Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #1923 on: Nov 19th, 2010, 5:14pm »
US tanks go in to Afghanistan amid warnings over air strikes toll. Military to deploy heavily armoured tanks to Afghanistan for the first time as the US escalates its assault on the Taliban
by Chris McGreal in Washington guardian.co.uk Friday 19 November 2010 18.59 GMT
The number of 'special operations' missions targeted at Taliban leaders has more than tripled since General David Petraeus took over as Nato commander in Afghanistan in July. Photograph: Finbarr O'Reilly/Reuters
The US is escalating its assault on the Taliban with a sharp rise in bombing and missile raids, more relaxed rules on the destruction of civilian property and the deployment of heavily armoured M1 Abrams tanks to Afghanistan for the first time.
But aid groups warned today that the dramatic increase in air strikes in recent months is contributing to "rapidly deteriorating" security for most Afghans and what is expected to be a rising number of civilian casualties.
The shift away from the previous emphasis on protecting civilians from the insurgents has drawn stinging criticism from the Afghan president, Hamad Karzai, but American military commanders say that it is working.
The number of "special operations" missions targeted at Taliban leaders has more than tripled since General David Petraeus took over as Nato commander in Afghanistan in July. Nato planes dropped about 1,000 bombs and missiles last month, more than at any time since the early stages of the war in 2001.
One US official told the Washington Post that the new strategy is forcing back the Taliban.
"We've taken the gloves off, and it has had huge impact," the official said.
The military's claim of new successes with aggressive tactics appears in part aimed at strengthening Petraeus's hand at the Nato meeting in Lisbon. It will also be used by the general to argue that his military strategy is producing results when the White House reviews the conduct of the war next month.
The Americans say they plan to deploy a company of M1 Abrams tanks, considered among the most lethal of US military vehicles with an ability to destroy buildings more than a mile away. The fast 68-tonne tanks will be used by US marines in Helmand province where the Americans say the Taliban are equipped with weapons such as rocket propelled grenades.
Under Petraeus's predecessor, General Stanley McChrystal, who was sacked by the White House over criticism of his civilian superiors, the US counter-insurgency strategy laid a heavy emphasis on separating and protecting Afghan civilians from the Taliban.
Although that is not being formally abandoned, Petraeus has decided to take the fight to the insurgents and American forces have taken a more aggressive stance.
McChrystal's emphasis on protecting civilian lives did not sit well with many in the military, including front line troops who were prevented, for example, from destroying houses that might be used to hide roadside bombs or provide shelter for attack. American troops now routinely destroy houses they believe to be a threat. But the shift has angered Karzai who has argued that night raids by special forces and other tactics are fuelling support for the Taliban.
A report by Oxfam and about 30 other foreign and Afghan aid agencies today said that the more aggressive tactics, particularly the air strikes, threaten to reverse a reduction in civilian deaths caused by foreign forces.
Restraints on the use of air power by Nato led to a 30% drop in deaths and injuries caused by foreign forces in the first six months of this year against the same period in 2009. However, those restraints have now been eased.
"Security for the vast majority of Afghans is rapidly deteriorating. It is likely that increased violence in 2011 will lead to more civilian casualties," the report said
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #1924 on: Nov 19th, 2010, 5:29pm »
Kryptos Artist Launches Website to Receive Solutions By Kim Zetter November 19, 2010 | 4:37 pm | Categories: Crypto
Start your engines, Kryptos fans. Artist Jim Sanborn, the creator of the CIA’s Kryptos sculpture, has launched his new website which he built in conjunction with a much-anticipated clue he’s scheduled to release in a New York Times story this weekend.
The site Kryptos Clue: http://kryptosclue.com/clue/clue.html appeared this week. It’s meant to provide an automated way for people to contact Sanborn with their proposed solutions to the puzzle. The site consists of a single page with an online form for solvers to submit the first 10 characters of their proposed solution to the puzzle.
Sanborn created the cipher sculpture in 1990 for CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia, and plans to release a new clue to help puzzle detectives solve the last 97 characters of his masterpiece. The new clue is to be revealed to mark the 20th anniversary of the sculpture, which was dedicated Nov. 3, 1990.
It will be the first clue Sanborn has revealed in four years, after he corrected a typo in his sculpture in 2006 to keep crypto detectives from being derailed in their search for solutions.
Sanborn wouldn’t disclose the clue to Threat Level but said only cryptically that it will “globalize” the sculpture. Asked if this meant it would take the sculpture off the CIA grounds and out of the United States, he conceded it would.
“I personally think it’s a significant clue,” he said. “I’m throwing it out there. It just makes that many fewer characters people have to figure out.”
The 12-foot-high, verdigrised copper, granite and wood sculpture is inscribed with four encrypted messages, three of which have been solved. The sculpture’s theme is intelligence-gathering (Kryptos is Greek for “hidden”). Three of the four have already been cracked, but the last one — consisting of just 97 characters — has confounded amateur and professional cryptographers for 20 years.
Sanborn has been contacted over the years by numerous people who believed they’d solved the puzzle. Many of the solutions they proposed were wildly off-base. He told Threat Level that with the launch of his new site, anyone who thinks they’ve solved the last section will have to submit what they believe are the first 10 characters of the final 97 before he will respond.
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #1925 on: Nov 20th, 2010, 08:06am »
New York Times
November 20, 2010 NATO Leaders Seek Time on Afghan Exit Strategy By JUDY DEMPSEY
LISBON — NATO leaders began talks on Saturday over an exit strategy from Afghanistan, pledging to remain in the country to assist with training, logistics and advising even as troops are withdrawn, said NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen.
“We are committed to Afghanistan in the long term,” Mr. Rasmussen said in the presence of Afghan President Hamid Karzai, President Obama and the other 27 leaders on the second day of the NATO summit here.
NATO intends next year to begin phasing out its military presence in Afghanistan — over 150,000 troops, including over 100,000 U.S. soldiers —and hopes to complete it by 2014.
Public opinion across Europe and in the United States is increasingly opposed to the war in Afghanistan. But with a shift from combat operations to police and army training, diplomats here said they hoped they could buy some time with the public instead of rushing out of Afghanistan. At the same time, Mr. Karzai is pushing for greater Afghan control.
Gen. David H. Petraeus, the top U.S. and NATO commander in Afghanistan, was expected to make a closed-door presentation setting out his vision of how to make a transition to Afghan control that could increase stability in the country.
Diplomats said Gen. Petraeus is expected to emphasize the need for more military operations this year with many more U.S. combat troops in order to weaken the Taliban.
After the NATO-Afghan meeting, leaders turn their attention to a summit with President Dmitri A. Medvedev of Russia on Saturday afternoon.
NATO, which has been seeking much closer cooperation with Russia over Afghanistan, expects to sign agreements to expand the alliance’s supply routes to Afghanistan through Russia as well as set up a new training program in Russia for counter-narcotics agents from Afghanistan and other Central Asian countries. NATO and Russia are also close to agreeing to a program to provide training to Afghan helicopter crews.
However, it is still unclear if Russia will participate in Mr. Obama’s plans to build a missile shield over Europe.
NATO leaders agreed Friday night on the missile shield but the exact details over cost and command and control of the shield still have to be worked out.
“It offers a role for all of our allies,” Mr. Obama told reporters Friday. “It responds to the threats of our times. It shows our determination to protect our citizens from the threat of ballistic missiles.”
Mr. Obama did not mention Iran by name, acceding to the wishes of NATO member Turkey, which had threatened to block the deal if its neighbor was singled out.
And while the U.S. has invited Russia to participate, European diplomats, speaking on condition of anonymity Saturday, said NATO and Russia would probably agree to develop two separate systems but eventually connect them.
Under the arrangement, a limited system of U.S. anti-missile interceptors and radars already planned for Europe — to include interceptors in Romania and Poland and possibly radar in Turkey — would be linked to expanded European-owned missile defenses. That would create a broad system that protects every NATO country against medium-range missile attack.
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #1926 on: Nov 20th, 2010, 08:09am »
New York Times
November 19, 2010 N. Korea Seen Working on New Reactor By MARK McDONALD
SEOUL, South Korea — New satellite images of a North Korean nuclear site and a recent visit to the North by two American experts suggest that North Korea has started work on a new reactor.
The Institute for Science and International Security, a nuclear research group in Washington, said it had obtained photographs showing “construction activity at the site of the destroyed cooling tower for the disabled reactor” at Yongbyon.
Charles L. Pritchard, a former special envoy for negotiations with North Korea who is the president of the Korea Economic Institute, a policy group, toured the Yongbyon site during a five-day trip to North Korea this month. He said he was told by North Korean officials that they were building an experimental light-water reactor.
Mr. Pritchard was accompanied by Siegfried S. Hecker, emeritus director of the Los Alamos Nuclear Laboratory. Mr. Hecker told the security institute that “the new construction seen in the satellite imagery is indeed the construction of the experimental light-water reactor.”
Light-water reactors are typically used to generate electricity for civilian purposes and are considered relatively safe in terms of proliferation risks. Experts at the institute estimated that a new reactor with a capacity of about 30 megawatts would require several tons of low-enriched uranium to start up, and another ton every year as “reloads.”
“These values could vary depending on the design of the reactor and whether it will be optimized for electricity production or weapon-grade plutonium production for weapons,” the security institute said in a report.
The new structure — reinforced concrete foundations and a steel frame — was still in its early stages. The expected completion date would probably be before April 15, 2012, the 100th anniversary of the birth of Kim Il-sung, the founding president of the North Korean state.
The South Korean Defense Ministry declined on Friday to comment on the reports.
North Korea demolished the cooling tower at its five-megawatt gas-graphite reactor at the Yongbyon complex in 2008 as part of a denuclearization agreement. That accord was reached through the so-called six-nation talks with South Korea, China, Russia, Japan and the United States.
The old Yongbyon reactor, which had been used to produce plutonium, remains inoperative, according to Mr. Pritchard, who met with North Korea’s chief nuclear envoy, Kim Kye-gwan, and the chief diplomat for United States affairs, Ri Gun. Mr. Pritchard has briefed American and South Korean officials about his trip.
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #1927 on: Nov 20th, 2010, 08:14am »
New Zealand mine explosion: two British workers among those trapped.
By Bonnie Malkin in Greymouth, New Zealand, and Patrick Sawer in London 1:03PM GMT 20 Nov 2010
The mine collapsed after a powerful gas blast struck at the Pike River Coal Mine in Atarau, on New Zealand's South Island, on Friday. It is not known if the men are still alive, as communication with the mine floor was severed by the power of the explosion.
The Britons, named as Pete Rodger, 40, from Perth and Malcolm Campbell, 25, from St Andrews, were trapped along with two Australians, one South African and 24 New Zealanders.
Superintendent Gary Knowles, the Tasman Police District Commander leading the rescue effort, said he was determined the men would be rescued, adding “we’re going to bring these guys home”.
The men who were underground at the time of the incident included members of the mine's management team, who were believed to be on a safety tour when the blast occurred.
Rescue workers including police, the fire service, helicopters and ambulances have converged on the site, located in remote and rugged mountain terrain.
The teams were awaiting the all-clear to enter the mine, but there were fears that a build-up of gas inside the vents could make the tunnels and shafts dangerous for rescuers and that ventilation within the mine could be malfunctioning due to a lack of power. Tony Kokshoorn, mayor of nearby Greymouth, said it could be days before it was safe enough for the rescue operation to go ahead.
"Going into a mine after the power's been off for two or three hours requires mines' rescue people to make sure it's safe for them before they look for our people," John Dow, Pike River's chairman, added.
However, a police spokesman at the mine said they were "itching to get in there and start looking".
Mr Dow said each miner carried 30 minutes of oxygen supply - enough to reach oxygen stores in the mine that he said would allow them to survive for "several days."
Meanwhile, the families of the trapped miners that had started to gather outside the Pike River Mine gates were being asked to move to a nearby hall where support and information would be provided.
Andrew Little, Engineering, Printing and Manufacturing Union national secretary. said it was an "incredibly anxious" time for the miners' families.
Robin Kingston, archdeacon of the Greymouth and Kumara Anglican Church, told the New Zealand Herald that there was "a significant amount of nervousness around at the moment."
"People have been asking for prayers for those they know who are not accounted for as yet," he said.
Peter Whittall, the mine' chief executive, said five workers had walked out of the mine: a pair that included the machine operator who was blown off his vehicle one mile into the access tunnel. Three more came out later. One of the men had been able to make a call on his cell phone before reaching the surface, he said.
John Key, New Zealand's prime minister, said that the situation was "serious". "Our hearts and thoughts go out to them [affected families] at this time. It will be a very worrying time for them."
The mine, which only began shipping coal this year, is burrowing into a deposit which, according to one recent visitor, was relatively gaseous.
The company produces hard coking coal used in the steel industry and has been hit by a series of technical problems, including rock falls, which delayed its development.
The last major coal mining disaster in New Zealand was in 1967 when 19 miners were killed in an explosion at a coal mine in the same part of the country, a major coal-producing region.
The coal seam is reached through a horizontal tunnel 1.4 miles in length that bores into a mountain toward the seam, which lies about 200 yards beneath the surface.
While the condition of the missing miners was not clear, the prospect that they could be alive but trapped recalls the dramatic saga of 33 Chilean mine workers who spent 69 days a half-mile deep in a collapsed gold and copper mine.
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #1928 on: Nov 20th, 2010, 08:20am »
Chihuahua becomes Japanese police dog A long-haired Chihuahua named "Momo" has passed exams to become a police dog in Japan.
9:29AM GMT 20 Nov 2010
The brown-and-white Momo was one of 32 successful candidates out of 70 dogs, passing a search and rescue test by finding a person in five minutes after merely sniffing their cap.
"Any breed of dog can be entered to become a police dog in the search and rescue division," said a police spokesman from the western Japanese prefecture of Nara.
A long-haired Chihuahua named 'Momo' (Japanese for Peach) goes through an examination to become a police dog in Yamatokoriyama, western Japan Photo: REUTERS
But he admitted that news a Chihuahua had been entered may still come as a surprise to many.
"It's quite unusual," he said.
Television footage showed the seven-year-old Momo bounding across grass or sitting proudly, long hair blowing in the breeze.
Momo will be used for rescue operations in case of disasters such as earthquakes, in the hope that she may be able to squeeze her tiny frame into places too narrow for more usual rescue dogs, which tend to be German Shepherds.
The public response to the news of Momo's selection took police by surprise, the spokesman said, adding: "The phone's been ringing all afternoon.
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #1929 on: Nov 20th, 2010, 08:25am »
Judge Orders Cops to Stop Harassing Superheroes By David Kravets November 19, 2010 | 2:54 pm Categories: Censorship, The Courts
You’d think Wolverine, Batman, Superman, Catwoman and Iron Man would collectively hold enough superpower to keep the cops at bay.
But with the Hall of Justice unavailable, a group of street performers nicknamed the Hollywood Characters aired their beef against the Los Angeles Police Department in federal court. And on Wednesday, a judge ordered the LAPD to stop harassing and arresting them as they perform on Hollywood Boulevard for pocket change.
The four street performers who sued had argued they were wrongly arrested and intimidated by the LAPD. U.S. District Judge Dean Pregerson ruled that the characters had a First Amendment and Fourth Amendment right to remain on the public sidewalk free from police persecution as long as they were not blocking the walkway or overzealously demanding change.
“The court is further sensitive that although costumed performance may not be a traditional form of speech, it is without doubt a protected one,” (.pdf) Pregerson ruled.
The suing street performers -– Matthias Balke, Melissa Beithan, Paul Harrell and Terrell Tomey — impersonate the comic-book characters’ voices, mannerisms and dialog.
They each alleged they were wrongly arrested (.pdf) at least once for “obstructing” a sidewalk. According to their lawsuit, they had stopped performing out of fear of arrest or police harassment.
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #1930 on: Nov 20th, 2010, 08:30am »
VIDEO: 'Source Code' Trailer Hits November 19 8:58 PM by Borys Kit
Apart from one bad line reading by a certain actor, this actually looks pretty good. More interestingly, it's the big American directorial debut of Duncan Jones, who directed the very well-regarded British thriller Moon.
The space travelin' gold records: Was anyone listening?
If so, did they answer?
By Michelle J. Mills Staff Writer Posted: 11/18/2010 10:04:19 PM PST
In 1977, Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 were launched. On both spacecraft, NASA had placed a copy of the Golden Record containing sounds and images from the Earth for intelligent extraterrestrials or humans of the future to find.
The contents of the album were selected by a committee headed by the late astronomer Carl Sagan and included sounds from nature and animals, music and greetings in 55 languages. In 1990, both spacecraft were beyond the orbit of Pluto and are now in empty space. It will take 40,000 years for the Voyagers to make a close approach to another planetary system.
"The spacecraft will be encountered and the record played only if there are advanced spacefaring civilizations in interstellar space," Sagan had said at the time. "But the launching of this bottle into the cosmic ocean says something very hopeful about life on this planet."
On Nov. 1, Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence in Exile (SETI-X) released "Scrambles of Earth: The Voyager Interstellar Records, Remixed by Extraterrestrials" (Seeland Records). The organization, which is a dissident offshoot of Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, claims that it received transmissions believed to be alien reworkings of the original Voyager Golden Record.
"Scrambles of Earth" features 70 minutes of sounds and music that come across as interesting, yet eerie experimental pop sounds. The cuts range from "Total Transmission," a burst of the first 10 seconds of everything on the Voyager Golden Record played at once, to "The Rites of Mars," the rearrangement of Stravinksy's "Rite of Spring" blended with a recording of Melanseian panpipes from the Solomon Islands. There are also intriguing interpretations of compositions by Beethoven, Blind Willie Johnson and Chuck Berry.
We're not sure if "Scrambles of Earth" is from outer space or simply the work of a creative and innovative deejay, but we decided to play along. Since the members of SETI-X wish to remain anonymous, we spoke with Stefan Helmreich, who produced the science and technology-oriented CD "Xerophonics: Copying Machine Music" (Seeland Records, 2003) a recording of actual copy machine sounds, for his thoughts on the album.
Helmreich would not speak on behalf of SETI-X but said Seeland Records asked him to weigh in because of his CD and because he is an anthropologist who writes about the cultural meaning of scientific artifacts.
"An extraterrestrial remix of the Voyager Golden Record would be of both anthropological interest - what do aliens make of Earthly "culture"? - as well as being a kind of provocation to think about how Earth's sounds might sound reflected back to us," Helmreich said.
Q. How did SETI-X receive this recording? Why hasn't any other organization, such as the SETI program, NASA or JPL, reported receiving it? A. That's a great question. I have no idea. I suppose the SETI-X scientists would say that these other entities may have and are still studying the data. I might mention a May 2010 article in The Daily Telegraph reporting a claim made by a German UFOologist, Hartwig Hausdorf, that Voyager has begun sending back unexpected signals, which Hausdorf hypothesizes may result from alien interference. I'd wait to hear from NASA on the believability of a claim like that.
Q. Do you know which aliens sent the album and where are they located in the universe? What do you think they might look like? A. Well, I certainly don't know that. And I suspect that SETI-X, whoever they are, doesn't know either. That said, just from listening to the sounds on the "Scrambles of Earth" CD, I would say that these aliens seem to be plugged into both 20th century experimental composition and pop music circa 1977, the year Voyager was launched. Maybe they look like Abba!
But seriously, one might try to reverse-engineer alien auditory apparatus from the spectral profiles of the sounds. That wouldn't prove much, of course. While it could point to what an alien ear might look like, it wouldn't settle the question of where such ears are, or, indeed, `whether such ears even exist.
Q. Why aren't there sounds on the CD from an alien planet? A. One could imagine that a language of some kind could be encrypted inside the tracks. Peter Whincop, a music theorist who studied at Harvard and teaches at MIT, told me there may be data in the audio that can only be accessed by looking at a spectrogram of the sounds. These may be hidden audio tracks, or even hidden images. In examining such information, one would of course have to beware of seeing or hearing things that aren't actually there.
Q. Some of the liner notes with the CD make references to aliens coming to Earth to kill us. Should we be concerned? How should we prepare for that? A. You might recall that cosmologist Stephen Hawking in April 2010 spoke out against sending messages to the stars, his worry being that such a message could bring unfriendly extraterrestrial colonial forces to Earth. I'm not sure where the SETI-X people are getting their information.
Q. Why did SETI-X release this album to the general public? A. Seeland tells me that SETI-X thought that the more people who knew the better. I understand that they want to `crowdsource' any further decodings.
Q. Does SETI-X plan to respond by sending another recording into space? A. Interesting possibility. This could be an excellent project, to rethink how Earthlings might like to represent themselves sonically.
Q. Do you think aliens will send more recordings to SETI-X as a followup album? A. I hope so! I'd like something with more of a beat. The sounds on the "Scrambles of Earth" CD are all terribly abstract.
Q. If someone hears from aliens, who should they contact? A. Start with Seeland records. People there can reach SETI-X.