Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #4755 on: Aug 7th, 2011, 11:36am »
Power companies prepare as solar storms set to hit Earth
Sat Aug 6, 2011 1:04pm EDT NEW YORK (Reuters)
Three large explosions from the Sun over the past few days have prompted U.S. government scientists to caution users of satellite, telecommunications and electric equipment to prepare for possible disruptions over the next few days.
"The magnetic storm that is soon to develop probably will be in the moderate to strong level," said Joseph Kunches, a space weather scientist at the Space Weather Prediction Center, a division of the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
He said solar storms this week could affect communications and global positioning system (GPS) satellites and might even produce an aurora visible as far south as Minnesota and Wisconsin.
An aurora, called aurora borealis or the northern lights in northern latitudes, is a natural light display in the sky in the Arctic and Antarctic regions caused by the collision of energetic charged particles with atoms in the high altitude atmosphere.
Major disruptions from solar activity are rare but have had serious impacts in the past.
In 1989, a solar storm took down the power grid in Quebec, Canada, leaving about six million people without power for several hours.
The largest solar storm ever recorded was in 1859 when communications infrastructure was limited to telegraphs.
The 1859 solar storm hit telegraph offices around the world and caused a giant aurora visible as far south as the Caribbean Islands.
Some telegraph operators reported electric shocks. Papers caught fire. And many telegraph systems continued to send and receive signals even after operators disconnected batteries, NOAA said on its website.
A storm of similar magnitude today could cause up to $2 trillion in damage globally, according to a 2008 report by the National Research Council.
"I don't think this week's solar storms will be anywhere near that. This will be a two or three out of five on the NOAA Space Weather Scale," said Kunches.
The NOAA Space Weather Scale measures the intensity of a solar storm from one being the lowest intensity to five being the highest, similar to scales that measure the severity of hurricanes, tornadoes and earthquakes.
The first of the three solar explosions from the sun this week already passed the Earth on Thursday with little impact, Kunches said, noting, the second was passing the Earth now and "seems to be stronger."
And the third, he said, "We'll have to see what happens over the next few days. It could exacerbate the disturbance in the Earth's magnetic field caused by the second (storm) or do nothing at all."
Power grid managers receive alerts from the Space Weather Prediction Center to tell them to prepare for solar events, which peak about every 12 years, Tom Bogdan, director of the center said.
He said the next peak, called a solar maximum, was expected in 2013.
"We're coming up to the next solar maximum, so we expect to see more of these storms coming from the sun over the next three to five years," Bogdan said.
(Reporting by Scott DiSavino; Editing by Alden Bentley)
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #4759 on: Aug 8th, 2011, 07:53am »
New York Times
August 8, 2011 A.I.G. to Sue Bank of America Over Mortgage Bonds By LOUISE STORY and GRETCHEN MORGENSON
The American International Group is planning to sue Bank of America over hundreds of mortgage-backed securities, adding to the surge of investors seeking compensation for the troubled mortgages that led to the financial crisis.
The suit seeks to recover more than $10 billion in losses on $28 billion of investments, in possibly the largest mortgage-security-related action filed by a single investor.
It claims that Bank of America and its Merrill Lynch and Countrywide Financial units misrepresented the quality of the mortgages placed in securities and sold to investors, according to three people with knowledge of the complaint.
A.I.G., still largely taxpayer-owned as a result of its 2008 government bailout, is among a growing group of investors pursuing private lawsuits because they believe banks misled them into buying risky securities during the housing boom. At least 90 suits related to mortgage bonds have been filed, demanding at least $197 billion, according to McCarthy Lawyer Links, a legal consulting firm. A.I.G. is preparing similar suits against other large financial institutions including Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase and Deutsche Bank, said the people with knowledge of the complaint, as part of a litigation strategy aimed at recovering some of the billions in losses the insurer sustained during the financial crisis.
The private actions stand in stark contrast to the few credit crisis cases brought by the Justice Department, which is wrapping up many of its inquiries into big banks without filing any charges. The lack of prosecutions — the Justice Department has brought three cases against employees at large financial companies and none against executives at large banks — has left private litigants, mainly investors and consumers, standing more or less alone in trying to hold financial parties accountable.
“When federal authorities don’t fulfill their obligation to enforce the law, they essentially give an imprimatur to the financial entities to do whatever they want and disregard the law,” said Kathleen C. Engel, a professor at Suffolk University Law School in Boston. “To the extent there are places where shareholders and borrowers can pursue claims, they are really serving the function of the government. They are our private attorneys general.”
Though many in the public have called for more accountability for parties involved in the financial crisis, criminal charges on complex financial matters can be difficult to prosecute.
A spokeswoman for the Justice Department said the government was vigorously pursuing cases where appropriate, and she pointed to a recent jail sentence for the chairman of the mortgage company Taylor, Bean & Whitaker. The spokeswoman, Alisa Finelli, declined to say how many people the government had assigned to that task.
“Prosecutors and agents determine on a case by case basis the importance of relevant evidence developed in private litigation and how such evidence should be pursued,” Ms. Finelli said. “Civil litigation involves a lower standard of proof than is required for a criminal prosecution, where prosecutors must have sufficient evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that a crime has been committed.”
On Friday, the department announced it had concluded its investigation into Washington Mutual, the Seattle-based bank that nearly collapsed because of its risky mortgages, without finding evidence of criminal wrongdoing. The Justice Department has also concluded its investigation into Countrywide’s conduct leading into the financial crisis, according to a person with knowledge of that case.
Even more investigations may soon be shut down because the Justice Department is heavily involved in negotiations between big banks and state attorneys general that may give the banks broad immunity against future claims. The state attorneys general are weighing these requests in the mortgage servicing and foreclosure cases, even though the government has not pursued the most basic investigation of these practices.
As it has in similar cases, Bank of America is likely to dispute A.I.G.’s claims, in the suit, which is expected to be filed on Monday in New York State Supreme Court. When asked generally about the quality of mortgage bonds issued by companies that are now part of the bank, Lawrence Di Rita, a spokesman for Bank of America, said the disclosures were robust enough for sophisticated investors. He said many of the loans lost value because housing fell.
“Now you have a lot of investors and lawyers who are seeking to recoup the losses from an economic downturn,” Mr. Di Rita said. The bank has not yet seen A.I.G.’s suit.
On Monday morning, in response specifically to A.I.G.'s planned suit, Mr. Di Rita said in an e-mail: "AIG recklessly chased high yields and profits throughout the mortgage and structured finance markets. AIG is the very definition of an informed, seasoned investor, with losses solely attributable to its own excesses and errors. We reject AIGs assertions and allegations."
A.I.G. also plans to file a request to intervene in the $8.5 billion settlement proposed in June by Bank of America and Bank of New York Mellon, which represents mortgage security investors including BlackRock and Pimco. Mr. Di Rita said on Sunday that large sophisticated investors have signed on to that deal.
A.I.G. plans to object to the deal because it believes the amount is too low and that Bank of New York’s role was rife with conflicts, according to the people with knowledge of A.I.G.’s plans.
A spokesman for A.I.G. declined to comment. but the company’s chief executive, Robert H. Benmosche, told shareholders in 2010 that he was considering litigation to recover losses.
Cases like A.I.G.’s may turn up information in interviews and document discovery that could be helpful to the government, though it is unclear if the Justice Department would seek to reopen closed cases.
Already, the private suits are revealing dubious activities. One case against Bear Stearns indicates that its employees put troubled mortgages into securitization trusts that it sold to customers, while simultaneously receiving reimbursement — known as apology payments — from the companies that originated the loans.
And a recent case against Morgan Stanley cited a witness saying that the bank would receive mortgages with documentation of a buyer’s income and then shred that documentation so that it could call it a “no doc” loan and pay less for it. Those banks dispute the accusations.
Lawsuits have long been a crucial method for shareholders to recover losses. A February letter to the Securities and Exchange Commission from the general counsel of the California Public Employees’ Retirement System noted that private litigants in the 100 largest securities class action settlements had recovered $46.7 billion for defrauded shareholders.
But the costs of these recoveries are often borne by the companies’ insurers or stockholders. It is exceedingly rare that such deals require money to come from the pockets of corporate executives or directors. As a result, the lack of criminal inquiries by the government means that restitution is often paid by innocent parties — shareholders — who have already been hurt by the questionable conduct.
Lawyers involved in the lawsuits, who stand to share in any financial recoveries, say that there are plenty of unknown facts related to the crisis that should be exposed.
“We continue to discover new information,” said Gerald H. Silk, a lawyer with Bernstein Litowitz Berger & Grossmann. “The private litigations that have been brought on behalf of investors paint a very strong picture that many of the financial calamities were caused by fraud.”
Mr. Silk’s firm has filed dozens of cases related to the financial crisis, and the government has contacted the firm with requests for information in a few of them, Mr. Silk said.
The government could look to private litigation and the law firms bringing the actions for potential witnesses and new information. A recent case against Wachovia, for instance, included 51 confidential witnesses. Lawyers say, however, that many witnesses in private litigation cases have not been contacted by the government.
A.I.G. faced some limits on the lawsuits it could bring, because during the bailout the company signed a waiver that it would not sue big banks over mortgage bonds it had insured. But it did not sign such a deal on a series of Goldman Sachs securities called Abacus, nor for mortgage bonds it bought outright, like the $28 billion worth of securities included in its suit against Bank of America. The company is working with the law firm Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan, which is bringing many financial crisis cases.
According to the people with knowledge of the litigation, the roughly 200-page complaint relies on more than 1,900 pages of exhibits. Quinn Emanuel interviewed former Bank of America employees and conducted forensic analysis on more than 262,000 loans inside 349 deals. They found that 4 out of 10 mortgages, on average, differed significantly from the descriptions of the loans in the marketing materials.
For instance, the number of loans said to cover owner-occupied properties was lower than investors were told, and the amount of the loans compared with the value of properties was often higher.
The complaint describes the loan files of one mortgage security, where 82 percent of the loans did not comply with the underwriting guidelines as marketed to investors.
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #4760 on: Aug 8th, 2011, 07:57am »
Churchill's 'secret agent' recounts WW II exploits
Frenchman Robert Maloubier was an agent in Churchill's Special Operations Executive, sent behind enemy lines to rout German forces and which, unknown to many French, had a key role in the resistance.
By Devorah Lauter, Los Angeles Times August 8, 2011 Reporting from Houilles, France
Robert Maloubier likes to tell people he is a retired accountant. That he studied finance in college, that he had a quiet life, that he stopped working at 66.
He can barely get the last words out without a chuckle that pulls up the ends of his bushy white mustache so it curls around his cheekbones.
"Oh, I love doing that," he says with a satisfied sigh. "Nobody knows about me here."
The truth is Maloubier, 88, never went to college. It's also hard to say whether he ever really retired, though he admits that when he turned 80 he had to stop rollerblading and flying his plane.
As far as a quiet life goes, he hasn't had one and he hopes it stays that way.
There are a few other things people in this quiet suburb west of Paris don't know about him: He is trained in close combat, sabotage, guerrilla tactics, parachuting and underwater warfare.
Maloubier is one of the few surviving French agents from Winston Churchill's "secret army," the Special Operations Executive created in 1940 with orders to "put Europe ablaze" and defeat Nazi forces behind enemy lines.
The British army awarded him the rank of captain and the Distinguished Service Order for his derring-do after he parachuted into his occupied homeland in 1943 and again in 1944. Maloubier's wartime feats include leading a band of French resistance fighters who blew up seven bridges in 24 hours to stall the advancing German army.
Nearly 70 years later, most French still don't know much about the role the British played in the resistance in their country. Most believe the wartime narrative forged by Gen. Charles de Gaulle, that the resistance was an entirely French endeavor.
Until recently, there had been no major French translation of the numerous English-language books and autobiographies dealing with the Special Operations Executive. In the last few years, that has changed, and this year a French-language memoir, "Churchill's Secret Agent," by Maloubier, hit bookstores. It is perhaps the only one of its kind by a Frenchman.
Maloubier writes with the fast-paced, colloquial tone of someone speaking out loud, and with a sense of humor that shrugs at death. He tells of parachuting into occupied France, of bombing a German naval vessel, of stockpiling weapons in preparation for D-Day. He writes of escaping the Nazis' clutches by pretending to be dimwittedly eager to follow instructions, a trick he learned at spy school. (As soon as the trusting SS guard gave an opening, Maloubier knocked him down, hurled a motorcycle at him and made a run for it.)
After the war, Maloubier helped train the French secret service, create the French version of the Navy SEALs and design the now-classic archetypal diving watch, the Fifty Fathoms. Swashbuckling through Africa, the Middle East and East Asia, he was a bush pilot in Gabon and worked as deputy director of an oil company.
His small house in Houilles sports abundant flowers at the front door. He enjoys reminiscing but also relishes discussion of contemporary problems. The war in Libya, he says, is "romantic," with rebels shooting wasted bullets into the sky. "We would never have been able to do that!" he says, laughing.
He worries about young people who spend their lives "lying down" in front of video screens. But he still has the optimism of the teenager who set off to fight the Nazis, and he remembers every detail as if it were yesterday.
These days, he has difficulty walking and is slowed by a weak lung — damaged by an SS bullet — but he nevertheless exudes an undimmed zest for adventure.
"Modern life is about having to foresee everything: take zero risks, and live from your cradle to your grave," says Maloubier, who generally goes by Bob. "But there's nothing worse than that.
"Even though man wants to absolutely know what tomorrow will be made of, the excitement of life is from not knowing what tomorrow will bring. Tomorrow is another day. That's all … something different. Something will happen, must happen. Otherwise, it's going to be dull. Life can only be made of unpredictable things."
The Special Operations Executive is best-known in Britain for fostering resistance in Axis-occupied areas. In France, its agents and underground French fighters held off Nazi troops and destroyed key parts of enemy infrastructure, especially in advance of the D-Day invasion. Its members also trained De Gaulle's secret service and contributed decisively to the liberation of several regions in France.
But in the minds of most French, two major groups were behind the resistance: De Gaulle's Free French Forces and French paramilitary units led by communist patriots, said historian Jean-Louis Cremieux-Brilhac, who was a member of De Gaulle's London-based provisional government.
"But in reality, there was a third driving motor: the British," Cremieux-Brilhac says. "It's an idea that hasn't completely penetrated French opinion."
The knowledge gap is no coincidence.
"Gen. De Gaulle insisted on affirming that France was liberated by the French themselves, with the help of the Allies, and he didn't want to highlight the important role of the SOE," which sent about 400 agents of various nationalities to France, Cremieux-Brilhac said.
Maloubier, born in a Paris suburb and raised by French parents, would appear an unlikely Special Operations Executive candidate. When the war broke out, he was still in high school and dreamed of becoming a fighter pilot for De Gaulle. But his parents were multilingual, Anglo-Saxon-loving professors who had spent years in New York and England, and shared with their children their admiration for Churchill.
After the French surrendered to the Nazis, Maloubier's parents encouraged him to join the resistance. But he couldn't make it to London, where the resistance leadership was based, so he fled to Algeria to join Allied forces. There, he encountered an SOE agent who recruited him to join the force.
"Every Frenchman who went to fight for another army was of course completely contrary to [De Gaulle's] politics, and he was absolutely right," Maloubier says. "But at our age, we had no political clue."
After parachuting into occupied France, he trained, organized and armed French bush fighters known as "Maquis." On orders from London, they bombed a German submarine tender and an aviation gear factory, as well as numerous bridges. His men had "to be prepared for everything," he says, and played a crucial role in stockpiling British weapons dropped into France via parachute in anticipation of D-Day.
Maloubier says the underground fighters included some "nobles" but were mostly workers who had less to lose.
"I was around people who were untrained, and badly trained, but they wanted to fight," he says.
Their eagerness to take on the Germans wasn't enough to wash away a certain bitterness he felt after flying to London between missions.
There, "everyone wanted to fight. There was a wartime climate. The atmosphere was completely different," he says. People lived in subway stations because so many homes were bombed. "But it was also very gay. People would go to nightclubs and tan in Hyde Park.... And still, there wasn't a single family that hadn't lost someone."
He met "extraordinary" people there, including SOE spies such as Violette Szabo, a beautiful and skilled agent who was captured during a mission and died in a Nazi concentration camp.
Maloubier says he is driven to keep writing in order to tell their stories, collected over the years like the antiques that fill his home. Weapons from the Middle East and Asia hang on the wall of his living room, which is lighted with lamps made of 100-year-old samovars once used to brew Russian tea on the Orient Express.
"I always say that in life there is never a dull moment, and that there's always something, that.…" He takes a deep breath and continues. "That makes you live again."
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #4761 on: Aug 8th, 2011, 08:05am »
Wired Danger Room
Did a New Taliban Weapon Kill a Chopper Full of Navy SEALs? By David Axe August 8, 2011 | 6:38 am Categories: Af/Pak
Photo: David Axe
Updated 8:36 am EDT.
The passengers and crew of the twin-rotor CH-47 Chinook helicopter probably never saw the rocket hurtling towards them. The explosion and fiery crash in Wardak province in eastern Afghanistan early on Saturday morning killed all 38 people aboard the lumbering chopper.
For U.S. forces, it was the bloodiest single incident of the 10-year-old Afghanistan war — and possibly a sign of the insurgency’s continued ability to introduce new weaponry. The attack is also a chilling reminder of the vulnerability of the U.S.-lead coalition’s indispensable helicopters. “Shock and disbelief,” is how one official characterized the reaction inside the military.
The dead include: five Army crew members, 19 U.S. Navy SEALs and their three support troops, an Afghan interpreter and seven Afghan commandos plus three Air Force controllers and one military working dog. “Their deaths are a reminder of the extraordinary sacrifices made by the men and women of our military and their families,” President Barack Obama said.
Details of the shootdown are slowly emerging. “There will be multiple investigations,” a Special Operations Command official said.
Sometime late Friday, it appears, a team of U.S. Army Rangers got pinned down by insurgent fighters during a patrol in Wardak, a province just south of Kabul that, along with neighboring Logar province, is a major staging area for the Taliban and other insurgent groups.
The Rangers called in their “Immediate Reaction Force,” a helicopter-borne mobile reserve that orbits nearby during risky patrols. That day, IRF duty had fallen to the Navy SEALs and their attachments, part of the 10,000-strong Afghanistan-based Joint Special Operations Command task force that, in addition to killing Osama bin Laden in May, also conducts as many as 70 raids per day in Afghanistan and Pakistan. In 2,800 raids between April and July, JSOC captured around 2,900 insurgents and killed more than 800, military sources said. That’s twice as many raids compared to the same period a year ago.
Normally, JSOC commandos ride in tricked-out helicopters — including stealth models — belonging to the Army’s 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment. But this weekend the SEALs hitched a ride in what was apparently a run-of-the-mill Army National Guard chopper.
With the SEALs’ help, the Rangers fought back against their ambushers. Eight insurgents died in the fighting, according to a Taliban spokesman. Believing the battle over, around 3:00 in the morning, local time, the SEALs and their allies climbed back into their CH-47 for the ride home. That’s when all Hell broke loose.
“The Taliban knew which route the helicopter would take,” one unnamed Afghan official tells AFP. “That’s the only route, so they took position[s] on the either side of the valley on mountains and as the helicopter approached, they attacked it with rockets and other modern weapons.”
“It was a trap that was set by a Taliban commander,” the official added.
The aircraft fell to the ground in flames.
The cause of the CH-47 crash is still under investigation, according to the coalition. Which weapon — or weapons — were responsible is not yet known. Several publications claim an insurgent Rocket-Propelled Grenade struck the helicopter. One Army insider who spoke to Danger Room went a step further, claiming that the rocket was, in fact, a special improvised model. A chopper-killer, if you will.
The so-called “Improvised Rocket-Assisted Mortar” made its debut in Iraq in 2008, although not in attacks on aircraft. IRAMs combine traditional tube mortars with rocket boosters and, in many cases, remote triggers, allowing insurgents to fire them from a distance.
IRAMs have killed several U.S. troops in Iraq over the years; in June, the weapons killed six Americans. but haven’t factored heavily in the Afghanistan fighting. The weapon’s appearance in Wardak, if confirmed, could be proof of Afghan insurgents’ continued ability to adapt and innovate despite mounting losses.
Improvised rockets are notoriously inaccurate. But with bigger warheads than shoulder-fired RPGs, IRAMs are potentially much more destructive when they do hit.
Not that it takes much to bring down a helicopter. Complex, slow and low-flying, choppers have always been vulnerable to attack from the ground. The coalition has lost hundreds of helicopters in Afghanistan over the last decade.
That the SEALs in Wardak were flying in a National Guard CH-47 probably didn’t make any difference. “Nothing about the aircraft would really make it more susceptible to ground fire than, say, a regular Army aircraft or a Special Ops bird,” the Army insider said.
Though enhanced Special Operations helicopters boast better navigation systems and, in some cases, even stealthy outer shells, they’re no more able to absorb an unguided rocket than any other copter. And for helicopters, there’s no effective countermeasure for unguided attacks besides aggressive flying, which isn’t really possible while the aircraft is close to the ground and full of troops.
But in mountainous Afghanistan, a country with few roads, the coalition has little choice but to rely on defenseless helicopters for even routine transportation — to say nothing of combat ops like the SEALs’ doomed weekend rescue.
That places huge demands on the aircraft and their operators. This is one subject of my forthcoming book From A to B. “My biggest headache is vertical lift,” Army Lt. Col. Thomas Gukeisen, in 2009 the commander of a combined U.S. and Czech force in Logar, told me for the book. “Vertical lift” is Army jargon for choppers.
The IRAM’s possible appearance in Afghanistan could make helicopters more vulnerable than they already are. At the same time, nothing short of a Herculean road-building effort — or a sudden, massive troop reduction — can quickly reduce the huge demand for rotorcraft.
In comments to reporters, NATO spokesman Brigadier General Carsten Jacobsen appeared to swat away the possibility that an IRAM was employed in the Wardak attack.
“We’re not seeing any specific new types of weapons on the battlefield,” he said.
Whether or not an IRAM counts as something “new” to Jacobsen is unclear; we’re following up to find out. But even subtracting the IRAM, the result of that awful arithmetic is more crashed choppers and more dead coalition troops, on a regular basis until the war ends. Saturday’s shootdown was an unusually bloody copter tragedy, but it’s hardly the first for the Afghan war. And it won’t be the last.
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #4762 on: Aug 8th, 2011, 08:12am »
7 August 2011 Anthony Pellicano Makes Shocking Charges About Arnold Schwarzenegger, Michael Jackson News of the World phone hacking takes a backseat to Pellicano's: the Hollywood hacker reveals in his first prison interview why he dropped Jackson and more. 8:20 PM 8/7/2011 by Jane Kellogg
Before News of the World and Rupert Murdoch became synonymous with phone hacking, there was Anthony Pellicano.
The private eye—known for his famous clients—hit headlines for his dramatic scandals better played out in a movie: a “bat cave” full of wiretapping equipment, a threat to an investigative journalist via a dead fish on her car windshield, a safe full of $200,000 cash. He has reportedly done investigative work for Michael Jackson, Tom Cruise, Yoko Ono, Sylvester Stallone and dozens more, but it was his mafia-esque methods that landed him in prison for 15 years.
In his first sit-down interview since he was found guilty on 78 counts in 2008, Pellicano spoke to Newsweek at the Big Spring Federal Correctional Institution in the small town of Big Spring, Texas.
Self-described as tight-lipped, Pellicano name-dropped several celebrity clients and revealed quite a few interesting tidbits. Here are the highlights:
1. On his wiretapping skills compared to that of News of the World’s investigators: “I was way ahead of my time,” he tells Newsweek. “If Murdoch’s name wasn’t involved, would there be a story? If someone wiretapped Britney Spears, no one would care. The story is, did Murdoch know people were doing this? Did he condone it? I strongly believe he had no idea.”
2. Pellicano didn’t rat out any of his high-profile clients to the FBI, and he reasons this is why he received his high sentence. “Up until the day of trial, [federal prosecutors] tried to get me to talk,” he says. But he still insists that none of his clients knew about his wiretapping. “It was either I talked or go to jail and accept it like a man,” he says. “I could have gone to the Clintons [Pellicano was reportedly hired to investigate Monica Lewinsky and Gennifer Flowers] and senators and asked them for a favor. I am not going to ask them for a favor. You take your lumps and go on with your life the best way you can.”
3. Details on his former alleged client, Arnold Schwarzenegger: “[The FBI raided] my business…I have personal stuff on Arnold…If they found that stuff, he never would have been governor.” He didn’t elaborate or say whether that personal information had anything to do with Schwarzenegger’s love child with his maid: “I can’t say one way or another if I knew it,” he says.
4. He revealed why he allegedly dropped Michael Jackson as a client, who hired him to investigate one of the families accusing him in his 2003 child molestation case. He detailed that he told Jackson he would only work for him if he wasn’t guilty. “I said, ‘You don’t have to worry about cops or lawyers. If I find out anything, I will f--k you over. … I quit because I found out some truths…He did something far worse to young boys than molest them.” Pellicano did not elaborate.
5. He says he cannot pen his autobiography he claims he has received several offers to write, primarily due to his prison dorm-style living quarters in Big Spring. “Imagine trying to write a story with 100 guys around you,” he says. “There is nowhere to go for quiet.”
Pellicano is currently appealing his conviction and, if successful, could be released as early as 2013. In his appeal, he accuses the government of misconduct, misrepresentation and violating the constitution (he asserts that the FBI’s search of his office was illegal).
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #4763 on: Aug 8th, 2011, 4:14pm »
Orange goo washing ashore in Alaska is egg mass, scientists say
By Yereth Rosen ANCHORAGE, Alaska Mon Aug 8, 2011 5:00pm EDT
ANCHORAGE, Alaska (Reuters) - A mysterious orange goo that washed ashore in an Alaska village last week and sparked pollution concerns turns out to be a mass of crustacean eggs or embryos, government scientists said on Monday.
Tests of a sample sent by the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation produced the results, officials at a laboratory belonging to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Alaska Fisheries Service Center said.
"We now think these are some sort of small crustacean egg or embryo, with the lipid oil droplet in the middle causing the orange color," Jeep Rice, a lead scientist at the Juneau laboratory, said in a news release.
"So this is natural. It is not chemical pollution; it is not a man-made substance," Rice said.
Last week's appearance of the orange substance in the Alaska village of Kivalina initially baffled villagers and experts.
Residents of the Inupiat Eskimo village on Alaska's northwest coast said they had never seen anything like it before, and U.S. Coast Guard and Alaska environmental officials examined it and determined that it was not a petroleum product or other known pollutant.
The material is sticky, but becomes a powder when dried, said Julie Speegle, a spokeswoman for NOAA's Fisheries Service in Alaska.
Scientists who made the preliminary identification are confident that they are correct, Speegle said.
"I would say we're pretty darn sure that they're microscopic eggs," she said. "We just don't know what species."
To get a more precise identification, Speegle said, scientists at the Auke Bay lab have sent samples to NOAA's Center for Coastal Environmental Health and Biomolecular Research in Charleston, South Carolina.
"As soon as they receive a sample, they will be doing a more in-depth analysis," she said.
Kivalina, a village of nearly 400 people, is located at the tip of a barrier reef jutting out into the Chukchi Sea.
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #4764 on: Aug 9th, 2011, 07:56am »
New York Times
August 9, 2011 Rioting Widens in London and Spreads Elsewhere By ALAN COWELL, RAVI SOMAIYA and JOHN F. BURNS
LONDON — Prime Minister David Cameron pledged on Tuesday to flood the streets of London with 10,000 extra police officers and said Parliament would be recalled in emergency session after rioting and looting spread across and beyond London for a third night in what the police called the worst unrest in memory.
At the same time, the police said they had launched a murder inquiry after a 26-year-old man, who was not identified by name, was shot and killed in a car in Croydon, south of London, late Monday as rioters torched and looted buildings — the first known fatality since the unrest began in another part of the city on Saturday.
Mr. Cameron spoke after cutting short a vacation in Tuscany to return home as violence convulsed at least eight new districts in the metropolitan area late Monday and early Tuesday and broke out for the first time in other locations including Britain’s second-largest city, Birmingham.
Coming after a cascade of crises, the measures announced by Mr. Cameron seemed to represent a bid to restore some appearance of official authority after nights of chaos and near-anarchy with rioters taunting or outmaneuvering the police, raiding stores and torching buildings.
The violence has left many Londoners stunned at the spectacle of hooded and masked marauders rampaging with seeming impunity despite hundreds of arrests that have filled police cells to overflowing. In a cautious response on the streets, some citizens took to cleaning up the debris on Tuesday, cheering police patrol vehicles passing by.
Standing outside his office and residence at 10 Downing Street, Mr. Cameron said lawmakers would be called back from their summer recess for one day on Thursday to enable Parliament to assess the situation. All police leave had been canceled, he said, and the number of officers on the streets would be increased to 16,000 on Wednesday night from 6,000 on Tuesday.
“People should be in no doubt that we will do everything necessary to restore order to Britain’s streets and to make them safe for the law-abiding,” he said.
“This is criminality pure and simple and it has to be confronted and defeated,” Mr. Cameron said. He added that the violence had produced “sickening scenes” and that the country needed “even more robust police action” to confront the unrest. There would be “many more arrests in the days to come,” he said.
Mr. Cameron’s comments came after violence also erupted overnight in several other cities, including Liverpool, Nottingham and Bristol, as well as in three towns in the county of Kent, southeast of the capital. An enormous fire consumed a large warehouse of Sony electrical goods in the Enfield section of London after an equally ferocious blaze ripped through a furniture store in Croydon whose owners said it survived bombing in World War II unscathed.
In one incident, three people were arrested on suspicion of attempted murder for trying to run down a police officer with a car as he tried to stop looting in Brent, north London, the police said.
“Last night was the worst the Metropolitan Police Service has seen in current memory for unacceptable levels of widespread looting, fires and disorder,” Scotland Yard said in a statement tallying a further 200 arrests overnight, bringing the total from three nights of unrest to over 450.
So many people had been detained, the police said, that all the police cells in London were full and prisoners were being taken to precincts outside the capital.
Londoners awoke in some areas to the sight of fire hoses playing on rows gutted buildings. Some civic activists in stricken areas used social networking sites to urge people to join clean-up efforts in streets where small businesses from hair-dressing salons to shops selling baby clothes had been looted. A video posted on YouTube showed a rioter rifling through the backpack of a dazed and wounded pedestrian, then tossing aside his booty on the sidewalk.
For Mr. Cameron’s government — indeed for Britain — the rapidly worsening situation presented a profound challenge on several fronts.
For a society already under severe economic strain, the rioting raised new questions about the political sustainability of the Cameron government’s spending cuts, particularly the deep cutbacks in social programs. These have hit the country’s poor especially hard, including large numbers of the minority youths who have been at the forefront of the unrest.
In some areas, rioters moving quickly and nimbly on foot and by bicycle seemed so emboldened that they began looting in broad daylight, while in others raided small shops and large stores free of any restraint by the police. Newspapers on Tuesday showed images of hooded and masked looters swarming over shelves of cigarettes or making off with flat-screen televisions.
“Descent into hell,” said a front page headline in The Sun tabloid which, like other newspapers, published a dramatic photograph of a woman leaping to safety in the arms of police from a blazing building.
“Mob Rule,” said the page one headline in The Independent, showing a masked rioter in a hooded track-suit against a wall of flame.
On Tuesday, the violence seemed to be having a ripple effect beyond its immediate focal points: news reports spoke of a dramatic upsurge in household burglaries; sports authorities said at least two major soccer matches in London — including an international fixture between England and the Netherlands — had been postponed because the police could not spare officers to guarantee crowd safety. The postponements offered a dramatic reminder of the pressures on Mr. Cameron and his colleagues to guarantee a peaceful environment for the 2012 Summer Olympic Games.
That $15 billion extravaganza will have its centerpiece in a sprawling vista of new stadiums and an athletes’ village that lie only miles from the neighborhoods where much of the violence in the last three days has taken place.
As in other areas of the city, a group of about 40 residents with brooms and trash bags, responding to an appeal on Twitter, met at Chalk Farm subway station in the north London borough of Camden on Tuesday to help clean up debris.
The group started to make its way down a main shopping road but had to stay clear of the damaged windows of a supermarket and a bicycle shop because they were still cordoned off by police. When some people stopped to clean broken glass on the road in front of some shops, other residents clapped and cheered the group from their windows.
Walking down Camden High Street with a black garbage bag over his shoulder, Tom Moriarty, a musician who lives in Camden, said the unrest had been caused by something “fundamental about how people feel. It’s down to life being a bit harder and people feel they’re not being heard.”
Beyond such social challenges is the crisis enveloping London’s Metropolitan Police. Even before the outbreak of violence, the police have been deeply demoralized by the government’s plan to cut about 9,000 of about 35,000 officers and by allegations that it badly mishandled protests against the government’s austerity program last winter and failed to properly investigate the phone-hacking scandal that has dominated the headlines here for much of the summer. The force now faces widespread allegations that it failed to act quickly and forcefully enough to quell the rioting at its outset over the weekend.
Despite a build-up in the number of riot police officers, many of them rushed to London from areas around the country, gangs of hooded young people appeared to be outmaneuvering the police for the third successive night. Communicating via BlackBerry instant-message technology that the police have struggled to monitor, as well as by social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter, they repeatedly signaled fresh target areas to those caught up in the mayhem.
They coupled their grasp of digital technology with the ability to race through London’s clogged traffic on bicycles and mopeds, creating what amounted to flying squads that switched from one scene to another in the London districts of Hackney, Lewisham, Clapham, Peckham, Croydon, Woolwich and Enfield, among others — and even, late on Monday night, at least minor outbreaks in the mainly upscale neighborhood of Notting Hill and parts of Camden.
The authorities seemed reluctant, however, to respond to the crisis with more draconian tactics, such as the imposition of local curfews, or the tougher policing measures long used in Northern Ireland, including the use of rubber bullets.
Asked if the army would be deployed or whether the police would use water cannons, Theresa May, the home secretary, told Sky News: “The way we police in Britain is not through use of water cannon. The way we police in Britain is through consent of communities.”
Nothing remotely like the latest unrest had been seen in London since 1985, when another eruption that occurred mainly among black youths led to violent running battles with the police. Known as the Broadwater Farm riots for the housing project where it began, the turmoil took place in the Tottenham district, where the current violence started on Saturday. That grew from a protest outside a police station about the shooting last week by the police of Mark Duggan, 29, who lived in the housing project.
This time, hundreds of young people, their faces covered in scarves or ski masks, looted; attacked police officers with wooden staves, gasoline bombs, broken bottles, pieces of masonry and even shopping carts; and set fire to police vehicles, private cars, trash bins and buildings.
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #4765 on: Aug 9th, 2011, 08:02am »
Arab nations add to pressure on Syrian regime
Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Bahrain withdraw their ambassadors as more nations seek to pressure President Bashar Assad to end the assault on the pro-democracy movement.
By Borzou Daragahi, Los Angeles Times August 9, 2011 Reporting from Beirut
Syria's neighbors have turned decisively against President Bashar Assad, launching a diplomatic campaign against his crackdown on the country's pro-democracy movement that analysts say could have a major effect on important pillars of Assad's support.
Even as Syrian armed forces pushed Monday against several opposition strongholds, international action against the government mushroomed. The diplomatic pressure marked a significant change from the largely cautious international response for most of the last five months.
Western countries so far have led efforts to pressure Assad to stop the violent crackdown on protesters, including issuing a U.N. Security Council statement last week condemning the offensive. Over the weekend, the Arab League and the Gulf Cooperation Council, a body of six wealthy Arabian Peninsula kingdoms, also denounced the violence. And on Monday, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Bahrain withdrew their ambassadors.
In addition, Turkey, once a steadfast ally, is preparing to take a harder approach. Turkish reports said Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu would arrive in the Syrian capital, Damascus, on Tuesday to deliver an ultimatum.
The two nations "will sit down and talk for one last time," the Turkish daily Hurriyet quoted an unidentified Foreign Ministry official as saying. "The talks will show whether the ties will be cut loose or not, or if a new [Turkish] policy is to be outlined on Syria. That's the last meeting."
The Obama administration praised the increased diplomatic pressure. Mark Toner, a State Department spokesman, said Washington was heartened by the response from the Saudis, the Persian Gulf states and the Arab League, but said that more was needed.
There were signs that Washington was looking to Turkey to use its influence. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton called Davutoglu on Sunday and a senior U.S. diplomat, Fred Hof, visited Ankara, the Turkish capital.
Although the United States and European Union have imposed sanctions on individuals and pressed Assad to make reforms, they have stopped short of saying he should step down. Western policymakers are concerned about instability in a country with a potent sectarian mix that borders Israel and Lebanon and is allied with Iran.
Though Libyan leader Moammar Kadafi has so far proved able to withstand the end of diplomatic recognition, an armed rebellion, NATO airstrikes and defection of many loyalists, Syria may be different. Unlike Libya, it has little oil revenue to fund its patronage networks and it has in the past proved susceptible to pressure.
"Historically, concerted multilateral pressure and sanctions have the greatest impact on the Assad regime's calculations," said Andrew Tabler, a Syria expert at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy and a former longtime resident of Damascus. "The former forced Assad to pull his forces out of Lebanon in February 2005. And we know that sanctions impact the regime, given its terrible economic situation and the regime's worsening finances."
The evidence that Assad is susceptible to sanctions, he said, is that it has pressed the United States to lift them if Syria negotiates a peace treaty with Israel.
Top echelons of the Syrian government appear to perceive the protest movement as an existential threat, but important pillars of Assad's support may be vulnerable to outside pressure, analysts said.
Pressure "may not matter to the very top," said Robert Malley, Middle East and North Africa director for the International Crisis Group, a conflict resolution and advocacy group funded by Western governments and charities. "But it may matter to the people who are right beneath them. It may matter to those who have to decide to stick to the decision makers at the core of the regime, or whether they sense the tide is turning domestically and internationally."
Among those constituencies are the prosperous Sunni Muslim and Christian merchant class in Damascus and Aleppo, traders with ties to neighboring Turkey and even members of Assad's minority Alawite community, a small Shiite sect, whose members lead the country's secret police.
"Members of the security forces may themselves be concerned that the violence is pointless and exposes the whole Alawite community to the wrath of the population," which is overwhelmingly Sunni, Malley said.
Assad's timing and targets appear to have forced Persian Gulf countries, which also are predominantly Sunni, to act. Gulf monarchies were cool to the so-called Arab Spring uprisings, which inspired the protesters in Syria. Saudi Arabia dispatched troops to quell demonstrations in neighboring Bahrain.
But Assad's decision to conduct major offensives in largely Sunni enclaves during the holy month of Ramadan appears to have turned the gulf countries against him. His July 31 move against the city of Hama evoked memories of a massacre of civilians in the city by forces loyal to his father in 1982.
"It was the fact that the regime has crossed a threshold in the quantity and quality of the violence it was willing to use, especially with regard to a Hama," Malley said. "It's very hard for them to stand by silently to see members of the Sunni community killed the way they were killed."
The assault launched Sunday on Dair Alzour, a far eastern tribal region bordering Iraq and with deep cultural connections to the Arabian Peninsula, made matters worse.
According to a recent International Crisis Group report on Syria, Dair Alzour airport offers daily flights to Kuwait City but only weekly flights to Damascus.
"The tribes in eastern Syria have extensive contacts in Saudi," Tabler said. "Many of them have Saudi and [United Arab Emirates] nationality."
Assad has resisted pressure to curtail the offensive. On Monday he fired Defense Minister Ali Habib, a moderate figure many activists had held out as a possible transition figure, and replaced him with army chief of staff Daoud Rajha.
Residents of the northwestern town of Maarat Numaan, the scene of persistent antigovernment protests, said soldiers and tanks moved into the main square. Security forces launched fresh assaults on Dair Alzour and Hama.
"At 6:00 a.m. tanks moved into Museum Square. We heard gunfire all around," said a 30-year-old laborer, who identified himself only by his first name, Wissam. "At first we didn't know where it was coming from until we saw security personnel move into the neighborhoods and assume positions."
In Dair Alzour, residents said security forces were focusing on the districts of Hawika and Joura, where a group of soldiers was rumored to have defected to the opposition.
"Now those areas are completely isolated by tanks," said Abdullah Furati, a resident reached by telephone. "We hear explosions all around now. Snipers have taken positions around the areas."
In Hama, a resident said two young men were publicly executed Sunday on the streets, including a member of the Bunni clan, a prominent Syrian family known for its opposition sympathies.
"They've killed people in cold blood before, but never a public show like this," said a 31-year-old activist who gave his name as Abu Zeid. "They were shot at the wall of a mosque and then their bodies were taken away."
He said security forces were trying to round up antigovernment activists, and had come to his house the previous night when he wasn't there.
"They put a gun to the stomach of my 8-year-old boy and took my brother instead of me," he said. "We are so afraid for him. We are trying to get him out."
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #4766 on: Aug 9th, 2011, 08:13am »
Wired Danger Room
Project Run-a-Way: The Craziest Combat Outfits By Lena Groeger August 9, 2011 | 7:00 am Categories: Gadgets and Gear
They might be garish or sophisticated, bizarre or comical, technology-heavy or explosive-proof. All sorts of suits outfit the men and women who work hard everyday – to fight bombs or keep the peace. Here we showcase a few of the cool, functional or just plain insane fashions fit for the fight.
The Bomb Suit
Defusing bombs? It might be handy to put this on. The 60 pound, armor-layered Hurt Locker ensemble certainly can't guarantee survival (it has the nickname "Demon Suit" for a reason). But it sure is your best bet against a pressurized explosion. With hard-armor plates on top of multiple layers of strong heat-resistant synthetic fibers, it protects against the shockwave from the blast as well as flying shrapnel. Here's a much more detailed explanation of how these outfits keep you alive: http://dvice.com/archives/2010/03/hurt-locker-sui.php (And a photo of Danger Room's Noah Shachtman in one himself.)
And in case you're wondering, the current world record for fastest mile in a bomb suit is nine minutes and 58 seconds. What Staff Sgt. Jeremy Herbert was doing running that far, who knows.
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #4767 on: Aug 9th, 2011, 11:30am »
Chimpanzees Are Spontaneously Generous After All, Study Shows ScienceDaily (Aug. 8, 2011)
Researchers at the Yerkes National Primate Research Center have shown chimpanzees have a significant bias for prosocial behavior. This, the study authors report, is in contrast to previous studies that positioned chimpanzees as reluctant altruists and led to the widely held belief that human altruism evolved in the last six million years only after humans split from apes.
The current study findings are available in the online edition of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
According to Yerkes researchers Victoria Horner, PhD, Frans de Waal, PhD, and their colleagues, chimpanzees may not have shown prosocial behaviors in other studies because of design issues, such as the complexity of the apparatus used to deliver rewards and the distance between the animals.
"I have always been skeptical of the previous negative findings and their over-interpretation, says Dr. de Waal. "This study confirms the prosocial nature of chimpanzees with a different test, better adapted to the species," he continues.
In the current study, Dr. Horner and colleagues greatly simplified the test, which focused on offering seven adult female chimpanzees a choice between two similar actions: one that rewards both the "actor," the term used in the paper for the lead study participant, and a partner, and another that rewards only the actor/chooser herself. Examples of the critically important simplified design aspects include allowing the study partners to sit close together and ensuring conspicuous food consumption, which the researchers achieved by wrapping pieces of banana in paper that made a loud noise upon removal.
In each trial, the chooser, which was always tested with her partner in sight, selected between differently colored tokens from a bin. One colored token could be exchanged with an experimenter for treats for both members of the pair (prosocial); the other colored token would result in a treat only for the chooser (selfish). All seven chimpanzees showed an overwhelming preference for the prosocial choice. The study also showed the choosers behaved altruistically especially towards partners who either patiently waited or gently reminded them that they were there by drawing attention to themselves. The chimpanzees making the choices were less likely to reward partners who made a fuss, begged persistently or spat water at them, thus showing their altruism was spontaneous and not subject to intimidation.
"We were excited to find female after female chose the option that gave both her and her partner food," says Dr. Horner. "It was also interesting to me that being overly persistent did not go down well with the choosers. It was far more productive for partners to be calm and remind the choosers they were there from time to time," she continues.
The authors say this study puts to rest a longstanding puzzle surrounding chimpanzee altruism. It is well-known these apes help each other in the wild and show various forms of empathy, such as reassurance of distressed parties. The negative findings of previous studies did not fit this image. These results, however, confirm chimpanzee altruism in a well-controlled experiment, suggesting human altruism is less of an anomaly than previously thought.
The study authors next plan to determine whether the altruistic tendency of the chimpanzees towards their partners is related to social interactions within the group, such as reciprocal exchanges of food or social support.
For eight decades, the Yerkes National Primate Research Center, Emory University, has been dedicated to conducting essential basic science and translational research to advance scientific understanding and to improve the health and well-being of humans and nonhuman primates. Today, the center, as one of only eight National Institutes of Health-funded national primate research centers, provides leadership, training and resources to foster scientific creativity, collaboration and discoveries. Yerkes-based research is grounded in scientific integrity, expert knowledge, respect for colleagues, an open exchange of ideas and compassionate quality animal care.
Within the fields of microbiology and immunology, neurologic diseases, neuropharmacology, behavioral, cognitive and developmental neuroscience, and psychiatric disorders, the center's research programs are seeking ways to: develop vaccines for infectious and noninfectious diseases; treat drug addiction; interpret brain activity through imaging; increase understanding of progressive illnesses such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's diseases; unlock the secrets of memory; determine how the interaction between genetics and society shape who we are; and advance knowledge about the evolutionary links between biology and behavior.
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #4768 on: Aug 9th, 2011, 4:54pm »
Building Blocks of DNA Found in Meteorites from Space
By Charles Q. Choi
Published August 09, 2011 Space.com
The components of DNA have now been confirmed to exist in extraterrestrial meteorites, researchers announced.
A different team of scientists also discovered a number of molecules linked with a vital ancient biological process, adding weight to the idea that the earliest forms of life on Earth may have been made up in part from materials delivered to Earth by meteorites from space.
Past research had revealed a range of building blocks of life in meteorites, such as the amino acids that make up proteins. Space rocks just like these may have been a vital source of the organic compounds that gave rise to life on Earth.
Investigators have also found nucleobases, key ingredients of DNA, in meteorites before. However, it has been very difficult to prove that these molecules are not contamination from sources on Earth.
To help confirm if any nucleobases seen in meteorites were of extraterrestrial origin, scientists used the latest scientific analysis techniques on samples from a dozen meteorites — 11 organic-rich meteorites called carbonaceous chondrites and one ureilite, a very rare type of meteorite with a different chemical composition. This was the first time all but two of these meteorites had been analyzed for nucleobases.
The analytical techniques probed the mass and other features of the molecules to identify the presence of extraterrestrial nucleobases and see that they apparently did not come from the surrounding area.
Two of the carbonaceous chondrites contained a diverse array of nucleobases and structurally similar compounds known as nucleobase analogs. Intriguingly, three of these nucleobase analogs are very rare in Earth biology, and were not found in soil and ice samples from the areas near where the meteorites were collected at the parts-per-billion limits of their detection techniques.
"Finding nucleobase compounds not typically found in Earth's biochemistry strongly supports an extraterrestrial origin," Cleaves said.
"At the start of this project, it looked like the nucleobases in these meteorites were terrestrial contamination — these results were a very big surprise for me," study lead author Michael Callahan, an analytical chemist and astrobiologist at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, told SPACE.com.
These findings reveal that meteorites may have been molecular tool kits, providing the essential building blocks for life on Earth, Cleaves said.
"All this has implications for the origins of life on Earth and potentially elsewhere," Callahan said.