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 veryhotthread  Author  Topic: Stuff & Nonsense  (Read 146396 times)
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« Reply #5865 on: Dec 31st, 2011, 10:13am »





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An amazing chance encounter with a troop of wild mountain gorillas near Bwindi National Park, Uganda

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« Reply #5866 on: Jan 1st, 2012, 07:04am »

New York Times

December 31, 2011
In Tsunami Aftermath, ‘Road to Future’ Unsettles a Village
By NORIMITSU ONISHI

BABANAKAYAMA, Japan — Freshly carved out of the side of a hill, with layers of rock still exposed along some of its stretches and trees lying nearby, the construction project that was supposed to help this fishing village relocate and rebuild after the earthquake and tsunami in March was optimistically named the Road to the Future.

But so far the road has led nowhere. The road and a planned settlement, on a flat swath of high ground set inland from the destroyed village, have split this community’s leaders into opposing camps, deepening the uncertainty for its 370 mostly aging residents. Unused and unrecognized, the Road to the Future lies covered in gravel, with little prospect of being paved anytime soon.

The difficulties for Babanakayama and its neighbors help explain why, more than 10 months after the earthquake and tsunami, few villages and towns along the devastated coast here have succeeded in doing what seemed obvious early on: finding land on high ground where their communities could be transplanted en masse.

The scarcity of flat land, wrangling over the price of privately owned mountains, the reluctance to consolidate into centralized communities and the different needs of a graying population are complicating plans by many communities to relocate.

With little progress, increasing numbers of people and communities are simply giving up hope of securing land on high ground. Some people, defying the authorities, are even starting to rebuild in areas inundated by the tsunami.

In Ofunato, for example, city officials are strongly discouraging residents from rebuilding in inundated areas, but like their counterparts elsewhere they have not issued a direct ban — possibly for fear of legal challenges. With a move to high ground years away, if ever, new houses began popping up in inundated areas a few months ago.

In one Ofunato neighborhood, within a stone’s throw of the sea, a small wooden house sat on a disproportionately large lot, where a much larger home had been swept away by the tsunami. Late one afternoon, as winter winds could be felt inside her home, Kikue Shida, 80, explained that she did not want to live with relatives or in a prefabricated temporary home. So she had asked a younger brother to rebuild a home for her, and she moved there in August.

Much of her neighborhood remains destroyed. But friends drop by regularly for tea, and Ms. Shida said she was glad she had not waited to be relocated.

“I’m already 80,” she said, “and I may not have that many years ahead. That’s why I decided to move back here.”

Under Tokyo’s reconstruction guidelines, the central government will pay to acquire land on high ground if at least five households wish to move there together. But the land must meet cost requirements established by local governments. With little flat land available, most proposed locations will require the authorities to buy inland mountains from individual owners and flatten them for residential use.

The difficulties of even securing an appropriate location were underscored by the experience of Babanakayama, which attempted to do so more quickly and assertively than other communities. The village was even showcased by NHK, Japan’s national broadcaster, as a role model for quick response to the tsunami because of its community ties and the leadership of one of its two chiefs, Kurayoshi Abe, 61, a strong-willed fisherman who led a cleanup without waiting for the government.

“We didn’t depend on the government, we moved first,” Mr. Abe said.

But villagers said that the cleanup was the easy part.

As the dust settled, a group of village leaders began holding meetings at evacuation shelters and planning for the future. Deciding that it was best to move the destroyed coastal houses together to a hilly area behind the village, they undertook the difficult task of asking about 50 landowners in the area for permission to build the Road to the Future.

“They felt that they had to do it right away, when everyone’s memories of the tsunami were still fresh,” said Kaoru Chiba, 36, whose father was one of the leaders behind the road’s construction. “Otherwise, if they waited, they wouldn’t get the cooperation of the landowners.”

All of the landowners agreed, except a critical one, Ichiro Miura, 60, the other village chief.

Like many victims of the tsunami, Mr. Miura was worried that he would not be able to afford to build a new house, even if land was secured. Although the central government will provide land, people will be responsible for building their homes. For those unable to do so, the government has indicated it will build public housing — a bigger priority than high ground for some.

“All they keep talking about is moving to high ground,” Mr. Miura said of the villagers supporting the road construction. “But I’m now 60 years old. Even if we’re allowed to move to high ground, how will I build a house there? What bank is going to lend me money at the age of 60?”

Despite opposition by Mr. Miura and others, the group behind the Road to the Future pressed ahead in July. The road bed was laid down in a matter of days.

Ichiro Sasaki, 64, a group leader, defended the decision. “It’s not as if we unilaterally went ahead and built the road. We had the landowners’ O.K. — well, all but one,” he said. “Now, there’s no progress at all in transferring the village to high ground, neither here nor anywhere else.”

Indeed, the proposed site along the Road to the Future is not being considered for a future settlement partly because of a lack of village consensus, said Akira Oikawa, the head of reconstruction in Minamisanriku, the town that oversees Babanakayama, even though there is enough land there “to accommodate all the houses.”

So far, no alternative land has come up. Owners of mountains here are reluctant to sell to the government because of the low prices offered; though of little value, mountains have been passed down for generations and are of sentimental value to many families.

“If they are offering such low prices, no one will sell,” said Kunihisa Oikawa, 59, the owner of a mountain here. “Any talk of moving to high ground will be swept away.”

More than anything else, some villagers say, the split that has emerged in Babanakayama makes it increasingly difficult, if not impossible, to move together to high ground. Perhaps homeowners will be forced to move up separately or rebuild along the coast.

“We should all be working together,” Yoshihiro Miura, 46, a fisherman, said in an exasperated tone as he wove rope by the port. “But even in this little village, there’s this kind of wrangling. It’s just human nature.”


http://www.nytimes.com/2012/01/01/world/asia/in-babanakayama-japan-road-to-future-leads-nowhere.html?_r=1&ref=world

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« Reply #5867 on: Jan 1st, 2012, 07:08am »

LA Times

Rash of arson fires continues, spreads across wider area

The attacks range from the Westside to Hollywood and from the San Fernando Valley south to Lennox. The Los Angeles police and fire departments lead a multi-agency campaign across the county.

By Andrew Blankstein, David Zahniser and Joe Mozingo, Los Angeles Times
January 1, 2012

A rash of arson fires in the dark of night set Los Angeles on edge over New Year's Eve, and authorities deployed hundreds of extra firefighters, patrol cars, undercover officers and helicopters to stop the attacks.

On Saturday night, firefighters rushed to multiple fires, quickly extinguishing a vehicle fire in a Hollywood carport and responding to another in the massive parking structure at Hollywood Boulevard and Highland Avenue. Those blazes followed at least 38 other suspicious fires between Thursday night and Saturday morning, making it the worst wave of arson since the 1992 riots.

"Whoever is doing this is really messing with people's lives," said Los Angeles Fire Capt. Jamie Moore.

Most of the blazes were started on automobiles, but some spread to homes and apartments. The attacks ranged from the Westside to Hollywood and from the San Fernando Valley south to Lennox. By Saturday night, the Los Angeles police and fire departments were leading a multi-agency campaign across the county.

"We're pulling out all the stops," Los Angeles Fire Department spokesman Brian Humphrey said. "We're hoping that the person or people responsible will be brought to swift and complete justice."

Extra firefighters were reporting to stations across Los Angeles, Santa Monica, Burbank and Glendale, while investigators set up a telephone hotline, interviewed witnesses and ran down tips. Officials announced at least $35,000 in rewards for information leading to a conviction in the case.

"We've reassigned detectives from Major Crimes Division and Robbery-Homicide, exclusively to find who's doing this," said LAPD Cmdr. Andrew Smith. "We've got dozens of detectives working around the clock."

Police arrested two people Friday on suspicion of lighting fires, but said they were not suspects in the arson rampage. Based on witness interviews, authorities said they were searching for a man driving a white and tan mid-1990s Lexus ES300. However, the large number of fires sparked over the two-day period led law enforcement sources to speculate that more than one arsonist was at large.

The sources, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the case was open, said it's possible some of the blazes were the work of copycats.

The fires occurred when many people were enjoying the holidays with friends and family.

Sidni Appleseed Myles, 42, said she heard an explosion in the carport underneath her North Hollywood apartment about 2 a.m. Saturday.

Seeing the flames out the window, Myles ran outside in her nightgown with an out-of-town guest and her two teenage daughters, screaming, "Fire!"

The tenants dashed out to find four cars engulfed in flames that then reached to the balcony and ignited an outer wall of Myles' apartment on Colfax Avenue.

"You can't believe the inferno that was there. It was incredible," said her friend, Ray Carroll, a teacher from New Jersey.

"I'm just glad to be alive," said Myles.

Carl Lybecker, 32, who lived next door to the Colfax apartments, said it was sheer luck that no one was injured.

"The scary part is being so vulnerable in the middle of the night," he said. "These people woke up. But what if they were sleeping? What if they had been taking sleep medication?"

A few blocks away in Valley Village, Josh Mills and his wife were alarmed about the fires in their old West Hollywood neighborhood as they watched the news Friday evening. "I can't believe this," Mills said.

Then, as they slept around 2 a.m., someone pounded on their door and yelled, "Your car's on fire!"

At first, Mills thought it might be a ruse for a home-invasion robbery. But his wife looked out the window and saw flames under his BMW sedan parked on the street.

Mills, 43, ran into the cold night in his pajamas. A small fire was burning from what looked like a rag or newspaper under his engine. He thought about trying to kick it away, but decided it was too dangerous. In seconds, the fire spread beneath the hood. The front tires exploded "like bombs," then the back tires burst, he said. Within a few minutes, the car was consumed.

Fire officials declined to discuss how the fires were set, but Mills said arson investigators told him that the fire may have been started with Sterno fuel.

"It's the holiday season, goodwill toward men, and here's somebody who's definitely not understanding that," Mills said.

In Sun Valley, Steve Diaz, 26, and Michelle Villegas, 25, woke up around 2:20 a.m. after hearing windows shattering in their co-op apartment building. Villegas called 911 and then they struggled to find their way as smoke poured in.

"As soon as we went out, the heat burned your face," said Diaz, a lab technician.

Firefighters were already there and guided them to safety. But the couple lost their car, parked in the carport, and maybe their home. At least eight apartments, including theirs, were seriously damaged.

"I don't know that it's even sunk in yet, what's happened," said Diaz.

In all, 12 vehicles burned in the Valley early Saturday, three in the Wilshire Division of the LAPD, one on the Westside and one in Lennox, officials said. The night before, 21 fires broke out, mostly around Hollywood and West Hollywood. Authorities said a conservative estimate of property damage was $350,000.

Police asked people to leave lights on in carports and parking structures, and to report tips to 877-LAPD247 or 800-222-TIPS.


http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-arson-fires-20120101,0,2353473.story

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« Reply #5868 on: Jan 1st, 2012, 07:11am »

Reuters

Insight: Violence creeping into Mexican capital

By Ioan Grillo
MEXICO CITY | Tue Dec 27, 2011 9:54am EST

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - In a nation wracked by drug violence, this sprawling capital city of more than 20 million has been an oasis of relative peace. But the key to that calm - an informal truce among rival gangs - may be cracking.

On a sunny afternoon this month, a group of gunmen drove into a slum in the north of Mexico City, the streets packed with shoppers and children leaving school. In plain sight, the killers lined three crack cocaine dealers against a wall and shot them in the head with AK-47 assault rifles. They then forced another two men into a black van and drove away past terrified onlookers.

The killings, allegedly carried out by the bloodthirsty La Familia cartel of the central state of Michoacan, were the latest sign that the drug violence raging across large swathes of Mexico is creeping into the capital.

The drug lords have long kept a lid on turf wars in Mexico City. But a generation of upstart gangsters has this year carried out a series of massacres and decapitations on the city edges. Cells of these newer cartels have also become more active in kidnapping and shaking down local businessmen.

In the greater Mexico City area, police have reported more than 300 gangland killings this year. The carnage includes the massacre of a family of five in the Tlalpan area, a decapitation close to the wealthy business district of Santa Fe, and two headless bodies hanged from bridge in Huixquilucan in the west of the city. The death toll is up from last year, when 260 murders in the area were blamed on rival gangs.

Mexico City includes the inner Federal District, home to almost 9 million people, and another 12 million in outer suburbs and slums governed by the State of Mexico.

"A cartel crime wave here would be catastrophic," says Luis de la Barreda, head of ICESI, a Mexican think-tank on crime. "Mexico City is not only the home of all the country's major institutions, it is an image that is constantly in everyone's minds."

The capital, to be sure, remains one of the safest parts of the nation. Ciudad Juarez on the U.S. border was last year the most murderous city on the planet. The tourist resort of Acapulco has been hollowed out by violence. Even the affluent business city of Monterrey has been ravaged. But the Federal District boasts a lower homicide rate than many U.S. cities.

Many wealthy Mexicans have retreated here from violent enclaves, setting up new businesses and helping to boost property prices. Poorer families have fled from the bloodshed around the country to shanty towns on the city edges.

But there are signs the capital could go the way of other regions. The Guadalupe Victoria neighborhood - where gangsters shot dead the three alleged crack dealers in broad daylight - is typical of the slums the new cartels are moving into.

It is in the far north of the metropolitan sprawl, beneath shanty towns that spiral up dusty hills, a two-hour commute from the heart of the capital. The victims represented a problem relatively new to Mexico - a growing population of addicts and dealers who sell rocks of crack cocaine for as little as 30 pesos ($2.15).

Although the gunmen shot the alleged dealers right in front of a row of shops, store owners are too scared to talk about it. Most denied seeing anything, saying they were busy or their view was blocked.

TRUCE

Until a few years ago, when kidnappings and armed robbery were the biggest threats, Mexico City was seen as one of the most dangerous spots in the country. But it has enjoyed a relative calm while other regions were engulfed by turf wars triggered when President Felipe Calderon went after the cartels in late 2006.

The capital even seemed to be a safe place for the families of gangsters. Vicente Carrillo Leyva, son of the Juarez cartel founder, was arrested in 2009 as he exercised in the park of a plush suburb wearing an Abercrombie & Fitch jogging suit. Vicente Zambada, an heir to the rival Sinaloa cartel, was nabbed the same year driving through the upscale district of Lomas de Pedregal.

While cartel leaders kept money, houses and families in the capital, they were extremely cautious about unleashing violence on its streets. Security analysts say gangsters had a tacit understanding not to set off alarm bells in the heartland of Mexico's political power.

The murder rate tells the story. In the last three years, there were between 8 and 10 homicides for every 100,000 residents of the Federal District, police figures show. That is about half the national rate and much lower than U.S. cities like New Orleans, Baltimore and Detroit.

Meanwhile, Sinaloa state, the cradle of the drugs trade, had 81 murders per 100,000 last year. Ciudad Juarez, across from El Paso, Texas, had a horrifying rate of 272 homicides per 100,000.

The truce in the capital is now threatened by the intensity of turf wars elsewhere and the emergence of three cartels of a new ilk: La Familia, the widely-feared Zetas and a criminal cell called Mano con Ojos - or Hand With Eyes. These groups have all become major players, radicalized amid the fury of the drug war.

Many kingpins of these new cartels were once assassins and use violence as a basic form of communication instead of a last resort. The three groups have been fighting over turf in states surrounding the capital for years. Recent violence shows they may be spreading this war into the periphery of the city.

Police have hit back by raiding dozens of safe houses, busting gangsters holed up with guns, drugs and money. In some of these houses, usually rented properties in residential streets, agents have rescued terrified kidnap victims.

In one case, detectives arrested 14 men and women who allegedly formed a cell carrying out kidnappings for the Zetas cartel in the northern parts of the city. Detectives say the gangsters always demanded ransom payments in dollars and collected them at passenger bridges. One victim was a pregnant woman. The criminals cut off two of her fingers and sent them to her husband, in a box to pressure for the ransom.

Another gangster arrested in Mexico City was a leader of the Mano con Ojos gang called Oscar Osvaldo Garcia, nabbed by police in August. Garcia, a 36-year old former Mexican marine, allegedly spent many years working as a hit man for older kingpins of the Sinaloa Cartel.

But his bosses were taken down as part of Calderon's war on drugs and he began to head his own operations, recruiting young men from the Mexico City area to sell drugs, kidnap and kill.

TRAINED KILLERS

His career path underlines a central problem with Calderon's offensive. As the older kingpins are captured or killed, bloodthirsty lieutenants have risen up to fight over their empires.

"I was trained to kill," Garcia told police in videotaped testimony. He acknowledged murdering not only rival gangsters but dozens of witnesses. "They were innocent but they had seen too much. They had seen too many faces, and they had to go."

The attorney general of Mexico State, Alfredo Castillo, concedes the gangsters extort businesses in the area, a tactic of increasing concern across Mexico.

Rather than going after big companies or foreign ventures, they hit local vendors - taco stands, hardware stores and clothes stalls on the edge of the capital. Police arrested four such extortionists on December 12, alleging they were members of La Familia and shaking down businesses for 500 pesos ($36) a week each in the Cuautitlan area in the north of Mexico City.

Most of the affluent neighborhoods have not been affected. In trendy areas such as La Condesa, residents enjoy cappuccinos, sushi restaurants and Irish pubs with no sign of gunmen or soldiers.

Hugh Carroll, an offshore investment banker from Scotland, has lived here almost 10 years and hasn't felt any personal effect from the drug war. "I tend to operate in business areas, which are all very safe," Carroll says. "The worst thing that ever happened to me is that I was mugged a few years ago, but that can happen anywhere in the world."

Mexico's biggest security company, Multisistemas de Seguridad, still considers Mexico City a relatively low risk area. "In places close to the border such as Tamaulipas, there are real warlike conditions, but we have seen nothing like that here," says company spokesman Gabriel Avalos. "The incursion of these cartels is worrying, but it hasn't yet had a major effect on violence in the city."

Avalos says the Federal District's government, led by Mayor Marcelo Ebrard, has helped keep wealthier neighborhoods safe. After visiting London, Ebrard set out to install 8,000 cameras by 2012, when he leaves office. These eyes in the sky are on many street corners in plush districts and have been used to catch muggers and other criminals.

The Federal District's police officers are more effective than those in much of Mexico. While the rest of the country has different state and municipal police forces that often fight each other, the Federal District has a unified force.

"If other Mexican police forces were to follow this model it would be a positive development," says Jon French, a former U.S. State Department official who runs a Mexico City-based security consultancy.

With the city still relatively secure, Mexicans continue to take refuge here.

Diego Viloro moved from his native town of Uruapan, Michoacan to settle here in February. Uruapan was the scene of one of the first high-profile atrocities of the war when thugs rolled five severed heads onto a nightclub dance floor in 2006.

more after the jump
http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/12/27/us-mexico-mexicocity-violence-idUSTRE7BQ0BQ20111227

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« Reply #5869 on: Jan 1st, 2012, 07:30am »

Seattle New Year's Eve Fireworks


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« Reply #5870 on: Jan 1st, 2012, 5:30pm »

West Florida boy critically wounded by celebratory gunfire

By the CNN Wire Staff
Sun January 1, 2012

(CNN) -- A west Florida boy is in critical condition after a bullet apparently fired skyward during a New Year's celebration went into his head, authorities said Sunday.

The 12-year-old boy was sitting in the front yard of his Ruskin, Florida, home watching fireworks around 1 a.m. Sunday when he fell to the ground, bleeding from the nose and eyes, Larry McKinnon of the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office said Sunday in a statement.

The victim's mother drove him to South Bay Hospital in Sun City Center, where doctors determined that a gunshot had gone through the top of the boy's head. The child was then transported to Tampa General Hospital, where he was in critical condition Sunday afternoon with the bullet still lodged in his head, McKinnon said.

http://www.cnn.com/2012/01/01/us/florida-celebratory-gunfire/index.html?hpt=hp_t3
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« Reply #5871 on: Jan 2nd, 2012, 08:43am »

on Jan 1st, 2012, 5:30pm, Swamprat wrote:
West Florida boy critically wounded by celebratory gunfire

By the CNN Wire Staff
Sun January 1, 2012

(CNN) -- A west Florida boy is in critical condition after a bullet apparently fired skyward during a New Year's celebration went into his head, authorities said Sunday.

The 12-year-old boy was sitting in the front yard of his Ruskin, Florida, home watching fireworks around 1 a.m. Sunday when he fell to the ground, bleeding from the nose and eyes, Larry McKinnon of the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office said Sunday in a statement.

The victim's mother drove him to South Bay Hospital in Sun City Center, where doctors determined that a gunshot had gone through the top of the boy's head. The child was then transported to Tampa General Hospital, where he was in critical condition Sunday afternoon with the bullet still lodged in his head, McKinnon said.

http://www.cnn.com/2012/01/01/us/florida-celebratory-gunfire/index.html?hpt=hp_t3


Happy New Year Swamprat!

Poor little soul. I'll never understand why people pull out guns and start shooting.

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« Reply #5872 on: Jan 2nd, 2012, 08:47am »

New York Times

January 2, 2012
Iran Tests Naval Cruise Missile
By HARVEY MORRIS

LONDON — Iran announced on Monday that it had successfully test fired a cruise missile during naval exercises near the Strait of Hormuz that have heightened tensions in a diplomatic standoff over Tehran’s nuclear ambitions.

The state news agency IRNA said the missile test was carried out on Monday, the final day of 10 days of maneuvers near the strait, the vital oil-exporting waterway. IRNA quoted Adm. Mahmoud Mousavi, a spokesman for the exercises, as saying the surface-to-sea missile, known as the Qader, struck its targets with precision and destroyed them.

Iran had previously announced that it intended to test a missile during the exercises, raising fears that it might try to close the strategic Strait of Hormuz in retaliation for tougher international sanctions.

The Qader missile was unveiled in August. It was said to be capable of striking warships at a range of about 125 miles, a distance that would include some American forces in the Gulf region.

Despite threats from some Iranian officials to disrupt shipping through the narrow passage, Admiral Mousavi was quoted as saying on Sunday: “We won’t disrupt traffic through the Strait of Hormuz. We are not after this.”

The announcement of the latest missile test came after Iran’s nuclear agency said its scientists had produced their first nuclear fuel rod despite a sanctions regime to curb a nuclear program Iran insists is peaceful.

The agency said the domestically produced rod had already been inserted into the core of Tehran’s research reactor.

The United Nations has imposed four rounds of sanctions on Iran over its refusal to halt uranium enrichment. The United States and the European Union have additionally imposed their own tough economic and financial penalties to try to curb a program they say could be used to produce a nuclear weapon.

During the exercises, the Iranian Navy also announced that it had successfully test fired a short-range surface-to-air Mehrab missile on Sunday. Adm. Habibollah Sayari of the Iranian Navy told IRNA that the message of the war games was “peace and friendship for all countries in the region.” The maneuvers sent a clear message to foreigners that they had no room in the region, IRNA quoted him as saying.


http://www.nytimes.com/2012/01/03/world/middleeast/iran-tests-naval-cruise-missile.html?_r=1&ref=world

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« Reply #5873 on: Jan 2nd, 2012, 08:50am »

LA Times

'Person of interest' detained in L.A. arson fires
January 2, 2012 | 4:23 am

Los Angeles police this morning detained and are questioning a "person of interest" in the spate of arson fires occurring around the city since Friday.

The individual, believed to be the man seen in a video police released Sunday in connection with the case, was detained near Sunset Boulevard this morning, according to an LAPD source familiar with the investigation.

However, in a statement, a Los Angeles fire official said that "it is too early to speculate if this person is responsible for the spree of arson fires."

The detention follows an early-morning frenzy of arson fires across the Hollywood area on Monday. Eleven fires were reported in two hours, beginning at 1:30 a.m., most to cars and carports in apartment complexes, police and fire officials said.

It was unclear early Monday if the fires were connected to a string of arsons in the Hollywood area.

Officials said Sunday that they have linked at least 39 fires to those arsons, which began Friday morning.

They declined to say what evidence tied the cases together or to give more information about how the fires were set. Law enforcement sources told The Times that detectives were concerned that releasing more information could prompt the arsonist or arsonists to change tactics and could encourage copycats.

An image of a "person of interest" was caught on a video that showed a car fire Saturday night inside the parking structure of the Hollywood & Highland complex on Hollywood Boulevard.

The LAPD is asking residents to leave porch and carport lights on at night and make sure cars are locked. Authorities also are asking residents to immediately report anything suspicious by calling 911.

http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/lanow/2012/01/person-of-interest-detained-in-arson-fire-investigation.html

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« Reply #5874 on: Jan 2nd, 2012, 08:53am »

LA Times

Rose Parade attendees expect little sleep before Pasadena event
January 2, 2012 | 1:49 am

In the early morning before the start of the annual Rose Parade, Pasadena's picturesque Colorado Boulevard resembled a large outdoor slumber party with vendors hawking warm hats, attendees sleeping on inflatable mattresses and many onlookers sitting around in warm pajamas.

Lupe Rosales and her family, first-time parade attendees, staked out a spot Sunday night around 6 p.m. Under the glow of a space heater, the 17-year-old Rosales said she was taken back by how many people camped out on the street.

"It's kind of crazy," she said. "We don't plan on sleeping."

Rosales added that coming to the parade this year was a last-minute decision for the Taft-area family.

Meanwhile, further down the boulevard, David and Rebecca Calderon were huddled under blankets. David, 14, was listening to music on his iPod while his sister Rebecca, 18, surfed the web from a laptop.

The Calderon clan has attended the event for four years, camping out three times.

"Its more of an experience to camp out," Rebecca said. "You get together with family."

Rebecca said that this year they've seen more activity. Pedestrians are even pelting passing cars with silly string or tortillas with whip cream, the pair added.

They brother and sister don't anticipate sleeping much, and said they look forward to seeing the creativity of the floats this year.

"It's one thing to watch it on TV," Rebecca said. "In person, you see more details and see all the hard work people put in on the floats."

http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/lanow/2012/01/rose-parade-attendees-pasadena.html

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« Reply #5875 on: Jan 2nd, 2012, 08:57am »

Science Daily

I Know Something You Don't Know!
Wild Chimpanzees Inform Ignorant Group Members of Danger
ScienceDaily (Dec. 29, 2011)

— Many animals produce alarm calls to predators, and do this more often when kin or mates are present than other audience members. So far, however, there has been no evidence that they take the other group members' knowledge state into account. Researchers from the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, and the University of St. Andrews, Great Britain, set up a study with wild chimpanzees in Uganda and found that chimpanzees were more likely to alarm call to a snake in the presence of unaware than in the presence of aware group members, suggesting that they recognize knowledge and ignorance in others.

Furthermore, to share new information with others by means of communication represents a crucial stage in the evolution of language. This study thus suggests that this stage was already present when our common ancestor split off from chimps 6 million years ago.

The ability to recognize another individuals' knowledge and beliefs may be unique to humankind. Tests of a "theory of mind" in animals have been mainly conducted in captivity and have yielded conflicting results: Some non-human primates can read others' intentions and know what others see, but they may not understand that, in others, perception can lead to knowledge. When there are negative results, however, the question remains whether chimpanzees really cannot do the task or whether they simply do not understand it. "The advantage of addressing these questions in wild chimpanzees is that they are simply doing what they always do in an ecologically relevant setting," says Catherine Crockford, a researcher at the University of St. Andrews.

Catherine Crockford, Roman Wittig and colleagues set up a study with wild chimpanzees in Budongo Forest, Uganda. They presented them with models of dangerous venomous snakes, two gaboon vipers and one rhinoceros viper. "As these highly camouflaged snakes sit in one place for weeks, it pays for the chimp who discovers it to inform other community members about the danger," says Crockford.

The researchers have monitored the behavior of 33 different chimpanzees, who saw one of three snake models and found that alarm calls were produced more when the caller was with group members who had either not seen the snake or had not been present when alarm calls were emitted. "Chimpanzees really seem to take another's knowledge state into account and voluntarily produce a warning call to inform the others of a danger that they [the others] do not know about," says Roman Wittig of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology and the University of St. Andrews. "In contrast, chimpanzees were less likely to inform audience members who already know about the danger."

This study shows that these are not only intentionally produced alert calls, but that they are produced more when the audience is ignorant of the danger. "It is as if the chimpanzees really understand that they know something the audience does not AND they understand that by producing a specific vocalization they can provide the audience with that information," concludes Wittig. Some scientists suggest that providing group members with missing information by means of communication is a crucial stage in the evolution of language: why inform audience members if you do not realize they need the information? Until now it was not clear at what point in hominoid or hominid evolution this stage evolved. It has been assumed that it was more likely to be during hominid evolution. This study suggests, however, that it was already present when our common ancestor split off from chimps 6 million years ago.

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/12/111229131234.htm

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« Reply #5876 on: Jan 2nd, 2012, 09:03am »

Hollywood Reporter

Box Office Report: 'M:I 4' Nears $350 Mil; Steven Spielberg's 'War Horse' Gets New Year's Eve Boost
11:25 AM PST 1/1/2012
by Pamela McClintock

Despite a year-end holiday uptick, the 2011 domestic box office was down 3.4 percent from 2010, while attendance tumbled to a 16-year low.

Paramount's Tom Cruise-starrer Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol continued to tower over the competition as moviegoers rang in 2012, grossing $31.3 million for the three-day New Year's weekend for a domestic total of $134.2 million.

Paramount estimates that Ghost Protocol, directed by Brad Bird, will earn another $8.7 million on Monday--a national holiday--for a projected domestic cume of $142.9 million. Overseas, the tentpole has sailed past the $200 million mark, although final figures for the weekend won't be available until Monday. All in, Ghost Protocol will likely earn $600 million globally, a franchise best.

Steven Spielberg's War Horse made news when moving up the box office chart to No. 4, grossing $16.9 million for the three-day weekend and putting the film's eight-day cume at $43 million. The DreamWorks film, which Disney is distributing, was up more than 22 percent on Saturday, the biggest jump of any film in wide release and indicating the pic is playing well with adults.

At the specialty box office, the Weinstein Co.'s Meryl Streep-starrer The Iron Lady bowed to impressive numbers over the three-day weekend, grossing $221,752 from four theaters in New York and Los Angeles for a screen average of $55,438. Phyllida Lloyd directed the film, about former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.

Sony Pictures Classics also did nicely with Iranian film A Separation, which debuted to $66,598 from three theaters for a screen average of $22,199.

In welcome news for the film business, New Year's Eve weekend was up at least 3 percent over last year. However, the year-end uptick wasn't enough to close the gap in domestic box office revenues. Ticket sales came in at an estimated $10.21 billion in 2011, down 3.4 percent from 2010, or roughly $370 million.

More grim was the drop in attendance, which tumbled to a 16-year low in 2011. An estimated 1.28 billion people went to the movies, down 4.21 percent from the 1.33 billion who went in 2010.

Ghost Protocol has dominated the global box throughout the year-end holidays, followed by Warner Bros.' Robert Downey Jr.-Jude Law sequel Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows and 20th Century Fox's threequel Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked.

Returning Guy Ritchie to the director's chair, Game of Shadows grossed $22.1 million over the three-day weekend for a domestic cume of $132.1 million. The sequel should end Monday north of $137 million.

Chipwrecked grossed $18.3 million for a domestic cume of $94.6 million. The 3D toon should near $100 million on Monday. Both Game of Shadows and Sherlock have made up ground after muted openings over the Dec. 16-18 weekend.

Sony's R-rated adult drama grossed $16.3 million for the three-days for a domestic total of $57.1 million. The David Fincher-directed film, starring Daniel Craig and Rooney Mara, is expected to end Monday just north of $60 million. MGM is a partner on the film.

Fox's second holiday film We Bought a Zoo, directed by Cameron Crowe and starring Matt Damon and Scarlett Johansson, grossed $14.3 million for a domestic cume of $41.8 million. The movie should be right around $45 million by the end of Monday.

We Bought a Zoo, designed to be an all-audience film, has lagged since its debut on Dec. 23 and found itself bunched in with fellow family-friendly film The Adventures of Tintin, also directed by Spielberg.

Tintin, opening on Dec. 21, grossed $12 million for the weekend and is projected to end Monday with a domestic cume of $51 million. The film is a runaway success overseas, where it has earned nearly $250 million, pushing the movie's worldwide gross to $300 million.

Zoo cost just under $50 million to produce, while Tintin cost well north of $100 million. War Horse's production budget was north of $70 million.

As with wide releases, Monday should be a strong day for Iron Lady and other awards contenders, including Focus Features' Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, which has quietly blossomed into an arthouse hit. The British film, produced by Working Title, grossed $1.2 million over the three-day weekend from 57 locations for a domestic cume of $4 million and screen average of $20,360.

The Weinstein Co.'s awards darling The Artist also posted impressive numbers, grossing $1.4 million from 167 theaters for a cume of $5.1 million and weekend screen average of $8,432.

Warner Bros.' awards entry Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close grossed $106,00 from six theaters for a cume of $308,000 and screen average of $17,667.


http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/box-office-report-mission-impossible-war-horse-277138

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« Reply #5877 on: Jan 3rd, 2012, 09:10am »

New York Times

January 2, 2012
German President’s Call to Paper Reignites Scandal Over Loan
By ERIC PFANNER

A smoldering political scandal that could harm Chancellor Angela Merkel flared anew on Monday when Germany’s biggest newspaper confirmed that the president, Christian Wulff, had made a menacing telephone call to its editor in an unsuccessful effort to snuff out a damaging news story.

Mr. Wulff, a key ally of Mrs. Merkel, left a voicemail message last month on the mobile phone of Kai Diekmann, editor of the newspaper, Bild, in which he spoke of a “war” if the newspaper disclosed an unusual personal loan that Mr. Wulff had received from the family of a German entrepreneur.

Bild went ahead anyway, and the resulting scandal quickly consumed the news media and political classes, prompting calls for Mr. Wulff’s resignation.

The news of the president’s call to the editor, first reported by two rival German newspapers, Süddeutsche Zeitung and Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung, intensifies the political pressure on Mr. Wulff, who is widely judged to have handled the scandal poorly, providing vague and grudging explanations about the loan.

The episode has embarrassed Mrs. Merkel as she seeks to muster political capital to deal with the euro crisis. The post of president is largely ceremonial in Germany, but as head of state, he or she is also seen as the ultimate defender of the Constitution, in which freedom of the press is enshrined.

The chancellor championed Mr. Wulff in 2010 at a special parliamentary assembly to succeed Horst Köhler, who resigned as president after appearing to suggest that the German military should take a more active role in defense of the country’s economic interests. Although Mrs. Merkel ultimately succeeded in getting Mr. Wulff elected, it took three rounds of voting. In the first round, 44 members of her own party humiliated Mrs. Merkel by voting against Mr. Wulff.

In a statement on Monday, Mr. Wulff neither confirmed nor denied the latest allegations. “Freedom of the press is an important value for the president,” his office said. “But the president categorically declines to discuss off-the-record conversations and telephone calls.”

The news was met with a mixture of derision and outrage from the German news media establishment, prompting an unusual degree of solidarity with Bild, which uses a mix of sex, scandal and feel-good features to sell about three million copies a day.

“Prominent people have to accept critical reporting as part of freedom of speech,” Michael Konken, chairman of the German Association of Journalists, said in a statement. “No one ought to know this better than the head of state.”

The united front could make it more difficult for Mr. Wulff to cling to his post.

“Bild is Europe’s most powerful newspaper, and it is naïve to think that you can stay in office without its support,” said Steffen Burkhardt, an expert on the German media and political scandals at the University of Hamburg.

Bild said Monday on its Web site that it had decided not to report on Mr. Wulff’s threatening message to Mr. Diekmann because the president had called the editor back two days later to apologize.

Süddeutsche Zeitung and Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung did not disclose sources and did not publish transcripts of the call. But their reports, confirmed by Bild on Monday, gave new life to the imbroglio, which had fallen off front pages over the holidays.

“You always have in a scandal a first transgression and a second transgression, and the second transgression is often the one that matters more,” Mr. Burkhardt said.

In the message he left for Mr. Diekmann, Mr. Wulff reportedly threatened a lawsuit as well as a “final break” with Bild and its publisher, Axel Springer, which in the past has cultivated good relations with the Christian Democratic Union, the party of Mrs. Merkel and Mr. Wulff.

Mr. Wulff also called Mathias Döpf ner, the chief executive of Axel Springer, who rebuffed his entreaties, according to reports that were confirmed by Tobias Fröhlich, a spokesman for Bild.

The disclosures demonstrate the continuing power of Bild, a newspaper that can make or break political careers. Bild strongly supported another ally of Mrs. Merkel’s, Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg, the defense minister at the time, after the discovery that he had plagiarized parts of his doctoral thesis. He often appeared in Bild in the company of his wife, Stephanie, a campaigner against child abuse. Despite Bild’s support, however, Mr. Guttenberg eventually resigned.

Mr. Wulff, too, burnished his image in the newspaper. Through a divorce in 2006, when he was the premier of the state of Lower Saxony, and a subsequent remarriage, he was depicted in Bild photos as a family man and devoted father.

The loan under scrutiny dates from 2008, the year in which Mr. Wulff married his second wife. He got €500,000, or about $650,000, from the wife of Egon Geerkens, the entrepreneur, to help him buy a home.

After Bild disclosed the loan, Mr. Wulff faced criticism that he had been economical with the truth in previously maintaining that he had no business relationships with Mr. Geerkens, a friend. Less than two weeks after the Bild article appeared, Mr. Wulff dismissed his longtime spokesman, Olaf Glaeseker, for unexplained reasons.


http://www.nytimes.com/2012/01/03/world/europe/german-presidents-call-to-paper-reignites-scandal-over-loan.html?_r=1&ref=world

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« Reply #5878 on: Jan 3rd, 2012, 09:15am »

Telegraph

Sandringham Estate: woman discovered near Royal home was murdered

Police have launched a murder inquiry following the discovery of a woman's body on the Queen's Sandrinham Estate in Norfolk.

By Andrew Hough, and Gordon Rayner
12:06PM GMT 03 Jan 2012

Detective Chief Inspector Jes Fry said they were examining cold case files nationally to try and identify her.

Mr Fry said: "We are at the very early stages of the investigation and it could be a complex inquiry.

"The body had been there for some time. The circumstances suggest this is a murder case and we are looking at missing persons reports and cold cases both locally and nationwide."

A major police inquiry was launched after a dog walker discovered the woman's remains on New Year’s Day just a mile from the Royal Stud and less than two miles from the estate’s main residence.

Officers are carrying out a “detailed search” throughout the area of woodland in Anger, near King’s Lynn, which is east of Sandringham House, where members of the Royal Family had gathered.

The operation was kept secret for more than 24 hours as detectives worked to establish how the body was so close to the Royal residence. A large area of the woodland had been cordoned off.

The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh, who are currently staying on the 20,000-acre (8,000-hectare) estate for their Christmas break, were informed of the discovery on Monday night.

The body was discovered shortly after the Royals attended a church service on Sunday.

A post mortem is due to take place later.

It remains unclear how long the woman's body has been there. The dog walker has also not been named.

Residents told The Daily Telegraph that the large police operation had been shrouded in secrecy.

One resident, who did not want to be named, said: “There is a heavy police presence even 24 hours after the discovery.

"You couldn't get very close to the site. Police said they expected to be there on tomorrow (Tuesday).

"It is just a stone's throw from the Stud and the Royals' house. It is very close."

Another resident, who also did not want to be named, said locals were shocked at the discovery.

"I spoke to several of my friends who work on the estate and they were at work on Monday and didn't hear anything about it," he said.

"No one knows anything about it. It has been quite a secret operation.

"The area is only used by people who work nearby, dog walkers and local residents."

He added: "It is quite a bit of a shock, given the proximity to the grounds itself. The area is really not that far from Sandringham House.

"We are all a bit stunned to be honest. It is just a really quiet area."

Mike Berman, the Chairman of Norfolk Ramblers, added: "I believe Anmer did once have a burial site which is no longer used so perhaps that may shed some light on the discovery."

A Buckingham Palace spokeswoman declined to comment, referring inquiries to police.

The details emerged just days after the Duke, 90, left Papworth Hospital, Cambridgeshire, where he was treated for a blocked artery after suffering chest pains.

The Duke’s heart scare forced him to miss the annual celebrations, including the annual Boxing Day shoot.

He was airlifted to hospital from Sandringham on December 23 and kept under observation for four nights after undergoing the “minimally invasive procedure” of coronary stenting, which was declared a success.

The Queen, who makes it her official base until February, was seen riding on the estate on Monday morning.

The 85-year-old year-old wore only a headscarf and the hood of her long blue waxed jacket for protection as she rode a chestnut coloured horse.

She emerged in the winter sunshine a few minutes later on horseback, accompanied by a smartly-dressed male groom on a white horse who was wearing a proper black riding hat in case he fell off.

Sandringham has served as a private residence for Royal Family since 1862. King George V, the queen's grandfather, once called "dear old Sandringham ... (the) place I love better than anywhere in the world".

Around half of the estate is let to farm tenants, with much of the remainder used for forestry.

In October The Daily Telegraph disclosed that the remains of an American man had been lying near Buckingham Palace for years.

Robert James Moore sent hundreds of letters to the Queen and was driven by his obsession to set up home within sight of Buckingham Palace, on an island in St James’s Park.

But somehow his camp that he set up by went unnoticed until a tree surgeon uncovered the remains of his body in October, as many as three years after his death.


http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/crime/8989521/Sandringham-Estate-woman-discovered-near-Royal-home-was-murdered.html

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« Reply #5879 on: Jan 3rd, 2012, 09:20am »

Wired

Jan. 3, 1957: Electric Watch Debuts, a Space Age Marvel
By Tony Long
January 3, 2011 | 7:00 am
Categories: 20th century, Gadgets, Inventions

1957: The Hamilton Electric 500 is announced at a press conference. It is the first battery-operated electric wristwatch and the first to never need winding.

The 500 was made by the Hamilton Watch Company of Lancaster, Pennsylvania, which began developing the timepiece in 1946. Eleven years later, that development was not yet complete but the company, feeling the pressure of competition and wanting badly to be the first out the door with this innovation, called the press conference and went into production.

It was an instant hit at a time when “progress” was the watchword and all eyes looked expectantly to the future. And it was, briefly, the “watch of the future,” with its ultramodern design and cutting-edge technology. But there were fundamental problems with the 500 that soon became apparent.

Battery life was relatively short, for one thing, so while winding was no longer necessary, frequent battery replacement — in some ways a more arduous chore — was. And “newer” doesn’t always mean “better,” which the 500 proved by being prone to failure, making it less reliable than the standard wind-up watch.

In the end, though, Hamilton’s technology was not only flawed, but transitional: The watch’s hands were driven by a complex wheel train. By the late 1960s, quartz movements — with many fewer parts — had arrived, and Hamilton ended production in 1969.

The 500 is now a highly prized collectors’ piece.

http://www.wired.com/thisdayintech/2011/01/0103electric-watch/

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