Already-at-War Dept: US operatives are said to be active in Iraq.

About 100 US Special Forces members and more than 50 Central Intelligence Agency officers have been operating in small groups inside Iraq for at least four months, searching for Scud missile launchers, monitoring oil fields, marking minefield sites, and using lasers to help US pilots bomb Iraqi air-defense systems, according to intelligence officials and military analysts who have talked with people on the teams.

The operations, which also have included small numbers of Jordanian, British, and Australian commandos, are considered by many analysts to be part of the opening phase of a war against Iraq, even though the Bush administration has agreed to a schedule of UN weapons inspections. Boston Globe

Clifford Pickover’s ESP Experiment. This has been around the web for a long while but has begun to attract attention. See how long it takes you to figure out how it is done. –

365 days:

For the entire year of 2003 (January 1st to December 31st) this page will feature one mp3 file (every day) to download. The content will be focused on musical pieces, but will also include spoken word. Listeners of the incredibly strange and outsider realm take note, for this is the majority of material that will be made available. Obscure and out-of-print recordings will be the primary focus, although once in a while there may be a change.

Edge: The World Question Center 2003:

Alan Alda (“I’m not a scientist but I do play one on TV”) takes on President Bush on the issue of his national science advisor.

Above, all, Mr. President, I think your science advisor needs to help you help our country learn to be comfortable with uncertainty, and—as hard as this might be to believe—to put reason ahead of belief.

Security cameras are getting smart —

— and scary

Nick Imearato, a research fellow at the Hoover Institute, said he expects the federal government to require cameras be placed every 400 feet or so in airports to monitor all aspects of airport security, from cargo areas to boarding areas. Over time, as the technology gets cheaper, he said, “This will migrate to millions of businesses and even homes.”

Such constant surveillance, even in the name of homeland security, scares civil libertarians, who feel it amounts to an illegal search of everyone who passes within view of a camera. San Jose Mercury News

"…freedom is kind of a hobby with me, and I have disposable income that I’ll spend to find out how to get people more of it."

Penn Jillette has an encounter with airline security that is a neat complement to, although has a very different outcome than, last week’s story by an LA writer about the treatment he and his pregnant wife received. Doesn’t hurt to be a celebrity, although Jillette’s head seems in the right place about it.

I kept saying, “Please get the police,” and they kept saying, “You’re free to go, we don’t need the police.” I insisted and they got a higher up, female, supervisor. I was polite, cold, and a little funny. “Anyone is welcome to grab my crotch, I don’t require dinner and a movie, just ask me. Is that asking too much? You wanna grab my crotch, please ask. Does that seem like a crazy person to you?” I had about 4 of them standing around. Finally Metro PD shows up. It’s really interesting. First of all, the cop is a BIG P&T fan and that ain’t hurting. Second, I get the vibe that he is WAY sick of these federal leather-sniffers. He has that vibe that real cops have toward renta-cops. This is working WAY to my advantage, so I play it.

The supervisor says to the cop, ‘He’s free to go. We have no problem, you don’t have to be here.” Which shows me that the Feds are afraid of local. This is really cool. She says, “We have no trouble and he doesn’t want to miss his flight.”

I say, “I can take an early morning flight or a private jet. ” The cop says, “If I have a citizen who is saying he was assaulted, you can’t just send me away.”

George Orwell, here we come:

Declan McCullagh on what surveillance technology will be like in a decade: “…(T)he biggest problem with the criticism of the Total Information Awareness system is that it’s too shortsighted. It’s focused on what the Poindexters of the world can do with current database and information-mining technology. That includes weaving together strands of data from various sources–such as travel, credit card, bank, electronic toll and driver’s license databases–with the stated purpose of identifying terrorists before they strike.

But what could Poindexter and the Bush administration devise in five or 10 years, if they had the money, the power and the will?” CNET

‘I Want to Believe’:

Search for Bigfoot Outlives the Man Who Created Him

“This wasn’t a well-planned plot or anything,” said Michael Wallace, one of Ray’s sons. “It’s weird because it was just a joke, and then it took on such a life of its own that even now, we can’t stop it.”

Bigfoot defenders, including at least two scientists and a clinical psychologist who says he ran into the Big Guy two years ago in southern Oregon, are undeterred.

They give Mr. Wallace credit for the hoax, which led to news stories around the world and began thousands of campfire debates. But, they say, other evidence is too strong to let a prank kill something that has become ingrained in the culture. NY Times

Goodbye, Columbus!

The evidence is massive,” said Gavin Menzies of his new theory. ”I’ve got it coming out of my eyes!” His voice was filled with excitement, just as you’d expect from someone propounding one of the most revolutionary ideas in the history of history. A retired navy man with white hair, Menzies still has a hint of red in the eyebrows that frame his ocean-blue eyes. Dressed in a handsome sports jacket and tie, he cheerfully invited me into his stately Georgian house in the Canonbury section of London. What he had to say, his publicists had warned me in breathless e-mail messages, would make ”every history book in print obsolete.” NY Times

The Evil Behind the Axis?

If one man sits at the nuclear fulcrum of the three countries President Bush calls the “axis of evil,” it may well be Abdul Qadeer Khan.

The 66-year-old metallurgist is considered the father of Pakistan’s nuclear bomb. He is a national hero at home, where hospitals bear his name and children sing his praises. U.S. and other Western officials do not. They say Khan is the only scientist known to be linked to the alleged efforts of North Korea, Iraq and Iran to develop nuclear weapons. LA Times

The Shape of the New Republican Senate:

‘Allies, not Lickspittles’

History suggests caution. Not only is the majority razor-thin, but senators are a fiercely independent lot, often reluctant to do their president’s bidding. Bill Clinton, for instance, had a rocky ride with a Democrat-controlled Congress between 1992 and 1994, famously failing to persuade lawmakers to pass his ambitious healthcare plan. Nonetheless, Mr Bush has several big advantages. First, many Republican lawmakers are all too aware that they owe their jobs to the president’s popularity and his prodigious campaigning before November’s election. Equally important, Bill Frist, the Senate’s new majority leader (and hence top agenda-setter), is a certified Friend of George. The Economist