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 veryhotthread  Author  Topic: Stuff & Nonsense  (Read 47265 times)
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« Reply #4275 on: Jun 13th, 2011, 07:10am »

New York Times

June 12, 2011
F.B.I. Agents Get Leeway to Push Privacy Bounds
By CHARLIE SAVAGE

WASHINGTON — The Federal Bureau of Investigation is giving significant new powers to its roughly 14,000 agents, allowing them more leeway to search databases, go through household trash or use surveillance teams to scrutinize the lives of people who have attracted their attention.

The F.B.I. soon plans to issue a new edition of its manual, called the Domestic Investigations and Operations Guide, according to an official who has worked on the draft document and several others who have been briefed on its contents. The new rules add to several measures taken over the past decade to give agents more latitude as they search for signs of criminal or terrorist activity.

The F.B.I. recently briefed several privacy advocates about the coming changes. Among them, Michael German, a former F.B.I. agent who is now a lawyer for the American Civil Liberties Union, argued that it was unwise to further ease restrictions on agents’ power to use potentially intrusive techniques, especially if they lacked a firm reason to suspect someone of wrongdoing.

“Claiming additional authorities to investigate people only further raises the potential for abuse,” Mr. German said, pointing to complaints about the bureau’s surveillance of domestic political advocacy groups and mosques and to an inspector general’s findings in 2007 that the F.B.I. had frequently misused “national security letters,” which allow agents to obtain information like phone records without a court order.

Valerie E. Caproni, the F.B.I. general counsel, said the bureau had fixed the problems with the national security letters and had taken steps to make sure they would not recur. She also said the bureau, which does not need permission to alter its manual so long as the rules fit within broad guidelines issued by the attorney general, had carefully weighed the risks and the benefits of each change.

“Every one of these has been carefully looked at and considered against the backdrop of why do the employees need to be able to do it, what are the possible risks and what are the controls,” she said, portraying the modifications to the rules as “more like fine-tuning than major changes.”

Some of the most notable changes apply to the lowest category of investigations, called an “assessment.” The category, created in December 2008, allows agents to look into people and organizations “proactively” and without firm evidence for suspecting criminal or terrorist activity.

Under current rules, agents must open such an inquiry before they can search for information about a person in a commercial or law enforcement database. Under the new rules, agents will be allowed to search such databases without making a record about their decision.

Mr. German said the change would make it harder to detect and deter inappropriate use of databases for personal purposes. But Ms. Caproni said it was too cumbersome to require agents to open formal inquiries before running quick checks. She also said agents could not put information uncovered from such searches into F.B.I. files unless they later opened an assessment.

The new rules will also relax a restriction on administering lie-detector tests and searching people’s trash. Under current rules, agents cannot use such techniques until they open a “preliminary investigation,” which — unlike an assessment — requires a factual basis for suspecting someone of wrongdoing. But soon agents will be allowed to use those techniques for one kind of assessment, too: when they are evaluating a target as a potential informant.

Agents have asked for that power in part because they want the ability to use information found in a subject’s trash to put pressure on that person to assist the government in the investigation of others. But Ms. Caproni said information gathered that way could also be useful for other reasons, like determining whether the subject might pose a threat to agents.

The new manual will also remove a limitation on the use of surveillance squads, which are trained to surreptitiously follow targets. Under current rules, the squads can be used only once during an assessment, but the new rules will allow agents to use them repeatedly. Ms. Caproni said restrictions on the duration of physical surveillance would still apply, and argued that because of limited resources, supervisors would use the squads only rarely during such a low-level investigation.

The revisions also clarify what constitutes “undisclosed participation” in an organization by an F.B.I. agent or informant, which is subject to special rules — most of which have not been made public. The new manual says an agent or an informant may surreptitiously attend up to five meetings of a group before those rules would apply — unless the goal is to join the group, in which case the rules apply immediately.

At least one change would tighten, rather than relax, the rules. Currently, a special agent in charge of a field office can delegate the authority to approve sending an informant to a religious service. The new manual will require such officials to handle those decisions personally.

In addition, the manual clarifies a description of what qualifies as a “sensitive investigative matter” — investigations, at any level, that require greater oversight from supervisors because they involve public officials, members of the news media or academic scholars.

The new rules make clear, for example, that if the person with such a role is a victim or a witness rather than a target of an investigation, extra supervision is not necessary. Also excluded from extra supervision will be investigations of low- and midlevel officials for activities unrelated to their position — like drug cases as opposed to corruption, for example.

The manual clarifies the definition of who qualifies for extra protection as a legitimate member of the news media in the Internet era: prominent bloggers would count, but not people who have low-profile blogs. And it will limit academic protections only to scholars who work for institutions based in the United States.

Since the release of the 2008 manual, the assessment category has drawn scrutiny because it sets a low bar to examine a person or a group. The F.B.I. has opened thousands of such low-level investigations each month, and a vast majority has not generated information that justified opening more intensive investigations.

Ms. Caproni said the new manual would adjust the definition of assessments to make clear that they must be based on leads. But she rejected arguments that the F.B.I. should focus only on investigations that begin with a firm reason for suspecting wrongdoing.


http://www.nytimes.com/2011/06/13/us/13fbi.html?_r=1&hp

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« Reply #4276 on: Jun 13th, 2011, 07:15am »

LA Times

Stanford's Marines bring real-world perspective to an elite campus

Among Stanford's roughly 7,000 undergraduates, 10 are former members of the military, seven of them Marines.
The veterans can 'elevate and inform classroom discussions,' says professor Condoleezza Rice.

By Tony Perry, Los Angeles Times
June 13, 2011
Reporting from Palo Alto

On his first day as a student at Stanford University after serving as an enlisted Marine in Iraq, William Treseder rushed to get to the dining hall by 6 a.m.

Stanford dining halls, it turned out, open in the morning at the same time that Marine chow halls close: 8 a.m.

"That was the beginning of understanding of what a different place this is," said Treseder, now 28 and just a few classes away from graduating with a degree in science, technology and society.

Soon he found that Stanford students — bright, hardworking and focused on their careers — were not necessarily anti-military, just ignorant of military service and their generational cohorts who have enlisted.

When Veterans Day came and went without any acknowledgement from the student body or administration, Treseder was furious at the oversight.

He went to see the university president to ask for an outreach program to help other military veterans gain admission. It was the first of several meetings. Treseder found that Stanford and the Marine Corps have at least one thing in common: Institutional change does not happen overnight.

"William has gotten us to think about a number of issues," said Jeff Wachtel, senior assistant to Stanford President John Hennessy.

Treseder spoke to several student groups to break down their suspicion of military veterans. He read a portion of the poem "In Flanders Fields" to a fall gathering of new students.

Along with his studies, Treseder has become an unofficial leader of a small group of students who have made the same journey: Marine grunts who are now undergraduates at an elite university.

By Treseder's count, among Stanford's roughly 7,000 undergraduates there are 10 students who are former members of the military. Seven are Marines.

Of those, six served in Iraq or Afghanistan. Treseder and Chuck Stern, 27, an English major, served in both.

After a year and a half at Stanford, Treseder's student career was interrupted in early 2010 when he volunteered to deploy to Afghanistan, attached to the Camp Pendleton-based 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment.

If transitioning from Iraq to Stanford in fall 2008 was an adjustment, so was switching from Stanford back to the Marine Corps in April 2010. At Stanford the emphasis is on individual achievement, in the Marine Corps, it is the group — the fire team, the squad, the platoon — that matters.

When he went to Twentynine Palms for predeployment training, the "me-first" attitude he had picked up at Stanford was deemed unsatisfactory.

"I was a pompous, ego-driven Stanford undergraduate who had had some good experiences in the Marines and thought he was hot-stuff," he said. "I was called up pretty short by a gunny," or gunnery sergeant.

In Afghanistan, he served in a civil affairs unit, assigned to try to win hearts and minds of suspicious, war-weary villagers in Sangin, long dominated by the Taliban. He has recorded his view of the war and U.S. strategy in his occasional blog postings.

"What's the real solution here?" he wrote near the end of the deployment. "I am not the Wizard dispensing answers from behind the veil — I can't answer that.

"What I can tell you is the organization needed to provide security in Afghanistan probably can't be developed in the timeline we're stuck with. Keep your eyes and ears open for timeline extensions, lowered expectations or a depressing mix of the two."

His battalion, the famed Blackhorse, returned to Camp Pendleton in late March, after 25 were killed and more than 200 wounded. Treseder, a sergeant, arrived in time for the debate about whether Stanford should allow ROTC on campus.

After graduating from high school in Davis, Treseder did four years of stateside service in the Marine Corps before attending West Valley College in Saratoga. He was accepted as a transfer student to Stanford in 2007 but before he could enroll, he was ordered to Iraq.

The Marines at Stanford know they are getting a top-notch education. The school has provided financial support so they do not have to drain their veterans' benefits or be burdened by student loans.

Still, they never lose sight of the fact that they are different from other students. An estimated 90% of undergraduates are "traditional" students who arrived at Stanford directly from high school. Most Marines are community college transfers.

From their classmates, they get the occasional intrusive question: Did you kill anyone in the war?

Chris Clark, 25, who served two tours with a reconnaissance unit in Iraq, received a Combat Action Ribbon and a Purple Heart. Now he's a political science major.

He dodges the question about killing — not because it is a painful subject but because it requires an explanation about the complexity and moral grayness of combat that most Stanford students probably would not understand.

"Everything about it is ambiguous for me," Clark said. "To answer it, yes or no, does not do it justice."

Some students assume that because the Marines have deployed to war zones, they are experts on U.S. foreign policy and cheerleaders for the current strategy. "You try to get into a serious discussion and all you hear is Abu Ghraib, civilian casualties and drone strikes," Treseder said.

Guez Salinas, 35, who served in the Marine Corps from 1994 to 1998, said that before he came to Stanford, he was glad to hear that Treseder and other Marines were on campus: "You have a point of contact, like a brother, before you got here."

Clark is studying with Condoleezza Rice, former secretary of State and now a political science professor at Stanford. He was in her seminar "Challenges and Dilemmas in Foreign Policy."

Rice favors veterans for her classes: "I've seen first-hand how veterans can elevate and inform classroom discussions because of their real-life experiences.''

Even at the leafy campus known as the Farm, their war experiences remain vivid. "I guess I miss the combat, the simplicity, the adrenaline, the sense of purpose," Clark said.

Stern's voice drops to a whisper at the mention of two buddies killed during the battle for Fallouja in late 2004. To re-create the fellowship he felt in the Marine Corps, he's joined a fraternity and the rowing team.

Clark and Treseder are incorporating a consulting firm to work with the Department of Defense on energy efficiency technologies and practices for forward-deployed units.

With help from the Stanford president's office, the two are planning a two-day conference on military energy use — bringing together industry leaders and policymakers — as well as Marine brass and Stanford academics.

As Treseder sees it, the conference will combine the strengths of two American institutions of equal renown, even if they have different ideas about when breakfast should be served.


http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-marines-stanford-20110613,0,3305628.story

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« Reply #4277 on: Jun 13th, 2011, 07:20am »

Telegraph

Exclusive: Lit up in the night sky, this spectacular picture shows a galaxy of stars in a dazzling formation more akin to a large-scale spinning wheel.


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The image, taken in the remote town of Denial Bay, a fishing village on the edge of the Great Australian Bight, was taken using a special 'time lapse' process.
Photo: ANDREW BROOKS



By Andrew Hough
6:30AM BST 13 Jun 2011

The astonishing image, taken in the heart of the Australian outback, was used simply by taking advantage of the earth's rotation.

Andrew Brooks, an amateur photographer, took the image using his camera, a tripod, his neighbour's lounge room light and a little patience while letting gravity do the rest.

The image, taken in the remote town of Denial Bay, a fishing village on the edge of the Great Australian Bight, was taken using a special “time lapse” process.

It takes advantage of the earth’s natural rotation, which explains the circular appearance.

Each picture takes about 36 minutes to complete – the camera shutter is locked open for 18 minutes before it spends a similar amount of time processing what it has taken – which then produces what appears to be a moving image.

It shows the Milky Way and the Southern Cross constellation of stars, which is shown on the Australian flag.

“I went outside one night and looked up and was mesmerised at how clear the sky and stars were,” Mr Brooks told The Daily Telegraph.

“I set up the camera, open the shutters and went back inside the house, made a cup of tea and sat down and watched the football as it does take a bit of patience.

“ I came back and was pretty stoked with what I had got. It is a pretty amazing picture.”

Mr Brooks, 42, said he could take the image above the general store in the South Australian town – population 200 people – because of its remoteness.

The nearest major city is almost 500 miles (800km) away. This means the sky remains free from neon-light “reflection” from city lights, leaving stars even clearer to the naked eye.

Also due to the time of the year, the positioning of the earth was perfect for capturing such an image.

“Because of the remoteness of the area, we are able to see the sky much clearer,” he said.

“And the night sky particular at this time of year is absolutely spectacular.”

Mr Brooks, a tourist information officer, has pursued his hobby for more than 20 years.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/science/space/8569717/Pictured-astonishing-image-captures-night-sky-in-dazzling-formation.html

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« Reply #4278 on: Jun 13th, 2011, 07:28am »

Geeky Gadgets

Worlds Fastest Remote Control Car The Schumacher Mi3 Sets 161.76mph Record (video)
By Julian Horsey on Monday 13th June 2011 1:17 pm in Technology News

Remote control car builder Nic Case has built a record braking car named the Schumacher Mi3,
which is a rocket-looking, streamlined bullet, that took Case six months to build and over $4,000 in parts.

The Schumacher Mi3 has been fitted with an handcrafted carbon-fiber chassis and is powered by
an 11-horsepower motor supported by a 12-cell battery pack.
Watch a video of the record breaking Schumacher Mi3 makes it 161.76mph setting a new record after the jump.





Case is now looking to build a new remote control record breaker called the “Streamliner”
which he hopes will break the record he has just set with Schumacher Mi3.
We will keep you posted as more information about Streamliner comes to light.

http://www.geeky-gadgets.com/worlds-fastest-remote-control-car-sets-161-76mph-record-video-13-06-2011/#more-83805

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« Reply #4279 on: Jun 13th, 2011, 07:32am »

Deadline Hollywood

TOLDJA! Relativity Closes Big Acquisition Deal For Navy SEAL Movie 'Act Of Valor'
By MIKE FLEMING
Sunday June 12, 2011 @ 11:16pm EDT


UPDATE: Relativity Media has closed its deal for Act of Valor, as Deadline revealed earlier today. Press release is below our original break on the deal. Relativity has dated the film for 2012, so I suspect it will be Presidents' Day weekend in late February.

EARLIER EXCLUSIVE, 1:27 PM: In what will shape up as arguably the biggest money paid for a finished film with an unknown cast, Relativity Media is finalizing a deal where Ryan Kavanaugh's company will pay a $13 million minimum guarantee and a $30 million P&A commitment for Act of Valor, a mission movie involving Navy SEALs. The film's being plotted for either a Veterans Day weekend release in November of a Presidents Day release in February.

The film will be the first movie about Navy SEALs to come out since that group killed Osama bin Laden; others SEAL films are percolating including a Kathryn Bigelow-directed drama about the actual hunt for bin Laden that Sony Pictures acquired. In Act of Valor, the half dozen lead roles were played by active-duty Navy SEALs, and the military was behind a picture that was shot under the radar. The picture was scripted by Kurt Johnstad (300) and directed by the Bandito Brothers' Mike "Mouse" McCoy and Scott Waugh.

I'd heard that the picture was gaining buzz after it was given recruited screenings over the past couple weeks at the Arclight and in New York, and distributors began bidding. The auction, held by WME Global's Liesl Copland and Graham Taylor, heated up going into the weekend. I'm told that Dark Castle, Alcon, Lionsgate and Film District were all in the mix with comparable bids, but that the sellers were intrigued by the aggressiveness of Relativity's Kavanaugh, Tucker Tooley, and the marketing team headed by newcomer Terry Curtin, who laid out a whole campaign. Elliott's Michael Joe was in the mix as well, and Joe Matuckewitz worked on the deal with Bandito's Max Leitman. The picture is very patriotic, heavy on action and it will play in 3000 screen-range wide release.

Legendary Pictures' Thomas Tull (who greenlit the film) is executive producer, I'm told, and ICM's Emile Gladstone and Robert Lazar repped the directors and WME repped Johnstad. Stuart Rosenthal was the lawyer. Will tell you more as I learn it.

(Beverly Hills, CA) June 12, 2011 – Relativity Media announced today that it has acquired worldwide rights to market and distribute Bandito Brothers’ Act of Valor. The groundbreaking film is an intense action-thriller which showcases an elite group of active duty Navy Seals and co-stars Roselyn Sanchez (Rush Hour 2) and Emilio Rivera (Traffic). The studio is targeting a 2012 release date.

The film is directed by ex-stuntmen and documentary filmmakers/commercial directors Mike “Mouse” McCoy (Dust to Glory) and Scott Waugh (Step Into Liquid) and written by Kurt Johnstad (300).

Act of Valor follows a Navy Seal squad on a covert mission to recover a kidnapped CIA agent, and in the process takes down a complex web of terrorist cells determined to strike America at all costs. The filmmakers had unprecedented Naval access resulting in high-octane combat sequences and never-before-seen military operation scenes which are composited from actual events in the lives of the men appearing in the film and their comrades.

McCoy and Waugh are producing for Bandito Brothers and the company's COO Max Leitman is executive producer. Legendary Pictures Chairman and CEO Thomas Tull, who is personally an investor in Bandito, executive produced along with Jason Clark (Monster House).

Tucker Tooley, Relativity’s President of Worldwide Production said, “Act of Valor is truly one-of-a-kind—ripped from today’s headline-making heroic missions, an incredibly crafted film featuring active duty Navy Seals, in a remarkable and fast-paced story that will give audiences an authentic inside glimpse and make them proud of America’s finest. We’re honored to add this unbelievably entertaining and gripping film to Relativity’s 2012 slate.”

“The world has always had deep admiration for these men who continually risk their lives to protect our freedom," says Waugh.

"To witness their incredible brotherhood and to tell their actual stories was inspirational and such a privilege,” adds McCoy.

The deal with Relativity was negotiated by WME Global's Graham Taylor and Liesl Copland.

Bandito Brothers is repped by ICM.

Looking ahead, Relativity will release David Ellis’ Shark Night 3D on September 2, 2011 and then the highly-anticipated Immortals on November 11th, 2011, starring Henry Cavill, Stephen Dorff, Isabel Lucas, Freida Pinto, Luke Evans, Kellan Lutz with John Hurt and Mickey Rourke. The studio is in production on its Untitled Snow White Project (in theatres March 16, 2012), starring Lily Collins as Snow White, Oscar®-winner Julia Roberts as the evil Queen, Armie Hammer as Prince Andrew Alcott, and Nathan Lane as the hapless and bungling servant to the Queen. Relativity’s expansive 2012 slate also includes its House at End of the Street (in theatres February 3, 2012), Untitled Raven Project (in theatres March 9, 2012), Untitled Farrelly/Wessler Project (in theatres April 13, 2012), Safe Haven (in theatres June 1, 2012) and Hunter Killer (in theatres December 21, 2012).

http://www.deadline.com/2011/06/relativity-media-near-whopping-acquisition-deal-for-navy-seal-pic-act-of-valor/

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« Reply #4280 on: Jun 13th, 2011, 1:35pm »

We're all X-Men!



We Are All Mutants, Scientists Discover


Published June 13, 2011
FoxNews.com

A breakthrough study has revealed that each one of us receives approximately 60 new mutations in our genome from our parents. Apparently, we’re all mutants.

The report is the first-ever direct measure of new mutations coming from mother and father allowing researchers to answer the question: how many new mutations does a child have and did he get them from mom or dad?

Although much of our variety results from the reshuffling of genes through sexual reproduction, “new mutations” are the ultimate source of new variations. “New mutations” are those that occur in the sperm or egg cells, mutations not seen in our parents.

Professor Philip Awadalla, who also co-led the project and is at the University of Montreal explained: “Today, we have been able to test previous theories through new developments in experimental technologies and our analytical algorithms. This has allowed us to find these new mutations, which are like very small needles in a very large haystack.”

Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/scitech/2011/06/13/x-men-in-us-are-all-mutants-scientists-discover/#ixzz1PBCXfH1e
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« Reply #4281 on: Jun 13th, 2011, 8:39pm »

on Jun 13th, 2011, 1:35pm, Swamprat wrote:
We're all X-Men!



We Are All Mutants, Scientists Discover


Published June 13, 2011
FoxNews.com

A breakthrough study has revealed that each one of us receives approximately 60 new mutations in our genome from our parents. Apparently, we’re all mutants.

The report is the first-ever direct measure of new mutations coming from mother and father allowing researchers to answer the question: how many new mutations does a child have and did he get them from mom or dad?

Although much of our variety results from the reshuffling of genes through sexual reproduction, “new mutations” are the ultimate source of new variations. “New mutations” are those that occur in the sperm or egg cells, mutations not seen in our parents.

Professor Philip Awadalla, who also co-led the project and is at the University of Montreal explained: “Today, we have been able to test previous theories through new developments in experimental technologies and our analytical algorithms. This has allowed us to find these new mutations, which are like very small needles in a very large haystack.”

Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/scitech/2011/06/13/x-men-in-us-are-all-mutants-scientists-discover/#ixzz1PBCXfH1e


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« Reply #4282 on: Jun 14th, 2011, 06:59am »

New York Times

June 13, 2011
In Lebanon, New Cabinet Is Influenced by Hezbollah
By NADA BAKRI

BEIRUT, Lebanon — Lebanon’s new prime minister, Najib Mikati, announced on Monday a long-delayed government dominated by members and allies of the Shiite militant group Hezbollah, a move likely to alarm Western powers.

Mr. Mikati was appointed in January after Hezbollah and its allies toppled the Western-backed government of Saad Hariri in a dispute over the investigation of the killing of Mr. Hariri’s father, Rafik, a billionaire and former prime minister.

Five months passed between Mr. Mikati’s appointment and Monday’s announcement, a protracted dispute that many Lebanese saw as emblematic of the country’s political dysfunction. While bickering over posts in the cabinet and their distribution among sects and political powers was the ostensible reason for the delay, the arguments underlined a country deeply divided over questions of ideology, the power of foreign patrons and which community would hold sway over Lebanon’s political landscape.

As the cabinet was announced, many expressed relief, hoping for a respite from the crises that have marked Lebanon since Mr. Hariri’s assassination in 2005.

But only a couple of hours later, Talal Arslan, a state minister in the new cabinet, announced his resignation, accusing Mr. Mikati of being a "liar" and of seeking to deprive the minority Druse of key cabinet posts. In a rambling news conference, he also accused him of creating tension among political allies.

“I announce my resignation from the government of Najib Mikati, as it would shame me to sit on his right in a government he presides over,” said Mr. Arslan, a junior Druse leader and a close ally of Hezbollah.

Mr. Arslan said he wanted a more prestigious ministerial portfolio for the Druse, who make up less than 10 percent of Lebanon’s population, which is divided among 18 sects and religions. By custom, power is allotted among them — the presidency to Maronite Catholics, the post of prime minister to Sunni Muslims and that of speaker of Parliament to Shiite Muslims, the largest group in Lebanon.

Some analysts saw Mr. Arslan’s resignation as a sign of impending tumult. Others warned that the preponderance of Hezbollah and its allies, along with the virtual absence of Mr. Hariri and the forces he still represents, would produce more crises.

“This is not going to be a long-term government,” said Sateh Noureddine, a columnist with the newspaper As-Safir. “Hezbollah wanted to form a government to move well beyond the Saad Hariri era, by any means.”

In announcing his cabinet, Mr. Mikati — like Mr. Hariri, a wealthy businessman — vowed that his cabinet would represent all Lebanese. Since his appointment, he has gone to great lengths to paint himself as a consensus candidate who would avoid being beholden to Hezbollah, the most powerful force here.

In a largely rhetorical line that would nevertheless be welcomed by Hezbollah, which fought Israel in 2006, Mr. Mikati promised to pursue the liberation of “land that remains under the occupation of the Israeli enemy.”

President Bashar al-Assad of Syria, who is under heavy criticism from the West for violently crushing protests in his country, welcomed the new cabinet. Even though Syria was forced to withdraw its troops in 2005, after a 29-year military presence here, it remains the most influential foreign country in Lebanon. Mr. Mikati, who has close ties with Mr. Assad, promised to pursue good relations with Syria.

“This government is committed to maintaining strong, brotherly ties which bind Lebanon to all Arab countries, without exception,” Mr. Mikati said.

Mr. Hariri has refused to join the new cabinet.

“This is a confrontational government,” said Nouhad Mashnouk, a lawmaker from Mr. Hariri’s parliamentary bloc. “The Syrians declared the political confrontation. It is very obvious they are partners in the decision.”

One of the government’s main tasks is to find a unified position on the United Nations-backed tribunal, which is expected to issue indictments that will implicate members of Hezbollah in the killing of Mr. Hariri. The group has denied any involvement in the bombing and wants the new government to stop backing the tribunal. The new cabinet must still win a vote of confidence from Parliament.


http://www.nytimes.com/2011/06/14/world/middleeast/14lebanon.html?_r=1&ref=world

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« Reply #4283 on: Jun 14th, 2011, 07:07am »

Telegraph

Lifeboat's 'ship in trouble' was BMW on car ferry

A lifeboat was launched after receiving a distress signal at sea,
only to discover the SOS message had come from a BMW car on a cross-channel ferry.


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The Anglesey-based Moelfre lifeboat searched the sea off the Welsh coast for 3 hours
Photo: ALAMY



9:42AM BST 14 Jun 2011

Coastguards launched the lifeboat after picking up an emergency signal four miles out at sea off the Welsh coast.

But after a three hour search operation the signal was traced to an anti-theft tracking device fitted to a BMW safely parked on the car ferry from Dublin to Liverpool.

Coastguard spokesman Mark Craddock said: "We were called by police to say a tracking device signal had been detected four miles out at sea.

"There had been a signal and then it had gone so we feared a boat could have sunk - we had to treat it as the worst possible scenario."

But after three-hour search in the darkness the crew of the Anglesey-based Moelfre lifeboat failed to find a sailor in trouble.

And coastguards realised the emergency signal came from the exact position of a P&O Dublin to Liverpool car ferry.

They discovered it was an Emergency Telematics signal from a GPS system fitted as standard into new BMW and Volvo vehicles.

Mr Craddock said: "We investigated where this signal may have come from and worked out that a Dublin to Liverpool vessel would have been at that approximate location at the time the signal was emitted.

"We now believe the Emergency Telematics signal came from a vehicle on the ferry, the European Endeavour, and was then switched off again.

"The devices go off if the car is stolen or can be triggered if the airbag goes off or can be set off by the driver if they have broken down."

Coastguards said it was the first time a rescue mission had been launched because of an anti-theft device fitted to a car safely parked on a ferry.

Mr Craddock, watch manager at Holyhead Coastguard, added: "This is a new problem for us but with more vehicles having these devices fitted it could become an issue.

"On this occasion it wasted the time and fuel of a lifeboat crew for nearly three hours."

Passengers on the P&O ferry were asked to check their GPS systems when they disembarked at Liverpool.

Dave Massey, of Moelfre Lifeboat said: "Every call we receive has to be treated as a worst case scenario.

"We were at the location where the signal was detected within 25 minutes and conducted a major search of the vicinity.

"This incident was logged as a false alarm with good intention."

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/howaboutthat/8574292/Lifeboats-ship-in-trouble-was-BMW-on-car-ferry.html

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« Reply #4284 on: Jun 14th, 2011, 07:13am »

LA Times

Afghans fearful of push to negotiate with Taliban

Many Afghans fear that the Karzai government's U.S.-backed effort to reconcile with the Taliban may result in too many concessions to the militants,
eroding freedoms and undercutting gains in women's and minority rights.

By Laura King, Los Angeles Times
9:02 PM PDT, June 13, 2011
Reporting from Kabul, Afghanistan

It was a peaceful afternoon in a rose-fragrant Kabul park set aside for women. But when girls and women strolling its pathways were asked about the Afghan government's overtures to the Taliban movement, faces that had been alight with pleasure grew tight with apprehension.

"They don't change — if the Taliban had power, things would be just as they were before, when we could not work, or leave our houses, or even imagine a place like this, where we can walk freely," said Maryam Hashimi, a 49-year-old office worker who recalled witnessing Taliban beatings of women for infractions such as allowing a glimpse of their ankles to be visible under full-body veils.

As the West and President Hamid Karzai's government redouble efforts to coax insurgents into peace negotiations, a loose coalition of women's groups, human rights activists, professionals, Karzai critics and ethnic groups is beginning to coalesce in opposition to such talks.

Most Afghans believe a negotiated settlement is the only way to bring the decade-old conflict to an end. But many also fear the price of any peace, worried that desperation for a deal will result in too many concessions to the militants, potentially paving the way for a return of notoriously repressive elements of Taliban rule.

"The problem is the tools and the method that the Afghan government has chosen for approaching negotiations," political analyst Sanjar Sohail said. "There are other ways to get a better result."

Karzai has made hopes of reconciliation with the Taliban the focus of his second term in office. Along with the Obama administration, he says reconciliation can only come if the insurgents meet three conditions: renouncing violence, severing ties with Al Qaeda and promising to respect the Afghan Constitution.

But the demands have come with flowery public appeals to the Taliban, whom Karzai routinely refers to as "dear, disaffected brothers," leave many Afghans with the uneasy sense he would do almost anything to draw the insurgents into dialogue.

Meanwhile, falling support for the war in the United States has increased the political pressure on the Obama administration to find a way out of a nearly 10-year-old conflict that appears to be without end. In a much-noted shift in policy last February, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said that the three demands Karzai made were no longer preconditions for beginning talks, but the "necessary outcomes of any negotiation."

The heightened sense of urgency to engage the Taliban rubs against the country's volatile ethnic politics. Like Karzai, the militant Islamic movement is almost entirely ethnic Pashtun. Many of those most critical of the move to reconcile are ethnic Tajiks, who make up about 27% of the population. Tajiks rose to prominence in the Northern Alliance, the militia that fought the civil war that ultimately, with American help, toppled the Taliban.

A Taliban campaign to assassinate other ethnic leaders has increased those tensions. Northern Alliance partisans were deeply shaken by the May 28 killing of one of the bloc's most powerful figures, Gen. Mohammed Daud Daud, an ethnic Tajik who was the northern regional police chief. He died in a brazen Taliban bombing in the northern province of Takhar.

Other Tajik leaders have warned against talks that could lead to compromising the ideals of a pluralist Afghanistan. One of Karzai's harshest critics is former Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah, his chief rival in the acrimonious, fraud-riddled 2010 contest for the presidency. Abdullah has been presiding over sometimes-raucous public rallies demanding greater caution in reaching out to the Taliban. Another prominent Tajik figure in the opposition camp is Amrullah Saleh, fired last year by Karzai as intelligence chief after voicing distrust of Pakistan over its dealings with insurgents.

The Obama administration must also balance any desire for reconciliation with the need to ensure it is not seen to be abandoning its commitments to the rights of Afghan women and minorities.

The Taliban movement itself has publicly rejected the idea of peace talks, although there have been some preliminary Western contacts with insurgent figures in recent months. The United States and its allies have been burned in the past by figures purporting to speak for Taliban spiritual leader Mullah Mohammed Omar. In one highly embarrassing incident, a man transported to Afghanistan by the NATO force for high-level discussions turned out to be an impostor.

Many Afghans are aware of war-weariness among the Western allies, and are acutely worried that a push to wind down the conflict will work to the Taliban's advantage. A U.S. military drawdown is to begin in July, the Canadians are wrapping up their combat mission, and other members of the coalition have expressed growing qualms about the Afghan mission, particularly in the wake of Bin Laden's death.

"If the foreign forces leave the country without bringing about a positive change in the security situation, two outcomes can be predicted," said Ahmad Shah Behzad, a lawmaker from the western province of Herat. "First civil war and regional instability, and secondly the rule of the Taliban."

Taliban fighters are also exploiting what they see as a crucial weak point in the West's exit strategy: the competence and fighting ability of Afghan security forces.

The Afghan police and army are scheduled to take the lead in security by the end of 2014, and that transition is to begin next month in seven cities and provinces. Perhaps unsurprisingly, those areas have been singled out for a spate of lethal attacks in the weeks leading up to the security transfer, in a campaign apparently meant to sow doubts as to whether Afghan forces can keep those areas safe.

"The Taliban realize that if they enter the negotiations from a strong stance, they can get what they want," said Fahim Dashty, a journalist and political analyst who edits the Kabul Weekly. "And what they want is to rule."

In the women's garden, which was recently refurbished with U.S. aid money, two teenage cousins walking hand-in-hand recalled spending part of their childhoods in exile after their families fled Taliban rule.

"If they came back into power, I think this time we wouldn't leave," said 15-year-old Zahra Sadiqi, who was wearing glittery sandals and blue eye shadow.

"Yes, we would have to stay, and find a way to change things," chimed in her 18-year-old cousin, Shaista, who declined to give her last name. "Because we want be educated, to work. And to walk in the park."


http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/world/la-fg-taliban-fear-20110614,0,558858.story

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« Reply #4285 on: Jun 14th, 2011, 07:19am »

Reuters

China ups bank reserves ratio as inflation hits 34-month high

By Kevin Yao and Aileen Wang
BEIJING | Tue Jun 14, 2011 3:55am EDT

BEIJING (Reuters) - China's central bank raised bank reserve ratios on Tuesday for the ninth time since last October after data showed inflation rising in May to 5.5 percent, its highest level in almost three years.

The central bank increased the ratio for China's biggest banks to 21.5 percent, a record high, locking up funds that could otherwise be loaned out and add to inflationary pressures.

Chinese leaders have made bringing inflation under control their top priority this year, fearful that rising prices could not only unsettle the world's second-biggest economy but spark social unrest of the sort seen this week in southern China.

Data released on Tuesday showed economic growth is slowing down, but not too quickly, providing relief for financial markets that China will avoid a hard landing and leaving room for Beijing to focus on fighting inflation.

The increase in reserves takes effect on June 20, the central bank said on its website.

Following the inflation data earlier on Tuesday, several analysts had predicted the central bank would raise interest rates in the coming weeks.

Du Zhengzheng, an analyst at Bohai Securities in Beijing, said the increase in the reserve ratio requirement (RRR) may now delay a rate rise slightly.

"I think the RRR rise this time aims mainly at curbing inflation ... The move is likely to delay the next interest rate rise to the end of this month or the beginning of next month," Du said.

The central bank has raised interest rates four times since October to quell inflation. The central bank's one-year lending rate is 6.31 percent and one-year deposit rate is 3.25 percent.

At 5.5 percent, China's consumer inflation in May was the highest in 34 months. It compared with expectations for 5.4 percent and showed a pick up from 5.3 percent in April.

Non-food consumer prices climbed 2.9 percent from a year earlier, the fastest pace since records began in 2002, showing inflationary pressures are spreading more broadly in the economy.

"Inflation pressures remain large," Sheng Laiyun, a spokesman for China's National Bureau of Statistics told a news conference. However, he said the economy was on track for "stable and relatively fast growth."

Producer prices rose 6.8 percent from a year earlier, above forecasts in a Reuters poll for a rise of 6.5 percent. That had added to the case for further tightening measures, said George Worthington, an economist at IFR Markets, a unit of Thomson Reuters.

Industrial output in May rose 13.3 percent from a year earlier, the slowest pace since November and broadly in line with expectations in a Reuters poll for an increase of 13.2 percent.

Power shortages have contributed to the slowdown in factory output growth, said Xu Biao, an economist at China Merchants Bank in Shenzhen.

"It's worth noting that the slowdown in industrial production is not as bad as some had expected."

May retail sales rose 16.9 percent from a year earlier, compared with expectations for an increase of 17.0 percent, while fixed-asset investment between January and May rose 25.8 percent from a year earlier, against expectations for a rise of 25.2 percent.

Real estate investment rose 34.6 percent in the first five months of 2011 from a year earlier, compared with a rise of 34.3 percent in the first four months.

China's money growth slowed to a 30-month low in May and banks extended fewer new loans than expected, data on Monday showed.

"Overall, China's economic growth is easing gradually, while consumer inflation is still within control. The central bank will raise interest rates again this month, but (then) there will be no further rate rises for the rest of this year," Xu Gao, an economist at China Everbright Securities in Beijing, said before the central bank announced an increase in the bank reserves ratio.

TARGET IN DOUBT

Inflation has largely been fueled by a rise in food prices, exacerbated of late by a severe drought in farming heartlands. Sheng said pork prices rose in May more than 40 percent from a year earlier.

Some economists say inflation is also the result of China's massive stimulus during the global financial crisis. Like elsewhere, China is also fighting the inflationary impact of a surge in global commodity costs, which some analysts said may be fuelling producer price pressures.

The government is aiming for average inflation this year of 4 percent, but doubts are growing that the target can be achieved. Average inflation so far in 2011 is 5.2 percent, the statistical bureau said.

Premier Wen Jiabao said earlier this year that China would use all tools available to control inflation.

Serious inflation in the past has sparked social unrest. Although riots in the southern China factory town of Zengcheng were sparked by the abuse of a pregnant street hawker, underlying frustration at other social pressures, including rising food and housing prices, stoked local anger.

Zhang Zhuoyuan, an economist at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, a leading government think-tank, expects inflation to top 6 percent in June and in remarks reported at the weekend he called for faster steps to push real interest rates into positive territory.

He predicted full-year inflation would be more like 5 percent.

China's economy expanded in 2010 by 10.3 percent, a pace that slowed in the first quarter to 9.7 percent.

But data has suggested a further slowdown in the economy since then. Purchasing managers' surveys showed the factory sector expanded in May at it slowest pace in at least nine months.

(Additional reporting by Beijing Economics team; Writing by Neil Fullick; editing Kim Coghill and Dean Yates)

http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/06/14/us-china-economy-inflation-idUSTRE75C5L020110614

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« Reply #4286 on: Jun 14th, 2011, 07:23am »

Deadline Hollywood

Cheech Marin Joins CBS' Rob Schneider Comedy

By NELLIE ANDREEVA | Monday June 13, 2011 @ 6:15pm PDT
Tags: CBS, Cheech Marin, Rob Schneider Pilot, TV Casting

EXCLUSIVE: Cheech Marin has been tapped to co-star opposite Rob Schneider in the actor's untitled CBS comedy, which recently received an order for another pilot and several backup scripts as it remains in strong midseason consideration. The multi-camera comedy, which Schneider co-wrote with Lew Morton based on the actor's real-life experience, stars Schneider as Rob, a confirmed bachelor who has just married into a tight-knit Mexican-American family.

The retooling of the CBS Studios/Tannenbaum Co. project includes recasting three family members, Rob's wife and her parents. Marin will play Rob's father-in-law Fernando, a role played in the original pilot by Ugly Betty alum Tony Plana. In addition to Schneider, returning from the first pilot are Eugenio Derbez as the wife's uncle and Lupe Ontiveros as her grandmother.
This past development season, Marin co-starred in another family comedy pilot, Fox's Outnumbered. Marin, managed by Anonymous Content, next reprises the voice of Ramone in Cars 2.

http://www.deadline.com/hollywood/

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« Reply #4287 on: Jun 14th, 2011, 3:40pm »

Oh, yuck!!


Anthony Weiner Doll Released by Action Figure Company

Published June 14, 2011
Associated Press

NEW YORK – An online action figure company has jumped on the Anthony Weiner sexting scandal bandwagon with a doll of the New York congressman in two versions: censored and uncensored.

HeroBuilders.com of Oxford, Conn., is offering the "standard" doll for $39.95 and the anatomically correct "for adults only" version for an extra $10.

Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/us/2011/06/14/anthony-weiner-doll-released-by-action-figure-company/#ixzz1PHcUzubn
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« Reply #4288 on: Jun 15th, 2011, 06:59am »

on Jun 14th, 2011, 3:40pm, Swamprat wrote:
Oh, yuck!!


Anthony Weiner Doll Released by Action Figure Company

Published June 14, 2011
Associated Press

NEW YORK – An online action figure company has jumped on the Anthony Weiner sexting scandal bandwagon with a doll of the New York congressman in two versions: censored and uncensored.

HeroBuilders.com of Oxford, Conn., is offering the "standard" doll for $39.95 and the anatomically correct "for adults only" version for an extra $10.

Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/us/2011/06/14/anthony-weiner-doll-released-by-action-figure-company/#ixzz1PHcUzubn


What? You don't want a weiner doll? oh wait........that's weiner dog! my mistake....... grin
Good morning Swamprat.
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« Reply #4289 on: Jun 15th, 2011, 07:02am »

New York Times

June 14, 2011
Pakistan Arrests C.I.A. Informants in Bin Laden Raid
By ERIC SCHMITT and MARK MAZZETTI

WASHINGTON — Pakistan’s top military spy agency has arrested some of the Pakistani informants who fed information to the Central Intelligence Agency in the months leading up to the raid that led to the death of Osama bin Laden, according to American officials.

Pakistan’s detention of five C.I.A. informants, including a Pakistani Army major who officials said copied the license plates of cars visiting Bin Laden’s compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, in the weeks before the raid, is the latest evidence of the fractured relationship between the United States and Pakistan. It comes at a time when the Obama administration is seeking Pakistan’s support in brokering an endgame in the war in neighboring Afghanistan.

At a closed briefing last week, members of the Senate Intelligence Committee asked Michael J. Morell, the deputy C.I.A. director, to rate Pakistan’s cooperation with the United States on counterterrorism operations, on a scale of 1 to 10.

“Three,” Mr. Morell replied, according to officials familiar with the exchange.

The fate of the C.I.A. informants arrested in Pakistan is unclear, but American officials said that the C.I.A. director, Leon E. Panetta, raised the issue when he travelled to Islamabad last week to meet with Pakistani military and intelligence officers.

Some in Washington see the arrests as illustrative of the disconnect between Pakistani and American priorities at a time when they are supposed to be allies in the fight against Al Qaeda — instead of hunting down the support network that allowed Bin Laden to live comfortably for years, the Pakistani authorities are arresting those who assisted in the raid that killed the world’s most wanted man.

The Bin Laden raid and more recent attacks by militants in Pakistan have been blows to the country’s military, a revered institution in the country. Some officials and outside experts said the military is mired in its worst crisis of confidence in decades.

American officials cautioned that Mr. Morell’s comments about Pakistani support was a snapshot of the current relationship, and did not represent the administration’s overall assessment.

“We have a strong relationship with our Pakistani counterparts and work through issues when they arise,” said Marie E. Harf, a C.I.A. spokeswoman. “Director Panetta had productive meetings last week in Islamabad. It’s a crucial partnership, and we will continue to work together in the fight against Al Qaeda and other terrorist groups who threaten our country and theirs.”

Husain Haqqani, Pakistan’s ambassador to the United States, said in a brief telephone interview that the C.I.A. and the Pakistani spy agency “are working out mutually agreeable terms for their cooperation in fighting the menace of terrorism. It is not appropriate for us to get into the details at this stage.”

Over the past several weeks the Pakistani military has been distancing itself from American intelligence and counterterrorism operations against militant groups in Pakistan. This has angered many in Washington who believe that Bin Laden’s death has shaken Al Qaeda and that there is now an opportunity to further weaken the terrorist organization with more raids and armed drone strikes.

But in recent months, dating approximately to when a C.I.A. contractor killed two Pakistanis on a street in the eastern city of Lahore in January, American officials said that Pakistani spies from the Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence, known as the ISI, have been generally unwilling to carry out surveillance operations for the C.I.A. The Pakistanis have also resisted granting visas allowing American intelligence officers to operate in Pakistan, and have threatened to put greater restrictions on the drone flights.

It is the future of the drone program that is a particular worry for the C.I.A. American officials said that during his meetings in Pakistan last week, Mr. Panetta was particularly forceful about trying to get Pakistani officials to allow armed drones to fly over even wider areas in the northwest tribal regions. But the C.I.A. is already preparing for the worst: relocating some of the drones from Pakistan to a base in Afghanistan, where they can take off and fly east across the mountains and into the tribal areas, where terrorist groups find safe haven.

Another casualty of the recent tension is an ambitious Pentagon program to train Pakistani paramilitary troops to fight Al Qaeda and the Taliban in those same tribal areas. That program has ended, both American and Pakistani officials acknowledge, and the last of about 120 American military advisers have left the country.

American officials are now scrambling to find temporary jobs for about 50 Special Forces support personnel who had been helping the trainers with logistics and communications. Their visas were difficult to obtain and officials fear if these troops are sent home, Pakistan will not allow them to return.

In a sign of the growing anger on Capitol Hill, Representative Mike Rogers, a Michigan Republican who leads the House Intelligence Committee, said Tuesday that he believed elements of the ISI and the military had helped protect Bin Laden.

Mr. Rogers, who met with senior security officials in Pakistan last week, said he had no evidence that senior Pakistani military or civilian leaders were complicit in sheltering Bin Laden. And he did not offer any proof to support his assertion, saying only his accusation was based on “information that I’ve seen.”

He warned that both lawmakers and the Obama administration could end up putting more restrictions on the $2 billion in American military aid received annually by Pakistan. He also called for “benchmarks” in the relationship, including more sharing of information about militant activities in Karachi, Lahore and elsewhere and more American access to militants detained in Pakistan.

American military commanders in Afghanistan appear cautiously optimistic that they are making progress in pushing the Taliban from its strongholds in that country’s south, but many say a significant American military withdrawal can occur only if the warring sides in Afghanistan broker some kind of peace deal.

But the United States is reliant on Pakistan to apply pressure on Taliban leaders, over whom they have historically had great influence.

For now, at least, America’s relationship with Pakistan keeps getting tripped up. When he visited Pakistan, Mr. Panetta offered evidence of collusion between Pakistani security officials and the militants staging attacks in Afghanistan.

American officials said Mr. Panetta presented satellite photographs of two bomb-making factories that American spies several weeks ago had asked the ISI to raid. When Pakistani troops showed up days later, the militants were gone, causing American officials to question whether the militants had been warned by someone on the Pakistani side.

Shortly after the failed raids, the Defense Department put a hold on a $300 million payment reimbursing Pakistan for the cost of deploying more than 100,000 troops along the border with Afghanistan, two officials said. The Pentagon declined to comment on the payment, except to say it was “continuing to process several claims.”


http://www.nytimes.com/2011/06/15/world/asia/15policy.html?_r=1&hp

Crystal

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