Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #4816 on: Aug 17th, 2011, 12:25pm »
Columbia Daily Tribune
Journalists who shun UFO reports fail readers
BY BILL WICKERSHAM Columbia Daily Tribune Tuesday, August 16, 2011
For more than 60 years, innumerable well-documented reports have been made of sightings, landings and crashes of unidentified flying craft, commonly referred to as unidentified flying objects (UFOs). They undoubtedly are under intelligent control and travel at speeds and with aeronautical capabilities far exceeding those of today’s known military and commercial aircraft. Testimony of reliable witnesses, including astronauts, generals, admirals, law enforcement officials, airline pilots, scientists and many other highly credentialed officials attests to the physical reality and uniqueness of these craft. Additionally, there is evidence some craft have been retrieved by military personnel of the United States and other countries. Furthermore, research has verified that several witnesses have viewed and handled the bodies of “visitors” that can only be described as extraterrestrial in nature.
In 1999, an outstanding document titled “UFOs and Defence: What Must We Be Prepared For?” was published by an independent group of former “auditors” of the French Institute for National Defence and experts from several other scientific fields. Known as the COMETA report, the study included the examination of some 500 international UFO sightings, including radar/visual cases and previously undisclosed reports of commercial and military pilots. It also drew on data from official sources, government authorities and air forces of other countries. The report further explored the political and religious implications of UFOs, as well as the problem of disinformation, ridicule and manipulation efforts by government agencies and other vested interests.
In its conclusion, the report addressed the issue of extraterrestrial visitation: “A single hypothesis sufficiently takes into account the facts and, for the most part, only calls for present day science. It is the hypothesis of extraterrestrial visitors. Advanced in 1947 by certain U.S. military personnel, today it is popular worldwide. It is discredited by a certain elite, but is plausible. Scientists (astronomers, physicists, engineers, futurologists etc.) have elaborated on it enough for it to be received as a hypothesis — by their peers.”
When journalist Leslie Kean wrote the first account of the COMETA report in the Boston Globe on May 21, 2000, she thought the article “would have to generate some kind of news buzz, and that other journalists would eagerly jump in to pick up where I had left off. ... Amazingly nothing happened. ... It was the beginning of a rude awakening, a rite of passage into the perplexing reality that UFOs cannot be acknowledged at all, even as simply the unidentified flying objects that they are. It was as if everyone was pretending that they didn’t exist.”
Given the life-changing potential and consequences of the UFO/ET problem, and because it has primarily been subject to sensational tabloid journalism, it is essential that local, national and international journalists seriously perform the duties and responsibilities required by the mission and ethics of their indispensable profession. For the past 60-plus years, the mainstream media have either ignored or ridiculed what might be the biggest story of human history.
During this period, every top-level news organization in the United States has been approached countless times by citizens and researchers with events, information and evidence relating to the UFO phenomenon. With few exceptions, the major news organizations have defaulted on this issue, including The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Washington Post and ABC/NBC/CBS/CNN news television. On many occasions, UFO events have been reported by local media and then transmitted to narrow-minded national editors who have failed to do follow-up stories.
Examples of the negligence are plentiful. One glaring case was the April 1997 UFO sighting witnessed by thousands of people in the Phoenix area. This massive UFO was one of the most spectacular sightings in U.S. history, but mainstream journalists wanted nothing to do with it and might have ignored it completely if not for the very candid, detailed interview of Phoenix Councilwoman Frances Barwood by USA Today’s Richard Price, who wrote an excellent piece about the event.
Historically, most major media organizations have been of the opinion UFOs are not real and often treated anyone who believes they are to be intellectually stunted and deserving of dismissal and ridicule. Most journalists, like many academics, have seriously failed in their professional obligation to treat the issue fairly and objectively. Such behavior is known by some UFO investigators as “The Journalism UFO Syndrome.”
Philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer said of the search for truth: “All truth passes through three stages. First it is ridiculed; second, it is violently opposed; and third, it is accepted as self-evident.” If sound journalism practices are applied to the UFO/ET issue, we might be able to partially curtail stages one and two.
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #4817 on: Aug 18th, 2011, 08:30am »
New York Times
August 17, 2011 U.S. Inquiry Eyes S.&P. Ratings of Mortgages By LOUISE STORY
The Justice Department is investigating whether the nation’s largest credit ratings agency, Standard & Poor’s, improperly rated dozens of mortgage securities in the years leading up to the financial crisis, according to two people interviewed by the government and another briefed on such interviews.
The investigation began before Standard & Poor’s cut the United States’ AAA credit rating this month, but it is likely to add fuel to the political firestorm that has surrounded that action. Lawmakers and some administration officials have since questioned the agency’s secretive process, its credibility and the competence of its analysts, claiming to have found an error in its debt calculations.
In the mortgage inquiry, the Justice Department has been asking about instances in which the company’s analysts wanted to award lower ratings on mortgage bonds but may have been overruled by other S.& P. business managers, according to the people with knowledge of the interviews. If the government finds enough evidence to support such a case, which is likely to be a civil case, it could undercut S.& P.’s longstanding claim that its analysts act independently from business concerns.
It is unclear if the Justice Department investigation involves the other two ratings agencies, Moody’s and Fitch, or only S.& P.
During the boom years, S.& P. and other ratings agencies reaped record profits as they bestowed their highest ratings on bundles of troubled mortgage loans, which made the mortgages appear less risky and thus more valuable. They failed to anticipate the deterioration that would come in the housing market and devastate the financial system.
Since the crisis, the agencies’ business practices and models have been criticized from many corners, including in Congressional hearings and reports that have raised questions about whether independent analysis was corrupted by the drive for profits.
The Securities and Exchange Commission has also been investigating possible wrongdoing at S.& P., according to a person interviewed on that matter, and may be looking at the other two major agencies, Moody’s and Fitch Ratings.
Ed Sweeney, a spokesman for S.& P., said in an e-mail: “S.& P. has received several requests from different government agencies over the last few years. We continue to cooperate with these requests. We do not prevent such agencies from speaking with current or former employees.” S.& P. is a unit of the McGraw-Hill Companies, which is under pressure from some investors and has been considering whether to spin off businesses or make other strategic changes this summer.
The people with knowledge of the investigation said it had picked up steam early this summer, well before the debt rating issue reached a high pitch in Washington. Now members of Congress are investigating why S.& P. removed the nation’s AAA rating, which is highly important to financial markets.
Representatives of the Justice Department and the S.E.C. declined to comment, as is customary for those departments, on whether they are investigating the ratings agencies.
Even though the Justice Department has the power to bring criminal charges, witnesses who have been interviewed have been told by investigators that they are pursuing a civil case.
The government has brought relatively few cases against large financial concerns for their roles in the housing blowup, and it has closed investigations into Washington Mutual and Countrywide, among others, without taking action.
The cases that have been brought are mainly civil matters. In the spring, the Justice Department filed a civil suit against Deutsche Bank and one of its units, which the government said had misrepresented the quality of mortgage loans to obtain government insurance on them. Another common thread — in that case and several others — is that no bank executives were named.
Despite the public scrutiny and outcry over the ratings agencies’ failures in the financial crisis, many investors still rely heavily on ratings from the three main agencies for their purchases of sovereign and corporate debt, as well as other complex financial products.
Companies and some countries — but not the United States — pay the agencies to receive a rating, the financial market’s version of a seal of approval. For decades, the government issued rules that banks, mutual funds and others could rely on a AAA stamp for investing decisions — which bolstered the agencies’ power.
A successful case or settlement against a giant like S.& P. could accelerate the shift away from the traditional ratings system. The financial reform overhaul known as Dodd-Frank sought to decrease the emphasis on ratings in the way banks and mutual funds invest their assets. But bank regulators have been slow to spell out how that would work. A government case that showed problems beyond ineptitude might spur greater reforms, financial historians said.
“I think it would have a major impact if there was a successful fraud case that would suggest there would be momentum for legislation that would force them to change their business model,” said Richard Sylla, a professor at New York University’s Stern School of Business who has studied the history of ratings firms.
In particular, Professor Sylla said that the ratings agencies could be forced to stop making their money off the entities they rate and instead charge investors who use the ratings. The current business model, critics say, is riddled with conflicts of interest, since ratings agencies might make their grades more positive to please their customers.
Before the financial crisis, banks shopped around to make sure rating agencies would award favorable ratings before agreeing to work with them. These banks paid upward of $100,000 for ratings on mortgage bond deals, according to the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission, and several hundreds of thousands of dollars for the more complex structures known as collateralized debt obligations.
Ratings experts also said that a successful case could hamper the agencies’ ability to argue that they were not liable for ratings that turned out to be wrong.
“Their story is that they should be protected by full First Amendment protections, and that would be harder to make in the public arena, in Congress and in the courts,” said Lawrence J. White, another professor at New York University’s Stern School of Business, who has testified alongside ratings executives before Congress. “If they mixed business and the ratings, it would certainly make their story harder to tell.”
The ratings agencies lost a bit of ground on their First Amendment protections in the recent financial reform bill, which put the ratings firms on the same legal liability level as accounting firms, Professor White said. But that has yet to be tested in court.
People with knowledge of the Justice Department investigation of S.& P. said investigators had made references to several individuals, though it was unclear if anyone would be named in any potential case. Investigators have been asking about a remark supposedly made by David Tesher about mortgage security ratings, two people said. The investigators have asked witnesses if they heard Mr. Tesher say: “Don’t kill the golden goose,” in reference to mortgage securities.
S.& P. declined to provide a comment for Mr. Tesher.
Several of the people who oversaw S.& P.’s mortgage-related ratings went on to different jobs at McGraw-Hill, including Joanne Rose, the former head of structured finance; Vickie Tillman, the former head of ratings; and Susan Barnes, former head of residential mortgage bond ratings. Investigators have told witnesses that they are looking for former employees and that has proved difficult because so many crucial people still work at the company.
One former executive who has been mentioned in investigators’ interviews is Richard Gugliada, who helped oversee ratings of collateralized debt obligations. Calls to his home were not returned.
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #4818 on: Aug 18th, 2011, 12:19pm »
Russia loses contact with $265 million satellite MOSCOW | Thu Aug 18, 2011 12:08pm EDT
MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia said it had lost track of a newly-launched, multi-million-dollar telecommunications satellite on Thursday, the latest in a series of setbacks that have dogged its space industry.
The $265-million Express AM-4 satellite, described by its makers as the most powerful satellite ever built in Europe, launched late on Wednesday aboard a Proton-M rocket from the Russian-leased launchpad in Kazakhstan.
The Russian space agency said the first stages of the launch went smoothly but communication with the satellite was lost due to a failure of the Briz-M upper stage.
It said experts were working to re-establish contact with the craft, built by Astrium, a unit of European aerospace group EADS, to provide digital TV, Internet and telecoms services for Russia over the next 15 years.
The spacecraft was fully insured for 7.5 billion roubles ($264.5 million) with Russian Ingosstrakh insurance company.
Judging by early efforts, officials have a roughly 75 percent chance of linking back to the satellite and manoeuvring it into the correct orbit, space industry expert Igor Lissov told Reuters.
Its loss would be a "nightmare" for Russia's industry, he said, delaying key commercial projects by three to four years and embarrassing Moscow at a time when it hopes to showcase its technology at this week's MAKS airshow outside the capital.
The mishap follows a series of botched launches, including three poorly insured orbiters which crashed into the Pacific Ocean earlier this year costing $160 million and setting back Kremlin plans for a global positioning system to rival the U.S.-made GPS.
A breakdown of the Briz-KM engine burns led to the loss of a key military Earth-mapping satellite earlier this year.
The glitches cost Russia's veteran space agency chief Anatoly Perminov his job this spring. He was replaced by former deputy defense minister and space forces commander Vladimir Popovkin.
(Writing by Alissa de Carbonnel; editing by Elizabeth Piper)
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #4819 on: Aug 18th, 2011, 12:25pm »
Robert Rodriguez Explores ‘4-D’ and Other Cinematic Frontiers By Scott Thill August 18, 2011 | 6:30 am Categories: movies
For two decades (and counting), hyperproductive director Robert Rodriguez has followed in the footsteps of his franchise-making idols George Lucas and James Cameron to become one of Hollywood’s outsider technological pioneers.
“I figured, ‘I’m following Obi-Wan! He knows what time it is!’” the easygoing auteur told Wired.com by phone from his “space station” home studio in Austin, Texas. “He doesn’t wait 10 years to adopt a new technology like everyone else.”
Rodriguez’s latest clever renovation of the industry arrives Friday in the form of Spy Kids: All the Time in the World, a “4-D” spy-fi blockbuster shot in 3-D and enhanced with Aroma-Scope, which is to say scratch-and-sniff cards in homage to the prankster spirit of schlock cinema icon William Castle and ’60s Smell-O-Vision.
It builds upon the success of its 2003 predecessor Spy Kids 3-D: Game Over, the most successful installment of Rodriguez’s franchise, which helped kick-start Hollywood’s 3-D resurgence. Throughout the Spy Kids series, Rodriguez pioneered the use of high-definition digital video and CGI environments.
“I’ve always been an early technology adopter,” Rodriguez said. “I just found it to be freeing. Adopting technology pushes the art form forward.”
Rodriguez’s next projects are even more likely to galvanize geekdom. He’s remaking pioneering animation director Ralph Bakshi and iconic artist Frank Frazetta’s groundbreaking yet underrated 1983 performance-capture fantasy Fire and Ice. Rodriguez is also assembling an all-star roster of directors to create another film version of Heavy Metal, which has yet to fully live up to its potential, despite the fact that, as Rodriguez explained, “everyone wants to be a part of it.”
Wired.com talked with Rodriguez on all that and more, including his highly anticipated sequel to Sin City and why his frustratingly postponed film adaptation of Mike Allred’s riotous comic Madman has had to dodge The Bourne Identity’s steamroller.
Wired.com: What’s it feel like to be a digital film pioneer who’s way ahead of the pack?
Robert Rodriguez: Technology plays a big part of what I do, because I try to keep our operation pretty scrappy here in Austin. It bridges the gap between the ideas I have, which can be pretty big sometimes, and the small budget that I have. I really need technology so I can compete, so I can put a movie like Spy Kids 4 out in the summer that doesn’t cost the same price as any other summer movie. It’s pretty amazing when you think about it. Knowing how to use technology allows me to stay true to who I am as a filmmaker, and compete with these huge summer films.
Wired.com: Did you learn how to use it out of economic necessity, or have you always been a tech geek?
Rodriguez: Oh, I’m a big tech geek. But even when I was making El Mariachi, I wasn’t cutting up film. I was using digital editing, even back then, to get that movie made for such a low price…. I was the only one on the lot digitally editing Desperado, and I was an early adopter of digital photography.
I just think it helps you creatively move ideas out into the world. There would be no Sin City if I hadn’t shot in digital. Same with 3-D, which is back right now. Early on, I figured I could make a 3-D movie out of digitally putting two cameras together, so I could see what I was doing live in 3-D space. I tried it out for Spy Kids 3D, which was the first 3-D film in the multiplexes in 20 years….
Time and again, I’ve found technology indispensable. There’s a great quote that I always use from Pixar’s John Lasseter: “Technology pushes art, and art pushes technology.” Adopting technology pushes the art form forward. When you think of how to creatively use it, you usually come up with great ideas. And technology isn’t expensive. People tend to think that you need a lot of money to use a lot of technology, but it’s actually the opposite! [Laughs] I use technology so I don’t have to spend any money!
Wired.com: Can you give me a recent example of how you’ve done that?
Rodriguez: I wish I could show you where I am. It’s almost like a one-room loft. But right next to my kitchen is my bed, and right next to my bed is my system. And my system is … well, what is it? It’s got everything! [Laughs] I score the music there, I edit the film there, I use it to work with computer artists from across the country. It’s like a space station! [Laughs] It’s right in front of my bed, so I can roll out of bed and go right to work. And I do it all at home in Austin. It would blow people away if they could see it. The room looks exactly the same as the room I had in high school, except the equipment’s better. I always made my movies out of my bedroom back then, and that is still how I do it today, except that now they go into theaters in the summer in competition with everything else. It’s pretty crazy what you can get away with when it comes to technology. It’s fantastic.
Wired.com: Does your space station have Aroma-Scope?
Rodriguez: I didn’t tell anyone I was doing that for Spy Kids 4D. I kept it a secret from everybody; even my actors and crew didn’t even know about it. I was having them smell stuff on camera, and they didn’t know what was going on. They didn’t even find out until a month and a half ago when I announced that it was going to be in 4-D. I like to keep things close to the vest, so I can be very secretive about what I’m working on.
Wired.com: Dude, I must have a picture of your space station for this interview.
Rodriguez: I should take a picture of it! [Laughs] That would be great. But I’d have to put arrows pointing out what everything is, because there’s so much to see. There are five screens on my desk and each one does something different. On one of them, I can remotely talk to the people who are doing the 3-D treatment. Watch it in 3-D and write notes on the screen and send fixes back to them. And I’ve had that technology since the first Spy Kids film, so some of this stuff I’ve been able to do for a good 10 years.
Wired.com: Spy Kids and Sin City share a cool kinship, in that they both exploded full-CGI film environments. What can you tell us about Sin City 2 at this early stage?
Rodriguez: Some of the books we’re doing are prequels, so even if the characters died in Sin City, they would still be able to come back for Sin City 2. So some of the cast members are the same, and then there are some new cast members. But I’m excited about that one. I want to shoot it in a 3-D that audiences haven’t seen before.
Wired.com: Or in Aroma-Scope!
Rodriguez: I know! [Laughs] Sin City in Aroma-Scope! That would be pretty funny. And I think it would work great in the Machete sequel, too.
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #4820 on: Aug 18th, 2011, 12:27pm »
Pentagon Clears F-35 Test Fleet to Fly Again By BRIAN EVERSTINE Published: 18 Aug 2011 11:48
The F-35 Lightning II test fleet has been cleared for flight, but the U.S. Air Force's production aircraft at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., are still grounded, the Pentagon announced Aug. 18.
An Air Force safety investigation board is continuing its investigation of the failure of the AF-4's Integrated Power Package on Aug. 2, which led to the grounding of the entire fleet of 20 aircraft. The AF-4 is the fourth conventional takeoff and landing variant produced by Lockheed Martin.
A government and contractor engineering team determined that flight operations of the test aircraft could continue after reviewing data from ground and flight tests, and revised the test monitoring procedures that govern the IPP. Ground operations of the test fleet resumed Aug. 10.
"The root cause investigation indicates that an IPP valve did not function properly," a release from the F-35 Joint Program Office states. "Monitoring of valve position is a mitigating action to allow monitored operations. A permanent resolution is in work."
The IPP, which is built by Honeywell International, combines the functions performed by an auxiliary power unit, emergency power system and environmental controls.
The Air Force's test F-35s are at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., with U.S. Navy and U.S. Marine Corps' variants based at Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Md. The Air Force's aircraft at Eglin, which do not have test instrumentation, will be grounded until the investigation is finished and any required corrective actions are completed.
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #4821 on: Aug 18th, 2011, 12:32pm »
Moon Younger Than Previously Thought, Analysis of Lunar Rock Reveals ScienceDaily (Aug. 18, 2011)
Analysis of a piece of lunar rock brought back to Earth by the Apollo 16 mission in 1972 has shown that the Moon may be much younger than previously believed. This is concluded in new research conducted by an international team of scientists that includes James Connelly from the Centre for Star and Planet Formation, Natural History Museum of Denmark, University of Copenhagen. Their work has just been published in Nature.
The prevailing theory of our Moon's origin is that it was created by a giant impact between a large planet-like object and the proto-Earth very early in the evolution of our solar system. The energy of this impact was sufficiently high that the Moon formed from melted material that began with a deep liquid magma ocean.
As the Moon cooled, this magma ocean solidified into different mineral components, the lightest of which floated upwards to form the oldest crust. Analysis of a lunar rock sample of this presumed ancient crust has given scientists new insights into the formation of the Moon.
Luna rock from Apollo 16
"We have analysed a piece of lunar rock that was brought back to Earth by the Apollo 16 mission in 1972. Although the samples have been carefully stored at NASA Johnson Space Center since their return to Earth, we had to extensively pre-clean the samples using a new method to remove terrestrial lead contamination. Once we removed the contamination, we found that this sample is almost 100 million years younger than we expected," says researcher James Connelly of the Centre for Star and Planet Formation.
According to the existing theory for lunar formation, a rock type called ferroan anorthosite, also known as FAN, is the oldest of the Moon's crustal rocks, but scientists have had difficulty dating samples of this crust.
Newly-refined techniques help determine age of sample
The research team, which includes scientists from the Natural History Museum of Denmark, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, Carnegie Institute's Department of Terrestrial Magnetism and Université Blaise Pascal, used newly-refined techniques to determine the age of the sample of a FAN that was returned by the Apollo 16 mission and has been stored at the lunar rock collection at the NASA Johnson Space Center.
The team analysed the isotopes of the elements lead and neodymium to place the age of a sample of a FAN at 4.36 billion years. This figure is significantly younger than earlier estimates of the Moon's age that range to nearly as old as the age of the solar system itself at 4.567 billion years. The new, younger age obtained for the oldest lunar crust is similar to ages obtained for the oldest terrestrial minerals -- zircons from Western Australia -- suggesting that the oldest crust on both Earth and the Moon formed at approximately the same time.
This study is the first in which a single sample of FAN yielded consistent ages from multiple isotope dating techniques. This result strongly suggests that these ages pinpoint the time at which this sample crystallised. The extraordinarily young age of this lunar sample either means that the Moon solidified significantly later than previous estimates -- and therefore the moon itself is much younger than previously believed -- or that this sample does not represent a crystallisation product of the original magma ocean. Either scenario requires major revision to previous models for the formation of the Moon.
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #4823 on: Aug 18th, 2011, 2:09pm »
Fireball Leads to Midwest Meteorite Alert, NASA Warns
By Denise Chow Published August 18, 2011 Space.com
Ohio residents should be on the lookout for potential small meteorites that may have been created by a bright fireball that streaked over southern Ontario, Canada, last week, NASA said.
The fireball was detected by all-sky cameras from the Southern Ontario Meteor Network at 1:22 a.m. EDT (0522 GMT) on Aug. 8.
"It was picked up over Lake Erie and proceeded south-southeast over Ohio," said Bill Cooke, head of NASA's Meteoroid Environments Office at the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala.
The meteor was last tracked north of Gustavus, Ohio, and the potential impact zone for meteorite fragments is a region east of Cleveland, Cooke told SPACE.com.
When would-be meteors are traveling through space, they are known as meteoroids to astronomers. When they enter Earth's atmosphere to create fireballs, they are called meteors. Only fragments that actually reach Earth's surface are called meteorites.
"We look for ones that are moving low and slow, ones that penetrate deep into the atmosphere," Cooke said. "Normally meteors burn up 40 to 50 miles (about 65 to 80 kilometers) over your head. This one got down to 38 km (24 miles) before we lost track of it, and we know it went lower."
When a meteor penetrates low into the atmosphere and moves relatively slow, it can create meteorites that fall to the ground, Cooke explained. The fireball seen last week slowed to approximately 25,200 mph (40,555 kph).
And while skywatchers around the world enjoyed spectacular views of the annual Perseid meteor shower last week, Cooke clarified that this fireball is definitely not a Perseid because it is moving too slowly.
Based on the fireball's brightness and radar observations, the meteor's mass is estimated to be in the range of 22 pounds (10 kilograms). This means that meteorite fragments will likely be pretty small, Cooke said. "Something the size of your thumbnail, maybe a bit bigger," he said, estimating that any rocks found would probably be about three ounces (roughly 100 grams) and measure about one to two inches (2.5 to 5 cm) across.
For meteorite hunters in the area, or for anyone who fortuitously stumbles across any pieces of space rock, Cooke wants to know about it, and people are encouraged to contact NASA's Meteoroid Environments Office if they find any fragments.
But, the meteorite expert cautions that there are strict rules governing the ownership of space rocks that fall from the sky.
"One thing you need to know is that meteorites belong to the property holder, the owner of the property on which they land," he said. "So, if you're looking for them on someone's property, be sure you talk to them and get their permission first. If you're looking for meteorites, respect the wishes and rights of all property owners."
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #4827 on: Aug 19th, 2011, 08:10am »
New York Times
August 19, 2011 Japan Finds First Case of Radioactive Contamination in Rice By MARTIN FACKLER
TOKYO — Japanese inspectors found the first case of radioactive contamination in rice on Friday, adding the national grain to the list of foods harmed by the accident at the stricken Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant.
Inspectors in Ibaraki Prefecture, just north of Tokyo, found radioactive cesium in a sample of rice from the city of Hokota, about 90 miles south of the radiation-spewing nuclear plant. The prefecture said the radiation was well within safe levels: It measured 52 becquerels per kilogram, about one-tenth of the government-set limit for grains.
The prefecture said two other samples tested at the same time showed no contamination.
The Agriculture Ministry said this was the first time that more than trace levels of cesium had been found in rice, though it said there was no health risk. Still, the discovery won wide attention here. Rice is the staple in most Japanese dishes, and holds a place in the collective national heart that exceeds that of apple pie for Americans, or baguettes for the French.
Fears of atomic contamination of the rice crop had been building ahead of this year’s autumn harvest, the first since the earthquake, tsunami and nuclear accident in March. Adding to the anxiety is the fact that Japan’s mountainous northeast, which bore the brunt of the triple disaster, is one of the nation’s most productive rice-growing regions.
The discovery Friday was also likely to fan growing fears here about the safety of Japan’s food supply. Radiation exceeding safe levels has already been found in products from beef to spinach and green tea.
On Friday, the Agriculture Ministry decided to keep in place a ban on sales of beef from Fukushima Prefecture, site of the nuclear accident, after another sample of beef was found to contain high levels of radioactive cesium. The ban was imposed a month ago after the detection of radioactive cesium in beef that exceeded safe levels.
The ministry said it would lift a similar on ban on beef from Miyagi Prefecture, which borders Fukushima to the north, after farmers there took measures to limit radiation exposure to cows, such as not feeding them locally grown rice straw.
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #4829 on: Aug 19th, 2011, 08:26am »
Wired Danger Room
Tiny Pocketbots Prepped for Combat By Noah Shachtman August 19, 2011 | 7:00 am Categories: Drones
When the U.S. military first got serious about ground robots, it bought up a bunch of 42-pound machines called PackBots. The name implied that infantrymen would just throw the robots in their rucksacks. In reality, the things were too heavy for already-overloaded troops to carry around on the regular. The PackBot’s main competitor, the Talon, was even more of a burden. It weighed a whopping 125 pounds.
Now, there’s a new wave of reconnaissance bots being prepared for combat. And they are radically smaller than the previous generation; the tiniest of them weighs less than a pound-and-a-half. Which means they’ll not only fit inside a backpack, they might even squeeze inside a jacket or a pair of pants. Call them pocketbots.
Both the U.S. Army and Marine Corps are expected shortly to issue “urgent” battlefield requests for 3,500 to 5,000 of the micro machines. The idea that these new models can be tossed into a building or over a wall, allowing an infantryman to get a sense of what’s inside a room before he kicks down the door.
Three different bot-makers showed off their pocketbot models at the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International conference in Washington this week. If they work as advertised, they could be the next big leap forward for military robotics.
Ground robots were originally issued to a specialized few, like explosive ordnance disposal technicians. That eventually grew to an unmanned force that’s now 2,000 strong in Afghanistan. These machines are so small, the military could potentially expand the robotic army even further.
“We can provide this capability to every soldier on the battlefield,” says retired Navy Captain Robert L. Moses. He’s an executive with iRobot, maker of the original PackBot — and a new, nine-inch “throwable” machine.
The First Look (that’s a video of it, above) appears to be almost identical to the PackBot. Like the bigger machine, it’s got flippers that allow it to spring up stairs (I saw it climb steps as big as the ‘bot). It’s got four color cameras, peeking out in every direction, and it can form a mesh network with its fellow machines. But the First Look has one not-entirely-insignificant difference from the Packbot: it’s five pounds, not 42.