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 veryhotthread  Author  Topic: Stuff & Nonsense  (Read 43364 times)
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« Reply #5670 on: Dec 5th, 2011, 08:51am »

back in a bit....
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« Reply #5671 on: Dec 5th, 2011, 3:53pm »

I know, the same joke every year grin





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« Reply #5672 on: Dec 5th, 2011, 3:57pm »

Hollywood Reporter

Why Hollywood Should Fear the Legal War Over Fellini's 'La Dolce Vita' (Analysis)

The copyright fight over the 1960 movie exposes the industry's Fellini-esque complications when dealing with classics.

5:00 AM PST 12/5/2011
by Matthew Belloni , Eriq Gardner


More than 50 years after its release, Federico Fellini's La Dolce Vita remains one of cinema's most celebrated achievements. A lush, sexually charged dramedy about a journalist's (Marcello Mastroianni) search for happiness in decadent Rome, the film won the Palme d'Or at Cannes in 1960, inspired generations of directors and still makes lists of the best movies ever made.

And no one can quite figure out who owns the thing.

Thanks to the dizzying complexities of copyright law, Paramount executives, who thought they had acquired the film fair and square more than a decade ago, on Nov. 4 sued New York-based International Media Films (IMF) in federal court over dueling chain-of-title claims. The dispute, like the legal war between Warner Bros. and the heirs of Superman's creators, illustrates the dangerous uncertainty surrounding rights issues in Hollywood and the potentially dramatic impact they can have on the studios.

Since its release in 1960, La Dolce Vita has changed hands as often as Fellini's leading man switched lovers, prompting the kind of absurdly lengthy chain of title that might cause an average moviegoer's head to spin.

Paramount's theory goes like this: The original producers assigned rights to a sales agent called Cinemat, which in 1962 granted U.S. distribution rights to Astor Pictures, which helped get the film released in America. Astor transferred rights to another entity in 1966, then another, which sold rights to Los Angeles-based Republic Entertainment.

By the late '80s, the original film had fallen into the public domain, as many foreign works had, but a change in U.S. law allowed former owners to "restore" copyrights for works that still enjoyed protection overseas. Republic is said to have filed a "restoration of copyright" for the original film and a renewal of rights for the English-language dubbed and subtitled versions sometime before selling its library to Paramount in 2000.

Make sense? Paramount thought so, but when it released La Dolce Vita on Blu-ray last year in celebration of the film's 50th anniversary, the studio received nasty cease-and-desist letters from IMF, which had created its own 50th anniversary edition of La Dolce Vita and was prepping a Broadway musical version based on its claim of ownership through a separate chain of title.

Turns out IMF had been battling in court since 2007 with a company called Lucas Entertainment, which had released a pornographic knockoff of the Fellini picture titled Michael Lucas' La Dolce Vita. (That masterpiece won 14 awards at the gay porn version of the Oscars -- including best picture, best actor and best threesome). In the Lucas case, IMF raised its own chain-of-title theory: Cinemat had instead transferred rights in 1980 to a company called Hor A.G., which granted rights to another company, then another, which then in 2001 assigned them to IMF, which filed a registration with the U.S. Copyright Office on a "restored" copy of the film.

One problem: Lucas claimed some of those agreements were forged, and in 2010 a federal judge refused to allow IMF to stop the allegedly infringing porno movie.

That means Paramount owns La Dolce Vita, right? Not necessarily. In denying IMF's claim of ownership, judge John G. Koeltl suggested the film might belong to no one. "In fact, it is possible for the Fellini film to be in the public domain," Koeltl wrote. And in October, the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments in a separate case claiming that thousands of 20th Century copyrights -- including the original La Dolce Vita -- were unconstitutionally "restored" and should be made public.

If that case, Golan v. Holder, ends with a ruling against copyright holders, the Fellini film will be merely one of thousands of major rights headaches for Hollywood studios, which could face a choice between the loss of lucrative foreign titles or -- as with La Dolce Vita -- a legal battle that is anything but sweet.

http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/thr-esq/why-hollywood-should-fear-legal-269533

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« Reply #5673 on: Dec 5th, 2011, 9:01pm »

New York Times

December 5, 2011
At Conference, Afghans Say They’ll Need Aid for Years
By STEVEN LEE MYERS and ROD NORDLAND

BONN, Germany — As dozens of nations and organizations met here on Monday to plan a transition beyond the withdrawal of American and other international forces from Afghanistan in 2014, the Afghan government had a new deadline in mind: 2024.

President Hamid Karzai and other Afghan officials here called for political and military support for at least another decade — and financial assistance that would not end until 2030. That would be nearly three decades after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11 that led to the international intervention in Afghanistan.

While Mr. Karzai and others celebrated the strides made in Afghanistan since the fall of the Taliban — 60 percent of Afghans now have cellphones, he said, compared with none in 2001 — the conference underscored the multiple challenges facing a government undermined by corruption and threatened by a tenacious insurgency.

“We will need your steadfast support for at least another decade,” Mr. Karzai said, addressing leaders here at a conference held on the 10th anniversary, to the day, of talks in Bonn that established the political foundation for a new government in Afghanistan.

The conference, in the works for months, fell considerably short of the objectives that officials had envisioned. It had been viewed as a milestone that would cement progress in ending the war, both politically and militarily, and lay the groundwork for a self-sustaining Afghan government after 2014.

Instead, the mood was subdued, if not gloomy. The tempo of the war has shown little sign of winding down, despite an upbeat assessment from NATO commanders in October.

Efforts by the United States to negotiate a strategic agreement on relations with Afghanistan, like the one that now governs relations with Iraq, also have been complicated by a number of troublesome issues. Those include night raids by Special Forces and the transfer of prisoners to the custody of Afghans in spite of an abysmal record on treatment of detainees. The two countries cannot even agree on what to call the agreement.

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton has touted the creation of a New Silk Road to knit together the nations of Central and South Asia by easing trade barriers and creating economic opportunities among Afghanistan’s neighbors. And while the Bonn conference was intended to showcase the strategy, the most significant neighbor, Pakistan, refused to attend in protest over the American airstrikes that that killed 24 of its soldiers along the border last month.

President Obama and Mrs. Clinton pressed their Pakistani counterparts to reconsider their boycott in telephone calls over the week, to no avail.

“The entire region has a stake in Afghanistan’s future and much to lose if the country again becomes a source of terrorism and instability,” Mrs. Clinton told the delegates here, who included dozens of foreign ministers. “And that is why we could, of course, have benefited from Pakistan’s contribution to this conference.”

Another neighbor did attend: Iran. Its foreign minister, Ali Akbar Salehi, sat behind Mrs. Clinton as she spoke, though neither she nor other officials had any formal contact with the Iranians here. Mr. Karzai later teased Mrs. Clinton, saying the Iranians were “your friends” and that their speech had been kind.

(In fact, Mr. Salehi denounced the international military operation, though in perhaps milder terms than before. “Certain Western countries seek to extend their military presence in Afghanistan beyond 2014 by maintaining their military bases there,” he said, in remarks carried by Iran’s official Islamic Republic News Agency. “We deem such an approach to be contradictory to efforts to sustain stability and security in Afghanistan.”)

Ryan C. Crocker, the American ambassador to Afghanistan, accompanied Mrs. Clinton in her meeting with Mr. Karzai. He referred to Mr. Salehi’s remarks, saying to Mr. Karzai, “Mr. President, you call that kind?”

The conference, though far from Afghanistan, was, officially, led by Mr. Karzai’s government. It was held in the former Parliament building of West Germany. Across the Rhine protesters erected shiny letters spelling “End the War in Afghanistan.”

Mrs. Clinton, echoing several other ministers, reiterated the Obama administration’s view that there was no purely military solution to the conflict. Still, new efforts to encourage reconciliation with the Taliban — which also rely on Pakistani cooperation — appear moribund, especially since the assassination in September of Burhanuddin Rabbani, a senior Afghan official leading the reconciliation process, by a suicide bomber posing as a Taliban peace emissary. Even though President Obama and other NATO leaders have created a timetable for withdrawal by 2014, many officials worry about security and the stability of Mr. Karzai’s government once foreign troops leave. It could also have a devastating effect on Afghanistan’s struggling economy, which has come to depend on NATO spending.

Mr. Karzai’s government presented a paper at the conference, warning that the withdrawal could halve the country’s gross domestic product.

It said the government needed $10 billion in 2015 to cover the shortfall. Just meeting the cost of Afghan military forces — which by 2014 are expected to total 400,000 soldiers — is estimated at $3.5 billion to $6 billion a year.

“Afghanistan’s fiscal gap is significant,” the paper said in what amounted to a plea for continued financial assistance, “and unless it is addressed the good work of the past 10 years will come undone.”

The conference was not intended to solicit financial pledges from the nations attending, and none were offered, despite pleas from Mr. Karzai and other officials.

Mrs. Clinton did announce that the United States would once again resume payments to an Afghan reconstruction fund. Those payments, which amount to $650 million to $700 million a year, were halted after the International Monetary Fund raised questions about a scandal surrounding Kabul Bank, one of the country’s largest financial institutions.

Speaker after speaker — including Mr. Karzai — described corruption and poor governance as obstacles to the country’s development, factors that have caused reluctance among many countries about sending aid, especially given the economic crises in Europe and the United States.

“Billions of dollars have been spent in Afghanistan,” Sayed Rahim Sattar, the head of the Afghan N.G.O.’s. Coordination Bureau, told Mrs. Clinton during a roundtable discussion with members of civic groups, “but unfortunately, the expectations of the people have not been met.”

Steven Lee Myers reported from Bonn and Rod Nordland from Kabul, Afghanistan. Alissa J. Rubin contributed reporting from Kabul.


http://www.nytimes.com/2011/12/06/world/asia/afghans-tell-conference-they-need-aid-for-at-least-another-decade.html?hp

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« Reply #5674 on: Dec 6th, 2011, 08:50am »

New York Times

December 5, 2011
Voters Watch Polls in Russia, and Fraud Is What They See
By MICHAEL SCHWIRTZ and DAVID M. HERSZENHORN
MOSCOW

The shot opens at the top of a flight of stairs and zooms in shakily on a gray-haired man, who sits at a desk furtively checking off what appear to be ballots — a stack of them.

The video is shot with the grain and chop of an amateur. But it is apparently sharp enough.

“A big hello to you,” says the cameraman, Yegor Duda, a 33-year-old volunteer election observer. “This is a violation of the criminal code. The chairman of the electoral commission is filling out ballots. Everything has been captured on the video camera,” he said.

Mr. Duda raced home and uploaded the clip to YouTube. Though just three minutes long, it quickly became an election-day sensation, helping fuel a major demonstration of as many as 5,000 people on Monday evening in central Moscow. They chanted “Russia without Putin!” and “Putin is a thief.” Several hundred were arrested, including two major opposition leaders.

Valentin Gorbunov, the head of the Moscow City Elections Commission, confirmed the substance of the video and announced that Russian investigators had opened a case into ballot tampering by the head at Polling Place No. 2501, where the episode occurred, Russian news agencies reported Monday.

Election monitors from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe said that they, too, had observed blatant fraud, including the brazen stuffing of ballot boxes. While the monitors declined to draw firm conclusions, it was clear from their report that vote stealing and other alleged malfeasance might have spared the presumed beneficiary, Prime Minister Vladimir V. Putin’s United Russia, an even worse blow than it officially received.

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton sharply criticized what she called “troubling practices” before and during the vote in Russia. “The Russian people, like people everywhere, deserve the right to have their voices heard and their votes counted,” she said in Bonn, Germany.

With 99.9 percent of ballots processed, election officials said that United Russia had won 238 seats in Parliament, or about 53 percent, from 315 seats or 70 percent now. The Communist Party won 92 seats; Just Russia, a social democratic party, won 64 seats and the national Liberal Democratic Party won 56 seats.

The scathing report by international observers, combined with the amateur video of alleged election malfeasance posted on the Web, made clear that the authorities would face continuing questions about the fairness of the vote despite the main party’s steep losses.

Indeed, on Monday evening, thousands of demonstrators gathered on a promenade by the Chistye Prudy metro station in central Moscow, and denounced the government at an event organized by the opposition group Solidarity. It was one of the largest such rallies in recent memory.

Throngs chanted “Russia without Putin!” and “Putin is a Thief.” Police officials estimated the crowd at about 2,000 though some participants said it was larger. There was a presence of police officers in riot gear and some protesters were detained.

Mr. Duda’s video was just one of several clips putatively documenting violations to go racing through the Internet during parliamentary elections on Sunday, a relatively new weapon in the fight against vote rigging that has begun to expose Russians to the realities of their electoral system like never before.

“To be honest, I didn’t expect there to be any violations. I hoped there wouldn’t be,” Mr. Duda, who had never been an election observer before, said in a brief telephone interview. “I now understand better what goes on there. And as long as I think it will be useful, I will continue to tell people about what is happening.”

Mr. Duda is one of a number of freelance election observers in Russia, who, with the help of hand-held cameras and smartphones, have grown increasingly successful at frustrating voter fraud here.

It is not clear whether this tactic will ever succeed in changing the conduct of elections in Russia. With many of the videos apparently showing violations by United Russia, officials on Monday moved quickly to discount them.

“I’ve seen these clips people are uploading to the Internet,” Russia’s president, Dmitri A. Medvedev, said. “Nothing can be seen in them.”

But many of the millions of Russians who have watched the videos seem convinced that they are witnessing fraud.

In another video from Moscow, observers from the opposition Yabloko party demonstrated that the ink in pens supplied in voting booths at one polling place on Sunday was easily erasable.

Another showed packets of ballots apparently just removed from the ballot box, stacked neatly, one on top of the other, an indication that they were inserted together, not individually. All were marked for United Russia.

Among the most widely circulated videos was one shot by amateur cameramen accompanying journalists and other election observers who had reportedly infiltrated a group hired to stuff ballot boxes in Moscow. Caught with multiple ballots marked for United Russia in bags they wore under their clothes, some involved in the plot tried to flee. The video showed the police stopping them at the doors.

Andrei Kursov, a 24-year-old employee of a tobacco company, helped record the episode. Speaking by telephone, he said the police at the polling place were initially aggressive to the observers and unwilling to take action against the violators. One threatened to beat him over the head if he refused to stop recording, he said.

“The law enforcement agencies typically try not to pay attention to violations,” Mr. Kursov said. “But with the camera there, they were probably afraid this time that if they let these guys go they would get in trouble.”

Such videos have appeared in the past, but this seems to be the first election in which the tactic was put to such widespread and effective use. Even the international observers from the O.S.C.E. praised the work of amateur election monitors.

“We saw in the campaign before the elections all sorts of possible tricks being shown and displayed on the Internet,” said Ambassador Heidi Tagliavini, the head of the election observation mission of the group’s Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights. “This was, I would say, a new feature.”

Glenn Kates contributed reporting from Moscow, and Steven Lee Myers from Bonn, Germany.


http://www.nytimes.com/2011/12/06/world/europe/russian-parliamentary-elections-criticized-by-west.html?_r=1&ref=world

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« Reply #5675 on: Dec 6th, 2011, 08:53am »

LA Times

Drone that crashed in Iran may give away U.S. secrets
The Sentinel drone has cutting-edge stealth and surveillance technology that other nations could exploit. One of the aircraft crashed in Iran, and a U.S. official says it was on a CIA mission.

By W.J. Hennigan, David S. Cloud and Ken Dilanian
Los Angeles Times
December 6, 2011
Reporting from Los Angeles and Washington

The radar-evading drone that crash-landed over the weekend in Iran was on a mission for the CIA, according to a senior U.S. official, raising fears that the aircraft's sophisticated technology could be exploited by Tehran or shared with other American rivals.

It was unclear whether the drone's mission took it over Iran or whether it strayed there accidentally because of technical malfunctions, the official said.

Though the drone flight was a CIA operation, U.S. military personnel were involved in flying the aircraft, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the secrecy involved.

The jet-powered, bat-winged RQ-170 Sentinel drone is considered one of the most advanced in the U.S. arsenal, with stealth technology and sophisticated computer systems that enable it to penetrate deep into hostile territory without detection.

Its capabilities were demonstrated during the raid on Osama bin Laden's compound in Pakistan, where it provided surveillance of the operation.

The aircraft's full abilities are a closely guarded secret, and the Pentagon has not revealed its price tag, size or top speed. But it has acknowledged this: The Sentinel may now be in Iranian hands.

"I think we're always concerned when there's an aircraft, whether it's manned or unmanned, that we lose, particularly in a place where we're not able to get to it," Navy Capt. John Kirby, a Pentagon spokesman, said to reporters Monday.

Peter W. Singer, author of "Wired for War," a book about robotic warfare, said it's not new to have drones downed in enemy territory, but the RQ-170 represents the next generation of drone aircraft.

"It carries a variety of systems that wouldn't be much of a benefit to Iran, but to its allies such as China and Russia, it's a potential gold mine," Singer said.

Other aviation experts weren't so sure.

"I don't think this is a dagger pointed at the heart of democracy," said Loren Thompson, defense policy analyst for the Lexington Institute in Arlington, Va. "A lot of information about this aircraft was already known by foreign military intelligence officials."

On Sunday, Iran's armed forces said they brought down a Sentinel drone that violated the country's airspace along the eastern border. The North Atlantic Treaty Organization's U.S.-led force in neighboring Afghanistan said Iranian authorities might be referring to an unarmed U.S. reconnaissance plane that went missing during a mission in western Afghanistan late last week, but did not confirm what kind of aircraft was downed.

The NATO force's statement was ambiguous about who was flying the aircraft.

"The operators of the UAV [unmanned aerial vehicle] lost control of the aircraft and had been working to determine its status," the statement said.

Spokesmen for the CIA, White House, Pentagon and congressional intelligence oversight committees declined to comment.

Although the Sentinel's capabilities remain largely classified, it is believed to carry the latest in cutting-edge cameras and sensors that can "listen in" on cellphone conversations as it soars miles above the ground or "smell" the air and sniff out chemical plumes emanating from a potential underground nuclear laboratory.

Ever since it was developed at Lockheed Martin Corp.'s famed Skunk Works facility in Palmdale, the Sentinel drone has been cloaked in tight secrecy by the U.S. government. But now the drone that the Iranian military claims to have brought down for invading its airspace might be made far more public than the Pentagon or Lockheed ever intended.

Another U.S. official with access to intelligence said that losing the Sentinel is a major security breach. The official, who was not authorized to publicly speak about the information, wouldn't say how the drone fell into Iranian hands, but confirmed that the downed drone was largely intact.

"It's bad — they'll have everything" in terms of the secret technology in the aircraft, the official said. "And the Chinese or the Russians will have it too."

Photographs of the Sentinel first surfaced online in 2009 at a remote airfield in Kandahar, Afghanistan. The drone received the nickname "the beast of Kandahar."

The drone resembles a miniature version of the B-2 stealth bomber. The bat-wing design is meant to make it less likely to pop up on enemy radar screens. Also like the B-2 bomber, the Sentinel is thought to have high-tech coatings that act like a sponge to absorb radar waves as they strike the plane.

The Sentinel's design is a quantum leap from the MQ-1 Predator and MQ-9 Reaper drones well-known for hunting terrorists in the Middle East. Those drones, made by General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc. of Poway, Calif., are propeller powered, non-stealthy and not designed to be flown in contested airspace.

The Pentagon first publicly acknowledged the Sentinel's existence in late 2009. The craft is known to be an unarmed spy drone.

Kevin Gambold, director of operations for Unmanned Experts, a British company that specializes in unmanned aerial vehicles, said the Sentinel, carrying an array of classified surveillance systems, would have a self-destruct mechanism to disable or destroy it if operators lost control.

He said it's difficult to believe that Iran could have brought down the aircraft with electronic jamming or by taking the controls through a cyber attack as the country claims it did. "You never say never, but I would be gob-smacked and amazed if they even knew how," Gambold said.

John Bumgarner, chief technical officer for the U.S. Cyber Consequences Unit, an independent nonprofit research institute, said it's technically possible to jam the communication used to control a drone.

But in such cases, the drone should have a fail-safe mechanism that enables it to retrace its flight path and return to the base where it was launched, he said.

The most likely reason that the Sentinel didn't self-destruct or safely return is that it was lost because of an onboard mechanical malfunction, said Thompson of the Lexington Institute.

"That means what the Iranians have is a pile of wreckage — many small and damaged pieces from which they could glean little in the way of technological insights," he said.

Still, pieces of stealth technology may have found their way into foreign military hands before.

This year, China said it had developed and built a stealth fighter jet, dubbed Chengdu J-20. U.S. military officials believe that the Chinese used technology collected from a F-117 stealth aircraft that was shot down over Serbia in 1999 during the Kosovo war. Chinese agents were said to have purchased parts of the plane, covered in high-tech stealth coating, from local farmers.

"The cat's already out of the bag with stealth technology," said John Pike, director of GlobalSecurity.org, a website for military policy research.

"The materials have already been widely disseminated. One little drone isn't going to make a difference either way."


http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-1206-drone-iran-20111206,0,928838.story

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« Reply #5676 on: Dec 6th, 2011, 08:56am »

Wired

Dec. 6, 1850: The Eyes Have It, Thanks to the Ophthalmoscope

By Tony Long
December 6, 2010 | 7:00 am
Categories: 19th century, Health and Medicine, Inventions

1850: German physician Hermann von Helmholtz, who devoted much of his career to studying the eye and the physics of vision and perception, demonstrates his ophthalmoscope to the Berlin Physical Society. The invention revolutionizes ophthalmology.

Although von Helmholtz was not the first person to develop an ophthalmoscope, nor the first to examine the interior of the eye, his device was the first to be put to practical use.

The ophthalmoscope allows the examining doctor to look inside the patient’s eye at the lens, retina and optic nerve. It is the indispensable tool for diagnosing diseases of the eye, including glaucoma, and is used to screen for diabetic retinopathy, a condition in diabetics that can result in blindness. Caught early enough — and the ophthalmoscope is the method for pinning it down — the condition can be treated with laser surgery.

The ophthalmoscopes — both direct and indirect — most of us grew up with at the eye doctor’s office are still in use as a basic diagnostic tool. For more complicated procedures, scanning laser ophthalmoscopy is available.

While the ophthalmoscope made von Helmholtz famous, he distinguished himself in a number of scientific disciplines involving sensory perception, so much so that the Encyclopaedia Britannica wrote: “His life from first to last was one of devotion to science, and he must be accounted, on intellectual grounds, as one of the foremost men of the 19th century.”

http://www.wired.com/thisdayintech/2010/12/1206ophthalmoscope-invented/

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« Reply #5677 on: Dec 6th, 2011, 09:01am »






Uploaded by solarshot1 on Dec 5, 2011

UFO sighting 2011

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« Reply #5678 on: Dec 7th, 2011, 08:20am »

New York Times

December 6, 2011
Pearl Harbor Still a Day for the Ages, but a Memory Almost Gone
By ADAM NAGOURNEY

HONOLULU — For more than half a century, members of the Pearl Harbor Survivors Association gathered here every Dec. 7 to commemorate the attack by the Japanese that drew the United States into World War II. Others stayed closer to home for more intimate regional chapter ceremonies, sharing memories of a day they still remember in searing detail.

But no more. The 70th anniversary of the Pearl Harbor attack will be the last one marked by the survivors’ association. With a concession to the reality of time — of age, of deteriorating health and death — the association will disband on Dec. 31.

“We had no choice,” said William H. Eckel, 89, who was once the director of the Fourth Division of the survivors’ association, interviewed by telephone from Texas. “Wives and family members have been trying to keep it operating, but they just can’t do it. People are winding up in nursing homes and intensive care places.”

Harry R. Kerr, the director of the Southeast chapter, said there weren’t enough survivors left to keep the organization running. “We just ran out of gas, that’s what it amounted to,” he said from his home in Atlanta, after deciding not to come this year. “We felt we ran a good course for 70 years. Fought a good fight. We have no place to recruit people anymore: Dec. 7 only happened on one day in 1941.”

The fact that this moment was inevitable has made this no less a difficult year for the survivors, some of whom are concerned that the event that defined their lives will soon be just another chapter in a history book, with no one left to go to schools and Rotary Club luncheons to offer a firsthand testimony of that day. As it is, speaking engagements by survivors like Mr. Kerr — who said he would miss church services on Sunday to commemorate the attack — can be discouraging affairs.

“I was talking in a school two years ago, and I was being introduced by a male teacher, and he said, ‘Mr. Kerr will be talking about Pearl Harbor,’ ” said Mr. Kerr. “And one of these little girls said, ‘Pearl Harbor? Who is she?’

“Can you imagine?” he said.

The formal announcement of the disbanding will come in the ceremony that will begin here at 7:40 a.m. on Wednesday, with a moment of silence at 7:55 a.m. (12:55 p.m. Eastern time), 70 years to the minute from when the Japanese attack began. Nearly 3,000 people are expected to attend the commemoration at the Pearl Harbor Visitor Center, overlooking the U.S.S. Arizona Memorial.

William H. Muehleib, the national president of the association, made it here from his home in Virginia Beach for the ceremony and the announcement. He said he hoped many other survivors would come as well, but, he said, those who came, came on their own.

No group meetings or social events are on the schedule. “The Pearl Harbor Survivors Association doesn’t have anything planned,” he said.

The association was founded in 1958 with a roster of 28,000, all members of the military who had been on the island of Oahu the morning of the attack. It was granted a Congressional charter in October 1985. Mr. Muehleib said membership had fallen to 2,700 as of Sept. 1; though he said that given the continuing death toll and the declining health of men who are all around 90 years old or older, that figure exaggerates the actual strength of the organization, which is why the board voted to close down.

“With the advanced age and ill health of our membership and the declining numbers of members, it was obvious that we could not continue the requirements that corporate 501C lays on our membership and on our board,” Mr. Muehleib said, referring to the group’s tax-exempt, nonprofit status. In other words, there were just not survivors to continue to fill the positions of president, vice president, treasurer and secretary.

Daniel A. Martinez, the chief historian for the U.S.S. Arizona Memorial, said that 7,000 survivors were on hand for the 50th anniversary 20 years ago. By contrast, he expects about 125 survivors to be present for the announcement about the disbanding of the organization.

Mr. Martinez said that Pearl Harbor Day was supposed to be marked everywhere and every year, not just here. “It is supposed to be a national day of remembrance, with ceremonies across this country. We’ve noticed this is not happening.”

The decline has been increasingly evident in the local chapters. Bernard Comito, who lives in Dalton, Ohio, said he watched as divisions closed or merged, trying to gather a dwindling flock. He now oversees 15 states in the group and represents 175 living members, though he was not even sure about that.

“There really isn’t that much choice,” he said. “According to our charter, there has to be a Pearl Harbor survivor as the president, vice president, treasurer, and secretary. We’re having all kinds of trouble trying to find people to fill those positions, especially with the treasurer position, because we have a lot of money tied up in stocks and bonds. The person that we have now wants to retire desperately.”

He said deaths were only part of the problem. “Most of our survivors are well into their 90s,” he said. “A lot are housebound and can’t travel, a lot are in rest homes, so it becomes a tremendous problem at this age. You have an organization that doesn’t replenish itself. We don’t get new members.”

Mr. Eckel said his local chapter, in East Texas, had 15 members three years ago. At its latest meeting, earlier this year at a restaurant in Tyler, the turnout consisted of two members and four widows. “And that was it,” he said. “ We agreed that we would not meet anymore.”

This is not the first time, of course, that America has seen memories of a historic battle fade with the passing of the generation that fought it. On the 75th anniversary of Gettysburg in 1938, a surviving veteran of that event, then 99 years old, bivouacked on the Pennsylvania battlefield with some 1,600 fellow Civil War soldiers, blue and gray.

Mr. Muehleib said he was curious to see how many people would actually be on hand for this year’s Pearl Harbor ceremony. But while survivors of the battle might be few, they still have something of a presence here this week. Three of them, in partial uniform, sat under the stars at the famous kiawe tree at the House Without a Key restaurant and bar at the Halekulani Hotel on Monday night, enjoying the nightly show of Hawaiian music and the attention of a hula dancer.

Most of the survivors, though, are more like Mr. Eckel, who, after having both hips replaced and being barred from driving, is stuck at home. Not that he has given up hope on making a return visit to Pearl Harbor.

“My goal right now is I’d like to live long enough to go back to Hawaii in 2016 for the 75th anniversary,” he said. “I sure hope I can make it.”

Ian Lovett contributed reporting from Los Angeles.

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/12/07/us/fewer-veterans-to-remember-pearl-harbor-day.html?_r=1&hp

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« Reply #5679 on: Dec 7th, 2011, 08:23am »

LA Times

Pakistani president's medical trip to Dubai triggers rumors

December 7, 2011 | 5:52 am
by Alex Rodriguez

REPORTING FROM ISLAMABAD — President Asif Ali Zardari flew to Dubai this week to undergo tests related to a pre-existing heart condition, triggering rumors of the Pakistani’s leader’s possible resignation that his aides on Wednesday quickly dismissed as baseless.

Zardari made the trip in the midst of an ongoing probe into a scandal Pakistanis now call “Memogate” involving the delivery of a memo to the U.S. that urged Washington to help rein in the country’s powerful military. Pakistani-American businessman Mansoor Ijaz claims he was asked by Pakistan’s ambassador to the U.S. at the time, Husain Haqqani, to deliver to the U.S. government a letter seeking America’s help in preventing a military takeover of Zardari’s administration.

Ijaz has contended that Zardari endorsed the memo. Haqqani, who insists the letter was fabricated, was forced to step down while the investigation into the scandal continues.

Zardari’s aides flatly rejected a report on the website of the U.S.-based Foreign Policy magazine that the Pakistani leader may resign on the premise of “ill health” amid mounting pressure linked to the Memogate affair. The magazine quoted a former U.S. official as saying, “The noose was getting tighter—it was only a matter of time.”

“These are speculative, untrue reports,” said a senior Pakistani official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to speak on such matters. “These are routine medical check-ups.”

The president’s spokesman, Farhatullah Babar, said Zardari left Islamabad Tuesday night to visit his children in Dubai and undergo medical tests related to a previously diagnosed heart condition. Zardari’s personal doctor and other staffpeople accompanied him.

A statement released by Prime Minister Yusaf Raza Gilani said Zardari underwent an initial round of tests in Dubai and was listed in stable condition. The senior Pakistani official said Zardari was expected to return to the capital soon, possibly later this week.

Following the posting of the Foreign Policy story, Twitter was abuzz with rumors of Zardari’s possible ouster. The memo scandal has incensed the country’s powerful military, which has always seen Zardari as too close to Washington.

Members of Zardari’s ruling Pakistan People’s Party blamed opposition leaders for fueling speculation about Zardari’s trip to the Persian Gulf city.

“We are used to such conspiracies and speculations,” Qamar Zaman Kaira, a leading PPP lawmaker, told a Pakistani television channel Wednesday. “Such things will go on.”

http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/world_now/2011/12/zardaris-medical-trip-to-dubai-triggers-rumors.html

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« Reply #5680 on: Dec 7th, 2011, 08:27am »

Wired Danger Room

U.S. Spy Plane Shot Secret Video of Jamaican ‘Massacre’
By Spencer Ackerman
December 7, 2011 | 6:30 am
Categories: Crime and Homeland Security

Somewhere in the bureaucratic bowels of the Department of Homeland Security is a videotape shot above the Tivoli Gardens neighborhood of Kingston, Jamaica on May 24, 2010. It could reveal whether the Jamaican security forces, acting on behalf of U.S. prosecutors, killed 73 members of a notorious crime syndicate or innocent civilians caught in house-to-house fighting. That is, if anyone in a position of power actually wants that question answered.

Over 500 Jamaican soldiers rushed into the teeming Tivoli Gardens neighborhood that day for what became known as Operation Garden Parish, a mission to capture the local mafia don, Christopher “Dudus” Coke. The mission was the result of heavy U.S. pressure: Coke had been indicted in U.S. federal court for running an international marijuana and cocaine ring. It would become one of the bloodiest days in recent Jamaican history.

What happened on May 24, 2010 garnered international headlines. But what no one knew until now was that circling overhead was a P-3 Orion spy plane, operated by the Department of Homeland Security. A lengthy investigation by journalist Mattathias Schwartz (a Danger Room friend) reveals that the Orion took footage of the hours-long battle. It has never been publicly revealed.

“I don’t know what’s on the video,” Schwartz tells Danger Room. “But given all these credible allegations of extrajudicial killings taking place on the ground, it must be released.” Schwartz’s investigation of what he describes as the “massacre” in Tivoli Gardens has just been published by the New Yorker, although it’s not yet online.

Coke is a brutal man. According to prosecutors, he used a chainsaw to kill a man believed of stealing his drug proceeds. But he was beloved in Tivoli Gardens as well as feared, as often happens in places where gangsters replace the governing machinery of failing states, and the neighborhood became his fortress.

That is, until May 24, 2010, when the American pressure on a Coke ally, Jamaican Prime Minister Bruce Golding, became overwhelming. The Jamaican soldiers who carried out Operation Garden Parish, had to overcome roadblocks set up by Coke soldiers prepared for the raid. And more than that. “I fired my AK until my finger was numb,” reads a passage from a Coke gunman’s diary unearthed by Schwartz.

Then the Jamaican soldiers went inside Tivoli houses, killing people — most of whom, locals insist, were unconnected to Coke. Some of the killings occurred outside in the open air. An American citizen, 25-year old Andre Smith, was among the dead. According to Smith’s great aunt, Smith was ordered up her stairs by soldiers, although he was hiding to avoid the battle; his body was carried out in a sheet, suggesting an execution.

Schwartz recounts many such stories. Seventy-three locals and one soldier died. Soldiers took over a thousand others to detention centers for interrogations. Coke escaped the battle.

Above the melee was the P-3 Orion, filming the events of May 24 with its onboard cameras. A Jamaican photographer snapped photos of it. Schwartz filed a Freedom of Information Act request with the Department of Homeland Security and confirmed its presence. “All scenes were continuously recorded,” a Homeland Security document Schwartz acquired confirms.

The video, said to have been screened in a joint U.S.-Jamaican operations center in Kingston, has never been released. Its contents are politically dangerous for a Jamaican government still reeling from Tivoli Gardens. (Coke was eventually arrested and convicted in New York; Golding resigned.) And the documents Schwartz acquired suggest that there might have been U.S. operatives on the ground during the raid, which the U.S. denies.

But there have been no charges brought against anyone involved in the massacre. A Jamaican detective, Gladys Brown, tells Schwartz, “Nobody is able to describe who saw and who did what. It’s very difficult to pinpoint one or two of these men who held a gun to the head and fired.”

The video can’t adjudicate every outstanding question about the Tivoli Square raid. It can’t see into houses to determine if soldiers executed unarmed civilians or defended themselves against Coke soldiers lying in wait.

But it might answer some of the questions about exactly how 73 residents of the neighborhood and one soldier died. “My belief is that the video could help identify exactly which members of the Jamaican security forces were where, and when,” Schwartz says. “Until the identities of these individuals are made known, and some court or other investigative body compels them to give public testimony, we will not have a final answer to these disturbing and credible allegations.”

http://www.wired.com/dangerroom/2011/12/jamaica-massacre/#more-65767

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« Reply #5681 on: Dec 7th, 2011, 08:33am »

Huffington Post

UFO Hunters Keep Pressing White House For Answers Through 'We The People' Petitions

First Posted: 12/ 6/11 11:19 AM ET
Updated: 12/ 6/11 04:38 PM ET
by Lee Speigel

Thousands of people who believe in UFOs and think the U.S. government knows more than it admits were hoping for a breakthrough last month when they signed petitions on the "We The People" website. But they got what they've been getting for decades -- nothing.

The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy announced on the site there was no evidence of alien life and "no credible information to suggest that any evidence is being hidden from the public's eye."

But Ufologists -- those who study the various possibilities of unidentified flying objects -- aren't giving up.

Two new petitions have begun collecting signatures, but unlike the original petitions in October, which required 5,000 signatures before the White House must respond, the threshold is now 25,000.

Of course, there's always been a tense relationship between those who believe the truth about alien visitation is out there and the federal government. The UFO community claims the government has engaged in policies to debunk and ridicule eyewitnesses.

Despite that, the Obama administration is being challenged again to reveal UFO evidence.

Stephen Bassett, author of the initial alien disclosure petition in September, now has a second petition up on "We The People" hoping to gather enough signatures by the Dec. 31 cutoff date.

"The second disclosure petition is intended to directly challenge the response to the first disclosure petition from the Office of Science and Technology Policy," Bassett, head of the Paradigm Research Group, told The Huffington Post in an e-mail.

"It names names and provides direct links to the documented history of the Rockefeller Initiative," Bassett added, referring to an effort in the 1990s by billionaire Laurance Rockefeller to get the Clinton administration to release UFO documents.

But what was it about the first petitions that didn't get the White House to respond in a more UFO-friendly manner? Some critics have complained about what they perceived as a UFO conspiracy attitude in the information requests.

In her previous HuffPost blog, Leslie Kean suggested the petitions weren't worded in a way that would compel President Obama's staff to reply differently.

"This is not something that government officials can possibly take seriously," Kean, author of the New York Times bestseller "UFOs: Generals, Pilots, and Government Officials Go On the Record," told HuffPost.

"I know that from my years of experience in meeting and interviewing them, how to approach the government on this issue. First of all, clarity is incredibly important so they know exactly what you're talking about," Kean said.

Former nuclear physicist Stanton Friedman has spent 44 years lecturing and writing on the idea that some UFOs may be intelligently controlled extraterrestrial vehicles. He doesn't agree with the initial PRG petition that all UFO information should be released.

"I think there's a real national security concern here that PRG doesn't seem to want to address," Friedman said. "I don't want any technological data that we have gleaned from the study of either UFO wreckage or UFO instrument data. That could all be used for the development of classified, high-performance military systems and I don't think you should put that out on the table.

"Secondly, we already know that the National Security Agency and CIA have released top secret UFO documents -- we know they exist."

Friedman suggests how he'd like the government to respond to the UFO petitions.

"I'd be perfectly happy if they would say, 'Look, we have a ton of classified information which, you can understand, we cannot release because there are weapons implications, but do, indeed, have personal, instrument and satellite observations as well as observations of pilots chasing UFOs.'"

The day before the new PRG petition went up on the White House site, another one reared its head, this one co-written by Hollywood producer Bryce Zabel and UFO historian Richard Dolan.

This request simply and clearly asks the Obama administration to "investigate unidentified aerial phenomena [UAP] as reported by citizens, police, astronauts, pilots and the military."

"Rich Dolan and I have tried to craft what we hope can become the precedent-setting petition language that is needed to turn the national conversation on this subject of UAP in a more serious direction," Zabel told HuffPost.

"Our petition says -- bottom line -- there's something that's been going on, we're not sure what, but a lot of really smart, honest, down-to-Earth folks have seen it, and we would like our government to take a stab at telling us the truth. That's basically something we should expect them to do."

Dolan is not only Zabel's petition co-author but his writing partner on the book "A.D.: After Disclosure."

"Why would the U.S. government want to acknowledge the reality of a highly advanced technology belonging to an unknown agency -- someone that can violate restricted airspace with impunity, disable advanced electronic systems of our best aircraft and even tamper with our nuclear stockpile?" Dolan said.

"That's certainly not a fun topic to broach to the public. Their only policy can be denial."

As the two new petitions begin to gather signatures, Bassett believes his request for information about the Rockefeller-Clinton connection will be the one that the government will have to respond to.

"The White House is faced with a very difficult task in responding to this petition. It cannot deny the [Rockefeller] initiative took place. Many of the principals are major players in the Obama administration and the Democratic Party," he said. "I would not want to be the staffer assigned the task of responding to Disclosure Petition II."

He also acknowledges that there won't be any response if his petition doesn't secure 25,000 signatures by Dec. 31.

But Kean disagrees with the contents of the new PRG petition, especially the part that asks Congress to get involved.

"Asking for a congressional investigation is completely the wrong thing to ask for, because it's never going to happen. There's nothing for Congress to investigate. The documents and letters surrounding the Rockefeller issue have already been released.

"My basic concern with this is the lack of clarity that it has and the fact that it's mis-stating things. It is stating that things happened that didn't actually happen."

One huge problem with this whole petition issue is that, by trying to get the government to admit anything about UFOs or possible extraterrestrial contact, it would be akin to opening up a Pandora's box.

"There's no question about that," agreed Friedman. "And I personally think that petitioners should request that the government provide amnesty for any military people who want to talk about things that happened, say, 30 or 40 years ago. And I'd limit it to military because those were guys who were working under security oaths."

videos and more after the jump
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/12/06/new-round-of-ufo-white-house-fight_n_1125873.html?ref=ufo

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« Reply #5682 on: Dec 7th, 2011, 08:42am »

Spacecraft enters 'cosmic purgatory'

December 6th, 2011

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This illustration shows Voyager inside the stagnation region, and the distance of that region from the sun.


NASA's Voyager 1 spacecraft is 11 billion miles from our sun and has entered a region NASA is describing as a "cosmic purgatory," a part of space where there is very little solar wind.

The latest data, transmitted to Earth by NASA's Deep Space Network (DSN), show that Voyager 1 has entered a new region of space referred to as the "stagnation region."

"We've been using the flow of energetic charged particles at Voyager 1 as a kind of wind sock to estimate the solar wind velocity. We've found that the wind speeds are low in this region and gust erratically," says Rob Decker, a Voyager researcher at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland, in a statement. "For the first time, the wind even blows back at us. We are evidently traveling in completely new territory. Scientists had suggested previously that there might be a stagnation layer, but we weren't sure it existed until now."

Voyager 1 is still within the heliosphere, the area around the sun filled with charged particles blown from our star, but the data indicate that the craft will cross into interstellar space in the relatively near future - the next few months, or few years.

That may seem like a big gap in the estimate, but consider that the Voyager 1 and 2 craft have been in flight for over 30 years. It's the most distant manmade craft launched from Earth, having overtaken Pioneer 10 in 1998.

Voyager 1 and her sister ship Voyager 2 were launched in 1977. Their original mission, to explore Jupiter and Saturn, resulted in the discovery of active volcanoes on Jupiter's moon Io, among other things. The mission was extended to include visits to Uranus and Neptune, which have still only been visited by Voyager 2.

Voyager's current mission is called the Voyager Interstellar Mission (VIM) and has the goal of extending exploration of the solar system to the edge of the sun's sphere of influence.

http://lightyears.blogs.cnn.com/2011/12/06/spacecraft-enters-cosmic-purgatory/?hpt=hp_bn2
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« Reply #5683 on: Dec 7th, 2011, 10:56am »

"Voyager 1 is still within the heliosphere, the area around the sun filled with charged particles blown from our star, but the data indicate that the craft will cross into interstellar space in the relatively near future - the next few months, or few years.

That may seem like a big gap in the estimate, but consider that the Voyager 1 and 2 craft have been in flight for over 30 years. It's the most distant manmade craft launched from Earth, having overtaken Pioneer 10 in 1998."


That is so cool. Thanks Swamprat, and Good Mornin'!

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« Reply #5684 on: Dec 7th, 2011, 7:09pm »

Suicide by piranha

Canoe-leap lad, 18, savaged by fish

By HARRY HAYDON

A TEENAGER is believed to have committed "suicide by piranha" after leaping into a river infested with the flesh-eating fish.

Fisherman Oscar Barbosa, 18, bled to death after jumping out of his canoe.

He suffered dozens of bites to his throat and face on Bolivia's Yata River, local police chief Daniel Cayaya revealed.

He believed Oscar — from Rosario del Yata in the north east of the country — meant to kill himself.

Mr Cayaya said the teenager knew the river well and would have been aware that it is swarming with red piranhas at this time of year. He added that Oscar was thought to be drunk.

The 14-inch fish have razor sharp teeth and hunt in packs to strip their prey of flesh. They are known to devour large snakes and even jaguars in minutes.

Fatal attacks on humans are rare. But swimmers at a river beach in Brazil were attacked by hundreds of piranhas in September.

http://www.thesun.co.uk/sol/homepage/news/3983692/Suicide-by-piranha.html
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