Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Rare US-Arab assault on Muslim extremists; India close to scripting Mars history; Meeting etiquette matters much

1 Rare US-Arab assault on Muslim extremists (San Francisco Chronicle) The one-two-three punch of American and Arab airstrikes against Islamic State militants in Syria and Iraq was just the beginning, President Barack Obama and other leaders have declared. They promised a sustained campaign showcasing a rare US-Arab partnership aimed at Muslim extremists.

At the same time, in fresh evidence of how the terrorist threat continues to expand and mutate, the US on its own struck a new al-Qaida cell that the Pentagon said was "nearing the execution phase" of a direct attack on the US or Europe.

Obama said the US was "proud to stand shoulder-to-shoulder" with Arab partners, and he called the roll: Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Jordan, Bahrain and Qatar. Rear Adm. John Kirby, the Pentagon's press secretary, said four of the five had participated in the strikes, with Qatar playing a supporting role. US Secretary of State John Kerry said more than 50 nations are allied in the fight.

It was a measure of the gravity of the threat and the complex politics of the problem that Syrian President Bashar Assad gave an indirect nod of approval to the airstrikes in his own country, saying he supported "any international anti-terrorism effort." There has been concern among US officials that any strikes against militants fighting Assad could be seen as inadvertently helping the leader whom Obama wants to see ousted from power.

2 India close to scripting Mars history (Jason Burke in The Guardian) Those running India’s first Mars mission hope the satellite will reach the orbit of Mars at 7.30am local time on Wednesday. Failure is almost inconceivable. The prime minister, Narendra Modi, will be in the control room of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) in the southern city of Bangalore as the rocket bearing the satellite attempts to enter the orbit of the red planet. Tens of millions of people across the country are expected to follow the progress of the craft live.

However, there is a significant chance of failure. Of 51 previous attempts to reach Mars, more than half failed, Bagla said. Mangalyaan, which means “Mars craft” in Hindi, took off from the island of Shriharikota, off India’s eastern coast, 10 months ago. The 1,350kg device first headed for an elliptical orbit around Earth, after which a series of manoeuvres and short burns of its rocket engines sent it on towards Mars.

Scientists from ISRO successfully tested the main engine on Monday and performed a course correction that put the low-cost project on track to enter the red planet’s orbit. Experts said reducing the craft’s speed from its current rate of 22km (13.7 miles) per second would be a key challenge. “It has covered 98% of the distance but the last 2% is the tricky bit. If it is too fast it will fly by Mars and be lost in space. If it is too slow it will crash into the planet,” said Bagla.

Some have questioned the $70m price tag for a country still dealing with widespread hunger and poverty. But India defended the Mars mission by noting its importance in providing hi-tech jobs for scientists and engineers and practical applications in solving problems on Earth.

Success would make India the fourth space power after the US, Europe and Russia to orbit or land on the red planet. The cost of the Indian effort is a tenth of that of an ongoing mission by Nasa that put a satellite into the orbit of Mars two days ago.

3 Meeting etiquette matters much (Khaleej Times) Meetings - and your meeting manners - are vitally important, especially in our ever-changing business environment. For better or worse, we learn and make judgments about our colleagues that are based on their behavior. Letitia Baldrige, former Social Secretary at the White House and my mentor, chaired superb meetings. She learned by sitting across from heads of state. Here is her recipe for making meetings meaningful, productive, efficient, and enjoyable:

Choose a convenient time for the meeting and provide necessary information. Invite the key people who will be involved or affected by the meeting’s outcome. No cast of thousands; yet no omissions. Distribute the agenda to everyone within a week of the meeting. Always arrive early to greet the participants, shake hands, and direct them to the conference table or coffee buffet. Begin the meeting on time, introduce everyone or ask each person to introduce himself, then briefly state the purpose and goal of the meeting and its time frame.

Always look good; dress authoritatively and colorfully, with perfect grooming. Consider the big picture: One international colleague of mine offered, “Try to predict the self interests of each identifiable subgroup. Watch, during the time just prior to the meeting, perhaps at water cooler or coffee, for the shy or unallied individuals who may hold back. Try to draw them out, gently, when the meeting gets going.”

Most of us agree that getting undivided attention is a relic. Frank Catalano, a tech consultant and columnist, addresses the issue this way: “One of my favorite tricks is when the meeting chair asks everyone to take out their tablets and smartphones, and put them face down on the table. The first one to pick it up to check it has to put a dollar on the table beside the device. The fact that they are upside down and visible to everyone else seems to work. I’ve never seen anyone have to pay.”

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