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 veryhotthread  Author  Topic: Stuff & Nonsense  (Read 152798 times)
WingsofCrystal
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« Reply #3675 on: Apr 17th, 2011, 08:45am »

Wired Danger Room

Putin Does the Rendition-and-Secret-Jail Thing, Too
By Adam Rawnsley
April 15, 2011 | 2:24 pm
Categories: Russia


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FSB Headquarters in Moscow, Flickr/Argenberg


Secret terror flights to black jails – they’re not just for America any more!

In December, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, took a swipe at the United States’ history of abducting and torturing terrorism suspects abroad while defending his American sleeper agents on Larry King. “Thank God, neither these people, nor our other intelligence or special service officers have been seen organizing secret prisons, abducting people or torturing them,” he said. Pull out the fainting couch, folks, because it turns out the old Russian spook was lying.

Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) has flung open its doors to the spy services of authoritarian former Soviet republics looking to nab domestic dissidents and alleged terrorists, according to a new article by veteran Russian intel watchers Andrei Soldatov and Irina Borogan. They claim that the FSB has used Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), a regional security and economic organization, as a kind rendition clearing house in order to make the organization more popular among its neighbors than the rival NATO.

Human rights-flaunting Uzbekistan has been particularly a happy customer, Soldatov and Borogan write. In 2005, Uzbek spooks working with their FSB counterparts teamed up to quietly yank Alisher Usmanov from a prison in the Russian Federation. He’d been sentenced for illegal weapons possession in Russia and was wanted on subversion charges in Uzbekistan. Usmanov was set to be released from prison on weapons charges in 2005 but on release day, was nowhere to be found. Instead, the authors say Russian and Uzbek spies secretly packed him on a flight and shipped him to Uzbekistan for prosecution — despite his Russian citizenship. A number of Uzbeks alleged to be members of Hizb ut-Tahrir, an Islamist group opposed to the Uzbek regime, have also disappeared from Russia only to mysteriously turn up later in Uzbek prisons.

Back in the 1990s, the snatch and grabs were a little less formal. Uzbek, Tajik, Turkmen, and Azerbaijani intelligence services, the authors write, “began reaching into Russia to grab people who might cause trouble for the autocratic and corrupt regimes running those countries,” which the FSB let slip by. But thanks to Russia’s counterterrorism cooperation at the SCO, things are apparently nice and organized now.

http://www.wired.com/dangerroom/2011/04/putin-does-the-rendition-and-secret-jail-thing-too/#more-44604

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« Reply #3676 on: Apr 17th, 2011, 08:55am »

[youtube]http://youtu.be/szHO-wEmvio[/youtube]

For some reason I can't get the D*mn thing to load. Here's the link to Doctor Who: 47 Years in 6 Minutes

YouTube

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=szHO-wEmvio

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« Reply #3677 on: Apr 17th, 2011, 11:56am »

Playing with Time-Lapse Photography:


http://www.wimp.com/milkytimelapse/
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« Reply #3678 on: Apr 17th, 2011, 6:35pm »

on Apr 17th, 2011, 11:56am, Swamprat wrote:
Playing with Time-Lapse Photography:


http://www.wimp.com/milkytimelapse/


Beautiful! Thank you Swamprat. The clouds looked like ocean waves.

Crystal
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« Reply #3679 on: Apr 17th, 2011, 6:43pm »

Blog Talk Radio

GUEST- Karyn Dolan
by Alien Talk Erica in Paranormal
Airdate: Mon, Apr 18, 2011 01:00AM

Call in number to speak with the host

(714) 242-6130

Karyn Dolan is a speaker and Ufo activist - and is the host of the popular paranormal radio show called "Through the Keyhole".

It airs live on Friday's at 7pm Eastern.

http://keyholepublishing.com/KarynDolan.htm

You can also find her on MySpace and Twitter at:

http://www.myspace.com/karyndolan

http://www.twitter.com/karyndolan

http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1300077503

http://www.blogtalkradio.com/alientalkshow/2011/04/18/guest-karyn-dolan

~

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« Reply #3680 on: Apr 18th, 2011, 07:55am »

Washington Post

Taliban targets Afghan Defense Ministry; 2 killed in suicide attack
By Joshua Partlow
Monday, April 18, 8:48 AM

KABUL — At least one insurgent draped in explosives stalked the halls of the Ministry of Defense in Kabul and shot guards inside the building on Monday before being killed, according to Afghan officials and witnesses.

The brazen midday attack served as a startling reminder of the Taliban’s ability to penetrate even the most secure locations in Afghanistan. There were reports that as many as three insurgents took part in the suicide attack, but this could not immediately be confirmed.

One attacker opened fire on the second floor of the headquarters building, killing a guard outside the deputy minister’s door. The fighter, or possibly another one, had also walked the third floor near the office of the Afghan army chief of staff, according to an official in the building at the time of the attack.

Neither the defense minister, Abdul Rahim Wardak, nor the chief of the staff, Gen. Sher Mohammad Karimi, was in the building at the time. “They had bad intel,” the official said of the insurgents. “They were attacking empty offices.”

Employees in the building broke windows to escape the shooting, which was intense but lasted for only a couple of minutes.

A Defense Ministry spokesman, Gen. Mohammad Zahir Azimi, said the attacker, wearing an Afghan army uniform and a vest rigged with explosives, killed two people and wounding seven others before being gunned down himself. He said the attacker did not detonate his explosives.

The radical Islamist Taliban movement claimed responsibility for the suicide attack, which it said was aimed at visiting French Defense Minister Gerard Longuet. But French officials said Longuet was not at the ministry when the assault occurred.

The midday attack raised fresh fears about the extent to which the Taliban has infiltrated Afghanistan’s army and police forces. It was the third time in a week that insurgents, apparently in security force uniforms, slipped onto bases to hit their targets.

On Friday, a man in a police uniform killed the Kandahar police chief by blowing himself up inside the courtyard of the southern city’s police headquarters. The next day, another bomber, a recently recruited Afghan soldier, killed five NATO troops and four Afghan soldiers at an Afghan army base in Laghman province.

Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid said in a text message that the attacker struck during a meeting with the French defense minister and caused “huge casualties.”

But Lt. Col. Eric de Lapresle, a spokesman for French forces in Afghanistan, said Longuet was not present during the attack, the Associated Press reported. Longuet arrived Sunday and visited the eastern part of the country to meet with some of the 3,850 French troops deployed in Afghanistan as part of a NATO mission. He was scheduled to meet with Afghan officials Monday.

After the assault, Afghan soldiers roamed the street outside the ministry with rifles and rocket-propelled grenade launchers as American soldiers drove past in black SUVs.

Those at the ministry praised the Afghan soldiers for thwarting what could have been a deadlier attack.

“The Taliban flatly failed today. They missed all their primary and secondary targets,” said the official at the ministry. “Their infiltrators were all killed before they could detonate their explosives vests.”

http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/twin-blasts-kill-at-least-9-at-security-checkpoint-outside-fortified-green-zone-in-baghdad/2011/04/18/AFZ9nsxD_story.html?hpid=z3

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« Reply #3681 on: Apr 18th, 2011, 07:59am »

AOL news

The JFK-UFO Connection: Bogus Documents or Unanswered Questions?

Apr 18, 2011 – 7:30 AM
by Lee Speigel

Do you like a good UFO detective story? Well, here's one for you. And it's ongoing, so we don't yet know the ending. It involves President John F. Kennedy's interest in UFOs shortly before his death and an allegation that he may have angered officials in his administration when he asked for information on the subject.

Recently, the FBI opened a new website, "The Vault," that lets you view a variety of documents, including those regarding UFOs. I looked into one document that appears to include a phony UFO story and mentioned how important it is to be extremely careful when looking at UFO documents and how it's critical to know the background of this information.

more after the jump
http://www.aolnews.com/2011/04/18/the-jfk-ufo-connection-bogus-documents-or-unanswered-questions/

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« Reply #3682 on: Apr 18th, 2011, 08:04am »

Wired Danger Room

The Cost of Combat Stress: a Billion Dollars a Year
By Madhumita Venkataramanan
April 18, 2011 | 7:00 am
Categories: Military Life


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photo by Spencer Ackerman


In a war, death comes in many forms: jury-rigged bombs, sleek fighter jets, assault rifles, rocket-propelled grenades. But a stealthier killer lingers long after the fighting is done, in the psychological toll that combat exacts. More than 6,000 veterans take their own lives every year — about 20 percent of the 30,000 American suicides annually.

In an effort to quantify the psychological cost of war, a recent report from the National Bureau of Economic Research has come up with the magic numbers. They estimate that lower-bound costs of mental health problems from the global war on terror are between $750 million and $1.35 billion annually.

Despite trying everything from portable weatherproof brain scanners to drug treatments with ecstasy and MDMA, service members are still suffering with post-traumatic stress and other mental health issues.

In fact, 26 percent of returning soldiers from Iraq and Afghanistan are depressed, drug and alcohol-dependent, homeless or suicidal, says the NBER report. This quoted number was independently calculated in a study done by the Rand Corporation, a non-profit policy and research think tank.

The NBER report brings some fresh insights to the table. Rather than assessing the mental impact of war through a measure of soldiers’ deployment length as other studies have done, this report assesses trauma through the type of combat soldiers have been involved in.

Although the results are pretty intuitive, the report establishes that those soldiers who “engage in frequent enemy firefight or witness allied or civilian deaths are at substantially increased risk for suicidal ideation, psychological counseling, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).”

So, when the military decides which soldiers to deploy for active combat, they should be cognizant of where and not necessarily for how long, the soldier has been deployed before.

Also interesting: This report is the first military mental health study to use longitudinal data, from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health, conducted by the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.

The dataset is a collection of health information from high school kids in 1994. The study did its most recent follow-up in 2008. It’s useful for diagnostic PTSD research because it includes and reflects childhood mental health of many current troops from their pre-service days, allowing scientists to look for early portents of PTSD development.

The signs of mental health deterioration have been red flag for a few years now.

The number of soldier suicides (129) reported in the first seven months of 2009 by The New York Times was higher than the number of active troops killed during combat in that time.

Vets from Iraq and Afghanistan, young soldiers between 18 and 34 years old, found themselves unable to deal with their post-war nightmares and insomnia, said a Navy Times report in 2010. Their solution: popping pills with frightening regularity to treat depression, psychosis and anxiety. This pill-popping translated to a 42 percent increase in prescription drug use between 2005 and 2009.

The cost of psychological damage by active warfare is now a real number, but it doesn’t represent the unquantifiable ripple-effect costs on socioeconomic outcomes like psychological health of military children, impact on marriages or the future labor market, says the NBER report. This invisible, burgeoning effect of PTSD begs ever more Pentagon research into prevention, diagnosis and treatment of the silent killer.


http://www.wired.com/dangerroom/2011/04/billion-dollar-ptsd/#more-44707

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« Reply #3683 on: Apr 18th, 2011, 08:09am »

Science Daily

Long-Sought Fossil Mammal With Transitional Middle Ear

ScienceDaily (Apr. 17, 2011)

— Paleontologists from the American Museum of Natural History and the Chinese Academy of Sciences announce the discovery of Liaoconodon hui, a complete fossil mammal from the Mesozoic found in China that includes the long-sought transitional middle ear. The specimen shows the bones associated with hearing in mammals -- the malleus, incus, and ectotympanic -- decoupled from the lower jaw, as had been predicted, but were held in place by an ossified cartilage that rested in a groove on the lower jaw. The new research, published in Nature this week, also suggests that the middle ear evolved at least twice in mammals, for monotremes and for the marsupial-placental group.


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This is Liaoconodon hui, a fossil mammal from China.
(Credit: Meng, et al 2011 ( Nature))



"People have been looking for this specimen for over 150 years since noticing a puzzling groove on the lower jaw of some early mammals, " says Jin Meng, curator in the Division of Paleontology at the Museum and first author of the paper. "Now we have cartilage with ear bones attached, the first clear paleontological evidence showing relationships between the lower jaw and middle ear."

Mammals -- the group of animals that includes egg-laying monotremes like the platypus, marsupials like the opossum, and placentals like mice and whales -- are loosely united by a suite of characteristics, including the middle ear ossicles. The mammalian middle ear, or the area just inside the ear drum, is ringed in shape and includes three bones, two of which are found in the joint of the lower jaw of living reptiles. This means that during the evolutionary shift from the group that includes lizards, crocodilians, and dinosaurs to mammals, the quadrate and articular plus prearticular bones separated from the posterior lower jaw and became associated with hearing as the incus and malleus.

The transition from reptiles to mammals has long been an open question, although studies of developing embryos have linked reptilian bones of the lower jaw joint to mammalian middle ear bones. Previously discovered fossils have filled in parts of the mammalian middle-ear puzzle. An early mammal, Morganucodon that dates to about 200 million years ago, has bones more akin to a reptilian jaw joint but with a reduction in these bones, which functioned for both hearing and chewing. Other fossils described within the last decade have expanded information about early mammals -- finding, for example, that ossified cartilage still connected to the groove was common on the lower jaws of early mammals. But these fossils did not include the bones of the middle ear.

The new fossil described this week, Liaoconodon hui, fills the gap in knowledge between the basal, early mammaliaforms like Morganucodon, where the middle ear bones are part of the mandible and the definitive middle ear of living and fossil mammals. Liaoconodon hui is a medium-sized mammal for the Mesozioc (35.7 cm long from nose to tip of tail, or about 14 inches) and dates from 125 to 122 million years. It is named in part for the bountiful fossil beds in Liaoning, China, where it was found. The species name, hui, honors paleontologist Yaoming Hu who graduated from the American Museum of Natural History-supported doctoral program and recently passed away. The fossil is particularly complete, and its skull was prepared from both dorsal and ventral sides, allowing Meng and colleagues to see that the incus and malleus have detached from the lower jaw to form part of the middle ear. These bones remain linked to the jaw by the ossified Meckel's cartilage that rests in the groove on the lower jaw. The team hypothesizes that in this early mammal, the ear drum was stabilized with the ossified cartilage as a supporting structure.

"Before we did not know the detailed morphology of how the bones of the middle ear detached, or the purpose of the ossified cartilage," says Meng. "Liaoconodon hui changes previous interpretations because we now know the detailed morphology of the transitional mammal and can propose that the ossified cartilage is a stabilizer."

Also presented in the new research paper is a detailed phylogenetic analysis of some features of living and fossil mammals. Looking at features associated with bones and the groove on the lower jaw, which indicated the presence of ossified Meckel's cartilage, it appears that the middle ear probably evolved twice, in monotremes and in placentals and marsupials.

"I've always dreamed of a fossil with a good ear ossicle," says Meng. "Now, we have had this once in a lifetime discovery."

In addition to Meng, authors of the paper include Wang Yuanqing and Li Chuankui, both of the Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology, Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing. The research was funded by Major Basic Research Project of the Ministry of Science and Technology, China, the National Science Foundation of China, the Special Fund for Fossil Excavation and Preparation of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, and the National Science Foundation of USA.

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/04/110413132949.htm

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« Reply #3684 on: Apr 18th, 2011, 08:13am »

Hollywood Reporter

3net Begins Production on 3D Civil War Series (Exclusive)

3:01 AM 4/18/2011
by Carolyn Giardina

Stereoscopic period stills help create "a new way to do history programming," Tom Cosgrove, president/CEO of the new 3D network from Sony, Discovery and Imax, tells THR.

3net, the new 3D network from Sony, Discovery and Imax, has taken its first step into scripted 3D production with an ambitious four-part series about the Civil War.

The program, which will be shot in 3D, is slated to debut on 3net in the fall and is a departure from most of the 3DTV content being produced at this point -- sports or other live event coverage.

Under the working title The Civil War 3D, principal photography on the four-hour program is under way. The program will combine digitized stereoscopic archival imagery from the period, scripted re-enactments and character narrative. It ties in with the 150th anniversary of the start of the Civil War.

"This is based on stereoscopic stills that were taken during the time -- those were really the impetus for the idea," 3net president and CEO Tom Cosgrove told The Hollywood Reporter. "For me, the stills really take you into the place in a way that I hadn't seen before. It started the idea of looking at a new way to do history programming.

"We started looking at telling the story through stills, then decided to use the stills to supplement re-creations and really create this world in 3D and use the stills as a touch point to get back to the original feel and look of the Civil War."

More such programming may be on the way.

"There are thousands of (3D) stills from the time of the Civil War all the way through the end of the century and into the next," Cosgrove related. "There is a big archive that we'll tap into to tell these stories, and the rest will probably be re-enactments."

3net also plans to extend beyond history programming. "We are working on several different scripted projects, scripted dramas particularly," Cosgrove said.

David W. Padrusch will direct and co-write the Civil War series as well as executive produce with Jonathan Towers through Towers Prods. Tim Pastore will executive produce for 3net.

The narrative will include personal stories from soldiers in opposing regiments, the Union's 20th Massachusetts and the Confederate's 1st Virginia.

Padrusch said the series would "bring the prism of 3D technology to first-person accounts of battlefield experiences as a way of exploring the humanity and the complexity of motivations of soldiers on both sides of the war."

"The 1st Virginia and 20th Massachusetts regiments participated in nearly every major battle in the Easter Theater, and the men in these units gave us authentic and haunting first-hand insights into America's darkest days." said Patrick Brennan, author of Secessionville: Assault on Charleston, who serves as historical consultant and co-writer with Padrusch.

3net, which has been on the air since mid-February, plans that this Civil War production and all 3net original programs will be lensed in 3D, rather than converted, as 3net believes this offers the highest-quality 3D, Cosgrove said.

For the Civil War series, re-enactments will in some cases be shot at the actual locations and battlefields, such as Gettysburg. The series also will be shot on location in Illinois.

With 3D content for TV still limited, 3net and other young channels in overseas territories have been exploring participation in co-productions or licensing content from one another. Cosgrove acknowledged that America's Civil War is "obviously not as global a title as some of the natural history (programming), but we definitely have interest. We are not going to always find something that is going to resonate around the world. Sometimes we want to do things we believe in passionately that we think is going to resonate here. This is one of those."

He added: "We already have pretty significant interest in the U.K."

http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/3net-begins-production-3d-civil-179289

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« Reply #3685 on: Apr 18th, 2011, 12:06pm »

Laughing Squid

Above Earth, Iconic Representations of 23 Historic Space Missions

By Scott Beale on April 18, 2011



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In honor of the 50th anniversary of Yuri Gagarin’s historic first manned mission into the great beyond… we are making our next iconic collection tshirt available for pre-order.

23 historic missions of mankind’s exploration of space from the very first satellites to the first manned permanent outpost in Earth orbit.

http://www.chopshopstore.com/

http://laughingsquid.com/above-earth-iconic-representations-of-23-historic-space-missions/

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« Reply #3686 on: Apr 18th, 2011, 2:01pm »

Slowly moving away from conspiracies!

Since my interest began in the paranormal and UFO's, and with the onset of my radio show which started in 2005, I have found myself drawn into constant discussions about varying conspiracy theories regarding UFO's, a New World Order, false-flag events and the 'end of the world' scenarios for 2012. But now I believe, is the time for change.

I believe that we are what we create, and that 'cosmic ordering' means we can manifest bad things around us as well as good, just by giving them energy and thought. For this reason, if everyone starts talking about and discussing disasters and the like, there seems to be a force at play that brings these things into our reality.

Now you may think that sounds a little crazy, but I have used cosmic ordering on many occasions with great success, and if it works for the GOOD things we think about and imagine manifesting, then surely it must also work for the darker things we think about? After all, this is the very balance of the Ying and Yang, light and dark by which we all live our day to day lives.

So I have made a conscious decision, to step back from the 'conspiracy' area and concentrate purely on trying to improve things for the greater good. I'm not saying that my efforts alone will afford great change, but if a few others take the same route, who knows what can happen? My friend Phyllis Schlemmer said "it only takes 9 people to change the world" - so what would happen if every reader of this blog made a conscious effort to manifest peace and prosperity and to help heal Mother Nature at her time of need?

...

Read the rest here:
http://rhemsworth.blogspot.com/2011/04/slowly-moving-away-from-conspiracies.html?spref=fb
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« Reply #3687 on: Apr 18th, 2011, 4:35pm »

I tend to agree with Ross. I believe there is too much focus on the past in ufology. Memories fade, witnesses die, data gets lost, stories get garbled, self-serving agendas get slipped in......

Enough already. Focus on the now; focus on the future. To me, the answers we seek will come from today and tomorrow, not yesterday.

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« Reply #3688 on: Apr 18th, 2011, 5:46pm »

LA Times

New York artist satirizes Westboro Baptist Church leaders in painting

April 18, 2011 | 3:00 pm


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Photo: Scott LoBaido works on his painting of Westboro Baptist Church leaders Fred Phelps and Shirley Phelps-Roper.
Credit: Orlin Wagner / Associated Press



Leaders of the ultra-conservative Westboro Baptist Church have repeatedly skirted the law by maintaining a legal distance while picketing military funerals. This weekend, a New York artist attempted to beat the church at its own game by creating a satirical painting of Pastor Fred Phelps Sr. across the street from the organization's headquarters in Kansas.

Scott LoBaido traveled to the church's compound in Topeka, where he parked his truck across the street and painted a portrait depicting Phelps in a carnal embrace with the devil. The painting also lampoons Phelps' daughter, Shirley Phelps-Roper. (The story was first reported in the Topeka Capital-Journal.)

A native of Staten Island, LoBaido said in a phone interview Monday that he wanted to use the church's own tactics against it by maintaining a legal distance from the property. "I'm trying to alert the creative masses to use their 1st Amendment rights," he said.

LoBaido said the church had hung numerous upside-down U.S. flags outside its compound on Sunday. The artist played the music of Lady Gaga from his vehicle when he unveiled the portrait. (Phelps has publicly criticized the pop singer.) LoBaido said police gave him a citation for playing loud music and told him that he was too close to the property.

The artist said he pointed out that he was creating a work of art and not a sign, and that he was within his legal rights to be there. The police did not take further action against him, he said.
LoBaido said the painting will be auctioned on EBay, with proceeds going toward Homes for Heroes -- an organization that helps veterans find housing -- and Community Health Action of Staten Island.

The artist, 46, described himself as a surrealist and a patriot, "two things that don't normally go together." He said he likes to travel the country, painting American flags and supporting U.S. troops.

LoBaido said he hasn't been contacted by the Westboro Baptist Church. However, Phelps-Roper told the Capital-Journal that "this is just a perpetual, nonstop effort by their thinking to stop our words."

Earlier this year, the Supreme Court sided with the church, saying that members have the right to carry anti-gay and other signs at funerals for U.S. troops.

http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/culturemonster/2011/04/new-york-artist-satirizes-westboro-baptist-church.html

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« Reply #3689 on: Apr 19th, 2011, 06:56am »

Washington Post

China looks to tame real estate tiger

By Howard Schneider, Monday, April 18, 8:28 PM

The developers at 8 Chang’an Ave. make no pretense about their ambitions, with a cavernous marble sales area, a vow to “Never Be Second” and a multimillion-dollar price tag for apartments.

What they may not have is a market, at least not much of one after Beijing’s local government in February imposed tight restrictions on who is allowed to buy property. No more investors from other cities. No more newcomers. No more third- and fourth-home buyers trying to profit from skyrocketing values.

These steps are the bluntest yet in China’s battle against a run-up in real estate prices that some fear is setting the stage for a world-shaking crash.

China’s dynamic growth has become a primary engine of the global economic rebound and vital to U.S. businesses that make or export goods here. Last week, China reported that it was growing at 9.7 percent annually — in line with a steady path of roughly 10 percent growth in recent years and the fastest among top economies.

But there is mounting concern here and abroad that the country’s economy is overheating and could undercut the country’s advantage as a low-cost exporter. China’s top leaders have cited rising prices as their chief economic concern, wary of the impact higher food and fuel prices can have on social order in the nation.

Over the weekend, China’s central bank ordered that Chinese banks increase their cash reserves, aimed at easing some of the upward pressure on prices that happens when loans are widely and cheaply available to businesses and individuals.

But this step, and similar measures targeting the Chinese financial sector, may only go so far in downshifting the Chinese economy as long as Beijing keeps the value of its currency in line with that of the dollar. The close relationship of those two currencies means that policies that stimulate economic activity in the United States could turbo-charge economic growth in China. It also means China pays more for oil, iron ore and other imported commodities.

Efforts by the Federal Reserve to invigorate the anemic U.S. recovery through an ambitious program of bond-buying, for instance, while doing little to spark inflation at home, may fan inflation in China. Beijing has pledged to let its currency float against the dollar, but the International Monetary Fund and other critics say the yuan remains substantially undervalued. By contrast, countries that allow their currencies to adjust more freely on the open market can shelter themselves from inflationary pressures emanating in the United States.

Absent the kind of changes in currency and capital markets that could reduce pressures transmitted by the U.S. dollar, China has been looking for other fixes — and perhaps nowhere more notably than in the real estate market.

The country has tamed property booms before. But the latest bout — perhaps a 50 percent increase in prices during the past year and a half — has raised concerns about how far speculative real estate investments are spread across the books of banks, corporations and state-run enterprises. Given China’s size and central role in the world economy, a sharp real estate downturn that cascades through the economy, like the housing meltdown in the United States, would cause global shock waves.

IMF’s concerns

Fueled by loose bank lending encouraged during the depths of the recent financial crisis, “the issue is whether they are experiencing the kind of credit boom that inevitably ends with a bust,” the IMF cautioned in its latest report on the world economy. “There are mounting concerns about the potential for steep corrections in property prices and their implications,” the IMF said, including “an abrupt slowdown of economic activity.”

The reshaping of the real estate market here is playing out quickly — in the offices of luxury-sales agents worried about how to find clients, among executives whose businesses have been upended, in the frustrations of recently arrived Beijingers who must now wait years to qualify to buy a home. There was no subtlety in the recent edicts: No one can buy property in Beijing now unless they have paid taxes here for five years, a rule that curbs speculators from elsewhere in China or outside it, but also upsets the aims of new residents who want a place to live.

“It is a bit disappointing,” said Chen Qiangyong, who has been in the city three years and was hoping, as a high-achieving “tiger salesman” at the Homelink real estate company, to finally buy a place of his own.

His clients have reaped big profits over the past months by selling apartments soon after buying them — even lower-priced property farther from downtown generated gains of 40 percent. But in his own case, Chen said, “we are only trying to have a home.”

The latest restrictions were imposed by local governments after China’s central authorities realized their own attempts to tame housing prices weren’t working. The average apartment price in Beijing, at about $300 a square foot, is comparable to major U.S. cities — but in a country with a per capita income of $3,000. A crash program to build millions of low-income homes has been announced.

Sabrina D. Wei, head of research for property firm DTZ in Beijing, said she could sense the pressure building last year. The central authorities first attacked the problem with interest rate hikes and stricter bank lending rules, but each round had limited effect. The number of monthly sales would drop, but within weeks rebound to even higher levels.

“It was kind of out of control,” she said.

The local rules, by contrast, are starting to bite, and the issue being watched now is what type of aftershock is coming. The local Xinhua news agency recently reported a steep drop in cash flow among developers — a sign that sales may be slowing, but also, some analysts suggest, a precursor to deeper trouble for the companies and the banks that financed them. Ratings agencies like Fitch and other analysts say they are expecting a jump in bad loans as a result of the loose lending policies used to boost the economy during the 2008 crisis.

There is debate about the larger risks. While there may be a speculative aspect to the recent rise in prices, the underlying surge in property values is driven by basic economics. Millions of Chinese are moving from villages to cities, their wages are rising and national economic growth remains strong — trends that many analysts expect to continue for years.

Even if values drop sharply in coming months, “it is in the context of prices that went up 55 percent,” so investors and lenders could well absorb the fall, said Arthur Kroeber, managing director of the Dragonomics consulting firm in Beijing.

Since major banks are state-owned, they would be quickly buttressed by the central government if problems develop.

That may be little consolation along Chang’an Avenue, where sales manager Wang Linlin needs to figure out how to sell the 272 “Luxury Mansion” apartments. Seventy-two have been sold, she said, sipping lemon water near the Steinway grand piano in the development’s sales lounge. That’s well in advance of a scheduled opening of June 2012, but the new rules have changed the outlook.

“We are aiming for luxury, high-end customers and of course, the restrictions impact them,” she said. “It’s people who are coming back, from Hong Kong, from overseas. That’s the client.”

Hu Jinghui, vice president of marketing at the Bacic-5I5J real estate group, said sales are off as much as 60 percent compared with last year — and the company is debating whether to move ahead with a planned stock offering, trying to build its rental business and examining other ways to cope.

During the crisis “the government encouraged people to buy, there were loans and people rushed to the market,” he said. “It is difficult to manage or expand or go public. Policy goes up and down dramatically.”

He’s anxious about the prospect of a fast, steep drop in prices. “If there is a hard landing,” he said, “the real economy and the banks will suffer.”

http://www.washingtonpost.com/business/economy/china-combats-real-estate-run-up/2011/04/14/AFSiPB0D_story.html

Crystal
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