Archive for the 'speech' Category

An Event of the Highest International Urgency

January 19, 2007

The recent destruction of a Chinese weather satellite should be a cause of serious concern to those of us in the West. It has the potential to destabilise the balance of power that exists between the East and the West. Hours following the event, America’s media had already decided that it was China that had destroyed its own satellite. The BBC continues to maintain and stress that it is unconfirmed that China is responsible as they have made no comment. CNN has reported that the missile appears to have been “launched from or near the Xichang Space Center.”

Not only did this action cause the governments of the US, UK and other NATO members to launch full scale diplomatic protests, CNN reported that “this is viewed as an action taken by China to directly affect the United States”. President Kennedy said something very similar to the citizens in a broadcasted address to the American people during the Cuban Missile Crisis in October of 1962, as follows:

“…It shall be the policy of this Nation to regard any nuclear missile launched from Cuba against any nation in the Western Hemisphere as an attack by the Soviet Union on the United States, requiring a full retaliatory response upon the Soviet Union.” – President John F. Kennedy

The political climate that is developing between the governments of the United States and China at the moment has similarities to the one that existed during the cold war of the 1960s. The unexpected development of surface to space weapons by the Chinese government that could destroy the US and other countries’ surveillance and GPS satellites is an obvious escalation in what has so far been a very quiet cold war between the United States and China. The role of Russia, then the USSR, in the sixties has been assumed by China. A significant mitigating factor that was not present in the 60s is the strong economic relationship now tying western countries to China.

We all remember the Strategic Defense Initiative or Star Wars project championed by Ronald Reagan in the 1980s which called for weapons to be placed in orbit. These weapons would have been capable of destroying nuclear missiles launched from Russia directed at the United States. It was said at the time that once this technology was developed it should be shared with the USSR. In a 1985 issue of Peace Magazine, Andrew Pakula proposed that “Possibly the Soviets, faced with the reality or the perception of being at a disadvantage, of losing the deterrent power of their arsenals, might feel compelled to take the dangerous course of destroying the ‘Star Wars’ equipment.

Continuing to compare the cold war of the sixties with that of today, has China taken on the role of the former Soviet Union? It appears that China has destroyed its own satellite. This action was not an experiment “just to see if they could do it” but an announcement to the rest of the world that they have the power to disable some of the most important tools in modern warfare, specifically our strategic orbiting satellite systems. Apparently, the West has been caught off guard by this event.

The question has to be posed: If China did not launch this missile then who did and if it was some other country why have seen no reaction from China?

In the film, “The Sum of All Fears”, a secret organization detonates a nuclear device in the American city of Baltimore. The United States, believes that the Russian government is responsible for the attack. After intense negotiations fail, the United States and Russia attack each other but refrain from using nuclear weapons. Subsequently, we learn that the secret organization wanted to get the US and Russia to fight each other rather than for it to engage them individually.

How close to reality could this film be? Could it be possible that someone might really try to instigate a conflict between such powerful nations as the US and China. There is, of course, no evidence to suggest any validity to these speculations. There is, however, cause for concern that the United States and its allies measure their response accurately and appropriately. The last thing that we need is another war or skirmish especially with a military might of the size and power of that of China.

Those involved need to take a deep breath and figure out who, if not China, might have fired that missile.  In the words of Dean Acheson, a close advisor to President Kennedy, “Let us hope that cooler heads prevail before we reach the next step…  In the future, will our children be able to look back on the decisions of our leaders today and believe that they showed wisdom, prudence and discretion?



Creating Your Website’s Virtual Door-Man, with SitePal.

August 5, 2006

SitePalYou may have heard about the interactive animated avatars available from SitePal.  I heard of them ages ago while reading an article about the impending deluge of avatars on business websites in PCPlus magazine.   While browsing Technorati today I saw one of their banners was for Sitepal, and I hadn’t heard anything about them in a while so I decided to go and have a look at the site and see how far they have come since I first checked out the service.

I went to the section that was for creating your own animated character for your web service and began to fashion a human being.  Being a 20 year old guy I started with
an attractive looking female “news-reader” looking person. I then went ahead and went through the options of choosing her attire, makeup options, various physical stats like lip size, height, shoulder width, etc.  I then changed her hair to be slightly more extravagant and added a red hue to her hair, like red highlights.  Once I was satisfied with her appearance, I moved onto creating a personality and setting for her.  I placed her with a background that could be a news studio after trying several locales. I looked at her next to the Sidney Opera house, in a deserted meadow, but found myself back at the newsroom like background.

When it came time to choose what kind of voice she was to have, it required quite a bit more work.  I went through the available voices on the text to voice option and chose the best sounding, least synthesized voice I could find.  I thought she sounded best American, and with the voice of “Kate.” I applied it and used a test phrase to see how she would sound on the finished product. The following is the test set of phrases:

“I’m Claudia Richards, for CNN Headline News. Capitol Hill.”

“All Things Considered on NPR is brought to you by CISCO systems. NPR National Public Radio”

I tried these phrases on the character I had created and it was pretty close to dead on what I expected. She didn’t skip or talk to slowly, she actually sounded almost like a news reader or news correspondent.

Once I had created a female character that I was happy with, I wanted to try and create a male character in the same capacity, so I could use the same test phrases.  I tested the various male voices available and could only really tolerate two, and one of them was miles ahead of the other.  “Rich” sounded like a real person, so I got to work building him a human to take the voice.  The male character took a lot less work than the female and he was soon ready. I called him “Wil Richards” and just replaced the name in the above script.

For my final act with these characters I created, I took the female and gave her another line. She is to greet my brother and ask him how he is, through email.  I thought he would enjoy the character, especially since you can make them change languages – I typed in English and they were able to say what I wanted in any language I selected. 

Overall, SitePal is a great tool. I can see how businesses would love to have Claudia at the door.  It’s great technology and is certainly worth your checking out. I had fun and actually clocked an hour and a quarter messing around with the characters. Have fun!

Skype Responds to My Telemarketing Inquiry – Or Did They?

June 28, 2006

skypeLast week, following the telemarketing incident with my good friend Joe Klein, I attempted to contact Skype for their response; I left 2 separate messages for the media relations department at eBay, The calls were not returned. Undaunted, I attempted to use my own inside contacts to get a response, or at least some sort of inside information.

I felt it best to keep the name of the person I contacted anonymous. A short while ago, I received an email from Skype. it was not from my contact there, but, rather, from another Skype representative. As there is an ominous notice at the bottom of the message deeming the contents of the email to be “confidential” I am hesitant to release the name of the sender or the exact text of the message.

Suffice to say, I was not the least bit surprised that the message did not directly address my major concerns related to a possible telemarking plague. Rather, the text was nothing more than a “scripted” response advising me to adjust my privacy settings.

The email from the Skype rep did also contain a statement that the company may address the issue should it become more serious, but this was of little consolation to me personally.

The question still goes unanswered in my opinion. How widespread is this problem, and what are the chances of it escalating out of control?

Besides, what about those of us who don’t want to change our privacy settings and limit our incoming calls to just those on our contact list?

I don’t know about you but I’d still like to receive far more definitive and straight forward information from the powers that be at Skype.

To see my original article click HERE

Click HERE for the Post!