Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #1755 on: Nov 3rd, 2010, 9:30pm »
Wired Danger Room
One Spy to Rule Them All: Top Spook Launches Push for Real Power By Spencer Ackerman November 3, 2010 | 1:55 pm Categories: Info War
Under an emerging deal hashed out between the Pentagon and the director of national intelligence, the country’s top spook might, for the first time, actually control the thousands of spies and contractors he’s responsible for overseeing. Just follow the money.
You might think the director of national intelligence actually runs the spy world. But that would make too much sense. In fact, as long as there’s been a “community” of spy agencies, the Defense Department has kept the intelligence budget (now totaling $80.1 billion annually) under the military thumb. That’s not really surprising, since the military’s intelligence services — the National Security Agency, the Defense Intelligence Agency, the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency and others — own the majority of big-ticket intel items like space satellites. But it has meant that functional control of the intelligence budget isn’t in the hands of the nation’s top spy, despite years’ of legislative and bureaucratic fixes to consolidate control of intelligence under a single official.
That could be coming to an end. At a Louisiana conference yesterday, James Clapper, the director of national intelligence, announced that he’s reached “at least conceptual agreement” with his old friend, Defense Secretary Robert Gates, to move the National Intelligence Program, the non-operational-military (read: CIA) part of the intel budget, over to his office. That’s $53.1 billion dollars — out of $80 billion — that Clapper or his successor will control by 2013. (The remaining $27 billion, for military intelligence activities, will remain in Pentagon hands.)
The details are still fuzzy, but it sounds like the director can for the first time shift money into spying priorities — and de-fund programs that aren’t working. The intelligence agencies now have to take greater notice of who’s in charge. Just last year, the CIA routed Clapper’s predecessor in a bureaucratic fight over who appointed the top spooks at overseas spying outposts. That’s a lot harder to do when Clapper’s office has influence over the agency’s cash.
Clapper had no problem bragging about the big bureaucratic victory. “That is one specific way to accrue more authority to [my office] in the oversight and execution of that funding,” he told the U.S. Geospatial Intelligence Foundation’s annual meeting.
It’s also a shift for Clapper himself. Congress created a director of national intelligence in 2004 to manage the 16 spy services, but didn’t actually write into the law mechanisms for the director to direct his own budget. Lawmakers have come to see that as a mistake, but haven’t fixed it. In his previous job heading up defense intelligence, Clapper didn’t mind the congressional error, preferring for the Pentagon to control the intel money — to the point where the Senate intelligence committee’s leadership initially balked at his nomination to be director.
But the new arrangement isn’t just good for Clapper. It’s in Gates’ interest. The Pentagon chief is trying to cut $100 billion in waste out of the defense budget for five years, an effort he says is necessary to preserve core military functions against future attempts at balancing the federal budget. With the stroke of a pen, $53 billion is no longer Gates’ problem. No wonder Clapper called it “win-win” for the Pentagon and the spy services.
The move also got cautious praise as a transparency measure. Steve Aftergood, an intelligence-policy analyst at the Federation of American Scientists who has fought for years to shine more sunlight into the intelligence budget, wrote that if Clapper can secure congressional support for the budget shift, he’ll remove “a source of pointless obfuscation, and thereby strengthen oversight and accountability.”
That’s a big if, though: Clapper and Gates will need to convince the congressional armed-service panels that they should turn over their authority over the lion’s share of the intel budget to their colleagues on the intelligence committees.
It’s also not even Clapper’s only big announcement at the conference. At his confirmation hearing, he said that the spy services had become too dependent on private contractors — the subject of a recent Washington Post expose.
In Louisiana, Clapper said he’ll start “smartly” cutting back on contract personnel over a period of years, starting with his own office staff, and he’ll expand the permanent intelligence workforce. Overall, he also pledged to trim the total spy budget — which is double what it was on 9/11. And he’s bringing in Major General Michael Flynn, the author of a harsh critique of intelligence practices in Afghanistan, to make sure spy agencies share information with each other across the federal and state governments.
There are a lot of details that need to be worked out, as the agreement with Gates is still “conceptual.” And already congressional staffers are giving anonymous not-so-fast quotes to the papers. But if Clapper can pull this off, then the country is a step closer to getting the spy agencies on the same page — something that the 9/11 Commission urged in order to prevent another terrorist attack.
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #1756 on: Nov 4th, 2010, 08:14am »
New York Times
After Engine Failure, Qantas Grounds A380 Fleet
Firefighters sprayed flame retardant on a Qantas Airbus A380 on Thursday after an engine exploded shortly after take-off from Singapore, forcing the plane to return for an emergency landing.
By KEVIN DREW and NICOLA CLARK HONG KONG — Published: November 4, 2010
Qantas Airways suspended all flights of its Airbus A380 jetliners on Thursday after an engine of the super-jumbo plane exploded shortly after take-off from Singapore, scattering pieces of debris over an Indonesian island and forcing the plane to return to Singapore for an emergency landing.
Alan Joyce, Qantas’s chief executive, said the Australian airline would suspend services on its fleet of six A380s “until we are confident that Qantas safety requirements have been met,” according to a statement on the airline’s Web site. Emma Kearns, a spokeswoman for Qantas, said that its Flight 32, bound for Sydney, returned to Singapore after one of the twin-decked jet’s four engines shut down over western Indonesia. She said the flight was carrying 433 passengers and 26 crew. The plane landed safely in Singapore at around 11:45 a.m. local time and the Australian government said there were no immediate reports of injuries.
The airline’s sober account of the incident came as local media broadcast images of the plane’s charred No. 2 engine — the outside engine on the left wing — being doused by fire engines at Singapore’s Changi International Airport. Television images from the island of Batam, Indonesia, showed local residents holding large chunks of metal that appeared to have come from the plane, some of them bearing red and white paint resembling the Qantas insignia.
The airline dismissed initial reports that the jetliner had crashed, which appeared to have been prompted by the evidence of debris and witness accounts of smoke coming from the wing.
Passengers who were on board Flight 32 said they heard what sounded like an explosion a few minutes after takeoff while in mid-air over western Indonesia.
The noise was “like a bang, like a shotgun going off, like a big loud gun,” Tyler Wooster, a passenger, told Australia’s Nine Network. “My whole body just went to jelly and I didn’t know what was going to happen as we were going down, if we were going to be OK.”
According to a report by the Aviation Safety Network, which keeps a database of aircraft incidents and accidents, Flight 32 suffered an “uncontained” engine failure six minutes after take-off from Singapore, which it said caused “substantial” damage to the plane. An uncontained engine failure is an extremely rare type of incident where components detach and fly off the main engine housing — often with explosive force.
“When turbines spin they do so at very high speed, generating tremendous amounts of energy,” said Paul Hayes, director of accidents and insurance at Ascend, an aviation consultancy in London. “The risk in this type of failure is that bits of hot metal go into the passenger cabin or penetrate part of the aircraft structure.”
The pilots were forced to dump fuel from the plane’s fully-loaded tanks before returning to the airport, in order to reduce the risk of a fire, it said.
The incident was the first such engine failure experienced by the A380, which entered service in 2007, said Justin Dubon, an Airbus spokesman. Currently, 37 of the super-jumbos — which can seat up to 800 passengers — are being flown by four airlines: Air France, Emirates, Lufthansa, Singapore and Qantas.
Those aircraft have so far completed roughly 21,400 flights. Previous mechanical problems with the A380 have been relatively minor, involving its fuel and braking systems, Mr. Dubon said.
Qantas’s A380s are equipped with Trent 900 engines manufactured by Rolls-Royce of Britain. Singapore Airlines, which operates 11 A380s, and Lufthansa, which flies three of the planes, also fit their A380s with the same engine type, Airbus said.
Spokespeople for Singapore Airlines and Lufthansa said they were monitoring the situation closely and were in touch with Rolls-Royce. But both carriers said they would continue to operate their A380s as scheduled, barring any directives from safety regulators.
A spokesman for Rolls-Royce in London said the company was “currently analyzing all of the available information and we are working closely with our customers to support their operations.”
(Rolls-Royce is a separate company from the carmaker,which is a subsidiary of BMW.)
The European Aviation Safety Agency, which regulates both Airbus and Rolls-Royce, said that it was working closely with Australian Safety Bureau investigators to determine the cause of the incident. “We take this issue very seriously,” said Jeremie Teahan, an E.A.S.A. spokesman in Cologne, Germany. “If a safety risk is identified, we will of course take appropriate measures,” which could include mandated repairs or replacement of defective parts, he said.
The emergency landing on Thursday was the latest malfunction this year for Qantas.
In late March, a Qantas Boeing 747 bound for Singapore was forced to return to Sydney after one of the plane’s pilots reported mechanical problems that affected one of the plane’s engines, according to Australian media. And on March 31, the airline reported that a brake had locked up as an A380 landed in Sydney, causing two of the plane’s tires to blow out.
On Aug. 31, the airline reported a “catastrophic failure” in an engine of a 747 flying from San Francisco to Sydney, according to The Australian newspaper. The jetliner safely returned to San Francisco.
Qantas flies the A380 to Singapore six days a week from Sydney and twice a week from Melbourne. It offers daily flights on the super-jumbo to Los Angeles from Sydney and three flights a week from Melbourne. The carrier also flies the A380 five times a week to London from Sydney and twice a week from Melbourne. Both London flights make stopovers in Singapore.
The Australian flag carrier has another 14 A380s on order from Airbus. Mr. Joyce, the chief executive, said Thursday’s incident would not affect those orders.
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #1757 on: Nov 4th, 2010, 08:19am »
New York Times
November 4, 2010 Greece Halts Overseas Mail as Bombs Cross Borders By NIKI KITSANTONIS
ATHENS — After a season of bitter and widespread protests over austerity measures to address its financial crisis, Greece faced new turmoil on Wednesday as the authorities investigated an elaborate bomb plot in which relatively mild explosive devices were sent to embassies in Athens as well as to the leaders of Italy and Germany.
The authorities suspended the shipment of foreign-bound letters and small packages for 48 hours.
“Democracy will not be terrorized,” said Prime Minister George Papandreou, whose beleaguered administration is preparing for local elections on Sunday.
“The irresponsible and mindless acts of those who aim to undermine the efforts of the Greek people to put the country and the economy back on track will not succeed,” he added Wednesday.
Mr. Papandreou insisted that the letter bombs were the work of domestic terrorists and that the plot was not connected to the powerful parcel bombs shipped from Yemen last week. Those bombs, which intelligence agencies believed had been sent by the Yemen-based group Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, were intercepted in Britain and Dubai on their way to Chicago.
The Greek police gave no new details of the composition of the letter bombs. One exploded Monday and two on Tuesday; one person suffered minor injuries.
Yet another suspicious package was destroyed by bomb disposal experts on Thursday after it was returned by the French embassy to a delivery service in the Athens area, the Associated Press reported. Police said the latest package contained a small amount of explosives. and the return address on the package was for offices of the Greek Orthodox Church. The explosives were hidden in a hollowed-out volume of the complete works of George Souris, a Greek satirical poet of the 19th century, Agence France-Presse reported. Two men who were arrested on Monday were identified Wednesday. One was Gerasimos Tsakalos, 24. More is known about the second, Panagiotis Argyrou, 22. He was charged with membership in a criminal organization and involvement in three attacks on Greek targets in 2009. A small left-wing group, Conspiracy of the Cells of Fire, claimed responsibility in each case.
The Greek authorities believe that the Conspiracy of the Cells of Fire has been involved in a number of attacks on government, political and business targets over the past two years. It is one of several militant groups that emerged amid the uproar after a teenager was fatally shot by the police in 2008. That broke a long lull in the country’s extensive history of domestic terrorism.
The bomb sent to the German leader, Chancellor Angela Merkel, was discovered during a routine X-ray scan of packages at the chancellery in Berlin, the president of the German federal police, Jörg Ziercke, said at a news conference in Wiesbaden on Wednesday. Mr. Ziercke added that investigators were being sent to Greece to examine letter bombs seized there to determine if they were built by the same people.
According to an initial assessment, he said, the device at the chancellery was identical.
Mr. Ziercke said that the bomb probably reached Germany on a plane but that anything more specific would be speculation.
In response to the new concerns about air cargo safety, European Union officials in Brussels called a meeting of air-security experts from member states for Friday to discuss technical issues. Interior ministers will also discuss the issue on Monday at a regularly scheduled meeting.
Michael Slackman contributed reporting from Berlin.
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #1758 on: Nov 4th, 2010, 08:26am »
Star Wars 3D holograms 'close to reality' Ever since Princess Leia used a hologram of herself to ask Obi Wan Kenobi for help in the film Star Wars, scientists have been trying to harness the same technology for real.
By Richard Alleyne, Science Correspondent Published: 6:00PM GMT 03 Nov 2010
But while they could send a 3D hologram down the line, it took minutes to update – making lifelike movement impossible.
Now a team led by Professor Nasser Peyghambarian, of Arizona University, have developed a way of updating the image every two seconds – making it close to "real time".
The ability to beam a moving hologram to anywhere in the world could lead to holographic teleconferences, 3D adverts, and a wealth of telemedicine, engineering and entertainment industry applications.
Prof Peyghambarian said: "Holographic telepresence means we can record a three-dimensional image in one location and show it in another location, in real time, anywhere in the world.
"This advance brings us a step closer to the ultimate goal of realistic holographic telepresence with high-resolution, full-colour, human-size, 3D images that can be sent at video refresh rates from one part of the world to the other."
At the heart of the system is a laser that burns an image on a screen every two seconds, making it the first to achieve a speed that can be described as "quasi-real-time" by Dr Pierre-Alexandre Blanche, co-author.
Dr Peyghambarian and colleagues had previously demonstrated a refreshable polymer display system, but it could refresh images only once every four minutes.
The new system can refresh images every two seconds – more than one hundred times faster – thanks to a material called a photorefractive polymer.
The images it can capture are almost as sharp as those broadcast on US television – opening up many more possible uses.
Holographs are created by mixing reflected laser light with a second laser beam to lay down a static image – typically a lengthy, complicated and delicate process.
But the ability to quickly refresh images could mean surgeons using holographs as a guide during operations or as a better way for pharmaceutical researchers to study molecular interactions for new drugs during simulations.
Two-dimensional images are taken at multiple angles in one location and sent elsewhere using computer network Ethernet and then printed with the hologram set-up.
Using a single-laser system for writing the images onto the photorefractive polymer, the researchers, can display visuals in colour.
While the current refresh rate for multicolour display is even slower than for monochromatic images the development suggests a true 3D, multicolour system may be feasible.
Lynn Preston, director of the National Science Foundation Engineering Research Centres programme in the US, said: "This breakthrough opens new opportunities for optics as a means to transport images in real time.
"Such a system can have an important impact on telepresence, telemedicine, engineering design and manufacturing and other applications. This is an early and tremendously important outcome from this three-year old centre."
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #1759 on: Nov 4th, 2010, 08:32am »
U.S. designates anti-government Iran militant group as terrorist. Jundallah has killed dozens of Iranians with the declared aim of defending the Baluch minority. Tehran has accused the U.S. of backing the group; some analysts see the U.S. move as a goodwill gesture.
By Paul Richter, Los Angeles Times November 4, 2010 Reporting from Washington
The State Department on Wednesday formally designated an Iranian anti-government group as a foreign terrorist organization, which some analysts took as a gesture of U.S. goodwill toward Tehran.
The group, Jundallah, is a Sunni Muslim organization that has killed dozens of Iranian civilians and military personnel with the declared aim of defending the Baluch minority in Iran's remote southeastern corner. Tehran has accused the United States of supporting the group to destabilize the government, and has demanded that Washington regard Jundallah as a terrorist organization.
The State Department said in a statement that since 2003 the group has used suicide bombings, ambushes, kidnapping and assassinations "resulting in the death and maiming of scores of Iranian civilians and government officials."
In May 2009, the group attacked a crowded Shiite Muslim mosque in the city of Zahedan, destroying the building and killing and wounding numerous worshipers, the State Department said. The group also has killed members of the Revolutionary Guard, the elite military arm at the center of power in Iran.
The U.S. designation "could be intended by the [American] government as a goodwill gesture," said Alireza Nader, an Iran specialist at the Rand Corp. in Virginia.
Western powers are hoping to resume negotiations with Iran this month over its disputed nuclear program.
However, Philip J. Crowley, the chief State Department spokesman, said the move was "not made to curry favor with the Iranian government.... This group is engaged in terrorism and it's trying to destabilize a sensitive region of the world."
The 47 designated terrorist groups are barred from receiving any U.S. government assistance and are subject to asset freezes and travel restrictions.
U.S. officials in Afghanistan have long pushed for the Obama administration to blacklist the group as a terrorist organization, hoping the move would help persuade Tehran to halt its support of the Taliban. But some analysts are skeptical that will be Iran's response.
Ray Takeyh, a former advisor on Iran to the administration who is now with the Council on Foreign Relations, said the Iranian government is so convinced of American conspiracies that "I don't know if they're persuadable.... They may see this as a conspiracy within a conspiracy."
The late leader of the Jundallah group, Abdulmalak Rigi, was shown on television confessing to support from high-ranking U.S. officials, who he said encouraged him to carry out attacks in the Iranian capital. He was put to death by hanging June 20.
The group follows a strict version of Sunni Islam similar to the puritanical version practiced by Osama bin Laden. Security experts suspect that it receives funds from sympathetic interests in the Arabian Peninsula. The group's current leadership denies having anything to do with the U.S.
Whether Jundallah has ties to Al Qaeda, as Iran contends, is a matter of debate.
The group's goals are sectarian, rather than jihadist, said Nader, the Rand expert. But it is still conceivable that there have been contacts between Jundallah and Al Qaeda, he said.
Crowley said the administration believes the group has no ties to Al Qaeda. He said reports that the U.S. government has supported Jundallah are incorrect.
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #1761 on: Nov 4th, 2010, 08:38am »
Stone Age Humans Needed More Brain Power to Make Big Leap in Tool Design
ScienceDaily (Nov. 3, 2010) —
Stone Age humans were only able to develop relatively advanced tools after their brains evolved a greater capacity for complex thought, according to a new study that investigates why it took early humans almost two million years to move from razor-sharp stones to a hand-held stone axe.
Researchers used computer modelling and tiny sensors embedded in gloves to assess the complex hand skills that early humans needed in order to make two types of tools during the Lower Palaeolithic period, which began around 2.5 million years ago. The cross-disciplinary team, involving researchers from Imperial College London, employed a craftsperson called a flintnapper to faithfully replicate ancient tool-making techniques.
Reporting in the online journal PLoS ONE, the team say that comparing the manufacturing techniques used for both Stone Age tools provides evidence of how the human brain and human behaviour evolved during the Lower Palaeolithic period.
Neuroscientist Dr Aldo Faisal, the lead author of the study from the Departments of Bioengineering and Computing at Imperial College London, says: "The advance from crude stone tools to elegant hand-held axes was a massive technological leap for our early human ancestors. Hand-held axes were a more useful tool for defence, hunting and routine work. Interestingly, our study reinforces the idea that tool making and language evolved together as both required more complex thought, making the end of the Lower Palaeolithic a pivotal time in our history. After this period, early humans left Africa and began to colonise other parts of the world."
Prior to this latest study, researchers have had different theories about why it took early humans more than 2 million years to develop stone axes. Some have suggested that early humans may have had underdeveloped motor skills or abilities, while others have suggested that it took human brains this time to develop more complex thoughts, in order to dream up better tool designs or think about better manufacturing techniques.
The researchers behind the study say that their evidence, from studying both tool-making techniques, confirms that the evolution of the early human brain was behind the development of the hand-held axe. Furthermore, the team suggest that the advancement of hand-held axe production may have also coincided with the development of language, as these functions overlap in the same regions of the modern and early human brains.
The flintnapper who participated in the study created two types tools including the razor-sharp flakes and hand-held axes. He wore a data glove with sensors enmeshed into its fabric to record hand and arm movements during the production of these tools.
After analysing this data, the researchers discovered that both flake and hand-held axe manufacturing techniques were equally complex, requiring the same kind of hand and arm dexterity. This enabled the scientists to rule out motor skills as the principal factor for holding up stone tool development.
The team deduced from their results that the axe-tool required a high level of brain processing in overlapping areas of the brain that are responsible for a range of different functions including vocal cords and complex hand gestures.
This is the first time that neuroscientists, archaeologists, anthropologists and flintnappers have teamed together, using cutting edge technology including data glove sensors and advanced modelling, to develop a deeper understanding of early human evolution.
In the future, the team plan to use their technology to compare tools made by Neanderthals, an extinct ancestor of humans, to glean insights into their brain development.
The study also included researchers from the Department of Anthropology, from Emory University; Department of Archaeology and Osteology, Gotland University College; and the Department of Archaeology, Exeter University.
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #1763 on: Nov 4th, 2010, 3:48pm »
description with video posted by cpezc:
At first you will think that these lights are reflections. That's what I thought as I was watching, but something made me keep looking at them. Keep watching. At 2:30 they move out of line and drift in a way that cannot be a reflection.
Also note that there is a flashing light (small) to the left of the line of larger lights, and also a small light to the right, which later joins a larger light (easier to see in higher def on BBC website).
Possibly even MORE dramatic - there is also a flat white line in the sky just above the horizon which changes into a dot and then dances around! This was filmed by the BBC in Dublin early this morning. Am I crazy?? This is from the BBC!
I would consider myself a skeptic, but this is just very odd. The BBC has not shown the interview again, but it is still on their website. I added some music which I think is appropriate. Look at it a few times and see what you think. Most of the action is towards the end (aside from the one near the horizon line which turns into a dot and moves around).
Physics Breakthrough Paves Way For Invisibility Cloak
Published November 04, 2010
It's been a staple of science fiction for years -- and a dream of scientists for nearly as long. Now researchers have taken a big step toward making a working invisibility cloak.
Scientists in the UK have developed a breakthrough flexible film that means Harry Potter’s “cloak of invisibility” is more scientific reality than magical wizardry, according to a report in the New Journal of Physics.
The novel material, called “Metaflex,” is composed of microscopic structures that form a “metamaterial” that has the ability to control and channel the flow of light on a fundamental level.
"Metamaterials give us the ultimate handle on manipulating the behavior of light," said Andrea Di Falco of the University of St Andrews, the lead author of the paper.
This ability to manipulate light is what allows metamaterials to create the illusion of invisibility -- a concept already applied to a number of fields including sonar-cloaking mechanisms for ships, submarines, and planes. Take the Stealth bomber for example, a plane that can be seen in visible light yet is difficult to detect with radar.
Achieving the effect in visible light is a much greater challenge, however, because the size of the metamaterial structures would have to be much smaller, according to Di Falco.
The laws of optics deem that light waves can be manipulated only by structures similar in size to their wavelength. Flexible metamaterials have been produced, but only in the high wavelength spectrum of light -- limiting the effect the deep reds.
She and her team have made a big step forward with Metaflex -- metamaterials small enough to interrupt visible light while also having the flexibility to accommodate clothing.
But recreating Harry Potter’s invisibility cloak isn’t high on the team’s agenda. Instead, they’re eager to apply the concept to disposable contact lenses as visual prostheses for people with impaired vision.