Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #11236 on: Aug 19th, 2014, 11:56am »
Isis fighters show strength as they repel Iraqi army's attempt to retake Tikrit
Iraqi military fails in third attempt to take town 80 miles north of Baghdad after coming under sustained mortar and gunfire
by Matthew Weaver Tuesday 19 August 2014 10.51 EDT
Islamic State (Isis) fighters have repelled an Iraqi army attempt to retake Saddam Hussein's hometown of Tikrit in a battle that underlines the group's continuing strength despite losing control of the strategically important Mosul dam.
Boosted by Monday's recapture of the dam, Iraqi forces launched an assault on Tikrit, 80 miles (130km) north of Baghdad, with helicopter gunships and mortar and artillery fire. When troops entered the town from near its main hospital they faced heavy machine gun and mortar fire from the militants, forcing the military to pull back. It was the third failed attempt to retake Tikrit since it fell to Isis fighters more than two months ago, when Isis made sweeping gains in five provinces. Since then Tikrit has been controlled by Sunni militants and former members of Saddam's Ba'ath party.
A local official and a resident told Associated Press that the clashes began early on Tuesday on the south-western outskirts of the city. Isis landmines and snipers prevented Iraqi forces reaching the town from the west, officials told Reuters. By early afternoon residents in central Tikrit told the agency Isis fighters were firmly in control.
An Iraqi army spokesman, Lt Gen Qassim al-Moussawi, said a "slow and gradual" push to retake areas around Tikrit was under way. "There are still a lot of challenges and difficulties ahead of us," he said in a live briefing aired on state TV. "The war needs time, but we are determined to annihilate the Islamic State and to liberate all the areas they occupy even if we suffer heavy causalities, because we have no other choice."
The failed attack came as the UN's refugee agency, the UNHCR, announced one of its biggest ever aid operations to help 500,000 Iraqis who have fled violence in Iraq in the last two months. It plans to a launch a four-day airlift on Wednesday to provide tens of thousands of tents, plastic sheets, kitchen sets and jerry cans.
The Swedish furniture company Ikea is helping to provide the supplies. It has already donated $2.5m (£1.5m) and 150,000 mattresses and quilts for the UNHCR relief efforts in Iraq, making it the agency's largest private sector donor. The supplies, which have also been paid for from donations from Saudi Arabia, the US and Britain, will be flown to Irbil, the capital of the Kurdish autonomous region whichthat is sheltering an estimated 200,000 people seeking protection from Isis.
The UNHCR's spokesman, Adrian Edwards, said: "This is a very, very significant aid push and certainly one of the largest I can recall in quite a while. This is a major humanitarian crisis and disaster."
He added: "Barring last-minute delays, an air, road and sea operation will begin tomorrow [Wednesday], starting with a four-day airlift using Boeing 747s from Aqaba in Jordan to Irbil, followed by road convoys from Turkey and Jordan, and sea and land shipments from Dubai via Iran over the next 10 days." There are currently eight camps for displaced people in the Dohuk and Irbil governorates with another four to six planned.
The international threat posed by Isis was underlined in a new video warning in which the group pledged to "drown all of you in blood" if US air strikes continued. And in neighbouring Syria the group is said to have attracted a record number of new recruits.
The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said more than 6,000 men joined Isis in July. Most were from Syria, but they include 1,200 foreign fighters, it said.
Isis fighters are closing in on the last Syrian government-held army base in the north-eastern province of Raqqa, prompting Syrian air strikes in the area.
Isis fighters are "worse than Saddam", a Kurdish commander told AFP. Major General Abdulrahman Kawiri said: "They use terror and chaos to force the population to flee. Then they take over."
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #11244 on: Aug 20th, 2014, 12:11pm »
New 'invisibility cloak': Octopus-inspired camouflage systems automatically read surroundings and mimic them
August 18, 2014 University of Houston
It could be a fun party trick -- put your cell phone down on a table and watch it fade into the woodwork -- or part of a lifesaving technology used by industry or the military.
Researchers have developed a technology that allows a material to automatically read its environment and adapt to mimic its surroundings. The technology is described in a paper published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Cunjiang Yu, assistant professor of mechanical engineering at the University of Houston and lead author of the paper, said the optoelectronic camouflage system was inspired by the skins of cephalopods, a class of marine animals including octopuses, squid and cuttlefish, which can change coloration quickly, both for camouflage and as a form of warning.
Other researchers on the project include John A. Rogers of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and Yonggang Huang of Northwestern University.
Earlier camouflage systems didn't automatically adapt, Yu said. "Our device sees color and matches it. It reads the environment using thermochromatic material."
The prototype developed by the researchers works in black and white, with shades of gray, but Yu said it could be designed to work in the full color spectrum. Similarly, he said while the prototype is less than one-inch square, it can be easily scaled up for manufacturing.
The flexible skin of the device is composed of ultrathin layers, combining semiconductor actuators, switching components and light sensors with inorganic reflectors and organic color-changing materials in such a way to allow autonomous matching to background coloration.
The researchers describe their work as including pixelated devices that include analogs to each of the key elements included in the skin of cephalopods, with two exceptions, the iridophores and central ocular organs.
While the most valuable applications would be for defense or industry, Yu said consumer applications such as toys and wearable electronics also could offer a market for such a technology.
Another possibility? Luxury carmakers now try to give a car's occupants the sensation that the car has disappeared by deploying cameras to shoot videos on the passenger side of the car and using LED mats to display the view. Yu said this technology could be incorporated for a similar purpose.
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #11245 on: Aug 20th, 2014, 12:15pm »
Airport security overhaul after man boards plane in drunken prank
Birmingham Airport has reviewed safety checks after Lee Jezard was allowed to get on to the aircraft by crawling along a baggage carousel
By Tom Brooks-Pollock, and Press Association
2:09PM BST 20 Aug 2014
Birmingham Airport has ordered an overhaul of its safety procedures after it allowed a man to breach security and board a plane via a baggage carousel during a “drunken escapade”.
Lee Jezard managed to climb on to the carousel, make his way on to the tarmac and get aboard the Lufthansa aircraft.
When he was accosted by cleaners on the Embraer 195 plane, he told them he was the co-pilot and that he was “in the Navy”.
Jezard, 22, from Redditch, Worcestershire, has now been ordered to pay more than £500 in fines, costs and compensation by a court, after pleading guilty to three charges related to breach, which happened on July 17.
Birmingham magistrates heard how Jezard, who struggled to recall events, had been drinking heavily in Birmingham city centre late the previous evening before making his way to the city’s airport, probably by train.
The court heard how he had lost his job as a hotel manager after his employers found out what he had done, and that he had been “ostracised” by his family.
David Devine, prosecuting, said that airport records showed that Jezard “was never booked on any flight”.
During what Mr Devine called his early-hours “drunken escapade,” Jezard made his way to a deserted Café Nero, charged his phone and stole £36-worth of food.
Jezard was recorded by security cameras crawling through a baggage carousel, on to the apron and on to a plane where he was challenged by cleaning staff, initially telling them: "I'm the co-pilot."
"When they asked him for ID,” Mr Devine added, “he had none, and then told them 'I work for the Navy'."
"He then said: 'I'm breaking into places to see if people can catch me; I go to prisons and other places'."
Airport police arrived and the man was arrested, and interviewed.
He told officers: "I was trying to show how easy it was to get on that plane, and I did it. I told the cleaners I was the co-pilot."
Jezard struggled to recall everything that had happened, telling police he "wanted a walk around and thought it would be a good idea".
Police and security staff spoke to Jezard after seeing him wandering the round the airport “clearly intoxicated,” Tariq Khan, defending, said.
Mr Khan added that Jezard “really had very little idea how he arrived at the airport, but the guess is it was by train".
He had been “ostracised” by his family who were “not impressed” by his actions, Mr Khan said.
Mr Khan said although it was a relatively low-level security breach, the incident had implications beyond Jezard's drunken activities.
He said: "I am sure airport staff and management will have been having a close look at events, and security will have been tightened up, because of the implications this could have been a more serious breach than it was in this case."
Jezard, who is now unemployed, was fined £95 for each of the three offences, ordered to pay full compensation to the coffee shop, together with £185 costs and a £20 victim surcharge.
Following the hearing, an airport spokesman said: "The safety and security of our passengers is our number one priority.
"The individual penetrated the terminal boundary and was subsequently arrested by the police. A full investigation has taken place."
Changes have been made to the airport’s security procedures as a result of the breach.
The video, which shows a circle of brightly colored lights moving around in the sky, has been declared both “amazing” and “nothing” by UFO-logists and skeptics alike.
“I think the trick with UFOs is figuring out what else they could be,” Dr. Carolyn Summers, vice president for astronomy at the Houston Museum of Natural Science, told KPRC-TV. “It’s easy to say that it could be aliens. The more people who see it in different directions, the more likely we are to figure out where it is, what it is, and see if we can explain it.”
Mutual UFO Network chief investigator Fletcher Gray dismissed the object as “no more than light trapped in the side window” of Mr Pena’s car.
The UFO was reportedly hovering less than 12.5 mi from the Johnson Space Center, leading others to speculate it could have been NASA testing its latest toy, a “supersonic flying saucer” which was launched from Hawaii on June 28.
The device, officially named Low Density Supersonic Decelerator, imitates the rapid inflation technique of the Hawaiian puffer fish as a way to protect spacecraft during landings.
The aim is to reduce the speed of descending spacecraft, making it easier to land on planets like Mars.
Other theories include a weather balloon, the reflection of a street light, stadium lights and an unmanned drone but so far there has been no official explanation and no word from NASA.
Scientists generally agree that Neanderthals lived in Europe and Asia about 200,000 years ago. But when did they die out? That's a tougher question. Now it seems that the answer is earlier than previously thought -- and by 10,000 years, the New York Times wrote Wednesday.
The new discovery has been cited by various news sites and was published in the journal Nature. It refutes the belief that Neanderthals lived in Portugal, Spain and Gibraltar until 30,000 years ago, even as groups of modern humans expanded.
Neanderthals in Europe died out 40,000 years ago, which means the heavy-browed relatives and modern humans lived in Europe simultaneously for 5,000 years, a new study of Neanderthal sites from Spain to Russia revealed. They might have even shared ideas and culture, the BBC noted.
Neanderthals_Bone_Tools A set of ancient bone tools have left scientists baffled about the capabilities of Neanderthals. Reuters “This is a very strong compilation,” Professor Chris Stringer of the Natural History Museum in London said, according to the New York Times. “I think it kind of replaces the picture we had before.”
Modern humans migrated from Africa at least 600,000 years ago and crossed paths with the Neanderthals. DNA proof shows Neanderthals and humans not only encountered each other, but interbred about 50,000 to 60,000 years ago in western Asia.
“You’ve kind of got two parts of the story,” Dr. Stringer said. “There must have been a western Asia coexistence, which included interbreeding. Then there was a later coexistence in Europe, for which we have no evidence of interbreeding but possible evidence of some cultural contact between the groups.”
Modern humans might have played a role in the extinction of their ancestors. The big-brained and thick-boned hunters might have felt competitive pressure from early Europeans, who hunted many of the same prey species, research shows. "They were hunting the same animals, collecting the same plants and wanting to live in the best caves. So there would have been an economic competition," Stringer added, according to the BBC.
"But it was not an instantaneous extinction," he continued. "They were not hunted down and killed by modern humans or wiped out by diseases they might have brought with them from Africa. It was a more gradual process."
Neanderthals underwent a population decease around 50,000 years ago that left some of them in isolated groups, which is just around the time early modern humans arrived.
"In ecology when you see a species that is isolated and losing genetic diversity, you are seeing one that is often on the way out," Tom Higham of the United Kingdom's University of Oxford explained, according to National Geographic. "I think most of my colleagues would agree that having modern humans around played some role in the disappearance of the Neanderthals."
Neanderthals might have lived longer in Russia and Siberia, Dr. Higham believes, and he wants to expand his research there. The conclusions, however, are uncertain since the research sites do not contain bones of the actual inhabitants and researchers aren’t sure if Neanderthals or modern humans made the tools that were discovered.
“This gives us a framework, basically, which allows us to ask more interesting questions,” Nature commentator William Davies said, according to the Times. “About what the tools might mean, how they were used, what they tell us about Neanderthal interactions.”