Home' Greymouth Star : August 16th 2014 Contents Greymouth Star
4 - Saturday, August 16, 2014
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uLetters to the editor
1829 - Original Siamese twins, Chang and
Eng Bunker, arrive in Boston to be exhibited to
the western world.
1858 - Telegraphed message from Queen
Victoria to US President James Buchanan
is transmitted over the recently laid trans-
1868 - Tidal wave swamps Port Jackson,
1898 - Death of Robert Bunsen,
German chemist and inventor of the
1948 - Death of legendary baseball
player George Herman (Babe)
Ruth, aged 53.
1949 - Death of Margaret
Mitchell, US journalist and author of Gone
with the Wind.
1956 - Death of Bela Lugosi, the Hungarian-
born actor famed for his portrayal of Dracula.
1977 - Death of US rock singer Elvis Presley,
2001 - Paul Burrell, butler of Princess Diana
for many years, is charged with the theft of
hundreds of royal family items.
2003 - Ugandan military ruler Idi Amin, 78,
dies of multiple organ failure.
uWest Coast yesteryear
uToday in history
Menachem Begin, Israeli prime minister
(1913-1992); Fess Parker, US actor (1924-
2010); Ann Blyth, US actor (1928-); Lesley
Ann Warren, British actor (1946-); Jeff
Thomson, Australian cricketer
(1950-); Kathie Lee Gifford, US
tv personality (1953-); James
Cameron, Canadian movie director
(1954-); Madonna, US actor-singer
(1958-); Angela Bassett, US actor
(1958-); Steve Carell, American
actor and comedian (1962-); Emily
Robison, US singer (Dixie Chicks) (1972-) .
“ If you’re strong enough, there are no
precedents.” — F Scott Fitzgerald, American
“Then He said to Thomas, “Put your finger
here and see My hands. Reach out your hand
and put it in My side. Do not doubt but
believe.” Thomas answered him, “My Lord and
my God!” — ( John 20:27-28).
has its own slight and
but it may have books on its shelves which
are banned by the Customs Department. It
has no way of knowing. Though the Customs
Department circulates lists or additions to
lists of books that are prohibited or restricted,
the Greymouth public library does not get
one. This puts the library in the extraordinary
situation of not knowing if it is committing an
offence by displaying certain books.
Controversy over the Custom Department ’s
position, the position of the Justice
Department and the position of libraries was
sparked off by a decision of the New Plymouth
Library Committee to display five books it
knew to be on the department ’s prohibited list.
Unlike Greymouth, the librarian there gets a
copy of the Custom Department ’s list.
Cyprus heat is ener vating, the food
monotonous, the tension rising, but the two
Greymouth members of the New Zealand
Police unit on the island, constables Ken
Holmes and Tony Moore, are contented on
the Mediterranean island now in the world
spotlight as an incipient battleground.
In letters to their parents here, Mr and Mrs
R K Holmes, of Camerons, and Mrs M E
Moore, of Runanga, the two men have been
unanimous in their agreement regarding the
oppressive heat on the island. And both often
yearn for a good Kiwi helping of roast lamb
According to the two men, Cypriots are avid
New Zealand stamp collectors. Stamps from
here are in constant demand and are always
looked for ward to.
uFood for thought
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After half a century of stasis,
there are big new strategic
realities in the Middle East,
but people are having trouble
getting their heads around
them. Take the United
States, for example. Hillary
Clinton, the Secretary of
State in President Obama’s
first administration, is still
lamenting her former boss’s failure to
send more military help to the “moderate”
rebels in Syria.
“The failure to do that left a big vacuum,
which the jihadists have now filled,”
Clinton told Atlantic magazine recently.
She is actually claiming that early and
lavish military aid to the right people
would have overthrown Syria’s dictator,
Bashar al-Assad, while freezing the
al Qaeda/ISIS jihadis out. If only.
Clinton travels a lot, but she never
really leaves the Washington bubble.
There are intelligence officials there who
would gladly explain to her that almost
all the desirable weaponry sent to the
“moderates” in Syria ends up in the hands
of the jihadis, who either buy it or just
take it, but she would not listen. It falls
outside the “consensus”.
Yet that really is how ISIS acquires most
of its heavy weapons. The most striking
case of that was in early June, when the
Iraqi army, having spent $41.6 billion in
the past three years on training its troops
and equipping them with American
heavy weapons, ran away from Mosul and
northern Iraq and handed a good quarter
of them over to ISIS.
In fact, that is the weaponry that is now
enabling ISIS to conquer further territory
in eastern Syria and in Iraqi Kurdistan.
Which, in turn, is why Barack Obama has
now authorised air strikes in Iraq to stop
ISIS troops from overrunning Irbil, the
By now, he has also presumably
abandoned his proposal of last June
to spend $500m to train and equip
“appropriately vetted” Syrian opposition
fighters. (They were then supposedly
going to overthrow Assad with one hand
while crushing the jihadis with the other.)
But Obama has not yet dropped
the other shoe. A lot of people have
not dropped their other shoes yet.
They all know that the whole strategic
environment has changed. They realise
that may require new policies and
even new allies. Changing horses in
midstream is always a tricky business, so
the realignments are only slowly getting
underway, but you can see where they are
going to go.
The proclamation of the ‘Islamic State’
in eastern Syria and northern and western
Iraq has large implications for every
country in the Middle East, but for the
great powers it is almost the only thing
they still care about in the region. They all
have Muslim minorities of their own, and
they all want the Islamic State stopped,
or at the very least isolated, contained and
That means that both the Syrian and
Iraqi governments must survive, and they
will probably get enough outside help
to do so (although it will take time for
the US and the major European powers
to switch sides and openly back Assad).
The army of the Iraqi Kurds might hold
its own against the Islamic State if it
had better weapons, so it will get them
(although Baghdad will not welcome a
more powerful Kurdish army).
Containing the Islamic State to the
north will be a simpler task, because Iran
and Turkey are very big, well organised
states whose populations are relatively
invulnerable to the ISIS brand of Sunni
fundamentalism. But to the south of the
Islamic State is Saudi Arabia, and that is a
country that faces some tough decisions.
The Wahhabi strand of Sunni Islam
which is Saudi Arabia’s official religion is
very close to the beliefs of the jihadis who
now rule the Islamic State to their north.
Much of their financial support and even
their weapons have come from Saudi
Arabia. But the rulers of that kingdom
would be extremely unwise to assume that
the jihadis regard Saudi Arabia’s current
political arrangements as legitimate, or
that gratitude would restrain them.
Nor will the long-standing US alliance
with Saudi Arabia endure if Saudi ties to
the jihadis are not broken. Riyadh
will have to decide, and it will be aware
that its oil is no longer so vital to the
United States that it can have it both
The Iranian-US rapprochement will
continue, and the issue of Iran’s alleged
nuclear weapons ambitions will be settled
amicably despite Israel’s protests. Indeed,
Israel may come under irresistible US
pressure to stop whacking the Palestinians
or the Lebanese Shias every couple of
years, stop the settlement programme,
and get on with the two-state deal.
Washington would very much like Israel
to stop alienating the people it needs as
Further afield, General Sisi’s new regime
in Egypt can count on strong American
support, and may even be encouraged
by Washington to intervene militarily in
Libya and shut down the Islamist militias
there. Tunisia will be the only remaining
flower of the “Arab Spring”, although
there has also been a certain amount of
progress in Morocco. But in the heartland
of the Arab world, war will flourish and
democracy will not.
Gwynne Dyer is an independent
journalist whose articles on world affairs
are published in 45 countries.
New Middle East strategic realities
WORLD IN FOCUS
with Gwynne Dyer
Islamic State fighters parade through a captured Iraqi town.
roblems that brought down
websites such as eBay could
become a regular occurrence
as the internet effectively
runs out of space, experts
Technical faults could cost economies
because parts of the web are out-of-date
and essentially “full”.
Problems affected eBay this week, with
British users of the auction site
left unable to log on for much of
Tuesday, resulting in huge amounts of
Ebay was inundated with complaints
from traders who rely on the site, with
many asking for compensation.
Analysts put the problem, which
affected other major sites including
telegraph.co.uk and password manager
service Last Pass, down to a little-known,
but crucial part of the ‘nuts and bolts’
of the web called the Border Gateway
Protocol, or BGP.
BGP is essentially the ‘route map’ of
the web, allowing internet firms and
large networks to send information to
each other via hundreds of thousands of
When surfers visit a website, they rely
on machines called routers to keep a table
of known, trusted routes through the
ever-expanding tangled web.
Now older routers are struggling to
cope as smart-phones and tablets allow
more people to access the web, more
of the time — meaning routers need
to be updated to cope with the extra
traffic because of a lack of memory and
processing power. Some machines impose
an arbitrary upper limit of 512,000
different routes, a number that experts say
is beginning to look out of date.
This appears to be what brought down
eBay, experts have said.
Dr Joss Wright, a research fellow at the
Oxford internet Institute, said: “It’s really
a case of the routers being over-loaded
due to more and more devices, and more
and more fragmented internet landscape
of lots of little networks.”
Routers were increasingly unable to
cope with the increased traffic, Dr Wright
said, in the same way as a human brain
would not cope with remembering “all
the back streets” on a long journey.
James Gill, chief executive of internet
traffic monitoring firm Go Squared, said:
“This definitely won’t be the last we hear
of BGP outages.”
The problem is partly to do with
computers relying on out-dated IP
addresses — the unique code given to
each computer — Mr Gill added, with
the old, numbers-only system only
gradually being replaced by the alpha-
numeric IPv6 system which allows more
“In that sense, it would be right to
describe the internet as full because they
are running out of IP addresses to go
round,” he said.
It could cost large firms such as Ebay
millions of dollars to upgrade all their
hardware. Business analysts said that a
repeat of such network problems could
cost on-line retailers and other businesses
that rely heavily on the internet, millions
of dollars in lost trade.
Richard Perks, from the market analysts
Mintel, said: “If such problems become
a regular feature, then that is a serious
problem both for firms and for the
economy in general.”
— New Zealand Herald
Out of space?
They look vaguely like miniature hockey
pucks skittering along on three pin-like
metal legs, but a swarm of small robots called
Kilobots at a laboratory at Har vard University
is making a little bit of history for automatons
Researchers who created a battalion of 1024
of these robots said the mini-machines are able
to communicate with one another and organise
themselves into two-dimensional shapes like
letters of the alphabet.
Much smaller groups of robots have been
able to carry out similar tasks, but never a
group this size.
The Kilobots are told by the researchers via
an infrared transmitter to do a certain job. The
robots then do it collectively without further
input from a human being.
In a study published in the journal Science,
they formed themselves on a large tabletop into
the shapes of the letter K, a star, a solid square
and a wrench.
It may be a step forward for collective
artificial intelligence, although the researchers
acknowledge the Kilobots are not exactly
thinking deep thoughts.
“This is a ‘collective’ of robots — a group
of robots that work together to complete a
common goal,” Harvard computer scientist
Michael Rubenstein, who led the study said.
“If you call collective artificial intelligence
the ability of a ‘collective’ to start to behave
as a single entity, you could call this collective
The Kilobots are simple and inexpensive
robots built to talk to fellow Kilobots and sense
the location of those others using infrared
light. They use vibration motors to slide across
a surface on their three legs.
But the surface must be very smooth. The one
used in this study was essentially a 2.4m x2.4m
dry erase board tabletop. Even minor surface
friction like that of paper halts them.
The robots measure about 3cm in diameter
and 5cm tall. The material to build each of
them cost just $14.
Rubenstein said the research anticipates a day
when people may send many robots acting as a
single entity to perform a task — perhaps to a
destination like Mars — instead of humans or
a single robot.
A collective may better handle an unknown
environment — for example, forming into a
snake shape to navigate sand dunes or like a
ball to roll down a hill. He said a collective also
is “fault tolerant ” — if a single robot among
1000 breaks down, plenty are left to do the job.
The Kilobot name is a play on the word
kilobit, meaning 1024 bits of digital
information. But to some it might sound
menacing — as in “killer robot ” — as if it
belongs in a movie like Terminator 3: Rise of
“I tell people that these robots are not very
dangerous. The only way that they could hurt
you is if you try to eat one.
- - ReutersThey
can’t even go over a piece of paper. So they ’re
kind of stuck where they are,” Rubenstein
said. — Reuters
Swarm of small robots able to communicate with each other
A swarm of kilobots.
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