The Envoy
  • Although Libyan rebels have been celebrating their advance this week into the capital of Tripoli, just a few weeks ago, they had a problem. Outgunned and poorly trained, Libya's ragtag opposition forces were the object of pitying--if not unsympathetic--reports by the journalists covering their seemingly hapless efforts to advance and hold ground against Gadhafi's professional forces, who were better trained and better equipped.

    Naturally, the rebels turned to the Internet for help. In June, members of the Libyan National Transition Council were "searching the Web," the New York Times reports, where they found information about a surveillance drone--"essentially a tiny, four-rotor helicopter dangling a pod carrying stabilized-image day- and night-vision cameras"--made by Aeryon Labs of Waterloo, Ontario.

    The ship delivering the drone and German Red Cross pulling into Misrata, Libya July 16, 2011. (Charles Barlow, Zariba Security)That's how Charles Barlow, a former Canadian army officer who previously served with the United Nations in Syria, found himself on a boat to Misrata, Libya, in July, delivering a miniature surveillance drone to the rebels. (Barlow's photo of pulling into the port of Misrata on July 16 is posted to the right.)

    "What was happening with [the Libyan rebels] was they'd be driving down roads, getting shot at and losing people along the way," said Barlow, now the president of Zariba Security, an Ottawa, Canada-based company that works closely with the drone's manufacturer, Aeryon Labs. Barlow spoke with The Envoy on Thursday. "They wanted to see, where are Gadhafi's forces so they did not end up driving right into them."

    The rebels first tried a number of different methods to acquire better visibility of the battlefield. "They asked NATO for imaging. NATO could not provide that, it was deemed too sensitive," Barlow said. They then rigged up a toy helicopter and strapped a camera under it, but that didn't work.

    "So they started to look around for drones--little ones--they could pilot themselves."

    Unlike the Predator drones the United States flies over Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, and elsewhere, which are equipped with sophisticated weapons systems that can strike suspected terrorist hideouts, the Scout miniature unmanned aerial drone has no weapons system. It also does not require an airfield to take off; it can be launched from, say, the top of a car. It is basically a flying, pilotless camera. It weighs about 3 pounds. It can also only fly about 2 miles.

    The cost? About $100,000 to $200,000, Barlow said, "but it depends a lot" on the situation, he added, explaining that mitigating factors include how quickly the customer needs the device, how many they're buying, and whether it's a drone that has thermal cameras, which are able to see at night.

    (Asked if it costs extra if he is required to deliver the drone to a war zone, Barlow said it does.)

    Read More »from How the Libyan rebels bought a miniature drone on the Internet
  • Libya rebels find Gadhafi stash of Condi Rice photos

    Libyan rebels study photos of Condoleeza Rice found in Gadhafi's compound Wednesday. (Sergey Ponomarev/AP)

    Libyan rebels are still hunting for the elusive Moammar Gadhafi, and international authorities have expressed concern about securing Libya's suspected stockpiles of dangerous weapons.

    In the meantime, rebels have made a curious find at Gadhafi's Tripoli compound which they seized earlier this week: a photo album devoted to images of former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.Then Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice met with Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi in Tripoli on Sept. 5, 2008. (Nasser Nasser/AP)

    Apparently, Gadhafi was quite admiring of Rice, who met with him in September 2008 in Tripoli, where they shared a post-Ramadan dinner.

    "It was only three short years ago that Rice shared a late-night dinner with Gadhafi to break the Ramadan fast," the Washington Post's  Jason Ukman wrote on Wednesday.

    "In a 2007 interview with al-Jazeera television, Gadhafi spoke of Rice in glowing terms," MSNBC's David Arnott wrote Thursday:

    "I support my darling black African woman," Gadhafi told al-Jazeera. "I admire and am very proud of the way she leans back and gives orders to the Arab leaders ... Leezza, Leezza, Leezza. ... I love her very much. I admire her and I'm proud of her because she's a black woman of African origin."

    Read More »from Libya rebels find Gadhafi stash of Condi Rice photos
  • Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and German Chancellor Angela Merkel mark 20th anniversary of the fall of Berlin Wall in Nov. 2009. (Herbert Knosowski/AP)German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Brazil's President Dilma Rousseff topped Forbes magazine's 2011 list of the world's 100 most powerful women, released today.

    Many of the 100 women named on the list--eight heads of state, politicians, humanitarians, business and technology leaders, journalists, media tycoons, and non-profit chiefs--are familiar from past years' rankings: Merkel, Clinton, Rousseff, IMF chief and former French Finance Minister Christine Lagarde, PepsiCo's Indra Nooyi, Oprah, Lady Gaga and J.K. Rowling, to name a few.

    But the 2011 list noted several new arrivals--Minnesota representative and Republican presidential candidate Michele Bachmann, NBC Today show host Ann Curry, and New York Times executive editor Jill Abramson among them. And several women fell off after appearing on past years' lists (Sorry, Madonna). So who came and who left? And what does it say about wider trends in the world of the past year?

    Who fell off the list:

    First Lady fatigue? French model, singer and first lady Carla Bruni-Sarkozy, ranked No. 35 on last year's list, dropped off this year's list, perhaps signaling a larger malaise with the world's first spouses--and their elected partners--several years into their terms. American First Lady Michele Obama sank from No. 1 on last year's Forbes list to No. 8 this year. Also dropping off the 2011 list: Qatari First Lady Sheikha Mozah Bint Nasser Al Missned, who was ranked No. 72 on last year's list, and Maria Shriver, who ranked No. 53 on last year's list but has now publicly split from the now retired California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. Two other notable California politicians also fell off the list: former Republican Senate contender Carly Fiorina and former Republican gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman, who ranked No. 51 and No. 47 respectively in last year's list, but lost their 2010 races.

    Economic advisers to President Obama Sheila Bair, the former head of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, ranked No. 15 in last year's list but didn't make this year's. The same went for Elizabeth Warren--who ranked No. 36 on last year's list but didn't make this year's after being passed over by the White House to head the new consumer protection agency. Warren, who is rumored to be considering a 2012 run for senator from Massachusetts against Scott Brown, may be reappearing on the list again soon.

    Supreme Court Justices Oddly, the three female justices on the Supreme Court--Sonia Sotomayor (No. 19 on Forbes' 2010 list), Elena Kagan (No. 25 in 2010), and Ruth Bader Ginsburg (No. 31 in 2010)--are entirely absent from the 2011 list. Verdict: editorial oversight?

    Media Former CBS Evening News host Katie Couric, who ranked No. 22 on last year's power list, is not on the 2011 list, having given up her powerful podium. Nor is former NBC Today Show host Meredith Vieira, who ranked No. 40 on last year's list. MSNBC host Rachel Maddow, who ranked No. 50 on last year's list, also fell off the 2011 Forbes list.

    Read More »from Who arrived–and who fell off–Forbes’ list of the world’s powerful women?


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