Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #2640 on: Jan 19th, 2011, 7:51pm »
Battle: Los Angeles
Release Date: 11 March 2011 Genre: Action | Sci-Fi Cast: Michelle Rodriguez, Aaron Eckhart, Ramon Rodriguez, Brandi Coleman, Michael D. Grosu Directors: Jonathan Liebesman Writer: Christopher Bertolini MPAA: N/A Studio: Sony Pictures
Plot: A Marine platoon faces off against an alien invasion in Los Angeles.
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #2641 on: Jan 20th, 2011, 08:02am »
New York Times
January 20, 2011 F.B.I. and Police Arrest More Than 100 in Mob Sweep By WILLIAM K. RASHBAUM
In a blanket assault against seven mob families in New York, New Jersey and Rhode Island, the F.B.I. and local authorities began arresting more than 100 people on Thursday on charges including murder, racketeering and extortion, people briefed on the arrests said.
The sweep began before dawn and the targets ranged from small-time book makers and crime-family functionaries to a number of senior mob figures and several corrupt union officials, according to several people briefed on the arrests. Among those arrested or sought, some of the people said, were more than two dozen made members of New York’s five crime families and the families in New Jersey and New England, along with dozens of their associates.
Several of of the men arrested, the people who had been briefed said, were charged with murders — some dating back to the 1980s and 1990s. Others were charged with selections from a full menu of mob crimes: racketeering, extortion, loan-sharking and gambling, as well as labor-racketeering crimes in two sectors that officials say remain under the mob’s sway: the construction industry and the waterfront.
The arrests were based on more than a dozen unrelated indictments handed up in federal courts in four jurisdictions, several of the people said. Taken together, the arrests appeared to be the largest such sweep of organized crime figures ever conducted by federal authorities.
The charges were expected to be announced by Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. at a news conference Thursday morning in Brooklyn, where the charges against many of defendants were lodged, the people briefed on the arrests said.
Those who talked about the case did so on the condition of anonymity because the official announcement had not yet been made and because some court papers remained sealed. Most of the arrests were completed by 8 a.m. — a mammoth undertaking involving the F.B.I. and other law enforcement agencies, along with the United States attorneys’ offices in Manhattan, Brooklyn, Newark and Providence, R.I.
The cases were also investigated by the New York Police Department, the New Jersey State Police, the federal Drug Enforcement Administration, the United States. Labor Department’s Office of Labor Racketeering, the Waterfront Commission of New York Harbor and several other agencies.
The decision to announce the arrests in Brooklyn and Mr. Holder’s planned presence at the news conference would seem to underscore the importance of the case to the Justice Department.
The arrests came at a time when several federal, state and local law enforcement officials have expressed some concern about a resurgence of organized crime’s influence in some quarters after two decades of decline.
An impressive string of victories over the mob began in 1991 with the defection of the Luchese family’s acting boss, Alphonse D’Arco, who proved to be a devastating witness. Later that year, Salvatore Gravano, the Gambino family underboss, defected, and his testimony secured the conviction of John J. Gotti.
With the cooperation of those two men, a trickle of significant defections grew into a torrent, weakening the culture of omertà, the Mafia’s code of silence, and thus the foundation of organized crime itself.
The subsequent loosening of the mob’s grip on several industries and unions led to proclamations about the mob’s decline and some refocusing of law enforcement resources. Those resources directed at organized crime were further reduced after the 9/11 attacks.
Prosecutors in Brooklyn and the F.B.I. nonetheless waged a campaign over the last decade that decimated the Bonanno crime family . But the relative health of crime families tends to run in cycles, with some ascendant and some on the decline.
The more-powerful Genovese family, for example, which has found its strength in labor racketeering and construction and some more-sophisticated schemes, remains powerful, as do the Gambino and Luchese families, law enforcement officials have said. .
And in recent years, after the period of some declining focus, officials and union monitors say the mob remains stubbornly entrenched in a number of major construction unions — including locals representing carpenters, concrete workers and operating engineers — as well as on the waterfront.
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #2642 on: Jan 20th, 2011, 08:04am »
New York Times
January 19, 2011 U.S. Prepares to Lift Ban on Guantánamo Cases By CHARLIE SAVAGE
WASHINGTON — The Obama administration is preparing to increase the use of military commissions to prosecute Guantánamo detainees, an acknowledgment that the prison in Cuba remains open for business after Congress imposed steep new impediments to closing the facility.
Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates is expected to soon lift an order blocking the initiation of new cases against detainees, which he imposed on the day of President Obama’s inauguration. That would clear the way for tribunal officials, for the first time under the Obama administration, to initiate new charges against detainees.
Charges would probably then come within weeks against one or more detainees who have already been designated by the Justice Department for prosecution before a military commission, including Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, a Saudi accused of planning the 2000 bombing of the American destroyer Cole in Yemen; Ahmed al-Darbi, a Saudi accused of plotting, in an operation that never came to fruition, to attack oil tankers in the Straits of Hormuz; and Obaydullah, an Afghan accused of concealing bombs.
Preparations for the tribunal trials — including the circulation of new draft regulations for conducting them — were described by several administration officials familiar with the discussions. A spokeswoman for the military commissions system declined to comment.
With the political winds now against more civilian prosecutions of Guantánamo detainees, the plans to press forward with additional commission trials may foreshadow the fates of many of the more than 30 remaining detainees who have been designated for eventual prosecution: trials in Cuba for war crimes before a panel of military officers.
The administration is also preparing an executive order to create a parole board-like system for periodically reviewing the cases of the nearly 50 detainees who would be held without trial.
Any charging of Mr. Nashiri would be particularly significant because the official who oversees the commissions, retired Vice Adm. Bruce MacDonald of the Navy, may allow prosecutors to seek the death penalty against him — which would set up the first capital trial in the tribunal system. The Cole bombing killed 17 sailors.
Mr. Nashiri’s case would also raise unresolved legal questions about jurisdiction and rules of evidence in tribunals. And it would attract global attention because he was previously held in secret Central Intelligence Agency prisons and is one of three detainees known to have been subjected to the drowning technique known as waterboarding.
Lt. Cmdr. Stephen Reyes of the Navy, a military lawyer assigned to defend Mr. Nashiri, declined to comment on any movement in the case. But he noted that two of Mr. Nashiri’s alleged co-conspirators were indicted in federal civilian court in 2003, and he made clear that the defense would highlight Mr. Nashiri’s treatment in C.I.A. custody.
“Nashiri is being prosecuted at the commissions because of the torture issue,” Mr. Reyes said. “Otherwise he would be indicted in New York along with his alleged co-conspirators.”
As a candidate, President Obama criticized the Bush administration’s tribunals. But after taking office, he backed a system in which some cases would tried by revamped military tribunals while others would go before civilian juries. He also pressed to close the Guantánamo prison.
But last month, Congress made it much harder to move Guantánamo detainees into the United States, even for trials in federal civilian courthouses. That essentially shut the door for now on the administration’s proposal to transfer inmates to a prison in Illinois and its desire to prosecute some of them in regular court.
More than a year ago, Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. designated Mr. Nashiri, Mr. Darbi and Mr. Obaydullah for trial in a military commission. But they have lingered in limbo amid administration indecision about broader terrorism prosecution policies. The paralysis followed a backlash against Mr. Holder’s proposal to prosecute suspected conspirators in the Sept. 11 attacks in a Manhattan federal courthouse.
Three other detainees were also approved for tribunals by Mr. Holder in 2009. Those cases have progressed — two pleaded guilty last year, and the third is scheduled for trial at Guantánamo next month. But the charges in those cases were left over from the Bush administration.
While Mr. Nashiri and Mr. Darbi had also been charged in tribunals in the Bush administration, their cases were later dropped and must be started over.
The process of charging Mr. Obaydullah had started under the Bush administration, but it was frozen before completion.
Mr. Nashiri would be the first so-called high-value detainee — a senior terrorism suspect who was held for a time in secret C.I.A. prisons and subjected to what the Bush administration called “enhanced interrogation techniques” — to undergo trial before a tribunal.
Another former such detainee, Ahmed Ghailani, was convicted in federal civilian court for playing a role in the 1998 Africa embassy bombings.
While Mr. Ghailani faces between 20 years and life in prison, many Republicans have pointed to his acquittal on 284 related charges — and a judge’s decision to exclude an important witness because investigators learned about the man during Mr. Ghailani’s C.I.A. interrogation — to argue that prosecuting terrorism cases in federal court is too risky.
Mr. Nashiri’s treatment was apparently more extreme than Mr. Ghailani’s. The C.I.A. later destroyed videotapes of some waterboarding sessions.
Moreover, the C.I.A. inspector general called Mr. Nashiri the “most significant” case of a detainee who was brutalized in ways that went beyond the Bush administration’s approved tactics — including being threatened with a power drill. Last year, Polish prosecutors investigating a now-closed C.I.A. prison granted Mr. Nashiri “victim status.”
An effort to prosecute Mr. Nashiri could also put a sharp focus on one of the crucial differences between federal civilian court and military commissions: the admissibility of hearsay evidence — statements and documents collected outside of court.
Much of the evidence against Mr. Nashiri consists of witness interviews and documents gathered by the F.B.I. in Yemen after the bombing. Prosecutors may call the F.B.I. agents as witnesses to describe what they learned during their investigation — hearsay that would be admissible under tribunal rules, but not in federal court.
It remains unclear whether the Supreme Court would uphold a tribunal conviction that relied on such evidence.
Mr. Nashiri’s case would also test another legal proposition: whether a state of war existed between the United States and Al Qaeda at the time of the Cole bombing — before the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and the authorization by Congress to use military force against their perpetrators.
The United States initially handled the Cole attack as a peacetime terrorism crime, but the government now contends that a state of armed conflict had legally existed since 1996, when Osama bin Laden declared war against the United States.
The question is important because military commissions for war crimes are generally understood to have jurisdiction only over acts that took place during hostilities.
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #2643 on: Jan 20th, 2011, 08:10am »
No postman may pass the Beast of Dorset Gardens
It is the Beast of Dorset Gardens: an animal of such aggression and ferocity that Royal Mail has banned deliveries to the entire street.
Tiny terror: postmen claim to have been attacked repeatedly by Peggy. The Joyce family, pictured with their pet, face eviction unless they rehouse the dog Photo: NEWSTEAM
By Nick Britten 6:40AM GMT 20 Jan 2011
Postmen and residents have spoken of being terrorised by the brute, while the local council has threatened the dog's owners with eviction unless they rehouse it.
The terrifying canine in question is not a rottweiler or a pit bull but a six-inch Yorkshire terrier named Peggy.
Those living in the cul-de-sac in Northampton have been denied postal deliveries for six weeks after a postman complained of being attacked repeatedly by the nine-year-old bitch, described as "good natured and loved by everyone" by its owners, the Joyce family.
The last alleged attack was on Dec 7. Since then residents have faced a 14-mile round trip to collect their post from a sorting office. Police said they were aware of an incident, though there was no evidence of puncture or blood wounds.
The local council said it had received several complaints that Peggy was out of control and was seeking to rehouse the dog or its owners.
Margaret Joyce, 19, admitted that Peggy had growled at postmen but denied she had attacked anyone. "It's absolutely ridiculous that they are refusing to deliver mail to any of us," she said. "Peggy is very good-natured and loved by everyone. She spends her days sleeping and playing with the children. It's such a fuss over a small dog. She does bark if someone comes to the front door but her bark is much bigger than her bite."
She added: "We can keep her indoors if the postman comes around; even if she is outside, she's the size of my hand, not a rottweiler. This is our family pet but we've had people saying they're going to get Peggy, and the police saying they might take her away. It's ridiculous."
Some neighbours took a different view. One, who asked not to be named, said: "It is a vicious little thing and I have seen it going for the postman. I don't have a car and it costs £30 to get the post delivered somewhere else." Another added: "Some old people in the street aren't able to travel to get their mail. Someone needs to do something about it."
A Royal Mail spokesman said: "We are waiting for confirmation that the dog has been removed from the address in Dorset Gardens and once we are satisfied this has been done, and our staff can work safely, we will reinstate deliveries. Unfortunately, animal attacks are a hazard faced by our employees. In extreme cases, Royal Mail may stop delivering mail to addresses where there is a particular problem, but this only happens as a last resort."
A spokesman for Northampton council said the authority had received complaints that "one of our tenants was failing to control an aggressive dog" and had tried to work with the family.
He added that if a deadline to rehouse the dog was breached the council could take legal action "which could result in the tenant losing their house".
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #2644 on: Jan 20th, 2011, 08:20am »
Jan. 20, 1942: Final Decision Is High-Tech Killing By Tony Long January 20, 2010 | 12:00 am Categories: 20th century, Politics, Tech Gone Bad
The villa where the Wannsee Conference was held is now a memorial and museum. Courtesy Adam Carr
1942: A malignant but unfocused policy of persecution turns into one of outright mass extermination at the Wannsee Conference. In a meeting lasting a little over six hours at a villa in the fashionable Berlin suburb of Wannsee, Nazi bureaucrats agree on a plan to implement the “final solution to the Jewish question.”
No formal plan for dealing with the Jews existed prior to the Wannsee Conference, and many Nazis favored the deportation or forced emigration of those they considered racial enemies. But with Germany’s conquest of Poland and western Russia, the Nazis found themselves with 11 million Jews to deal with. Deportation, they decided, was no longer practical.
There had already been mass killings of Jews, with mobile killing units — the Einsatzgruppen — shooting most of the victims. Shooting was deemed inefficient, however, because the number of people killed was relatively small while the men who did the shooting often suffered from depression or shattered nerves.
After the Wannsee Conference the method of killing was refined and expanded with assembly-line precision as the Nazis began employing both engine exhaust and Zyklon B, a commercial pesticide, to gas the Jews in their thousands. It was mass murder on an unprecedented scale, carried out in camps such as Auschwitz-Birkenau, Treblinka, Belzec and Sobibor.
These camps, run by the SS under Heinrich Himmler, employed the most efficient technology available for accomplishing their task. Camps were situated near key railheads to facilitate the transportation of large numbers of people.
At the Auschwitz-Birkenau complex in southern Poland, gas chambers capable of processing up to 5,000 people per hour were built. After gassing, which could take as long as 15 minutes to complete, gold fillings were extracted from victims’ teeth, their body cavities searched for hidden valuables and the corpses incinerated in ovens.
Between 5 and 6 million Jews are estimated to have died in what is now known as the Holocaust. Another 1 million people — including German opponents of the Nazi regime — were killed as well.
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #2645 on: Jan 20th, 2011, 08:25am »
Who Knew? People Love to Drink at Sporting Events By Erik Malinowski January 19, 2011 | 2:34 pm Categories: Venues, beer
Researchers at the University of Minnesota have completed the world’s most definitive study on sports and alcohol consumption, and we just can’t bottle up the results any longer.
Shockingly, these intrepid social psychologists led by Darin Erickson found that sports fans don’t like to drink during games. No, they love to drink during games, with a full 8 percent of tested fans having BACs above the driving-legal .08 limit.
And while those who chose to tailgate were in the minority (only 18 percent), those who did drank way more than fans who limited their imbibing to within the stadium walls. The results were published in the latest issue of Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research.
Other useful swigs to take with you on the slog back through the stadium parking lot:
• Researchers compiled their data from 13 MLB games and three NFL games, which would offer them a much larger batch of volunteers than if they stood outside an NBA or NHL game.
• In all, 48 percent of fans drink at sporting events.
• Of the 18 percent of fans who tailgated before games, a whopping 82 percent had two or more drinks, while only 8 percent did not drink.
• If you’re under 35, you’re nine times more likely to leave the game drunk. If you drink at your pregame tailgate, make it 14 times more likely.
• Only 2 percent of all tailgaters did so at home. (This is what’s more technically known as “chugging a beer while the family, 20 minutes late, scurries to file into the car.”)
• Of the fans tested, 54 percent were between the ages of 21 and 35.
• If the sample size holds true for a larger crowd, researchers estimate that some 5,000 people leaving a typical NFL game are legally drunk.
It’s an intriguing study, for sure, but we’d love the see the project expanded and more broken down by city and sport. How do Philadelphia Eagles fans compare to their Dallas Cowboys brethren? What about a boozy head-to-head between Penguins and Red Wings supporters? And can Milwaukee Bucks basketball fans, with their comfy, climate-controlled arena, hold their own with their football-watching equals in Green Bay, mere yards from the bone-chilling tundra of Lambeau?
These things we can only hope to know in time. Until then, if you’re going to drink, drink responsibly. Because more than anything, you don’t want to end up like this guy.
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #2646 on: Jan 21st, 2011, 08:42am »
New York Times
January 20, 2011 F.D.A. Sees Promise in Alzheimer’s Imaging Drug By GINA KOLATA
An advisory committee to the Food and Drug Administration recommended unanimously Thursday that the agency approve the first test — a brain scan — that can show the characteristic plaques of Alzheimer’s disease in the brain of a living person. The approval was contingent on radiologists agreeing on what the scans say and doctors being trained in how to read the scans.
The F.D.A. usually follows advice from its advisory committees, and Alzheimer’s experts anticipated that the scans would be approved. The additional requirement would not be a big hurdle, said Dr. Daniel M. Skovronsky, chief executive of the company, Avid Radiopharmaceuticals, that applied to market the scans.
“We don’t know exactly what F.D.A. will want,” Dr. Skovronsky said. “But it should take months to generate this type of data, not years.”
The committee vote is “a very positive thing,” said Maria Carrillo, senior director of medical and scientific relations for the Alzheimer’s Association. “This is nothing but a positive for our families.”
More than five million Americans have Alzheimer’s disease.
Plaques are part of the criteria for having Alzheimer’s — if a person with memory problems does not have plaques, that person does not have Alzheimer’s. But without the scan, the only way to know if plaques were present is to do an autopsy.
Alzheimer’s specialists said they expected that if the scan were approved it would come into widespread use.
“This is a big deal,” said Dr. Pierre N. Tariot, director of the memory disorders center at the Banner Alzheimer’s Institute in Phoenix. Asked if he would be using the scans, Dr. Tariot replied, “Absolutely.”
Dr. Tariot is an investigator in studies by Avid, now a subsidiary of Eli Lilly & Company, and its competitors.
The approval would be for a dye that homes in on plaque in the brain, making it visible on PET scans. Such scans would be especially valuable in a common and troubling situation — trying to make a diagnosis when it is not clear whether a patient’s memory problems are a result of Alzheimer’s disease or something else. If a scan shows no plaque, the problems are not caused by Alzheimer’s and could be from tiny strokes or other diseases.
If a person has Alzheimer’s, though, there is as yet no treatment that can slow or reverse the disease, although new drugs are being tested that are intended to reduce plaque.
Nonetheless, doctors said, having a diagnosis is important for planning and for understanding what lies ahead. It also is important for family members to know because they are at increased risk if a mother or father, sister or brother has the disease. And people, they say, often want to know what is wrong with them, even when the news is bad.
The panel’s vote “has moved us a monumental step forward,” said Dr. Reisa Sperling, adding that with the scans “we will not just be guessing clinically.”
Dr. Sperling, director of the Center for Alzheimer’s Research and Treatment at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, is an unpaid consultant to Avid Radiopharmaceuticals, which makes the dye, and said she paid her own way to speak at the F.D.A. meeting in White Oak, Md.
The question about interpreting the scans arose because in the Avid study, radiologists did not establish a firm cutoff point that would say whether a person had significant amounts of plaque. Instead they did a graded analysis. What is needed in practice is a set level that would say yes or no, and distinguish significant plaque accumulation from insignificant amounts. And the company must show that its cutoff points are accurate and that different radiologists assess the same scan in the same way.
Some people have plaque without having Alzheimer’s, so if a scan shows plaque, doctors will have to use their clinical judgment, taking into account a patient’s symptoms, in deciding what the scan results mean, noted Dr. P. Murali Doraiswamy, an Alzheimer’s researcher at Duke University and a clinical investigator in the Avid trial. But if a scan shows no plaque, the situation is simpler, Dr. Doraiswamy said. It means the doctor should focus on other causes for the symptoms.
“This technique will allow family doctors to feel confident ruling out Alzheimer’s,” he said. “Until now we had to guess whether someone had plaques.”
In 2008, an advisory committee to the F.D.A. said that in order for the dye to be approved for amyloid imaging, the company would have to show that the scans were detecting the same plaques as were found on autopsy.
Avid did that, using people at the end of life who agreed to be scanned and then to have brain autopsies. The company also tested young healthy people who, presumably, would not have amyloid plaque in their brains. The scans found no plaque in those younger subjects.
At the meeting Thursday, a parade of medical experts testified about the need for the scans. Dr. Norman Foster, a professor of neurology at the University of Utah, came at his own expense even though he is a consultant to GE Healthcare, which is developing its own brain scan for plaque, to urge approval of the Avid scan.
“Physicians currently have little confidence in their ability to determine the cause of dementia, and as a result they often don’t even try,” Dr. Foster said. As a result, he said, families are left in limbo, unable to plan for the future if it is Alzheimer’s and, if it is not, delaying getting treatment.
“The preventable costs are enormous,” Dr. Foster said. “The emotional toll is incalculable.”
He told of three patients he had seen in the past two weeks who would have benefited from a scan. One is a 70-year-old man with memory problems and depression. He was given a diagnosis of depression, but only after he continued to get worse over two years did it become clear that he most likely had Alzheimer’s.
“I wish I had had the ability to do an amyloid PET scan to allow an earlier diagnosis,” Dr. Foster said. Approval of the scan, he said, “would be a historic advance in neurology and in the daily management of patients with memory complaints.”
With the committee’s vote, Dr. Doraiswamy said, “It’s a landmark day for our field.”
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #2647 on: Jan 21st, 2011, 08:44am »
New York Times
January 21, 2011 Blair Testifies Before British Inquiry Into Iraq War By JOHN F. BURNS and ALAN COWELL
LONDON — Tony Blair, the former prime minister, appeared on Friday before a British inquiry into the origins and conduct of the Iraq war to fill in gaps from earlier testimony about his unpublicized discussions with President George W. Bush as the conflict loomed.
It was his second appearance in a year, reflecting the inquiry’s desire to “clarify what happened” when Mr. Blair led the country into a deeply unpopular war, the panel’s chairman, Sir John Chilcot, said.
The last time he appeared before the inquiry, in January, 2010 , he was questioned for six hours and mounted a fluent and unwavering defense of his actions, saying he would do the same again to counter what he depicted as a threat from Saddam Hussein that had assumed far greater dimensions after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
On Friday, he again invoked the Sept. 11 attacks as the source of his subsequent policies towards Iraq, terrorism and unconventional weapons.
Tanned and wearing a navy blue suit, Mr. Blair said the attacks on the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon in Washington created a new type of terrorism.
“The single most difficult thing we have to face today — and we face it still — is the risk of this new type of terrorism and extremism based on an ideological perversion of the faith of Islam combined with technology that allows them to kill people on a large scale,” Mr. Blair said
“Although this is a time where many people think this extremism can be managed, I personally don’t think that is true. I think it has to be confronted and changed.”
Previous witnesses at the inquiry, which opened in July 2009, have insisted that British security services concluded that there was no evidence of links between Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda and the possibility of terrorists obtaining unconventional weapons.
Last July, Dame Eliza Manningham-Buller, a former head of MI5, said the domestic intelligence service had had no concerns “in either the short term or medium term” to support Mr. Blair’s frequent contention that he acted to prevent terrorists securing access to unconventional weapons in Iraq.
Mr. Blair said on Friday that after Sept. 11, two views emerged internationally concerning terrorism, one of them that the threat could simply be managed. His own view, he said, was “that we have to confront it.”
After the attacks, he said, “We always did make it clear that we were going to be shoulder to shoulder with the Americans.”
He dwelt at some length on the domestic British politics which, he said, underpinned the concerns of some of his cabinet colleagues about an alliance with the United States.
“Here we were. We had just been re-elected with another landslide, we were probably the most successful center-left government in the world and you are about to go into an alliance with a conservative, Republican president. That was the thing that worried them most,” Mr. Blair said.
But he acknowledged that, while British policy did not speak specifically of regime change, the notion of ousting Saddam Hussein had long been an American priority and he had discussed it with President Bush in a telephone conversation in December 2001.
“Regime change was their policy so regime change was part of the discussion,” he said. “If it became the only way of dealing with this issue, we were going to be up for that.”
For the Bush administration, “from Sept. 11 onwards, this was on their agenda,” he said.
Although almost eight years have gone by since Mr. Blair committed British troops as the junior partner in the United States-led invasion of 2003, the war has become intertwined with Mr. Blair’s memory and legacy for many Britons.
Britain’s involvement in the conflict was deeply unpopular, stripping Mr. Blair of the immense backing that brought him to office in 1997 before his resignation a decade later.
While the British authorities have refused to make public key documents about the transatlantic relationship at that time, many Britons remain concerned about both the legal justification for the war and the extent of Mr. Blair’s pledges to Mr. Bush as the preparations for the invasion got under way.
Sir John, the chairman of the panel, has voiced disappointment at a decision by a senior civil servant, Sir Gus O’Donnell, to keep notes of those exchanges secret.
In recent days, the former attorney general, Lord Peter Goldsmith, whose job was to scrutinize the legal basis for the effort to topple Saddam Hussein, has said that he was “uncomfortable” with some of Mr. Blair’s remarks at the time suggesting that the invasion had sufficient United Nations support to justify war.
Mr. Blair also faces scrutiny at a more personal level. Reg Keys, whose son was killed in southern Iraq in June, 2003, said this week he planned to be present when the former prime minister testifies. His son, Tom Keys, was among six British military police officers killed by an Iraqi crowd.
“Had he been killed by weapons of mass destruction — had Iraq possessed them — I would accept that,” Mr. Keys said. “But I will not accept that a prime minister in the 21st century can mislead Parliament and get away with it.”
Since late Thursday, anti-war demonstrators have been gathering outside the Queen Elizabeth II conference center here to protest Mr. Blair’s actions in Iraq.
John F. Burns reported from London, and Alan Cowell from Paris.
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #2648 on: Jan 21st, 2011, 08:48am »
Stars who fear the end of the world in 2012
It is not only George Lucas who fears the end of the world. Several celebrities have come out with bizarre beliefs that we are imminently facing the apocalypse.
George Lucas fears the end of the world in 2012 Photo: AP
7:30AM GMT 21 Jan 2011
Actor Ashton Kutcher is preparing for the end and has ramped up his workout routine to protect his family.
"I'm going to be ready to take myself and my family to a safe place where they don't have to worry," he told Men's Fitness. "All of my physical fitness regimen is completely tailored around the end of day," he explained. "I stay fit for no other reason than to save the people I care about."
Rapper Lil Wayne agrees with Lucas that 2012 will be the end of the world.
"The world is about to end in 2012," he told Bender magazine. "The Mayans made calendars, and they stop at 2012 ... The world is about to end as we know it."
Apocalypto director Mel Gibson said while promoting his film in 2006 that the Mayan civilisation and the United States have a lot in common.
"The precursors to a civilisation that's going under are the same, time and time again. What's human sacrifice if not sending guys off to Iraq for no reason? ... I just wanna draw the parallels. I don't wanna be a doomsayer, but the Mayan calendar ends in 2012. So have fun, boys and girls!"
Star of the disaster film 2012, Woody Harrelson, said, when asked whether he thought his film was nonsense or could contain some truth: "ecologically, we seem to be right on target. I am really concerned with that because we are moving towards a very difficult time."
Ghostbusters star Dan Aykroyd said 2012 "will be the end of consciousness and the end of perception as we know it" – and it will involve UFOs, he added.
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #2649 on: Jan 21st, 2011, 08:51am »
George Lucas says world will end in 2012
Seth Rogen, a comedian and actor, said that he was left speechless by a recent conversation in which George Lucas, the producer of Star Wars and other Hollywood hits, told him of his belief that the world would end in 2012.
7:00AM GMT 21 Jan 2011
Lucas made his claims at a meeting with the actor and Steven Spielberg, the director, to discuss a film project.
Rogen told the Toronto Sun: "George Lucas sits down and seriously proceeds to talk for around 25 minutes about how he thinks the world is going to end in the year 2012, like, for real. He thinks it.
"He's going on about the tectonic plates and all the time Spielberg is, like, rolling his eyes, like, 'My nerdy friend won't shut up, I'm sorry ...'
"I first thought he [Lucas] was joking ... and then I totally realised he was serious and then I started thinking, 'If you're George Lucas and you actually think the world is going to end in a year, there's no way you haven't built a spaceship for yourself ... So I asked him ... 'Can I have a seat on it?'
"He claimed he didn't have a spaceship, but there's no doubt there's a Millennium Falcon in a garage somewhere with a pilot just waiting to go ... It's going to be him and Steven Spielberg and I'll be blown up like the rest of us."
The end of the Mayan calendar in 2012 has led to the notion of an imminent apocalypse gaining some popularity in Hollywood.
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #2650 on: Jan 21st, 2011, 08:55am »
Wired Danger Room
New Navy Jammer Could Invade Networks, Nuke Sites By David Axe January 21, 2011 | 7:00 am Categories: Info War
Photo: EA-18G Growler/Boeing
When China’s stealth-fighter prototype took to the air two weeks ago, it intensified what was already a heated debate in Washington over which, and how many, new fighter planes to buy.
Lost in all this noise was the U.S. Navy’s real plan for winning any future air war with China or another big baddie. Rather than going toe-to-toe with J-20s and other enemy jets, the Navy is planning to attack its rivals where they’re most vulnerable: in the electromagnetic spectrum.
The frontline weapon for this electronic war is a new airborne jamming system currently in development. The Next Generation Jammer should allow the Navy to blind the enemy’s radars, disrupt its communications and slip malicious code into computer networks.
The new jammer, and its initial host airplane, the EA-18G Growler (pictured), have quickly become top Pentagon priorities. U.S. regional commanders opted in 2009 to buy more Growlers rather than continue production of the F-22 stealth dogfighter. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates announced this month that he would accelerate the NGJ’s current five-year-or-so development plan, using cash saved from shutting down redundant command staffs.
Four teams are vying for the jammer contract, including Northrop Grumman, BAE Systems, Raytheon and a pairing of Boeing and New York-based ITT. The Navy expects to gradually eliminate competitors until it’s got one supplier.
When all’s said and done, the resulting program could cost billions of dollars. The result should be what ITT vice president Ed Palacio calls a “highly modular, totally programmable” combination of antennas and processors that can be squeezed into the Growler’s underwing pods, as well as into the F-35 and future drones.
One goal is to simply replace the ancient EA-6B radar-jamming planes flown by the Navy and Marine Corps (with some Air Force exchange pilots). But that’s just the beginning for the NGJ. “Electronic attack system and concept of electronic attack has really evolved over years,” Palacio told Danger Room. “Initially, it primarily was a system to deal with enemy air defenses. But as you start going forward and realize the electromagnetic spectrum does many things … [so] if you build a system that can generate power and modulation over a very broad RF spectrum, it can be used not only in traditional roles, but in many different roles.”
Besides radar-jamming, the NGJ should allow the Navy to disable remotely detonated, improvised explosive devices — something the EA-6B already does — as well as insert viruses into command networks, a tactic Israel allegedly first used in combat during its 2007 air attacks on a suspected Syrian nuke site.
Hints that air-launched cyberattacks could shut down industrial (and nuclear) operations could explain why the Air Force has been flying stealthy RQ-170 drones near Iran. The NGJ could expand on that apparent capability.
Never mind the F-22 and its admittedly incredible dogfighting skills, or the purported versatility of the newer F-35 in its fighter-bomber role. With the EA-18G and other planes carrying the Next Generation Jammer, the U.S. military will have a weapon capable of doing more than just firing missiles and dropping bombs. Anything that works in the electromagnetic spectrum — and these days, that’s almost everything — will be fair game.
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #2651 on: Jan 21st, 2011, 09:00am »
Plants Moved Downhill, Not Up, in Warming World
ScienceDaily (Jan. 21, 2011) —
In a paper published January 20 in the journal Science, a University of California, Davis, researcher and his co-authors challenge a widely held assumption that plants will move uphill in response to warmer temperatures.
West coast mountains. Researchers challenge a widely held assumption that plants will move uphill in response to warmer temperatures.
Between 1930 and 2000, instead of colonizing higher elevations to maintain a constant temperature, many California plant species instead moved downhill an average of 260 feet, said Jonathan Greenberg, an assistant project scientist at the UC Davis Center for Spatial Technologies and Remote Sensing.
"While the climate warmed significantly in this period, there was also more precipitation. These wetter conditions are allowing plants to exist in warmer locations than they were previously capable of," Greenberg said.
Many forecasts say climate change will cause a number of plants and animals to migrate to new ranges or become extinct. That research has largely been based on the assumption that temperature is the dominant driver of species distributions. However, Greenberg said the new study reveals that other factors, such as precipitation, may be more important than temperature in defining the habitable range of these species.
The findings could have global relevance, because many locations north of 45 degrees latitude (which includes the northernmost United States, virtually all of Canada and Russia, and most of Europe) have had increased precipitation in the past century, and global climate models generally predict that trend will continue, the authors said.
"As we continue to improve our understanding of climate-change impacts on species, we will help land managers and policy makers to make more informed decisions on, for instance, conservation efforts for threatened and endangered species," Greenberg said.
He added that the study underlines the importance of an investment in basic science, as the results are based on historical data collected by the U.S. Forest Service in the 1930s, a program that was supported by New Deal spending after the Great Depression.
Funding was provided by the U.S. National Science Foundation and the U.S. Forest Service.
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #2653 on: Jan 21st, 2011, 4:50pm »
Dying Star Betelgeuse Won't Explode in 2012, Experts Say
Published January 21, 2011
The super-giant red star Betelgeuse in Orion’s nebula is predicted to cataclysmically explode, and the impending supernova may even reach Earth -- someday.
But will it happen by 2012, as recent news reports suggest? Probably not, experts told FoxNews.com. While the second biggest star in the universe is strangely losing mass -- and has already become a red giant, meaning it is destined to explode and become a supernova -- there's no reason to believe that it will happen anytime soon.
"The story is pretty 'Hollywoody,'" said New Jersey Institute of Technology professor Philip R. Goode. In reality, the stars eventual explosion is inevitable, but no one knows when it will happen, he explained -- 2012 is pure conjecture.
"Betelgeuse is a red supergiant and should supernova at some time. When? Who knows?" he told FoxNews.com.
Phil Plait, an astronomer who writes for Discovery News, agrees that someday, Betelgeuse will go gangbusters. But it’s way too far away to hurt us, he explained.
"A supernova has to be no farther than about 25 light years away to be able to fry us with light or anything else, and Betelgeuse is 25 times that distance," Plait wrote on his blog The Bad Astronomer.
The story was fueled by Australian news site News.com.au -- also owned by FoxNews.com parent company News Corp. -- which predicted that a giant explosion will occur, tens of millions of times brighter than the sun, and suggested the event was imminent. And the gist of the story is accurate: Betelgeuse will blow, in an explosion that will be visible from Earth, though it won't be so bright as to appear like a "second sun."
“This old star is running out of fuel in its center,” Carter told News.com.au. “This fuel keeps Betelgeuse shining and supported. When this fuel runs out the star will literally collapse in upon itself and it will do so very quickly.”
“It goes bang, it explodes, it lights up -- we’ll have incredible brightness for a brief period of time for a couple of weeks and then over the coming months it begins to fade and then eventually it will be very hard to see at all.”
When Betelgeuse does blow, it will definitely be visible, Goode confirmed.
"One could roughly expect it to be as bright as a full moon and gradually fade away over a few months. Everyone on Earth would notice and be talking about it," he told FoxNews.com. Goode also noted that, due to the time required for light from the star to reach Earth, the event would be old history by the time we could see it.
"Betelgeuse is several hundred light years away, so if it were to light up the sky in 2012 it would have exploded in the Middle Ages," he said.
The news reports of Betelgeuse's imminent demise are nevertheless fueling Internet rumors and doomsday theories by confounding the impending supernova with the Mayan calendar’s end in 2012 -- which some believe is a prediction of the end of the world.
But again, there's no reason to think Betelgeuse will blow in 2012, Plait explains -- or even this millennium.
"It’s hard to know just when a star will explode when you’re on the outside. Betelgeuse might go up tonight, or it might not be for 100,000 years. We’re just not sure," Plait explained.
Goode agreed. "If you want to bet on it, it's better to try the lottery," he said.