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Beirut marathon takes off amid high security December 6, 2006

Posted by grhomeboy in Sports.
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Runners took to the streets of Beirut amid high security Sunday for Lebanon’s annual marathon, which went ahead despite an open-ended protest led by the Shiite militant group Hezbollah.

Streets were lined with gun-toting soldiers and armored vehicles as the Lebanese army and police deployed en masse to assure security for the event.

The marathon, with the slogan “Run For Lebanon, Run For Life,” kicked off under a flurry of balloons and some runners wearing Red Cross T-shirts carried a sign that read “Peace.”

More than 20,000 people had entered either the marathon or the accompanying 10- kilometer (6.2 mile) event, which was to take place November 26, but was postponed after the assassination of anti-Syrian industry minister Pierre Gemayel five days earlier.

Marathon director Mark Dickinson said Saturday the route of the course had been “slightly modified” due to the opposition protest.

After a mass rally of hundreds of thousands of people Friday, thousands of protesters began camping Friday near government offices in downtown Beirut to call for the resignation of the Western-backed government.


Heathrow constructs new terminal December 6, 2006

Posted by grhomeboy in Architecture.
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Two gigantic halls, 300 elevators and escalators, and a bill of €6 billion ($7.9 billion): future Terminal 5 of Heathrow Airport, whose building site was opened November 30 in west London, must handle 100 million people every year.

“It is not a single terminal,” said Andrew Wolsthenholme, who has been directing work on the site since September 2002. Two buildings are to open their doors at the end of March 2008, along with a third in 2011, to unclog and modernize the busiest airport in Europe, opened in 1946.

The first, T5A, is the biggest: 396 meters (1,299 feet) long, and 176 meters wide. It will accommodate short- and medium-haul flights for British Airways (BA).

The second, T5B, is 442 meters long and 42 meters wide, and is planned for long-distance air traffic, with four piers for the A380 super-jumbo manufactured by the European aircraft company Airbus. BA has not yet ordered the massive plane, unlike its competitor Virgin Atlantic.

In total, the two buildings will include 52 loading piers, which will augment Heathrow’s traffic capacity by 27 million passengers per year from 2008, and by an additional 3 million after 2011, on top of the current capacity of 68 million.

The total available surface area of the two buildings, made of steel and glass, is 200,000 square meters, over several levels. It accommodates 120 shops, bars, and restaurants. To convey passengers from the center of London, the Piccadilly line of the underground network and the Heathrow Express train line have been extended.

The terminal is also connected to the M25 motorway, putting it at the center of London’s transport network. An automated shuttle will make it possible to move between the new terminal and adjacent buildings.

The colossal building site extends over 260 hectares and involves 60 companies. About 8,500 workers have worked there at the same time. One of them died in an accident, but BAA, the company that runs the airport, insists that the risks have been reduced as much as possible for a project of this size.

“Forget about Wembley when you’re thinking of Heathrow and Terminal 5,” said Wolsthenholme, referring to the renovation of the London stadium, which has been widely regarded as a fiasco, having been delayed by several months.

The construction of Terminal 5, approved in November 2001 after the longest public inquiry in British history, 46 months, still provokes debate, despite the fact that the building site is 87 percent finished.

According to some town planners, the site, too old and poorly situated, should in the long-term be replaced by an airport built on an artificial island on the River Thames, similar to that of Hong Kong’s Chep Lap Kok airport.

“Relocation to almost any site outside the Greater London boundary would result in a net improvement,” as regards to the harmful effects of noise and pollution, according to a study published in May by the Town and Country Planning Association.

The question of a third runway has also been raised, in the hope of raising capacity. The government decided in 2003, however, to instead build a second one at Stansted airport, northeast of the capital.

Heathrow, where the number of flights will remain limited to 480,000 per year, despite the construction of the new terminal, is thus counting on larger planes and better efficiency to counter the growth in the number of passengers.

China’s 3G mobile technology set for commercial use December 6, 2006

Posted by grhomeboy in Mobile Telecoms.
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China’s own technology for “third generation” cellphones is ready for large-scale commercial use, the Financial Times said Monday, citing ZTE, the country’s second largest telecom equipment maker.

Equipment based on the Beijing-backed TD-SCDMA standard for 3G telecoms services could now operate comparably with that of the rival European-led WCDMA standard and the US-favored CDMA2000, ZTE President Yin Yimin told the newspaper.

“Can TD-SCDMA now operate as an independent network? … We reckon that is no problem. Are there suitable handsets? … We reckon we can provide the handsets,” Yin told the FT. “Now it is up to the state and the operators.”

Commercial readiness for China’s TD-SCDMA technology could clear the way for Beijing to issue long-awaited 3G licenses to home telecom operators, the newspaper said. ZTE declined to comment on the report Monday.

Even as China seeks to push its own technologies, it says that it remains committed to opening its information and communication technology (ICT) industries to foreign investors.

Wu Bangguo, China’s top lawmaker, said in Hong Kong that multinationals who want to enter the mainland market are welcome to establish research and development centers, the Hong Kong-based Standard newspaper reported.

“China will persist with its basic state policy of opening up and continue to enhance ICT cooperation with all other countries on the basis of equality and mutual benefit,” the newspaper quoted him as saying.

New tool aims to bypass Internet censorship December 6, 2006

Posted by grhomeboy in Internet, Internet Safety, Internet Software.
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A new tool aimed at circumventing Internet filters used by repressive regimes was released Friday, offering hopes for freer access to information for activists, journalists, and others.

The “psiphon” software, developed at the University of Toronto’s Citizen Lab, offers more potential for bypassing government censors than most other tools because it allows simple access and leaves no traces on the computers of people who use it, developers say.

Psiphon, released through the Open Net Initiative, a project of four universities in the United States, Canada, and Britain, “operates on private social networks of trust,” said Ronald Deibert, director of Citizen Lab.

Deibert said that psiphon functions like a “virtual private network” used by many companies and organizations to securely transmit data, but without the cumbersome installation of VPNs.

“We’ve designed it to be very easy to use,” Deibert said, noting that other software aimed at maintaining anonymity on the Internet can be complex to use. “The user does not have to install anything. They connect to the software with a unique user name and password and Web site address.”

Because the system relies on a connection through a proxy computer outside the country, “there is nothing authorities can block,” Deibert said.

With psiphon, a user in a country such as China, which limits the information that can be seen on the Internet, connects to a proxy in another country that allows them to bypass restrictions.

Even if authorities located someone using the bypass tool, they would only be able to shut down a single “node” or contact and this would not affect others.

And because the data is encrypted over the connection, he said that authorities can only see that there is a connection to another computer. To read the data, censors “would have to have sophisticated code-cracking technologies at their disposal, and it would take a long time.”

The psiphon software itself is downloaded to a computer outside the repressive country, making it an access point. As a result, its benefits may be limited to people who have contacts outside their country.

Deibert said that the small networks using this would likely include expatriate communities of Chinese, Iranians, or others in the West. But it could also include journalists traveling to certain countries or people involved in nongovernmental activist organizations.

Julien Pain of the human rights group Reporters Without Borders said that psiphon is “a very good tool” for those seeking to bypass censorship in hardline regimes.

But Pain said that psiphon might be limited to wealthier people who have family or friends outside the country.

“The everyday Internet user in China probably won’t know anyone in the West,” he said. “It’s very innovative but no software can solve the censorship problem.”

Activists say that Internet blocking has spread from a handful of countries like China and Iran to as many as 40 governments, including in Africa. “Online censorship is spreading,” Pain said.

Deibert said that he expects thousands of people to begin using psiphon in countries such as China, where activists have been jailed for Internet activities, but also dozens of others that have some limits on the Web.

“Over the last five years, the Internet has been carved up, colonized, and militarized and is losing the properties we associate as being an open forum of free expression,” he said. “We are trying to restore the original promise.”

Roman necropolis unearthed near Syrian port December 6, 2006

Posted by grhomeboy in Archaeology.
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Archaeologists have excavated a Roman-era necropolis discovered near the Syrian port city of Latakia during building work for a block of flats, the official SANA news agency reported Tuesday.

“The necropolis, buried at a depth of two meters [six-and-a-half feet], was hewn from a solid block of rock,” it said.

“The discovery happened during excavation work for building a block of flats” in Beit Suhin, outside the northwestern city of Latakia, it added.

“Excavations … saw the discovery of a necropolis in which two terracotta jars dating from around 2,000 years ago were found,” Latakia antiquities chief Jamal Haidar was quoted as saying. “The necropolis consists of six family tombs from the Roman era,” he said.