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 veryhotthread  Author  Topic: Stuff & Nonsense  (Read 146618 times)
WingsofCrystal
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« Reply #1350 on: Sep 28th, 2010, 4:35pm »

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"Bucking Up" at the White House


BEN FELLER, AP White House Correspondent
POSTED: 7:01 am EDT September 28, 2010
UPDATED: 7:56 am EDT September 28, 2010

WASHINGTON -- Admonishing his own party, President Barack Obama says it would be "inexcusable" and "irresponsible" for unenthusiastic Democratic voters to sit out the midterm elections, warning that the consequences could be a squandered agenda for years.

"People need to shake off this lethargy. People need to buck up," Obama told Rolling Stone in an interview to be published Friday.

more after the jump
http://www.wxii12.com/politics/25189965/detail.html

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« Reply #1351 on: Sep 28th, 2010, 4:47pm »

I am encouraged by the amount of press coverage Salas and Hasting got for their Press Club presentation yesterday.

Google shows 93 articles and counting..... shocked


http://news.google.com/news/story?pz=1&cf=all&ned=us&hl=en&geo=us&ncl=http://www.livescience.com/strangenews/etc/100928-ufo-press-conference-aliens-interested-our-nukes.html&cf=all&start=0
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« Reply #1352 on: Sep 28th, 2010, 4:54pm »

on Sep 28th, 2010, 4:47pm, Swamprat wrote:
I am encouraged by the amount of press coverage Salas and Hasting got for their Press Club presentation yesterday.

Google shows 93 articles and counting..... shocked


http://news.google.com/news/story?pz=1&cf=all&ned=us&hl=en&geo=us&ncl=http://www.livescience.com/strangenews/etc/100928-ufo-press-conference-aliens-interested-our-nukes.html&cf=all&start=0


Hello Swamprat!
Wow! That IS a lot of coverage. I am surprised, these things usually get a wee bit of coverage with a lot of "giggle factor" thrown in.
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« Reply #1353 on: Sep 28th, 2010, 4:55pm »




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« Reply #1354 on: Sep 28th, 2010, 4:57pm »

This is the only description:
ufo hovers over the sky fl


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« Reply #1355 on: Sep 28th, 2010, 5:00pm »





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« Reply #1356 on: Sep 29th, 2010, 08:08am »

New York Times

September 28, 2010
Congress Likely to Urge China to Raise Its Currency
By SEWELL CHAN

WASHINGTON — The House is expected to give the Obama administration another tool in its diplomatic pouch to pressure China to let its currency rise in value, reflecting growing concern around the country over the loss of manufacturing jobs, persistently high unemployment and a rising trade deficit.

In what is likely to be one of Congress’s last significant measures before the election, the House will vote Wednesday on a symbolic but not insignificant measure threatening China with punitive tariffs on its imports to the United States.

In the past, Beijing has responded to such tactics by allowing its currency to rise gradually in relation to the dollar. Lately, though, efforts at cajoling the Chinese to revalue their currency have met with little, if any, response.

But it is unclear whether the legislation, which faces cloudy prospects in the Senate, will succeed this time in prodding a China that has become more self-confident on the world stage. Some economists believe that Beijing has undervalued the currency, the renminbi, for about a decade to promote Chinese exports by making them cheaper.

“The legislation will strengthen the administration’s hand in its negotiations with China, but also risks provoking a strong backlash,” said Eswar S. Prasad, a professor of trade policy at Cornell and a former head of the International Monetary Fund’s China division. “Ultimately its short-term effect is likely to be more symbolic than substantive.”

The strategy has borne fruit before. In July 2005, under pressure from a Republican-controlled Congress and the Bush administration, Chinese officials agreed to end the fixed peg of the renminbi to the dollar, allowing it to appreciate by more than 20 percent until July 2008, when they re-established the peg in response to global economic turmoil.

Now, with Democrats struggling to maintain their Congressional majorities, a Democratic president is pressing China on the issue. But so far the efforts have yielded little.

Lawrence H. Summers, one of President Obama’s top economic advisers, and Thomas E. Donilon, deputy national security adviser, traveled to Beijing this month for three days of meetings with Chinese leaders but returned empty-handed on the currency issue.

Last Friday, Mr. Obama personally raised the issue with the Chinese premier, Wen Jiabao, on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly meetings in New York.

Since June, when China announced that it would permit greater exchange-rate flexibility, the renminbi has risen less than 2 percent against the dollar, with much of the increase occurring this month, amid rising Congressional anger and tough new rhetoric from the Treasury secretary, Timothy F. Geithner.

A weaker renminbi — estimates of the extent of the undervaluation range as high as 40 percent — makes Chinese exports cheaper and foreign imports more expensive.

But in both countries, there are constituencies for and against currency revaluation.

In the United States, smaller manufacturers, labor unions and agricultural producers have been pressing the government to take a tough stance, saying that the currency policy has contributed to soaring trade deficits and the continued erosion of domestic industry.

But large multinational corporations, especially those with production plants in China, and Wall Street banks, are comfortable with a weak renminbi because they export goods from China or are trying to promote investment there.

In China, consumers would benefit from cheaper imports, and a stronger renminbi would help correct global economic imbalances that some economists say could lead to soaring inflation and asset bubbles. But export-oriented businesses and state-owned companies, which wield tremendous clout within the Communist regime, say the weak currency is vital for economic growth.

In recent weeks, the Obama administration, which had favored quiet diplomacy, has signaled to Congress that it was open to new measures.

Though he did not endorse the legislation, Mr. Geithner said at a House hearing this month that “it is very important that China hear from the Congress, from Republicans and from Democrats,” about the effect of China’s policies on American economic interests.

The Ways and Means Committee passed the bill on a voice vote on Friday.

Sponsored by Representatives Tim Ryan, Democrat of Ohio, and Tim Murphy, Republican of Pennsylvania, the legislation would expand the Commerce Department’s ability to impose punitive duties on countries that undervalue their currencies to promote exports.

Experts expressed skepticism about the move; some believe it will merely antagonize the Chinese.

“Many people don’t think the multilateral steps have worked, that they’ve been tried, the talk has gone on, and nothing has happened,” Ira S. Shapiro, a lawyer at Greenberg Traurig and a top trade negotiator during the Clinton administration, told House members this month. “I think it’s too early to reach that conclusion.”

Mr. Shapiro urged American officials to make the upcoming Group of 20 summit meeting in Seoul, South Korea, in November the focal point of multinational efforts to persuade China to move. If those talks fail, he said, the United States should pursue remedies at the World Trade Organization, which China joined in 2001.

Professor Prasad of Cornell warned that if the Congressional proposal went forward, China could retaliate by limiting American imports or denying American manufacturers and financial institutions “the coveted prize of access to rapidly growing Chinese markets.”

Framing the issue as a dispute between the two countries, he added, “suits the Chinese well as it deflects attention from the global consequences of Chinese currency policy.”

Many economists believe that China is unlikely to budge without a concerted demonstration of international resolve. But such coordination is difficult when all countries are struggling to bolster their recoveries.

Two weeks ago, Japan devalued the yen, its first intervention in currency markets since 2004. The finance minister of Brazil, whose currency has soared in value, warned Tuesday that an “international currency war” was under way.

The International Monetary Fund has affirmed that China undervalues its currency, but lacks enforcement powers to give teeth to its reports. And the process for resolving disputes through the World Trade Organization is lengthy and uncertain.

All of those factors have made action by the House increasingly likely.

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/09/29/business/global/29currency.html?_r=1&adxnnl=1&ref=world&adxnnlx=1285765640-72qTKD0BspDq4TLb0gB2cw

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« Reply #1357 on: Sep 29th, 2010, 08:10am »

New York Times

September 28, 2010
U.S. Is Said to Seek Way to Sever Ties With A.I.G.
By LOUISE STORY and MARY WILLIAMS WALSH

The Obama administration is pressing aggressively for a deal to end its support of the American International Group and hopes to have a completed plan to announce by next week, ahead of the midterm elections.

The goal is for the Treasury Department to convert its A.I.G. stake to common stock in a deal that would be completed by the end of the year, according to two people briefed on the negotiations but not authorized to discuss them publicly. The Treasury would sell those shares to private investors over time.

Breaking away from A.I.G. will be a tough and complicated process, in part because of the insurance giant’s fragile state and in part because several parties jumped in to save the company in 2008 and used different forms of assistance. Officials working on the exit plan are seeking a way for the various rescuers to pull out without damaging one another’s interests in the company.

The company has been negotiating for weeks with officials from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York and the Treasury, as well as with representatives for a trust holding A.I.G. stock that was set up on behalf of the nation’s taxpayers.

All three parties would like to end their relationship with A.I.G. as soon as possible. If they sell their shares too quickly, though, it could drive down the company’s market value, which in turn determines the amount of money that will be returned to taxpayers.

A.I.G.’s stock closed at $37.32 on Tuesday, less than 5 percent of its value three years ago, a sign of the market’s relatively low expectations for it. The government now owns 80 percent but would have to increase its stake to more than 90 percent as part of the exit plan being developed, according to the two people briefed on the talks. The prospect of such a dilution could damp interest among potential shareholders.

A rapid exit by the government could also lead to a credit downgrade, which would hurt the company’s ability to sell insurance.

To close the deal by the end of the year and avoid a downgrade, A.I.G. will have to complete a number of steps. Foremost is securing a credit facility from a bank to replace the one now provided by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, the people briefed on the negotiations said. As part of the deal, the Treasury will convert its preferred shares into billions of dollars’ worth of common stock.

Underscoring the risks of huge government bailouts, the government may be forced to sell its stake very slowly. And it is not at all clear that the government will recoup its full investment, some analysts say.

“This market can’t support” a flood of shares, said Christopher Whalen, managing director of Institutional Risk Analytics. “The reality is that the government has become a long-term stakeholder.”

He and others pointed out that while A.I.G. had made progress in its revamping, it had yet to pass certain milestones that would show it was ready to operate without government support. It is still working on two crucial transactions that must close before it can repay the Fed — roughly $46 billion, $25.7 billion of it in preferred stock that must be redeemed, and $19.7 billion of rescue loans.

Analysts said it was hard to see how the insurer would generate that much cash by the end of this year, which parties to the negotiations said was the Fed’s deadline. Officials at the Fed, whose stake in A.I.G. is senior to the Treasury’s, declined to discuss its intentions.

Insurance regulators, meanwhile, said they planned to make sure that the federal government, in its efforts to be repaid, did not strip money out of A.I.G.’s insurance businesses or put policyholders at risk.

“The policyholders are our primary concern,” said James J. Wrynn, the New York State insurance superintendent. He said his department had not yet been presented with the terms of the deal. But he said state insurance regulators had the power to approve or reject any transaction involving more than 10 percent of any insurance unit’s capital.

A spokesman for the insurer said its goal was to return taxpayer money and position itself as a strong, independent company, adding that policyholders would be fully protected.

The flurry of work on the A.I.G. exit plan coincides with the Treasury’s recent announcements about some of its other bailouts. The government has unveiled a plan to re-establish General Motors as an independent company, and Treasury officials expect to complete their sales of Citigroup stock by the end of the year.

A central dispute in the A.I.G. negotiations has been what the slimmed-down insurance company will be worth. The company has been selling many units and using proceeds from those sales to pay back the New York Fed. But the sales have gone slowly, and the terms have sometimes changed.

The value of A.I.G. will depend on how much cash its surviving businesses — the Chartis business insurance group and a family of life insurers under the name SunAmerica Financial — can generate over time.

A.I.G.’s management and its board have been arguing that the surviving company will be worth more than regulators believe, according to the two people briefed on the talks. To bridge this difference, the government has agreed to let the company issue warrants to its other shareholders. If the stock zooms to a much higher price, say $100, private investors holding the warrants will benefit. The government and the company are negotiating over where to set that price, with the government intent on making it high enough to ensure it can also sell its stake at a profit.

Issuing warrants could also help persuade private shareholders to stay put, even though their stake would be further diluted when the Treasury converted its preferred stock to common shares. Keeping private shareholders from selling en masse is considered necessary to protect the taxpayers’ interest.

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/09/29/business/29aig.html?ref=us

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« Reply #1358 on: Sep 29th, 2010, 08:19am »

Guardian

Kim Jong-un appointed to key post
North Korean leader's son made vice-chairman of the central military commission in same week as being made general

Owen Bowcott guardian.co.uk, Tuesday 28 September 2010

Kim Jong-un is reportedly being referred to as ‘the young leader’


Kim Jong-un, the rapidly promoted son of North Korea's ailing leader, has been appointed to more high-powered posts, smoothing the way to his dynastic succession as the communist regime's next head of state.

The country's official news agency tonight confirmed that Kim Jong-il's youngest son has been named as vice-chairman of the central military commission of the ruling Workers' party. It is the first known political post for the younger Kim.

The announcement opened the way for the family dynasty to pass down to a third generation. If the manouevre is successful, the little-known, Swiss-schooled 20-something would the next leader of the nuclear-armed country.

Earlier this week, according to state media in the capital, Pyongyang, Kim Jong-un was made a four star general in the run-up to the nation's largest political convention in three decades.

North Korea made history when its founder, Kim Il-sung, died of heart failure in 1994 and his son, Kim Jong-il, took over. It was the communist world's first transfer of power from father to son.

Speculation had been brewing about another dynastic succession since Kim Jong-il reportedly suffered a stroke in August 2008. There were concerns that his sudden death without a leadership plan in place could spark chaos in the country of 24 million that he rules with absolute authority under a "military-first" policy.

Noticeably thinner and grayer, Kim Jong-il has resumed touring factories and farms but is said to be suffering from diabetes and kidney trouble. North Korea has been looking to 2012, the centennial of Kim il-Sung's birth, as a major year for celebration and some say possibly the naming of a new leader but time may be running out.

Kim Jong-il himself had some 20 years of training before he took over from his father in a process shrouded in as much secrecy in the 1970s as in 2010. He was 31 when he won the No 2 Workers' party post in 1973, an appointment seen as a key to becoming leader.

None of Kim Jong-il's sons appears ready to step into the limelight. The eldest, Jong Nam, spends much of his time outside the country and may have thwarted his chances by getting caught trying to sneak into Japan on a fake passport in the 1990s. The father thinks the middle son, Jong Chol, is too girlish, according to a 2003 memoir by a former sushi chef who worked for the leader.

Kim Jong-un is believed to be only 27 and, until being promoted to general, had no known political or military positions. However, he is his father's favorite, and the most like him in looks and ambition, the chef wrote in "I Was Kim Jong-il's Cook" under the pen name Kenji Fujimoto.

Kim Jong-un has steadily been trying to build his political clout since last year, analysts said. The son was the mastermind behind July 2009 cyberattacks that paralysed South Korean government and private websites and, more significantly, the sinking in March of a South Korean warship, said Ha Tae-keung, chief of Open Radio for North Korea, a Seoul-based station that claims a widespread network of sources in the North. Pyongyang has denied involvement in the sinking.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2010/sep/28/kim-jong-un-north-korea

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« Reply #1359 on: Sep 29th, 2010, 08:24am »

Wired

Fake Tickets, Scorching Heat: Inside Story of Disneyland’s Disastrous Debut
By Annaliza Savage September 29, 2010 | 7:00 am | Categories: events, video

When they think of Disneyland, most people picture a well-oiled machine fueled by Mickey Mouse and magic. It wasn’t always that way. In the beginning, many in the industry were skeptical about the new amusement park’s potential.

The 160-acre theme park in Anaheim, California, had just one entrance and charged a whopping $1 (about $8 adjusted for inflation) to get in. Before Disneyland opened in 1955, amusement parks had multiple entrances and cost nothing to enter.

Walt Disney envisioned a happy, safe, place where families could spend a day together. “Disneyland is dedicated to the ideals, the dreams and the hard facts that have created America … with the hope that it will be a source of joy and inspiration to all the world,” he said in a televised broadcast.

Disney and his team rushed the new amusement park together in a year and a day. On Disneyland’s debut day — July 17, 1955, or what The Walt Disney Company now calls “Dedication Day” — the park was filled with Hollywood stars, luminaries and reporters.

It wasn’t smooth sailing. Someone had counterfeited tickets. Rather than the 20,000 expected, almost 35,000 showed up at the park, said Martin Sklar, vice chairman of Walt Disney Imagineering, in the Wired.com video interview above.

Plus, some of the rides (there were only 20 at the time) broke down. Filled beyond its capacity, the ferryboat sank. A gas leak fouled Fantasyland. A plumbers’ strike meant the drinking fountains didn’t work (though the toilets did).

On top of all that, it was a treacherously hot day, with the temperature soaring above 100 degrees in Anaheim. Ladies’ heels sank into the black asphalt. (A highly unlikely urban legend holds that a poodle sank into the blacktop, never to be seen again.)

Needless to say, members of the press weren’t impressed.

The staff nicknamed the day “Black Sunday.”

But, 55 years later, Disneyland is still open, and attracts more visitors than ever. We asked old-time Disney legends Sklar and Dick Nunis to recall what it was like on Black Sunday more than a half-century ago, and if Disneyland has lived up to Walt’s vision.


Video after the jump http://www.wired.com/underwire/2010/09/disneyland/#ixzz10vNRd0nJ

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« Reply #1360 on: Sep 29th, 2010, 08:30am »

Wired

Eurocopter X3 Enters Race for Fastest Helicopter
By Jason Paur September 28, 2010 | 3:38 pm | Categories: Air Travel, Design


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Eurocopter is officially entering the race to develop a high-speed helicopter with its new X3 technology demonstrator. The prototype helicopter is designed to offer “the speed of a turboprop-powered aircraft and the full hover-flight capabilities of a helicopter,” according to Eurocopter.

The announcement from Europe comes just days after Sikorsky’s high-speed helicopter flew at its goal speed of 250 knots. The Sikorsky X2 has been in flight testing for two years, and the 250-knot flight is the fastest ever for a helicopter flying without external boost.

The two prototypes use very different approaches to high-speed helicopter flight. The Sikorsky uses a pair of counter-rotating main rotors and a pusher prop on the tail. Eurocopter’s X3 hybrid design uses a pair of turbine engines to power the main rotor as well as a pair of forward-facing propellers mounted on small wings.

The push for high-speed helicopters is being driven by military demands, though both companies cite civilian applications including search-and-rescue and medical-evacuation flights.

The X3 — and yes, apparently Eurocopter subscribes to the Nigel Tufnel school of thought that using a number that is just one more must be better — made its first flight Sept. 6, but it was only unveiled to the public this week. Eurocopter says testing will continue through the end of the year, and the plan is to gradually work their way to 180 knots by December.

After a three-month upgrade over the winter, the X3 will resume testing in March 2011, and the company says it expects the helicopter to reach cruise speeds of 220 knots.

Unlike the slim, two-seat Sikorsky X2 that resembles an attack helicopter, the X3 does have a much larger cabin with room for cargo or several passengers. Both companies say the technology can be used on different-size airframes for a variety of military and civilian applications.

With more than two years of flight testing already complete, Sikorsky appears to have a head start in the race to develop a new class of fast helicopters. But with dramatically different approaches on how to design a speedy helo, it looks like the race to the finish line is far from over.

Photos: Eurocopter, Sikorsky

more photos after the jump http://www.wired.com/autopia/2010/09/eurocopter-x3-enters-the-race-for-fastest-helicopter/#ixzz10vPFoCmE

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« Reply #1361 on: Sep 29th, 2010, 08:36am »

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'Star Wars' saga set for 3D release starting 2012
Films will roll out in order, starting with 'Phantom Menace'
By Jay A. Fernandez and Kim Masters

Sept 28, 2010, 08:49 PM ET

Updated: Sept 28, 2010, 11:18 PM ET

Big news on the 3D front.

Sources indicate that George Lucas is set on rereleasing the "Star Wars" franchise in new 3D conversions beginning in 2012. Although 3D versions have been rumored for some time, Lucas purportedly was waiting until there were enough screens available to make the release a sizable event.

Fox, which released all six original "Star Wars" films, also would release the 3D versions.

Episode I, "The Phantom Menace," would be first out of star-dock during early 2012. After that, each film would be released in order at the same time in consecutive years, depending on how well the first rerelease does.

Each conversion takes at least a year to complete, with Lucas overseeing the process to make sure each is as perfect as possible. He has said that the "Avatar" experience convinced him that "Star Wars" is ready for the state-of-the-art 3D treatment.

Starting with "Phantom Menace," Lucasfilm would use several higher-end conversion houses to work on the project. By late winter or early spring in 2012, the exhibition industry should have all the 3D screens anyone could want for such a release.

At present, pics are limited to 2,000-2,500 3D locations owing to an insufficient installed base of projectors and screens. Movie theaters are adding 3D screens at a clip of 500 a month in the U.S. Foreign exhibitors also are pushing into 3D as quickly as possible now that financing for the installations is flowing.

Also pushing the timetable is a potential breakthrough in 3D TV technology. With Samsung penetrating the market with 50,000-plus 3D-equipped sets and Sony recently sending its version to market, the home-viewing experience could be primed for 3D DVD versions of the films by the time the new 3D theatrical releases have run their course.

Lucas purportedly is lining up the theatrical rereleases as a lead-in to the ultimate home-viewing experience. Beyond that, the property would launch to other 3D media.

In the meantime, Lucas plans a comprehensive Blu-ray Disc set of the six films next year, which would include upgraded picture and sound quality, new deleted scenes and special features.

Alex Ben Block, Carl DiOrio and Borys Kit contributed to this report.

http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/hr/content_display/news/e3i677c428c4dc16c2c06193598dd7497b9

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« Reply #1362 on: Sep 29th, 2010, 3:08pm »



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« Reply #1363 on: Sep 30th, 2010, 08:01am »

New York Times

September 30, 2010
Pakistan Halts NATO Supplies to Afghanistan After Attack
By ISMAIL KHAN and JANE PERLEZ

PESHAWAR, Pakistan — Pakistan closed the most important border crossing for trucks supplying NATO-led coalition troops in Afghanistan on Thursday in apparent retaliation for an attack by coalition helicopters on a Pakistani security post hours earlier.

Trucks and oil tankers were stopped at the border post of Torkham just north of Peshawar and it was unclear when the post, one of two land crossings, would reopen, a Pakistani security official said.

A closure of the crossing through which NATO and American troops receive most of their non-lethal equipment is rare, and signaled a worsening in the military relationship between Pakistan and the United States just three months before the Obama administration takes stock of progress in Afghanistan.

The Pakistani interior minister, Rehman Malik indicated that NATO strikes in Pakistan were being taken extremely seriously. “We will have to see whether we are allies or enemies,” he said Thursday.

The incident on Thursday followed two attacks in a week by coalition helicopters in Pakistan that had fueled anger over the growing use of drone strikes.

American commanders in Afghanistan, fearful that Pakistan could choke off vital supplies, have been seeking alternate routes through the Central Asia but with little success.

A NATO helicopter attacked a border post at Mandati Kandaw, a town close to the capital of Parachinar in the Kurram area of Pakistan’s tribal region, at 5 a.m. on Thursday, the official said. Three paramilitary soldiers of the Frontier Corps were killed, and three others injured, he said. Another border post at Kharlachi in the Kurram region was struck a few hours later, the official added. The two posts are about 15 miles apart and border Paktia Province in Afghanistan.

The incident occurred as the director of the Central Intelligence Agency, Leon Panetta, was in Islamabad for a previously scheduled visit. He was expected to meet the head of the Pakistani military, Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, later on Thursday, American officials said.

The helicopter attacks into Pakistani territory Thursday came after American military helicopters launched three airstrikes last weekend killing more than 50 people suspected of being members of the Haqqani network of militants.

American officials in Afghanistan tried to temper Pakistani anger about those attacks, saying that the helicopters entered Pakistani airspace on only one of the three raids, and had acted in self-defense after militants fired rockets at an allied base just across the border in Afghanistan.

American military commanders say they have become increasingly frustrated at the tempo of deadly attacks against American troops in Afghanistan by the Haqqani militants who shelter in Pakistan’s tribal region.

A spokesman at NATO headquarters in Afghanistan said the incident was under investigation.

Ismail Khan reported from Peshawar, Pakistan, and Jane Perlez from Islamabad.

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/10/01/world/asia/01peshawar.html?_r=1&hp=&adxnnl=1&adxnnlx=1285851616-CIVODlwDMsHlfq6eRhpbrA

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« Reply #1364 on: Sep 30th, 2010, 08:03am »

New York Times

September 29, 2010
In a Computer Worm, a Possible Biblical Clue
By JOHN MARKOFF and DAVID E. SANGER

Deep inside the computer worm that some specialists suspect is aimed at slowing Iran’s race for a nuclear weapon lies what could be a fleeting reference to the Book of Esther, the Old Testament tale in which the Jews pre-empt a Persian plot to destroy them.

That use of the word “Myrtus” — which can be read as an allusion to Esther — to name a file inside the code is one of several murky clues that have emerged as computer experts try to trace the origin and purpose of the rogue Stuxnet program, which seeks out a specific kind of command module for industrial equipment.

Not surprisingly, the Israelis are not saying whether Stuxnet has any connection to the secretive cyberwar unit it has built inside Israel’s intelligence service. Nor is the Obama administration, which while talking about cyberdefenses has also rapidly ramped up a broad covert program, inherited from the Bush administration, to undermine Iran’s nuclear program. In interviews in several countries, experts in both cyberwar and nuclear enrichment technology say the Stuxnet mystery may never be solved.

There are many competing explanations for myrtus, which could simply signify myrtle, a plant important to many cultures in the region. But some security experts see the reference as a signature allusion to Esther, a clear warning in a mounting technological and psychological battle as Israel and its allies try to breach Tehran’s most heavily guarded project. Others doubt the Israelis were involved and say the word could have been inserted as deliberate misinformation, to implicate Israel.

“The Iranians are already paranoid about the fact that some of their scientists have defected and several of their secret nuclear sites have been revealed,” one former intelligence official who still works on Iran issues said recently. “Whatever the origin and purpose of Stuxnet, it ramps up the psychological pressure.”

So a calling card in the code could be part of a mind game, or sloppiness or whimsy from the coders.

The malicious code has appeared in many countries, notably China, India, Indonesia and Iran. But there are tantalizing hints that Iran’s nuclear program was the primary target. Officials in both the United States and Israel have made no secret of the fact that undermining the computer systems that control Iran’s huge enrichment plant at Natanz is a high priority. (The Iranians know it, too: They have never let international inspectors into the control room of the plant, the inspectors report, presumably to keep secret what kind of equipment they are using.)

The fact that Stuxnet appears designed to attack a certain type of Siemens industrial control computer, used widely to manage oil pipelines, electrical power grids and many kinds of nuclear plants, may be telling. Just last year officials in Dubai seized a large shipment of those controllers — known as the Simatic S-7 — after Western intelligence agencies warned that the shipment was bound for Iran and would likely be used in its nuclear program.

“What we were told by many sources,” said Olli Heinonen, who retired last month as the head of inspections at the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna, “was that the Iranian nuclear program was acquiring this kind of equipment.”

Also, starting in the summer of 2009, the Iranians began having tremendous difficulty running their centrifuges, the tall, silvery machines that spin at supersonic speed to enrich uranium — and which can explode spectacularly if they become unstable. In New York last week, Iran’s president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, shrugged off suggestions that the country was having trouble keeping its enrichment plants going.

Yet something — perhaps the worm or some other form of sabotage, bad parts or a dearth of skilled technicians — is indeed slowing Iran’s advance.

The reports on Iran show a fairly steady drop in the number of centrifuges used to enrich uranium at the main Natanz plant. After reaching a peak of 4,920 machines in May 2009, the numbers declined to 3,772 centrifuges this past August, the most recent reporting period. That is a decline of 23 percent. (At the same time, production of low-enriched uranium has remained fairly constant, indicating the Iranians have learned how to make better use of fewer working machines.)

Computer experts say the first versions of the worm appeared as early as 2009 and that the sophisticated version contained an internal time stamp from January of this year.

These events add up to a mass of suspicions, not proof. Moreover, the difficulty experts have had in figuring out the origin of Stuxnet points to both the appeal and the danger of computer attacks in a new age of cyberwar.

For intelligence agencies they are an almost irresistible weapon, free of fingerprints. Israel has poured huge resources into Unit 8200, its secretive cyberwar operation, and the United States has built its capacity inside the National Security Agency and inside the military, which just opened a Cyber Command.

But the near impossibility of figuring out where they came from makes deterrence a huge problem — and explains why many have warned against the use of cyberweapons. No country, President Obama was warned even before he took office, is more vulnerable to cyberattack than the United States.

For now, it is hard to determine if the worm has infected centrifuge controllers at Natanz. While the S-7 industrial controller is used widely in Iran, and many other countries, even Siemens says it does not know where it is being used. Alexander Machowetz, a spokesman in Germany for Siemens, said the company did no business with Iran’s nuclear program. “It could be that there is equipment,” he said in a telephone interview. “But we never delivered it to Natanz.”

But Siemens industrial controllers are unregulated commodities that are sold and resold all over the world — the controllers intercepted in Dubai traveled through China, according to officials familiar with the seizure.

Ralph Langner, a German computer security consultant who was the first independent expert to assert that the malware had been “weaponized” and designed to attack the Iranian centrifuge array, argues that the Stuxnet worm could have been brought into the Iranian nuclear complex by Russian contractors.

“It would be an absolute no-brainer to leave an infected USB stick near one of these guys,” he said, “and there would be more than a 50 percent chance of having him pick it up and infect his computer.”

There are many reasons to suspect Israel’s involvement in Stuxnet. Intelligence is the single largest section of its military and the unit devoted to signal, electronic and computer network intelligence, known as Unit 8200, is the largest group within intelligence.

Yossi Melman, who covers intelligence for the newspaper Haaretz and is at work on a book about Israeli intelligence over the past decade, said in a telephone interview that he suspected that Israel was involved.

He noted that Meir Dagan, head of Mossad, had his term extended last year partly because he was said to be involved in important projects. He added that in the past year Israeli estimates of when Iran will have a nuclear weapon had been extended to 2014.

“They seem to know something, that they have more time than originally thought,” he said.

Then there is the allusion to myrtus — which may be telling, or may be a red herring.

Several of the teams of computer security researchers who have been dissecting the software found a text string that suggests that the attackers named their project Myrtus. The guava fruit is part of the Myrtus family, and one of the code modules is identified as Guava.

It was Mr. Langner who first noted that Myrtus is an allusion to the Hebrew word for Esther. The Book of Esther tells the story of a Persian plot against the Jews, who attacked their enemies pre-emptively.

“If you read the Bible you can make a guess,” said Mr. Langner, in a telephone interview from Germany on Wednesday.

Carol Newsom, an Old Testament scholar at Emory University, confirmed the linguistic connection between the plant family and the Old Testament figure, noting that Queen Esther’s original name in Hebrew was Hadassah, which is similar to the Hebrew word for myrtle. Perhaps, she said, “someone was making a learned cross-linguistic wordplay.”

But other Israeli experts said they doubted Israel’s involvement. Shai Blitzblau, the technical director and head of the computer warfare laboratory at Maglan, an Israeli company specializing in information security, said he was “convinced that Israel had nothing to do with Stuxnet.”

“We did a complete simulation of it and we sliced the code to its deepest level,” he said. “We have studied its protocols and functionality. Our two main suspects for this are high-level industrial espionage against Siemens and a kind of academic experiment.”

Mr. Blitzblau noted that the worm hit India, Indonesia and Russia before it hit Iran, though the worm has been found disproportionately in Iranian computers. He also noted that the Stuxnet worm has no code that reports back the results of the infection it creates. Presumably, a good intelligence agency would like to trace its work.

Ethan Bronner contributed reporting from Israel, and William J. Broad from New York.

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/09/30/world/middleeast/30worm.html?ref=world

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