Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #5280 on: Oct 16th, 2011, 12:25pm »
By Matt Mueller, posted on October 16, 2011 at 10:08am PDT
Review: Spielberg’s The Adventures of Tintin: Secret Of The Unicorn
Our London film critic Matt Mueller reviews The Adventures Of Tintin: Secret of the Unicorn, which left him out of breath:
Steven Spielberg and Peter Jackson’s inaugural instalment in their planned Tintin trilogy delivers the frolicking, boy’s-own-adventure goods in delightful, delirious spades. From frequently breathtaking animated imagery to superb vocal outings by its British cast and a tight screenplay (by Steven Moffat, Edgar Wright and Joe Cornish) that retains the globetrotting charm of Belgian originator Herge’s comic-book series, the movie keeps a could-be-confusing plot humming along nicely while adding in dollops of wry, affectionate humour. Tintin is a fine example of what can be achieved when some of cinema’s brightest minds come together to honour great source material.
The opening credits sequence is a nod to the intrepid boy reporter’s origins, a cute mash-up of old-style cut-out animation with a jaunty retro score that echoes Catch Me If You Can, before segueing into London’s Covent Garden piazza where Tintin (Jamie Bell, pitch-perfect) is having his portrait painted by a street artist, culminating in a witty pay-off that’s the first in a string of rewarding sight-gags along the way. Spotting and purchasing a model ship, The Unicorn, Tintin is instantly swept up in his latest exploits when a corpulent American warns him to get rid of the ship and a nefarious, pointy-bearded Brit (Daniel Craig, doubling up brilliantly as the nefarious Sakharine and his piratical ancestor Red Rackham) attempts to buy it off him.
And we’re off on a breathlessly fast-paced mystery tour that draws from three separate Herge adventures, introduces Tintin to sozzled Scottish sidekick Captain Haddock (Andy Serkis, richly amusing), crosses oceans, deserts and sultanate kingdoms in search of missing treasure in creaky biplanes and sidecar motorcycles, and delivers one thrilling set-piece after another in a way that suggests that Spielberg has not only pulled out his Indiana Jones toolbox but has decided to pack anything and everything into Tintin that the logistical, budgetary realities of shooting live action won’t let him do. Let off his leash, he’s clearly having a blast, and so do we.
From the cobbled streets and gas lamps of London to the ocean waves that Haddock, Tintin and faithful canine companion Snowy nearly meet their doom on to the north African city of Bagghar, the 3-D animation is sumptuous and gorgeous, an incessant treat for eyes that will want to hungrily rove each frame absorbing every astounding detail. The script keeps it light and while exclamations like Tintin’s “Great snakes!” and the barrage of Haddock-ary insults such as “Malingerers!”, “Slave traders!” and “Yellow-belled, lily-livered sea slugs!” aren’t likely to be adopted in the target audience’s everyday lexicon (except for perhaps our favourite, “Politicians!”), it only adds to the film’s rollicking old-school charm. (We imagine some conservative parents might be upset by Tintin ending up with an unrepentant alcoholic older man as his best friend – but it doesn’t make Spielberg flinch.)
Drawbacks? There are a few. The retro music over the credits is a tease – John Williams swiftly settles into one of his patented adventure-yarn scores that can be almost bombastically annoying at times, often drowning out some of the finer sound-effect detail. Tintin’s extreme close-ups are wisely kept to a minimum – he looks a little bit creepy when viewed up close for too long. And Spielberg moves proceedings along at such a ridiculously frantic and breathless pace that you might be suffering from setpiece fatigue by the time the final face-off occurs, or want to scream out, “Slow down this damn rollercoaster!” But Spielberg’s determined not to let you off – and when you do finally reach the end, you’ll walk away feeling like you’ve been on one helluva ride. And be ready to go back for more.
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #5281 on: Oct 16th, 2011, 12:31pm »
Griffin Faces Case, Allows You To Create Your Own Character With Pop-out Mouth And Eyes
By Julian Horsey on Sunday 16th October 2011 11:50 am in Gadgets
A new quirky case has been developed by Griffin called the Face Case that allows you to swap out eyes and mouth tiles within the case to create your own unique character. The iPod Touch case is constructed from silicone and protects your devices but also adds a little creativity into the mix.
The Griffin Faces Case comes complete with six different eyes to choose from and three mouths allowing you to transform your characters face on your case, every day or whenever you want.
The Faces Case is now available to purchase from the Griffin website for $25 and is available in either pink or blue for Apple’s iPod Touch devices. No word on whether the designs will be made available for iPhones in the future.
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #5285 on: Oct 16th, 2011, 7:27pm »
The Superfood You Need to Try Now
By Jacob Franek Published October 14, 2011
You’ve probably heard of chia. If not, catch up fast, because chia can give you more energy than you’ve ever experienced, boost strength and endurance, induce weight loss, and level blood sugar.
Here’s a recap: Long before there were telephones or the internet, during the days of the Aztec empire, tribes could only communicate via runners, men who literally ran from one tribe to the next. But how did these men who ran for days on end survive? Legend has it that these men subsisted on chia, an ancient herb making new waves in nutrition circles because of its superfood status.
Chia, the Mayan word for strength, is a flowering plant native to Mexico and Guatemala. Though commercially harvested for its seeds, its sprouts are perhaps better known from the Chia Pet, a small porcelain animal that sprouted chia for hair.
More commonly, the sprouts are consumed like alfalfa sprouts—in salads, sandwiches and other dishes—but it’s the seeds that are the real nutritional superstars.
Why is it a superfood?
Chia seeds have: -2 times the protein of any other seed or grain. -5 times the calcium of milk, plus boron, which is a trace mineral that helps transfer calcium into your bones. -2 times the amount of potassium as bananas. -3 times the reported antioxidant strength of blueberries. -3 times more iron than spinach.
-Copious amounts of omega-3 and omega-6, which are essential fatty acids (one ounce of these power-packing seeds contains more than eight times the amount of omega-3 fatty acid found in a similar measure of wild salmon).
With all this nutritional goodness, it’s no wonder that some medical studies have shown important cardiovascular and other health benefits from consuming chia.
Despite some promising results, however, research on chia is still largely lacking and more work needs to be done until anything can be said conclusively.
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #5287 on: Oct 17th, 2011, 11:41am »
New Zealand oil spill worsens; stricken cargo ship may sink
October 17, 2011 | 2:58 am by John M. Glionna
REPORTING FROM SEOUL -- New Zealand’s worst-ever environmental sea accident teetered on the brink of further mayhem Monday as a stricken cargo ship threatened to break apart and become dislodged from the reef it rammed earlier this month.
Salvage crews rushed to pump more oil from the ailing Liberia-flagged Rena, which ran aground Oct. 5 on a reef 14 miles offshore, spilling tons of heavy oil that has washed up on pristine beaches near the town of Tauranga on New Zealand's North Island.
But rough seas have stymied salvage efforts: Less than 85 tons of oil has been removed from the listing cargo ship, while an estimated 1,400 additional tons of fuel still remain aboard. An estimated 350 tons of oil have leaked into the sea, causing havoc for citizens along beaches and killing nearly 1,300 seabirds.
The weather was expected to worsen late Monday and authorities, citing several serious stress cracks in the vessel's hull, including one that runs the width of the ship, now fear the Rena will slip from its precarious mooring and sink. The bow of the ship remains stuck on the reef while the stern swings free.
Steven Joyce, New Zealand’s transportation minister, said there was little chance that workers could remove all the oil before the vessel broke free.
"I think it's a case of getting everything off that you can,” he said, adding that the ship's lean has now reached a critical 21 degrees, already causing more than 70 containers to fall overboard. "So it's variable and very dangerous."
Both the captain and an officer of the ship, owned by Greece-based Costamare Inc., have been charged under New Zealand maritime law with operating a ship in a dangerous manner, which could bring them each a year in jail.
Investigators are interviewing the crew to determine why the 775-foot vessel crashed onto the well-charted Astrolabe Reef in calm weather. Costamare officials have said in a statement that they were "cooperating fully with local authorities," but did not offer any explanation for the grounding.
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #5288 on: Oct 17th, 2011, 11:49am »
Wired Danger Room
U.S. Spies Facing Tens of Billions in Budget Cuts
By Sharon Weinberger October 17, 2011 | 12:22 pm Categories: Spies, Secrecy and Surveillance
America’s spies, like the rest of the nation, are looking ahead to a period of austerity. The intelligence community is facing “double digit” percentage cut to its $80 billion annual budget, James Clapper, the director of national intelligence, said today.
“Coincidentally today we handed in our homework assignment, if you will, to [the White House Office of Management and Budget], and it calls for cuts in the double-digit range with a ‘B’ over 10 years,” Clapper told the United States Geospatial Intelligence Foundation’s conference in San Antonio, Texas.
As the federal government attempts to find over a trillion dollar in savings to meet budget-cutting goals, even intelligence spending is not immune to cuts. But the intelligence community does not normally divulge details of its budget, citing the need to keep its spending secret from foreign adversaries who might glean valuable information about the scope of activities. That changed a bit under Clapper, who disclosed earlier this year that the spy agencies were spending about $80.1 billion annually.
Steven Aftergood, who watches intelligence issues for the Federation of American Scientists, says that most statements so far about possible cuts to the intelligence budget have only been general in nature. “Double-digit cuts would be huge, and astonishing,” he says.
In recent congressional testimony, David Petraeus, the head of the CIA, and Clapper, both talked about the potential for upcoming cuts to the intelligence budget. “We have…had 10 years of steady increases,” Petraeus a joint congressional panel on intelligence. “Now we’re going to have to tighten our belts.”
Speaking today, Clapper expanded on previous comments, saying the spending reductions will be absorbed in a number of areas, including cuts to the information technology budget, slashing the contractor workforce, and possibly closing some overseas facilities.
Information technology, however, may be the primary focus. Clapper said that some 20 to 25 percent of the intelligence community’s budget is labeled as IT, making it ripe for cuts. “If there’s an area where we can bring about efficiency and savings, that’s it,” he said.
Overseas infrastructure may also have to shrink. “I think another thing we’ll have to look at, and this will take time, is overseas facilities,” he said. “Do we really need all of them or not?”
Clapper said the expected cuts should come as no surprise, given the increased funding the community has benefited from in recent years. “We have been luxuriously funded the past 10 years,” he said.
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #5290 on: Oct 17th, 2011, 12:04pm »
Europe Looks to Russia after NASA Falls Short on ExoMars Mission
The US agency's shrinking budget and growing space-telescope costs are squeezing other projects.
Friday, October 14, 2011 By Ron Cowen of Nature magazine
The European Space Agency (ESA) will forge ahead with ExoMars, an ambitious two-part robotic mission that would look for signs of life on the Red Planet, even though NASA has reneged on its promise to provide a launch rocket for the first stage of the mission.
During a 12-13 October ESA council meeting in Paris, the agency decided to begin negotiations with Russia for a rocket that would launch the first stage of ExoMars, in 2016, in exchange for Russian participation in the mission. Already €150 million (roughly US$207 million) shy of the €1 billion it needs for the entire ExoMars project, ESA has deemed it too costly to use its own Ariane rocket for the 2016 launch, according to a senior ExoMars official who asked not to be identified.
The initial 2016 phase of the mission would carry an orbiter designed to sniff out possible sources of methane and other trace gases that might signal the presence of microbial life on Mars. The orbiter would then serve as a data relay for a rover, to be launched in 2018, that would collect Martian soil samples. A future mission would carry those eagerly awaited samples back to Earth, where scientists would examine them for signs of past or present biological activity.
ESA officials say they were quietly informed more than a month ago that budget problems would prevent the US space agency from providing an Atlas V rocket for the 2016 launch. NASA still plans to provide a rocket for the second part of the mission in 2018.
By February, ESA aims to conclude the Russian negotiations and confirm NASA's other commitments to ExoMars, which include providing several instruments for both parts of the mission.
Because of uncertainties in NASA's proposed planetary science budget, which is expected to decline after 2012, the US agency hasn't been able to provide the assurances that ESA needs, NASA planetary science division director James Green told a NASA advisory committee on 13 October.
"It makes us look like we're a bad partner," acknowledged Green, but he said NASA hoped to firm up its commitment in the coming months. Nature's ExoMars source says the outcome of the negotiations between ESA, Russia and NASA will be crucial to the success of the mission.
A bad sign?
NASA is asking all of its divisions, including planetary science, to come up with some of the extra money, Green noted. The agency will need to find an additional $1 billion to support the JWST from 2013 to 2016.
Some US planetary scientists are concerned that NASA's inability to provide a rocket for the 2016 ExoMars launch is a sign of a bigger problem. The space agency must find $156 million in its 2012 budget to pay the skyrocketing costs of the long-delayed James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), its flagship observatory and successor to the Hubble Space Telescope.
The cost of JWST "is obviously a factor" in the ExoMars problems, says planetary scientist Mark Sykes of the Planetary Science Institute in Tucson, Arizona. Sykes was a co-editor of a bluntly titled editorial, "JWST Threatens Planetary Science", published on 8 September in the Planetary Exploration Newsletter. "There are important national priorities in space beyond the goals of JWST that as a country we cannot afford to sacrifice," the editors argue.
Sykes suggests that if the costs of JWST can't be contained within NASA's astrophysics budget, perhaps it should be cancelled, or funded by the US Congress as a stand-alone project. But other planetary scientists, including Jonathan Lunine of Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, note that JWST will also use its infrared eyes to peer at planets both inside the Solar System and beyond.
At a joint meeting of the European Planetary Science Conference and the American Astronomical Society's Division for Planetary Sciences held last week in Nantes, France, the session on ExoMars began not with a review of the mission's science, but with a discussion about ways to ensure its survival.
"I'm wearing black, but I hope this isn't a funeral," said Ann Carine Vandaele of the Belgian Institute for Space Aeronomy in Brussels who attended the session.
ESA's decision this week to soldier on should quell some of those concerns, at least temporarily. But they may come to the fore next February if the agency isn't able to hammer out an agreement with Russia.
This article is reprinted with permission from Nature magazine. It was first published on October 14, 2011.
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #5291 on: Oct 18th, 2011, 08:17am »
House GOP looks to make legal case in Solyndra loan debacle
By Andrew Restuccia 10/18/11 05:30 AM ET
House Republicans are working overtime to show the Obama administration broke the law when it restructured a $535 million loan guarantee to Solyndra, the now-bankrupt California solar company.
Their focus is on the Energy Department’s decision to restructure the loan guarantee in February so that investors who provided additional funding to Solyndra would be repaid before the federal government if the company folded.
Republicans on the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s investigative panel have zeroed in on the issue in arguing the terms of the restructuring agreement run afoul of the 2005 energy law that created the Energy Department’s loan guarantee program.
“Once we establish clearly that DOE broke the law, that will send a very strong message,” Rep. Cliff Stearns (R-Fla.), the chairman of the committee’s investigative panel, told The Hill during a short interview in the Capitol.
Stearns said Republicans will intensify their focus on the restructuring in the coming weeks, including through a subcommittee hearing with Energy Department officials.
“The next step after that is to see why [Energy Secretary Steven Chu] did it, and [whether it is] tied to the White House and President Obama’s inner circle,” Stearns said, referring to Chu’s decision to approve the restructuring agreement.”
Stearns also said he hopes to hear testimony from outside legal experts on the restructuring.
“I think we’ll take the DOE legal opinion and run it by some experts and get a consensus,” he said.
The GOP has pummeled the administration for green-lighting the loan guarantee in 2009, and Republican investigations turned up a slew of politically damaging emails that raise questions about the administration’s decisionmaking.
Yet there have been signs that the Solyndra controversy is not catching on as a political issue with the public at large. An early September poll of voters in Ohio, a critical battleground state for the president, showed that just 11 percent of those polled said they have heard a “great deal” about the incident.
“Thus far, Solyndra is still news junkie fodder and not dinner table conversation,” says a Sept. 26 memo from GOP firm Public Opinion Strategies and Democratic firm Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin, Metz & Associates.
The Energy Department dismisses allegations that it violated the law when it restructured the loan guarantee.
A six-page memo, authored by Energy Department Loan Programs Office Chief Counsel Susan Richardson, says the restructuring meets the statutory requirements outlined in a portion of the 2005 energy law that created the Energy Department’s loan guarantee program.
“On the current facts, the Loan Programs Office has determined that the proposed restructuring offers the best prospect of eventual repayment in full of the Borrower’s obligations under the Loan Guarantee Agreement, and is demonstrably preferable to a liquidation of the Borrower,” the memo says.
“In light of that determination, we conclude that the proposed subordination of the Borrower’s obligations to DOE is consistent with both the text and the purposes of [the law].”
Even if Republicans fail to make a legal case against the administration, the fact that the loan was restructured so that investors would be paid before taxpayers could be politically damaging.
At a hearing Friday, Republicans on the investigative subcommittee blasted the Energy Department for “subordinating” the taxpayer interest in the restructuring agreement, arguing the administration was more concerned with protecting Solyndra investors than the taxpayer.
Republicans heard testimony from two Treasury Department officials Friday on the restructuring. One of the witnesses — Gary Burner, the chief financial officer for Treasury’s Federal Financing Bank — raised questions about the Energy Department’s plan to restructure the loan.
Internal emails show that Burner told officials with DOE’s loan programs office in February that they might need approval from the Justice Department before approving the restructuring of the Solyndra loan guarantee.
A separate Treasury official, Assistant Secretary for Financial Markets Mary J. Miller, wrote to a White House Office of Management and Budget official in August of this year stating that Treasury believed the “subordination” of the taxpayer interest in the restructuring agreement was illegal.
Miller — who did not testify at Friday’s hearing — also said in the August email that DOE hadn’t been sharing information with Treasury on Solyndra’s finances and the loan restructuring. Republicans say that is a violation of the 2005 energy law that created the energy loan guarantee program.
At the hearing, the Treasury Department officials declined to speculate as to whether the restructuring was a violation of the law. But Burner did say that he had never seen a loan restructured to subordinate the taxpayer’s interest to that of investors.
Stearns said his constituents are angry about the loan guarantee.
“It’s not just anger, it’s outrage that this sort of stuff would go on, especially in this economy,” he said.
Clean-energy advocates, however, say Republicans are grasping at straws in order to score political points.
“Republicans are turning this into a political issue to discredit the president going into an election year,” Natural Resources Defense Council spokesman Bob Keefe said. “That’s sad enough. But they’re also jeopardizing what could be one our country’s most promising industries.”
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #5292 on: Oct 18th, 2011, 08:23am »
Oct. 18, 1945: Red Spy Steals U.S. Atom Bomb Secrets By Tony Long October 18, 2011 | 6:30 am Categories: 20th century, Politics, Warfare and Military
1945: Klaus Fuchs passes U.S. atomic bomb secrets to the Soviet Union for the first time.
Between 1945 and 1947, working with a courier code-named Raymond, Fuchs delivered high-level information to Moscow about the atomic bomb, then later the hydrogen bomb.
Fuchs was a refugee from Hitler’s Germany, fleeing to England in 1933, where he completed his doctorate in physics. At the outbreak of World War II, Fuchs, still a German citizen, was interned as an enemy alien but soon released through the intervention of Max Born, a professor at Edinburgh University and another German refugee.
Fuchs was recruited as a theoretical physicist for the British atomic bomb project, and became a British subject in 1942.
The following year, he was among several British scientists sent to the United States to collaborate on the Manhattan Project. After being sent to the weapons laboratory in Los Alamos, New Mexico, Fuchs spent his time devising a method of imploding the fissionable core of the plutonium bomb. He was present at the Trinity test in July 1945, where an atomic bomb was successfully detonated for the first time.
Through it all, however, Fuchs remained a committed communist. He had joined the party while still living in Germany and fled the country for his political beliefs, not his religion. (He was a Lutheran.) Consequently, he had tremendous sympathy for the Soviet Union and its life-and-death struggle with Nazism. He also had grave misgivings about the United States being the only power on Earth to possess the bomb.
By 1948, the Americans were aware that the Soviets had people inside their nuclear program, but Fuchs eluded suspicion until the following year, by which time he had returned to England. Confronted by British intelligence, which identified him after cracking a Soviet code, he eventually confessed and was sentenced to 14 years in prison.
Following his release in 1959, Fuchs went to East Germany and lived there until his death in 1988.
Historians on both sides of the Cold War have long debated the actual value to the Soviets of Fuchs’ information. Asked after Fuchs’ death about the importance of what he had given the USSR, Edward Teller said:
“Oh, not very important. I’m sure the Russians knew how to build a bomb without Fuchs’ stuff.”
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #5294 on: Oct 18th, 2011, 11:46am »
TV Ratings: 'Terra Nova' Grows, 'Two and a Half Men' Continues to Drop
CBS notches another victory on the strength of "How I Met Your Mother" and "Hawaii Five-0."
10/18/2011 by Philiana Ng
Without the baseball playoffs delaying its programming this week, Fox saw its lineup improve.
Terra Nova (8 million total viewers, 2.7 rating in adults 18-49 demographic) rose 8 percent in the demo and 14 percent in total viewers, while House (8.4 million, 3.1) -- marking Olivia Wilde's final appearance on the medical drama -- improved 15 percent in 18-49 from last Monday's telecast. Notably, House tied with Hawaii Five-0 as Monday's highest-rated drama of the night.
While Fox saw increases across the board, CBS wasn't so lucky. But still, the network topped the night in the key 18-49 demo, averaging a 4.0 rating to easily take home the victory. How I Met Your Mother (9.8 million, 4.1) and Hawaii Five-0 (10.9 million, 3.1) were the only CBS shows to improve, while rookie comedy 2 Broke Girls (11.3 million, 4.3) and Mike & Molly (11.6 million, 3.9) were flat. Two and a Half Men (14.9 million, 5.2) continued to drop, this time dipping 12 percent to its lowest-rated episode so far this season. Even so, Men was the night's highest-rated program overall.
ABC placed a distant second in 18-49, averaging a 3.0. Dancing With the Stars (17.4 million, 3.2) was boosted 7 percent from last week. The reality competition series was also the most-watched program -- unscripted or scripted. Castle (11.5 million, 3.1) grew an impressive 24 percent from last week's season low.
Fox followed with a 2.9 rating in primetime and NBC right behind in fourth with a 1.3. NBC's The Sing-Off (4.3 million, 1.6) improved 7 percent. A rerun of Prime Suspect (2.7 million, 0.8) rose just a tad.
The CW's Gossip Girl (1.3 million, 0.6) remained steady and Hart of Dixie's (1.7 million, 0.7) heat wave episode improved a tenth.