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 veryhotthread  Author  Topic: Stuff & Nonsense  (Read 16177 times)
Swamprat
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xx Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #2085 on: Dec 4th, 2010, 12:09pm »

TWAS THE NIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS,
HE LIVED ALL ALONE,
IN A ONE BEDROOM HOUSE MADE OF
PLASTER AND STONE.

I HAD COME DOWN THE CHIMNEY
WITH PRESENTS TO GIVE,
AND TO SEE JUST WHO
IN THIS HOME DID LIVE.

I LOOKED ALL ABOUT,
A STRANGE SIGHT I DID SEE,
NO TINSEL, NO PRESENTS,
NOT EVEN A TREE.

NO STOCKING BY MANTLE,
JUST BOOTS FILLED WITH SAND,
ON THE WALL HUNG PICTURES
OF FAR DISTANT LANDS.

WITH MEDALS AND BADGES,
AWARDS OF ALL KINDS,
A SOBER THOUGHT
CAME THROUGH MY MIND.

FOR THIS HOUSE WAS DIFFERENT,
IT WAS DARK AND DREARY,
I FOUND THE HOME OF A SOLDIER,
ONCE I COULD SEE CLEARLY.

THE SOLDIER LAY SLEEPING,
SILENT, ALONE,
CURLED UP ON THE FLOOR
IN THIS ONE BEDROOM HOME.

THE FACE WAS SO GENTLE,
THE ROOM IN SUCH DISORDER,
NOT HOW I PICTURED
A UNITED STATES SOLDIER.

WAS THIS THE HERO
OF WHOM I'D JUST READ?
CURLED UP ON A PONCHO,
THE FLOOR FOR A BED?

I REALIZED THE FAMILIES
THAT I SAW THIS NIGHT,
OWED THEIR LIVES TO THESE SOLDIERS
WHO WERE WILLING TO FIGHT.

SOON ROUND THE WORLD,
THE CHILDREN WOULD PLAY,
AND GROWNUPS WOULD CELEBRATE
A BRIGHT CHRISTMAS DAY.

THEY ALL ENJOYED FREEDOM
EACH MONTH OF THE YEAR,
BECAUSE OF THE SOLDIERS,
LIKE THE ONE LYING HERE.

I COULDN'T HELP WONDER
HOW MANY LAY ALONE,
ON A COLD CHRISTMAS EVE
IN A LAND FAR FROM HOME.

THE VERY THOUGHT
BROUGHT A TEAR TO MY EYE,
I DROPPED TO MY KNEES
AND STARTED TO CRY.

THE SOLDIER AWAKENED
AND I HEARD A ROUGH VOICE,
'SANTA DON'T CRY,
THIS LIFE IS MY CHOICE;

I FIGHT FOR FREEDOM,
I DON'T ASK FOR MORE,
MY LIFE IS MY GOD,
MY COUNTRY, MY CORPS.'

THE SOLDIER ROLLED OVER
AND DRIFTED TO SLEEP,
I COULDN'T CONTROL IT,
I CONTINUED TO WEEP.

I KEPT WATCH FOR HOURS,
SO SILENT AND STILL
AND WE BOTH SHIVERED
FROM THE COLD NIGHT'S CHILL.

I DIDN'T WANT TO LEAVE
ON THAT COLD, DARK, NIGHT,
THIS GUARDIAN OF HONOR
SO WILLING TO FIGHT.

THEN THE SOLDIER ROLLED OVER,
WITH A VOICE SOFT AND PURE,
WHISPERED, 'CARRY ON SANTA,
IT'S CHRISTMAS DAY, ALL IS SECURE.'

ONE LOOK AT MY WATCH,
AND I KNEW HE WAS RIGHT.
'MERRY CHRISTMAS MY FRIEND!
AND TO ALL A GOOD NIGHT.'

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xx Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #2086 on: Dec 4th, 2010, 12:25pm »

Thank you Swampy, that is a wonderful poem.

LA Times
Camp Pendleton honors 14 troops killed in Afghanistan

Eleven Marines, two Navy corpsmen and a British soldier assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment are praised for their dedication to duty.


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Marine Staff Sgt. Joshua Caskey kisses the ID tags of his brother, Sgt. Joseph Caskey, while Stacia Harris kneels before
a memorial to her husband, Cpl. Larry Harris Jr., during a service at Camp Pendleton for 14 troops recently killed in Afghanistan.
(Don Bartletti / Los Angeles Times / December 3, 2010)



http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-memorial-20101204,0,4713845.story

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« Reply #2087 on: Dec 4th, 2010, 2:47pm »

Blast from the past


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« Reply #2088 on: Dec 5th, 2010, 07:56am »

New York Times

Bomb Blast Hits Afghan Army Base
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
Filed at 8:03 a.m. EST on December 05, 2010

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — A Taliban suicide bomb ripped through shop stalls inside an eastern Afghan army base on Sunday, killing two NATO service members and at least two civilians, officials said.

The Taliban claimed responsibility, saying it was a suicide attack by a sleeper agent who had joined the Afghan army so that he would be able to kill foreigners.

The explosion occurred in an area of the Gardez army base where shopkeepers sell goods to both Afghan soldiers and their partnered NATO troops, said Rohullah Samon, a spokesman for the Paktia provincial government. He said his reports showed that the source of the blast was a bomb that had been planted in the area.

NATO said in a statement that two members of the military coalition died in the attack. They did not identify the victims or give their nationalities.

Two shopkeepers were killed and at least 18 people were wounded, Samon said.

Most of the NATO forces in Gardez are American. He said he did not have information on whether any troops had been killed.

A Taliban spokesman said in an e-mail sent to media outlets that the civilians who were killed were not innocent because they had collaborated with government and NATO forces.

"They were at the service of the foreigners," Zabiullah Mujahid said.

http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/2010/12/04/world/asia/AP-AS-Afghanistan.html?_r=1&hp

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« Reply #2089 on: Dec 5th, 2010, 07:59am »

New York Times

December 5, 2010
Cables Suggest Mideast Resists U.S. on Cutting Terrorists’ Cash
By ERIC LICHTBLAU and ERIC SCHMITT

WASHINGTON — Nine years after the United States vowed to shut down the money pipeline that finances terrorism, senior Obama administration officials say they believe that many millions of dollars are flowing largely unimpeded to extremist groups worldwide, and they have grown frustrated by frequent resistance from allies in the Middle East, according to secret diplomatic dispatches.

The government cables, sent by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and senior State Department officials, catalog a long list of methods that American officials suspect terrorist financiers are using, from a brazen armed bank robbery in Yemen last year to kidnappings for ransom, drug proceeds in Afghanistan and annual religious pilgrimages to Mecca, where millions of riyals or other forms of currency change hands.

While American officials in their public statements have been relatively upbeat about their progress in disrupting terrorist financing, the internal State Department cables, obtained by WikiLeaks and made available to several news organizations, offer a more pessimistic account, with blunt assessments of the threats to the United States from money flowing to militants affiliated with Al Qaeda, the Taliban, Hamas, Lashkar-e-Taiba and other groups.

A classified memo sent by Mrs. Clinton last December made it clear that residents of Saudi Arabia and its neighbors, all allies of the United States, are the chief financial supporters of many extremist activities. “It has been an ongoing challenge to persuade Saudi officials to treat terrorist financing emanating from Saudi Arabia as a strategic priority,” the cable said, concluding that “donors in Saudi Arabia constitute the most significant source of funding to Sunni terrorist groups worldwide.”

The dispatch and others offered similarly grim views about the United Arab Emirates (“a strategic gap” that terrorists can exploit), Qatar (“the worst in the region” on counterterrorism) and Kuwait (“a key transit point”). The cable stressed the need to “generate the political will necessary” to block money to terrorist networks — groups that she said were “threatening stability in Pakistan and Afghanistan and targeting coalition soldiers.”

While President George W. Bush frequently vowed to cut off financing for militants and pledged to make financiers as culpable as terrorists who carried out plots, President Obama has been far less vocal on the issue publicly as he has sought to adopt a more conciliatory tone with Arab nations. But his administration has used many of the same covert diplomatic, intelligence and law enforcement tools as his predecessor and set up a special task force in the summer of 2009 to deal with the growing problem.

While federal officials can point to some successes — prosecutions, seizures of money and tightened money-laundering regulations in foreign countries — the results have often been frustrating, the cables show. As the United States has pushed for more aggressive crackdowns on suspected supporters of terrorism, foreign leaders have pushed back. In private meetings, they have accused American officials of heavy-handedness and of presenting thin evidence of wrongdoing by Arab charities or individuals, according to numerous State Department cables.

Kuwaiti officials, for example, resisted what they called “draconian” measures sought by the United States against a prominent charity and dismissed allegations against it as “unconvincing,” according to one cable.

The documents are filled with secret government intelligence on possible terrorist-financing plots, like the case of a Somali preacher who was reportedly touring Sweden, Finland and Norway last year to look for money and recruits for the Shabab, a militant group in Somalia, or that of a Pakistani driver caught with about $240,000 worth of Saudi riyals stuffed behind his seat. One memo even reported on a possible plot by the Iranians to launder $5 billion to $10 billion in cash through the Emirates’ banks as part of a broader effort to “stir up trouble” among the Persian Gulf states, though it was not clear how much of the money might be channeled to militants.

One episode that set off particular concern occurred in August 2009 in Yemen, when armed robbers stormed a bank truck on a busy downtown street in Aden during daylight hours and stole 100 million Yemeni riyals, or about $500,000. American diplomats said the sophistication of the robbery and other indicators had all the markings of a Qaeda mission. “This bold, unusual operation” could provide Al Qaeda “with a substantial financing infusion at a time when it is thought to be short of cash,” a dispatch summarizing the episode said.

Al Qaeda’s branch in Yemen, known as Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, is seen as a rising threat by the United States and was blamed for a parcel bomb plot in October and the failed attempt to blow up a jetliner last Dec. 25. The cables do not make clear how or whether the finances of the Yemen group are tied to the network led by Osama bin Laden, whose members are believed to be in hiding along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border.

American officials appear to have divided views on the bin Laden group’s fund-raising abilities. A cable sent in February of this year to Richard C. Holbrooke, the Obama administration’s special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, said that “sensitive reporting indicates that al-Qaida’s ability to raise funds has deteriorated substantially, and that it is now in its weakest state since 9/11.”

But many other State Department cables draw the opposite conclusion and cite the group’s ability to generate money almost at will from wealthy individuals and sympathetic groups throughout the Middle East while often staying a step ahead of counterterrorism officials.

“Terrorists avoid money transfer controls by transferring amounts below reporting thresholds and using reliable cash couriers, hawala, and money grams,” a recent cable warned. “Emerging trends include mobile banking, pre-paid cards, and Internet banking.”

The documents suggest that there is little evidence of significant financial support in the United States or Europe for terrorist groups in Afghanistan and Pakistan, despite a string of deadly but largely low-budget attacks in London and other European cities in recent years, according to the documents.

“U.K. financing is important, but the real money is in the Gulf,” a senior British counterterrorism official told a Treasury Department official, according to a cable last year from the American Embassy in London.

In hundreds of cables focusing on terrorist financing, the problem takes on an air of intractability, as American officials speak of the seeming ease with which terrorists are able to move money, the low cost of carrying out deadly attacks, and the difficulty of stopping it. Interdictions are few, and resistance is frequent.

In Kuwait, for instance, American officials have voiced repeated concerns that Islamic charities — largely unregulated by the government there — are using philanthropic donations to finance terrorism abroad. But a Kuwaiti minister, in a meeting last year with the United States ambassador, “was as frank and pessimistic as ever when it came to the subject of apprehending and detaining terror financiers and facilitators under Kuwait’s current legal and political framework,” a memo summarizing the meeting said.

Saudi Arabia, a critical military and diplomatic ally, emerges in the cables as the most vexing of problems. Intelligence officials there have stepped up their spying on militants in neighboring Yemen, and they provided the tip that helped uncover the recent parcel bombs. But while the Saudis have made some progress, “terrorist funding emanating from Saudi Arabia remains a serious concern,” according to a cable in February. Mrs. Clinton’s memo two months earlier said Al Qaeda, the Taliban, Lashkar-e-Taiba and other groups “probably raise millions of dollars annually from Saudi sources, often during Hajj and Ramadan.” Officials said they believed that fund-raisers for extremist groups had often descended on the pilgrims to seek money for their causes.

The United States Embassy in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, reported in February that the Saudi authorities remained “almost completely dependent on the C.I.A.” for leads and direction on terrorist financing.

So it was not surprising that a month earlier, the embassy reported in a separate cable that Treasury Department officials had provided information to the Saudi domestic intelligence service, the Mabahith, on three senior Taliban leaders — Tayyeb Agha, Mullah Jalil and Khalil Haqqani — who had made several fund-raising trips to the kingdom, the cable said. (Like a number of other suspected financiers identified in the cables, the three Taliban leaders do not appear on the Treasury Department’s list of “banned” entities suspected of terrorism financing connections.)

The Americans shared phone numbers, e-mail addresses and passport information for the three men with the Saudis to cross check against Saudi customs databases. Saudi authorities said they were not familiar with the Taliban leaders but promised to pursue the tips.

more after the jump
http://www.nytimes.com/2010/12/06/world/middleeast/06wikileaks-financing.html?ref=world

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« Reply #2090 on: Dec 5th, 2010, 08:05am »

Telegraph

Russian 'spy': Lib Dem MP Mike Hancock denies researcher facing deportation is Moscow sleeper agent
A young Russian woman working in the House of Commons for the Liberal Democrat MP Mike Hancock is facing deportation as a suspected spy.

By Martin Beckford
12:00PM GMT
05 Dec 2010

Katia Zatuliveter, a researcher for an MP on the influential defence select committee, is to be expelled from Britain after being questioned on suspicion of espionage by security services.

Mr Hancock has recently asked sensitive questions in Parliament about the quantities of radioactive materials held by the country and the future of its nuclear deterrent.

Miss Zatuliveter has also worked for a defence think-tank and written articles that criticised Nato while defending military action by Russia.

However Mr Hancock, the Lib Dem member for Portsmouth South, denied she was a sleeper agent for Moscow and insisted the authorities had never raised their concerns with him.

Mr Hancock, who is presently on police bail over an alleged indecent assault against a female constituent, said: “She is not a Russian spy. I know nothing about espionage, but she has been subjected to a deportation order.

"She is appealing it, because she feels - quite rightly - that she has done nothing wrong."

Asked about MI5’s fear that his researcher had been a spy, he said: “No-one has ever said to me under any circumstances whatsoever that she has been involved in anything like that.

“It is now in the hands of her lawyers. I am sure that in the end she will be proved to be right.”

Miss Zatuliveter, 25, studied for a Master's degree in Britain and worked for the UK Defence Forum where in 2008 she wrote a piece on the “Misguided US role in the conflict between Georgia and South Ossetia”, claiming that “Russia had to intervene” in the affairs of its tiny neighbours and had been “provoked” by the US and Nato.

She has been as a Parliamentary Assistant and Researcher to Mr Hancock, who sits on the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Russia as well as the Commons defence select committee, for more than two years, having previously worked as an intern for him.

Among recent written questions put down by the MP was one asking the Defence Secretary to publish “a full historical inventory of the UK’s nuclear arsenal”, another asking for “an update on the quantities of (a) plutonium, (b) enriched uranium and (c) other special nuclear materials that are outside international safeguards” and a series about the future of the Trident submarines.

She was given a Commons pass and underwent security vetting before starting her job, but in August this year, Miss Zatuliveter and a friend were stopped at Gatwick Airport and questioned by immigration officers.

She is now awaiting deportation back to Russia, reportedly after Theresa May, the Home Secretary, was briefed by MI5 about her alleged activities.

A source told newspapers: “Her presence here is not considered to be conducive to national security. There was unhappiness about what she could have access to.”

It comes amid continuing strain in relations between Britain and Russia and fears of a return to Cold War-level intelligence activities, following the poisoning of Alexander Litvinenko, a dissident spy, in London four years ago.

Over the summer a Russian spy ring was uncovered in America including a young woman who had British citizenship, Anna Chapman.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/russia/8182177/Russian-spy-Lib-Dem-MP-Mike-Hancock-denies-researcher-facing-deportation-is-Moscow-sleeper-agent.html

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« Reply #2091 on: Dec 5th, 2010, 08:09am »

Telegraph

Kerry Oakey and Mary Christmas – the married names brides take on for better or for worse
When it comes to taking a married name, it really is for worse and not for better for some women, a new database has found.

7:00AM GMT
05 Dec 2010

Records show more than 50 women became Mary Christmas after their wedding with the first recorded example being Mary Cannon who married in Alton, Hampshire in 1837.

Other wives who married into unfortunate surnames included Holly Oakes, Eileen Dover and Hazel Nut, according to archives on family history website Findmypast.co.uk.

The website, which has launched the new marriage search system MarriageMatch, also found women who became Queenie King, Mona Lott and Jean Pool.

Joy Rider, Lily Pond, Anita Bath, Candy Barr and Kerry Oakey were others among the embarrassing names.

The website also found a real-life Romeo and Juliet, who married in Lambeth, London in 1971.

Celebrity unions found in the marriage index included actor Jude Law and Sadie Frost in 1997, and Kate Winslet and Jim Threapleton in 1998.

Records revealed Lancashire was the top county to marry in, with 11.66 million records listed between 1837 and 2005 while Birmingham was the most popular marrying town or city.

Debra Chatfield, marketing manager at Findmypast.co.uk, said: "As the first company to publish birth, marriage and death records online, Findmypast.co.uk has always been committed to making family history research more accessible.

"This brand new way of searching the marriage records is a major breakthrough in family history enabling people to find their ancestors' marriages more quickly and easily than ever before by using our revolutionary new tool MarriageMatch.

"Thanks to initiatives like this, family history is more popular than ever and we hope that we can help even more people to start uncovering their family's past."

Top five cities for marriages

Birmingham 1,656,516 records;

Manchester 1,127,584 records;

Sheffield 988,541 records;

Leeds 980,207 records;

Bristol 899,885 records

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/howaboutthat/8180829/Kerry-Oakey-and-Mary-Christmas-the-married-names-brides-take-on-for-better-or-for-worse.html

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« Reply #2092 on: Dec 5th, 2010, 08:16am »

LA Times

Leaks may clog up anti-terrorism intelligence sharing
Access is already being tightened after the WikiLeaks release of sensitive U.S. diplomatic cables.

By Ken Dilanian, Tribune Washington Bureau
5:26 PM PST, December 4, 2010
Reporting from Washington

The latest disclosures by the WikiLeaks website have struck a blow against what many experts say was one of the key reforms to emerge from the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks: the push to widely share sensitive information among the massive intelligence bureaucracy.

Repercussions are already being felt. The State Department last week disconnected its cable traffic from the secure network used by the military, depriving military analysts of the best reporting on the political situations in their areas of operations. And the White House ordered a governmentwide review of information security "to ensure that users do not have broader access than is necessary to do their jobs effectively."

"It has certainly driven individuals in the intelligence community and beyond the intelligence community to at least reexamine information sharing," said Michael Leiter, director of the National Counterterrorism Center, warning last week of a chilling effect. "You, of course, run the risk … that information wouldn't be shared, [and] that would undermine our ability to disrupt attacks."

It's more than a risk — it's a certainty, according to Michael Hayden, who was CIA Director under President George W. Bush. "We are now going to begin to trade off potential physical safety for information security," he said in an interview. "We'll say we're not — we'll say we are keeping the lines open, and the right people will have access. But when you rejigger this, you never get it perfect."

Leiter's agency was created after Sept. 11 to help solve what was found to be one of the biggest impediments to stopping those attacks: the stovepipes and legal barriers that prevented the CIA, the FBI and many of the other 14 intelligence agencies from sharing what they knew. A revolution has occurred on that front, with agencies moving from granting access to information on the basis of "need to know" to a model of "need to share."

But many experts say the near success of last year's alleged Christmas Day bombing attempt by a Nigerian whose father had warned U.S. authorities about his extremism — a warning not properly acted on — pointed to shortcomings that still need to be addressed. And now there is momentum in the other direction.

"There's always this dilemma between compartmentation and sharing," Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said after the last WikiLeaks disclosure, of Afghanistan war logs, in October. "But I'll tell you, in this day and age with the hemorrhage of leaks in this town, I think compartmentation — appropriate, reasonable compartmentation — is the right thing to do."

Clapper, a retired Air Force general who has spent decades in the intelligence community, has been a booster of information sharing. But WikiLeaks, he said, would "have a very chilling effect on the need to share."

Intelligence community bureaucrats "have always been sort of anti-information-sharing," said James Lewis, who directs the technology program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. "Every single person in the agencies is now saying, 'I told you so.'"

The post-Sept. 11 information sharing mandate, placed in law by Congress, led in part to the inclusion of the massive database of State Department cables on the system of military computer networks known as the Secret Internet Protocol Router Network, or SIPRNet. The cables are not top-secret, but some of them contain extremely sensitive information, as the recent disclosures have shown.

SIPRNet, launched in 1991, has mushroomed to the point that it is used by as many as half a million people or more, U.S. officials say. One of them was Army Pfc. Bradley Manning, who until early 2009 was an intelligence analyst with the 10th Mountain Division in Baghdad.

Manning, 23, has been charged with illegally downloading information, including State Department cables, and is being held at the Marine Corps base in Quantico, Va., awaiting military legal proceedings. His lawyer declined to comment.

The charges against Manning are terse, but Manning laid out some of the details of his account of online chats with a hacker, Adrian Lamo, which were published by Wired.com. In an interview with the Los Angeles Times, Lamo, who turned Manning in to authorities, confirmed the authenticity of the chats. Investigators took his hard drive with all of his copies, he said.

In the chats, Manning said he had carte blanche to view and download information from SIPRNet because soldiers were constantly using CDs and other media to transfer files among computers, and no one was watching.

"I would come in with music on a CD-RW labeled with something like ' Lady Gaga' … erase the music … then write a compressed split file. No one suspected a thing," Manning wrote. "It was a massive data spillage … facilitated by numerous factors … both physically, technically, and culturally."

Manning said he benefited from "Weak servers, weak logging, weak physical security, weak counter-intelligence, inattentive signal analysis … a perfect storm."

Normally, Pentagon officials say, workstations attached to SIPRNet do not allow for the physical removal of data. But the rules were different in war zones, officials said. Since the leak, the Pentagon has imposed a series of rules to close that gap.

Yet regardless of the security procedures, Rep. Peter Hoekstra of Michigan, the ranking Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, asked why a lowly private had access to reports of conversations between top U.S. officials and heads of state.

"How can it be that between 500,000 and potentially over a million government employees have access to a database of sensitive State Department cables?" he wondered.

http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/nation/la-na-wikileaks-siprnet-20101205,0,5030248.story

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« Reply #2093 on: Dec 5th, 2010, 08:22am »

LA Times

Californians need water, but desalination projects are bogged down.
Officials blame the slow progress on red tape, a disorganized local industry and environmental opposition.

By Tiffany Hsu, Los Angeles Times
December 4, 2010

Chugging a cool glass of California tap? It could be seawater flowing from that faucet.

Desalination — the process of making salty water drinkable — is now producing a growing share of the national water supply as officials scramble to hydrate booming populations with dwindling fresh supply.

"The availability of water is lessening and the cost is going up, to the point that desalination in California is becoming viable as an option," said Paul Shoenberger, manager of the Mesa Consolidated Water District in Costa Mesa.

More than 15,000 plants are churning out tens of billions of drinkable gallons daily in more than 100 countries.

But desalination has been lagging in California, where water woes are especially dire, industry and government officials say. They blame the slow progress on a disorganized local industry, litigious environmentalists and a thorny approvals process.

Connecticut-based developer Poseidon Resources has been trying to build a $650-million plant in Carlsbad, but the project has wallowed in red tape for more than a decade. It also has battled a dozen legal challenges.

The facility, which would sit beside the Encina Power Station, would churn out 50 million gallons of drinkable water a day — 10% of San Diego County's needs.

The facility may start construction in March, executives said. But for now, as Poseidon tries to untangle the red tape, a small pilot project on the site is producing about 40,000 gallons of drinkable water.

"Water is the lifeblood of Southern California, but the industry here has not evolved along with the growth in technology," said Scott Maloni, a vice president with Poseidon.

After decades in development, desalination plants can now remove 99.9% of the salt content in water. The process is mostly used for seawater but can also apply to river water and irrigation runoff. In the last 15 years, the cost of some components has dropped 30%.

Although still not cheap, the cost of desalinated water has been cut by more than half since 1998, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. Some estimates peg the price of 1,000 gallons at roughly $3, compared with pennies for the same amount of fresh water.

Most countries, including the U.S., use reverse osmosis, which pushes the water at high pressure through a membrane that separates the salt from the liquid. Another method, thermal desalination, is popular in the Middle East and involves evaporating the water to leave the salt behind.

Singapore officials market their desalination efforts as NeWater. The French Riviera, Spain and Israel are peppered with desalting facilities.

Every major city in drought-stricken Australia — which had no desalination plants five years ago — is now either constructing or operating one. Officials there acted "out of crisis and desperation," said water industry analyst Debra Coy, and now California "may not be too far behind."

Seawater desalination plants are in planning stages in Dana Point, Long Beach, Camp Pendleton and Redondo Beach, but some have met with resistance, particularly from critics who say the cost is too high.

An analysis this week from the California Division of Ratepayer Advocates estimated that customers in Monterey could see their water bills quadruple if a proposed facility there is built.

Some say it would be worth the cost. The state's natural water resources — such as the snow-capped Sierra Nevada mountains — are over-tapped, industry officials said. Los Angeles regularly leads the nation as the city running out of fresh water the fastest.

Desalination efforts in Southern California have been stymied by regulatory red tape and a disjointed industry. The cost and barriers to entry for desalination companies also remain very high. Such plants require hundreds of millions of dollars to build using complicated technology.

"It's not a start-up-friendly market," said Gibran Mursalin, a sales manager for Hydranautics, an Oceanside maker of desalination components.

And in California, permitting can be a slog. The process — sometimes called the 800-pound regulatory gorilla — involves state and regional water boards, air boards, environmental reviews and the state Coastal Commission.

Building a desalination plant on schedule in the state is a rarity. There's even been talk among industry officials of piping in water from plants in Mexico to avoid the complications.

"It's risky to go into desalination because the permitting is complicated, the planning structure is not there and the cost for a private company is significant," said Finn Nielsen, chairman of water supplier Veolia Water Solutions & Technologies USA.

Desalination plants have also faced strong objections from environmentalists.

Though industry supporters say desalination isn't as damaging to the environment as damming up rivers or transporting fresh water across the state, the process still requires two gallons of seawater to make one fresh gallon. The machinery spews concentrated brine into the ocean and occasionally sucks up marine life.

And the saltier the water, the more energy it takes to make the liquid drinkable, leading some opponents to deride the end product as "bottled electricity." The cost of the power required to run the plants often constitutes more than half of the total operational cost.

The industry is investigating ways to maximize its energy efficiency, reaching out to start-ups for innovative ideas and experimenting with renewable energy to power facilities. In November the International Desalination Assn. met in Huntington Beach to discuss potential solutions.

Energy Recovery Inc. in San Leandro says its technology can reduce power use in desalination by 60%.

In the meantime, the industry is still waiting to take off, watching for any movement on the construction of the Poseidon plant in Carlsbad and a large Poseidon facility in Huntington Beach.

But few people are holding their breath. Some have started taking bets on when facilities in the state will break ground.

"Every year, we hear that construction will be next year, next year," Mursalin said. "But then next year, it's just another string of regulatory challenges. Who's going to want to commit resources to that?"

http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-desalination-20101204,0,4922065.story

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« Reply #2094 on: Dec 5th, 2010, 08:28am »

Science Daily

'Brain Maps' Created for How Humans Reach
ScienceDaily (Dec. 5, 2010) —

A ballet dancer grasps her partner's hand to connect for a pas de deux. Later that night, in the dark, she reaches for her calf to massage a sore spot. Her brain is using different "maps" to plan for each of these movements, according to a new study at UC Santa Barbara.


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Brain maps above are represented by color code. Visually-defined targets of reach are defined by a gaze-centered map.
Reach directed toward unseen body locations, using the proprioceptive sense, uses a mental body map.
The maps are located in a brain region called the precuneus, inside the parietal lobe.
(Credit: UCSB Brain Imaging Center)



In preparing for each of these reaching movements, the same part of the dancer's brain is activated, but it uses a different map to specify the action, according to the research. Planning to hold hands is based on her visual map of space. Her second plan, to reach for her calf, depends on the dancer's mental body map.

Two UCSB scientists studied the brains of 18 individuals who made 400 distinct arm reaches as they lay in an MRI scanner. The researchers found clear differences in brain planning activity with regard to the two types of reaching behavior. Their discovery is reported in the journal Neuron.

"Our results have two important applications," said Scott T. Grafton, professor of psychology. "One is robotics. The other is in the area of machine-brain interface; for example, in developing machines to help paraplegics. A critical issue is to understand how movement-related information is represented in the brain if we're to decode it." Grafton, a leading expert in brain imaging, directs the UCSB Brain Imaging Center where the university's MRI scanner is located.

"We're interested in movement planning and movement control," said Grafton. "We're looking at goal-directed behaviors, when we reach to grasp objects -- visually defined objects in our environment. This forms the basis of our interactions with the world."

The current scientific view is that all reaching movements -- those directed to visual targets or toward one's own body -- are planned using a visual map. "Our findings suggest otherwise," said Pierre-Michel Bernier, first author and postdoctoral fellow. "We found that when a target is visual, the posterior parietal cortex is activated, coding the movement using a visual map. However, if a movement is performed in darkness and the target is non-visual, the same brain region will use a fundamentally different map to plan the movement. It will use a body map."

The maps are located in a brain region called the precuneus, inside the parietal lobe. The researchers measured the "Blood Oxygen Level Dependent Signal," or BOLD signal, when looking at the MRI brain images. BOLD is an indirect way of looking at brain activity at a millimeter scale. They also used a methodology called "repetition suppression." This is what makes the study novel, according to the authors, as it is one of the first to identify where these maps are nested in the human brain. "We are a leader in the use of repetition suppression," said Grafton.

Repetition suppression relies on the fact that when a brain region is involved in two similar activities in a row, it is less active the second time around. The team was able to pinpoint the brain's use of body maps versus visual maps by isolating the location in the brain where the responses were less active with repeated, similar arm reaches.

Grafton explained: "The brain is trying to make a map of the world. One map is what you see, which is provided by the visual system. The other map is where the body is in space. This map is based on proprioception -- the sense of limb position -- which is derived from receptors in the skin, muscles, and joints. These maps are very different. How do you connect them? Either the visual map or the body map may be fixed, or neither may be fixed."

The authors' findings argue for the latter, demonstrating that the brain is capable of flexibly switching between these maps depending on the context. No doubt this flexibility underlies our ability to interact with the world with ease despite the ever-changing conditions in which our actions take place.

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/12/101203091459.htm

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« Reply #2095 on: Dec 5th, 2010, 09:24am »

"Merry Christmas! Merry Christmas! Merry Christmas!"

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« Reply #2096 on: Dec 5th, 2010, 10:06am »

Merry Christmas to you too, Crystal! smiley
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« Reply #2097 on: Dec 5th, 2010, 12:18pm »

on Dec 5th, 2010, 10:06am, philliman wrote:
Merry Christmas to you too, Crystal! smiley


Thanks Phil!
I'm getting ready to take my walk/jog/stagger. It's sunny and Mt. Baker looks like it's a mile away instead of thirty-five miles away. Beautiful morning here in Birch Bay. Hope you are having a good day.
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« Reply #2098 on: Dec 5th, 2010, 2:36pm »

That sounds beautiful, Crystal. Enjoy it! smiley
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« Reply #2099 on: Dec 6th, 2010, 07:54am »

New York Times

December 5, 2010
Tax Fear May Move Bonuses Earlier
By LOUISE STORY and GRETCHEN MORGENSON

Congress is debating tax rates, and that has Wall Street nervously eyeing the calendar.

Worried that lawmakers will allow taxes to rise for the wealthiest Americans beginning next year, financial firms are discussing whether to move up their bonus payouts from next year to this month.

At stake is a portion of the hefty annual payouts that are a familiar part of the compensation culture on Wall Street, as well as a juicy target of popular anger. If Congress does not extend the Bush-era tax cuts for the highest income levels, a typical worker who earns a $1 million bonus would pay $40,000 to $50,000 more in taxes next year than this year, depending on base salary.

Goldman Sachs is one of the companies discussing how to time bonus season, according to three people who have been briefed on the discussions. Pay consultants who work with major Wall Street companies say that just about every other large bank has also considered such a move in recent weeks.

With tax politics in Washington unpredictable, bank executives have spent months sketching out several options for their bonus plans, including the possibility of an earlier payout. Lawmakers have been trading accusations across a partisan divide, but after this weekend, it appears likely that a compromise will extend the tax cuts for all income levels.

Even so, the banks’ discussions about bonus timing underscore how focused the industry is on protecting every dollar of pay.

A spokesman for Goldman declined to comment. Bonus payouts are traditionally shrouded in secrecy; companies are required to disclose their top executives’ pay, but they do not disclose the size of their total bonus pools in their public filings or internally.

Goldman, not surprisingly, is the canary in the coal mine. It often announces its top executives’ bonuses before other firms, and the richness of its payouts sets the tone across the industry.

This year the tax debate has imposed a new wrinkle, and executives at two large banks said their companies tentatively decided not to speed payouts, unless Goldman did. Then, these two executives said, they would consider paying early as a competitive measure, so that their workers were not upset.

These executives and the people briefed on the Goldman discussions spoke only on the condition of anonymity.

Bonus timing is also being discussed at scores of public companies, beyond banks, for top executives who receive multimillion-dollar payouts around the turn of the year. At most companies outside the financial sector, an early bonus would help only a handful of executives, while on Wall Street, the benefit would apply to many more workers.

“This has been a topic of conversation among those of us who are involved in designing and administrating compensation plans,” said Brian Foley, a pay consultant in White Plains, N.Y. “But I really would be surprised if anyone went down this path. This is a bounce-back year in terms of bonuses going up and probably not the time to draw attention to yourself.”

Wall Street firms pay out billions of dollars in bonuses each year. In good years top executives can receive bonuses worth tens of millions of dollars. Even midlevel financial workers often earn above $250,000 a year, and they receive most of their compensation as bonuses paid early in the new year.

Extending the tax cuts for all Americans with taxable income over $250,000 for joint filers ($200,000 for single filers) would cost the country about $40 billion next year, according to the Joint Committee on Taxation, and it would cost $700 billion over the next decade.

Currently the highest rate for taxable income is 35 percent; that would increase to 39.6 percent if the Bush tax cuts expire this year.

The top five Wall Street firms have put aside nearly $90 billion for total pay this year, and they are expected to raise that amount using their end of year earnings. That would make this year one of the best ever for bank pay.

As Mr. Foley said, much of the focus within banks is on the appearance of the payouts. Several senior banking executives received either no bonuses or modest ones in recent years, and with the taxpayer-financed bailouts receding, top executives are pushing to be paid well again.

Some compensation consultants have been helping their clients devise new labels for the pay that are less likely to inflame the public. For instance, some banks are considering reducing the amount of their payouts that are labeled as bonuses, and instead shifting some to other categories like “long-term incentives.”

Depending on how banks structure this part of the payout package, it might not represent much of a change for bankers, since it has long been standard practice to tie up some pay for a few years for retention purposes. But, some bankers said, the goal was to make the dollar amounts appear less offensive.

Bankers are also discussing speeding up the way they award company stock. Many banks pay a substantial portion of bonuses in stock, rather than cash, and companies often have a multiyear delay between when those shares are awarded and when the employees can sell them. The tax bill does not come due until employees sell the shares, or own them outright.

Robert J. Jackson Jr., a professor at Columbia Law School who helped oversee the Treasury Department’s rules on compensation at bailed-out companies, said he would look carefully at footnotes in company filings to see if they accelerated executives’ stock awards. “Even companies who pay in stock instead of cash can structure it to be taxed at this year’s rates,” Mr. Jackson said. “If it does happen, it may be a little tricky to see.”

It is not uncommon for Wall Street to consider the tax consequences of its pay practices. Private firms like hedge funds often let workers choose when they’re paid. And until about a decade ago, Goldman allowed its partners to decide whether they received their bonuses in December or January. Back then, Goldman was an investment bank, and like other former investment banks, it closed its books at the end of November, making it easier to pay earlier.

One of the challenges for the banks in paying bonuses early would be coming out with exact amounts before the year is over and before they determine their final earnings — a lengthy process. Banks have in the past found ways to get around rules, or make their workers’ pay look lower than it actually was. For instance, a year ago Goldman capped the pay of all of its London workers at £1 million each. But last summer, Goldman made it up to its partners in Britain, albeit quietly. The bank made dozens of multimillion-dollar stock grants to its partners there, according to a person briefed on their pay. Credit Suisse, in similar form, paid its British bankers summer cash bonuses to make up for their lower pay last year.

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/12/06/business/06bonus.html?_r=1&hp

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