Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #1725 on: Nov 1st, 2010, 10:02am »
San Francisco November 1 2010 By Alasdair Wilkins
Silbury Hill is a huge artificial mound in southern England, about 130 feet high and covering five acres. Europe's largest artificial mound, it may have been built by the makers of Stonehenge...but they definitely weren't the last to use it.
Many ancient cultures built giant earthen mounds as centerpieces for their cities and settlements. For instance, The Mississippian culture, North America's most powerful civilization before European contact, built several huge mounds in city-states that stretched from what is now Louisiana to Minnesota, at its height rivaling the power of the Mayan city-states to the south.
While these ancient North American cities were sometimes home to more than a hundred such mounds, Silbury Hill is pretty much on its own, a lone mound near the prehistoric British settlement of Avebury, which includes the Avebury Henge, stone circles and avenues, and elaborate raised graves known as barrows. The entire Avebury area is about 20 miles away from the more famous Stonehenge, and both date to roughly 5,000 years ago.
Although it's generally overshadowed by Stonehenge, Silbury Hill is just as remarkable an achievement, a completely artificial clay mound about as big as a mid-sized Egyptian pyramid. But unlike Stonehenge, it appears Silbury Hill was not a singular structure, but rather one built and modified over countless generations, including a complete reimagining of its purpose by Anglo-Saxons some 4,000 years after it was first built.
Archaeologist Jim Leary believes the older narratives of the mound's construction, which speak of three stages of building, are woefully incomplete. Instead, he says there are at least 15 distinct phases of construction between about 2,400 and 2,300 BCE. He also says this solves the mystery of why the mound was built in the first place. He believes these ancient builders were never really concerned with what it looked like or what purpose it might serve other than as a thing to build in and of itself:
"The received wisdom was the hill was constructed as a single construct. We had this idea that there was a blueprint. What was the most remarkable thing about us going into the tunnel was that it wasn't a single construction. It was actually made up of lots of tiny phases. It seems as if the hill developed organically and the strangest thing is that this hasn't always been a hill. The first phases of it were a bank and ditch enclosure, much like a henge monument."
Its original builders probably only had antlers that they had modified into basic picks. As Leary points out, those who started work on the structure could not know what the finished mound would look like three generations down the road, or even how big it would eventually be. That, he says, is a big departure from the older narrative, which sees the mound as a more deliberately made structure.
Whatever the original intentions of its Neolithic builders, the Anglo-Saxons were able to make great use of it in the Medieval period, around the year 1,000. Leary says there's clear evidence of modifications from this relatively recent period that turned Silbury Hill into a defensive structure, most likely in response to Viking invasions that could make use of a nearby Roman road. The clash of cultures here is a bit dizzying - Anglo-Saxons relied on Neolithic monuments to fend off Norse invaders who were assisted by abandoned Roman technology.
Today, Silbury Hill is, along with Stonehenge, part of the UNESCO World Heritage site rather unimaginatively dubbed Stonehenge, Avebury and Associated Sites. Leary's new book, The Story of Silbury Hill, comes out at the end of the year.
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #1726 on: Nov 1st, 2010, 10:06am »
Todd McCarthy's Film Review: Megamind 12:00 AM 11/1/2010 by Todd McCarthy
The second big animated feature of the year, after 'Despicable Me,' to center on an arch-villain who sees the error of his ways, 'Megamind' is snappy good fun. Fast-paced but not frantic, goofily good-natured and attractively designed for widescreen 3D, this splashy new effort from Tom McGrath, who made the Madagascar hits, happily avoids the crassness and relentless showbiz referencing that have marred some past DreamWorks Animation entries. With its nifty concept and high-octane cast, this Paramount release looks to rake in strong returns with general audiences through year's end, and it would be a shock not to see a sequel down the line.
Almost in the manner of an old farce, Megamind is loaded with role reversals, of main characters suddenly switching personalities or being revealed as having been someone else in disguise. "I was born to be a super-villain," the blue-headed, pointy-chinned title character reflects on a life that began on an outlying planet, from where, in a sort of double-Superman move, two toddlers were rocketed to Earth, one fortuitously landing in a mansion, the other ending up behind bars. Little life-highlight snippets reveal that, from childhood to increasingly rivalrous adulthood, the ever-plotting Megamind has always been bested in his nefarious plots by the effortless superiority of Metro Man, a magnanimous, if self-satisfied, caped superhero.
Adored by the one and all and with nothing left to prove, Metro Man (a perfectly preening Brad Pitt) is no sooner honored with the enormous Metro Man Museum than Megamind (Will Ferrell, enthusiastic and well-spoken) manages to turn the tables on him at last. Caught in the middle is TV newscaster Roxanne (vibrant Tina Fey), a sexy babe whose shapely contours and assertive personality strongly recall the female lead voiced by Reese Witherspoon in Monsters vs. Aliens.
Startlingly, Metro Man appears to be history, but when Megamind finally achieves his dream come true -- unbridled power over Metro City -- he doesn't know what to do with it because he no longer has an arch-rival. So via a dose of Metro Man's DNA, he endeavors to create one out of Roxanne's hapless, overweight cameraman Hal (a suitably snide Jonah Hill), who quickly goes over to the dark side to avenge the countless slights he's received throughout his life.
This leaves Megamind no choice: He'll have to become a good guy to fight the massive destruction Hal, in his evil new guise as carrot-topped Titan, has begun to unleash on the metropolis, a battle eventually and unsurprisingly joined by a dormant ally.
Megamind arrives at a time when the whole superhero genre is beginning to feel a bit tapped out, but the fun McGrath and his clever writers Alan J. Schoolcraft and Brent Simons take in their dextrous plotting is sufficiently contagious to overcome the familiarity. The effervescent characters and frequent role-changing (even the warden at the prison to which Megamind returns is not immune to identity shifts) guarantee there's never a dull moment, and McGrath takes good care that the action doesn't cross the line from the energetic to the simply exhausting.
Not only this, but the director goes the extra mile with the film's visual aspects, notably -- and perhaps especially -- with the 3D. Perhaps the greatest compliment that can be paid to the dimensional work here is that, after a certain point, you tend to forget that you're watching a 3D movie, so gracefully are the perspectives integrated into the compositions and movements. Wearing the glasses still darkens the image by at least 25%, but the images burst out nonetheless, and there is particularly adroit use of an invisible car, the outline of which just barely registers when it figures in the action. Overall, the film stands as one of the best arguments in favor of 3D among the many examples that have surfaced over the past couple of years in that it feels like mature, restrained, even natural use of the technique.
The self-appointed exponents of super-status (both good and bad) carry with them mild whiffs of The Incredibles, which is hardly a bad thing. This is perhaps especially true of the newly minted Titan, who suggests a less childish version of the nasty prankster Syndrome in his relish for trip-wiring virtue and goodness. The very way in which the story is weighted -- toward bad guys who have their reasons -- represents a tacit acknowledgment that, in such fare, evil is always more interesting than good. In the matter of tone, the filmmakers apply a light touch that reshuffles familiar archetypes in a way that is respectful but not craven, jokey but not arch.
The soundtrack is a busy one, with the original score by Lorne Balfe and Hans Zimmer constantly dovetailing with a raft of familiar pop songs smartly used. Special attention has even been taken with the end credits, which are conceptually reminiscent of the brilliant street sign and graffiti creations on West Side Story but also take advantage of the 3D format to dramatic effect.
Opens: Friday, Nov. 5 (Paramount) Production: DreamWorks Animation Cast (voices): Will Ferrell, Tiny Fey, Jonah Hill, Brad Pitt, David Cross, Justin Theroux Director: Tom McGrath Writers: Alan J. Schoolcraft, Brent Simons Producers: Lara Breay, Denise Nolan Cascino Executive producers: Stuart Cornfeld, Ben Stiller Production designer: David James Music: Lorne Balfe, Hans Zimmer Rated PG, 95 minutes
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #1727 on: Nov 1st, 2010, 10:21am »
The Ugh Shot A gallery of unflattering candidate photos, courtesy of their opponents. By John Dickerson Updated Monday, Nov. 1, 2010, at 10:27 AM ET
For a moment anyway, on Election Day politics gets cleaner—because the ads stop. In the final weeks and days of the campaign the messages from both parties have been consistent, regardless of the race. Republicans have sought to tie Democrats to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and President Obama. Democrats have tried to tie Republicans to the Chinese. Though the messages are similar, one area where ad makers can show their creativity is in picking the gruesome shot of their candidate's opponent. There are a wide variety of ways to make your opponent look sinister, goofy, and unrecognizable to even his own mother. The trick, says a strategist involved in several races, is to "make your opponent unattractive or alien without making the exercise cartoonish or unbelievable."
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #1728 on: Nov 1st, 2010, 1:19pm »
description by durian74:
"Strange unidentified flying object/s (UFOs) seen in the western part of Singapore sky lastnight on 31.10.10 at about 8.20pm Singapore time. I took my Sony cam to capture this strange unidentified flying object or objects. It lasted for nearly about an hour plus. I believe it was a trirangular shape because there were lights at the end of the object which changed their colours from blue to red vise versa. What could it be actually? It could not be a planet or a satelite or airplanes or comets or meteorites. There must be an explanation to this and visible evidence proved its existence."
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #1732 on: Nov 2nd, 2010, 09:05am »
New York Times
Battle for Congress Comes to an End By MICHAEL D. SHEAR
WASHINGTON — Even for a nation that is, by now, used to drinking in political news through a fire hose, election night on Tuesday could be a difficult one to absorb.
More than 500 House, Senate and governor’s races will be decided, if not by the end of the night, then over the course of the nail-biting days ahead as write-in ballots are counted and recounts are requested.
Beyond the individual results, the nation will be looking at the returns for answers to bigger questions: Was this election about President Obama? How powerful a phenomenon is the Tea Party movement? How will the new Congress address the still-weak economy? What will it mean for the crop of likely 2012 Republican presidential candidates? Did anonymous campaign money sway the outcome?
Democrats made their last-minute appeals Monday. Michelle Obama headed to Las Vegas and Philadelphia as Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. traveled to Vermont and former President Bill Clinton raced up and down the East Coast. Mr. Obama hunkered down in the White House, conducting a few radio interviews and bracing for a rebuke that most pundits predict could be historic in its breadth.
On the eve of an election that could make him speaker of the House, Representative John A. Boehner of Ohio, the minority leader, rallied Republicans in Cincinnati, praising as “patriots” the voters who have the “audacity to speak up in defense of freedom, the Constitution and the values of limited government,” according to excerpts released by his office.
Here is a guide to some of the trends to watch for as the results come in.
EARLY DECISIONS Polls close in Kentucky first, at 6 p.m. Eastern time, so look to the races there for an early clue to how the evening is going. In the state’s Senate race, Rand Paul, the Republican and a Tea Party favorite, has been pulling ahead of Jack Conway, the Democrat. Also watch Representative Ben Chandler, a Democrat who won re-election easily in 2006 and 2008, but is fighting to survive in Kentucky’s Sixth Congressional District.
In Virginia, Mr. Obama and his political team will be nervously watching the returns in the Fifth Congressional District, where Representative Tom Perriello, a freshman Democrat who voted for the health care bill and Mr. Obama’s other major initiatives, is seeking to hold on in a conservative part of the state.
In Ohio, five close races could help decide whether Republicans can quickly claim to have retaken the House from Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the Democrats. Keep an eye on seats held by Representatives Charlie Wilson, Zack Space and John Boccieri, each of whom is in a tough fight with his Republican challenger.
Gov. Edward G. Rendell of Pennsylvania, a Democrat, said he would be watching returns to see how Democratic turnout compared to 2008. “If there is a dramatic falloff, Democrats are cooked,” Mr. Rendell said.
THE TEA PARTY An analysis by The New York Times last month found that 138 candidates for the House and Senate claimed support from the Tea Party movement, and dozens of them could find themselves part of a Congressional Tea Party caucus on Wednesday and in a position to exert substantial influence on the Republican Party.
But assessing the movement’s success will not be a simple numbers game. If big-name Tea Party favorites lose to Democrats in places like Alaska, Colorado, Delaware or Nevada, the Republican Party could be left with a decidedly mixed impression of the movement and a renewed debate over whether Tea Party fervor made it harder — not easier — for Republicans to seize control of the Senate.
The outcome of those contests will also help determine the political strength of former Gov. Sarah Palin of Alaska, the self-described godmother of the Tea Party, who has actively backed many candidates. Ms. Palin has sought to rescue the faltering campaign of Joe Miller, who won an insurgent campaign for the Republican Senate nomination in Alaska but is in a close race with the write-in campaign of the woman he beat in the primary, Senator Lisa Murkowski. Democrats have some hope that they could snatch the seat if Republicans split their vote.
THE OBAMA MAP As the night wears on, one thing may become clearer: the extent to which Mr. Obama faces a new political reality as he begins to think about re-election in 2012.
Among the most telling indicators will be the outcomes of a handful of races for governor in important states Mr. Obama won in his 2008 campaign against Senator John McCain of Arizona. Those include Colorado, Florida, New Mexico and Ohio.
In Florida, the contest between Alex Sink, the Democrat, and Rick Scott, the Republican, drew to a tie in polling in the waning days before the election. A victory for Mr. Scott would put a crucial swing state under the control of Republicans.
The same can be said for Ohio, where Mr. Obama made a late visit on Sunday to bolster the chances of Gov. Ted Strickland. The Democratic Party is bracing for losses across the Midwest, so a victory by Mr. Strickland in Ohio would give the White House a bit of good news in that region heading into next year.
In the end, though, Mr. Obama’s future may be determined by his ability to once again win a handful of Western states. Two races to watch: campaigns for governor in Colorado, which appears likely to be a solid Democratic victory, and New Mexico, which is leaning Republican.
THE MONEY As the tide turned decidedly against the Democrats this fall, Mr. Obama and his allies took aim at a flood of money outside groups were spending on behalf of Congressional Republicans. They argued that the money would corrupt the process and provide an unfair advantage to their rivals.
That thesis will be tested Tuesday across the country in races like the one in Iowa’s First District, where outside conservative groups poured in close to $1 million to help defeat Representative Bruce Braley, a Democrat. In North Dakota’s at-large House seat, outside groups spent more than $2.4 million in a state where that much buys plenty of ads.
Outside groups, including American Crossroads, a group the Republican strategist Karl Rove helped start, put more money into Colorado’s Senate race than any other in the country — a total of $25 million. If Senator Michael Bennet, the Democrat, loses there, Mr. Obama and his allies will no doubt point to Colorado as the prime example of their frustration about special-interest money in politics.
THE BLUE DOGS Conservative Democrats in the South won big in 2006 and 2008, edging out their Republican rivals in House districts that could have easily tilted either way. If they lose this time around, Republicans could solidify their grasp on the region.
Look for the outcomes in races like Representative Heath Shuler’s re-election bid in North Carolina’s 11th District. A loss by Mr. Shuler would indicate that even the most conservative Democrats are having a hard time this time around.
In Georgia, Representative Jim Marshall, a Democrat, is seeking to remain in office in part by promising not to support Ms. Pelosi for speaker.
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #1733 on: Nov 2nd, 2010, 09:08am »
New York Times
November 2, 2010 France and Britain Sign Defense Agreements By JOHN F. BURNS and ALAN COWELL
LONDON — Britain and France signed two defense agreements on Tuesday that promise new and apparently far-reaching cooperation, including the creation of a joint force, shared use of aircraft carriers and mutual efforts on nuclear research.
“Today we open a new chapter in a long history of cooperation on defense and security between Britain and France,” Prime Minister David Cameron told a news conference alongside President Nicolas Sarkozy in London. Mr. Sarkozy said the agreements showed “a level of trust and confidence between our two nations which is unequalled in history.”
The agreements provide for Britain and France to create a joint expeditionary task force, and to cooperate on the use of aircraft carriers so that at least one — either French or British — is at sea and available for use by both countries’ warplanes. They also provide for joint research into nuclear safety — an agreement that Mr. Sarkozy called unprecedented.
But Mr. Cameron stressed that the new coziness would not extend to the deployment of nuclear weapons. “We will always maintain our independent nuclear deterrent,” Mr. Cameron said.
The deal between Europe’s two nuclear-armed powers comes at a time of straitened economic circumstances in both countries, with Britain in particular eager to preserve its defense industry despite drastic military spending cuts ordered as part of its most severe austerity program in decades. The agreements also provoked questions in both countries about their impact on national sovereignty.
“This is not about weakening or pooling British or French sovereignty,” Mr. Cameron said. “Britain and France are and will always remain sovereign nations able to deploy our armed forces independently.”
Mr. Sarkozy echoed those sentiments. “In France, sovereignty is as touchy an issue as it is in Britain,” the French leader said. “But together, we will be stronger, together we will do better, together we will better defend the values that we share.”
The agreements could have important consequences beyond the two countries’ borders and for the profile of European defense. Indeed, Pierre Rousselin, a columnist for Le Figaro, a French daily newspaper, said, “It is now up to the chiefs of staff and political leaders from both countries to achieve a tricky partnership from which their survival — and Europe’s as worldwide power — will depend.”
This was not the first time cooperation between the two countries had been mooted in recent years.
In the late 1990s, Tony Blair, then prime minister of Britain, and Jacques Chirac, then president of France, promised deeper defense cooperation, but that understanding did not survive bitter differences over the Iraq war. Britain has traditionally been unwilling to dilute control over its armed forces, particularly with a nation like France, which has displayed different strategic priorities like those over the Iraq invasion, the relationship with Washington and, in the 1980s, Britain’s campaign in the Falklands Islands when its Argentine foes used French-made Exocet missiles against British warships.
At their news conference Tuesday, Mr. Cameron and Mr. Sarkozy skirted around questions about the extent to which their alliance would hold up under competing geopolitical aims.
The new agreement was interpreted by some French analysts as a way for Mr. Sarkozy to project himself on a global stage, drawing attention away from unpopularity in France, which is recovering from a sustained bout of strikes and protests over his push to raise the retirement age.
The French leader is “calling to the international scene for help,” said Sabine Syfuss-Arnaud, an editor at the economic magazine Challenges in Paris, evoking the memory of Mr. Sarkozy’s prominence during successive crises in 2008 when France held the rotating presidency of the European Union.
But the agreements with Britain also seemed a further step by Mr. Sarkozy towards defense cooperation.
France remained outside NATO’s integrated military command for 43 years until Mr. Sarkozy led it back to full participation in the alliance in 2009.
Some analysts also questioned whether the deals had been dictated in Britain’s case by its crippling debt following the global financial crisis.
“The most cynical observers in Paris stress that, if London hadn’t been trapped by a monumental deficit, this rapprochement would perhaps not have taken place,” Ms. Syfuss-Arnaud wrote.
British political analysts noted that the defense deals came against a fraught history that fueled centuries of mutual hostility before the two countries became allies in two world wars and the cold war.
Tabloid newspapers in London chronicled hostility dating to the Norman conquest of England at the Battle of Hastings in 1066 and on to many other fights.
“Oh, where to begin?” The Daily Express said. “In 1066 perhaps?”
John F. Burns reported from London and Alan Cowell from Paris. Scott Sayare and Maïa de la Baume contributed reporting from Paris.
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #1735 on: Nov 2nd, 2010, 09:16am »
The war the election forgot War sets the rhythm for military spouses like Veda Olechny. But for just about everyone else, it's easy to ignore, and in this turbulent election season there is little mention of Afghanistan or Iraq. By Faye Fiore and Mark Z. Barabak November 2, 2010
Reporting from Marydel, Del., and Los Angeles
It's easy to tell 1st Sgt. Patrick Olechny is away. The freezer is stocked with single-serving dinners. The TV is off and, at nearly 8 p.m., the living room is dark.
Olechny is at war in Afghanistan, on his fourth tour of combat duty. His wife, Veda, is waiting for his return — in time for Thanksgiving, she prays each night.
War sets the rhythm for military families like theirs: Home by 9, in case he beeps on Skype. Cellphone charged, in case he calls. No point buying pot roast; she can't finish it herself.
But for just about everyone else, the war is easy to ignore. In this turbulent election season — amid the talk of "tea parties" and the economy and President Obama's approval rating and the fight to control Congress and bailouts and deficits and fear and anger — there is little mention of Afghanistan or Iraq.
"I hate to say we've moved on, but politically and from an election standpoint there's nobody out there trying to prosecute this as an issue," said Evan Tracey, whose Campaign Media Analysis Group tracks political advertising nationwide. "There's no discussion in any detail in any campaign that I've seen at any level, state or federal."
Even here in the shadow of Dover Air Force Base, where the coffins come home, the political conversation is not about war but witchcraft — a youthful dalliance of Republican Senate hopeful Christine O'Donnell — and whether her Democratic rival, Chris Coons, was only joking when he described himself in a college essay as "a bearded Marxist."
Veda doesn't blame people for their inattention. They have troubles of their own. "People are busy with their lives because of the economy. It's understandable," she says. "A wife sitting at home waiting for a soldier to finish deployment, that's her focus every day. You want to tell people about it, then you realize they really aren't interested."
The United States is now in the ninth year of the longest conflict in its history, fought by 150,000 troops on the ground in Afghanistan and Iraq at a cost of more than $1 trillion. That is considerably more than the ultimate price of the much-debated Troubled Asset Relief Program, which bailed out automakers, banks and a handful of insurers.
Yet neither party has much incentive to discuss the fighting half a world away.
Democrats are pleased with the winding down of U.S. involvement in Iraq, but divided over Obama's decision to escalate efforts in Afghanistan; they don't want to pile onto a president already in political trouble.
Republicans, unhappy with Obama's opposition to the Iraq war when he ran for president, tend to agree with his approach in Afghanistan; but they aren't about to praise the Democratic commander in chief in the middle of the midterm campaign.
But for the Olechnys, avoidance is not an option.
He's 57, she's 56. They live in a double-wide trailer on two acres they bought 37 years ago on the Maryland- Delaware border. They grew up on the Delaware side, where chickens outnumber people 300 to 1.
He used to chase her around the playground in grade school. At 16, she was engaged. At 17, he joined the Army and went to Vietnam. She wrote him every day. They married as soon as he returned, before she even graduated.
Veda figured her husband's combat days were over, and for 25 years they were. He trained in Vietnam to fix helicopters, which proved a valuable skill back home. He was hired by the Army National Guard as a civilian mechanic. He also joined the Guard, which meant a weekend a month of soldiering and two weeks in the summer. She was OK with that.
Then in 1996, at age 43, he volunteered to go to Bosnia. Who goes to war at 43? And where is Bosnia? Veda was confused. Nine weeks later he came home in one piece. "I told him if he ever did that again I would divorce him," she remembers, laughing.
Years passed. Then came Sept. 11, 2001, followed by the war in Iraq. In the summer of 2004, Olechny's unit was called. "I swear Veda, I did not volunteer," he told her. It didn't matter. He had a skill his country needed. At 51, he was headed back to war.
The way the military is structured, service members and their families can be inconspicuous. The active-duty force is tucked away on far-off installations — Ft. Hood on the plains of Texas, Ft. Benning in the piney woods of Georgia.
"They train in remote areas, then get on a plane and go," said Norbert R. Ryan Jr., a retired Navy vice admiral and president of the Virginia-based Military Officers Assn. of America. "Out of sight, out of mind."
For members of the National Guard and Reserves — civilians like Olechny called up for war — the isolation seems even more acute. They are sprinkled throughout 3,000 or so communities across the country, attached to no base, no military housing, no ready group of people like them.
Veda can count on one hand the number of military households in Marydel, population 1,117, a half-hour drive from Dover. Amish buggies are a more familiar site than Army uniforms. When her husband left, she slept in his T-shirt for weeks.
"I cried an awful lot," she says, lighting a cigarette in the dining room, which serves as a shrine to her husband's service and reflects her efforts to stay busy. His first of two bronze stars is in a curio cabinet. The patriotic birdhouse she painted is a centerpiece.
In the months after the Iraq war began, the country was flush with patriotism and there seemed no end of support for the 1% of Americans fighting for everybody else. Soon enough, the military was showing the strain of multiple deployments and a vicious ground war: amputations, traumatic brain injuries, rising rates of suicide, divorce, prescription drug addiction. Few in the civilian world knew, or much cared.
The fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan has had much less impact than the war in Vietnam, which helped bring down a president and nearly tore the country apart.
"There are not as many people fighting," said Daniel Hallin, a UC San Diego political scientist who has written extensively on war and its coverage in the media. "There are not as many young people worrying about being drafted and sent there. No one goes unless they volunteer. That makes it less of an issue."
The year her husband spent in Iraq, Veda lived alone for the first time ever. Their son, P.J., was married and on his own. The separation was different from Olechny's time in Vietnam. Back then, with no cellphones or e-mail, Veda's only connection was the nightly news -- and she stayed glued. This time, she wanted nothing to do with war coverage that would only upset her. She drove straight home from her job as a unit manager at a credit card company and waited.
"I lived around his phone calls, stayed home instead of going out, afraid I would miss him," she says. When she knew his unit was flying a mission, and he didn't check in, she e-mailed: "Car 54, where are you?"
In 2005, Olechny came home to a yard studded with yellow ribbons and flags, four volunteer fire trucks and a gantlet of friends. "I told the general, 'That's it,' " Veda said, already planning her husband's retirement and the traveling they would do.
The retirement lasted two weeks. Aviation mechanics were in higher demand than ever for two wars that depend on aircraft to move troops and supplies and transport casualties. Olechny was asked back to his civilian job to fix helicopters part time. He stayed in the Guard, determined to serve 40 years.
In December, his unit — Company A 3/238 Aviation Battalion — was called to Afghanistan. Veda didn't bother to try to talk him out of it: "It gets in their blood."
It took a month before their dogs, Butchie and Mattie, stopped waiting for him at the door. She knew how they felt.
By then, the housing market had collapsed, Wall Street had nearly cratered, unemployment soared and the country's mind was firmly fixed on other problems.
In Washington, what Ryan, the former vice admiral, called the "Pearl Harbor moment" faded and with it the unflagging support for America's troops. A deficit-conscious Congress left town last month to campaign without passing the bill that pays for defense. When lawmakers return, they are set to approve the lowest military pay raises in nearly half a century.
"After almost 10 years of war and enormous sacrifice, that's the wrong message," Ryan said. "Wrong. Wrong. Wrong."
The laptop beeps in the corner of the Olechny dining room and Veda pulls up a chair. It's 9 p.m. A black clock is set for Afghanistan time: 5:30 a.m. Her husband's image from his plywood hut pops up. This is how he starts his day and she ends hers.
When the phone rings with campaign calls, Veda hangs up. No candidate is talking about a war she can't stop thinking about. She's not even sure she'll vote Tuesday.
This spring, Patrick Olechny will have met his goal of 40 years of service and Veda will have seen him through four wars. She has grown from a love-struck schoolgirl writing letters to her "Soldier Boy" (it was their song) to a battle-tested military wife and support group leader helping others hold on.
People sometimes tell her that after all this time she must have gotten used to it. Veda shakes her head.
"You never get used to it," she says. "You just get through it."
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #1736 on: Nov 2nd, 2010, 09:24am »
Sealed Courtroom Sought in High-Speed–Trading Code-Theft Case By Kim Zetter November 1, 2010 | 5:44 pm | Categories: Crime, Cybersecurity
Federal prosecutors in Manhattan have asked a judge to seal the courtroom in an upcoming corporate-espionage trial to protect the secret of Goldman Sachs’ controversial high-speed trading software.
Prosecutors in the Southern District of New York asked the judge last week to close the courtroom (.pdf) for portions of testimony involving the company’s proprietary software, and to seal exhibits and transcripts pertaining to the company’s trade secrets.
The case involves a Russia-born programmer who worked for Goldman Sachs until last year when authorities say he siphoned source code for the company’s valuable software on his way out the door. The software is used to make sophisticated, high-speed, high-volume stock and commodities trades and earns the company “many millions of dollars in profits” each year, according to prosecutors.
Sergey Aleynikov, 40, was arrested in July 2009 at the Newark Airport in New Jersey as he returned from a trip to Chicago, where he’d met with his new employers at a competing firm, Teza Technologies. After Aleynikov cooperated with agents and allowed searches of his computers and home, he was indicted seven months later on charges of unauthorized computer access, theft of trade secrets and interstate and foreign transport of stolen property. He’s scheduled to go on trial November 29.
Prosecutors wrote that if information about the investment bank’s software were made public “the very purpose of this trade-secret prosecution would be defeated and other victims of trade-secret thefts would be discouraged from reporting those crimes.” The Wall Street Journal reported first about the motion to seal.
In their motion, prosecutors also asked that evidence and arguments about the nation’s financial crisis not relevant to the case be excluded from the trial.
Specifically, prosecutors asked that information about Goldman Sachs’ receipt of funds from the government’s bank bailout program be excluded, as well as information about the company’s bonus pool, bonuses and salaries paid to Goldman Sachs employees other than programmers relevant to the case. They also want civil and regulatory proceedings involving Goldman Sachs to be precluded, and information about SEC investigations of, and proposed regulation of, high-frequency trading.
High-speed trading software has been in the crosshairs since a recent SEC investigation found that trading algorithms were responsible in part for a drastic one-day stock-market crash last May.
Prosecutors asserted in their motion that “the legality of high-frequency trading is not an issue here.”
Aleynikov, a naturalized American citizen from Russia who immigrated to the United States in 1991, earned nearly $400,000 a year as a vice president with Goldman Sachs, but his new job with Teza would have paid him about $1.2 million.
Authorities allege he stole “hundreds of thousands of lines” of source code from Goldman Sachs in the days before he left the company on June 5 last year. They allege that he downloaded various software from the Goldman Sachs network and transferred it to a storage website hosted in Germany before trying to erase his tracks from Goldman Sachs’ network. Company computer logs show that on at least two occasions, he transferred the data remotely while logged into his company’s network from his home computer. Prosecutors maintain that among the data he downloaded was source code constituting “a substantial portion of the company’s proprietary source code” related to high-speed trading.
At Aleynikov’s bail hearing last July, Assistant U.S. Attorney Joseph Facciponti called it “the most substantial theft that the bank can remember ever happening to it,” and said repeatedly that the theft constituted the company’s “entire platform” for high-speed trading.
Goldman Sachs only uncovered the theft in late June after it began monitoring https transfers and saw a large volume of data leaving its network, according to the complaint. The company initiated the monitoring after noticing suspicious activity on the network.
Aleynikov allegedly used a script to copy, compress, encrypt and rename files, and then upload them to the server in Germany. Once the data was transferred, the program used to encrypt the files was erased, and he allegedly attempted to delete the network’s batch history showing his activity.
Prosecutors said Aleynikov made several copies of the code and had it on his laptop when he flew to Chicago to meet his new employers at Teza Technologies, though they acknowledge that a search of Teza computers uncovered no copies of Goldman Sachs’ source code.
Aleynikov acknowledged taking the code but told FBI agents he only intended to collect “open source” software files on which he had worked, and that his collection of proprietary files on his last day of work had been inadvertent. His attorneys say he never gave the proprietary files to anyone else and that the portion of proprietary code he took inadvertently was miniscule — just 32 of about 1,224 megabytes of code — and hardly constituted the company’s “entire platform.”
Aleynikov’s attorney did not respond to a call for comment.
Goldman Sachs, itself, seemed to contradict prosecutors’ assessment of the importance of the alleged theft during an earnings call last year. Chief Financial Officer David Viniar told reporters that losses sustained as a result of the alleged theft would be “very, very immaterial.”
“We still have all of the code,” he said. “It is not like the code had been lost to Goldman Sachs. And even if it had been, it is a small piece of our business.”
According to the complaint, Aleynikov had been employed since May 2007 to develop Goldman Sachs’ trading software. The system allowed the company to swiftly process quickly changing market data and place automated trades based on the latest market conditions.
Companies can invest hundreds of millions of dollars in building their trading programs. It’s not unusual for firms to accuse former programmers and other employees of stealing proprietary code when they leave for a competitor, but such disputes are generally handled in civil court. In this case, Aleynikov was arrested two days after Goldman Sachs contacted the FBI with evidence that he had downloaded proprietary code.
A spokeswoman for the U.S. attorney’s office told Threat Level, “We will bring a criminal case when we think that criminal statues or laws have been violated.”
During discovery, Aleynikov’s attorneys have sought a number of documents from prosecutors and Goldman Sachs, including source code and UNIX and Slang scripts used by Goldman Sachs. They’ve also sought network logs showing https inbound and outbound connections to and from Aleynikov’s personal computer between March 1 and the time Aleynikov left the company, the full content of the company’s software build and developer directories, the content of trading parameter tables, as well as numerous other files and documents (.pdf).
Based on the request list, it’s likely that Aleynikov’s attorneys will argue in part that Goldman Sachs did little to protect its proprietary information. At a hearing last July, his then public defender Sabrina Schroff told the court, “If Goldman Sachs cannot possibly protect this kind of proprietary information that the government wants you to think is worth the entire United States market, one has to question how they plan to accommodate any other breach.”
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #1737 on: Nov 2nd, 2010, 09:29am »
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