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 veryhotthread  Author  Topic: Stuff & Nonsense  (Read 25524 times)
WingsofCrystal
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« Reply #1935 on: Nov 20th, 2010, 6:09pm »



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Lord Farquaad in Portugal


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« Reply #1936 on: Nov 20th, 2010, 6:15pm »





description: UFOs sighted over the worlds largest volcano!


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xx Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #1937 on: Nov 21st, 2010, 07:41am »

Interesting vid. Thanks for posting.

on Nov 20th, 2010, 5:01pm, WingsofCrystal wrote:
Hey Phil,
I'm looking out at snow right now. It's beautiful. But I wouldn't want to deal with it all winter long. We're lucky, we usually only get dustings a couple of times a year.
Crystal

Hopefully it will stay that way. wink
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« Reply #1938 on: Nov 21st, 2010, 09:04am »

on Nov 21st, 2010, 07:41am, philliman wrote:
Interesting vid. Thanks for posting.


Hopefully it will stay that way. wink


Mornin' Phil,
It doesn't sound like it. They were saying something about this winter being a whopper for snow. We'll see. tongue
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« Reply #1939 on: Nov 21st, 2010, 09:08am »

New York Times

November 21, 2010
Growing Up Digital, Wired for Distraction
By MATT RICHTEL

REDWOOD CITY, Calif. — On the eve of a pivotal academic year in Vishal Singh’s life, he faces a stark choice on his bedroom desk: book or computer?

By all rights, Vishal, a bright 17-year-old, should already have finished the book, Kurt Vonnegut’s “Cat’s Cradle,” his summer reading assignment. But he has managed 43 pages in two months.

He typically favors Facebook, YouTube and making digital videos. That is the case this August afternoon. Bypassing Vonnegut, he clicks over to YouTube, meaning that tomorrow he will enter his senior year of high school hoping to see an improvement in his grades, but without having completed his only summer homework.

On YouTube, “you can get a whole story in six minutes,” he explains. “A book takes so long. I prefer the immediate gratification.”

Students have always faced distractions and time-wasters. But computers and cellphones, and the constant stream of stimuli they offer, pose a profound new challenge to focusing and learning.

Researchers say the lure of these technologies, while it affects adults too, is particularly powerful for young people. The risk, they say, is that developing brains can become more easily habituated than adult brains to constantly switching tasks — and less able to sustain attention.

“Their brains are rewarded not for staying on task but for jumping to the next thing,” said Michael Rich, an associate professor at Harvard Medical School and executive director of the Center on Media and Child Health in Boston. And the effects could linger: “The worry is we’re raising a generation of kids in front of screens whose brains are going to be wired differently.”

But even as some parents and educators express unease about students’ digital diets, they are intensifying efforts to use technology in the classroom, seeing it as a way to connect with students and give them essential skills. Across the country, schools are equipping themselves with computers, Internet access and mobile devices so they can teach on the students’ technological territory.

It is a tension on vivid display at Vishal’s school, Woodside High School, on a sprawling campus set against the forested hills of Silicon Valley. Here, as elsewhere, it is not uncommon for students to send hundreds of text messages a day or spend hours playing video games, and virtually everyone is on Facebook.

The principal, David Reilly, 37, a former musician who says he sympathizes when young people feel disenfranchised, is determined to engage these 21st-century students. He has asked teachers to build Web sites to communicate with students, introduced popular classes on using digital tools to record music, secured funding for iPads to teach Mandarin and obtained $3 million in grants for a multimedia center.

He pushed first period back an hour, to 9 a.m., because students were showing up bleary-eyed, at least in part because they were up late on their computers. Unchecked use of digital devices, he says, can create a culture in which students are addicted to the virtual world and lost in it.

“I am trying to take back their attention from their BlackBerrys and video games,” he says. “To a degree, I’m using technology to do it.”

The same tension surfaces in Vishal, whose ability to be distracted by computers is rivaled by his proficiency with them. At the beginning of his junior year, he discovered a passion for filmmaking and made a name for himself among friends and teachers with his storytelling in videos made with digital cameras and editing software.

He acts as his family’s tech-support expert, helping his father, Satendra, a lab manager, retrieve lost documents on the computer, and his mother, Indra, a security manager at the San Francisco airport, build her own Web site.

But he also plays video games 10 hours a week. He regularly sends Facebook status updates at 2 a.m., even on school nights, and has such a reputation for distributing links to videos that his best friend calls him a “YouTube bully.”

Several teachers call Vishal one of their brightest students, and they wonder why things are not adding up. Last semester, his grade point average was 2.3 after a D-plus in English and an F in Algebra II. He got an A in film critique.

“He’s a kid caught between two worlds,” said Mr. Reilly — one that is virtual and one with real-life demands.

Vishal, like his mother, says he lacks the self-control to favor schoolwork over the computer. She sat him down a few weeks before school started and told him that, while she respected his passion for film and his technical skills, he had to use them productively.

“This is the year,” she says she told him. “This is your senior year and you can’t afford not to focus.”

It was not always this way. As a child, Vishal had a tendency to procrastinate, but nothing like this. Something changed him.

Growing Up With Gadgets

When he was 3, Vishal moved with his parents and older brother to their current home, a three-bedroom house in the working-class section of Redwood City, a suburb in Silicon Valley that is more diverse than some of its elite neighbors.

Thin and quiet with a shy smile, Vishal passed the admissions test for a prestigious public elementary and middle school. Until sixth grade, he focused on homework, regularly going to the house of a good friend to study with him.

But Vishal and his family say two things changed around the seventh grade: his mother went back to work, and he got a computer. He became increasingly engrossed in games and surfing the Internet, finding an easy outlet for what he describes as an inclination to procrastinate.

“I realized there were choices,” Vishal recalls. “Homework wasn’t the only option.”

Several recent studies show that young people tend to use home computers for entertainment, not learning, and that this can hurt school performance, particularly in low-income families. Jacob L. Vigdor, an economics professor at Duke University who led some of the research, said that when adults were not supervising computer use, children “are left to their own devices, and the impetus isn’t to do homework but play around.”

Research also shows that students often juggle homework and entertainment. The Kaiser Family Foundation found earlier this year that half of students from 8 to 18 are using the Internet, watching TV or using some other form of media either “most” (31 percent) or “some” (25 percent) of the time that they are doing homework.

At Woodside, as elsewhere, students’ use of technology is not uniform. Mr. Reilly, the principal, says their choices tend to reflect their personalities. Social butterflies tend to be heavy texters and Facebook users. Students who are less social might escape into games, while drifters or those prone to procrastination, like Vishal, might surf the Web or watch videos.

The technology has created on campuses a new set of social types — not the thespian and the jock but the texter and gamer, Facebook addict and YouTube potato.

“The technology amplifies whoever you are,” Mr. Reilly says.

For some, the amplification is intense. Allison Miller, 14, sends and receives 27,000 texts in a month, her fingers clicking at a blistering pace as she carries on as many as seven text conversations at a time. She texts between classes, at the moment soccer practice ends, while being driven to and from school and, often, while studying.

Most of the exchanges are little more than quick greetings, but they can get more in-depth, like “if someone tells you about a drama going on with someone,” Allison said. “I can text one person while talking on the phone to someone else.”

But this proficiency comes at a cost: she blames multitasking for the three B’s on her recent progress report.

“I’ll be reading a book for homework and I’ll get a text message and pause my reading and put down the book, pick up the phone to reply to the text message, and then 20 minutes later realize, ‘Oh, I forgot to do my homework.’ ”

Some shyer students do not socialize through technology — they recede into it. Ramon Ochoa-Lopez, 14, an introvert, plays six hours of video games on weekdays and more on weekends, leaving homework to be done in the bathroom before school.

Escaping into games can also salve teenagers’ age-old desire for some control in their chaotic lives. “It’s a way for me to separate myself,” Ramon says. “If there’s an argument between my mom and one of my brothers, I’ll just go to my room and start playing video games and escape.”

With powerful new cellphones, the interactive experience can go everywhere. Between classes at Woodside or at lunch, when use of personal devices is permitted, students gather in clusters, sometimes chatting face to face, sometimes half-involved in a conversation while texting someone across the teeming quad. Others sit alone, watching a video, listening to music or updating Facebook.

Students say that their parents, worried about the distractions, try to police computer time, but that monitoring the use of cellphones is difficult. Parents may also want to be able to call their children at any time, so taking the phone away is not always an option.

Other parents wholly embrace computer use, even when it has no obvious educational benefit.

“If you’re not on top of technology, you’re not going to be on top of the world,” said John McMullen, 56, a retired criminal investigator whose son, Sean, is one of five friends in the group Vishal joins for lunch each day.

more after the jump
http://www.nytimes.com/2010/11/21/technology/21brain.html?hp

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« Reply #1940 on: Nov 21st, 2010, 09:11am »

New York Times

November 20, 2010
Consumer Risks Feared as Health Law Spurs Mergers
By ROBERT PEAR

WASHINGTON — When Congress passed the health care law, it envisioned doctors and hospitals joining forces, coordinating care and holding down costs, with the prospect of earning government bonuses for controlling costs.

Now, eight months into the new law there is a growing frenzy of mergers involving hospitals, clinics and doctor groups eager to share costs and savings, and cash in on the incentives. They, in turn, have deployed a small army of lawyers and lobbyists trying to persuade the Obama administration to relax or waive a body of older laws intended to thwart health care monopolies, and to protect against shoddy care and fraudulent billing of patients or Medicare.

Consumer advocates fear that the health care law could worsen some of the very problems it was meant to solve — by reducing competition, driving up costs and creating incentives for doctors and hospitals to stint on care, in order to retain their cost-saving bonuses.

“The new law is already encouraging a wave of mergers, joint ventures and alliances in the health care industry,” said Prof. Thomas L. Greaney, an expert on health and antitrust law at St. Louis University. “The risk that dominant providers and dominant insurers may exercise their market power, individually or jointly, has never been greater.”

Lobbyists and industry groups are bearing down on the Federal Trade Commission and the Justice Department, which enforce the antitrust laws, and the inspector general’s office at the Department of Health and Human Services, which ferrets out Medicare fraud.

Those agencies are writing regulations to govern the new entities, known as accountable care organizations. They face a delicate task: balancing the potential benefits of clinical cooperation with the need to enforce fraud, abuse and antitrust laws.

“If accountable care organizations end up stifling rather than unleashing competition,” said Jon Leibowitz, the chairman of the trade commission, “we will have let one of the great opportunities for health care reform slip away.”

Congress’s purpose was to foster cooperation in a health care system that is notoriously fragmented. The hope was that the new law would push doctors, hospitals and other health care providers to come together and jointly take responsibility for the cost and quality of care of patients, especially Medicare beneficiaries.

Experts say patients can benefit from a network of care and greater coordination between doctors and hospitals.

On Tuesday, the Obama administration established a Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation, to test new ways of coordinating and paying for services, in addition to the accountable care organizations.

Hospitals have taken the lead in forming these new entities.

Johns Hopkins Medicine, which operates a hospital in Baltimore and 25 clinics in Maryland, has just acquired Sibley Memorial Hospital in Washington, 16 months after acquiring Suburban Hospital in Bethesda, Md.

“This is being driven largely by health care reform, which demands an integrated regional network,” said Gary M. Stephenson, a Johns Hopkins spokesman.

In Kentucky, three of the largest hospital networks are negotiating a merger, prompted in part by the new law. In upstate New York, three regional health care systems are seeking federal permission to merge their operations, which include hospitals, clinics and nursing homes in Albany and surrounding counties.

With potential efficiencies come incentives for doctors and hospitals to control costs, and a potential for abuse. Judith A. Stein, director of the nonprofit Center for Medicare Advocacy, said she was concerned that some care organizations would try to hold down costs by “cherry-picking healthier patients and denying care when it’s needed.”

Under the law, Medicare can penalize organizations that avoid high-risk, high-cost patients.

Peter W. Thomas, a lawyer for the Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities, a national advocacy group, expressed concern about the impact on patients.

“In an environment where health care providers are financially rewarded for keeping costs down,” he said, “anyone who has a disability or a chronic condition, anyone who requires specialized or complex care, needs to worry about getting access to appropriate technology, medical devices and rehabilitation. You don’t want to save money on the backs of people with disabilities and chronic conditions.”

Nearly one-fourth of Medicare beneficiaries have five or more chronic conditions. They account for two-thirds of the program’s spending.

Elizabeth B. Gilbertson, chief strategist of a union health plan for hotel and restaurant employees, also worries that the consolidation of health care providers could lead to higher prices.

“In some markets,” Ms. Gilbertson said, “the dominant hospital is like the sun at the center of the solar system. It owns physician groups, surgery centers, labs and pharmacies. Accountable care organizations bring more planets into the system and strengthen the bonds between them, making the whole entity more powerful, with a commensurate ability to raise prices.”

She added, “That is a terrible threat.”

Doctors and hospitals say the promise of these organizations cannot be fully realized unless they get broad waivers and exemptions from the government.

The American Medical Association has urged federal officials to “provide explicit exceptions to the antitrust laws” for doctors who participate in the new entities. The F.T.C. has accused doctors in many parts of the country of trying to fix prices by collectively negotiating fees — even though the doctors do not share financial risk and are supposedly competing with one another.

Hospitals and doctors have also asked the administration to waive laws intended to prevent fraud and abuse in Medicare.

In a recent letter to federal officials, Charles N. Kahn III, president of the Federation of American Hospitals, said, “To provide a fertile field to develop truly innovative, coordinated-care models, the fraud and abuse laws should be waived altogether.”

more after the jump
http://www.nytimes.com/2010/11/21/health/policy/21health.html?hp

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« Reply #1941 on: Nov 21st, 2010, 09:24am »

Telegraph

Army veterans to retrace steps of Scott and Amundsen
A century after the race to the South Pole that gripped the world, two teams of British soldiers are to retrace the steps of Scott and Amundsen.

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Scott at the South Pole. Scott's team found Roald Amundsen had arrived a month early,
and all five men perished on the route back
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By Nick Meo 7:30AM GMT
21 Nov 2010

They will follow the routes taken by the British and Norwegian teams and, as before, each will be determined to get there first.

To do so, they must cross mountain ranges, glaciers and crevasses, running a constant risk of frostbite, snow blindness and dehydration, in temperatures as low as -58F (-50C).

It will be an ordeal – just as it was for Captain Robert Falcon Scott RN and Roald Amundsen, his Norwegian rival, 100 years ago.

"It is a long, gruelling slog, and the longer it goes on, the harder it gets," said Lt Col Henry Worsley of The Rifles, who had the idea to restage the race.

Danger and hardship are familiar companions for the two teams; all are serving soldiers, veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan. Their experiences have made them determined to raise hundreds of thousands of pounds in sponsorship for the Royal British Legion's work in caring for wounded veterans. Prince William will be patron of the adventure.

"We've all of us had friends who have died or been maimed in action, and we are quite willing to walk to the South Pole to raise money for them and for old soldiers," said Lt Col Worsley.

The two teams of three will set off on Remembrance Sunday next year, following the routes taken by Scott and Amundsen from 1911-12 across nearly 1,000 miles of ice and snow. It is estimated their journeys will take around 65 days.

The original race ended in disappointment for the five-man British team, which reached the Pole on January 17, 1912, to find Amundsen had got there first.

Tragedy struck when they were caught by storms on the return journey. Scott is believed to have been the last man to die, on March 29. The men were only a few miles from a food drop.

The 2011 race will not be identical. Pack animals such as those used by Scott and Amundsen are now forbidden in Antarctica, and modern clothing and food are far superior to those available in 1911. But it will still be an epic of endurance.

The "Scott" team plans to hold an act of remembrance for the five men from the British team at the places where they died in 1912.

Lt Col Worsley, leading the "Amundsen" team, said the expedition was still an inspiration to the Armed Forces. "There was a tremendous sense of patriotism," he said. "They were doing everything they could to plant the Union Jack on the last place in the world." The idea began when Lt Col Worsley, 50, challenged the Norwegian army to a race. The Norwegians declined so he found British soldiers who wanted to do it.

Lt Col Worsley should have the advantage because Amundsen cannily chose a shorter route than Scott. However, polar travel is highly unpredictable so both teams have a fighting chance.

The experience is worth the risks, believes Lt Col Worsley, who took part in an expedition that walked to the Pole last year. "It is stunning to be there, very beautiful, just blue sky and ice," he said.

Amundsen was utterly professional and ruthless, killing dogs that pulled his sledges to feed to the surviving animals, which the British considered unsporting and cruel. Scott's party used ponies, but was less experienced at polar travel.

Lt Col Worsley believes the despair the men felt on arriving at the South Pole to find a Norwegian flag must have played a part in their deaths a few weeks later.

"It was a tragic ending. But it was everything that the Edwardian Age stood for sacrifice and patriotism," he said.

Mark Langridge, 43, a sergeant major in the Parachute Regiment who won the Military Cross in Iraq in 2007, and has also taken part in an Antarctic expedition, will lead the "Scott" party. He said the challenge was "on a par with an Everest expedition".

But he added: "We will all feel inspired by the chance to help wounded soldiers. That's the thought that will keep us going."

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/antarctica/8148960/Army-veterans-to-retrace-steps-of-Scott-and-Amundsen.html

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« Reply #1942 on: Nov 21st, 2010, 09:30am »

io9.com

Watch a microwave light show in your own microwave
By Cyriaque Lamar

Microwaves within your microwave are invisible, but it is possible to see them with a little creative preparation and some mechanical know-how.



Says microwave modder Zeke Kossover:

The changing electromagnetic field from the microwaves will make charged particles move, and so the electrons in the metal legs will move creating current. This current makes the lamps glow. I drilled a grid in a piece of 1/4 inch acrylic and slipped the lamps in [...] As the platter turns, the lamps light up showing where the microwaves are the strongest.

Zeke also noted that this rig didn't seem to hurt his microwave.

http://io9.com/5695202/watch-a-microwave-light-show-in-your-own-microwave

original source: http://blog.makezine.com/archive/2010/11/visualizing_microwaves_inside_a_mic.html

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« Reply #1943 on: Nov 21st, 2010, 09:38am »

LA Times

The word at New Zealand mine: 'There's always hope'
The small nation is focused on the fate of 29 miners trapped since Friday in a coal mine on the South Island's west coast. Rescuers are unable to proceed for fear of further explosions.

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Relatives of some of the 29 miners trapped underground in the Pike River coal mine react after a progress briefing
by mine authorities and police in Greymouth on New Zealand's west coast. Tim Wimborne, Reuters



By Tami Abdollah, Los Angeles Times
November 21, 2010
Reporting from Greymouth, New Zealand

Just a month after 33 miners were rescued in Chile, New Zealanders remained focused Sunday on the fate of 29 miners trapped underground after an apparent gas explosion in a South Island coal mine.

Nothing has been heard from the men, who were deep in the Pike River mine Friday afternoon when a massive blast ripped through it. Calls to a phone line at the bottom of the mine have gone unanswered.

The miners — ages 17 to 62 and including two Australians, two Britons and a South African — are believed to be about 1.2 miles down the main shaft.

To the frustration of the miners' anguished relatives, rescue teams have been held back by a possible buildup of poisonous gases in the shaft that could result in another explosion.

Rescue officials had begun constructing a drill Sunday to bore a hole into the hillside and take deeper gas samples. Fresh air is being pumped into the shaft and 30 rescuers remained on standby to enter the mine if gas levels were determined to be safe.

Two men who were close to the mine's entrance were able to emerge after the blast Friday with minor injuries. They were discharged from the hospital Saturday.

"This is a very big event for a small country that is close-knit," said lawmaker Damien O'Connor. "There will not be many communities in this country that are not affected."

Officials said Sunday that they were hopeful the men were alive.

"The primary focus today is still a rescue operation," Police Supt. Gary Knowles told reporters in the nearby town of Greymouth. "But it is still not safe to effect a rescue. When it's possible, we will go underground."

With about 4.2 million people, New Zealand's population is less than half that of Los Angeles. Greymouth is the largest city on the South Island's west coast, with about 10,000 people who have strong ties to mining.

Shows of support have come from multiple countries, with Australia sending a team of rescuers and special equipment.

"We have got more equipment than we know what to do with at the moment," said Trevor Watts, general manager of New Zealand Mines Rescue. "We are suitably equipped to deal with any event over the coming days."

With this accident coming soon after the rescue last month of 33 miners trapped 69 days in a gold and copper mine in Chile, the community in Greymouth has rallied around the rescue effort.

"The mining community throughout the world is close," O'Connor said. "Everyone in this region was watching closely what was happening in Chile, and celebrated with everyone. There are real possibilities that there could be a positive outcome" here.

But because the Pike River facility is a coal mine, officials need to worry about methane, which is highly volatile.

The cause of the explosion is still under investigation, but Peter Whittall, chief executive of Pike River Mine Ltd, said it was probably caused by ignition of coal gas.

Officials have blocked off access to the mine, which is about 50 miles northeast of Greymouth.

The city has been swamped as hundreds of journalists from around the world have streamed in.

An afternoon news briefing saw about 100 journalists, along with members of Parliament and the military, crammed into a small room at the Greymouth police station. Local officials have been overwhelmed as they try to field calls and interviews in a town with only a few main streets and one major supermarket.

Miners' family members and the majority of the community hunkered down amid the frenzy, reluctant to talk about the rescue operation. Those who did expressed anxiety and impatience.

"If I had my way, I'd be down there. I'd go into the mine myself," said Laurie Drew, whose 21-year-old son, Zen, is one of the missing men.

As he spoke to TV One, Drew wore his son's jacket.

"I wore it so I can give it back to him when he comes out," he said, choking back tears. "I just want my boy home."

Garth Elliott, 48, was a miner for 20 years and lives in Blackball, a mining town about 13 miles east of Greymouth.

He learned about the explosion Friday when the owner of the local pub met him halfway down the road as Elliott was on his way for a beer after work.

"He said there's been an explosion the Pike River mine, and I couldn't believe it at first. … Then the media began," said Elliott, the local organizer for the miners union.

He said families were still in shock and were anxious, but they were supporting one another and staying positive.

"That's the mining spirit," he said. "We're close people, we work in close proximity and we're a close-knit community.... There's always hope here."

Abdollah is a special correspondent. Times wire services were used in compiling this report.

http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/world/asia/la-fg-new-zealand-miners-20101121,0,678322.story

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« Reply #1944 on: Nov 22nd, 2010, 09:02am »

New York Times

November 22, 2010
In Ireland, Call for Election and Warning From Moody’s
By LANDON THOMAS Jr. and MATTHEW SALTMARSH

DUBLIN — Ireland’s decision to accept a rescue package worth more than $100 billion prompted a call Monday for early elections and a warning from a major ratings agency that the bailout could prove to be a “credit negative” for the country.

European Union officials, who had been pushing Ireland to accept help, quickly agreed to the request late Sunday, committing a significant amount of money to an ailing member for the second time in six months. The total amount was not announced, but several officials said it would be 80 billion to 90 billion euros, or $109 billion to $123 billion. Last spring, Europe disbursed 110 billion euros to Greece to save it from default.

The move, which will allow Ireland to shore up its faltering banks and operate without having to borrow money at budget-breaking rates, was welcomed by Ireland’s neighbors on Monday, although financial markets were more cautious. There were also rising worries about political stability in Ireland as a result of the bailout and the angry public backlash it engendered.

The Green Party, the junior partner in Ireland’s coalition government, announced it would pull out of government once a series of fiscal packages and budgets were in place next month — and called for early elections after that.

“We have now reached a point where the Irish people need political certainty to take them beyond the coming two months,” the Greens said in a statement, according to Reuters. “So, we believe it is time to fix a date for a general election in the second half of January 2011.”

The parties in Ireland’s coalition government include Fianna Fail, the Greens and a few independents, and it has a slim majority in Parliament.

Meanwhile, Moody’s Investors Service said its current review of Ireland’s credit rating could result in a “multi-notch downgrade” as a result of the bailout, although it would still be investment grade.

The aid will “crystallize more bank-contingent liabilities on the government balance sheet, and increase the Irish sovereign’s debt burden,” a Moody’s senior credit analyst, Dietmar Hornung, said in a research note. That would be a “credit negative” for Ireland, “and, consequently, the credit quality of bank deposits and debt that the sovereign explicitly and implicitly supports.”

Moody’s put Ireland’s Aa2 credit rating on negative outlook last month. Ireland has a stable outlook at Standard & Poor’s and Fitch Ratings.

In the markets, the initial positive reception turned to a more stark assessment as investors focused on the problems that lie ahead for Ireland and the broader euro area.

The Euro Stoxx 50 index, a barometer of euro zone blue chips, was up at the open but by midday was down 1.1 percent. The FTSE 100 index in London was down by a similar amount. The euro fell to $1.3644 from $1.3673 late Friday in New York.

The reaction of bond prices was muted. The Irish 10-year yield fell 11 basis points, but — at 7.73 percent — still carried a hefty premium to the comparable German bond, the European benchmark, at 2.67 percent.

Simon Ballard, senior credit strategist at Royal Bank of Canada in London, said the aid was a “short-term positive for risk assets and the Irish sovereign,” but he added longer-term worries remain about the state of banks and the outlook for growth.

“The devil will be in the detail as always, particularly on the conditionality attached to the funds,” he said. “We see the bailout as weighing on financial spreads in the coming days as we work through the uncertainty.”

The loans to Ireland were necessary in large part because of the faltering state of the nation’s banking system, underscoring the extent to which ailing banks remain a threat to recovery two years after the financial crisis rippled through economies and pressured banks around the world into accepting bailouts.

Ireland’s aid will come from a rescue mechanism worth roughly $1 trillion that was set up in May by the European Union and the International Monetary Fund to help euro zone countries spiraling toward default.

Officials said they hope that the large commitment of money will calm investors and keep the crisis from spreading to Portugal and even Spain. It was fear of a market panic and looming contagion that prompted officials to press Ireland to accept aid early before its debt problem got out of control.

On Monday, the British chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne, said Britain’s share would be about 7 billion euros, or $11 billion, via bilateral aid as well as through its I.M.F. commitments.

“We are not part of the euro and don’t want to be part of the euro,” Mr. Osborne told the BBC . “But Ireland is our very closest economic neighbor so I judged it to be in our national interest to be part of the international efforts to help the Irish.”

The French economy minister, Christine Lagarde, praised Dublin for taking what she called “courageous but necessary” steps to rectify its economic problems. She added the financial aid would not affect France’s budgetary situation as the aid that it would provide would be in the form of guarantees to a European financial stability fund.

The request for help was a humbling turnabout for Ireland, which just last week was insisting it could manage its own finances. It does not view itself as being as profligate or irresponsible as Greece was in running up deficits, and has been preparing a four-year budget plan filled with sharp cutbacks that is intended to reduce its deficit to 3 percent, from 32 percent, of gross domestic product.

But the Irish government has been sinking further and further into debt since its 2008 decision to protect its banks from all losses. The banking system had become so weakened that it could not afford to wait any longer for help.

Banks, which issued loans recklessly during the real estate boom, have losses of about 70 billion euros, almost half the country’s economic output. A new set of bank stress tests will be imposed, and the number of banks will be pared down, officials said.

Some economists have pointed out that the yields Greece must pay on its bonds are higher now than before its rescue, raising concerns that confidence in the fiscal health of troubled countries remains low.

Others, however, say that decisive action is what is needed to shift momentum toward recovery. “This may be an inflection point, when we stop digging a hole and start creating the conditions for reversing where we have slipped to,” said Pat Cox, an economist and former president of the European Parliament.

Mr. Cowen said Sunday night that there would be two funds. One will back up the country’s failing banks, and another will allow Ireland to continue government operations without turning to the bond markets for help, something Dublin has said it cannot afford. The package should allow Ireland to operate without funds from the markets for as long as three years.

While a precise breakdown was not given, analysts and people involved in the talks said that about 15 billion euros was probably to go to backstop the banks. As much as 60 billion euros would go to Ireland’s annual budget deficit of 19 billion euros for the next three years.

Mr. Cowen said that a negotiation would begin with the International Monetary Fund to discuss the specifics of the loan, although it was made clear that the interest rate would be lower than the 8 percent demanded by the market.

The quicker-than-expected action over the weekend was prompted by fears of a bank run when the markets opened Monday morning, people briefed on the discussions said.

As much as 25 billion euros has flown from large banks like Allied Irish and Anglo Irish in the past months and officials say that the pace had quickened in the last week.

Mr. Cowen said that the government’s budget plan would involve 15 billion euros of savings — 5 billion euros in tax increases and the rest in spending cuts. He said the plan would be published Wednesday and the budget issued on Dec. 7. Ireland will not be required to raise its low corporate tax rate of 12.5 percent, something it had strongly resisted.

“The I.M.F. will not micromanage the Irish economy,” Mr. Cowen said, in response to questions that the government was being held hostage. “And we are not ceding any policy sovereignty.”

So far, there have been few strikes in Ireland. People have been conditioned to believe that the deficit must be cut and that Ireland, as a small open economy, has little choice but to pay its debts and take the tough policy choices.

But there is likely to be a limit to this patience as spending cuts hit social services that by and large have remained protected. Irish unemployment is around 12 percent, and services like universal child benefits remain generous by European standards.

In another sign of public mood, the Sunday Independent newspaper displayed the photos of Ireland’s 15 Cabinet ministers on its front page, expressing hope that the International Monetary Fund would order the Irish political class to take huge cuts in pay and benefits. It also called for the “slaughter” of Prime Minister Brian Cowen’s Fianna Fail party at the next election.


http://www.nytimes.com/2010/11/23/business/global/23euro.html?_r=1&hp

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« Reply #1945 on: Nov 22nd, 2010, 09:05am »

New York Times

November 22, 2010
South Korea Digests News of North’s Nuclear Site
By MARK McDONALD

SEOUL, South Korea — Revelations of a uranium enrichment facility that recently went operational in North Korea apparently caught the South Korean government and nuclear experts here by surprise.

“If this information is true, then this is a serious problem,” an official with the Defense Ministry said on Monday, referring to the enrichment facility that was seen this month by an American nuclear scientist on a visit to North Korea. The defense official and other government officials spoke on the condition of anonymity due to the sensitive nature of the issue and because the South Korean government was still formulating a response.

“Our ministry is watching and monitoring North Korea’s nuclear activity,” said the defense official, adding that he was not permitted to say whether the military had known if the facility existed before the scientist, Siegfried S. Hecker, revealed the information. Mr. Hecker’s findings were first reported Sunday in The New York Times.

Several other senior government officials said privately on Monday that they were surprised by the news of the highly sophisticated plant, which Mr. Hecker described in a report as an “industrial-scale uranium enrichment facility with 2,000 centrifuges.” He said the interior of the plant was “stunning” in its sophistication.

One senior official in Seoul said the government has long had “suspicions” of the North’s continuing enrichment program. Although the new revelations were “a serious matter,” he characterized the mood in his ministry as “not that panicked.”

Wi Sung-lac, Seoul’s chief negotiator on nuclear issues, met on Monday morning in Seoul with Stephen Bosworth, the United States special envoy for North Korea, and Mr. Bosworth called the North Korean enrichment effort “disappointing” and “not helpful.”

On Monday afternoon, Mr. Wi traveled to Beijing to meet with his Chinese counterparts. His trip to Beijing had been previously scheduled.

“He is probably going to check with the Chinese government to see if they got stabbed in the back,” said an analyst close to the government who asked not to be named. China is North Korea’s principal benefactor and only major ally.

On Monday, South Korean Foreign Minister Kim Sung-hwan downplayed the newly operational facility, saying, “It’s nothing new.” But some political analysts in Seoul were alarmed at an apparent lapse in intelligence gathering by United States and South Korean agencies.

“These are supposedly the best and brightest guys and they’re making such stupid mistakes,” said Moon Chung-in, a professor of political science at Yonsei University in Seoul. “Washington and Seoul always fall into the pattern of looking at North Korea from their own negative perceptions. They are blinded by their own stereotypes, prejudices and inertia.”

Mr. Moon said the North had publicly announced it would continue with its nuclear efforts if international sanctions against the regime remained in place. Indeed, on April 15, 2009, the North Korean Foreign Ministry said it would “proceed with our own LWR fuel cycle,” referring to the production of low-enriched uranium for use in a civilian light water reactor. North Korean atomic officials recently told Mr. Hecker and a former American diplomat, Jack Pritchard, that they had begun construction of such a reactor.

“Intelligence agencies in South Korea and the U.S. haven’t even been paying attention to official announcements from North Korea,” said Mr. Moon. “There was no reaction from Washington and Seoul. They just said it was North Korea bluffing or for propaganda purposes. It’s weird. It’s surreal.”

But now that the North has unveiled its new enrichment facility, Mr. Moon said, “North Korea has proved they can deliver.”

“The control room was astonishingly modern,” Mr. Hecker said, adding that it “would fit into any modern American processing facility.”

Mr. Hecker, a professor at Stanford University and a former director of the Los Alamos National Laboratory, said North Korean officials told him their enrichment facility took 18 months to bring online. Several nuclear experts in Seoul were doubtful that North Korea had managed to build the plant so quickly — and without outside help or equipment.

“Definitely they had help,” said a senior government official.

“They could not do this alone,” said Kim Seoc-woo, a proliferation expert and director of the Institute for Peace and Cooperation, a research institute in Seoul. “They must have got their equipment from somewhere. That means, maybe, through China.”

Mr. Kim was careful to say that the Chinese government was “not intentionally turning a blind eye to this.”

“This is against their own interests,” he said. “But there are loopholes everywhere.”

Instead, Mr. Kim and other analysts suggested, North Korean traders using elaborate smuggling channels might have brought banned nuclear equipment into the North using an overland route — starting from Iran, then through Afghanistan and perhaps Pakistan, then into China and on to North Korea.

Nuclear experts in Seoul said Monday the construction of the light water reactor also was a significant worry, especially if the North was able to complete such a facility on its own. North Korean officials told Mr. Pritchard that the plant will be for electricity generation.

Low enriched uranium is typically used for power plants and research reactors. Highly enriched uranium and plutonium, however, are used in nuclear weapons.

“There’s no quantum leap in technology in going from low to high,” said Mr. Kim. “You use the same process, just repeated. Once you go into enrichment, there’s no limit. There’s no technological barrier. It’s just a matter of time.”


http://www.nytimes.com/2010/11/23/world/asia/23korea.html?hp

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« Reply #1946 on: Nov 22nd, 2010, 09:08am »

LA Times

High-seas piracy drama plays out in U.S. courtroom
Five Somalis accused of attacking a Navy ship await their fate in the first such trial in almost 200 years.

By Bob Drogin, Los Angeles Times
10:27 PM PST, November 21, 2010
Reporting from Norfolk, Va.

The moon was bright, the sea was calm, and the pirates easily spotted their prey — a large gray ship plodding through waves 576 nautical miles off the coast of Somalia.

Three men jumped from a command boat into an open skiff and raced toward the target. They opened fire with AK-47 rifles as they neared the starboard side, hitting a mast and several life lines.

No one was hurt, and the April 1 incident normally might have drawn little notice. Somali sea bandits have attacked several hundred freighters, tankers and other merchant ships this year. They have successfully hijacked 40 vessels and their crews and held them for ransom.

But the target this time was the U.S. guided missile frigate Nicholas, disguised to resemble a cargo ship. Navy gunners fired back, and by dawn, commandos had captured five Somalis.

The result has been a riveting federal trial here this month. Navy officers gave a rare inside peek at counter-pirate operations, while the men accused of piracy testified emotionally — one appeared to weep on the stand — about their ordeals.

"It's a historic occasion," said Eugene Kontorovich, a maritime law expert at Northwestern University School of Law. "It's the first piracy trial in the United States in close to 200 years."

The five Somalis — scarecrow-thin men in their 20s who appeared even tinier in the baggy sport coats they wore to court — each faces 14 criminal charges and mandatory life in prison if convicted of piracy. The jury is expected to begin deliberations Monday.

Whatever the verdict, the trial has underscored the difficulties of combating Somali piracy in a U.S. court, especially if the men never boarded the ship. In a similar but separate case, another federal judge in Norfolk dismissed piracy charges against six other Somalis accused of firing at the U.S. Navy vessel Ashland, although they face other charges. Prosecutors are appealing.

The men captured by the Nicholas were flown to Norfolk, where the frigate is based, because authorities in Kenya, which agreed last year to prosecute pirates detained by foreign navies, refused to accept them. Days before the attack, Navy warships had released 11 other suspected Somali brigands after destroying their weapons.

Testifying last week, the five Somalis insisted they were fishing for sharks near shore when real pirates kidnapped them at gunpoint. Several nights later, they said, the pirates pushed them into the skiff, tossed in two rifles and ordered them to aim at a passing ship.

One defendant, Gabul Abdullahi Ali, said he knew so little about guns that when he fired the AK-47, the recoil knocked him into the water. Ali said the pirates beat him, and that Navy sailors did too.

"I was kicked, stomped on with boots," he said through an interpreter, wiping tears from his eyes.

Another defendant, Abdi Wali Dire, also admitted shooting in the melee. Like the others, he insisted they did not try to escape after the Navy shot back. "We were just sitting there," he said.

All five recanted confessions that a Navy investigator said they had given him shortly after their capture. One of the group, Abdi Mohammed Gurewardher, said the Navy interpreter threatened to feed him to the sharks if he didn't confess.

Prosecutors presented a starkly different version of events.

Navy officers said a P-3 Orion surveillance plane detected three suspected pirate boats — a so-called mother ship and two smaller attack skiffs — shortly after midnight on April 1, and alerted the Nicholas.

Cmdr. Erik Patton, the ship's executive officer, soon spotted a small white skiff speeding toward the warship. Through his night-vision scope, Patton saw two men with AK-47 rifles and another man holding a rocket-propelled grenade launcher.

"He's got a grenade launcher! He's got a grenade launcher!" Patton recalled shouting. He said the attackers fired at least three bursts from their rifles, but Navy gunners fore and aft opened up with .50-caliber machine guns, and the skiff turned and sped away.

Navy rules of engagement barred the crew from shooting at a fleeing target. After a half-hour chase, Patton told the court, the men waved their arms in surrender. They already had tossed weapons and a boarding ladder into the sea.

A Navy drone, launched from the Seychelles, spotted the mother ship 20 miles away later that night. The Nicholas intercepted the supply-laden boat at daybreak and detained the two men aboard. The third boat was never found.

The five Somalis were stripped, blindfolded and given what the Navy calls "poopy suits," or survival coveralls. They were handcuffed to a rail under an awning for most of the next few days.

On April 4, Michael Knox, a special agent from the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, and an interpreter interrogated the men one by one, and then together. He did not record the sessions.

Knox told the jury that the captives admitted that they had sailed from Mogadishu, the Somali capital, with five other men "for the purpose of pirating a merchant vessel." He said a Somali financier back on shore had promised to pay them each $10,000 to $40,000 if they succeeded.

The trial, before U.S. District Court Judge Mark S. Davis, has produced a few moments of levity. One defense lawyer provoked titters when he asked whether a witness spoke "salami," not Somali.

On Friday, lawyers used a phone hookup in court to grill a defense witness in Mogadishu. The witness, who said he owned the fishing boats that were sunk by the Navy, abruptly pleaded with the judge for restitution for the missing craft "and compensation for the crew."

Davis, smiling broadly, said he would pass the request to government prosecutors. They did not respond.

Piracy is hardly new to Norfolk, home of the world's largest Navy base. In colonial days, desperados marauded up the coast from the Caribbean. They sparked such dread that piracy is one of the few crimes — treason is another — identified in the Constitution.

The last known U.S. trial of a pirate captured overseas was in 1819. During the Civil War, crew members from the Savannah, a Confederate raider, were charged with piracy and tried in New York. But the jury deadlocked, and the rebels later were deemed prisoners of war.

A New York court last month delayed sentencing of another Somali. Abdiwali Abdiqadir Muse pleaded guilty to charges that he hijacked the container ship Maersk Alabama in April 2009 and kidnapped Capt. Richard Phillips, who later was rescued by Navy SEALS. Muse faces a minimum of 27 years in prison.

http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/nation/la-na-pirates-20101121,0,5291254.story

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« Reply #1947 on: Nov 22nd, 2010, 09:14am »

Wired

Nov. 22, 1963: Zapruder Films JFK Assassination
By Tony Long
November 22, 2010
7:00 am
Categories: 20th century, Communication, Politics

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1963: President John F. Kennedy is assassinated as his motorcade passes through Dealey Plaza in downtown Dallas. Texas Gov. John Connally, riding in the same car as Kennedy, is seriously wounded.

A spectator unwittingly films the assassination on his 8mm home-movie camera, contributing one of the 20th century’s earliest and most significant pieces of user-generated content. The funerary weekend that follows will be telecast by satellite worldwide in the first giant example of the “global village.”

The Warren Commission, set up by order of President Lyndon B. Johnson to investigate the assassination, concluded that Kennedy was killed by a lone gunman, Lee Harvey Oswald, firing from the sixth floor of the Texas School Book Depository. Although the report was widely accepted at first, skepticism grew as more information concerning possible conspiracies leaked out.

Oswald denied having anything to do with the shooting at all, let alone being part of any conspiracy, but he was killed — and silenced — two days after the assassination while in the custody of Dallas police.

That, coupled with the FBI’s miserable handling of the initial investigation, did nothing to quell the suspicions of those who believed Kennedy’s assassination was the work of (pick one, or more than one): the CIA, Johnson, the mob, Fidel Castro, the anti-Castro Cubans, J. Edgar Hoover.

Whether the shooter was acting alone or as part of a bigger conspiracy may never be known. Most of the available evidence, such as the Warren Commission Report, is inconclusive.

But the other big assertion — that Oswald (or whoever the Book Depository gunman was) had help from shooters on the ground — has never been adequately supported by hard evidence, either.

The so-called “grassy knoll” theory maintains that one, or possibly two, gunmen shot from ground level in Dealey Plaza. A number of eyewitnesses claimed to have heard gunfire coming from the grassy knoll, but nobody actually saw a gunman, and no shells were ever recovered.

The Warren Report, basing its findings on the autopsy and forensics reports, concluded that two bullets struck Kennedy. They came from the same weapon, a bolt-action Mannlicher-Carcano military rifle of Italian manufacture that was recovered at the Book Depository. Three shots were fired, all from above and behind the target. The first missed. The second, the so-called “magic bullet,” passed through Kennedy and tore into Gov. Connally, causing all his wounds. The third shot, the killing one, exploded into the right side of Kennedy’s head.

Conspiracy theorists point to the impossible trajectory of the magic bullet, and to the 26 seconds of silent film shot by Dallas dressmaker Abraham Zapruder, which shows Kennedy’s head snapping backwards as the fatal third shot takes off the right side of his head, as evidence that shots came from more than one direction.

Forensics experts disagree, however, arguing that the described path of the second bullet, while improbable, was not impossible and that Kennedy’s head snap at the moment of impact suggests a reaction to the first bullet striking him and not the second. Forty-seven years on and we’re still not entirely sure what happened in Dallas that day.

The assassination changed the political landscape of the United States. Thie aftermath changed the media landscape of the world.

Zapruder sold the publication rights to his film images to Life magazine, which ran the jarring, graphic still frames in its next issue a week later. The sequence was not shown as a film clip on network television until 1975.

Where were the TV cameras? They were in studios. Most television cameras of the time were still bulky and barely mobile, the size of refrigerators. Even mobile TV vans relied on landlines. The president of the United States was not yet under constant video watch.

The era of compact TV cameras and anywhere-hookups, even for professionals using microwave and satellite uplinks, was still in the future. (Hundreds of witnesses carrying video-ready smartphones? Even further into the future.)

But what was on television from Friday to Monday of that November weekend was the return of Kennedy’s coffin to Washington, D.C., its repose in the East Room of the White House and lying-in-state in the Capitol Rotunda, the funeral at St. Matthew’s Cathedral, the burial at Arlington National Cemetery and the various processions and corteges linking these events. That and, of course, the live onscreen killing of Lee Harvey Oswald in the Dallas police headquarters.

It was a harbinger of the media world to come. Transoceanic satellite links were new and expensive, but this was a story of such unexpectedness, such importance and such personal drama that TV pulled out all the stops.

The weekend’s events were watched in grief, shock and horror by millions around the world. Communications theorist Marshall McLuhan deemed the Kennedy assassination and funeral a founding instance of the global village, a media experience shared in real time across borders and continents.

Source: Various

Photo: President John F. Kennedy and Texas Gov. John Connally (in jump seat) ride in a motorcade in Dallas, Nov. 22, 1963, moments before bullets would injure Connally and fatally wound Kennedy.
Bettmann/Corbis

http://www.wired.com/thisdayintech/2010/11/1122zapruder-films-jfkennedy-assassination/

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« Reply #1948 on: Nov 22nd, 2010, 09:20am »

Wired Magazine

Boeing Teams Up With Baron of Inflatable Space Hotels
By Vince Beiser

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Illustration: Grzegorz Domaradzki

Meet Boeing, an aerospace giant all funded up with nowhere to go. The company has an $18 million NASA contract to build a spaceship for ferrying astronauts into orbit after the space shuttle is mothballed next year. Unfortunately, there’s only one destination — the International Space Station — and that’s not enough for Boeing.

Now meet Robert Bigelow, a UFO-obsessed gazillionaire with plans to build for-profit inflatable space stations for rent by governments, scientists, and tourists (see issue 15.11). Don’t laugh — he already has two prototypes in orbit. But max altitude of the Virgin Galactics of the world (this world, anyway) is only 68 miles. And with his stations 235 miles up, that’s not enough for Bigelow.

Thankfully, these crazy kids got together. In February, Boeing announced that it was partnering with Bigelow to design and build a capsule called the CST-100. And in September, Boeing teamed up with Space Adventures, a company that arranges civilian space flights. ($20 million! Cheap!) The Obama administration wants to encourage commercial crewed spaceflight, but without a guaranteed customer other than NASA, it’s been hard to attract big shots like Boeing. As the primary contractor for the ISS, Boeing already knows a lot about heavy-lift rocketry; throw in Bigelow’s knack for orbital facilities and Space Adventures’ experience training space cadets, and you’ve got the skill set necessary for building a business on the high frontier. Boeing is supposed to launch a CST-100 by 2015 — and Bigelow says he’ll launch his first full-size, six-person outpost soon thereafter. “If the ISS were the only destination, it wouldn’t make sense to develop this transport system as a business,” says John Elbon, Boeing’s vice president for commercial space programs. “If Bigelow succeeds, there will be a significant market.” If they take United Miles, we’re in.

more illustrations after the jump
http://www.wired.com/magazine/2010/11/st_boeing_bigelow

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« Reply #1949 on: Nov 22nd, 2010, 11:41am »

AAAAAAGGGGGHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!
Cabin Fever!!!!!!!!


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The Girls are happy. We're not getting out until Wednesday afternoon because the husband didn't listen when I asked him to get the snow tires on the car!!!!!!

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