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 veryhotthread  Author  Topic: Stuff & Nonsense  (Read 92927 times)
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« Reply #4035 on: May 19th, 2011, 5:25pm »



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« Reply #4036 on: May 20th, 2011, 07:43am »

New York Times

May 19, 2011
Make My Bed? But You Say the World’s Ending
By ASHLEY PARKER

The Haddad children of Middletown, Md., have a lot on their minds: school projects, SATs, weekend parties. And parents who believe the earth will begin to self-destruct on Saturday.

The three teenagers have been struggling to make sense of their shifting world, which started changing nearly two years ago when their mother, Abby Haddad Carson, left her job as a nurse to “sound the trumpet” on mission trips with her husband, Robert, handing out tracts. They stopped working on their house and saving for college.

Last weekend, the family traveled to New York, the parents dragging their reluctant children through a Manhattan street fair in a final effort to spread the word.

“My mom has told me directly that I’m not going to get into heaven,” Grace Haddad, 16, said. “At first it was really upsetting, but it’s what she honestly believes.”

Thousands of people around the country have spent the last few days taking to the streets and saying final goodbyes before Saturday, Judgment Day, when they expect to be absorbed into heaven in a process known as the rapture. Nonbelievers, they hold, will be left behind to perish along with the world over the next five months.

With their doomsday T-shirts, placards and leaflets, followers — often clutching Bibles — are typically viewed as harmless proselytizers from outside mainstream religion. But their convictions have frequently created the most tension within their own families, particularly with relatives whose main concern about the weekend is whether it will rain.

Kino Douglas, 31, a self-described agnostic, said it was hard to be with his sister Stacey, 33, who “doesn’t want to talk about anything else.”

“I’ll say, ‘Oh, what are we going to do this summer?’ She’s going to say, ‘The world is going to end on May 21, so I don’t know why you’re planning for summer,’ and then everyone goes, ‘Oh, boy,’ ” he said.

The Douglas siblings live near each other in Brooklyn, and Mr. Douglas said he could not wait until Sunday — “I’m going to show up at her house so we can have that conversation that’s been years in coming.”

Ms. Douglas, who has a 7-year-old, said that while her family did not see the future the way she did, her mother did allow her to put a Judgment Day sign up on her house. “I never thought I’d be doing this,” said Ms. Douglas, who took vacation from her nanny job this week but did not quit. “I was in an abusive relationship. One day, my son was playing with the remote and Mr. Camping was on TV. I thought, This guy is crazy. But I kept thinking about it and something told me to go back.”

Ms. Douglas and other believers subscribe to the prophesy of Harold Camping, a civil engineer turned self-taught biblical scholar whose doomsday scenario — broadcast on his Family Radio network — predicts a May 21, 2011, Judgment Day. On that day, arrived at through a series of Bible-based calculations that assume the world will end exactly 7,000 years after Noah’s flood, believers are to be transported up to heaven as a worldwide earthquake strikes. Nonbelievers will endure five months of plagues, quakes, wars, famine and general torment before the planet’s total destruction in October. In 1992 Mr. Camping said the rapture would probably be in 1994, but he now says newer evidence makes the prophesy for this year certain.

Kevin Brown, a Family Radio representative, said conflict with other family members was part of the test of whether a person truly believed. “They’re going through the fiery trial each day,” he said.

Gary Daniels, 27, said he planned to spend Saturday like other believers, “glued to our TV sets, waiting for the Resurrection and earthquake from nation to nation.” But he acknowledged that his family was not entirely behind him.

“At first there was a bit of anger and tension, not really listening to one another and just shouting out ideas,” Mr. Daniels said.

But his family has come around to respect — if not endorse — his views, and he drove from his home in Newark, Del., on Monday night in a van covered in Judgment Day messages to say goodbye to relatives in Brooklyn. “I know I’m not going to see them again, but they are very certain they are going to see me, and that’s where I feel so sad,” he said. “I weep to know that they don’t have any idea that this overwhelming thing is coming right at them, pummeling toward them like a meteor.”

Courtney Campbell, a professor of religion and culture at Oregon State University, said “end times” movements were often tied to significant date changes, like Jan. 1, 2000, or times of acute social crises.

“Ultimately we’re looking for some authoritative answers in an era of great social, political, economic, as well as natural, upheaval,” Professor Campbell said. “Right now there are lots of natural disasters occurring that will get people worried, whether it’s tornadoes in the South or earthquakes and tsunamis. The United States is now involved in three wars. We’re still in a period of economic uncertainty.”

While Ms. Haddad Carson has quit her job, her husband still works as an engineer for the federal Energy Department. But the children worry that there may not be enough money for college. They also have typical teenage angst — embarrassing parents — only amplified.

“People look at my family and think I’m like that,” said Joseph, their 14-year-old, as his parents walked through the street fair on Ninth Avenue, giving out Bibles. “I keep my friends as far away from them as possible.”

“I don’t really have any motivation to try to figure out what I want to do anymore,” he said, “because my main support line, my parents, don’t care.”

His mother said she accepted that believers “lose friends and you lose family members in the process.”

“I have mixed feelings,” Ms. Haddad Carson said. “I’m very excited about the Lord’s return, but I’m fearful that my children might get left behind. But you have to accept God’s will.”

The children, however, have found something to giggle over. “She’ll say, ‘You need to clean up your room,’ ” Grace said. “And I’ll say, ‘Mom, it doesn’t matter, if the world’s going to end!’ ”

She and her twin, Faith, have a friend’s birthday party Saturday night, around the time their parents believe the rapture will occur.

“So if the world doesn’t end, I’d really like to attend,” Grace said before adding, “Though I don’t know how emotionally able my family will be at that time.”

Juliet Linderman contributed reporting.


http://www.nytimes.com/2011/05/20/us/20rapture.html?_r=1&hp

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« Reply #4037 on: May 20th, 2011, 07:45am »

Washington Post

Some FBI agents are angered by plan to extend tenure of Director Robert Mueller

By Jerry Markon, Published: May 19

President Obama’s plan to keep FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III in office beyond his 10-year term has triggered an angry reaction among some agents, who say Muel­ler imposed term limits on hundreds of supervisors in the agency but is failing to abide by legal limits set on his own tenure.

The accusations of hypocrisy come as Congress is considering whether to grant Obama’s request to allow Mueller two more years in office — an extension the president said would provide stability as other national security agencies undergo major transitions in leadership.

“We understand the desire for stability,’’ said Konrad Motyka, president of the FBI Agents Association, which is renewing its call for an end to the term-limit policy. “But people are saying, ‘What about my stability?’ It’s ironic that this desire for stability did not apply to supervisors within the FBI.’’

The FBI’s policy, which is unusual among law enforcement agencies, was adopted after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Known as “up or out,’’ it requires FBI supervisors to leave their posts after seven years and compete for other managerial jobs, retire or accept a demotion in the same field office with lower pay.

FBI officials say the term limits have brought strong managers into hundreds of positions created in the years after Sept. 11. But the plan to retain Mueller has revived long-simmering tensions over the policy, which some say has robbed the bureau of veteran supervisors who retired because they did not get promoted.

Some agents, speaking on the condition of anonymity for fear of retaliation, expressed anger at the thought of Mueller staying when others have left.

“People are up in arms about this,’’ said one agent, who likened the news to “a shot in the kneecaps.’’

“We have lost valuable experience,’’ the agent said. “I’ve seen people, some really significant contributors to this organization and to this country, who are questioning their self-worth now and who are basically bitter.’’

White House officials declined to comment beyond Obama’s statement last week. A spokesman for Mueller declined to comment, citing the pending request to extend Mueller’s tenure. No significant opposition to the proposal has emerged in Congress, where Mueller generally enjoys bipartisan support.

The request has drawn strong support from congressional Democrats, Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. and the FBI Intel­ligence Analysts Association, which on Wednesday called Mueller “a tremendous catalyst and leader.’’

Justice Department officials and former FBI officials say Mueller, who took over the post a week before the 2001 attacks, has a strong record and has successfully led the effort to prevent another terrorist strike in the United States. They say the dispute reflects resistance to change at the tradition-bound agency, which has added nearly 3,000 agents since the attacks, has tripled the number of analysts and is transforming into an intelligence agency focused on preventing terrorist strikes.

“Any organization which underwent such dramatic change will always produce a small group of detractors,’’ said Neil H. MacBride, the U.S. attorney in Alexandria, who has worked extensively with Mueller and said his initiatives have been “transformative.’’

Michael Heimbach, who was Mueller’s assistant director of counterterrorism until 2009, said Mueller’s term limit is “totally different than up-or-out. . . . He’s leading the FBI. He’s not supervising a squad.’’

An FBI official, speaking on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue, said Mueller did not seek the extension and considered it carefully.

“This is a term limit. There’s a statute,’’ the official said. “But when the president calls and you’re the type of guy the director is, it’s very hard to say no.’’

The official said that “you’d have to be blind not to see that there is irony” in Mueller’s decision to stay, but added: “We’re at the highest [terrorist] threat level we’ve ever been. This isn’t the time to change directors.’’

Heimbach said Mueller, a former Marine, may have alienated some agents in the FBI’s “old guard” with his hard-driving, demanding style. Some agents also criticized Mueller in interviews this week as too top-down, aloof and not focused on their concerns.

“Did I like getting up at 4:30 every morning and facing him at 7? Heck no,’’ Heimbach said. “But I respected him, and I can’t imagine the president not wanting to keep him.’’

The up-or-out policy emerged after hundreds of FBI jobs were created in the wake of Sept. 11. It has been challenged in a lawsuit, filed in federal court in Washington in December by current and retired agents, that accuses the FBI of discriminating against older agents.

The FBI denies any discrimination and is asking a judge to dismiss the case. In a sworn statement filed in court, FBI Deputy Director Timothy P. Murphy wrote that he was “shocked to learn” in 2002 that so few supervisors were applying for new higher-level management positions.

To encourage more applicants, Murphy and another official designed a plan to limit to five years the terms of supervisory special agents, who manage squads of agents in FBI field offices. The policy was enacted in June 2004 after Mueller signed off on it; the limit was extended to seven years in 2008.

FBI officials argue that it has been highly successful, saying that half of the 1,055 supervisors affected have advanced to higher-level positions, while the rest chose to retire, were demoted or resigned.

But one agent said he was “flabbergasted” that Mueller agreed to stay when others have departed.

“Most people think it’s ironic and hypocritical on his part,’’ the agent said. “A lot of really bright people left. It’s a shame.’’


http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/some-fbi-agents-are-angered-by-plan-to-extend-tenure-of-director-robert-mueller/2011/05/19/AF76cP7G_story.html?hpid=z2

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« Reply #4038 on: May 20th, 2011, 07:50am »

Wired Danger Room

Beastly Drone Sub Is ‘Underwater Predator’
By Spencer Ackerman
May 20, 2011 | 7:00 am
Categories: Navy


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TAMPA, Florida — Ross Lindman gently pats the black hull of his intimidating 25-foot aquatic robot. Then he gestures to the bomblets strapped to either side of it. “This,” says the Columbia Group vice president, “is an underwater Predator.”

Lindman isn’t kidding. On one side of the Proteus, the Columbia Group’s experimental submarine, are two 220-pound bomblets. They’re merely for display here at the Special Operations Forces Industry Conference, but the passersby get the picture.

And that doesn’t remotely approach what the Proteus can carry. Either side of the sub can hold up to 1,600 pounds of cargo.

“You can strap different types of mines and ordnance to it,” Lindman says, 3,200 pounds’ worth. That’s way more firepower than the two Hellfire missiles that fit aboard the Predator, the iconic drone plane that serves as a muse for Lindman’s sub.

All of that is in addition to its potential spying capacity. The 6,200-pound sub can hold up to 400 pounds of gear inside it — a lot of sensors and cameras to find dangers lurking in the briny deep. Or, you can cram commandos inside.

The Proteus is designed to be a somewhat autonomous vehicle: Plug in coordinates for it and watch it go. But it also has a manned function, with enough bay space to stow up to seven Navy SEALs, should they need to be inserted. But don’t keep ‘em in long; there’s not a lot of space for them to get comfortable.

The Proteus is a step in a direction the Navy’s top officer badly wants the seafaring service to travel. Adm. Gary Roughead, the outgoing chief of naval operations, has delivered speech after speech urging engineers to build an “unmanned underwater vehicle” — a robotic sub — capable of traveling thousands of nautical miles for months on end without exposing human submariners to risk. (More on that in a subsequent post.)

Proteus can’t meet Roughead’s lofty goals. It tops out at a range of 324 nautical miles before it needs to refuel, a task that will last it 92 hours. It can’t go faster than 10 knots, and the Columbia Group anticipates it’ll most likely travel between 3 and 5 knots.

But it’s a step toward a bigger unmanned sub that’s weaponized — the current ones commandos use are about the size of a torpedo. Roughead considers weaponized UUVs to be an inevitability. Conceivably, the robot subs of the future will carry weapons like torpedos to disable mines. Or, they’ll be weapons themselves, hurtling like mechanized kamikazes at a target.

The Proteus takes the first approach. Lindman imagines it strapped with a bevy of different weapons, like the MK67 Submarine Launched Mobile Mine or the MK-54 torpedo. Or it could carry the Sea Fox, itself another robot, designed to blow up mines with a shaped charge.

Gesturing to the weapons bay, Lindman says, “I can carry other vehicles” on the Proteus — even suicidal ones like the Sea Fox.

That’s if it works. Proteus won’t go into the water until the summer, near Columbia Group’s home of Panama City, Florida. The military hasn’t invested a dime into the thing’s development. But if the sub can make it out of development doing as much as Lindman envisions, the seas will be stalked by a new robotic predator.

http://www.wired.com/dangerroom/2011/05/underwater-predator/#more-47314

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« Reply #4039 on: May 20th, 2011, 07:54am »

Defense News

Pakistan Awaits 50 Jets Made With China: Minister
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE
Published: 20 May 2011 07:28

BEIJING - Pakistan hopes to take delivery within the next six months of 50 JF-17 fighter jets manufactured jointly with China, Defence Minister Ahmad Mukhtar said May 20 during a visit to Beijing.

Mukhtar made the comments on the sidelines of a meeting between Chinese President Hu Jintao and Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, who was wrapping up a four-day visit to China - his country's long-time ally.

"We think there is a good deal," said Mukhtar, who put the price of each JF-17, or Thunder, aircraft at $20 million to $25 million "as compared to $80 million for the F-16", a U.S.-built jet also used by Pakistan's air force.

Mukhtar did not explicitly say whether the deal had been finalized, but it appeared that the agreement was nearing completion.

Further details of the deal were not made public but the agreement was apparently discussed during the visit by Gilani, who met Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao earlier in the week.

China is Pakistan's main arms supplier and a close ally of Islamabad.

Pakistan's air force has a fleet of Chinese aircraft, including F-7PGs and A-5s, but also F-16s and French Mirages.

The neighbors began developing the JF-17 together in 1999 and has said it wants 250 of the jets. In November, Islamabad said it would buy Chinese missiles and flight systems for the jets, Chinese state media reported.

http://www.defensenews.com/story.php?i=6566661&c=ASI&s=AIR

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« Reply #4040 on: May 20th, 2011, 07:59am »

Hollywood Reporter

Arnold Schwarzenegger's 'Governator' Series Now on Hold (Report)
1:20 AM 5/20/2011
by THR staff


Hours after Arnold Schwarzenegger announced he's halting his acting career, TMZ reported that his animated The Governator series is on indefinite hold.

"In light of recent events, A Squared Entertainment, POW, Stan Lee Comics and Archie Comics have chosen to not go forward with the Governator project," a rep told the website.

It’s unclear whether the project is completely over or just on hold until the unfolding scandal surrounding the child he fathered while married to Maria Shriver is over.

Earlier Thursday, the former California governor's lawyer Patrick Knapp released a statement saying Schwarzenegger will not be acting in the immediate future.

"At the request of Arnold Schwarzenegger, we asked Creative Artists Agency to inform all his motion picture projects currently underway or being negotiated to stop planning until further notice," the statement reads. "Gov. Schwarzenegger is focusing on personal matters and is not willing to commit to any production schedules or timelines. This includes Cry Macho, the Terminator franchise and other projects under consideration. We will resume discussions when Gov. Schwarzenegger decides."

http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/arnold-schwarzeneggers-governator-series-hold-190390

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« Reply #4041 on: May 20th, 2011, 09:08am »

Astounding 49 Million-Year-Old Face of Spider Frozen in Amber

Published May 19, 2011
FoxNews.com


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A. McNeal, University of Manchester
This is Eusprassus crassipes, a fossil huntsman spider in almost 50 million-year-old Baltic amber (shown in inset), as revealed by modern techniques of X-ray computed tomography.


It's a face only a mother spider could love.

The latest computer-imaging technology has produce this stunning three-dimensional picture of a spider trapped for 49 million years in an opaque piece of fossilized amber resin.

University of Manchester researchers, working with colleagues in Germany, created the intricate images using X-ray computed tomography to study the remarkable spider, which can barely be seen under the microscope in the old and darkened amber.

Writing in the international journal Naturwissenscaften, the scientists showed that the amber fossil -- housed in the Berlin Natural History Museum -- is a member of a living genus of the Huntsman spiders (Sparassidae), a group of often large, active, free-living spiders that are hardly ever trapped in amber.

"More than 1,000 species of fossil spider have been described, many of them from amber," said David Penney, from Manchester's Faculty of Life Sciences. Some of the first fossil spiders ever analyzed over 150 years ago came from similar fossils, he explained.

"These old, historical amber pieces have reacted with oxygen over time and are now often dark or cracked, making it hard to see the animal specimens inside," Penney explained. To work around that, an international team of fossil and living spiders experts used modern computer analysis to study the fossil.

"The results were surprising," Penney said. "Computed tomography produced 3D images and movies of astounding quality, which allowed us to compare the finest details of the amber fossil with similar-looking living spiders.

"We were able to show that the fossil is unquestionably a Huntsman spider and belongs to a genus called Eusparassus, which lives in the tropics and also arid regions of southern Europe today, but evidently lived in central Europe 50 million years ago.

Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/scitech/2011/05/19/astounding-images-4-million-year-old-spider/#ixzz1MtvE77ag
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« Reply #4042 on: May 20th, 2011, 11:40am »

Good morning Swamprat!

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« Reply #4043 on: May 20th, 2011, 11:41am »

Richmond Times Dispatch

Authorities monitor man floating in raft near Newport News

By Times-Dispatch Staff
Published: May 20, 2011

Authorities were monitoring a man floating in a raft in the James River near Newport News today.

Authorities said the man appeared to be chained to some type of small box inside the raft.

A short time after daybreak, the man floated past Dominion Virginia Power's Surry nuclear power plant, but he kept going, and by late this morning, he was near the James River Ghost Fleet.

Dominion spokesman Richard Zuercher said the man posed no threat to the power plant, where one of the two reactors has been completely shut down since tornados rolled across the region April 16.


http://www2.timesdispatch.com/news/2011/may/20/authorities-monitor-man-floating-raft-near-newport-ar-1053020/

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« Reply #4044 on: May 20th, 2011, 1:36pm »

BBC News

19 May 2011 Last updated at 21:04 ET
Amondawa tribe lacks abstract idea of time, study says
By Jason Palmer
Science and technology reporter, BBC News


An Amazonian tribe has no abstract concept of time, say researchers.

The Amondawa lacks the linguistic structures that relate time and space - as in our idea of, for example, "working through the night".

The study, in Language and Cognition, shows that while the Amondawa recognise events occuring in time, it does not exist as a separate concept.

The idea is a controversial one, and further study will bear out if it is also true among other Amazon languages.

The Amondawa were first contacted by the outside world in 1986, and now researchers from the University of Portsmouth and the Federal University of Rondonia in Brazil have begun to analyse the idea of time as it appears in Amondawa language.

"We're really not saying these are a 'people without time' or 'outside time'," said Chris Sinha, a professor of psychology of language at the University of Portsmouth.

"Amondawa people, like any other people, can talk about events and sequences of events," he told BBC News.

"What we don't find is a notion of time as being independent of the events which are occuring; they don't have a notion of time which is something the events occur in."

The Amondawa language has no word for "time", or indeed of time periods such as "month" or "year".

The people do not refer to their ages, but rather assume different names in different stages of their lives or as they achieve different status within the community.

But perhaps most surprising is the team's suggestion that there is no "mapping" between concepts of time passage and movement through space.

Ideas such as an event having "passed" or being "well ahead" of another are familiar from many languages, forming the basis of what is known as the "mapping hypothesis".

But in Amondawa, no such constructs exist.

"None of this implies that such mappings are beyond the cognitive capacities of the people," Professor Sinha explained. "It's just that it doesn't happen in everyday life."

When the Amondawa learn Portuguese - which is happening more all the time - they have no problem acquiring and using these mappings from the language.

The team hypothesises that the lack of the time concept arises from the lack of "time technology" - a calendar system or clocks - and that this in turn may be related to the fact that, like many tribes, their number system is limited in detail.

Absolute terms

These arguments do not convince Pierre Pica, a theoretical linguist at France's National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS), who focuses on a related Amazonian language known as Mundurucu.

"To link number, time, tense, mood and space by a single causal relationship seems to me hopeless, based on the linguistic diversity that I know of," he told BBC News.

Dr Pica said the study "shows very interesting data" but argues quite simply that failing to show the space/time mapping does not refute the "mapping hypothesis".

Small societies like the Amondawa tend to use absolute terms for normal, spatial relations - for example, referring to a particular river location that everyone in the culture will know intimately rather than using generic words for river or riverbank.

These, Dr Pica argued, do not readily lend themselves to being co-opted in the description of time.

"When you have an absolute vocabulary - 'at the water', 'upstream', 'downstream' and so on, you just cannot use it for other domains, you cannot use the mapping hypothesis in this way," he said.

In other words, while the Amondawa may perceive themselves moving through time and spatial arrangements of events in time, the language may not necessarily reflect it in an obvious way.

What may resolve the conflict is further study, Professor Sinha said.

"We'd like to go back and simply verify it again before the language disappears - before the majority of the population have been brought up knowing about calendar systems."


http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-13452711

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« Reply #4045 on: May 20th, 2011, 4:41pm »


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« Reply #4046 on: May 20th, 2011, 8:54pm »

The Sun

Brazilian Tribe has no dates or ages


By NICK PARKER, Chief Foreign Correspondent
Published: 20 May 2011

The Amondawa people of Brazil do not have words for "time", "week", "month" or "year" - and nobody has an age.

Instead, their world is divided into day and night and wet and dry seasons.

THIS long-lost Amazonian tribe is the first culture in the world to have no concept of time or dates, British researchers said yesterday.

Professor Chris Sinha of the University of Portsmouth, who led the study, said: "Time does not exist in the same way as it does for us. They live in a world of events, rather than seeing events as being embedded with time."

Time was previously thought to have been a concept found in all cultures.

The tribe was first contacted by the outside world in 1986, and has adopted some western trappings like clothing. They have learned Portuguese and there are fears their own language is dying.

Read more: http://www.thesun.co.uk/sol/homepage/news/3592763/Brazilian-tribe-has-no-dates-or-ages.html#ixzz1Mwny4iPU
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« Reply #4047 on: May 21st, 2011, 07:16am »

on May 20th, 2011, 8:54pm, Swamprat wrote:
The Sun

Brazilian Tribe has no dates or ages


By NICK PARKER, Chief Foreign Correspondent
Published: 20 May 2011

The Amondawa people of Brazil do not have words for "time", "week", "month" or "year" - and nobody has an age.

Instead, their world is divided into day and night and wet and dry seasons.

THIS long-lost Amazonian tribe is the first culture in the world to have no concept of time or dates, British researchers said yesterday.

Professor Chris Sinha of the University of Portsmouth, who led the study, said: "Time does not exist in the same way as it does for us. They live in a world of events, rather than seeing events as being embedded with time."

Time was previously thought to have been a concept found in all cultures.

The tribe was first contacted by the outside world in 1986, and has adopted some western trappings like clothing. They have learned Portuguese and there are fears their own language is dying.

Read more: http://www.thesun.co.uk/sol/homepage/news/3592763/Brazilian-tribe-has-no-dates-or-ages.html#ixzz1Mwny4iPU


Good morning Swamprat,

Wild isn't it? I hope they don't lose their unique perspective.

Crystal
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« Reply #4048 on: May 21st, 2011, 07:20am »

Washington Post

Wannabe SEALs pay for a taste of special ops
By Annys Shin, Published: May 20

CHESAPEAKE, VA. — At 4 a.m. on Hell Night, Mark Parris and 12 other wannabe SEALs were sitting up to their necks in the most vile water they had ever seen.

As a pair of frogs mated a couple of inches from Parris’s face, he was ordered to do push-ups and flutter kicks by a retired Navy SEAL named Don Shipley. With his waterlogged boots, Parris struggled along with the other men to lift his legs. And there were hours more of running, lifting and paddling ahead.

Parris, a 51-year-old electrician from Long Island, N.Y., with arthritic knees, was suddenly filled with doubt about his decision to sign up for an Extreme SEAL Experience, a week-long course that offers civilians a rare taste of what it takes to be a Navy SEAL.

The pond “was full of I don’t know what slime,” he recalled later. “There had to be snakes in there. And it smelled. I thought, ‘This disgusting pond. Why I am doing this?’ ”

Months before an elite SEAL team seized the public imagination by killing Osama bin Laden, Parris and his miserable pond mates had each agreed to pay Shipley $1,900 to push them to the limits of their physical and mental endurance. In addition to Parris, there was a gun-happy insurance account manager from Vallejo, Calif., a sandwich delivery guy from Taiwan who sounds like Arnold Schwarzenegger, and a home-schooled farmhand from South Florida.

They fell into two categories: young men who wanted to become SEALs, and middle-aged men who wanted to test their manhood.

Bin Laden’s death made their decision seem only slightly less insane to their friends and family.

“When I told my wife I was coming, she said, ‘It’s menopause,’ ” said Parris, who spent three years swimming and working with a professional trainer to prepare for the course. He lost 25 pounds in the process.

The last obstacle he faced was arthritis, which for years prevented him from walking up stairs unaided. Then, six months ago, he received three injections of a special oil-based fluid in his knees to make it easier for him to run.

“I felt like I was 20 years old again,” Parris said.

He got to test his knees during Hell Night, a 24-hour-period of nonstop physical exertion that is supposed to simulate the famous Hell Week that SEAL candidates must endure. Real SEAL school, called Basic Underwater Demolition school, lasts six months, and about 80 percent of the participants don’t make it through.

Shipley, who founded the Extreme SEAL Experience in 2006, said Hell Night doesn’t truly replicate the rigors of Hell Week. But for his customers, it’s challenging enough.

They run more than eight miles, carry a 200-pound log above their heads, get sprayed in the face with cold water and have someone scream in their ear that their “man card” is being taken away because they are “doing push-ups like a girl.”

The point, Shipley said, is to get them push past the pain. A lot of it is mental, not just physical.

The rail-thin sandwich delivery guy from Taiwan dislocated his knee during the first run but still made it through the rest of the night. The only guy who didn’t finish was a buff computer engineer from Richmond who threw his back out. For the rest of the week, the other guys called him “back boy.”

Rules for real men

The night after Hell Night, the men were still worn out as they gathered around a bonfire that Shipley, 50, lit with a flamethrower. (“I never use matches if I have [one],” he explained.)

Shipley asked Parris about a blister on his left foot. Parris said he’d put a Band-Aid on it.

“Real men don’t wear Band-Aids,” Shipley said, only half-kidding, “or drink from a straw.”

Later a few of them headed to a drying rack to gather their clothes for the next day’s torture.

John Speaker, a 35-year-old technology manager for a cable company in Texas, held up a still-soaked shirt. “Nothing like having clothes you haven’t washed and putting them back on,” he said. “I have a feeling they’ll be wet all week.”

The men walked back to their barracks. On the other side of the field was the “media center,” an open shed decorated with a string of red lights where “Rocky” had been playing earlier. Next to the pond was a large cabin where the rest of the men slept and all of them gathered for their meals.

Each day, the men learned crucial SEAL skills, including how to break out of leg irons, how to keep from drowning and how to jump out of a helicopter.

Unlike in real SEAL school, though, they don’t get expelled for failing. “Nobody comes here to fail,” Shipley said. “We put them back in the game. They pay to come here to succeed.”

If they get hurt and can’t finish, they get their money back. Once in a while, a few give up. Last year Shipley lost four out of 223.

In the morning, Shipley met the men in the clearing between the cabin and his house.

“Morning, girls,” he said. He was about to go through the day’s schedule when he looked down and spotted a dead mole rat by his feet. He bent down, picked it up and flung it over his shoulder.

The other main instructor, ex-SEAL Nathanael “Lalo” Roberti, who saw 11 of his fellow SEALs get killed during a mission in Afghanistan, arrived dressed like an aerobics instructor, in a T-shirt and shorts over a pair of half tights. He brought an orange mat, a beat-up SEAL training manual, his BlackBerry and a tin of dipping tobacco.

A group consisting mainly of the older students whom Shipley called the “smart guys” went with Shipley to shoot BB guns at one another, while the younger group — the “dumb guys” — went with Roberti to learn how to clear a room of the enemy.

Roberti parked himself in a folding chair. In between barking orders at the men, he said: “I try not to laugh. A lot of these guys aren’t disciplined. They play video games all day.”

Later at an old hog farm nearby, the men stormed an abandoned barn. Parris, decked out in full camouflage and a mask to protect his face from BBs, waited by a door with three other smart guys for their turn.

“We’re the A team,” one of them joked. “The aged team.”

When Roberti yelled “Bust ’em,” the men went in one by one, toting M-4 Airsoft training guns and firing at cutouts of men in head scarves pointing automatic weapons at them. Once the men hit their targets, they yelled “clear,” “all clear,” and “target secured!”

Wang, the guy from Taiwan, described it as cops and robbers, but “more intense.”

‘I feel like Superman’

SEAL stands for sea, air and land. And the next day was all about water. The men had to swim sidestroke, tie knots underwater, and learn to keep themselves from drowning.

Parris struggled with his sidestroke. But he outdid many of the younger guys during one of the most dreaded pool exercises: underwater sit-ups wearing masks that don’t allow them to see or to breathe through their noses.

The sensation of water running down his throat prompted Ethan Fiedler, a 19-year-old from Watsonville, Pa., to panic and rip off the mask.

Parris, by contrast, did his without a glitch.

“I’m definitely going back a changed man. I will probably be going back with the idea to be more driven, to get through certain hurdles knowing I went through Hell Night,” Parris said. “Now, I feel like Superman. I can do anything.”

Video after the jump
http://www.washingtonpost.com/national/i-want-to-become-a-seal/2011/05/21/AFw2wO8G_video.html

http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/wannabe-seals-pay-for-a-taste-of-special-ops/2011/05/19/AFs3p47G_story.html?hpid=z2

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« Reply #4049 on: May 21st, 2011, 07:24am »

LA Times

Syrian troops fire on protesters, 34 killed

A day after President Obama pressed Syria to end brutal attacks on pro-democracy demonstrators, Bashar Assad's forces continue their violent crackdown.
Activists work to broaden the movement by bringing in Kurds.

By Borzou Daragahi and Alexandra Sandels, Los Angeles Times
6:35 PM PDT, May 20, 2011
Reporting from Beirut

Syrian security forces loyal to President Bashar Assad, ignoring international pressure, fired on anti-government protesters, killing at least 34 on a day activists tried to draw the country's Kurdish minority into the nationwide movement for political change.

The violent response to the demonstrations defied President Obama's call just hours earlier for Assad to either embrace political change in Syria or give up power. Security forces and plainclothes shabiha militiamen recruited from Assad's dominant Alawite minority, a small Shiite Muslim sect, fired on protesters, burned down the homes and shops of suspected protesters, and rounded people up and took them to detention centers, activists said.

Amid the continuing crackdown, pro-democracy activists tried to broaden their movement by appealing to the country's ethnic Kurdish minority, which harbors its own grievances against the government. The activists dubbed the loosely organized day of mass protests after weekly prayers "Azadi Friday" or "Friday of freedom." Azadi is the Kurdish word for freedom.

The call drew thousands of protesters into the streets in Kurdish towns along the country's northern border. In the Kurdish stronghold of Qamishli, in the northwest, protesters held up signs calling for freedom in Arabic, Kurdish and Aramaic, the language of the country's Assyrian Christian minority, in a show of unity across Syria's ethnic and sectarian divisions.

Assad has tried to prevent Kurdish discontent from fusing with the general uprising against his family's authoritarian rule, recently reversing decades of policy that denied Kurds citizenship. And while tens of thousands of demonstrators in and around the cities of Homs, Hama, Dair Alzour, Idlib and Damascus were met with gunfire and arrest, security forces generally showed some restraint in dealing with the Kurdish protesters.

"At first security forces moved towards the protest and tried to prevent some people from joining," said a resident of Qamishli who is not being named for his safety. "But the security forces quickly withdrew and the protest got under way."

After the demonstration, Syrian forces raided the offices of the Assyrian Democratic Organization in Qamishli, arresting 13 people for participating in the protests and destroying computers, said an Assyrian activist reached in Damascus.

Experts say Syrian authorities have used caution when dealing with the Kurds because they are fearful of inciting nationalist aspirations. With a distinctive language and culture, Kurds are said to be the world's largest ethnic group without a homeland, inhabiting a region that straddles parts of Syria, Turkey, Iran and Iraq.

"The Kurds are very important because they are the best organized group in Syria," said Siamend Hajo, director of the Berlin-based website Kurdwatch.org, which monitors human rights violations against Syrian Kurds. "The Kurdish opposition has political parties and has in the last years demonstrated that it has experience with this type of political activity."

Many of Syria's Kurds, who make up about 10% of the country's population of 22 million have migrated in recent years from their ancestral villages in the north to the cities of Damascus and Aleppo, where activists hope they can play a leading role in drawing protesters into the streets.

Thus far, protests have not erupted in the country's capital and second-largest city in the same scale as in the smaller cities and towns. But on Friday, protesters in the Damascus neighborhood of Rakan Din chanted "Azadi" as they marched through the streets after prayers.

Assad's longstanding treatment of Kurds contradicts the regime's claims that it has protected the country's minorities. Syria's Kurds, who happen to live in an oil-rich area of the country, are not allowed to use or study their own language or celebrate their holidays. Assad brutally crushed a 2004 Kurdish uprising in Qamishli that garnered little support from other Syrians, making parts of the community wary of joining the current movement against him.

"They don't want a repeat about what happened in Qamishli" in 2004, said Nadim Houry, who monitors Syria from Beirut for Human Rights Watch. "Shooting at Kurds led to bigger protests. Buying Kurdish allegiance seems to have failed so far, but has created a bit of confusion among Kurds."

In an attempt to placate the Kurdish community, Assad recently hurriedly granted rights to hundreds of thousands of Syrian Kurds stripped of their citizenship decades ago.

The concessions, activists acknowledged, have created a rift between the small constellation of Kurdish political organizations and other Kurds eager to join in the demonstrations.

"There is the Kurdish youth movement, and there is a Kurdish political movement," said the activist in Qamishli. "Some Kurdish parties are asking people not to go to the protests and to stop the demonstrations."


http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/world/la-fg-syria-protests-kurds-20110521,0,203578.story

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