The Shanghai World Expo ..................Living the dream
Something in between a trade fair, a funfair and a template for global domination
Apr 29th 2010 | SHANGHAI | From The Economist print edition
The Shanghai World Expo ..................Living the dream
Apr 29th 2010 | SHANGHAI | From The Economist print edition
The U.S. military isn't exactly underworked, what with salvaging Afghanistan, helping out Haiti, fighting off pirates, and getting out of Iraq. But now, it has been handed a new mission: leading the campaign to cut back on foreign oil, in the interests of both national security and saving the planet. The Defense Department certainly has the money, the technology, the intellectual capital, and the pull in the marketplace to make or break the environmental movement. And when it puts its top minds on a problem, there's a long track record of world-changing breakthroughs (the Internet, for one). But will the Pentagon really make the move to go green when there's so much else on its plate?
Take Afghanistan. After eight years of combat there -- and despite decades of advancements in alternative power and fuel -- the U.S. military is still waging war as if oil were an unlimited resource, and free. The wind howls at Camp Leatherneck, the Marine Corps' main base in southern Afghanistan. But there are no wind turbines there. The sun beats down more than 300 days per year on the growing array of semipermanent headquarters and piles of corrugated metal shipping containers. But Leatherneck only has a small handful of solar panels, to power a few gadgets. Troops go from one side of the base to the other in clunky old pickup trucks or Humvees that get about 8 miles to the gallon. Nearly 200 diesel generators run constantly. Because of waste, poor insulation, inefficiency, and redundancy, fully 89 percent of the electricity they produce for the base is wasted. It's one of the reasons why the U.S. military is burning 22 gallons of diesel per soldier per day in Afghanistan, at a cost of more than $100,000 a person annually.
Decades ago, the Defense Department was a world leader in developing new sources of energy. In 1961, the Navy commissioned the world's first nuclear-powered aircraft carrier. Three years later, the sea service began looking into tapping the geothermal energy around its China Lake Naval Air Weapons Station in California. But it took 29 years for China Lake's geothermal plant to reach full power. A few Pentagon-backed alternative-power efforts have been more successful: a massive solar array at Nellis Air Force Base and a sizable wind farm at Guantánamo Bay, for instance. Until recently, however, those projects were the exception, not the rule. Energy efficiency has often taken a back seat to other tactical or strategic considerations.
A new crop of green-minded Pentagon leaders has begun ambitious projects to change that. The military R&D arm that paved the way for the Internet is now focusing on algal feedstock for biofuel and next-generation solar panels. One of the world's largest solar-power projects is planned for the Army's main training center, at Fort Irwin, Calif. Billions in stimulus money were spent to green military facilities. Then again, we're talking about transforming an organization that currently consumes a million barrels of petroleum every three days.
The Defense Department in recent years has warned over and over about the dangers of climate change and the risks in relying on unstable petro-regimes. The problem is that where the military uses the most oil -- in fuels that power combat hardware -- it also faces the steepest obstacles to technical and institutional reform.
WASHINGTON, D.C., April 12th, 2010 -- The Lockheed Martin [NYSE: LMT]-led industry team submitted its proposal for the Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) fiscal year 2010-2014 contract to the U.S. Navy today.
Lockheed Martin is one of two industry teams competing for the contract. The Navy will award the winning team a fixed-price incentive fee contract to provide up to 10 ships as well as combat systems for five additional ships. Two of the 10 ships would be acquired in fiscal 2010 and the rest via options through fiscal 2014.
Tokyo, Japan (CNN) -- An ongoing feud with the United States over the future of an American military base in Okinawa may end up costing Japan's prime minister his job, a weekend poll shows.
Tehran, Iran (CNN) -- Iran said Sunday it fired five new types of locally-made coast-to-sea and sea-to-sea missiles in the last stage of its "Great Prophet 5" military maneuvers in the Persian Gulf.
The missiles were fired simultaneously and struck a single target at the same time -- a feat the Revolutionary Guard Corps described to the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting as "very important."
The military exercises on Sunday also included high-speed boats waging a "war" against a warship.
The maneuvers fell on the 31st anniversary of the elite force and were designed to demonstrate new weapons systems.
Brig. Gen. Hossein Salami, deputy chief of the Revolutionary Guard told Iranian media that the exercises were aimed at demonstrating Iran's "strength, will and national resolve to defend independence and territorial integrity."
Phoenix, Arizona (CNN) -- Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer signed a bill Friday that requires police in her state to determine whether a person is in the United States legally, which critics say will foster racial profiling but supporters say will crack down on illegal immigration.
The bill requires immigrants to carry their alien registration documents at all times and requires police to question people if there is reason to suspect that they're in the United States illegally. It also targets those who hire illegal immigrant day laborers or knowingly transport them.
The Republican governor also issued an executive order that requires additional training for local officers on how to implement the law without engaging in racial profiling or discrimination.
New weapons systems should always meet three requirements: They should be feasible, needed, and affordable. The proposed Prompt Global Strike program, which according to U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates has been "embraced by the new administration," does not meet any. Using intercontinental ballistic missiles to hurl conventional warheads at caves is a truly bad idea. It would use technology that doesn't work for a capability the United States doesn't need at a cost it can't afford. Oh, and it could also start a nuclear war.
The plan is to build new weapons that can hit a target half a world away in under an hour. Defense contractors concerned about the shrinking market for long-range missiles began promoting this to George W. Bush's Defense Department, where it was rejected as unworkable. Now, as they take steps to reduce the U.S. reliance on nuclear weapons, Obama defense officials are resurrecting it.
Would such a system even work? The diagram of the concept is almost a Rube Goldberg scheme: an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) launches and releases a space plane that glides through the atmosphere and flies to strike area where it drops a bomb on target. A more complete schematic would include other necessary features like a heat shield that would try to stop the glider from melting on re-entry as it screams in much faster than the space shuttle. Proponents of the program say it will rely on "cutting-edge technology." (Read: "We don't know how to do it.")
It is not that America hasn't tried. This program is basically another version of the now discredited "space plane" -- a pipe dream that, as nonproliferation analyst Dennis Gormley notes, the United States has been chasing for decades. In 2001, President Ronald Reagan's former missile-defense chief, Henry Cooper, told a congressional panel that, after three decades of work and $4 billion in development, the U.S. program had only produced "one crashed vehicle, a hangar queen, some drop-test articles, and static displays." Now the contractors have repackaged the idea and are re-peddling it to the Pentagon.
But does the United States need this capability? No. It is difficult to imagine a scenario in which the United States would use this weapon. The Pentagon has better weapons in its arsenal that, if updated, could accomplish long-range strikes. Joint Chiefs of Staff Vice Chairman Gen. James Cartwright favors using modern, precision-guided conventional munitions to replace nuclear weapons now assigned to such missions. He's right.
The United States is currently fighting two wars against enemies with no air defenses, planes, or ships. The terrorists and insurgents on the other side are effectively handled by ground forces, tactical air forces, and, increasingly, drones. Drones are already deployed, and they can track and kill fleeting targets. Why would the U.S. military need to launch a missile from California to deliver a bomb to a cave in Afghanistan, when it already has drones on bases, ready to drop a bomb within minutes?
YALONG BAY, China — The Chinese military is seeking to project naval power well beyond the Chinese coast, from the oil ports of the Middle East to the shipping lanes of the Pacific, where the United States Navy has long reigned as the dominant force, military officials and analysts say.
China calls the new strategy “far sea defense,” and the speed with which it is building long-range capabilities has surprised foreign military officials.
The strategy is a sharp break from the traditional, narrower doctrine of preparing for war over the self-governing island of Taiwan or defending the Chinese coast. Now, Chinese admirals say they want warships to escort commercial vessels that are crucial to the country’s economy, from as far as the Persian Gulf to the Strait of Malacca, in Southeast Asia, and to help secure Chinese interests in the resource-rich South and East China Seas.
In late March, two Chinese warships docked in Abu Dhabi, the first time the modern Chinese Navy made a port visit in the Middle East.
(CNN) -- Weather experts predicted Friday that a volcanic ash causing chaos to air traffic across Europe would affect the region well into the weekend and possibly beyond as the dust cloud continued to spread.
Scientists said it was too soon to predict when the Eyjafjallajökull volcano in Iceland would cease spewing ash, raising the prospect of thousands more grounded flights in coming days.
Prevailing westerly winds are expected to fan the massive plume of dust from an erupting volcano in Iceland further east and north, according to predictions from the London Ash Advisory Center.
By 07:00 GMT Saturday (7 p.m. ET) the cloud traveling at up to 9,000 meters (30,000 feet) is forecast to be covering parts of Russia, Poland, Finland and other East European countries while continuing to affect the UK, Sweden, Norway, Germany, Denmark and Netherlands.
Northern parts of Sweden, the UK, and Ireland, which have begun to reinstate air flights, would remain in the clear for the time being, according to forecasts.
(CNN) -- Nearly 400 people are feared dead after a rapid series of strong earthquakes hit a mountainous and impoverished area of China's Qinghai province early Wednesday, state-run media said.
At least 10,000 others were injured, the Xinhua news agency reported, and many victims, including school children, were buried under debris. Rescuers were struggling to clear debris with their hands and save those trapped below.
A 6.9-magnitude earthquake, as measured by the U.S. Geological Survey, struck at 7:49 a.m. local time (7:49 p.m. ET Tuesday), when many citizens were still at home and schools were beginning the day. The USGS also recorded several strong aftershocks -- one of magnitude 5.8 -- all within hours of the initial quake.
The epicenter was located in remote and rugged terrain, about 150 miles (240 kilometers) northwest of Qamdo, Tibet. Qinghai borders the autonomous regions of Tibet and Xingjiang and the provinces of Gansu and Sichuan.
Karsum Nyima, deputy director of news at local Yushu TV, told Xinhua that most of the houses in the area were made of wood with earthen walls. He said some had come tumbling down, including a Buddhist pagoda in a park.
Russia-US major nuclear development
By Gregor Peter Schmitz in Washington
US presidents can develop visions more easily than other politicians. But making them a reality can be just as hard for the world's most powerful man as it is for his less influential colleagues. Barack Obama's aides learned this lesson once again at a press conference prior to the Nuclear Security Summit, which Obama has invited leaders from 46 countries to attend in Washington on Monday and Tuesday.
The aides put great effort into spelling out Obama's glowing vision of a world free of nuclear arms or their theft and a more peaceful future for all mankind. The president even stepped in to make a statement of his own: "We know that organizations like al-Qaida are in the process of trying to secure a nuclear weapon," Obama warned. If they succeed in doing so, he went on to argue, it would present the "single biggest threat to US security" and "change the security landscape of this country and around the world."
Washington (CNN) -- President Obama and Chinese leader Hu Jintao are meeting Monday about nuclear security and other issues. The meeting comes as part of a two-day summit on how to better safeguard nuclear weapons materials and keep them out of the hands of terrorists.
Here's a look at some highs and lows in the sometimes rocky relationship between the U.S. and China.
President Obama, right, holds a bilateral meeting with Chinese President Hu Jintao Monday.
Washington (CNN) -- President Obama and Chinese President Hu Jintao held a private meeting Monday before the start of a nuclear security summit, with the focus on Iran -- and its opposition to the nuclear nonproliferation agreement.
"The Chinese very clearly share our concern about the Iranian nuclear program," Jeff Bader, senior director for Asian affairs for the National Security Council, said in a conference call. "They share our overall goal of preservation of the nonproliferation regime."
President Obama on Nuclear Summit
(CNN) -- Thousands gathered outside Warsaw's presidential palace on Saturday evening to lay flowers and light candles in honor of Polish President Lech Kaczynski, who was killed in a plane crash in western Russia earlier in the day.
Kaczynski's wife and several top military officials were also killed in the crash.
"There is going to be a huge gap in public life in Poland," said resident Magdalena Hendrysiak. "The most important people are dead."
Russian officials said that 97 people were killed when the plane carrying Kaczynski crashed as it was trying to land at an airport near the city of Smolensk.
Parliament Speaker Bronislaw Komorowski took over as acting president and declared it "a time for national mourning."
Kaczynski, 60, had been traveling with a Polish delegation to Russia for the 70th anniversary of the Russian massacre of Polish prisoners of war in the village of Katyn. Some 20,000 Poles, including soldiers and civilians, were executed there during World War II.
The event was to be a milestone in the easing of relations between Russia and Poland, strained for decades over Poland's close relationship to the United States and because of lingering ill will over Russia's campaign against the Poles in the 1940s.
By George Jahn and Vladimir Isachenkov ASSOCIATED PRESS
PRAGUE (AP) -- Seeking to end years of rancor, President Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev on Thursday signed the biggest nuclear arms pact in a generation and envisioned a day when they can compromise on the divisive issue of missile defense.
The new treaty, the first of its kind in two decades and nearly a year in the making, signaled a bold new opening in relations between the former Cold War foes. Both leaders hoped for more progress on economic matters and potentially even deeper cuts in their robust nuclear arsenals, while the Russian president still warned of potential pitfalls ahead.
The pact will shrink the limit of nuclear warheads to 1,550 per country over seven years. That still allows for mutual destruction several times over. But it is intended to send a strong signal that Russia and the U.S. -- which between them own more than 90 percent of the world's nuclear weapons -- are serious about disarmament.
Mr. Obama and Mr. Medvedev reaffirmed their commitment to considering new sanctions against Iran if the Islamic republic continues to refuse to suspend uranium enrichment and start talks on its nuclear program.
Mr. Medvedev said it's regrettable that Iran has not responded to many constructive proposals the international community has offered, and it's possible the United Nations Security Council will have to take up the issue. And Mr. Obama said the U.S. will not tolerate any actions by Iran that risk an arms race in the Middle East or threaten the credibility of the international community.
They spoke after sitting side-by-side in an elegant hall in the Czech Republic's capital city, signing the nuclear arms deal that awaits ratification by the Russian legislature and the U.S. Senate. The White House lobbying effort on ratification is under way.
Web Pulse: Has Taiwan found the new Susan Boyle?
Lin Yu Chun sings "I Will Always Love You."
Here’s a quick glance at the collective consciousness of the Web on Wednesday:
Lin Yu Chun – Even if you've never heard his name before, you may be about to get familiar with Lin Yu Chun. Think Susan Boyle name recognition giving Whitney Houston a run for her money - vocally, of course. Competing on Taiwan's "Super Star Avenue" (similar to "X-Factor" and "American Idol"), he sang Houston's version of "I Will Always Love You" and blew away the competition and lit up the Internet all at the same time.