Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #5745 on: Dec 16th, 2011, 8:24pm »
Congress puts spy world on money diet By Kimberly Dozier AP Intelligence Writer / December 16, 2011
WASHINGTON—Congress is putting the spy world on a diet by trimming back planned growth in staff and high-tech surveillance programs.
Next year's budget stays roughly the same as this year, at just under $80 billion, and the bill doesn't cancel any programs.
But the bill passed Friday nixes many planned new hires and denies extra funding requested to expand some existing big-ticket items like multibillion-dollar spy satellites. Congress left alone plans for more staff for cybersecurity and tracking terrorist finances.
The officials spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss classified matters.
One change in the new measure: Families of intelligence officers will get the same financial help for burial expenses as those of uniformed military, if officers are killed by terrorists.
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #5746 on: Dec 17th, 2011, 09:39am »
New York Times
December 17, 2011 Death Toll Rises From Clashes in Cairo By DAVID D. KIRKPATRICK
CAIRO — The death toll from renewed violence in Egypt’s capital rose overnight as clashes between Egyptian soldiers and protesters entered a second day on Saturday.
According to media reports, soldiers swept into Tahrir Square here on Saturday, chasing protesters and beating them with sticks.
Early Saturday, according to The Associated Press, hundreds of protesters hurled stones at security forces who sealed off the streets around Parliament with barbed wire and large concrete blocks. Soldiers on rooftops pelted the crowds below with stones, prompting many of the protesters to pick up helmets, satellite dishes or sheets of metal to try to shield themselves.
Reuters reported that protesters fled into side streets to escape the troops in riot gear, who grabbed people and battered them repeatedly even after they had been beaten to the ground.
Stones, dirt and shattered glass littered the streets downtown, while flames leapt out of the windows of a two-story building set ablaze near Parliament, sending thick plumes of black smoke into the sky, according to media reports. Soldiers set fire to tents inside the square, The A.P. reported, and swept through buildings where television crews were filming from and confiscated their equipment and briefly detained journalists.
In footage filmed by Reuters one soldier in a line of charging troops drew a pistol and fired a shot at retreating protesters.
The clashes began in the center of Cairo on Friday and at vote-counting centers around the country, preceding a decision by a new civilian advisory council to suspend its operations. That move, embarrassing to the country’s military rulers, was done in protest over the military’s deadly but ineffective treatment of peaceful demonstrators.
Election monitors said the violence threatened to undermine the credibility of Egypt’s first parliamentary election since the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak 10 months ago.
At the vote-counting centers, the clashes began after polls closed late Thursday, when soldiers beat up judges and other civilians trying to enter the centers. A spokesman for a judges’ association said hundreds of judges supervising the elections had threatened to quit in protest and warned that the episodes could compromise many of the returns.
Violence erupted here in the capital on Friday after military police officers tried to break up a small sit-in outside the cabinet building. In an uncanny replay of clashes last month, the military’s heavy-handed tactics against a small number of protesters drew thousands of others into the streets. And the military’s tactics — hurling broken tiles and even file cabinets at the crowd from the roof of a Parliament building — appeared to do more to provoke than dispel the crowd.
By Saturday morning at least eight people had been killed, at least seven others suffered bullet wounds and more than 250 were injured, according to the Health Ministry. One of those killed was a respected Muslim religious scholar, Emad Effat. The military police beat and briefly detained about 20 people from the scene of the sit-in, including human rights activists and a journalist from Al Jazeera. And, using batons and an electric prod, they also beat up a newly elected member of Parliament, Ziad el-Elaimy, who with two other new lawmakers filed a police report against the top military official, Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi.
“The Parliament can’t protect you from us,” a military police officer who was assaulting Mr. Elaimy told him, according to his account on the Web site of the state newspaper Al Ahram.
The advisory council’s rebuke represents a major setback for the ruling generals, in part because they had planned to use it to put a civilian face on their power and to provide a counterweight to the new Parliament. Many civilian politicians, led by the Islamists now dominating the early election returns, are insisting that Parliament should take over control of the interim government as well as the selection of a committee to write a new Constitution. But the generals have insisted that they retain full control of the interim government, and they have sought to carve out permanent institutional autonomy and political powers under the new charter.
In announcing its suspension, the civilian advisory council said it would not meet again until the ruling generals end the violence, apologize to protesters and authorize an independent investigation to hold accountable those responsible for the violence against judges and civilians. Leaders of the advisory council said 8 of its roughly 30 members had resigned in protest before it decided to suspend its operations.
“If what’s happening is intentional and planned, then it’s a conspiracy that I will not take part in,” one member of the council, the political scientist Moataz Billah Abdel Fattah, wrote on Facebook, explaining his resignation and urging others to follow.
“And if it wasn’t intentional or planned, then it means that we’re facing broken/disjointed institutions with no knowledge of how to manage crises, and consequently I won’t be able to correct their behavior no matter what I did,” he continued. “Allah is there for you, Egypt.”
As a street fight raged downtown, early reports from the second phase of the three-part election for the lower house of Parliament confirmed the trend: the Muslim Brotherhood’s moderate Islamist party led the voting, followed by the ultraconservative Islamists known as Salafis and then the Egyptian Bloc, an alliance of liberal and leftist parties.
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #5748 on: Dec 17th, 2011, 09:47am »
ABC San Francisco
Secret Santa pays off Hayward Kmart layaways Saturday, December 17, 2011 By Ama Daetz
HAYWARD, Calif. (KGO) -- Acts of generosity are spreading around the bay and the nation. In store after store anonymous Good Samaritans are paying off the balances of people they've never met.
Some parents in East Bay just received a huge holiday gift. It all began with a call from Kmart in Hayward where the Hernandez Family had close to $700 worth of clothes on layaway.
"They told him that it was paid off, the layaway, and we only owed one cent. And I was like, 'What? You guys are confused, we have three weeks left' and all this other stuff and he said no, that Santa Claus paid for it," said Samantha Hernandez, a Secret Santa recipient.
A Secret Santa sent ABC7 proof of his good deed.
"At first he called and said that he was going to come in and he wanted to pay $10,000 on delinquent kids' layaways," said Darlene Beverly from Kmart. "And we didn't quite believe him at first and then he actually came in with $10,000 cash and he paid of everybody's layaways, everybody's layaways, that we delinquent and mainly kids and toys. That's what he wanted."
He cleared that list, but when you pay off a bill, the items disappear, so a small fee had to remain.
"We can't completely just wipe it out, we have to leave it at one penny. So when everybody comes to make their payment, it's just one penny, that's it," said Beverly.
So strange, it was hard to stay calm.
"I almost started crying. I was surprised like, 'Wow, for real? Because right now we have five kids, so right now this was like a blessing," said Hernandez.
It was a blessing that Tammie Captain of Union City shared in.
"I was really happy, I was really excited. I was coming tomorrow to pay anyway, but this is better," said Captain.
She has two daughters at home and now has some early wrapping to do. These shoppers expressed their gratitude to the Secret Santa.
"I would tell them, 'Thank you, so much for paying for the layaway. I really appreciate it,'" said Captain.
"Thank you. I can't believe they would do that. I didn't think there was people like that any more around here," said Hernandez.
The Secret Santa apparently had some leftover cash when he left the store, so he took $200 and stuck it in the kettle for the Salvation Army.
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #5749 on: Dec 17th, 2011, 09:56am »
Tightest Parallel Park II - GWR Video of the Week 15th December
From: GuinnessWorldRecords | Dec 15, 2011
In this special installment of Video of the Week, we take a look back at some past attempts, as well as the new current recolder.
The tightest parallel parking measured 24 cm (9.45 in) and was achieved by Zhang Hua (China) of the Chery Car Stunts Performance Team at Zhengzhi Driving School, Linyi City, Shandong Province, China, on 21 July 2011.
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #5752 on: Dec 17th, 2011, 10:39am »
Strange nuclear waste lint might be "biological in nature"
By Rob Pavey Staff Writer Friday, Dec. 16, 2011
Savannah River Site scientists are working to identify a strange growth found on racks of spent nuclear fuel collected from foreign governments.
The “white, stringlike” material was found among thousands of spent fuel assemblies submerged in deep pools within the site’s L Area, according to a report filed by the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board, a federal oversight panel.
“The growth, which resembles a spider web, has yet to be characterized, but may be biological in nature,” the report said.
Savannah River National Laboratory collected a small sample in hopes of identifying the mystery lint – and determining whether it is alive.
L Area, with 3-foot-thick concrete walls, includes pools that range from 17 to 30 feet deep, where submerged racks are used to store an array of assemblies – some containing highly enriched uranium – from foreign and domestic research reactors. The material is kept there for national security reasons.
The safety board’s report said the initial sample collected was too small to allow further characterization.
“Further evaluation still needs to be completed,” the report said.
Will Callicott, a spokesman for Savannah River National Laboratory, said in an e-mail that officials hope to collect a larger sample for analysis.
“But whatever it is, (it) doesn’t appear to be causing any damage,” he said.
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #5754 on: Dec 17th, 2011, 2:00pm »
Wired Danger Room
Danger Room What's Next in National Security Iran’s Alleged Drone Hack: Tough, but Possible By Adam Rawnsley December 16, 2011 | 6:01 pm Categories: Drones
Take everything that Iran says about its captured U.S. drone with a grain of salt. But its new claim that it spoofed the drone’s navigational controls isn’t implausible. Although it’s way harder to do than the Iranian boast suggests, it points to yet another flaw with America’s fleet of robot warplanes.
On Thursday, the Christian Science Monitor published an interview with an Iranian engineer who claims that Iran managed to jam the drone’s communication links to American operators by forcing it to shift into autopilot mode. With its communications down, the drone allegedly kicked into autopilot mode, relying on GPS to fly back to base in Afghanistan. With the GPS autopilot on, the engineer claims Iran spoofed the drone’s GPS system with false coordinates, fooling it into thinking it was close to home and landing into Iran’s clutches.
Again: Iranian feats of technological excellence deserve skepticism. (See the Taiwanese animation above for that.) But GPS spoofing is certainly doable. And if it’s true, it builds on a recent history of security flaws with the drones, from their unencrypted video feeds to their vulnerability to malware.
It’s possible to spoof unencrypted civilian GPS systems. But military GPS receivers, such as the one likely installed on the missing drone, use the encrypted P(Y)-code to communicate with satellites. The notion that Iran could have cracked through the encryption “sounds like a made-for-TV movie” says John Pike, a satellite expert and president of Globalsecurity.org. ”If they could overcome the sorts of of crypto systems that would protect this drone, they would not waste their time on surveillance drones. They would be breaking into banks.”
But Iran might not have had to break the encryption on the P(Y) code in order to bring down a drone. According to Richard Langley, a GPS expert at the University of New Brunswick in Canada, it’s theoretically possible to take control of a drone by jamming the P(Y) code and forcing a GPS receiver to use the unencrypted, more easily spoofable C/A code to to get its directions from navigational satellites.
“GPS satellites transmit on two legacy radio frequencies,” Langley explains. The unencrypted C/A code used by most civilian GPS unit “is transmitted only on the L1 frequency. The encrypted P code for so-called authorized military users is transmitted on both the L1 and L2 frequency.”
Translated: If the Iranians could selectively jam the encrypted military code on the L1 and L2 frequencies — and that’s a big “if” — the drone’s GPS receiver might reach out to use the less-secure C/A code in a last ditch attempt to get directions. Without the extra protection of encryption, it would be relatively simple for Iran to spoof the receiver using the C/A code and fool the drone into thinking it was back home in Afghanistan.
However. For that scenario to work, the drone’s GPS unit would have to be programmed to use the C/A code in the event the P(Y) code becomes unavailable.
It’s also difficult to jam a drone’s GPS. “They’ve got defenses against these kinds of spoofing attacks,” says Todd Humphreys, who has researched GPS spoofing at the University of Texas’ Radionavigation Laboratory. “They mount their antennas on the top of the drones and sometimes the antennas have the ability to null out jamming or spoofing signals.”
Humphreys isn’t buying the Iranian engineer’s explanation of why the apparent RQ-170 Sentinel’s underbelly appeared damaged in the footage released by Iran. The engineer told the Monitor that the drone’s underbelly was scuffed because of a slight difference between the altitude of its actual home base in Afghanistan and the location where it allegedly landed in Iran.
“This is nonsense,” says Humphreys. If the Iranians had been able to spoof the GPS unit in the precise way they claimed, they also would have also been able to control its altitude. “That opens up two scenarios. Either [the engineer] is a user of equipment he’s got from abroad” and doesn’t understand its capabilities, “or he’s making it up.”
The spoofing danger isn’t new. “On the military side,” says Humphreys, “they’ve known about this threat for 20-30 years.”
And this isn’t the first time Iran or its proxies have exploited a long-known vulnerability on an American drone. In 2008, the U.S. military discovered Iranian-backed insurgents in Iraq had managed to intercept unencrypted video feeds from drones using widely available commercial software. That flaw was known to the Air Force as far back as 1996.
Other drone vulnerabilities have also highlighted security fears. In October, Danger Room broke the news that the cockpits at the Air Force’s drone fleet based out of Creech Air Force Base in Nevada were infected with a virus. Malware had apparently made its way onto computers because someone had been using one to play the Mafia Wars game — a stunning security faux pas.
It’s by no means clear that Iran really did spoof the drone’s GPS. But if they did. “If this was really that easy, I’m disappointed,” Humphreys says, “because a lot of very smart people have put a lot of time into this.”
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #5755 on: Dec 18th, 2011, 08:45am »
New York Times
December 17, 2011 As Wars End, Young Veterans Return to Scant Jobs By SHAILA DEWAN
COLUMBUS, Ohio — In Afghanistan, Cpl. Clayton Rhoden earned about $2,500 a month jumping into helicopters to chase down improvised explosive devices or check out suspected bomb factories.
Now he lives with his parents, sells his blood plasma for $80 a week and works what extra duty he can get for his Marine Corps Reserve unit.
Corporal Rhoden, who is 25, gawky and polite with a passion for soldiering, is one of the legions of veterans who served in combat yet have a harder time finding work than other people their age, a situation that officials say will grow worse as the United States completes its pullout of Iraq and as, by a White House estimate, a million new veterans join the work force over the next five years.
Veterans’ joblessness is concentrated among the young and those still serving in the National Guard or Reserve. The unemployment rate for veterans aged 20 to 24 has averaged 30 percent this year, more than double that of others the same age, though the rate for older veterans closely matches that of civilians. Reservists like Corporal Rhoden have a bleak outlook as well.
In July 2010, their unemployment rate was 21 percent, compared with 12 percent for other vets.
“There’s been an upsurge in young people going into the military and not staying for a full 20-year career,” said Jane Oates, the assistant secretary for employment and training at the Labor Department, which has worked to improve the three-day transition assistance program for outgoing soldiers and enlisted companies like Facebook to reach them. “I think transitions have been difficult, with too few jobs out there and lack of clarity about what the employer wants.”
The employment gap cannot be explained by a simple factor like lack of a college degree — despite their discipline and training, young veterans fare worse in the job market than their peers without degrees.
Employers and veterans seem to view each other as alien species. Managers, few of whom have military experience themselves, may fear the aftereffects of combat or losing reservists to another deployment. They may have difficulty understanding how military accomplishments translate to the civilian world.
Young veterans, whose work history may consist entirely of military service, often need to learn basics like what to wear to a job interview. More important, many say, they are overwhelmed by the transition from combat to civilian life.
“It’s shell shock for a lot of them, going from such a structured lifestyle to a lifestyle that’s got so many variables,” said Daniel Hutchison, 29, who uses his own combat disability check to finance a shoestring transition assistance group, Ohio Combat Veterans. “They’re dealing with all the emotional things they went through, and they feel like they’re alone.”
The Obama administration has championed veterans’ maturity, management skills and even their promptness. Employers have jumped on the bandwagon, and large companies like JPMorgan Chase and Verizon have signed a pledge to hire a total of 100,000 veterans by 2020. More than 220,000 veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan are out of work.
Over a decade of war, the requirement that companies restore reservists to their old jobs has placed a heavy burden on businesses, said Ted Daywalt, who runs VetJobs.com in Georgia. “Nearly 65 to 70 percent of employers will not now hire National Guard and Reserve,” he said. “They can’t run their business with someone being taken away for 12 months.”
Though employers typically ask about military service and status on job applications, it is illegal to discriminate based on that information.
Corporal Rhoden said his reserve duties had interfered with one job to the point that he quit. “I’ve tried restaurants, shipping facilities, construction, snow removal businesses, landscaping — pretty much anything that you don’t need a college degree to do,” he said.
Veterans have been coached to write résumés that emphasize leadership skills instead of “the killing or capture of 350 Al-Qaeda associates,” raising some skepticism.
“I’m not necessarily convinced that they have great marketable skills,” said Rachel Feldstein, the associate director of New Directions, which offers drug rehabilitation, job training and other services to veterans in San Diego. “If you train someone to be a sniper, those are not necessarily skills that are transferable.”
Young veterans face stiff competition for the jobs that fit them best, like policing. In Columbus, Dustin Szarell, 30, said he was passed over for work in the Akron Fire Department and as a juvenile corrections officer in favor of candidates who had experience in those fields.
The Obama administration has stepped up hiring of veterans, adding more than 85,000 to the government payroll since the 2008 fiscal year. On Saturday, President Obama praised returning veterans and said “it is time to enlist our veterans and all our people in the work of rebuilding America.” The administration is trying to shape a “career-ready military” whose medics and electricians can more easily attain the licenses they need to work as civilians. As of October, the G.I. Bill that pays for college can also be used for vocational training or apprenticeships.
But many young vets are still working through the aftermath of combat.
In interviews, some veterans said employers overestimated these problems. “They have this misconception that we’re all struggling from P.T.S.D. in its most severe form, we’re all going to rage out,” said Sgt. Kobby Nyen, 25, a Marine reservist and student. “Even a Marine with P.T.S.D. has discipline.”
But others acknowledged that coping was an issue. “I don’t know who in their right mind would want to hire me when I got back from Afghanistan, because I was a disaster,” said Jeff Mancino, 24, who is now studying to become a psychologist. “I was 22 and I had to go to rehab — what kind of 22-year-old does that?”
Often, the veterans Mr. Hutchison of Ohio Combat Veterans sees need much more than a job. Recently, he traveled 50 miles to Logan, Ohio, to meet Ethan Tomblin-Brooks, 24, who lives in a shell of a camper in his parents’ driveway and gets construction work about once a week.
Mr. Tomblin-Brooks, who was injured in Iraq, said he had registered with the Veterans Affairs department but had not heard back. Army psychologists first diagnosed P.T.S.D., then bipolar disorder, but Mr. Tomblin-Brooks said he had no money for treatment, and no transportation.
Mr. Hutchison said he would help him get medical benefits, then tried to gently explain how little work is available in construction. Mr. Tomblin-Brooks, who has a G.E.D., was at a loss to suggest another prospect.
If he could, he said, he would rejoin the Army. “I kind of like being told what to do,” he said. “It makes it a little easier than figuring it out on your own.”
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #5756 on: Dec 18th, 2011, 08:47am »
Japan less likely to trust officials, main media, since disaster
For many older Japanese, the government remains a trusted, paternal overseer. But younger Japanese are now consulting the Internet and other information sources, rather than depending on major media.
By John M. Glionna, Los Angeles Times December 18, 2011 Reporting from Tokyo
Hajime Shiraishi's moment of truth came when her online video news show, at the time relatively unknown, decided to buck the government line and call a story as it saw it.
On March 11, after an earthquake-driven tsunami damaged the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, the world waited anxiously to see how its fragile reactors would fare.
Later that day, plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Co., or Tepco, announced on national TV that all was well: The utility was on top of the accident. No radiation had been released into the atmosphere. Return to regular programming.
Mainstream media dutifully reported that story. But not Shiraishi's "Our Planet TV," which soon broadcast a live interview with five Japanese reporters in Futaba City, a community near the stricken plant. The reporters, who had covered the Chernobyl disaster, told a very different tale.
"They held up Geiger counters showing the level of radiation was almost beyond calculation," said Shiraishi, a former network TV journalist who co-founded the Internet venture in 2001, hosts the show and reports many of its stories. "They'd never seen anything like it."
For Shiraishi and others, that broadcast was a turning point, a moment many see as marking a profound shift in the trust younger Japanese place in government and media. Since that show, "Our Planet TV" viewership has shot up from about 1,000 to more than 100,000 as people have begun to seek alternative sources of information.
The change appears to be largely generational. For many older Japanese, the government remains a trusted, paternal overseer. But younger Japanese are now consulting the Internet and other information sources, rather than depending on major media.
Many people also have become more vocal in their criticism of how Tokyo bureaucrats — many with ties to the nation's powerful nuclear power industry — withheld information in the early days of the disaster. Officials now say they did so to avoid a public panic.
One Internet site has featured 600,000 comments by people describing how they no longer believe the reassurances issued by either the central government or Tepco about nuclear safety.
Such skepticism is considered rare in a nation where citizens from an early age are taught to respect authority. As a rule, Japanese don't wage noisy public protests like their South Korean neighbors. Most people observe rules and expect others to do so as well: They don't jaywalk, preferring to obediently wait — often in large groups — for the traffic light to change even on an empty street. They carefully line up for public transportation and rarely talk on their cellphones while riding buses or trains.
But when it comes to radiation, residents have decided to take matters into their own hands. In what has become known as the "measurement movement," young families in this nation long known for safety and hygiene have acquired their own Geiger counters and dosimeters to gauge radiation exposure. Many of the devices can be purchased at DVD rental stories, where they are stocked next to the latest blockbuster movies.
Others check the Internet for daily radiation updates.
As the central government has relaxed radiation limits for food, nuclear workers and even school playgrounds, residents have established community groups to take collective action to ensure that the levels remain safe.
The Radiation Defense Project, for instance, which grew out of a Facebook discussion page, has taken steps such as collecting money to take soil samples on school grounds in Tokyo and elsewhere and have them analyzed at private testing facilities.
Even after the Tokyo city government tried to reassure residents, announcing that it would conduct radiation tests on samples of store-bought food, consumers remain doubtful. Some independent groups have established free, on-the-spot analysis of radioactive isotopes in food products at stores in Fukushima prefecture, where the nuclear meltdown took place.
Once nearly ignored by the public, nuclear physicist Ryugo Hayano is amazed by the attention he's been receiving. Since 2008, the 59-year-old Tokyo-based scholar has made regular Twitter posts about his research, attracting about 3,000 followers before the March disaster.
But after the Fukushima Daiichi meltdown, Hayano took an interest in radioactive fallout. He tweeted that foreign news reports of the isotope cesium spilling into the atmosphere were a dangerous sign for public health. Within three days, his following soared to more than 150,000.
Hayano explains his sudden popularity by noting that many Japanese, including himself, believe they're not being told the whole story by the nation's traditional information outlets.
"Whether TV news or the government, people are now criticizing authority in fundamental ways they didn't before," said Hayano, a graying, dapper man with a white handkerchief in the breast pocket of his maroon blazer. "They're making accusations about ministers hiding information, or not releasing it quickly enough. They've come to learn that they cannot trust the government like they did before March 11."
Hayano said he doesn't know how far the distrust will reach, or whether Japanese, young and old, will return to their conformist ways once the radiation danger has passed. But for now he's working hard to fill the information gap.
These days he regularly posts links on Twitter to interpretive charts that break down statistics released by the government and utilities. "It's analysis they're not getting anywhere else," he said.
Shiraishi's "Our Planet TV" also strives to keep independent information flowing. The weekly broadcast features stories on Japanese conducting their own radiation tests on breast milk, food and even the piles of rubble that still remain across northeastern Japan.
Viewer response has been overwhelming. Many send notes of praise, along with unsolicited donations, explaining that they want to help keep this information source open. Since March, "Our Planet TV," which relies solely on viewer contributions, has seen such support increase tenfold.
In one recent show, Shiraishi interviewed officials at a charity that has set up free medical consultations for mothers and schoolchildren in the Fukushima area.
Another guest was a cancer researcher who emphasized that no matter what assurances the government has made about public safety, children were showing up with "new clinical symptoms of low-dose radiation exposure."
That show brought the highest-ever number of viewers.
"As soon as we broadcast anything about radiation, viewership just goes through the roof," Shiraishi said. "People tell us that they're now just learning that what the government has been telling them all along might just be a fairy tale."
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #5757 on: Dec 18th, 2011, 08:57am »
Make your own marshmallows for a sweet winter treat
By Bill Daley, Chicago Tribune reporter December 14, 2011
Toasting marshmallows sounds so Fourth of July, doesn't it? You can practically hear the bug zapper keeping time with the fireworks in air perfumed by Coppertone, your mother's Parliament 100s and way too many beers. Really, though, marshmallow toasting can be a year-round sport, with winter reserved for the truly serious.
For grown-up parties, white, gummy marshmallows from a supermarket bag won't cut it. Only handmade marshmallows will do. Luckily, marshmallows are really easy to make — a mix of sugar, gelatin and flavorings. Prove it to yourself with this recipe from Celine Plano, executive pastry chef at The Peninsula Chicago. There are no egg whites in her recipe.
"The whipping of the proteins in the gelatin is the secret," she says. "It works. I promise."
Note: To flavor the marshmallow, replace the water used in cooking the sugar syrup with whatever flavor you like, such as orange juice or coffee or mint-infused water. Liqueurs and extracts may be used as well.
3 tablespoons gelatin 2 cups sugar 2/3 cup corn syrup 1/4 cup water 1/4 teaspoon salt 1 tablespoon vanilla 2 cups confectioners' sugar, plus more for pan 1 cup cornstarch
1. Soak gelatin in 1/2 cup cold water, 10 minutes. Meanwhile, heat sugar, corn syrup, water and salt in a saucepan until mixture reaches 250 degrees (soft ball stage) on a candy thermometer. Remove from heat; stir in vanilla and softened gelatin.
2. Place mixture in bowl of a stand mixer fitted with whip attachment. Whip until cooled, about 15 minutes.
3. Spread mixture onto a 9-by-13-inch sheet pan, lightly oiled and dusted with confectioners' sugar. Let set overnight, at room temperature, lightly covered with lightly oiled parchment paper.
4. Cut marshmallows into 3/4-inch squares. Combine 2 cups confectioners' sugar and the cornstarch in a bowl. Lightly toss marshmallows to coat; store in airtight container.
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #5758 on: Dec 18th, 2011, 09:04am »
Christian Science Monitor
Iowa newspaper backs Mitt Romney? Weird GOP race gets a little weirder.
The Des Moines Register endorsing Mitt Romney even though Romney has essentially ignored the state? It's just the latest line in a bizarre GOP presidential primary season.
By Mark Sappenfield, Staff writer / December 18, 2011
In another sign that the GOP world has gone completely haywire (as if that was needed), the Des Moines Register has endorsed Mitt Romney for president.
This, in itself, is not terribly surprising. Former Massachusetts Governor Romney has long been seen as the safest, most-electable GOP pick among the mainstream media and establishment Republican circles.
Yet the endorsement also encourages a healthy shrug of the shoulders.
Iowa, after all, is supposed to be the American epicenter of retail politics. Perhaps more than any other state, Iowa likes to be wooed with bus tours and town halls and appearances at state fairs. This is because Iowa does not hold a primary, but caucuses – involved affairs that encourage only the most committed voters. It makes politics a personal affair in Iowa, and because the caucuses are first nominating process in the nation, candidates are often happy to oblige.
But Romney has spent comparatively little time there. Having been burned in Iowa in 2008, he's apparently been willing to concede it to rivals in order to focus on other states. And the Des Moines Register is endorsing that campaign?
It gets weirder.
As part of his anti-Iowa campaign, Romney has basically set up house in New Hampshire, which of course neighbors Massachusetts (where he was governor) and is generally more supportive of his moderate-leaning policy positions. And the New Hampshire Union Leader endorsed ... Newt Gingrich.
Endorsements are fickle things. Certainly, the Register nod could help Romney in Iowa, where he is in a dead heat with Ron Paul behind front-runner Mr. Gingrich, according to most polls. The polls suggest that the race is wide open, meaning any little advantage could be crucial.
Perhaps more important, the endorsement appears to play into a mounting Gingrich backlash. Doubtful of Gingrich's chances in a general election, the Republican establishment is attacking his weaknesses, and polls indicate that Gingrich is coming back to the pack. The Register endorsement is further fuel for that trend.
In the end, however, the real fuel for this most peculiar race – the unhappy Republican voter – remains the biggest and least predictable variable. All evidence suggests that, as unhappy as these voters are about an Obama presidency, they are only slightly more enthused by their choices of candidates to oust him.
No newspaper endorsement, it seems, is likely to change that.