that my kryptograff blog was blacked out at about the same time the IG report was grudgingly released. The CIA hates being forced to declassify things, fearing it will look weak politically. So, maybe spookdom won't look so weak if a media critic's work is censored "coincidentally."

It should be easy enough to prove hacking by comparing my blogs with a random sample of other blogs to see whether the number of bugs on mine indicates a non-random pattern. But, why bother? Big Brother always has a Catch 22 to hide behind anyway.

Hacking: a form of hate speech

Those who have been playing games with my various blogs seem to be afflicted with one-up-itis, which is part of the control-freak syndrome.

The message is always essentially the same: We detest free speech and our only way to answer is by hacking and censoring.

For example, after I sent out a Znewz1 alert about federal employees censoring and spin-doctoring Wikipedia entries, my kryptograff blog was shut down, supposedly after a spam-hunter program spotted signs of spam. This happened previously to a related blog, but in that case one could still read it. This time not. Well, at least their cover stories are inconsistent...

The blackout was particularly irritating because I was unable to send a link summarizing the NIST's 9/11 collapse scenario for review by a group of scientists, some of whom were engaged in an email discussion of the plausibility of the government's 9/11 claims.

Whenever a particularly vexing bit of censorship (via some alleged bug or other computer "glitch") occurs, it always follows something I have written that threatens media control freaks: those who believe all power has been given unto them or at least who strenuously want others to think that.

Their game is, for one thing, to control the debate in the presidential campaigns. Simple as that.

Most likely suspects: feds operating through one or more cutouts.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Surely your'e joking, Mr Conant

Draft 3

The Space Shuttle Challenger was destroyed because of an O-ring defect, claimed super-physicist Richard Feynman. Though the shuttle commission didn't agree that the cause was definitely the O-ring, it did concede the possibility and pointed to the joint where that gasket was located as the source of the problem.

The commission also made a brief comment that sabotage was not an issue.

This comes up because I have just read John and Mary Gribbins' account of Feynman's role in the Challenger investigation in their book Richard Feynman, a life in science (Dutton, 1997). The British couple, who have co-written many popular science books, handily pieced together their account from various sources, tossing many accolades toward Feynman for his alertness and brilliance in solving that puzzle, as he had solved so many other puzzles.

But as a journalist somewhat familiar with intelligence and security agency trickery, another possibility jumps off the page: Feynman was being led around by the nose with planted evidence and a craftily helpful general. One cannot be sure whether or not the Nobel laureate was willingly being manipulated. Though a brilliant physicist, at this point Feynmann was suffering the ravages of intestinal cancer and was on his last legs.

Shortly after accepting the call to serve on the panel, Feynman went over to Morton Thiokol where he quickly discovered a report mentioning the O-ring flaw (just like that!). Once in Washington, Feynman was prevented by Chairman William Rogers from doing independent research, but with the help of the NASA chief and the exceptionally helpful general he managed to skirt that proviso, though his preparation barely counts as research.

Feynmann's now famous demonstration of how the O-ring lacked sufficient elasticity when exposed to cold was reported by the Washington Post and New York Times as some sort of breakthrough. Yet, the inquiry was still in its early stages. Whatever happened to Feynmann's vaunted love for the scientific method? Yes, he loved to play the performer. But why perform when the research had only barely begun?

Also, what about the chain of evidence? Can we really be sure that the bit of rubber provided by NASA was the real deal rather than a defective piece in some spook switcheroo? Can you imagine that a security operation wasn't monitoring every move and breath uttered by every commissioner? If you can, you don't know Washington security-politik.

Of course the propaganda value of Feynman's ploy was overwhelming, and the administration no longer had to worry about the political impact from the fears of sabotage that had been current at the time.

Certainly Feynman was terribly ill. But he was alert enough in his reports and public appearances to make it substantially likely that he realized he had done no real science but rather had misled the public and press into thinking a solution had been verified before anyone could possibly be sure.

The commission continued its "work" and eventually issued a report that included an appendix by Feynman. Obviously both the CIA and FBI would have been all over that case long before Reagan suddenly appointed the panel, apparently in response to press reports that NASA employees were in fear of their lives about what they knew. So what was the view of those agencies? The commission seems to have glided over those federal inquiries.

It's quite plausible that the Challenger commission was required to reach a conclusion ordained by the security system. Perhaps security chiefs feared looking bad or -- a darker possibility -- perhaps Soviet moles (remember the Walker spy ring and Aldrich Ames?) were being protected.

Here is one of the reasons sabotage was suspected: Challenger was set to deploy the last satellite needed for activation of a classified three-satellite military communications system. Other satellites intended for this system had been orbited during previous Challenger missions but several had become disabled. News accounts of the time said that a number of military satellite launches had gone awry, though I can now find no reference to that story on the net.

I'm not one of those who think that Gorbachev meant to rein in the KGB. The politburo chose him, I think, because he had the friendly used car-salesman persona more acceptable to the West than did his Oriental potentate predecessors, Brezhnev, Andropov and Chernenko.

Be that as it may. I well recall a news story of the era that reported that NASA had -- before the arrival of congressional investigators -- buried under tons of concrete in deep pits nearly all the physical evidence recovered after laborious undersea operations. You probably won't find that story via Google.

On the day after the disaster (or maybe that night), NASA held a teleconference session with journalists from around the nation. One guy had the audacity to ask whether sabotage was a possibility. His connection went dead and the NASA person acted as though he hadn't heard the question -- which he may not have. That didn't happen to any other questioner, none of whom brought up that already taboo subject.

Yes all this may be so, but why Feynman?

One cannot help but wonder whether a chit was being called in for a youthful indiscretion.

Feynman was a pet of J. Robert Oppenheimer, head of the Manhattan Project. Later, the whiz kid made light of his propensity for breaking into safes, rather than bothering with red tape, in order to provide Oppenheimer with secured documents. Recent scholarship makes a strong case for Oppenheimer having been a crypto-communist before being called to lead A-bomb research.

Though liberal scientists still believe Oppenheimer got a bum rap for what they see as his principled resistance to development of the H-bomb, more jaundiced eyes wonder whether a communist conspiracy was in action to thwart development of the super. (Let it be known: I detest nukes and totally agree with James B. Conant's principled opposition to development of the super, though I see that such a program became inevitable.)

The Venona files tend to indicate that Soviet intrigue in Washington was, if anything, worse than anything Joe McCarthy could have imagined, and also tend to substantiate Whittaker Chambers' general claims, though not all his details. (Do you suppose the NSA is not still holding back much that is in those files?) George Kennan, in his memoir, averred that the communist conspiracy in Washington had, McCarthy notwithstanding, been quite bad.

At the time MIT graduate Feynman went to Los Alamos from Princeton University, communism was the "in thing" among young Jewish intellectuals as well as generally among those youths who considered themselves knowledgeable atheists. Sorry if you don't like that. True anyway. Think of physicist Theodore Hall, who changed his name from Holtzberg to avoid anti-semitic bias. The Harvard whiz kid, who joined the Manhattan Project as an 18-year-old, was identified as a Soviet agent in Venona files released in the 1990s. Before his death, Hall admitted having been a Soviet sympathizer willing to assist Stalin's A-bomb aims.

Then there was Michael Straight, who used his progressive magazine New Republic to thump McCarthy, while concealing the fact that he had been one of those reds in the State Department that McCarthy was targeting. Straight had joined the communists along with Kim Philby and others while students at Cambridge and had gone onto become an NKVD operative in the State Department -- though he served in World War II as a bomber pilot. President Nixon appointed Straight, a scion of the wealthy Whitney family, as a cultural czar at the National Endowment of the Arts, despite his having secretly confessed to having been a communist spy.

Most kids grow out of such conceits. But, once compromised, how does one escape control? An analagous situation would be that of a young drug dealer forced to do dirty work every now and then for the DEA or some other federal agency. Blackmail may easily have been at work in Feynman's case. Not that he is likely to have cared about himself. But his son, just embarking on a career in science, would have been a worry.

Of course, when assessing motives we should take into account Feynman's idiosynchratic character.

The Gribbins recount the ultimate Feynman anecdote:

In 1981, a colleague, Brian Hatfield, happened upon a van decorated with Feynman diagrams that was parked at Caltech. Hatfield noticed the indices on the symbols were down, as in xi rather than up, as in xi. Knowing Feynman's casual disregard for such conventions, Hatfield immediately suspected that Feynman was the van's owner.

Peeking in a window, Hatfield spotted a bale of hay. That clinched it! Had to be Feynman.

[A previous draft of this post misspelled Feynman.]

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Less is more in some vote recounts

The 2004 Florida election debacle is only one of a number of recent races in which the razor-thin result was slimmer than the margin of error.

But a vote-by-vote recount is a somewhat dubious proposition. How could one substantially lower the margin of error in the recount? The more votes that are counted, the greater the likelihood of error.

I recall that media firms hired a polling expert to redo the Florida count. Apparently he took measures to lower the error rate, but I am unsure by how much.

So a thought occurs: Why not simply do a random sample when recounting? There is always a specific number of sample elements that will do for a specific overall number of votes to get the result within a 99 percent (or greater) confidence level.

That sample number is always far lower than the population size. So -- as long as care was taken to assure true randomness in the sample -- one would expect that the error in counting votes in the sample would be much lower than in counting votes in the population. So that error, plus the error implicit in the normal curve, might well be kept lower than the error in a recount. That is, the sample result would, in these special cases, give the winner with more confidence than with a full recount.

Will states, or some election judge, authorize such a procedure in a very tight race? It would be a tough sell politically, since the public is likely to believe that a full recount would be more accurate in exceptionally tight races than a random sample result.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Most bridges lack dampers

A quick review of relevant Google pages convinces me that the vast majority of highway and train bridges lack dampers for absorbing vibration induced by earthquakes, vehicles, construction activity or other causes. Also, a question arises as to whether bridge repair crews should be required to bring portable dampers to the job site.

A federally financed study found in that computerized "smart dampers" could extend the lives of the nation's decaying highway bridges by many years. But no action seems to have followed that study.

A Taiwanese study pointed out the peril of resonance effects on truss-style train bridges and suggested that dampers would eliminate the dangerous resonance vibrations. Likewise, there is little or nothing on the net about use of such safeguards on U.S. railway bridges.

However, earthquake damage has prompted authorities in California and other quake-prone regions to order the retrofitting of bridges with dampers.

One type of damper is a counterweight that moves opposite the direction of swing and tends to tame the violence of the swinging. This type is found in skyscrapers and would have been in the twin towers, for example. Another type is a viscous or hydraulic damper which works exactly like an automobile shock absorber and is sometimes attached to cables on a suspension bridge or on a stay cable between the deck and the anchorage. (See Friction factor, Bridge Design and Engineering, July 10, 2003, via Google.)

Virtually no cantilever truss bridge -- the type that collapsed in Minnesota -- appears to come with dampers.

When tuned mass dampers are used on bridges, they are generally meant to subdue vibrations of the deck, rather than the structure as a whole, it appears. Of course, such dampers would still tend to curb vibration of the remaining structure if the vibration originated principally on the deck, as presumably occurred in Minnesota.

(For a good glossary of bridge parts, see )

A federally financed study published in 1999 by a University of Oklahoma team found that computerized "smart dampers" reduced maximum stress on highway bridges by as much as 65 percent in their computer simulation. The authors of the report, W.N. Patten, J. Sun and Annie Zeng, argued that such dampers could extend the lives of America's highway spans by many years, offering an intermediate alternative to the immediate replacement of the many substandard structures.

A Taiwanese study reports that though "steel truss bridges possess the advantages of light weight, high strength and ease of construction," a design problem is that high-speed trains may set off dangerous "multi-resonant peaks" of vibrations. That is, the bridge shakes in tune with its natural frequency, and may collapse.

Jong-Dar Yau, a construction technologist at Tamkang University, said his computerized model showed that tuned mass dampers effectively suppress these resonances during shaking from high-speed trains.

The tuning of a mass damper means to set it to absorb vibrations at specified frequencies. So one consideration might be whether in future construction crews bring mass dampers with them to offset construction vibration.

Regarding the resonance conjecture
I had forgotten the fact that soldiers are often ordered to break cadence when crossing bridges in order to avoid setting off resonance vibrations. We also know that the Millenium Bridge, a footbridge in London, had to be retrofitted with dampers after people walking on the bridge tended to match strides, triggering a resonance wobble.

Bizarre blackout
A spot check shows no further media interest in the matter of vibration or wobble and no interest at all in the matter of the use of dampers in order to safeguard lives. Either the search engines are being jiggered while I use them -- a distinct possibility -- or the word is out to avoid issues prominently mentioned here -- also a distinct possibility.

Aug. 10 2007.Yesterday's N.Y. Times had a story on a conjecture that a truss connector plate was the culprit. The story also acknowledged that some experts viewed jackhammer effects as a potential trigger.

Monday, August 6, 2007

A shaky situation

Every time a layer of concrete was removed from the I-35W bridge, it would wobble, construction workers have said.

The wobble would be a consequence of load redistribution, no doubt. The removal of the weight might cause the truss system to expand something like a spring. Now if those supports had fatigue cracks, those cracks could have expanded as the support system adjusted to the load change.

If the truss system would shift so noticeably after its load was lightened and shifted, one might expect that mechanical vibration from jackhammers and big pavement pounders would contribute to the weakening of the supports.

BTW, the word wobble appears in yesterday's stories, but not the word vibration.