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 veryhotthread  Author  Topic: Stuff & Nonsense  (Read 112982 times)
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« Reply #1590 on: Oct 19th, 2010, 09:06am »

New York Times

Goldman Wrestles With a Weak Quarter
October 19, 2010, 8:28 am 8:28 a.m. | Updated

Goldman Sachs, struggling with a weak trading environment, reported declines on Tuesday in most of its major business units for the third quarter.

Revenue in its stock and bond divisions fell sharply from the period a year earlier. But the performance of its investment bank, which makes fees from arranging mergers and acquisitions and underwriting deals, picked up.
The weakness in markets amid uncertainty about the economy has been a significant drag on the profits of Wall Street firms. In a recent report, the Ticonderoga Securities analyst Douglas Sipkin said the third quarter was “abnormally slow”.

Indeed, expectations that Goldman might achieve another golden quarter had been been fading for weeks before the announcement of third-quarter results.

In the most recent survey of analysts by Thomson Reuters, Goldman was forecast to report $2.28 a share, down from estimates of $3.37 a share a month ago.

With those reduced expectations, Goldman easily topped the consensus. The firm said earnings fell 40 percent, to $1.9 billion, or $2.98 a share in the quarter ended Sept. 30, from $3.2 billion, or $5.25 a share, in the quarter a year earlier. Goldman reported net revenue of $8.9 billion, higher than expected.

Goldman’s chief executive, Lloyd C. Blankfein, pictured, said in a statement that while economic conditions continued “to be challenging” he was satisfied with the results. “Our third quarter reflects solid performance across our businesses,” he said.

Goldman posted net revenue, or revenue minus interest expense, in its investment bank of $1.1 billion, up 24 percent from the period a year earlier. Trading, however, was another story. Net revenue in its powerful fixed-income, currency and commodities unit dropped 37 percent, to $3.8 billion. And net revenue from equities trading and commissions fell 33 percent, to $1.9 billion.

The slowdown in trading comes at a difficult juncture for Goldman. It has been the target of criticism from Washington and Main Street over its quick return to huge profits and big bonuses months after the financial crisis, when financial firms, including Goldman, were forced to accept government help.

No firm returned to profitability faster than Goldman, which set aside $3.8 billion in compensation in the third quarter quarter. It will not decide what it will pay out until the fourth quarter, but so far this year it has put aside $13.1 billion in pay for its 35,000 employees.

Goldman’s results are always among the most anticipated of the Wall Street banks.

On Monday, Citigroup, badly bruised from the 2008 real estate crisis, reported its third consecutive quarterly profit. It earned $2.2 billion for the quarter, a figure that topped most analysts’ expectations.

The gains partly reflected the fact that Citigroup released $2 billion that had been set aside to cover loan losses. Its investment bank also felt the pain of the slow summer, as it posted a profit of $1.4 billion, down about 17 percent from the previous quarter.

JPMorgan Chase also topped analyst expectations when it reported earnings last week. Like Citigroup, it released money it had previously set aside to cover loan losses and was helped by a gain in its credit card business.

But the firm’s investment banking results left investors unimpressed. Trading results in fixed-income, currency and commodities trading, which suffered a highly publicized loss in the second quarter, fell , to $3.1 billion, down about 38 percent from the period a year earlier.

Morgan Stanley is scheduled to report its earnings Wednesday.

– Susanne Craig


http://dealbook.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/10/19/goldman-tops-estimates-in-a-weak-quarter/?hp

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« Reply #1591 on: Oct 19th, 2010, 09:11am »

Telegraph

Clenched fist can help us deal with stress, scientists say
A clenched fist may seem like a violent reaction but the action could be enough to deal with anything from pain to temptation, scientists say.

Published: 12:47PM BST 19 Oct 2010

Tightening muscles helps the mind cope with an array of difficult situations from being given a painful injection to trying to resist a cream cake for dessert, they said.

Whether it is clenching fists, calf muscles or biceps, the act concentrates the mind as it is about to encounter something negative, researchers told the Journal of Consumer Research.

A group of volunteers were put through several different experiments from immersing their hands in a bucket of iced water to drinking an unpleasant tonic of water and vinegar.

Other tests included watching emotional footage of children hurt in the Haiti earthquake alongside a form for donating money plus a shopping trip to the local cafeteria.

Half the group were told to clench muscles as they took part in the experiments, the other half were not given any instructions.

The joint study by researchers from the University of Singapore and University of Chicago found those tightening muscles reacted more positively in each of the situations.

But it only works if they clench a muscle at exactly the point where they are confronted with a "self-control dilemma" suggesting simple exercise beforehand does not count.

The study reported: "Participants who were instructed to tighten their muscles, regardless of which muscles they tightened-hand, finger, calf, or biceps-while trying to exert self-control demonstrated greater ability to withstand the pain, consume the unpleasant medicine, attend to the immediately disturbing but essential information, or overcome tempting foods."

It added: "The mind and the body are so closely tied together, merely clenching muscles can also activate willpower.

"Thus simply engaging in these bodily actions, which often result from an exertion of willpower, can serve as a non-conscious source to recruit willpower, facilitate self-control, and improve consumer wellbeing."

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/science/science-news/8072887/Clenched-fist-can-help-us-deal-with-stress-scientists-say.html

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« Reply #1592 on: Oct 19th, 2010, 09:16am »

Telegraph

Marmite unveils £15,000 stone monument
A giant, £15,000 stone tub of Marmite was unveiled yesterday, much to the bemusement of local people.

By Nick Britten
Published: 7:30AM BST 19 Oct 2010

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The 6ft-tall white monument, dubbed the “Monumite” took 71 hours to carve and is part of the company’s spoof political Love/Hate it campaign.

Its makers said the 80cm “lid” will “provide seating for children as well as being a platform for adults at public events” at its home in Burton-upon-Trent, Staff, where Marmite is produced.

'But just like the product’s catch line “You’ll either love it or hate it”, there was a mixed reaction.

Ian Tennant, 36, from Burton-on-Trent, said: "I know Burton is the home of Marmite but the statue is just a bit pointless.

"It's too small and doesn't even say Marmite on it - and it's miles away from the Marmite factory itself.”

Michael Blackstock, 27, from Barton-Under-Needwood, Staffs, said: "I think it's fantastic - it's the perfect way to celebrate one of the best things about Burton. "Marmite fans nationwide now have a reason to come to the town to make a pilgrimage for one of our country's best-known brands.”

Marmite was originally discovered by German chemist Justin Liebig in 1866, while the world-famous spread was first produced in England in Burton-on-Trent in 1902.


http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/howaboutthat/8072046/Marmite-unveils-15000-stone-monument.html

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« Reply #1593 on: Oct 19th, 2010, 09:23am »

Wired

Reader Photos: Ghostly Green Comet Approaches Earth
By Lisa Grossman October 18, 2010 | 2:00 pm | Categories: Space

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At the beginning of October, we asked if any of you had captured images of the spooky green comet Hartley 2. Here are some of your photos, but we want more!

The comet is still headed for Earth, and on Oct. 20 will come within 11 million miles -- one of the closest comet approaches in centuries. The comet's ghostly glow should be visible with good binoculars or even the naked eye under dark skies. If you catch any great photos, add them to this flickr stream.

Above: Amateur astronomer Ed Sunder got up at 4:15 a.m. local time Oct. 2 to capture the comet from Flintstone, Georgia.

Image: flickr/FlintsoneStargazer

more after the jump
http://www.wired.com/wiredscience/2010/10/comet-hartley-2-galler/#ixzz12oYqD8zY

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« Reply #1594 on: Oct 19th, 2010, 09:26am »

The Hollywood Reporter

'Superman' Lawsuit Delayed by Appeal
October 18

EXCLUSIVE: Today a key battle was supposed to be waged in the war over the future of Superman.

But instead of a heated courtroom showdown, the judge overseeing the case has delayed the matter as lawyers for Warner Bros. and the heirs of Superman co-creators Joe Shuster and Jerry Siegel await an appeal of a procedural ruling.

As you’ll recall, Warners and its DC Comics division are embroiled in an epic fight over rights to the Man of Steel. After a judge ruled a few years back that the studio might lose certain copyrights associated with the character, Warners went on the offensive. The studio hired aggressive new lawyers and sued Marc Toberoff, attorney for the Siegels and Shusters, claiming Toberoff improperly convinced the families to back out of deals and terminate their lucrative copyright assignments relating to Superman.

In fighting back at that lawsuit, Toberoff filed a bunch of motions seeking to dismiss the complaint and have it declared a violation of his free speech rights under California's anti-SLAPP law. Warners then amended its lawsuit slightly, prompting Toberoff to file his motions again. But the judge ruled the anti-SLAPP motion moot due to the amended complaint.

Still with us? It's pretty complicated, but in a nutshell, as Warners pressed forward with its case, including noticing the depositions of the Siegel and Shuster heirs, Toberoff appealed the order saying the anti-SLAPP motion was mooted. And Friday, on the eve of a scheduled hearing in front of U.S. District Judge Otis D. Wright, the judge stayed the entire case against Toberoff pending resolution of that appeal.

That means the studio’s controversial litigation against Toberoff sits on ice temporarily. How long? Appeals can take as long as 18 months but Warners can file a motion to dismiss the appeal, which could speed things up. Still, as the studio ramps up production of its latest Superman movie, the future of the character remains very much in question.

Both Toberoff and Warners' lead attorney Daniel Petrocelli declined to comment.


http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/blogs/thr-esq/superman-lawsuit-delayed-appeal-31344

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« Reply #1595 on: Oct 19th, 2010, 09:29am »

LA Times

Miss the Middle Ages? Try Afghanistan
The political model that best illustrates the philosophy and practice of the Afghan government is a medieval court.
By Nancy Goldstone

October 16, 2010

As a person who spends her time immersed in the Middle Ages, I would ordinarily be the first to point out how irrelevant this pastime is to modern society. There is very little reason to tweet or blog about people who have been dead for 600 years. However, the recent revelation that large numbers of President Hamid Karzai's relations have taken over positions of power in Afghanistan has encouraged me to believe that, for once, my preoccupation might be pertinent. For some time now, it has been obvious to me that the political model that best illustrates the philosophy and practice of the Afghan government is a medieval court.

For those unfamiliar with the customs of the 15th century, medieval courts were composed of the extended family, senior counselors, household servants, intimate friends and assorted hangers-on who surrounded the king and queen. There was a good deal of backbiting, rivalry and jostling for position as people fell in and out of favor, but in general these were the individuals who made policy and ruled the kingdom. The king rewarded those members of his court with whom he was especially pleased with gifts of money and territory. Royal siblings and their families were particularly useful, as they were perceived by the subjects of the realm as extensions of the monarch himself. The more money and territory a sibling or courtier accumulated, the greater that person's power and influence. Is any of this beginning to sound familiar?

The methods and practices of medieval courts were certainly far removed from those Americans most cherish, such as voting, representation and protection of civil rights. Imposing a Western-style democracy on such a system is unfortunately similar to coating an unhusked coconut with chocolate and trying to pass it off as a Mounds bar.

Consequently, the most useful parallel to the American involvement in Afghanistan is not, as is so often cited, the Iraqi "surge," or the failed campaign by the Russians, or even the lessons of Vietnam but, rather, the experience of England in the second half of the Hundred Years War. And I'm afraid that the English lost that one.

In 1415, Henry V — he of the "We few, we happy few" speech — employing high-tech, state-of-the-art weaponry, the longbow, walloped the French at Agincourt. Within a few years, the English occupied Paris and much of western France. Henry V appropriated the French throne, thereby dispossessing the dauphin, the rightful heir, who was forced to concede the capital. Although the formidable Henry would die soon after, he was replaced by his extremely competent brother, the duke of Bedford, who continued to rule France as regent. This series of events is eerily similar to what happened when the U.S. first invaded Afghanistan, occupied Kabul and forced the Taliban into the countryside.

The dauphin, exiled from Paris, held that part of the realm south of the Loire, just as today the Taliban exercises power over various enclaves outside the capital. The English vowed to eject him and, with the help of the duke of Burgundy, an estranged member of the French royal family, managed to win a number of battles against the dauphin. But — and this is crucial — the duke of Burgundy expected to be paid for his participation in the war.

The conflict dragged on, becoming more and more costly, and eventually the English got tired of bribing the duke of Burgundy. The duke was naturally disappointed with this development and, unbeknownst to England, looked to sell his services elsewhere. Ambassadors from the duke's court met surreptitiously with ambassadors from the dauphin's court. This was not difficult to arrange, as some medieval families, hedging their bets, had relatives placed in both courts — just as today, for similar reasons, some Afghan households maintain ties to both the Taliban and the U.S.-supported government.

The result of these secret meetings was that the dauphin made discreet financial overtures and succeeded in separating the duke of Burgundy from his former allies. England was dumbfounded to find itself isolated, and subsequently lost the war. As an occupying force, it didn't matter how many troops it put in the field. Without the support of the duke of Burgundy, there were never enough English soldiers to hold the kingdom.

On Monday, Karzai confirmed to CNN what had been long rumored: "We have been talking to the Taliban as countrymen to countrymen. Unofficial talks have been held with Taliban representatives over an extended period." On Thursday White House and NATO officials said that the U.S. had aided these discussions in the hope of promoting a negotiated peace.

But the real deal — the one that won't be announced — will likely follow the Hundred Years War model. Karzai will continue to hold the capital, with the Taliban and other warlords in control of the rest of the countryside. The Taliban will turn a blind eye to a certain percentage of opium trafficking, the proceeds of which will go to Karzai and his family and a few favored courtiers. Then, in three to five years, Karzai and his supporters will go off to a comfortable retirement and the Taliban will ride into Kabul.

Nancy Goldstone is the author, most recently, of "The Lady Queen: The Notorious Reign of Joanna I." Her next book, about Joan of Arc, will be published in 2012.

http://www.latimes.com/news/opinion/commentary/la-oe-goldstone-karzai-20101016,0,7203364.story

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« Reply #1596 on: Oct 20th, 2010, 08:30am »

New York Times

October 19, 2010
Officer Failed to Warn C.I.A. Before Attack
By MARK MAZZETTI

WASHINGTON — Three weeks before a Jordanian double agent set off a bomb at a remote Central Intelligence Agency base in eastern Afghanistan last December, a C.I.A. officer in Jordan received warnings that the man might be working for Al Qaeda, according to an investigation into the deadly attack.

But the C.I.A. officer did not tell his bosses of suspicions — brought to the Americans by a Jordanian intelligence officer — that the man might be planning to lure Americans into a trap, according to the recently completed investigation by the agency. Later that month the Qaeda operative, a Jordanian doctor, detonated a suicide vest as he stood among a group of C.I.A. officers at the base.

The internal investigation documents a litany of breakdowns leading to the Dec. 30 attack at the Khost base that killed seven C.I.A. employees, the deadliest day for the spy agency since the 1983 bombing of the American Embassy in Beirut. Besides the failure to pass on warnings about the bomber, Humam Khalil Abu-Mulal al-Balawi, the C.I.A. investigation chronicled major security lapses at the base in Afghanistan, a lack of war zone experience among the agency’s personnel at the base, insufficient vetting of the alleged defector and a murky chain of command with different branches of the intelligence agency competing for control over the operation.

Some of these failures mirror other lapses that have bedeviled the sprawling intelligence and antiterrorism community in the past several years, despite numerous efforts at reform.

The report found that the breakdowns were partly the result of C.I.A. officers’ wanting to believe they had finally come across the thing that had eluded them for years: a golden source who could lead them to the terror network’s second highest figure, Ayman al-Zawahri.

As it turned out, the bomber who was spirited onto a base pretending to be a Qaeda operative willing to cooperate with the Americans was actually a double agent who detonated a suicide vest as he stood among a group of C.I.A. officers. “The mission itself may have clouded some of the judgments made here,” said the C.I.A. director, Leon E. Panetta, who provided details of the investigation to reporters on Tuesday.

Mr. Panetta said that the report did not recommend holding a single person or group of individuals directly accountable for “systemic failures.”

“This is a war,” he said, adding that it is important for the C.I.A. to continue to take on risky missions.

The investigation, conducted by the agency’s counterintelligence division, does, however, make a series of recommendations to improve procedures to vet sources and require that C.I.A. field officers share more information with their superiors.

Mr. Panetta said that he also ordered that a team of counterintelligence experts join the C.I.A. counterterrorism center, and to thoroughly vet the agency’s most promising informants. It is unclear whether any action will be taken against the C.I.A. operative in Jordan who chose not to pass on the warning.

The agency is a closed society that makes precious little public about its operations. It is sometimes loath to investigate itself, and at times has resisted punishing people for failures.

In 2005, for instance, Director Porter J. Goss rejected the recommendation of an internal review that “accountability boards” be established to determine which senior C.I.A. officials should be blamed for intelligence breakdowns before the Sept. 11 attacks. Mr. Goss said that punishing top officers “would send the wrong message to our junior officers about taking risks.”

Current and former C.I.A. officials said that the decision not to hold officers directly responsible for the bombing was partly informed by an uncomfortable truth: some of those who may have been at fault were killed in the bombing.

In particular, the officials said there was particular care about how much fault to assign to Jennifer Matthews, a Qaeda expert at the C.I.A. who was the chief of the Khost base and who died in the attack.

One former C.I.A. officer with Afghanistan experience said there was bitter internal debate at the spy agency over whether Ms. Matthews — who had little field experience — ought to singled out for blame for the security lapses that allowed the bomber, Mr. Balawi, onto the base.

“There’s a lot of built-up emotion over this, because one of the primary people accused is Jennifer, and she’s not here to defend herself,” he said.

Several family members of the victims of the Khost attack, reached by telephone and e-mail on Tuesday, declined to comment about the C.I.A. report. Mr. Panetta said that families would be informed about the report’s conclusions in the coming days.

The warnings about Mr. Balawi came from a Jordanian intelligence officer. Mr. Panetta said that it appeared that the C.I.A. operative in Amman, Jordan, was dismissive of them because he suspected that the Jordanian was jealous that one of his colleagues had a close relationship with Mr. Balawi, and might have been trying to scuttle the operation.

As he detailed the report’s conclusions, the C.I.A. director provided new details about the unraveling of, and deadly conclusion to, Mr. Balawi’s operation.

Mr. Panetta said that the General Intelligence Department, the Jordanian spy service that is a close C.I.A. ally, had first told the Americans that Mr. Balawi might be willing to become a C.I.A. informant. Over a period of months, he said, the Jordanian doctor provided information from the tribal area of Pakistan to establish bona fides with his handlers.

A meeting at the Khost base was set up for the Americans to meet Mr. Balawi in person, to discuss specific ways that the Jordanian doctor might be able to consistently pass along information to the C.I.A.

Mr. Panetta said that because he was considered a reliable source, normal security procedures were eased: Mr. Balawi was not subjected to screening at the perimeter of the Khost base, and a large group of C.I.A. officers gathered to greet him when he arrived.

C.I.A. officers became suspicious however, when Mr. Balawi chose to get out of the car on the side opposite the security personnel, who were waiting to pat him down. The security guards drew their guns, and Mr. Balawi detonated his suicide vest.

The force of the bomb killed the seven C.I.A. employees, the Jordanian intelligence officer who was Mr. Balawi’s handler, and an Afghan driver. Six more C.I.A. officers were wounded in the attack, but Mr. Panetta said that the bomb could have been deadlier had Mr. Balawi’s car — which blunted the explosion — had not been in between the bomber and most of the Americans.

Current and former American officials said that the final report on the Khost attack went through several drafts, in part because an already complex investigation was made even more difficult by the bomb’s devastating impact.

As Mr. Panetta said, “A lot of the evidence here died with the people.”

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/10/20/world/asia/20intel.html?ref=world

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« Reply #1597 on: Oct 20th, 2010, 08:36am »

Guardian

Government borrowing hits record highLast month's figure of £16.2bn was worse than expected and the highest September deficit on record
Julia Kollewe guardian.co.uk, Wednesday 20 October 2010

The figures come hours before Chancellor George Osborne sets out his comprehensive spending review Photograph: Jon Enoch Government borrowing has hit a record high for a September, casting some doubt on the government's ability to achieve its annual forecast. The figures came just hours before George Osborne sets out his austerity plans in the comprehensive spending review.

"The chancellor will have to go ahead with implementing savage cuts to achieve his goal," said Hetal Mehta at Daiwa Capital Markets.

Higher interest payments forced the government to borrow £16.2bn last month, figures from the Office for National Statistics showed this morning. The figure, which excludes the impact of the banking bailout, is higher than the City expected and was the biggest September deficit since records began in 1993.

"Another month, another record," said Mehta. "The fact the government borrowing was higher in September this year than a year ago – and indeed higher than in any September – is concerning given the higher VAT receipts and stronger pace of economic growth earlier in the year. There was a big increase in interest payments, which risks getting larger if the government fails to follow through fully on its plans to reduce the deficit."

Interest payments rose to £2.3bn from £912m in September 2009. While VAT receipts climbed 17% year-on-year (thanks to January's rise to 17.5% from 15%), income and capital gains tax receipts were only up 1.5%.

Total borrowing for the first six months of the financial year climbed to £73.5bn, against £77.4bn at this stage last year. The Office for Budget Responsibility is predicting borrowing of £149bn for this financial year, down from £155bn last year.

The chancellor may still be able to meet his target but much will depend on how well economic growth holds up over the rest of the financial year, said Howard Archer at IHS Global Insight. "A serious problem for the government is that interest payments are increasing markedly. The government will highlight this as a key reason as to why there should be no delay in enacting measures to improve the public finances."

The Bank of England's monetary policy committee was split three ways this month, as expected, minutes of the meeting showed today. Adam Posen called for a return to stimulus measures, voting to boost the Bank's £200bn quantitative easing programme by £50bn, while Andrew Sentance repeated his call for a rate increase for the fifth month in a row, and the remaining seven voted for no change.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/business/2010/oct/20/government-borrowing-hits-record-high-september

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« Reply #1598 on: Oct 20th, 2010, 08:42am »

Telegraph

Giant tigerfish with razor-sharp teeth caught by British angler
A British angler has caught one of the most ferocious fish ever encountered.

Published: 9:45AM BST 20 Oct 2010

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Jeremy Wade holding the 100lbs, 5ft long goliath tigerfish
Photo: Jeremy Wade/BNPS

Jeremy Wade reeled in the pre-historic looking monster on a fishing expedition to the River Congo.

The goliath tigerfish is one of the most fearsome freshwater fish in the world and are said to be much bigger and deadlier versions of the piranha.

It has 32 teeth that are of similar size to those of a great white shark and has been known to attack humans and even crocodiles before.

It has only ever been caught by a handful of fishermen due to the danger it poses and the fact its habitat is notoriously hard to reach.

Mr Wade, from Bath, Somerset, took extra care when reeling in this specimen which weighed more than 100lbs and was 5ft long.

Luckily he is an experienced angler and caught the fish for the TV show River Monsters, which is due to be screened on ITV next month.

The show looks into mythical reports from around the world of humans being attacked by unknown monsters from the deep before Mr Wade sets out to find and catch the suspect.

"This fish is no tench," said Mr Wade.

"It is, for all intents and purposes, a giant piranha. It is quite a beast.

"The teeth on it are incredibly sharp and are about the same length as a great white shark.

"It also has an extremely powerful bite and has been known to consume prey the same size as itself, attack people and take pieces out of crocodiles.

"It is thought that these fish attack in a reflex response to a sudden movement or splash.

"It is very rare to catch one, especially by an outsider because they are found in such a remote and difficult location to get to. There are no guides or lodges on that part of the Congo River."

Mr Wade used a sizable catfish as bait for the tigerfish - Hydrocynus goliath in Latin - and a 200lbs rod and line.


http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/howaboutthat/8075845/Giant-tigerfish-with-razor-sharp-teeth-caught-by-British-angler.html

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« Reply #1599 on: Oct 20th, 2010, 08:57am »

Wired Danger Room


NSA’s Newest Recruiters: Cartoon-Leopard Twins
By Spencer Ackerman October 19, 2010 | 3:27 pm | Categories: Bizarro

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Dudes and dudettes: You know what’s totally radical? Reading your neighbors’ e-mail! So don’t you wanna be a junior National Security Agency deputy?

If so, the surveillance and cryptology crew at NSA has the right online companions for you: Cy and Cyndi, a pair of anthropomorphic snow leopards now kickin’ it with the CryptoKids, the Puzzle Palace’s team of cartoon animal hackers. Known as the CyberTwins and unveiled by NSA yesterday, Cy and Cyndi wear gaming headgear, talk into their hands-free mobile devices, and teach youths about proper online hygiene, all on the NSA website’s kids page, which actually exists.

Arriving in time for (the second half of) National Cybersecurity Awareness Month, the CyberTwins have a backstory to appeal to military kids: Their mom is a government engineer, their dad is an Army computer scientist, and they “love to talk with other kids who love computers and cyber space as much as they do.”

That fits them right in with the other CryptoKids — a goateed turtle named T-Top whose uncle works for a computer manufacturer, Sergeant Sam the eagle who joined the military out of high school — who guide real-live youth through online crypto-themed puzzles and brainteasers. (Only one thing’s missing from the CryptoTwins’ rollout: cybersecurity tips for the underage.)

All this is a reminder that the most informative element of any spy agency’s website is its Kiddie Korner, where spycraft meets the schoolyard for an awkward, barely appropriate encounter. The CIA offers a world-explorer videogame starring Carmen Sandiego–esque junior officer Ava Shoephone, a trenchcoated operative who throws out trivia questions from the agency’s World Factbook.

The National Counterterrorism Center introduces you to “your NCTC friends,” Becker the Eagle and Little Lady Liberty. And the FBI has games — represented by an icon of the old Nintendo cartridges — like Special Agent Undercover, in which grade-school kids disguise themselves with mustaches to fool people.

As Noah Shachtman wrote a couple of years ago, only the government knows how earnest or how absurd these sites are intended to be. They do, however, inculcate the message that a career in spycraft is totally extreme. “Cryptology is making and breaking codes. It’s so cool,” NSA’s kids page explains. “You might be part of the next generation of America’s codemakers and codebreakers.” Then again, is a kid precocious enough to spend time on a surveillance and crypto agency’s website really going to be impressed by a snow leopard with a BlueTooth in her ear?

Updated: The sleuths at Boing Boing have uncovered the CrytpoKids’ true names:

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Image: NSA


http://www.wired.com/dangerroom/2010/10/nsa-cartoon-animals-lure-youth-into-the-surveillance-arts/

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« Reply #1600 on: Oct 20th, 2010, 09:02am »

Wired


Rumsfeld Invades Web, Twitter, Facebook
By Spencer Ackerman October 19, 2010 | 1:35 pm | Categories: Info War


#FollowFriday has come early: Donald Rumsfeld, the Bush administration’s lightning rod of a defense secretary, is on Twitter.

No one would ever confuse Rumsfeld with a technophobe. In office, he threw money at high-tech weaponry and gear, to the point where it jeopardized the Iraq war. But this latest move for the aggressive septuagenarian isn’t just recreational: Rumsfeld’s using online media to rehab his battered image.

Rumsfeld — or a member of his entourage — joined Twitter at 9:24 a.m. EDT as @RumsfeldOffice http://www.twitter.com/RumsfeldOffice

After two hours and three tweets, he was up to 385 followers. The first 29 tweeps he’s opted to follow include Politico, Joint Chiefs chairman Adm. Michael Mullen, GOP consigliere Karl Rove, and the military services’ feeds.

By the time I finished writing this paragraph, another eight people started following Rummy. Others are tracking a more, um, colorful feed, @RealDonRumsfeld.

In addition to the new Twitter account, Rumsfeld’s started a Facebook page, with wall posts dating back to Sept. 21, sharing interviews he’s done or articles written about him. (I’m one of 55 people who Like This.)

You can check out three photographs of Rumsfeld and his wife smiling with young Central Asian strivers whom their foundation sponsors. Speaking of, the Rumsfeld Foundation also launched its website today, continuing the full-spectrum Rumsfeldian campaign of dominance for the online and social media spheres.

All this helps prime the pump for the Jan. 25 release of Known And Unknown, Rumsfeld’s long-awaited memoir. The book itself appears to be an experiment in online disclosure: Rumsfeld’s aide Keith Urbahn recently told Politico’s Ben Smith that it’ll be supplemented by “the release of thousands of pages of never-before-seen memos and previously classified documents that put the reader in the moment.”

In other words, expect snowflakes. (It’s worth mentioning that Rumsfeld’s first undersecretary for policy, Douglas Feith, did the same thing with his own memoir.)

If all that seems like online-media overkill, Rumsfeld has years — if not a lifetime — of negative publicity to overcome. Most recently, Gen. Hugh Shelton, a former Joint Chiefs chairman, wrote in his recent memoir that Rumsfeld possessed the “worst style of leadership I witnessed in 38 years of service” — obstinate, dismissive, impatient with other points of view.

A group of other retired generals demanded Rumsfeld’s resignation in 2006. While their stated reasoning concerned the morass of the Iraq war, Rumsfeld had spent six years angering many officers, especially in the Army and Marine Corps, with his “net-centric” ideas for light, fast, networked war, which helped capture Baghdad in three weeks and then proved insufficient to pacify Iraq.

From the perspective of the public at large, there was also that time when Rumsfeld told TV cameras that he knew where Saddam’s weapons of mass destruction were.

Now that Rumsfeld’s in the fray of social media, maybe he’ll answer questions directly from curious tweeps and Facebook wall-crawlers. Urbahn telegraphed Smith that Rumsfeld’s memoir is characteristically feisty: ”The book will tell readers things that they didn’t know, and it may well unsettle a few people who think the history of certain events has already been written.” Flame wars have resulted from less than that.


http://www.wired.com/dangerroom/2010/10/controversial-ex-defense-chief-invades-web-twitter-facebook/

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« Reply #1601 on: Oct 20th, 2010, 6:06pm »




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« Reply #1603 on: Oct 21st, 2010, 06:10am »

on Oct 19th, 2010, 09:23am, WingsofCrystal wrote:
Wired

Reader Photos: Ghostly Green Comet Approaches Earth
By Lisa Grossman October 18, 2010 | 2:00 pm | Categories: Space


At the beginning of October, we asked if any of you had captured images of the spooky green comet Hartley 2. Here are some of your photos, but we want more!

The comet is still headed for Earth, and on Oct. 20 will come within 11 million miles -- one of the closest comet approaches in centuries. The comet's ghostly glow should be visible with good binoculars or even the naked eye under dark skies. If you catch any great photos, add them to this flickr stream.

Above: Amateur astronomer Ed Sunder got up at 4:15 a.m. local time Oct. 2 to capture the comet from Flintstone, Georgia.

Image: flickr/FlintsoneStargazer

more after the jump
http://www.wired.com/wiredscience/2010/10/comet-hartley-2-galler/#ixzz12oYqD8zY

Crystal


Eeek! You mean the Agency could be right? shocked

on Oct 20th, 2010, 08:42am, WingsofCrystal wrote:
Telegraph

Giant tigerfish with razor-sharp teeth caught by British angler
A British angler has caught one of the most ferocious fish ever encountered.

Published: 9:45AM BST 20 Oct 2010

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Boy! Look at those teeth! shocked
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« Reply #1604 on: Oct 21st, 2010, 08:33am »

Good morning to you Phil!
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