Googling Bin Laden…

Want to know where the CIA’s looking for Bin Laden? According to Wired, Google Earth has the answer:

After Google recently updated its satellite images of parts of the Afghanistan-Pakistan border, much of the region still looked blotchy… But several small squares (they stand out as off-color patches from 680 miles up) suddenly became as detailed as the images of Manhattan. These sectors happen to be precisely where the US govern­ment has been hunting for bin Laden and his deputy, Ayman al-Zawahiri.

Turns out, Google gets its images from many of the same satellite companies — DigitalGlobe, TerraMetrics, and others — that provide reconnaissance to US intelligence agencies. And when the CIA requests close-ups of the area around Peshawar in Pakistan’s North-West Frontier Province, Google Earth reaps the benefits (although usually six to 18 months later).

Urban planning: top down or bottom up?

Three new exhibitions have opened up in New York about the controversial urban planner Robert Moses. Moses was the architect of the New York World’s Fair in 1964-65, the rather sad-looking remnants of which you see as you take a cab into Manhattan from JFK airport. Much more fundamentally, though, he was the planner who remade New York over the course of the 20th century, as the Washington Post today explains.

Moses’s style of decision-making was nothing if not top-down: he is said to have referred to protesters seeking to block his plans for an expressway running through the middle of Greenwich Village’s chilled out Washington Square as “a bunch of mothers”. A heavily critical biography of him by Robert Caro in the 1970s did much to establish that view, according to the Post. Both the Post and the WSJ this morning contrast Moses’s approach with that of Jane Jacobs, author of The Life and Death of American Cities, who favoured a more bottom-up view of urban planning that would find much to like in today’s agendas of street liveability. Continue reading

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