Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #2100 on: Dec 6th, 2010, 07:57am »
New York Times
December 5, 2010 Hundreds of WikiLeaks Mirror Sites Appear By RAVI SOMAIYA
LONDON — The battle lines between supporters of the whistle-blowing Web site WikiLeaks and its detractors began to form on Sunday, as supporters erected numerous copies of the site on the Internet and the United States put pressure on Switzerland not to offer a haven to the site’s founder, Julian Assange.
Since several major Internet companies cut off services to WikiLeaks in recent days, activists have created hundreds of mirror sites, Web sites that host exact copies of another site’s content, making censorship difficult.
The collective Anonymous, an informal but notorious group of hackers and activists, also declared war on Sunday against enemies of Mr. Assange, calling on supporters to attack sites companies that do not support WikiLeaks and to spread the leaked material online.
Meanwhile, the American ambassador to Switzerland, Donald S. Beyer Jr., responded to signs that Mr. Assange and WikiLeaks might seek refuge in that country, warning in the weekly magazine NZZ am Sonntag that the Swiss “should very carefully consider whether to provide shelter to someone who is on the run from the law.”
Since the release of classified diplomatic cables a week ago, from a batch of more than 250,000 obtained by WikiLeaks, the Web site has been bombarded by cyberattacks and abandoned by Internet companies like PayPal, an online payment service that had accepted donations for the site, and Amazon, which had rented it server space.
WikiLeaks said that PayPal had “surrendered to U.S. government pressure,” but the government has not acknowledged involvement in efforts to try to disable the site.
On Friday, WikiLeaks sought refuge in a diffuse web of financial and Internet infrastructure spread across Europe, particularly in Switzerland. It moved to wikileaks.ch, a domain registered to the Swiss Pirate Party, a political organization that shares many of Mr. Assange’s aims.
A Swiss-Icelandic company, Datacell, will process donations instead of PayPal, and the WikiLeaks site shows that Mr. Assange is accepting direct donations into a Swiss bank account held with the financial arm of the Swiss postal service.
But that solace may be short lived: a spokesman for the financial arm of Swiss Post, Marc Andrey, also told NZZ am Sonntag on Sunday that it was “reviewing” its relationship with Mr. Assange subject to proof that he has Swiss residency, owns property or does business in the country. A message seeking comment from Mr. Assange’s British lawyer was not immediately returned.
The Internet group Anonymous, which in the past has taken on targets as diverse as the Church of Scientology and Iran, disseminated a seven-point manifesto via Twitter and other social networking sites pledging to “kick back for Julian.”
Gregg Housh, a prominent member of the group, said by telephone from Boston that an orchestrated effort was under way to attack companies that have refused to support WikiLeaks and to post multiple copies of the leaked material.
The Anonymous manifesto singled out PayPal, which cut off ties with WikiLeaks for “a violation” of its policy on promoting illegal activities, a company statement said.
“The reason is amazingly simple,” Mr. Housh said of the campaign. “We all believe that information should be free, and the Internet should be free.”
By late Sunday, there were at least 208 WikiLeaks mirror sites up and running.
“Cut us down,” said a message on the WikiLeaks Twitter feed on Sunday, “and the stronger we become.”
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #2101 on: Dec 6th, 2010, 08:02am »
Missing Gordon Bennett balloonists discovered in Adriatic Sea
An Italian fishing boat has pulled up a gruesome catch from the Adriatic Sea – the remains of two American balloonists who went missing more than two months ago.
Nick Squires 1:55PM GMT 06 Dec 2010
Richard Abruzzo, 47, and Carol Rymer-Davis, 65, were taking part in the Gordon Bennett International Balloon Race, sponsored by Richard Branson, when they lost contact with their support team on Sept 29.
A large search operation was mounted but was called off after a week after authorities concluded that the pair had probably died on impact after their balloon plunged into the sea at an estimated 50mph.
Fishermen made the grisly discovery about 12 miles from shore and six miles from the balloon's last known location.
"The trawler put out its nets just after midnight. When they pulled up, the entire balloon came up, including the basket with two corpses inside," said Giancarlo Salvemini, the official in charge of the main port in the region, Manfredonia in southern Italy.
"They probably got tied up in the basket. Otherwise it's practically impossible for the two bodies to have stayed inside."
Both bodies, still encased in their space-age balloonist suits, were in a "bad state" but police managed to identify them from a document found on Miss Rymer-Davis.
American consular authorities were expected to travel to the small fishing port of Vieste, where the bodies are being stored in a mortuary.
A coroner will perform post-mortem examinations and authorities will try to determine the cause of the crash.
The Americans were participating in the 54th Gordon Bennett race, in which balloonists attempt to fly as far as they can from a starting point in Bristol.
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #2102 on: Dec 6th, 2010, 08:11am »
Tate Britain Christmas tree artwork 'has no decorations' For the past two decades the Tate Britain’s annual Christmas tree decoration has divided opinion about its artistic merits.
Contemporary decorations: Sarah Lucas provided angels made from old tights (L) in 2006 and Bob & Roberta Smith created interactive pedal-powered lights two years ago Photo: TATE BRITAIN
By Andrew Hough 7:30AM GMT 06 Dec 2010
Since 1988 the central London gallery has commissioned a leading artist to decorate its splendid glass-covered Rotunda.
It has been renowned for being 'different' with one tree dumped in a rubbish skip, another hung upside down while another had angels made from tights on it.
This year, however, the Tate tree is set to be controversial for an entirely different reason – it is unadorned and unremarkable.
The towering Norwegian spruce, designed by artist Giorgio Sadotti, has mirrored silver cards promoting a concert at its base for the Twelfth night, on January 6, when the “decorations” are traditionally taken down. And that is it.
The fact the tree has so few decorations is likely to raise eyebrows and lead to accusations that there is little artistic value in an unadorned tree.
The artist, who will unveil his creation on Thursday, denied he was being provocative.
“I am showing what I believe to be a naturally beautiful object,” he told The Daily Telegraph ahead of its launch.
“When you see a tree in the forest you don’t think ‘that tree’s naked, it needs a bit of tinsel’.
“I want people to question the way objects are transformed by being moved from one context to another.”
He added: “And I am hoping that all of the Christmases of the past will be brought to mind through the power of imagination.”
A Tate Britain spokeswoman declined to comment before Thursday's launch.
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #2103 on: Dec 6th, 2010, 08:22am »
Teen Mathletes Do Battle at Algorithm Olympics By Jason Fagone Wired December 2010
Photos: Michael Schmelling
Neal Wu’s last chance for international glory, and maybe America’s, too, begins with a sound like a hippo crunching through a field of dry leaves—the sound of 315 computer prodigies at 315 workstations ripping into 315 gray envelopes in unison. “You have five hours,” a voice booms across the packed gymnasium. “Good luck.”
At his desk on the gym floor, Wu, age 18, pushes his glasses up on his nose and squints. He shouldn’t need luck. This is a coding competition—the International Olympiad in Informatics, held in August at the University of Waterloo in Ontario, Canada—and Wu is one of the world’s top competition programmers.
Gold medals awarded at the International Olympiad in Informatics (1999-2009)
He just graduated from Baton Rouge Magnet High School in Louisiana; his parents are chemical engineers originally from Shanghai, although Wu was born in the US. In seventh grade, he took first place in a nationwide contest for middle schoolers called Mathcounts. (There’s a Neal Wu fan club on Facebook that celebrates his “awesome math skills.”) Yet according to Rob Kolstad, the US team’s 57-year-old head coach, Wu is merely “very good” at math. His true gift is for creative problem-solving with code. In 2008, the first year he competed at the IOI, he finished 10th out of 300 contestants. In 2009, he moved up to seventh place. Since then, he has competed in six coding contests run by Kolstad’s organization, the USA Computing Olympiad; he won three of them with perfect scores. Wu has the relaxed disposition of a star athlete; he’s confident without ever letting on that he is America’s Great Nerd Hope. “I hate to say he’s the Tiger Woods of computer programming,” Kolstad says, “but he shares the properties of cool, calm under pressure, and consistent, consistent performance.”
Cool or no, there are a lot of expectations on Wu as he shuffles through the contents of his gray envelope. Four stapled packets of paper. Four word problems designed to test programming prowess—specifically, the ability to crunch incredibly huge and complex data sets in seconds. For each problem, Wu first has to choose an algorithm, or series of computational steps. Then he has to code it. Wu’s coaches have drilled into his brain 16 standard algorithms with names like Two-Dimensional Convex Hull, Greedy, Eulerian Path, and Knapsack—an arsenal of mathematical machetes for hacking through thickets of numbers—and in Wu’s years of coding he has flexed and massaged the algorithms into no fewer than 100 subtle variations. But what makes IOI so difficult, unpredictable, and yes, even dramatic is that competitors like Wu may have to invent and code their own ad hoc algorithms on the spot. One-of-a-kind solutions to one-of-a-kind problems. From scratch. In five hours.
It’s grueling work, so Wu starts out slowly. He flips through the problem sheets, scribbling an occasional note with his mechanical pencil. The dominant sound in the gym changes from the shuffling of paper to the clacking of keys, but Wu resists the urge to type right out of the gate. “Typing is hypnotic,” Kolstad says emphatically. “When you’re typing, you’re not solving problems.”
But Wu’s nemesis, the Boy Wonder of Belarus, does not subscribe to this theory.
A tall kid with skinny arms, short brown hair, and a bashful smile, Gennady Korotkevich started competing at IOI when he was 11. When Wu was 11, he didn’t even know about programming. At last year’s IOI in Bulgaria, Korotkevich upset Wu and everyone else to take first place, becoming the youngest winner in the contest’s 20-year history. This year Korotkevich is back again, at the ripe age of 15, looking to deprive Wu of his last shot at winning IOI. Next year Wu will be in college and therefore ineligible.
Their styles couldn’t be more different. While Wu is relaxed and thoughtful, Korotkevich is a jackrabbit. “My parents are programmers, and now I like it as well,” he says in tentative English. Unlike the sociable Wu (who interned at Facebook last summer), Korotkevich squirms when I talk to him about his abilities, insisting he’s nothing special. At IOI, he sticks close to his Belarus teammates and coaches. The gossip at IOI is 40 percent about the word problems, 10 percent about which country’s coaches have the best liquor (Canada, hands down), and 50 percent about Gennady Korotkevich. Ask the kids who’s going to win this year and regardless of whether they’re Kazakh or Japanese, Swiss or Egyptian, they’ll invariably grunt, “Belarus, Belarus.” And then they’ll start laughing, as if to say, haven’t you been paying attention?
This morning, Korotkevich began typing five minutes and 40 seconds after the competition began. Like several of the elite competitors at IOI, he can code as fast as he can touch-type. Three minutes later, Korotkevich completed his first program: a mere 22 lines of Pascal.
The three approved IOI programming languages are Pascal, C, and C++. The Western kids, including Wu, tend to use C++, the most modern and streamlined of the three. But Pascal still has a following in Eastern Europe and Asia, even though coding in it is like “building a car with just a screwdriver and a wrench,” says Troy Vasiga, this year’s IOI chair.
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #2104 on: Dec 6th, 2010, 09:47am »
First Privately Owned Spaceship Tests Engines, Prepares for Flight
By Denise Chow Published December 06, 2010
A rocket built by the private spaceflight company SpaceX performed an engine test Dec. 4, just days ahead of its planned launch to send a new commercial space capsule on its maiden voyage next week.
The nine Merlin engines of SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket ignited at 10:50 a.m. EST (1550 GMT) for a brief 2-second test firing of the booster's first stage engines at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.
The results of the so-called static fire test, performed while the rocket was secured to its launch pad, are being analyzed and a preliminary review suggests that things went according to plan, SpaceX officials said.
"We will continue to review data, but today's static fire appears to be a success," SpaceX officials said in a statement. The test was part of final checkouts ahead of the Falcon 9 rocket's planned Dec. 7 launch of SpaceX's first Dragon space capsule -- a gumdrop-shaped spacecraft designed to make round trip flights to low-Earth orbit.
SpaceX initially attempted a static fire test earlier today at 9:30 a.m. EST (1430 GMT), but aborted the test at the T-1.9 seconds mark due to low pressure in the gas generator of one of the rocket's nine Merlin engines. Another previous engine test on Friday, Dec. 3, was also aborted after one of the engines experienced elevated chamber pressure.
The Hawthorne, Calif.-based SpaceX, short for Space Exploration Technologies, was founded by millionaire Elon Musk, co-founder of the PayPal online payment system and CEO of Tesla electric car company.
The engine test is a vital check for the Falcon 9 rocket before its scheduled launch next week. The rocket will carry SpaceX's Dragon space capsule into low-Earth orbit for the spacecraft's first test flight.
The company's Dragon capsule will separate from the rocket's second stage and make multiple orbits of the Earth during the test flight, demonstrating its operational communications, navigation and maneuvering abilities.
The spaceship will then re-enter the Earth's atmosphere and land in the Pacific Ocean a few hours later. The full duration of the test flight is expected to last approximately four hours, SpaceX officials have said.
If successful, SpaceX will be the first commercial company to launch and re-enter a spacecraft from low-Earth orbit. The Dec. 7 launch window extends from 9:03 a.m. EST (1403 GMT) to 12:22 p.m. EST (1720 GMT). If needed, launch opportunities are also available on Dec. 8 and Dec. 9 within the same window, NASA officials have said.
SpaceX has a $1.6 billion contract with NASA to provide its Dragon spacecraft for cargo flights to the International Space Station following the retirement of the agency's space shuttle fleet. SpaceX plans to fly at least 12 unmanned missions to deliver supplies to the space station with its Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon capsule.
SpaceX also hopes to win a contract to one day ferry astronauts to the station as well – though the Dragon capsule is not yet man-rated to carry human passengers into space.
Next week's test flight will also be the first mission by any company under NASA's Commercial Orbital Transportation (COTS) program, which is designed to advance the development of private vehicles capable of carrying cargo and crew to the International Space Station.
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #2107 on: Dec 6th, 2010, 12:03pm »
UFO disclosure could involve dimension we call 'Heaven' Steve Hammons December 04, 2010 (This article originally appeared on the Transcendent TV & Media site.)
As scientific theories, popular discussion and significant indications about the possibility of other dimensions in our universe become more accepted, many people point out that unidentified flying objects (UFOs) could be several different kinds of phenomena possibly related to multiple dimensions.
As we know, many UFO sightings involve stars, weather phenomena, conventional aircraft and probably advanced human military aircraft-spacecraft.
However, some of these flying objects may very well be extraterrestrial spacecraft, some type of vehicles or other anomalous phenomena.
When certain objects like this are repeatedly tracked on radar and observed by very reliable witnesses (sometimes multiple witnesses), it seems reasonable to accept this possibility.
In a "multiverse" that we might be living in, there are many possibilities to wonder about. Could some UFOs come from other natural dimensions? Such other dimensions could be hidden from us though elements of physics and Nature that we do not fully understand.
Because of the probability that some kind of intelligent other beings are involved, we could also wonder if they are friendly and good, hostile and evil or something altogether different that would be challenging for us to understand.
And, could some of the beings not be biological, and some of the flying objects not solid, but be some sort of energy or quantum form?
Credible studies on the "near-death experience (NDE)" from a number of researchers have resulted in strong indications that there may be an afterlife or some other dimension that humans have often referenced in spiritual traditions.
Seemingly related to the NDE phenomena, in 2008 the Baylor University Institute for Studies of Religion made public the results of a survey that many people found surprising. More than half of people polled believed they had been helped by a guardian angel during their lives.
Interestingly, one in five of the people who responded identified themselves as not being religious.
The survey of 1,700 people also asked questions about various religious topics. Fifty-five percent of those surveyed agreed with the following statement: "I was protected from harm by a guardian angel."
Agreement with the statement was consistent across educational levels, geographic region and religious denominations, according to Christopher Bader was the director of Baylor poll.
Bader said in a TIME magazine article, "If you ask whether people believe in guardian angels, a lot of people will say, 'sure.' But this is different. It's experiential. It means that lots of Americans are having these lived supernatural experiences."
He added that the amount of people reporting saying they believed they were protected by an angels was "the big shocker."
The same TIME article also quoted Randall Balmer, chairman of the religion department at Barnard College in New York. Balmer stated that the Baylor survey reflects that "Americans live in an enchanted world" and that "There is much broader uncharted range of religious experience among the populace than we expect."
In another response to the study, an ABC News article quoted Rodney Stark, a professor of social sciences and co-director for studies of religion at Baylor. Stark said, "While I knew there were a lot of people who had such [beliefs in angels], I wasn't prepared for the frequency of it."
FROM SEDONA TO HEAVEN
In my novel "Mission Into Light," I explore the ideas of NDEs, another dimension and encounters with beings who reside there.
The incident involves the main character, Mike Green. On an operation in the Red Rock-Secret Mountain national wilderness area north of Sedona, Arizona, with the San Diego-based 10-person U.S. Joint Reconnaissance Study Group, Mike is shot by a sniper or snipers hidden on high ground and is hit in the leg. Another bullet grazes his skull.
He instantly looses consciousness, falls to the ground and starts loosing significant amounts of blood. Other team members immediately start first-aid for Mike and another wounded teammate.
Meanwhile, he has a near-death experience:
Slowly, Mike's awareness returns. He is disoriented. He looks below and sees his own body, unconscious and bleeding profusely from the leg and head. Another member of the group is bloody from his shoulder down to his hand, the arm of his shirt soaked with blood.
He sees his friends pinned-down by two snipers below him. Below him? Where is he? Had he somehow gotten to a high point along the cliffs?
Mike sees his Uncle Jack directly below him, firing bursts from his automatic weapon and pulling more ammo clips from his pockets.
Near Jack lies Mike's own body. Jack picks up Mike's body, throws him over his shoulders and tries to make his way down a hill, which Mike watches from above.
Slowly, the green forest below him fades from Mike's view. Darkness comes over him.
Then, a point of light becomes visible on the horizon. He is being drawn toward the point of light, first slowly, then more quickly, as if he were shooting river rapids in a canoe. The point of light draws closer and Mike finds himself in a tunnel of beautiful golden light.
He seems to slow down now, like the inevitable calm water at the end of a river's rapids. Mike drifts slowly through the tunnel and the golden light becomes brighter. Other colors seemed to sparkle through the golden light like hundreds of tiny rainbows.
Ahead, he can see figures that seemed to be people. As he flows closer to them he can make out four beings. They seem to be waiting for him as he comes closer and closer.
Then, he finds himself surrounded by the four figures. He knows them. They are his four grandparents and they embrace him. They passed on many years ago, though were a big part of his life when he was a kid. The five seem to float in the light. His grandparents communicate with him in unison.
They tell him, "Yes, Mike, this is the land of the Great Spirit. It is the beautiful place that many religions and philosophies have always taught."
"There is constant rejoicing and peace in this land. But we feel sadness at the hardships faced by our people in your world. And we feel a longing to help the people there."
"There are groups of beings who want to bring the two worlds together, to make Heaven and Earth one place. There are efforts underway to accomplish that very mission."
"That work is proceeding. One day soon, that miracle will come to pass, and there will be a great celebration, a great happiness among all the people."
"You, Mike, must return to the other world, and tell your family and friends about what you have seen."
"We have one more thing to show you, something you have a need to know."
Then, they help Mike take a fantastic journey into deep memories in his DNA, or maybe it is time travel into the ancient past of the Cherokee people in their Smokey Mountain homeland, or maybe both simultaneously. He learns some amazing things.
After this experience concludes, he finds himself with his grandparents again.
"Mike, you must now return to the other world. You still have many more seasons before you join us here in the Spirit land."
They embrace him again, with happiness. Slowly, the golden light begins to fade and Mike is moving back through the tunnel of light. He sees his grandparents waving good-bye to him until they fade from his sight.
The light grows dimmer and dimmer until it is only a point on a distant horizon. And then, darkness.
Mike's next sensation is the sound of other people talking. He opens his eyes and sees a hospital room in Sedona, his friends gathered around his hospital bed.
He tries to tell about his experience.
"I was floating above the fight at the canyon, watching you scrambling for safety. I saw my own bloody body being carried by Uncle Jack down the rocky path away from the snipers."
"A tunnel of golden light led to the land of Spirit ... It wasn't a dream."
"I was in the golden light, and saw my grandparents."
The others listen carefully as Mike tries to recall details of his journey and his meeting with his grandparents.
After he finishes his story, Mike looks closely into the faces of the friends around his bed. Some of their eyes are wider than usual. Some are expressionless, though a smile can be seen in their eyes.
The group's commanding officer, combat veteran Air Force Colonel Tom O'Brien, standing near the door, gives Mike a knowing wink.
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #2108 on: Dec 6th, 2010, 12:44pm »
6 December 2010 by Brian S.
Check out the new teaser trailer for Doug Aarniokoski's post-apocalyptic film The Day. The film stars SHAWN ASHMORE (X-Men, Frozen, The Ruins), ASHLEY BELL (The Last Exorcism), CORY HARDRICT (Gran Torino, Battle: Los Angeles), DOMINIC MONAGHAN (Lost, Lord of the Rings) and SHANNYN SOSSAMON (Wristcutters:A Love Story, One Missed Call, Road to Nowhere). This looks interesting so I'll probably be checking it out! Thanks Twitch Film for the trailer!
Plot: An apocalyptic siege warfare film spanning 24 hrs during which a small group of survivors are pit against insurmountable odds.
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #2111 on: Dec 6th, 2010, 6:58pm »
Whoops! SpaceX has postponed tomorrow's launch!
SpaceX Delays Rocket Launch
Published December 06, 2010
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. – Technical issues have forced Space Exploration Technologies to postpone Tuesday's planned launch of its Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon capsule, which NASA wants for cargo runs to the International Space Station after its space shuttles are retired next year.
Technicians found what appear to be cracks in the nozzle of the rocket's upper-stage motor, prompting a delay to Thursday at the earliest, company President Gwynne Shotwell told reporters Monday.
If the nozzle needs to be replaced, launch likely would not be attempted until Friday or Saturday, she added.
The flight is the first of three planned to demonstrate the rocket and capsule's capability to deliver cargo to the space station for NASA following the last few flights of the space shuttle. The delays come on the heels of a series of delays that pushed off the final launch of space shuttle Discover from its scheduled take off in November -- first by a few days, but ultimately until February at the earliest.
For Dragon's debut, Space Exploration Technologies, also known as SpaceX and owned and run by Internet entrepreneur Elon Musk, plans to put the capsule into a circular orbit about 185 miles above the planet that is inclined 34.5 degrees relative to the equator.
It will not go near the space station, which is located in a 220-mile, 51.6-degree inclination orbit.
Once in space, the capsule is designed to run through a preprogrammed set of maneuvers to test its steering thrusters, navigation system and other equipment critical to flight, then fire its braking rockets to leave orbit.
If all goes as planned, the capsule will parachute back to Earth and splash down in the Pacific Ocean 500 miles west of Mexico.
NASA, which is contributing up to $278 million for the rocket and capsule development, played down the importance of a successful first flight.
"This is a test flight. There is undoubtedly going to be some obstacles," said Phil McAlister, who oversees commercial spaceflight development for the U.S. space agency.
SpaceX and a second company, Orbital Sciences Corp., share contracts worth $3.5 billion to deliver cargo the station. Flights are scheduled to begin as early as December 2011.
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #2113 on: Dec 7th, 2010, 08:08am »
New York Times
Britain Arrests WikiLeaks Founder in Sex Inquiry
Police and members of the news media outside Magistrates Court, where the Wikileaks founder Julian Assange was expected to arrive, in London on Tuesday.
December 7, 2010 By ALAN COWELL AND JOHN F. BURNS
LONDON — Police in Britain arrested Julian Assange on Tuesday on a Swedish warrant issued in connection with alleged sex offenses, British police officials said, the latest twist in the drama swirling around the anti-secrecy group WikiLeaks and its beleaguered founder.
But his associates said his detention would not alter plans for further disclosures like those it has made in recent months relating to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and, over the past 9 days, disclosing confidential diplomatic messages between the State Department and American representatives abroad.
“Today’s actions against our editor-in-chief Julian Assange won’t affect our operations: we will release more cables tonight as normal,” a posting on the WikiLeaks Twitter account said.
Mr. Assange, a 39-year-old Australian, was arrested by officers from Scotland Yard’s extradition unit when he went to a central London police station by prior agreement with the authorities, the police said.
Hours later, he arrived at the City of Westminster Magistrates Court near the Houses of Parliament on the banks of the River Thames.
Travelling in an unmarked car with his lawyer, Mr. Assange used a rear entrance to the eight-story building to skirt the scrum of television cameras, satellite vans and international reporters. Officials said he would appear in court at around 9 a.m. Eastern time.
The court was likely to set the date for a further, more substantive hearing to consider whether Mr. Assange is granted bail, legal experts said.
In a statement earlier on Tuesday, the police said: “Officers from the Metropolitan Police extradition unit have this morning arrested Julian Assange on behalf of the Swedish authorities on suspicion of rape.”
Mr. Assange denies the charges of sexual misconduct said to have been committed while he was in Sweden in August. It was not immediately clear if Mr. Assange would resist extradition to Sweden for questioning by prosecutors there.
Previously, his British lawyer, Mark Stephens, has suggested Mr. Assange might resist on the grounds that Swedish authorities could interview him by video-link from Stockholm or at their embassy in London and that the extradition request itself is politically-motivated.
“It’s about time we got to the end of the day and we got some truth, justice and rule of law,” Mr. Stephens told reporters on Tuesday. “Julian Assange has been the one in hot pursuit to vindicate himself to clear his good name.”
Mr. Stephens said his client had been seeking to learn from the Swedish prosecutor “what the allegations are he has to face and also the evidence against him, which he still hasn’t seen,” The Press Association news agency reported.
While widely anticipated, the arrest opened an array of new questions about Mr. Assange’s future, even as the Justice Department in Washington said it was conducting what Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. called “a very serious, active, ongoing investigation that is criminal in nature” into the WikiLeaks matter.
Since late November, WikiLeaks has been publishing documents from a trove of over 250,000 diplomatic cables. Mr. Assange has threatened to release many more if legal action is taken against him or his organization.
“Over 100,000 people” were given the entire archive of 251,287 cables in encrypted form, Mr. Assange said on Friday in a question-and-answer session on the Web site of the British newspaper The Guardian.
“If something happens to us, the key parts will be released automatically,” Mr. Assange said
Mr. Assange’s threat of further disclosures poses a problem for the Obama administration as it explores ways to prosecute Mr. Assange or the group in relation to the archive of diplomatic cables it obtained, reportedly from a low-ranking Army intelligence analyst.
The British police statement said Mr. Assange was “accused by the Swedish authorities of one count of unlawful coercion, two counts of sexual molestation and one count of rape, all alleged to have been committed in August 2010.”
The arrest was made under a European arrest warrant “by appointment at a London police station at 09:30 today,” the statement said.
The charges involve sexual encounters that two women say began as consensual but became nonconsensual after Mr. Assange was no longer using a condom. Mr. Assange has denied any wrongdoing and suggested that the charges were trumped up in retaliation for his WikiLeaks work, though there is no public evidence to suggest a connection.
His arrest came challenges mounted to his operations, as computer server companies, Amazon.com and PayPal.com, have cut off commercial cooperation with WikiLeaks.
On Monday, a Swiss bank froze an account held by Mr. Assange that had been used to collect donations for WikiLeaks. Marc Andrey, a spokesman for the bank, PostFinance, an arm of the Swiss postal service, said the account was closed because Mr. Assange “gave us false information when he opened the account,” asserting inaccurately that he lived in Switzerland.
His threat is not idle, because as of Monday night the group had released fewer than 1,000 of the quarter-million State Department cables it had obtained, reportedly from a low-ranking Army intelligence analyst.
So far, the group has moved cautiously. The whole archive was made available to five news organizations, including The New York Times. But WikiLeaks has posted only a few dozen cables on its own in addition to matching those made public by the news publications. According to the State Department’s count, 1,325 cables, or fewer than 1 percent of the total, have been made public by all parties to date.
There appears to be no way for American authorities to retrieve all copies of the cables archive. And legal experts say there are serious obstacles to any prosecution of Mr. Assange or his group.
But the disclosure of the confidential communications between the State Department and 270 American embassies and consulates has infuriated administration officials and prompted calls from Congress to pursue charges.
Justice Department prosecutors have been struggling to find a way to indict Mr. Assange since July, when WikiLeaks made public documents on the war in Afghanistan. But while it is clearly illegal for a government official with a security clearance to give a classified document to WikiLeaks, it is far from clear that it is illegal for the organization to make it public.
The Justice Department has considered trying to indict Mr. Assange under the Espionage Act, which has never been successfully used to prosecute a third-party recipient of a leak. Some lawmakers have suggested accusing WikiLeaks of receiving stolen government property, but experts said Monday that would also pose difficulties.
Perhaps in a warning shot of sorts, WikiLeaks on Monday released a cable from early last year listing sites around the world — from hydroelectric dams in Canada to vaccine factories in Denmark — that are considered crucial to American national security.
Nearly all the facilities listed in the document, including undersea cables, oil pipelines and power plants, could be identified by Internet searches. But the disclosure prompted headlines in Europe and a new denunciation from the State Department, which said in a statement that “releasing such information amounts to giving a targeting list to groups like Al Qaeda.”
Asked later about the cable, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said the continuing disclosures posed “real concerns, and even potential damage to our friends and partners around the world.”
In recent months, WikiLeaks gave the entire collection of cables to four European publications — Der Spiegel in Germany, El País in Spain, Le Monde in France and The Guardian. The Guardian shared the cable collection with The New York Times.
Since Nov. 28, each publication has been publishing a series of articles about revelations in the cables, accompanied online by the texts of some of the documents. The publications have removed the names of some confidential sources of American diplomats, and WikiLeaks has generally posted the cables with the same redactions.
But with the initial series of articles and cable postings nearing an end, the fate of the roughly 250,000 cables that have not been placed online is uncertain. The five publications have announced no plans to make public all the documents. WikiLeaks’s intentions remain unclear.
Reporting was contributed by Scott Shane, Charlie Savage and Brian Knowlton from Washington. Ravi Somaiya contributed reporting from London..
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #2114 on: Dec 7th, 2010, 08:14am »
New York Times
December 6, 2010 Iran’s Divorce Rate Stirs Fears of Society in Crisis By WILLIAM YONG
TEHRAN — The wedding nearly 1,400 years ago of Imam Ali, Shiite Islam’s most revered figure, and Fatemeh al-Zahra, the daughter of the Prophet Muhammad, is commemorated in Iran’s packed political calendar as a day to celebrate family values.
But in a sign of the Iranian authorities’ increasing concern about Iran’s shifting social landscape, Marriage Day, as it is usually known in Iran, this year was renamed No Divorce Day. Iran’s justice minister decreed that no divorce permits would be issued.
Whether the switch was effective or not, the officials’ concerns are understandable. Divorce is skyrocketing in Iran. Over a decade, the number each year has roughly tripled to a little more than 150,000 in 2010 from around 50,000 in 2000, according to official figures. Nationwide, there is one divorce for every seven marriages; in Tehran, the ratio is 1 divorce for every 3.76 marriages, the government has reported.
While the change in divorce rates is remarkable, even more surprising is the major force behind it: the increasing willingness of Iranian women to manipulate the Iranian legal system to escape unwanted marriages.
The numbers are still modest compared with the United States, which typically records about a million divorces a year in a population about four times as large. But for Iran, with a conservative Islamic culture that strongly discourages divorce, the trend is striking, and shows few signs of slowing. In the last Iranian calendar year, ending in March, divorces were up 16 percent from the year before, compared with a 1 percent increase in marriages.
“In May, a registry office I work with recorded 70 divorces and only 3 marriages,” said a lawyer who requested anonymity for fear of retribution by the Iranian authorities. “The next month, a friend at another office said he recorded 60 divorces and only one marriage.” He noted that both offices were in central Tehran and not in the city’s affluent north, which is considered more liberal and Westernized.
Not only is divorce on the rise, but marriages are also failing early, with 30 percent of divorces in any given year occurring in the first year of marriage and 50 percent in the first five years. Some people, doubtful of the government statistics, suspect that the numbers are even higher.
Conservative commentators call the problem a social ill on par with drug addiction and prostitution. Senior officials and members of Parliament have increasingly referred to the issue as a “crisis” and a “national threat.” Explanations for the rising divorce rate vary. More liberal commentators emphasize factors like rapid urbanization, high living costs and a jobless rate that official figures put at close to one in four among 16- to 25-year-olds. Conservatives often point to what they say is growing godlessness among the young and the corrupting effects of the Western media.
“High dowries, high living costs, lack of jobs and financial support make young people fear marriage,” said a member of Parliament, Gholamreza Asadollahi, who also blamed young people who had lost their belief “in the unseen power of God to solve life’s problems.”
But most experts agree that nothing has contributed as much as a deep-rooted awakening in Iranian women that is altering traditional attitudes toward marriage, relationships, careers and, generally speaking, women’s place in what is still an overwhelmingly patriarchal society.
Twenty percent of Iranian women are employed or actively looking for jobs, according to government figures, compared with 7 percent in the first years after the 1979 Islamic Revolution. Female undergraduate students outnumber men in Iran’s universities almost two to one.
“This economic freedom has had an effect on the behavior of women in the home,” said Saeid Madani, a member of the Iranian Sociological Association. “In the past, if a housewife left her home, she would go hungry; now there is a degree of possibility of finding a job and earning an income.”
But something more is at work than simple economics, many experts say. “Women have found the courage to break with tradition and say no to the past,” said Azardokht Mofidi, a psychiatrist and the author of several books on psychoanalysis. “They are no longer prepared to put up with hardships in marriage, and their expectations have risen to include equality in relationships.”
Nazanin, a woman nearing 50 who has been divorced twice, has experienced the change in attitudes. Married at age 18, during the politically charged years of the Islamic Revolution and the Iran-Iraq war, Nazanin divorced two years later in the face of a society that still held firm to the Persian adage that a woman enters her husband’s home wearing a white wedding dress and leaves it in her white funeral clothes.
“For years, I hid the fact,” said Nazanin, relaxing without a hijab in the modest, sparsely decorated apartment where she lives with her adult son. “For a while, my family told the neighbors stories and lies, saying he had gone to work abroad. At work, because I was still young, I kept wearing my ring and didn’t tell anybody.”
After she broke up with her second husband 14 years ago, her religious parents were once again mortified, but friends were more accepting. In the years since, Nazanin says she has seen a reversal in society’s attitudes.
“Now, it has become so normal that society has become neutral,” she said. “Our generation has completely lost its sensitivity to divorce. It’s so common that you can see it in your own family. You just accept it.”
Even so, she would give only her first name and refused to be photographed, for fear of being punished by the authorities.
Iran’s rising divorce rate is all the more noteworthy given the laws on divorce. While husbands are empowered to end their marriages in a matter of weeks without stating any reason, women must establish sufficient grounds for divorce in a process that can take several years, even with professional legal advice.
Facing such an uneven playing field, marital lawyers say, Iranian women have increasingly turned to leveraging their legal right to a mehrieh — a single payment agreed on before marriage that constitutes a kind of Islamic marriage insurance. Husbands are obliged to pay this sum to wives when they divorce.
Under what are known as “divorces of mutual consent,” a woman may forgo part or all of her mehrieh to provide a financial incentive to her husband to let her leave. In recent years, there have been exponential increases in the value of mehriehs, which now often reach the equivalent of tens of thousands of dollars. Some conservatives have raised the idea of capping mehriehs to reduce the divorce rate. Clerics and government officials promote the idea of having a purely symbolic mehrieh, like a handful of gold coins or a Koran.
Whether such measures can stem the tide of divorce remains to be seen, particularly in a society where it seems to be losing its stigma.
“At first I was afraid of how society would treat me after divorce,” said a seamstress named Sara, 33. “But after all the support that I got from my friends and my father, my uncle and aunts and the people who I turned to for advice, I thought, ‘No, the period in which people were prejudiced against divorce is over.’ No one ever judged me.”