Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #3480 on: Mar 29th, 2011, 08:09am »
Obama justifies U.S. intervention in Libya
President Obama tells Americans that the U.S. has a 'strategic interest' in stopping Libyan leader Moammar Kadafi and that he ordered military action to halt a humanitarian disaster.
By Christi Parsons and Paul Richter, Los Angeles Times March 29, 2011 Reporting from Washington
President Obama told a skeptical American public that he ordered military action in Libya because circumstances allowed the U.S. and its allies to halt a humanitarian disaster, but he acknowledged that even a weakened Moammar Kadafi still may be a long way from leaving power.
In his first address to the nation since launching cruise missiles and airstrikes 10 days ago, Obama on Monday cast doubt on the likelihood of U.S. military action in other Middle Eastern countries, where oppressed citizens have taken to the streets to demand reform. Under his leadership, he said, the United States would not act unilaterally, risking American lives and treasure as it did by launching the Iraq war in 2003.
Libya, ruled for more than four decades by a man Obama referred to as a "tyrant," is a country where the United States could build an alliance that would protect civilians and defend U.S. interests, he said.
"In this particular country, Libya, at this particular moment, we were faced with the prospect of violence on a horrific scale," Obama said. "We had a unique ability to stop that violence: an international mandate for action, a broad coalition prepared to join us, the support of Arab countries and a plea from the Libyan people themselves."
"To brush aside America's responsibility as a leader and, more profoundly, our responsibilities to our fellow human beings under such circumstances would have been a betrayal of who we are," he said.
The U.S. had an "important strategic interest" in preventing Kadafi from overrunning the opposition forces because a massacre would have driven thousands of refugees across Libyan borders and put a strain on the transitional governments in Egypt and Tunisia and on American allies in Europe.
Obama said the U.S. acted when Kadafi's troops, taking advantage of their superior weaponry against a ragtag rebel force, were close to overrunning the opposition's de facto capital, Benghazi, in eastern Libya. With Kadafi's air force grounded and armored vehicles in smoking ruins along the roads because of strikes by warplanes from the U.S., Britain, France and other countries, Obama said, the U.S. was stepping back to allow the North Atlantic Treaty Organization to take charge.
The U.S. still will provide intelligence, logistics, search-and-rescue help and expertise to jam Kadafi's communications, he said.
Obama's speech may provide a response to those who question why the U.S. intervened there and not in other countries where civilian protesters have been killed. Dozens have died in recent days in Syria, a country widely regarded as being of greater strategic importance than Libya that long has had a strained relationship with Washington. Protesters also have been killed in U.S. allies Bahrain and Yemen.
Gaining United Nations Security Council approval to act and building a military coalition could be much more difficult in any of those cases than it was against Kadafi, who has alienated world powers and his neighbors alike during his long rule.
Obama's speech did little to clear up how military action under a U.N. mandate to protect civilians squares with an offensive by Libyan rebels who see airstrikes by foreign warplanes as essential to their success. And it did not offer a clear path to removing Kadafi from power.
Obama said the U.S. would continue to work to cut off the supply of arms and cash to the Kadafi regime and to assist the opposition.
"It may not happen overnight, as a badly weakened Kadafi tries desperately to hang on to power," Obama said. "But it should be clear to those around Kadafi, and to every Libyan, that history is not on his side."
While refraining from openly criticizing Obama's decision to dispatch military personnel to the region, some Republicans in Congress have criticized the president for waiting to speak publicly about the military action.
Others questioned how Obama could allow Kadafi to remain in power and not use military force to oust him. As long as the Libyan leader remains in control, said Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), "he will increasingly pose a threat to the world and civilians in Libya will not be fully secure."
Administration officials have acknowledged they have worried about the prospect of Kadafi, once a leading supporter of terrorism, regaining some degree of control, or becoming locked in a protracted civil war.
In the days preceding the speech, administration officials have been laying out the defense of the military campaign. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates took to the airwaves over the weekend to make the case that the country has an interest in protecting its allies and promoting stability in the region.
White House officials have also stressed there would be international cooperation on the effort.
But Obama's remarks were aimed at an American public tired of ongoing war elsewhere and skeptical about the wisdom of the airstrikes.
On Monday, as Obama prepared for his speech at the National Defense University in Washington, the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press released a report showing that less than half of Americans, 47%, think he made the right decision in conducting airstrikes.
Obama made clear what aides have been saying behind the scenes for days: that those looking for a promise of military aid to other countries should assume no precedent from the Libya intervention.
The U.S. doesn't take action to adhere to precedent or to follow "consistency guidelines," said deputy national security advisor Denis McDonough, but rather to advance the nation's interests.
"Each of those interests is going to be unique in each instance," McDonough said.
Still, Obama emphasized that he "refused to wait for the images of slaughter and mass graves" before taking action against Kadafi's forces.
"We should not be afraid to act, but the burden of action should not be America's alone," Obama said. "As we have in Libya, our task is instead to mobilize the international community for collective action."
"Given the costs and risks of intervention, we must always measure our interests against the need for action," Obama said.
The White House deliberations on Libya have been haunted in part by the memory of Rwanda, where government forces in 1994 began a genocide that claimed more than 800,000 lives.
Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice, National Security Council aide Samantha Power and Clinton all have spoken of deep regret about the killings and pushed for the administration not to risk a repeat in Libya.
Obama himself has publicly supported the principle of intervention to stop governments from engaging in mass killings.
Power, a human rights advocate in the administration, delivered a rare speech Monday to defend the intervention in Libya. She said that diplomatic pressure had not worked, requiring military force to avert a bloodbath.
Left unchecked, Kadafi's forces would have overrun Benghazi, she said, which "would have been extremely chilling, deadly and indeed a stain on our collective conscience."
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #3481 on: Mar 29th, 2011, 08:15am »
Egyptian cobra on the loose in New York zoo
A deadly Egyptian cobra has forced a partial shutdown of New York's Bronx Zoo after escaping its enclosure.
'The difficulty is that the 20-inch, pencil-thin snake has sought out a secure hiding spot within the Reptile House,' Bronx Zoo director Jim Breheny said. Photo: ALAMY
12:14AM BST 29 Mar 2011
The Bronx Zoo said the Reptile House would be closed "until further notice" while keepers scoured for the venomous snake, an adolescenct female which is 20 inches long.
The escape happened late on Friday and the zoo said the fugitive is so hard to catch that it might stay on the slither for weeks to come.
"The difficulty is that the 20-inch, pencil-thin snake, which is months old and weighs less than three ounces, has sought out a secure hiding spot within the Reptile House," Bronx Zoo director Jim Breheny said in a statement. "This may take days or even weeks."
Breheny said the wily reptile will have no trouble hiding in the "extremely complex environments" of the building, filled with pumps, motors and other machinery.
"Right now, it's the snake's game. At this point, it's just like fishing: you put the hook in the water and wait. Our best strategy is patience, allowing her time to come out of hiding."
But, he reassured, New Yorkers do not need to start checking under their beds. "We remain confident that the snake is contained within the Reptile House."
"Based on our knowledge of the natural history and behaviour of snakes, we know they seek closed-in spaces and are not comfortable in open areas. We are confident that the snake, about 20 inches long, is contained in a non-public, isolation area within the building," the zoo said in a statement.
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #3482 on: Mar 29th, 2011, 08:24am »
Disney, Jennifer Garner to Bring Agatha Christie's Miss Marple to the Big Screen 3:38 PM 3/28/2011 by Borys Kit
After months of negotiations, the studio has nabbed movie rights to the character.
UPDATE: Jennifer Garner will produce the adaptation, which will not only be contemporary but see the age of amateur detective Marple brought down.
Agatha Christie’s elderly detective Miss Marple is getting the big-screen treatment from Disney.
After months of negotiations, the studio has closed a deal to capture the movie rights to the character, who first appeared in 1927.
Mark Frost has been tapped to pen the screenplay.
Marple was one of Christie’s most famous creations, an elderly woman constantly knitting or weeding, looking sweet and frail though the exterior masks a sharp mind with a deep understanding of the dark side of human nature.
The character first appeared on screen in 1961 in Murder, She Said, portrayed by Margaret Rutherford, who was 70 when she played the character in the first of a series of movies. Angela Landsbury played the character in 1980’s The Mirror Crack’d.
Disney is not making a period movie however but looking do a contemporary version.
Hiring Frost may also signal an intent to make something with an edge. The writer, whose recent credits include penning the Fantastic Four movies, is best known for co-creating the landmark TV series Twin Peaks with David Lynch.
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #3483 on: Mar 29th, 2011, 08:33am »
March 29, 1941: Radio Stations Shuffle Frequencies on "Moving Day" By Hugh Hart March 29, 2011 | 7:00 am Categories: 20th century, Business and Industry, Communication
Bob Hope (Bettmann/Corbis)
1941: Americans wake up on Saturday morning to discover that Jack Benny, Bob Hope and other radio stars of the day no longer occupy their familiar spots on the dial. In a massive shuffle, radio stations have engineered a game of musical chairs at 3 a.m. Eastern time, and 80 percent of North America's AM frequencies are reassigned to new channels.
This so-called Moving Day resulted from the North American Radio Broadcasting Agreement, negotiated by the United States, Canada and Mexico. The pact extended the AM broadcast band from 1500 kHz to 1600 kHz (mostly called kilocycles rather than kilohertz in those days).
The reordering shifted most existing AM stations' frequencies in order to create bandwidth for new clear-channel station allocations.
Designed to implement radio standardization throughout the Western Hemisphere, the agreement followed a futile 1939 attempt to squash Mexican border blasters, which for three decades would continue to overpower U.S. stations with extremely strong signals.
The agreement established clear-channel frequencies, which afford more protection from electromagnetic skywave interference at night, across the radio dial. The new broadcast order also reserved 1230, 1240, 1340, 1400, 1450 and 1490 kHz mainly for local stations.
Nations including the Bahamas, the Dominican Republic and Cuba later signed on to iterations of the NARBA plan.
The ponderously named "Regional Agreement for the Medium Frequency Broadcasting Service in Region 2" superseded NARBA rules in 1981.
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #3484 on: Mar 29th, 2011, 08:37am »
Wired Threat Level
Federal Courts Worry Your Smartphone Might Be a Bomb By David Kravets March 28, 2011 | 3:24 pm Categories: Censorship, The Courts
Smartphones could offer journalists and the public an easy and cost-effective method to provide online updates of court proceedings — which is why it’s always been frustrating that many federal jurisdictions don’t allow the devices into courthouses. Now, thanks to a newly issued document, we know why.
An 8-page memo issued last week by the Administrative Office of the Courts describes the primary reason to ban smartphones from court buildings. “These common devices present security issues because some can be and have been converted for use as weapons, including explosives.”
“The current array of devices has raised additional concerns about risks due to increased use of non-metallic materials in manufacturing, smaller size, and the potential inability of scanning equipment to detect these devices and hidden explosives,” (.pdf) the memo continues.
The memo is a policy paper of sorts to federal judges on how they should deal with the smartphone’s ubiquity.
Reasons above and beyond terrorism to restrict the devices from courthouses include the secret filming, recording or transmitting of court proceedings; the disruption of court proceedings; and that deliberating jurors might access the internet and research the case, the report said.
Considerations in favor of allowing the mobile phones in the courthouse are, in part, that they are essential to the practice of law, and they could allow the press to transmit the news if approved by the sitting judge, according to the paper.
The paper highlights dramatically different smartphone policies in courthouses across the country, but does not list them by name.
But our own anecdotal evidence supports that conclusion.
At the District of Columbia federal courthouse, which is home to the lower courts and the U.S. Court of Appeals, I had to check my cellphone at the door two weeks ago. And in the Los Angeles federal courthouse, I was ordered by a judge to turn off the Wi-Fi signal emitted from my HTC Evo in December.
But in San Francisco, the judiciary allows Wi-Fi connected computing inside its courtrooms, from either a cellphone or a computer. Live blogging or tweeting is commonplace there.
That is the status quo with the ongoing Barry Bonds criminal trial in San Francisco. What’s more, the San Francisco federal courthouse even provides free Wi-Fi in many courtrooms.
Still, the law prohibits taking photographs in federal trial courts or streaming live hearings.
Even with the advance of the mobile device, it doesn’t look like courtroom stills or streams will be allowed anytime soon despite our always-on society. That’s because many courts don’t even allow any internet use inside a courtroom.
The reason surrounds defining the term “broadcasting,” which is not allowed according to Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 53.
“The contemporaneous transmission of electronic messages from the courtroom describing trial proceedings, and the dissemination of those messages in a manner such that they are widely and instantaneously accessible to the general public,falls within the definition of ‘broadcasting,’ “a Georgia judge wrote in 2009, when denying a reporter’s request to tweet from the courtroom.
Chief Judge Alex Kozinski of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals based in San Francisco said federal rules against “broadcasting” in courtrooms is a disservice.
The circuit court, based in San Francisco, often allows for television broadcasting of its oral arguments. The federal appellate courts set their own rules, but Congress generally sets photo rules for the lower federal trial courts.
And almost every state allows pictures in the courtroom, at the discretion of the trial judge. Internet use from the gallery in state courts is also at the judge’s discretion.
“Increased public scrutiny, in turn, may ultimately improve the trial process,” Kozinski wrote in a Fordham University law review article last year. “Judges may avoid falling asleep on the bench or take more care explaining their decisions and avoiding arbitrary rulings or excessively lax courtroom management.”
But thanks to Osama Bin Laden, or at least the fear of him and his cohorts, tweeting from the courtroom is largely considered an act of terrorism.
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #3485 on: Mar 29th, 2011, 6:33pm »
Melissa Rosenberg to Write and Produce 'Earthseed' for Paramount (Exclusive)
Melissa Rosenberg is set to write and produce an adaptation of the 1983 young-adult sci-fi novel "Earthseed," written by Pamela Sargent. The project will launch the film side of Rosenberg's new production company, Tall Girls Prods.
March 29 7:02 PM 3/29/2011 by Jay A. Fernandez
Melissa Rosenberg is set to write and produce an adaptation of the 1983 young-adult sci-fi novel Earthseed, written by Pamela Sargent. The project will launch the film side of Rosenberg's new production company, Tall Girls Prods.
Paramount Film Group president Adam Goodman, who has long wanted to make a movie adaptation of the book, brought the material to Rosenberg. He will shepherd for the studio along with vp Ashley Brucks.
Earthseed takes place in a future where humans launch a project called Ship to carry Earth DNA into space to find a new planet on which to settle. During its flight, a group of newly grown teenagers born without traditional parents are provided a simulated Earth environment, Hollow, to test their ability to survive. As some of the kids splinter off, tensions grow between the groups and major revelations ensue as fighting erupts.
“It really talks about the debate of nature vs. nurture, what is innately human and what can be bred in or out of someone," says Rosenberg. "There’s a Lord of the Flies element to it. It involves a young woman who starts off as someone who is content with playing by the rules and being a “good girl,’ and then has to realize that the rules are malleable and that she has to step forward as a leader. It’s really about coming into one’s own power and embracing one’s own strength and individuality."
Sargent, who has written nearly two dozen books, recently wrote two sequels to Earthseed: Farseed (2007) and Seed Seeker (2010). Both the studio and Rosenberg, who has long favored the extended storylines of her TV work, are looking to a potential franchise.
“What I want for Tall Girls is to be creating great, strong roles for women, but in four-quadrant, high-concept movies," Rosenberg says. "Not movies for women in the traditional sense but more interesting, intriguing, complex roles—and kickass women, as well. That is definitely this book.”
Repped by UTA and 3 Arts Management, Rosenberg wrote the film adaptations for the entire Twilight series, which have grossed $1.8 billion worldwide. The last two films in the series -- Breaking Dawn, Parts 1 & 2 -- will open in November 2011 and November 2012. She also co-wrote the script for Step Up and was a writer-producer on Dexter and The O.C.
Rosenberg is also working on the script for a reboot of Highlander for Summit Entertainment and Original Film, and she is developing AKA Jessica Jones for ABC, a series that she will executive produce through Tall Girls.
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #3486 on: Mar 29th, 2011, 7:44pm »
March 29, 1973: Pres. Nixon Withdraws The U.S. From The Vietnam War Posted by Maggie On March - 29 - 2011
U.S.withdraws from Vietnam March 29,1973
The United States completes the withdrawal of all its combat troops from Vietnam on this day. A decade of American military involvement in Vietnam deeply divided public opinion in the United States and claimed the lives of over 57,000 U.S. soldiers.
Over 200,000 South Vietnamese soldiers perished in the conflict, and the communist death toll exceeded 1 million. In addition, some 500,000 Vietnamese civilians were killed, many as a result of the massive U.S. bombing campaign, which exceeded all the bombs dropped by both sides in World War II.
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #3487 on: Mar 30th, 2011, 08:49am »
Movie industry hits ticket sales decline on the nose: It's put out some stinkers
Theater owners and some studio chiefs are in agreement that the low quality of recent films is partly responsible for a 20% decline so far this year.
By Richard Verrier and Ben Fritz, Los Angeles Times March 30, 2011 Reporting from Las Vegas and Los Angeles
With movie theater attendance in the U.S. and Canada down a whopping 20% so far this year compared with 2010, cinema operators and some studio chiefs surprisingly agree on at least one cause: The movies haven't been very good.
"I think it all boils down to the quality of the movies," said Gerry Lopez, chief executive of AMC Entertainment Inc., the nation's second-largest theater chain. "This year we just haven't had those kind of movies that cut across all quadrants of age, race and income."
Michael Lynton, chief executive of Sony Pictures Entertainment, agreed: "So far there is just nothing terribly compelling about what we're delivering as an industry."
It's an unexpected concurrence among two camps that have increasingly been at odds over changes in the business. But the current downturn in ticket sales — the worst in at least six years — is top of mind for more than 6,000 theater owners, studio executives and vendors gathered in Las Vegas this week for CinemaCon, the exhibition industry's annual convention.
While audiences have outright rejected such recent movie offerings as "Mars Needs Moms," "Sucker Punch" and "Take Me Home Tonight," even hits like Justin Bieber's "Never Say Never," "The King's Speech" and "Battle: Los Angeles" pale in comparison with the early 2010 blockbusters "Avatar" and "Alice in Wonderland."
All of which has created an undercurrent of concern that changes in consumer behavior combined with the continued tough economic times, higher gasoline and movie ticket prices (driven in part by more premium-priced 3-D movies) could be drawing people away from theaters and toward less-expensive and readily available forms of entertainment such as Netflix streaming, video games and other digital media.
"For anyone in this business to not acknowledge the reality of the current forces at play would be doing the industry a disservice," said Universal Pictures Chairman Adam Fogelson. "All of us are looking for ways to make sure this isn't the time when theatrical moviegoing really does go away."
The industry has gone through box-office slumps before but always has recovered. Many are hopeful that's what will happen by May, when Johnny Depp sails into theaters with the latest "Pirates of the Caribbean" movie. At CinemaCon, studios are seeking to excite theater owners with previews of some of their highly anticipated summer sequels, including "Fast Five," "The Hangover Part II" and "Cars 2" as well as fresh event films like the comic book adaptations "Thor" and "Green Lantern."
"As you look at the lineup of films this summer, there are some fantastic titles," said Alan Stock, chief executive of theater circuit Cinemark Holdings Inc.
Even so, analyst Barton Crockett at Lazard Capital Markets predicted in recent research that a strong summer and holidays would still leave attendance down 2% for the full year.
Of course, the flip side of that optimism is that if the summer would-be blockbusters don't deliver, attention on systemic problems will escalate.
"A weak summer is going to amp up everybody's concerns," Universal's Fogelson said.
The decline in admissions is troubling Hollywood. The number of tickets sold per person annually in the U.S. and Canada has steadily fallen for most of the last decade to 4.1 last year, the lowest since 1993. In a recent presentation, Bob Pisano, president of the Motion Picture Assn. of America, attributed the trend in part to declining attendance among baby boomers.
Overseas, where Hollywood studios make most of their money and the largest U.S. theater chains have a growing presence, the news does not appear to be as bad. Although complete statistics are unavailable, Lynton estimated that international box-office receipts so far in 2011 are roughly flat with 2010.
The U.S. remains the largest movie market, however. To grow their business here and further differentiate it from the improving home experience, theater owners continue to pour millions of dollars into upgrading their auditoriums with new digital systems capable of projecting in 3-D.
Higher 3-D ticket prices have been a boon to theaters — generating some 20% of box-office revenues last year — but some in the industry believe it may be backfiring, especially at a time when families are cutting back on discretionary spending.
The average ticket price at theaters in the U.S. last year rose to an all-time high of $7.89, up 5% from 2009, according to the National Assn. of Theatre Owners. The increase is largely attributed to 3-D screenings, for which consumers pay surcharges of $2.50 to $4 per ticket. Most of this summer's biggest films will be in 3-D.
"We believe that exhibitors' core strategy of raising prices through 3-D premiums and pushing concession pricing as far as humanly possible is a dangerous strategy," wrote Richard Greenfield, an analyst with BTIG Research in New York.
But others doubt cost is the problem.
"There's nothing in the research that suggests rising prices are keeping moviegoers away," Lynton said.
In a sign that the status quo may not be acceptable, theater chains have been taking steps to expand their businesses. Many now offer live events such as operas and sports. AMC and Regal Entertainment Group — the two largest chains — recently launched a joint venture to acquire and distribute movies in an effort to grow their supply at a time when the big Hollywood studios are cutting back on the number of films they make.
The move is also widely viewed as a response to the studios' plans to start offering movies in the home as soon as eight weeks after they open in theaters — instead of the usual three-month wait — in a bid to stem declining DVD revenue. Exhibitors are outraged by the idea of "premium video-on-demand." "Premium video-on-demand will definitely be a dagger in the business," said Lyndon Golin, president of Regency Theatres in Calabasas.
Beyond the latest crop of high-profile flops, 2011 has also seen a number of movies come in on the low end of expectations based on pre-release polling. That has some worried that the habit of heading out to theaters may be slipping.
"When the audience is in a moviegoing mood, you pick up a head of steam," Lynton said.
Still, exhibition executives express confidence that they know how to get that momentum back.
"I believe we have long-term systemic challenges that we must work to overcome," AMC's Lopez said. "But I like our chances as an entertainment option of the future."
If there's one thing nobody at CinemaCon will dispute, it's that Lopez's prediction must come true.
"I see no path to a healthy future for our business," Fogelson said, "that doesn't include vibrant, growing theatrical moviegoing attendance."
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #3488 on: Mar 30th, 2011, 08:53am »
'Lifesize train set' for sale in New Zealand
It's the ultimate big boy's toy: a lifesize train set is being offered for sale on a New Zealand auction website.
The Flyer began life in the 1890s as a standard passenger train
By Paul Chapman in Wellington 7:00AM BST 30 Mar 2011
With the 120-year-old steam locomotive come two beautifully wood-panelled passenger carriages, a kitchen van, several goods wagons, almost nine miles of track, a pub, and a railway station.
The Kingston Flyer has languished in an uncovered yard, 25 miles from the South Island adventure tourism capital of Queenstown, since its last owners went into receivership in November 2009.
Now the company's mortgagees are seeking offers for the once popular tourist attraction through the Trade Me website.
The Flyer began life in the 1890s as a standard passenger train running between Kingston, which nestles at the foot of the Southern Alps, and the town of Gore, then on to the southern port of Invercargill.
Hauled by a New Zealand-built AB Pacific Class locomotive, the train completed its last scheduled service in 1957, and the line was later closed.
Thanks to steam preservation enthusiasts, in 1971 the Flyer was reborn as a vintage tourist attraction on the short stretch of branch line that had survived between Kingston and Fairlight.
Steaming majestically through picturesque scenery, the train drew thousands of visitors a year and has been used as a backdrop for everything from television commercials to Bollywood films.
Kingston Acquisitions, the last owners, who went into receivership owing NZ$4.7 million (£2.2 million), had ambitious plans to develop a tourist resort on land beside the track, complete with hotels and luxury villas.
Bob Muir, who is handling the sale for Christchurch-based estate agents Ray White, told the Telegraph: "The Flyer is a much-loved part of New Zealand's railway history, and the locals are just willing someone to come along and get it going again.
"This could be a great business opportunity and we have already had a lot of interest, with calls from around the world."
The price? Subject to negotiation but, if you're thinking of making an offer, in 2008 the train alone was valued at NZ$950,000 (£449,000).
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #3489 on: Mar 30th, 2011, 08:56am »
By Missy Ryan and Susan Cornwell WASHINGTON | Tue Mar 29, 2011 6:42pm EDT
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Intelligence on the rebels battling Libya's Muammar Gaddafi has shown "flickers" of al Qaeda or Hezbollah presence, NATO's operations commander said, but U.S. officials said there were no indications militant groups are playing a significant role in Libya.
"We are examining very closely the content, composition, the personalities, who are the leaders of these opposition forces," Admiral James Stavridis, NATO's supreme allied commander for Europe and commander of U.S. European Command, said in testimony to a U.S. Senate hearing on Tuesday.
But several national security officials quickly and firmly denied that al Qaeda or Hezbollah were significantly involved.
"If anyone thinks there are vast numbers of al-Qaeda terrorists running the rebel movement in Libya, then Churchill never smoked a cigar in his life," one of the officials said.
"No one's saying there isn't a relative smattering of bad guys in Libya. After all, there always have been goons in the country," the official told Reuters.
"But let's get real here. This is, at its core, an anti-Gaddafi uprising rooted in major opposition to a repressive regime that has brutalized its own people for decades."
U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice agreed that any al Qaeda involvement with the rebels was limited.
Asked whether she had seen any evidence to support Stavridis' assessment, Rice told Fox News: "I would like to think I'm reading much of the same stuff and no."
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton also made clear the wisps of information on al Qaeda and Hezbollah that Stavridis had alluded to were not based on hard intelligence.
"We do not have any specific information about specific individuals from any organization who are part of this, but of course, we're still getting to know those who are leading the Transitional National Council," she said in London after a conference on Libya.
Gaddafi's troops on Tuesday reversed the westward charge of rebel forces as world powers met in London more than a week after the United States and other nations launched a military campaign aimed at protecting Libyan civilians.
"Think in terms of very small numbers of Libyan rebels being affiliated with al-Qaeda," a U.S. official familiar with internal government reporting told Reuters. "While there are some limited connections, don't think that the rebels are somehow being led by al Qaeda. That's just not the case."
Even as the rebels struggle against Gaddafi's better-armed, better-organized troops, Stavridis said the Libyan leader was likely to go if the coalition brought a range of military power to bear against him.
"If we work all the elements of power, we have a more than reasonable chance of Gaddafi leaving, because the entire international community is arrayed against him," he said.
Two national security officials and a former White House counterterrorism expert said they could not confirm, and were puzzled by, Stavridis' assertion that intelligence showed possible involvement of Hezbollah with Libyan rebels.
Juan Zarate, a former counterterrorism advisor on the National Security Council under President George W. Bush, said he had no information to confirm Hezbollah involvement and it would be "incongruous" with what U.S. experts generally understand to be the makeup of Libyan rebel forces.
"I would find it unlikely at this stage that we have hard and fast evidence" that these groups are involved in a significant way in Libya, Zarate told Reuters.
Senators' questions at the hearing about the make-up of the Libyan opposition reflected skepticism in Congress about the Obama administration's preparedness for a campaign that came together quickly after weeks of speculation about whether the United States would intervene.
It also underscores worries about who might take over in Libya if Gaddafi does go.
"It's premature to say what is our exit strategy until we have a little more clarity moving forward," Stavridis said.
The Libya campaign has also intensified fears in Congress about the high cost of military activities overseas.
The war in Afghanistan, for example, costs the United States around $9 billion a month. Stavridis said the Libya mission had cost "hundreds of millions of dollars" so far.
(Additional reporting by Mark Hosenball. Writing by Missy Ryan; editing by Christopher Wilson)
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #3490 on: Mar 30th, 2011, 09:01am »
Wired Danger Room
The ‘Mercs for Libyan Rebels’ Drumbeat Begins By Spencer Ackerman March 30, 2011 | 9:35 am Categories: Mercs
We were mostly speculating last week when we mused about a plan for mercenaries to help the Libyan rebels defeat Moammar Gadhafi. But now a professor at the Naval Academy thinks it’s not such a bad idea.
Deane-Peter Baker, a private-security expert and professor at Annapolis, fears the same “stalemate” that Adm. James Stavridis warned about in Senate testimony on Wednesday. And if NATO ground troops are off the table, it’s time to “outsource the problem,” he writes in a new Baltimore Sun op-ed.
The U.S. should “provide the necessary funding for the rebels to secure the services of one or more of the private companies that could supply the necessary expertise and logistical support to turn the rebel rabble into a genuine fighting force,” Baker argues.
Good luck finding them. The president of the International Peace Operations Association, which advocates for private security firms, says companies aren’t looking to do business with the rebels because it’s arguably illegal under the United Nations resolution authorizing the war.
But the U.S. is finding convenient workarounds inside those U.N. authorities. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said the U.S. has the flexibility under it to arm the rebels. Maybe next the Obama administration will assert that, ahem, “trainers” can flow in to Benghazi too. After all, someone’s got to teach the rebels how to use the weapons they’d get from the West.
And if the U.S. doesn’t want to send in ground troops — whether for political reasons or because of military overstretch — that leaves the “ultimate volunteers,” as Baker calls the mercs. Let’s see if his call catches on at the Pentagon or at NATO.
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #3491 on: Mar 30th, 2011, 09:06am »
description with video:
Uploaded by trailermaster100 on Mar 25, 2011
The first trailer for Paul W.S. Anderson's The Three Musketeers has just been released through iTunes Movie Trailers and can be watched using the player below!
Opening in 3D on October 14, 2011, the action adventure Logan Lerman, Milla Jovovich, Matthew Macfadyen, Ray Stevenson, Luke Evans, Mads Mikkelson, Gabriella Wilde, Juno Temple, Orlando Bloom and Christoph Waltz in an adaptation of the classic Alexandre Dumas tale.
In The Three Musketeers, the hot-headed young D'Artagnan (Lerman) joins forces with three rogue Musketeers (MacFadyen, Evans and Stevenson). They must stop the evil Richlieu (Waltz) and face off with Buckingham (Bloom) and the treacherous Milady (Jovovich).
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #3493 on: Mar 30th, 2011, 1:15pm »
Opec set for $1,000bn in export revenues By Sylvia Pfeifer, Javier Blas and David Blair in London
Published: March 29 2011 22:31 | Last updated: March 29 2011 22:31
Opec, the oil producers’ cartel, will reap $1,000bn in export revenues this year for the first time if crude prices remain above $100 a barrel, according to the International Energy Agency.
The cartel has been one of the main beneficiaries of high oil prices, which have soared in recent weeks amid the civil uprisings in the Middle East and north Africa.
Brent crude was trading at $115 a barrel on Tuesday.
Fatih Birol, chief economist at the IEA, said a new assessment by the rich nations’ oil watchdog showed that the total number of barrels exported by Opec in 2011 would be slightly lower than in 2008, when cartel oil revenues reached $990bn. But if average prices remain around $100 a barrel, Opec’s oil revenues will still reach a record of $1,000bn this year.
“It would be the first time in the history of Opec that oil revenues have reached a trillion dollars. It’s mainly because of higher prices and higher production,” Mr Birol said in a Financial Times interview. “However, Saudi Arabia has made substantial efforts to calm down the oil markets by increasing production and hinder prices from going higher.”
The estimate, based on total Opec production including natural gas liquids, does not take inflation into account. “Depending on your choice of specific inflation adjustment, the 2008 number may be slightly higher [in real terms],” Mr Birol said.
Many of Opec’s biggest producers are using the price gains to increase public spending, partly to guard against popular unrest. Saudi Arabia announced a multiyear spending package of $129bn and is expected to spend about $35bn in 2011.
This largesse means the country now needs an oil price of $83 per barrel in order to balance its national budget this year. “The more they earn, the more they tend to spend. So the oil price they need is ratcheted up,” said Leonidas Drollas, chief economist at the Centre for Global Energy Studies in London.
Brad Bourland, chief economist at Jadwa, an investment house in Riyadh, predicted in a note to clients that “unless the [Saudi] government takes measures to reduce spending . . . we assume this breakeven price will rise in subsequent years”.
Another beneficiary from high oil prices is Russia. Mr Birol noted that if oil prices remain at an average of $100 a barrel, Moscow’s oil and gas revenues could increase by about $100bn to $350bn – equivalent to 21 per cent of Russia’s GDP.
High oil prices have “started to hurt the global economy”, Mr Birol said, adding that he is “very worried for OECD countries, especially Europe”.
The IEA is also concerned about the impact the current unrest is having on oil-sector investment in the Middle East and north Africa, which it expects to contribute about 90 per cent of production growth over the next 10 years.
“For this to happen, we need to invest now but I see the current geopolitical situation as a major handicap for making the right amount of investments,” Mr Birol said.
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #3494 on: Mar 30th, 2011, 4:34pm »
Wired Danger Room
Secret Space Plane Can’t Hide From Amateur Sleuths By Noah Shachtman March 30, 2011 | 4:06 pm Categories: Air Force
The U.S. military likes to be a little sneaky with its robotic space planes. Unlike typical spacecraft, these vehicles can shift their orbits, frustrating the global network of skywatchers who keep track of just about every man-made object rotating the planet.
But the sleuths have their tricks, too. They’ve tracked down the X-37B on its second secret mission. And the information the skywatchers are finding says quite a bit about the classified operations of this mysterious spacecraft.
It took the amateur sleuths nearly a month to hunt down the first X-37B after it launched on its inaugural mission. That’s an eternity in sky-spotting time.
The second time around was easier. The U.S. space plane was discovered just four days after it blasted into orbit, earlier this month. Cape Town, South Africa’s Greg Roberts — “a pioneer in using telescopic video cameras to track spacecraft, chalking up exceptional results over the years,” according to Space.com — spotted this second secret spacecraft, just like he found the first.
The X-37B has generated intense interest, long before it ever left the ground. Boeing originally developed the 29-foot unmanned craft — a kind of miniature Space Shuttle — for NASA. Then, in 2004, the military took over, and the space plane went black. Its payloads were classified, its missions hush-hush.
Depending on who you talk to, the space plane could be a prototype commando transport, an orbiting bomber or (most likely) a spy-above-the-skies. It could launch, repair or reposition U.S. satellites in low orbit. It could sneak up and disable or steal enemy satellites. Its pickup-bed-sized payload bay is particularly enticing to observers.
You can even see the spaceplane for yourself: The X-37B is traveling in a slightly elliptical orbit more than 200 miles up, swooping from a 43 degrees North to 43 degrees South. This site provides a real-time map: http://www.n2yo.com/satellite/?s=37375
That orbit gives some indications about what the space plane is actually doing up there. The typical spy satellite has a polar orbit, which means “it can cover the whole earth and it can fly over the same spot at the same Sun angle each time it comes overhead,” explains Brian Weeden, a former Air Force Space Command officer, now with the Secure World Foundation.
The X-37B, on the other hand, is orbiting around the fat middle of the planet, traveling over the Middle East, Africa, and fair chunk of China. “It means they are giving up global coverage and predictable shadow lengths, but getting more frequent passes,” Weeden says. The orbit lends credence to the idea that the space plane is an orbiting spy.
So does the X-37B’s altitude. It’s flying pretty low — one of the rare orbiters traveling beneath the International Space Station. “The lower you are,” Weeden notes, “the higher resolution you can get in any imagery.” And the easier you are to spot from the ground.