Air Force Is Through With Predator Drones By Spencer Ackerman December 14, 2010 | 5:24 pm Categories: Drones
Photo: U.S. Air Force
Wave a tear-stained handkerchief for the drone that changed the face of air war: The Air Force won’t buy any more Predators. The Reaper drone is about to be in full effect.
This year, the Air Force completed its scheduled purchase of 268 Predators from manufacturer General Atomics, somewhat behind a schedule the service announced in 2008. By “early 2011,” says Lt. Col. Richard Johnson, an Air Force spokesman, “we’re taking delivery of our last Predator.”
February, to be exact, according to Kimberly Kasitz, a General Atomics spokeswoman. “We’ve actually had a couple of internal celebrations,” she says.
That doesn’t mean the end for the Predator, exactly, since the Air Force will continue to fly the planes it’s bought. But it does mean the beginning of the end. “We’re not replacing the Predator with the Reaper,” Johnson says, “but as the [Predator] fleet diminishes by attrition, we’ll phase in the Reaper.”
Ah, the Predator: Flying at up to 25,000 feet for around 20 hours at a time, the drone was supposed to be a pure surveillance aircraft. But starting in late 2000, the Clinton and Bush administrations decided to outfit the Predator with Hellfire missiles to reduce the lag time between identifying Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan and attempting to take him out. Bureaucratic wrangling delayed the armament, but in November 2002, a CIA-operated armed Predator blew up a Jeep carrying some of bin Laden’s acolytes. The age of the Predator — an age of remotely piloted air war — had begun.
Unlike the Predator, the Reaper is no accidental warrior. Also built by General Atomics, it flies twice as fast (150-170 knots cruising, 260 max), at higher altitudes (around 50,000 feet), and carries ten times the payload (over 2 tons) as the Predator. That allows it to strap on the AGM-114 Hellfire missiles, as well as GBU-12 and GBU-38 precision bombs. And as a surveillance aircraft, it’s got more electrical power than the Predator, which means “we can integrate new or improved sensors on the aircraft,” Johnson says.
The Reaper came into use in 2007. So far, the Air Force owns 57 of the drones and plans to buy another 272, for a total buy of 329 planes — the pace of which will be determined by congressional moneymen. Many of the drones are already in Afghanistan. Air Force officers pilot them from Creech Air Force Base in Nevada.
Of course, the Air Force isn’t the only U.S. operation that flies armed drones. The CIA operates an unacknowledged drone program over the Pakistani tribal areas (and, possibly, in Yemen soon). The Air Force is widely believed to supply the CIA with its drones. If so — the CIA declined comment for this post — a phase-out of the Predator and phase-in of the Reaper will mean an eventual upgrade for a drone program that’s already fired off 108 strikes in the last year.
And it’s the lethality of that program that’s gotten other countries wanting the same weapons. WikiLeaks exposed U.S. allies like the United Arab Emirates and Turkey champing at the bit to buy armed Reapers from the U.S. almost as soon as the Predator upgrade came online. Armed drone sales to non-NATO allies are probably still years off, but in July, General Atomics got State Department approval to sell the unarmed version of the Predator as surveillance aircraft to non-NATO countries like Pakistan, Egypt and the UAE.
And that’s just the beginning. China, Iran and Israel are just some of the countries that have their own indigenous drone programs. The Reaper is already getting an upgrade: in July, General Atomics rolled out its post-Reaper drone, the faster, stealthier Avenger. Even as the Reaper takes over for the Predator in the U.S., the global proliferation of drone technology is the pathbreaking plane’s real legacy.
One of those drones would make a very nice long distance two person aircraft. I wonder what it would cost to buy one from surplus and convert it to a two place cockpit? They can carry a 3500 lbs of cargo from the stats I've seen so it would easily carry two people plus baggage and external fuel pods for a 3000 mile cruiser! Lone
« Last Edit: Dec 15th, 2010, 2:20pm by LoneGunMan »
De Opresso Libre! I Have Been many Men, In Many Times, I Shall Be Again! \"The real destroyer of the liberties of the people is he who spreads among them bounties, donations and benefits.\" Plutarch
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #2225 on: Dec 15th, 2010, 4:28pm »
Court Rebuffs Obama on Warrantless Cell-Site Tracking By David Kravets December 15, 2010 | 3:52 pm Categories: Surveillance, privacy
A federal appeals court on Wednesday rejected the Obama administration’s contention the government is never required to get a court warrant to obtain cell-site information that mobile-phone carriers retain on their customers.
The decision by the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals is one in a string of court decisions boosting Americans’ privacy in the digital age — rulings the government fought against. The most significant and recent decision came Tuesday, when a different federal appeals court said for the first time the government must obtain a court warrant for an internet service provider to grant the authorities access to a suspect’s e-mail.
The case concluded Wednesday concerns so-called historical cell-site location information, which carriers usually retain for about 18 months. The data identifies the cell tower to which the customer was connected to at the beginning of a call and at the end of the call — and is often used in criminal prosecutions and investigations.
“Prosecutors across the country use the statute in criminal investigations to obtain a wide range of evidence,” the administration told the Philadelphia-based 3rd Circuit.
The appeals court had ruled in September that judges had the discretion to require a warrant under the Fourth Amendment to obtain the cell-site information. It was the first appellate court to reach that conclusion, despite a handful of lower-court decisions freeing the government from that requirement.
The Obama administration urged the appellate court to reconsider its position, an offer the court declined Wednesday without commenting on the merits.
The administration has also asked the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit to reverse its August ruling requiring court warrants to affix GPS devices to vehicles to track their every move. The administration said Americans should expect no privacy “in the totality of his or her movements in public places.”
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #2227 on: Dec 15th, 2010, 6:14pm »
Universal creating Syfy film label [Updated] December 15, 2010 | 10:42 am
Looking to create some corporate synergy and expand its successful TV brand, Universal Pictures is teaming with its sibling cable network, Syfy, to launch a new movie-production unit.
Beginning in 2012, Syfy Films, a joint venture of the two NBC Universal-owned companies, is to produce one to two science fiction, fantasy, supernatural or horror movies a year that will be released by Universal Pictures. Its focus is somewhat similar to Rogue Pictures, the horror, thriller and comedy label that the studio sold to Relativity Media in early 2009.
The endeavor represents that first time Universal has teamed with one of its sister channels to create a film label. The strategy follows one long ago adopted by Paramount Pictures, which partnered with two cable channels owned by its corporate parent, Viacom Inc., to create MTV Films and Nickelodeon Films.
Pictures made by Syfy Films are expected to be relatively inexpensive, with production budgets of between $5 million and $25 million. The label will be overseen by Langley and Syfy executive vice president of original programming Mark Stern, who will hire a production executive to handle day-to-day operations.
Universal's experience making science fiction pictures outside of Rogue has been limited. In 2005, the studio made "Serenity," based on Joss Whedon's short-lived cult favorite Fox series "Firefly," but it only pleased hard-core science fiction fans and never crossed over to mainstream audiences.
Syfy, which changed its name from Sci-Fi Channel in 2009 in an effort to reach a broader audience, has made more than 100 original movies that have aired on the television network.
The news comes as Comcast Corp. is expected to shortly close a deal to buy controlling interest in NBC Universal. The cable giant considers NBC Universal's cable networks to be the media company's most valuable asset. A change in priorities at the company under new ownership could make these types of collaborations more important for Universal Pictures in the future.
-- Ben Fritz
[This post was updated at 12:52 p.m. with information on expected budgets for Syfy Films projects.]
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #2228 on: Dec 16th, 2010, 08:40am »
New York Times
December 16, 2010 Afghan Report Sees July Troop Pullouts Despite Perils By HELENE COOPER
WASHINGTON— A review of President Obama’s strategy for the war in Afghanistan concludes that American forces can begin withdrawing on schedule in July, despite finding uneven signs of progress in the year since the president announced the deployment of an additional 30,000 troops, according to a summary made public Thursday.
The summary said the United States continues to kill leaders of Al Qaeda and diminish its capacity to launch terrorist attacks from the region. It cited some signs that the United States and its allies have halted or reversed inroads by the Taliban in Afghanistan and strengthened the ability of Afghan forces to secure their country, but acknowledged that the gains are fragile and could be easily undone unless more progress is made towards hunting down insurgents operating from havens in neighboring Pakistan.
The report is the first full-scale assessment of Mr. Obama’s strategy, and was once portrayed by the administration as critical to decisions about the course of the conflict and the pace of the exit by the United States from Afghanistan. But the White House has been playing down the report’s importance for months, even as it continues to balance pressure from the military for time to allow the troop surge to work and pressure from many Democrats — some inside the administration — to start showing next year that Mr. Obama is serious about winding down the nine-year conflict.
The summary shed little light on the scale of any troop withdrawal next year, which the administration says will be determined by conditions on the ground.
The five-page unclassified overview of the review describes both progress and challenges only in general and restrained terms, avoiding outright criticism of Pakistan for failure to do more to confront extremists on its soil and the Afghan government for corruption and inconsistent support for American efforts to secure key areas of the country.
Mr. Obama will formally present the Afghanistan strategy review Thursday morning at the White House. He will be joined, administration officials said, by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Defense Secretary Robert Gates.
The summary points to a handful of areas where the influx of American troops has had an impact. For instance, night raids by special forces operatives and increased security measures in local villages, the report said, have reduced overall Taliban influences in the Taliban heartland of Kandahar and Helmand provinces.
In addition, the Afghan army has exceeded growth targets set by NATO and American military officials, and training of the Afghan forces who will be expected to take over the lead from American and NATO troops has improved, the summary said.
American counterterrorism operations, including unmanned drone strikes, have been particularly effective in targeting Al Qaeda and Taliban insurgents in the border regions, a senior administration official said.
“There has been significant progress in disrupting and dismantling the Pakistan-based leadership and cadre of Al Qaeda over the past year,” the report said. “Al Qaeda’s senior leadership has been depleted, the group’s safe haven is smaller and less secure, and its ability to prepare and conduct terrorist operations has been degraded in several ways.”
But those gains appear dwarfed by the challenges that remain, particularly in Pakistan, where the review characterizes progress as “substantial but also uneven.”
In Pakistan “the denial of extremist safe havens will require greater cooperation with Pakistan along the border with Afghanistan,” the review said. “Furthermore, the denial of extremist safe havens cannot be achieved with military means alone, but must continue to be advanced by effective development strategies.”
While the overview appeared to take pains not to specifically criticize the Pakistani government, administration officials have expressed frustration over Pakistan’s willingness to hunt down insurgents operating from havens on its Afghan border.
In fact, two new classified intelligence reports offer a negative assessment, saying that although there have been gains for the United States and NATO in the war, the unwillingness of Pakistan to shut down militant sanctuaries in its lawless tribal region remains a serious obstacle. American military commanders say insurgents freely cross from Pakistan into Afghanistan to plant bombs and fight American troops and then return to Pakistan for rest and resupply.
For Mr. Obama, this year-end review of his Afghanistan strategy was intended to assess, among other things, whether the administration would be able to stick to its stated intention to begin reducing its military presence in Afghanistan next summer at an as-yet undecided pace.
Even as Republicans urge the president not to withdraw troops on an arbitrary timeline, White House officials are already bracing for a fight next year with their Democratic base, where many anti-war Democrats have been calling for a more rapid withdrawal of American troops. Some Democrats in Congress say that they will soon begin resisting continuing to spent $100 billion annually on Afghanistan.
The White House is keenly aware of the shifting political tolerance among Democrats for the Afghanistan war; and even as the review described tentative and uneven gains, administration officials made certain to reiterate that come July 2011, American troops will begin coming home. “Our strategy in Afghanistan is setting the conditions to begin the responsible reduction of U.S. forces in July 2011,” the report said.
But just how many soldiers will actually come home next July remains an open question; military officials have indicated that they want only a limited number, and even White House officials take pains to say that the withdrawal will be “conditions-based.”
By 2014, the overview said, the Afghanistan army will be expected to assume the lead all across the country, and the bulk of American troops will have come home.
Just as it did not single out the Pakistani government for criticism, the overview does not overtly criticize the government of President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan, reflecting the administration’s decision earlier this year that its previous tactic of overt public pressure on Mr. Karzai had appeared to backfire.
Now, even though administration officials privately say that corruption in the Afghan government has continued to flourish, the overview of the report appears to skirt the issue. “Emphasis must continue to be placed on the development of Afghan-led security and governance within areas that have been a focus of military operations,” the summary said.
In the year since Mr. Obama announced the troop increase, he has lost four members of his Afghanistan and Pakistan team: General Stanley McChrystal, the American commander in Afghanistan who was fired in June because of remarks he made to Rolling Stone magazine; Rahm Emanuel, the White House chief of staff, who left to run for mayor of Chicago; General James Jones, the National Security Advisor, who left his post in November, and Richard Holbrooke, Mr. Obama’s special representative to Afghanistan and Pakistan, who died Monday after suffering a rupture in his aorta.
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #2229 on: Dec 16th, 2010, 08:44am »
New York Times
December 15, 2010 In France, Civil Unions Gain Favor Over Marriage By SCOTT SAYARE and MAÏA DE LA BAUME
PARIS — Some are divorced and disenchanted with marriage; others are young couples ideologically opposed to marriage, but eager to lighten their tax burdens. Many are lovers not quite ready for old-fashioned matrimony.
Whatever their reasons, and they vary widely, French couples are increasingly shunning traditional marriages and opting instead for civil unions, to the point that there are now two civil unions for every three marriages.
When France created its system of civil unions in 1999, it was heralded as a revolution in gay rights, a relationship almost like marriage, but not quite. No one, though, anticipated how many couples would make use of the new law. Nor was it predicted that by 2009, the overwhelming majority of civil unions would be between straight couples.
It remains unclear whether the idea of a civil union, called a pacte civil de solidarité, or PACS, has responded to a shift in social attitudes or caused one. But it has proved remarkably well suited to France and its particularities about marriage, divorce, religion and taxes — and it can be dissolved with just a registered letter.
“We’re the generation of divorced parents,” explained Maud Hugot, 32, an aide at the Health Ministry who signed a PACS with her girlfriend, Nathalie Mondot, 33, this year. Expressing a view that researchers say is becoming commonplace among same-sex couples and heterosexuals alike, she added, “The notion of eternal marriage has grown obsolete.”
France recognizes only “citizens,” and the country’s legal principles hold that special rights should not be accorded to particular groups or ethnicities. So civil unions, which confer most of the tax benefits and legal protections of marriage, were made available to everyone. (Marriage, on the other hand, remains restricted to heterosexuals.) But the attractiveness of civil unions to heterosexual couples was evident from the start. In 2000, just one year after the passage of the law, more than 75 percent of civil unions were signed between heterosexual couples. That trend has only strengthened since then: of the 173,045 civil unions signed in 2009, 95 percent were between heterosexual couples.
“It’s becoming more and more commonplace,” said Laura Anicet, 24, a student who signed a PACS last month with her 29-year-old boyfriend, Cyril Reich. “For me, before, the PACS was for homosexual couples.”
As with traditional marriages, civil unions allow couples to file joint tax returns, exempt spouses from inheritance taxes, permit partners to share insurance policies, ease access to residency permits for foreigners and make partners responsible for each other’s debts. Concluding a civil union requires little more than a single appearance before a judicial official, and ending one is even easier.
It long ago became common here to speak of “getting PACSed” (se pacser, in French). More recently, wedding fairs have been renamed to include the PACS, department stores now offer PACS gift registries and travel agencies offer PACS honeymoon packages.
Even the Roman Catholic Church, which initially condemned the partnerships as a threat to the institution of marriage, has relented; the National Confederation of Catholic Family Associations now says civil unions do not pose “a real threat.”
While the partnerships have exploded in popularity, marriage numbers have continued a long decline in France, as across Europe. Just 250,000 French couples married in 2009, with fewer than four marriages per 1,000 residents; in 1970, almost 400,000 French couples wed.
Germany, too, has seen a similar plunge in marriage rates. In 2009, there were just over four marriages per 1,000 residents compared with more than seven per 1,000 in 1970. In the United States, the current rate is 6.8 per 1,000 residents, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
France is not the only European nation to allow civil unions between straight couples, but in the few countries that do — Luxembourg, Andorra, the Netherlands — they are not as popular. In the Netherlands in 2009, for example, there was just one civil union for every eight marriages.
If current trends continue in France, new civil unions could soon outnumber marriages, as they already do in Paris’s youthful 11th Arrondissement.
François Lambert, 28, and his girlfriend, Maud Moulin, 27, signed a civil union in 2007 for what he described as logistical reasons. Both public schoolteachers, they would be assured of postings to the same district only if they filed joint tax returns, which civil unions allow.
“We didn’t have time to prepare for a marriage,” he said. “It was a question of speed.”
Sophie Lazzaro, 48, an event planner in Paris, signed a civil union in 2006 with her longtime companion, Thierry Galissant, who is 50. (She said she was drawn to a civil union largely for the legal protections and stability it offered.)
“I have two daughters, and if something happens to me, I want us to stay together as a family,” she said. “But without getting married.”
In addition to their practical advantages, she said, civil unions are ideologically suited to her generation, which came of age after the social rebellions of the 1960s. “We were very free,” she said. “AIDS didn’t exist, we had the pill, we didn’t have to fight. We were the first generation to enjoy all of this.” She added, “Marriage has a side that’s very institutional and very square and religious, which didn’t fit for us.”
Though French marriages are officially concluded in civil ceremonies held in town halls, not in churches, marriage is still viewed here as a “heavy and invasive” institution with deep ties to Christianity, said Wilfried Rault, a sociologist at the National Institute for Demographic Studies.
“Marriage bears the traces of a religious imprint,” he said, often anathema in a country where secularism has long been treated as a sacred principle. “It’s really an ideological slant, saying, ‘No one is going to tell me what I have to do.’ ”
For some, civil unions are simply a form of premarital engagement. Ms. Anicet, the student, said she and her boyfriend would probably be married were they not of different religions. She is Catholic, he is Jewish, and his mother disapproves of marrying outside the faith, Ms. Anicet said.
“We’re realizing that this is a test,” she said, “a way to get our families used to it.”
Though the two had considered a civil union for tax reasons, now “it’s a jumping-off point to getting married, later,” she said, adding after a pause, “I hope.”
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #2230 on: Dec 16th, 2010, 08:55am »
Wired Danger Room
Real-Life UFOs, From Flying Flapjacks to Mystery Missiles By Spencer Ackerman December 16, 2010 | 7:00 am Categories: Bizarro
If you listen to the Air Force tell it, there are simply no such things as UFOs. A two-decade investigation called Project Blue Book determined in 1969 that no extraterrestial life has made contact with Earth. And no unexplained aerial phenomena have exceeded humanity's scientific grasp, let alone threatened national security.
That has not been enough for dedicated UFOlogists. In September, a group of Air Force missile officers contended that aliens had temporarily taken control of their nukes.
The "do they or don't they exist" debate won't be settled until someone from far away asks to be taken to our leaders. And the controversy makes it easy to forget that a UFO isn't actually a ship full of little green men. It's a placeholder for a puzzle the mind can't solve. So, it's also easy to forget that, much like the Insane Clown Posse observed about miracles, UFOs are all around us.
From weird drones to cheeky satellites to things that manifest themselves to the naked eye as little more than plumes of smoke, the skies can be a mysterious, congested place. Here, we take a look at the most striking curiosities of aviation, both foreign and domestic, including actual flying saucers.
That's the trouble with aliens: the misdirection. You spend too much time tracking down intergalactic visitors and you'll miss the oddities that humans invented for getting around our home planet.
Above: The Canuck Flying Saucer
The best engineering minds in two countries couldn't quite figure out how to make the Canuck Flying Saucer work. A joint venture in the 1950s between the U.S. Army, U.S. Air Force and the Canadian aviation company Avro, the VZ-9 Avrocar was supposed to be a "revolutionary" supersonic ship that brought extraterrestrial style to the military-industrial complex.
The 18-to-25-foot pancake was to lift off vertically, thanks to a five-foot fan in its belly. The "focusing ring" around its exterior would push air outward in the opposite direction its pilot wanted to fly. Manufacturers called it "Ground Effect Takeoff and Landing," or GETOL.
And it did pretty well if you only wanted to go five or six feet off the ground. Higher altitudes would cause the craft to pitch wildly, a flaw its engineers couldn't overcome. After about 10 years and as many million dollars, the military pulled the plug in 1960. But visitors to the Army's transportation museum at Fort Eustis, Virginia, check out the prototype and imagine what might have been.
The (Tiny) Probe Droid You've Been Looking For
With its squat body and tendril-like stands drooping down, this mini-drone might have been inspired by the Probot spy droid used to find the Rebel Alliance on Hoth in The Empire Strikes Back. It has a similar function: Honeywell's T-Hawk, made for the Army is a hovering clunker used for reconnaissance missions.
Snapping imagery from more than 7,000 feet in the air, the T-Hawk is designed to give soldiers a view of the dangers ahead of them if they don't have the runway space to launch a full-sized drone. Weighing just 17 pounds, the T-Hawk is small enough to fit in a backpack, and its ducted fan launches it straight into the sky.
Alas, it's not as autonomous as the Probot, since soldiers below need to tell the T-Hawk where to go with a joystick-based remote-control system. But it's been used in Iraq, where thirsty soldiers dubbed it the Flying Beer Can, and seems not to have suffered for its inadequacies relative to the Galactic Empire model. Indeed, Honeywell says it's building a "much larger" T-Hawk for the Army that'll be ready for tests in 2012, as well as a version for police anti-drug missions. Even if you're hiding on an ice planet, it'll find you.
Photo: U.S. Navy
The Spy Plane That Started Area 51
In 1997, a study in the CIA's Studies in Intelligence journal concluded that "manned reconnaissance" flights account for "over half of all UFO reports from the late 1950s through the 1960s." That figure is disputed in the UFO-studying community. But what's beyond argument is that the U-2, the mother of all U.S. Air Force spy planes, played a seminal role in UFOlogy.
Introduced in the 1950s, the U-2 is loaded with sensors and cameras to snap pictures and scarf up enemy signals from 70,000 feet in the air. It took the photos of Russian missiles in Cuba that nearly touched off a nuclear war in 1962, and it's still in use over Afghanistan today.
It's so synonymous with secrets that it was developed at what would come to be known as Area 51 in Nevada. In fact, no U-2, no Area 51: The facility opened because in 1955 Lockheed's secret-plane builders wanted somewhere to experiment on their U-2 away from prying eyes. Had they chosen somewhere outside the Nevada desert, a cultural touchstone might never have developed.
One of Area 51's founders was Clarence "Kelly" Johnson, a Lockheed honcho who built the facility near Groom Lake, Nevada, at the CIA's behest. Ironically, Johnson was no UFO skeptic. He's quoted as saying in 1948: "I should state that for at least five years, I have definitely believed in the possibility that flying saucers exist — this in spite of a good deal of kidding from my technical associates." By giving the U-2 a home, he made believers out of millions more.
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #2231 on: Dec 16th, 2010, 09:00am »
Napolitano to Arizona in wake of Border Patrol agent's killing By Jordy Yager - 12/15/10 03:54 PM ET
Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano is headed to Arizona on Thursday following a gun battle that killed a Border Patrol agent near the U.S.-Mexico border.
Agent Brian Terry was shot late Tuesday night on the U.S. side of the border in a canyon well known for its drug and human smuggling activity.
Napolitano, who is expected to meet with Border Patrol agents and employees in Arizona tomorrow, called Terry’s killing “an unconscionable act of violence against the men and women of the Border Patrol and all those who serve and defend our country.”
Sen. Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.), the chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, said he was praying for Terry’s family and called on Congress to support the Border Patrol operations in the region.
“Agent Terry’s murder is a reminder of the great service and willingness to sacrifice that the men and women of Customs and Border Protection embody when they put themselves in harm’s way to protect our country,” said Lieberman.
“They serve every day on the front lines of a perilous struggle against the Mexican drug cartels along our southern border, and we must do everything we can to support them in that effort.”
Federal authorities announced on Wednesday the arrest of four people who they believe might have been involved in Terry’s murder, according to The Arizona Republic.
Napolitano, who is the former governor of Arizona, committed the full use of U.S. resources toward finding Terry’s killer.
“We will leave no stone unturned as we seek justice for the perpetrators,” she said.
Violence along the border escalated to new levels in October when a Mexican police commander was beheaded while investigating the suspected murder of an American tourist by drug smugglers.
But violence has plagued the U.S-Mexico border for years, spurring the U.S. to step up security earlier this year as President Barack Obama signed a $600 million border security initiative and sent 1,200 National Guardsmen to the region.
More than 28,000 people have been killed in Mexico since President Felipe Calderon declared war on the country's drug cartels in 2006.
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #2232 on: Dec 16th, 2010, 09:04am »
Meteorite Just One Piece of an Unknown Celestial Body ScienceDaily (Dec. 15, 2010) —
Scientists from all over the world are taking a second, more expansive, look at the car-sized asteroid that exploded over Sudan's Nubian Desert in 2008. Initial research was focused on classifying the meteorite fragments that were collected two to five months after they were strewn across the desert and tracked by NASA's Near Earth Object astronomical network. Now in a series of 20 papers for a special double issue of the journal Meteoritics and Planetary Science, published on December 15, researchers have expanded their work to demonstrate the diversity of these fragments, with major implications for the meteorite's origin.
Scientists from all over the world are taking a second, more expansive, look at the car-sized asteroid that exploded over Sudan's Nubian Desert in 2008. Initial research was focused on classifying the meteorite fragments that were collected two to five months after they were strewn across the desert and tracked by NASA's Near Earth Object astronomical network. (Credit: Image courtesy of Carnegie Institution)
In the first round of research, Carnegie Geophysical scientist Doug Rumble, in collaboration with Muawia Shaddad of the University of Khartoum, examined one fragment of the asteroid, called 2008 TC3, and determined that it fell into a very rare category of meteorite called ureilites. Ureilites have a very different composition from most other meteorites. It has been suggested that all members of this meteoric family might have originated from the same source, called the ureilite parent body, which could have been a proto-planet.
Now Rumble has expanded his work to examine 11 meteorite fragments, focusing on the presence of oxygen isotopes. Isotopes are atoms of the same element that have extra neutrons in their nuclei.
Rumble explains: "Oxygen isotopes can be used to identify the meteorite's parent body and determine whether all the fragments indeed came from the same source. Each parent body of meteorites in the Solar System, including the Moon, Mars, and the large asteroid Vesta, has a distinctive signature of oxygen isotopes that can be recognized even when other factors, such as chemical composition and type of rock, are different."
Rumble and his team prepped tiny crumbs of these 11 meteorite fragments and loaded them into a reaction chamber where they were heated with a laser and underwent chemical reactions to release oxygen and then used another device, called a mass spectrometer, to measure the concentrations of these oxygen isotopes. Results showed that the full range of oxygen isotopes known to be present in ureilites were also present in the studied fragments.
"It was already known that the fragments in the Nubian Desert came from the same asteroid. Taking that into account, these new results demonstrate that the asteroid's source, the ureilite parent body, also had a diversity of oxygen isotopes," says Rumble.
The diversity of oxygen isotopes found in ureilites probably arises from the circumstances of the parent this body's formation. Rumble theorizes that the rock components of this parent body were heated to the point of melting and then cooled into crystals so quickly that the oxygen isotopes present could not come to an equilibrium distribution throughout.
Together the collection of 20 papers published in Meteoritics and Planetary Science offer enormous insight about the formation and composition of ureilites and their hypothesized parent body.
This study was supported through a grant from NASA's Cosmochemistry program, a grant from NASA under the Planetary Geology and Geophysics program and a grant from NASA's Planetary Astronomy program. The samples were made available by the University of Khartoum.
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #2233 on: Dec 16th, 2010, 09:32am »
Periodic Table Periodically Revised.....
Is the Periodic Table of Elements Wrong? Published December 16, 2010 News Corp Australian Papers
You know the periodic table that hung on the wall of every science class you took at school? As of today, it’s wrong. Or more precisely, it's inaccurate.
One of the biggest changes in decades is set to be made to the periodic table, with the atomic weight of 10 elements altered to better reflect how they occur in nature.
For more than a century, scientists have assigned a standard single value to the atomic weights of elements. Now they say those numbers aren't as static as first believed.
The International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC) has decided that the weights of 10 elements will now be expressed as ranges instead of a single value, with an upper and lower limit.
The elements are hydrogen, lithium, boron, carbon, nitrogen, oxygen, silicon, sulphur, chlorine and thallium.
"We actually give a starting and ending mass for the element that we believe encompasses all normal sources that you'll find in the world, and we think this is the better way of doing it."
You might think such a change is purely scientific, but it actually has some big consequences for research and industry.
Precise measurements of the presence of isotopes in carbon can be used to determine the purity and source of foods like vanilla and honey.
Sports dopers should particularly beware — measuring the atomic weight of carbon in human testosterone is how they test for performance enhancing drugs.
All synthetic testosterone is created from soya beans. The new weightings mean scientists will be able to test more accurately for the levels of carbon and hydrogen in the urine of athletes.
"You measure the carbon and hydrogen ratios in the urine of a cyclist and you find that the testosterone molecules and the ones that come from this testosterone (soy) root all have one profile and all the other molecules that come from your usual cholesterol have a different one," Prof Hibbert said. "It sticks out like a sore thumb, and that's how we’ve been able to catch a lot of people in a lot of areas."
Our pollution levels could also be higher than we think. The weight of nitrogen, chlorine and other elements are used to measure pollution levels in streams and groundwater.
However while they may be important, the changes aren't out of the blue. Dr Hibbert, who is the secretary of the analytical division of IUPAC, said the periodic table was revised more often than people thought.
"These things come periodically, every now and then. We review it, and we don't always make changes to every single element when we do," he said.
"When we met four years ago we changed the atomic weight of zinc and this caused a bit of furore at the time, because we changed it by a relatively large amount.
"I know it makes for good copy, but the world hasn't just suddenly decided, like Pluto, 'we've got fed up with a couple of elements so we're going to chuck them out'."
Dr Hibbert said it was premature to say the update would change the way chemistry was taught and text books weren't going to suddenly go out of date.
"No, of course not. For most calculations, people will just carry on as before," he said.
"A lot of things you do don't require that kind of precision, so we're not going to change the first year chemistry text book and probably half my colleagues won't notice that this has happened at all.
"The world won't in fact grind to a halt as the result of it, but, for people at my end who do worry about these things, then yes, there will be some changes in the way we do calculations."
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #2234 on: Dec 16th, 2010, 11:49am »
Object shot out of sky above Israeli nuclear plant, military says By the CNN Wire Staff December 16, 2010 12:12 p.m. EST An unidentified flying object was shot down in the skies above Israel's Dimona nuclear plant, pictured here in 2004.
* The location is in Israel's Negev Desert * The object was in a closed airspace * It could have been a party balloon
* Israeli Air Force * Negev Desert
Jerusalem (CNN) -- The Israeli Air Force shot down an unidentified flying object over the Dimona nuclear plant in the Negev Desert Thursday, the Israel Defense Forces said.
The object appeared in a designated no-fly zone, the air force was scrambled and the object was shot down, the IDF said.
The object could have been a party balloon, the IDF said, but forces have not yet found the debris to determine what it was.
There have been unconfirmed media reports that it was a motor-driven object.
The air force reacted according to procedure when the object was spotted, the IDF said.