Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #10215 on: Mar 7th, 2014, 08:34am »
The woman who 'can leave her body at will': Student sheds light on the strange brain activity involved in out-of-body experiences
By Sarah Griffiths
PUBLISHED: 08:25 EST, 7 March 2014 UPDATED: 08:27 EST, 7 March 2014
People have long been fascinated by out-of-body experiences - are they just tricks of the mind or do they have some sort of spiritual significance?
Now new research has shed light on what it terms as 'extra-corporeal experiences' by studying the brain activity of a Canadian woman who claims she can drift outside her own body at will.
Scientists believe the left side of several areas of the brain associated with kinaesthetic imagery (the perception of the sensation of moving) are responsible for the sensation of being able to leave your body and float above it – and that more people might have similar experiences than thought.
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #10216 on: Mar 7th, 2014, 09:13am »
The NSA Has An Advice Columnist. Seriously.
By Peter Maass 7 Mar 2014, 9:06 AM EST
What if the National Security Agency had its own advice columnist? What would the eavesdroppers ask about?
You don’t need to guess. An NSA official, writing under the pen name “Zelda,” has actually served at the agency as a Dear Abby for spies. Her “Ask Zelda!” columns, distributed on the agency’s intranet and accessible only to those with the proper security clearance, are among the documents leaked by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden. The columns are often amusing – topics include co-workers falling asleep on the job, sodas being stolen from shared fridges, supervisors not responding to emails, and office-mates who smell bad. But one of the most intriguing involves a letter from an NSA staffer who complains that his (or her) boss is spying on employees.
In the letter, which Zelda published in a column on September 9, 2011, the employee calls himself “Silenced in SID” – referring to the Signals Intelligence Directorate, the heart of the NSA’s surveillance operations. Zelda’s column, headlined “Watching Every Word in Snitch City,” offers an ironic insight into a spy agency where the spies apparently resent being spied upon.
“Dear Zelda,” the letter of complaint begins:
Here’s the scenario: when the boss sees co-workers having a quiet conversation, he wants to know what is being said (it’s mostly work related). He has his designated “snitches” and expects them to keep him apprised of all the office gossip – even calling them at home and expecting a run-down! This puts the “designees” in a really awkward position; plus, we’re all afraid any offhand comment or anything said in confidence might be either repeated or misrepresented.
Needless to say, this creates a certain amount of tension between team members who normally would get along well, and adds stress in an already stressful atmosphere. There is also an unspoken belief that he will move people to different desks to break up what he perceives as people becoming too “chummy.” (It’s been done under the guise of “creating teams.”)
Surveillance tends to sow suspicion and unease among the people who are being surveilled. Is anyone listening? Who might be the spy among us? What trouble might I get into with the things I say? These questions can eat away at the core of human relations – trust. And this is true even at the agency that is conducting the surveillance.
The letter continues:
We used to be able to joke around a little or talk about our favorite “Idol” contestant to break the tension, but now we’re getting more and more skittish about even the most mundane general conversations (“Did you have a good weekend?”). This was once a very open, cooperative group who worked well together. Now we’re more suspicious of each other and teamwork is becoming harder. Do you think this was the goal?
Silenced in SID
Zelda is shocked.
Wow, that takes “intelligence collection” in a whole new – and inappropriate – direction. …. We work in an Agency of secrets, but this kind of secrecy begets more secrecy and it becomes a downward spiral that destroys teamwork. What if you put an end to all the secrecy by bringing it out in the open?
Her column reads like an unintended allegory – or a cleverly masked one. The NSA’s own advice columnist explores the ways in which pervasive surveillance can erode freedom of expression and social cohesion by making it difficult for people to have faith in the privacy of their communications.
You and your co-workers could ask [the supervisor] for a team meeting and lay out the issue as you see it: “We feel like you don’t trust us and we aren’t comfortable making small talk anymore for fear of having our desks moved if we’re seen as being too chummy.” (Leave out the part about the snitches.) Tell him how this is hampering collaboration and affecting the work, ask him if he has a problem with the team’s behavior, and see what he says. …. Stick to the facts and how you feel, rather than making it about him (“We’re uncomfortable” vs “You’re spying on us.”).
There is no indication that Zelda is trying to make a larger point, but some of what she goes on to propose would be useful for ordinary citizens outside the agency who worry about government and corporate surveillance.
If you are bothered by snitches in your office, whether of the unwilling or voluntary variety, the best solution is to keep your behavior above reproach. Be a good performer, watch what you say and do, lock your screen when you step away from your workstation, and keep fodder for wagging tongues (your Viagra stash, photos of your wild-and-crazy girls’ weekend in Atlantic City) at home or out of sight. If you are put in the “unwilling snitch” position, I would advise telling your boss that you’re not comfortable with the role and to please not ask that of you.
Who is Zelda? And who is “Silenced in SID”? The document provides no information about the identity of the letter’s author; he or she could be almost anybody at the agency. In a previous column, Zelda explains that Ask Zelda! was initially intended as a forum for supervisors in the Signals Intelligence Directorate, but that non-supervisory workers began submitting questions, too.
A bit more is known about Zelda. Her introductory column, in 2010, identifies her as serving for approximately 20 years as “a first-line and mid-level Agency supervisor.” At the time her column began, she was also an adjunct faculty member of the agency’s National Cryptologic School. Her column was part of a regular NSA bulletin called “SIDtoday” that is distributed on the agency’s classified NSAnet. According to traffic statistics, in fact, Ask Zelda! quickly proved to be among the bulletin’s most popular features.
“We usually end the calendar year by providing a suspenseful countdown of the top dozen most widely read SIDtoday articles of the year,” noted a SIDtoday bulletin on December 27, 2011, “but this time around it is not really a nail-biter, because Zelda articles occupied all of the top five slots!” Her most popular article that year, about swearing at the NSA, received 19,446 hits.
“Since SIDtoday is like an online newspaper, we decided to follow the tradition of newspaper write-in advice columnists (such as Dear Abby and Miss Manners) and give me a nom de plume,” Zelda writes in advance of the first anniversary of her column. “I like it because using a pen name creates a persona who’s more memorable and accessible than ‘Ask Mary Smith, Chief of S456.’ Plus it creates a certain mystique about Zelda… she’s bigger than life. It also prevents me from getting inundated with hate mail and requests for advice outside of the column.”
Zelda can be a church lady. Her first column addressed employee attire in summer months, and she was not pleased. “Somehow, shorts and flip-flops don’t exactly convey the image of a fierce SIGINT warrior,” she writes. “Not only is beach attire unprofessional in the workplace, but in certain cases it can be downright distracting to co-workers (if you get my drift).” She recommends that offenders, who might be just out of college and not know any better, should be told to dress “in a professional manner” even when it feels like a swamp outside. This column received 9,186 hits by the end of 2010 – placing it number four on the list of most-read SIDtoday articles for the year.
But on privacy, Zelda is surprisingly liberal, given that the agency where she works spies on vast numbers of private phone calls, emails, texts, chats, status updates, webcams and address books. In a column titled, “Guilty Until Proven Innocent?”, Zelda responds to an NSA worker who goes by the pen name “Innocent Bystander” and who explains that a colleague has filed an anonymous complaint about their bosses, calling them “abysmal” and “idiotic.” Unfortunately, everyone believes that Innocent Bystander has written the complaint, and as a result, “The chill I’m feeling is pretty severe!” Anonymous complaints should be discouraged, Innocent Bystander says, so that innocent parties do not come under suspicion.
“You make a good case against anonymous mailbags,” Zelda replies, “but a lot of people won’t give feedback at all if they know it will be attributed to them. I believe scathing comments such as your co-worker’s are the exception and not the rule.”
Her response to “Silenced in SID” does not acknowledge the irony – or hypocrisy – of an employee at a spy agency complaining about being spied on. But Zelda directly addresses the long-lasting effects of inappropriate surveillance. “Trust is hard to rebuild once it has been broken,” she observes. “Your work center may take time to heal after this deplorable practice is discontinued.”
IN THE END THERE CAN ONLY BE ONE [youtube][/youtube] The birds were on my payroll hahaha hope you enjoyed..
Thanks Sys, I'm busy having my heart attack now!
Never seen anything like it, they all must'ave disagreed with sumtin that poor animal meowed! A demonstration of converging interests in highly diverse players... somewhere in here there's political/tactical advice to the competing sides in Crimea, the Israeli/Palestinian divide and Syria.
Let us be sure that those who come after will say of us in our time, that in our time we did everything that could be done. We finished the race; we kept them free; we kept the faith.
GREAT SPIRITS ALWAYS ENCOUNTER THE MOST VIOLENT OPPOSITION FROM MEDIOCRE MINDS E=MC2
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #10221 on: Mar 8th, 2014, 09:54am »
WELL~GOOD MORNING CRYSTAL~WE SEEM TO BE ON THE SAME PAGE~MOST CATS WHEN YA SCRATCH THEIR HEAD START TO "PURR" ~ SO TO FOLLOW THAT LINE OF THINKING AND WISHING OUR DANISH FRIENDS A "PURR~FECT" SATURDAY(SCRATCH~SCRATCH )...AH...AND OF COURSE THAT CADRE OF THE CURIOUS AT CASEBOOK
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #10222 on: Mar 8th, 2014, 10:02am »
Signs of unrest ahead of North Korea elections
Damage to election notices, troops patrolling polling stations indicate 'tensions' in a democracy with a single name on ballot papers.
By Julian Ryall, Tokyo
1:53PM GMT 08 Mar 2014
Notice boards calling on the people of North Korea to vote for Kim Jong-un in Sunday’s general election have been damaged or destroyed at a number of polling stations, according to sources within the country.
Incidents that analysts describe as “extreme” for North Korea have been reported in at least two provinces, with state security troops withdrawn from border protection duties to patrol polling stations and to make sure that the first election in the country since 2009 goes off without a hitch.
The election of deputies to the 13th Supreme People’s Assembly will also be the first time that Mr Kim has stood for the rubber-stamp North Korean parliament.
Mr Kim is representing the constituency of Mount Paektu, the mountain on the Chinese border that has been imbued with almost religious significance because it is the place where North Korean legend has it that his father was born. Historians generally accept that Kim Jong-il was actually born in a refugee camp in the Soviet Union.
Mr Kim is backed in his election campaign by the Workers’ Party of Korea and his is the only name on the ballot paper. He is expected to win.
But reports of demonstrations of opposition to the tightly choreographed election suggest that the young leader does not have the whole-hearted support of his subjects.
A local civil servant who is also one of the “citizen journalists” who report on events inside North Korea for the Japan-based Asiapress International news agency said there have been sporadic cases of “sabotage" carried out at polling stations.
In Jongju City, in North Pyongan Province, a notice board was torn down and destroyed, he said. When the damage was noticed, the head of the local State Security Department was accused of permitting the sabotage to be carried out.
“This caused a big fuss and currently the polling stations are under 24-hour surveillance,” the local official told Asiapress. “Many people have been mobilised to provide security, regardless of the time, day or night.”
And although trivial by the standards of demonstrations of democracy in other countries, the Jongju incident has had far-reaching consequences in the world’s only dynastic communist dictatorship, with military patrols stepped up.
Another contributor to the agency’s coverage of events inside North Korea said a special security task force that was previously sent to the border with China was recently sent to Hyesan City, in Ryangang Province, where there are more reports of unrest.
The show of force apparently worked and the troops were withdrawn.
“When the election campaign is over, they may be deployed to the region again,” the local reporter told Jiro Ishimaru, the editor of the agency.
“But for now, all the crackdown teams of the State Security Department have been withdrawn.”
A key part of election campaigns in North Korea is the erection of boards and posters bearing images that invoke the spirit of “Juche,” or national self-dependence under the Kim dynasty.
The slogans include such exhortations as “We all vote yes!” or "Consolidate our revolutionary sovereignty!" The images that have appeared in the run-up to this election, however, feature Mr Kim more prominently, according to sources within North Korea, and bear messages such as “Long live the uninterrupted revolutionary sovereignty that is led by our Dear Comrade Kim Jong-un.”
North Korea-watchers believe Mr Kim is attempting to consolidate his power base after just over two years in power.
State-run media is also busy extolling the virtues of the young dictator, with residents reported to be “enthusiastically” confirming their names on election rolls at constituency offices.
“Agitation activities are going on to encourage citizens to take an active part in the election with high political enthusiasm and labour feats, amid the playing of the ’Song of the Election’,” the official KCNA news agency reported.
Officials and “agitators” are visiting factories, construction sites, cooperative farms and neighbourhood organisations to “explain to the voters the significance of the election, the invincible might of the government of the DPRK and the advantages and vitality of its election system,” KCNA reported.
Under North Korea’s definition of democracy, everyone is obliged to vote, the ballot paper only carries one name and anyone who does not wish to vote for that representative of the party is required to enter a special booth and cross out the name on the ballot.
There is no way of knowing how many people exercise this right of defiance as any dissenters will inevitably end up in the North’s well-established network of political prison camps. A vote against the ruling party is an act of futility as much as an act of bravery.
But if reports of incidents targeting polling stations are correct, then maybe there is a growing groundswell of opposition to the leadership of Mr Kim and, potentially, a nascent opposition movement.
“I have heard very recently of some cracks in the system and of some dissent and unhappiness voiced, but these reports are extreme,” Daniel Pinkston, a North Korea analyst with The International Crisis Group in Seoul, told The Telegraph.
“Even one single incident like this would cause quite a stir in North Korea,” he said.
Toshimitsu Shigemura, a professor at Tokyo’s Waseda University and an authority on North Korean affairs, said the incidents are indicative of the broader “tensions” in North Korea as the election approaches.
“At least one-third of the members of the parliament will change in this election and, if Mr Kim tries to bring about a rapid replacement of the older members of the chamber then it may be as many as half who lose their positions,” he said.
Particularly at risk are close allies of Jang Song-thaek, the uncle and mentor to Mr Kim, who was publicly purged late last year and summarily executed for a litany of crimes against the state, including “gnawing at the unity and cohesion of the party” and having “improper relations with several women.”
“Mr Kim is trying to expel the remains of the Jang faction,” Prof Shigemura said. “And many people in North Korea are very afraid of who is going to be kicked out. There is a high possibility that some of those who lost their positions will have to flee North Korea, but the government has put the military on alert for those people.”
Anyone attempting to defect is likely to meet an end similar to that of Mr Jang.
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #10224 on: Mar 8th, 2014, 10:06am »
Darpa’s Tiny Lasers Will Soon Hunt for Biochemical Weapons
By Allen McDuffee 03.06.14 6:30 AM
The Pentagon learned in August 2013 — when the U.S. came close to striking Syria over the Assad regime’s use of sarin gas — that it was woefully unprepared to face chemical or biological weapons on the battlefield.
Now Darpa thinks it has a solution, called the Laser UV Sources for Tactical Efficient Raman program, or LUSTER. The Defense Department’s research arm announced this week it would begin developing a small-scale, portable and budget-conscious detection system that will rely on high power and efficient ultraviolet lasers.
Darpa says the military already has the technology to detect and identify chemical and biological weapons, but that it’s too expensive, too big and too limited in its functionality to be truly effective in the scenarios the military now envisions when it comes to chemical and biological threats.
“Today’s standoff detection systems are so large and heavy that trucks are required to move them,” said Dan Green, Darpa program manager, in a statement. “LUSTER seeks to develop new laser sources for breakthrough chemical and biological agent detection systems that are compact and light enough to be carried by an individual, while being more efficient than today’s systems.”
“We also want to take a couple of zeroes off the price tag,” he added.
The military has struggled with its approach on how to handle the potential threat of chemical weapons, even though it had spent significant resources on the matter immediately after 9/11.
During the Syrian crisis, the Pentagon couldn’t muster the confidence to put to use so-called Agent Defeat weapons — warheads meant to destroy chemical weapons without dispersing them — despite spending tens of millions of dollars on their development.
Testifying before the Intelligence, Emerging Threats and Capabilities Subcommittee of the House Armed Services Committee in October, a group of unconventional weapons experts warned of the decline of attention paid to biochemical threats.
“What we need is more conversations like this going on, but I don’t see those going on,” said Bruce Bennett, a senior defense analyst at the RAND Corporation. “We need to raise the consciousness.”
The panel pointed to the use of chemical and biological weapons by Syria and Iraq, as well as the stockpiles believed to exist in countries like North Korea. They warned about the potential for the transferring of those weapons should they fall into the wrong hands among those relatively unstable countries and the potential for U.S. servicemembers to face them on the battlefield.
Washington is tangled up in spirited bouts of mudwrestling over exporting US-produced crude oil, which has been prohibited since the Arab oil embargo of 1973. Oil companies, environmentalists, consumer groups, lobbyists, lawmakers – they’re all at it.
Oil companies, faced with lackadaisical consumption and ballooning production in the US, are desperate. They have visions of dropping prices just when exploration and production costs are rocketing higher. So they want to benefit from the higher prices their US-produced oil would bring in other markets – and they want to create scarcity in the US to fire up local prices.
But environmentalists fear general mayhem if crude oil were allowed to be exported. Consumer groups are worried that it would raise the cost of gasoline, diesel, propane, and heating oil – though oil companies have sworn up and down a million times, via numerous studies they themselves directly or indirectly funded, that oil exports wouldn’t impact prices at the pump. Lobbyists of all stripes see in this conflict a mega-opportunity to fatten up their wallets. And lawmakers want to exact their pound of flesh from both sides; elections are coming, and they need to stuff their campaign coffers with money.
Meanwhile, behind the scenes, so to speak, something else has been happening: a breathtaking boom in exports, not of crude oil, which would be illegal, but of refined “petroleum products,” which is perfectly legal, even if it’s refined just enough to circumnavigate the crude-oil export ban.
BP, the British oil mastodon which is still in hot water over the Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, figured it out too. It has inked a 10-year deal for at least 80% of the capacity of a refinery being built by Kinder Morgan Energy Partners LP in Houston, Bloomberg reported. The first phase of the 100,000 barrel-a-day refinery is expected to come online in July. It’s designed to refine crude just enough to turn it into a "petroleum product," which then can be legally exported without limits.
To heck with the crude oil export ban.
It’s not just BP. The possibility of legally exporting barely refined “petroleum products” to profit from the price differential overseas has been such an irresistible lure that it has triggered a construction boom of specialized refineries along the Gulf Coast.
An “inexpensive way around the export prohibition” is what Judith Dwarkin, chief energy economist for ITG Investment Research, called the phenomenon. She told Bloomberg, “You can lightly ruffle the hydrocarbons and they are considered ‘processed’ and then they aren’t subject to the ban.”
Specialized refineries, built at a fraction of the cost of full-fledged refineries, can distill the lightweight crude or “condensate” found in parts of the US into various “petroleum products” that often need to be refined further in the receiving country. Production of condensate has doubled since 2011, creating glut-like conditions in some areas. Hence the drive for exports. And the drive to finagle a way around the crude-oil export ban.
This chart by the Energy Information Administration shows the “petroleum product” export boom that is making such hilarious mockery of the crude-oil export ban:
Since 2007, when this boom took off, exports of petroleum products have tripled to a full-year average of 3.5 million barrels per day (bbl/d) in 2013, up 11% from 2012, according to the EIA. And they hit 4.3 million bbl/d in December, the first month ever such exports exceeded the 4 million mark.
Among these petroleum products are “distillates,” the largest category that includes diesel, kerosene, and home heating oil. US refineries increased their production of distillates to an average of 4.7 million bbl/d for the year, and set a new record in December of 5.1 million bbl/d. About 1.1 million bbl/d were exported in 2013, up 10% from prior year, half of it to Central and South America, 400,000 bbl/d to Europe.
Worried about the price of gasoline at the pump? Exports of gasoline (finished gasoline and gasoline blending components) rose 9% to an annual average of 550,000 bbl/d, with December setting a new record of 770,000 bbl/d.
Heating your home with propane? You got snookered this winter. Propane around the country prices nearly doubled since October, though they have started to wind their way back down to earth recently. Meanwhile, propane exports, supported by a new export terminal that came on line in September, soared, particularly in the last quarter, and averaged 300,000 bbl/d in 2013. A 76% jump from prior year!
Whatever the original purpose of the export ban, it wasn’t immensely helpful in keeping prices down – I mean, if I remember right, a gallon of gasoline cost a fraction of a buck at the time. Now the ballooning exports of “petroleum products” and the potential for outsized profits have nurtured along a specialized industry that is piling billions into infrastructure, plant, and equipment, with the sole goal of elegantly dodging the export ban.
What is perhaps the most gigantic loophole in the history of mankind may well obviate that spirited high-dollar mudwrestling show in Washington. Then lawmakers and lobbyists would have to go look for some other cause which they could leverage to exact their pound of flesh. And the industry will continue to use every trick in the book to light a fire under prices – and exporting “petroleum products” is just one of them.
This winter, things have begun to unravel. Natural gas inventories are near their 2003 low. Sure, weather is the main factor, but that's always the case. The truth is that supply has not been able to meet winter demand, period. It's a fact that is inconsistent with the fairy tales we continue to hear about cheap, abundant gas forever. Read.... Shale Oil & Gas: Not a Revolution But a Retirement Party
« Last Edit: Mar 8th, 2014, 12:50pm by Sysconfig »
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #10227 on: Mar 9th, 2014, 11:00am »
Found: The Fastest-Approaching Object in the Universe
A giant black hole may have hurled a star cluster toward us at record speed
Mar 7, 2014 By Ken Croswell
Most of the universe is rushing away from us. It's not that we're particularly repellent; it's just that the universe is expanding, pushing most other galaxies away. Light from distant galaxies travels toward us through this expanding space, which stretches their light to longer, or redder, wavelengths. As a result, the spectra of most galaxies exhibit redshifts.
Now astronomers have accidentally discovered the greatest blueshift ever seen, in a star cluster that a giant black hole may have catapulted our way.
Over small distances gravity has reversed the universe's expansion, so modest blueshifts are common. Neither the solar system nor the galaxy is expanding. Not even the Local Group—the collection of approximately 75 galaxies that includes the Milky Way—expands. In fact, the Local Group's largest member, the Andromeda Galaxy, is moving toward us: it has a blueshift of 300 kilometers per second.
Yet astronomers have spotted an object far beyond the Local Group's borders with a blueshift of 1,026 kilometers per second, far surpassing the previous record of 780 kps set by a star in the Andromeda Galaxy. "It's always fun to be at the extreme," says Nelson Caldwell, an astronomer at the Harvard–Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics who made not just this discovery but the earlier one as well. "That was a complete accident, too!"
Astronomers have recorded greater velocities when jets or explosions shoot debris toward us but they've never seen the main body of any star, star cluster or galaxy exhibit such an extreme blueshift.
Caldwell and his colleagues were measuring Doppler shifts of star clusters around M87, a giant elliptical galaxy located at the heart of the Virgo Cluster, 54 million light-years from Earth. Unlike the Local Group, which holds only two giant galaxies—Andromeda and our own Milky Way—the Virgo cluster has dozens of large galaxies. M87 possesses an enormous number of tightly packed star clusters called globulars. Whereas the Milky Way has about 160 known globular clusters M87 boasts some 10,000. Moreover, M87's center has a black hole that dwarfs the Milky Way's, weighing six billion to seven billion times more than the sun, over a thousand times as massive as the four-million–solar mass black hole occupying the Milky Way's center.
In 2005 astronomers reported finding a so-called hypervelocity star that the Milky Way's central black hole had kicked away. According to an idea proposed two decades earlier, when a binary star system skirts close enough to a black hole, one star falls in, losing a large amount of energy; in order to conserve energy, the other star shoots away at high speed.
A different three-body scenario may explain what Caldwell's team calls the first hypervelocity globular cluster. If M87's black hole actually consists of two black holes orbiting each other, they could fling away a star cluster that strayed too near. The cluster's gravity causes the two black holes to get a little closer together, making them lose orbital energy that gets transferred to the star cluster. If it rushes away in our direction, it can acquire a large blueshift even though the galaxy it sprung from has a redshift of 1,307 kilometers per second. The astronomers have submitted their work to The Astrophysical Journal Letters.
"It's a very interesting object," says Daniel Batcheldor, an astronomer at the Florida Institute of Technology who is not affiliated with the researchers. "We do suspect that there has been a binary black hole at the center of M87 in the past but we don't think that there's one right now." A binary black hole can arise after two large galaxies, each with their own black holes, smash together. Furthermore, such galaxy mergers would explain M87's gargantuan size. When its central black hole was still two separate supermassive black holes, it could have hurled the star cluster away. But Batcheldor says the blueshifted object may instead be a dwarf galaxy on the far side of M87 that is plunging into the galaxy, explaining its high velocity toward us.
Additional observations are vital. "To really nail down that it's been ejected from M87, we would like to know its distance," Caldwell says. The Hubble Space Telescope can glimpse the cluster's brightest stars, which will reveal how far it is. If it's closer than M87, that would favor the ejection scenario.
Despite its extreme blueshift, the object won't hit us, because it surely has some sideways motion. But it faces a lonely future. "This thing will eventually leave Virgo and then be in between clusters of galaxies," Caldwell says. "If it really was ejected by some binary black hole mechanism, then there probably should be a few more. We're certainly going to keep looking."
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #10228 on: Mar 9th, 2014, 11:04am »
John Kerry says US is committed to securing return of Robert Levinson
• Iran urged to cooperate over man who went missing in 2007
• Former FBI agent was reportedly working for CIA
by Martin Pengelly in New York Sunday 9 March 2014 10.23 EDT
The US secretary of state, John Kerry, on Sunday released a statement marking the seventh anniversary of the disappearance of Robert Levinson, a retired FBI agent who went missing on an Iranian island and was last year reported to have been working for the CIA at the time.
Noting that Levinson, who will turn 66 on Monday, was “one of the longest held American citizens in history”, the statement said: “The United States remains committed to the safe return of Mr Levinson to his family. We appreciate the support and assistance from our international partners as we work to end this awful separation.
“Given Mr Levinson’s health, age, and length of time in captivity, we mark this anniversary with a special sense of urgency. We respectfully ask the government of Iran to work cooperatively with us on the investigation into his disappearance so we can ensure his safe return.”
On Friday, Levinson’s family released a statement, which said: “Bob’s continued imprisonment defies the humanity in all of us. After seven years, we have almost no words left to describe our life without Bob … We miss everything about [him]. No matter where we turn, Bob is absent.”
Levinson was last seen alive in photographs released in 2013, which had been sent to his family by a private investigator in 2011. That year, the Levinson family released a video, in which Levinson said: “I need the help of the United States government to answer the requests of the group that has held me. Please help me get home. Thirty-three years of service to the United States deserves something. Please help me.”
The Associated Press reported in December that Levinson, who was 58 at the time of his March 2007 disappearance on Kish Island, a luxury Iranian resort, had been working for the CIA. Official statements on the case said he had been on a business trip.
The AP noted that in 2007, shortly after Levinson disappeared, the State Department said: “He’s a private citizen involved in private business in Iran.”
In November 2013, the White House press secretary, Jay Carney, said: “Robert Levinson went missing during a business trip to Kish Island, Iran.”
In a September 2013 interview with CNN Hassan Rouhani, the president of Iran, said: “We don’t know where he is, who he is. He is an American who has disappeared. We have no news of him.”
In December, after the release of the AP report, Carney told reporters “I cannot comment further on what he may or may not have been doing in Iran”. Kerry said the US had not abandoned Levinson, and that he had “personally raised the issue” during diplomatic endeavours.
“There hasn’t been progress in the sense that we don’t have him back,” said Kerry, during an appearance on the ABC talk show This Week. “But to suggest that we’ve abandoned him or anybody … is simply incorrect and not helpful. The fact is that I have personally raised the issue, not only at the highest level that I have been involved with, but also through other intermediaries.”
Levinson’s family responded to the AP report by questioning whether it should have been published, but pressing the Obama administration to secure his release. Other news organisations, including ABC and the New York Times, said they had known about Levinson’s CIA ties but had not published, for fear of endangering his life.
It was reported that the CIA had accepted responsibility for Levinson in Iran and that the government had paid $2.5m (£1.5m) to his family. Levinson, who was reportedly working “off the books” for the agency – has a wife and seven children.
The State Department statement released on Sunday added: “Nothing can bring those lost years – more than 2,500 days in all – back to all those who love him. Mr Levinson’s disappearance has been heart-wrenching for his wife and children, who feel his absence especially deeply at the many family milestones missed these past seven years.
“The FBI has announced a $1m reward for any information that could lead to his safe return. We call on anyone with information about this case to contact the FBI.
“This is the seventh year that Mr Levinson has spent without his family. We remain committed to the hard work ahead to ensure that it’s his last.”
The Levinson family’s statement said: “We ask those that are holding Bob to show mercy and send him home to us so he may live out the rest of his life quietly and in peace. We ask the government of Iran to resolve Bob’s case on humanitarian grounds so he may safely return home.
“We ask the US government to recognise its duty to bring home one of its own who was taken while serving his country.”