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 veryhotthread  Author  Topic: Stuff & Nonsense  (Read 114198 times)
Swamprat
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« Reply #2970 on: Feb 16th, 2011, 3:59pm »

Sun Erupts in Humongous Solar Flare, Most Powerful in 4 Years

By Clara Moskowitz

Published February 16, 2011

Space.com

The sun unleashed its strongest solar flare in four years on Feb. 14, hurling a massive wave of charged particles from electrified gas into space and toward Earth.

The solar storm sent a flash of radiation that hit Earth in a matter of minutes; a huge cloud of charged particles headed our way. These "coronal mass ejections," as they are called, typically take around 24 hours or more to arrive. They can spark spectacular displays of the aurora borealis, or Northern Lights, at high latitudes and sometimes even into the northern United States.

The megaflare, which registered as a Class X2.2 flare on the scale of solar flares, was the first class X flare to occur in the new solar cycle of activity, which began last year. The sun is now ramping up toward a solar maximum around 2013, NASA said.

"It has been the largest flare since Dec 6, 2006, so a long time coming," said Phil Chamberlin, deputy project scientist for NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory, which observed the flare. "There were some clues that led us to believe the likelihood of moderate to large flares (M class or above) could occur, but we were all surprised when it actually happened to be a large X-class."

Class X flares are the strongest types of solar flares that can erupt from the sun. There are also two weaker categories: Class M flares, which are medium strength but still powerful, and Class C flares, which are the weakest storms from the sun.

The X2.2 flare is the most powerful solar eruption of the sun's current weather cycle, called Solar Cycle 24. According to the website Spaceweather.com, which monitors space weather and skywatching events, the flare was the strongest of the last four years.

"It just means that Solar Cycle 24 is ramping up!" Chamberlin told SPACE.com. "This is the first of probably many more X-class flare to occur over the next 2 to 4 years as we reach the peak and then descend back down from solar cycle 24 maximum."

The Monday flare came on the heels of another, only slightly less powerful, class M6.6 flare on Sunday, Feb. 13. Both events erupted from the same area on the sun, called active region 1158.

"AR 1158 is in the southern hemisphere, which has been lagging the north in activity but now leads in big flares!" NASA scientists wrote on the Solar Dynamics Observatory website.

The Class X flare erupted at 8:50 p.m. EST on Feb.14 (0150 GMT Feb. 15).

Such a flare can bathe the Earth in high doses of ultraviolet radiation and X-rays hurl a huge burst of solar wind in our direction. When this burst arrives at Earth, the electrons and protons from the solar wind come into contact with our planet's magnetic field, and stream toward the magnetic poles.

The disturbance can create a geomagnetic storm in Earth's magnetic field.

"Geomagnetic storms are possible when the CME arrives 36 to 48 hours hence," Spaceweather.com reported.



http://www.foxnews.com/scitech/2011/02/16/sun-erupts-humongous-solar-flare-powerful-years/
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« Reply #2971 on: Feb 17th, 2011, 09:12am »

"Sun Erupts in Humongous Solar Flare, Most Powerful in 4 Years"

Good morning and thanks Swamprat.
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« Reply #2972 on: Feb 17th, 2011, 09:19am »

New York Times

February 17, 2011

By MICHAEL SLACKMAN and NADIM AUDI

MANAMA, Bahrain — The Bahrain military, backed by tanks and armored personnel carriers, took control of most of this capital on Thursday hours after hundreds of heavily armed riot police officers fired shotguns, tear gas and concussion grenades to break up a pro-democracy camp inspired by the tumult swirling across the Middle East.

Soldiers took up positions on foot, controlled traffic and told demonstrators that any further protests would be banned. The intervention came after police, without warning, rushed into Pearl Square in the early hours of the morning, in a crackdown on demonstrators who were sleeping there as part of a widening protest against the nation’s absolute monarchy.

At least five people died, some of them reportedly killed in their sleep with scores of shotgun pellets to the face and chest, according to a witness and three doctors who received the dead and at least 200 wounded at a hospital here. The witness and the physicians spoke in return for anonymity for fear of official reprisals.

A long convoy of armored military vehicles rolled into Manama and news reports quoted a military spokesman as saying the deployment was to defend people and property. In an announcement on state television, the military said it had “key parts” of Manama “under control.”

The Interior Ministry said the army would take all necessary steps to ensure security and it urged people to avoid the city center. But at a hospital where many of the casualties from the police raid were taken, thousands of relatives and protesters massed again.

In response, the Shiite-led opposition called on Thursday for the current government to resign. A spokesman for the Pentagon, which maintains a strategic naval base here, said the American military was “closely watching developments” and urged “all parties to exercise restraint and refrain from violence,” Reuters reported.

The violence came against the backdrop of turmoil swirling from the Persian Gulf to the Mediterranean coastline as young and disaffected Arabs took to the streets, inspired by uprisings that toppled the leaders of Tunisia and Egypt and redrew the region’s political map.

This week alone, renewed skirmishes and unrest were reported from Iran, Iraq, Libya and Yemen.

In some countries, protest has been aimed at governments long supported by the United States — like the monarchy in Bahrain, which hosts the United States Navy’s Fifth Fleet — valuing alliances with them in the struggle to combat terrorism and build a regional security network. But the association between their rulers and the White House has presented Washington with an acute dilemma over its response to the emerging threats to its longtime allies.

In Bahrain, the violence is more complex because the island monarchy is ruled by a Sunni minority, provoking longstanding discontent among a Shiite majority linked by its faith to Iran with its Shiite theocracy across the waters of the Gulf. Reflecting the government’s general distrust of that majority, the military and police forces are largely composed of foreigners.

The government has shifted its approach to the protests repeatedly, possibly reflecting a split on how much leeway should be allowed. After two people were killed in the first two days of marches, the king and his interior minister apologized and, under American pressure, the authorities ordered the police to withdraw from the central square. But the leadership’s newfound tolerance for dissent was a mirage.

The abrupt crackdown on what had been a carnival-like protest injected a new anger into demonstrations calling on King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa to enact reforms. “Death to Khalifa, death to Khalifa,” hundreds of protesters chanted on Thursday outside a hospital as women ran screaming through wards and corridors seeking lost children.

“They made the people feel safe,” said a nurse, Fatima Ali, referring to what had initially seemed to be official tolerance of the huge protest in Pearl Square, emulating an uprising in Cairo’s Tahrir Square that brought down President Hosni Mubarak. “Then they killed them.”

Men, women and young children ran screaming, choking and collapsing as riot police ringed the square.

The square was filled with the crack of tear gas canisters and the wail of ambulances rushing people to the hospital. Teams of plainclothes police officers carrying shotguns swarmed through the area.

In the hospital morgue, one body lay next to a tray with 200 shotgun pellets that had been dug from it. Doctors said paramedics who rushed to the square in ambulances after the convulsion of violence were beaten by police. Some of the people admitted to the hospital with injuries had been handcuffed with thick plastic restraints, made to lie down, then beaten, the doctors said. A witness, who spoke in return for anonymity, said he had seen two people shot dead as they slept.

Other injuries were caused by rubber bullets, batons and beatings.

“There was a fog of war,” said Mohammed Ibrahim as he took refuge in a nearby gas station. He was barefoot, had lost his wallet and had marks on his leg where he said he had been beaten. “There were children, forgive them.”

In Pearl Square, riot police officers backed by scores of SUVs with flashing blue lights could be seen on Thursday picking their way through the deserted remnants and debris of the protesters’ tent camp.

Some of the clashes this week erupted as protesters buried two people killed earlier in the demonstrations, and organizers said on Thursday that the funerals of the latest casualties would provide a test of whether the authorities’ actions had cowed their opponents.

Only hours before Thursday’s crackdown, the square had been transformed from a symbol of the nation — anchored by a towering monument to its pearl-diving history — into a symbol of the fight for democracy and social justice that has been rocking autocratic governments all across the Middle East. Tens of thousands of people had poured into the square during the day, setting up tents, giving rousing speeches and pressing their demands for a constitutional democracy.

By 11 p.m. Wednesday, the square had started to quiet down. Young men sat smoking water pipes, while young children slept on blankets or in tents. At 2:45 a.m. Thursday, the camp was quiet, those awake still reflecting on the remarkable events of the day. And then, police vehicles began to appear, encircling the square. At first there were four vehicles, then dozens and then hundreds.

Wearing white crash helmets, the police rushed the square.

“Everybody was sleeping, they came from upside and down,” said Zeinab Ali, 22, as she and a group of women huddled, crying and angry, in small nearby market.

The protest had begun on Monday, when young organizers called for a “Day of Rage,” modeled on the uprisings in Egypt or Tunisia. On that day, the police were unforgiving, refusing to allow demonstrators to gather, overwhelming them with tear gas and other rounds. One young man was killed, shot in the back by the police. A day later, another young man, a mourner, also was killed, shot in the back.

That galvanized the opposition and under pressure from the United States, the king withdrew his police force from the streets.

For a time, it appeared that change might be coming quickly to Bahrain, a tiny nation in the Persian Gulf ruled for more than 200 years by the Khalifa family. The royal family is Sunni while the majority of the nation’s 600,000 citizens are Shiite.

The Shiite community has long complained of being marginalized and discriminated against.

On Wednesday, as the protesters gained momentum, Shiite opposition leaders issued assurances that they were not being influenced by Iran and were not interested in transforming the monarchy into a religious theocracy. Those charges are frequently leveled against them by Sunni leaders here.

Still, the leaders of the largest Shiite political party, Al Wefaq, announced that they would not return to Parliament until King Hamad agreed to transform the nation into a constitutional democracy with an elected government.

By evening, crowds spilled out of the square, tied up roads for as far as the eye could see and united in a celebration of empowerment unparalleled for the country’s Shiites.

“They say you are few and you cannot make changes,” said Ali Ahmed, 26, drawing cheers from the crowd as he spoke from a platform. “We say, ‘We can, and we will.’ ”

“The people want the fall of the regime,” the crowds chanted on the darkened square, their words echoing off the towering buildings nearby.

Late at night, thousands of people remained, hoping to establish a symbolically important base of protest in much the same way Egyptians took over Tahrir Square to launch their successful revolution against Hosni Mubarak.

Bahrain, while a small Persian Gulf state, has considerable strategic value to the United States as the base of its Fifth Fleet, which American officials rely upon to assure the continued flow of oil to the West from the Persian Gulf and to protect the interests of the United States in a 20-nation area that includes vital waterways like the Suez Canal and the Strait of Hormuz. The base is home to 2,300 military personnel, most of them in the Navy.

United States military officials said Wednesday they were taking no extra security precautions at the American base in Manama, which is not close to the protests, and that there had been no threat to United States forces in the region.

more after the jump
http://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/18/world/middleeast/18bahrain.html?_r=1&hp

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« Reply #2973 on: Feb 17th, 2011, 09:21am »

New York Times

February 17, 2011
Iran Warships Cancel Request to Transit Suez Canal
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
Filed at 9:21 a.m. EST

CAIRO (AP) — Two Iranian naval vessels withdrew a request Thursday to transit the Suez Canal after Israel expressed concerns over the plans, a senior canal official said.

The official said no reason was given for the decision to withdraw the application. The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media, said it was not known if the vessels intended to transit the waterway at a later date.

Egyptian Foreign Ministry spokesman Hossam Zaki said, however, that no request was made to Egyptian authorities.

The Suez Canal official identified the two vessels as the Alvand, a frigate, and the Kharq, a supply ship, and said they were en route to Syria. He said they were now in an area near Saudi Arabia's Red Sea port of Jiddah.

Spokesmen for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the Foreign Ministry refused to comment.

Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said Wednesday that Iran was about to send two naval vessels through the Suez Canal for the first time in years, calling it a "provocation."

Israel considers Iran an existential threat because of its disputed nuclear program, ballistic missile development, support for militants in the region and its threats to destroy Israel. While Israel has pressed for international sanctions to stop Iran from developing nuclear weapons, it has not taken the possibility of a military strike off the table.

Egypt's official MENA news agency quoted Ahmed al-Manakhly, a senior Suez Canal official, as denying that the waterway's management had received any requests by Iranian navy ships to transit the canal.

On Wednesday, U.S. State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley confirmed the presence of the two Iranian ships in the area of the canal but would not say whether that was considered provocative.

"There are two ships in the Red Sea," he said, "What their intention is, what their destination is, I can't say."

Vessels intending to transit the canal, which links the Red Sea and the Mediterranean, must give the waterway's authority at least 24-hour notice before entering the canal.

Only ships that don't meet safety requirements are banned from using the canal.

In the case of naval vessels, clearance from the Egyptian defense and foreign ministries is required in advance, but is rarely withheld.


http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/2011/02/17/world/middleeast/AP-ML-Egypt-Iranian-Warships.html?ref=world

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« Reply #2974 on: Feb 17th, 2011, 09:26am »

Wired

Giant Solar Blast Headed for Earth
By Lisa Grossman
February 16, 2011 | 5:13 pm
Categories: Space


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Images: NASA/STEREO


The biggest solar blast in four years erupted late Monday, and it’s sending jets of charged particles right at Earth. The spray will spark bright auroras when it hits the magnetosphere in the next 24 to 48 hours.

A cluster of sunspots called Active Region 1158 unleashed the flare at 8:50 p.m. EST, Feb. 14 [1:50 a.m. UT, Feb. 15]. It was categorized as class X2.2, meaning it’s the most powerful flare since December 2006. The sunspots have continued to let loose smaller flares and may still be active now.

As Spaceweather.com notes, the sunspots didn’t even exist one week ago, and now cover a swatch of sun wider than Jupiter.

NOAA forecasters estimate a 45 percent chance of geomagnetic activity on Thursday, Feb. 17, when the bulk of the radiation hits Earth’s magnetic field. The December 2006 storm was powerful enough to disrupt GPS systems.

Should the new storm prove as powerful, it could be a preview of what’s expected this year and in 2012, as the sun reaches an expected maximum in its natural cycle of activity.

There is, however, a silver — and green, and yellow, and glowing — lining to the flares. In higher latitudes, where the sun’s ion spray is pulled by Earth’s magnetic poles, collisions between solar particles and atoms suspended in our magnetosphere produce photon sparks. Together these form the aurora borealis, or northern lights, and it looks like Earth is in for quite a show.

What’s more, though a full moon often outshines the auroras, this storm may be so powerful as to mix moonlight and northern lights in one spectacular swirl. So look up! And if you take pictures, send us your best shots. If we get enough, we’ll create a reader gallery.


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http://www.wired.com/wiredscience/2011/02/big-solar-flare/

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« Reply #2975 on: Feb 17th, 2011, 09:30am »

Wired

Feb. 17, 1818: Proto-Bicycle Gets Things Rolling
By Randy Alfred
February 17, 2011 | 7:00 am
Categories: 19th century, Inventions, Transportation


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Photo: The “running machine” was well-named. You had to put foot to the ground to make it move.
(Corbis)



1818: A minor German nobleman patents a two-wheeled, foot-powered vehicle. It looks almost like a modern bicycle, but it’s missing some key components.

Baron Karl Christian Ludwig von Drais de Sauerbrun (or Drais von Sauerbrohn, or Sauerbron) was born in Karlsruhe in 1785. He studied at Heidelberg and broke with his guardian’s preselected career choice of forestry to take up inventing.

Bad weather in 1812 caused oat crops to fail, and horses starved as a result. That got von Drais thinking about how you could get around quickly without a horse. His first attempt was a four-wheeled vehicle with a treadmill crankshaft between the rear wheels. He demonstrated it to the Congress of Vienna (the peace confab that ended the Napoleonic wars).

That invention went nowhere, but the eruption of Indonesia’s Tambora volcano in 1815 gave Europe a snowy summer in 1816. Oats were scarce and expensive again, horses died, and von Drais got back to work.

This time, he invented a two-wheeler on a frame that looks much like a modern bicycle frame with a seat and front-wheel steering. It didn’t have a chain drive, and it didn’t even have pedals. You drove the thing with your feet, much like a scooter. You stopped it with your feet, too: no brakes.

Von Drais’ Laufmaschine, or running machine, bested 9 mph on its first trip, June 12, 1817, near Mannheim. He patented the invention the next year, but better weather and falling oat prices dimmed its future as a practical replacement for the horse. (Sounds sort of like gasoline prices and public attention to electric vehicles and alt-fuels, doesn’t it?) In some localities, riders faced fines for riding on public roadways.

The two-wheelers really needed paved or at least smooth surfaces, of which there weren’t many. It was also way too easy to fall off the contraption, and people’s leather shoes were nowhere near as durable as a horse’s iron shoes. What’s more, the Laufmaschine also faced competition from another new invention: the railroads.

So, the utilitarian-inspired mechanical horse instead became a fancy toy for aristocrats and the rising bourgeoisie. The French called it a draisine, the English a hobby horse. The devices were often graced with equine figureheads, or even carved dragons and elephants.

In the first-known draisine race in 1819, a German cyclist named Semmler covered the 10-kilometer (6.2 mile) course in 31½ minutes — an average speed under 12 mph. (The word draisine is still used to describe a variety of hand- or foot-propelled rail cars, used for track inspection and repair.)

When revolution broke out in Germany in 1848, Baron von Drais renounced his title, proclaimed himself a democrat and styled himself simply as citizen Karl Drais. When the revolution failed, the triumphant aristocrats ridiculed Drais, and banned him from the fashionable spas. The government also revoked his inventor’s pension.

Drais died in 1851, but his concept of the rider straddling a two-wheeled vehicle with the rear wheel following a steerable front wheel lives on in both the bicycle and motorcycle. In the decades after his death, many hands improved the two-wheeler:

• French draisine maker Ernest Michaux put pedals on the front wheel in 1861, then added brakes a few years later.

• In 1869, Englishmen James Starley and William Hillman started making penny-farthing bicycles with a small back wheel and huge front wheel. The design maximized pedal power, but keeping balance was pretty tricky.

• Harry John Lawson, another Englishman, returned to smaller wheels and notably added the chain transmission in 1879.

• Gottlieb Daimler added an engine to the design to create the first internal-combustion motorcycle in 1885.

• Starting in the late 1880s, John Dunlop, Édouard Michelin and Giovanni Battista Pirelli made successive improvements on Robert W. Thompson’s pneumatic tire, which rolled out a little ahead of its time in 1845.

But the baron who didn’t want to be a forester — or even a baron — was the father of it all.

http://www.wired.com/thisdayintech/2011/02/0217draisine-sauerbrun-bicycle-forerunner/

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« Reply #2976 on: Feb 17th, 2011, 09:33am »

Hollywood Reporter

Lara Logan Wants to Return to Work
8:32 AM 2/17/2011
by Lindsay Powers

But "she has no idea" how long her recovery will take, a friend says.

Despite being brutally attacked and sexually assaulted in Egypt, Lara Logan intends to return to work as chief foreign correspondent for CBS News and 60 Minutes, according to friends.

Logan won't be coming back anytime soon as she recovers from serious internal injuries sustained during the Feb. 11 attack. She was released from the hospital on Tuesday.

"She has no idea how long this is going to take," a source told the New York Post.

The Post reported that Logan and Kelli Halyard, head of CBS communications, had been meeting privately in her Washington, D.C.-area home.

Halyard told the Post that Logan and her husband, Joseph Burkett, were not ready to speak publicly yet.

http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/lara-logan-wants-return-work-101040

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« Reply #2977 on: Feb 17th, 2011, 09:37am »

Science Daily

Why Are Vines Overtaking the American Tropics?

Sleeping Beauty's kingdom was overgrown by vines when she fell into a deep sleep. Researchers at the Smithsonian in Panama and the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee received more than a million dollars from the U.S. National Science Foundation to discover why real vines are overtaking the American tropics. Data from eight sites show that vines are overgrowing trees in all cases.


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"We are witnessing a fundamental structural change in the physical make-up of forests that will have a profound impact on the animals, human communities and businesses that depend on them for their livelihoods," said Stefan Schnitzer, research associate at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama and associate professor at the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee.

Tropical forests hold more than half of Earth's terrestrial species and much of the planet's carbon. If vines take over tropical forests the rules used to model ecosystem services, such as regulation of the water cycle and carbon storage may no longer apply.

"In 2002, Oliver Phillips, a professor at the University of Leeds in the U.K., published a controversial study claiming that vines were becoming more common in the Amazon," said Schnitzer. "By pulling together data from eight different studies, we now have irrefutable evidence that vines are on the rise not only in the Amazon, but throughout the American tropics."

On Barro Colorado Island in Panama, the proportion of vines in tree crowns has more than doubled over the past 40 years. In French Guiana, liana vines increased 60 percent faster than trees from 1992 to 2002. Similar reports from Brazil, the Bolivian Amazon and subtropical forests in South Carolina in the United States confirm that vines are becoming more common and represent more of the total forest biomass.

Trees have huge woody trunks that take a lot of time and energy to produce. Vines take advantage of trees, growing quickly on slender stems up into the forest canopy, where their leaves may compete for light with the leaves of the trees that support them.

There is still no consensus as to why lianas are gaining the upper hand. They may survive seasonal droughts that are becoming more common as climate becomes more variable. They may recover more quickly from natural disturbances such as hurricanes and El Niño events and from human disturbances like logging, clearing land for agriculture and road building. Lianas respond quickly to an increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide -- growing faster than associated tree species in several experiments.

In North American forests, invasive vines such as kudzu, oriental bittersweet, English ivy and Japanese honeysuckle often reduce native tree regeneration and survival, although there is no obvious trend as there is in the American tropics. In contrast, two studies of forests in tropical Africa did not detect vine overgrowth.

To understand the nature of this contemporary spell that has been cast on the tropical forests of the Americas, the authors propose to take advantage of the widespread network of large-scale, long-term monitoring plots -- the Smithsonian Institution Global Earth Observatory network coordinated by the Center for Tropical Forest Science -- combined with experiments to reveal what gives vines a competitive edge over trees.

Business models for investment in climate-mitigation schemes through carbon storage, climate models and water availability all rely upon accurate information about tree growth and cover in tropical forests. The major physical transformations indicated by this research call the reliability of such models into question.

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/02/110214083002.htm

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« Reply #2978 on: Feb 17th, 2011, 12:07pm »

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By Marc Bernardin
9:01PM on Feb 16, 2011
Adrienne Palicki will play Wonder Woman in NBC's reboot series

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After an exhaustive search that nobody heard much about, other than the casting sheet that circulated yesterday, David E. Kelley's Wonder Woman TV series has landed its leading lady. And if you were a fan of the stellar Friday Night Lights, you'll be rather pleased with the choice.

Adrienne Palicki, who stole hearts as Dillon High's social magnet in Friday Night Lights—and who probably hopes you've forgotten her role as the pregnant mother who survives an angel fight in the eminently forgettable Legion—has landed the multifaceted role of Diana Prince/Diana Themyscira/Wonder Woman in NBC's pilot.

We wish her nothing but luck. After all, recalling some of the things we learned are in store for the Amazon based on the casting sheet, she might need it.

http://blastr.com/2011/02/david-e-kelley-has-found-his-wonder-woman-and-her-name-is.php

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« Reply #2979 on: Feb 17th, 2011, 1:18pm »




Please be an angel


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www.soldiersangels.org


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« Reply #2980 on: Feb 17th, 2011, 6:23pm »

Wired Danger Room

Darpa’s New Recruits: You, Your Grandpa and Your Dog
By Noah Shachtman
February 17, 2011 | 2:19 pm
Categories: DarpaWatch


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Perhaps you think you’re too fat, too old or too busy to help fight America’s wars. Perhaps you’re not even a human being. The Pentagon’s way-out research arm begs to differ. The military can use your talents — whether you stand or four legs or on two.

Right now, only a percent or so of America’s population contributes to the country’s defense (and offense). In its new budget, Darpa announces a $25 million effort to build tools that’ll rope in the other 99 percent. (Doesn’t exactly explain how. But think crowd-sourcing, plus a touch of machine learning to pair peeps up.) The program is called “Unconventional Warfighters,” and the idea is to tap three pools of potential contributors.

First, Darpa is looking to plug in “futurists, inventors, hobbyists, and tinkerers who approach military problems from an unconventional perspective.” Then, the agency would like to call upon “military Veterans, including disabled Veterans, who have deep knowledge of the missions and the operational environment.” Lastly, Darpa wants those veterans’ pets.

“Animals are another class of potential contributors,” the agency explains in its budget. “This is not a new idea, as animals possessing special abilities such as dogs and dolphins have been used before to perform military tasks such as mine detection. The new aspect to be examined under Unconventional Warfighters is the potential for creating new sensor, processing, communication and actuator systems specially adapted to enable animals to execute tasks beyond their natural capabilities.”

No, I’m not sure what that means, either.

But get past the giggle factor, and there’s a strong core to Darpa’s program. There are hundreds of thousands, maybe millions, of people in this country who are willing to offers their skills and their time to help respond to a disaster or a political crisis — think the Haiti earthquake, or the Middle Eastern revolt. It stands to reason there are a good number of folks who are willing to contribute to national security, too. But the American system doesn’t have a good way of allowing those people to plug in, unless they’re able to join the ranks of the uniformed military or the contractor corps. “Unconventional Warfighters” is a possible way around that.

It’s one of a number of Darpa programs looking to tap the power of the masses, despite the departure of their crowdsourcer-in-chief. Earlier this month, the agency announced a $10,000 challenge to design the next generation of military vehicles.

China and Russia allegedly use citizen militias to help them hack and harass enemies online. Maybe this is the first step towards an American cyber militia. (I’m still a little unclear on the canine component, though.)

http://www.wired.com/dangerroom/2011/02/darpas-new-recruits-you-your-grandpa-and-your-dog/

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« Reply #2981 on: Feb 18th, 2011, 09:03am »

New York Times

February 17, 2011
Egyptians Say Military Discourages an Open Economy
By DAVID D. KIRKPATRICK

CAIRO — The Egyptian military defends the country, but it also runs day care centers and beach resorts. Its divisions make television sets, jeeps, washing machines, wooden furniture and olive oil, as well as bottled water under a brand reportedly named after a general’s daughter, Safi.

From this vast web of businesses, the military pays no taxes, employs conscripted labor, buys public land on favorable terms and discloses nothing to Parliament or the public.

Since the ouster last week of President Hosni Mubarak, of course, the military also runs the government. And some scholars, economists and business groups say it has already begun taking steps to protect the privileges of its gated economy, discouraging changes that some argue are crucial if Egypt is to emerge as a more stable, prosperous country.

“Protecting its businesses from scrutiny and accountability is a red line the military will draw,” said Robert Springborg, an expert on Egypt’s military at the Naval Postgraduate School. “And that means there can be no meaningful civilian oversight.”

Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, the minister of defense and military production who now leads the council of officers ruling Egypt, has been a strong advocate of government control of prices and production. He has consistently opposed steps to open up the economy, according to diplomatic cables made public by WikiLeaks.

And already there are signs that the military is purging from the cabinet and ruling party advocates of market-oriented economic changes, like selling off state-owned companies and reducing barriers to trade.

As the military began to take over, the government pushed out figures reviled for reaping excessive personal profits from the sell-off of public properties, most notably Mr. Mubarak’s younger son, Gamal, and his friend the steel magnate Ahmed Ezz. On Thursday, an Egyptian prosecutor ordered that Mr. Ezz be detained pending trial for corruption, along with two businessmen in the old cabinet — former Tourism Minister Zuhair Garana and former Housing Minister Ahmed el-Maghrabi — as well as former Interior Minister Habib el-Adli.

But the military-led government also struck at advocates of economic openness, including the former finance minister Youssef Boutros-Ghali, who was forced from his job, and the former trade minister Rachid Mohamed Rachid, whose assets were frozen under allegations of corruption. Both are highly regarded internationally and had not been previously accused of corruption.

“That mystified everybody,” said Hisham A. Fahmy, chief executive of the American Chamber of Commerce in Egypt.

In an interview, Mr. Rachid said he felt like a scapegoat. “People who have been supporting liberal reforms or an open economy are being caught up in the anticorruption campaign,” he said. “My case is one of them.”

“Now there are a lot of voices from the past talking about nationalization — ‘Why do we need a private sector?’ ” he added. He declined to talk specifically about the military but said that in general within the government, “some people have tried to say that the cause of the revolution was simply economic reform.”

Though some Western analysts have guessed that the military’s empire makes up as much as a third of Egypt’s economy, Mr. Rachid said it was in fact less than 10 percent. But economists say that because of its vested interests they still worry that the military will impede the continuation of the transition from the state-dominated economy established under President Gamal Abdel Nasser to a more open and efficient free market that advanced under Mr. Mubarak.

Moreover, the military’s power to guide policy is, at the moment, unchecked. The military has invited no civilian input into the transitional government, and it has enjoyed such a surge in prestige since it helped usher out Mr. Mubarak that almost no one in the opposition is criticizing it.

“We trust them,” said Walid Rachid, a member of the April 6 Youth Movement that helped set off the revolt. “Because of the army our revolution has become safe.”

Some of the young revolutionaries at the vanguard of the revolt identify themselves as leftists or socialists. And the idea of liberalizing the economy was thrown into disrepute because of the corrupt way that the Mubarak government carried out privatization, bestowing fortunes on a small circle around the ruling party while leaving most Egyptians struggling against grinding poverty and rampant inflation.

“People think that liberalization creates corruption,” said Abdel Fattah el-Gibaly, director of economic research at Al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies. “I think we will go back, not exactly to socialism, but maybe halfway.”

And the Egyptian military, said Mr. Springborg of the Naval Postgraduate School, is happy to go along. “The military is like the matador with the red cape attracting the bull of resentment against the corruption of the old regime,” he said, “and they are playing it very successfully.”

Gen. Fathy el-Sady, a spokesman for the Ministry of Defense Production, declined to comment, saying the minister in charge was tied up dealing with strikes at military-run companies.

The military has used its leverage in times of crises to thwart free market reforms before, most notably during the 1977 bread riots set off after President Anwar el-Sadat cut subsidies for food prices to move toward a free market. The military agreed to quell the unrest only after extracting a promise from Mr. Sadat that he would reinstate the subsidies, said Michael Wahid Hanna, who studies Egypt’s military at the Century Foundation in Washington.

Field Marshal Tantawi, the defense minister, and other senior officers were all commissioned before Mr. Sadat switched Egypt’s allegiance to the West in 1979. They trained in the former Soviet Union, where sprawling business empires under military control were not uncommon.

“In the cabinet, where he still wields significant influence, Tantawi has opposed both economic and political reforms that he perceives as eroding central government power,” the American ambassador at the time, Francis J. Ricciardone Jr., wrote in one 2008 cable released by WikiLeaks.

“On economic reform, Tantawi believes that Egypt’s economic reform plan fosters social instability by lessening G.O.E. controls over prices and production,” the ambassador added, referring to the government of Egypt and calling Field Marshal Tantawi “aging and change-resistant.”

In a cable later that year describing the tensions pitting the military against the businessmen around Gamal Mubarak, the new ambassador, Margaret Scobey, wrote: “The military views the G.O.E.’s privatization efforts as a threat to its economic position, and therefore generally opposes economic reforms. We see the military’s role in the economy as a force that generally stifles free market reform by increasing direct government involvement in the markets.”

Mr. Mubarak, scholars and Western diplomats say, allowed the military to expand its empire, ensuring the allegiance of its officers and quieting discontent by dismantling other state-owned businesses. And with so many businesses under their control, the military’s top officials have doled out chief executive jobs and weekends at military-owned resorts to cultivate loyalty. Though deprivation and inequality were major complaints leading to the uprising, economists credit the Mubarak government with expanding the economy and increasing its growth rate by loosening state controls and attracting foreign investment.

But the Mubarak government carried out reforms from the top, without changing burdensome regulations that made it hard for small businesses to compete, and the benefits flowed mainly to a few. Most Egyptians felt, if anything, more impoverished, watching new Mercedeses and BMWs zip by donkey carts hauling garbage through the streets.

“The Mubarak government privatized basically by offering state properties to their cronies,” said Ragui Assaad, an economist who studies Egypt at the University of Minnesota.

Paul Sullivan, an expert on Egypt and its military at Georgetown University, said the military leaders were farsighted enough to see that stability would now require continued economic as well as political liberalization. But he also acknowledged the possibility of a return to the past. “There is a witch hunt for corruption, and there is a risk that the economy might go back to the days of Nasser,” the apex of centralized state control, he said.


http://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/18/world/middleeast/18military.html?_r=1&hp

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« Reply #2982 on: Feb 18th, 2011, 09:05am »

New York Times

February 18, 2011
Mystery Surrounds Elevated Borrowing From European Central Bank
By REUTERS

FRANKFURT — Emergency borrowing from the European Central Bank remained exceptionally elevated for a second straight day on Friday, intensifying speculation that one or more euro zone bank might be facing new funding problems — or had simply made a mistake.

E.C.B. figures showed banks borrowed more than €16 billion, or $22 billion, in high-cost emergency overnight funding, the highest amount since June 2009 and well above the €1.2 billion which banks were taking before the figure first jumped on Thursday.

The ECB gives no breakdown of the borrowing figures and declined to comment on Friday when asked for an explanation for the jump.

Traders remained unsure whether the spike was due to a serious funding issue or whether a bank had simply made an error earlier in the week by not borrowing enough at the E.C.B.’s regular weekly funding handout.

If a bank, or number of banks, did not get enough funding, and were unable to make up the difference in open markets, they would be forced to use the E.C.B.’s emergency facility until the next E.C.B. tender came around.

The theory that the spike was due to human error appeared to be supported by data from the E.C.B.’s latest weekly funding operation.

Banks borrowed the lowest amount since June at the tender, €19 billion less than the previous week and well below expected demand of around €160 billion.

European bank shares were down 1 percent by midday, underperforming the wider market as the euro extended falls against the dollar and other key currencies.

The borrowing jump added extra complexity to the question of whether the E.C.B. will scale back, or extend, its money market support measures at its next meeting on Mar. 3.

The E.C.B. president Jean-Claude Trichet said in a recent interview that the health of money markets had improved, although Guy Quaden, head of the Belgian central bank, said this week that liquidity support remained necessary.

“If the increased use of the marginal borrowing facility is due to new problems in the banking system this would call for an extension of the ECB’s liquidity support,” said UniCredit analyst Luca Cazzulani. “The ECB knows exactly who is borrowing the money and why they are doing it. If it is due to a mistake then it should not influence their thinking at all.”


http://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/19/business/global/19ecb.html?ref=business

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« Reply #2983 on: Feb 18th, 2011, 09:11am »

Telegraph

New photo of 'English Nessie' hailed as best yet

Pictures of a mysterious creature surfacing from Lake Windermere have been hailed as the best ever sighting of the English Loch Ness Monster, or "Bownessie".


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This is believed to be the eighth sighting of a long humpbacked creature, known by local residents as 'Bownessie', in the past last five years
Photo: TOM PICKLES



By Nick Collins
8:25AM GMT 18 Feb 2011

The photograph, which shows an object with three humps breaching the surface of the lake, is said to be the best evidence yet of what some claim is a monster lurking beneath the depths.

It was taken on a camera phone by Tom Pickles, 24, while kayaking on the lake as part of a team building exercise with his IT company, CapGemini, last Friday.

Mr Pickles said he saw an animal the size of three cars speed past him on the lake and watched it for about 20 seconds.

He said: “It was petrifying and we paddled back to the shore straight away. At first I thought it was a dog and then saw it was much bigger and moving really quickly at about 10mph.

“Each hump was moving in a rippling motion and it was swimming fast.

“Its skin was like a seal’s but it’s shape was completely abnormal – it’s not like any animal I’ve ever seen before."

This is believed to be the eighth sighting of a long humpbacked creature – known by local residents as "Bownessie" – in the past last five years.

Mr Pickles’ companion Sarah Harrington, 23, said: “It was like an enormous snake.

“I only saw it for a few seconds but all I could think about was that I had to get off the lake.”

The pair were on the last day of a team building residential training course at Fallbarrow Hall, Bowness, Cumbria.

They said they had kayaked 300m out into the lake near Belle Isle when they spotted the beast to the south.

Mr Pickles's picture perfectly matches the description of an earlier sighting from the shores of Wray Castle in 2006 by journalism lecturer Steve Burnip.

He said: “I’m really pleased that someone has finally got a really good picture of it.

“I know what I saw and it shocked me, it had three humps and it’s uncanny the likeness between this and what I saw five years ago.”

Photo expert David Farnell of Farnell’s photographic laboratory in Lancaster said: “It does look like a real photo but because it’s been taken on a phone the file size is too small to really tell whether it has been altered on Photoshop or not.”

Sceptics remain unconvinced that something so large could exist in the 11 mile long lake.

Dr Ian Winfield, a lake ecologist at the University of Lancaster, said: “It’s possible that it’s a catfish from Eastern Europe and people are misjudging the size but there is no known fish as large as the descriptions we’re hearing that could be living in Windermere.

“We run echo sounding surveys every month and have never found anything.”


http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/howaboutthat/8332535/New-photo-of-English-Nessie-hailed-as-best-yet.html

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« Reply #2984 on: Feb 18th, 2011, 09:20am »

Wired

Latest Pentagon Brainstorm: Nuke-Powered War Bases
By Spencer Ackerman
February 18, 2011 | 7:00 am
Categories: DarpaWatch


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Photo: Nuclear Regulatory Commission


Imagine the snow-capped peaks of mountainous eastern Afghanistan. Wouldn’t it be better topped off with a cooling tower for a nuclear reactor? The Pentagon’s way-out research arm thinks so. It’s all part of a big push to make the military more eco-friendly.

Buried within Darpa’s 2012 budget request under the innocuous name of “Small Rugged Reactor Technologies” is a $10 million proposal to fuel wartime Forward Operating Bases with nuclear power. It springs from an admirable impulse: to reduce the need for troops or contractors to truck down roads littered with bombs to get power onto the base. It’s time, Darpa figures, for a “self-sufficient” FOB.

Only one problem. “The only known technology that has potential to address the power needs of the envisioned self-sufficient FOB,” the pitch reads, “is a nuclear-fuel reactor.” Now, bases could mitigate their energy consumption, like the solar-powered Marine company in Helmand Province, but that’s not enough of a game-changer for Darpa. Being self-sufficient is the goal; and that requires going nuclear; and that requires … other things.

To fit on a FOB, which can be anywhere from Bagram Air Field’s eight square miles to dusty collections of wooden shacks and concertina wire, the reactor would have to be “well below the scale of the smallest reactors that are being developed for domestic energy production,” Darpa acknowledges.

That’s not impossible, says Christine Parthemore, an energy expert at the Center for a New American Security. The Japanese and the South Africans have been working on miniature nuclear power plants for the better part of a decade; Bill Gates has partnered with Toshiba to build mini-nuke sites. (Although it’s not the most auspicious sign that one prominent startup for modular reactors suspended its operations after growing cash-light last month.) Those small sites typically use uranium enriched to about 2 percent. “It would be really, really difficult to divert the fuel” for a bomb “unless you really knew what you were doing,” Parthemore says.

But Darpa doesn’t want to take that chance. Only “non-proliferable fuels (i.e., fuels other than enriched uranium or plutonium) and reactor designs that are fundamentally safe will be required of reactors that may be deployed to regions where hostile acts may compromise operations.”

Sensible, sure. But it limits your options: outside of uranium or plutonium, thorium is the only remaining source for generating nuclear fuel. The Indians and now the Chinese have experimented with thorium for their nuclear programs, but, alas, “no one has ever successfully found a way” to build a functioning thorium reactor, Parthemore says, “in a safe and economical manner.”

For now, Darpa proposes to spend $10 million of your money studying the feasibility of the project. But it’s just one part of the researchers’ new push to green the military. Another $10 million goes to a project called Energy Distribution, which explores bringing down energy consumption on the FOBs. An additional $5 million will look at ways to keep fuel storage from degrading in extreme temperatures. For $50 million, Darpa proposes to build a turbine engine that uses 20 percent less energy.

But all of that is mere isotopes compared to the Nuclear FOB. Darpa appears to have thought about it a lot. It says it plans to work with the Department of Energy “to ensure that existing advanced reactor development activities are being exploited and/or accelerated as appropriate, based on the military’s needs.”

Still, if it can’t find the right non-proliferable fuel, it suggests that it might look to the “development of novel fuels.” Says a stunned Parthemore, “I have no idea why you’d want to bring that upon the world.”

http://www.wired.com/dangerroom/2011/02/nuke-bases/

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