August 7, 2009

More photos: Marfaux cemetery

Filed under: Pictures, War — Tags: — ubikcan @ 8:14 am

The Marne and Ardenne were the site of much fighting during the Great War, and today the physical reminders on the landscape are common. Driving down a country road don’t be surprised if you come across a cemetery to the war (less often WWII) like this British one near Marfaux.

Click for larger images.



Some of the graves were undergoing repair. They placed temporary markers to show who is buried there.


Next to this section of the cemetery is the German one, which had noticeably plainer grave markers.


It was a quiet place.


August 1, 2009

Back from Europe

Filed under: travel, War — ubikcan @ 11:18 am

well it was a fun 7 weeks abroad, but now i am back. in all I visited Germany (Heidelberg), Switzerland, England (Manchester, Chester and the Cotswolds), France, Germany (Dresden), Prague and England (London). Most of our time was near Reims in France sampling the champagnes (including an unexpected and delightful visit to the Billecart-Salmon vineyard).

These 3 pics show our “gîte” or holiday home. We rented this for 3 whole weeks… poppies abound in this area, which was the location of much fighting during the Great War. This is why you buy poppies on Remembrance Day (Nov. 11) to mark the occasion of the armistice. finally, no trip to Champagne would be complete without (several) visits to les caves (cellars) so here we are in Veuve-Clicquot Ponsardin, getting the tour, complete with a map model.

click any pic to get a bigger version.

May 25, 2009

Top Secret — Bigot Maps

Filed under: map, War — ubikcan @ 10:59 am

Reproductions of the Top Secret “Bigot” maps used in the Normandy D-Day invasions, June 1944. (Bigot was a secrecy classification.)

According to information on the maps these were produced by the Geographical Service General Staff (GSGS), which I believe was part of the War Office (UK). Who made the maps, or where the information came from (presumably a joint US-UK effort) would be an interesting story if it’s not already told somewhere.

From the Perry-Castañeda library via ww2dday.com site, who seems to have got them from a relative who landed on the “Omaha” beach.

Related story in the NGS Magazine, June 2002.

January 19, 2009

Gaza bombing map

Filed under: map, War — ubikcan @ 9:46 am

An updated map of bombing deaths and casualties from December 27 to January 12, 2009 has been posted.

An update is in preparation. The numbers are if anything a bit low, even the US press is reporting that over 1,300 people have died, including at least 500 women and children. (For better coverage in English, try the BBC.)

WordPress.com Political Blogger Alliance

February 9, 2008

Israeli bombing of Syria: followup

Filed under: Google, War — ubikcan @ 1:57 pm

Updated below.

Seymour Hersh has a follow up story in the New Yorker this week about the Israeli bombing of Syria last year. As reported in geospatial blogs such as Ogle Earth there is a geoweb angle to this story in that Google Earth imagery provider DigitalGlobe appears to have been tasked with collecting imagery from the bomb site prior to the Israeli bombing.

Seymour–a respected military and security analyst–casts doubt on the popular media story that this facility was nuclear. This popular explanation was also seemingly favored by Ogle Earth, drawing on the opinions of David Albright of the Institute for Science and International Security, which Seymour describes as a “highly respected nonprofit research agency.” But it looks wrong, says Hersh.

According to interviews conducted by Hersh in Israel and Damascus however the site was probably not nuclear (it could have been a chemical munitions factory). Beyond this, it is not clear what it was (the fact that Koreans may have been helping build it might be leading to Syrian reluctance to talk about it). Albright has also backed off his claim that it was definitively a nuclear facility:

Albright, when I spoke to him in December, was far more circumspect than he had been in October. “We never said ‘we know’ it was a reactor, based on the image,” Albright said. “We wanted to make sure that the image was consistent with a reactor, and, from my point of view, it was. But that doesn’t confirm it’s a reactor.”

Hersh also writes:

Much of what one would expect to see around a secret nuclear site was lacking at the target, a former State Department intelligence expert who now deals with proliferation issues for the Congress said. “There is no security around the building,” he said. “No barracks for the Army or the workers. No associated complex.” Jeffrey Lewis, who heads the non-proliferation program at the New America Foundation, a think tank in Washington, told me that, even if the width and the length of the building were similar to the Korean site, its height was simply not sufficient to contain a Yongbyon-size reactor and also have enough room to extract the control rods, an essential step in the operation of the reactor; nor was there evidence in the published imagery of major underground construction. “All you could see was a box,” Lewis said. “You couldn’t see enough to know how big it will be or what it will do. It’s just a box.”

A former senior U.S. intelligence official, who has access to current intelligence, said, “We don’t have any proof of a reactor—no signals intelligence, no human intelligence, no satellite intelligence.”

As for the geospatial angle, the notable aspect of this event is how commercial, non-military imagery of the sort that is used in Google Earth is being used for military attacks, at least by Israel. One reason might be that this was a solely Israeli mission, done without help from Washington:

There is evidence to support this view. The satellite operated by DigitalGlobe, the Colorado firm that supplied Albright’s images, is for hire; anyone can order the satellite to photograph specific coördinates, a process that can cost anywhere from several hundred to hundreds of thousands of dollars. The company displays the results of these requests on its Web page, but not the identity of the customer. On five occasions between August 5th and August 27th of last year—before the Israeli bombing—DigitalGlobe was paid to take a tight image of the targeted building in Syria.

Clearly, whoever ordered the images likely had some involvement in plans for the attack. DigitalGlobe does about sixty per cent of its business with the U.S. government, but those contracts are for unclassified work, such as mapping. The government’s own military and intelligence satellite system, with an unmatched ability to achieve what analysts call “highly granular images,” could have supplied superior versions of the target sites. Israel has at least two military satellite systems, but, according to Allen Thomson, a former C.I.A. analyst, DigitalGlobe’s satellite has advantages for reconnaissance, making Israel a logical customer. (“Customer anonymity is crucial to us,” Chuck Herring, a spokesman for DigitalGlobe, said. “I don’t know who placed the order and couldn’t disclose it if I did.”)

Another possibility, according to Hersh, is that the site was part of a Russian-supplied radar defence system similar to those in Iran, and that by overflying Syrian airspace it would be triggered and “expose [it] to…exploitation” as a kind of dry-run for bombing Iran. It could also have been carried out to show military strength by Israel, given that the US NIE report (which was delayed by the US government for a year at the behest of Dick Cheney) had negative findings of an Iranian nuclear weapon. These findings were known in the intelligence community.

Israel may have had Iran in mind as much as Syria, according to a source quoted by Hersh.

Update: Ogle Earth notes that ISIS’ David Albright, quoted by Hersh in the New Yorker, has provided a clarification and partial objection to Hersh’s characterization of their analysis. ISIS says their quote was taken out of context, and that they have consistently maintained the site had nuclear purposes.

Hersh, who we at ISIS greatly respect, is correct to raise the issue of whether Israeli and U.S. intelligence are right about the purpose of the site. We are committed to developing that information publicly. Moreover, the bombing of the site raises troubling questions that require public answers. Hersh has added interesting and important information to this critical debate. He clearly believes that the site did not house a reactor, and he is entitled to his opinion. But much of his argument hinges on Albright’s statement that was taken out of context. His other evidence is from people who do not have direct knowledge of the case, or are limited to analyzing satellite imagery of the site, which we know cannot on its own answer the question of whether or not the site is a reactor.

This seems fair enough, but ISIS does not say what “direct knowledge” they have of the case, and it seems that they too analyzed satellite data of the site.

November 11, 2007

Veterans and Remembrance Day

Filed under: War — ubikcan @ 8:08 am

Today is Veterans Day in the US and Remembrance Day in Canada and Europe. Poppies are used to symbolize the trench warfare of World War I. In the UK most people wear artificial poppies on their lapels.

Why November 11? Here’s what I wrote last year:

Veterans Day marks the anniversary of the coming into effect of the Armistice during WWI (technically an armistice is a cease-fire so the war did not end until the signing of the peace treaty at the Paris Peace Conference in June 1919, but most people disregard this and count the war as lasting from 1914-18).

The Armistice came into effect (on purpose) on the eleventh hour, of the eleventh day or the eleventh month, but had actually been agreed earlier that morning around 6am in the Compiègne Forest, just north of Paris. It was signed by General Foch for the Allies and a guy called Matthias Erzberger for the Germans at a special railroad siding in the forest.

The very same siding was used decades later for the signing of the armistice in World War II.

October 22, 2007

This is the war. This is what happens to data in war

Filed under: War — Tags: , — ubikcan @ 4:34 pm

This is what happens to data and information in war: it becomes “differentiated.”

In his keynote address, General James Cartwright of U.S. Marine Corps, Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff made it clear that, “We have to be able to differentiate between what we want to keep secret versus the perishablity of that information.”

The General also startlingly mentioned that US involvement in Iraq is a “100-year war” and that there will be no peace dividend! This is the Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, by the way.

(via APB)

March 27, 2007

Bush’s Coup de Grace for the GOP

Filed under: politics, War — ubikcan @ 8:50 am

(Updated: I was reminded of the cover (above), so perhaps the tide is turning after all)…

This seems to be a lesson that has not yet been learned by the mainstream media:

March 27, 2007 | Democrats should give two cheers for George W. Bush. He and his political mastermind, Karl Rove, dreamed of achieving a permanent Republican majority. Instead, his disastrous presidency has dealt a devastating blow to the GOP, one from which it may not recover for many years.

That’s the inescapable import of a major study of American voters’ values and attitudes by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press, released March 22. The study finds that voters have turned dramatically away from the GOP since Bush took office.

Iraq, of course, is the single biggest reason for this. (A separate Pew poll, released on March 26, shows that 59 percent of Americans want their congressional representatives to support a bill calling for U.S. troops to withdraw from Iraq by August 2008, with only 33 percent opposed.) But even more troubling for Republican strategists is the fact that underlying attitudes and beliefs are trending against them. The study’s implication is that the GOP, especially in its current far-right incarnation, was facing serious structural, long-term problems anyway, and that Bush delivered the coup de grâce.

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