Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #1845 on: Nov 12th, 2010, 08:06am »
New York Times
November 11, 2010 Iran and Nigeria Discuss Seized Weapons By REUTERS
LAGOS, Nigeria (Reuters) — Iran’s foreign minister flew to Nigeria on Thursday to discuss an arms shipment that was seized by Nigerian officials last month and that diplomats have said could put Iran in breach of United Nations sanctions.
The foreign minister, Manouchehr Mottaki, has pledged his government’s cooperation with an investigation into the shipment of weapons, said the Nigerian foreign minister, Odein Ajumogobia. Nigeria’s secret service intercepted the shipment two weeks ago and found that it contained rockets and other explosives. The weapons were in containers that were labeled as construction materials and had been loaded in Iran by a local trader who did not appear on any sanctions list, a shipping group based in France, CMA CGM, has said.
“I had a productive meeting with the Iranian foreign minister this evening, and he has assured us of his government’s cooperation in our ongoing investigation regarding the arms shipment,” Mr. Ajumogobia said in a telephone interview.
Nigerian officials had said earlier that Iran’s ambassador had been summoned to discuss the weapons shipment.
Diplomats in New York said Iran would appear to be in breach of the sanctions approved by the United Nations Security Council, which forbids Iran from exporting any weapons directly or indirectly that were originally loaded on its territory. But the diplomats said it was difficult to assess the specifics about the shipment seized in Nigeria, because that country had not yet notified the Security Council’s Iran sanctions committee about the seizure.
A diplomat with access to intelligence on Iran said in New York that Mr. Mottaki had gone to Abuja, the Nigerian capital, to discuss the shipment and to secure permission to bring back to Tehran two Iranians connected with the shipment. The diplomat, who spoke anonymously under the rules of diplomacy, said the Iranians were at the Iranian Embassy in Abuja and that Tehran appeared reluctant to have them questioned by the Nigerian authorities.
Nigeria’s secret service said Wednesday that it had been monitoring the movement of the cargo before it entered Lagos in July and that there was no question that Nigeria had been the intended destination.
The weapons, which were shown to journalists in Lagos after the seizure, included 107-millimeter rockets, designed to attack static targets and used by armies to support infantry units. Security experts said the heavy rockets could have been intended for the Taliban in Afghanistan and Hamas in the Gaza Strip.
Israeli news media reports, citing Israeli defense officials, have suggested that the weapons may have been destined for Hamas and that the Iranians may have been testing a new smuggling route. Israel’s Foreign Ministry has declined to comment.
The seizure heightened concerns about national security in Nigeria, Africa’s most populous nation, months before elections that are expected to be fiercely contested. It also came weeks after car bombs killed at least 10 people near an independence day parade in Abuja on Oct. 1. Militants in the oil-producing Niger Delta claimed responsibility for the attacks. The Niger Delta rebels have been procuring weapons illegally for many years, although they have not been known to use anything as heavy as the arms seized in Lagos.
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #1846 on: Nov 12th, 2010, 08:14am »
Chinese vase: the suburban auction house that made £12m The small local auction house has never known anything like it but Bainbridges, the firm which sold a Chinese vase for £53m, made around £12m yesterday in half an hour from a single sale.
By Andy Bloxham and Martin Evans 1:45PM GMT 12 Nov 2010
The firm employs eight people, including the porter, just three of whom work full-time.
Its previous highest sale was £100,000, which it generated for a Ming enamel piece a few years ago.
The £53m vase was sold as one of 818 lots - including some which sold for just £10.
Peter Bainbridge, a partner and the firm's valuer, disclosed that he was so forceful when he finally brought down the hammer that he smashed it into pieces.
The effect on the firm, which is based in suburban Ruislip, Middlesex, is likely to be considerable.
Reflecting on the once-in-a-lifetime sale, Mr Bainbridge said: “In terms of turnover, this is a lifetime’s takings. There is no getting away from it: this is an awful lot of money and I have not got my head round it yet."
He added: “I will try to keep my feet on the ground - but they may be just a little better shod.”
The firm will take a gross income of around £12m, which is comprised of the premium of 20% paid by the buyer (£10,105,000) plus the seller's premium, which is not known but experts said was likely to be around 5% (or £2.15m).
To put the figure into context, Sotheby's and Christie's, the auctioneers, separately had a day's sale of Chinese items this week, which fetched around £14m and £13m respectively - in total.
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #1847 on: Nov 12th, 2010, 08:17am »
Nov. 12, 1935: You Should (Not) Have a Lobotomy By Tony Long November 12, 2010 | 7:00 am | Categories: 20th century, Health and Medicine, Tech Gone Bad
1935: The world’s first modern frontal leukotomy is performed in a Lisbon hospital by Portuguese neurologist Antonio Egas Moniz.
Moniz’s leukotomy (or leucotomy, from the Greek for “cutting white,” in this case the brain’s white matter) soon became popularly known as the lobotomy. It was not, however, the surgical procedure now generally associated with lobotomies. Rather, Moniz drilled two holes in the patient’s skull and injected pure alcohol into the frontal lobes of the brain to destroy the tissue, in an effort to alter the patient’s behavior.
Within a year of Moniz’s procedure at Lisbon’s Santa Marta Hospital, American neurosurgeons Walter Freeman and James Watts had performed the first prefrontal lobotomy in the United States. Their approach, which they would continue refining in subsequent surgeries, also involved drilling holes, but instead of using alcohol they surgically severed the nerves connecting the prefrontal cortex to the thalamus.
With various refinements, this became standard operating procedure for the prefrontal lobotomy.
Lobotomies were performed on patients suffering from severe mental disorders such as schizophrenia and clinical depression, although its use on people identified as having social disorders was not unknown. That the lobotomy succeeded in altering a person’s personality and behavior is beyond dispute, but the results were often drastic, and occasionally fatal.
The notion that a mental patient’s behavior could be modified for the good by psychosurgery had its roots in the work of Gottlieb Burckhardt, a 19th-century Swiss neurologist who performed a number of crude surgical lobotomies and declared the procedure generally successful. His documentation was almost nonexistent, however, and the view was never universally held in the medical fraternity.
Although Moniz would share the 1949 Nobel Prize in medicine for his pioneering work in psychosurgery, the lobotomy had not only fallen out of favor by the 1950s but was being excoriated as a barbaric practice. The Soviet Union banned the surgery in 1950, arguing that it was “contrary to the principles of humanity.” Other countries, including Germany and Japan, banned it, too, but lobotomies continued to be performed on a limited scale in the United States, Britain, Scandinavia and several western European countries well into the 1980s.
The United States performed more lobotomies — roughly 40,000 — than any other nation. Some very conspicuous failures, including a lobotomy that reduced John F. Kennedy’s elder sister, Rosemary, to a near-vegetative state, helped turn public opinion against the surgery.
Or, as the hard-drinking wit Dorothy Parker observed: “I’d rather have a bottle in front of me, than a frontal lobotomy.”
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #1848 on: Nov 12th, 2010, 08:21am »
Wired Danger Room
Darpa Wants to Sniff Your City’s Distinct Chemical Scent By Spencer Ackerman November 11, 2010 Categories: DarpaWatch
Don’t panic. But there’s a nontrivial chance terrorists will launch a chemical-weapon attack on U.S. soil. So the far-out researchers at Darpa are thinking about an unorthodox detection method: breathing in your city’s chemical bouquet. You’ve heard of racial and ethnic profiling? Here’s chemical profiling. Just imagine the privacy concerns.
In theory, chemical attacks can be detected before they happen. Even trace amounts of chemicals give off specific signatures that tools like sorbent tube samplers can register. But in order to figure out if dangerous chemicals are stockpiled somewhere or are floating through the air, the government’s going to have to know the baseline level for those chemicals wafting near your trash receptacle.
Darpa’s big idea, according to a new solicitation, is to collect trace elements of chemicals at different places in a city and then derive a model for determining that city’s chemical smell. It’ll have to vary with place, as high levels of petroleum-based chemicals are going to be more suspicious near a florist’s than at, say, a gas station.
Then Darpa wants researchers to represent the results in a “high-fidelity, three-dimensional chemical-composition map.” So-called “chemical cartography” is the first step in “identifying ‘dual-use’ substances with legal and illegal/illicit uses.”
For now, Darpa isn’t calling for any tools to actually track down anomalous amounts of chemicals. It just wants researchers to build models for chem maps, in order to prevent detection from becoming “prohibitively expensive” — that is, so guys with chemical-sampling canisters aren’t walking around each and every city block.
The data Darpa wants collected will include “chemical, meteorological and topographical data” from at least 10 “local urban sources,” including “residences, gasoline stations, restaurants and dry cleaning stores that have particular patterns of emissions throughout the day.”
Researchers will spend less than 30 minutes at each station taking chemical readings over a 48-hour period. Then they’ll adjust for atmospheric and environmental variables like wind speed, humidity and time of day — when, say, the dry cleaners’ is open to spew perchloroethylene vapor into the air — to account for the impact on chemical potency.
They’ll use that data to “predict concentrations down to trace gas concentrations of 10 parts per trillion” across a whole city. That’s where the maps get built.
They’ll have to include “labeled three-dimensional shape files for each focus area, as well as information about the types of infrastructure and activities present during data collection,” listing the “types of chemicals associated with various landmarks and activities.” And they’ll map fluctuations in chemical signatures across different times of year.
Of course, all this raises questions privacy concerns. Businesses and residents may not appreciate having Department of Defense-funded researchers taking chemical samplings on our near their property, especially for a project that will eventually go toward identifying would-be chem-terrorists.
The solicitation doesn’t have much interest in mapping areas of potential concern with much specificity. On the chemical maps, “labels may include ‘residential,’ ‘restaurant,’ etc.,” it reads.
“Useful metadata also may include imagery, databases of urban features (infrastructure, traffic patterns, etc.), and other sources of information.” But Darpa doesn’t say anything about who would own the maps or how they’d be used by the military, law enforcement or even regulatory agencies.
The Chemical Cartography project’s just in the beginning stages, so there’s no cash to hand out just yet. Darpa’s just seeking proposals for how researchers might build their models for the maps. They’ve got until Jan. 6 before Darpa decides who it wants to send sniffing around.
Published on 12 November 2010. | Written by T Frith
Boston residents appear to have sighted the very same mysterious blue UFO that appeared over Centerville, Va. a few nights ago.
Officials scoffed at the idea that it was even a UFO at all, let alone the same craft previously seen in Virginia. Witnesses, however, are convinced it was the either the same, or a similar blue visitor. Witnesses reported that the object showed up around 1:30 a.m. and stayed in the area for about two hours, appearing as a large circular shape that appeared to be able to alter its size.
The phenomenon in Centerville appeared as a blue beam of light that hovered over the ground and moved back and forth over the area for several minutes. It then moved quickly, but with no sound, out of the area. It was speculated that it could be part of a larger alien fleet of ships.
The UFO sighting in Boston was confirmed by the Defense Department and Homeland Security, but the two organizations didn’t make any other statements.
On the other hand, Harvard UFP experts said they were sure it was a UFO and speculated that it could be part of a larger alien fleet of ships.
These two visits by apparent unidentified flying object are part of a multitude of sightings world-wide and in other U.S. cities in the past few weeks. In Massachusetts, sightings such as this are tracked by the Mutual UFO Network, an organization with about 100 volunteer field operators. They log about 50 reports of UFOs each year.
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #1853 on: Nov 13th, 2010, 08:28am »
New York Times
November 12, 2010 I.R.S. Sits on Data Pointing to Missing Children By DAVID KOCIENIEWSKI
For parents of missing children, any scrap of information that could lead to an abductor is precious.
Three years into an excruciating search for her abducted son, Susan Lau got such a tip. Her estranged husband, who had absconded with their 9-year-old from Brooklyn, had apparently filed a tax return claiming the boy as an exemption.
Investigators moved quickly to seek the address where his tax refund had been mailed. But the Internal Revenue Service was not forthcoming.
“They just basically said forget about it,” said Julianne Sylva, a child abduction investigator who is now deputy district attorney in Santa Clara County, Calif.
The government, which by its own admission has data that could be helpful in tracking down the thousands of missing children in the United States, says that taxpayer privacy laws severely restrict the release of information from tax returns. “We will do whatever we can within the confines of the law to make it easier for law enforcement to find abducted children,” said Michelle Eldridge, an I.R.S. spokeswoman.
The privacy laws, enacted a generation ago to prevent Watergate-era abuses of confidential taxpayer information, have specific exceptions allowing the I.R.S. to turn over information in child support cases and to help federal agencies determine whether an applicant qualifies for income-based federal benefits.
But because of guidelines in the handling of criminal cases, there are several obstacles for parents and investigators pursuing a child abductor — even when the taxpayer in question is a fugitive and the subject of a felony warrant.
“It’s one of those areas where you would hope that common sense would prevail,” said Ernie Allen, president and chief executive of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. “We are talking about people who are fugitives, who have criminal warrants against them. And children who are at risk.”
About 200,000 family abductions are reported each year in the United States, most of which stem from custody disputes between estranged spouses. About 12,000 last longer than six months, according to Justice Department statistics, and involve parental abductors who assume false identities and travel the country to escape detection.
But, counterintuitive as it may seem, a significant number file one of bureaucracy’s most invasive documents, a federal tax return. A study released by the Treasury Department in 2007 examined the Social Security numbers of 1,700 missing children and the relatives suspected of abducting them, and found that more than a third had been used in tax returns filed after the abductions took place.
Criminologists say it is unclear what motivates a child abductor to file a tax return: confusion, financial desperation for a refund or an attempt to avoid compounding their criminal problems by failing to pay taxes. Whatever the reason, the details in a return on an abductor’s whereabouts, work history and mailing address can be crucial to detectives searching for a missing child.
“It doesn’t make a whole lot of sense,” said Harold Copus, a retired F.B.I. agent who investigated missing child cases, of why abductors provide such information. “But if they were thinking clearly, they wouldn’t have abducted their child in the first place.”
The law forbids the I.R.S. from turning over data from tax returns unless a parental abduction is being investigated as a federal crime and a United States district judge orders the information released. But the vast majority of parental abduction cases are investigated by state and local prosecutors, not as federal crimes, say investigators and missing children’s advocates. Even when the F.B.I. does intercede in parental abduction cases, requests for I.R.S. data are rarely granted.
When the Treasury Department study identified hundreds of suspected abductors who had filed tax returns, for instance, a federal judge in Virginia refused to issue an order authorizing the I.R.S. to turn over their addresses to investigators. The judge, Leonie M. Brinkema, declined to discuss her decision.
Advocates for missing children say that federal judges often argue that parental abductions are better suited to family court than criminal court.
“There’s this sense that because the child is with at least one of their parents, it’s not really a problem,” said Abby Potash, director of Team Hope, which counsels parents who are searching for a missing child. Ms. Potash’s son was abducted by a relative and kept for eight months before he was recovered. “But when you’re the parent who’s left behind, it is devastating. You’re being robbed of your son or daughter’s childhood.”
In Ms. Lau’s case, her search for her missing son dragged on for two years after the I.R.S. refused investigators’ request for her ex-husband’s tax return. She actually got the tip from the I.R.S., which disallowed her request to claim the boy on her own tax return because someone else had. The boy was eventually found in Utah, after his photo appeared in a flier distributed by missing children’s groups, and he was reunited with his mother at age 15 — five years after they were separated.
I.R.S. officials are quick to point out that they have worked closely with missing children’s advocates in some areas. The I.R.S.’s “Picture Them Home” program has included photos of thousands of missing children with forms mailed to millions of taxpayers since 2001. More than 80 children were recovered with the help of that program.
Still, attempts to change the law to give the tax agency more latitude have sputtered over the last decade. Dennis DeConcini, a former Democratic senator from Arizona, lobbied for the change in 2004 on behalf of a child advocacy group, but said that it never gained traction because some members of Congress feared that any release of I.R.S. data could lead to a gradual erosion of taxpayer privacy. In recent years, much of the legislation involving missing children has focused on international abductions.
One problem missing children’s advocates have wrestled with in proposing legislation is determining how much information the I.R.S. should be asked to release from a suspected abductor’s tax return. Should disclosure be required only if a child’s Social Security number is listed on a return? Should child abduction investigators be given only the address where a tax return was mailed? Or the location of an employer who has withheld taxes on a suspected abductor?
Griselda Gonzalez, who has not seen her children since 2007, holds fleeting hope that some type of information might reunite her family. Diego and Tammy Flores were just 2 and 3 years old when their father took them from their home in Victorville, Calif., for a weeklong visit and never returned. After Ms. Gonzalez reported their disappearance, a felony warrant for kidnapping was issued for the father, Francisco Flores. His financial records suggest he meticulously planned his actions for months — withdrawing money from various accounts and taking out a second mortgage — so Ms. Gonzalez doubts he would claim the children as dependents on a tax return.
But it gnaws at her that some federal laws seemed more concerned with the privacy of a fugitive than the safety of children.
“When your kids are taken from you, the hardest part is at night, thinking about them going to sleep,” she said. “You wonder who’s tucking them in, who will hug them if they have a bad dream or taking them to the bathroom if they wake up. And you ask yourself whether you’ve done everything possible to find them.”
“It would be good to know that you tried everything,” she said.
Missing children’s advocates see the I.R.S. data as a potentially powerful resource.
“There are hundreds of cases this could help solve,” said Cindy Rudometkin of the Polly Klaas Foundation. “And even if it helped solve one case — imagine if that child returned home was yours.”
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #1854 on: Nov 13th, 2010, 08:32am »
New York Times
November 12, 2010 Defying Trend, Canada Lures More Migrants By JASON DePARLE
WINNIPEG, Manitoba — As waves of immigrants from the developing world remade Canada a decade ago, the famously friendly people of Manitoba could not contain their pique.
What irked them was not the Babel of tongues, the billions spent on health care and social services, or the explosion of ethnic identities. The rub was the newcomers’ preference for “M.T.V.” — Montreal, Toronto or Vancouver — over the humble prairie province north of North Dakota, which coveted workers and population growth.
Demanding “our fair share,” Manitobans did something hard to imagine in American politics, where concern over illegal immigrants dominates public debate and states seek more power to keep them out. In Canada, which has little illegal immigration, Manitoba won new power to bring foreigners in, handpicking ethnic and occupational groups judged most likely to stay.
This experiment in designer immigration has made Winnipeg a hub of parka-clad diversity — a blue-collar town that gripes about the cold in Punjabi and Tagalog — and has defied the anti-immigrant backlash seen in much of the world.
Rancorous debates over immigration have erupted from Australia to Sweden, but there is no such thing in Canada as an anti-immigrant politician. Few nations take more immigrants per capita, and perhaps none with less fuss.
Is it the selectivity Canada shows? The services it provides? Even the Mad Cowz, a violent youth gang of African refugees, did nothing to curb local appetites for foreign workers.
“When I took this portfolio, I expected some of the backlash that’s occurred in other parts of the world,” said Jennifer Howard, Manitoba’s minister of immigration. “But I have yet to have people come up to me and say, ‘I want fewer immigrants.’ I hear, ‘How can we bring in more?’ ”
This steak-and-potatoes town now offers stocks of palm oil and pounded yams, four Filipino newspapers, a large Hindu Diwali festival, and a mandatory course on Canadian life from the grand to the granular. About 600 newcomers a month learn that the Canadian charter ensures “the right to life, liberty and security” and that employers like cover letters in Times New Roman font. (A gentle note to Filipinos: résumés with photographs, popular in Manila, are frowned on in Manitoba.)
“From the moment we touched down at the airport, it was love all the way,” said Olusegun Daodu, 34, a procurement professional who recently arrived from Nigeria to join relatives and marveled at the medical card that offers free care. “If we have any reason to go to the hospital now, we just walk in.”
“The license plates say ‘Friendly Manitoba,’ ” said his wife, Hannah.
“It’s true — really, really true,” Mr. Daodu said. “I had to ask my aunt, ‘Do they ever get angry here?’ ”
Canada has long sought immigrants to populate the world’s second largest land mass, but two developments in the 1960s shaped the modern age. One created a point system that favors the highly skilled. The other abolished provisions that screened out nonwhites. Millions of minorities followed, with Chinese, Indians and Filipinos in the lead.
Relative to its population, Canada takes more than twice as many legal immigrants as the United States. Why no hullabaloo?
With one-ninth of the United States’ population, Canada is keener for growth, and the point system helps persuade the public it is getting the newcomers it needs. The children of immigrants typically do well. The economic downturn has been mild. Plus the absence of large-scale illegal immigration removes a dominant source of the conflict in the United States.
“The big difference between Canada and the U.S is that we don’t border Mexico,” said Naomi Alboim, a former immigration official who teaches at Queens University in Ontario.
French and English from the start, Canada also has a more accommodating political culture — one that accepts more pluribus and demands less unum. That American complaint — “Why do I have to press 1 for English?” — baffles a country with a minister of multiculturalism.
Another force is in play: immigrant voting strength. About 20 percent of Canadians are foreign born (compared with 12.5 percent in the United States), and they are quicker to acquire citizenship and voting rights. “It’s political suicide to be against immigration,” said Leslie Seidle of the Institute for Research on Public Policy, a Montreal group.
Some stirrings of discontent can be found. The rapid growth of the “M.T.V.” cities has fueled complaints about congestion and housing costs. A foiled 2006 terrorist plot brought modest concern about radical Islam. And critics of the refugee system say it rewards false claims of persecution, leaving the country with an unlocked back door.
“There’s considerably more concern among our people than is reflected in our policies,” said Martin Collacott, who helped create the Center for Immigration Policy Reform, a new group that advocates less immigration.
Mr. Collacott argues high levels of immigration have run up the cost of the safety net, slowed economic growth and strained civic cohesion, but he agrees the issue has little force in politics. “There’s literally no one in Parliament willing to take up the cudgel,” he said.
The Manitoba program, started in 1998 at employers’ behest, has grown rapidly under both liberal and conservative governments. While the federal system favors those with college degrees, Manitoba takes the semi-skilled, like truck drivers, and focuses on people with local relatives in the hopes that they will stay. The newcomers can bring spouses and children and get a path to citizenship.
Most are required to bring savings, typically about $10,000, to finance the transition without government aid. While the province nominates people, the federal government does background checks and has the final say. Unlike many migrant streams, the new Manitobans have backgrounds that are strikingly middle class.
“Back home was good — not bad,” said Nishkam Virdi, 32, who makes $17 an hour at the Palliser furniture plant after moving from India, where his family owned a machine shop.
He said he was drawn less by wages than by the lure of health care and solid utilities. “The living standard is higher — the lighting, the water, the energy,” he said.
The program has attracted about 50,000 people over the last decade, and surveys show a majority stayed. Ms. Howard, the immigration minister, credits job placement and language programs, but many migrants cite the informal welcomes.
“Because we are from the third world, I thought they might think they are superior,” said Anne Simpao, a Filipino nurse in tiny St. Claude, who was approached by a stranger and offered dishes and a television set. “They call it friendly Manitoba, and it’s really true.”
One complaint throughout Canada is the difficulty many immigrants have in transferring professional credentials. Heredina Maranan, 45, a certified public accountant in Manila, has been stuck in a Manitoba factory job for a decade. She did not disguise her disappointment when relatives sought to follow her. “I did not encourage them,” she said. “I think I deserved better.”
They came anyway — two families totaling 14 people, drawn not just by jobs but the promise of good schools.
“Of course I wanted to come here,” said her nephew, Lordie Osena. “In the Philippines there are 60 children in one room.”
Every province except Quebec now runs a provincial program, each with different criteria, diluting the force of the federal point system. The Manitoba program has grown so rapidly, federal officials have imposed a numerical cap.
Arthur Mauro, a Winnipeg business leader, hails the Manitoba program but sees limited lessons for a country as demographically different as the United States. “There are very few states in the U.S. that say, ‘We need people,’ ” he said.
But Arthur DeFehr, chief executive officer of Palliser furniture, does see a lesson: choose migrants who fill local needs and give them a legal path.
With 11 million illegal immigrants in the United States, he sees another opportunity for Manitoba. “I’m sure many of those people would make perfectly wonderful citizens of Canada,” he said. “I think we should go and get them.”
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #1855 on: Nov 13th, 2010, 08:35am »
GOP's transition leader says common sense 'an endangered species' in D.C. By Michael O'Brien 11/13/10 06:00 AM ET
Republicans are working to make sure the House of Representatives functions better than ever, the leader of the GOP's effort to transition into power said Saturday.
Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.), incoming Speaker John Boehner's (R-Ohio) pick to lead the Republican transition into the majority in the House, outlined the reform the GOP would look to undertake.
"For too long, Washington has been doing what’s best for Washington, and they get away with it," Walden said in the Republican weekly radio address. "Too often, accountability counts for nothing, and transparency for even less, and common sense -- well, it’s an endangered species."
“That’s why our leader, John Boehner, has pledged to run the House of Representatives differently than it’s been run in the past – by both parties," Walden added. "And he’s asked me to lead a transition effort designed to ensure our new majority will be ready to serve as the people’s voice and implement the proposals that Americans are demanding."
Walden and his transition team kicked off meetings at the Capitol this past week to listen to suggestions for reforms and changes Republicans might make when they formally take control of the House in January.
Already, Republicans have signaled some of the tweaks they'll make. Incoming House Rules Committee Chairman David Dreier (R-Calif.) asked that cameras be installed in his committee room. Walden also said that the GOP was examining the time in which a bill is posted online before it faces a vote by lawmakers, as well as ways to cut the cost of running Congress.
But the Oregon Republican also made his pitch to Americans to contribute ideas online, through Boehner's website.
"We invite Americans from all walks of life to visit GOPLeader.gov/NewMajority where you can submit your ideas. We’ve already received hundreds of ideas from across the country," he said. "Whether you associate with one party, no party, or the Tea Party, we want to hear from you."
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #1856 on: Nov 13th, 2010, 08:41am »
Hubble Helps Build Most-Detailed Dark Matter Map Yet By Lisa Grossman November 12, 2010 | 1:51 pm | Categories: Space
Using the Hubble Space Telescope and a cosmic magnifying glass effect, astronomers have put together one of the most detailed maps yet of dark matter in a giant galaxy cluster.
Dark matter is the stubborn, invisible stuff that makes up nearly a quarter of the mass and energy of the universe, but refuses to interact with ordinary matter except through gravity. The only way to know dark matter is there at all is by observing how its mass warps and tugs at visible matter.
When a lot of dark matter clumps together, as in massive galaxy clusters that contain hundreds or thousands of galaxies, it can act as an enormous magnifying glass for even more distant galaxies. The cluster’s gravity stretches and distorts the light from galaxies behind it like a fun house mirror. Astronomers on Earth see multiple warped images of each galaxy, a phenomenon called gravitational lensing.
Gravitational lensing can give a good idea of how much dark matter is in a cluster, but up until now astronomers had to guess at where exactly the dark matter was.
Now, using an image from Hubble’s Advanced Camera for Surveys, astronomers have built a high-resolution map of exactly where the dark stuff lurks in a galaxy cluster called Abell 1689.
“Other methods are based on making a series of guesses as to what the mass map is, and then astronomers find the one that best fits the data,” said astronomer Dan Coe of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in a press release. “Using our method, we can obtain, directly from the data, a mass map that gives a perfect fit.”
Abell 1689 lies 2.2 billion light-years away and contains about 1,000 galaxies and trillions of stars. By combining the Hubble image with earlier observations, astronomers picked out 135 multiple images of 42 background galaxies.
“The lensed images are like a big puzzle,” Coe said. “Here we have figured out, for the first time, a way to arrange the mass of Abell 1689 such that it lenses all of these background galaxies to their observed positions.”
Coe and colleagues superimposed the locations of dark matter in the cluster (shown in blue, above) onto the Hubble image. The results, which appear in the Nov. 10 Astrophysical Journal, confirmed that Abell 1689 has more dark matter packed closer together than astronomers expected for a cluster its size.
That extra bulk could indicate that galaxy clusters formed earlier in the history of the universe than astronomers thought. Dark matter’s gravity pulls matter together, but it’s countered by another, even more mysterious force called dark energy, which pushes matter apart. Once dark energy became an important player in the early universe, galaxy clusters would have had a hard time sticking together.
“Galaxy clusters, therefore, would had to have started forming billions of years earlier in order to build up to the numbers we see today,” Coe said. “At earlier times, the universe was smaller and more densely packed with dark matter. Abell 1689 appears to have been well fed at birth by the dense matter surrounding it in the early universe. The cluster has carried this bulk with it through its adult life to appear as we observe it today.”
More data is still to come from a project called CLASH (Cluster Lensing And Supernova survey with Hubble), which will aim Hubble at 25 galaxy clusters for a total of one month over the next three years.
Image: NASA, ESA, D. Coe (NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory/California Institute of Technology, and Space Telescope Science Institute), N. Benitez (Institute of Astrophysics of Andalusia, Spain), T. Broadhurst (University of the Basque Country, Spain), and H. Ford (Johns Hopkins University)
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #1857 on: Nov 13th, 2010, 08:51am »
Biology is about to get seriously weird. By Annalee Newitz
Paul Nurse, who won the 2001 Nobel Prize for physiology, said in a speech recently that biology is about to go through a revolution similar to what physics experienced after the discovery of quantum mechanics.
The Guardian has an interesting excerpt from Nurse's speech earlier this year, where he asserted that everything we know about biology is about to change. He talks about how we once believed DNA was simple, with each gene producing one protein, but now we know that DNA is a complex, information-processing system.
As the Guardian summarizes:
The structure of DNA may be elegant and may reveal the mechanism that controls heredity, but its real importance lies with the way it stores digital information. Nor is it the only system in a living being that stores and processes information. The cell can be seen as a tiny computer, for example.
Understanding how the different parts of the body process information and then distribute it is the next task facing modern biology, says [Nurse]. How does homeostasis – the mechanism by which an organism maintains its biological status quo – work? And how do cells communicate with each other?
Understanding these networks will reveal "a strange, counterintuitive world", insists Nurse.
Perhaps we'll even discover that genes work at a quantum level.
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #1858 on: Nov 13th, 2010, 08:57am »
Geek Tyrant by Tiberius 12 Nov 2010
The film is directed by Martin Campbell and stars Ryan Reynolds, Blake Lively, Peter Sarsgaard, Tim Robbins, Mark Strong, Taika Waititi, Temuera Morrison, Angela Bassett, Jay O. Sanders and Jon Tenney.
It opens in theaters everywhere on June 17, and I predict it will be one of the big blockbusters of the summer. What are your thoughts?
[From Venkman - Finally we see Hal Jordan in the Green Lantern suit! I love the look and style of the CGI costume. The effects are still being worked on so what we see here is still unfinished, but it gives you a solid idea of what is in store for us! I also like the tone of the film, and the fun little comedic moments that suits Reynolds' personality.]
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #1859 on: Nov 13th, 2010, 3:31pm »
Operation In Their Boots (OITB) is a unique filmmaking fellowship in which Brave New Foundation commissions five veterans from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to produce and direct their own documentary films.
This is a rare opportunity for these veterans to communicate directly, through the powerful medium of documentary film, what they have witnessed and experienced, on and off the battlefield, and how these experiences have impacted their lives and the lives of people around them. The films these veterans are producing reflect a range of styles, tone and point-of-view. Whether their films are character-driven, autobiographical or focus on a specific subject, the filmmakers and will express what it’s really like to be In Their Boots.