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 veryhotthread  Author  Topic: Stuff & Nonsense  (Read 72522 times)
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« Reply #1980 on: Nov 25th, 2010, 08:06am »

New York Times

November 24, 2010
A Spanish Bailout Would Test Europe’s Strained Finances
By RAPHAEL MINDER

MADRID — Europe so far has survived the bailout of Greece. The financial rescue of Ireland also is manageable. Even if Portugal becomes the third country to succumb and seek aid, as many people widely predict, it is unlikely to push Europe to the financial brink.

But any bailout of Spain — with an economy twice the size of the other three combined — could severely stress the ability of Europe’s stronger countries to help the financially weaker ones, and spell deep trouble for the euro, Europe’s common currency. Even though Spain, like Ireland, has adopted an austerity plan to help it avoid the need for a bailout, it still could need aid if its banking system proves frailer than the government thinks it is, as was the case in Ireland.

This troubling possibility has unnerved lenders, with Spain’s borrowing costs rising even though Madrid has cut its deficit and the country’s banks maintain they have sufficient strength to absorb their bad real estate loans. “Europe can afford the collapse of Ireland, even perhaps that of Portugal, but not that of Spain, so Spain’s ultimate line of defense is in fact this knowledge that it’s too big to fail and that it represents a systemic risk for the euro,” said Pablo Vázquez, an economist at the Fundación de Estudios de Economía Aplicada, a research institute here.

Reflecting the worries of investors, the yield spread between Spanish 10-year government bonds and those of Germany continued to widen on Wednesday — to as high as 2.59 percentage points, the biggest gap since the introduction of the euro. Spreads typically widen when investors perceive greater risk of not being repaid.

The problem for Spain is one of “self-fulfilling expectations,” said Jordi Galí, director of the Center for Research in International Economics at Barcelona’s Pompeu Fabra university. “If investors expect Spain to have trouble refinancing its debt, now or somewhere down the road, then Spain will have trouble,” he added. “This is only aggravated by the fact that the reluctance of investors to purchase the country’s public debt leads to an increase in the interest rate it has to pay and thus in the budget deficit and the amount of debt it has to issue.”

Elena Salgado, Spain’s finance minister, insisted on Wednesday that Spain would not need rescuing. She told Spanish radio that “we are in the best position to resist against these speculative attacks.” Indeed, some say that one of Spain’s relative strengths is that a large amount of its government debt — 203.3 billion euros ($271.1 billion) — is owed to its own banks, rather than foreign lenders. If the government’s financial condition worsens, the thinking goes, Spanish banks would have a greater incentive to help out by easing terms on the loans than would foreign banks, which might take a harder line.

Of course, it is a bit of a double-edged sword; if the Spanish banks need to ease terms to help the government, they could be forced to swallow steep losses, hurting their balance sheets.

The likelihood of entering such a vicious circle could also rise next year, when Spain is due to repay lenders 192 billion euros, or about a fifth of the total debt. As a result of increasing interest it would have to pay for new borrowing, Spain faces a rise of 18 percent in the cost of financing its debt, according to the government’s budgetary plan.

Investor nervousness is mounting just as Madrid is reining in a budget deficit that reached 11.1 percent of gross domestic product last year. Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, initially slow to recognize the crisis, narrowly pushed through Parliament last May an austerity package that included 15 billion euros of spending cuts. As a result, Spain’s central government deficit fell 47 percent in the first 10 months of this year, according to government figures released on Tuesday.

Ireland also made steep spending cuts, but still needed a bailout. The main reason is that its banks were a lot more troubled than the government realized, and it could not afford the cost of supporting them without help from Europe.

The looming question is whether Spanish banks are really as healthy as the government and the banks say they are.

Last July, Spanish banks emerged relatively unscathed from stress tests carried out across Europe, which showed that only five Spanish entities might have insufficient capital. All of them, however, were among the weaker cajas, or savings banks, that were already due to tap into a 99-billion-euro state restructuring fund and get absorbed in a consolidation round aimed at cutting the number of cajas to about 20 from 45.

But the credibility of the stress tests has since been undermined by the collapse of Irish banks. Spanish banks avoided the catastrophic subprime investments made by Irish and many other European financial institutions, but Spanish banks nonetheless had a “problematic exposure” of 180.8 billion euros to real estate and Spain’s collapsed construction sector, like substandard and repossessed assets, according to a study by the Bank of Spain. The bank has gradually been tightening the provisioning requirements for repossessed assets.

Moreover, Spanish banks could suffer if Portugal’s financial problems worsen. Spain is not only Portugal’s biggest trade partner, it is also its biggest creditor, with Spanish banks holding $78 billion of Portuguese debt, according to the Bank for International Settlements.

“Spain’s banks already have enough problems, but the exposure to Portugal could just turn into the wild cart which upturns the whole apple cart,” said Edward Hugh, an independent economist based in Barcelona. Ireland’s near collapse has revived concerns about Spanish banks, resulting in a plunge in their stock prices this week.

Spain’s vulnerability would rise, warned Ralph Solveen, an economist covering Spain at Germany’s Commerzbank, should the government veer away from its deficit-cutting objectives or Spanish banks show further signs of fragility. “One clear risk factor is the banking system and possible bad news from there, because then many people would start to draw parallels with the situation in Ireland, whether justified or not,” Mr. Solveen said.

Another concern is that the central government’s cost-cutting zeal might not be matched by regional and local authorities, which accounted for 57 percent of public spending last year. Coming regional elections, starting with Catalonia this Sunday, could persuade politicians to make some unsustainable spending pledges, in particular in regions like Andalusia, where some municipalities have already fallen behind in paying staff salaries.

The central government, however, appears determined to force greater fiscal discipline even on Spain’s capital city. Last week, Mr. Zapatero rejected an appeal from the mayor of Madrid, which has debt of 7.15 billion euros, to relax recent restrictions on municipal debt issuance.

“Saying ‘no’ to the most powerful municipality in this country does send a very strong signal,” said Antonio Fernández, head of restructuring and insolvency at Garrigues, a Spanish law firm.


http://www.nytimes.com/2010/11/25/business/global/25spainecon.html?hp=&adxnnl=1&adxnnlx=1290693875-qeeoLVkUtvkLtOidfB4jqw

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« Reply #1981 on: Nov 25th, 2010, 08:11am »

Telegraph

Three Samoan teenagers have survived 50 days adrift in the Pacific Ocean,
being found alive by a tuna fishing vessel long after their families had given them up for dead.

By Bonnie Malkin
Christchurch 9:45AM GMT
25 Nov 2010


The youths, two aged 15 and one aged 14, had disappeared on Oct 5 in a tiny aluminium boat from the remote Atafu Atoll.

The trio were presumed to have drowned after unsuccessful searches by the New Zealand Air Force and Samoa had held a memorial service in their honour.

But, in a remarkable stroke of luck, the teenagers were spotted on Wednesday by a New Zealand tuna fishing boat which was far off its usual course.


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Filo Filo and Samuel Perez, both 15, and 14-year-old Edward Nasau resting on a tuna fishing boat after their rescue


Samuel Perez and Filo Filo, both 15 and Edward Nasau, 14, had drifted 800 miles and were in waters northeast of Fiji when they were rescued.

The first mate of the fishing boat the San Nikunau said that the boys had only eaten one seabird and a couple of coconuts during their time at sea.

In the days before their miraculous rescue, they had started drinking seawater, because it had not rained for some time, and would not have survived much longer, he said.

However, the teens had sustained surprisingly few injuries during their ordeal. They were thin and sunburnt, but otherwise fairly healthy and in good spirits.

"We got to them in a miracle," Tai Fredricsen, first mate of the San Nikunau, said.

"Yesterday we saw a small vessel, a little speed boat on our bows, and we knew it was a little weird," he told the Fairfax website Stuff.co.nz

Mr Fredricsen said the boat was initially spotted when it was about a mile off the bow.

"We had enough smarts to know there were people in it and those people were not supposed to be there."

"I pulled the vessel up as close as I could to them and asked them if they needed any help ... they said 'very much so'. They were ecstatic to see us."

Luckily, the San Nikunau had a medical officer on-board, who knew not to feed the trio too quickly. Instead they were put on a drip before slowly being given sips of water and small pieces of fruit that their bodies could absorb.

Soon they were strong enough to eat a full "kiwi breakfast", Mr Fredricsen said.

The boys are expected to be put ashore at Suva, the Fijian capital, in the next 24 hours where they will be checked at a hospital.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/australiaandthepacific/samoa/8159081/Three-Samoan-teenagers-rescued-after-50-days-adrift-at-sea-in-tiny-boat.html

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« Reply #1982 on: Nov 25th, 2010, 08:19am »

Telegraph

OAP, 72, holds female Hotpoint delivery driver 'hostage' in bizarre row over faulty cookers

A pensioner held a Hotpoint delivery driver hostage after he was repeatedly sent faulty cookers, saying “I don't make a habit of this but I've had enough”.

By Andrew Hough
6:30AM GMT
25 Nov 2010

Police were called after Ivan Langley, 72, locked the female driver in his home during a row over what he perceived as poor service from the electrical goods company.


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Ivan Langley (left) in his kitchen with Miss Hawes and the police
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Police were called after Ivan Langley, 72, locked the female driver in his home during a row over what he perceived as poor service from the electrical goods company.

Anna Hawes, 34, was held against her will for more than two hours after the OAP claimed he had given consecutive faulty ovens from the company in just a matter of days.

The bizarre dispute was sparked after Mr Langley became being incensed when his second replacement cooker turned out to be dented.

It was delivered to replace his £470 new cooker he bought last month, which blew up a few days later and short-circuited his home’s electrics.

He took the decision to lock a visibly surprised Miss Hawes in his bungalow after her was told a third new oven would not be available for a week.

As police attempted to diffuse the stand-off the retired lorry driver, who is disabled, declared: “I don’t make a habit of this but I've had enough”.

Mr Langley, from Newton Flotman, near Norwich, Norfolk, said he had been driven to take such direct action because of what he claimed was the company’s "diabolical" service.

“(The first replacement oven) blew up a few days later and tripped all the electrics in the house,” said the pensioner, who lives in a specially-adapted bungalow with his wife Sally, who is also disabled.

"They delivered a second one, but the same thing happened. When the third one was delivered it had a dent in the back.

"They told me I wouldn’t be able to get a replacement until Thursday next week."

He added: “What are we supposed to do in the meantime? I don’t want this one blowing up as well.

“Anna has taken it very well. She has been treated with respect and we haven’t beaten her up or anything. We’ve even offered her a bed for the night.

"It’s been quite funny but there has been a serious point behind it."

Mrs Langley, 72, added: "He’s a very easy-going bloke, but Hotpoint have been so bad it’s driven him round the twist.

"You wouldn’t want a cooker that doesn’t work, would you?"

Miss Hawes, whose bosses alerted police, appeared to take the incident in her stride. She drank coffee and laughed with her captor while attempting to hammer out the dent and connect the oven.

After an officer came the house and spoke to Mr Langley, Miss Hawes and her superiors, a deal was agreed and the driver was allowed to go. Mr Langley was neither arrested nor charged over Tuesday’s incident.

The driver was delayed from making further deliveries in Bunwell, Attleborough and Watton, Norfolk, before returning to her depot at Northampton.

Miss Hawes, who has worked for the company for about eight years, said: “He said he was not going to let me go until he gets what he needs.

"Nothing has happened to me to this extent before. I’ve always managed to talk my way out of it.

"It has been a bit of a pain but I’m taking it in my stride. I know he means me no harm. It was all pretty strange. That’s an afternoon I won’t forget in a hurry."

The company, based in Peterborough, Cambs, is owned by the Italian firm Indesit.

A spokesman said the company apologised over the incident and vowed to fix the provlem quickly.

"Whilst we understand the frustration of the customer, the welfare and security of our staff is of paramount importance to the company and we do not condone people taking the law into their own hands, however no further action will be taken," he said.

"We pride ourselves on our customer service. We deliver 450,000 appliances to UK homes each year and our customer complaints are well below the industry average."

"However, we recognise on this occasion that our standards fell short and we are sorry, it is now our priority to put it right."

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/newsbysector/retailandconsumer/8156533/OAP-72-holds-female-Hotpoint-delivery-driver-hostage-in-bizarre-row-over-faulty-cookers.html

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« Reply #1983 on: Nov 25th, 2010, 08:24am »

Wired Danger Room

Super-Silent Jimmy Carter Ready to Spy on North Korea
By Spencer Ackerman
November 24, 2010 | 11:25 am
Categories: Navy


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It’s not the diplomacy-minded former president who is ready to spy, it’s the secretive nuclear submarine named for him. The surveillance and attack capabilities it’s supposed to have could keep the tense situation on the Korean peninsula from spiraling out of control.

In the wake of yesterday’s North Korean artillery barrage against a South Korean island, the U.S.S. George Washington is sailing to South Korea to participate in joint exercises.

A statement from the Navy’s Seventh Fleet, which patrols the western Pacific, says the drill was planned before the “unprovoked” North Korean attack, but will demonstrate “the strength of the [South Korea]-U.S. Alliance and our commitment to regional stability through deterrence.” In other words: to stave off another attack, not to initiate a retaliation.

The George Washington aircraft carrier is equipped with 75 planes and around 6,000 sailors. But it’s not coming alone. It’s got the destroyers Lassen, Stethem and Fitzgerald with it, and the missile cruiser Cowpens in tow. Rumor also has it that the carrier strike group will link up with another asset in area: The undersea spy known as the Jimmy Carter, which can monitor and potentially thwart North Korean subs that might shadow the American-South Korea exercises.

According to plugged-in naval blogger Raymond Pritchett, word’s going around Navy circles that the first surveillance assets that the United States had in the air over yesterday’s Korean island battle were drones launched from the Jimmy Carter.

“North Korea couldn’t detect the USS Jimmy Carter short of using a minefield, even if they used every sonar in their entire inventory,” Galrahn writes. That’ll matter in case North Korea decides to launch another torpedo attack from a submarine, as it did in March to sink the South Korean corvette Cheonan.

The Navy doesn’t say much about what the Jimmy Carter can do, but the consensus is that it’s used for “highly classified missions.” Reportedly, it can tap undersea fiber-optic cables, potentially intercepting North Korean commands.

It carries Navy SEALs to slip into enemy ports undetected. And its class of subs have 26-and-a-half-inch-diameter torpedo tubes, wider than the rest of the submarine fleet, in case the Carter has to take out rival ships. “That’s a Seawolf, the most powerful attack sub in the world,” says Robert Farley, a maritime and international-relations scholar at the University of Kentucky.

All that might be intended to keep the North Koreans from trying something during the exercises, scheduled to run from December 3 through 10. As bellicose as they’ve been this year, they’d be up against a carrier strike group on the lookout for North Korean aggression.

The North’s 10 Yeono-class midget submarines — tiny subs with a crew of only a few sailors designed mostly for firing torpedoes — is “only mildly more capable than the submarines the Nazis were using in 1945,” Farley says, but “if there’s a nervous or adventurous North Korean sub skipper out there, we could have a real problem.”

The real role of the George Washington’s carrier strike group is floating diplomacy and deterrence, signaling “the close security cooperation between our two countries, and to underscore the strength of our Alliance and commitment to peace and security in the region,” as the White House’s account of a phone call between the U.S. and South Korean presidents last night put it.

And the Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association’s influential NightWatch newsletter doubts that North Korea is really preparing for war: It doesn’t appear to have issued new military alerts, and it’s competing in the Chinese-sponsored Asian Games.

But should its submarines get ready to harass the United States during next month’s exercises, chances are the Jimmy Carter will see it first.

http://www.wired.com/dangerroom/2010/11/jimmy-carter-is-nearly-invisible-and-ready-to-spy-on-north-korea/

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« Reply #1984 on: Nov 25th, 2010, 10:46am »

Dr. Jeff Masters' WunderBlog

Courtesy of Weather Underground


Meteorological winter officially begins on December 1, but winter has begun a week early across much of North America, thanks to a significant cold blast that has broken dozens of daily low temperature records across much of western Canada and the Western U.S. Sheridan, Wyoming set a new record for the date this morning with -17°F, and Oakland California had its coldest November 24th with a reading of 34°F this morning.

The cold blast is expected to be short-lived, though, with near-average conditions returning by the weekend. The long-range 1 - 2 week forecasts from the GFS and ECMWF models do not show the jet stream getting "stuck" in place for the beginning of meteorological winter next week, and it appears that the first two weeks of winter will be rather ordinary.

Latest winter forecast from NOAA


We currently have moderate La Niña conditions over the tropical Pacific ocean, which means that a large region of cooler than average waters exists along the Equator from the coast of South America to the Date Line. Cooler than average waters in this location tend to deflect the jet stream such that the Pacific Northwest experiences cooler and wetter winters than average, while the southern U.S. sees warmer and drier winter weather.

NOAA's forecast for the upcoming winter issued on October 21 calls for a typical La Niña winter over the U.S.--warm and dry over the southern portion of the country, cool and wet over the Pacific Northwest, warmer and wetter than average over the Ohio Valley, and near average over the remainder of the country. According to NOAA's latest La Niña discussion, La Niña is expected to remain solidly entrenched throughout the coming winter and into spring.

Read more at:
http://www.wunderground.com/blog/JeffMasters/comment.html?entrynum=1702
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« Reply #1985 on: Nov 25th, 2010, 1:39pm »

"Meteorological winter officially begins on December 1, but winter has begun a week early across much of North America, thanks to a significant cold blast that has broken dozens of daily low temperature records across much of western Canada and the Western U.S. Sheridan, Wyoming set a new record for the date this morning with -17°F, and Oakland California had its coldest November 24th with a reading of 34°F this morning."


Rub it in Swampy!!!!!

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« Reply #1986 on: Nov 25th, 2010, 1:40pm »






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« Reply #1987 on: Nov 25th, 2010, 6:15pm »

KOMO news Seattle

LAKEWOOD, Wash. --
Monday, Nov. 29 marks a dark day in local history.

It will be the one year anniversary of the day Maurice Clemmons killed four Lakewood police officers inside a Pierce County coffee shop.

Lakewood Police Chief Bret Farrar led the department and the community through the ordeal, and now he's opening up about the best way to honor the "Lakewood Four."

"Here we go," Farrar said as we maneuvered through mud and construction to see the Fallen Officers Memorial taking shape outside his building. The black granite wall is simple and respectful.

"Just a place to come reflect a little bit, pay your respects," Farrar said. There will be a water feature, blue lights, and eventually a bench facing the wall.

Farrar will dedicate the memorial wall one year, one hour and 46 minutes after his officers laid down their lives.

Sgt. Mark Renninger and officers Tina Griswold, Ronnie Owens and Greg Richards were starting their shift when Clemmons ambushed them, bent on killing police.

Farrar knows the anniversary can go one of two ways. It can be a day of opening old wounds, or it can be a day of healing. And he knows there is comfort in food.

"Food was a really big thing last year when it happened," Farrar said. "People were bringing us all kinds of cookies and cakes and pies and soup, and you name it - they were bringing it to the station. We thought, 'Wow, let's take that energy - and we're still trying to lose weight from last year, all the cookies and stuff that were given to us - let's change the focus and give it to the food bank to really help the people who need it this time of the year."'

And so the first annual Fallen Officers food drive was born.

Farrar wants people who come pay their respects to bring food donations, too.

"It could be a zoo around here come Monday, so we're trying to prepare for that," he said. "And if it is, that'd be great. I plan on sticking around all day. And I'll be out there taking donations as they come in."

The chief clearly has high hopes for the food drive.

For a year now, his department has seen the best side of people, and it has made a difference for his officers.

"Everybody's come to terms with what transpired last year and the ensuing year, and they're doing really well. And they're concentrating on their jobs and they're concentrating on serving their community. And I'm very proud of everybody," Farrar said.

Farrar has been through two traumas this year.

Months after the shootings, he was diagnosed with bladder cancer. He only had two days to wonder, "Why me?" before his wife was diagnosed with breast cancer.

"I never had an opportunity to wallow in self pity because I was worried about her. And she never had that opportunity to put herself first because she was worried about me, and we went through it together," he said. "So if it had to happen, I guess that was a good way for it to happen."

Farrar says right now he "feels like a million bucks."

He went through 12 weeks of chemotherapy and 10 hours of surgery. His wife is going through radiation, and he says she's doing well.

Farrar says the personal and public ordeals have shown him that whatever life throws at you, you can endure and overcome.

"The world doesn't really care if you have cancer and you're on chemo. Puget Sound Energy still sends me a bill every month. And my mortgage is due, and my daughter is in college across the mountains. And she needs her rent paid and she needs food. I mean, things just go on so you have to say, 'Let's deal with this and move forward.'"

Farrar has learned the balance of dealing with grief but continuing to live. Lakewood grabbed a tragic place in our history last Nov. 29. But what if the department could make history on the 29th again by hosting a food drive like we've never seen before?

Farrar says it would mean that even in death, his four officers carry on in their public service.

The food drive for the Emergency Food Network runs all day Monday, Nov. 29 though people can stop by any day beforehand to make a donation.

The memorial service will be held at 10 a.m. Speakers include Farrar, Lakewood Mayor Douglas Richardson and Gov. Chris Gregoire.

http://www.komonews.com/news/local/110509429.html

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« Reply #1988 on: Nov 26th, 2010, 07:55am »

New York Times

November 26, 2010
North Korea Issues Warning as Artillery Fire Rattles Island
By MARTIN FACKLER

SEOUL, South Korea — Tension mounted on Friday near a South Korean island bombarded this week by North Korea as Pyongyang’s military again fired artillery, this time in what appeared to be a drill on its own territory. The North’s state-run media warned that a planned United States-South Korean military exercise could push the Korean Peninsula closer to “the brink of war.”

Meanwhile, South Korea struggled with the domestic political fallout from Tuesday’s deadly attack, which exposed the weakness of South Korean defenses and brought public criticism of President Lee Myung-bak for failing to retaliate more forcefully. On Friday, he appointed a new defense minister, whose predecessor resigned on Thursday for failing to keep forces at ready in an area that has seen repeated military clashes with North Korea.

North Korea’s state-run news agency lashed out at South Korean and American plans to hold a joint training exercise on Sunday in Yellow Sea waters near the island.

The exercises are to include the American aircraft carrier George Washington. Using its characteristically bellicose language, the Korean Central News Agency said that the North’s army was “getting ready to give a shower of dreadful fire and blow up the bulwark of the enemies.”

“The situation on the Korean Peninsula is inching closer to the brink of war due to the reckless plan of those trigger-happy elements to stage war exercises targeted against” the North, the dispatch warned.

The arrival of the George Washington is intended as a warning to the North and a show of support for its ally, South Korea, following the Tuesday attack, the first by North Korea to strike civilians since the 1950-53 Korean War.

On Friday morning, the United States made another show of solidarity when the commander of American forces in South Korea, Gen. Walter L. Sharp, visited Yeonpyeong Island to survey the damage from the hour-long bombardment, which killed four South Koreans — two civilians and two marines.

But North Korea remained defiant, firing off artillery rounds right after the general’s visit. The rounds did not fall in South Korean territory but rattled nerves on the island nonetheless. A spokesman for the South Korean Defense Ministry, Kwon Ki-hyeon, said the shots appeared to stay within North Korean territory, suggesting they were part of a drill — or perhaps an effort to spook the South Korean garrison on the small island, which sits within sight of the North Korean mainland.

News flashes of the artillery sounds set off a brief wave of alarm in Seoul, where the Tuesday attack has stirred anxiety and outrage because it harmed civilians. Residents gathered in front of television screens or paused in their tracks to check cellphone screens for updates.

The events this week have raised concerns in Seoul that the North may respond violently during Sunday’s naval exercises. Some media reports cited parallels between the K.C.N.A. report Friday and a warning issued by North Korea hours before Tuesday’s artillery barrage, which the North said was in response to a South Korean military maneuver held near the island earlier that day.

While reading the reclusive North’s intentions can be a challenge, experts said the Friday report was more vaguely worded, suggesting that it was intended as a broad warning to the United States and South Korea not to stray too closely to North Korean territory.

“It is a message that North Korea will not yield if it believes the joint military training infringes on its sovereignty,” said Kim Keun-shik, a professor of international relations at Kyungnam University.

To thwart another North Korean attack, the South Korean president, Mr. Lee has ordered reinforcements to the 4,000 troops now on Yeonpyeong and four nearby islands as well as more heavy weapons. But his government has come under intense domestic criticism for what has been depicted as an inadequate retaliation for Tuesday’s attack, which South Korean troops on the island responded to with a smaller artillery counterattack.

Mr. Lee appointed Kim Kwan-jin, a former chairman of South Korea’s joint chiefs of staff as defense minister. Earlier on Friday, South Korean officials had named another appointee for the spot, but then withdrew the name when he apparently failed to pass an internal vetting process.

South Koreans have begun to get their first look at the damage to Yeonpyeong’s small fishing town from reports by South Korean journalists describing a scene of devastation with dozens of homes burned out or flattened by the hour-long attack.

Television footage showed streets in the island’s main fishing port deserted by all but stray dogs after most civilians had evacuated the island. The island’s garrison of marines remained on high alert, with South Korean officials saying they were on the lookout for a reaction from North Korea to Sunday’s military exercise.

While the island bristles with artillery batteries and machine gun nests, South Korean officials said its forces were unable to fully respond to Tuesday’s attack because they have been trained and equipped to thwart a North Korean amphibious assault, not fight off a prolonged artillery bombardment.

While the garrison did shoot back with 155-millimeter cannons, officials in the Blue House, South Korea’s version of the White House, said plans are afoot to reinforce the garrison with other types of heavy weaponry.

In his visit to the island, General Sharp expressed sympathy for those killed and said many lives appeared to be saved by the quick response of local civil defense officials, who herded townspeople into bomb shelters. He also called on North Korean People’s Army to refrain from further attacks and to hold talks on the incident.

Su-Hyun Lee contributed reporting from Seoul.


http://www.nytimes.com/2010/11/27/world/asia/27korea.html?_r=1&hp

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« Reply #1989 on: Nov 26th, 2010, 07:57am »

New York Times

November 26, 2010
Europe Shares Fall on Portugal Worry
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

Equity markets and the euro were back under pressure Friday as investors fretted over a report suggesting Portugal’s partners in the European Union were urging the country to seek aid to prevent a sustained attack from bond market speculators.

The report from FT Deutschland, which cites unnamed European Central Bank officials, was denied by the central bank and the German finance ministry.

It comes after suggestions that the European Union is willing to increase the size of its financial backstop facility and that officials in Dublin are considering forcing Irish bank bondholders to take a hit in the country’s rescue plan.

Germany and France, meanwhile, have said they would like faster progress in solving the debt crisis.

With so much uncertainty surrounding Europe’s response to sovereign debt problems, sentiment in the markets took a turn for the worse.

“This confusing ‘pea soup’ of indecision, vacillation and disunity by the E.U. is beginning to create unnecessarily seismic waves of fear in international bond and money markets,” said David Buik, markets analyst at BGC Partners.

In London, the FTSE 100 index was down 59.34 points, or 1 percent while the DAX in Frankfurt fell 65.89 points, or 0.96 percent. The CAC 40 in France was 55.16 points, or 1.47 percent, lower.

Wall Street was poised to open lower on its return from the Thanksgiving break, though American markets will be open for only half a day.

Stocks were not the only financial assets feeling the heat Friday. The euro was down another 0.8 percent on the day at $1.3231, just above its earlier fresh two-month low of $1.3219.

Meanwhile, the cost of borrowing for the countries at the epicenter of Europe’s debt crisis ratcheted up again, in a fresh sign that Ireland’s request for a bailout last weekend has done nothing to ease fears that another country, possibly Portugal or, more dangerously, Spain, will be the next victim.

The prevailing view in the markets is that Europe may be able to support Portugal but that a bailout of Spain would test the limits of the existing bailout fund, putting the euro project itself in jeopardy if governments do not put up more cash. Spain accounts for around 10 percent of the euro zone economy, in contrast with Ireland and Portugal, which account for around 2 percent each.

Spain’s yield on its 10-year bond yields rose 0.09 percent to 5.26 percent, while Portugal’s rose 0.04 percent to 7.06 percent.

Portugal remains in focus Friday as its Parliament is set to approve a plan to raise taxes and cut salaries and welfare benefits next year. The minority government insists it would not need financial rescue, saying the austerity measures will restore fiscal health.

The markets are clearly not so confident.

“While the government continues to stress that it is on course for meeting its deficit reduction targets, pressure is rising for Portugal to accept a bailout now in order to stop the market fretting about the liabilities of Spain towards Portugal,” an analyst at Rabobank International, Jane Foley, said.

“Clearly, euro zone officials have a battle on their hands to contain contagion and restore confidence in the euro,” Ms. Foley said.

As if Europe’s debt crisis was not enough, tensions on the Korean peninsula ratcheted up again after fresh artillery fire was heard hours after North Korea warned it was on the brink of war.

The current bout of unease started on Tuesday when four South Koreans were killed after North Korea unleashed a brief hail of artillery against the small South Korean island of Yeonpyeong.

“Korean tensions continue to weigh on market sentiment generally and restrains the upside in equity markets for the time being,” said Neil MacKinnon, global macro strategist at VTB Capital.

Earlier in Asia, Japan’s Nikkei 225 stock average closed down 0.4 percent to close at 10,039.56 and South Korea’s Kospi fell 1.3 percent to 1,901.80. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng shed 0.8 percent to 22,877.25.

Meanwhile, Chinese shares fell in weak trading amid worries over tightening of monetary policy. The benchmark Shanghai Composite Index lost or 0.9 percent to 2,871.70. The Shenzhen Composite Index for China’s smaller, second exchange edged 0.4 percent lower to 1,332.90.

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/11/27/business/27markets.html?hp

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« Reply #1990 on: Nov 26th, 2010, 08:06am »

LA Times

MGM's new board to include CBS' Fredric Reynolds, MySpace's Jason Hirschhorn
November 24, 2010 | 2:48 pm

The nine-person board of directors of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer will include well-known executives from television and online media once the troubled studio's restructuring is complete.

Fredric Reynolds, the former chief financial officer of CBS Corp., and Jason Hirschhorn, a co-president of MySpace, will be independent directors of MGM when it exits bankruptcy, which is expected to occur next month, according to documents filed Tuesday in bankruptcy court.

Reynolds worked in the television business at CBS and its predecessor company, Viacom Inc,. from 1994 to 2009, serving as CFO for his last five years. Hirschhorn was appointed co-president of MySpace, News Corp.'s struggling social-networking and entertainment website, in February, after 10 months as chief product officer. Prior to that, he was president of entertainment for Sling Media, the company behind the Slingbox television streaming device, and chief digital officer for MTV Networks.

MGM will likely be looking to tap their expertise in television distribution and digital distribution, respectively, in order to wring value out of its library of about 4,000 titles and the seven-to-eight new films it plans to release starting in 2012.

Three other members of the board will come from MGM's biggest debt holders, Anchorage Capital, Highland Capital Management and Solus Alternative Asset Management. All of MGM's debt owners will see their bonds converted to equity, which means those three firms will be among the studio's largest stakeholders following the Chapter 11 process.

Spyglass Entertainment co-founders Gary Barber and Robert Birnbaum, who are set to become chief executives of MGM, will sit on the board as co-chairmen.

The two other members have yet to be appointed. Under a deal reached with billionaire investor Carl Icahn, who acquired about 18% of MGM's debt leading up to the bankruptcy filing earlier this month, he will be able to select one of those members.

A hearing at which the bankruptcy court is expected to confirm MGM's reorganization plan is set for Dec. 2. After that, the studio will need to close a $500-million credit facility that it will use to fund operations and new productions. JPMorgan has agreed to syndicate that facility and provide $75 million of the money itself.

People familiar with the situation said MGM hopes to close the financing and exit bankruptcy by mid-December.

-- Ben Fritz

http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/entertainmentnewsbuzz/

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« Reply #1991 on: Nov 26th, 2010, 08:14am »

Science Daily

Pulsating Star Mystery Solved in Rare Alignment of Cepheid Variable and Another Star

ScienceDaily
(Nov. 26, 2010) —

By discovering the first double star where a pulsating Cepheid variable and another star pass in front of one another, an international team of astronomers has solved a decades-old mystery. The rare alignment of the orbits of the two stars in the double star system has allowed a measurement of the Cepheid mass with unprecedented accuracy. The new result shows that the prediction from stellar pulsation theory is spot on, while the prediction from stellar evolution theory is at odds with the new observations.


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This artist's impression shows the double star OGLE-LMC-CEP0227 in our neighbouring galaxy the Large Magellanic Cloud. The smaller of the two stars is a pulsating Cepheid variable and the orientation of the system is such that the stars eclipse each other during their orbits. Studies of this very rare system have allowed astronomers to measure the Cepheid mass with unprecedented accuracy. (Credit: ESO/L. Calçada)


The new results, from a team led by Grzegorz Pietrzyñski (Universidad de Concepción, Chile, Obserwatorium Astronomiczne Uniwersytetu Warszawskiego, Poland), appear in the Nov. 25, 2010 edition of the journal Nature.

Grzegorz Pietrzyñski introduces this remarkable result: "By using the HARPS instrument on the 3.6-metre telescope at ESO's La Silla Observatory in Chile, along with other telescopes, we have measured the mass of a Cepheid with an accuracy far greater than any earlier estimates. This new result allows us to immediately see which of the two competing theories predicting the masses of Cepheids is correct."

Classical Cepheid Variables, usually called just Cepheids, are unstable stars that are larger and much brighter than the Sun [1]. They expand and contract in a regular way, taking anything from a few days to months to complete the cycle. The time taken to brighten and grow fainter again is longer for stars that are more luminous and shorter for the dimmer ones. This remarkably precise relationship makes the study of Cepheids one of the most effective ways to measure the distances to nearby galaxies and from there to map out the scale of the whole Universe [2].

Unfortunately, despite their importance, Cepheids are not fully understood. Predictions of their masses derived from the theory of pulsating stars are 20% less than predictions from the theory of the evolution of stars. This embarrassing discrepancy has been known since the 1960s.

To resolve this mystery, astronomers needed to find a double star containing a Cepheid where the orbit happened to be seen edge-on from Earth. In these cases, known as eclipsing binaries, the brightness of the two stars dims as one component passes in front of the other, and again when it passes behind the other star. In such pairs astronomers can determine the masses of the stars to high accuracy [3]. Unfortunately neither Cepheids nor eclipsing binaries are common, so the chance of finding such an unusual pair seemed very low. None are known in the Milky Way.

Wolfgang Gieren, another member of the team, takes up the story: "Very recently we actually found the double star system we had hoped for among the stars of the Large Magellanic Cloud. It contains a Cepheid variable star pulsating every 3.8 days. The other star is slightly bigger and cooler, and the two stars orbit each other in 310 days. The true binary nature of the object was immediately confirmed when we observed it with the HARPS spectrograph on La Silla."

The observers carefully measured the brightness variations of this rare object, known as OGLE-LMC-CEP0227 [4], as the two stars orbited and passed in front of one another. They also used HARPS and other spectrographs to measure the motions of the stars towards and away from the Earth -- both the orbital motion of both stars and the in-and-out motion of the surface of the Cepheid as it swelled and contracted.

This very complete and detailed data allowed the observers to determine the orbital motion, sizes and masses of the two stars with very high accuracy -- far surpassing what had been done before for a Cepheid. The mass of the Cepheid is now known to about 1% and agrees exactly with predictions from the theory of stellar pulsation. However, the larger mass predicted by stellar evolution theory was shown to be significantly in error.

The much-improved mass estimate is only one outcome of this work, and the team hopes to find other examples of these remarkably useful pairs of stars to exploit the method further. They also believe that from such binary systems they will eventually be able to pin down the distance to the Large Magellanic Cloud to 1%, which would mean an extremely important improvement of the cosmic distance scale.


Notes


[1] The first Cepheid variables were spotted in the 18th century and the brightest ones can easily be seen to vary from night to night with the unaided eye. They take their name from the star Delta Cephei in the constellation of Cepheus (the King), which was first seen to vary by John Goodricke in England in 1784. Remarkably, Goodricke was also the first to explain the light variations of another kind of variable star, eclipsing binaries. In this case two stars are in orbit around each other and pass in front of each other for part of their orbits and so the total brightness of the pair drops. The very rare object studied by the current team is both a Cepheid and an eclipsing binary. Classical Cepheids are massive stars, distinct from similar pulsating stars of lower mass that do not share the same evolutionary history.

[2] The period luminosity relation for Cepheids, discovered by Henrietta Leavitt in 1908, was used by Edwin Hubble to make the first estimates of the distance to what we now know to be galaxies. More recently Cepheids have been observed with the Hubble Space Telescope and with the ESO VLT on Paranal to make highly accurate distance estimates to many nearby galaxies.

[3] In particular, astronomers can determine the masses of the stars to high accuracy if both stars happen to have a similar brightness and therefore the spectral lines belonging to each of the two stars can be seen in the observed spectrum of the two stars together, as is the case for this object. This allows the accurate measurement of the motions of both stars towards and away from Earth as they orbit, using the Doppler effect.

[4] The name OGLE-LMC-CEP0227 arises because the star was first discovered to be a variable during the OGLE search for gravitational microlensing. More details about OGLE are available at: http://ogle.astrouw.edu.pl/.

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/11/101124143405.htm

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« Reply #1992 on: Nov 26th, 2010, 08:21am »

NASA

Expedition 25 Lands in Kazakhstan

Expedition 25 landed safely in Kazakhstan at 11:46 p.m. EST Thursday (Friday 10:46 a.m. Kazakhstan time). The trio -- Doug Wheelock, Shannon Walker and Soyuz Commander Fyodor Yurchikhin -- undocked in the Soyuz TMA-19 at 8:23 p.m. ending their 5-1/2 month stay at the International Space Station.

Wheelock has spent 178 days in space on his two missions (15 days on STS-120). Walker spent 163 days in space on this, her first mission. Each spent 161 days aboard the station as members of Expedition 24/25.

Yurchikhin has 371 total days in space (163 during Expedition 24/25). He was also a flight engineer during Expedition 15 (197 days) and a mission specialist for STS-112 (11 days).

Staying behind on the orbiting laboratory are Expedition 26 Commander Scott Kelly and Flight Engineers Alexander Kaleri and Oleg Skripochka. Their increment officially began when the Soyuz TMA-19 undocked.

The departing Expedition 25 crew spent its final days packing gear for the return home as well as reviewing and training for its landing procedures. They also participated in the usual station science and maintenance activities.

The crew members remaining behind prepared for their handover activities all week. They reviewed emergency procedures as the outgoing station residents transitioned into their new roles. They also continued station science activities such as collecting and storing blood samples for the Human Research Facility.

› Watch the ISS Update video: http://www.nasa.gov/multimedia/videogallery/index.html?collection_id=23381

http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/living/index.html

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« Reply #1993 on: Nov 26th, 2010, 12:12pm »




Please be an angel

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« Reply #1994 on: Nov 26th, 2010, 1:15pm »

Associated Press Interactive

Afghanistan photo chief Dusan Vranic was embedded with the Marines stationed in Sangin district in November 2010

video after the jump
http://hosted.ap.org/specials/interactives/_international/milestone_afghanistan/

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