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 veryhotthread  Author  Topic: Stuff & Nonsense  (Read 71640 times)
WingsofCrystal
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« Reply #1230 on: Sep 20th, 2010, 6:44pm »



Here's another upload of the same video

« Last Edit: Sep 20th, 2010, 6:45pm by WingsofCrystal » User IP Logged

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0VkrUG3OrPc
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« Reply #1231 on: Sep 20th, 2010, 6:52pm »










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xx Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #1232 on: Sep 20th, 2010, 8:35pm »

Time for some babies.....

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« Reply #1233 on: Sep 21st, 2010, 08:09am »

Good morning Swamprat. cheesy
Thank you for the baby pictures! They are wonderful.
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« Reply #1234 on: Sep 21st, 2010, 08:11am »

New York Times

September 21, 2010
North Korea Sets Date for Leadership Gathering
By MARK McDONALD

SEOUL, South Korea — North Korea announced on Tuesday that the ruling Workers’ Party would hold a major gathering next week, the first such congress in 30 years and a meeting that could signal the formal designation of Kim Jong-il’s youngest son as his heir apparent.

North Korea said the conference to elect the country’s “supreme leadership body” would be held in the capital, Pyongyang, on Sept. 28.

“It’s not 100-percent certain, because North Korea remains a very special country, but I would say it’s 99-percent sure that Kim Jong-un will be confirmed as the successor,” said Andrei Lankov, a North Korea expert at Kookmin University in Seoul. “He will be presented to the party and the people on the 28th as ‘the new genius of leadership, the guiding star of the 21st century,’ something like that.”

Mr. Lankov and other analysts said the younger Mr. Kim will likely be given a Politburo post and perhaps a senior position in the government, although they did not expect he would be named as chairman of the all-powerful National Defense Commission.

A parade and public gatherings are not expected in the North to celebrate Kim Jong-un’s emergence, analysts said, although his official portrait would perhaps soon be appearing in North Korean shops, offices, homes and public places. Poems and songs also will start to be heard, Mr. Lankov said, “along with stories about his greatness.”

But some analysts were more cautious about Kim Jong-un’s prospects at the party meeting next week, suggesting the gathering will more likely introduce a party leadership that will help him solidify and expand his base before he eventually inherits power. And even if he does receive significant appointments, these analysts said, the regime might refrain from announcing them right away.

North Korea had earlier said the party congress would be held in early September, and political analysts in South Korea floated all manner of theories to explain the delay.

Speculation about Kim Jong-il’s health resurfaced, focusing on an apparent stroke he suffered in August 2008, and the continuing deterioration of his appearance as seen in official state photographs and video. There also were suggestions that Mr. Kim, 68, needed time to recover from a recent train trip to China where he met with senior officials. It was still unclear whether his son accompanied him to China as a way of being introduced to North Korea’s allies in Beijing.

Some analysts also suggested that recent storms and flooding in the North had delayed the conference because it became difficult for party delegates to travel to Pyongyang. The North Korean announcement on Tuesday made no reference to the delay but said party delegates had been holding preparatory meetings around the country all month.

Another theory held that internal wrangling had caused the delay in the congress, and some suggested that there was discord among the political and military elite about a possible dynastic succession — from grandfather to father to son.

But Mr. Lankov dismissed any idea of significant internal disputes, saying the delay in the conference was brief. “Maybe Kim Jong-il had a minor flu or something,” he said.

Mr. Kim was introduced to the nation — and to most of the outside world — at the last Workers’ Party conference, held in 1980. He took over from his father, Kim Il-sung, the founder of the modern North Korean state, upon his father’s death in 1994. That passage of power came gradually and peacefully, with the son undergoing years of grooming, study and tutelage.

Kim Jong-un has had no such training — political or military — and he remains something of a cipher.

“He doesn’t know much about anything,” Mr. Lankov said.

Very few pictures of him are known to exist in public, even in North Korea, and even his age is uncertain — 27 or 28. He attended a private school in Switzerland for a time, and it is believed that he speaks English.

Kim Jong-il’s former sushi chef, who wrote a memoir in 2003, said in an interview last year that as a teenager, Kim Jong-un was already his father’s favorite son and “looked just like him.”

Intelligence officials in Seoul and Washington have tried in the past year — with mixed results — to compile a dossier on Kim Jong-un to better understand the potential future leader of a nuclear-armed state. He is described as a man of medium height, and a bit overweight, with high blood pressure and perhaps diabetes.

He is, the reports suggest, very much like his father, the so-called Dear Leader.

“We picture a charismatic young man, authoritarian, politically astute and precocious and ambitious,” Cheong Seong-chang, a researcher at the Sejong Institute, near Seoul, said at the time. “We picture Little Kim Jong-il.”

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/09/22/world/asia/22korea.html?_r=1&hp

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« Reply #1235 on: Sep 21st, 2010, 08:14am »

New York Times

September 20, 2010
Afghan Boys Are Prized, So Girls Live the Part
By JENNY NORDBERG

KABUL, Afghanistan — Six-year-old Mehran Rafaat is like many girls her age. She likes to be the center of attention. She is often frustrated when things do not go her way. Like her three older sisters, she is eager to discover the world outside the family’s apartment in their middle-class neighborhood of Kabul.

But when their mother, Azita Rafaat, a member of Parliament, dresses the children for school in the morning, there is one important difference. Mehran’s sisters put on black dresses and head scarves, tied tightly over their ponytails. For Mehran, it’s green pants, a white shirt and a necktie, then a pat from her mother over her spiky, short black hair. After that, her daughter is out the door — as an Afghan boy.

There are no statistics about how many Afghan girls masquerade as boys. But when asked, Afghans of several generations can often tell a story of a female relative, friend, neighbor or co-worker who grew up disguised as a boy. To those who know, these children are often referred to as neither “daughter” nor “son” in conversation, but as “bacha posh,” which literally means “dressed up as a boy” in Dari.

Through dozens of interviews conducted over several months, where many people wanted to remain anonymous or to use only first names for fear of exposing their families, it was possible to trace a practice that has remained mostly obscured to outsiders. Yet it cuts across class, education, ethnicity and geography, and has endured even through Afghanistan’s many wars and governments.

Afghan families have many reasons for pretending their girls are boys, including economic need, social pressure to have sons, and in some cases, a superstition that doing so can lead to the birth of a real boy. Lacking a son, the parents decide to make one up, usually by cutting the hair of a daughter and dressing her in typical Afghan men’s clothing. There are no specific legal or religious proscriptions against the practice. In most cases, a return to womanhood takes place when the child enters puberty. The parents almost always make that decision.

In a land where sons are more highly valued, since in the tribal culture usually only they can inherit the father’s wealth and pass down a name, families without boys are the objects of pity and contempt. Even a made-up son increases the family’s standing, at least for a few years. A bacha posh can also more easily receive an education, work outside the home, even escort her sisters in public, allowing freedoms that are unheard of for girls in a society that strictly segregates men and women.

But for some, the change can be disorienting as well as liberating, stranding the women in a limbo between the sexes. Shukria Siddiqui, raised as a boy but then abruptly plunged into an arranged marriage, struggled to adapt, tripping over the confining burqa and straining to talk to other women.

The practice may stretch back centuries. Nancy Dupree, an 83-year-old American who has spent most of her life as a historian working in Afghanistan, said she had not heard of the phenomenon, but recalled a photograph from the early 1900s belonging to the private collection of a member of the Afghan royal family.

It featured women dressed in men’s clothing standing guard at King Habibullah’s harem. The reason: the harem’s women could not be protected by men, who might pose a threat to the women, but they could not be watched over by women either.

“Segregation calls for creativity,” Mrs. Dupree said. “These people have the most amazing coping ability.”

It is a commonly held belief among less educated Afghans that the mother can determine the sex of her unborn child, so she is blamed if she gives birth to a daughter. Several Afghan doctors and health care workers from around the country said that they had witnessed the despair of women when they gave birth to daughters, and that the pressure to produce a son fueled the practice.

“Yes, this is not normal for you,” Mrs. Rafaat said in sometimes imperfect English, during one of many interviews over several weeks. “And I know it’s very hard for you to believe why one mother is doing these things to their youngest daughter. But I want to say for you, that some things are happening in Afghanistan that are really not imaginable for you as a Western people.”

Pressure to Have a Boy

From that fateful day she first became a mother — Feb. 7, 1999 — Mrs. Rafaat knew she had failed, she said, but she was too exhausted to speak, shivering on the cold floor of the family’s small house in Badghis Province.

She had just given birth — twice — to Mehran’s older sisters, Benafsha and Beheshta. The first twin had been born after almost 72 hours of labor, one month prematurely. The girl weighed only 2.6 pounds and was not breathing at first. Her sister arrived 10 minutes later. She, too, was unconscious.

When her mother-in-law began to cry, Mrs. Rafaat knew it was not from fear whether her infant granddaughters would survive. The old woman was disappointed. “Why,” she cried, according to Mrs. Rafaat, “are we getting more girls in the family?”

Mrs. Rafaat had grown up in Kabul, where she was a top student, speaking six languages and nurturing high-flying dreams of becoming a doctor. But once her father forced her to become the second wife of her first cousin, she had to submit to being an illiterate farmer’s wife, in a rural house without running water and electricity, where the widowed mother-in-law ruled, and where she was expected to help care for the cows, sheep and chickens. She did not do well.

Conflicts with her mother-in-law began immediately, as the new Mrs. Rafaat insisted on better hygiene and more contact with the men in the house. She also asked her mother-in-law to stop beating her husband’s first wife with her walking stick. When Mrs. Rafaat finally snapped the stick in protest, the older woman demanded that her son, Ezatullah, control his new wife.

He did so with a wooden stick or a metal wire. “On the body, on the face,” she recalled. “I tried to stop him. I asked him to stop. Sometimes I didn’t.”

Soon, she was pregnant. The family treated her slightly better as she grew bigger. “They were hoping for a son this time,” she explained. Ezatullah Rafaat’s first wife had given birth to two daughters, one of whom had died as an infant, and she could no longer conceive. Azita Rafaat delivered two daughters, double the disappointment.

Mrs. Rafaat faced constant pressure to try again, and she did, through two more pregnancies, when she had two more daughters — Mehrangis, now 9, and finally Mehran, the 6-year-old.

Asked if she ever considered leaving her husband, she reacted with complete surprise.

“I thought of dying,” she said. “But I never thought of divorce. If I had separated from my husband, I would have lost my children, and they would have had no rights. I am not one to quit.”

Today, she is in a position of power, at least on paper. She is one of 68 women in Afghanistan’s 249-member Parliament, representing Badghis Province. Her husband is unemployed and spends most of his time at home. “He is my house husband,” she joked.

By persuading him to move away from her mother-in-law and by offering to contribute to the family income, she laid the groundwork for her political life. Three years into their marriage, after the fall of the Taliban in 2002, she began volunteering as a health worker for various nongovernmental organizations. Today she makes $2,000 a month as a member of Parliament.

As a politician, she works to improve women’s rights and the rule of law. She ran for re-election on Sept. 18, and, based on a preliminary vote count, is optimistic about securing another term. But she could run only with her husband’s explicit permission, and the second time around, he was not easily persuaded.

He wanted to try again for a son. It would be difficult to combine pregnancy and another child with her work, she said — and she knew she might have another girl in any case.

But the pressure to have a son extended beyond her husband. It was the only subject her constituents could talk about when they came to the house, she said.

“When you don’t have a son in Afghanistan,” she explained, “it’s like a big missing in your life. Like you lost the most important point of your life. Everybody feels sad for you.”

As a politician, she was also expected to be a good wife and a mother; instead she looked like a failed woman to her constituents. The gossip spread back to her province, and her husband was also questioned and embarrassed, she said.

In an effort to preserve her job and placate her husband, as well as fending off the threat of his getting a third wife, she proposed to her husband that they make their youngest daughter look like a son.

“People came into our home feeling pity for us that we don’t have a son,” she recalled reasoning. “And the girls — we can’t send them outside. And if we changed Mehran to a boy we would get more space and freedom in society for her. And we can send her outside for shopping and to help the father.”

No Hesitation

Together, they spoke to their youngest daughter, she said. They made it an alluring proposition: “Do you want to look like a boy and dress like a boy, and do more fun things like boys do, like bicycling, soccer and cricket? And would you like to be like your father?” Mehran did not hesitate to say yes.

That afternoon, her father took her to the barbershop, where her hair was cut short. They continued to the bazaar, where she got new clothing.

more after the jump
http://www.nytimes.com/2010/09/21/world/asia/21gender.html?ref=world

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« Reply #1236 on: Sep 21st, 2010, 08:17am »

Science Daily

Why Thinking of Nothing Can Be So Tiring: Brain Wolfs Energy to Stop Thinking
ScienceDaily (Sep. 21, 2010) —

Ever wonder why it's such an effort to forget about work while on vacation or to silence that annoying song that's playing over and over in your head?

Mathematicians at Case Western Reserve University may have part of the answer.

They've found that just as thinking burns energy, stopping a thought burns energy -- like stopping a truck on a downhill slope.

"Maybe this explains why it is so tiring to relax and think about nothing," said Daniela Calvetti, professor of mathematics, and one of the authors of a new brain study. Their work is published in an advanced online publication of Journal of Cerebral Blood Flow & Metabolism.

Opening up the brain for detailed monitoring isn't practical. So, to understand energy usage, Calvetti teamed with Erkki Somersalo, professor of mathematics, and Rossana Occhipinti, who used this work to help earn a PhD in math last year and is now a postdoctoral researcher in the department of physiology and biophysics at the Case Western Reserve School of Medicine. They developed equations and statistics and built a computer model of brain metabolism.

The computer simulations for this study were obtained by using Metabolica, a software package that Calvetti and Somersalo have designed to study complex metabolic systems. The software produces a numeric rendering of the pathways linking excitatory neurons that transmit thought or inhibitory neurons that put on the brakes with star-like brain cells called astrocytes. Astrocytes cater essential chemicals and functions to both kinds of neurons.

To stop a thought, the brain uses inhibitory neurons to prevent excitatory neurons from passing information from one to another.

"The inhibitory neurons are like a priest saying, 'Don't do it,'" Calvetti said. The "priest neurons" block information by releasing gamma aminobutyric acid, commonly called GABA, which counteracts the effect of the neurotransmitter glutamate by excitatory neurons.

Glutamate opens the synaptic gates. GABA holds the gates closed.

"The astrocytes, which are the Cinderellas of the brain, consume large amounts of oxygen mopping up and recycling the GABA and the glutamate, which is a neurotoxin," Somersalo said.

More oxygen requires more blood flow, although the connection between cerebral metabolism and hemodynamics is not fully understood yet.

All together, "It's a surprising expense to keep inhibition on," he said.

The group plans to more closely compare energy use of excitatory and inhibitory neurons by running simultaneous simulations of both processes.

The researchers are plumbing basic science but their goal is to help solve human problems.

Brain disease or damaging conditions are often difficult to diagnose until advanced stages. Most brain maladies, however, are linked to energy metabolism and understanding what is the norm may enable doctors to detect problems earlier.

The toll inhibition takes may, in particular, be relevant to neurodegenerative diseases. "And that is truly exciting" Calvetti said.

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/09/100920172736.htm

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« Reply #1237 on: Sep 21st, 2010, 08:23am »

Telegraph

France raised its terrorist alert warning today amid fears of suicide bomb plots against the Paris transport network.

By Henry Samuel in Paris
Published: 4:58PM BST 20 Sep 2010

French intelligence services are hunting a female would-be suicide bomber who they believe could be planning to target the Paris metro.

The alert followed a tip-off from a friendly intelligence agency – thought to be Algeria’s — warning of an imminent al-Qaeda threat.

Five French nationals have been kidnapped close to a French uranium mine in Niger in the last week, while a bomb scare caused alarm at the Eiffel Tower.

In a separate development armed guards were deployed to protect prominent Islamic moderate Dalil Boubakeur, rector of the Paris mosque.

“The terrorist threat is real and today our vigilance, therefore, is reinforced,” said Brice Hortefeux, the interior minister.

Monday’s warning came a week after the Senate voted in favour of a ban on full Islamic veils in France, which is due to come into force next year if approved by constitutional judges. Al-Qaida’s deputy leader Ayman al-Zawahiri has urged Muslim women to resist the proposed ban.

A police source said security services had identified two separate Islamist sleeper cells with financial means that were recently “woken up” in France after the arrival of several Islamic radicals from Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Le Monde newspaper yesterday reported that intelligence notes received last week alerted French authorities to an “anti-French focus” by al-Qaida’s North African arm.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/france/8014095/France-raises-Paris-terror-alert-over-al-Qaeda-warning.html

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« Reply #1238 on: Sep 21st, 2010, 08:30am »

Wired Danger Room

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Navy SEALs' Brain Injury Test Fails
By Katie Drummond
September 21, 2010 | 12:13 am

The Navy SEALs’ much-hyped on-line test to detect traumatic brain injuries churns out a disconcertingly high rate of false positives, according to university researchers who’ve studied the test in healthy college students.

The finding is bad news for the SEALs, who signed a one-year contract last month with ImPACT Applications to implement the test. It’s an alternative to the Pentagon-mandated Automated Neuropsychological Assessment Metrics (ANAM) tool that the Army surgeon general called “about as effective as a coin flip.”

But it’s also a preview of the results we can expect from a Pentagon-funded study by the Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center (DVBIC). They’re comparing ImPACT to several other neuroassessment tools, to determine whether any are fit to replace the ANAM as the military’s go-to brain injury test. At least 11,500 troops are suffering from traumatic brain injuries, according to ProPublica.

ImPACT — if effective — would be particularly helpful for the SEALs. The test is taken online, meaning it’d theoretically be available in far-out regions where crews often operate. It’s also entirely computerized, so service members can obtain quick results wherever they are, without a medical specialist on hand.

The SEALS are still using ANAM among active duty crew members, but they’re also touting the benefits of ImPACT, and claim the test is more effective and easier to use than the alternatives.

“We can quickly assess if an operator has suffered a head injury that requires him to be removed from the fight temporarily, or sent to a medical facility for further testing,” Navy Special Warfare Group spokesperson Lt. Catherine Wallace tells NextGov.

But those assessments might not be accurate, according to Professor Steven Broglio at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. In a 2007 study of ImPACT and two other brain injury tests — both also being reviewed by the DVBIC — Broglio evaluated 118 healthy college students. ImPACT yielded a 38.4 percent false positive rate, meaning it incorrectly diagnosed a vast swath of the students as impaired.

The other two brain injury tests didn’t do much better. They reported 21.9 and 19.2 percent false positive results.

“Reliabilities on some output scores fell within a minimally acceptable range, but no single test had uniformly acceptable reliabilities,” Broglio’s study reads. “No single assessment technique should be used to the exclusion of the others or the physical examination.”

Still, the ANAM tool is in dire need of replacement. Earlier this year, a ProPublica investigation concluded that the military’s brain injury assessments had failed to diagnose thousands of troops, and that diagnoses often weren’t transferred to permanent medical files. Army surgeon general Lt. Gen. Eric Schoomaker told Congress that the ANAM was “fraught with problems,” and “about as effective as a coin flip.”

In other words, the DVBIC review — which includes 2,000 troops and concludes in 2011 — will likely offer a recommendation that’s little more than the lesser of all failures for TBI detection. Meanwhile, the Pentagon’s plodding efforts at overhauling their management of the injuries continue, with plans for a TBI mega-database and long-term research into brain implants that might one day act as “replacement parts” for thousands of ailing vets.

Photo: Department of Defense

http://www.wired.com/dangerroom/

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« Reply #1239 on: Sep 21st, 2010, 08:41am »

LA Times

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September 20, 2010 |

With four scrawny fuselages and wings stretching more than the length of a football field, Boeing Co.’s solar-powered drone looks a bit like a flying antenna.

But the government is hoping that the aircraft, dubbed the SolarEagle, will one day be capable of flying for five straight years at 60,000 feet.

Last week, Boeing announced it had won an $89-million contract with the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency to develop a prototype of the SolarEagle that can demonstrate it can stay aloft for 30 days by 2014. Eventually, Chicago-based Boeing sees the SolarEagle hovering at stratospheric altitudes for at least five years.

"That's a daunting task, but Boeing has a highly reliable solar-electric design that will meet the challenge,” Pat O'Neil, the plane’s program manager, said in a statement.

The SolarEagle will draw on solar energy through panels affixed to the wings. The power will be stored in fuel cells and used through the night. The plane will also feature electric motors and propellers. Much of the design work is being done by Boeing engineers at its Phantom Works facility in Huntington Beach.

Boeing expects the plane to be ultimately used as a spy and communication aircraft.

-- W.J. Hennigan

Image: Artist's rendering of the SolarEagle. Credit: Boeing Co.

http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/technology/

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« Reply #1240 on: Sep 21st, 2010, 08:42am »

grin

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« Reply #1241 on: Sep 21st, 2010, 12:46pm »

LA Times

At least eight city of Bell officials were arrested Tuesday morning, a source said, as L.A. County Dist. Atty. Steve Cooley prepared to announce criminal charges in the municipal salary scandal.

[Updated at 10 a.m.: Former Bell City Manager Robert Rizzo, whose high salary sparked the outrage that led to the investigations of the city, was among those arrested in the sweep. No details have been released, but a source not authorized to speak publicly about the case said that Rizzo; former Assistant City Manager Angela Spaccia; Mayor Oscar Hernandez; Councilmembers Luis Artiga, Teresa Jacobo and George Mirabal; and former Councilmembers George Cole and Victor Bello were among those arrested.]

The charges are expected to be detailed at a morning press conference, according to a source with knowledge of the case who was not authorized to comment publicly. A witness told The Times he saw Councilman Luis Artiga taken away in handcuffs Tuesday morning.

[Updated at 10:15 a.m.: A neighbor of Hernandez said authorities used a battering ram on his front door after he failed to answer the door.

"They broke the door down," said the neighbor, who only gave his name as Jose. "They knocked down the door and they brought him out in cuffs."]

For two months, the Los Angeles County district attorney's office and state and federal authorities have investigated Bell, where high salaries earned by former City Manager Robert Rizzo and other top officials have sparked widespread outrage. The Times reported last month that Rizzo was set to earn more than $1.5 million in 2010. Additionally, he gave loans totaling $1.6 million to more than 50 city officials, including himself.

Cooley has said his office was examining whether the various financial transactions in Bell amounted to thefts of public funds. The office is also looking into allegations of voter fraud and whether the high salaries earned by Rizzo and others were legal.
Last week, California Atty. Gen. Jerry Brown filed a lawsuit against current and former Bell city leaders demanding that their pay contracts be nullified and that they pay back some of their salaries and pension benefits. Artiga was not one of those named in the lawsuit, and he said he was working with investigators.

Rizzo and other top city officials stepped down in July after the salary scandal broke. City Council members — who were earning nearly $100,000 a year — significantly slashed their pay.

The full audit by state Controller John Chiang's office has previously found that Bell illegally overtaxed residents and businesses by $5.6 million. In addition to the retirement funds, Rizzo received two city loans of $80,000, officials said.

After The Times disclosed the loans, city officials said they were suspending the loan program and were trying to determine how many of the loans were repaid.

-- Jack Leonard, Ruben Vives and Richard Winton

http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/lanow/2010/09/bell-officials-arrested-as-prosecutors-are-set-to-file-criminal-charges.html

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« Reply #1242 on: Sep 21st, 2010, 3:05pm »

Phantoms and Monsters

Tuesday, September 21, 2010
Inexplicata: Mystery Animals of Yesterday and Today
Scott Corrales of Inexplicata - the Journal of the Institute of Hispanic Ufology has posted a fantastic article about worldwide reports of mysterious creatures:

Mystery Animals: Yesterday and Today
By Scott Corrales

A curious news item made its way to the Reuters World Service in October 1996: Elements of the Egyptian police had allegedly shot and captured two strange savage animals of a pack that had terrorized the small Egyptian town of Armant, a community in the Nile Valley some three hundred miles south of Cairo, killing three villagers and wounding dozens in a series of nocturnal raids against the population.

The news item went on to say that the bloodthirsty creatures resembled "large hyenas or wild dogs." Known to the locals as salaawwa, the beasts allegdly belong to no known species of canids. Egypt's Ministry of the Interior offered the theory that the animals had been driven northward from the Sudan in search of new hunting grounds. Armed villagers joined the gendarmes in efforts to ensnare the bizarre animals, ultimately managing to wound a specimen as it emerged from the farmland bent on attacking individual homes. Another such creature had been shot dead, and no further information was available on the beasts.

In a world in which new species are added to the roster every year, the news of hyena offshoots attacking humans in the Nile should simply be chalked up to animal reactions resulting from changes in the environment. But the Egyptian news story has a curious ring of familiarity to it.

In the year 774 A.D., during the reign of Emperor Leo IV, called "the Khazar", the Eastern Roman Empire was swept by a plague of quasi-biblical proportions which was followed by the appearance of bizarre carnivorous animals which could be dead-ringers for the one in the Reuters item. A Syriac priest and chronicler of the time, Denys de Tell-Mahre, describes the creatures as having no fear of humans and resembling wolves, but with smaller and narrower muzzles and horse-like ears. "The skin on their dorsal spine resembled the bristles of pigs," adds the medieval chronicler.

Swarms of these strange canids fanned out across Anatolia, devouring dozens of farmers and villagers. The animals fought their human attackers fiercely, unafraid of weapons, brazenly carrying off children out of homes and fields.

Soon, however, we begin to encounter clearly paranormal overtones emerging from this Syriac chronicle: the nameless beasts were able to "abduct children from their beds" and dogs refused to bark at their appearance. Entire herds of cattle were destroyed, and "when one of them attacked a herad of goats, or flock of sheep, it took away several at a time," adds the chronicle.

In a medieval fairy-tale of the same period, a paladin would doubtlessly have appeared to redress the situation, but what happened in real life was far more prosaic: the monstrous creatures simply moved on to a new hunting ground, apparently what is today northern Iraq. No mention of the creatures is made in subsequent Middle Eastern annals.

Paranormal creatures of every shape and size conceivable appear and disappear around the world, causing physical damage and preying on domesticated animals. The same pattern has repeated itself over the centuries well into the twentieth century.

The Moca Vampire -- Deja Vu All Over Again

On Februrary 25, 1975, a Puerto Rican newspaper ran one of the very first headlines concerning the wave of mysterious animal deaths to occur in the vicinity of the small town of Moca, on the island's western side.

The creature, christened "The Moca Vampire" by the press, began its activities in Moca's Barrio Rocha, where it killed a number of animals in a grisly fashion never seen before. Fifteen cows, three goats, two geese and a pig were found dead with strange puncture marks on their hides, indicating that some sharp object --natural or artificial-- had been inserted into the hapless bovines. Autopsy reports invariably showed that not a single drop of blood remained within the animals, as if it had been consumed by some predator. Police officers were adamant about ascribing the deaths to dogs, since they correctly believed that not even the wildest of feral dogs could climb some of the fences surrounding the dead animals' pens.

On March 7, 1975, a cow belonging to Rey Jim‚nez was found dead in Moca's Barrio Cruz, presenting deep, penetrating wounds on its skull and a number of scratches around the wounds on its body. Jim‚nez's cow was added to the growing list of victims, which now totalled well over thirty.

As the number of victims grew exponentially, the Moca Vampire acquired an identity of its own, much in the same way that the Chupacabras would twenty years later. Speculation as to its nature was rife: many believed it was a supernatural "bird", like the one seen by Mar¡a Acevedo, a Moca resident who noticed that a strange animal had landed on her home's zinc rooftop in the middle of the night. According to Acevedo's testimony, the bird pecked at the rusty rooftop and at the windows before taking flight, issuing a terrifying scream.

The UFO phenomenon did not wait excessively long before manifesting itself in the dark skies over Moca: on March 12, 1975, Luis Torres, together with his son and daughter-in-law, witnessed an object which resembled "the lights on a police cruiser" spinning in the night on the outskirts of town. Torres and his family estimated that the object had been engaged in an overflight of the fields in which mutilated animals were being found. A few days later, on March 15, farmer Cecilio Hern ndez notified authorities that the elusive Moca Vampire had slain thirty-four chickens on his property at some point during the night. The supernatural entity was by now responsible for ninety animal deaths in a two week period.

more after the jump
http://naturalplane.blogspot.com/

http://inexplicata.blogspot.com/2010/09/mystery-animals-yesterday-and-today.html

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« Reply #1243 on: Sep 21st, 2010, 3:10pm »

Hindustan Times
Wackiest insurance policies ever

New Delhi, September 20, 2010First Published: 14:37 IST

Do you fear being abducted by aliens? Have you ever seen a UFO? If your answer to any of the above questions is yes, getting an alien abduction insurance may not be such a bad idea.

However bizarre it may sound, you can actually get insurance against alien abduction. According to Newser, British Insurance has made $3 million selling this policy to gullible Californians. But the company's managing director admits it's a joke. "Let's face it," he says, "Insurance is so tedious that if I can enlighten my dreary life with a bit of humour every now and again, I will." Apparently the weird insurance is purchased usually by the weak minded.

With most people having a health, car, house and life insurance, companies are coming up with wacky insurance policies. Here's a list of Asylum's wackiest policies ever devised, reports Newser.

Immaculate Conception: Three Scottish virgins were so convinced that God might impregnate them that they took out a policy that would pay them $1.5 million if it happened.

Chest Hair: An unknown celebrity asked an insurance company to insure his manly chest rug for $7 million. Alas, he never took out the policy.

Giant Crab: When the Birmingham Sea Life aquarium took possession of a gigantic Japanese spider crab measuring 10-feet across, they assured the public wasn't dangerous-then took out a $1.5 million policy against visitor death or dismemberment.

Thailand Riots: To reassure tourists about their eminently safe country, the Thai government is offering visitors riot insurance.

http://networkedblogs.com/88oZI

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New York Times

September 21, 2010
Money-Laundering Inquiry Touches Vatican Bank
By RACHEL DONADIO

ROME — Italian monetary authorities said Tuesday that they had impounded $30 million from the Vatican bank and placed its top two officers under investigation in connection with a money-laundering inquiry. The announcement amounted to another potential storm confronting the papacy of Benedict XVI, who is struggling with the effects of a priestly abuse scandal.

In a statement, the Vatican expressed “perplexity and surprise” that the bank’s chairman, Ettore Gotti Tedeschi, and its director general, Paolo Cipriani, had been placed under investigation. It added that it had the “greatest trust” in the two men and that it had been working for greater transparency in its finances.

The investigation is the first into the Vatican bank since the early 1980s, when it was implicated in the collapse of an Italian bank whose chairman, nicknamed “God’s banker,” was mysteriously found dead, hanging from Blackfriars Bridge in London.

Italian authorities have historically shied away from investigating the Vatican’s finances — owing as much to a sense of deference to the church as to the complex relationship between Italy and the Holy See, a sovereign state.

“The era of omertà is over,” said Gianluigi Nuzzi, the author of the 2009 best seller “Vaticano S.p.A.,” using the Italian term for the code of silence. S.p.A. stands for joint-stock company in Italian.

The investigation was undertaken because of a new practice by the Bank of Italy. Aimed at preventing the financing of terrorist groups and money laundering, it requires all foreign banks operating in Italy, including the Vatican bank, to provide detailed information about the origins of the money they transfer.

Officials said Mr. Gotti Tedeschi and Mr. Cipriani were under investigation for having failed to adequately explain the origins of funds transferred from one account held by the Vatican bank to two others it holds. They said that the seizure of money was preventive and that neither man had been formally charged or placed under arrest. In the coming months, a judge is expected to rule on whether to proceed with the investigation.

The investigation could potentially blight the record of Mr. Gotti Tedeschi, a well-respected banker and a former head of operations in Italy for Banco Santander in Spain. He was brought in by the pope last year to help make the finances of the Vatican bank more open. The private bank, formally known as the Institute for Religious Works, manages funds aimed at charitable activities.

The new investigation appeared more mundane than the 1980s inquiry, but it appeared to be potentially no less explosive.

Officials said they had opened the investigation on Monday after the Bank of Italy, adhering to anti-money-laundering directives issued by the European Union, alerted them to two suspicious transfers on Sept. 6 from an account held by the Vatican bank at a Rome branch of Credito Artigiano S.p.A., a bank based in Northern Italy.

One transfer of $26 million was directed to an account held by the Vatican bank at a Frankfurt branch of the American bank J. P. Morgan, and a transfer of $4 million was directed to an account it held at a Rome branch of Banca del Fucino.

Magistrates in Rome opened the investigation because the account from which the funds were sent was in Rome.

Last year, the same magistrates opened up a broader investigation into Italian bank accounts thought to be receiving transfers from the Vatican bank.

In both cases, investigators bypassed the sovereignty of the Holy See by looking into Italian accounts that had received funds from the Vatican Bank.

In its statement, the Holy See expressed “perplexity and surprise at the initiative taken by the Rome court, considering that all the necessary data were already made available to the competent office at the Bank of Italy and similar operations are ongoing with other Italian credit institutions.”

It added that the funds were transfers originating within the Vatican bank itself, and that the bank was working to join the “white list” of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, the highest ranking on its transparency charts.

In the early 1980s, the Vatican bank was involved in a scandal at an Italian bank, Banco Ambrosiano, which collapsed after the disappearance of $1.3 billion in loans to companies in Latin America. The Vatican bank denied wrongdoing but paid $250 million to Banco Ambrosiano’s creditors.

The new investigation appeared to show a more aggressive stance by the Bank of Italy, a player in the complex power dynamics of contemporary Italy. “It has a central role, whereas before it had a subaltern role,” said Mr. Nuzzi, the author.

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/09/22/world/europe/22vatican.html?_r=1&ref=world

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