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 veryhotthread  Author  Topic: Stuff & Nonsense  (Read 44941 times)
WingsofCrystal
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« Reply #5925 on: Jan 9th, 2012, 2:00pm »

Wired Science


India Reports Completely Drug-Resistant TB

By Maryn McKenna
January 9, 2012 | 2:22 pm
Categories: Science Blogs, Superbug

Well, this is a bad way to start the year.

Over the past 48 hours, news has broken in India of the existence of at least 12 patients infected with tuberculosis that has become resistant to all the drugs used against the disease. Physicians in Mumbai are calling the strain TDR, for Totally Drug-Resistant. In other words, it is untreatable as far as they know.

News of some of the cases was published Dec. 21 in an ahead-of-print letter to the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases, which just about everyone missed, including me. (But not, thankfully, including the hyper-alert global-health blogger Crawford Kilian, to whom hat-tip.) That letter describes the discovery and treatment of four cases of TDR-TB since last October. On Saturday, the Times of India disclosed that there are actually 12 known cases just in one hospital, the P. D. Hinduja National Hospital and Medical Research Centre; in the article, Hinduja’s Dr. Amita Athawale admits, “The cases we clinically isolate are just the tip of the iceberg.” And as a followup, the Hindustan Times reported yesterday that most hospitals in the city — by extension, most Indian cities — don’t have the facilities to identify the TDR strain, making it more likely that unrecognized cases can go on to infect others.

Why this is bad news: TB is already one of the world’s worth killers, up there with malaria and HIV/AIDS, accounting for 9.4 million cases and 1.7 million deaths in 2009 according to the WHO. At the best of times, TB treatment is difficult, requiring at least 6 months of pill combinations that have unpleasant side effects and must be taken long after the patient begins to feel well.

Because of the mismatch between treatment and symptoms, people often don’t take their full course of drugs — and from that (and some other factors I’ll talk about in a minute) we get multi-drug resistant and extensively drug-resistant, MDR and XDR, TB. MDR is resistant to the first-choice drugs, requiring that patients instead be treated with a larger cocktail of “second-line” agents, which are less effective, have more side effects, and take much longer to effect a cure, sometimes 2 years or more. XDR is resistant to the three first-line drugs and several of the nine or so drugs usually recognized as being second choice.

As of last spring, according to the WHO, there were about 440,000 cases of MDR-TB per year, accounting for 150,000 deaths, and 25,000 cases of XDR. At the time, the WHO predicted there would be 2 million MDR or XDR cases in the word by 2012.

That was before TDR-TB.

The first cases, as it turns out, were not these Indian ones, but an equally under-reported cluster of 15 patients in Iran in 2009. They were embedded in a larger outbreak of 146 cases of MDR-TB, and what most worried the physicians who saw them was that the drug resistance was occurring in immigrants and cross-border migrants as well as Iranians: Half of the patients were Iranian, and the rest Afghan, Azerbaijani and Iraqi. The Iranian team raised the possibility at the time that rates of TDR were higher than they knew, especially in border areas where there would be little diagnostic capacity or even basic medical care.

The Indian cases disclosed before Christmas demonstrate what happens when TB patients don’t get good medical care. The letter to CID describes the course of four of the 12 patients; all four saw two to four doctors during their illness, and at least three got multiple, partial courses of the wrong antibiotics. The authors say this is not unusual:

The vast majority of these unfortunate patients seek care from private physicians in a desperate attempt to find a cure for their tuberculosis. This sector of private-sector physicians in India is among the largest in the world and these physicians are unregulated both in terms of prescribing practice and qualifications. A study that we conducted in Mumbai showed that only 5 of 106 private practitioners practicing in a crowded area called Dharavi could prescribe a correct prescription for a hypothetical patient with MDR tuberculosis. The majority of prescriptions were inappropriate and would only have served to further amplify resistance, converting MDR tuberculosis to XDR tuberculosis and TDR tuberculosis.

As their comment suggests, the other TB challenge is diagnosis, especially of resistant strains, and here again the news is not good. The WHO said last spring that only two-thirds of countries with resistant TB epidemics have the lab capacity to detect the resistant strains. As a result, only one MDR patient out of every 10 even gets into treatment, and when they do, cure rates range from 82 percent down to 25 percent. That’s for MDR. None of the TDR patients have been recorded cured, and at least one of the known Indian patients has died.

Meanwhile, health authorities estimate that one patient with active TB can infect up to 15 others. And thus resistant TB spreads: XDR-TB was first identified just in 2006, and it has since been found in 69 countries around the world.

http://www.wired.com/wiredscience/2012/01/invincible-tb-india/

Crystal

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« Reply #5926 on: Jan 10th, 2012, 08:00am »

New York Times

January 10, 2012
Syrian Leader Vows ‘Iron Fist’ to Crush ‘Conspiracy’
By ANTHONY SHADID

BEIRUT — In his first public address in months, President Bashar al-Assad of Syria on Tuesday lashed out at the Arab League for isolating Syria, taunted rebels as traitors and vowed to subdue what he cast as a foreign-backed plot against his country.

“We will defeat this conspiracy,” Mr. Assad declared in a nearly two-hour speech.

The address reiterated what has become a familiar refrain as Mr. Assad faces his greatest challenge in more than 11 years of authoritarian rule — a pledge to crush what he has cast as terrorism and sabotage, complemented by somewhat vague promises of reform. The tenor of his remarks, and seeming show of confidence, underscored the irreconcilable nature of Syria’s crisis, pitting a protest movement that demands Mr. Assad leave against a government that rarely acknowledges their grievances.

Mr. Assad denied his government had ordered security forces to open fire on anyone, despite a death toll that the United Nations says has spiraled beyond 5,000 since mid-March in a relentless crackdown. He promised a referendum on a new Constitution in March, a step that seemed to pale before the enormity of the crisis — the bloodiest of the uprisings that began to sweep the Arab world more than a year ago.

“When I rule, I rule because that it is the people’s will and when I leave office, I leave because it is the people’s will,” Mr. Assad said.

Syria’s uprising has seemingly entered a more complicated, even confusing stage, as protests in some locales appear revived in past weeks and armed elements of the opposition claim to have grown emboldened by the appearance of more defectors.

Attacks in the capital Damascus have killed scores over the past month. The government has blamed those bombings on foreign-backed terrorists; the opposition claims the government has cynically carried them out on its own to sully the protesters’ image.

In his speech, broadcast on Syrian television, Mr. Assad drew parallels between those attacks and an Islamist revolt in the late 1970s and early 1980s that threatened the hold on power of Mr. Assad’s father, Hafez, who ruled the country for three decades.

“There can be no let-up for terrorism — it must be hit with an iron fist,” he said. “The battle with terrorism is a battle for everyone, a national battle, not only the government’s battle.” Occasionally interrupted by applause, he added “victory is near.”

In some ways, the speech was a rhetorical settling of accounts. He ridiculed the Arab League, which suspended Syria’s membership in November, a humiliating step against a country that has long seen itself as an axis of the Arab world. In what his critics may view as arrogance, he dismissed Persian Gulf states as countries without culture. Qatar, in particular, has led the region’s efforts to further isolate Mr. Assad’s government.

“Countries can rent and import some history with their money, but money does not make nations and cultures,” Mr. Assad, in a not very veiled reference to the gulf.

He made fun of protesters’ designation of themselves as revolutionaries.

“This is not a revolution,” Mr. Assad told an audience that chanted his name at the speech’s end. “Is it possible that he is a revolutionary and a traitor at the same time? This is impossible. If there were true revolutionaries, we would be walking together.”

Omar Idlibi, a spokesman with the Local Coordination Committees, an opposition group, called Mr. Assad’s speech another instance of the government’s obliviousness to the depth of the challenge it faces by way of protests and discontent in many regions.

“For 10 months, the regime is living in denial,” Mr. Idlibi said by phone. “They’re denying reality. He doesn’t want to recognize the changes that occurred until today.”


http://www.nytimes.com/2012/01/11/world/middleeast/syrian-leader-vows-to-crush-conspiracy.html?hp

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« Reply #5927 on: Jan 10th, 2012, 08:04am »

LA Times


Japan to release three activists who boarded whaling vessel
January 10, 2012 | 4:00 am
by John M. Glionna

REPORTING FROM SEOUL -– Bringing a diplomatic end to an unwieldy high-seas drama, three Australian anti-whaling protesters detained after boarding a Japanese vessel in the Indian Ocean will be released to Australian authorities, the government in Canberra announced Tuesday.

The trio, who illegally boarded a whaling support vessel, the Shonan Maru 2, in the darkness on Sunday, will not be charged under an agreement with the Japanese government, Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard's office told reporters.

But Gillard denounced the tactics that are part of the years-long battle between Japanese whalers and fierce environmentalists who want the Asian nation to stop killing whales.

"Activity of the nature undertaken by these three Australians is unacceptable," Gillard said through a spokesman. "No one should assume that because an agreement has been reached with the Japanese government in this instance, that individuals will not be charged and convicted in the future."

Japan's whaling practices have strained relations with such regional neighbors as New Zealand and Australia, both of which oppose Japanese annual whaling in the Southern Ocean around Antarctica. But officials say that the best way to halt the practice is through diplomacy and possibly international court action, not foolhardy open-ocean protests.

Australia in 2011 filed a complaint against Japan at the world court in the Hague to stop Southern Ocean scientific whaling. A decision is expected in 2013 or later.

But activist groups such as the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society have kept up the pressure on Japanese whaling ships, last year forcing the nation to cut short its annual whale hunt with less than a fifth of its quota. One Sea Shepherd boat sank in a collision with the Japanese fleet last year as the activists harassed the whale boats en route to the killing grounds.

In the latest incident, Sea Shepherd said the three activists reached the Japanese vessel -- a former harpoon boat that now performs a security role for the whaling fleet -- in two small boats and climbed over its rails.

They came with the message, "Return us to shore in Australia and then remove yourself from our waters," Sea Shepherd said.

Along with Iceland and Norway, Japan is one of one three countries that hunt whales. The nation introduced scientific whaling to skirt the commercial whaling ban under a 1986 moratorium, insisting that it has the right to monitor the whales' effect on its fishing industry.

http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/world_now/2012/01/japan-whaling-industry-sea-shepherd-environmental-protests.html

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« Reply #5928 on: Jan 10th, 2012, 08:20am »

Defense News

China Criticizes New U.S. Defense Policy
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE
Published: 9 Jan 2012 09:09

BEIJING - Beijing said Jan. 9 that a new U.S. defense strategy focused on countering China's rising power was based on "groundless" charges, and insisted it posed no threat to any nation.

U.S. President Barack Obama unveiled the strategy Jan. 5, calling for a leaner U.S. military focused on the Asia-Pacific region and signaling a shift away from large ground wars against insurgents.

But China, whose People's Liberation Army has benefited from a huge and expanding budget boosted by the nation's rapid economic growth, said the fears were baseless, urging the U.S. to "play a more constructive role."

"The charges against China in this document are groundless and untrustworthy," foreign ministry spokesman Liu Weimin said in response to a question from state media about whether China poses a threat to U.S. security.

Liu was referring to the strategy document released last week, which said the growth of China's military power "must be accompanied by greater clarity of its strategic intentions in order to avoid causing friction in the region."

"To maintain the peace, stability and prosperity of the Asia-Pacific region serves the common interest of all countries within the region," Liu added. "We hope the U.S. side will play a more constructive role to this end."

Washington's focus on Asia is fueled by concerns over China's growing navy and its arsenal of anti-ship missiles that could jeopardize U.S. military dominance in the Pacific. China's responses to recent U.S. moves to boost its military presence in Asia - including the deployment of up to 2,500 Marines to northern Australia - have so far been restrained.

China's official Xinhua news agency said Jan. 6 it welcomed a bigger U.S. presence in Asia as "conducive to regional stability and prosperity," while urging it against "warmongering."

China "adheres to the path of peaceful development, upholds an independent foreign policy of peace and a defense policy that is defensive in nature," Liu said. "Our national defense modernization serves the objective requirements of national security and development and also plays an active role in maintaining regional peace and security. It will not pose any threat to any country."

http://www.defensenews.com/story.php?i=8791138&c=ASI&s=TOP

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« Reply #5929 on: Jan 10th, 2012, 08:25am »

Telegraph

Roman cavalry helmet found in Iron Age shrine may prove Britons fought with legions

A 2,000-year-old Roman cavalry helmet has shed new light on the conquest of Britain after experts pieced it back together 10 years since its discovery in an Iron Age shrine.


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The 'Hallaton Helmet' a 2,000-year-old Roman helmet found at an old Iron Age site at Hallaton in Leciestershire in 2002 is to go on display at the Harborough Museum
Photo: Christopher Pledger



12:59PM GMT 10 Jan 2012

Constructed of sheet iron, the helmet, once decorated with gold leaf, is the only one to have been found in Britain with its silver gilt plating intact.

The helmet features scenes of Roman military victory, including the bust of a woman flanked by lions, and a Roman Emperor on horseback with the goddess Victory flying behind and a cowering figure, possibly a native Briton, being trampled under his horse's hooves.

The object is believed to have been buried in the years around Roman Emperor Claudius's invasion of Britain in AD43.

The ''distinct possibility'' that it belonged to a Briton serving in the Roman cavalry before the conquest of Britain raises questions about the relationship between Romans and Britons.

It is thought that the helmet may have been buried at what was a local shrine on the Briton's return to the East Midlands, as a gift to the gods.

It was unearthed in Hallaton, Leicestershire, after a retired design and technology teacher detected coins with his second-hand metal detector, which he had bought for just £260.

After he called in experts, more than 5,000 coins, the remains of a feast of suckling pigs, ingots and the helmet's ear guard were among the treasures discovered.

Coins from both the British Iron Age and the Roman Empire were found together for the first time.

The helmet and its cheek pieces were restored from 1,000 fragments by experts at the British Museum and bought by Leicestershire County Council to go on display at Harborough Museum, just nine miles from where it was buried 2,000 years ago.

Metals conservation expert Marilyn Hockey began unearthing the fragments ''out of a big lump of soil'' at the British Museum three years ago.

She said: ''Working our way down this enormous lump of clay, we discovered at the bottom some amazing finds ... the Emperor cheek piece told us it was something really special.

''To get something straight out of the soil like this is like gold. You can find out so much from it.''

Jeremy Hill, head of research at the British Museum, said his ''mouth dropped'' when he saw the object pieced back together.

He said that the helmet had helped ''change our understanding of what Britain was like just before the Roman conquest''.

He said: ''Every book on the Roman conquest of Britain is going to have a picture of that helmet in it now.''

''Just as we were starting to rethink the importance of East Midlands in the context of the Roman Empire, it says 'bang, you've got to rethink it', the same with the relationship between Romans and Britons.''

The helmet may also have been a diplomatic gift, to a pro-Roman population, or a spoil of war taken during a raid on a Roman camp or during battle.

Ken Wallace, 71, who first detected the treasure, and who was paid £300,000, divided with the landowner, said: ''When this ear (guard) came to the surface we knew it was going to be a Roman cavalry helmet ... But what it would look like was anybody's guess.

''It's amazing, I never thought I would see it like that. I thought I'd get to see a computer-generated impression ... I've been extremely lucky.''

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/earth/environment/archaeology/9004942/Roman-cavalry-helmet-found-in-Iron-Age-shrine-may-prove-Britons-fought-with-legions.html

Crystal

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« Reply #5930 on: Jan 10th, 2012, 08:30am »

Examiner

UFO researcher Drew Ryan Maras presumed dead after fatal shooting in Arizona

January 9th, 2012
by Tracey Parece

A 30-year-old man named Drew Ryan Maras was killed on Sunday, January 9, 2012 after he murdered a Maricopa County Sheriff's Office deputy. The incident took place in Maricopa County, Arizona. Maras was reportedly sleeping in a van in a parking lot when deputies responded to a burglary call. When the deputies woke Maras by knocking on the window of the van, he fired multiple shots striking and killing Deputy William Coleman.

Drew Ryan Maras also happens to be the name of a UFO researcher and author who self-published a book called "Open Your Eyes: To 2012 and Beyond" in 2010. He also founded a website by the same name. Topics of interest listed on his website include "UFOs and Foo Fighters Seen by Astronauts, Pilots, Military Officials, and Presidents"; "The Mass UFO Sightings Over WashingtoD.C. and the Capitol Building in 1952"; and "UFO Truth Preserved in Paint & Hieroglyphic Inscriptions."

So, the question is: Are Drew Ryan Maras, the deceased, and Drew Ryan Maras, the UFO researcher and author, the same man? Unfortunately, that information hasn't been disclosed yet. According to Phoenix New Times Blogs, "The Sheriff's Office won't confirm to New Times whether the Drew Ryan Maras who shot Deputy William Coleman Sunday morning is the author . . ." In addition, emails sent to the author's address have gone unanswered and he is no longer updating his Facebook page.

Drew Ryan Maras, the UFO researcher and author, lists Arizona MUFON and Arizona State as interests on his Facebook page. Of course, that's no proof that he is the same man shot and killed in Arizona over the weekend, only that he has some ties to the state.

http://m.examiner.com/unexplained-phenomena-in-national/ufo-researcher-drew-ryan-maras-presumed-dead-after-fatal-shooting-arizona

Crystal

(Sunday was 8 January, Crystal)
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« Reply #5931 on: Jan 10th, 2012, 08:46am »

Interview with Angelia Joiner:
http://www.theufochronicles.com/2012/01/ufo-news-western-white-house-ufo.html

Don't know if it's a new one, got to ask her about that.
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« Reply #5932 on: Jan 10th, 2012, 4:14pm »

Figured I haven't posted any pics since quite a long time.

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« Reply #5933 on: Jan 10th, 2012, 4:14pm »

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« Reply #5934 on: Jan 10th, 2012, 4:37pm »

Thanks Phil! grin
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« Reply #5935 on: Jan 11th, 2012, 07:22am »

New York Times

January 11, 2012
Blaming U.S. and Israel, Iran Reports Killing of Nuclear Scientist
By ALAN COWELL and RICK GLADSTONE

LONDON — At a time of growing tension over its nuclear program and mounting belligerence toward the West, Iran reported on Wednesday that an Iranian nuclear scientist died in what was termed a “terrorist bomb blast” in northern Tehran when an unidentified motorcyclist attached a magnetic explosive device to his car.

It was the fourth such killing reported in two years and, as after the previous attacks, Iranian officials indicated that they believed the United States and Israel were responsible. News photographs from the scene in northern Tehran showed a car draped in a pale blue tarp being lifted onto a truck. A driver who acted as a bodyguard was also killed, news reports said.

The scientist was identified as Mostafa Ahmadi Roshan, 32, a professor at Tehran’s technical university, and a department supervisor at the Natanz uranium enrichment facility — one of two known sites where Western leaders suspect Iranian scientists are advancing toward the creation of a nuclear weapon.

Iran says its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes, but is facing a growing battery of international sanctions designed to force it to halt its enrichment program and negotiate with the West. On Jan. 23, European Union foreign ministers are to discuss a possible oil export embargo, adding further pressure.

Despite those pressures, Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization said it would not be diverted from its pursuit of nuclear technology. “America and Israel’s heinous act will not change the course of the Iranian nation,” it said in a statement quoted by Reuters.

The semi-official Fars news agency, which has close links to the powerful Revolutionary Guards Corps, said on Wednesday the reported bombing resembled the methods used in attacks in November 2010 against two other nuclear specialists — Majid Shariari, who was killed, and Ferydoun Abbasi, who was wounded and is now the head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization.

Almost exactly two years ago in January 2010, a physics professor, Massoud Ali Mohammadi, was also assassinated in Tehran.

Iran blamed the attacks in 2010 on Israel and the United States and the latest killing is bound to deepen an embattled mood in Tehran as the country’s divided leaders approach parliamentary elections in March. The latest bombing seemed likely to inspire similar accusations and news of the blast emerged quickly on Iran’s state-run media.

“The bomb was a magnetic one and the same as the ones previously used for the assassination of the scientists and is the work of the Zionists,” Fars quoted Tehran’s deputy governor, Safarali Baratloo, as saying, according to Reuters, reflecting a suspicion that the West and its allies were waging covert war.

Theodore Karasik, a security expert at the Institute for Near East and Gulf Military Analysis in Dubai, said the assassination fitted a pattern over the past two years of covert operations by the West and its allies to “degrade and delay” Iran’s nuclear program.

In a telephone interview, he said other elements of the Western campaign included the deployment of a computer virus known as Stuxnet and the sale of doctored computer software to hamper the enrichment program.

He said magnetic bombs were used in covert operations, describing them as “clean, easy and efficient.”

In recent days, several events have combined to create the deepest tension with the United States since the Islamic revolution in 1979 and the subsequent seizure of hostages at the American Embassy in Tehran.

Last weekend, Iran’s top nuclear official said the country was about to start production at its second major uranium enrichment site, in a defiant declaration that its nuclear program would continue despite the sanctions.

The announcement came two months after the International Atomic Energy Agency, the United Nations nuclear oversight body based in Vienna, published a report in November that Iranian scientists had engaged in secret and possibly continuing efforts to construct a nuclear weapon.

The imminent opening of the site — the Fordo plant, near the city of Qum — confronted the United States and its allies with difficult choices about how far to go to limit Iran’s nuclear abilities. The new facility is buried deep underground on a well-defended military site and is considered far more resistant to airstrikes than the existing enrichment site at Natanz, limiting what Israeli officials, in particular, consider an important deterrent to Iran’s nuclear aims.

On Monday, Iran announced that Amir Mirzaei Hekmati, a former United States Marine from Flint, Mich., had been convicted of spying for the C.I.A. and sentenced to death. He was arrested last August while he was visiting Iran for the first time.

His family, traumatized by the news, has asserted Mr. Hekmati’s innocence, saying he was visiting relatives, and has characterized the prosecution as a grave misunderstanding.

Mr. Hekmati served in the Marines for four years, spent five months in Iraq and took linguistics training in Arabic at the Defense Language Institute in Monterey, Calif. He was carrying his former military identification with him when arrested in Iran — atypical behavior for a spy.

Nonetheless, Iranian investigators may have been intrigued by Mr. Hekmati’s post-military linguistics work. In 2006, he started his own company, Lucid Linguistics, doing document translation that specialized in Arabic, Persian and “military-related matters,” according its Web site. “Our main goal is to assist organizations whose focus is on the current Global War on Terrorism and who are working to bridge the language barrier for our armed forces in Iraq and Afghanistan,” the site said.

Possibly more intriguing to the Iranians was work done a few years later by Mr. Hekmati while working for Kuma Games, which specializes in recreating military confrontations that enable players to participate in games based on real events.

A Pentagon language-training contract won in 2009 by Kuma Games, a New York-based company that develops reality-based war games — including one called “Assault on Iran” — lists Mr. Hekmati as a main contact.

That $95,920 contract, and Mr. Hekmati’s military background, his Iranian heritage and some linguistics work he did for the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, help explain why the authorities in Iran had him arrested.

At the same time, Iran has intensified belligerency to the naval activities of the American Fifth Fleet in the Persian Gulf and has threatened to block the Strait of Hormuz, a vital oil shipping route.

The United States Navy has responded with two well-publicized sea rescues in the area within a week.

On Tuesday, a vessel on patrol with the Navy’s Fifth Fleet near the Persian Gulf saved a group of distressed Iranian mariners, pulling them to safety from a cargo dhow that was foundering with a flooded engine room, the naval central command reported.

In a statement, the command said the Coast Guard patrol boat Monomoy, on assignment with a Fifth Fleet task force in the northern Arabian Gulf, approached the stricken Iranian dhow, the Ya-Hussayn, after the dhow’s crew hailed the Monomoy with flares and flashlights before dawn.

Last Friday, the aircraft carrier John C. Stennis broke up a high-seas pirate attack on a cargo ship in the Gulf of Oman. Sailors from an American destroyer boarded the pirates’ mother ship and freed 13 Iranian hostages who had been held captive there for more than a month.

Alan Cowell reported from London, and Rick Gladstone from New York.


http://www.nytimes.com/2012/01/12/world/middleeast/iran-reports-killing-of-nuclear-scientist.html?_r=1&hp#

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« Reply #5936 on: Jan 11th, 2012, 07:26am »

LA Times

TSA fighting back in case of the confiscated cupcake
January 10, 2012 | 6:53 pm

Were you among those rolling your eyes at the latest Transportation Security Administration flap, in which an agent confiscated a cupcake from a passenger in Las Vegas because the frosting was deemed a security threat? Well, the TSA would like you to hear the other side of the story.

But first, some background. The report, on its face, seemed outrageous: The TSA confiscated the cupcake last month at McCarran International Airport because there are strict limits on how much of a "gel-like" substance passengers can take aboard. In this case, the rich creamy frosting was deemed a gel-like substance, and there was too much of it.

The media made much of the killer-cupcakes story during the holiday travel season. "Cupcake Deemed 'Security Threat'" said one headline. The traveler with the offending cupcake, Rebecca Hains of Peabody, Mass., changed her Twitter bio to include "Cupcake Terror Expert!" and created a Facebook page called Rebecca and the Threatening Cupcake. It has 265 "likes" so far.

And Wicked Good Cupcakes, which made the questionable confection, got in on the fun. "Apparently we're a tasty terrorist threat," Brian Vilagie told the Boston Channel.

Now, the TSA is using its blog to weigh in on what it calls "Cupcakegate."

"I wanted to make it clear that this wasn’t your everyday, run-of-the-mill cupcake," TSA blogger Bob Burns wrote Tuesday. His post included the photos above to illustrate that this was not a traditional cupcake, but a cupcake-in-a-jar.

"If you’re not familiar with it, we have a policy directly related to the UK liquid bomb plot of 2006 called 3-1-1 that limits the amount of liquids, gels and aerosols you can bring in your carry-on luggage. Icing falls under the 'gel' category. As you can see from the picture, unlike a thin layer of icing that resides on the top of most cupcakes, this cupcake had a thick layer of icing inside a jar."

Let's forget, for just a moment, that there's no such thing as too much frosting on a cupcake. Burns defended the TSA officer's right to confiscate the confection. He added that such a cute container is precisely why authorities should screen it more carefully.

Exhibiting a sense of humor, he wrote that "intelligence gathered from all over the world tells us ... that unless Wile E. Coyote is involved, the days of the three sticks of dynamite with a giant alarm clock strapped to them are long gone....When you think about it, do you think an explosive would be concealed in an ominous item that would draw attention, or something as simple as a cute cupcake jar?"

The TSA blogger points to two attempted attacks involving liquid or gel-like substances -- a 1995 plot to explode a dozen passenger planes bound for the U.S., and that foiled 2006 plot, which tried to use liquid explosives to blow up at least 10 jetliners.

Hains told The Times on Tuesday she was surprised that the TSA bothered to respond to Cupcakegate. But she believes the comments only reinforce her belief that the TSA goes overboard too often -- as in this case.

"I think there just needs to be some common sense here," she said.

She also wondered about the uniformity of TSA's screening practices, noting that she started her Boston-to-Vegas holiday travel with two cupcakes in a jar, and both made it through Boston's security screening. She and her husband ate one on the flight west. And they planned to eat the other on the flight back. (You have to pause and appreciate such sweet, tasty scheduling.)

When the cupcake-in-a-jar was flagged in Vegas, she offered to scoop the contents into a plastic baggie. Nope. Turns out the TSA was OK with her bringing a glass jar aboard -- just not all that potentially dangerous frosting.

Hains, an assistant professor of communications at Salem State University in Massachusetts and author of a new book called "Growing Up With Girl Power," was probably the wrong person to mess with. After the cupcake-in-a-jar was confiscated, she proceeded to her destination -- but not before writing this little missive and sending it to Boing Boing. Needless to say, it went viral.

A funny aside: When Wicked Good Cupcakes learned of the flap, they gave Hains a dozen cupcakes to make up for her trouble.

What do you think about this showdown? Do you think TSA went too far? Or do you think Hains made too big of a deal out of this sweet controversy?

http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/nationnow/2012/01/tsa-fighting-back-against-cupcake-confiscation-allegations.html

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« Reply #5937 on: Jan 11th, 2012, 07:30am »

Reuters

Growing wealth divide puts globalization at risk

By Ben Hirschler
LONDON | Wed Jan 11, 2012 8:21am EST

LONDON (Reuters) - A backlash against rising inequality - evident from the Occupy movement to the Arab Spring - risks derailing the advance of globalization and represents a threat to economies worldwide, according to the World Economic Forum.

Severe income disparity and precarious government finances rank as the biggest economic threats facing the world, according to the group's 2012 Global Risks report released on Wednesday.

The 60-page analysis of 50 risks over the next decade precedes the World Economic Forum's (WEF) annual meeting in two weeks' time in the Swiss ski resort of Davos, and paints a bleak picture of an increasingly uncertain world.

Over the past four decades, Davos, which brings together politicians, central bankers and business leaders, has become a byword for globalization. Now confidence about the steady gains from the onward march of the global marketplace is faltering.

Rising youth unemployment, a retirement crisis among pensioners dependent on debt-burdened states and a yawning wealth gap have sown the "seeds of dystopia," according to the report, based on a survey of 469 experts and industry leaders.

For the first time in generations, people no longer believe their children will grow up to have a better standard of living.

"It needs immediate political attention, otherwise the political rhetoric that responds to this social unease will involve nationalism, protectionism and rolling back the globalization process," said Lee Howell, the WEF managing director responsible for the report.

The unsustainable level of government debt in many countries had already been highlighted as a top threat in the previous two WEF risk reports but the chronic nature of fiscal deficits means the issue remains centre stage.

"We're seeing governments kicking the can down the road and not trying to get their hands on it," Howell said.

Since last January, the euro zone's debt crisis has spread and deepened - toppling governments in Greece and Italy - while the United States has lost its triple-A credit rating, after failing to stabilize its debt position.

There will be a greater focus than ever in Davos this year on the failures of the modern market economy, including discussion on the uncertain future of capitalism, a subject that would have got short shrift in the years before the financial crisis.

HACK ATTACK

In an increasingly interconnected world, the WEF report also highlights the risks posed by cyberattacks against individuals, corporations and nations.

"The Arab Spring demonstrated the power of interconnected communications services to drive personal freedom, yet the same technology facilitated riots in London," said Steve Wilson, chief risk officer for general insurance at Zurich Financial Services.

U.S. President Barack Obama's defense strategy this month showed cyber warfare to be a growing focus for governments, while companies got a wake-up call last April when hackers stole Sony Playstation online data for millions of users.

"It's completely mind-boggling how complex the world is becoming and it is hard to understand the risks that come from that," Wilson said.

Other threats identified in the 2012 report include the risk that financial and other regulatory systems designed to safeguard the modern world may no longer be up to the job, as well as rising greenhouse gas emissions and looming water shortages.

Governments and corporations must also stay abreast of a host of "X" factors - emerging concerns with still unknown consequences - such as the risk of a volcanic winter or a major accident involving new technology, such as genetically modified organisms or nanotechnology.

Full report at: http://www.weforum.org/globalrisks2012

(Reporting by Ben Hirschler; editing by Janet McBride)

http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/01/11/us-davos-risks-idUSTRE80A0KK20120111

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« Reply #5938 on: Jan 11th, 2012, 07:35am »

Deadline Hollywood

Talking Tech: Four Terms You’ll Need To Know To Keep Up With The Digital Elite

By DAVID LIEBERMAN, Executive Editor
Wednesday January 11, 2012 @ 2:26am EST
Tags: Blu-ray, Cable, DVR, HDTV, TV Technology

The 2012 International CES isn’t just an opportunity for the digital cognicente to look at new gadgets. It’s also a chance to brush up on the latest industry jargon. Don’t let it throw you. If you know the following words and concepts, then you should be able to easily hold your own in a conversation with someone returning from the annual consumer electronics spectacle in Las Vegas:

Ultrabooks: These are what you get when you cross a laptop computer with a tablet, and they’re grabbling the lion’s share of attention at the 2012 International CES. Ultrabooks are thin and light; most use solid state hard drives instead of the traditional storage drives built around a rotating disc. Intel is leading the cheerleading squad for ultrabooks, which it hopes will reenergize the laptop computer market.

4K: This video technology is still ahead of its time for consumers, but won’t be for long. The hype is that 4K images are spectacular because they have four times the digital information that you’d find in a good HD TV set – about 8.8M pixels vs 2.2M. Until 4K discs or channels arrive, the technology is being touted as the best way to watch Blu-ray discs, especially those offering 3D video. You’ll need a projector if you want 4K now, although some manufacturers including LG and Sharp say that they’ll soon sell TV screens that can display 4K. It won’t be long before there’s content available to take advantage of the extra pixels. Recent films including The Social Network and The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo were shot in 4K.

MoCA-enabled: This isn’t about Starbucks. The term stands for Multimedia Over Coax – meaning the coaxial wires that your cable operator snakes through your house. MoCa-enabled devices including DVRs can use your existing coaxial lines to transmit video or audio signals to almost any room. While the concept isn’t brand new, it’s gaining in popularity.

FLAC: The acronym stands for Free Lossless Audio Codec, and it’s supposedly the island of digital audio purity in a world awash in lousy sounding MP3s. You probably won’t fill your iPod with FLAC files; they’re much larger than MP3 ones. Users typically download FLAC files to a thumb drive and plug it into an amplifier or Blu-ray player connected to an audiophile sound system. Not all Blu-ray players can handle FLAC files, which is why it has become a selling point for most new models.

http://www.deadline.com/2012/01/talking-tech-four-terms-youll-need-to-know-to-keep-up-with-the-digital-elite/

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« Reply #5939 on: Jan 11th, 2012, 5:06pm »

Military.com

Obama Sending 5 Military Officers to S. Sudan

January 11, 2012
Associated Press
by Julie Pace

WASHINGTON - President Barack Obama is sending five American military officers to South Sudan amid recent outbreaks of violence in the newly independent African nation.

The White House said the U.S. forces will join the United Nations mission in the capital of Juba and focus on strategic planning and operations. They are not expected to engage in combat operations, but will be armed for personal protection.

Obama issued a memorandum Tuesday declaring that the U.S. officers could not be prosecuted by the International Criminal Court during their deployment because South Sudan is not a party to the ICC. The White House said prior administrations used similar designations when sending U.S. forces to United Nations missions in Haiti and Liberia.

The first of the small group of U.S. forces is expected to depart for South Sudan later this week. The Pentagon said there were no plans to expand the U.S. contribution to the U.N. mission.

Since gaining independence in July, South Sudan has been beset by internal conflict. Aid groups estimate that 60,000 people have been affected by recent outbreaks of violence, and the U.N. says tens of thousands have fled their homes and are in urgent need of high-nutritional food, clean water, health care and shelter.

Violence also has simmered on the new border with Sudan. The two countries have not yet agreed to terms to share the region's oil wealth.

In response to the violence, Obama issued a separate memorandum last week giving the U.S. the ability to send weapons and defense assistance to South Sudan.

The U.S. strongly supported South Sudan's drive for independence and sought to boost the fledgling nation, in part through agriculture assistance and private investment. The Obama administration also has authorized American investment in South Sudan's oil sector.

The small deployment of U.S. forces to South Sudan is in contrast to Obama's decision in October to send about 100 U.S. troops to Africa to help fight the Lord's Resistance Army guerrilla group in Uganda and elsewhere in Central Africa. The bulk of that deployment was of special operations troops to provide security and combat training to African units as they tried to hunt down the LRA's leader, Joseph Kony.

---

AP National Security Writer Robert Burns contributed to this report.

http://www.military.com/news/article/obama-sending-5-military-officers-to-s-sudan.html?ESRC=sm_todayinmil.nl

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