June 06, 2003

I BELIEVE SAMMY SOSA

Since the Sosa scandal has transcended baseball I thought I'd post something on it. Sosa was just given an eight game suspension, and he deserves the penalty. But Sammy Sosa's explanation is far more believable than the NY Times' explanation after getting caught repeatedly with corked articles, or Barbara Walters' latest excuses for her friend Hillary's corked book. Unlike either of them, he deserves the benefit of the doubt. Interestingly, it turns out that a corked bat only gives hitters a 0% to 1% distance advantage -- mostly just a psychological boost. Hall of Famer Joe Morgan puts the feeding frenzy in perspective:

For all those who jumped to conclusions after Sammy Sosa was caught with a corked bat, it looks like Sosa's explanation was more correct than their accusations.

Sosa said he used the corked bat only for batting practice and picked it up by mistake in Tuesday night's game. Since then, all 76 of Sosa's bats that were confiscated after the incident have been X-rayed and found to be completely cork-free.

Moreover, the five bats Sosa has given to the Baseball Hall of Fame were X-rayed by us at the Hall (I'm the vice chairman of the Hall) and also found to be clean. These are the bats he used in achieving milestones such as his 500th home run.

...Since Sosa's bats were demonstrated to be clean, I accept his explanation. In fact, I understand how a batter could use a corked bat by mistake -- because it happened to me once.

I had two or three corked bats, made for me by a carpenter, that I used for batting practice when I played with the San Francisco Giants in 1981. We used them because the cold conditions made our hands hurt during BP. The corked bat would soften the sting and protect your hands. I also used aluminum bats during batting practice, for the same reason.

One day, I forgot to take the corked bats back to my clubhouse locker after BP. During the game, one of my bats broke, and the bat boy brought a couple of other bats to me. I just grabbed one, because all my bats were the same. After I hit a fly ball to right field, I thought, "That didn't feel right." I went back to look at the bat, and sure enough -- it was the corked bat I had used in BP and forgotten to put away.

By the way, there's a debate about whether a corked bat actually causes a batted ball to travel farther. My experience was that corked bats did not make the ball go farther
Posted by Chris Regan at 12:57 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

FAR EAST TRAVELBLOG

An American in Tokyo

The day we landed, May 30, was a hot one. A typhoon loitered off to the south, pushing a warm front ahead and promising downpours as it neared. We caught a shuttle bound for the airline's hotel, thinking we'd use our first night in country to overcome jet lag. That turned out to be a good move--13 hours and 20 minutes on an airplane had wiped us out. After a snack for dinner and a round of baths, we all collapsed for the night. It was 7:30 pm. We would have had a hard time getting our 3 year old--heck, ourselves--to ride in a car for 3 hours to get to our old haunts from Narita Airport immediately after that flight.

The following day my wife's family picked us up, and we set out to cross Tokyo and get to their house, where we were to stay for a few days. That typhoon had made landfall during the night, and pounded us steadily the entire drive. While the rain prevented us from seeing much, I could still pick out a few buildings and landmarks along the Chuo Expressway. The Chuo is a typical Japanese highway, raised about 5 stories off the ground, flanked by gaudy neon signs hawking Coke or King Jim cigarettes or nightclubs (those ads featured one of the most stunning Japanese models I've ever seen). It's hideously expensive to drive on--from Narita to Fussa, the Tokyo suburb that's home to Yokota Air Base and to my wife's family, you'll spend roughly $60 for the privilege. But it keeps you from spending hours on end battling traffic lights--you just get to battle trucks and tolls, for anywhere from 90 minutes on a good day to 5 hours or more on a bad one.

This drive, in a typhoon no less, took just under 3 hours. A good Tokyo traffic day--only a half hour in bumper to bumper. And through the rain I still managed to spot that weird building with the disk on top that appeared in one of Sean Connery's Bond films. Seeing it convinces me that I'm really in Tokyo and not on some Blade Runner set.

The next day we set out for a river fishing trip. But this would be no ordinary fishing trip. In most areas around Tokyo, you can't just pop down any old place and drop your line. You'd be unlikely to catch much, and what you did catch would probably have three eyes and a few extra fins. Dirty rivers... So we went to the countryside and rented some poles and a few rockwalled stretches of the Akikawa, or Fall River. Once we paid, some ogisans trucked out a few buckets of red trout and dumped them upstream and even directly into our allotted pools. Then we baited up with big orange fish eggs and dangled our hooks until the trout decided to play along and get themselves caught. I caught ten--the maximum allowed per pole--and we left with a total of 30 very accommodating trout. It's not very sporting, almost literally catching fish from a barrel, but that's fishing in Tokyo.

We spent the balance of our time in the area visiting friends and family, seeing sights and enjoying the city. We also acknowledged our jones for Tokyo cuisine, dining at kaitenzushi shops where the raw fish zips by on a conveyor belt and you have to shout at the chef to place a special (or any other) order; ramen shops that look like truck stops but fill you up with some of the best noodles and soup you'll ever eat; and dropping in on convenience stores (called combini) to pick up Don Tacos chips and a can or two of Georgia Coffee or Boss Coffee or (my favorite) a canned sweet milk tea that's unbelievably tasty. And I longed for a chair. How Tokyo got to be the biggest city in the world without the aid of even a single chair is beyond me.

South to Kyushu

After a few days in the capital, we've now moved about as far south as you can and still stay in what's considered mainland Japan. We're in Amakusa, on the southern tip of Kyushu near Nagasaki, where my wife's parents now live. It's my father-in-law's boyhood hometown, and having retired he decided to move back. He and my mother-in-law cleared out a spot on the side of a mountain and built a house, mostly on the Japanese floorplan--tatami floors and moveable walls that make it possible to have one large central room or several small ones--but they added a fun twist. Thinking I would eventually visit, they added a small hardwood section with a couple of chairs and a coffee table. It's on the front of the house, and looks like a breakfast nook. I'm sitting in it now writing this one peck at a time on my PDA, but what's interesting is that my in-laws' neighbors all love this little room. They all keep saying they wish they had one. When they build new homes, some of them probably will--a little American breakfast nook in otherwise Japanese homes. And thus may Japanese architecture encounter subtle change.

This region--Amakusa--is about as different from Tokyo as it can be. Rural, full of tiny fishing villages and farms where many people eek out just enough to sell a little and live on the rest, it's as slow as Tokyo is frenetic. Amakusa offers beautiful beaches, a tropical climate and friendly people. It's history has a curious fascination for me. Amakusa was once the center of Japanese Christianity, until a shogun outlawed it and set about to eradicate it. Amakusa Christians and farmer peasants rebelled, and in 1637 went to war under a creed demanding "liberty and equality." The rebels' story could make a good movie a la Braveheart. A 16 year old child prodigy known as Amakusa Shiro led the uprising. He was a fervent Christian and charismatic leader, and for 4 months helped keep the rebels one step ahead of the shogun's troops. But it ended badly--the shogun dispatched 125,000 troops, which cornered Amakusa Shiro's 37,000 followers in the ruins of an old castle and slaughtered them. Amakusa Shiro ended up dead, his handsome head on a pike in Shimabara. Christianity lost the war and went underground, only becoming truly legal and acceptable after World War II. Today Amakusa is full of statues and monuments to their version of Davy Crockett who led the fight at Hara Castle, the local version of the Alamo, though the faith he fought for remains a tiny minority here and throughout Japan.

That's about it for now. Tomorrow we're going out on the bay to watch dolphins and maybe fish a while (real sea fishing, not Tokyo fishing) if the weather holds. After that, probably a day trip to Nagasaki. At some point we'll come back home, to jobs and the blog and all that. But it's been a nice spell away for the past week or so.

--Bryan Preston (via email)
Posted by Chris Regan at 11:48 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

June 05, 2003

THE DNC'S WHITENING PROJECT CONTINUES

After the recent exposure that forced the DNC to cancel a plan to cut ten blacks and zero whites off their employment roster, the Dems have now blocked the local black population from interfering with the traditionally white primaries:

Another sign that the Democrat establishment is terrified of Al Sharpton's candidacy: The white-dominated Democratic National Committee has forced the party in the overwhelmingly black District of Columbia to cancel its Jan. 13 primary.

The D.C. Dems had planned to get some attention for once by holding their primary before the caucus in Iowa and the primary in New Hampshire, two overwhelmingly white states where Sharpton and the DNC's stooge Carol Moseley Braun don't stand a chance. Then the DNC's plantation bosses interfered. Now the D.C. event is a mere non-binding "beauty contest," Fox News reported today.

The racism of the Democrat leadership has become so transparently obvious lately, it's like talking about the liberalism of the NY Times. The Hispanic judge being blocked by Dems is nothing new. Just wait and see how Condi Rice is treated if she dares to run against Hillary in 2008. The recent personal attacks on her last year as a "skeeza" and "answer-mammy" servant for Bush -- that the liberal media and Dems silently winked at -- were just softening their target.
Posted by Chris Regan at 05:45 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

NANOBOTS TO TURN EARTH INTO "GREY GOO?"

Here's another reason why we're lucky Al Gore isn't President. He would have NASA scientists launching satellites to monitor this threat to mankind:

Fears by the Prince of Wales that armies of microscopic robots could turn the face of the planet into an uninhabitable wasteland have prompted the nation's top scientists and engineers to launch an inquiry.

...Concerned by claims by environmentalists that swarms of rogue "nanomachines" could one day reduce all in their path to "grey goo", the prince has asked the Royal Society to help him to weigh up the risks.

...Prince Charles's fears appear to have been prompted by The Big Down, an extended polemic on the potential evils of nanotechnology, published at the start of this year by an organisation called ETC, a pressure group based in Canada.

This report rages against technological developments for creating extravagant wealth and extreme poverty.

(via Lucianne.com)
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June 04, 2003

SHIA MUSLIMS GETTING A SECOND CHANCE IN U.S AND IRAQ

The demonization of Wolfowitz drowns out any real news he makes lately. He recently met with American Shia Muslims and got several standing ovations. Shiites are tainted by the Iranian radicals, but they're not as bad overall as our Wahhabi-influenced media portrays. We may be able to harness and support the moderate Iraqi Shia to influence radical Iranian religious politics in the same way that supporting the moderate Wahhabis in Qatar and Kuwait may help pressure radical Wahhabis in Saudi Arabia. For now, it looks like we at least have decided to support American Shias to help reduce Wahhabi domination in the U.S.

Last Sunday saw a remarkable event in Washington - one that defied stereotypes about Muslims and the Bush administration's "hard-liners": Deputy Defense Secretary Paul D. Wolfowitz, widely identified (and denounced) as the main architect of America's Iraq intervention, won multiple standing ovations from an audience of hundreds of Muslims.

He praised the coalition's use of force to remove evil, and he hailed the new reality in Iraq. For the first time in 26 years, he said, Shia Muslims had freedom to observe their Arbaeen festival in Iraq. The room exploded in applause.

...The most recent dire prediction is that the Shia majority in Iraq will establish a rigid Islamic order.

...Shia Muslims, including a considerable community in the New York area, are better educated than many other Muslims. Their dedication to self-improvement often makes them a target.

In Saudi Arabia, where they are the majority in the oil-rich Eastern Province, they are also an economic elite. But within the Saudi kingdom, they still suffer extraordinary cruelties at the hands of the Wahhabis, who teach in Saudi schools that Shia Islam is the product of a Jewish conspiracy.

Life is tough for Shias, a minority of 200 million, or 15 percent of the world's Muslims. In America, where estimates of the total Muslim population vary from 2 million to 10 million, one in four is Shia. Most came here from Pakistan and Iraq to escape violence.

The Shia national convention in Washington, held by the Universal Muslim Association of America (UMAA) with 3,000 participants, represented a new trend in American Muslim life.

This may very well be the a watershed moment, and there's a good reason the media refused to report it. According also to Stephen Schwartz in an interview last year:

Unfortunately, the U.S. is the only country outside Saudi Arabia where the Islamic establishment is under Wahhabi control. Eighty percent of American mosques are Wahhabi-influenced...

The entire gamut of "official" Islamic organizations in the U.S., particularly the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) and the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) are Wahhabi fronts. In other such groups, like the American Muslim Council (AMC) and the Muslim Students Association (MSA) Wahhabism is in crisis, because of the devastating effect of 9/11. In addition, the Wahhabis are deeply compromised by the exposure of individuals like John Walker Lindh, Richard Reid, José Padilla, and John Muhammad.

...To understand the struggle of the world's traditional Muslims against Wahhabism, you have to get away from the "Arab street" and meaningless people wandering around. You have to sit down with serious Islamic clerics and thinkers and dialogue with them in a way they understand and respect.

...I have never seen a single serious interview with an Islamic religious figure on Western television.

...As for the situation in the U.S., condemnation of Wahhabism and even of terrorism have been sparse for the following reasons:

Wahhabis (CAIR, etc.) are granted status by U.S. media as the main Islamic spokespeople. They issue ameliorative statements intended to end discussion of the problem, and they closely watch the community and prevent traditional Muslims from expressing themselves openly about Wahhabism and its involvement with terrorism. The U.S. media let them get away with this.

Most immigrant Muslims in the U.S. came to this country to get away from extremism and are horrified to see that their faith is in extremist hands here. They believed, before coming here, that the U.S. government would never permit such a thing to happen. However, their children are often indoctrinated and radicalized by extremists operating through Muslim schools, Islamic Sunday schools, and radical campus groups. That the U.S. government turned a blind idea to the Wahhabization of American Islam is deeply shocking and disturbing for them. They feel intimidated and defeated.

Even the Guardian's suddenly reasonable Salam Pax is giving the moderate Shia clerics a chance in Iraq:

While talking to a very eloquent taxi driver the other day, he started accusing the media of not giving a chance to someone like Al-Sistani [one of the two leading Shia clerics] to show another, non-militant, side of Hawza [the influential college of Shia theologians in Najaf]. He was telling me of a Friday prayer khutba in which the imam told them to cooperate with the Americans. They did get rid of Saddam and they should be given a chance to prove their good will. He invited me to come and listen to the khutba next Friday. Maybe, maybe. My friend G might be right after all when he was trying to convince me that the sentence "reasonable imams in Hawza" is not an oxymoron.
Posted by Chris Regan at 03:45 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

THE "LET'S ROLL BACK" DOCTRINE

Coming soon to a war theater near you:

The Bush administration will tell Congress in open hearings Wednesday that the threat of weapons of mass destruction remains so real the U.S. may have to use military force again to stop their proliferation.

In the strongest policy statement yet made, Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security John Bolton will reveal to the House’s Committee on International Relations the administration’s "roll back" doctrine in dealing with weapons of mass destruction (WMD).

Bolton will use his testimony to not only justify the U.S. war on Iraq, but also explain why the U.S. may engage in military conflict with other rogue states in the near future.

...He plans to tell Congress the administration will not “let Iran, a leading sponsor of international terrorism, acquire the most destructive weapons and the means to deliver them to Europe, most of central Asia and the Middle East – or further.”

Bolton will save his strongest rhetoric for North Korea, whose nuclear program poses "a grave threat to regional and global security."

...In addition to North Korea and Iran, Bolton will tick off a roll of nations now known to be playing in the high-stakes WMD game.

Libya presents a serious WMD threat, Bolton will say. Libyan dictator Muammar Qaddafi has asserted the right to have nuclear weapons, and his chemical warfare efforts are well advanced. Libya has a biological warfare program.

Syria maintains a chemical warfare program, has a stockpile of the nerve agent sarin and is engaged in research and development of more toxic and persistent nerve agents. They are also working on biological weapons.

Cuba has at least a limited offensive biological warfare research and development effort and has provided dual-use biotechnology to rogue states.

Sudan may pursue a ballistic missile capability in the near future, Bolton will predict.

We have too many rogues in front of us to wait around after cleaning up Iraq and trying for peace in the Middle East. America is like a blackbelt being attacked by a group of drunks. One at a time, Bush is sizing up his next threat and looking for a volunteer. These countries are all gambling that Bush will pay attention to someone else first. A few will back off, but we may have to take out at least two more.

UPDATE: Here's the full text of his remarks.
Posted by Chris Regan at 02:59 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

June 03, 2003

AL FRANKEN: THE CLINTON'S MEDIA ATTACK DOG?

Newsmax has been all over this strange story. Franken nearly came to physical blows with both Sean Hannity before, and Alan Colmes more recently at a Fox News dinner table. Lately he harangued Bill O'Reilly after doing the same to Rush Limbaugh for years. Is he nuts, or just Fox hunting for the Clintons?

On Imus' show, Newsweek reporter Howard Fineman follows the rage of the would be "King of All Democrat Media" back to the Clintons' strategic plan.

"O'Reilly's a big, big factor in politics today," Fineman told radio host Don Imus. "And there's a lot of feeling among Democrats - and Al is a dyed-in-the-wool-Democrat, you know, a big friend of Bill and Hillary Clinton - that the party people aren't really taking it to the Republicans."

"And that's what Al's going to do," the Newsweek scribe added.

Franken's counteroffensive, however, won't be limited to jousting with conservative stars at book conventions.

Unmentioned by Fineman, the former "Saturday Night Live" writer happens to be the personality designated by the Clintons to launch a talk radio offensive against the so-called conservative media's vast right-wing conspiracy.

Noted the Washington Times on Feb. 24, a proposed liberal talk radio network built around Franken "is being backed by Democratic supporters of Bill Clinton and Al Gore and was jump-started at a recent meeting in Washington with Democratic politicos who included New York Sen. Hillary Clinton."

Franken's recruitment as Bill and Hillary's handpicked media hitman was revealed less than two weeks after the ex-president himself complained to a sympathetic Katie Couric that Limbaugh, O'Reilly and Hannity were spearheading the GOP's "media machine."

In fact, the recent attacks in the media on Rupert Murdoch personally are part of the same Democrat campaign to expose this vast right-wing conspiracy. Physical intimidation of news media by a designee of the Clintons is a new twist, but interestingly enough, intimidating a reporter just got one of the Clinton's former private investigators in trouble:

Pellicano was arrested earlier this month in connection with an attempt to intimidate Los Angeles Times reporter Anita Busch, who was investigating an extortion plot against actor Steven Seagal.

Busch allegedly discovered the windshield of her car broken and a dead fish on the front seat with a red rose in its mouth. Former ex-con Alexander Proctor told prosecutors that Pellicano paid him $10,000 to scare the Times reporter off.

After searching the famed private detective's office, investigators found plastic explosives, blasting caps and detonating cord, along with $150,000 in cash.

I wouldn't be surprised if the Clintons have their infamous "secret police"on the trail of Murdoch and his on-air talent while Al Franken and moveon.org take to the airwaves. If I were working for Fox News, I would turn the tables and report on the Clinton "intimidation machine" as soon as Hillary's book is released.
Posted by Chris Regan at 04:26 PM | Comments (13) | TrackBack

DRS. JOSH MARSHALL, PAUL KRUGMAN AND JOHN NASH

Has anyone ever noticed how similarly convoluted "lapsed historian" Josh Marshall (who can't even get history right as it happens before his eyes) and "Enron economist" Krugman are in their thinking? It doesn't help when they both start with DNC talking points to frame their arguments. I guess being smart and knowledgeable doesn't always translate well outside academia, assuming that dilution of college degrees has not reached the doctorate level.

Two months ago, the lucid Dr. Stanley Kurtz attempted to probe the "depths" of Josh Marshall's mind after unraveling his tangled conspiracy theory about the war in Iraq being a giant deception. Sounds like a recent argument about WMD deception doesn't it? I'm sure he feels more sure of his theory now that others are adding to his multi-layered conspiracy.

Now non-doctorate (just like Alan Greenspan and Robert Rubin) economist Donald Luskin visits the isolated workshop in Paul Krugman’s head, and invites us in, if we dare.

Krugman's column itself evokes another movie altogether — and the parallels are truly eerie. Remember that most horrifying scene in A Beautiful Mind when we learn that [Dr.] John Nash — the Princeton-based economist! — is descending into madness? His long-suffering wife throws open the doors of Nash's isolated workshop and discovers a room papered floor to ceiling with magazine and newspaper clippings. It's a many-layered collage, connected by yarn and push-pins — the encoded evidence, in Nash's disturbed brain, of a vast plot to destroy America. If you don't think Krugman's latest column is that room, then you're in denial.

Follow the Krugman Truth Squad as we decode Krugman's latest column. Moving from clipping to clipping, we can see how Krugman's not-so-beautiful mind collected the "evidence" that the war in Iraq was a Wag the Dog fake staged by the Bush administration....

Has any one ever seen Dr. Josh Marshall and Dr. Paul Krugman in the same room? If they are two different people, Josh might get hired soon by the NY Times. He could replace Krugman's lies with his own political theories if Krugman is fired. Or maybe he could replace the even more incoherent Bush-basher, Maureen Dowd, when they finally escort her away.

Oh yeah, and for the final doctorate irony, Josh Marshall thinks medical Dr. Bill Frist shouldn't be called a doctor.
Posted by Chris Regan at 02:44 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

THE LEFT'S ATTEMPT TO STOP THE WAR ON TERROR

The latest liberal media assault on the Bush Administration's WMD intel, along with the Democrat's declaration that Bush lied, is not just premature -- it's irresponsible, and endangers national security. It may not make sense to most people, but the left feels it's worth distorting the current truth and risking embarrassment by more truth in a few months, as long as Bush can be smeared and an alternate version of history fabricated. Being embarrassed later does not mean they will feel any shame either. The goal is simply to discredit the United States while they have a window of opportunity (that's why the story is bigger in Europe) and to derail future military action in the War on Terror.

Any reasonable person (or editor) would at least wait until more Iraqi officials are caught and threatened with prosecution, a more thorough search of all the sites they mention is conducted, and serious pressure is put on Syria. In fact, some moderate Democrats are alarmed at the looming political trap and calling for patience. But part of the strategy is to actually to create breathing room for Syria to obstruct the search and block Bush from the WMD proof he seeks. In other words, the smear may actually help prevent dirt on Saddam from being discovered. Bashar Assad now knows that, if he can just stonewall us now, he'll get support in the U.S. and U.K. media from the same leftist cast of Saddam supporters whenever Bush starts to pressure Syria for having a WMD program. He's much more unlikely now to cooperate and give Bush the smoking Baathist or smoking gun.

The charges and doubt created by the smear will linger no matter what though, and the far left will now cling to this version of history long after new Iraqi WMD facts are released. That's why it's worth it to them, and facts and future discoveries do not matter to the overall strategy. Since this allegation has been thrown out there, the conspiracy theory will stick with many liberals and those at Democrats.com forever. They will simply say that anything found from here on out was fabricated in response to the media exposure of the "big lie." Currently, the Paul Begala smear that "people died because Bush lied" is being extended by others to calling Bush a murderer. Get ready to hear calls for a war crimes trial or impeachment preceding the 2004 election.

The current climate of blaming Bush for Saddam's ability to hide his known stocks of WMD also has the perverse effect of blunting any new warnings like this now:

CIA says al Qaeda ready to use WMD

"Al Qaeda's goal is the use of [chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear weapons] to cause mass casualties," the CIA stated in an internal report produced last month.

"However, most attacks by the group — and especially by associated extremists — probably will be small-scale, incorporating relatively crude delivery means and easily produced or obtained chemicals, toxins or radiological substances," the report said.

Islamist extremists linked to al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden "have a wide variety of potential agents and delivery means to choose from for chemical, biological and radiological or nuclear (CBRN) attacks," said the four-page report titled "Terrorist CBRN: Materials and Effects."
Posted by Chris Regan at 01:07 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

June 02, 2003

THE MOST SELF-ABSORBED PERSON IN AMERICA

The votes are in, and it's a landslide. On behalf of People Magazine, Jeb Bush hands out the award.


HANNITY: ...I remember for most of the eight years Bill Clinton was president, your father was not critical in any way, shape, matter or form. And I think he showed a lot of class by doing that. Bill Clinton has been very critical of your brother, on the other hand. Now he's even talking about repealing the 22nd Amendment - not for him, of course ...

BUSH: [laughing] Yeah.

HANNITY: ... but for future presidents. [Do] you want to [wade] into these waters or ...

BUSH: Oh boy. I'll tell you what. All I'll say is that Bill Clinton is the most self absorbed person living in America. And the tradition of former presidents not being critical of their successors, I think, is a very good one. It's why we've had transitions since the beginning of the Republic. And almost all presidents have been very respectful of that. But President Clinton wouldn't view himself being critical of anybody because he's always thinking about himself. It's all about Bill.
Posted by Chris Regan at 11:35 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

ANOTHER BLACK EYE FOR CHINA

As if SARS wasn't enough to deal with as China prepares for the 2008 Olympics, they're now beginning the third phase of the construction of the Three Gorges [Cracked] Dam. It's the world's largest hydroelectric project, and may be the world's largest white elephant.

China's Three Gorges project has officially begun storing water in its huge reservoir, amid ongoing concerns over cracks in the controversial $US25 billion ($38.4 billion) dam.

...The closing of the sluice gates comes after a general inspection of the dam in mid-May revealed that repair work to fix large cracks on its 185 metre-high concrete face had not been completely successful.

"We found that some of the vertical cracks on the dam that were repaired have reopened, even though we put a great deal of money and effort into the repair work," Pan Jiazheng, an engineer, said in a speech following the end of the inspection.

"We have a long way to go, as we enter the third phase of the dam construction. I hope we will do our best to build a first-class project rather than a dam with 10-metre-long cracks," he said in the speech published by the Changjiang Water Resources Commission.

Mr Pan, 75, a member of the Academy of Sciences of China and the former deputy director of the Engineering Academy, added, "We should absolutely not be proud of ourselves."
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