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 veryhotthread  Author  Topic: Stuff & Nonsense  (Read 154362 times)
WingsofCrystal
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« Reply #2955 on: Feb 15th, 2011, 11:38am »

Times

February 15, 2011
Berlusconi to Face Trial in Under-Age Prostitution Case
By RACHEL DONADIO

ROME — A Milan judge on Tuesday ordered Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi to stand trial in April on charges of prostitution and abuse of office, dealing the most serious blow to his leadership in the 17 years that he has dominated Italian politics.

In a brief statement the judge said the trial would start on April 6. Mr. Berlusconi faces charges that he paid for sex with an under-age nightclub dancer nicknamed Ruby Heart-Stealer, and abused his office to help release her from police custody when she was detained for theft. The scandal has dominated political debate in Italy for months.

Mr. Berlusconi denies wrongdoing and has said he has no intention of stepping down. But in an increasingly tense climate after large anti-Berlusconi demonstrations on Sunday, analysts said the judge’s ruling makes it nearly impossible for the prime minister to govern and all but guarantees early national elections.

“The situation is more political than judicial now,” said Stefano Folli, a political columnist for the financial daily Il Sole 24 Ore. He predicted that in the short term Mr. Berlusconi would hold on, but “in the middle-term it’s an unsustainable situation.”

“And ‘middle term’ means a few months,” he added.

The leader of the center-left opposition, Pierluigi Bersani, called for Mr. Berlusconi to resign immediately.

The prime minister has called the accusations “groundless,” and so far his center-right coalition, which governs with a narrow majority, has stood by him. But on Tuesday there was no immediate response from the Northern League, the most powerful party in his coalition. Analysts speculated there was behind-the-scenes wrangling on whether to pull the plug on the government.

After the ruling Mr. Berlusconi flew back to Rome from Sicily, where he did not appear at a scheduled news conference and where Italy is seeking to stem a flow of more than 5,000 illegal immigrants who arrived from Tunisia in the past week after the revolution in that country.

Ever since prosecutors announced last week that they would call for an expedited trial, saying they had enough evidence to waive preliminary hearings, Mr. Berlusconi has fought back in the news media, accusing the judiciary of a “moral coup.”

On Tuesday, Fabrizio Cicchitto, the lower house leader of Mr. Berlusconi’s People of Liberties party, called the ruling “a clear political use of justice.” Justice Minister Angelo Alfano said that the government had “a strong mandate” and that the judge’s ruling infringed on the independence of Parliament.

But President Giorgio Napolitano, who has the power to dissolve Parliament and call early elections if the governing party agrees, said on Tuesday that the growing showdown between the executive and the judiciary posed “reasons for anxiety,” Italian news media reported.

On Sunday thousands took to the streets in Italy and worldwide in coordinated demonstrations that organizers said were aimed at restoring the dignity of Italian women after years in which Mr. Berlusconi has routinely appointed television showgirls to political office.

Mr. Berlusconi criticized the rally on Monday — not through an official statement or news conference but by calling in to a television show on a channel he owns — saying the center-left “used any pretext to try to bring down an adversary they cannot beat at the polls.”

Defenders of Mr. Berlusconi have pointed to what they call a “Jacobin” climate in which magistrates have become a de facto opposition instead of Parliament, where the center-left opposition is weak and divided and groupings that have broken from the center-right coalition are not seen as having enough clout to form a new government.

The judge’s ruling ordering a trial came weeks after prosecutors said they were investigating the prime minister on charges that he paid Karima El Mahroug for sex before she turned 18 and abused his office in calling the police to intervene when she was detained in May for theft.

Mr. Berlusconi has said he called the police to avoid “an international diplomatic incident” because he had been told that the Moroccan-born Ms. Mahroug was the niece of Hosni Mubarak, then the president of Egypt.

Under Italian law the age of consent is 14 but it is illegal to pay for sexual services with a person under 18.

Both Mr. Berlusconi and Ms. Mahroug say they did not have sex, although Ms. Mahroug said the prime minister gave her 7,000 euros the first time she came to his villa for a party last spring. In a television interview last month she said she had made up “a parallel life,” telling people she was Egyptian, not Moroccan, although she did not say whether she had ever claimed to be Mr. Mubarak’s niece.

The trial would not be Mr. Berlusconi’s first. Over the years he has emerged largely unscathed from a dizzying list of legal troubles including charges of corruption, tax evasion and bribing judges. In each case he was either acquitted on appeal or the statute of limitations ran out.

In the new trial Mr. Berlusconi would not have to appear in court but could do so if he chose. His lawyers have 15 days to decide whether they want to face a fast-track closed-door trial, in which a panel of judges would rule based only on the evidence gathered by prosecutors, or whether they would seek a plea bargain.

Piero Longo, a lawyer for Mr. Berlusconi, called the judge’s decision “exactly what we expected.” Noting that Mr. Berlusconi would be tried before a panel of three female judges, he said: “Great. Women are always appreciated, sometimes even agreeable,” the center-left daily La Repubblica reported.


http://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/16/world/europe/16italy.html?ref=world

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« Reply #2956 on: Feb 15th, 2011, 11:52am »

on Feb 15th, 2011, 11:12am, WingsofCrystal wrote:
Good morning Luvey!

Today seemed like a Garfield day. I like your bunny slippers. grin

Crystal


Glad you like my slippers Crystal smiley Thanks for the laugh... laugh A good way to end the day... or is it a good way to start the day... hummmm undecided Its nearly 2am here and I should have been in bed ages ago..... hubby will be waking up to go fishing soon and I haven't gone to bed yet... tut tut tut

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« Reply #2957 on: Feb 15th, 2011, 12:44pm »

on Feb 15th, 2011, 11:52am, Luvey wrote:
Glad you like my slippers Crystal smiley Thanks for the laugh... laugh A good way to end the day... or is it a good way to start the day... hummmm undecided Its nearly 2am here and I should have been in bed ages ago..... hubby will be waking up to go fishing soon and I haven't gone to bed yet... tut tut tut

Luvey smiley


Glad you had a laugh. You are a night owl! I fall asleep by 10:00pm. tongue
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« Reply #2958 on: Feb 15th, 2011, 5:49pm »





























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« Reply #2959 on: Feb 15th, 2011, 6:07pm »

First Contact TV




http://www.facebook.com/?ref=home#!/FirstContactTV


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« Reply #2960 on: Feb 15th, 2011, 6:20pm »

Large Fireball Sighted Over East Coast

Published February 15, 2011

FoxNews.com

Multiple reports of a fireball in the sky seem to confirm a passing meteor near the North Jersey-New York City area, reports Fox 29.

The incident happened before 12:45 p.m. ET, according to eyewitnesses who reported seeing an object that resembled a meteor near the Philadelphia Navy Yard facility, according witnesses who called Fox 29. Reports of the incident also surfaced on Twitter and Facebook.

The American Meteor Society contacted Fox 29 and said they had about 20 reports from spotters during that time period. Most meteor sightings are at nighttime so the spate of reports during the day was unusual.

The likeliest explanation is a large meteor – a space rock hurtling through the atmosphere – passed eastward over the North Jersey-New York City area.

“It might have been 5 feet in diameter with a weight of more than 5 metric tons, judging from reports that it blazed as bright as a full moon,” NASA scientist Bill Cooke of the Marshall Space Flight Center told Philly.com.

Fox 29 TV reporter Chris O’Connell also saw the object, which he described as “majestic” and beautiful,” but with an estimated speed of 33,500 m.p.h., it’s fortunate the fireball didn’t hit anything.

“My crude estimate of the energy of this fireball is about 100 tons of TNT, which means it was capable of producing a crater 125 feet in diameter and about 15 feet deep, assuming an impact into sandstone,” Cooke said.

Such meteors are a regular occurrence but this most recent intruder was far larger than the typical shooting star passing through our atmosphere. At night, even a grain of sand can cause a bright streak across the sky.

Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/scitech/2011/02/15/large-fireball-sighted-east-coast/#ixzz1E4kWO5Lb

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« Reply #2961 on: Feb 15th, 2011, 6:22pm »

Huge fireball. That will wake you up!
Thanks Swamp.
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« Reply #2962 on: Feb 15th, 2011, 6:42pm »

We get a kill switch while sending money overseas to fight kill switches?

"A controversial bill handing President Obama power over privately owned computer systems during a "national cyberemergency," and prohibiting any review by the court system, will return this year.

Internet companies should not be alarmed by the legislation, first introduced last summer by Sens. Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine), a Senate aide said last week. Lieberman, an independent who caucuses with Democrats, is chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.

"We're not trying to mandate any requirements for the entire Internet, the entire Internet backbone," said Brandon Milhorn, Republican staff director and counsel for the committee."



Yet Hillary Clinton says this:

"Clinton also pledged $25 million in new grants to support “technologists and activists” fighting Internet repression to stay ahead of “repressive governments” who are “innovating their methods” of restricting online access. The agency has awarded more than $20 million over the past three years, she said.

“We are taking a venture-capital approach, supporting a portfolio of technologies, tools and training, and adapting as more users shift to mobile devices,” she said. The technologies may include encryption services to hide what people are doing online, alternate methods to get online to bypass national censors and blocks, and technology to remotely wipe sensitive data from mobile devices in case activists are detained. Clinton declined to name specific technologies as there was “no silver bullet,” she said."


http://news.cnet.com/8301-31921_3-20029282-281.html

http://www.eweek.com/c/a/Security/Clinton-Denounces-Internet-Censorship-Says-WikiLeaks-Case-Involves-Theft-518497/


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« Reply #2963 on: Feb 16th, 2011, 08:57am »

New York Times

February 15, 2011
From Prison, Madoff Says Banks ‘Had to Know’ of Fraud
By DIANA B. HENRIQUES

BUTNER, N.C. — Bernard L. Madoff said he never thought the collapse of his Ponzi scheme would cause the sort of destruction that has befallen his family.

In his first interview for publication since his arrest in December 2008, Mr. Madoff — looking noticeably thinner and rumpled in khaki prison garb — maintained that family members knew nothing about his crimes.

But during a private two-hour interview in a visitor room here on Tuesday, and in earlier e-mail exchanges, he asserted that unidentified banks and hedge funds were somehow “complicit” in his elaborate fraud, an about-face from earlier claims that he was the only person involved.

Mr. Madoff, who is serving a 150-year sentence, seemed frail and a bit agitated compared with the stoic calm he maintained before his incarceration in 2009, perhaps burdened by sadness over the suicide of his son Mark in December.

Besides that loss, his family also has faced stacks of lawsuits, the potential forfeiture of most of their assets, and relentless public suspicion and enmity that cut Mr. Madoff and his wife Ruth off from their children.

In many ways, however, Mr. Madoff seemed unchanged. He spoke with great intensity and fluency about his dealings with various banks and hedge funds, pointing to their “willful blindness” and their failure to examine discrepancies between his regulatory filings and other information available to them.

“They had to know,” Mr. Madoff said. “But the attitude was sort of, ‘If you’re doing something wrong, we don’t want to know.’ ”

While he acknowledged his guilt in the interview and said nothing could excuse his crimes, he focused his comments laserlike on the big investors and giant institutions he dealt with, not on the financial pain he caused thousands of his more modest investors. In an e-mail written on Jan. 13, he observed that many long-term clients made more in legitimate profits from him in the years before the fraud than they could have elsewhere. “I would have loved for them to not lose anything, but that was a risk they were well aware of by investing in the market,” he wrote.

Mr. Madoff said he was startled to learn about some of the e-mails and messages raising doubts about his results — now emerging in lawsuits — that bankers were passing around before his scheme collapsed.

“I’m reading more now about how suspicious they were than I ever realized at the time,” he said with a faint smile.

He did not assert that any specific bank or fund knew about or was an accomplice in his Ponzi scheme, which lasted at least 16 years and consumed about $20 billion in lost cash and almost $65 billion in paper wealth. Rather, he cited a failure to conduct normal scrutiny.

Both the interview and the e-mail correspondence were conducted as part of this reporter’s research for a coming book on the Madoff scandal, “The Wizard of Lies: Bernie Madoff and the Death of Trust,” for publication this spring by Times Books, a division of Henry Holt & Company.

In the interview and e-mails, he also claimed he had been helping the court-appointed trustee who is seeking to recover lost billions on behalf of his swindled clients. In e-mails, Mr. Madoff said repeatedly that he provided useful information to Irving H. Picard, the trustee trying to recover assets for the fraud victims. He met with Mr. Picard’s team over four days last summer, he said. The e-mails were written in December and January, but he only recently agreed that they could be made public.

In prison, Mr. Madoff’s access to the outside world is both limited and monitored. All visitors must be approved by prison authorities, who also screen his limited collect calls and his incoming and outgoing e-mails and letters, though interviews with lawyers like Mr. Picard and his colleagues are less restricted and can be conducted in private.

Asked about his cell, he described a room about 12 feet square with a big window looking out on the grounds; he said he had a roommate, the second since he arrived at the prison.

It was clear from the e-mails and interview here that Mr. Madoff closely followed news related to his case in December, the second anniversary of his arrest. He lashed out at what he called some of the “disgraceful” coverage of the suicide of his son Mark on Dec. 11.

Disputing reports that he refused to attend any funeral services for Mark, he said the prison informed him it would not approve a request for him to attend a service because of “the public safety issue” and the limited time available to make arrangements. He concluded any funeral he attended “would be a media circus” and that it “would be cruel to my family” to put them through that, he wrote on Dec. 29.

Regarding his meetings with Mr. Picard’s legal team, Mr. Madoff asserted in an e-mail written on Dec. 19 that he had given Mr. Picard’s legal team “information I knew would be instrumental in recovering assets from those people complicit in the mess I put myself into.”

In a message 10 days later, he was even more explicit about what he told the trustee: “I am saying that the banks and funds were complicit in one form or another and my information to Picard when he was here established this.”

Mr. Madoff’s claims must be weighed against his tenuous credibility. After deceiving federal regulators and supposedly sophisticated investors for at least 16 years, he would certainly be branded as a liar by defense lawyers if he appeared as a witness against any defendant in a courtroom — a fact he acknowledged somewhat ruefully during the interview on Tuesday.

Despite his many references to the complicity of others, he acknowledged in the Dec. 19 e-mail that he had not shared his information with the federal prosecutors working on criminal cases related to his fraud — although the trustee most likely would have done so, if Mr. Madoff’s information was relevant to the investigation.

Mr. Madoff wrote in an e-mail that while he was willing “from the beginning” to give prosecutors information “to help recover assets only, I refused to help provide them with criminal evidence.” In the interview he declined to discuss any of the criminal cases under investigation.

In the months after the Picard team’s prison interviews, the trustee’s law firm, Baker & Hostetler, filed hundreds of civil lawsuits seeking approximately $90 billion in damages and fictional profits withdrawn from Mr. Madoff’s scheme over the years. The defendants in those cases included the Wilpon family, the owners of the New York Mets; JPMorgan Chase, which served for decades as Mr. Madoff’s primary banker; and Sonja Kohn, the Viennese financier at the hub of a network of hedge funds that invested heavily with Mr. Madoff.

Mr. Madoff said about Fred Wilpon and Saul Katz, Mr. Wilpon’s brother-in-law and business partner: “They knew nothing. They knew nothing.”

There was no obvious sign that any of those lawsuits were based on evidence or guidance from Mr. Madoff. All the defendants have said they had no knowledge of the fraud and have denied the trustee’s claims that, as financially sophisticated investors, they should have been suspicious from the beginning.

Mr. Picard declined to comment on whether his team had interviewed Mr. Madoff and would not say whether information from him had contributed to the vast body of litigation filed since last summer.

In some e-mails, Mr. Madoff conceded that Mr. Picard’s team conducted its own investigation into the withdrawals made by some big clients, in the years before the Ponzi scheme collapsed, to determine who might have known what and when. Such withdrawals could indicate that investors could have been aware of the fraud, which could increase their liability.

However, Mr. Madoff added, “the facts are that I alone was present at certain meetings with these clients.”

To date, none of the major banks or hedge funds that did business with Mr. Madoff have been accused by federal prosecutors of knowingly investing in his Ponzi scheme. However, Mr. Picard in civil lawsuits has asserted that executives at some banks expressed suspicions for years, yet continued to do business with Mr. Madoff and steer their clients’ money into his hands.

All the financial entities facing civil lawsuits by Madoff victims and Mr. Picard have denied they had any knowledge of the fraud.

In a related e-mail on Jan. 12, Mr. Madoff cited out-of-court settlements that some banks and funds had negotiated with private Madoff investors over the last two years and claimed some settlements were made “to keep me quiet” about the role the institutions played in “creating my situation” and about the identity of the beneficial owners of some of their private accounts.

Mr. Picard has already recovered roughly $10 billion through asset sales and settlements with several foreign banks and a few significant Madoff clients, including the estate of a private investor, Jeffry Picower, and the family of Carl Shapiro, a philanthropist in Palm Beach, Fla.

While the Picower settlement had been under negotiation since at least the fall of 2009, the settlements with the Shapiro family and a Swiss bank, Union Bancaire Privée, both came after Mr. Picard’s trip to the prison here in Butner. But because both settlements came before Mr. Picard had filed any public claims in court, it is unclear whether information from Mr. Madoff was a factor in those settlement talks.

more after the jump
http://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/16/business/madoff-prison-interview.html?hp

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« Reply #2964 on: Feb 16th, 2011, 08:59am »

New York Times

February 16, 2011
Son of North Korean Leader Is Said to Be Given No. 2 Post
By MARK McDONALD

SEOUL, South Korea — In what appeared to be a definitive declaration of his status as the designated heir apparent in North Korea, Kim Jong-un has been appointed to a senior position on the National Defense Commission, the country’s most powerful body, according to a report Wednesday by a leading newspaper in Seoul.

The Chosun Ilbo, citing an unnamed source in North Korea, said Mr. Kim, the youngest son of the dictator Kim Jong-il, was recently named to the post of vice chairman of the defense commission.

The appointment would effectively make Kim Jong-un the second most-powerful official in North Korea after his father. The announcement of the move came at a mass gathering of military leaders and security officials on Feb. 10, according to the newspaper’s source.

The appointment still needs to be approved by the Supreme People’s Assembly, the rubber-stamp parliament that is due to meet in April.

The elder Mr. Kim, who heads the all-powerful defense commission, celebrated his 69th birthday on Wednesday. Part of the festivities in the capital, Pyongyang, included a flower show featuring specially cultivated begonias called kimjongilia.

The North’s official Korean Central News Agency also said the country was “paying high tribute to the undying feats that General Secretary Kim Jong-il has performed by leading the cause of building a thriving nation to victory.”

South Korean government officials could not immediately confirm Kim Jong-il’s promotion, and KCNA had made no mention of it by Wednesday afternoon.

“Kim Jong-un assuming such a position is quite natural, and not surprising,” said Paik Hak-soon, director of the Center for North Korean Studies at the Sejong Institute near Seoul. “It’s not too early for something like this. Sooner or later it was to be expected.”

Kim Jong-un, who is believed to be 28 or 29, appeared publicly for the first time at a meeting of the ruling Workers’ Party last autumn. He was given the rank of four-star general and received two significant political posts — membership on the Central Committee of the party and a vice chairmanship of the party’s Central Military Committee.

Like the defense commission, Kim Jong-il oversees the Central Military Committee.

Although his emergence as a serious political figure has been undeniable, some political analysts have not been convinced that Kim Jong-un was fully ordained as his ailing father’s successor. If the report of his promotion to the No. 2 post on the National Defense Commission is true, analysts said Wednesday, there can be no further doubts.

“He is in a very special and unique category, and nobody else can be included as possibly assuming the supreme leadership,” said Mr. Paik.

The 15-member defense commission has several vice chairmen, including Jang Song-taek, the leader’s brother-in-law and the younger Mr. Kim’s uncle. It is widely believed that Mr. Jang, the husband of Kim Jong-il’s sister, has effective day-to-day control of the running of the country.

But in terms of power and position, Mr. Paik said, “Kim Jong-un is already ahead of Jang Song-taek.”

“Jang Song-taek is the most powerful and loyal guardian” for the heir apparent, Mr. Paik said. “But it’s not possible for him to be promoted to supreme leader.”

North Korea watchers in the South, starved of reliable and verifiable information about the North’s ongoing succession drama, recently were eager to draw conclusions from TV footage showing the senior and junior Kims at an art show in Pyongyang: Both men were wearing black pants, identical padded and oversized cargo coats, and matching brown fur hats.


http://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/17/world/asia/17korea.html?hp

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« Reply #2965 on: Feb 16th, 2011, 09:04am »

Telegraph

Middle East crisis: Yemen the early favourite to fall next, Paddy Power claims

Paddy Power, the Irish bookmaker, is offering odds on the next country to force their leader to step down, with Yemen installed as the early favourite.

By Our Foreign Staff
11:13AM GMT 16 Feb 2011

Following the fall of Hosni Mubarak, the Egyptian president, Yemen has been installed as 15/8 favourite.

Anti-regime protesters and supports of Ali Abdullah Saleh, the Yemeni president, clashed in Sanaa on Wednesday, with at least four people wounded, according to reports.

A protest march set off from the university heading towards Al-Sabiine square near the presidential palace, but the demonstrators were attacked by hundreds of Saleh's loyalists armed with batons, stones and daggers as soon as they left the campus.

Following the outbreak of protests across the region, Mr Saleh promised not to seek re-election in 2013, but it has not stopped unrest in the country.

The bookmaker installed Jordan as 9/4 second favourite to fall with Algeria at 7/2.

Bahrain meanwhile, which is facing Egypt-style unrest, could be a good bet, with generous odds of 8/1.

Limited political reforms announced by the countries have done little to stop the angry protests.

Jordan's King Abdullah was forced to swear in a new cabinet last week, days after sacking Prime Minister Samir Rifai after weeks of protests against rising prices and widespread unemployment. Tribal leaders in the country have also called on the king to end his wife's role in politics.

Last week, Alegria shut down internet providers and deleted Facebook accounts as thousands of demonstrators were arrested in violent street demonstrations.

The more oppressive regimes of Saudi Arabia and Syria have been given longer odds of 20/1, although both countries have seen protests.

Paddy Power odds – next country to topple leader:

15/8 Yemen

9/4 Jordan

7/2 Algeria

7/2 Morocco

8/1 Bahrain

12/1 Iran

16/1 Libya

16/1 Sudan

16/1 Iraq

20/1 Saudi Arabia

20/1 Syria

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/yemen/8328081/Middle-East-crisis-Yemen-the-early-favourite-to-fall-next-Paddy-Power-claims.html

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« Reply #2966 on: Feb 16th, 2011, 09:09am »

Wired Danger Room

Pentagon Red Tape Delayed Iraq’s Life-Saving Lasers
By David Axe
February 16, 2011 | 7:00 am
Categories: Lasers and Ray Guns


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Military bureaucrats needlessly blocked U.S. troops in Iraq from getting laser weapons — tools that could’ve kept civilians from getting killed. That, in a nutshell, is what the Pentagon’s Inspector General concluded after an investigation of the Marine Corps’ botched attempts to send the nonlethal lasers to the war zone.

It’s a major mea culpa, but it comes with an important caveat: Sure, the Marines’ pencil-pushers mishandled the urgent request for lasers, first issued five years ago. But that doesn’t give today’s front-line commanders an excuse for circumventing the bureaucrats.

The background to the IG’s investigation is a tragic one. During the bloodiest phase of the Iraq war, native civilians, long accustomed to barreling through traffic in their compact cars, would unwittingly speed toward U.S. military checkpoints.

They looked a lot like suicide bombers. Startled Americans would yell, flash their Humvees’ headlights and even fire warning shots — often to no effect.

Iraqi roads are too chaotic, and many warnings simply too ambiguous. Faced with a last-second decision to open fire or risk a suicide blast, the Americans often opted to shoot the driver.

There’s no telling how many Iraqis died this way. Compounding the tragedy is the possibility that it was all preventable.

As early as the spring of 2006, the Pentagon admits, an inexpensive bit of off-the-shelf technology could have given U.S. Marines at their checkpoints in western Iraq a better way of warning off approaching drivers. But the tech — a nonlethal laser gun that “dazzles” drivers and forces them off the road — ran afoul of the Marines’ weapon-developing bureaucracy.

The laser dazzlers were nine months late when they finally arrived in Iraq in late 2006. In the interim, as many as 50 innocent Iraqis were killed in checkpoint shootings, according to one Marine study.

“The lack of a nonlethal laser dazzler capability increased the risk of unwarranted escalation-of-force incidents and the difficulty of safeguarding civilians,” the Inspector General’s report (.pdf) http://www.dodig.mil/Audit/reports/fy11/11-037.pdf
notes.

“The decision to delay,” the report adds, “was unnecessary.”

The Marine Corps’ failure to get lifesaving technology to its front-line troops in a timely manner speaks to the military’s ongoing struggle with a bloated, slow-moving bureaucracy that seems, at times, to forget that America is at war. But in addition to condemning the bureaucracy for its lethargy, the IG also issued a warning to combat units that might try to go behind the bureaucrats’ backs by buying new gear with their own funds.

The need for dazzlers was apparent even before the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq. Lt. Gen. Martin Berndt, commander of Marine forces in Europe, included dazzlers on a list of “urgently needed capabilities” in a February 2003 letter addressed to the commandant of the Marine Corps and copied to Marine Corps Combat Development Command in Virginia. Berndt’s letter should have served as a heads-up, but to be fair, the formal request for dazzlers didn’t come until more than two years later, from the II Marine Expeditionary Force in Iraq.

After a spate of checkpoint incidents, II MEF filed an “urgent universal need statement” in September 2005, requesting 400 dazzlers, each costing around $10,000. The urgent-need process is supposed to take just six months from request to fielding, but in this case Development Command waited six months before even beginning the process of buying lasers.

According to the IG, the first four months of delay resulted from Development Command’s dispute with the deployed troops over which laser the Corps should purchase. II MEF had specifically requested a dazzler from Connecticut’s LE Systems, but that model hadn’t been certified by the Navy’s laser-safety board — though U.S. Special Forces had endorsed it. Incredibly, the spat over the dazzler brand outlasted II MEF’s deployment.

I MEF, the command that replaced II MEF in Iraq in mid-2006, shared the preference for the LE Systems laser. Frustrated with the bureaucratic delays, I MEF bought 28 of LE Systems’ dazzlers using its own money and had them shipped directly to Iraq.

When the Marine brass found out, they ordered I MEF to lock away the LE Systems dazzlers and never use them in combat. Today, the IG is recommending the Marine Corps investigate the circumstances of I MEF’s laser purchase and “if appropriate, initiate administrative action.”

Only after the LE Systems debacle did Development Command initiate the formal process for buying approved dazzlers. “An additional two months elapsed because the administrative processing of the urgent request lagged,” the IG’s report continued. “As a result, the Marines deployed to Iraq in 2006 were unnecessarily left without a nonlethal laser dazzler capability.”

That “increased the risk of unwarranted escalation of force incidents.” The 400 Navy-certified lasers didn’t begin reaching Iraq until very late in 2006 or early in 2007.

In 2007, Marine Corps scientist Franz Gayl — a longtime critic of the Pentagon establishment — lumped the dazzler with blastproof trucks and small aerial drones as examples of urgently needed weapons that the Marine Corps bureaucracy has deliberately delayed in recent years, to the detriment of front-line troops.

“Gross mismanagement of the dazzler issue may have created a significant adverse impact on the [Ground Combat Element's] ability to accomplish its mission,” he claimed. (Gayl would later be stripped of his security clearance, allegedly in retaliation for his whistleblowing efforts.)

LE Systems founder Titus Casazza explained that, perversely, delays could translate into job security for bureaucrats. “Is it that the longer things take, the more complicated you make it and the longer the approval process takes, the longer you keep your job? Nobody wants to make a decision without CYA [cover your ass] up one side and the other.”

With America’s state and non-state rivals only becoming more sophisticated, the Pentagon knows it must do better. The Marine Corps introduced a new Web-based system in October 2008 for tracking weapons requests. “The establishment of the Virtual Urgent Universal Need Statement system should improve the efficiencies of the urgent-needs process,” the IG claimed.

That’s good news for U.S. troops, but no comfort at all for all those dead Iraqis, the Marines involved in unnecessary killings, or the Marine officers who could face disciplinary action for daring to buy badly needed gear for their troops, over the heads of heel-dragging bureaucrats.

http://www.wired.com/dangerroom/2011/02/iraq-lasers/

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« Reply #2967 on: Feb 16th, 2011, 09:15am »

Hollywood Reporter

I Am Number Four: Film Review
9:28 AM 2/16/2011
by Kirk Honeycutt





D.J. Caruso’s action thriller features a one-dimensional lead in Alex Pettyfer, but co-stars Dianna Agron and Teresa Palmer are more eye-catching in the drama department.

I Am Number Four follows the Twilight series’ playbook in casting a high school outsider as an otherworldly character. In this case, he’s an alien from outer space who changes schools the way normal kids change T-shirts because other aliens are out to destroy him. The movie is a mixed bag, with many of the elements fun and intriguing, but since this is also a Michael Bay-produced movie, CG monsters and cartoon bad guys gum up a third act that cries out for a more sophisticated climax rather than another tedious battle royal taking place mostly in the digital realm.

Young English actor Alex Pettyfer, the hunk of the moment for teen girls, stars as the misunderstood alien (chalk one up for savvy casting). Pettyfer has two more youth-targeted movies on tap this year, Beastly and Now, but in this performance he fails to justify the female shrieks he elicits. Yes, his body is well chiseled, but his acting — moodiness relieved only by flashes of anger — leaves a hole in the movie. The rest of the cast is more eye-catching in the drama department, especially Glee’s Dianna Agron as a teen absorbed in photography, Callan McAuliffe as a geeky guy into UFO lore, and fellow Australian Teresa Palmer, who adds plenty of sex appeal and athleticism to the role of another, much more self-confident alien.

A brief action sequence that opens the movie establishes the fact that a handful of good aliens from the doomed planet of Lorien are being hunted on Earth by villainous ones called Mogadorians. These baddies are eliminating nine good Loriens in numerical order; Number Three meets his fate in the opening, thus letting the target fall to Number Four (Pettyfer). The film gives no clue as to who or what established this pecking order.

Number Four and his protector (Timothy Olyphant), masquerading as his father, flee their identities in the Florida Keys for brand-new ones in the small town of Paradise, Ohio. (The movie was actually filmed in and around Pittsburgh.) As “John Smith,” Number Four enters a high school that even one character is forced to admit consists of clichés run amok: A male clique surrounding the school’s star quarterback (Jake Abel) bullies a geek who believes in UFOs; and a beautiful cheerleader only wants to escape the gravitational pull of these thick-headed jocks.

Number Four is ordered to keep a low profile by his protector, which is hard to do when your hands glow like lightbulbs and you can toss around football players and police cars like matchsticks. So Number Four has a very hard time staying off YouTube, which is why the Mogadorians, lead by a hammy Kevin Durand, are hot on his trail.

Number Four falls for Sarah (Agron), former girlfriend to the star quarterback, which creates all sorts of conflicts. He also befriends the geek (McAuliffe) with an interest in “ancient astronauts” and often comes between him and his bullies.

So the stage is well set in Alfred Gough, Miles Millar and Marti Noxon’s screenplay (based on the novel by Pittacus Lore) for a high school story with a twist. But Bay and his handpicked director, D.J. Caruso, fall back on their own geekdom by turning the movie over to CGI and VFX mavens rather than taking advantage of a considerable investment in character and story.

Shape-shifting, X-ray gun battles and telekinetic high jinks turn the school into rubble, which violates the spirit of this close encounter grounded in a kind of reality. The villains and their monster, kept in a trailer they lug around the country while feeding it frozen turkeys, are poorly designed, coming off as something out of the lame comic books the head villain has the temerity to mock.

Even the ending as it relates to the teenagers in love feels weird. Perhaps the filmmakers are setting up a sequel, but this film’s final note is most unsatisfying.

I Am Number Four is mostly a missed opportunity. The film plugs into some genuine teen angst and identity confusion that might have dovetailed nicely with its sci-fi elements. Instead these two realities, a high school with its many melodramas and aliens chasing each other around the country, operate on parallel tracks. At times it feels like the reels from two very different movies got mixed up in the projection booth. The idea here is nifty; the execution mostly pedestrian.

Opens: Friday, Feb. 18 (Walt Disney Studios)
Cast: Alex Pettyfer, Timothy Olyphant, Teresa Palmer, Dianne Agron, Callan McAuliffe, Kevin Durand, Jake Abel
Director: D.J. Caruso
Screenwriters: Alfred Gough, Miles Millar, Marti Noxon
Based on the novel by: Pittacus Lore
Producer: Michael Bay
Executive producers: David Valdez, Chris Bender, J.C. Spinks
Director of photography: Guillermo Navarro
Production designer: Tom Southwell
Music: Trevor Rabin

http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/review/i-am-number-four-film-99841

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xx Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #2968 on: Feb 16th, 2011, 09:48am »

on Feb 15th, 2011, 12:44pm, WingsofCrystal wrote:
Glad you had a laugh. You are a night owl! I fall asleep by 10:00pm. tongue
Crystal


Good morning Crystal.... I wish I could... I have always been a night owl. I often wonder if its because I am born under the sign of the "Tiger".... as you know kitty cats love to prowl the night... laugh cheesy

Have a great day hon... smiley

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xx Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #2969 on: Feb 16th, 2011, 2:44pm »

on Feb 16th, 2011, 09:48am, Luvey wrote:
Good morning Crystal.... I wish I could... I have always been a night owl. I often wonder if its because I am born under the sign of the "Tiger".... as you know kitty cats love to prowl the night... laugh cheesy

Have a great day hon... smiley

Luvey


Cats are nocturnal animals. That must be it. I think I was born under the sign of the Hobbit. grin Have a good night Luvey.
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