Thursday, June 7, 2007

Don't worry about US missile system, Mr. Putin, it doesn't work

President Putin need not worry about the US missile defense system as it does not work, according to a group of US scientists.

The Union of Concerned Scientists made this statement even President Bush prepares to meet with his Russian counterpart tomorrow in Germany.

"The defense system couldn't stop a Russian nuclear attack on the United States," Dr. David Wright, a physicist and co-director of UCS's Global Security Program said. "The defense system couldn't stop a Russian nuclear attack on the United States. It could be easily overwhelmed by the sheer size of the Russian nuclear arsenal, destroyed by an attack on the system at the same time Russia launched its own missiles, or foiled by decoys and other countermeasures."

In the days running up to the G-8 Summit in Germany this week, Russian President Vladimir Putin has been denouncing US plans to build a missile defense system in Central Europe and threatened to target Europe with Russian missiles if the plan went ahead.

"Because the system is vulnerable to decoys, it also wouldn't stop a missile attack from the Middle East," Dr. Wright added. "If Iran or other states in the region develop long-range missiles and deliverable nuclear warheads, they would certainly equip those missiles with countermeasures that could render U.S. defenses ineffective."

President Putin expressed his disappointment at the fact that while Russia has removed all of our heavy weapons from the European part of Russia and put them behind the Urals, Europe is being pumped full of new weapons systems.

He emphasised that for the first time in history there are elements of the U.S. nuclear capability on the European continent.

"How do they justify this?" Putin asked. "By the need to defend themselves against Iranian missiles. But there are no such missiles. Iran has no missiles with a range of 5,000 to 8,000 kilometres. In other words, we are being told that this missile defence system is there to defend against something that doesn’t exist. Do you not think that this is even a little bit funny?"

Russian military experts believe that this system affects the territory of the Russian Federation in front of the Ural mountains and Putin explained that he has no choice but to respond to the new threat posed by the US missile system.

"Russia's reaction may seem nonsensical, so does the U.S. decision to invite such a reaction by planning to field a system that won't work," Dr. Wright said. "Moreover, as long as the United States maintains a nuclear warfighting posture—keeping thousands of nuclear warheads ready to be launched within minutes at Russia's nuclear forces—Russia will find such defenses threatening, despite evidence they won't work."

Dr Wright urged Bush to have a bilateral dialogue aimed at reducing the nuclear arsenals of both the former cold war rivals.

"The best way to increase US security would be to take steps to dramatically cut US and Russian nuclear arsenals and reduce the chance they would be used," he said. "Instead, the proposed European missile defense site, by inflaming passions and strengthening hard-line Russian thinking, worsens a real threat while offering a false promise against a possible future one."

First free-trade deal in 6 years expected

Federal Trade Minister David Emerson is expected to announce Thursday that Ottawa is wrapping up free-trade talks with four European countries: Norway, Switzerland, Iceland and Liechtenstein, sources say.

He is also expected to announce that Canada is commencing similar negotiations with Peru and Colombia.

A successful conclusion of talks with Norway and its other three partners in the European Free Trade Association would mark the first free-trade accord that Canada has signed in six years.

It would also be a sign, however small, that Ottawa is serious about gaining ground in the global race to sew up preferential commercial partners.

Such an agreement would build on $11-billion of existing annual commerce with the four members of the European Free Trade Association (EFTA), all countries that have so far avoided joining the European Union.

Mr. Emerson is expected announce the conclusion of talks with EFTA at what the Harper government is calling “Trade Day” on Thursday.

The European Free Trade Association deal would be a boon for the Harper government, which will sell it as more proof — in addition to the Canada-U.S. softwood dispute truce — that it has succeeded where its Liberal predecessors have failed.

One obstacle the Conservatives must overcome is fear about the impact of an agreement on Canada's shipbuilding industry: the very hurdle that stalled late-stage EFTA deal talks in 2000 under then-prime minister Jean Chr├ętien's watch.

Under the Liberals, Ottawa was reluctant to scrap its 25-per-cent duty on foreign-made ships and wanted to retain the right to subsidize its domestic shipbuilding industry — a sticking point for Norway, an exporter of marine vessels.

To that end, the Conservatives have also scheduled a shipbuilding announcement for Thursday in Halifax, an event they are expected to use to help placate the marine construction industry.

Critics believe the Tories will have to steer work to domestic shipyards to placate anger should they lower or scrap the tariff on foreign ships.

Mr. Emerson's office refused to say whether they are announcing the EFTA deal Thursday.

The Conservatives quietly resumed negotiations with the EFTA countries last fall amid speculation that they were preparing to scrap the tariff on foreign-built ships, perhaps phasing it out over a period of years.

Mr. Emerson hinted earlier this week that Ottawa was close to clinching the EFTA deal.

“We are cleaning up a few fine points there, but I am feeling cautiously optimistic,” Mr. Emerson told reporters on Monday.

Nations are scrambling to sign up free-trade partners as multi-country talks to liberalize international commerce flounder, from the World Trade Organization's Doha round to the stalled Free-Trade Area of the Americas project.

Canada has signed only one free-trade agreement in the last six years, with Costa Rica in 2001. By comparison, the U.S. Congress has approved seven deals with 12 countries over roughly the same period.

Canada's shipbuilding industry has been in decline for years and operates at only about one-third of its capacity today.

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Apple TV Cost Breakdown

BusinessWeek is reporting on research firm iSuppli's analysis of how much it is costing Apple to assemble the Apple TV.

According to the report, Apple's margins on the product appear to be uncharacteristically slim from a consumer electronics product. While Apple is used to margins in excess of 50% on such products, iSuppli estimates the 40 GB Apple TV's bill of materials at $237, leaving a margin of $62 (approximately 20%). The newly released 160 GB version of the Apple TV is estimated to have a better margin at 30%.

Of all component suppliers, Intel stands to make the most off the Apple TV. The Intel under-clocked Pentium M is the most expensive component at $40. Intel also supplies a chipset valued at $28, bringing Intel's material share to 28% of the total bill of materials.

iSuppli's numbers do not account for research and development or marketing costs, and actual material costs may vary depending on special deals Apple may have acquired.

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