Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #4095 on: May 26th, 2011, 7:29pm »
Report: Jeff Conaway to Be Taken Off Life Support By PopEater Staff Posted May 26th 2011 03:50PM
Jeff Conaway will be taken off life support machines after doctors told the 'Grease' actor's family that he has had no brain activity since being admitted to a hospital May 11. "The feeding tube has already been removed. The ventilator which is breathing for Jeff, will be removed sometime this afternoon," a source close to the situation told RadarOnline.com.
The source said no measures will be made to revive the actor, saying, "Jeff is in no pain whatsoever."
It was originally reported that the 60-year-old Conaway was hospitalized in Los Angeles because of prescription drug overdose, but celebrity doctor Drew Pinsky later said the former 'Taxi' star was suffering from pneumonia and sepsis, a dangerous blood infection.
Pinsky, who treated Conaway on VH1's 'Celebrity Rehab,' also disputed Conaway's manager's assertion that the actor was comatose. "He's in an induced coma," Pinsky said. "He's actually on a Propafol drip."
Ten days into his hospitalization, his condition worsened , as described by Pinsky. He told his Twitter followers that Conaway was "considered critical with sepsis. Many people die from septic shock," then adding, "We all need to pray for him. Not doing well today suddenly."
Conaway rocketed to fame in 1978 with a starring role in 'Grease' and in the same year began his 3-year run on the hit TV series, 'Taxi.' Roles dried up in the 1980s as his substance abuse problem worsened, but he later found steady work on the sci-fi hit, 'Babylon 5.'
In 2008, a disheveled and unhealthy Conaway joined Pinsky's VH1 show, 'Celebrity Rehab,' to address his addiction to drugs and alcohol. Sadly, his sobriety attempt failed and last year, the actor was injured in a fall while under the influence of OxyContin and methadone.
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #4096 on: May 27th, 2011, 07:11am »
G-8 leaders pledge $20B to support Arab Spring reforms By Erika Niedowski 05/27/11 07:48 AM ET
President Obama and the other leaders of the Group of Eight issued a declaration of support for the so-called Arab Spring on Friday, pledging as much as $20 billion to political and economic reform efforts in Egypt and Tunisia and other countries in the region.
The changes there, the leaders said in their declaration, “have the potential to open the door to the kind of transformation that occurred in central and Eastern Europe after the fall of the Berlin Wall.”
“We hear the voice of the citizens, support their determination for equality and stand by their legitimate call for democratic, open societies and inclusive economic modernisation,” the declaration said.
International development banks could provide over $20 billion for Egypt and Tunisia, it said, through 2013, adding that the members of the G8 “are already in a position to mobilize suitable reform efforts.”
In remarks with Nicolas Sarkozy, who hosted this year’s summit in Deauville, France, Obama said the alliance would be taking steps to “fully support countries like Egypt and Tunisia, not only as they transition to democracy but also ensuring that that democratic transition is accompanied by economic growth.”
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #4097 on: May 27th, 2011, 07:13am »
House-passed defense bill would expand some presidential powers, restrict others.
The bill would give the president greater authority to pursue terrorists, but the White House threatens a veto over other provisions, including one on terrorism prosecutions.
By Kim Geiger, Washington Bureau May 27, 2011 Reporting from Washington
Brushing aside objections from the White House, the House passed a $690-billion defense spending bill Thursday that would expand the president's authority to pursue terrorists around the world while limiting the government's options for prosecuting detainees.
The bill would fund the Pentagon and provide $119 billion for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Senate has yet to pass its own version.
The White House supports some parts of the bill, but has threatened a veto over several provisions. Two days of debate and consideration of 152 amendments failed to produce any concessions to the White House objections.
One provision would prevent the government from transferring detainees currently held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to the U.S. to be tried in federal court. The White House called the provision "a dangerous and unprecedented challenge" to executive branch authority.
But House Republicans — and some Democrats — weren't moved by that argument and instead added a measure that imposes further limits on the administration's authority by requiring that all foreign nationals accused of participating in terrorist attacks be tried by military commission, not in federal court.
"That provision is far worse than any of the Bush administration detention policies," said Ken Gude, managing director for national security at the Center for American Progress, a think tank with close ties to the administration. "They never contemplated cutting off the ability to use federal courts to prosecute terrorism suspects. This is a giant step back."
Gude said the provision "slipped in, unnoticed," because most lawmakers were focused on another issue: a provision that grants the president greater authority to pursue suspected terrorists without first consulting Congress.
That provision builds on legislation passed after the Sept. 11 attacks that allowed then-President George W. Bush to pursue perpetrators in that case and their collaborators without first consulting Congress.
The bill that passed Thursday would no longer require that targets have a connection to Sept. 11, instead granting the president authority to "use all necessary and appropriate force during the current armed conflict with Al Qaeda, the Taliban and associated forces."
A bipartisan group of lawmakers contended that the provision would give the White House too much power and undercut Congress' authority, and launched a failed effort to strike the language from the bill.
The two-day debate over the bill exposed growing antipathy in Congress over U.S. military activities abroad.
On one amendment that was narrowly defeated, 204 lawmakers, including 26 Republicans, voted in favor of requiring a timetable for the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan. A similar amendment last year received just 162 votes, only nine from Republicans.
The House also overwhelmingly passed a measure that would block the deployment of troops or private security contractors to Libya.
Observers said the antiwar sentiment showed growing frustration with the U.S. wars abroad, but noted that Congress had traditionally stopped short of fully exercising its authority over military policy.
"There will always be some interest in asserting congressional prerogatives and powers," said Stephen Biddle, a military strategist at the nonpartisan Council on Foreign Relations. "But not if, in exchange, it means they have to actually take responsibility for whether or not to wage war [or] whether to get out of a war."
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #4098 on: May 27th, 2011, 07:20am »
May 27, 1937: A Bridge Over the Gate? Are You Crazy? By Tony Long May 27, 2011 | 7:00 am Categories: 20th century, Engineering, Transportation
Photo: Joseph Strauss’ original plan for the Golden Gate Bridge combined cantilever and suspension designs. (California Historical Society)
1937: After nearly four-and-a-half years of construction, the Golden Gate Bridge opens to pedestrians. Approximately 18,000 people are waiting to walk across the span when it officially opens at 6 a.m.
The bridge opened to automobile traffic the following day, when President Franklin D. Roosevelt — at the White House 3,000 miles away — pressed a telegraph key that simultaneously announced the fact to the world.
That was the easy part.
The idea to span the Golden Gate, the mile-wide strait connecting San Francisco Bay with the Pacific Ocean, was originally proposed by a madman. Joshua Norton — a San Francisco merchant who went bankrupt and lost his marbles, declaring himself Norton I, Emperor of the United States and Protector of Mexico — decreed the building of the bridge in 1869.
A few years after Norton’s decree, railroad magnate Charles Crocker, a lot less endearing but a lot more influential than the good emperor, presented the first specific plan, with cost estimates, for spanning the Golden Gate. Despite his clout, Crocker got about as far with his plans as his dotty predecessor had.
It wasn’t until 1916, when a proposed design for a bridge published by the San Francisco Call caught the eye of the city’s chief engineer, Michael O’Shaughnessy, that serious planning began. The original cost estimate came in at a staggering $100 million ($2 billion in today’s money). That might have deep-sixed things again if not for the appearance of Joseph B. Strauss, a structural engineer with 400 bridges under his belt, who said he could complete the project for around $30 million.
Things simmered on the back burner while United States ran off to the World War, but in 1921 Strauss came back again with a formal $27 million bid and won the contract. The 1920s were spent lining up political ducks, fiddling with design proposals and dealing with the War and Navy departments, which had final say on the construction of anything that might affect ship traffic or military logistics.
By late 1929, the Golden Gate Bridge District was formed, and Strauss’ original prosaic (if not clunky) cantilever-suspension hybrid design had been replaced by an all-suspension bridge. Irving Morrow, a local architect, is the man responsible for the Golden Gate Bridge’s graceful art deco design, as well as choosing its distinctive color: international orange (which contrasts with the surrounding sea, sky and land regardless of weather or season). The structural calculations provided by consulting engineers Charles Ellis and Leon Moisseiff persuaded Strauss to abandon his own design in favor of Morrow’s, for which the world can give eternal thanks.
With things nearly set to go, along came the Great Depression. That, along with additional soil testing and political infighting that eventually cost Ellis his job, delayed the start of construction until January 1933. It was a testament to the Bay Area’s faith in the project that, only a year into the Depression, voters overwhelmingly approved a $35 million (about $470 million today) bond to finance the project.
(Emperor Norton, beloved and coddled by his fellow citizens, had also ordered a bridge to be built connecting San Francisco with the East Bay. And eventually the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge was built — at the same time as the Golden Gate Bridge.)
The Golden Gate Bridge was an engineering marvel. The site alone — buffeted by high winds and split by the swirling currents of the Golden Gate — made construction treacherous. The sheer size of the bridge (the longest suspension bridge in the world until the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge opened in 1964) required several innovations in bridge-building technology, especially when it came to constructing the two colossal towers in — and under — turbulent water.
Of all the mind-boggling statistics surrounding the bridge’s construction, and there are plenty, perhaps the most jaw-dropping involves the two main suspension cables. Each measures 7,659 feet in length and each used hundreds of pencil-thick wires bound together to make a cable just over three feet in diameter. In all, more than 80,000 miles of steel wire was needed, enough to circle the Earth three times.
Because a fall from the roadbed practically guaranteed death (a fact that more than a thousand suicide jumpers have confirmed), an enormous safety net was slung under the main span at a cost of $180,000. It was money well spent: At least 19 lives were saved as a result of the net.
In fact, it looked as though the bridge might be finished without the cost of a single life until tragedy struck only several months from the end. In October 1936, Kermit Moore, an ironworker, was crushed to death by a falling beam. Then, the following February, 11 men plunged to their deaths when the heavy platform they were working on fell off the bridge and tore through the safety net.
Yet the work continued, and the bridge was finished ahead of schedule and under budget. On the first day it was opened to automobile traffic, an estimated 32,300 cars crossed the span between noon and midnight. That number is slightly higher today.
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #4099 on: May 27th, 2011, 07:22am »
U.S. House Passes Defense Authorization Bill By KATE BRANNEN Published: 26 May 2011 17:13
By a vote of 322 to 96, the U.S. House of Representatives on May 26 passed the National Defense Authorization Act for 2012, which includes a $690 billion Pentagon budget.
The Pentagon had requested a $553 billion base budget and $118 billion to fund the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The House bill fully funds those requests and also provides funding for the Department of Energy's National Nuclear Security Administration and the Department of Transportation's Maritime Administration.
Before becoming law, the Senate will have to vote on its own version and then the two bills will need to be reconciled before heading to President Barack Obama for his signature.
There are several measures in the House legislation that will make reconciliation with the Senate very difficult. And the White House announced earlier in the week that it objects to several of the bill's amendments, including measures that restrict the president's ability to reduce the U.S. nuclear weapon stockpile as part of the New START Treaty with Russia.
The bill also ties the president's hands when it comes to transfer of detainees from Guantanamo Bay. A Republican proposal, which passed, said detainees could not be tried on U.S. soil.
The legislation also includes language that allows for continued development on a second engine for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, a program the Pentagon has repeatedly said is unnecessary. However, the bill does not include additional funding for the General Electric-Rolls Royce engine.
"If the final bill presented to the president includes funding or a legislative direction to continue an extra engine program, the president's senior advisers would recommend a veto," the White House statement said.
Measures to reduce the defense budget did not pass, despite growing concern about federal discretionary spending and its contribution to the national deficit.
A Democratic proposal that would return Defense Department spending to 2008 levels, with exemptions for personnel and health accounts, was withdrawn. The House rejected by voice vote a separate proposal that would freeze Department of Defense funding at current levels until the Pentagon successfully passed an audit.
The House bill does make cuts to some weapons programs, but directs those savings back into the Pentagon toward "higher priorities."
"With the tough fiscal times facing our country, the bill treats every taxpayer dollar as precious," House Armed Services Chairman Rep. Buck McKeon, R-Calif., said in a statement.
Among the programs deemed wasteful were military bands and the U.S. Institute of Peace. The House voted to cap spending for military bands at $200 million.
By a vote of 226 to 194, the House voted to de-authorize the United States Institute of Peace, an independent, nonpartisan organization created by Congress in the early 1980s. In 2005, Congress appropriated $100 million to build the Institute's permanent headquarters in Washington.
Republicans argued the country could not afford the organization and that its efforts are duplicative of those of the Defense Department and the State Department.
The organization managed the Iraq Study Group's work and, at Congress' request, it facilitated the task force on U.N. reform, the strategic posture review and a review of the latest Quadrennial Defense Review.
While the debate between the parties was sometimes passionate, there were moments of bipartisanship, including a vote of 416 to 5 in support of a proposal that would prohibit U.S. ground forces from operating in Libya.
A bipartisan proposal calling for the withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan failed by a vote of 234 to 184.
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #4100 on: May 27th, 2011, 07:28am »
Zach Braff Joins 'Oz: The Great & Powerful' By MIKE FLEMING | Thursday May 26, 2011 @ 9:43pm EDT
EXCLUSIVE: Zach Braff is in final talks to join Disney's Oz: The Great and Powerful, the Sam Raimi-directed film for Disney. Braff will play the role of Frank, the loyal but under-appreciated assistant to Oz (James Franco), a charismatic circus magician who is treated as a powerful wizard after his balloon blows off course into Oz and the townsfolk want him to eradicate a Wicked Witch and bring peace. Mila Kunis will play the witch Theodora, Michelle Williams will play Glinda and Rachel Weisz will play Evanora. The pic starts shooting in July in Michigan, with Joe Roth, Josh Donen and Grant Curtis producing and Palek Patel exec producing. Mitchell Kapner and David Lindsay-Abaire wrote the script, with Disney releasing the 3D film March 8, 2013.
Braff takes the role after writing his first play, All New People, which opens off-Broadway at the Second Stage Theatre with opening night July 25. Braff is also starring in the Tribeca Films feature High Cost of Living.
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #4104 on: May 27th, 2011, 4:39pm »
747 Pilot, Triple Nickel, Comments about Carrying the Shuttle
This was circulated in email at work, from United Technologies corporate.
A quick "trip report" from the pilot of the 747 that flew the shuttle back to Florida after the Hubble repair flight. A humorous and interesting inside look at what it's like to fly two aircraft at once . . .
(I have decided to adopt one of "Triple Nickel's" phrases: "That was too close for MY laundry!")
Well, it's been 48 hours since I landed the 747 with the shuttle Atlantis on top and I am still buzzing from the experience. I have to say that my whole mind, body and soul went into the professional mode just before engine start in Mississippi, and stayed there, where it all needed to be, until well after the flight...in fact, I am not sure if it is all back to normal as I type this email. The experience was surreal.
Seeing that "thing" on top of an already overly huge aircraft boggles my mind. The whole mission from takeoff to engine shutdown was unlike anything I had ever done. It was like a dream... someone else's dream.
We took off from Columbus AFB on their 12,000 foot runway, of which I used 11,999 1/2 feet to get the wheels off the ground. We were at 3,500 feet left to go of the runway, throttles full power, nose wheels still hugging the ground, copilot calling out decision speeds, the weight of Atlantis now screaming through my fingers clinched tightly on the controls, tires heating up to their near maximum temperature from the speed and the weight, and not yet at rotation speed, the speed at which I would be pulling on the controls to get the nose to rise.
I just could not wait, and I mean I COULD NOT WAIT, and started pulling early. If I had waited until rotation speed, we would not have rotated enough to get airborne by the end of the runway. So I pulled on the controls early and started our rotation to the takeoff attitude. The wheels finally lifted off as we passed over the stripe marking the end of the runway and my next hurdle (physically) was a line of trees 1,000 feet off the departure end of Runway 16.
All I knew was we were flying and so I directed the gear to be retracted and the flaps to be moved from Flaps 20 to Flaps 10 as I pulled even harder on the controls. I must say, those trees were beginning to look a lot like those brushes in the drive through car washes so I pulled even harder yet! I think I saw a bird just fold its wings and fall out of a tree as if to say "Oh just take me".
Okay, we cleared the trees, duh, but it was way too close for my laundry. As we started to actually climb, at only 100 feet per minute, I smelled something that reminded me of touring the Heineken Brewery in Europe ....I said "is that a skunk I smell?" and the veterans of shuttle carrying looked at me and smiled and said "Tires"! I said "TIRES OURS" They smiled and shook their heads as if to call their Captain an amateur...okay, at that point I was. The tires were so hot you could smell them in the cockpit. My mind could not get over, from this point on, that this was something I had never experienced. Where's your mom when you REALLY need her?
The flight down to Florida was an eternity. We cruised at 250 knots indicated, giving us about 315 knots of ground speed at 15,000'. The miles didn't click by like I am use to them clicking by in a fighter jet at MACH .94. We were burning fuel at a rate of 40,000 pounds per hour or 130 pounds per mile, or one gallon every length of the fuselage. The vibration in the cockpit was mild, compared to down below and to the rear of the fuselage where it reminded me of that football game I had as a child where you turned it on and the players vibrated around the board. I felt like if I had plastic clips on my boots I could have vibrated to any spot in the fuselage I wanted to go without moving my legs...and the noise was deafening. The 747 flies with its nose 5 degrees up in the air to stay level, and when you bank, it feels like the shuttle is trying to say "hey, let's roll completely over on our back"...not a good thing I kept telling myself. SO I limited my bank angle to 15 degrees and even though a 180 degree course change took a full zip code to complete, it was the safe way to turn this monster.
Airliners and even a flight of two F-16s deviated from their flight plans to catch a glimpse of us along the way. We dodged what was, in reality, very few clouds and storms, despite what everyone thought, and arrived in Florida with 51,000 pounds of fuel too much to land with. We can't land heavier than 600,000 pounds total weight and so we had to do something with that fuel. I had an idea...let's fly low and slow and show this beast off to all the taxpayers in Florida lucky enough to be outside on that Tuesday afternoon.
So at Ormond Beach we let down to 1,000 feet above the ground/water and flew just east of the beach out over the water. Then, once we reached the NASA airspace of the Kennedy Space Center, we cut over to the Banana/Indian Rivers and flew down the middle of them to show the people of Titusville, Port St. Johns, and Melbourne just what a 747 with a shuttle on it looked like. We stayed at 1,000 feet and since we were dragging our flaps at "Flaps 5", our speed was down to around 190 to 210 knots. We could see traffic stopping in the middle of roads to take a look. We heard later that a Little League Baseball game stopped to look and everyone cheered as we became their 7th inning stretch. Oh say can you see...
After reaching Vero Beach, we turned north to follow the coast line back up to the Shuttle Landing Facility (SLF). There was not one person lying on the beach...they were all standing and waving! "What a sight" I thought...and figured they were thinking the same thing. All this time I was bugging the engineers, all three of them, to re-compute our fuel and tell me when it was time to land. They kept saying "Not yet Triple, keep showing this thing off" which was not a bad thing to be doing.
However, all this time the thought that the landing, the muscling of this 600,000 pound beast, was getting closer and closer to my reality. I was pumped up! We got back to the SLF and were still 10,000 pounds too heavy to land so I said I was going to do a low approach over the SLF going the opposite direction of landing traffic that day. So at 300 feet, we flew down the runway, rocking our wings like a whale rolling on its side to say "hello" to the people looking on! One turn out of traffic and back to the runway to land...still 3,000 pounds over gross weight limit. But the engineers agreed that if the landing were smooth, there would be no problem. "Oh thanks guys, a little extra pressure is just what I needed!" So we landed at 603,000 pounds and very smoothly if I have to say so myself. The landing was so totally controlled and on speed, that it was fun. There were a few surprises that I dealt with, like the 747 falls like a rock with the orbiter on it if you pull the throttles off at the "normal" point in a landing and secondly, if you thought you could hold the nose off the ground after the mains touch down, think again...IT IS COMING DOWN!!! So I "flew it down" to the ground and saved what I have seen in videos of a nose slap after landing. Bob's video supports this!
Then I turned on my phone after coming to a full stop only to find 50 bazillion emails and phone messages from all of you who were so super to be watching and cheering us on! What a treat, I can't thank y'all enough. For those who watched, you wondered why we sat there so long. Well, the shuttle had very hazardous chemicals on board and we had to be "sniffed" to determine if any had leaked or were leaking. They checked for Monomethylhydrazine (N2H4 for Charlie Hudson) and nitrogen tetroxide (N2O4). Even though we were "clean", it took way too long for them to tow us in to the mate-demate area. Sorry for those who stuck it out and even waited until we exited the jet.
I am sure I will wake up in the middle of the night here soon, screaming and standing straight up dripping wet with sweat from the realization of what had happened. It was a thrill of a lifetime. Again I want to thank everyone for your interest and support. It felt good to bring Atlantis home in one piece after she had worked so hard getting to the Hubble Space Telescope and back.
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #4106 on: May 28th, 2011, 07:50am »
Pakistan’s top military officials are worried about militant collaborators in their ranks
By Karin Brulliard, Published: May 27
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — Embarrassed by the Osama bin Laden raid and by a series of insurgent attacks on high-security sites, top Pakistani military officials are increasingly concerned that their ranks are penetrated by Islamists who are aiding militants in a campaign against the state.
Those worries have grown especially acute since the killing of bin Laden less than a mile from a prestigious military academy. This week’s naval base infiltration by heavily armed insurgents in Karachi — an attack widely believed to have required inside help — has only deepened fears, military officials said.
Pakistan’s army chief, Gen. Ashfaq Kayani, who like the civilian government has publicly expressed anger over the secret U.S. raid, was so shaken by the discovery of bin Laden that he told U.S. officials in a recent meeting that his first priority was “bringing our house in order,” according to a senior Pakistani intelligence official, citing personal conversations with Kayani.
“We are under attack, and the attackers are getting highly confidential information about their targets,” said the official, who, like others, would speak only on the condition of anonymity to discuss a sensitive matter.
Pakistan’s top military brass claimed to have purged the ranks of Islamists shortly after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. Since then, the nation’s top officials have made repeated public assurances that the armed forces are committed to the fight against extremists and that Pakistan’s extensive nuclear arsenal is in safe hands.
But U.S. officials have remained unconvinced, and they have repeatedly pressed for a more rigorous campaign by Pakistan to remove elements of the military and intelligence services that are believed to cooperate with militant groups.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, on a previously unannounced visit to Islamabad on Friday, emphasized U.S. demands for greater cooperation in the war against al-Qaeda, the Taliban and other violent Islamist organizations that have taken root in Pakistan. Standing beside Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Clinton said the United States would be looking “to the government of Pakistan to take decisive steps in the days ahead.”
It is unclear how authentically committed Kayani and other top military leaders are to cleansing their ranks. U.S. officials and Pakistani analysts say support by the nation’s top military spy agency for insurgent groups, particularly those that attack in India and Afghanistan, is de facto security policy in Pakistan, not a matter of a few rogue elements.
But Kayani is under profound pressure, both from a domestic population fed up with the constant insurgent attacks and from critics in the U.S. government, who view the bin Laden hideout as the strongest evidence yet that Pakistan is playing a double game.
U.S. officials say they have no evidence that top Pakistani military or civilian leaders knew about bin Laden’s redoubt, though they are still examining intelligence gathered during the raid. Some say they doubt Kayani or Lt. Gen. Ahmed Shuja Pasha, head of the military’s Inter-Services Intelligence agency, had direct knowledge; others find it hard to believe they did not, particularly because Kayani was head of the ISI in 2005, when bin Laden is believed to have taken refuge in Abbottabad.
“I think he was in protective custody,” one former U.S. official who worked closely on Pakistan issues said of bin Laden.
Pakistan strenuously denies that. But military officials acknowledge that members of the services have cooperated with militants. One senior military official said military courts have in recent years convicted several soldiers for roles in attacks on security installations — convictions that have not been made public. Four naval officers previously arrested on suspicion of links to militants were questioned this week in connection with the assault on the naval base in Karachi, another security official said.
The senior military official said belief in militant jihad — long glorified in the national education curriculum — is prevalent in the rank and file, making screening for it a daunting task that the military has been loath to perform.
Shadowy arm of the ISI
The ISI is believed to have an entire branch — known as the “S Wing” — devoted to relationships with militant organizations. Some analysts believe the wing operates with relative independence, whether by design or default, that gives top brass plausible deniability when cooperation between the spy service and insurgents comes to light.
U.S. officials, for example, say they do not believe Pasha or Kayani knew about Pakistani militants’ plans to attack Mumbai in 2008. But federal prosecutors have implicated the ISI in a trial underway in Chicago, where the star witness has said he was paid by the spy agency to help arrange the siege.
U.S. officials have emphasized since the bin Laden raid that billions of dollars in U.S. assistance could end if Pakistan is found to have harbored the al-Qaeda leader. Pakistani officials said that pressure has included demands that the military purge Islamists in its ranks and identify agents connected to bin Laden.
“We take the Pakistanis at their word that they’re committed to an aggressive fight against militants and to the investigations they’ve announced. But it’s way too early to say that their actions are honoring their stated commitments,” one U.S. official said.
Disdain for the U.S.
Working against any reform effort is the fervent anti-Americanism felt throughout Pakistan, including within the armed forces. Some Pakistani officials and soldiers accuse the United States of using the bin Laden raid to embarrass the nation into doing American bidding. This week, talk-show pundits condemned the navy’s security lapse at the Karachi base but also brimmed with conspiracy theories about CIA orchestration of the siege.
“Any public action on the part of the military at this point will be seen as capitulating to U.S. demands,” said Shuja Nawaz, director of the South Asia Center at the Washington-based Atlantic Council.
One Pakistani security official said the Karachi attack had prompted the military to begin a “thorough overhauling” of the armed forces. But, he asked: “if someone is helping the militants from inside the forces, why are they doing it? And the answer, to us, is their disdain for the U.S. and anger at Pakistanis cooperating with Americans.”
Special correspondents Haq Nawaz Khan in Peshawar and Shaiq Hussain in Islamabad and staff writer Greg Miller in Washington contributed to this report.
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #4107 on: May 28th, 2011, 07:53am »
Volunteer reunites Joplin's victims with tornado-scattered photos.
Abi Almandinger has been collecting personal photos blown for miles by the Joplin, Mo., tornado and posting them on a Facebook page to help their owners find them.
By Matt Pearce, Special to the Los Angeles Times 10:23 PM PDT, May 27, 2011
Reporting from Joplin, Mo.
On Friday morning in tornado-ravaged Joplin, Abi Almandinger was running perhaps the most peculiar search-and-rescue mission in town.
The 38-year-old Carthage, Mo., woman was looking not for victims, not for a wallet, purse or pet, but for strangers' lost photos and mementoes.
At Christ's Church, just a few blocks outside Joplin's disaster zone, pastor Tim Chambers gave Almandinger some things people had found on the church lawn, including a water-warped Polaroid of a young woman dated Christmas 1979 — and a wrinkled and yellowed discharge letter for Staff Sgt. Floyd E. Huff, dated Dec. 21, 1945, and signed by Harry S. Truman.
"They're here, but we didn't know what to do with them," Chambers said to Almandinger. "I'm glad there's a system in place."
For the storm survivors who have lost everything, insurance and federal aid money will soon pour in to help replace their smashed vehicles and the piles of tinder and brick that used to be their homes. But there's no safety net to replace the photos and souvenirs that fill up a life — the personal memorabilia that say what someone's done, where someone's been, who someone is.
Almandinger, a mother who works for a scrapbooking company, fell under the sway of the area's pervasive spirit of volunteerism and got an idea: Try to collect lost photos where they pop up, post scans of them online, and hope the owners see them.
The idea came to her as she was listening to a local radio station. A woman had called saying she'd found a stack of photos but didn't know what to do with them. "The guys on the radio suggested she hold on to them," Almandinger said, "and that's when I knew that that was how I could help."
She's since been offering aid via Facebook, phone calls and radio.
"I thought that would be a good fit for me in terms of helping," she said. "I have two kids at home and can't get on the front lines." But compiling photos, helping people organize their memories — it's a natural fit for her.
Photos from Joplin reportedly have been discovered as far away as Springfield — about 70 miles to the east. People have already started uploading photos to Almandinger's Facebook page, called Joplin's Found Photos. That page and a similar one, Lost Photos of Joplin, MO Tornado, offer a scattershot portrait of the storm's collective victim: the city of Joplin, population 49,024.
Found, a school photo: the toothless smiles of Mrs. Lemstra's first-grade class, Thayer Elementary School, 1992-1993.
Found, a ticket stub: a good seat in Section 19 for a March 14, 2002, game between the L.A. Dodgers and the St. Louis Cardinals. That night, the Cards win 4-1, with Jason Isringhausen picking up the save.
Found, a wrinkled black-and-white, stolen by the wind and dropped into a stranger's yard: a young woman in a dress relaxing in the grass, silhouetted gently against the light, sitting close to a smiling baby boy on some sunny day that must have passed more than half a century ago.
All can now be seen on the Joplin pages.
Similar efforts have also taken shape in the wake of the Tuscaloosa tornadoes.
In Joplin, this accumulation of strangers' photos on Facebook — a poetic, poignant blending of private histories into public ones — is quietly symbolic of the town. Joplin hadn't wanted to become synonymous with tragedy, but beneath a crush of wind, concrete, tears and headlines, it did.
The disaster has also exposed some hidden moments captured on camera.
Vicki Peterson, 51, a nurse who set up an emergency clinic at Wildwood Southern Baptist Church to treat the wounded after the storm, was walking along 20th Street when she found a picture of a man handcuffed to a bed, naked.
"I didn't know if it was something he was into or something criminal, so I turned it in to the police," she said. "Whoever he is, even if he is kind of weird, he probably doesn't want people to see that."
At least one connection had already been made on the Lost Photos of Joplin group: A woman recognized a warped and torn photo found on Brownell Avenue. "That's my family," she commented, adding "Thank you!!!!!"
Almandinger's Friday morning drive to pick up photos collected at local churches brought her into the disaster zone for the first time. "Oh my gosh," she gasped, covering her mouth as she spotted a friend's shattered house. "Oh my gosh."
"It's so strange to be so close to the damage and feel so removed from it, because I have a home that I can go back to," she said, as her 4-year-old son, Hank, read "Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs" in the back seat.
Almandinger, driving past the utility trucks and downed power lines and seemingly endless piles of debris, was expecting to receive more found photos in the mail soon — and to begin a new round of posting.
"They just keep posting pictures and calling," she said Friday. "I've talked to about 30 to 40 people by phone or text" since Thursday morning. "I'll be starting the process this evening, and getting them posted as soon as I can."
"My passion has always been to help people do something with their photos," she said. "Photos are always the one thing people want to take in an emergency."
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #4108 on: May 28th, 2011, 08:03am »
Move Over, Robots: Army Prefers Flesh-and-Blood Mules By David Axe May 27, 2011 | 10:40 am Categories: Army and Marines
The experimental four-legged, pack-hauling robots aren’t gonna be ready for duty at the front anytime soon. So the Army is considering a big step backward in front-line logistics.
In place of the ultra-sophisticated BigDog cargo ‘bots that have been slowly trudging their way through the development process, the ground-combat branch wants more flesh-and-blood mules and donkeys. The Army is even considering the revival of a long-defunct headquarters, the “Animal Corps,” to oversee the four-legged recruits.
The goal is to take some of the weight off soldiers’ backs during long war-zone foot patrols. In Afghanistan, it’s not uncommon for soldiers to carry 100 pounds of gear, even when they’re scaling mountains.
If everything works out, the future Army could look a lot like the Army of the 19th century, with trains of braying, kicking mules trailing behind the foot soldiers as they stomp through fields, slog through streams and wheeze up steep hillsides. As in the Army of the 1800s, teams of specially trained veterinarians and animal handlers would ensure the combat mules stayed battle-ready.
The idea for a 21st-century Animal Corps was publicly broached by Jim Overholt, a scientist with the Army’s Tank Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center, based outside Detroit. “Maybe it would be better to go back” to the days of institutionalized real-life pack mules, Overholt said at an industry conference in Washington, D.C. this week.
“They are not saying ‘don’t stop moving out on this real key robotic capabilities in [a] challenging environment,’” Overholt told a National Defense reporter, echoing the sentiments of top Army officers. ”It just might be more cost-effective” to use animals, he admitted.
That sentiment reflects the understandably slow process of building lifelike, workable, animal-style robots — particularly Boston Dynamics’ BigDog. That robot existed in prototype form as far back as 2004, and has since progressed through several different versions, each adding more power, better sensors and more sophisticated algorithms allowing the bot to detect and follow soldiers, instead of requiring a human operator with his hand on a joystick.
But despite years of work costing tens of millions of dollars, BigDog still isn’t viewed by the Army as rugged enough for a war zone. Plus, it’s big, heavy, noisy and expensive.
Progress has been equally slow on wheeled robotic mules. The Marines have tested a driverless All-Terrain Vehicle, and the Army is plugging away at the software for automatic supply convoys, but these too are easily foiled by rough terrain and unexpected objects appearing in their paths.
The good news for Overholt and his bosses is that the front-line Army is primed for animal reinforcements. Since the beginning of the Afghanistan war, a growing number of ground-combat units — Marines and Special Forces, especially — have “gone native” with their supply trains and adopted Afghan mules.
The mainstream Army started getting into pack-animal operations in a big way two years ago. I was embedded with soldiers from the 10th Mountain Division in Logar province in the fall of 2009 when it occurred to some enterprising soldiers that a rented donkey might be the best way to move gear up the province’s steep hillsides.
This early experiment in routine animal-based logistics could not have gone worse. (See video above.) But it was a big step toward the man-animal teams Overholt envisions.
The 10th Mountain Division troopers needed to move a 300-pound generator a quarter-mile up a steep slope to a hilltop observation post. For that demanding task, they calculated they would need just one small donkey.
They were wrong. The overloaded animal, in extreme pain, simply quit walking just a few yards up the slope. To get the generator to the waiting OP, the soldiers had to carry it themselves … as the relieved donkey trotted happily behind them. “It seemed like a good idea at the time,” Sgt. Donald Coleman mused.
But the idea itself wasn’t bad — just its execution was. Two years later, the 10th Mountain Division, again deployed to Logar, has learned its lesson. For short missions in areas with roads, they use John Deere ATVs — the regular kind, not the driver-less models.
And for long treks across rough ground, the division’s troops keep their own donkeys, and enough of them, to handle heavy loads. Animal-loving soldiers volunteer for the critters’ care and feeding, and Army vets pay regular visits to look after the four-legged enlistees’ health.
It isn’t quite the Animal Corps, but with more mules, more formalized training and tactics and a wider acceptance of flesh-and-blood cargo-haulers, it could be.
Meanwhile, the Army could continue working on BigDog and other cargo ‘bots, confident that until the robots are ready, their animal counterparts will keep the combat troops well-supplied.
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #4109 on: May 28th, 2011, 08:07am »
Nervous investors demand bigger returns
By Edward Krudy NEW YORK | Sat May 28, 2011 7:37am EDT
(Reuters) - The world looks a lot more dangerous than it did only a few months ago and signs are that U.S. stock investors are starting to demand more for the added risk.
With important manufacturing and jobs data due next week, it could start to get even riskier.
That means nervous investors are likely to keep a lid on equity prices this year as they grapple with slowing global growth and a host of geopolitical risks from the Arab Spring to debt defaults in the euro zone.
The actions of some big Wall Street banks best show the shift in the risk-reward nexus. Over the last two weeks, UBS, Citigroup and Goldman Sachs have effectively lowered their view of what investors will be willing to pay for a dollar of corporate earnings this year.
Jonathan Golub, chief U.S. equity strategist at UBS in New York, made the decision to keep his S&P 500 Index target on hold, even though he increased his expectations of what S&P 500 companies would likely earn this year and next.
"Earnings are going to continue to surprise to the upside, but investors will continue to be reluctant to believe in the sustainability of earnings and, therefore, not give full credit to that," Golub said.
Golub raised his average S&P 500 earnings estimate to $101 from $96 for this year, but he left his year-end S&P 500target at 1,425. By doing that, Golub has effectively lowered his price-to-earnings (P/E) ratio -- the amount investors are willing to pay for a dollar of earnings -- to 14.1 from 14.8.
That amounts to an increase in the expected equity yield -- a measure of the return investors want -- to 7.1 percent from 6.8 percent.
That is significant because the expected price-to-earnings ratio was already below what investors have historically been willing to pay for S&P 500 earnings. The average trailing P/E ratio is 15.6 over the last five years and 19.2 since 1988, according to Standard & Poor's.
Golub argues that a batch of weak economic data pointing to slowing manufacturing, a weak housing market and stubbornly high unemployment is weighing on investor sentiment. Weakness in commodity markets and rotation into defensive sectors of the stock market testify to that shift.
SOFT JOBS DATA MAY HIT S&P
With next week's ISM national manufacturing survey for May expected to show more weakness and payroll data tipped to show under 200,000 jobs added during the month, risk aversion -- driven by fear about the economy -- could get worse before it gets better.
Goldman Sachs economist Zach Pandl said his firm is predicting 150,000 jobs were added in May, compared with a Reuters consensus of 185,000.
An ISM reading below 60 next Wednesday would show "the strongest period of growth has passed and investors may need to adjust their expectations going forward," said Michael Sheldon, chief market strategist at RDM Financial in Westport, Connecticut.
Economists in a Reuters poll expect the ISM reading to fall to 58 in May from 60.4 in April.
Goldman Sachs has also been tweaking its stocks outlook. It cut its year-end S&P 500 target, one of the highest on the Street, to 1,450 from 1,500, and lowered its 2012 earnings outlook to $104 to $106, citing lower global growth, higher commodity prices and slightly higher inflation.
Goldman analyst David Kostin, who is responsible for the S&P 500 target, was unavailable for an interview.
However Goldman's analysts wrote: "As we transition into the late expansion phase of the cycle later this year, the risk-reward balance for the S&P 500 is likely to become slightly less attractive."
Citigroup also slightly increased its earnings estimates for S&P 500 companies, lifting its 2011 forecast to $98 from $96.50. Although admittedly only a small increase, it chose to leave its S&P 500 target at 1,400.
Tobias Levkovich, Citigroup's chief U.S. equity strategist, could not be reached for comment.
The targets for all three banks are still at the upper end of analysts' estimates and are 5 percent to 8 percent above current levels.
Even if the index does get up to those levels later this year, those gains are slight compared to the near 80 percent run the S&P 500 has experienced since hitting a bear market low in March 2009.
For people like Bill Strazzullo, partner and chief investment strategist at Bell Curve Trading in Boston, that means the risks are firmly on the downside.
"The good news is there's some upside. The bad news is that you've probably made about 80 (percent) to 90 percent of this rally," Strazullo said. "From a 'bigger picture' standpoint, the risk-reward really doesn't make sense."
Strazullo believes the S&P 500 will revert toward fair value, which he places at 1,100, based on where most of the money in the S&P 500 is invested. He is looking at some longer-term bearish options trades to capitalize on the end of the March 2009 rally.
"I'm not saying we'll go all the way back there, but the point is, you could drop a lot further than most people anticipate."
(Reporting by Edward Krudy; Additional reporting by Rodrigo Campos; Editing by Jan Paschal)