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 veryhotthread  Author  Topic: Stuff & Nonsense  (Read 43298 times)
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« Reply #2430 on: Jan 2nd, 2011, 07:44am »

Hey Mur!
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« Reply #2431 on: Jan 2nd, 2011, 07:50am »

New York Times

January 1, 2011
Obama Is Serious About His Vacation. And, Please, No Shirtless Shots.
By SHERYL GAY STOLBERG

HONOLULU — President Obama has accomplished something extraordinary during his Hawaiian escape from Washington: his White House has gone dark for more than a week.

Here on Oahu, where Mr. Obama and his family are staying in a luxury oceanfront rental home in the sleepy town of Kailua, the president is cloaked in the comfort of a news-free zone. The public does not see much of him, except for when he is zipping by in his armored sport utility vehicle, and it does not much seem to care.

Images of the president at leisure — sharing a Hawaiian shave ice with daughters Malia and Sasha, golfing, dining out with his wife — have trickled out, orchestrated by aides who have also taken care to allow pictures of the president at church and visiting the troops on Christmas Day. His advisers calculate that there has been roughly one photo opportunity every day and a half.

News photographers are grousing. They were kept at a safe distance and given strict instructions to put away their telephoto lenses when the Obama family went snorkeling on Tuesday at the Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve, where green sea turtles and fish in all shapes and colors dart in and out of a coral reef. (The president does not want to be photographed with his shirt off, and the preserve is closed on Tuesdays, so the public was not around, either.)

Mr. Obama spent Thursday on the island’s North Shore, which is famous for its monster waves and the sweet, succulent shrimp that are sold from trucks on the side of the road. But there was no presidential sighting; he was tucked away at the beachfront home of his childhood friend Bobby Titcomb, who throws an annual barbecue for the Hawaiian White House.

On Friday, the president played golf — his fourth round so far this trip — and he spent a quiet New Year’s Eve at home, a gathering that included a talent show with family and friends, an annual Obama tradition. Again, no photos.

“There haven’t been many pictures, and there haven’t been many stories,” said Julian Zelizer, a historian at Princeton. “Part of it is that the allure is gone. The president and his family on vacation are less interesting; the Camelot glow is gone, so people just don’t care as much.

“And I think the White House is extraordinarily cautious about getting the right pictures out there, not sending the wrong message, because going off to Hawaii two years into a recession when a lot of people are unemployed does not come off well,” he said. “You don’t want the president bodysurfing when the public doesn’t have a job.”

Mike McCurry, who served as one of President Bill Clinton’s press secretaries, says the one image the public has not seen thus far this trip is of Mr. Obama reading. “Believe me,” Mr. McCurry said, “by the time the vacation is over, you’ll have a picture of him studying some manual.”

Maybe, maybe not. As has been reported, Mr. Obama brought along Lou Cannon’s biography of Ronald Reagan, another president who was confronted with a divided Congress. But he also brought two novels, “The Thousand Autumns of Jacob De Zoet,” a historical romance by David Mitchell about a Dutchman in Edo-era Japan, and “Our Kind of Traitor,” by the spy novelist John le Carré. The president’s wife makes a brief guest appearance in the le Carré book; in one passage, characters cannot visit the gardens of the Champs-Élysées in Paris because “Michelle Obama and her children are in town.”

Fortunately for Mr. Obama, no crisis has demanded his attention, as was the case last year when a Nigerian was accused of trying to blow up a passenger jet that was bound for Detroit.

And the people of Oahu seem content to let the president be. Gov. Neil Abercrombie explained their attitude in a recent interview by describing a drawing by Corky Trinidad, an acclaimed political cartoonist here who died in 2009. It shows Mr. Obama sleeping on a beach next to an endangered Hawaiian monk seal, a creature that Hawaiians know must not be disturbed.

“There was a little rope around them,” Mr. Abercrombie said, “and people were putting their fingers up to their mouths going, ‘Shhhh.’ ”

Analysts say Mr. Obama’s Hawaiian disappearing act carries little political risk, in part because the public has just watched him slog through a difficult but productive lame-duck session of Congress. And there is an upside to peace and quiet for a president who is wrapping up one rough year and preparing for another, said Martha Joynt Kumar, a political scientist at Towson University in Maryland who studies the presidency and the press.

“The amount of time that he has had by himself is important for thinking and long-range planning,” Professor Kumar said. “You can do a type of thinking in these kinds of circumstances that you can’t at the White House. It just gives you time to develop perspective.”

Advisers to Mr. Obama, who is scheduled to leave here for Washington on Monday night, say he is indeed giving some thought to a range of topics: his State of the Union address, expected in late January; his budget; his legislative agenda; his relations with Congress; and a staff reshuffling that will include the selection of a new deputy chief of staff and a replacement for Lawrence H. Summers, the president’s top economic adviser, who returned to Harvard to teach.

But Mr. Obama has not risked any public utterances on these or other matters; his announcement on Wednesday that he was bypassing the Senate to make six recess appointments was done with a news release.

“They have managed to figure out how to really go into what amounts to a full lid on the news,” Mr. McCurry said with a degree of admiration. He said Mr. Obama is smart to lie low, because the public is not paying attention anyway. “I think what’s worse is when they try to make some pretense that they’re actually doing work in between golf rounds.”

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/01/02/us/politics/02memo.html?ref=us

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« Reply #2432 on: Jan 2nd, 2011, 07:53am »

Telegraph

Australian woman swept off bridge is first victim of Queensland floods.

Australian police have recovered the body of a woman whose car was swept from the road in heavy flooding in the country's northeast, the first victim of the catastrophe.

by Our Foreign Staff
10:11AM GMT 02 Jan 2011

A woman drowned after trying to cross a flooded causeway in Australia, becoming the first victim of relentless flooding that one official has described as reaching "biblical proportions," police said Sunday.

Days of pounding rain last week left much of northeastern Australia swamped by a sea of muddy water, with flooding affecting about 200,000 people in an area larger than France and Germany combined. The rain has stopped, but rivers are still rising and overflowing into low-lying communities as the water moves toward the ocean.

On Saturday night, two cars trying to cross a flooded causeway were swept into a river in Burketown, in western Queensland state, police said.

"We're just grateful there weren't more casualties," Queensland's Acting Assistant Police Commissioner Alistair Dawson said. "We're focused on preventing any more."

About 1,000 people were living in evacuation centers across the state, and it may be a month before floodwaters dry up, Dawson said.

"It's hard to make the call that the worst is behind us," he said. "It's a unique event - parts of the state are still in response mode while others are in recovery. I think we're in the middle of the event."

Officials say half of Queensland's 715,305 square miles has been affected by the flooding. Queensland Premier Anna Bligh warned that cleanup efforts were expected to cost billions of dollars.

Another severe thunderstorm was expected to sweep through much of southern Queensland later Sunday, bringing damaging hail and winds and the potential for flash flooding, the state Bureau of Meteorology warned.

"In many ways, it is a disaster of biblical proportions," Queensland Treasurer Andrew Fraser told reporters in the flooded city of Bundaberg on Saturday.

The city of Rockhampton, near the coast, is the next community in the water's path, and is bracing for flood levels to peak Wednesday.

Officials have been evacuating Rockhampton residents for days, and some were still being moved on Sunday. Mayor Brad Carter warned about 40 percent of the city could be affected by the surging waters, and residents could be forced to wait at least two weeks before returning home.

Around 1,000 homes had water in their yards by Sunday, Dawson said. About 30 residents were staying at an evacuation center, while others have moved in with friends and relatives.

Not everyone was outwardly worried. Water was lapping at the steps of one Rockhampton pub, but the owner had no plans to close down.

"In the big cities, they pay big bucks for canal frontage," Fitzroy Hotel owner Tony Higgins said.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/australiaandthepacific/australia/8235814/Australian-woman-swept-off-bridge-is-first-victim-of-Queensland-floods.html

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« Reply #2433 on: Jan 2nd, 2011, 07:56am »

Telegraph

US authorities investigate mystery death of 1,000 birds

New Year's celebrations in a southern American state were marred when more than 1,000 black birds fell dead from the skies.

by Our Foreign Staff
12:38PM GMT 02 Jan 2011

Wildlife officials are trying to determine what caused more than 1,000 black birds to die and fall from the sky over an Arkansas town.

The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission said it received reports about the dead birds about 11:30 p.m. the previous night. The birds fell over a 1-mile (2-kilometer) area, and an aerial survey indicated that no other dead birds were found outside of that area.

Commission ornithologist Karen Rowe said the birds showed physical trauma, and she speculated that "the flock could have been hit by lightning or high-altitude hail."

The commission said that New Year's Eve revelers shooting off fireworks in the area could have startled the birds from their roost and caused them to die from stress.

Robby King, a wildlife officer for the agency, collected about 65 dead birds, which will be sent for testing to the state Livestock and Poultry Commission lab and the National Wildlife Health Center lab in Wisconsin.

miss Rowe said that similar events have occurred elsewhere and that test results "usually were inconclusive." She said she doubted the birds were poisoned.

Officers estimated that over 1,000 birds had fallen out of the sky over the city before midnight. Most of the birds were dead, but some were still alive when officers arrived. The blackbirds fell over a one-mile area in the city.

Mr King responded to the reports and found hundreds of birds. "Shortly after I arrived there were still birds falling from the sky," Mr King said.

Mr King collected about 65 dead birds that will be sent to the Arkansas Livestock and Poultry Commission lab and the National Wildlife Health Center lab in Madison, Wis.

The AGFC has flown over the area to gauge the scope of the event. There were no other birds found outside of the initial area.

Miss Rowe said that strange events similar to this one have occurred a number of times across the globe. "Test results usually were inconclusive, but the birds showed physical trauma and that the flock could have been hit by lightning or high-altitude hail," Miss Rowe said.

Another scenario may have been that New Year's Eve revelers shooting off fireworks in the area may have startled the birds from their roost. The birds may have died from stress.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/howaboutthat/8235842/US-authorities-investigate-mystery-death-of-1000-birds.html

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« Reply #2434 on: Jan 2nd, 2011, 08:01am »

LA Times

Missile strikes kill at least 19 in Pakistan tribal area.

Multiple drone strikes target suspected militants in North Waziristan, suggesting that a high-level insurgent commander might have been in the area.

By Zulfiqar Ali and Laura King, Los Angeles Times
January 2, 2011
Reporting from Peshawar, Pakistan, and Kabul,

A series of missile strikes killed at least 19 suspected insurgents Saturday in Pakistan's tribal borderlands, signaling that the new year would bring no respite in a relentless campaign of U.S. attacks employing aerial drones to target militant figures.

The strikes in the North Waziristan tribal agency were apparently aimed at the Haqqani network, an offshoot of the Taliban movement and one of the deadliest foes of U.S. and other Western forces in Afghanistan. The group's fighters operate mainly in the eastern part of Afghanistan but seek shelter in neighboring Pakistan.

The multiple missile hits in the same area over several hours, which targeted two vehicles and a compound, suggested that intelligence might have indicated the presence of a high-level commander. The compound belonged to a man affiliated with a commander named Gul Bhadur, who is a senior associate of Siraj Haqqani, the network's chieftain.

Presumed U.S. drones staged nearly 120 missile strikes last year in Pakistan's tribal areas, known to be used as a sanctuary by a variety of militant groups. North Waziristan is the Haqqani group's home base.

With drone strikes steadily intensifying, this remote-control war is politically unpopular in Pakistan. However, its government is thought to provide assistance, both active and tacit, in tracking militant figures to be targeted.

Officials with the North Atlantic Treaty Organization have described the strikes as a highly effective means of targeting insurgent commanders who would otherwise be out of reach because Western ground forces are not supposed to operate in Pakistan.

Saturday's strikes coincided with the year's first reported deaths of Western troops in Afghanistan. Both deaths occurred in southern Afghanistan, one in an insurgent attack and the other in an explosion, the Western military said. The nationalities were not disclosed.

Also Saturday, U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano told journalists in Kabul, the Afghan capital, that American trainers would soon arrive to bolster efforts by Afghan security forces and customs officials to police border crossings with Pakistan. Drugs, money and weaponry flow nearly unimpeded across the long, rugged frontier.

http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/world/la-fg-pakistan-drone-20110102,0,1536191.story

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« Reply #2435 on: Jan 2nd, 2011, 08:06am »

Hollywood Reporter

Imax Stock Surges Amid Takeover Speculation
12/31/2010
by By Etan Vlessing

A new report claims that Sony and Disney are considering an acquisition of the giant-screen exhibitor.

TORONTO – Imax Corp. on Friday said it had no idea why its stock was running up amid a press report that Sony Corp. and Walt Disney Co. are eyeing the giant-screen exhibitor as a possible acquisition.

Toronto-based Imax, asked by the Toronto Stock Exchange to explain recent heavy trading in its stock, including a Friday surge to a high of $32.30, said it "is not aware of any corporate developments to account for this activity."

Imax added that it does not comment on rumors or speculation, and so would not comment further.

Britain’s Daily Mail newspaper reported Sony may offer $40 per share for the large-format theater chain, and that the Walt Disney Co. was also kicking the tires, according to industry sources.

Imax in 2009 denied it was in acquisition talks with Walt Disney after it became the subject of faux press release issued online.

The most recent takeover speculation swirling round Imax comes on the heels of the exhibitor's reaching a number of milestones following a long 70 mm film-to-digital transition and an impressive expansion in 3D exhibition.

Walt Disney’s appetite for Imax may well have peaked this week on news that Tron: Legacy surpassed the $100 million domestic box-office mark, with about 25 percent of the ticket receipts coming from Imax theaters.

That followed 3D titles like James Cameron's Avatar, Alice in Wonderland and Toy Story 3 earlier breaking boxoffice records for Imax.

And Imax and Sony are already joint-venture partners with Discovery Communications in an upcoming 3D TV roll-out.

Imax in recent quarters has pointed to sustained earnings growth from joint revenue-share theaters and remastering and releasing Hollywood films in its supersized format.

To maintain momentum, Imax has continued an aggressive international theater rollout, especially in Europe and Asia.

The exhibitor is also investing heavily in new proprietary technology to enhance its giant-screen theater experience, including building a new 3D digital camera, unveiling a new nXos Calibrator touted as a super equalizer to digitally tune and monitor audio systems and using Texas Instrument’s DLP projectors in its digital theater projection systems.

http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/imax-stock-surges-takeover-speculation-67386

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« Reply #2436 on: Jan 3rd, 2011, 08:38am »

New York Times

January 2, 2011
Facing Threat From WikiLeaks, Bank Plays Defense
By NELSON D. SCHWARTZ

By the time the conference call ended, it was nearly midnight at Bank of America’s headquarters in Charlotte, N.C., but the bank’s counterespionage work was only just beginning.

A day earlier, on Nov. 29, the director of WikiLeaks, Julian Assange, said in an interview that he intended to “take down” a major American bank and reveal an “ecosystem of corruption” with a cache of data from an executive’s hard drive. With Bank of America’s share price falling on the widely held suspicion that the hard drive was theirs, the executives on the call concluded it was time to take action.

Since then, a team of 15 to 20 top Bank of America officials, led by the chief risk officer, Bruce R. Thompson, has been overseeing a broad internal investigation — scouring thousands of documents in the event that they become public, reviewing every case where a computer has gone missing and hunting for any sign that its systems might have been compromised.

In addition to the internal team drawn from departments like finance, technology, legal and communications, the bank has brought in Booz Allen Hamilton, the consulting firm, to help manage the review. It has also sought advice from several top law firms about legal problems that could arise from a disclosure, including the bank’s potential liability if private information was disclosed about clients.

The company’s chief executive, Brian T. Moynihan, receives regular updates on the team’s progress, according to one Bank of America executive familiar with the team’s work, who, like other bank officials, was granted anonymity to discuss the confidential inquiry.

Whether Mr. Assange is bluffing, or indeed has Bank of America in its sights at all, the bank’s defense strategy represents the latest twist in the controversy over WikiLeaks and Mr. Assange.

The United States government has been examining whether Mr. Assange, an Australian, could be charged criminally for the release by WikiLeaks of hundreds of thousands of classified Pentagon and State Department diplomatic cables that became the subject of articles in The New York Times and other publications last month.

The Swedish government is also seeking to question Mr. Assange about rape accusations against him. As he fights extradition from Britain in that case, he remains under house arrest in an English mansion. Mr. Assange has said the timing of the rape accusations was not coincidental, and that he was the victim of a smear campaign led by the United States government.

Despite his legal troubles, Mr. Assange’s threats have grown more credible with every release of secret documents, including those concerning the dumping of toxic waste in Africa, the treatment of prisoners held by the United States at Guantánamo Bay, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and, most recently, the trove of diplomatic cables.

That Mr. Assange might shift his attention to a private company — especially one as politically unpopular as Bank of America or any of its rivals, which have been stained by taxpayer-financed bailouts and the revelation of improper foreclosure practices — raises a new kind of corporate threat, combining elements of law, technology, public policy, politics and public relations.

“This is a significant moment, and Bank of America has to get out in front of it,” said Richard S. Levick, a veteran crisis communications expert. “Corporate America needs to look at what happens here, and how Bank of America handles it.”

Last month, the bank bought up Web addresses that could prove embarrassing to the company or its top executives in the event of a large-scale public assault, but a spokesman for the bank said the move was unrelated to any possible leak.

Then, on Dec. 18, Bank of America may have antagonized Mr. Assange further when it said it would join other companies like MasterCard and PayPal in halting the processing of payments intended for WikiLeaks, citing the possibility the organization’s activities might be illegal.

Mr. Assange has never said explicitly that the data he possesses comes from Bank of America, which is the nation’s largest bank, though he did say that the disclosure would take place sometime early this year.

The bank has emerged as the most likely target because a year before the latest threat, Mr. Assange said in an interview that his group had the hard drive of a Bank of America executive containing five gigabytes of data — enough to hold more than 200,000 pages of text — and was evaluating how to present it. It was this connection that set the wheels in motion on Nov. 30.

The financial markets took the threat seriously. Bank of America shares fell 3 percent in trading the day after Mr. Assange made his threat against a nameless bank, and while the stock has since recovered, the prospect of a Bank of America data dump from WikiLeaks remains a concern, said Moshe Orenbuch, an analyst with Credit Suisse.

“The fears have calmed down somewhat, but if there is something out there that is revealed, the market reaction will be negative,” he said.

Bank of America’s internal review has turned up no evidence that would substantiate Mr. Assange’s claim that he has a hard drive, according to interviews with executives there. The company declined to otherwise comment on the case. A WikiLeaks representative also declined to comment.

With the data trail cold, one working theory both inside and outside the bank is that internal documents in Mr. Assange’s possession, if any, probably came from the mountains of material turned over to the Securities and Exchange Commission, Congressional investigators and the New York attorney general’s office during separate investigations in 2009 and 2010 into the bank’s acquisition of Merrill Lynch.

As it happens, Mr. Assange’s first mention of the Bank of America hard drive, in October 2009, coincided with hearings by the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform into the Merrill merger, and with wide-ranging requests for information by the committee.

The bank’s investigative team is trying to reconstruct the handover of materials to public agencies for a variety of inquiries, in pursuit of previously undisclosed documents that could embarrass the company, bank officials said.

In addition to the Merrill documents, the team is reviewing material on Bank of America’s disastrous acquisition in 2008 of Countrywide Financial, the subprime mortgage specialist, the officials said. The criticism of Bank of America’s foreclosure procedures centers mostly on loans it acquired in the Countrywide deal, and one possibility is that the documents could show unscrupulous or fraudulent lending practices by Countrywide.

If that is the case, it would not only reignite political pressure on Bank of America and other top mortgage servicers, but it could also strengthen the case of investors pressuring the big banks to buy back tens of billions in soured mortgages.

“If something happens, we want to be ready,” one bank official said. “You want to know what your options are before it comes out, rather than have to decide on the spot.” Bank of America’s efforts are complicated by the fact that it has made several huge acquisitions in recent years, and those once-independent companies had different computer systems and security procedures.

WikiLeaks has taken on private companies in the past, including leaking documents from Barclays of Britain and Bank Julius Baer of Switzerland, but neither disclosure drew nearly as much attention.

Officials at the S.E.C., the House oversight committee and the New York attorney general’s office insist the information they received had been turned over in the form of papers and discs, never a hard drive, and deny they are the source of the WikiLeaks cache.

At the same time, Mr. Assange’s own statements would seem to undermine the government-as-source theory, hinting instead that resignations might follow as evidence emerges of corruption among top executives, something the public investigations never found.

“It will give a true and representative insight into how banks behave at the executive level in a way that will stimulate investigations and reforms, I presume,” he said in the November 2010 interview with Forbes. “For this, there’s only one similar example. It’s like the Enron e-mails.”

Eric Dash and Louise Story contributed reporting.

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/01/03/business/03wikileaks-bank.html?_r=1&hp

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« Reply #2437 on: Jan 3rd, 2011, 08:41am »

New York Times

January 2, 2011
China Quietly Extends Footprints Into Central Asia
By EDWARD WONG

MURGHAB, Tajikistan — On the outskirts of this wind-scoured town, founded in 1893 as a Russian military post, the construction of a new customs compound heralds the return of another major power.

When it opens this year, the sprawling new lot will accommodate much larger caravans of Chinese trucks than the existing trade depot, speeding the flow of clothing, electronics and household appliances that have lately flooded Central Asia, from nomadic yurts on the Kyrgyz steppes to ancient alleyways in Samarkand and Bukhara.

“Trade is growing between China and all these countries around it,” said Tu’er Hong, whose truck was one of about 50 from China transferring goods to Tajik drivers one day recently at the current post.

While China is seizing the spotlight in East and Southeast Asia with its widening economic footprint and muscular diplomacy, it is also quietly making its presence felt on its western flank, once primarily Russia’s domain.

Chinese officials see Central Asia as a critical frontier for their nation’s energy security, trade expansion, ethnic stability and military defense. State enterprises have reached deep into the region with energy pipelines, railroads and highways, while the government has recently opened Confucius Institutes to teach Mandarin in capitals across Central Asia.

Central Asia, says Gen. Liu Yazhou of the People’s Liberation Army, is “the thickest piece of cake given to the modern Chinese by the heavens.”

The five predominantly Muslim countries that won independence after the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991 — Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan — are once again arenas for superpower rivalry, much as the region was during the 19th century Great Game between Russia and Britain. This time the players are China, Russia and the United States, which uses Central Asia as a conduit for troops to Afghanistan.

Chinese officials are wary of what they view as American efforts to surround China, seeing American troops and military alliances in Central Asia, India and Afghanistan as the western arc of a containment strategy that also relies on cooperation with nations in East and Southeast Asia.

China is flexing its own military muscle in the area, conducting sophisticated war games in Kazakhstan in September as part of annual exercises that traditionally include several Central Asian nations. According to a State Department cable released by WikiLeaks, American officials suspected China of offering Kyrgyzstan $3 billion to shut down the American air base there.

The cable, dated Feb. 13, 2009, described an awkward meeting between Tatiana C. Gfoeller, the American ambassador to Kyrgyzstan, and Zhang Yannian, the Chinese ambassador there, in which Ms. Gfoeller confronted Mr. Zhang with her suspicions of the $3 billion bribe. “Visibly flustered, Zhang temporarily lost the ability to speak Russian and began spluttering in Chinese to the silent aide diligently taking notes right behind him,” the cable said. Mr. Zhang then rebutted the accusation.

But China’s new presence in Central Asia is in many ways more Silk Road revival than Great Game redux. Chinese analysts say one goal of Beijing is to economically integrate Central Asia with the restive western region of Xinjiang, breaking down trade barriers, even if the Central Asian governments are wary.

“The growing economic footprint in Central Asia is pretty significant,” said an American official who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly about Chinese policy in the region. “In many ways, the investments are welcomed, not only by those countries, but also by the U.S. But there’s a lack of transparency in terms of China’s investments and relations with those countries.”

Local people are cautious too, especially in Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan, where they have long feared that Chinese migration could tip the balance of economic power in sparsely populated countries. In Almaty, Kazakhstan, a protest erupted last January against a proposed land deal involving China.

“Many of us Kazakhs are very suspicious of the Chinese influx in general, but what can we do?” said Aidelhan Onbedbayev, 35, a driver who shuttles merchants and travelers between Almaty and Zharkent, a border town. “The government makes these decisions and invites them in for investment with free-trade zones and land offers.”

Some Chinese officials have been blunt about their interests.

“China’s energy cooperation with Central Asian countries began in the 1990s, but in recent years, with the rapid growth of China’s national strength, China took advantage of the lack of initiative in the region by the United States and Russia,” General Liu wrote in an essay published last summer in the news magazine Phoenix Weekly. “China has begun stimulating feverish consumerism in the area.”

The Central Asian nations bordering China, especially Kyrgyzstan, have become an important transit point for Chinese goods that make their way to the Caspian Sea region, Russia and Europe. Trade between China and the five Central Asian countries totaled $25.9 billion in 2009, up from $527 million in 1992, according to Commerce Ministry statistics.

Meanwhile, new pipelines are transporting oil and natural gas to Xinjiang from fields in Central Asia where Chinese companies have bought development rights. Chinese officials see Central Asia and the Caspian Sea as a crucial alternative source of energy; the Middle East is politically unstable, and tankers from there pass through the Strait of Malacca, which China fears could be closed by the United States military or other forces.

China also sees Central Asia as a foothold for maintaining stability in Xinjiang, where longstanding tensions between Muslim Uighurs and ethnic Han have exploded into deadly violence. Since ethnic rioting in 2009 in Xinjiang, Chinese officials have been especially wary of radical Islam filtering in from the Central Asian nations or Pakistan and Afghanistan, analysts say. About a half-million Uighurs live in the region, many of them immigrants from Xinjiang to Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan.

In 1966, China helped establish a precursor to the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, a regional strategy group aimed mainly at combating separatist unrest. The group’s members, including Russia and most Central Asian countries, share intelligence and conduct joint military exercises, even if they often fail to coordinate larger policy because of competing interests, American officials say.

China also hopes to use the group to extend its economic influence. Last year, China granted $10 billion in loans to the Shanghai Cooperation Organization nations “to shore up the struggling economies.”

Some Chinese officials and analysts hope such aid, along with strengthened commercial ties, will lead to economic growth in Xinjiang and less unrest among Uighurs. Central government officials submitted a proposal last year to the State Council, the Chinese cabinet, to transform Urumqi, the capital of Xinjiang and the site of the 2009 riots, into a regional energy production hub.

“China has always paid attention to these surrounding countries, promoting peaceful development in those countries in order to provide a good environment for China’s economic growth,” said Wu Hongwei, a Central Asia scholar at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

China’s growing thirst for oil and gas has made those a matter of strategic energy security. Two new pipelines, the first between China and foreign countries, supply it with gas from Turkmenistan and oil from Kazakhstan.

The pipelines were considered important enough that President Hu Jintao went to the Karakum Desert of Turkmenistan in 2009 to turn a symbolic wheel opening the 1,100-mile pipeline there.

That pipeline is expected to reach its full capacity of 40 billion cubic meters by 2012 or 2013, and Turkmenistan has been contracted to transport gas to China for 30 years. China wrangled the only license to develop the South Yolotan gas fields there, among the world’s largest.


Xiyun Yang and Benjamin Haas contributed research from Beijing. Teo Kaye contributed reporting from Zharkent, Kazakhstan.

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/01/03/world/asia/03china.html?ref=world

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« Reply #2438 on: Jan 3rd, 2011, 08:44am »

Telegraph

Australian floods: residents facing plague of deadly snakes as waters rise

Australians whose homes have been inundated with floodwater in the state of Queensland are now facing the threat of deadly snakes as the reptiles move into dry buildings to avoid the rising waters.

By Bonnie Malkin in Sydney
6:00AM GMT 03 Jan 2011

Extra snakebite antivenom, including brown snake antivenom, has been airlifted into the city of Rockhampton, one of the worst-hit parts of the state.

Health officials have warned residents to be on the look out for dangerous snakes, spiders and even crocodiles that have been forced out of their natural habitats and onto higher ground by the natural disaster.

Barry Moessinger, who lives in a low-lying part of Rockhampton, said he had spotted about 15 snakes each day over the past week.

"There's heaps of them," he told the Australian newspaper.

"We had a plague of mice, a lot of frogs, so we knew the snakes would come."

Brad Carter, the mayor of Rockhampton, which lies 370m north of Brisbane, said crocodiles inhabited the flooded Fitzroy River and has warned residents to stay out of the murky brown floodwaters for their own safety.

"Snakes have been swimming at people's feet as they make their way through the water," he told the BBC.

"I know one guy killed four snakes this morning, one of which was a Taipan - the more it bites the more it injects venom that could easily kill."

Large parts of Rockhampton are now underwater, including the airport runways.

The town of 77,000 people is almost cut off from the outside world by the water, with several major routes in now flooded. The army is airlifting in supplies amid fears that rising waters, which are expected to peak at 30 feet on Wednesday, could isolate the town for 10 days.

An estimated 4,000 homes have been affected and the floodwater has reached the centre of the town, disrupting power supplies.

Across Queensland up to 200,000 people have been hit by the flooding, which has left 22 rural towns under water or substantially inundated.

Andrew Fraser, the state's treasurer, said the disaster of "biblical proportions" would cost the state more than $1bn.

Anna Bligh, the Queensland premier, has called an emergency cabinet meeting for Wednesday to address the unfolding crisis.

The area affected by the worst flooding in living memory is now the size of France and Germany combined.

Some good news came when the bureau of meteorology in Queensland cancelled a severe thunderstorm warning, saying the immediate threat had passed, but officials still expect waters to rise.

Alistair Dawson, Queensland state assistant police commissioner, has warned the emergency could drag on for another month and cautioned that major difficulties still lay ahead. It could be months before the fast-flowing waters subside and there are fears that the deluge could move south to New South Wales.

The floods, which have damaged crops and Australia's key mining industry, claimed their first victim on Sunday when the body of a missing woman was recovered.

The 41-year-old woman was swept from her car as she tried to cross a swamped causeway in the Gulf of Carpentaria region. Police managed to save three children and another adult from the car but the woman disappeared before they could reach her.

Police confirmed a second official fatality on Monday, after the body of a 38-year-old man whose boat was swamped in central Queensland was found.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/australiaandthepacific/australia/8236894/Australian-floods-residents-facing-plague-of-deadly-snakes-as-waters-rise.html

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« Reply #2439 on: Jan 3rd, 2011, 08:49am »

Wired

Jan. 3, 1957: Electric Watch Debuts, a Space Age Marvel
By Tony Long
January 3, 2011 | 7:00 am
Categories: 20th century, Gadgets, Inventions


1957: The Hamilton Electric 500 is announced at a press conference. It is the first battery-operated electric wristwatch and the first to never need winding.

The 500 was made by the Hamilton Watch Company of Lancaster, Pennsylvania, which began developing the timepiece in 1946. Eleven years later, that development was not yet complete but the company, feeling the pressure of competition and wanting badly to be the first out the door with this innovation, called the press conference and went into production.


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The watch battery is smaller than the button on the shirt cuff.
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It was an instant hit at a time when “progress” was the watchword and all eyes looked expectantly to the future. And it was, briefly, the “watch of the future,” with its ultramodern design and cutting-edge technology. But there were fundamental problems with the 500 that soon became apparent.

Battery life was relatively short, for one thing, so while winding was no longer necessary, frequent battery replacement — in some ways a more arduous chore — was. And “newer” doesn’t always mean “better,” which the 500 proved by being prone to failure, making it less reliable than the standard wind-up watch.

In the end, though, Hamilton’s technology was not only flawed, but transitional: The watch’s hands were driven by a complex wheel train. By the late 1960s, quartz movements — with many fewer parts — had arrived, and Hamilton ended production in 1969.

The 500 is now a highly prized collectors’ piece.

http://www.wired.com/thisdayintech/2011/01/0103electric-watch/

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« Reply #2440 on: Jan 3rd, 2011, 08:55am »

Good morning Crystal smiley

Quote:
Telegraph

Australian floods: residents facing plague of deadly snakes as waters rise

Australians whose homes have been inundated with floodwater in the state of Queensland are now facing the threat of deadly snakes as the reptiles move into dry buildings to avoid the rising waters.



This is true, and 7 of the worlds deadliest snakes live in Queensland. But they don't only have snakes to worry about they have crocodiles too. The area of the flooding is bigger than France and Germany put together. Its huge...! And to add to their worries they also have looters.... sad

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« Reply #2441 on: Jan 3rd, 2011, 08:57am »

Telegraph

110-year-old man finds 82-year-old willing to be his wife

A 110-year-old Malaysian man who has been looking for a wife said he was ready to marry again after an 82-year-old woman responded to his call for a bride.

4:43PM GMT 02 Jan 2011

Ahmad Mohamad Isa, who has 20 grandchildren and 40 great-grandchildren, told Malay-language newspaper Utusan Malaysia earlier this week that he wanted company and a wife to take care of him.


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Ahmad told a newspaper that he wanted company and a wife to take care of him
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The report grabbed the attention of 82-year-old Sanah Ahmad, a widow of 30 years and mother of nine, who said she was willing to do so and had asked her children to contact Ahmad’s family to make arrangements.

“It doesn’t matter who she is, as long as she can cook for me,” Ahmad told the paper Sunday. “It is lonely to live alone and I am afraid to sleep alone. If I have a wife she can take care of me,” the centenarian, who has five previous marriages and suffers mild hearing and vision problems, said in an earlier interview.

Four of his wives have died and he divorced the fifth.

Mrs Sanah told the paper that she was attracted to Ahmad as he bears a striking resemblance to her late husband and both men shared the same name.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/asia/malaysia/8236096/110-year-old-man-finds-82-year-old-willing-to-be-his-wife.html

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« Reply #2442 on: Jan 3rd, 2011, 09:01am »

on Jan 3rd, 2011, 08:55am, Luvey wrote:
Good morning Crystal smiley



This is true, and 7 of the worlds deadliest snakes live in Queensland. But they don't only have snakes to worry about they have crocodiles too. The area of the flooding is bigger than France and Germany put together. Its huge...! And to add to their worries they also have looters.... sad

Luvey


Good morning Luvey,

I feel so bad for these people. Washington state has a problem with flooding. Fortunately we live on the top of a hill. We don't have to worry about flooding. And snakes and crocs! And now looters. They are in my prayers.

Crystal

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« Reply #2443 on: Jan 3rd, 2011, 09:12am »

on Jan 3rd, 2011, 09:01am, WingsofCrystal wrote:
Good morning Luvey,

I feel so bad for these people. Washington state has a problem with flooding. Fortunately we live on the top of a hill. We don't have to worry about flooding. And snakes and crocs! And now looters. They are in my prayers.

Crystal

edit: Good Evening Luvey!


Hi Crystal

I lived in Qld for 5 years and the snakes are dreadful there.... my poor cat got bitten by a brown snake and nearly died, my husband nearly got bitten by a brown snake while cleaning the pool, and he came inside shocked and sat down and saw another snake fall off the roof of the house. Another time he nearly got bitten by a King Brown in the garden. And I nearly got bitten by a Taipan in the garden shed, it was so close my whole life flashed before my eyes! When they have a plague of mice and frogs there the snakes multiply because there is plenty of food... Folks in Rockhampton would often wake to find crocodiles in their carports... and with the river flooded, they must be anywhere and everywhere. Very scary!
During floods the mud washes into homes and when the water finally recedes they are going to face a massive cleanup.
What an awful thing to have to face....

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« Reply #2444 on: Jan 3rd, 2011, 11:22am »

It seems that if its a deadly species, poor Australia seems to have it's deadliest relative living on the island or in it's waters inland and surrounding them! Such a beautiful country too!
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