Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #6135 on: Feb 8th, 2012, 08:37am »
Rick Santorum wins Republican votes in Minnesota, Missouri and Colorado
His victories are setbacks for Republican presidential front-runner Mitt Romney — and for Newt Gingrich's hopes of being the conservative alternative to Romney.
By Paul West, Washington Bureau 11:15 PM PST, February 7, 2012 Reporting from Washington
Republican long shot Rick Santorum poked holes in Mitt Romney's aura of inevitability Tuesday night with a trio of upset victories that shifted the dynamic of the 2012 presidential contest.
The former Pennsylvania senator's wins in the Minnesota and Colorado caucuses and Missouri primary were setbacks for Romney, the national front-runner, who had been expected to cruise easily through a series of relatively minor February voter tests. He must now wait three weeks to regroup, when Arizona and Michigan hold what suddenly are shaping up as unexpectedly important primaries.
In remarks to delirious supporters in St. Charles, Mo., Santorum took a swipe at Romney's big advantage in money and the negative ads he's used to defeat his opponents in previous states. He also lashed out at President Obama, describing him as someone "who thinks he knows better" and doesn't listen to the American people.
"Ladies and gentlemen, I don't stand here to claim to be the conservative alternative to Mitt Romney. I stand here to be the conservative alternative to Barack Obama," Santorum said, setting off chants of "We pick Rick!"
Reflecting what he sees as the altered shape of the race, Santorum told CNN that "now we're in a little bit of a no-man's land" as the candidates move into states where they haven't had months, or years, to campaign.
Romney, who won Minnesota four years ago, was running a weak third behind Santorum and Ron Paul.
Speaking to a deflated crowd of backers in Denver, Romney said he was "pretty confident" he would come in either first or second in Colorado's caucuses, his last hope for salvaging a bad night. But hours later, state Republican Chairman Ryan Call announced over CNN that Santorum had won.
He congratulated Santorum and said that he looked forward to coming contests and a united party when the primaries ended. But he also struck a pose as a populist outsider, speaking of his father's humble roots and casting himself as the antidote to the problems in the nation's capital.
"Washington will never be reformed by those who have been compromised by the culture of Washington," he said, noting that he had "never served a day" there. And in another shot at his three remaining rivals, he added that leadership is about starting a business, "not getting a bill out of committee."
But his parting line — "we've got a long way to go" — spoke to the changed circumstances of the GOP contest. Many analysts had said that the race was over, a conclusion not supported by the results late Tuesday.
Santorum's rise poses a serious threat to Newt Gingrich, who had hoped to emerge as the conservative alternative to Romney. The former House speaker fared poorly as Republicans cast ballots in three states, and he is in serious danger of slipping behind Santorum in the GOP race and the fight to be Romney's main foe.
Romney, still the favorite for the GOP nomination, had managed to put together back-to-back successes with wins in Florida and Nevada. Santorum, whose last victory came more than a month ago in Iowa's leadoff caucuses, had his best showing since that day.
Paul, the only candidate without a victory, has been targeting caucus states, including the two voting Tuesday. Delegates in both states will be apportioned later, and Missouri's primary has no connection to delegate selection.
"We're well on our way, and we're going to keep our momentum," the Texas congressman, who is hoping to win his first state when Maine announces the results of its caucuses on Saturday, told supporters late Tuesday in suburban Minneapolis.
In Colorado and Minnesota, voters were gathered at precinct caucuses, where straw polls were conducted to reflect attendees' presidential preferences.
Tuesday's caucuses were conducted under the same process as those in Iowa, which took weeks to sort out. Romney initially was said to be the winner, but after state party officials checked ballots, Santorum was declared the winner, defeating Romney by 34 votes out of more than 121,500 cast.
The Missouri primary provided Santorum with his clearest opportunity yet to go head-to-head with Romney as the conservative alternative, since Gingrich had failed to qualify for the statewide ballot. Gingrich and Santorum have competed to eliminate the other and become the ultimate choice of the party's most ardent conservatives against Romney.
But their cause — stopping the front-runner — is likely to have a better chance of succeeding if both Santorum and Gingrich remain viable candidates, at least for now.
Recent primary polling has indicated that if one of them were to drop out, at least a portion of his support would go to Romney, allowing the former Massachusetts governor to gain delegates more quickly than if the anti-Romney vote continued to be divided among several candidates.
Turnout in Missouri was reported to be low, and the candidates had spent little time campaigning there since the election was a "beauty contest" with no bearing on delegates to the national convention.
State law required the primary to take place, but because of its early timing, Republican National Committee rules would have penalized Missouri for using it to select delegates. As a result, the state party opted to pick them in a separate caucus process that starts next month.
Even before the primary season began, Romney strategists were concerned about maintaining momentum this month because of the dearth of binding contests.
The Romney camp moved early Tuesday to lower expectations and said the candidate was prepared to wage a "methodical, long-haul campaign," with more money and organization than either Santorum or Gingrich had.
A memo, sent out from the Boston headquarters as voting was underway in Missouri and soon to begin in the other states, said there was "no way for any nominee to win first place in every single contest," and "we expect our opponents to notch a few wins, too."
"Romney is the only candidate prepared to compete in simultaneous campaigns across the country," Rich Beeson, the Romney campaign's political director, said in the memo. As for the others, "even 'success' in a few states will not mean collecting enough delegates to win the nomination."
Gingrich, in a tacit acknowledgment that he did not expect to do well Tuesday, spent the day campaigning in Ohio. The Midwest state is one of 11 that will vote on March 6, known as Super Tuesday.
The former House speaker, seeking to turn his candidacy around that day, needs a strong showing in Ohio — the largest Super Tuesday state and one of the biggest general-election battlegrounds — to bolster his argument that he still has a chance to become his party's nominee.
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #6136 on: Feb 8th, 2012, 08:44am »
Japan Aims to Restart Nuclear Reactors in April
TOKYO, Feb 7 (Reuters)
Japan aims to restart two nuclear reactors at Kansai Electric Power Co's Ohi power plant around April, the Yomiuri newspaper reported on Tuesday, which would mark the first reactor restart since the Fukushima disaster almost a year ago.
Trade and Industrial Minister Yukio Edano told reporters he was not setting a deadline to decide on the restarts. The two plants would resume operations pending local approval.
However, all but one of Osaka-based Kansai's 11 reactors at three nuclear plants are shut. The utility is barely meeting demand during the current winter season with the help of customers' power-saving and assistance from other utilities.
Kansai normally relies on nuclear power for about 50 percent of power generation, the highest of any Japanese utility.
Only three out of 54 nuclear reactors are currently online in Japan. Reactors that were shut for regular checks have been unable to restart since the disaster at the Fukushima Daiichi plant, crippled by a huge earthquake and tsunami last March, sparked public anxiety about atomic safety.
The government aims to restart operations at Ohi plant's No. 3 and No. 4 reactors before the final active reactor in Japan is due to shut by the end of April for regular maintenance, the Yomiuri said, citing several government sources.
The government also took into consideration that the two reactors, each with capcity of 1,180 megawatts, are around 20 years old, so ageing is not a concern, the report added.
Japan's nuclear watchdog, the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency (NISA), is reviewing the results of stress tests on a number of reactors, including Kansai's Ohi No. 3 and No. 4 units, to gauge their resilience to disasters as a step to restoring public confidence after the Fukushima crisis.
The watchdog is likely to approve the stress test results on the two reactors as early as Wednesday but the government will still need customary approvals from local governments hosting the Ohi plant in western Japan for the reactors to be restarted.
The government aims to win approval from the Fukui prefectural assembly and Ohi Town assembly by March, the Yomiuri report quoted an unidentified government official as saying.
Edano is also set to visit Fukui prefecture soon and give Fukui prefectural governor Issei Nishikawa an update on the government's stance on restart, the report said.
Kansai's last active unit is set to enter maintenance from Feb. 20.
(Reporting by Osamu Tsukimori and Kentaro Hamada; Editing by Chris Gallagher and Paul Tait)
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #6137 on: Feb 8th, 2012, 08:52am »
Wall Street Journal
FEBRUARY 8, 2012 On 'Bleak' Street, Bosses in Cross Hairs By LIZ MOYER
Wall Street's bleak bonus season just got bleaker at Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and Morgan Stanley, where it is becoming clear that traders aren't the only ones at risk of having their pay taken back. Their bosses are on the hook, too.
The Wall Street securities firms said they would seek to recover pay from any employee whose actions expose the firms to substantial financial or legal repercussions. The firms said the policy isn't new, but the disclosure shows the companies won't just go after the excessive risk-takers if bad trades hurt the firms' profits. The latest disclosures clarify for the first time that managers are on the line.
The companies disclosed the clawback policies separately in Securities and Exchange Commission filings in late January and early February, in connection with agreements they reached to end proxy fights being waged by the office that runs New York City's pension funds.
The move comes at a touchy time on Wall Street, where pay is in decline after a year of mixed financial performance and stock-price declines. At Goldman Sachs, compensation and benefits dropped 21% from a year ago to $12.22 billion, taking per capita pay and perks down to $367,000, a level last seen in the financial crisis. The firm cut 2,400 jobs last year, joining roughly two dozen firms around the globe that plan to shed more than 100,000 positions.
"These two firms have set the standard for clawback policies in the banking industry," said Mr. Liu in a statement Tuesday. "We appreciate the dialogue we've had on this issue and will continue to call for them to disclose the amount of clawbacks if forthcoming regulation does not require it."
Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley declined to comment.
Though soft economic growth, volatile markets and tighter rules rank as bigger worries for most on Wall Street than clawbacks triggered by the actions of traders, it is hard to ignore the risk completely. UBS AG, Switzerland's largest bank by assets, said Tuesday that it will cut investment-bank bonuses 60% following a retrenchment that started after a London-based employee made unauthorized trades that cost the bank $2.3 billion.
Regulators have pressured banks to detail clawbacks in compensation agreements since the financial crisis, when, they contend, incentives encouraged Wall Street workers to overlook risk in pursuit of profit.
The banks said they adopted clawback policies but said little beyond that.
It is unclear how effective clawback policies have been in reining in risky behavior. Michael Deutsch, an employment lawyer who specializes in Wall Street pay, said that despite their prevalence, "the actual implementation of a clawback has been pretty rare."
Now, under pressure from shareholders such as the New York comptroller's office, Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley are clarifying their stance. The shareholder group also made these demands on J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. The firm hasn't addressed the proposal.
Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley separately said they anticipate a new global regulation from the Basel Committee on Banking Supervision that requires they disclose aggregate dollar amounts clawed back in a given year.
"We believe clawbacks are a focus for our regulators," Goldman Sachs said in correspondence with the comptroller's office disclosed in an SEC filing.
In exchange for the clarifications, the shareholder group withdrew proxy proposals that called on the banks to broaden the scope of their policies, hold managers and supervisors accountable to clawbacks, and publicly disclose clawbacks.
In its proxy last year, Goldman said its clawback policy allowed for forfeiture of stock awards "in the event that conduct or judgment results in a restatement of the firm's financial statements or other significant harm to the firm's business." The firm also can claw back pay for misconduct that results in legal or reputational harm.
Morgan Stanley's proxy last year said clawbacks can be triggered for conduct leading to a restatement, a significant financial loss or other reputational harm.
It explicitly covers "a substantial loss on a trading position or other holding or any loss on a trading position or other holding where an employee operated outside the risk parameters" or where the employee was motivated by pay.
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #6138 on: Feb 8th, 2012, 09:13am »
Uploaded by mittinscat1 on Jul 24, 2009
A Trip to the Moon (French: Le Voyage dans la lune) is a 1902 French black and white silent science fiction film. It is loosely based on two popular novels of the time: From the Earth to the Moon by Jules Verne and The First Men in the Moon by H. G. Wells The film was written and directed by Georges Méliès, assisted by his brother Gaston. The film runs 14 minutes if projected at 16 frames per second, which was the standard frame rate at the time the film was produced. It was extremely popular at the time of its release and is the best-known of the hundreds of fantasy films made by Méliès. A Trip to the Moon is the first science fiction film, and utilizes innovative animation and special effects, including the iconic shot of the rocketship landing in the moon's eye.
It was named one of the 100 greatest films of the 20th century by The Village Voice
This Version features a Soundtrack by Erich Wolfgang Korngold & Laurence Rosenthal
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #6139 on: Feb 9th, 2012, 08:33am »
New York Times
February 8, 2012 U.S. and Israel Split on Speed of Iran Threat By MARK LANDLER and DAVID E. SANGER
WASHINGTON — Amid mounting tensions over whether Israel will carry out a military strike against Iran’s nuclear program, the United States and Israel remain at odds over a fundamental question: whether Iran’s crucial nuclear facilities are about to become impregnable.
Israel’s defense minister, Ehud Barak, coined the phrase “zone of immunity” to define the circumstances under which Israel would judge it could no longer hold off from an attack because Iran’s effort to produce a bomb would be invulnerable to any strike. But judging when that moment will arrive has set off an intense debate with the Obama administration, whose officials counter that there are other ways to make Iran vulnerable.
Senior Israeli officials, including the foreign minister and leader of the Mossad, have traveled to Washington in recent weeks to make the case that this point is fast approaching. American officials have made reciprocal visits to Jerusalem, arguing that Israel and the West have more time and should allow sanctions and covert actions to deter Iran’s plans.
The Americans have also used the discussions to test their belief, based on a series of public statements by Israeli officials, that an Israeli strike against Iran could come as early as spring, according to an official familiar with the discussions.
President Obama tried to defuse arguments for military action in a telephone call last month with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel, the substance of which was confirmed by an Obama administration official who spoke only on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to describe the conversation. While the two men have had an often contentious relationship over Middle East diplomacy, American officials emerged from that exchange persuaded that Mr. Netanyahu was willing to give economic sanctions and other steps time to work.
The difference of opinion over Iran’s nuclear “immunity” is critical because it plays into not just the timing — or bluffing — about a possible military strike, but the calculations about how deeply and quickly sanctions against Iran must bite. If the Israeli argument is right, the question of how fast the Iranians can assemble a weapon becomes less important than whether there is any way to stop them.
“ ‘Zone of immunity’ is an ill-defined term,” said a senior Obama administration official, expressing frustration that the Israelis are looking at the problem too narrowly, given the many kinds of pressure being placed on Tehran and the increasing evidence that far tougher sanctions are having an effect.
The Israelis have zeroed in on Iran’s plan to put much of its uranium enrichment near Qum in an underground facility beneath so many layers of granite that even the Pentagon acknowledges it would be out of the reach of its best bunker-busting bombs. Once enrichment activities are under way at Qum, the Israelis argue, Iran could throw out United Nations inspectors and produce bomb-grade fuel without fear the facility would be destroyed.
At its core, the official said, the argument the Israelis make is that once the Iranians get an “impregnable breakout capability” — that is, a place that is protected from a military strike — “it makes no difference whether it will take Iran six months or a year or five years” to fabricate a nuclear weapon, he said.
The Americans have a very different view, according to a second senior official who has discussed the concept with Israelis. He said “there are many other options” to slow Iran’s march to a completed weapon, like shutting off Iran’s oil revenues, taking out facilities that supply centrifuge parts or singling out installations where the Iranians would turn the fuel into a weapon.
Administration officials cite this more complex picture in pressing the Israelis to give the latest sanctions a chance to inflict enough pain on the Iranian leadership to force it back to the negotiating table, or to make the decision that the nuclear program is not worth the cost.
Iran’s currency has plunged, they note; its oil is piling up in storage tanks because it cannot find buyers, and there is growing evidence of fissures among the country’s leadership.
After a period of doubt about Israel’s intentions at the end of last year, administration officials said the two sides were now communicating better. Mr. Obama, they said, reflected that when he said in an interview on Sunday with NBC News, “I don’t think that Israel has made a decision on what they need to do.”
This is not the first time that the Israelis have invented a phrase that suggests a hard deadline before an attack. At the end of the Bush administration, they said they could not allow Iran to go past “the point of no return.” That phrase was also ill-defined, but seemed to suggest that once Iran had the know-how and the basic materials to make a bomb, it would be inevitable.
While nuclear experts believe Iran now has enough uranium to fuel four or more weapons, it would have to enrich it to bomb-grade levels, which would take months. Beyond that, Iran would have to produce a warhead that could fit atop an Iranian missile — a process that could take one to three years, most experts say.
Still, Mr. Barak’s theory of “immunity” has gained a lot of attention in recent weeks, complicating a debate charged with bellicose language — in Israel and Iran and among Republicans on the presidential campaign trail, where Mitt Romney and other candidates have pledged Israel full support in any military confrontation with Iran.
Disputes between the United States and Israel are inevitable, according to experts, given the radically different stakes of a nuclear Iran for a distant superpower and for a neighbor whose very existence the leaders in Tehran have pledged to eradicate.
“No end of consultations can remove that asymmetry,” said Martin S. Indyk, a former ambassador to Israel and director of the Foreign Policy Program at the Brookings Institution.
Next month, Mr. Netanyahu is scheduled to visit Washington to address the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, a powerful pro-Israeli lobbying group, to whom he and other Israeli leaders have regularly spoken about Iran’s “existential threat.” The White House has not yet announced whether Mr. Netanyahu will meet with Mr. Obama, though officials say it is likely.
Officials said that for all the friction between the United States and Israel over issues like Jewish settlements in the West Bank, it had not spilled over into the dialogue over Iran, in part because Mr. Obama has ordered it “walled off” from politics.
Administration officials also noted a distinction in the tone of Mr. Barak and Mr. Netanyahu, who does not publicly favor the phrase “zone of immunity.” This week, an American official noted, Mr. Netanyahu declared that on the topic of Iran, officials should just “shut up.”
“I think that’s good advice,” the American official said.
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #6140 on: Feb 9th, 2012, 08:43am »
Former police chief in Chinese boomtown disappears February 8, 2012 | 2:29 pm REPORTING FROM BEIJING AND WASHINGTON
A crusading former police chief in the boomtown of Chongqing disappeared under unexplained circumstances and reportedly may have tried and failed to obtain political asylum at a nearby U.S. Consulate.
Chongqing issued an unusual and cryptic statement Wednesday saying that Vice Mayor Wang Lijun was “highly stressed and in poor health ... because of long-term overwork” and that he was “accepting vacation-style treatment.”
The reports that he might have sought asylum in the United States were fueled by an unusual police presence at the U.S. Consulate in nearby Chengdu.
Richard Buanguan, a spokesman for the U.S. Embassy in Beijing, said Wednesday, “As a matter of policy we never comment on reported requests for asylum.” Buanguan added that at no time was the consulate in Chengdu under threat.
In Washington, U.S. officials said Wang sought and was granted a meeting this week with officials at the consulate in Chengdu.
Victoria Nuland, the chief State Department spokeswoman, said Wang asked for the meeting “in his capacity as vice mayor,” but she declined to provide other details of their discussion.
Despite reports that he was forced to leave, she said Wang “left of his own volition.... He walked out. It was his choice.”
Reports on the Chinese mainland were censored and photographs of the surrounded consulate removed. The Hong Kong-based Oriental Daily News said that Wang was arrested after failing to get political asylum. Boxun, a U.S.-based Chinese website, carried unconfirmed reports that Wang was under investigation for torturing corruption suspects.
Chengdu, about 165 miles from Chongqing, has the closest consulate. It would be highly unusual for an official to seek asylum inside the country in question, as a consulate or embassy can easily be surrounded.
Whatever has happened to Wang, the scandal could derail Bo Xilai, the Communist Party secretary in Chongqing and a rising political star. Wang was Bo’s top cop during a well-publicized crackdown on organized crime in Chongqing in which Wang’s predecessor, Wen Qiang, was executed for corruption. Bo, who also spearheaded a campaign to revive “red culture” last year, is vying for a seat on the Politburo's Standing Committee.
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #6141 on: Feb 9th, 2012, 08:46am »
Greeks strike bailout deal in time for EU meeting By George Georgiopoulos and Renee Maltezou Thu Feb 9, 2012 8:58am EST
ATHENS (Reuters) - Greek leaders clinched a long-stalled deal on reforms and austerity measures needed to secure a bailout and avoid a messy default, government sources said, hours before the country's financial backers were to meet in Brussels on Thursday.
Athens' partners in the European Union and the International Monetary Fund have been exasperated by a lack of agreement on the sacrifices they demanded in return for a 130 billion euro ($172 billion) bailout, with time running out for Greece before a major March 20 bond redemption.
Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos set off for Brussels without a complete deal after all-night talks with leaders of the three Greek coalition parties and chief EU and IMF inspectors left one sensitive issue - pension cuts - unresolved.
But following further negotiation on Thursday, two government sources said an overall agreement had been reached.
"A few minutes ago, I got a call from the Prime Minister of Greece saying that an agreement had been reached and has been endorsed by the major parties," European Central Bank President Mario Draghi told a news conference in Frankfurt in the first official confirmation.
The euro and European stocks strengthened on news of the breakthrough, which raised prospects of averting a chaotic hard default by the euro zone's most indebted country within weeks, that could send tremors around the global economy.
The risk premium investors charge for holding Italian and Spanish bonds rather than safe-haven German Bunds fell back.
Euro zone officials say the full package must be agreed with Greece and approved by the EU, IMF and European Central Bank by February 15 so legal paperwork can be completed in time to avoid a chaotic default that may threaten the global economic recovery.
"The financial survival of the country in the coming years depends on the new program ... It is a time of responsibility for everyone," Venizelos said.
Greece's two major labor unions called a 48-hour strike for Friday and Saturday against the reforms that the party chiefs managed to agree on.
"The painful measures that create misery for the youth, the unemployed and pensioners do not leave us much room," secretary general of the ADEDY union, Ilias Iliopoulos, told Reuters.
"We won't accept them. There will be a social uprising."
Venizelos should now be able to present to fellow euro zone finance ministers a fully-fledged new bailout plan, including a commitment for 3.3 billion euros in budget cuts this year, when they meet at 1700 GMT.
Before then, all eyes will be on what the ECB is willing to do to help Greece at its monthly policy meeting.
WRITTEN COMMITMENT SOUGHT
After the overnight talks, a senior government official said the party chiefs had agreed on how to make about 90 percent of the promised savings, leaving a relatively small hole in the calculations.
Asked how the differences over pension cuts had been resolved, another government official told Reuters: ""There will be cuts in other areas of public spending and we will see how we will minimize reductions in pensions."
International lenders are demanding that the party leaders commit themselves in writing to implement the program of pay and pension cuts, structural and administrative reforms.
The leaders have been loath to accept the lenders' tough conditions, which are certain to be unpopular with voters. They face parliamentary elections possibly as early as April.
"In these difficult hours we have to look after the ordinary people, the pensioners," conservative New Democracy leader Antonis Samaras said after the political leaders' meeting.
"I haven't got the right to not negotiate hard and I don't care what other people think about that. We have to make sure that people will suffer less."
Newspaper editorials criticized the harshness of the austerity measures demanded by Greece's lenders, but said there was no other option but to give in and agree.
"The memorandum seems, and in fact is, heavy and unbearable for the majority of the Greek people but unfortunately it is the only choice so that the country is not led over the cliff," financial daily Imerisia said.
Greece has been falling deeper into recession since it was rescued by a first bailout deal in May 2010, and latest unemployment data showed the country's jobless rate rose to a new record of 20.9 percent in November.
Industrial output fell 11.3 percent in December, in further proof of the deep economic malaise.
Prospects for a bailout deal had brightened when the finance ministers' chairman Jean-Claude Juncker called the Brussels meeting - which IMF managing director Christine Lagarde will attend - to examine the bailout plan.
On offer from the EU and IMF is a package involving the new rescue funds and a bond swap with private creditors to ease the nation's large debt burden.
Athens is also urging the ECB to forego profits on its Greek bond holdings in what could raise 12 billion euros or more. The bank's 23-member Governing Council met on Thursday but Draghi declined to say how the Greek bonds held by the ECB and national central banks would be handled.
For the bailout, Athens must accept conditions requiring big cuts in many Greeks' living standards. The smallest member of the coalition, the far-right LAOS party, was particularly uncomfortable with the measures.
Panos Beglitis, spokesman for PASOK which is in the coalition along with LAOS and the conservative New Democracy party, said the leaders had agreed to cut the minimum wage by 22 percent as part of efforts to make the economy more competitive. Plans to scrap holiday bonuses paid to private sector workers had been dropped.
Two sources said the government would promise spending cuts and tax rises worth 13 billion euros from 2012 to 2015, almost double the seven billion originally pledged.
Other elements of the deal have been gradually slotting into place, including the bond swap with private creditors to ease Greece's debt burden by reducing the value of government bonds held by banks and insurers.
Private bondholders are expected to take real losses of about 70 percent on their holdings as part of the swap, under which they receive new, longer-dated Greek bonds to try to reduce Greece's debt burden by about 100 billion euros.
Talks on the swap have dragged on for weeks, complicated by the position of hedge funds and demands that public creditors also chip in. Officials and bankers say the deal cannot be finalized until the rest of the rescue package is nailed down.
($1 = 0.7545 euros)
(Additional reporting by Renee Maltezou, Lefteris Papadimas and Karolina Tagaris in Athens and Paul Carrel in Frankfurt; Writing by David Stamp and Deepa Babington; editing by Elizabeth Piper)
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #6142 on: Feb 9th, 2012, 08:52am »
UFO Spotters In England And Russia Look For Answers From New Videos Posted: 02/09/2012 8:25 am
Was this brightly lit object spotted over the Thames Estuary near London something out of this world, or easily explained?
Brightly lit UFOs over the UK and Russia are lighting up the sky and burning up the Internet. But do they stand up to scrutiny?
A man referring to himself as Space999dude posted a video on YouTube (see above) that shows something in the sky over the Thames Estuary near London on Feb. 5. He wrote that the object "seems too bright for a boat but I could be wrong, and looked like it was above the water. It was a very long way off and I was at full 40x zoom -- hence the shaky footage.
"I always carry a camcorder in my car ... and think more people should be looking and keeping cameras at the ready."
Space999dude's video pulled in a lot of comments, many wondering why the clip was under a minute in length. Perhaps in response to some who complained that the first video clip didn't offer any long-range perspective of the UFO, he posted a second clip to show faraway and close-up views of it.
The Huffington Post showed the video to Marc Dantonio, chief photo and video analyst for the Mutual UFO Network.
"I noticed a horizontal glow below the main object glow. It looked like water to me, so I thought it might be a classic ship mirage where a ship out at sea appears to be separated from the horizon because of the temperature differential between the air and water," Dantonio told HuffPost.
Then, when he examined the follow-up video that gave more of a faraway view, showing the UFO with the context of land and water, he was more than convinced.
"You actually see that this object is, indeed, just above the horizon water line, exactly where the ship mirage effect takes place. I believe very strongly -- maybe 98 percent -- that that's what this is."
Armed with that information, we decided to ask Dantonio to look at another video, this one reportedly shot in January in a remote Russian village in the Ural Mountains.
According to a Russia NTV news report, this circular-shaped, donut-like UFO was seen by several witnesses who were losing sleep after their experience.
But Dantonio -- who creates special effects for several television channels and has specific contracts with the U.S. Navy, Congress and the Joint Chiefs of Staff in Washington -- says the Russian villagers have no need for sleeping aids.
He's pretty sure this UFO was a similar device to a quad copter he built for a National Geographic special, "The Truth Behind: UFOs," which aired in December 2011.
"It looks like a radio controlled vehicle because it bobbles in the sky exactly like our quad copter," he said. "This is a perfect example of how knowing about new technologies of nighttime flying can fool you."
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #6147 on: Feb 10th, 2012, 08:30am »
New York Times
February 9, 2012 Bishops Were Prepared for Battle Over Birth Control Coverage By LAURIE GOODSTEIN
When after much internal debate the Obama administration finally announced its decision to require religiously affiliated hospitals and universities to cover birth control in their insurance plans, the nation’s Roman Catholic bishops were fully prepared for battle.
Seven months earlier, they had started laying the groundwork for a major new campaign to combat what they saw as the growing threat to religious liberty, including the legalization of same-sex marriage. But the birth control mandate, issued on Jan. 20, was their Pearl Harbor.
Hours after President Obama phoned to share his decision with Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan of New York, who is president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, the bishops’ headquarters in Washington posted on its Web site a video of Archbishop Dolan, which had been recorded the day before.
“Never before,” Archbishop Dolan said, setting the tone, “has the federal government forced individuals and organizations to go out into the marketplace and buy a product that violates their conscience. This shouldn’t happen in a land where free exercise of religion ranks first in the Bill of Rights.”
The speed and passion behind the bishops’ response reflects their growing sense of siege, and their belief that the space the Catholic church once occupied in American society and the deference it was given are gradually being curtailed by an increasingly secular culture.
The conflict puts not just the White House, but also the bishops to the test. Will their flock follow their lead? And are they sufficiently powerful, now that they have joined forces with evangelicals and other religious conservatives, to outmuscle the women’s groups, public health advocates and liberal religious leaders who argue that the real issue is contraceptive coverage for all women, and that the Obama administration was right?
On the day of the decision, bishops across the country posted similarly dire statements on their Web sites, and at Mass on the following Sundays, priests read the bishops’ letters from their pulpits and wove the religious freedom theme into their homilies. By the bishops’ own count, 147 bishops in the nation’s 195 dioceses have now issued personal letters on religious freedom, which are trickling down to Catholics through their local parish bulletins and diocesan newspapers.
Some bishops called on Catholics to lobby their legislators to overturn the mandate, while a few have called for resistance. Archbishop Timothy Broglio, who oversees Catholic military chaplains, instructed them to read a pastoral letter at Mass that said, “We cannot — and will not — comply with this unjust law.” Army officials ordered him to strike that line because it could be interpreted as a call for civil disobedience.
“I have never seen the bishops mobilize so quickly,” said Stephen S. Schneck, director of the Institute for Policy Research and Catholic Studies at the Catholic University of America, in Washington. “I remember Roe v. Wade, and it took years for them to respond to that, in terms of an organized response.”
“The bishops really are convinced that this is a direct abridgement of their First Amendment religion rights,” Mr. Schneck said. “From their perspective, this really isn’t about contraception.”
The ruling issued by the Department of Health and Human Services, said that only religious organizations that primarily employ and serve their co-religionists would be exempt from the requirement to provide insurance that covers birth control. Churches are therefore exempt, but Catholic hospitals, service agencies and colleges are not. The White House said that 28 states already had such mandates, so this federal rule, which is part of the health care overhaul, just applies the mandate uniformly.
The backlash has prompted the White House to say it is searching for solutions, but neither side appears to have moved toward compromise. A White House spokesman reiterated that the decision allows the Catholic institutions until August 2013 to figure out how they can put the policy into effect.
Administration officials are also waiting to assess how much political damage the decision will cause. The Republican presidential candidates are already wielding religious liberty as a wedge issue. While Catholics do not vote as a bloc, they are part of the swing vote in states like Michigan, Ohio and Pennsylvania.
The bishops have found allies among conservative evangelicals, who do not share the Catholic Church’s doctrinal prohibition on contraception but are delighted to see the bishops adopt the right’s longstanding grievance that government has declared a war on religion. They have been joined by the bishops of Eastern Orthodox churches (like Greek, Russian and Ukrainian) and two Orthodox Jewish groups — small constituencies but ones that lend the cause a touch of diversity.
On the other side are religious Americans and clergy members who are unmoved by the religious liberty theme, and who regard the administration’s ruling as sensible health care policy.
The public policy arm of the United Methodist Church, which like the Catholic Church, runs hospitals and universities across the country, has applauded the mandate to cover contraception. And a coalition of mainline Protestants, Muslims and Reform and Conservative Jews released a declaration on Wednesday supporting the ruling.
The Rev. Debra W. Haffner, executive director of the Religious Institute, a liberal interfaith group that works on sexuality issues and that wrote the declaration, said, “The mainstream religious voice has supported contraception for decades, at least for the last 40 years.”
But many other religious denominations, including white and black Protestant churches, are so far sitting on the sidelines.
The main question is whether this is truly a galvanizing issue for rank-and-file Catholics. If they conclude that the real issue is birth control, the bishops may lose. Humanae Vitae, the papal encyclical issued in 1968 that prohibited artificial contraception because every act of intercourse should be open to procreation, never really took hold in the United States. Some Catholic theologians still argue that it is bad doctrine.
Studies have shown that 98 percent of Catholic women have used artificial contraception at some time in their lives. A poll released on Tuesday by the Public Religion Research Institute in Washington found that 52 percent of Catholic respondents agreed that even religiously affiliated colleges and hospitals should have to provide their employees with health care plans that cover contraception. (Among Catholic voters, however, 52 percent disagreed and only 45 percent agreed).
But Catholics may be persuaded by the argument that the mandate is a violation of religious liberty. One indication is that several prominent Catholic Democrats who supported Mr. Obama in 2008, supported the health care overhaul and defended the president at many junctures, have broken with him on the birth control mandate.
Michael Sean Winters, a writer for National Catholic Reporter, a liberal independent weekly, said: “I think they misjudged that no matter what people think about contraception, that’s an internal Catholic debate. Catholics do not like interlopers.”
Douglas W. Kmiec, who served as ambassador to Malta under Mr. Obama and is now a professor of constitutional law at Pepperdine University, said he was disappointed that such a divisive course was chosen by a president who urged respect for others’ religious traditions.
“For people attracted to him for those reasons, who applaud the very passage of the health care law, we are just sort of baffled by this,” Mr. Kmiec said. “Especially when the train wreck was foreseen, and we kept saying, ‘Not this track, not this track.’ And here came the train and ran us all over.”
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #6148 on: Feb 10th, 2012, 08:32am »
First new U.S. nuclear reactors in decades approved
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission approves construction and licensing of two new nuclear reactors at Plant Vogtle in Georgia, the first such approval in the U.S. since 1978.
By Ralph Vartabedian and Ian Duncan 10:13 PM PST, February 9, 2012 Reporting from Los Angeles and Washington
A consortium of utilities in the South won government approval Thursday to construct two new atomic energy reactors at an estimated cost of $14 billion, the strongest signal yet that the three-decade hiatus of nuclear plant construction is finally ending.
Several new projects will test whether new technology and streamlined government licensing can help the industry avoid the economic and safety disasters that have tainted its past, nuclear experts say, though critics condemned the action by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
The commission's 4-1 approval of the construction and operating license to expand the capacity of a Georgia nuclear power plant came 11 months after the meltdown at Japan's Fukushima Daiichi facility left a wide swath of radioactive contamination.
Despite broad international concern that the safety risks of nuclear power are unacceptable even after half a century of widespread use, proponents have argued successfully that a new generation of reactors and strong U.S. regulations justify making it part of the mix to meet the nation's energy needs.
The project at Plant Vogtle near Waynesboro, Ga., is being undertaken by Southern Co., which operates four electric utilities in the South, and three minority partners — all aided by a massive federal loan guarantee and other incentives.
"It is something we believe is a national imperative," said Southern Chief Executive Thomas Fanning, who described his company's strategy of investing in coal, nuclear, gas and renewable fuels as consistent with the broad outlines of Obama administration goals. "It is a big day in America."
Fanning said $4 billion had already been invested in site preparation at Plant Vogtle based on an expectation that the NRC would approve construction to double the number of reactors at the site. The company has ordered twin 1,100-megawatt reactors, known as AP1000s, built by Westinghouse Electric Co.
It may take several years before it becomes clear whether the license approval represents a rebirth of an industry. Westinghouse officials said they expected another license approval for their reactors in coming weeks and noted that there were about 20 in various stages of planning, 14 of which would use the company's advanced new design. They said the vast majority of the work would be done in the U.S., supporting 35,000 workers at the company and its suppliers. The new reactors would mainly be located in the South.
Not all of those projects are likely to move through licensing, experts say, and there have been repeated claims over the last decade that the U.S. nuclear power industry was on the brink of a renaissance. In fact, the industry is likely to move cautiously forward, if only for economic rather than safety reasons.
The heyday of nuclear plant construction almost bankrupted the electric utility industry and saddled ratepayers with high bills for decades. The last new nuclear construction license was issued 34 years ago, predating general use of personal computers and widespread recognition of global warming. Throughout the prior two decades, the industry had bet big on nuclear power and then suffered a combination of legal, political and economic knockout punches.
By 1985, 28 nuclear plants under construction were canceled, according to Sam Walker, the regulatory commission's historian. The Shoreham plant on Long Island in New York completed construction but never generated a single watt of commercial electricity.
Former NRC member Peter Bradford, now a law professor in Vermont, said Thursday's approval did not change the poor economics of nuclear power. What makes a difference in Georgia is that the state has ruled that customers are going to have to pay, he said.
The reactor is supposed to have all of the technology and safeguards to avoid a meltdown like the one that occurred at Fukushima, which was hit by a tsunami after a massive earthquake and lost electrical power to keep its reactor cool. The Westinghouse system is supposed to be able to endure a complete blackout and safely shut down the reactor with passive cooling systems, said company spokesman Vaughn Gilbert.
Nonetheless, the NRC vote reflected continued concerns about nuclear safety. Commission Chairman Gregory B. Jaczko, who cast the lone vote against approval, said in an interview that he was not satisfied that the license would compel Southern Co. to adopt safety improvements that result from the ongoing review of the Fukushima accident. Jaczko said it would be "very difficult" to get Southern's compliance after the license was issued.
Christopher Paine, a nuclear expert at the Natural Resources Defense Council, said the NRC had "abdicated its responsibility" and given up the power to force Southern to adopt new safeguards that are developed as the Fukushima review unfolds.
But Fanning, the Southern chief executive, said the company did not intend to fight future NRC orders to adopt new safety technology. "That's not how this industry operates," he said.
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #6149 on: Feb 10th, 2012, 08:36am »
Parts Fall Off U.S. Navy Plane in Japan, Causes Minor Damage Feb. 9, 2012 - 06:19PM By AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE
TOKYO — The U.S. Navy was investigating how several chunks of one of its aircraft — including one around 2.2 metres (seven feet) by one metre — fell off as it flew back to its base in Japan on Feb. 9.
Six pieces from an EA-6B Prowler, including a part of the engine cover, plunged to earth as the plane flew over Yamato, near Tokyo, causing “minor damage to a privately-owned vehicle”, the U.S. Navy said.
The aircraft, from the U.S. Navy’s Yokosuka base in Kanagawa prefecture, “was returning from a routine training flight when the parts ... fell off and the plane landed safely.”
An official from Yamato city said aircraft regularly dropped debris, adding that a house was damaged in 2010 by a piece of falling metal.
The U.S. has around 50,000 troops stationed in Japan at bases all over the country and tensions with host communities are not uncommon.
“The Navy deeply regrets any inconvenience this event may have caused its neighbors,” said a statement from the U.S. forces.