Russia to enter GPS market?

Glonass satelliteRIA Novosti reports that Russia plans to lift restrictions on the use of GLONASS, its Global Positioning System satellites in 2007

Sergei Ivanov said: “By January 1, 2007, the General Staff will lift all restrictions on the precision of coordinates, so that the system can be used to develop the economy and transportation system.”

Current restrictions limit the accuracy for civilian users of Glonass to 30 meters.

A new entrant into the GPS market, competing with the US and EU systems can only be good for the consumer.  It looks like the unrestricted version will only be able to Russians initially – coverage of Russia is 100%, whereas coverage in the rest of Europe and the US isn’t quite at the level required for commercial use. 

This is partly because the full complement of satellites hasn’t yet been launched, and partly because the satellites that are already up there have been focussed on Chechnya to aid operations there.  The Russian military has plans to fill in the gaps in their network as soon as possible, though, with three new satellites planned for December. 

New look

After coming home from my holidays, I thought it was time for a bit of a change at Taking Aim.  Hence the much improved new look. 

Why does it look so good?  Because I didn’t design the theme myself.  Thanks must go to iqwolf, for his snappily titled theme: Unnamed One.

The new design isn’t just a pretty face – click on the ‘Open/Close’ link in the top right hand corner for some fancy pop-down menus, or try a quick search and sample the new style results.

I’ve spent most of the last couple of weeks playing wih my new toy – a Windows Mobile phone.  (Sorry to those of you who have been expecting regular updates – now you know why).

Mobile HomepageBrowsing blogs on the move has now become a part of my daily routine, albiet a frustrating one at times.  Newsgator Go!, which I’ll review another time, makes the job of keeping up with my RSS feeds simple.  But browsing individual blogs online (including my own!) can be a real hassle on a small screen.

Well, I can’t really do much about other blogs, but I can make sure that my own is as easy to read as possible on a mobile.  So, with thanks to Alex King, I’ve installed WordPress Mobile Edition for those few of you daft enough to try and read this page on the move…

Update: Hmm, something’s gone slightly awry with uploading the screengrab, which is oddly low-res in my browser.  Trust me though, it looks great in my paint programme.  And, more importantly, it looks extra-lovely on my Windows Mobile phone!

Chinese sub tails US aircraft carrier

china sub1.jpgThe Washington Post reports that a Chinese submarine was spotted tailing a US aircraft carrier battler group last month, just off Okinawa. 

Bill Gertz, who breaks the news, thinks its all a bit embarrassing for the US, particularly for the hopes of closer co-operation between the US and Chinese militaries: 

The submarine encounter with the USS Kitty Hawk and its accompanying warships also is an embarrassment to the commander of U.S. forces in the Pacific, Adm. William J. Fallon, who is engaged in an ambitious military exchange program with China aimed at improving relations between the two nations’ militaries.

I can’t really see why, though.  The whole point of a submarine is to travel undetected.  If anything, the Chinese Navy have done their American counterparts a favour, by demonstrating just how vulnerable carrier groups can be to comparatively puny submarines – even the diesel ones that everyone seem to write off these days.

Moving on, the Iowa Voice has posted some background information.  Of particular interest to British readers might be the news that an Argentine submarine – the San Luis – managed to successfully tail the British carrier fleet during the Falklands War.  Only faulty wiring in the San Luis’ missile systems saved them from what could have been a catastrophic suprise attack.  


An odd bunch

Every now and then someone comes along with a few short lines that seem to perfecly encapsulate the absurdity of the English.  Take the first paragraph of this Sunday Times book review, for example:

Insular, patriotic and fiercely independent, they have usually subcontracted their monarchy to foreigners. After being conquered by Saxons, Vikings and French, they offered the crown successively to Welsh, Scots and, ad infinitum, Germans. They made only two requirements, fecundity and the right religion. They were constantly let down on both scores.

These days, we seem to be developing a bit of a fetish for Scottish Prime Ministers.

Paris Airport Bars Muslim Staff

How’s this for a misleading headline from the BBC?

Paris Airport Bars Muslim Staff 

More than 70 Muslim workers at France’s main airport have been stripped of their security clearance for allegedly posing a risk to passengers.

The staff at Charles de Gaulle airport, including baggage handlers, are said to have visited terrorist training camps in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

At first glance I, and others it seems, read this to mean that the airport had introduced a blanket policy on Muslim staff.  Far from it.

The BBC’s headline is a shame, because it distracts from the questions that should be raised by this important story – the most important of which relates to the sheer number of staff involved.

72 is a massive number of staff.  Either Charles de Gaulle was infiltrated on a massive scale by terrorists (which, lets be honest, is unlikely), or the authorities have made a huge mistake by putting two and two together to reach 72, or the authorities are taking an ultra-cautious line and suspending anyone who they think might pose even the merest possibility of a risk.

Which brings me to the oddest part of this story:

However, about a dozen other workers who have been identified as security risks still have access to sensitive areas of the airport because under French law they must be allowed an opportunity to respond to the charges before they are suspended.

I really find it hard to believe that, faced with a real and immediate security threat to their skies, the French would allow the niceties of French employment law to hinder their security operations.  Which leads me to believe that, actually, these employees aren’t actually any kind of real and immediate threat.  The fact that none of them have been arrested would seem to add to my suspicions. 

I wonder how many staff there are at the airport in total, and how many of those are Muslim.  I’d be very interested to know what percentage of the workforce, and in particular what percentage of the Muslim workforce this affects.  I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see a mass of lawsuits in the coming weeks and months from disgruntled employees.   

America’s Socialist Senator

According to the Guardian, America is set to get its first ever Socialist Senator, courtesy of the good voters of Vermont:

[Bernie Sanders] is an unapologetic socialist and proud of it. Even his admirers admit that he lacks social skills, and he tends to speak in tirades. Yet that has not stopped him winning eight consecutive elections to the US House of Representatives.

“Twenty years ago when people here thought about socialism they were thinking about the Soviet Union, about Albania,” Mr Sanders told the Guardian in a telephone interview from the campaign trail. “Now they think about Scandinavia. In Vermont people understand I’m talking about democratic socialism.”

Apparently, the highest vote received by a socialist candidate for the US Senate before was 6%, way back in the 1930s.

I’m not a Socialist, but I think this is great news – not least for the state of American democracy.  It was never particularly unhealthy in the first place, but if Sanders makes it to the Senate he’ll contribute a great deal to enhancing the diversity of political debate in Washington.

And it’ll be fascinating to see what impact his election will have on makeup of the Senate if the Democrats and Republicans are neck and neck after Tuesday’s elections.