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 veryhotthread  Author  Topic: Stuff & Nonsense  (Read 114222 times)
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« Reply #345 on: Jul 30th, 2010, 08:02am »

Science Daily

Cell-of-Origin for Human Prostate Cancer Identified for First Time
ScienceDaily (July 29, 2010) —

UCLA scientists have identified for the first time a cell-of-origin for human prostate cancer, a discovery that could result in better predictive and diagnostics tools and the development of new and more effective targeted treatments for the disease.

The researchers, from UCLA's Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center, proved that basal cells found in benign prostate tissue could become human prostate cancer in mice with suppressed immune systems, a finding that bucks conventional wisdom. It had been widely believed that luminal cells found in the prostate were the culprits behind prostate cancer because the resulting malignancies closely resembled luminal cells, said Dr. Owen Witte, a Jonsson Cancer Center member and director of the UCLA Broad Stem Cell Research Center.

"Certainly the dominant thought is that human prostate cancer arose from the luminal cells because the cancers had more features resembling luminal cells," said Witte, senior author of the study and a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator. "But we were able to start with a basal cell and induce human prostate cancer and now, as we go forward, this gives us a place to look in understanding the sequence of genetic events that initiates prostate cancer and defining the cell signaling pathways that may be at work fueling the malignancy, helping us to potentially uncover new targets for therapy."

The study appears July 30, 2010 in the peer-reviewed journal Science.

The researchers took healthy tissue from prostate biopsies and separated the cells based on their surface marker expression into groups of luminal cells and groups of basal cells. Using viral vectors as vehicles, they then expressed altered genes known to cause cancer into both cell populations and placed the cells in mice to see which developed cancer, said Andrew Goldstein, a UCLA graduate student and first author of the study.

"Because of the widespread belief that luminal cells were the root of human prostate cancer, it would have been those cells examined and targeted to treat the disease," said Goldstein. "This study tells us that basal cells play an important role in the prostate cancer development process and should be an additional focus of targeted therapies."

In normal prostate tissue, basal cells have a more stem cell-like function, Goldstein said, meaning they proliferate more to re-grow human prostate tissue. Luminal cells don't proliferate as much, but rather produce major proteins that are important for reproduction. Something is going awry in the basal cells that results in cancer and Witte and Goldstein plan to study those cells to uncover the mechanisms that result in malignancy.

Currently, there is a dearth of knowledge about how prostate cancer develops to treat it effectively in a targeted way, as Herceptin targets an out-of-control production of growth factor receptors in breast cancer cells. The major targeted therapy used for prostate cancer is directed at the androgen receptor and it is not always effective, Witte said.

The new human-in-mouse model system developed in the study -- created by taking healthy human prostate tissue that will induce cancer once it is placed in mice instead of taking malignant tissue that is already cancerous and implanting it -- can now be used to evaluate the effectiveness of new types of therapeutics. By using defined genetic events to activate specific signaling pathways, researchers can more easily compare therapeutic efficacy. The new model, by deconstructing tissue and then reconstructing it, also will aid in analyzing how the cells change during cancer progression.

"There are very few examples of taking benign cells and turning them into cancer experimentally," Goldstein said. "We usually study cancer cell lines created from malignant tumors. This study resulted in the creation of a novel model system that is highly adaptable, such that we can test any cellular pathway and its interactions with other genes known to induce cancer, and we can start with any type of cell as long as it can be reproducibly purified."

In this system, Witte and Goldstein know the "history" of the cells that became cancer, unlike the cancer cells lines used in other work.

"We know those cells are malignant, but we don't know how they got there," Goldstein said. "By starting with healthy cells and turning them into cancer, we can study the cancer development process. If we understand where the cancer comes from, we may be able to develop better predictive and diagnostic tools. If we had better predictive tools, we could look earlier in the process of cancer development and find markers that are better than the current PSA test at catching disease early, when it is more treatable."

Rising PSA levels can indicate the presence of cancer that is already developing in the prostate. However, now that it is known that basal cells are one root of human prostate cancers, scientists can study pre-malignant basal cells and uncover what they express that the healthy ones don't, perhaps revealing a new marker for early detection, Goldstein said. Also, a therapy directed at the pre-malignant basal cells about to become malignant could provide a way to prevent the cancer before it becomes dangerous.

This year alone, more than 217,000 men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer. Of those, more than 32,000 will die from their disease.

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/07/100729141136.htm

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« Reply #346 on: Jul 30th, 2010, 08:06am »

Telegraph

World's strongest pint: Dutch brewer creates 80 proof beer
A Dutch brewer has created a 120 proof beer - or 60 per cent alcohol by volume - beating a Scottish company's bid to create the world's strongest brew.

Published: 3:27PM BST 29 Jul 2010

Nijboer's Almere-based brewery, 't Koelschip (The Refrigerated Ship), sells the new beer, which is dubbed "Start the Future", in a one-third litre bottle for €35 (£29) each.

"You don't drink it like beer, but like a cocktail - in a nice whisky or cognac glass," Jan Nijboer, the brewer, told Dutch news agency ANP.

Mr Nijboer said he developed the new brew to keep up with Scottish outfits that were also pushing the boundaries of beer's alcohol content.

His previous record-holder, a beer called Oblix that was 90 proof (45 per cent alcohol by volume), was eclipsed by a Scottish beer that reached 55 per cent.

That beer, dubbed "The End of History," was announced last week by a small brewery called BrewDog. Only 12 bottles were made, each housed inside a stuffed dead animal and sold starting at £500 pounds each.

"It has become a little competition," Mr Nijboer said. "You should see it as a joke."

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/foodanddrink/foodanddrinknews/7916704/Worlds-strongest-pint-Dutch-brewer-creates-80-proof-beer.html

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« Reply #347 on: Jul 30th, 2010, 09:48am »

on Jul 29th, 2010, 5:12pm, WingsofCrystal wrote:
Now I know I like Seeker! Beautiful Phil! Thank you!
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« Reply #348 on: Jul 30th, 2010, 10:17am »

on Jul 29th, 2010, 3:45pm, philliman wrote:
Looks like we've got someone else here who appreciates the beauty of flowers. smiley

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« Reply #349 on: Jul 30th, 2010, 8:06pm »



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« Reply #350 on: Jul 30th, 2010, 8:35pm »

Oh! Crystal, the bridge picture is just so beautiful.... it exudes warmth.... thank you so much for sharing.

Here is a picture I took while in South Carolina recently. Of course its not as beautiful as your bridge picture.... but beautiful nevertheless. grin

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I am a flower lover too, so please keep the pictures coming. grin

Here is a picture I took in the gardens at the Royal Observatory in England recently.

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This one was taken in South Carolina.

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I was out of the car taking pictures of the mountains from the Blueridge Parkway in Virginia, and just getting back into the car when this beautiful butterfly flew past my nose and landed on the flower and posed for me. smiley

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Soon, hopefully if the orchids are in bloom, I shall have some lovely shots of orchids in Thailand to share. grin

« Last Edit: Jul 30th, 2010, 8:58pm by Luvey » User IP Logged

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« Reply #351 on: Jul 31st, 2010, 07:40am »

Luvey's quote begins -
Oh! Crystal, the bridge picture is just so beautiful.... it exudes warmth.... thank you so much for sharing.

Here is a picture I took while in South Carolina recently. Of course its not as beautiful as your bridge picture.... but beautiful nevertheless.
- end quote

Luvey you are a great photographer! I can't claim the bridge photo. Here's where it was taken:

Japanese Garden, Royal Roads University, British Columbia

Here's the link. They have wallpaper you can download:
http://thundafunda.com/33/World-tour/Japanese%20Garden,%20Royal%20Roads%20University,%20British%20Columbia%20pictures.html

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« Reply #352 on: Jul 31st, 2010, 07:42am »

on Jul 30th, 2010, 09:48am, Seeker wrote:
The feeling is mutual grin


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« Reply #353 on: Jul 31st, 2010, 07:46am »

NASA news

Spirit May Never Phone Home Again
July 30, 2010:

NASA mission controllers have not heard from Mars rover Spirit since March 22 as the rover faces its toughest challenge yet - trying to survive the harsh Martian winter.

Last year, Spirit became stuck in loose sand. This prevented the rover from driving to a sun-facing slope for the winter. On July 26, mission managers began using a paging technique called "sweep and beep" in an effort to communicate with Spirit.

"Instead of just listening, we send commands to the rover to respond back to us with a communications beep," said John Callas, project manager for Spirit and its twin, Opportunity, at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. "If the rover is awake and hears us, she will send us that beep."

Spirit is probably in a low-power "hibernation" mode. The rover was not able to get to a favorable [sun-facing] slope for its fourth Martian winter, which runs from May through November. The low angle of sunlight during these months limits the power generated from the rover's solar panels. During hibernation, the rover suspends communications and other activities so available energy can be used to recharge and heat batteries, and to keep the mission clock running.

Based on models of Mars' weather and its effect on available power, mission managers believe that if Spirit responds, it most likely will be in the next few months. However, there is a very distinct possibility Spirit may never respond.

"It will be the miracle from Mars if our beloved rover phones home," said Doug McCuistion, director of NASA's Mars Exploration Program in Washington. "It's never faced this type of severe condition before - this is unknown territory."

http://science.nasa.gov/science-news/science-at-nasa/2010/30jul_spirit2/

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« Reply #354 on: Jul 31st, 2010, 07:53am »

The Guardian

WikiLeaks has blood on it's hands
by David Leigh guardian.co.uk, Friday 30 July 2010 19.02 BST

Julian Assange said WikiLeaks tried to follow a request to redact some names but the US refused to help.

WikiLeaks and its editor-in-chief, Julian Assange, have come under attack from US officials and their allies for potentially endangering informants and troops in Afghanistan by posting the texts of thousands of leaked war logs.

The US defence secretary, Robert Gates, claimed in Washington: "The battlefield consequences are potentially severe and dangerous for our troops, our allies and Afghan partners, and may well damage our relationships and reputation in that key part of the world."

Gates said sensitive intelligence which could endanger informants had been widely distributed down to junior level in the US army, in a loose policy which might now have to be reconsidered.

"We endeavour to push access to sensitive battlefield information down to where it is most useful – on the front lines – where as a practical matter there are fewer restrictions and controls than at rear headquarters," he said. "In the wake of this incident, it will be a real challenge to strike the right balance between security and providing our frontline troops the information they need."

Admiral Mike Mullen, who chairs the joint chiefs of staff, said: "Mr Assange can say whatever he likes about the greater good he thinks he and his source are doing, but the truth is they might already have on their hands the blood of some young soldier or that of an Afghan family."

The Afghan president, Hamid Karzai, called the disclosure of the names of Afghans who had co-operated with Nato and US forces "irresponsible and shocking". He said in Kabul: "Whether those individuals acted legitimately or illegitimately in providing information to the Nato forces, their lives will be in danger."

WikiLeaks withheld some 15, 000 intelligence reports to protect informants. But some of the posted texts contain details of Afghans who have dealt with the coalition.

Assange said today that they had tried to comply with a private White House request to redact the names of informants before publication. But the US authorities had refused to assist them.

He said in a statement: "Secretary Gates speaks about hypothetical blood, but the grounds of Iraq and Afghanistan are covered with real blood."

Thousands of children and adults had been killed and the US could have announced a broad inquiry into these killings, "but he decided to treat these issues with contempt''.

He said: "This behaviour is unacceptable. We will continue to expose abuses by this administration and others."

Meanwhile, both US and UK authorities remained silent about the disclosures in the 92,000 war log files that hundreds of civilians have been killed or wounded by coalition forces in unreported or previously under-reported incidents. The Ministry of Defence withdrew promises to make an official statement about US allegations that two units of British troops had caused exceptional loss of civilian life.

MoD sources said that at least 15 of the 21 alleged cases had now been confirmed, but they were unable to say what investigations had subsequently taken place, or when they would now make a statement.

A detachment of the Coldstream Guards was newly arrived in Kabul when innocent civilians were shot on four separate occasions in October-November 2007.

Several different companies of Royal Marine commands are alleged to have shot civilians who came "too close" to convoys or patrols on eight occasions in Helmand province during the six-month period ending in March 2008.

Sources said that the then Labour foreign secretary, David Miliband, was so concerned about civilian deaths that he helped push forward a UN resolution in 2008, setting up an UN system to monitor such casualties.

But it does not function effectively, according to the independent Human Rights Watch. The United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan reported 828 civilian deaths in 2008, thanks to "pro-government forces", saying force protection incidents, "are of continuing concern", where innocent drivers, car passengers or motorcyclists, are shot by passing troops.

The US authorities are concentrating their firepower on leakers and their friends. Gates said the FBI had been called in to widen the criminal investigation into Private Bradley Manning, who is in military custody charged with leaking a classified video showing Apache pilots gunning down two Reuters cameramen in Baghdad who they believed might be insurgents.

Manning is being moved from a military jail in Kuwait to Qauntico, Maryland, and the FBI will now be able to investigate civilians such as Assange, for possible conspiracy offences. Assange's whereabouts were unknown today.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2010/jul/30/us-military-wikileaks-afghanistan-war-logs?CMP=twt_gu

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« Reply #355 on: Jul 31st, 2010, 07:58am »

Guardian

Was Marden Henge the builder's yard for Stonehenge?Stone tools, flakes and the remains of a final feast at the site in Wiltshire hint that the huge sarsens that now stand at Stonehenge were brought to Marden Henge first.

Maev Kennedy guardian.co.uk, Wednesday 28 July 2010 17.28 BST

The famous sarsens may have been shaped at Marden Henge before being dragged to Stonehenge.
The last revellers seem to have cleared up scrupulously after the final party at Marden Henge some 4,500 years ago.

They scoured the rectangular building and the smart white chalk platform on top of the earth bank, with its spectacular view towards the river Avon in one direction, and the hills from which the giant sarsen stones were brought to Stonehenge in the other.

All traces of the feast – the pig bones, the ashes and the burnt stones from the barbecue that cooked them, the broken pots and bowls – were swept neatly into a dump to one side. A few precious offerings, including an exquisitely worked flint arrowhead, were carefully laid on the clean chalk. Then they covered the whole surface with a thin layer of clay, stamped it flat, and left. Forever.

In the past fortnight, English Heritage archaeologists have peeled back the thin layer of turf covering the site, which has somehow escaped being ploughed for more than 4,000 years. They were astounded to find the undisturbed original surface just as the prehistoric Britons left it.

"We're gobsmacked really," said site director Jim Leary.

Giles Woodhouse, a volunteer digger who must return next week to his day job as a lieutenant colonel in the army bound for Germany and then Afghanistan, has been crouched over the rubbish dump day after day, his black labrador Padma sighing at his side. He has been teasing the soil away from bone, stone and pottery so perfectly preserved it could have been buried last year.

"It gives one a bit of a shiver down the backbone to realise the last man to touch these died 4,500 years ago," he said. His finds, still emerging from the soil, will rewrite the history of the site.

Marden in Wiltshire has been puzzling archaeologists for centuries. It is set almost exactly half way between two of the most famous and tourist-choked sites in Britain, Stonehenge and Avebury, but it is far larger than either. The ragged oval of outer earth banks at Marden, completed by a bend of the Avon, enclose more than 14 hectares, compared with 11.5 hectares at Avebury, where the banks surround an entire modern village.

Famously – to its comparatively few devotees and visitors, that is – it is the biggest henge in Britain that isn't there, surrounding one of the biggest artificial hills in Britain, which isn't there either.

This is the first excavation since Geoffrey Wainwright, former chief archaeologist at English Heritage, explored one small corner of the site in 1969. What stunned the archaeologists when they started work three weeks ago was just how much is left.

Once your eye is in you can see it: the sweep of the ditches, the belt of trees hiding some of the earth bank, which still rises to three metres in some places, the stain in the grass marking the lost barrow and its massive surrounding moat, and the wholly unexpected discovery – the second, smaller henge, so close to the modern houses that the roots of two trees at the foot of a back garden are actually growing into its bank.

The neolithic buildings were not where others have looked for them, on the level in the centre of the henges, but on top of the bank.

"We've all been looking in the wrong place," Leary said, "there will have to be a major rethink about other henges. And it's actually almost terrifying how close to the surface the finds were – there's also going to have to be a major review of our management plans for other sites."

The only known image of Hatfield Barrow – an early 18th century map in the archives of the landowner, Corpus Christi College in Oxford – shows the artificial hill as a jaunty little sandcastle sporting a cockade of trees. It once rose to a height of almost 15 metres, half the height of Silbury near Avebury.

The two antiquarians who burrowed like rabbits through scores of Wiltshire earthworks in the early 19th century, Sir Richard Colt Hoare and William Cunnington, punched a massive shaft through Hatfield Barrow in 1807. Their scrappy records torment the modern archaeologists, including references to animal bones, burned wood, and "two small parcels of burned human bones".

They left the shaft open, possibly intending to return in another season, and the mound collapsed. This is a phenomenon Leary knows well, having led the rescue excavation before the engineering works to stabilise Silbury, which was also left riddled with slowly collapsing holes by Georgian and later diggers.

The farmer at Marden filled in the moat, which an 18th century naturalist recorded as fed by a natural spring and never dry even in the hottest summer, and sold the collapsed hillock as top soil. Leary's massive trench has uncovered barely a trace of hill or moat.

If the hill disappointed, the excavations at one of the original entrances and at the small henge certainly do not. They are revealing what appears to be a broad gravelled ceremonial road leading towards the river. Discovering undisturbed neolithic surfaces and building platforms on this scale counts as a discovery of international importance.

There is no evidence of permanent occupation of the dwellings or the site as a whole. As in the work led by Professor Mike Parker Pearson at Durrington Walls, 20 miles away (he couldn't resist coming over to help dig, and some of his former students had the pleasure of giving him orders) the implication is of people gathering for seasonal rituals and feasting, and maybe a work camp.

"A completely artificial division has been made in the past between domestic and religious, recreation and ritual," Leary said. "We're going to have to rethink all that. It's not one thing or the other, it's everything mixed in together."

If it wasn't a village, or a temple, or a farm, or a cemetery, what was Marden for? Leary suspects the answer may be emerging in stone working tools, and flakes of sarsen, turning up all over the site. If you were going to drag sarsens the size of double decker buses from their original site to Stonehenge, he said, the obvious route is straight through a natural gap in the hilly landscape, which would take them through Marden.

The evidence that Marden was a sort of builder's yard for the most famous prehistoric monument in the world may have been in the mud under the boots of Leary's puzzled predecessors.

So why did the site's temporary occupants leave? Maybe with Stonehenge complete, the sarsens shaped into the giant trilithons that still fill the hordes of modern visitors with awe, their job was done. They tidied up nicely, turned out the lights, and left.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/2010/jul/28/marden-henge-builders-yard-stonehenge

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« Reply #356 on: Jul 31st, 2010, 08:03am »

Wired

Fifty years after physicists invented the laser, ushering in everything from supermarket scanners to music CDs, scientists have conceived its opposite — the “antilaser.”

Unlike its more popular cousin, the antilaser is unlikely to take over the world. Still, it could be useful one day, for instance in new types of optical switches for computers.

No one has yet reported building an antilaser, but a theoretical description of one appears in a paper published July 26 in Physical Review Letters.

“It’s kind of surprising that we’ve been using lasers for 50 years or so, and only now somebody noticed something pretty fundamental,” says Marin Soljaèiæ, a physicist at MIT who was not involved in the work.

Instead of amplifying light into coherent pulses, as a laser does, an antilaser absorbs light beams zapped into it. It can be “tuned” to work at specific wavelengths of light, allowing researchers to turn a dial and cause the device to start and then stop absorbing light.

“By just tinkering with the phases of the beams, magically it turns ‘black’ in this narrow wavelength range,” says team member A. Douglas Stone, a physicist at Yale University. “It’s an amazing trick.”

Stone and his colleagues thought up the antilaser while wondering what might happen if they replaced the material inside a laser that reflects photons — the “gain medium” — with a material that absorbs light. In the right configuration, the absorbing material sucks up most of the photons sent into it, while the remaining light waves cancel out by interfering with one another.

Stefano Longhi, a physicist at the Polytechnic Institute of Milan in Italy, calls the concept “very clever and simple.”

The Yale team refers to the device as a “coherent perfect absorber.” Another name is a “time-reversed laser,” since it is like running a laser in reverse using an absorbing medium rather than an amplifying one, says Yale postdoctoral fellow Yidong Chong.

Even though the antilaser absorbs perfectly, it does so only at specific wavelengths of light, making it unsuitable for applications like solar panels that take in a broad range of wavelengths. (Other, specially engineered materials called metamaterials can perform those kinds of absorptions.) But because the antilaser can switch from absorbing to nonabsorbing just by changing the wavelength of the incoming light, it could prove useful in optical switches — for instance in futuristic computer boards that will use light instead of electrons.

Other Yale researchers, led by experimentalist Hui Cao, are now trying to build an antilaser. Stone says progress so far looks “very promising.”

One day the antilaser could even meet up directly with its relative, the laser. In a paper submitted for publication, Longhi argues it might be possible to make a device that combines an ordinary laser with one of these new absorbers — in essence, a laser and antilaser in one.

Read More http://www.wired.com/wiredscience/2010/07/antilaser/#ixzz0vGTA7x92

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« Reply #357 on: Jul 31st, 2010, 08:05am »

Wired

WikiLeaks Posts Mysterious ‘Insurance’ File
By Kim Zetter July 30, 2010 | 3:09 pm | Categories: Breaches, Wikileaks

In the wake of strong U.S. government statements condemning WikiLeaks’ recent publishing of 77,000 Afghan War documents, the secret-spilling site has posted a mysterious encrypted file labeled “insurance.”

The huge file, posted on the Afghan War page at the WikiLeaks site, is 1.4 GB and is encrypted with AES256. The file’s size dwarfs the size of all the other files on the page combined. The file has also been posted on a torrent download site as well.

WikiLeaks, on Sunday, posted several files containing the 77,000 Afghan war documents in a single “dump” file and in several other files containing versions of the documents in various searchable formats.

Cryptome, a separate secret-spilling site, has speculated that the file may have been posted as insurance in case something happens to the WikiLeaks website or to the organization’s founder, Julian Assange. In either scenario, WikiLeaks volunteers, under a prearranged agreement with Assange, could send out a password or passphrase to allow anyone who has downloaded the file to open it.

It’s not known what the file contains but it could include the balance of data that U.S. Army intelligence analyst Bradley Manning claimed to have leaked to Assange before he was arrested in May.


In chats with former hacker Adrian Lamo, Manning disclosed that he had provided Assange with a different war log cache than the one that WikiLeaks already published. This one was said to contain 500,000 events from the Iraq War between 2004 and 2009. WikiLeaks has never commented on whether it received that cache.

Additionally, Manning said he sent Assange video showing a deadly 2009 U.S. firefight near Garani in Afghanistan that local authorities say killed 100 civilians, most of them children, as well as 260,000 U.S. State Department cables.

Manning never mentioned leaking the Afghan War log to WikiLeaks in his chats with Lamo, but Defense Department officials told The Wall Street Journal that investigators had found evidence on Manning’s Army computer that tied him to that leak.

U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen strongly condemned WikiLeaks’ publication of the Afghan War log at a Pentagon press briefing on Thursday.

Gates said the leak had “potentially severe and dangerous for our troops, our allies and our Afghan partners” and said that “tactics, techniques and procedures will become known to our adversaries” as a result.

Mullen was even more direct and said that WikiLeaks “might already have on their hands the blood of some young soldier” or an Afghan informant who aided the United States.

Several media outlets have found the names of Afghan informants in the documents WikiLeaks published, as well as information identifying their location in some instances. A Taliban spokesman told Britain’s Channel 4 news that the group was sifting through the WikiLeaks documents to get the names of suspected informants and would punish anyone found to have collaborated with the United States and its allies.

Wired.com has sent a message to WikiLeaks inquiring about the file.

Read More http://www.wired.com/threatlevel/2010/07/wikileaks-insurance-file/#ixzz0vGTqtG3M

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« Reply #358 on: Jul 31st, 2010, 08:13am »

Wired Danger Room

Zzzzzzzz… God, what a snoozer of a week in the Danger Room.

I mean, except for the exclusive look at the business dealings between the investment arms of Google and the CIA and the the tens of thousands of secret reports leaked from Afghanistan, not much happened around here, right? Yeah, we found some weird contradictions between those reports and our own wartime experiences, and some oh-so-minor discrepancies between the military’s public assessment of the Taliban’s arsenal and the documents’. And, okay, there were those odd accounts of chemical weapon attacks and insurgents from America’s NATO ally, Turkey. But besides that? Zip. Nada. Just the Pentagon’s plea for better ray guns, the Marines’ struggle to get their stealth jet off of the ground, the Air Force’s wacky fly-by-Wii project, and the Pakistanis’ strange cluelessness about the drones bombing their country. Bo-ring!

Things are liable to stay lame, now that Spencer is heading to Afghanistan. Wake me when it’s over…


Ackerman In Afghanistan: See You Guys On Disney Drive
By Spencer Ackerman July 30, 2010 | 1:13 pm | Categories: Af/Pak
On Monday, I’m getting on a plane at Andrews Air Force Base. A couple days later, I’ll be in Afghanistan for nearly three weeks. It’ll be my first trip back in two years, and my fourth warzone visit since 2006. When I was last in Kabul, Khost and Paktia, there was no troop surge, no population-protection strategy and no one combining Afghanistan and Pakistan into a flip bureaucratic shorthand. So it’s time to return for a ground-up sense of what’s changed and what hasn’t in America’s longest war.

The contingencies of embedding with the U.S. military make me reluctant to promise exactly where I’ll be. But I can say that I expect to get back out east, near the Pakistani border, in order to make sense of what’s happened to an area that used to be central to U.S. strategy against al-Qaeda and its Taliban allies — and how U.S. troops protect a population that’s dispersed in rural, austere areas. That’s not to say I’ll only be focused on the groundpounders: one of my embeds is with an Air Force wing, so I can explore its under-reported contributions to counterinsurgency. I’ll also be doing some unembedded reporting in the hopes of learning the war’s impact on the Afghan people, whose perspective will be decisive, according to the current and former U.S. generals in command.

Send me tips, feedback and questions you’d like answered, either in comments or through the email address listed on this site. I’ll do the best I can, and I’ll file as frequently as the Internet allows.

Vote: Afghan War’s Most Awesomely Bad Code Names
By Spencer Ackerman July 30, 2010 | 11:47 am | Categories: Af/Pak

What is it about naming operations in Afghanistan? British troops from the 1st Battalion, The Duke of Lancaster’s Regiment began a difficult fight on Friday to clear the Taliban out of Helmand Province’s Nad Ali district, an effort known as Operation Tor Shezada. That sounds fine enough — until you translate it into the Queen’s English, when it becomes Operation Black Prince. Doesn’t that make the local government the dark ruler in question? The Brits might as well have called it Operation Harry Potter and the Haunted Hallows of Helmand.

Don’t get us wrong. We’re big fans of mean-muchacho names for operations here. The cheesier the better. But sometimes Afghanistan — and Helmand in particular — has tested our mettle. Remember last December’s Marine push into Now Zad in Helmand? How could you forget: it was called Cobra’s Anger and it ended with the capture of Serpentor. Or how about the British operation in Helmand last summer, Panther’s Claw? This is the Afghanistan war: [Animal's] [Menace]. It’s turning into a furry convention gone horribly, horribly wrong.

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New York Times

July 30, 2010
China Imprisons 3 Men Who Maintained Uighur Web Sites
By ANDREW JACOBS

BEIJING — Three men accused of “endangering state security” for their roles in maintaining popular Uighur-language Web sites have been sentenced to prison terms of 3 to 10 years, according to exile groups and court officials.

The sentences, the outcome of a one-day trial last week, are the latest indication that Beijing is intensifying its crackdown on any dissent that questions Chinese rule in Xinjiang, the far western region where ethnic rioting last summer killed nearly 200 people, many of them Han Chinese whose growing numbers have stoked resentment among Uighurs.

Each of the accused men maintained a different site, each of which was shut down in the days after the unrest began in Urumqi, the regional capital. The three Web sites featured news articles and lively exchanges in Uighur, a Turkic language that is spoken by nearly half Xinjiang’s 22 million people, the majority of whom are Muslim.

Friends and family members of the three convicted Webmasters said they were prosecuted for failing to quickly delete content that openly discussed the difficulties of life in Xinjiang and, in one case, for allowing users to post messages last summer announcing the protests that turned violent. Although the government maintains armies of paid censors, those who run Internet forums are ultimately responsible for removing so-called politically sensitive content.

Dilimulati Paerhati, the brother of one of the convicted men, has said he and his brother were scrupulous about deleting antigovernment postings on their site, Diyarim. He said his brother, Dilshat Perhat, even called the police to tell them about messages announcing the rally in Urumqi and was praised for his vigilance.

“My brother didn’t do anything, this guy was honest,” Mr. Paerhati told a student newspaper in Britain, where he is studying. “We’d never, never do anything against Chinese policy and the Chinese government.”

In addition to his brother, who received a five-year sentence, the other convicted men are Nijat Azat, who was given 10 years, and Nureli, who received 3 years. A court official who answered the phone at the Urumqi Intermediate People’s Court confirmed the sentences but declined to discuss the cases or give his name.

Although more than 1,000 people were detained in the days and weeks following the violence in Xinjiang — at least two dozen have been sentenced to death — Uighur exiles said the authorities appeared to be tightening the noose also around those engaged in nonviolent activities.

Last Friday, the government handed down a 15-year sentence to a Uighur journalist who wrote for another Web site. The writer, Gheyret Niyaz, was also convicted on state security charges, although his most egregious crime appears to have been giving an interview to a Hong Kong publication. Those who know Mr. Niyaz said they were stunned by the sentence, given his moderate political views.

Dilxat Raxit, a spokesman for the World Uighur Congress in Sweden, said his organization knew of at least 76 people who had been detained for activities related to the Internet. Nearly all of them, he said, have been held incommunicado.

He said the government’s campaign against Web-based expression seemed to have a twofold purpose: preventing negative news from reaching the outside world and preventing Uighurs from sharing such news — or government criticism — with one another. It was only in May, after a 10-month blackout, that Internet service was restored to the region.

“People have become terrified of surfing the Web,” he said. “They’re afraid that they land on the wrong page or write the wrong thing and they’ll be taken away.”

Ilham Tohti, a prominent Uighur academic in Beijing whose own Web site has been blocked for more than a year, said the detentions had put a chill on communications and discourse among the country’s Uighurs, some of whom have a limited ability to read and write in Chinese. “We don’t have many outlets in the traditional media,” he said. “For the Uighur people, this is how we express ourselves, but at the moment, we’re being silenced.”

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/07/31/world/asia/31china.html?_r=1&ref=world

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