Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Eskimo words for snow

It is a popular urban legend that the Eskimo have an unusually high number of words for snow. Often this number is quoted as being dozens or hundreds, sometimes even as "thousands." The actual answer as to "how many Eskimo words for snow are there?" depends on how we define Eskimo (there are a number of languages), how we define snow, and how we count numbers of words in languages that have quite different grammatical structures than English....

The first citation dealing with multiple Eskimo words for snow is found in the introduction to The Handbook of North American Indians, the 1911 work of linguist and anthropologist Franz Boas. Boas mentions that Eskimos have four separate words for snow: aput ("snow on the ground"), gana ("falling snow"), piqsirpoq ("drifting snow"), and qimuqsuq ("snowdrift"), where English has only one. It is, of course, inaccurate to say that speakers of the English language have only one word for snow. Boas' intent was to connect differences in culture with differences in language.

Benjamin Whorf's theory of linguistic relativism holds that the language we speak both affects and reflects our view of the world. In a popular 1940 article on the subject, he referred to Eskimo languages having seven distinct words for snow. Later writers inflated the figure. By 1978, the number quoted had reached 50. On February 9, 1984 the New York Times gave the number as one hundred in an editorial.

The idea that Eskimos had hundreds of words for snow — indeed, hundreds of unique and fairly unrelated words — has given rise to the idea that Eskimos viewed snow very differently than people of other cultures. For example, when it snows, others see snow, but they could see any manifestation of their great and varied vocabulary. Vulgarized versions of Whorf's views hold not only that Eskimo speakers can choose among several snow words, but further, that they were unable to understand categorizing all seven (or however many) as "snow". To them, each word is supposedly a separate concept. Thus language is thought to impose a particular view of the world — not just for Eskimo languages, but for all groups. Whorf himself, a well-informed and respectful student of Native American cultures, held more sophisticated views than this caricature would suggest....

There is no one Eskimo language. A number of cultures are referred to as Eskimo, and a number of different languages are termed Eskimo-Aleut languages.

Like English, Eskimo languages have more than one word to describe snow. Yup'ik, for example, has been estimated to have around 24. This may seem impressive until one realizes that English has at least 40, including "berg", "frost", "glacier", "hail", "ice", "slush", "flurry", and "sleet".

Of course, it is perfectly possible that some Eskimo languages would have several extra words to describe snow, which is specifically the point of Boas's theory. This is because they deal with snow more than other cultures, just as artists have more words to describe the various details of their hobby. Where someone without artistic experience would simply identify a particular item as "paint", the artist calls it "oil paint", "acrylic paint", or "watercolor". This does not mean that these two individuals see two different things, nor does it mean that the artist would be confused by the idea that oil paint and acrylic paint are related.

The actual number of Eskimo words for snow is not hundreds — it is, in fact, limitless. This is because Eskimo languages (like many native North American languages) are polysynthetic; that is, a word can be composed of a large number of morphemes, such that a single word can express the equivalent of a sentence in a language like English. There is a system of derivational suffixes for word formation to which speakers can recursively add snow-referring roots. As in English, there is a handful of these snow-referring roots, words for "snowflake", "blizzard", "drift", and so on. This means that where an English speaker would describe what he or she is seeing as "soft, easily-packed snow", a speaker of an Eskimo language could describe the same thing in one word. And when the snow began to melt, she could change a few suffixes and describe, once again in one word, "soft, melting snow that is not easily-packed". If the snow became dirty, she could add a suffix and say, "soft, dirty, melting snow that is not easily-packed." All this in one word, where an English-speaker would need an entire phrase. And yet, the concept is the same in both languages....

There are two major errors in this myth. The first is that Eskimo speakers have more words for snow than English speakers do. In fact, they have about the same number, perhaps a few more and perhaps a few less depending on which Eskimo language one is focusing on. And as in English, these words are related to each other. Blizzards and flurries are two different types of snow, but they are snow nonetheless, and we recognize that. Speakers of Eskimo languages categorize snow in the same way.

The second error comes from a misconception of what should be considered "words". When it comes to describing snow in Eskimo languages, the words are limitless. And as in other polysynthetic languages, this rule is the same regardless of whether they are describing snow, cheese, trees, cars, or anything at all. This is because their language is structured differently than English. Because Eskimo is polysynthetic, it describes things in words of unlimited length.


Tuesday, July 18, 2006


[There's a name for it.]
A CAPTCHA (an acronym for "completely automated public Turing test to tell computers and humans apart", trademarked by Carnegie Mellon University) is a type of challenge-response test used in computing to determine whether or not the user is human. The term was coined in 2000 by Luis von Ahn, Manuel Blum, Nicholas J. Hopper of Carnegie Mellon University, and John Langford of IBM. A common type of CAPTCHA requires that the user type the letters of a distorted image, sometimes with the addition of an obscured sequence of letters or digits that appears on the screen. Because the test is administered by a computer, in contrast to the standard Turing test that is administered by a human, a CAPTCHA is sometimes described as a reverse Turing test. This term, however, is ambiguous because it could also mean a Turing test in which the participants are both attempting to prove they are the computer....

Since the early days of the Internet, users have wanted to make text illegible to computers. The first such people were hackers, posting about sensitive topics to online forums they thought were being automatically monitored for keywords. To circumvent such filters, they would replace a word with look-alike characters. HELLO could become |-|3|_|_() or )-(3££0, as well as numerous other variants, such that a filter could not possibly detect all of them. This later became known as "13375p34k" (leetspeak).

The first discussion of automated tests which distinguish humans from computers for the purpose of controlling access to web services appears in a 1996 manuscript of Moni Naor from the Weizmann Institute of Science, entitled "Verification of a human in the loop, or Identification via the Turing Test". Primitive CAPTCHAs seem to have been later developed in 1997 at AltaVista by Andrei Broder and his colleagues in order to prevent bots from adding URLs to their search engine. Looking for a way to make their images resistant to OCR attack, the team looked at the manual to their Brother scanner, which had recommendations for improving OCR's results (similar typefaces, plain backgrounds, etc.). The team created puzzles by attempting to simulate what the manual claimed would cause bad OCR recognition. In 2000, von Ahn and Blum developed and publicized the notion of a CAPTCHA, which included any program that can distinguish humans from computers. They invented multiple examples of CAPTCHAs, including the first CAPTCHAs to be widely used (at Yahoo!).


CAPTCHAs based on reading text — or other visual-perception tasks — prevent visually impaired users from accessing the protected resource. However, CAPTCHAs do not have to be visual. Any hard artificial intelligence problem, such as speech recognition, can be used as the basis of a CAPTCHA. Some implementations of CAPTCHAs permit users to opt for an audio CAPTCHA.

The development of audio CAPTCHAs appears to have lagged behind that of visual CAPTCHAs, however, and presently may not be as effective. Other kinds of challenges, such as those that require understanding the meaning of some text (e.g., a logic puzzle, trivia question, or instructions on how to create a password) can also be used as a CAPTCHA. Again, there is little research into their resistance against countermeasures.

Some interesting tests came on the idea of image recognition. One such example is the KittenAuth, a test that asks the user to recognize some certain animal (kittens) in a series of pictures of multiple species (dolphins, puppies, foxes...)

For non-sighted users (for example blind users, or the color blind on a color-using test), visual CAPTCHAs present serious problems. Because CAPTCHAs are designed to be unreadable by machines, common assistive technology tools such as screen readers cannot interpret them. Since sites may use CAPTCHAs as part of the initial registration process, or even every login, this challenge can completely block access. In certain jurisdictions, site owners could become target of litigation if they are using CAPTCHAs that discriminate against certain people with disabilities. In other cases, those with sight difficulties can choose to identify a word being read to them.

While providing an audio CAPTCHA allows blind users to read the text, it still excludes those who are both visually and hearing impaired.

The use of CAPTCHA thus excludes a large number of individuals from using significant subsets of such common Web-based services as PayPal, GMail, Orkut, Yahoo!, many forum and weblog systems, etc.

Even for perfectly sighted individuals, new generations of CAPTCHAs, designed to overcome sophisticated recognition software, can be very hard or impossible to read. Even some of the demo CAPTCHAs at the software sites listed below are indecipherable to many if not all humans.


There are a few approaches to defeating CAPTCHAs: using cheap human labor to recognize them, exploiting bugs in the implementation that allow the attacker to completely bypass the CAPTCHA, and finally improving character recognition software.

Cheap human labor

It may be possible to subvert CAPTCHAs by relaying them to a sweatshop of human operators who are employed to decode CAPTCHAs. The W3C paper linked below states that such an operator "could easily verify hundreds of them each hour". Nonetheless, some have suggested that this would still not be economically viable. (e.g. [1]) Paying the human operators with access to pornography instead of money has also been considered.[2]

Implementation bugs

Some poorly designed CAPTCHA protection systems can be bypassed without using OCR simply by re-using the session ID of a known CAPTCHA image.[3] Sometimes, if part of the software generating the CAPTCHA is client-sided (the validation is done on a server but the text that the user is required to identify is rendered on the client side), then users can modify the client to display the unrendered text, etc.

Computer character recognition

Although CAPTCHAs were originally designed to defeat standard OCR software designed for document scanning, a number of research projects have proven that it is possible to defeat many CAPTCHAs with programs that are specifically tuned for a particular type of CAPTCHA. For CAPTCHAs with distorted letters, the approach typically consists of the following steps:

  1. Removal of background clutter, for example with color filters and detection of thin lines.
  2. Segmentation, i.e. splitting the image into segments containing a single letter.
  3. Identifying the letter for each segment.

Step 1 is typically very easy to do automatically. In 2005, it was shown that neural network algorithms have a lower error rate than humans in step 3.[4] The only part where humans still excel computers is step 2. If the background clutter consists of shapes similar to letter shapes, and the letters are connected by this clutter, the segmentation becomes nearly impossible with current software. Hence, an effective CAPTCHA should focus on step 2, the segmentation.

Neural networks have been used with great success to defeat CAPTCHAs as they generally are indifferent to both affine and non-linear transformations. As they learn by example rather than through explicit coding, with appropriate tools very limited technical knowledge is required to defeat more complex CAPTCHAs.

Some CAPTCHA-defeating projects:

  • Mori et al. published a paper in IEEE CVPR'03 detailing a method for defeating one of the most popular CAPTCHAs, EZ-Gimpy, which was tested as being 92% accurate in defeating it. The same method was also shown to defeat the more complex and less-widely deployed Gimpy program 33% of the time. However, the existence of implementations of their algorithm in actual use is indeterminate at this time.
  • PWNtcha has made significant progress in defeating commonly used CAPTCHAs, which has contributed to a general migration towards more sophisticated CAPTCHAs.

Monday, July 17, 2006


[Used in this cool story about the blissful hegemony of female pop stars....]
In music, melisma is the technique of changing the note (pitch) of a syllable of text while it is being sung. Music sung in this style is referred to as melismatic, as opposed to syllabic, where each syllable of text is matched to a single note. Music of the ancient cultures used melismatic techniques to achieve a hypnotic trance in the listener, useful for early mystical initiation rites (Eleusinian Mysteries) and religious worship. This quality is still found in much Hindu and Muslim religious music today. In western music, the term most commonly refers to Gregorian Chant, but may be used to describe music of any genre, including baroque singing and later gospel.

Melisma first appeared in written form in some genres of Gregorian Chant, with the earliest written appearance around 900 AD. where it was used in certain sections of the Mass. The gradual and the alleluia, in particular, were characteristically melismatic, for example, while the tract is not, and repetitive melodic patterns were deliberately avoided in the style. The Byzantine rite also used melismatic elements in their music, which developed roughly concurrently to the Gregorian chant.

The hymn tune "Gloria" by Edward Shippen Barnes, to which the hymn Angels We Have Heard On High is usually sung, contains one of the most melismatic sequences in popular Christian hymn music, on the "o" of the word "Gloria".

Melisma is today commonly used in Middle Eastern popular music. Melisma is also commonly featured in Western popular music, which has been heavily influenced by African American musical and vocal techniques, by artists such as Whitney Houston, Stevie Wonder, Luther Vandross, Mariah Carey, Celine Dion, Beyoncé Knowles, Lauryn Hill, Aretha Franklin & Christina Aguilera. Melisma is also used in rock music, with notable proponents including Thom Yorke from Radiohead, Robert Plant from Led Zeppelin, Cedric Bixler-Zavala from Mars Volta, and Trevor Garrod from Tea Leaf Green.


Friday, July 14, 2006


[From DFW's famous and fun essay on the puzzle of English usage, one finds this...]
In language, both dysphemism (from the Greek 'dys' δυς = non and 'pheme' φήμη = speech) and cacophemism (in Greek 'cacos' κακός = bad) are rough opposites of euphemism, meaning the usage of an intentionally harsh word or expression instead of a polite one.

The latter is generally used more often in the sense of something deliberately offensive, while the former can be either offensive or merely humorously deprecating. Examples of dysphemism include dead tree edition for the paper version of an online magazine, or the American military personnel's use of shit on a shingle for their common breakfast of creamed chipped beef on toast.

Dysphemism is as common as euphemism in everyday usage. Few sports teams actually slaughter or annihilate one another; few companies crush their competition; no one is dumb as a box of hair (nor, for that matter, a box of rocks or bricks, or a sack of hammers, with or without their heads, door knobs however is subject to opinion).

Many of the same subjects can be dysphemized as euphemized, such as sex and death—a well-thought-of dead person may be said to have passed away, a disrespected one to have kicked the bucket or to be worm food. Oddly, some humorous expressions can be both euphemistic and dysphemistic depending on context: for example spank the monkey might be used as either a softer alternative to "masturbate", or as a more deliberately provocative one depending on the audience. Likewise, pushing up daisies can be taken as either softer or harsher than "died". This is because terms which can be dysphemic can also be affectionate.

The dysphemism treadmill

Similar to the concept of the euphemism treadmill, a complementary "dysphemism treadmill" exists, but is more rarely observed. In these cases, notions of profanity, obscenity and other words once called "offensive" are later described as "objectionable", then "questionable", and in some cases, they reach near- or outright acceptability.

One modern example is the word "sucks." "That sucks" began as American slang for "that is very unpleasant", and is shorthand for "that sucks dick." It developed over the late-20th century from being an extremely vulgar phrase to mainstream slang. A similar phenomenon happened with "jerk", which began as "jerk-off", in reference to someone who was boorish or stupid, and was a forbidden term in public media, but is now acceptable (for example, the Steve Martin film, The Jerk).

Sometimes a term will go from being a euphemism to being a dysphemism and then go back to being a euphemism. "Queer" and "gay" for example both started as euphemisms for homosexual, and then got on the euphemism treadmill and became insults — but are now the preferred adjectives amongst the gay community itself.


  • Worm food (for dead)
  • (in French) "Manger les pissenlits par la racine" meaning "to eat dandelion's roots" (for to be dead)
  • Broken, crippled, losing (for buggy[1])
  • Pushing up daisies (for dead)
  • Point your percy at the porcelaine (for urinate)

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

The Big Dig

[Once again, problems...]
Big Dig [3] is the unofficial name of the Central Artery/Tunnel Project (CA/T), a massive undertaking to reroute the Central Artery (Interstate 93), the chief controlled-access highway through the heart of Boston, Massachusetts, into a 3.5 mile (5.6km) tunnel under the city, replacing a previous elevated roadway. The project also included the construction of the Ted Williams Tunnel (extending Interstate 90 to Logan International Airport) and the Zakim Bunker Hill Bridge over the Charles River.

The Big Dig is the single most expensive highway project in American history. Although the project was estimated at $2.5 billion in 1985, when the last major highway section opened in December 2003, over $14.6 billion had been spent in federal and state tax dollars as of 2006. The project was replete with delays, arrests, escalating costs, leaks, poor execution and use of substandard materials. The Massachusetts Attorney General is demanding contractors refund taxpayers $108 million for "shoddy work...."[4]

The project was conceived in the 1970s to replace the rusting elevated six-lane Central Artery. The expressway separated downtown from the waterfront, and was increasingly choked with bumper-to-bumper traffic. Business leaders were more concerned about access to Logan Airport, and pushed instead for a third harbor tunnel. In their second terms as governor and secretary of transportation, respectively, Michael Dukakis and Fred Salvucci, came up with the strategy of tying the two projects together—thereby combining the project that the business community supported with the project that they and the City of Boston supported.

Planning for the Big Dig officially began in 1982, with environmental impact studies starting in 1983. After years of extensive lobbying for federal dollars, a 1987 public works bill appropriating funding for the Big Dig was passed by U.S. Congress, but it was subsequently vetoed by President Ronald Reagan as being too expensive. When Congress overrode his veto, the project had its green light and ground was first broken in 1991....[1]

On August 11, 2005, it was announced that the Massachusetts State Police searched the offices of the Big Dig's largest concrete supplier in June and found evidence of faked records that hid the poor quality of concrete delivered for highway project. However, it is not believed that the low-quality concrete is connected to the hundreds of leaks discovered in the tunnels that take vehicles under Boston.

On March 19, 2006, the International Herald Tribune reported that Massachusetts "Attorney General Tom Reilly plans to sue Bechtel/Parsons Brinckerhoff and other companies if the two sides do not reach an agreement over 200 complaints of poor work in the construction of a highway system under the center of Boston, the Boston Globe reported Saturday. Reilly was said to be seeking $67 million from Bechtel and $41 million from other companies." [6]

On May 4, 2006, six current or former employees from the concrete supplier Aggregate Industries Inc. were arrested and charged for falsifying records regarding the poor quality concrete.

On May 5, 2006, due to the controversy, Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney announced he would return some $3,500 in political contributions from employees of Aggregate Industries. [7]

On July 10, 2006, at approximately 11:00 p.m., a steel tieback that suspends the concrete ceiling inside the tunnel structure failed near the eastern portal of the eastbound I-90 Connector tunnel leading to the Ted Williams Tunnel in South Boston, causing four three-ton sections of ceiling to collapse. A section of ceiling fell on top of a car traveling through the tunnel, killing newlywed 38-year-old passenger Milena Del Valle and slightly injuring her husband Angel Del Valle, who was driving. The Boston Globe noted that similar tiebacks were in use in the Ted Williams Tunnel, as well as in 17 places on I-90. Attorney General Tom Reilly issued subpoenas to those involved in the construction and testing of the tunnels in which criminal charges may follow. Governor Mitt Romney also returned from a vacation in New Hampshire to view the condition of the tunnels. [4] Governor Romney and Attorney General Reilly both called for the resignation of Turnpike Authority chairman Matthew J. Amorello who provides oversight on the project. This call was supported in editorials in Boston's two major newspapers, the Boston Herald [8] and the Boston Globe [9]. Romney and Reilly are taking heat from the media for accepting campaign contributions from Big Dig contractors and for not taking more action prior to the fatal accident. Modern Continental was the contractor that built this section.

On July 12, 2006, investigators began questioning on how the tunnel ceiling was constructed. The collapse of the ceiling structure began with the failure of a single steel hanger that held up the panels. The failure of that panel set off a chain reaction that caused other hangers to fail and send 12 tons of concrete smashing below. Numerous problems with this same system of bolts and glue in the Ted Williams Tunnel were revealed by the state Office of the Inspector General in a 1998 report. Not only were the bolts too short, but the epoxy used to glue the bolts into the concrete were not up to standard. [5]


Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Trial by ordeal

[Virginia's governor has pardoned a witch convicted 300 years ago by trial by water....]
Trial by ordeal
is a judicial practice by which the guilt or innocence of the accused is determined by subjecting them to a painful task. If either the task is completed without injury, or the injuries sustained are healed quickly, the accused is considered innocent. Like trial by combat, it was a judicium Dei: a procedure based on the premise that God would help the innocent.

In Europe, the ordeal was often by fire (using hot metal) or boiling water; its exact nature varied considerably, however.

Ordeal of fire

In one instance, the accused would walk nine paces with a red-hot iron bar held in both hands. Depending on the custom of the time, innocence would be shown by a complete lack of injury from the ordeal or the wounds would be bound and regularly examined for healing or festering. An English version had nine red-hot ploughshares placed on the floor; the accused was blindfolded and if they successfully crossed the floor without injury they were judged innocent.

Ordeal of water

Gregory of Tours (died 695) recorded the common expectation that with a millstone round his or her neck, the guilty would sink: "The cruel pagans cast him [Quirinus, bishop of the church of Sissek] into a river with a millstone tied to his neck, and when he had fallen into the waters he was long supported on the surface by a divine miracle, and the waters did not suck him down since the weight of crime did not press upon him." (Historia Francorum i.35)

A variant on the ordeal by water was the requirement to remove a stone from a pot of boiling water, the injury sustained indicating guilt as in the trial by fire; sometimes the liquid medium used could be oil or molten lead. Some cases of trial by water tested the accused's ability to consume bitter water without harm — this is present in the Torah as a test for a woman who allegedly committed adultery and is called the Sotah procedure in Judaism; however, it is the reverse of the normal case as the physically harmless water is seen to be transformed into a deadly potion if the accused is guilty.

Another variant was similar to the dunking of witches. The accused would be bound and thrown into water; if innocent they would sink, while a guilty person would float. The innocent person would then be rescued — not left to drown, as is sometimes portrayed — though the rescue was not always successful. Witches were imagined to float supernaturally above water because they had renounced baptism when entering the Devil's service. Some researchers theorise that specific diet was used to cause witches to float by increasing the amount of gas within their intestines. By other theories of the time, an innocent person would float with God's aid, while a guilty person would sink. In either case, the accused had little chance of surviving the ordeal.

In England, trial by ordeal was in use in Saxon and Norman times. Ordeal by fire was restricted to upper-class defendants. A deputy could be nominated in certain circumstances. The cooperation of priests was forbidden by the Fourth Lateran Council in 1215, which was the reason it appeared less. In addition, it became superfluous with the rise of the Inquisition, in which the Church and the people found a suitable alternative.

Other ordeal methods

  • In Hindu law, a husband may require his wife to pass through fire, proving her fidelity by having no traces of being burnt.
  • A Burmese ordeal tradition involves the two accused persons to light a candle, with the winner being the owner of the candle that outlasts the other's.
  • If the loser is alive after a duel, burning or hanging might ensue to assure that victory belongs to the "judgment of God" (since the victor was believed to have won only due to the aid of divination).
  • In medieval times, a Trial by Sacrament was sometimes provided to nobles or other people who could pay for it. The criminal would be forced to swallow bread quickly without chewing. If the accused criminal choked, it was believed that God was not on their side and they were killed. If they were successful, then God had protected them and they escaped punishment.
  • some cultures administer the poisonous calabar bean to attempt to detect guilt.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Shamil Basayev

[They got him today...]
Shamil Salmanovich Basayev
(Russian: Шамиль Салманович Басаев) (January 14, 1965July 9, 2006) was a Chechen separatist vice-president, Islamist guerrilla leader, self-described terrorist, and one of Chechnya's most famed contemporary national heroes. Since 2003, Basayev also used the pseudonym and title Abdallah Shamil Abu-Idris, Amir of the Brigade of Shahids 'Riyadus Salihiin'".

Shamil Basayev was responsible for numerous terrorist attacks on civilians and guerrilla attacks on security forces in and around Russia, most (in)famously the Moscow theater siege and the Beslan school siege, and was considered undisputed leader of the radical wing of the Chechen insurgency against the presence of Russian federal security forces and the rule of Kremlin-backed local government in Grozny, considered a foreign occupation by separatists.

Basayev's power only increased after the Russian assassination of the more moderate, nationalist Chechen guerrilla leader, president of the separatist government Aslan Maskhadov. Basayev was a recipient of the highest awards of the breakaway Chechen Republic of Ichkeria: "K'oman Siy" (honour of the nation) and "K'oman Turpal" (hero of the nation). He bore the title of Ichkerian Divisional General....


  • During the rebel withdrawal from Grozny in January 2000 Basayev lost a foot after stepping on a landmine while leading his men through a mine field. Somewhat morbidly, the operation to amputate his foot was videotaped and later televised by Russia's NTV network and Reuters, showing his foot being removed by doctors using a local anaesthetic while the shaven-headed Basayev watched impassively. Despite this injury, Basayev eluded Russian capture together with other rebels by hiding in forests and mountains. He welcomed assistance from foreign fighters from Afghanistan and other Islamic countries, encouraging them to join the Chechen cause.
  • In January 2002, Basayev's father Salman Basayev was reputedly killed by Russian forces.[2] This has not been independently confirmed. Shamil's younger brother, Shirvani, has been reported dead by the Russians in 2000. However, according to numerous accounts, actually living in exile in Turkey where he is involved in coordination of the activities of the diaspora.
  • Around November 2, 2002 Basayev said on a rebel website that he was responsible for the Moscow theatre siege. He also tendered his resignation from all posts in Maskhadov's deposed government apart from the reconnaissance and sabotage battalion. He defended the operation but asked Maskhadov for forgiveness for not informing him of it.
  • On December 27, 2002, Chechen suicide bombers rammed vehicles into the republic's government headquarters in Grozny, bringing down the four-storey building and killing about 80 people. Basayev claimed responsibility, published the video of the attack, and said he personally triggered the bombs by a remote control.
  • From June till August 2003 Basayev lived in the town of Baksan in nearby Kabardino-Balkaria. In August 2003, a skirmish took place between the rebels and policemen from Baksan, who came to check Basayev's house; the rebels managed to escape.


  • In 2004 Basayev was accused of commanding a raid on the Russian republic of Ingushetia. In fact, he was shown in a video made of the raid, in which he led a large group of militants. Around 90 people died in this attack; most of them local members of the Russian security forces, including Minister of Interior and the chief prosecutors.
  • On May 9, 2004 the pro-Russian Chechen president Akhmad Kadyrov was killed in a bomb attack for which Basayev later claimed responsibility.
  • Shamil Basayev claimed responsibility for the Beslan school siege in September 2004 in which over 350 people, most of them children, were killed and hundreds more injured. The Russian government has put a bounty of 300m rubles ($10m) for information leading to his capture. Basayev himself did not participate in the seizure of the school in Beslan, but claims to have organized and financed the attack, boasting that the whole operation cost only 8,000 euro. Newspaper reports have also linked his Ingush deputy, Magomet Yevloyev, to the Beslan attack.
  • Basayev also claimed responsibility for the attacks against civilians during the previous week, in which a metro station in Moscow was bombed, killing 10 people, and two airliners were blown up by suicide bombers, killing 89 people. [3] Basayev dubbed these attacks "Operation Boomerang," supposedily an act of revenge for death and destruction caused by the Russian forces in Chechnya.


  • On February 3, 2005, British Channel 4 announced that it would air Shamil Basayev's interview. In response Russian Foreign Ministry said that the broadcast could aid terrorists in achieving their goals and demanded that the British Government call off the broadcast. But the British Foreign Office replied that it could not intervene in affairs of a private TV channel and the interview was aired as scheduled. [4] The same day, Russian media reported that Shamil Basayev had been killed. It was the 6th such report about Basayev's demise since 1999.
  • In May, 2005, Basayev reportedly claimed responsibility for the power outage in Moscow. The BBC reports that the claim for responsibility was made on a web site connected to Basayev, but conflicts with official reports that sabotage was not involved.
  • Even though Basayev has a US$10 million bounty on his head, he gave an interview to Russian journalist Andrei Babitsky in which he describes himself as "a bad guy, a bandit, a terrorist." But, to justify his own acts to intentionally kill unarmed civilians, women and children, he claimed that the Russians "officially"' killed 40,000 Chechen children and are therefore terrorists as well [5]. This interview was broadcast on American Television Network ABC's Nightline program, to the protest of the Russian Government; on August 2, 2005, Moscow banned journalists from U.S. television channel ABC from working in Russia after the channel broadcast an interview. [6]
  • On August 23, 2005, Basayev rejoined the Chechen separatist government, taking the post of first deputy chairman.
  • Basayev claimed responsibility for a raid on Nalchik, the capital of Russian republic of Kabardino-Balkaria. The raid occurred on 13 October and 14 October 2005. Basayev said that he and his "main units" were only in the city for two hours on the 13th, then left. There were reports that he had died during the raid, but this was contradicted when the rebel website, Kavkaz Center, posted a letter from him. [7]


  • In March 2006, Chechen Prime Minister Ramzan Kadyrov claimed that upwards of 3,000 police officers were hunting for Basayev in the southern mountains[8]
  • On June 15 Basayev repeated his claim of responsibility for the bombing that killed the Moscow-backed president, Akhmad Kadyrov, saying he paid $50,000 to those who carried out the assassination. The warlord also said he had put a $25,000 bounty on the head of Kadyrov's son, Ramzan. Basayev mocked Ramzan Kadyrov --a flamboyant prime minister in the regional government who heads widely feared paramilitary forces accused of abducting civilians and other violence-- in offering the bounty by saying: "He isn't worth more than that."
  • On June 27 Shamil Basayev was made the Ichkerian vice president, a rebel website said. [9]
  • On July 10 Shamil Basayev was confirmed to be killed in the village of Ekazhevo, in Ingushetia, a republic bordering Chechnya [10]. According to Russian FSB sources - he was riding in one of the cars escorting a truck filled with explosives, in preparation for another attack - as the result of explosion after a strike against this militant convoy - he was decapitated, and authorities sent his remains for DNA analysis to confirm his identity. Jihadi websites deny he was assassinated and claim the van exploded accidently. On Channel 4 News, Ahmed Zakayev, exiled separatist foreign minister, also denied Basayev was assassinated by Russian forces.

Friday, July 07, 2006


[The funny word in the news...]
The Taepodong-2 (TD-2), (Korean: 대포동-2, meaning "large cannon") is a designation used to indicate a North Korean three-stage ballistic missile design that is successor to Taepodong-1. Very little is currently known for sure about the missile design; on July 5, 2006, one was reportedly tested and, according to preliminary reports, failed around 35-40 seconds after launch. It is reported by NBC that a second or possibly third might be launched soon. [1]

Based on the size of the missile, the fuel composition, and the likely fuel capacity, it is estimated that a two stage variant would have a range of around 4000 km (2500 statute miles) and a three stage variant would be capable of reaching as far as 4500 km (2800 statute miles), giving it potentially the longest range in the North Korean missile arsenal. The burn time of each stage is a little over 100 seconds, thus allowing the missile to burn for 5 or 6 minutes. Future highly speculative variants of the missile could be capable of a range of approximately 9000 km (5600 statute miles).[2] At maximum range, the Taepodong-2 is estimated to have a payload capacity of less than 500 pounds. [2] This is an order of magnitude lighter than the likely weight of any North Korean nuclear device....

According to Kim Kil Son, a former worker in the publications department of one of North Korea's top research centres, North Korea began development of the missile in 1987.[3]

Very few details concerning the technical specifications of the rocket are in the public domain; even the name "Taepodong-2" is a designation applied by agencies outside of North Korea to what is presumed to be a successor to the Taepodong-1....

The Taepodong-2 missile was test fired on July 5, 2006 from the Musudan-ri Missile Test Facility.[5] According to preliminary reports, the missile failed in mid-flight 35-40 seconds after launch. [6] In an apparent effort to ensure that the missile would not be shot down by United States or Japanese defense systems and so they could get better readings on the test-fire results, North Korea also launched at least two short-range Nodong-2 missiles along with the Taepodong-2. The 3 missiles were apparently tracked by at least 1 U.S. guided missile cruiser. The ship's weapons systems were in a standby mode and according to Navy sources were never activated in order to track the missile. The main reason for this was the short flight time of the Taepodong-2. Navy sources unofficially stated that had the missile threatened Japan or any other country, the missile would have been targeted. Currently, U.S. officials believed that the Taepodong-2 was configured to deliver a satellite into orbit rather than as the flight test for a ballistic missile.[7]

Failures during the testing of new rocket launch systems are not in any way unusual; the first Ariane 5 launch failed, as did the Falcon 1. The first test launch of the Minuteman missile succeeded, but the second and fourth failed [4].