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 veryhotthread  Author  Topic: Stuff & Nonsense  (Read 48095 times)
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« Reply #1995 on: Nov 26th, 2010, 5:46pm »

Space Weather
What's Up in Space
26 November 2010


FARSIDE ACTIVITY: The far side of the sun is alive with activity. Today, NASA's twin STEREO spacecraft and the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO) have observed two farside coronal mass ejections (CMEs) billowing into space. This one came from old sunspot 1126, located just over the sun's southwestern horizon:

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Click to see animation: http://spaceweather.com/swpod2010/26nov10/cme_c3_first.gif?PHPSESSID=6g5846c66033e2kg11g86je9u6


Hours later, a second CME followed, (http://spaceweather.com/swpod2010/26nov10/cme_c3.gif?PHPSESSID=6g5846c66033e2kg11g86je9u6)

but not from the same blast site. The second CME came from an active region near the sun's anti-Earth point, almost directly opposite our planet on the solar farside.

If Earth were on the other side of the sun, we would be be expecting bright auroras from the impact of these clouds. Instead, the alert is for "all quiet." Nothing major is heading our way.

The farside active regions that produced these eruptions will turn to face Earth in 7 to 14 days. Will they remain active that long? Stay tuned for updates from the farside.

http://spaceweather.com/

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« Reply #1996 on: Nov 26th, 2010, 5:50pm »






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« Reply #1997 on: Nov 26th, 2010, 5:52pm »





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« Reply #1998 on: Nov 26th, 2010, 5:54pm »






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« Reply #1999 on: Nov 26th, 2010, 5:58pm »






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« Reply #2000 on: Nov 27th, 2010, 07:51am »

New York Times

November 26, 2010
Crises Shake German Trust in Euro Zone
By MICHAEL SLACKMAN

BERLIN — Chancellor Angela Merkel has tried to assure business leaders and investors that Germany is committed to a strong, stable euro, while at the same time assuring the German public that it is time to get tough with investors and demand that other euro zone nations fix their finances.

It is a high-wire act that, in the end, has angered almost everyone, or apparently satisfied no one. In the process Mrs. Merkel has managed to produce strong anti-German sentiments, stoke rumors of the euro’s imminent collapse, anger German voters and catch blame for aggravating the crisis in Ireland and undermining the euro by unnerving investors.

No German officials are saying they want the euro to disappear; in fact, they say the opposite, vowing that their goal is to strengthen the currency. But the trick is to manage that without alienating the German public and, not incidentally, losing power.

Germany’s difficulties have again revealed the great weakness of the unified currency: perceptions of national sovereignty and national interest trump any sense of unity within the euro zone.

A recent headline in the mass circulation daily newspaper Bild spoke to the public sentiment: “Do We in the End Have to Pay for the Whole of Europe? First the Greeks, Now the Irish — and Then ...?”

Politics, therefore, threatens the euro’s viability, more than economics, political analysts and economists said.

“Merkel is not a testy schoolmarm,” said John C. Kornblum, a former United States ambassador to Germany who continues to live and work here. “She is frightened, not only that the euro will collapse but that Germany’s entire commitment to the European Union will break down based on the fact that the German population will start abandoning the system.”

So the chancellor has tried to reconcile two largely irreconcilable constituencies as she tries to help steer the euro zone through a second financial crisis in Ireland, and with an eye to crises down the road in Portugal and Spain.

On the one hand, the German public has no appetite for what it sees as paying for the mistakes of one irresponsible neighboring country after another. On the other, Germany is committed to stabilizing the euro, and for sound economic reasons. Germany has arguably benefited more from the euro than any other country, with most of its wealth of exports going to euro-zone markets.

The formula Germany has settled on has been to signal that it will help, but demand that other euro-zone nations — and private bondholders — share the pain.

“If you are forward-looking and you are German, at some point you are going to have to cut your losses because you see more losses down the road,” said Michael C. Burda, chairman of Macroeconomics and Labor Economics at Humboldt-University in Berlin. “No one is talking about leaving the monetary union, so the only thing to do is force these countries to get in line.”

But economic policy is not made in a vacuum. Political leaders in the euro zone, particularly in the debtor countries, may find it difficult to sell voters on the belt tightening that Germany is demanding, particularly if austerity seems to lead to nothing but recession, budget cuts and more misery.

With one eye on reassuring an electorate already inflamed by the Greek bailout, German leaders have spoken recently of their concern for the future of the euro and the need for private bondholders to share the losses, and in so doing were criticized for inflaming the crisis. Even those who sympathize with Mrs. Merkel’s position say her timing could have been better.

“Many people knew this discussion was coming, but they should not have done it now,” said André Sapir, a senior fellow at the Bruegel research center. “I don’t know if they felt it was necessary for the politics or if it was just a mistake.”

Since the Irish crisis has emerged, Germany has said that it will support a rescue plan, but Mrs. Merkel has called for the creation of a new program to replace the current European Financial Stability Facility after 2013.

Unlike its predecessor, this plan would force investors to incur some of the risk of investment while offering incentives and penalties to encourage states to adhere to fiscal guidelines. Experts said the German position was based on a need to sell the plan to a skeptical public, but also to head off a ruling by the constitutional court that could potentially conclude that participation in the bailout process is a violation of German law.

“Germany’s biggest fear is this instrument will be prolonged over 2013,” said Bert Van Roosebeke, a finance specialist with the Center for European Policy in Freiburg. “The political conflict behind it is that a lot of countries in the E.U. want to prolong this rescue fund.”

But while Mrs. Merkel has continued to argue for her plan in the face of wilting criticism from abroad, she has faced resistance not only from the opposition but also from within her own party.

With the Greek bailout, a German nation that had suffered years of belt tightening and spending cuts, including years of wage freezes, to get its economic house in order was now being asked to pay for the sins of another country. “This is not aggressive nationalism, this is angry stubbornness coming out of a feeling that they are right and the others aren’t,” Mr. Kornblum said. “They won’t give in.”

So the chancellor continues with her two-track approach.

On Wednesday she stood before the Bundestag, or lower house of Parliament, and said that it was time for investors to share the burden of future bailouts. “Have politicians got the courage to make those who earn money share in the risk as well?” she asked the chamber. “Or is dealing in government debt the only business in the world economy that involves no risk?”

And then on Thursday she stood before a group of business leaders in Berlin and said that the euro zone was already on the path to recovery.

“I am more confident than in the spring the euro zone will make it out of the current turbulence,” she said.

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/11/27/world/europe/27germany.html?ref=world

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« Reply #2001 on: Nov 27th, 2010, 07:53am »

New York Times

November 26, 2010
Britain Keeps Silent on Afghan Impostor Claim
By ALAN COWELL

PARIS — The authorities in London withheld a formal response on Friday to a reported accusation by a senior Afghan official that the British introduced an impostor posing as a high Taliban commander into the presidential palace in Kabul to meet President Hamid Karzai.

News of the embarrassing ruse emerged earlier this week in an article in The New York Times saying that a man identifying himself as Mullah Akhtar Muhammad Mansour, one of the most senior commanders in the Taliban movement, had held three meetings with NATO and Afghan officials, encouraging hopes of a negotiated settlement to a nine-year war.

The fake Taliban leader even met with President Karzai, after being flown to Kabul on a NATO aircraft and ushered into the presidential palace, officials told The Times.

The episode underscored the uncertain and even bizarre nature of the atmosphere in which Afghan and American leaders are searching for ways to bring the American-led war to an end.

In its Friday editions, The Washington Post quoted President Karzai’s chief of staff as saying that the British introduced the impostor and warning that foreigners should not get involved in negotiations with the Taliban.

The chief of staff, Mohammad Umer Daudzai, said that unidentified British officials brought the impostor to meet Mr. Karzai in July or August. Afghan intelligence later determined that the visitor was actually a shopkeeper from the Pakistani city of Quetta.

His remarks seemed to reflect a growing hostility among Afghan officials toward Western diplomatic interference in Afghan policy matters, despite the billions of dollars spent by the international coalition to support the Karzai government.

Asked to comment on the report on Friday, a spokeswoman for the British Foreign Office in London said only: “We do not comment on operational matters.”

But, if borne out, the report would come at a delicate time for the British intelligence services, under pressure to be more open about their operations and likely to be deeply embarrassed by the spectacle of being duped in a country where they devote much attention to intelligence-gathering.

Only last month, Sir John Sawers, the head of Britain’s Secret Intelligence Service, known as MI6, highlighted cooperation between British and American spy agencies “an especially powerful contributor to U.K. security.”

While there had been whispers in Washington that the British had introduced the impostor, Mr. Daudzai’s comments were the most direct assignation of blame for the debacle, The Washington Post said. It also said that American officials have “long characterized the British as more aggressive than the Americans in pushing for a political settlement to end the war.”

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/11/27/world/asia/27impostor.html?ref=world

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« Reply #2002 on: Nov 27th, 2010, 07:56am »

LA Times

Somali-born teen held in Oregon car-bomb plot
From the Associated Press
3:33 AM PST, November 27, 2010

PORTLAND, Oregon

Undercover agents in a sting operation stopped a Somali-born teenager from blowing up a van full of explosives at a crowded Christmas tree lighting ceremony in Portland on Friday, federal authorities said.

The explosives were duds supplied by the agents and the public was never in danger, authorities said.

Mohamed Osman Mohamud, 19, was arrested at 5:40 p.m. just after he dialed a cell phone that he thought would detonate the explosives but instead brought federal agents and Portland police swooping down on him.

Yelling "Allahu Akbar!" -- Arabic for "God is great!" -- Mohamud tried to kick agents and police as they closed in, according to prosecutors.

"The threat was very real," said Arthur Balizan, special agent in charge of the FBI in Oregon. "Our investigation shows that Mohamud was absolutely committed to carrying out an attack on a very grand scale."

Mohamud, a naturalized U.S. citizen living in Corvallis, was charged with attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction and is scheduled for a court appearance Monday. Few details were available about him late Friday.

There was no word from authorities if the suspect had any ties to other Americans recently accused of trying to carry out attacks on U.S. soil, including alleged efforts in May by a Pakistan-born man to set off a car bomb near Times Square or another Pakistan-born Virginia resident accused last month in a bomb plot to kill commuters.

U.S. Attorney Dwight Holton released federal court documents to The Associated Press and the Oregonian newspaper that show the sting operation began in June after an undercover agent learned that Mohamud had been in regular e-mail contact with an "unindicted associate" in Pakistan's northwest, a frontier region where Al Qaeda and Afghanistan's Taliban insurgents are strong.

Mohamud and the associate used coded language in an e-mail in which the FBI believes Mohamud discussed traveling to Pakistan to prepare for "violent jihad," the documents said.

Last June an FBI agent contacted Mohamud "under the guise of being affiliated with the first associate."

Mohamud and the undercover agent met in Portland on July 30 where the agent and Mohamud "discussed violent jihad," according to the court document.

Prosecutors alleged that Mohamud later mailed bomb components to FBI operatives, who he believed were assembling the device.

"This defendant's chilling determination is a stark reminder that there are people -- even here in Oregon -- who are determined to kill Americans," Holton said.

Earlier this month, Mohamud and the agents traveled to the Oregon backcountry and detonated a bomb as a trial run. On the drive back, the undercover officials asked Mohamud if he was capable of looking at the bodies of those killed, according to the federal documents.

"Mohamud responded, 'I want whoever is attending that event to leave, to leave either dead or injured."'

He said he wanted to set off explosives at the annual Christmas tree lighting ceremony in Portland's Pioneer Courthouse Square, an event that occurred Friday.

On Friday, an undercover agent and Mohamud drove to downtown Portland in a white van that carried six 55-gallon drums with detonation cords and plastic caps, but all of them were inert, the complaint states.

They got out of the van and walked to meet another undercover agent, who drove to Union Station, the Portland train station, where Mohamud was given a cell phone that he thought would blow up the van, according to the complaint.

Mohamud dialed the phone agents had given him, and was told the bomb did not detonate. The undercover agents suggested he get out of the car and try again to improve the signal, when he did, he was arrested, the complaint said.

Omar Jamal, first secretary to the Somali mission to the United Nations, condemned the plot and urged Somalis to cooperate with police and the FBI.

"Talk to them and tell them what you know so we can all be safe," Jamal said.

U.S. authorities have been struggling against a recent spate of terror plans by U.S. citizens or residents.

In the Times Square plot, Faisal Shazhad allegedly tried to set off a car bomb at a bustling street corner. U.S. authorities had no intelligence about Shahzad's plot until the smoking car turned up in Manhattan.

Late last month, Farooque Ahmed, 34, of Virginia was arrested and accused of casing Washington-area subway stations in what he thought was an Al Qaeda plot to bomb and kill commuters. Similar to the Portland sting, the bombing plot was a ruse conducted over the past six months by federal officials.

Also in October, a Hawaii man was arrested and accused of making false statements to the FBI about his plans to attend terrorist training in Pakistan.

In August, a Virginia man was caught trying to leave the country to fight with an Al Qaeda-affiliated group in Somalia.

http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/nation/la-naw-portland-car-bomb-20101127,0,6522562.story

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« Reply #2003 on: Nov 27th, 2010, 08:10am »

Telegraph

Antony Spencer: Landscape Photographer of the Year 2010


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Corfe Castle by Antony Spencer


This picture gallery features a selection of photographs taken by Antony Spencer, winner of this year's Landscape Photographer of the Year award. Antony, 30, from Gillingham, Dorset, has been juggling photography with his day job as a bricklayer since 2007. But since being crowned Landscape Photographer of the Year with this image of Corfe Castle, Dorset, he revealed his aim is to go full-time.

photo gallery after the jump
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/travel/picturegalleries/8162498/Antony-Spencer-Landscape-Photographer-of-the-Year-2010.html

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« Reply #2004 on: Nov 27th, 2010, 08:23am »

io9.com

Dying star's cosmic rebirth into a new nebula
27 November 2010
By Alasdair Wilkins


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This dying star in the constellation of Cygnus will soon complete its transformation into what's known as a planetary nebula, which will play a vital role in returning enriched elements to the galaxy at large.

This star, designated, IRAS 20068+4051, has run out of hydrogen fuel and has begun venting huge quantities of dust and gas. It hasn't yet become a planetary nebula, which actually has nothing to do with planets beyond its superficial resemblance to a gas giant. Instead, it's still a protoplanetary nebula, and it's one of the very few such transitional nebulae that we've managed to observe.

The structure's shape was once spherical, but powerful stellar winds have twisted it into the spiral-like shape we see now. It's a striking enough image already, but things will get really dramatic when the gas heats up enough to make the cloud glow, which will signal the proper birth of the planetary nebula in spectacular fashion.

While planetary nebulae emit lots of different kinds of radiation, including visible light, protoplanetary nebula are much more difficult to see. They only emit infrared light, which makes them nearly undetectable from the surface of Earth. That's why it's a good thing the space-based Hubble Telescope was around to observe and photograph this rare phenomenon.

source: Space.com http://www.space.com/scienceastronomy/hubble-photo-dying-star-101119.html

http://io9.com/5699699/dying-stars-cosmic-rebirth-into-new-nebula

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« Reply #2005 on: Nov 27th, 2010, 6:50pm »

Telegraph

Embarrassment for Coalition as Wikileaks prepares to release secret US papers
Potentially "embarrassing" comments on the formation of Britain's coalition
government are to be revealed this week as millions of leaked US diplomatic documents are made public.

By Patrick Hennessy,
Political editor 9:00PM GMT
27 Nov 2010


The series of revelations on the Wikileaks website – which are expected to begin tonight – will put a fresh strain on the "special relationship" between Britain and the United States.

The leaked diplomatic cables, dating from January 2009 to June 2010, cover a huge range of issues and include "lively commentaries" sent to Washington about a host of world leaders whose numbers are understood to include David Cameron and Gordon Brown.

Another series of leaks is thought to deal with Canada's "inferiority complex".

Whitehall sources expect them to be "drip fed" out over about a week.

The revelations about what US diplomats reported back on Gordon Brown's final months in power and the formation of the coalition after May's election are thought to be among the earliest to be made public in Britain.

A coalition source described the leaks as likely to be "embarrassing rather than damaging" for the current government.

However, he added: "The last Labour government has a lot more reason to be nervous."

Mr Brown's rocky relationship with President Barack Obama, which included a notorious visit to New York in September 2009 during which the White House was accused of "snubbing" the former prime minister, is almost certain to be mentioned, as is Britain's troop withdrawal from Iraq.

The Sunday Telegraph understands that frank assessments of the likelihood – or unlikelihood – of the coalition lasting are set to be included.

The source said: "There could be queries on whether the coalition would survive. But they only cover one month of the current administration."

US officials have warned that the latest tranche of documents will be far the most damaging of Wikileaks's output so far because of the potential harm they could do to relations with America's allies.

Previous leaks have included hundreds of thousands of secret Iraq war logs.

Louis Susman, the US Ambassador to London, has briefed senior British ministers on the content of the latest leaks.

The Sunday Telegraph has learnt that the first tranche of documents, to be published in full tomorrow after an initial release tonight, are expected to feature "lively commentaries" by US diplomats on world leaders, including Nelson Mandela, Robert Mugabe, the Zimbabwean president, Hamid Karzai, the president of Afghanistan, and Libya's Colonel Muammar Gaddafi of Libya.

Coalition sources say Tuesday's haul will deal with North and South Korea, as well as Guantánamo Bay, while Wednesday's tranche will include comments on Pakistan and counter-piracy operations in Djibouti.

Thursday will see attention focus on the Canadians and their "inferiority complex" while corruption allegations in Afghanistan will be under the spotlight on Friday. Saturday will cover Yemen while next Sunday will see the focus shift to China.

P J Crowley, the US State Department spokesman, said "We are all bracing for what may be coming and condemn Wikileaks for the release of classified material It will place lives and interests at risk. It is irresponsible.

"When this confidence is betrayed and ends up on the front pages of newspapers or lead stories on television or radio, it has an impact," he said.

The State Department "has known all along" that Wikileaks possesses classified documents, but it was not possible to predict exactly what information would be made public and what impact it would make, he said.

"We wish this would not happen, but we are obviously prepared for the possibility that it will," he added.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/politics/8165041/Embarrassment-for-Coalition-as-Wikileaks-prepares-to-release-secret-US-papers.html

http://www.wikileaks.org/

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« Reply #2006 on: Nov 27th, 2010, 8:11pm »



see after the four minute mark


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« Reply #2007 on: Nov 28th, 2010, 09:10am »

New York Times

F.B.I. Says Oregon Suspect Planned ‘Grand’ Attack
By COLIN MINER, LIZ ROBBINS and ERIK ECKHOLM
Published: November 27, 2010


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About 10,000 people were in Pioneer Courthouse Square when the authorities said a teenager hoped to detonate a car bomb.


PORTLAND, Ore. — A Somali-born teenager who thought he was detonating a car bomb at a packed Christmas tree-lighting ceremony downtown here was arrested by the authorities on Friday night after federal agents said that they had spent nearly six months setting up a sting operation.

The bomb, which was in a van parked off Pioneer Courthouse Square, was a fake — planted by F.B.I. agents as part of the elaborate sting — but “the threat was very real,” Arthur Balizan, the F.B.I.’s special agent in charge in Oregon, said in a statement released by the Department of Justice. An estimated 10,000 people were at the ceremony on Friday night, the Portland police said.

Mr. Balizan identified the suspect as Mohamed Osman Mohamud, 19, a naturalized United States citizen. He graduated from Westview High School in Beaverton, Ore., a Portland suburb, and had been taking classes at Oregon State in Corvallis until Oct. 6, the university said Saturday.

Mr. Mohamud was charged with trying to use a weapon of mass destruction. “Our investigation shows that Mohamud was absolutely committed to carrying out an attack on a very grand scale,” Mr. Balizan said.

“At the same time, I want to reassure the people of this community that, at every turn, we denied him the ability to actually carry out the attack,” he added.

The terrorism attempt was the latest is a string of plots since last year involving Americans or immigrants who had become radicalized, often through exposure to extremist Web sites. In May, a Pakistani-born American was arrested in the plotting of a car bomb attack in Times Square, and later pleaded guilty.

But in contrast to that plan, which the authorities learned about only at the last minute, the F.B.I. had been tracking Mr. Mohamud since 2009 and his planning unfolded under the scrutiny and even assistance of undercover agents, officials said.

Mr. Mohamud was arrested 20 minutes before the tree-lighting ceremony started. As he was taken into custody, he kicked and screamed at the agents and yelled “Allahu akbar,” an Arabic phrase meaning “God is great,” the authorities said.

Federal agents said Mr. Mohamud thought Portland would be a good target because Americans “don’t see it as a place where anything will happen.”

“It’s in Oregon; and Oregon, like you know, nobody ever thinks about it,” an affidavit quotes him as saying.

The F.B.I.’s surveillance started in August 2009 after agents intercepted his e-mails with a man he had met in Oregon who had returned to the Middle East, according to a law enforcement official who described the man as a recruiter for terrorism. According to the affidavit, the man had moved to Yemen and then northwest Pakistan, a center of terrorism activity.

Mr. Mohamud was then placed on a watch list and stopped at the Portland airport in June 2010 when he tried to fly to Alaska for a summer job.

Later in June, aware of Mr. Mohamud’s frustrated attempts to receive training as a jihadist overseas, an undercover agent first made contact with him, posing as an associate of the man in Pakistan. On the morning of July 30, the F.B.I. first met with Mr. Mohamud in person to initiate the sting operation.

The planning for the attack evolved from there, with Mr. Mohamud taking an aggressive role, insisting that he wanted to cause many deaths and selecting the Christmas target, according to federal agents. Reminded that many children and families would be at the ceremony, Mr. Mohamud said that he was looking for “a huge mass” of victims, according to the F.B.I.

He had been dreaming of committing an act of terrorism for four years, Mr. Mohamud told undercover agents: “Since I was 15 I thought about all this things before.”

One of the unknowns in the case is the precise role of the unnamed man with whom Mr. Mohamud exchanged the intercepted e-mails. According to the affidavit, the man was a student in the United States from August 2007 to July 2008. At some point, while Mr. Mohamud was in high school, the two met. In his initial meetings with the undercover agents, Mr. Mohamud described his dreams of joining the jihadist cause, and mentioned articles he had written on the subject.

Mr. Mohamud told the agents that in 2009 he had published three articles on the Web site Jihad Recollections, which was edited by a Saudi-born American, Samir Khan, from a home in North Carolina. Mr. Khan moved to Yemen, where he runs Inspire, an English-language Web site, on behalf of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.

One of Mr. Mohamud’s articles was titled “Getting in Shape Without Weights” and described the need to “exercise the body and prepare it for war.”

It was not clear on Saturday whether Mr. Mohamud had yet obtained counsel.

Defense lawyers in such cases involving sting operations often accuse the F.B.I. of entrapment. Anticipating such claims, undercover agents in Mr. Mohamud’s case offered him several nonfatal ways to serve his cause, including mere prayer. But he told the agents he wanted to be “operational,” and perhaps execute a car bombing.

In August, Mr. Mohamud described the target he had in mind — Portland’s Christmas tree lighting in Pioneer Courthouse Square.

The agent asked: “You know there’s gonna be a lot of children there?”

Mr. Mohamud replied: “Yeah, I mean that’s what I’m looking for.”

The agents repeatedly asked him if he was prepared to commit such a violent act. “I want whoever is attending that event to leave, to leave either dead or injured,” Mr. Mohamud told the agents, according to the affidavit.

He referred to the Sept. 11 attacks, and how people were forced to jump from the burning World Trade Center towers, calling such violence “awesome.”

For the next several weeks, the F.B.I. let the plot play out, assisting Mr. Mohamud with the details, providing him with cash, scoping out a parking spot near the square, sketching out the plan on paper. At the end of September, Mr. Mohamud mailed bomb components to agents he thought were fellow operatives who would assemble the device.

Planning to leave the country afterward, he sent passport pictures to the undercover agent. On Nov. 4, Mr. Mohamud went with undercover agents to a remote spot where they exploded a bomb in a backpack.

They then drove to his apartment, where he made a video full of apocalyptic phrases. “Explode on these infidels,” he said, in mixed English and Arabic.

On Tuesday, according to the affidavit, Mr. Mohamud and the undercover agents met again for final preparations, loading what seemed like parts of a bomb into a vehicle, planning details of the operation. He even told the agents the pseudonym he had chosen for the passport to be used in his escape: Beau Coleman.

On Friday, Mr. Mohamud and the agents drove to the square, where the police had made sure a parking space had been held open. Mr. Mohamud then dialed the number that he thought would set off the bomb. Nothing happened. He was told that to get better reception, he should step out the car to dial again.

Instead, he was arrested. Mr. Mohamud is scheduled to appear in federal court here on Monday and faces a maximum sentence of life in prison.

In the apartment complex next to a commuter rail line in Beaverton where members of Mr. Mohamud’s family are believed to live, no one answered the door Saturday. Voices could be heard inside, but a handwritten sign taped to the door warned against solicitors and trespassers.

“They’re not going to answer,” said Itzel Barajas, who lives in the apartment across the outdoor hallway at the complex, Merlo Station Apartments.

Bahja Osman was one of several Somali women who visited the apartment.

“We feel very, very sad,” Ms. Osman said. “That’s why we’re coming — as a peace.”

Ms. Osman said she met Mr. Mohamud’s mother, whose first name she and several others said was Mariam, when they lived at a different apartment complex nearby. She said the Mohamud family came to Oregon several years go “to study, everybody, to go to school and to live.”

Ms. Osman said Mr. Mohamud’s mother was very upset.

“I didn’t believe it,” Ms. Osman said of the news that Mr. Mohamud had been arrested. “She’s surprised, too.”

Mr. Mohamud was born in Mogadishu, Somalia, in 1991. He attended Jackson Middle School and Wilson High School in Portland before transferring to Westview High School in Beaverton. Brandon Guffey, a classmate of Mr. Mohamud who said he had known him since 2002 but had not spoken to him since they went to Wilson, recalled Mr. Mohamud as a “perfectly normal guy.”

Mr. Guffey, 20, said that Mr. Mohamud had a solid group of friends who were also Muslim, and that he was interested in sports and hip-hop culture. Mr. Guffey said Mr. Mohamud and his friends never acted in a way he considered extreme, adding he never heard Mr. Mohamud talk about religion or politics.


more after the jump
http://www.nytimes.com/2010/11/28/us/28portland.html?_r=1&hp

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New York Times

U.S. and South Korea Begin Joint Naval Exercises
By MARTIN FACKLER
November 27, 2010


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South Korean marines patroling on Yeonpyeong Island on Sunday


SEOUL, South Korea — The United States and South Korea began naval exercises on Sunday that were meant as a warning to North Korea for recent provocations, including last week’s deadly artillery attack on a island populated by South Koreans in the Yellow Sea.

At the same time, China stepped up its diplomatic efforts to cool tempers in the region, with a senior envoy holding a meeting on Sunday morning with South Korea’s president and Beijing announcing that it had invited a senior North Korean official for talks this week. China also called for an emergency meeting of the so-called six-party talks on North Korea's nuclear program, news agencies reported.

North Korean artillery was heard Sunday on the island, though no shells landed there and South Korea considered it just a drill, according to a spokesman for South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff. The North Koreans also shot off artillery on Friday, after a visit by an American general to the island, called Yeonpyeong.

The announcement of the naval exercises last week raised already heightened tensions, angering both North Korea and its patron, China, and stirring intense speculation in the South Korean news media about whether the North would respond violently.

After the announcement, China warned against “any military act” in its exclusive economic zone without permission, according to the state-run Xinhua news agency. But virtually all the waters to the west of the Korean Peninsula fall within that 200 nautical mile limit. It was not immediately clear if the American and South Korean flotilla, which included the United States aircraft carrier George Washington, had sailed into that area.

China’s diplomatic efforts came after days of entreaties from Washington and its allies to exert a moderating influence on North Korea.

The Chinese envoy, state counselor in charge of foreign affairs, Dai Bingguo, met with South Korea’s president, Lee Myung-bak, as part of a previously unannounced visit to Seoul, according to a senior South Korean official.

China’s diplomatic initiative also included the planned talks with Choe Tae-bok, chairman of North Korea’s Supreme People’s Assembly, who will pay an official visit to China starting Tuesday.

The United States has hoped that China would use its leverage over North Korea to restrain it from any further attacks, but so far China has not rebuked the North’s leaders, at least in public. And when China did finally make a strong public statement late last week on the attack — the one warning against military actions in its economic zone — it directed its pique at the United States for the naval exercises.

The show of force was designed both to deter further attacks by the North and to signal to China that unless it reins in its unruly ally, it may see an even larger American presence in the vicinity.

The flurry of diplomacy over the weekend followed days of recriminations by both Koreas. On Saturday, North Korea accused South Korea of using civilians as human shields around military bases on the island. The accusation, reported by the North’s official news agency, is apparently an effort to redirect South Korean outrage over the barrage, which killed two civilian construction workers and two South Korean marines.

“If the U.S. brings its carrier to the West Sea of Korea at last, no one can predict the ensuing consequences,” the report said, using the Korean name for the Yellow Sea.

Also on Saturday, at least two protests were staged in Seoul that criticized both North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-il, for the attack and South Korea’s president for what many here see as the military’s failure to make more than a token response.

The bombardment of the island was the first attack on a civilian area since the 1950-53 Korean War, and it enraged the South Koreans far more than previous provocations by the North, including its nuclear weapons tests and the sinking in March of a South Korean warship that killed 46 sailors. Despite the findings of an international investigation, North Korea denies responsibility for the sinking.

The North has said that Tuesday’s attack was carried out in response to South Korean artillery drills earlier that day on the island, which sits within sight of the North Korean mainland. On the morning of the attack, North Korea warned South Korea not to conduct the drills.

Citing those warnings, North Korea said it had made “superhuman efforts to prevent the clash at the last moment.” It also offered an uncharacteristic show of remorse, calling the civilian deaths “very regrettable.”

The comments were apparently an attempt to present the North’s view of events to the South Korean public, which has reacted to Tuesday’s attack with uncharacteristic vehemence toward the North.

Ian Johnson contributed reporting from Beijing, and Su-Hyun Lee and Sharon LaFraniere from Seoul.

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/11/28/world/asia/28korea.html?ref=world

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New York Times

War Machines: Recruiting Robots for Combat
By JOHN MARKOFF
November 27, 2010


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An armed robot, called Maars, maneuvering at a training site at Fort Benning, Ga.


FORT BENNING, Ga. — War would be a lot safer, the Army says, if only more of it were fought by robots.

And while smart machines are already very much a part of modern warfare, the Army and its contractors are eager to add more. New robots — none of them particularly human-looking — are being designed to handle a broader range of tasks, from picking off snipers to serving as indefatigable night sentries.

In a mock city here used by Army Rangers for urban combat training, a 15-inch robot with a video camera scuttles around a bomb factory on a spying mission. Overhead an almost silent drone aircraft with a four-foot wingspan transmits images of the buildings below. Onto the scene rolls a sinister-looking vehicle on tank treads, about the size of a riding lawn mower, equipped with a machine gun and a grenade launcher.

Three backpack-clad technicians, standing out of the line of fire, operate the three robots with wireless video-game-style controllers. One swivels the video camera on the armed robot until it spots a sniper on a rooftop. The machine gun pirouettes, points and fires in two rapid bursts. Had the bullets been real, the target would have been destroyed.

The machines, viewed at a “Robotics Rodeo” last month at the Army’s training school here, not only protect soldiers, but also are never distracted, using an unblinking digital eye, or “persistent stare,” that automatically detects even the smallest motion. Nor do they ever panic under fire.

“One of the great arguments for armed robots is they can fire second,” said Joseph W. Dyer, a former vice admiral and the chief operating officer of iRobot, which makes robots that clear explosives as well as the Roomba robot vacuum cleaner. When a robot looks around a battlefield, he said, the remote technician who is seeing through its eyes can take time to assess a scene without firing in haste at an innocent person.

Yet the idea that robots on wheels or legs, with sensors and guns, might someday replace or supplement human soldiers is still a source of extreme controversy. Because robots can stage attacks with little immediate risk to the people who operate them, opponents say that robot warriors lower the barriers to warfare, potentially making nations more trigger-happy and leading to a new technological arms race.

“Wars will be started very easily and with minimal costs” as automation increases, predicted Wendell Wallach, a scholar at the Yale Interdisciplinary Center for Bioethics and chairman of its technology and ethics study group.

Civilians will be at greater risk, people in Mr. Wallach’s camp argue, because of the challenges in distinguishing between fighters and innocent bystanders. That job is maddeningly difficult for human beings on the ground. It only becomes more difficult when a device is remotely operated.

This problem has already arisen with Predator aircraft, which find their targets with the aid of soldiers on the ground but are operated from the United States. Because civilians in Iraq and Afghanistan have died as a result of collateral damage or mistaken identities, Predators have generated international opposition and prompted accusations of war crimes.

But robot combatants are supported by a range of military strategists, officers and weapons designers — and even some human rights advocates.

“A lot of people fear artificial intelligence,” said John Arquilla, executive director of the Information Operations Center at the Naval Postgraduate School. “I will stand my artificial intelligence against your human any day of the week and tell you that my A.I. will pay more attention to the rules of engagement and create fewer ethical lapses than a human force.”

Dr. Arquilla argues that weapons systems controlled by software will not act out of anger and malice and, in certain cases, can already make better decisions on the battlefield than humans.

His faith in machines is already being tested.

“Some of us think that the right organizational structure for the future is one that skillfully blends humans and intelligent machines,” Dr. Arquilla said. “We think that that’s the key to the mastery of 21st-century military affairs.”

Automation has proved vital in the wars America is fighting. In the air in Iraq and Afghanistan, unmanned aircraft with names like Predator, Reaper, Raven and Global Hawk have kept countless soldiers from flying sorties. Moreover, the military now routinely uses more than 6,000 tele-operated robots to search vehicles at checkpoints as well as to disarm one of the enemies’ most effective weapons: the I.E.D., or improvised explosive device.

Yet the shift to automated warfare may offer only a fleeting strategic advantage to the United States. Fifty-six nations are now developing robotic weapons, said Ron Arkin, a Georgia Institute of Technology roboticist and a government-financed researcher who has argued that it is possible to design “ethical” robots that conform to the laws of war and the military rules of escalation.

But the ethical issues are far from simple. Last month in Germany, an international group including artificial intelligence researchers, arms control specialists, human rights advocates and government officials called for agreements to limit the development and use of tele-operated and autonomous weapons.

The group, known as the International Committee for Robot Arms Control, said warfare was accelerated by automated systems, undermining the capacity of human beings to make responsible decisions. For example, a gun that was designed to function without humans could shoot an attacker more quickly and without a soldier’s consideration of subtle factors on the battlefield.

“The short-term benefits being derived from roboticizing aspects of warfare are likely to be far outweighed by the long-term consequences,” said Mr. Wallach, the Yale scholar, suggesting that wars would occur more readily and that a technological arms race would develop.

As the debate continues, so do the Army’s automation efforts. In 2001 Congress gave the Pentagon the goal of making one-third of the ground combat vehicles remotely operated by 2015. That seems unlikely, but there have been significant steps in that direction.

For example, a wagonlike Lockheed Martin device that can carry more than 1,000 pounds of gear and automatically follow a platoon at up to 17 miles per hour is scheduled to be tested in Afghanistan early next year.

For rougher terrain away from roads, engineers at Boston Dynamics are designing a walking robot to carry gear. Scheduled to be completed in 2012, it will carry 400 pounds as far as 20 miles, automatically following a soldier.

The four-legged modules have an extraordinary sense of balance, can climb steep grades and even move on icy surfaces. The robot’s “head” has an array of sensors that give it the odd appearance of a cross between a bug and a dog. Indeed, an earlier experimental version of the robot was known as Big Dog.

This month the Army and the Australian military held a contest for teams designing mobile micro-robots — some no larger than model cars — that, operating in swarms, can map a potentially hostile area, accurately detecting a variety of threats.

Separately, a computer scientist at the Naval Postgraduate School has proposed that the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency finance a robotic submarine system that would intelligently control teams of dolphins to detect underwater mines and protect ships in harbors.

“If we run into a conflict with Iran, the likelihood of them trying to do something in the Strait of Hormuz is quite high,” said Raymond Buettner, deputy director of the Information Operations Center at the Naval Postgraduate School. “One land mine blowing up one ship and choking the world’s oil supply pays for the entire Navy marine mammal program and its robotics program for a long time.”

Such programs represent a resurgence in the development of autonomous systems in the wake of costly failures and the cancellation of the Army’s most ambitious such program in 2009. That program was once estimated to cost more than $300 billion and expected to provide the Army with an array of manned and unmanned vehicles linked by a futuristic information network.

Now, the shift toward developing smaller, lighter and less expensive systems is unmistakable. Supporters say it is a consequence of the effort to cause fewer civilian casualties. The Predator aircraft, for example, is being equipped with smaller, lighter weapons than the traditional 100-pound Hellfire missile, with a smaller killing radius.

At the same time, military technologists assert that tele-operated, semi-autonomous and autonomous robots are the best way to protect the lives of American troops.

Army Special Forces units have bought six lawn-mower-size robots — the type showcased in the Robotics Rodeo — for classified missions, and the National Guard has asked for dozens more to serve as sentries on bases in Iraq and Afghanistan. These units are known as the Modular Advanced Armed Robotic System, or Maars, and they are made by a company called QinetiQ North America.

more after the jump
http://www.nytimes.com/2010/11/28/science/28robot.html?ref=us

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