Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #1447 on: Oct 6th, 2010, 7:00pm »
Loonies and the media
A dead Marine's family has sued a fringe church over picketing at his funeral. It may be that whatever decision is reached will be unsatisfying.
Tim Rutten October 6, 2010
If the cliched legal admonition that hard cases make bad law is true, then no matter how the U.S. Supreme Court decides Snyder vs. Phelps, the result will be wretched.
The Phelps in this instance are Fred Phelps and two of his daughters, both members of the Topeka, Kan.-based Westboro Baptist Church their father founded and still directs. It is a tiny, vilely cultish congregation consisting almost entirely of the elder Phelps' extended family and espousing virulent hatred of gays and lesbians, Catholics, Jews, the U.S. government … and Swedes. In recent years, Westboro members have gone about the country picketing the funerals of service men and women killed in Iraq and Afghanistan. They hold up signs proclaiming that God hates homosexuals and, because the military endorses "don't ask, don't tell," God punishes U.S. troops.
The other litigant is Albert Snyder, whose son, Matthew — a Marine lance corporal — was killed in Iraq. When his family buried him in Maryland, Phelps and his two daughters traveled from Kansas to picket the funeral, holding up signs that read "God hates you" and "You're going to hell," as well as anti-gay and anti-Catholic slogans. (The Snyder family is Roman Catholic.) Later, on one of its many websites, the Westboro church posted an essay that assailed Snyder and his wife for raising their son a Catholic, alleging they had "taught Matthew to defy his creator."
Albert Snyder filed a federal lawsuit charging that he and his family had been defamed, had suffered invasion of privacy and endured emotional distress. Before trial, the defamation issue was thrown out on the grounds that the Phelpses' noxious allegations were protected religious speech, but the defendants were found to have invaded the Snyders' privacy and to have inflicted distress. The jury awarded the family $10.9 million in damages, subsequently reduced by half. Two years ago, the U.S. 4th Circuit Court of Appeals overturned the verdict, ruling that both the Phelpses' speech and their picketing were protected by the 1st Amendment.
Snyder appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, which will hear arguments in the case Wednesday.
The court's willingness to accept Snyder's appeal alarmed 1st Amendment advocates, who fear the conservative majority may find that the Snyders' right to privacy and to be shielded from hate speech trumps the Phelpses' right to free expression. Others worry that a decision for the Snyders might impose burdensome new restrictions on Internet bloggers, who frequently direct comments at people who are not public figures.
As a consequence, the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press and 21 news organizations — including the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal and this paper's parent corporation — have joined in a friend-of-the-court brief supporting Westboro.
"Most reasonable people would consider the funeral protests conducted by members of the Westboro Baptist Church to be inexplicable and hateful," the news organizations argue. "But to silence a fringe messenger because of the distastefulness of the message is antithetical to the 1st Amendment's most basic precepts.... This case tests the mettle of even the most ardent free speech advocates because the underlying speech is so repugnant. However, the particular facts of this case should not be used to fashion a 1st Amendment exemption for offensive speech. No less a principle is at stake than the central tenet of the 1st Amendment that the government must remain neutral in the marketplace of ideas."
It's the sound argument but a bloodless one — and to be morally and socially responsible, as well as constitutionally correct, it requires that those advancing it recognize that although government must be neutral, the news media must not be indifferent to the implications of the Snyder family's claims. Do we really want a society that makes no private place for grief? Albert Snyder and his wife are private people dragged into this for no reason other than that their son's sacrifice in the execution of a public duty made them the target of lunatics.
If we're going to argue that they must endure this for the common good, then the news media ought to do the decent and the rational thing and ignore Westboro's future protests. As the Anti-Defamation League pointed out in its analysis of this hate church, its tiny congregation seems to live for little but publicity.
If Albert Snyder and his family must forbear to protect the 1st Amendment, the American media owes it to them to restrain their vulgar impulse toward the bizarre and the sensational.
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #1448 on: Oct 6th, 2010, 7:15pm »
By Jann S. Wenner Sep 28, 2010 7:00 AM EDT
The following is an article from the October 15, 2010 issue of Rolling Stone.
We arrived at the southwest gate of the white house a little after one o'clock on the afternoon of September 17th. It was a warm fall day, but the capital felt quiet and half-empty, as it does on Fridays at the end of summer, with Congress still in recess. Rolling Stone had interviewed Barack Obama twice before, both times aboard his campaign plane — first in June 2008, a few days after he won the Democratic nomination, and again that October, a month before his election. This time executive editor Eric Bates and I sat down with the president in the Oval Office, flanked by busts of Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King Jr. The conversation stretched on for nearly an hour and a quarter. The president began by complimenting my multi-colored striped socks. "If I wasn't president," he laughed, "I could wear socks like that."
When you came into office, you felt you would be able to work with the other side. When did you realize that the Republicans had abandoned any real effort to work with you and create bipartisan policy? Well, I'll tell you that given the state of the economy during my transition, between my election and being sworn in, our working assumption was that everybody was going to want to pull together, because there was a sizable chance that we could have a financial meltdown and the entire country could plunge into a depression. So we had to work very rapidly to try to create a combination of measures that would stop the free-fall and cauterize the job loss.
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #1450 on: Oct 7th, 2010, 08:55am »
New York Times
October 6, 2010 U.S. Tries to Calm Pakistan Over Airstrike By HELENE COOPER and ERIC SCHMITT
WASHINGTON — The Obama administration scrambled to halt a sharp deterioration in its troubled relationship with Pakistan on Wednesday, offering Pakistani officials multiple apologies for a helicopter strike on a border post that killed three Pakistani soldiers last week.
But even as the White House tried to mollify Pakistan, officials acknowledged that the uneasy allies faced looming tensions over a host of issues far larger than the airstrike and the subsequent closing of supply lines into Afghanistan.
American pressure to show progress in Afghanistan is translating into increased pressure on Pakistan to crack down on terrorist groups. It is also running up against Pakistan’s sensitivity about its sovereignty and its determination to play a crucial role in any reconciliation with the Taliban.
American and NATO officials said privately that the Pakistani government’s closing of a crucial border crossing might have made it easier for militants to attack backed-up tanker trucks carrying fuel through Pakistan to Afghanistan to support the American war effort.
Still, the unusual apologies, officials and outside analysts said, were intended to clear away the debris from the explosive events along the border, in hopes of maintaining Pakistani cooperation.
“We have historically had astonishing sources of resilience in our relations with Pakistan,” said Teresita Schaffer, a South Asia expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. “One should not too quickly assume we’re in a breakpoint. But having said that, the time we’re in right now, the intensity of anti-American feeling, the antipathy of militants, all of these things make new crises a little more complicated to get through than the old ones were.”
The overall commander of forces in Afghanistan, Gen. David H. Petraeus, has been pulling out all the stops — aggressively using the American troop buildup, greatly expanding Special Operations raids (as many as a dozen commando raids a night) and pressing the Central Intelligence Agency to ramp up Predator and Reaper drone operations in Pakistan.
He has also, through the not-so-veiled threat of cross-border ground operations, put pressure on the Pakistani Army to pursue militants in the tribal areas even as the army has continued to struggle with relief from the catastrophic floods this summer.
The fragility of Pakistan — and the tentativeness of the alliance — were underscored in a White House report to Congress this week, which sharply criticized the Pakistani military effort against Al Qaeda and other insurgents and noted the ineffectiveness of its civilian government.
American officials lined up to placate Pakistan on intrusions of its sovereignty. General Petraeus offered Pakistan the most explicit American mea culpa yet for the cross-border helicopter strikes, saying that the American-led coalition forces “deeply regret” the “tragic loss of life.”
Anne W. Patterson, the American ambassador to Pakistan, quickly followed suit, calling “Pakistan’s brave security forces” an important ally in the war. Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, offered a private, but official, apology to Pakistan’s military chief, Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, in a telephone call on Wednesday afternoon.
Both American and Pakistani officials said that they expected that Wednesday’s apologies would be effective, at least in the short term, and that Pakistan would soon reopen the border crossing at Torkham, a supply route for the NATO coalition in landlocked Afghanistan that runs from the port of Karachi to the Khyber region. The Pakistani government closed that route last week to protest the cross-border strikes.
“It’s obvious that the situation right now ain’t good,” said a senior NATO official, who agreed to speak candidly but only anonymously. “The best thing we could do is to strip away as many of the relatively smaller things as possible so we can focus on the big issues. And crazy as it may seem, the border crossing is a relatively small issue, compared to the others.”
Those other issues were flagged in the latest quarterly report from the White House to Congress on developments in the region. The assessment, first reported in The Wall Street Journal on Wednesday, takes aim at both the Pakistani military and the government.
For instance, “the Pakistani military continued to avoid military engagements that would put it in direct conflict with Afghan Taliban or Al Qaeda forces in North Waziristan,” the report said. It also painted Pakistan’s president, Asif Ali Zardari, as out of touch with his own populace, a disconnect that the report said was exacerbated by Mr. Zardari’s “decision to travel to Europe despite the floods.” The overall Pakistani response to the catastrophic floods this summer, the report said, was viewed by Pakistanis as “slow and inadequate.”
Frustration with Pakistan is growing in the United States in part because “we’re living in the post-Faisal Shahzad era,” said Daniel Markey of the Council on Foreign Relations, referring to the Pakistani-American who was sentenced to life in prison on Tuesday for the attempted Times Square bombing.
Mr. Markey said that tensions among counterterrorism officials had also mounted because of the unspecified threats of terrorist attacks in Europe. “Frustration has really mounted, so the drumbeat is getting louder,” he said.
Making things worse, the administration is expected to brief Congressional officials on an Internet video, which surfaced last week, that showed men in Pakistani military uniforms executing six young men in civilian clothes, underscoring concerns about unlawful killings by Pakistani soldiers supported by the United States.
A prominent House Democrat warned on Wednesday that American aid to Pakistan could be imperiled. “I am appalled by the horrific contents of the recent video, which appears to show extrajudicial killings by the Pakistani military,” Representative Howard L. Berman, a California Democrat who leads the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said in a statement.
“The failure of Pakistani officials to punish those responsible could have implications for future security assistance to Pakistan,” he said.
A joint Pakistan-NATO inquiry on the helicopter strike concluded on Wednesday that Pakistani border soldiers who initially fired on NATO helicopters were “simply firing warning shots after hearing the nearby engagement and hearing the helicopters flying nearby,” said Brig. Gen. Timothy M. Zadalis, a NATO spokesman, in a statement.
“This tragic event could have been avoided with better coalition force coordination with the Pakistani military,” he said.
Alissa J. Rubin and Carlotta Gall contributed reporting from Kabul, Afghanistan, and Jane Perlez from Islamabad, Pakistan.
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #1451 on: Oct 7th, 2010, 08:57am »
New York Times
October 7, 2010 Hungarian Sludge Nears Danube By ELISABETH ROSENTHAL
KOLONTAR, Hungary — Just before he raced for refuge in the attic of his family’s home here on Monday at lunchtime, Krisztian Holczer called his mother at her job at a school near here.
“You won’t believe what is happening,” Mr. Holczer said he told her.
A wave of caustic red sludge had just poured in over the back fence and was descending rapidly over the backyard, smothering chickens and hares as well as a garden of flowers, peppers, grapes and tomatoes. It rose up until it covered the tiled front porch and leached in through the front door, dyeing the pristine white lace curtains red. Mr. Holczer, 34, escaped with burns on his feet from the dangerous muck.
On Thursday, Hungarian officials told news agencies that the spill, which poured into local streams and rivers, had reached a small branch of the Danube River, but they said there did not appear to be any immediate damage. The spill has killed life in smaller bodies of water, but environmental officials are hopeful that its effects will be diluted as it mixes with river water.
The origin of the liquid was a nearby reservoir holding the leftovers of the process that converts bauxite to alumina, which is then processed into aluminum. For more than 25 years, residents say, a Hungarian manufacturer, MAL Rt., the Hungarian Aluminum Production and Trade Company, has contained such waste in several artificial storage ponds in the region. Once a state-owned company, it was privatized in the 1990s like much of Communist-era industry in Eastern Europe.
Just after noon on Monday, a corner of the sludge reservoir broke, sending the goo into the surrounding countryside, turning four prosperous, picturesque villages into red-tinged towns out of science-fiction horror films.
The mud drowned at least four people and sent more than 100 to hospitals with burns, caused by a highly alkaline caustic substance. Sixteen square miles were covered in the muck, hundreds of residents suffered mild burns or lung irritations, and many animals were killed.
Residents here are still waiting for officials to release their analysis of the sludge’s chemical content. A dangerous pollutant at best because of its corrosive nature, red mud from the alumina production process can contain heavy metals and low-level radioactivity, ingredients that can cause health problems like cancer, and in the long term it can contaminate the environment.
So far the damage is limited to Hungary, which has not asked the European Union for assistance in responding to the catastrophe, but Joe Hennon, the European Commission’s spokesman for environmental issues, said that the organization was concerned about the sludge or its elements moving where it could affect other countries.
“There is potential for widespread environmental damage,” Mr. Hennon said. “Right now, they’re trying to contain it, to stop it from reaching the Danube.”
The mud is normally regulated as a pollutant in Europe but can be classified as a hazardous substance if levels of toxic elements are high, he said.
There are more than a dozen sludge storage ponds in this area, which used to be home to a thriving mining industry, for bauxite and coal. Today, the Hungarian Aluminum Production and Trade Company is the only one of three aluminum factories still in operation. But sludge ponds from various aging or even shuttered industries dot the landscape in Europe and the United States, often poorly maintained, and posing a threat to health and the environment.
The broken wall of the sludge pond has been repaired, but the cleanup has just started. Police officers, firefighters and soldiers have descended on the towns, evacuating residents. Brigades of government workers and residents, wearing thick boots and surgical masks, are shoveling the red muck into trucks and hosing down homes and roads.
Hungary’s top investigative agency is looking into the spill. A case has been opened to consider possible criminal negligence, although it was not clear whether the investigation was aimed at the company or individual employees.
Jozsef Deak, a company engineer, said that “the company is not shying away from responsibility.”
Heavy rains may have raised the sludge level, although company officials say it was within permitted limits before this week’s spill.
The sludge reservoirs that dot the area are often poorly maintained, said Gabor Figeczky, acting chief executive of WWF-Hungary, a conservation group. The sludge reservoirs, in theory, have a sealed base and are supposed to be closed once they are full, but some, like the one that broke this week, are large, and filling them can take decades.
In the meantime, they are subject to regular inspections. The European Commission said that it had been told that the company had received its most recent permit in 2006 and that it had no recorded history of violations or accidents. The sludge ponds in the region were scheduled to be inspected again this month, WWF-Hungary said.
“There used to be three of these aluminum factories, and all were on flood plains, and two were next to the Danube,” said Csaba Vaszko, project officer for WWF-Hungary, who said that in some ways sludge ponds of closed factories were more worrisome than those of operating companies.
“These old factories were supposed to maintain the sludge ponds and keep them safe,” Mr. Vaszko said, “but it is a huge problem in Eastern Europe because these companies didn’t set aside enough money for that.”
Because this is the first large-scale accident involving alumina sludge, experts are feeling their way in the cleanup. In the long term, the region’s topsoil will have to be totally replaced, because it is irretrievably alkaline and possibly contaminated with heavy metals, environmental groups say.
Residents have been promised that their homes will be decontaminated, although it is not yet clear who is responsible for the decontamination and who will pay for the cleanup. And many residents say that is not satisfactory.
Nikolett Fekete said she was mowing her lawn when the dog began to “bark like mad” and she heard a “strange moving sound like horses running in a field,” announcing the red mud’s arrival. At the height of the spill, there was more than a meter of muck in her house, she recalled, displaying the burns on her hands.
“No, no, no, I don’t want to come back,” she said. “Who would want to stay here after something like this?”
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #1452 on: Oct 7th, 2010, 09:00am »
New York Times
October 6, 2010 Stronger Hezbollah Emboldened for Fights Ahead By THANASSIS CAMBANIS
AITA AL SHAAB, Lebanon — It was from this shrub-ringed border town that Hezbollah instigated its war with Israel in 2006, and supporters of the militant Shiite movement sound almost disappointed that they have not fought since.
“I was expecting the war this summer,” said Faris Jamil, a municipal official and small-business owner. “It’s late.” He has yet to finish rebuilding his three-story house, destroyed by an Israeli bomb that year.
In 2006, Hezbollah guerrillas crossed the border a few hundred yards from the town center, ambushed an Israeli patrol and retreated through Aita al Shaab with the bodies of two Israeli soldiers.
Hezbollah officials and supporters said they were now sending a pointed message to Israel through their efforts to rebuild, repopulate and rearm the south.
“We are not sleeping,” said Ali Fayyad, a Hezbollah official and member of Parliament. “We are working.” He receives visitors every weekend in a family home in Taibe, the site of a deadly tank battle in 2006.
Four years later, Hezbollah appears to be, if not bristling for a fight with Israel, then coolly prepared for one. It seems to be calculating either that an aggressive military posture might deter another war, as its own officials and Lebanese analysts say, or that a conflict, should it come, would on balance fortify its domestic political standing.
According to Hassan Nasrallah, the group’s leader, Hezbollah has increased its missile stocks to 40,000, compared with 13,000 during the 2006 war; Israeli defense officials do not dispute the estimate. (In 2006, Hezbollah fired about 4,000 missiles.)
Hezbollah rejoined Lebanon’s coalition government in 2008 as a full partner with veto power, a position of responsibility that many analysts say should discourage any thoughts of provoking a second destructive war with Israel. Yet, because of the party’s ties to Iran and its powerful militia, Hezbollah officials say they are ready to fight even if a war would do widespread damage.
There are other reasons that Hezbollah officials say they are feeling emboldened. Hezbollah’s patrons in Iran appear to have regained control after a year of internal challenges since the disputed June 2009 re-election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
Officials say Hezbollah proved to its constituents that it could quickly rebuild from the last war, completing a lavish reconstruction project with hundreds of millions of dollars in financing from Iran and donors in the Persian Gulf. Polished 10-story apartment blocks, completed this year, line the center of Haret Hreik, the Beirut suburb almost uniformly reduced to rubble because it housed many of Hezbollah’s top institutions and leaders.
New asphalt roads, designed and paid for by Iran, connect the interior and border villages of southern Lebanon — all Hezbollah areas — to the main coastal highway.
And perhaps most importantly, Lebanese analysts said, Hezbollah’s role in the government has paved the way for tighter cooperation with Lebanese intelligence units, and Lebanese officials have reportedly arrested more than 100 people suspected of being Israeli spies in the past two years.
The renaissance in southern Lebanon is on full display in Aita al Shaab. Almost destroyed in 2006, it has been ostentatiously rebuilt, and its population has increased by about 30 percent from its prewar level, to 12,000 inhabitants.
Party supporters have constructed dozens of enormous houses along the strategic hills that face the Israeli border, in areas that used to be mostly farmland. The houses, Hezbollah officials say, will complicate a future Israeli advance and could give Hezbollah fighters cover during ground combat.
United Nations peacekeepers and the Lebanese Army now patrol the hilly, wooded border, and under the terms of the United Nations resolution that ended the war, Hezbollah was supposed to demilitarize the area between the Israeli border and the Litani River, a distance of about 18 miles.
But Hezbollah appears to have done just the opposite. Its operatives roam strategic towns, interrogating foreigners and outsiders. New residents have been recruited to the border, and Hezbollah officials say they have recruited scores of new fighters, by their own estimates either doubling or tripling their ranks.
Hezbollah appears to have retained the support of the Shiite Muslims in southern Lebanon. “Hezbollah is not a foreign body. It is an organic, natural part of every house, village,” said Hussein Rumeiti, an official in Burj Qalaouay, a town where extensive fighting took place in 2006. “It is part of the Shia.”
Several independent Lebanese military analysts, who do not support Hezbollah, say they have seen evidence that Hezbollah has armed, trained and expanded its forces substantially enough to pose a major challenge to an invading Israeli force.
“We’re not wasting time,” said Mahmoud Komati, one of Hezbollah’s founders.
In addition to fortifying its ranks and replenishing its missile capacity, he said in an interview, Hezbollah has adopted a self-described policy of “strategic ambiguity” about whether it has acquired anti-aircraft capacity, advanced Scud missiles or other military equipment that could change the balance of forces with Israel. (The language consciously mirrors Israel’s doctrine of strategic ambiguity over its undeclared nuclear weapons program.)
Elaborating on themes that Hezbollah’s leader has repeatedly outlined in speeches, Mr. Komati said that the group wanted to maintain a deterrent balance with Israel. Hezbollah, he added, does not want to start the next war, only to burnish its capacity to retaliate.
“Today we are living the balance of fear,” Mr. Komati said. “This balance blocks war.”
Hezbollah also has become less coy about its strategic alliance with Syria and Iran. In the past, Hezbollah had signaled that it would not necessarily respond if one of its sponsors were attacked. Now, however, Hezbollah leaders have declared that they will find it difficult to stand aside if Israel or the United States bombs Iran’s nuclear facilities.
An assessment released last month by Jeffrey White, a former Defense Intelligence Agency official who is now a scholar at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, said that a clash between Hezbollah and Israel was likely to be more destructive than the 2006 conflict and that it could rapidly escalate to draw in Syria or Iran.
Walid Sukaria, a retired general and member of Parliament who votes with Hezbollah but is not in the party, said that Israel would have to think twice before attacking any member of the “axis of resistance,” which includes Hezbollah, Syria and Iran. Hezbollah could not win such a war, Mr. Sukaria said, but could ensure enough mutual destruction to discourage Israel.
“A war would destroy Syria and Lebanon, but it would not be in Israel’s interest,” he said.
Along the border, a mixture of fatalism and bravado prevails.
Just up the hill from the Israeli hamlets of Avivim and Yir’on, an Iranian flag flutters on the ledge of the newly opened Iran Park in Marun al Ras, the Lebanese border village where Israel fought one of its first and most bruising battles in 2006.
A photograph of Iran’s president, Mr. Ahmadinejad, greets visitors to the terraced playgrounds and picnic gazebos.
“This will be the first place the Israelis destroy during the next war,” said Jihan Muselmani, 35, who was preparing a daylong picnic with her extended family from the coast.
Rabab Haidar, 28, said, “Even if they destroy it, we will build it up again.”
In Aita al Shaab, Mr. Jamil recently resumed construction on the second and third floors of his bombed house; his family has been living in the basement since 2006. A Christian friend from the neighboring village who sheltered Mr. Jamil’s family during the 2006 bombing, and who subsequently lost a leg to a cluster bomb, visited on a recent Sunday and denounced the war talk.
“We don’t want to die,” the friend said.
Mr. Jamil rebuked him. “Our destiny is to die,” he said.
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #1453 on: Oct 7th, 2010, 09:06am »
Roman helmet sold for £2m Metal detectorist who found it in Crosby Garrett, Cumbria, now a millionaire as UK museum priced out by anonymous buyer Maev Kennedy guardian.co.uk, Thursday 7 October 2010
In just three minutes at a Christie's auction, the most hauntingly beautiful face to emerge from the British soil in more than a century slid out of the grasp of the museum desperate to acquire it, when the Roman helmet was sold to an anonymous telephone bidder for £2m – dramatically higher than the highest pre-sale estimate of £300,000.
The man who found it last May, using a metal detector on farmland on the outskirts of the Cumbrian hamlet of Crosby Garrett, a currently unemployed graduate in his early 20s from the north-east, will share the price with the landowner, but is now a millionaire.
Tullie House museum in Carlisle managed to stay in the bidding up to £1.7m, a staggering sum for a small museum raised in gifts and grant promises through frantic fundraising in the last month. Three more bids of £100,000 each lost them the treasure.
"I'm still shaking," Andrew Mackay, senior curator at the museum, said moments later. "Cumbria has had a few bad knocks recently, and this fund raising campaign was a good news story for the area, so this is a real blow. People will be terribly disappointed – we had thousands of pounds coming in every day, and children literally emptying their piggy banks."
"We are now very, very anxious to talk to the buyer to see where we go next."
The stunning Roman cavalry helmet, dating from the late first or early second century AD, a piece of public swagger for parades and festivals never meant to be worn in combat, is only the third ever found complete in Britain, the first since 1905, and by far the most beautiful.
It has transfixed thousands of visitors in the past week, when it went on display for the first time at Christie's in South Kensington. People have stood gazing into the dreamy youthful face, the mouth slightly parted, the eyes with their delicate cut-out pupils. Christie's sources report that, uniquely, many viewers had asked where they could donate to the campaign to keep it in a British museum.
Christie's could not reveal whether the buyer is British or overseas – a Californian phone bidder, presumed to be the Getty museum, dropped out at £800,000 – but the museum's best hope is that it is either a UK buyer willing to loan, or if it has been bought overseas that the government will impose an export bar to allow time to raise the money to match the sale price.
Only a handful of helmets such quality have been found anywhere across the former Roman empire, and potential buyers from all over the world registered interest.
The finder and his father had searched the same fields for years, with the permission of the land owner, and never found anything more exciting than a few coins and some bits of broken horse harness: he continued going there, he has explained, because he liked the views.
When he found the helmet face down in the clay, the silvered face intact but the Phrygian cap and its jaunty little griffin topknot crushed into many pieces, he first thought it was a Victorian ornament.
His good fortune has exposed a gaping hole in Britain's protection for archaeological heritage finds, and is bound to lead to calls for reform of the Treasure Act.
If the helmet had fallen within the legal definition of treasure, the finder and landowner would have been awarded compensation at the market price, and it would probably already be on display in the Tullie House galleries.
However only objects with a large composition of gold or silver, such as the spectacular Staffordshire hoard of Anglo Saxon gold which acquired last year by a coalition of local museums, or prehistoric hoards of bronze like find earlier this year of a vast clay pot in Frome holding 52,000 mainly low value coins, fall within the law. A single bronze object, however astonishing, is not legally treasure.
The finder was not even legally obliged to report the helmet, although he chose to do so under the voluntary portable antiquities scheme (Pas) for reporting archaeological finds, and he was fully entitled to turn down the suggestion of a negotiated sale to the museum, and instead send it straight to auction.
"It's so frigging annoying," Sally Worrell, the Pas finds officer who first saw the mask, said. "I'm gutted to be honest – it's so frustrating to have worked so long on this and then not see it go to the museum."
Roger Bland, head of the PAS based at the British Museum, whose Roman experts have fully backed Tullie House's attempt to acquire it, agreed. "It does expose a real gap in the treasure law – a review was promised three years ago, and if it had been carried out, this outcome could have been avoided."
The report of the find does mean the find spot is recorded and full archaeological excavation to uncover the riddle of how such a stunning object ended up in a nondescript field miles from the nearest Roman site, may still follow.
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #1454 on: Oct 7th, 2010, 09:12am »
Wired Danger Room
Exoskeletons, Robo Rats and Synthetic Skin: The Pentagon’s Cyborg Army By Katie Drummond October 7, 2010 | 7:00 am | Categories: Science!
Troop Telepathy Pentagon-backed efforts to create a computer-human mind meld have been ongoing for years. One major long-term goal? Troops who can communicate from a distance without saying a word, thanks to computer-mediated telepathy.
Last year, Darpa, the Pentagon's blue-sky research arm, launched Silent Talk. The program will use EEG to read word-specific brain signals, then decipher the signals and create a brain wave dictionary that's generalizable across minds. Once that's done, Darpa wants a pre-prototype device that can read brain waves, translate them, then transmit them to the mind of one's fellow interlocutor.