Archives for: "August 2008"

Three tech items on the todo list

There's a few technology posts I haven't had the chance to do, but are on the todo list.

First up Photosynth.

If you haven't already played around with it do so. There's videos on the website to help explain how to take sets of images that synth well together, but I'll have my tips soon hopefully along with some of my own synths. I'm hoping to do St John's Church in town at some point, I think that would make a great synth.

Next up Internet Explorer 8 Beta 2 thoughts.

Good release, I'll share my opinions on the new features soon I hope. Although I imagine this will be one of the topics I'll talk about on Gamercast this week too.

The last peice of tech I want to do is over the new bit of kit I've got on my desk.

Yes that is an HTC Touch Pro sat next to my monitor, and I'll be reviewing it within a couple of weeks.

Internet Explorer 8 Beta 2 released

Internet Explorer 8 Beta 2 has been released. First impressions: this is a solid release, I've been using Beta 1 as my primary browser since it was released earlier this year. Not had any issues with Beta 2 over the last hour or so, plus it fixes a few of the annoying bugs in Beta 1 and adds bucket loads of new features.

Go grab it from here.

Read up on the new announced features here.

Miliband on Russian recognition of Abkhazia and South Ossetia

Looks like Mr Miliband has caved completely to the interests of US imperialism, not surprising, but at least he's made it official - if it wasn't already.

From the Press Association:

Britain branded Russian recognition of Georgia's breakaway regions "unjustifiable and unacceptable" as the diplomatic row intensified.

Foreign Secretary David Miliband accused Russian President Dmitri Medvedev of "inflaming" the crisis by insisting that South Ossetia and Abkhazia should be independent.

In a statement, Mr Miliband said: "The announcement further inflames an already tense situation in the region.

"We fully support Georgia's independence and territorial integrity, which cannot be changed by decree from Moscow."

Mr Miliband called on Russia to "abide by international law as the basis for resolving this crisis".

Moscow must implement "urgently and in full" its commitment to withdraw troops to positions they held before the military confrontation with Georgia earlier this month, he insisted.

"The announcement by President Medvedev that Russia will recognise South Ossetia and Abkhazia is unjustifiable and unacceptable," Mr Miliband said.

Let's see what happens if we change a few words around:

Russia branded British recognition of Serbia's breakaway region "unjustifiable and unacceptable" as the diplomatic row intensified.

Foreign Secretary Sergey Lavrov accused British Foreign Secretary David Miliband of "inflaming" the crisis by insisting that Kosovo should be independent.

In a statement, Mr Lavrov said: "The announcement further inflames an already tense situation in the region.

"We fully support Serbia's independence and territorial integrity, which cannot be changed by decree from Washington and a handful of EU capitals."

Mr Lavrov called on Britain and the West to "abide by international law as the basis for resolving this crisis".

NATO must implement "urgently and in full" its commitment to withdraw troops to positions they held before the invasion of Yugoslavia in 1999, he insisted.

"The announcement made by Western countries stating they will recognise Kosovo is unjustifiable and unacceptable," Mr Lavrov said.

It also looks like Miliband did a Saakashvili:

It takes no account of the views of the hundreds of thousands of Georgians and others who have been forced to abandon their homes in the two territories.

The combined populations of Abkhazia and South Ossetia is about 250,000. He of course leaves himself an escape hatch by saying "others", yet clearly his intent was to imply that hundreds of thousands of Georgians have fled. He also dismisses the multiple referendums that have been carried out in Abkhazia and South Ossetia. The people of both republics have clearly stated they don't want to be part of Georgia, and in the case of South Ossetia at least - I don't know about Abkhazia - have stated they want to join with their fellow Ossetians in the Russian Federation.

Britain should move to recognise the Republics of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Self-determination of nations is and should be a fundamental right. That's not to say all such moves are progressive - some clearly are not and are fueled by petty nationalism, or the top dog wanting to stay top dog in their tiny country. In the case of Northern Ireland the call was always for a united Ireland, not merely independence from Britain. South Ossetia remaining independent for an extended period I don't think would be progressive, 70,000 people is hardly a viable nation. They've been isolated for over 16 years now, the time has come for them to unite with North Ossetia, and Britain should be playing a leading role in that, we should not be supporting a country like Georgia who sought to crush the democratic will of the people of South Ossetia, and who destroyed a city in the process.

Saakashvili must go

The signatures are on the paper, the ceasefire has been signed by both sides now. But something is clear, Saakashvili has issues. This guy makes Condoleezza Rice look sane. I'm sure even she was embarrassed by some of the crap this guy came out with at their joint press conference earlier:

I have to specify, this is a ceasefire agreement. This is not a final settlement. We are under Russian invasion and Russian occupation right now.

So you keep saying, over and over (Big Lie, Mein Kampf anyone?). But I see that you're still in government, and I don't see any Russian troops in Tbilisi.

We certainly should move from this temporary arrangement to a genuine international force on the ground to replace the occupiers and people who are up to trouble.

International force? The Ossetians and Abkhazians have said they want only Russian peacekeepers - as they're the only ones they can trust. Seriously, how can they trust the west when they were willing to stand by and watch Georgia invade their lands and kill their people? For hundreds of years Russia has provided protection for the many peoples in the Caucasus from aggressors from the south. Even though Russia has its own interests to look out for here they find themselves on the same side.

Two days ago they used weapon of mass destruction.

Right... Why does this guy remind me of a dodgy car salesman?

It's an unprovoked brutal invasion to kill Georgian democracy and end the independence of Georgia.

Oh yes of course, you didn't betray the Ossetians and break a ceasefire, you didn't destroy Tskhinvali and kill thousands of people asleep in their beds nor cause ethnic cleansing when you forced half the country to flee to Russia. Nor did you kill 13 Russian peacekeepers.

Russia just decided to "invade", with two battalions! And then instead of marching on Tbilisi, they just decided to cripple the Georgian forces that were attacking South Ossetia and Abkhazia, right, nice invasion. Sounds to me like they were defending their peacekeepers and Russian citizens in South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

He then spins everything upside down again.

This is the country which had been bombed with cluster bombs, which has been robbed, looted and still the police function, lights were on, doctors were in place, supply lines never stopped and people never got desperate and ran away and never succumbed to this pressure, that is what we managed to build.

Police still function? Maybe that's because Russia didn't blow up the police stations, unlike NATO, or the United States do when they go to war.

Doctors in place? Maybe that's because Russia didn't blow up any hospitals like you did in Tskhinvali.

Lights on? Maybe that's because Russia didn't blow up the power stations, like you did in Tskhinvali, and your so called friends in NATO did when they attacked Yugoslavia or Iraq, heck power stations were near the top of the list. When NATO or the west are going after a country nothing is safe, power stations, TV stations, the Chinese Embassy, hospitals, schools, anything is on the list, civilian or not.

Maybe there's something we can learn here. Unlike NATO countries, Russia doesn't target civilian infrastructure. I think there's another lesson we can draw, if it wasn't for Georgia's scaremongering criminal president, things would actually be relatively normal in Georgia now.

Oh and one last thing. Not running away? Well maybe not the Georgian people, but there's certainly one chap who likes to run away, I guess he just wants everyone else to do the dying in his stupid wars.

His actions over the last few weeks has made it clear to everyone he isn't fit to be the president of anything, let alone a country like Georgia.

South Ossetia conflict over, Saakashvili exposed

After Russian forces halted actions against Georgian forces yesterday, citing that South Ossetia had been secured and that (to quote Russian President Medvedev) the "aggressor has been punished and their armed forces have suffered significant loses", Georgia has finally accepted the Russian-French plan for ending the conflict in South Ossetia. The plan consists of:

1) Non-use of force.
2) Stop all military action.
3) Free access to humanitarian aid.
4) Georgian troops return to their previous positions before the conflict.
5) Russian troops return to the lines they held before the start of the military operation. Before an international solution is worked out Russian peacekeepers are taking up an additional security role.
6) The start of an international discussion over the future status of South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

Essentially the terms that Russia called for late on the 8th, namely Georgian forces returning to the positions they held in the middle of last week, and that they would sign an agreement renouncing the use force against South Ossetia.

It is unfortunate that Saakashvili refused to make any agreement until Georgia's forces were rendered incapable of continuing any significant assault against South Ossetia, his decision needlessly continued the conflict for two or three days.

They have also put him in a weak position at home, despite massive increases to military funding over the last few years, and getting training from the United States and Israel, Georgian forces proved they only "enemy" they could kill were the Ossetians asleep in their beds in Tskhinvali, this is no doubt a humiliating blow for the Georgian military, and Georgia's so called tough-man president, who's gambit failed miserably.

The quick end to the war also exposed Saakashvili's lies, and shows how willing the western media were to repeat them.

The so called invasion of Gori, Poti, and other towns that the Georgians said had fallen to the Russians, and the reports of the Russian military being only a few miles from Tbilisi have all been shown to be utterly false. Worse still there were journalists in Gori at the time it was supposedly under Russian control. Who reported that there were no sign of any Russian forces, but still western TV stations and newspapers reported that the Russians had advanced to Gori. That's not all even a US defence official told AFP that "we don't see anything that supports they are in Gori [...] I don't know why the Georgians are saying that" and that there was "no obvious buildup of Russian forces along the border that signaled an intention to invade", the Russians also denied having moved on Gori.

Despite three sources saying it was nonsense, the press were all too willing to go along with whatever lies Saakashvili's threw out there, and even go as far as showing footage of Tskhinvali and claim it was Gori.

It also shows how far Saakashvili is willing to go, he not only said that Russian forces were in control of half of the country. His forces instigated mass panic by telling civilians to leave their homes because the Russians were coming. His actions are responsible for the scale of the displacement in Georgia at the moment.

Also obvious now the dust is settling is how brutal the Georgian attack was on Tskhinvali, 70% of the city is estimated to of been damaged or destroyed during the night of the assault. It can only be described as ethnic cleansing. Attacking a city - at night, unprovoked, with heavy artillery, multiple rocket launch systems and aircraft can only be considered an attempt by Georgia to cause as much death and destruction as possible, to terrify the Ossetians into fleeing, which half of them have done. Some were not so lucky to escape, some were bombed on the road to Russia, thousands are dead in the rubble of their homes in Tskhinvali, and the dozen or so villages around which were all targeted by the Georgian military in their opening assault.

If it wasn't for the speedy response of Russia after the night of the 7th Georgia would have been successful in cleansing South Ossetia of the Ossetian people. While this was happening western governments said nothing, Georgia should of been strongly condemned for carrying out such a vicious attack upon civilians, yet nothing from western governments. Some, like the US Secretary of State, and George Bush had the nerve to tell Russia to effectively let Georgia carry out their ethnic cleansing.

The war crimes tribunal at the Hague must begin investigations into the Georgian military, and members in the government such as Saakashvili to determine their roll in any possible war crimes. They must not be allowed to get away with such brutal actions towards a civilian population.

More careful editing, and more US interference in South Ossetia

Yesterday you may remember the BBC using footage of a crying woman and a child, describing the attack that she witnessed, she was portrayed in the report as being Georgian. The same woman was also shown on Russian television - what the BBC didn't bother to show you was what she said after "thank you Russia for coming and saving us". This kind of thing has happened too much, pictures on news websites on the internet show Georgian artillery, which are labeled as Russian artillery firing into Georgia. The press should feel absolutely ashamed of themselves for this.

The US has been shown to be even more involved now, as eight of their aircraft airlift Georgian forces into the country from Iraq.

How can the United States possibly call for a ceasefire while bringing more Georgians forces into the country, and while those very same forces are continuing to bombard South Ossetia?

Calling for a ceasefire while Georgian forces are still on the offensive against South Ossetia is nothing short of allowing them to get away with this land grab, allowing such a thing to happen would set a dangerous precedent, almost allowing any country to quickly rush across a border, grab as much land as it can and then demand a ceasefire before they can be pushed out by any defending forces.

To expect Russia to allow Georgia to take control of South Ossetia, or Abkhazia is completely unrealistic, South Ossetia doesn't want to be part of Georgia, they want to be part of the Russian Federation. Georgia has never had any right to claim South Ossetia, which was moved into the Georgian SSR purely for administrative reasons in the 1920s - back then it didn't really matter as it was all part of the USSR.

Georgia must not be rewarded for its military aggression, the actions of the West are disgusting and are tantamount to supporting Hitler while he invaded the Low Countries and France. Such a position would have been insane then - and is insane now.

UN officials have confirmed that Georgia has said it is ready to agree to Russia's terms by withdrawing troops from South Ossetia and by creating a safe travel zone. Yet they still haven't done it, and South Ossetia is still under fire from Georgian artillery. Not only that Georgian special forces have been caught trying to get into North Ossetia.

Russia has had the deal on the table since Friday, and Georgia has done nothing about it. Clearly the Georgian government only want to see this crisis escalate to try and drag this out as long as possible, and unfortunately such a position would mean the only way for a quick resolution to the conflict would be via Russia stepping up the military pressure until Georgia was forced to come to the negotiating table, they're not going to do that while the West are giving them the green light to take control of South Ossetia.

Georgia's idea of a "ceasefire" and possible US involvement in South Ossetia

On the news tonight - reports of Georgian forces observing a ceasefire - desperately trying to cast the Georgian forces in a positive light. Yet even on the very same news programs they later admitted that fighting continued in South Ossetia, and that Georgian forces hadn't completely withdrawn.

Tskhinvali is tonight still under fire from Georgian artillery.

The Georgian government cannot be trusted to observe any ceasefire, the last ceasefire was on Thursday, which they broke within hours when they launched an all out assault upon South Ossetia with armour, aircraft and artillery which flattened large parts of Tskhinvali killing around 1,500 civilians, and 10 Russian peacekeepers - the very forces they were supposed to be on the same side as. Within 12 hours or so they had taken control over much of South Ossetia, until the two brigades sent from the Russian 58th Army later pushed most of the Georgian forces out by Sunday morning.

Not only that, but Georgian President Saakashvili is probably one of the only heads of state capable of putting out dozens of lies per minute. He's accused Russia of "invading" Georgia, of carrying out ethnic cleansing - despite Ossetians fleeing into Russia after the Georgian military targeted Tskhinvali and destroyed much of the city - you don't see them fleeing into Georgia do you? Even more ridiculous, he accuses Russia of launching "all-out war" against Georgia! Honestly, don't you think if Russia wanted to launch all-out war against Georgia, they would use more than two battalions - which to be honest were probably all they had which were combat ready in the area. Less than 0.5% of Russia's total military. That's what Saakashvili calls all-out war? What a joke. If Russia had planned to take Georgia - instead of quickly throwing something together to defend South Ossetia from the Georgian onslaught - there would have been a build up for weeks, twenty times the number of troops would be deployed and Tbilisi would be surrounded by now, if not captured.

While he's talking to the media about his ceasefire - in Georgia itself he is calling for "total mobalisation", calling for all men to join up at recruiting stations.

At first I thought Saakashvili was just too much of a gambler, that he thought he had a good chance of successfully taking control of South Ossetia, and no doubt later Abkhazia, and that Russia would not want to get involved militarily, allowing Georgia to quickly take control and for the conflict to quickly fade while the Olympics held everyone's attention.

Growing though is the feeling the United States has cast its shadow over Georgia's actions, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was in Georgia a few weeks ago, no doubt they shared a wink and a nod while discussing South Ossetia. Georgia is a major American ally, the 3rd largest supplier of troops to Iraq, who's military is trained by and in the United States, and who have a large contingent of American and Israeli "advisors" within the country, and I don't think Saakashvili would have acted unless he felt the US would back him up if something went wrong.

At least one American has been captured, operating within South Ossetia with the Georgian military, presumed at the moment to be a military advisor.

Potential western involvement only makes it more likely that this will spin out of control, and it is clear that must be avoided. Georgia needs to get back to the lines it occupied on Thursday, which is the requirement Russia has put on the table for talks to begin.

In the meantime, Georgia should stop firing upon Tskhinvali so the remaining civilian population can be moved at least to the north of the city away from any fighting. As the situation calmed down somewhat yesterday as Georgian forces were pushed out of South Ossetia, Russia managed to get 120 tonnes of food into South Ossetia, and 17 tonnes of medical supplies to try and ease the situation on the ground for the civilians there - Georgia doing the same would also be a good idea instead of talking about "total mobalisation". Dialog also needs to start between the two, even if initially only to inform each other of the location of any aid convoys to try and keep them from coming under fire.

The propaganda begins - Georgia started this conflict

For those up early Friday morning, if you turned on the news you saw reports of a huge Georgian offensive against separatists in South Ossetia.

Background:

South Ossetia, is a de-facto independent state, which Georgia claims is its own, however it is primarily made up of Russians, most carry Russian passports and have Russian citizenship. Following a brief period of fighting in the early 1990s, a ceasefire was made between the rebels, whereby a joint Russian-Georgian and Ossetian peacekeeping force (limited to about 500 soldiers) remained in the area to keep the peace.

Night of the 7th: Georgia broke the ceasefire and launched an all out assault upon South Ossetia, following up on a brief artillery barrage on the 1st which killed about six people. This time Russian forces come under fire, and the capital is heavily damaged by sustained artillery fire. 1,400 civilians are estimated to have died, and 10 Russian soldiers.

The following morning: Additional Russian troops are ordered into South Ossetia to re-enforce existing Russian peacekeeping forces and defend the Russian population.

Funnily enough throughout the day I thought the reporting wasn't too bad, even Sky News mentioning the fact that it was Georgia that started this conflict.

Somehow, the BBC News at 10, forgot the details of the night of the 7th. Giving the impression this was a Russian invasion of Georgia.

I'm pleased to say, BBC News 24 (or whatever it is called now) at midnight on the 9th, correctly reported that Georgia made the opening moves.

However the damage has been done. On Labourhome we see rubbish like this:

After Georgia attempted to restore order to its legal sovereign territory - South Ossetia - Russian tanks and fighters have crossed into Georgian land and airspace.

Right, attacking fellow Russian peacekeeping forces, shelling the capital city and killing over one thousand civilians is restoring order.

By attacking Russian forces, minding their own business in South Ossetia - where they're supposed to be - is an act of war. Russia would be well within its rights to drive to Tbilisi and force Georgia's surrender.

The sheer aggression of Georgian President Saakashvili cannot be overstated, what did he think the Russian government would be too busy watching the Olympics to respond? Or was he expecting NATO support? No doubt timing serves in the propaganda war, Georgia attacks hours before the Olympics - so it gets very little news time, and the following day all we here about is the Russian response. There's no question at all, Saakashvili should be booted out of office.

People can really come up with some wacky conclusions when they don't know the facts, Tree Tibet supporters come to mind, and so does our Labourhome friend who says:

A full scale attack on Georgia must be met by NATO.

Great, that'll calm the situation down.

Hypocrisy at its finest - South Ossetia

Blatant and obvious to all, hypocrisy at its best.

In response to the Georgian offensive against Russian peacekeeping forces within the de-facto independent state of South Ossetia (ethnically Russian). The U.S. State Department supports Georgia's "territorial integrity". What a shame it doesn't support Serbia's territorial integrity - or anybody else's for that matter, unless of course they're a reliable business partner.

South Ossetia's independence was forced by rebels during the early 1990s, until 1992 when a ceasefire was declared and a small Russian-Georgian-Ossetian peacekeeping force was put into place to oversee the ceasefire.

Condoleezza Rice has the nerve to tell Russia to pull its peacekeeping force out of South Ossetia - maybe she hasn't heard that it's their job to be there under the terms of the 1992 ceasefire. Unlike the US and its little invasion forces that have been occupying Iraq and Afghanistan, or before that Yugoslavia etc, honestly you can just go on and on.

Despite two referendums on independence from Georgia - both of which passed with over 95% of the vote, the international community has not recognised South Ossetia's independence, Geogian president Saakashvili vowed to restore "order" to South Ossetia after his election.

Last night Georgian forces opened an artillery barrage and air strikes against the South Ossetian capital; Tskhinvali, and Russian peacekeeping forces in the area, Ossetian forces have stated they estimate 1,400 civilians have died as a result of Georgian forces shelling the capital. It looks like Mr Saakashvili's little gamble of ending the issue by pushing Russian and Ossetian rebel forces out of the country quickly, while nobody noticed during the Olympics has failed, as Russian forces counter-attacked, with Russia's new president Dmitry Medvedev announcing anybody killing Russian citizens will receive a "deserved punishment".

Georgian forces should be pushed out of South Ossetia, and the South Ossetian government should call for a referendum to determine if South Ossetia should be integrated into the Russian Federation, something no doubt a huge proportion of the population already support.

Georgia has been feeling like they could get away with anything over recent years, they've been pushing Russia harder and harder and finally it looks like Russia is going to hit back. So much so Mr Saakashvili has gone into a panic; recalling troops from Iraq, and begging with anybody to intermediate and negotiate a cease fire. Maybe he should have thought about that before ordering Georgian forces to launch an attack upon civilians and peacekeeping forces within South Ossetia.

August 2008 solar eclipse photos

I took over 150 images on the 1st of August of the partial solar eclipse, time permitting I hope to put them all together to make an animation. In the meantime, here's a few images:

Although it's hard to see in these images, the originals have a fair amount of detail along the lunar rim. Enough that if I've got time to kill at some point in the future I'll try to work out which valleys and mountains they are - although I suspect it will be quite time consuming as I'd have to account for the libration.

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